I heard his muffled cry from the bedroom. It was just a quick shriek at first. I listened and waited for it to escalate or to disappear entirely. When I didn’t hear another harsher cry I went back to the dishes. I was drying a plate when I heard the pained whimper.
I put the towel on the side of the sink and my hands flat on the edge. Again I waited. I knew I should go to him, see what was causing that terrible whine that was starting to pierce my heart but another side of me was terrified to go to him. I had heard that devastated moan before, I knew exactly what was causing it.
“Kelly,” he called. I turned toward the hallways, my decision being made for me. I walked through the short hallway to the bedroom. He was sitting on the ground, legs outstretched in front of him, head hung low. He looked like a child who just had his favorite toy taken away from him.
“Hon?” I whispered.
He looked up. I saw complete devastation on his face. I knelt beside him and wrapped my arms around his shoulders. I patted his side.
Finally he spoke, “I thought I was doing well. I thought I was trying. Why me? Why?” he kept asking the last question over and over again. I couldn’t look him in the eyes, couldn’t give him an answer because I had no answer to give him. No answer at least that would make all this go away and would make him feel less like he was dying.
“You know they have ways of making the decision They say they don’t make them simply. It hurts them too,” I told him. Such empty and rehearsed words. I knew exactly how they made their decisions and it was nothing short of throwing darts at a board.
I didn’t say anything more as he cried himself into silence. I just stared at my reflection in the mirror that hung on the back of our closet door. I looked, at least to me, calm and put together. I was being the rock he needed right now. I was holding my boyfriend as he grieved the loss of his dreams. I was keeping my face straight and devoid of emotions to keep him calm.
My mouth quirked up at the edges. I should have registered as wanting to be an actress instead of company assistant. I had learned quite skillfully how to hold back all the emotions that chased themselves around my mind. Right now I was breaking and I couldn’t show it. My love was watching his own world crumble around him and it was all because of me. I had caused all this pain and the worst part was that he didn’t even know. He blamed some featureless company, New Day, a name that made people shake when anyone even mentioned that place.
He sat up and wiped his eyes on the back of his hand. “I’m going to go make the arrangements. Get this whole hell over with,” he gave me a peck on my cheek and went to find his phone in the kitchen.
I watched him go, leaning my head back against the bed and took deep breath. I let it out slowly, feeling my chest deflate. My heart calmed and I managed to hold in the tears that were stinging the back of my eyes.
I hadn’t known what was I was doing when I had begun the project. They had only asked me to make a census type list at first. The wanted everyone’s name and registered dreams. I had done the task never thinking twice about what I was doing. They did this occasionally, made a quick list to see what the trend would be like and how the world could be changing soon. Usually it was just information to pass on to tech companies and medical personnel. Stuff like, a number of people have registered as wanting to rework the tablet computer to make life even more convenient, better alert the big technology companies and big wigs. Give them a heads up on who to follow and who could end up being a competitor sooner or later. Many people are now determined to scale the tallest mountains, better staff the hospitals nearby.
The dream registry concept was kind of a passing joke throughout the country. No one knew why it had really started. Something about wanting to show the world the number of different and innovated dreams that Americans were working towards each and every day. It wasn’t mandatory to register but almost everyone did because when you did you got resources to help you. Usually it was spam papers from companies wanting your business but sometime it was useful stuff like conference notifications and new classes teaching what you needed to know. You did it without really thinking twice about it
So I had never thought too hard about them taking a greater interest in the list. That was until they start making me track select groups of people. They all of sudden had a vast amount of information about what certain people bought and where they shopped. They knew who was taking classes, who was going to retreats to help them better themselves. They knew who was making new contacts and who was just sitting around not doing much.
“Why do you care?” I had asked one day as I had handed over a folder full of papers on the latest group.
“We did not become the greatest by being lazy and waiting for the world to change around us. People here work towards what they want. We will ensure that, that practice continues.”
It was just last year that I saw what I was helping them do. They took over every channel on TV and the radio and made the announcement. The president and CEO of New Day stood before his microphone and told the country about a new way of life. From that day onwards everyone would be watched though that wasn’t real new information since everyone knew they were being watched already. Spending would be tracked, visits to stores would be monitored. In every place you visited some of the people would be plants, sent to keep an eye on you. Not every single citizen would be watched but you couldn’t know if or if not you were being selected. Best to work and not to worry. If you worked and didn’t waste your time and the countries resources you would be perfectly fine.
If it was determined you were not working towards your goal and you are not seen to ever begin the work properly you would be notified. There were no warnings. You would receive a call saying you were done and you could no longer achieve what you desired. You could not register for necessary classes, buy certain items or watch shows with the themes of what you had once hoped to achieve. You would be cut off from that portion of the world.
Of course chaos had ensued throughout the country. Once the first calls came and it was seen that it wasn’t all a game it was too late they had completely closed their hands around our necks. We couldn’t do anything, we couldn’t get away. Who knew who was following you or how far their influence reached. Some rebelled but many began to work with vigor determined to never get that call. The land of the free became the land of the controlled and I had helped start it all.
“Tomorrow at 10,” he was leaning on the door, eyes on the ground. “You’ll come right?” he sounded as if he was doubting me.
“Of course,” I told him. He nodded and went into the living room. I heard the muffled sounds of some sitcom. I waited for the renewed sobs when he flipped the channels and realized that he could no longer access the history channel, his favorite channel.
Mike had registered as wanting to become a world renowned historian. He didn’t give any more details then that when he had done his paper work. That had made him an easy target. New Day loved people like Mike. They registered this huge and broad dreams with so many different parts to them that it was simple to say, “Nope, they aren’t working on this piece, lets end this.” People like Mike became examples for everyone else. Those who had very specific dreams with real details had a much better chance of never getting that call.
Why I stood up and made my way to the living room I had no idea. Mike was watching a home shopping channel. “I’m so sorry,” I said, surprised my voice was still strong. “I did all this.” I should stop talking right now. I was not allowed to say these words out loud. Why was I doing this to him? I was all he had left and now I was taking even that from him. Did I want him to be completely destroyed? What was I doing?
“What?” he hit mute and looked up at me, confused.
“I started this whole thing. That call you got? I drafted it. I helped track everyone, made all the lists they use. I didn’t know what they were doing. I swear,” I didn’t move. He was watching me like I was an alien life form, speaking a completely different language.
“You?” was all he asked. I nodded, my long held in tears spilling from my eyes.
He stood up. I flinched. He had never attempted to hurt me before but I had just told him all his pain was my fault.
He gave me the most disappointed look before turning and walking out the door. I watched him go and finally broke down.
I wasn’t welcome here. I knew that. I knew I was being insensitive and I should leave right now. He was already having to be reminded with each hug that his life was now pointless. To have me looking back at him was going to be like being slapped across the face. But I still loved him and I needed to be here. If not for him then for myself.
I was next in line. He looked up at me. I held out my arms and when he didn’t move I walk to him and wrapped him in a hug. A hug he did not return. I turned and went to the side room where his casket stood.
This part was not New Day’s idea. It was all created by those who had gotten the call and it was their way of dealing. It was a way of putting an end to the whole ordeal. This was a way to bury the pain in some manner. Mike’s casket was pretty bare. His registration form and a few of his favorite articles about new discoveries were all that laid on the white cushions.
My hands brushed the page and I sighed. How could I let this happen to our lives?
A hand squeezed my shoulder. I turned to find Mike watching me, “You caused this. You can fix it.” he looked down at me.
“I can’t,” I told him, my voice and heart breaking. “I have no access to any of this.”
“You can give me yours,” he said. There was the opportunity for one person to trade their dreams for another. You signed over your potential so someone else could succeed.
I felt something snap in me and before I knew it was I was on the ground laughing so hard I could barely breathe. I couldn’t put a real thought together. Tears rolled down my cheeks and a sharp pains started in my sides.
Mike just watched me with anger and a bit of fear on his face.
I finally gained control of myself and said from my place on the ground. “ I can’t. I already achieved mine. I registered as wanting to help a company change the world. Exactly one year ago today I did just that,” I breathed out. He walked away without a word and I let the laughter and sobs fight each other for dominance as I laid on the ground completely broken
I rubbed the ache in my chest again. My friends barely noticed, they were too busy ordering another round of drinks. They handed me a bright blue shot. I didn’t ask what was in it. It didn’t matter, I wasn’t driving and the goal was to stop thinking and not remember this evening. The plan was to black out the world for a little while and I was well on my way to accomplishing that goal.
Rachel had told me, “I’ll make sure you survive the night, so have fun.” I trusted her. I wouldn’t wake up in an alley or on someone else’s lawn. I would wake up in her bed or on her couch and that was all that mattered right now.
She knew I needed this night out. I needed to forget where I was and what had been happening over the last week. I had tried everything from binge watching mindless television to excessively working to keep myself occupied. Anything to ignore the bruises and the aches that kept appearing all over my body. If I drank until I couldn’t see straight then I could wipe this craziness from me. At least for one night.
