Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Whispers in the Sand

The old Jeep rumbled to a stop at the piece of desert marked off with logs embedded in the ground.  Sally leapt out and ran around the car to inspect the campground.  She stood with her hands on her hips and took it all in.

Sam got out of the car more slowly and stretched.  They had spent five long hours trying to get here, getting lost and backtracking several times.  He could have done without it all – in fact, he’d much prefer being at a motel right about now.  He didn’t want to think about pitching a tent or fixing dinner with their dinky little propane stove.  

He looked at Sally and his expression softened. 

“I feel like I can actually breathe out here,” she said.  She gestured at the scrub around them.  The only plants that grew here were scraggly little things close to the ground.  The yuccas were in bloom and a few flowers dotted the squat cacti here and there.  Tan hills, stark against the dusky purple and orange sky, rose in the distance.

Sam turned back to look at the rest of the campground.  There weren’t many other campers here this time of year and they were all clustered around the main gate.  Sally had chosen this particular place because of its distance from the normal tourist hot-spots.  They’d seen some sights earlier today but she’d wanted some peace and quiet too.  Those were her words and he hadn’t argued.   He didn’t see what was wrong with tourist traps – they offered most of the basic amenities – but this trip wasn’t for him.

“Do you want to eat first or set up camp?” Sam asked.

“We better set up camp.  We won’t feel up to it later and there’s still some light left,” she said.

She went around to the back of the Jeep and lifted the hatch.  She pulled out the tent, wrapped up tight in its bag, and set it to the side.  Next she got their sleeping bags and backpacks.

“Do you think we should put up the solar shower too?  Naw, that can wait ‘til morning, it won’t do any good at night,” she said.

“Why don’t you start a fire while I set up the tent?  We can roast marshmallows later, and we’ll probably want the warmth.”

Sally nodded.   “It does get pretty cold at night.”

Sam took out all of the parts of the tent.  He hated this part the most, but he wanted to be the man and show Sally he wasn’t useless.  Plus she never got the stakes deep enough or the ropes taut enough when she did it.

After much struggle and some swearing, Sam had the tent up and sat down on one of the logs by the Jeep.   Sally sat down on one of their folding chairs in front of the fire, which was crackling merrily.  She was leaning back, a vague smile on her face.

“Hungry yet?” he asked.

She blinked slowly, as if waking from a long dream.  She looked over at him and stared at him as if she didn’t know who he was.  She shivered.  “Sorry, I zoned out there.  Yeah, what do you feel like having?”

He shrugged.  “Man cannot live on hot dogs alone.  We haven’t tried fixing those biscuits yet, they’d be good with some of our smoked sausage.”

“Do you know where the cast iron skillet is?”

“It’s buried somewhere back there.  I’ll find it.  We deserve a good dinner tonight, don’t we?” Sam said.

He was trying to be cheerful but she didn’t react at all.  She was in a weird mood, he decided.   She got like this at times.  Sam thought that her brain would skip onto a different wavelength and sometimes he worried that she wouldn’t come back.  Then she’d blink and smile at him and it didn’t matter.  That smile felt like she saved it just for him.

Sam went back to the Jeep and pulled out all the supplies they’d need for dinner.  He knew that it was his fault that everything was so hard to find back here.  First off, he was the one who insisted on bringing so much stuff.  Camping was fine but he wasn’t really going to rough it.  Second, since he wanted the stuff, Sally didn’t bother to put it back and he wasn’t good at packing it all away with any sense of order.

He got the propane camper stove, skillet, cooler and shopping bags filled with food.  They’d gone shopping earlier with a mind to several days of camping in isolation.  Sally came over to help him bring everything to the picnic table by the fire.

“I’ll make the salad, I think we have enough for a good one,” she said.

He passed her a knife and the small cutting board.  She dug into the cooler for what she needed as Sam put the camper stove together.  He lit the propane and put the skillet on top of the wire grill.  They worked in silence.  Sally sat down and started cutting up the tomatoes and cucumber.  Sam stared at her while he waited for the skillet to heat up.

She looked different, he decided, but he couldn’t figure out why.  She was off in her own little world, sure, but that happened all the time.  Her detachment was part of what had attracted him in the first place.  She didn’t need him and that was comforting.

