The bruises spread in spring blooms across my lonely skin. Destruction tattooed as deep violet blossoms and dainty rose buds. My eyes wilting from my body’s constant insistence on standing sentry to the plagues of night. Burning words, poured out, rubbing raw against my throat. Short bursts of relief from the ceaseless, internal battle that pushes my veins, unrelentingly to the surface. My lungs certain that the blood rushing to my periphery will no longer allow them to fill. And as my eyes dance their involuntary climb towards the sky, a hand closes around my throat. And I am sure this is the end. My mouth pours, silently, ridding my bones of all the damnation. And the hand pulls me from my faults. And his mouth closes our distance as he drains the words from me. Shoving them down inside himself. And he pushes his own blazing fire down into the pit of me. Screams of light and oxygen satiating my covetous ache for grace. And he lit me up until I was all he could see. He lit me up until I was inextinguishable. He lit me up. Until I was as unending as him.
r i s e
my name is death.
and i am here to collect.
last year, your husband took his last breath;
last year, your daughter finally felt like it was too much to be perfect.
it was supposed to be your end, too.
the losses were supposed to push you over the edge—
of your mind’s zoo,
of the nearby pier’s ledge.
you were never meant to survive.
between work, bills, and a single child left,
you were meant to take the dive.
i am here to collect because your life was theft.
you robbed me of my rightful sword
and sneered as you snapped it in half.
dear, i am your lord.
and yet, at me, you cried out in a laugh.
it has been so long since the time
when you would have accepted my knife,
for your love of a forever nighttime
made you desperate to end your life.
but being a glorious king,
i waited. for there was more loss to wreak.
for you, a purgatory i wanted to bring.
with greedy eyes, i wanted you to watch you grow weak.
and now i am here to collect,
but suddenly you are not so desperate anymore.
your mind no longer feels the usual neglect;
your body does not wear scarlet stains as it did before.
i am here to collect,
but you are ready.
with an army of support to protect,
with one amazing son to keep you steady.
i am here to collect,
but your heart’s ashes have blossomed into a flower.
armed with love and self-respect,
you have risen above my fatal power.
Turnabout is Fair Play
She was bitterly cold as she lay on the wet leaves of the foreboding forest floor. The wicked grin of the pockmarked moon failed to shed any light on her plight. Why couldn’t she remember why she was here? Running her hands down her arms, she felt sticky liquid and touched her fingers to her lips to taste it. The salty, metallic taste of blood assailed her senses, bringing a wave of abject horror to the young woman.
“Help me, help me!” she moaned barely above a whisper through her cracked lips.
And then, she remembered that he said he was coming back. Desperately, she crawled to a softer patch of earth and frantically began to dig a hole with her hands until they bled. The driving rain made it almost impossible since the edges of the hole kept caving in. Reaching for some fallen branches, she laid them against the side of the widening hole to shore up the walls. She was just so tired and injured that she kept blacking out but finally was able to complete the next part of her plan. She threw jagged rocks into the pit before placing branches on top of the hole, and then scooped up wet leaves to make a covering over the cavity.
Crawling back behind the trap, she waited for him to return. Soon, she heard snapping twigs and heavy boots stomping toward her, knowing he was back. She saw the glint of a knife in his hand as he strode toward her. As he tramped angrily toward her, the roof of the trap caved in with his weight as he yelled in his surly voice, flailing arms attempting to break his fall.
Falling on the knife blade, he screamed in pain, “You bitch! Wait until I get out of here.” But, alas, he couldn’t due to the severity of his injury as he thrashed in pain and died a slow, agonizing death.
She smiled to herself in a sense of satisfaction as she dragged herself to the clearing where she finally remembered he had left her car. Pulling herself inside, she found the key on the floorboards, started the car and roared off. His death was no loss to the world. He was the worst husband she ever had! And she had had many!
If only he hadn’t discovered that she was spiking his iced tea with antifreeze!
I heard the sound of something ticking. My heart felt like it skipped a beat, and froze for a short while. Where was that sound coming from?
A burst of colorful mist filled up the kitchen room and rose into the air. I wondered what was going on? Uh, the tick-tock of the clock continued ringing loud & clear.
