October Already?


I suppose it goes without saying that Villain Awareness Month is not going to be a thing this year.

Which honestly… it’s frustrating. I’m frustrated, even with just the lack of posting the last little while. I’m the kind of person that likes to have a bunch of projects on the go and push myself to make progress and produce good things and so not making progress and producing things is very frustrating.

I feel like my life is a ridiculous balancing act that I just can’t keep up with, or a race that I’m just barely managing to win by like a fraction of a second, even though I can’t quite fathom where this sense of pressure is coming from.

I mean, all I’m really doing is working right now. I don’t have school to add things like deadlines and tests and studying to my workload. I work a steady, not-overwhelming job that gives me a very comfortable number of hours each week and doesn’t require me to do anything like studying or homework. Really, I should be quite relaxed. And yet.

The logical explanation would be that I’m just putting a lot of pressure on myself but at the same time… I’m trying very hard to relax and not push myself. I’m trying not to let myself get too worked up about not blogging or whatever, but I still feel very anxious. Which makes it hard to blog when I’m not able to just indulge in some creative, cathartic writing.

But in any case. I might put together a couple Halloween-esque posts this month, but yeah, VAM is so not happening unfortunately. I’m not even sure I’ll be attempting to do Your Story in November like I mentioned… sigh. We’ll see.

I guess first I gotta work on finding my zen. If only I knew where to start.

Any suggestions?


Lights in the Sky

There are some people who are as radiant as the sun.

Their light is bright and warm and powerful. They illuminate every room with their imagination, brilliance, and joy. They are not easily forgotten or ignored. They are wonderful and caring and oh so happy.

But there are some people who are more like the moon.

Quiet, reserved. Their light is subtler, surrounded by a deep and awful darkness. And their light is… fragile. Easily lost, easily drowned out. It doesn’t make it any less beautiful, but it makes it much harder to hold onto. Much harder to light the way.

And while the sun rises every day without fail, the moon is much less predictable.

Sometimes it’s bright and full, light unhindered and beauty shining for all to see, but sometimes it is thin and dark and swallowed whole by the abyss.

And those days are hard for the people whose souls are like moons. Because when the darkness has swallowed you whole, what light is left to guide you?

Of course, just as the moon passes through its phases, so too does the light emerge once more from the darkness in a never-ending cycle. But unlike the people whose souls are like suns, the moon people must accept that hardship, struggle, and fear are going to cycle in and out of their lives, ebbing and flowing like ocean tides.

And they must accept, as hard as it is, that there will be winter nights that are so much longer than summer nights–nights when the darkness lingers until it is nearly unbearable.

But every night passes. Every new moon bears new life. The full moon always comes back again.

It’s hard. But it’s the way the world is.

And just because the lights are different, just because one may not be as warm or as strong as the other, doesn’t mean one is worth more.

Because I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t stand to wake up without a sun in the sky.

And a night without a moon would be excruciating.

May your light be ever cherished.


Editor for Hire

This lovely writer is doing some editing work if any of you are interested! :)

Adventures in Writing

As you know, I am a writer. You may not know that I also edit work (and not just my own). I have edited both fiction and non-fiction for friends and family members. I am now opening that opportunity up to you, my blogging buddies!

Proofreading consists of checking for typos and formatting issues. (That’s errors such as misspellings, lonely words, and accuracy with page numbers and table of contents.) Proofreading is most helpful for a fully finished draft that has gone through many revisions and is about to be sent in for consideration (or in the case of articles and papers, turned in). Proofreading should be your last step.

Copy editing is for checking grammar, syntax, capitalization and punctuation, missed words, repeated words, using the best word for the job, tenses, and other language errors. This step is for when you have your story completed and are ready to…

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Mundane; Magnificent

I’ve always gone on about how life is the greatest adventure, but sometimes it feels like life is actually just a crummy, mediocre version of a really boring, really difficult adventure.

