My Top 3 Pick-Me-Ups

I wish I could say I was the epitome of self-reliance and organization, but that’s not the case. At least once a week, stuff gets out of control. I mess up my work plans, or leisure plans, or personal projects or, more usually, a combination of all three. 

With the mess-up comes mood swings and low energy. Meditation, on which I’ve written before, is a good preventive measure, but once shit hits the fan and Luis’s Monkey Brain is low on sleep & sugar, I don’t find it so easy to go back to baseline.

Here are a couple of Stupid Dumb Things (TM) that help me. They might be obvious to many people but here they are nonetheless. Maybe someone will pick up one they’ve missed.

  • Espresso shot – a lot of my coffee buddies are drip people. That’s fine and flavourful, but if you want a good high there’s nothing like the concentrated goodness of an espresso shot. PSA: coffee doesn’t fix your life, it just gets you the energy to do it. Don’t try to run the whole day on it, kids. You’ll crash hard, sooner than you think.
  • Walking – I’ve tried walking meditation but it never stuck in the same way that sitting meditation did. Still, after one hour (or five kilometers, whatever comes first) of walking, I’m usually in a much better place than when I started. People say it’s brisk walking that does the trick, but I’ve never concerned myself overmuch with pace. In fact, I stop all the time to look at buildings or storefronts or nature.
  • Cat-hugging – It’s silly but true. I have the good fortune of having a very huggable, teddybear-like cat. It’s pure bliss just to hold her and rub my cheek on her fur. Definitely, DO NOT TRY THIS with scratchy cats. Do cuddly dogs work, too? Probably.

That’s all I got. It works for me. Let me know if it works for you.

Sobbing In The Depths

The pair moved through the mineshaft slowly, Oskar leading the way and checking the floor with each couple of steps. This part of the stone had been picked clean of any ore for years now. But the gift had kept on giving, and whenever a vein dried up, the diggers found a fresh one deeper. The mine had grown steadily over the years, deep into the mountain.

And then it had stopped. Oskar had come up to Glonsclim expecting to find a worker strike, or that a shaft had crumbled and blocked the fresh parts of the mine. But it hadn’t been that. There was a different reason why the men weren’t willing to work.

They were afraid. 

No, not that. That wasn’t the whole story.

They were scared out of their breeches.

And the reason for that, well, he was going to find out for himself, now.

“Ye okay back there, Bran?”

“I’m fine, lad. I’m not as easily spooked, and besides, you’re in front, anything happens, you get the losing hand.”

“Well, that’s heartening, ol’ man.”

“I lived ta be an’ old man, didn’t I? Not an accident, that.”

The pair kept descending deeper into the mountain. Every now and then, Brandon would tell Oskar to turn this or that way, and the younger man would diligently mark the corner with glow-paint. A losing hand can be outran with a good enough sense of where to go and a healthy pair of legs. He always said, he much preferred a losing hand to a losing leg.

“Right, lad. This is as far as I dare take ye. Up ahead is no good… This is where we started finding bodies… And odd stuff went happenin’.”

Oskar stopped at Brandon’s words and raised his lantern. It was a corridor just like the dozens they’re passed through – a rather newly excavated one, at that. Seams of copper still ran through the walls here and there. It was wide, and it looked like it kept widening ahead, with a few side-passages splintering off.

“So ye found bodies here, alright, and ye did it proper for them and got them back up under the sun and buried them an’ all. But did ye clean up down here? Because me eyes don’t show me any signs of anyone dying’ here.”

“Aye lad. We cleaned nothing up. There was nothing crashed, no signs of struggle, no blood. Just lifeless men, and with a look of them who’ve seen the devil frozen onto their faces.”

“So ye dragged me here cos’ ye told me I had ta see with me own eyes why the men were working no more, and now ye tell me there ain’t a thing to be seen?”

“Place yer lantern down, lad, and take this up.” Brandon produced a fresh candle from his pocket, and opened the top of his lantern to light it up, then handed it to Oskar.

“Now ye take five steps ahead in yonder direction, and for your health no more than five, ye hear lad? Hold the candle in front of ye and pay attention.”

