Tag Archives: short

In the End

Part I

The Earth has died, but we are still here. Living.

What has been left to us is dust. Clouds of it erasing the distance and swallowing horizons whole. We have covered the windows and taped all the seams, yet the smallest of particles still find their way in. Piling in the corners and ensnaring bits on our bare feet.

The Sun has become more powerful. There is no longer a layer to protect us from it’s blinding rays, the power of it’s ultraviolet light altering everything in it’s wake. Within the Day the rays stretch over the land, piercing anything unblemished; radiation consuming the ground. Not even the dust can save you.

We have become accustomed to the Night. Only then is it safe to wonder beyond a door, be it armed with a filter mask, layers of leather upon your skin, and a heavy knife. Never forget your knife.

The oceans are incubators, filled with the toxic aroma of death. The shorelines stretch deep into the land, extending miles beyond their said origins. Storms rage upon them for weeks at times, creating acid rains and winds that pulverize any remains among the abandoned cities.

Humanity once cared for one another. But that care has been replaced with fear. This fear is not like what our grandparents knew. It is ugly and traced with anger, confusion, and blame. No one wants to live in this world, but no one wants to die in it either. Yet we are the ones who made it this way.

Boiling

I am supposed to be relaxing
but the tightness in my chest
has made it impossible today.

I keep replaying that conversation.

My mind is moving in a circle.
Every expectation has been crushed
and all the happiness drained.

The wire is taut.
And you, stranger,
picked the wrong person
on the wrong day.

Your snarky comment snapped the wire
and at that point
I no longer gave a fuck.

Words careened out of my mouth.
There was no controlling them.
The straw had broken the back.
The pot was boiling over.

It was too much for the week I’d had.
And you were an easy target.

Burning Bear

There is a tale ancient as the mountains. About a bear whose coat was the color of flames.

They say he was bigger than boulders. Claws like a set of hunting knives. Eyes blacker than night.

He roamed the ridges and valleys. And bathed in roaring rivers. Gorging on elderberry and napping amongst the clovers.

Many passed along this whisper through the years. The colorful bear became a legend and a mystery tucked in the fleeting sounds and scents of the forest.

But as with anything unfortunate, not too long ago, a group of local men stumbled on him whilst he napped in a grove. They stared in disbelief at the strange reality brought from the depths of their childhood memories.

The bear’s coat was a furious color. Startling and mesmerizing.

Stepping quickly back to town, they told everyone about the animal. About how the fable became a truth. Dollar signs floated in their heads and plans were vigorously set.

Burning Bear. The name for the sublime creature, crawling on everyone’s tongue. Itching at the skin for their own pleasantries to dawn. A prize to be won.

The men began slowly scouting the forest soon after. Careful with every step and breathe. Wading rivers and wandering through the trees. Full of hope. And greed.

Every so often they would become alarmed. Spotting a dot of orange and yellow not too far. Tracing the path, they would only find fields of flowers so intricately designed. But their eyes never appreciated the fields as they would immediately be perturbed. Annoyed that such splendor was in the way and wasting time in getting what they were due.

But one day, they were sure they had him. Streaks of his coat danced furiously through the forest, leaving glints of color in its wake. Smiling at one another, they readied their bows for Burning Bear was headed right towards them.

Confidence soon turned whey they realized their mistake. It was not the bear but actual fire that had charged them and desired to keep them at bay.

Cries rang out as they turned back for the town. How foolish had they been? How had they missed the dying grey mist that followed the disjointed edges of color? How had they missed the smell of death and the swelter and the smolder?

To their dismay, they found their own path cut short. Escape was not an option as they were surrounded. Feelings of dread and the engorgement of fear. They huddled together and dropped to their knees. Begging in prayer.

A great crash suddenly blossomed in their ears as they looked up and over to find a stack of trees laid just above the ruthless tips of the flames. Thinking it their second chance, they clambered onto the logs, running full speed with no stops.

Halfway across the auspicious bridge, they all noticed an unmistakable outline. Each of the men aghast at what they had seen and what it could only mean.

But upon reaching the end, clear of all smoke and flame, they were saddened to not even glimpse upon their protector. The timely beast had already made his way out, blending with the flames. It dare not wait for its foes, even those it had just saved.

The men gleefully spread this story of an unexpected redemption. And the humor of their salvation.

Though many found it hard to believe, there were many still who swallowed every word. And like a seed, it was planted in their memories. Blossoming in dreams and shaping their beings.

And, like me, one day they hope to thank and see the Burning Bear and his coat twisted in beauty and mystery.

Corners

He is on the corner everyday. Eight am sharp. I’m sure to catch the morning rush. Even the homeless know something about customer volume.

