Untitled

~700 words: a small piece from a writing exercise

 

There is a man. Every morning he rises from bed and puts on his black slacks and blue button-up shirt and his loafers. He rolls his sleeves. He brushes his teeth—first without any paste, then very softly with some, a mild type with very little taste.

Then he climbs the stairs in his apartment building to the roof. He never takes the elevator. Not because he’s afraid of it breaking and him falling to his death, but because he’s afraid of breaking himself for taking it. So he climbs the stairs. And every morning, when he pushes open the stairwell door, the first rush of air—whether hot, cold, dry, humid—is when he feels most alive.

There are a few finches that keep him company in the morning. He has brought the ends of his bread, breaks these up and tosses the crumbs into some of the roof’s garden beds and sprinkles some in the dish beside the bird fountain. The birds chirp and flit around. He pretends that they recognize him. He lets the rise and fall of their calls guide him to the garden hose.

He enjoys pressing the hose trigger. The water is so responsive, bucks the nozzle in his weathered and thick hands. Shredded droplets turned fine mist turned rainbow. He uses this transformation to water all the plants—the perennial flowers and their stocky vegetable neighbors.

When this is done, he senses that everything is happy around him so then he is happy. He doesn’t let this bother him: the fact his happiness is predicated on the level of others around him. He doesn’t bother with those things. He just does it to be satisfied. Because what else do we have besides our ability to make others happy? Especially if doing so makes us happy? But he doesn’t ponder such ramblings.

Which is why I always feel so strange watching the man on the roof. As he reclines in a stiff upright wood chair like it is some luxurious couch, I feel as though he can’t be trusted. He is too pleased with himself. First off, I tend not to trust men who are too easily humored by their efforts as it seems to me too shallow because what they celebrate then is not necessarily the result of their work or even the process of their work but instead they’re holding on to the idea that them simply doing something is enough, that there’s no need for them to feel, really feel, the work itself. Men like this are not to be trusted. In my humble opinion.

Second, I don’t trust folks who get up so early in the morning. Not for the reason you think though. I love the morning and earlier is better, as close to dawn as possible, better yet if there just before dawn, when the sun is already beginning to light your part of the world but can’t be seen. No, I don’t trust these folks because they keep the morning joy to themselves. They’re selfish people. Inherently, they are gaining a head start, but worse, they don’t like to share the secret of the mornings with others. You see this now, right?

The birth of a morning sun will always tell you that today is new. It’s fresh. Obviously I won’t go into the chemical benefits of such a moment but for your own sanity bear with me and see how witnessing the sun rise anew when it’s not new and has been doing this for millennia over and over again has to be truly the only way to feel that life is so beautiful and doesn’t matter.

How can both be true? But in this man both are true. In the morning sun both are true. Is it strange that humanity’s notion of time, a forever constant, first came from the sun and its relentless orbit, when in truth, the sun will one day cease and go off into a trillion quadrillion bits of star dust?

That is the final reason that I do not trust the man on the roof.

The Motel Room [short]

Length: 378 words

Mom once asked me whom I wanted to be when I grew up and I said, Dad, and she said, Anyone else?

We had checked into a cheap motel, sitting around a cheap plywood table on cheap chairs that squeaked under pressure surrounded by cheap veneer walls. The microwave hummed as it cooked our frozen dinners. Every machine had its own hum like they had all forgotten the room’s lyrics. Stalactites of gum drooped from under the table. I remember being so fascinated by the people who left these treasures behind. I wanted to eat them but Mom said no.

She was in a bad mood, pulling Salisbury Steak and Mac ‘n Cheese dinners from the microwave, tossing it on the table and falling face-first onto the bed like a toppled scarecrow. The pillows and sheets exploded above her, then fell down in a mix, hiding her, drawing her into another place.

The motel room had smelled like the wayward men that had looked at us at the weathered gas station in Tellview. The room smelled like that gas station’s bathroom: piss puddled on every white-turned-yellow tile, shit spattered on the porcelain, and black mildew warped on the ceiling boards. The room smelled, and Mom didn’t notice.

I had gingerly tugged at the steaming plastic wraps, hot vapors washing over my hand as I revealed the mushy and globular contents of my dinner and I said, Are you okay, Mom?

No.

I’m sorry that you’re not okay.

It’s not your fault. She sighed and the bed sighed with her. It was swallowing her whole.

Are you mad at me?

I’m not mad at you.

You’re mad at Dad? Did he do something bad?

Yes.

Is Dad bad?

Another sigh. The springs groaned. No, he just hasn’t figured out how to be good.

He’s not good?

Good at being not good.

Oh.

