I needed an extreme amount of energy. A weather spell far surpassed my normal output. I figured if I could get something tangible to help channel my magic it might just work. Even from a distance the carousel was beautiful. It had shining organ pipes so that when it was running this place was alive with music. The horses’ saddles were gilded and colored in muted pastels, and the creator had built sconces into the giant center post. I lit the candles with a wave of my hand. The sun was setting fast which meant time was short. I could feel myself overflowing with mystic energy as my heavy, black boots hit the hardwood floor of the machine. I could swear the wooden eyes came alive in sympathetic stares as I poured myself into the wood and metal. I got to work immediately. I crossed the circle in five points, marking the floor with chalk as I went. At the last point I grabbed the saddle of the horse nearest me and climbed. My jacket and boots didn’t make shimmying to the top of a massive carousel ideal, but something told me that the highest point at the center would offer me the best chance of completing the spell in time. The top had almost no foot holds and was angled enough that I had to crouch to make my way to the center. I knelt down facing the setting sun, and almost forgot what I had to do. The fair grounds were laid out before me with fiery light bouncing off every shining surface. Oranges and yellows playing against bright pinks that shone almost white at the edges. I could live forever in this moment, sitting on the precipice of a possible collapse. I swallowed that image like a violent shove of motivation. And with my palms to the sky I started begging the universe to send me winds. I plead for rain. For full, dark clouds to blot out that beautiful sun-down and send storms to me. And the sky darkened. And the wind whipped. And as the shadows grew and the earth’s breath became heavier I let my voice raise over it. And underneath me I could feel the carousel picking up speed. I concentrated on its tumultuous, turning weight. I let it pull the air around it in cyclonic energy. And as my chanting grew louder and more insistent the storm hit with enough ferocity to extinguish the candles I had lit. And in my panic I made a quick and sacrificial decision. And with my left hand I kept the storm careening towards us, but with my right I sent flames licking the hooves of the horses. Crawling up their bodies and scorching their rose and lilac skin into bubbling black and brown. And as it caught on the saddles I knew that I no longer would need to concentrate on the fire. It would devour myself and my companions. I had conjured my own demise. And it only fueled my frenzied desires. I was a dark and slender effigy blurring into the background of uproar that was the sky. My face upturned in communion with the world above and ground below. And I screamed the wind into violent fits. It whistled through the organ pipes creating an eerie soundtrack against the resounding destruction of nature. And all the while the machine below me was a spinning, reeling inferno. Surrounding me in pirouettes of revolution. Turning with magnificent force. And as the water-logged clouds filled the sky with black and as the fire worked it’s way up the bodies below me and as the wind breathed life into the organ pipes, my voice finally reached its peak. And the ghostly sky opened in torrents. And the downpour turned to tempest. And as the water fell in heavy curtains I saw the ground shake. I felt the air around me quiver with the psychic disturbance that my storm had created. And the impending flames below me were extinguished. And as I spent the last of my energy and fainted atop my steeple, all I could hope was that the fissure in energies would be enough for everything that was to come.
Where to begin
Consider the arrival of a new tenant to a basement apartment. He is a young man in his late twenties. He has a goatee and sideburns, because the year is 1998, and most young men of that time had those things on their face. He wears jeans and a t-shirt, has very few belongings, all of which fit in the bed of a rusted pickup he’s backed into the drive of an old home. He turns the key in the door and enters for the first time to scope out the place he will call home. It is possible our story begins here.
It is also possible it ends here. Had we been following the previous tenant, this might feel right, as an ending. Perhaps our concern should be with this other person. He too is a young man in his late twenties, his appearance so similar as to be the same, whose departure is its own beginning. So you see, these decisions of story are arbitrary, and fallible. Mistakes might be made, wrong choices, when we attempt to decide such things.
And the question is, where to go from here. Which young man should concern us? The one arriving, or the one departing? And if we choose incorrectly, what then? I say we, but clearly it is I who must do the choosing. I must decide for us. And you must trust me.
I choose the man arriving. We will begin there. It will be our point of entry to the story, but not necessarily the beginning. Though at some point we may find ourselves back where we began. Or starting over. It all has much to do with the house.