There was a spot of something shining in the dark not too far away from me. When I paid more attention to the shadow, whoever it was had a strange pair of glasses that glowed and looked like a pair of analogue clocks.
I tried to watch the figure as he approached me, but it seemed like this person was moving too fast for my eyes to keep track of. The second that I had noticed his exact location, he was right in front of me. I panicked and nearly felt like dropping to the floor and hiding from him!
The being pulled out a device from his front jacket pocket & glanced at it. He shook his head, then looked at me and sighed. I stood puzzled and wondering what this all meant. He pulled out a sword from out of no where. At that point in time, I nearly had a mini-heart attack. Why did I not call the police already when I had noticed him approaching?
He swang the sword and was ready to strike me straight in the heart, at that exact moment~ his clock-like glasses chimed and the world around me all became silent. I had closed my eyes, and hoped that I was only experiencing a bad case of a nightmare.
The ticking sound started again and soon the world around me was back to its normal time frame. My eyes fell on the sight before me, the being drifted away with the burst of colour that had been in the air. I was glad that the sword had not struck my heart. Eish, that was really close!
Loss & Gain
That was a normal but a day that changed my life forever
I went in to stop migraines and came out with such loss
Bleeding on brain and family wondering if I’ll make it
Doctors stop bleeding but not out of woods yet
Then comes a coma and fever
I wake up but only remember going in
Doctors say ill never use my right leg again
All are surprised because my legs are strong
I loss so much that day and had a stroke
I can’t walk, relearn to talk, and coordination off
But I will never give up
Now author and blogger
Done from my phone
So to those naysayers
I say watch me
Days are long and everything is hard
There are things I miss
Somedays I’m pissed
Thinking of everything I missed
But I’m still blessed
I get to see my family and for that I’m grateful
© 2019 by Lacrecia Hillis
Through the window in the back, I watched traffic fall behind us as the ambulance flew down the freeway. The young paramedic next to me was telling a joke, but I was having trouble paying attention . . . morphine is a powerful attention disrupter.
My day had started normally, although I did notice during my morning constitutional that my neck felt a little stiff.
[No big deal, maybe I just slept wrong.]
Breakfast didn’t sit real well, and soon after I began to feel a heaviness in my chest and weakness in my arm that wouldn’t go away. By afternoon, I realized it wasn’t just an upset stomach, and the pressure in my neck had intensified, so I had my oldest son drive me to the local hospital.
The doctors and nurses in the local ER are great people. Well, most of them are. There is one old nurse who seems to think that if you aren’t a victim of a car accident, you are just a whiner. Luckily, she wasn’t in charge of my care. The young doctor who was, hardly looked old enough to be out of high school. He ordered an EKG test, and although he didn’t see anything unusual, he decided to have the lab run a workup on my blood.
It took about a half-hour to get the results back, and when they did my room become a flurry of activity. Doctors and nurses rushed in, popped nitroglycerin under my tongue, gave me four baby aspirin, and hooked me back up to the EKG machine. The young doc came in looking gravely serious and said, “I need you to relax as much as you can. You are having a heart attack.”
[A heart attack? I can’t be having a heart attack . . . I’m only 49!]
He ordered a huge dose of morphine for my IV; once they pushed the plunger down, the whole thing seemed a little out of focus, and almost comical. It certainly didn’t seem bad enough to be worried about, but they started talking about life flights to the big hospital in the city, about a half-hour away. When they found out it would take almost an hour to get a helicopter there, they called for an ambulance, and I found myself riding on a gurney, with a comedian by my side.
Between bad jokes, he seemed to know what he was doing; he was on the radio with the hospital off and on the whole way. I could feel pressure in my chest, but it didn’t really hurt. I remember when I was a kid I got the mumps, and my throat swelled up. It felt a little like that, but the morphine kept sending my thoughts off on tangents.
[Maybe that’s the whole point.]
We pulled up to the hospital, and suddenly I found myself in what seemed to be an episode of a reality show, with white gowned figures rushing me into a prep-area. They stripped my clothes off me, grabbed a razor, and draped a huge paper sheet with a large square cutout across my naked body, exposing my nether regions to the cold bright world. The razor was applied to the spot where my leg joined my abdomen.
