othersdie: shadows withering the flowers (!Multipurpose)
Ah, wretch! Today he says: I know it all,
And goes away closing his eyes and ears.
And the gods are no more! Mankind is King,
And Man is God! But Love is the only faith...

[Rimbaud, "Credo In Unam"]

Polychromatic Application )
othersdie: are you exiled in those bottomless nights? (Default)
♦ Ridiculously long survey meme
♦ Some of Justin's favorite poems and excerpts

TL;DR: The Best of Justin on LJ
(for the purpose of preserving his development as a human being)

Part I (November 5th, 2008 through April 22nd, 2009)
Part II (April 28th, 2009 through September 11th, 2009)
Part III (September 17th, 2009 through March 12th, 2010)
Part IV (May 13th, 2010 through October 8th, 2010)

Were it not that I have bad dreams..,
othersdie: are you exiled in those bottomless nights? (Confused)
Jan. 13th, 2010

[A dream pops into being—not dramatically, but quietly. Hesitantly, almost. The surroundings are vague and indistinct; they’re irrelevant. The ground is solid enough to walk on, but it feels unstable as if it might tilt away at any moment. Justin is present, staring at the featureless walls, barely there himself. He appears to flicker like an image on a television with poor reception. He can’t be touched. He can’t hear anyone.

Justin begins to talk, quietly and entirely to himself. As he speaks, a blurry image whirls into existence. It’s a boy—Justin’s age, perhaps a little older, certainly more handsome, wearing a red leather jacket, a cocky grin, and possessing all of the confidence in the world.]

What would he say? If he were here? It would involve a derogatory remark, and possibly a suggestive sneer. He'd wonder why I'm not drunk or high, then he'd say something idiotic to draw me into an argument or get too close and tell me that he knows how—

[Justin’s voice dies and he stares at the other boy, face blank. The boy in the red leather becomes more solid—more real, perhaps, than Justin—and addresses him directly. He has a charming smile and a charismatic presence. Justin doesn’t react to him.]

Do you hate me? ...I had to do it. I didn't want to hurt you, but I had to show you what she's really like. She's not good enough for you. She doesn't appreciate you. She's like your mom, and dad, and everyone else. I'm the only person who really cares about you.

[Justin eyes the boy—Richard—critically, skeptically.] Philosophy's dead. Richard's dead. I'm dead, even if I'm still functioning.

[Richard continues as if he didn’t hear Justin, reaching out to brush Justin’s hair back. The gentle gesture abruptly turns violent; Richard grabs Justin by the back of the neck, pulling him close.]

I think I'm the only person who sees how incredible you really are. Don't go away, Justin... come on. What we did... together... how many people can say they've done that?

[Justin doesn’t flinch or, indeed, show any sign of being moved by the words. He making no effort to get away.]

If the monsters were people, they must be people who had the capacity for evil. How like them am I? I was almost convinced that I could be entirely forgiven and escape what I did. I'm unsure now. Maybe the City feeds on the wicked, draining them and warping them into monsters to guard the clock. No one who is good and innocent--no one like Shilo or Abby--could become monsters. The monsters are people like me. Perhaps nothing I do can change that.

[Richard reverts to his initial gentleness, still oblivious to Justin’s words, practically radiating a concern that, while convincing, feels deceptive.] It's safe here, okay? You don't have to worry about anything anymore...not your mother or your father or school, or anything. It's all moot.

[Justin lifts an arm. It’s an almost imperceptible movement, but Richard vanishes abruptly. Justin gains solidity, becoming more real in the absence of his friend.]

What’s going to happen to me? [Justin sighs and apathy changes into melancholy. The change is subtle and his voice is still flat.] He's the Verlaine to my Rimbaud. Rimbaud gave up writing when he no longer had Verlaine... he was twenty-one.

[He glances over his shoulder, not seeing anything.] I like plants. They're predictable, quiet, and not prone to cannibalism or murder.

[A woman appears. She has a gun at her hip and a confidence that rivals Richard’s. As happened before, Justin becomes a little less tangible as she approaches him and begins to circle, not unlike a vulture waiting for a sick animal to die. Her words are short and cold. Justin remains calm and stone-faced.] The person who actually killed Olivia Lake is gonna be executed. But the other one, who didn't actually kill her, if he cooperates... will have a chance at a real life.

What's going to happen to me?

Since you weren't the actual killer... with what you did down there for me... don't worry about it. I'll take care of you.

[Another image appears. This one is two-dimensional—a movie. Justin’s in it, body fully covered, saran wrap over his hair, and goggles on. Richard is sitting, looking at Justin searchingly; there’s a woman on the ground, face indistinct, feet and arms bound. Richard hands a frightened-looking Justin a pair of latex gloves. The Justin in the dream—the one still being circled by an apparently anxious female cop—watches, speaking.]

One cannot live fully without embracing suicide and crime. A pact made with relentless fire... that requires that while some live... others must die.

[In the dream-movie, Justin takes the gloves and, mechanically, straddles the bound woman. He wraps his hands around her throat and squeezes. His eyes are locked on Richard. Tears threaten, then fall. The woman with no face is still and dead. Richard nods. In the dream, the cop—Cassie—walks away and fades into the surroundings.]

The only way to purge the world of unfairness, corruption, lethal ideologies, and hypocrisy is to murder the unfair, the corrupt, the idealists, and the hypocrites.

[Abruptly, the two-dimensional scene flickers and disappears. The prison—the one that sunk in the City not so long ago—closes in on Justin and the rest of the dream scene. Everything is clear and solid-looking now, with none of the nebulosity of the beginning of the dream. Justin sinks to the floor, hands around a now-bruised throat, blood sluggishly dripping from numerous vertical cuts on his exposed arms. He’s crying, shaking—almost whispering.]

I could have let her die, but I didn't. I saved her, and she--she didn't save me, and she killed him. We paid. I just want another chance... to start over. I haven't hurt anyone else. I wouldn't... I'm not like that. I'm not…

[Cassie comes back, clad entirely in black. If she was cold before, she’s fully frozen now. She looks down at Justin contemptuously as he stammers out a defense.]

You have to believe me! When I went over there...I had no idea. I never thought I'd... I had to show him. I just want a chance! I want to start over! I want--

It doesn't work that way. You get one life, and whatever you do with it, whatever's done to you... you gotta face that. There are no second chances.

[Cassie and the prison dissolve into nothing. Justin returns to his normal state, uninjured, hair neat and long-sleeved shirt buttoned. He stands, blank once again.]

I wonder if the dead can disappear. If no one can see or hear us, and no one thinks about us, do we fade?

[Faces materialize—faces from the City. Friends long gone, like Lan. Abby, grinning broadly and holding a Caf-Pow. Shilo, a shy smile on her face. They’re quickly overwhelmed by darkness, leaving Justin with a person who, in spite of the foggy quality of her features, can only be Road. She smiles sweetly and proceeds to cut herself in half—very literally--with a knife. There are voices—familiar ones, City voices—but they’re too numerous to catch. The voices rise to a dull roar. Road is replaced by Justin—another Justin, mirroring the one present in the dream. This shadowy Justin pulls a bound woman into view and holds a surgical scalpel to her cheek. His voice is low and quiet.]

Try not to cry.

[The shadow Justin aligns the scalpel’s sharp edge with the girl’s cheekbone and cuts. That image cracks and shatters into nothingness, leaving Justin alone once again in his featureless dream world. Abby’s voice echoes in the nothingness.]

I'm very proud and I don't even know you.

[And then Shilo’s voice, clear in the fog.]

Can't a person wake up and decide to start over? Of course it won't be easy. And it will take more than a day, but that makes them special. Worth appreciating. I guess I like the idea of a new start.

[Justin stares at the featureless world around him, his face just as unreadable as his surroundings. Blankly, he begins to talk to himself.]

It can take up to ten minutes for the condemned to die in a gas chamber. Potassium cyanide pellets are dropped into a holding tank of sulfuric acid, resulting in the generation of hydrogen cyanide gas. …This gas kills via metabolic asphyxiation. Accordingly, the brain is one of the first organs to suffer its effects.

[He looks bothered by this momentarily. That emotion is fleeting.]

Convulsions and hallucinations may precede unconsciousness and death.

Oct. 22nd, 2010

This nightmare is a chaotic roar, a confused jumble of moments that may or may not have happened. The world is fractured like a broken funhouse mirror and, in each distorted shard, a story plays out. Sounds and sights and emotions overlap. It’s overwhelming. If, however, the mind can focus on one of the multiple and simultaneous shards of thought…

Here, Justin sits in a bleak cell that has no defining features. It could be anywhere, at any time. It’s cold. Justin’s face is as blank as the nondescript walls around him. There have been no visitors, and there is no hope that any will come. It’s just as well. Visitors might bring emotion with them, and it’s simpler to sit and feel nothing than to let the germ of emotion into the sterile environment. Emotions feed fear. Better to accept the inevitability of death with cold apathy than with fear.

