Bathed in the blood of his foes, and covered in a shimmering cloak of shadows. It moved through the night sky— moving much faster than the speed of light. Carefully landing right on the edge of the house on the hill. The front door leading to the house welcomes it in, with what seems to be a shaky temperament. With each footstep it takes, the floorboards creak with a sound like a rubbery squeak, but it does not have any rubber shoes on. It flaps its wings, and prepares to take a much needed rest for a certain amount of time. As it wraps itself in a cocoon, a blanket of smoke begins to fill the air. It starts to wonder where the smoke is coming from. The house is now in flames, and making a mixture of sounds like a cough, back ‘n’ forth as if it’s human. It flaps its wings close to being ready to take off into the starry night, away from the firelight. The smoke starts to cover every corner, and space of the house. Soon every room is colored in grey. It rushes out of the house, & barely makes it out of the house. The flames continue to roar in power forming what closely resembles an image of a phoenix. It gasps, and thinks of taking off again. The phoenix flames rise higher, higher, and higher. Then they flap their wings, and go on a hunt for it. The phoenix flies, and zooms in the air at jet speed. Leaving a smoky trail of dust in the night sky that makes it look like a shooting star. It can feel the phoenix gradually getting closer, closer, & closer. The instance they collide, the two begin to spin like a tornado, until they finally crash into a corn field leaving a trail of burnt corn crops along the path that they crashed. It tries to stand tall, alas, the phoenix holds much greater might. With a final burst of flames, the phoenix hits it. Thanks to the phoenix now it will be able to take a long much needed amount of rest- this time it would be asleep for a really long time. It would now be a part of the ancestral realm, for all eternity.
Music by MINDSTEELNESS
“No one can save us from him…..no one….none at all…none..no one. We are all going to be slaughtered like chickens. It’s time we all get ready to leave, and find safer, ‘n’ greener pastures!” The children had all been tucked in, and were fast asleep. They were dreaming of sheep and other animals that they thought were cute, and fluffy- with soft fur like a rabbit. They had no idea a meeting was being held by some of the older folks in the village. Or that some folks were about to lose their minds from the nightmares they’d been having lately. They’d gathered around in the tiny cottage, and formed what felt like a council of mages, but none had any access to magick, or magickal spells/incantations. One of the elderly folks let out what sounded like a groan. He had enough of the fear surrounding the village like a sea of shadows that kept rising higher, & higher causing much more gloom. The elder pleaded that they needed to ask for help from the being that lived in the odd looking mushroom like cottage. Some of the other folks shook their heads. They were not ready to seek help from a being that they thought would turn them into a toad, or even worse…take over their entire being.. human aura. One of the folks grew restless, and volunteered to seek help from the mushroom being. The rest of the crowd wished him all the best, and the meeting was adjourned…for the time being. Later close to the hour of midnight, the volunteer approached the mushroom cottage. He knocked on the front door, and was greeted by a croon. The volunteer steeped into the cottage, and felt his heart skip a beat. His feet landed in something gooey like slime, or syrup. He tried to move, but the substance soon covered his whole body. The volunteer felt the material slowly make its way into his body. Something foul and syrupy moved through his ears, mouth, nose, and shortly after throat. Then his body fell onto the ground. The being in the cottage stepped out of the shadows, and stared into the volunteer’s face. The last thing he saw was the being muttering something underneath her breath, and a raven suddenly appearing right beside her. They both grinned, and were happy to have another body added to their collection of human souls.
