Lift: Our Story (1000 Word Challenge)

 

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I could sense he wanted to say something by the way he was looking at me, eyes wide open. But I waited patiently, brushing his hair with my fingers, until he gathered his strength. “Why… Lift?” I smiled with melancholy when memories started flowing through. There were so many of them, still fresh like it had happened yesterday… “Well, where should I start? You know most of the story, I could just jump to the conclusion-” “No. I know all of it, but I want to hear everything from you… Please.” He smiled, the same smile with perfect white teeth that intimidated me at the beginning, when I had no idea what role he was about to play in my story. I sighed.

“A couple of months ago, one of the most powerful companies in the city was going through a pilot study. Some employees were about to receive a personal assistant, shaped for their personality, which was supposed to help them increase productivity at the workplace. Of course I was sceptical. I didn’t want any help, I thought I could do everything by myself, even if that meant working more hours. But oh, how wrong I was! After endless questionnaires, I was about to meet him, or her, or… it. The day came when I had to spend some time with my new assistant, to check if any changes were to be made, if I’m fully satisfied… Someone knocked at my desk. ‘Come in!’ I said, unsure what to expect. I was afraid I would feel uncomfortable, I thought I would be able to tell the difference… That’s when I met you. When that tall, dark-haired man entered my office, smiling shyly at me, remember what I asked you?… Of course you remember, you don’t forget anything, I know.”

A white smile flashed on his face.

“Yes, that’s the smile you were wearing! Although it became more amused when I asked if the robot wasn’t ready yet…”

I was feeling emotional again, but I knew he wanted me to continue, to live everything once again, together. So I told him about how exhausted I was feeling because of working extra hours, even with his help, since I still preferred to do most of the job myself. About how he approached me, joking that I was the machine, not him, and about how close we soon became.

“I knew I wasn’t supposed to call you by a human name, to avoid becoming too attached. But we were getting along really well together and I started to get bored with just using your unique ID number. So one day after you made me blush with your compliments – and it wasn’t about my pretty blue dress, but about how smart I was for solving that annoying system error – I was standing alone in the office after you had left, with a stupid smile on my face and a familiar feeling. You know I usually take the elevator in the office from the 10th floor, and halfway through I have that sensation when my stomach is dropping, falling… but then, standing there, I knew that time it was my heart that was actually falling – falling in love with the wrong species.”

I sighed again. It’s always easy to get lost in the past, especially if the past is full of warm, happy moments. What’s more difficult is to come back, to face the cold, blue reality… He smiled at me. “And?”

“Well, that’s when I found your nickname: Lift. Because I realised that when I was with you, I felt either the happiest or the saddest I’d ever been. My moods and feelings were going up and down, I knew we weren’t supposed to be together, but I just couldn’t help it…” I could feel tears forming at the corners of my eyes, then my sight got blurry. I didn’t want to cry. So while Lift’s hand was carefully brushing my tears away, I tried to focus on happier memories.

“The day we kissed for the first time was almost a dream. I knew it was forbidden, you knew that too, didn’t you? It’s imprinted in your mind… But that didn’t stop us from sharing another kiss the next day, then another. I remember how much more confident I was feeling, I thought everything was possible with you by my side… Work became almost a pleasure, we were so much more productive than anyone had anticipated. But it was still just like a dream… I woke up when we got caught, I could see the terror in their eyes, it suddenly struck me that no one would understand that love doesn’t care about such differences. We were split apart, I got fired, they took you away. I never heard back from you, I begged them to let me speak to you one more time, but they looked at me as though I was the lowest person in the universe. And now you’ve come to my door after so long, and without any word you just collapse in my arms – you scared me, Lift! And telling me that they’ve started the shutting down procedure – that you’ve been labelled as faulty because you kept saying my name… Oh, Lift! How on earth did you manage to run away and come here?! I mean with just only hours, maybe minutes left until-”

My voice broke. I couldn’t say it. Tears were now running down my face, but this time no one was making any effort to wipe them; my hands were still holding his head. I could see the lights in his eyes dimming slowly, and I knew I had to be brave. Like he taught me to be. I leaned down closer to him, hoping he could still hear my whispers. “I love you, Lift. And I swear I will bring you back to life.” Between tears filling my eyes I saw him, smiling shyly for a split second, before becoming just another soulless machine.