Over there, Justin stares down at a body that has broken on the same rocks that break the ocean waves. The waves are deafening, crashing like thunder and drowning out all other sounds. Fear, anger, guilt, pain, and despair linger in the air, nearly tangible entities.

In another fragmented moment, Justin pulls the trigger of a gun. The bullet moves impossibly slow and its target is ever-changing. It hits a bleach-blond head that those who have visited Justin’s nightmares will recognize; it goes through Sorrow’s face; it passes through a young woman’s neck. Blood is everywhere—in the air, on the floor, beating against every sense organ. The gunshot echoes on and on.

A faceless woman is speaking to Justin here. She’s wearing an officer’s uniform and her voice is cold. You get one life, and whatever you do with it, whatever's done to you... you gotta face that. There are no second chances. She pauses; the silence is louder than her voice was. I'm not really interested in what a murderer's idea of just and unjust might be.

And here Justin is being torn apart by monsters that look like corpses in varying states of composition. The sounds from the creature’s mouths are inhuman.

There, Justin in is the forensics lab performing an autopsy. He looks sick to his stomach. The corpse’s face is visible and shifting—a rotting skull, Abby Sciuto, Shilo, Neil, Todd, Zia. Its identity changes relentlessly and endlessly until it settles, and, for a moment, Justin is dissecting his own corpse.

There’s a final Justin amid the chaos, fruitlessly trying to shoot himself in the head. The gun’s chambers are empty, but every click is as loud as a gunshot.

Numerous Justins, numerous horrors, numerous nightmares all playing out simultaneously. Sounds, emotions, and images are confused, difficult to pull apart. The shattered-mirror dreamscape howls… and collapses into silence. The shards fall, splinter further, and then come together in a single image. Many Justins become one. A broken world turns into a dark, broken-down building with creaking floorboards and empty window panes. After the auditory chaos before it, this scene is a remarkably quiet one. The ocean murmurs faintly in the night. Justin—a singular Justin—sits on the edge of a dilapidated balcony, feet dangling out over the rocky coast far, far below.
othersdie: truly, I have wept too much (Lost)
"And death--death is either oblivion or an eternity with our minds. Oblivion is fine. Eternity..."

May. 13th, 2010
A beginner's guide to hunting killer sheep.

[The following is all but whispered.]

If you haven't read Dr. Chase's recent announcement, please do so immediately. Avoid the sheep if possible. Refrain from fighting them unless you know what you're doing. Quarantine yourself if you are bitten.

These sheep apparently hunt in flocks; the attacks I've seen were carried out by anywhere from four to a dozen sheep. Unlike most sheep, these have teeth on both their upper and lower jaws as well as--if their bites are any indication--sharp canines. If you are outside, please keep in mind that sheep have remarkable auditory and olfactory senses. Don't try to sneak up on them. They can see behind themselves without turning their heads. Their depth perception, however, is limited, making darkened areas and hilly terrain difficult for them to traverse in--

[A pause. The sound of baaing grows louder before fading, allowing Justin to continue.]

Shooting them in the head is, as far as I can tell, the most effective way to kill them, but use caution. The sound of gunshots seems to attract rather than frighten them. Since these sheep seldom move alone, be prepared to face several even if you only see one.

Finally, the sheep appear to be selecting their victims. I've seen them ignore several easy targets to attack well-armed individuals or groups. Make of that what you will.

Jun. 15th, 2010
Dear Deities: A short essay on pain.

There are a number of questions that might be asked about pain: Is pain a purely subjective experience or an objective condition of a physical object? Does pain exist outside of perception? Does pain have a purpose beyond the biological? Is pain something to avoid or something to embrace? I could present the answers of philosophers and poets (Nietzsche, haunted by pain, had a lot to say on the topic), but that isn’t what the deities want, is it? They don’t want recitations and paraphrases; they want to know our thoughts and feelings. The subject with no secrets is easiest to manipulate and torment.

The prize they’ve offered is, I hope, worth a small surrender of our power.

There is no single definition of pain. We’re all familiar with physical pains—the brief sting of a cut, the useless throbbing of a bruise, the urgent scream of a serious flesh wound—and the more insidious pains of the mind and emotion. Physical pain is, I would argue, more straightforward and easier to overcome than emotional pain. Our bodies are equipped to handle the pains they suffer and our minds are strong enough to distance us in overwhelmingly painful situations. When the mind is tormented by pain, however, there’s nothing to save us. Despair, betrayal, jealousy, desolation, internal conflict—we’re not equipped with natural analgesics to combat these pains or a desire to extract ourselves from the situations causing pain. There’s something desirable about mental and emotional pain. At times we savor our bleaker, darker emotions, fostering their growth rather than distancing ourselves from them. Who hasn’t felt a sense of satisfaction in jealousy’s slow burn? Who can say that they haven’t found a certain amount of solace in an agonizing fit of sadness?

Pain can heighten our perception and sharpen our minds, leading us to epiphanies that would normally escape us. Pains can send us into a creative fervor, igniting thoughts and words that are only accessible in the depths of apparently inescapable agony. The antithesis of pain—not pleasure, for pleasure and pain appear to be inextricably intertwined—is ahedonism, or a complete lack of the pleasure-pains that spawn genius and an appreciation of existence. Nothingness may appear preferable to pain to those who can’t find an end to their suffering, but, to those who find themselves devoid of all feeling, pain is a treasure. Without some measure of pleasure or pain, life is a wasteland. There is no hope, no brilliance, no drive, no goal, and no reason for being.

We shouldn’t seek life without pain. Instead, we should master our pains—channel the raw emotions they create into something of value and learn to express pain appropriately. Unchecked pain is a weakness. It dims our minds, impairs our judgments, and makes our actions artless and overhasty. Pain controlled, however, can be beautiful. It can be powerful. Someone who has mastered his or her pain experiences a true freedom. Pain, as Nietzsche says, is the greatest tool that the strong can use to manipulate the weak. If we have control of our pain—not of the cause of the pain, perhaps, but of our reactions to it—then we are impervious to all attacks. Those who cause pain do so to assert their power. If the subject of pain doesn’t react favorably, then the victim gains power over the aggressor.

Pain, whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional, shouldn’t be avoided. What doesn’t destroy us wholly only gives us strength, and the pain that we master gives us freedom.

Jul. 4th, 2010
Depression and a holiday lead to drinking and rambling.

Growth, and then they send snow. The deities appreciate irony. If it's like last year, however, the garden will keep growing after the snow melts. The sudden snowfall doesn't kill most plants. It insulates. Still, I wonder about the connection to their prompts.

The flowers are all inside this year. This happened last year (June--I lost a pot of orchids to ice), and it seemed reasonable to assume it would happen again. Everything repeats itself here. The carousel turns, the clock keeps ticking, curses revisit us, there's constant leaving, entering, leaving again, re-entering... there's something to it. It means something. We can't even die without coming back. It's a city of self-perpetuation--of circles and repetition. Is that why time doesn't move at home when we're here? Does time run in circles here, too?

The clock and carousel mean something. Maybe time is bound in the clock.

What's the line... flottaison blême... et ravie, un noyé pensif parfois descend. "I bathed in the Poem / Of the Sea, star-infused and churned into milk, / Devouring the green azures; where, entranced in pallid flotsam, / A dreaming drowned man sometimes goes down..." Rimbaud. "The Drunken Boat"... Le Bateau Ivre.

A dreaming drowned man. I've wondered if this is a dream a thousand times since I came here, and I still expect to wake up and find that none of it happened. I don't know where I would wake up. I don't know where the drowned man goes once he's done dreaming. "Deliriums"... "under the gleam of daylight." Is there more to the City than that? A clock spinning in endless, delirious circles while we dream, convinced all the while that we're not dreaming?

The snow feels real. It's beautiful--snow. I never saw it at home. Not snow like this with icicles hanging off of the frozen flowers. I appreciate the illusion of purity it gives, however fleeting it is. It'll be gone in a day or two. The snow melted quickly last time.

When I used to dream, the dreams melted as soon as I was awake. I've never been a poet. I couldn't hold on to a dream long enough to write it down.

If this is a dream--and a persistent one--I should be able to write, but its dreamlike qualities come and go. Most days are like any waking days and, on those days, I'm convinced that this is real. The curses don't matter. It only becomes dreamlike when I think about it and try to understand. If I just experience, I feel awake; if I think, I feel like I'm dreaming.

Experiencing or thinking, I can't understand the symbolism.

