Walkabout

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It began as a penal colony. No. That is not entirely accurate. As far as the history books were concerned, it began as a penal colony. It was an isolated mass of land where criminals could be put out of sight, and thereby out of the minds of those who had been wronged by their acts. In truth, it had existed long before the pragmatists devised a purpose for it.

Like all continents, it had already served as a home for many. In an effort to bring justice to the land, unjust men laid waste to the native inhabitants. Blood had been spilled onto sandy soil where little of value might grow. These rational minds — progressive thinkers and planners for their time — sought to sow seeds that would bare fruits of ill fortune. Strange, then, that such a blossom of staggering beauty had managed to grow from all of that pain and suffering. Continue reading

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Of God On High

Harmon stood atop the rails on his balcony. It was made of stone, and was very much a selling point to him when the realtor showed him the place. Place? The apartment was a palace; a metropolitan Taj Mahal. It had cost him nearly every cent from his third book deal.

In previous years, Harmon had been the subject of much adoration. He wrote purely, and honestly, and to his surprise the people below had respected him for it. They liked lies. Preferred even for their daily news programs to air fairy tales. Still, somehow, they had been taken by Harmon’s scrawling.

He wasn’t the voice of a generation. He certainly hadn’t converted any one to his philosophical camp. The people below seemed merely to enjoy his books for their characters, and perhaps because Harmon didn’t condescend to them. Not any more than most other writers, any way. He had monetized his inner self, which was the surest way to success in America, and he did so gladly.

In the years that followed, however, Harmon found himself wanting to reverse his good fortune. He had written honestly and purely, yes; but, his intentions were as gaudy as they were misunderstood. He didn’t want to entertain, but he had longed to thrive. He wanted to pontificate, to change minds and start dialogues. He wanted to be taken seriously, but found himself prostituted along with all the other novelties.

He had his penthouse palace, yes; he had his comfortable existence; he loomed over every one else while he ate his bacon and eggs. But, under no circumstances, was he content. He was a jester seated in the King’s throne, but he wanted to be taken seriously. That had always been his aim. Life and his ill-conceived reactions to it had made that impossible.

His writing had become misconstrued as satire, or parody. He had represented the truths authentically, but they were so absurd that the people below could not receive them as such. He could hardly blame the people below, for the manufactured truths they were fed were more palatable in every way. Through the lens of fiction, benefitted by structure and character arcs, clear protagonists and antagonists, everything made more sense. Harmon had long known this.

His father had been a pastor when he was young. The people seated below the pulpit had taken the man very seriously, though he proselytized lie after lie — however well intentioned they were in the eyes of all who knew well enough. The people had turned to the man for direction, for advice on how to better lead their lives. They wanted to be like Jesus, because being themselves was not good enough.

His father had told him that being a writer was no way to make a living. The same was said about being a pastor, but of course there was an imagined distinction between the two: One wrote tales to entertain, the other bellowed tales to enlighten. This lunacy had persisted because of the great lie of religion: The stories of Jobe or of Revelations had not been written by men looking to tell tales, but were the immutable words of God himself.

Harmon had more in common with God than did his own father, or any of the dedicated damned who spoke His word. He created, and had his creations ruined by those who received them. For all the good his words might do, the counterweight was far too great. It pulled at his legs, forsake them with its heft.

He wavered atop the stone barrier. A lit cigarette clung to his middle finger, having been adhered to it by the faint misting of sweat that seeped from his skin, and which had mostly dried in the howling autumn breeze. He had considered the cleaning woman before relocating outside. That was his last good deed.