Are You Happy?

In my last post, I posed some questions that are key for self-actualization. They are:

  • Are you doing the right thing?
  • Are you a good person?
  • Are you making the right decisions?
  • AND: Are you making a positive impact for the world around you?

But I forgot the most important question of them all, and I want to talk about it more about it today.

Are you happy?

You can answer all of above questions and still not be happy, and that can lead to some interesting behaviors in people. Imagine having everything you could ever need, and still not be happy. Imagine never having to go without, and still feeling like something is missing.

You might think, what the hell is wrong with me? Or if you’re not thinking it, other people in your life are probably telling you. What are you, ungrateful? Don’t you know that kids in Africa don’t get to worry about being happy? Do you want to go to Africa, huh? Do you?

It’s a ridiculous question, and answering it honestly requires in-depth, personal analysis, and the right words to answer comprehensively, and even then, the answer can vary from day to day.

And in today’s socioeconomic climate, happiness doesn’t seem to be an attainable goal anymore. How could it be, when you can barely find stability, love, or a decent job that covers your basic living expenses?

Well, being unhappy even though there is nothing particularly wrong is still a legitimate feeling. It can even be a symptom of a mental health issue, and should not be ignored. Depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, and bi-polar disorder are all in your head, and are still very real diseases that require treatment. But what if your unhappiness is not chemical, but social? Enter Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:



The Hierarchy of Needs is a theory not only explaining, but also validating, universal human needs that everyone has. Once we’ve adequately met a level of need on a more or less stable basis, we as human beings subconsciously or consciously start to focus on meeting the next need, and yet, it’s still missing some key details that are essential to today’s society.

If you were out in the wilderness and there are no people around, then sure, your basic needs would be food and water. But if you were homeless in a city like New York, your very first, basic desire would be to clothe your body and protect it from the elements. You wouldn’t get very far naked, and because global warming is real, you’d surely die from exposure without clothing first.

Once you’ve covered your naughty bits, then it’s food and water and rest, and on and on, right up to self-actualization, where our needs become more about finding our place in the world. Meeting that need requires a level of self-awareness that, well, everyone could use help with.

But the thing is, our society itself is going through a phase of self-actualization.

The internet and other methods of communication has connected us with the rest of the world in a way that is unprecedented. People today have access to more information than we’ve ever have. People across the world are the most educated that they’ve ever been, in record numbers no less, and because societies are essentially mirrors reflecting the people in them, our societies are reflecting the tension between the old and the new.

Across the world, entire countries are fighting back against dictatorships because they know they deserve better. Women in Ireland are protesting ridiculous abortion restrictions that do nothing to protect children and very much punish women. And here in the United States, what we are seeing is a clash between the American Way that politicians used to exploit their voters, and actual progress (soooo much on that later).

That is both fantastic and scary. Fantastic for those who have dreamt of hoverboards, and universal incomes and a world without HIV, but scary for those who hate change. A new world, a peaceful, interconnected and collaborative world is akin to fascism to those who had or have privileges that others who aren’t like them don’t.

A new world, a peaceful, interconnected and collaborative world is akin to fascism to those who profit from things staying the same. 

Waxing poetic about the way things used to be doesn’t cut it anymore. Wishing we were in the 50’s when men were men and women knew their place doesn’t cut it anymore. Staying ignorant, and making decisions based on what you believe versus what you know doesn’t cut it anymore. It is now the responsibility of every citizen with access to a phone or a computer to educate themselves about the world in order to make the right decisions, which is why I think the Hierarchy of Needs should actually look something like this:

Although, no matter what anyone tells you, you wont die from lack of sex.

This meme, I’m sure, was probably created as a joke (again, you won’t die if you don’t have sex. Tell your friends) but I think it’s a very valid representation of what world we are headed towards. No one is in a bubble anymore, and  what happens in Syria, Britain, and Iraq affects the entire world.

Developed countries and world leaders have to decide what kind of society we want to be, and what kind of society we want to leave for future generations. And we, as the people in functioning societies, have the responsibility to demand that our leaders make the right decisions for all. You can’t do that  if you do not stay informed. But what’s most important, you can’t do that if you do not know if you’re happy with your life. Why?

Because how you feel about yourself directly affects how you feel about the rest of the world. If you are not happy, why would you want anyone else to be? If you do not value happiness in yourself, how can you value it in others?

