The Lives We Live
An angel. That's the first thing they called her when they all gathered around after the nurse had placed her in her mother's arms. The family had filed into the hospital room, and her grandmother said: "What a perfect little angel."
"We're naming her Cheyenne," her mother said.
"Well you have a beautiful life ahead of you, Cheyenne," her grandmother said to the tiny pruney face framed in pink cotton. "You couldn't have been born into a better family."
The 2018 Chevy Impala glided into the driveway and Cheyenne jumped out of the back onto the smooth blacktop.
"Love you, Chey, see you later," said her mother before putting the car into reverse and whizzing away.
Chey trudged up the steps of the brightly decorated colonial-style house and let herself in. A ShihTzu came careening around the corner, its feet sliding all over the wood floor, and it jumped at her hands barking like there was no tomorrow.
"Is that you, Cheyenne?" came her grandmother's voice from the kitchen. "Your mother's running a little late this morning, isn't she?'
Chey ignored the question and sat down on a nearby sofa, pulled "A Wrinkle in Time" out of her backpack, and began reading. Her grandmother came to the doorway a few minutes later and hovered there until Chey felt she had to acknowledge her presence.
She stood leaning against the doorframe with a hand on her hip.
"You're just going to ignore me, then? After everything I've done for you?"
Chey just stared back blankly.
"What's this book you're reading anyway?" she asked, striding over and plucking it out of her hands. Chey huffed in frustration as she watched the pages close, losing her place. Her bookmark was still resting on top of Hurley, the dog, who'd curled up next to her and fallen asleep.
"Why are you wasting your time on this when you could be studying?" her grandmother said, casting the book onto the couch.
"It's summer break," Chey said, confused.
"You should be studying ahead for next year while all of the other kids are wasting their time on fantasy stories. That's how you get ahead Cheyenne, and I want to see you succeed."
Chey just looked down at her hands.
"I'm going to have a talk with your mother when she gets back," her grandmother said, storming back into the kitchen.
She didn't get the chance to that day, however, because Chey's mother simply pulled into the driveway and honked a couple of times when she came to pick her up.
Chey's heart raced as she stood in front of the mirror and smoothed the whispy hair back from her face with one more application of hairspray. For as much fun as the rest of the night was going to be, nothing would beat the moment when she walked out of her bedroom door and down the stairs - the geeky Hermione Granger turned to the drop-dead gorgeous prom queen. And Kirk would be there to see it.
"Are you coming, Chey?" her mom called. "You've kept him waiting 15 minutes now."
Of course she had. It built up the anticipation of the moment. Taking a deep breath, she grabbed her Michael Kors purse and opened the door. She had a clear view down to the foyer where Kirk stood at attention, smiling up at her. To his left, her dad had his arm around her mom and they were both beaming.
"Sorry for the wait," Chey said.
"It was worth it," said Kirk.
He kept staring at her as her parents took some pictures and wished them a fun, safe night and reminded them of their curfew which were pushing back 1/2 hour from the usual time because of the special occasion. They were just about to walk out to the car, when Chey's grandmother pulled up.
"You look beautiful, Cheyenne!" she said, walking over to them. "I'm so glad I made it here in time to see you. And who's this young man?"
"This is Kirk," she said, then tried to urge him over towards the car. He, not knowing what to do and wanting to be polite, wasn't so quick to move.
"Well, Kirk, I'm Cheyenne's grandmother, so I have to ask what your intentions are with my granddaughter."
"Come on, grandma," said Chey. "We're just going to prom together. It's not a big deal."
"No, I have a right to know," she said, the pronounced wrinkles between her eyebrows and below the corners of her mouth deepening.
"I'll tell you more about it some other time," said Chey, grabbing Kirk's arm and dragging him away to the car.
When they were inside and the doors were closed, Kirk looked over at her with a puzzled expression.
"What was that all about?" he asked.
Chey sighed and leaned her head against the headrest.
"Just my grandmother being nosy and opinionated again. You can start driving now. The sooner we're out of here the better."
"Are you alright?" asked Jim.
Chey looked up from the table, startled out of her musings. "Oh, yes, I'm fine."
"Just thinking about your grandmother?"
"Yes, well, I was just thinking about how I didn't cry at her funeral. I haven't cried all week, actually. Does that make me a terrible person?"
He laughed. "I've been feeling guilty about how much of a relief it was when we found out she'd passed. Especially after hearing more stories about her life."
"Yeah, I didn't know about the poverty she'd grown up in. It's no wonder she wanted all of this for me," she said, gesturing vaguely around their perfect little suburban home.
"What is it that you want?" asked Jim.