The house has been crouched over the basement for one hundred years. It has a long history, and this history is unknown to us. The history may matter a great deal, but we cannot know how it matters, only that it does. We cannot know all the souls who’ve lived in the home, only that they have. Meals have been prepared, meat cooked in ovens, sauces simmered on stoves, bottles of wine spilled, children conceived. Wallpaper has been chosen, installed, enjoyed, become tiresome, been removed. Terrible fights have occurred. Love has been shared. And the residue of it all lingers like smoke in the walls.
People have died within these walls, and some have lived, more or less. There was word of a suicide. These details are lost to us. We know only that they must influence anyone who enters. Some people are more sensitive to these things, some less. But the house has had experiences over time, and absorbed them, as all houses do. And these things come to bear. They matter.
They matter because the basement is no longer a basement. Where once it had concrete blocks for walls and bare earth for a floor, it now has a carpeted floor, finished walls painted a neutral shade to beckon new tenants. The house above has been cut into four separate dwellings. It is no longer a family home, but home to many, some for short periods of time. People come and go now more than ever before. The life of the house has accelerated, as the house itself has aged. The older it gets, the faster it spins. It might wish to hold its weary head.
So there is risk involved in choosing where to begin, you see. But we've chosen. Or rather I've chosen, and you must trust me. Let us begin.
Waves crashed vigorously onto the deck of our voyage “Destiny”, scattering around madly, seeping through the holes in the wooden planks. I was struggling to hold onto the slippery railings, trying to bring the sails down, feeling empowered in the middle of this chaotic tempest. It was excitement fueled with fear for my survival. For the survival of my crew. It was as if I was wrestling with the enraged beast of the ocean. The rain pierced our faces, like tiny needles. Wind roared and slammed into our bodies. Waves craned Destiny sideways and the firmness of the ship disappeared from under my feet; ocean merged with sky and I felt the crippling coldness of water drag me deep, towards the darkness of the unknown.
I was sinking, unable to fight for breath as last drops of strength became salt. I closed my eyes, letting the ocean, to which I devoted my heart and soul, determine my destiny. Silent prayer. Suddenly, my body started falling. It felt as if I was slowly carried down a waterfall. My eyes sprung open - the edge glistened. I gasped for air and felt life immerse me.
My crew and I were floating in thick darkness, for there was no gravity to restrain our bodies nor our minds. It was filled with nothing but ominous fragile silence, ringing with a million of particles colliding together. It was an iridescent pool infused with emerald, indigo and azure colours. We were incorporeal, dragged amidst the glistening serenade of silence, emanating of nothing, but the pool of boundless space. Our minds, adjusting to the change, slowly began to comprehend the surroundings. The fathomless pool of space, embroidered with diamonds of thousand of moons scattered through limitless universes ahead, and thousands of dreams that have no barriers of imagination, weaved through the cosmic blanket, shone from within.
The space was like DNA, a spiral, outstretched to fill the entirety of space beyond, coiling about itself, creating perfect patterns, coordinating the creation of new stars, planets and life. There were some lose strings, like cosmic threads, carefully pulled out of the shimmering pool. As we watched it uncoil, grow, we knew we were witnesses to the symphony of creation of new destinies, new lives, new beginnings. The loose strings perhaps were parallel universes, never able to cross over, but belonging together, interdependent on each other, always longing to coalesce.
The strings shimmered with nacreous glow, as if they were veins, supplying the universe with divinity and complexity of life. However, some strings were dark, lifeless, slowly fading into the abyss. These were death and stagnation. When they caressed other strings, they annihilated, creating shock waves which roared through the entirety of cosmos. In their place, a new coil beginning to form. It was a poignant stroke of the universe, representing the inevitability and fragility of the cycle of life. As we flowed through them, one string brushed my shoulder and knowledge worth billions of years exploded in me with an array of colors. Death, joy, birth, desire, euphoria… People made choices which led them to be where they are today. I saw opportunities lost to insecurities, words left unspoken in fear of rejection - I saw myself. And I saw myself during the countless battles with nature forces, - brave, knowledgeable, fearless, tackling every wave. Memories shook my whole presence, as I realized - life is limitless; we must dream for stars, for the impossible, and with courage we can achieve them.
