Category Archives: Short Story

MESA VERDE CAMPFIRE STORY

(This was for a hitrecord.org challenge to write a campfire story in regards to our National Park system.)

In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed a bill creating Mesa Verde National Park. Situated in Southwestern Colorado, the park houses handfuls of canyons that cut the through the dry mesa revealing the ancient clay cliff dwellings that are built into its sides. Although varying in size, none of the structures come short of extraordinary. The limits of construction and accessibility to create these hidden Ancestral Puebloan palaces is wonder of its own to observe.

Guided by park officials, you can walk through the abandoned abodes, manageable only through a series of ladders and steep canyon ledges. And yet, as you pass through the key-holed doorways and circle the ceremonial Kivas, one tends to get the feeling that another may be watching, hidden within the dark caverns that you don’t explore.

There are many theories as to why Ancestral Puebloans left their skillful and strategic homes. Though it is called Mesa Verde, green is far from the color you see when exploring this park. Overrun with mountain shrubs, junipers, and pinyon pines, the mesa appears to thirst for water. Is that what drove the people away?

Or is there another reason? Evidence shows that many of the “spiritual doorway” of the dwellings had been sealed shut and even Kivas burned. Was there something these people sought to destroy or escape from but found the only way out was to leave? Perhaps fear drove them out of these magnificent homes? And if that’s true, could this dark spirit still remain among the ruins?

Some say to never stay close to the canyon’s edge on a full moon’s night. For when the moonlight crosses the doorways left unsealed, something shadowy rises from beneath it. Upwards, it climbs the vertical walls, clinging to the gasping roots that sprout from the clay. They say it seeks the living to partake in a drink of the soul.

The unsuspecting are always the first to be caught in its murky haze. Left paralyzed by the darkness, they surrender to the spirit, joining it to forever dwell in maze of caverns below the solid ground. Never again to look upon the face of the sun.

DAY DREAM

Does she know that I dream about her every night of the week?

Elise walked coolly toward the file room, hips swaying to some unknown rhythm that I so desperately wanted to become part of. From behind my stack of papers, in Accounting Department C, I watched her.

Everyday. 10:32am sharp. There she was appearing from those dull elevator doors to file Monty’s notes from the morning meetings. She was Monty’s assistant the rest of the time, but from 10:32 to 10:36, she was my pleasure for the day.

There was nothing else interesting about this office. What else was a man of my age to do? Stare at Wendy over in cube three who doesn’t even understand how a hair dryer works? Or try to make conversation with Phil in cube nine that spends most of his time looking up cats dressed in knitted sweaters? Or Fran in two that always wants tell you what little Maurice did at school today? Hell, there wasn’t even a window in Accounting Department C to look out. Not even a god-forsaken cloud could save me from the cesspool of boredom that creeped around this place.

But Elise, on the other hand, was some kind of shining star that just lit up the place. Everything else could be put behind me when she walked in. Her blonde curls bouncing around that elegant face, so perfectly manicured. Tailored dresses and skirts that were skin tight, but to the point that it was classy, none of that trash that other girls try to pull. Putting her in a room makes it tens time better.

No. A hundred times better.

She is what makes this place bearable. But then, just like them all, that light is swallowed by the ding of the elevator and the click of her hills tapping on its slated floors. The sound of monotonous clicking and buzzing phones reemerge, complementing the ever graying walls.

I sigh and slide my next purchase request in front of me and wave my computer back to life. One day, I will actually talk to her. I just have to think of a good thing to say. She’ll notice me then……

Moving…

Thanks to everyone’s patience with me as the blogging schedule has been sparse. I’ve been in the process of moving to a new city the past month and it has been HECTIC. The good news, however, is that I have finally found all my stuff and am getting back into a schedule. I look forward to getting a new post uploaded soon!

FINE

The memories are heavy in here.

I laid my head on the carpet. Body sprawled out, taking up all the space I could. The heat was heavy, too. Invading the air, it pressed its weight against my skin. The mugginess soaking me in afternoon spoil.

I breathed in deep, drenching my lungs. It was never enough, I thought. I could never do enough.

Images played through my mind. Nights spent staring out the window to the stars, her arms reaching around to point out the constellations that surrounded us. Days with paper and markers spread all over the floor, careless even to worry about the dark purple and blue that had begun to coat the carpet. Morning sleeping warm in the plush bed, comfort surrounding me. Her golden eyes the first thing I would wake to. Good morning.

