“What’s in the box?” Susan asked, rubbing her arms and looking around the empty basement. James pulled the sole, small battered cardboard box from the otherwise bereft shelves.
“I…well, it’s hard to explain.” James looked down at the box, refusing to meet her eyes. “I just…”
“Is this one of those things like in the movies? Do you have a collection of human thumbs in there?”
“What? No. Gross.” He wrinkled his nose. “What’s wrong with you?”
“You’re the one being all mysterious with the box.”
“Do you remember when we first met?” James sat on the stairs and put the box next to him.
“We should get back upstairs.” She looked back toward the basement door and the party she could only vaguely hear. “We don’t want Simon thinking I’ve run off with you, do you?”
“Do you remember?” He opened the worn cardboard flaps.
“Of course I remember.” Susan folded and unfolded her arms. The cold moldy smell of the basement made the back of her throat ache.
“It was January.” He reached into the box, then paused to look at her. “You had snowflakes caught on your eyelashes.”
“I said I remembered.” She rubbed her arms. Simon would come down the stairs any moment now to see what they were up to. Usually he refused to let her out of his sight. “Is this some sort of game?”
“No, it’s very serious.” He pulled another box out of the cardboard box. Paua shell inlaid the teak panels of the second box, shining under the bare light bulb. He cast aside the cardboard box and faced her, holding out the teak box like an offering. “Here, take this.”
“Why ever for?” Susan folded her hands behind her back. The box glimmered slimily in his hands. If she touched it, she knew it would stick to her hands. Her skin crawled.
“Because I asked you to.” He looked at her, “Are you all right? You’re acting weird today.”
“I’m acting weird? You’re the one who dragged me down into the basement, away from the party, to look at a box.”
“My grandfather brought this box back from the north pole.” James said, sliding the top of the box to the side. Frost rimmed his eyelashes, glittering behind his glasses. He put the top to the side as fog poured forth from it. It had to be dry ice.
His eyes reflected the colors of the box, the hues swirling in his icy blue gaze. She backed up toward the stairs, averting her eyes from the light. The basement’s increasing cold shivered down her spine. This had to be a joke, some sort of un-funny post-Halloween thing.
Singing came from somewhere, high pitched hums and guttural rumbles. Susan put her hand to her throat; the sound was coming from her.
Panicked, her lizard brain left her consciousness behind like a useless tail. She took the stairs two at a time. Run fast, run far, run away, run away, run run run.
Grasping the doorknob, she tried to turn it. When had he locked it? How had she not noticed? She rattled the knob, her heart thumping through her palms to the stoic brass. The beat reverberated through the door, through the walls. Dizzy, she braced herself between the door and the rail.
Holding the box like an offering, James ascended the stairs. Strange shapes moved in the box and it was suddenly too small for whatever it held. Her throat sang again, and she understood the words. Oh Frozen One, oh Majestic One, oh Mighty One. Her soul recognized them, reverberated with them. She refused to accept them.
James bowed before her. “Awaken, oh Majestic One. Awaken and rule your servants.”
The door behind her opened and Simon stood there. Susan turned to him, her eyes pleading, not trusting her voice. He bowed as well. “Oh Frozen One. Bless your servants with your visage.”
The fog roiled around her feet, freezing her with its touch. She knew she would have to look in the box. Any moment now she would look and when she looked she would be lost. This thing in her soul, this thing in her throat, would take over.
“What’s in the box?” Susan whispered.
I, For One, Welcome Our New Yahoo Overlords
Seriously, am I the only one not flipping out over the $1.1B Yahoo! acquisition of Tumblr?
While I’m far from optimistic that Tumblr won’t eventually degrade the way Delicious and Flickr and other Yahoo acquisitions did (read also: “What happens after Yahoo! acquires you” by 37signals), I don’t see the injection of megabucks into Tumblr as a necessarily bad thing.
(Flickr is still pretty damn useable after all these years. Delicious has been pretty much replaced by practically a dozen services that does what it does way better. MyBlogLog is a joke and nobody took it seriously to begin with.)
We all know Tumblr’s revenue has been miserable at best — face it, 15 year old Whovians aren’t exactly who advertisers care about — and this deal might at least keep the site alive another four or five years where it might have had to face running out of cash by 2015 had it kept its own course.
Monetizing Tumblr in an intelligent way (ie. “selling ads to 15 year old Whovians”) is now the challenge in the post-acquisition era.
Many observers, particularly those who use Tumblr, foresee a crackdown on inappropriate content — particularly sexual content, which is ubiquitous across the site — to make the site more advertiser-friendly but I don’t see it happening in any particularly heavy way. A sexual content crackdown is almost guaranteed seriously affect the userbase and lead to widescale desertions: given that a social media platform is only as good as its users, this’ll bring Tumblr’s value down to practically zero.