#CORVUS ©️ 02.12.23 Sat’rday
The sounds of the hounds gathering in the distance echoed in the pitch black thick shrubs, and giant Jacaranda trees. Jan ended up not paying attention to where he was going, and was smacked in the face by a branch from an ancient looking tree. He yelped out in pain, but had to not try to let the sound out. Jan tried to not let the tracking beasts end up catching up to him. He continued to ran, almost blindly, because now his vision was getting much more blurry. Jan moved one of his hands toward his face, and felt a collection of something sticky beginning to cover his face. Each time he tried to rub it, or pull some of it away, it ended up just sticking much harder. Jan fell to his knees, forgot about the hounds, & let out a piercing cry. Soon the hounds had managed to spot him, and had surrounded him. They all sprinted toward his body, ready to tear into Jan’s flesh. Jan took a moment to pay attention to where the sounds of howls was coming from. He used his mind to also sense the beasts’ current location in the fog. His eyes were also still covered by whatever the substance was which he figured might have been from the branch that had hit him not too long ago. A few hounds were suddenly face to face with Jan, so close that he could feel their tar and onion like stench through his nose. He felt like his nose hairs would all start to burn from the foul smell. Jan pinched his nose, and continued to focus. He called out to the gods, the ancestral spirits, as well as all the ancient trees to protect him. Thunder rumbled in the sky with a mighty roar like a lion. Lightning flashed around Jan, but instead of striking his body, it struck the hounds. The beasts whimpered, and took off with their tails between their legs. Jan felt the earth begin to quake underneath him. He covered his head, getting ready to be swallowed whole by the earth, but it passed right by him. Then he waited to hear the sounds of the hounds…nothing..and he could not smell them near him anymore. Jan slowly tried to open his eyes, and his mouth formed a wide o in shock. Before his very eyes, he spotted a being that looked like a man, while also somewhat like a Corvus, too. Jan had heard some old wives tales about this being in the village. He had never seen him, or it before. He fell back down on his knees, and held his breath. The being transformed into a raven, and took flight into the dead of the night.
#CORVUS ©️ 02.12.23 Sat’rday
“I need you to hold on…don’t let the daemons win..” Henaru felt her whole being nearly ready to burst into a myriad of pieces. Her hands trembled at the sight of the nightling towering over her child’s bed. She had been trying to keep her child safe from it, but it seemed to have managed to still get a hold of her only kid. It grinned, and then growled at her— with its swirling midnight scarlet eyes- in the mode for taking many more lives. Henaru had heard the voices calling out to her~ warning her to get ready. She grabbed a hold of a collection of odd things from the depths of an old bag that was her great-aunt’s. Her hand had reached for a tiny object which when she pulled it out from the bag, it lit up, almost blinding her. The light shined forth like a golden bright ray of hope, ready to snatch the nightling away from the kid. The nightling writhed in agony, & its body began to burn from the golden bright ray.
30th November 2023.
Adrenaline prepares us to fight or run away. Our pupils constrict for better focus. Our heart rate increases to get more oxygen to our muscles so we can use them in a pinch. Our hair stands up on edge to make us look bigger, back from a time when that mattered.
What happens, though, before our adrenal glands act? That split second between the horrifying and the adrenaline kicking in?
There was a man who feared being bored more than anything else. Boredom is not living, was his credo. Being forced to act is life at its fullest, was his shibboleth, long deserted by the lame, the clueless, and the lazy. He constantly sought perils to make adrenaline.
Let those who bask in infamous serendipity, stumbling on their fatuous timeline, be forgotten. Life is worth living. Use all of your hormones, secretions, and humors!
For his latest thrills, he lost himself in a dark forest, barefoot. He chose the night of the new moon. He went in hungry, thirsty, naked, and horny.
He tread tentatively, not knowing what was underfoot. He heard the scurrying of unseen animals and fluttering from unseen flying insects. He knew there were poisonous things here. He would guess at what was near him by its escape noises.
That was a rodent. Was that a cicada? There was a swoop, probably a bat? Although something might bite or sting or even kill him, he made a good game of it. He walked carefully. But he was bored. He lost his erection.
Then he heard a rustling in the brush. The susurrus grew louder, hissed more forcefully, drew closer, and waxed more ominous. He could sense teeth being bared. He felt vulnerable. He broke out in a cold sweat.
"I live!" he shouted defiantly. His pupils dilated. His piloerectors sprang forth. His heart raced. His blood sugar rose precipitously. Indeed, this was living!
The unseen thing broke tree limbs as it hissed toward him. It made guttural sounds, not prudent warnings, but willful threats. It stopped. He stopped. How can one tell who blinks first in the dark?
His adrenal glands failed. He could neither take flight nor fight.
Something horrible and unseen attacked.
He was pummeled violently; his skin was shredded. Blood flew from his spaghetti limbs to spray the foliage. Teeth tore his face from his skull. He was pinned down and couldn't tell what was more horrifying, the malodorous blast of breath or the pain from nerves bared, ripped, and strafed repeatedly by flailing fury of the sharp, acidic, and bludgeoning.
It paused for a moment, considering him. He was at its mercy. What could he do. His blood was uncoagulable and flowing. He drained, but he lay fully aware.
It began with his feet. The flesh, the metatarsals, tarsals, the heel, the ankle of one leg and then the ankle of the other. He felt everything! His devourer throated noisily its gluttony.
Would he be consumed entirely or piecemeal?