Aug. 5th, 2010
After dying and buying his life back from the Keeper.

Asters. More specifically, these are Eurybia divaricata, or white wood asters. They flower in mid to late summer and early fall and are, to some, a symbol of patience. It takes approximately two years for an aster to flower fully, as this one has.

This was the second plant I had in the City. The first was an orchid, but Neith killed that last year. I'm surprised by how well plants do indoors with standard fluorescents; prior to the City, I had a greenhouse that received more than enough natural light for my purposes. They thrive, however--the plants--in spite of the artificial lighting, the occasional curse, and the insects they coexist with.

We do well as transplants. It takes time for us to adjust to this environment, but we do adjust eventually. Some of us do better here than at home...

For those who have wondered what the cost of a life is (I know I've given it thought), the answer, in my case, is eighteen eyes. Five pairs from cattle, four from pigs, all available for purchase in the City.

Sep. 20th, 2010
A curse induces over-sharing!

I don’t remember how old I was when I saw a cat catch a bird on the school playground. It must have been in kindergarten… first grade. It doesn’t matter. I was reading when I heard this noise. It was—there’s nothing to compare it to. I dropped my book and went to find what had made it and, under the old jungle gym that no one played on, there was a cat with a small brown bird in its mouth.

I just watched. I didn’t know what else to do. The cat released the bird and we both watched it as it tried to escape, wings fluttering and head turning this way and that. It was frightened. There was a moment when I felt as if I was watching something important… something strangely relevant. Some part of myself trying to run from the inevitable.

The cat killed it. I watched that, too, even after the bell rang and everyone else went inside. No one noticed, and I couldn’t make myself leave. Even after it was dead, that bird—I didn’t want to leave it. I chased the cat away and just stared at the bird’s body. It was sickening, but compelling. I felt like I had made a discovery, although I didn’t know—I still don’t know—what that discovery was.

Someone found me eventually. The gym teacher. He asked me what I was looking at, so I showed him. He called me a sick little fucker, picked the bird’s body up with a tissue, and threw it in the dumpster.

I cried. It’s idiotic in retrospect… slightly ironic. That was the same day that I learned that boys aren’t supposed to cry and parents don’t appreciate being asked what “fucker” means in certain contexts, but the bird was the worst of it. That was the first time I saw death—when I first began to understand it outside of vague childhood euphemisms. I didn’t fear death, and I didn’t regret not saving the bird… but I had a new awareness. Worthlessness. I had a glimpse at how meaningless an individual life is, and how little impact death has on the world as a whole.


Oct. 8th, 2010
This follows a supposedly apocalyptic flood, Beckett's abduction, shooting someone...

I prefer sins to threats of floods of Biblical proportions. Sinning--if you believe in sin outside of the context of curses--is part of being human. Even if you don't believe in the concept of sin, we're still inescapably flawed creatures that allow our base instincts to overwhelm our social conditioning.

Assuming this string of curses isn't followed by a Biblical punishment, it's not that bad.

Watch me jinx the entire City. I still think that atheists should be exempt from strictly religious curses.

I've been thinking about religion, though. I don't believe any of it--I have yet to see convincing evidence that a divine power exists--but, at times, I wish I did. Imagine having a set code to follow. Roman Catholics have seven sins that they must avoid and seven virtues to uphold; their world, in life and in death, has order and certainty. That's why I've read so much philosophy. It must be. I've been looking for secular codes of conduct--anything to give existence clarity, meaning, and structure.

Knowing what is moral and what is amoral is difficult regardless of what rules one follows. Many philosophies and religions provide ethical decision-making tools, but who can truly stop, analyze, and determine the best route under pressure? When I was given the choice to face Myrnin or find Beckett, what should I have done?

Almost two years ago--and before that--I wouldn't have made a choice. I would have stood there weighing the pros and cons of each decision until it was too late to act on either. I wouldn't have replied to Ken's message. I wouldn't have shot Sorrow. I was so obsessed with finding a philosophy and following it that I couldn't make decisions, even when it was necessary. I never realized how rigid life was. Go to school, study, read, think. Repeat. There were no decisions to make until Richard, and even then... even then I was too inflexible. The structure changed, but I was still trapped inside of it. It was religion. We were gods and, in this framework we--I--created, we had a course to follow. We had a path to enlightenment and perfection--oneness and power.

That's what it was to me. I don't know why Richard went along with it. Was it the thrill? I don't understand minds like his.

I regret being alive. It's taken almost two years to realize that. I regret building a cage around myself and becoming trapped in my own idiocy. Life's framework left no room for emotion. Decisions had to made intellectually and gut instincts were base things to master and control. In a way, it was useful. All of the emotions I could have felt were discarded. Any pain I could have experienced was stifled with reason. The emotions were still there--looking back, I can remember them--but they didn't fit into my rational worldview.

What would have happened if I had acted on the fear that I dismissed every time Richard and I broke a small law? What if guilt had kept me from strangling that woman? What if I had stopped thinking for a moment and started acting outside of the designated lines?

Something happened near the end. When the plan crumbled and the framework collapsed, there was nothing between me and my emotions. There was no nihilistic philosophy to fall back on. There was fear, disgust, anger, loathing... a sense of self-preservation. The dam broke and all I wanted was to erase my life and write it again. Cassie must have known that I wasn't motivated by selflessness when I saved her, both from the bullet and from falling. She must have known. I was weak. I wanted to save my life, even if it wasn't worth saving.

I still don't know how I feel about Richard. In the end, I couldn't sort out the emotions--assign them to events and people. I felt betrayed when he backed out on the suicide pact, but there was more than that. The knowledge that he would have watched me blow my brains out after all we had done...

But I'm not angry. When I think of Richard now, all I feel is guilt. If he hadn't had me as a tutor for biology... if we hadn't started discussing crime... I don't know what would have happened. I would have stayed trapped by idiotic dogmas and he would have gone on to do something remarkable. Then again, if he hadn't encouraged me--if he hadn't translated my abstract ideas into actions--it wouldn't have happened. We destroyed each other. That is undeniable. Cassie might have been the one to throw him off of the balcony, but I was the one who killed him. He killed me. I think I was dead--dead in all of the important ways--before I set foot inside the state jail.

We built our own framework. I provided the blueprints, he provided the labor. I'll never know if Richard believed in becoming more than human and unity or if he was ever serious about the suicide pact. I think it was a game to him--one he could quit if it became too difficult. I don't think he had any intention of dying. Then why did he play? He said it was me, but at least half of everything that came out of Richard's mouth was a lie. I did believe him, at least to a degree. I wanted to believe that I was special and worthy of the power we were seeking, and he almost had me convinced. I regret that, too--not feeling where Richard was concerned. Maybe he was manipulating me. Maybe he meant some of what he said. If I would have let myself feel before the plan was made, we might have been friends. It seems unlikely, but if he saw anything in me...

When I saw Richard's body, it was like having every emotion I had repressed up to that point hit me simultaneously. He meant something to me. I don't know what--I never will know--but he did.

After that initial outpouring of emotion, emotions ceased entirely. I wasn't afraid of prison. I wasn't afraid of dying. I wasn't thankful to my father for flying back to California, hiring a decent lawyer, and moving my execution date forward so I wouldn't have to spend an extended amount of time surrounded by other murderers. In retrospect, prison could have been hell. A seventeen year-old on murderers' row. I was fortunate. I didn't realize it at the time because I had already decided to die. If the Haywoods' lawyer hadn't been so convincing and I had been given a light sentence, I think I would have died anyway. There was no plan and no philosophy to save me. There wasn't a point.

There weren't visitors. A few months of isolation--I think they drove me insane.

And now I can see how far I've come. When I came to the City, I was a shell. Even with Richard here, my emotions were remote and all I had was a shoddy reconstruction of my prior beliefs to guide me.

When did it change? When did apathy--an almost self-destructive apathy--turn into feeling? When did I begin to listen to emotion and reason instead of reason exclusively? What was the catalyst? Did it happen when Road showed me what kind of a monster I had been intent on becoming?

What good has it done me?

Feeling doesn't result in wise decision-making. I could have apprehended Myrnin, assuming he had been willing to surrender. That would have been logical. That would have been right, I think, according to the police code. I went after Beckett instead. I could justify the decision... had Myrnin resisted, I wouldn't have had a chance against him; my position in the department doesn't require that kind of activity; locating Beckett was as much a priority as capturing Myrnin. I followed my emotions--fear that Myrnin would kill me, concern for Beckett. It wasn't noble. A couple of years ago, I would have considered my choice a weak and cowardly one.

