ROW80 Check-In 1/10/18

Progress has been fairly good this week. I’ve enjoyed writing more informative blog posts. Tabletop RPG supplement writing is an interesting balancing act between writing fiction (all the background and setting details themselves) and informational writing (all of the rules tidbits and instructions for players). I thought that a series of blog posts would help me sharpen up in both domains. So far it definitely feels like it is.

Aside from the daily writing, I’ve also been making a conscious effort to read more. Reading is something that I was very passionate about in school, but I think I got kind of burnt out on it through the end of high school and college. I never really went back to it until recently, where again life got in the way of my free time for a while there. Unfortunately I have a tendency to go for the longer books. I’m currently reading the Stand. With my lack of focus on reading lately, it feels like I’ll never finish that damn book, but I’m enjoying every page of it.

Off I go to write another Canopy background post! The next one will be a quick primer on the world of Canopy itself. I think I’m going to stagger future posts a little bit though, try to schedule them to publish ahead a bit so I can avoid the cluster of posts follow by a long drought.

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The Intended Form and Format for Canopy (and a Mini History Lesson)

Today I will be detailing what the product of Canopy will look like, when all is said and done, and why I’m choosing to do it this way.

First, a little history. As I said in my last post, most RPG supplements historically have fallen into two main types: Settings and modules. Modules are essentially pre-made adventures. They contain all the maps, enemies, and narrative elements necessary for a GM to run a story. They also typically contain some details of the surrounding areas and the general setting, like what the king is like or what wizard built this particular dungeon etc. They tend to be able to tie into other adventures to create larger stories. They’re little bite sized tidbits of a world, that you can tie together to create a fuller whole.

Settings, on the other hand, take the opposite approach. They work at the macro level, giving big sweeping histories of anywhere from a kingdom to an entire continent or world. They detail major factions at play, major wars or other events in the past, and typically contain a lot of details about towns and major people in the setting etc. They are the broad strokes to a modules finer details.

Most supplements fall into one of those two categories. There is also a lot of crossover between products. For example, D&D has the Forgotten Realms setting, which contains both setting books, with the broad strokes, and individual adventure modules, with the finer details.

One of my favorite examples of this cross-pollination is the Gazetteer series for Basic D&D. This is where I got a lot of the inspiration for the formatting of Canopy. Basic D&D was intended to be a version of Dungeons and Dragons which had “lighter” rules, to make it easier to get into, compared to the behemoth that was Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. Comparing Basic D&D’s 124 pages across two books to AD&D’s whopping 484 pages across 3 individual volumes is enough to illustrate their approach. Basic D&D itself covered levels 1-3, and then added 4 additional volumes (starting with Expert next, covering up to level 14) to slowly add complexity and build up to a greater whole. AD&D just dumped the entire kitchen into one set to cover levels 1-20 right out the gate. For a group just starting to play, 125 pages is much easier to stomach than 484, and then once that is mastered they can move on to greater complexity. There are arguments for and against both methods, but there is something appealing to me about the slow buildup that Basic D&D took.

When it came time for the supplements, a similar effect is seen. While adventure modules have always tended to be slim volumes for both Basic and Advanced D&D, with just enough information to run a single story, setting supplements tended to be much thicker books. As a point of comparison most of the D&D core setting books, such as Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms, come in at 200-300 pages a piece, usually at the higher end of that spectrum. That isn’t counting additional books to add even more detail to those same settings.

The Basic D&D line, however, took a different approach again. The main setting for Basic D&D is known as Mystara (or “The Known World” depending on where you look). When it came time to detail out their setting books, they introduced the Gazetteer line. Each volume in the Gazetteer line ran between 80-110 pages or so, 1/2 to 1/4 the size of AD&D supplements. This makes it a much more manageable chunk to play in. They detail a smaller area than larger settings books tend to, and focus more on the individual details of that area. The brilliant part of this, however, is that TSR went on to produce 14 total Gazetteer books. Each one can be played in individually, without even glancing at the others, but taken as a whole they detail out a setting the size of those larger setting books. Aggregate, they come to somewhere in the neighborhood of 1400 pages total about the Mystara setting. Just as the rulebooks slowly built you up from less than 100 pages of rules for levels 1-3 all the way up to 5 books taking you through level 36 and on to godhood, the Gazetteer line gave an insane amount of detail to Mystara, while still making it simple for a group to play in a little chunk of the setting at a time.