It didn't stop, as if in answer. It was eating him slowly from body part to body part, snorting happily as progress was made.
What scared him most was that he had run out of adrenaline. His glands were burned out, his hormones depleted and unsecreted, and his humors stagnant and immiscible. He was bored to death.
The Homeschooling of Ozzie Jenkins, Jr.
Ozzie was a light sleeper, and he jumped suddenly when he thought he heard a buzzing sound. He had always been deathly afraid of bees, but wasps in particular.
It was a wasp!
In his panic he cut his finger running to the corner of the room. He didn’t have many ancillary items, but always made sure he had on hand the jet stream wasp killer. He reached for it from the cluttered kitchen counter and fired it recklessly at the insect, hitting the walls of his small efficiency apartment, leaving them dripping the poison in several places.
The wasp, now sensing menace, approached circuitously, which made Ozzie panic. He rolled up a magazine as a secondary weapon. It circled him a few times, like a shark circling its prey, then stopped three feet in front of him and hovered right at eye level. This was a warning, a communication, directly between the wasp and him, as the black insect seemed to look him right in the eye. Finally, it homed straight in on him, the spray flying in the insect’s direction but missing. Ozzie swatted the wasp with the magazine, which caused it to fall to the ground, almost too easily. He pounced on it, stomping the small creature ferociously until there were counter-knocks from the apartment below.
“I hate those things!” he shouted, jittery and sweaty. And then, “And I’m not crazy about you, either!” to the tenants below.
He wadded up about three feet of paper towel to pick up the smashed wasp. He examined it to make sure it was dead, and he noticed this was the blackest thing he had ever seen. It reflected back none of the visible world. He let it drop from the paper such that the carcass fell into the garbage disposal. He turned it on for a full thirty seconds.
“God, how I hate those things.” For the rest of the evening he started every time any droning-like sound was heard or imagined. His heart raced, but finally he fell asleep and didn't even dream about wasps.
Ozzie Jenkins, Jr. nearly jumped out of his skin when he noticed the three black wasps that sat on the kitchen counter as he was washing the few dishes he recycled for every meal he ate in his small efficiency apartment.
“What the fuck! Where are these goddamn things coming from?” he shouted. He wasn't in a great state of mind, as his last kill as a contracted hitman was still fresh in his mind.
His skin crawled. They were within inches of him, to his right. When he was composed enough to stand frozen at the sink, he slowly turned his eyes toward them. As he did, they slowly pivoted in unison toward him, choreographed solely for his benefit. This sent a chill down his spine, sensing as he did the team work evident in their stand-off with him. He inched a bit toward his left and, as he did, they did also, moving sideways, each of the three maintaining their relative positions, furthering the eerie effect of a conjoined mission.
Finally, he jumped backwards, away, looking to run for his jet stream wasp-and-hornet killer.
They took to flight, now each taking different airborne paths. They circled around the ceiling as three moving points that defined a plane of terror that tilted this way and that over his head. He misjudged his grasp of the can of poison at first, sending it rolling onto the floor. He slammed his back against a wall and watched their tease, suffering. He planned to make a run for the door, but he remembered it had been dead-bolted. After all, this was a dangerous city. The keys were in a pocket of a pair of pants draped over a chair, and fishing for them would prove impossible before any attack would indeed bear down upon him. The circling of the three wasps seemed to get closer, or maybe the wasps just seemed bigger. He didn’t notice at first because of their motion in flight, but he finally had to look harder at them as there seemed to be an alteration of the air and things seen through the air in the background, in a sphere of distortion around each one. It was not unlike seeing the street background wavering through the hot air radiating from a car hood in the sun. He blinked several times.
He dove for the can, this time successfully procuring it. He fired, but not having taken the time to aim correctly, the spray caught his right eye. He nervously spun the can around, trying to see where the small targeting arrow pointed. He fired again with one hand, his other hand jammed into his blinded right eye. Poison flew everywhere. He cried out, blurting a short shriek of terror. The wasps seemed bigger yet. And blacker—much more deeply black, like the blackest of hearts, reflecting back none of the visible world.
He collapsed on the floor again, putting his hands in the air, swatting furiously. He closed his eyes as he did, but when he opened them, still the right eye stinging, the bees were much too big for any of this to be real.
But it was real. As real as the stings that he was being promised.
He knew this was no dream; but these wasps were no wasps, he thought. They’re worse than wasps, and worse than that, they were wasps, too! His conclusion didn’t even come close to the reality. These were avengers sent from the blackest of a place, the emptiest of a place, a place as inhospitable as a black hole.
