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Thread: Birdsong

  1. #1
    thea ante hominēs That Guy's Avatar
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    Default Birdsong

    If I may be so bold, I'd like to share, for your delectation, a short work of mine. It's non-Pokémon, but it's my understanding that that's a perfectly acceptable genre here. Then again, even if it were Pokémon-related, you wouldn't really be able to tell.

    A bit of backstory: I wrote this as my entry to the Richard Compton Short Story Competition 2012, and I didn't make the final shortlist, so I'm'a publish this here instead. And if you're having a hard time following the story, bear four things in mind:

    1) the whole thing is one person speaking, in direct speech;
    2) it is heavily based on the reader's interpretation of what's going on;
    3) I guess you could say it's set in a generic desert;
    and 4) why, yes, this was born of my teenage angst. But that doesn't mean that the characters of this short represent me or anyone affiliated with me...contrary to what some people thought when they read my first draft of it.

    So, if it's all the same to you, I'd like to present:

    ~Birdsong~

    "No. No, no; not this time. This time, it's my turn to speak, and your turn to listen. Shocking, I know. Still, you know what they say; there's a first time for everything. So behold: the sound of my voice. Ever heard it before? I didn't think so.

    "Excuse me? Did you just tell me to shut up? Are you breaking out that old chestnut again so soon? Dear, oh, dear- and I've barely even started. To cut a long story short: no. You're going to shut up this time. I'm speaking. Not you. Me.

    "Oh, don't give me that look. Do you know how hard it is to tolerate it when you do that infuriating bored sigh- especially when you couple it with a cursory roll of your eyes? If I were to try doing that in response to anything you say, you'd lose your mind and berate me about 'lacking respect' or some other hypocritical subject like that. Is it any wonder I never raise my voice?

    "Oh, no, please; be my guest- go right ahead and turn away to stare off into the distance, and listen to the incessant calling of the birds. After all, I'm sure what they have to say is far more important than what I'm saying right now. That's always the way. No matter what it is I want to express, there's always something far more important going on that demands your attention.

    "Well, perhaps that's somewhat harsh. It's not just you. It's anyone I try speaking to. Whoever they are, they'd much rather press their ears against a freshly-painted wall to see what emulsion sounds like when it's drying. So you're not the only one. I'd apologise, but you really don't deserve it.

    "Is there anything I could say to keep your attention? I doubt it. That's why I'm talking at you now. I'm not speaking to you. I'm not talking with you. I'm talking at you, and you're listening. You will listen. Like I said, there's a first time for everything.

    "Oh, no, go on and try wandering off. Just try walking away and leaving me here, talking to myself, like you so often do in situations like these. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Well, not this time. I've never appreciated being ignored like that. I'm sure I can convince you to hang around. I have some rope, after all.

    "Now, if I might borrow your catchphrase, kindly shut up. Don't bother resisting, and don't even start on how, regardless of how alone I feel, you're still there to back me up. We're here, now, and I'm doing what I'm doing, and you won't change that- not even by lying to me about how you're on my side. Of course, I don't doubt that you are. No, indeed. What I doubt is that you care about me because you care about me.

    "Allow me to present a theory, if I may. For all those times where we're viewed by the public, by outsiders, of course, you care. It's your prerogative- your duty- after all. But that's exactly it. You care because it makes you look good, like a true Samaritan- and a good one at that. But knowing that only makes me feel emptier.

    "You care about me because you care about you. Therefore, you don't really care at all. But that's fine. I knew that already. No surprises there. Shake your head and protest all you want; you're not fooling anybody. Actually, let me correct myself. You're fooling everybody. I'd say 'everybody except me', but, clearly, I don't count as a person, so 'everybody' doesn't include me.

    "...Pardon me? Issues? You think I have issues? Wow- why haven't you got a Ph.D. in observation yet? Of course I have issues! Am I insane? Probably, but at least I'm sane enough to know it! But is any of that my fault? I mean, yes, it's my brain and my so-called 'human experience', but who's responsible for all that? I couldn't make the answer any clearer if I held a mirror to your desperate face.