“You still here?” I heard Rachel whisper in my ear. She was the only one I had told about what had started happening exactly a week ago.
“Half,” I told her. I reached out a hand for the bright pink drink in her hand. “Need to go over the edge.”
“Any new ones?” she asked.
“No idea, that is the point of this.” I told her. I sucked down the pink concoction. It was sickly sweet but left a burn that I would be feeling for a while. I wondered as I rubbed my chest again if he/she was feeling the same effect. I laughed to myself. After what I had endured this was nothing for them. Hell, they might even be enjoying it.
The world was starting to spin. I I had to hold onto the edges of my seat to keep myself from tipping over and landing on the ground. That is all I would need, a few extra bruises and bumps. I straightened myself and reached out for another drink.
The sun was so bright, like it had been set to blazing. The birds weren’t singing this morning, they were legit screeching at me. And whoever was stomping around the apartment needed to quit before I jumped up and chopped off their feet.
“Glad to see you are still with us,” It was Rachel. Did she have to scream? Couldn’t she just whisper? I waved at her and slid my head under my pillow, trying to muffle some of the chaos around me. The world muted but it was still too loud, I needed everyone to just go silent for a day.
I felt a tug at my pillow. I tried to hold on but she was much stronger then me and at a better angle. She pulled it off and the world came back at me full volume. I tried not to cry.
“Go away,” I whined.
“No,” Rachel was tapping my arm. I pulled up my head, my tangled hair falling into my face and gave her a glare. She was grinning one hand held out with a two pills on her palm. There was a glass of water on the nightstand. “Take these and come into the kitchen with me.”
“Don’t wanna,” I told her.
“Don’t care. I let you have you fun last night. I let you drink yourself into literal darkness. I understood that you needed it for one night. I put you to bed. Now you have to deal with the after affects and I get my turn to help you,” she was still tapping me. “Take them. Now.”
I groaned and sat up. I knew if I didn’t listen she would just get louder and more annoying. The woman wasn’t good with the word no, and either was I. We were probably the two most stubborn people on the planet and if we decided to battle it out we would be here for a while. I really just wanted to sleep and not to argue so I gave in.
I took the pills with the water. It was lukewarm. They went down pretty roughly making me cough.
“Come on,” she threw the covers off my legs. I saw I was still in my clothes from last night.
“What, couldn’t put any pajamas on me?” I teased her.
“You were lucky I got you into that bed. I can only perform so many miracles in a day,” she told me.
“Fair enough,” I stood up and was glad to see the world didn’t sway.
I followed her into the kitchen. On the dining room table there was McDonald’s fries and toast. I laughed to myself. She might be a stubborn bitch sometimes but she did know me well. This was why we were still friends.
I sat down and ate a handful of the fires. My stomach was already feeling calmer.
“So are we going to talk about what is going on? Or am I going to talk while you glare and groan?” she asked.
I held up two fingers. I didn’t feel like talking at the moment. All I wanted right now was food and sleep.
“Fine,” she snapped. She wasn’t even trying to hide her annoyance anymore. “Have you told anyone but me about the bruises? Does anyone else know you’ve been connected?”
I shook my head no, as I licked the salt from my fingers.
“Surprise, surprise. So what are we going to do about it?” she asked.
I shrugged. My head was still pounding and my stomach was just stopping it swaying. I had no plan for any of this and I didn’t want to try to come up with one right now. My body was in revolt and I didn’t need my brain to be freaking out as well. One problem at a time. Once the physical side of me was calm again then maybe I could jump into the emotional hurricane, but not right now.
“No shrugging at me and no more ignoring this. You have been avoiding this for a week. It is killing you. Last night you tried to literally drink it away and that worked so well. You need to go down and register, find him and work from there. You know you only get one connection and if you don’t find him you could lose him. Do you want that?” she asked me.
“What I want right now is a shower and then a nap,” I told her. “Thanks for the breakfast,” I picked up my keys and shoes. I gave her a one armed hug and headed toward the door. I was not going to argue with her when I felt like my head was going to split open.
I heard a muffled, “Dammit,” follow me out the door as I left to go home.
Did I really need a headache and nausea on top of everything else I had to deal with? Did she not understand the concept of being connected? What she did I felt, and vice versa. Then again I couldn’t really blame her; if this was my pay back I could deal with it.
I hissed as I laid a washcloth to my newest cut on my upper arm. It was angry red with dried blood around the edges. After a moment I pulled back the cloth and saw that much of the blood was gone. I laid a bandage over it and wrung out the cloth. I laid it over the edge of the sink and looked at myself in the mirror.
My face looked perfect. There wasn’t a cut or bruise to be seen. From just my face you would think I was happy and safe. When I met people I gave them a big and genuine smile. My voice was alway happy and pleasing. You would have no idea that from the neck down my body was a disaster.
If you saw my chest and upper legs, my shoulders and arms you would see how I really was. I kept that smile on my face to hide what was under my clothes. I had to hide it all. I couldn’t let anyone know. If they knew they would take her away and put her somewhere I couldn’t get to. They would treat me like a victim, reassuring me over and over again that it wasn’t my fault. I would get hugs and tears, pats on the backs and offers for condolences. None of which would heal the bruises, broken ribs or cuts. None of which could turn back time and keep her from losing control that one night that set flipped the switch. None of those words were going to help me fix her.
They wouldn’t understand. I didn’t stay out of fear of her. Could she kill me if she wanted to? Most likely. I have about fifty pounds on her, as well as much more muscle, but she was smart and cunning. She knew how to use what was closest, she knew how to keep me down and she knew that the last thing I would do was hurt her. She could get out of control but she was always able to pull back before she did any major damage. For her to survive, I needed to survive and she knew that.
No one else would understand and I couldn’t have her branded as evil or cruel. She was just sick and I was the only who could help her. I had a price to pay for being beside her but I knew what I was doing. I had everything under control until this damn connection came into play.
Now, not only did I have Susan and her breakdowns to deal with, but I had my supposed “soulmate’s” poor choices kicking me when I was down. I am getting pummeled from both sides and I clutched onto the sink and wondered how long I could keep this mask plastered on my face.
I expected the knock to come hours earlier. It was almost six when I heard the soft knock on the door. I didn’t act surprised when I opened it to find Rachel on the other side.
“You’re late,” I told her as way of greeting.
“Excuse me?” she looked confused.
“I expected you to come bug me about this hours ago,” I told her.
“I had to get something,” she came inside without invitation. I noticed the papers in her hands now.
“Oh, come on,” I whined. “Did you really go and get them? Can’t you just leave this all alone?”
“You wake up each morning with a new bruise or cut. You are my best friend, and not only do I not want to see you being hurt but someone else is obviously being destroyed as well. Do you want to lose your soulmate and end up being lonely forever? Do you want to have their possible death on your hands?” She turned and headed to the living room when I didn’t say anything.
“What are we supposed to do exactly?” Again I wasn’t in the mood to go into a stubbornness battle with her. Being used as a punching bag was getting old I did have to admit. I never actually felt the impacts, just the after effects. They came in slowly but it was definitely getting old. I was out of ideas of how to deal with this. So I guess I could listen to whatever mad idea Rachel had come up with.
“You know the basics. Every new child is injected with this serum at birth and after 23 you can become connected. One day you wake up physically feeling whatever your intended soulmate feels. They stub a toe and a few minutes later you toe is killing you. First it is just physical but it evolves to an emotional connection after a while,” She was sitting with her back against my arm chair.
I nodded. You learned about the whole process in middle school. It was all complete bullshit but I knew how the idea worked.
“Now you can go to City Hall to have them help you find your soulmate if you want. You register, they use their database and some magic I don’t understand, to find whoever it is. You find them, you both seal the connection and then you run off and live happily ever after,” she was fanning out the papers in her hands.
I sighed and waved her on. “Get on with it. I know this and I am bored.”
“Now what they never told us in school was two things. Number one, is you can actually disconnect from someone if you so desire. If you want to be alone or hate people or whatever you can disconnect and then you are free. But you can’t ever be connected again,” she looked up at me.
“Knew that. I was told that a while ago, don’t remember by who. But yeah I knew all that,” She looked a bit shocked but nodded and continued on.
“Number two, is that if you suspect abuse of your soulmate, whether from someone else or themselves, you have a legal obligation to report it,” She informed me.
“Okay but what if you aren’t sure there is abuse?” I asked her.
“You look like an abstract painting. I saw your back last night. It is a patch work of blue and purple. I think that qualifies.”
“No, it actually doesn’t,” I didn’t look down at her paper, which I was sure had a plan to fight me with. “We do not know the source of this. We could bring down cops and state officials onto someone who just can’t walk over a flat surface. Now is that fair?”
“Someone is abusing your connection!” Rachel snapped. “How can you not care? Even if you take out the connection part, do you not care about someone getting hurt!?”
