And we’re off! And I’m happy to report that on this, the first day of National Novel Writing Month, I have achieved my required 1,667 words with an hour and a half to spare.
I received something rather special yesterday, what can only be described as my first ever piece of fan art: Caitlin Tobias, fresh out of her own personal challenge of INKtober (which required a new pen drawing every day of October), drew for me a bookshelf inspired by my writing. You can see all of Cait’s drawings for the month here. I think it makes the perfect header for this post as the baton of creativity is passed from one challenge month to the next.
Following the third excerpt yesterday of my current book, “Once Upon a Time in Second Life,” I’ve had two request for more – one from Boudicca in the comments section and one from Xandrah inworld. Thus, the story of Len and Swellen continues. Remember – if you want more then you have to ask.
Of course, they moved in together. At first, Len offered to come and live at Swellen’s rented seaside cottage, which was a work of art in its composition of furniture, paintings and carefully arranged clutter compared to his sparse bachelor pad rezzed two thousand metres into the sky. But Swellen insisted on letting her place go and coming to live with him, since after all he was a subscriber and his box floated above the 512 metre squared plot that all subscribers were entitled to. In other words – though she didn’t quite put it this way – why should she continue to pay for a place when there was one available to them for free? This barely hidden and completely common sense rationale obscured from Len for several days a perhaps more meaningful function of this agreement: it would make it harder for him to leave her if she was living at his place than if he were living at hers; it would mean he would have to throw her out. Len was not the throwing out type. Swellen knew that Len was not the throwing out type. And now Len knew that Swellen knew that Len was not the throwing out type.
By this time, the skybox had been packed away into his inventory anyway. With a nuclear efficiency that Len had found both amusing and endearing at first, Swellen had rid the sky of his oversized shoebox and its contents, and placed a post-modern structure of concrete and glass down at ground level, complete with furnishings, artwork, a wedding photo over the mantlepiece and three outdoor flower boxes. And sixteen prims to spare. After a couple of days of this, however, the novelty started to wear off. It wasn’t that Len took issue with Swellen’s eye for arrangement and decor; it was just that she was always there. Previously, he’d been able to log in and spend time by himself in his skybox before heading out for whatever adventures the evening offered: now when he logged in it was to the sight of her lounging on the sofa or pretending to cook in the kitchen, and almost immediately the ding-ding of the incoming instant message rang to let him know that his time in the metaverse was no longer his to play with, no matter what the ‘official’ agreement had been (“plenty of personal space to do our own things” and so on and so on).
But none of these things – individually or combined – brought Len to the decision that he no longer wanted to be with Swellen. They were all of them mild discomforts he could have lived with, at least for a little while longer. Part of what this was all about for Len was getting some practice in on the whole marriage deal, and if learning how to get used to this sort of new, ‘everydayness’ was part of that experience then so be it. No. The deal-breaker was something else entirely: Swellen made the cardinal error of telling Len not to spend time with someone she’d taken a disliking to.
That is to say, she indicated it. Very strongly. She would never quite come out and say it openly. She had few reservations over coming out and calling openly the person in question a bitch, a slut and various other nouns of disrespect, but she couldn’t quite bring herself to say, “I don’t want you to see her any more.” It wasn’t that this would have lessened in any way the conflict Len felt over the issue, but not crossing this line was, he realised, an insurance against him ever attempting to accuse her of trying to restrict his movement. She was telling him but not telling him.
The person in question had been a mutual friend, but Swellen had fallen out with her over something that had been said in a conversation on the day after their wedding. Len had not been present at the time, but he had seen the message log from both Swellen and ‘Custard’ and – so far as he could see – Custard had simply made a joke that Swellen had misinterpreted. The problem was that whenever he tried to analyse this conversation with Swellen to try to help her to the same conclusion, she invariably ended up lessening the significance of this particular remark and re-categorising it as just one element within a pattern of spiteful behaviour towards her – “she just hates me” – a pattern which Len didn’t see at all.
Len was one of those men who needed to believe that the actions he took were based on a system of logic, principles and values; that his behaviour was rational; that it would make sense to anyone looking in on the situation. Choosing to stop talking to someone because they’d demonstrably and significantly wronged him would have been one thing, but doing so purely on the say-so of another person’s interpretation of an event which so clearly appeared to him to be something else entirely – well this just plunged him into conflict. It wasn’t that he wasn’t prepared to give the bending of his principles a go: if there had been any sort of mildly disrespectful remarks made by Custard towards him in the past that he had at the time felt some small measure of disgruntlement over then he might well have tried to magnify their significance in an effort to retrospectively fit them into Swellen’s assertion. But the truth was that Custard had only ever been friendly and affectionate towards him. She had a playful sense of sarcasm and for sure could say some rough-edged things from time to time which – taken out of context – might perhaps appear to an outsider as abrasive; but the words Swellen was using to describe her were so far away from any sort of balanced appraisal of Custard’s character that there was just no way that Len could even attempt to manoeuvre himself in this direction without it being plainly obvious to him what he was doing: pretending to himself that his actions were justified when he knew full well they were not. He just couldn’t live with that sort of discrepancy between the person he imagined himself to be and the person who might do something like that. He just couldn’t live with that sort of dissonance.
“I know you think she’s nice,” she said to him one evening, “but that’s just because you’re a man. Men are so gullible when it comes to women. A few smiles and a nice pair of tits, and it’s beyond your wit to imagine just how devious they are.” He replied, “How can you possibly think that a valid argument?” “Men have penises,” she told him, “and men like cars and men believe anything pretty women tell them. These are just statements of fact.” “So you’re undermining my entire ability to reason and form judgements with a cultural stereotype,” he said. “Isn’t that what men have being doing to women for years?” she retorted. “Yes it is!” he cried. “How does that support your argument?!” “I’m not arguing, dear, I’m simply telling you how things are.”
This was the tipping point. This was the moment in which he started disliking Swellen again. When it happened, it was as though a chain reaction took place in his head: everything about her became instantly and infuriatingly annoying. All those minor irritations he’d previously tolerated with very little difficulty became suddenly unbearable (it never occurred to him that this retrospective reappraisal was exactly what he’d been unable to do for Custard). She was Swellen the sanctimonious all over again. He became sick of the sight of her. He started to dread the approach of the hour he ordinarily logged in and the theft of his time that would follow.