Friday, May 17, 2019

While You Were Gone | a.k.a. (Lingchi)


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I'd been gone for nearly six months. It was a long six months, mind you, and my girl, Jenny, had been home waiting for me the entire time. 



Well, I suppose that's what she wanted me to believe. Maybe she decided halfway through my time away that she was tired of being alone and wanted companionship from someone else. Maybe she just grew tired of waiting around for me to call. Or of talking on the phone and never seeing me in person.



Whatever it was that made her distant, I never really knew. I just kept trying to keep our relationship going, hoping I could fix it when I got back.

My return was a surprise. 

It happened to come a month earlier than we'd expected it to. The second I got out of the cab, I saw our house, and it made butterflies well up in my stomach. 

I was so happy to be home, the feeling overwhelmed me, brought tears to my eyes and made me shake a bit. But another feeling --mostly fear-- made me hesitate. I worried that I'd been away too long. Maybe I would find another man in my bed. Maybe I would find that my lover no longer loved me. 

I made my way up the steps anyway, all the while realizing that Jenny's rose bush hadn't been trimmed in a few days. I wondered what she'd been up to. She normally tended to her flowers religiously. 

I'd spoken to her only the day before, and she'd seemed fine. Everything seemed normal, (more or less) until I made my way up the steps and found a handwritten letter addressed to me wedged in our locked door. The note had a red smudge on the side of it. At first glance it looked like blood.









Dear Charlie, 

While you were gone, a lot of things happened. Most of which, I really don't look forward to telling you now. I've kept my mouth shut about it when you call because what's happened isn't the kind of thing you tell someone over the phone. But it's not something I want to tell you in person either. 

It all started about three months ago when Toby started scratching at something under our bed. He would meow, claw and make a huge ruckus at night when I was trying to sleep. Every time I'd try to catch him underneath the bedframe, he'd run. 

Finally, I looked under the bed. I brought a flashlight and shone it at the bottom of the mattress. It just looked like a black smudge. 

I couldn't understand why it bothered the cat so much. It looked like someone had dumped Vantablack ashes on the bottom of the bed. Even though my curiosity was quelled by investigating the bottom of the matress, it still irked me that Tobs wouldn't leave it alone, so neither could I.

One night, I decided to slide under the bed without the flashlight just to see whatever it was that he saw. Looking back now, I really wish I hadn't done that. That small decision changed my life. 

I laid on the hardwood floor under the bed and looked up at the black smudge. It was like looking through a black hole. The spot was so dark, it stood out in the rest of the darkness. I waited patiently and my eyes finally adjusted. 

I started to see shadows moving. It was as if the "black hole" at the bottom of the mattress was a window to somewhere else. I watched, my breath held, my heart beating like a ritual drum, beads of sweat starting to form on my forehead and under my nose. 

I saw the ceiling of our bedroom through the hole at the bottom of the mattress. It was quite possibly the most odd, bizarre thing to ever have happened in this world. I was about to scramble out from under our bed and make a frantic call to my mother, or a priest maybe, when I saw your face on the other side of the hole. 

I froze. 

Then I just watched in awe. From what I could see at this angle, you sat down on the bed and put your head in your hands. Maybe you were crying. 

I shot out from my spot and immediatley inspected our bedroom, but there was no sign of you. I called your name, but there was no answer. 

I cried for a while, because seeing you, after so long made me remember what it was like when you were here. I don't mind telling you now that our relationship was a vapid thing; full of unspoken words and half-hearted promises made over a pillow. Most of the time, I was just left wondering why you were still around, your underwhelmed look of confusion constantly reminding me what I really was to you, but you never actually said it. The truth, I mean. 

For some reason, before you were gone, I'd been under the impression that without you, I might fade into nothing. But obviously, I'd been wrong because even though we were together, I still was alone. But, I still was alive. 

Anyway, seeing a copy of a person who's away through a mattress really has the ability to fuck a person up. 

I went to a psychiatrist. I told her nothing, but also everything, in a way. She said it was a stress hallucination. She said it was anxiety from your absence. She told me I needed a hobby. I told her she was full of shit, but politely. 

