Vacant Hallways

September 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

The soles of her feet planted loosely against the window frame, staring into the dour mantle of nightfall, there was nothing out there save for the ego of the whippoorwill echoing in the otherwise silent night. The moisture of her own self-loathing haunted behind her eyes and she pushed the heels of her hand into the sockets to burn away what threatened to fall.

No tears. No remorse. No want or ache or need.

Maureen was strength. The wicked hours of the day would never wile away her will. Maureen was power. No word beyond her own would control her heart or mind. Maureen was failing. Every passing minute was a minute lost inside her.

She wasn’t sure where those minutes were squandered or how her soul chose to consume them, but she did know the minutes built the hours that terrorized her days. She dropped her hands, leaning her head against the frame. When the night was over, the day would begin. Of course, their headland had collided; the nights were as wicked as the day so whether the hour was light or dark, the murmur of history was no less savage. Maureen simply preferred the night over the light. The silence after sundown made more sense than the silence after sunrise.

Without light, she could rationalize the lack of voices in her life. She could explain away how the phone never rang or how her inbox held no mail. In the day, she told herself the world was busy with the deadlines of life… though she couldn’t quite clarify why minutes could be found for others while none were found for her. The day left holes in her weakened excuse, but the night filled in the holes.

She wasn’t lying to herself. After all, if she asked herself for the whole of the truth she’d be unable to give it. She offered up what answers she could figure and left the rest to soak in the brine.

All the more so, when the ache shot through her like physical electricity, even when her chest closed on itself trying to release its own pressure, she made no sound.

The bedside light clicked to life.

“Maureen? What are you doing?”

She turned towards the bed. Her smile rivaled the painted ear-to-ear of any clown. Her eyes sparkled above the haunting. “Taking in the beauty of the night. I felt so restless.”

“Are you okay?”

“Of course. Always.”

“You’re sure?”

She laughed, slinking from the windowsill to the bed with a kiss that was genuine in its intent. “Goof. How could I not be okay? Look what I have in my bed.”

The smile she received slaughtered her sanity just a little more. “A cat?”

“Yes. A cat. You’re not too bad to have here, either.”

“Hey, hey.”

“Go back to sleep. Rest.”

“Come back to bed, okay?”

“You got it.”

Beneath the blankets, against ethereal skin, Maureen clung to the fabric of her quilt… hoping to keep the seconds tied in time. As long as she could, she would keep the life of that moment alive.

When the sounds of breathing beside her faded she opened her eyes. The whippoorwill echoed on and she shifted on the windowsill. Looking back at the bed, it was as available and unused as it had ever been.

She glanced briefly at her desk. The laptop sat open, her work unfinished. On one side of the desk, the laptop. On the other side, stacks of half used notebooks. In the center, a broken pile of wooden blocks and sticks. All of it neglected and unfinished. All of it wasted.

Jumping from the windowsill, she shot across the room. Scared and enraged by her own mind, she lifted the laptop above her head. She held it there, glaring at the floor; straining between throwing it and breathing herself back to judgment. She sat it gently back to its place. In return for the life of the laptop, she took the life of the notebooks and the unfinished house. The notebooks scattered through the air. Some dropped like stones, others fluttered across the room. The pieces of the house bumped against the far wall, marking the paint and landing with an incredibly unsatisfying thud on the floor.

“What are you doing?”

Maureen turned to the door. “Losing my mind.”

“Why?”

“The world is too silent.”

“Make some noise.”

“I just did.”

“You’re okay.”

“How would you know?”

“Best friends just know.”

“Then where are you?”

There was no answer. She hadn’t expected one.

When she was a kid, she would dream about standing in the hallways of school. Her body had been lead, paralyzed to movement but alive with sensation. She’d scream for help, the scream nothing more than a soundless opening of her mouth, but no answer would come. The hallway mocked her fear by filling it with other children. They’d stand near and around, jeering. Laughing with the cruelty only a dream can amplify. The teachers would pass by and offer their own slurring tokens. Unable to scream or speak, incapable of moving or running, she would sometimes will her body into motion. Weighted with whatever invisible encumbrance bearing down on her, she’d slip away centimeters at a time.

She wasn’t sitting in the hallways of schools. Nor was she incapable of speech, but she knew that silence in her world all the same. It was a different weight, but it immobilized her just the same.

The dreams she bore then were walking, talking apparitions out to remind her again how fallow her hallways were. Maybe not even fallow, as that may have suggested the hope for use. Maybe just abandoned.

Her own desolation rocketed through her body again. Her hand twitched and her face struggled with vacuity. If she sobbed, no one would see. If she roared aloud, her embarrassment would remain a secret. She could give in and give up. The house would seal her in; keep her fastened from the eyes of any other. Just a little whimper wouldn’t be heard by one ear but her own. Still, she made not a sound as she returned to the window. Her mind ticked on as the winds blew through the vacant hallways of her life.

Summer’s End

August 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

She’s hurried and she’s angry, the walkway is filled with grass and the air with waning heat. Summer will close soon and fall will come sliding in only to be overpowered by winter. Yes, she’s hurried and she’s angry without hours to pass in leisure. Of course, if she thought about it, she would shrug away the hours that may have been; knowing those hours would waste in ignominy.

What good could she do with a few hours when so many more rule? The summer has been fretful, wringing at its hands and shivering beneath its own heat. It seems to recall every moment she has so desperately tried to forget throughout every summer passed. The summer has lain in the misery of known perversions and lasting remorse. The hours have laughed at their own violent length and promised to grow with every passing thought — leaving the seconds silent without another to comfort the minutes.

