Vigilantism Story Part 1

(Warning: Adult content, graphic violence and explicit sexual material.)

Highway 80 in my black 1967 GTO. Licking my thumb and rubbing the brown spots on my navy blue sleeve. Just moments ago, I walked out of a gas station after prepaying for gas. I hate prepaying, but I’m trying to avoid credit cards. Two men stood just outside laughing about faggots and niggers. I slit their throats- two smooth movements, backhand and forehand; those tennis lessons are finally paying off. The pair wasn’t so cocky then, eyes wide, clutching at their gaping wounds with shaky fingers. I wonder what it feels like to touch your own spine, terrifying, I hope. I’m bummed about getting arterial spray on my new hoodie, I just got it yesterday.

Gasping for air, drowning in their own blood, face down on the cold pavement outside a gas station is more dignity than these men deserve. It is certainly more than they allowed Ricky Anderson when they took turns sodomizing him. It is more than they allowed David Hunter before they threw his beaten and bound body in the river after killing his family. Have you ever watched your family as they are mercilessly beaten to death while you’re forced to watch? That’s what they did to David. They raped his mother with his baseball bat and made him taste it. He was only ten. One of them went free on a plea deal and the other was paroled after just eight years of a life sentence. That’s how the justice system works. “Good behavior” is noted in his prison file. Good behavior, can you fucking believe that?

Confusion ensued as I pumped my gas. Some people screamed and ran away while others gawked around in silence. An 80’s rock ballad bellowed from the overhead speakers. God has such a sick sense of humor.

Next week they’ll all be on my couch, one by one, blaming themselves for something they couldn’t have prevented. One little girl standing near the entrance had witnessed the slayings. She held a bottle of soda in one hand and a half eaten hotdog in the other. Her pin straight, blonde hair trailed across her pale face as she watched me pump gas. She knew. She knew and she liked it. She was dark inside like me, I could tell, I can always tell. If she were older, I’d want to fuck her. She sipped her soda and held my gaze until a woman scooped her up and whisked her to safety.

The gas pump slowed to a crawl for the final few cents. I prematurely hung up the nozzle. Those final few moments drive me crazy. 

And, now, here I am making my getaway, so to speak. Really, there is no rush. What appeared to be an impulsive, random act of violence was actually a carefully planned, calculated act of revenge. My associates and I had orchestrated this kill days ago. There would be no damning security camera footage or credible eye witnesses.

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Random Writings and Brainstorm Orphans (2/2017) fiction purge from iPhone

These are random things I’ve jotted down this past week or so. No rhyme or reason.

Patterns of stubborn frost on the cabin window formed an uncanny likeness of the barbed New York City skyline. Snowflakes lazily floated past the panes, a virtual apocalypse. I was mesmerized for a few moments and allowed my mind to drift, and just as my fragmented thoughts began to dance, they abruptly turned black. I remembered why I was here, in this quaint cabin, alone, hypnotized by snow and visions of New York. I was here for one purpose: vengeance.

***

 Ham

The deeper you go the darker it gets: not true. It gets much darker in the other direction. I am not one man, I am ten thousand. The ghastly phantasms haunt me from their perch, painted grins and thighs, ever so perfect. On the days I must fool people into believing I am an extrovert, I eat only ham and olives. I stealthily sit in their company munching away, a member of the chess team amid a busload of jocks on their way to the playoffs. A thought occurs to me: dissipate the pain by letting it flow through you. My eyes dart to one side. I am safe. Hold onto something that is only yours.

And then this… I pulled the container of sliced ham from the fridge, and, as I pulled, a jar of olives fell and shattered. Silly as I was, I thought my folly was behind me. Just then, the ham itself attempted to leap from its container to its death, but I caught the sliced ham. Yes, with slick reflex, I caught the ham mid-flight. The olives are dead, but the ham lives on. I could not save them both.

***

Friend Request

I am filled with frightening things.

Then frighten me.

Demons escape from my mouth.

I shall name each one.

You will never understand.

I would hope not.

I am unpredictable.

What a bore life would be otherwise.

Darkness follows me.

I turn and mock its pace.

I do not want your pity.

I have none.

Why do you stay?

I have no better place.

That is truly sad.

I am filled with sad things.

Then sadden me.

Love Story Fragment 

The colors of the thronging crowd streak and blur upon your approach. Only your movement holds my focus as you cross the room. The feelings I am not allowed to express, in true human fashion, are the very sentiments that plague me where I stand. If I were madly in love with you, I could not speak a word of it. If I had longed for you and nothing else since the day we first met, you would remain oblivious to my obsession. If I thought you to be the most beautiful creature in existence, my thoughts would remain locked away.

Your eyes meet mine, and the contact is felt in my core; I wonder if my secrets are not so well guarded as I would like to believe. I fear my suppressed affections will someday grow to an extent that no room will accommodate them. It is of no consequence; no restraint can tether my curiosity; I am addicted to my own chemicals.

