“Can you tell me again why I’m here?” I searched the eyes of the white-bearded man perched next to me on the rotted log.
He sighed. “Child, I tell ya ev’ry day. Perhaps it’s me fate… I’ll tell ya again.” He shifted his weight and winced, rubbing his lower back. “Thirteen years plus thirteen days ago, I found ya sittin’ on this here log.
“How did I get here?”
“Gittin’ to it.”
He expelled a series of phlegmy coughs that made my insides shiver.
“You leant on this log. So I ask ya, ‘girlie, what’s yer name?’ Ya said nothing. Then, I seen the amulet around yer neck.” He lifted a polished arrowhead dangling from a leather cord. “It’s just like mine, ‘cept yers has ribbon, too.”
I felt for my necklace and rubbed the arrowhead between my thumb and index finger.
“I knew then, ya seen Nukpana.” He cleared his throat. “Fer centuries, she’s granted wishes, an cast spells. Yer grateful at first… til misery sets in.”
I furrowed my brow. “How did she find us?”
“We invite her. All it takes is tears an repeatin’ our heart’s desire three times.” He frowned. “Cain’t resist the evil lure of makin’ pain go away.”
“What was my wish?”
He stared at me for several seconds before turning his attention toward his hands. He rubbed his finger over his ridged thumbnail. “Ya wanted to forget.”
He shrugged. “Don’t know. Only one person knew; an’ she asked to forget.”
Well, I knew it was only a matter of time before my Google searches drew the attention of authorities. (Like the search I mentioned at the end of this post.) Earlier this week, my WiFi connection dropped and when I tried to reconnect, I had the following list of available networks:
The first two are mine, but the last one was quite unexpected. I have never seen it before, and I haven’t seen it since. (For those not from the US, “FBI” stands for “Federal Bureau of Investigation.” Intimidating, sure… but honestly, the IRS – Internal Revenue Service – scares me more!)
Normally, I’m a paranoid person, but this time, I opened my blinds and waved. I had a good laugh imagining the boredom of anyone assigned to watch us. They would need lots of Red Bull and doughnuts :)
Just a bit of mid-week silliness here. Thanks for stopping by!
In my head, dreams float in brilliant color. For blessed moments, I forget
the grey expanse tinted by amber lies. As gravity pulls, I come to
realize… through the haze, the golds and reds have begun
to slowly curl and die; I see what’s been hidden right
before my eyes. Reality gets thicker; harder
to swallow with the passing of time.
Toughened skin, stiffened
muscles hinder the
turning of my
I am weak.
of what to do, there is no Absolut.
It’s kind of been my thing lately to share the inspiration behind my fiction and the meaning behind my poetry. I’m not sure where to begin with this one. Really.
Deep breath. Exhale. This one is partially in code- my inner thoughts intertwined with metaphors that make me feel like my soul isn’t splayed out on the screen. I hate what this is about, but I’m going to break it down anyway. Here goes…
I lose myself in my ideas- my fiction. For a time, when I’m writing short stories, (and working on my novel) I am distracted from things that bother me. The reference to “grey” is me stumbling over things that aren’t black and white- the things that aren’t all good, or all bad.
The “amber lies” refers to a beer bottle I found poking through a trash bag when I dumped some leaves I’d cleaned up into the bin. This bothered me because my husband knows I don’t like him drinking. When drinking, he acts like an idiot (last month, he was removed from a public place for such behavior.) So, it hurt to find that he’s drinking- just not when I’m around.
On the surface, the golds and reds dying refers to the autumn leaves – like those on my maple tree in the photo. What it really means is sometimes I wonder if this is a season; if my life will blossom again, like nature does in the spring. The next lines refer to the passing of time and the effects of age; specifically being weary from all the years of trying to save him from himself and his heredity.
The ending is me, settled in with my familiar indecision on what to do next. Do I confront him? Pretend I didn’t see it? Do I bother getting angry or just let it go? These questions are all rhetorical in my mind. If things were bad all the time, the decision would be easy. It’s the grey that makes me stay.
The reference to Absolut is a literal play on words. I found vodka and poured it out… there is no Absolut :)
Oh, and the shape of the poem (supposed to be a martini glass) came last. I like irony.
I hope the poem makes more sense after reading the background behind it. Writing/reading about ‘heavy’ stuff can be awkward and you may shy away from leaving a comment because you don’t know what to write. Let me help – be fun. Be humorous – I love to laugh and won’t be offended by it all. And I like comments… a lot :)
Have a beautiful Monday!
