When I was small, I never wanted to step in puddles. Not because of any fear of drowned worms or wet stockings; I was by and large a grubby child, with a blissful disregard for filth of any kind.It was because I couldn't bring myself believe that that perfect smooth expanse was no more than I thin film of water over solid earth. I believed it was an opening into some fathomless space. Sometimes, seeing the tiny ripples caused by my approach, I thought the puddle impossibly deep, a bottomless sea in which the lazy coil of a tentacle and gleam of scale lay hidden, with the threat of huge bodies and sharp teeth adrift and silent in the far-down depths.And then, looking down into reflection, I would see my own round face and frizzled hair against a featureless blue sweep, and think instead that the puddle was the entrance to another sky. If I stepped in there, I would drop at once, and keep on falling, on and on, into blue space.The only time I would dare walk though a puddle was at twilight, when the evening stars came out. If I looked in the water and saw one lighted pinprick there, I could slash through unafraid--for if I should fall into the puddle and on into space, I could grab hold of the star as I passed, and be safe.Even now, when I see a puddle in my path, my mind half-halts--though my feet do not--then hurries on, with only the echo of the though left behind.What if, this time, you fall?
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When I was small, I never wanted to step in puddles. Not because of any fear of drowned worms or wet stockings; I was by and large a grubby child, with a blissful disregard for filth of any kind.It was because I couldn’t bring myself believe that that perfect smooth expanse was no more than I thin film of water over solid earth. I believed it was an opening into some fathomless space. Sometimes, seeing the tiny ripples caused by my approach, I thought the puddle impossibly deep, a bottomless sea in which the lazy coil of a tentacle and gleam of scale lay hidden, with the threat of huge bodies and sharp teeth adrift and silent in the far-down depths.And then, looking down into reflection, I would see my own round face and frizzled hair against a featureless blue sweep, and think instead that the puddle was the entrance to another sky. If I stepped in there, I would drop at once, and keep on falling, on and on, into blue space.The only time I would dare walk though a puddle was at twilight, when the evening stars came out. If I looked in the water and saw one lighted pinprick there, I could slash through unafraid–for if I should fall into the puddle and on into space, I could grab hold of the star as I passed, and be safe.Even now, when I see a puddle in my path, my mind half-halts–though my feet do not–then hurries on, with only the echo of the though left behind.What if, this time, you fall?

-Diana Gabaldon

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We came back [from Mars]," Pris said, "because nobody should have to live there. It wasn't conceived for habitation, at least not within the last billion years. It's so old. You feel it in the stones, the terrible old age. Anyhow, at first I got drugs from Roy; I lived for that new synthetic pain-killer, that silenizine.And then I met Horst Hartman, who at that time ran a stamp store, rare postage stamps; there's so much time on your hands that you've got to have a hobby, something you can pore over endlessly.And Horst got me interested in pre-colonial fiction.""You mean old books?""Stories written before space travel but about space travel.""How could there have been stories about space travel before - ""The writers," Pris said, "made it up.""Based on what?""On imagination. A lot of times they turned out wrong [...] Anyhow, there's a fortune to be made in smuggling pre-colonial fiction, the old magazines and books and films, to Mars. Nothing is as exciting. To read about cities and huge industrial enterprises, and really successful colonization. You can imagine what it might have been like. What Mars ought to be like. Canals.""Canals?" Dimly, he remembered reading about that; in the olden days they had believed in canals on Mars."Crisscrossing the planet," Pris said. "And beings from other stars. With infinite wisdom. And stories about Earth, set in our time and even later. Where there's no radioactive dust." [...]"Did you bring any of that pre-colonial reading material back with you?" It occurred to him that he ought to try some."It's worthless, here, because here on Earth the craze never caught on. Anyhow there's plenty here, in the libraries; that's where we get all of ours - stolen from libraries here on Earth and shot by autorocket to Mars. You're out at night humbling across the open space, and all of a sudden you see a flare, and there's a rocket, cracked open, with old pre-colonial fiction magazines spilling out everywhere. A fortune. But of course you read them before you sell them." She warmed to her topic."Of all -

-Philip K.