I found myself under our bed most nights just looking for a glimpse of Other You. He seemed better, for some reason. More compassionate, less self-centered than the real you, I'm sorry to say. I was drawn to him. At first, I was horrified, but slowly, as time passed, I saw that he was just a human being. From where, I'm not sure, but he existed just like you and I. 

One morning, I realized that Toby had gone missing. I looked for him everywhere. Under the bed was the first place I looked. Nothing at first, but I had a hunch, so I waited. Sure enough, Toby came crawling out of the mattress. He had been to the Other Side.

This entire time I'd been watching the black hole thinking it was a window, but it was more than that. It was a door. The hole had grown the more I looked through it, and I thought for a long time on whether or not I wanted to crawl through.

The whole situation was stupid on my part.

All of this happened because (even though you didn't deserve it), I missed you, and I wanted more than anything to see you face to face. Even if it was a version of you from another reality. I weighed my options; hemmed and hawed until I was blue in the face. Finally, I just decided to crawl through.

It worked. I pulled myself through a hole and came out into a world I didn't know, hoping to speak to a man I also didn't know but somehow loved.

He was taking off his watch at the dresser when I popped into the reality adjacent to ours.

At first he screamed. Then he cried. He asked if he could touch me. He cried some more and told me his Jenny was gone. He didn't say where she was, he just said gone. 

I'll spare you the longwinded back and forth that went on, but he and I actually talked, which was bizarre in and of itself. He asked me about my life, about Other Him. He was so happy to see me, I think the feeling made me high a little. That was something I never got to feel with you: the sensation of being wanted. It was intoxicating.

There was one catch to Other Charlie. For all his kindness and genuinely loving nature, I soon found out the hard way that nothing is perfect and the universe will inflict its pain on you, no matter what.

Other Charlie was more devoted, kinder, grateful and a skilled lover, but every time I touched him, I'd find a tiny cut somewhere on my body. At first, they were so small, I thought they were just from where Toby and I had been playing and your cat had inadvertently scratched me, but as the days went on, I realized that was not the truth.

In the beginning, I was so in love with his new, better Charlie, I just ignored it. But before long, my forearms, back and sides were full of welts. They were angry and red. It became uncomfortable to wear clothes. 

One morning, after a particulary passionate night, I found a tiny slice on the inside of my eyelid. How many more cuts did I have inside me that I couldn't see? How much danger was I truly in? The questions bothered me and I needed them answered, but I was too scared to ask out loud.

I couldn't do the dishes without bleeding. I couldn't take a shower without bleeding. My rose bushes went untended. And through all of it, Other Charlie just begged me to stay here on this side of the mattress with him. 

But these tiny cuts just reminded me of the old you. The you on our side. I remember thinking 'there is no version of this man who won't hurt me'. And I was right, but my heart didn't want to listen to my head. As usual.

Days passed while I was in denial about the real you and Other Charlie, and still, I tried to ignore it. Until finally, it became too much to ignore. Too much pain and misery to endure. I woke up one day with blood trickling from the corner of my mouth and it was agony to move. 

The Other You tried to kiss me and tell me that he loved me, that things would get better, but I knew the truth. Even though I didn't want it, the reality of this twisted affair was that I wasn't supposed to be with you. Either of you. I told him not to touch me anymore. 

He listened, but clearly was hurt by it. Right in front of my eyes, I watched as a cut sliced across his face-- as if drawn by the hand of an invisble artist. He yelped and touched his wound with his finger tips. 

So many things were unsaid in a single moment of silence between Other Charlie and I. The fact that when he was the one to hurt, he was no longer willing to vehemently stress that I should stay. When he got his first cut, of course, the tables had turned. 

My brain wanted answers about the mechanics of it all. Where were these wounds coming from? Was it just the karmatic nature of the universe trying to pull us apart or something less meaningful? Was his love hurting me? Was my honesty hurting him?

In the end, it didn't matter.

