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LMS VI: Let Me Live Tonight 1.3

by winterwolf0100


Warning: This work has been rated 16+.

In my earliest memory, I was jumping on the bed.

It was the elation and thrill, the pit in my stomach deepening in sudden sharpness, that drew me back to it time and time again. I would bounce as high as I could and try to touch the stars with my fingers. I was three years old, short and chubby, so I know I couldn’t have gone more than a few inches off the mattress. But to me, it felt like I’d scaled to the tops of the clouds, like I’d climbed the beanstalk and entered the world of the giants. To me, the universe fizzed and popped like orange fireworks exploding in the sky.

In my earliest memory, I was jumping on the bed, and I fell.

The pain had no elation or thrill, just sudden sharpness and loud crying. I do not remember my parents rushing into the room, panicked at the sound of my tears, though I know they did. I do not remember the ride to the hospital. I do remember the pounding in my head. I remember the bright lights, the dizzying stabbing pain through my eyes. The disorientation, the world blurred around me not only by tears but by something else, something harder, something with more sting.

I do not really remember my earliest memory— it is all a blur. I can smell the disinfectant of the hospital, see the colorful walls painted for the eyes of dying children, feel the fuzzy stuffed chicken my grandfather gave me when he came to visit.

I was in the hospital for several days— they said I had a concussion. They did a brain scan, and they said they didn’t see anything, but I screamed when they turned the lights on. I became terrified of the lightswitch, wanted to cover it up with tape to stop the knives from attacking my eyes. I kept them closed most of the time, and became used to an existence in the dark.

It was only a few days of course, and I am told I was a dramatic child, so it is possible I misremembered. I do not know if that is true though. I cannot remember a time when I was dramatic. I do know that I did not keep my eyes closed forever. I know that somehow, the pain faded away. I was given medication, and I left the hospital. I went home, and was told, “No more jumping on the bed.” And I agreed. And I didn’t do it again. I grounded myself, confined to looking up at the stars instead of reaching for them.

Thinking about it now, I wonder why my first real memory is one of pain— I wonder why those memories always seem to stick out more. They harden to amethyst, rock-solid and reflecting through the dark recesses of my mind, hitting the mirrors at just the right angle to blind me. When asked to think of an impactful memory, how many people think of a bad one? For however much we believe we can live our lives in happiness, I don’t know if that’s actually true. If our most impactful memories are the bad ones, how happy can we really be?

Sometimes, I wonder if I would be different if those moments were changed. If instead of falling off the bed, my first clear memory centered on that stuffed chicken my grandfather gave me. If instead of that game of chicken, my memories focused on one of those countless games of tag. If instead of that moment, my memories focused on any other moment of her. But that’s the problem—they all focus on her. Everything focuses on her. And if my memories focus on her, how can they not focus on that ending?

Sometimes I wonder if falling off the bed is where this all began— falling like Lucifer from heaven, hands stretched out towards the stars. Blinding, stabbing pain, and a sudden longing for the darkness. We like the fall, but we don’t like the impact. We like the feeling, but we don’t like the implication. I’ve never liked those drop rides at amusement parks, the ones that rise and fall, jerkingly, haltingly. Maybe it’s because I can’t be there without thinking about her. Maybe it’s because the toddler in me lunges forward for control, flashes those images in my mind— bright lights, disorientation, throbbing head.

I’ve spent so long longing for that childhood innocence again, but even now, I question if I ever really had it. My memory of her is tainted. It makes it hard to tell what I really felt. When we stood back to back, were we really soldiers surrounded, or were we just children playing? Maybe we were both. There is no way for me to know. The memories are soaked in blood, tinted red like I’m looking through the wing of a ladybug.

When Jack climbed the beanstalk, he found the golden goose— he took what he could and he retreated, left the land of the giants behind and stole away in the night. I do not know what I took that day, but I traded away my childhood for whatever it is. The giants opened my eyes and took my ignorance as their fee.

Or maybe I’m being too self-centered— maybe I didn’t climb the beanstalk at all. Maybe you did. That deep desire to fit in, to stand out. We didn’t care that you were a girl— but we did, didn’t we? More chicken, prove that you aren’t as chicken as the other girls, just do it, still overtime, come on, are trying trying to chicken out?

The more I think about it, the more I think you did climb the beanstalk. You came into the world of giants, girl in a boy’s world, and you took my innocence— no. I gave it to you. I forced it into your hands, pressured you into the road, told you to fly away with it. But you slipped on your climb back down. You fell off the bed, shattering your prize and yourself into a million pieces.

When I fell, I broke my head. When you fell, you broke my sanity. Even now, white-hot pain shoots through my eyes. There’s that overwhelming grayness, the deep clouds of a brewing storm. I do not think I knew it was possible, to take something rainbow and destroy it so thoroughly. We stretch to brush our fingers against the stars just so we can touch them, and when we do, they electrocute the color from our eyes.