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[The Old Astronomer to His Pupil]Reach me down my Tycho Brahe, I would know him when we meet,When I share my later science, sitting humbly at his feet;He may know the law of all things, yet be ignorant of howWe are working to completion, working on from then to now.Pray remember that I leave you all my theory complete,Lacking only certain data for your adding, as is meet,And remember men will scorn it, 'tis original and true,And the obloquy of newness may fall bitterly on you.But, my pupil, as my pupil you have learned the worth of scorn,You have laughed with me at pity, we have joyed to be forlorn,What for us are all distractions of men's fellowship and smiles;What for us the Goddess Pleasure with her meretricious smiles.You may tell that German College that their honor comes too late,But they must not waste repentance on the grizzly savant's fate.Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.What, my boy, you are not weeping? You should save your eyes for sight;You will need them, mine observer, yet for many another night.I leave none but you, my pupil, unto whom my plans are known.You 'have none but me,' you murmur, and I 'leave you quite alone'?Well then, kiss me, -- since my mother left her blessing on my brow,There has been a something wanting in my nature until now;I can dimly comprehend it, -- that I might have been more kind,Might have cherished you more wisely, as the one I leave behind.I 'have never failed in kindness'? No, we lived too high for strife,--Calmest coldness was the error which has crept into our life;But your spirit is untainted, I can dedicate you stillTo the service of our science: you will further it? you will!There are certain calculations I should like to make with you,To be sure that your deductions will be logical and true;And remember, 'Patience, Patience,' is the watchword of a sage,Not to-day nor yet to-morrow can complete a perfect age.I have sown, like Tycho Brahe, that a greater man may reap;But if none should do my reaping, 'twill disturb me in my sleepSo be careful and be faithful, though, like me, you leave no name;See, my boy, that nothing turn you to the mere pursuit of fame.I must say Good-bye, my pupil, for I cannot longer speak;Draw the curtain back for Venus, ere my vision grows too weak:It is strange the pearly planet should look red as fiery Mars,--God will mercifully guide me on my way amongst the stars.

-Tycho Brahe

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As I finished my rice, I sketched out the plot of a pornographic adventure film called The Massage Room. Sirien, a young girl from northern Thailand, falls hopelessly in love with Bob, an American student who winds up in the massage parlor by accident, dragged there by his buddies after a fatefully boozy evening. Bob doesn't touch her, he's happy just to look at her with his lovely, pale-blue eyes and tell her about his hometown - in North Carolina, or somewhere like that. They see each other several more times, whenever Sirien isn't working, but, sadly, Bob must leave to finish his senior year at Yale. Ellipsis. Sirien waits expectantly while continuing to satisfy the needs of her numerous clients. Though pure at heart, she fervently jerks off and sucks paunchy, mustached Frenchmen (supporting role for Gerard Jugnot), corpulent, bald Germans (supporting role for some German actor). Finally, Bob returns and tries to free her from her hell - but the Chinese mafia doesn't see things in quite the same light. Bob persuades the American ambassador and the president of some humanitarian organization opposed to the exploitation of young girls to intervene (supporting role for Jane Fonda). What with the Chinese mafia (hint at the Triads) and the collusion of Thai generals (political angle, appeal to democratic values), there would be a lot of fight scenes and chase sequences through the streets of Bangkok. At the end of the day, Bob carries her off. But in the penultimate scene, Sirien gives, for the first time, an honest account of the extent of her sexual experience. All the cocks she has sucked as a humble massage parlor employee, she has sucked in the anticipation, in the hope of sucking Bob's cock, into which all the others were subsumed - well, I'd have to work on the dialogue. Cross fade between the two rivers (the Chao Phraya, the Delaware). Closing credits. For the European market, I already had line in mind, along the lines of "If you liked The Music Room, you'll love The Massage Room.

-Michel Houellebecq

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I understand addiction now. I never did before, you know. How could a man (or a woman) do something so self-destructive, knowing that they’re hurting not only themselves, but the people they love? It seemed that it would be so incredibly easy for them to just not take that next drink. Just stop. It’s so simple, really. But as so often happens with me, my arrogance kept me from seeing the truth of the matter.I see it now though.Every day, I tell myself it will be the last. Every night, as I’m falling asleep in his bed, I tell myself that tomorrow I’ll book a flight to Paris, or Hawaii, or maybe New York. It doesn’t matter where I go, as long as it’s not here. I need to get away from Phoenix—away from him—before this goes even one step further.And then he touches me again, and my convictions disappear like smoke in the wind.This cannot end well. That’s the crux of the matter, Sweets. I’ve been down this road before—you know I have—and there’s only heartache at the end. There’s no happy ending waiting for me like there was for you and Matt. If I stay here with him, I will become restless and angry. It’s happening already, and I cannot stop it. I’m becoming bitter and terribly resentful. Before long, I will be intolerable, and eventually, he’ll leave me. But if I do what I have to do, what my very nature compels me to do, and move on, the end is no better. One way or another, he’ll be gone. Is it not wiser to end it now, Sweets, before it gets to that point? Is it not better to accept that this happiness I have is destined to self-destruct?Tomorrow I will leave. Tomorrow I will stop delaying the inevitable. Tomorrow I will quit lying to myself, and to him. Tomorrow.What about today, you ask? Today it’s already too late. He’ll be home soon, and I have dinner on the stove, and wine chilling in the fridge. And he will smile at me when he comes through the door, and I will pretend like this fragile, dangerous thing we have created between us can last forever.Just one last time, Sweets. Just one last fix. That’s all I need.And that is why I now understand addiction.

