Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Dark...Reloaded: "Not Breathing." Addiction Mon Amour...

The final two second run promo/teaser/sample blog posts for my collection, The Dark Is Light Enough For Me are upon us.  Are you ready? Then I will move on to new stuff!  I know you can hardly wait! :-P  Aaaaanyway, this post deals with the other drug story, though it's more an addiction story, though, perhaps, it's more a self-realization story, after the fact: so this is where my [our humble, broken narrator] addictions have led me and, really, where have they led me?  I have zero issues with vagueness in fiction.  This story feels like it might be talking about zombies to some people--it's not to me at all.  I left it purposefully open to interpretation.

Me, I think it's about a lot of things, but it all comes down to addiction and a breakdown of reality, to ignoring the truth until the truth slaps you hard in the face and screams, Pay Attention! 

The shortest tale in the collection, its place in the sequence of stories, right after the other, more humorous drug story--as noted in that teaser/sample, a very black humor--brings the collection back to a darker, more serious horror element, slippery as that may be.

The title of the story...did I talk about this in the original teaser? matter, the title was inspired by a band that creates electronic, beat-driven music with a quirky edge, often dark, Not Breathing.  For some reason, as I am wont to do, I just knew I wanted to write a story with that title, yet not sure of the hows and whys of what it would be.  That might, in all actuality, explain the vague quality within the story.  I've mentioned before and will reiterate now, I write organically.  More often than not, I do not know where it's all going.  Yes, images, places I want to stop by and add to the mix, or simply the perfect landing field for the finale might be thought of well before the story has been written BUT the trip, ahhhhh, the trip is always one of exploration and allowing whatever path the characters want to take, take them, and follow along, jotting my notes.  With this one, I loved the ambience from the get-go and allowed it to spill forth, a stain in need of interpretation; a Rorschach inkblot of ever-shifting possibilities, that only takes hold when...well, let me see. 

Why not? Here's the whole story, originally published here online at The Freezine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, with cool artwork, of which there have been a couple of art pieces related to the story.  The other piece, one commissioned by my girlfriend, Alessandra Bava, for my birthday, and created by the wonderful horror artist, Erin Wells, can be seen here with my previous blog post for this story. 

Here's the whole story for your enjoyment or curiosity, at least.  Rich in the ambience of the streets, the lost...the addicted...and the strange...


     When it happened, I remember not feeling anything, just disconnected from the world, or at least from being human. 

     I know a lot went into the process of even being able to do it, to leave the relationship as if it was the dead end situation I knew it to be.  Yet, because children were involved, a certain level of guilt crested like a breaker and, eventually, after too long, the mind starts to come back, and the breaker crushes one’s soul. 

     But, that is not what is truly revealed. No!  What is shown to those who sink under the guise of guilt is something…richer.  The swirling undertow opens one to possibilities never conceived. 

     Why one would want to explore these possibilities is beyond me, but when the guilt has run its course and is heaving and out of breath, well, what is left afterwards? 

     Discarding with preconceived notions of reality, one opens one’s eyes for the first time.  What is reality anyway?  What is this mottled mirage that corrupts all of our lives, bending us under its deceptive force?

     Wallowing longer than necessary, well, that’s just pathetic.  So many lost souls succumb to the ache and allow the malaise to rule the rest of their lives. 

     I knew what I needed, though.  I just needed to feel tethered to something again; to feel human, again.

     That’s where you came in.  Meeting you—victim of many disintegrated relationships—we somehow connected.  As odd as it sounds, it seems you have always been there for me.  

     Initially we slept in the back seats of broken down cars at the junk yard.  We found a hub of hope within each other; warmth amidst a freezing winter.

     What you gave me beyond the matching mindset—though your relationships were more transient, you felt similarly adrift—was the tether I needed to feel human again.  I remember laying next to you, your naked flesh pressed against mine, and listening to you breathe, and finding within your breathing the ability to copy it, to ride the inhaled and exhaled breath. 

     Through this simple practice, I acclimated myself to something I had thought I had lost and felt in touch with being human again, to being in touch with somebody again.

     Eventually we moved up to hotel rooms—a week’s stay here, a few days there—as we picked ourselves up, piecemeal work and begging on the streets and finally, a studio apartment more like a cardboard box, but it would be home for now. 

     But you brought something with us that ruined everything. 

     Because of the way we had tumbled together, I did not see the whole of you, just what was needed for me to get by.  I was selfish, but my selfishness was a direct result of feeling like everything was spinning down a drain and there was nothing to grab on to, nothing to stop the descent. 

     There are times when one has to be selfish to survive.

     I saw the needles and your bruised arms, saw the glaze in your gaze, and knew something was amiss, but I did not take a stand because I figured, maybe, you needed to hold on to something as well. 

     I just wished it was me.

     We had conversations, talked about it.  You knew you had to kick, I knew I had to be supportive through this. 

     But I allowed the gnawing guilt a place to roost in my head.  I knew I had to go see my kids, to talk to them, say something, anything, and desperation—the one vicious bastard that erodes true thought—forced me to leave you on a night when I knew you really needed me. 

     Still, I had to go, had to try and see them, but was turned away before I made it to the door of the apartment, the ex-wife acting as if she does not even know me, seeming more scared than anything else—“I’ll call the police if you don’t leave us alone!”