So ask yourself, are you happy? And be honest with the answer. A few examples:

  • Maybe your job is shitty, or it wasn’t what you thought it would be.
  • Maybe you’re married to someone who you’re not in love with anymore.
  • Maybe you live in a town that is severely depressed after the main employer moved overseas.
  • Maybe you’re a woman in a man’s body.
  • Maybe you don’t want to be a Harvard Man like your father or your grandfather, and you just want to paint for the rest of your life.
  • Maybe you realized you don’t want to be a mother.
  • Maybe you want love, and your only option is to settle.
  • Maybe you’re polygamous at heart, and your partner isn’t.
  • Maybe being a “blue collar man’s man” 24/7 is exhausting for you.
  • Maybe you’ve had everything handed to you, so you can’t relate to others that haven’t.
  • Or maybe you’ve had to fight for everything you have, so you have no patience for those without internal lives.

These are all legitimate grievances, because, again, we are all different. And though you might not relate or understand, other people’s grievances about their lives are legitimate too, because:

  1. They’re real to them.
  2. You don’t know their lives, and
  3. You shouldn’t have to experience something to understand that it’s valid.

And therefore, what I am trying to say is that your feelings are valid too.

So what am I trying to say? That sociology is a scientific method that can help you analyze your reality, both internal and external, and how it relates to the rest of the world.

And as I continue these posts, I want you to apply that self-understanding and see how it affects your view of the world, because I want to live in a world with hoverboards, and universal incomes and a world without HIV.

Don’t you?





Condition, Rinse, Repeat

So it usually goes like this:

You’re born. At some point between drooling down your chin and learning how to walk, you realize that there are people who are constantly around you and watching everything you do. Bigger people, sometimes meaner people that are always saying no and telling you what to do, or sometimes nicer people that still tell you no and tell you what to do, and you have to listen because they said so.

And then there are more people, and more places, bigger places, and you realize there are some people who don’t tell you what to do. Some of them ignore you and pretend you do not exist, or are outright mean because you’re small and they’re big. And at some point you realize that not everything revolves around you. In fact, a lot does not revolve around you, and the bigger you get, the more you realize that you are not, in fact, the center of the universe, and probably never were.

And then you get bigger, and the things they tell to do start to make more sense, and somewhere around your teens you start to feel like some of it is crap, but you can’t put your finger on it, and the more you try to argue against it, the more people laugh at you, talk down to you, or dismiss you, and the more powerless you feel, so you become kind of sullen and morose.

Or, you’re happy because the crap works for you, and everyone is so proud at how good you are at following the rules. And sometimes during family get-togethers, you’re the center of attention because of how good you are, not like your emo cousin with the black nail polish. And you’re kind of full of yourself because you get it, and as long as you get it, you’re fine.

OR, you think it’s all crap, but you play along, because that’s how winners get ahead, and you know the rules really don’t apply to you, but you follow them as best as you feel, because that’s how you play the game. And if you mess up, you know what to say to get out of trouble. And if someone doesn’t play along the way you like, you know what to do to get rid of them. And you know who to kiss up to, and what to say, because that’s how you succeed. By playing the game.

I know this is an oversimplification, but there’s a point, I swear.

For some people, their lives usually follow this format pretty closely, with minimal disruptions in self-awareness or habits. But for a lot of people, more and more, there’s a stage that starts right around their 20’s where their entire realities come crashing down. The reasons are wide and varied, but some common ones are:

  • Going to a college or university that provides a different cultural experience than back home.
  • Making friends with people from different backgrounds.
  • Moving to a new town.
  • Getting pregnant/getting someone pregnant.
  • Being sexually harassed or molested by someone you looked up to and trusted.
  • Finding out your parents were waiting for you to go to college to finally get a divorce.
  • Discovering you’re gay or someone you know and respect is gay.
  • Finding out you were adopted.
  • Loving something that is considered “gay” when you’re a male.
  • Loving something that’s considered “for boys” when you’re a female.
  • Learning a social science.
  • Gaining first-hand knowledge that the poor/disenfranchised/ incarcerated/abandoned/insane are people too.
The list can go forever, but the point is this: things will happen to you in your life that will make you question everything you believe in. It’s unavoidable, and it’s traumatic every single time. But once it happens, you have a choice. You can let it change you, or you can ignore it, and depending on how you were raised, your belief system, and the very people around you, the outcome can be great for you, or it can add onto the trauma, and stunt your growth as a person.
What I just described looks kind of sort of like this:

A part of sociology is the study of how individuals interact with, and are shaped by the institutions in their lives. These institutions include, but are definitely not limited to, your family, friends, school, government, community, church, sports, etc. It’s called Social Conditioning, and these institutions have a HUGE part of shaping who you are. Depending on where you are, some circles (institutions) are bigger or closer than others. Examples:

  • You were a foster kid.
  • You were the parent, while your parents were more like teenagers.
  • You come a big family and you had to share everything.
  • You were an only child and never had to share.
  • You’re from middle America and the only “social” place you know is your local church.
  • You grew up on a farm with no TV.
  • You grew up in a bad neighborhood and could only watch TV.
  • You were the kind of girl that’s been in beauty pageants since the age of five.
  • You’re the kind of guy that’s been playing in sports teams since the age of five.
  • You’re Jewish and your dad is the local rabbi.
  • You’re born into a long line of police officers.
  • You were born into a long line of politicians.
  • Your daddy, grandpa, and great-grandfather were all Harvard men.
  • You’re old money and just talking about the M-word is crass.
  • You’re the longtime maid of a family who thinks mentioning money is crass.
  • You’re the daughter of a maid to a rich family while you’re broke af.

See how these examples can produce VASTLY different people? Whatever the background, if you’re that person in your 20’s (or whatever age, really) realizing that everything you know is a big lie, or you’re having trouble just keeping it together even though you’re sure you followed the rules and you don’t know what the fuck is going on, that’s where people like me come in.

Just like we are thought many rules throughout life to help us navigate the experience, we are also taught many lies, often well-meaning, to keep us safe. But a lot of us were taught many lies in order to keep us complacent, subservient, or under some sort of social control. And realizing that can sometimes be much more traumatic than the experience itself.

But that doesn’t mean the end of you. In fact, it can be a beginning. It can be a very painful, difficult, and traumatic beginning, but it’s a beginning all the same, and making that change, I assure you, will be the best thing that happened to you.

So ask yourself the questions I asked before:

  • Are you doing the right thing?
  • Are you a good person?
  • Are you making the right decisions?
  • AND: Are you making a positive impact for the world around you?

And allow yourself to accept the no, because that’s how you grow. And you can begin again. You can. You can. YOU CAN. And don’t believe what other people tell you. When you’re living the wrong life, life feels LOOOOONNNG. It’s only short after it’s over. But I assure you, realizing your truth is the way to grow. And once you realize your truth, you can re-condition yourself in the image that you think it’s right for you.

What am I trying to say? Nothing that the School of Life hasn’t been navigating in depth better than I have in this article. You should check them out.

And what was the truth that I had to realize? That being a good girl was not going to protect me. And it was devastating. And it took years to get over. And that’s okay, because you know what? Because being a good girl wasn’t a good fit for me anyways.

And on that note, have a great weekend!🙂

Boobs, Language, Sociology, and Why They All Matter


I tend to remind people, constantly, and usually during arguments about social issues, that my bachelor’s degree and general interests lie in sociology, and that I have about ten years of social work experience working with people from all walks of life.

This isn’t me JUST feeling myself and parading around my credentials whenever I want. It’s partially that, but it’s also my attempt to remind people that reading about, studying, analyzing and dissecting social behavior is life. And I think, often, when we discuss politics, media, language, and even economics, we take sociology and social sciences for granted. Specifically with articles like this one.

Now, you can chastise me for getting my news from humor websites like Cracked, (Or liberal news media like Jezebel, or Vice), but I can argue that getting information from these sources is also a sociological and widespread response, and I think often, when we argue one on one, it’s very easy to ignore and overlook the big picture.

Like this one

But the thing is, everything that involves human behavior is sociology. Before primate humans had spoken language, they had to find other ways to communicate, to convey thoughts and feelings and urges, and our ancestors used what was available to them, including our own physiological abilities to communicate non-verbally.

Nonverbal communication continued to be important during times when our survival depended on trusting and trading with other people from different cultures who spoke different languages. And it was particularly important during times when women were considered sluts for exposing an ankle in front of mixed company. I say this jokingly, but I’m serious. Blushing, blinking and smiling coyly were my primary methods of communication when I was 12 and my parents were like, right there. 

Nonverbal communication and body language are still important forms of communication. Just because you can’t measure it on a scale, it does not mean it’s not real or important for our survival. Sociology and human behavior are also important when it come to politics, economics and unrest.

