One Umbrella

Photo Attribution: https://www.flickr.com/photos/spyrospapaspyropoulos/11909724363/

Photo Attribution: https://www.flickr.com/photos/spyrospapaspyropoulos/11909724363/

For the lips of an adulteress drip honey
And smoother than oil is her speech;
But in the end she is bitter
as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death,
Her steps take hold of Sheol.

Proverbs 5:3-5


R

ain falls again, as if it never stopped. I hold but one umbrella, one flimsy shield between me and those storm clouds writhing in the sky. They roll like ocean waves, one enveloping the next, clutching like the fingers of a demon mob, fighting to reach me first. They are foreboding, those clouds above, a black blanket shaken by God, ripples travelling toward me.
And I hold but one umbrella.

I used to outrun those clouds, sprint in my younger days. It is not my legs that fail me now, not my heart screaming for release, not my lungs—dry throat choking on spittle. I’m old enough to have younger days, old enough to look back, but age holds not my end. The future is a blank slate, ready to be filled, but I know what it will hold. Darkness. Despair. Black clouds. Rain.

And I hold but one umbrella.

A rumble. A crash. Purple fire lights up the sky, a royal streak against the black. That blanket is finely woven, groaning as lightning shoots a hole in that once perfect fabric. Perfect for some, but not for me.

I hold but one umbrella.

The rain starts, a sad tune against my own black sheet, that flimsy shield above me. It begins soft—one peck there, another here. Like a lover, those lips are wet, kissing my one umbrella. She whispers in my ear, that taunting seductress: come play. But I am no longer a child: a man.

And I hold but one umbrella.

There were times that I played, listened to her calling. A child with rubber boots, splashing in the puddles. The mud discoloured my bright poncho, turned dull grey over the years. Free. Uncaring. Unknowing. Caught up by lust. Blind-sided. Naive. Innocent. Not like my poncho, long since warn holey, tattered, discarded with my youth. Now, I have less innocence: less protection.

Now, I hold but one umbrella.

Muddy water splashes up, my boot pressing into a puddle. I find no pleasure there, just memories from the past, such recollections that many avoid. I see them—polka-dotted coats and flower-pressed shields—hanging childhood on their shoulder, popping it in a spread above them, but dodging the puddles on the ground, dodging the memories of when life was perfect—innocent—when the world was better.

When there was more than one umbrella.

I tuck my arms in close, shivering with the chill. Those first tears of a rejected maiden roll down my one umbrella, drip from the flimsy posts like chin-fallen droplets. This moment is the worst, before the lady shows her face, as she taunts me with sorrow. I can deal with the monster behind those eyes, deal with the storm to come, but not this crying woman shaking like a child. I want to comfort her, but don’t know how. What can I give to calm those tears?

I hold but one umbrella.

The wind picks up her sorrowed tune, whispers more demanding. Come. Why won’t you play with me? The words are wet with her tears. My ears are wet with her seductive tongue. Breath spins floral kisses on the wind. She floats into the trees, laughs between their branches, then cries out. It’s fun to play with me. I set my feet; ignore her; walk on. Another puddle. Another splash. I do not care. I have a shield above my head, but my childhood poncho is no more.

I hold but one umbrella.

Now she shrieks, a school of bats descending on their prey. Those black wings flap with the wind, rush beneath my shield. The sky spews cracks of thunder between its teeth. The trees howl, knowing what is to come, itching for the storm.

And I hold but one umbrella.

Cold—skin tickled with seductive kisses, silent tears manipulating—but I prefer what comes. The blanket cracks, too much weight for that perfect weave. Water sinks into its pores, ripping through in droves, digs at my pores. Drenched, soaked with her sorrow. She ceases calling now, the beast revealed.

I fell not for her tricks, and now she has ceased the facade. I know her, that adulterous woman, but I stand firm against her cries, also knowing the beast beneath. Her kisses are sweet, poison soaked in honey. Sometimes, my lonely body wants her touch, longs to listen to her loving words, but to give in I would have to throw away my shield.

And I hold but one umbrella.

Other men on the road. They sit beneath tattered awnings, blankets wrapped up tight. I know the bite they feel, that bite of her poison. It pricks my skin with recollection, remembering when I was younger, innocent…

Without my one umbrella.

They shiver, those men, trying to hide from her face, trying not to hear her cries, lick the honeyed poison from her lips. Temptation sticks coat to arms, makes their blankets heavy. The woman pulls her mask off, beautiful skin flayed. Sun-kissed cheeks now red with lust, red with blood, red with her last victim. Those men curl up, close their eyes, a vain attempt to push her away.

They gave up their one umbrella.

I cannot help them, knowing what they do is wrong, yet still remaining soaked: trapped without hope.

I journey on, boots now water-logged. The sky flashes that smile again, this time no menace beneath the teeth. The beast is in those tears that fall: a sad dirge now. Her eyes have passed, the eyes of this storm. I felt the worst of her, despite that shield I hold. She sucked me in with life, with promise, but I fought back with what I have.

Fought with my one umbrella.

It stands between her and me. Small, an insignificant shield against her temptation, but my only protection. The vinyl-topped blanket shook as I passed through the eye, sweet tears of sorrow pulling at my heart strings. Sweet whispering lying to me, promising me all that I do not feel—cannot feel: love, respect, belonging. The maiden cares for me, but that poison beneath will kill. Those eyes are beautiful, but the beast beneath them is a mess of flayed skin and blood.

And I hold but one umbrella.

My shield took the assault, blocked me from those longing eyes. Now, it walks with me through the dirge, protects me from the falling drink. Children play in the puddles, unhindered by that lady’s calling, not hearing it through their rain-gear: the full protection of innocence. How I long for those days again, the days when I knew not love, knew not lust, but cared not for either. Those days were free, temptation just a shadow compared to this storm.

The days before my one umbrella.

I am especially wet today, more cold than from the storm before. My umbrella has leaked for years, and I lack the patches to hold it together. A tattered thread is flayed like skin, battered and whipped by the storm’s wind. The patches I have are soggy, water-logged with lust, adhesive long washed away.

And I hold but one umbrella.

I speak to her some days, try to work at the holes in her skin, holes in her heart, but my patches do not stick. They stay until the storm comes, until the seductress laughs, then my shield falls beneath her power. Hopeless holes appear again. I tell her I need thread and needle, need to poke her with tiny holes, affix the patches for good. She shivers at the thought, fights when I reach for her, thinking my aim is to hurt. A little pain, but a big help. Sadly, she will not give in, not let me patch her holes

So I hold my one umbrella.

Men sit in puddles, some deeper than others, umbrellas to one side. Their faces are aglow with passion, but hearts dead with lonely weight. Some of that cloth is more holes than umbrella. Some posts are snapped, broken heaps where protection once was. The men discarded them, water-logged patches sliding down faces. The water is warm where they are now, inviting in those puddles… until the rain comes again.

Now, they hold no umbrella.

I want to run to them, tell them it’s a lie, to show them the other men who sit shivering beneath their blankets, no longer warmed by that pool. I cannot reach them. They cannot hear me, ears filled with pleasant whispers. Her perfume is sweet, voice singing softly in spring trees. Her beauty shines beneath the sun’s radiance, as they walk with holey umbrellas. When the rain is stilled, those umbrellas do nothing but block her beauty. My umbrella does not even do such anymore, her holes too great, tattered skin too far gone.

But I hold my one umbrella close.

I know what it’s like to give in. I know what it’s like to give up, to throw my umbrella to one side like those men in pools at night. I know the feel of that beast’s stings, her maiden curls turning into dead strands, that pool filled with perfume’s delight fading into memory, skin raw, body shaking beneath a blanket.