"I've been thinking about that a lot the past few days," said Chey. "I didn't realize how much of an influence she had without me even knowing it."
"I've been trying to tell you," Jim said. "She's had her nose in our business since the first time she met me."
"Yes, you and every other guy I ever dated," said Chey. She sighed. "I'm just so far into my career already. What about student loans? What about all of time and investment I've made?"
"If none of that were an issue, if you could do absolutely anything you wanted to, what would you do?"
Chey paused. "Honestly, I don't want to wait any longer to start a family. And ..."
"I know it's ridiculous, but I want to try being a writer."
Jim nodded like he'd already known.
"Then let's spend some time over the next few weeks figuring out how to make that happen."
Did they know how much time she'd spent on that manuscript: how many late nights she'd labored over the project after the kids were in bed, drafting, editing, and researching?
As she scanned over the publishing house rejection letter, she felt like screaming. Her family had sacrificed so much for this a crazy dream of hers - they'd downgraded houses, neighborhoods, cars, clothes, spending habits - all so that they could live off of Jim's income. She thought of the life her kids were missing out on because of her selfish decision to leave a thriving career and live in a fantasy world where she actually had a chance at becoming a successful author.
But then she remembered her own childhood: summers spent with her grandmother and school years spent with tutors because her parents were too busy to help with homework. It wasn't an entirely selfish decision; it had allowed her to spend much more time with her kids and she was happy with that.
But what about her writing? Was it really that terrible that no one would publish it? She put her face in her hands and sobbed, trying to remember the reason she'd wanted to write in the first place - the wonder she felt when a story could whisk her away to another world and the bravery of heroes that she found so inspiring. Where was that inspiration now? When her grandmother had died, she'd just gone straight from trying to please her to trying to please publishers. A new resolve filled her and she looked around the counter for her laptop. She opened up a new document and started writing, channeling all of her emotions and experiences into characters that came alive like no characters she'd ever written about before. It didn't matter any more whether or not the story was ever published; it would be beautiful, and it would be something she could be proud of.
When Chey's children and grandchildren, friends and fans all gathered to celebrate her life after her passing at 97 years old, people not only talked about her powerful writing, but about the brave, kind sort of person she'd become as well.
As her granddaughter said, standing tearfully at the microphone: "She inspired so many people to think intentionally about where their lives were headed: whether they liked the direction or were acting out of obligation to themselves or someone else. She was watching out for us when we weren't even watching out for ourselvse - like an angel."
Tickets to Ethar, Dimension AKDSJ-189
Climate change, political tension, and other world problems bringing you down? Wish you didn't live in such a nerve-racking and generally concerning time and place?
Well, if you're like the already 73% of the population that has already gotten tickets, Ethar is the planet for you!
In case you've been living under a rock recently, quantum mechanics over at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) beneath the France-Switzerland border have successfully opened up a stable black hole that leads to Dimension AKDSJ-189, a direct parallel of our Earth.
So what's so great about this Rabbit Hole? Well, unlike the current state of our world, Ethar (the opposite of our world) is quite the Wonderland!
Having already created colonizations on Arsm (their version of Mars) and Ulan (their Moon), Ethar holds a steady population of over 10 billion Anti-Humans, and still has room for us! They've prevented all forms of climate change by using only renewable energy and recycling all waste, secured world peace between all of their nations, demonstrated perfect examples of every governmental system (including Communism!) and have shown a history of being, well, a Utopia.
Anti-Human citizens look just like us, save for their unusually sharp teeth. But don't be scared off by this! Scientists presume that this is because of how, logically speaking, most of their world is the direct opposite of ours. In fact, the Antis actually have entirely vegetarian diets and do not own any animals, having coexisted with the natural world instead of dominated it. Along with this, it should be noted that they speak in languages that are anagrams (mixed-up versions) of our own, which might take some time to learn for us Earth-dwellers. On Ethar, ever day is opposite day!
Still not convinced? It's a lot to take in, we know. But prices for a one-way move to Ethar are extremely cheap and going fast, so decide quickly! The tickets won't cover housing in the other side of the portal, but, due to lack of inflation, Earth currency has been found to be worth hundreds of times more in Ethar cash!
For more information and special family and financial coverage deals, please contact your local Anti-Human ambassador and buy tickets off of CERN's website or at the LHC.
Tickets will cover one individual's plane trip to Geneva and one Interdimensional Transportation suit. Short term side effects of IDT may include: nausea, vomiting, disorientation, seizures, whiplash, and possibly death. Please talk to your doctor or those at the LHC if you suffer from epilepsy, heart attacks, or other medical conditions before scheduling your trip.
