Life, the Bringer of Death
She smiles darkly to herself as she gorges.
This is about survival, after all.
It’s me or them, she reasons.
Pushing aside everything in her way,
And refuses to abide by the restrictions imposed upon her.
The walls are flexible,
They expand as she enlarges,
And she instinctively understands,
She must take everything.
Insidiously reaching her tentacles beyond the confines of her assigned space,
She continues to mature,
To demand more,
To cement her right to be here,
She embraces the darkness which shields her malevolent intent.
But she can hear them…
The gnashing of teeth,
The cries for mercy,
The mumbled prayers,
The helpless whispers…
She floats, serene and peaceful,
Even as chaos shimmers beyond her reach.
She continues to thrive, even as her host incrementally perishes.
She can sense when her prey surrenders,
when movement stops.
She sighs in triumph.
Maybe she won’t kill it.
She still needs the sustenance it provides.
When she can no longer push out the walls,
When the flow of nourishment diminishes,
When she can no longer remain within,
She searches for an exit and spies a light below her.
Slowly, she turns her head and heads that way.
She’ll need to push her way through,
But she’s no stranger to force.
She requires no consent,
Like a battering ram,
This parasitic organism pounds against the exit,
And gives little thought to the destruction she wages.
She tears through the cocoon that has sheltered her these many months,
Leaving it in tatters.
She relishes the screaming that accompanies her arrival.
This is her due.
As the flow of life is severed,
She opens her eyes but cannot focus.
Everything is tinted red.
Something passes before her eyes and the red is gone.
She cries out in alarm.
Suddenly, she wants back in,
But it’s too late.
She craves the connection to the host she ravaged,
But no comfort is offered,
And she abruptly detects the emptiness within her.
The silence too.
Outside, she hears a steady beep and senses turmoil around her.
She’s whisked away and briefly wonders,
Did her host survive?
(Coincidentally written on June 23, 2022.)
Charlie and the Time Portal
He visited me in my dream last night. I’ll admit I was missing him, went to bed thinking about him.
We had a time portal in our kitchen. It was hidden behind a tile in the drop ceiling. We don’t even have a drop ceiling.
I had the brilliant idea that if we sent him to the future, there might be a cure for what ailed him. I tried to explain it to him.
I said, “Charlie, I’m not sure exactly how this time portal works, whether it goes back in time or into the future...but I was thinking. Maybe we could send you into the future, where they can heal you...and then you can come back to us.”
He liked the idea but he wanted to take a closer look. I showed him where to jump onto the counter and he jumped up, all 90 pounds of him, like a pup. He wanted to know exactly where the portal was, so I pushed the tile out fo the way so he could take a peak.
He stuck his head into the portal and before I could stop him, he’d climbed up inside.
“Wait,” I cried, trying to call him back. I looked inside and he was gone.
I was overcome by panic. We hadn’t figured out a plan. I hadn’t even told my family what I was thinking.
Now, he was gone and they’d never forgive me. We hadn’t even said “good-bye.” Or “good luck.”
I stood there trying to figure out what to do, but nothing came to mind. I wanted to cry.
Then I remembered, Charlie knew the plan.
Surely, he would find the necessary help and the cancer would be removed, once and for all. He would live a long and happy life. I just hoped he would be able to find the portal to return to us.
My sweet Charlie died 4 months ago and I still have dreams of him. This one gave me a small measure of solace that maybe he is in a better place. And maybe he’s trying to get back to us.
Letter to My Dad (for whom I’ve lost of respect)
Do you know that I love you? Of course, I tell you often, but has it just become a series of words said to go along with “good-bye,” to end a conversation or a potentially upsetting email? Is it just a reminder to soften the blow of not liking you very much anymore?
Sure, we disagree on many things, but still, you’re my father and I love you. I’ve always felt that I understood you, but lately, I’m not so sure. I never imagined that we would diverge on issues of compassion and ethics. That our very impressions of reality would differ so greatly, it would appear we abide in separate worlds.
You’re not a monster—just a fallible human, like the rest of us. Still, I have to wonder why the apple fell so far from the tree. Then I remember, the apple didn’t fall that far. The tree moved. And it continues to move, further and further away.