What the present Tumblr team needs to do now is to reassure users that the Tumblr they know and love will remain the same for the foreseeable future. Internal Yahoo bureaucracy may cripple design and direction, as it has with just about every other acquisition it’s made in the past, but the crucial thing here is that those things don’t directly affect users or how users use the website.
Besides, let’s not forget, Yahoo used to have Geocities, the original home of cat gifs.
i. the hospital diaries
I am letting the cold wind wraps itself around my legs to shiver and make them break. I cannot feel anything besides the heaviness of my face—sloping into precipices of empty air. They gave me things to numb myself, to numb the pain but it has also numbed my intentions. I remember when I was in the hospital and the pain made me hands lose feeling and I was frightened. It was so much agony in my back and I could not remember to breathe, my sister coaching me while trying to touch me. To comfort me but afraid she might make it worse so her fingers only hovered above my skin with intention of caring and worry. Perhaps I would fade to ashes before her if she could have held me the way she wanted to. I could not open my eyes as spikes of pain raced up my body into my mouth where the only sound was rigid gasping. And behind my eyes all I could see were marigolds. I once told my sister they were my favourite flower and she said when she was little in school the teacher told her they meant death. It was to injure someone to gift them marigolds. Though I remembered large wreaths of them at an Indian wedding, their orange bodies on the ground and a man eating one of the blossoms. I never thought I would see something more beautiful. And so I saw their fruition of meaning behind my closed eyes as the IV was placed into my arm and my head could no longer hold itself up. My frightened friend who drove me to the hospital said it made her sick to see me like that. Suddenly hapless as a child, cocooned in a hospital blanket and unaware as to what was happening in my body.
ii. the day after
They pumped me full of percocet and sent me out into the cold evening where storm clouds were bubbling above. The next morning after escaping the confines of bed rest my friend came to get me. No more walking, she says. Worry is in her face and I love her endlessly for that. She sits me out in the sun and we eat lunch with dark lipstick and sunglasses on our face. We watch boys play volleyball and I ignore the throbbing in my back. Just five more minutes, a few more minutes in the sun before I have to lie in bed soundlessly waiting for the rolling aches to subside.
The problem with being depressed, apart from the fact that it’s bloody depressing, is that you lose your sense of perspective. One day you wallow in lethargic despair, the next you manage a short walk and you feel like you’re superhuman. You want to validate your achievements, but you are no longer sure what those achievements are, so you oscillate between unjustified self-loathing and excessive self-congratulation.
As I put down my pen I felt overwhelmingly pleased with what I’d written: I was sure those words conveyed the crux of my condition with eloquence and honesty.
But then I read them again and I wasn’t so sure.
A Cut Above the Rest
She was late for her shift again and didn’t have time to change into what she considered her “bartender attire.” Making a beeline for the ladies’ room to change, because let’s face it, drunk men tip better when you look hot, she ran into Bree.
“Kat, are you late again? That’s the fourth time this week, is everything okay?” Bree said, in a tone that was genuine, but still managed to sound like nails on a chalk board.
“I’m fine, don’t worry about it.” Kat said dismissively while passing her.
Bree followed her into the bathroom. Unfortunately, there were only two stalls and they were both occupied. Kat pulled a dark green racer back tank top and a pair of black pants out of her bag. She paused briefly to shoot Bree an icy “Are you going to watch?” look and then began undressing.
“You know, you can talk to me if you want to, Kat.” Bree answered the look.
“You already reminded me that I’m late, I don’t have time to chat now.” Kat deflected.
Kat turned her back on Bree when she took her pants off, but forgot about the mirror in front of her that was reflecting the results of her dark secret. Bree gasped.
“KAT! Oh my God, I thought you were going to stop?!” Bree exclaimed.
On Kat’s left leg, starting at the ankle, was a ladder of scars leading up to just above her knee with the last few rungs being scabs. Kat looked up to see Bree’s horrified reflection starring at her leg. Kat lowered her head.
“I tried, but I just can’t.” she said almost to herself.
“Why are you doing this?” Bree pried.
“Believe it or not, it feels good and it makes me feel…alive.” Kat justified.
“You need help.” Bree pressed.
Kat turned defensively, pulling up her pants and shooting Bree a “fuck off” look.
“Nice…real nice, Bree.” Kat snapped.
“I…um…you know what I mean.” Bree stammered.
“Yeah, I know exactly what you mean” Kat said as she brushed past her and left the bathroom.
Just then one of the other women came out of the stall and gave Bree a look of disapproval indicating that she could have handled that with a bit more decorum, even if her heart was in the right place.
