Poetry-Thing Thursday: Fertile Mind, Poor Design

A fertile mind,
in poor design,
is an ancient puzzle,
a riddle, divine,
called forth from,
the annals of time.

What greatness hath,
madness wrought,
when disguised as sanity,
a need, less fraught?
If only pain and trauma
were retroactively fought.

Were history’s madness,
to be erased,
we’d know of man’s impotence,
his potential for grace,
whether in the midst of Earth,
or the boundlessness of Space.

Flee not from madness,
nor take it with fear.
Examine it closely.
Examine it here;
on pages of ink and paper,
on the faces of those standing near.

Short Story: Rock ‘n Roll Lifestyle

Scents of fresh cigarette smoke mingled with stale beer and dry sweat; the same scents that greeted Ethan every early afternoon at work. The painful truth of the rock ‘n roll lifestyle was that it didn’t really exist, never had. In fact, one of the few things it accurately claimed to have was long nights and late mornings, and even those weren’t the same, really. Fringe benefits, Ethan called them, hard truths of sound engineering for the local dive.

That’s all he could ever think to call the Club. It had an official name, but nobody used it– a claim to Ethan’s generational droves offlowing apathy. The Club wasn’t a club. It wasn’t even a bar, though it had one. It was a collection point for the aimless and brainless to nightly smash into each other. If they weren’t doing that, they were smashing other shit into their brains or veins. Regardless of its seeming differences, the road taken was always the same: ride the groove of the latest, least-audibly offensive metal jocks stuck in Podunk like the rest.

Every night was roughly the same. Unless the joint was bust from a cancellation, the band or bands arrived, set up, ran sound check, then lingered until their slot whilstdoing their best not to drink away the night’s profit. Most did. If, after the long wait, they were still fit to play, they went onto the makeshift stage and did their best to murder a set or two. By the end of it, the drinkers were drunk, the stoners were high, and everyone else was everywhere in between.

More often than not, Ethan watched from behind the mixing board. Drugs and booze made their way through the crowds. He could always tell the inebriated minors from the crowd; they didn’t move in time with it, as if knowing they stood out and completely incapable of helping it. No one cared. What was a few wasted teenagers to a crowd?

It wasn’t just the music and intoxicants that drew the kids either. The girls did their best too. If the bartenders and concession girls didn’t appeal, there were always the few regulars– cougars and their younger counterparts on the hunt for more stamina and cum than brains. Sometimes, even the occasional flamer or dyke surfed the crowd. Like the others, they too, found their select few to get something from or give something to.

Ethan still laughed at the thought of his closest brush with the rock ‘n roll lifestyle: He went to piss, walked in on a freshmen poking “Lightning Lucy.” She was fast, easy. Before Ethan knew what was happening, he was suddenly double-teaming Lucy with the freshmen– who was more and more jealous of the fact.

But Lucy was quick and easy because she wanted to be. It made life easier. The last thing she wanted was strings. By the end of it, Ethan figured he’d done the kid a favor: gave him a story to tell and made the break easier. The last thing anyone wanted was a love-sick hanger-on, Lucy especially.

That was the closest Ethan had come to the rock ’n roll lifestyle he’d been promised. Even then, he had a hard time believing it had happened. Life was hardly as fast and easy as the legends made it sound. Mostly, it was standard fare; sit at a board, keep the lights green, and ensure no-one skipped out on the tab.

Maybe that was why it felt like every other day to Ethan. Maybe it was just his generation’s total apathy from the knowledge that they’d missed “the good ole’ days.” Maybe it was nothing, or everything, or some of one thing and a little or none of another. All he knew, was after the fact, he knew even less than he’d thought he did.

He took his place behind the board to watch the lights. The latest incarnation of wannabe rock-star nobodies were on stage. They droned on with the same bullshit metal sound Ethan heard night after night. There was nothing original in town nowadays. The only thing that distinguished one set of screeching vocals and open-string pounding from the next were the various shades of gray eyes or their faces. The bands around were as dead as the horse their music beat.