After what felt like several years, we saw an edge appear in front of us. We were slowly dragged towards it by an invisible current. The ocean became a waterfall, water changing into glistening stardust as it fell off. We were raised above the edge, our ship rocking on calming waves. A million pearl like stars reflected in the obsidian depth of the ocean.
We stood in silence. After embracing the knowledge of vastness of freedom and infinite potential, our ship, even the Earth itself, felt like a rustic market full of dispersed stalls, inhaling the soaring dust and compressing clusters of people, engulfed in a cacophony of insignificant noise and dissonance. Our understanding of reality was tweaked. Through decayed endings, sprouted new beginnings. All of us knew that from this moment onwards, we will not be simply carried by a current of life but we will create our future, sprouting strings of endless possibilities. We became dreamers.
The sky flared with cleansing auburn on the horizon; dancing fireflies of water specks from the ocean blushed with the warmth of tangerine. We sailed through the gentle waves towards our new beginnings.
Who am I
Life chronicled on four by six pieces of paper was tucked away neatly in envelops inside the end table drawer next to her bed. Upon waking, she knew who she was and where the photographs slept. Challenging herself to mentally conjure the images of her family without peeking, she was happy to find her seven sisters striking poses behind her eyes. Toothy grins blowing candles, parades of mini skirts, floral pedal pushers, red keds and white go go boots, even Jax the tabby appeared, but it was her parent's long gone comforting faces she was searching for, and they wouldn't come. Driving rain hit the window across the room, gesturing an interruption to her trial of forgetfulness. Absent mindedly plunged, the images left her and so did the knowledge of their existence. For now. Like the tide, they would all be back, she would hope, but hope was not necessary if she wasn't aware of them slipping away. Sliding under the covers, the warmth caressed her, sending her unthinking mind to a protective, hollow, dark space; womb-like, before her first breath. The bliss of uncounted time passed, until the disappointment of a single thought came back to her, signaling that it was time to rise. Easing her aged bones away from the comfort of the memory foam and down, there was no direction. Standing alone in space, sighted and blind, there was no family, no death, no thought; just the intrinsic reckoning of existence.
“What day of the week is it? What's your name again? What's my social security number?” A doctor did not have to confirm it, she knew the onset of Alzheimer's by first hand examination, while watching her mother’s slow horrifying decline. Yet there was also a dignity witnessed, a careful practical preparation before an advanced stage, and Maggie had vowed to the same should the time come for her to face the same reality. And then it knocked on her door and she really didn't want to answer, but the intruder was coming in whether she resisted or not. Still standing in the same spot, she began to shuffle one foot in front of the other across the knotty pine without knowing where she was going. The brown suede easy chair next to the window invited her to come sit, in the same way it had always invited her mother. Maggie couldn't part with the old chair, patting the stained arm rest as if it was a grieving friend. Perhaps it was the worn seat that triggered Maggie back. Could it have been the ghost of her mother's embrace sending visual whispers? Or was it the solitude beckoning an awakening through simple meditation? Either or both, all that mattered was the communion she felt with her mother’s aura as she sat. If the essence of lavender was an aromatic hallucination, she didn't care. They sat together, two souls, one body, one waning mind, partially accepting defeat. But she took solace in knowing she had also partly passed a test. Without picture peeking, Mommy had come to her lucidly, in all her radiant beauty, smiling through her whimsically curled lips; the same familial feature that Maggie carried throughout her day.
