We Shouldn’t Be Here

When I was a little kid, five or six years old, maybe, in the first grade, there was a drainage pipe that ran beside the school. One day it rained like hell, and the water was firing through that pipe like a herd of cows through a chute.  We threw sticks in the water in front of the pipe then raced to the other side to watch them reappear again. I wanted to go in. I thought if I did, it would disrupt the illusion. You see, decades before the movie “The Matrix” I had this deep seeded suspicion that life was some sort of staged production, an experiment of some kind, and that we kids were the subjects of it. I thought about stepping out in front of a bus, and if I did, the curtain would come down, and the falsified life would be revealed. 

I kept having this feeling. It never did really leave me. All the things they told us in school seemed like they were making rules up as they went. I mean, if someone wrote a big red “T” on a piece of paper, did that really make you “Tardy”? Did two or three minutes make that that big a difference in if you were going to live or die, unless you were stuck in a drainage pipe full of water? 

They kept warning us about these people called “The Russians” and we had drills where we would hid under our desks if the Russians nuked America. Thank dog for those desks. Why not just give all Americans those nuke proof desks?  And when it gets right down to it, what are you doing to do with a school full of kids hiding under desks if everything else is radioactive ash? 

We had the feeling that none of this was real. There were no Russians, and no nukes, at least there was no one out there about to fry Early County Georgia. I mean, why bother? 

It seemed a lot of trouble for nothing at all. Here we were, in a very small town in South Georgia, with no mountains or oceans, no dinosaurs or flying cars, or anything exciting at all, yet the teachers acted like everything an adult said was the one true word of the one true god and we were supposed to spend our childhoods sitting still, being quiet, and being in total awe of people would die within miles of where they were born. Seriously, who could believe this was the reality of the Universe? 

When I turned sixteen I had a plan, and I didn’t tell anyone about it. I was going to pick a random town on the map, drive there, and find out if it was real. Surely, whoever, or whatever, was running the illusion, this would wreck it. And it seemed safer than stepping out in front of a bus. So, one day, I filled the tank up on my father’s car and drove to a little town in South Alabama, named Slocomb. It was there, just like on the map. I stopped at a tiny restaurant for lunch, and that was freaky. The waitress seemed a little bothered I was there, and I thought for a moment I might have actually done it, I had gone to a place the actors knew I had found them out! I think, in retrospect that she was just nosey as hell; she asked me where I was from, why was I there, and who I knew, and who I was related to, but that was still back in the days anyone under thirty was suspect, and I looked a lot younger than sixteen. After lunch, when I finally escaped the wait staff, I drove through the backroads of Slocomb. It looked exactly like my hometown. There were people mowing grass, washing their cars, walking down the roads, and cars parked at stores, just like the same reality back in Blakely. 

In an odd sense, I finally figured out how I felt this way, and how, in the end of all things, I found out I was right. 

Schools were not places of learning. I never learned anything in my years inside the public school system I couldn’t have taught myself in a lot shorter time. What they did, their whole existence was to keep young humans from living the way nature intended. The school system produced worker bees, drones, and fearful and subdued kids who would grow up as fearful and subdued adults. 

Our DNA tells us that we should live in the wild, hunt, fish, eat wild berries and roots,  sing, and create. Our culture tells us that we must work, buy, consume, and obey arbitrary rules meant to keep us from living. 

The Russians never nuked us. Being late for class never hurt anyone. My handwriting never got any better and it never matter, not one fucking bit. All the stress and punishment heaped upon us in school never produced anything but human beings beaten into submission and willing to trade their entire lives for a bigger television and more channels on it. 

It was an illusion. It was a fraud. I was right all along, but it never occurred to me that it was so because people were preforming the lie their entire lives, and most never stopped to think about it. 

I’m a writer now. That’s something they told me I couldn’t do back in the Days of Illusion and Lies. I realize they might have thought they were doing the right thing for the right reason, but they had an obligation to question it, and they never did. They never will. If you feel your DNA calling to you, and you think there is another life, then live it. Quit listening to other people telling you how things are supposed to be. Get in your car and go to someplace else and tell the waitress you’re seeing past the illusion, and would like to order some berries. 

You might not get them, but you sure as hell are going to mess up her mind. 

Take Care,

Mike

Peas Your Kids

 

It took more coffee than normal this morning to get me moving, because of a nightmare, even though I knew I would regret a late launch. This is Christmas Season. That means people are going to be more people-ish than normal and that’s always bad, very bad only. I finally get truly upright and have some momentum around ten or so. That’s late, very late, to go to the grocery store on Sunday.

Ideally, I get there around seven in the morning, and there’s not another soul there but me and the people stocking shelves. There’s no waiting or possible conflicts with people being peopleic. I can go in, get my stuff, and get the hell out of there before people arrive. But today I am late, and there are people already there.

There’s a man and a woman, and I assume their two kids. I have no idea if they are married, to each other, or if the children are siblings. Here’s the thing, and there’s really no getting around it; I watch these two people for no longer than thirty seconds and the evaluation is these two should not have been allowed to breed with one another, or with anyone else. Children, with this genetic mix, and raised by these two humans, will produce really bad people.

The female child is taller than the male child, and the male child is losing the fight for possession of the shopping cart. He’s screaming, like a goose being violated by a grizzly bear, “NO! NOOOOOO! NOOOOO! NOOOO!” while the parents are both staring at their phones. The cart is turned sideways as to block the aisle, and neither adult seems to care they’re creating an obstruction, or their male child can be heard three area codes over.

The little girl, actually, might be the most connected person in the group. By preventing the shorter kid from taking possession of the cart, she’s likely saving us all the peril of him pushing the cart at full speed, unsupervised, and pinball-like through the store. This will end poorly. Either the little girl will prevail, and the screaming will not end, or the Shrieker will win control of a metal cart that he can use as a weapon.

You know, stores ought to charge admission. If you’re alone you get in free, but for every person who is accompanying you, there’s a five dollar charge, and ten bucks for every child. That would end it.

I’m forced to flee, and go around these people. They can be waited out, surely, they will have to leave that part of the store, and no matter where I am, uncluding the parking lot, I’ll be able to tell exactly where they are. “NOOOOOOOO! NOOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

 One day, I’ll be on a jury and there’s going to be a mom there who says, “I was in a grocery store and my child wouldn’t stop screaming so I put it in the freezer section and covered it with frozen peas until the screaming stopped.” And we’ll find her not guilty. Then we’ll go out and drink tequila in a place where kids can’t go. Under the influence, we’ll plan to put a system in place, where people are subjected to the screams of small children, and if they don’t become homicidal then we’ll give them hysterectomies or vasectomies, or in extreme cases, both. Never again will there be screaming children in a store. People will erect statues in our honor and towns will be renamed for us, and forever, we will be known as those who saved humanity.
But seriously, do you realize to get a driver’s license you have to take a written test, a driving test, you have to have insurance, and you can’t screw around or they’ll take that shit away from you. Yet any moron who can get an erection and talk a woman into having sex just once can legally become a father without the first goddam clue as to how to tie his shoes. Literally, the only requirement to become a parent in this country is to be able to fuck.

Does that seem right to you?

Take Care,
Mike

Tyger Linn and Prison

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Tyger Linn is not an overly needy dog so I was surprised when she got up on the bed and tucked herself quite neatly against my body with her head under by chin. This is Tyger’s way of letting me know she wants to be held, like a puppy, and even though I want to nap, and it’s going to be hard to get to sleep with Tyger nestled against me like this. There’s some reason inside of this little girl that caused her to come to me wanting comfort. So the nap can wait, and Tyger gets petted on her ears as she dozes in and out of sleep, pushing me with her nose when I stop.