The guys on-stage that day were no different. The only thing even relatively noteworthy was their singer’s utter lack of vocal enthusiasm. He looked like a caricature of late Floyd-era Syd Barret; on stage, head down, guitar hanging; no life whatsoever to him. The only real indication of his continued existence was the noises emanating from below his head. He seemed to be doing his best to do nothing at all, and was succeeding expertly– not that he’d have noticed nor cared. Someone had left a hang-dog expression hanging too long, and this was the result.

The drummer finally exploded with rage, angry at another night potentially ruined. It was then the singer came to life… in the most awful way Ethan’s apathetic generation could muster. He rounded toward the drummer, suddenly raised a loaded .45.

Where it came from, Ethan still wasn’t sure, all he knew was the sound of a round fired off into the drummer’s forehead. Then another, into the bass player as he booked it for the door. The third cut down the rhythm guitarist at the edge of the risers. After him, one-by-one, went all of the crew and the hangers-on that had tried to flee but weren’t quite fast enough.

The barrel angled onto Ethan and the frozen, deer in the headlights expression remained unchanged. The rampaging frontman stopped, stared. To an outsider, he looked as if trying to decide if Ethan were a man or an armless marble statue. Something suddenly shifted in the guy’s face. The gun turned on the shooter, and the guy let himself out as he had his mates.

Through all of it, Ethan was frozen, petrified. Terror had coursed through his veins. He was terrified, of course, but also utterly confused and entirely confused. A creature of such despair and hang-dogged emptiness had managed to erupt into a ball of fire. It was as if the last pocket of existence inside a formless shell had burst forth to ensure it be remembered, for good or ill. It was safe to say it had completed its task.

Ethan was more concerned for himself; a dozen people were murdered in front of him, and he could do nothing but blink. For a while, he wondered if someone had slipped him acid or peyote again. Instead, the police and EMT’s arrived to find him standing, staring, traumatized.

It took a long while to coax him back to reality. In the end, he returned from his curious fugue state unharmed carried on with life. The Club eventually began functioning again too, as much as it could be said to. Ethan wasn’t sure what life he nor it led, but something told him neither qualified as rock ‘n roll.

Short Story: The Purist’s Sins

They sat, entwined, like wound yarn. The brunette’s hand stroked the ginger-girl’s head. A warm aura emitted from them, infected their bench with its glow and heat. Cold autumn didn’t exist within their bubble of love. Anyone looking on would’ve seen, as if removed from time with them, a world zipping and flickering past like film on fast-forward.

But no-one was looking, or rather, one person was, a man and not a man; a monstrous creature in the deceptive form of a human. The creature watching wasn’t seeing what anyone else would, or should. Instead, of two angelic figures, he saw only demons. Their pale skin, concealed beneath pre-winter clothing, told they feared of exposing it for its devilish origins. He watched, seething while somewhere in him, the most vile philosophies resonated with equally demented notions of so-called “proper” human behavior.

Mother had always been very strict about behavior. Father too. She only got stricter when Father died and was no longer the disciplinarian. She took on the dual role. Between it, the insurance money, and his own inheritance, the Purist had more than enough incentives to listen to Mother and emulate her “rightness.”

The Purist wasn’t his name, of course, but that’s what they’d taken to calling him. His name wasn’t important anymore. He’d taken to the persona fully. No-one knew what either looked like, but he preferred The Purist to his “true” self. He was a righteous being; an idea. A symbol. A paragon.

Mother had always been strict: righteousness was God’s way of separating phonies from pious. The only way to distinguish oneself was to become one or the other in extremity.

He still remembered his first taste of righteousness as the Purist, remembered testifying. He remembered the pride, the joy, the closeness to “God.” He especially remembered the taste of satisfaction. That taste was like chasing a dragon nowadays, but he’d become contented by his inner knowledge. The future was his satisfaction. The eternal reward his overall plan. It would be a long road, but he would reach its end, one purified heathen at a time.

The two women’s lips were meeting again. Passion palpitated between them, rippled through the aura. The Purist felt it like an atom bomb’s shock-waves.