You can’t have a stable political climate if you do not participate. You can not have a healthy economy if people don’t have money to spend. And you cannot have peace when there are massive gaps in social wealth.

And either not enough people are saying it, or not enough people are listening. So I’ll make it easy. Let’s start with the Cracked article:

Why do human females have large breasts?
Because sex is gross and the more self-aware you become, the more you realize how gross it is and our bodies had to make it appealing somehow.

Why do cats purr?
To cute their humans into submission and make them think it’s their idea that they have a cat.

Why do we reproduce sexually? 
Bonding, bitch. It’s harder to walk out on someone when they’ve licked your ass.

Why do women menstruate? 
Built in clock. Way to have control over pregnancy. Monthly NOT PREGNANT party complete with cramps.

Why do we hiccup? 
Nerves/ ate too much/ probably nerves.

Why do we blush? 
Because actually saying you’re embarrassed is embarrassing.

Why do we have pubic hair? 
Because it’s pretty much an arrow to your naughty bits, and a preemptive warning that it’s gonna get musky.

Why do we kiss?
Seriously do you not know how fun kissing is? Also, bonding.

Why do we cry? 
Less violent emotional release. Also, social cue.

Why do people sneeze when looking at the sun? 
Probably a reaction to the vitamin d. (Phrasing)

Why do tomatoes have more genes than humans? 
Got me there.

Why do we have sinuses? 
Sense of smell is also connected to memory and emotions. It’s not a real answer but when you add these factors you may get a more concrete answer.

Why do we sometimes twitch in our sleep/jerk ourselves awake? 
OK, OK, so you’re going about your day just fine, and then you like, go to lie there prone for HOURS, and someone could theoretically come and kill you. You don’t think your body knows that? Have you considered that your body is trying to save you??

What is 98% of our DNA supposed to do? 
Clearly shit we don’t know and is probably still beyond our grasp.

What causes the nocebo effect?
Ok, so one time when I was like, 6, I was playing sick. I’d found a small hand towel and thought it would be funny to douse it in alcohol and pretend to have a fever. And can I just tell you, I had the WORST fever I can remember. What I mean is, the brain is a powerful thing. Ever wake up one morning and remembered something shitty, and it just ruined your whole fucking day/ week? Yeah. That powerful.

Why people taste things differently? 

What drives tectonic plates? 
A guess? Momentum.

Why do humans have chins? 
Because thinking of Nick Bateman is what gets me through some days. Seriously, humans base like 90% of their decisions on attractiveness. Strong jaw? Ohhh, baby.

Why are most Caucasian babies born with blue eyes that get darker with age?
Hmmm, dominant genes taking their time to kick in? (I said I was a sociologist, not a geneticist)

Why do humans smile? 
Because I don’t wanna lose my pride but I can still cut a bitch.

Why are only 10% of people left-handed? 
Well, as a lefty who had her arm tied down with a fucking brace in fucking KINDERGARTEN  because it was a bad habit that needed to be corrected,  I can assure you that left-handed people were being persecuted as recently as the 80’s. Recent studies have shown that this number is evening out the more we stop being assholes.

What causes static electricity? 

Why do we have allergies? 
Because our bodies are bitches that think they can just up and decide, “Nope, I don’t like that,” at any time. Like in the middle of a date. Having a banana split with mixed nuts. Right before a movie. And next thing you know you’ve snapped the straps on the borrowed shoes you’re wearing.

Why do people have different sexual orientation? 
Because attraction, arousal, and interest are all determined by several factors over a wide spectrum.

Humans have been spending so much time focusing on what we can’t do, and what we shouldn’t, and a lot less on what we can and what is possible. The thing is, as a species, we are no longer struggling to survive. We’ve conquered the elements and we’ve conquered the land (often from other people) and we are reaching, what I’d like to believe, is the Thought Revolution.

Do you feel like you hear more and horrible news every day? Do you think people are just getting worse no matter what you do? That feeling is not just in your head. Science has proven that the more empathetic we become, the more we perceive that the world is getting worse. The trick is to acknowledge that empathy, but to not led the existential dread set in.

Seriously, don’t let it.

And the big picture is, that’s exactly what our society is going through. People are being forced to look to themselves and their peers and really consider, Are we doing the right thing? Am I a good person? Have I made the right decisions? And those questions are scary. The answers can be even scarier. And it can be really, really easy to just ignore it. The problem is that at this point in our society, ignoring our internal lives is just not smart. Our future may depend on it.