She rose from her grave of lumpy pillows and red-flowered sheets. She was tired. It looked like she was using the last of her life to pull herself from that pit. Hon, you can be your father if you want. I suspect once you know enough about the way the world works, you’ll make the decision for yourself anyway. She dropped and never quite got back up.

Stuck

Another short for WDG
Roughly 500 words

“We should have taken the train,” Dad said for the fifth time. He looked out the passenger window, a worn map crushed in a hand clutching his armrest. Mom, hands perched on the driver’s wheel, did not deign to look at him. I think if she had, she would’ve socked him good. Her shoulders slowly rose and fell.

“You’ve said that already, Larry.”

“Well it seemed like last time I was talking to an empty car.”

“Look at the birds!” I said from my plastic car seat.

Neither of them responded.

“Great,” Mom said, not to me.

Motorcycles streamed past the idling cars. One bike had four people on it. Daughter and son as small as me sandwiched between their dad driving and mom smiling in the back. It looked like the mom was going to fall off—her only purchase the underside of the seat’s lip—leaning back like that. But her black hair was flowing and her smile was the brightest thing I’d seen all day.

“We’ve been sitting in this traffic for two hours. How far have we even gone?”

“Are you expecting my answer to make the cars move, Larry?” She had a way of saying his name like she would say mine when I was in trouble, one of Mom’s many powers.

I giggled.

Dad turned on me. “What’s so funny, Jordan?”

“Don’t yell at her.”

“I wasn’t yelling!”

A seemingly empty car answered him.

The cars ahead moved slightly forward. As they’d been for hours, everyone fuming.

It was really very quiet, and the crummy felt on the plastic seat was sticky, somehow the gum I’d saved for later not returning to me. I plucked at it sucking and wetting my fingers, the gooey strings coming up, spiraling and breaking. I sniffed. I couldn’t save any.

“Do you guys smell smoke?” Dad asked. “Seriously, though, what’s that smell?” He twisted in his seat to look through our back window. “You smell that, Suze?”

“I don’t smell anything, Larry.”

“Is that a fire?”

I pulled at my straps, the thin gray bands around my shoulders. I kicked my legs. My head cramped by the car seat’s walls. “Let me out, I want to see the fire.”

“Honey, there’s a fire,” Dad said in his goofy-trying-to-be-charismatic voice, “and I think we ought to show Jordan what the fire looks like.”

Mom turned to him, and she was smiling. “Ok.”

They burst out of their doors, yelling, “Fire drill, fire drill!”

Mom came to my door and yanked me from my seat and hoisted me on her strong shoulders, my favorite perch, and we ran around the car, looking for the fire, Dad running in the opposite direction, screaming, “You guys see the fire?” Maybe to us, maybe to the other cars.

We were all hollering at the top of our lungs and it felt so good. We ran in more circles around the car. People yelled at us, honked and held their horns.

We got back in the car.

Mom and Dad were out of breath and laughing.

“Where was the fire?” I asked. “I want to see the fire!”

“It’s ok, sweetie,” Mom said, “the fire’s out.”

“Aw,” I said.

The Cipher

Written for WDG.
~500 words
Saint entered the dusty room cautiously, as a man does who has seen horrible things revealed through swung doors. A mattress with rumpled sheets was crammed into the far corner, and a simple wood chair and desk filled the opposite end of the room. Altogether an unremarkable architecture and furnishing.
The floor boards groaned with Saint’s every step. Perhaps they’d not been stepped on in decades. It’d been that long since he’d been here.
He glanced at the yellowed papers he’d pinned to the walls, the dictates, the stately inversions, the inner workings of a burgeoning nation. The notions held in the words were old, idealistic. And dead.
She should be here any minute, he thought. Ten days into the riots, when the viciousness proved insatiable, they had agreed to meet here—the beginning of all things for them. So long ago, this was where they had written their brilliance and led the people. Apparently, any revolutionary can lead the people. He laughed at the circuitousness of it all.
He sat on the bed, a plume of motes geysering around him. They exposed themselves in the thinning sunlight through the single window above him. Between his fingers, he rubbed the moth-eaten sheets, felt the age and memories. He leaned back against the wall. His eyelids drooped. So much running, when would it end?
A floor board creaked. He jerked from his reverie. It was pitch black, the sun gone. He had slept. It was silent again, but his mind was roaring. He willed his eyes to pierce the darkness. He wanted so badly to call out and for her to call back, the singsong of her voice flying to him, but he had done that before and it had cost lives. The agony!
Five minutes felt an hour. Another five a year. His eyes adjusted and he could discern no other persons or new shadows in the room. He quickly went to the desk, his hands scrambling over the surface for the candle and then his pockets for a match. Rare an emotion more powerful than light banishing darkness.
With the candle he revealed the room, identical as his entrance, yet he knew it had been exposed to another presence. It was the odor. The intruder had smelled of earth, ripped grass, the sweat of a horse. But this virus had been a shadow, leaving no marks on the floor, the only breaks in the dusty patterns his own. He sighed, turned and sat in the chair.
There on the desk was a new paper, outstanding in its garish white.
It was written in the old cipher she and he had used in their childhood romance.
It was signed in blood.
It read: We have Rose. Come to the Fifth Parallel.
Saint’s hands trembled as he pulled the paper before his eyes. Backlit by the candle, a ghostly outline of cramped yet graceful text was pulled into existence in the lower left corner.
Fooled them, she said.

