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Today I’m going to go back to basics and deliver to you a short story. If you’ve been following along you might have noticed that I haven’t released an episode in a few weeks now. I’ve been consumed with writing my novel and it’s been hard to take a break. The other reason is the couple episodes I started writing, I didn’t love. So, I let them be and let them go, which is part of what I’m going to talk about later.
I wrote a short story for today’s episode because I just missed doing it and to illustrate my thoughts in a way I hope you’ll enjoy. I can come up with a great idea or perspective anytime, but how I deliver it makes this Podcast my own. I just need to be telling a story or singing a song to say what’s on my mind. Otherwise, where’s the fun?
One last thing. If the story sounds confusing at points, or you pick up on some odd things, trust me… it will all make sense at the end.
Alright, let’s get to it!
THE MAN FROM NOWHERE
All around was nothing. Nothing at all. It wasn’t white, it wasn’t black, it was all just nothing. In fact he was nothing at all. Or was he a she?
“He, definitely a he,” he determined. And his name was Charles.
“No,” he thought, “my name is Henry, I mean, Sam. That’s right, definitely Sam.”
Sam looked around, but still, there was nothing to see, nothing to hear, nothing to feel until… suddenly the nothingness was a distant dream and the scene before him had always been there. He knew it, he remembered it being there. It was his apartment of 3 years, and as he looked around there was nothing different about it. He started listing items in his head as he saw them.
“My couch,” he said as he stared at the brown leather sofa. “My table,” eyes on the scratched and water stained wood coffee table. End tables next to the couch matched the coffee table and a tv sat across the couch All the decor was worn and even the colors in the room were old. Muted browns, and reds. Muted hints of blue and yellow speckled in between. But everything was dulled with age.
He circled around on the spot, his eyes on the floor, watching as the hardwood floors spilled over into the space opposite the living room. Sam’s kitchen. Fridge, Stove, Sink, Dishwasher, all sat along the back wall under a white quartz countertop. A light blue and yellow backsplash rose above the countertop and then faded into white cabinets above. A small wooden island separated the kitchen wall from the living room.
Sam suddenly realized he had somewhere to be and moved towards the front door, grabbed a long black trench coat from the standing coat rack and sped out into the hall. When Sam reached the stairs he realized he didn’t lock the door. He looked back.
Would anyone even know? He thought. Who would honestly try and walk into my apartment unannounced? Sam decided he would just have to figure it out later and then continued on. Three flights down, the door at the bottom opened into a small atrium with a wall of mailboxes to the right. Sam walked past the mailboxes and out through the revolving door and onto the bustling streets of Manhattan.
The air was brisk and Sam threw on his coat which hung down below his knees. He wore a turtleneck sweater of muted red that fit in well with his apartment. A pair of dark skinny jeans and pointed black boots completed his outfit. Sam checked the watch on his wrist to see how late he was running. It was crucial to be there on time, although for the life of him, Sam was struggling to remember why? Also, where?
“Times Square!” He remembered shouting the name aloud and took off in that direction. Sam looked back at his watch, his trench coat flapping behind him as he walked a brisk pace and as others sped by him in the opposite direction. “3:30,” he whispered aloud to no one. “I’m already 10 minutes late.”
Sam worried about what they would do if he was too late? Would they still be there? He thought. Would they still be alive? Sam’s mind and body were hyperfocused of where he was and where he was going now. He walked with such purpose that most sensed to move out of his way before he approached them. Five minutes later, he was there. Right in the middle of one of the most crowded spots in New York City.
Lights of all colors flashed from neon signs and huge video screens. Every sort of sound mixed together in one big hum that could probably be recorded like a fingerprint. Someone would be able to listen back and say, “That’s Times Square, NYC.” People clambered passed Sam in every direction. Left, Right, Forward, Backward, and every diagonal in between. A man played guitar with only cowboy boots, a cowboy hat, and underwear. People dressed as Elmo and the Cookie Monster posed for pictures and collected money. Tourists snapping pictures everywhere. Pictures of themselves and everything around them. It was the perfect place to be if you didn’t want to be followed. It was also one of the worst places to be if you were afraid of someone sneaking up on you, but he had to come. If he only had to die to save their lives, such a price would be easy to pay.
Just as he feared, without warning, Sam felt a sudden sharp pain in his side. When he checked the area with his hand, it came back before his face covered in blood.