I said nothing and made my way back home. The black hole under the bed seemed to shrink in the time I'd been on the other side with Other Charlie. It pulled at my cuts and made them bleed. When I got home, to my world, I lay there under our bed, naked and bleeding and scared for myself. 

I'd lost track of time. Of who I was, as well. And all I had left of it was pain.

It took a few days for my skin to heal enough for me to take a real shower again instead of just a sponge bath. And several more days before I could sit down and write you this letter.

Now, I'm sure you won't believe any of this. You'll probably think I'm crazy. That I'm trying to find an elaborate way of breaking up with you, but sadly that is not the case. 

The hole in the mattress taught me more than any book or other life lesson ever has before: that no love should hurt, physically or emotionally. And most importantly, that being alone isn't worse than a slow death by a million tiny cuts. 


Saturday, March 2, 2019

Flickers

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It first happened on my way home from work. The time had just changed, and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself driving home in daylight for once.

I live near the airport, so it isn't uncommon to see airplanes flying low, readying themselves to land. I admit, I have a tendency to fiddle with my phone while waiting at red lights. I changed the song I was listening to and looked up to check the car in front of me. Still seeing brake lights, I looked up farther to see if the light had changed, and that's when I noticed a large white flicker “blink” just over the horizon.



I thought it was a plane. But if it had been a plane, I would still have seen it making its way to the airport. Instead the ‘flicker’, or the thing I saw, disappeared behind trees and buildings.

I pondered on what I could have seen on the way home. At the time, I wasn't very bothered by it. It could have been a bright flash of light that played a trick on my eyes. It could have in fact been a plane, and I had only been paying half attention. But my gut told me what I’d seen was something else entirely. 

A few days passed and the same thing happened again. I never could get a good look at the enormous thing that seemed the populate the area just outside of my line of sight. But the idea that it was NOT a plane ate at me. The fact that I kept seeing it gnawed at my subconscious, and from just my being aware, I seemed to see it more.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

A Valentine's Day Flash Fiction Thingy... Or Whatever


"No, he can't do that." I said plainly.
"Why not?" Jack asked.
"Because he's not as tough as me." I took a sip of coffee and waved my hand in the air to infer more was coming. "I'm the one who will go out of my way. He--- he just--- it's asking too much of him. I'm more... determined, I guess."
"You're more determined to see him than he is to see you?"


"Yea. Well, kind of. To make time for him. In a way."
"It sounds like you're making excuses."
I sighed. "I'm not. It's just complicated."
"It sounds like you are."
"J," I shook my head. I already knew he was going to give me a speech. The one about letting my efforts be wasted on a man who wasn't that into me. I'd heard this particular speech a million times this year already and it was only February.
"Why don't you just take a step back and see what he does? I had to do that with Roger and he came running into my arms."
I scowled a little. "You and Roger are the perfect couple though, so I don't think y'all are a good example."
Jack looked confused. "We are, literally, the perfect example." He sipped his expresso.
"I just want to feel wanted."
"We all do, it's human nature. But what we do to feel that way, or, rather what we do to make other people want us is what sometimes throws us into the realm of 'desperation'."
"You think I'm desperate?"
"No. I don't, but does he?"
I rubbed my forehead. Tried to answer that question for myself before admitting it to Jack.
Was I desperate? I always made myself available for his every whim. I made sure he knew I'd do whatever I could to move my schedule around to see him. He knew if he called, I'd never say no. I didn’t think that was desperation until now.
“Why does dating have to be such a mind fuck?”
“Because, just like anything else, you're selling yourself. It’s about getting that other person to perceive you in a way that is true to life, yet still ‘romanticized’.”
“I don’t know how to do that. I only know how to be straight with someone. I like him, so I want to see him and I let him know that-- end of story.”
“No, not end of story.” Jack leaned towards me and put his elbows on the tiny cafe table. J was beautiful, perfect lips, smooth skin, dark hair and a chiseled physique. Long story short, Roger was a lucky man. “If you make yourself too available, he will perceive you as being desperate, or worse, he’ll take advantage of your honesty and good nature and blow you off more. Because he knows he can just reschedule, no problem.”
On some level, I knew Jack was right. I didn’t want to believe that though. There had to be someone in this world who wasn’t like that. But then again, I had to consider human nature. It is what it is. Millions of years of human evolution wouldn’t be undone by a few dates and a couple passionate moments.
“He’s not the only one with perception problems.” Jack added.
“What? I perceive things as they are.”
He laughed. “Do you? You view him as weaker than you already. Don’t you think he feels that judgement in some way? Is he truly weaker than you, or is it more likely his strengths lie in different areas than yours?”
“I don’t think he’s weak.”
“You just said so not five minutes ago.”
“I think he…”  I stopped halfway through my sentence. Fuck. I did just say that and only in this moment was I realizing I’d meant it.
Jack nodded as if to say ‘told ya’.
“So now that we know it’s “perception” that’s keeping me more single than not, what do I do about it?”
“There’s not much you can do.” J shrugged. “The only thing that might make dating a little easier is to be self aware. Know who you are, what you really want and drop any fucker you find who doesn’t give it to you.”
“Isn’t that a little self centered? A relationship is give and take, ebb and flow. Up and down.”
“It is. But you can’t pour from an empty cup. You have to take care of yourself first.”
I chuckled. “How poetic of you.”
“I saw that quote on Facebook.”
“So basically, I’ve learned nothing?”
“So basically," Jack winked at me, "you could learn everything there is to know about sharing your life with another person and still feel lost. That’s what love is. It is a journey. A test with no cheat sheets and ironically, it’s every man and woman for themselves.”
“Jesus, that’s depressing.”
“Nah, it’s just dating. You'll be fine.”
A small smile crept over my lips. "Thanks, Jack."


