I owe a bunch of line by line crits to people, so if that's you then give me a link to the story and I'll to crit them by 15 sept 2359 pst
|# ? Sep 3, 2015 10:43|
|# ? May 24, 2022 02:05|
I owe a bunch of line by line crits to people, so if that's you then give me a link to the story and I'll to crit them by 15 sept 2359 pst
You never critted this story, mister. http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?story=3109&title=The+Rock+God
|# ? Sep 3, 2015 19:02|
How you doin'
It's going down!
Corsham's Best Ghost Hunters
“There’s definitely no ghosts in here,” said Henry, after he opened the door and peered into the old barn.
“Oh, is that right?” asked Gloria, the old lady who had called them in.
“You sure about that, Henry?” Sarah asked, wearing the same uniform as Henry, red and beige overall-type things with a stitched crest near the breast: “Corsham’s Best Ghost Hunters”. The only difference was while Henry carried nothing with him Sarah had a tartan backpack, dotted with colourful badges.
Gloria frowned. “I’m not sure that can be right. Strange things have been happening around here lately. I’ve felt… presences. And little Jack Plumpsy seems right frightened.”
“Even little Jack Plumpsy’s rattled,” nodded Sarah.
In response Henry just let out a long “Hmmmhuhhhhhhh” with his hand still on the door.
“Think you could have just a bit more of a look around?” asked Gloria. “You’ve only just got here.”
“I’m really not sure that’s necessary,” began Henry.
“That should be fine Gloria,” beamed Sarah.
Gloria slapped her hands together. “Lovely,” she exclaimed. “Anyone for tea?”
“That’s be ace,” smiled Sarah. “Milk no sugar for me, and milk and two for Henry.”
“Biscuits?” asked Gloria.
“No thanks,” murmured Henry. “I don’t really have an appetite.”
Gloria wandered off to the house.
“What’s with you?” Sarah asked.
Henry closed the barn door and stepped back from it. He squatted down and put some of his fist into his mouth. He began to scream softly.
“You just gonna leave me hanging?” she asked.
“Ghosts,” he said.
“Ghosts? You said there were no ghosts.”
“Oh my God,” he said through his fist, “there’s a poo poo-tonne of ghosts in there, Sarah. You wouldn’t be able to move for ghosts in there, apart from the fact, of course, that you can just move right through them.”
“How many ghosts?”
“A poo poo-tonne.”
“But how many exactly.”
“I dunno, fourteen?”
“That’s not that many.”
“That’s over a dozen! We’ve only done a couple at the most before.”
“So there’s more of them, what’s the problem?”
“We should just get out of here,” he said, craning his neck to spot Gloria through the kitchen window, back turned as she fussed over the stovetop window.
“We can’t just leave her,” Sarah stated.
“Justice, is it? We have to do what’s right, is that it?”
“Well, that,” Sarah shrugged, “but she’s also a member of the book club I go to – that’s how we got this gig, remember? It’d be super awkward if we just left.”
“And I can’t just quit. We’re reading War of the Worlds at the moment and it’s really good. I want to discuss it.”
They could see Gloria pouring hot water now.
“Why’s it freaking you out so much anyway?”
“You know the ones that get clingy when they realise I can see them? How it takes that toll on me?”
“Well, imagine that with a whole load of ‘em. Tugging at me, pulling me out of myself. I don’t wanna end up like that. Like one of them. It’s too dangerous. If it doesn’t go right that could be the end of me, of us all.”
Gloria’s footsteps shuffled on the dirt path.
He looked up with a smile plastered onto his face again.
“Here you go,” said Gloria, pushing a tray forward, the tea within flicking up to the rim of the ornate cups, but not a single drop spilling over.
Henry’s mouth twitched. “Thanks.”
“Had any more thoughts on my problem?” Gloria asked.
“About that,” began Henry. Sarah stepped forward to take her cup from Gloria and stepped hard on Henry’s foot, concealed by the tray in Gloria’s hands. He winced. “That is to say, yes – there could very well be something up here. Why don’t you show us around the barn?”
“That sounds great,” smiled Gloria, putting the tray down so it balanced perfectly on the thick wooden fencing.
Henry sighed and turned to the barn door.
Sarah stepped next to him before he could open it, sensing his indecision. “You’re doing the right thing,” she whispered beneath her breath.
He nodded, but he wasn’t sure why as he couldn’t say he yet agreed. It was part of Sarah’s whole shtick, he guessed. Just like he eased his suggestions to move on to the ghosts so did she with how he moved through life. This whole career move was her idea in the first place. But, just like he hoped the ghosts felt, he wasn’t not glad about it.
“You’ve got everything in your backpack?” he asked.
Henry pushed the bar door open lightly and it creaked open on its hinges.
The hazy figures of the ghosts he’d seen before greeted him. That was good. That meant they hadn’t settled in, hadn’t noticed he was aware of them.
“So, how long have you lived here?” Henry asked.
“Oh, an age now.”
“Passed down from the family was it?”
“No, nothing like that. Moved here in the 50s. Now it’s mostly my sons and their families that tend to the place.”
“Not your husband’s family even?”
“No. Never been married.” She plunged into the tea she was holding, even though Henry’s was still pretty scolding. Old peoples’ tongues, he thought.
Sarah had her bag on the ground and was rooting through it for her things. She had the right idea. If they were going to do this best to do it quick, not give the ghosts too long to catch on.
“Can’t be ancestors then. Any idea at all who’d be haunting this place?”
“It’s an old farm. Plenty of folk lived here before. Couldn’t be ghosts of them?”
“That’s not really how it works. Ghosts need some kind of living attachment to the area they reside. Parasitic almost.”
“Parasitic?” said Gloria. “Well, Jack Plumpsy had worms once. Could that be connected?”
Henry thought he saw some of the haze around them beginning to sharpen and focus. He coughed. “I mean, hypothetically, parasite-esque. If ghosts were even real. But they’re totally not. Haha. But if they were, given what Sarah’s told me about your problem it seems like it could pretty haunted here.”
“Oh yeah, about… 14 on the… ghost scale.”
“Is that good?”
“No. Well, good for ghosts, maybe. But not for you, not at all, really, to be quite honest. Especially if you don’t know why there would be so many ghosts here.” He eyed the hazes again. “Which there may or may not be.”
“I’m sorry I can’t be of more help,” said Gloria, putting the empty cup of tea down. “Do you think you’ll be able to help out even without details?”
“Well, it won’t be easy. If the spirits are to make peace it would help to know why they should. But we’ll have to give it a go anyway.”
Henry nodded at Sarah. She’d placed a series of white stencils around the barn in an elliptical shape. She shook the red spray paint in her hand.
“Let’s go,” he said to Sarah. He turned to Gloria, “Do mind the smell, just a bit of lamb blood mixed in.”
Sarah began to spray paint the stencils in.
“What’s that?” asked Gloria.
“Just something to calm the spirits, ease them into communication.”
The stencils done, Sarah began to free-hand some other symbols around the edges.
The hazes in the barn began to stir, moving around in clockwise direction. Only Henry followed the fog-like wind as Gloria just stared from the side-lines. Sarah stepped back too, also unable to follow their movements.
The speed of the swirling ghosts was increasing. Henry stepped into the circle and raised his arms.
“Spirits of the dead,” he began in flat monotone. “I come in peace.” He frowned slightly. That always sounded dumb. “You are trapped in this plane and to finally rest and sleep, you will need to move on.”
Usually the swirl would slacken by now but it kept up. Faces began to leer out of the swirling mist. Angry faces, skin and eyes contorted beyond human recognition. This hadn’t happened before. He could feel the presences prickling at his skin, pulling something inside out and apart.
“You need to recognise you’re trapped here, make peace, and will yourself to move—“
He fell to one knee. He was out of breath already.
“You need to move on,” he began again, though the words didn’t seem to even form his mouth.
“What’s happening?” asked Gloria
“They’re too much for him,” explained Sarah. “Their tie here must be too strong. Too full of something bad.”
Gloria brought her hands together.
Henry didn’t hear any of this, struggling just to keep himself upright from his kneeling position as he was buffeted back and forth by the stream of ghostly flesh around him, trying to unravel him.
“This is doing you no good,” he said, a sleepy whisper.
His vision began to blur and blacken at the edges. If he just let himself fall to the ground, he was sure a blissful sleep would take him immediately, maybe even before his head touched the ground.
Something appeared beside him. He looked up. It was Gloria. The feeble old lady in her flowery sundress and wellies, tea stains on her nails.
She said something, too quiet to hear.
The swirl of spirts began to ease. She said it again.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m sorry for what my husband did.”
As the fog slackened forms began to emerge more clearly. Men and women, and even a child. Their features were still twisted, but closer to human.
“Maybe in some way, by denying my involvement with him, and the awful things he did. Maybe I’ve been denying you too. Maybe that wasn’t right. Not in the end. Not fair. Not that any of it was.”
Henry could still feel himself slipping, but it felt like he was all together, all inside.
The forms began to slip away, to disappear one by one.
The last to go was the child. It reached out a grey-blue hand. Gloria’s eyes met this one. She saw it. She reached her hand out to match it.
They touched, then the arm disappeared.
Gloria’s arm dropped to her side, and she looked down. Sarah moved to her. Henry could see the tears falling from Gloria’s eyes as he faded into unconsciousness.
He hoped Gloria would have something a little stronger than tea to offer by the time he came round.
|# ? Sep 4, 2015 01:08|
Fuschia Tude, I live in hope that you'll be following suit before tomorrow morning.
|# ? Sep 4, 2015 02:31|
Death on the Doorstep
The girl grinned, bare feet barely making a sound as she padded across the carpet to the front door, anxious to show off her brand new bright yellow sundress to the kids next door. She threw open the front door, stepped outside, and then stopped short as her toes touched something... unpleasant. She looked down, her eyes widening as they settled on the corpse. She froze, just for a moment, and then she screamed.
- - -
The private detective absentmindedly chewed on his thumb as he knelt next to the victim. What a way to go. The body was mutilated almost beyond recognition, limbs bent at odd angles, cuts and punctures all around the head and chest. Her clothes were tattered, falling to pieces around her body. In another situation, he might have guessed it was an attack from a wild animal, but someone had seen fit to drop it here. No, not just dropped - presented. Someone was trying to send a message.'
When he'd gotten the call, he almost hadn't believed it. He'd done work for Mrs. Scarlet before, small jobs mostly, but she'd seemed happy with his results, and she'd always paid on. A murder, though? He had asked whether she called the police yet, and she'd told him she didn't want the police involved at all. He'd hesitated, and she told him how much she was paying. Fine then, no police.
Now he was hunched over some unnamed bird, no pockets, no purse, no ID, freshly mangled and left like a package on the doorstep. Scarlet was staring down at him in from the doorway. Her thin lips conveyed no emotion as she watched him work. She'd wanted him to get rid of the body, too. For what she was paying him he wasn't about to say no, but he made sure to get pictures first, snapping them with the new phone her generosity had paid for. She wanted to keep things quiet. He wanted to stop this murderer before he could kill again. Their interests didn't quite align, but he figured it was close enough.
He finished collecting his evidence, and then he bagged up the body. He asked Scarlet if he could wash up in the bathroom and the old lady waved him inside, satisfied. He finished cleaning up and then, water still running, peeked into the hall. No one in sight. An opportunity. He slipped out and and down the hall and around the corner, finding his way into the girl's room. The dame inside was playing with her dolls. He didn't feel great putting the screws to a kid, but he needed answers. Unfortunately, she didn't have any. All he got for his trouble was a crying kid and an angry Scarlet. She insisted he leave the poor girl alone, and he grudgingly obliged. Well, that was one lead exhausted.
Scarlet had one other kid that might be worth questioning. He'd been home for most of the day, and word was that he ran with a bad crowd. Not to mention, if his client suspected her son might have something to do with the grisly murder, that would explain why she didn't want the cops involved. The oldest son was out running an errand, or at least that's what Scarlet had told him when asked her. He was beginning to suspect she wasn't being completely honest with him. The detective flipped open his pad and made a note in big red letters to talk to the son as soon as possible.
Nothing else to do in the house, he headed back out into the heat. Maybe he'd missed something important.
The detective cast his net a little bit wider this time. Could that be a drop of blood on the bottom step? Beyond it, there was another, darker stain on the driveway. A glimpse of a scrap of what the woman had been wearing lead him around the corner of the garage, and a broken branch In the trees beyond. He was running on instinct, now, trusting his sharp eyes and his intuition to guide him. A ways back from the house and not far from the road, he stopped. This was it. He was certain. This was the place where the murder had happened. There were signs of a scuffle everywhere. Kicked up dirt, disturbed leaves. Blood, maybe. The most important piece of evidence was several pieces of the woman's outfit. She'd been killed here and carried to the front stoop, he was sure of it. The real question was: Why?
As he squatted, turning one of the scraps over in his hand, pondering a motive, he felt a hand fall on his shoulder and nearly jumped out of his skin. He span around to break free from the unknown assailants grip and fell backwards. Looming over him was the grinning, sadistic face of the eldest son, laughing. He jerked his thumb back towards the house, and told the detective that Scarlet wanted him to check out something in the basement. The detective told him that he had questions that needed answering. The son shrugged, laughed and laughed again, and told him that Scarlet wouldn't be happy if he made her wait.
The detective got back to his feet and followed the oldest son back to the house and then parted ways, the detective heading own into the basement.
He cursed under his breath when he pulled the string of the basement's single light only to have it come off in his hand. Just his luck. The basement wasn't large, he'd just have to make do with the light from the open door and the single small window. He waited a moment for his eyes to adjust, and then got to work. He scanned the walls and the floor, slowly, noting everything he was, wondering what it was Scarlet had wanted him to see. Some shelves, a few boxes, a stand up freezer. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
On a hunch, he opened the door to the freezer, and felt the bile rise in his throat. A second body, mutilated even worse than the first. A bigger lady this time, she'd been stripped naked, skin white and pale and flecked with ice crystals, wrapped in plastic and lying on top of a stack of frozen pizzas. Her head was just... gone. He swallowed. Hard.