3 years ago, Sam’s life was in a very different place, literally. He was in a different apartment and a different country for that matter. Egypt. The hottest days Sam had ever experienced in his life were cool refreshing days in comparison to Cairo. That’s when everything really started for Sam. He was 33 years old then, but after that blisteringly hot Tuesday, August 6th, all that really mattered was every day after.
Sam was in the market, and the sound that pierced the air also had its own distinct signature that Sam was sure he could pick out if he had to. Yells from locals behind their tent-covered stalls, calling out to the passersby describing their incredible deals. Color filled Sam’s eyes in every direction. Blues, yellows, reds, purples, and more popping out easily from the constant sand colored backdrop of buildings that stood behind the tents. Smells of spices and roasted vegetables and meats of all kind were part of the very air Sam breathed. So thick and plentiful that each breath came with a taste. All the magnificence that Sam experienced faded in an instant when he saw her.
Jasmine. No, Jarraah was her name. She wasn’t a character in Aladdin, she was her very own unique and wonderful self. Jarraah was also not from Egypt, but her parents were, having immigrated to England when she was a young girl. When Sam saw her in the market, he didn’t even try to hide his gaping eyes or try to not go over to her. How could he? There was a pull. A magnetic attraction. It was destiny as if she was created just for him. It was as if the whole scene was made just so he could understand how truly wonderful Jarraah was to distract him completely from all around him.
“Forgive my intrusion, but if I could, I would love to just walk with you,” he said and Jarraah blushed and tried to hide a smile. Her bright green eyes found his bold blue ones and then nodded.
They walked together up and down the market three times discussing their lives until the market itself began to close. Vendors started to pack up their goods, as night fell around them.
“Do you dance?” She asked him, and in Sam’s mind he thought, No, but he of course didn’t say that.
“Who doesn’t?” He said feeling foolish and when they met that night to dance in an underground club he danced foolishly alongside her. Nothing else mattered. No one else was around, the club was empty and the music was in his head. At least that’s how Sam felt.
Sam was only in Cairo for 3 more months, but every day, every hour he could spare, was spent with Jarraah. Sam would have stayed in Cairo indefinitely, and moved back to England with Jarraah if he didn’t have an obligation to the University at home. Jarraah decided she would make the leap instead, and Sam couldn’t believe his luck. Before they left Cairo, Sam brought Jarraah to where he had been working. It was an archeological dig site a few miles north. Alone there, they walked down ancient steps and past ancient walls. They climbed down a ladder where the steps were lost to time until they were two stories below the level sand above, in the middle of what looked like a circular room.
“We believe,” Sam said taking her hands, “that this place is where Pharaohs were married. You see over there,” he pointed towards a spot near the far wall that would have been close to the ceiling. “That window, the only window in here, will shine a beam of light on the Summer Solstice right to the middle of this room. Right where we are now, right on our hands.” Sam knelt down, pulled a ring from his pocket. “Will you marry me, Jarraah?”
The next week, Sam boarded a plane, bringing back to New York his new fiancé and unbeknownst to him, a treasure worth killing for.
Sam looked around Times Square, but there were too many people to make out who stabbed him. Sam was there and he knew they were too; the group who took Jarraah and their daughter. Now, to back up, it wasn’t really a treasure that Sam brought home from Egypt, but something that didn’t belong in the ruins of an ancient temple. Bones. Bones from a 1980’s unsolved murder of a United States Marine. This group wanted them destroyed, but Sam couldn’t do that. Even if he could, he knew that what they really wanted was to erase all traces of knowledge which meant Sam himself eventually.
They had called Sam 5 minutes ago, to get more information, to find out whether he’d done what he was supposed to and incinerated the remains.
“I need more time, just another two days and it’s done,” Sam pleaded into the phone.
“We don’t like waiting, and we don’t like games, are you sure you’re taking this task seriously?” Snarled the man who called himself Crimson. That’s when Sam heard it. First, the yells and pleading of his wife and his daughter crying in the background, but then he heard the sound. The distinct audio that only Times Square could produce. Sam hung up the phone and dashed from the apartment, leaving the door unlocked. Then, raced towards Times Square in a desperate attempt to find them before they moved.
They must have spotted him first when he got there and he didn’t think the wound they gave him was fatal, but it was distracting. As he continued to bleed, turning his muted red turtle neck into a bolder crimson color, his mind fluttered in and out of focus.