Saint laughed. Laughed so hard he cried.

Upon Their Wings

Short story for WDG, inspired by this picture:

~400 words

Kaleo ran beside the beautiful butterflies flying in the dusk light, tittering before him like fairies, zipping this way and that. They came in the fall, when the rest of the valley became a barren landscape of skeleton trees and scraggly bushes. Yellowed grass crumpled beneath his sneakers.
With the sun behind the largest mountain—though it was really more a tall hill—the sky blossomed into a deep vermilion, and the half moon grew more powerful. Yet between that and Kaleo were the butterflies.
            Underneath their fluttering, he laughed and danced as they did. With dusk nearly complete, light fading in each passing moment, the butterflies and their iridescent wings brightened.
            Kaleo followed one in particular. It seemed to coast more than the others, flapping its brilliant emerald to violet to cerulean hues only to settle on incandescent gold. The butterfly arched high in the air, completing a twist and coasted toward its vibrant brethren. They swirled together in a rainbow vortex before breaking apart like a meteor shattering across the atmosphere.
            Kaleo fell to the ground and lay there, quietly, with his hands rested on his stomach, watching the angels pass in the air. 
He dozed for a time.
When he woke, he smiled; they remained above, as always. He held his hand up, inspecting it in the ghostly moonlight. So plain, the skin. Affording no shimmers in the night.
A brilliant idea occurred to him.
With zest, he leapt to his feet. Then crouched.
Overhead, the butterflies continued their striations.
His mother called to him from the porch.
Just a few more minutes.
Make it one minute, Kaleo, dinner is ready.
Nearly there.
A butterfly broke off from the glittering haze, a lost star. It spun alone in the air, keeping time to its own rhythm. Slowly, in downward spirals, it came.
Clap.
Kaleo cupped it between his hands. He smiled to himself. It splashed around within his hermetic finger cage. Slowly, he separated his thumbs, peering in. Only darkness. He frowned and opened his hands. Nothing remained but black splatters across his palms.
A tear fell from his eyes, smudging the bloody stains.
Above him, the other butterflies flickered and went dark. But he knew they were there. He thought they would never light up again. Their vigil lasted seconds. They left him in the quiet night, upon their iridescent wings.
—-

This Monster of Mine

Another short I wrote for WDG.
About 550 words.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, but I have a monster. We all have one—personal demons lurking in the dark, stale corners of our souls. In the deepest of my being, I can visit my monster. I shudder to think of her.
I have neglected my monster. For so long, in the pit of my humanity, she has lashed against her fraying tether, never biding her time. I admire her relentless fury, and I fear it.
She howls at me as I approach a pretty girl; she snickers when I speak before a group; she laughs at me always. I never confront her about these things—horrible as she is. I’m not brave enough.
You don’t know my monster like I do. She’s different than yours. You’d realize this the moment you met her. This is one crazy sonuvagun. And she’d stare at you through her red, gleaming eyes, quivering maw waiting to spit condescension.
Under the dawn’s light, I plopped into the tractor seat and disked the rows between my fruitless apple trees, riling up the dirt. The green leaves dimmed under the churned dust. I had just completed the last row when Miss Jasper showed up on her horse, Nilly. I turned off the tractor, the loud engine cutting with a cough. I wiped my brow and nodded as they neared.
“Hey Nilly.”
“Very funny, Travis,” Miss Jasper said. She leaned in the saddle and stroked Nilly’s smooth hair. Miss Jasper had fine auburn hair herself. What I wouldn’t give to—
Very funny indeed, my monster says. Why don’t you tell her about all those feelings?
“Sorry, Miss Jasper, how can I help you?”
“Travis, would you please call me Heather? Makes me feel like my aunt when you call me Miss Jasper. Yes, I know you respect tradition. Thank you.”
I nodded, smiling at the wondrous way she always stared into my canopies, as if discovering them for the first time.
“Anywho, I was wondering…” Miss Jasper’s voice continued on, a pageant of beautiful tones and inflections.
From her darkness, my monster thought, How many times are you going to nod like an imbecile? She knows you’re a dumb ape: your jaw too slack, barely sitting straight.
I gritted my teeth behind tightened lips, yet my soul ached under Miss Jasper’s meandering smile. My heartstrings were at their limits.
I won’t fear you, I thought.
Oh, come down to chat for a change? My monster’s voice was cool and confident.
I won’t fear you.
Easier said than done, little man. You’ve not been down here in some ten years. We all know how that shook out. What makes you think this is any different?
I paused, a fleeting moment, collecting myself. Because I can admit that you’re right, yet I’m also right, and if not for you, I couldn’t prove to myself that I can be different. I’ve always been convinced that you are not me. But that’s not true. I am my monster. And I can be greater than myself.
“Travis, are you listening?” Miss Jasper sounded annoyed, despite her radiant smile.
“Yeah, Heather, I am.” 

