The Ghost of My Twelve Year Old Self

One muggy night this summer I stayed up late on my computer, sifting through old files I had made as a twelve year old. It was fun: I found old journal entries, story ideas, drawings. I caught a glimpse into a world I had left behind years ago. It was like cutting my own trunk open and seeing a whole tree ring of being, a year of my life that had long been overgrown by the many burnt bark years of puberty.

Among the stories were a small set of tales I had told about the Tails Doll. Now, the Tails Doll was this one-off asset from an obscure Sonic the Hedgehog game, a fairly unsettling puppet version of one of the main characters, Tails, who was your average young talking fox. But memes will be memes and people started telling scary stories about the Tails Doll appearing to gamers and cursing them or killing them or whatever. I don’t remember a single one of those stories, but I must have been excited enough by the idea to write out a few of my own.

So, what was there to say about the literary aspirations of my pubescent self? Each story in its own way reminded one of an archipelago; that is, each story had about a paragraph or two (the big islands) where the real ‘meat’ of the story happened, with some solitary lines (the little islands) scattered throughout to make the transitions very dramatic.

The transitions were very dramatic.

We’ll be kind to my younger self and say that I just hadn’t figured out how to get a story going. The plot of each story more or less involved a young boy, usually in his bedroom, who accidentally invoked the feared beast by humming its cursed theme song, or playing its cursed video game. In a few of the stories, the narration was in first person. In a few others, the main character had names like ‘Zach’ or ‘Mark’ or ‘Jared Anderson.’  Hm.

Interestingly enough, when I was the protagonist, the Tails Doll would never successfully kill me, but he did manage to kill all of the third-person protagonists. At the end of one episode, I was being hunted down in the suburbs by the creature but then rescued by a mysterious young man who banished it with stabs and then recruited me into his organization dedicated to fighting the menace. After that point, I began to record interviews of other young boys who were brought into the organization after having harrowing experiences with the dreaded Tails Doll.

The style was interesting. There were moments when I took a stab at humor and it didn’t work. There were also moments when I used words like ‘bilge’, ‘baffled’, and ‘patu paraoa’, which one wouldn’t necessarily expect from a young person. But most of all, it was just very boring. My young self had not understand the necessity of pacing, or detailed description, or interesting character interactions. It’s more like I had been listing what happened than truly telling a story. Again, we have to be kind to my younger self and realize that I had just started to make those awkward wing flaps that are the beginning of flight. Indeed, reading those stories was about as uncomfortable an experience as it would have been to watch myself, naked and fresh from the egg, wildly flailing my stubby arms at the keyboard and expecting to somehow get a good story out of it.

It all made me paranoid, though. Not that I might suddenly bring the wrath of an old creepypasta upon me, but rather paranoid that I hadn’t grown as a writer in the past seven or more years. Had I learned to pace well? To give detailed description? Did I have interesting character interactions?

Hm.

Now, it’s important you understand the layout of my room. My desk is in my closet, and at the top of the closet is a small portal into the attic, covered with some cheap semiwooden board that, though duct taped to the portal, does a terrible job of keeping the warmth in my bedroom in winter. This, I swear, is the unadulterated architectural truth. In the summer I can feel the roiling black heat of the attic trying to leak onto my head as I sit in various hunched and contorted positions over my softly whistling laptop. I will probably have tremendous back problems when I am older. I only wish I could get a job in the circus: give me a laptop and I would be able to sprawl in such ungainly and unnatural fashions that Aunt Fanny’d lose the stuffing in her parlor seat, that’s for sure.

All in all, with such a spooky set-up, I can’t believe I thought I was going to get away with reading all of those old cursed stories. Sure enough, after reading all of them, I heard a screeching sound above my head. The attic board was being removed. Then, in the muggy darkness above appeared the little fox face of the Tails Doll.

I waved to it awkwardly, not sure of what I should say. It descended as if it were a spider on a silken string. I rolled my chair away across the room and let the Tails Doll rest itself on my laptop keyboard. I hoped that it wouldn’t try to mess with my hard drive in anyway. I’ve got a lot of important stuff on there, after all. It would suck if all my journal entries got cursed and turned to virtual mush.

The Tails Doll sat limply for a while, so I decided to man up and break the ice.

‘Hey man, it’s been a long time.’

‘Too long, Mike, too long.’

‘You’re not here to collect my soul or anything, right? I mean, I don’t remember selling it or anything and it would kind of suck if I arbitrarily had to be damned forever because I wrote some crappy stories about you in middle school.’

‘Don’t worry about it, man. Water under the bridge.’ Tails Doll was being reticent, I could tell. It had meant to confront me about something, but was now freezing up. I didn’t blame it; I’m pretty bad at thinking on the spot myself.

‘Well, welcome back to my bedroom. As you can see I’ve got, uh, a Pikachu doll on top of my bookshelf, I don’t know if you’re into that or whatever, and there’s a Sonic the Hedgehog t-shirt right next to you in the closet there. You know Sonic, right? I’m pretty sure I just read in the journal that I wrote as a 12 year old about getting that very t-shirt at Wal-Mart.’