Under the cover of blackness while in preparation for my leave, I pen this humble confession and hope it finds you well:

My Dearest Elizabeth,

For these last many months, I have fallen and awakened on your form and being. Every moment, poisoned and blessed, saturated with conjecture and projection. Attempts to write you away, normally an effective remedy, have only perpetuated my adoration. This wretched chemical imbalance wanes a bit when the moon is full, only to be reignited in your presence. And I know, in time when our connection severs, my affections will settle as sediment unstirred; yet this relief brings only thorns to my throat and jolts of electrified grief deep within my chest. Time drags my soul along the mire and, even in this fractured state, I find cause to grin quite broadly. The universe and its ill-tempered deities, with their wondrous procrastination and anachronistic charm, mistakenly allowed our experience to be forever intertwined. Our energy, though not permitted to culminate, restrained by human decree, is enlightened. That I take comfort in this most beautiful misery is a peculiar statement to subscribe. My most kindred spirit, as Azrael inevitably prepares to cast his shadow upon our houses, know you are never alone in this dark life. I will hold a place for you at every crossing and in each new hour until I am dispatched or we meet again in blissful happenstance.

-Caoimhín

(I think I’ll have him come back, and then she gives him a hard time at first but then they get together, and then she gets killed off so he can go on a mission to avenge her death… and then maybe he discovers that she wasn’t actually killed, only kidnapped, which is good news at first, but then he discovers she is in love with another man and he kills himself… Like I’m ever going to get around to that…)

Gravity

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The universe speaks to me. Not in words.

Eyes to the sky above the backlit forest, acid scorches my cheeks. My hands rise to my face, a familiar journey, and I scream with visceral indignation. My fingernails dig into the trenches of my tears. You do not want to know what the universe says. My grip intensifies and blood weaves down my forearms. I cannot feel my body. My head lowers into bloody hands. Sobs rack the empty space where my body should be. The crows will be here soon. They always come after I scream. My throat starts to burn and the sobbing stops. This is not my choice. My heartbeat becomes their wings—uncontrollably fluttering faster and faster. I feel as though I might be sick. Shards of glass well within my throat and pierce my voice box. I cannot breathe. I fall to my knees and grasp my throat with both hands. My body lurches and light erupts from my mouth, cutting a swath through the darkened forest. You do not want to know what the universe says. My jaw cracks as it opens still wider. My vision blurs red. Here they come. Wings and talons rush in from every direction and spiral around me, ripping away my flesh, bit by bit. In the fury I feel resonating celestial bodies, and they whisper their secrets to me.

 

Supercilious

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Mr. and Mrs. McGillicuddy’s obsequious and tacit nature mollified my penchant for loquacious lamentation. I was a bit of a toady when I expressed my desire to abscond to the belfry, but I am no sycophant. Their largess inclinations left my thoughts convoluted, to say the least. I questioned why they would sanction a surly misanthrope like me. I was taught the credulous and judicious live longer, and that discernment is a gift. Listen to me prattling on as though I am a paragon of rhetoric. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The man of the house was erudite and stolid. He spent hours laboring over tomes on ancient times, thus distending his mind with esoteric jargon. It was deleterious to his health and emptied his coffers, a fact that perturbed his helpmate, as she was a sybarite given to ostentatious bouts of frivolous spending. There was a bevy of debutants in town known for their frenetic extravagance, and she wanted nothing more than to be lionized with them. I believe this proclivity led to the tirade raging beneath me at this very moment.

Thundering castigation acceded to the rafters as the querulous duo slung fervid assertions. A male voice threatened to jettison the tawdry tart into oblivion. She retorted with a bombastic diatribe of her own, accusing the man of being a boorish, verbose, wizened charlatan.

I sat alone in my monastic tower hoping for a salubrious abeyance from this onerous existence, listlessly praying for a release from this grievous abyss of perfidious purgatory.

And then, a sound, so sweet my restive soul levitated with a rare burst of intrepid zeal!

“Dude, what are you doing right now?”

“I’m alleviating my qualms with whimsical prose!”

“You know I hate it when you do this.”

“But few things best a sublime lexicon.”

“Stop it or I’m hanging up.”

“So pugnacious.”

“I’m serious, stop. So, what’s going on?”

“Mom and dad are fighting about money again and I’m hiding upstairs in my room.”

Portals Chapter 2–At the Station

Harold continued to swing his hips and poke his fingers skyward. He kept his eyes shut as tightly as he could manage. He was afraid of what he might find if he dared open them. Given the last ten minutes or so, anything could be waiting beyond those eyelids.

“Sir, here is your coffee,” a man’s voice said.

Harold had forgotten all about coffee. He stopped dancing, opened his eyes, and found himself standing at a coffee bar; one he was familiar with, as it had been part of his morning ritual to stop at this very coffee bar in Grand Central Station when he worked in New York City.

“Grand Central Station?” Harold said in a loud voice. He grasped the edge of the counter and looked around. “Grand Central… Station.”

The man behind the counter held out a cup. Steam arose from the hole in the lid. “Sir, please take your coffee. There are other people waiting.”

“Yes, thank you,” Harold said in somewhat of a daze and took the cup. He was not one to turn down a cup of coffee, even in the midst of some sort of psychotic episode. “But what do I owe you?”

He reached into his pocket and realized he was still wearing his blue terrycloth bathrobe. “Oh, for goodness sake.”

“You’re all set,” the man said and pointed to a man sitting across the way on a nearby bench: Carl. “He paid for it already.”

Harold sipped his coffee and stormed toward Carl. He wanted an explanation- he deserved an explanation. The crowd swelled, and his angry march across the food court was cut short after only a few strides. He politely excusing himself several times and by the time he reached Carl his anger had waned a bit.

Carl looked up from his phone and the anger immediately returned.

“What is going on?” Harold said. “I demand an explanation.”

“It’s really nothing to get upset about.”