 

In an alternative universe, Tyger Linn is an only dog with an older person as an owner and I think she would be happier that way. But then again, there is no way of telling what is reality except that one we’re sensing right now, clouded by prejudices and desires, perceived poorly by soft machines that are tragically flawed. One beer more and I might not have cared about the person of a striped persuasion, or perhaps, one less and I would have been more reasonable and not tried to rescue the violent little street dog.

 

 

Very few of the dogs I have rescued have been abuse cases, and Tyger arrived in good health, physically, but clearly she was accustomed to fighting for food, space, attention, and for her life. Every disagreement was a fight and every fight was to the end. The reality Tyger Linn lived in there was very little love or affection and no comfort. Sleeping on the bed was something that Tyger delighted in the first time I allowed her. She had to learn not to sleep in the middle, so there would be room for others, and for me, and her was taught not to growl at me, or the other dogs once she was on the bed. But there is something to be said for a bed. It beats the hell out of sleeping on the ground, in the open, or in a cage.

 

While in reasonably good health, Tyger did arrive with a great deal of food aggression. She ate very quickly, scarfing down mouthfuls of food as quickly as she could, growling at me if I got near, and then she was off to do battle for the food of other dogs. Tyger learned very quickly that no one is allowed to steal here, and no one will ever starve under my roof. It took some doing, but in the end, Tyger learned to sit and wait for her bowl to be filled, and she learned to stay away from other dogs while they eat. Comfort and food go a very long way in getting a dog to settle into a pack. Love helps a lot, too.

 

When we see this, and if you rescue dogs you do see it, we assume it’s a natural thing. We assume that if we do the right things the right way, no matter how damaged the dog might be, we can pull it back from the edge, and wind up with a mild mannered lap dog. It’s true, it’s possible, and while Tyger is not exactly perfect right now, the little girl has come a very long way. The clashes are less frequent and far less violent now. Tyger isn’t interested in prolonged conflict with anyone for any reason now. She has her bowl and she has her place. And when need arises, Tyger gets to get up on the bed and curl up beside me, and be comforted.

 

 

It’s odd. As many people who might applaud this rescue of a street dog destined for the needle, there seems to be a blindness when we speak of rescuing human beings. If you can agree that love and comfort will heal the violent street dog and guide her into being a trusted member of a pack, why is it we jam human beings into cages and expect them to be released in a better form? We cringe at the idea of high kill shelters churning out dead pets as quickly as they can be brought in and put down, yet we have become so accustomed to prisons being the only answer to crime and criminals, that we do not wonder any more that they do more harm than good. If prisons work then why do we keep having so many criminals?

 

 

 

It’s difficult to rehab a dog, especially one who is violent. It’s got to be even harder to rehab a human being. Yet with all the millions we spend, are we actually making things worse? I can point to Tyger Linn and tell you that she is a success story, that people can pet her and hug her, and she’s okay with other dogs, but can you take someone out of prison and feel comfortable letting your kids live next to that person? The perception is there, even if it isn’t true. We do not trust our system of punishment to produce favorable results. We use a system to damage human beings and then we blame them for that damage.

 

 

No, I have no answers. I cannot tell you that allowing criminals to sleep on beds and be petted will solve the world’s problems and we’ll all sleep with our doors unlocked. If there was an easy answer here then the world would beat a path to my door and we would all live happily ever after. There is no cure here.

 

 

What this is, in the end, is a question. Why can we do no better? Why is it that we have the wherewithal to seek the retraining of dogs in need yet there are over one million of our citizens in prison right now without any hope of doing more than sitting and waiting for their time to be up?

 

Tyger Linn stirs in her sleep, sighs, and then returns to slumber. This is a damaged being, mistreated by humans, and mistrustful still, at times of their intentions. But it has been worth all that I have done, and it will be worth all I will do.

 

Take Care,

 

Cup And Plates

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When I had served my sentence in the Unites States Army, I rented an apartment in Valdosta, Georgia and began my life anew. I had decided that I was going to do two things in life that I had always wanted to do; I would learn to cook the food I liked, and I would learn to eat spicy food. The former is a very reasonable talent to be desirous of, and the latter merely a function of both curiosity and bravado. As the military is not conducive to keeping household goods, as soon as I ran out of paper plates I ventured forth to find “real” plates.

 

There were other items that were on my list; a measuring cup, a set of flatware, and some glass drinking glasses, as the red solo cups become brittle after a few washes. I ventured forth on foot to a local K-Mart, some two miles away or more, because gas was more expensive than the wear and tear on my feet.

 

You are never really fully aware, or fully appreciative of how good food is until you have to cook it yourself, and it’s a product of your own investment in time and skill. I could afford salt and pepper, but that was bout all in my spice rack, and I didn’t own one of those, but like most people who start out poor, there’s a lot to be said for being forced into doing well with what you have. Baking was out of the question, but I did learn that simple meals can be prepared to be better than the sum of their parts.

 

Believe it or not, I was shocked to discover rice takes forty minutes to boil. Rice is one of those dishes that there is just so many ways to flavor it that it might be considered a spice of sorts. I was surprised that it took chicken as long as it did to cook, too. I baked a whole chicken once and followed a recipe that required nearly one and a half hours of cooking, and some stuff inside of the chicken. It came out perfect.

 

But the journey to get plates became a surreal thing because once at the store, I realized that a man cannot simply walk into a store and buy plates. Each set of plates came with tea cups, tea cup saucers, and bowls. None of this stuff survived the many moves between here and then, but two of the original four plates did. But it took a while to pick out a pattern. I finally went with the cheapest and was done with it. I also bought a plastic measuring cup. This was in January of 1985. I still have that plastic measuring cup.

 

 

In 1985, grocery bags and shopping bags were still paper, and I began the journey back. One thing the Army teaches you is to walk. You walk everywhere in the Army, so two miles or four miles, or even ten miles meant nothing to me, even while carrying a bag that had plates in it. It was a very cold day, and I shifted the bag from one hand to the other to keep at least one hand warm. Left, left, left, right, left, the steady four miles an hour walk had me and the plates home in less than half an hour.

 

There are things that define how you intend to live. If you are going to cook then you are going to need pots, pans, kitchen utensils past a spoon and fork and a large knife to cut with. I greedily accumulated these things, one or two at a time, and I learn that you do not have to have a certain instrument, such s a bread knife, but if you bake bread then having a bread knife is a wonderful thing. You don’t have to have a collider or a strainer, using a plate, one of the new plates, to block the spaghetti from escaping the pot while the water is drained is perfectly fine, if not a little dangerous, but it will do.

 

It took me a while to understand how to boil pasta perfectly. It took me a while to understand how much salt to add to the water, and how much butter to put on the noodles, and how much time to allow them to boil. I ate my mistakes, because food could not be wasted. I still yearn for crunchy spaghetti sometimes.

 

 

I bought a jalapeno pepper and it nearly killed me as I tried to eat it. But I did begin to understand how to cook with hot peppers, and I did understand that past bragging about being able to eat hot food, there was some very serious flavor to be had in the heat. Learning to cook, and learning to cook spicy food went hand in hand, and I began to understand why people bothered to seek heat. It would be years before I started looking for, and being able to fine, really hot peppers, but the desire to look within them, and past the heat, never left me.

 

 

The plate I washed this morning after breakfast is older than a lot of people I know. I stopped, looked at it, saw the fissure that had begun, and realized that over the last thirty-three years, many meals have passed over that piece of porcelain.  Friends, roommates, girlfriends, a wife, and many dogs have likely had a meal on that plate. Its days are numbered, and eventually it will crack and fail, and the pieces will find up in the trashcan, and this post is likely to be the last reminder it existed at all.

 

 

Yet there was a time when that plate was one of a dozen things I owned that belonged in the kitchen. I had a set of flatware, four glasses, and a wooden spoon. (Bert chewed the wooden spoon into pieces.) I couldn’t cook, but I wanted to. I didn’t know how to do the things I wanted to do, but I learned. That’s how life goes, in the kitchen, or anywhere else.

