MADNESS IN SPACE

It was just past midnight, though just past midnight could have easily been three in the afternoon from my window seat. Up there, in space, there were no real indicators of time. Our on-board clock had run out of batteries, and our watches were dead or off the preset time we had agreed to, as watches are wont to do. For all we really knew, it was in fact three o’clock. But as a crew we had decided that it was midnight, so that was the time I was sticking to.

The crew had composed of myself, James, Raymond, and Tanya. James had gotten caught up back in the Mars raid, which had just left Ray, Tany, and me. It was now down to just me. All the lights had gone out, and we were free flying through the nothingness, at a few thousand miles per hour. Tany’s body was off in the freezer. She had gotten locked in, and Ray hadn’t found her before it was too late. Ray’s body was down in cargo hold. He’d been out of his suit when the room destabilized and the air was wrenched from his lungs. At least, that’s what the records would show, and that would be my story if I ever made it home.

We had run low on food and water. Our hasty escape meant we couldn’t power up to full speed before power was shut off, and the trip would like take nearly four times the length we had expected. We had enough supply for three to make the trip at normal speed, plus a little for safety, but not enough for three people to make it going this slow. Plus, greedy Ray had decided to snipe the extra food barrels on the trip out. But with the extra food I had now, I would just barely get there, though I might have to go a few days without food. Tany knew that would be the case too, but she and Ray had been too close to each other to actually make a move. So I had.

In another hour, Ray’s body would spoil though, and I wasn’t going to take any chances on running out of food early. Not with all this good meat here. But I wasn’t quite ready to move yet. The twinkling light of the stars, like ten million glaring eyes, looked too beautiful to leave unseen. I wonder if, to them, we were just a star floating along out here too. So I sat there, looking out into the stars for a while, wondering how this madness had come to pass.

——

 

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UNDERWATER (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Underwater

Underwater light

looks like glass sheets shattering

over and over.

 

Oceans of Green

Winds of nostalgia

smell like the waves of the sea

between blades of grass.

 

Winter Freeze

Wisps of the winter

run shivers through earthen spines.

Huddle close to me.

 

Rock Quarries

Kindred quarries house

a brotherhood of boulders

awaiting freedom.

 

Treasures on Trees

Who has need for gold

when trees provide the treasures

of life in their fruits.

——

 

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DREAMS OF THE FAIR

This week I had a dream that I was trying to go to the fair. The ticket booth, which was the only was to get in, was on a dirty covered hillside, behind a row of strangely placed buildings. There was no parking near any of them—the closest parking had been up at the top of a plateau, about half a mile up from the ticket booth. There were pine trees scattered about and another half-mile past you could see the fair. I had gotten in line behind a few slow moving people. I think I had been trying to meet my little brother, my older sister, and my father there.

The fair itself looked quite a bit more spectacular than the local one we get. There were dozens of rides that rose above the walls, and off to the east there was a strange roof that appeared to be made of water, which had reflected light through it in the way that a pool does. It was so exciting—and frustrating, because the line hadn’t moved. There were only a few people there. I remember thinking, Why are people so inept? before I actually decided to look around and see what was going on.

The line had three people ahead of me, all of them were elderly and white. So white, they looked as though they had bathed in a tub of bleach. All of them were wearing strange clothing. One, a woman, wore a big yellow rain coat, and massive rain boots to match. In front of her was a man, dressed in an all-grey track suit, with a pair of running shoes that had been so worn they were beginning to fray. The last person was dressed in a light green sundress, though I couldn’t distinguish if they were male or female. But they were certainly grey haired and wrinkly.

All of them were looking down, and the young woman in the ticket booth was looking beyond confused. She had called “next” several times, though even I hadn’t heard her say it until I saw her. I skipped ahead of the line when I realized nobody else was moving. When I began to walk past each person, the elderly people slowly raised their heads in disdain, but none of them moved to stop me.

I don’t remember speaking to the girl, nor getting inside the fair, yet somehow I’d made it there. I was in the water-roofed room. The ceiling had no glass, but somehow, as if by magic, the water was all suspended in the air. It was a beautiful sight, like the spirit of vacation incarnated. And it was the last thing I remember seeing before I woke up.

 

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PEOPLE WATCHING IN PARIS

I spent the afternoon at a small café in Paris, which could hardly fit the family two tables down from me. They had a string of three children toppling off the edges of the red backed booth—two girls and a boy. The girls were older, in matching pink dresses, and the word that ran through my mind was “starbright” when I saw their smiles. The boy, on the other hand, was more stoic than a Buddhist meditating, as if had been shot with 20 CC’s of chill-the-fuck-out by his parents. He wore a red t-shirt and navy blue shorts, and had donned a matching navy blue baseball cap.

Their mother was a tall, lanky woman, with thin arms, thin legs, and a thin waist—one she clearly paid careful attention to maintain. Her daughters were the spitting image of her: tall for their age, strikingly blonde, and beautiful. But where their smiles were bright and full of happiness, their mother’s was full of anguish, as if nothing could have annoyed her more than going out with her family that day. To contrast, their father was the height of personable. He had kept the waiter around for minutes, prying the youth out of his shell until they were both cracking jokes, and before long the manager had to pull her employee back to work.

