GREETINGS TO THE SUN

Water trickled down through Stephen’s short brown hair. He could feel the droplets twisting and turning through the maze of his hairline, before eventually finding their way to his forehead. The soft, refreshing air chilled the water as it danced along his face, carefully falling between the groove of his nose and his right eye. He could feel everything around him. The wind brushed through the grass, humming its afternoon greeting, while the leaves of the trees turned about on their descent to the ground; even the roaring of the river in the distance, where the trickle of water had branched off of, could be faintly heard.

Many mornings went like this for Stephen. He would wake early, and spend the early part of the day staring out into space, until the world around him seemed to morph into something that was outside of the usual. His imagination became a guiding force for his mind, and eventually those quiet hums would turn into an opera of music, and the trickle of water would become the medicine beyond human creation. The massive fields of grass before him would spin before him, faster and faster until suddenly everything became a wild green color, and distance and time seemed to flow as one together.

Today, Stephen was focused on the sun. At first, his eyes had burned with pain, but as the water coated him, he felt cooled. He had closed his eyes, yet behind his eyelids he kept careful track of where the sun was. The supreme being road his chariot across the sky, and the more he focused on it, the more Stephen could make out the hooves beating against the unseen road. They galloped through the sky with vigor, and he could hear their breath heaving in and out as the pulled faster.

Eventually, as he focused, he could hear the breath of a man along with them. He sounded like purity itself. His breath was like a long drink of water after a trip through the desert, or the first drops of dew falling from a crisp spring morning. Stephen felt his own body relax at the sound. Then, unexpectedly, his concentration broke as he heard a voice.

“We have a visitor,” a voice more sweet and light than honey called out to him. Stephen’s eyes snapped open. Only he was not seeing through his eyes anymore. It was like his body had fled, and he was looking through the sky itself

“Hello,” the voice said with a calm strength, “it has been far too long since I was given the chance to speak to anyone. Who might you be?” Stephen felt his voice catch in his throat.

“Ah, unable to speak, is it? Not many get the chance to meet me anymore. Not many look hard enough. Look around you.” The great man had been shielded by light, but the outward gesture of his arm was clear enough. Stephen turned, and saw the world from a different perspective then.

It was so small, so tiny, and yet unending in its size. Through the clouds he saw the trees, the river, and even the tops of the cold mountains. They all looked so small; so beautiful.

“It has been a long time since someone saw the world as you see it now. Perhaps you can learn from it. It seems like such a big world out there, and yet to us it is all connected.” Stephen felt his stomach tighten, and his vision blurred.

“It seems your moments hear are to be brief today. But I look forward to seeing you again.” Then with a rush, Stephen felt his body travel through the air, and suddenly he was gasping for air. The trickle of water had dampened his cloths, and the sun was growing low in the sky. How long had he been gone?

——

 

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THE IN BETWEEN

As I sit and look at the people from my own restaurant seat booth, I see myself as a part of the world, and yet completely apart from the world. I’m delighted by the smiling faces of the family at a table not ten paces away from me. They have aligned themselves in the most stereotypical of ways—the women on the left, and the men on the right. Yet they couldn’t be happier. The family members poured in one by one, and the whole room was filled with cries of “Hey!” and “So good to see you!” and they have yet to stop laughing. It is something quite beautiful—so few people live their lives to enjoy each other. So many live to simply enjoy themselves.

Take the couple across from me for example. I had expected an older couple to enjoy each other’s company more than my technological youth, but they are instead sitting, staring at their phone screens. They are leaned over, scarfing down their food like ravenous wolves. Their phones in hand—I don’t think they have spoken a word since they got here. They even sat on the same side of the booth. Perhaps they simply appreciate each other’s closeness. Perhaps at that age, there are simply no more words to say—but I would certainly hope not.

And then there is me. I sit in the in between of life. There is a void of silence that lingers, impenetrable, for feet around me at all time. Even the waitress, whose brimming smile roused the old couple to life for a moment, quieted as she took my order. My life has become all business, and they can feel it. I had been working diligently at the spreadsheets I had brought with me. It didn’t even cross my mind to ask someone to breakfast with me. I wouldn’t even know where to start. I am an invisible man—not the Ralph Ellison kind, but invisible nonetheless. For all the words I say, the people I meet, and the lives I change, I am forgotten.

