Short Story: Brace-Face

She looked at herself in the mirror, stretching her mouth and lips to better show her teeth. The gleam of wires and metal was far from visually pleasing. Aesthetically, she hated them. One day she might say differently of the whole thing– one day when her teeth were pearly white and perfectly straight. For now, she curled her lips closed and frowned.

Danielle had never been one to speak out of turn, or fuss over things. Mostly, she sat in her room, or in one of her various classes, and let life swirl by in silence. She didn’t have friends to speak of, or to. It kept her quiet most of the time. Maybe, she thought, she could hide her mouthful of metal until graduation. It was a couple years away, sure, but she’d managed the preceding ten without much peer-interaction. Then again, she wasn’t about to add a blotchy, red face to the mix by holding her breath.

She brushed out her long, bushy hair. Yet another of Genetics’ slights was to give her the thickest, curliest hair a girl could have without being of some exotic origin. Each day, she’d stand in front of her bathroom mirror, vainly fighting it. Whether morning, afternoon, or night, they battle raged until Dani gave up and wrestled it into a bushy ponytail.

“More like squirrel-tail,” she always muttered. As always, thinking of how akin her hair was to having a long-haired cat rooted into her scalp– but less cute and twice as angry.

And now, there was the metal. A literal ton of it. Okay, maybe not literal, literal, but there was a lot. She might have cried, had she built any type of social standing that was to take a hit. Otherwise, it was just par for the course of a life as dishwater-dull as stagnant. She did her best to settle into her nightly homework, added to by the missed assignments from the day’s be-metaling. The only time she rose was to answer her mother’s call for dinner. It was only afterward that she realized just how bad it felt to have someone drill, glue, and wire her mouth together. To say nothing of having to pick, brush, and clean them for the first time.

By the end of it, she was haggard, emotionally and physically. With the last finishing touches on her homework, she collapsed into bed. The night passed in a patchwork of introspective bad dreams until she found herself lucid and aware she was dreaming, and completely helpless to stop them.

In the same, befuddled manner of all dreams, enough reality melded with hallucinatory strangeness to form a believable dream-world. Dani found herself at a school not quite the same as usual. Never-ending hallways took eternities to cross, super-imposing vast barren dunes atop them. Peers with transmogrifying faces drifted here and there or accompanied her for unknown reasons, refusing to listen to her cries of help. Others wandered about without faces. More still kept up an unending chorus of “brace-face, brace-face” that followed her as if ethereal whispers on an ever-blowing wind.

The dream-school was the very definition of eerie strangeness. After a while, even dream Dani found the chanting more tacky than hurtful. For hours and hours, the hallways carried her across their deserts, her would-be friends came and went, strangers stared from black-holes in their heads, and the wind chanted incessantly.

When the sun decided to grace her window and rip her from sleep, she returned from dreamland with gratitude. She praised the sun, albeit silently. Dreamland had become more twisted and sordid over time, in ways she couldn’t describe nor recall, but that left her feeling uneasy. The monotony of her years-old morning routine was just what she needed. It remained largely unchanged, though slightly more dismal now from aching teeth and a metal-bruised ego. Fighting her hair into its hairy-cat state helped her feel a little more normal. Her best “don’t look at me” clothes formed a hopeful shroud that allowed her to make for school without collapsing in embarassment.

Bacatta High-School was a place filled with paradoxes at every turn. Certain class rooms were dark, dank dungeons, windowless and cold. Beside them were warm meadows, windowed along one side with vibrant warmth. A time-vortex or dimensional rift would be perfectly at home there, and admittedly, not surprising. In her words, “You know, a regular high-school.”

She entered school to the drone-procession of students too-asleep for the morning hour. At least there she was invisible. Good. No one would notice her new metal-mouth. Not even if they tried to. She kept her head bowed, flowed with the rivers of students toward class. There, she floated in place like them, but half-submerged to remain invisible. It seemed to be going well until midway through Algebra, when she was forced to speak aloud.

Mrs. Harmon eyed the room, “Who can tell me the value of x, if x equals seven, plus two, divided by three. Hmm, let’s see… Danielle?”

Danielle was a deer in the headlights, hit by the car before realizing it. She was expected to answer. Her brain had already worked out the problem, but the few eyes that turned her way froze her in place. Mrs. Harmon leered with expectancy. Never in a million years could it help. It made things much worse than she ever expected.

She grimaced, did her best to hide her teeth, and saw herself flipping up and over the car, headlights already long gone. As she end-over-ended through the air, she revealed her unintentional lisp.

“Exsss equalsss three?”

“Correct. Excellent,” Mrs. Harmon said, moving on, completely unaware of the slaughter she’d caused.

Dani shrank in her seat. It was even worse than she’d expected. She’d probably sprayed the girl in front of her with a fountain of saliva. She didn’t seem to notice, but Dani did. A hand suddenly tapped Dani’s shoulder. She nearly fainted. Her eyes met another girl holding a folded scrap of paper. She gestured for Dani to take it.

Me? She mouthed. The girl nodded. Dani opened the note.

Girly scrawl formed the words “New braces?

Danielle’s face almost fell off. She’d known. Things must be even more terrible than she realized. She glanced at the girl, whom nonchalantly divided her attention between Mrs. Harmon and Danielle, then scribbled a reply:

Yea, why?

The note changed hands, was read, scribbled on, then returned.

