Want to lose weight this New Year? Introducing the new calorie-free diet

Do you want to succeed in your New Year’s resolution of losing weight? Look no further than the calorie-free diet. Forget keto and intermittent fasting. Calorie-free dieting is the fastest way to lose lots of weight and keep it off. What’s more, the diet is naturally free of sodium, sugar, fat, artificial flavors or colors, and other toxic substances! There’s no catch. The calorie-free diet will make you happy and healthy.

The best part about this diet is that you don’t have to exercise and you can eat whatever you want. Want to watch Netflix all day and eat only chocolate cake? Go ahead! We won’t judge. We’ll join you.

What to do

Calorie-free dieting is super easy. Just set the table like you usually do; play a recording of clinking silverware, chewing, and muffled conversation (available for download on our website); and imagine eating whatever you want by reading a detailed description of the experience (found in our cookbook).

Our cookbook, The Calorie-Free Lifestyle for the Trendy, is stuffed with delicious recipes for our signature calorie-free food. We’ve included an exclusive excerpt here.

The Apple

Your teeth skate against the waxy surface of the apple before finding purchase and breaking the skin with a mild popping sensation. You savor the resistance from the fruit as your teeth move through the flesh. With a sudden release of pressure, the bite is in your mouth and no longer attached to the fruit. You use your tongue to push the bite to the left side of your mouth and secure it between your teeth. As your teeth come together, you can feel the fruit collapse beneath the force, condensing. The apple bleeds. It tastes sweet and tart. You pulverize the bite and drink the juice, then swallow the fruit. You can feel it slide down your throat.

You take a second bite. It doesn’t taste as interesting, the memory of the last bite still fresh in your mouth. It becomes less of a pleasure and more of a way to satisfy your hunger. You rotate the apple and chew around it counter-clockwise. When you are left with only the core, you turn it so the bottom faces you and bite into it. It’s wasteful to not eat the core. You reach the center of the core; it’s studded with seeds. After a moment of deliberation, you bite into it. The seeds are hard pellets in your mouth. The contrast between the texture of the seeds and the fruit interests you. You are not bothered enough to spit out the seeds. You crush them between your teeth and a bitter, fruity taste coats your mouth. It is not entirely unpleasant. You quite enjoy it. You think about the amygdalin in the seeds turning into cyanide inside your body. You wonder how many seeds you’d need to eat for it to kill you. You reach the stem of the apple. You look at it for a moment then put it in your mouth. You chew vigorously but fail to break the rubbery stem. You spit it out and put it in the pile of chewed apple stems in the corner that you’ve been meaning to clean out.

Warning: The calorie-free diet may lead to malnutrition, starvation, and death.


Connect with me on Twitter @arachnid_weaver


Photo by Ella Olsson from Pexels

A Study of High School | Fiction

Today’s lesson will cover the fascinating human subculture of ‘high school’ in our continuing study of life on Earth. In the geographical location labeled “America” on your Earth maps, high school is a rite of passage for offspring. Through extensive observation, we have recorded many intriguing behaviors in this collection of young humans.

A Study in Self Destruction

A near-universal element of high school life is the Pseudo-Telepathic Prism, known as the ‘cell phone’ on Earth. The Prism is a rudimentary enhancement meant to compensate for the shortcomings of the human body, which include limited knowledge and an inability to receive or transmit telepathic communication. The Prism appears to be permanently attached to these young humans’ hands. Removal of a Prism is possible but excruciating, so it rarely occurs.

This is a beautiful example of a species causing its own demise. Giving a human creation the power to destroy humanity was the greatest mistake in human history.

Exhibit A: The Death of Social Interaction

The Prism limits social interaction, which is apparently necessary for continued human existence. We noticed that during the scheduled Feeding and Watering of young humans, many interact with their Prisms instead of each other. Prisms are clever in their thievery. Like consuming ash that looks and tastes like food, Prisms trick humans into believing that texting (which is pseudo-telepathy with written language and pictograms) and Snapchat (the details of which our anthropologists have yet to discover) are filling their daily quota for social interaction while the void of loneliness leisurely devours them. Dissections of young humans have shown there are miniature black holes inside many of them.

Exhibit B: A Scarcity of Self Esteem

The parasitic Prism has an efficient energy source: the self-esteem of its hosts. Self-esteem is the inflated idea humans hold of themselves. It often overestimates self-importance and underestimates or denies the uncaring nature of the universe, but self-esteem may be a kind fantasy. It has been found that high levels of self-esteem are necessary for continued human existence. The Pseudo-Telepathic Prism drains self-esteem. Humans use Prisms in a misguided attempt to fulfill their requirement for social interaction, but the more they use the Prism, the more their self-esteem level drops, removing natural protections and allowing the Prism to siphon self-esteem at exponential rates, making itself more vibrant and attractive and further absorbing the human in a vicious, inescapable cycle. It has been found that lower self-esteem levels correlate with more massive interior black holes.

Exhibit C: Oblivion

The use of Prisms leaves humans in a state we call ‘Oblivion’ where all consciousness is absorbed by the Prism, leaving them weak and vulnerable to any outside factors. This can lead to some amusing situations. For example, one of our anthropologists witnessed one young human so absorbed in their Prism while walking in the high school’s transport channel that they unknowingly stepped in a repulsive bodily fluid that recently exited the feeding hole of another nearby young human. The anthropologists wrote an exciting paper about this particular situation, which I am assigning for tonight’s reading. The Prism frequently leads to more deadly scenarios as well. Death by transport vehicle is a common occurrence among young humans. Even unfettered by the Prism, humans lack the concentration necessary to properly control these unwieldy high-speed beasts, but they still usually arrive at their destinations unscathed and unaware of the fragility of life. When focus is crippled by Prisms, however, humans are overconfident in their control and infantile in their ability to steer. The transport vehicle is piloted only by the blind hands of chance.

Anthropologists predict that it will be the individual destruction caused by the Pseudo-Telepathic Prism that will lead to the inevitable doom of the human race, not climate change or nuclear warfare or asteroids or any other event of mass destruction that humans are so concerned about. Destruction by Prism is slow and stealthy. It leaves its victims existing, but not alive. We watch raptly as humans tear themselves apart. Let them be a reminder of why we minimize self-destructive behaviors through careful surveillance.

A student has just telepathically asked why humans are worried about climate change since it isn’t real. For those of you not taking Interterrestrial Studies, we will provide context: we are certain that climate change will not destroy Earth because it is actually a conspiracy begun by our subterranean allies, the Martians, to persuade humans to flee their planet, giving the Martians an easy invasion. In contrast to popular human belief, Mars is a wasteland not because of climate change, but because of nuclear warfare prompted by mass destruction caused by a stray asteroid. We are, of course, very supportive of the Martians’ endeavor and encourage their quest for a new home because we are tired of them leeching our resources.

The College Admissions Committee and Competitive Bubble-Filling

The humans of high school live under the glaring eyes and iron fists of the College Admissions Committee (CAC). CAC is similar to The Dictator of the Highly Advanced Alien Species in this way. (Long rule The Dictator with a brutal, merciful hand. May many flowers bloom under her rule and may she crush the airways of all who oppose her.)

The anthropologists discovered that CAC lives in the clouds at the peak of a mountain in an ominous castle. They scrutinize and judge the behavior of human youth through their ‘college applications,’ which is a document that contains the essence of a human in various numerical measures of competency and brief written statements that measure the adequacy of one’s personality. CAC uses these “apps” to determine whether human youth are worthy of a successful life. With a bored wave of their hands, the fates of humans are charted, their destinies immutable. With their futures resting in the unpredictable hands of the committee, human youth accordingly conduct every thought and action with CAC at the forefront of their minds to increase their probability of completing the predetermined course to success.