One sentence summary: Lilah Baker consents to a new sleep therapy for rapid weight loss, but experiences terrifying consequences she didn’t anticipate.
I ducked between two above-ground tombs, pressing my back against the cool stone. My heart pounded against the bones in my chest and my ribs began to ache. I had been to Lafayette Cemetery before, but only during daylight. The moon (full, of course) gave life to shadows that didn’t exist under the sun’s watch. My gasping breaths caught when I heard crunching gravel nearby. I knew the faceless figure would find me soon. Pumped full of adrenaline and sheer terror, I bolted for the nearest sidewalk path and ran. I saw the wrought iron archway of the cemetery entrance and made a sharp right to head toward it. I felt the first glimmer of hope that I’d escape. Then, I tripped on a buckled concrete seam and landed on my left knee. The figure grabbed my uninjured leg. I tried to kick free and slide away, but the grip only tightened. My foe’s other hand raised a machete over its cloaked head. My eyes focused on the moonlight glinting off the silver blade. I drew my arms over my face so I wouldn’t see it coming. I prayed the end would be swift.
I sat up, battling terror that threatened to suffocate me. I toppled off the edge of my bed, landing on the carpet with thud. Confused, I raised myself onto my elbows and scanned my bedroom. It felt so real. Ever since I did the deep sleep weight loss program with Dr. Sutton, I had terrifying dreams every night. I untangled my leg from the sheet and pulled myself up. As soon as I put weight on my left leg, pain radiated from my knee. I brushed my fingers over the area and felt a warm, sticky smear. I flipped on the bedroom light and saw the crimson stain on my fingertips. I slid my thumb over the not-yet-coagulated blood on my hand. How?
*** *** ***
Four weeks ago, I sat in Dr. Sutton’s waiting room, flipping through last season’s Good Housekeeping magazine. After hearing the radio ad about a new weight loss treatment guaranteed to shed ten pounds a week, I scheduled my appointment. I needed quick results. My ex-fiancé was getting married on October 31, and there was no other way I could lose thirty pounds in time. I still loved him, and I knew if he saw me looking better than I did when we were engaged, he’d change his mind.
“Lilah Baker?” A nurse called from the door leading to the exam rooms.
I tossed the magazine on the square table. It landed on top of a sloppy mess of outdated reading material. “Right here.”
I followed her to the second door on the right and obeyed when she gestured me to enter. This didn’t look like any exam room I’d ever seen. Instead of a vinyl upholstered table covered with a long sheet of white paper, a long, clear tube-like encasing sat kitty-corner dividing the room in half.
“That’s the imaging machine,” the nurse said, as if sensing my question. “Here. Undress and put this on. Dr. Sutton will be in soon.”
I took the lime green garment, which resembled a wet suit, and was a bit surprised by its weight. Expecting paper, or even a flimsy cloth robe, I pinched the fabric between my thumb and forefinger, intrigued by the squishy gel feeling.
I felt self-conscious in the tight suit. The gel fabric left an unattractive bulge where it ended mid-thigh. I challenged myself to keep my shoulders from slumping and my spine straight as I waited in the only normal chair in the room.
A short, balding man entered after two quick knocks on the door. He wrinkled his nose to nudge his wire-rimmed glasses into place. “Good afternoon, I’m Dr. Sutton.”
“Lilah Baker.” I said, shaking his hand.
He sat on the padded stool. “Says here you want to lose thirty pounds.” He gave me a once-over, eyes lingering on my midsection.
I folded my arms across my chest. “Yes.”
“We guarantee ten pounds per week, but some have had more dramatic loss. Imaging will help us determine your body type and cellular composition. Can you commit to three weeks in-patient?”
“Well, uh… I didn’t realize I wouldn’t be at home, but I do have some vacation saved.”
“We keep our patients in incubating rooms, each climate-controlled for optimum sleep. Once the desired weight is reached, patients wake naturally.”
“So, it’s kind of like hibernation?”
Dr. Sutton shrugged. “That’s an oversimplification, but you can think of it that way. Let’s do your scan.”
I climbed into the tube and he latched the lid over me. I don’t know what I expected, but I can say it wasn’t the icy water that filled the tube. He instructed me to be still, which I had no problem doing because any movement would’ve meant I’d lose the air pocket situated over my face. Several minutes later, the water drained and warm air pumped into the tube. When he opened the lid after a few minutes, my skin had completely dried.
“You’re on target for twelve pounds a week,” he announced after analyzing a chart displayed on his computer.
“And I lose the weight just by sleeping?”