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When you got captured, I didn't know..." He trailed off, had to chug whiskey before he could continue. "If it'd be like...""What?""Like it was with Clotile.""Oh, Jackson, no. I was okay. I'm unharmed.""Didn't know if I'd get there too late," he said with a shudder. Then he crossed over to me, until we stood toe-to-toe. "Evie, if you ever get taken from me again, you better know that I'll be coming for you." He cupped my face with a bloodstained hand. "So you stay the hell alive! You don't do like Clotile, you doan take that way out. You and me can get through anything, just give me a chance."--his voice broke lower "just give me a chance to get to you." He buried his face in my hair, inhaling deeply. "There is nothing that can happen to you that we can't get past."..."When you say we...?"He pulled back, gazing down at me, his eyes blazing. "I'm goan to lay it all out there for you. Laugh in my face--I don't care. But I'm goan to get this off my chest.""I won't laugh. I'm listening.""Evie, I've wanted you from the first time I saw you. Even when I hated you, I wanted you." He raked his fingers through his hair. "I got it bad, me." My heart felt like it'd stopped--so that I could hear him better."For as long as you've been looking down your nose at me, I've been craving you, an envie like I've never known.""I don't look down at you! I'm too busy looking up to you."..."The corners of his lips curled for an instant before he grew serious again. "You asked me if I had that phone with your pictures, if I'd looked at it. Damn right, I did! I saw you playing with a dog at the beach, and doing a crazy-ass flip off a high dive, and making faces for the camera. I learned about you"- his voice grew hoarse -"and I wanted more of you. To see you every day." With a humourless laugh, he admitted, "After the Flash, I was constantly sourcing ways to charge a goddamned phone--that would never make a call."I murmured, "I didn't know...I couldn't be sure.""It's you for me, peekon.

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Like most people, when I look back, the family house is held in time, or rather it is now outside of time, because it exists so clearly and it does not change, and it can only be entered through a door in the mind. I like it that pre-industrial societies, and religious cultures still, now, distinguish between two kinds of time – linear time, that is also cyclical because history repeats itself, even as it seems to progress, and real time, which is not subject to the clock or the calendar, and is where the soul used to live. This real time is reversible and redeemable. It is why, in religious rites of all kinds, something that happened once is re-enacted – Passover, Christmas, Easter, or, in the pagan record, Midsummer and the dying of the god. As we participate in the ritual, we step outside of linear time and enter real time. Time is only truly locked when we live in a mechanised world. Then we turn into clock-watchers and time-servers. Like the rest of life, time becomes uniform and standardised. When I left home at sixteen I bought a small rug. It was my roll-up world. Whatever room, whatever temporary place I had, I unrolled the rug. It was a map of myself. Invisible to others, but held in the rug, were all the places I had stayed – for a few weeks, for a few months. On the first night anywhere new I liked to lie in bed and look at the rug to remind myself that I had what I needed even though what I had was so little. Sometimes you have to live in precarious and temporary places. Unsuitable places. Wrong places. Sometimes the safe place won’t help you. Why did I leave home when I was sixteen? It was one of those important choices that will change the rest of your life. When I look back it feels like I was at the borders of common sense, and the sensible thing to do would have been to keep quiet, keep going, learn to lie better and leave later. I have noticed that doing the sensible thing is only a good idea when the decision is quite small. For the life-changing things, you must risk it. And here is the shock – when you risk it, when you do the right thing, when you arrive at the borders of common sense and cross into unknown territory, leaving behind you all the familiar smells and lights, then you do not experience great joy and huge energy. You are unhappy. Things get worse. It is a time of mourning. Loss. Fear. We bullet ourselves through with questions. And then we feel shot and wounded. And then all the cowards come out and say, ‘See, I told you so.’ In fact, they told you nothing.