Now, though, she was peaceful in a way that unsettled him.  Maybe she didn’t need him most of the time, but now she hardly even noticed he was there.  Every now and then a sound would catch her ear and she’d look up, staring off absently.  It reminded him of a cat his family owned when he was young.  Point of fact, he’d stalk that cat around the house waiting for it to pay attention to him.

He cut off some butter and set it sizzling in the pan.  He popped open the roll of biscuits and waited for the butter to liquefy.

It didn’t take him long to fix the biscuits with summer sausage and some sautéed onions.  He smiled as he realized that this was better than some of the meals he managed at home.  Sally was still sitting there quietly while she munched at her salad.

“Here you go,” he said, setting the food in front of her.  She looked up and smiled widely.

“Sam, it’s so great out here, don’t you think?” she asked.

“Uh yeah, beautiful.  Kinda chilly now, though.”

She shrugged.  “It’s peaceful, I like that.  It feels…full.”


“Yeah, just...I can feel it.  Everything around here.  It’s like the desert has a presence.”

He raised his eyebrows; he didn’t know what to say to that.  “Okay.”

She laughed.  “It’s hard to explain.  I really like it here.”

“I can tell,” he said, smiling.

She reached out to take his hand.  “Thanks for coming out here with me.  I know this isn’t really your sort of thing.”

That was an understatement.  He had never been camping before he’d met her.  He was strictly a city boy, born and bred.  “I like being here with you,” he said.  It wasn’t a lie.

She smiled and finished up her food.  After a long, silent moment of her staring out at the hills, she looked back at him.  “I feel like turning in early, what do you think?”

He caught the meaning of her smile and didn’t object.


Sam woke up and realized he was alone in the tent.  As he rolled over, cold air slipped around him and into the sleeping bag.  He’d never felt cold like this before.  It was sharp and brought about a sort of clarity that was otherwise muffled by city air.

He sat up and rubbed his face with both hands.  He slid out of the bag and exited the tent.  The cold out there was amplified by a ceaseless, sighing wind.  He stumbled over to the Jeep and pulled out his heavy jacket.

He looked around and was amazed by the desolate beauty around him.  A waxing gibbous moon washed out the landscape and stars, so many stars, glittered above.  It all looked so alien, vastly different from anything he’d experienced before.

He looked around and realized that Sally wasn’t anywhere in the camp, much less nearby.

“Sal?  Sally, where are you?” he called out as he furiously scanned the landscape.  He ran around aimlessly before he realized that it probably wasn’t a good idea.  He didn’t want to get too far away from the camp in case she came back; it was far more likely that he’d get lost anyway.

Sam turned around slowly and tried to take in as many details as he could.  The moon lit everything up but made it all seem unreal and distant.  The land was so flat that what looked close by might in fact be miles away.  He was starting to panic.

He finally saw her walking towards the hills.  She was a dark figure against their silhouette and he couldn’t tell how far away she was.  He grabbed a flashlight and took off after her.  He went back and got her coat, too.  He couldn’t figure out why she had left it behind when it was so freezing out here.

He took off at a loping run.  He realized he wasn’t wrong about the deceptive sense of distance here.  The flatness and the lack of distinguishing landmarks made him feel like he was running in place.  He looked back; the campground had receded but that was the only clue that he’d covered any ground at all.

Time didn’t seem to exist as he ran, either.  A separate part of him, something that looked on while he panicked, had expected this.  Sally wasn’t easy to hold onto and now he’d let her disappear in the middle of the night.  He would have preferred a nasty break-up in a bar back home, that he could deal with.  This was insanity.

Suddenly he was at the base of the hills.  He swung the beam of the flashlight around but didn’t see Sally anywhere.  He shouted out her name and scrambled up the side of one hill.

The gibbous moon was setting and seemed to be cradled in the dip of one mound.  A figure walked in front of it and paused a moment.  He recognized her profile.

“Sally, what are you doing?  You almost gave me a heart attack!”  Sam shouted.  He ran up toward her, tripping over spots where rocks slid out from under his feet.  Sally turned back toward him slowly.

