Reading Where Decay Sleeps Part 3

Backed on Kickstarter disclosure!

Read my thoughts on previous parts of the book.

Warnings for this section:

  • Shadow: metal illness, paranoia.
  • The Faceless Man: alcohol, medication use, mental illness, paranoia, schizophrenia, stalking.
  • Hikikomori: anxiety, mental illness (general).
  • Beatrice and Bluebeard: abuse, alcohol, blood, death, manipulation, misogyny, violence.
  • Decay, the Stalker: anxiety, bullying, depression, medication use, mental illness (general), self-harm, stalking, suicidal thoughts.
  • Covid-19: Delirium: none listed, but presumably the pandemic.
  • The Night Fisherman: abuse, animal abuse, death, gore, hanging, torture, violence.

Beware of spoilers, all who enter here!

Rigor Mortis (Psyche). I probably should just have a mental health / neurodivergence category at this point. Oh well.


Shadow.

Shadow of Chaos: A poem named after me!

HFE: This is why your full name is Shadow of Chaos, not just Shadow. Everybody and their brother has a character or whatever named Shadow. But nobody’s named Shadow of Chaos.

Cheung: I pin your shape
but still you grow,
an unfurling dark demon.

Like an inkblot, you bloom
in the shadows; black
Rorscharch wings, undead, clad
in plumage of carbon and lead.

HFE: aka artist problems.

Pixxy: Hey now, your art‘s looking fantastic these days. You just didn’t have any digital art programs to use outside of school for years, so you couldn’t practice the medium you actually wanted to do. So you judged the messiness of traditional art against the cleanliness of digital art.

Shadow: Not that artistic messiness is inherently bad, or that artistic cleanliness is inherently good. Sometimes clean is a little too clean.

Pixxy: Messy art just means you had fun making it!

Shadow: You focus on shape and colors and expressiveness. Your primary muses are characters and creatures, not landscapes. You don’t worry too much about layout, shading, lighting, or textures.

Pixxy: You also study chibi style: aka the art of making everything cute and simple. It can be tough to distort proportions without making a cosmic horror. Someone out there wishes they could draw as cute as you.

Icy Eyes: Stop wanting to draw like everybody else and focus on developing your own style. Other people have praised your art for being identifiable as yours from across the room. The most important part of self-improvement is daily practicing.

Cheung: You screech,
a shape-shifting form
with crescent horns, a raging
nightmare on charred wings.
Claws outstretched,
you pick at my carcass
and threadbare sanity.

The Faceless Man.

Cheung: Our first encounters were brief ― a flicker.

HFE: I like how Cheung’s first line captures the brevity of the initial meetings.

Cheung: In the mornings, your footsteps ghosted

on frost behind as you echoed me to work.

Later in the pub, I clocked your gloom

draped by the fireside, festering,

foul and damp as I glugged my ale.

HFE: Ooh, echoing someone to work~. I like that. As well as ghosting on frost. I love the idea of clocking an antagonist’s gloom. And an antagonist draped over something is never a bad image.

dancer, icy eyes, pixxy, thomp, shadow, and HFE gathered together to read a book. HFE is sitting in a bean bag chair, one leg crossed over the other, book in hand. Shadow is a bat with a flame on his head, perched next to HFE on the bean bag. Thomp is resting in front of the bean bag. Pixxy is floating and flipping in the air. Dancer is at the top of the image, looking towards the book. Icy Eyes is standing behind the bean bag, watching HFE.

Cheung: I sensed you from the shifting moonlight

as you bent the slatted blinds, your weight

caving my mattress, your breath as it webbed

up my neck. Closer and closer you crept,

cobweb-clinging, a spider on my spine.

HFE: I like how Cheung pairs webbing breath with the spine spider.

Shadow: And I like the shifting moonlight and caving mattress.

Cheung: Back into the air from where you came.

HFE: as a mentally ill person, a lot of times, I know that my emotions can be irrational or at least irrational in intensity. My emotions do not care. Ignoring them never works for me. That just makes them fester like a wound that keeps ripping open over and over again.

Shadow: So have you found anything that does work?

HFE: Yeah. Admitting that I feel things. Taking some time to figure out why I feel those things and then judging from there if they’re justified or overblown or ridiculous. The time should be proportional to the crime and all that. And that’s not to say that you have to justify your feelings. Feel whatever you like. If someone hurts you, for instance, you’re allowed to feel hurt and betrayed―vengeful, even. Life is messy. Emotions and art will be too.