My umbrella is full of holes, but is better than none. Today, I work at the patches, the sun giving me some chance to let the vinyl dry. My lady heaves sobs in my lap as I work needle and thread. Tears touch my face, drop from my chin, kiss my one umbrella. They slide down her face, over some new patches. No water falls between the cracks, no leaks where stitches hold. I smile at her, like a child in arms, knowing days will be better.

We have been through some rough times. Once I left her, discarded in the mud. Left to meet the rain, to feel her poisonous kisses, to warm myself with her body. Then, she left me for another, the maiden turning beast. I wandered the world with no umbrella, until I found my lady again. She was worse than when I left, but I picked her up. Sometimes she lets me patch her holes, sometimes it is too much when the rain comes, memories of what I did, where I went… that I left.

Memories of me without that umbrella.

Now, the sun shines. We cry. We work to fix those holes. Work for the storm to come. Life has its seasons, times of change. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes we falter. But I still hold her close, hold my one umbrella. I will not give her up again. With her, I still get wet. With her, I still hear the seductive whispers. With her I still feel alone and unloved at times. But without her… without her, I have nothing.

Not even my one umbrella.

Love is like a box of chocolates

Love is like a box of chocolates.
You see her in the crowd, all dressed in bows and lace
Her colours pop amidst the dismal greys
And you think, for a second, do I have enough?

Your hand shakes
Change rattling in pockets
Desperate to claim her before prince charming comes back,
Because that man is more than twice of you,
And even if he stepped down off his mighty steed
You would still be shorter, smaller,
Like jam between his toes,
An ant staring up at great laces and bows.
She’s beautiful.

You climb the outside of her box like a mountain hiker,
Lungs drawing breath, then failing,
Heart beating, then stalling.
The air is so thin up here, that when you reach her lips—
Not for a kiss, but just the chance to speak with her—
Words are not enough to express
How she stole your breath away.

Chocolate boxes sit on shelves, all dressed in delight.
Hands shake as she walks home with you.
Heart beats faster, waiting for that day when man will be husband and she will be wife
And then… you can pull off the ribbons, and bows, and lace.

Love is like a box of chocolates
Never knowing what you might get.
But boxes have labels read by in-laws at table.
Chocolates have wrappers,
Unopened, fresh, unbroken…
Or perhaps broken.
Pieced together and wrapped in foil frame,
Done up with a red bow,
And like a stop light it screams,
But you press on, blind to box labels and deaf to in-laws.

You peal off the label on that wedding night.
Her dress falls, silk to cover the alabaster of her skin.
You pull her close, rough hands caressing hers—smooth as chocolate—
And for a moment you think, this is it.
Then, you roll her between the sheets, take a bite, and faint beneath the flood.
Sweet. Sweat. Wet with caramel gushing from the fountains of her deep.
And you laugh, and love, consume each other;
Lick creamy milk chocolate melted on fingertips.
Love is sweet.

Like a child on Christmas morning, you rush
Opening presents, longing for the next candy inside.
The wrapper falls away and you swallow it whole,
Savour the chocolate as it melts down your throat,
Salty caramel exploding from within,
Leaving you longing like a love addict.
Can’t wait to come home for your next fix of her beauty.
She is your delight.
The apple of your eye, your salt and light.
Love is salty.

The next chocolate is smashed.
A mess underfoot, stuck to the wrapper,
And when you peel her open, she pulls those covers tight
Hides her nakedness. Shame.
Not willing you to see that part of her,
To taste the dirt mixed with broken candy shards:
The one who paid for nothing, but ripped her open
Ravaged the chocolate like a rabid dog at prey…
Then spat her out.
Disgusted.
Wrapped her back up in pretty bows
Left for another to discover.
You to discover.
Love is broken.

You try to remind her of that day
All wrapped in bows and lace.
Breath catches in your throat again, words failing.
This time, it is not her beauty that stops you so… but tears.
Her label is faded, and now you see why,
A woman trying to scratch the pain away,
Cover it in sweetness and wrappers,
Tears bleeding the ink.

You tell her, “We can get past this.”
Reminder her of your love.
Work her wrappings off again,
But she holds back,
And when finally you coax her,
The chocolate pops in your mouth like a sour patch kid,
But she is not a kid.
A woman angered that you would ignore her pain,
Throw away the broken with the used up wrapper,
Only keeping the parts of her that you like.
Love is sour.

You bite down, hard,
Try to draw her in with your arms,
But she pulls away
With dark circles under her eyes
90% pure and 10% soft cream–
Feeling 10% hard and 90% dirty–
The silky smooth milk of that chocolate first no more than a memory.
Love is bitter.

You stare at the empty box in your hands,
Watch her back as she goes,
Still feeling the salty longing on your tongue for her,
But now it shares a place on your face with salty tears,
And an empty heart like a chocolate box.

Love can be like a box of chocolates,
In so many ways.
Sweet, salty, broken, sour, bitter, empty…
But it is not a box of chocolates.

Love ebbs and flows like the mighty ocean
And you drown in those waves,
Kiss in the rain beneath those crests
Then get lost for a time in the after-wake…
Heart empty like that chocolate box in hand.

See, with chocolate, what is bitter is bitter
And sweet is sweet,
But love ebbs bitter and flows sweet,
Then crashes down leaving salty droplets dribbling.

And so, you stand with an empty box of chocolates,
Waiting for the next wave, sweet smell of love on its crest.
When sweetness comes, breathe her in like a whole field of flowers just for you.
Linger beneath the caress of that salty wave,
And when it crashes, leaving a sour taste in your mouth,
And empty chocolate box,
And bitter remembrance of her kiss.
Breathe in hard.
Squint.
Wait for the one flavour that chocolate does not have:
Love is forever.

Amber Bridge – Excerpt

Recently I have been working on a novella idea. I can now proudly say that I have completed the first draft of Amber Bridge: a psychological thriller philosophising about life stuck in neutral. It has been an interesting journey and a nice reprise while still working through my fantasy novel “Pawns of Time.” For lack of a better idea, I have decided to post an excerpt from the story for all of my lovely readers. Is your life like an Amber Bridge?

Original photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/runner310/167293027/

Embers, burning, burning, burning. Smoke, billowing in the night sky, desperately working to bring life into the shapeless black shadows. Below, the highway is almost dead, one odd car after the next — some crawling hopelessly, forward circling the drain of life, others racing like water trapped in a pressured pipe, seeking for spout’s escape — flying, or crawling, to some destination beyond the darkened horizon. Street lights cast fabled breath, life into the shadows — deceitful facades shining promises onto the tarmac, buzzing voices in the night whispering down life’s runway while cars pass, flying or crawling, reaching for the promises beyond those deceitful amber leads.

A man sucks in smoke, night air filtering through drug-soaked cigarette. Embers burn on its tip, one more fabled light casting promises, hope, into the dark. The ambers below are filled with life’s warnings — speed up or slow down for the lights? When will they turn red? — but the glowing smoke in this man’s hand has none to share. It glows hot against the crisp chill, like a final flame almost smothered by night’s coffin.

One long draw, one longer exhalation; the smoke swallows itself, slowly dying with each bright burning light, each smoke plume, each fire trying to break free of night’s chains.

The man squints, eyes strain to spot some light in the distance, that fabled story of old. Nothing but darkness speaks from that light-tunnel’s end below. The ambers draw closer, taunting left and right, dying on night’s horizon. That bridge seemingly leads into the void — one empty, black spot down the road. Some shamble, some race, but do any reach that light at tunnel’s end, that destination of life’s bridge? Or are the ambers coming together, a maw swallowing all in darkness, warning lights embraced for a final, endless, hopeless grave?

They say life flashes before your eyes, when death comes calling, when we reach that door at tunnel’s end, crack it open, let light spill onto the road. The man never sees those flashes, save for through windows when flying along the path — ambers buzzing, whizzing, whispers warning of the encroaching darkness.