“A. Do not try to label me some cold hearted bitch you doesn’t care. You know better then that. B. We don’t know anything. Maybe they are a cage fighter and lose a lot? Or maybe they are a thrill seeker and fall down hills all the time? We do not know anything for sure,” I told her.
She took a deep breath trying to calm herself. “Fine,” she pointed down at the papers. “Here are all the papers you need to have them find the person. Fill them out and find them. See for yourself what is going on. I knew you wouldn’t do this the easy way. So here,” she stood up. “I just hope you aren’t too late and I hope it doesn’t end up kill you in the process.” She turned and headed out, the door slamming behind her.
Susan was just finishing up putting the lid on her coffee when I came into the kitchen. She gave my a sad smile.
“How are you?” she asked quietly. I could hear the guilt in her voice. It was almost a permanent part of her personality these days.
“I’ve been better and I have been worse,” I told her. It was my usual response to the daily question.
“I’m so sorry,” she came over and wrapped her arms around my waist and kissed my cheek. I let her sink into my chest, “I’m trying,”
I winced at the pain in my head. She pulled back her eyes swimming with tears, fear evident on her face. Worried that even something this simple was hurting me.
“No, it wasn’t you,” I reassured her. “It’s my head.”
“You have a headache?” she asked gently. She walked to the counter and got me two aspirin and filled a glass of water. I took the pills with a grateful smile and swallowed them down.
“I have to get to work,” she squeezed my hand, her eyes begging me to understand and to not give up on her for just a little big longer. I nodded and watched her leave the house.
Once I was positive the car was long gone I got my own keys. I needed to get City Hall. I needed to break this connection. I knew what the decision meant. I knew that this was the end of my possible soulmate, the end of the possibility of having a perfect life handed to me on a platter. I didn’t have the time or energy to think about all I was giving up by breaking this connection. Did I believe in this concept? I didn’t know and I didn’t have the luxury to research or think it through. Susan needed me and right now that was all that mattered.
City Hall was packed today. I glanced down at my watch, it was one. Of course it was packed, it was lunch hour. Everyone here had a finite amount of time to iron out whatever drama they were dealing with and get back to the office in time to have a bite or two of their sandwich. This was going to be even more of a headache then I previously thought.
I almost left and headed back to my apartment but I remembered the anger on Rachel’s face and her accusation. It only took me about ten minutes after Rachel left to realize how much of a point she had. Yeah, whoever was my supposed soulmate was not someone I knew personally and I didn’t know what his problem was but I did know that whatever was happening was seriously starting to hurt me. After she left I got up, gathered together the papers and filled them out. They were pretty basic and were not asking me for too many details but as I was filling them out I hit my side on the counter and nearly broke down into tears. I didn’t do pain well and I needed to end this horrible ordeal and quickly.
So here I was off to see if I could find this person and figure out what was going on. I could sever the connection fully and be completely done with this forever but there was this little voice that was whispering to me. It wanted to know what was going on. So more out of curiosity than anything else I was here.
My goal was to turn the papers in, get the address and name and go find this person. I would figure out if they were just some clumsy idiot who couldn’t walk straight or if they actually needed some type of help. What I would end up doing from there I have no idea. I would pass that threshold when I got to it, right now I needed to find the main office first.
I found the elevators and hit the button. A second later the elevator arrived.
“Hold the doors, please,” I heard a man’s voice call just as the doors started to close .I held the button even though I couldn’t see who the owner of the voice was. A few seconds later a tall, brown haired stranger entered, glanced at the buttons and waited to ride the car up to the right floor.
I was only a few inches shorter then the man but the way he held himself made him seem feet not inches taller then me. I stopped leaning back on the wall and stood up straighter. He didn’t look at me or say a word. His eyes stayed trained on the numbers as the floors slid by.
We got to the fifteenth floor, the doors opened and he exited first. I followed. We both walked straight down the hall. He was quick, knew where he was going. He turned right at the last door on the end, he reached out and grabbed the door knob; as he did his arm swung out and his sleeve slid up just a few inches. I saw for half a second a bruise ring on his wrist.
He went into the room. I stopped and pulled out my own right sleeve and looked down at the bruise there. I shook my head, it was nothing. I pushed it from my mind and headed into the office.
The office was half filled. On the counter there was a ticket dispenser. I took a number, 37. They were on 31.
I glanced around and saw two seats. One in the far corner and one beside the mystery man from the elevator. I took the seat beside him.
I didn’t say anything. Just sat and crossed my legs. I made sure to act like I had no idea who he was. I watched the people around me. Two individuals stood at the counter, having a muffled conversation. While others were sitting bent over clipboards filling out some sheets, that were probably similar to the ones clutched in my hands.
Some people looked excited. They were here to get that coveted name and address. Maybe within the next hour they would be face to face with their soulmate. A soulmate supposedly found by some highly scientific process that one could even begin to explain to me. They would meet and would assume they were in love. From that very moment on they would start forcing all their actions to work with this person because they were their soulmate, so of course whatever they were doing was right. That annoying laugh you could barely tolerate was suddenly cute because they were the “one.” Need to change your style to make them happy? Sure that was fine because they are the love of your life so it was right. All those things you normally would run from screaming were suddenly bearable and perfect because they had to be. It was all ridiculous.
Others looked more sane. They were here to disconnect and get control back for themselves. They would choose who they loved, not some process that no one actually understood. Like me they didn’t automatically assume that this soulmate was their chosen one and that they would be perfectly happy after they met. They decided to think with their own brains and not their hearts. Smart people.
“Ouch,” I screeched, hand going instantly to my side where the ache came from, just as the man beside me hissed and clutched his side in the exact same spot.
I looked over and caught his eyes, they were wide in shock and fear. He quickly turned away trying to pretend nothing happened. He folded his arms across his chest causing the side of his shirt to rise a few inches. I saw the finger shaped bruise on his hip.
I pulled up my shirt and saw the exact same bruise.
“You,” I hissed at him. He rose to his feet and began to rush away, not saying a word.
“Oh no,” I said to myself. He was my man and he wasn’t getting away from me that easily. I followed behind him, keeping to his heels until he was out of the office. Once we were both clear of the door I grabbed his wrist and felt an ache go up my arm.
“Where the fuck do you think you are going?” I snapped.
He finally stopped to look at me.
“You talk?” I asked.
“My name is Zack. I’m sorry,” he said.
“Not what I was looking for but name is Samantha. Now what is going on with you?” I asked. I was not in the mood to have a long conversation full of introductions and small talk.
“Nothing. I’m sorry you are affected but it’s personal,” he said. “Let me go back in and break the connection and it will all stop.” He turned to walk around me.
I should have just let him go but something stopped me. I grabbed his arm again. Again the bruise there throbbed.
“Not until I get an answer. What is with the new coloring?” I asked. I pulled back my sleeves to show my black and blue arms. “I look like a modern art paining. Explain.”
“I can’t. I am sorry. Just let me go fix this,” he told me.
“Are you being abused?” I asked plainly. This man wasn’t going to spill his secrets to me at the moment. The only way I was going to get any type of answer was if I somehow guessed it.
“It is not that simple. She is sick. She needs me. I just have to deal,” is all he said. “Can I go in now? Please?” I let him walk in the door.
They were on number 35. I was next. I didn’t retake my seat. I just stood on the wall, anxiously waiting for the woman ahead of me to finish. Samantha didn’t follow me inside. I don’t know what to make of her. She was pretty but blunt. She didn’t have stars in her eye unlike so many did when they were connected. She seemed closer to Earth. If I didn’t have Susan would we get along? Could she possibly be the one?
I hit my head back against the wall. None of that mattered anymore. Maybe in another timeline we would be connected and fall into each others arms. We would be perfect but that wasn’t here and now. Now I had to break this so my decision stopped hurting her.
“36?” they called. I walked up to the window.
“How can we help you today?” “I need to be disconnected,” I told the lady. Her eyes instantly lost their sparkle.
“Would you like to speak to someone first? Would you like a pamphlet on the process? How long have you been connected? Have you considered every single possibility?” she asked one question after another. I was prepared for this. They wanted to make sure you completely understood what you were doing.
“I know it all. Just please let me disconnect,” in the end it was my choice and my choice only.
“Sure,” she held out a clipboard with two sheets on it. “Fill out both and bring them back here.” she sounded as if she was helping me bury someone.
“Thanks,” I turned and found the first open seat.
I was half way down the first page when someone sat down beside me.
“How sick?” the familiar voice asked. It was softer then her accusing one from the hallway.
“It is complicated,” I told her not taking my eyes off the paper.
“Well, in my experience things that are complicated are easier to deal with, with two people. Alone it can look like a mountain to tackle but with a friend maybe it is only a hill.” she said. She put her hand on my paper and I had to stop and listen to her. “This concept is all bullshit, I know that. I don’t know you and I don’t understand your problem but I know the effects of it; at least physically. I can only imagine the emotional trauma. You can’t do this alone. Now I am not saying I want to end up being carted off into the sunset with you but you are going to need some help, a friend. So put down the pen and come get a cup of coffee with me. You can explain some of it and I can make my decision from there . If it is too much for me to even think about I will walk away and you can finish filling these out. But maybe, just maybe I can help you in some fashion. Maybe I can be a friend,” she save me a small grin.