In the overcast room she decided she had no time to feel sad over remembering what was gone. Remembering would not be a squandered gift. As the memories bombarded her, she remained jubilant, even when the floodgate opened her thoughts up to the end days. Near death, her mother’s smile was as genuine and enchanting as it had always been, a work of art, even without the muscle control. All eight Iovino sisters, and some of their children took turns holding the matriarch's fragile liver spotted arthritic hands, stroking the strands of red turned gray hair at her temples, forehead, and crown, even when she saw them as strangers. Maggie was there for the final breath, lifting her mother's lifeless right hand to her bequeathed lips; sowing a parting kiss. Although she let her own tears flow, she also stepped up to higher ground, comforting her siblings unboundedly, becoming the soft place for all of them to fall. In their individual solitude, the reality pecked at each of them, one by one, all eight of them began a waiting game, defying worry, bravely, silently, wondering, when? “Me too?” Maggie would become the first to honor her mother's unfortunate legacy; she would not speak of or accept the harsh cold truth until she had to, blissfully in denial, as long as she could function independently. “Why make them worry? I can do this, at least I can, until I can't.”
The test was complete when her strikingly handsome father’s face also came into focus. It was hard for anyone to conjure an image of her father without his adoring wife by his side. His daughters were blessed with the daily visual of a man's love for a woman, stealing kisses from his wife at the dinner table nightly, openly, as if she was part of the menu, confronted in the early years with “yucks” and “ewws” from his coleen offspring. As a proprietary orthodontist, Daddy wasn't home much, but he managed to break away to eat a meal with his gaggle of girls, place sets for ten, even if he had to run back to work afterwards. There was no shortage of love in their happy home and kisses flew around their abode as freely as the dust. If their father had wanted at boy, he never said so, and none of his daughters ever suspected they were one of eight due to his explicit intent of fathering a son. He died fairly young; cancer, the constant radiation suspected as the cause, but until his last breath he loved all of his girls deeply, admittedly so, none more than his red headed Irelander beautiful wife. Maggie was the only daughter that loved to go fishing with him on his day off. More than trout, it was her father's wisdom she caught, but she knew that wisdom, her mind, was slipping away. “Daddy I love you and I miss you so much. Daddy I'm scared.” If he could have broken through, he would have. There was nothing he wouldn't do for any of his girls.
Before she was symptomatic, following her mother’s death, Maggie had occasionally wondered if her husband divorced her to avoid the possibility of being her nurse at some point in their future, and she occasionally wondered if she never dated after the divorce to avoid that possibility for a future unknown somebody. After the initial shock of betrayal, she picked herself up, walking briskly, daily, on the nature trails close to her modest home with her Welch Terrier, Winston, without thoughts of loneliness. Like a typical terrier, Winston liked to break free off leash, and even though it was against the park rules, she reveled in the freedom she afforded him. He always came back to her, sometimes roughed up by jumping steadfastly through the bramble, having been chased by another mischievous dog. The aggravation of parasites, countless ticks and once or twice fleas, would never keep them from their clandestine crusades. Fleas were more dreaded than ticks, but she'd treat Winston with product, wash all the bedding on the hottest setting, vacuum vacuum vacuum like a mad woman, bombing with chemicals if need be, whistling while she worked. Looking down at Winston she'd speak to him as an equal, as if he understood, “Freedom comes with a price, but you only live once.” And she'd let him off the leash again again again, whenever the mood would strike until he was too old to run and then sadly he passed away. In a way she was relieved by his death, since she no longer had to worry about who would take care of Winston, keenly aware she was in an early stage.
“It is time!” Maggie heard clearly in her half in half out state.
“Who's there!” She hollered at the colorless walls, and she gripped the armrests of the chair like an anxious driver's steering wheel.
“Don’t tell me my darling child that you have forgotten my voice."
"Mommy. Is that you? Daddy?" Maggie could not determine with any certainty the speaker’s identity, in spite of that, she felt a deep connection and an authenticity in the voice, responding with curious unguarded attention. "Have I forgotten your voice? Am I dreaming? Or please tell me if I have gone completely mad?"
"Dear dear Maggie, is that fear I hear in your voice? It pains me to know you have been alone for so long, and it is understandable to be afraid, especially with the challenge you face, but fear no more my darling, because you will see me again before you know it. There will be a period of darkness but in its own way it will be sublime. Haven't you already felt the comfort? The peace of no thought? There will be no loss, no grief, no pain, no worry. What you fear is the unknown, but move into it fearlessly in faith knowing that I am with you and you will feel my embrace. Did you understand what I meant when I said it is time?”
