31 January 2020

#52writingcards: Prompts from Shaun Levin's Writing Maps - no. 1

A version of this prompt appears on the Write Around the House Writing Map
illustrated by Stephen Longwill.


The bed I'm sleeping on isn't what you'd call a bed. When I first moved to Japan, I didn't have one. The person who lived before me left futons for me to sleep on, but they kicked up my allergies, and they were worn down to the point all of the soft cushioning pooled at the bottom of the mattress - like when you pick up a water balloon, and the knotted part is long and loose while the water stretches the balloon downward from the weight.

For a month I slept on the wooden floor of my apartment with just a couple pillows and one of the loose, stretched-out pseudo-futons. I had to wait for my first paycheck and then I looked into buying beds. But my apartment is small, and I didn't like the idea of my main room looking like a bedroom, so I purchased three light gray sectional pieces to form a couch long enough to fit my body (I'm 178cm), and you could flip the backs down to make a bed. 

By itself, the couch bed isn't comfortable, so over the years I've ordered more futon mattresses and stacked them on top of each other. I have to sleep on three in order to be able to sleep without strain (and I need three pillows, too!). During the day (when I'm not lazy) I fold the mattresses into the standard S-curve you see with the futons at the ryokan, shove them in my storage closet, and my bed reverts back to a couch. 

I don't share it with anyone, and wouldn't be able to, anyway. It can barely fit me as it is!

If there is anything that I'd change about it, I'd find a better way to keep the sections from coming apart. It's literally velcro strips you place underneath each piece along the separations to form it into a "couch." Individually each piece is like a baby sofa or glorified armchair. 

This all sounds terrible, doesn't it? I promise it looks really good as a couch!


I'm sitting on my bed right now as I type this, and it's facing the entryway to the apartment. I can see everything from here, all the rooms and open spaces, but all I can take in right now is the mountain of absolute crap I've accumulated over the years and how in periods of exhaustion and seasonal depression, I've not cleaned a fucking thing. Clothes on the floor. Papers, folders, office supplies. Empty cans and bottles. Piles of dishes in the sink. There's a path I use to get to the door and to my bed, and the rest of the floor is covered. It's... really bad. No one can enter my home. 

When my mental health dips, my standard of living dips, too. 


I'm a stomach sleeper. This is not the healthiest way to sleep, but I found after years of analyzing my sleep habits - bad nightmares, scary hypnagogic hallucinations, waking up and still seeing stuff from my dreams for a few seconds - through process of elimination, I learned I tend to see freaky stuff if I fall asleep lying on my back and my side, but never on my stomach. I have no explanation for this. 

Because I sleep this way, you'd think I wouldn't be able to see the sunlight streaming in my apartment. For whatever reason, even though I shift in my sleep and reposition my head through the night, whenever I wake up, my head is always turned to the right...where my window is. Even though I have double layers of curtains, the light pierces it and blinds me in the morning. The light falls directly on me and sometimes in the morning it is welcome, but most of the time, it isn't, because I just want to keep sleeping.

My most recent memories of waking are not exciting...whenever I deal with my winter blahs I struggle with needing lots of sleep and feeling tired all the time. The past week I've been going to bed at 9:00, then earlier and earlier...and still can't bring myself to wake up in the mornings. If I'm not resetting the alarm to go off later, I'm sleeping completely through it. I've had too many close calls with work coming in right when my shift starts (which is late) or 2-5 minutes after (really late). I've been taking my nighttime medicine earlier to try and reset my internal clock to "early to bed, early to rise"...but the rising part just isn't happening. 


Most of my life's been spent in twin beds. From childhood through the teenage years and even into the start of college, I had the same bed. Then my grandparents were redoing one of their rooms in their house and I inherited their full-size bed (actually it might even be a queen - it's been years since I've slept in it). It's got a cute, country or shabby chic style to it, with a wooden headboard and matching footboard with little open hearts in the middle. 

I slept in twin beds in college, because our dormitory rooms were tiny and we had to sleep in bunk beds. Then my senior year I got to move out of the dorm and into the college apartments, which still only had twin beds. 

Over my travels to other countries, in hostels and inexpensive hotels, there were more and more twin beds, because I wanted to save money. And since coming to Japan, I've occasionally stayed in a capsule hotel to get the cheapest deal. Unfortunately, it's not comfortable enough for me so I don't do this very often. 

Couches at friends' houses or in hotel rooms where there weren't enough beds have been a thing; even sleeping on the floor without bedding, which totally sucks. Then tatami and futons on the floor in Japan, too, which has never been comfy enough for me - and I have a tendency to have an allergic reaction to futons a lot. 

When I do get a full size or queen bed when I stay at a hotel, it feels so luxurious to me! If I ever get a chance to sleep in a king bed or larger, I'll probably be overwhelmed at the spaciousness. 


I don't know much about the bed I was born in - it was a hospital bed in Flushing, Queens, and I came out five minutes after my brother. I *think* I was a breech baby, but I'm not sure because it's been forever since I heard the story and honestly, I could be blending or inventing memories at this point, as humans often do. I'm sure the hospital bed was a mess, as most hospital beds would be given all the messiness that comes with birth. 


Dad died in his bed in Flushing September 7,  2010. He died too soon. I was not living with him; I was living by myself in Columbus, Ohio, and Mom called me in the evening, far later than usual, to tell me very plainly, "Dad has died." 

My sister was the one who found him. I will never understand how devastating that could have been for her see him that way. If I remember the story correctly, their cat Tiger was curled up in bed next to him. 

Tiger died not long after. 

29 January 2020

My Favorite Things - Speculative Chic

Over at Speculative Chic, we've got one of the funnest guest columns around. Every Monday we invite top-notch writers in sci fi, fantasy, and horror to share with us what their genre loves are. Since its inception (it's been with the site from the very beginning!), we've featured debut authors, up-and-comers, writers from large presses and small; and then we've had major guests like Seanan McGuire, Ann Aguirre, Kij Johnson, Seressia Glass, Lou Anders, Jeff Strand, Christopher Golden, Carrie Vaughn, and more!

I felt extremely flattered that I got to add my own post to the list of awesome writers. As (at the time) a brand-new contributor, I got to share my own favorite things with the world. Here's a sneak preview -- the wonderful introduction our editor-in-chief (editor-in-chic!) Shara White wrote:
They might not be raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, but that doesn’t mean that we love them any less. Welcome back to My Favorite Things, the weekly column where we grab someone in speculative circles to gab about the greatest in geek. This week we sit down with one of our newest Content Editors, Kristina Elyse Butke! What does she love when she’s not stalking our contributors with a metaphorical red pen? Spoiler alert: a manga that extends well beyond its source material, a must-have for cosplayers, a handy-dandy tool for writers, getting out of the uncanny valley, and reading familiar stories from a different point of view. Aren’t you curious? Read on for more!
I discuss anime, manga, television, books, cosplay, and writing, woohoo! You can read it all here!