I wonder if it is possible to repair it— that childhood innocence. And even if it was, I wonder if I would do it. Do I really deserve that blissfulness, the relief of not understanding, living in a foggy world? I know I had to have it at one point. I had it when I was three, jumping on the bed. I had it when we played, chased each other across yards. I did not sell it— it was stolen away. But even though it was, I did this to myself, really. I did it through you. I did that to you too. Pushed something into your hands, snatched something of my own in return, you’re acting like a little girl, it doesn’t matter that you are one, you’re acting like one and that’s worse, quit being a scaredy-cat, quit being a chicken, just go in the road, it’ll be fine.

I was repeating what I’d heard older boys say, repeating what I’d heard adults say, repeating what I’d heard everywhere. I had that childhood innocence, the one where I didn’t understand what I was saying, and I didn’t mean it but I still hurt you, I’m still the reason. Would you have even gone into the road if I hadn’t joined the others? Would you have gone back out that third time if I hadn’t begun to tease you? I don't think I can even begin to describe how sorry I am— how much the guilt gnaws at my stomach, the pain of knowing you can’t move, can’t even speak because of me. I did that to you. You were Jack, but I took something far more valuable. And I am sorry. I am so. Sorry. Dessie.

In my earliest memory, there were fireworks inside my head, ones that have not stopped since— but I’d like to think that maybe, from all that pain, something good could’ve come from it. I’d like to think that maybe, wherever you are, you can watch those fireworks, lay down on a blanket and look up at the stars, and exclaim at each of their explosions— that inside my mind, while white-hot pain bleeds from my eyes with each stab of the light, you can still point and squeal, “Clay!” as their fleeting fragility fizzes out in the air.

    

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1485 words

I appreciate all feedback, and would love to hear it all, but I especially love hearing about how the piece makes you feel, your theories on what it means and its implications for the story, and your opinions. Thank you for reading!


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Sat Nov 26, 2022 4:42 am
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SilverNight wrote a review...



Hey winter! Sorry for the delay in reviewing <3 I did read the last chapter, but decided to move forward onto reviewing this one to get it out of the Green Room sooner. If you'd like me to go back and review the last one, I can still do that!

What I'm starting to see from Clay is that he reads into things (especially memories) a lot, and that's also something I do, so it's really interesting to see someone else do it with different stories. This chapter was very nicely introspective and had the same kind of poetic prose that was in the prologue, which I love seeing! You're really good with imagery and I love your ability to pick a metaphor or allegory and run with it for a while, tying it in to the story at every opportunity. It makes the entire thing very cohesive and look really well-planned.

The symbolism is also a great part of it. I like the link between the chicken stuffed animal and the game of chicken, and how Clay clearly makes the connection in a way that feels very authentic in its emotion. I tend to form a lot of associations between things that mostly only make sense in my own head, so seeing a narrator who also does that is really interesting to me.

Am I eagerly waiting for the moment when all these stories connect in a perfect way? Yes :eyes:

In my earliest memory, I was jumping on the bed.

It was the elation and thrill, the pit in my stomach deepening in sudden sharpness, that drew me back to it time and time again. I would bounce as high as I could and try to touch the stars with my fingers. I was three years old, short and chubby, so I know I couldn’t have gone more than a few inches off the mattress. But to me, it felt like I’d scaled to the tops of the clouds, like I’d climbed the beanstalk and entered the world of the giants. To me, the universe fizzed and popped like orange fireworks exploding in the sky.

In my earliest memory, I was jumping on the bed, and I fell.


The shift here is really great! Repeating the happy first line and changing it to make it darker suddenly really got my attention because the change in mood really stood out. We usually get a little farther into these mini stories before the bad thing happens (there's always a bad thing with Clay happening, it seems), so the timing of it definitely kept the rest of the chapter interesting.

The paragraph in the middle made me think he might have those glow-in-the-dark stars, you know the plastic ones that stick to ceilings? It was a little harder to put together why he felt like he was reaching for the stars on a jump when I realized those weren't mentioned, but I love the description of how everything can feel so much greater when you're imagining it as a child.

I do not really remember my earliest memory— it is all a blur.


I like the somewhat paradoxical nature of this sentence and how it's somewhat of an afterthought to our first and third paragraphs! It adds to the reflective nature of this story.

We like the fall, but we don’t like the impact. We like the feeling, but we don’t like the implication.


This got me to say "oooh" out loud. Can I give you a writer award for that or something? XD

The references to the Jack and the Beanstalk tale made me think back to the Snow White imagery you used-- I think in the prologue if memory serves?-- which I think is really nicely fitting, since fairytales/folktales are short stories like these. It also held the introspective paragraphs together at the end, and that worked really well! Musing from a character perspective can easily go on tangents, but weaving this in throughout it kept things structured and got rid of loose ends.

Overall, I really loved this, great job! I'll hopefully get to another one of these sometime this weekend. Nice work this far, and best of luck with LMS!

-silver c:






Hehe thank you silver!! I was super excited to see a review because I actually haven%u2019t had anyone comment or read in like, over a month I think 0.0 so this was exciting to see XD I love hearing all your thoughts and there are several things in your review that make my brain go %u201C!!!!%u201D But I cannot tell you what they are because I refuse to spoil anything haha. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts though, it makes me super happy and excited to read!



SilverNight says...


