Thomm Quackenbush, author

09.17.01 11:08 p.m.

It is natural to man to indulge in the illusion of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against the painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren, till she transforms us into beasts.


 -Patrick Henry  




This Entry Features: Xen, Emily, Kate, and Melissa to varying degrees. Cat and Kayhan. Music by REM. Quotes from Arthur Miller. 1950's type hysteria. Racism. A magic ring. A fairy. The end of an era. The end of innocence. Anthropophobia, Astraphobia, Atomosophobia, Ballistophobia, Cleithrophobia, Clinophobia, Didaskaleinophobia, Enosiophobia, Gephyrophobia, Hemaphobia, Hoplophobia, Keraunophobia, Lyssophobia, Monophobia, Nucleomitaphobia, Ochlophobia, Ombrophobia, Pnigophobia, Politicophobia, Pteromerhanophobia, Radiophobia, Taphephobia, Thanatophobia, Tonitrophobia, Traumatophobia, and Xenophobia. Old Navy Flag shirts.

9/11/01: The End of the World As I Knew It
There was a thunder storm a few nights ago. Every rumble woke me in a frenzy, presuming I was sleeping at all, for fear that a plane had crashed or a bomb had gone off. For fear that I would soon be just as dead as if a building had crashed down upon my head. It was the first night since the tragic terrorist destruction of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon that I did not spend with Emily next to me. Her mere presence is evidently a great deal more assuaging than I gave her credit for. I worried, honestly, that I might not again see daylight. Even when she is with me, we both break into a panic whenever we hear the shrill scream of a siren, fearing that it is the harbinger of our destruction. Emily called it "like the Balkans in my backyard," a title that I think it deserves. They have stolen my safety along with innumerable lives.
As Emily puts it in a letter to me:

Driving home there weren't any planes in the skies at all. Not since the advent of that technology has life been so earth bound. Dead bodies must be littering NYC streets and here all there is are people worrying if their loved ones were there. There is an eerie calm in my head. Even when i thought my father or my sister might be dead i was still calm. No tears, thoughts, fears. September 11th 2001. Everyone's worlds have changed, for the first time there is something like war on our soil. Something like the Balkans in my back yard.

I feel like if I eat it will be my last meal, that if I try and sleep i might never wake up. Like I'm crazy, and want to do all the things I've never done before it's too late and I can't do them again. Like drinking exotic drinks with little umbrellas on beaches, or kissing the groom, or sleeping under the stars in Colorado. This is like a national identity crisis, and the wind is still stirring the leaves in my back yard. Friends from high school are calling me. I forgot they existed; it doesn't faze me to wonder how many of them don't anymore. Ben, Renee, Blair, Erin, Jess, Michael... I don't know where they are, maybe they're the wind outside the window, maybe they are the smoke. Seeing the smoke is like living in the holocaust, like living in the killing fields, like living in Rwanda.

Maybe its time for ice cream, for picking flowers, for playing with the dog, for watching old TV shows where beaver uses his father's baseball and gets in trouble.
Simplicity.