He closed his eyes again, determined to never open them again. The three marauders fanned their large wings now, filling the small apartment with the sound Ozzie Jenkins, Jr. hated the most in his life. The drone became fervid and deafening, driving the crumpled man out of his murderous mind. He could stand it no longer and opened his eyes again.
The head of one of the wasps was as big as his, and its face, with its large multi-faceted dark hairy eyes, was only an inch away! Its antennae preened its face, which unnerved him further, because it was such a waspy thing to do for something that just couldn’t be a wasp.
Next, it used its antennae to preen Ozzie’s face. He suffered its fleeting, flickering touches as his heart pounded madly. Might it burst?
Ozzie shimmied up his wall, but the insect beast mounted him, its added weight bringing both back down to the floor. Ozzie Jenkins, Jr.’s immortal soul suffered some of his scheduled Hell during the brief time that the wasps’ antennae now flitted about his face.
The feelers examined every feature of his frozen, wild-eyed, horrified face. Their examination became more forceful until they scratched as they explored, and the man began dying of fright. He felt so much of the fear and panic—the approach and descent of the frenzy of alarm, courtesy of the god of everything. The wasps laughed distortedly through insect mouths. Ozzie cried out again, but now with a sound he would never have thought possible could come out of anyone. He began to feel some skips in his newly arrived heart palpitations.
The wasp on top of him began to use its forelegs to scratch feverishly into his scalp, incessantly, with the unrelenting motion of a mindless insect driven instinctively to accomplish a predetermined goal. This torture continued until Ozzie could hear a different type of scratchy sound, signaling the completion of this step—reaching the bone of his skull. His scalp began bleeding profusely, and the blood poured over his face. With the breach in his scalp so, the monster began another step toward its mission, and incessantly drove its forelegs into the plane, then back out, then back in, in a drilling rapidity, wedging the defect briskly and incessantly until his scalp was completely cleaved away from the bone. The wasp’s saliva burned like alcohol, and he repeatedly had to spit out the bitter blood that rolled into his mouth from above.
The smell of the attackers was of the sickly-sweet smell of their saliva.
Suddenly he felt a terrific searing sensation over his head, and he heard the thud. He looked in horror to see that his scalp had landed on the floor next to him. The burning gave way to a painful cold against his denuded skull.
Am I dead? he asked. He knew he must be in Hell now. Can you be alive and in Hell at the same time?
One of the other wasps began stinging him on his legs, seemingly aimlessly, but the aim improved until each sting demonstrated excellent aim. It repeatedly stung him while the third hovered in flight over him. The tremolo drone provided a horror soundtrack of semiquavers, entrenching him squarely into Hell with all five senses now.
He screamed from the mental torture of tangibly being subjected to the one thing in all of his life he had always carefully avoided. Physically, the stings were excruciating in their own right. He jolted with each barb that was delivered into his skin.
“I thought you could only sting once!” he shouted at last.
That stinging began to move up, while the wasp on him, the one which had scalped him, began scratching ferociously at his very skull. He heard the scraping noise not only with his ears, but also through the bone conduction which radiated the sound so bizarrely.
Suddenly, one particular wasp popped up into the air and reversed itself as it plopped back down, its stinger waving threateningly in front of his harrowed and howling eyes. It tested several areas of his forehead, probing for a suitable spot, then drilled right through the bone. The stinger pivoted this way and that while embedded there, as if to ascertain the correct angle at which to sink it farther in. It stopped the shifting and was still, when Ozzie saw the large, black beast contract at its abdominothoracic joint to drive the stinger home. It entered his brain at a specific target and stung:
Mom is bringing in my birthday cake and setting it up on the table. Julie is two years younger, fourteen, and eager to join in the celebration. She’s so pretty, dark hair and clear blue eyes. She waits, as I do, for Dad to get home. I so want this to go well, after the falling out I had with my Dad the month earlier. He had hit my Mom—I don’t know about what. I dove into it, slapping and punching at him. I was crying, and as he hit me back, he said I was no man with all the cry-baby stuff. Julie never got a single punch in, pushed down onto the floor—I just remember his hairy, powerful arms shoving her away, then rapping at me. He caught my mouth with one of his forearms, and I could taste those bushy forearm hairs, along with the blood from my lip.
I hate this. Why am I reliving this?
“Because it is you. It is what you are,” said a harsh whispered voice that pinned him down with the urgency in its tone.