I sat up, my spine curved into the posture as I kept my head low. Sweat rinsed my skin, keeping my clothing taut. I had ran hard that morning, running from some invisible force. I felt that if it I slowed for too long it would catch me. Nipping at my heels I could feel it start to envelop me, tightening my chest. Squeezing out breaths I kept moving – even when the tears finally did start running down my face.

A soft knock at the door, “Karen? Are you all right in there?”

I exhaled and deflated onto my folded my knees. “Fine, dad. Really. I’m just stretching.”

Ok, then. Just wanted to make sure.” I hear him shuffle on the stiff carpet, pausing for a second. After a moment’s contemplation, likely him listening through the wooden hollow core door, he moved on down the hall.

Fine, that’s what I keep telling myself. Yes, it’s been hard but I’m fine….We knew it was coming, said our goodbyes…there were some dark days there, but I’m fine now. Fine. Such a frigid word. One syllable, neat and clear. End of conversation. I’m fine.

She had been diagnosed last year with stage three breast cancer. It came as a shock but when you have the kind of parents that avoid the sterile halls of doctor’s office at every opportunity, it couldn’t be a surprise. Stage three is tough, with the cancer growing beyond it’s beginning bounds and the start of lymph nodes being overtaken. But it’s still beatable.

First came the mastectomy. She had been so nervous, removing a part of her body that was private and yet some factor of being a woman. Why, I’ll look like a boy! she said to me out of the blue one day. I just smiled and told her she was mistaken. She didn’t need breasts to be beautiful.

Then came the radiation therapy. That’s always been a funny thing to me – radiation. We try so hard to avoid the toxic in our lives yet there we were, shining it right on her. It helps, the white coats assured me. It helps, I told her while she was throwing up after the first time. It helps, I told her when we had to use a wheelchair just to get back to the car.

And through the whole time there was chemo. Injecting drugs straight at the source to get rid of it all. With it went her fine blonde hair and her appetite.

None of it worked. Metastatic – that’s what the white coats called it. It went beyond the lymph nodes and dug deep into her bones and organs. The cancer was taking over and it was leaving us with a woman I hardly knew.

Months passed and we kept on fighting for that small chance. But in the last month, she’d had enough. She so badly wanted to have the strength to bake a meal for my father. Or even just to put on her nice clothes and go out. But no matter how hard she tried, they always ended up sitting tight on the couch, her falling asleep on his shoulder with a microwaved dinner cooling at her knees.

I didn’t want those to be the last images of my mother. I tried so many times to trade my reality for nostalgic dreams. Failure was met with each childish attempt. Depression loomed at my edges until it finally wrapped around me like an indisposed blanket. Even in her weakest hours, she asked about me. I worry about you. Where is that beautiful smile that I love so much? At least I could give her that.

Then she was gone.

The golden light that lit up her eyes faded and her breathe silenced. No longer a person. A body to be buried. Dust.

I’m fine. Really, I’m fine.

FEVERISH (Part 2)

I woke up with a start, shocked at my surroundings. When I had laid down last night, it was in my small uptown apartment on a stuffed down-pillow wrapped with one thousand thread count sheets. But where I laid now was far from that.

A hard, starch white elevated bed with what felt like a rock for a pillow. The bed had been placed in the center of a round room with padded walls. Sunlight streamed in from the glass ceiling above, filling the room with more unnecessary brightness. My eyes started to throb from the numbing intensity.

I looked at my clothes to find them changed as well. A grey tunic hung loosely about my chest with a matching draw-string pant. The fabric had a rough texture to it, leaving my skin to feel dry and slightly irritated.

I flipped myself up onto my side and swung my feet onto the floor. But as soon as I tried to stand I felt my legs give from weakness and I plummeted onto the ground. I let out a moan as I tried to stand back up. Every part of my body felt as if it were mush, fumbling and releasing any tension in the muscles. Why was I so tired? I gave up after a while and lay on the floor, finding it surprisingly as comfortable as the bed I had been placed.

Questions started to fill my head but I was unable to do anything about them as even my mind seemed to feed off the exhaustion that had captured my body. So I relented and began to doze off. Just as the heaviness of sleep came upon me a small door opened up through the padding and a woman dressed in blue entered carrying a clipboard and a book.

“Oh no! Mr. Urnst, you’re not supposed to be up. It’s all rest for you right now. Thank goodness for this padding, right?” She flashed a smiled and quickly walked over to me. After a few heaves, I was back on the bed laying stiff as a board.

