Warnings

Warn me
before you listen to hip hop,
Country one said.

Warn me
before you curse,
Christian one said.

Warn me
before you befriend me,
Aloof one said.

Warn me
before you laugh,
Stoic one said.

Warn me
before you believe,
Atheist one said.

Warn me
before you love me,
Jewish one said.

Warn me
before you trust me,
Brown one said.

Warn me
before you cry,
White one said.

Warn me
before you become,
They said.

Warn me
before you exist,
They said.

Warning you
that I’m done,
I said.

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Noose

There it dangles, the tiny skeleton,
dancing on its tiny noose, haunting me.

It hangs from your rear view mirror,
reflecting the past into the present.

Skeletons are meant to remain hidden
under layers of skin and despair and false hopes.

But you drag them out,
grinning, heckling, getting off on reactions.

Getting off on pain,
you brag about your conquests of physical and psychological and sexual

abuse.

There it dangles, the tiny skeleton
dancing on its tiny noose, haunting me.

Bobbing in front of the mirror,
dragging the horrors of the past, screaming back into the forefront of my mind.

You are the noose,
wrapped around my neck.

Can you see the scars? They linger still,
finger-shaped bruises in a pretty purple painting on my ghost-white neck.

You are the noose,
wrapped around my heart, my mind, my soul,

my past.

You are the noose from which I dangle,
kicking, jerking, clawing at the frayed edges.

I’ll cut this fucker down, one of these days;
I’ll cut you down.

And then I’ll take those frayed bits and fashion the noose anew,
giving it a new home around your splotchy, bloated, corpse-like neck,

fathermine.

~

P.S. A big fat thank you to everyone who offered up ideas and made banners for me. I’m saving all of them and may rotate them out from time to time. Y’all rock my socks. All the damn time.

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

She awoke with a gasp, bolting upright in bed. Gathering the soft fabric of her nightgown about her neck, she clutched tightly and frantically searched the room.

No. The room was devoid of life, aside from herself. And Darkness.

She tried this every night, to no avail. Every time she woke from these furtive but desperate attempts, only Darkness and her own haggard panting greeted her.

They were partners in an arranged marriage. One she didn’t want to be in, but Darkness was insistently insidious.

~

The visit to the weathered old woman was a pointless endeavor. Give up. That’s what the old woman had said. “You’ll find no light there, no redemption. This isn’t hope; it’s desperation. Stop now before it’s too late.”

If the old crone wouldn’t help her, she’d go it alone.

From that day forth, she spent every day in bed. Flat on her back, hands clasped over her heart, she sank into a trance state.

Through the void, she reached, fingers grasping at the viscous mass of nothing. But they found no purchase; what she sought simply wasn’t there.

For days she was like this, until finally. Finally, something happened.

~

She stood at the foot of the bed looking down upon her own sleeping form. The brief flutter of hope immediately crushed under the weight of what had actually happened.

She had peered too long into the darkness, mining its depths for some glimmer of light. Only now did she realize she had faced the wrong way.

Of course! There is no light in Darkness. Darkness is the very absence of light, cast aside by it. It was all consuming of those who plumbed its depths for answers to futile wishes.

And now? Now?

She was Darkness.

~

By the time the reclusive woman was found some months later, her corporeal form had withered into a corpse.

Only Darkness remained. Insistent. Insidious. Lifeless.

The Iron Horse

She could hear the faint groans of life stirring from the master bedroom.

“Fuck. He’s awake.”

With a heavy sigh, she struggled to turn her head toward the window. She could hear his soft approach, the door squeaking open. Will he ever fix that fucking squeak?

“How do you feel this morning? Ready for breakfast?”

“Would you just leave me alone? I can’t bear this ritual anymore.” Why must he torment me so?

“Look at me, Clara. Can’t you even look at me?” His soft touch caressed her cheek, brushed her hair back.

Her reply was less biting this time, her voice suddenly soft, tears streaming down her cheeks to wet the pillow. “I can’t stand for you to see me this way.” Please don’t look at me.

“How long will it take for you to realize I’m not going anywhere? Nor do I want to. How long will it take for you to see the richness of life still in your grasp?”

He realized his mistake as soon as it escaped his lips.

“Heh, my grasp. My grasp?!” Her eyes flitted down toward her motionless hands, then up at him.

“I’m sorry, Clara.” He cocked his head to the side, eyes suddenly flashing. “No. You know what? I’m not sorry,” he said in a stern voice. She couldn’t remember the last time this gentle man grew so stern. “I’m not sorry at all. I’m done tiptoeing around you, and you’re done existing this way. This is no life.”