“There are other physiological processes involved, but that’s essentially correct.” He handed me packet several pages thick. “This consent form provides everything you should know, including possible risks and complications, and what to expect post-sleep. I suggest you read through it and, if you’re still interested, sign the last page. Then, a nurse will schedule your entry.”
I flipped through the pages- five full ones with small print- and signed the line on the last page. “Oh. I almost forgot- do you want the background packet now, too?”
“Cindy will take that up front.”
I passed him the signed consent.
Dr. Sutton smiled and shook my hand. “Welcome to the new you.”
*** *** ***
I sat at my kitchen table with a mug of hot chocolate. The adrenaline subsided, leaving a balmy sheen of perspiration on my skin. The muddled feeling in my brain didn’t go away. I’d felt out of sorts since I returned home five days ago. As promised, I reached my goal weight of 130 pounds, and lost an additional pound since “re-acclimating to my normal environment,” as Dr. Sutton called it.
An intense urge to sleep came over me, followed by the sensation of bugs wriggling beneath my skin. I filled my mug with water and left it in the sink to clean later. I rubbed water over my bare arms, but the crawling sensation continued.
I grew curious if these were normal side effects of the induced sleep, so I searched the stack of mail on the counter to find my copy of the consent form. Through blurred vision, I found the envelope with the logo from Sutton Sleep Therapy in the upper left corner. I flattened the tri-folded papers, but couldn’t focus on the words.
A feeling of terror rose inside me. I couldn’t figure out the trigger, but I instinctively grabbed a butcher knife and sprinted through my house, checking every window and door lock. I peeked under beds, inside closets and behind doors. Satisfied no intruder had crept in, I collapsed on the couch, breathing heavy and muscles tensed.
I looked at the papers still clenched in my left hand and began to read.
You may experience vivid dreams. Some participants have reported episodes of fear, which have occurred during waking hours and REM sleep. Short term memory loss, though rare, has also been reported.
I remembered the background packet. I had revealed my worst fears, situations that induce anxiety, in addition to my entire medical history. Just then, it occurred to me that every nightmare I had since returning home involved my responses to those questions. Dr. Sutton used that information to get maximum results!
That wasn’t the worst of it. By page four, I understood the true horror of my situation.
You will have a computer chip implanted on your right amygdala which will allow us to stimulate physical activity and maintain weight loss. This will also provide us with the ability to track your individual progress. Signing of this release waives all rights to data compiled and grants permission to Sutton Sleep Center to use your name and details of your results in future marketing materials.
I touched the tiny lump on the side of my head. I couldn’t feel the incision, which had probably healed during my weeks of sleep.
Tampering with the implant will result in immediate removal from the program, rapid weight gain, and possible death.
Inspiration: For those who read my stories and wonder, “what were you thinking?” this part is for you! The story came to me late at night while getting ready for bed. I thought I should probably try to go to bed earlier since it might help me lose a few extra pounds. Then I imagined how much weight could be lost if we were put into a coma-like sleep. That’s when the skeptic in me surfaced and went down the path of what could go wrong with that quick fix.
Starting with a dream seemed a bit cliche, but in the end, I stuck with that because it set up her bizarre predicament and, I hope, kept you interested enough to read about what led up to it. I don’t consider myself a science fiction writer, but this one has a sci-fi feel to me. Chips implanted in the brain? Scary!
Yep, my mind is a twisted place, but I think this story fit in with my goal of writing ‘creepy’ in October. What do you think? :)
of gauzy dreams
lead me to the precipice
of altered reality.
words scroll through my mind-
a late-night ticker tape,
a restless brain evading sleep.
Forces within, engage
in subconscious battle,
a useless exercise in futility.
The obvious is obscured
by intimate familiarity.
Poetry can be hard to read because often it is vague with little clues as to interpretation. I don’t want to take away your ability to assimilate my words to what you know, but in case you read this poem and came up blank, the following paragraphs give an idea as to where my thoughts were at and what lead to the writing of the poem.
This poem was written over several days, as seemingly random ideas came to mind. The first half in italics occurred as I tried to shut my brain down for the day. My mind doesn’t churn out anything useful after about 11pm, but still, it insists on idling until wee hours. What a waste. These lines were me trying to find meaning in these fuzzy thoughts.
Now about the last two stanzas…
This morning, I thought about how another weekend away from the computer/internet has left me behind on writing on reading. I used to get worked up over it. Now, it seems, it doesn’t bother me so much. On the surface, it seems like a good thing… going with the flow. Maybe I’ve relaxed- accepting I’ll catch up, because I always do. But of course, being an over-thinker, I couldn’t let it go at that. I began to wonder if this shift was cleverly-disguised complacency; whether I’ll find myself in a few months not even bothering to style my hair, or staring at a black computer screen because I forgot my log in password. Or worse- not knowing where I my laptop is!