I should have politely told her no and finished my task. This was my problem and pulling in a complete stranger was cruel and potentially dangerous. Then again I was so tired. This process was starting to get exhausting. It might be nice to have a shoulder to lean on and an ear to talk to.
“One cup,” I told her. I put the board and pen on the chair. She led the way out the door. As I left I could have sworn I saw a smile thrown my way by the receptionist.
A/N: Todays prompt was to take the scenario of Mrs. Pauley and old woman who has lost her husband and her six sons are no longer living at home. She has fallen on hard times and people come to evict her. The idea is to tell the story from the 12 year old child across the streets perspective. The twist was to write in first person perspective
It was a rare day. I was allowed outside today. I’m not allowed out normally. My parents say it is too dangerous outside, people disappear too often. Usually I just stay inside and read my books playing inside the story world on my virtual reality device. I like it in there, so many different places to go to.
But sometimes it is a safe day and today is one of those days. There is no danger of me being taken my mom says. I don’t know why today is any different then yesterday or the day before but my parents say it is okay and they are my parents so they know what they are talking about.
The sun is warm on my face. I giggle as the wind lifts my hair and throws it in my face. I pull the strands away only to have them come crawling back. I feel like I am playing with a wind spirit, like in my fantasy stories. I imagine a little sprite playing a trick on me.
The birds sing from the trees. It is nice to hear them, to hear actual chirping instead of the fake tracks that play in my games and sometimes in our house. We can watch the TV and hear the bird sounds and feel the “wind,” but it isn’t real. I like being out here where the world is real.
I sit down on the stone steps and prop my head on my hand. I don’t know what to do now that I was outside. I wasn’t allowed to go for a walk by myself. I was never allowed to do that even before people started disappearing. A few people walk pass our house on the sidewalk but they don’t pay any attention to me. Today is a safe day so no one really looks at anyone else.
I was so eager to be released from my house, to finally get out into the sunshine and the cool breeze but now that I was out here I was bored. I had freedom but I didn’t know what to do with it.
I lifted my head and scratched at a scar on the back of my hand. It was just a line that I had had since I was a baby. My parents said all kids nowadays had them. I wished I had friends like I used to have. But no one had friends anymore. At least not like in the stories that I read. I liked those stories that have two best friends taking on the evil world around them. They would laugh and tease each other but then jump in front of fireballs and off bridges to save each other. I wanted that. But it wasn’t safe to get close to anyone you weren’t related to anymore my parents told me. You didn’t know who was working for “them,” and if you talked to the wrong person you could end up gone.
My excitement for being let outside had evaporated. I didn’t know what to do and now I felt more trapped then before. I was sitting here but I couldn’t really do anything. Everything beyond my doorstep was dangerous, and I didn’t know why! I was on feet and about to go back inside when something across the street caught my eye.
Three men were walking up Mrs. Pauley’s driveway. I liked the old woman. She would wave at me sometimes from her window. She always looked sad though. My dad said it was because she lost her husband, I don’t know if he was taken or just died, and that her six sons were all on their own now and she had no one left. I never talked to her, because my parents wouldn’t let me but I alway assumed she would be really nice. Maybe talk like the grandma’s from TV, all sweet and always offering you a cookie.
The three men were all much taller then me, maybe even taller then my dad. Two of them wore blue uniforms and the last one wore a white shirt like my dad used to wear to work sometimes.
They knocked on her door. I sat back down, scratching at the scar on the back of my hand. They waited but the door never opened. They knocked again, louder this time. She still didn’t answer.
Maybe she wasn’t home. It was a safe day, maybe she went out for groceries or a walk down the street. Couldn’t they just come back later? I guess not, because now they were yelling while they knocked on the door.
“Open the door!!” they yelled at the door. They were as loud and as angry as my dad was when I would lock myself in my room.
The door opened and old Mrs. Pauley stepped out of the door. Her hair was sticking up in all different directions and she wore a pink night dress. She was really shaky looking as she closed the door, stumbling as she walked forward. The men didn’t help her at all.
“NO!” I screamed as I saw them reach out to take her. I threw my hand over my mouth. That was a very bad idea. They all looked over at me, the men giving me a glare like my mom did when I said a bad word. Uh oh, would they take me now?
Mrs. Pauley waved at me, the same way my teacher had waved at me when I was taken out of school that last day. I felt a hard tug on my shoulder. I stood up.
I turned to find my dad watching across the street. He waved at the men as he steered me inside and shut the door. I couldn’t see where they were taking Mrs. Pauley.
“Where is she going?” I asked. I tried to go to the window on the side of the door but my Dad held me tightly not letting me move.
“Away. It is her turn. It is why today is a safe day. They knew it was her time. We can’t be taken today. Their quote has been filled,” I didn’t understand most of what he said but I nodded as if I did. “Go up to your room,” he told me. He didn’t sound angry, more like he did when he was watching a sports game and I asked a question. He was only half paying attention to me.
“Okay,” I said. As I walked upstairs I rubbed my scar over and over again. Why was it her turn? I didn’t understand.
I went to my window to look down at the street. A black car was pulling away. No one followed or tried to stop them. I swiped at the tear on my cheek. It wasn’t fair.
Julius stood, head craned over his shoulder staring at his back. The slits for his wings were red and inflamed, painful to any type of touch. Even a small breeze made him wince and bite his lip. He hunched his shoulders forward and then straightened out his back trying to force the tiny shreds of feathers to poke out more. They remained immobile, just barely sticking out torturing him.
It had been two day since the incident with Scarlett. Two days since he had taken off his bright white T-shirt and traded it for a grey one that had hung in the very back of his closet. He had accepted his fate, knowing that he was doomed as soon as the words had refused to pass his lips. As she had wrapped her cold arms around his stomach and laid her head on his back, he knew he had nowhere to turn. He had lost everything in order to save her.
After fighting his battle with every ounce of energy his possessed he had stumbled and fell losing everything in the process. Scarlett had looked into his eyes and had wiped his mind of everything but her and only her. Those so important words that he had promised himself he would never ever forget had completely disappeared in his moment of need.
For the first day of his transformation he had been incapacitated not only from the pain that was radiating up and down the muscles in his back but from the pain of his defeat as well. What had she done to him? How had she taken control of his mind like that, making him lose everything he had fought so hard for?
Scarlett was a tricky woman to care about. She had come to him when he had needed her the most, being his companion in his hour of need. But over time the world became more about her and only her. Every time he tried to walk away she had whispered a plea or looked at him with those lost eyes and he had walked right back into her arms.
The questions and reminiscing stopped running through his head quickly though once the pain of the emerging feathers took complete control of his mind. For an entire day he had laid in a collapsed heap as the pricks and stings came and went. They would stall and he would move pushing on one of the tips and wave after wave of agony would ripple up and down his back. He lost the ability to see as well as the ability to interact with the world around him; let alone ponder how he had ended up in this place.
Today he woke up, the pain still there but bearable. Scarlett was nowhere to be seen. She had left him. She had walked away when he had needed her the most, as she was known to do. His back still ached this morning, but the pain was numbing now. Maybe the initial shock was over or he was just getting used to the stings. Either way he had been terrified to turn his back and look in the mirror but he knew he had no choice. He had to see what was now apart of him.
He had made it until the sun started set until he had given into curiosity. He had to see the beginning of the wings. The beginning of his life shifting from his complete control to a life where he barely played apart. He had to see the evidence that life was no longer his own.
He now stood in front of the mirror confused, as well as slightly scared. He went to touch the pieces of feathers he could see when a knock sounded at the door. He stopped, completely still. Who was that? Scarlett? She wouldn’t knock. He was not in the mood for visitors at the moment, or really ever again if he was being honest with himself. The second knock was harder and more persistent. Again he stood completely still, the angry red marks on his back shining brightly in the dim room. He heard the door knob rattle but no one entered the house. Why not?
He checked his watch, it read 8:45pm. They still had fifteen minutes to come inside. But after a few seconds he realized no one was coming inside. Maybe they got bored, or were too polite or too scared or just crazy. He really didn’t care. As long as he didn’t have to deal with them right now.
He returned his attention to his ruined back. He just stared at it, at a loss for words. Why were they so small? Where were the full feathers, and the appendages to hold them? Why was there no evidence that they were going to get any bigger? It just looked like someone had ripped open his back and had gotten debris inside the cuts. As if he could pour water down his back and wash out the pieces. He knew that wasn’t true though. After two days he should have something beginning to take shape, maybe even full wings. What was wrong?
He heard a door close and soft footsteps make their way into the living room. Scarlett was home, or else the visitor from earlier had come back through the back door. Honestly he didn’t think he wanted either case to be true.
