By JohnU | March 3, 2013
Here it is, in total, the Day 20 story. I hope you enjoy it.
Trumpets sounded in the distance, and the hunt is on. Run, little fox, or the dogs will catch you and the men with their rifles will sight you and shoot you and skin you and eat you.
In many ways, it’s the same as it always was, little fox, but clearly the rules have changed. What was once a fair challenge has been overwhelmingly tilted into the favor of the hunters. Where once you might have had thousands and thousands of acres in which to evade the hunters’ bullets and knives, now there are fences and dangerous highways and other critters fighting for the same safe refuge.
Through the woods, little fox, but lready the dogs have got your scent, and the men on their horses are getting closer. You can smell their rancid stench and hear their excited yells.
There has always been a hunt. Once upon a time, little fox, a man alone would chase your ancestor on foot, armed with a club, perhaps, or a makeshift blade of questionable durability. A man alone chasing a fox, that was a fair contest, and it didn’t always end in bloodshed.
You’re a wily one, little fox, though I’m not sure turning back to their cabin will be of much use. There, they have additional implements of killing, all the tools of cooking, boxes and boxes of ammunition.
There’s a gunshot. They’ve taken a rabbit. I’m sorry, little fox; that might have been your dinner tonight. Yes, there’s a moment of celebration amongst the hunters, but don’t mistake their brief joy for satisfaction. There are not after rabbit, though it would make a fine stew. The hunt is still on.
Ah, I see you’ve already got a way of getting inside the cabin, so even if they locked the doors you’re safely inside. Look around, little fox. See if there’s anything to help you. The dogs are fast on your trail. You haven’t got much by way of time.
The hunters circle the cabin in two groups, surrounding it from both directions. I count five of them, little fox, and three dogs, too many to fight on your own.
I wonder: are you alone, little fox?
You’re desperate. The dogs won’t stop barking. Two of the hunters have dismounted and approach the door. What will they do to you, little fox, if they catch you alive? The dogs have found your point of entrance. There’s no way out of the cabin.
Obviously, little fox, you are done running, and you’ve transformed, taking on your feminine aspect, which an age ago might have been a surprise to these hunters but not today.
I admit, little fox, you are a beautiful creature.
They’re inside, the two of them, and you’re waiting for them, gloriously nude, perfectly displayed, and even seasoned hunters such as these can be momentarily distracted by such fine, delicate grace. They don’t even see the rifle in your hands, one of their own, until you’ve pulled the trigger. Crafty little fox. You’re quick enough with the second shot, and accurate with both, but the other three, the younger hunters, less experienced but more emotional, come quick behind them, weapons already raised.
The next shot takes out the middle hunter. Sly little fox, you didn’t fire it. The front hunter, surprised, turns but never fully realizes what has happened. Your shot is low this time, and you must shoot again lest you needlessly and mercilessly prolong his agony.
You drop the rifle after that. You run to the last hunter. He opens his arms to catch your embrace. You kiss each other, the hunter and the little fox in human guise, the forbidden lovers. You shut the door to keep out the dogs. You have fresh rabbit for stew. You have the warmth of his mortal body, nearly as perfect in its masculinity as yours in its femininity. You’re both strong, and your lovemaking wild, and you feed your hunter the most incredible of dreams.
In the morning, little fox, you leave him, and in pity you give the dogs the leftover rabbit, and you go back to your own world.
But I know your secret, little fox, your secret hunter lover. I know your passions go deep. I know how it breaks your heart to leave him.
I feel sad for you, little fox, but I will keep your secret. For now.2f2a
By JohnU | February 24, 2013
By JohnU | February 16, 2013
Most days, I have no idea what I’m going to write about until I get the Moleskine open in front of me and the fountain pen in my hand. Some days, I have an idea, or the briefest of ideas. Ultimately, these stories are coming out a lot more like poetry–brief images, straight-forward plots, some twists, but nothing immense. Most stories have been told in a single scene. There’s a fable-like quality, I think, running through them, so sometimes the stories aren’t functioning in quite the way stories usually function, in that they have their laser focus and nothing else matters. They’re very streamlined — and since that’s often the way I write, anyhow, there’s a chance some are too streamlined.
I have to admit, I think a few of these are rather pale, especially compared to the others. I said to M that none of these feel like my usual stories; but I’ve read a bunch of them aloud to her, and she insists they are.
The overriding theme, of course, is me. InkStains contains Stories From the Mind and Pen of John Urbancik. There’s no better way to describe them.
The challenge, of course, is Time. I knew it would be. It’s not acceptable to write a piece of a story today and finish it tomorrow (well, it is acceptable, but it wouldn’t be an InkStains story that way). With recent changes in my day job (I’ve taken on more responsibility, at least on a temporary basis, so my role and therefore my hours have shifted dramatically), my schedule has twisted into something unrecognizable. I can sleep later most mornings, but I no longer have a four-day work week, and theoretically I’m always on call.
I’ve written several stories on my lunch hour. I wander the parking lots and grounds outside my office building, find a table at which to write, and write away.