I mean, come on. Filling out tax forms, paying bills, buying groceries, getting the flu shot–none of those things are particularly fun or exciting or daring like adventures are supposed to be. You could probably argue that you could turn those things into an adventure if you had the right mindset, but the reality remains that they’re pretty mundane things to do.

Of course though, adventures aren’t 100% danger and excitement and thrill. Adventurers still have to do things like cook food and buy supplies and pay for places to sleep and walk on a path for gods-know-how-many hours a day if they’re trying to travel somewhere. And if the adventure is set in the real world, it makes it even more likely that the adventurers will have to do some of the mundane things required to stay alive and get a good (or at least decent) sleep at night. Adventures do have their dull moments, we just tend to write those out of the story.

But really, you could argue that adventures are just mimicking real life, except that they’ve been glorified to exhibit all the fun, dangerous bits and modified to leave out most of the boring ones.

In a way, that can make it pretty difficult to relate to adventures, when we feel like our lives aren’t very similar.

Which is something I feel a lot in my own life, and in my writing too. I mean, I’d love if my life was more exciting, made of more than just work and school and sleeping and writing, and I could go travelling and exploring and learning and all the exciting things that adventurers get to do. But at the same time, in POTS (the story I am presently writing) I find I have almost the opposite problem. My protagonist (who’s from this world) is off doing all these crazy exciting things and I’m trying to find a way to keep her human, keep her relatable. After all, she’s modelled after a teenager from our world, so I want her to really feel like a teenager, and not some distant action hero. So I almost have to pay more attention to the mundane bits of the adventure, whereas in my own life I’m trying to pay more attention to the exciting ones.

It’s quite a situation.

But I think it kind of emphasizes what exactly we find appealing about adventures. We like the danger, the excitement, the exploring and exploits. But we’re looking for the relatability, the parts that let us see ourselves in those same adventures, no matter how fantastic and out of this world they might be.

And that’s why the characters are so important, you know? We need a character that has the same fears and doubts that we do, the same morals, the same view of the world. We need a character that is going to react to an extreme situation in a way that we can understand and sympathize with. When the adventurer finally becomes the hero and does something big and brave, we still need to feel like, if we were in their shoes, we could have reached the same state of courage.

So I think it’s kind of cool to put characters through mundane situations, to see how they would act and behave. It’s like… this character can take down dragons and supervillains, but could they handle taxes? Would they know how to pick a ripe avocado at the supermarket? Can they cook a fancy quiche when they’re more used to kicking butt?

Which is probably why coffee shops and dinner dates are common scenes for fanfiction. We just love seeing our heroes act human.

I’m thinking I may have lost my original point through the course of this post, but ultimately I think that adventures aren’t that different from our everyday lives. They still have mundane, human moments amidst all the chaos and thrill. They just happen to have a lot more chaos and thrill than the typical life of a layman.

And like I said, with the right mindset, you could make just about anything into an adventure.

What was the last adventure you had?

May all your adventures have a touch of humanity in their magnificence.


A Grand (Re-)Entrance

I’ve been thinking about how I should perform this grand entrance.

Leap out of the shadows into a brilliant spotlight with confetti cannons and a deafening fanfare?

Let a drumroll build up suspense as I slowly descend from wires attached to the ceiling, graceful as a bird, until my feet touch ground and a dazzling array of fireworks and spouts of flame awe the audience?

Walk into the room all cool with my sunglasses on and a disinterested shrug, greeting everyone with a, “Hey, wassup?”

But I’m not sure any of those entrances are quite accurate. My real entrance is more like a personification of the “:S” face, with lots of wide eyes and sheepish frowns and a kind of shuffling step as I brush away some of the dust and wonder if anyone remembers me.

Ahem. In any case.

I am putting forth an effort to return to blogging.

I’m not here with promises or anything crazy, I’m just putting forth an effort. I’d like to start blogging again so I am going to try. Whether or not that will be successful is debatable.

First though, because some of you may be wondering: I will be doing the usual Your Story thing, but I’m actually gonna do it in the fall (maybe start it September, end it November). The summer just came much too quickly for me to arrange anything so I’ll wait till things are more manageable before getting that up and running again. That being said, start preparing your stories! I hope to hear lots of them this year.