Had Scarlet sent him down here?
A shadow fell across him, and he heard a creak on the top step of the basement stairs. He turned, pressing himself back against the body in the freezer, his hand fumbling against the hip where kept his revolver. Missing. He must have dropped it when he'd fallen on the ground outside. Or had it taken from him while he'd been distracted. He locked eyes with the person standing at the top of the stairs, and was surprised to find not the elder brother, but Scarlet herself. The barest hint of a sadistic smile played across her shadowed face.
"Don't just stand there with the door open, you're wasting electricity. Now, are you going to help make dinner or not?" The youngest son and would-be detective nodded, bashfully, He grabbed the chicken off the shelf and ran back upstairs to help his mom in the kitchen.
|# ? Sep 4, 2015 03:47|
24 hours remain to get in this week, more or less.
I'm going to be mostly offline while you're writing and such. One of my co-judges will do the official closing posts.I'll check in Saturday morning to finalize the list in the prompt and administer any further flash requests.
|# ? Sep 4, 2015 07:18|
Haha, oh goodness. I spent the last three weeks in an all-girl's program run by Aish in Ramat Eshkol; I'm already quite familiar with the phrase as it seems that every frum woman I encountered over the age of twenty or so uttered it every five minutes. It's only a matter of time before I start injecting it into my own speech…
Okay, time to answer some of the questions you asked me…well, some time ago, by now. My family is largely non-observant, although we did have our moments that seemed to come more out of tradition and an opportunity to see family than anything else. Not to say I don't value those two things—I hold both my family and our traditions in very high regard—but the point is that I didn't know why we did what we did until, in some instances, years later. Anyway, we always lit the Chanukah candles and got together for Pesach and the High Holidays, but they were kind of…pseudo-observed.
Like, we had seders at my grandma's house every year, but we'd kinda speed-read through the first half until we got to "The Festive Meal" (I believe my parents both even know the exact page in the haggadah where that occurs, I think it's 28? Somewhere around there) and then hide/find the afikomen (we could never agree on who would hide and who would find it—I insisted the kids were supposed to hide it and kinda "hold it ransom" and that's why they'd give us money, for its safe return so the seder [despite us not continuing on with one after the meal] could continue; my grandparents would sometimes insist that they were supposed to hide it and it was like hide and seek and we had to find it, for some reason. I'm still not sure where they got that idea) and eat dessert that was that. And like, we drive to my grandma's house to break the fast on Yom Kippur. You know, stuff like that.
As far as the rest of my immediate family goes, my father is completely non-observant, participating only during family get-togethers (like our seders) and bar mitzvahs and the like. He says he had Jewish stuff shoved down his throat when he was younger and was really turned off by it. My mother went to a yeshiva ("yeshiva" doesn’t exclusively refer to an all-male institution, right? Because I think it does here, and that has me confused) and had a steady Jewish education, and takes all this stuff relatively seriously but very passively. I think she's actually become less observant over the years—she still fasts on Yom Kippur, but she doesn't keep kosher for Pesach anymore. Put them together and you get me—I knew we went to Friday night services when I was younger, but didn't know a thing about their significance except that the rabbi threw candy out to the kids at the end (and it wasn't until I hit college that I realized this had anything to do with Shabbat, or even what Shabbat was). I went to Hebrew school on Sundays at a modern Orthodox synagogue because, no joke, it was cheaper, stopped after my bat mitzvah because I hated it, and my interest in my Jewish self kinda laid dormant for the next few years.
The first thing I remember reviving it, strangely, now that I think about it, is one of the most crushing experiences I've endured yet, which is the suicide of my first boyfriend from a few years earlier just a few days into my junior year of high school. I think sitting shiva with the family and being surrounded by prayers in Hebrew and his family and all this Jewish stuff was a big reminder of the fact that I, after I die, won't be many things, but I'll still be a Jew. Maybe that sounds corny or something, but it really struck something in me. Just a few weeks later, when we all got together at my grandmother's house for Yom Kippur, I remember very clearly my grandfather asking me if I was going to fast that year. I hadn't before, so I didn't see any reason to start, but then my grandfather said these words which I remember chillingly clearly: "You should do it out of respect for the dead". I honestly don't think he was referring to my recent experience specifically, and I actually don't even know why he said it in the first place, but it was enough to make me do it that year, and so I've fasted on Yom Kippur since I was sixteen.
That same year, I developed a close relationship with someone who remains one of my closest friends today, a devout Christian whose parents didn't know he was religious. We spent many, many hours sitting in my car in his driveway at absurd hours of the night talking about religion and stuff, usually agreeing to disagree, although there was a period when I became mildly interested in Christianity and he convinced me to read a bit of the Bible. I read Matthew and, I have to say, I liked it, but in the way that I'd like, say, a book written by Ann Landers—it was good advice, but I could take it or leave it. Regardless, it just never worked for me, especially the concept of the trinity, which I hear is a deal-breaker for a lot of people flip-flopping between Judaism and Christianity apparently. Anyway, I started college soon after that, and got an email from my campus's Jewish center asking me if I wanted to go to Israel for free.
For someone who'd wanted to learn more about Judaism and always wanted to travel despite parents whose idea of an exciting family vacation was going upstate to sit in a hotel for five days with an occasional trip down to the hotel pool and a drive to the lake if we were feeling adventurous, it was an amazing opportunity, and I made it clear to my parents that I would be going on Birthright that winter break, January 2006, despite my mother's warnings ("Terrorism! Bombs! 9/11!") and my father’s outright "no" (I was 18, what was he gonna do, not pay for it?). Birthright was a great introduction to a lot of things—it was there that I first actually experienced a proper Shabbat, learned what shomer negiyah was (although why anyone would follow it I couldn't imagine), learned a good bit of history, got to visit the Western Wall although it would be some time before I understood what it actually was, and learned about the first and second temples.
It was an awesome introduction, actually. Unfortunately, I came down with mono right after the trip, withdrew from school for the semester to recuperate, and had to start from scratch again the following year. Luckily for me my friend across the hall in my dorm, whom I'd happened to meet in summer camp several years earlier before she totally frummed out, told me about a trip to Israel that May. I couldn't afford a trip to Israel, even though it was heavily subsidized, so I put it out of my mind until she brought it up again a few weeks later. She suggested I should talk to “Rabbi E” about scholarship opportunities, even though the flight was two weeks away, and before I or anyone else knew it ("Mom, what would you say if I told you I was going to Israel in two weeks?") I was on my way back to Israel.
This trip, with a group who only recently started doing their own tours, Meor, like, TOTALLY opened my eyes. It was incredible. It was kinda like birthright but with better people, better touristy stuff, and much more learning, which I was more than ready for. And I couldn't have asked for a better rabbi to lead it. Rabbi E was this goofy guy who said weird stuff and I didn't take him seriously at first because of it, but I very quickly realized that I had underestimated him. He was fun and lighthearted most of the time, but all it took was one conversation with him, when he could see I really had a problem I needed help with, that he switched gears instantly and his serious side came out, and I was exposed to this crazy ability he has to just, like, know exactly what's up with you and tell you exactly what to do about it. And the scary part, he's, like, always totally right, whether I want him to be or not. Anyway, the boys had classes at their hotel while the girls went to this school kinda far from their hotel, which TOTALLY unimpressed me at first. Coming from a high-falutin' school like NYU, I was put off by the simple, sometimes run-down desks, classrooms, books and other facilities. And the food, goodness gracious…I think all of the girls lost weight just from all the times we couldn't bear to eat the school's lunches.
But after just a few visits to the school and its classes, I saw how good the teachers were, and actually LEARNED things, as opposed to talking around in circles about stuff as a lot of my Jewish learning experiences had gone up until then. And by the end of the trip, I was just in love with the school and was actually sad when we had to leave it. Except for the food, of course. That I could have done without. Not hurting matters was that Gila Manolson (the lady who wrote The Magic Touch) came to speak the last day I spent there; I credit her, from that lecture she delivered that day, as being the first person to ever make shomer negiyah make sense to me. I practically felt the mental light bulb illuminate when she spoke…seriously, it was nuts. Anyway, this school that made a bad impression on me at first obviously left me with a good impression, because here I am now, seven months later, back at Neve Yerushalayim, this time for two full weeks of classes. The food, however, is still atrocious. I would not be surprised if I left this place a) a vegetarian, b) an anorexic, c) ten pounds lighter, or d) some grotesque combination of all of the above.
So this past summer I spent a Shabbat with my aforementioned friend from camp, and a few with Rabbi E…and after that third one I knew it was something I wouldn't be able to not do, or at least not somehow acknowledge, again. It felt too right. This wasn't an easy thing to deal with because, while I saw the value in a day of rest and wasn't such a big partier that this would cripple my social life, I had become involved in a group that had become a very, very big part of my life, which—of course—met Friday nights. I might as well tell you that this group is my school's Korean drumming group, NYURI (NYU Rhythmic Impulse, long story how I came to find them), as this comes into play again in a bit. It wasn't so much a musical group as it was a cultural group and a good group of friends that had come at a time in my college experience where I was feeling friend-less and extracurricular activity-less. I kinda satisfied myself for a while by saying that Hashem had me find NYURI for a reason (and I did indeed find the group as a direct result of doing a mitzvah, but that’s a story for another time, I’m impressed if you've read even this far)…but that didn't last long. And the entire first half of this past semester was me trying to make a decision, Shabbos or NYURI, Shabbos or NYURI…and it was a decision that I found I'd have to make with little outside help, because, well, no one could help me.
None of my friends from NYURI could really help, as I was the only Jew among them and I felt that they couldn't really understand the depth of the issue; and all the Jewish people I spoke to were even worse, actually, because on top of not understanding the issue many of them talked about it in a way that was demeaning to something that was obviously very important to me (remember this, it comes into play again in a bit), asking me why I couldn't just start my own drumming group, asking why I cared so much more about Korean culture than my own, making it sound like the choice was easy, it's obvious, I have to pick the one that would benefit me more in the long run…even after I'd explained the situation at length and that it wasn't so much about the music itself as it was the people, everything I’d learned from them, and the experience as a whole. Looking back, their reactions make sense, but what were they thinking saying these things to someone who is obviously very invested in this thing, to the point where she was going crazy trying to make a decision regarding her involvement in it?
ANYWAY. I went with NYURI at first completely because of some negative experiences with Judaism I'd had over the summer (one was when I saw disgusting behavior from the Orthodox community for the first time—another story for another time—and another was when I'd tried to go too far too fast instead of taking baby steps like everyone kept telling me), but just found myself more and more miserable until finally, one day at practice, I remember just sitting there, so in despair that I couldn't even pick up my sticks and play—something I'd always been thrilled to do. I left the room, hid in a stairwell and just cried until practice was over. I called Rabbi E later that week and told him I'd been feeling especially down lately, and he said that he recommended a good dose of Shabbos. And I was like, of COURSE he's gonna say that, he's a rabbi. But it couldn't hurt, maybe I just needed a break. So that weekend I went to my school's Shabbos services, where I got to schmooze with a bunch of friends I'd made during the trip this past summer over dinner, and participate in all the little things—saying the blessings over washing the hands, and the challah, half-singing all the prayers I'd finally come to slightly recognize (I love singing so this was a highlight, even if I couldn't read fast enough to sing along). And one of the best, rather unexpected parts, was that I left after dinner, which ended around 8:30, leaving me with more than enough time to walk to the student center and catch the last half of practice.
That week, I made the incredibly difficult decision to tell the other officers (I became secretary of the group this year) that I'd be going to Shabbat services from now on on Friday nights, and that I'd try to come to practice one in a while if I could, but no guarantees. I missed them too much though, going cold turkey from them just wasn't going to work. So I started going to Shabbat services, staying for dinner, and then walking to the student center to catch the last half of practice. It was a compromise that actually worked, and that's where I am at this point. Getting to the point where I'm just going to Shabbat services and dinner might not seem like a big deal, but I think you can see that coming from my background—and with such a tough decision to have made on top of that—it actually was quite a big deal, and actually have come quite far. I've definitely moved up the ladder, as you put it…and still try to do so all the time!
So that's where I was when I left for the Jewel program in December. My experience there was kind of a mixed bag. I went through a tough personal issue that really climaxed the day I got to Israel, and got through it with Rabbi E's incredible insight, and it really affected my mood for a lot of the trip, although other things contributed to that as well, like not really "clicking" with anyone in particular there. And the "dorm" I stayed in (they rented apartments from people near the main building for the dorms) didn't have heat or dependable hot water (I took cold showers for about a week, even with the water heater on). On top of that, I was sick the whole time—the sore throat's still lingering, actually—and by the end of it I was completely mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. The classes were GREAT, though, we had some fantastic speakers, and the girls and the madrichot were generally very nice. But by the time I got to Neve, this past Wednesday night, I was so drained in every way that I called up Rabbi E and told him that I just wanted to go home. I obviously didn't go home, nor did I really want to, but I did need some sleep, some real food, and some TLC. Thank goodness I had friends from home here on birthright who went to stay with family after it ended, and they invited me to spend Shabbat there, during which I got all three of the above, and in abundance!
Okay, I should say that takes care of the "tell us a little about yourself" and "your background" parts. Where do I see myself in ten years/do I have a specific time frame within which I want to be "totally flipped out"…hmmm. I really, honestly don't know where exactly I want to get or how long I want to take to get here. I think I want to come back and study at Neve for a year after this next semester (remember that, it comes into play later!) and I can see myself totally flipped out by the end of that year; on the other hand, I know that's very easy to say here, in an environment where I'm surrounded by observant Jews, and not so easy when I get back to "the real world". I don't think I want to live in Israel…I mean, I do, but I would never be able to live so far from my entire family. And I do kinda like New York. Not necessarily Long Island, where I grew up…but my family ON Long Island, and the city where I go to school and whatnot. Although who knows if the city will have anything for me that I can't find in Israel once I graduate, and all my friends start to spread out. Really the biggest thing holding me back from moving here would be my family—EVERYONE'S in New York, and whoever isn't is still relatively close, and all in the US. But I wouldn't mind living in a religious community in the US eventually, I don’t think.