Saturday, January 26, 2019

BernzOmatic Camping Gas




BernzOmatic Camping Gas is an extremely flammable gas contained in a metal canister. It is used for fueling propane patio heaters, small cooking devices like grills, camp lamps and portable stoves. Canisters can come in all different sizes and in A1, (the current dimension you reside in), these small fuel packs are a great and useful product.
In dimension J8, there was a situation that took place in early 2017. The event involved several of these canisters accidentally opening dimensional rifts. Most of the doorways from J8 (surprisingly) led to A1. These two universes are not located next to each other as one can see from the diagram.
(See dia. 7742Q)
The J8 rifts caused odd items to materialize in A1. Campers in J8 began to disappear. People would let their stoves warm up only to turn their backs and find their cooking devices missing completely.
Park rangers heard of these strange disappearances first in J8, then, some time later on, people in A1 would find things like camping stoves and random heaters melded into the walls of their homes or sticking halfway out of a rock face at their local park. A woman in Florida found the left arm of a hiker fused to the backside of her toilet and had a heart attack on the spot. She lived, the hiker didn't.
It was a conundrum for A1 scientists, so they set out to find an answer. Blockades were erected around affected areas, specialty teams were brought in; and in the end, the canisters of BernzOmatic Camping Gas were the only constant at each location.
More trouble started when scientists, military heavy-hitters and philanthropists all began poking at the portable gas tanks to find out why they were different from the ones you can buy at your local camping store here in A1. It did not end well. Most of them are still missing.
The reason for the camping gas anomaly is still unknown, but now both universes seem to be in a bitter political dispute regarding funding and the ethics attached to what is now known as the BernzO Epidemic.
Although scientists and other sects of academia scoff at magic and the manipulation of ether and/or other "non-existent" materials, it seems evident to some groups that there is more at play in our array of universes than we are currently aware of.
Obviously.
Unexplainable events have increased exponentially throughout the centuries. More people are turning to the 'unknown' to answer burning questions of a spiritual nature, and camping is less safe than usual.
The moral of the story? If you'd like to go camping and you live in J8, it may be safer to use good ol' fashioned regular wood to fuel your fires. There's probably never been a more dangerous time to be a nature enthusiast.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Sweet Dreams | #PlaylistPrompt


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Photo by Anselme Servain


There's a certain "truth" present within dreams. This "truth" is nearly impossible to find in the real world. This is due mainly because our inhabitions and fears are manifested plainly in front of us while in the dream.