So what am I trying to say? Nothing that hasn’t been said a lot better and more succinctly than in this video:

And also, that maybe I’ll be posting more regularly because, holy shit, someone has to be the voice of reason. The fact that it may be me is a joke onto itself.

Anastasiia: Marco’s Assignment

She had not been an easy assignment. A party girl in her own right, she was the reason for Marco’s sleepless nights.

For the first few weeks she’d barely noticed him at all, but one mistake and her attention honed into him like a torpedo. He thought about that night so many times after, over and over, trying to find a way he could have avoided falling in love with her, but there was nothing he could do to change it.

He wasn’t sure if he wanted to.

She was young but no stranger to drugs and alcohol, privileged but naive, the kind of girl that grew up in a gilded aged home and only drank designer water, and she hated it all. She was the daughter of an ex-diplomat, the kind of guy that was connected up the ass and had to be protected unless you wanted a war on your hands, so she became Marco’s assignment, and then she became his.

She’d been attending parties all week, not the kind she liked but the kind that required her to sit still and smile and wave, so she took something for the boredom and the pain, and she seemed okay. But then she didn’t, and he thought maybe she’d taken too much from the way she twitched on the way home. She had almost made it to her bed when she fainted.

He caught her. Of course he caught her. It was his job to protect her, but before he could call for help she came to.

“Sorry,” she whispered, staring up at him with big brown eyes that looked so sad.

“Don’t be,” he replied, and before he knew what was happening they were kissing.

He’d thought it, but even if you asked him under duress, he still wouldn’t have been able to day who made the first move. All he knew is that from one moment to the next her lips were on his and his hands were in her hair, and she pulled on his clothes until he was straddling her on the floor.

They never made it to the bed either.

He could remember every second from then on. How neither of them made a move to close the door, and even though there were people sleeping right down the hall it only fueled them more.

He had tried to pull away. It took all of the strength he had to stop and look at her, but she only whispered at him to go on, wrapping her legs around him and locking him inside her embrace.

If he had died in that moment he would have died happy. Instead it was as if something inside him had been dialed up to eleven, so that every thrust, every caress and every kiss felt better than any experience since and every experience before.

It wasn’t until morning that he realized that if he had died in that moment, he would have died a failure. That if anything would have happened during the time he had been with her, she would have been vulnerable and he would have been unable to protect her. And it was his job to protect her.

The thought haunted him for days after, but it was not enough to get him to say no when she invited him upstairs the next night and the next. Not enough to get him to want to wake up alone in his own bed.

Eventually he did. It took much longer than he liked to admit, but he came to his senses, and denying her was more painful than ripping out both arms from their sockets. Part of him would have preferred it, anything but the pain of being without her.

It was for her safety, he’d said, but his words were hollow to them both, and they didn’t matter in the end. Everything had changed.

He saw it in the way she moved, like she was contemplating every step. He saw it in the way she avoided his gaze. He saw it in the mirror, the eyes of a man who’d seen paradise and locked himself out staring back at him.

There was no denying it. He loved her and she loved him, and pretending otherwise was hurting them both. And he didn’t want to hurt her. He wanted to protect her. So he came to her one last time and asked her in earnest what she wanted.

“Are you sure?” He asked. After a few seconds she smiled and pulled him, closing the door. Behind him. 

Cherchez La Femme

I’ve been participating in some writer challenges lately. Last year I joined the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge and joined again this year. This is my first round submission. It’s highly competitive, but I have to say, I had a lot of fun writing it. 
The Prompt:
Genre: Suspense
Location: A plastic surgery center
Object: A tire iron
Synopsis:Kathleen wants to catch her husband red-handed, but has she thought about what he wants?