—end—

The Lunar Girl

Small short I wrote for a Weekly Write-Up at WDG.
Roughly 600 words.
Her name was Flora, the lunar girl. She tended the Crescent Glaive flowers, those towering silver blades that grew and swayed with the moods of the moon. She glided among them in their patchy groves. Some townsfolk respected her—most fearing her mastery of the Glaives, her instinctive expertise demonized as witchery.
Flora smiled at these accusations. But she never did protest.
A curious old man appeared at her groves one night. He leaned against a wood staff, polished from years of use. He peered between the blades, calling softly, “Flora, I wish to speak with you.” The Glaives rustled beside him. He glanced at them nervously.
Singing to herself, her fingers dancing along the Glaive blades, Flora appeared from the silver spires.
“Hello, my old sir, is there something the matter?”
He waved at the Glaives as they moved with her rhythms and melodies. “I wish you to cease this madness.”
“What madness, old sir?” She tilted her head at him. Her eyes shone like quicksilver in the moonlight. The Glaives seemed to crowd closer, closer yet.
The man took a step back from Flora and reset his staff in the ground. The words came slowly to him.
“You have no idea how your Crescent Glaives are used, do you, Flora?”
She shook her head and smiled, bright white teeth. “What idea do I need to have but that my Glaives are beautiful? That they are grown with love and care and are unrivaled in this world? They are the children of the moon.”
“And they are murder in the sun,” the old man whispered. He ran a cautious finger along a Glaive but pulled abruptly as a thin line of blood bloomed from his skin. “They go to market but are bought for wars and used for death. You know this?”
Flora looked at him suspiciously. “You lie.”
“I do not. My son was killed by one of your Glaives.”
“You lie!” Flora screamed. “They are beautiful. They bring me peace; they grow as only the moon allows. There is no death in them. It is the world that spoils them.”
He raised his thumb to her, the blood congealing. Except it was silver blood. “I will die from this wound,” he said. “As we speak, the blood morphs to liquid silver, poisoning my body. I have a few minutes perhaps. Yet that seems more than I should need.”
Flora stared in horror at his finger. She held it between her hands, mourning it in the moonlight, silver tears falling down her cheeks. “I know nothing beyond these groves.”
“And none know so delicately the power within them. The money from your Crescent Glaives has kept this town alive, yet brought death to many others. Is such beauty worth the destruction it sows?” He staggered, snapping his hand from Flora and clutching his heart. “There is a man, the Silver King, who has made his name in the silvered blood of your creations. They say you are not one of us, just a lunar girl. They are so very wrong.” He collapsed before her.
The townsfolk came from their homes, horrified and awestruck by the fires consuming Flora’s groves. The flames licked the night, burning the stars.
Flora watched, a single shorn Glaive in her hand.
“The Silver King,” she said.

Hark! The clatters of a keyboard!

Gilda My Dear

~1100 words


They found the child atop a pile of gold and they adopted her without a second thought. Barely a year old, her raven hair flowed, in its waves and frills, around her manger. Dark was her countenance and complexion yet the townsfolk called her the Gilded Child, eventually settling to Gilda, and eventually she looked when the name was yelled at her though it often took several attempts. No one in the town tried to discover her lineage. Asking after her true name earned little more than befuddled glances.

“Call her Gilda and she will respond to you. Take more from an empty pantry, will you?”