You're welcome!! and also :eyes: to that



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Tue Oct 11, 2022 12:20 am
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Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

Another part!! I hope you know how much I look forward to these—I swear I read it when you first published it, it just took me a little longer to review it.

This chapter was definitely more introspective than the others preceding it—it reminded me more of the very first chapter than the previous two. I enjoyed the way you started with one of the earliest memories and then slowly using that and relating it to Dessie and her story with Clay. I did wonder if maybe you could have told it in a more active way—for me, I feel like spending too much time in flashbacks and memory that are told as if they are memories, much like this section was, it can make the story either more boring or more confusing. And that's not to say you need to have constant action—I just think it could be interesting to play around with ways of telling the story of Clay falling off the bed.

One thing I really enjoyed was your use of repetition in this one. Since we didn't have much actually physically happening in this chapter, the way you decided to write Clay's inner comes into focus in this chapter. I especially liked the way you used repetition throughout. The mentions of fireworks, the focus on childhood innocence—it was all really nicely executed and made it almost like poetry, in a way. That choice to start with "In my earliest memory" and then add on more to it as the chapter continues was a really lovely choice that made the prose so cohesive and just... brain-itching. It was great.

One thing I wondered about was the choice to start by referring to Dessie as "she" in the beginning, so in third person, and then you switch to Clay talking directly to her, as "you." I wasn't sure if that was an intentional or accidental choice, but I thought it added a nice emotional touch. There's that inherent intimacy that comes from addressing someone, and I think it was smart to first establish Dessie in third person at first, and then transition into second person, so the readers know Dessie is the "you."

I'm also curious now about the second chapter in relation to all the other ones. As we continue, it seems like we're focusing a lot on Dessie. It makes me wonder then about why you chose to start with the whole tale with Ophelia and her death, since now the story seems to be mostly rotating around Clay's experience with Dessie. I'm wondering if the whole Ophelia ordeal will become clearer later on and has its own plotline attached, or if it actually has some pertinence in Dessie's story. Time will tell, and I'm very excited to find out!

Specifics

To me, the universe fizzed and popped like orange fireworks exploding in the sky.


This reminded me a lot of the first part, what with the specific mention of the color. I wasn't sure if it was an intentional callback, but I think given the multiple mentions this chapter, it was. I think it serves really nicely to help the readers make connections, especially since you're telling the story in a non-linear way.

It was only a few days of course, and I am told I was a dramatic child, so it is possible I misremembered. I do not know if that is true though. I cannot remember a time when I was dramatic. I do know that I did not keep my eyes closed forever. I know that somehow, the pain faded away. I was given medication, and I left the hospital. I went home, and was told, “No more jumping on the bed.” And I agreed. And I didn’t do it again. I grounded myself, confined to looking up at the stars instead of reaching for them.


This paragraph felt a little more formal to me, for some reason? I think it was because of the lack of contractions. I feel like since you use them in other places, it felt strange for your narrator to use "do not" and "I am" as opposed to "don't" and "I'm." It gave it, as I said, a more formal tone that was out of place, at least for me.

Overall: nice work! I think the actual structure and flow of your prose was really delightful in this section. I can't wait to read more! Until next time!






Hey Plume!! First off, thank you so much for your review and comments, I always get super excited when I see that you've left one!

First off, yes, this chapter is definitely more like the introduction. This entire novel is very experimental in format, and most of the chapters will be like everything so far from book one, but there are some chapters like this (and the prologue) that are sprinkled throughout the book. I can definitely understand what you mean by it not feeling very active, which is definitely something for me to consider. The main thing is that most chapters like this are going to be setting up the different through-lines of the narrative, and then later on, it'll start flowing quicker as people are able to connect the dots. I know that doesn't help with the waiting though XD so I apologize in advance haha.

Haha thank you so much! This chapter definitely has some more prose-y feels.

In terms of switching from 'she' to 'you', I think it really shows his devolving mental state at the time that he is pondering this. (I will give a hint-- he is pondering all of these moments at the actual climax of the story, which is REALLY far away but hopefully helps explain the chaos of the narration a bit). Switching from "she" to "you" shows him going from thinking about the memory to feeling like he's reliving those emotions in this chapter for me I suppose.

I cannot say much in terms of Ophelia but I promise it will come into play eventually XD I spent a lot of time planning everything out in chronological order and then mixing it up a ton in a way that would still help the story build the way it needs to, so the first big puzzle piece that'll fit will probably be around Book 1 part 13? Which I know is a long way away, but after that, I'm hoping that it'll bring enough relief of understanding a little of something for readers to want to continue following the other parts that don't make sense, knowing they'll eventually connect together. (TLDR: Ophelia will be coming back XD)

AHHH I'm actually super psyched you picked up on that. Because here's another secret (I am bad at keeping secrets): I established what each color means. Sooooo, if you see a color somewhere, it probably hints at the tone of the story in its relation to Clay.

That paragraph does feel pretty clunky. I didn't edit that week as much as I sometimes do, so thank you for pointing that out, I'll definitely keep that in mind for any future revisions.

Thank you very much for the review! Have an awesome day!




Pain is filtered in a poem so that it becomes finally, in the end, pleasure.
— Mark Strand