This is the approach I am taking with Canopy. I have some pretty grand plans for this world, but it will be released in individual sub-100 page volumes. The current plan is for 5 to cover the entire setting. Each one will be playable individually, without requiring you to read the whole 5 book series. If you like one particular area, you just pick up that book and go. Each one will cover a unique geography, cover different playable species, and have a rogue’s gallery of the baddies one might find there (along with various other morsels).

My hope is that this will make it an easily digestible, but still deep, setting. Stay tuned for more details as to what this setting actually entails!

What I’m Doing

In this post: My plan for this blog, and a little bit of info on what the Canopy project is.

My current plan is for this blog to become a lot more active. I’m transitioning this to a more general-purpose personal blog, away from the one-off prose poetry project that it started out as (although that still might be posted sometimes).

So what will this blog be then? For my friends and family who read this blog, part of ROW80 is posting updates on goal progress to the ROW80 site and their Facebook group on Sundays and Wednesdays. That means that twice a week you’ll see an update regarding my writing process in general.

In addition to that, I’m going to start posting about Canopy itself. Even in the Facebook group dedicated to it, specific setting details have been fairly vague so far, intentionally so. I was afraid of putting out too many concrete details, both because I was afraid many of them might change, but also out of a slight paranoia about people plagiarizing my ideas. In actuality the finalized setting books should have enough inherent value in terms of finalizing those ideas and drawing them all together into a greater whole, and such articles can only really work to the projects benefit. Plus, if people copy me that just means that I’m doing something right. I am going to start putting together essays on the people, sites, and dangers of the canopy as a way to both inform people who might be interested, as well as get a more fluid place to put my thoughts together to decide on what all goes into the finalized books. Full disclosure: These ideas are not necessarily final. What goes into the final books may be modified from what I post here.

As far as how I’m holding to my goals so far (30 minutes a day on the project, 5 sentences complete) I have been struggling, but I have found that my mind is on Canopy more and more throughout the day. I have been getting some ideas for it driving to work, preparing meals, and brushing my teeth. So it’s already started paying dividends there, and the actual measurable goals of it are getting a little easier.

Since this post is aimed at the ROW80 folks, I figured I would clarify exactly what it is I’m doing in this post as well. I’ve received quite a few questions about the Canopy project, and I quickly realized that the idea of a tabletop role-playing game supplement is a little alien to most people. For the uninitiated, tabletop role-playing games are essentially story-telling games. You might hear it described as improv, but with dice. To me, it hearkens back to the days of our ancestors sitting around a fire telling stories: a live, collaborative, creative activity. The one most people have heard of is Dungeons & Dragons. You have one game master, and usually between 3 to 6 “players.” The game master (or GM) describes a situation–“Your party enters a cave and sees a small band of goblins guarding a treasure chest”–and the players take turns describing what their character does in that situation–“I try to sneak around and see what’s in the chest” or “I attack!” The players or GM then roll dice to see if they succeed, and play continues from there. It’s a way for participants to act out the roles of different characters, with a framework of rules that provides structure and probabilities to their choices.

Canopy is a setting. Back in the early days of the hobby, all that existed was Dungeons & Dragons (it was the first). It had a bit of an implied setting that the stories took place in; you had elves, dragons, hobbits (known as halflings), goblins, and a set of magic spells named after great wizards. Aside from that though, it was mostly open. Game masters were expected to make up their own maps and dungeons and backstories and castles and villages for their players to adventure in.

Over time though, companies saw that many groups were interested in playing in other peoples’ worlds, where they wouldn’t have to do all the legwork. They started to put out supplements to the rules that detailed adventures and settings that people could play in (many of which started out in their own homes for their friends). All the maps, locations, and backstories were detailed in advance, so GMs could decide to play in that particular world and hit the ground running.

So there are really two main types of products for RPGs: Rulebooks, which tell you how to play, and supplements, which detail where the adventures take place.

Canopy is a supplement. It will detail the peoples, the important locations, the history, and the villains of my setting. It will allow other people to play in my world in their own homes. The ruleset it is based on is called Savage Worlds (which you can find here), which is a set of rules that are designed to be generic and fit in wherever you need. So you use their rules, to play in my world. Canopy will also offer some new rules and modifications to rules that will make it more unique to my world, but that will be detailed in other posts.

Feel free to ask me any questions about the Canopy project, or RPGs in general, down below. I am very passionate about this type of gaming (I use it in my work as a residential counselor with youth to help in skill building) and love to talk about it! Also, keep in tune to my blog for any updates on Canopy in the future. The next post I hope to give a general overview of the setting itself.