The refracting moon and starlight silvered her dark hair.  Her eyes were far away and, even though she was facing him, she didn’t really see him.  She lifted her head towards the sky and smiled.

“Do you hear them?” she asked, her voice nearly swept away in the wind.

“Jesus, Sal, you must be freezing!  Here, let me…” he stepped forward and wrapped her in the coat.  She didn’t move at all.

“Listen, Sam.  It’s so wonderful.  Can’t you hear it?”

“You’re scaring me.  Did you find some peyote or something?”

She giggled and looked back at him.  “Sam, you’re so silly.”

He rolled his eyes.  “Be serious, you shouldn’t have gone off like this.  What if you got lost or twisted your ankle?  What if I hadn’t woken up to realize you were gone?”

“You don’t understand.  Come here,” she said.  She took his face in her hands and drew him down.  The kiss was feather light.

Sam closed his eyes as Sally wrapped her arms around him.  He slid his arms underneath her coat and pulled her closer.  Her head nestled against his chest.

As they stood there, silent, the wind changed.  He didn’t pay attention until it started to rush around them, the soft susurration of voices just out of range.  The current of air wrapped around them and the voices separated into distinct threads of sound but he still couldn’t make anything out.

Lights flashed against his eyelids.  At first he thought he’d see something if he opened his eyes but realized he only saw anything because his eyes were shut tight.  Bursts of light and figures that refused to coalesce into anything substantial played out across his consciousness.  The breath stuttered in his chest and he stepped back, releasing Sally.

“What – what the hell…” he gasped.

Sally swayed in place, her eyes still closed.  She breathed in deeply and her eyelids lifted slowly, as if she were waking up.  “Did you feel it?”

“I, uh…it was something.”

She giggled again.  “It’s okay, they just wanted you to see.”

He stared at her.  It was more than just the moon; she seemed to radiate a calming glow.  He caught her hand up in his.

“Sally, I…you look…”

She raised his hand up and kissed the palm.  A shiver raced up his spine.

“I wanted you to know what it felt like,” she said.


She pulled him along with her as she started to walk away.  He resisted.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“Back to the camp, silly.  They go back down with the moon.”

He shook his head.  “You’re not making any sense.”

“I think I’m still dreaming,” she said.

“I think you are.  Come on.”


Sam couldn’t shake the feeling from that night.  He’d catch a whisper on the wind and look around for Sally.  Often as not, she’d be smiling slightly with her head cocked to the side.  Still, she seemed to notice him more than normal.  On hikes, she’d bump into him frequently and often stop to take in the landscape.  She always reached out to take his hand and take small, sweet kisses from his lips.

She woke him up on their last night in the camp and pulled him out of the tent.  The moon, full by now, lit up the desert.

“What is it?” he mumbled, still groggy.

She didn’t say anything as she dragged him along with her.  The cold roused him and he looked up.  He saw that she was taking him back to the hills.

“One last time, Sam, before we have to go,” she said.

A tingle ran from her hand, up his arm, and spread through him.  The desert was alive with noises energized by the sharp moonlight and cold air.  It wasn’t just the voices like that night…he heard animals scurry across the hard earth…plants rustle in the wind…even just the sand and dirt drifting along the ground.  He heard the stars sparkling.

The drifted up the hills and the voices intensified.  He closed his eyes and saw shapes and figures dancing around.  Sally’s hand was the only anchor to the world around him.

“I feel it.  I understand.”

Adam in the Dark

“You’re listening to Adam in the Dark, what would you like to hear, man?”

Static came through on the line then fell silent again.  Adam turned back to glare at his producer and waved his hand in a circle.  Wrap it up!  He pulled off his headphones and went to bring the music up again.

“Helloooo? Sorry about that, folks; seems we’re having some technical difficulties.  Here to sing you off to la la land is – “

His producer tapped on the glass and gave him an insistent thumbs up.  Pick up the line! Adam slid his headphones back on.

“Wait, seems like our caller is back.  You out there?  Want to make a request?”
“Uh yeah, but something else first,” a man said.  He sounded young.  “She will die.”

Adam’s mind stuttered over the words.  He snapped back up in his chair when he remembered the dead air.  “Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that.”

“She’ll not be looking where she’s going.  You have to help her.”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about, dude.  Did you want to hear a song?”