I just think that I'm so new to everything—I have yet to even read through the entire Torah—that I don't even know what I want to learn, what I have to learn, and therefore where I want to go and be. That's concerning me in terms of shidduchim, actually…I don't want to get married right now anyway, and I do have time (I'm 20) and plenty that I want to do with it, but one of the best pieces of advice I got at Jewel was during a class on the five levels of pleasure, on the subject of dating/marriage, slightly paraphrased: "when you’re looking for someone with whom to take the journey of life, get into the car with someone who's going at the same direction and at the same speed." My problem is, I don't exactly know what that direction is, or even what the speed should be. Oy. I'm not REALLY worried, I know it's not up to me and that the big guy will take care of it, but still, I'm a girl, I'm supposed to worry about these things. On a side note, whenever I say "big guy", I think first of Hashem…but then almost immediately after of Steve Urkel talking to Carl Winslow. Anyone else? Just me?
Last but not least, why do I want to become religious? Frankly, because secular society is just balls. Okay, I'm trying to watch how I speak, maybe I should think of a different noun (adjective? nounjective?)…but yeah, the secular mindset is just not doing it for me. I've just never felt satisfied with it, and I always felt like there HAD to be something more. Not to toot my own horn or whatever, but I'm fairly intelligent and do my fair share of thinking about the world, and have done so as far back as I can remember…and as far back as I can remember, my conclusions have always been rather bleak and kind of depressing. We get up and we work and we earn money to go out on the weekends and have nice houses to live in…and for what?? I think about this stuff all the time, and it would drive me crazy, because I could never find a good answer to that question.
What's the point? is the conclusion I came to after a while, and it was a sad one. I would never commit suicide, especially after seeing firsthand how it affects people, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't see how people could do it after following that line of questioning. But Judaism gives us an answer to those questions. Things have a purpose, there's a reason to live, a reason for everything we do. And really good reasons, too! Judaism seems to me to be as faith-based as it is logical. It just makes sense! As Rabbi E said about Judaism, "if you’re not enjoying it, you’re not doing it right". I just feel that it's right, even if I can't do it all right now. Maybe I just answered that question, where do I see myself down the line…I suppose I do see myself "totally flipped out". I don't know. I think you can see why this all has me so confused though. It's a lot to handle.
I want to address a big part of what pushed me to make this thread, though, and that's this attitude that, like, 99.5% of the Orthodox people I've met, here and in the states, seem to have. I'm studying abroad in Korea next semester, and it inevitably comes up in conversation rather frequently here when people ask what I'm doing when I get back to the US…and the reactions these people have, boy oh boy. I mean, it's one thing to not understand why someone would want to go there—heck, I didn't have any interest in Korean culture at all myself before I joined NYURI—but the reactions these people have had have been such a huge turnoff, it's ridiculous.
I had a chavruta this past semester with whom I met a grand total of twice before we had a conversation about my study abroad plans. This is back when I wasn't really thinking about coming here for a year, and when she found out I was going to Korea and studying Korean but didn't have plans to come to Israel and study Hebrew, she said, "Oh, so you'll go to another country to study their language, but not your own?? complete with as "oh-no-you-di'nt" as an expression a white Jewish girl could exhibit. It doesnt sound so bad, but the way she said it was enough to leave me speechless, I just didn't know what to say. And again, I can see why she'd react that way, but that's the attitude almost everyone here takes when they hear I'm studying somewhere that ISN'T ISRAEL and studying a language that ISN'T HEBREW.
I'm quite excited about it and looking forward to it, and I feel like they're trying to talk me out of it (I mean, of course they are, they want me to stay here and get all frummed out and whatnot) but do they honestly think that, say, wrinkling your nose and asking, "What’s in Korea?" like they're talking about a country full of skunks or rancid garbage or something, instead of something that I obviously am very invested in, is going to convince me? Their blatant disrespect of MY culture and my interests—secular culture, the one I've been living for the past, you know, twenty years of my life, which even if I may end up leaving it behind eventually is still mine for now—turns me off more and more to theirs. And these are people that know they don't have to worry about, like, "losing me to the dark side" when I'm in Korea—I've been in contact with the rabbi of the Chabad house that's opening up there in March, for crying out loud—I've brought this up, it's just very frustrating.
You have to understand, I understand why they wouldn't want me to go…but they're just SO disrespectful about it, and it's very ugly. It's like anything secular is evil, anything that isn't COMPLETELY AND SOLELY for His glory is worthless. Which doesn't sit right with me, because, you know, that's where I've been my whole life, and still am! And He created all this stuff anyway! Have you heard that little story about the rabbi who took a two-week vacation to go skiing in the Alps or something, and everyone's like, but you're so holy, why go to the Alps? And his reply was something like, when he got to heaven, he didn't want G-d to say, like, "why didn't you take the time to observe my other beautiful creations?" or something like that? That's how I feel about all that.
But anyway, that's why I decided to make a thread here, because, well, Something Awful isn't exactly known for being the pinnacle of holiness—it's known for being a humor site, with questionable moral values at times. I guess I'd like to know what led you (and this is a question for anyone to answer, not just Ari) to sign up for SA. I feel like this site is very…it’s easy to see how SA could lead one off the derech, so to speak. Can you tell me a little about your relationship with the forums as a religious Jew? Do you see why I'm asking? I hope this question isn't too ridiculous.
|# ? Sep 4, 2015 07:27|
Stories need a title and word count, IMO.
|# ? Sep 4, 2015 07:36|
Fuschia Tude, I live in hope that you'll be following suit before tomorrow morning.
Finn looked around the room where he would be living for the next month and sighed. Everything was dry, brown, and old. He put his bags down on the floor of his room and walked back into the living room. There was a breaking news report on TV.
“Looks like another body found,” Gran said. “Terrible.”
“Is that Mr. Winton from the store?”
Sure enough, the reporter went on to describe his life, and interviewed people outside his shop on Main Street. Something didn’t seem right to Finn. No sign of a struggle, they said. The police were asking for anyone with tips to contact them.
He took out his phone. Mom’s data plan was pretty good, and Gran didn’t have a computer.
“Winton was such a nice man. What a shame. And his young wife with her little baby, too.” Gran changed the channel. “Enough of that.”
Finn looked up more details about the death. ‘Police cannot confirm a link to the recent murders.’ Then he got a text from Rae and Osi.
“I want to go for a bike ride,” he said.
“Hmm... Be back by six. You have to eat a good supper.”
“Right!” Finn ran out to meet the other children, and the back door slapped shut behind him.
Gran was glad that the locals got along with Fin. She knew their parents; they were a good sort, mostly. All except that Osi. She walked out onto the porch to call to them, but they were already gone.
Osi was thirteen and Persian and he knew how to kill a mouse by hanging it from a string. His dad owned a mechanics shop and he always knew everything about the latest cars. He was a big showoff; Finn didn’t care about cars, but he couldn’t say that. Rae was a girl, but she was cool.
The three of them lay on a dirt hill in the woods outside of town, with their bikes propped up nearby.
“You saw that Mr. Winton died?” Finn asked tentatively.
“Yeah,” Osi said. “Sucks.”
“The police think it might be related to other murders lately. Maybe a serial killer.”
Rae spoke up from behind them. “Or, it’s an evil spirit taking revenge!”
“A what? You’re crazy, Rae.”
She sat up. “No, my ma told me this! Said it was real what happened back then. Said there’s real magic in these things, and never believe otherwise or one day they might get up and get you, too!”
Osi rolled his eyes. “So, who’s this spirit, then?”
Rae’s voice grew quiet. “There was these two people, Rose and Jake. She’s really pretty, prettiest in all a Georgia, or nearabouts. She makes food to sell at a market stall every week. And her man was the goodly sort at first, all lovey, had a good job, but by and by she got pregnant—” She paused to give the statement sufficient gravity. “—and he got out. He got gone.”
“Where?” Finn asked.
“She don’t know. She’s looking all over, his work, his family, nobody’s seen him. Goes on like this, weeks, months, no word from him. Rose can’t keep up her job, work on food to sell at the market and pay the rent without him, so she has to move back with her parents. The day she's moving, she gets a letter. It’s from Jake.”
“What’s it say?”
“Says he’s someplace up north, going to school, bettering himself. But he includes five hundred dollars, says take care of herself and goodbye. She knows she’ll never see him again.” Rae sat up. “Well, all this anger and fear... she collapses. Found hours later by her parents. So they take her to the hospital, and she lives, but the baby don’t. And she was never the same after that. She starts cursing men, families, books and teachers. They eventually take her off to the asylum, and in her room they find voodoo dolls, evil tokens, things like that.”
“So what’s this have to do with those killings today, then?”
“She cut these dolls faces with knives. The people killed lately had cuts all over their faces, too, but no struggle, or a weapon found. Other people living there remember nothing.”
“What, she’s killing them from the loony bin?” Osi rolled his eyes again.
“No. She died thirty years back. But she wanted revenge, targeted specific people with families. I hear she chopped them up and ate them as a stew. Cooked babies’ brains still in the head like softboiled eggs. Even worse what I heard she done to men.”
“So what?” Osi jumped to his feet. “What can we do, go to the police and say, ‘Excuse me sirs, did you know these people were murdered by an old crazy woman’s ghost?’”
Rae looked up at him with a scowl. “The asylum’s still open. Why not go there now, ask if they kept any of her stuff?”
Osi shook his head and looked away. Rae was climbing onto her bike. “You coming?” she asked.
It was after dark by the time Finn got home. Gran was watching TV in the living room with the lights out. “Food’s in the fridge,” she said. “It got cold.”
“Sorry, Gran.” He microwaved the plate and was about to carry it into his room when Gran called out.
“Eat it right there! I don’t want food dropped all over the house.”
He muttered and sat down at the table.
It hadn’t gone well for them at the asylum. They only got through the gates after lengthy cajoling, and the woman behind the desk was no help. She wouldn’t show any records or answer any questions about that time. Rae said she doubted she knew anything, anyway.
“She have any family?” Finn had asked Rae.
“Nah... but she did have a friend.”
Finn walked up and rang the doorbell. An old man with long gray hair and a patchy, spotted face opened the door and stared down at the children on his porch. “What’s this about?” he said through the screen door. They came here to meet him first thing in the morning; an old strip of wooden row houses stretching the length of the street.
“I called you yesterday,” Rae said. “We wanted to ask you about Miss Rose.”
The old man’s face brightened. “Yes, yes, come in.” He started tea.
Finn had slept fitfully the night before. He dreamed of a woman, laughing, stirring a great bubbling pot. She turned the head off of a lizard and dropped it, writhing, into the pot. Then she slowly turned to stare at him. When her gaze reached him, the skin of her face stretched and grew to fill the whole world, and he woke up panting.
Finn shook his head, trying to get the terrible laughing face out of his mind.
Rae kicked his leg under the table. “You all right?”
“Yeah. Sorry. So Mr. Osmond, you knew Miss Rose back then, before...?”
“Oh, yes. I was her neighbor. They had us over for dinner once, maybe twice a month, or we’d invite them. My Maggie tried to talk to her some, too, but she never saw her at church. Said she got a funny feeling from her.”
“Oh, I didn’t put much stock in it. Maggie sometimes got these feelings about folk, couldn’t fully explain. When she saw her after that boy Jake up and left, she said Rose was ‘wrong’—that’s all she’d say. I told her she was being silly. Well, she didn’t take kindly to that! But she stopped inviting Rose after that. Course, the murders got found out a few weeks later.”
Rae’s eyes were fixed on the old man. “After her arrest, what happened to her things?”
“I don’t rightly know. Her family took ‘em, maybe, but they died years back. Wait, there was one thing—let me show you, you seem awful keen on all this nonsense.” Mr. Osmond pulled himself to his feet and shuffled into the next room. They heard the old man rummaging in a nearby room.
“Look at this,” he said when he came back, and held up a small painting. “Rose gave me this portrait of Maggie. She said it would bring good luck if it stayed in a safe place. I forgot all about it in a letter box after Maggie died, until just now, when you reminded me.”
“Can we see it?” Finn asked.
“You can have it.” Osmond tossed it onto the table. A woman in a dark frock with white frills stared straight out of the painting at the viewer. “I don’t put much stock in those things, but that painting... I don’t mind seeing that go. It downright affrightens me. She died not four months later.”
After that meeting, Rae and Osi went home for lunch, but Finn needed to know more. He went to the library, to use the old microfilm machine. Mr. Osmond had mentioned an auction after Rose died, selling off all of her paintings. He looked through the newspapers until he found the date—and there—an auction. But no mention of who attended, just a contact for the organizer.
He went to the little auction house, somehow still around. He asked about the auction from thirty years ago. Yes, they had those records; yes, he could see them.
Finn read through the names for the winning bids. He didn’t recognize most of them, but a few caught his eye: Mr. Winton, for one, and the murder victim from a couple days back. And one more: Mary Lee Ross. His Gran.
He raced back home.
“There you are, Finn. I was looking for you.” Gran was hunched over the kitchen table, sharpening a knife. There was a strange sing-song lilt to her voice.
“Gran, did you buy a painting from an auction, maybe thirty years ago?”
“Oh, yes,” she said, without looking up. “It’s in your room. Behind the door. The boy in it reminded me of your father.”
He ran in there, shut the door, and studied the wall of photos for the first real time. Yes, there was a small painting. The spitting image of Finn stared out at him from the image.