     Me, shrugging my shoulders, skulking toward her, pleading, “But honey, I just want to see the kids,” and the worried look on her face, this time her response more firm: “I’m calling the police.  You need to leave! Now!”  And the boy looking up at me, curiosity set in his blue eyes, me saying, “Son…” and him stepping behind the curtain of his mother’s dress as she pushes him into the apartment, the girl in the background, playing with dolls, oblivious, but his look—his look—the bitch had obviously brainwashed him, corrupted him, done something to make him not remember his own father. My rage crested, “Let me see the kids!” and she slammed the door shut and I heard the confirmation from behind the green painted wood as the boy asked, “Who was that man, Mommy? Why does he keep bothering us?” and the ex’s response: “I told you before, Tommy.  There are those among us who are no longer human; they might look human, but they are not.  We have to deal with them with a firm word or more.  That thing has become fixated on us, ever since your father passed away, as if its soul can replace your father’s, but no…” and me feeling completely confused for more reasons than her deranged, inconceivable explanation—her lies!

     Tommy?  The name is not a part of my recollection. 

     I shudder, body buckling, vomiting in the hallway, but nothing pours out of me, whatever remains inside empty of substance.

     I feel dead and know I have lost everything after the brutal verification the preceding scene has shown me, the aftermath of listless months trying to stay afloat with you; you being the only thing I really have anymore, but you having me and the addiction, and I’m not sure if I am first on that list.

     The proof of where I stand is apparent when I get back to the studio apartment.

     The door is unlocked and slightly ajar.  The room smells bad, but I wonder if the mess is just the result of our lack of focus.  I mean, most of the time we just embrace and hold each other, trying to keep breathing, when not drowning our existences in menial work and begging at the intersections and whatnot. 

     We are at least trying, and that is better than the pathetic par—the streets are crawling with the pathetic par—though slipping often as we try.

     I strip off my clothes and snuggle next to you on the stained and torn mattress.  Pulling bundled, filthy sheets over my feeble body—cockroaches scuttle away at my intrusion—I whisper “I love you” and “I’m sorry I was gone, I had to see my kids, but…”        

     The words die in my throat. 

     You don’t stir, don’t respond.  I am not one to think much of it, but then I realize two powerfully blunt truths:  You are cold in ways that make my skin hurt. 

     And you are not breathing.

     My tether, my anchor to this world and the pain and fury of being human, of aching in ways that scrape out the hollow within and leave a vacancy where the soul should reside—you are not breathing!

     I shake you a little, “C’mon,” but you don’t c’mon.  You chill the emptiness with your barren presence. 

     I hold you because there is nothing else for me to do, there is nothing else for me to say—oh, a dashed off, “I’m sorry for leaving tonight”—but that is simply the punch-line to the joke that is my existence.

     My eyes tear up, but it’s little more than dust.  I have no tears to shed.  I have nothing now, nothing forever.  I have failed this relationship, too, and there is nothing left for me to do but hold you and wonder, yes wonder: why am I still breathing?

     But then, the joke is completed as I realize my breath is nothing more than a memory of when I was more than a shadow…

     And you turn to me and ask, “What’s up, babe?” in a voice like sandpaper and ashes and I cry out, “Why are you alive?” and you smile and I see in your stained yellow teeth something twitching and crunching and you say, “Because we have each other, to remind each other, of what it is to be human, even if you have not come around to what you are now, which is something less,” and I squeeze you with all my might and there’s nothing there, nothing of substance, just like what did not pass from my bowels in that distant hallway a few hours ago.

     What you said sounds too much like what I think, and it’s time for me to come around.

     The sheets are devoid of anything but stale smells and my quaking body and the needle that still protrudes from my scarred arm. 

     I force myself from their tangled grasp, slouch into the bathroom.  The mirror is broken but I can still see my reflection—our reflection—skin draped sickly over a hunched skeleton splashed in the middle like a shattered ripple across a restless lake; restless because I convulse in disgust, scratching scabs off of bruised arms. 

     Off of dead arms, the bruises indicative of decay, of death.

     I move closer, staring into the void that is my pupils, my eyes; eyes I used to know so well. 

     The mirror disavows my presence. The fog of breath is absent. 

     I hit the mirror with my bony fist; it is not the first time.  My reflection splints even more, pieces raining to the sink, the floor. 

      All the king’s horses and all the king’s men…  

     Each piece holds a sliver of my soul, of what used to be my soul.  Of what was abandoned, but has never found a home after…

     What remains is the body, the rotting flesh and abysmal vestiges of what once was human. 

     The silence of my scream, the bloodless stump that is my ragged hand, the soot collecting on my transfixed orbs, all is grim confirmation that the monkey riding my back is a weighty gorilla intent on breaking it.

     Having opened my eyes to the possibilities, it is made excruciatingly clear that my reality has been shaped by the needle, ever since my death, the death of my soul, and the bewilderment that accompanies my being, my still being here, existing somehow, a zombie but not a zombie, a dream of being human again. 

     But the dead souls drift through the dead flesh, corroding my thoughts with their needs, and this one, with this wife and two children, this one crowds me but cannot take over this worn out flesh, because this one is more recent, as I once was—a jolt amidst the contemplation, an epiphany: this is not even my body!—a novice to this deathstyle, and all I have are the lies I believe as true, and the hallucinations that flash as memories, but not just my memories, many memories of many other lives.  It is all a part of its insidious lure.

     It.  The human blood in the syringe.

     I want to bleed again, to be human again…

     I look at the torn fist, maggots pooling in the tattered wound, as if they have been there for a long time.

     The body slumps to the floor.  Its reflection stares at me from different perspectives, silently wishing for a death already experienced, but not finalized in this cruel limbo world between.

     I would sigh but I am unable to as this body is lacking the one thing to instigate this sick confirmation within myself. 

     It is not breathing.

     But its veins are hungry…again.


Here's the other quite appropriate and lovely art piece, created by Shaun Lawton and his wife, Shasta, if I remember correctly. 