New Year’s Resolutions (ROW80 Goals Post)

I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I tell myself it’s for all kinds of pragmatic reasons, bundling them in with self help best-sellers and superstitions in terms of universal feel-goods. I’ve always felt they’re a bit of a salve to ease the sting of a year’s stagnation, promising next year will be better. We celebrate a year finally over, then slap a whole ton of aloe on it and look toward a brighter future.

As I get older I’m starting to gravitate towards them more. That stagnation just stings more every year. I think though that it has always stung, I’ve just been better at denying it in the past. Now I feel like I need to do something about it. I also think that more than ever before, I realize that there is a use for that salve. Sure, if you fry yourself, aloe up, then go out next week and do it all again it’s merely a means of temporary comfort. But if you use it to atone for your bad habits, then make changes, it has a purpose. That healing can be here to stay.

So ROW80 can be my pharmacy. It can give me the salve to give me hope of healing, and I’m going to do my damnedest not to burn again.

So as I’ve stated before, my ultimate goal is to write consistently. I’ve been too focused in the past on turning writing into money, trying to create something out of nothing (“Phase 1, start writing; Phase 2, ???; Phase 3, profit”). So my plan is to build good writing habits. For more concrete goals, my plan is to spend 30 minutes on writing a day (planning, research, etc.) and end that time with at least 5 sentences of actual writing (inspired by this post by EdenMabee).  The project I am working on is a setting supplement for a tabletop roleplaying game, so hopefully that will help me get back into the habit of not only the writing itself, but also the planning and outlining involved in that kind of writing.

So off I go to slather up. Wish me luck!

The Little Engine that Could

Man, I have been feeling full force what losing momentum can do to you. My last blog post (and my last [and first] ROW80 update) was over a month ago. Between family medical issues and an emergency remodel of my bathroom my great journey to good writing habits died before it even really had a chance. I feel it full force. I sat down to try to write on Tuesday and as soon as I began to push that great boulder rolled right back over the top of me, laying me flat.

But I’m back, with a renewed focus. 6 days are left in the current ROW80, and I plan to finish it out completing my goal I set forward over a month ago–to spend an hour a day wholly focused on writing. Hopefully with the next round coming around, I’ll be able to build up some of that momentum that I so dearly miss.

A Transition: NaNo to ROW80

So, for those of you that I know on Facebook, you are probably aware that I was intending to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. It is something I have attempted in earnest 3 times before, but never actually saw it through to the end. This year I declared my participation out of a kind of blind desire for the achievement of it: To prove that I finally could.

In the weeks leading up to November, I started having doubts about it. Not just for the blistering pace of writing required, but if it was actually something that aligned with my goals. In the end, I want to “become a writer.” To me, though, NaNo is a contest for writers (or “tourists” to writing, but that’s a whole other subject). I think it works best for those that are into the habit of writing and want a motivation to bang out a draft, try a different way of writing, or just for the prestige. I am not in that habit at the moment. I am so rusty it’s a little shameful. So much of my time spent on my NaNo project this week has been looking up how to format dialogue or the differences between en and em dashes, because I had simply forgotten. NaNo is not a good exercise for someone with my status.

I am confident I could complete it if I buckled down and dedicated the hours to it, but it would be a miserable month. At the end I would have a first draft of my story (actually an anthology of short stories), but I wouldn’t have developed healthy writing habits, and I would have that draft at the exclusion of doing much of anything else this month. A big part of my interest in NaNoWriMo in the past has been to try to jump-start my writing again. I think at the end of it I would just be burnt out, and not very far ahead in terms of “being a writer” than where I started.

While looking around the web at writing articles I stumbled across A Round of Words in 80 Days (known in shorthand as ROW80), which you can find here if you’re interested. ROW80 is much more immediately appealing to me. ROW80 runs for 80 days total, and repeats 4 times a year. It is much more fluid and flexible, letting participants set their own personal goals, which are allowed to change as circumstances require. Additionally, these goals are encouraged to be set around the how and not the what: Rather than focusing on a finished product or a word count, it’s intended to be focused on how to build yourself to accomplish that. Also, since it runs throughout the year in stages it encouraged building habits that lead to better writing, rather than a mad dash one month out of the year.

So, I’ve decided to pick my hat back up out of NaNoWriMo, and throw it into the ROW80 ring. My goal shall be to spend an hour a day writing on my work days and 3 hours a day on my days off; whether that’s writing on my short story anthology, developing out Canopy, trying to get back into writing poetry, or reading articles and blogs on writing. This will help me to rebuild those writing skills that I’ve lost over the years and work towards a healthy, sustainable habit of writing.