 

Take Care,

Mike

 

 

 

Sleep? Where!?!?!???

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Sleep has abandoned me, as it is wont to do, and even as I write this I wonder how many times I’ve sat down next to the bed to write instead of sleeping. It was a burden, to write late at night, when I worked for a living, but retirement brings a sort of timelessness to the day which allows writing without the feeling of regret late in the work day. To write or to work? To write or to sleep? To write or do mow the yard, or go out and socialize. There doesn’t seem to be an unclear choice, for as much work as writing might be, it’s less work than the world outside the human mind, no?

The blender is on tonight. There’s no clear image or scene in my head, nothing coherent, and the imagine of a story, new or old, is blank. This doesn’t mean I can’t write or there isn’t anything at all there, but there’s no sign of a plot, or a storyline. There’s a question in my mind in regard to a character, if I should make her evil, or even more evil, or create her in the image of someone who is as evil as she has to be in order to survive.

Feel like helping? Reba married Seth Johnson, the youngest Johnson son, and yes, there was this idea she married for money and security. She was older than he; she was twenty-three, and he only twenty, but times were desperate. Monsters stalked the human race, nearly to extinction, and the survivors in small county in South Georgia banded together, and formed a camp. They fought off the monsters, survived a coup attempt by the Johnson family, mainly because Reba’s husband had been killed, and she left the family for the second in command of the camp, and warned him of the Johnson’s plans. The Johnson’s are executed, and the camp survives. The fields produce crops, the monsters are vanquished, and life, while hard, is pretty good.

The issue that pops us is everyone knows the Johnson family had their own place for a while. And everyone knows the Johnson’s used slave labor. A few people at the new camp came in with the Johnson’s, but they were locals who simply quit and walked away. There were rumors, persistent rumors, the Johnson’s kidnapped people who came in from out of town, people stranded by the monsters, who were worked until they killed by monsters or starved to death. The locals weren’t treated well at all, but they did survive the experience, and they never saw any of the atrocities that may have, or may have not, went on earlier.

A few months after the execution of the Johnson family, a group of survivors are rescued from a camp in Tallahassee some fifty miles away. They’re nearly starved, dirty, and they were held in their camp as prisoners and slaves. Five of them, four women and one man, are escapees from the Johnson place, from the previous year. They all tell the same story: Reba was one of the people holding them at gunpoint.

What does management do, if anything?

 

If someone showed up and had evidence that a camp member was a murderer, would there be consequences?

You’d have to read the entire story to get a real feel for who is who and how people feel about a lot of things, but at the same time, it’s an interesting subject once existing government, and therefore existing laws, disappear. In a camp with just one hundred people, theft would be nonexistent because everyone would know what belonged to who. And after all, what would be a prized possession in a world where there would be so much just lying around?

 

Take away property crimes, and what’s left is people who would be punished for not working, or getting drunk while on the job. Maybe a fight here and there over a woman’s attention, and that’s where the pressure would really lie. A married couple in the camp has a wife who wants to leave her husband for another man, and the husband doesn’t want her to go. Who grants divorce? On what terms?

 

I invented a character named Daisy Cutter, who before everything ended, was a prostitute. In a camp where there are fewer women than men, does management allow Daisy to stay in business? Can they stop her? And what if she’s carrying some nasty little virus that’s permanent and spreadable?

 

And in the early days of the camp, when food is scarce, work is very hard, and life is exceedingly dangerous, what’s to be done with those too old, or too infirm to work? For the people who are running the camp, those who vote on how much food is allotted to which task and what punishment is handed down for infractions, once a decision is made on a subject, let’s say what to do with someone who is physically unable to work, then precedence takes hold. What to do with someone who is severely injured on the job? What to do with someone who is caught faking an injury?

 

But let’s get down to a personal level here. If Reba in the current time, was in a relationship with a man, and he discovered she helped keep people as slaves, how would he react to this news, if she admitted she did? Would this forever mark her as some sort of criminal, even if management of the camp didn’t punish her? How would her partner feel if he discovered this after Reba became pregnant?

 

We have it easy in our world, mostly. I think that might change sooner than later, but at the same time, it’s not like we live in Syria, or in a place where food is scarce or there’s impending doom, or a virus infecting everyone. Again, that may change, and if it does, I’m not likely to be any more prepared than anyone else. But who knows? Maybe if interdimensional creatures appear and begin wiping out the human race, I’ll be ready.

 

Take Care,

Mikeclock

Four-Thirty AM

It’s just after four in the morning and for reasons unknown, sleep has abandoned me. Tis an odd thing, night is, for I can hear the sound of a car, or a truck, out there in the dark, tires whining on the road, and it’s not a noise that is always heard. The acoustics here differ from season to season, temperature to temperature, raining to dry, so it’s not just the very real and very human ability to ignore or to tune out. The pitch of the sound gets higher as the car, or truck, gets closer, then it fades away, someone heading towards Quitman, or perhaps they’ll be home before then. Good to be home at this time of day, or at least somewhere you want to be.

She’s still bothers me, that young woman. She’s still stuck in my mind, still hanging around, and as of yet I haven’t had a chance to put her to fiction. She’s still too real, too immediate, and still unknown. It was 2009, and I was working nights on the Interstate. The shifts were ten hours, at a minimum, and sometimes a lot longer. A four month project had morphed into an eight month project, and the summer nights were getting longer. I was tired, more tired than I realized I could be, but I was driving home, at last, and now, sitting here, I wonder if that night someone heard my truck, and wondered where I was going. I lived twenty-five miles from the office where my truck had to be parked, and that morning, close to the time it is right now, just three and a half miles from home, there was a car in the middle of the road.

Deer wander out into the road, and they get hit by cars, and it’s usually catastrophic for both animal and vehicle. The deer are usually killed, if they’re lucky, and this one was very dead. Its body lay open in the night, steaming in the cooler air, eyes wide open in horror, and the front end of the car looked as bad. But the driver was a young woman. In a different light, she might have been pretty, or cute, or attractive in some way. There was no reason for her not to be, except her eyes. There was something about the way she looked at me, looked at the deer, or maybe she carried something inside that gave her that looked; wide eyed, intense, yet at the same time, there was something else there, rage, wrath, an anger, something I still cannot define, meth maybe, or maybe something else that I’ve never run into.

“You have to get me to Tallahassee,” she said. Those were the first words she spoke, and in my younger days, I might have done it, just to see what would happen. But after a ten hour shift on the interstate, I wasn’t looking for crazy. I told her I would call 911 for her.

“You fucking asshole,” she screams at me, the sound incredibly loud in the night. And pulls her hair back with both hands, stalks back to the car, and then back to me again.

See the flashlight in the photo? It’s like a relic from a different age now, long, large, steel casing, and heavy. Four D cell batteries, like no one uses anymore, add even more mass, and there’s a reason cops once carried these, other than illumination; they make great clubs. Whatever she was on, what she might have been, or whatever she intended, I was pretty sure hitting her in the face with that flashlight would keep her off of me. Think about it. Here’s man who only wants to go home and get some rest, if not sleep. He stops to help a young woman. She’s all strung out or possessed. Suddenly, a man who has never hit a woman in his entire life, is thinking this might be the one chick that does something so weird he’s entering the realm of physical violence with her.

“That close enough,” I tell her, and she stops, and looks at me, as if she just noticed I was there.

“You can tow my car to Tallahassee,” the woman says. Her accent isn’t right. She isn’t Southern, but I can’t nail it down.

“Not about to, ma’am, but I’ll give you a ride into Quitman, or I’ll call 911,” I tell her, but there is no way in hell she’s getting into my truck.