Today, he displays the anything helps sign. The crude black letters stretch across a degraded piece of cardboard, the crease lines wearing through from months of folding it. Or maybe years.

I take a long draw on my cigarette, feeling the nicotine plugging into my nerves. Rolling down the window, I blow out the smoke, my mind briefly drifting back to the evening before. The smell of Jon’s cologne on the sheets and the light graze of a touch. My lips curl into a smile.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the homeless man starting to edge towards my car. In annoyance, I realized he had seen my open window as a signal that I hadn’t intended.

I glanced at the light, hoping the green circle would save me from an awkward interaction. But with no luck, I quickly stubbed out the cigarette and started cranking up the window, cursing under my breath about not paying the extra cash for automatics.

I gently shook my head as he continued to approach and mimed a “Sorry.” His dry face slowly morphed into a scowl. I looked back at him with a mixture of exasperation and guilt blossoming in my head.

He stared back; his volatile deep blue eyes seeming to pierce into me.

For a brief moment, I felt compelled to see if I could find change or something to hand over to him. His open scrutiny bared on me like a spotlight with every driver around me watching the show.

But that feeling soon vanquished at the sound of a horn blaring from behind me. I hit the gas without a second thought, relieved to see the bright green burning ahead. Once I made the turn, I could just put the whole moment behind me.

The Seven: Before the Fall – 1

” Sarah?”

A pause.

“Sarah? Are you even listening to me?”

Sarah closed her locker door, revealing April’s wide-eyed, upturned expression. She leaned her head back onto the thin, grey metal door behind her. “Did you hear what I said?”

Sarah sighed and gave her friend a weak smile. “Yes, loud and clear.”

April puckered her lips. “Well being loud is one of my best traits.”

They laughed.

“But seriously,” April snapped back into her direct tone. “The party starts at eight. And everyone is going to be there. Everyone,” she tilted her head down as if to whisper, “including you know who.”

Sarah snorted. “How do you even know that?”

April tossed back her long, black hair over her shoulder. “I have sources. You know this.”

“God, April. Sally doesn’t know anything. That girl can’t tell you what she ate for breakfast – if she remembered to even eat it. She’d feed anyone a story so long as it kept you listening to her.”

April rolled her eyes and tossed her hair to the other side. “Well” she said, holding on the ell, “just let me know alright. I know Sally can be-” she paused, “-a little flimsy on her information, but I think she is right on this one.”

They started walking down the hall. The crowd getting sparse as the class bell loomed.

Sarah bit her lip. If he was going to be there, then she should be there. But if he wasn’t, it was just going to be another typical high-school party with lots of drinking. And lots of gossip.

“Okay,” she said quietly before they entered the science room.

April let out a squeal. “I’ll pick you up at nine on the corner. Lights out as usual.”

The Seven: Chapter One

The clouds break apart high in the sky, leaving frayed edges and trails of white behind them. A warm, red hue blankets the bottom rolls, reflecting the evening’s sun as it begins to dip beyond the horizon.

Sarah looked at the black illumination of the city’s skyline. Ribbons of towers and spires were like mountain’s themselves, like some kind of testament to the power of man over that of the Earth.

Her feet dangled off the side of the cliff while she sat. Hard, rust colored rocks surrounded her, no bigger than couch. A playfield of boulders, as some her friends had called it. But at the edge of the playfield was Marooner’s Cliff. A devastating – or beautiful – three hundred feet drop down into forest below. The lodgepole pines outstretched from the base with their slim trunks trying to meet the edge but falling still over two hundred feet short.

The sky began to take on the nature of fire, orange and yellow streaks slit across the view in front of her. Would this be her last sunset?

Andrew had found a space next to her. He had been noticeably quiet for a while now. She assumed he was giving her some space – a chance to think. Everything had happened so fast. It was all supposed to be a joke, a hoax. None of it was supposed to be real.

He stirred, moving to get up. “Sarah?” he asked, his voice small.

Sarah didn’t respond. She still didn’t feel ready.

He cleared his throat. “Sarah?” he asked again.

She turned her head steadily, meeting his eyes. “We can’t wait any longer. If we don’t do it soon, the sun will have set and then….then…” he shook his head. He looked down and traced his boot on the dusty ground, pebbles scratching the surface as he moved. “We would let them down,” he added.

“I know.” Sarah stood, taking in a long breathe. Her heart was beginning to race again. Could she really be doing this?

“Here –,“ Andrew fumbled with his pack and handed her a small container. The clear liquid sloshed around. “It’s pure, I promise. Picked it up on my way over.”

Sarah nodded; she would never doubt Andrew. He was someone to bet your life on.