Now, there is no flash of life as he pulls one final fag drag. The ember burns a smokey tip, burns his fingers, lips, but he holds it there. One final breath comes out, cold, attempting to add one parting message to the night, breathe meaning into his life: this bridge with no destination, no purpose beyond the constant warning ambers.

He lets it falls, watches that last ember burning, tumbling, dying. Slowly. Smoke curls from one red light among many yellow lies, swallowed by the black, disappearing on the road below. It lays there, broken, bleeding smoke, not at road’s end — no destination to be seen — but right there, in the middle, nothing but final darkness to follow.

That ember dies, no purpose left; those ambers die, unheard warnings.

The man jumps, breathing in smoke, breathing in death, breathing ambers and embers, but nothing green. No reason left to fly or crawl along the bridge of life toward… no destination. Some might have a desire to test the yellow, screaming through or crawling to a stop. Some might work for that end that never comes, all their life searching for a purpose beneath those winking lights. This man, has one light left to share. It lies on the pavement with his broken body, seeping, slowly, from worthless veins. Red.

Then black.

Just a Dream

Attribution: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28519734@N00/6181993069/

Attribution: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28519734@N00/6181993069/

Dreams, they start in darkness, spread from death to life like a match flicked. Fire shoots into our minds, leaving the emptiness of sleep behind, filling us with love, hate, horror, thrills, chills: emotions. Life.

But not real life. Just a dream.

Dreams can spur us on, cause us to press toward some distant goal, reach for that prize past the horizon. The question: is the goal — the prize — real, or just a fantasy wrought from night’s shifting flames?

At night, we can dream of sorrow, suffering, death. The scenes play over and over, horrific images flashing through our minds. Perhaps when we wake, floor-boards still creek, faucet dripping — less like water and more like blood-rain, and that face in the shadows…? It is real… right?

No. Not real. Just a dream.

Dreams are not always so. Some can be filled with mirth — joy to replace sorrow, love for suffering, and trading death for life. These are the dreams we hold close; as the match-flame dies, eyes awaken, heart cries, and we seek for sleep again. We blow on the embers of that match, the charcoal in our minds, willing the fantasy to go on — wishing it to never end; re-kindle that flame to replace the following day when we rise. Replace our life.

But no. It is not life. Just a dream.

Some dreams we wish to forget. Others, we cry when they forget us: when we wish to visit them again each night, but sleep plays a darker song, or a blank slate — no flickering match to fill the shadows. Instead, we live, chase dreams, and live some more.

The match dies. Flames fade. Some old fire is replaced with new, life (or dreams) from those embers. We must stoke the pit each night, squeeze life from those coals. It is hard, when the rains come, harder with flames speaking dark dreams, promising nothing but pain… and death.

But not the death of dreams.

Walk away. Let the flames die. Leave matches, untouched, forgotten in their box. Let the coals become a soup of death. But, if we want to come back, return from those wayward travels, the flames will hide between sheets of darkness, and when we sleep… dreams will not come.

What lies beyond my pit of flames? Fame? Fortune? Progress? Some semblance of normality? Will I blend in with the darkness out there on the fringes, or will I be swallowed by the cloud, never to return. And then, when the darkness has taken its last morsels from me, and I long for those brighter days — the days when I could dream, those days of matches and pillow clinging — will my match book be too wet for flames, or too lost in the dark? Will my hearth be cold, lifeless, impossible to stoke again. Will I find it in the dark?

No. That’s just a dream.

And so, I sit. The world passes, one success at a time. I glance at the stars above, briefly wishing for their glory… but no. I am not one of them. I do not belong in that darkness. Here, my flames might sputter, die beneath those who rain on me. Sometimes my fire is hot, too hot, and it hurts. Raging out of control… but going nowhere.

Progress? Riches? Or just a dream?

I am a dreamer, seeing art in my flames. No, my life is not easy. No, my fire is not strong. Yes, it often dies, runs out of fuel: left clawing at nothing, hoping to make something… out of nothing. But, that is what dreams do. That is what they are for. I would rather dream, and live, dream, and fail, dream, and dream again than walk away. Life without dreams is darkness without matches. Flames without the darkness? Dreams without life? Impossible. I am a dreamer. I stick by my little flame.

It is just a dream. But it is mine.

The Legacy of the Fallen

In the city there is death. Motors roar to life, chopping down stocks, leaving us broken and bleeding. Slashed limbs stick up amidst the massacre, green chutes fighting the blades. Again and again the machines come, buzzing faster, spinning harder, cutting deeper. Again and again we fall, cut short, left to bleed on the broken blanket of green beneath. The motors die with the sun, and we are left to weep under the stars. Tears rise from our shattered forms, the dew of our sorrow sticking against dead grass and shattered limbs. Sometimes a single golden head pokes up, defying the roaring machines. The motors do not torture one, leaving it to flower, to seed, to spread. The wind carries more heads about. We take root in the grass, just to be cut down again. There is no escaping death.

The city pulls at us, chops us up, leaves us finished and broken. Iron cages are clasped around our stocks, squishing leafs and crushing flowered heads. An odd seed might escape between the bars, as we are ripped from lush soil beneath our feet, roots and all. Breath slowly disappears, life leaving us in the dark. The cage is thrown off, and we are cast aside, piled in heaps, raked away to decompose in a mound of putrid waste. Those cages rip life from us. No bleeding limbs remain. Nothing remains, nothing but death, no legacy for the fallen. We battle that inescapable monster by day and fight from nightly terrors.

We tuck our pedals tight, press the golden florets against each other, squeezing eyes shut as darkness falls. We tuck tight against the cold, squeeze, shiver, try to block out the terrors that will come. Death taunts us on the wind, and we suck in against the onslaught. Death hangs down from the stars, gleaming in the blackened waste above, and we pull close to block out the memories, block out the vision of what is to come.
Morning rises, dew-filled tears fall, and death comes again, those terrors of night being realized. Today there are no motors, blades, or metal cages. No tools fill hands of men and women, no slicing bars or chopping mowers. A soft mist rests on our pedals, caresses our shafts, running down to leafs and roots beneath. We bask in the glorious showers of death, soaking in the moisture, before realizing the deceit. The poison spills on us, soaks into our skin, shrivels up our pedals, turns our leafs crusty and brown. We can no longer breathe, suffocated by the death in those clothes of life, the watering-can in grim-reapers tattered clothing. His scythe slices into our hearts, spilling blood from the deepest parts of our growth. Death holds nothing back in this city that kills. Nothing is left but a field of waste: the legacy of the fallen.

My brothers, sisters, friends in the city are lost. Death fills them with dread by night, torturing their minds before the sun promises its physical mirror. It shows them death inside the glass, then dashes them to pieces by motor, blade, cages, poison. I feel their pain, but know not the experience, my life filled with freedom. Where urban meets rural there is some talk of death, light gossip’s on the wind, but those blackened hands, metal cages, motors, poison, none reach me in the field. Death keeps his distance, and I care not for his deceit. More heads of yellow poke up around me than I could dare imagine possible in the city. Row upon row, we stand, soaking up the sun, soaking up the rain, basking in rural freedoms.

I tuck my pedals tight when the stars come out, but it is not out of fear. I seek not to block out the tortures of death on my mind, blocking out the nightmares as my brothers in the city do. Out here, I relish the day, and savour its taste at night. I hold tight those pleasant memories, before unfolding again, the sun creeping up on horizon beyond. Tears of joy touch my yellowed fingers as they open, receiving the surrounding dew, that shower of spring’s delight.

Day after day I bathe in freedom, bask in the beauty if my rural existence. The field of flowers, that is my home, works in waves around me, closing and opening with the sun. No fear. No care. Nothing but freedom and the remembrance of peace. I sleep with promises of another day’s glories on the tips of every floret, moist with life’s emotions, messages of freedom on the tips of those tiny tongues, eyes wet with the impending joy as they close, expectantly desiring the beauty of tomorrow.