“I’ll pay you when we get there,” and this is a demand, not a request. She’s restless, pacing, tossing her hair out of her eyes, her fingers moving like the fuses of lit firecrackers, and I plant my right foot. This is going to end poorly.

“You need to get me to Tallahassee, motherfucker,” and her voice rises again.

“Look,” I tell her, “two options, I leave you here, or I call 911, and leave you here,” I tell her, “but you see that security light about half a mile on the right? That’s the Andersons. They have three black labs. They’ll kill you if you go up there. Okay?” And I take a couple of steps back.

“Fuck you,” she snarls, but she gets back into her car.

Know when it’s time to go, and then go a minute before that time. I walk back to the truck and pull around her.

I call 911 when I get home, and they tell me they’ve just got a call from her.

 

Chances are, the sound from the tires is someone going home, or maybe going to work. I spent most of my adult life doing that, going to work early, coming back home late, and I hope like hell I’m done with that now. But somewhere out there, are very strange people, and maybe one of them is that young woman, eleven years older now. If she survived herself, and whatever else she was doing, she might be pushing thirty now. Maybe even older. I find myself wondering what she was doing, what drug, what substance, to change her like that, or maybe that was her authentic true self, but I strongly doubt it.

What if she’s looking for me?

The sound of tires are gone now, and in their place is the sound of that night, the engine cooling and creaking, the drip of fluids out of the car’s dead engine, the sound of insects buzzing, and the sound of her footsteps as she paced back and forth. I have to get up and write now. For whatever unknown Demons might have stalked that woman, I know which ones have their claws in me. I have to write. This is where I have to be towed.

Take Care,

Mike

 

 

Writing

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It’s been brought to my attention I’ve neglected my blog. While I once posted at least once a week or so, sometimes more, in the last couple of months there’s been more time spent on writing fiction than posting online. There’s a few things I’ve been working on:

Pine View: The story of a group of survivors in Brooks County Georgia trying to rebuild a society after the human population has been all but wiped out by creatures from another dimension. A tale of hardship, farming, and how things are going to be, if civilization ends. It’s a novel sized story, and I’ve been working on it for a while now.

Laster’s Bridge: A Bluegrass band from Valdosta Georgia heads to Canada to crash a party for the very rich and exclusive, hoping to play one good song in front of a well to do audience. A sudden storm strands them on a bridge, and a bear shows up. Deep in the Canadian wilderness, who can survive in a lonely cabin with few supplies?

Switch: A frat boy with a lot of money and toys, and a penchant for drugging women in order to rape them, gets cursed by a witch. He now has her body and her life, and she had his. How does it feel to be a poor woman in a society ran by men? He’s going to find out, and he isn’t going to like it much.

Then there’s the long range, long term projects that I’ve had around for a while that I won’t get into right now.

 

Overall, I’ve been writing more these days. I’ve been spending less time online than I once did. However, this blog has been operating since 2006, and I guess I ought to keep it updated more than I do.

 

Also, I am experimenting with the old Bondi font. It’s from the 1700’s and you’ll notice the difference right away.

 

To me, writing has been a constant companion. When I was a child, I read many books, as many as I could, and as I grew older I recognized good writing and better writing, versus that which might have been placed to page without any real thought. It’s not easy to write, and it’s hard to write well. Writing is work. It’s an effort to translate thought, smoothly and coherently, into words other human beings might be able to understand in a manner  the writer was attempting to convey.

 

In the beginning, I suspect writing was instructive, or used in accounting. This is the way that is done, or this person had that much barley put into the royal granary. But writing then evolved into this sort of thing, with one person drawing from the human mind words and thoughts that others might understand for its own sake. Writing had become part of the human experience as well as reading. If someone were to sit me down and tell me I could only have one hundred book for the rest of my life, it might take a while to decide which ones, but I could come up with one hundred that would last a lifetime.

When the internet became what it was, early on, I really and truly thought it would be a haven for writers, and those who liked to read. I never foresaw it would become a shouting match for the ignorant and the downright stupid, and popularity depended not so much on skill and content, but volume and noise.

Writing was once a revered skill, practiced and protected, by those who loved it. The keyboard has released many whose handwriting might be less than perfect, my own is barely legible, yet it has also made poor writing easier. It’s made writing errors more acceptable and I cannot help but wonder why. The tools are available to ensure writing is cleanly written, yet there are those who blow right past style and usage in the name of brevity.

When a person sits down to write, they should engage the same sort of intent used in building a bookshelf or a birdhouse, at a minimum. The edges should match, it should be level, and the design should be given some thought. Any fool can nail boards together in a manner than suggests carpentry but can a book rest upon wood and settle there with grace? Can a bird nest and bring forth generations of their kind? Writing should inspire others to read, and to write, and therefore it is very much like a birdhouse, where the egg of the craft is nested.

These days, it’s more popular to write like a drunken five year old with a substance abuse problem. Writing is use to provoke rather than to lead to thought. Writers now try to tell people what they are thinking rather than to lead them to think. Worse, in modern fiction, the leaning is towards so much dialog, most fiction might as well be written as plays. Gone are the vast swaths of text that describe in detail the setting, the scene, the mood, or the journey within the minds of characters.

Yet the New World of the internet is new. There is still time, and still hope, that a tool used as a bludgeon, might yet be refined into a stylus, to begin the new craft in freshly formed clay. There is still the dream of young people escaping not into the world of electronic games, but their own minds, where they might bring forth a generation of writing from the perspectives of those who will inherit the earth.

Nothing ever is born or dies, but is changed in some way, perhaps unrecognizable, yet it still exists, if nowhere else but the human mind. Reading will always be with us, certainly, but it has to change and be changed, by the idea that thought can be critical and must be. Writing, forever altered by the screen, will evolve also, in what form I cannot guess, but perhaps there will be a Renaissance of sorts, where there are great books written, and read, for an audience suddenly hungry for intelligent thought.

Take Care,

Mike

 

 

 

 

Abernathy

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Someone I once met bought a huge roll top desk for five hundred bucks at an estate sale. Took four grown men to get it out of the house, and back into his. The thing was a monster, a small cottage could have been built out of the wood in that desk. I’ve always wanted one, but at the same time, I’m not sure a desk, any desk, is worth five hundred dollars. No, I tend to drift towards going to estate sales at homes that might have a hardback copy of “Dune” in great condition. Or a box full of paperbacks for a dollar.

I’ve tried, really, truly, I’ve tried to stop collecting books, ever since 2006, when I gave about three thousand of them away. I had stacks of books all over the damn house, and finally released them back into the wild, giving them all to the Brooks County Library. But I’m drawn to books. They are the only source of manmade magic to believe in. Everywhere there’s a journey there’s a search for books. Who cares what a woman looks like, really, if she’s read the right books. If you can sit across from a woman at a table and she tells you that “Stranger in a Strange Land” changed her life, you can go anywhere with her, and be happy.

The hand painted sign read, “Estate Sale”, and who paints a sign for an estate sale, and that’s enough for me to go in. All of the stuff  on the screened in porch, which is dipping forward just enough to tell, and there isn’t much of what there is. Clothes, that will be eventually donated, a stack of vinyl records, mostly very old R&B and gospel, and a collection of kitchen knickknacks litter the porch. There’s a pair of boots older than I was at the time. A worn copy of some book without a cover has a tag on it reading “5 cents” and it is time to go.

There’s a suit, and the material looks good, really good, and I stop to examine it. It’s old, very old, thin, and it had seen its better days decades ago.

“Abernathy,” the man sitting in a chair at the door says, and for a moment I didn’t realize he was speaking to me.

“Oh?” I encourage him. I shouldn’t, but why not?

“His mama named him that, wanted him to be a preacher, but it never took,” the man tells me. “She bought him that suit when he got out of high school. Gave him that suit and a bible and told him that God would speak to him.”