And the debacle with Sorrow. I didn't have to reply to Ken's message; Tuesdays are my days off. I didn't have to respond in person because I'm not trained to handle violent situations, but it seemed like the right thing to do. There was no time for analysis. There was no time to analyze the situation before I shot Sorrow. I thought he would kill Ken. Emotion prompted a hasty and regrettable action.

I had meant to kill him--Sorrow. I had aimed at his head, but my hands were shaking. There was rationale behind the decision. If he was dead, Ken would be safe and Sorrow would return, presumably not as a vampire. Simple. I didn't think it through before I shot, but I can justify it.

I tried to kill someone. I've never shot anyone before. I used to practice at home, and I was good, but I didn't shoot anything living. I'm a terrible killer.

Richard ran over a cat when he was fifteen and he had his learner's permit. He drove to school even though he wasn't allowed to and, one day, he hit a cat in the parking lot. I cried about that--about a cat. I was fourteen. Three years after that, I strangled a woman. I think I cried then, too. The emotions associated with the events were, and still are, vague... detached. I had mastered the art of detachment. But something about them still hurt.

I threw up when I dumped the body. It wasn't the gore. I can tolerate blood. I don't remember throwing up, but it must have been guilt. The same thing happened with Sorrow. I can't tell the difference between guilt and nausea anymore.

It would have been kinder to kill Sorrow. I saw his post on the network tonight. If I had had better aim, I could have solved his vampire problem. I could have prevented whatever pain is involved when a jaw is reconstructed. Better yet, I could have been a more efficient leader during Beckett's absence. I could have done something to capture Myrnin and Sorrow, making the above decisions unnecessary. I could have been kinder to Shilo and Zia. They both wanted me on the ark, but reason said no. Reason told me to hold my position.

I've made more mistakes than I can count in the last few weeks. I've thought about them; when I think about them, all of the other mistakes I've made come back. I don't even know how to feel about them. Part of me is still controlled by reason and part of me feels things with an urgency that I can't fully deny. This must be normal--how normal people are. Part reason, part emotion. I'm not used to it. I'm too weak to listen to both parts.

Road has known that since we met. I've fought her about it, insisting that emotion strengthens rather than weakens. Maybe it does in most people, but it's a lie when I say it about myself.

I'm weak. No matter how I try to refute it, it holds true. The worst things that Richard said about me might not have been true then, but they are now. I thought I was becoming stronger, but these last few weeks--I've done nothing but make mistakes. I've hurt people. I joined the police, in part, to repent--to make up for what I had done. Now I've undone any progress I might have made while I was here. I don't even know if that apparent progress was authentic or if I had simply convinced myself that redemption was possible. Not religious redemption, but a way of making up for my past mistakes. Of erasing them.

Cassie told me that it isn't possible to escape past mistakes. We all have one life to live, even if a dimensional crossover intervenes and gives us the illusion of a second chance.

Even without the rules and philosophies that I depended on--even without the repression of emotion that was more an instinct than a conscious decision--I'm a destructive force. Some defect in me--in my mind, maybe--will keep me doing more harm than good. I'm wrong. Fundamentally, genetically, however. The world would have been better if I hadn't been in it. Richard would have graduated by now... he would have done something with his life. He could be cruel, but he could also be sincere and kind, albeit in a warped way. The woman--Olivia Lake--would still be alive. She would still be able to shop for groceries and do whatever else she did. Lisa and my parents might have been better off. There's no way to know.

After I shot Sorrow, something strange happened. I don't know if it was a kind of magic--I have to accept that such things exist here--or a trick of my own mind, but it was terrifying. There was fear, pain, loneliness... guilt. A worried face. I think the thoughts were from Sorrow, but I can't be sure. Other than the faces, the feelings could have been mine. It must have been him.

It could have been me.

I couldn't avoid his entry on the network, and I was compelled to read Beckett's reply to him. "I'm not really interested in what a murderer's idea of just and unjust might be." That's what she said. She said it to someone who could have been me, and she said it with such disgust. Do I need to remind her? Does she know that I'm the one who mutilated him?

Sometimes--usually when I've been around Shilo, Neil, and Todd fairly frequently--I believe I've changed. I believe I'm a good person. When Beckett trusts me to handle paperwork, I feel like I've accomplished something. To have someone like her trust me--surely that means something. When the other officers treat me like a peer and not a socially awkward killer... I lie to myself. I lie convincingly. I've been building a new framework in the City, and something tore it down.

I want to run. I've made too many mistakes. Thinking that I could redeem myself somehow by trying to enforce the City's nonexistent laws was idiotic. There aren't second chances, and Beckett could say that to me as easily as she said it to him. She would be justified in doing so. Shilo--I don't understand why she doesn't have someone better. I've hurt her before; it's only a matter of time before I make another mistake. I barely know Zia and I can't fathom why she seems to care. Is it because I bought candy for her?

The only company I deserve is Road's.

If I was convinced that death--the true death that comes after the City--was annihilation and not another chance to ruin more lives... if I thought that death was enough to escape...

Would I do it, or am I too weak?
othersdie: shadows withering the flowers (!Multipurpose)
"If I analyze and try to understand the world logically and categorically, everything becomes more impersonal. If everything is impersonal, I don't need to be bothered by the fact that my life is worth ten cow eyes and eight pig eyes."

Sep. 17th, 2009
A truth curse hits.

I'm a murderer. The murder was unjustifiable. Deplorable. Meaningless. I did it to find meaning, and I did it because Richard wouldn't. I had to be better than him at something. I believed idiotic things. I thought that crime was the truest expression of freedom--murder, the most liberating act.

Richard died because of me. He was a bastard, but he was all I had and he died because I thought I could redeem myself. Redemption is a lie. No one gets a second chance at life.

I joined the police force as penance.

I didn't regret being in prison--not at home and not here. I deserved it. I think I've paid enough now.

I think I love someone, if love is real and not a biochemical response to set stimuli. She should do better, but I don't want her to.

I should delete this. Truth is as rewarding as charity.

Oct. 15th, 2009
A calm statement of fact while others eat each other during a curse.

In situations like this, I believe maintaining a list of crimes committed is an impossible, unfeasible, and ultimately futile task. If the City is attempting to further undermine what citizen-imposed order exists here, it's succeeding. Nothing encourages disorder like a no-holds-barred bout of cannibalism.

The Aztecs were likely cannibals. They didn't eat people indiscriminately (as seems to be the case today); instead, they performed complicated rituals that involved the sacrifice and consumption of politically important prisoners of war. In some cultures, eating the dead was a vital funereal rite. They believed that the deceased would live on--in part--in the souls and bodies of those who partook of their flesh. Even until recently, women in a specific tribe in New Guinea ate the brains of their relatives out of respect. There was the Donner Party, as well...

There are more reprehensible cases of cannibalism--cases where the act had nothing to do with respect, ritual, or survival. Jeffrey Dahmer murdered and consumed parts of seventeen men over a period of thirteen years.

Midnight will be unpleasant. I assume more than a handful of those cursed won't react well to today's actions.

Oct. 19th, 2009
All of the monster-related curses get Justin thinking.

The unsolved murders are frustrating. Abby and I have nothing to go on, and I've heard little from other members of the police force (if it still exists). If I had the power to further the investigations--

But I wouldn't further them. Richard, for all of his arrogance, was an astute judge of character; how many times did he tell me that I'm all talk? I wouldn't have been capable of strangling the woman if he hadn't been so sure that I couldn't do it. It's been almost a year--two weeks short of a year--and I still can't decide if I'm glad he's gone. Yes, we were two halves of a whole, but, as a whole, we were monstrous.

It's a good month for montrosities. Today's curse, the cannibalism curse... I'm constantly disturbed by the City's ability to rob us of our wills, forcing us to take actions we would never otherwise take. I was fortunate. The curse allowed me to maintain a sense of control, and whatever drove us to eat flesh was satisfied with a taste of my arm. I neglected to mention that to Abby. She still doesn't know about the candlestick incident with Road (she attributes my limited control of my left hand's fine motor movements to my inherent clumsiness, I believe, so she may not need to find out about that). If she knew a fraction of the things I didn't tell her, she would never let me out of her sight. As much as I appreciate her concern, she can be overbearing.

I thought about this entry while I was walking today. Until now I've never considered the monsters in the Underground, since they're easy enough to avoid. What if they are permutated forms of those who can never leave the City? Are their names on the graves in the cemetery? I am hoping that an investigation into the issue will be more fruitful than any murder investigations.

Road will be involved. I'm not surprised; she's a monster in her own right and can likely dissuade hostile entities Underground from eating us. I'm going to bring my gun along. I doubt it will stop a monster or Road, but it may slow both down. (Could I shoot Road? I don't think I can. If the situation were dire enough...)