The last thing he said before he stormed out was, “I’m gonna kill you all, piece of shit family.” Mom didn’t talk for the month until my birthday. Julie arranged it—him to come on my birthday. She told him it would be a good thing to forgive and forget—something simple, just celebrating a birthday. She told him to bring a surprise, just like he used to do in the old days.
“Please no,” Ozzie begged. It was more than just remembering. He relived it, re-suffered it, and now had the particularly terrifying opportunity to anticipate the experience as he relived it. The hissing sibilants, the wasps, did their task expertly. The mounted one retracted its stinger only a bit, and repositioned it with a new sting in a cluster of neurons and inch or two away. Its poison was the neurotransmitter which allowed the memory to replay in real time, connecting the previous episode to the next in that spatially arranged consortium of organic chemicals and electropotentials known as memory.
A surprise. Perhaps his Dad, so disciplined and forthright in his work but a terror in his home, would bring a surprise, just like in the old days. Dad would come in and say, “Here, look what I have for you, birthday boy,” and whip out a treat from behind his back.When the car roars up the driveway, we all stiffen up, uneasy about his arrival, praying the event would be the success Julie set it up to be. There were a lot of bad feelings—so bad that none of ’em could have ever been worked out. Only forgiven. But forgiven and forgotten, too?Never.The door opens. In he walks. My Mom doesn’t say a word. The candles are still burning.
Can you smell that?
I can smell the wax. Julie is crying.“I told him to bring a surprise,” she stutters. His surprise for me and us is an instrument of finality for all of us, then him.“I’m going to kill you all,” had been the last thing out of his mouth, and he didn’t even have a chance to take it back. I dive at him and his surprise, meant for us, goes off and he falls instantly to the ground, stung—felled—with the stinger of the bullet.Julie takes in a deep breath and blows out my candles. No sense making any wishes.
The huge, heavy wasp removed its stinger and then lifted away, that horrible droning adding to the one that hovered all the while, but which now took its place. Like the last one, it fought at Ozzie’s bone furiously with its forelegs, then assumed the stinging position.
“Learn from this, defiler, killer, solipsistic malcontent,” it seethed.
“Learn from what!” Ozzie shouted back. “I’m glad he's dead and gone. I was real happy to kill him. You understand? The gun must have fired by accident—right! Like I’m an idiot or something. The bullet blew his brains out. Who cares! So I’m gonna learn? Yea, I’m gonna learn—from a bunch of bugs!” The third wasp stung him again on his shin. The new one on him drove a stinger into his brain after searching for that right spot.
I’m in the goddamn hospital again, waiting for some doctor to tell me again someone I love is dead. This time it’s Julie. On the fucking corner talking with friends when she went down because of me. Someone wanted me, so they did her. But, yea, they got me, alright. They got me better than anyone coulda got me.The doctor comes out with that goddamn face on him.“Your sister, I’m afraid—” Wham! I slug him. I don’t know why—I just do. About a hundred people pull me off of him. Broke his nose, like it was his fault. And it ain’t. No, it really ain’t his fault. I just hit him—just random hit ‘im. It came out of me for nothing, just like Julie went down for nothing. Random. Nothing in this world really matters. All random. We’re all just bumpin’ into each other. Some of us bump harder, that’s all. Who cares?
“Learn now that you are older. Purge yourself. Suffer and purge.”
“Did you hear me? I said, ‘Who cares?’"
The third wasp, the one who had been stinging him on his legs, now assumed the position. There was a special place in his brain that he wanted to sting:
It’s the dream I’m having after I killed the first time. I can’t believe it. I’m dreaming that I can’t believe it. I ended someone else’s life.That person had plans, didn’t he?How do I know? Just in the way. But here in my dream I feel the shame. Who the hell do I think I am?How dare I? A wife, a baby on the way.Easy. Just in the way. Can’t think about that. Oh, but the shame—must get rid of the shame. I can’t afford to feel like this. Not me. It won’t do. Kill that feeling. Stomp on it like a bug. My dream shows me that I care—but I won’t. I mustn’t.
“But you can,” he heard.
“I won’t!” he shouted out loud.
“You must. Or you sin against God and the universe. It is haughtiness. It is arrogant!”
“I don’t care what it is.”
“You’ve had your chance.” And then the buzzing stopped.