But tomorrow never comes.

The night is harsh, but I am unafraid until morning comes. I do not rise. I can feel the sun’s heat as it rises in the expanse of blue above, fading from darkened blues, through greys, to reds of sunrise, to cobalt. I see the clouds billowing with life above, life’s light poking through empty spaces to shine down on me… but they are only in my memory. I know the sky to be blue, but see only red. It is not the red of rising or setting sun, but the red of that unknown, gossiped about visitor. The whole field shivers with his presence, overcome with blood-red waves in mind’s eye. Death.

No blades, cages, poison: death holds no foul tools. He works hard in the city, daily crushing us with the varieties of tortures available to his blackened heart, deceiving us by day, and taunting by night. I am so far removed from such pains, sorrows, lies, that I missed the greatest deception. Death slowly trickled up my stalks, forced my eyes shut, the life surrounding me sealing my fate, gluing my florets together in an unshakable grasp.

I strain against the power of death, fight the poison continually working its way up the shaft into my head, clouding mind, skewing vision, blocking all hope, joy, freedom. The red sun continually beats down, torturing me with its presence. I feel the burn from above, but cannot see beyond my sealed lids. I feel the poison rising in my throat, but cannot open my mouth to retch. The vomitous pool within cooks under the sun. My pedals begin to shrivel, die, burned away by the acrid life turned death within.

Night comes again. I do not see the setting sun, or stars smiling down on me. The air around me chills, growing wet with tomorrow’s pregnant dew. The red burn in my eyes fades to a blackened darkness, shot through with ghosts of that beast on high. Memories of the pain flash past my eyes, spectre visions to torture my mind. I wish to close my eyes, shake off the death that has taken hold of me, forget the pain of yesterday – the pain now dormant, raw, and throbbing in my head. Death is not a blanket to be removed, or a monstrous machine left to rust, but it is in me. Inescapable.

I now know the pain of my brothers in the city, the torture my sisters endure, the screaming of my friends as limbs are cut away, roots are ripped up, bodies left to shrivel in a steaming, poisoned mass. I know the pain. It is in me. It is me. I give up, falling into the apathy that has become my life. Depression overtakes my mind: the will to die. I wish for bars to cage me in, grasp at my roots, pluck the remaining life from me, but the Reaper is not so friendly. He plays a sad tune in my heart, scraping it away one scythe-shaped shaving at a time.

The day, the night, it is all the same. One is filled with blood-red fire, the other torturous visions of what is to come, visions of tomorrow, memories of yesterday. All is death, but he does not come in full. Soon I forget the pain, day and night becoming as one, one lonely existence, one dead heart in an almost lifeless body. My florets seemingly fall away as that body decays, moulting within the impenetrable shell of my head. I want to dash my skull against a stone, let the blood run from that self-inflicted hole, keep the black emptiness of death, no more red days to taunt me.

No more red days come. The nights remain black and lifeless, but the days return to their former blue that I once knew. My head finally cracks, pedals spilling outward to receive the life of the morning. Dew sticks to my florets, but I can barely feel it. These are not the tears of joy that I once knew, but those of pain, sorrow, emptiness, death. This field that once was a beautiful patch of gold has fallen into decay. We stand tall, but not free as before. Row upon row of white fluff, we stand, the bright yellows of life sucked away by death.

He hangs over me, mixing with the wind, tugging at the shreds of decency I have left. One at a time, my florets-turned-spores are ripped from my skin, torn from my scalp like lifeless hairs from a lifeless head, my legacy ripped from dying stalk. The hair turned white with age, and now begins to fall out, but not with the grace of a slowly receding hairline. The process is sharp and jarring… but I hardly feel the pain.

Again and again the wind blows, death grasping at the wispy strands in which I once took pride. My golden tresses fall away, floating by one at a time as death comes like a thief. By night, by day, he cares not for my sorrow, continually plucking out those floret spores, leaving me to die naked and raw. That final strand of life hangs on, but I care for it no more. The rest of me is gone. My legacy is dead. Why care for a single piece of life when death holds prevalence? I let the wind pick it off, speaking no blessing as it disappears into the night air.

My head sinks low as the rain starts to fall. Those mounds of life in the sky have turned purple in wicked death. They lash out at the dead field below with the fury of a forgotten god. Drops of water push hard against my naked skull, crush my back in the downpour. When that final cry of the storm gives way, rumbling the earth beneath, shaking my dead roots from their life-long home, lighting the field with fire, I have nothing left to care for. The red fire rushes for my naked, broken, dying carcass, and I give in to its will. The burn of death is my only comfort, my only hope, joy, freedom, my only legacy. The red rages in my mind, fading into the blackness of lifelessness that I can finally call my own: my new home.

In the city there is death. Motors, cages, poison have all finished their job. The city is bloodied and broken. We are bloodied and broken. No hope, no freedom, no legacy, nothing but death all around. Wind whips through the shortened grass, tired stalks, broken limbs. Tufts of white stick to those tears of sorrow, the rising dew of the morning. The city of death is transformed into a field of white: field of new life. We burrow into the earth, hide from death, hide from the blades, cages, poison. They continue to assault our brothers, sisters, friends above, but death cannot touch us. We wait in patient expectation, germinating beneath the ground.

With a final burst of life, we shoot from beneath the well turned earth, death’s fertilization feeding our growing limbs. We suck in the flavour of a lost past, stretch out limbs to the sky, spread forth new tresses of golden life. The city is a glorious scene of beauty, golden tipped stalks rising above the death below.

I open to see the sky above, feel the wet dew of joy touching each eyelash, each floret, as I greet the morning. In the distant expanses of memory I hear shrieks of death, feel the wind carrying me, see blood-red, but none of it seems real. I stand tall and proud in the city, defying death in the new field of gold surrounding me. I know someday that I will close my eyes, never to open them again. I feel the death in my distant past, but see its results around me. Row upon row of golden heads poke up from the dead spores we once were, the remains of a dying body. Death is inescapable, but life is much the same. One death gives birth to many lives: the legacy of the fallen.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorri37/5620085419/

The Eye of the Beholder

Scotomaphobia- Fear of going blind

eye of the beholderCount the whispers. Hear their silence. Count the specks of dust on that lens you call an eye. Clutch at the black spaces in between. Scream at the fingers that come slowly, reaching, taking those specks away one at a time: specks of life, specks of light as the lens is capped. Darkness.

I swim there in my dreams; drown in my nightmares. All is dark… but I am not asleep. I rip the caps from my eyes; lids spring up: open. My pillow whispers silently, draws me back into the nightmares, but my head is no longer there. I hear the wind creaking in distant trees; hear their sad whispers. They drift to me through window slats; play with the darkness; crawl up my skin. My hair stands up, each wagging a solitary finger at the cold air. My face feels its bite, breaking through the sweat already cold, resting there. I cannot see the wind.

Breathe in. Breathe out. The scent of my musty shack. Damp wood from last night’s rain is slapped together around me, above me, beneath me: a wet almost rich enough to taste… but not to see.

My feet swing round, hit the floor, body braced for the impact. Too late. Bare soles slap the cold, wooden planks. The chill rushes from feet to head, like the first crack of a lightning storm. My head rumbles in reply. It swims through the darkness, swims in pain. The blackened nightmare of wakefulness begins to spin.

One hand reaches to my head, the other for — the wall, a lamp, bed frame — something, probing forth in the ink. The world is rolling, my hand is waving, then, I am rolling. My head finds the wall before my hand: the second crack of this storm.

My heart beats the bass drum in this song, but not a steady beat. Like a spasmodic drummer, it knocks faster and faster, screaming inside its cage. My skin crawls. I sweat. I shake. I fall. I feel the cold wood against my face, hear my heart drown out the wind’s whispers, smell my own fear, see… darkness.