Pixxy: We didn’t kickstart this book for flowers and rainbows, that’s for sure.

Dancer: Does this count as an official backed on Kickstarter disclosure or shall we insert another at the beginning of the piece?

Thomp: I think readers would like one at the top as well.

Dancer: Quite right. HFE, as the Clones say, patch it in, if you please.


Hikikomori.

HFE: Quick note before we begin, this poem has words with artistically anti-grammatical spacing. In a poem, this technique is called white space. Poetry is the written medium that’s the most like artwork―outside of comics and manga which are both artistic and written works.

Shadow: Although wordless comics and manga certainly exist.

HFE: True. And picture books. Those are rather artsy too. Anyway, one point of making white space in a poem is to use the words themselves to create a picture or strike a certain mood. Poems generally speaking tend to be more playful with language than prose. That’s not to say you can’t mess around in prose, but when you’re making a prose work such as a short story or a novel, you generally need to make sentences and use punctuation. And also not have lines and letters placed wherever you want. So when you see quotes from this poem, keep in mind that it’s not all going to be spaced like a typical sentence, and that’s awesome.

Shadow: For this piece. White space is a tool, not salt and pepper. You don’t just throw it around for funsies.

Dancer: Why don’t all of you in the audience practice white space in the comments section below?

Thomp: Or in your own writing projects. Or art projects, as the case may be.

Pixxy: And send us the links if you post them! We want to see your creations. Sharing is caring, so let’s all be Care Bears! Whoo!

I begin to lose

fragments

of my s elf

Anna Cheung.

HFE: If that’s not this year in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.

Thomp: But it’s looking up now, don’t you think?

HFE: Yeah, finally!

Dancer: You cannot use Extreme Speed during the same turn you’re using Recovery, my dear trainer.

HFE: Unless you’ve got them linked at the Gulpin Link Shop!

Icy Eyes: And do you ever use the Gulpin Link Shop?

HFE: …No.

Icy Eyes: Exactly.

It happened again

a few years later

beneath the

tick

tock

of the office clock

Anna Cheung

HFE: I’ve heard many office workers detail how soul-sucking their office jobs are. Wanna trade jobs? I’m a food service worker! A healthcare food service worker, no less!

Shadow: Two underappreciated, high intensity industries for the price of one!

Pixxy: It’s like Fate used the Gulpin Link Shop on drudgery and misery.

HFE: How about instead of incarcerating people, we make them work at McDonald’s, Walmart, and Disney World instead?

colors ran away from me

as the world scrolled past

Anna Cheung.

[HFE makes a note to do more black and white art.]

the passengers

who

hung

lifeless and grey

hand-hooked

on handrails

Anna Cheung. Letters bolded here to highlight the alliterative “H” sound.

Shadow: I love alliterative lines a lot.

As the days

curled into weeks

and slept into months

Anna Cheung.

Pixxy: What a fantastic way to describe the passage of time!

HFE: Or non-passage as anyone stuck in a small town will tell you.


Beatrice and Bluebeard.

Cheung: Imprisoned inside her pocket.

HFE: I acknowledge that this would be a great time for a dick joke, but that’s not why I’m quoting this line. I’m quoting it cuz I like the imagery.

Shadow: Oh, yes, you like the imagery.

[Dancer rolls her eyes while Thomp shakes his head. Icy Eyes face-wings. Pixxy wears an unimpressed expression.]

Pixxy: If you’re going to do a dick joke, do a good one.

HFE: I have over 25 years of not even being allowed to say “god” or “heck” to make up for. I’m making as many terrible dick jokes as I like!

Icy Eyes: Absolutely not, young man. That might fly with the Clones, but us Fair Folk have higher standards than that. And if your Performance Persona is that of a Fairy Prince, you need to write more nobly than that.

[HFE sighs. Icy Eyes is right, of course. It still bites, but he’s right.]

HFE: I really do like the imagery though.

Shadow: Perhaps a better word would be personification? It’s a line calling objects imprisoned.

Dancer: Agreed. Strictly speaking, imprisonment is an experience of living peoples and creatures.

Thomp: Anything that can feel trapped.