Kathleen walked down the halls of her husband’s practice, leaning slightly against the wall. She held a tire iron almost absentmindedly in her right hand, with her purse tucked in discreetly under her left armpit, almost invisible under the folds of her dress.
Her hands were appropriately soiled, and she wore an inquisitive look on her face, slightly humbled and annoyed, as if there was an answer she didn’t remember and the question was too important to let go. If anyone saw her, the reason was simple and true: she got a flat tire on her way to meet her husband and fixed it herself, so as not to interrupt him.
But no one crossed her path. In fact, the entire center seemed eerily deserted for a Thursday night. While there was no shortage in demand for plastic surgeons in Miami, no one wanted to wait until nearly dinnertime for a liposuction. No, after-hours were for paperwork. You didn’t need a full staff for that.
She walked slowly toward Richard’s suite, listening intently. Her feet were in heels, after all, and it had been a long day. No need to make unnecessary noise that could potentially interrupt her husband in the middle of whatever he was doing.
She was sure it was important.
Kathleen reached for the doorknob, but it slipped out of her grasp. The door opened to reveal her husband, standing on the other side.
“Hello, sweetheart,” Richard Goldblatt said to his wife, smiling from ear to ear. Kathleen, taken aback, could only stand there half-frozen as he stepped forward and engulfed her in a hug, obstructing her view. As he kissed her on the cheek, Kathleen struggled to keep her temper hidden.
He hadn’t called her sweetheart in decades, she thought, finding her voice again.
“I had a flat on my way here,” she said, answering the question that hadn’t been asked, angling her body in a way that made it clear she wanted to go inside. “You might want to be careful.”
“So I see,” he replied. “Why don’t you give me that?” He asked, propping himself up so that both his sides touched the doorway in some way, extending a hand. She shook her head.
“I wouldn’t want you to get your hands dirty,” she replied. They stood there for a few moments, him blocking the entrance and her leaning into him, pressing her free hand into his midsection so that the message was crystal clear in her body language, but it still needed to be said.
“Richard, let me in,” she said softly, holding her right hand up at eye level and extending two oil stained fingers. “I need to wash my hands of this.”
“Yes, of course,” Richard replied, angling to the side. “Take your time.”
Kathleen walked past her husband into his office. His arm dangled in her way just enough that it minimized the remaining space, but Kathleen was lithe and small – two of the reasons Richard had married her- and she was able to step around him smoothly.
Kathleen had to blink twice to adjust her eyes to the space once inside, and was momentarily disoriented. It was smaller than she remembered, much more cluttered and dark, and her path to the bathroom was obstructed by a couch she didn’t know was there.
She kicked herself for not visiting more since the build out, for not getting a much more current idea of what her husband’s office looked like. There was no one else in the office, but the air was heavy and moist, and Richard’s office felt more lived in than his bedroom at home. She could swear there were traces of something feminine in the air. Not perfume, but maybe lotion or hairspray, something she knew Richard wouldn’t wear. She began to take a deep breath but he interrupted her, and Kathleen could not help but turn to look at him, the anger barely concealed in her expression.
“Bathroom’s on the right,” Richard said from behind her, a tone of amusement creeping into his voice.
“I didn’t forget,” she shot back, taking two quick steps into the half-bathroom, and stopped. The bathroom, what was originally a small room with toilet and sink, was now a full bathroom with shower installed where a small closet used to be. There was even a door that led back to the hall. She heard a click and ran, dropping the tire iron behind her, but it was too late. The door only opened with a key, and whomever was on the other side locked it from their end.
She jiggled the knob but it was no use. The door was firmly locked. And then, something occurred to her: she never heard a clang.
She turned around, and there was Richard, standing inside the bathroom with her, tire iron in hand. He was obstructing her exit now, and she swallowed hard, trying to keep from feeling trapped.
“Wash your hands, sweetheart,” he told her, his voice monotone. “It’s time for us to go.”
Kathleen gave a slow nod, her movements slow and filled with understanding. As she went through the routine of getting her hands clean, she stared at her reflection. It was the face of a stranger. A beautiful one, but a stranger none the less. An exaggerated version of the girl she used to be.
“It’s time for us to go,” Richard repeated. Richard, on the other hand, had not changed a bit, had not aged a day. She turned the water off and dried her fingers, pressing her handbag closer to her side. It didn’t matter, she thought. There was always a Plan B.
“I’ve been looking forward to this all week,” she said to the Richard in her reflection, her voice as strong and resonant as steel.
“So have we, sweetheart,” said Richard from behind her, unmoved. “So have we.” 

A Wonderful Guy

I’ve been participating in some writer challenges lately. The latest one was with The Writer’s Arena against Joseph Devon. The prompt was Video Games, and I crushed it.

