some articles i enjoyed recently (faves are bolded)
the genesis of blame, london review of books
the narcissism of queer influencer activists, gawker
there’s no moral imperative to be miserable, james greig
the cult of the imperfect, umberto eco
susanna clarke’s world of interiors, the new yorker
your camera roll contains a masterpiece, the new yorker
are you a baby? a litmus test, haley nahman on substack
prestige television and the moral life, article & podcast ep
how tv became respectable without getting better, current affairs
the cultural revisionism history, gawker
have we forgotten how to read critically?, dame magazine
found images, real life mag
nostalgia for nostalgia, real life mag
on internet & technology
google search is dying, dkb on substack
what lies beneath, real life mag
how the tiktok algorithm figures out your deepest desires, the wall street journal
the great offline, real life mag
nameless feeling, real life mag
i’m not there, real life mag
“Are you not happy here?”
“What d’you mean?”
Bark falls to Grian’s feet with a huff as the axe slices across the log, stripping black and white stripes from birch until it matches the tan of the planks they’ve been using. Grian’s proud of the base so far, what with the dripstone overhead and the walls to protect their crops. It won’t be much help against fire, but it’s something. It keeps their backs covered.
And he likes the tan.
Scar hums as he grabs the scattered bark, feeding it to a flame flickering in the furnace. Grian watches him for a moment, waiting for him to speak again, but the man’s back is turned and focused on roasting cod and salmon.
It’s only when Grian gets back to work that Scar speaks.
“Are you not happy? With me?”
Grian snorts at the question. He buries his axe in a log so that it sticks, calloused hands abandoning the handle for dusting themselves off.
“Alright, what’s your deal?”
Scar says nothing, back curved slightly towards the preparing meal.
And Grian crosses, forgetting his work entirely so he can climb up onto the furnace and be eye-level with his ally.
Strangely, even then Scar’s eyes allude him.
They’re distant, lost tracing embers that float and sputter from warming flames.
Grian frowns. “Scar...?”
“You didn’t want to be paired with me.”
“I mean--” Grian shrugs. “You wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I don’t mind.”
“‘I don’t mind,’ he says. Wonderful.”
“Scar, what’s this about?”
“Us,” Scar snaps, eyes suddenly focusing onto Grian’s. They’re green and deep and swimming with emotions Grian can’t place. Despite himself, he shrinks away from them.
“Us,” Scar repeats. “I keep thinking back to it--you’re upset. You screamed when you found out it was me. Joel and Etho--they said you were planning a ritual to unbind us.”
The laugh Grian supplies is hollow and empty. Those aren’t untrue, but it was shock, really. He was surprised. It’s not like he’s unhappy with Scar, he just may have preferred someone else. Someone... different...
Grian doesn’t say that, but it seems he doesn’t have to. Scar scoffs and clicks off his brakes. “Right. I think I’m heading back to the Jellies.”
“We don’t have to base together! Not if you don’t want to. I’ll--I’ll find a nice cave to settle into. Keep our hearts safe.”
Grian winces at the idea of that, Scar alone in some cave just waiting for Grian to burn out the rest of their lives. It’s miserable...
“I don’t want that,” Grian says.
Scar cuts his eyes. “And what do you want?”
“I dunno!” Grian admits. It’s not true. He knows it’s not. But he repeats it still. “I don’t know. To win, I guess?”
Scar actually laughs at that, with a burst of chuckling that seems so inappropriate for the occasion. He just laughs. He laughs as he picks a few cod out from the furnace to store for later. He laughs as he turns his wheels. “I’ll keep our hunger up! You work on winning.”
“Why are you being like this?”
Scar’s back is to Grian now as he says, “Because you’re not happy here.”
“Of course not, Scar! I mean--we’re trapped in some server where we’ll eventually have to kill all our friends. It’s not exactly a happy occasion.”
“But you’re not happy with me.”
“Right, because this is all my fault. Like you weren’t galivanting around the server insisting you didn’t care about your soulmate.”
“That was before.”
“Before I knew it was you.”
Grian freezes, the tension he’s holding in his face, in his head, it doesn’t seem appropriate now. He can’t see Scar’s face. He’s not sure he wants to.
His mouth is dry, opening and closing around words he can’t summon.
So Scar does it for him.
“I wanted to be alone here. Just like Last Life. I didn’t want allies or teams or a group to follow around. I was planning to disappear off into a corner until my recklessness got the better of me.” A sigh. “But then you said it was you and it was different! I wanted it to be you--I always wanted it to be you. I don’t like doing this without you.”
“Third Life was horrible. I still dream about it. About the blood on my hands. About me betraying you. But--but I dream of the good parts too. I dream of you on a llama and mountains and flags and failed traps and I’m happy. I’m so so happy with you in these dreams... Because you’re there... we’re together... Is it not the same for you?”
Grian is... quiet. His hands are at his sides now, head spinning, and he’s not sure what to do. There’s a truth seeded in his chest, trying to rip free just for the chance of warmth and comfort. But he doesn’t want to let it. What happens if there’s no sun there...
Grian steps forward. Scar doesn’t roll away. He doesn’t protest when Grian meets his eyes. He doesn’t protest when a shaking, nerved palm presses against his cheek.
And Grian is crying. When did that start?
Or has it never stopped?
“I killed you,” Grian says on hoarse breath. “I killed you then watched you die then killed you again and--and I think it almost killed me. I’ve always known it was temporary, but--”
Scar shuts his eyes, cheek warm against Grian’s palm as he nods. Grian knows he understands.
“I’m not unhappy with you, Scar--I’m thrilled to be with you again. I just--”
I’m scared to watch you die again.
I’m scared to lose you, even if just for a moment.
The words never come, and Grian starts to think they don’t have to. Scar’s crying too, weight of his head resting against Grian’s palm and when Grian just can’t take it anymore he’s reaching forward and bending over Scar’s lap and holding him.
They’re holding each other.
They’re not alone.
And they’re happy.