Friday, June 22, 2012

The Dark...Reloaded: "Make Pretty." Another Sniff Of Hollywood Ego Gone South.

Of all the stories in the collection, this one may come off as the most normal, the most straight-forward, in some respects.  Not that it doesn't have bite, oh no.  I think it's got one of the most insidious revelations toward the end I've ever written, but the story structure and, hmmmm, 'vibe,' perhaps, just don't seem that strange. 

I don't believe in formula when writing. I believe in allowing the brain, the characters, whatever is driving a story, room to roam.  Just because something works doesn't mean I want to copycat it to death.  I want to take that and, if exploring similar story terrain, take different paths, look at it from different angles.  That said, I think this story totally reads like a John Claude Smith story, if there is such a thing, haha...  I do certain things and have certain obsessions I like to mess with (yet in saying this, am always expanding on these obsessions and interest; gotta keep shakin' things up, man).  This touches on some of those, kind of a streamlined and less crazy take on what "Things That Crawl In Hollywood" explores.  More focused, honed to painful yet warped honesty and actually quite sad.  Two characters, one drowning in the shallow waters of ego, allowing the world and her feeble expectations to inspire unhappiness.  Her own and that of her husband.

And a third character, a rival...who had found her own Fountain of Youth, no matter the gruesome process...

This need, the Hollywood proclivity to cater to young people, this battle against ageing, corrupts minds and more: egos get swatted, especially for woman.  Take that desire to still seem youthful, beautiful in ways that I consider artificial via some form of surgery or...well, the story showcases another means.

I just checked my previous post for this story and thought I had noted this, perhaps I did it in another blog, but it kind of relates. I remember seeing an interview with Marilyn Monroe mere months before her death, and how the lines on her face, a touch leaner there as well, really accentuated her beauty.  It was quite possibly the best she ever looked. 

The sample?  Hmmm, so, you want a taste of the gruesome?  You want to know part of the secrets of eternal youth?  Take my hand, but don't take the powder Vanessa DeBarre sent to the now dead Christina Conero.  It's lethal if you don't know the details. 

Here's some of that, the final revelation:


     Vanessa DeBarre read the article aloud: “Christina Conero, actress and former It Girl, was found shot six times and mutilated by her husband, Tony award winning actor Philip Raines.  She was 47.  Conero was found in the bedroom of her Beverly Hills estate by her personal assistant who had ‘heard a ruckus and went to investigate,’ police said.  Best known for her …”

     She skimmed the rest of the article in silence, a cursory exercise as she knew all the details and they did not matter.

     The article had been cut out and set on a tray by her personal assistant, Jade, along with a plate of raw, finely chopped filet mignon, and clear tape.

     She gently tore off a piece of tape and pressed it to the article.

     A slight smile nudged the corners of her mouth.

     She took the article and taped it along the right side of the large mirror of her antique vanity, right below similar articles for Rhea Stone, Cassandra Prine, and Nicole Mastersson   

     She glanced at herself, displeased with a few stray eyebrows.  She picked up her tweezers and plucked one, two, then…the fine indentation of a wrinkle next to her left eye drew her attention. 

     She rubbed it and said, “Come on my darlings.”

     She picked up a piece of the raw, finely chopped filet mignon with her tweezers, and paused.

     To herself, she said, “Christina, my dear.  If only I would not have forgotten to list the final step to the endless beauty you so craved.”

     Vanessa raised the meat to her nostril.

     She continued: “Step number four: Feed them.”

     She remembered her first time, burying her face in a full plate of raw meat to alleviate the shock.

     But now…now she had them trained.

     “Come on my darlings,” she said, staring into the mirror at the meat and her nostril.  She watched as one of her darlings—the worms that lived under the skin of her always perfect face—filled the dark cavern of her nostril, opened its pincer-like jaws and took the meat.

     She spent twenty minutes feeding them in this manner.  The wrinkle was gone, any and all faint lines were gone, her whole face smoothed out to perfection.

     After she was done she smiled at her reflection, satisfied, just as her darlings were satisfied, and said, “Beauty may be skin deep, my dear Christina, but you know and I know—excuse me, you knew and I know, that in this town”—a wink and puckered lips, blowing herself a kiss—“that’s all that really matters.”


Nasty, and rather icky, too, haha.  Cruel, even.  

Here's a photo of a hydrothermal worm, up close and personal and probably related to the worms in the story and...and...Ugh!  [shudders]



Monday, June 18, 2012

Intermission: "War Paint." A Psychologically Visceral Jolt Of Love, Baby...

Our third and final intermission...or is it fourth? Ah, no matter, here's simply the last intermission amidst my second big promo push for my collection, The Dark Is Light Enough For Me.  Here we have an older piece, something very visceral, psychologically aligned body horror.  It's called, War Paint, has been published twice, but one of my favorite rejection slips ever is connected to this one.  I remember reading how the editor loved the story--yes, loved!--and how it was exactly what they wanted.  So, at this point, you're probably thinking, rejection?  Riiiiiight!  Me, hey, I was stoked through the first half of the letter...then it all fell apart.  His tone shifted, he mentioned having shown the story to his girlfriend who absolutely hated it!  Made her very uncomfortable--a lot more than uncomfortable, if I remember correctly; I must find the slip, haha--and by the end of the letter which had started so promising, he was informing me that this story he loved...was not being accepted.  What the heck?

Anyway, it's about 1200 words long and, as noted, is an earlier piece, so take it for what it's worth, but it has some nice elements and, yes, you will "feel" this one, hehe...