That is, to everyone but her. You remember her, don’t you? We don’t say her name anymore, because she is gone now, but for a short while we spent all our time together. We went off, sailing away into the distance, with champagne, sunlight, and smiles. You know the one, don’t you? We have all met that person, who changed us. Who made the world feel whole and the frigid winters a little less frozen.

But she is gone now, and I sit in the in between. Between this cold, awful world, and whatever comes next. There is too much to lose in reality, yet too little to cling to for me to stay grounded. I am a mind without a body—moving through the world with complete awareness of self, yet no desire. I’m told desire stems from the gut. Perhaps that is why the office has come to call me gutless. It doesn’t matter. They will be long dead, and I’ll still be here: watching, listening, and waiting for her return.

——

 

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A PERFECT MORNING

I sat, reading Basho, as the sunlight danced across the ever flowing stream. The morning that morning seemed to me the most perfect morning to ever exist. The chirps of the crickets were growing dim as they made their way to bed, while the butterflies stretched their wings for their morning flight. My eyes followed one of them, as it listed up and down, back and forth, around the dip in the stream. The stream crashed down there, creating a soft mist, like it were imagining itself as the waterfall. The breeze carried a hint of sweet moisture, as though Zephyrus himself had kissed the day.

I found my mind drifting about to the world around me. The rocks, the trees, the grass—each more alive and beautiful than the last—seemed to have their own tale built into the fabric of their being. The rocks, with cracked lines, shunted edges, and overturned hides, wove a simple, solemn tale about the world. They had watched, waiting and listening, for something the happen. They slept with an eye open, but even in their waking hours they never seemed to be alert. It was as if they had been caught in a state of constant lethargy, but they were kind to me nonetheless.

The trees told a greater tale, full of age and mystery. Unlike the rocks, the trees had been alert and unrested. Their aging minds grew wild with thoughts of their sapling days, where they could still branch their roots out and feel themselves move. Now, they stood as the protectors of the stream and it’s creatures, sheltering it from the outside world. But trees are often presumptuous. They have lived for so long, they do not see the world for as it is, but as it has always been. They foolishly ignore the hearts of men, and the men before me could do little but crawl up the branches for shelter from various beasts. But now—now they come with axe and fire and steel, hungering for great conquests.

The grass told me about this. The grass has felt them tread long and far. Their soft feet, which had once been like a gentle touch, now hammered against them like nails with their steel-toed boots. Men ran where they once walked, and they tore up the grass to make way for their stone houses. Grass had its children shrivel up and die as men stole their drink, and choked to death by the machines of their wars. He told me of his cousin, the moss, who was fished from the waters and thrown to dry out on the banks. Grass had seen weary times, but had endured in places, both thick and thin.

In the distance, the mountain called out to me. She had seen the days, come and gone, and heard the warnings signs. Yet these days, nobody listened to the mountains. Her voice had grown slow, and as time moved faster, people no longer could pause to appreciate the wisdom she had to offer. Even I, the antithesis of my peers, felt the itch of hurriedness shoot through my veins as I listened.

But I found her words important, nonetheless. She had told me to remind men of the slower days—where they woke as they chose and slept as they needed. Where the food they ate was held sacred, and the animals they slaughtered had names and lives. She asked me to remember the stream, as I had remembered my family, and to keep it from illness and abuse. I cannot say that I, myself, can achieve my task alone. Yet on such a perfect day, I felt the urge to try. So I set out, not knowing what terrors lay ahead, to help my fellows stop their journey for a moment, and appreciate the flowers.

——

 

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THE SNAKE TOMB

The dream world snapped into existence before me, as if someone had flicked the light switch in a dark room. We were on a mountainside, staring out into the great expanse of the world before us. Ahead, there was a low valley basin, with golden-yellow foliage nearly a mile down. Beyond that, in the distance, there was a line of mountains, green with trees and stained lightly with the early hintings of winter snow.