The slight tickle of arousal so denied within in convinced himself of his hatred. Could he have even examined anything sanely, he still wouldn’t have been sure of its origins. Whether from taboo, or long-bred repression, he wasn’t sure. Mother had always been very clear; love was not something shown. Father taught her love was silent. Grandmother agreed. Grandfather taught her to.

From the outside, people called them cold, but as he’d been taught, God saw all. Pride was a sin. Excessive love was as akin to pride as anything. Wrath was preferable. Wrath sought to correct the imbalance. That was his family’s philosophy and he adhered to it.

That, and the idea that a “proper” society was the responsibility of all.

The two women parted from the bench, with an obvious pang of longing. It rippled through the aura that then shattered from their separation. It was his time now. The Purist was ready. He could never make a move when that aura existed. It repelled him like a shield. Literal or not didn’t matter. Not in the end. He got what he wanted once the shield failed…

And they got what they deserved.

The ginger girl was the better target; smaller. Weaker. He liked the thrill of the hunt more than the kill nowadays. The satisfaction, dragon-like as it was, wasn’t enough to justify the fight of larger adversaries. He was getting older. Mother had been gone decades now. His righteous fervor could only last another few years before the sloppiness of age set in.

He’d left a trail across the country of bodies riddled with biblical references and markings; pamphlets about the sin of homosexuality. There was more, but that was just what the media had picked up on. Had been allowed to know. So many other little bits of connecting information about the victims was withheld even he’d had trouble remembering it.

Most creatures of his kind– serial killers, he’d learned through various associations with himself– were the type to track those things. They made self-shrines in their hideaways and homes. Pride. They struck where they’d be most noticed. Greed. Gluttony. They struck in passion, for belonging. Lust. Envy. Most of all, they stopped or were caught from lacking commitment, for laziness. Sloth.

But The Purist struck with a vision. His own wrath was long soothed. The victims knew no better. Just like Ginger. She would get what was coming, like all the others. He’d strangle then carve her. Quietly. That was his way. The markings would be a sign at the gates of heaven and hell that her sins were recognized.

Hers, and all the others. Someone had seen the harsh truth, done their best to save what was left of their so-called immortal souls. Though he doubted such creatures had any.

It was perfect, as if Ginger knew. She led him straight through the park. The brunette was long gone, he could take his time. He let her get distance enough to enjoy the scenery. Chicago was a place where anyone could seem lost but remain a target, especially with such flamboyant hair. It was hard to hide no matter the crowd. Hardest in the lone alley she entered to cut through.

That was his time. He closed the distance as she aimed for it, and struck.

In a flash of speed and strength that could’ve made Mother proud, he was on Ginger. He threw her into an indented bit of building, large enough for a pair of dumpsters. His hands grasped her throat. They clamped down.

Ginger was ready. Had been ready.

A stun gun bit his testicles. Electricity surged up through his groin, loosed his bladder and bowels. He fell back screaming, shaking. Hatred surged through him. Wrath. The small spark he recognized; the hatred for himself he’d never been rid of. It was gone just as fast.

Ginger was near. The brunette too. Stun gun clicking. His body writhed in deserved agony. He spasmed, screaming, too near unconsciousness to know. The world turned black.

Ginger, real name Special Agent Angela Dunne, and the brunette, Skyler Rhein, cuffed the unconscious bastard. The partners in more than law swallowed bile above the so-called Purist. Some purist; covered in shit and piss whose smell tainted their UC-car for weeks. The pair were specifically chosen for their relationship, the dual cause of justice and law.

The FBI’s Anti-Hate-Crime Task Force had been on his trail for months. They’d caught a break in Madison after deducing his next likely target was Chicago. Their hunches were confirmed when he’d hit the city. The first victim there was the last. Enough for agency psychologists to finally find the pattern; gay-rights activists leading otherwise quiet lives.

Most victims were the type to otherwise be seen as perfect human beings. Paragons of the species. Most of all, they looked it. Innocence. That was important. He chose them based mostly on that alone, aware of it or not. They had it all; the looks, background, naivete, their only flaw was the so-called sin of their orientation.