-Jeanette Winterson

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When it begins it is like a light in a tunnel, a rush of steel andsteam across a torn up life. It is a low rumble, an earthquake in theback of the mind. My spine is a track with cold black steel racing onit, a trail of steam and dust following behind, ghost like. It feelslike my whole life is holding its breath.By the time she leaves the room I am surprised that she can’t see thetrain. It has jumped the track of my spine and landed in my mothers’living room. A cold dark thing, black steel and redwood paneling. Itis the old type, from the western movies I loved as a kid.He throws open the doors to the outside world, to the dark ocean. Ifeel a breeze tugging at me, a slender finger of wind that catches atmy shirt. Pulling. Grabbing. I can feel the panic build in me, theneed to scream or cry rising in my throat.And then I am out the door, running, tumbling down the steps fallingout into the darkened world, falling out into the lifeless ocean. Outinto the blackness. Out among the stars and shadows.And underneath my skin, in the back of my head and down the back of myspine I can feel the desperation and I can feel the noise. I can feelthe deep and ancient ache of loudness that litters across my bones.It’s like an old lover, comfortable and well known, but unwelcome andinappropriate with her stories of our frolicking.And then she’s gone and the Conductor is closing the door. Thedarkness swells around us, enveloping us in a cocoon, pressing flatagainst the train like a storm. I wonder, what is this place?Those had been heady days, full and intense. It’s funny. I rememberthe problems, the confusions and the fears of life we all dealt with.But, that all seems to fade. It all seems to be replaced by images ofthe days when it was all just okay. We all had plans back then,patterns in which we expected the world to fit, how it was to bedeciphered.Eventually you just can’t carry yourself any longer, can’t keep youreyelids open, and can’t focus on anything but the flickering light ofthe stars. Hours pass, at first slowly like a river and then all in arush, a climax and I am home in the dorm, waking up to the ringing ofthe telephone.When she is gone the apartment is silent, empty, almost like a personsleeping, waiting to wake up. When she is gone, and I am alone, I curlup on the bed, wait for the house to eject me from its dying corpse.Crazy thoughts cross through my head, like slants of light in anattic.The Boston 395 rocks a bit, a creaking noise spilling in from theundercarriage. I have decided that whatever this place is, all thesenoises, sensations - all the train-ness of this place - is afabrication. It lulls you into a sense of security, allows you to feelas if it’s a familiar place. But whatever it is, it’s not a train, orat least not just a train.The air, heightened, tense against the glass. I can hear the squeak ofshoes on linoleum, I can hear the soft rattle of a dying man’sbreathing. Men in white uniforms, sharp pressed lines, run past,rolling gurneys down florescent hallways.

-Jason Derr

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The stars are brilliant at this time of night and I wander these streets like a ritual I don’t dare to break for darling, the times are quite glorious.I left him by the water’s edge,still waving long after the ship was goneand if someone would have screamed my name I wouldn’t have heard for I’ve said goodbye so many times in my short life that farewells are a muscular task and I’ve taught them well. There’s a place by the side of the railway near the lake where I grew up and I used to go there to burry things and start anew. I used to go there to say goodbye. I was young and did not know many people but I had hidden things inside that I never dared to show and in silence I tried to kill them, one way or the other,leaving sin on my body scrubbing tears off with saltand I built my rituals in farewells. Endings I still cling to. So I go to the ocean to say goodbye.He left that morning, the last words still echoing in my headand though he said he’d come back one day I know a broken promise from a right onefor I have used them myself and there is no coming back.Minds like ours are can’t be tamed and the price for freedom is the price we pay.I turned away from the oceanas not to fall for its pleafor it used to seduce and consume meand there was this one nighta few years back and I was not yet accustomed to farewellsand just like now I stood waving long after the ship was gone.But I was younger then and easily fooledand the ocean was deep and dark and blueand I took my shoes off to let the water freeze my bones.I waded until I could no longer walk and it was too cold to swim but still I kept on walking at the bottom of the sea for I could not tell the difference between the ocean and the lack of someone I loved and I had not yet learned how the task of moving on is as necessary as survival.Then days passed by and I spent them with my work and now I’m writing letters I will never dare to send.But there is this one day every year or sowhen the burden gets too heavyand I collect my belongings I no longer needand make my way to the ocean to burn and drown and start anewand it is quite wonderful, setting fire to my chains and flames on written wordsand I stand there, starring deep into the heat until they’re all gone. Nothing left to hold me back.You kissed me that morning as if you’d never done it before and never would again and now I write another letter that I will never dare to send, collecting memories of loss like chains wrapped around my veins,and if you see a fire from the shore tonightit’s my chains going up in flames. The time of moon i quite glorious. We could have been so glorious.

-Charlotte Eriksson

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