What if the monsters are nothing more than people who couldn't escape from the City? I'm afraid to find out. I need to, but the answer may be discouraging. I'm dead. I have no world to go back to. Will that condemn me to an eternity in the City? Over time, will I transform into one of them and lose myself? I've worked hard--I've worked to create who I am. I was nothing but pieces of an identity a year ago after everything I was died at the Bluff, but I'm someone now. I'm more than I've ever been. I have people--not absent parents or a diseased twin like Richard, but people who care. Does that make me less of a monster than I was when I murdered the woman?

If the monsters were people, they must be people who had the capacity for evil. Thinking about them scares me. How like them am I? I was almost convinced that I could be entirely forgiven and escape what I did. I'm unsure now. Maybe the City feeds on the wicked, draining them and warping them into monsters to guard the clock. No one who is good and innocent--no one like Shilo or Abby--could become monsters. The monsters are people like me. Perhaps nothing I do can change that.

I can hear the clock right now. Some say it counts down to the end of the world. At night when I'm thinking--times like this--I wonder if it isn't counting for each of us individually, measuring out the moments left to us. Maybe I'm becoming more of a monster with each tick.

I don't feel like a monster, but can monsters see their own deformities?

Nov. 5th, 2009
Abby leaves, Road kills people, and Justin breaks down.

Richard came back, Abby left, and someone else was murdered. I don't know which of these bothers me the most.

No, Abby's departure is the worst. She is--was--family, moreso than any of my genetic relatives. I didn't know how to react when she took the liberty of declaring herself my sister, but after a year... I became very used to being forced out of my apartment, anyway. Parties, clubs... she forced me into more social situations than I've been in in all the rest of my life combined. Perhaps I was resentful at the time. Everything is easier to appreciate in retrospect.

I don't like being alone in the lab. She's always been there, since before I came here. She was teaching me. I still don't know anything about forensic science compared to her; a year of informal lessons can't match a formal six or eight year education on the subject. The police force was already nearly inoperable. What now? I can't be the head of forensics. I shouldn't even be here. I still don't know how Abby convinced anyone to let someone so inadequately prepared join the police or why I've been entrusted with anything.

She held everything together. She was the constant in an inconsistent existence. I don't think I've felt the way I did when I saw her picture in the Hall of the Missing before. It was worse than when Richard died. His death seemed inevitable, as did mine. There was no surprise. Regret, maybe, but mostly a numbness that I can't describe. Having Abby leave feels more like being gutted.

Graverobber's gone, too. Shilo is upset. It doesn't seem fair to be upset about someone leaving when she already is.

I won't think about Richard.

Road's timing is impeccable. I know she's the murderer. Nothing makes the same kinds of wounds as her candles do. I don't fully understand why I'm surprised or upset. It has to be the timing. Something needs to not go wrong.

The ticking echoes in the lab. I can hear it in the apartment now, too, even with Neith. I didn't hear it there before.

Nov. 18th, 2009
Continuous murders plague Justin.

I don't understand this City. I don't understand Rip van Winkle, Millennium, or Road's involvement. I don't understand why any of us are here, why some of us leave but not others, why others find it necessary to resort to murder to keep themselves occupied.

It was about accomplishment when we did it. There were philosophical motivations, but first and foremost we wanted to do something meaningful--something that would be noticed. That was one of my reasons. I wanted to leave a mark on the world. It isn't like that here, though. With an ever-changing populace there isn't a collective memory to scar indefinitely. Few people even remember Millennium's previous incarnation.

If Rip van Winkle is seeking immortality for Millennium, she's going to fail. Nothing stays in the mind of the people--not in any world. (Does anyone remember me in my world?) The City's too jaded to respond to death in the way she might intend, as well. Unless the victim is someone close, they're largely ignored. It's a coping mechanism. If we stopped to consider every death--if we allowed ourselves to feel every time someone dies here--we would be overwhelmed. No one can care about everyone here without breaking. Perhaps that's the City's overarching goal... to rob us of our humanity. Some humanity has to be sacrificed to survive.

It's just a body. If you see it as anything but another body, it's too much. I've only made that mistake once, and I won't make it again.

I wish I could think about something other than death and what repeated exposure to tragedy does to the human mind.

Dec. 1st, 2009
Following the murders, doubts about the police, and being turned into a cute kitten.

I've seen a number of mentions of justice on the network recently. It hasn't been a popular topic of discussion before now. And why? Is it important only in the wake of highly visible murders? ...In the apparent failure of the City's police force to uphold justice? Or did the boxes that gave us a measure of control over our fate and the fates of others encourage this line of thinking?

This is not a just city. I doubt it has ever been just, and I doubt any law-enforcing unit can make it so.

In calling the City unjust, I have assumed that justice has a universal meaning and can be achieved. Hasty assumptions. I don't think we would agree on a single definition of justice, and we would be hard-pressed to give an example of what true justice looks like. The hypothetical city of Plato's Republic achieves a justice only by committing itself to small injustices--to lies, to inequality, to a lack of individual freedom. If the City were like that, there would be as much discontent as there is now.

What is justice to you? Is it a series of lies that ultimately benefit the community? Is it a leveling force that promises equality to all? Is it security at all costs? A trade between equals, as Nietzsche says? Individual freedom? The domination of good over evil? How do you propose we promote a just society in a city of dictators? How do we uphold any form of justice when the justice-keepers are as subject to curses, sudden disappearances, and random happenstance as anyone else?

Do we resort to vigilantism and assume that those who seek justice for us will uphold the same moral codes as we do? Do we break into a dozen--a hundred, a thousand--groups, each group pursuing its own form of justice? Do we remain idle while accusing those groups we feel should be protecting us of being corrupt or defunct?

These questions are not rhetorical. I'm curious.

Jan. 2nd, 2010
On the fear of being forgotten after the deities offer a false escape.

The police force is reforming. It may be a lost cause with no clear leaders and few officers, but Debra is trying. In spite of these recent developments, I've been contemplating resigning. The laboratory is uncomfortable without Abby there, but I'm reluctant to let others in to use the equipment. She wouldn't have allowed it. I realize that, logically, it makes no sense to operate the department the way Abby would have wanted; I doubt she'll come back. She's home... happily, I assume. In her own laboratory, with no memories of the City.

That bothers me--the fact that memories of the City seldom go with people. Instead of being forgotten in one world, I can be forgettable across any number of dimensions.

Trying to leave a mark on any world is, I think, a fruitless endeavor... moreso, perhaps, in the City than anywhere else. Whatever I might achieve here, be it for the greater good or otherwise, will be forgotten--if not immediately, then as soon as those who were impacted either go home or, if they're deceased, cease to exist entirely.

When the barriers fell...

It was too convenient. I was suspicious and I shouldn't have allowed hope to obscure my judgment. I'm never going to see Shilo's world, or any world that isn't the City. This bothers me less than I feel it should. I'm more disturbed by the idea that, once Shilo leaves the City, she won't remember me. There isn't an 'if'--no if she leaves, or if she forgets. Both are all but guaranteed.

I shouldn't think about it. If I think too much, I'll never talk to anyone. I won't think about it.

Mar. 12th, 2010
Eleven days after dying a gruesome death and clawing his way out of the ground...

It's been eleven days. I only know because I've been counting them off on the calendar. No distinct memories, but there are enough nightmares. If I can dream about the event, I should be able to remember it. The nightmares are too vague to be useful.

I haven't been more useful myself. It's irresponsible to miss work and the musical--the latter more so, maybe, because I was helping voluntarily. Volunteers shouldn't vanish. I should have sent a note to Lorne.

"Should." There's enough that I should do. I should thank Neil and Todd somehow (and I should remember what happened that night more clearly than I do). I should thank Shilo, no matter how inadequate thanks will be. I should return Tsurugi's clothes even if he doesn't want them. I should resign my position on the police force before I'm fired for being excessively truant. I should be more than capable of leaving the apartment and going to work.

I don't understand. I realize the event may have had psychological affects, but this is absurd. It's not as if it was the first time I've died; I doubt it was any more disturbing than the first time. There's no reason for the dreams or these irrational fears of leaving the apartment alone (or being alone in the apartment). I don't think I'm susceptible to psychological trauma. If I am, wouldn't I have noticed? Wouldn't I have already been traumatized? If anything, this last death should have impacted Shilo more than me as she remembers more.

Things have been foggy--not foggy... vague and indistinct?--since it happened. I have this pervading sense of being slightly less than real or in some way unattached from my body. Or empty. Not empty in a metaphysical or emotional sense. 'Hollow' might be a more precise word. It's not unlike the feelings after the murder and after Richard died.

There's no reason for it. This death was, by virtue of being forgotten, almost a non-event; there's no reason for me to feel at all abnormal. Is it possible that I'm the problem--that there's something fundamentally wrong with me?