‘You wrote a whole entry in your journal about getting a Sonic the Hedgehog t-shirt at Wal-Mart?’

‘I… yeah. I had a boring childhood! Or youth, or whatever.’

‘Tell me about it!’ I misunderstood this a first. I thought Tails Doll was just expressing casual sympathy, but then realized that he was curious: he genuinely wanted me to tell him about my childhood.

‘Gee, I don’t know. I stayed inside a lot. I was homeschooled. I mostly met all my friends online until I got to high school.’

‘Go on.’ Tails Doll’s jewel was bouncing back and forth in the air like bait in the lake. I felt like I was the one being fished for.

‘I played a lot of video games and read a lot of books. I wasn’t very curious and didn’t want to learn or go to school or go outside. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a writer for a long time, and I kept a journal of my story ideas. I wrote about ideas all the time, but I never actually wrote stories. Honestly, I think the most I ever wrote when I was young… was about you. Yikes, that hurts to say. I mean, sorry, it’s nothing against you, it’s just…’

‘You wish you’d written more than bad creepypastas and one page fanfics that never went anywhere. I get it.’

‘Yeah, exactly. When I look through my old journals or my old stories… on the one hand, I’m really grateful. I’m glad I was earnest and had friends online that I talked with. Without all those ideas, silly and immature as they might be, I wouldn’t be who I am today and I wouldn’t have had some of the ideas that I really love, the ones that I’m really proud to bear and hope to share with others someday. Okay, so, I still love all those internet friends that I had and I wish them well. But I can’t help but think that there’s something wrong with me because I spent so much of my time growing up interacting with people in a really shallow way. Internet friendship is great but it’s so cold and disembodied. You can tell when you read my journals. On the one hand, my vocabulary and awareness of narrative concepts might have been higher than the average twelve year old. But the way that I connect those ideas and talk about them is so immature. I’m just not interested in good things or writing good things: I just want to consume interesting entertainment and then replicate it in the pages of my journal. And part of that is excusable because I was young and hadn’t fully developed: that’s the earnest, childlike side of things that I appreciate. But part of that isn’t excusable: part of that was just wrong and has always been wrong, and has always been dragging my soul down. I was a fat, vapid child who only wanted to please himself and didn’t want to work for it. I hated learning. I hated poetry. I hated both my English composition class and my Latin language class. And most of all, I hated talking with real humans. As many as I can name of the subjects and activities that would make one a better writer, these were the things that I reviled–except for reading, and thinking, and sitting on my ass.’

‘Do you feel like any of that has changed?’

‘Oh, for sure. I love having the chance to study English, Latin, and poetry. And I treasure getting to talk to people. But those moments seem to be so rare, and when they come upon me like a sudden wave I’m knocked off my feet. I don’t know what to do. I keep telling myself that each time I talk with someone I am talking with an immortal being, full of experiences and learning and words and powers that I will never grasp but can always admire… but then I don’t know what to do in a conversation besides strive to be the least awkward I can be. That always becomes the number one priority. I want to be as kind and as encouraging as I can, not to mention funny or imaginative or even wisely opening myself up to be inspired by others’ words. But talking happens so fast. I can’t control the pacing the same way that I can online, in a chat or messaging or texting. I can’t stop and think about it like I can with a book. Not without making the other person really uncomfortable.’

‘Do you feel like talking with people is a large influence on your writing?’

‘That’s what writing is! It’s just a different way of talking with people. That’s why I love reading books. It’s a way of having a conversation with a great man, preferably one who’s dead. And so I want to write stories, so that I can enter into that centuries long form of the conversation, and have people in their own century respond to me. But I feel like my imagination, my words, my tongue of fire is still in bondage because of the pride I had as a twelve year old. I will speak and I will write because that is just the burning of one end of the fire of the soul to the other. But I want my words to be a sacred fire on the altar, ready to deliver sacrifices to God, not some wildfire that sets the state alight and fills all the eyes of the fall season with smoke.’

‘I wish I could help, Mike. But I’m just a bad creepypasta.’

‘Me too, dude. Me too.’

 

Highly-Paraphrased-Collage-Prayer-Exegesis from Luke, Song of Solomon, Matthew, Proverbs, Genesis, Ephesians, 1 Peter, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, 1 John, Hebrews, Isaiah, 2 Peter, and Revelation

My days are passing away like a fog over town.
Day and night I go about hungry and anxious. Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh (P102).
 
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. Day and night your breath was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin (P32).
 
I groan and sigh all day long. All my years pass me like a sigh. Who am I that you are mindful of me, O Most High?
I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places.
I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
I wither away like the the lilies of the lawn. (P102)
 
All flesh is a grass lawn, and all its beauty is like the lilies of the lawn. The lawn withers, the lily fades when you blow on it with your breath, Lord; surely I am like this lawn. The lawn withers, the lily fades, but your word will stand forever. (Isaiah)
 
For in the beginning was this word, and the word was with you, and the word was you.
 
But you have broken my strength in midcourse, you have shortened my days. “O my God!” I say, “take me not away in the midst of my days—you whose years endure throughout all generations.”
 
