Monthly Archives: November 2012

Ladders Into the Grave Chapter 1: The Moon’s Midnight Felo De Se

So we begin the writing experiment, this is the first post, first chapter. It was longer than I intended it to be, hope you enjoy it!

Chapter 1:

The Moon’s Midnight Felo De Se

We all did it. Without a second thought, without question, without resistance, just as our grandparents, parents, older siblings, hell, even the younger kids, or spawn as I’d like to call them, have done. This mundane ritual, a Gormenghast onto itself, was fed with the same damn old purpose, the same damn old meaning and the same damn old hags gossiping about it.

I can’t recall when the exact idea entered my mind to change the meaning of the ritual, maybe on a subconscious level I was always trying to find the right ‘outlet’ for it. Since my first ceremony, I remember thinking to myself ‘hey I’m not doing this because they’re telling me to! I’m climbing to the moon!’

It was a coward’s way of saying I’m still following everyone else…because I was afraid. If I didn’t follow the ritual, I was afraid I’d receive the wrath of my community and somehow the entire universe. If you didn’t follow the ritual, you committed an unforgivable a sin.

Yet, climbing to the moon…Brings back a lot of memories. I suppose by saying that to myself, it was like the smallest Matryoshka doll in a set. So tiny and insignificant, but an important part of me.

In the center

Until one day, the smallest Matryoshka doll found the mother lode of steroids that hurdled me to start my journey.



That day was induction day. The day I enrolled at the institute.


At the end of the superficial introductions, tedious explanations, lame jokes and the beginnings of brittle friendships, the staff announced we would take part in a special treat.

“Instead of having a daybreak ceremony, we’ll have a midnight one instead! Now you can get more sleep!”

Theoretically, yes.

Practically? Hell no. Everyone would be up half the night  memorizing the rankings and figuring out what to do get higher next quarter. And who they should be ‘friends’ with to help get them there.

But, everyone was all smiles and gleeful expressions. Even me. My smile stretched from one cheek across to another which probably looked like a five year old drawing of a happy face.

A happy friendship?

But I smiled for very, very different reasons. We were going to be guided by the eccentric midnight keepers.

The theatrical masters.

They liked adding a little originality to the mundane ritual. Sometimes it was flavors of macabre, mystery, science or fantastical depending on who was the 1st keeper. If anything, I’d describe them as a drunken grim reaper, a spiritual noir detective, a celibate space opera hero, and a magical princess that actually saved her kingdom all playing a game of Cards Against Humanity together.

I probably took a shine to them since we were both trying to do the same thing: change the meaning of the ritual.

Moving on.

It was ten minutes before midnight.

I stretched my neck, eager to catch a glimpse of any of the midnight keepers. I saw one of them raise their hand, calling attention to themselves, and I fidgeted trying to skillfully not draw attention to my little jumps. I expected something, anything unique coming from the institute. It was one of the biggest institutions in the sector, naturally I had high expectations.

“Next! New residents, board your platforms!” One of the keepers yelled. “Get a move on before the second hand reaches 12! Come on!” There was something oddly ordinarily average about the tone the keepers shouted in. I shrugged it off and continued with my jumping exercises.

“Hurry up!!!” Another keeper yelled. Disappointment struck when I finally caught a glimpse of the nearest keeper. He was dressed insanely normal. As mundane as the ceremony. If he wasn’t directing us, anyone could have easily mistaken him for another ‘new resident’.

I only sighed and continued walking to my assigned platform. I resigned myself to ‘getting over with’ the ceremony and decided to use my classic ‘climbing to the moon’ defense mechanism to make things…easier.

“And don’t forget!” One keeper’s distant voice shouted with all his might.


“Fall off your ladder!” Everyone chanted irritably.

I raised my eyebrow at the keepers, all of them silently communicating with their eyes. It took a while for me to notice the familiar drop of sweat fall from their foreheads down to their cheeks. It wasn’t like they were going to be part of the ceremony directly. It wasn’t like they were going to go to their new homes and be under the watchful eyes of the temporary champions and losers. It wasn’t like this was the closest thing to an oracle to predict how your academic, economic and social status would be for a quarter.

That’s when it hit me. They didn’t want anything to go wrong as the institute left them with a big responsibility. Right there and then, before my platform appeared, I had an idea which grew faster than damn jack’s beanstalk .The next thing I knew, I was plotting when would be the perfect time.

I turned to my left. My peers were nervously clutching their hands or trying to mitigate their nervousness through self-promotion of how great their last ranking turned out. On my right, the same thing except some people were shivering. I swallowed not hoping this time I wouldn’t be in the last group but that I wouldn’t chicken out on what I was about to do.

I stepped upon my platform and closed my eyes. I heard the sudden swoosh sound of something coming from the ground. The keepers yelled “Go” and for a second I listened to the breathless prayers and curses my peers murmured as their hands slapped cold steel. I felt the darting eyes of my keepers watching my still body, as if willing it to move.

That was my first and last warning for them.

My hands once again touched the cold metal bars and began to lift my body to the next one as the soles of my shoes followed. As I climbed up, higher and higher, each time stepping on a step I climbed dozens upon dozens of times, slowly getting closer to the moon, I would do something only a first timer would do. It was two minutes before midnight. Two minutes before my theatrical show.

Shivers ran up and down my spine as the larger Matryoshka dolls united to stand against their tiny but formidable adversary.

I stretched out my hand as another bar appeared. The moon had an eerie blue glow. I don’t know how long, but I knew the bells would ring any second.

I took one last look at the moon. The dolls were beginning to crowd up against the smallest one. It was surrounded.

I stretched out my hand to the next bar, maybe…maybe next time I thought.

The bells began to ring. I stopped and closed my eyes. I was ashamed and my tiny Matryoshka doll cowered in fear as the others waddled away.

The ripening fruit of my idea had become a strong cocktail of fear, desperation and oh the sweet alcohol of my life: rebellion. So then, what was I so afraid of?

It wasn’t death. It was something more powerful embedded in me, stopping me, preventing me from loosening my grip any further. Looking back, it was the monolith the ritual had created. We were a part of it; it was a part of us since we were born. To suddenly sever ties with it…To defy it was sin itself. To not be part of the ritual with everyone…was a different kind of death.

But in that single moment, that single precious moment where fear and disappointment battle with each other, I became….fearless….without consequence. My hands shook and trembled as I loosened my grip again.

The wind grabbed my hair, pulling it upward, like the moon was trying to reach me. I ignored all the shouts, screams, and shocked gasps.

Never had I breathed air so pure yet so intoxicating. It was like a massive weight had been lifted from my chest.

I saw the moon become a little blue speck in the night sky. Before everything went dark.

I was ‘awake’ for a while in that darkness. I remember feeling beads of sweat run through my hair and my stomach constipated with fear while my chest grew heavy with guilt.

But in the darkness, I had a drunken smile of bittersweet rebellion.


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