“Isn’t it?” Harold said in a loud voice. His hands started to jitter with the rush of adrenaline. “Teleporting to Grand Central Station in my bathrobe is nothing to get upset about? My God, Carl, my cat yelled at you.” Just then, Harold noticed Carl was no longer in his underwear, he was fully dressed in jeans, a black t-shirt and sneakers.

“Maybe you should sit down. I will try to explain.”

Harold sat and managed a shaky sip of his coffee. The coffee was delicious and so hot he could barely stand to hold the cup; it was just the way he liked it. He looked around at the bustling station and took in the sounds and smells for the first time since his arrival. He loved New York. He had sat on this very bench, doing this very thing countless times. Well, not exactly this very thing; he had always at least been wearing pants.

“We are not in New York,” Carl said.

Harold looked around again. “We aren’t?”

“No, not exactly.”

“Could you please be more exact, if only for few moments? I could use some exactness.”

“I work for a company that specializes in experimental leisure activities, ELA for short.”

“Doesn’t ELA already stand for something?”

Carl sighed and gave Harold the stink-eye.

“Do continue.”

“ELA created a program called Pleasure Porting.” He held out his phone and showed the screen to Carl. The phone appeared to be a regular, run-of-the-mill phone. The screen contained a list of words, mostly junk food names: Pickles, chips, soda, pizza, tacos.

“That makes perfect sense,” Harold said sarcastically. “Thank you for sharing your shopping list with me.”

Carl looked around the station as though he had heard something alarming. “It’s not a shopping list. It’s a list of worlds.”

“What is the matter with you? Who would name a world Pickles? This is absolutely absurd and I’m going home.”He stood up and joined the endless stream of people rushing past the bench.

Carl remained on the bench looking at his phone.

Harold stopped after only a few yards. He had no money and it was a long walk back to Arizona. This was a fine mess—a fine, confusing mess.

“Excuse me, sir, do you have the time?” a woman in the crowd said to Harold. Other people continued to flow around them. She was tall, and Harold had to crane his neck to meet her radiantly green eyes.

He fumbled with the pockets of his bathrobe, searching for a watch that did not exist. “Umm… I’m sorry. I don’t seem to have the time.”

The woman stood in place. She appeared frozen. Not even her shoulder-length blonde hair moved as people rushed by. Harold backed away. Something did not feel right. “Are you okay?” he asked. Still, she did not move. He had an ominous sense that things were about to get weird again, not that they had ceased being weird in the first place. Planet Pickles, indeed.

Harold rushed back to Carl and stood over him. “Something is not right.”

“You’re telling me. Planet Cheeseburger isn’t responding at all. I can usually at least get a signal from them.”

“Excuse me, sir, do you have the time?” a woman said to Harold. She was identical to the first woman.

“Again?” Harold said.

Carl looked at the woman and then at Harold. “What do you mean, again?”

Harold took a few steps back. “She asked me for the time just a moment ago, and then she froze, and now she is asking again.”

Carl stood and shoved his phone into his pocket. “We gotta go.”

The woman froze in place, and Harold could now see the first woman had not moved at all; she was still standing in the crowd. He wasn’t sure if that made things any clearer or not. He wasn’t sure of much of anything. Only in New York can a woman turn into a statue and nobody bats an eye.

“Come on,” Carl said as he ran away from the bench and ascended the marble staircase to the main concourse.

Harold arrived at the top of the stairs moments later laboring for breath.

The concourse was busy but less so than the lower level. People milled around the circular information booth at the center of the large space. New York’s most famous clock ticked away atop the information booth.

Carl motioned to the information booth. “That’s where we are going. We need to get out before the Three have time to complete their series.

“The three what?”

“No, just the Three, like the Beatles: the Three. They are the same energy that was at your house earlier, only in a different form. They can appear as any human form. They always travel together and they all must complete the same action before moving on to the next action.”

“Why do they freeze?”

“They freeze once their action is complete and come back to life when a new series starts.”

“Why didn’t the first lady simply kill me if that is her goal?” 

Harold stopped to ponder other questions. “Why are people trying to kill me?”

“They aren’t people to begin with, not anymore, anyway. They must complete an entire series with their victim before they attack. If a third woman asks you for the time, you’re in big trouble. You only have seconds to react if a series completes. When they attack, they do so simultaneously.”

“Have you ever seen them attack?”

“Yes, and it’s not pretty. The victim is torn apart, piece by piece.”

“Piece by piece,” Harold whispered to himself. He had many more questions but needed time for the current overload of information to sink in.

Carl suddenly sprinted across the concourse without warning and maneuvered around people in the crowd like a quarterback heading for a touchdown. He took out his phone as he ran.

Harold jogged along, some distance behind as not to attract attention. People were already beginning to stare at Carl. A few people realized the men were a pair and gave Harold the dirtiest looks they could muster. “He’s okay,” Harold said to an older couple as he jogged by, “just a little eccentric.” Their expressions soured and they stuck up their noses.

Carl leaped onto the edge of the information booth and jumped onto the roof with two fluid strides.

Now everyone was looking at Carl, including half a dozen security officers who ran toward the booth.

“Get down!” people took turns shouting.

“Oh my,” Harold mumbled to himself. “This is no good at all.” He sprinted through the crowd toward the booth.

“The reception is much better up here,” Carl shouted to Harold, who was now stuck in the equivalent of a mosh pit at the base of the information booth. “Cheeseburger is coming in loud and clear.”

“Oh, thank goodness for that,” Harold said as he squeezed through the crowd. “Excuse me, excuse me.”

Carl Pointed to Harold. “He’s got a gun!”