Rhein and Dunne personally shoved the Purist into the UC car while acadre of CPD cars escorted them with lights blaring in triumph. They arrived, then personally shoved his shit-reeking form into a cell to await processing. By then, he was awake.

To add insult to injury, in his last moments, Rhein passionately and deep kissed Dunne. Something inside The Purist– real-name Herman Sanford– shattered. It was, only a dying part of him knew, the effect of that all-powerful repulsive aura. The true revelation and expiration of his only, and real sin; self-hatred.

Short story: Blue Collars and No Dollars

I still maintain mental health care is the world’s number one issue. Either the lack of it, or the quality of it– or in most places, the stigma of it. Kind of ironic given the circumstances, but life’s funny like that. Un-life and the ending of life too. We– humans that is– always seem to recognize seconds too late the glory around us; mountain ranges behind misty-veils; ravines cut into sandy deserts; the moon and stars beyond light-polluted cities. We only realize the greatness after its gone… or we are.

Makes you think.

Well, not really, but it should. We should all think.

That’s the mantra of this dying one, anyhow. There’s ravines in me now; crimson rivers flowing through gray mists. Or I think so. I doubt anyone’ll blame me if I’m wrong. Even if they did, I’m as “out of fucks to give” as anyone can be, living or dead. That’s the great truth of my generation. We learned how not to give a shit so efficiently and thoroughly it’s killing all of us off.

That’s the meat of the thing, why I’m shuffling off this mortal coil. Even if I hadn’t finally decided to show myself the door, society would’ve. They’ve been looking for ways to throw me out of it my whole life. Like the billion and more other people, I’m just not quite up to snuff. Seems evolution went and decided brains and brawn weren’t necessary in any quantities for some, let alone equal quantities. Like the rest of my ilk, I’ve occupied a middle ground that can’t really exist in the world.

And now this…

Things have gone to hell. I’d mean that literally if I weren’t so certain hell couldn’t be this bad.

Bitch, bitch, bitch, right? The world’s rough, and you gotta’ be tough to survive, right? Right. So what am I on about? And why? What could possibly be bad enough to make a whole generation show themselves the door like I am?

Well that’s the thing; everything. Everything could be so bad.

From the housing market to the healthcare system, to the job prospects and the outright value of human life in society, it’s all bad. And bad in a way that makes dying preferable, and the only way to make a difference.

We can’t war. Not really. We could riot, and get gassed. We could raise arms, and be utterly run through by the National Guard and various militaries– our elder brothers and sisters, commanded by our parents and grandparents. But rather than resort to fratricide we’ve decided, more one-by-one,en-masse than as a group, that suicide’s the better alternative. The first few of us left elaborate messages and letters. Of course these were only revealed through hear-say and rumor, but ultimately the message was “what other options do we have?”

That’s the sad part of it. If there’s anything more distressing than the rest, it’s that. We have no options left. We’re facing death no matter what. Either by starvation, disease, exposure, or outright murder for daring to want better. We’re all going to die before our time– whatever the hell that means.

Or most of us are. The lucky few suckling the tits of their wealthy-elite parents, or those sycophantic and sociopathic enough to get into the closed circles, they’ll survive. But the blue-collars and no-dollars, in other words the vast majority of us? We’re fucked. Too bad it’s that same elite’s downfall too. In the end, the human race are the ones that’ll suffer most. Admit or not, they’re human too. Our great pain will be over when our great depression ends with us six-feet under.

All told, we’ll have the last laugh. Even if, by some ridiculous stroke of luck, the human race doesn’t end up killing itself off entirely in the wake, the majority will still have died out. Or let themselves out, however you wanna’ phrase it. With us go the hopes and dreams of a better future not involved in maintaining the status quo of wealth v. health, greed v. need.

In other words, gone will be the hope of healing Humanity’s current sadomasochistic streak. Maybe I’m belaboring things. Maybe I’m being vague. I guess that happens when the great beyond’s waxing and the great-whatever-this-is is waning.

My personal story isn’t interesting. It’s the same as so many others of my generation. I grew up poor. Got old, got poorer. Ending up on the street when you’ve been on your way out the door your whole life isn’t surprising. It’s especially not surprising when everyone from your president to your guidance counselors tells you you’re not going anywhere else.