Not entirely coherent, but I need to write thoughts down somewhere. Maybe this will make sense in time.
othersdie: are you exiled in those bottomless nights? (Default)
"No one can be a slave if their submission is self-willed."

Apr. 28th, 2009
A curse prompts one of Justin's first PSAs.

I'm sure all of you know what the term "common sense" refers to. Please use it.

Apr. 30th, 2009
Justin falls prey to the eventually fatal geostigma viral infection.

Should I be panicking? Should I worry about dying again? Should I drink myself unconscious to make the process of dying less painful?

Am I insane for not doing any of the above?

The first time, the fear only lasted until after the trial, and then there was nothing. Sometimes, now that I’m mostly alive again, I regret it. I think about what I could have done if none of it would have happened, or what it might have been like to have a family. I know the truth, though; none of it would have been satisfactory. I’ve thought about it a lot… how it would have been to live after Richard died, and after what we did. It wouldn’t have been living any more than this is.

I’m not worried. Not about dying. I’m more worried that the virus doesn’t die when we do, and we’ll just… revive and die again, over and over until—

I’m worried about not dying. I’ve been thinking about what it means to not exist and fearing that nonexistence without imagining the alternative… immortality. I don’t want to stay in the City for eternity, with or without this infection. It isn’t right. I should be dead, like Richard is—not here. This is unnatural.

Is it ironic that I had to talk to Death before I realized how terrifying not dying would be?

I would miss Abby, and Shilo. I’d even miss Road. Now that I really think about it, though, it would be fine if I died—permanently, I mean. They’re all alive and they’ll go home someday, and I don’t think anyone goes home with their City memories. If that’s true, I’m glad I won’t go home. If I forgot this place, and if I forgot them…

Maybe the virus degrades the body to a point where not even the City can revive it. I’ve seen corpses here that didn’t come back to life, so it’s possible. I almost hope that’s what happens. Not existing… not thinking, or worrying that someone will leave the City… I want that. It’s selfish. It’s selfish, just like suicide’s selfish. You do it for yourself. Maybe I’m selfish.

The rash hasn’t spread much visibly, although typing with my left hand is getting harder. It hurts, though—inside more than out. If it can spread to internal organs, that would make sense. The chest, the—I don’t know if it could spread to the brain. Composing my thoughts is getting progressively more difficult, but that could be a side-effect of the virus’ presence in other parts of the body. Maybe it’s not the virus and I’m going insane. I talked to Richard today—not physically, but…

May. 11th, 2009
Thoughts on monster attacks and Mothers' Day.

The hair thing and the swamp monster lived happily ever after. Good for them. Are these the 'higher ups' people talk about--the powers above the deities? If so, I don't fully understand why we haven't staged a coup.

Yesterday was the best Mother's Day I've been through. Draw what conclusions you will from that.

May. 18th, 2009
Cursed as hell and taking Capture the Flag way too seriously.

Where there is warfare, there are, inevitably, notions of good and evil. We fight for the exalted good, we oppose those who champion the detestable evil. Our adversaries, through their association with whatever noxious idea they hold, become monsters--inhuman, worthy only of extermination.

But what is good, and what is evil? There is no objective answer. The angel's good is the demon's evil, just as the demon's good is the angel's evil. We must choose which idol to worship and which to scorn; which gods to follow and which to burn. We must choose what gives us the right to fight, to destroy, to kill, and to die. In the absence of true morality--of any truth at all--we must each of us decide for ourselves... what is good, and what is evil.

Blue, red... there is nothing inherently evil in one or undeniably good in the other. Which side do you choose? What idealist agendas motivate you to engage in war? What is good, and what is evil? Which team will you align yourself with?

Will you do what is good for the whole, or will you have the strength to embrace what is good for you, as an individual?

Warfare is for the barbarian--the man who lives in a world of good and evil, red and blue. The man--the individual, self-possessed, free of all alliances--is beyond warfare. He does not die for insubstantial ideals or for the good of the crawling herd. If he dies, it is because he wills it.

If 'good' were to be applied to anything, it would be this man--this individual--who lives for himself... who owns his own soul and his own thoughts. This man can still, however, participate in the childish games of the barbarians, acting as a God among men.

He who acts in his interest and avoids true alliance wins the game, as I have.

May. 25th, 2009
A lot of almost-dying leads to a rare bout of optimism.

I've had nothing if not time to think (even if, sometimes, I wonder if I shouldn't spend less time thinking), and my thoughts inevitably turn to death.

When I was sick, I wanted to be dead--truly dead, the way Richard is. The half-life that the City gives to corpses is unnatural, and it's difficult to go on with the knowledge that, at any second, I might leave the City and go back to nothing. I wanted that nothing immediately; I wanted to avoid fear and uncertainty. Now that I'm well, I'm not sure that that's what I want.

When Cassie arrested me--back at the bluff, after Richard died--I begged her for another chance. I begged. I wanted to start over, no murder, no guilt. A clean slate. Another chance to live. She told me that it doesn't work that way... that you get one life. What you do with that life is up to you, but there are no second chances. She wouldn't give me a second chance after I saved her life. She destroyed all hope for a chance when she had me tried as an adult rather than a juvenile.

She was wrong. I thought she was right, but she wasn't. This is that second chance.

I didn't see the City as another chance at first. It was a punishment... a well-deserved hell for a murderer who needed to be punished. That's how I saw it. Reading through my previous posts... it's incredible. It's incredible how much power those words she said had over me--how much power Richard still had over me. I believed them. I believed that there weren't second chances, and that Richard was the only one who could see me for who I am. I believed that everything would have been fine if I had met Lisa first, before Richard--that none of it would have happened, and I could have graduated from high school and...

And it wouldn't have worked out that way. I don't believe in fate, but I believe that what happened was inevitable. With or without Lisa, Richard and I would still have found each other. We would have murdered that woman, we would have been caught... he would have still called the cops and emptied his gun. He would have died, and I would have died. It was necessary for us to die.

I think death was the best thing to happen to either of us.

Richard wouldn't agree. He might have been content with the shallow life he was living, but eventually he would have realized what I know now--that neither of us belonged. Not as we were. We were wrong, maybe from birth, and we paid for our deformities.

I've paid my debt. I died once; now I deserve a second chance. Maybe Richard's getting a second chance, too; maybe there's something beyond the nothing that I experienced outside of the City, at least for him.

It makes less sense when I try to put it into words, but both of us are free now. We're free from our homes and our parents and a world that didn't understand. We're free from guilt, since we've both paid with our lives. Now we're free from each other. I hated it at first, but now... I don't think we helped each other. Symbiosis is not something humans should strive for.

It's Memorial Day at home. No one's going to leave flowers for me, but it's just as well. I only loved my family as much as they loved me. Richard... Richard's family probably threw hundreds of dollars away on flowers for their martyred little boy. They were convinced to the end that I had masterminded the entire murder, manipulating innocent, naive Richard into committing acts he would have never committed alone. In the end I think their lawyer was better than the one my mom hired because they cared. They needed to blame someone that wasn't their son.

What would Mr. and Mrs. Haywood think if they knew? If they had cared enough about Richard to know him when he was alive, would they have cared so much after he was dead? What would they say if they knew that each of us had been manipulating the other?

It was a game. Both of us lost because we didn't realize that it wasn't a game--it was life.

I don't miss Richard anymore. He was all I had then, and I think I was all he really had. I don't hate him, either. We were wrong, what we did was wrong, and now we're both free to right it.

I don't know what happened, but I feel like I lost part of me in the last couple of days. It wasn't any great loss--just the parts of me that I needed to lose. It's different from how I felt before I met Richard; it's not that deadened lack of emotion. I'm not as dead now as I used to be. Maybe I'm not as alive as I was when Richard and I were getting high or planning or drinking, but I'm...

What am I?

Content, maybe. I have a second chance. That chance could be taken away any second, but I have it now, and now is what matters. It's more of a chance than I ithought I had after Cassie arrested me. I have a job, and I kind of have a family. I'm not sure if I have a--but I don't know about Shilo. My judgment where emotions are concerned is fatally flawed. I've thought I loved people before, and I've been wrong.

Maybe I'll read this in a few months and wonder what I was thinking when I typed this.

We do change, after all.

Jun. 21st, 2009
Fathers' Day is inflicted upon the City.

How like my father to not make an appearance. I know it's only a curse, but--

No, maybe it's better that I'm not affected. I want to see him again, but it wouldn't really be him if it was a curse. I doubt the deities would bother transporting our fathers here; it's more like them to conjure up representations than to give us anything real.