“Did God speak to him?” I ask.

“If’n he did, Ab didn’t hear, and if he heard he didn’t listen, Ab liked to play drums but the drums didn’t like Ab,” and the man laughed. “Didn’t have a musical nut in his sack.”

“How old was he?”

“Ab lived to be eighty, but mostly he died ten years before that,” the man stood up and stretched, keeping on hand on the door jamb to balance. “because them doctors had him doped up on pills and things. Ab couldn’t remember his own name, forgot about music, he weren’t never no good but he sho liked to listen. Had him a band he played in once, and they never was good enough to charge money. Background noise, something to hear, but nothing to listen to a’tall, is how I called’em.”  The man sat down and stared at the wooden floor. He could hear the music now, through much younger ears, and even though it wasn’t great music, or even good music, it was something that glued his past together.

“They played in this very house, had all the drums jammed in so tight Ab could hardly move, not that it hurt’im none. They played loud, and we drank to help, and it did some, and he always wore that suit. Made him look like he was gonna go to a funeral for the music, I said that one night, and everybody laughed so hard Ab stopped playing, and he never picked up a stick again. Never wore it again, that suit, never put it back on. Took his drums, and all that shit that went with it, to the pawn shop, and drank it away in less than a week.”  The man stared back into the house now, and I could hear it; terribly play music played far too loud, for drunk friends who were just trying to find an excuse to be there.

“Folks kidded Ab, they were mean about it, and said he once got arrested for playing music too loud, but the judge had heard Ab play, and said it wasn’t music,” the man laughed hard at that, and slapped his knee. “Ab took it hard, he did, he ain’t played a lick since that night, and he ain’t listened to no music like he once did. But the day he died his ex come over and played them records over there one by one, until Ab passed. Then she put’em down where she found’em and she walked out, again, and didn’t never come back no more.” The man stopped speaking for a while, and looked up, to see if I was still there.

“Good woman, Dorothy Ann was. Ab and her had two young’ens and they didn’t grow up to be preachers either. Both dead before they was old enough to drive. Wild things, went off and stole a car, wrecked it and burned. Dot’Ann done left after that. Came back to see Ab die, but it was more than that. She saw the last of her babies that day, too, both of’em spittin’ image of their daddy.” The man was staring at the warped and twisted porch wood now. It was time for me to leave, and I knew it.

 

End.

Cold

Back a few years ago, we had a period of cold weather that lasted for about a month. The pond had ice on it every day, at least in the parts shaded by trees, the pipe in the pump house burst, and it was ungodly cold all the damn time.  This week, we’ve had three days of freezing weather, twenty-eight degrees as a low, and it looks like that’s it for the month of January, 2020. The gnats are back, the mosquitoes were really bad last week, and there’s grass high enough to mow in the yard right now.

The middle of last May was incredibly hot. Not just warm, but triple digit heat in the day, high humidity, and night that were unbearable without AC.

 

I woke up at four this morning, couldn’t get back to sleep, and decided to get up, and write. Since I retired, there’s been this reoccurring theme from some people that we humans have to have a schedule, and we have to have a routine, because that’s the sort of animals we are. But I haven’t one in over three months, and I’m not looking for one, either. I like the idea of getting out of bed when I can’t sleep and writing. I’m not late for a damn thing, am I?

 

If I don’t go out with the dogs they’ll U turn, and pretend they peed on the grass, and right after they eat they’ll really have to go. So I go out, in freezing weather, to make sure they pee. They’re all curled up tight and sleeping again right now. But the stars were incredible in the cold early morning darkness, and an orange crescent moon was slung low in the southern sky, barely awake. I couldn’t get a decent photo of it, I wish I had either the equipment or the knowledge for such work, but I rather hone my writing skills than learn photography this morning. The urge to write right now seems urgent.

 

Decades ago, a few years before I took the job that I would retire from, I worked as a circulation manager for the Valdosta Daily Times. One night I was riding with one of the carriers and saw the moon, a low slung crescent in the night sky, and that was all that mattered at the moment, to see the moon. It’s important to pay attention to what the moon is doing, what the moon is saying at the moment, and acknowledge that everyone on Earth who has ever lived, and had the gift of sight, has seen the same moon. It’s a commonality of humanity. It should be. We should all take time to moon gaze, and it see it as an undying memorial to our endurance. The same magic that early humans felt, long before we landed there, I feel when I look at the slightly orange crescent caught in the branches of the trees around the pond. The magic seeped into my bones as a child and never left me. I feel sorry for those people who never look up, never stop and stare, and never feel the moon.

 

The crescent will be smaller tomorrow morning. It’s waning, and soon will be a sliver, or a smile, depending on the position. There will be nights of near total darkness and the stars will shine brightly, then the moon will return, again. It matters not at all if I am here to see it, for many more people who stood and enjoyed the view are not here.

 

Yesterday, I noticed it was six in the afternoon, and not quite yet dark. The days are getting longer, and they have been since the last part of December, but only now has it become noticeable. The sun is also rising further south than before, and now, after enjoying the sunlight reflecting off the moon, I see the eastern sky begin to brighten somewhat. Out in the ocean, on some boat, someone is watching the sunrise, but I must wait awhile yet.

 

For some reason, I cannot explain to you, a memory summoned to the surface, of a young woman I knew, who liked being in relationships, but also liked cheating. Her boyfriend caught her, confronted her, and she denied it, knowing as long as he didn’t actually see her doing anything, deny, deny, deny. They were in bed having this conversation, and he held her down, handcuffed her hands behind her back, duct taped her feet together, and then tossed her into the trunk of her car. At that point, she was truly afraid he was going to kill her. He took her out in the country, went down a field road, and dumped her on the ground, and drove away. It was below freezing and no matter how loud she screamed, no one came.

An hour so later, he came back, brought her clothes with him, uncuffed and untied her, and he drove her to the police station and got out of the car, and told her he was walking home. She sat there a while, then picked him up, and they stayed together for years after that.

 

One night she told me that while she was in the field, her naked body lying on the freezing ground, and she was wondering which worst case scenario might occur and cause her untimely death, she looked up at the sky and realized the moon was new, and the stars overhead looked incredible. And for a brief moment in her life, despite the fact that truly believed she was going to die, in one fashion or another, she realized that in that one moment, she defined her ability to rise above her own mortality.

 

I had never had anyone tell me anything more perfectly beautiful in my life.

 

Take Care,

Mike

 

Switch, and Where I’ve Been

It’s been a while, I realize that, and a lot has gone on. I’m retired. As of October the first, that was it. I no longer have a full time job with a steady paycheck and health insurance. Pretty good thing the health insurance carried over; I was hospitalized with perforated diverticulitis a month ago and underwent major surgery to have part of my intestines cut out and the gap sewn back together. I no longer have the whole nine yards. I’m a foot short.

I spent the first month of retirement in a state of I’m-on-vacation mode, and it just seemed like that. It didn’t really start to sink in that by career was over until November. But, by the middle of November, I knew something wasn’t right inside of me, but I thought it was just my hernia acting up. I could not have been more wrong.

 

The good thing about all of this, and you have to think it’s all good, is being infirm has forced me back to the keyboard. For the last two weeks I’ve been working on a short story and got it finished. I’ll rewrite it at least once, maybe twice, but I like the story, and I like the ending.

 

“Switch” is the story of a nineteen year old frat boy from a wealthy family. He’s going to college in Valdosta Georgia, and has the world at his feet. Conner is arrogant and predatory, and he knows he can get away with doing anything he wants to women. He preys on the wrong woman, who happens to be a witch. She’s been stalking him for a while, knows who he is, and what he does. Conner tries to rape Glenni by drugging her drink, but she’s already slipped a potion into Conner’s beer. The world goes black, and Conner wakes up in Glenni’s body, and in Glenni’s apartment. She’s switched bodies and worlds with Conner, and now he has to live like a woman working for tips at a bar, while Glenni goes forth to live as a frat boy in college. She looks like she’s in her early twenties, but Glenni is eighty-five. The frat will never be the same.

