There’s a Video Game Controller Out There, on That Roof

Disclaimer: I don’t want to write about what’s going on right now, because it’s all anyone is talking about. As an American, I find it so difficult to watch the news that I can only take it in 5-minute bursts at the end and beginning of the day. So, if you were hoping for my perspective on the pandemic, I’m sorry, but I just don’t want to write about it.

What I do want to write about though . . .

LS-Controller on the Roof

. . . is the Playstation 4 controller on that roof just across the way.

I saw it when I sat down at my window, intending to keep hammering at the timeline for my WIP.

But progress on the timeline was so slow that I kept glancing up at the shape of it. A black dot that, in different light, had been a plastic bag from a bodega, sun-stuck to roof tiles. But now . . .

“Is that a controller?”

I squinted, but still wasn’t sure.

I got my camera, but the zoom wasn’t good enough.

The magnification was, however.

LS-Controller on the Roof Zoom-In

“Son of a bitch,” I said aloud.

Why is it out there?

Who throws a controller, even a broken one, onto a roof?

Actually though . . . it doesn’t look broken. Is it even scuffed?

Did it land right-side-up like that?

Did someone just . . . climb up there and lay it down?

It wouldn’t be impossible. There have been weird things on that roof before.

LS-Controller on the Roof Boots

Like these boots left by construction workers while they were rain-proofing it.

But I didn’t just notice those boots–I noticed their absence. I’ve been checking that roof for more weird shit to photograph since moving into this apartment, so how did I miss this controller? And how long has it been out there?

It could’ve been tossed out there this past week in a really unfortunate burst of lockdown-gaming rage (it’s a PS4 controller though, so I doubt it, because Mario Kart isn’t on PS4).

Or it could’ve been a bizarre, bottle-flipping challenge? The kind where you get only one turn? No. That doesn’t make sense.

If I had to write a story about it, the protagonist would’ve stolen his friend’s only PS4 controller and put it on that roof as a prank directly before lockdown. Maybe he can see the friend’s window from his room, so he just waits for the reaction. Maybe he sends texts with hints about where the controller is, assuming his friend is looking, but that friend never answers. Never appears at the window. The protagonist doesn’t go crazy (too ham-fisted) but does devote way too much attention to that friend’s reaction, going through the trouble of moving things in his room so he can sit where he can both play his own video games and watch the old curtains of his friend’s room.

But, of course, as time goes on and that friend doesn’t show up, the protagonist gets impatient–sends texts that are never answered. Maybe Summer comes and the protagonist’s parents put his AC back in his window so he can’t sit there anymore.

And then, maybe he starts to forget about it. His parents just leave the AC in the window until it snows. They finally take it out, but the roof is covered with snow, so our protagonist can’t even see the controller, the gag forced into hiatus.

And so maybe the protagonist completely forgets about the prank until the following Spring, when he looks out the window and realizes the controller’s gone. No triumphant text from his friend. No smug look from the window.

No idea if his friend took the controller back or even saw it there, water-logged and sun-dried.

Ultimately, it would be a story about a stupid kid, sitting at a window, finally noticing that the curtains across the way, in his friend’s room, are different.

Drafts – Gwin, the Red Markison

The other wayfarers were eyeing Gwin, all of them shameless about it. Not just because he was the only Avian waiting in the mayor’s antechamber, but because he was a Red Markison.

There were over a hundred races of Avian across the world, with far more visual distinctions than human races. Dramatic differences in crests, wingspan, height, body composition, and–especially–color made it difficult for the average human to keep up, so many didn’t even try. Instead, they fell back on a handful of misconceptions. Ideas like dun-colored Avian being more intelligent than their bright-colored peers–possibly because of how common brown-feathered Dallings were. Or maybe because Dallings and other such birdpeople were closest to human skin colors.

Whatever the reason, there was a very real chance that, despite Gwin’s sharp eyes, and the Avian-altered armor he wore, the mayor of Riversend would only see his bright red feathers. Or the inhuman shape of his torso. The bare talons of his feet. The mayor might, like the worst of humanity, just see an animal. A pretty beast, trained to follow Elise around and repeat what she said on command. Gwin would absolutely despise that . . . even though he called himself a “pretty beast” every single time he found a mirror.

Elise knew he wouldn’t do anything violent, but Avian were naturally prideful, and they held a completely different, entirely personal view of society. Gwin, no doubt, wouldn’t have spared a second for the mayor of Greybrush–or even the king himself–if Elise hadn’t convinced him they should.

She took it as a good sign that they made it to the mayor’s chamber without incident. But then they were ushered in, and the mayor was an old white man. The kind who used to chase Elise away from their shops in Albrook for the crime of looking at his wares while also being a dark-skinned child.

He was on his feet immediately, saying “Welcome, welcome,” offering a hand and gesturing to his seats. Elise shook his hand . . . and then watched the old man offer it to Gwin.

