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Oct 31, 2006

There and Back: A Narrative

I stood on the white marble floors of the mall with my father and sister. But immediately I noticed something amiss. This mall, being as large as it was, seemed to have no purpose. I recognized none of the store names, and the items sold inside them were everything except what I was looking for. Things that weren't practical, like shoes you couldn't wear for they were too awkward in shape, or a food court area, but no one seemed to be selling food.

This began the madness. My phone rang; Not sure who was on the other end of the line, but I picked up anyway and immediately attempted to explain to this person where I was, and how odd of a place it seemed. An ovular shaped mall with the stores set in the outer rim, tons of people, but no one purchasing.

While explaining this, I paid close attention to the words I used, like I wasn't the one saying them. The sure thing was that I knew I'd begun to sound insane, incoherent. My pattern of speech skittered and hurried, and the inflection in my voice rose. I knew that he knew, whomever he was on the other end of the line, that I was in the midst of losing my sanity. At twenty-three I'd though that there might be a chance for me to make it past my youth without falling into the well of schizophrenia. Shit.

I hung up the phone. That's when I noticed that my sister and father were no longer at my side. Then came the men with guns. All but one looked like Special Forces. The odd one out looked to me like the man in charge; he dressed in a maroon long-sleeve button up shirt, wore suspenders, and slicked his black hair straight back. From my vantage I couldn't hear what had transpired, but they were harassing a young lady who I'd pinned to be about my age.

They had to be interrogating her about something, but she wouldn't look them in the eyes. The group of men dispersed, all but two, and they remained to press her further. She had a reddened yet flawless face, curly brown hair like that drooped like willow branches down to her shoulder blades. I felt my thoughts as coherent, and without thinking, moved towards her and the men. The next instant I'd thrown one of the men over the balcony onto the lower level of the mall, and punched the other in the head.

Since he wore a helmet, this only served to temporarily stun him. Before he reached for his semi-automatic, I'd begun to run, leaving the girl behind. All ended up well with that decision, for they left her alone; I was their target now. The man who'd taken the fall was unconscious, but the other had signaled to the others inside the mall to converge upon the running man, now their main target.

I'd give them a run, surely. Skipping the escalator, I opted for a more hidden route out of the building, a flight of stairs leading to the lower level. A sensation of invincibility coursed through my veins, and I felt sure I could wit my way out of this. That's when I took the first bullet. It came from a burst of three out of a gun held by one of the men chasing behind me. Caught it in the deltoid of my right arm.

Could've been worse, I figured. Could've been the back, or the neck. So I kept on running. Out of the corner of my eye I caught something moving towards me diagonally, trying to cut off my path. Again, it was the man in the maroon shirt. Though it wasn't him who stopped me dead in my tracks. It was his gun. A pistol. He had it aimed, point black, at the crown of my head. Sadly, I felt that this wasn't a case where he'd tell me I'd be caught. This was it.

I lowered my chin and waited for the gun blast. Then it came. The sound was like a truck crashing into a snow bank, that sick crunch, then silence. I was dead. Or was I?

After a quick pause filled with darkness, like switching scenes in a movie, I found myself in the same mall, with the same people, or so I'd imagined. In fact there were more people than there were when I was alive. That's right. I was no longer alive. The excess of people that I was seeing were the dead ones, the ghosts, and I had now entered their realm. But it wasn't like your Hollywood horror movie; these people weren't grotesque, stinky, and they didn't lumber along in peculiar ways. It seemed no different to me than when I interacted with people during my waking life. It's when I saw Bill Hendricks, a kid I went to high school with, that I knew for sure. You see, Bill died in a car crash back when we were sixteen.

Death was a solitary land, even though everyone goes there someday. One would think it'd be quite the overpopulated place, but it's not the case. Much less of a number lingered there in that place than I would've thought.

Once on that plane of existence, I learned that amongst the dead there was no language. No way to communicate with one another. However, the dead are able to eavesdrop on the living. The dead can talk to the living only through dreams, but during my time there it wasn't a practice much exercised because normally one of two things would happen: either the message would be garbled and incoherent, or the dreamer would forget the dream by the time they woke.

Standing there, I realized that I was on the opposite end of the mall from where I'd died. I guessed then that the dead were not supposed see the shell that once housed their wandering spirit. For a fact I knew I had no interest in seeing my brains and blood scattered across the white marble stairs.