Searching for My Other Half (1000 Word Challenge)

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The following is a 1000 words story written for a contest (1000 Word Challenge) last month. The theme was “29”, which was definitely a challenge since any topic could fit under it, but after a couple drafts I managed to finish a version I really liked. It also looks like the jury was impressed as well with my originality: they decided to mention my name although I haven’t won anything – which was good enough for me.🙂 Enjoy reading!

 

Day 29

And then I did something I wasn’t supposed to do: I looked back.

 

Day Zero

New house. New city, new country. New personal mission. Feeling impatient, I wish I could just finish it all soon. But I can’t rush. A trace of doubt crosses my mind. What if he wouldn’t like me?… I quickly reject the thought. He needs to.

 

Day One

He is a nice neighbour, but you can’t believe the first impression. Never believe the first impression, I usually think while looking in the mirror. Blonde hair, blue eyes, angel face. And smiling, always smiling, they like seeing you smile. Although you know inside is nothing like that at all.

We talk about weather – I make sure I laugh occasionally. I know what I have to do: get closer, let him know you, but not all at once, because men find it exciting when you keep a few bits hidden. Who’s the prey though?… Who’s hunting who? I’m sure I know which side I‘m on, but I still blush at his compliments.

 

Day 25

I feel so strange when I’m with him, so… euphoric. I can’t wait to see him, to hug him, to kiss him, to talk to him about everything and nothing at all. I find myself smiling for no reason – which is nice, although today something strange happened. I was smiling at my own reflection in the mirror, when suddenly a thought crossed my mind: This is wrong, it shouldn’t be like this. But before I could grasp the meaning of it, I hear him coming and I forget anything else apart from him, and me, and us…

 

Day 10

We are eating dinner in his favourite restaurant. I know stuff about him already – like his status: single – but I let him speak, while listening carefully in order to get updates on any new information he may say or show. He’s always looking at me. Me, whose story I had to struggle not to say in a mechanical way, after repeating it so many times: Russian, moved to London… single.

Would this be the night he makes the next big move? Or shall I make it? But before I can properly plan my next steps, something happens. We are on our way back to the car, when I feel something. Like electricity through my whole body, starting with my right hand. What’s wrong, what happened? I try not to panic and quickly look down at my fingers, which are now curling naturally between his owns. He’s staring at me while I stare at our hands. Something has changed… Raising my head, I meet his eyes and it’s like the world stopped. I can see him so clear and for the very first time I become aware of his electric blue eyes, and I feel lost again, and then it’s something about the way he bites his lower lip… Anticipation? Nervousness? What is it? I’m quickly looking for the answer but I can’t find it, and it’s too late anyway, he leans forward and presses his lips against mine, and I suddenly feel lost.

 

Day 29

I knew rewinding my memory was forbidden. “It can change you”. “It will make you forget your true purpose.” I could feel hot steams raising inside me; my purpose had been forgotten beforehand anyway. So one more time, I did what I wasn’t supposed to do: I searched through my brain for the memories before day 0.

 

Day Minus 290

This is the day I am born, the day all my components are bounded together, and I am finally switched on. I have everything programmed inside me, starting with my clear purpose: win and bring fame to my master. Everyone has failed before me – they were transferred to another centre afterwards, so I never had the chance to talk to them. But it doesn’t matter, I know what I’m supposed to do: follow the rules and destroy the target. Which target, though? Well, I will find out when the time comes – for now, it’s just an ordinary guy.

The mission was to kill him in 29 days or less: to smash his heart and possibly his mind, no questions asked… but in a complex way that took me a while to understand – and I still wasn’t sure about it when I started. Apparently there is a highly effective way of hurting someone, and what makes it perhaps worse than death is the fact that the victim has to live with marks for the rest of his life. But not skin marks, as I thought at the beginning. Inside scars, where his heart was broken into pieces, where his mind still tries to make sense of what happened, what he did wrong. It’s called non accomplished love. No questions asked.