She, Dana, pauses beneath the bus sign and glances down the street. Watching the bus approach she decides the last moment should be walked — yes, walked with the same obscurity as the life has been lived.

Ignoring the others at the stop, she slips through the small crowd and into the darkness of the alley. Summer will be ended soon. How she hated the impending threat of winter that fall sloshed about like some drunken tit at the all night bar.

She shivers at scarcely the thought and curses mildly beneath her breath. Still hurried and still angry, she cuts through another alley and across the street. She hears her name, but ignores the sound in favor of deafness. Footsteps follow her, as does the call to her name. Quickening as fast as she possibly can, without sprinting into a jog, she bends herself into another alley.

“Dana, stop!”

She spins then. Suspends in spot and glares into the light end of the alley. “If you had thought I heard you and I continued to move forward, why must you insist on forcing me to slow and stop? The obvious answer was glaringly bright and you chose to ignore it. Why is that choice made? The choice to ignore the needs or desires I harbor and hate but keep? Why must I be a blindness to the will of any other?”

“Dana, are you well?”

“I’m as well as I can be; now do me the courtesy of standing still as I go on my way. I’m not interested… not in chat, not in laughter. I’m not interested in the paltry speak of habitual life and I would much rather reach my destination in timely fashion than pause to giddy about with you or any other.”

Does it matter who calls to her? Possibly. It may slow her pace and lift her mood, but she’ll not pause to ascertain the outline or diagnose the voice. She’s hurried and she’s angry. Dana has a broken clock, a fractured wall, and while spring may usher in the year for the world, fall ushers in the death of comfort for Dana. Though she has weeks, the hours are whiling away. The end of summer will always be the end of a year for her and this summer, especially hateful, bores in scars almost physically.

So she turns. Her feet carry her away and the body behind stands still in hush. A new ache has been born while an old one continues.

The alleys wind one after the next, eventually they’ll lead to the edge of the city and she will follow the curve of the land into the darkness of nightfall and the cover of forestry. She’ll follow the land until she has nowhere further to walk. From there she will dive and she will fly until gravity pulls her down. For a moment, just a moment, she will have nothing weighing on her soul; still, like all things, when the weight is lifted it will return with a spiteful agenda. Dana will fall.

Time Is Gone

August 25, 2012 § 9 Comments

I know you’re sleeping
and I know I’m leaving.
I can hear your dreams
in the winds of your breathing.

It’s over, I know it’s done.
Forgive me; forgive me, if I run.

I know what I said
and I said I would stay.
I promised through the tears,
but I can’t — not this day…

Not any under moon or sun.
It’s over, I know it’s done.
Forgive me; forgive me when I run.

I know I’ve done it
so many times before,
but I’m so tired
of living beneath the floor.

I can’t be that memory,
the one you love and hate;
I can’t stay in mind
and sit — sit and wait…

Until your dreams are done.
Forgive me; forgive me that I run.

I’ve locked up my doors,
my number’s in the mail.
I can hear your hurt
in the silence you nail.

I gave you the years
I had left to give.
I spent the hours
waiting to live…

While you ached for none.
Forgive me; forgive me, if I run.

If you come looking,
close your eyes.
Don’t take in the darkness
of hope when it dies.

It’s over, I know it’s done.
Forgive me; forget me, when I run.

Devil’s Rain

June 13, 2012 § 1 Comment

“What grace befalls the wicked.  The sting and distress that plague the righteous should inhibit the deeds of the depraved, but seek civility to wound and destroy.  Ever in quest to sodomize what little virtue is left in the world.  Ever in the hunt.”

“What grace befalls the wicked?  This grace that befalls the wicked is the avariciousness that beckons you in the night.  That sting and distress, upon which chooses to pass over charged wickedness, is what feeds the rage in your over polluted gut.  That soothes the temper of thirst on your faithless tongue.”

“Is this to propose I survive in the hands of the Devil’s Rain?  That the mere existence I live is complete by sheer avidity?”

“Certainly not.  It is implied, if not spoken, Devil’s Rain is exclusively the dwelling’s crown and your existence is whole by lust for its worldly molestation.  Wickedness is the broth in which the sanctimonious stew.  Wickedness does not make the soul; it is made of the soul.”

“To call to mind that I, of all sincere evils on Earth, am a feasible ingredient in the atrocious consommé of impiety — it’s preposterous.”

“A man of faith cannot plummet?”

“A man of faith can shatter.  A man of God is indissoluble.”

“Are you a man of faith or a man of God, Amadeus?”  Setting herself directly before Amadeus, Darcy stretched her legs with a purr.  Breaking him was of little interest, but shaking him could prove to be exceedingly entertaining.  His eyes darted from her stretch to the walls.  Fear nuzzled him, eliciting another purr from deep within her throat.  Without intent, she leaned in closer; he was a meal ticket to a higher calling.  “No answer rests within?”

“Why ask?”

“Why allude?” she coiled her arm around his neck, her breath brushing his ear.  “Are you of faith or God, Amadeus?”

“Of God.”

“Indeed.”

“Indeed?”

“Only a man of God would warm his soul in the house of Satin.”

The shove was abrupt, unexpected.  Unprepared she fell backwards to the chair as he rose in a fit, “Walls are but that and a woman is less.  Whatever the name, Satin sits in the bowels of Hell and no herald will have me mount the occasion — nor the courier.  Do you think I’m a fool?”