He could still hear the scraping metal from the kitchen as Gran continued sharpening. “Supper’s nearly ready,” Gran called out. “Why don’t you join me?”
|# ? Sep 4, 2015 07:45|
|# ? Sep 4, 2015 17:12|
The last mINute of the eleventh hour.
|# ? Sep 4, 2015 20:36|
Almost forgot to say I was in!
|# ? Sep 4, 2015 22:41|
Let's do this. In.
|# ? Sep 4, 2015 22:53|
Haha, oh goodness. I spent the last three weeks in an all-girl's program run by Aish in Ramat Eshkol; I'm already quite familiar with the phrase as it seems that every frum woman I encountered over the age of twenty or so uttered it every five minutes. It's only a matter of time before I start injecting it into my own speech…
|# ? Sep 5, 2015 00:38|
|# ? Sep 5, 2015 05:33|
The Rope Trick
Giancarlo leered at Hitomi from behind his varnished island of a desk. “C-4 got your tongue, eh?” he said.
Hitomi sat tied to the heavy wooden chair across from Giancarlo, the duct tape over her mouth holding in the plastic explosive. She stared poison daggers at Giancarlo’s egg-shaped body, thinking: Just kill me, don’t torture me with dad jokes.
Giancarlo gave her an exaggerated frown. “Hey, no need for the Dragon Lady eyes,” he said, chuckling to himself and toying with the detonator on his desk. “I know you might be uncomfortable now, but this blind date’ll get so much better once your cowboy lover shows up.” He gestured to the bank of security monitors on the right wall of his office. His special forces patrolled the first ten floors of the office building, automatic weapons in hand. “Jessie James-san just needs to run out of bullets, and then we’ll have the night to ourselves.”
He grinned at her. She shuddered.
“It’s a shame,” said Giancarlo, spreading his arms out and swiveling his office chair from side to side, framed against the glowing Roppongi night skyline. “All the high-class men you had at your fingertips, all the power you could have embraced, and instead you waste yourself on this six-shooting silver-spurred star-spangled wannabe—“
He stopped. He could barely see past the duct tape, but the corners of Hitomi’s mouth were pulling up. Now she was grinning.
“There you go,” said Giancarlo. “Now you’re having f—“
The plate glass window shattered behind him.
Giancarlo whipped his head around, just in time to catch a double boot-heel to the chin, ricocheting his head off his open day-planner. Eiko clipped the helicopter’s cable to her belt, then grabbed him by the lapel and hip-tossed him over his desk, sending bobblehead figurines and picture frames clattering to the carpet as he landed with a thwump.
Eiko swung her legs over the desk and planted her feet into Giancarlo’s soft belly. He moaned in pain as she made her way over to Hitomi. Eiko ripped the duct tape off with a flourish, and Hitomi spit out the plastic explosive, grimacing. “You could have made it here before he started hitting on me, you know,” said Hitomi.
“I wasn’t worried,” said Eiko, her long dark hair shimmering out from under her wide-brimmed cowboy hat. “He doesn’t know how to treat a fine lady like yourself.”
She gave Hitomi a peck on the lips, then whirled around and kicked Giancarlo in the ribs as he struggled to get up. She motioned to the plastic explosive on the floor. “Nice little stash you’ve got there,” Eiko said to his gasping red face. “But we’ve got something bigger.”
She pointed up towards the office’s skylight, the muffled sound of helicopter blades whirling above them. “And it’s going to make a lot more noise when it falls. I wouldn’t want to hang around here if I were you.” She turned back to Hitomi and sat on her lap, straddling her. With one arm, she unclipped the cable from her belt and attached it to a slat on the back of the wooden chair.
“What, you’re not even going to untie me?” said Hitomi.
“You know I never do things the easy way,” said Eiko. “Where’s the fun in that?”
Hitomi scowled. “You are going to get such a talking-to when we get home.”
“Looking forward to it,” said Eiko. She pulled her revolver out and fired three shots through the skylight.
A split-second passed before Eiko and Hitomi were flung back through the open plate-glass window and out into the clear night. Giancarlo could hear a crisp Yee-haw echo through the air as he finally got to his knees. God-damned broads, he thought as he brushed himself off. Not worth the—
He could hear something whistling through the air above him.
Something that could make a lot of noise.
Giancarlo screamed, flung himself in vain towards his desk, braced himself for the inevitable explosion. And it came.
The twenty-foot wide chandelier crashed through what was left of the skylight and smithereened itself against the office floor, sending glass flying everywhere in a hail of sound and light. Then there was only the belated tinkling of broken crystal, the loose cable slithering down in a coil of wrought metal, and the hyperventilating of the fat man huddled in the corner.
|# ? Sep 5, 2015 06:32|
Sign ups are now closed
|# ? Sep 5, 2015 06:59|
sh VS twist brawl
She was called the Six Chamber Samurai.
An ill-equipped task force milled around the street in front of the the Grand Hyatt Tokyo. Most of their efforts went toward keeping the crowd of spectators at bay while the hostage negotiators scratched their heads; the building was under silent lockdown.
Yayoi Brown checked her six shooter one last time, prayed the little bullet kami would look after her aim. More than twenty floors to clear with six shots. She never believed in spirits ‘til she was asking for help, but she figured they’d see eye to eye with her on this one. At that moment, she was making like Santa Claus in a chimney, hidden in one of the laundry chutes with only pressure and friction holding her up. The hallway beyond the chute was quiet, which meant dick-all, but she couldn’t play Spider Man all day.
She kicked open the door to the chute, clambered awkwardly into the hallway beyond, revolver in hand…
...and found herself standing over rows of hotel guests laying face-down, fingers laced over the backs of their heads. Some burly white guy leveled his burly semi-automatic at her, but she was faster on the trigger.
The shot went wide, barely. The guests nearest the white guy took their cue and lunged for his knees, just as he squeezed the trigger, just as he let loose a stream of bullets that chewed up the ceiling and showered everyone in white plaster dust.
One bullet, one man down.
Yayoi stood over the white boy, gave him a good look up the barrel of her gun. She wasn’t about to waste another bullet on him, but he didn’t need to know that.
He turned his head to the side and spat on one of the guests holding him down.
“I think I know, ma’am,” said a young man in a bellman’s getup. He bowed deeply when she glanced his way. “Whoever’s behind this--most of them are on the top floor. They’ve got Koneko Bitter--” Yayoi wracked her brain, seemed to remember some idol group by that name “--and are going to force them to give some kind of statement to a livestream.”
Alone in the lift, Yayoi closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Top floor. Someone trying to make a statement. If these guys weren’t after ransom money, they had an agenda. Which meant there was probably one charismatic motherfucker behind the whole thing. Good news for a girl with five bullets; take out the brains and the brawn would scatter.
The doors swung open on the top floor--executive conference suites--and Yayoi spent two more bullets on the surprised bastards guarding the guest elevators.
She ducked into one of the smaller conference rooms, waited for their comrades to investigate and move on. The Hyatt was as labyrinthine as it was opulent, and they had no idea who they were looking for. She crept back into the hallway as soon as they’d gone. She only had so long before they decided to retrace their steps.
Creep. Duck. Stop. Roll.
Three bullets left.
One room left unchecked. A closed door at a T intersection. She reached it at the same time the minions did, two on either side of her.
Pop! Popopopop! Pop! Pop!
She didn’t know how many shots she fired, but when the red cleared from her vision, four men were dead. She was crouched in between them, revolver still hot in her hand. Before she could check the chamber and confirm she was empty, the door opened.
“Drop your gun, or I blow the whole building,” said Taro Asahara, leader of the Hikari no Wa doomsday cult. He tapped an Apple Watch on his wrist. “Deadman’s switch. Your decadent society even has an app for that.”
“You’re bluffing,” Yayoi said, weapon trained on Asahara. ‘Course, so am I, she thought grimly. O kami, grant me ammo.
She pulled the trigger.
But Asahara flinched, pulled his hand away from the watch, and gave Yayoi the half-beat she needed to tackle the cult leader. His head hit the tile floor, hard enough to concuss but not kill.
“Yata, motherfucker,” she said, and smacked him with the butt of her revolver, just to be sure.
|# ? Sep 5, 2015 07:00|
round 1 sittingtwist brawl judgment
sh VS twist brawl
These were both pretty bad tbh but slick genre nonsense is not really either of your home ground. Twist's showed the strain more, though, so this round goes to sitting here at a jog.
Your next round is 1500 words, 7 sept 2359 pst.
Prompt: The unconscious is the ocean of the unsayable, of what has been expelled from the land of language, removed as a result of ancient prohibitions.
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 12:15 on Sep 5, 2015
|# ? Sep 5, 2015 11:54|
Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at 19:34 on Dec 30, 2015
|# ? Sep 6, 2015 17:07|
A Man's Work
Every day, my sons and I worked the fields. They would sometimes complain and I would laugh at them until their pride shut them up. Bartholomew, my oldest, left the farm as soon as he could; Ruth didn’t stop crying that night, or several nights after. I could only hold her and assure her that either Bartholomew had the guts to face the world, or would return home.
Every day, most of my sons and I worked the fields. It became more expensive each year, but we never wanted. Our neighbors were not so blessed. When the Pravins left for the city, they took Thomas with them, already a man with a son of his own on his way. Ruth cried less for him, happy for his new family, but held to our last three tighter.
Every day, most of my sons worked the fields. I watched over them, making sure they did it right, but was more concerned with Ruth. She had fallen ill and we did not have the means to cure her. I could only hold her and assure her that either she would be better soon, or she would be better later. Nobody could assure me.
Every day, some of my sons and I worked the fields. With the passing of Ruth, Melvin decided to go to college and become a doctor. Ruth couldn’t cry, so I did in her stead; I shook him, I yelled until he shouldn’t want to leave. He left anyway. Thomas showed for Ruth’s funeral and I saw my grandson, his eyes green like Ruth’s. There was no sign of Bartholomew.
Every day, I worked most of the fields. I begged my body to move more, so I took care of as much as I could. Omar would try to coax me away, but I pushed forward, content with every ache. Evan took care of the home and replaced every piece of rotten wood with a fresh plank; he built me a new room when I could no longer climb the stairs.
Every day, I worked most I could. I was limited to just a few acres, but would not stop until I could only stop. Melvin returned and told me I could only stop. I laughed at him, he was too deep in his books to assure me of his word, but Evan built him a clinic on the old Pravin land.
Every day, I worked my miniature field. Bending made me want to cry, but my pride shut me up. I held to this small work; it became more difficult each year, but I had the guts to face every ache. When I stopped working, would I still be a man? The only thing I would have left is most of my sons.
Every day, I worked on my single plant. I watched over it, making sure it grew right, but was more concerned with Omar. Evan had found a wife, became a man. Omar was not so blessed. He, alone, worked all the fields as I had once. I wanted to shake him, to yell until he should want to leave, but could only lay there in bed and assure that my plant was well.
Every day, there was no sign of Bartholomew. I didn’t stop crying. I cried less for him, but more for myself, the mistakes I must have made for him to hate me so. I laughed at myself until my pride shut up. I begged myself to make peace, so I took care of as much as I could. Melvin wrote my will to assure the world of my word; the only thing my sons would have left would be my fields.
My last day, I saw my grandson, his eyes green like Ruth’s. It became more awkward every minute, but he could only hold me and assure me. I thought back to my life, how every day my sons and I worked the fields. It became more distant every second, but I could only watch as it left my mind as soon as it could. With a splitting of light, my final moment, I saw Ruth, her eyes green like my grandson’s.
|# ? Sep 6, 2015 21:30|
The Great Galvani's Assistant
The knives went into the board, thwack, thump, thwack. One after the other the red balloons popped. The balloons weren’t the problem. His aim wasn’t either. The problem was what happened when it wandered up along the human outline on the board, knives popping balloons next to the ankle, the hip, the breast, the neck--
Galvani’s shot went wide. He stopped himself from slamming a fist into the side of his stool, bit on his hand instead, waited, as if Mother Mary herself was going to descend from heaven and bless him with a hug, make everything right. She didn’t. She was probably scared she’d be next to eat a knife.
He forced himself across the room. The stray knife had landed right in the middle of Galvani’s likeness, on the yellowed poster on the wall. The Great Galvani. What a joke that had been.
The ringleader popped his head into the room and looked. He didn’t ask the usual question anymore. Hadn’t done in days. He just waited for Galvani to say something, and when Galvani shook his head, the ringleader disappeared to start the show without him.
Galvani sat back down and started throwing. His motions were smooth. His aim was fine. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was the outline on the board, and how much it reminded him of a murder scene. The problem was that he wasn’t pathetic enough to drown his sorrow in gin, and drowned them in sweat instead. He went through the motions because he didn’t know what else to do, and he didn’t want to think about it.
All evening he threw, accompanied by the faint cheers of the distant audience.
After the show, the ringleader popped in his head once more. This was unusual.
He ushered in a young woman. Her name was Lucy, and she was infatuated with circus life, wanted to be part of it, and accordingly her eyes were lit up as if there was a gleaming shooting star where her brain was supposed to be. She barely brought out a word, fidgeted with a non-existent item in her hands, so it was the ringleader who introduced them. She would be Galvani’s new assistant. It was time to get the act back on the road.
He told them to piss off and went to bed.
The girl was back the next day, and she annoyed the gently caress out of him.
For all the words she’d lacked last evening, she found ten this morning. A verbal avalanche buried Galvani, froze his arms and gave him a headache. Her words bounced off him until she finally had enough of his meager attempts to ignore her and stomped over to the throwing board, where she looked him in the eye – and her breath betrayed her nervousness – raised her chin, and dared him to shoot.
He threw every single knife. Straight into the ground.
He didn’t know why. It was pointless, and it had proven nothing, and it certainly hadn’t scared her. It just seemed right to throw the drat knives into something.
He took a deep breath, told her to sit down, and then he explained what had happened, and why he didn’t want another assistant.
He told her how Rosella had died.
The beginning was the hardest – that moment when his knife had left his hand and he’d realized the throw had been off. That horrible second, the knife hanging in the air before him, slowly dangling along its path as if time itself had stopped and dared him to dash forward and correct his mistake, just pluck it out the air and start over. Then he’d blinked, and the world had shattered.
He still remembered the silence in the moments after, the horrified shouts, the people covering their children, the ringleader storming on stage, face red, red like the ground beneath Rosella, red like the medics in their uniforms and the sirens and the stage light that announced the end of the show.
