I've decided I'm going to dig deep into my past, to where all this writing madness started. Very few people know that this all began with something so simple it's almost stupid, and that simple, stupid thing is fanfiction.
I suppose there's an argument to be made for the first book I ever wrote- called The Talking Book and both penned and illustrated by five-year-old me, but that was a different kind of writing. The kind of writing I'm talking about- the kind that started with the fanfiction and hasn't stopped since- is the kind I absolutely HAVE to do. I used to write two kinds of fanfiction: The kind that was essentially an exercise in genre in which I implanted myself and my friends into an already existing world of fiction, and the dirty kind. I only say this in the interest of full disclosure: more often than not it was the dirty kind. Today's challenge did not turn out dirty. In fact, it turned out... a little weird. I prepped by reading a whole bunch of Tangled fanfiction I've been meaning to read, and yes, it was dirty. Anyhow. I'm not going to edit what came of today's hour of writing, even though I KNOW some of it doesn't make sense. In fact, I'm kind of liking where it took me.
So here it is: After ten years (and change) of reading and writing and generally getting messy, here is one hour's worth of (arguably) fanfiction.
It was a warm, end of summer day when this all began. The kind of day you definitely don't want to hear the following things in quick succession, but always, inevitably, do:
1. an alarm clock going off. Regardless of the fact that the alarm is the spongebob theme song. Regardless of the fact that this annoys your sister, which always brings a hint of happiness to your soul. Regardless of the fact that the clock is within reach and all it takes is the press of a starfish before the alarm is off for five more blissful minutes of not-quite-sleep.
2. the alarm clock hitting the floor, because your sister, who is in the top bunk, is not within reach of said starfish and now that she's chucked her pillow with deadly accuracy at the clock in question, neither are you.
3. your mother, from her room across the hall, announcing that it is indeed time to get up school starts in an hour and she will not be driving you if you miss the bus even though it is the first day. muffled below the projectile pillow, a loud and angry pirate still sing-screams of pineapples under the sea and sponges who wear pants. This makes you smile ever so slightly because really. who comes up with this stuff?
Since your sister is a lucky piece of shit and still gets to go to middle school, you have to get up and she gets another hour or so of that wonderful, lovely, gorgeous thing people call sleep. So, to make things only worse for her, you reset your alarm for exactly ten minutes before hers is set to go off, and groggily head downstairs.
Two more sisters, both wide awake because the world is cruel, sit in front of the television watching PBS. One sucks her thumb, the other stares with glossed over eyes as Lunette and Molly dive into the couch for something. She follows suit and pulls the couch cushion off the couch behind her, placing it more gingerly than a five year old should, atop her head. She is less awake than the youngest, who shouts along with the television when instructed to do so. Upon your arrival, the older of the two abandons the cushion and follows to begin the Morning Mime, where she does everything you do (everything you don't just do for her, because she's still a bit too small to reach the milk and she shouldn't have to when you're right there and perfectly capable) at exactly the same time and then joins you at the breakfast table where the two of you eat cocoa pebbles silently. Caitlin and I always got along because we had a lot of things in common. We loved sleep, we loved television, we laughed at Spongebob, we liked chocolate flavored cereal. This made living together easy. Why my other sisters couldn't be the same, I never understood.
Anyhow. These were my mornings, when this all began. These were the way things progressed in the early hours. The rest of the day was painfully boring--school, band rehearsal, cup of noodles, toonami, homework, bed. Never in that order exactly. I was not one to notice how things had changed ever so slightly that fateful day when the gears began to shift, when Sara didn't show up for lunch and Brendon didn't call at exactly 2:25 (when he got home from the bus) or when Caitlin slept through Big Comfy Couch. I didn't notice, because I had been programmed not to notice. I wasn't there to notice, because I was somewhere else entirely and I was not at all happy about it. Well, not at all happy is a relative term, I suppose.
I didn't notice, because I was, embarrassingly enough, in New Jersey.
Okay, so there are some details that you need to know, I guess, before New Jersey makes any kind of sense. I mean, realistically New Jersey will never make any sense, but for the context of this story, let's pretend that it does.