I remember joking with the no-nonsense nurse wielding the clippers. I told her she should at least buy me dinner, since we were now such intimate friends. She winked, looked down at her handiwork and said “It’ll have to be a little snack.”
[Great. Comedians all the way around. At least she’s cute.]
They wheeled me into the Cath-Lab, and after transferring me to a steel table, the cardiologist came in and sat down. I could see part of the bank of monitors above me; they would have made the crew of Star Trek jealous. The doc made a small incision in my freshly shaved skin, inserted a tube, then guided a catheter up through my artery and into my heart. I remember watching the screens, like it was happening to someone else, and thinking it was the most awesome thing I had ever witnessed.
He inserted a small stent—a wire mesh tube that most closely resembles the little Chinese finger trap toys we had as kids, but much, much smaller. He then used miniature balloon to blow up the tube, opening up the blocked part of my coronary artery.
The relief was instant. The weight disappeared and breathing was much easier than it had been only seconds before. I asked if he could do it again, and he just smiled and had the nurse give me more morphine. After that, it all went a little blurry.
I woke up in a room the next morning, with the birds singing outside, and a large bandage covering the incision on my groin. When the doc who saved my life came in, I asked him how serious it had been. He told me that I probably would have survived another day or so, but I should keep in mind the rest of my life was now mine to enjoy, and that I had to start taking daily medications, and start taking better care of myself.
Death had knocked loudly, but—thanks to modern science, a great doctor, and a couple comedians—he hadn’t made it through the door.
It’s been five years since that day. Truth be told, I’m actually a much happier person now. I enjoy the little blessings more, and don’t take anything for granted. Life is short, and it is as sweet as we want to make it, while it lasts.
[I’ll have the rest of mine with a smile, thanks.]
Drugs aplenty. all shapes, sizes and colors were the pills. Cocaine was easily cut and ingested like a fragrent wine longed for. The gold of Acapulco drifted lazily in the air, and distant sounds of laughter rang eeriely strange to my ears.
The party went on for two days before everyone went their own way, and I stepped outside to gain and inhale needed fresh air. My body took on a sweatless chill and felt cold. The earth seemed to rotate on a lopsided axis swaying back and forth, up and down. My vision wasn't clear and things were hard to see. And the ground rose up to greet my face.
I was walking but running, yet never moving. I screamed out loud but never heard a sound. Colors were black and white, and black and white were colors all blending together yet seemingly far apart. I was in a place where squares were circles, and circles were crooked lines. My feet never touched the ground, and the ground was burnt glass. Above me, the sky was black and blue and laced with fire. I was caught in the inbetween.
Thirty-five minutes later, I woke up in the back of an ambulance at the emergency doors of John Hopkins Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, my body dripping with sweat and my mind clouded and confused. What was I doing here? That was when I heard a voice.
"He died thirteen seconds ago. We'll bring the body to the ME for autopsy results."
I died? I died! No, this can't be. My eyes are open. I can see and hear him and I yelled.
One of the two paramedics looked over at me and quickly came to my side. He checked my vitals as the back doors of the ambulance opened and there stood two other doctors with surprising looks on their faces, but none more surprised than me.
That day, May 16, 1974, changed my life forever. It was the day my life was reborn.
A smoldering blackness descended upon me, wiping away all the faces I knew, the places I've been, and where fear, pain and love disappeared. And I was again clothed in death.
September 18, 2017, I had a heart attack. No warning signs. No numbness. The attack came swiftly. Until that one day, I felt and looked healthy. I did all those things anyone else under normal circumstances would. Nothing flashy, nothing daring, just every day stuff. But on that day, my life changed and rearranged forever. A triple bypass surgery.
My days of dancing from dusk to dawn ended. My days of passion hour upon hour, faded. I gave into this visage as a reminder I am no longer the man I once was.
Therapy, proper treatment and regular visits to the doctor over time however, I began regaining some of my former form and a renewed excitement that I can dance from dusk to almost dawn, that passion has returned to a good degree, and the balance of life has been set equal.
Yet, I have learned to take nothing for granted. Twice I have gotten away from death's clutching hands, and for that I am forever grateful. They say third time is the charm, and when it comes, I will be ready. Besides, the thought of living forever, quite frankly, scares the hell out of me.
