The Shoe Tree
A grey sky hung low over a grey town.
The grass had withered away and over everything resided a thick layer of dust.
Men and women alike wore dark circles under their eyes. Their clothes were covered in the same grey dust as their surroundings.
Wind dragged small objects down the quiet streets, disturbing the dust and sending it swirling.
A mouse darted across the road, looking for a hole to sequester itself within.
In this dreary place, even the sun was robbed of the glory of its demise, and rather than shooting trails of colour as it sank below the horizon, the fog consumed it.
Mothers ushered their children inside, and fathers sat down to a meal, weak smiles plastered to their faces.
From one house, rose a wail.
Doors shut, keeping out the noise of tragedy.
A lone man stepped out of the sobbing house.
In his large hands were a pair of shoes, smaller than his palms.
He began making his slow way down the street, his footfalls muted.
Children peeked through curtains and were pulled away from the sight.
Children did not need to be burdened with the cares of the deceased.
There was one spot of colour in this strange place.
A huge field of candy red poppies.
The flowers swayed and bobbed their heads, smiling at one another, unaware of the misery surrounding them.
The Blood Field.
Up out of this meadow of cheerful despair, rose a tree.
The man paused at the edge of the flowers to gaze at it.
The Shoe Tree rose tall, its limbs spreading out like the fingers of a skeleton against the grey sky.
It was bare of leaves, but adorned with shoes.
Hundreds of shoes.
All tied by the laces and in pairs.
Some were well worn, others had clearly never left the box before they were sent to live out their days in this tree.
Knitted booties, meant for a newborn.
Large, steel-toed boots with a hole worn through the heel.
High heels, proud of the women they once carried.
Sneakers that trekked to and from school every day for years.
The man inhaled a shaky breath and squeezed the shiny child’s shoes in his hands.
Steeling himself, he stepped into the Blood Field.
Flowers clustered around his legs, kissing him as he passed by.
He reached the trunk and stared up into the labyrinth of shoes.
All of the low-hanging branches were overrun, so he swung himself up into the tree and began to climb.
The tree shook with the large man’s weight, but none of the shoes slipped. They had all been tied in place by shaking but determined hands, and they were stubborn in their residence.
The man reached one of the highest branches. There were a pair of shoes already hanging there, identical to the ones in his hands.
Trembling, he slipped the child’s shoes onto the branch with its sibling’s.
He nearly fell out of the tree in his hurry to get out.
His feet touched the ground, and he collapsed to his knees.
The flowers embraced him, caressing his face and wondering what could make such a strong man suddenly so weak.
The grey sky was nearly black when he forced himself to his feet.
He waded back through the Blood Field and he did not look back at the Shoe Tree.
He walked stoically back to the wailing house that had fallen silent, and left that tree full of death behind.
The Water Cycle
Have you ever wondered what it'd be like to drown in the sky?
To fall forever into that void of blue.
To taste the sweet, clear nectar of the wind.
To fill your lungs so full of it that you drown, your body becoming a cloud. Pure, white, and gentle, drifting along aimlessly before you burst.
To let yourself break into a billion little teardrops and fall back to the earth.
A sad, dreary earth. But you'd know that it wouldn't be for long, so you'd let yourself be gathered into puddles, let the flowers taste you, and bring life back into the ground.
Then that beautifully warm day, when the sun beckons to you, and you fall back into the sky, only to be drowned again.
It must be tiring to be a raindrop.
To never know which way was up and which was down.
But imagine the adventures!
Imagine being desired by both the sun and the earth - to be constantly journeying between.
And imagine - if you will - what it'd be like to drown in a deep ocean of sky.
A Stick-Figure Queen
I have this picture I drew when I was five. A stick-figure princess in a pink ballgown, a tiara heavy with diamonds, and blonde curls falling around her shoulders.
Now, it's no work of art. I mean, I was five.
But it was my dream.
Yes, I'll admit it.
I was that little girl who everyone secretly hates, who tells the teacher and her classmates and her parents and the stranger walking down the street that "I'M GOING TO BE A PRINCESS WHEN I GROW UP!!!"
Of course, a few years later I found that drawing and crumpled it up because I was a perfectionist little brat of an eight-year-old who was disgusted with how sloppy five-year-old me's drawings were.
The thing is...
Standing here in the spotlight, with the tiara on my head, I wasn't entirely wrong.
Okay, yes, I was entirely wrong, I'm obviously not a princess. But stick with me here.
Homecoming queen, right?
About as close to royalty as I could logically get.
Here I am, dancing with a beautiful boy, a crown on my head, a dress of the softest pink draped over my body, and to all the eyes focused on me, I look like the princess that I always claimed I would be.
And I have everything! I'm popular! Pretty! Happy!
I pull myself closer to my dance partner so that I can hide my teary eyes.
Yes, I feel like the stick-figure princess.
All pink, all royalty.
All crumpled up and despised.
First, too fat. Then too skinny. She needs glasses? Get her contact lenses, her face is too pretty to ruin.
Every word like a dagger into my side. A wrinkle in the drawing. Until I was so contorted that I didn't recognize myself.