Gilda walked through town one day, a young girl of ten. The streets, littered with the extravagancies that her arrival had purchased, were nearly empty of people, the sun arching high overhead and casting its soporific spell upon the town. Everyone slept and sounds were rare. Gilda padded on alone. Seeing her among the barren corridors, one might think to have found a ghost, so lost her gaze and meaningless her path. Yet she wound her way among the buildings, scrawling as she went with a slug of feces stabbed on a stick. In the bleary twilight, the townsfolk found their white walls smeared, picket fences striped. They tore them down and built them anew.

“Jeffery, your damned big dog is running around town with shit on his tail!”

Young suitors from other lands and municipalities came to court Gilda, the Gilded Child. From lands miles and horizons away, they came in rolling caravans, atop hirsute dromedaries, affected by and drawn to the tales of a woman of fortune. But when they arrived in the town, all they found were empty streets. The townsfolk were gone having spent all that remained of the gold twenty years discovered. In the town square, where marble statues hid beneath every gargoyle cornice of the surrounding buildings, Gilda sat among a ruin of crates, fumbling through new clothes and shoes, though they were years out of fashion. The suitors quickly fled.

“As forlorn a land and woman I have never seen and hope to never encounter again.”

Gilda took her time in disassembling the town to reform it in her vision. It did not take long. She was fiercely determined and possessed incredible strength. Neighboring towns could see the billowing dust and smoke from her handiwork. With the broken blocks and splintered timbers, she dragged them together in a heap and day upon night upon day she built her dream. It was beautiful. At heights unimaginable without pulleys, workhorses, and teamwork, Gilda crafted a dark tower, rising over the hills and decrepitude of the town. This too could be seen and feared from afar.

“Darkness does not always come at night.”

“I am not so crazy,” Gilda said.

“No, you are not so crazy.”
“Thank you.”
“But perhaps talking to your reflection may be construed as crazy so you should abstain from doing so in the presence of others.”
A thoughtful pause; “Are you considered an other?”

 “Many times have I walked past that formidable collusion of wood and stone and through the murder holes and machicolations have heard a number of people speaking to one another in pitiless tones.”

Concealed in her tower, Gilda walked easily through her years. She stayed mostly in the upper levels, between the eightieth and the ninety-second, because she detested the pressures of Earth’s surface and believed that gravity made her reflection wrinkle faster. Every other year, she conducted tests to see if there were more wrinkles on her reflection’s face than on her physical face. The results were invariably off by several counts, and Gilda took this as a good sign for the relationship with her reflection, otherwise tensions would rise and give way to bickering, which harried household chores and small talk. In the eighth year of Gilda’s Reformed Calendar—a chart filled with the positions of the stars and the distance between the northern star and the moon—a man appeared at her gates (she used her telescope from the top floor to see him), and he sat there, not speaking, for several months. Initially, she thought him a salesman—a clever one, for she felt tempted to discover his product. Then she thought him a squatter—one that never ate or defecated or swore at himself. It occurred to her after a year’s time that he was dead, had died the moment he sat, and was mistaken by passersby as a grotesque deterrent. She descended to the first floor. This took her ten days.

“Are you alive?”

She approached the carcass cautiously, as if the sun-dried skin, crinkled up like a bad newspaper, would leap from the yellow monkish clothing and surprise and coax her into buying a box of tampons or allowing him within the tower. He was odorless. Gilda bent to inspect his face. Freckles dotted his fleshy cheeks, and a slender white mustache drooped at the sides to a thin white beard. His eyes were shut in calm repose, thin wrinkles extending from the sides like lightning bolts. Slowly, his lips curled into a vast grin, lifting the preposterous mustache. She slapped him.

“Damn you,” she said.

“Have I offended you?” he asked, rubbing the slapped cheek.

“Obviously!”

“I’m not familiar with this custom.”

“It’s everyone’s custom!”

“To be offended?”

“In the way that you’ve done, yes.”

He thought on this for a moment. He opened his mouth to speak, his teeth horridly aligned and white, but he decided against speaking and stared at her. After a day, Gilda gave up and said, “It’s no good playing dead now.”

“I think you are correct,” he said, “but that was never my intent.”

“So rude. One should always have the correct intent behind their actions. I once covered an entire town in dog shit so that the dogs would feel useful.”

“Did it work?”

“I can’t speak to dogs, but they kept shitting and sometimes even more, so only a fool would think it didn’t work,” and she smiled. She felt her face for fear that it was the spontaneous growth of a new wrinkle.

 He nodded.  “You are not so crazy.”

“I have found my other,” Gilda laughed.

The neighbors celebrated when the dark colossus haunting their horizons crumbled, but when they approached, hopeful for ruins, they found two towers jutting from the ground in obscene defiance, as if the predecessor had simply shrunk and duplicated, and at the very top, a skybridge connected the pinnacles and dead in the center sat two figures, holding hands that would never lose touch.
 