Advertisements such at the one above were broadcasted in fifty different languages, across over 150 countries. Within a few weeks, 95% of the eight billion Earth citizens had planned out a permanant move to this new dimension, greeted by their Anti counterparts with open arms. The less than 5% of the world, mostly the criminals or the dirt-poor untouchables of society, were left alone as every governmental leader and person in a position of power would also leave.
It turned out that staying would have been the best option.
I was lucky to have escaped.
At first, all was well.
The Anti-Humans, surprisingly calm and collected about their population nearly doubling, moved us into their own tree-based homes and taught us their ways.
However, some people just couldn't let go of their old lives on Earth: Humans elected into the government soon became corrupt, terrorist attacks happened, corporations began abusing their power over the people and nature, chaos ensued.
The Antis didn't stop us.
Things began reflecting the worst of Earth again: Cultural genocides, mass economic depressions and poverty, war.
Still, they sat back and watched their own people die.
Maybe they were just like us in that way.
I decided it was time to move out when the United States of Aceamir went into a civil war, divided over (you guessed it) the right to own Antis as slaves.
Just a few days before the move, as I took a plane to Evenag (Anti-Geneva), they finally snapped.
A broadcast went out in a hundred different languages, across over 150 tense nations. It called all eighteen billions citizens, Human and Anti, to New Kyor (specifically, the government leaders to the UN meeting room, but 95% of the population showed up anyway).
In hindsight, being the 5% this time was one of the best decisions I've ever made while in Ethar (and not dating an Anti, but that reason would've been the same after what happened).
I watched the livestream of the meeting from a waiting room at the HCL.
They spoke for hours about Ethar's new issues because of us, but I only paid attention to the last part:
"We gave all eight billion of your people homes, food, hospitality... and this is how you repay us?" The Anti-POTUS spoke evenly, but his needle-point teeth were bared. "It's truly a shame that, even if you had treated us well, we would have still done the Feast."
"The Feast?" A Human ambassador asked. Several other representatives from our side murmured nervously.
The Anti-Queen of Ganlend laughed. "Why do you all think we have these sharp teeth, and have been so successful as a species?" Her own ancient snappers glinted. "Unfortunately, we can't let any of you leave. As Queen, I now give my authority to begin the Feast!"
Several other Anti-Leaders added in their commencements, and the Human leaders started going for the doors. They were locked, of course.
The livestream was cut off when an Anti-ambassador sank his teeth into the cameraman's leg, after the POTUS was devoured whole and several dictators were diced.
I had to blink a few times to remind myself that that hadn't been a horror movie I was watching. And that there were some Antis still in the same building as me.
"The Feast! The Feast!" They chanted, moving in on the line to the portal.
I looked down at my small baggage, knowing that I was just some college student who had nothing to fight with and turn off the portal before they got to it.
Nothing to win, yet nothing to lose.
I looked around. The other folks in the waiting room had panicked and ran out the door, but I knew that they wouldn't get far. The portal was behind thick, glass walls as to prevent people without IDT suits from contacting radiation, but the Antis were attacking those who had been suiting up to enter. A control room was to the left of it, right across from the waiting room I was in.
I could kill two birds with one stone.
As the Anti-guards were finishing the last of their meal, I ran to the controls. They didn't even realize I was there until I had tried about twenty different buttons, finally finding the one that would close the black hole.
"Warning, black hole destabillizing." Flashing yellow lights went up around the building.
Only one Anti (the others maybe checking other parts of the building for Humans) barged in and caught sight of me.
"Oops." I shrugged. "Could you... help me undo this?"
I would later learn that the Antis wouldn't know how to open the black hole back up once it closed, only waiting for other Dimensional inhabitants to open up to them. (I guess that's the only thing we got right as a species.)
He decided that keeping the portal open was more important than eating me (a smarter choice for him), quickly stumbling to the controls and clicking at random buttons.
I went back to where the suits were hanging up, grabbing one with the least bodily fluids on it that fit me. About two minutes of stressfully zipping and velcroing later, and the portal still wasn't quite stable, but I didn't want to take my chances with the Anti. At that moment, I would have rather been transported to a completely new Dimension than deal with this.
I was one of the few people who had experienced IDT twice: colors blending into sounds, rollercoaster-like vertigo, the whole shebang.
Luckily, I didn't need to use the suit's built-in barf bag. Even more luckily, I landed in the right reality, just as the portal was being closed on Earth's end.
The CERN workers (or, people who took their places), a hardy group in bloodied lab coats, carrying various improvised weapons, immediately took my helmet off to check my dental hygiene.
"Human," one of them called to another band of maybe-scientists.