A woman screamed  and the crowd dispersed, clearing the way for Harold to ascend the information booth. By this time, the police, with guns drawn, had the booth surrounded.

“Now what?” Harold asked. “Do we do the Chicken Dance and bang our chests so we can teleport to the Eiffel Tower?”

“No,” Carl said and held his phone over his head. “This is just the station. There are many ways out, and each way is different.” He pointed to the ceiling. “A lot of people think the mural was painted wrong, but it isn’t.”

“Good to know,” Harold stated with a flat tone.

“You might want to hold on to something.”

Harold hugged the clock.

Streaks of eclectic-blue lightning shot from the phone with a deafening roar. Carl braced himself against the recoil as the beams of light scanned the ceiling. Harold clung to the clock with great attention. A second burst erupted from the phone. The bolts fractured until there were hundreds of laser-like blue streaks streaming from the phone.

The beams scanned the ceiling of the concourse and converged on the constellation Triangulum. The shape lit up and began to spin. The beams then outlined Musca, the fly, and the image flew across the ceiling, triggering a chain reaction. The Pegasus came to life, then Aries, then Gemini. The stars rained down a shower of white-hot sparks, and the ceiling shattered and was sucked upward into the vacuum of space.

The air rushed out of the concourse at a ferocious velocity.

“Are you ready?” Carl shouted over the rushing wind.

Papers and debris flew past them. Anything that wasn’t bolted down rushed out through the ceiling.

Harold could not catch his breath to speak, but he managed a nod. He looked around the concourse. Everyone had fled. The suction intensified and pieces of the information booth begun to rip free. Harold’s feet lifted into the air. His grip on the clock was slipping. Carl was gone.

Three figures stood in the whirlwind: three tall, slender female figures with radiantly green eyes. Harold looked at the clock and then addressed the figures: “It’s half past ten!” he shouted and zipped into the atmosphere.

To be continued…

 

Portals Chapter 1–Morning Coffee

 

The universe has not always been kind to Harold. As a matter of fact, it has been downright cruel at times. He is going into his thirty-fourth year as a bachelor, has never won anything—ever, and his Internet connection is atrocious. He lives alone in a modest house in a small borough just off the infamous Route 66 in Arizona. He was transferred to Arizona after being passed over for a well-deserved promotion in New York City.

New York City was on Harold’s mind as he awoke and slung the blankets to one side. He lay there in bed, staring at the ceiling for a few moments. New York had seemed so fraught with promise. If only he had been less socially awkward, the job would not have gone to Brad Ventron. Brad Ventron, what kind of a name is that, anyway? It is a superhero name, and Brad might as well have superpowers. He could sell advertising with the wink of his eye. Harold attempted to wink at the ceiling, but he had never been able to wink; the opposite eye closed a bit every time, even on the third of fourth attempt. And nobody gives you three or four attempts to wink properly. He had started every morning this way for the past two months. It wasn’t always winking; some mornings it was a sales pitch or a smile.

“Why do I even bother, Samantha?” Harold said to his closest friend, his tabby cat who was sitting on the floor next to the bed.

“Meow,” she said.

“Yes, I supposed you’re right. I should get up and get moving.”

Harold worked from home these days. In New York, he had ridden the train to an actual office where he interacted with living, breathing people—some of whom were female and attractive–but now he was a telecommuter in the middle of the desert.

He searched for a mug in the pile of dirty dishes in the kitchen sink. During his move to Arizona, he had decided to become more of a minimalist and had done away with many of his earthly possessions. He regretted it, and now constantly found himself searching for socks, towels, and coffee mugs.

“There you are.” He pulled a mug from the mess of dishes. “I will wash you and hug you and pet you and call you…” Something outside caught his attention.

He leaned toward the window over the sink. His neighbor, and new friend, Carl Langford, dressed only in his boxers, was feverishly digging holes with a spade in Harold’s front yard.

Harold didn’t know what to make of it. He leaned closer to the window and looked around the yard. There were about twenty holes in the grassy portion of the landscaping and about twenty more in the crushed rock around the grass. The holes varied in depth and diameter.

“What are you doing?” Harold yelled through the window.

Carl continued to dig.

Harold unlatched the window and slid up the sash. “Excuse me, Carl, what on earth are you doing?”

“Digging.”

“Well, yes.” Harold paused and looked around again. “I can see that. But why are you digging?”

Carl stabbed a new section of earth and hopped onto the shovel with both feet. “I have to find a portal.”

“A what?”

“A portal.”

“A portal? You mean like a gateway to another dimension?”

“Yes, something very similar to that.”

Harold closed the window, locked it, and leaned against the sink. Carl had not appeared to be mentally ill any other time. In fact, he was typically very polite and put together, not that he had been rude just now. Harold shook his head for clarity and wondered if the police should be called. He looked out the window again. Carl was starting a new hole.

Samantha jumped onto the counter and looked out the window.

“He’s in his underwear looking for a portal,” Harold said to her. “I haven’t even had my coffee yet.”

There was a knock at the front door. “Harold, let me in. I have to tell you something.”

Harold scurried to the front door but did not unlock it. “Have you killed anyone, Carl?”

“What? No. Nothing like that. Let me in. I’m running out of time.”

“Running out of time to find a portal?” Harold asked.

“Yes, that’s right. Now let me in.”

“You are really starting to freak me out. I think it would be best if you went home.”

“Harold, let me in or I will have to break your door. I am not going to hurt you.”