 

Day 29

The hot steams inside me are getting out now, they’re tears slowly filling my eyes before starting rolling on my checks. What have I done? How did I manage to become so… human? This is my end now, they’ll come get me back, leave him a message in which I say Adieu, and he’ll be left heartbroken… Exactly like they wanted him to. Why? Why do I have to do this? What was the purpose of my training? What did he actually do wrong, to deserve this? I know we’re different species, but we can still co-exist… Suddenly I realise I can’t do it, I can’t hurt him. It took me 29 days to figure it out, but now I know I need to tell him the truth, even if there’s a punishment for that…

I wipe the tears away when my internal system receives a message; nothing about failing and disappointment, but something completely different: Congratulations, V101-eT. You’re the first one to pass. You’re free to go home. Keep in touch. Without even blinking, I start running towards the other half of me – the human completing the machine.

The Battle Inside ~Old Draft~

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Hey, how do you feel today?

Well, what do you think? We both know we’re not going anywhere with this…

I know you have the impression that you love him. But really, do you?… How can you be sure?

I just feel it… Really hard. I can’t even explain it to someone else… It’s like – a short break, no longer than a heartbeat – I melt when I see him, when he looks at me.

A sigh. It’s not the right thing, you know? He’s leaving in a month, and it looks like there’s no chance of coming back… What are we going to do then?

We? Well, I don’t care about you. I’ll be happy. He just completes me, I feel it.

But he’s not the right one… He can’t be. Remember all he’s done to you in the past-

It’s your job to remember, mine is to feel, to feel the feelings I’ve been dreaming of- you’ve been dreaming of.

You’ll get smashed. Broken into pieces. It will be hard to find someone else to put you back together. You’ll regret it.

I take that risk. And please stop thinking that much…

Well, still, are you sure? Believe me, you don’t deserve him-

But I know he loves me-

However, if you get hurt-

At least it will be a lesson learned, that will never be repeated-

You know you always say that!

Silence. A heartbeat, then another.

A sigh. I don’t agree with you, but fine, we’ll do as you say. And you’re the stupid one here, believe me. Now lead the way, please.

And I followed my heart. Should I have listened to my mind instead?

[11.06.2014 – written for the Writing 101 Challenge, Dialogue between Different Perspectives]

New Year, just me.

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I know it’s been a while since my last post. Or posts. But I though that now with 2016 here, it can’t be that hard to write something about last year, about me, about what I hope this year will be like, plus, of course, the whole cliché called Resolutions and anything else.

I had lots of moments I’ve been proud of in 2015, and I’d like to talk more about a quite recent one: I’ve written a book. Although I’m not sure this is the right term for it – it’s not published and it may not even be in a publishable form. But it’s a novel that I enjoyed writing, and with a clear purpose in mind: to enter it in a ‘Young Writers’ competition that was happening in my home country. Obviously, the desired language wasn’t English, which made things a little harder since I’m used to write on this blog. More obviously, there were a certain deadline and a minimum number of characters involved – not words, for some reason, which means that
supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (tell me you know the word)
counted quite a lot, and ‘to be or not to be’ not that much… So I tried my best not to write like Snoopy below, given the fact that I knew my editing time would be really, really short. And I used a really cool Android app called Writeometer to keep track of daily progress.

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Although the time was short and postponing the task made it even shorter, I managed to finish both the storyline, the (minor) editing and to reach the threshold number of words about an hour before the deadline. The whole process could have fit into the NaNoWriMo challenge, but somehow it went a little over it. If you haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo, it basically stands for National Novel Writing Month, and you’re supposed to write a little bit – or more than a little bit – each day of November, so that your draft / novel is finished by the beginning of winter. Did I write each and every day of November? Nope. Did I finish before the 1st of December? Nope, but I finished 11 days later, which was the deadline that interested me. Over 200.000 words, based on a much shorter story that I had written in high school, in my mother tongue – I wouldn’t have time for another proper draft anyway. Did I enjoy it? Of course I did. Or else I would have stopped… (If only this could be valid for everything else in life.)