“Do you mean time to make arrangements? Time to ask for help?”
“Yes my love. It is abundantly clear. Do not wait another day, another hour. Although life for you may seem bleak, someday there will be nothing but peace, comfort and love. Of this you can be sure.”
Maggie rose from the chair with conviction. All of her sister's had offered for her to come live with them, without mentioning the A word, but it was her niece Leslie, her godchild, that she decided to call. Besides the namesake, red hair and gentle loving nature, Leslie, seemed to have stepped out of her grandmother's grave even down to the same pigeon toed feet.
“Hi Leslie, it's Aunt Maggie.” Leslie already knew who it was from the caller id and she'd know her aunt's voice without it. “Remember we spoke about the assisted living complex near your house? Would you be able to check into availability for me? It's time for me to give up my own place.”
Leslie asked no questions. “Of course Aunt Maggie! No problem. I'm so excited you want to live near me.”
“But I'll have to sell my house and pack up all my stuff first . Oh dear!”
“Don't worry Aunt Maggie. We will get it done!” And they did. When Maggie's friends from church and the woman's group found out about her quest, many of them pitched in. A couple of the sisters trekked over to do the major work with their husbands and sons. What wasn't tossed was either packed or picked up by Goodwill. Three months from that phone call with Leslie, with help from family and friends, Maggie was on her way.
“It will be great,” said Leslie through her whimsical smile on their last phone call before Maggie left for the airport. “A new beginning with family that loves you.”
“Yes. It will be grand!” replied Maggie enthusiastically sporting the same smile.
The heartbeat was hers alone now, the whooshing sound of blood and digestion had never been in her memory since the cord was cut, so why would she miss it now? The shadows that came and went might scare her, but nothing scared her as much as her own reflection. “Who am I?” She cried. The nightmares loomed, and would sometimes be interrupted by the sweet vision of her parent's unknown faces, calming her. And that voice. Whomever it was that spoke the comforting words of faith, the words kept coming. When Leslie and the sisters would arrive for a visit, accepting their hugs, she'd stare intently at their whimsical smiles, looking back at them through her own toothy grin, softly uttering the words, “Do I know you from somewhere?”
Dappled light plays on strong roots anchored
saline breeze murmurs whispers on skin.
He swallows liquor of entangled mangrove
feeling immune to death’s sorrows and angst.
Bubbles of scurrying crabs breathe new life
bruised past covered with stillness and shadow.
Birds soar their spirit with promise of salvation
sighing sound of the mangrove licks his loins.
Ageless bystander’s fingers, birthplace of new growth
Renaissance soil catches, builds on spanning roots.
Passionate sky streaks magenta promise in dusk
man’s mind billows adrift in solitude and peace.
Calm undertone misting and relieving his doubts
sobbing softly as he anchors new roots in his dust
sand shifting from his hands as past slips away.
“I Am The God Of Hell-fire, and I Bring You...”
For a tall while, Buck Holland was known in his town as the old shit-kicking grump with a bad hip. Putting folks down had nearly always been his way. Many days in the past you’d find him spitting from his balcony at the ant crowds down below. He was an ex-cop with a grudge at the ever-changing world, and now with his bum hip and the Trypanosomiasis it was changing him from the inside out. Trypanosomiasis had been his lifes’ cross following a crucial trip to Sandals what might has well have been Hell last month with an ace gal that wouldn’t be a returning customer. Now he’d been scouring South Beach for shells which stood for answers he sorely needed owing to a fractured mind that could barely compartimentalize.
All his clumsy nodding off back at his apartment might fly if his bud Jamie shot junk, but no luck of that sort in store for either of them. For Jamie, it had become a godawful drag to hang with Buck now more then ever. Buck bitched about his death, he bitched about his living, he bitched about the horrible haunted times they now lived in in comparison to the good old days, and he bitched about modern food with all it's perservatives. There wasn’t one thing that settled well with Buck, and this proved perplexing for one as simple minded as Jamie. Jamie would be happy with a McDonalds McGriddle and a 40 ounce, and he couldn’t understand all the unending shit that Buck went on about High Fructose Corn Syrup this and Gluten that. That and Buck’s foul flatulence brought on by drugs for the Trypanosomiasis killed all their fun flat. They could never get a decent card game going through the thick green clouds of heinous gas!