She gasped as she looked up at him, eyes surprised as the tears slowly dried. He continued, “Right here. Right now. You make a choice. Are you going to live? Or are you going to die? If you want to die, you know she’ll do it. I can call her right now, and a simple injection will end it all. You have that right. But if you’re to live, things change. Starting right now. So what’s it gonna be?”

She eked out the barest of whispers, “Live.”

“I. Can’t. Hear. You.”

“Live. I want to live.”

He stooped over, draped her arm around the back of his neck and carefully lifted and carried her to the wheelchair. He smacked the wheel nearest him and smirked, “You think I haven’t heard you call this a fucking prison? This, my dear girl, this is your freedom. This is your steed. Your iron horse.” He wheeled her down the hallway, through the living room and carefully out the front door and onto the porch. “Now. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do?”

“Everywhere,” she whispered. “Everything.”

“That’s my girl.”

The Reckoning

After descending thirty floors beneath the surface, they approached the smooth, plain white wall – everything a muted but austere white, impersonal and utilitarian. A hidden panel slid open with a flick of his hand.

The coolness of his palm pressed into her back as he ushered her to a bank of monitors that stretched further than she could see. Without a word, he released her restraints and gestured toward the first one.

Gently, hesitantly, she pressed her right palm flat to the screen, and slowly the smooth black surface revealed its intent.

~

The thirteen year old girl stood tall and proud. It seemed a foreign thing to her, standing like that. A combat staff, taller than the girl, leaned upon her shoulder as she wrapped her hands and wrists in layers of thin, white fabric.

Taking the staff in hand, she assumed a perfect combat stance. Her feet, wrapped in the same material as her hands, planted firmly on the planks.

A boy, three years her senior, approached her from behind. She knew who it was by his footfall. She didn’t turn, instead holding her position. He was studying her stance, her breathing, gauging the levels of her strength and confidence, her nervousness.

Coming round to face her, their eyes met as he began his assessment, “Well done; you’ve surpassed my expectations, and in such a short time at that.”

She tried not to focus on the nearness of him, the way his bright blue eyes pierced into her. She remained silent, expressionless and alert, her gaze unwavering.

Arching his left brow, he smirked, “Alright, tough stuff. But are you ready for them?” He nodded toward the wings, and a trio of stout boys padded out in v-formation, staffs at the ready. They looked experienced and displayed natural, unstudied assurance.

She rocked slowly, measuring her breaths and waited for their approach.

~

The woman released her hand from the monitor and looked down at her feet, whispering, “It was you, wasn’t it? Henry. You’re Henry.”

“Why did you quit?,” he quietly implored. “You were good, a natural. You took all three of those boys, made it look easy. Why didn’t you come back?”

She slowly looked up and into his eyes, hers welling with tears, “I couldn’t. I didn’t believe in myself. I may have been a good fighter, but you were a family. I was an outsider. I could fight, but I couldn’t do the rest of it.”

“You mean you wouldn’t,” he softly accused. “Not for me. Not for you. Not for anyone.” He ushered her to the next monitor, took her wrist and placed her palm upon it.

“Keep watching.”

Dear Diary (A 100-Word Story)

June 1

Something is wrong.
The earth blooms on June 1, every year.
It has always been so, at least since man stopped aging.
Until today.

June 8

The snow piles higher than I’ve ever seen, in any season.
I’ve spent the last eight days shoveling around the place, but the blizzard refuses to abate.

June 20

I climbed atop a pile of crates stacked in the center of the room.
Shoved my way up the chimney.
There are footprints in the snow.

July 2

I’ve loaded all three shotguns.
I drank the last of the elixir.
Now I wait.
I am ready.
Are they?

Pluck You

There you sit, all high and mighty.
You think you’re better than me.
Don’t bother trying to deny it.

I see your sneers of derision.
I hear your whispered plans.
I know you would see my end.

What, you thought I didn’t know?
That I’m not one of the chosen ones?
Hand-selected to exist alongside you?

How foolishly blind you are.
Look at how you must coddle them:
The beauty of your haughty friends comes at a price.

You want them to be with you,
But they resist at every turn, don’t they?
They make you work for their charms.

Yet here I stand, so proud and strong,
Weathering the storms of life
And the destruction of man.

You hunt me down, murderously plucking me from existence.
But you haven’t heard the last from me.
I am far stronger and more persistent than you.

I’ll be back, you sanctimonious prick; I’ll be back.
And this time?
This time, I’m coming for you.

image

 

Pluck me, will you?
No, no.
Pluck You.

Dance Me to the End of Love (In Another Life)

Alone in the dark, you found me.
You said you were waiting for me,
Or someone like me.

Alone in the dark, I found you.
You walked out of my dreams.
And sat at the corner table in the back.

You looked so lonely, but you weren’t alone.
Music kept you company,
Lady Sennheiser singing in your ears.