I know I said at some point in an older article that writing a book is nowhere close to writing on a blog. But to be honest I realised there are more similarities than I would have expected – the question is, would people read it? Which is the same question for blog articles, in fairness. The only thing is perseverance and passion – plus a good plot and characters. I ended up typing most of the book on my phone: writing on the tube – just like I do now, paying attention from time to time not to miss my stop – writing before going to job in the morning, writing while having dinner, writing in the lunch break at the office. Because even if the actual typing doesn’t necessarily make a good book, there’s definitely no book without it. So I cared less about editing and more about letting the words flow – that’s how I write on the blog in the end, right? Sometimes that’s how I speak as well. Just my pure thoughts.

But anyway, for me meeting that deadline was the prize itself. I feel like I won my own, personal, intimate competition which was represented by the challenge of finishing the novel. Will it get short-listed? I don’t know, I’ll find out soon – but if not, it means I’ll still get the chance of improving it in the future, without thinking about publishing it until it’s ready.

About my other fulfilled goals from 2015… Well, they’re mostly usual ones, like starting a great, long-distance relationship (I know I said in an earlier post the “great” and “long-distance” can’t be used together, but maybe I’ll explain at some point how I ended up changing my mind), starting a job, finishing university and starting life in a new place. But the question is, how I’d like this year to be – comparing it with the past one, since it’s better to learn from our mistakes and past experiences in general.

Of course I have cliché resolutions like going to the gym and eating healthier. But I also wish for things that people don’t usually say – like feeling good about myself, being more confident (I’m also trying to stop using foundation on my face on a day to day basis, ’cause after all I shouldn’t really care that much about my imperfections), crying less, managing to find out the reason I’m crying when there’s no apparent one, feeling less lonely, making new friends, smiling, having more time for my hobbies which – unfortunately – are not work related so they have to be done outside work times: like reading, writing, drawing. I was thinking I could try read 26 books this year. Or at least 12. And write not only on this blog, but also for some creative writing contests. Maybe finish that website that i started half a year ago, which was supposed to be a better version of this blog… and understand that I can’t create a perfect website, but it should be as close to perfect for fitting its purpose.

I guess the whole idea of a New Year resolution is to get out of your comfort zone – which is never easy. But if you stretch out far enough, you’ll eventually exit it, right?

About a Stranger and Depression

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She looks at people, trying to imitate them. But they wear shorts while she has gloves.

In April back home there’s a tulip festival, and colours, warm colours, just like the weather. And happiness. Here, she takes photos of tall buildings, grey sky and crowded underground stations. Everything is grey, the weather, even the people dress in pale colours. But that’s fine, she can get used to that, right?

She is scared of being different, of standing out from the others around. The gloves remind her of her grandma, she used to have a pair just like that, made of wool. But she will never be there with her.

She tries to call home, for the third time, but no one answers. Ah! She remembers. It’s night time at home. She goes out as often as she can. She eats fish and chips, cause that’s how it’s done. But she likes it.

People seem colder in a way though, even her friends. They are all fine, of course, but distant, even when they’re nodding and smiling while listening to her. She still likes talking. Talking about her home, her past life, her future hopes. Cause that’s why she came there.

That’s why she left everything behind, even the blue sky. To start a new life, amongst the black cabs and red double-deckers, and grey clouds, and raindrops. A different place calls for a change, it’s always like that. She oscillates between changing to fit in, and preserving her true self. She has changed so much, though. So much. Is that good or bad?

Some things will always be the same. But she can’t adjust her body temperature when she’s dreaming of proper summertime. She tries to listen to other people’s accents, copy them, cause they can sense she’s not from around when she speaks. They don’t mind that. But she does.