A mad array of sights’d flash through Buck’s mind while he was day-dreaming, or “sailing” as he called it. An implant of an additional world sprung up with the authenticity of reality in his continual drifting vacancy from his real life stint. It only came to him briefly, but these frequent flooding dreams of sorts were a happy and spacious oasis from all the dirty doubts of the day, and endless worries that plagued him on the reg. He'd imagine being surrounded by huge, mysterious castles with jutting turrets, surrounded by woodlands disappearing far off into the untamed wilderness. Birds from a distant past would sing each other love songs as he reveled in the crystal clear scene which only stayed visible for a short while. In the beginning, how he would achieve these nearly comatose states of bliss were by playing his old Lawrence Welk or Neil Diamond records when he was alone. More, and more, he was still managing to slip off to his dream world when people were in the same room with him. It was beginning to be a thing he felt that he was losing the will to control.
Sweatier, and sweatier each time, with darker rings around his eyes, Buck would pop up like black toast from these enigmatic naps! He’d wildly snatch a scratch pad; or anything that floated in the realm of his manic orbit to better illustrate his spirited flights of fancy. His vision wouldn’t stay lucid all morning though, so like a failing boner Buck would have to chase it, but boy, did it blow Jamie’s mind the following day when Buck would share! Variably it often seemed like it was by unseen malignant spirits that his hopping hands had unconsciously been summoned from some distant world unknown. Buck felt akin to a begging child dipping his wooden bucket in a questionable stream that was always rich with rations of glistening enligtening life that nourished him thoroughly through and through. He wanted for more out of his life, and he didn’t care where he got it, except at night sometimes, when it wouldn’t rush out from Buck’s pen, and he wondered how he could harness this incredible feeling of flirting with the all mysterious Goddess of Creativity herself. He’d been scrawling drawings lately that were his link between the two worlds. His franticly manic drawings conveyed dark, and dizzy works of a lost soul who’d passed over a minefield of sorts, and quite possibly not made it over the threshold to the other side. The brush strokes were thick, fantastic, and at times irregular, but they perfectly revealed the torments of a specific locale somewhere in this universe or the next that had previously been untapped and unmarked by man. Buck’s growing addiction to his tormented hobby of self realization through art begged him to hone the ability better. This had been what had pushed Buck to finally enroll himself in Scientology courses in the building next door to his complex, starting with the ‘Personality Test’, despite his friend Jamie’s dogged protests against joining the mysterious and controversial church.
“It’s a fucking cult, man! What the fuck are you doing? All that New Age shit is just after you’re last cent. What you oughta do is just keep drawing your damn doodles, and send ’em everywhere! God willing, a publisher will catch wind of them, and poof, people will gobble that shit up like it’s a shark feeding frenzy.”
“That’s not why I’m letting myself be a vessel for this shit though, Jamie! I’m doing it to shine a light on a world that I can’t see, but only get vague snippets of from time to time. If I could reign all this crazy nightmarish shit together in a pile under the lights of a good and sound philosophy, I could better understand my crazy dreams, and see if it’s some sort of vision that I’m dialing up, or if it’s just a damned neuron firing in my brain somewhere.”
“I think you’re wanting this too badly, man. I wish you would think this over.”
The most frightful trial of all was on Buck’s first day of ‘Auditing’ by the church. After exploring the spacious and well manicured grounds of the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles, he was probed by the most fiercely disarming steel-blue eyes of a gorgeous women in her twenties with blonde shoulder length hair, dressed in a blue uniform that resembled someone of elevated importance. She appeared so professionally made up like she was in the Navy or a Coast Guard of some sort. On her shirt, she had a tiny gold pin that resembled a snake swimming up her blouse. Underneath the whole ensemble, Buck had a real hard time reading her though. Her eyes were like hermetically sealed man-hole covers that had been well secured against letting any outside forces in. As he faded in and out of consciousness due to an oncoming dream, she immediately inserted two steel bars, in each of his hands, that were connected to an automated unit in front of her that was supposed to read his bad reactive thoughts, or so she claimed.