Like I said, not interesting. Far from unique. We never believed we were special snowflakes, but Human Rights didn’t seem like so much to ask for. I guess we were wrong. They were.

So here I am; last train outta’ the station on a one way ticket. Theoretically of course. Trains don’t run anymore. Even if they did, no-one could afford to ride ‘em. We’re all stuck in one place now. We’d walk, but hunger makes us weak. That’s the way they want us.

Soon enough the stray-dogs will be full. For a time anyhow. Then, they’ll starve too. Probably some will survive. They’ll eventually move back to the wild and start hunting again. I’d say football season was over, but the truth is, it was never on. We were too starved to play. Now, we’re just soon-to-be dust in the wind, or blood in the water, as my case goes.

I chose a tub. A full tub of hot water in a hotel-suite. Middle of the night break-ins aren’t expected anymore. I had something of the rogue in my blood, now the water has it. Might’ve been a big timer if the other rogues weren’t all dead before “my time.” Now I’ll be joining ‘em.

But I digress. Warm water’s nice. Plus, less clean-up involved. The coroner’ll just chuck my pruny-ass in a bag and write off the ticket. A few days later, they’ll fry me up in the big oven down the road. Maybe then I’ll finally get to fly, smoke in the sky. You know how they always told you to learn to soar? Dreams and such… like we ever had ‘em anyhow. Now, I’ll be one. At least… the water… is warm….

Poetry-Thing Thursday: The Outcast

Do you know,
what it’s like,
to go against the grain?
For every breath,
that you take,
to fight a current?
Or how it feels,
to think your life,
might all be in vain?

I have wandered,
for many days,
trapped in hate.
As many more,
have been spent,
in total despair.
For each of them,
the only spin,
a wheel of fate.

But I don’t believe,
in those,
mysterious things.
Only that,
which feels,
real in my hands.
Because I know,
from my heart,
Reality’s what freedom brings.

I couldn’t say,
just how many,
times I’ve screamed.
About as many,
as I’ve cried,
or clenched a fist.
Abuse of the heart,
is all that I knew,
or even dreamed.

But those days,
have long since passed,
with seeds un-sown.
And though I’ve grown,
will be forever known,
as The Outcast.

Short Story: The Exiled One

Anita Cooper had worked seven days a week for months, either tamping away at a calculator or drumming along a keyboard. They’d been longer days than most people’s; ten-to-twelve hours at least. The money was right though, if nothing else. She’d deduced over that time that telecommuting wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, costing as it did, a marriage and any hope for companionship.

Still she worked; day in, day out. Her lunch hour was the only break she took outside once-an-hour coffee refills. Those breaks were only physical anyhow. Mentally, she remained in the chair, staring at profits, losses, expenditures. A few times she tore herself from work to web-surf or pan-fry her brain with Net-TV, but it was as mentally stimulating as watching grass grow.

Her one-time friends had watched her descent with pity. In the beginning, they were sympathetic, believing the issue was an over-demanding employer that required more effort for telecommuting. In truth, Anita’s employers barely knew her name. As time passed, it was evident they cared only for output being on-par with her desk-bound colleagues. Her excess of their output only made them notice when it dropped.

Ellen Fritz was the last of Anita’s friends to stick around. She’d carried the title of “friend” since grade-school; through thick and thin, high and low. They’d managed to remain friends in spite of the years and their trials. Ellen was proud of that, in a way, being of a humble self-noble type often and easily mistaken for self-absorbed. Unfortunately, Ellen’s would-be nobility also lent itself to prying, even if rightfully.

The conversation that eventually ended that friendship, or wounded it enough to make it seem so, was had over wine. It was a rare nights when Anita contacted someone outside of work. She invited Ellen and a few other friends for wine and dinner. Only Ellen arrived. It definitely wasn’t a good sign to any onlookers. Anita didn’t notice, too caught-up in cooking.