Second: my blog needs some serious help. I need to get a new banner and update my pages and aaargh. So much to do, so much to do. This place is a veritable disaster and I am sitting disgruntled and flustered in the midst of it. Huff.

Third: I have been on quite the adventure of my own.

I mentioned before the whole depression thing and that I didn’t really want to talk about it here, and I’m still not really keen on it, but the whole depression thing got a lot worse over the past couple months and has only very recently gotten much, much better. That was another part of my long silence, I suppose. Not easy to blog when you just feel like lying in bed forever and ever.

Still. It’s an adventure, even if it’s a dark and dangerous one. Lots of obstacles, lots of villains (most in my own head, I suppose), lots of struggling and darkest hours and chasing a speck of light that more often seems to get darker than brighter. But it’s an adventure, and I hope it’s made me stronger, and I hope that one day I will emerge officially victorious and be a little more prepared if it chooses to rear its ugly head again.

Anyways. Just wanted to stop in, say I’m still planning on rescuing this poor blog, and give a little update I suppose. Hopefully in the next little while I can get back into the swing of writing blog posts and discussing heroes and adventures and magic and all the good stuff.

Maybe I shall aim for a post a week? I know, I said I wouldn’t make promises, but still. I like to have a goal, even if only for the sake of having a goal.

I hope to see you around and hear from you soon and read lots of amazing stories come fall.

Take care, dear adventurers and heroes.

See you around.


A blog post with very little in it…

I’ve been sitting on this post for a while (a blog post, not a literal post), trying to figure out what to say. I’ve had a few ideas, started typing them out, then ultimately scrapped them. I think I’ve forgotten how to blog. This is a problem.

At some point in my life I should actually try to finish LotSF. I started writing it so long ago… April of 2013. That means it will be three years old this April. That’s bizarre.

It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. I don’t know. There’s something about the story that feels timeless. It’s always there, always waiting, paused for a moment until I’m ready to pick it back up again. I haven’t posted a chapter since last May. Wow… um.

Of course, a lot of things have happened since then. A lot of personal issues, a lot of stress, a lot of everything. And this poor blog has suffered for it. And now I’ve forgotten how to blog.

It’s kind of made me look at my blog’s purpose again. I didn’t really have a purpose when I started, other than I liked fantasy things and wanted to talk about stories and heroes and stuff. I still want to do that, but I want to have more of a goal, you know? I want this blog to be inspiring. I want it to be a refuge and a comfort, if not for others, then for myself.

Here’s a fun fact: I always listen to Jónsi’s music when I blog. Always. It’s an old habit that started gods-only-know how long ago and is one I’ve always stuck to. So I suppose if you’d like to understand the spirit of Valourbörn, listen to Jónsi’s album “Go”. All of those songs have contributed to the words on this blog at one point or another.

It also reminds me of a friend of mine who happens to be learning Icelandic at the moment (some of Jónsi’s songs have Icelandic lyrics, you see). In fact, I shall call her out by name, for dear Jenny hasn’t been terribly active on her blog either. We shall have to remedy this ;)

So what shall be my blog’s newly defined purpose then, getting back to the matter at hand? “To inspire” is noble, but vague. I would like to try to use it to understand and explore the world. All the magic, all the beauty. I would like to try to use it to understand myself, and let others do the same. We’re all brave adventurers, we’re all epic heroes, we’re all warriors and explorers and magicians. And that’s what I love. That’s what I’d love to pursue.

I shall have to think on it some more, try to figure out what that means from a more practical standpoint. What shall I write about? How shall I inspire? Who knows, who knows?

I shall think on it. I have another post somewhat drafted anyways, so that’s at least a start, and then we shall see where this blog takes us. Hopefully somewhere pleasant :)

I also have a new banner image that I need to finish colouring that I’ve been working on for an actual year holy cow.