They came and went, and I sat, drinking my coffee in the sunlight. It was a cool day, where a few minute indoors could leave you chilled, but a minute outside would melt the ice right off your backside. A good day to be people watching. The beautiful maids in sundresses walked around less in a step and more in a dance, and their partners never seemed to have the same sense of rhythm about them. They looked a bit too porcelain for my taste, but lovely nonetheless. I was particularly struck by the elderly couple that passed by when I took the last few sips of my drink.

I had never seen a couple with more swagger make their way down la rue. They were both in exceedingly white clothing, bleached to the point of blindness, save for matching pairs of Aviator sunglasses, which covered their eyes entirely. Unlike most elderly couples, there was nothing feeble about how they moved—they might as well have been going to the gym to beat up on some college athletes. Their grim expression was fitting a pair that had survived a world war, and didn’t hope to survive into another. But they too came and went, and my mug was finally empty. I left a couple notes on the table, beneath my cup, grabbed my bag, and started walking home.

——

 

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ETERNAL PEACE (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Fall Arrives

The spiraling leaves

fall like a patterned sunset

in the autumn sky.

 

Wet Panic

I hear the wind chimes

scream in a wet panic

from the storm outside.

 

Eternal Peace

A broken Buddha

lists off, half buried in dirt;

serene as ever.

 

Butterflies Abound

The butterflies weave

between the fingers of air

like playful lovers

 

Burnt Out

Melted candles wax

drips like hot blood from the wrists

of this dead marriage.

——

 

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DREAM LOOP

Today’s dream (or rather, last night’s dream) plays with something of normalcy, which is something that seems to occur regularly in my dreams, which is perhaps why I’ve struggled to remember them for so many years. Here it is:

 

I woke up, for the first time, or perhaps the millionth, gasping for breath. My room was dark, but the beam of light peaking out between my window curtains signaled to me that it was well into the morning. I took a brief look around, when suddenly the door burst in and my father was there, spewing some nonsense about getting out of bed and doing my chores. I couldn’t really make it out, but his tone of voice was clear enough. I sprung to my feet, threw a pair of shorts on, pulled a shirt over my head and walked through the door…

…then sat up gasping for breath again, again, for what felt like the first time, but may have been the millionth. At the time, I had no memory of what happened prior, just as many fail to remember their dreams moments after waking. This time there was a scratching at the door, likely from one of our cats. They would occasionally scratch, asking for food—or occasionally freedom. I opened the door, and saw Twilight, our black cat, staring up at me with great green eyes. I walked her to the door to let her out front, the pitter-patter of her feet were as light as snowflakes falling. I twisted the nob, watched her exit, then figured I’d grab myself a quick bite to break my fast. I took two quick steps to the fridge, opened the door

and again was gasping for air in my bed.

 

But this was where the dream ended. My eyes opened, and the world felt that slight twinge of real that distinguishes it from even the most vivid dreams. What does it mean? I don’t really know. I could be, very obviously, that my life is literally on repeat. Day in and day out things are too similar to really be distinguished. The repetition of gasping could very well be indicative of choking, as if I am dying by doing this. Or, it could mean nothing, and this is just some weird thing my brain decided to project, and I just happened to remember it. Who knows? Let me know what dreams you’ve had that stood out to you in the comments below!

 

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THE LAST SIP

I always loved looking in the sinister whisky glasses, with two clear, fat ice cubes barely contained within the small, cylindrical walls of the cup. The satisfying pop of the stopper, pulled from an equally extravagant crystal decanter, builds the anticipation of the moment. The first splash or two of the amber-gold liquid sets the tone of the pour. If the ice is cold enough, it will crack in half with a satisfying crunch, then those shallow splashes create tiny arcs off of the ice, until they eventually settle into the base of the glass.

I always prefer the glass left half empty, especially to start the day. Any day like today is full of wonder, tranquility, and anger. Whisky will pull in a similar sense of self-hatred. Strong, powerful, and above all else, contained. The first sip always stings, which is why I swallow it along with the second and third all at once. It slinks through the throat, like magma through the canyon—burning and renewing the land in one fatal swoop.

But it’s always the last sip that always gets me. Most often, people forget the last sip. They see a fleeting ounce left in the glass, and down it quick, like an actor in an old western film. They typically follow it with a satisfied Ah, and perhaps even a quick wipe of the chin to catch any excess the slipped through their lips. It’s dignified, hearty, and full of meaning. But the last sip still clings to the sides of the glass, drifting back into the base of the glass, forgotten beneath the melting cubes inside.

The bartender will pick the glass up, throw the residue to melt away into the sink, along with all the other forgotten memories. Quite the waste of perfectly good booze. One that, after many downed glasses and agonizing headaches later, I have learned never to miss.