In my English class, a police siren whined and everyone in the room grew rigid and adopted the demeanor of caged rabbits.
I awoke, days ago, just in time to witness the second plane crashing full force into the second World Trade Center. It seemed unreal, like something out of a not-particularly-clever movie. This doesn't happen. Acts of war to this degree are not supposed to occur anywhere near me. I am an American, a condition that states that I am protected from foreign malcontents destroying me because our government will not agree with their opinions. There is a magical shield on each coast that keeps acts of war far enough away that I can sleep soundly each night. This has shaken my world, a world which will never again be the same.
Thousands of people are missing or dead. Emily feared for the lives of her sister and father, who were in the city at the time of the tragedy. Her father witnessed first hand the second plane. He said it was incredibly quiet. I can't fathom it. Seeing the towers collapse on television was surreal. Seeing it happen twenty times in an hour was unnecessarily cruel. I understand, the public needed to be informed. However, I still see the plane crashing into the tower every time I shut my eyes. The world has changed and for millions, the innocence of youth has been stolen away. I have to relearn how to live in this new world. People are trying to go about their lives, but I know they are as frightened as I am.
The day of the tragedy, I called one of my teachers and informed his voice mail that I would not be joining him in class for fear that the apocalypse was occurring. One of the best parts about being me is that I can utter such phrases and be understood wholly.
Melissa was the one who informed me of the tragedy first, in an IM conversation starting with the word "DUDE!!!!!" I shall be putting this on-line shortly, as it is a piece of history. My history, at least.
This will never cease effecting me. Ironically, or perhaps not, I think that this has completely banished any depression I was feeling. This is too much. I feel like Anne Frank, in a small way, only I will never see the faces of those that wish to destroy me. My life could end at any moment. I am not being overly dramatic. I live a short distance from the Indian Point nuclear reactor, certainly a terrorist target. If they were to crash into that, everyone from the city to Albany would be affected. I think I would perish instantly, though I may be subjected to radiation poisoning. Another target in my vicinity is the Stewart Air Force base, which used to be and still may be a storehouse for tactical nuclear arms. And then there is West Point, certainly the place to hit if one was trying to dishearten America.
Still, I strive for normalcy. This is primarily why I continue to attend classes. Had I my choice, I would hide in my room under the covers, reading optimistic novels all day. But I must participate in the world, even if I fear it. Never again will the sight of planes in the sky be wholesome to me. The plane that crashed into the second tower few right over my town. Were I awake, I would have seen it. All of these thoughts contribute to my unease. The world is not my friend. I fear a great deal for Americans of Middle Eastern descent. Many have been attacked. Melissa reported a suspicious car in front of a mosque days ago. Melissa cannot pay her bills this month because she gave all her money to the rescue effort. She has turned suddenly patriotic. People everywhere are saying how this tragedy is bringing us all together. How can I believe this when I feel torn apart?
At the Ren Faire, there were people wearing shirts that marked the tragedy. Not a week went by and already there was a bloody t-shirt? Those I could endure, though I found the commercialism appalling. What galled Emily and me to a pitch were the t-shirts calling for the destruction of Bin Ladin. He hasn't even been proved to be the culprit (though likely he had a hand in this, at the very least) and unscrupulous vendors were making a quick buck off the deaths of thousands of people. Is this the American way we are trying to protect? Some modicum of decorum would be nice.
Everywhere I see flags obscenely glued. Over back windshields, obscuring views. Red, white and blue ribbons twirl from the roof rack of speeding SUVs like pasties on a drunken stripper. So many people suddenly care about this country. Bullshit they do. I don't deny that some people, like Melissa, are completely genuine in their patriotism. Most people are either caught up in this new fad (how many Old Navy flag shirts can you count in an hour?) or as gleeful as the school bullies that they have a new enemy. It doesn't matter that a face hasn't been put to it, some people rejoice inwardly at having a collective enemy. This is why a Sikh Indian was battered yesterday. The thought that irrational hate is the reason thousands of people are dead doesn't seep through these racist bastards' heads. So they ignorantly perpetuate the cycle of hate, beating and murdering complete strangers, fellow American citizens, because they practice a different religion and have a different skin tone. Yet they get deeply offended at comparisons to the KKK. They claim to be good old American born boys that are just trying to protect America from this insidious menace. (Did I forget to mention that in Saugerties, NY an elementary school age Indian boy was beaten bloody during recess and the teachers didn't lift a finger to stop it? Menace indeed.)
I want to say I am proud to be an American. But lashing out with hate against the innocent is the problem, not the solution. This is not what it is to be an American. This is an embarrassment to America.
So I wave no flag from the antenna of my car. I do not wear red, white and blue constantly and loudly. I wore black for two days and I cried a great deal. I donated money to the firemen's families and to the relief effort. I did a small, private ritual for those suffering. Fuck being an American; I mourn these people as fellow humans. Where they were born and what color their skin was does not matter to me.
My friend Cat's father is still missing. He worked in one of the towers. As far as I know, he has yet to be found. Every moment that goes by makes it far more unlikely that he will be found alive. I do not know what to say to her or how to say it. I do not know what this is like. I cannot possibly. I would extend my hand in sympathy, but it feels like so little. I am leaving her with her grief and her coping. I am not in her inner circle of friends. We have spoken precious little for years, owing to our lives going in different directions. So I feel that I do not have a right to help her though this, I suppose. She has closer friends than I who she will rely on for help and support. If she comes to me, I am here for her.
On a similar topic, this tragedy reminds me even more of why I distance myself from petty, useless squabbles. I see no reason to waste my time hating some girl who tries to spice up her life by spreading malicious rumors about me. If she (this hypothetical girl who is really an amalgam of several) were to have perished in the terrorist actions, I would have wept for days and mourned for much, much longer. I have only love. I would take no joy in the deaths of anyone I cared about. So much was taken from so many, so quickly. There is no sense to it. There is no sense to prolonging futile feuds when you do not know what the next moment may hold. I forgive those who scorn and hurt me, because I know that I care for them anyway.
Most of the time now we settle for half and I like it better. But the truth is holy, and even as I know how wrong he was, and his death useless, I tremble, for I confess that something perversely pure calls to me from his memory - not purely good, but himself purely, for he allowed himself to be wholly known... And yet, it is better to settle for half, it must be! And so I mourn him - I admit it - with a certain... alarm.
I get upset over small things, really. It irritates me that the fortuneteller's on Mystic's Waye at the faire never picked up on anything like this. I am not being superstitious or foolish, I don't think. I have witnessed them pick up on minute things they couldn't possibly know. Yet they couldn't pick up on the fact that thousands of people would be dead and innumerable lives would be affected on Tuesday? I don't understand how they can have any faith after that. Rozalisa told me that she conferred with other tarot readers she respected and they all noted that The Tower card came up a lot. I know that when I was playing with my new Phantasmagoric Theatre Deck Monday, I kept getting The Tower, but I attributed it to the fact that I was asking questions about Kate at the time and she would soon be going through a rough period. I can't say I attribute this to the twin towers' destruction. That is not fair in the least.