Any further updates on my writing and on ROW80 will take place here, and will be auto-shared to Facebook as well. Feel free to comment at either location. I’m always happy to hear a bit of encouragement!

Some Thoughts on Saving Throws

Before I dive in, I wanted to address the purpose of this post for those of you that are used to this blog as a place for my short autobiographical fiction. I plan to continue that writing in the future (probably with the same sporadic consistency), but I also want to expand what I’m doing creatively as well. Rather than start a new blog for new stuff, which is what I’ve done in the past and just serves to fragment my creative output, I’m going to start putting everything out under the same banner. So my RPG content (which this post is about) will be put alongside my other content. I may in the future try to separate these into different tabs, but for now I’m just going to tag them “fiction” or “RPG.”

On to the meat: In James Raggi’s recent AMA on reddit he was talking about wanting to change the saving throw system in Lamentations of the Flame Princess to something that would be a flat score and not go up in level, possibly based on attribute scores. His thinking apparently being that poisons should always poison etc. and things that you save against should always be a huge danger to the player. This got me thinking about how I would handle saving throws in that system.

I’ve always admired Lamentations of the Flame Princess for its skill system and it’s take on the thief class, known as a “specialist” in the system. Essentially what Raggi did was convert the basic thieving skills over to the “1 in 6” style d6 roll that was used for things like listening and searching checks in OD&D. I thought this was a great way to integrate thief skills back into the already existing system for checks in classic D&D, doing away with the goofy and out of place percentile checks, and does away with thief skills that increase by level according to a preset table (similar to the way Saving Throws progress). It essentially takes two disparate skill systems and combines them into a more unified mechanic based on the classic “1 in 6” roll from OD&D. He also expanded these abilities to be possible for any class, but gave the thief 2 “skill points” every level that could increase the d6 roll, which gave a lot of player choice and agency in a very straightforward manner.

My house rule for saving throws integrates alongside this skill system. In the same way that the thief skills were taken from a table of automatic progression and their own distinct mechanic, it takes the saving throws off of preset tables and gives them the same level of player choice as the specialist has in its skills.

As of now, I suggest using the same “classic” saving throw categories (Paralyze, Poison, Breath, Device, and Magic), but simply starting each one at a 1 in 6 chance on a d6 of success. Maybe providing class based starting levels, such as starting fighters with a 2 in 6 chance of Poison and Breath saves, to reflect their greater resilience and reaction time. All classes would get a single “Save Point” per level that they could apply to any of the saving throws, moving from a 1 in 6 to a 2 in 6 chance for example. Specialists, on the other hand, would move from getting 2 Skill Points per level to 3 Skill Points per level. The Specialist can use these points on either skills or saving throws. This gives the opportunity, for example, for a specialist that is extremely resilient and dexterous rather than extremely skilled if most points are applied into saving throw categories. Or even a Specialist that is particularly weak in terms of saving throws but is extra skilled compared to others.

This does a few things. First of all, it makes saving throws follow the same mechanic as the rest of the skill system (and fall in line with the “classic” ways of doing checks as d6 rolls). Why shouldn’t a check to see if you don’t fall while climbing work similarly to a check to see if you can dodge out of the way of an attack? It also changes the numbers a bit. In the current system, players start with an average 25% chance to succeed at a saving throw, and by 10th level are somewhere around a 70% chance of success. With my system players start at a 16% chance of success for saving throws, and by 10th level, if they distribute their points evenly, have a 50% chance of success in each category (although this might change depending on the starting values for a class). This increases the risk of saving throws across the board (going along with some of the design goals of Lamentations of the Flame Princess), but also puts a lot of choice in the player’s hands. They could end up at 6th level being almost entirely immune to one saving throw category, but still 16% in the rest.

So what do you think? Does it increase the danger of saving throws too much? Should there be wholly different categories for the saving throws (maybe descriptors like dodge, fortitude etc.)? This is something I’d like to develop out (and playtest) fully and possibly put into a PDF resource, so please offer any thoughts and suggestions you have!

The Lure

He was potential turned kinetic. With those few furious actions he silenced not only Eric, but the gathering crowd of his peers. He stopped and sat still for a moment, in shocked contemplation.