The last sip is watery and cold. I like to catch each ice cube in my mouth, lick it clean, then spit it back out. If they split clean apart when the glass was poured, I might even chew one down to cleanse the palate. Catch the glass in your lips, and tilt your head back. The little droplets will form together, then slide down the side as a team, like a group of fish joined to impede the approach of a predator. In excitement, you might lift the glass in the air, as if to say to the onlookers “this moment is mine.”

And the drop will dangle, afraid, or perhaps teasing you there to build anticipation, before falling for ages in those inches between the glass and your outstretched tongue. Your throat might feel dry, as though this were the last drop of water on Earth, until it coats your mouth with the strength of a thousand oceans. Then finally, your glass is empty, and you might realize you’ve become an alcoholic.

——

 

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BARN FIRE DREAMS

For the past while I have been recording my dreams, either in a mental log or on actual paper, and you may have notice I’ve been talking about dreams a lot over the past few weeks. That’s because I wanted to change up my Tuesday slot, because I’m struggling more and more not to be redundant with my concepts. I mean, you can skin a cat multiple ways…but at the end of it, all you’ve done is a bunch of skin cats. And it really isn’t in my interest to have people saying something like “Yeah I get it” when I talk about my ideas. So, instead, let me describe a short dream to you that I had the other day:

 

The world began with the light from a rotting wooden roof. Sunbeams looked down on me from the rectangular holes of missing roof tiles, and the interior of the barn had grown over with moss and various other plants. But the hay was still comfortable—at least, as I realized my arm was trapped beneath a woman, it had been for the half the night we had slept. I didn’t know her name, but she look familiar, like the friend of a friend. As I rubbed my eyes and rose, stumbling, I saw that the place really was run down. The walls looked like they might give out any time, and the color of the wood was so grey with rot that it scarcely looked a color at all.

And then I was outside, almost more suddenly than my mind could keep pace with. The air was fresh like the morning after a heavy rain, though the ground gave no hint that there had been so much as a drop recently. There were a great many trees around us, though there were other small cabins mixed in as well. It looked like a world stuck out of time to my mind’s eye, yet my body felt perfectly at home.

Until, of course, a young woman rounded the corner and ran up to me. Her hair was a vibrant red, and when she approached me it was clear she had been running for a great long while.

“Fire,” She gasped, pointing back the way she came, “help.” Without a moment’s hesitation, we were off running again. I can’t say how long we ran for, nor how I got my hands on a massive hose, but there we were, spraying down the side of another barn. Everything was going according to plan, until the faint cries of “help” rose up through the barn window, and we realized someone was inside. I handed the youth the hose, and ran toward the half open door. The heat inside singed my face, but I continued inward. It was as though the world itself had been immersed in flame. The Earth, the walls, and the roof all burned heavily. Even the faint view of the light seen from the shattered window in the loft looked redder than it had outside.

I looked around, and saw a pair of children standing at the center of the room, paralyzed with fear. It looked like they had found the only place without fire, though the circle around them was growing ever smaller. There was no way to get to them, save through the flames. Somehow, I found an area where the fire was less fierce, and took a few quick steps across the flames to them. I scooped them up in my arms, then looked for the door. In all the movement I had lost my bearings. It seemed so much farther than before.

Wood crashed around us as the roof began to shatter, shooting sparks through the air. The flames fed on the fallen wood like wolves on their prey, and grew all the fiercer. There would be no making it back to the door the way I had came. I looked around for another way to cross, but there was none. The flames crept closer, so close the children had to huddle against me tight. My mind raced, until it came to me that I’d have to toss them. They might break an arm in the landing, but it was better than being burned alive.

I did it one at a time. The boy went through first. His body soared over the tips of the flames, which in that moment looked more like the finger of Hell. He crashed through the door, rolling a few times before struggling to his feet. The girl was next. She was heavier than he was, and the tips of her skirt caught fire as she passed over the wall before us, but in landing she rolled and they were put out. The wall of fire screamed before me, enraged I had taken it’s prey from it. There was a huge crack, and I saw the ceiling finally give way. Then everything went dark.

 

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OVERCAST (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Overcast

The faded roses

wonder what their red was like

before the clouds came.

 

Thin

Looked in the mirror

and saw how my innocence

had grown thin with age.

 

Right Wing

Age begets wisdom

yet somehow those wise people

abandoned reason.

 

Lonely Sweat

I tossed the blanket

from our overly small bed

in a lonely sweat.

 

Dancing Trees

The twisting branches

entwine like tango dancers

suspended in air.

——

 

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A PAIN IN THE NECK

Waking up with a kink in your neck

is a lot like waking up with a stick up your ass,

especially when you can’t quite get it out

because you can’t position yourself right.

 

Which is how I felt when I awoke this morning

to the gleeful cries of my children

as they clambered onto the bedsheets

with the sun-filled eyes that children have.

 

On mornings like those, the words of my father

echo through my head like church bells

“if you stay up that late, it’ll be a wonder

if you get anything done at all.”

 

Of course, I am an atheist,

and I managed to have a couple kids,

so it seems to me that a short night’s sleep

is probably worth the pains in the neck.

——

 

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