Dancer: Since objects do not have a nervous system with which to produce sensations nor brains to produce emotions, they cannot feel trapped. Therefore, this is an example of giving nonhuman entities human qualities, behaviors, or emotions.

Pixxy: Just like how you humanize all of us!

HFE: Yeah, I basically mastered that technique since the minute I began writing. Piko, a grizzly bear who gave directions, a lost panda, and a mama panda were among the characters in my first ever story.

Pixxy: Ooh, do you have that anywhere?

HFE: I have no idea. It’s on an old computer that we may or may not have anymore. My flesh family’s moved around a lot, and technology’s more than marched on since I was a child. But I did find a handwritten version in Jay’s closet. It even has pictures.

Pixxy: Ooh! That sounds exciting. Make it a patreon exclusive! Be sure to include alt text with the pictures.

Thomp: And a watermark.

HFE fingerguns both of them: Absolutely!

heart locket set with blue

diamonds, as blue as her husband’s

beard, as blue as his darkest moods.

Anna Cheung.

Shadow: As opposed to “as red as his brightest moods”. Or orange, if you prefer complementary colors.

HFE: Or as we say in faster-paced places in the multiverse, its reverse~.

That evening, a celebration flourished

with dancing, wine, flirting and feasting.

Anna Cheung.

HFE: I love this sentence! What a great way to describe a party!

Shadow: And lots of non-swear F words too!

Pixxy: And ING endings!

Dancer: Otherwise known as suffixes.

chambers leafed with silver and

gold and the forth unbolted fist-sized

jewels of every color, shape and size.

Anna Cheung.

HFE: This forgoing of the Oxford comma is really messing me. But I appreciate it all the same. Keeps me on my toes. Or fingertips, as the case may be.

guests ran from room to room

in wonder, with their noses in every corner.

Anna Cheung.

Shadow: Many different O sounds in this. I like it.

HFE: So, Shady, I was thinking of drawing you as a bat.

[Shadow widens his eyes with great interest. He’s been pretty much everything under the sun at this point. A bat form would go well with his theme of darkness, allow him to fly, and be less imposing than a dragon. Some Elves are scared of dragons. Unlike HFE, they did not grow up with Dragon Tales. They grew up with Kinslayer tales, presumably. Even Dwarves, as hardy as they are, would likely fear him too. Plus, Shroud has the cat aesthetics covered.]

In horrified haste, Beatrice dropped the key

into the blood that softed under the women’s

feet. Rooting in semi-darkness, she witnessed

their pleading eyes, their slack masks of terror.

Anna Cheung.

HFE: I googled “Uncanny Valley corpses” cuz I remember hearing that one potential reason humans don’t like human-like things is because weird-looking humans might be corpses. And corpses are dangerous due to all the germs they carry―including diseases that may have caused their deaths. So the hypothesis goes that the human brain developed the uncanny valley response to keep us from messing with corpses. I’ve also heard it used to explain racism. We don’t see other races as humans, so our brains file them under “creepy non-human thing to get away from”.

Pixxy: Wow! So you mean to say that racism is hard-wired into humanity?

HFE: Well, you know what scientists say. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

Dancer: That simply goes to show how much work there is to be done to support anti-racist endeavors. Humans can defy diabetes with insulin, humans can defy the uncanny valley as well. One good way to start is to support creatives from marginalized cultures and races.

Shadow: The uncanny valley is also hypothesized as a way to help humans detect the difference between themselves and neanderthals.

HFE: So anyway, I was looking up the uncanny valley and corpses, and the first article I found explains the uncanny valley as the reason why people are unnerved when looking at a robot in a photograph used in the article. I see the robot and think it’s just fine. NT culture is weird.

Pixxy: …So how does this relate to the quote you pulled?

HFE: Corpses??? I blanked on what to talk about, but I knew I wanted to highlight that stanza, so I took a shallow dive into a semi-related topic.

Cheung: seven souls unfurled like moths from cocoons and flew in tattered rage.

HFE: I don’t wanna drag Loving the Rapist into this good craft, but this piece of a sentence is better writing than that entire movie combined.

Shadow: Well, you know what the humans say: quality over quantity.


Decay, the Stalker.

Cheung: bruising my breath,

Shadow: Alliteration!


Covid-19: Delirium.

HFE: Ooh, this one’s formatted like a newspaper article! Nice! I like how the poems are all one format.