I miss you, Dad. I miss the days when I could ask you for an explanation or for your opinion and I would learn new things. We didn’t always agree, but I always felt like you listened to my views and presented the opposing point of view in a logical and persuasive way. Sometimes, we’d debate an issue, and at a later point, I’d hear you arguing my point against someone else.
I vividly recall a debate we had when I was in high school. I argued, for all of the usual reasons, that marijuana should be legal, while you argued it should not. We finished at an impasse, which I counted as a win because you hadn’t convinced me to change my mind. About a week later, I overheard you talking to my cousin at our Thanksgiving get together, but this time you posited that marijuana should be legal, while he argued it should not. Indignant, I interrupted to accuse you of using my arguments. You winked and laughed...and continued to use my claims to support your new point of view. When I told Mom, she also laughed, explaining that you just liked arguing. What I heard was, you liked challenging expectations and exploring different points of view.
Now, I’m afraid I may have been wrong. You don’t relish the opportunity to hear opposing points of view. You look for circumstances to shoehorn your talking points into conversations, to attempt to show others you know more by repeating the phrases you’ve allowed to be programmed into your head by your daily viewing habits.
We don’t have productive debates anymore. Now, I can hear the evidence of the unoriginality of your thoughts, your repetition of talking points on Fox “news” that you try to pass off as your own. I believe you used to think for yourself, but now I wonder if I was just too young to recognize that you were repeating the opinions of others. I no longer recognize any of the critical thinking skills I thought you were passing on to me.
I know that people are complicated creatures with multiple facets to their personalities, and often their actions contradict their beliefs. I know you to be a generous, affectionate, fun-loving man who easily makes friends and feels comfortable around all different kinds of people. I also know you blindly support the policies of a racist president and GOP completely lacking in compassion and morals. I want to believe that you haven’t always been this way, that at one time, you would have noticed the hypocrisy in what they say and what they do. I want to blame it on brainwashing and aging, and those factors may be to blame, but sometimes I wonder. Do I, too, have the potential to turn out like you?
I think this is what scares me more than anything.
With love, from your daughter.
I thought they were leaves. It hadn't seemed very windy when I'd walked to my car, but as I drove to school, I found my conveyance bombarded with tiny leaves swirling through the air. It's springtime, I thought. This looks like a fall flurry, an autumnal assault. Where did all of these leaves come from?
I was transported back to New England. I remembered driving down dark country roads at night, the headlights illuminating only the road in front of me. The tiny skittering leaves dancing before my car. The larger ones rolling across the pavement, doing impressive impersonations of mincing mice or frisky frogs, daring the auto gods. I'd cringe for each one that tempted my tires, waiting for the telltale… Splat! that never came.
I pulled into the school parking lot to wait for my son. He got into the car and said, “I guess it must be migration season.”
I liked at him in confusion and asked, “Why?”
“Look at all of the butterflies!”
I shook the scales from my eyes, and looked around me, as if for the first time. Lost in my memories, I had failed to notice the miracle surrounding me today.
@MayaISharp It's easy to write gloom-and-doom about the environmental crisis. However, the day that inspired this piece was based on hope, despite the environmental crisis.
Questions for a wedding’s eve
“Oh, you’ll know,” they all said,
and smiled their wise smiles,
all the same.
Will it come to me as a blazing arrow piercing my heart?
Or will it creep up on me slowly,
like a prowler in my darkened home
as I sleep?
“Don’t worry — you’ll know.”
Will I be too young to recognize it?
Or will I be too old to believe?
“It will just feel right.”
But what’s right?
Will it be the comfort of a down quilt on a frosty morning?
Or will it be the excitement of leaping from a trestle
hoping that rubberband around you doesn’t snap?
“Oh, you’ll just know.”
But I don’t — and I fear I never will —
and I think they lied.
The Boy Who Killed
I was 11 years old the first time I saw him. It was the first day of school, a new school, in a new town, in a new state. My brother and I were the first to board the bus. He got on at the next stop, sauntering up the steps with a confidence I’d never felt in my life, and then to the very back of the bus where he slouched in his seat. I was certain he must be 6 feet tall, but that didn't make sense because I knew he couldn't be any older than I was.