I wonder what they would think if I let the mascara run down my face. If I told my mom that I hate cheerleading, told my friends that I had bought this dress from a thrift store because I couldn't afford it otherwise, screamed that I had a crush on the nerdy boy with braces that shone in moonlight, and burst it into tears because I wish I had stayed home with a book.
But newsflash: Homecoming queens don't cry. Princesses keep their heads up or the crown slips. And my mask is a safe, protective barrier between what I know and how horribly I could be hurt.
So I blink hard, plaster on a smile, and laugh as my throbbing feet twirl the night away.
Thief, you've taken all I had.
My sleep, my sanity, my tears.
All of it you've gathered in your glass jar.
Child I was, I laid every night, paralyzed in fear of your claws.
Every morning: "Sweetheart, why are you tired?" "Daughter did you sleep last night?"
I was too young for the circles under my eyes, yet even my youth you stole.
Yet the darkness, the utter nothingness, was not enough.
You began your whisperings, sending them into my ears and keeping my eyes wide with terror.
Music soothed me; I would drift to sleep on the notes, my mind filled with lyrics.
Even then, I would burst into wakefulness, gasping for breath, suffocated by your hand on my throat.
You have made sleep a horror for me.
Nightmares no longer haunt me, darkness no longer suffocates me, but still you steal sleep from my eyes and you feast upon what is mine.
My fear has numbed and you have fallen silent.
Thief, you no longer need to terrorize me for your meal.
I feed my sleep to you willingly, lying awake and memorizing the grooves on my ceiling, to keep you at bay.
Thief, you've imbued the beauty of rest with a hatred for stillness.
Thief, this will not stand.
Thief, I will have my revenge.
Thief, be gone from my sleepless eyes.
Thief, let me rest once more.
The Beauty In The Evil
They whip around us like the wind, beckoning, begging, loving, embracing, threatening.
Beautiful, gentle in moderation, but deadly.
They are graceful forms, beckoning with hollow promises.
The moment innocent eyes have turned from them, they will draw their daggers.
A sweet, plump, motherly-looking woman holds out a basket of fruit. Each is ripe and bright, jewels piled in the wicker basket.
A man in a well-trimmed suit whispers words of flattery, building up esteem, summoning beauty out of his mirror.
His brother is with him. He kneels next to a fire, stoking the warm embers. He radiates warmth, confidence, and strength. A warrior, he holds out his gleaming sword, free for the taking.
There, laying on a bed of pillows, is their sister. She yawns delicately and flutters her lashes. "Sleep," she murmurs. "Drink of that most delicious of wines... sleep." And she drifts off into her dreams, room next to her for any to join.
The husband of the woman with the basket wraps his arms around her. She offers him a berry, and he takes from her the entire basket. He takes the sword, the pillow, the flattery, and he holds it to himself. Speckled on his fingers are rings of solid gold, and he holds out everything he owns, and everything that he does not.
A small boy watches him. He wishes for what that man holds out. He longs for something of his own, and tears pool in his eyes for all that he does not have.
One last figure emerges, forming out of the shadows. Her body is wrapped in red and her eyes glitter with desire. Setting herself between the brothers, she kisses them both, then turns her face up. She holds her hands out, offering herself.
Gentle in moderation... yet evil in excess.
The fruits of Gluttony are poisoned, the flattery of Pride will fail, the sword of Wrath will bleed you, Sloth's dreams turn to nightmares, trinkets and baubles that belonged to Greed will bury you, Envy's tears will drown you, and Lust will kill you with her seductively beautiful teeth.
Cunning... Deadly... They consume, consume, consume, until there is nothing left of this world but their own beautiful forms.
When bored, a person's soul is bared.
The silence, stillness, loneliness of the outside draws out what is inside and you will discover beautiful secrets, secrets that were never meant to be yours. All for the simple price of observation.
Pay attention to the teenager who pulls out her phone in boredom, and you might see how her thoughts echo in the silence and how she is too scared to face them.
Pay attention to the elderly man whose eyes are glazed over, and you will see that he is daydreaming of lost loves and a full life lived before he dozes and continues to dream in his sleep.
The child who cries and wails and throws a tantrum. Let him yell, for his feelings are strong and through the screams he may find his entertainment.
The lady who putters absently around her home and sings snatches of songs under her breath... if you listen carefully, you can hear a fairytale through her lyrics.
The boy who locks himself in his room. He is not snubbing you, rather he is lost in a book, stolen away on the adventure of his lifetime, only to be deposited back into his room at the closing of the last page.
If you are brave enough, pay attention to yourself.
What do you murmur to yourself alone in the car? To what distant lands do your thoughts travel when there is nothing to tether them to this earth? Do you dance among stars, do you weep with the willow, or do you turn your volume loud to drown the voices out?
Pay attention, and perhaps through the dreams, the tears, and the never-ending musings, you will see yourself.
To be bored is to be real.
Tell me a story and it starts with Time.
But Time isn't real... Not the way people know it.
Tick - BOOM
Walking. Running. Racing against the inevitable.
Tick - tock - BOOM
It catches up.
We rewind the clock.
We're safe once more.
Once upon a Time...
I'm not afraid.
Plunged into the void... can you hear the screams?
Running a race - but the winner has already been chosen.
Fleeing from fate.
We're all stuck on the hamster wheel of Time.
Time is up.
I'm not afraid.