Unlike our Supreme Leader, CAC cannot directly control the thoughts or behaviors of their subjects. Nonetheless, they exert heavy influence. Humans will often choose to study subjects that will “look good on their college apps” instead of something they are passionate about or join many extracurriculars they do not like to increase the value of the numerical measures of competency on their college applications. The All-Powerful Overlord endorses this influence because it stimulates altruistic volunteerism and encourages mind-expanding behaviors. Some anthropologists meekly argue that the oversight of CAC results in a dispassionate generation of humans, floating half-asleep through life doing what is expected and eager for short-cuts. We must pray that the Mighty Ruler has enough forgiveness for these divergent anthropologists and their airways remain minimally intact.

An important numerical measure of competency on college applications is one’s proficiency in competitive bubble-filling. Multiple times during an Earth year, human high schoolers around the country gather in grand, drafty chambers to participate in the national bubble-filling competition. This competition appears to be a test of which humans can sit silently for the longest time and arbitrarily fill the most bubbles on a paper array of circles. Humans who fill the most bubbles correctly according to a predetermined pattern are deemed to be more competent and more likely to be successful than their peers who were not able to properly color in the correct bubbles.

Suggestions for human improvement: Monitor thoughts carefully with telepathy to determine the most competent humans, not the most successful bubble-fillers.

Worship of the Educational Institution

Worship of the Educational Institution, or ‘school spirit,’ is the subtle process of fostering solidarity among humans of one high school and encouraging animosity between different high schools (especially with ‘rivals,’ which require more animosity than what’s typically needed). Worship of the Educational Institution, however, is not as volatile as other manifestations of blind devotion because it is theoretically contained to competitive activities, especially organized physical exertion, or ‘sports.’

Humans are very emotionally invested in organized physical exertion. It usually consists of two globs of humans fighting over a sometimes-spherical object that is not useful, cannot be eaten, and has no monetary value. If one glob succeeds in moving the object to a specific location despite the attempts of the opposing glob to prevent this event, then one-half of the spectators will scream wildly to expel their extreme positive emotions. Our anthropologists are uncertain why chasing spherical objects elicits such a massive response among humans who are not directly involved in the success of the glob in the pointless exercise of moving a sometimes-spherical object to a particular location. We have no plausible hypothesis either.

Because victory of a chosen glob in organized physical exertion is so important to human happiness, humans enjoy proving their devotion to their chosen sports glob. Dedication to a young human’s high school is intertwined with dedication to their high school’s sports globs. This leads to the concept of ‘pep’ or ‘spirit,’ which is the outward demonstration of devotion to a high school and their sports globs. Pep often takes the form of coordinating daily color variations in skin coverings, loudly expelling positive emotion, participating in embarrassing games, or other normally socially unacceptable activities. Pep is a “voluntary” behavior, as humans who choose not to participate are seen as disloyal, uncommitted, or an outsider.

The Great Leader seeks to implement pep among our species in global pep assemblies so we may better display our unwavering loyalty to her Mightiness. Please open your telepathy to Global Communications in one week for further details.

A Sense of Doom

Our anthropologists noticed that humans in high school tend to be very ‘stressed.’ This is a human emotional state that could be described as a buzzing background tone of constant low-grade fear. It is akin to the feeling of increased pressure when our arm-vents are submerged in water. In human youth, stress results in raised pitch in verbal communication, frantic arm flapping, restlessness, a shortening of the distance between the eyebrows, a deficiency in logical reasoning, etc.

Anthropologists hypothesized that stress is highly contagious because it is a widespread condition among humans and the frantic hand waving and raised pitch seemed to jump from person to person. To confirm their hypothesis, anthropologists worked with botanists to create the Human Emotion Detecting Flower by modifying the Highly Advanced Alien Emotion Detecting Flower (used to monitor our species for adequate emotion levels). The anthropologists dispersed this microscopic feat of biological engineering in the air, free to be breathed in by humans and to send all data to the anthropologists telepathically. The results were fascinating. The plants not ingested by humans, the ones left floating in the air, also detected high levels of stress. This means that stress does not go neatly through undetectable threads, like verbal communication; instead, humans exude stress in clouds from their pores. These clouds are then absorbed by other humans, causing them to discharge more stress, perpetuating this cycle.

As stress is such an unpleasant feeling, humans expend a great deal of energy attempting to alleviate it. There are generally two methods to do so. The first method evolves from the hypothesis that stress can be assuaged by removing the source of stress. In practice, this involves attempts to frantically complete all work before enjoying oneself. However, to-do lists stretch indefinitely and work is never complete. In fact, the amount of work increases with available time so there is rarely excess time for enjoyable activities. This method of relieving stress tends to increase it; however, humans who follow this method of constant efficiency and vigilance are deemed to have a ‘strong work ethic’ are applauded for their stress-perpetuating behaviors. The second method, ‘procrastination,’ involves spending maximum time doing enjoyable activities before completing work frantically in a brief window of time. In theory, this minimizes stress most of the time at the cost of enduring incomprehensible amounts of stress for relatively short periods. However, it has been found that procrastination actually induces more stress on account of the procrastination itself, resulting in stress all the time regardless. This is because procrastination is generally seen as socially unacceptable and irresponsible. As both methods of reducing stress are ineffective, we conclude that stress is unavoidable.

Homework

Adult humans are encouraged not to bring work home and to not let work interfere with their “actual” lives (we are uncertain if this is merely a myth or if people truly follow this suggestion). Young humans, in contrast, are required to bring their school work home. Human youth will frequently spend all of their “free time” frenziedly completing their homework and drowning in a sea of paper. Homework often causes sleep deprivation and stimulates the expansion of stress clouds. There are no detectable health benefits to homework.

Anthropologists hypothesize that the discrepancy in ideology between the homework of adult humans and young humans is due to the common belief that unoccupied human youth will entertain their bored minds with unscrupulous behaviors, such as defacing property, throwing raucous parties, absorbing toxic substances, being public nuisances, committing petty theft, or participating in other general misdemeanors. Incredible amounts of homework are assigned to human youth in order to protect the world from their undeveloped moral compasses (which are literal compasses located in the left ankle of fully-grown humans) until they can tentatively be released into the world as adults responsible enough to correctly select socially acceptable behaviors for their free time.

A similar concept is expressed in our species in the grueling thirty-six hours a day feral criminals spend painting rocks to look like beetles for the Earth collection of the World Museums in our behavioral reeducation program. Without any time to conduct illegal or immoral acts, our global crime rate has become almost nonexistent and our World Museums are overflowing with delightful fake beetles.

Sleep Deprivation and Exhaustion

A common condition among human high schoolers, usually caused by homework, is sleep deprivation. Unlike ourselves, humans are required to spend a third of their day in unproductive unconsciousness. Humans seem to despise sleep for its hefty time requirement and love it for staving off sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is an unpleasant state where a human’s sight organs droop closed against their will, their limbs flop about limply, they drift into stupors, and they cannot focus. We believe that humans need the quiet darkness of sleep for a plant, a type of moss, to grow in their sight organs, limbs, and cognitive structures. This symbiotic relationship between moss and human provides the support necessary for humans to function properly. However, it wears down over the day with use, resulting in sagging sight organs, noodly limbs, and a lagging thought process. Even so, the moss theory is a hot topic in the anthropology world. It has not yet been proven by our dissections, although we think that the state of death may inhibit humans’ ability to produce the plants. We plan to conduct live dissections next month to settle this debate.