    "Oh, but don't let me trouble you with my problems. They're none of your concern, after all. They never have been, and never will be. They definitely won't be where you're going. Besides, there are thousands of more important things going on in the world than me. There's global warming, and people starving in Africa, and, of course, most importantly, the issue of you.

    "Now, I could be courteously ambiguous and call that a compliment, and say that you're the most important thing in the world to me. Wrong! You're the biggest nuisance to me. Whoops- I said as if you care, didn't I? My bad. Thanks for the reminder that I may as well be talking to my spade, here, instead.

    "Hm? You appear to be staring blankly into space. Offended? Hurt? No; be my guest. Empty air is far more interesting than looking at my cellophane form. The sound of blood rushing to, then out of, the wound in your head; the slight but pleasant tinnitus of concussion; your own self-pity...These are all much more entertaining than taking even a moment to weigh your opinion against my words, or even to acknowledge my words and feelings are there at all. So, please: stare off all you like. Be hurt. I'm still here, and I'm still speaking. Oh, and you're still bleeding, too.

    "Not that that matters. Now, kindly excuse me while I think aloud, so I can entertain myself while enduring something tedious. ...No, you don't need to ask. I'm being a metaphor for my perception of you, my thoughts representing how you distract yourself, and this hole I'm digging standing for what you're trying to ignore. Me.

    "You know, all of this aggression has got me wondering: why does nobody bat an eyelid when I perform act after act of kindness, then come down on me like a tonne of bricks when I put so much as a toenail out of line?

    "Perhaps a suitable analogy would be to say that I am the world's punching-bag. The thing is, that's not applicable to me at all. I'm more of a lightning-rod. And I'm certainly not the world's. I'd say that I only belong to those who know me, but those who know me...don't. No. Not even you.

    "Despite that, I'm only here to be berated. My feelings don't count for jack. Your feelings- your joys and sorrows, thrills and hatreds, your luck and misfortune- are my oxygen. If I tuned out to you the way you tune out to me, I'd die for a lack of purpose in life.

    "I'd go on to say that that's how you make me feel, but that would immediately invalidate what I just said- because my feelings, as I said, don't count for anything.

    "No, indeed. Sometimes- all the time, actually- it seems like I exist only to fill out the numbers of people in the world. I'm just an extra in a cast of insignificant thousands to make the film extravaganza that is somebody else's life seem more realistic.

    "That said, why should I bother going on to say more? I'm sure you stopped listening ages ago. Actually, let me re-word that. You were hearing me. Hearing, but not listening. Part of me wants to ask how I can blame you for not listening. It can't be easy maintaining focus when there's a spade-shaped dent in your head and you're bound and buried up to your neck in earth. Bravo for managing to at least keep looking my way.

    "With that in mind, you know what? You can just forget this. Forget everything I just said. Forget me. Sorry, in fact. I'm so, so, so sorry for interrupting your session of listening to wild birdsong. I shouldn't have said anything.

    "I'll just go. I'll disappear like I always do, and leave you to rest in peace, just like you have been throughout this little speech of mine that you've been ignoring. After all, I could talk and talk and talk until I turn blue in the face, but the only reaction I could possibly hope for that even acknowledges that I, in some way, exist, would be a brief, mocking laugh accompanied by words to the effect of 'Oh, haha- your face is blue!'

    "Well, you'd be a fine one to talk about blue faces.

    "I'd tell you now that you disgust me, but you don't care. ...Excuse me while I chuckle. You can't care. Not that you could before, mind.

    "Come to think of it, neither can I. If I could, maybe I'd cry you to sleep with a requiem in the style of your precious birdsong. Or perhaps not. I don't know. Then again, you're not my problem anymore.