The lens caps have been polished and cleaned, all specks of life stolen. They have been worked at to perfection, my darkness complete. I reach for a cane, a walking stick, something to hold me up, to centre me, to direct me in the night. My eyes give me no aid; neither do my possessions. I am not ready for this darkness to remain, not ready, not ready… not ready.

I squeeze my eyes shut and open, shut and open. Blink, flash, dark, dark: no change in what I do not see. Not even a perceived change from red to black: the heat of wakefulness on closed eyes. Are they closed? Are they open? I poke. It stings. They are open. No darker spot appears where I have poked, no greater blackness added as I prod my eye, or close it against the self-inflicted pain.

I have never been afraid to sleep, never afraid to dream. Everyone must follow the gods of nature, Time herself the dictator. All sleep, all dream, all have nightmares as Time dictates. All wake. These truths are unchanged, and not to be feared. However, one unknown stands admits them all, a Judas in their ranks. Not all open their eyes.

Blink. Fresh tears gather in my lashes, the darkness shifting from black to wetted greys. My tears shift from those of fear, to those of joy, drying on my cheeks. I press one foot beneath me, then the other, hand on wall to calm my head. The rain in my eyes stops; the pounding of my head stills; the lightning shooting through my veins is no more. I leave the storm on the floor with nightmare whispers.

The switch flicks up, light-bulbs buzzing with new-found vigour. Shadows recede to the corners, leaving nothing but dust behind. The dust of my house. The dust of my home. Dust, those specks of light, specks of life, on a discarded lens cap.

One room still sits in darkness, waiting to be disturbed. It sits how it always has: alone and waiting. I turn the wick up on that oil lamp, the only light in that room. There is no electric buzz here, no distractions from that outer world to this still room. No voices from my pillow, no storm from the floor. It is a world of my own, lit by that single lamp, but coming to life beneath my fingers. Tap, tap, tap, the oil-wrought light illuminates those keys, but I need no aid from it. My mind, vision, slips into the world of taps, world of clicks, world where I am the only God. I am the God of Light, the God of Life, the God of Sight.

No one in my world, the one I control, will ever go blind. No one here needs eyes. Why? Because my finger clicks say it is so. My imagination makes it real. No eyes, no need: seeing with the mind.

Blink. My eyes flash: open, closed, open, closed. My fingers fly: tap, click, tap, click. This new world swallows me: a world without darkness to claim the light, without eyes to go blind, without that fear stalking from every shadow and screaming everywhere else.

The lights in that outer room blink, spark, flash, go out. The empty lamp bowl screams for more light, cries for my attention, a new bulb to be set in place, but I fear not its silent cries. They are pillow whispers to me. Tap, click, tap, click, light bounces from my fingers, but does not enter that outer-room. It sits in darkness now, in a world I do not control. The lamp is blind, but I am not. That room is blind, but mine is not.

~~~

My chair creeks behind me as I lean back, stretching life into my limbs. Elbows pop. Fingers crack. One final click from that typewriter at which I sit. My world lays silent once again as I press that final key. Full stop.

Light bounces through the window, a joyous morning greeting. It shatters my world of darkness, bounces off the glass clock-pane, spills down on my keys. A short crank and low gong breaks the silent morning: that clock face, bright and shining, chiming out its tune.

I turn the oil lamp down; shut off the artificial flame. A little oil from the lamp should be spilled on my chair wheels. They squeak out quick complaints as I stand, leave the room, leave my world in silence, blind to what might come with the next phrase: the next clicks from my itching fingers. The possibilities bounce about my tired mind, quickly shut out by a new pain: new, but familiar.

I clutch at the door frame, the blackened barrier of that outer world returning. A sharp pain, a quick flash, darkness blocks out all thought, all sight, all control. I stand on shaking knees, see the blindness fade as quickly as it came. My foot stomps down hard, grounding me. My head shakes, greasy locks sliding forth and back.

My coat is waiting, keys are waiting, lock ready to be clicked in place. The light in my outer room still waits for a new bulb, but I hear not the complaint. Light, darkness, sight? They are out of control in this world not of my creation. Here, I am not God. Just a man going blind.

The path greets my feet, and I offer my silent reply. Every step is cherished. Every moment is precious. I watch my feet, measure my steps, keep my head low. The high collar of my coat blocks peripheral, a vision too oft filled with darkness, curiosity turning my eyes to unhealthy places. I chance a twist, chance a glance, chance a look from the path. The sun shoots down from above, bullets to my eyes. Giant red splotches burst like flowers set to bloom, but these flowers hold no beauty. They expand, unfold, fill my eyes like caps on lenses.

I close my eyes, block out the sun, block out the headache arising. My hand shakes as it searches in my coat for darkened glasses. Throwing them on my face, they sit awkward on one ear, off the other. Those red spots recede slowly as my eyes open… too slowly. They creak from darkness into light like a door with monsters to one side. Will I be blind when they open? Will the world still greet me? Will the God of this world grant me one more day to glance at His wonders, touch them with my sight?

The doors creak open. Light pours in. Those red flowers close again. They are nothing but tiny specks now, memories of the sun’s assault… nightmares from my past. Gladness rushes in. I am not ready to go blind.

A stick cracks over my knee, the perfect length for my legs. It presses hard into my palm, firm against the ground. I feel comfort in its presence, some calm as we walk together. I cannot get lost, cannot stumble with this stick to guide my way. Open, close, open, close, my eyes laugh at me with each blink. In the world of my creation, men do not have eyes. No need for eyes, no fear of going blind. It is perfect. Blink. This world is flawed. Blink. I hope God does not curse me for such a thought.

~~~

His coat is white, a grotesque colour to assault my open lenses. They sit beneath my darkened glasses while his white stands, brilliant and glowing beneath those harsh lights above. I press into the cold chair, a machine swings into place, inches from my face. I flinch. I blink. It stops.

“I’m sorry Mr. Olar. You will have to take the glasses off now.” The white coat looks apologetic, though I can hardly see it beyond the stark flashing cloth.

“Can you dim the lights, just — just a touch?” I ask, but my hands are already reaching for the darkened lenses which shield me.

“I’m sorry, sir. These lights don’t dim.” He smiles, a customary response to my customary question.

I grunt, but feel worse that these lips can say. My protection comes off, slowly, but the speed does not help. The lights above buzz with delight, laughing at my squints. I clutch at the machine in front of me, wish for it to claim my peripheral sight, cushioned in special lenses.

It slides into place. The light fades. Nothing but harsh black letters against a white sheet to scream at me.

“Okay, Mr. Olar. What do you see?”

I read the letters off slowly, cherishing the moment. They get smaller. I squint harder. The page is a mess of blurry figures. One lens after another they come, sliding back and forth, adjusting my ability to see: an ability which I cherish.

The machine slides away. Those laughing lights above return to taunt me. The white coat of my doctor is nothing compared to what comes next. I want to close my eyes, but know he will just force them open again. His pointer shines, that wand of death seeking me out. I have no control, stuck in this chair, eyes growing wide. Right, left, right left, the light pierces both sockets, leaves my lenses screaming, red flowers appearing once again. As they recede I hear his words.

“You are doing quite well, Mr. Olar. No need to come in next week. Still no need for glasses.” He laughs, a poor attempt to calm me. His kind smile is better, but still unheard.

I pull glasses from my coat pocket and fix them once again to my face. He may think that I need no glasses, but my eyes lack such education. The world dims, those lights above softened, his white coat turning dull and grey. My short sigh sounds like a grunt, and feels little better.