“What are you dilly-dallying for again!” I heard a voice call to me. It was my cousin, a well cut man by all accounts. His eyes had the shine of adventure in them as we moved through the trees around us. I swallowed my response and moved after him. We were moving north, up the mountain to a small set of caves he had been told about by…something. I realized I had no idea how we had gotten there, or why.

The way up was treacherous. The ground was filled with muddy spots from the rainfall the previous night, and it slid and slipped unexpectedly with each new step. The lack of handholds caused me to constantly be gripping at thin air for balance. Eventually though, we found our way to the top, where there were a group of caves. They looked like three gaping mouths, ready to swallow us whole. We picked the one on the right, which opened the widest. The inside of the cave was blacker than midnight on a starless night, and I felt my own vision fade.

Once again, I awoke in the dream, at our destination, though I found myself alone. The place was a horrific sight. It was a cavern, filled with an industrial pool, which seemed out of place in retrospect, but in the moment the oddity fell to the background. The foreground was filled with an excessive number of snake bodies, as well as snake skins, spread throughout the room. They looked like the remains of a post-apocalyptic world. The bodies were rotting, like spoiled peaches, but the smell itself was far more rank than any fruit could be. I felt my stomach heave as I my eyes drifted along the pool. On one end, there was a massive snake, nearly ten feet long, and equally thick. Its skin looked half eaten, and pus poured from its one remaining eye. The empty socket was filled with the largest spider I had ever seen. It was curled up, but the black body was nearly the size of my head. Its long, spindly legs were pulled tight against its body. Fortunately, it appeared to be content where it was as I moved past it.

Suddenly, I felt the world careen before me as my foot slipped in a puddle of water. I put my hands out to brace my fall, but I plunged through the surface of the pool into the water. I splashed about for a moment, until I broke the surface to come back up for air. I cleared the water from my eyes, and looked ahead of me. Then massive snake was still there, staring off into the distance. Then, ever so slowly, its head began to turn. The sound of bones popping, snapping, and breaking filled the air as it came to look at me. The low hiss emanated from its jaws. The spider still clung there in its eye, which  stifled the red glow that had appeared there. From the other eye, the one covered with the remnants of its skin, pus dripped into the water while the reawakened beast pulled its focus on me.

Its jaws opened, and the stink of decay wafted through the air. My stomach churned. I had smelled death before, but it had never smelled quite so ancient. The beast reared back, then lunged toward me. It happened so fast, yet it appeared to me in slow motion. I could see the scales shift under its weight. The droplets in the air as I desperately scrambled to get away. It massive jaws surrounding my head. Then again, everything went black.

——

 

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NATURE’S FURY

I saw a single blooming flower on the tree. Against the dense, green foliage riddled with long, thick leaves, the delicate white of the flower stood out like the first star in the night sky. The flower itself was enormous—nearly the size of a cantaloupe, with majestic petals, curling their way out to greet the sunlight. Yet it had not completely unfolded into its maturity. The purity of the original bulb shape was still perceptible to the attentive eye.

I saw this lone flower blooming, and knew I had to have it. It was off the ground, out of my reach, and the tree appeared to be an arduous climb. But the craving in my gut pulled me up to the task. I moved to the base of the trunk. The bark of the tree was rough and protective, like a father. It was also quite sturdy, and as my nimble fingers curved themselves into nooks and crannies, I found that the shoulder like branches of the tree were stronger than I had initially expected. I darted up, from branch to branch, with such rhythm that I felt like Tarzan himself.

The last few branches were the most perilous. Near the top of the tree, the branches thinned and swayed, and beneath my weight a few began to snap. I glanced as they fell away, while my arms grabbed for new holds on the tree. Eventually though, I found my way to the flower. She was beautiful, pure, and perfect. There was no flower quite like it—no flower that I had battled so valiantly for. I knew she would love me as I loved her. My hands, trembling, reached out and cupped the base, where she connected with the tree, and carefully plucked her away.