Cheung: wired hot nerves in tense

ears.

[HFE looks at Pixxy and Shadow, then looks at faerself.]

Cheung: They mauled shoppers with hand-soap pumps, allergic to colour, acidic with rage, sweating and drooling with toilet roll fever.

HFE: I remember people laughing at the toilet paper emote I got from a twitch event. But friendly reminder everyone, the pandemic isn’t over despite everyone, including whatever useless politicians we may or may not have, no matter how much we try to deny it. Just like how I have to acknowledge my emotions’ existence, we have to acknowledge that covid is still running rampant because we keep running rampantly to socialize―without masks, even!

This places even more strain than the world already did pre-covid on physically disabled people such as my dear friends Ovaettr and Hachiko (the latter of whom is the reason this website is publicly available instead of languishing unpublished).

In a time where Canada is pressuring its disabled citizens to just die so their famously wonderful healthcare system that doesn’t even cover dental healthcare (because Canadians don’t have teeth, I guess. Canada, prove me wrong by covering your citizens’ dental healthcare!) doesn’t have to pay for “expensive” people.

And more generally, there’s a whole day of mourning specifically for people murdered by their parents and caregivers because those alleged humans expected their children and charges to be toys that never break down or defy normalized ideas in any way.

Events that did come up with accommodations during the more actively-respected part of the pandemic are now rolling those accommodations back, preventing disabled people from attending them. Disabled people have every right to society too.

If we want covid and monkeypox and polio (thanks, anti-vaxxers) to actually be over, we need to actually start combatting them. Masks, immunizations and boosters, limiting in-person socialization and travel. Upping government assistance and other social safety nets for disabled people. Letting disabled people get married and keep their benefits! Love is a cruel thing to deny someone. But that is what the USian government does to disabled people by denying them financial independence if they even look like they’re married.


The Night Fisherman.

I sail upon this salt-scrubbed deck

anchored by the moon and stars.

Anna Cheung.

HFE: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves, that we are underlings,” ― William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar.

Cheung: my ears curled with a seashell,

HFE: Ooh, I like this image.

tangled bodies whiplashed by the sea

as they are pulled and reeled by

the yarn of the ocean’s depths.

Anna Cheung.

HFE: I like how people are being treated like fish. With a verb like “reeled”, and the word “yarn”, as well as the sea and ocean’s depths evoking a fisher with a fishing pole.

Cheung: Starfish, moonfish silver-splash in the black.

HFE: Those SH’es in this passage is a great use of repeating sounds!

shawled in seaweed and broken

shards,

Anna Cheung.

HFE: Ow, that sounds like it hurts. But that’s what makes it good imagery! Imagery isn’t just visual descriptions. Any description that provides a sensory experience is imagery too.

Dancer: Why don’t you all try crafting non-visual imagery in the comments section?

Pixxy: Try describing how something sounds, tastes, feels, or smells!

Cheung: he utters plastic and sheds mermaid tears.

HFE: Try mixing up the words you associate with each sensation. Nobody literally “utters plastic”, but it still provides an image of what this person is saying: something crinkly, deathless, and flammable.

Dancer: This technique is called synesthesia. Why don’t you all practice crafting some in the comments section? Writing is a skill, and skills require practice in order to develop.

Cheung: shards glittered with tears.

HFE: What a great verb to use!

a fistful of marbles in coral-blue

and algea-green, bright little gems

to add to the eyeball heap

in my treasure chest.

Anna Cheung.

HFE: ❤ ❤ <3.


“HFE, thank you for creating and sharing so much art and writing for free. How can we help turn your passion and skills into a full-time gig?”

I’m glad you asked!

If you can give me a one-time tip, head over to ko-fi. I’ve also got emotes and icons you can buy.

If you can commit to a monthly tip, you can set that up via twitch or patreon. Twitch also lets you set up alternate payment schedules: every three months and every six months. Ko-fi lets you set up monthly payments now, too!

You can also buy some characters and critters I’ve designed on toyhouse.

And if you have no money to spare (understandable), one way you can help me out is by commenting and using as many share buttons as possible. Commenting gives me feedback on what works y’all are passionate about. Sharing helps expose my works to new people. The bigger my audience grows, the more audience members with money will encounter my works.

Thank you for taking time to read this. I hope you enjoy what you’ve found here.

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