Carl could hurt Harold if he intended to. Carl was tall, fit and trim. Harold’s medium, stocky build could withstand some punishment, but he was not a fighter. Harold weighed his options. The door was not fortified by any means, and a costly repair was not in his budget. Carl was coming in one way or another. He unlocked the door, immediately jumped back and took up a position behind the loveseat in the living room. He was prepared to sprint in any direction at a moment’s notice.

Carl burst in. “Thank you,” he said and then headed into the kitchen where he opened the refrigerator door and preceded to throw its contents across the kitchen floor.

Harold watched from behind the loveseat as eggs, milk, and leftovers blended together on the tile floor. “Is that really necessary?” he said. “I hope you know you’re paying for all of that, and I’m pretty sure we can’t be friends anymore.”

“I’m saving your life,” Carl said over his shoulder.

“Oh, yes, I’ve always felt very threatened by raw eggs.”

“I’m saving you from them.” Carl pointed at the kitchen window. Three men in black suits and black sunglasses peered in the window. Their heads moved side to side in unison.

“They can’t see us yet,” Carl added. “They are not fully here.”

Harold squatted behind the loveseat until only his eyes and top of his head were visible. “I’m not sure I’m fully here.”

“I will explain everything if we make it out of here alive,” Carl said.

“That’s reassuring. Thank you.”

The refrigerator was empty. Carl stood up and scratched the back of his head. His tone was becoming increasingly pressured. “I don’t get it. It said it was here.”

One of the men knocked on the window.  “We have you now,” he said through the window.

The second man knocked on the window. “We have you now,” he said in an identical tone.

“It said it was right here!”

Samantha jumped onto the counter next to the refrigerator. “It’s under the refrigerator, Carl,” She said. “It’s under it!”

Harold couldn’t believe what he had just witnessed. Sam had been his roommate and best friend for nearly a decade. She was smart and cunning, but she had certainly never spoken. He stood up from behind the loveseat and locked eyes with his cat. “Sam?”

Carl slid the refrigerator across the floor and let out a sigh of relief. He found what he was looking for on the floor: a symbol in the shape of an oak leaf. He shouted to Harold: “Come on, buddy. We gotta go!”

“Sam?”

Sam jumped off the counter onto the floor.

Carl ran to Harold and scooped him up. “We gotta go.”

“I can’t leave without Samantha.”

“Don’t worry; she will be there… sort of.”

“Sort of?”

The third man knocked on the window, and the three men spoke in unison: “We have you now.”

Carl placed Harold on the symbol. “Okay, you have to do what I’m about to tell you. It’s going to sound weird.”

“The weirdness does seem to be stacking up this morning.”

One of the men broke the window and began to fumble with the latch.

Carl grabbed Harold’s chin and forced him to look him in the eye. “Listen to me.”

“Okay.”

“Are you familiar with the song Gonna Make you Sweat by C and C Music Factory?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Yes, you know it. It starts with everybody dance now.”

“Oh, yes, I know it.”

“I’m going to sing it and we need to dance.”

One of the men climbed through the window and stood just three feet away.

“They all have to climb in before they can attack. Are you ready to dance?”

“It’s the very opposite of what I feel like doing, but let’s do it.”

“Perfect.” Carl paused and drew in a deep breath. “Everybody dance now! Dum, dum, dum-dum, dum, dum, dum-dum… everybody dance now!”

Harold swung his hips from side to side and poked his fingers into the air.

Give me the music,” Carl sang. “Give me the music… everybody—.”

And the two were gone.

To be continued…

 

Here are some things I have written

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Welcome to my world.

(The image above is from grade school. That’s a pretty cool robot.)

Untitled Psych Story 

Francis is at the inch-thick bulletproof window in his room, chewing on his earplugs, watching the thunder shower assault the inlaid bricks of the walkway below. He’s been at Stone Brook Psychiatric Center for three days now, although he doesn’t know it.

The man who knows sits outside Francis’ door with a clipboard on his lap. His name doesn’t matter to Francis, me, or you.

“Hey, Frank, please don’t eat your ear plugs,” the man says with little emotion.

You see, at Stone Brook, eating your ear plugs is of little consequence. The man has seen worse- much worse. Especially from Francis, who, as you may have already noticed, actually goes by Frank; or at least that’s what most people call him, except for the fat nurse, she always calls him Frankie.

Francis or Frank, whichever you prefer, hates being called Frankie. I can tell. He hasn’t said more than a mumble since he got here, but I can still tell. Even if he told her, she wouldn’t care. She laughs everything off like it’s a big joke. I once saw her laugh at a girl who’d just cut her wrists all up with a broken DVD. The DVD was about how to handle stress, so I guess it was a little funny, but that’s not the point. It wouldn’t have mattered, she still would have laughed. When she does laugh, she always grabs her grotesquely enormous tits, which, if it were the cute, redheaded nurse, or even the short one with the raspy voice, I would think is sexy, but when she does it, all I want to do is kill her. Then again, I want to kill everyone. According to my chart, I’m basically a homicidal maniac. I’m not of course, but my invisible bunny is. That’s just a joke. I joke around a lot. I’m actually a pretty funny guy.

Today is Monday and all the big shots are showing up for the day. Like most mornings, I’m hanging around the payphone near the nursing station so I can eavesdrop on their secret plans. Some of them notice me and close the nursing station door, which is absurd because I can still see and hear them over the counter of the station next to the door. None of them have the balls to say anything to me. I’m built like a bulldog and I don’t take kindly to, what they call, “redirection”. The last guy who tried to redirect me away from the payphone ate part of my fist when I broke the receiver across his face. It was too bad, really, because I sort of liked that guy. They close the door because they are afraid of me. And, since I’m crazy and all, I suppose they have a right to be. I’d be afraid of me too.