“Uh, hmmm.  Yeah, I know what song I want,” the voice said, chuckling.  “’Don’t Fear the Reaper.’”

“Okay, here we go.  Joke’s on me, man.  Here it is, and keep it tuned to 91.5 KNSU.”

Adam pressed the button that silenced the line and pushed the volume slider back up for the music.  The distinctive guitar lick filtered through the speakers mounted on the wall.  He whipped his headphones back off and stalked out of the booth.  His producer met him in the hallway.

“What the hell was that, Lucy?  First dead air, and then that lunatic?  What were you thinking, taking the call?”

“I’m sorry, he didn’t sound weird.  Just said that he wanted to talk to you because you were his favorite DJ.”

He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck.  “Lucky me, the grim reaper is a fan.  We’ve only got an hour left – try not to screw anything else up.”

She wrinkled her nose.  “We always get weirdos this time of night.  Don’t blame me.”


Adam waited on the curb for the light to change.  He was fiddling on his phone when someone brushed past him.  She smelled kind of nice and he looked up.

It was with an awkward sense of slowness that Adam saw what happened next.  She was yakking away on a Bluetooth.  She didn’t notice that the light hadn’t changed.  Adam turned to look down the street.  At the same time, he lurched forward to try to pull the woman backwards.  He heard the clacking of her heels on the asphalt that was then drowned out by a blaring horn.

She teetered back and her ankle twisted as one impossibly high heel gave out.  Her purse flew out of her hands.  Adam’s eyes stayed locked on her but he couldn’t move.  She almost hit the ground just when a delivery truck struck her.

Adam couldn’t look away even as it ran over her. The squeal of brakes and the smell of burning rubber filled the air.  She tumbled through the tires and rolled to a stop after the truck passed over her.  Adam still couldn’t move.

The truck finally stopped in the intersection and the driver burst out.  “Oh God, oh geez, she didn’t even look!  You saw that, right? She didn’t even stop and look before she crossed the street.  Please tell me you saw that.”

It occurred to Adam that the man was talking to him.  He stared at the dead woman.

Other drivers started to honk their horns impatiently, maybe not noticing what had happened.  The just saw a truck in the middle of the road that was preventing them from getting home after a long day.

“Oh God, is there a doctor anywhere?  Hey you, can you help me here?”

Adam realized the spark had gone out.  She will die.  You have to help her.  He stumbled forward and knelt beside the woman, not realizing that he was kneeling in her blood.

A cautious ring of people stood gawking around the two of them.  Their chatter didn’t break through the buzzing in his ears.  He reached out to touch her face, a comforting gesture that didn’t make any sense.  Her mouth was still wide open and frozen in a surprised exclamation.

Someone tugged at his shoulder.  “Adam, hey, get up.  You have to get out of the way, come on.”

He let the person pull him to his feet and pull him back to the sidewalk.  He turned his head slowly and saw that it was Lucy.

“I was waiting for you and...this is so terrible.  The show is about to start, do you want me to go…oh my God, the show.  That lunatic, do you think he knew? ‘She will die.’  Do you think she’s dead?  Adam?  Are you okay?”

“I…she wasn’t looking.  I tried to…”

“It’s okay, Adam, it probably all happened so fast,” she said.

He shook his head and looked back at the woman.

“I have to go do the show,” he murmured.

“No no no, that’s not happening. I’ll cover for you.”

Sirens called down the street and broke through the noise in his head.  He slowly sat down on the curb.  Two police cars and an ambulance stopped in front of him.  Paramedics burst forth.  Adam didn’t need to tell them that the woman was already dead.  He leaned forward and cupped his face in his hands.  He found moisture there and realized he was crying.

“Sir?  Excuse me.” A police officer was standing in front of them.

“He’s a little shaken up.  He saw everything,” Lucy said.

The man looked down at Adam.  “That’s never a good thing.  We’ll need to ask you a few questions but that can wait.  You might want to calm down first.”

“It’s fine, what do you need to know?” Adam asked.  His voice was too rough -- maybe he shouldn’t do the show tonight, he sounded almost sinister.

The police officer looked over at Lucy and shrugged.  She sat down next to Adam and took his hand.