The whole tree seemed to shake for a moment, and the flower quivered, curling slightly back in on herself. Then everything was still. The descent was much easier, fortunately, and I carefully shielded my flower from the stray branches and leaves as I passed through them. They felt like tiny hands, pulling, scratching, and seizing my clothes. I shook them away as I moved. I reached the ground, and broke into a great, boyish smile. I took the flower home; watered it, and gave it sunlight.

But would you believe how she repaid me? The bitch wilted, unbloomed, before my very eyes. The vibrant pure white, which seemed to cleft through the surrounding, faded into a smoky fog, and then further into a dead, blackened husk. Every morning, I awoke, and saw her with disgust. Such beauty; why couldn’t she have been mine? And yet, I felt in the pit of my stomach something more terrifying, though I had no idea as to what it was.

Until, of course, the dried petals finally began to fall. Then, I was shocked, to hear the roar of the forest, like thunder, calling to me. The great tree, which had grown since I had stolen her from it, had taken up its roots and marched on my home. All my structures—the walls, the roof, and the floors—were ripped apart by this incarnation. The wrath of Nature itself stood on my doorstep. Roots and vines tore it apart, until I stood, naked, before the behemoth himself. The vines snapped and slithered around me, wrapping around my arms and legs, and I was pulled into the air.

I hung there, limp, for what seemed like an eternity, while the vines snaked around my neck. Then they paused, and a vine lifted my chin. Before my eyes, he held her. She looked solemn, limp, and peaceful, but utterly dead nonetheless. In a rush of pain, I felt both my legs snap. I cried out, but there was no help for me.

Then, it all stopped. I was dropped on the ground with a thud, and the tree went away. My legs sprawled lifelessly beneath me, but I had been shown mercy. My watered eyes looked out around me, and I saw the tree disappear behind the hills. I slumped to sleep, as my eyes grew more and more blurry, and as they shuttered closed, I saw a single, pure white petal, before me. Mocking me.

——

 

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THE HALLWAY

I woke up in an empty, white paneled hallway. It was lit with rows of florescent lights, which reflected off the walls to make them appear even brighter. When I got up to look around, I noticed that there were no windows, but in the distance there was the vague outline of a doorway. I glanced behind me, only to see the ongoing nothingness continued that way as well.

I began to walk thought the hallway. The emptiness was filled by the soft pattering of my shoes beneath my feet. The clothes I had woken up in felt clammy, and stuck to my skin awkwardly, but the more I walked, the more they fell away from my skin. The door, which had been but a tiny outline in the distance, grew closer as I walked toward it, and it became clear that it was built for another time period.

In stark contrast with the walls around it, the door was made of a faded bronze metal, with a handle rather than a doorknob. As I put my hand on the door handle, my eyes came into contact with a large door knocker. The knocker was made of a large metal serpent’s head, which looked vaguely draconic. The serpent held the metal knocker ring in its mouth. The ring itself was another work of art, which had been fashioned with careful detail into the design. Rather than smooth metal, the ring had been made to look like a chain of people moving into and out of the serpent’s mouth.

I realized I had been transfixed on the serpent, and shook my head back to the task at hand. I pushed and pulled on the door handle, but found it to be stuck in place. A few more shakes and I yielded. I sighed, and took a step back from the door to look around. The white halls stretched endlessly on either side, but in the distance from the direction I had come I could hear the faintest of sounds. Dah-duh…Dah-duh it was the unmistakable rhythm of someone—someTHING walking closer. I strained to look into the distance, and noticed a speck of black at the edge of my sight. It was definitely moving, albeit slowly.

Fear shot through my body, and I had the sudden urge to run away. I restrained myself, and turned back to the door. I wondered what could be on the other side of the door. Freedom. Safety. Slavery. Murder. Death. It was the great unknown, locked to me. And what monstrous being would be on the other side? But as my ears turned back to the slowly approaching creature down the hall, I decided it was best to take my chances. At worst, I would have two things coming for me instead of one. I drew my hand up to the ring of people, and banged it hard against the door twice. I stepped away from the door again, and prepared myself for what came next.