“Okay, now.” She started writing on her clipboard as she hummed a tune and walked around me, every so often poking a body part. After a while she nodded and then walked up to an area directly in front of my bed. She gently pressed a square next to a small inset in the wall. A release in pressure sounded and a cabinet-sized door swung open from the panel. Inside was a number of switches and lights. She flipped one towards the far right and instantly a thin white ledge began to protrude from the wall, about the height of my bed.

A click was heard as she shut the cabinet door. “This is for you when you’re ready,” she said as she set the book down on the ledge near me. “It’s everything you’ll need to know about the first phase. And then some.” She smiled.

“Miss?” I had finally charged enough energy to speak “Can…can you te….tellll….llll…” I lost the sentence as I spoke, finding myself breathing deeply.

The woman chuckled as she shook her head. “You testers. All of you are always so surprised. I can just never figure out why. I mean what did you expect? Oh well, just how it goes.” She winked and began walking towards the door. At the last second she turned and said, “I almost forgot, this is your first awakening. Silly me.” She straightened her back, lifting her chin awkwardly and said, “On behalf of the Untouchable Staff, welcome to the training facility. You have officially started you’re testing to become an Untouchable. Or as some of us like to say, a superhuman.”

FEVERISH

PART 1

Sweat perspired on my forehead, glossing it like a shiny plastic doll. The heat was rising out of my head at an alarming rate, warming my thoughts to mush. I couldn’t think straight; everything was a magical blur of words and sounds.

The hard toe of my black Salvatores gently tapped the grey berber that covered the room. Puh. Puh. Puh. The rhythm brought some comfort to me. Something familiar, consistent.

There was a lady across the way. Mid-thirties, blonde, attractive. She wore a short navy blue skirt and polished white top. Her neck was curved to the right as she flipped through a magazine. Her long nails scratched the surface.

“David?”

I looked up. A woman stood at the door of the office entry, questions posed on her face. A pleasant face though.

“Yes,” I got up tugging my briefcase along, “yes, that’s me.” I smiled briefly and offered my hand. She returned it with a casual shrug and motioned for me to follow.

We filed past rows of glass doors. Each tightly closed with people inside bent over desks, their eyes constricted to screens. I caught a glimpse of one office that housed a plant. It’s bright red flowers a striking contrast to the bleakness that surrounded it.

“Here we are.” She stopped abruptly at a door labeled ‘Conference.’ “Good luck,” she said with a smirk.

I pushed on the faux gold handle and entered the room. A draft of cool air surrounded me as I looked around. The long windows at one side had been covered by a dark curtain, secured neatly at the sides. A long boardroom style table held most the space with recessed, circular lights along the walls perimeter. At the end sat a man slumped over a stack of papers and writing feverishly.

“Sit,” he commanded, not bothering to look up.

I made my way to the opposite end and drug out a chair. It was surprisingly comfortable. I rubbed the soft arm rests with my hands, flushing the material. It occurred to me after some time that the man had stopped writing and was observing my behavior. His face was cold and wrinkled. His glasses barely hung onto his paunchy face, his body an overflowing tub of grease.

“David, is it?” His voice separated by the effort to speak.

“Yes, sir. David Urnst.” I sat up and straightened my tie.

He made a mark on the paper in front of him. “Ohio?”

“Yes, Cleveland. Born and raised there.”

He grunted. “Kids?”

“No.”

“Wife?”

“No.”

“Family?”

I paused and looked at the grisly man. “At one point.”

His laughed stifled into a cough and he continued. “Past?”

“Accountant.”

He nodded and continued to write. “I could have guessed that. Future?”

I bit my lip. This answer was the crucial one. A wrong answer here and I would lose it. Or at least that’s what they told me. It would mean back to the grunge. Just another day, like everybody else.

“Tester.”

The man looked up, surprise covering his face. “Are you sure?”

“Yes.” I smiled.

He raised his eyebrows and wrote down a long note. “Very well then. You may go.”

I looked around. “That’s it?”

He nodded. “See yourself out. Veronica is not the best at knowing when these little things are over.” He ginned, exposing his yellow teeth.

I got up but paused at the door. “When will I know?”

“Two weeks or so.”

“How?”

He sat back in his chair and looked at me for a moment. “You’ll know. There won’t be any toe tapping for home after that point, though.” He winked. “No such thing as a home really.”

