Blue Tulips 1: A Short Story

Hello! I’m trying out something I haven’t done on this blog for a long time: a short, multi-part story. This one will be four parts all about this length or shorter.

Strange. No breeze blew across the narrow, pebbled shoreline of the laundry room, and the shallow water reflected Blue’s face better than the most sterling mirror. Mists of rain fell from the ceiling, straight down as she removed her slippers and stepped onto the flooded tile. Warm water rippled around her bare feet, which felt near to slipping on the still-cool tile beneath. She set the laundry basket afloat on the surface, keeping it near by tucking it between her legs. Thankfully, the dryer hadn’t flooded this time. Spring weather was so unpredictable in the house that it was difficult to plan chores around its fickle comings and goings. With her many long house dresses securely floated back to the beach in the hallway, she turned toward the round window, taking in the raw daylight rushing in. She spread her palm out on the window. The shadow her hand cast in the room wobbled in the rippling pool. She let her hand fall to her side, and waded out of the room.

She shut the door as the mists began to stir into storm-rains.

A field of tulips sprouts in the field seen through the window. After settling for a long winter, the horizon unsettled itself, transformed by the tall green wave pushing its way up from underground.

Blue, the Steward of Tulip House

Every day of her sixteen years tending Tulip House, Blue had kept a journal. By now the journal took up its own, waist-tall bookcase in the centre of the meadowlibrary. Perhaps, though, it was more of a book-chest than a bookcase, as it had to be sealed during wet and snowy seasons. In extreme cases, Blue even had to bury it under a yard of earth in the winter, letting her journal hibernate through the polar freeze before it could emerge, like a bear or a flower, from its hole, and stuffed with yet more notebooks upon notebooks.

Their history of Tulip House bent and looped in on itself, rushing in spiraling cycles, coiling up into terse winter entries chronicling days of lying in bed, fevered dreams, pooling in sloppy ink-pools of delirium or hastily-recorded joy. It was a history from, for, and of Blue, the steward of Tulip House. She was not a natural child of the house, and she could remember her life before she woke up inside it after a night of reveling and hard drinking. Her only recollection was that she had stumbled into a grove of pines that grew almost parallel to the ground, as if bent over by a gigantic explosion or leaning to look more closely at the ground. In a thunderous moment the house had been born from the Earth with its tender already sleeping in her rainbow bed of thornless roses and snapdragons.


Once the day’s chores were done, Blue checked the laundry room again. There were still some loads of delicates she wanted to clean so she could step into spring on the right foot. Last year, there had been a surprise coldsnap and the laundry room had first flash-flooded from the snowmelt and then frozen solid, leaving her to strategically re-wear her clothes until mid-May, when the laundry room finally melted enough to pry the door open.

At the moment, the door was still shut to keep the water from overflowing into the adjacent hallway, and a queer swimming moonlight peered out from the crack in the door at the bottom. Perhaps the floods had gone down. But even with the fierce sunlight of a vigorous spring shining on it all day, that seemed unlikelky. Blue pulled the too-long sleeve of her nightgown down to reveal her hand and felt underneath the door with gentle fingers. She pulled her fingers up to her eyes and saw they were wet, dripping tiny serene puddles onto the floor. No luck.

Ten years ago, she had tried to fix the flooding by simply letting the laundry room deluge out. It covered most of the hallway in soapy water, since the detergent had gotten churned up in it, and by the next week the entire hallway was choked with juvenile pine trees that Blue could not bring herself to uproot for many months. She did not need that kind of anxiety. Best to leave things as they are.

Suddenly, however, there was a worldshaking thud against the door, and Blue jumped back so hard she hit her elbows against the opposite hallway wall behind her. She sucked air through her teeth and let herself slide down the wall to the ground so she was sitting up against it. Her nightgown rode up as she did so.

Another massive thud. The door began to creak. Was this some kind of apocalyptic capital-F Flood thundering down from the heavens? She watched as the door began to bend, stressing and stretching on its hinges. Tension grew second by second. Blue breathed in heavily, scrambling out of the way of the door. It was going. Going. Bursting. Time stretched. Stilled.

And in a moment the tension, the knot of time, and the door all gave. Blue felt the water fill the hallway so quickly she had no time to escape into the main back corridor or the furnace room. She could not breathe, opening her eyes under the water to see solid blocks of darkness rushing towards her, helpless as she was against the current.