One…two…three moments past before I heard the distinct clank of metal unlatching from the other side. The door swung open, and the stale air of the hallway mixed with the moist, wooden air of the new room. Standing in the doorway was a little girl, no older than my cousins. She was pale white, with light brown hair that fell down to the middle of her back. She looked on at me with wonder; her head cocked to the side slightly. Her eyes were black and dead, yet her mouth moved with the most colorful and lively emotions. Shy, happy, concerned, scared, and so on. She was dressed in a white ballerina’s leotard, and white ballerina shoes.

“Hello,” I said cheerily, meeting her empty eyes with as warm a smile as I could muster, “and what is your name?” She didn’t answer. I glanced off into the room, and saw nothing but a black void before me.

“Do you have parents? Or a caretaker? Would they be available for me to speak to?” Again I was met with silence, though this time the little girl stepped back from the door and into the darkness. The light faded away from her body, and I could barely make out the barest hint of her form. She beckoned me in, then stepped to be completely engulfed in the darkness.

——

 

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THE DINING HALL

“Good afternoon,” a friendly deep voice called to me from down the hallway. The man was a large, aging figure, dressed as a stereotypical butler would be dressed. He even had the covered silver platter balanced carefully in his right hand, which stayed unnervingly still has he sauntered over to me.

“H-hello,” I said back. The butler smiled politely, but I could feel the nervousness in my voice. I had somehow found my way into the house, but could not for the life of me remember how. Actually, calling this place a house was a bit of an understatement. It was more like a mansion from a snobby magazine. The carpets were red with gold, the walls were satin, every painting looked like it had been there since it was originally painted several hundred years ago, and all their frames had the same, faded gold shine to them. There were candles lit down several corridors, and a glimpse of massive rooms could be seen peeking out behind half closed mahogany doors.

Yet the place itself was spotless. There was no hint of dust; no stains, no cracks, no breaks; no unevenness. Everything looked perfect, as though every evening someone went up to make sure everything was in order. Which must take hours, based on the relative size of the place.

I realized my eyes had been wandering for a few moments too long when the butler cleared his throat.

“Sir, I must ask that we make our way to the dining table. The master has been expecting you for a short while now.” He began to turn away to show me the way.

“Expecting…how did I get here?” The butler paused, then turned back to me with a carefully practice patience.

“Sir, please, everything will be explained in due time.” I opened my mouth to respond, but before I could get a word out he had turned his back to me and began walking down the hallway. I fell in step a few feet behind him, my eye fixated on the patterns woven into the fabric. So simple, yet so precisely elegant. We turned a few corners, then passed through one of the large doors to an enormous room. There was a large, fifty foot table in the center, no doubt regularly filled with parties, as there were nearly one hundred placemats set out. Though interestingly, only two chair.

The chair closest to me, which the butler had indicated I should sit at, was a simple wooden chair. It seemed too homely compared to the rest of the house. Almost like they had robbed some poor family of their best chair in the middle of the night. Seated on the other end of the table was a large, black chair, made what looked to be a fine leather material (though from that distance I was not entirely sure). The chair towered over the man inside, who was shadowed mysteriously so that I could not get a clear view of his face. His hair appeared to be short, possibly even blonde, and he held himself like a man used to wielding power.

After I had taken my seat, the butler walked down to speak to who I assumed was the master. He was speaking softly, perhaps asking the master what he wanted to eat. The man waved him away, and the butler turned to walk back to me.

“The master will be dining on lamb tonight. What would you like to eat?” he said in a quiet voice.

“Is there a menu?”

“The menu is whatever you would like it to be. Though I would warn you,” he glanced down the table, “your choice of food will be noted by the master.” I looked down the table, past the perfectly placed candles and table settings, to try to get a read of what I should do.

“I’ll require an appetizer, of the chef’s choice, however it must be served hot and with mozzarella cheese. Then, for the main course, I would like a ribeye steak from a cow slaughtered no more than 3 days ago, cooked with garlic and butter to just above rare, but slightly before medium rare. To pair with it, I would like a merlot from 1950 or earlier, but prior to that I would like a Coca-Cola, from the glass bottle, not a can, served with two spoonfuls of vanilla syrup mixed inside it.”