“What next?” he thought. “Where do I look, where could they be? Why here?” So many questions filled his head and then he noticed it. An older building, maybe twenty stories high, but one of the only structures around with windows that opened. In fact, on the freezing cold day, it was odd to see that one apartment had their window open wide letting in the sounds of Times Square below.
As soon as Sam noticed this, he looked down and saw a man about to enter the building. The man looked back over the crowd and his eyes connected with Sam’s. The man’s eyes narrowed and Sam took off after him with one hand clutching his side.
Sam paused after five big strides and looked up to count the floors to the window above, then continued his pursuit. He entered the lobby at full speed, slamming into the front door. Sam fell over onto the old tile that was chipped and cracked in places. When he got up he didn’t realize he left a streak of blood upon the tile. He didn’t notice the shrieks and yells from those in the lobby bearing witness to his chase. Nor did he notice the woman behind the front desk staring at him suspiciously while picking up the phone to dial 911.
At the elevators, Sam’s mind left him for a time, not knowing where to go or what to do. Then, the elevator dinged when it reached the ground floor and a flash of insight told him he should take the stairs instead. If they were waiting for him, he’d have nowhere to hide when the elevator doors opened.
Sam pulled himself up each flight with his left hand now holding his wound. His right hand left bloody handprints every couple feet on the railing. He climbed and climbed until the door before him read, 15. His heart leaped in his chest and all breath left him for a brief moment. This was it, he thought. Sam cracked open the door and peered into the hallway. Then turned to look down the other way.
“Empty,” he whispered to himself. “Here we go.”
Sam stepped into the hallway and counted rooms until he was face to face with room number 17 and the 9th window from the East. Actually, he wasn’t really sure what direction East was at the moment, but he knew it was the 9th window down from the front of the building. The doors were still lock and key so Sam stepped back across the hall as far as he could go and then charged at the door to room number 17.
LIFE AND DEATH… AND LIFE
The door gave way to the full force of his attack. Sam stumbled forward and then to the side slamming into the wall of the short hallway leaving yet another trail of blood. In front of him, the hallway opened into a room where Jarraah sat on a bright orange couch, clutching their 2-year-old daughter close to her. Jarraah stared at Sam with tear-filled eyes. Behind her stood a man who he assumed was Crimson. He had a pistol, complete with silencer, pointing to the back of her head.
Sam acted on pure instinct and ran with all his heart towards Jarraah, but his eyes were on Crimson. Crimson cocked his head in surprise, pointed his gun at Sam’s head and then, Sam was no more.
“No, no, that won’t work,” Sam thought. “They want to get out with Jarraah and Kira, and have me destroy the bones,” he reasoned. “But, if they are forced, they’ll kill all of us and find another way to destroy their evidence.”
Sam decided to walk forward slowly and then realized that Crimson was not the one who stabbed him. Suddenly another sharp pain tore through his body from his other side and he turned to face the man he followed. Sam dropped to his knees clutching both sides and the second man stepped over him towards Crimson and his wife. Sam yelled in anger and pain, and then a bullet zoomed past his head and into the wall.
“Make another sound, and we end this for all of you right now,” snapped Crimson. Sam was breathing heavy, fuming with hatred and teeth clenched from the pain. Slowly, Sam climbed back to his feet and walked forward partly leaning against the wall, a line of blood streaking the wall.
“What do you want?” Sam said breathlessly.
“You know what we want, but here’s what we’re going to do,” Crimson said. “My friend here is going to tie you to this chair over here, and we’ll leave. When we’re secure, my friend will return, unbind you and…”
“That’s a little too complicated,” Sam said and Crimson looked back bewildered by Sam’s cheek. “Listen,” Sam said, “This is going to end with me going home with my wife and daughter, and you two in handcuffs.”
“You’ve got some imagination,” Crimson said laughing. Sam didn’t have a plan. He had no idea what he was saying, but he knew that if it didn’t end that way, it ended with his death. Perhaps with Jarraah and Kira dead too. That couldn’t happen, so he had to think of how he would do this. He was smart, a problem solver, someone who uncovered the path of history from glints of detail and fact. Just then, it all made sense, it all came to him. If this now was his history, where he needed to go his present, he could see the way the tale would unfold.