At some point he’d fallen to his knees and cut himself on the knives.
He remembered the days after. Policemen and lawyers. Fancy suits and cheap ones. Prison dangling over his head, and the ringleader’s efforts to keep him out of it. Galvani wasn’t sure if he shouldn’t have gone there after all. That’s what should happen when you take a life. But he didn’t. Like some judge could just swing the hammer and cleanse you of your sins. Though they hadn’t even gotten that far; only pens had been swung.
The new throwing board had come, and Galvani still saw the red stains at the neck. Red like the balloons he popped. Balloons and arteries. They couldn’t expect him to get back on stage, like nothing had happened.
And here they were.
Lucy took his hand, and looked him in the eye, and she said:
She walked over to the board and took up position, and Galvani knew right then that there was no way around this one.
The practice armor fitted her rather awkwardly, but it was the only way he would even consider throwing knives anywhere near her general direction. Even so it was hard to focus on the throws, to keep his mind firmly in the now instead of having it slip back into the past. An unfocused knife thrower was murder waiting to happen. Another--
Lucy kept him in the game. Like a personal coach, she pulled him back in, pushed him further. Just one more knife. Now a bit closer. Now a bit faster. Now without her shin guards.
He still spent his days in a back room on the circus grounds, but now the distant cheers accompanied them both, and the thwack, thump, thwack of the knives, and the clatter of discarded armor, one after the other. Piece by piece she eased him back into the process. She never touched the neck guard, the silver ring above her shoulders. She knew better.
And then came the day the Great Galvani was back on stage.
His entry was unremarkable. The claps were polite. The crowd either didn’t remember him, or had never known him. Cameras flashed from the ranks like twinkling stars in a murmuring sky. The only one who seemed excited was Galvani himself. He was so nervous he almost stumbled and knifed himself.
Lucy walked past him. She took up position at the board, chin raised in pride, and maybe a dash of showmanship, finally one of the circus troupe, living her own dream of a life full of freaks and miracles, and her being the best of both worlds.
She looked straight at Galvani, took the steel ring from her neck, and tossed it aside with a flourish.
The crowd cheered.
The knives almost slipped out of Galvani’s hands. Sharp steel and sweaty fingers. What were they thinking? What if she flinched?
What if he did?
The audience began to clap, in rhythm at first, then faster and faster until it the drops of noise turned into a trickle, and then a stream, lifting him up and washing him away. Lucy still stood there, resolute. She waited. She smiled. Another flourished gesture, an invite to start throwing.
Everyone’s eyes were on them.
The Great Galvani took aim, swung, and released the knife.
|# ? Sep 6, 2015 22:32|
Rhapsody for Asa
I think he loved bread best of all. Maybe even more than he cared for me. Piping hot bread, you understand, fresh out of the oven, split open and devoured right away, the steamy aroma filling your nostrils, the crust crackling over your tongue. It was all he ever wanted for his birthday.
You have to understand that our great wheat field was once little more than a scraggly patch at the edge of the farmlands, which made a loaf of fresh bread a small miracle. Witnessed rarely, and tasted even less. Some of the townspeople were reluctant to give up their opportunity to have bread for Asa, but when they saw his face glow with joy when he took that first bite they held their tongues. Besides, he always did his best to share it. After his little feast, he always went out to thank the field. I thought it was a bit silly, but like a good big sister I led him out to the wheat patch and kept watch.
The day he turned seven, however, a playful mood struck Asa. After saying his little prayer, he tapped me on the arm and dashed away, running along the great wood fence. I grinned and chased after him. Soon he came across a wide hole in the fence, which he ducked under and ran out the other side. Breathless and laughing, I slid under it, then picked myself up and chased after my rascal of a brother. We found ourselves at the forest's edge and charged in, losing ourselves in childish reverie.
Then I heard a piercing shriek, a cacophony of pain and loneliness that wrenched my stomach inside out and petrified my blood. I craned my neck and looked all around us, desperate to find our way back, but each direction seemed as densely packed with trees as the next. That was when it dawned on me. We were in The Wood.
There was one consistent detail in all the stories our elders told about The Wood: nobody who ventured in came out again. Some said these unfortunates were slaughtered by the deadly beasts that dwell within, and others insist they were doomed to an eternity of wandering the labyrinthine jungle. I was a practical girl even then, dismissing these dire warnings as fairy stories meant to keep us from misbehaving, but Asa had always been prone to flights of fancy. I grabbed his arm and broke into a run, leading us deeper into the forest.
We ran on and on, the brambles scratching my feet raw. Just as I could feel Asa starting to lag, I spotted a patch of light cutting through the tree line. I charged on, urging Asa to keep pace, and we broke out of the trees and into a wide glen. As I jerked my head back to see if we had been pursued, my foot snagged on a thick root and we tumbled down the glen to the bank of the black river.
A dark, shaggy beast stared down at us from the edge of the glen, black eyes glittering, and let out its banshee shriek before starting down the hill. I clutched Asa close, his round, white face pressed against my shoulder. Suddenly the beast leapt forward, teeth and claws flashing like knives. I jerked away as if by reflex, and with one swipe of its claw it pinned Asa down. He struggled for a moment, then the claw shifted and an awful snap rang through the forest.
I lay there, frozen in shock. The beast nosed Asa's limp body around, and a white-hot rage sprang up within me. I grabbed a fistful of the black mud and hurled it into the beast's eyes. It jerked back, stunned for a moment, but then glared at me and let out a low, rasping growl.
Suddenly the piercing sound of an explosion filled the air. The beast shuddered, hair and blood flying from its back. It turned from me and bounded up the glen, letting out a pitiful wail as it went.
I scrambled over to Asa and pulled him close to me. His delicate limbs hung at his sides, and his eyes stared at something I could never see. Bitter tears filled my vision and I clutched him tight, as if a spark of my grief could jolt him back to life. Gradually, it dawned on me that a man stood beside us, and I turned to face him. His face was framed by a mane of shaggy black hair, and his gray eyes scrutinized Asa's lifeless form. An old-fashioned gun hung at each of his hips, and I knew at once this man was the one they called the Deadeye.
The Deadeye, the elders had said, was an ancient warrior who lived within The Wood, the only person capable of stopping the evil within from escaping to the rest of the world. Though this man seemed younger even than my parents, his eyes were full of old sadness that gave his true nature away.
I begged the Deadeye to help me, to use his powers to bring back Asa's life. He shook his head and explained that The Wood's power had been drained away, and only time could replenish it. To make matters worse, he told me nothing that dies in The Wood can ever leave it. So we carried Asa's body to the swamp. We laid it in together, watched as the murky water swallowed him up. I wept as his stark white face vanished into the blackness.
The Deadeye led me out without a word, turning back as soon as I made it to the edge of the forest. I walked home, sure that the elders would beat me for my failure, but the sad acceptance that crossed their faces as I told the story was somehow more horrible than any punishment. That meant it was all real.
When I came of age I decided to work the wheat field. I worked hard, partly because I felt responsible for depriving the village of my brother's working years and partly because my thoughts had grown clouded and dark, and I knew toil would purge them. As the calluses built up on my hands the wheat field grew, covering acres and acres until bread became commonplace. My dear, you live in a world Asa would have loved.
As I looked over the wheat field today, planning out the harvest, something caught my eye. A white pinprick stood out at the edge of The Wood. I put down my scythe and walked closer. As I peered into the trees, I could have sworn I saw a pale face gazing back at me, its mouth wrinkling into a mischievous smile. A little white hand beckoned me closer, but I couldn't will my legs to move. The sun sank low in the sky, and the smile faded. I wanted to cry out as the little form receded into the trees, but my lips were made of stone.
Now go fetch my walking stick. And give your grandmother a kiss, for we'll never meet again. Oh, don't weep for me. A life spent crying over ghosts is a life wasted. I have a birthday present I must deliver, and I don't intend to let it cool.
|# ? Sep 6, 2015 22:51|
Every man in my family’s been in the service, going as far back as anyone knows. My father was in the great war. I’ve been told we fought for the US before it was even a country. Just a glimmer in a slaveowner’s eye. It must be in our blood.
One night when I was about fourteen I came home long after supper and my father was up waiting for me. Cigarette smoke and cognac hung in the air. He was sitting in perfect dark and each long draw he took made orange light blossom on his face. He asked me if I’d heard of the Tuskegee Airmen. I didn’t even know what to say. He’d been telling me he was one of them my whole life. Why was he asking such an obvious question? He explained to me that night that he wasn’t a member of the Airmen, but of the Experiment.
Folks didn’t know to expect a war after the Maddox got hit. But my dad and I could see it coming. You get an ear for the distinct timber of sabre-rattling, you get an eye to read between the lines of foreign policy talk. My father’s late-night stories about the syphilis experiments and his father’s death in WWI had been a warning, his own personal and private analog of Owen’s "Dulce et Decorum est", and I had no intention of serving in the military thereafter. But the Gulf of Tonkin was the ruination of my dental practice plans. I suppose it ruined a lot of folks’ plans. After Tonkin, we knew the draft was imminent -- so, instead, I volunteered.
My degree allowed me to avoid infantry; most of the boys drafted went straight to the front line. Low ranking glorified meatshields. But I was a 22 year old man and I had a medical degree. In dentistry, yes, but beggars can’t be choosers. After basic I went straight to Nha Trang AB.
For most of the autumn of 64 it was exactly as I’d hoped -- mostly dealing with non-combat related ailments, I even got to fix the occasional busted filling. I didn’t know one damned thing about Vietnam before I went, hardly any of us did. But I got myself hooked pretty good on ca fe sua da, pho, and these little grilled chickens they had. It was, if I’m being honest, like a vacation with free on-the-job training in dentistry.
But by January of 65 the dead and dying started coming in waves. Turns out, pulling out bullets isn’t altogether different from extracting teeth. There’s just a lot more blood. I developed something of a skill of it and they decided that me and Chisolm, this kid from some cornfield, were better suited for hotter spots. I was sent to Camp Holloway, one of two bases in Pleiku, this village in rice country way north of Saigon. I had tried my damndest to avoid precisely that type of poo poo, but there I was, creeping through the jungle under the cover of night. Every step I took into the soggy ground I half-expected to be met with firm resistance, to hear the tell-tale click of a landmine under my boot. I would have done anything to go home. The vacation was over.
Chisolm had whatever sort of guts I lacked. He intended to play college football, said he was one hell of a offensive lineman. I could see that. I think the brass saw to it that he would be my own personal grunt. Like a bodyguard. He was just the sort of proper redneck to relish infantry enough to fake his age. I swear that boy wasn’t a day over sixteen, but he was a brick house, and he had my back. Called me friend of the family to my face, but had my back nonetheless. I don’t think he knew much better, anyway. The night the VC attacked Camp Holloway, Chis had rolled out of his bunk so fast -- I was barely awake and he was in full dress, hunkered behind the door, M16 sighted up. It was just shy of 0200, but right then I had no idea the time or place or sight or sound. Infantry grunts had previously told me they experienced a heightened awareness when in a particularly nasty situation. I just felt overwhelmed. There was but one thing on my mind: Run. Get away.
I was lacing my boots and somehow buttoning my shirt all at once and Chis saw what I was doing. He didn’t say a word, just held up one free hand that said one thing: Sit tight. Outside our bunks was all-out chaos. It sounded to me that we’d been dropped straight into a hot pot full of popping corn. The distinct rattly discharge of AKs was predominant. We didn’t return much fire. They’d caught us completely offguard. Out the window, while I ducked behind my bed, I saw a mass of fire reflected in the glass dome windshield of one of the Iroquois. The glass cracked in a spider-webbing pattern, spreading, then the whole chopper burst. I ducked my head down to avoid any shrapnel, but the chopper was half a ball field away.
At some point, Chis barged out into the gunfire and let ‘em have it. Over time, the gunfire and explosions of sabotaged aircraft died down. The rest of us in the bunk waited it out like a retreating storm.
After about an hour our CO came in and told us what had happened: VC had cut through the perimeter fences. They’d tripped the electrical guard wire but that went unnoticed by whoever was on watch. Then they just opened up, firing their AK-47s, blowing up ten choppers, damaging dozens others. They’d slunk back off into the dark jungle the moment we had started to get our bearings and stand up for ourselves. Throughout the next few early hours of morning, I learned more details: almost two hundred wounded, five dead, two dying. One of the wounded was Chisolm. A round had shattered his tibia. I doubt he ever got to play college ball.
One of the five was a nurse, so I had dozens of wounded boys on my shoulders, many in critical condition. One died with my hand in his abdomen. I was stupidly trying to use my hands as a tourniquet on his mesenteric artery; it was like throttling an eel. His eyes were big, fearful, and angry. He was looking past me at an empty space in front of one of the choppers that continued to glow like hot coals. He choked his last words to Death himself, through thick blood and bile: “gently caress you.”
MEDEVACs started taking away the wounded, a few at a time. Then they began to evacuate the whole base. Every couple days would be another briefing from central, detailing the names of the people that were going home. Without fail, the same clause would be on the sheet: Non-essential personnel only. I laid awake at night, trying to come up with schemes to get out; self-mutilation, sabotage of critical care systems. But Chisolm’s stoicism in the face of his own injuries and loss inspired me. We still had dozens wounded, like him, and they needed constant care. I was essential personnel. I didn’t need the goddamn army but they needed me.
|# ? Sep 6, 2015 23:17|
Turns out I got nothin' this week. I'm out.
|# ? Sep 6, 2015 23:38|
Keep Warm (1086)
When you burn to death, your voice is the first to go. The smoke reaches in with tendrils that crawl between your lips and through your teeth and pulls the breath right out of your lungs. So you can’t cry out when the initial numbness fades and you feel the flames crawl around your body like worms, melting your clothes into your flesh like a tattoo. Not even when the layers of skin cook away and you’re reduced to bundles of bare nerves, all singing in unison at that new light. The color and the stink passes over you in waves until the pain outgrows the world, opens you up, and lets your mind go free. I never get used to it.