War Paint
by John Claude Smith

     Cynthia left David after four months of what he would have unequivocally qualified as bliss.  She said something about the relationship becoming stagnant, about them “moving in different directions.”  When David argued that this was not true, that they were just going through a rough phase, she cut the civility and said something about being bored.  She wanted out.  
     David loved Cynthia.  From her black mane, sleek physique, sloe-eyed innocence, to her insatiable appetite for knowledge, she stimulated him to no end.  There was no other woman for him.  So why had it hastily fallen apart, with such an anemic exit, no less?  How could something so perfect simply fade out like the insubstantial denouement to a bad foreign film?  He did not understand why she had left him.
     The razor blade penetrated the flesh with ease, deep and to the bone.  David slashed toward the nose, riding the cheekbone.  Blood gushed from the gaping wound.  He then altered his path, slashing straight down, through the cheek and into the mouth, slicing cleanly into the gums.  Nerve endings were severed, sending a message to the brain—precise as the handiwork in progress—of the parameters of pain the preceding twelve seconds had obliterated.  He ignored the message.  Tasting blood, his probing tongue poked through the newly formed opening in his face.
     Jackie left David after seven weeks because, as she put it, “it just wasn’t working out.”  Worse yet, she utilized the phrase “finding herself” to further confuse the issue.  David thought that this was a very outmoded excuse, but he did not know how to retaliate in a manner that would convince her that “herself” was meant to be with him.
     David loved Jackie.  After Cynthia’s abrupt departure, he thought he’d never find another woman to take her place.  When a relationship of any substance or length (usually a hand-in-hand development) deteriorates, this defeatist conclusion is often adopted to compound the lonelyache: a mentally fatalistic, melancholic recession into one’s perceived failings.  Four months had been, by far, the longest relationship of David’s generally lackluster love life.  But Jackie and her auburn curls and sugar-coated kisses had blown in to get him back on his feet again, helping him to reacquaint himself with his fragile self-esteem.  And then, through her vague maneuverings, she knocked him back down.  He did not understand why she had left him.
     He continued his transformation, following the pattern engraved into the right side of his face on the left side, with tenacious conviction.  His corrupt reflection bloomed: he thought of slaughterhouses; he thought of the blood-slathered call of the wild; he thought of primeval rituals aligned with insignias wrought in scarification.  He was fascinated, staring at his reflection in the glass top table, by the inherent, atavistic logic in what he had undertaken.  He felt good.
     Nina left David after nineteen days.  Said she didn’t like his “erratic behavior,” didn’t like what she called his “constant pathetic hounding.”  Didn’t like the way his anger overrode every situation: always on edge.
     David loved Nina.  He felt the chemistry between them fairly sizzle.  Their time together may have been somewhat tumultuous, but David chalked it up to heightened passions ignited by their (one) fleshy coupling.  Passions he’d never felt before.  Not even with Cynthia or Jackie.  He found it hard to control himself around her.  He did not understand why…
     The razor blade split his right nostril as it started its ascent toward his forehead, and then shifted so as to cleave a crescent parallel to the eyebrow.  He followed the same procedure on the left side of his face, adding a flair for the artistic by cutting a heart out of the flesh next to his left eye, a cautionary statement (I’ve loved before, I have), like tattooed teardrops on the calloused countenance of an ex-convict.  He smiled at his creativity.  At his creation.            
     Teri left David after sixty-seven hours.  Said he was “crazy, possessive, clinging like a hangnail I’d d rather snip off, it was a mistake to even have said hello to you”; she said he had real issues of maturity, communication—blah blah blah…
     David loved Teri.  He had planned to ask for her hand in marriage.  He wanted her.
     He wanted somebody.
     He did not understand…
     The razor blade, sweet lover, catapulting despair through actions: he pressed it firmly into his lip, four times—twice on the upper lip, twice on the lower lip.  He pressed so hard the blade penetrated his already ravaged gums, scraping enamel from his teeth.  He pushed his lower lip with his tongue; it flipped over, swinging open like a trap door.  He licked the blade, an action that left him with a forked tongue.  He felt very good.
     Michelle.  Twenty-five minutes.  Said he was annoying her.  “Go away or I’ll call the cops, you freak!”
     David loved Michelle.  He knew this by the way she made him feel: just like all the rest of them, using his emotions--his love--as a springboard for freedom.  Just like all the rest of them. 
     Just like all the rest!
     He felt strong.  The blood painted his face red: the color of love…and anguish.  The pain helped define him--now!  He gazed at his grand creation, at his agonizing metamorphosis.  Naked, blood streamed onto his bare shoulders, down his chest.  Adorned in a coat of blood and sweat; moist, sticky clothing, he thought.  All he needed.
     Except for the knife…
     He set the razor blade down gently on the glass top table, sweet lover.  He reached over and pulled the knife out of Michelle’s throat.  He slid his fingers into the gash, tearing, almost separating her head from its ruptured pedestal—her head lolled obscenely, limply resting on her upper back--better to facilitate the gathering of blood from the yawning scarlet chasm that was her neck into his cupped hands.  Blood like his.  He used it to paint his face completely red, even so much as to slick back his hair.  Red for love—the futile wages of love—for passion, for anger.  He felt primitive; he liked the feeling.  He felt primordial, with the option to evolve—to reform--into anything he wanted, and not just crawl out of the sludge with unrefined intentions.  He had become an animal driven by urges.  Like love.  And hate.  By everything purified, refined down to its core impact resolution.  He wasn’t boring or aggressive or annoying or anything but the impulse to be.  And most of all, to be loved. 
     Because he loved them all. 
     He eagerly caressed the smooth side of the steel blade with his forked tongue, savoring the succulent, tangy splendor congealing there, and stepped into the hallway, naked but for the grim, dripping crimson adornments of love; the glistening armor of battle.  A woman leaned out of an apartment halfway down the hallway, saw him, and screamed. 
     Maybe she’ll love me, he thought.  Maybe she’ll love me.  He strode with a whittled, knife-honed objective down the hallway, knowing that it didn’t really matter what she thought, what she felt, anyway.  He loved her…and that was enough for the both of them.