Fallout 4


She’s shaking her head in awe, simultaneously clicking her tongue in disapproval and examining my leg for an entry point, and I can only let her, frozen in place as she inspects my broken bones.
I look around. Nick is out in the hall and around the corner, away from my line of sight. I’m afraid of losing him. We’re in the middle of another vault, one like the one I emerged out of, but oh so different. It’s maze-like and claustrophobic, and of course the dog is nowhere to be found.
“This seems like a good place to start,” she says, turning to grab a surgical knife. She cuts a deep seam down my leg from my knee to the base of my foot without an ounce of restraint, and I groan. It doesn’t hurt. It never does, but she’s still digging inside my body. I also know what a bloody mess is, even if my own blood is frozen solid in time.
I tell myself to look away but I can’t, mesmerized as I watch her pull the flesh open and dig her fingers inside.
“What did you find?” she asks as she’s searching for fragments of bone, the morbid curiosity palpable in her voice. I bite, both relieved and grateful that she wants to know, that I at least have someone to tell.
What did I find? I think. “Me,” I tell her, before I begin to explain.
I lost 200 years in the blink of an eye, and yet the past few weeks of my life feels life-times longer. My family – myself, my newborn son and my wife – were frozen in cryogenic sleep inside a vault deep underground, tricked as the bombs dropped and manipulated by a corporation that no longer exists. Two centuries gone like seconds sitting frozen in a metal tube.
Somehow, I woke just in time to witness my wife’s murder. I watched helplessly as my son was kidnapped, and just as the memory of his kidnapper’s face burned itself into my brain, I fell asleep again.
I don’t know how much time passed, but I woke up again in that metal tube, only this time I could move. I could walk again. And I discovered to my horror that I was the only one left alive.
I stepped out of that vault with only one objective: to find my son. I understood that the world would be a different place now, but I was not prepared for what I found. The world wasn’t just different, it was destroyed. What was left had mutated over time or changed completely for the worst. My entire reality was gone, now reduced to rubble. But I had no time to mourn what I’d lost.
The drive to find Shawn kept me moving. If this new world horrified me, I could only imagine what it seemed like to him.
Once I found what was left of my home, I stepped out of the neighborhood and found a stray dog. It was as if he’d been waiting for me all along, and even then it felt like he knew something I never will. It was, not exactly meant to be, but like it was written, and he’s been with me ever since.
I went into town to find supplies and instead found a group of people in need of help. I saved the day, found some power armor and fought a Deathclaw, making it back home in time for the armor to die down.
Everything seemed like it was falling into place. I started to rebuild, leading the Minutemen, exploring, but not for one second did I forget about my son. Finding him was becoming much harder than I could have imagined.
Someone gave me a tip to go to Diamond City, but every time I tried I was met with trouble. For a long time- no matter what I tried- I didn’t get very far and I’d have to turn around. And then something happened. Something that seemed so natural at the time, but when I stopped to think about it I realized that it didn’t make sense.
I realized that I was losing small chunks of time. Sometimes I’d come across trouble and a moment later I’d find myself yards away, with the clock turned back. Sometimes I’d find myself reliving a few moments earlier, like déjà vu. And then I started to pay attention.
I realized, to my amazement, that I’d died. But I didn’t just die, I re-spawned to a moment or minutes before my death as if it had never happened. I realized that, in a sense, I was immortal.
Time continued to pass. I got stronger. The more I fought, the more I helped others, the better I got, and with the snap of a finger came new abilities. They came at unpredictable times. My luck increased. I grew stronger. My aim was steadier. I realized that I was a better hunter at night, and irradiated food didn’t bother me as much.
I started to notice more. Rocks that floated a few feet off the ground. Brahmin and people stuck in walls, unaware of their predicament. Moments where everything else seemed to stop and only I could notice. Even the settlers were starting to act oddly, sometimes repeating themselves or ignoring me all together. Even when something happens they seem to be in a trance, following a script I’m starting to memorize.
It’s odd, but it’s also somewhat liberating. Like I’m seeing hints of a secret that no one else is aware of. Like there’s something there, between the lines; If I focus, if I pay attention, there’s an entire reality waiting to be discovered, and I’m the only one who can see it.
Or at least I was, until she came to me. She, the girl who won’t give me her name.
“There are times when everything just disappears,” I tell her. “Not like the times when you are here when everything stops, or even when I die. It can happen at any time. I’m there, I stop, and then everything goes to black and stops existing.”