I said in my heart that you are testing me that I may see that I nothing more than an animal. For what happens to me and what happens to an animal is the same; as I die, so dies an owl or a sparrow. I have the same breath, and I have no advantage over a bird, for all is a fog. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. Who knows whether my spirit goes upward and the sparrow’s soul goes down into the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that I should rejoice in my work.
 
Of old you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain—they will all wear out like a garment, for they are bodies that are perishable.
 
Whatever you do endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. (ecclesiastes)
 
So if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (revelation)
 
You have done it, so that I fear before you. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and you seek whoever has been driven away. (ecclesiastes)
 
Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy. (revelation)
 
After all, what man, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” (luke)
 
I have seen the business that you have given me to be busy with. You have made everything beautiful in its time. Also, you have put eternity into my heart, yet so that I cannot find out what you have done from the beginning to the end. I see that there is nothing better for me than to be joyful and to do good as long as I live; also that I should eat and drink and rejoice in my toil—this is you gift to me. (ecclesiastes)
 
There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (luke)
 
For the path of the righteous is like the light of the day’s dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. (proverbs)
 
And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.
For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter)
 
The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble. (proverbs)
 
So, having purified my soul by obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, I should love others earnestly from a pure heart, since I have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through your living and abiding word. (peter)
 
And you have meant for the heavens and the earth to have bodies that are imperishable, too, so you will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end. What was once perishable, and sown, will be raised imperishable. (corinthians)
 
One thing I have asked of you, that will I seek after: I want to dwell in your house all the days of my life, to gaze upon your beauty and inquire in your temple.
For you will hide me in your shelter in the day of trouble; you will conceal me under the cover of your tent; you will lift me high upon a rock.
And now my head shall be lifted up! Oh, what glory father. You will lift up my head above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in your tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to you, O Lord, for I am the one sinner come home.
Hear, O lord, when I cry aloud—give me direction! Put me back on the path and be gracious to me and answer me when I pray this.
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart said to you, “I seek it.” (psalms)
 
For you, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” have shone in my heart to give the light of the knowledge of your glory in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 corinthians)
 
Hide not, therefore, this face from me, for I long for satisfaction and in my inward bones I crave to be filled with glory.
Day and night I go about hungry. Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh. I groan and sigh all day long. All my years pass me like a sigh. Who can bring me to see what will be after me, as I pass my years rejoicing in the toil of seeking your face in the lost? (psalms)
 
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, you spoke to my fathers by the prophets, but in these last days you have spoken to me by your Son, whom you appointed the heir of all things, through whom also you laid the foundations of the world. Jesus Christ is the radiance of your glory and the exact imprint of your nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.
 
This universe is your temple, your dwelling place, your house, your shelter.
 
Who am I that you are mindful of me, O Most High, and would let me dwell as a lily in your temple of the lawn?
 
Surely you have blessed me in Christ even as you chose me in him before the foundation of the world, that I should be holy and blameless before you. In love you predestined me for adoption to you as a son through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of your will, to the praise of your glorious grace, with which you have blessed me in the Beloved.
 
The Beloved has gone down to his garden to the beds of spices, to graze in the gardens and to gather lilies. I am the Beloved’s and the beloved is mine; he grazes among the lilies of the lawn.
 
Consider those lilies of the lawn, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet you have told me that even the prophets long ago in all their glory were not arrayed like one of these. But if you so clothe the lilies of the lawn, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will you not much more clothe me, an animal of little faith?
 
I see the sparrows and the owls in the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet you, Father, feed them. Surely I am of more value then the sparrows and the owls. And when I am so anxious that my bones cling to my flesh and I lie awake on my bed, can I add a single hour to my span of life, a thing that passes like the fog over town?
 
For why should I be anxious, when I have redemption through Christ’s blood, the forgiveness of my trespasses, according to the riches of your grace, which you lavished upon me, in all your word making known to me the mystery of your will, according to your purpose, set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth?
 
Lord, by this word you founded the earth and by this word you established the heavens; by your word the deeps broke open and the clouds drop down the dew, making a fog over town.
By this word you said, “Let there be light.” (proverbs)
 
That which was from the beginning, which I have heard, which I have seen with my eyes, which I looked upon and have touched with my hands, concerning the word of life…I proclaim also to everyone (as a record for generations to come), so that they too may have fellowship with me; and indeed my fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And I am writing these things so that my joy may be complete. 
 
If I say that I have fellowship with him while I walk in darkness, I lie and do not practice the truth. But if I walk in the light, as he is in the light, I have fellowship with the brothers, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses me from all sin. If I say I have no sin, I deceive myself, and the truth is not in me. If I confess my sin, he is faithful and just to forgive me my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. (1 John)
 
For Peter did not follow cleverly devised myths when he made known to me the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but he was an eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when Christ received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” Peter himself heard this very voice borne from heaven, for he was with Jesus on the holy mountain. (2 Peter)
 
Lord God Almighty, you are the temple and so is the Lamb. And this universe has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for your glory gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter here, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false (for they all walk in darkness and how can what is dark remain in the light?), but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
 
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the universe by the gates.