It’s something banal this time. Someone tossed a cigarette into a wastepaper basket, I think, and the sprinklers never turned on. By the time everyone heeded the alarms the fire had already occupied one whole office and bloomed red and purple into the hall beyond. I was at my desk, looking at spreadsheets and wishing for sleep, when I heard the stampede, saw the flames peek through the frosted glass. I tried to turn the doorknob and it hissed and took off the top of my palm. Now the smoke’s many fingers splay out beneath the sill, and I remember you again, and that almost makes it all worthwhile.
The first time was in a bed. I remember how the mattress sagged beneath my hip as I turned to hold you close, the smell of burning bedspread in the hazy air and the firelight printed on the ceiling like a child’s mobile. I remember we clutched each other so tight that it felt like each of our bodies would burst through the other like fingers pressed through gauze, and that when the heat fused our palms to one another’s skin, neither of us made a sound.
I don’t remember your face. I don’t remember how I woke up again, with a different face, in a different life, expelled from a different womb. And I didn’t remember that time on the bed, not for years, not until the burner caught the dishtowel and I woke up to find the house crazed with fire, an uninvited guest baking shadows into the walls. I died with sirens in my ears and my jaw hanging agape, mouth full of smoke, head full of days from a previous life recalled too late. And then I woke up again.
It’s always like this. I’m in that house, on my recliner, as the flames curl on my lap like a housecat. I’m at a tenth-floor window, my resignation reflected back at me in the glass, as fire erupts from a burst gas main and races up the stairs to lick at my spine. I’m crawling out of my tent when a brushfire stampedes through the woods with such vigor that trees burst into flaming pillars, torches of celebration, and the blaze washes over me and sifts my remains into the soil. I’m a mother of two with Excedrin in my veins and a steering column in my chest, splay-limbed in the car like a mosquito caught in resin, and as the heat rises I ignore the policeman’s grasping hand and ask if the children are safe. And every time, in that terminal moment, when that sweltering orange light first brushes my skin, I’m able to recall all my prior days. I lay them out before me like tally marks, like matchsticks, searching for a glimpse of you. As I search now, as the fire seeps through my door and into my office.
That must be what will end this strangeness, the one job I have across all these incarnations. Surely you’re out there somewhere too, born and burnt without knowing why. If we found each other again, and if you would place your hand in mine, then this circle would close, the wheel would stop turning.
But it’s useless. There is no thread to follow back through all these ashen lives, not for you, not even for myself. Whoever I was in that first fire has been sealed in so many shells and then set alight that its outline is barely recognizable. I couldn’t describe to you my first face, or the shape of my palms, or which of my bones ached on rainy nights. I’m nothing but char. And you’re even less. An absence. An abstract.
I dig my shoulder blades into the back wall of this sterile room as the fire creeps in. It’s already hard to breathe. The cut-nap carpet sizzles like static as its threads catch and burn. Here are the parts of you I could salvage from the cinders: you were terrified of lightning. You would chew your thumbnail until the quick bled. You loved the smell of apple brandy, even though it reminded you of your mother. These truths and others I repeat in my head as my lungs start to shrivel. I won’t let them be cauterized from my mind.
This fire is moving exceptionally slowly.
It still crawls along the walls and floor, but by fractions of an inch, as if resisting its own unstoppable compulsion. The color and light at its core bends in unusual patterns. And through the smoke, as the fluid in my eyes begins to boil away, I see a face. Your face.
Your contours ripple and bend like a mirage, but even through my growing blindness I recognize and recall them from all my prior deaths. Here is the face I’d have seen each time before, if I hadn’t been so distracted from dredging up the past. And in your phantasmal features I see the apology. The regret. Now I know why fire’s always found me. And I thought I was the one who’d been cursed.
I step forward, arms outstretched.
Someday there will be an ending, I’m certain of it. We’ll outlast whatever karmic accounting left us bound like this. From one conflagration to the next we’ll reunite, until the inferno finally dies and lets us rest. I embrace a mass of heat and remember the warmth under your skin. I feel my clothes combust, smell the sickly perfume of burning hair; in this moment, I am your mirror. The hiss and crackle sounds like your voice, choked with tears. It’s all right. It’s all right. I’ll see you again. Again and again I will turn this wheel, until it guides both of us home.
|# ? Sep 7, 2015 01:16|
Okay, the topic is nice and all, but I most likely won't make it by the deadline. One more week of shame
|# ? Sep 7, 2015 02:51|
The Hand That Stills My Wings(1186 words)
I was six years old, and I loved that house: I loved the scars on the hardwood floor that traced out strange words; I loved the owls that sang lullabies at my bedroom window; I loved the gallery of photographs that ran up the front staircase and down the upstairs hallway. I loved that house nakedly, and when my parents sat me down at the kitchen table and told me their scheme to rip me away from it (Divorce: my mother sitting awkwardly in the place we normally saved for guests, my father leaning, arms crossed, against the opposite wall) I went mad. I screamed until I thought my throat would bleed. I wondered if I could hate forever.
I woke up after midnight, tender and raw, with the kitchen table's carved edging embossed on my cheek. Nobody had put me to bed. A light shone under the guest bedroom door, and my mother's music was playing quietly. I called out. After a minute (shifting from one foot to the other, timid of being outside of my own bed so late) the radio went silent, but nobody came to comfort me. I think I must have put myself to bed, then, alone in the dark.
I had a nightmare where I was a lighthouse. I strained to show the way to shore, but boat after boat blundered into a jagged reef and shattered. I didn't think there were so many boats in all the world. When I woke, there was a sound in my ears like a waterfall. My mother walked into the room and I saw her, through closed eyes, as though I was looking through a block of ice. She spoke, but all I heard was rushinig water. My body thrashed and spasmed and tumbled to the floor, and the sheets seemed to constrict around my neck, and all I saw was white.
Nobody realized what had changed about me, not for more than a year. I had been desperately sick, I was weak, I spent my time sleeping fitfully while my parents quietly fought downstairs. After some weeks (was it summer still or was it already fall? All I know is that I was still aflame with fever) they bundled me into blankets, wheeled me to a car I had never seen before, and took me to my father's new house. I clung to the doorframe where they'd etched lines to mark my growth. I begged them to let me take a keepsake, anything, a pebble from the driveway, but they couldn't understand me or didn't care to. They carried me through the door of a ragged house that smelled of mildew, installed me in a too-large, too-firm bed, and left me alone. It was in that ugly house, where my father paced in circles from office to hallway to kitchen to porch, that I slowly recovered. It was in that house, eighteen months later, that we realized what had happened. A hand had been raised against me: halt. I could no longer grow.
I had never been tall, but in eighteen months, the five-year-old son of my father's housekeeper towered over me. (I have one photograph of the two of us: me, frail and yellow with the expression of a porcelain doll; him, plump, brown, and robust.) At first, the doctors reassured us. The body has a way, they explained, of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. Just in case, I wouldn't return to school. I wasn't to exert myself, because my heart was fragile. My one job was to lie right there (young lady) and try to grow.
In the early months, my father would sit in my room and work. I read and reread my dozen comic books until the covers grew soft with oil and peeled away. Asking him for new ones, even asking him to go to the library, would mean admitting defeat. So I carried on, needing nothing, and I was given nothing in turn. Did I try to grow? I'm no longer sure. My father grew his hair long and stopped ironing his pants. The doctors injected something into my stomach with a big needle. I turned eight, then nine, then ten. I was weighed and measured weekly, then monthly, then not at all. I was always fragile, but never quite broken. Now, my father worked alone in his downstairs office. My mother called on Christmas, but her voice was slurred, and in the background I heard jazz and shouting. My father stopped answering the phone. I didn't grow. He grew hunched and transparent, like a ghost.
I decided, over many days' thinking: the night I had the fever, I had split myself in two. Now one part lay in its oversized bed or sat in front of the window, memorizing Archie and Wonder Woman. The other went to school in the morning, and ate supper with its parents at night. One had ground to a halt. The other had carried on growing.
Every morning at my father's house, the mailman left his truck at 9:08, took ten steps to our mailbox, and deposited two letters and a paper-wrapped parcel. Then the housekeeper's son appeared on his yellow bicycle. He caught one wheel in a rut and tumbled over, then abandoned the bike on the grass.
Each day, 115 cars drove by. 68 were traveling west, and 47 east. For the eighteenth day in a row: five were red, 28 were silver, and 29 were white.
Was it summer still, or was it already fall?
Had I ever spent a winter in this house?
I opened my bedroom door, toddled downstairs, and laid a hand on the yellow bicycle. Hadn't the housekeeper's son been two years younger than me? Shouldn't he be twice my size? I heaved it upright. I could reach the pedals with my tiptoes. At 4:05 in the afternoon , the ghost would walk outside in his pajamas to pick up the morning paper. I had to go now, so I did. The old house, where I still lived with my mother and father, was a mile away. I had dreamed the trip a hundred times.
As I wobbled around the last corner before the old house, I heard laughter and the sound of hammers meeting wood. I could tell before I got there that something had changed, that more light shone between the trees, that the echoes of sound that reached me had caromed off of strange surfaces along their way. And then I saw: the lot had been stripped bare. A dozen men swarmed over the half-assembled frame of a new house. Where I recalled that the willow trees had taken me into their arms and rocked me to sleep, there was a pile of pallets. I wondered if my family had been crushed when the house was torn down? I wondered if my mother and father had been buried in the rubble.
I wondered if the part of me that remembered how to grow, had escaped alive.
I wondered where she was now.
I wondered whether I could pedal there.
|# ? Sep 7, 2015 02:58|
anime was right fucked around with this message at 05:59 on Oct 27, 2015
|# ? Sep 7, 2015 03:45|
Knock on Wood
I limp the empty corridors of Moonbase in search of more materials. My radio crackles and pops like fire. The static echoes from the plastic walls, reflecting off their curved white sheen. The interference drowns out anyone still broadcasting. I pass an ornate wooden bench. I carved and sanded it myself: now it's scrap. I take out my axe and shave off the burned parts, then I put the rest in the trolley. I drag it on, towards the next garden.
There's a trap around the next corner. Laden with precious wood, I nearly trigger it. I kneel, pain flaring in my leg, to inspect the tripwire. Vines twisted into fine rope. He's changing tactics. I cut it, and a pitchfork pierces the floor ahead of me. Air hisses. Still no solution to the oxygen problem. One thing at a time. Almost enough.
I chop off the handle and add it to my haul. Has he forgotten what I need? When they populated this husk, they wanted all walks of life. Astronauts, athletes, administrators; but gardeners too. And carpenters.
He and I are the last, I think. The rest are gone. The astronauts suited up and headed to their ships when the news broke, and the athletes outran the rest. The administrators had the keys. No room for gardeners. Or carpenters. The last laser rifle burned out two days ago. It's just him and me left, but I am getting off this rock before it kills us. He can stay if he drat well likes.
drat cheap plastic. Cheap. Paper thin. No use against the solar flare. Give me real honest wood any day. Thicker. More protection. I poke my head in the compartments as I pass, but I've been through here already. These were the luxury apartments. Ten cubic metres of plastic with wooden chairs. Made them to last.
I hobble through the next airlock and I hit the seal button. Nothing happens. drat faulty wiring. Grasping the handle, straining against heavy metal, I heave it shut. I fall to my knees and draw a breath. There's a screen. Plastic. An advertisement sparkles briefly over the surface, then it shorts and goes clear. Millions of tonnes of rock outside. I don't give a drat for either. The garden is close now. I can smell its dampness, its living tissue, wafting on the air. I check my radiation counter and do a calculation. I have time. I probably have time.
An arrow zips past my ear and cuts a slit in the window. He's got in front of me, of course, with his homemade arsenal. Bastard knows. I plunge forwards. He can't have many more of those. Sure enough, his lolloping gait pulls ahead and I lose him at the next airlock. He'll make for the garden. I know how he thinks. Not far now. I plough onwards. The lights are dimming.
I burst around a corner into an open square filled with green and brown. A garden. Nice once. A popular lunch spot, I bet. Petals unfurling, green stalks reaching towards light. Wooden benches. Trees. Enough trees.
As I step forward he bursts from the foliage brandishing another pitchfork. We say nothing. There's no point. We know why we're both here, so all that's left is to get on with it.
I let go of the trolley and throw the axe. He ducks and it catches in the tree behind with a satisfying thunk. He screams wordlessly and charges. He thrusts the pitchfork. I grab it and we struggle for control. The trolley tips. Wood topples out.
My mouth opens against its will but I bite it back. I'm already short of breath. He tears the pitchfork from my hands. I bullrush him. We tumble, falling together on the good solid earth, coming to a stop against a tree. The pitchfork scatters away from us.
I pull myself upright, holding onto the handle of the axe for balance. He is too weak to stand. He burbles as he breathes. I kick him once and he splutters. My eyes shift to the axe and I jerk it loose, raising it above my head.
Oh, to hell with it. I kick him once more to be safe. I crouch down and haul him to his feet. Our eyes meet. He claws at my arms, but I push him away, back towards the plastic corridors. I brandish the axe and he takes off into the tunnels. He'll set up at the next garden. More traps. More fighting. Until we die here. I don't want to die here.
Chopping off branches, preparing for the big cut, I think about how desperate he was getting to compromise the air. He wants to solve the oxygen problem. He's a gardener. His plants' breath gave Moonbase their life. That was his job once. I guess he didn't want to let it go. I don't blame him: it was important once.
After all, he did solve the oxygen problem.
I retrieve the pitchfork. He can keep the rest of his gardens. I have enough.
It takes several trips to get everything to my impromptu workshop. Time wasted. The next problem is varnish. It all needs varnish. But regular stuff won't work. Too flammable. New mix. One hour. Measuring, cutting, fitting. Two hours. I have time. I can't rush. It's about patience: carefully edging along the grain to carve a shape. Shaping things is slow.