In the next part, Blue is no longer alone…

Full Text of Drown in Time: The Essay

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This is the raw text from which selections were taken for my Drown in Time zine project, recently published earlier on this very blog. Best of luck in all endeavours!

When I was young, rainforests were not our friends. High seas, low lakes, these were not my friends. Living on the shores of Lake Michigan, air misted with rust, meant falling in love with sand, clay, limestone, and feral dogs. Not many people make video games about lakes. Games ramble around lakes, but rush to plunge into the sea.

Bloodborne and Ecco the Dolphin, my two most important partners in making this record, are about seas. They are about dread, loss, prying all those feelings apart. Naming those feelings is tough, because they lurk in cobwebs that can’t be grasped unless they are broken. If I had to give them names and form I would say:

“I was born too late to live in a standing world”
“I can feel my friends dying when I’m awake”

Oceans are our friends, or we will not live. Regardless, Ecco and Bloodborne are games kept apart by decades, fashions, even dimensions of illusionary geometry. But when I watch Ecco drown over and over again, lungs bursting deep underwater, spent from chasing cosmic beings who kidnapped his entire pod, the fevered Fishing Hamlet and its milk-eye moon spill into me. I’m not trying to convince anyone of this link, but in making this record of thoughts and feelings, in brightening the murkiest corners of my fear and grief, I found that thinking these two games together creates an insight to soothe harsh mourning and allow us to pass through and beyond the guilt that so often colours our feelings about the world and our friends of all forms with which we share it.

Opening my eyes. The tiny fishing hamlet welcomes a guest. A castaway from far-off Earths, born and bred for water, breathing in the sour fish-rank air wafting out from the shore. And here she is, oh! Even in darkly stillness she bears herself as queen of seas, a silk white whale washed up on the rank beach. ECCO’s body tightens; it’s a familiar, sickly feeling rotting his fins, poisoning his heart.

Sweet Queen, he thinks, unhallowed in her prime, left to putrefy in timeless, cursed, unyielding quiet. Around her alone the angry brine stench fallen across all of ECCO’s senses abated.

KOS: Weird and queer are you, dear breathing fish. That you know the words of the stars, the utterings of the hidden sky. Ears as yours are rare as time here, though…I am sad you must see this world of rags while living. Bow and tell me, KOS: how did you learn the speech of seas and skies?

ECCO bowed immediately. She was nothing like the other sky-beings he knew, and had made the sea her home, even if she had not been born here. Her corpse did not stir an inch, but the voice piercing as moonlight waxed through the sea, filling it with being.

ECCO: I have also met beings of the sky, Queen. She hated the water, or…she needed to devour it to live. But she whispered, in her way, before I sent her into nothingness.

KOS: The sea is bottomless with forgiveness. And with revenge. I can sense your pain––It is mine too, breathing fish. Both of us have seen our worlds unmade in moments. I sense that the stricken one who devoured your frithful life was a distant relation of mine. Not, fear not, that there is any love thickening blood in our kin-lines.

ECCO’s sound-eyes saw much. KOS, the bereaved mother of orphans, made him see. He could not stop seeing the work of blood in this place, its quicksilver cruelty, maddening insults to the moon betokened by severed heads and a milk moonface.

ECCO: I…will tell you a story to ease your heart, dear Queen of the Bloodless.

KOS: Please, dear one

ECCO began with Earthlight. Never had he heard of marauding landfolk or the mass harvesting of fish from the seas. But he told what he did know––the whales, the queerfolk of the water, the magical spheres, the world where the seas had found each other through great arms of water in the sky, bringing the world into a kinship of water. And of the burning breathlessness of drowning, endless suffering brought on by the other queen in the sky.

KOS: Please, loved son, you are so full of words for one so young. Still, I want to hear more about the great arms of the seas coming together, and the flying breathing-fish.

ECCO: In both of our worlds, time is not a steady current but curse and weird power creates pools and eddies that wind and stall for rock-ages before they are unstuck or set straight. Time is queer, and I met one of my thousandth descendants, who flew like a gull and could communicate with his mind alone.

KOS: You are…truly blessed to have a line of blood running so long, and to know that it’s so.

ECCO: Though I was in much danger in this unknown future, I think I agree, my Queen.