“It’s okay, Adam, I think you need to decompress.  Sort everything out in your head,” she said.

Adam shook his head and rose to his feet, swaying forward.  His head spun and he nearly threw up on the police officer’s feet.  “It’s okay, I know what I saw.  I was waiting for the light to change and she walked right past.  Didn’t even look, she was talking on the phone.  Bluetooth or whatever.  She was in a hurry and all dressed up.  Career type alpha bitch.”

“Adam!  She was just run over by a truck!” Lucy said.

“Sorry, I...”

“It’s okay, sir,” the officer said. “That’s all I need to know for right now.  Go home, get drunk if you need to, and sleep it off.  Here’s my card, call me in the morning.”

“I need to do my show.”

“Your show?”

“Adam, you are not doing the show now.  He’s on the radio,” Lucy told the cop.  “I’m going to take him home now.”

“Lucy, I swear, I’m fine.”

“And I swear that you’re definitely not.  Come on.”

Lucy pulled him up to his feet and latched onto his arm.  She was small but insistent and he didn’t feel like pulling away from her.  He looked back to the intersection but the woman was gone; the ambulance doors were closing.  It drove away slowly with no siren – they didn’t need to get anywhere quickly now.


Two nights later, Adam was in the booth and setting up a playlist.  That was the perk of taking the insomniac show; he could play whatever he wanted. Lucy tapped on the glass.  She mimed talking on the phone and he turned to see the line flashing in the booth.  It never rang so that it didn’t interfere with the sound at all.  He shrugged – the show hadn’t started, he wasn’t taking callers.  She glared at him.  It’s important!

He picked up the phone.  “Yeah?  What is it?”

“Hello, Adam.  I figured you wouldn’t want to put me on air after what happened.”

Adam swore.  “You’re insane.  Why are you calling here again?  How did you know what would happen?”

“Who says I did?  I guessed. I read the signs.”

“Yeah, sure buddy.  Is that what the voices in your head tell you?”

“This isn’t anything to sneer at.  I’m trying to help you but you’re making it difficult.  Personally, I don’t think you’re right for the job, but that’s not for me to decide.”  He paused.  “But here’s what I called you to talk about.  You didn’t help her.”

Adam bolted up in his chair and swore.  “Listen buddy, I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but – “

“Relax, Adam, this is out of your control. I am on your side.”

“You’re crazy is what you are.  You can take credit for what happened to that woman the other day if you want, but it was just a coincidence,” Adam said.

The man laughed.  “Uh, I wish that was the case.  No, this is a pretty big deal.  You were supposed to help her.”

“I tried!  She wasn’t paying attention, and that truck was right there, I was going to pull her back…”

“But it all happened so fast?”

“No.  It all seemed to drag on forever.  I saw but I…I couldn’t do anything about it.”

The man was silent for a long moment.  “There will be a man in the park.  You know which one.  He’s going to have an accident.”

“And what?  I’m supposed to save him too?  This is bullshit.”

“Have a good show.  I do love listening to you, you know.  No one realizes how important midnight radio is.”

Adam hung up.  Lucy poked her head through the door.  “I’m sorry, Adam, I didn’t want to put him through, but he insisted.  What did he say?”

“Nothing important.  We’ve got two minutes, and Lucy…I don’t want to take any calls tonight.  If someone wants to make a request, just tell me.  All the late night freaks will just want to talk about the accident.”

“Sure, Adam.  Whatever you want.”


It was Saturday and Adam was in the park, the one right by his house.  Of course he knew which one the man was talking about.  He wasn’t going to come, but then he couldn’t stand the thought of someone else dying because of him.  He took that as a sign that he too was going insane.

The park was crowded – it was a warm, windy summer day.  The large field on the edge of the lakeshore was perfect for flying kites.  Kids dashed back and forth, trying to get their kites aloft, while their parents shouted directions at them. Many adults had more elaborate, obviously homemade, kites that drifted sedately over everything.

“Now which one of you is about to die?” Adam muttered.

He drifted around the edge of the field, not wanting to get caught up any strings or scrambling children.  As he got to the far side of the field, he saw that it suddenly dropped down to the rocky beach below.  Too many people were drifting perilously close to the jumbled barrier of larger rocks.