Behind the bar, Kat was doing her best to focus on work, but her mind was elsewhere…on her leg.
“Hey, this isn’t what I ordered.” barked some frat boy.
“Oh, I’m sorry. What was it you wanted again?” Kat replied as apologetically as possible.
“Rum and Coke, that isn’t too complicated a drink for you, is it?” the guy said condescendingly.
Just then a tall man in a dark suit with black hair and striking green eyes walked up behind the frat boy and said, “Is there a problem here, Miss?”
“No, it’s fine, I just fucked up his drink order and he’s not so subtly letting me know it.” Kat said, not wanting to be the cause of a bar fight.
“In other words, buzz off buddy.” the frat boy said puffing out his chest.
The man ignored the frat boy and said to Kat, “If you need anything, I’ll be right over there.” pointing to the darkest corner of the bar.
“It’s no big deal…Really.” She replied matter-of-factly setting a Rum and Coke in front of the frat boy.
The man gave a silent nod and strode over to the corner he pointed to and sat down at the far end of the table facing the bar. All night he never took his eyes off of Kat. Every time she pretended to casually scan the room, she could see him starring at her from the corner with those piercing green eyes. It made Kat uncomfortable and a little more than nervous. She messed up more drink orders and got less tips that night than any other night. When her shift was over, the man was still there starring at her, creepily. She made a point of shouting over to Bree, who was working the other end of the bar, “I’m off. I’m going to change and then jet.” Bree gave her a worried look in return and then waved.
Kat grabbed her bag and moved toward the ladies’ room. She could feel his eyes on her the entire way, but she didn’t dare look back. When she got to the hallway where he couldn’t see her anymore, she by-passed the ladies room and walked into the storage room that said, “Employees Only.” At the back of the storage room was a door to the alley. She considered that maybe an alley behind a bar wasn’t the safest place to go, but it was better than letting him see her leave, besides the busy street was only a few hundred feet away. As she exited the alley she started walking briskly down the street away from the bar and toward her apartment. At the first intersection she stopped to wait for the light to change before crossing and glanced back nervously at the bar. That’s when she saw him walking toward her.
Not waiting for the light to change she stepped out into the traffic narrowly avoiding getting run over. On the other side she started walking as fast as she could without running into the multitude of people on the busy street. When there was a break in the crowd, she broke into a dead sprint. At the door to her apartment building, she fumbled in her bag for her keys as she looked down the street. He was still coming… fast. Finally she found her keys, only to drop them on the ground. The distance between them was closing rapidly. Snatching her keys from the ground, she unlocked the door as fast as she could, bolted inside and up the stairs to her front door. Her heart felt like it was going to leap out of her chest, it was beating so hard. When she was finally inside she breathed a huge sigh of satisfaction. Dropping her bag on a chair and kicking her shoes off, she went into the bedroom and started getting undressed. First her tank top, followed by her pants and socks. She ran her hand up her left leg slowly. Her fingers touched each scar like she was strumming a guitar with way too many strings. As she passed over the scabs above her knee, she got chills over her entire body.
He was standing in the bedroom doorway watching her.
“It’s not safe to leave your doors unlocked.” He said, in an ominous voice.
She just stood there paralyzed like her feet were cemented to the floor.
“Continue… or do you want me to finish for you?” he said, forebodingly.
Kat apprehensively reached up behind her, unhooked her bra and let it slide off the front of her body onto the floor. His green eyes widened revealing that his pupils were actually thin black slits. He reached inside the jacket of his suit and pulled out four vibrant green snakes.
“And those.” he point at her panties as the snakes started coiling around his outstretched arm.
She slid her panties off and on the way down they brushed each and every scar on her leg.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” he inquired.
Kat turned, climbed onto the bed and laid down on her back. She slowly outstretched her arms and legs as far as they could reach, to each corner of the bed. With a flick of his arm he tossed the four snakes onto her body causing every muscle in her body to tense. The snakes slithered around each other for what seemed like forever and then slid up her appendages, each one taking a spot coiled around either her wrists or her ankles. The snakes then dexterously coiled part of their body around the nearest bed frame and started to squeeze. She could feel the snake’s muscles tightening around her wrists and ankles, causing her to gasp at the pressure.
