Month: March 2015

Eclipse

The popular girls at school hated me because I dared to be different. I didn’t wear my hair their way or wear the clothes endorsed by their favourite celebrities. I didn’t even skip class their way. They skipped Science and Woodwork and I skipped Home Economics. Nobody was going to teach ME to be a housewife.

The popular girls at school hated me but I wasn’t without friends. I didn’t strive for their approval, I was perfectly fine with staying exactly as I was, thank you very much! Lianna says that is why she wanted to be my friend. I was just me. Different, unique, unashamedly me and she knew from the first day we met that she wanted to be my friend the most. What I love most about her is that’s exactly how I think of her too.

Our friendship sparked a change within me. I began to love life like I never had before. Lianna introduced me to new kinds of music, a new appreciation for art, and what it feels like to have a true soulmate. We shared our first kiss the day we left school and took our first date at a local museum that was showcasing important women in history. Slowly but surely, we fell in love. Our love revolved around celebrating our differences and being proud of our individuality whilst glorying in our similarities and our togetherness too. Even together we were different from most people that we knew, but Lianna and I, we didn’t realise how different. Not until the eclipse.

I didn’t pay any attention to the build-up of the coming eclipse. It didn’t mean anything other than being something vaguely interesting to watch one day. That is, until Lianna told me a story she had heard from her grandmother about the Goddesses of the Sun and Moon.

‘Contrary to popular opinion, the sun and the moon are not male and female deities; they are both female.’

Lianna stroked my hair as she talked, her head tilted back slightly as she searched her memory for the details.

‘Their names are Sola and Cherika. They met when they were sent to the Pantheon to learn what it means to be a Goddess and how to rule over their subjects. They formed a great friendship that turned into a passionate love for each other. Brahma, the God of Creation became angry and jealous because he wanted Sola for himself and planned to wed her. He created the Moon and banished Cherika to be trapped inside. He left her to circle Earth, hoping she would forget about Sola and fall in love with Geb, the God charged with watching over Earth.

‘Sola defiantly continued to refuse Brahma and plotted to free Cherika so they could be together again. Sadly, Brahma learned of Sola’s plans and, in a fit of rage, he created the Sun and trapped Sola inside. Sola and Cherika were heartbroken but their love for each other remained steadfast. They spent thousands of years trapped and separated, until Geb took pity on them and began visiting them both in their unique prisons, passing messages to the other whenever he could. He became a trusted friend and confidant to both of the goddesses and together, they devised a plan to reunite them without Brahma ever finding out. Geb was able to subtly communicate with and influence the humans on Earth. He found two young female lovers and blessed them with the ability to perform the magic required for the task.

‘At the event of the first eclipse, when the sun and the moon crossed paths in the sky, the two young female lovers on earth began a magical ritual to draw the essence of Sola and Cherika into themselves, under the guidance of the Geb. They found a secluded spot, stripped naked, and let the enegery of the eclipse wash over them as they chanted the words Geb had taught them. Sola and Cherika’s bodies lay in their prizon cells within the Sun and the Moon, but their souls were drawn to earth, where they were free to be together, glorying in their love, unknown to Brahma. The magic froze the women’s bodies exactly as they were until the next eclipse was seen on earth, when they passed the souls of Sola and Cherika on to another couple before carrying on with their lives.’

I was fascinated with this story and so when Lianna asked if I wanted to go and watch the eclipse with her, I agreed. On the day of the eclipse, we wandered to a nearby park and settled down on a blanket in each other’s arms to watch the moon cover the sun.

As the moon began to cover the sun in the sky, I suddenly felt dizzy. The sensation grew as the sky slowly began to darken, causing my vision to blur and the world to spin crazily under me. I lay on the grass and clutched at the ground as the earth began to buck and roll under me. I fought the growing feeling of nausea with my eyes tightly shut. My heartbeat racing and my breath coming in short gasps. After what felt like an eternity, the world abruptly stilled under me. I scrambled to my feet and span slowly on the spot, taking in the suddenly unfamiliar surroundings. The sky had darkened to an inky midnight blue. Stars sparkled and winked down at me and a deafening silence filled my ears until it hurt. My heartbeat thundered in my ears and my body began to tremble.

‘Selena?’ Lianna’s voice came from so close behind me that I span round with a squeal and stumbled backwards.

‘Lianna? Where are we?’