Fear the Dragon              

There once was a small town surrounded by a forest of birch trees. None of the townspeople had ever gone beyond the birches, for it was rumored a dragon lived there and would promptly eat anyone caught trespassing on his land. The small town did well for itself. Trade was good, people were healthy, and life was peaceful and satisfying.

A young boy was busy splitting wood one day when a crow came and perched atop his woodpile. “Surely you do not believe a dragon lives beyond these woods,” said the crow to the boy, who became a bit startled and stopped his laboring, as it was not a normal occurrence for a crow to speak in such a way.

“I believe it as truly as I believe you spoke to me just now,” said the boy.

“Well,” said the crow, “then isn’t it possible there is just as good of a chance that the dragon does not exist?”

The boy resumed chopping. “I haven’t the time for this quibbling.”

There was a short silence, and then the crow spoke again, as he was fond of doing so. “What if I could guide you safely to the outer rim of the forest and prove the dragon to be a myth?”

The boy paused for a moment to think. “Simply the absence of the dragon in one spot would prove nothing. Who is to say the dragon would not be at some other place?” The boy tossed two pieces of freshly cut timber on the pile.

The crow took flight, and after a bit of angry squawking, settled back on his perch.  “Foolish boy, what proof do you have of the dragon’s existence?”

“Such a small creature should not question such great things,” said the boy, “but since you have the persistence of a whining mosquito, I will explain.”

The crow swooped down from the woodpile and sat attentively upon his haunches on the chopping block.

“Each fall the dragon’s breath scorches the leaves, and the forest is stripped of everything green.”

The crow rolled his eyes. “It is but Mother Nature who does such things, but go on.”

The boy continued as though the crow had said nothing, “Then, in winter, the dragon can be heard creeping in the forest, snapping and cracking branches as he goes.”

“It is but a bitter frost that causes such sounds, foolish child.”

The boy raised the ax above his head. “Brave words for a crow on a chopping block.”

The crow stood. “But wait! What does the dragon do now during the summer?”

The boy thought for a moment. “I don’t know. Sleeps, I suppose.”

The crow spread his wings and shrugged. “Then why not take a walk with me around the outer rim of the forest, and if there is a dragon, he will be asleep anyhow.”

The boy paced the yard in contemplation. “All right, I will go with you, but on one condition.”

“Yes, yes,” said the crow, impatiently.

“If we find a sleeping dragon, you must agree to be my pet from this day forward.”

The crow crossed his wings. “I’ve never heard such an absurd proposition, but I agree, on the condition that if we find no dragon, you must be my pet.”

The boy chuckled. What would a crow want with a boy?

The two hiked through the forest until they reached the outer rim. Vistas of rolling hills spread out as far as the eye could see. The boy made a mark on one of the trees, and the two set off across the hills until they came upon the mark again.

“Well,” said the crow, “it looks as though you shall be my pet.”

“I shall be no such thing,” cried the boy, and he ran into the forest.

The crow, although upset, came to enjoy the rolling hills and soon made himself at home.

Summer passed, and with the return of fall came the dragon, who, upon finding the crow nesting in his territory, became very upset and ate him.

Years passed and the boy became a man. The man retold his account of the outer rim to the townspeople many times and eventually all fear of the dragon left their hearts.

“It is but Mother Nature who does such things and causes such sounds,” they came to say.

One summer, they cleared the birch forest and settled among the rolling hillside. Summer passed, and with the return of fall came the dragon, who, upon finding the townspeople in his territory, became furious, burned their dwellings to the ground, and ate them—all but one.

The dragon towered over the cowering man. “Come closer and listen to my words,” he said to the man. The man trembled and dropped to his knees. The dragon lowered his massive head until the heat from his nostrils singed the man’s skin. “Travel due west 131 miles as the crow flies and find the forest of maples. Share with the townspeople there what you have witnessed here. Leave no doubt in their minds that I exist.”

Nothing but The

There once was a single sheet of parchment with a single word upon it: Truth. The word was written in black ink with a quill pen. The parchment was rolled and gently placed in an iron box. The box was welded shut and buried in the Sea of Tranquility 2,000 years ago. This is the truth.

Some of the men involved with the project concluded it would be best to document what had occurred. The papermaker, scribe, welder, and astronaut wrote an account of what had occurred and compiled their data into a book. The men passed this book on to their sons and daughters. Their sons and daughters fought over the book for many years. The men who wrote the book died, not knowing what would become of their work.

The sons won the battle and held a monopoly on the book for a long time. The book was written in a strange language and was eventually translated into many tongues. Many people erroneously believed the Sea of Tranquility was a body of water and feverishly searched the earth for the box. The written explanation of welding did not make sense to them and was changed to mean something different. The concept of welding was preposterous, and even more absurd was an astronaut. Some could not bring themselves to understand the truth and decided it was nothing more than a fairy tale.

One of the sons accused his brothers of using the text for self-indulgence. He claimed that the Sea of Tranquility was a patch of dry land on the moon and secretly wrote his own interpretation of the original texts. The sons banished him from their order. The public understood the ocean better than the moon and therefore paid more money to learn more about it.