The man smiled menacingly and began removing his clothes. Everywhere there was supposed to be skin there were green scales, not unlike the snakes that were holding her stretched and fast to the bed. He climbed on top of her and opened his mouth. Out flicked an extremely long, thin, forked tongue which he began to slide all over her upper body. Kat’s arms and legs were stretched so tight that she could scarcely move, but that didn’t stop her from writhing and twisting under the assault of the reptilian tongue. She could feel both individual tines in his tongue as he slid it across her skin. Up and down her body he slid his tongue all over with long strokes, like it was a paint brush and her body was the canvas. All over, except… between her legs. He never touched her there. She could feel herself beginning to loose consciousness and the room started to spin. As if he could sense her faltering state of mind, he moved down her left thigh and paused briefly as the tines of his tongue came together. In one quick motion he sliced her thigh with his tongue causing her to cry out from the pain. The open wound was not unlike a small mouth calling out to the world everything she was experiencing and feeling. A small stream of bright crimson blood trickled out from the cut, which he began lapping up fervently.
Suddenly the room and everything in it was swallowed in darkness…
When she came to she was still lying sprawled on the bed, but her arms and legs were free and the snakes that were binding them were gone. He was standing over her, by the side of the bed, fully clothed. She looked up at him, opened her mouth and weakly asked, “How much longer until you touch me… there?” He glanced down at her left ankle and followed the ladder of scars up her leg slowly, until he paused at the freshly clotted wound. His eyes then traversed the rest of the distance, his gaze finally landing between her legs.
17 - Blood
“American Red Cross.”
“Hello. This is Giselle from Memorial Hospital. I want to speak with someone about a problem we have been having.”
“What sort of problem?”
“With the blood. Is there a distribution specialist I can speak with?”
“Sure thing. Let me patch you through.”
“Joe Rickman speaking.”
“Hello Joe. This is Giselle from Memorial Hospital. I understand you’re the blood distribution coordinator in our district?”
“I want to report a blood type from a certain individual that we’ve been having problems with.”
“Ma’am, I can assure you that we screen every single individual that donates blood in our facilities.”
“The blood from this individual is turning our patients into vampires, Mr. Rickman.”
“This is the second incident in six months that we have had patients turn into vampires from blood originating at your facility.”
“I already faxed over the information we have from the blood packet to your administrative assistant.”
“I require your cooperation in acquiring all files you have of the individual so we may isolate properties in their blood that may be causing our patients to transform.”
“I don’t see how—”
“Your failure in cooperating will result in a formal complaint against the American Red Cross. I will do everything in my power to sever all ties between the Red Cross and Memorial Hospital and its affiliates. Am I clear?”
“Yes. Yes, of course. I will send those files to you today and I will assist with everything else you need done regarding this matter.”
“Thank you. We’ll let you know the test results as soon as we have them. I hope we can work to prevent this type of incident in the future.”
“Yes. You’re welcome.”
I told her I believe in karma because how else do you stop someone from crying whose woes had the nerve to show up in their lives? She smiled at the thought, a whimsical look in her otherwise heavy face.
“You think so? You believe the good will get better, and the bad will get worse?”
Confidence is the answer for situations like these. I nod fervently. “Yes. I believe the good will pull through. Because all that is meant by grace under pressure is Truth. The soul of it cannot be tainted. I don’t know if the bad will be punished, but I know you will find peace.”
My words aren’t clean, my sentences are frilly, unnecessary, but her face lights up for another moment. And in that moment, I am saved.
The beast was awaken by an abrupt pain in his chest. He was soaking with his own blood, and the strong scent of it made him mad with hunger. His affixed eyes adjusted with the darkness; tonight he shall hunt.
Running swiftly along the woods, ignoring the hole in his own heart, he searched for food. Growling and howling in the middle of the night, warning his preys. He could smell fear and disdain, brokenness and pain — He was smelling his own blood.
He jumped after one creature to another in attempt to devour them. His mouth was drooling with rage for every failed pursuit to kill. He wanted to feed the emptiness inside him, his dying heart.
Suddenly, he felt the coldness of the night. His knees got weaker with every step made. His sight became hazy, blurry. But the strong scent of blood did not fade. He was confused — to follow the slow beating of his heart, or the call of nature he must heed.
In a blink of his eye, his heart stopped. He fell lifeless on the ground. Darkness took over, and in the end his heart never became whole again.
She may have been seventeen that summer because she slipped one morning as she pulled the curtains back for a violent sun.
“He keeps you up all night, don’t you see? It’s half past noon! When are you going to realize that you’re…” Dervish dust particles danced gaily in the sunlight. “My father wouldn’t have had any of this, she continued. “This new generation… you fall in love in all the wrong places and all the wrong people and you wonder why you spend…”
I pulled the blanket over my head and waited for the freight train to pass. When she was gone, I slept. Later that afternoon, when I could no longer avoid walking past her, I went downstairs. It was always like this, stale bread and cold eggs and the unrelenting chatter of my mother’s engine idling on the topic of my life. I ate my belated breakfast quietly, regretting that I hadn’t eaten it while it was fresh and crunchy enough to cancel out the decibels from her voice.