“Am I supposed to hold these things in a tight grip, or can it be loose?”
“It would be better to hold them tight, but a little looseness in the grip should be ok I think. Remember, Scientology is only as true as it is for you, and what is true for you is what you have observed yourself. LRH said that.”
“O, he did, did he? Now what do you want me to do?”
“Take a deep breath, hold it for a moment, and let it out through your mouth.”
Buck sucked air up through his nose, and then let it tumble out of his mouth. He felt a little obstruction in his right nostril. The Scientologist turned her head quizically, as she paid attention to the device that was hooked up to the two bars in Buck’s hands. It was obviously producing some unseen results.
“Are you well fed, and well rested?”
“Do you have a present time problem?”
This question caused some trouble for Buck, as he had to turn it over in his mind for quite a bit before answering. Sure he had problems, but a ‘time problem’ had never occured to him ’til just now.
Suddenly, Buck had tumbled and been thrust into some version of farm country, and he was without a stitch on at night in the wildness of this foreign, yet familiar scene. His noctabulistic stupor drug him by his balls into an empty field, and then cast him away just as quick. Naked, amongst winds, howling down at him like razors on his skin from many points, so as to imagine that the circle he was in was more like a star of living energy, Buck suddenly became aware of a Big, Black Thing that seemed serpentine in nature. He could hear owls hooting in the trees. He was aware of a worm crawling along the ball of his heel. And now, suddenly, there was a hissing wraith that was squatting on top of his body and supping on his vital juices. It was pinning him down in the living dirt through shadowy strips of the ever night as Buck tried unsuccessfully to fight against it’s ever worsening grip. It had a hold of his neck and was impossible to grab hold of!
What was this Snake-like being that couldn’t be beat? Buck continued to fight, valuing it’s strength, as it hungrily drank of him. It had slithered out of somewhere or something. Buck watched a group of owls that gazed down on him from a evergreen tree as his vision waned. Could it have come from a hole in a tree somewhere, or a shaded bush nearby? Now Buck had to ask himself the big question, was this a lax part of his soul that he’d never came to terms with? If he relaxed would it relax? Buck tried to calm his muscles, but his fear had gotten the better of him. Was this some sickly cousin of his psyche, or had it come from outside to finally end him with a fatal poisonous bite? Whatever the case, Buck was fading fast, and there was no coming back from this. No chance of saving his soul from this ever consuming dream that fastly proceeeded to swallow him from the inside out.
an unexpected life
Justice Rios banged her gavel and every bone in my body dissolved. I couldn’t believe it was finally over. Rick Gowen was going to prison for the rest of his life for the kidnapping and murder of my daughter. His life was over, just as he had ended hers, and mine could finally start again. I sobbed as he screamed his innocence all the way out of the courtroom.
I owed this miracle of due process largely to Detective Wingartt, the 23 year police veteran who stood next to me now, supporting me in more than just the line of duty. My life had been on hold for the last 13 years, since Holly disappeared, waiting, and praying to any God who would listen to please find my baby and the man who took her. 17 months ago Gerald Wingartt knocked on my door and changed my life. I could still hear the words in my mind…
“Good evening. Are you Mrs. Jillian Murphy?” He continued at my nod, “Mrs. Murphy, my name is Detective Gerald Wingartt. I have some information about your daughter. May I come in?”
And then my whole world began to spin and hasn’t stopped since.
On an anonymous tip Gerard and his partner searched a previously combed section of woods and had discovered the bones of a child, bearing the tatters of a dark blue dress, with a delicate gold chain around her neck. Exactly what Holly had been wearing when she disappeared. I still remember the feel of her hair as I swept it aside to zip the back of that dress, and adjusted the chain with the little engraved star charm I had given her for her birthday. Dental records were a match.
Amazingly, DNA evidence had been found on her body, even more amazingly there was a match in something called the Combined DNA Index System which is basically an enormous FBI file full of DNA samples. I couldn’t believe it. They had someone.