She likes feeding the squirrels, but what kind of squirrels are these anyway? Where are the red squirrels she knew, with fluffy pointed ears?… Even the squirrels are grey here.

They say home is where her heart is, but she can’t remember where she left it.

***

P.S.: I’ve been recently diagnosed with mild depression. That was about a month after I wrote the short article above, at the Arvon creative writing workshop (more here and here), but I though I could talk a little bit about it here. The article had to describe a struggle caused by moving to a new place, and I wrote it before I moved into the capital. It’s funny and sad in a way, how I found inspiration in something that hadn’t even happened yet. It’s like I saw it coming.

The cause for this ‘mild depression’ is, according to the doctor, the struggle of moving into a new environment. A little ironical. But I know that’s true, and I know that almost each and every one of us experiences at some point something that can be defined by a mild depression, nothing unusual. The thing is to decide what you want to do in order to make sure you’re heading in the right way. Exercising helps, usually. And friends, and hobbies, and family. It’s not the end of the world.

I obviously don’t feel depressed all the time. There was a video that someone shared on Facebook about a black dog which I find really interesting; some good points are outlined, so take your time and watch it here. An idea I liked is that you’ll get exhausted if you try hide your feelings all the time. Since I believe in honesty, I’m not trying to pretend I’m fine when I’m not. I can’t really see the point, and I don’t understand why people can be ashamed of feeling down, but I guess everyone is different.

Anxiety and depression seem to be quite related, so I tried learning how to relax in order to feel better. Yoga didn’t really seem to work in my case (who can bend their arms like that?!) so for now I’ll stick to what I know from the past that calms me down even if I feel like crying (that happens sometimes): my number one song in case of feeling low, from a magical movie.

Apart from that, having faith that any new environment and situation become familiar after a while🙂 and sport. And talking about it if I feel like so. Which is what I’m doing now.

 

Endless Seconds Between Us

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He looked around, preparing himself. The room was as silent as always, even more silent now that the large windows had been closed. You could no longer hear the cars and the buzzing of the traffic lights. The calm before the storm. Now the only intruder to break the silence was the massive, wooden clock that sat behind them, ticking away. He closed his eyes, listening to seconds pass, matching his own heart rhythm: boom, boom, boom… Only a couple more seconds before the thunder of her voice resonated in his ears.

‘How can you do that to me?!’

He opened his eyes to look at her.

She was still looking out the window, her back facing him. He was glad the windows were now closed, or else the whole city would have heard the tone of her voice. He sat down on the right side of the black leather sofa, sighing. He was always sitting there, on that half of the sofa, using the armrest as a mousepad whenever he worked from home. Not as often as before, nowadays.

‘Calm down, darling, the neighbors will hear you. You know how thin the walls are, and ’

‘I don’t care about the neighbours!’

She turned around to fire daggers at him, but his eyes were on the shelves, with all the books he’d alphabetically ordered; he liked to keep them that way. She could feel her eyes slowly filling with tears. She looked across to the framed photos that she wiped clean each and every Friday. From one, a young couple stared back at her, big smiles stretched across their faces. It was the day he proposed. The ring proudly resting on her finger as she held it up to the camera. There were pictures of her playing the cello alone on stage, pictures taken by him, sitting in the first row. She was even looking at the camera, albeit nervously. It was he who gave her strength to be there, the power to be confident.

He looked back at her, smiling a little when he realized she was following his advice and had stopped yelling. He knew she cared about their privacy as much as he did. But then she spoke again, her voice low and trembling, her blue eyes sparkling in tears now.

‘You really can’t do that. You promised you’ll be there, you have to.’

A tear rolled down to her chin and fell to the smooth, wooden floor. She remembered again the reason she insisted on having it. Parquet reminded her of a stage. She had enjoyed the years of playing her cello there, facing the city, yet still struggling to suffocate her anxiety with the music she loved. But nothing worked how it should unless his dark eyes were on her, supplying her with all the necessary courage. And that night, she would be alone.