She went on and on about how she was young and giddy once, a foolish girl with summer love and I felt a tug, something caught on the worn fabric of a recent memory. She had mentioned her father earlier in my room while she desperately suggested by way of day light that I get out of bed. My grandfather was a pilot and spent most of his life drifting thru clouds until late 1968 when a small flask was found in the cockpit. They took his wings and he died eleven months later from an alcohol induced heart attack, so this secret romance must have played itself out on the summer of 69.
In a more calm and candid tête-à-tête, she confessed that my father wasn’t her first love although the truest. She told me of boy she had fallen in love with in school and of the future they had mapped out beneath the constellations. “I hadn’t met your father yet and couldn’t imagine anything like him, but I felt like this was it. This is what all those red roses and hearts were for.” She spoke into the kitchen with the struggle of forty years trembling from her lips. “My father told me that a woman’s love is as good as any other, that men couldn’t tell the difference in a song no matter who sings it… ‘it is still the same.’ You have to understand that I believed in everything my father said. He may have drunk his health away, but he took care of us like no one could. Gave my mother pearls and bought us silk dresses and all the dolls a girl could ask for. He lived to make us happy, and so, I, convinced that he was right about the boy, left him. I never went back to his ranch again. “
I couldn’t understand many things about her story and I didn’t ask because I knew she was working up to something, something she wanted me to consider and so I continued to listen to her explain how my grandparents moved her to another school and after the death of her father, to another town altogether. She told me the story of how she met my father despite the many times I’ve heard it before and of how she came to rebel her own father’s idea of courtship and allowed herself the freedom to commit a possible mistake by bringing my father home. There was no question - he was perfect, for her.
“I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that a parent might not always have the right answer and I know you disagree with me on many things, but I’ve always trusted them. Wrong or right, I’ve always abided by them because they had the best interest at heart for me. My father never wanted me to just fall for any boy who counted stars with me and wrote me letters. He wanted me to know how very cruel love can be when you’re blind to it and so he made no attempt to sugarcoat it. I met your father and he proved to me that there are some more capable of not only pointing out the stars for you, but putting them in your palm. This is what I want for you.”
When I asked her if she still thought of him, the boy at the ranch, she gave me a sort of half smile indicative of quiet nostalgias made privy to an old moon and the many stars she conspired upon. I pitied her then. To look up at the stars every night and have to imagine a life unfettered is to live in poverty, despite your riches.
I cannot nurse any of my feelings for you, anymore. I can’t no more condition and contain how my feelings are gonna go for the caprices of emotions I have. As the Holy Scriptures said, the heart is deceitful. I can no more trust my fragile heart for letting things break their pieces and compensate maybe on using my head and my heart as to weigh things out.
I may be a block. But I’m not as masculine as others think. I don’t have that well-built muscular physique and I can be almost fickle. I’m vulnerable. I am perplexed when I imagine how you have turned the spark into a flame, in my heart. I can no more dither on how will I go on these leaves — to the leaf of unloving you and use the aching end of our love story to create an ephemeral sullen feeling for me to move on and forgive you afterwards? Or to the leaf of not noticing the salient epiphanies when they struck me which trigger me to look back on your profile and ponder on how you changed without me?
I can still picture myself of meeting you, somewhere unexpected. You are the very person to sit right next to me at the kaffeeklatsch and pretend that I don’t know you. It is just the spaces between our slender tables that separates us. And no matter how hard I try to talk to my company, I can still see you looking at me, on my peripheral vision. And I don’t know what to feel and how to react when you reach me.
It is the urge of having that feeling of hugging the person you love, so tight. And yet, you are afraid to show it because things between you might not be the same as they were, before. But you know that you are miles apart from each other. And maybe, just maybe. That would be the last time you see him/her.
On Truth and Ignorance
I am afraid to write sometimes. I am afraid that the words that stream from my fingers will be too true to bear; the truths I run from daily will spill over onto paper, and they will be too concrete to deny any longer.
I prefer the abstract, the thoughts that scurry about inside my head, but they need to escape; they cannot breathe. They rapidly multiply until they become so backed up, that nothing can come out. Until it does. And when it does, it destroys any inkling of denial that I may have had. It kills me a little bit each time I type a word that clashes with my fantasies.
But at the same time, I am more alive than ever, because I know the truth. The truth is a powerful thing, and to hear it, to see it, to watch it scroll across the screen, can make you feel as if you are dying. But when you accept it, you are more alive than you have ever been, because you know a little bit more of the truth than you did yesterday. You are a little bit wiser, a little bit stronger.