Adam sat down on one of those rocks and waited.  He didn’t really know what he was doing here – that guy couldn’t be right twice in a row.  He was probably just making it all up.  And Adam believed him; what did that say about him?

As Adam watched people edge closer to and then away from the rocks, he figured he was probably just gullible.  And it was kind of flattering to think that someone picked him to do this.  Saving people was pretty important, right?

He almost didn’t notice a man who started tripping backward.  The wind had pulled his kite out toward the lake and the man was trying to pull it back, not noticing that he was about to fall backwards onto the barrier.  Adam leapt to his feet and ran toward the man, who was already regaining his footing.  Adam came to a stop in front of the man, an awkward explanation on his lips, as a kite struck him forcefully on the back.  Adam stumbled forward, colliding with the man and propelling them both over the rocks and down the steep slope.

It was funny, really, Adam thought.  He was just trying to help and he messed it up for the both of them.  Their limbs were tangled together as they fell.  He saw the rocks of the beach come up to meet them with a sort of bemused detachment.  He wasn’t even afraid.  This seemed just about right after his short, sad existence.

Their impact snatched him back to reality.  He heard the crack of the other man’s skull on a sharp rock. Adam’s momentum kept him tumbling over the prone body.  He finally came to a rest face down in the water, not before smacking his own head on the rocks.


Adam rolled over and saw a man on the beach staring down at him sadly.  The poor sap Adam had taken down with him still lay on the ground.  The dead guy was also behind them, somehow, looking down at his dead body.

“It’s you,” Adam said, knowing it without a doubt.

The man smiled sadly.  “Indeed it is.  You’re not done yet, though.  You still have to help him.”

“Help him do what?  He’s already dead.  Am I dead?”

“Look for yourself.”

Adam was standing up now.  He looked over and saw his own drowned body still lying in the water.  The waves lapped over him gently.

“What’s going on?” the other dead guy asked.

“Help him.”

Adam shook his head.  “I don’t understand.”

“Yes you do, just think.”

Adam looked the man in the eyes, the one who had just been flying his kite without a care in the world.  Or maybe he did have a care, who knew for sure.  If it weren’t for Adam, he’d probably still be alive.

“I’m sorry,” he said, feeling helpless.

“We’re running out of time here.  Hurry it up, Adam.”

And suddenly, Adam did know what to do.  He took the man by the hand and pointed off into the distance.  “You have to go.  I’m sorry, you’re dead, and you have to go now.  It’ll be better where you’re going.”

The man nodded and smiled vacantly.  “Yeah, I see it.  It will be.  Thanks, I mean, for showing me the way.”

Adam watched him walk away and fade into nothingness.  He turned to look at the other man.

“Ironic, isn’t it?  Or maybe it isn’t.  You only become one by dying yourself. “

“Become what?”

“You still don’t understand, even after all this?  Think about it – you’re a reaper.  Told you not to be afraid of it.”

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

These Walls

 The old house had been loved. Not recently, of course, but it had known the feeling of a warm and loving family within its walls. It knew the miracle of a child coming into the world and the wonderful growing pains that happened throughout a child's life. It knew the slow-burning glow of true love and the bittersweet tang of growing old together. It grew old with its residents and now they had outgrown it completely.

Now the house knew how annoying small animals and pests could be. Humans mostly kept those out. It knew what the wind felt like, sweeping through its cracks and empty windows. Its wood expanded and contracted with the seasons, the tin roof rusted, but the old house remained standing. It was a silent testament to the vagaries of life.

It had always been a small town, where the house was. People farmed for a living and once the drought hit - the long, merciless drought - many people gave up. His last family lingered on for a while. They tried to pick up other odd jobs to make a living, but the world kept on leaving them behind. Better opportunities existed far beyond this corner of the world.

The house remained after everything else. The land recovered, there were large farms beyond its borders, but nobody needed it now. The house aged and sagged and played host to a menagerie of beasts. It was complacent with this teeming un-life it had.

And now, a small ray of sunshine lit up the house. A man by himself, tramping through the grass, had found it. The house knew it was uninhabitable but being noticed, being liked in its own way, was a small consolation. A picture made the house immortal - the house knew this from old pictures on its wall. This was something to hold on to.