    "Now, I must take my leave. I'd add 'please excuse me', but I can't honestly say I'm interested in hearing the opinions of vultures."
    Last edited by That Guy; 15th January 2013 at 06:53 PM.
    xelda57 and Mystic_Thunder like this.
    Yeah, I write weirdly dark stuff sometimes. Birdsong, I Can't See The Light and The Courteous Soldier, if you're interested.

    I run the Yourovision Song Contest. Join us!
    Alternatively, partake of my vlogs, Eurovision reviews and LPs on my second YouTube channel.

  2. #2
    Let's get funky! Gama's Avatar Former Head Administrator
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    Default Re: Birdsong

    Wow. I'm seriously really impressed by this.

    Usually works that are explorations of teenage angst or insanity are terrible. Well, that's true of those that are not professionally published at any rate. I have to say when I heard that those were the two topics of this story, I was expecting the typical rubbish that I've read so many times. I hope you're not offended by that.

    You shouldn't be. The reason I'm saying it is because this was fantastic. I felt you really, really managed to capture the psyche of someone at the height of emotion, particularly at the execution of an event as significant as this. I always find it difficult to give feedback to a work that I find really really good, I'm not sure how much my comments will help. All I can say is this:

    Keep practising your writing. You're extremely good at it. Given your style I recommend you read some of the great modernist writers: you write in a similar style and it could really help you. In particular I am thinking of Virginia Woolf, James Joyce. Those are just the English modernists though since I'm English myself and know them best. If you are from a different country you might prefer to look a writer from your own country.

    I really hope you continue to post in the Writer's Workshop. This is a fantastic piece and I feel like you could be a great asset to us here.

  3. #3
    thea ante hominēs That Guy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Birdsong

    Thank you! I'm flattered by all this, but then again, I did redraft the piece several times before it became what it is now, so I suppose I did succeed into refining it into a work of art after all.

    As for other writers, I, too, am British, but I've taken, thus far, inspiration from all kinds of writers, from Arnaldur Indriðason to Steven Moffat, but I have yet to read anything (knowingly) by Woolf or Joyce. However, I've been meaning to find some new material to read, so I might just act on that recommendation. Hopefully, I'll be able to make good use of that.

    Being inclined to writing as I am, I'd say it's fairly likely that I'll be frequenting this part of the forum more often in the near future. I have a few other, older pieces drifting around on my computer, so I'll see if I can't do something entertaining with them.
    Gama likes this.
    Yeah, I write weirdly dark stuff sometimes. Birdsong, I Can't See The Light and The Courteous Soldier, if you're interested.

    I run the Yourovision Song Contest. Join us!
    Alternatively, partake of my vlogs, Eurovision reviews and LPs on my second YouTube channel.

  4. #4
    Overthinking Everything xelda57's Avatar
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    Default Re: Birdsong

    This is amazing. Just... wow. You're a great writer!
    I'm usually not too good at long compliments, so just know that this is one of the best short stories that I've ever seen. It truly shows everything that needs to be conveyed and gives off the real feeling/"voice" of the speaker.
    That Guy likes this.
    Links to stuff.
    I also might start a webcomic soon, but that'll be linked to when it happens.

  5. #5
    Registered User Mystic_Thunder's Avatar
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    Default Re: Birdsong

    You should really look into the writing of Douglas Adams. Honestly, you are like the younger version of him. Anyways-- you hit the target there. I find this sort of funny in a way because it is the exact defintion of myself-- and so I applaud you on this, kind sir.
    That Guy likes this.

  6. #6
    thea ante hominēs That Guy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Birdsong

    I've read a couple of Douglas Adams' books; I really do like his sense of humour. Anyway, thanks for the positive feedback.
    Yeah, I write weirdly dark stuff sometimes. Birdsong, I Can't See The Light and The Courteous Soldier, if you're interested.

    I run the Yourovision Song Contest. Join us!
    Alternatively, partake of my vlogs, Eurovision reviews and LPs on my second YouTube channel.

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