Gerard got permission from a judge to return Holly’s gold chain to me before the trial, I think it may have been then that I started falling for him.
“There was a charm, a star, did they find it?” I had asked him tearfully, so overwhelmed.
“No,” He said, “I’m so sorry, they didn’t. It could have been lost anywhere. Or he could have kept it. Sometimes they do.”
A shiver had kissed my spine. I found that this sick, disturbed man having kept something of Holly’s bothered me deeply.
Gerard, seeing my disquiet, distracted me with details of what would come next. He left me his number and told me to call if I needed to talk. I had been through years of therapy and was mostly talked out, but I called anyway. His voice was deep and soothing, and if I closed my eyes I could picture his lips moving.
We grew closer as the trial approached, there was so much information he needed from me, together we helped the prosecution paint a portrait of a living breathing little girl with big hopes and dreams. The process broke me. Gerard helped put me back together again.
He and I agreed to keep our relationship a secret, nothing could interfere with the case, nothing was more important.
Two weeks after the verdict came back he proposed.
I said yes.
He started moving his things into my place last week
I haven’t told him yet, but I’m pregnant. I bought a pair of baby booties today and I’m going to wrap them up in a shoebox to surprise him. He’s going to flip!
After 5 minutes of searching my closet I can’t believe I don’t own a single shoebox. His closet is so crazy well organized and even though he doesn’t like having his stuff touched, I doubt he’ll care if I disturb it for something like this. After some careful poking I pick out a smallish blue box with a hinged lid. Inside are a few trinkets that I explore carefully before setting aside. A gently battered copy of Alice in Wonderland with Leanne Jackson written inside. A bracelet made of scuffed plastic beads that spell out Mercy. A red ribbon about 18 inches long. And a small cardboard box tied with a string. Curiosity was getting the better of me, I had to open the box.
God. I wish I hadn’t.
A scrap of dark blue fabric stared back at me. I heard his voice in my head, “Sometimes they do” Sometimes the monsters keep trophies.
I could hardly breathe. My hands shook so badly that I dropped the box, the fabric still pinched between my fingers. There it was, on the carpet, sparkling in the overhead light.
A tiny gold star with an H engraved on it.
I hadn’t heard the front door, or the footsteps on the stairs.
“Jilly?” Gerard called. Then his voice shifted into something I didn’t recognize, the voice of a monster. “Oh, I wish you hadn’t done that.”
I’ve spent many years in a dark, seemingly bottomless pit I never thought I’d be able to crawl out of. I deemed myself unworthy of happiness. But now as I’m in this bed, in extreme pain, my screaming is cut off when I hear a loud, piercing cry, and it’s music to my ears. A bundle of joy. A page has been flipped and a new chapter is here.
She’s in my arms, tiny and wrinkled but the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I named her Jane, after my favorite author, Jane Austen. I’ll teach her to love her namesake when she’s old enough to understand. I hand her to her father, who will teach her how to play guitar, and show her the kind of man she deserves. Exhaustion begins to overtake me and I’m asleep before I even know it. I have nothing but the sweetest dreams of Jane and think about how incredible it’s going to be to watch her grow up, to raise a little girl into a young woman. But I’m in no rush. She can take her time, and I will cherish every second of it.
Now I’ve changed. I’m a phoenix that rose from the ashes of the old me, lost in the dark pit. I’ve shed it all so I could fly higher and be better than I was. For my daughter, my sweet baby Jane.
#Fiction #ShortFiction #Story #ShortStory #Challenge
New Year, New Beginnings
A New Year to signify
That moment of self reflection,
Has helped me realize
Although the people
And situations around me
May not change,
It doesn't mean I can't
I have no control over them,
No hope of transforming
But, I still have the option
To salvage mine
So, here's to a fresh start,
A brand new introduction
No longer will I wallow
In the misery of those around me
No longer will I allow them
To dictate my direction
No longer will I laze about,
Doing nothing out of melancholy
I will take hold of the reigns
Keeping my life at bay,
And I will start to steer
Forward on my own path
A path of milestones,
A road of hopes,
All paving the way
Toward my dreams