February 17th- Writing Prompt

‘Design a scene where tranquillity is unnerving. What makes it eerie? Can you impart the feeling without using the words unnerving eerie or their synonyms?’

OK, gonna use GW2 RP character to try this. 

The silence was complete.

The forest was never quiet. There was always something making noise. Maguuma was alive in a very real sense. Even the chasms in the ground contained vines that were shifting and slithering.

Birds called out in the day, a myriad of rainbow colours. Wild boar and other rooting animals shuffled through the undergrowth. The peoples of the forest were a reflection of the environment. Despite the nightly assaults they found time to sing, dance, play.

The remaining Pact forces in the jungle worked tirelessly during lulls in the fighting to repair weapons and defences. Varicose swarms of pocket raptors brought down screaming prey. Tigers growled and roared to affirm territory and ward off any that might stray near them.

At night, the minions came. Gaining strength in the darkness. The jungle rang with battle cries and fleeing animals caught in the crossfire.

The dragon whispered…

It was all gone… silence, total and utter.

It was wrong.

The tall blue sylvari, hidden in the foliage, edged out of cover. It was night and she was swathed in black and green, hiding her glow from those that may target her. Her footfalls sounded over loud in the night. Her ears twitched and she froze, waiting for the inevitable attack that must come, yet it did not. Her eyes swept over the tree line then scanned the ground.

Nothing stirred, nothing moved. Senses strained. Nothing, oppressive and thick nothing. There should have been relief, but she felt only tension and stain. The jungle was holding it’s breath. Every creature waiting for a monumental- something to happen.

Her nerves began to fray. Pulled taut, they unravelled. The silence in her mind was the most disturbing. What was keeping the dragon so occupied?  The lack of sound pressed round her ears. She could hear her own sap pulsing through her body.

She bolted. Instinct born from hard lessons in Orr pushed her on. Her magic came in a rush, she jumped, blinked and even vanished utterly at times. Anything to get her back to camp as swiftly as possible.

Something was coming and she did not want to be in the open when it-

The roar that echoed through her mind made her fall to her knees. Momentum carried her on, skidding across moss and slamming into a tree.

She screamed, so did everything else around her. The noise thrummed through her, then it came. Wave after wave of wild, raw magic.

Barriers, so carefully constructed round the needy and gaping maw within her, shattered. She remained still, mouth open, now not even able to scream as the reservoir within her was filled and overflowed. She was found insensible and burbling nonsense just outside base camp.

It took a long time for her to come back to herself. Weeks. When she was told the dragon was dead she began to weep. The world was changed for her. The threat was gone but had been replaced by something far more personal, even vindictive. When would she stop having to pay for a mistake made four years past?

A gnarled hand, strong and twisted with age took hers and she looked up at the rugged bark of her dearheart. He had a patch over his eye. When had that happened? She would later learn that the patch was her fault also. More consequences from the death of the dragon.

“Do not cry,” he told her in his gruff tone. “While you live there is hope.” He sounded unsure, was he panicking at seeing her cry?  

Perhaps, but his words, as usual, held wisdom. She was too stubborn to give in. Though it was clear she could no longer serve the order as she once had. Was she useless now? What of her half remembered hunt? Her pride stung.

As if sensing her thoughts, she was abruptly pulled into a lingering hug.
He had never needed words to get his point across. She would endure, for his sake if for no other reason.    

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Writing prompt- February 15th

Norman Mailer claimed that- “Insomnia is the minds revenge for all the thoughts we forgot to have in the day.” What do you think about when you can’t sleep?

Money… not notes or pound coins but numbers on a screen, representing what I owe and what I need to pay.

Has the direct debit for my phone come off yet? Am I paying off enough on my computer? Has the mortgage been paid yet? I went out for a meal a few weeks ago… that money could have paid extra off on the credit card.

What of the repairs? £10,000 towards fixing the roof. The zeros parade across my mind. Will I ever pay that off? Oh I know I earn enough to make ends meet but with a pay cut looming in the summer my heart sinks. No holiday again this year.

Then children. Are they happy? They seem so… am I too strict with them? I got angry at the 7yo for jumping on his bed… should I have talked to him instead of yelling? He’s already broken a bed he’s just so big… he does not realise he’s not five anymore.