In any case, this post was basically just me putting out a blog post to prove I’ve not forgotten my poor dear blog. Sorry it’s not exactly eventful ^^’

But hey, there’s a comment box down below and I’ve dearly missed you. What adventures have you been up to?


Your Story Is Incredible

Another year ended, another Your Story project completed. It was a little messier than last year, I didn’t do half as much for it as I would’ve liked (story of my life, I know), but it still happened. That’s the important part–it happened, and the stories that I got to share were so incredibly important.

Stories of love and loss, stories of depression and hardship, stories of struggle and sacrifice and strength and success. Real stories. Your stories.

It’s kind of incredible, sometimes, to hear someone talk about the most significant memories they have and understand something so… so deep about them. Like… the people you see on the street, the people you work with–people who you don’t know all that well–they all have stories upon stories kept safe in their memories. Whether they’re fifteen or fifty, there’s some story they have to tell that’s just… real. Real and raw and important. And doing this project, hearing your stories… sometimes it really hits me just how incredible that is.

You guys are amazing. Your stories are amazing. Thank you so much for sharing them with me. Thank you so much for letting me share them with others.

I’d like to keep up the tradition and do this again in the summer, and I look forward to reading the stories yet to come. Thank you again for sharing your adventures with me. Keep inspiring others with your light.

Your Story 2015

Your Story 2014

May your struggles bring you strength.


Another Year Gone By

The year is almost over, can you believe it? I’m not too sure the past few months even happened. They all feel like a restless dream.

But it’s the end of 2015, finally. A lot of things happened this year, worldwide and on a more personal scale. It seems to be the case for a lot of people that 2015 was a rough year to get through. I can agree with that. There were highlights, sure, but it seems the year was more swamped in stress and struggles than anything else.

But let’s catch up with the last few months, shall we?


I wasn’t around all that much in October with very sporadic posts. In the end, I didn’t get done everything I wanted to. I hardly did anything, it feels like. I didn’t even do my usual costume post, but I suppose I’ll do it now. I was Midna from Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess this year, and wow was it a fun costume to make. Midna is such a lovely character and it’s pretty empowering to be the Twilight Princess for a night. I was pretty pleased with the outcome and had a fantastic Halloween.20151113_154432


November was, of course, time for NaNoWriMo. It was a very rough month. I made my word quota on the first day no problem, and then it all went downhill from there. I didn’t reach the word count goal for the entire rest of the month. There were so many days when I didn’t write anything at all. I ended up having 18,000 words to write on the last day. Normally, that would be eleven days of writing. Eleven days. Eleven days of writing all saved for the very last day.

You sure as hell bet I made it.

I almost died, but I made it.

nano win 2015

(It says I wrote 21k words on the last day but 3k of those were from after midnight the day before)

I will admit, I did cheat a little bit. I changed my timezone on the website so that it gave me four extra hours to write. From the minute I woke up until 4am, I wrote and wrote and wrote. Pounding out two, three, four thousand words between classes. Writing through meals. Writing more than a thousand words per every half hour. It was very very close. The last several thousand words were probably more gibberish than anything (I didn’t even have time to correct typos…) but gods above, I wrote 18,000 words that day and I never ever want to do it ever again.


December was an odd month. It passed by slowly and yet all too quickly. Christmas sprang up out of nowhere. We didn’t get snow until a couple days ago (we’re in Canada, for crying out loud, what nonsense). I saw family and friends. We got a kitten at the end of November and have spent the month cuddling and wrestling with the little stinker. My sister and I got matching tattoos, which was a first for both of us. I’ve baked so many cookies and read so many books and stories and have spent so many lazy mornings in bed.


And now we’re here. Almost in January. By the time this post goes up, I’ll be ringing in the new year with friends and 2016 will be just a few hours away.

I can’t wait.

I want to kiss 2015 goodbye. I’ll take with me the few good memories. I’ll carry forward the new friendships I’ve made. And I’ll leave behind all the rest because frankly I don’t want it. This year was far too much and not enough. It was a struggle and a war. There’s no promise that 2016 will be better, but at least we’ll all be stronger.

