I did an experiment the other day. I wanted to see if two writers who have never met each other could write a good short story together. I did this experiment on a site called omegle.com, where you can chat anonymously with random people from all over the world. I put “writing” as my interest and got linked with some person who also put “writing” in their interests list. We didn’t plan a plot line or anything. We just alternated writing back and forth, and what emerged was this strangely good piece of prose. A few spelling adjustments were made, but otherwise I haven’t altered the story.
It wasn’t the prettiest of days and the early morning commute was the same monotonous drag as always.
He had been staring across the street. A crow was standing unusually tall on a naked tree. He didn’t notice the bus coming from the distance like he usually does and was surprised when it slowed down in front of him and opened its door. He stumbled into it and scrambled in his back pocket to get out his transit pass. The grey-haired driver gave a tedious nod, oblivious to the post-expiration date.
The man shuffled to the middle of the bus and found an empty seat next to a seemingly nervous woman who appeared to have pulled two different socks out of her drawer earlier this morning. He raised his vision to see what was in her hands: a black book with no front or back cover.
He knew the hour was too young to strike up small talk with a stranger, but, an avid reader himself, he couldn’t contain his curiosity. He leaned a bit towards the old woman, causing her to idly move her arms trying to find a more comfortable position. He caught the title from the corner of his eyes in its usual resting place, the top of the left page.
“The Dark Collector”
Fitting title, he thought.
He tried not to think much of it, but the woman’s nervous fumbling, her mismatching socks, and the black book all had a distant sense of eeriness about it. He looked out the window on his right and spotted another crow sitting smugly on a wire. It was just a moment’s glance before the bus passed by it, but he felt the crow staring right back at him. He looked back to his left, but the woman had closed her book and now had her hands resting on their respective knees.
Maybe just an odd start, he mused. Considering the fact that he had burnt his toast and had spent a good five minutes looking for his keys before having left his apartment, he instinctively knew the day could only get better from now on. He glanced at his Swiss-made wrist watch, not fully having registered the time, and then back out the window.
Suddenly he heard a soft voice.
“Excuse me, sir?”
It was the lady sitting next to him.
He let out a nervous cough while turning his head towards the woman, and squeezed out a reply.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” she said, barely audible over the rumbling of the diesel motor, “but aren’t you Thomas Harten? The chief editor at TIMES Magazine?”
Why would Thomas Harten, chief editor at TIMES Magazine, be taking the bus in the morning? he thought. Nonetheless he wanted to know what she had to say.
“I’m surprised you recognized me, ma’am.”
“I’m a fan of your work,” she said with a forced smile. “Elisabeth Parre.” Her outstretched hand was met with a firm handshake.
“Pleasure, Miss Parre,” he said. So this is what it’s like to be famous? he mused.
The woman cleared her throat and opened her black book. The pages looked worn out and the print was sloppy. “I was wondering if you might have some room for a quote for your next issue.”
Just as he was about to blurt out a yes, he thought there’d be no way TIMES had any room left on their next issue. She’d see right through it – they always work several issues ahead.
“No, I’m sorry,” he said, with a saddened voice out of small smile – perfect for a chief editor, he thought – “although we may be able to squeeze a quote from a fan of ours in the following one.”
The woman’s face lit up, but, looking closely, he could tell that she was acting. He didn’t know why – she’s talking to the chief editor of TIMES Magazine after all.
“Brilliant,” she exclaimed. Pointing to a sentence in her book, she said, “This is the one I had in mind. I think it’s beautiful.”
He squinted at the smudgy script and managed to decipher it. What he read wasn’t a quote. It was a name. “Thomas Harten.” A moment of shock gripped him. The bus slowed to a stop, and the woman immediately shut the book and swiftly stepped off the bus. Before he could say a word, the doors closed behind her and the bus kept moving.