—-end—-
I wrote this after reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. My main concern with this brief short is that it represents my writing after reading a masterpiece. I don’t have much hope for the rest of my writing. Therefore, I would like to apologize to Mr. Marquez’s descendants for the transgression(s) that this story imposes on his reputation and achievements. Also, that book was crazy. I’m also aware that skybridge is not a word. It’s staying. SKYBRIDGE. Sleep on it.

December Story #1: Dario’s Broken Mirror

Hah! I posted that little thing on inspiration then went stone-cold quiet. Nothing like cold stones…
I actually have a story, just haven’t gotten around to editing it and then dragging that damn text to the blog. Also, I no longer have MS Word, so I use this farce of a program called WordPad which is basically the Kirkland of Charmin toilet paper. Totally serviceable. But it’s thin where you need it.
Without further ado:
Dario’s Broken Mirror
~alas, WordPad has no word count… perhaps 2000+

Dario stumbled as he ducked beneath the threshold of the café, recovering only just in time to greet the concerned smile of the hostess. She winced for himand he was grateful, as he had been terribly slow to reactbefore taking a menu from her stand and beckoning him to follow after her. He did so willingly and without comment, glancing back and forth down aisles of tables, chairs, and potted plants. There were many other diners. Most of them sat alone but were talking with animation. Dario found this odd.

Dario was not a normal person of the times. He had spent some time cryogenically frozen, at the behest of his famous uncle, who provided the necessary funds for the experimental procedure. The first person successfully frozen, though the twenty-seventh to attempt it, it was a charming achievement that Dario never celebrated. He remembered stunningly little of the resuscitation process. Cold hands prodded him, plucked his skin, and waved lights in his eyes. Then he was warm, clothed, and signing forms.

They gave him a rectangular piece of glass with images on its surface, a blurry, static kaleidoscope of nonsense. He thought a corner of the glass resembled a jellyfish. He stared at it, dumbly, as if he were looking into a mirror that refused his reflection. Dario sat. He considered leaving. Someone came along and tut-tutted and took the broken mirror from him; they fiddled with it, many clicks and beepsand perhaps one more tut; they handed it back to him; and now, the broken mirror spoke to him and the images moved with grace and clarity, and it explained some of the world to Dario. He forgot most of what it said but remembered this of it: Everything was different than his old life. Everything from his old life was dead.

At some point, Dario put down the glass that contained flat, moving people, and further from that point, he decided he ought to get on with his life. The glass continued to spout the café’s menu well after he was gone.

And Dario found himself in this café, looking with concern at each of the diners. At one table, a man was furiously stuffing a breaded confection into his mouth, some red gelatinous cream oozing over the top and busting through the sides, falling in dollops to a table that gathered all these together, moving like drops of oil until they sat in a neat pile at the center. The man, having dispensed with the greater mass of his meal, turned upon this little midden, scooped it with the back of his thumb and sucked it down with a victorious sigh. Then, as if he had been thoroughly engaged all along, the man resumed a conversation, speaking with great swings of his arms, yet no one sat with him. Dario stared and raised an eyebrow. How monstrously curious, he thought.

The hostess called to him, “Sir?”

Dario hurried after her.

But he passed another table, where a young lady sat in corner booth, hunched over and staring into a silver book that cast a ghoulish light upon her face. She was squinting as if in the middle of a desert and its glaring sun. Thick-rimmed glasses were pressed tightly to her face. Her fingers and nails clacked against the tableor was it the book?and, in the briefest of respites, she would straighten, arch her back, crack her knuckles together, roll her neck and lean forward to resume the whole process anew. During this, she spoke to herself, almost incessantly and certainly gibberish. Dario believed only every other word held any literal meaning. Her maddening giggle could only have resulted from inhaling too much funny gas, as it was too superficial and constant to be authentic humor.

He slapped his forehead, I must have left my mind behind or so everyone else has.

“Miss?” Dario said to the hostess. “I’m afraid that some of your patrons may be a bit loose in the head. You see that girl yonder, just a shade past that plant? Yes, that one. Yes, I’m worried for this girl. She appears to be unconscious of the fact that she is talking to herself. It is worrisome behavior whereor I suppose, rather whenI am from.

The hostess fixed a skeptical gaze on Dario, shrugged, handed him the menu, and said, “I’ll just give you a few moments then.”