A few short years before the spongebob clock and the big comfy couch and cocoa pebbles, there was perfection. Perfection existed exactly where I didn't expect it to, and was not as easily come by as I would like to have some believe. Well, as some would like to have some...others... believe. I couldn't care less. BUT. There was this perfection, and it was in the shape (the deceiving shape, by the way) of a school. More specifically, Rippowam Magnet Middle School, which sat proud and stout on High Ridge Road, which is a stupid and dangerous place for a school. But for all it's illogical geographic problems, it was perfection. I did not always know this. After a few awkward days of hating everything for not being the fifth grade, I realized the girl in my language arts class is a kick-ass artist and I would love to be her friend and guess what? She would love to be mine. So we become friends. And "Jen and Amber" became an inseparable line of words. A few weeks pass and things are normal. Middle school isn't quite perfection, but guess what? It's also not hell. And then you get partnered up with that boy who lives down the street and reads all the Star Wars books, and the two of you become friends while you're outside trying to define what types of clouds are lolling by overhead. And he turns out to be really good at art too! And now the three of you (plus the Star Wars kid's-his name is Jeremy, so Jeremy's friend Brendon and their friend Steve) are just kind of hanging out all the time. And all that awkwardness and dread and boredom seems to have disappeared. Because things are kind of... well... awesome.
So there you are, the Family of Awesome sitting around doing awesome things, when one day out of nowhere, this terrible sounds erupts in the sky. Or maybe it was from below. Or maybe, just maybe... it was from everywhere! A terrible sound has erupted from everywhere and you're all sitting outside in the grass drawing and minding your own buisness when BAM the story is in first person:
It's true, the sound was everywhere and we couldn't have anticipated it if we tried. We were sitting in the grass, like the narrator said, just reading and drawing and talking about last night's episode of one cartoon or another, when suddenly BAM there's a sound from everywhere and a giant unidentifiable THING in front of us. And I don't mean a bit off in the distance, I mean if Steve's legs had been a little bit longer he would have been the four toe wonder after this affair. I didn't know it at the time, but this thing looked exactly like a 1930s sci-fi movie space ship; there was fog coming off the door as it lowered itself (at least it seemed autonomous) and everything. The light from inside this thing was so bright that at first the person standing in the doorway looked like just a black shadow, edges softened by the smoke or fog or whatever was coming out of the ship thing.
"HOLD YOUR BREATH THAT SHIT COULD BE TOXIC" Brendon screamed from behind me, his voice cracking at least five times in that tiny sentence.
"Oh calm down, it's probably a fog machine" Amber tried to reason with him.
"Fog machine? What would a space ship be doing with a fog machine?" Steve countered.
"What would a spaceship be doing HERE" I answered
"If it's not a spaceship then what is is?" Steve crossed his arms.
"EXCUSE ME!" The black shadow boomed over our bickering and all five of us cowered. The fog had cleared and the figure in the space ship was... but that was impossible. He sure had the right costume on, but it was literally impossible for the next words out of my mouth to be true.
"Wow. You look an awful lot like..."
"Like... Goku." I whispered it, because the longer I stared at him, the more it became true. The five of us had been sitting in the sun long enough without hydration to make impossible things happen, and the part that was actually impressive was the fact that we were all having the same hallucination at the same time. I tore my eyes away from my imagined cartoon-character-come-real to look at my friends and realize, they were seeing it too. Amber was trying to look around his form, I would assume looking for his tail. Brendon was squinting, I can only imagine looking for some flaw in my hypothesis. Steve's jaw had dropped. Clearly he had no doubt in his mind that our simultaneous hallucination was the single best thing to ever happen to him ever. Jeremy had never looked more eager to explore a spaceship probably in his life. I couldn't decide how to feel, but I knew I had nothing more to say on the matter. Except maybe "Guys. When did we get so good at make-believe?"
"What? No... I'm real." Goku grabbed at his face and his hair and his clothes, as though this self-molestation would somehow make himself more real in our eyes. " I'm not a mirage, I'm really... man I knew I should have just flown in on Nimbus."
"NIMBUS! that's the cloud type I forgot!" Amber pulled her notebook out of her backpack and furiously scribbled "NIMBUS" with some characterization notes into her science notebook.
"Really, now is the time for editing your science homework, you think?" Brendon now crossed his arms.
"Well yeah I mean it's due tomorrow I would forget again if I didn't write it down."
"Guys" Steve whispered. "Guys, Goku is TALKING TO US." And he was right. Well, he would have been right except Goku wasn't talking to us so much as TRYING to talk...
