… Is a four letter word.

May 27, 2009

So I went looking for a challenge on Monday morning. Then Monday day happened, and then Tuesday day, and suddenly I’m two days behind the blogging schedule I set myself only a week ago. Not an inspiring start. There’s plenty of perfectly valid sounding excuses I could make, but really I’m sure many people manage with more distractions than I had. Catching up and keeping up is now a priority for the rest of the week.

Anyway, back to the challenge. The first suggestion I spotted was from Angpang on Twitter –

“no four letter words (not just rude, but literally not any with four letters).”

This seemed intruiging, so I decided to go for it.

It was very, very hard. Diabolically so. The piece I produced is barely a few hundred words, and each sentence was a struggle. I made a list of all of the four letter words that popped into my head as “right” for the sentence but I had to work without. Here’s the list:

More, must, name, even, love, hurt, pain, from, scab, sure, tell, barb, name, pain, like, time, when, hour, will.

The worst offenders – will and like. Will because it made the future very difficult to speak about. Like because I love similes. On that level, it did make me aware of how often I turn to simile as a descriptive tool. Crutch, or indicator of personal style? Not sure right now, but I’ll look harder at my own simile use in future because of it. That was also problematic, as was then.

When looking for a theme for the piece, I thought about the nature of the challenge. It was about not being able to say certain things, so I got the idea of something unspeakable as the psychological driving force for the short monologue. Maybe you can guess what it is (I decided not to say it, even in a non four letter word form). I also looked at the numerological significance of four. I found that 4 represents body (3 represents soul, 4+3= 7 which forms the sacred hebdomad). And that the fourth sephiroth in Qabbalah is Chesod – Love, Mercy and Forgiveness. So I decided to have the protagonist neglect the thing that 4 represents like I was eschewing four letter words. Maybe a bit of a stretch, but it was fun to look for a story to emerge out of a challenge that had no seed of a tale in it inherently.

And to the point – The short short story

I cannot say it. To say it would be to grant it power, and it’s already taken it’s due and extra besides.

The wound happened because something was ripped out. It was beneath the flesh, something hooked in it, or an organ, it was difficult to be certain. The damage it has inflicted is not easily healed. All wounds are not healed passively, by waiting and hoping. You protect the wound, to let it stitch itself together again. So I never speak it again.

Silence is not enough to abjure against further wounding. It requires further magic. Symbols carved on the flesh. Crude symbols, no-one else would see the power of them. In the release, in the bloodletting. Get the bad blood out to let the healing process begin.

I cannot speak it, but my brain continues to bellow it. So I imbibe the potions and the powders, and enjoy the silence. Or, at least, the drowning out by louder voices of the one inside. Nutrition and sleep weren’t neccesary parts of the process. Especially sleep, because in sleep you can see the thing you cannot say, and desire to see it on waking. Cannot allow it to be spoken, thought, or dreamt.

Getting better requires a bottom. An ultimate despair. I’m not there yet. So I can keep digging and cutting and imbibing, knowing it is not neccesary to begin healing yet. The wound is not clean, because it continues to be spoken by others, dreamt, or bellowed by internal monologue. Every utterance of it is a fly feeding on the blood and pus. Until I exterminate every one, I cannot let the wound be stitched together. Malignance would remain. SoI abjure, through potion, powder, symbols in the flesh.

One day the wound has to become clean,and be closed. But for now, I cannot speak it.





  1. Firstly well done, I would have spat a four letter word and given-up at line three.

    The tone is quite startling. I think the fact you have had to stop and pick each word makes for a intense and off-key voice. This really adds to the portrayal of a damaged, obsessive narrator.

    I’m not sure of the event that’s alluded to. I have a few guesses, but no clear idea. Perhaps it’s best not to be sure.

    Also, I would be interested to see what people who don’t know the four-word limit would make of it. Would they spot the trick?

  2. […] then… I put in the story from this post. And got JK […]

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