Ozzie Jenkins, Jr.’s eyes darted in all directions. He smelled the lingering toxic perfume of the wasp killer dripping all over the walls. He reached up to grab his head. He shrieked from the pain and brought down his bloodied hands. Horrified, he saw his scalp on the floor. He rushed to the freezer and placed some ice cubes in a bowl. He picked up the scalp and put it in the bowl. When he was wondering how he was going to explain this to the Emergency Department personnel, he spied them. Three dead wasps on the floor—small and lifeless. He cried loudly as he raised his foot over and over to crush them into the linoleum. Again the apartment below banged back, and he stopped.
Four hours later he was back from the hospital. His arm was sore from the tetanus shot, his rear was sore from the thick antibiotic placed there, too. His head was the worst, like it was on fire under the turban of bandaging that covered over a hundred stitches.
“Iffy,” was what the doctor had said, regarding whether the reattachment would take. There was a message blinking on the old answer machine he still had hooked up. He hit the listen button. The message was clear. It was merely a monotonous droning.
He undressed, cursing when he lifted his shirt over his ridiculously bandaged head. Ozzie realized he his homeschooling wasn't over—and he also cursed himself that he was a slow learner.
You can't get there from here
You can't return here from there
Retrace your steps and you'll fear
You can't be anywhere, ne'er
What could these words mean? Who slipped this hand-scrawled paper under my door. Was it a joke? What the hell? Where would I even want to get to from here, as far as this writer knew? Who was it, anyway?
That's when I remembered.
I was at a stoplight when the woman approached me. I refused to roll down my window; it was obvious she was homeless. Even from my peripheral vision I could tell she was wearing rags. I could also tell she was surprisingly plump and well-fed. For a homeless woman. I was tempted to look directly at her, but I held my tunnelvision gaze away, steadfast. It's the only way to deal with the panhandlers. The homeless. The helpless. The clueless.
What did I owe her? Nothing! And where does simple courtesy, owed, cross the line into obnoxious begging? She knocked on my window. I still refused to open it. She shouted to me, but it wasn't an angry shout. It was more of a desperate cry.
"I'm looking for my dozen friends," she shouted through the glass. "Can you help me?" I noted the catercorner light had turned yellow, signaling the pending change to green on my own signal. It was a long five seconds.
"Where is the Odd Fellow Sisters cemetery, if you would be so kind? I'm looking for my sisters. Please!" I didn't even know if I had heard her correctly through the glass. My light turned green.
I knew now I would be off, never to deal with her again, so I finally satisfied my curiosity and turned away from my tunnelvision to look at her.
In the eyes.
Oh, what eyes. It was only a split second, as my foot was already depressing the gas pedal and I began rolling forward.
I've never had someone look so directly at me before. Her eyes pierced mine. And her face was...beautiful. No, beautiful is the wrong word. It was beguiling. Seductive, even. I was almost sorry to drive off. Almost.
But the light was green and a car behind me let me know with an impatient horn. I drove off with something burned into my retinas, as if I had stared at the sun.
You can't get there from here, You can't return here from there, Retrace your steps and you'll fear — You can't be anywhere, ne'er.
I turned the paper over and read how it had been addressed: To the man too busy going to where he was going.
It had to be from her. She had asked me for directions. I had spurned her desperation. The edges of the paper were singed, creating irregular, burned corners. That was, what, spooky?
God, she must have followed me home! How was that possible? I was in a car; she was on foot. I wondered whether she had found her friends — her sisters. And then I wondered not another iota about her again.
I had a life. Things to do. People to see. Places to go.
One of those places was the mall. It was a large mall, and I had a fitting at one of the anchor department stores there. Clothes make the man, and I had to be made that morning. I had started my morning late, so I started with this task, lest the rest of my appointments would fall irretrievably behind. That would never do. I had other places to go and people to meet. Other things to do.
I considered my next appointment on my day's schedule. I walked out of the tailor's area and retraced my steps: to the down escalator, past the mannequins of summer fashions, past the children's shoes.
Where were the large automatic doors that spilled out into the main mall thoroughfare? I stopped at a makeup kiosk counter and asked the young girl there.
"You look so busy," she said to me. "Y'know, going to where your going."
I looked into her eyes and they pierced me, like the homeless woman's had. Or maybe I just imagined it. Was I just horny? Was I just beguiled by any female? I remembered it had been over a year since I had been intimate with a woman. But I was too busy for that. Doing things. Meeting people. Going places.
"I beg your pardon," I asked the woman, dressed in — not black — but as close as you can get to black without it being black. "The exit. I need to find the exit. Can you please tell me?" Her piercing stare continued.