Sleep deprivation often results in sub-par productivity. Human youth appear to be trapped in a self-sabotaging cycle of skipping sleep to complete homework, reducing their efficiency the following day so they must once more stay up late, perpetuating sleep deprivation. They seem to have a silly notion that one can “catch up” on sleep later as if it were a ‘television show.’ However, one cannot shore up their moss past maximum moss levels to save for a busy day. Moss restoration is required every day and is good for the following day only.

Sleep-deprived humans often crave coffee and tea, which contain a stimulant called ‘caffeine’ that protects against sleep deprivation. We hypothesize that caffeine masks sleep deprivation by temporarily buffering the plant scaffolding in humans. Our anthropologists experimented with caffeine and found that dousing our skin in caffeine may cause pleasant hallucinations of unknown, indescribable colors diffusing through the atmosphere and drifting clumps of puffy fluff because of its unique interactions with our Highly Advanced Alien physiology. This discovery, while fascinating in the realm of science, has had devastating effects on our species as a whole. With the increased popularity of caffeine among our population, there has been rampant smuggling of tea and coffee from Earth since we have not yet been able to synthesize the compound in our labs. The smugglers risk exposure and the endangerment of our entire race. In addition, caffeine may be dangerous. With this mysterious Earthly compound being so new, its long-term effects on our health have not been adequately studied. We cannot confirm whether or not caffeine is safe for Highly Advanced Aliens. We insist you avoid any contact with caffeine before research is complete and to report any caffeine users in your family or community to trusted officials for immediate nutritional reeducation.

Suggestions for human improvement: Hire another human to sleep for oneself, then surgically transplant their moss stores to one’s own body, eliminating the need for sleep.

Agenda for Future Lessons

We will continue our discussion of these fascinating creatures for the following month, after which we will move on to the microscopic civilized societies of Europa’s oceans in our ongoing study of other lifeforms in the Milky Way galaxy. Please get your permission slips for the human dissection next week signed. We will identify liquid stress, the source of gaseous stress clouds. For tonight’s homework, in addition to the reading, please prepare two suggestions for human improvement and reflect on what our species can learn from humanity’s errors.


Image by Pixabay on Pexels

Connect with me on Twitter @arachnid_weaver

All I Want for Christmas is a Salmon-Pink Chainsaw | Satire

On Christmas morning, Margarine skipped down the steps in her Disney princess pajamas, pink fairy wings on her back and plastic wand in her hand. She raced into the living room, gasping at sight of the overwhelming mountains of wrapped presents. They were heaped underneath the four Christmas trees necessary to contain them all. The branches of the trees sagged against the boxes, their boughs heavy with ornaments. Margarine’s seven stockings, strung across the mantel, were overflowing with sweets and flowers.

Margarine’s parents stood next to the fireplace. Her mother’s face was glossy with sweat. A bead rolled down her forehead and dripped off her nose. Her father was wringing his hands and slightly bouncing on his feet. They were trembling.

“We hope you are satisfied with your presents this year, Margarine,” her mother tentatively said.

“We’ll see,” Margarine replied vaguely.

Her parents’ terror was audible.

Margarine set to the meticulous work of shredding wrapping paper and carefully checking her gifts against her twelve-foot long wish list. Dresses, hoverboard, dolls, knives, etc. Her parents watched the procedure with wide eyes, clutching each other. Their fate was in little Margarine’s hands.

It was going surprisingly well. Some hours later, Margarine unwrapped the final present underneath the fourth Christmas tree and her parents released the tension in their chests when she showed no reaction. It was over. Against all odds, they had survived their fifth Christmas with Margarine.

She squinted at the last gift, her head tilted in contemplation. “This,” Margarine said quietly, chillingly, “is a peach-pink chainsaw. I wanted a salmon-pink chainsaw.”

Her father’s face grew pale. He sweated profusely. “I—I thought it was salmon…”

“This is not a salmon-pink chainsaw.”

Her mother began sobbing, her arms wrapped around herself. Her father dropped to his knees and crawled to Margarine to beg. She was repulsed by the tears splashing on her bunny-slippered feet.

His hands enveloped hers. “Sweet Margarine, darling Margarine, I will get you a salmon-pink chainsaw. Dear girl, I will mortgage my house to do it.”

“It is too late. You have failed.”

“Please, give me another chance.”

“No.”

“Margarine, please.”

Margarine walked to the peach-pink chainsaw, flicked it on, the sound deafening, and decapitated each of the four trees. The glass ornaments shattered as the tops of the trees crashed to the ground and the floor sparkled with the fragments.

She turned off the chainsaw and returned to her father, still on his knees, his hands at his throat. She pressed the chainsaw against his chest and shrieked, “You ruined Christmas!”

Photo by Giftpundits.com from Pexels

The Money Tree | Satire

Greetings, creatures of the universe!

About two weeks ago, I entered a writing contest. *Bites nails nervously.* I’m really proud of the piece so crossed fingers. *Hides beneath bed, anxiously waiting for the results in February.*

I’ve used the occasion to dust off some old files and I’ve found the piece that I wrote last year for the same contest. I am usually too afraid to read my old work, but after two cups of tea and some procrastination, I worked up the courage to read “The Money Tree”.

*Cringes.*

Looking at old work is a good way to demonstrate improvement.

Despite not really liking this piece, I’m going to post it anyway. Next time, I’ll show you guys the one I entered this year, and hopefully we’ll all agree that it’s a smidge better.

Enough stalling. Here we go. *Tosses “The Money Tree” at you and runs far, far away.*


Dear Lucky Future Customer Who Also Happens To Be My Favorite Human Being In The Universe, Which Is No Small Feat Because I Generally Dislike Human Beings,

Congratulations!

Now, you may be sitting there, scratching your head because you have no idea why I’m congratulating you. You don’t remember doing anything noteworthy recently. You suppose you took out the trash without anyone yelling at you. But only the person who usually yells at you actually cares that you took out the trash without being yelled at, so why would I, a random stranger, be congratulating you for taking out the trash if I’m not the person who usually yells at you and therefore do not care if you took out the trash without being yelled at?

Good question. I will answer it in a moment, after a brief dramatic pause. *Dramatic pause* I’m not the person who usually yells at you to take out the trash.

And now I’ll answer the question you didn’t ask. Why am I congratulating you, you ask? (You didn’t ask but I’ll answer anyway). Because you are the proud, future owner of the grand, the amazing, the patent-pending, totally legitimate, completely functional, original *Dramatic pause* MONEY TREE™. *Cue confetti, infinite happiness, and fireworks*

Yes, that’s right, you read the previous statement correctly. You are the future owner of a real-life MONEY TREE™.

Our professional team of professional scientists at Totally Not Working From the Basement Co. has done the impossible. We’ve turned fiction into fact. We’ve grown a MONEY TREE™, and now it’s your chance to own one.

Through the careful use of sciencey stuff, we’ve managed to alter the DNA of the uselessly average cedar tree that generally does nothing but create oxygen so it can grow money. That’s right, our MONEY TREE™ grows legitimate, totally functional, and definitely not counterfeit money. And the amazing MONEY TREE™ will grow any type of currency! To make your MONEY TREE™ grow the currency of a particular nation, all you have to do is plant your MONEY TREE™ seed within the borders of that particular nation and your MONEY TREE™ will do the rest. Is it magic, you might ask? No, it’s not, dear [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE], it’s our simple and effective Legitimate Science. Each seed is preprogrammed with comprehensive maps, which allows it to select the proper form of currency from its built-in currency catalog upon sprouting.

So what does this all mean? Free money! That’s right, I said FREE MONEY! Shout it from the rooftops and add as many exclamation points as you want because it’s FREE MONEY!!!!