Fun?  Ahem, yeah, messy, I know.  ;-)
This woman looks as though she might be the perfect partner for David, eh?

Back to our regularly scheduled Darkness with the next blog post. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Dark...Reloaded: "The Perceptive One." Chaos, History, Responsibility...

Continuing with the second run of teaser/samples from my collection, The Dark Is Light Enough For Me, I think with this one I'll give you the whole bleak and spiritually draining finale, as told to us by Peg Saunders, a teenage writer out to see the world with her "boyfriend" Travis Wayne who intends to be bigger than Elvis (the story, though recollected later, takes place in the 1950s).  I put quotation marks there as she knows their time together is not long, what with his wayward, blown-up to hot-air balloon sized ego and misguided goals and insidious soul, let's get real, not one to hold on to her, no matter what she wants or needs.  She knows as much, hopes for better, but knows as much.  A sense of melancholy is draped over this one.

Until they meet the old man on the train and Travis is given a gift, something always meant for him.  Sure, you need to know what it is in order to understand where this is all leading.  What he has been given is the responsibility of watching the most horrible moments of history, the chaos and bloodshed because, well, somebody has to.  That is the law of the universe, perhaps.  Somebody has to in order to keep things in balance...and so we don't forget, though history has shown us time and time again how we tend to slip and slide down well-worn paths that should have been oblitered long ago, with the knowledge of what came before.

Humans can be such stupid animals.
Where do these images play out?  Behind his pupils, where only he can see them.

"The Perceptive One" is a slippery one that is perhaps more slippery because somewhere in production, the italics got sliced out.  The thoughts that Peg hears, and Travis to some extent, telepathically tossed their way by the old man, were supposed to be in italics, to better indicate this. Ah, well, perhaps if published again, I can rectify this, but it's all there anyway.

So, with all of that in mind, here we are at the crossroads, decisions to be made: dutifully watch and live your life in the shadows, not an envious future, but a necessary one; or allow your ego to dictate a different path.  And Travis, with all that ego and no perception at all, narrow scope and blinded by aspirations beyond his grasp, decides it is:


     All the power he could ever have imagined was entrusted with him. An eternal chain—no!  As master of eternity, he kindled grimmer aspirations.  He would not be a slave to the cataclysmic visions and become a whittled shell as the old man had done.  No, he would be swift to extinguish the raging past, an apocalyptic finale to the images as well as mankind.
     The voice in my head had grown viscous, thickened by destructive desires into something monstrous.  I listened, clawed at his leg, begged, “Please, it will not end as you want,” all for naught.  The person who stood above me, delirious smile agleam, spoke more words in my head, culled from his soulless soul:  So what if this act would deny the placement of his name in the tomes of history, except as an exclamation point.  So what if there would be no one and nothing left to whisper his name in awe or dread but the sepulchral wind.  No one and nothing can stop him, either.  So be it! 
     But these were not his words, not just his words—he would have chosen something straightforward, less defined.  These were the voices of every watcher who had but dreamed similar thoughts and tossed them away out of fright, out of a respect that was excruciating to accept, out of understanding that swallowed faith, surrendering without quarrel anymore.
     In my head again, the voice, Travis’ disembodied voice, marching to the front:  Was there a power more potent, more omnipotent, than that of a god? 
     “No, Travis, there is not.  You are not something more than a god—”
     “Wrong, Peg.  Just watch!”  The personification of defiance, spoken aloud in a voice wrenched from steel so as to obliterate any possible misinterpretation.  
     Travis stomped out of the diner, his purpose altered by the now charred ruminations of his misguided, fearful soul; a soul devoid of understanding, or possibly understanding too well and taking it down the most selfish path imaginable.  His fear had infected his already repulsive core
     I pulled myself up, my legs unsteady.  The waitress walked up to me and asked if I was okay.  I told her “No,” and left.
     Travis approached the busy road, large trucks pulling larger trailers speeding by, kicking gravel and smelling of hot oil and burning rubber. 
     Suddenly, though I had been hooked into his thoughts, I understood completely the level in which he expected to alter everything.  I watched him as he stood at the edge of the road, felt the hideous power surge through him as he denied his newborn responsibility; the roiling images faded as before him materialized a specter of the old man.  It did not startle him.
     I ran up to him, seeing the specter myself as the old man’s apparition held up its palms as a plea to compassions Travis no longer supported and, as a matter of fact, had never really supported.  It was a silent plea that Travis ignored.
     I grabbed his arm.
     “Travis, you cannot change this, what you have become, what has been given to you—”
     “I can do anything, Peg.  I am omnipotent.  You cannot stop me.  He cannot stop me.  Nobody can stop what is destined to happen.  I am a god!”  
     He laughed, hollow, indignant cries that meshed with the bleating horns of trucks as they zipped by.  A cherry red Mack truck loomed ever nearer, towing a huge Budweiser sign behind it.  I sunk my fingernails into Travis’ arm, but his strength and the urgency that propelled him made my efforts useless.
     There had been a time, for awhile, when I thought Travis and I would be together forever.  I had moved passed that way of thinking when I really got to know him, knowing there was something shattered within him that tainted the good—though there was good there too, there had to be—but that did not mean I did not love him.  It’s just that I had always been a perceptive girl.  But now…
     I knew I was right all along, despite my doubts.  We would be together forever.
     Almost fifty years ago, and I remember it as if it were yesterday or, to be most precise, as if it were a mere few minutes ago.  I always remember what happened. 
     Sometimes, memory is all one really has anyway.
     I had tried to warn Travis.
     As the truck bore down on him, he looked at me with mischievous intent, his eyes so black even the fires seemed buried within, beyond trespass, but I knew they were still there. 
     The old man and I had tried to change this path—there was no way to change the path—but there are some things one cannot change.  Travis had an understanding about destiny, he just had it figured out all wrong.
     I knew, as the old man had known, no matter what, Travis would not die that day, and that the human race would not be extinguished within the process.  He had a duty to the human race that he wanted to disregard.  But his narcissistic ways and greedy heart and malicious soul had not allowed our interruption. I tried to warn Travis…
     But he ran into the truck’s path anyway. 
     I saw the old man’s apparition turn to mist as the truck passed through him and plowed into Travis’ body.  I closed my eyes and tears poured from them before I opened them again.  I listened to the squeal of brakes, to the dull thud and firecracker popping of bones beneath heavy tires.  I listened to Travis final words, “I am…” but whatever he was would remain a secret long forgotten at this stage. 
     But on one level he was correct with the broken statement.  He is.  He simply is.
     The truck swerved and hit a pole but, amazingly, avoided any further mishaps.
     The damage had been done.
     The truck driver, wearing a stained baseball cap, peered out of his passenger side mirror and scrunched his face. 
     That was what I saw first.   I was afraid to look closer to my right where Travis had been dragged as he went under the truck’s skidding tires. 
     I watched as the truck driver opened his door and swung down to the asphalt, heard his shoes clacking as he circled around the front of the cab and saw him scrunch his face again.
     “I didn’t see him! I swear.  He came outta nowhere.  I didn’t see him.”
     He was looking at me as if this feeble explanation was meant for me.  As if I did not already know something bad was going to happen, just not this bad. 
     “I’m sorry,” he said, to the gathering crowd.  “I didn’t see him.  I didn’t see him.”
     The waitress from the diner had made way to the scene and could do nothing more than shake her head.
     Finally, I looked to the road, to the tragedy.  Travis seemed crushed in ways that made living impossible, plastered to the asphalt in blood and viscera, bones ripping through torn flesh, splintered bones.
     One would have thought the body dead, but I knew otherwise. 
     It still had a purpose.
     I sensed the voice from within.  It was nothing more than a scream that tattooed my eardrums for months, a droning symphony of immeasurable suffering.  It filters through even now, so many years later: the scream; a mind screaming; a soul in eternal agony.   
     The pain knocked me to my knees. 
     The waitress approached me and put a comforting hand on my shoulder.  She still had no words, but I was thankful for her kindness under the circumstances and, really, there was nothing one could say to make anything better. 
     Ever again, I may add.
     I looked down at my love, Travis, a boy asked to do a man’s job and unwilling to realize the scope of what that entailed.  His eyes were wide open and moist.  No, not his eyes—those eyes, those obsidian orbs—so merciless in their selfish necessity, their concentrated, determined scope. 
     Travis’ attempt at fulfilling the most catastrophic of dreams had not killed him.  It had done worse, if that was at all possible.  He was crippled beyond repair, condemned to a life as little more than a space occupier: a vegetable, alive, existing, but not living.  Only his strange obsidian eyes, with the fires that raged behind them, indicated he was anything more than a shadow. 
     I know what he sees and know it is necessary.  That is what the old man bequeathed on me, this ruthless knowledge.  Because I understand, I have done the best I can do with the life I have lived; with the life I continue to live; we continue to live.  Travis rides the rails of oblivion, the images persistent, rolling by with furious perseverance, a ride for him and him alone to fully embrace; images he, as the only passenger on the oblivion express, is allowed to witness.  Images better left forgotten.
     I thank the old man everyday for at least making my personal hell a bit more tolerable. 
     I despise the old man as well, for what the years have been.
     And I despise myself for always being the perceptive one, the one who understands.
     As the tedious accumulation of days into months into years crawled by, Travis grew to understand a lot.  He understood the credentials he flaunted as a god were incomplete, erroneous.  A god is not molded from flesh and blood, bones and dust; a god cannot be a prisoner to these earthly restrictions, only a man can.  And Travis was but a man—more so, a boy—or at least the ruined remains.
     Knowing what I know, I sometimes steer one of the nurses toward Travis.  I know I push them a bit too hard.  I know what I am doing would sentence some random woman to a life I would not wish upon anybody, but I know eventually somebody will have to replace Travis as watcher of all that is inexcusable in a world that accepts it too readily—the vile panoramic norm and all that slithers beneath and within—and I will be able to walk away from his bedside and maybe…
    Is it wrong, what I do?  It is terrible and rips me apart every time I do it, but because of my grip on their arms, a grip that has grown vice-like over the years, a strength I did not wield way back when it mattered, and because of the abnormal condition of his eyes, they find an even greater strength and break free from my grip, driven by their own fear and, really, there is nothing I can do.  
     So, I solemnly wait for the next chosen one to truly show up; just as Travis waits.
     I am not heartless.  I just want something.  After all this time, I just want what Travis wants.
     But until that time, I read him the stories I have written, all starting the same: “Lean, mean, quite obscene: tougher than a stick of beef jerky and cruder than a stiff breeze from the slaughterhouse.  Wheat-blond hair and the bluest eyes imaginable, like the sky had been polished and placed in his care; like the color of summer on a liquid glass ocean…”   They all end differently, all lead down different paths, different lives, all because we are together forever as I had once wanted. 
     Sometimes when I read these stories, a tear escapes from the tumult within his eyes. 
     I try to give him something, because his mistake was many years ago, and he’s destined to do time for his youthful guile. And I stay because I must. 
     That is my affliction, having loved him. Sadly, I always will.  I’d realized after a time he was my soul mate, even if his soul was tarnished from the get go, even if he had done things and thought things I would never have ventured.  We were meant to be together.  We were always meant to be together.
     Destiny, no matter how damaged, was ours all along.
     Destiny, no matter how sadistically shrewd, had chosen Travis as it had chosen the old man, bad people but not the worst. Little people with lives already aligned with unhappiness. Soiled souls who would not matter if not for this heinous gift.      
     I also learned my soul was big enough for the both of us to share; it had to be.      
     His soul was no longer a part of the deal. 
     His soul died long ago, and what he has left just maybe finds a bit of something positive with the stories, is able to take a ride somewhere else, away from his eyes and the travesties that inhabit them, to a place where he is bigger than Elvis, bigger than any star ever; the brightest star amidst a dead black and loathsome eternal night.
     But these are only stories.  And in their writing, they keep me going as well.
     But for how long?
     When will the next chosen one come to take over? 
     When?—damn it, when?
     I know deep down inside what he really wants.  I know because it is my dream as well. 
     What are our dreams?
     They are simple dreams, peaceful dreams. 
     What are our dreams?
     We dream of sleep and the smile it will bring.