For months, I’ve been unable to determine the root cause of my pseudo-complacency, which has shredded writing goals and given me an excuse to shrug off certain things. The last two stanzas are me acknowledging that maybe I’m just too close to me to figure out exactly what makes me tick.
This could be why I can offer advice to others, but rarely see when I should keep it for myself :)
If I can cajole myself into finding some sort of grindstone to put my nose to, I hope to ‘scare’ up some fiction to post later this week. ‘Scare’… October… Halloween… get it?
I know, that was bad! Sadly, I don’t have late-night to blame.
Hope you had a beautiful start to a new week. Until next time…
The photo below provided by Emilio Pasquale. The story I wrote inspired by the photo follows…
She thought she’d find an ally in her sister, but as they engaged in a stare-down, it became obvious to Elaine that she’d miscalculated. Her stiffened legs and a crick in her back warned she should quit. Clearly, more than a laminate table divided them. Yet, she refused to show signs of wearing down. I inherited Dad’s stubbornness.
“She’s getting older. I think the stress of the trip will be too much for her. Please, convince her not to go,” Elaine said, mindful to keep desperation out of her voice. Jackie would never admit it, but they both knew she had more sway with their mom. It’d been that way from the beginning, when Jackie almost died the day she entered the world fifty-eight years ago. It took adulthood and having kids of her own for Elaine to forgive her for that.
Jackie snorted. “We’re all getting older, Elaine. There’s no way she’d not go.” She dunked her tea bag several times with the back of her spoon. Her mouth pressed into a thin line and a frown creased her eyebrows.
Three soggy tea bags rested on the saucer beneath Jackie’s cup. All spent. That’s how Elaine felt. After two hours, neither had budged. If the conversation translated into chess, it would be a stalemate. In their defense, there wasn’t much room for compromise; it’s not like they could half-way go.
Elaine shook her head. “She gets so upset. Besides, the Alzheimer’s has progressed to the point she doesn’t understand much anymore.” She hesitated before adding the root of her concern. “I have a bad feeling about it.”
Jackie smirked. “Another premonition?” She crooked her fingers in air quotes as she said premonition.
“Nothing specific; just a feeling.”
“Look, you know as well as I do she hasn’t forgotten that house.” With the back of her hand, she brushed her graying bangs off her forehead. “I don’t know why, but she has to visit that place on Halloween every year.” Jackie sipped her tea and set her mug back on the paper coaster. “If you won’t go, I’ll take her by myself.”
Elaine recognized the determination in her younger sister’s eyes. Just like Mom’s. “You can’t drive until your seizures are controlled.” She sighed. “Fine. I’ll drive. We’ll leave at noon so we can get there before dark. That house is darn creepy at night.”
Jackie laughed. “That, I’d have to agree with.” She pulled out her wallet. “I got this.” She dropped a ten on the table to cover the muffins and beverages.
After she slid out of the booth, Elaine left another few dollars to compensate for monopolizing the table for so long.
*** *** *** Read more…
Monsoon season ends,
with pelting by pea-sized hail-
Nature’s inspired show.
I don’t see hail often, so when I do, I can’t help but watch in awe. The pinging of the ice pellets on our rain gutters had an almost musical effect. The show lasted for about ten minutes and it was amazing- though I didn’t ask for an encore, because I know the damage it can cause!
A few years ago, a hailstorm hit Scottsdale. I watched helplessly from inside my office building while my car was pelted for several minutes, leaving it dimpled like a golf ball. But this wasn’t my first experience with hail in Arizona…
I don’t remember the exact year now (that’s what happens when you get old :) ) but I figure it was probably 1989 or 1990, because I was in high school. My parents and I watched from the sliding door as a newly-planted mesquite tree struggled in the heavy winds. My dad went out to re-tie the stakes in hopes that it would help the tree remain upright. Then hail came and my dad was still working on it, so I decided to help hold the tree. Hail might be small, but it sure stings when it hits bare skin! When the tree was tied good enough, we dashed inside, met by my mom who supported us in her own way: she took lots of photos.
Even after being rained and hailed on, my hair still stood tall. Ah, the wonders of White Rain hairspray…
Well, that’s enough about hail. I’m working on a fiction story written for another of Emilio Pasquale’s photos. I plan on posting later in the week, so I hope you’ll come back by and check it out.
Have a beautiful week!