Meanwhile, Conner is freaked out. Without his cell he can’t call anyone he knows, and Glenni has warned him she’s gotten a restraining order to keep him away from the frat house. Besides, no matter what Conner tells anyone, he’s still in the body of a woman. No one is going to believe him.

Things get worse. Conner has no idea how to put on makeup or how to deal with his hair. Glenni’s hair is a black mane of thick curls that have a mind of their own. His first night at work at the bar ends with Conner getting fired, and then sexually assaulted in the parking lot by a customer who Conner pissed off. Conner discovers no one cares. So what? So a man stuck his hand down your pants and he squeezed your breasts? Minor stuff, kid. No one cares. Conner is stunned by the indifference. But he remembers he’s done things like that, many times, and nothing ever happened to him.

Rent, bills, food, a flat tire he’s unable to fix by himself.  Glenni’s left him with an ancient cell phone, a lap top that’s ten years old, and a bank account that’s nearly dry. There’s food in the refrigerator, but it’s healthy vegan type stuff and a very little to Conner’s liking.

 

Conner gets help changing his tire from a guy living in the apartment next to his own, and one part of the curse Conner never considered kicks in; Conner isn’t just a guy stuck in a woman’s body, oh no, Conner is a straight woman, with a guy trapped inside of her. After a few beers and a watching football with his new pal, Conner’s body starts interacting with the pheromones in the air. And true to so many stories, just as Conner heats up, his period arrives, and because he’s never really thought about what women go through once a month, every damn month, for about five days, Conner handles it as poorly as you’d think.

I’ve had some very interesting conversations with a couple of women I know about how it feels to be attracted to a guy. Like the first signs, and then as things heat up, the first real issues with the female body and sexual attraction, especially when the woman is trying not to be attracted to a guy. It’s been very educational.

 

Conner, despite the fact that he’s a straight guy, falls for the boy next door, and terrible things happen. Well, terrible for Conner. The guy next door simply leaves.

 

Glenni shows up and is somewhat tickled at what’s happened to Conner, but she’s also concerned. The curse wasn’t supposed to go this deep, or to change Conner’s sexual orientation, but curses have a mind of their own, sometimes. She’s unable to change anything about the curse, because the very essence of the spell is that Conner has to learn how to break it himself. Considering the mess Conner has made in a very short time, she now doubts he will survive as a poor woman in South Georgia.

 

Will Conner be able to pay his bills? What do very poor women do when they have no money, no job skills, and they have no real friends or family? Conner finds out.

 

 

 

In the end, will things switch over? Hmmm, we’ll see.

 

Take Care,

Mike

 

Halloween 2019 The Flood. The End

8

They found the apartment complex three blocks away. It also had not been repaired, yet not demolished. The front door was open, as if someone was expecting them.

“Sixth floor, right turn at the top of the stairs, we used to race up the stairs trying to beat the elevator, Daddy carrying us both, but Mom always got there way ahead of us,” Ana said.

“I don’t remember that.” Bella said.

“Let’s go find out if Michael does,” Paula suggested, and they entered the building.

The stairway was totally dark and the sisters walked up the steps first, holding hands. Paula walked behind them and said, “Nothing that speaks to you first will harm you. They are weak and can only frighten you. Do not allow them inside your mind!”

The sisters closed their eyes and counted steps. Eight steps, turn, eight steps, turn, eight steps, turn, with a larger flat area at each floor. They heard voices, the voices of children now, screaming at them, “Go away!” the voices yelled, “You abandoned him!” “You left him alone!” but the sisters kept going, and they heard the steps of Paula behind them. There was nothing else but the sound of the voices and the blackness of the steps.

“This is the sixth floor,” Paula whispered as the sisters stopped. Ana put her hand out and pushed the door of the stairwell and it swung open.

The doors to all the apartments were open, allowing light to flood into the building. The women blinked at the brightness. “Which one did you live in, Bella?” Paula asked.

“This way,” Bella whispered. “Something is wrong here. This place. I remember it. But something is wrong.”

“I feel it,” Ana said.

“Here,” Bella said. “This one.”

“Is this the apartment where your parents lived?” asked Paula.

“Yes,” Bella said and she went through the door. Before Paula could move or speak, Bella closed the door behind her, and Paula heard the click of the lock.

“Come, we have to do this,” Ana told her, “we lived next door.”

“Bella?” Paula asked,

“Michael is here,” Ana said. “and this is the way it has to be done. Come, the apartment next door is where we have to be.”

The apartment was stripped bare, to the concrete walls and floors, and there was nothing inside. The only light was from the open space of the balcony where a glass door might have once stood.

“We have to go out on the balcony,” Ana said. “You have to do as I tell you to do.”

They went out on the balcony and saw Bella walk out on the balcony of the apartment next door. There was a gap between the two balconies, maybe two or three feet, and Paula felt her fear of high places taking over.

“That rail,” Paula said, “it’s corrupt, the metal rusted, it will crumple.”

“Stand there, please,” Ana said and she pointed to a point neat the edge of the balcony, close to the rail closest to the other apartment’s balcony.

“I understand now why we have the same memory, Ana,” Bella called out.

“Yes, I see it, too.” Ana replied.

“What?” Paula looked down and saw the drop of seventy or eighty feet. Her head swam.

“The night of the flood,” Ana began, “we came out here on the balconies, Bella was standing right there where she is standing now, and she looked over to this balcony. I was standing where you are standing now, Paula. We were tiny children, no more than three years old. But my memory is of seeing a child, an infant, and Bella’s memory is the same. I always assumed we remembered each other. But Bella’s memory is of me being picked up by Michael, and my memory is of Bella being picked up by Michael. Both of our memories are of Michael, picking a baby up, someone standing where I am right now.”

“I don’t understand,” Paula said.

“Michael was my brother,” Bella called out. “And we both loved Ana. I remember this, but there was something else.”

“Neither Bella nor Michael were born of the same blood as I,” Ana said, “but Michael always loved is both equally.”

“Because he loved someone else, much more,” Michael said as he walked out on the balcony with Ana and Paula.

“I’m surprised you made it this far,” Michael said. “I’ve done terrible things to buy the allegiance of many creatures. They should have gotten to you before you left Georgia.”

“Those who helped us did so out of a need to help others,” Paula told him, “that cannot be bought.”

“You had to be taken,” Michael said, “for the ritual to work. You could not come here freely. And the ritual would be worthless unless you were both adults. It’s Halloween night, and if I cannot bring her back tonight I must wait another year. I am tired of waiting.”

“Who?” Paula asked.

“My sister,” Ana replied. “My twin.”

“Yes,” replied Bella. “I remember now.”

“The night of the flood we were told not to come out on the balcony but we did anyway. The rain had stopped, but the waters were rising ever faster.” Ana said.

“We were afraid,” Bella said, “we children, that we would be separated. Ana and I shared a bond, even then, and we both shared that bond with…”

“Dana,” Michael snarled. “Only Ana refused to share her with me. Ana did things, even as a small child, to keep Dana and I apart.”

“You were six,” Paula said, “and she was three?”

“I felt it,” Michael said, “we were meant to be together, even at birth I waited for her.”

“Dana knew Michael’s jealousy was toxic, even as a small child.” Ana said. “And the night of the flood, as our parents made ready for our escape from the flood, Michael took Dana.”

“I thought I was taking you, she pretended to be you,” Michael screamed. “I threw her off the balcony to get her for myself. But she pretended to be you.”

“You all were little kids,” Paula said, “there’s no way you had these feelings and memories.”