The pair ate and joked over a bottle of Pinot Grigio and an expertly crafted Chicken Piccata. Ever an an excellent cook, Anita’s home overflowed with scents of freshly peeled garlic, minced lemon, and rich, spiced wine. Atop them, scentless candles added their warmth, dripped wax into their columnar holders. Anita and Ellen relaxed in their seats, full and warm.

The conversation turned from pleasant small-talk. In words alone at first, over another glass of wine. Then, with whole sentences, the talk became deeper, heavier. Ellen pulled at the shoulders of her silk blouse, resetting it over her breasts and leaning onto her elbows. She slid her interlocked fingers beneath her chin, and rested it atop them. Anita had seen it a million times, most recently, when told of the divorce. It was the physical manifestation of a mental preparedness; the posturing of one about to plunge into tumultuous waters.

“Nita,” Ellen said finally, her voice heavy as her head. “I’m worried about you.”

Anita played it off with a chuckle, “I am on cloud-nine! What could you worry about?”

Her brow furrowed. “Honey, you’re withdrawing. I just want to know; why? Is it ‘cause of Darryl, or something else.”

Anita’s wine-infused breaths stiffened. Her face went blank– the same type of posturing, but stubborn. “I’m fine, El. No-one else is worried about me.”

“No-one else is here, honey. How would you know?”

Anita’s face showed the brick-wall of reality that hit her. That was all Anita recalled outside the knowledge of catty, baited quips and Ellen’s eventual departure– and her shaking head. Anita fumed, downing a bottle of wine alone, and leaving the rest to history.

Life took a turn that day, and every day after, she found herself alone, and uncertain of why. Apart from find herself forced to trek out for groceries, she’d entirely avoided leaving the house. Whether clear or not, she’d become agoraphobic. Everyone else knew it. The isolation afflicted her, even if she refused to admit to it or the cause.

Anita had always been fit, adhering to a workout regiment that kept her slimmer than most. Now in her mid-30s, the weight she’d put on was merely the most egregious sign of her self-exile. Apart from the aforementioned grocery trips, her life was entirely downsized, planned to avoid people entirely. Her days now consisted of waking, coffee, working with coffee, and showering before bed, at which point she’d sleep, only to rise and repeat.

Her worsening state had seemed only mildly different, allowing for terrible habits to take root. Some days she smoked cigarettes, or popped magic mushrooms from the private myco-troughs she’d once used to grow truffles, shitake, or portobello mushrooms for cooking.

Despite its recreational effects, Psilocybin was the only way she’d found to cope with the inevitable cluster headaches that now descended each night before bed. Somewhere in her, she knew, staring at computer screens sixteen-or more hours a day were to blame. Her life of work and nothing more had taken its toll; was taking its toll. Most times, she slept off the high…

Tonight was different.

Anita sat at her table, once more imbibing an expertly crafted meal. For one. She’d taken her daily dose of mushrooms before starting to cook, popping the caps and munching away as if a vegetable appetizer. Midway through cooking, the high set in. The five or so knitting-needles jammed through various parts of her skull and gray matter withdrew. She doubled down on the meds for sanity’s sake, finished cooking.

The second dose began to hit while the first peaked. Colorful swirls flowed from the lit candles like incense smoke-trails. They formed geometric shapes that zigged or zagged about the table, appearing and disappearing in and out of space-time randomly. The wine in Anita’s glass bubbled and frothed like a science experiment gone awry, but tasted better somehow. She drank it down and poured more, watching it form a waterfall along more of the floating, geometric shapes.

Her biggest shock was yet to come.

Anita began a conversation with herself, playing two sides of a dialogue between her and the Chicken Penne on her plate. Though it remained inanimate, the food thanked her for being so carefully prepared and wonderful tasting. She gobbled it down, the two quipping about its taste, until a polite “goodbye” preceded her taking the last bite. She threw down her frothing wine, and broke into a giggle-fit the likes of which few have seen. Through tearful blinks and table-slapping hysteria, she settled back in her chair, more relaxed and at-peace than in years. She swallowed her amusement, laid her head back, and closed her eyes.

She righted herself and nearly fled, screaming. Instead, reality’s icy-grip rooted her via now-rubber limbs.