Scarlett entered the room her black boots criss-crossed tied up to her knees and her brick red hair thrown over her shoulder, only a few strands clinging to the front of her neck. She gave him an almost relieved smile when she saw him standing in the living room.
“What is wrong with me?” he asked, spinning to face her. He didn’t have the energy for pleasantries. He needed an answer. Why he thought she would have them he had no idea? But there was no one else to ask, to bark questions at or rage at. This was all her fault after all.
“What do you mean?” she asked gently, coming quickly towards him hands outstretched. He took two steps back, he needed distance between the two of them.
“I don’t have any real feathers. It is like they are stuck, or something,” he turned his back to her so she could see properly how much of a mess it was. He couldn’t watch her face distort in horror, but he had hoped to hear her whimper or scream at the sight. Maybe she would even run from the house and leave him alone. He hoped she would maybe even whimper in pity, knowing that she had done this to him.
“Oh honey,” she cooed, like she was seeing a small inconsequential scratch. He felt her hovering near his back, a cold nail touching the very top of one of the openings. The rational part of him knew he should back away and run from her. He should put his shirt back on and get the hell out of the house, find someone who could give him answers, who wouldn’t betray him sooner or later.
He didn’t move, just let her slide the nail down his back right next to the marks.
“I don’t know,” she whispered, sounding confused but also a bit scared. Scared for him or for what might end up happening to her.
“What do I do?” he asked her. Again why was he asking her, like she had any real information? Yes, she ran around the cities getting into trouble and hanging with the wrong people but he doubted she knew the secrets of the Winged One world. If she did and had never told him, he didn’t think he could ever look at her again.
This wasn’t her fight. Yes, she had caused this to happen to him but she wasn’t part of this now. She shouldn’t be forced to suffer with him. He had to find answers, in the hopes he could help himself so in turn he could help her when her own transformation began.
“I have to find Jack,” he said turning around and breaking their contact. He pulled his T-shirt back over his head, wincing slightly at the tug at his skin. He made his way towards the door.
Scarlett reached out and grabbed the tips of his fingers. “Don’t,” she pleaded. He looked her in the eyes, saw the tears glistening there. He felt his heart ache. She was just as lost as he was, but it was even worse for her. She had been running around her whole life looking for a safe place to live out her life. Now she stood in his house, watching him breaking down and knowing that soon it would happen to her as well. He had saved her only to destroy her.
“It is going to be alright,” he pulled her into his chest and wrapped his arms around her back. He placed a gentle kiss on the top of her head. He knew soon she would begin suffering as well. He didn’t want her to hurt, but right now she was whole. Right now he was the one falling apart and he needed to find his own answers in order of having a hope of helping her at all.
A part of him wanted to stay here and protect her, to not let the world destroy her like it was destroying him. Another part of him wanted to shake and scream at her, begging her to tell him how she had made him forget what he promised himself he would never forget. Another part of him just wanted to collapse into tears and beg for this all to stop. He felt his head spinning as the emotions swirled around and around. He didn’t know what he was going to feel next, let alone what he was going to do.
“I gotta go,” he pushed her away from him, making her stumble back on her heels. Jack would have answer for him. At least that is what he silently prayed to himself as he slammed the door. Because if Jack didn’t have anything; Julius wasn’t sure what he would end up doing to himself and let alone Scarlett.
A/N: Today’s prompt was to open the page of the nearest book to page 29 and use the first word to jump out at you as inspiration. I used the book “To Say Nothing of the Dog,” by Connie Willis and the word was crypt. The twist was to write in letter form.
I really liked this and want to continue it. Tell the stories back and forth.
“To all those dead and gone,
I sit here in the corner of this almost pitch black hole in the ground. My only light is from my phone. There are no windows, only one single door at the top of a handful of stairs that lets in sunlight and life. I closed the door after I walked in today, secluding myself from the living and breathing world. I want to spend the afternoon in your home, just you all and me.
In this crypt there are a number of you, departed souls. All of you have your stories,most of which I will never know. Some of you I will only know how your lives began or how they ended. Some of you I will make up your stories based off my own wild imagination, using only your name and birth and death dates.
Maybe you at the very top corner were a shoe salesman but in my head you have the story of a great war hero. You saved countless number of lives and came home with more medals then you ever could find a place for. Are you smiling at my ramblings? Amused by my take on your life? Are you shaking your head in disappointment as I rattle off the life you wished you had but were too scared to go after? Or are you angry that I under cut your honest and hardworking life? A life that made you proud and let your family live in comfort.
I didn’t plan on coming in here today. I was just on my way home from work when I saw this place. There is just a small little stone building that holds the door, then a few steps and the entrance to this place. There was nothing here that would scream at you to come exploring. I knew what was behind the door, ashes, bones and memories.
I came inside because I need something. I don’t know what I need though. Maybe I’m looking at the wrong place, searching in the wrong dark corners. Something is missing from me. Can you give it back to me?
Are any of you actually listening? Am I just talking to the dust and the wind? Do you care? Can you see me? See my crumpled form, hunched in this corner, a pen in my hand skating across the surface of this paper? Can you see what I am missing? Is it obvious to your eyes that are no longer crowded by the problems of this world? Do I have a hole in me?
Or would helping me be cheating? Can you cheat at life? I’m not one for taking the easy path in life. I was taught that hard work and risks yield the most precious results, though I haven’t actually seen those results yet.
Am I whining too much for you? Do you want me to just shut up and let you return to your slumber? Do you get this a lot? Should I just crumple up this piece of paper, set a match to it and watch it become part of the Earth like you? Should I? Or should I stay put and wait you out? Let you make your final decision, let you see that I really am at my last option here. Are you just waiting for me to fall silent for a minute so you can jump in and rescue me?
I guess I can’t wait though, my pen is just about out of ink. I guess I’ll leave this here and return in a few days time. I will probably find this paper long gone, trampled by visitors footprints; covered in so much dust and dirt that I couldn’t even begin to guess the words that I had once written on it.
I will make one last plea. If you can hear me, if any of you can hear me, I would appreciate the help. All I need is one word. I just want to know someone is listening.
Dear lost soul,
We are here. We are always here. We can hear you and we are listening. We only ask one thing. We will listen to your story if you are willing to listen to ours in exchange. We all have stories that need to be told as well, stories that some have never heard before. Open your ears to our hurt, pain, joy and triumphs and we will open our ears to yours.
-The departed souls
A/N: Todays prompt was to write about where you lived when you were twelve. The twist was to pay attention to sentence length and try to vary them. My story “Always,” provides more information about the guardian angel in this piece as well. That story gives you a better idea of who the guardian angel is.
I slammed the door behind me. I didn’t care who had heard it. Didn’t care if my neighbors would be giving me dirty looks when I passed them by tomorrow. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. My bag slipped off my shoulder and hit the ground, the content spilling out in a heap. My cat walked over and began to scratch around the surface, smelling the pages and trying to decide if he wanted to make any use of the items or not.
For months now I had been holding myself together. It was like I had kept patching up the holes with duct tape but now they were combining into one another, creating huge holes that couldn’t be covered. No amount of tape or sewing was going to fix this problem.
I slid down the wall and buried my head into my knees. Pain, confusion, anger, sorrow and hurt came pouring out along with tears and sobs. Each deep breath brought forth another emotion that I didn’t get time to fully process before the next wave came crashing down. It was becoming too much. My brain was fuzzing over and I couldn’t breathe.
Just as I was desperately trying to decide between passing out and finding my phone to call from help I felt a gentle hand grip my fingers. I caught a sob in throat and instantly looked up. I looked left, right, to the ceiling and at the floor. There was no around me. I felt the touch, a strong yet gentle hand, but there was nothing physical that I could see.
Anyone else would have been freaking out. Most would have assumed they had finally lost their minds Stress can do that to a person. Yes, my mind was exhausted and screaming for release but I knew this touch. It was a touch that I had felt once or twice before. It was his hand, my guardian angel’s hand.
As my chest eased and my nerve ends loosened slightly I felt a calm begin to steal over me. The hand still gripped mine. I pictured my guardian angel sitting beside me, huge coke bottle glasses watching me. Eyes never leaving my face as I came down from my panic attack.
In my head I could almost hear his whisper, “It’s okay. Deep breaths and happy thoughts.’ My eyes fell closed and my spent brain ran back in time.
After flipping through a catalogue of happy memories I choose a simple summer day. I opened my eyes. I was twelve and standing inside the bedroom that had been mine for most of my life.
Our house was nothing special. It was small, barely accommodating the five of us plus an eighty pound Akita, a cockatiel and a guinea pig. Shouts of laughters and reprimands coated the hallway walls like wallpaper. I could hear all the conversations we had as children, full of crazy stories and imaginary friends. Conversations that matured as we did. Going from school work to plans for our now adult lives.