I nodded and went out the door. No such thing as a home repeated in my head.  What did that mean?

At the end of the hall Veronica waited with door help open into the waiting room. I noticed the bright red flowers were now wilted as I passed.

MIND BLOWING

FADE IN:

INT. LIVING ROOM – MIDDAY

Two young men lounge on an old, flowered couch. The room is musty and dirty. Bottles, greasy paper food bags, wrappers, and other miscellaneous trash litter the coffee table and floor around them. In the center of the table is a glass bong, warm from recent use. Rock music can be heard softly in the background.

STEPHEN, wearing a yellow, flat bill baseball cap with the black letters SWAG written across them, leans forward to take a hit. He inhales deeply and releases the smoke lazily into the air.

STEPHEN: Yeah, man. That is some good stuff.

JAKE, with a long, scraggly beard and a dark blue sleeveless t-shirt, big-rimmed lime green glasses atop his head, nods his head and smiles in appreciation.

JAKE: The purple haze will always get you good, my man.

STEPHEN chuckles: Oh, yeah…. Hey, man, did you see Tristan’s sister other day? Woo (whistling out low) She’s grown up into something.

JAKE, nodding slowly: Something is one way to put it….You know, there is something about that word. You know? It’s like some but thing at the same time.

STEPHEN: Yeah, it is a strange one. Because how can something be some and thing be one thing at the same time?

JAKE sits up excitedly.

JAKE: Yeah, man! That’s exactly what I was thinking!

Jake leans back. The two sit shaking their heads, staring into blank space in front of them.

STEPHEN: Hey, man.

JAKE: Yeah? (crosses arms)

STEPHEN: Sometimes…when I’m alone…

JAKE, interjecting: Hey, man. I don’t know want to know what you do when your alone. That’s like…that’s way too personal. You know what I’m saying? You and your little man or whatever, yall can keep it to yourself.

STPEPHEN, rolls eyes: No, no. Nothing like that.

JAKE, furrows brow: No?

STEPHEN: No, man. This is something totally different. Not like last time with…with…well you know last time.

JAKE, raises his eyes: Unfortunately, yes. But go on (motions with hand).

STEPHEN: Ok (swallows). Sometimes, when I’m alone…I try to move stuff with my mind. And, like (lifts eyes up to ponder momentarily, looks back down), nothing moves but I keep trying, man.

JAKE, drops jaw: Like Carrie and shit?

STEPHEN: No, man. That chick is bat-shit crazy. I’m more like the nice kind, you know?

JAKE: I gotcha man. You’re like a good mind-mover, not a ‘I should kill everyone with buckets of blood’ kind of man.

STEPHEN: Right. If I ever do get the powers, I’ll use it for good. I’d become like one of those X-men.

JAKE: That’d be some cool stuff. Moving shit with your mind. You would definitely be an X-man. They could call you Mind Man.

The two sit in silence for a moment, thinking about the X-man concept. STEPHEN imitates fast movements with his head.

JAKE, turning head slowly to STEPHEN: Are you sure it hasn’t worked before?

STEPHEN, stops moving erratically: I don’t think so. I thought I got a paper to move once, but it turned out to just be the AC coming on.

JAKE: Your AC does have some great power though, huh?

STEPHEN: Truth in that (they bump fists)

JAKE: But really though, it’s never worked for you?

STEPHEN, shaking head: No. But I’ll keep trying.

JAKE, sighing: That’s too bad. It has worked for me. In fact, I’ll even show you right now.

STEPHEN, moves to the edge of his seat: What, man?! It works for you. How have you not told me this before?!

JAKE smirks: It’s one of my best kept secrets.

STEPHEN waits eagerly for JAKE to show him.

JAKE: It’s simple, man. You just got to think about what you want. Concentrate – real hard – on exactly what you want. In fact, I’ll show you. Right here…Right now…But – before I begin – do you mind grabbing me a beer (coughs), I’m about as parched as they come.

STEPHEN: Sure, no problem.

STEPHEN gets up and walks off camera to the kitchen. Sound of refrigerator opening and closing. JAKE remains motionless on the cough, smiling. Stephen returns with the beer, un-capped and hands it to JAKE.

JAKE takes a long drink and sighs.

STEPHEN: You were going to show me your powers?

JAKE: Oh, right. I just did it.

STEPHEN frowns: Oh, man! I missed it. What did you move? (glances expectantly around the room)

JAKE, grinning widely: This beer bottle.