As my brother and I slowly acclimated to the new situation in which we found ourselves, more and more students boarded the bus, and more and more laughter emanated from the back of the bus. Somehow, I could hear his voice above those of all the others. Like a king holding court, he seemed so much more worldly and confident than I. He was the classic “big man on campus” while I was “the new kid.” At last, when we arrived at school, he disappeared, clearly in a different class.
I don't remember so much the days that followed. However, there was this small, secret part of me that longed for him to notice me. Instead, every day he looked past me as if I did not exist. In time, it became a full-blown crush, though I was always too shy to even offer a smile.
To complicate matters, my mom had become friends with his mom. He had a younger brother the same age as my younger sister, and they played together while we were in school. To my chagrin, this never translated into an opportunity to speak to him myself.
With the beginning of the following school year, we moved on to junior high school. We were no longer on the same school bus, but I still caught glimpses of him at the school. I could see his house from my bedroom window. By now, I'm sure he was at least six feet tall, and he towered over most of the other students. However, his head was often down and he shuffled through the hallways as if attempting to go unnoticed. He had his group of friends, and it was different from my group of friends, and there was very little reason for us to interact. Furthermore, we did not share the same classes, so I really had no occasion to speak to him.
At some point during high school, I lost interest in him. It's not that I didn't care, but rather, I just didn't think about him anymore. It came to my attention that a girl with whom I had once been friends but now vehemently disliked was dating him. How strange, I thought. Knowing what a terrible person she was, I briefly thought, he could do better. But that was just me at the age of 17, holding on to an image of how I had pictured him at the age of 11. He was not that same boy, and perhaps never had been.
In February of 1983, during my senior year in high school, my small town was rocked by the news of a murder. It was unimaginable that something of this magnitude had occurred in our sleepy little town, and as more details came to light, it became even more unbelievable. It was a violent and brutal murder, involving a gunshot wound and 57 stab wounds, of one of the town’s known drug dealers. Apparently, this young man whom I had continued to hold in a very small part of my heart, might very well be the killer.
I made excuses. It couldn't be him. My friends and I became convinced that it was his girlfriend who had carried out the murder, and we were certain we were correct because we knew what a horrible person she was. We were sure that he was taking the fall for her. We waited for more of the story to develop, because surely, she would soon be taken into custody and he would be released.
But that's not what happened. In fact, were I to rely on my memory alone I would find very little information about what did occur. I was a senior in high school doing all the things that seniors in high school do, and gave very little thought to what had happened to him beyond the initial shock. 35 years later, I have news articles which tell me he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
It’s difficult to be objective when someone you know, even if only peripherally, does something unexpected, something gruesome. It’s hard to reconcile the person you thought you knew with the person you now see, and perhaps that’s why the acquaintances of murderers always seem so surprised by the revelation, with comments about how quiet he was, how kind, how unsuspecting.
Shortly after the incident, had someone asked me what I thought, I’d have argued strenuously for his innocence. But what did I know of it, really? In truth, I barely knew him at all. I imagine even his family was shocked by it, and even more desperate to believe in his innocence. If we are to believe in the system of justice upon which we all rely, he was found guilty and surely that must mean that he committed this atrocious act. If it’s challenging to assimilate our impressions of someone with what has been shown to be true, perhaps it is necessary to alter our perceptions to more closely align with reality. Perhaps it’s not the information being presented to us which is the problem, but rather, it is our unwillingness to accept evidence that contradicts our false perceptions.
The boy I once thought I knew and on whom I had a secret crush was, in fact, a deranged killer. What does that say about me?
I was 17 the first time I saw him. Like a vision sent to tempt my teenage hormones, he mowed the lawn across the street, clad in only blue work pants and steel-toed boots, his long blonde hair pulled back from his face. Clearly not a high school boy. I was a goner.
Throughout the summer, I could watch him discreetly from the front room, carefully peeking through a crack in the sheer curtains. Not that I did. OK, let's be honest, I was infatuated and dreamed of finding out who he was. I knew he worked with me, but it was a big place.
At last, I spotted him at work. Now, I needed to know his name. I managed to speak to one of his coworkers and got his name, followed by a phone number. That was the easy part.
I was shaking when I picked up the phone to call him. Surely, he wouldn't know who I was, but I was determined. When he answered, I tried to contain the tremble in my voice as I explained who I was. He knew me! Time to go in for the kill. I asked him to the Homecoming Dance and he said yes.