But it does not change the fact that sometimes, I simply cannot write, because the truth of the matter is, ignorance is bliss, and I’d rather live inside that truth than accept the plethora of other truths I know exist in the deepest creavasses of my soul.
My mother likes to remind me, that although I have grown both in size with the stretching of my spine, I have also grown in my emotional depth, holding a fishbowl full of water inside of me where I put each thought that is on fire, out. I am still much the child rolling down Rowsen Street at high speed, rollerblading until my knees gave out, until a collision with the ground scratched my face, imprinting gravel, embedded in my skin an inch away from the junction line. We all want to be similar, too alike, or too well known. We believe that our worth can be determined by someone else, rather than ourself. Today I woke up at eleven with my knees defending my chest, the palms of my hands covered my face shielding the light fighting its way through the gaps between each of my fingers. I was supposed to be at a costal walk but I began to feel a stillness setting in the world, continuing to nest my body between sheets with the curtains drawn, not ready to embrace the day. I have forgotten how to quietly slink away from the company of others to take breaths of night air, to breathe in how the atmosphere smells, to register sensor memory followed by relief. Now, I am disappearing, having a spell of feeling far too sensitive for this earth. I certainly feel it. I can feel it everywhere. In the way I stir the metallic spoon in my cup, in the way I lay my knife and fork to the side of the plate when I have barely made it through dinner. There is still something so haunting about the words “last summer” there has been so many ‘last summers.‘ I thought of Richmond, a summer four years ago, standing at the top of Shenandoah Valley barely being able to manage with the way the midday sun made me perspire. I was gasping, trying to draw intakes of breath even though I was warned that the further we journey upwards, the less oxygen there was to breathe.
In the Walker Art Gallery there is this exhibition surrounding photographs of every day people with their own story submitted underneath. Lilly Ebert, An Auschwitz survivor, lost her mother and one of her sisters who were both sentenced to the Gas Chambers shortly on arrival to the Nazi base. Lilly, and her two others sisters were put to work as slave labourers, working because they were considered ‘healthy’ at the time. She smuggled her mothers gold pendant into the concentration camp, and as each new day came she’d hide the only memory left of her mother inside her ration of bread so it would not be found. We are incredibly sentimental. We cling to memories and lost belongings, hiding pieces of ourselves in every nook and crevice. At the end of her exhibition piece she writes “I appreciate life, every moment, because I’ve got a second chance. What have I learned? Be tolerant of each other. If someone is different from you, it does not mean that he is better or worse- just different. Where this is love, there is life. Where there is hate, there is death.” I started crying, A silent cry that only ran away from my eyes. I wondered how many people in this room were feeling the same, as their feet rested upon the flaxen wood-board floor.
Circumstance can dictate selective aspects of our lives, but we can explore out of our tradition and embrace notions that are unfamiliar to us. We are gifted, gifted in such a way that we have the ability to adapt, to mould, and shape what we are given into something substantial, desirable. We are all living at different frequencies. Perforating through static, demanding our bodies reach an equilibrium, crippling in white noise. Our existence is a spiral. We are frequently crossing in and out of other peoples lives, joining wires, severing ties, merely passing through, offering a perspective and shifting someone else’s existential path a little. We are fragile beings at best, and fickle at our worst. Faced with the extremities of indecisiveness when we are granted with choices, and filled with apprehensiveness when we cannot see a way out of the smog. Speculating the intentions of others is repetitive. We want to know more than our anatomy, and are rarely satisfied with the amount of truth we are given. My mother showed me bruises from my father when I was seven years old, he didn’t know how to love her whilst she was bathing four times a day because of her intense fear of contamination. How she would dip her hands in diluted bleach, and watch as her skin grew progressively milky. She has the most beautiful hands, my mother. There is such suffering within the way her wrinkles settle, and how the underside of her palm feels more like marble than flesh. So much of us is a blood pumping highway, we expand miles and miles of skin, and our bodies weight is seventy five percent water. We can be so cold and callous towards those whom we do not understand, instead of learning what makes them who they are. We each have a history. Our own past. Regardless we should be proud to say that we have one. I’m finding it increasingly fatiguing to say goodbye to people, without feeling as if there is a tap somewhere leaking out internal suppressions. Let me flood.
You want to be the tragic heroine of your own storyline. Taken from the plot of a daytime Hallmark movie, punched up by a script editor with day-old stubble just making the bills and acted out by B-listers and ex-soap opera stars not good looking enough for tentpole summer season pictures.
You want to have long lingering looks, be lusted after by the main hero who has curly brown hair, moons a lot and plays Joy Division LPs in his room, which is movie shorthand for the shy nice guy who ends up with the girl.
