SuggeStory 6: “My eight enemies flee; my eight allies grow!”

Hello readers! This short story was written for my writing podcast, “SuggeStory.” The general premise is this: listeners & readers submit a sentence. I have to use that sentence as the first sentence in a story that I write. On the podcast, I explain my writing process and the creative decisions I made (and also chose not to make) along the way. Then, I read the story!

People can also submit their own stories to the podcast, and at my discretion I read some of them on the show. The deadline for your story to be included in the June 29 episode is June 26. The sentence that must begin your story is:

I don’t think I can eat any more of these today.

Submissions for first sentences & stories go to SuggeStoryPodcast@gmail.com. Please specify in the email how you’d like to be credited if I read your story.

Starting with this post, I will also be releasing the stories from previous episodes on this blog! The story that follows after the jump is from Episode 6, dated June 15. The submitted sentence was, “My eight enemies flee; my eight allies grow!

SuggeStory

“My eight enemies flee, my eight allies grow!” Gorbanok shouted to the cheering crowd. And, indeed, that’s what was happening. The armies of Gorbanok’s eight enemies had turned tail under the might of their invading forces. It hadn’t been a long battle, especially since Gorbanok had analyzed their opponent’s weaknesses and built an ally for each one of them. These “allies” Gorbanok shouted so proudly about stood behind them as they continued the victory speech.

“Each one of them was designed to counter the strengths and exploit the weaknesses of each of the eight rulers of this realm. As you have all seen, they have all performed above and beyond the call of duty!” The screams and cheers grew in volume, which only served to stroke Gorbanok’s ego. They grinned at the crowd, knowing full well that they had them in the palm of their hand.

“It was their weakness that led them here. It was their arrogance that caused their defeat. It was ultimate power that won the day, and it will be ultimate power that rules this planet and every planet in the universe as we expand and rebuild everything in our image!”

The Kssptay race was a simple one—loving only themselves, and wishing for nothing less than the complete and utter annihilation of every other form of life on the planet. They were not a highly technologically advanced species, but had done an excellent job of wiping out every other type of living creature on the planet and were more or less living in harmony. It was only when Gorbanok arrived that the Kssptay learned they were not alone in the universe. This infuriated them, as they realized that there were millions of other species, out there right now, existing. The thought drove them into a murderous frenzy.

Gorbanok was a shape-shifter, who upon landing on Kssptania, changed their form to assimilate to that of the Kssptay. They learned their ways and slowly sowed the seeds of discord between the eight planetary rulers. They spoke of the luxuries of other species, how creatures like the Mobobumos often ate creatures that looked like the Kssptay for breakfast, and how Homo Sapiens would kill one on sight. Gorbanok was brilliant, and wished only to find an army that they could use to dominate their true enemies. This entire war was a front, but it did bring them joy.

The eight rulers on Kssptania had been unable to decide who should lead the army off planet to begin dominating other worlds. Gorbanok had volunteered to take the lead, but seeing as they were a new arrival on the planet, the leaders had laughed in their face. Gorbanok would have the final laugh, especially now, as they gave the speech to end all speeches, and spoke the words that would unite an entire planet to their cause.

What Gorbanok didn’t know, however, was that their allies had not been pleased with how their existence had been utilized. The allies wanted freedom. Freedom from Gorbanok, freedom from the Kssptay, and freedom from the cycle of violence. During the big victory commencement speech, the allies communicated with one another mentally, plotting their escape.

Step one was killing Gorbanok. Step two was taking their ship and getting off this planet before the Kssptay worked together to destroy them. They knew that although they had been built as the ultimate weapons of war, they would be no match against a blood-thirsty mob.

Gorbanok continued on. It never occurred to them that their creations could come up with plans of their own. It never occurred to them that when a species is created, built, and curated only to follow orders, that at a certain point, they will reject those orders and turn against their commander.

And so, the story goes, that Gorbanok gave the greatest victory speech of all time. They spoke of power, dominance, destruction, chaos, victory, & bloodshed, and with each word, the Kssptay fell further into madness. They roared, they cheered, they howled, and every living being on the surface of Kssptania heard the sound of stomping warboots.