My parents always said and still say to this day that the house was too small and cramped. Not one surface wasn’t covered. Everything was falling apart and the place was just one big mess.
As a child and even to this day I have never agreed. My eyes glaze over the mess of papers and piles of dog hair that live in the corners. Yes, the doors had holes where frustrated feet had kicked in the wood. In the back-room there were cracks in the walls and the wallpaper was peeling. The tiles floor of the kitchen always had footprints and the walls always had handprints. The basement was a half finished place full of darkness and dirty laundry.
Each room was small and cramped. Finding a place to hide for privacy wasn’t a real option. Even your own room wasn’t safe, people always walking in with only a knock to announce their entrance. Silence or even quiet were words that had no place in our home.
No matter the issues though, it never changed what the place was. It was home. A home where laughter, love and creativity reigned supreme. I stood, as my twelve year old self, in my room. This was the room I had moved into once my youngest brother no longer needed a crib. For most of my life this had been my room. Right now the walls were covered in NSYNC posters. The floor was covered in everything from clothes, papers to stuffed animals and shoes. If you walked without shoes you had to be careful not to step on pen caps or push pins. Books overflowed from the bookshelf, spilling into piles on the floor.
Standing here I felt a welcome calm. This was my place. Over the years the band posters would come down to be replaced by pictures of friends and family. During my four years of college the room would become dark and lonely for most of the year. Until a year ago this had been where I went to cry, to study and to read. This is where I played school with my stuff animals and where I wrote my first stories.
A year ago I had packed up every piece of paper and every last sock and had left behind nothing but tears and memories. It was my middle brothers room now, but standing here at twelve I remembered how much this place had meant to me.
A knock sounded at the door. My mom opened it slowly, barely able to move it enough to talk to me because of the mess.
“Dinner,” she told me. No comment on the disaster inside. By this age she knew it was a fruitless battle with me. I cleaned the place and two days later it looked like I had never touched it. Organization and neatness would never be attributes of mine.
It only took a handful of steps to cross from my room across the hallway and into the kitchen. Our kitchen was unique in the neighborhood. Attached to the back was what we called the “back-room.” It was just an addition created to be a dining room, but it made this area the biggest part of the house.
Tonight the kitchen held the aroma of hamburgers and french fries. These counter tops saw everything from birthday cakes, report cards with good and bad grades, to final notices from credit card companies. Here cakes were made and here cakes were dropped. Here metal spoons were turned into drumsticks and tupperware bowl were drums. The floor was skating rink in our socks or a dance floor while music blasted from the radio. This room saw laughter from crazy family dinners where more food was thrown then eaten. Tearful dinners and angry dinners with no words spoken also lived here as well.
Dinner was enjoyable that night. I sat as my twelve year old self listening to my family joke and talk about random topics. Always being sure to include the imaginary friends into the conversation as well. After dinner it was everyone off onto their own.
My middle brother and father headed out the backdoor and into the backyard, the dog at their heels. A swing set stood at the very back of the small backyard. It was hand-me down, with two red swings and a slide. There was just enough room to hit a ball and play a simple game of baseball. Which was exactly what my dad and brother did tonight. Each of them tried to use only half their power, afraid of hitting the ball over the fence. It was a good try but my brother failed. He hit it a bit too hard and watched it soar over the back fence. He groaned, ran to the back and gripped the wooden tops and threw himself over, my dad keeping a watchful eye. I turned away as the ball came soaring back over the top.
I turned back towards the front of the house. A minute later I was in the living room. My mom was busy flipping through the channels looking for something she could watch but was also appropriate for me as well. She ended up on Nickelodeon. Just like the rest of the house this was also sort of a tight squeeze. Here the couch and arm chair took up all the wall space. You had just enough room to move between sitting places.
The living room saw the opening of birthday and Christmas presents, bedtime stories and sleepovers. Here was where we played with our current dog, as well as a future puppy we would get after this one passed away. Just this year was where we also lost yet another beloved dog. It wasn’t a large space but it was big enough to build forts with pop up tents or to jump from couch to chair avoiding the lava ground. These chairs would be where I would get lost in world of Harry Potter. As each book was released I would become completely cut off from the world until dragged to dinner or when my dad stole my book to tease me.
I only watched the television for a few moments before pulling a book out of the chair cushions. It was a companion book the Sabrina the Teenage Witch TV series. As I turned the pages I felt myself sinking into the words and the soft sofa cushions.
My mom sitting on the couch and our dog settled at her feet began to fade. As the picture faded I began to surface from my memory. That house was not my parents dream home. It was small, and falling apart. But it held so many memories, whole lives worth. It wasn’t perfect and never would be. Something would always be cracked or in danger of falling apart on top of you. But for me it would always be my home, my safe haven, the keeper of so many of my memories.
I had lived there for nearly 24 years of my life. I was born there and grew up there. That house was my life. Remembering those rooms with its sights and sounds began to bring my frazzled mind back into focus.
I opened my eyes. I noticed that the gentle hand was gone. Yes, things were all twisted and tangled up in a ball right now. I had no idea what was going to happen. But as long as I remembered where I had started I could figure out where I was going.
I stood staring ahead of me. Directly in front was three large doors. Each was set flush into the wall, the only thing making them stand out was a slight sliver light glowing from around the edges. Each had no other decoration but a black knob waiting for a hand to grasp its cool surface and give it a turn to reveal what was inside. Three doors that sat waiting for me to make a decision.
Only problem was, was what decision was I supposed to be making? I had literally no idea how I had gotten to where I was right now. One minute I was settling down for a nap, a nap that hopefully would rejuvenate my exhausted beyond comprehensible thought mind, and the next minute I was standing here confused beyond words.
I was dead. That was the only explanation. I had died in my sleep and now I had to choose my eternity. One was heaven, one was hell and one was purgatory. My choice could doom me, make me live in bliss forever or I could end up in no mans land with nothing. I didn’t move, this was all too much. I didn’t want to be dead and I absolutely didn’t want to suffer for eternity.
“Whoa, take a deep breath. If you pass out my jobs becomes kind of pointless. Hard to show you something when you are unconscious,” A voice called from somewhere high above me. My head snapped up, desperately searching for the source.
“I’m right here. Don’t strain your neck,” the speaker was no longer an echo, but now it was right beside me. A man’s voice, calm yet strong. I looked to my right and felt my mouth drop open and my breath catch in my throat. Standing beside me was the most handsome man I had ever set my two eyes upon. He had a face that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a greek god statue. He had a few strands of his chocolate brown hair hanging over his eyes, making him look playful. He was smiling showing a full set of bright white teeth. His eyes were wide as well but they didn’t match the rest of him. They are all business.
“You still with me?” the man asked.
“Uh…,” I tried to find my words. They were there, hovering on the edge of my brain. Right now though the only words my mouth wanted to say was “Pretty,” while drooling or “Huh?” while staring confused yet still entranced.
“Okay, let me start and you can jump in whenever you get your brain back in order,” he strode forward, trend his back to the doors and said. “Here we have three doors. Each holds a moment, a moment that means something to you. Behind these three doors you will find three meals. Three meals that define a part of you,” As I listened my brain restarted itself. I felt myself start to chuckle, he sounded like a game show host explaining the prizes.
“Okay kind of random but continue,” I said. His behavior had eased my initial reaction to his looks.
“Oh so she can actually articulate full sentences. Good to see,” He joked, giving me a smirk. I resisted the urge to flick him off. “Alright, we will continue on. Behind door number one we have Christmas dinner, the last one with your grandfather,” he walked over and opened the door farthest to the left.
Inside I glimpsed our family packed around the table. Not an extra inch to spare. Elbows, forks and plates kept hitting each other over and over. The danger of having half the meal on the floor was always hovering over the table. Getting up from your spot was a process. You placed you arms as close to you as possible, pushed out the chair as far as it would go and stood straight up. Careful not to take a step to the left or right. Then you turned around, giving the family a view none of them wanted while eating and got up onto your chair. Using all your hand-eye coordination you stepped over the back of the chair and hopped down to the floor. Fifteen years and no one had yet to end up back first onto of the table.
Despite the cramped space we were all smiling wide. Laughs and chatter filled the room. Smiles and laughs to an outsider that looked all happy and perfect, like some family off of a Hallmark movie. But if you looked closely and truly listened to the surroundings you would be able to see how fake it all was. Smiles fell seconds after they appeared and the laughter was hallow. None of us could keep the sadness from intruding this meal. It was tough rejoicing when you knew what was going to be coming soon.
The door slammed shut. I jumped, not prepared to lose the image so quickly.
“You could have warned me,” I huffed, wiping a single tear from my eye. “Okay so that was depressing. Thanks, I needed that. Next?” I asked. I was never good at keeping harsh sarcasm from my voice.
He rolled his eyes at me, as if he was used to my snarky remarks. I shrugged at him, what did he want from me? I had no idea what was the point of all this. I still didn’t even know if I was dead or not. Maybe I was in the process of slipping away?