“Sometimes,” Sam said looking to Jarraah, “it’s what we imagine that helps us find the truth.”
“What kind of lame gibberish is that?” Crimson retorted. Sam just smiled and began to backstep. He stayed peering at Crimson until he reached the door. Sam opened it and before Crimson could comprehend what he was doing, Sam was back in the hall. It was like playing the scene in reverse, like he never entered the room at all. What could he do there anyway? Who did he think he was? Some kind of hero? He was an archeologist in skinny jeans!
The one thing he had was his mind and he was going to use it. Sam walked over to the stairwell and right beside it was a small red box with a white t-shaped handle covered in a plastic container. He lifted the plastic casing and pulled the fire alarm. The sound erupting in the hallway around him was deafening and he raced down the flight of stairs bumping into people along the way.
When they all reached the lobby, Police were already there, and Sam realized they had probably been called in because of him. A woman from behind the counter pointed at Sam and the Officers looked his way as a crowd of people pushed passed him. Sam was already walking towards the Officers though, because they were just who he needed.
“Officers,” said Sam and they looked him up and down. “My wife and daughter are upstairs on the fifteenth floor held hostage at gunpoint by two armed men. I pulled the alarm to clear people out of the building and give them no other form of escape except inside a large public crowd, or waiting alone in a room.”
The Officers just stared at him, not sure what to believe.
“Look,” Sam said holding his hands up showing them the blood. “One of them stabbed me twice.”
“Ok,” he said and turned to the other Officer, “Call it in. Mam!” He shouted over his shoulder. The woman from the counter came out. “Are their any other exits out of the building?” She looked scared and didn’t say anything. “Mam!” He repeated with a raised voice.
“Well, yes, but they’re only accessible through the lobby, down a separate staircase over their,” she pointed towards her counter. “Everyone would have to still come down here.”
That’s convenient, Sam thought. Sam waited with one of the Officers looking at all the people leaving making sure they didn’t try sneaking by. The other Officer filled in the SWAT team who had arrived minutes later. From there Sam just had to wait. After an hour, his imagination came true. He didn’t know what happened upstairs, but he was sure Jarraah would fill him in on the exciting tale later. Crimson and his partner came down in handcuffs and he hugged Jarraah and Kira as he never had before.
“Well, that was sort of anti-climactic,” said Jarraah. “I thought you were going to try and wrestle one of them to the ground or something.”
“I guess sometimes the answers are simple,” Sam said. “Now we just need to figure out what the heck I uncovered in Egypt.”
“Any ideas?” She said.
“It could be anything. Maybe the Texas Senator who’s running for President killed a fellow marine. Or maybe,” Jarraah cut him off.
“You know, If we ever tell this story,” Jarraah continued, “we should probably figure all this information out first before we tell everyone how the story ends.” They both laughed for the first time in weeks.
Before he knew it, Sam was back in his apartment, sitting on the couch with Jarraah and Kira feeling like life just couldn’t get any better than this.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN, BASSIL?
Thank you all for listening to my very short story and I hope you enjoyed. I certainly had a great time creating this as I seriously missed writing a short story for you all. However, to the very astute and keen listener, you may have noticed some odd things throughout the story. You may have noticed how certain things started one way and turned out another. If you didn’t, and just enjoyed the tale, then that’s fine too, but there is indeed something else going on here…
For instance, you might have noticed in the beginning Sam races out of the apartment because he’s late for something he can’t remember. He reaches the stairs and realized he didn’t lock the door and debates whether or not he should go back and lock it. Then, Sam decides something fishy…
He decides he’ll figure it out later, but how can he do that, right? You either lock it or you don’t. Yet, when we reach the third chapter, Sam recounts his phone call with Crimson, hearing the sound of Times Square, and races from his apartment and specifically doesn’t lock the door.
Here’s the trick… Sam was late for something he couldn’t remember because I didn’t know what he was late for yet. And he chose to decide to lock the door later, because I decided to figure it out later.
“I’m sorry, what?”
This story, isn’t just a story, it’s a big ‘ole analogy of creating itself.
“Go on, I’m listening…”
Creation starts from nothing, there’s no form, no color, no anything. Just like how our story begins. As I’m deciding who my main character is going to be, a he or a she, whether his name is going to be Charles, or Henry, or Sam… Sam’s discovering this all for himself.