A tap on the shoulder, one so unexpected that again I felt fear, something I thought not possible. After whirling a one-eighty I fixed my eyes upon a freckly, orange-haired kid. He reminded me of the MAD magazine character. Always smiling, and held those signature front teeth as well.

"Hey, you new here? he asked.

If it were physically possible to piss myself, I would've done so right then. Out of all the ethereal beings surrounding me, his words were the only ones to make sense. While I listened in disbelief, he told me of two choices I could pursue, both leading me out of this purgatory. In that moment I had to choose between going back, into life, or walking through the dark portal, and taking part in the Great Erasure. The Great Erasure was just as it sounds: like a great slumber, no dreams, no memories. The only existence left of me would be the one that lived in the memories of those I knew, like my family, and those of the woman who I believed that I'd saved.

Without vocalizing it to the orange-haired man, I made my choice. Slowly, I felt myself sinking, and my vision blurred, as I if I were drifting into the depths of a great sea. Before all light went out, I heard the man whisper into my ear.

"They will not remember you as you once were."

Then, total darkness, for how long I do not know. I woke to two voices nearby, that of a man and a woman. There were tears streaming down my cheeks, and my ears rang as if they were recently in close proximity to a great explosion. Blinding pain from a migraine kept me from opening up my eyes to gauge my surroundings.

"I don't know how he escaped, but-" said the woman's voice. The man cut her off.

"Needless to say you are lucky the police were so close," the man scolded. "Otherwise it may have been you who-"

"Shh," the woman whispered. "He's waking."

I could hear her voice as if she spoke next to my ear. The man sighed, he turned on his heels and walked down a hollow, marble corridor.

There was a rustling, and I soon felt a presence next to where I lay. I felt a pinch on my forearm. Slowly, I opened my eyes and gazed into those belonging to the woman with the willow tree hair. So great was my surprise that I blurted the first thing I could think of.

"You remember the mall?"

"Shhhhhh," she soothed.

I could hear two sets of footsteps approaching from down the long corridor. Looking up towards to doorframe, I spotted my father and sister, watching solemnly from where they stood. I met my father's eyes.

"Why did you leave me?" I asked.

He turned his eyes away, and my sister burst into tears.

They will not remember you as you were.

"We'll be in the lounge," my father said, though he wasn't addressing me, but the willow tree woman.

"You do remember the mall," I said to her again.

She looked upon with eyes that flickered like dying coal embers.

Oct 30, 2006

All Hallow's Eve

Witches and goblins and jack-o-lanterns bright,
Creep through the town on a cold October night,
You hear the sound of running feet but nothing can be seen,
And the strangest things can happen on a wild Halloween!


My father would sing those lines around the holiday when I was still a young child. This was back in the place where I first dwelled underneath my parents' shelter. There have been eight relocations since then.

There was the ritual of carving pumpkins in our kitchen, and distinctly I can still hear the hollow scrap made by a sharp knife on the insides of the orangey-fruit. By this method we'd remove the seeds, and mother would season and bake them, and they made for an interesting treat each year.

For some reason I remember those Halloween as pleasant ones, not the wintery harshness that my mother trys to remind me of. The wolf howling in the wind, the witches fluttering through the trees, and the deathly chill of ghosts lurking around every corner. Might it have been the prospect of sugary goods that kept us children warm throughout the night?

Bags full, we'd trudge on home, then dump the bags' contents out across the livingroom floor. The taffy in the translucent wax wrappers were the first to get tossed. Candy from my parent's era. We wanted the flashy stuff with a name printed across the packaging. After a few years you knew which houses to be sure to hit, and there you'd get a full-size candy bar, not one of those miniatures labeled "fun size."

Long ago were the days of candy excursions. So much would be harvested on the dark evenings that much of it would actually spoil, grow too hard to eat with the passing of the months. Age leaves you with memories and cavities. Take the good with the bad.

Happy Halloween!

Autumn Pulse

We find ourselves again in a state of slowing down. The sun itself seems to adapt to this tradition, even its rising and setting succumbs to the rolling rhythm of this Midwestern landscape.

From a second story office window I see a man smoking under a plaster-white hut which houses an old water pump, now an historical landmark in the county. The sentence ends, and he is gone. To linger outdoors today would be quite a joy, as the bitter cold has taken one last respite before the full onset, winter white riding unapologetically on its shirtails.

Fall. The season of the great slowing. Wasps and ladybugs still flutter about, still with purpose, but with less fervor. The canals in their tiny bodies hold a cooling liquid, which day by day coaxes them into slumber, into death.