Tabling Mardi Gras
Not that flying down would have come as a pleasant concept to any of us but it turns out that we will not be going to New Orleans this year. Melissa was concerned (rightly so) that none of us could rally the needed funds to make this a truly memorable experience. Please bear in mind that she made this decision long before she so altruistically gave all of her money to help ease this tragedy.
She is right that we couldn't have, though that doesn't stop my feeling disappointed that I shall have to put this adventure off for a year. A bloody lot can change in a year. A year ago, I was still in love with Katie. A year ago Katie was someone I could romantically love. A year ago, I was 19. A year from now, I will be 21. A year from now, I will likely be nearly graduated from New Paltz, being wholly scared of entering this new real world made scarier by recent events. Frankly, perhaps I will need the phantasmagorical effects of Mardi Gras more than I would this year. Still, I wish we did not have to postpone this adventure. I wouldn't go without them, of course. Their presence is an integral part of the adventure. What is an adventure without the right company? Boring at the very least.
So, read along for a year more. The producers couldn't afford to drive the whole cast of Xenology out to New Orleans. They gave all of their money to the families of the deceased firemen.

Reflections on the Ren Faire
I am very much glad that the Faire is over for the year. The question springs to mind quickly, would I do it again? I do believe I would, though I am not certain it would be in the same position. Emily stated in a truthful (read as: not because she is my girlfriend) way that she felt certain acting roles, such as one of the sheriff's guards, would be ideal for me. Retail work, even that of selling occult goods, may not actually be ideal for me.
I think the Faire has made me more outgoing, in that I have little qualm about approaching a stranger and asking them whatsoever is on my mind. I am aware that it throws people off and may result in their thinking that I am daft. I am very much comfortable with this.
I do miss the Faire a little all ready. Emily and I only ended up giving one person our e-mail addresses (Kayhan, also know as Kashi herein) because we didn't know if others considered us friends. We very much know she did. I miss the goods we could buy (Emily got me a large wooden skull mask for our six month anniversary and I got her a hand made didgeridoo, something she has been wanting for years). I miss the discounts we got off said goods. I miss the general atmosphere. I miss the source of decent income.
However, I do not at all miss not having weekends to myself. Last night, we had a celebratory meal of Chicken Supreme Pizza at Pizza Hut and an entire set of glow in the dark fossils, which have taken up residence in Emily's car. Today, Emily and I slept late, which is a treat in itself. Then, lounging in bed, she got the idea in her head to attempt scratches and bites from her copy of the kama sutra on my back and stomach. Interesting girl, that Emily. Then, during a thoroughly nourishing meal of left over Pizza Hut and Chinese food, she showed me the movie Fight Club for the first time (bloody excellent movie, though I can understand why she didn't want to watch it Tuesday). Weekends are wonderful. They also give me time to respond to e-mail my reader's send me and actually write entries!
So, I might do the Ren Faire again. Unless we have a different adventure. It's no fun to tell you everything that is going to happen.

Strange Ring and Fairy Blip (Ren Faire)
On Saturday at the Faire, I found a strange ring. Emily and I were putting the jewelry away for the day, as is our job. When I returned from putting something away, a span of less than a minute, a ring is sitting by some of the clothing on the now bare table. It is sterling silver with a large oval topaz and a smaller teardrop shaped amethyst, with a strand of gold that connects the two stones. There is a silver crescent that arches up to the amethyst. Very much an unusual and expensive ring. My mother gave it a quick appraisal and said it is worth something like $140. It appeared out of nowhere and looks nothing like anything we sell. I showed it to my boss and she said that it was very nice, but not one of hers. Nor did she recognize it. Emily said it came from a jeweler that worked on the other side of the faire, but when she checked their booth on Sunday, they informed her that they ceased selling jewelry nearly a month ago.
The logical sequence, as Emily constructed it, is that someone wearing the ring dropped it in front of our booth in the 45 seconds we were gone (actually, Emily may have been at the booth at the time). Someone else saw the ring on the ground and put it in our booth behind the boards the jewelry hangs upon, assuming incorrectly that it was one of our designs. I returned and found it. As it fits me, I decide it is a present for me. Seems a bit much, but it is more logical than my deciding that it is a gift from a guardian spirit.
Leaving the faire Sunday night, Emily and I both saw something which I described as possessing foot long dragonfly wings dart in front of us and fly away. Had she not stopped when I did, I would have presumed that I imagined it. As we both did, in fact, see it, we are left to believe that there was something to see. I do not know what it could have been, though Emily assumed that anything that looks like a fairy is probably a good omen. Of what, I do not presume.

Soon in Xenology: Xen comes to grips with a national tragedy. Xen and Emily work at a haunted house for fun and/or profit. Undoubtedly something quasi and arguably supernatural happens this season. Xen has an interesting meal with Kate. There is a camping party. New characters are introduced and expanded upon.

last watched: Fight Club
reading: Mythology, Edith Hamilton
listening: lots of "God Bless America"wanting: A new path, hopefully one that affords payment
interesting thought: life continues unabated
moment of zen: witnessing cruel history
someday I must: come to terms with all I have seen this week.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.



Xenology
Xenology Menu


website counter


eXTReMe Tracker



Works by Thomm Quackenbush

Stories







On Amazon
On B&N
At Double Dragon