I’ve also been writing after dinner, and of course on weekends, theoretically, my time should be more my own. And in fact, while today may have a lot stuffed into its hours, Sunday I will maybe go see a movie and then spend most of the day working on a particular story which I’ve been gestating. See, they don’t all come without planning.
For Day 33, I go back to my childhood:
The alien barbarian hordes are in the woods.
“Am I dreaming?”
“Oh, I wholeheartedly doubt it, though I wouldn’t completely discount the possibility.”
Day 35 is inspired by a piece of art I got in Sydney:
Henry reaches the door. It growls and hisses at him.
Rising from the snow, shifting with the wind, absorbing the shadows and the light of the moon and the colors of aurora australis, she takes a flesh-based form.
Day 37 is the first that touches on previously published material. You might recognize the man from Necropolis:
It’s the spider she sees, not the gentleman assailant in the crisp white tux, not the gentleman assailant with the blood-stained cane.
Day 38 is written in second person — and it’s not the only such story:
Run if you can.
I have a magic box.
In Day 40, we learn that libraries contain more than just books:
Its location was a secret, and it was hidden, but it was not unknown.
Day 41, because no one likes a 4:30 meeting on a Friday:
Might as well call in The Conference Room in the Sky.
Day 42 is one of the shortest thus far, but touches on a familiar InkStains theme:
The old man laid down a great deal of ink.
The music of the universe exploded all around them, a single inarticulate note on an electric violin, as discordant as any note had ever been.
Day 44 was a brief essay about words and story:
This piece, for instance, is not strong. I’m meandering. I’m leaping blindly between contradictory conclusions.
I took 15 Feb as one of my off days to celebrate an anniversary. Today, I will write the Day 45 story, and tomorrow promises to be a lengthy bit for Day 46.
I’ve discovered a few things: the fountain pen and Moleskine do, indeed, change the way I approach the story. But so does the fact that I intend for a complete story every day; I generally go for a complete story when I sit, though I’ve been interrupted a few times. I’ve never taken a break in the midst of a piece. That may change tomorrow, when I attack a story idea that will, likely, last the whole day. Mainly, I hope I can finish it in a single day; there’s no way I’d be able to do it in a single sitting.
Thank you for joining me on this adventure.
By JohnU | February 2, 2013
Today’s story concludes with the line:
I’d never been a poet before.
By JohnU | February 1, 2013
Finished January with 30 stories. Some are good. Some are not. None, however would be considered wastes of ink.
I definitely approach these handwritten stories differently than when I type them straight into the computer. There’s a dreamy, fable-like undercurrent to them. Though none of the stories are linked to any other, you can see an overarching cohesiveness. Even the two non-fiction piece, the one about the Corvette Stingray and the Day 27 essay, fit the themes quite nicely.
At some point, counting may have gotten confused, so I’ve had to define it: the days will not coincide with the days of the year, but with the number of stories. So when I say Day 26, it’s the 26th story, regardless of how many actual days into the year it is. Since I only took one day off in January, Day 26 is actually January 27. Here’s a brief quote from that story:
The door opens, and the first of the demons emerges.
Day 27 was a non-fiction essay:
Knowing how a thing is done is not the same as knowing how to do a thing.
Day 28 incorporates something that happened to me a long time ago, when I was attacked while working the night shift at a gas station.
He’s something of a poet. He sees the beauty in the flaws and the flaws in the beauty.
Day 29 is all about a temp employee and the guy who’s supposed to be training her.
It was her eyes, he finally decided, that he couldn’t forget. They were too far apart, or too narrow, or two coppery in color.
I ended January with Day 30:
It is a big house built of dream stuff and whispers and champagne.
Reaching February, I gave up the small Moleskines for a regular-sized Moleskine. I’d gotten used to the unlined pages, but now there are lines. I still crammed three lines into the very last so as not to use only the top line of a page. Funny thing I’ve noticed, I tend to write to, or very near to, the bottom of the last page, and I subconsciously adjust my handwriting as I’m nearing the end of the story to make it fit. There was a moment of panic today when I almost spilled onto the next page, as the Virgo in me would demand I start tomorrow on a fresh page.
Here’s a bit from Day 31:
He saw my hands already on the back of my head and said, “So good of you to come quietly.” He glanced at my discarded weapons.
“That wasn’t the plan,” I admitted.
My aim for February: to do a bit more non-fiction. One rambling about Corvettes and an essay on secrets may have been enough for January, for the start of this project, but that will not be sufficient going forward.
I’m more and more conscious of the fact that, as a whole, this is an art project. I’m starting to think of what may or may not happen along the way to this–I’ll say it now–collection. I don’t actually plan to collect them. But they are, naturally, a collection, and at the very least connected by the InkStains project and all it entails. I am very much enjoying the process as well as the results.
Here, I reissue the challenge I gave at the start: come up with your own variation of InkStains and join me. Get a pen. Get some paper. Write a thing down.2009
By JohnU | January 26, 2013
I used one of my Free Days this week. Thursday night, the 24th, after having worked a full 10+ hour shift at the day job, knowing I had a four-day weekend ahead of me (Friday - Monday), I decided to relax for the night and read instead.