Is this how Kirk felt? he thought, thinking back to the Captain’s fight with that Gorn warrior. Somehow, even without the green reptilian suit, Eric felt like much more real of a monster. Ken didn’t know how to feel about this sudden turn of events; he had never acted violently before. He felt flush with power. Conquest is easy. Control is not.

At the end, Eric had went from aggressor to defender. With that last blow, his shielding hands fell limp to the ground. Ken stood. “What the hell are you looking at?!” he screamed at the crowd. “I just wanted to go home!” He felt tears welling up under his glasses. He yanked his head around, desperately looking for any sign of understanding from his classmates. He saw only silence.

Ken ran from that stillness. He ran into the woods, where the rustling wind and bird sounds refilled the void in his ears. He ran until his gasping overwhelmed him. He dropped to the ground, finding comfort in the dead leaves. When he had finally regained control, he realized that it had become dark. His watch read 4:12 PM. He punched in some calculations on it to be sure it was still working and the beep of each button press echoed and warped into the forest around him.

He glanced back up and shook as he saw the form now before him. He cautiously backed up to a nearby tree, squinting and straining to make out who it was that had appeared so suddenly. Even though the figure was maybe ten feet in front of Ken, it was wholly nondescript. “Wh-who are you?” Ken stuttered, too afraid to waste time cleaning his glasses.

A thick, accented female voice responded slowly, “I saw what you did.” As the words slipped out of her mouth, Ken felt each one crawl across his skin with a thousand tiny legs.

“I had no choice!” Ken retorted desperately. “I don’t know what else to do! Cretins like Eric only understand power!”

“Is that what you would call what you did?”

“Yes!”

“Do you think that your ‘power’ will stop him?”

“I-I don’t know,” Ken admitted, feeling a little more hopeless than before.

“I can help.” she whispered. “I can give you power. I can energize you to face that boy again.”

Ken felt his stomach drop through the floor. Each of her words seemed to clasp and pull him downward. This does not sound good. He had read countless books that started with corrupting power. He knew that if even whole fellowships struggled to contain it, he didn’t stand a chance. But he also knew that he was done with Eric and his goons, and that after he stood up to them today, tomorrow would be even worse. I can’t stand another day of them.

“Okay,” he responded resolutely. “Show me.”

“Good. Follow me,” the figure stated as she turned and drifted through the forest. Ken followed.

Townsend

It was relentlessly silent. Even the ever-present Autumn breeze seemed to be waiting with bated breath. Countless berries and petals twinkled in the cool moonlight, floating in a vast sea of underbrush, anchored in silence to the dirt floor. The trees rose, cathedral-like, their tops stretching unfathomably in the dark to become one with the night sky. As I craned my neck back to take in as much of the canopy as possible, I felt the ground dematerialize and shift under my feet. I volunteered myself to the thicket and felt the leaves and branches whipping past me; neither supporting nor hindering my fall. I stared into that limitless canopy and watched it rushing away from me. The vast openness of sky left me. I knew the sky wasn’t for me, but I felt saddened. As the weight of the ground shifted its way around and above me the substance of my new surroundings felt constricting but comfortable. There was possibility in the earth that the indefinite sky could never understand.

But I missed it already.

The vastness of the sky felt like possibilities. The sky does not understand limits. But there is no material of substance in the sky, nothing to create with. Now, visionless and muted I felt creation suffocating me. In my time on the surface, the dirt fell beneath me. I tread on it without question. Now that I was immersed it felt overwhelming in its breadth and depth. I felt lost as to where to start.

I found myself buried deep. I wriggled and shifted until I felt some modicum of control. I felt determined to shape that which had always rested beneath me and dedicated myself to the Earth. I brought to bear my full might to compress and mold a space for myself. After some timeless days I was finally able to stand. As I continued my digging the Earth seemed to suddenly open for me. Still blind, I nearly toppled over myself into a pit. Groping out through this portal I could feel nothing but open air. I convinced myself that I could see the faintest glimmer of light. Trusting, I stretched a leg through and found purchase below. I lowered down cautiously and found myself standing on a small ledge. I could see a series of outcroppings that looked deliberately placed to lead me down into the darkness so I followed them. As I climbed, the faint light steadily grew.