This short piece was inspired by a prompt on Good Reads.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Nobody ever accused him of pride,
That was a crime he would always reject.
Wisdom and honor and kindness his guide,
He was the king and demanded respect.

Mother and father were left long ago,
He found his kingdom and his widowed bride.
He bested the sphinx and his glory, it grows.
“Why do the gods now send worry?” he cried.

Famine now held his great land in its grip.
Prophecies, oracles, wise men would sing -
They might not know why but they let this one slip:
Find the old murderer of the old king.

Now he knew all and that he was the one,
He the foul murderer and the poor son,
Hubris caused this and his wife-mother dies
Oedipus drives both the stakes through his eyes.

Prompt: Pride

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Prison Blues

Manuscript Task: Prison Blues

“The mellow sweetness of pumpkin pie off a prison spoon 
is something you will never forget.” – Mitchell Burgess

For this task, put yourself in the shoes of an inmate and write a one-page (minimum) letter to the outside.  First, determine … 
    • why you’re there and how you feel about it
    • who you’re writing to and your relationship with that person/people
    • your purpose for writing the letter
You needn’t be specific about your crime (in fact, your letter may be more compelling if you aren’t).  Actually envision yourself in a cell and try to make your angst, loneliness, longing, etc. come through in your detailed writing.  Be as creative as you’d like with this—you can be a prisoner of something other than a jail cell, for instance.

 Dear Beryl,

It’s been so long since I last wrote to you that you might not even remember me.  I pray that's not the case.  It’s been hard to get paper but that’s no excuse for taking so long.  When I do get a sheet in front of me, my pencil hangs lazily above it until I give up and go back to staring out the window.  I can see people’s feet go by and the dust of the road chokes me but sometimes, if I stare long enough, I can see the glint of the setting sun through my depressing little barred window. 

Waiting to see the sun reminded me of how I would hang around the market waiting to see you.  It was with the same sort of hopefulness and trepidation.  You always brightened my day and even thinking about you puts me in a better mood.  Sometimes I think that I might not see the sun because of the other inmates – but I won’t get into that.  In case I never see you again, I decided to write you again.  I pray that this gets to you and that you’ll be able to write back.

I should start by explaining why I stopped writing in the first place.  I was worried that one of my fellow inmates would see your name on the envelope and connect the dots.  I don’t want to put you in any danger.  This nearly happened once but, thankfully, most of the men in here can’t read.  One is looking at me right now – it’s funny, really.  He looks almost afraid of me, like I’m a wizard casting a spell with this pencil.  Well, to his mind, maybe I am.  It’s truly sad that so many of these men are so ignorant; they have almost no hope of avoiding prison.  They are at such a disadvantage…but I should go on.  This letter is not about my friends on the inside.  I have always wanted to protect you, to shield you from the things I get involved with.  Now, though, there is nothing they can do to hurt me, they won't go after you.  I have no life left in front of me so they cannot stop me from writing.

I wanted to say – that is, write – that I still think about you every day.  Every single day.  You are the first thing I think about and the last before I go to bed.  The dreams I have of you are a balm against the horrors I experience daily.  I don’t want to hurt you by saying anything like this, I know how you must have suffered after I was captured, but I want you to know that I still love you.  No matter what.  It has been so long and I’m sure that you have moved on but I need you to know that.

Things have gotten worse.  From what I hear, the king has gone even more insane and the general is more or less running things.  This isn’t good for someone like me, I don’t know how many days I have left.  The inmates dislike me well enough but the guards are the ones who really pose a threat to me.  They know who I am and they would not hesitate to kill me if the general called for it.  I’d have an ignominious end and I’d just be another man who went into prison and disappeared without a trace.

I need you to be my trace.  Please, never forget me.  No matter if you’ve remarried, you’re single or when you grow old, never forget what we had.  You are the best thing that I ever had in my life, know that.  I don’t care what happens to me – I always knew the dangers I faced by choosing this path.  You are my rock and I don’t fear anything knowing that you are safe on the outside.