“You and your parishioners feast with transgression’s capital.  A surreptitious indulgence in the capital that sin has earned scampers, almost feral, in Jehovah’s Rain.  Growth is unmistakable.  Wider, but never wiser.  Do I think you foolish?  Scarcely.  Mad and morally comatose, unquestionably.”

“We accept no investment from Devil’s Rain.”

“Fittingly puzzled,” another maddening purr rose.  Was she cat or woman?  “A flagrant wool of perplexity canvassing those miserable eyes, my heart should break had I one to wound.  Come.”

Hesitancy was not quite what he felt as he watched her stalk from the room.  Desperately he tried to remember where he entered so that he might exit.  No more did he believe in Satin dwelling in a house than he reasoned ghosts settle in an attic.  It was the man, or woman, who chose to follow the paths of evil.  With free will, all were liberated to select their path and none could be forced to partake in the worst of habits.

Nonetheless, he feared for his faith, for his sanity, as he watched her sweep from the room. Even the innocent, unobtrusive beckoning of ‘come’ had been sinister, as if there were something far greater than evil waiting in the rooms beyond.

“You asked I come once and you have had my audience.  I now ask for an exit.  I have greater peoples of interest than that waiting here.”

She paused, a sudden turn, “Do the exterior resonances of the interior affliction clatter for faith?”

“For sanity — for sanity alone.”

“Wicked inventions command depraved declines. Come.”

Twist after turn through a hallway of rooms, Amadeus shivered against the sounds and sights. The gnashing of tongue, the floundering of uniform pulp, was too much. The endless twining of quay and ship; the spun-out, meaty fingers with dexterous grips; and the undemanding membership to madcap headship offended him inwardly as far as inwardly could go.

“Tell.” Darcy stopped, opening the only closed door. “The right-hands caught left-hand; households but ordinary lushes underneath a shrewdly cloaked, covetous mask.”

“No.”

“Denial?”

“Refusal. This is Devil’s Rain. No name or quarrel beyond will satisfy me otherwise.”

Pushed into the room, he shielded his eyes from his father’s room, and felt himself tugged away through another door. Door after room, discretion after debauchery, Amadeus shielded his face and swallowed his conviction.

“Sisters. Brothers. Mates. Lovers. All men of God, beings of credence and verity.”

“Conclude! For the love of God, I solicit a conclusion, close this program of persecution.”

“Query over what grace befalls the wicked. Claim as you desire the wicked sodomize the virtuous, but first show me the righteous not a partaking mischief. Arrange this populace at my feet! Prove to me depravity seeks to mutilate and rescind morality without, first, consent from the principled.”

“No.”

“Alight, or collapse, from that lofty steed, Amadeus.”

Crumpled against a wall, his face buried in his hands, Amadeus whimpered and wept. “I am damned by these sights. Fingered and spoilt.”

“We are spoilt purely by a visionless and canopy fealty to truth as a solo faction. Wickedness is unearthed in deeds that buckle or maim the substance of the guiltless. Autonomy and inclination are no fouler than the gasp life first gives.”

Taking Turns

June 12, 2012 § 2 Comments

The sun sat atop the world, heating the atmosphere, as if there were nothing in all the universe more important than the sweat of the people below it. Barely sunrise and even stones were sweating. Eric shivered despite the heat as he lay curled up behind the boxes in his closet. In the outer room, he could hear someone call out softly. Another shiver.

“Come on, buddy, come on out. I got your wife all tied up and she’s still breathing. If you don’t come out, I’ll take that hiccupping last breath all for myself and I will savor every second of her strangled gasp.”

Eric curled tighter and hissed. “Go away. Please, go away.”

“Where are you, dear? Come out, come out, come out. Your lovely woman will struggle, kicking to catch air. She will scream until her throat is raw. Every muscle in her body will eventually relax and she will shit on the floor. Her piss will trickle down the linoleum and under the fridge. Her last thought will concentrate not on her death alone, but couple itself with you hiding away while she’s savagely murdered in her own home.”

“Leave her alone!” Eric stumbled, not burst, from the closet. His scream was a strangled cry. He cowered at the door. None of that mattered, though. He was out and he wouldn’t let his wife die because he was afraid. He was more afraid when he saw the man leaning against the wall staring at the closet.

“I knew you’d come out of there eventually, poule mouillée.”

“Don’t hurt her.”

“Poule mouillée, don’t you remember? Your beautiful bride isn’t home. She’s not even in town. Tsk. Garçon crédule.”

“I… go… go aw…” Eric cleared his throat, straightening his back. He was exposed, but he’d try his best not piss all over himself. “Go home. Get out and go home or to the bar or whorehouse. Wherever people like you go.”

“Suddenly brave is the death of cowards, Eric.”

Eric’s head twitched, he tried to keep it still, but when nervous it had a mind of its own. He stepped sideways, closer to the bed, and steadied himself on his feet. The man looked familiar, maybe someone he’d worked with — or cuckolded — in the past.

Somewhere. He had seen that face somewhere. The news? Had it been the news? Eric thought maybe it might have been a news report. Was he a loan thug? If so, that would have been excellent. He could just pull the money from the safe — every dime in there if he had to — and give it away. Money for health. It was a good deal.

“Blaise. You’re standing there trying to figure out if you know me and I can see that on your weasel little face, poule mouillée. My name is Blaise Parizeau.”

“I… don’t. I mean, if you want money. I mean, if you’ve come to collect what I owe, I can give it to you right now. All of it and then-some.”