The farmer's cornfield has been harvested, the cow pastures sparsely populated with the remaining green tufts from spring. Weeds the color of hay bend and sway in the roadside ditches, soon to be trampled by the first heavy snow.

Then, slowly as surely, they poke out and arise next spring during a great, slow thaw, to return to the thrivent frenzy enjoyed under a warm middlewestern sun. Yes, things are truly slowing down, as they always do. But they're still going on, still taking place, whether one watches or not.

Oct 26, 2006

The Hoya

There's a hoya plant in my office, on a table in the corner of the room, next to my desk. It's a Hawaiian plant, and has fat green leaves with white spots and streaks across them. The juicy tongues grow on vine-like branches; one vine is slowly making it's way across the table, destination unknown. Another one of the vines has crept up the wall, and has entangled itself in the drape cord. Weaving back and forth, in and out, it would take some effort to disentangle the two. Coaxed by the sun shining each morning through the eastern window, this is one of the paths it has taken. Not thinking, not deciding, just add love; just add water.

Bountiful are the waters that encourage the human soul to rise each morning. What exactly is the sun, rising out of the east? Truly, if the hoya were to bask out in the open air, unhindered moisture taking root deep inside the plants pores, it would surely die. The burning sphere on the greyed, morning horizon is a symbol, one made even the more brilliant after the first fall of snow, when its light dances and reflects of the virgin white surface of the earth.

Bountiful is the sunshine. Bountiful are our reasons to take root, thrive, and grow. The plant: idle, motionless, purposeful. Even it had to stop and listen in order to gauge the direction of its lifeline.

Oct 20, 2006

Personality

Earlier today someone sent me an article about relationships. It was actually quite ironic in the sense that the person writing the piece was a relationship advice-type columnist. However, the column centered around how that writer was still single, even though he was capable of dishing out relationship advice weekly in a national publication.

Long story short, the writer did some introspection and tried to pin down why he didn't have a significant other. Did I relate to his three reasons? Yeah, maybe three years ago. I think the reason that I am single boils down to the fact that I just can't muster the will to clean my damn apartment, arrange it in such a way that it would be deemed habitable by a choice female.

And hell, if that's my reason right now, well, fine then. I can thrive on that. Really, it's just a microcosm of the overall situation: I'm simply not ready. No matter how god damned much I'd like to finish this post and crawl into bed with a warm, curvy body, the fact remains: This Midwestern boy is not ready to provide emotional, physical and whatever-the-hell-else-ysical needs to a gal. And the kind gal is the preference, and since the capacity to maintain a relationship with a kind gal isn't felt, well, then I will end this sentence with a.

Longer story short: To be or not to be, that ain't in the dimension; cause this boy be and keep on being. Lives, eats, breathes, shits; all the same. I feel ya, dame.

Oct 19, 2006

Fatigue

As opposed to writer's block. I desperately wish to blame the absence of updates on something, but what? It's like I've taken an unconscious sabbatical from writing altogether. Eek. This is quite scary. Haven't been here before. Maybe it's now a question of balance, how I've been thrust out now into this real world, no longer a college student, and the cutthroat manner of daily life has all but exhausted this well. Need a replenishment, need a focused vacation.

Tom, I need your help.

Some of the most recent advice he gave to me was to set aside the first hour of the day for writing. The hour is yet unaffected, and any emotions from the day before have been afflicted with one night's sleep and a new perspective. Rise at six. Write til seven. Shower. Drive. Work.

I haven't been graced with a schedule regular enough to begin such a routine. And look what comes of it? Writing about not being able to write. Shit, I don't think this really qualifies as writing. Is this humor then? Frustration? A compiled mixture of both?

More like defeat. I've written this piece over in my mind before. This isn't the first time I've sat down to write this, though this is the first time I've made it this far. Sigh.

Damn you, blank page. You win. The upside being that the hundreds of posts already here, and found throughout the entire internet mean that overall, the blank page has lost. There are millions of individual minds waging war against this evil fiend, and they are winning. I suppose then that from time to time, it's all right if someone drops out of the fight. The key is to write on, no matter if it's met with adversity.

After all, without the word, spoken and written, and the innate beauty of language itself, where would U N I B today?

Oct 9, 2006

The Return Journey - A Poem

All this leaving
has me wishing
I had someone
to say goodbye to.