Roulette Dares
Turning Kind of Blue
In Bliss from Visions of Johanna

I recognized you;
You recognized me.
Our fates were meant to collide.

The scent of rain infused the air.
On a wet sidewalk, glimmering under streetlamps,
We shared a kiss that stopped time.

We fucked on the sofa,
Made love on the floor,
And merged our souls beneath the stars.

You were my soul’s delight,
My heart’s desire,
My mind’s welcome torment.

Our passion unrivaled,
We fused into one.
The universe looked on in awe.

But it wasn’t enough.
I couldn’t compete
With the life you already had.

Our demons clashed,
Our souls in torment;
We wept more than we laughed.

But I can still hear your words in my ear.
They keep me warm at night.
I’ll meet you, my dear; I’ll meet you again.

In Another Life.

Daddy (A Guest Post)

Today’s post is another short story by Tomás. I think this is my favorite piece of his fiction that I’ve ever read. I specifically requested that he allow me to publish this one on the blog. So you better fucking like it! I mean. Wait. I’m posting this on someone else’s behalf, so I should probably be nicer. But I haven’t posted in a while, and I’m grumpy. So I had to throw a “fucking” in here. You know how it is.

The point is. Forget I said anything. Cleanse your brainmeat of my nonsense and read. This story gives me chills. Does it give you chills, too?

~

DADDY
by: Tomás

The Brook trout clutched in his hands offered one last twitch. It was dead. Blood oozed out of each gill and dribbled over white knuckles like warm chocolate syrup. Eyes bulged slightly as Joey gently squeezed. Nobody was around, but Joey spoke anyway, it kept him company.

“You sure are neat. You feel all cold and warm and slimy-dry all at once!”

The pines began to sway.

“You keep me safe till Mommy comes back,” he said. “I hope she’s not mad about you, Daddy.”

Daddy didn’t answer, only floated silently.

An afternoon drizzle began to coat the land in grey. Joey cocked his head.

“Sounds like bacon cookin.”

Joey’s gaze followed a bobbing trail of polished sticks and grass out across the ripples of the lake. A walkway to the island.

“Do ya’ think Daddy’ll get to that island?” Joey asked his prize, holding it up to his face. “It’s so far…must be a zillion miles out there.”

The frying in the water grew louder.

The pulsing in his arms began to nag. Joey looked down. The marks looked like those funny bushes on the shore, red and brown and green. He didn’t like those colors. Ms. Hill always told him he couldn’t see colors well anyway. Joey hated that. He hated her.

“Doesn’t matter,” he said. He knew colors, Daddy told him what they were. Daddy used to tell him everything.

“Where are the birds at Daddy? Why aren’t they singing?”

Daddy didn’t answer, just bobbed along the path.

The circular cliffs around the lake started singing. Joey remembered whistling with his toys in the bathtub. “This isn’t a tub,” he said. “It’s a crater. That’s what Daddy called it, Crater Lake.  Crater Tub.” Joey saw the high cliffs turn into white ceramic tub-stuff. The water didn’t quite go to the top, only half way. That’s good. He would’ve got in trouble for wasting bath water. “Too much is a waste,” Daddy always said.

Joey laughed as he jumped out of the lawn chair and started down the path near the lake.  Winding through giant pines, Joey felt like he was in a crowd at Daddy’s work, all legs, no faces. Everyone just too tall to care.

“We better hurry and get inside,” he said to his little friend, “Mommy’ll spank us if we get too wet.”

Cleaning Up The Wreckage (A Guest Post)

Today’s post is a short story written by a dear friend. He doesn’t have a blog and lacks the time to maintain one for now, so I’ve told him my space is open to him any time he wants to share something he’s written.

Enjoy, my friends.

~

CLEANING UP THE WRECKAGE
by: Tomás

Ponderosa-1-640x400

“What a fucking mess!”

John couldn’t believe what he’d done to his wife’s car. The SUV had rolled six or seven times, skidded down an embankment and wrapped around the base of a Ponderosa. Bits of metal and glass, bumpers and mirrors and streaks of black paint left a trail of destruction several hundred feet along the road. A BMW symbol, seemingly unharmed and glinting in the sun, lay perfectly centered on a yellow hash mark, as if placed there for the opening frame of an uppity car commercial.

He chuckled.

“Figures,” he muttered.

After realizing he was sitting on the side of the road, he stood and surveyed himself. Not a scratch. No blood. Just foggy. He couldn’t find a bump on his head but figured he must’ve been out for a few minutes, given the amount of steam and billowing smoke that had reached the tops of the massive pines.

“Thrown just in time.”