Walking slowly, glaring, Blaise moved across the room. Stalking Eric openly was gratifying. Much like watching the worst of the world slowly melt into fear. He stopped toe-to-toe with Eric who was taken by the unexpected backhand.

“If I wanted your money, I’d have it already.”

Crumpled against the wall, Eric glared back. “What do you want?”

“Don’t worry. This won’t take long. We’re waiting on a phone call.”

Blaise left the room. After ten minutes, when he didn’t return Eric grabbed his cell and dialed. The first call was to the police. They promised to send officers. He hung up. The second call was to his wife.

He saw it light up on the nightstand before he heard it ring. His heart sunk as he hit end. Blaise laughed from the doorway.

“Where is she?”

“How would I know? I’m not a travel agent. You’re her husband; you should know where she is.”

“Just tell me… where is she?”

“Like I said.” Blaise darkened, settling on the edge of the bed. “Besides, my interest is in your misery, not hers.”

“The police are on their way.”

“Eric, poule mouillée, if someone is in your house threatening you misery, you should not tell them you have backup on the way. What kind of ignorant connasse are you?”

“I’m giving you the chance to run while you can.”

“Now I’m going to have to slaughter you where you stand.” Eric’s face fell and he slumped back against the wall. Blaise erupted in laughter. “You have no idea what I’m going to do. Will I rob you? Am I some kind of lunatic out for death? You’re so screwed right now.”

“Why are you here?”

“I’m not surprised you don’t remember me. We’ve not formally met, but you did slaughter my sister.”

“What? No. No, you’ve got the wrong guy. I’ve never killed anyone ever. Not even accidently.”

“Do you remember the Austin experiment?”

“Austin?”

“Yeah, that’s right. This isn’t about your loans. This isn’t about you stealing your wife away from Rick. This isn’t about anything but your experiments — the things you think will change the world.”

“My experiments will change the world.”

“They will. They have. They changed my world, didn’t they.”

“I don’t understand.”

Blaise shot off the bed, slamming himself against Eric and the wall. “She came to you. She told you the effects were causing her pain and discomfort. You told her it was perfectly natural.”

“Mich… Michelle?” Eric remembered Michelle well. She had made numerous reports. She kept a family photo in her room — he remembered staring at that picture while Michelle explained her symptoms. That’s where he had seen Blaise. “Your sister was Michelle.”

“Yes. Yes, Michelle. How many times did she come to you? Ten, twenty?”

“The effects were natural. Her body was adjusting the hormones, to the shift in form.”

“Her body was adjusting… she internally exploded, abruti!”

“No, she left the program four months in. She just walked out in the middle of a test and never came back. She never picked up her paycheck, either.”

“She couldn’t pick it up. She was laying on her bedroom floor bleeding to death.”

“I… I didn’t know…”

Eric squirmed away from Blaise, dodging into the bathroom. He locked the door and sat in the tub. He could hear Blaise swearing through the door.

“Of course you didn’t know, Eric. You wouldn’t listen. She called me the day she walked out. I told her to get the hell out of there and go to the hospital. She couldn’t make it to the hospital, the apartment was closer. She laid down and called for an ambulance. Then she called me. You didn’t know because you didn’t care. You couldn’t possibly be wrong — people could be more than people and now she’s dead.”

Eric curled up in the tub, waiting for the sirens.

“Go away, Blaise. I didn’t kill your sister!”

“Eric, the police aren’t coming.” He opened the bathroom door. “Helps if you lock it, poule mouillée. I intercepted your call. Where do you think I went? The fastest way to get someone to stop struggling is to make them believe they have help. You don’t have anyone to save you.”

“You’re going to kill me.”

“I’m not. I’m leaving as soon as you get your call.”

“What call?”

“Remember? I said it won’t take long. We’re just waiting on a call. I’ll be downstairs until the call comes.”

Eric sat in the tub waiting. Staring at the wall, wishing he could call his wife — needing her comfort and security. She was stronger, more resilient to life. He was good with science and nothing else.

He could feel the urine soak into his pajamas and run down his legs. He knew he was going to die. Whoever found him would just think it was the end of life, not fear, when they saw his condition.

He waited and the minutes ticked away. Finally, his cell rang and he rushed to answer it. “Rissa?”

“May I speak with Mr. Eric Torvalds?”

“Speaking.” He tried desperately to keep away the quiver, but as the officer went on, he could feel every part of his body shake. When the officer finally said the final words, confirmed she was dead, Eric dropped the phone and charged through the house. As he rounded the hallway corner into the living room he felt a sudden burning in his gut and Blaise staring him in the eye.

“I lied, but you understand lying to get your way. Don’t you, Eric?” Blaise twisted the knife and pushed harder. “Marissa was pregnant, too.”

Waking the Clock

April 27, 2012 § 5 Comments

‘She’s breathing inside your head.’

Sandra opened her eyes.  She looked up at the ceiling, staying off the sudden grip of fear.  The stucco was long-faded from white to a sickened grey.  Water had created a cow-like pattern, except instead of a soft brown or slick black, the off shape ovals were a dusty green.  What sort of water greened rather than browned?

‘Breathing like a sick pup waiting to vomit.’

The miniature, rectangular, if not slightly warped, range of mountains hung upside down.  Normally just a part of the house, the design threatened to spear her one by one.  She could see how it happened.  One small peak would break away and grow.  It would lengthen and widen to just the right size before it would tunnel through her chest.  In a few days, when the smell of death reached the neighbors, police officers would find her heart thrust through the thin excuse for a mattress and pinned to the floor.

