An Exciting Week of Nothing Much Happening
This week I messed things up. A bit, not too much. But I guess that’s life, right? We pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and get back to work.
What I’m Watching
Still getting through Neon Genesis Evangelion. Still brilliant.
What I’m Reading
I finished The Need by Helen Phillips, in which overworked mother-of-two Molly must face off against a mysterious intruder that seems to know everything about her family. I liked it but didn’t love it—I’ll put it on the “tentatively recommend” pile. I think part of what frustrated me was that it never really became the supernatural horror novel I was expecting—there were certainly supernatural elements, but the horror is ultimately very domestic and not very surreal. And, to be honest, the real horror ends up being parenthood (or, more specifically, motherhood) itself—it certainly doesn’t paint a very flattering picture of parenting, which I’m not sure was really the author’s intention (she is, I believe, herself a mother of two). Fine, I can’t really fault it for not meeting expectations it was never reaching for. But I also didn’t find the writing particularly beautiful (the line that really sticks out in my mind is something along the lines of “and then she realized the infant’s diaper was leaking poop,” which is gross on purpose, sure, but also sounds strangely unidiomatic to my ears?) and the plot is ultimately kind of elusive, and I don’t think it’ll be sticking with me the way great books tend to do. But I also read the whole thing in maybe two or three hours (the writing is very bouncy and easy to read, and it’s surprisingly short) so I can’t exactly say it wasn’t worth the time either.
I’m still getting through Days of Rage, which I find simultaneously interesting (because the topic matter is inherently interesting to me) and frustrating (because it’s all narrative and no analysis, and the writing itself just gets annoying sometimes). I still plan to finish it but it’ll take a while. I also started Shaye D. Cohen’s From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, a history of late Second Temple and early rabbinic Judaism, which I think I got on Kindle after seeing it cited in a Bart Ehrman book. It’s been interesting so far but also a bit scatterbrained. I also just picked up Lillian Li’s Number One Chinese Restaurant at the library, a multigenerational story about the trials and travails of a Chinese-American restaurant in Maryland; the first chapter didn’t really hook me, which is a shame, because I really enjoy her newsletter, which is seldom sent but always joyously received (and is called the Number One Newsletter, natch).
What I’m Listening To
As expected, I spent most of the last two weeks listening to Men I Trust’s Oncle Jazz, which is more Men I Trust and therefore automatically good, though I have to admit hearing a bunch of dream-like indie songs back to back gets old long before the 1:11 runtime is up; I think I prefer having the friction of having to open my phone and pull up another single, listening to them in no real order. I’ve also (to my surprise) been listening to Moon, another synthwave artist, famous in this case for providing some of the best tracks to the first Hotline Miami soundtrack. Musical inspiration album of the week is the Cube soundtrack, I guess, which is an appropriately creepy horror movie soundtrack for writing horror novel words. I also have Lana Del Rey’s new album downloaded for next week; her whole persona has never really sat right with me, even though her music is at least adjacent to genres I do really like, but this new album is (relatively speaking) so acclaimed, and in such breathless prose, that I might as well give it a chance.
What I’m Learning
I came this close to finally finishing Type-Driven Development with Idris—a chapter and a bit left—and then it didn’t really happen. Instead I got distracted learning about Kubernetes and Cloud Native™️ with the hope that it would make deploying projects for UBC Launch Pad easier (spoiler alert: it did not). It is cool that the San Francisco Public Library offers free access to LinkedIn Learning née Lynda dot com—I’m considering volunteering with the library, since you should support your public libraries, y’all.
Luckily, if I do manage to finally finish working through the Idris book, I’m spoiled for choice—Bob Nystrom has finally (that’s an excited finally, not an exasperated one) released the closures chapters of Crafting Interpreters, and Hacking with Swift is starting a 100 Days of SwiftUI course, which may not be particularly relevant to me professionally (as with many iOS teams, we support “n-2”, the last two major iOS versions, which SwiftUI unfortunately do not run on), but would definitely be enriching and potentially useful if/when I ever write an app as a side project.
What I’ve Been Working On
Progress™️ is being made on Dreams of an Alien God, which is now up to about 4,000 words—not a massive amount, but a decent start, especially given all of it is at least halfway decent and has a good chance of making it into a first draft (unlike Gospel of the Heavenly Kingdom, where I put down almost 10k words and then threw most of them out when I started plotting more heavily, before ultimately abandoning the project… hopefully temporarily 🙂). I attended a Shut Up & Write! session that was really nice, and I think I want to make it a weekly habit to spend a solid hour or two just writing, without distraction, even if not always at an official event. Anyway, enjoy now an extended preview of a basically unedited bit that will probably go somewhere near the start?