“I very much appreciate that,” Dario said, smiling to her back. He slid into his seat, an uncomfortable and spine-shifting mold of plastic. He twisted in its depth. Finding that every position constantly harassed his tailbone with the hard demands of the chair, Dario frantically scanned for a new seat. He called to the hostess and waved that he would be moving to a new location. Far away, she nodded.

With an air of gratitude, Dario dropped into a booth of tired maroon leather and weathered mahogany veneer. A middle-aged woman already seated in the boothbut obscured from the sight of anyone looking at the boothheld a finger to her lips. She was dressed in a sharp business suit and engaging in a vicious dialogue with a spare half-eaten salad that deserved little of the showering insults. Dario yelped.

He waved in humiliation and whispered, “I’m very sorry, ma’am. I’ll be going.”

Dario was defeated, tired and quite bitter. I just want something nice to eat! Is that so much to ask for? I haven’t had something to eat in a hundred years; I think I deserve to have an eggs Benedict. He found that he was glaring at everyone around him, absorbed in his or her meal and conversation.

]|-|[

Some days later, Dario found himself in a doctor’s office, atop a cushioned stool. The doctor was a kindly old man, wearing the honored white coat of a scientific person. He thumbed through something in the air, stabbing at motes of dust revealed in the veins of light streaming through the vertical blinds. With a single beep and from a point in space between the doctor and Dario, a small green circle appeared, steadily growing in gentle ripples until it formed a large rectangle. It looked as real and heavy as a chalkboard from Dario’s childhood education, until the doctor stepped through the panel as easily as if he were walking through sunlight.

He turned to look at the green screen from Dario’s perspective.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Crates, despite your wish to see otherwise, your physical health seems to be in perfect balance. Your brain patterns reflect little alteration from the resuscitation process. In fact, we find that you have achieved a heightened sense of awareness.” The doctor waved at several graphs, sliding and minimizing them to the side, and bringing a vibrant picture of Dario’s brain to the front. It fluttered in the colors of the rainbow.

“Excuse me, doctor? What does that indicate? It is clearly my brain yet it appears to be confused as to what color it ought to be. Should it not be some placid blue? A tame violet?”

“This is an active scan of your brain, Mr. Crates, (meaning that it is happening this very moment!) and according to this, well, it would appear that your hearing and sight are operating above the peak standards of the standard citizen. You also exhibit a mental acuity that not only remembers but also vividly relives its past experienceshence this region here looking a bit like a burping toad. More than any of my previous and current patients, you meditate on your past and how to immediately improve upon it. Your mind is in constant motion, yet not due to stimulants or any visual accessories. This is quite a rare trait, as I hope my explanation has revealed. If you wouldn’t mind, we would very much like to have you come in for further examination.”

“I think I very much mind. To what end are these examinations?”

The doctor scratched behind his ear, a fleshy orifice sprouting with white hair. Perhaps he didn’t expect Dario to refuse. “Well, this is quite embarrassing, and I hope you will take this as merely this professional’s personal opinion, but your attention to detail and understanding of your surroundings is intriguing. The desire to find your place in the community and your effect on it is admirable. People have certainly taken notice of the ‘frozen man’ who went into a café, asked for food, harassed seven separate patrons, wept, then expressed satisfaction with the establishment’s food by vomiting its contents on their doorstep as he left. Odd indeed.

“The extent to which you suffer introspection is, in itself, amazing. Allow me to explain, Mr. Crates, as you appear somewhat lost. Humans are a social lot. We enjoy the company of others. Perhaps not in your time, but certainly now, we have established that connection without pause. You may be familiar with the antiquated system called the Internet, is that correct? Oh, no? Well, ah… the Internet… ah allowed people to contact each other instantly, much like early telephones did, which you surely remember. But, people could send more than audio. Imagine! You see something fascinating on the street, say: a beautiful mural or a four-leaf clover. You could take a picture of that with a camera and send it to someone, in the blink of an eye, using the Internet. Of course, there are humanizing portraits, adorable puppies…”

Dario thought about this some while the doctor continued talking. He scratched his chin, roughing up the thin stubble. The desire to leave for peace and quiet struck him, yet something kept him in place. He sighed as the doctor finally paused. “Why would I send them a picture through this Internet?” Dario said.

“What?” The doctor had been talking about something else. “Oh, the Internet? To share, Mr. Crates! Because that is human nature. It is essential to our mental state, our health and sense of fulfillment, that we give our experiences to others.”

“And so everyone shares every moment of their lives… with everyone else?”

“Well, not quite, but for the most part, yes.”

“That doesn’t sound like something I’d want to be a part of.”