The neighborhood would gossip.  How could she have possibly been impaled by what looked like a stalagmite?  Where did it come from?  Was it murder?  It wouldn’t be murder, though.  No.  Murder would make sense.  At least as much sense as mindless evil does.  It would just be one strange phenomenon to keep the people interested for a while until the next best thing came along and then she, like so much else in the life of the world, would be forgotten.  The unsolved mystery of yet another cold case.

Only she would know she had willed the ceiling to take her away in whatever way it could.  After all, being as lifeless as a stone, the only way it could do her bidding would be to use the stucco.

‘She’s breathing inside your head.’

When the fear refused to abate, she closed her eyes and spoke aloud, “For every time I drown in fear, I’ll count the things I must hold dear.  Like the sanity of life and love, the success of winning push-comes-to-shove.  What I think and what I feel, aren’t always one or always real.  Stay my heart and breath in deep; take a moment to take the leap.  Count the days or count the nights, happiness and joy are in my rights.  Believe the truth of fearless mind, and rejoice in the sanctity I find.”

‘Three thousand four hundred seventy-nine.  That’s how often you’ve said that just this year.’

She did the math.  That averaged just about thirteen times a day.  She was absolutely certain that crazy had rented out her mind, making itself as cozy as a winter skier in a summer lodge.  Crazy makes the world go ‘round.  Climbing out of bed, shuffling to the door, she knocked gingerly at the metal-coated wood.  As she waited, she stared at the wall.  Such an off pattern.  Floral.  It was never a favorite décor choice and those who chose it, she believed, were as crazy as she was.  It didn’t take long before she began trying to will the awful, tacky vines of the wallpaper to reach out and strangle her.

‘Won’t you let her just speak?  She deserves it, you know.  You did this to yourself.  Did this to her.  She’s breathing inside your head.’

The vines reached out slowly, but refused to strangle her.  Instead, they stroked her head gently, fingering (so to speak) small locks of her hair with their tarnished thorns.  Roses on the wall.  It couldn’t have been something more poisonous?  Wolvesbane, perhaps?

The bedroom door opened to a woman who, despite her small stature, could have snapped Sandra in two.  She smiled softly, “Are you doing well?”

“As well as the crazy get.”

“Voices?”

“Vines.  Stalagmites.  I keep trying to will them to relieve me, but they just won’t listen quite like they should.”

“I see.”

“You see the vines about my head?”

“I see what you’re saying.”

“You’ll call Adramen?”

“Of course.”

With the door closed, Sandra returned to her bed.  Instead of climbing atop the flimsy excuse for a mattress, she dropped to her knees and looked beneath it.  She waited to see if she would conjure up some hideous idea, maybe blood seeping from the eyes of some broken child or wild dogs gnawing on the legs of kittens.  When nothing came, she ventured beneath and lay quietly on her side, tracing lines in the dust that had gathered.

‘Are you waiting for the end or just bidding your time?’

“Neither, I suppose,” she answered the new voice with comfortable familiarity.  Unlike the other, this one she knew well.  This one was an old hat, a gentle comfort who so loved to caress, pet, and stroke the shards of glass rooted in her mental soul.  The voice was an abuse she missed each time it found itself wrapped in silence, something that left her feeling lonely when gone.

‘Then what are you doing?’

“Hiding away.”

‘Why?’

“I’m crazy and sometimes it helps to hide from myself.  If I weren’t already insane, I’d drive myself there.  You can bet a buck on that.”

‘I miss–‘

“The sunrise?”

‘Sometimes.’

“The moonlight?”

‘On occasion.’

“Breathing?”

‘Rarely.’

“Life?”

‘Never.’

Not wanting to have that particular conversation, or inner-outer-monologue, she rolled to her stomach and pressed her lips to the floor.  Counting the stars she couldn’t see, she closed her eyes tight.  A shiver coursed her spine in a delightful wrap of pins and needles, leaving her stomach filled with acid and a nauseated sense of weakness.  She splayed her arms out to hug the floor.

‘Are you so lonely that you’d hug the mites of timeless dust?’

“I’m not lonely.  I’m not hugging.  Why must you tease?”

‘I don’t mean to.  You are lonely.’

“I’m lonely at times.”

‘Loneliness is a sad place to live.’

“Please, don’t pity me.  No empathy either.  I don’t deserve anyone to sympathize with me.  Especially not myself.”

‘Won’t you just ask for a hug?’

“And who would I ask?”

‘Will no one else hug you?’

“Not likely,” she whispered into the dust.

‘Why?’

“I imagine hugging me is no more appealing than hugging a teddy bear that likes to eat little children.”

‘Do you make wishes?’

“On the rare occasion I have been known to grant them.”

‘Won’t you grant me one wish then?’

“What do you wish?”

‘Star light, star bright, oh the fifteen millionth star I’ve seen tonight, my windows are blacked and my soul is cracked, it’s been months since I’ve seen the light, but grant me this one wish I wish tonight.’

“Hilarious.”

‘I wish the grass would start to grow.’

“The grass grows every day.  Wish granted.”

‘No, I want the grass to start to grow.  I want the clock to tick again.  I want the world to turn.  It’s so cold on the dark side of the Earth.’

Sandra, sighing into the dust, lifted her eyes and watched as a small spray of settled time flew into the air, in motion again.

‘Yes, just like that.’