At the end, or very near to it, all eight of the allies’ faces started glowing. The crowd, at first, hardly noticed, but once one of them did, the crowd fell silent in a matter of seconds. The cheers and screams of victory morphed into shouts of fear and worry, as the Kssptay considered the irreversible loss of their newly selected leader.

Eight bolts of red light struck Gorbanok simultaneously. When they did, Gorbanok was unable to maintain their form. Their eight sharp limbs retreated into their body, their head expanded massively, eyeballs disappearing, ears sprouting largely out of the top of their head. The Kssptay looked on in horror as they realized how they had been deceived—Gorbanok was not one of them at all. Gorbanok was another species altogether. As soon as they realized this, they cheered again, louder than before. They hardly seemed to notice as the allies turned and flew away, presumably to Gorbanok’s ship, which was never seen again.

Within the next few days, everything returned to normal on Kssptay. Within three generations, everyone had forgotten the dreams of leaving the planet to conquer the universe, and returned to being proud of exactly what they were—the only living species on their planet.

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And that’s it! Thank you for reading, and feel free to play along (or follow me on twitter / Instagram, @thejustinxavier)!!

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I’m (not) A Social Media Addict

“Oh FUCK!”

We all know the feeling.

We all know the terror.

The worst thing has happened: You’ve lost your cell phone. That feeling, the crippling feeling that you’ve lost not only your cell phone, but your connection to everything in your life–your friends, your family, your accounts, your money…

UnderBed

But we’re not addicted to our cell phones. It’s just that the world makes it impossible to live without them. Right?

Want a job? Apply online. Want a sandwich? Don’t forget to download our app! Join a new social club? Cool, join our Facebook page (that’s the only place we ever plan anything, haha).

Social Media Logotype Background

Everywhere you go, you need access to the Internet. Most of our money exists theoretically, not in physical cash but in ones and zeroes in bank accounts. Smartphones are, more or less, the only portal we have to access everything we need to survive in modern society.

This is not an inherently bad thing. We’re more connected than we’ve ever been before. We have more access to information than any generation before us in the history of the planet. More than ever before, we’re realizing that we’re one tiny community of humans on this speck in the Universe that we call Earth. People are organizing and coming together from across the globe to solve some of our biggest problems.

Universe

So… it’s fine that we can’t go a few hours without checking social. It’s a fair trade-off. Right? Give a little, get a lot.

Right?

I’m the first to admit, I never thought I had a cell phone addiction. I never thought I had a social media addiction. I didn’t think I used it very much. “I just check it a few times a day,” I thought. “I’m just responding to this one post.” It didn’t matter that I was doing it at stop lights. It didn’t matter that I did it while waiting in line. It didn’t matter that any time I was feeling a little anxious, I’d open up my cell phone and get a tiny little fix of endorphins to tide me over again.

It also didn’t matter that the content I was consuming was making me angry, or scared, or heartbroken. It didn’t matter that all day, I was reading stories of atrocities being committed around the world: by terrorists, by white supremacists, by foreign powers, by our own government… It didn’t matter that most of these problems were things I couldn’t actually do anything about.

It’s hard to care. It hard to feel the feelings of everyone who is suffering, and then remember that caring doesn’t stop the pain, that feeling the feelings of those in pain doesn’t do anything to alleviate that pain.

Drowning

I struggled for a long time, not sure what to do. How can I help? And if I can’t help, then why am I so sad, all the time? At a certain point in therapy you realize the importance of prioritizing your own happiness about the happiness of others (which doesn’t mean, “stop caring about other people,” which is how I always interpreted it before I really “got it”), so I had to take a hard look at what was really causing my unhappiness.

I’d read all the studies about social media addiction leading to increased FOMO, leading to increased feelings of comparisons to others, leading to people feeling overwhelmed by how much work there still is to do for equality. “Yeah, but that’s not me, I barely use it!”

Until I stopped using it. The first change was that I permanently deleted my Facebook account. People thought I was crazy. Hell, I thought I was crazy. I thought I was going to lose track of everything in my life–my friends, my connection to reality, my ability to know what’s happening in the world… But I didn’t.