"You can't get there from here," she said, matter-of-factly.
"Excuse me?" But she turned away, engaging her tunnelvision on something else besides me. "Miss?" She spun back around, now sporting a sort of vengeful grin.
"You're an odd fellow," she said to me. Odd Fellow Sisters cemetery — I remembered. "But I'm busy, too," she addeed. "I have somewhere I have to go. I'd like to help you, but I just don't have the time. Who has the time anymore, nowadays?"
"You could have pointed me the way in the time it took just to say that!" I barked at her angrily.
"It's all relative — time, that is, idn't it? My time, your time. They're two different things, quite, aren't they?" And with that she was gone. And quickly.
I spotted a security guard — a woman in uniform. "Excuse me, ma'am, but where's the exit?"
"You need to be somewhere?" she asked. Another piercing stare.
OK, I got it: fate was beating on me. But this had to be a dream, because this type of scenario just didn't happen for real. But it wasn't a dream. You may not know when you're dreaming, but you sure as hell know when you're not dreaming! This was no dream.
Those words slid under my door: You can't get there from here, You can't return here from there, Retrace your steps and you'll fear, addressed to the man too busy going to where he was going. Her dozen sisters. A cemetery, for God's sake! Were her sisters even alive? Dead?
I was lost. I asked person after person. Woman after woman. Man after man. Even shopper after shopper. Until the lights went out.
I was alone.
I bumbled my way from Notions to Housewares to Men's Ties to Boys' Shoes to Ladies Apparel. It was a long night.
The next morning, the shoppers returned. I began my requests anew, but again I was rebuffed by one-sentence karma vehicles. Until another long night returned for me. My clothes were greasy, so I shopped.
I became the best-dressed lost man in the mall. In the world. I may have been desperate, but I looked good.
The next day, the same. The next night, the same. Would I die here? The food court was just a tantalizing one-exit away. The exit? That was funny! I would certainly die here. I would be sunk into the first-floor terrazzo. There would be a plaque:
"The tomb of the unknown shopper."
Then I began having conversations with the mannequins, so I knew I was going mad. They were lost, too. Stationary in one spot, unable to leave. But like me, they were lookin' good!
I was so hungry. So thirsty. How long had it been? How long would I survive? These questions haunted me every evening at closing time when the lights, again, went off, leaving me alone in just the ambient lighting. They haunted me as I mounted my knee-high pedestal and assumed my place, looking good in Men's Suits. I made a great dummy — a great model. I was no longer busy.
I no longer had things to do. Places to go. Or people to meet. I would never get there from here. Ne'er.
Shadows over Sand and Sea
On a day when the sky hung heavy with a blanket of steel-grey, I found myself on a desolate beach. It’s the kind of scene that might evoke peace in the heart of a poet or lure a lover of solitude into its embrace. But not today. Today, something in the air tasted of salt and screams, and it wasn’t the ocean.
There, among the whispering dunes and the sighing winds, sat benches as empty as the hours that must have passed since anyone dared to sit on them. In the distance, a ship loomed like a phantom on the horizon, a harbinger of the forgotten and the forlorn. A thick fog began to crawl upon the shore, slithering between grains of sand, curling around the benches, as if scouting for something lost.
I could feel eyes on me, eyes that had no right to see in this daylight, eyes that hungered. It was then that I heard it: a soft, lilting giggle, a child’s laugh, but with a pitch that curdled the blood. It came from nowhere, or perhaps, it was always there, riding on the air, waiting for a listener.
What fools we mortals be, to think the daylight could shield us from the shadows that crave our warmth, our life. As the ship faded into the mist, so too did the boundaries of reality. The laughter grew closer, louder, now a cacophony of mirthless joy. The sands shifted underfoot, not by the whim of the wind but by the will of something beneath.
The benches, once an invitation, now seemed like a trap. To sit was to accept an invitation from the unseen. To walk away? Perhaps the only sane act left to an insane mind. But sanity had long left this place, where the sea whispered of old wrongs and the sky refused the sun.
The laughter was in my ears, behind my eyes, inside the hollow of my bones. It was then I wrote, not with pen and paper, but with trembling hands and a soul frayed at the edges. For the story isn’t mine to tell; it’s theirs—the ones who watch, who wait, who lure you with laughter to a bench by the sea, where the ship sails in silence, and the fog swallows more than just the light.