Whew!  I know that goes on a bit, but in her condition, I could not stop Peg from thinking, wondering, wanting to know how long?  How much longer must she endure?

So...a photo, eh? This story was originally, in a much shorter version, called, "A Torrent of Ages," then with the re-write that expanded it by about 7,000 words, "The Oblivion Express."  The  photo here, by Bob Cuthill, featuring lonely tracks leading to oblivion, seems most appropriate. 


Sunday, June 10, 2012

#SixSentenceSunday Overload: "I Want To Take You Higher."

Rules, who needs them?  Okay, for the sake of being thorough as a writer, I want and need to know all of the rules so I can have something to bounce the red rubber ball in my imagination, the one thumping at the back of the cranial wall, off of it, meaning, yeah, know the rules so you can break them.  Of course, that's no biggie here, my rule breaking has more to do with the Six Sentence Sunday deal.  As in, I think I'll give you more than that, much more, just like what any junkie wants.  What? Yeah, this is the drug story, one of two in the collection, so let's roll with it, give you not just one fix, but enough to entice or confound you to the limits.

"I Want To Take You Higher," title pilfered from Sly and the Family Stone, a fave band from my youth, a good friend introducing me to their ultra-funkified Soul...and somehow, years later, it infiltrates my head, my enjoyment of their music as woven into my enjoyment of drug fiction, which I mention in my previous take on this story here.  I'm going to re-hash the same sample as that one, but then expand on it, just let it pour out.  Six Sentences?  Heck, we get through a whole mess of sentences, of sheer nuttiness, of drug-infused lunacy, though, no, I do not take drugs.  Why would I?  I've got an overabundance of warped imagination to deal with, I'm not sure if the drugs could handle ME!


[pause for a brief moment: This Six Sentence Sunday addition of the blog comes courtesy of my collection, The Dark Is Light Enough For Me, available via Amazon USA, UK, Germany, France, B&N, OmniLit, Kobo and...Somewhere, Anywhere, Elsewhere & Nowhere.  Now back to our irregularly scheduled blog post] 

The first Six Sentences...


     The knock at the door could only mean one thing: Desi was here, with the drugs no less, not that I could really deal with any more right now, but why stop anything of such mind-numbing, reality altering magnitude when it’s got the pedal jammed to the floor?
     I can stop tomorrow.  There’s always tomorrow.
     I unlatch the lock, swinging open the door with much flourish, eyes skittish, wanting to grab him and drag him in and—
     “Hello!  I won’t mean to take up much of your time.”  A Jehovah’s Witness or some like-minded Messenger of God, fercrissakes, and his silent, strap-on buddy.

AND... a whole bunch more.