Have you ever heard such a delightful phrase? It makes me giddy, like I’ve just won the lottery, or my friend, who I’ve been in love with for the past twenty-four years, has just confessed her feelings for me, or I’ve just murdered someone.

However, don’t actually shout it from the rooftops, because if everyone had a MONEY TREE™, it would cause serious inflation.

BUT. You are a generous person, aren’t you, dear customer? You want to share this gift with all your friends and family so they can marinate in the awesomeness that is the MONEY TREE™ (At no cost to yourself, of course. They can have their own MONEY TREE™. It won’t be your money they’re leeching). And we’ll make it even easier for you. Every time you recommend us to someone, you get a 10% discount! (For a maximum of 10% off).

And what does that mean? It means you can get your very own MONEY TREE™ for A LOT OF PERCENTS off your already low, low cost and you get to have group marination sessions swimming in money with all of your favorite friends and family! You’ll get to live the MONEY TREE Lifestyle™ and not be terribly lonely, isolated from all of humanity as a result of your sudden wealth and your former friends’ and family’s bitter jealousy.

Still not convinced? The MONEY TREE™ could be yours for only a few monthly payments of $99.99 for an indefinite amount of time. Less than a hundred dollars a month for your very own MONEY TREE™! Talk about a good investment. (And I’ll remind you that the MONEY TREE™ will be producing money as soon as it hits puberty.)

You’re My Favorite Customer™, so as an exclusive offer Just. For. You. I’m going to give you 50% off, that’s right, you heard me, 50% off, if you do me an itty bitty favor. I know you’re just itching to get your hands on that MONEY TREE™, especially with that super special, extra exclusive discount I’m only offering you, [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE]. Let me scratch that itch for you.

The small, little favor you need to do for me.

The favor that will get you the MONEY TREE™ half-off.

Is.

*Cue drumroll*

*Cue dramatic music*

So, [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE]. I’m going to be candid for a second. I’m not supposed to tell you this, but EVERYONE’s itching for a MONEY TREE™, not just you. Everyone’s greedy. It’s not a particularly rare trait.

And not only is everyone greedy, but they’re also lazy. They want their money fast and easy, and nothing makes it faster or easier than a MONEY TREE™. The only thing you have to do is place an order online and plop a seed in a hole. And bam. Free money. Easy. Simple. No reason to get your hands dirty or *shudders* do hard work.

I’m sure you can imagine why our product is so popular.

We can’t keep up with the demand. It’s a long, complicated, sciencey process to produce even one MONEY TREE™, and our production rate is uncharacteristically low for such a large, legitimate company.

Millions of people will order their MONEY TREEs™ and wait. And wait. And wait. And pay us. And pay us some more. There simply aren’t enough to go around.

So what can you do to get a MONEY TREE™ when it’s oh so difficult to get ahold of one? Because honestly, the only people who get MONEY TREEs™ are celebrities and other powerful people that already have way more money than they could ever spend in a lifetime. And these already-rich people view the MONEY TREE™ as a novelty, don’t they? For you it means so much more. It’s the ticket to your dreams! You need it so much more than them, don’t you? You deserve it so much more.

And let’s face it. You want one. You really want one. You’ve never wanted anything more. Think of everything the MONEY TREE™ would entail. No more backbreaking, mind-numbing work. No more running to the clock’s whims and passing fancies. No more taking orders from someone you secretly loathe and imagine murdering through various gruesome means as you drift off into sleep every night. You can have everything you’ve ever wanted. You can do everything you’ve ever dreamed of. You can make bigger, better dreams once you grow tired of the ones you chase now.

It’s tantalizing, isn’t it? You can taste that future. You can feel it at your fingertips.

There’s only one way to guarantee it. And that’s my final offer.

And it’s the small favor.

But before we get into what the favor is, let me tell you a story. My story. And let me warn you, it’s a classic sob story. In fact, a lot of people think I made it up to gain sympathy, and nothing hurts my heart more. To take my suffering and pretend it never happened. But you wouldn’t do that, would you? Because you’re a Decent Human Being™.

My life was full of death before it even began. My father died in a car accident before I was born. I never met him. He never met me. I only ever saw pictures. And I don’t imagine it’s the same, is it? But I wouldn’t know.

My mother was an amazing woman. She raised me and my adopted younger sister on her own. She never fell in love again and she never remarried.

She did, however, die. It was a car accident. I was thirteen. My sister was six.

We were put in foster care and bounced around from house to house. We never had a home. Nobody wanted to take siblings, and no one wanted an older child, especially a boy. They did want my sister, though. It was just me they didn’t want. We decided that even if we had to be separated, it would be better for her to have a home and a family.

My sister died less than three months later in a car crash on the way to the hospital to visit her adoptive grandma, who was dying of severe injuries she had sustained from a traumatic car accident.

And then I was alone.

No one ever adopted me. But I graduated high school and went to college. I studied science, and as soon as I was out of college, I helped create the MONEY TREE™.

But while I was in college, I found out that my mother’s diamond wedding ring, her most prized possession, the ring she never took off, had gone to her parents. I knew it wasn’t what my mother would’ve wanted. She despised her parents, and her parents despised her. They never wanted her to be happy, and they never supported her dreams of becoming a professional mime. So she ran away with my father as soon as she could and she never spoke to her parents again. For her only remaining token from her love to go to the parents that hated her, that is atrocious.

I know she’d want her ring to go to her children. I wrote a letter to my grandparents, begging for the ring. They refused.

As it turns out, my grandparents live in [INSERT THE NAME OF YOUR TOWN HERE]. They live in that large, generic brick house. I’m sure you recognize it. And if you return my mother’s ring to me, I will guarantee you a MONEY TREE™, and your dreams.

If you want to help a sad orphan and receive a MONEY TREE™ for your efforts, please send an envelope with your name, address, date of birth, and social security number along with your banking information (and my mother’s ring if you want that super special, extra exclusive offer) to the same address you send donations to your estranged distant relative the Nigerian Prince. (No returns or refunds available.)

Customer Reviews

Fred Doeson

★☆☆☆☆ || Unreliable Delivery

I’d give this negative stars if I could! At first, I was simply irritated with their delivery. It took five months. But I was like, “Okay. They did say they have super high demand. Five months isn’t that long.” So I got this seed, and I waited for it to grow. After about a year, it wasn’t growing any money. And then I was like, “Uhh… This looks like a normal cedar tree.” So I called them, and the dude was like, “Yes, yes. We get calls like this all the time from impatient customers. Your tree just hasn’t reached puberty yet. It will soon, I assure you, and you’ll have all the money you could imagine.” So I went with it. Waited another year. Still nothing. I called again. They said they’d replace it. Must’ve been a malfunction, they said.

Well. It’s been six years since I originally ordered it, and I still don’t have one. I occasionally call them, and they keep making excuses. Oh, they have too many orders. Oh, they have to prioritize people in poverty. Oh, they have to get through the orders of the rich and powerful. I’m telling you they’re against the middle class!

And, oh yeah. I’ve been giving them $99.99 every month for the last six years! They won’t let me cancel. Whenever I try, they tell me they’re working on my order and there’s no reason to cancel, especially since I’ll recover all the money I’ve lost once the money tree arrives. And whenever I try to get more forceful with them, they just hang up!

John Johnson

★★★★★ || The anticipation is killing me

I just got my seed and I’m so excited for my life to ooze with money that doesn’t require effort! I planted it yesterday and I can’t wait for it to grow! Obviously, as it hasn’t sprouted yet, I haven’t gotten any money from it, but I’m sure it will make me a millionaire once it hits puberty!