‘Honey.’ His voice was relaxed, but he was trying hard to keep it like that. ‘You will be fine. I trust you, you’ve worked hard for this. And you know I want to be there, in the front row as always, to be there for you. But work, they really need me there and -’

‘Well, I need you as well! Since when is work more important than me?!’

She was sobbing furiously. Hesitating, he stood up and moved across to hug her. She pushed him away and turned again to the window. He looked at the clock, trying to hear the rhythmic beats, but her thunderstorm of tears was more powerful. Almost unnatural. But it was late.

‘I will lock the door after me. We’ll talk over the phone.’

He sighed again, she was ignoring him.

And then a door was closed, sealed with a key, and the clock continued to record endless seconds.

She collapsed on the right side of the sofa, her face wet and raw.

***

This is it, the article that was chosen for being published in “everyday hymn – a young writers’ anthology” – and I’m grateful for that! The book consists of articles and poems written at the Arvon Creative Writing workshop, which I attended this late August. The purpose of the article was to write a dialogue about an argument, a fight, a disagreement.

I’ve been asked by my mentor which of the characters was represented by me – the truth is, I’m not sure.🙂 I haven’t tried to get inspiration from a real dialogue, it’s pure fiction so I guess I’m a little bit of both. Or who knows, maybe it’s a inner argument with one’s self, two voices of the same person. I could write an article about the article, but maybe not right now… All that matters is that someone decided it was worth being published in a proper book, my first article that’s actually in a print version!😀

Violet, Horseradish, P.S.-s

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I decided to buy a horseradish and a bunch of violets to give my day some taste and colour. The funny thing about both the horseradish and violets is that they aren’t easy to define. You could think about the colour violet that’s actually a mixture of red and blue, two states of a soul that are contrary in such a way that the final result can’t be explained in an easy way. It’s almost dangerous to mix the passion of red with the sadness of blue, it creates an explosion which is just as strong as the perfume of these violets. As strong as the horseradish taste, which is too strange to be defined: is it bitter?… is it sweet?… It’s violet. Just like life.

P. S. 1. I wrote this little article at the Arvon Creative Writing workshop back at the end of August – if you follow me on Facebook, you know about it already. The very first exercise we received was to choose two random words that we like or we find interesting. Easy. Mine were ‘violet’ and ‘horseradish’, violet because of this and horseradish because of this. But actually both of them come from Lemony Snicket, with Violet and the word horseradish that I first encountered – in English – in one of those amazing books. But anyway, while the first exercise was piece of cake, the second was to write a sentence containing both, and the next one to just immediately continue writing and see what you get. That’s my result.

P.S.2. I didn’t have the chance to post it until now. I actually didn’t have a chance to post anything, not even another piece of writing from the workshop, or something related to one of the many, many ideas I have. It’s been a long time, I know, and I thought that starting a new job, moving into the capital city and getting used to everything that’s new could be good excuses. Guess what, they aren’t. I had a chat last night which made me realise they aren’t. Made me wake up in the morning and write this before work, and I’m thankful for that. Everyone knows that if you really like doing something, you’ll make time for it. So I hope I’ll manage to find a timeslot in my busy-or-not-so-busy-but-lazy life for writing on the blog🙂

P.S.3. I haven’t forgot I promised myself I’ll create my own website for the blog. It’s there, in a very early version, but again, it wasn’t in the top of my priorities recently… Same as in P.S.2, I’ll make time for it, at least until I decide it looks good enough to be publicly announced, even if not completely finished.

P.S.4. I GOT PUBLISHED!! Or actually, I will this Saturday😀 One of the articles written at Arvon was chosen to be included in an anthology for young people, which is launched this Saturday in Winter Gardens, Sheffield, UK. (Facebook event here). I will post it here as well after that. I know it’s probably not much, but then again, it makes me a little more motivated to continue with all this, which can’t be bad at all.

P.S.5 I realised that instead of P.S. I could have used ‘Note’, as P.S. is usually for ending letters. But perhaps all this was addressed to whoever is reading, so it makes a little bit of sense. I know it wasn’t the usual type of posts, but those will come pretty soon. It’s a promise.