“Ah sir,” the butler started.

“Is there a problem?” I quipped, trying to appear as regal as possible.

“No sir. I merely wished to ask if you’d like your steak to be twelve ounces, or sixteen.”

“Twenty.” The butler looked at me, then nodded quickly and walked off. I looked down the table to beam at the master, yet he was absentmindedly jotting notes on a pad of paper that had seemingly appeared before him.

——

 

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RUSH TO THE AIRPORT

I was trying to decide what to talk about today, and then I realized I was super short on time (in fact, I’m typing this in the car as my superior drives us to a meeting)! Which gave me an interesting topic for discussion: rushing. Have you ever rushed? Probably. If not in your adult life, likely as a child your family rushed you at some point, right? And rushing is absolutely the most stressful thing you can experience in the moment.

I have a story to provide an example. My family had decided to go to Montana for vacation, which would end up being an absolute blast. We got up early, packed our bags, and left for LAX. Now, if you’ve ever driven to LAX before, you know how much of a pain that trip is. Regardless, we were about halfway there, and were running just fine on time, when suddenly I look back and realize my suitcase was not packed along with everything else. And that’s got all my clothes in it. For the whole trip. So we turn around, drive the half distance we were out back to our house, and get my bag. At this point, our plane leaves in an hour and a half, and it’s a forty-five minute drive there AT BEST. We’re speeding and bobbing through traffic, have to park in the expensive parking at the airport, and run into the lobby. And the receptionist chides us for being late, and says theres a chance that we, or our luggage, will not make the flight. But we insist, and she lets our bags through their machinery, and we take off toward the security checks. We wait in line, with everyone tapping their feet and what not.

Tick-tock tick-tock. Every minute feels like and hour, and we finally get through the security line and sprint to our loading zone. They’ve already called finally loading, and when I get to the lady taking tickets, she looks as though she were just about to turn away from the desk to close the door to the plane. Luckily for us, she lets us on, and everything worked out. BUT that was exceptionally stressful. And if you’ve ever experienced something stressful like this, you probably know the symptoms. A minor headache, increased heart rate, the feeling that you want to snap at anyone who slights you, even in the smallest way.

So how do you control that? Well, it can be hard, but the best way is to stay calm. Don’t tell yourself to stay calm, because that literally never works (have you every TRIED to relax?! It’s a paradox). Talk yourself through the logic of the scenario, and accept that not everything works out. I mean, we were running through an airport at full speed. Security could have tackled us out of nowhere, or shot us. They don’t know the situation. We could have gotten stuck in traffic, or the plane could have left on time. Or that lady that took our bags could have not let us on the plane. But we were lucky, a little insistent, and it all worked out.

Do you have any tips to dealing with rushing when it happens? Let me know!

——

 

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A MIDWINTER NIGHT

“Please come to me,” the old man whispered. His words were spoken out into the dark, quiet sitting room. He was seated at his wooden work table; a worn down candle was lit next to him. The dim lighting pushed feebly back against the night that surrounded him. Before him was a mess of papers—half finished lines, empty stanzas, unbalanced sonnets, and scrawls of other accounts. All of them stopped short.

“Calliope, Euterpe, Erato, please…help me.” But there was no answer. The man’s sad eyes stared through the window to his right. There was no moon. No clouds. Not even stars that night. Just empty blackness. He turned again, this time to the tomes on his left. His tomes. Perfect accounts of the greatest tragedies, the most tremendous comedies, and other master works that had changed how the world thought about writing. But tonight was different. Tonight the ink in his quill had seemed to dry up; the paper sat there stagnant, and his muses had abandoned him. The wax from the candle bled down onto the edge of the table, adding to the pattern of waxes already there.

Once, he would have reminded the weary world of the good deed that little candle did, shining out as a beacon against the darkness, but tonight no words came to him. He felt choked, as if his throat had been ripped from his throat by the bear from the theatre the night before. He had not been there. His legs were too weak, and his body was too frail to endure the cold these days. Even now, with his body enrobed in layers of clothing, he could feel the chill air prod at his heart. The very air he breathed felt like knives in his lungs.

