Part of life is creating art. That’s why I dubbed the less writing-centered posts “Life is an Art”. People express that art in various ways, almost as many ways as there are people to express it. I happen to express my art through writing, and you (as a reader of this blog) probably do as well. Or not, perhaps you express it in other ways. Fantastic.
Today, however, I’d like to give you a brief, 1,600 word glimpse at the “art” I attempt to create when I write.
This short story, titled “Broken Snapshots” was a story I wrote for a contest held on a writer’s forum. It’s what I call “abstract inspirational” by genre, and I placed first in the contest with it. Because it’s only 1,600 words, it’s fairly short, fairly condensed. The contest required me to include certain phrases and words, and to use a few pictures as inspiration for prompts.
When I first considered entering the contest, I had no idea what I wanted to write. Then, one night as I was attempting to fall asleep and failing miserably, I had this idea. An idea to write from the point of view of an object that no one really considers sentient.
Hopefully, the object will become obvious as you read.
Do enjoy, Broken Snapshots:
By Aidan Bender
I blink to life.
All around me, colors explode. Azure blends with crimson and merges into a chameleon green. I blink again, and my vision blurs. Everything is so… quiet. Then, I come into focus and stare.
I wish I could smile, feel the smile bubble up inside me like a spark.
The sky stretches out before me, reaching down to the horizon to hold hands with the land; a flood of poppies and rushes. I blink, to capture the snapshot of wonder.
Over and over my vision focuses in and out as I snap moments of that landscape. Inward I lean, focus again on a single poppy, its delicate petals curling up to kiss the oxygen I wish I could breathe.
The sun droops toward its bed and bleeds across the edges of the darkening blanket below. At last I turn away, allow my eye to close and blackness surround me. Movement gives me a sense of flying, but I turn inward rather than feel the rush of euphoric speed. Rather, I gather the snapshots and admire them through introspection. A slice of a memory: flowers and grass and sky and sun and – far off in the distance – a windmill. So far I had to strain to admire the lazy spin of the old-fashioned turbine. Wide blades, squat base, a thatch-roofed hut even hazier beyond it.
Light comes again – and this time I feel the smile creep out, even though I have no mouth. It comes as a blur in my sight and it vanishes as I return to my business: collecting sight and memory.
Before me, on a stool, sits a young boy. His blond hair sticks straight up, stiff and unrelenting as a soldier at its post. For a long moment, the young boy stares at me with his wide brown eyes, and then his mother steps into view and straightens his tie.
Poor boy, forced to wear that awful tie. The checkered red-and-yellow pattern jars against the blue-and-green vest he wears. The boy grimaces at me – as if it’s my fault – and tugs at his slacks.
He looks away from me, to the side, and his mouth moves. Oh, how I wish I could hear. But he turns back at me and smiles. I shiver a little inside and capture the moment.
No, not good at all. He looks constipated and grumpy simultaneously. I sigh and whisk that snapshot away – no need to remember it. How about a different pose?
A moment later, he does indeed shift, and smiles.
This time, it’s a genuine smile that makes his eyes sparkle and a dimple dip the edge of his cheek. I positively tremble at the perfection of the moment. He’s adorable.
Next, a person comes from the left and hands him a lightsaber. It pleases him, and I collect several adequate snapshots. People will enjoy those, even though they aren’t perfect.
After a while he begins to fidget and his smile is never as real as the one I first collected. But I capture a few good memories of him, and as he disappears from sight, I turn inward to inspect them. One where he is laughing I store with my favorites, along with that smile of his.
A windmill, a boy, pictures of flowers and sky and houses and skyscrapers and people. My collection of memories.
It’s dark, for a long time. I consider it sleep, though I don’t really need it, in the strictest sense. I wait patiently, knowing that the light will return sometime. Somewhere, it’s waiting for me. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. I’m not really sure, I guess.
There it is. The light comes back. I frown to myself; the backdrop is different. It’s always been nature or buildings or else the light blue fade, like behind the boy from yesterday.
But today… today it’s a faded white, with tears running vertical. Behind it drapes black muslin, which hides whatever lies beyond those rips.
How odd… perhaps I’ll take a memory, just in case.
There, now I’ll remember this… whatever it is.