He tried to open up a window to get some air, but the damn thing wouldn’t budge. He looked up from the mechanism and made out a shadow on lamp post far ahead, another one of those odd crows. This was too much, he had to get out of the bus. He ran past the other passengers, pushing a few of them along the way, and got to the driver.
“I’m feeling sick”, he said. “I need to get off. I think I might throw up.”
The bus driver irritatedly sighed, stopped the bus at the nearest intersection, and opened up the door.
He stumbled out of the bus and grabbed onto the bus sign post.
“What the hell,” he exhaled heavily. He shook his head trying to clear his mind. “What the hell was that?” he said, louder than he intended. Breathless, he scrambled for his phone in his pocket.
He scrolled past his contacts, made out the entry for his work place, and dialed it.
“Hello?” he paused, waiting for a reply and heard a warm, “Yessir!” He thought it was strange but made nothing of it.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to make it today, I feel horrible.” He waited and added, “I think I’ve been cursed.”
He heard a nervous laughter on the other end, “No problem, I’ll make sure to inform everyone,” said the man on the line. He was about to say thank you and hang up when he heard, “Anything else I can help you with, Mr. Harten?”
This is my brand new drum cover of Dustin Dooley’s song “Miracles.” Hope you guys enjoy it. You can buy Dustin’s debut album on iTunes or on his website. It’s special because he sang and played all the instruments himself like the boss he is. Cheers.
The first week of the new year is coming to an end. It was a good week. I went skiing with my friends in the Swiss alps (watch the video here), visited my good friend and extremely talented musician, Dustin Dooley (whose debut album you can get here), and shared life with friends in local bars, in each other’s living rooms, or on the streets of the beautiful city of Basel.
So far so good.
But I have no idea what this year will bring. I don’t know what I’ll be doing, I don’t know where I’ll be going, I don’t know whom I’ll meet. I do know, however, that I don’t know what’s in store for me in 2014.
It’s almost like I’m in a little boat at a dock in Lisbon, Portugal, ready to sail across the Atlantic to Miami, Florida. You know how sometimes you look out into the ocean and the waters look so still, and you think to yourself, “It can’t be rough out there; it looks so calm”? That’s a big illusion. You don’t know what’s going to happen. You might drown, get eaten by some weird sea creature whose existence nobody has documented yet, get seasick, or, even worse, end up getting your hair all messed up in a giant waterspout. But you might also make it to Miami in one piece and party like it’s 2015, because it might take you a full year to get there.
He just compared life to the ocean. Wow.
I know it’s a cliché, but there’s a reason why clichés are used so much: they carry veritas, which is Latin for “truth.”
This year I’ve decided not to make a new year’s resolutions list. Why not? Well, have you actually completed all of your resolutions for last year? You did? Oh.
In that case, here’s my unusually long list of new year’s resolutions:
- Make young people curious.
Young people, which is a relative term, so let me narrow it down a tad so you don’t feel like I’m talking about grandparents who believe they’re still #partying it up with their phonographs. I mean the 12-18 year-olds. These young people think about a lot more than we might expect.
While I was visiting Dustin, he told me something really interesting. He said, “When you’re having a deep conversation with a 12-year-old, just close your eyes and listen. Don’t picture a young face; just listen to what they’re actually saying.” The sophistication and depth of their thoughts might catch you off-guard.
But these thoughts need guidance. If you give a 15-year-old a can of black spray paint and tell them they can do whatever they want with it, they will run off into the city and graffiti the notorious anarchist A onto street signs and residential apartment walls. But give them a simple instruction such as, “Create something truly beautiful,” and you’ll be surprised at what they can come up with.
Young people are looking for a mission, and because nobody gives them a mission worth dying for, they settle to believe what the media tells them to do with their lives: party, drink, do drugs, have sex, no regrets, you’re young. And we all know that the media cares much about the lives of gullible youth.
This year I want to make young people curious about their mission. A ship without coordinates will get lost in the ocean and sink, but a ship with coordinates will brave anything that comes its way and make it to its destination.
So here’s to 2014.