Before her sat a much younger, slimmer version of herself. To say she wasn’t a looker would’ve been an insult, and a flat-out lie. The former-gymnast body was long, lanky, muscled in all the right places and tantalizing in all others. The one-time flicker of aroused satisfaction at viewing herself in the mirror returned. It coursed through her loins with the recollection of long-lost, acrobatic sex.

A shameful sniffle shattered the cooling silence. Her head fell, taking in her body; age-related change was one thing. This was another. She’d never expected to go through life being the bombshell-gymnast, but hard work had paid off then. She’d hoped it would continue to, but then, she wasn’t putting in hard work now. Not that kind. All her years suddenly felt squandered.

“It’s okay, you know?” Her younger self said. Anita’s eyes bulged with uncertainty, blinked away fatigue. They met their youthful counterpart’s. “Nobody’s perfect. Least of all us. We had it hard growing up. Not as hard as some, but not easy. Dad left. Mom withdrew. But we promised ourselves we’d never do that.”

Anita grit her teeth. Heart stung by her apparition’s words. Her mother had withdrawn. She’d become as much a recluse as Anita was now. It was the reason she’d been driven to take such good care of herself; she never wanted to turn out that way, sad, alone, stagnating. Her distant argument with Ellen came back, as foggy as ever, but depositing shame in her gut.

Her younger self laid her hands on the table, in a sort of heart-shape arrangement. Anita had always done the same thing when being forced to confront another’s guilt or shame. It was a sign that everything to be said was harsh truth, but that pain was alright given its context.

“You know why I’m here, what brought me– not just the ‘shrooms,” she said sympathetically. “We never knew how to deal with life. We were never taught that. Mom didn’t deal. Dad didn’t. How were we supposed to?” A tear slipped from Anita’s downcast eyes. “No one blames you. But you have to do something. You’re only a victim so long before you’re the cause. You’re about to pass that point. Things with Darryl were bad. Work was important. You’ve sorted those things out now, but you need to keep moving forward. We never really knew what was supposed to come next, I know. We still don’t. Kids, maybe, but Darryl wasn’t right for that anyhow. We need something though.”

Anita nodded slightly. Sorrow etched her folded mouth with sadness.

Her apparition aged with pained shadows, “You know what you need to do.”

Anita found herself standing from the table, her apparition beside her. It escorted her toward the bed room, laid her down, and helped her to settle for sleep.

“When you wake up, you’ll do it. Because you know you need to. You won’t want to. But you will. You have to. We don’t deserve this, let alone from ourselves.” The apparition began to fade, “Good luck, sweetheart. I’m always here.”

It reached out, touched her forehead with a pair of fingers. As if time jumped, Anita suddenly awoke to daylight streaming in from the windows. She found herself more refreshed than she’d expected. The coma-like sleep had rejuvenated her, left the night as fresh as if it were yet to cease. She stood before the bathroom mirror to rinse her face; age-lines and hard years had strained it, but something youthful beneath had been found anew.

Anita swallowed hard, screwed up her face. She dressed in cool, casual clothes, and walked to her door. Steel tethers pulled taught in her chest.

Good luck, sweetheart. I’m always here.

She breathed, and walked out the door.

Short Story: Never Ends There

It’s funny the way things turn out. Not always in the laughing matter, obviously. Funny in that way people are afraid to call irony for fear of starting a “thing.” That happens a lot. Especially in this society. It probably started around the time this did too, come to think of it. Probably coincidence. Then again, I don’t believe in coincidence– or do I? I don’t know. Ask me next time the news is over.

Where was I? Oh. Irony. It’s ironic. Not because “ironic” is fun to say, but because it actually is ironic. How? It all began about the time people got hyper-sensitive. First it was people’s fuck-partners and tastes. The gays started it, or rather, the “L,” “G,” “B,” and “T” started it. They argued they’d been discriminated against. They weren’t wrong.

A few years back a young man was grabbed off the road inAlabama. He’d been walking home when his existence offended some would-be purity-crusader. A couple guys grabbed him, beat him to death, and lynched him in a tree. No, I’m not confusing it with the Civil Rights movement. It just seems that way.