3yo is smarter than I am. Frighteningly so. People will think we are hothousing him. Nothing could be further from the truth. He just picks it up, loves numbers, is already trying to read. Fuck people. Hate most people anyway. Am I stimulating him enough though? Is he bored?

Are they happy? Am I a bad mother?

Husband. Ever shifted to third on the list after the money and the children. Guilt for that… lots of it. Squirming in my chest. It used to be just us. He was always my first consideration. Can’t remember when that changed. Is he healthy? I worry about him through the day and it all piles up and is concentrated as I hear him breathing beside me. His eyes were bad today. Must make sure to lie still so he sleeps properly. His back, he will wake in pain. Must make sure I get him a coffee in the morning to take his meds with.

Is he happy? Is he still happy to be with me? Does he regret moving here? Our way of life? What can I do to make sure he is okay?

Work harder, smile more. 7yo asked if we were poor a few days ago. A 7yo should not ask things like that. Need to devote self to career, even though it eats my time and presses thick black worry down on my mind.

Sometimes I love it, best job. Sometimes I hate it. Blame self for things I can’t control. Make mistakes because my head does not work like others do. Should I get a new job? Would I feel any better? How much money would it cost to move? Can we afford that?

I feel so trapped sometimes… just want my mind to shut down. Computer helps. I don’t have to think of anything else when writing or destroying pixels on a screen. Even in that I don’t have the hand to eye coordination to perform well. Dyslexia makes words come out backwards, clumsy fingers mash keys…

No… I need to sleep

Mind continues to plan for the worst case and dreams are haunted with hungry children and the roof of my flat collapsing.

Grown up?

Grown up stuff-

 

  • I turn 34 in November.
  • I have a mortgage
  • I know how to wallpaper
  • I have two children
  • I have a husband (11 years married in November.)
  • I know LED light bulbs have a 25 year lifespan and are even more efficient than so called energy saving light bulbs.
  • I have two cats both of which have health insurance.
  • I drive and own a sensible family car
  • I like cooking
  • I have a career, which I am apparently good at.

 

This all means I am a grown up, yes?

Funny thing is I don’t FEEL grown up. Body shape and face have changed, true and I am much more wise and cynical than I used to be. I keep waiting to wake up one day and feel like an adult or for someone to say I’m all grown up now, well done. Here is the official badge, this is the secret handshake and your branch of the club meets once a month at the pub down the road.

 

Point is, once you pass 21 there are no more real milestones till you hit 40, technically middle age. That’s two decades of just living with society not really recognising it. A lot happens in those two decades! A lot of people start a family if they don’t already have one, or buy a house or get a good job… soon they build a list like the one above.

 

I remember when I came home with son one. After a difficult pregnancy and a hellish 3 day labour culminating in an emergency caesarean I finally brought my beautiful baby home. Once the well-wishers had left and Hubbie had cleaned up the mess the cat had left on the sofa for us, the panic set in.

There was no immediate transition to motherhood for me. I looked at the baby and wondered when it’s parents were coming back to get it. It couldn’t be mine! I was not responsible enough to have a baby!

Bloody hell, I was the woman who drank herself sober at 19. At that party I ended up getting snogged by the barman and I kneed him in the groin for his trouble. At my 21st birthday pub crawl I drank every drink I was offered, discussed contraception with the taxi driver on the way home then puked all night. Had to go to the doctor in the morning because I had taken the lining off my stomach.

I’m the one who would rush outside when there was a storm and get soaking just to look at it.

I’m the one who did not sleep for three days just to win a bet.

I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE ENOUGH TO BE A PARENT!

But there he was and we got to know each other. It helped that my Husband went through exactly the same identity crisis. We could panic together.

So, son 2 is currently rolling round the floor attempting to reach the cat so he can chew on it and son 1 is playing games on his Daddy’s tablet in the house I own.

I STILL DON’T FEEL GROWN UP!

 

 

Interested in this I’ve tried to analyse why I feel this way and came up with another list. A ‘reasons why I’m not grown up list.’