“See you next week.” Another suggestion ignored. I can never be too careful. Not ready to go blind.

~~~

Shamblers. Fumblers. Men crying in the night. The sky has fallen, the moon a reflection beneath my feet, a reflection of the sun. I could run instead of shamble. I could flee instead of fumble. But I would be running blind, fleeing from the ground itself, an impossible feat indeed. Dark, light, dark, light, there is nothing but this change. The sun spins around this new earth-moon apocalyptic world like a gyro going wild. Spin. Flash. Dark. Light.

I blink… to no effect. Am I asleep? Am I awake? Too much is the same for me to tell: the fear, the pain… the darkness. My head hits the floor, and I know that wakefulness has me now. Cold wood, not rough moon stone.

I still shamble, still fumble, still feel that pain pounding a course in my head. I flick the switch. Nothing. Not even a red glow against my useless eyes comes to taunt me. This is true blindness like never before, and it is out of my control.

My headache fades, the pounding turning soft as I clutch knees to my chest. I shake: a man crying in the night. Open, close, open, closed: dark, dark, dark, dark. All is the same. All is blind… even me.

I get up, feeling the defeated fool. Crawling like a child – knee, hand, knee, hand – I find a cracked stick on the ground. It is nothing special, nothing great, not intended for the blind. I was not ready, not prepared, but it will have to do. I press it on the ground and try to stand. My legs shake. Heart quivers. I stand.

The stick swings forth and back, tapping the ground in an arc before me. It is not the knowing clicks of a blind man’s stick, directing his way, but the wild waving of a man-turned-child by fear itself. My knee finds a table edge, something my waving stick should have found, but our communication is unpractised. From table edge to door frame my knee travels, stick slapping forth and back against the jamb: a too late warning.

Everything in this room is right how it should be. My hands crawl along the table, walking stick resting against the door. The oil lamp radiates with light, with life, as I turn that nob… and I can see. Shocked, stunned, what other words can I use? Even a writer’s finger clicks and tongue clacks can grow heavy. The light outside my little room, little world, is still dark.

An afraid man? A curious child? One of the two (or both) finds me at the door again. Up, down, up, down, I flick the switch. The light is gone. The bulb is dead. Now I hear the silent screams. A laugh boils out of my lips, but not of joy: nervous energy crying for release.

I find a bulb amidst the dust in some oft used drawer, screw it into the slot, and those red flowers return. The light blinks on, harsh and white without the shade set in place. I shove the glass bowl against the bulb, twist it into place. Those flowers in my lenses die, wilted by the dim light, not enough to grow by. I stamp my foot, shake my head, ground myself again. Grunt: the most relief I will get.

My fingers fly against those keys, walking stick leaning lonely in the corner. I keep it with me now on such nights, all nights, when darkness threatens to hold me. I shape my world without a care, lost again in the magic my words create. Great black sheets are thrown against the window frame to block the morning when it comes. In here, I am in control. In here, I have everything I need.

Nights go by with finger clicks and days go by with my stick tapping against the ground. Practise, practise, practise. I must be ready for when that day comes… the day when I will go blind. Behold, it stalks me, around the corners, closer now; each day my vision seems to fade. Some nights I cannot close my eyes, not afraid of the dreams or sleep, but what will happen (or not happen) if and when I open those eyes again. Some nights I wish it will come, end my suffering, claim my sight once and for all. But I have no control.

I sit in this writing chair, wheels still creaking, in need of oil, fingers still flying, in need of control. There is one piece left to this puzzle of life, one thing left to calm my fears. My walking stick stands just inside my reach. Black lenses rest in my coat pocket. Closed, open, dark, light, it doesn’t matter: my gait is the same. Practise, practise, practise. I am waiting, I am prepared, ready to go blind.

My pens sit just to one side, black against the white paper like letters to test my vision. I pick them up, one at a time, reciting the letters from memory. I hum the letter-tune, my heart playing the bass. It is still, almost silent. Calm. Ready. One twist, one thrust, one jab, and it is done. I have the control. I am ready to go blind. I hardly feel the pain, numbed over my life by fear.

I tap, I click, I shape my world. In this world I have control. In this world no one has eyes, no need for them. In this world people see with their minds. Tap, click, tap, click. In my world, people see with their imagination. Tap, click, tap click. I never lose my place, never lose sight of those keys. The oil lamp has long since died. The lights outside my world have long since called silently for attention. I care not. In this world, I need no light, no eyes. I my world, I cannot go blind.

Credits:

Music (In order of appearance)
Metropolis Ruin by Fireslice at Jamendo
Ambient Darkness by DJ Chronos at Freesounds
Echoes of Fall by Razvan Veina at Jamendo
Now by Antonio Fiorucci at Jamendo
Limbo? by DirtyJewbs at Freesounds
 
Sound Effects (all provided by Freesounds)
typewriter22.ogg by tams_kp
BreakingSticks by qubodup
Crying 4.wav by ecfike
whispers and screams by Fyodore
Chaos & Screams.flac by qubodup
DSLR mirror slaps by satanicupsman
00888 gride 2.wav by Robinhood76
doctoroffice.mp3 by NoiseCollector
Whoosh Puff by Speedenza
Dbl Click.mp3 by 7778
Ringing in ears1.wav by Hardance
jacket zipping and rustling by Ownederd
keys_rattle6.wav by vibe_crc
Stomp.wav by 000600
chair_sitting_1.wav by FreqMan
Crack Knuckles Bones.wav by spenceomatic
Light Bulb Pop.mp3 by CGEffex
01582 installing light bulb.wav by Robinhood76
man walking away indoors with leather leathery shoes footsteps foley.wav by bulbastre
Igniting Candle Lighter.wav by baidonovan
Thunder Clap OWB KY 441×16.wav by Dave Welsh
00818 wake up 2.wav by Robinhood76
Thump.wav by Macif
Vinyard Walk.wav by digifishmusic
20080918.breathing.wav by dobroide
whispers.wav by thanvannispen
cap close.wav by whorn1
00984 wood hit 4.wav by Robinhood76
SonicSnaps-IDES-FR-white-cane-diff-surfaces.wav by thecityrings
Moaning Chair.aif by Housed1J
Hard HIT in the head.aif by amsempl
mild_surprise_breath.ogg by smcameron
buzz harmonic.aif by lukaspearse
Light Turning On & Off.wav by mookie182
Wind Houling 1 .wav by Bosk1
typewriter_type.wav by tjandrasounds
ClockStrikes12Remix.flac by acclivity
Ticking Clock by AntumDeluge
Heart Beat by thenudo
 
Cover Art
Created by Daniel J. Weber using the following images:
Eye see you 3 by Kit Keat on Flickr

New Covert art and Title?

Glanderxefront

For those of you that follow me in all the places that I tend to frequent, (no, not to the stalkers that eye me from the shadows at night. Just nice stalkers please.) you will be well aware that I am hard at work with book one of my epic fantasy tale, originally called “Glanderxe.” During the current re-write, I have been playing around with different ideas in my head. To give me a break between scenes, I have been doing other equally important things for further along in the process, like seeking out a cover artist, looking for a good editor, oh, and also finally settling on the actual title of the book I have been writing for far too long. I cannot say that I have arrived at all (or any) conclusions concerning such generalities, but I have been having fun. If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t be doing it.

Here are some quick reveals concerning those processes. The above image says it all. As a writer, I should, and probably can, write 1,000 words to equal the image (as they say images are worth), but I believe that art should speak for itself. It is a preliminary concept cover that I designed last night with my limited knowledge of photo manipulation. I think that the title of the book will be “Pawns of Time” using the working title “Glanderxe” as the series title. (Yes, it will not just be one book, but a series of epic fantasy goodness.) “Pawns of Time” is the first “moment” in the much greater amount of Time it will take to pen the series. So, tada! Name reveal.

I am thinking of taking this cover art I designed and throwing it at a professional artist to give them a a flavour of what I am looking for. For now, all of you lovely readers get the flavour. Consider this a taste of what is to come, an app before the entre. If it leaves you hungry for more, I think that is okay. I am hungry for more too. On that note… back to writing!

Used book Revolution

Books HD