"BUT THERE'S A SPACESHIP FOUR FEET FROM US AND YOU'RE THINKING ABOUT SCIENCE HOMEWORK"
"Technically, lab is not homework."
"Technically, you need to sort out your priorities."
"Technically, way to quote Harry Potter."
"Technically..." But we never found out what Brendon's next technicality was, because Goku finally shouted
"HEY Planet in danger need your help no time to explain in the ship now pleaaaase" And with that, Jeremy jumped up even faster than Steve, fairly ran past Goku into the ship, and stopped short. Steve was right on his heels. Amber crossed her arms and stood up, more graceful than anyone ever did anything, and walked onto the ship. Brendon followed, trailing off with another "technically..." and then there was just me. Without a single thought in my head besides how incredibly impossible this all was (and it wasn't until later that I thought about how much thinking we HADN'T done in that moment, but can you blame us? This is a pre- 9/11 world we're talking about here...) and how much fun we were about to have and how I sure as fuck hoped I wasn't about to wake up again.
But, as these dreams often do, the world disappeared with a snap and I woke up almost immediately.
WHO LIVES IN A- I smacked the starfish, squished my eyes shut and desperately tried to fall back asleep. I laid there, waiting and waiting for my entire body to get the picture.
"I am not waking up I am not waking up I'm still asleep I'm still asleep I'm still asleep" but it didn't matter.
They were gone. Goku hadn't shown up to gather us in a space ship... at least not in years and never in the realest of senses. We used to travel everywhere together. We fought off the wild west and saved the town. We outraced the most evil racecar driver in the history of racecars, and then sent him off to jail. We trained with the most elite Saiyans, defeated the Negaverse, hacked into criminals' computers and hunted them down for money. We were royalty on planets that never existed. We fell in love and out of love and back in, trapped and never able to escape. But it was all slipping away and Goku was fading back into shadow, and with him slipped everything that was perfect and impossible; but real in the most tangible sense.
I was awake. I was going the one place none of them could follow- off to High School.
And there was nothing that said it was't ALL a dream. Nothing that said the act of writing the stories themselves wasn't part of the impossibility. I reached for the binder under my bed. The cover was sparkly, flaking glitter all over everything, but that didn't matter. The rose and the girl with the pink hair and the boy with the bat wings- they were in there, but only parts of them belonged to me. I opened up the binder. Amber's handwriting- so different from mine, so elegant and slanted and beautiful where mine was lumpy and roly-poly and ready to roll off the page at any moment, was on every other page. Jeremy's drawings, in the rough edged style that only middle school boys seem to master, ended and began each chapter. Witty, sarcastic edits that only Steve could provide peppered the tales we were so serious about. And Brendon, well he was just mad he never got to be in the book.
The Rose Planet was there, it existed, and we had created page after page of story to go along with it. We were princesses, finding out dark secrets our parents had kept hidden from us. Goku made a guest appearance, as he always does, in our dreams. We were going to stick together, and keep working on the books-- it was to be a series that people loved just as much as this new Harry Potter fellow. We were going to have a girl-warrior television show and a tie-in comic book and live in Japan and be rock stars. I was going to be awesome at snowboarding.
And everything was going to be perfect for forever- some may even dare to say to infinity and beyond.
That never seems to work out, does it? Somehow, at some time or another, you wake up and the world you left behind is almost always better than the one you're waking to. I often wonder if that's what I've done, frozen these few short years into a cryogenic chamber where I could pick out the bad parts and throw them away, keeping this impossible perfect world frozen forever. I often wonder when I'll wake up. But this binder still exists and the stories in it are so happy and elaborate and hopeful. And on one hand, that seems to be proof enough--couldn't we have HAD to be that happy to create something so mystical and beautiful?
And on the other, why did we need it so badly? Why were we all so eager to develop and be part of something so far and away and... impossible... if the real was that perfect itself? Why would we need to imagine we were princesses if we could just BE that?
The answer is we couldn't. We weren't. We fell apart for a reason- because eventually we have to stop getting on spaceships and do our science homework. I guess.
Or maybe it's the other way around. I don't know. All this talk of real and impossible has me confused. So I close the binder. I put it back under my bed. The Pirate shouts again
"OHHHHHHHHHHH" And I let him finish the song. And I turn off the clock. And I head downstairs for breakfast.