Vortex of Fear
The red crimson sky rained fear in Clifton Heights, the day the lunatic James Paxton, who killed a family of four, a few years back was set free. The small town with a couple of thousand residents, was paralyzed in shock, terror, and disbelief. People wondered how he was allowed to roam in the streets once again. Better yet, they demanded, why was he even freed to see the lights of a day? How did a person, who had committed a gruesome crime was permitted to leave a maximum-security prison, before his capital punishment was carried out?
Nobody knew anything.
Everyone was left in the darkness with the shocking news. Even the court system had no answer, but we didn’t want him on our streets. Yet, we could not possibly do anything either. His record said that he was released as a free man by the state. He must’ve slipped through the new lottery releasing system, which signed into action by the new governor, who wanted to reduce an overcrowded prison system. Otherwise, James Paxton shouldn’t have been someone who was supposed to live one day on earth.
During the trial, James didn’t hire nor wanted a public defendant, for he chose to represent himself. He pleaded guilty right off the start. When he was asked to say something about his premeditated and heinous crime, he spoke not a single word. The state gave him enough time and opportunities to present his case, so he could convince the jury to at least avoid the death penalty. However, he did nothing nor showed remorse, when the prosecutors exhibited the jurors with the horrifying images of the families, whom James had murdered.
The trial took a couple of months. Since the jurors didn’t hear anything from the defendant, or saw James having any guilt or remorse to what he had done, after a week of deliberation, they rendered a guilty verdict in first-degree murder on every count. Six months later, the sentencing judge granted the state’s original request of the death penalty. James, therefore, was sentenced to die in the electric chair.
When he should’ve been executed, then how did he manage to wander in the streets of Clifton Heights, once again?
No one knew.
A few months went by, and nothing happened. No encounters of any kind or actions were taken against James, nor he did do anything suspicious. Instead, he began living a normal life like regular people. We, the town people, however, remained on high alert, for we decided to kill him if he made one more mistake; he deserved nothing less than death.
Those few months turned into a couple of years. James seemed like a rehabilitated man and was doing well for himself, as the town still remained on the brink of paranoia and fear.
One day, I was going home alone at night. Somehow, I could not shake this feeling that something terrible was going to happen to me. I didn’t know where that shaky feeling came from, but I felt a butterfly in my stomach, a sudden vortex of fear swirling inside of me. My mind felt numb and confused. James wasn’t in my mind that day, not even for a second like he has been since he’s left prison.
I didn’t want to drive my car or take any public transportation. I had never believed in superstition before that day, but my gut told me to avoid anything that could easily involve any kind of accident. Thus, I decided to walk home. The good thing was I wasn’t far from home, and the weather wasn’t that bad either.
By the time I approached the dark tunnel that leads to our town, it was bright. In the quiet and dark tunnel that stretched for about two miles, there wasn’t a single light bulb installed. So, I used my phone’s flashlight until I could reach the other end of the tunnel. As I got closer to the end of the tunnel, suddenly I felt something sharp stabbing me on my right ribs and neck. I felt an excruciating pain shooting into my fearful mind, which left me speechless and breathless. I fell to the ground. A few seconds later, when I regained some consciousness, and looked around, there was James, smiling at me as he held a blood-stained shining knife. He said something, but since I was in a complete shock, I couldn’t conjugate a word he said. All I felt was fear turning my eyes red and gushing blood pouring out of me like rain.
I could barely see. But, I saw that James wore a dark suit, with a white shirt and a dark tie. Amidst my life and death experience, I wondered about his appearance. He seemed calm and put together. He looked very sharp. As I tried to make sense of everything, I saw him taking off his coat jacket, and folding the sleeves of his shirt. Then, he rushed towards me. He seemed confident and in control. Right at that moment, I knew that he wanted to end me and erase my existence. I clenched my fist and shook off my fear when he tried to thrust the knife into me again; I stood up and was able to jerk the knife away from him. Then, when he least expected it, I kicked him in his groin so hard. As he tried to grab onto his pain, with the fibers of my being and the strength left in me, I swayed my body and pushed him forcefully and watched him hit the ground. I quickly jumped on top of him and drove the knife into his chest like a dagger. I pulled out the knife and stabbed him a few times until he could no longer move. I observed him closely while standing on his body. I tried to feel his breath, but he was soundless and gone, dead as he should’ve been a long time ago.