Shilo and I talked about hating and loving someone at the same time. It's possible. I think it's easier to love and hate a person simultaneously than to fully love or hate them. My father was probably better than some (or most, from the network) I think, even though he left. If he were here, that's what I would ask him--why he left me. None of it would have happened if he would have taken me with him. ...I might hate him more than I love him. I can say that about almost everyone I knew at home.

I don't know what to do if Shilo's cursed. Letting go is hard when the City refuses to let us forget what we came from.

Aug. 12th, 2009
People are cursed to claim everything; Justin isn't affected. Cue lecture and disdain.

The human struggle for existence invariably involves property. We require food, clothing, shelter, companions... land. Wars are fought over the question of ownership for man is not a self-sustaining creature and needs other things to thrive.

But we know that the desire for ownership doesn't stop with the necessities of life. Humans are greedy creatures by nature. We want more than we have, even if what we have is more than enough to sustain us. Greed causes conflict; occasionally, if greed appears on a large scale, it causes bloodshed. Sometimes, in the desire to dominate our surroundings in the act that we know as ownership, we label other individuals as property.

There are few things more morally reprehensible than claiming ownership over another person.

The one thing that all humans, poor or rich, own is their own person. We possess ourselves from birth and have every right to stay in possession of ourselves. Denying someone the ownership of himself or herself is far worse than petty theft; it's the domination of another human... the stealing of something fundamental to sentient existence. Claiming others as property is to rob them of their selfhood.

...So stop writing on each other. It's wrong and imbecilic.

Sep. 11th, 2009
The Prison Island Sinks event. Guilt and mild insanity ensues.

We already paid for what we did. We already paid. What more do you want? Do you want me to die again?! Will that--it won't fix anything. It won't. It won't bring her back.

When I--I had no idea. You have to believe me. I never thought I'd--I had to show him.

I could have let her die, but I didn't. I saved her, and she--she didn't save me, and she killed him. We paid. I just want another chance... to start over. I haven't hurt anyone else. I wouldn't... I'm not like that. I'm not.

...What was her name?

What was her name...
othersdie: are you exiled in those bottomless nights? (She never notices)
"Investigating graves without the intention of taking anything from them isn't grave robbery."

Nov. 5th, 2008
Upon arriving in the City.

It can take up to ten minutes for the condemned to die in a gas chamber. Potassium cyanide pellets are dropped into a holding tank of sulfuric acid, resulting in the generation of hydrogen cyanide gas. This gas kills via metabolic asphyxiation. Accordingly, the brain is one of the first organs to suffer its effects. Convulsions and hallucinations may precede unconsciousness and death.

Clearly, this is a premortem hallucination.

Dec. 25th, 2008
Justin's first Christmas in the City.

I purchased two gifts for myself today--an orchid (Laelia gouldiana) and a Keats anthology. Without a greenhouse to moderate temperature and humidity, keeping the orchid alive will be a challenge. Neith wants to eat its leaves.

Jan. 2nd, 2009
Reflections after discovering a Rimbaud anthology.

He's the Verlaine to my Rimbaud. Rimbaud gave up writing when he no longer had Verlaine... he was twenty-one.

What do I give up? Society? Humanity? All that is, collectively, considered good? "Good" is nothing more than something the majority has agreed upon... the martyred master-slave mentality. To turn away from society is to embrace freedom, not evil. Freedom stands in opposition to the law of the majority and the abstract notion of good, for it is ultimately selfish and criminal in nature. To be free is to be a criminal... to act without remorse, to take without guilt, to exist purely as an individual.

The ideal. Philosophically speaking, it's appealing. A will to power--a will to gain power at any cost, to ignore laws and norms. Freedom.

Can I be free?

It seemed clear and absolute--perfect. When I planned it with Richard, it seemed beautiful. Plausible. Freedom was ours for the taking... until it was time to act. Am I too human to commit myself to my own philosophy? A free man wouldn't feel betrayal, loneliness... gratitude, affection. Not to this degree. If I were free, I wouldn't work with the police... against crime, freedom, and everything I thought I believed in. I wouldn't worry about what Road's "game" will entail.

Is it possible for philosophy and emotion to oppose each other so completely within a single person?

Jan. 13th, 2009
Thoughts following a family-oriented curse.

Reading about so many families has compelled me to consider my own. Neither of my parents attended my execution; perhaps they were ashamed to have a murderer for a son. My father should have shown. I know my mother was indifferent, but he cared. I thought I could depend on him after the divorce, even though he had moved out of the state.

I was wrong. No one is fully trustworthy, not even the family we choose. Richard was supposed to be loyal. The suicide pact--

Richard betrayed me. First with the ordeal with Lisa, then when he confessed it all to the police. I know what they told him... it's what they told me. They said that only the one who physically killed the woman had to die... the other, if he cooperated, would receive a light sentence. I told them to go to hell. Richard told them everything. Going against the pact was the worst. Coward.

I trusted him, and he was willing to watch me shoot myself.

After Dad my father left and I started tutoring Richard, it was all about him. He was the only family I had and the only family I needed, in spite of his idiocy and philandering. There was... it was everything. He was everything I'm not, and I'm everything he wasn't. We complemented each other perfectly--we were two halves of a single whole. Together, we were a single perfect being. Nothing could have stopped us. He was dead when he betrayed me. It hurt to see his body on the rocks, but we were ripped apart before that. It's a severed connection that can't be repaired, even though he's as alive as I am in the City. I wanted to mend it... it hurts to be half a person.

He betrayed me a fouth time, and now I'm... some kind of pathetic, diminished thing, not even fully human. Everything's gone cold. I don't feel anything when I'm examining a corpse. At the same time, I have no faith in my ability to follow Road and the plan. Maybe I could have, but not after Abby said she loved me--as a younger brother. As family. I want to trust her, and I want her to trust me. I want family. This... unconnectedness? I can't do it, not after realizing my potential with Richard.

I need better liquor.

Jan. 28th, 2009
Following Richard's second betrayal and departure.

Richard's picture is in the Hall of the Missing. It shouldn't matter... he betrayed me, and we didn't talk.

It does, though.

I wonder where he is--where I'll be if I leave the City. I don't know if Richard believed in heaven or hell, but I don't. Do we just disappear if we leave? I was gone for a month or so, but I don't remember where I was. I don't think I was anywhere. Nonexistence. I'm afraid of not existing... I don't want to leave, not now that I have people who care. At least one person.

Maybe nonexistence is better, though. No thinking, no... none of this emptiness. Everything I thought I knew was wrong. I don't know what to do. There's no purpose.

Philosophy's dead. Richard's dead. I'm dead, even if I'm still functioning. I never noticed how cold I am...

Feb. 21st, 2009
After a particularly disturbing curse.

Why do the curses happen? What do the deities want from us?

Is this supposed to be some kind of punishment, or an experiment? Entertainment? You like watching us just... completely lose our minds?

Feb. 24th, 2009
Cursed with wrath.

There is no justice--no fairness, no law that is untainted by the interests of those who enforce it. For those of us who suffer due to the injustices of those in a position of power, fairness can only be delivered by subverting--and eventually overcoming--law and order. If we desire justice, we must take it ourselves.

No. No... it's an endless cycle. Once a new power is in place, it too will manipulate the justice system. Human nature.

We are, by virtue of being human, corrupt. We embrace ignorance, stupidity, and the mutilation of justice; we allow those with power to dictate our lives and rob us of our most basic of freedoms. If justice and righteousness demand it, we will surrender ourselves, our friends, our family, our beliefs--everything--for the sake of a false power. We will murder in the name of law, truth... God.

I murdered for an idea. The idea was law, truth, and dictator. The idea destroyed everything worth having, and I was in turn murdered.

That was the best thing California's justice system has ever done for the world.

The only way to purge the world of unfairness, corruption, lethal ideologies, and hypocrisy is to murder the unfair, the corrupt, the idealists, and the hypocrites. Is there anyone in this City who can say they're entirely innocent?

Mar. 19th, 2009
Life becomes unpleasant, so Justin becomes angsty.

Lan's gone. I don't know why I'm so bothered by his departure. Maybe the last few curses have been to blame. I don't like having my memories made public, particularly when those memories show how weak I am.

Before, when Richard and I were alive, I would have been ashamed. I would have denied my weaknesses publicly as I privately attempted to burn them away. Now... now what? While I'm far from proud of my own human weakness, it's not a source of shame. I don't know what to think about anything anymore, but I feel that weakness is an integral part of the human spirit (using the term 'spirit' loosely). Being human involves more than strength and power and will.

Humanity requires kindness. I don't think I realized that before.

Kindness, in turn, seems to involve a weakness, but it's not one that I want to give up. Although my philosophical ideas have become confused, I'm more certain than ever that I can do something significant with myself--even now, even dead. Even without Richard. I can mean something on my own.