With all ECCO’s power he remembered the exaltant highways rising in giant arches pulsing in the blue. From atop these vast watery highways ECCO recalled the sight of the Earth bending under him, its blossoming surface empty of pain or darkness. Everything shone. Though he faced near-death at the hands of strange creatures, dashing just out of the reach of the great Medusa looming to greet him, he carried this future in his memory as a treasure held in safekeeping, a check against lurking and murking despair.

KOS: I am slain in spirit by this tale. In your world with no landfolk the Earth turned towards light. I am tempted to say that without these beasts our world might have stretched out to some future near the one you tell of. But…I remember the happy days when those in my care found the truth of water, and land and sea became one kin-without-blood…

KOS: A Queer Sea, arms bending to link the seas of blood, milk, and water inside all creatures. We all need a sea to live, whether outside us or inside.

ECCO’s heart was broken.


KOS: It is my turn, my son, to speak to you. It will be so, and you will carry these stories back to Earth with you. I once received a visit from a certain other queen. She did not speak, but her friend and lover read to me a letter I will never forget. It remains the only human language I ever sought to commit to memory––save the customary laws of my children. It seethed through my dreaming times.

It reads:

Seeking Your glorious mercy, we have sought Your sea to hear the words of a Queen lesser than You, a sovereign of blood accustomed “Vile” to our murderers. Take to heart the insults of the faithless Church, and wear them, Your Highness, as a brand––this we said to Ourselves, the lonely and last Regnant Queen of Cainhurst, Deathless. So Vileblood are We. Heed, Your Highness of the Sea vast and begrudging, the word of the mountain, I plead.

Our people are murdered. We fear Your children now lie dead and accursed, or will soon. It seems only Blood, and only Blood deemed worthy, will bring together the people of next dawn in this world. I plead that You deign to grieve my selfsame tears, Lady of Waters, as Our children fade from sight Alike. Together, if you will bear my pretense, we feel the Moons becoming faint, the promise even of daylight unspoiled becoming like a dream, something we the deathless must cruelly endure like timeless winter.

History has been written by the despoilers and cutthroats, my Queen. Our blood, Our queer and vile selves brook no equals or superiors save Yourself in sea or heaven. It is too late to do aught. It is too late to grieve and find peace. But to grieve and break, to wreak one thousand times over Our horror onto the heads of the murderers––this undertaking I urge You to join.

Give not an inch of Your illustrious self. Kill before being killed, oh Queen. Break their bones and give the orphans of this world a sign radiating the majesty of Our Selves, plunging the bloodletters and bloodfuckers of the world into a black obscurity so dense not a stroke of a letter will survive of them. But We, if I may humbly say so, will laugh as they bring their own roof down on top of them.

It is for cruelty, signed, in sorrow,


ECCO suddenly sickened. Cleaving closer and closer to the shore and KOS’s limp corpse, hard anger swelled to fill his lungs and neck. He felt himself sink under its weight. He didn’t even feel the anger firsthand–-it was cold and hard, agelessly stout. In stark relief against this anger he recalled:


This curse was not his to understand. As near as KOS was, in truth she was as alien as any being, though she poured herself out to him, wordlessly. ECCO pulled himself away from her, finding himself back among the stars.

Goodbye to the queer sea, hello again. In the cool waters ECCO knew as his home, he heard the chatter of his friends and family. His pod. Bliss, effortless and light.

But sadness and grief and hate live in every ocean, inside or out. And every sea, every heart is unfathomable and bloodless.

I’m 26 and as I get older and older it seems everything worth feeling, having, or doing is wrong or late. Wisdom flies only when the world has lain down to sleep, grief, the teacher of all, crafts her stories in the past tense. My blood, too, is Vile and unfit. I am weak and foolish, a frail bit of dust. But it is only in such bitter and hateful motes that the Love of Creation abides strongly.

We are queer, bloodless, useless EXCEPT TO OURSELVES, which is praiseworthy above all “right” things!!!!!!

In seeing the Great Lake I know that the unfathomable sins of civilization will not stand so tall forever.


I am like a pelican of the wilderness; I am become as an owl of the waste places.

I watch, and am become like a sparrow that is alone upon the housetop.

Mine enemies taunt me all the day; they that are mad against me do curse by me.

For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping,

Because of Thine indignation and Thy wrath; for Thou hast taken me up, and cast me away

My days are like a lengthening shadow; and I am withered like grass.

But Thou, O LORD, sittest enthroned for ever; and Thy name is unto all generations.

Psalm 102