Feel like you can't get through to a friend? You may dream about a brick wall. Go to bed hungry? You may dream that someone or something is eating you.

No matter how far removed a dream might seem to be from reality, I promise it's all interrelated. I know, because I'm the one that sends the dreams.

Oh, you thought I was human. 

Ha! 

Most people do. I look human; I suppose I feel human as well, but there's no way for me to know that with any certainty. I feel fear, loneliness, love, happiness, gratefulness and regret just like the rest of you, only, I've been feeling these emotions for eons now. 

Over the millenia, I've watched as prayers, wishes, hopes and daydreams are sent out into the ether each night. People wishing/ asking for better lives. Better luck for the ones they love. For safety. I can't answer their prayers, but I can send them beautiful dreams. I try to send them the good ones, but their human minds often distort my effort into something twisted. Stress and fear can ruin the best of dreams, and if you believe nothing else from this little essay, then you should believe that. 

So, as I listened to the prayers and hopes of generation after generation, I noticed there are a group of voices stronger than the rest. Humans call them Witches. Bruja. Čarodějnice. 巫婆. Cailleach. I could go on and on...

These ones are different. 

They ask for the nightmares.

And they pray to me. In fact, they call me out by name and request horrific visions of the future. My twin brother thinks these Witches are crazy, but that doesn't stop him from doing business with them regularly... Anyway, I'm getting off topic.

Sometimes, when I see a human man circling a Witch, I'll send him a dream to warn him away. It usually works, but not always. I saw something like this just the other day.

The Witch this guy was going after wasn't as bad as some, but she has a talent for the art of hexing, and that alone makes me worry. I feel a certain kinship with human men for some reason. Maybe it's because my body resembles one, so that's how I identify, (even though I'm technically far from human).

Anyway, I sent him the dream, he ignored it. (No surprise), and now I can't find him. 

I can feel every living creature in existence when they sleep, but I can't find this guy anymore. 

It's been three days.

So, I asked my brother if that poor man had passed through his gates. When you're the god of death, you eventually meet EVERYBODY. 

Thanatos said he hadn't seen the mortal I was speaking of. I remember feeling perplexed. If you weren't alive, or dead, or asleep, then what were you?

As a god, you'd think I'd be able to answer that question, but I couldn't. The only other thing I could think to do was find the Witch and see what she was up to. Maybe she'd done something to the guy, but still, I should have been able to find him when he slept. 

When I couldn't find her either, I decided to break into her apartment and snoop around. I found a grimoire laying on her kitchen table. A book of spells, but they didn't belong to her. 

There were chairs tipped over in her kitchen like a gust of wind had knocked them on their side. Papers were strewn about the area. I saw a dog's food and water dish, but no dog. No clothes in the dresser. 

I realized then that the Witch and the guy must have ran off. But to where? Like I said, I could find them in this universe --- there was no place to hide from me. Everything that lives needs sleep, and everything that sleeps eventually dies (that's where my brother comes in). There's no getting around it. Even immortals sleep.

Feeling annoyed and outdone by a mediocre Witch at best, I flipped through the grimoire and the answer became clear. The first page of the book said the following:


"There are seven ways to open a portal to another universe. 
I know two of them, but I wish I knew none."

"Hypnos" by Taner Ceylan

I tried looking for the page that told you how to open such a portal, (because I'm a god, and even I can't do that); but of course, she'd ripped it out. 

Can you imagine what might be out there? What they might be seeing right now? I mean, I've been alive for a long time and I've never figured out how to transcend my own dimension, and trust me, I've had time to think about it. 

In closing, let this be a warning to you. Sometimes, when I send you a dream, you might want to heed my subtle warnings. Other times, it may be the beginning of the greatest adventure known to both gods and man alike. Just sayin'.

Sweet dreams.
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Writer. Author. Blogger. Procrastinator... My novel, Trigram, is in the works, but in the meantime, I'll probably be working on short stories such as the ones on Wicked Shorts. (Wink)

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