It swallows memories, hopes, futures. And as I flee the encroaching mist, the tale spins itself, a web of horror, not spun from spiders but from something far older, something that the sea and sky conspire to keep. A tale of a beach where once you sit, you never leave, lost in a fog that clings like the ghosts of regret. A story that must be told, lest the laughter finds a new listener.
Blood boiled over, and I could taste the coppery red in my mouth, between my pressed lips and sharp fangs as I stared him down. Something about the way he spoke to me, the arrogant demeanor and change in his confidence shook my own. I was certain something in my mind must've flipped, a switch of some sorts, and I was clenching my fists hard. A few mental images flickered to mind of my hands on his throat, nails digging in and I could almost salivate over the prospect of snapping that thick fucking neck on his twig of a body.
"Jacob," I snarled hotly under my breath.
"So sour," he replied with that lax arrogant tone of his, the one that sent spurts of fire through my body, that made it feel like fire was raining down over my skin in hot sputters as the hair arched on the back of my neck. "You're getting so worked up-"
"Don't." I interrupted him, the rage settling hotly in my blood as I tried to simmer it, to turn the heat down, but my eyes went to his pocket, watching the ring dance between his fingers like a toy. The black one that made my heart go cold, and the bird sing so loud in my heart that I almost felt like I was going to break down in tears. I was certain he saw that change in me, he had to have, because his expression shifted and everything took a turn for the worst.
"I know you loved your brother," Jacob mentioned coolly, pausing the ring between his forefinger and middle to look down at it. "And he meant the world to you. I just wanted to give you a memento back. Something small, since I mean... The rest of him is in pieces."
And I snapped. I don't know what occurred first, the guttural scream or my body flinging forward at him. I remember him dodging out of my newly occupied space as my claws raked down the brick wall. I didn't look to see the tear I'd managed to cut through it, like I was raking my hands through polyester fabric with jagged nails. But I do know that the surprise in his eyes at my speed was caught in those marbled blue eyes, the blue eyes I hated so much.
The crowd gathered around in awe. He was back again. No one knew where he had come from, just that one day he seemed to have formed into being, and stepped out from a wave of thick mist that only came once upon a December. The man cleared his throat, and grabbed a stool to place on a wooden stage that he had made for his work. He smiled at the crowd, and then began to slowly thump his feet. Folks continued to gather around to see what this man would do today. Not too long ago, when he first stepped into the village, he had managed to catch all the women’s eyes (both young and old), as well as all the children’s attention, too. He frolicked about like a unicorn, some mystical powerful being, the new guy in town. This made the other guys, and lads hurt. Who did he think he was strolling about like he was Zeus? He did have quite a physique that was much more grander than most of the other guys, and his locs of hair shone bright like a blend of honey & the bright gold sun. This kind of startled the other guys. They did wonder if this guy was one of Zeus’ long lost kid, or he was a demi-god. Not only was he adored by the ladies— even animals liked being right by his side-maybe he was Eros wandering about on Earth, and gracing the folks in Srekampo with his presence. As soon as he began to sing on stage, the women all seemed to forget where in the world they were. The voice of the god-like man drew them toward the stage. They all started losing their minds, going out of control, to the married women’s husbands dismay. Later toward the glowing light of eventide, all the men~ except the stranger, had a meet, and sit down to discuss what to do about the new guy. They nodded in agreement with their plan, and grabbed their pitchforks, torches, anything they could use to take care of the other guy. The men moved as fast as a tiger that was ready to strike its prey. They arrived at the edge of the village, and spotted their target resting by a Baobab tree. One of the men tossed a rock he had picked up from the muddy ground. The rock was tossed right at the stranger’s forehead, but the moment it was close to hitting him, it stopped mid-air. This made the guy who tossed it step back in shock. The other guys now tried to use their pitchforks to tear through the new guy’s flesh. They thought they had managed to hurt him, and then they noticed that they had been only hitting a pile of rocks now. Some of the men felt that maybe they were fighting with a demi-god. They tried to run back toward the village. Something came at full force toward them, nearly causing them to lose control of who they were, or what they had come to do near the Baobab tree. They panicked, and started to scream for help. Meanwhile, all was quiet within the village. The women (both young and old), including all the little children were fast asleep dreaming about the new guy singing, and playing songs to them. The sounds of the men screaming seemed to be drowned out by the sound of wings flapping beside the Baobab tree. They tried to run. With every step they took, their feet kept sinking deeper, and much deeper into the ground. Their bodies began to sink into the mound.
10th November, 2023.