An unexpected gift
I suppose it is not uncommon for someone to give a parting gift on their deathbed.
Or rather, when they know that they are dying.
I remember sitting on the back unscreened porch. The beautiful countryside not so rustic, disturbed. The mountain behind us having been dynamited, and built over, on the rescinding of Cloud Nine-- a provision in the land deed that had previously prohibited construction.
Yet in front of us, the valley (as far as the eye could see), was still lush.
It was June. The mosquitos kept a respectful distance, and all was quiet-- the orange purple twilight slipping beyond the green feathery tops of the oaks, maples, and walnuts at the edge of our property, just where the cul-de-sac swooped around two other (invisible) homesteads. We sat on tall black swivel chairs we'd wheeled from the home office counter Father had built into the kitchen. Bats twinkled, tiny black stars above. A favorable sign, he said. And then an owl called. A Great Horned.
He sat to my right, in the corner--backdropped against the slatted window of the laundry, where the circular stairs descend to the basement and two-car garage. Two almost identical, yet distinctly different vehicles, waiting there like faithful horses. We sat wrapped, individually, side by side in charcoal grey woolen army issue blankets, for quality not nationalism. Each of us bracing the slight chill of the evening and more so the inner tremors, that reckoning brings, universally. In the turn of a day.
He gave so many gifts, immaterial, intangible and immeasurable, it seems almost bewildering that this is the one that rises above the others. I told him I loved every minute of our Hell, and apologized for any grief I might have given. Me too, he said, me too. He said other things more personal, and then squeezed my hand with extra significance, like to one whom you trust, and he said:
When the time comes, and it will come, do whatever you can to make the passing easier... you may not understand now, but you will know...
And I knew. And am eternally grateful. This from a man who had suffered and sacrificed, withstanding untold pain, in untold ways. He asked for the morphine. He asked again, and again. And then he stopped asking. And still I gave it to him--
Had he not given me those words, I would have felt that I had killed him.
Intro to the Evolution of the Hunt: EVO 101
Our lecture today is on the various perceptions of the phenomenon of The Hunt.
We previously examined the psychology of early man, as hunter/gatherer. We concluded that the distinction between the two is negligible. A cycle of life is arrested in either case. Of course, we pointed out that we cannot speak as well to the suffering of plant life in the plucking and knifing, as well as we can bear witness to the duress of the animal kingdom.
Only Man remains as Killer, we established having consciousness, and conscience, rather than consciousness and instinct. Early Man seldom found himself in the position of The Hunted, unless straying from the safety of the group structures (physical barriers and social constructs). This vulnerability is best recognized broadly. The Hunter must step outside to marginalized venues to practice The Hunt. And the criminal mind is not far from that mentality of similarly stalking the periphery.
The Killer seeks the gaps of safety net from which to make his Take.
Now, where the psychology becomes very interesting, is where the Hunted goes on the hunt for The Hunter. Whether "criminal" or not, this is known commonly as the Ourobus Complex. Among the more notable cases, is that of Admiral Leane, who in water deprived delirium, did not realize that the Lion he was after, was in fact looping in on his trail. This ended tragically for both the Hunter and the Hunted, when game wardens were notified, from the helicopter.
But a more interesting case, previously classified, is that of Arthur X, who began to stalk himself, perceiving his person as an anonymous stranger out to get himself. Every slightest vague reflection of his self, whether in window or cutlery, provoked in him repressed agitation.
Oddly the release of that tension was not the physical attack of said images. Rather he chose a blunt instrument, plotting his demise with a pen. A Hunt known as Slander. This is of course an extreme case.
FFF#8 The Hunt challenge @ChrisSadhill
*no facts were sacrificed in the writing of this fiction
Forgetting, Part Two
A few years earlier...
“That’s the last one, you hear?”
Lucy just slid her last two dollars across the table to the bartender and cradled the tequila shot in her hands. Maybe she would finally forget everything after this one, get a couple hours of ignorant, drunken bliss. She tossed her head back, ignoring the bitterness burning down her throat as she swallowed. The glass came down with a thud on the bar.
“If you want another, you should keep the glass intact.” A voice came from her right, and though Lucy had no intention to look at him, she heard the smile.
“I’m done for tonight, actually.” Lucy retorted. “I don’t want a drink from you.”