“Next,” his voice kept the thought from developing into anything. “We have a birthday. Not yours, you mothers. Just the five of you enjoying a nice Mexican dinner out. Calm and simple,” he grinned at me like he knew secret. He opened the middle door.
I knew what was coming before the knob had even been turned. On the other side sat anything but a simple and calm meal. My parents , my two brothers and me were laughing so hard tears were streaming down our cheeks. We were flapping our hands like seals. Speaking wasn’t an option right now. We just let out loud guffaws every few seconds when we got enough oxygen into our lungs. How the manager didn’t come over and ask us to settle down and stop acting like crazy people I would never know?
Why were we laughing so hard we were all in danger of passing out? Some random joke. A joke that no one would find nearly as funny as we did. It was one of those you had to be there moments. Something about throwing ice cream at the ceiling and escaping the angry restaurant owner.
The laughter brought smile to my face I felt the laugh bubbling up inside my stomach. A chuckle escape me just as the handsome yet irritating man slammed the door shut. My laughter died instantly replaced my annoyance.
“What are you doing?” I snapped. “What is the point of all of this?” I was getting anxious. If I was dead could he just say it already? Did we have to go through this weird ass process? I couldn’t do much more of this back and forth emotion thing.
“Last one,” he didn’t even attempt to explain. I waved him on, knowing that if I opened my mouth certain swear words would make their-selves present. One left, then this whole irritating thing would be over.
He opened the door to chaos. I felt my eyes squint as the assault of images and colors before me. Random snapshots of people. Some I knew, some I had never seen in my life. All laughing, crying or shouting at each other in anger around some dinner table. Not one image stayed long enough for me to get an understanding of what was happening. Just enough time for me to take in the emotion and faces before everything was swapped around again.
“Enough,” I shouted covering my eyes. He loved slamming that door shut and now he held it open? Really? I felt the point behind my eyes begin to throb while my stomach churned. I heard the click of the door and knew it was safe to look ahead of me again.
The mystery man, who I no longer wanted to get to know in anyway, was leaning on the last door, arms crossed.
“So?” I asked. I was waiting for him to break down the whole experience. Where was my explanation? How this was all about some grand design. Where was the call for my choice that could change my life? I was waiting for the existential part of all of this.
“So?” he shrugged.
“Am I dead?”
“Dead? I don’t know,” he shrugged again.
“You don’t know? How can you not know? You brought me here. Gave me this weird glimpse into my life and now I have to choose right? I have to make a decision about what path I want to take. Each of these moment means something,” I pointed at each door. “Choice of life of happiness, hidden sorrow or the unknown? Right!?”
“How the fuck should I know?” he shook his head and shrugged again. I wanted to snap those shoulder off of him. “I’m not real.”
“Seriously? That doesn’t actually tell me anything. You could be a dream or the last ditch efforts of my dying brain to make sense of the world and my life,” I said.
“I could be, yep,” he slid down the door, leaned his head back and closed his eyes. “That is up to you. Let me know when you have the answer.”
I walked over and sat down beside him. I leaned my head onto his shoulder. “What if I don’t feel like coming up with an answer?”
“That is up to you,” he said, his shoulder vibrating as he spoke.
“Good, cause I’m tired. I’ll figure this all out sometime later,” I closed my eyes. Maybe I was dying or maybe I was dreaming and I would wake up only able to grasp at pieces of this story. Then again maybe my mind had snapped finally and I was awake in some padded room living inside of hallucination. So many maybes to sort through. I felt my breath getting more even. It could wait until later.
The last thing I saw before “sleep,” over took me was five people laughing so hard they couldn’t even begin to speak.
A/n: Here is day nine of the challenge. (I completed day 8 but it didn’t fit in with my blog). Todays prompt was to write about a man and woman walking through a park where they see an old woman on a bench knitting a red sweater. The twist was to tell it from each of their perspectives.
His hand was curled tightly in my hand. My fingers were curled around his but I wasn’t actually using any pressure to hold on. He was doing all the holding, I was just present.
I had been just “here,” for months now. I woke up and gave him his good morning kiss every morning; lips to cheek but with no feeling to make it mean anything. I did it because I had been doing it for years. Why change that routine?
I moved around the house and through my day in a complete daze. My body moved, hands reaching for mugs and plates, using knives and forks, turning on light switches and turning doorknobs. My feet moved along paths that had been worn into the carpet. Same steps to the same destinations, everyday and through every hour.
I didn’t even known what day it was let alone what month or year. I felt like my body was on auto pilot. My brain was set to the most basic setting, only completing those tasks necessary for survival. I don’t know when that switch got flipped or what caused me to check out front the world. Nothing had happened. No fight with my husband. I hadn’t gotten fired. And I hadn’t been diagnosed with some incurable disease. So what had caused me to just be content with being a playing piece that life just moved along the easy and simple paths?
Nothing had happened. Maybe that was it? Nothing had happened to me in years. After I graduated, got my job and got married there was nothing left to happen in my life. We weren’t going to have kids so there was nothing left to happen until we retired and died. I was tired of waiting for life to get interesting so I just stopped caring. I was alive and that was enough. Wasn’t it?
My husband was pulling me down a shaded lane of the park, long branches intertwined high above us throwing cool shadows down on us. It should have been a welcome relief from the sun, if only I actually had felt the warmth. Ahead on a bench sat an elderly woman, hands moving back and forth as she knitted a blood red sweater. Her eyes were trained on a spot right in front of her. She wasn’t actually paying attention to her knitting, she was waiting.
A part of me wanted to turn a different way, run through the grass to avoid having to walk in front of this mystery woman. As we got closer and closer I felt the last live part of me shut down, my feet just stopped moving completely. My husband hadn’t noticed, he kept walking until he got the extent of my arm length.
He stopped and turned to look at me. The minuscule part of my brain that was still chugging and puffing away at staying awake saw the tears on his face and wanted to desperately make them stop. I wanted those tears to leave this wonderful man alone. Tears I would take from him, if only to feel again.
I had suggested a walk through the park. I had told her that after the winter we had endured we had to soak up every ounce of sunlight just in case we had to endure the torture again next season. She had agreed, just nodding. Not an enthusiastic nod as if I had suggested we go on a year long vacation. Not a casual nod, as if it was a good idea just nothing special. Just a nod that said, yes, because that was what nods were for.
As we walked I realized I was basically pulling her along behind me. Her hand rested in mine. I held on tightly afraid that if I let go she would collapse onto the ground.
I had no idea what had happened to this woman that I had fallen into cloud 9 with years ago. When we had met she was so bright, everyone smiled when she entered the room. You couldn’t help but feel uplifted when she interacted with you. It was like trying not to squeal with delight at a bunch of puppies.
She was spontaneous, always up to try something new. Brand new restaurant? She was the first in no matter how experimental the menu was. You said you were bored? She would pull your to the car and take off for some destination that no one had ever knew existed.
Now she just moved because she had to. She ate because she couldn’t live without food. She barely spoke and when she did her tone was devoid of anything resembling life and vitality.
We came up to a tree lined path. I moved down the path, maybe cause of the shade? Maybe because it didn’t matter what way we moved as long as we moved? In the middle sat an old womb knitting a red sweater on a bench. She was very concentrated on her work. Never did she look up or move her eyes from her work. I wondered if she knew where she sat.
As we got closer I felt a hard tug on my hand. Inch by inch it got more and more difficult to move forward while still attached to my wife. We were feet from the woman now and I felt as if I was pulling dead weight behind me.
My heart sped up, pounding inside my chest so hard I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bruise there tomorrow. It had happened. I had tried so hard to save her but I had failed. She was gone. I was going turn around to find a crumple heap of what once had been an alive and beautiful woman at my feet.
I tasted the salt from my tears sneak past my lips and my chest got so tight it was almost impossible to breathe. I had to turn around and see. See what had become of the woman I had once loved beyond my own life.
I held my breath and turned around.
I knew they were going to come to the park. Parks were neutral zones to talk. A place full of life that moved on despite your issues. Here your problems meant nothing to the trees, flowers and breeze. Here your problems felt insignificant and meaningless, making it easier to deal with whatever was hurting you.
I scratched at the high collar chocking me. I hated this disguise. Old women were always treated either with pity or sickly sweet kindness. Neither emotion was ever real, just done because it was expected. I hated that. Doing something because the world expected it made me fidget, it was irritating like a mosquito in your ear.
I have no idea how to knit. My hands were just moving back and forth and around in a circle. If anyone glimpsed the real me they would see a huge knotted ball on my lap, a tangled mess so bad it was pointless to try to save the yarn. To the world though I was on my way to creating the perfect sweater.
I felt them enter the park and went on alert. I had to watch for when they got close then I could get this party started. They rounded a corner and it was showtime.
The wife walked by placing one foot directly in front of the other, like it was her first time on two legs. She didn’t glance around her. Her eyes just stared at the back of her husband. Without her husband she would have walked into a pole or fallen on her face by now. She had no idea where she was. Her eyes were open but she wasn’t see a thing.