As I create something, Sam remembers it as if it was always there. His life and story are being created in the moment all around him, as I create it in the moment. An apartment springs into existence before him from nothing, yet once it’s there, to Sam, it’s now always been there.
I think it would be really cool for you all to go back and re-listen to the story now that you know what’s really going on. You’re going to see the story in a whole new light and it will be a totally different experience.
It’s like a buy one episode get the second free… except they’re both free! Man, you’re lucky. If you listen again, you’ll notice that all of Sam’s questions like, “Where am I going? What am I going to do next?” And so on, are my questions as the creator thinking the same thoughts. What’s going to happen? I didn’t know what was going to happen next because I wrote this in one siting with no plan, creating as I went. Because I wanted to show certain things about creating and this seemed like the most fun way to do it!
Here’s some more cool things you can all take away from this episode to apply to your dreams, your life, or whatever it is you’re creating. These are some things I used throughout this story and things I use for the novel and my life in general.
Some on ideas on how to come up with ideas…
Sometimes it’s pulling from some other idea and making it more interesting. Like, the idea that Times Square has a sound, and the market in Egypt also had a sound like a fingerprint. Initially, it was just a cool way to add description into both of those first scenes, however; in chapter 3 I had to think of a reason why Sam knew to go to Times Square in the first place. I just pulled from that first idea, and he hears the distinct sound of Times Square in the background of a phone call, and now it seems like this really cool planned out, interconnected idea. But it most certainly wasn’t!
Other ideas come from what’s on your mind at the moment, no thought just BAM. For example! I have this desire to go to Egypt so that popped into my head when thinking of the setting for my flashback scene. Done. Then, the live action Aladdin movie is out and I had just watched the trailer, and so when thinking of a name for Sam’s love interest, the first thing I think is Jasmine… but no, can’t just copy Aladdin, let me try again… Jarraah. Good enough for me! Keep writing…
The other thing to know is that one idea leads to another. I chose Egypt, so now why? There needs to be a reason why my character goes to Egypt… and thus an archeologist is born, which then leads to a reason for his family being in danger, because he’s going to find something. None of that was planned first, just the idea that I would love to go to Egypt one day and then I built from that.
Coming up with ideas is easy, you just need to free your mind from fears of judgment and fears of your ideas being bad, and just go. There’s going to be bad ideas, and people are going to judge your ideas. Forget it, and just go. Obviously, this story has some flaws, lol, but they’re easily fixable and I know that I could turn this into a real fully fleshed out story if I wanted to. The main bones are there.
This leads to the last and most important thing to know about creating anything; the idea that we can always start over. There’s a few points in the story where I show this by changing my mind moments after something is written, but not going back to fix anything. It honestly was on purpose! lol. There’s one very obvious example and that’s when Sam bursts into the room and charges Crimson only to get shot. (insert Debby downer music). Seriously, it was a bad idea, but it was the first idea so I turned it into what’s hopefully now a comical moment. Because the next moment, as if it was all in Sam’s head, he gets to start over and try again.
Starting over for most can feel like, and be perceived as, a failure, but it’s not. It’s an essential part of finding our way in life, or finding our way through a creation. When you start over you can try something you wouldn’t have thought to try, you can walk a road you never had the time to walk, you can finally see a new path you never noticed before. Starting over isn’t failure, it’s freedom.
So, take a look at what you’re working on, even if that’s yourself and I hope you see how you can apply some of the creating ideas I talked about. Pull from an old idea or past experience (like the Times Square signature sound). Listen to what just pops into your brain, your intuition, or something that keeps pulling at you (Like Aladdin or Egypt). Build off of something you like, sometimes something basic and see where it leads (Like the thread of ideas that was born from setting my flashback in Egypt). And finally, be okay with starting over (like Sam taking a bullet to the head). Remember, it’s not failure, it’s freedom.
I hope you all enjoyed today’s episode, and in the spirit of creating, I’d like to tell you about my Designer Mastermind Program where we work together to design and create the life you want. If you’re looking for a change, if you’re feeling like you could use a little more happiness and joy in your World, I want to help get you from where you are to where you want to be. For more information and to book your free introductory session, click here!
And don’t forget, give today’s episode another listen and see if you can pick up on all the other details and creating analogies I didn’t mention. There’s a ton!
Alright, have an amazing week everyone.