  • I sing and dance in the kitchen, cos I can.
  • I’m a geek; I’d rather have a nice piece of hardware than new clothes. In fact I got down to two bra’s last month before admitting I’d have to buy a new one rather than a new PC game.
  • I daydream, chronically.
  • I get scared of my nightmares and sometimes wake up crying.
  • My stuff is MY stuff. No one touches it, it’s MINE!
  • I watch anime
  • I write fanfiction
  • I laugh at pigeons
  • I forget to brush my teeth.
  • I don’t like adults, they scare me. I nod, smile and hope to have a normal conversation without suddenly blurting out something stupid such as knowing the difference between A wings and X wings.
  • When it’s dark and snowing and I’m driving the car I like to pretend I’m travelling at light speed.
  • I don’t care when son 1 gets wet/dirty/ loses clothes.

 

There is more but that is just a sample of my inadequacy for adulthood.

I recently realised my perception of what being grown up means is based on my parents, specifically my Mother.

Let’s take my last point about clothing and children. I had ‘play clothes’ and woe betide me if I played in anything else or got other clothes dirty. I would hide wet clothes rather than let my Mother find them. (Girls did not go swimming in the river at 12!) Of course she would find them months later, mouldy and ruined and I would be in worse trouble.

It was damn hard keeping clean on a sodding farm!

Don’t get me wrong, I get on well with my Mum but I am very much not her. Parenting has taught me this, though I knew it before.

I remember her dragging me by the hand into clothes shops in my early teens. I needed a short black dress, it was the fashion. I felt so bloody uncomfortable in that thing, like the whole town could see my nickers. I wanted my jeans back!

My Mother was very much working class but seemed to want me to be more. A natural reaction, what parent would not want better for their children? She had no qualifications and had ‘cleaned every bog in the town,’ as she put it. She encouraged me at school even though she knew I found it hard. She pushed for my Dyslexia diagnosis even though it was not a recognised condition at the time. She also tried to mould me into what she saw a young woman should be. It was everything I was not. I moaned about it at first but did not actually kick against her until I hit my late teens. After I left home for university I could fully embrace my geeky unfashionable me and forgot all about the ‘Lady’ my Mum wanted me to be, much to her despair. This pretty much led to all the nonsense I wrote about a few paragraphs ago. Thanks to a good dose of her common sense however I did not do anything too stupid…

I guess I have to find my own way of grown upness that suits me and not base my perception on my Mother.

That said; I still find myself using her turn of phrase with my children.

“You hit Mummy your hand will drop off!”

“Because I said so!”

“Get in the bathroom and brush your teeth you little tyke!”

“There is nothing wrong with you, stop crying and get on with it!”

“My kitchen my rules!”

“FAMILY HUG!!!!!”

“TICKLE TORTURE!”

 

Not so different then… They say all women eventually turn into their mothers. I say they got it wrong. I’d like to think I’m keeping some of the best bits and will enforce my own individual parental irritations on my children.

They will probably wind up being brand obsessed vegetarian conservatives. *shudder*

As Philip Larkin said-

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

  They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you

 

Nailed it Mr Larkin.

Review – PC Game – Cinders

OK, first review on my new/resurrected blog and it’s a great one to start with.

As always I remind you this is my personal opinion only.

Cinders

I’ve recently plunged into the world of indi games and quite liked what I have found. While I wait impatiently for the expansion of one of my favourites (Loren Amazon Princess- which I will talk about in another post…) I have been looking for quality alternatives.

Cinders immediately got my attention for its artwork. I saw the advertisement pop up in my inbox and knew I had to give it a try. So I played the demo and decided to get the full game within five minutes.

Cinders is a retelling of the famous fairy tale Cinderella. You remember that one? Girl with ugly sisters and harsh life (for no apparent reason) catches royal Hubbie and lives happily ever after.

Cinders is not like that…

This is more a visual novel than a game. The artwork throughout is stunning and reminds me strongly of baroque oil paintings. It seems to be set around the same regency type time period too. The images are not static however; there are subtle touches of animation in the background. Doors and windows swing open, candles flicker, water sparkles and birds fly. The characters themselves display varied facial expressions that suit the dialogue. I must admit the moving eyes creeped me out a little at the beginning… it was like the eyes in a painting following you. Gave me flash backs to many a bad horror film… So apart from bringing out a little of my paranoia the art is one of the strongest features of the game.