It filled me with a great deal of angst. Even as midnight approached, I fought the urge to break open the Moleskine and write something.
Day 21 was my first attempt at non-fiction. Here’s a sample:
Let that sink in a moment. You’ve probably got a preconceived notion that looks a lot like mine: a ‘72 with curves over the front tires, long and sleek, a fast as hell work of art.
Day 22 I thought of old gods and their ghosts.
Day 23 I explored maps.
Day 25 was inspired by a light bulb popping in my bathroom.
I’ve been told about studies suggesting the mind works differently when writing by hand. I haven’t seen those studies yet, but I’m interested. I think it’s true. I’ve noticed a lot of my pieces have themes running through them, as though they’re somehow part of a larger thing. They’re not meant to be, except in that they’re all part of the larger thing called my body of work.
The physical act of handwriting, the paper and the ink, focus me in ways the computer does not. I’m not just thinking about the stories every day, I’m thinking about my overall life arc, the paths I’ve taken and the paths before me, the choices I have yet to make, the ways and means by which I can make writing (and by extension, photography) not just a part of my life, but make them my life. The idea isn’t to abandon the Day Job, but to make such a thing unnecessary and superfluous.
I’ve also become very conscious of the fact that, overall, the collection of these InkStains stories is, in fact, a piece of art in itself, and therefore the stories are part of a larger thing. I do not yet know the form that larger thing may take. I’m beginning to have ideas.
Also, something else I’ve noticed: the ink is taking over my life. I live and breathe ink now. I bleed ink. I am ink. I gave a speech this morning about ink, the importance of ink, how ink is one of the three essential elements (light/shadow, music, and ink), how ink is your means of achieving the three divine tenants (clear, concise, and simple). I lent my pen to a woman at the post office and the pen impressed her. Ink is a powerful thing, and becoming more and more powerful in my own life. It’s always been there, in some way. But I’m feeling the difference between the ink after a thing has been typed and the ink you lay down with your own hand.
I like ink.
By JohnU | January 20, 2013
This is something of an art project. Not just the individual stories, but the overall effect, the end result, is a piece of art on its own. Of course I’ve seen it that way from the start. And of course, I don’t know how it will end. It’s a long-term project, requiring a great deal of diligence, dedication, and discipline.
Day 16 was the first in the new Moleskine, which is the same as the first Moleskine but gray instead of black. It involves a trip to Paris and doesn’t turn in any direction you might expect from me. It may be the longest story thus far, twelve pages when the average seems to be about six.
Day 17 is a love story, but not in a traditional sense.
During the week, I finished another ink cartridge. The fountain pen uses them up.
Day 18 starts with:
It was a classic romance, by some definition.
Stylistically, it’s a bit unusual, and it was fun to write. Indeed, they’ve all been fun, though I’ll admit some have come in the final hours of the day. 18 might be the shortest of the stories.
I borrowed my own backyard for Day 19, in which otherworldy things lamented the loss of humanity in silence.
At the start of Day 20, as I stared at the blank page, my mind scrolling through images and thoughts and possibilities, I heard a sound from outside. It was not a trumpet, or anything magnificent, but it along those lines. So I started with:
Trumpets sounded in the distance, and the hunt was on.
Yes, I know, gun control has been in the news, and shootings, but this story does not go there.
Indeed, most the stories could be considered fables, or something like them. It’s a little early to think about what happens at the end of the project, but I know now that it will not be 365 Days of Fables when I’m done.
In case you’re wondering what it feels like to stare at the empty page, it’s something like this:
By JohnU | January 15, 2013
I started with the four elements, sisters, at the dawn of humanity and the things humanity brings with it. Among those things: the horsemen. Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? No. No, four are not enough. They bring with them Five Horsemen.
That’s the 15th story. That’s the first Moleskine used up. I shift from the black book to the gray book.
The inspirations? I watched an episode of Face Off in which the make-up artists were made to design witches based on the elements. Pretty direct cause and effect. As to the Five Horsemen … we last gathered in Colorado: Brian, Mike, Mikey, Coop, and I.
I intend, in the very near future, this weekend in fact, the do a few nonfiction pieces. Among them, a history.
By JohnU | January 14, 2013
Another day, another story. Here’s a picture of the pen.
By JohnU | January 13, 2013
Writing early today. It’s a day off from the day job, and I have a photo shoot for the afternoon. Further, as a writer, I can scribble my words morning, noon, and night, if I so choose.
The city is a stark vertical landscape filled with rough textures, sharp contrasts, grit and shadow, the ever present sense of mystery, magic, romance, and passion. And in the rain, the city is in perfect make-up: nails dropping from an amorphous steely cloud, accentuating the city’s height.
Atop one of the anonymous tall buildings, the warriors face each other, heedless of the elements, weapons ready — sticks for one, long thin rods expertly balanced and just flexible enough; a katana for the other, a heralded blade three centuries old, sharp enough to slice in half the rain dropping down.
I don’t know where you think this is going, but that’s not where it went. I was playing with atmosphere today, ambiance, glorious visuals. Today’s piece would make an epic animated short. Any animators interested? Give me a ring.
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