He felt strange talking out loud to himself, but the sound of his own voice was comforting after seeing the wreckage. Smoke trailed up out of the mangled hood and into the pine canopy above, and the acrid smell of antifreeze and oil sizzling on the engine block made him a little nauseated.

“Holy shit! John, you lucky sonofabitch!”

“You were one lucky sonofabitch,” said a voice to his right.

“Jesus Christ, you scared me!” John blurted out.

“You really shouldn’t swear…not after what happened to you,” said the stranger.

“You’re fucking kidding me, right?!”

“Quite serious, but I understand given your situation. How are you feeling?”

“Okay, I guess. A little groggy. But fuck. Fuck! Look at the car! She’s going to be pissed. That was a gift…it was supposed to help. Fuck.”

John wasn’t sure what to make of the stranger. Jet black, buzz-cut hair. Scruffy face. The kind of face featuring a permanent 5 o’clock shadow’ and gracing the cover of GQ Magazine. Red plaid shirt. Khaki shorts. Hiking shoes. A real life Eddie Bauer ad. And those Eyes. Piercing, drill-through-you blue eyes.

But…middle of nowhere on Highway 97 and here’s this dude. No car? Walking?

“Where the hell did you come from?”

“I was camping just up the road, off about 100 yards,” the stranger lied, pointing back up the road. “I am all over these woods. ‘God’s Country.’ Isn’t that what you locals call it? I like that. I heard the crash, thought I would come talk to you.”

Talk to me?

The stranger’s voice was calming, soothing. The words emerged from the chiseled jaw line, unblemished teeth, just so. Metered. Precise. A voice for radio. A face for movies. Grown in a damn lab. Guys like this. She wanted a guy like this.

The two stood together, a momentary silence, staring at the mass of mangled steel and debris field. John, arms crossed. The stranger, hands in pockets.

“It’s coming now,” said the stranger.

“What’s coming?”

“The ambulance. I can hear it. From Chemult.”

“I don’t hear anything,” said John. “How can you hear that?”

“Don’t worry; that crash rattled your cage. They’re coming. They’ll be here soon. How long do you want to stick around, John?”

“The fuck are you talking about? It’s an accident scene. I can’t just walk off!”

“Okay. No problem. It’s normal. I can wait.” The stranger shrugged, hands still in his pockets, never pulling his gaze from the wreckage.

“You’re freakin’ me out a little bit. I don’t even know your name and you’re goddamn freakin’ me out!”

“Call me Mike. And please, don’t swear.” There was an emphasis on don’t that John didn’t like, almost threatening, parental but vague enough not to be.

“Mike it is.”

John wanted to forget the last request, no swearing. 30 miles, middle of nowhere between Crater Lake and Chemult, and I crash by the only weirdo in the woods, thought John. Fuckin’ figures.

“Wait a minute, Mike. You called me a ‘lucky sonofabitch.’ And you want to lecture me…Now…about swearing?”

“Come on, John,” Mike scoffed. “Sonofabitch isn’t swearing. I could’ve just as easily called you one lucky fucker.”

A North wind cut down between the tree walls on either side of the highway, filtering through the needles like so many wind instruments, laden with the scent of high mountain air and pine. Smells and sounds that always made John feel alive. Lying with his wife in the hammock, listening, feeling. That was supposed to last forever, those times. Arguing not three months before with his father-in-law about the height of those trees. Impossible 200 foot giants that Midwesterners couldn’t fathom, but were happy to argue about at family gatherings when decisions about moving away were assumed to be up for discussion. John and Samantha moved to Oregon to make things better, start anew, make things whole again. The trees were just a bonus.

Sirens cut John’s meandering memory short, and he looked up the road to see a string of emergency vehicles speeding toward them. The two stepped back into the pumice on the side of the road to avoid the rush.

A flurry of activity and voices erupted, clangs of doors slamming and equipment banging. Two men opened the side door on the pumper truck, quickly pulling out a giant set of tin snips and rushing to the side of the wreckage.

John had never actually seen the Jaws of Life, only heard them referenced in news stories. He barely paid attention to those stories, always with half of his attention on the news, half on some trivial argument that Sam was carrying on, that he was avoiding.

His stomach turned to a fist as he remembered, understood what those were for. A wave of heat cascaded from his head, down his body as realization began to overtake him, spreading through his veins to his fingers and toes. He lowered his head, his plight beginning to reveal itself, and he noticed the pumice beneath their feet. Thousands of years of fine pumice ash on the roadside always makes for interesting shoe prints, puffs of cloud lingering when hiking or stepping. He realized: no puffs.

“No prints,” he murmured, looking over at Mike.

“No, John. No prints today.”

“Is Mike short for something?”

“I don’t like to be formal. It makes people feel uncomfortable.”