But as always, it’s resolution time. Last year’s resolutions:

  • Finish that book. It’s never too late.
  • Keep working on that bravery thing. It doesn’t happen overnight.
  • Find balance. In body and soul, mind and spirit.
  • Reflect more often, and be mindful of the little things.

For point number one, I was successful. Again, it was kind of by cheating. I wanted to finish the second draft this year but in a sense, I didn’t succeed. I made it to chapter 38, which was still four or five chapters from the end. But I was so frustrated with how hard I found it to rewrite every chapter that I decided to write the last few chapters as more of an outline than proper narrative. So I didn’t technically finish it, but I finished it enough for me to be satisfied and move onto draft number three. I’m also pretty convinced that a lot of writing is just learning how to cheat.

For the next two points, about bravery and balance, I’m not so sure I was successful with either of those. There was a lot of stress, a lot of inner struggle, and both peace and bravery were hard to attain. That’s all right. That’s what 2016 is for.

As for reflecting more often, I think this happened a lot this year. With the whole depression thing, it’s led to me spending hours in my journal, trying to figure things out, trying to find some hope in the madness. I’m not so sure I was mindful of the little things, but it’s another thing I can work on in years to come.

So for this year’s resolutions?

  • Work through the 3rd draft
    • Get some people to read it
  • Blog more (I’ve missed it)
  • Find balance and bravery, one step at a time
  • Build up my self-esteem
    • Start by admitting that my words and my self are important
  • Let go. Just let go. It’s the past. Let it go.

My resolutions are perhaps more detailed and extensive than previous years, but 2015 was rough and left a little more work to be done for the next year. I think these resolutions are worthy ones, and I hope to work towards them in the coming months.

Last but not least, a song to give you inspiration for the new year. This one is Battle Scars by Paradise Fears. It’s a couple years old now but I only stumbled upon it recently.

Happy New Year.

May it be a year of strength and success.

You can do this.


TRIALS: .solo();

your story banner


Before I begin, I just want to say that I am still accepting entries. I know there are only eight days left, which isn’t a whole lot of time, but if you are able to come up with something, I’d be happy to share it. Otherwise, the project shall return again in the summer, so there’s always that. But for now, onwards to the next entry!

This entry comes from TS over at The PewPew Diaries. In it, he recalls the trials faced when trying to balance work, school, and relationships, and the sacrifices that come with it.




“Next time, train your employees better before sending them here,” she said to my mentor, with a smile and an affable tone. If you hadn’t heard her, you’d think we were exchanging pleasantries. Though it was hard to swallow, I deserved it… kinda.


March, 2014.

I’m just 2 weeks into my job as a Support Technician, maintaining and upgrading workstations at a certain company. Pay is decent, job is somewhat fun if you love puzzle-solving, and you’re never overworked. Clock in at 9, lunch break at 12 – 2, knock off at 5. That’s usually the case if I don’t screw up.

Well, then there’s this particular occasion where a deceptively routine case was tasked to me. I almost destroyed a regional manager’s career that day. I was to migrate her workstation to another laptop, which normally just meant copying all the files over and reinstalling all the programs they are to have according to their clearance levels. Little did I know her laptop was a variant, and had relied on authentication to access her some of her most important files. Meaning to say she couldn’t access these files on another PC, even with her own user logged in; it has to be that one laptop, because even cloned systems based on the host would generate a different authentication key and be locked out of files previously secured on the host.

We’d normally have to call in upper management to bring in another guy from another company that provides the authentication software and do the paperwork.

If I had done things as-per-usual, I’d have created a huge mess for everyone. The original laptop would have been scrapped after the migration, and the regional manager would have no way to access the files unless we sent it down to decrypt, which takes quite a while. It’s all sensitive, confidential data, too.

The company (it’s a bank, if it makes things worse) is huge. I don’t know how many lives I could have potentially screwed up that day, but it’s probably a lot.