It’s hate. People whom no longer realize what human means. They know we’re animals, but believe that’s excuse enough. “Nature’s way” and such, are the lines. Except there’s no species that murders, rapes, pillages, and tortures apart from Homosapiens.

The point is, it started with the “Gays,” “those folk.” They were rightfully pissed. Technically, they weren’t even allowed to die for their country. A soldier known to be a homosexual could be discharged and jailed. Draconian rules in a modern society. Makes sense, right?

They got angry. And motivated. And did their thing hoping to make things better. All good things, right? Right. No arguments there. Not there. Elsewhere’s a different story. Elsewhere, there’s nothing but arguments.

‘Cause it didn’t end there. It never ends there! It doesn’t end until after the horse is bludgeoned to death. After its flesh is a mushy pulp and dust for the day’s bread. Such is human existence– so far as we’ve seen anyhow.

It’s always expected once one person starts complaining, someone else’ll follow. Usually it’s a pattern that goes like this; a group or person has a legitimate grievance. They air said grievance. Another group jumps to support their side or the other. Someone on the opposing side then jumps up to match them. The four groups, screaming, arguing, or generally causing a sonic discordance easily confused for noise.

Meanwhile, one other group abstains entirely, flying to mars to hide under a rock there. One last group tries to listen calmly, hoping to pick through the madness for the grievance to evaluate it for an amiable solution. The madness goes on long enough for that group to suss it out. They shut everyone up and negotiate– which may or may not involve repeating the aforementioned.

In the end, everyone’s happy. In the end, everyone sits down again. The first, aggrieved group is satisfied. The second is too. The third and fourth still hate each other and are ready to be at one another’s throats, but sit down to support their sides. The fifth returns from beneath the Mars-rock. And the sixth implements the proposed and ratified solutions. Simple, human nature.

But it never ends there! As soon as the first group’s happy again, another isn’t. They weren’t before, but their grievance felt too personal. They feared airing it. Seeing the last aired grievance was just as personal, they air theirs.

In our narrative, that was “women.” Women were pissed that they’d been mistreated, underpaid, and over-sexualized. They wanted equality, an end to mistreatment. They weren’t alone, nor were they wrong. The shouting began again. All the groups jumped up, fled, and listened as usual. Their grievance was heard, and eventually, a solution was reached. Same as before, right? Right. All good. Nothing bad.

But Remember: it never ends there!

The next thing that happened? You guessed it, someone else got upset. That time, it was “blacks.” Their grievance was aired; they’d won their Civil Rights but whites weren’t holding up their end. They weren’t wrong either. Solutions were reached.

But itnever ends there! Other races started piling on. Everyone began screaming or fleeing or listening… You might see where this is going.

One thing invariably led to another until only some grievances were legitimate. Others were just ignorantanger. Everyone accepted that. But now it was okay to air that, add it to the discordance. The breakdown came when people stopped reacting and listening– and thus working to fix problems.

With everyone too busy presenting the latest incarnation of “woe is me,” the biggest blowhards stole the show. Just trying to listen cost more energy than people had left, including the calm listeners.

And because it never ends there, that mentality of everyone deserves everything and nobody should ever stuggle trickled into every facet of society. Aired grievances, combined with a helicopter-parent society, forced society into accommodating everyone. Then, no-one could say anything without it pissing someone off.

That was the end of it. Civility ended there. Political correctness ended there. Manners ended there. Everything ended there. But it never ends there!

This started then. Now I’m here. There’s little more to do than than drool down my chin in hopes of making sense of it all. The white coat’s binding, and not very warm, and you’d think all that padding would insulate the room. But nope.

I’m forced to write with my toes. I’ve gotten good at doing things with my toes. I figure we’ll need that when we all return to the jungle. They won’t let me have my hands free anyway. I’m always scratching at myself and tearing my hair out. When I got here I looked like a cartoon cat run over by a lawnmower.

Funny thing. I saw a dead cat on the way in. Or maybe it was a possum. You can’t tell for sure from a moving car. All this insanity just makes me tired. It just never ends! Just like all that madness beyond the padding. Sometimes I really wish I was that possum…