As I spoke, a light appeared in the distance, bobbing and weaving as it moved closer towards us. I began to make out shapes of trees around us, and saw that we were standing beside a small pool. Reeds crowded the edge, rustling and whispering secrets that a soft breeze carried into the sky. The surface rippled and bubbled as unseen creatures broke the surface in search of food, or maybe out of curiosity, wanting to know why we had disturbed their peace. The dancing globe of light was revealed to be a lantern, held by a young woman not much older than ourselves. Her eyes sparkled black in the dim light and her chocolate brown skin glowed faintly, sparkling like it was embedded with millions of tiny diamonds in the muted glow from the lantern she held in her right hand. The fingers of her left hand were linked with those of another young woman, whose skin was as light the first woman’s was dark, with strawberry blonde hair and eyes so pale they looked like glowing pools of ice. Her creamy skin glowed like pearls, shimmering with the barest hints of pinks and blues.

‘Welcome to Eclipsim.’ The woman with the lantern spoke. ‘You have been chosen by Sola and Cherika of the Sun and Moon to carry their essence until the next eclipse. They are the sun and moon goddesses who came to earth to…’

‘….to live in the bodies of humans so they can be together away from Brahma? Are you serious? I thought that was just a story.’ I turned to Lianna in confusion. ‘It’s just a story right?’

‘Well…..I….thought it was…..My Nana told me it was true but I never actually believed her. It can’t be real.’

‘It can, and it is. I know how unbelieveable it all sounds. I was exactly the same as you when it happened to us back in 1999. I assure you, it’s real.’ The woman with the strawberry blonde hair gazed directly into my eyes as she spoke, the passion in her voice matching the serious look on her face.

‘We would answer all of your questions if we could, but we only have until the end of the eclipse to finish the ritual.’

I hesitated, looking at Lianna.

‘Just one question.’ she said to the strange women, whilst looking at me. ‘Why us?’

‘Your love for each other is what drew you to our…..their attention. Its so strong and pure that its fiery and calm at the same time.’ The woman with the sparkling diamond skin explained. ‘Sola and Cherika knew you were the ones, however, when they learnt of your names. I am sure you know, Selena, that your name means..’

‘Moon Goddess.’ I interjected, my mind whirring.

‘ And you, Lianna? Do you know what your name means?’

Lianna sighed and looked down at her hands as she picked at her fingernails.

‘To some it means God has Spoken. But it also means….my Nana told me it means Daughter of the Sun.’ My jaw dropped.

‘You mean we have…Sun and Moon names? Why didn’t you tell me when you told the story of Sola and Cherika?’

‘Because…well…you know…it’s kinda corny. Isn’t it?’

‘I’m sorry, but we really don’t have much time. We need to know if you are willing to take on the honour of accepting Sola and Cherika into yourselves. I know it seems unbelieveable, but think of it this way. You just need to speak the words we tell you, and if nothing happens, you’ll find yourselves back in the park when the eclipse ends, as if nothing ever happened. Okay?’

‘Sure, why not? I’m pretty sure this is all some kind of dream anyway. Lianna?’ I turn to look at the love of my life. She smiles and my heart flutters against my ribcage.

‘Lets do it.’ She answers, squeezing my fingers slightly.

The two strange women speak in unison, their voices ringing in unison.

‘Repeat after us. Virtutem eclipsim…’

‘Vir..tutem eclipsim..’

‘…patitur animarum de sole et luna…’

‘…pati..tur animar..um.. de sole et luna…’

‘…in corporibus nostris.’

‘…in corporibus nostris.’

The pale skinned woman takes my hands gently and I watch, my eyes wide as the strange pearlescent glow on her skin flows through her hands and slowly covers my body. The faintest hints of pink and blue and purples swirl in the light from the lantern now set on the ground nearby. I glance over to Lianna to see tiny sparkling diamonds breaking out all over her skin at the same time they fade away to nothing on the stranger’s dark skin. Lianna looks so beautiful in that moment that my soul aches to hold her. Gradually I become aware of hints of thoughts and feelings that are not my own. Cherika is gazing lovingly through my eyes at Lianna, but I know it is really Sola she is seeing. I let out a small sigh as the strangers step away, and I reach for Lianna. Our lips meet tentatively, but the strength of our love is amplified by Sola and Cherika and the kiss deepens, drawing a soft moan from us both. We lay down together by the side of the pond mere moments before the ground begins to shake and roll underneath us once more. I cling on to Lianna and close my eyes, willing it to stop quickly.