Fortunately, I ran into a few odd problems that alerted seniors on the company chatgroup, whom then checked with our office and realised I – a rookie, was working on that case. In the end, one of the senior engineers came down after 6 and we worked things out together. It didn’t help that our client was a master at passive-aggressiveness. She uses her words well; sopped in poison and tailored for harm. Confident and imposing in execution, from body language to tone of speech – her calm and steadiness belied a ruthless sea of anger and impatience.  

It was a nightmare being grilled under that pressure, and knowing that from a bystander’s viewpoint our client seems to be rather friendly. She suggested a few unpleasant things about me, and our line of work, but I let it slide because I know I can’t (and shouldn’t) fight back.

At about 9.30pm, we finally got it done. She sent us off with some creatively masked words and paradoxically kind gestures. I stepped out of the building to get a bit of fresh air after more than 12 hours at work. I haven’t eaten dinner, and home is more than an hour away. My brain and stomach hurts; every step I take towards the train station reverberated through my entire body in pangs of pain. I was halfway through dragging myself to the station when I felt my phone vibrate in my pants pocket.

…Oh my god what else could you possibly want, now?

I’m not religious, but in that instance I prayed to every god and deity I knew of to spare me from going back to the office again.

My prayers were answered when it’s revealed to be a Facebook notification, and not a message from the boss or anyone from the company.

It’s from a girl I’ve known for a few years. Let’s call her C.

C and I used to hang out frequently, but never had the chance when she started her school term. She’s good company, and I’m really glad we’re friends – we could talk about anything for an entire day.

I didn’t realise how much I missed C until that day.

Heh. It turned out to be a pretty good day afterall. I’m pretty sure I’m smiling for the rest of that week, too.


All that happened more than a year ago, with a couple of months to spare. But no, this isn’t about to become a retelling of my summer love life. Nothing worth mentioning ever happened between the girl and I. And heck; it’s so warm around here all year round that pretty much everyday is summer. We have ‘monsoon seasons’ though, which just means more rain.

To some of my peers, I might have a problem.

I’m already 21 years old, with my next birthday coming in about a month. That number is also the number of years I’ve gone without a date. Yeah, don’t even talk about having a girlfriend –  I haven’t even gone on a single date (‘official ones’, anyway).

“So yeah, during the summer before we’re starting school, I kinda realised that there was something missing in my life.”


“I got myself a longboard.”

“…huh? Dude, you… dude..”

In his defense, I probably should have phrased that whole thing better.

My lovelife is a barren wasteland. My mom doesn’t say anything about it – she doesn’t probe into the relationships of her sons. My friends, though, would occasionally raise the question, especially whenever we get together and talk about life – running from exploding creepers, fighting dragons and chasing skirts. Unfortunately only the latter happens in real life.

Know how your extended families would ask if you’re attached during festive occasions? It’s starting to get so weird for me that my friends’ families are asking me. I know that there’s no shame in failing or getting rejected; my problem is that I don’t even try. While I do have crushes and rarely – fleeting periods of limerence, but I’ve never acted on them.

There are times where I wished there was someone where I can share a moment with. And I think that eventually, I’d like to be partnered with, but it’s not a priority. And as it stands, in my current position I cannot afford the time to. There’s school, which I’m struggling to distinguish myself from the 50th percentile, plus there’s probably a part of it being a self-esteem issue, too.

I no longer remember whether, during all the times I’ve had with C, if I had ever loved her.

I just hope what I’m giving up today is all worth it.


TRIALS: Keeper of the Coins

your story banner


It’s been a while, but I’m back to posting Your Story entries again, starting with this one from Olivia Berrier over at Often Clueless, Always Shoeless. This is her take on the battle with depression and what it feels like to go through it.



Keeper of the Coins

 I’ve spent a fair bit of time battling the depression monster.

It’s not an uncommon thing, but the very nature of it feels so isolating. Among all of the physical and emotional aches that come with depression, for me the worst one is the inability to communicate exactly how it feels.

I’ve tried. I’ve spent many hours with extremely patient friends throwing out metaphor after metaphor, as if I might somehow be cured if I could only find the right words.