Thursday, July 12, 2012


Vampir, Edvard Munch 1895
It's not so bad, he thinks, not when she holds him like that.  Somehow she manages to be soft, comforting and terrible all at the same time.  Her arms are as cold as the grave but speak of the oblivion he longs for.  She is a reflection of him, and embodiment of his desires and fears.  He wonders if she actually exists in her own right.  She is a creation of his psyche made flesh, that is the only explanation.  As she hugs him closer, he is lost in the scent and feel of her, the wild need in him growing.  He bleeds into her.

When her teeth penetrate him, he thinks nothing of it.  It’s another part of her seduction.  The promise of injury and possession does not repulse him.  She is amazing and dangerous and beautiful and fearful.
 He is fading into her.  She is not just a mirror to his desires, or maybe she is not that at all.  Now that she possesses him, he loses the awareness of himself as a separate entity.  Her arms encircle him.  His head rests on her breast and he feels the stillness in her.  He feels the stillness wash over him.  He feels his heartbeat slowing.

Her hair burns like fire in the night.

His eyes drift closed. He is slumped into her now and barely aware of what is going on.  He hears the suck of her mouth and feels the piercing teeth in his neck and it is too much, it creates too much feeling inside of him.  He is traveling through his veins into her mouth and her body; he is not a man but just his blood.  She has taken control of him and he does not exist beyond being a warm body.

She sits up and licks her lips.  The man collapsed forward and off the bed, insensate.  He’ll be fine in a few hours, she knows, but he has served his purpose.  She leaves two aspirin and a glass of water on the bedside table.  She may be a monster but she’s not inconsiderate.  The man starts snoring raggedly and she is filled with disgust.  Such a man is not to her tastes, usually, but she was starving before.  Now his blood, heavy and thick as it may be, thrums in her veins and brings a blush to her white cheeks.

It’s cold and damp outside but she does not feel it.  With her veins full of someone else's blood and the donor forgotten about, the night belongs to her.  She feels the hunger increase even more, even though she's fed, and her gaze is shrouded in red.  The lust for more more more has only been whetted.

 The people she passes are not people, only vessels for blood that call out to her.  She’s not an animal, she does not lash out at the first one that comes her way.  The lust is sated as much by the hunt as by the blood.  And these people who walk by, the ones who glance at her quickly and then away, are too easily had.  She feels them watch her.  Some gazes are heated and linger.  Others are fearful and furtive.  She walks along as if she does not notice.  Her hunger requires a special sort of desire.

There are so many places she could go tonight so she wanders through the city for a long time.  It is a place where calmness has never existed and there is always something to be exploited.  She chose this place as her home for that reason entirely.  She is an old vampire and her needs are simple when she can take care of them.  This city is her supermarket, her grocery or restaurant, whichever metaphor works best.

She makes up her mind and starts stalking the night with at a more determined pace.  It is that time of night when people have to drift out of bars and nightclubs, bleary from drink, and head home.  This is the time when finding the ones to strike is easiest.

She finds them almost immediately because it is so cliche.  They are a young couple and, perhaps, high on drugs that have made them handsy.  They're back behind a club and in the halogen-lit dimness they cling to each other.  She watches them, still as death, and waits for the right moment.

Their hands roam over skin and clothing but the latter is rucked up or soon discarded.  They pay no mind to whatever may be going on around them.  Closing their minds off to recognizing her is absurdly easy.  She pulls the man away first.

He does not notice the change in partner and picks up where he left off.  She lets him continue to do so for a time until it bores him.  She bites him, takes as much as she wants and pushes him away.  The girl waits dutifully by her side and the vampire smiles.

She is innocent, this girl, even though she was in a back alley misbehaving.  She enters her embrace easily and eagerly.  The possession is almost mutual as her fangs pierce the young women's neck.  The blood is sweet and so hot as it caresses its way down her throat.

The girl sighs and relaxes into her arms.  It is better, being held like this, than being pawed at by the boy.  The vampire holds her like a lover but it is an embrace, not an interaction.  She is not trying to take any pleasure besides that of the nourishing blood.

She slips away and the boy and girl drift back together like nothing happened.  The girl rests her head against his chest and he does not say anything.

She stalks off back to her nest.  The night grows old and people go home but she takes the city as it comes.  This is her home and her people.  This is her unlife.

Her hair burns like fire in the night.

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