Here is something interesting. Over the Christmas season, I had the opportunity to not be in the middle of nowhere, visiting family and such. Taking myself out of the Northern wilderness in which I usually live, and driving south has many pros and cons. Seeing family (pro), long car rides (con… unless a good audiobook is loaded up 😉 ), cheaper groceries and gas (pro), having no power because of ice-storms (con)… and the list could go on. The pro/con that I find taking a particular amount of my attention has to do with (you guess it) books.

Alas, the pros must eventually come to an end. They say that all good things come to those who wait. Perhaps wade is an equally applicable word… wading through the many books available for my purchasing pleasure (and there is a lot of wading to find those nuggets of joy hidden within the stacks). How, you ask, could such a place have any cons? That is like saying there is pain in Heaven, is it not? Perhaps, but beneath the deceitful facade of perfection there is indeed a problem. This is a problem that every one of us can fix. Yes, we have all been empowered! The problem is this. All of the books were traditionally published.

Used book stores are great. I mean, come on, just walking into a giant open space filled with shelves and shelves of books just puts a skip in my step and my heart wants to beat faster than is medically safe. What a sight! What a feeling! Past all the mushy stuff, there are books. An entire wall labelled “Fantasy/Sci-fi” and a whole selection of beautiful hardback possibilities. There is even more than one shelf of horror books, a pro not oft seen. Here, I could spend hours, and only crack the cover of a few books before deciding, “A 500+ page hardback for only $5! Done!”

Imagine this, a place where used paperbacks and gently loved hardbacks are available from indie authors! With the digital age exploding, much tree-killing is falling by the way side, but some people still love physical books. Even if you love ebooks, all must admit: an ebook lacks that glorious freshly-printed or used-book scent. Such things are indeed integral to the reading experience.

“I have a dream,” said many famous people. I say the same thing, though am not truly famous. My dream is used bookstores filled with just as many self-published books as traditionally published… or maybe even more! And back to that empowering thing: if we all buy indie paper/hardbacks they might someday end up as previously loved editions on some such stacks as these. Perhaps we should all pick our favourite indie authors, buy ten copies of their paperback, and donate them to the local used book stores, thrift stores, friends, family, leave them “accidentally” somewhere in the mall. Yes, this is the path to the future, and we all can help make the world a better place, one book at a time. Perhaps someday, when I walk into a used book store, I might see my own self-published works there. Time has yet to reveal such things to me. 😉

Diving in Forever

It always starts with a dive. A foot dipped in, a harmless splash, like foreplay to the plunge. There is no harm in a little fun, no commitment, no care for the future. That paradise sitting beyond the plunge is waiting, ready. I want to arrive, but fear the decent, fear the plunge, the dive.

My fingers glide along the surface of the pool, those ever-broadening ripples inviting. I feel the warmth climb up my arm, the promise of pleasant temperatures beneath. Like a lover, it beckons me. The wet toys with my heart, down on one knee – a ring: willing me to take the plunge, caressing my hand as I reach down to clasp the diamond sparkling on its surface.

The promise of a better life spills from my lover’s lips. The beach behind me stretches wide, as I stand on my rock, this diving board of choice. Paradise is a vision on the face of my lover, a mirage turned real on the water’s glassy surface. I touch the pool again, the waves disturbing that image, that place, that promise beneath. I can reach for it, but cannot touch, see it as from afar. My hand is drawn back, wet, the scene beneath me unchanged, untouched, unaware.

The sky reaches toward me, my arms twirling in the air with a final wave. Left arm, right arm — they work together now — stretching toward that place beneath the waves, the promise of my lover’s gift. I take the plunge. It always starts with a dive.

The paradise image shatters, my hands breaking it in two, in three, in thousands of tiny shards: the broken dust of a diamond speckling the surface. The image is a mirage, my lover imaginary. I reach for the ring, seek to press it onto my waiting finger. The golden circlet of promise is wrenched from my hands and thrown far into the deep. I watch it sink, watch it bubble, the plunk of ring touching water inaudible beneath the pool’s surface.

A brief flash of light, a twinkle in my lover’s eye, speaks to me from the distance. From clear to murky the water changes, my limbs working to push me forward. The soft glint of that ring, that promise, speaks to me again, and I focus my efforts toward that goal. Looking up, there is no more sky. Nothing but solid rock. The ocean narrows. The ceiling lowers. The tunnel sucks me in. My ring continues to sink, pulled into the surrounding drink, falling down the drain. I reach with my arms, kick with my feet. The ring is closer now. The rock is closer now.

I follow that lonely light into the deep, press toward my lover’s promise. It starts with a dive, starts off blue, then murky, then black. The darkness crawls ever closer, clawing at my limbs, shivering up my spine. It passes over my arms like a cloud of ink, and I lose them for a moment — them and the ring: a brief instant, like a blink. It is enough to spur me on, fill me with the dread of losing that thing, that ring, which I seek. My finger brushes the edge of that golden band.

Blink.

My fingers fade into the black, granting me nothing, no purchase. One flash. Two blinks. Three. That lover’s promise is fading, fighting to hang on. It screams for release, blinking in and out like a dying light, a dying promise, a dying love. Those hands of the deep drag it beyond my reach.

Blink. The light goes out.

I reach into the darkness, spin in the depths of that dying water. My hand touches the wet stone beneath me, the wet stone above me, around me. My fingers climb up the tunnel’s wall, fingering at nothing, drifting through the darkness, reaching for the light. My lungs burn. Skin is cold and clammy. I flick the switch.

Blink.

I wake up on the floor. Wake up shaking. Wake up cold, wet with terror’s sweat. The darkness of that stone tunnel is pierced through by that globe on the ceiling, that switch in my hand, that switch on the wall. A drowned tunnel in the deep shows its face in my mind. The scratchy carpet beneath me scrapes my skin as I shake: shake with fear, shake away the dream.

I find my pillow wrapped between the sheets, clutched between my disfigured legs — those distorted limbs kicking at the water, kicking at the nightmare, kicking it away. That bunch of feathers stuffed in a sack are meant to give my head comfort, a forgotten commodity between my nightmares. I squeeze the pillow, tuck my legs in, searching for that comfort it is supposed to offer me: comfort my head, comfort my mind.

I lay there for a time, shaking the wet from my skin, shaking the water from my limbs, shaking the dream away. Shaking the fear away. Finally, I roll onto my back: tired, defeated. My chest rises and then falls in quick succession, the light above me burning those slits in my face, slits meant for seeing. I grab the wall, not covered with stone, but simple paint. It supports me in my trek, supports my tired limbs, my own weight taking some shivers away. I flick lights on as I go, burning the inky black from my mind and surroundings.

Dry mouth. Parched lips. A glass. Water. It shoots from those nozzles in the wall as I punch the desired button. A cool stream fills my glass, one reminder of the dream at a time. One drop, one trickle, one cold blast as the chilled liquid reaches me through the thin glass. A tremor runs through my body, water sloshing about, spilling on the floor, spraying from the wall, waves cascading from my hands. The glass drops.

A shatter. A pop. A flash. The light-bulb bursts. Darkness. I slip on the wet beneath my feet, lose footing with my shivering. My hand comes off that water dispenser, feet come off the floor, half-naked form lying on the cold, stone tiles. The wet, the stone, the darkness, they are too familiar. I want to curse at the stupid bulb on the ceiling, damn the water, the fallen glass, but am too afraid. Another shiver walks through me, and I cry as a piece of glass cuts my quivering legs.

It always starts will a dive. A dive under the covers. A dive from bed to floor where I found my waking, shaking form. A dive onto the kitchen floor. All these clumsy plunges worked of their own accord, taunting me. They taunted the crack in my skull, taunted my broken-half-mended fingers, taunted that first dive I took long ago. The water was too shallow, the stone bottom too close, my head too damaged, the blackness too dense. Unconsciousness found me swallowed by the deep, swallowed by the darkness. Now, the darkness swallows my dreams, the water ever-present, the fear ever-real. Now, the darkness swallows my kitchen, spitting out bits of tired glass from above. One flash, then darkness.

