Some weeks ago I happened into a conversation with a – by their own admission – very non-creative person. This person was in the academic/science field and they were very curious about the creative process. By even just mentioning the fact that when I watch a TV show/movie my mind wanders off on its own and wonders how I would react to being placed in such situations (btw dead in ep one of Game of Thrones) he was fascinated. He told me his mind does not work like that. I also couldn’t comprehend how his mind works either. No daydreams and fantastical journeys? What is it like to have a brain like that? Do you not fly?
It also made me really think about why I even write to begin with. To me it’s a little bit of exploration and fun, but ultimately maybe it’s my way of understanding humanity, including my own. During university, even though I only did a few psychology and sociology courses I found them very informative and enjoyable in terms of understanding the human psych and our society. Even though they were only introduction courses.
To people who know me, they know me as quiet and shy. But in my head I’m pondering big questions and moral dilemmas. There’s a lot in life to ponder about guys, the world’s pretty complex. And writing about it in a creative way is just my way of figuring them out and preserving it too. As it would seem a shame for my creative written responses to never see the light of day. This recently discovered reason has been a revelation.
Turns out I’m super nosy about people and their lives so I create completely fictional stories about them using completely fictional characters. It kind of also explains my prefernce to stay indoors and away from people. It’s my safe space way of engaging with the rest of humanity. My life makes so much sense now.
I just finished reading this article which talks about how many books a person should write. By the way, the answer is how many they want.
But it was in response to this article about someone saying that writers shouldn’t write four books a year. Reading through her article I can see her point. What is your end game? Be known for producing a few top quality novels? Or maybe churning out more but lesser quality ones? Or maybe you just want to pump up your catalog?
In relation to me, my books and stories are beginning to seem like they might be shorter works. Not like the contracted 100,000 words a publisher wants. I don’t think I can write a novel that long. They end up the length they end up. I don’t have a word limit goal in mind when I start them. And I’m not going to pad up the story with things that aren’t needed.
Thank people for creating self-publishing websites and platforms. It’s them that have allow people like me to achieve my dreams. I don’t think I’d be able to do it with traditional publishing houses. And maybe that’s a good thing too.
I sometimes think that maybe me jumping off the deep end and going after my dreams of being a writer has inspired others. Unless they tell me specifically then I don’t know, but the other day I got a little boost when a friends mentioned that they admired me for going the self-publishing route and putting my work out there. It really made me feel good about myself. So thank you Harry, that really made my day 🙂
Unwittingly the town of Blue Bottle Bay held witness to the triennial migration of a family of Mira. A self-appointed term that describes the inhabitants of certain oceanic regions, like individuals in a country. To land dwellers they would simply be known as mermaids.
Because there are no records, it is not exactly known for how long or how many times the Mira have been migrating past this place. But their oral history indicates that it has been occurring since before the presence of land dwellers.
The initial attraction had been the bountiful coral reefs, followed by the rocky coastline and the isolation. Their migration routes regularly intersected with places like these. Whether they liked or not, Mira were not suited to a continuous life in open and deep waters. They were shallow water creatures that needed to live periods of their life on land. These migration stops were oases in a desolate world.
Before the arrival of land dwellers, Blue Bottle Bay was a paradise. Mira could come and go from the land without fear. But that is no more and there are too many chances of being seen. They can no longer afford to linger in the area. Their traditional lifestyle of vaulting from places living off the land and sea following the path created by their ancestors was becoming less viable.
To compensate they adjusted their habitation times at the other remaining places, ensuring that they kept to the rigid seasonal schedule. If they arrived too early or too late at certain places then they ran the risk of arriving during an infertile season. Furthermore, while Blue Bottle Bay was acceptable, it was not the best of places. It only had one cave for protection and even that was difficult to access. So now the Mira swim past the town out in the open sea.
* * * * *
It was during one of these migrations that Emaleah’s curiosity took her closer than she had ever been before. Myliah, her twin sister held her back.
I want to see them close up, Ema communicated in her and the rest of her family in their groups’ sign language. Their reluctance showed. She was still young, having only left the nursery island a hundred or so lunar cycles ago. They hadn’t anticipated that she would want to leave so soon.
But there comes a time for most Mira when they need to venture on land in search of a mate. But Myli didn’t want to accompany her sister and for the first time in their lives they were going to be apart from each other.
You’re younger than most, she signed, trying to dissuade Ema.
But not the youngest.
I don’t want you to leave.
Sorry Myli, but I want to go ashore.
Ema’s words stung. Her sister had never wanted to leave her before. But she couldn’t stop her. If she wanted to chase after mates then there was no stopping her.
Once again Ema was given all the warnings that she had ever heard throughout her life.
Don’t let them see your tail.
You must have your feet.
You must never tell them about us.
Be prepared to kill.
Ema didn’t think of herself as stupid, or cruel. If a land dweller found out what you were then, for the protection her kind, they had to be killed. It was a brutal tradition, but it had worked since The First Mira. While she felt that there was something wrong with this blanket rule, she knew of its importance. Without it they would not exist.