I can’t say that writing about my depression cured me, but it definitely helped. I also don’t think that I ever found those perfect words, but I did find some words, and I’d like to share them.

I’d never say ‘this is what depression is,’ but this is what depression (or a small part of it) is to me. If this passage speaks to your particular struggle as well, then I hope having a metaphor will be armor for you like it was for me.

If this isn’t what your monster looks like, then I hope someday you’ll try to find some words of your own. Even if they aren’t perfect. An indirect light is infinitely brighter than total darkness.


My metaphor for the unpredictable daily fatigue of depression:


Every day she began with an energy allowance. The tiny silk purse was returned to her every morning, some days with few coins and some days with even fewer. But never more than that, and never as much as she wished she had to get through the day.

At first, she was guarded and sparing with her coins, trying to ration them out so she might not be completely broke by the day’s end. She only succeeded in this goal once or twice, and after that she decided it wasn’t worth the effort because the extra coin was never added to the next day’s purse. It was just lost forever, unspent.

Some activities cost more than others, and—as is always the way—the more expensive ones were the things she wanted most to do. Yes, she could exercise today, but only if she spent her entire purse on that one activity, and spend the rest of the day on the streets moaning and crying and waiting for the blessed daybreak when she would receive another allowance. And was it really worth it?

But at times, the alternative hardly seemed better. She could spread her coins out, choosing only low-cost activities so that she could buy enough to fill her day. She stayed off the dismal streets, but in the end that was her only accomplishment. The enjoyment from the cheaper activities was tepid, at best. And while tepidity was better than the cold, she longed for true, honest heat that only came from fulfilling usages of her time.

She tried using her money to make more, as biblical parables suggested would be prudent, but all of her investments failed her dismally. She would look at the empty purse at the end of the day, and lament that she had nothing to show for it, not even tepid memories of lackluster activities.

As she received her ration from the hooded, shadowy figure, she asked him what she might do to be worthy of a more substantial allowance. She asked in earnest, but the keeper of coins was either deaf, mute, or completely uninterested. He gave no reply, not even to her binary question of whether it was even possible to earn more coins.

Approaching the problem differently, she started keeping detailed notes on how much she received each day, and what activities she had done the day before. This act of recording cost her coins and gave her no happiness in return, but this was one investment that she felt sure would pay off in time.

One day, her purse was larger than usual, and she eagerly looked back through the book to see what her purchases on the previous day had been.

It had been an expensive item: talking on the phone with a friend. Ultimately, she had run out of coins early that day to balance the larger purchase of the morning, but maybe the coin keeper had liked that? Maybe it was waiting to see that she would spend her money on worthy activities, and when she did she would be rewarded.

Without hesitation, she spent her entire large allowance on the most expensive purchases she could think of; things she hadn’t dared to attempt even on her best days, but it would be worth it. For the rest of the day, as she shivered on the streets with an empty purse, she reminded herself that it would be even fuller tomorrow than it was today. Curling up on the frozen sidewalk, she let that thought be her blanket as she drifted off to sleep.

Then morning came, and she stood in line to offer her purse again, proud and shaky from yesterday’s activities. She held her hand out with a smile, ready to receive the weighty purse back, but when the keeper of coins dropped it into her hand, it was horrifyingly light. Peering inside, she saw the smallest ration she had ever been given. Even with the blandest of activities, she would still be spending half the day or more in the elements.

“I don’t understand,” she said, looking at the faceless hood. “You rewarded me last time. Why would you punish me now for doing the same thing?”

The keeper stood there, unmoving, calmly waiting for the next dawn when he would fulfill his duty yet again.

“Just tell me what I have to do!” she cried at him, tears stinging her eyes. “Tell me how I can earn more coins and I’ll do it. I’ll do anything! Just tell me!”

But he only held out one skeletal hand, palm open, beckoning with his fingers. She was crying. Crying came with a price, and it was an expensive activity. With ice in her stomach, she opened the purse and took out almost all of the coins and handed them over, and then she shuffled off to find one more tepid activity before she would be banished back into the cold.