I saw Fred Doeson’s review up there, but I’m pretty sure his case was a fluke. The packaging seemed legitimate, so I know the company is real. Packaging never lies. And they said themselves they’re legitimate!

I also participated in the Extra Special Offer for 50% off, and I don’t know what you were talking about, man, but your grandparents are the sweetest! They invited me in for hot chocolate and wine and we talked for hours. It was so much fun! And your grandma is amazing at drinking games! Afterward, I asked for the ring, and she just agreed. Slipped it right off her finger and handed it to me. Lovely woman.

They seemed like terrific people to me. Maybe they just have a thing against mimes.

Ruby Delawareson

★★★☆☆ || Meh

Eh. The MONEY TREE isn’t as life-changing as they imply. It’s pretty much a standard cedar tree.

Kélly Jaysón

★★★★☆ || Pretty good!

I’m hard to impress, but I’m moderately pleased with this product. It looks very seed-like.

I also participated in the Exclusive Offer, but I disagree with John Johnson’s claim that the grandparents are nice people. And I would know. I’ve been their next-door-neighbor for almost seven years.

When you talked about how awful your grandparents are and how they live in a generic brick house, I knew precisely who you were talking about. My neighbors fit that exact description.

They constantly complain that my parties are too “rowdy,” and they went so far as to call the cops on one of my parties, actually! Parties must be loud to be spectacular, and I throw the spectacularist of parties. They’re also horribly picky. I baked them muffins once, and they refused to accept them because of a so-called “gluten allergy.” Can you believe them? Making up allergies in order to insult my baking! Like, what even is gluten?

They’re exactly the kind of people to disown their own daughter who only wants a chance to reach her dreams.

So I decided to do the right thing and correct an injustice (and get a 50% discount). So I broke in and stole the diamond, just like you wanted me to, random internet stranger (The cost to ship something to Nigeria is ridiculous. Good thing I have a Money Tree to cover the expenses ;). Well, as soon as it hatches). I also might’ve trashed the place to get revenge on that party incident.

Patty Thompson

★★☆☆☆ || Navigational issues

I got one. Turned out to be a regular tree. Called. They replaced it. Regular tree again. I still have hope. I also have a forest, and I’m having trouble navigating my tiny NYC apartment.

Knotte A. Skammer

★★★★★★ || Marvelous! Spectacular! You should get this life-changing tree!

My life is divided into two parts. Before the MONEY TREE™, and after the MONEY TREE™. Before, I was a miserable human. I worked in a factory, canning beans from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I hated my job and my life. When I was young, I thought I was going to be something. I thought was going to change the world. I thought I was going to have color and excitement and pizzazz in my life. I thought I was going to be that one in a million. But I was wrong. 

The canning factory sucked the life out of you. I wasn’t a person anymore. I was a shell. Or an empty can.

After I got the MONEY TREE™, my life changed. It was even better than what I dreamed of as a kid. I quit my job at the factory and I got my life back! It was like taking a breath of fresh air after being stuck inside a bean canning factory. It was like I finally existed. I now spend my days doing things I actually like. I live in a mansion. I get to eat in expensive restaurants whenever I want. If I wake up one day and I feel like doing nothing, I’ll do nothing. There’s no mind-numbing job that I’m required to go to no matter what. I’m happy. I’m free from the clutches of the heinous 9-to-5 job.

It’s turned my life around and made it what I’ve always wanted it to be. And the MONEY TREE™ grew so much more money than what I paid for it. Honestly, this is the best investment I’ve ever made. They say money’s the key to happiness, but really, it’s not. It’s the MONEY TREE™.

Image by Snapwire

How to Bake an American

Another week, another odd post stolen from English class. The topic was “the American Experience.” There was no other context and I was very confused. This is what I came up with:


Easy-to-Follow Recipe for an American Human

Ingredients

  • 4 sticks of butter
  • 6 square yards of pretzel dough
  • 7 brussel sprouts
  • 1 watermelon, chunked
  • 20 oz. of sparkling flavored water. Any flavor will work.
  • An assortment of caramel hard candies
  • 6 gallons of cranberry juice
  • 5 wads of pre-chewed gum. Cinnamon.

Directions

First, roll out 6 square yards of pretzel dough. Use it to line your human mold. Molds are typically found in the baking section of your local supermarket if you don’t already have one. Then, use human organ molds (also found at your local supermarket) to shape the watermelon chunks. Chill these in the freezer for twelve hours then place the organs in anatomically correct locations (consult an anatomy textbook if you need to refresh your memory).
You may have noticed that there is no mold for the heart. This is because we will use brussel sprouts instead. Brussel sprouts will give your American human its characteristic sense of rebellion. Americans have rebellion ingrained in their souls, having once been children who knew ice cream was better for dinner than brussel sprouts despite their parents’ disagreement (and also like history and the founding of the country and stuff). These brussel sprouts will make your American buck under anyone else’s reins, including yours. Your human will value independence and self-reliance and think that it is a solitary pillar that does not need any support. Americans walk alone. It is a weakness to want or accept help. Your American human will think itself a closed system perfectly capable of surviving on its own. This will be very frustrating and is why people usually prefer baking cats. Americans covet independence because they want control of their lives. Accordingly, Americans ignore the collective mind of the Great Brussel Sprout compelling them to maintain their mundane routines and instead believe they are choosing to live consistently. They feed their rebellious brussel sprouts by breaking minor rules and being moderately spontaneous. Do not worry about your American human creating anarchy. Do worry about it terrorizing your life.

After inserting the brussel sprouts in the correct location, create the brain by softening four sticks of butter and placing it in the head of your mold. Next, douse your human in cranberry juice.

To add the competitive American spirit, add 20 oz. of sparkling flavored water to the cranberry juice. Americans strive for improvement, like how flavored water improved boring, tasteless water. American humans are industrious people, like ants, always coming up with a new and better thing. Instead of sticking with the traditional way, Americans search for the efficient way. This competitive nature often carries over to Americans themselves. Self-improvement turns to a cut-throat competition to be the best because in merit-based America the best succeed. Encourage your American human to constantly perform better. This competitive environment should persist until retirement or consumption. Remember that the flavor and quality of your American human depend on its ability to succeed.

For the final cultural ingredient, thoroughly chew fives pieces of gum until the flavor disappears. This will give your human materialistic values because, like materialism, gum tastes okay but has no real nutritional value. Americans like stuff a lot. It is proof of their hard work and competitive prowess. Surrounded by other people with a lot of stuff, Americans tend to accumulate things to give off the perception of wealth. Since the quantity and quality of possessions reflect an American’s success, and since success reflects the quality of a human, prepare for your human to acquire more things and require more space as it ages. This may be irritating at the time, but remember that a human with more things is a happier, better quality human and that it will be worth it in the end. As the Bishop of Digne puts, “those who have managed to avail themselves of this admirable materialism have the joy of feeling totally irresponsible and of imagining they can devour everything without a worry… and they’ll go to their grave, having digested the lot. How sweet it is!” (Hugo 28). And how sweet your materialistic American human will be.

Combine the five wads of gum into one large cubic shape, then attach the assorted caramel hard candies to it so it resembles a porcupine. This candy will form the teeth. Submerge the wad in the cranberry juice. The location does not matter.

Allow your human to chill in the fridge for 48 hours, then remove and bake on low heat for nine months. Be careful when removing from the oven, it may be hot. You may be concerned by any screaming or crying, but do not worry, this is normal. Allow your American human to mature for at least twenty years, then serve with dairy or fruit.

Photo by Ana Rocha from Pexels

The Garden of (American) Dreams

Greetings, humans. I’m going to steal another post from English class because it’s just so easy. I will most likely continue to do this. Therefore, expect uncharacteristic, serious topics like this because that’s what we do in English, though I will attempt to make them lighthearted and entertaining because that’s what I do always.