But it was obvious that there were times when this rule had not been carried out. Multiple land dweller societies had myths that involved sea creatures similar to them. It could not be a coincidence and it was a topic of contention for Mira everywhere. Sirens, a feared and respected faction of Mira society, held great enmity towards this idea. Ema swam towards the shore, facing upwards skirting along the sea bed. She felt like she was about to burst; she was going to see them. A dark foreign shape glided overhead. Ema looked at it intently. Land dweller legs and feet dangled down from it. This is it.
When her head broke through the water she saw a young man on a surfboard swimming away from her, heading towards the incoming waves. Ema watched him stand up on his surfboard and then ride the wave.
It’s a surfer, she thought, male land dwellers that ride waves and water. Her family had told her in particular about these ones. When she was just a child her grandmothers had made her and Myli giggle at what they said. ‘They’re good for breeding. They strong sires for your children. If you ever come across a great water rider try not to let him get away.’
Ema wondered if her family could handle another child. She was old enough to produce one. But migrations were time and energy consuming, and there were fewer and fewer places for them to reside in. And she had to time it right too; it was dangerous to give birth in open water.
Ema saw that the now resting surfer was drifting away from her. She swam towards him and perched herself on the board. She sank it further into the water. The young man turned around looking confused.
‘Hi,’ said Ema.
The young man looked to be about seventeen or eighteen. Ema stared at his body; all the muscles were in all the right places. He had an average looking face and his brownish hair was bleached by the sun. Ema smiled. His hazel eyes were wide; he then looked towards the shore.
‘You swam all the way out here?’ he asked disbelievingly.
‘What other way could I get here,’ Ema replied coyly.
The land dweller stared at Ema again.
‘Are you naked?’ he asked with even more disbelief. He could not see her wearing a bikini top. Not even one of those strapless ones. ‘What need do I have of clothes, they only hinder me.’
His mouth was agape; he couldn’t believe what he was seeing or hearing. Ema saw this as a good sign; it meant that she had his attention.
‘I was watching you on the waves. You’re pretty good. I’d like to get to know you more.’
The young man was still speechless. He couldn’t believe what was before him. And he had never come across a girl so forward before.
‘My name’s Emaleah, but Ema for short, what’s yours?’ she asked him.
‘Uhhhh Darryl,’ he replied.
‘Would you like to get to know me?’
‘Yeah,’ Darryl said before he could stop himself.
‘Well, meet me at that lagoon tomorrow at noon, I’ll be waiting for you.’ Ema said before disappearing underwater.
Darryl couldn’t believe what he just saw. This girl was out of this world. She wasn’t too bad looking either. Though her chest looked almost non-existent. She looked like she was about his age as well. Her face was mature yet youthful. From his brief encounter Ema looked like that she might be a bit on the short side. Also he didn’t like boy hair on women, but he wasn’t about to complain. She was the first girl to ever be so forward with him. Well apart from Robyn, but she had that aggressive streak that worried him. Why couldn’t other girls be more like this one?
Chapter 1: Last Time Here
I was over the bus the first moment I got on it. It had that stinky smell of air deodoriser, the seats were scratchy and, based on the pattern, obviously came from the early nineties. Which ironically was where I was heading to. Backwards in time away from civilisation.
I haven’t watched it but you know that reality TV show – I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here!? Well, help I’m a Sydneysider, get me the fuck out of here!
Wait no, cause that’s not going to happen anytime soon. I’m going to be stuck there till January. I suppose it could be worse. I was supposed to go yesterday, but I was too hung over from schoolies and I missed the bus.
I was hoping that I could get some sleep while on board. But then I remembered that I’ve never actually slept properly on a bus before. And since this one stops in Bryon Bay – which is the reason why you can hear all these backpackers around me, means it’s no miracle for me. Erg. At least I was able to get a row to myself. Thankfully, the guys in front of me were somewhat quieter than the others, even though I could hear their music through their headphones. They’re trying to block the Americans that are at the back. God, you never knew how loud a person could be until you heard a Yank speak.
I wiggled my body. It was hard trying to get comfy. My leather bag was a poor makeshift pillow and these two seats were not big enough for me. Argh. My hoodie isn’t large enough to block out this world. I re-adjusted my bag and closed my eyes. Only another hour till Bryon and another two more to Dad.
Sixteen years ago when I was two, Mum left Dad and moved to Sydney and she took me with her. But every second year I have to go back to Dad’s place for the Christmas holidays. I didn’t want to this year, not because of Dad, but because I don’t like the town. I’m eighteen so that means I’m an adult, but Mum was like, ‘you know how excited Dad gets when you go to him. He loves you a lot. You don’t speak to him enough on the phone,’ and yada yada yada.
So she guilted me into it. I thought when I was sixteen I’d never have to come back here. Said a few things that I shouldn’t have. Like told my cousins that they’re trash and their shitty life was a result of not being motivated enough to do shit.