You want a horse named Starlight or Saturn or Neptune that is ridden in the film by a stunt woman hired at cost and only vaguely resembles you from the back but it’s okay because they’re all long shots.
You want a family that doesn’t understand you, that you get to storm upstairs on and slam the door so you can call the aforementioned curly headed boy on the old-fashioned house telephone while the balding father figure - played by a guy whose name is on the tip of your tongue - listens in. He then tries to ground you but you escape via the upstairs window.
So cliche and so obvious how it’s going to end, but that’s exactly what you want because right now nothing makes sense; not who you are, not where you’ve been and nothing about the future.
So turn on the TV movie and imagine you’re that girl and it might get you through the afternoon while your life happens around you and one day, perhaps it will all make sense and perhaps one day it won’t, but you’ll always have Hallmark and the curly headed boy will always be perfect and young, even as you grow old.
Caroline lies on the lush grass, situating herself as close to the burning coals as she can. The last of the firewood was used to keep it burning this late into winter. All that remained to burn was some twigs and a pine cone. She hadn’t eaten in some time, maybe a week and a half or so. Remembering such minuscule tasks was hard now a days, survival had been the only thing creeping across the wrinkles of her mind. A hoarse chuckle escaped her pale dry lips. How ironic, she thought, that survival had been her only memory thus far and she failed to keep herself nourished. Silly girl in a foreign land, “I deserve to die,” she morbidly thought. Across the heavens, pellets of snow began to fall. Graceful little puffballs that brought the cold every winter. Each crystal of frozen water would paint the landscape pure white. Particles of snow collected in Caroline’s blonde hair, seeping through the knots and twists. Her red ribbon still gleamed amongst the pale hues of winter. Her dirty blouse once used to be as pure as the falling snow, but now it had a few imperfections and collected a fair amount of dirt from wandering the wilderness. No shoes comforted her bare feet, those had disintegrated long ago into husks of rotten leather. Pale blue eyes watched the flickering flames dance to and fro. Unfortunate flakes that fell near the fire melted on impact, short lives lived only moments after being born. A gnarled noise like the crunch of savage gums on broken bones echoed from within Caroline’s gullet. Slender fingers grasped her abdomen, wanting to tear the hunger out of her for good. She kept her eyes clenched while grating her teeth; the pain was unbearable. Trying to keep herself busy, a subtle hum emitted from within her bosom. A childhood song she had learned from her step mother. Lullaby of the Moon. It kept her sane during hard times and would bring her comfort during her final moments. Caroline knew she couldn’t lie to herself any longer. Fooling the reaper wouldn’t prolong her life force and she thought to herself that it was time. The poor girl was tired of striving for nothing; there was obviously no escaping from this horrible dimension that she was sent to. She had lived a quiet existence in this familiar yet unknown terrain. Happy memories floated from the depths of her hungering mind as she closed her eyes.
Recalling her first days on these foreign plains, she awoke to a great and terrible beast. Resembling a buffalo, its massive horns and over-sized head bore no likeness to the ones she had heard of. Bright eyes of an almost angelic yellow glowed out of those grapefruit sized sockets. It merely mumbled a gigantic noise towards her, blowing tendrils of hair in front of her eyes and walked away, grazing on some nearby clumps of vegetation. Familiar birds such as ravens and robins roamed the skies above the spruce trees that littered the land like fence posts. Lush bushes bearing berries were abundant; at first Caroline was cautious of eating them, but after viewing an over-sized humanoid turkey gluttonously indulge on the fruit, she decided they were safe to consume. Wild carrots were also common among the forest floor, although some of the rooted vegetables were alive. Pale rooted vegetables with arms and eyes that cried and screamed when they were pulled from their warm earthen cribs; Caroline recalled reading about the fabled Mandrake roots but never knew that they were real. Interesting little rabbit like creatures roamed the golden plains of this land. Oddly enough, the only thing different about them compared to normal rabbits was the tiny antlers that protruded just below their long ears. The Jack-a-lopes appearance was absolutely ridiculous, but that didn’t change the way they tasted. Quietly, a shuddered sigh was breathed through her clenched teeth. Remembering all those delicious foods pained her stomach even more than anticipated. She slightly opened her eyes and was welcomed by the site of smoldering coals. She simply shrugged and attempted to curl herself into a tight ball. A reaction to the increasing cold. “I’ll rest my eyes before i add the sticks to the coals,” she thought as she drifted out of consciousness.