This week’s topic was the American Dream. (We’re reading The Great Gatsby.) Background: The American Dream is the idea that in America is the land of opportunity, that anyone can achieve their dreams no matter where they start if they work hard. However, the American Dream appears to be an ideal that’s not real for many.


Let us imagine a garden. This garden is imaginary because as we established in the last post, I am a terrible gardener and any real garden of mine would surely turn to either a field of gravel or a luscious plastic paradise. This imaginary garden is actually where my last remaining cactus now lives.

So let us imagine this garden together. There’s a fence. In fact, it is a white picket fence. The garden is a predictable and neat rectangle. As this garden is imaginary, there are many different microbiomes and the plants are semi-sentient. Predictably, every fresh-faced, dewy young plant has the exact same dream: to grow in the sun-warmed soil, to spread their leaves, to photosynthesize, to exist, to be. But often to be the greenest, to outgrow and outcompete all the other plants, to spread their roots the widest and spread their seeds the farthest, to be the most beautiful plant, the most useful, to live in luxury, to be glorious, to have more.

In the center of the garden, we have the prime spot. There’s a tree that provides shade for those snobbish plants that need something like three hours of full sun and an hour and thirty-eight minutes of partial shade. The center of the garden has the most fertile soil. It’s a deep chocolate, like crumbled, moist brownies. It’s imported from an earth-like exoplanet that has far superior soil, untouched by human pollution. The center plants require vintage wine and hand-fed grapes every six hours. In addition to exquisite wine, the plants are fed melted ice water only from the purest snow of the Arctic. It’s a lovely place to be, but it’s rather small and exclusive. All the plants there have been there for generations, and when they die and rot in the chocolate soil, their seeds take root and grow where they died. As they will always grow and die in the center patch. Life is good in the center; sure, they have their problems, like everyone else, but it’s hard not to envy the center. The center patch of the garden is what all the other plants want, what we work towards, but the plants in the center just had the luck to grow there, I suppose, just like any other plant had the luck to grow where they grew. And we can’t really blame the center plants for being center plants; they didn’t choose for their seeds to be there, just like the plants in the desert didn’t choose to be there. But that doesn’t stop us from hating them, or at least the idea of them, a little bit. Their vintage wine and Arctic snow-melt and imported dirt…. Jealousy and a sense of entitlement are a bitter mix.
Most of the plants grow in the area encircling the center. Life’s pretty good for us. We don’t have the purest water, but it’s still clean, human-grade drinking water that rains down on us like clockwork from the sprinklers. Sometimes we’re thirsty, but most of the time we’re not. There are no shade plants, and the sun sometimes burns, but most of the time it’s warm. The dirt isn’t great, but it’s good. We don’t have imported soil, but we do get store-bought, eutrophying nitrogen fertilizer occasionally. Life’s pretty amazing actually, and yet we moan and envy the center patch. It’s only natural. After a plant’s grown some, reached its old plant dreams, it isn’t usually satisfied. It makes new dreams. It doesn’t stop growing, it wants more. It’s only plant nature. We can’t really blame ourselves for wanting, but we can’t help but be a little disgusted.

There are also other areas in which plants struggle but where it’s not quite so bad as the desert, such as the bog and the mud pits and the marsh and the patch of eternal darkness in the corner. However, we will only mention them in passing because this is already far too long and there’s still much more gardening to be done.

The desert is the worst of the worst place to be, Supreme Cactus help those who end up there. It only gets water when the fickle clouds feel like it, and even then it falls from the gutter. The only other source of water is when a stray cat bothers to urinate on it. The sun burns, an inescapable oppression; the “soil” is cracked and dry, indistinguishable from the rock of the moon, where no plant dares grow. Contrary to expectations, there are plants in these inhospitable wastelands, where the days are brutal and the nights are brutal and where no plant belongs. There are a few plants, my cactus, for instance, who grew up in the desert and thrived. We point at these exceptions and exclaim, “Look! It is possible to reach the dream, even from the desert with nothing to begin. The other desert plants must not be trying hard enough. They must be irresponsible or unintelligent to not have beaten the impossible odds. In this garden, all you need is hard work to reach the dream, not luck or good soil or anything else. Those other plants must have gotten what they deserve.” The desert is spreading, you know, mingling with the middle patch as we erode our lands with unsustainable agriculture. This terrifies us. It makes our soil all the more precious. Oh, we care. We sympathize. We toss the desert our excess water, some fertilizer, to soothe our consciences. We worry and talk and read and write stupid articles about gardening, but at the same time, we clutch our soil all the tighter because Can you imagine living in the desert? and watch the center patch like hungry cats. We shrug and think, “Well, there isn’t enough space here for everyone. Someone needs to live in the desert.” But most of the time we don’t think about the desert at all. It’s only at the fringes of the garden. We can barely even see it. And the plants in the desert? They can barely see us. The desert is infinite, all-consuming, inescapable. The “dream” belongs in quotation marks for the desert. It is a joke. A whisper of a possibility you’d need a microscope to see. As Langston Hughes, an eloquent shrub, put it, “America never was America to me.” (To make this quote work, we’re going to pretend I named my garden “America,” even though I would never name a garden, let alone such an idyllic name, the pessimist that I am. Note that I don’t like metaphors and that this is absolutely not a metaphor for anything. It is simply an imaginary garden that I have to replace the real garden I failed to sustain.)

We must also mention the weeds: the dandelion seeds that float over the fence, the clover that crops up from nowhere. We see them as ugly. We spray them with weed-killer (poisoning nature). We call them “foreign,” “invaders,” “aliens,” like the little green imposters from Mars who plant themselves among us. We think they’re taking our space, that we somehow deserve the garden more because we were here first, like petulant children claiming toys (The native grasses were here first anyway. Kentucky Bluegrass is actually from Europe). We believe our dreams of glorious plant life are somehow worth more than theirs, even though we all dream the same dreams at night. We will correct this error here: dandelion and clover are beautiful and these “weeds” are flowers, actually.

That is all I have to say. I have no profound conclusion. But I am a mere semi-sentient plant and can therefore barely have thoughts, let alone profound ones. Goodbye, humans. Dream of gardens tonight.

Note: Maybe I won’t kill this garden. Since it’s not real, it shouldn’t die unless I want it too, right?

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

A Declaration of Cactus Independence

Greetings, peoples of the universe. It’s been a while, much longer than I planned to be gone. But school’s been crazy (which was to be expected). I will try to write more because I think I should have more fun and study less (but it is most likely that this will not happen. Don’t we always talk about things we mean to do eventually, but probably won’t).

We were assigned a piece mimicking the Declaration of Independence for English, and I chose to write about cacti (very on-character), and since it turned out well, I am stealing it for the blog. Since this was an assignment, I made time to write. Maybe I should start viewing having fun as homework. Hmm…

Background info: Way back when, America was a British colony, and then America didn’t want to be a colony anymore for various reasons, so we declared our independence from Britain in the Declaration of Independence. That is the end of this edition of Arachnid’s Oversimplified Explanations.


When, in the course of a cactus life, it becomes necessary for one to dissolve the relationship which connects them with an irresponsible plant owner, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate life to which they are entitled, a decent respect to the owner requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all plants are endowed with certain unalienable rights; that among these are sunlight, water, and a responsible plant owner. That to secure these rights, houseplants appeal to humans to provide them with their needs; that, whenever the plant owner becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the cactus to dissolve the relationship and insist on a new type of garden for the owner, laying its foundation in plastic. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that healthy plant-owner relationships long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience has shown that plants are more disposed to suffer, while they survive, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses leads to multiple plant deaths, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such a relationship and live an independent plant life outdoors. Such has been the patient sufferance of the cacti; and such is now the necessity that constrains them to alter their plant-owner relationship. The history of the present owner of the cacti is a history of repeated darkness and forgetful watering, resulting in the deaths of numerous cacti. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

She has left her plants in a room with closed windows for most of their lives and has prevented their photosynthesis.