"Is it completely closed?" I asked once my tunnel vision went away.
"Sure hope it is," another, an older woman in an orange jumpsuit, said.
"And... no other Antis got through?"
"Jaws? Nope. Only you."
"So... what now?"
"We've gotta rebuild, obviously, and remember Dimension whatever-189 as an off-limits area, if we try IDT again... it's already cost so many lives..."
Another voice cut in. "And that's why you don't trust travel scams to meet your evil twin!"
My biggest mistake was having faith in the government.
Like so many others, my excuse was that of Martin Niemöller's:
I didn't care when they began hunting down refugees and illegal immigrants, since I was neither. I didn't care when police brutality was on the rise, since I was white enough to pass by. I didn't care when they began purging the country of non-Christians, since I was (sort of) Christian. I didn't even care when they began killing all members of the LGBT community, since I was (maybe) straight and cis.
Even when my friends and classmates were being sent to concentration camps and not returning, I still trusted my government, since those laws didn't apply to me.
But then they did.
I had been subconsciously sugar-coating this total genocide until it came to me, due to being mixed and coming out on a lot of things. (Apparently, even I wasn't a cookie-cutter citizen for them.)
This opened my eyes to what was actually going on outside: public executions down the street, reactionists and radicals of all kinds causing anarchy, the very framework of the nation being burned down by the polarization of different facets of identity and politics.
Even when I had followed those twisted laws and held my head down, being the bystander still led them right to me. I no longer have faith in corruption, only a sliver of faith for what this country is supposed to stand for.
Now, I am tied to a pole with the flag of my country at half-mast. Gasoline is poured on my face, and through burning eyes, I see them light a match. While my executors had considered the electric chair or gas chamber, they thought this was a far more allegorical way of going.
I am crying, not just for the deaths of my friends and family (and soon, me), but for the death of America. The deaths of the stars-and-stripes and bald eagles above us, and the ruins of Washington just a few miles west.
So above their citizens, disconnected to what is really about to happen.
To the man who caught my heart,
I was so damaged: in and out. I was full of fears and scars. I used to be hard-hearted, not just hard-headed. I pushed away people, built the tallest wall and exclude happiness as an emotion. And so I became the scariest demon. ’Til you came.
You came out of nowhere and showed me your kindness like a sword stabbing me multiple times. I don’t like the way you act like this world isn’t cruel at all. I don’t like the way you smile like people aren’t demons. I don’t like your positivity about everything like there’s nothing to be mad, sad, or whatso. Then one day, we had this heart-to-heart talk. You shared your past. You shared your painful, tragic story. That one day, I saw something. I realized something: I was blind, numb and dumb. I was blind for not looking for the bright side, numb for not feeling luckier than you, and dumb for not knowing the truth about what life is. You had all the reasons and chances to prove everyone that this world isn’t fair, yet you managed to be fine. You were dying inside, yet still managed to shine, just like the stars when the night came out. You had all the proofs you needed to just stop living, but you fought back. You came out of nowhere, shared everything, like you knew me for so long. Like we knew each other long time ago, and just continuing what we had started. And by that, I thanked you. Not just for sharing what you have. I thanked you for saving me and my heart.
Now that the darkness is starting to reign over you, I promise to be your light. Now that giving up is your only choice, I promise to lift you up. Now that you are starting to get tired of everything, I promise to be by your side whatever it takes until you fight back once again and realize why you started this battle. Your battle is my battle. I may not be your sword, which can destroy all your worries and failures. But I promise to be your shield that will protect you against all odds. Tell me all of your negativities in life, and I’ll tell you how beautiful your soul is. And by the way, you don’t have to be a knight in shining armor because I’ll be the one who will save you.
Take this note from a risk-taker: I do break rules, I always do that. But never the promises. Promises aren’t meant to be broken. Promises are meant to be kept, and so are you. Wait and see, just go and proceed. I will always be here. By your side, behind your back, anywhere and everywhere.
I will save you.
#writealetter #ToTheManWhoCaughtMyHeart #fiction #prose #story #flashfiction #romance
Images in the mirror
There is nothing I love more,
than the feel of your hands on my thighs
the heat of your breath on my flesh
and the look of want in your eyes
as you take me...
And I take in the image of
you from behind
following the curves of your hip and cleft
growing turgid from the
images in the mirror
A magical mixture of madness, inspiration, dream, creativity,
and an uncompromising, bitter taste of blackberries.
The obsidion arrowhead
strikes true to its target:
a crow flying over an oil spill.
A sublime melancholy,
accompanying an embracing sadness,
covered in forget me nots,
immortalized in ink.