I wait – with impatience buzzing inside me – and close my eye. At once, I open it again and stare. A girl sits in front of the white, now. She clutches a battered doll and stares at me with wide blue eyes. Her dress is brown and tattered, little more than rags strung between hems. I think she’s eight, but she bites her lip and hugs that doll like she’s three. Her eyes swell with tears and I ache to tell her it’s all right.
My vision blurs, then focuses back in. I blink. Did I… I took a snapshot. It happened by accident, but I can’t just get rid of it. She looks so sad, so… real. A tear just on the verge of falling to her cheek, the doll clutched to her chest, her other hand just behind her back.
The girl leaves, is replaced by an older boy – twelve – with freckles and red hair. He won’t look right at me, stuffs his hands in his pockets. Bruises mar his arms, massive blotches of purple that seem to mock their brown, more natural compatriots that litter his face. His mouth moves as someone else speaks to him. I think he’s mumbling. I tremble, but I take a memory of him anyway.
So insecure and vulnerable. He glances at me and away, shifts his feet. Eventually, he leaves, too, and again is replaced.
A young woman – sixteen – in a short green dress. She sits primly on a block in front of the white and smiles. I perk up a bit, take a memory of her at once.
Her eyes dart away from me, off to the left. As her mouth begins to move, I frown. The sleeves of her dress are short – it’s a summer dress, after all – and her slender arms look… bony. Very bony. She looks back at me, her smile fades.
I’d purse my lips, if I had them. Whoever had spoken to her, they took away that beautiful little smile. She shifts in her seat, turns to the side. My, she is skinny. Someone ought to make her eat more; it can’t be healthy to be that small.
Again, I take the snapshot without really thinking, but it’s there to stay. She stands up and walks away, gesturing and talking. Shouting, maybe. I let my vision blur in and out of focus until the next person comes and sits.
A dark-skinned girl in a sweater and sweatpants. She grimaces at me, at first, but then she smiles. I wish I could smile back at her as I take a memory.
At least she’s happy. But then she’s gone, replaced by an older boy. Nearly a man. He’s got wisps of peach fuzz – chances are he calls it a beard – on his chin and cheekbones. Long mangy hair, sallow skin, and big muscles. He wears a sleeveless shirt as if to flaunt that fact.
I mutter to myself, feel disgruntled. He’s got a tattoo on his tricep, which he turns toward me as he sits down, a black and red inking. It’s mostly a skull with blood dribbling between the teeth, but below it says “we’re off to hell”, and swirls of smoke underline the words.
But he’s here for a reason, I suppose, so I blink to capture the moment.
Next a young woman sits down – I think she’s eighteen or nineteen. She doesn’t smile, stares at me solemnly. I blink back at her, wonder at her blank expression. She wears a long-sleeved shirt and jeans, dry washes her hands as she waits.
Then someone talks to her; from the way she shakes her head, furrows her brow, it’s not something she wants to hear. But then she rolls up her sleeves to her elbows and turns back to me. I shiver, inside, and snap the memory of her scars.
A boy with only one leg and a pair of crutches.
Twin blind girls, wearing black dresses with angel wings, staring at me blankly.
A dark-skinned boy and a light-skinned boy shaking hands.
A girl in a wheelchair watches her sister dance.
A newborn and her mother, a framed picture of a man in a uniform.
I take so many memories, more in one day than ever before. That night, I don’t even pretend to sleep. Instead, I ponder the snapshots, the memories.
I feel a rush of movement, and sink into the delight of flight. It lasts a long time; there is light again.
All around me, there are people. Dozens and dozens of people. I stare at them, capture them in a moment.
I move forward, flit into a marble building, down a long hall filled with paintings. I pass images of people and animals and landscapes and buildings. Then I stop, rest on a pedestal facing a long wall.
If I had a jaw, it would drop, drop down off the pedestal to the floor.
My memories hang from the wall.
Images of poppies and sunsets and hummingbirds and skyscrapers and trees and oceans. Interspersed with them are the pictures of the people from yesterday. People with smiling faces, sad faces, solemn faces. Broken people, hurting people.
I would smile, if I could, but I don’t have a mouth. I’d leap for joy, if I had legs, I’d weep if I had tears.
But I don’t.
Instead I look, and I remember.