“Who said I was ordering a drink?” He chuckled. “Water, please.”
It appeared before her a few moments later.
“What do you want?”
“A guy can’t get a beautiful girl some water?”
“The ‘beautiful girl’ isn’t interested and would like to be left alone.”
“See, you say that but you love drawing attention to yourself.” He slid a manila folder to her. “This is you, isn’t it?”
Lucy hesitated before opening it. The pictures inside were grainy, courtesy of poor security cameras. Each one showed a different person: a hooded figure scaling the side of a building, a woman with short hair and a briefcase leaving a bank, and a young student studying in a coffee shop.
“I hate to break it to you, but none of these are the same person.” She closed the folder.
“And yet every lead goes back to you, Lucy Crowe.” A police badge glinted in the corner of her eye as the stranger sat next to her. “How would you explain that?”
Lucy felt her stomach drop, panic spreading through her body like wildfire when he put an arm around her shoulders. Her eyes flicked towards the exit.
“I wouldn’t recommend it.” He whispered. “If you walk through that door, you’ll find a police squad waiting outside. They have orders to take you in, and so do I.”
Lucy forced her breathing to slow, feeling herself shrink under his stubborn gaze.
“Why not just handcuff me now?” She forced the words out. “Save yourself the trouble.”
“Don’t give up so easily, Lucy.” He said. “I’m not here to arrest you.”
Lucy narrowed her eyes when she looked at his face for the first time, studying him. Despite his earlier mood, he was serious now, the smile gone.
“Then, what do you want?” She asked again.
“A deal.” He returned her stare. “And if you agree, I’ll let you go.”
“For how long?”
“For as long as you want.”
“What… do I have to do?”
“Meet me at the coffee shop you like.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You will,” He took a napkin and wrote his name and number. “Call me when you’re ready.”
“Ready for what?”
“To be a star.”
“I need you to hold on…don’t let the daemons win..” Henaru felt her whole being nearly ready to burst into a myriad of pieces. Her hands trembled at the sight of the nightling towering over her child’s bed. She had been trying to keep her child safe from it, but it seemed to have managed to still get a hold of her only kid. It grinned, and then growled at her— with its swirling midnight scarlet eyes- in the mode for taking many more lives. Henaru had heard the voices calling out to her~ warning her to get ready. She grabbed a hold of a collection of odd things from the depths of an old bag that was her great-aunt’s. Her hand had reached for a tiny object which when she pulled it out from the bag, it lit up, almost blinding her. The light shined forth like a golden bright ray of hope, ready to snatch the nightling away from the kid. The nightling writhed in agony, & its body began to burn from the golden bright ray.
30th November 2023.
I did not rely on anyone.
I cared for few, aside those tied to me by blood and even then it was an impossible feat attempted over decades.
I kept friend briefly- never wholeheartedly because they were slippery, like soap on oiled flesh. Impossible to keep, and impossible to trust. Even with Dawn.
I was content detesting the idea of trusting my heart to anyone, drawn to the sugary liquor pressing to my lips instead.
I have kept it safe for years, after all, and batted away so many easily. Some clung to the impossibility of reaching me but were quick to release their grip upon iron spikes protruding from my flesh where heat should breed.
I never understood why they had ben battered into place, but perhaps my body knew
the plebeian masses would try to tarnish such a polish I had blessed it with.
But tonight I stand on a lever, with a bat blood-dipped and loosely held over my shoulder.
I stare in shock, that someone would manage to climb the wall. Barbs do not seem to wound you, where so many have become grotesquely disfigured in their advances.
You smile brightly- warm and cutting in this frigid world. You seem not to feel the creeping of disparity in my stead and I fear you never will.
I fear it, because everyone is afraid or I am at the very least able to sense it thumping beneath the surface of their smarmy grin: flicker, waver. How am I not to fear the inevitable?
You do not though. You waved at my turrets, and skipped toward the fences. My guards- myself shaded in varying years- watched you go in disbelief, guns loose in their shaking grip. You made my warriors flicker, fearing.
No one makes me shake. No one makes my castle tremble- yet there you stand, bright eyed and wind-battered with the hope of Gods in your eyes.