Smoke rose from the ashes of the small flame, which crackled with subtle pops here and there. Suddenly, a burst of conflagration erupted from the imperfect pit; an unnatural yellow hue smoked off the fringes of the flame. Parlor trick smoke plumed beside Caroline’s still body. Where nothing once stood, a man in a fine maroon suit appeared. A near perfect red rose sat in the chest pocket below the right shoulder. Greased back hair as black as night contrasted against alabaster skin. An elongated face with a sharp chin searched all nearby surroundings. Crimson eyes finally caught wind of the fallen girls body half frozen from lack of heat. Cigar smoke plumed from his nostrils as he exhaled. Pulling the stogie from his long lips, Maxwell crouched down to closer observe the young victim. “You’ve made it far, kid. Farther than any of my other quarry.” Tapping the cigar, a few hot coals landed on Caroline’s foot, but no movement was made to avoid the hot embers. Long fingers stroked a jagged chin while contemplation stretched along the middle aged mans’ forehead. “Tell you what,” bringing the cigar back to his lips for a brief puff, he spat out smoke as quickly as he inhaled it, “i’ll give you another chance.” Raising his posture, he grimaced at the kind gesture he presented, “No need to thank me, I just like your spirit.” He chuckled and turned away from the frozen land, gazing into the horizon beyond, “Let’s leave this dump already.” Fingers snapped, splitting the air for a brief second. Plumes of dark, unnatural smoke consumed both Maxwell and Caroline’s body. A deep grumble rose from the depths of the earth, like the growl of a prey defiantly protesting the loss of its meal. A thundering crack smeared the sky with a brief flash of red and the saturated color slowly evaporated into nothingness. Both bodies were gone from this plain of existence. A cozy fire was the only clue that a person inhabited the forest only moments before.
Authors Note: Recently been playing the heck out of Don’t Starve; A fun little survival game from Steam. Thought i’d give a little story about the game. Hint: Maxwell ain’t as forgiving.
Just a few short months ago I languished the day away. I festered and rotted in this abyss of depression and self loathing. I was lost. There was no hope. No proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
Something has changed.
Now when I wake up, if I’ve slept at all, my email is full of submissions from artists allowing me the chance to share their stories over at FRH Studios. I spend hours scheduling their posts, typing their introductions as well as the announcement. Then, my nights are spent watching them shine and the number of supporters as it continues to grow.
It does my soul good.
During the day I continue to work on my own art. I get to film video responses to questions submitted by my lovely followers. I’ve gotten to know so many of you and I want to meet the rest.
During the late hours I’m connecting with people half a world away and doing my best to help in anyway I can.
And this is only the beginning.
The passion within I thought had been snuffed out has become an inferno. I’ve got big plans on the horizon and, while I don’t want to get into specifics, I want all of you along for the ride.
I’ve come to realize that I am not alone in this world.
And you know what?
Neither are you.
Just,” hello, I’m still here”
I inhaled deeply, then exhaled with a sigh
Four words, just those four
Were the sweetest words I ever read
Gone for weeks, so far from home and my heart, hearing static, reading garbled messages of broken words, I stood in the kitchen, my feet in one spot, never moving, staring at the message on my phone, remembering your face, with the small scar above your right eye, eyes of blue, and hair, honeyed, mixed with gray.
I miss that face as I look around the room; everything starts to remind me of you. Your chair at the table, where we share our meals, empty, but I can picture you sitting there, laughing at something I did or said, and your favorite coffee mug, still in the drainer by the sink, where you left it. I always hated that mug, stupid pictures of fish all over it, but now looking at it, it’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
You’re coming home, in one piece, mission accomplished, and whatever else you said, I only heard coming home. I’ll leave the porch light on, and have a cup of coffee waiting for you, soon my love, soon.
Things I Didn't Finish
My sister went into the bathroom to cool her face against the linoleum.
Being fifteen must be really hard though I can’t imagine why. I can’t remember why. Being her must be hard then.
I didn’t react the way I should have. The charcoal they give you is sweetened now but back then when she came home and told me how hard it was to drink I just laughed.
Later my step-father and I made jokes about selling her pills. My Mother scolded us, in the kitchen where I was balanced on the bench-top, dangling my bare legs out to wet my feet in the steam from the dishwasher. But she smiled. It was essentially three against one.
It wasn’t a black-comedy we lived in, it was a made-for-tv movie where the daughter actually does die in the end and nobody saw it coming. Except she didn’t and I didn’t care either way.
And she grew up, she has dainty ideas about children and where she might live, breakable as they are, like fingernails, these babies, these beginnings. My Father calls me an hour before he is due to pick me up, my Mother calls me ninety minutes before. My Step-mother gives me a day in advance, my Sister sends through dates of birthdays weeks before they are occurring. I did not think I would be an adult other adults had to look after, I did not think I would be a perpetual beginning.
I don’t know how many times I can crease my face and purse my lips and cross my arms and still have nothing else to say.
I still love you.