During the struggle and process, because I lost so much blood, I fainted and fell on the ground. I felt my body kissing the floor. When I closed my weary eyes in that cold night, I only remembered a siren of an ambulance and a woman’s soft voice that said, “He’s going to make it!”
The next day, I found myself in the intensive care unit, hand-cuffed to a bed, stitched up and bandaged, and breathing through a tube which was attached to my soaring neck.
In time, I recovered from the attack, even though the wounds took long time to heal. Later on, I was charged with a homicide, but fully acquitted for self defense as a justifiable homicide.
The Woman of the Sunset
I have encountered a great many things.
I have encountered thieves and magicians, crooks and heroes, people rich and poor and wise and ignorant. I have encountered renowned scientists and scorned ones, and I have listened to them both. I have lived many lives, one for each person I have ever met.
It is a strange thing, to reach out for someone's hand. To watch them bare their soul to you, unknowingly. The moment of contact, my last sense of grounding before I am falling into them. It is a much more natural thing to brush against skin accidentally, grabbing an arm when I trip on the subway, sinking into memories.
I am a strange thing, but that has never bothered me.
Thousands of lives have been mine, but there is one that always eluded me. The Woman of the Sunset, she was called, in whispers from voices no one but me would believe. She was said to read a soul with the touch of a hand, to bring death with a breath and return it with the next, a goddess of change come to walk the earth. In short, she was the closest I had ever found to someone like me.
I did not have a name like hers. I had lived dozens of lives before I could force my infant mouth to speak; I knew the value of silence. No one had ever known my secret, and no one had asked. Disappearing is a simple act. I can talk to a shopkeeper about my daughter, to a friendly mom on the train about my grandfather, to a temporary coworker about my oldest sibling, and then I will return home to a house that will always be empty save for me. There is nothing to ask about, so no one asks.
Of course we did. I had been chasing the Woman of the Sunset for years and years, I knew every step she would take before she took it.
I followed her for over a week in Barcelona, a month across the Southern part of Africa, a fortnite in the suburbs surrounding Shanghai, but when we met, it was in Los Angeles.
The City of Angels welcomed us. She sat down for dinner, and I sat opposite her, and she did not say a word, but she did smile.
She was beautiful.
She was terrifying.
I was also both beautiful and terrifying, but beauty and fear are masks that will always be hard to see through. No amount of experience could allow us to see each other clearly from across a table. She did not offer me her hand, and I would not have taken it.
"Well met," she said over dessert, after a meal of silence. I left my spoon balanced on the side of the plate to look at her. She looked back. We both saw nothing.
"To you as well," I said.
"You have questions."
"You will answer them."
"Dependent on content."
"No," I said. "You will answer them."
She tilted her head, as if she would see me clearer from an angle.
"How long has it been since anyone asked something about you?" I pressed.
A long silence.
"You're right," she said. "I will answer."
There was no world beside us. The table was inconsequential, the dinner just a game, the whole conversation just foreplay for the most important night we would ever have. Two souls stared at each other to see whose would blink first.
"Are you Death?" I asked.
She looked surprised. She looked confused. And then she laughed, and it all crashed back, the half-eaten plate of chocolate cake in front of me, the bowl of sorbet in front of her, the noise and the light and the humanity.
"The question, dear stranger," she said, after wiping her eyes on her napkin. "Is this: are you?"
She held out her hand, and I took it. We exhaled, and nothing happened. She was unreadable. I was a mystery.
We went our separate ways.
In the news the next day, I saw her picture along with an obituary. Ava Carden. Just a person, like anyone else, but now dead. Like anyone else. Like the doctor who had first held me, the one facing an abusive husband she could not escape forever. Like my parents, doomed to a car crash days after they first held me. Like my childhood neighbors, victims to disease and disaster just as I knew enough of their secrets to become attatched.
For the first time in thousands of lives, I wondered that I never met the same person twice.