I give her a moment to interject, but she doesn’t say anything. She’s closed my other leg and is moving up to my pelvis, replacing bone with nearly indestructible metal.
“I forced myself to stay alert the next time it happened. The lights disappeared, but not all at once. It was like everything went flat for a split second, and the lights floated away all in one direction. So I followed.”
She opens up my chest and I immediately feel cold. I breathe in. It’s harder, but not impossible. From the corner of my eye I see brown fur. It’s the dog, I’m sure, prancing around just out of reach, unfettered.
“I followed the light and somehow I turned into light too, and I was me, but I was more, like I’d shed my body and became a celestial being made up of dots of light and other things. And I understood that I wasn’t just me. I was aware, but there were others there. Some of them just like me. Exact replicas. Same voice, even the same scars, and I realized that I am not as unique as I think I am.”
“I warned you not to explore,” she says in a low voice. Her tone is half-scolding, half-amazed, and for a split-second I see introspection in her eyes. She’s working on my arms now, and even though we’re almost face to face, she won’t look at me. “You’re not supposed to see any of this, let alone remember,” she continues.
“But you wouldn’t tell me why,” I say, the sadness palpable in my voice. “How many others are there? Am I a clone?” I ask, but she ignores the questions, instead swiping a deep gash down my left arm in one swoop, never breaking eye contact. I grind my teeth but ignore the distraction.
“How did a young girl like you get so powerful?” I ask instead. She tilts her head and opens her eyes impossibly wide.
“What makes you think that I am any of those things?” she asks in a low voice, and I stop. Her eyes are unusually wide, and her expression is blank in an odd way, like she’s trying to get me to catch on to a clue that I’m missing. And just like that, the moment is gone.
“Yes, there are others, some with your face, some not,” she replies answering my previous question, snapping me out of a trance. “But you’ll be happy to know you all make unique decisions in your own unique ways.” I watch her face, but her expression is back to neutral again, betraying no emotion. And then she tries to change the subject.
“You’re developing quite the Jet addiction,” she says in a professional tone with a note of finality.
“Buffjet, actually,” I reply. “My own recipe. How many others?” I ask, not letting it go.
“I don’t know,” she replies, and I want to believe that’s she’s telling me the truth. She scoffs and pulls away, thinking. “I lost count. Some of them are men. Some of them are women. One is a sweet old lady and another dresses up like Grognak right down to the axe. I don’t ask. I just do my job. I enhance, patch you up, and I leave.”
“Has this happened before?” I ask. She shakes her head.
“No,” she says decisively, in a low voice again.
“Would you tell me if it had?” I ask.
“No,” she says again.
“You ask that a lot.”
“And you never answer.”
“Because you have no idea what you’re playing at. Now shut up.”
She cuts my face open, placing my eyes on the tray. I watch as she removes my jaw and brain, and then my skull. She replaces that, too, with metal, and puts the squishy parts back in place.
“The others… they’re stuck in the same place. Confused. Some of them are used to doing the same thing over and over, forgetting they’ve already done it.” I take a moment to voice the question that’s been keeping me awake. Then: “Will that happen to me?”
She takes a deep breath, trying to stay calm. “Why would you want to know that, if you can’t change it?”
“Maybe I can make it better.”
“Or maybe you’ll corrupt everything.”
“You don’t know that, and neither do I. But I can at least try.”
She closes me up for the last time and takes a step back. My bones are scattered on the floor, but I am whole, somehow, with a skeleton that isn’t mine.
She looks at me one last time and shakes her head. “You’re going rogue, soldier,” she says in a low voice again, then turns to the door.
“Gary,” she says in a sing-song voice, and we wait. Two identical men appear with obedient looks on their faces. “Would you kindly pick these up, Gary,” she says in the same voice, and a shiver goes up my new spine.
“I am aware that I have no idea what I’m doing,” I continue as the Garys pick up my discarded bones. “But that light… I have never felt so connected to anything in my life. I want to know where it leads. I need to know what it means.”
She doesn’t say anything. I watch her as she continues to clean, lips pressed tightly closed. The conversation is over, I realize, and there’s not much I can do to get her to talk to me.
She starts to walk away. I watch as she moves, and then she stops right at the doorway. For a second I can almost see her deciding, and then she turns, her profile clearly visible, and I instinctively focus on her lips.
It happens so fast I almost miss it. In a flash she says two words and is gone, carried away by light, and the world around me is back to normal again. But I saw. I saw the words as they left her lips:

“Autosave complete.”