VISIONS IN THE DESERT

I felt like an ant, crossing that wasteland of a desert. There was nothing in site as far as the eye could see, and the sun was beating down on me, heavy, as though Apollo had set his chariot of fire on my shoulders. In my mind, the pulsing of my headache felt like the hooves of his mighty horses pounding me to death. My shirt had been soaked through with sweat hours before, and I could feel the sun burn taking shape on the uncovered parts of my body.

The desert air filled my lungs—drying my mouth and leaving my throat ragged and parched. Each breath felt like a cement block was being dragged across my insides. My legs had grown wobbly as I ascended the dune. As I neared the top, my vision began to grow blurry, and my legs buckled for a moment. I came down hard on the sand; my knees crashed, followed swiftly by my outstretched arms. I sucked a deep breath of air, attempting to gather the strength to get back up again, then coughed and spit as sand slid in between my teeth. My forehead rested on my arm, as I enjoyed the blackness behind my shut eyes. My arm was sticky when I finally pulled it away and, shaking, clambered to my feet again. I looked out across the mass of emptiness before me.

I was struck by the beauty of it. It was so empty, even time seemed to have melted away. Each moment seemed to take hours, and suddenly I felt like many decades of time had passed me by. And, as I looked down at myself, I realized they had. I watched as my deep black beard faded to peppered gray, and then finally to white. The skin in my hands wrinkled, and the whites of my knuckles pressed for freedom. I felt my body grown weaker; drier; sicker—as though I had been possessed. My legs began to shake, no longer in fatigue, but with the brittleness of an old man, too long for this world.

My mind flooded with visions of my youth: An awkward game of catch with my father, my first dance with a girl, the late night writings of a dedicated lover, the early morning rises of budding father; and then soon came the memories that I had never known. Seeing my son become a father, and holding my granddaughter for the first time, watching from the sun-chairs as they played in the waves, holding my wife’s hand as she passed away—that same shy smile she had given me when I had asked her to the dance. All these memories I had never known flooded through my mind, as though the floodgates of “could have been” had been thrust open by some unnatural force.

Then shut, once again, as I saw the last vision of myself, from outside my body. I was there, eyes shut lightly, with my mouth hung slightly open. My beard looked scraggly and short. My skin was pale—so pale I nearly missed it flaking away. Bit by bit, the wind pulled fragments of me away with it. It looked like I was peeling. Then, as the gusts grew stronger, I watched myself crumble away into dust and float away, with the desert, forever.

——

 

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WE ALL FLOAT DOWN HERE

I have always been interested in why it is that we like to see obscure, strange, and often grotesque images. Think about it. Have you ever seen a picture (or video) in which you had a strong guttural reaction to look away, but at the same time felt you had to keep looking? I mean, there is a cliché aspect to it when people say “I couldn’t look away,” but that was born out of something very real.

I have never been a big believer in any reality to mythology, but the stories are something that I have always found to be entertaining. Cyclopes’, gods, frost giants…they all add this sense of awe and wonder to an otherwise kind of boring life. I mean, think of all the times you have sat in front of a movie screen, and watched an action-type movie. Or a horror movie. Horror movies are a great example of something that gets the blood flowing (pun intended). I just watched the original “Stephen King’s It” this weekend, and Tim Curry as Pennywise was really quite a show. I mean, the movie has a real…cheesy 80’s vibe to it nowadays (which I guess it technically a 90’s vibe, since it released in 1990, but still). There is a reason “It” is getting a remake, and that’s because the unknown and the unreal is entertaining! And it looks SO SCARY in the trailer (which, if you somehow haven’t seen yet, you should go click that link and do).

Of course, if we’re not careful, I’ll derail this conversation into a movie critique post (though if you would want me to do that sometime in the future, let me know. I’m down for anything), since that is what we love about It. Not the plot twist at the very end about how its all a…oh wait some of you may not have seen it. But we love Pennywise. The creepy clown that fuels our adrenaline (and our nightmares). Back in the day, that was why people told scary stories around the campfire, or snuck up on unsuspecting friends to give them a frighten. It makes people feel alive to have their heart racing and their breath caught at the back of their throat. Not just lounging around, listening to repeated Louis C.K. albums all afternoon and evening (which I may or may not have done a few times before). And sure, maybe too much of that would cause a heart attack or something, but every once in a while is good for you. Exercise those reflexes, get used to the adrenaline rush, and maybe you’ll float too. 😉

What do you think? Do you like that rush of adrenaline? Is it something we should avoid? Let me know!

——

 

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THE SEER

“It was a dark and stormy ni—”

“Nobody starts a scary story like that anymore daddy!” my daughter giggled, “I want a real really scary story!” I wiped the sleep from my eyes. I felt so much more tired than normal—like something had sucked the life out of me. It had been a long day

“Alright, alright, I can tell you a real scary story. It happened to my cousin.”