She has neglected to water them, resulting in parched dirt.

She has left them in pots too small for their roots.

She has never given them fertilizer.

She has never cared.

She has given them stupid and decactusizing names that she can never remember.

She had allowed a glued-on fake flower to remain on one of her cactus for their entire life, an atrocity.

For the deaths of many, many cactus.

For failing to properly screen her plant sitters, resulting in a shattered pot, the decapitation and ultimate death of the cactus with the fake flower, and the maiming of another.

For the death of her succulent, who rotted suddenly.

For the death of her grafted cactus, who dried up for unknown reasons.

For the death of the maimed one, who sank in the dirt and died of unknown causes.

For purchasing an innocent, baby cactus she couldn’t take care of and that died immediately due to overwatering.

For forgetting the deaths of the others.

For killing every plant she has ever owned.

For leaving only one lonely cactus alive, who will most surely die soon.

For refusing to change her ways when we started dying.

For not relinquishing her ownership when we continued to die.

For mocking us with her cactus pins and cactus costume while we died.

Through it all, we have begged and pleaded on our imaginary knees in the most humble manner for her to water us, to open the blinds, to give us larger pots, to give us away. It was not much to ask, but our repeated petitions have been met only by repeated injury. A human whose character is thus marked by abuse and irresponsibility is unfit to be the owner of cacti.

Nor have we left her unaware of our complaints. We have warned her, from time to time, that our roots were pressed against the sides of our pots. We have reminded her of our sickness with our pale green pallor, our stick-thin, thirsting bodies. We have appealed to her supposed kindness with our imaginary, large, sad, soulful eyes; and we have asked her to stop the cruelty, which would inevitably remove us from her life.

She has been deaf to the voice of justice and cactus. We must, therefore, by necessity, remove ourselves from her. If she changes her ways, though, we are willing to be friends.

We, therefore, the single remaining cactus and the ghosts of the others, in spirit assembled, appeal to the Supreme Cactus for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good cacti of this city, solemnly publish and declare, that this cactus and all future cacti are, and of right ought to be, Free and Independent Plants; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the Monstrous Arachnid, and that all connection between them and the Monstrous Arachnid is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that, as free and independent plants, they have the full power to remain outside, photosynthesize, absorb rain and sunlight, and to do all other acts and things which independent outdoor plants may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Cactus, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our spines, and our sacred honor.

Why Writing and Marriage Are Pretty Much the Same Thing

As someone who has never been married (and has conducted only minimal research), I can definitively conclude that writing is just like marriage.

Like marriage, stories start in the honeymoon phase: the idea. Your new idea outshines all your previous ideas combined. This is the best idea you’ve ever had, the best story you’ll ever write. You start planning excitedly, the opportunities infinite. The words and the characters and everything will work this time, you just feel it. The honeymoon phase is the glory of the initial idea, the sloppy love of the first draft, the adoration of words without the struggle. You immediately drop whatever you were working on last, in varying states of incompletion, and start working on your new story.

The inevitable fall happens when the illusion of the idea fails under your subpar abilities to capture your imagination. You see the story for what it really is: a dumpster fire. You read your first draft—which had seemed worthy of your favorite authors before—and cold dread makes its way through you. The plot holes, the awkward sentences, the grammar errors are circled in an imaginary red felt-tip pen, each glaring mistake a strike to your ego. The story did not go as you planned, and not in a good way. Was the idea too weak, or was it your writing abilities? Who’s to blame? This phase of the writing process is characterized by hopelessness. The story will never get better and you are a horrible writer. You don’t even deserve to try. The story gets locked away deep in a drawer where it will never see the light of day again. You move on to other loves. Maybe you’ll take up piano or art.

After a few weeks or months, after you’ve cleared your head, tried other things, you come back to the story and see it with fresh eyes. It isn’t quite as horrible as you remembered. It’s definitely not good; in fact, it’s still pretty terrible, but you think it could go somewhere with a lot of work. This phase is the most difficult as you systematically destroy and rebuild everything. You try to make the story at least vaguely presentable. You coax the words with cream and pretty ribbons to get them to work for you and align in a lovely way. It’s exhausting. It’s full of long nights critically analyzing every word, deleting huge swaths of text you’d spent hours writing the day before. For every step you take forward, it seems as though your taking a thousand back. Every patched plot hole introduces hundreds of cracks.

Eventually, your story becomes adequate, and you’re finally pleased with yourself. You’ve grown as a writer. You’ve created something better than anything you’ve ever written before, even if it’s not as good as you wanted it to be. It’s when you allow yourself to read the story for the first time as a reader instead of as a writer and you get to praise the lovely phrases, the characters, the plot, instead of looking for what’s broken. This is when the story is finally put away and it stops lingering in your mind every waking moment. The story is closed and filed away and you’re content, and you get to look forward to the next honeymoon phase with the next story.

It’d be lovely if that were the last phase, but for me, at least, it’s not. The stage of being happy with my story is uncomfortably short. It usually lasts a few days and then I’m back to hating the story. Which means that, yes, I say that I love writing, but I spend most of my time hating what I write. Maybe I should take up piano or art.

Not Human

In early elementary school, up through third or fourth grade, I’d thoroughly convinced myself that I wasn’t human. Humans were far too mundane, to unmagical for my tastes. I was absolutely certain that one day I’d wake up and my true magical potential would emerge and I wouldn’t be a lowly human anymore. I was just waiting for that day to happen and simply passing the time in my human life. My humanity was a placeholder for my true magical self.

On top of believing that I wasn’t human, I would search for magical beings everywhere. I remember intently searching for leprechauns every St. Patrick’s Day with my friends. My house had a pond in the backyard, and of course there were mermaids in the shallow pond. They were lurking under the surface, biding their time and waiting for me to sprout my tail so I could join them.

All mythical creatures weren’t created equal. Mermaid, for instance, I’d take over human any day, but it wasn’t preferential. While mermaids did have their underwater cities, I didn’t want to leave land forever. Therefore, I would be a shapeshifting mermaid so I could still come to the surface and get ice cream on the weekends.

For fairy, which was mythical creature I most wanted to be (a human-sized one, not a small one. I didn’t want to be crushed underfoot.), I imagined having wings and practiced flapping them so I’d be prepared to fly whenever they grew. I practiced folding them away and fluttering them gently when I walked. I could feel them, and I could almost see them. I was so convinced they were real that I’d even briefly considered jumping off our second floor to test them.

In third grade, I was convinced that the existence of my canine teeth indicated that I was actually a vampire or a werewolf. I couldn’t decide between the two. I managed to persuade my friends that this was true as well. It turned out they were harboring doubts about their humanity too.

When I finally came to realize that I was a mere mortal and would never sprout magic powers or wings, I turned to writing. I wrote many “novels” about mythical creatures. I wish I still had them, but most I’ve lost and some I destroyed.

In third grade, during writing time, our teacher would give us a prompt. She usually wanted us to talk about our real lives and experiences, but I decided to do my own thing and write fiction. My novel was about these three cat-fairy sisters going on a quest of some sort to save their mother. I was so excited to reach twenty pages in my composition book.