Blink.

I wait for my eyes to adjust some, or at least that’s what I tell myself. My nerves need more adjusting, more time, than my eyes. Finally, the shaking calms, the darkness barely traversable. The bathroom light shows that mess on the kitchen floor for what it is. I look back from the room, the switch, the light I just flicked on. Now I curse, though it’s more to hide the fear still haunting beneath my skin, hiding in that pool on the floor, than a damnation. If only I could curse my fear, damn that monster of my past, of my mind, of every drop and trickle, back to the hell from which it came: the hell where it belongs.

A broom, a rag, a mop, the mess is clean, but that shattered diamond from a ring, shattered glass on the floor, still tortures my mind. I know that sleep will not come again, and no longer want that drink of water. I choke down a mouth full of saliva, saliva mixed with tears. It tastes vile, doesn’t quench my thirst, only aggravates the chap of my lips, but I care not to try the nozzle again, care not to watch the terrifying liquid spill from that wall.

What to do with the night? How to shake my fright? Some find peace in baths with bubbles. I find nothing but water. Some walk off their fears, walk off their stress, crush anxieties beneath their feet. The blackened sky outside my window, out my door, down the street — darkness — not a friend to the frightened. There is darkness and water in my dreams, darkness and water in my kitchen, outside… just darkness.

I take the dive, take the plunge, wrap my form in a coat to cover the shaking half-naked child beneath. My door creeks its goodbye. A lock is clicked in place. I flick the switch. A flash. That light inside my house dies, this time of my own accord.

The streets are calm, streets are crisp. I focus on the feet beneath me, plodding a course of their own. Left, right, left, right, they carry me into the night, into the darkness, away from that place of fears, that place of fright. My trek settles into a rhythm; my heart settles, mind does not. It is not my intent, my fear, that carries me, but those shoes alone. Shoes are meant for walking. Nights are meant for sleeping. Water is meant for drinking, swimming, drowning, trapped, dying. It started with a dive those years ago, and replays in my mind every night, replays in every drop.

A flash.

The sky breaks open, cracks a wicked grin, then it starts to tremble, shake, shiver. I know the feeling well: the flash, the shivering… the water. Outside there is darkness… and water. I try to turn, try to run, but my will is not what carries me. Those feet plod on, picking up speed, running now. I can run from my dreams, run from my past, run from the puddle on my floor, run from the water, but not the sky.

A flash.

It sneers at me again, the thunderous laughter surrounding, shaking me. I shiver. A drop. I touches my nose, runs down to the tip, is sucked back into my waiting nostrils. The water falls again, one drop at a time, one fear at a time. One flash, one crash, one shudder at a time. One shiver. My eyes sting with the wet, sting with my tears, sting with the rain. The two forces work as one, blurring my eyes, but I cannot stop. I must run. I must fight. I left my house. I took the dive. There is no turning back.

That monster of the skies is chasing me, nipping at my heels from puddles, splashes from behind. I can see nothing but water. It laps into my mouth… one drop at a time… trickles into my ears… one drop at a time… sucked into my nostril… one drop at a time. A flash. A drop. A shiver. I stop.

A rock stretches beneath my feet, my diving board of choice. I look back and see the water rushing toward me. It crashed through the streets, topples tired buildings, breaks glass. Streetlights burst on contact, one flash at a time. Memory, imagination, reality, dream, how can I tell the difference? Awake, asleep, dead, alive, what is the difference? All is filled with darkness and with water, no escape after the plunge.

My hands reach to the sky, rain bleeding down my arms. What choice do I have left? Left arm, right arm — they work together now — stretching toward that place beneath the waves. I take the plunge. It always starts with a dive.

The world is silent beneath the water. A still calm overtakes me as I give in to the ghost.
It fills my nostrils, twists through my open ears, spills out my cracked and bleeding lips. The water works as it’s meant to: meant for drinking, swimming, drowning, trapped, dying. Darkness closes around me, that stone tunnel of my dreams. I see the diamond in the distance, that light dying beneath the waves, promise of a future, a destiny, someone to keep me safe. Fear cannot take me when in the arms of my lover. It cannot steal me from his grasp. With my final breath, final kick, I dive toward the ring. It spins about, playing in the drink, twirling in the circling drain of this sink.

A flash.

I blink, reaching out for that dying light, knowing it is my only hope. Darkness crowds me all around, inky fingers clutching my arms… the arms grabbing that ring. Warmth emanates from that piece, that promise, the lover in my hand, on my finger. I shiver with the excitement as darkness overtakes me, overtakes us both. Water takes over where air is meant to be, bubbles releasing their hold on me. My body floats on the surface of the pool, water tearing off those clothes, bleeding down my naked skin, filling it with fear.

I cannot leave the deep, cannot run from my destiny. This i my new home: my paradise. I watch that useless body floating above me, the body of a woman filled with terror, filled with fear, tortured by every drop. My face is wet with tears for her, but I am not afraid like she. I swim in the deep, laugh with glee, safe in my lover’s arms. There is no escaping him. No going back to those streets, that house, that kitchen, that bed, those dreams, that life… but why would I want to? I took the plunge, took the dive, and there is no turning back.

Fantastic Currency

There are certain things in our culture that are often over-looked, being blindly thrown into books without considering the immersion factor. Culture is transient by nature, and as such, will change with time and location. I read a review one time that said the immersion factor of a fantasy novel (don’t remember which one) was thrown off (for them) when the author used distance terms – like miles, feet inches, metres – and time terms – hours, minutes, seconds – that did not fit the culture. This got me thinking about what we do culturally without thinking, and thus infect our fantasy worlds with.

Said review has a point, and I was even more invested in the idea when reading Thread Sliver by Leeland Arta. (Check out the book on Amazon and my review of it here). For this book, the author spent a lot of time and energy building the world in a way that allows for greater immersion, remembering to look after these finer points that many of us forget should possibly be different. There is an entire glossary in the back of Leeland’s book that delve into some of these details. The detail of choice today is money, or more properly, currency.

I am currently writing draft two of my epic fantasy novel, Glanderxe (and yes, I am even thinking of changing that book name completely for those interested in that detail). In my first draft I wanted to make cursing/swearing different because the words that we consider “inappropriate” or “vulgar” are culturally dictated. As I get more involved in the culture of the world I am creating, more intriguing cultural differences are coming to play. I have yet to define how the people of Glanderxe talk about time and distance, but in the rewrite of a scene today I dealt with currency.

What would it mean to you if someone gave you a fistful of gold? This phrase may mean something different to the people of Glanderxe. I have integrated hand anatomy into how they speak of money. Instead of giving someone a fist, as in punching them, you can give them a fistful of gold, consisting of four fingers and one thumb. As a writer, I find I am using my hands a lot (go figure) thus I notice them more than some people might. (Also, I’m crazy and notice silly things). Each finger has three “joints” or “parts” or “knuckles” (whatever the proper word is. This is not an anatomy lesson; it is about currency.) and a thumb has but two. Here are some currency thoughts that I have just implemented into round two of Glanderxe thus far.

1 fist = 4 fingers + 1 thumb (of gold)

1 finger = 3 joints

1 thumb = 2 joints

… Thus 1 fist = 12 joints

So… some currency ideas based on my hands (yes my hands, not yours. Don’t be taking the credit, now). I wonder what else this crazy brain of mine will come up with out of the blue. Too many more, and I may just have to give myself a fist full of gold.