Cinders attempts to get to the people behind the fairy tale. Why was Cinders treated so harshly by her family? Why were her family so desperate to catch themselves a Prince? Why the hell was a ball held in the first place? Royalty should not need to go fishing to catch a wife, right? The game addresses all of this and much more. At the heart of the game is the story of a family in crisis. The player is presented with a mind boggling variety of choices that not only decides the fate of the family but forms the overall character of Cinders herself.

You can make cinders a dreamy idealist who simply wants to skip through fields of sunflowers hand in hand with her one true love… or she can be cunning and more manipulative than her scheming stepmother… or she can be a lazy whiney girl who blames her woes on everyone but herself…She can be angel or demon depending on player choice or any of the shades of grey in-between.

The plot line and dialogue flow nicely and there are quite a few twists and turns in the storyline. There are four main endings you can work towards, but many variations of each. Also with each ending unlocked a trophy image is added to the main menu meaning that to see the main menu image properly you have to complete all the endings. It’s a clever little idea that certainly had me furiously trying to figure out how to get a certain ending just so I could add a glass slipper or candle to the menu.

That leads me to the one frustration I have. The lack of save slots. Perhaps I am being dense and there is a way to increase them but I have not figured it out. 8 save slots is simply not enough for a game this complex. I found myself restarting more than once as I realised I had made a wrong choice some time ago and had already saved over that part of the game. This is a minor niggle but one I feel needs addressing.

I normally play games like this with a bit of cynicism. They are usually geared to whichever romance option you choose. Again Cinders surprised me. The story is the main focus for this game and on my first two play throughs I felt no compulsion whatsoever to settle on any of the available men. Again this deviates from the fairy-tale, Cinders can end up alone or with someone other than the Prince. I liked this feature and enjoyed exploring the other possible routes. I must admit the banter between Cinders and her childhood friend Tobias had me giggling at the computer. I felt a bit sorry for the poor Prince. He misses out on the same amount of screen time as the others, but perhaps that is the point. He is the traditional choice that we all know from the story so the other options would have been at a disadvantage if they were not well developed as characters.

I found myself truly pitying my “ugly” sisters even though they were vile to me/cinders. The game slowly peels away the layers and shows you why the other women in Cinders life are so hostile. You can choose to mend relations or choose to get revenge. In all honesty I could relate so strongly to the sisters I always found myself trying to do right by them. The Stepmother was another matter. I could sympathise with her, but I resented her for constantly chipping away at her daughter’s self-confidence. The fact I became so protective over “the girls” shows just how far this game pulled me in.

Next, the music. It fits the game beautifully but never was so intrusive that it would pull me from my reading. A little haunting oboe here, saxophone there but never once did it clash with the game events. The ticking sound that indicates dialogue speed can be annoying but it is easily turned off. I found myself turning it back on because I eventually decided it added to the game. It’s hard to convey tone in a game that has no voiced dialogue. The dialogue sound gives an indication if someone is speaking quickly, drawing out a sentence or even at times I found myself thinking a character was whispering or shouting and it was all down to a little ticking noise that can be heard as the dialogue is displayed. This is another subtle feature that shows how much thought has gone into this game.

Finally the price. I have heard whinges that the game is too expensive for an indi game. To those people I say you clearly have no idea how much work goes into a project like this. A game such as Cinders requires a mind boggling amount of time to put together. Artists, writers, composers and coders etc need to eat and deserve to be paid properly. A complex game with so much replay value deserves to ask for a fair price to cover the expenses. Also the developers need to stay in business so they can make other intelligent games that shine amongst most of the dross out there.

If we have to boil this down to something quantifiable I would give it 4.5/5. Not quite full marks because of the save niggle but otherwise this is a beautifully crafted game that has consumed my PC time over the last week and a half. I even took my lap top to work so I could play it at lunch! (Of course I did not play it when I was meant to be working! What are you implying?)

If you wish to buy the game then it is available at

http://moacube.com/games/