Motivation was a big thing for John, my step-dad. He came from a shit town too. But he left and built himself a car business in Sydney, which is where he and Mum met seven years ago. He makes a ton of money.
Mum left her home town of Kettle Burn because her life was going nowhere and Dad knew that too, but they made different choices. She was never going to stay whether she had a kid or not. Kettle Burn, despite its American sounding name, is just another uninteresting NSW outback town where nothing important ever happens and therefore no one important ever lives there.
The bus jolted. Errgh, my tummy. Yesterday I thought that maybe Mum might be more into taking caring of me. But no, she’s like, ‘you’re not getting out of this,’ and re-booked the bus trip the next day before even seeing if I could handle it.
I had just finished a four-day bender at Lissie’s house and when I arrived home I was a zombie. I crashed out on my bed and slept right through until the next night, only to be woken by Mum bitching me out about missing the bus.
‘Jo,’ she said, voice sounding distant like a dream. Then she jolted me awake. No, it was the bus, I was almost asleep too. People began moving about. We had arrived at Bryon Bay. All but four people got off. They took their time too. No one else got on. Finally, some quiet.
I passed the familiar scenery. Paddocks, turnoffs, isolated billboards that only ever become more faded, never to be replaced, and signs that showed how much closer we were getting to Killy. A larger town near Kettle Burn. Only sixty-eight kilometres to go now. Kettle Burn is on the other side and under an hour west.
Then my iPod died. Well shit. I looked at it. No it was still working, it was my headphones. They’re broken. I should have replaced them when I saw them starting to break apart not too long ago. Now I have to listen to silence. The bus wasn’t playing a radio station because the upcoming mountains interfered with the signal. And the songs are outdated too. One time long ago I saw clouds tumbling over the mountains, it was like something out of the movie The Mist, but not today. Today the sky is clear the sunlight is pouring in through the windows. Summer’s in full swing and I can taste it in the air.
The bus stopped in Killy and two people get off. Aunt Bettie lives here. She is the only one of Dad’s two siblings that managed to actually move out of Kettle Burn. Can you imagine that? Never leaving the place you were born in? What’s wrong with them? I was shocked when Dad told me that there are some families who have lived in this town for several generations. Then as I got older I began to see it in them. There are a lot of ugly people here. Bettie’s four kids are some of them. And my God, I’ve never seen people so ugly. I don’t think I’ve told it to their faces or at least I don’t think I have; I mean it’s so obvious. Someone must have let it slip at least once. I tell my friends back home all about it. They got it from their dad William, but the ugly he had was not so pronounced. So maybe there was some recessive ugly gene on Bettie’s side. It wouldn’t be surprising, but I’m so sure they are probably inbreeding by now. Years ago William ditched them and has now got another girlfriend plus two more kids. I haven’t seen any pictures of them. So I can’t tell you if they are ugly like him. I should try to find pictures to show friends back home. Unsurprisingly they don’t post much on Facebook.
Killy passed by unchanged. It will be the same semi-depressed looking place for years to come. It reminded me of some outer suburbs back home. Scarily, Killy was the best town in the area. It even has a private school. But that place has less than two hundred students and their uniforms are a shit yellow colour.
Twenty-five minutes later the bus dropped me off at the service station where Dad was waiting to pick me up.
‘Hey chicken.’ He, like everything else around here, never changed. Still looking like the skinny man I always knew him to be. He had a bald spot now, but that had appeared so slowly I don’t remember when it began.
‘Hey Dad,’ I replied as I lumbered with my expensive leather bag. He took it and put into his truck.
Then we drove to and through Kettle Burn. The town has never seen more than two thousand people. That’s less than the suburb I live in! How they managed to survive financially is a mystery. I say survive because by the looks of it, it ain’t thriving. None of the places look like my home back in Sydney. They didn’t have stone lawn ornaments, yeah they have bigger yards but a lot of them were just plain grass. Not even much of a garden when they did attempt one. Except for Dad’s. He always liked gardening. I don’t know many men, except the ones I see on TV, that like to garden. John just got a landscaper for our place and gets people to come in every fortnight to maintain it.
Rebuilding his house after it got burnt down last year must have been the only new thing to happen here. He’d sent Mum and I the pictures of it being built. His old house was some fibro looking piece of shit. He and Mum had bought it for thirty-two thousand when they got married just after high school.
The new house was now some corrugated metal thing on metal posts. From the pictures the inside is actually better than I thought it would be, though my room is smaller than it was before.
Dad flipped down the sun visor in front of him. ‘Oh, and ah . . you know Megan?’ He sounded odd, like he didn’t know how to say it.
‘Cousin Megan? Yeah.’
‘Well she’s pregnant.’
‘What? She just turned like sixteen the other month.’
‘Yeah. It was a shock to everyone, even her. She’s about five months along now too.’
That’s not good. I think Megan was the only one of Joy’s kids, Dad’s other sister, who wanted to get out of Kettle Burn. I guess it looks like that is never going to happen now.
‘And she hasn’t told anyone who the father is.’
‘I’m not sure. No one can get it out her.’