Loading it is simple, though keeping the soil in is messy. My hands get grubby and mud stains my jacket. I don't care. It doesn't have to be much. It just has to last them long enough. Keeping it aimed perfectly is harder. The usual restraints were all torn from their bases from enthusiastic usage. It wobbles in the low gravity until I nail it down into the concrete. I leave the engine to last. It's not my trade, rocket science. But it fits snug. I varnish the join.
I stand back to look at her. They're supposed to be girls, see. She glints a hundred shades of brown, varnish perfectly distributed, shielded. Armrests and handles jut from her ramshackle form. I grab a hammer. The claw prises out the final nails and I'm done. I climb up into the cockpit, pushing through thick green fronds and getting brown soil on my soles. I close the door, hammer in the wedges, and reapply the varnish. As I flip switches, the roof opens above us. The launchpad bares itself to the vacuum. The ship holds airtight. I take a breath, rich and moist and deep.
I pull a mahogany lever, and burn into the dead sky.
|# ? Sep 7, 2015 03:57|
The pachysandra never lied to Laszlo.
The trees lied often, branches gesturing emphatically above human heads like televangelists, leaves whispering half-audible secrets. The shrubs and bushes were a bit more trustworthy, sitting squat and swarthy and self-evident, milestones in a neighborhood less than a mile long. But the gardens, the carpets of impatiens and begonias and burgeoning herbs—they were the closest to the earth, the closest to the ground that all human beings came from and ultimately disappeared into, and they all spoke with pure candor. Especially the pachysandra—the green ground-covering sprouts that were omnipresent in Glasgow Park.
When Laszlo walked down the roads of the Park every afternoon, the pachysandra plains were always the first to catch his eye. The leaves trembled at the edge of his perception as he approached a patch, their softly-serrated edges growing sharper as he focused in on them, like arm hairs standing on end at the approach of a thunderstorm. Laszlo would stare into the deep well of green in front of him, and he would ask it, humbly, for what it knew.
And each individual bloom would begin to turn.
Spinning, creating soft centers, whirlpool eyes, for Lazslo to stand inside as the summer sun beat down on his neck and shoulders. And in this way they told him, arranging themselves like tea leaves at the bottom of a china cup or chicken bones clattering against dirt clay. A promotion for Mr. Coroway. A new baby for the Dershowitzes. A girlfriend for Mrs. Bryant’s son. Pleasant news, the good tidings he was used to.
Never anything like this.
Now Laszlo sat in his study, thinking out loud to himself, scribbling tight curlicues and infinity symbols on the yellow steno pad on his desk, trying to recreate the shapes they had shown him. Trying to find any inconsistencies that would relieve him, liberate him from his duty. Why this? he thought. Why now?
All of the leaves in the Yates’s patch next to the curb had arched downwards, pointed straight towards the waiting earth. No matter where he had looked, all he saw was a bitter end, a morbid message to deliver.
He exhaled deeply, cupped his hand over his mouth, shut his eyes.
There was a stack of small envelopes in his bottom left desk drawer. Three years ago, he had bought five hundred of each. He was down to a modest seventy, meaning that well over four hundred messages had been left on Glasgow Park doorsteps, four hundred births, four hundred beginnings. Four hundred anonymous promises, fulfilled.
Laszlo took out a piece of paper, plucked his fountain pen out of its inkwell, and began to write: Hello, Yates Household. I regret to—
He stopped, dug the nib of the fountain pen into the desktop until it bent. Kept pushing until it broke.
The morning rays of light stabbed at Laszlo’s bleary eyes as he walked towards the Yates’s front gate. He hadn’t slept last night, had only sat in his desk chair and counted the minutes until sunrise, staring out of his side window, looking for a way to change the future. To change nature.
He hiked up the waist of his jeans and swung his leg over the Yates’s waist-high front gate. On the right side of the front steps, there was another patch of pachysandra, lined with red brick. If the patch was closer to where they lived, it stood to reason that the message would be much more accurate. There would be no ambiguity this time.
Laszlo walked over and crouched down next to it, resting his wrists on his knees as he focused his vision. He stared at a terminalis extending from the center of one tall blossom, the tightly stacked white buds like the pale and folded fingers of a spirit. They twitched, wiggled on their central stem, began to swivel and spin, making a high-pitched tone that resonated at the base of Laszlo’s skull. It started to drop in pitch, becoming clearer, something like language—
Something smacked Laszlo on the left ear. He grunted in pain, fell backwards onto the dew-covered lawn.
Light came through the open front door, framing Mrs. Yates in a fading shadow. She held a broom in her wrinkled and veiny hands, scared disgust dripping from her face. Behind her, Mr. Yates stood in the doorway, cigar smoke puffing out of his mouth and floating past the door’s stone lintel.
Every time Laszlo opened his mouth to explain, he could only raise his arms to protect his face. Mrs. Yates brought the broom down again and again, calling Laszlo a freak, a busybody, a scary story parents told their kids. Laszlo could only retreat as she swung the broom at him, following him all the way to the curb, brushing him off of their property like something dead, something that fell out of an animal’s mouth.
Laszlo kept trying to say that it was his duty and his responsibility. That he was keeping the neighborhood informed and prepared. That he wanted only the best for the people that lived near him, that he meant no harm to anyone and never had.
But his unsaid words were brushed away with every blow he felt, until there was nothing but resignation.
Sitting at his kitchen table a few days later, Laszlo made up his mind.
Laszlo went to his desk drawer, took the remaining envelopes, separated them into stacks of ten, and one by one tore them in half. Seven short ripping sounds, and he had officially given up his post. He would no longer be a harbinger of anything.
He strode through his front door, out into the day. Sunlight filtered through the tree branches and danced over the sidewalk in front of him. Laszlo smiled, took a deep clearing breath. Even if there was no one to replace him, maybe that was a good thing. Now the people in Glasgow Park would never need to look to the earth for their future—could instead look up through the tree branches, lost in their beautiful lies.
His eyes fell on the Yates’s front door. If nothing else, he could apologize for scaring them out of their wits.
Laszlo high-stepped over their front gate once again, walked up to the front door, and rang the doorbell.
Mrs. Yates answered it, clutching her robe against her chest, an expression of disdain on her face.
Laszlo opened his mouth to speak, then chuckled to himself, a sugary, bubbling sound that exploded into full-fledged laughter, as Mrs. Yates scowled in puzzlement. What can I say now? thought Laszlo as he kept laughing. It was all so bizarre, so tangled up in his head—
A sharp noise came from behind Mrs. Yates—the sound of a glass shattering.
She called out her husband’s name, her voice high and wild.
Laszlo’s laughter died in his throat, became something thick and choking, the letter he had refused to deliver days ago now crumpled and stuffed in his windpipe.
Mrs. Yates yelled her husband’s name again, and the sound embedded itself in Laszlo’s chest, rooting him to the doorstep.
She turned back towards Laszlo, mirroring his fear on her face.
“I’m sorry,” said Laszlo, his voice shaking, tears blurring his vision. “I’m so, so sorry.”
|# ? Sep 7, 2015 04:44|
Upon the Waters
My first memory after the dreaming time, when I fell, is of a rainbow arched over the seething waters, struck sharp against a darkling sky. Perhaps I came from the rainbow; or perhaps it and I were the same, long ago.
It was not a beautiful thing to me, for I understood it perfectly and knew that it did not exist. White (let there be) light from the Sun, low on the new-born horizon behind me, arrowed through the heavens; hit uncounted tiny droplets of water in the air and shattered across the spectrum, bounced as from a curved mirror, and came back to my eye; the angles of this reflection across the entire haze of droplets summed to form a ring which appeared at 42 degrees from the line one might draw from the Sun through my head. Only the top part of this ring of light was visible above the world; hence, the arc of the rainbow.
Sunlight refracted and spread every which way. My rainbow was not a luminous object, hanging in the distant air. It only was because I was there, at my exact position, to catch the light that happened to bounce in my direction. Had there been other observers present each of them would have perceived a subtly different rainbow, in a different place, formed of different light.
Thus with all of creation, I suspect.
I knew my purpose. It echoed within me, rang along my slender, sinuous spine, was etched into every glossy scale.
Guard it well.
I turned from the waters and made my way across the steaming land.
For many Days I sought my place. The stars faded away as the sky grew blue with a blanket of gas. The ground groaned and pressed itself into deep creases and tall peaks, some towering until frost coated their tops, and then the ice melted and poured itself back toward the seas, carving channels in the land.
The Sun spun overhead, baking the rock and water, then departing as they cooled in the night, over and over. Lightning storms swept through the turbulent new atmosphere, dumping energy upon the land. The tang of complex molecules grew thick upon my flickering tongue.
A coloured scum appeared in the water. It spread and diversified. Soon a green carpet smoothed my journey, and miniscule leaves held themselves up to catch the sunlight. Tiny shelled things began to scuttle across my path, and then take flight among the now towering trees. The plants acknowledged their arrival, and brightly coloured blossoms unfurled across the ground.
Scaled things inched out of the waters, and lay on the mud, stunned and labouring for oxygen. Soon, though, they began to crawl, then stride, then sprint. Great feathered tyrants shook the ground with their every footfall. I journeyed on.
I watched as the sky fell and the world cooled beneath a blanket of dirt and ash. I watched as the furred things rose and spread and the earth became theirs. On vast, flat plains of grass, I found my post and took up guard, winding myself into the branches of the sparse, scrubby trees.
They had come down from the trees not so long ago, the creatures that I watched over. They were not particularly fast, or strong; they had traded in much of their climbing skill for straight backs and feet designed to walk long distances. They made up for this, though, with their strength in numbers. They were tribal, communal. They foraged together; they worked as a pack to scare smaller predators away from tempting kills, and they shared their food. They were social, and smart.
Smart enough to be frightening. They approached a threshold, hooting and shambling, and it was my duty to guard the door.
I guarded it well.
I watched as a family group lazed in the shade of my tree. I had felt this moment approaching, a fork in the road to the future, and it fell to me to chart the course. One of the large males toyed with the leg of an antelope. He worried at the knee joint with his strong yellow teeth until the leg fell apart, and then he juggled the thigh bone absently in his hand. He lay back and huffed, then held the bone aloft against the branches of the tree. He did not see me where I waited above.
He sat up, then, and looked at the bone more closely. Weighed it in his hand and I watched as an idea took painful form behind his sloping forehead. He brought the bone down sharply on the ground. Huffed again. I coiled myself and waited.
The ape rolled to his feet. He grunted, attracting the attention of his tribe, held the bone out to show them, and mimed a striking motion. I struck instead, lashing down like scaled lightning. My fangs bit deep, killing the concept before it bore fruit. The apes scattered, screaming, and I went back on guard.
I held them that way, long and long. It was my duty. I watched as they grew taller and straighter. Their skulls swelled above their brows and their grunts began to carry deeper meaning. My work became harder – their numbers were growing as my desire to perform my role diminished. Still, I persevered in guarding their innocence.
Until one night, my final eve, there came a storm. So great it was, so fierce, that it recalled to me the driving, acid rains and bursting lightning of the time before life.
I felt the future roiling like the clouds above as an ape-tribe clustered below my tree. Despite the winds, despite the lashing rains, they danced against the storm. They screamed defiance at the thunder and when lighting burst across the sky they snatched up smooth, grey stones and beat them against each other for applause.
When the dawn chased away the last vestiges of cloud, the tribe huddled, dozing and spent, except for one small female. She held a broken, razor-edged rock to her face, inspecting it with care. The world spun around the axis of her grasp, and I coiled down from the branches, showing myself to her.
One of the half-asleep apes saw me and bristled in terror, slapping at his nearby fellows. They woke, and shouted, and scattered. All except the female, flint nestled in the curve of her palm like a plump and juicy fruit.
She began to edge toward me, cautiously lowered on her haunches, one hand to the ground for balance, the other raised above her shoulder and clutching the sharp-edged rock high, ready to fall, ready to end the world, and I decided, and shrugged my duty from me like an old and cracking skin.
I lowered my head to the sun-warm ground and waited patiently as I watched her approach to pin me back across the heavens.
My choice to end the vigil, to release her potential, seeds bursting forth from a fruit of knowledge, and who could say where they might take root and what unruly forest grow? A creature who might one day understand the mathematical truths behind the rainbow and yet still weep at its beauty, who could cradle her children and share with them both fact and emotion…
For guards do not only bar the gate; we let the right ones through.
|# ? Sep 7, 2015 05:39|
Morning Bell fucked around with this message at 02:36 on Oct 4, 2015
|# ? Sep 7, 2015 05:41|
All That Remains
After the will had been read, Anja's parents gave George the urn that held the dregs of her. They hurried away then as though they couldn't bear its presence, or his. George pressed the brass to his breastbone and tried to pretend it was Anja's forehead. She had never felt so cold. The urn had a screw-top lid, like a Thermos, but he couldn't bring himself to test the temperature of her ashes.
She couldn't have meant to die in winter. When she'd written the instruction for him to take her to the top of their mountain, she must have imagined the chemo would carry her to spring. Snow flurries tumbled into his windshield on the drive away from the city, mounds of ice and salt gave boundaries to the highway, and there he was, still in his suit and blackest shoes.
To keep her waiting any longer was inconceivable, but he did stop at a gas station for gloves and a hat.
"Their" mountain had a proper name; Anja hadn't liked it, so she'd called it Mount Apogee, and that was the only name George could remember. It sidled into view on his right, faint yet with distance. They'd promised each other they would climb it someday, together.
George parked outside the gate that guarded the visitor center. He cradled the urn in his arms. The white on the ground was a thin crust, easily traversed, and no one ran out of the center to keep him off the trails leading to the summit. The paving of the path he chose gave way soon to dirt and stone, edged by bushes that rattled their dead leaves at him.
Up. Up. His funeral soles skidded on damp rock. But he took care, hugging Anja, trying to warm the brass with his body. Winter trees dripped snowmelt on his hat; they too wore brittle shrouds, tattered and brown. George lingered under a green pine to inhale its sharp scent of life.