Revelations aside, I'm still unhappy. Loneliness seems to be amplified in the City; it never bothered me this much at home. Maybe I should blame that on Richard, too. He was always around, even when I didn't want him to be. Especially when I didn't want him to be. There's no one like him here. No one who really understands. Road is Road, Abby has all of her friends and Carlos, and Shilo... I don't know. I think she would listen, but I forget what I want to say when I talk to her.

Between the rebellion against the deities and tonight's murder, I hope to be distracted enough to forgo thinking. I would like to spend time with someone tonight, though... I've been alone so often that I almost feel unreal.

I wonder if the dead can disappear. If no one can see or hear us, and no one thinks about us, do we fade?

Apr. 12th, 2009
Easter brings Justin back to life for the first time.

This curse is amazing, even if the event it's commemorating never happened outside of the minds of believers. My heart's beating, my skin's warm, I need to breathe--just amazing. When I was alive before, it was easy to take those things for granted. Now, though... have you ever watched the blood flowing underneath your fingernails? Have you ever tried to hold your breath until you passed out, only to find that your body interferes when you approach the edge of unconsciousness? And I can feel everything! Not numbly, but--

And drinking? Drinking isn't the same when you're dead. I don't know how being dead inside the City affects our physiology, but it makes it more difficult to feel really... really drunk. I didn't notice that until today.

This is the best Easter I can remember. Thank you, Christians. Your beliefs are asinine, but thank you.

Apr. 22nd, 2009
Rain encourages reflection and heavy drinking.

Instead of doing something I should do, I'm thinking. It's a good day for that, with the rain. Other people have been complaining about it on the network, but I like it. I put some of my plants outside to enjoy the weather.

The rain and recent departures keeps making me think of that verse from Comedy of Errors. What I told Abby about her two friends--how people like that are one person instead of two, and one goes where the other goes--cheered her up, I think. I didn't tell her that that kind of unity can be destroyed, leaving behind two half-persons instead of a single one. The line from Shakespeare...

“I to the world am like a drop of water
That in the ocean seeks another drop,
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth,
Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself.”

Unremarkable, invisible, lost in an ocean of identically unremarkable drops. Some people say you can't be alone when you're surrounded by people, but loneliness seldom fails to be at its worst in a crowd--especially when that crowd obscures you entirely. One drop of water can't be picked out of an ocean.

Richard might have been right when he implied that he was the only one who could pick me out of that ocean. He saw more to me than I could--more than I can, even now--and didn't mind the flaws and shadows. He knew things about me that I doubt I can ever tell Abby or Shilo. We never really talked about them--the things we hid inside ourselves--but we didn't need to. We were transparent to one another, and that's why it was frustrating. It's impossible to lie to someone when they can see your mental workings... find every word in your mind in one look.

Things haven't been that way with anyone else. I doubt that Abby or Shilo truly know me, shadows and all. How can they? They don't have that darkness in them--that potential for evil. Road can see that in me. I'm not afraid of her because she can see what I try to hide, though; I'm afraid because I see the same evil in her. She doesn't mask it, but it's the same thing. I need someone to see and accept that potential for evil, and she's the only one who can.

Last night, someone on the network asked about good and evil. "Do you think that even if you've done bad things, you can be a good person? How do you decide if someone's a good person or a bad person?" I couldn't reply, but I can't stop thinking about it.

Can I be a good person? Can I, in spite of the things I did and the ability I possess to do those things again? Murder was an abstract concept then--an idea, not an evil act. Once I had done it, though, it was real. I know that I am capable of killing, and that's not something that will disappear. Maybe I won't do anything like that again. I don't want to; thinking about choking that woman makes me sick. When I dream about it, I hate myself for doing it--for doing it for Richard to prove that I could follow my own flawed ideology. Sometimes I wish he would have killed me like I killed her. Guilt is crippling. I didn't lie when I said that we needed to pay for what we did.

For what we can do.

I want to think I'm different now--free of dogmatic philosophies, at least--but the fact remains that I can kill. I may kill in the future, under the right circumstances. That evil still exists.

We did pay, though--both of us. I don't know which of us paid the most. If life were fair, I would have died first and Richard would have gone on trial; he was stronger than me. He could exist without me. We were two halves of a single person, but he was the strong half. He would have enjoyed the media circus of the court, and he would have said something pithy prior to his execution. Richard would have fought every inch of the way. All I could do was confess.

Richard's funeral was on a rainy day. I was allowed to attend, although Cassie and the other officer went with me. It was closed-casket... there wasn't much left to Richard after he fell on the rocks. His family glared at me through the whole service. Their lawyer had this story. I was the killer. I lured poor Richard into my scheme, played with his mind, controlled him. His family believed it. I think my mother believed it. Even Lisa might have been convinced by the end of the final court session. He would have hated that. If anything, Richard would have wanted the credit; he would have wanted to be the one in control.

They had it wrong, anyway. Neither of us could be in complete control.

I almost laughed at the funeral. Almost. They made Richard out to be a saint and a helpless victim when he was anything but. I know he would have laughed, if he had been there.

I wonder what my funeral was like--if my dad came back for it, if my mother bothered going. If Lisa went. If no one went. If it was open-casket or closed, if anyone cried, if anyone thought about missing me. If it was raining.

Richard was here when I first came. I was mad at him then. He had talked, he had taken the bullets out of his gun, he had fired the shot at Cassie. I wonder if he hated me for taking the bullet for her. At the time, it seemed like the only way to keep him from making our situation worse; killing someone random is one thing, but murdering a police officer is another. I thought we could surrender. It was cowardly, but it would have put an end to some of the guilt. I don't regret dying--both of us deserved it. I regret the way we died. We were in it together, and we should have died together. We should have at least had a chance to talk.

I can't be mad at him anymore. He was who he was, I was who I was, and we accepted that. It was easy being mad at someone who was present.

On the network, people mourn when their friends return home. I don't understand why, when they'll likely get to see them again. Even if their friends were from other universes, they can at least know that they're happier back home. That's a loss that can be rationalized and overcome. How can the loss of half of myself be rationalized?

It hurts. Pretending I don't miss him hurts. Hiding that potential for evil--it's hard. While I've been in the City, I've built a new Justin--a Justin separate from Richard who can function independently, forgive himself, and escape the suspicion that redemption is little more than wishful thinking. Sometimes I feel like I'm really that person. The philosophies are gone (I'm not reading it much anymore... poetry is easier), that world is gone, the Justin who killed is gone. It's nothing but a lie. A comforting lie, but still a lie. I'm still who I was--I'm still half of a person. Maybe I'm a better half of a person than I was, but that doesn't make me complete. I always was the weaker half.

I should know better than to think, drink, and type at the same time.
othersdie: deliriums and slow rhythms under the gleams of the daylight (Contented neutral)
Et dès lors, je me suis baigné dans le Poème
De la Mer, infusé d'astres, et lactescent,
Dévorant les azurs verts ; où, flottaison blême
Et ravie, un noyé pensif parfois descend

- Rimbaud, "Le Bateau Ivre" (excerpt)

Then I bathed in the Poem of the Sea,
Infused with stars, the milk-white spume blends,
Grazing green azures: where ravished, bleached
Flotsam, a drowned man in dream descends.

- Rimbaud, "The Drunken Boat" (translation)

C'est que la voix des mers folles, immense râle,
Brisait ton sein d'enfant, trop humain et trop doux ;
C'est qu'un matin d'avril, un beau cavalier pâle,
Un pauvre fou, s'assit muet à tes genoux !

- Rimbaud, "Ophélie" (excerpt)

It was the voice of mad seas, the great roar,
That shattered your child's heart, too human and too soft;
It was a handsome pale knight, a poor madman
Who one April morning sate mute at your knees!

- Rimbaud, "Ophelia" (translation)

It is a repose in the light, neither fever nor langour, on the bed or on the meadow.
It is the friend neither violent nor weak. The friend.
It is the beloved neither tormenting nor tormented. The beloved.
Air and the world not sought. Life.
- Was it really this?
- And the dream grew cold.

- Rimbaud, "Vigils I"

There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.

- Robert Frost, "The Oven Bird"

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

- T.S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (excerpt)

I to the world am like a drop of water
That in the ocean seeks another drop,
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth,
Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself.

- Shakespeare, Comedy of Errors (excerpt)

Eternity points, in its amaranth bower
Where no clouds of fate o'er the sweet prospect lour,
Unspeakable pleasure, of goodness the dower,
When woe fades away like the mist of the heath.

- Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Bereavement" (excerpt)
This excerpt makes Justin think of Euphie.

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

- Lord Byron, "She walks in beauty"
This poem was chosen specifically for Shilo.


othersdie: are you exiled in those bottomless nights? (Default)
Justin Pendleton

January 2015

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