‘Her heart clicks and cranks in the depths of death, she breathes inside your head.  Are you listening for the chimes of the old grandfather clock you never knew wound down?  Tick-tick and tock-tock.  Tick-tick.  Tick-tick-tock, it’s the old grandfather swinging that pendulum back and forth in his chest.  Except it doesn’t move anymore, does it?  It stopped swinging and you made that happen.  You stopped all of time, killed everything that mattered.  Including life.’

‘Leave her be.  She didn’t.  She didn’t kill Life or anything else that mattered.  She didn’t kill anything.’

“Pendulum.”

‘Tick-tick-tock.  That’s the death of the grandfather clock.’

‘Shut up.’

“Someone always said, ‘Sandra, you live like a pendulum.  It’s always one way or the other for you.  If you stopped in the middle we could easily assume you were dead.  Wound down like an old grandfather clock.’  I hated it when they’d say that.  Who said that to me?”

‘It’s best not to remember who would say something so generalizing and all-encompassing.  No one is exactly any way others perceive them.  The world would be a bit foolish to assume one person could sum them up into a few words.’

‘If the sound of silence doesn’t take you, the breathing inside your head will.’

“She’s breathing inside my head.”

“Who’s breathing inside your head, Sandra?”  The outer voice startled Sandra and she jumped.  Dr. Adramen peered under the bed as Sandra rubbed the fresh knot rising from her crown.  “We’ll need to get that checked for you.  We don’t need you falling asleep with a concussion.  Come out of there.”

“Can’t we just talk while I lay here?”

“Why would you rather lay beneath the bed?”

“Life settles here, under the creaks and groans of sleep, much the way it settles inside of me.”

“Are you suggesting you might be the floor in which Life settles its dust upon?”

“That or I’m a great white porcelain god and Life eats far too many spicy meals.”

“Come out of there.”

“Not likely.”

“You can stay there if you wish, but it would be less awkward for my back if you’d come out.”

“I couldn’t care less for your back.”

Adramen nodded that understanding, maddening nod of hers and lay out across the floor as well.  She gazed under the bed.  Sandra stared into the eyes of a ghost each time she looked into Adramen’s.  The knowing (judging) eyes of Adramen were more like the dead eyes of Joy and Hope than any others she’d encountered.  The raised cheekbones, oval face, and gleaming smile made matters even worse.  She couldn’t help but snarl in return each time Adramen smiled.

“When will I have a new doctor?”

“You won’t.”

“But you said…”

“I said I would inquire.  I never said you would.”

“Bullshit.”

“In the fields, maybe.  Not here.  Not now.  Not ever.”

“You’re the worst doctor.  I hope you burn.”

“Feeling angry tonight?”

“Way to take a stab in the dark.  Your superior powers of perception have caught me once again,” Sandra’s cheeks blazed with embarrassment and frustration.  She’d been caught in her own emotions; called out she had to testify, “Blow.”

“Austin tells me you were hallucinating.”

“Is that a question?”

“Tell me about it.”

“I wasn’t hallucinating.  I was wishing.”

‘Star light, star bright.’

“And what were you wishing?”

“I wished for death.”

“Why would you wish for death?”

‘Because the world has stopped turning.  Because she’s breathing inside your head.’

“I’m locked up inside a tiny room because I wish for death; I’m hardly the one to be asking… Doctor.”

“You’re not locked inside this room.  You’re free to come and go as you please.”

“I want a new doctor, Leslie.”

“You called me Leslie.”

“I didn’t.”

Adramen sat up, reaching past her feet.  After a moment of stretching she laid back with a recorder in hand, “Listen.”

Sandra’s voice played back.  ‘I want a new doctor, Leslie.’  The words echoed in her ears, in her heart.  The syllables were strums of a dispirited guitar back dropping out of tune piano keys.  Shattered music was the tune of the century, the only music she seemed to know.  Feeling weary, she pressed her lips back against the floor.  The pressure would ease the ache and help her to avoid the onslaught of a crying fit.

“This is no way to live.”

“And what way is that?” Adramen did care, she knew that.  The only reason she asked for a new doctor is because Adramen was, in the most evocative way, an exact replica of Leslie.

“I’d laugh at the question, but I’m afraid of the bitterness I’d hear.  Laughter should be warm, something you want to hear.  Not splinters of the wreckage inside.”

“Sandra?  What way is no way to live?”

“Yes.  I heard you the first time.  I want you to listen close, because this is the only time I’m going to talk to you.  Are you listening?  Do you have that infinitesimal microphone pointed this way?”

“I’m listening.”

“My life is no way to live.  Haunted by your doctor because the picture she is lies buried beneath the filth and dirt of the world.  Unable to take my own life because I’m scared to die.  Listening to the voices in my head telling me I’m not a murderer and that I am, too.”

“Voices?  There’s more than one?”

“Now.  Today.  Leslie’s voice is there.  And then my own.  A darker me.  An angrier me.”

“Sandra, you didn’t kill anyone.”

“I killed Leslie.  I beat her.  I ripped her apart piece by piece.  Then I buried her.”

“Did you?”

“I loved her.  Did you know that?”

“I know you did.”

“I really did love her.  I would have gladly thrown myself down at her feet.  I would have thrown myself down in front of the worst evils imaginable to save her life.  Instead, I killed her.”

“How did you kill her?”

“I don’t know.”

“You said you beat her.”

“Not literally, but somehow I killed her,” replacing her lips to the floor with her cheek, Sandra gazed at Adramen.  A small part of her began to awake.