The trail got more narrow as he climbed, the trees grew denser, and the brush rustled more than the wind could account for.
At first, what followed George was just sound. He halted after the first crackle in the undergrowth. He turned, and he saw only branches and snow. After the second crackle, too: nothing there. The third: nothing there.
The fourth: a shape in the corner of his eye, dark and blurred--then nothing there.
It might have been imagination. The flurries stopped, and in the clear grey air, he was clearly alone. But something stalked him nevertheless, just out of sight. The sensation was intimately familiar; Anja's urn chilled George through his gloves.
And as he walked--still climbing--he caught more glimpses of a creature, a cat, a cougar on a tourists' mountain outside its reasonable habitat. The silver-grey of its pelt blended into the rocks. Eventually it let him see its pale eyes. In his own panting, George heard the echo of Anja's gasps in her hospital bed with its silver-grey frame, before the silence and the agony had fallen.
He stopped; he looked behind him. The cougar waited on his trail. It moved one soundless step closer.
George spun the screw-top lid and flung Anja into its face.
But her ashes puffed through empty air, a cloud that billowed away before he could scoop any of it back. Pulverized, beloved bone disappeared into the trees and sky. George's deep breath ended in a sob, having drawn in none of her.
He fell to a sprawling seat on the dirt, miles away from the top of their mountain. If the cougar had come back for him, he might have thrown open his arms--but it didn't. The quiet then was the quiet of snow, peaceful and soft. George closed his eyes and listened to his memories.
In them, Anja laughed at death. In them, Anja smiled. Out in the world, a gust dusted George's cheek with a delicate kiss of ash, and he knew himself forgiven.
|# ? Sep 7, 2015 05:47|
Junctional Escape Beat
You’re in a house with four rooms and the walls never stop shaking. Way up on the top floor, the nerds in the grey matter department won’t shut up about--
No. You just focus on the rhythm of your house and its four rooms. It’s more of an apartment than a proper house, and you share the building with other tenants. There are two skylights above you and you cover them. That’s when you discover darkness is actually worse, because then the top floor crew gets really bored and all they can talk about is--
No. Their nonsense is like unwanted mail. You wish it was unwanted mail, because then you could write return to sender on the envelope and be done with it. Instead, you focus on the fact that your four-chambered house rests on two pillars of air that rise and fall, rise and fall. You’re temporarily lulled by the oceanic rhythm, and your walls pulse slowly and evenly.
But you’re alive, and if you want to stay that way, you have to do things. Like go to work. Your colleagues are competent but distant, and most of the time you keep the windows of your four-roomed house shuttered against the chill. Most of the time. Every so often, there’s this warm wind you can feel even through your walls and shutters, but no, it’s probably just your imagination, there’s no way--
Just rise and fall. Rise and fall. Through the twin skylights, you see your lunch, which you’re eating alone at your desk. You’ve barely touched it. Top floor crew is having some really involved argument, and it’s screwing things up for everyone else. The walls of your house beat erratically. Like everything is going to shake apart, and the walls will fall away, and it’ll just be you, exposed, aching for a warmth you don’t even believe in.
You wander three of the four rooms to distract yourself. There’s your room, of course, with all its bits and baubles like letters in a language meant only for you.
There’s the portrait room. On one wall, Your mother, father, siblings and relatives are preserved at their happiest and most vibrant. The opposite wall is a happy mess of people and things. The alpine green of a hiking trip. Streetlight orange and stoplight red, from that one time you and your best friend stole some firecrackers and blew up a fish fillet sandwich on the fourth of July because you were still too young to buy proper fireworks. Your best friend’s portrait is a little dusty, so you carefully brush the years away and contemplate his face. You wonder what’s inside his four-roomed house, and whether your portrait still hangs on his wall. It makes you a little sad, but at least you’re not thinking about--
The grey matter department is really trying to get your attention now. Things on the top floor have come to an absolute standstill, and they’re saying you’re gonna have to come up and do some arbitration.
But it’s not your job to deal with the complicated stuff, so you hide in the third room of your house. It’s pitch black and full of sharp edges and old portraits you can’t stand to look at. They guys upstairs won’t follow you in here. They won’t even acknowledge this room most of the time, because it scares them. You hunker down and brood in the darkness. Why do you need to get involved in the top floor’s problems, anyway? The whole reason those nerds are up there is because it’s their job to sort out the complicated stuff.
Part of you is still staring down at the uneaten lunch on your desk. Part of you is aware of footsteps padding between the carpeted cubicles outside your house, and now the walls are pulsing in this dangerous, arrhythmic sort of way, and all your defenses and fortifications feel like brittle leaves in a strong wind. The footsteps come to a stop right behind you, but you don’t turn around. You curl up in your own darkness, deep in your house, and ignore the warm wind that slips up through the floorboards and the tiny gaps in your walls.
You’re being asked why you’re not eating with everyone else (or at all). You’re pretending to be really busy with emails, even though
There’s a long silence, then the sound of someone walking away. And the grid of cubicles around you suddenly feels so labyrinthine, and you want to chase after--
--chase after her, and say you’re sorry.
See, there’s a fourth room in your house, but the door is all boarded up and the nails are rusty. You can’t even remember what’s in there, and prying it open now could damage your house beyond repair. Probably. You’ve never tried.
And now, for some reason, you’re thinking about pink elephants. There’s a name for it--how, when you’re trying not to think of something, it’s all you can think of--but you can’t remember what it is.
You can keep in the dark all you like. You can bury yourself underneath the sharp edges and the old portraits and the dank remnants of dead, festering love. But you can’t ignore how the door to that fourth room rattles, like there’s a strong wing on the other side. You can’t ignore how the walls of your house beat faster and faster.
You rip away the boards blocking up the fourth room, nails and all.
You get up from your desk at work.
You glimpse her just before she turns the corner to head back to the cafeteria, and for the first time, the guys on the top floor are dead silent. They’re waiting to see what you’re about to do.
You open that fourth door. There’s only sky, perfect, blue sky with fat smears of cloud. In the sky is a single bird. She’s floating on the warm, gentle swell of a thermal, easy as a leaf on a placid pond.
You catch her in the hallway and say her name. She stops and turns around. The naysayers up on the top floor are throwing a fit. She’s a colleague. She may not feel the same way. What are you even going to tell her? Do you even know how you feel?
You’re watching the bird circle higher and higher; she’s just a little dot now. In just a few seconds, you won’t be able to see her at all.
The house of your heart is shaking so hard the portraits go crooked. The sound is like thunder, and the only hope of a blue sky is in front of you, not behind. You take a deep breath and step into the warm wind. It buoys you up and up, like an elevator, and now the boys on the top floor are cheering in spite of themselves, and she takes your hand and smiles at you. You’re not worried about saying the right thing anymore. There’ll be time for that. For now, all you need to do is fly.
|# ? Sep 7, 2015 05:51|
The Dictator in Exile
Capo snorts and hawks into the sink. He blinks blearily at the mirror, gives his sagging belly a slap that echoes like a gunshot off of the porcelain. Twenty pounds since the accident; it takes two aides to get him into his uniform now. If he calls his tailor for a new one, it will be in all the papers before the sun has set. The bastards have nothing better to do with their time.
His knee is throbbing. Steroid injections once a week, and collagen cream each morning. If he doesn’t massage it every few hours, it swells up and turns a hideous shade of purple, as if snakebitten. It was his own fault for getting the chauffer drunk, he knew. He never could stand to drink alone.
Capo takes his breakfast upstairs. He turns on the television, but no matter how much he cranks the volume he can still hear the protestors outside. Ever since they found out about the safe house, found out that he’d bought his way into asylum, they’ve been out there making a racket.
He peeks out through the blinds. All he can see is the gate – red brick, wrought iron, concertina wire. But he can hear them. A thousand tiny cuts from a thousand tiny people. They insult him with their signs, throw eggs at the windows. Once they even dressed up a mannequin in a uniform and tried to burn it in the courtyard. Capo had the sprinklers turned on, and now they stand a little farther away.
He prowls back and forth across his bedroom. Five years ago, back home, and none of these pissants would have dreamed of standing outside his home waving their signs. When the police had finally come for him, they’d cut his suspenders, made him hold his trousers up. They were afraid of what he might do with his hands.
The day he was discharged from the hospital, there was a box waiting for him in front of the safe house. Security made a big stink - trying to justify their paychecks. When they showed him, he couldn’t help but laugh. Someone had sent him a cake. There was a little marzipan Mercedes on top, lying on its side. They wouldn’t let him eat any of it, of course. Part of him wondered if anyone had even bothered to poison it.
Capo wakes to the tinkling of glass. He dozed off in his recliner – he can feel the stiffness in his neck, his leg. He cocks his head, listens. The heavy thump of boots on hardwood.
Capo lets a long breath out through his nose. He knows right away that the security detail is gone. All he pays them, and they aren’t worth a drat thing.
The doorknob turns. He is a young thing, swimming in his second-hand fatigues. There is the dark ghost of a moustache on his upper lip. The pistol in his hand is pitted with rust, a brutal-looking relic dug up from God knows where. His hand is shaking. They’ve sent a child that probably can’t take a piss without splashing his shoes. One final insult.
Capo stands. He goes to the dresser, takes out the bottle of Le Burguet and a pair of snifters, lays them out like a surgeon’s tools. He fills them nearly to the brim and hands one to the boy. His eyes latch on to Capo’s, angry and unblinking. They drink together in silence. Capo holds the cognac in his mouth for a moment, savors it. It feels like silk against his tongue. Light catches the snifter and casts a pale sickle across the back of his hand.
He tries to conjure up some last words, but nothing seems right. In truth he is afraid to say anything. Afraid to know that any word he speaks, he will never speak again. Instead, he will make himself another drink.
He turns and hears the shot before he feels it. He never imagined it would be so loud. The Le Burguet slips from his fingers and explodes on the floor, a faint pop behind the ringing in his ears, like a flashbulb going off. All he can think about - five thousand dollars soaking into the carpet.
Not quite a clean shot, but it will do. Sixty years old. A year short of Il Duce. He watches the boy out of the corner of his eye as synapses fire at random, sparking and fading in the shattered dome of his skull. The boy is sitting on Capo’s bed, and his hands aren’t shaking anymore.
|# ? Sep 7, 2015 06:24|
New Year, new thread!
Killer-of-Lawyers fucked around with this message at 17:53 on Jan 4, 2016
|# ? Sep 7, 2015 06:26|
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 22:01 on Jan 2, 2016
|# ? Sep 7, 2015 06:27|
Builds Character (767 words)
My chest draws in heaving breaths as I watch the rock fly through the air, eventually breaching the water's surface with a small *plop* to join the rest of its hopeless, drowned brethren. My toes still ached from the frustrated kicks I had given them. I sit, pulling my knees to my chest to watch the ripples make their way to the lake shore, where they lap against the mossy boulders. Finally I give in, and fish in my pockets for the paper lump of my final report card from Lakeview High, dumb watermark and all. I'm not sure why I bother uncrumpling it, since half of me just wants to chuck the damned damning thing into the muddy waters. Maybe I just don't want to be like the littering jerks that pop up this time of year.
The lake is still by the time I've finished smoothing the thick paper out. Aside from the wrinkles, there were no visible changes from this morning, when I had ripped it out of its fancy envelope as soon as the mailman had stepped off our doorstep. If Mother hadn't been so busy balancing her checkbook, she'd probably would've known something was up right away. As it was, I managed to escape the household without any questions about my high school grades, and by proxy, the death of my college dreams.
I lay down underneath the evergreens and stare up at the clouds drifting across the sky. Why couldn't that one grade be at least be a C? It'd be the first C I'd ever received, and sure, Mom would get mad at me because I 'could do so much better,' but colleges didn't care about seniors getting C's in their last semester of school. They did about seniors getting D's. I'd still graduate high school, but the academic counselor has made it very clear that with the growing number of applicants these days, my offer would almost certainly be rescinded.
I'd have to forget the daydreams about living in a city apartment, where instead of groomed green grass and cars in every driveway, the windows would show streets lined with local bookstores or movie theaters. Forget discovering an underrated restaurant on a tiny side street, or try out every one of the dozen pearl milk tea cafe within walking distance of campus. This fall, I wouldn't step into lecture halls and take notes while the professor droned on about physics, another young face among the varied crowd of students. When members of my graduating class ask me on Facebook about classes, I'd make vague statements, and when people ask if I wanted to meet up somewhere on-campus, I'd have to say I was busy.
I should've studied more. Not be so cocky about a class I struggled in, not be so sure that scraping a passing a grade would be so loving *easy*. I remember the night before the final. I'd only reviewed half the material when I'd turned in for bed, figuring that everything would work out the next day.
I'd have to start looking for a job, probably in flipping burger or making change behind a cash register. Make desperate prayers that nobody I knew would recognize me and then snicker, point, and laugh about the idiot who never made it to college and now lived in his mommy's house. Figure out to land a job, any job, with zero work or life experience, when I'd never even written a resume before. I'd have to take a step outside of the well-lit, comfortable life plan I never expected to deviate from, and try to start seeing in the dark.
In short, I'd have to change.
The sun has set by the time I walk up to our house. The front door creaks as I push it open, and when I step past the threshold a lamp clicks on in the living room, and my mother's face is illuminated. It's tired, worried, and instead of asking me where the hell I've been for the day, she just looks at me. I silently hand her the report card. She holds it up to the light, and her face doesn't change.
She doesn't look at me as she neatly tucks it into her pocket, and unsteadily walks to her bedroom. Even from here, I can hear her sobs.
Eventually, I head towards my own room, and flop onto my bed. Tomorrow, I'd start looking for jobs and making a resume. Tonight, I'd just sleep.
This wouldn't turn out all right in the morning, but maybe it'd look a little better
|# ? Sep 7, 2015 06:48|
|# ? May 24, 2022 02:05|
nos cedamus Amori
crabrock fucked around with this message at 05:41 on Jan 1, 2016
|# ? Sep 7, 2015 06:49|