“He doesn’t have hands,” she said.

And the mayor chuckled a bashful, “Of course,” as he sat down without apologizing.

Gwin looked at her, sidelong, saying nothing, but walking away from his spot in front of the mayor’s desk, considering a nearby bookshelf instead; if there had been any chance the mayor would earn a spot on Gwin’s pecking order, it was already lost.

“I want to thank you for what you did the other day,” the old man said, just to her. “I don’t think Greybrush would’ve survived that rhind attack if not for your help.”

“We did what needed to be done,” Elise said. “We wouldn’t be wayfarers if we just watched the trouble.”

The mayor chuckled again. “Your bird was particularly impressive.”

Ugh. Gwin didn’t turn around, but his feathers bristled–a shudder that rushed over him.

“Did you train it to hunt?”

“His master trained him–to be a wayfarer.”

The old man smiled like it was a joke. “So you bought it then?”

My . . . god. “He’s my–” she started to say.

But the floorboards were shaking in rhythm to a chuckle. Gwin shook his head. “You are trying . . . so hard with this genuinely idiotic man.”

The mayor was wide-eyed, mouth hanging open.

“He just doesn’t know better,” Elise said, still trying so hard to be patient, knowing that, somewhere in this meeting, there was a reward–or maybe a job offer. She could do with settling down in a small town for a few months.

But Red Markisons didn’t care about making homes, and Avian in general had zero tact for those they didn’t respect. That lack of care had also been too liberating for Elise.

So she just watched Gwin chuckle. “Of course not. He doesn’t know anything. One look at that stupid fucking face, and it’s obvious.”

There was a moment where she tried to hold in the laughter . . . but she just couldn’t. Such an absurd, terrible thing to say that would solve absolutely none of their problems.

And the mayor, all balk and sputter. “Are you–is he–it–talking about me?”

She laughed harder, and Gwin joined her, his head rocking back.

When they were done, Gwin shook his head. “Come on. Let’s get out of here.”

A part of Elise wanted to turn, bow, thank the mayor for his audience. A much smaller part of her thought that she should apologize for laughing at him.

In the end, she just sighed. “Yeah, fuck it,” she said, and followed Gwin out of the chamber without looking back.

~~~

A few weeks back, on a snowy day here in New York, I took a walk with coworkers who are both bird enthusiasts. Idle chat about bird behaviors stoked the nerd fire in my fat soul, and I decided I wanted to try my hand at a fantasy bird race–if only because I’ve never seen a story that made them unapologetically inhuman.

In my experience, animal people in Fantasy are often just humanoid with animal heads. Worse, they’re very, very often presented as a replacement for existing human races and the social issues they face (i.e. the Khajiit and Argonians from Elder Scrolls standing in for human minorities, thus animalizing those minorities and devaluing their struggles).

Naturally, I fucking hate that. However, I thought it would be really interesting if a Fantasy animal-person race didn’t replace an existing race or shoulder their issues, but, instead, complimented them. Thus, this scene, which proposes a Fantasy race of bird people who were wildly, intentionally different from all human races, paired with a dark-skinned character who wasn’t.

If you enjoyed this experiment, and want to see more posts like this, or the other strange, manic writings of an adult man trying to get his life in order and get published at the same time, well, fuck, go ahead and hit that subscribe button on the sidebar to the left of this page. Or feel free to follow me on Twitter @LSantiagoAuthor.

Either way, thanks for reading, and, as always, write well.

Drafts – The Steelskins

Musa almost walked into them.

Coming out of Lucky’s, pulling his coat tight against the cloud-dimmed afternoon, he didn’t notice the steelskins until there were six of them, in varying degrees of contrapposto.

Only one of them eyed Musa–a stern look through a dented visor, promising there were no answers to be had here.

The others were fanned out, scuffed leather hands keeping other citizens back–away from two workers with a mop and brush. They shared a bucket between them, filled with water made frothy and pink by red bristles.

Musa knew he could ask what happened–anyone but the steelskins would be eager to gush about the person who had bled out front of Lucky’s.

But there would be significantly less heart in the asking. Someone had bled. Someone always did. If they were alive, good for them. If they were dead, Musa would rather not know.

Because it had happened so quietly–so quickly–that, if not for the steelskins, he would’ve walked past the blood without noticing.

“Alright, alright,” one of the workers said. “That’s enough.”

And one of the steelskins sighed. “The rain’ll get the rest.”

~~~

I like drafting short, throwaway scenes. It’s just practice on days when I feel like I haven’t written enough. I’ll be posting them here now, however, on an extremely loose, unreasonable schedule (Hi, 2AM!). I want to stay consistent with these . . . and I thought they might be interesting.

Thanks for reading. And, if you enjoyed and would like to know when I post again, feel free to click the subscribe button on the left side of the screen. You can also follow me on Twitter @LSantiagoAuthor.