The story of the box spread around the world and was passed down from generation to generation. Some people refused to believe the story and wrote stories of their own, most of which mimicked the original story. One popular story told of a canister which held a piece of parchment with the word “Freedom” written on it. Most people believed there was a box somewhere, but few believed the word on the parchment was “Truth” and even fewer believed it was in an iron box on the moon. Nobody actually knew firsthand what had happened.

The tribes of the earth split apart and formed radically different cultures based on their beliefs. Many even grew to believe that their beliefs were actually truths. If somebody believed the box was made of plastic, was stuck together with bubble gum, and held a turtle with the word “Phoenix” carved into its shell, that was their belief, and you’d best leave them alone.

One group of people had passed down an accurate account of what had occurred. A truth does not depend on belief to sustain itself, and this group of people based their beliefs on the recorded facts. This group was fractured into many subgroups, but even most of the subgroups believed the word “Truth” was written in black with a quill pen on a piece of rolled parchment in a welded iron box in the Sea of Tranquility. Some believed the box was painted blue, some believed the parchment was made a certain way, some believed the word “Truth” was written in one language or another, but they all agreed on the facts.

Centuries passed, and then one day the papermaker, scribe, welder, and astronaut returned to the Sea of Tranquility, retrieved the box, and brought it back to earth. All who had known and believed the facts lived together in peace for eternity. All who had refused the facts and believed lies were separated from truth for eternity.

Bubble Land 

In a bubble of bulletproof glass existed a world where evil and deceit ruled the hearts of a strange breed of man. There was a boy made of gold, who cared so much for status and perfection, he survived, not on food, but on affirmations. The golden boy hid crucible tongs up his sleeve and carried an ingot mold in his pocket. There was a free-floating mouth with jagged teeth. The mouth spoke only dramatic words and gossiped endlessly without ever taking a breath. Nothing could stop the mouth, and all of the inhabitants of Bubble Land, except the Jester, loved to kiss the mouth. There was a drunken musician, who never spoke kindly, but sung so sweetly. She was contradictory and would often sing and speak in the very same sentence. The golden boy hated the drunken musician because she would not sing his praises. There was a spook, who could change herself into any object she wished but never told anyone. She was a snitch and a liar, yet all the players in Bubble Land liked her because she would make them feel important. The spook was powerful and cunning, often lavishing the players with gifts to win their favor. There was a Jester. The jester always spoke the truth, no matter how harmful or helpful. Many of the players took his truths for jest because lies were commonplace in Bubble Land. The jester was feared and loved but cared for neither. There was a little white witch, whose hair glowed so brilliantly her face was not visible. She loved all things worldly and could only hear and see negative things. The jester liked the little white witch because she had enchanted his mind into believing she was truthful. The little white witch liked the golden boy when he wore certain faces that pleased her, which he did quite often because she would then affirm him. The golden boy liked the spook, because of her constant flattery. The spook liked the jester because he would tell her everything. The drunken musician liked only herself, and the mouth didn’t care for any of them; the mouth could only talk without thinking.

 The Lion 

There once was a lion on a chain in the center of town. One day a little girl came to him with her troubles and told him secret things. The lion took kindly to the girl, for it had been a long time since anyone had spoken to him in such a way, and he felt sorry for her.

For many days, the lion and the girl confided in each other. The little girl loved his attention and affirmations. She tricked him into believing she cared for him so he would continue to love her.

The townspeople became suspicious of the lion and the girl. Some of them thought it was inappropriate for such different creatures to have a relationship. As much as the little girl enjoyed the lion’s attention, she valued the opinions of strangers over his, and one day she told the lion she was not in love with him.

Much to her surprise, the lion answered, “I have cared about you, but have never been in love with you.”

The little girl was vain and spiteful and refused to believe the lion did not love her. “The lion in the center of town loves me,” she told the townspeople.

Because the lion was chained, only those closest to him knew the truth. The lion was modest and virtuous in his actions but soon realized what the little girl had done. No longer did she confide in him. No longer would she tell him her secrets, and one day he roared at her.

“Why has this beast roared at me?” asked the little girl in a loud voice. “This lion has roared at me without cause,” she said to anyone who would listen. The townspeople were immoral and pugnacious, and although they knew of the girl’s relationship with the lion, they sided with her.

The lion, embarrassed by his actions and angered by the little girl, pulled his stake from the ground and chained himself at the edge of town. Some of the townspeople visited him and told him the girl was still spreading rumors, so the lion called to the girl from the outskirts of town and she came to him.

“Why have you lied about me?” asked the lion.

The little girl patted his mane. “I have not lied,” she said.

The lion regretted roaring at the girl, despite what she had done, so he apologized for several days from the edge of town.

The little girl was busy repairing her public image, but eventually visited the lion and again reassured him that she still cared for him. Several days passed and the lion became lonely. “Where are you?” he called to the girl. “I have said I am sorry,” he cried. “I don’t understand why you have left me alone.”

The little girl never spoke to the lion again. She sent an angry messenger who warned the lion not to bite the girl again or there would be consequences.

“I have not bitten anyone,” replied the lion; and, although he had done nothing wrong, the lion agreed to pull up his stake again and leave the area forever. He still cared deeply for the little girl and wanted what was best for her.

Weeks passed and the lion found a new home where he felt at peace.

The little girl was not accustomed to such chivalry, and therefore perceived the lion’s actions as a scheme. She shared her conspiracy theory with an empty-hearted woman who knew less about love than she, and the two whipped themselves into a paranoid frenzy.

“He has tried to bite me on several occasions,” said the little girl.

“I always knew he was a biter,” said the empty-hearted woman.