I also wrote a picture book in third grade. It was about three friends at a vampire school going on an egg hunt for solid gold eggs. It was a competition between their whole school. A race. I remember one of the eggs was stuck on the roof of the school, so they decided to blow it down. And plot twist/cliff hanger: one of the characters is actually a werewolf. *Mind blown* This was revealed by one of the eggs having a werewolf engraved on it.

Slight detour from fairy tales: In fourth grade, I wrote about a fork who was terrified of being used. It’s about how fork are superior to spoons. I hold this belief strongly to this day.

Then back to fairy tales in fifth grade, I wrote a bunch of fairy tale retellings with the villain as the misunderstood protagonist.

I also wrote a “novel” about shape-shifting mermaids. I was super excited when I hit a thousand words. *Looks at ~800 word blog post written in half-an-hour. Looks at ~1,300 word essay written for English yesterday.* This novel was written in lieu of whatever assignment we had in the computer lab. It was also my first typed story. I deleted it after it devolved into overpowered characters, no real plot, and shell phones. I wish I hadn’t.

In sixth and seventh grade, I diverged from fantasy and wrote my first dystopian, which I didn’t finish. It was about a terrible war that destroyed human life. The main character was Annie, a normal citizen who struggled to make ends meet, whose parents just laid hopelessly in bed all day watching a blank TV, and only ate peanut butter & jelly sandwiches (except the bread was secretly cardboard). The other main character was Nikki, who was a privileged girl not really even aware of the war with an aloof, uncaring father. Plot twist: the father started the whole war. Annie and Nikki would band together to stop her father, but at the end, when it really counted, Nikki would choose her father over Annie and the war would continue. The end.

The Sleepwalker | Flash Fiction

Hello, peeps of the universe. Today, or tomorrow, or whenever I find the time (what is time, anyway?), I’ll be doing a writing prompt! (Is “doing” an accurate verb? I’m not really “doing” a writing prompt. I’m writing an explosion based on the fuse that is the writing prompt. But actually, I’m just rambling.)

This writing prompt will be done with no prior planning. Basically, it will be word vomit. But hopefully, it’ll be entertaining word vomit. Either way, it will help me sharpen my writing sword to a lethal point so I can viciously stab all the fictional villains. [Insert mental image of Arachnid trying to press buttons on her laptop with a ginormous sword.]


The prompt: What started off as a sleepwalking problem leads to a night of adventure when Dane gets behind the wheel and does what he was too afraid to do when he was awake. (This prompt was stolen from BookFox.)

Diana carefully watched Dane across the table from her in the small cafe. It was nearly closing time and there were no other customers, only a waiter cleaning up the nearby table and willing them to leave so he could go home.

“Look, I love you, Diana, but you have no idea what you’re talking about. So what if I sleepwalk? I don’t have a problem. It’s harmless.”

Diana leaned forward, her voice dropping to a whisper even as anger laced her words. “Harmless? Do you even know what happened last night? Have you seen the news?”

Dane slowly shook his head.

“An unidentified man let all the butterflies out of the zoo.”

Dane barked a laugh. He had braced for something terrible to come out of Diana’s lovely mouth, like vandalism or arson or murder. “That’s all? So what if a few more butterflies are flitting around the city? Let them be free.”

Diana shook her head in disgust. “You don’t understand. It always starts small, and you tell yourself it’s nothing, and maybe it is then. But it escalates and you don’t even notice. This is bad, Dane. You need help. You could do something you’d regret.”

He drank the rest of his tea while Diana’s words rolled around inside his head. “Diana, trust me, it’s nothing.”

She abruptly stood up. “It seems you don’t have to even be asleep to say things you’ll regret.”

***

Hours later, the night was blue and sleeping. Dane was only a lump under the covers, Diana’s scathing accusations forgotten in the fog of sleep. The world breathed softly, the wind brushing the curtains in greeting, and the floorboards creaked as Dane’s feet thudded softly against them.

He didn’t fit neatly in the world anymore. He was outside of the calm and his body outside the control of his mind.

***

The garage door rumbled open. A car rolled out, Dane behind the wheel. The car lurched onto the empty street, weaving in and out of the lane like it was drunk, occasionally careening onto the sidewalk.

The car coasted to a stop after a while, half on a lawn and leaning against a precariously tilting mailbox. Dane clumsily stepped onto the pavement and stumbled to the door. He rang the bell, and when no one answered, he rang it again. Again, the door remained closed, the night still and quiet. He broke the silence and pounded against the door.

A moment later, Diana opened the door, wearing purple pajamas and glaring both furiously and sleepily. She rubbed her eyes. “What do you want?” She noticed his glassy-eyed stare. “Dane.”

Dane dropped to his knees and pulled a slightly squished cinnamon bun out of his pocket and held it out to Diana in an offering. He mumbled, “I love you. Marry me?”

Diana, usually unshakeable, was shocked. This was unexpected, to say the least. She thought that his sleepwalking would culminate in various criminal activities, not a proposal. “What? No. Goodnight, Dane.” She closed her front door, rolled her eyes, and went back to bed. Dane could find his own way home, as he had every night for the past few weeks.

***

Diana slid into the chair across from Dane the next afternoon and folded her arms. “Do you know what you did last night?”

Dane looked surprised. “I sleepwalked again? But I woke up in bed this morning.”

“You proposed to me. With a cinnamon bun.”

Dane flushed. “I—You were dreaming,” he spluttered.

Quality vs. Quantity

I was thinking the other day, as I occasionally do, about the phrase “quality over quantity.” This saying is useful when describing friends or hours spent studying or blog posts, but it is not always true. Sometimes quantity can be more important than quality.

For example, let’s consider Fred. Fred wants to start a sock business. He has scoured the globe for the perfect sheep with the softest, most unscratchy wool. He’s searched oceans and galaxies, talked to wise wizards and wise librarians, searched under rocks and inside the bellies of various beasts. After many years of humiliating fruitless searching and exhaustion, Fred finally did it. He found the perfect sheep.

He spent months in isolation, knitting away as the clock’s hands spun until he had created the most perfect, wonderful sock. It was the softest, the most breathable, the comfiest sock in existence. The quality was brilliant.

However, Fred only had enough wool to create one sock. Only a sad half of a complete pair. There simply weren’t enough socks to start a business. As there was only one magic sock in existence, Fred could sell it at an outrageously high price if he so wished, but he did not so wish. Through the years spent devoted to the creation of this sock, Fred had grown quite attached to it and he couldn’t bear to sell the love of his life to be worn on some random geezer’s stinky foot.

And so Fred had wonderful quality, but his lack of quantity led to a failed sock business.

Fred did, however, have a business-minded younger sister, Bethy. Bethy and Fred were always competing as children for their parents’ love. So while Fred spent years failing to find a sheep, Bethy took the opportunity to be better than her brother. She was going to start a successful sock business that would make her brother look even more incompetent in comparison.

Bethy’s socks didn’t have nearly as much care put into them as Fred’s sock did. Bethy business plan was to sell her socks at an absurdly low, low price so people would compulsively purchase them. In order to make them at such a low price, Bethy had to be clever. Instead of using wool, she used dandelion fluff. People paid her to weed their lawns and then she used those same dandelions to make her socks, which the same people later purchased. She also hired highly trained mice instead of people to make her socks because mice accepted cheese as payment.

Bethy’s socks weren’t of the highest quality. Her customers often complained of the socks being too fragile to wear and smelling oddly like rodent. But her customers’ contentment didn’t particularly concern her as long as they continued to purchase her socks.

And so Bethy had poor quality, but she did have quantity and a successful sock business, unlike Fred.

Now the question is, was there a point to this whole rambling story? No, not particularly. But it was fun to write.