You will be the death of me, I am sure, as I clutch at the layers covering my chest. I feel a dark gaze penetrate its forces; feel your thousand yard stare that beckons for my trust and at the same time the plug to my life preserver is pulled.
I fell foolishly to my knees to the witch with a decadent grin, and can only pray to the dark deities that might still hear my forlorn prayers you do not deceive me.
I grin impishly up at my brothers, who wear the same half-smirk like a birth mark similar to the ones we all share on our neck. I have that smirk too of course, and bite at my cheek to satiate it. It feels too.. robotic how similar I've noticed we can be. Maybe it is from years of denying my own family, but it seems so painfully obvious just alike we are. I let myself smile at the brief thought, forcing my eyes to the two men on the vintage seats my mother insisted we buy.
"Matching sweaters?" Aaron asks with a chuckle, holding his up to his chest. I chose the green pleating to match his eyes. Tom beside him holds it at arms width like it's a drooling child.
"Do we have to... wear these?" He asks skeptically. I roll my eyes, knowing he finds an appreciation in the fabric from how he runs his thumbs over the lapels.
"Hell yeah we do. If you don't, you'll make grandma sad."
Tom perks up, ever the obedient first born. "She got us these?"
"No. But she'll think it's cute as peaches if we all wear them!" I grin mockingly back.
"Thanks, Rose." Aaron cuts in genially, shrugging it on happily over his plain black shirt.
I nod, glancing to my dog in a much smaller matching sweater to their own. My mom joins us on the turquoise couch, her coffee hot and reminding me of an airport from its quality. I don't need to suppress a gag at how familiar it's become now, noting how she's still in her pyjamas but will switch to her own ugly sweater- purple, mine blue- within the hour. Its so familiar watching how she tucks her feet beneath her, my dog finding purchase on her thighs.
Unfamiliar is having my brothers home for Christmas.
They are spread across the country, and we text sometimes but we very rarely see them in person. And it's special just having them, me and my mom all under one roof again. For once getting along among the rubble of a broken home. I imagine my father standing idle in an awful green robe, a camera in hand to capture the moment. But I do not linger.
We don't have traditions. We used to- the extended family would gather for dinner with my grandma in her basement suite and then head upstairs to join my aunt's family for gifts and games. But my grandma is too old to cook despite how much she tries, and my aunt's kids don't much care for us nowadays, off in their own worlds.
But I do notice the small things- how Tom seldom wears the pocket watch I got him last Christmas in every photo of him all spiffied up in his law suit.
How when touring Aaron's apartment for the first time, he had a painting from when I was eighteen proudly hung on the wall.
And I know they'll treasure these stupid sweaters, too. They'll sit on top of their folded clothes, as though it's an everyday item, never shoved to the back. They will open their closets and glimpse it and remember how much their little sister loves them. That is a tradition I shall uphold- their remembrance of my care and adoration.
Tom returns a moment later clad in his brown pattern in time for breakfast, and I don't say anything. I know my brothers like I know myself, and poking the bear with the proverbial ugly Christmas sweater gift would embarrass him. I lean familiarly into my dog that has scooted himself between my lower back and the chair backing, and watch as my brothers tuck into their food my mother has made: pancakes, veggie bacon and eggs- tradition, only when we are all together- and cheers my Mimosa to theirs, the filtering of classics filling our conversation about what's new in their exciting lives. I do not cut in about myself, rather quipping insults a sister is to do, and absorb my mothers happiness at the tableau to sustain me another year.
I do not have traditions in the sense of those family dinners flushed with laughter, and shredding of reflective paper we would shoot at each other's heads in a game borne of family anymore. We do not make caves out of snow mounds my brothers would cozy up with me inside and tell me stories, either. I do not come, nor do I go. I am stagnantly here- the sibling left behind as everyone grows and disperses. But I have familiarity. And that is family. That is Christmas.
Boots - A Child’s Tool of Torture
When the rain stops, I put on my boots.
It was worm-stomping time.
I put on my coat, all ready to go,
to go commit my crime.
Glorified spaghetti noodles rise up -
My rubber boots stomped DOWN!
As I committed my massacre,
I mused if worms could drown.
I tested this in a puddle,
squishing their soft pink heads.
They didn't really react,
so I stomped more instead.
Worms are worms.
Make them squirm.
That's all I have to say.