“Where did you bury her?”

“In the world.”

“I’m not sure I understand.”

“Have you ever loved someone, but never known how to do it the right way?”

“Possibly.”

“It’s either yes or no, but the answer doesn’t matter.  If you haven’t, you will.  I loved Leslie that way.  I loved her to no end, but I didn’t understand how to love the right way.  I always believed that if you just loved someone and was always there for them then that was all there was to it.  I was wrong.  So every day I woke up loving her and trying to make the right choices, but I always seemed to make the wrong ones.  Eventually, she and I… I don’t know.  We died.  By the end of time, she hated me.  Her biggest regret in life was having ever met me.”

“You feel as if you killed Love?”

‘She’s breathing inside your head.’

“I killed Love and Life and Leslie.  Now she lives inside my head.”

“Is she really dead?”

“I don’t know.”

“You’ve lost contact?”

“She hated me.”

“I don’t think she really hated you.”

“She said, ‘I wish I’d never met you.’  That’s a strong hate.  The kind that never goes away.”

“She doesn’t hate you, Sandra.”

The wallpaper lay still.  The ceiling remained intact.  The only sound in the room was their breathing.  Adramen smiled Leslie’s smile and somewhere inside of Sandra, reality woke up.  Sandra scooted from beneath the bed, ignoring the stillness of time come to life again.  All she wanted was to take Adramen’s hands into her own, to feel that contact for one moment.

“If she doesn’t hate me then why was I not enough?”

“Maybe you were too much.”

“I broke her.”

“Maybe you broke a part of her, but not intentionally.  You certainly didn’t kill her or Life or Love.”

“I broke the best part.  The part that loved me once.”

“No, you broke the part that kept her away from happiness and sometimes we can’t face the fact that we can’t be happy alone and those that can help us find who we are can be more terrifying than even loneliness.”

“I don’t think people hate people who love them.”

“Yes, we do.  When we can’t love as much as they can, we hate them for having more than we can possibly find inside ourselves.”

“I didn’t need her to love me as much as I loved her.  I just needed her to love me at all.”

“She did.”

“Now she doesn’t.”

“Even love ends when there are things in the world to interfere.”

“Nothing is forever.”

“Not even forever,” the moment was still.  Sandra closed her eyes and wrapped herself closer to Adramen.  “You’re not real.”

There was no answer, but that was alright.

“Leslie, I’m going to sleep.  This time when you leave… please… don’t come back.”

“I promise.”

More stillness as Sandra drifted into sleep.  She was crazy, she knew that.  Something had gone wrong inside her, but for one moment she could face reality and maybe when she woke that reality would stand strong, “I won’t stop loving you.  I didn’t know how to love you right and I don’t know how to stop either.”

“It’s okay.  You loved me the way Sandra was supposed to.  No one else will ever be you,” Adramen paused.  She closed her eyes, prepared to go.  “Sandra?”

“Yes?”

“I really did love you.”

As sleep covered Sandra, a clock began to tick in the darkness.

Shadows Can’t Hurt

April 20, 2012 § 2 Comments

His eyes were glued to the set. Later, when they asked him what he had seen, he perked up and rambled on about Timber. That damned dogesque goof with the annoyingly high pitch, unbelievably optimistic voice. He went on about the plot, such as it was. When they asked him what he had heard he brightened even more.

“Hot dog! Hot dog!” he cried as gleeful as one might expect.

When they left the room, when he was alone in the silence, he listened to the sounds of the day fight for room in his head. He watched the shadows of his home struggle on the concrete walls in front of him. His father’s shadow made the most noise, falling through a table and pleading for his son’s life.

His mother’s shadow sat quietly. The shadow waited for the gag to go away. He kept his eyes as much on the screen as he could. If he didn’t look, it didn’t happen.

“God, please, please, don’t hurt us. Don’t hurt my boy.” That was his father.

His father screamed the most. His father cried the most. When it was his mother’s turn, her shadow straightened against the wall.

“Take what you must and go.” The acrid sensation in her low demand had chilled him and the strange shadow. “Touch my boy and no amount of death will stop me from taking you with us.”

The shadow had laughed. He had laughed, but the laugh had shaken with imbalance.

Timber danced across the screen. Then his mother screamed, too. He sat waiting, eyes glued to the set, waiting for his turn. The front door shut.

In the silence, he closed his eyes and remembered his mother telling him in the long nights that shadows just can’t hurt people. “Hot dog. Hot dog.”

I Am Not Alone

March 12, 2012 § 4 Comments

118 Lines

Oh, God, I’m so scared.
It hurts so to breathe.
Fear breaks down to tears —
tears just seethe.
There’s not enough time.
All I have is now.
Push has come to shove.
Time to wipe my brow.

I’m standing up now,
getting off the floor
I’ve cried the tears
’till I have no more.
I might be scared,
I might be lost,
But won’t pay the price.
Can’t afford the cost.

With two feet under
and a heart of stone,
where names are chiseled,
I am not alone.
With two hands held up
and a soul of steel,
where faces reflect,
I’ll make my appeal.

I’m not blind, you see.
I know what I’ve done.
The things I have said.
The words I have spun.
I’m in quite too deep.
Should I hide or care?
And from the mirror,
I just lay and glare.

I’m standing up now,
getting off the floor
I’ve cried the tears
’till I have no more.
I might be scared,
I might be lost,
But won’t pay the price.
Can’t afford the cost.