     Options align as bowling pins awaiting the kiss of the rapidly spinning ball.  Do I torture him for my own amusement with snippets of my thespian talents and portray a Satanic serial killer, complete with a drooling, halitosis smitten smile and a black marker upside-down cross on my forehead ala Manson’s swastika etchings?  Do I resort to politeness? After all, I was voted Mr. Politeness in kindergarten, given a red ribbon, like one does for a prize pig at the county fair—“My, he sure is plump!”—in a quest to expedite his removal posthaste, without eliciting anything more than a furrowed brow or a plea caught in his throat, God’s Messenger gagging on the message? 
     He interrupts the squirming, beached marlin madness in my head.
     “But we're visiting folks in your neighborhood”—no way, I think, if they’d made it to Harold’s they’d be in the sausage grinder by now, live cams filming it all for Internet prosperity—“and were wondering if you read the bible.”
     I pause, options hazy, and choose the prize pig route. I snort at him.
     “Excuse me?”  He looks genuinely perturbed, his bright yellow shirt staining my eyes like liquid sunlight.  My head starts to throb; my thoughts are squiggly, illegible graffiti, gray matter bruises that never heal.
“Yes,” I say, “I’ve heard of the book.”  I snarl as I open the screen—just gimme the free magazines and leave the premises now, before the hounds infect your pure, religiously demented soul with slathering rabies infused nibbles to your shiny white, never spanked ass; pit bulls Roscoe and Alvin prowl the perimeter behind me, anxious for some meat, agitated because they are not sure if there is anything truly worthy at the door.  I’m still mortified by the too bright sun and his lack of appropriate fashion sense—dear man, you should style yourself with a less gleeful shirt. Here, I’ve got something in black, don’t worry about the Incest Rodeo: My Daughter Can Roll Over and Play Dead, Can Yours? blurb, they’re a band, y’know, noisy stuff, just tell your cohorts you’re only wearing it to better know your enemy.
     “Do you read it…often?”  He comprehends the preposterousness of his question, realizing his best mode of action is to giddy-up and outta here ASAP and says, “Well, let me leave a couple of these with you and—”
     I snatch the magazines—gotta start the barbecues somehow—grunt a “Thank you” in his direction, hoping he doesn’t see anything salvageable here and leaves permanently, never to cross paths with yours truly again. 
     “Thank you for your time—”
     “Yeah, time is money, get on with your trek, God Boy, we got no recruits here,” and angry at myself for my dismissive manner, not trying to raise anything with this God Boy.  He’s on a mission, we should all have goals, but Jeezus, how about something with resonance in this life, not some iffy next one around the bend and smelling of desperation. 
     Feast or Famine?  No title besides those three words.  Is that the title?  What is this God Boy’s true mission, feeding the poor or is this a spiritual question, one of allegiance, picking sides: pearly white or blood red?
     I was expecting In God’s Eyes or—what’s that other one?—The Watchtower.  Sounds like a horror novel, where the victim is dragged upstairs and locked in a room full of watches—Mickey Mouse and SpongeBob SquarePants and oodles of other animated variations—and a ticking procession hammers said victim with the torturous veracity of existence, to the point where the victim wishes for THE END this minute, and not a second later.  A Watchtower, The Watchtower, a skyscraper with the dimensions and modus operandi stated above, a Stephen King blockbuster, movie to follow, script in pig Latin—I could star, me and my Mr. Politeness red ribbon—an obvious Mel Gibson directorial vehicle, what with the rarely used language, utilized for the sake of artistic integrity and—
     Another knock.  More questions, more attempts at persuading yours truly that the road to heaven is paved with bright yellow shirts and yellow brick roads and God likes to be called the Wizard, yes, the Wizard of Odd, Master of the Universe, King of New York, scoundrel, cad, sock stuffing rock star, argh—
     “Open the friggin’ door, gringo.”
     Desi.  Thank God!
     I unlatch the lock, swinging open the door with much flourish, eyes skittish, wanting to grab him and drag him in.  He’s got Regina with him.  She’s adorned in dirty gray sweats, a pink bra, and goggles.  She looks thinner now than the last time I almost missed her, as if she’s dwindling away—gotta eat something, I tell her—but she tells me it’s part of her appeal, skinny girl into blow jobs, excuse me,  She’s twenty-six, could pass for half that in pig tails—oink, oink!  She gets filmed by Harold and his stiffs, they download the shit to a porn site they have, one of many, and I’ll be damned if I ever see Harold anymore as he’s got a life playing out on the Internet, mucho money to the PO Box. One of his scummy hangers-on entourage collects the money and the party never stops. 
     Prosperity indeed.
     “What’s with the goggles, Regina?” 
     She’s cute anyway, even for a twig, leans in to kiss me on the lips but I turn to the left, give her my cheek—I know where those lips have been!—and she licks me instead, like I’m one big dick and I feel like one under her salacious tomfoolery. 
     “It was for the money shot scene.  We went more arty.  Whatever Harold wants, Harold gets.  He thought the goggles would attract the fetish crowd.” 
     I wonder if the goggles have been cleaned with anything besides some jerk off’s spunk, but decide to turn to Desi to see if he has what I need.
     “We gotta make a run to Hayward.  I got nothing—”
     “Fuck!  I need it now, not an hour from now, not five minutes from this second, what with God Boy and Goggle Girl and—”
     “Calm down, spazz.  Leonard’s got prime shit.  That’s our destination.”
     I groan and turn away.  Leonard’s usually got prime shit, but in order to get to the prime shit, we gotta deal with Leonard, and that’s no piece of cake, unless it’s frosted with shit and stinking of attitude.  Leonard is bad news no matter how one looks at it.  Desi has no clue.  Desi has a Leonard wannabe obsession, and since Leonard’s obsession veers into the old school funkism of Sly Stone—excuse me, Sylvester Stewart, as he would so astutely remind me—of Sly and the Family Stone, what with the miles high fro and always playin’ that shit—hell, I know all of the lyrics and I can’t stand it—I’m left with Desi’s tired copycat routine.  Like a little brother trying to emulate his big brother.  But where Desi is all face value, Leonard has some kind of freakish transformation happening, so deep in the guise I’d almost be convinced he was Sly, except he was six feet, ten inches tall, and white.


Okay, you get the gist, perhaps: yes, this one is off the rails, then turns really Messed Up in a horrific way. 

Funny, as always when I write a story with a Very Black Humor side to it, such as this one, I often feel like I have to chime in, but...but...most of what I write is Serious Horror.  But, I've also learned over the years not to argue with the muse if the muse wants to run around naked and flashing everybody its junk while wearing Devil's Horns and singing the National Anthem know what I mean.  Actually, do you?  O.o

Onward I say.

Here's a picture of what it must feel like for some people to battle their drug demons which sounds like a good idea for another story of this nature, literally drug Demons, eh? though more serious, I tell you! More Serious!  [actually, this is of a more political nature, the USA's battle against drugs, I believe...]
Either way...Enjoy!