Because of the girl’s false claims, the angry messenger hunted the lion and threatened to kill him.

The lion, although modest, was no coward, and roared loudly at the foolish messenger, who then placated the lion with lies of peace.

“I keep myself on a chain for a reason,” said the lion to the wind.

Eventually, the little girl became bored and once again falsely accused the lion of biting her.

The lion unhooked his chain and bit the little girl.

“Why have you bitten me?” asked the girl.

“Why not?” answered the lion.

What I learned by Age 32

Someone will always think they know more than you. They probably don’t, but somebody out there does. Youth is magical and is not wasted on the young- watch them play; it’s amazing how much energy they have.

People have a difficult time acknowledging their mistakes. Admit you’re wrong, don’t make the same bad choices, and move on. Don’t expect others to apologize, especially the people who really should. Don’t expect anything. Expectations are only the slightly more positive side of worrying.

Most people live under the false belief they are more important than they really are. Once you realize this about yourself, you’ll feel better. People take themselves too seriously. Almost nothing is worth the fuss people cause. Most stress is not real, to the point that many people are delusional when it comes to stress. The way you think and the thoughts you choose to believe create your reality. I’ve met beggars who believe they’re God and rich men who live in fear.

My son once said, when he was very young, “I love everybody. Everybody’s cute.” The truth is, everybody is not cute and it saddens me that someday my son will come to realize this. How and when do children learn everyone is not cute? When do they learn about rape and torture? I once heard if you ask a classroom full of kindergartners “Who can draw?” they will all raise their hands. If you ask the same question to a classroom full of high school students, only a few will raise their hands; and a classroom of adults, even fewer.

Somewhere between age 5 and 25, people lose faith in themselves, all based on the belief that the judgments of others are correct. The judgments of others are often incorrect. Only those who question their most solid beliefs ever find any truth. People don’t care about other people half as much as they care about themselves. Watch the traffic around you. Watch the people, and then realize you are one of them.

People overestimate their lifespan, and instead of using death for motivation and perspective, shy away from it and fear it. A person’s life from 0-100 years old is only 36,000 days long (about 5,000 weekends).

Forgive others; not only for big events but for the small things too. Life’s major events are bridged together by millions of tiny events; these tiny forgotten events make up your life. Most bitter and angry people will never figure out why their life is miserable. Only when you accept the flaws in other people can you start to use the energy you once spent judging others to better yourself. Yes, people are stupid- there’s nothing you can do about it- you can hope and pray another’s stupidity doesn’t result in the injury or death of your loved ones, but you can’t fix stupid.

Everything is temporary and therefore constantly changing. Everything that changes eventually ends. You will end. Your children will end. This world will end. Life isn’t about the end—it’s about right now. Material possessions are garbage at an earlier stage in the process, as is your body. Death is not depressing. Death is a fact. Facts are few and far between and should be treasured because they are true. Truth is very rare.

Love someone. Find someone to love and love them until it scares you—this connection is as close to God as you will ever be. Realize you are an American. America, when compared to the rest of the world, is a temporary fantasy land. Enjoy it. Nothing in the history of civilization suggests America will be on top forever. America is a young country with many lessons ahead. If China was a 60-year-old man, America would be a 3-year-old.

Don’t smoke cigarettes. Regret nothing. Make your choices, make your mistakes and own your consequences. You’ll do better than some and worse than some in every way. Identify your faults, but if you’re not willing or able to correct them, don’t fret over it. Move on. If you’re going to die of cancer, you’re going to die–that’s all there is to it. If you’re going to get killed by a bus next Tuesday, there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Sleep at night. There have been much more powerful men and women with much more stressful tomorrows, and they slept just fine–you can too. Unless you’re under fire in a war zone, there’s nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow. If it was truly as horrible as it seems, you wouldn’t have time to lie in bed worrying about it.

Pray. Don’t confuse praying with worrying or wishful thinking. Regardless of what you believe, if you talk to God, he will speak to your heart. Religion is ridiculous. Jesus didn’t create religion. Don’t become angry or frustrated when people don’t believe the same thing you believe. Live by example and never try to prove anything. People believe what they see. Be the proof. Be yourself. There is a high price for being yourself–pay it anyway. Don’t base your self-image on what you guess others believe about you.

My daughter is 10 years old and her cousin is 11. My daughter came to me after a visit with her cousin, her expression very sad. She told me her cousin doesn’t like collecting bugs anymore, now that she’s older. She asked me if she, too, would one day lose her love for bugs. It’s up to you to decide. You don’t have to stop loving bugs.

Get outside more and avoid the news and advertisements. Stay up to date on current events, but do so objectively. If you believe you are immune to brainwashing, it’s already too late. Watch the documentary Bowling for Columbine.

Avoid drama and dramatic people. Work hard. Don’t be jealous or envious of other people who seem like they are doing better than you. Learn from strong people. Keep learning. Keep your mind sharp and feed it new information every day.

Don’t hold grudges. Hurtful people are punished by their very existence. Don’t use credit cards. Don’t play with fire. Cause trouble, but man up if you get caught and do your time. Do anonymous good deeds and tell no one. Listen more. Call a spade a spade, take risks, do something crazy. Don’t ever call a woman the c-word. Brush your teeth; dentistry is costly and painful. Read the Bible. Telling someone about Jesus is only half as good as showing them. Money comes and goes but makes no difference in the long run. Keep things in perspective and relax. Laugh every chance you get.

This is what I learned by age 32.

Thank you for reading.