After what felt like days of descending, I finally reached the bottom of an immense subterranean ravine. I stared upwards and started to feel that familiar feeling; that sense of dizzying wonder. I began to regret my decision to dedicate myself to the Earth. With a deep breath I regrounded myself. I turned slowly in place, taking in every detail of these new surroundings. I was standing on the floor of a cavernous ravine. I quickly became aware that I was standing in a stream as the water soaked through my shoes. Dirt walls speckled with myriad stones and pebbles shot up into the heavens. I wondered for the first time how deep I actually was. I stretched my arms out and with a little movement I could run my hands through the dirt on either side. I could now see the source of my light: Thousands of tiny phosphorescent mushrooms pulsed in a royal, majestic lavender. My eyes devoured every speck of light they could. As they slowly traced their way along the walls I could see the cave stretch for hundreds of yards in both directions before the light faded again to blackness. Even though I had only two directions to go, I felt desperately lost.

I closed my eyes, turned a few times, and started walking. I lost track of time and direction as I walked, but after some short time I stumbled across what looked like a tunnel dug off at an odd angle from the ravine. It stood about six feet tall and looked very roughly carved into the cliff side. A large quantity of dirt was piled up at the entrance. I decided to follow the tunnel. I ducked slightly to enter, the loose shifted dirt springing slightly underfoot as I slumped my way down the tunnel. As I walked I became more and more aware of the sound of digging ahead of me. It was loud enough I felt sure that I should have heard it at the tunnel entrance. My brain was in a kind of disoriented stasis, so I felt I must have just overlooked it. I quickened my pace, eager to see what was ahead.

With the light of the mushrooms far behind, I ran straight into the hindquarters of a large furry animal. It grumped loudly as I sprung backwards into the loose earth. I could hear it working heavily to shift itself around to face me, clearly longer than the tunnel was wide. As soon as the commotion had calmed down, it seemed to take a moment to sniff loudly, trying to make out what had run into it. I then felt its wet snout scoop me up to my feet as it started to barrel forward, using its face to push and nudge me along the tunnel, clearly trying to excavate the intruder to its operation. I could barely keep up with its speed, constantly finding myself tumbling over into the dirt then scrambling onto my feet to save myself from a trampling death.

When we reached the entrance to the tunnel again it gave me a firm shove and I went head over heels into the ravine’s creek with a splash. I fully expected it to either attack or retreat back down its tunnel the way it came, but it stood for a long while, examining me in the faint light. I returned the favor, and took note of the beast’s features. It had a thin pink snout, covered in a velvety black fur and wreathed with hundreds of whiskers all around. I could barely make out its beady eyes under its thick fur and it had no ears to speak of. The thing’s front paws were heavily clawed and nearly as massively broad as the girth of the creature itself. It seemed to decide that I was of no real danger, and settled down at the opening to its tunnel. It continued to eye me curiously. I reached out a hand to test it and it continued to sit comfortably staring at me, so I ran my hands through the fur on its snout and face. I decided then that “it” was a “he” and named him Townsend. He seemed friendly and leaned into my hand as I pet him for a while. I brushed some dirt off a large stone by Townsend and sat down. Out of a curious hope, I tried to talk to him, but he merely blinked his beady eyes at me and made some soft grumbly sounds in return.

After a few minutes of this, I told Townsend goodbye and started off down the ravine again, the same direction I had been traveling. I could hear the heavy splashing of him following me. I was glad to have some company, even if it was just a mute giant mole.

The Thing

The thing climbed out of my ear while I was watching an episode of The Office. There I was, eating some chicken nuggets, when I suddenly felt something wriggling deep within my skull. Over the course of about 7 minutes, I could feel the thing work its way from the center of my head cavity to my left ear. After about another 3 minutes it fell with a slick thud onto my desk.

It looked at first like a worm; elongated and pale in a translucent yellowing pink. As I stared at it though, it become clear that the immediately visible portion of this creature was merely a sac: Some kind of soft embryo or egg. As I leaned in to peer closer I could see an undulating movement and the dancing shadows of hundreds, maybe thousands, of tiny legs all in a row, moving within this thing. It pulsated and churned with a sort of unnatural charm.

I felt a kinship with it. I was not at all shocked to see it sitting in a sticky puddle on my desk. I did, however, feel an intense shame. Somehow I had created this thing out of my head. I knew that if someone else were to have witnessed it, they would not have seen the fascinating, miraculous creature for what it was, but some purulent parasite. I would be forced to either defend it as my creation, or condemn it as some freakish fluke.

I do not know what it is to become, but it is beautiful in a deeply unsettling way. I have decided to nurture it. It is unlike anything I have ever presented to the world, but I now think that’s because I have never been brave enough. Maybe it is not ready to see the light of day yet, but when it is I am sure someone else will find it beautiful as well.

Kylyn