“And yourself?”

He pulled another container out. “Covered. I think I’ll just leave my bag here.” He tossed it over one of the rocks to the other side. “I don’t think it would be a good idea to take it with me anyhow. You might want to empty your pockets, too. Anything to weigh you down a little less.”

“Right.” Sarah managed a small smile. Her heart began to feel like it was moving its way up her chest as nerves began unraveling all over her. With shaking hands, she pulled out her cellphone and wallet, tossing them down on the ledge. What would her mother think when they found them?

A pang hit her hard in the stomach. Her mother. Did she say goodbye?

“Ready then?” Andrew asked. He was trying to be brave, but his pallor had gone pale amidst his red-freckles. Poor Andrew, Sarah thought. She was the reason he was here today.

With as much stillness as she could muster, she popped open the lid and drank the liquid in one breathe. It was cold and hinted of metal. She supposed as any water kept in a copper basin would be.

Taking Andrew’s hands in hers they repeated those three sentences. Only twenty words. She had counted them repeatedly.

They both turned to the edge of the cliff and released hands. Taking in the world around her a last time, she stepped out.

Her body felt like a cloud as she fell – weightless and free.

 

SMILE

Just smile. Behave, politely. A nod of the head. Of course and absolutely.

I could keep myself like this for hours. Happy energy flooding the space around me. Everyone loves it. Look at them, smiling back.

That’s what we need. The strange, false comfort that everything is alright. All your worries, those little life stressors, they are nothing compared to what you feel right now.

At least, that is what they keep telling themselves.

Each of those bobbing heads leaving the conference are held high, eyes pointed to the doors. The next hours are an exciting, blank space waiting to be filled with conversations about projected expectations and dreams.

I am just like them. In some ways. Polishing my exterior while burying who I really am. What I really feel.

Sad.

That’s a better word for summing my day. What I think of my expectations and dreams.

Hopeless.

And that is the word for describing what is perceivably been my entire adulthood. A constant pull into a shapeless darkness that shrouds all of my thoughts and tinges them with despair and angst.

I can’t seem to get away from it. I try to push it out, telling myself I’m better. But it always comes back. Stronger even, as if toys with my own weakness.

So, I let it remain.

And it grows. Consumes, really. But I don’t have anything left. Just an appearance that lies for me. It does a great job, like I said, everyone smiles back.

They don’t know what lies beneath the mask. They don’t need to. And, perhaps more to the truth, they don’t want to.

Those are the types of questions they never ask.

***

Don’t be afraid to ask the uncomfortable questions. If you (or someone you know) are depressed, know that there is always someone there to help.

 

PAIGE ANDERS CHRONICLES – 6

So there you have it. That’s how I met Janet and with a few good months and long conversations spent swallowed by the couch and gallons of ice cream, we became friends. She encouraged me to drop the dealing – which wasn’t too easy. Buster had got a little dependent on me being his top seller and all. But things worked out in the end. I needed a real, new job then. So Janet got me started at the diner.Tommy was always such an easy pushover that we both knew it be a good start for me. He was so giddy that some one else showed even the slightest interest in his business that he hired me on the spot. Not even a background check.

And now we circle back to today, where I had to force the poor guy to even let me go. I mean, I was terrible at my job, possibly even giving his diner a bad rep. But still….

Like I had said before, it was perfect timing. Even planned, some could say. Now it was time to plan out the easy stuff. The murder, right? You’re still waiting on the name. The one who I’ve been waiting to snap like a twig.

Maybe you think it’s Rodney? With all his corruption and dire need to see myself dead. But no, he’s still in jail and will be there for many years to come. Likely his heart will go before he even gets close to parole.

Tommy, maybe? True that I”m not a fan of hipsters, but I’m not that cruel.

Buster? Well, honestly he’s not much of a threat. Remember, I said it all worked out in the end.

Trevor, of course, is who you’ve got in mind now. He seems the easy pick. All the anger and downward spiral started with him. My ability to trust ended with him. My life was torn apart because of him. Sure, he seems like an obvious motive. One very good reason. But honestly, I don’t even know the guy’s real name. And in the end, wasn’t he just doing his job? Is the jeopardy of my life worth ending his?

No.

Let me help you out a little more.

I told you I made a lot of money for Rodney. A lot of money. I also told you I couldn’t spend it. I looked for a good launderer time to time, but no one really ever gave me the right feeling. Launderers are necessarily known for having clean hands. So most of that cash was just spent on the everyday things. Groceries, gas, clothes, etc. All the necessities of life.