“We were always different,” Bella said, “we were always more in tune with the world around us than other kids, or even other adults.”

“But now, if I kill you both, and of course, you too,” Michael grinned at Paula, I can bring her back. She will live in Ana’s body, and the rest of you can wander or leave this earth, but…”

“I never left, Michael,” Ana said. “It’s me, Dana. I’ve had to stay hidden all this time, I didn’t want anyone to know what you did. The night you accidently murdered me, I took over Ana’s body. You have no idea how hard it’s been to stay hidden from you, but we have to get rid of everyone who knows. Our parents still believe I was simply lost in the flood, but now, even they won’t be able to stop…”  Ana stepped towards Michael and pushed him hard. Michael’s arms windmilled, he reached for Ana and missed.

All three women rushed to where the rail had broken. Michael’s body lay on the ground below, motionless.

“He’s dead,” Ana said.

“Yes,” replied Bella.

“And now, his spirit will pay the price for summoning those he used to hunt us.” Paula added. “I think we better leave.”

 

A little more than three years later, Paula scrolled through her phone, looking at potential renters. The sisters were graduating in a couple of weeks and would be gone. Then again, Paula felt that any other set of tenants might be. . . boring. Perhaps, yes, maybe, it was time. The witch had offered her a place in her house, and the two of them were getting closer to being friends than she had ever hoped.

“You want to move to the river, Dana?” Paula asked the large black cat that she had picked up after Brody died last year. Had Dana, the dead sister,  haunted her sisters, and Michael all these years unnoticed, or had Dana returned to the right place at the right time? Or had Ana been faking it until she could get Michael to let his guard down. She might not ever know. They had never spoken of it again.

“Let’s go down to the river, cat,” Paula said, “and see if we can be of some use to the living there.”

 

end

 

Halloween 2019 The Flood Part Seven

7

It took four long hours to get to New Orleans, but somehow, they lurched and sputtered their way until they reached the city. All three women were slightly seasick from the effort.  They took a very long lunch and decided to keep to the back roads, and out of sight as much as possible.

“Where are we going now?” asked Paula.

“We really don’t know,” replied Ana, “we have to make it back to the apartment building where we once lived. We can sense it, almost smell it, but at the same time, until we are actually standing in front of the place it all began, we won’t know that we’re there.”

“Let’s take a right at the next light,” Bella offered.

“The last time we were there we were infants escaping from a flooded city with our parents, in rubber boats. There were so many people trapped by the water, and so many people who lost their humanity and some who lost their lives.” Ana said.

“Stop!” Bella said loudly. “I remember that building.”

The edifice was a decaying monster at the edge of town. Windblown and battered by storms, it had never been repaired and never been torn down. The windows were boarded up, but the barricade that shuttered the front door had been removed by the homeless people in town.

“We sheltered in the third floor of that building until the Red Cross came. There were many people who were there, and some never left. They thought it was safe, but the water rose.” Ana whispered.

“I remember,” Belle said.

“Then we are close?” asked Paula.

“Very.”

They entered the lobby of the building as rat scurried away and pigeons cooed overhead. The first three floors of the building had collapsed into rubble, and going further meant climbing over the debris.

“Something was wrong,” Ana said. “When we arrived here. Something was wrong. Someone was missing.”

“I remember,” Bella said.

“Our parents where here, Michael was here,” Ana looked around. “We stayed on the fourth floor, it was crowded, people were screaming and crying, and it was dark. Some people had flashlights.”

“Yes,” said Bella.

“You should not have returned to this place,” a man’s voice called from above. “You should have forgotten everything, and stayed away. This is New Orleans. The dead are buried above ground to keep their souls from leaving. Everyone who dies here stays.”

“Lies,” Paula called back. “Lies and more lies. You cannot frighten us. If you had more than your voice you wouldn’t bother to speak.”

“I was shot in the head while trying to get my baby’s clothes out of our apartment. They called me a looter. I was thrown into the water and my family never heard from me again.” The man said, and they could hear him making his way down, jumping from floor to floor. “Now people like you who have lost so little return to find what? Justice in some fashion? The pieces of a puzzle?” the man stepped out into the light and all three women recoiled. The top part of his head was missing.

“Why are so many trying to stop these girls from coming here?” Paula demanded. “Why is it so important for them to stay away? Who is afraid of what they will find? What will they find?”

“’Lies and more lies’” the man laughed. “You know what they’re looking for. They know. Everybody knows why they’re here. The dead don’t leave this city. The drowned don’t drift downstream. You brought them here to find out the truth, but what is the truth? I got shot trying to steal a widescreen, or I got shot trying to help my people. What makes you think the dead are more honest than the living?” He stepped back into the shadows and backed away.

“You girls go on back home now,” he called as he slipped away. “You know the truth. Live with it. I got to live with the idea that my people won’t know what happened to me. You don’t go back to the living once you’re dead, you know better than that, over here. They got to move on, and I know I should too, but there’s something I ain’t done, maybe this is it. But I was helping my people, I was getting clothes for the baby. I was doing right, but after I got all I could there was more just sitting there. I heard the voices of those that didn’t make it telling me I could have it. They knew where the snipers were and led me into the sights of those Army rifles. Yeah, yeah, most people that linger are trying to make things right but how they see the world set right ain’t like it ought to be, and I’m dead proof of that. You don’t belong here. I don’t either. Maybe if you leave I will, too. But you know the truth. You know why this is happening.” The man stopped speaking and they were about to turn and leave when he continued.

“Don’t hold up living because you remember the dead,” he told them, “that’s why we never go back. That’s why you ought’a leave now.”

 

They made their way back to the car but Ana stopped when she got to the door. “I think we should walk from here. It’s a few blocks, but we need to let them know we aren’t afraid. We go into this fearless and it will make them leave us alone. I’m through running. I’m done being scared of what was and what might happen. Let them come. Let’s face them. Let’s go find out why this is happening, and who is behind it all.”

“Okay,” Bella replied. “I’m with you.”

“I think it’s a mistake, but from what I’ve learned today, not going in like this might be worse.” Paula replied. “Let’s roll.”

 

End seven.

 

Halloween 2019 The Flood Part Six

Sadie took a branch from the fire and held it over her head.  The words she spoke were loud, echoing, and harsh. The sisters flinched at the noise, but Paula noticed that Sadie was not done. The witch thrust the stick into the river and steam rose from it, as if the water was boiling. Sadie withdrew the stick and fog issued from the river like blood from a wound. The fog boiled out, thicker, heavier, and Paula saw there were many places in the river now, all of them getting more and more dense.

“I have asked for help,” Sadie whispered, “there are answers to my call.”

The fog totally enveloped the river, and the land surrounding the bank. Neither the sisters nor Paula could see anything.

“Come, it is safe to travel in this now,” Sadie said, and from the stick a low light appeared, glowing red like a coal. The cat lead the way, and the dog followed.

“We’re walking on the river?” Paula asked, and immediately wished she had not spoken.

“The river is carrying us,” Sadie replied. “Do not speak to anyone you see! Do not answer any voice! Do not cringe from any act that is shown!”

They heard screams, of men and of women, and they heard children crying. A man splashed through the water, his eyes wide, his face contorted, but something dragged him back to the bank. There were the sounds of people singing, Gospel music, and they saw the glow of a fire, and a body hanging from a tree near it, they saw a bridge, and watched as a body fell from the bridge but there was no sound of it hitting the water.

“Look!” whispered Bella, “under the water! I see people down there!”

And indeed, when they looked down under their feet they saw a crowd of people, unrecognizable, faceless, blurry, yet still human, as if the people were just a few feet underneath where they stood.

“Those are the lost ones. The souls who refuse to rest. Murdered, abandoned, wronged in their own lives, they seek not revenge, no, why would they do that? They seek to ease your passage, and prevent more wrong. They seek to thwart evil. Will our quest be enough? Will your lives, if saved, offer them solace? Do not ask! Speak no more!”