“Uncle Ricky?”

“No, my cousin. Now hush up or you aren’t getting a story at all.” My daughter settled into her bed and pulled the blanket up a little. I set the book I was holding on her nightstand and turned the light in her room down.

“This story was told to me by my aunt Stephanie. Her son—my cousin— Mort, lived in the high mountains in Colorado. One year, for his birthday, Stephanie went to go visit him. It get’s quite cold in Colorado around the time of Mort’s birthday, especially in the mountains. This year there was a heavy snow, and Mort’s house was so far off the beaten path that they couldn’t safely leave his house. She said the winds were so strong that even the big trees would bend against them.

“One night, the winds were incredibly strong. They had locked up the whole house, and shut the windows good and tight, but they could still hear the windows rattling. The fire would flicker nearly out every once in a while when a strong wind caught in the chute. She said they sounded like wolves snarling. Anyways, Mort and Stephanie decided to pass the time telling stories. You see, there were no computers back then, and with the storm the television and phone lines were out. So they took turns telling stories. Stephanie told a couple from Chaucer, and Mort told a few that he knew from his studies at school. Mort complained for most of the night that he felt tired, but Stephanie kept him talking.

“Mort finally got around to telling a story about The Seer, which was a scary story told out at his college. The Seer is a man that went insane studying about immortality. According to Stephanie, The Seer had his wish for immortality granted, but at the cost of his body. He became a spirit in the night, invading the bodies of people, and making them do terrible things. One man murdered his wife and children. Another woman drowned a passerby in the lake. The only way to escape The Seer was to kill the person he had invaded in a very specific way.”

“How did they find that out?” My daughter interrupted.

“Well, you see, people had tried stabbing their assailants, breaking their necks, and so on, and the body kept coming for them. But on one very stormy night, not unlike the night Stephanie and Mort were telling stories, The Seer invaded a man asleep in his bed, and set him off to kill his wife. When the seer invades a body, he acts, talks, and looks the same, but there’s almost always something slightly different, like the color in their eyes is too bright. For the wife, the happy glow of her husband was gone, and, panic-stricken, she grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed out his eyes. Blinded, The Seer had to abandon the body and recover far away. You see, the eyes are the gateway to the soul, and from their The Seer enters.

“Mort finished this same story and went they each went to bed. That night, Stephanie could hear the wind howling at her window, like something was trying to get in. But eventually, she fell asleep. Stephanie woke a few hours later to a crash in the living room, like a vase shattering. She slipped into her nightgown, and walked out into the living room. ‘Mort?’ she whispered. ‘Mort was that you?’ Mort walked around the corner from the kitchen. ‘Oh, thank God it’s just you. Something—” but she stopped short. You see, it was at this time that Stephanie noticed that Mort had a thick butcher knife in his hand. ‘Mort, what are you doing?’ she said with horror. Mort slinked closer to her, and raised his arm high above his head. ‘Mort no!’ she cried out. He brought the knife down, but she just barely avoided the fatal strike. Instead, he cut deep into her arm. She ran for the kitchen, and grabbed a huge pot from a drawer.

“She could hear Mort behind her, and she flung the pot at him. He avoided it and looked at her. She could see that his eyes were a deep red, like something possessed. She realized with horror what had happened. She grabbed a slightly smaller pot, and this time hit his wrist with it. He dropped the knife in shock. Stephanie picked it up and stabbed into his left eye. He screamed in pain and fell to the floor. Stephanie stepped back and dropped the knife. Tears came unbidden to her eyes. She turned back to the counter and cried. Then suddenly she heard a noise, and she spun around. Mort was back on his feet. ‘Why mother?’ he said with a hoarse voice ‘Why did you do this to me.’ She froze, her vision blurry from her tears. She started to brush them away, to apologize, then suddenly felt a cold pain in her stomach. Horrified, she looked into Mort’s right eye, and saw it there, unblinking, and red. He stabbed her two, three, four more times, then let her slide to the floor. Then Mort’s body too sunk to the floor, and a wisp of air rush out of the house as the spirit left. The Seer had struck again.”

“Wait wait wait. You said that your aunt told you this story. How could she do that if she were dead?” My daughter giggled, “that wasn’t a real story!” She laughed, and I laughed to.

“Oh yeah, I forgot. You remember that scientist I told you about? The one that became The Seer? Well, some character traits die-hard. For him, it was vanity. He always felt like he had to remind people about who he was. He loved to tell people his story.”

“Wait so then how do you know the story daddy?” She asked.

“Well you see,” I paused and looked her dead in the eyes, “I am The Seer.”