Rodney couldn’t spend a lot of his amount either, so he entrusted it to me. To “take care of it.” In other words – hide it. When the Feds busted in that day, there was good amount of cash in the safe – hell – probably even laying out on the tables with the product right beside it. But that was by no means all of it. No, that half a million they looted was just a small percent. The rest of it had been carefully placed in a remote location for safe keeping, just as Rodney had asked of me. Even Trevor didn’t learn that secret.

They grilled me so many times about the rest of the cash. But poor, doe eyed me just placed it off to my distraught mother’s erratic spending and “I don’t know where he kept it – why don’t you just ask him?” Him being Rodney, of course. And the irony is even Rodney never knew the final location of the money since I had a habit of moving it every two weeks or so. He would always say I was the one who knew and I would say it was him. Neither of us put up a good case to believe, but it was enough to hold them off.

But you see? Being that the Feds never got the final answer,  they knew that it would still be out there somewhere. And I knew that they would continue to watch me in hopes that one day I would lead them right to it. Desperation is a driving force that will make people do a lot of crazy things.

And they’re right.

I am becoming desperate. Real life is hard. Even harder when you know your future could be so easy if only you could get your hands on even a quarter of what you have stashed.

Are you on to me now?

I’m the one that’s going to be axed. I need to disappear and my death seems like it’s the only way to give me the best options.

And imagine…a life started with a clean slate? A completely new me.

JOY

Something strange happened to me the other day.

I was in the airport bathroom en route to Phoenix when two Latino ladies approached me. One was older with lines of age marking her face and hints of grey about her forehead. She was dressed in some heavy clothing for August and had a work apron on top of it all.

The other was younger, her wide black eyes more pronounced by the smoothness of her skin. A loose patterned sweatshirt hung about her over black leggings.

They spoke quickly in Spanish to one another as they approached me with some hesitation. The young woman said, “She would like for you to leave a comment.”

I scrunched my brow, unsure of what she meant. “You want what?” I asked.

“Senora, Senora, ” the older one said. She raced back over to a janitorial cart and brought back a stack of napkins. On one of them, someone had written some words in Spanish in a lovely, cursive font.

“See, see.” The woman pushed the napkin closer to me, keeping an expectant gaze. I stood dumbfounded, unable to read it. My one year of language class was not paying off.

“She wants you to write a comment,” the younger one spoke again, “of this place.” She held out her hands. “Of her work.”

“Oh, okay,” I said, finally grasping the meaning. The older woman laid down a new napkin eagerly, placing the previous one close by for an example.

“Olga,” she said, pointing to herself. Her smile brightened as I uncapped the pen and started to write.

When I handed it back, she thanked me repeatedly and then went right back to work, wiping all the counters down even though they were already clean.

I’ve thought back on this interaction in several passing moments now. And what I always circle back to is the woman’s sheer joy for the comment. She had no idea whether I would write something good or bad. But yet she seeked it all the same – language barrier or not.

And I could see her dedication to the job, too. Cleaning bathrooms is not a pleasant job – and the ones at the airport are nowhere near the top of the easy list. But here she was, so motivated and happy. Utterly happy.

And then I think about my own job and how a day with an emotion like that is nonexistent. I would never ask for a comment card for the fear of making the day that much worse. But why is it like that? Why shouldn’t I seek the same joy?

 

 

 

 

PAIGE ANDERS CHRONICLES – 5

That’s when Janet walked into my life, like some god-damned guardian angel. She had apparently been watching me since I had moved in across the hall and wasn’t a fan of the people who I kept dragging through the door. Trash I believe was the proper term she used.

And she really didn’t like the smell of schnapps that radiated off of my presence.

“Everyday,” she complained at my door, her face infused with rage, “you walk out this door waddling like a fucking duck. Stumbling into things. You like my wall a lot–particularly when it’s fucking three am and I’m sleeping.”

She screamed at me for what felt like hours that morning. The next time I pulled any of that crap, specially bringing around the trash because she knows who they really are–she lowered her eyes–she was calling the cops.

Now that last bit finally got my attention. Jail had been fun and all, but I certainly didn’t want to go back. Cops were not what I wanted to see when probation was still hung around your neck.

And then, as she just kept on yammering, I realized something. The person she was describing….the woman she was so pissed about….was my mother. I had become just like my disgusting, delusional mother.

In my shock, I started crying. I think at one point it got so out of control I had to sit on the ground, clutching my knees to my chest as a strange source of comfort.

I didn’t know Janet and it had become apparent that she hated me with the list of complaints she just presented. But even as I went into this fit of hysterics, she didn’t leave. She stayed right there with me. A little astonished and taken a back at first, but for whatever reason she understood. She sat with me and held me, not saying a word.

For the first time in my life, someone cared. She stayed.