A day late again.
Just a dollar short.
Steady the tremble,
trapped in my own fort.
The walls are still up,
but my guard is down.
I’m ready to dance,
dressed sweet in my gown.

With two feet under
and a heart of stone,
where names are chiseled,
I am not alone.
With two hands held up
and a soul of steel,
where faces reflect,
I’ll make my appeal.

I couldn’t have known
the way it would go.
I couldn’t have seen
how the pain would grow.
But you must know now,
answers lay in travel.
I hurt… you hurt, too.
Sorry for the unravel.

Still without answers,
can’t say what to do.
I’ve searched everywhere.
The crow could have flew.
Can I come home now.
I can’t say I know.
I’m afraid to breathe.
Frightened of the woe.

I’m standing up now,
getting off the floor
I’ve cried the tears
’till I have no more.
I might be scared,
I might be lost,
But won’t pay the price.
Can’t afford the cost.

With two feet under
and a heart of stone.
Where names are chiseled,
I am not alone.
With two hands held up
and a soul of steel.
Where faces reflect,
I’ll make my appeal.

I may never know sure
just what I should do,
but I know I love
and love goes to you.
I’ll keep you in heart.
You keep me in, too.
I may return soon.
Back whence the crow flew.

With a heart of stone,
Where names are chiseled,
I am not alone.

With a soul of steel,
where faces reflect,
We forever connect.

I am not alone.
I am not alone.

Heartbroken

February 29, 2012 § 2 Comments

One of my siblings had an assignment for English class way back in 1997 and being kids, I said, “I’ll write it for you!” So I wrote this.

“Ssshhh, baby, Momma’s come home. I’ll always be here when you need me. Never will I ever hurt you on purpose. I swear it. You are my life.”

The young mother held her baby tight and sighed. When the child fell asleep she laid her in the crib and poured herself a drink. Hesitation grabbed her as she brought the drink to her lips. Ah well, a couple drinks a night couldn’t hurt. Over the next six years the mother cradled, spoiled, and loved the child through out the days and partied through out the nights.

The child never seemed to mind, but on the inside she was dying. It broke her heart that her mother never tucked her in. It was always the baby-sitter who did. It hurt her to see her mother so sick every morning. So every night she’d watch silently as her mother walked out the door. There was nothing she could do and she knew it. But she knew her mother would always be there when she really needed her. She believed that with all her heart.

Until one night she was feeling sick. Her fever was high and her vision blurred. She cried out for her mother, “Momma, please, don’t go! Momma, please. Please, Momma, stay!”

And her mother whispered softly in her ear. “I will, baby.”

And she did until the draw of whiskey tore her away. Her child cried out in pain and desperation. “Stay with me! Please, I don’t feel good and I need you here! Mommy, please!”

The mother wrestled quickly with the pull of fun and the true responsibility of her daughter. Shamefully the fun had won and she called the baby-sitter. Her little girl cried as she left.

The cries echoed through her head as she sat at the bar. Finally, the guilt and fear took her home. The baby-sitter was on the phone. An ambulance was on the way. She saw her baby laying on the couch and burst into tears.

“She was so sick, how could I leave her?” she wailed in terror. The baby-sitter shook her head and looked toward the couch. The dying child made no sound. She let a tear of pity and sorrow slide down her cheek, then looked to the mother.

“This is no sickness that’s taking her life, but heartbreak.”

The saddened mother looked to her kid and knelt beside her. Taking her into her arms she let the tears fall to her daughter’s delicate cheeks.

Her heart was broken and when she opened her eyes it was only to smile, take one last breath, and kiss her mother on the jaw.

“Please, baby, stay with me. It’ll be alright.”

“Mommy? You came back!”

She looked on in terror as her only link to life took one last, shuddering breath. She let out a howling scream of anger at herself and clutched her baby tight.

Lessons Lost

February 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve learned so many things over the years.
I’ve been taught to cry and laugh through my fears.
Love has blinded my soul and hate my heart.
God has kept me from falling apart.

Today I sit where I can, lay where I will.
The world has given less than my fill.
Loneliness is a ghost… maybe a friend.
Togetherness is nothing some will lend.
I could cry, maybe I should scream,
but why when life must be a dream?

Parts are missing deep inside what I am.
Maybe hidden behind the proverbial dam —
lost behind walls made of fear and rage.
Building between bars of loss’s cage.
Maybe stripped away with passing time
or shattered after the fall of my prime.

I’ve learned the losses over the years.
I’ve been taught to cry and laugh through my fears.
Hurt has blinded my soul and joy my heart.
Love has kept me from falling apart.

Is it the love or the woman I lost.
That carries this atrocious cost?
Days have found themselves ruthless.
The nights snarling toothless.
I can’t be destroyed with it all,
but each year I steadily fall.

This day I let all the past go.
Tonight let the rhythm slow.
I love her — never doubt this verity.
This is all I’ve ever seen with clarity.
And I may never know how or why,
but I can still say farewell, goodbye.

I’d learned so many things over the years.
I’d been taught to cry and laugh through my fears.
She has blinded my soul and love my heart.
Nothing kept me from falling apart.

 

This is an older piece, by a few years, but I wanted to share it. It shows a viciousness I think we all live through – though some of us never make it all the way to the other side before we lose. I think that’s what’s saddest about the poem.

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    I survive the daily onslaught of self-criticism and, thus far, I still write something every day. Obviously, I can't grow as a writer without having written some things inadequately. I take personal growth as a bragging right.

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