He was two steps ahead of her. He was pulling her along like a disobedient child. He never looked back at her, never said a word. Just desperately kept forcing her to move forward. I doubt he had a real destination in mind, he just wanted to move forward. Forward had the solution.
He was right this time. I whispered softly and her feet stopped completely. She wouldn’t be moving again for a moment. He got to the end of her arm and took a step backward at the resistance. I let him ponder what it meant for a moment. Gave him a look at his biggest fear in bright color; finding a wounded woman in a mess on the ground behind him. Then I forced him to turn around.
Now they were face to face. He saw she was still standing and she saw the utter relief and love covering his face. He raced forward and gathered her in his arms. I released her and let her melt into his safe embrace.
I put the “knitting,” away and dusted off my hands. Another job well done for me. I knew patting myself on the back wasn’t humble but I didn’t care. Everyone thought cupid was only around to spark love. I thought did a pretty damn good job keeping the spark alive as well, thank you very much.
The pages fluttered back and forth. I tried to hold them down with my hand and then my phone but they were not going to be contained. I sighed, letting them dance at their leisure. I knew what was coming, it had been long day, and the last thing I wanted was to have this argument. A minute later two women appeared before me. They both looked like they had just come out of a hurricane.
The taller one, my “villainess”, let her midnight black hair fall into her face. She ran her fingers through the strands, untangling them as she went. Once it was to her satisfaction she swept it all back and put it into a ponytail. She ran her hands down her red velvet sleeves, straightening the creases and pulling down the bunched up places. She glanced to her left and let out an exasperated sigh.
My “heroine,” was completely absorbed in trying to untangle her necklaces from her hair. She kept putting one strand over another then back and forth again. One necklace would come free only to be swept back into the mess when she moved to the next one. Her movements were getting faster and I knew certain words would be escaping her mouth soon.
“Here,” the “vilainess,” said as she reached over and waved her hand. A moment later everything came free.
“Thanks,” the “heroine,” replied. She threw the mess of curls behind her head. She looked down and flattened out her outfit, a blue peasant dress.
“Can I help you?” I finally asked, now that they were situated.
“Yes, you can,” the “heroine” proclaimed. The two women walked around the counter and took the seats on my left and right.
“We have a problem” the heroine stated from my left.
“And that would be?” I asked. I knew exactly what they wanted but I figured I’d let this play out.
“We need to be rewritten” the “villainess,” said from my right.
“Nope,” I cut off her next words. “I have spent hours, days and months crafting you two. Making sure you match in power abilities. Honing in on your strengths and weaknesses. Making sure you have everything you need to play your parts perfectly. Starting over now is not an option.” I sat back crossing my arms. “You are evil and you are good. You win and you lose. End of story.”
“End of a very dull and overdone story. That isn’t how it works and you know it,” the “heroine” had her head rested on her arm that was laid flat on the counter. “No one is purely evil or purely good. We all are a mixture of both. Not all endings are happy with singing birds and a big celebration with smiling faces as far as the eye can see.”
I got up and walked around the counter and leaned on the counter so I could meet both of their eyes. “What is your point?” I asked.
“Why do you insist on writing that story? It’s been written,” the “heroine” stated.
“So I thought you wanted to be different, a new voice? Why are you using other voices?”
“Because you are scared,” the “villainess” said it in a whisper that I almost missed.
“Excuse me?” I demanded, looking her directly in her eyes. She didn’t blink. I dropped my gaze. “Say that again?” anger was coloring my vision and I could feel my defenses going up.
“You created us in the simplest terms because it is safe and it is easy. No one will argue with you. Who could? Good wins just like it should. Everyone goes home happy. It is safe. They feel like the world is okay again for a moment because evil was defeated. It is safe,” she just kept saying those words and I could feel my anger spike higher and higher every time they left her lips.
“Stop saying that!” I bit out at her. My hands itched to grab her shirt front and scream in her face but I restrained myself. “I write the story that is meant to be told. Your story calls for good to win. It calls for evil to be obvious and recognizable. For evil to strike out and make itself known. The reader knows what has to be done and is satisfied when it all plays out like it should. There is victory at the end for the heroine just like there should be. The reader is happy at the end not lost or disappointed or afraid,” My voice was steady but my hard tone got softer and softer with each word I let fall from my lips.
“There are a thousand stories like that. You need to tell our story. Our story where good and evil are so intertwined you can’t even being to untangle them and truthfully you don’t want to. It is a complicated mess but one that rings with a truth. The reader doesn’t care if it fits into the labels they grew up understanding. Our story is about the two of us fighting with everything we have to save our lives, those we love and each other. We might not both get a happy ending but that is okay because that is truth. You can’t always have a happy ending but you can have a hopeful ending,” She reached out and placed a hand over mine. “Rewrite the rules.”
I smiled and chuckled to myself. “Rewrite the rules, my motto.” I sighed, “I hate the rules.”
“We all do,” the “villainess,” chuckled. “So do we get our rewrite? Do we get to really live?”
I nodded at the pair. “Yeah let’s give the world a tale they will never forget,” the two women cheered.
The got up and came around the counter to wrap me in a big hug. They let me go, joined hands and walked over to the notebook. They gave me one more grin before disappearing into the paper.
“See you soon,” I said as the last page fluttered and fell to rest on a blank page.
A/N: This is the post for day 4. The prompt was to write about some type of loss and what it meant to you and how it affected you. The twist is to make it part of a 3 part post series which I plan on doing. There will be other days that will involve adding t to this series. So stay tuned for the rest of this journey that is very dear to my heart.
Outside a comet rocketed towards the Earth. Its tail of disintegrating stars winked down at her as it streaked faster and faster towards the ground. She watched the phenomenon that should have been beautiful. To star gazers and nature lovers, who would be pointing and crying. “Look at the beauty of this event,” it was a moment of a lifetime. It fell and would soon be lost behind the horizon. Binoculars would follow it and wonder if it landed and left a mark or just fell apart into dust and star dust.
Maybe it did hit the ground somewhere, a huge massive canyon resulting from its impact. Those who were brave enough would go find its resting place and investigate. A huge hole with walls so high their shadows made it impossible to see the bottom. They would all wonder what was at the bottom. Aliens? Some new disease? Humanities destruction? Or just dust and dirt and creepy crawly insects pissed off because they were awakened from their slumber? Everyone else would be fascinated, it might even end up on the television. Scientists would be talking about the results and impacts of an event like this. She didn’t care, the comet could be the end of life as we know it and it didn’t matter to her. Her world was already in pieces at her feet and no comet could make it any worse.
The devastation in her life was like nothing she could have ever envisioned for herself or for anyone close to her. She let the curtains fall back into place and slowly let herself fall back into an arm chair. The corner lamp was on the lowest setting, she could barely see the objects around her, only shadows. She didn’t get up to turn it on any higher not only did she not care about seeing the world right now but her feet wouldn’t approve of the added weight.
She sat in the growing darkness and let the ever present tears fall again. She was surprised that she had any left to shed. She just cried. She didn’t demand answers from the universe like she had been doing for days now. She just let the tears soak her cheeks.
She felt like she was drowning and to be honest she didn’t know if she wanted to take another breath without him. He was gone. Breathing and moving seemed pointless now. He wasn’t there to make her smile and rejoice in their greatest accomplishment together. He wasn’t here to hold out a hand to lift her up now that she was falling head first into oblivion. She was on the edge of the cliff, the rocks and dirt and sand crumbling beneath her and she seriously debated if she wanted to take that one step back. Maybe she could just stand here until all the pieces of Earth were gone and only air remained.
“Ouch, not so hard,” she said, rubbing the spot where a small little foot had kicked at her. She wiped the tears from her eyes and placed her hand on her extended stomach and felt a new wave of sadness overtake her.
How was it fair that this precious angel wasn’t even born yet and yet she had already suffered the crippling loss of losing a parent? When she entered this world she wouldn’t see two smiling parents looking back at her, just one. She hadn’t even drawn her first breath and yet she already had a crack in her heart. How was that fair? What did it mean for her? Did it mean this was how her life was going to be from this movement on out?The ghost of loss and hurt always following close behind her. What had she done to deserve that type of life? She hadn’t even met the world and the world was already out to get her. She looked down and envisioned her daughters’s little fingers clawing out at the world, trying to grasp onto something to steady her.
“My hand is right here,” She whispered. She knew that she had to take a step back from that cliff edge. She had no idea what was coming next and what it meant for them but she knew one thing for certain. This child would never feel the coldness of an empty hand or empty arms. Yes, loss was going to be one of her first memories and there was nothing she could do about that, but what she could do was make sure the child knew that she wasn’t alone. She couldn’t turn back time and restart that heart that had stopped too soon but she could make sure his memory never died. It was going to be them against the world from now on, a mother and daughter team that was unbeatable and indestructible.