Morning Pages: 10/1/19

PROMPT: She had missed the last train and there was only one person she

hated more than herself. It all boiled down to timing, she tried to say, but that was a lie. If she had just ordered the uber or lift one minute earlier, none of this would have happened and she would be there for–for–well, she didn’t know what she was running toward, but it had to be better than what she had left behind.
In the distant city night, a siren began to wail. It was long a pleading, like a lamb left out in the cold of winter while it’s yew is cozied in the shelter with its brothers and sisters. Why did she equate everything to farm animals? Maybe because the gig was up and the lamb was her and the cold was pressing in.
Her breath buffed out, visible under the street lights.
She could still see the taillights of the train, cruising away into the distance and all the while, the siren got louder.
They’d never let her leave. Not this city. Not ever.
She picked up her thrown bag and walked back into the station. Nobody was in there. The kiosks kept flashing their lights: 50 PERCENT OFF ALL TIX TO STOWAWAY.
Where Stowaway was, she didn’t know.
She left the lighted interior and went out onto the street corner and let her bag fall once again. It slumped on its side, like a child throwing a tantrum. Why couldn’t she do that? Just give up. She guessed that was what she had been trying to do. Give up, run away. Leave the businesses, the corporations, the lights, and noise behind. All she wanted was to live in the country. A small place. Maybe with a garden. She’d heard of people who grew their own vegetables and raised chickens for their eggs. The only vegetables she’d ever had were grown in an AngriVat and the only eggs were ones that came from the Pens.
People said those veggies and eggs even tasted better. But she’d never get to try them.
She could hear the wailing of the sirens closer now, and even make out the red and blue splashing of light off some of the nearby buildings.
When the trucks came around the corner, they barely made any sound at all. Just the whirring, like a drone, but they were cars.
A man in a suit stepped out of one, men in the uniforms of AngriPol stepped out of the others. They didn’t point guns or yell–they knew she couldn’t go anywhere.
The man in the suit stepped up to her.
“Susan,” he said. “You know you’re not authorized to leave the city.”
“I know,” she said.
“What’s best for the city is best for you.”
“Is it?”
The man nodded as if explaining one plus one equals two.
“It’s very simple. If corporations create, you consume, work, and so on.”
“I don’t want to be part of it anymore,” she told him.
“Without consumers what do you think would happen?”
She looked at the curb. She shook her head. “I guess production would stop.”
“That’s correct,” said the man. “And if production stops, nobody would have jobs, and if nobody has jobs nobody can consume.”
She looked up into the man’s eyes. They sparkled as the lights of the AgriPol cars continued to flash.
“What if I don’t want anything anymore?”
The man bent down. “Everyone wants. That’s just the way things are. In this city, you get to fulfill that. Out there,” he pointed back into the station. “Out there, people want and never get to fill that void. They want and want and want, but they are stuck with nothing.”
She wanted to tell him that the people outside the city had choices too. Choices to make what they needed. To work on their own homes, not Agri-owned ones. They went for walks in the hills and bruised their bodies playing games that weren’t riddled with corporate sponsorship. They had enough, and the stars overhead and sometimes that’s better than having everything. But she’d missed the last train and the GhostTek she’d paid was probably dead by now.
She stood up.
“We can order something nice,” said her father.
She only nodded, a hollow shell of an answer. The man in the suit led her back to his car and she climbed in. Overhead, the stars could not be seen by the flashing of the lights and the glam of a city that seemed completely dead. She wondered what real grass looked like. Not the perfect GreenGrow of AgriGen, but the muddied pits of a football pitch in the country. Someday she would see.

At Home in Filmistan by William Nakabayashi, The Believer Magazine, June/July 2018

I know my coverage as of late has been on stories from Asimov’s and F&SF, but I do still have a subscription to The Believer. It’s one of my favorite productions, still, though I’ve found the offering a little more hit and miss over the last few issues.

This piece is intriguing, though lacks, for me, any definitive meaning. It is a rather typical119-cover piece you’d find in The Believer if there is such a thing as a typical piece for this publication. The author travels to Mumbai as an ethnographer and meets a man who was part of the aboriginal peoples of what is now called Filmistan. Filmistan is a movie production hub with multiple sets and sound stages. Sadly, the formation of this Filmistan in the 1940s displaced the indigenous people of the region. Now there are very few who identify as Warlis, rather they have mostly assimilated with the rest of the populace of the suburbs of Mumbai.

Vikas is a Warlis and one that still practices, or attempts to practice many Warlis traditions. He maintains much of the prayer and spirituality as his indigenous ancestors but is constantly influenced by a film industry that worships fame, visibility, and technology more than the old mystical aspects of the human experience.

The author of this piece has been friends with Vikas for almost 2 decades and watches him go through the heavy endeavor of marrying ancient traditions with an ever-changing technological world in which social stratum is less defined yet still maintained by economic fortune and visual expectations, as visibility, in Vikas’s mind, is power.

It’s an interesting piece, but I feel as though I’m still unsure how monumental the founding of Filmistan was and how much damage it did the Warlis people. it is obvious that it was severe, but this piece focuses much more on Vikas and his eccentricities than on the difficulties of losing oneself when the culture you have ancestral ties to is degraded and disregarded.

Forgetting by Abigail Thomas, Brevity, Issue 57, Jan 2018

This short piece of nonfiction is what the title suggests, but also so much more. Abigail Thomas is older now than she once was. She’s in her 70s, still publishing, still writing memoirs. She even, if you read the little bio at the end of this piece, has 4 children and 12 grandkids. It is, perhaps, no surprise that she has written this piece. My father, who is also in his 70s now, is less forgetful than he once was, but is also forgetful.

But this piece is about the feeling of remembrance as much as it is about the act of forgetting. It’s about how to remember as we grow, about what we’re forgetting. At first, it’s about the small stuff. The real small stuff. Like keys, which you won’t forget for long if you lock your door. But then there’s a small section at the end of the piece that asks the question of what do we want to come back as. And this too is a rememberance, of sorts. A remembrance of what Thomas believes fish are or aren’t. A remembrance of the physical world, rather than intangible thoughts. I like this piece because it touches on issues I often think about as well. (B)