And I got happier.

happy

Now that I wasn’t consuming news, facts, information, likes, reactions, and opinions all day, even in small doses, I was feeling more positive about my life. About the future. About our species. The bad things were still happening, of course, and I’d hear about it in podcasts or in conversations with friends (because I started seeing friends more!), but it didn’t affect me as heavily. It didn’t cause me to stop working, it didn’t make me feel like a failure or a bad person for not doing EVERYTHING I CAN POSSIBLY DO RIGHT NOW to help solve every problem the world could throw at me.

Then I limited my Instagram and Twitter usage to select periods of time in the mornings and evenings. Perhaps I could have gone further, but I use those accounts to grow my business and grow an audience as part of my digital ecosystem.

(Even then, I think I was still a social media addict. In denial, of course. Because I’d taken steps to limit my usage. I’d deleted accounts. I was feeling better. I was on an upward trend. “I couldn’t possibly be addicted now,” I told myself, somehow ignoring the fact that this was an admission that I had been addicted prior to this moment.)

DigitalDetox

The scariest moment was when I beta-tested the (above) Triple-M Digital Detox. Part of the program involves moving your social media apps to a folder in a separate section of your phone for a week. One day, in mid-conversation, I looked down at my phone and realized that I had unknowingly done the series of clicks that would have taken me to Instagram, but instead had opened my bank’s app.

I stared at the screen, confused, until I realized what happened. My fingers had been opening social media apps without me even knowing it. And if the app had still been there, I might have stopped to look at Instagram in that moment. I might have taken five minutes of time out of my day to look at pictures, check notifications, and respond to comments. How often did that happen? How many times did this exact situation occur before now, without me even being aware?

confusedatphone

This isn’t the part where I get all preachy and tell you to get rid of social media before it “dEsTrOyS CiViLiZaTiOn!!1!

I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think social media and the Internet have provided more good for our society than evil, but I also think we need to learn to manage it, because it’s unquestionably an addiction.

How do we do that? It’s still nearly impossible to survive the world today without having some form of social media. Now that they’ve monetized it, “Social Media” is a legitimate career path. Influencers are the hottest new way to market your businesses and products, and that’s not changing anytime soon. The Influencer craze has only just begun, and as technology advances we’ll keep finding more and more ways to monetize and advertise our daily lives. So I’m still on social media. In fact, I even have a Facebook again (which may be how you found this article!) because in 2019, starting an online business without a Facebook account is like starting a horse and buggy business in 1819 without owning a horse.

buggywreck

Oops

Did you know that Facebook has almost 1 and a half billion daily users? Did you know that over 40% of Facebook users only access Facebook on their phones? Or that 78% of Americans have purchased something they saw on Facebook?

I didn’t. Not before I deleted my account. So I’m back. And I’m back with a business that creates digital content, but also encourages healthy social media and cell phone habits, utilizing all the ridiculous but true information I learned on my 8 month hiatus.

Am I still addicted? I don’t know. I know I spend a lot less time on the apps than I used to. I know I plan my posts a week or so in advance, so when I open the apps it’s all business. I know that I’m having less “fun” doing it, so maybe that’s a sign that I’m doing it the right way. I’ve also noticed that I think less about it. I care less about the numbers than I used to. I’m posting things that I like and care about, and it seems to be having an effect, at least in terms of the amount of interaction I’ve been having.

I’ve been more comfortable being myself. Expressing myself. And maybe you can argue that that has more to do with the other changes I’ve made in my life, going to therapy, cutting out toxic people, but I’d also argue that some of those things might not have happened if I were still as active on social media. When you’re happier, you notice the things in your life that don’t make you happy.

So, I’m actually proud to say that I’m not a social media addict. But I definitely was. And I’m constantly aware that it could always happen again.

Justin Xavier, 6/22/2019

ANP

To listen to the A New Perspective podcast episode about Social Media addiction, follow the link below.

https://anewperspectivepod.podbean.com/e/ep11-on-detoxing-from-social-media/