Oskar took the candle and nodded, then turned and took a step, then another, then another. At the fifth, the candle’s flame went out.

“So there’s a draft here. You think whodunnit was coming from a hidden passage?”

“Did ye look at the flame properly?”

“What do ye mean?”

“Try again. An’ look at it this time, attentive-like.”

Oskar did like the old man bid. He rekindled the candle with his lantern, placed the lantern back on the stone floor, and then took the five steps, eyes trained on the flame. On the fifth, it went out.

“I didn’t feel any draft, an’ I dinna see the flame move for even a split second. Strange…”

Oskar walked up to one of the tunnel walls, and touched it, trying to feel for a draft. Not feeling anything, he touched his ear to the wall. Brandon nodded in approval.

“What in… Bran, there’s someone down here! An’ hurt – I can hear cryin’!”

“So could I… An’ the lads. Every day for a week, making four months ago, now. And any who went to find the source, them showed up lifeless right hereabouts. Until people started hearing it ever closer and were drawn away from the mine. Whatever is doin’ this cryin’ … It can’t be helped, not by us, at least. An’ light, no matter how strong, won’t survive to the bend in the distance.”

“I see.” Said Oskar. He felt very, very cold, all of a sudden.

This text is an excerpt from my next book. This is still the first draft; no revisions have been made for spelling, formatting or even basic Q&A.

Painting by Alexlinde

Climbing The Mountain-Town

“Not a lot of people walking around, are there, Tick?” Asked Lucius, after the pair had climbed in silence, past the first and second rung of housing. They had crossed no inhabitants, and the murmur of the pre-dawn craftsmen starting their work was all but absent.

Tick kept to himself. Lucius looked up and ahead, at the cobbled street that led up the mountain at a steep incline. He could not see very far ahead into the path, as the street was not set up as a straight line, but instead snaked around sets of one and two-story buildings, crafted with their backs against the slope most looked like they had been squeezed in, had to be built between two existing buildings after the people had run out of free, workable mountain. What he could see – all the way to the keep at the top – where the stacks upon stacks of buildings, the first and second floors of the ones built on the upper tiers peeking over those of the ones built on the lower.

As they turned the corner, Lucius noticed that parts of the cobbled street where flanked by long drains, those being covered by metal grates. A faint waft of putridness came from within, as the water sloshed down the mountain and into a wall. 

“How strange it is,” Lucius thought to himself “how quickly we get used to the good things in life, that a mere echo of unpleasantness can disgust us.” Indeed, the priest now recalled the northern city-states where he had lived his youth, places were public sanitation was a tale told by travelers from distant lands. Such stench had been a daily part of life, then. But Lucius has been on the road for so long, that even this whiff of civilization made him shudder.

“There.” Said Tick. The city guard pointed to the next bend on the street, which forked to the side along one of the tiers right at its inflection. As they drew closer, Lucius noted that the side-path was not cobbled. The pair stepped on a mix of raw stone and dirt, flanked on one side by the walls and rooftops of the buildings on the lower tier, and by the rougher, older-looking buildings to their left.

The pair soon arrived at the edge of that particular tier. It ended in a sharp cliff, and Lucius was immediately drawn to the view stretching out to the east. The morning Sun bathed mountain range after mountain range, all peppered with green and white and gray. On the closest, still far beyond the forest and the snowy ranges, the priest thought he could make out buildings. The cities of Garm were built reaching for the heavens.

“What a splendid place for a temple.” He thought, turning to face the larger-than-average building that hugged the mountain wall, a building that was sharply distinguishable from all others by a simple, single feature: it was wholly made out of pine. 

“Dis’ temple.” Said Tick, extending its palm toward the building. “We here.”

Lucius took his palm on both hands, and shook it, smiling while he thanked the guard for his service.

This text is an excerpt from my next book. This is still the first draft; no revisions have been made for spelling, formatting or even basic Q&A.

This scene was envisioned after falling in love with the Italian town of Castelvecchio Calvisio, as seen in the movie “The American.”