The fog roiled and swirled in front of them but total blackness followed. Sadie cried aloud, strong and powerful words, and there were many answers from either side of the river, now totally hidden from view. The sisters clasped hands and closed their eyes, and when they opened them again, the fog was totally gone.

 

There were lights, city lights, and there was the smell of salt air. Sadie was gone, as was the river, and the sounds, and the fog. Instead, a young man stood in front of them.

“Welcome to Africatown,” the man said.

“We’re in Africa?” Paula asked.

“No, Mobile Alabama,” the man replied, “you were brought here by many who deemed your lives worthy of saving, for those who oppose you are very evil. It is here that the last slaves to be brought to America settled, and have lived for many generations. But you cannot stay. There is a truck waiting. From here you will be taken to New Orleans. Those who have pursued you now realize they have underestimated, uh, the situation. That mistake will not be granted to you again. You must hurry. At this point, you are far ahead, but there is no guarantee that you will gain the shores of the Mississippi before you are caught.”

The man led them to a truck, old and dilapidated, and helped them get into the back. He pulled a tarp over the back of the truck and tied it down. “There is food and water aplenty,” he told them, “your next stop will be in one hour, after you are safely on the road. After that, there will be little time for rest. Bella pulled the tarp back in time to see the first ray of sunlight come through the clouds, and the man disappeared with the light.

“Mary Turner was black, the man who helped up onto the truck was black, do all black people become ghosts or something?” Bella asked.

“No, Bella,” Paula replied, “those who have died in the cause of injustice may or may not linger. Mostly, those who are treated harshly by those around them are the young, the old, and the poor. The poor are mistreated for most of their lives, and many suffer in silence, and most of those leave this realm as soon as they can. But the voices from the shores of the river, those under the water who carried us, mostly they are the very poor who have lived in this land, and who were abused by those with more power. The last slaves of Mobile clearly heard of us, and reached out to bring us here. Mary might have spoken for us, or they might have had reasons we cannot know yet. But the forces that follow us are powerful, and it is usually the very poor, and the very weakest, who will give the most of what they have to save strangers, while those with power, and those with much, horde their wealth, and will punish any who stray near it. It has always been so, as long as there is money, there will be greed. There will always be someone with the power to hurt others, and they will.”

They rode in silence until the truck stopped and they were allowed to walk around a bit, and stretch their legs. Their driver did not speak to them but as they stood watching, he disappeared as if he were made of smoke. Paula got into the cab of the truck then called out.

“Can either of you drive a stick shift?” Paula asked.

“No,” replied Bella.

“A what?” Ana asked.

 

End six

 

 

Halloween 2019 The Flood Part Five

The trio set out for New Orleans, from Savannah, at dawn. The sky was ablaze with gold and red.

“Red in the morning, Sailors take warning,” Paula quipped.

“I doubt we’ll be doing much sailing today, or any other day.” Bella countered wryly.

The road lead south, down I-95 to Brunswick, and then west, on US 82, to Waycross, and then continued west on US 84. There were pine trees and cypress swamps, but not much traffic. They took turns driving, with one of them able to stretch out on the backseat of the car to nap, but no one could sleep.

“We need gas, and I could use a bite to eat,” Paula said to no one in particular. Bella had been daydreaming. They had come into the town of Valdosta, and she had wondered about the old brick building downtown, and how they came to be built.

“I have to pee,” Bella said and Paula pulled over to a convenience store with bright lights and four rows of gas pumps. There was a smoothie shop there, as well as a fast food joint. It looked like a miniature strip mall. Bella went in and discovered the whole store was awash in commercialism. There were signs screaming about sales and specials and two for one deals. The bathroom was all the way in the back of the store, of course, and Bella knew this was no accident. Thankfully, the bathroom was clean, well lit, and smelled of recently maintenance. Bella opened one of the stalls to find a woman standing behind the door. She was a young black woman but she was covered in blood. There were bleeding wounds all over her body and blood gushed from her stomach.

“I’m Mary,” the woman said as Bella took a step back and stifled a scream. “I see you know me as I am. We have to talk. They’re waiting for you by the river, but I can get you past them.” Suddenly, Mary’s body was whole, and there was no blood anywhere.

“Okay,” Bella managed to say, but she really had to pee now.

 

“This is Mary Turner,” Bella said as she and Mary got into the car, “she was killed over one hundred years ago.”

“Murdered,” Mary corrected.

“Lynched, I believe,” Paula said as she looked back from the driver’s seat. “No one was brought to justice for your death, either.”

“Or that of my husband or my son,” Mary said, “but right now the three of you are in danger.”

“Is it more immediate than the danger behind us?” asked Ana.

“They’re waiting for you up ahead,” Mary said. “They know what path you’re taking and hope to cause some sort of traffic accident and kill you once you’re on foot.”

“Do you know a way around them?” Ana asked.

“Yes, those who oppose you are strong, but they cannot reach out against you inside the River Witch’s domain. We’ll pin them down by allowing them to know you’re close. Then we’ll confuse them as to where you’re headed next.” Mary explained.

“And we can trust you how?” Paula asked.

“Because if they wanted to ambush us they wouldn’t have sent anyone to lead us into where we were already going.” Ana said.

“Mary feels right,” Bella said at the same time.

“I drifted downstream after what happened to us,” Mary told them. “I took up at the bridge because I felt the witch there. She led me in, and asked that I leave, to find rest, but I wanted to help, in small ways if I could. They people started calling it “Spook Bridge” because good things happened, and that scared people. “

“Can we cross Spook Bridge?” Paula asked.

“No, it is not travel worthy,” Mary told them. “The witch will take us to the Spring, down in Florida, and you will be given safer transportation.”

“Why won’t they follow us?” Paula asked.

“They cannot,” Mary said with a smile. “They realize the witch calls the river home, but the road on the other side belongs to a Druid. He will hinder them as he can, and he can. They will sense the trap, certainly, but to go around is to lose much time, and they will.”

They drove down a paved road that looked all but abandoned, and turned off another than looked worse. That road led to a dirt road, which eventually turned into a path, and that path led to a small house, with odd sculptures in the yard. The sculptures were of wood, and represented animals; there was a large cat, a wolfish looking dog, an eagle, and an animal that resembled a snake, but it had small legs. They then saw a small person tending a fire near the edge of the river.

“Do not speak to the witch!” Mary warned. “The spell she casts may require silence. When she speaks do not interrupt. She is a kindly soul, but this is a trial for her, and she will demand only silence as payment.”

“Will you introduce us?” Ana asked, but Mary had disappeared.

They turned the car off and approached the fire, silently, Ana and Bella holding hands, and Paula walking behind them. As they neared the fire they could still make out no features of the witch, if she was young or old, black or white, or anything, but she was a small person, as if she were a young teen. They heard voices swirling in the wind, but there was no one else there. A large dog, furry yet well groomed came out of the woods followed by an orange cat that beside any other animal would have looked huge. The witch then spoke:

“My cards tell me your protector reaches out to you, and that those who would harm you feel that reach, and they mean to stop you from your path. Evil needs no reason, it despises reason, just as it despises love, but your protector is not without friends, and acts out of love. That is a call many will answer for no other reason that it is what we do. The Earth needs humans who love, and there are so very few who do.”  The witch turned and suddenly her face was clear. She was a very pale woman, who might have been thirty, or eighty, for even though her face was lined, she wore a large smile. “My name is Sadie. I am the witch of this part of the river, as it allows me to be. I will help you. You need food. And you need rest. Before the sun rises you must be on your way, and before noon tomorrow you must be on the road again, and travel fast. Those who hunt you know your destination, and they mean to murder you.”

 

End five.