When I got here, the maintainers told me not to go into the basement. Or, not the basement, exactly, but a particular room in the basement. “You’ll know which one,” they said. And under their words I could tell they were subtly implying I didn’t really need to go to the basement at all.
At the time I just kinda laughed it off, because what kind of Devil in the White City place are they running here? But I think I know which room they were talking about—which door, really—and I can’t laugh it off anymore.
I was distracted1, so I decided to go exploring. But it turns out there’s not much mileage you can get out of exploring five floors of identical floral-print hallways, and the flowers outside were wilting in the late autumn breeze, so although I could have chosen to see the colors change in the trees outside, I instead decided to go to the basement.
Problem number one: the stairs. I don’t trust them. I take one step down and they creak like I broke a bone.2 I take another step, and another, but before I take yet another I notice a stair is out. In fact quite a few of the stairs are out, and there doesn’t seem to be a light switch at the top of the stairs. Creepy. But there’s no elevator3 so I have no choice but to go back to the storage room and grab a flashlight (and hope it has batteries, or else this adventure will quickly turn into an adventure to the hardware store, except of course it’s a small town hardware store that’s not open past 4pm on a good day). But luckily the flashlight is both present and filled with batteries, so back down the stairs I go, clutching the railing and praying my foot doesn’t fall down into who-knows-where.
It was at this point that it actually started to feel like an adventure, a feeling I didn’t know you could have in a hotel.4
Then I got to the bottom and finally saw a little piece of string which let out a satisfying click when I pulled it. So I turned off the flashlight and looked around. And it was… a pretty normal basement, for the most part. Just lots of crap left in storage, without a hole lot of rhyme or reason. There was a corner dedicated to decorations—Fourth of July decorations, Halloween decorations, and for some reason Christmas decorations, even though the hotel was never open during Christmas. There was lawn care equipment (some of it clearly having been in disuse for extended periods of time) and some office supplies that apparently didn’t fit in the storage room upstairs. And then… there was the other corner.
This corner vanished off into a corridor that the light from the tiny little lightbulb, bright as it was, didn’t reach. So, needless to say, I was curious. So I walked over, clicked the flashlight back on, and started walking.
The walls were bare and unadorned—smooth, grey cement drilled in the heart of the earth—and there wasn’t another light that I could see. The flashlight peered into the darkness and found… only more darkness.
So that was creepy.
But I’m Brave™️, or so I like to think, so I went ahead and walked along it. And walked. And walked. And finally, as the light from the basement behind me slowly died away and I was finally left in total darkness, I saw it.
Okay, it was just a normal door, right? A normal door with a normal doorknob and a normal door size. And also it was wrapped in heavy iron chains as if somebody was trying to keep the door itself at bay.
So. Yeah. That wasn’t spooky at all.
Actually, now that I think about it, I think I even saw a crucifix among the chains. Somebody around here clearly has a mordant sense of humour.
But since I had come this far I thought I might as well go up and touch the door. Just give it a knock, you know? Like, “I’m not so scared of you, Mr. Door.” But when I took a step closer, my vision started to blur. An aura. The precursor to that curse known as a migraine. I hadn’t had one in years—not since college, really—but now one was coming on, while I’m alone in a dark corridor with only a flashlight and a creepy fucking door for company.
But before I went back to my room to collapse, at least I could give the door one quick rap. But the closer I got the more my vision blurred, the more the pressure behind my eyes started to build. And then… I heard something. It was quiet at first, so quiet, like a heartbeat. I thought it was my heartbeat. But it was coming from against the door. And as I took a step, step, step, closer, closer, closer, it got louder, louder, LOUDER. Something was pounding on the door.
And as I reached out to touch the door, I heard a roar.
Needless to say, I gave up on touching the door and turned and ran as fast as I could, back to the safety of the light, back up the stairs, slam the basement door shut, down the hallway, out of breath, open the door, slam it shut, kick off shoes as fast as humanly possible, forehead feeling like a knife was gently wedged between my eye and its socket, collapse onto the bed to pass out.
And hope my sleep is interrupted by no dreams.