Moments later the earth is still but I can hear noises. Normal noises. The drone of cars in the distance and the call of birds high in the trees are comforting after the stillness and silence of Eclipsim. I gaze at Lianna, a little afraid to speak. I search my mind for an explanation of what happened and found Cherika. Her presence in my mind is not as pronounced as it was in Eclipsim, but she is still there. It wasn’t a dream. It was all real. Liannas eyes tell me she is going through the same thoughts in her mind. I contemplate saying something about what just happened, but I don’t know where to start so instead I just stroke her hair away from her face and kiss her softly, murmering into her ear.

‘Lets go home.’

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The Clean Reader App – I Don’t Like It

I was browsing Facebook the other day as part of my pre-writing procrastination, when I came across this article from Book Riot about a Clean Reader App. For those of you who haven’t yet heard of it, it’s an App that you can download eBooks into, to remove or change certain ‘unsavoury’ words with dots, or a more palatable alternative.

Jared and Kirsten Maughan from Idaho in the USA came up with the idea because their daughter was reading at a level much higher than her peers. They wanted to continue to encourage their daughter to push herself with regards to her reading, but were concerned about the content of more adult books, after she brought home books from school with swearing in it.  They spoke with lawyers who were quick to point out that they couldn’t re-publish books that had been edited in this manner as it would infringe copyright laws. The app that was eventually developed by Page Foundry gets past this issue by editing the original book for the use of the reader only. It does not make edited versions available to other people. Once you have bought a copy of an eBook, you can do what you like to it, including editing words you don’t like, much like taking a permanent marker to a physical book, if that is what you wish to do. This is legal because the book, either in eBook form or physical form, is your own to do with as you wish.

So whilst this App is legal, doesn’t infringe on the author’s copyright laws and doesn’t fall under the scope of censorship, it is leaving a lot of people, myself included, feeling rather uncomfortable.

From the comments I have read on various articles like the ones on Book Riot, Huffington Post, LDS Media Talk and also this gem of a blog I found a link to, many people are torn between their beliefs that everyone should have the freedom of choice and some religious beliefs regarding purity etc., but also that the app has the potential to get in the way of open-mindedness and slow down progression. My own initial thought; that the replacement of certain profane words with less offensive ones could completely change the tenor of the story intended by the author; is also a widely expressed one. Think of this classic sentence from Gone with the Wind:

“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Can you imagine it being changed to “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a •” Or even worse “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a monkeys.”? The dot is strange and the alternative completely changes the atmosphere and inflection behind the words spoken. One comment I read claimed that authors who use profanity are doing so to cover up their poor grasp of the english language. I completely and utterly disagree with this. As a writer of horror stories, profanity can be used in my stories to shock the mind on purpose, the psychology behind profanity and people’s reactions to them are exactly why they are used. They show you things like anger and disrespect without the writer adding things like ‘they said angrily.’ which would be quite poor as a writing technique. I’m not trying to be delicate about brutal murder and jealousy and all kinds of other things that can rear it’s ugly head in a horror story. It’s not that I don’t have a good grasp of the english language, it’s that I have a good understanding of both the language AND the psychology behind people’s reactions.

In cases where there is a lot of profanity within a book, the replacement with dots could render the passages unreadable and take away from the reader the understanding of relationships between certain characters and parts of the storyline, which can only frustrate the reader just as much as the uncomfortable sensation they might feel at reading a ‘bad’ word. It’s also unrealistic. People use profanity all the time and pretending they don’t doesn’t, to me, seem like a good way to prepare your children for the outside world.

In my opinion, books are many things rolled into one. They can be an escape from the world as well as a window into it. They can re-affirm your opinions and ideas, or they can challenge them. They can be educational, or purely for fun. They can be uncomfortable. They can bring to your attention the horrors of the world that should not be ignored. I can’t help but feel that a lot of people who want to avoid such content is doing nothing more than attempting to protect the little bubble they have put around their life so that they can pretend everything is rosy. Life isn’t like that.

I understand that some content can trigger people. People who have survived rape, for example, might not want to read books with a rape scene involved. That is completely understandable to me. Maybe books would be better off with a rating like movies have? Then people can choose the books they want to read without the writing of the author being physically changed. I have seen a lot of comments from people who think that rating books is just as bad as using a clean reader app. Personally, as a compromise, I think it would be a good idea.

What do you think about the clean reader app? Would you use it? Do you think a book rating system, similar to movies, would be a good alternative? Let me know in the comments below.