“By no means am I a developed psycho-therapistthough I only need four more years to acquire my certification!but I would say that your refusal of joining the Meld is a curious behavior attributed mostly to your era. You believe in antiquated notions like emotional ‘closets’ and ‘privacy,’ and you may believe that those provide you some kind of dignity and honor, but those simply don’t exist anymore. The closets and privacy, I mean.

“Which in fact brings up my larger point behind further testing for you. The advent of the Meld has galvanized a technological boom much like that of the Industrial Revolution, but more than that, it has created an immediate evolution in the growth and manner of humans, and it begs the question: have human brains evolved drastically since the Meld came into existence and given yourforgive mearchaic brain, would you be able to handle existence with the Meld? I’m sure that this will begin to interest you as much as me once you understand the enormity of this question. We at the Malcom Richardson Medical Facility would be honored to handle your case. It will certainly make a splash, a historic paper for all the journals, to be sure.”

The doctor stared mistily into the green panel, at the shimmering ripples of rainbow in Dario’s brain. He seemed to forget that Dario was in the room.

Dario said, “Well, I don’t quite think that I’m really in the mood for more testing. I’ve had enough of that the past few days to last the rest of my life. I’d really like just to be left alone.”

The doctor whirled on Dario, his face uncomfortably intimate, and placed a hand on Dario’s shoulder. “But don’t you see? That’s the whole reason why it’s fascinating. No one wants to be left alone! It’s a precedent unseen even in the colonies. Socialization is an incredibly strong characteristic in humans. The fact that you desire such individuality harkens to your bygone era. We don’t have access to that information anymore (scrubbed in the wars), but you, you represent a whole era, its entire mentality! We simply must understand it. There could never be another chance.” He breathed heavily.

Dario rose slowly from his stool. “I think I’ll be going now, doctor. Thank you very much for your time.”

The doctor, his voice almost a whine, said, “You don’t understand, Mr. Crates, this, your brain with our research, it could change the world. We could understand what it was, why we shifted, everything! Don’t you see how important this is? How society might change?”

“Doctor,” Dario said, “I think that society would rather look at adorable puppies.”

November Story #1

Hello!

A short little clip I want to provide for you, my dear reader. Hopefully, you enjoy it (and even if you don’t, expect to see much more from this new character). As always, please leave me any comments/feedback wherever you can!

The Mage Without Magic
~500
He was not sure whether the darkness was in his mind or reality. Several times, he blinked and rubbed his eyes until his vision was sprayed with stars. And yet, when the stars faded, nothing remained of his sight but complete darkness. He knew that this unsettling darkness was real. “What is my name?” he said to the darkness, and when not even an echo dared to reply, he became unsure whether he had ever spoken at all. He opened his mouth to speak again, by habit mostly, for he realized that his voice held no value, that speaking meant a conversation, and a normal one with two people. He would be insane to hold a conversation with himself, or so he thought. So he did not speak.
What is my name?he thought. Where am I, in darkness so absolute, that I dare not take one step? If I take one step, and I reach nothing, have I truly gone anywhere? If I cannot see that my step has taken my somewhere, is it still a step?
He hugged himself and found that he was naked, yet comfortably so. Hesitantly, he reaffirmed the existence of his limbs, the long scrawny arms with barely a hair to the soft skin and the legs, thin, yet still retaining some of the once-muscular form. He tugged at each ear lobe. With his left hand, he snapped his fingers continuously, tracing from his left ear to his right, and back again, then snapped away from his ear and repeated the snaps nuzzled close.

So I exist, he thought to himself, and suddenly, he knew that he had made this assertion before, that this whole act had happened to him already. And fear became real once again.
This is not right! I should be free, with my family, my dear wife, Rona, and my sweet children, Daisy and Dylan, but instead, I am here, in this god-forsaken darkness, trapped not only with my thoughts but also my body. Damn!
Something like a groan escaped his body as the memories flooded back to him.
His name was Kyborn Tjelvjekr, student of Doshta Firn, descendent of the Mountain Circle. He had once been a mage, and that had meant something. People had respected him, sought him for advice, aid, and ability. What did it mean to be a mage? Kyborn searched his mind for the answer to this question, and when none appeared, his hopelessness—much darker than his environment—bore down on him. He crumpled, only vaguely wondering whether his fall would be infinite. It hurt him that he should not know the answer to this question; it hurt him more than knowing he would never see his wife and children ever again; it hurt him, beyond all his memories, and struck deep in every muscle and fiber of his body. He knew he used to be a mage, and yet, with the certainty of his breath and bones, he did not know how he had been a mage.

In his fetal position, Kyborn Tjelvejkr cried himself to sleep, hoping full well that when he awoke, he would forget all he had remembered.