He himself, beneath those layers, looked like an infant—too tiny to move his own body. Yet somehow, he had found his way to his desk. But even now he could feel the weight sinking into his shoulders, immobilizing him. The whites of his knuckles pressed against the table as he tried to rise—to breathe a breath of fresh air, and renew the pictures in his mind. He could almost taste the crisp frost of the air. The physician had told him fresh air, even if cold, was good for him. Still, as he tried to rise, he felt his tiny legs shaking beneath him. He was trapped at his desk, lest he wish to shed his only protection from the winter cold. Trapped, by the works he couldn’t finish. Trapped by the dried well of language that once flowed from his immortal hands. That is what they had told him at least: that he would be immortalized.

But tonight he did not feel immortal. He could feel the coiling in his lungs; every heartbeat like a popping balloon. He reached out, as if some entity—some beautiful woman—stood before him. He could almost see her. So perfect, so young…yet so aged and mature. He was so close he could nearly touch her. His arms trembled beneath the weight of his cloths. Three inches…two inches…then his body gave out and he crashed into his wooden table. The candle sputtered out, and he was left in the dark.

——

 

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BUS RIDE TO THE THEATRE

We were on the local bus, and it was about seven-thirty. They were probably on their way to school, and I was off to start my second week as a movie theatre clerk. Unfortunately, I had to bounce from bus to bus to get there, and even leaving home at seven often resulted with me being late. My attention was turned to the video. It was rude of me to look at the screen over their shoulder, but when I heard the solemn violin music playing I had to check it out. The two kids in front of me—really young adults of about sixteen—had their iPhones out, giggling from video to video. The title of the video displayed in a bold red “This Ad Has a Powerful Message About Domestic Abuse.” It was some breakdown video about how an advertisement had tried to humanize the abuse victims.

Maybe it was the cynic in me, but it seemed to fall flat. I mean, how is it that all the victims are the hourglass figure girls? Aside from their black eyes and bruises, they all had perfect skin. Which was ironic, since the ad was for swimsuits, and the women all didn’t want to be seen for their bruises. Of all moments to talk a realistic body issue, a self-conscious swimsuit girl wasn’t a good moment?

I was spurned from my thoughts as my second change of buses came. I left the two kids to their laughter. The second bus was busier and I had to stand. The soles of my feet would ache from the swaying and speeding by the end of the trip, but aching was something I had grown used to. The freeway flew by as we sped down the road to our destination, and eventually I was lost in my own thoughts. I felt my eyes glaze over, as I looked around at a room full of mothers, daughters; sons, and fathers. How many of them were abused?

My mind turned back to the video. What had been that “powerful” message? Oh yes, that women shouldn’t stand for domestic abuse. Duh. More specifically pretty women. But how else does a company sell bikinis if it can’t use perfectly rounded butts and a body devoid of stretch marks?

Still, my mother was battered and beaten by her father, and then again by mine. I remember the welts, the lumps, the black eyes, and the shuddering tears. I remember the cold embrace of her arms as she told me it would be alright. I remember the night it became too much for her; the night she hung herself from the rafters. Her body was limp, listing about slowly. She had bitten through her tongue when the rope had snapped her neck, and it had left a dribble of blood from the side of her tired mouth.

The beam she had tied the rope to had sagged beneath her weight, and looked as though it may break. Her well-worn face looked tired, yet calm, in the way that a child looks fatigued as it naps after a long bout of crying. But the only tears shed that night were from me. My father was out doing…whatever it was he did after his night of drinking.

But we never talked about the middle-aged woman, with her wide torso and blotchy face. The judge never questioned her suicide when my dad came through the doors crying. No one listened to the five year-old child’s wails about the evil man her father was. They just saw a pathetic woman, a noose, and a broken family; who were just like the thousand they had seen before.

It stung to get off the bus that day, and see the glorified posters of happy families and perfect couples as I walked into the theatre, but life is never without its stings. I was lucky to be on time today. Mine vices—past, present, and future—were just another mark on the list of what people experienced every day.

——

 

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