It helps to have water. Or get some wax to put on the back.

Danielle’s eyes were a portrait of confusion. She scribbled back; Thanx. Is it really that bad?

The girl took the note, read it, then shook her head at Danielle.

I know the feeling. Mine was sooo bad at first. BTW, I’m Sara.

The bell for class-end rang. Dani read the note, then stood next to Sara. “Danielle. Mosst people call me Dani.”

Sara flashed a metal smile. “Cool. I’ve gotta’ head ‘cross the building, but you wanna’ sit together at lunch?”

Dani followed her from the room, carefully evading any esses. “Okay.”

“I’ll meet you in the commons later,” Sara said with another metal smile.

She turned for the long passage across the school and waved good-bye. Dani waved back, managing a smile of her own; maybe being a brace-face wouldn’t be as bad as she’d thought.

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Poetry-Thing Thursday: Burdened Shoulders

The figure of an adult,
and the mind of a child:
what a pitiful waste.
What an unfortunate slight.

To have been born with a silver spoon,
tucked firmly beneath one’s tongue,
so that no matter one’s ignorance,
they might always carry on.

We’ve surpassed evolution.
Made obsolete natural selection.
All by virtue of intelligence,
and this is the price we pay.

What a burden!
To live the life of one,
whose whole world is fortune,
and opportunity.
And then for that one,
to besmirch themselves,
and choose mental mediocrity.

What is the definition of a fool?
The one graced with all,
yet still achieving nothing,
or the one whom allowed such?

The answer,
is as simple as it appears.

So take pride in your mind,
for it may rest above burdened shoulders,
but so long,
as it is put,
to good use,
it shall never be squandered.

That is more than can be said of some…

Poetry-Thing Thursday: Illusions, Delusions

Illusions. Delusions.
Superstar collusions.
What mad profusions,
have granted such allusions,
as those formed by occlusions?

We stand for fraternity,
and to procure eternity,
for all whom modernity,
garners uncertainty,
from opportunity.

With salutations,
society’s ovulations
warrant congratulations,
in hopes of greater gradations,
‘stead of capitulations.

But the painful suicide,
of the truth we do hide,
can no more deride,
than a wave at high-tide,
one hoisted port-side.

With it we contend,
but I do not depend,
on your lunatic bend,
for realities mend,
and you can be penned.

Until your reality,
meets the Wisdom Tree
We’ve no need of thee,
so you may go free,
as we pause to take knee.

Life is no game.
You should feel shame,
for the way that you maim,
the world you find tame.
Ignorance your claim.

I hereby remove,
you from the groove,
until I see that you’ve,
found life to improve,
and have wisdom behoove.

Poetry-Thing Thursday: Keep It Well-Versed

Pumping Red blood,
like a rushing geyser,
that’s ever-present,
sans accompaniment.

The heart of matters.
The muscle of love.
It beats for you,
believe it’s true.

Inside and within,
your love has been,
well-worn and ridden,
if even unbidden.

Though it is never forgiven,
it breeds love where livin’,
in the hands of another,
the eyes of a lover.

So never fear,
it is always near,
beating and pounding,
reddened and coursing.

Its blood is your life,
no matter your strife,
and it treats you well,
so treat it the same.

And even if, by freak chance
it be only your first,
always in love,
keep it well-versed.

Short Story: Not a Bad Day

The earth heaved with a frightful shudder. Laura’s feet felt the earth-shattering tear. Her teeth rattled. Cement split, cracked. She thought to leap for the sidewalk, but it lurched upward by the quake. A moment of inertia preceded a terrible rumble. It growled to a roar. Car alarms began screaming across the city. All was chaos. Skyscraper-chunks dislodged, tumbled through the air. A car was suddenly flattened. Laura tried to pretend she hadn’t seen the people there, couldn’t.

She’d been running through the park when it began. Her new, daily ritual had put her there. She’d only just found out her weight problem was going to become diabetes. If she didn’t get fit now, she might lose a foot– or worse. The future would only get more difficult. Fortunately, something had woken her up this time. Even though her breath was perpetually ragged that first week, she’d lost ten pounds. Now, breathing was much easier all ‘round.

Somehow those things so present in her mind dissolved when all hell broke loose. Moments ago, she was content, joyous. She should’ve known. She’d feared those emotions from the years of terrible happenings usually succeeding them. Her luck had been bad since childhood: when she first the wonder of life, her parents divorced. Her childhood home was sold off as community property. When she finally recovered, she got her first period. When that was over, the skies cleared just long enough for adolescence to become teenage angst. Cliques excluded her. Her grades fell. She was altogether depressed until college. The first rays of sunshine once more appeared when college dissolved the cliques gone. Even a few boyfriends came around, despite her “unattractive” physique.

Then the clouds parted, and a downpour flushed her hopes. A car accident forced her into traction, worsened her weight problem. Her then-fiancee stuck around long enough for her to walk again. Since then, her life was one series of disappointments after another and preceding more. Now, when the sun’s rays seemed most likely to shine again, the asinine happened.

She could’ve lived with a broken leg, getting hit by a car, or somehow gaining weight when she meant to lose it, but an earthquake? Really? This was absolutely the most unlikely thing to happen. Sure, the west coast got quakes, but here? In the middle of the park? At the peak of Seattle’s dormant period? And just when she was feeling alright? Seattle hadn’t had a major quake in almost twenty years. They weren’t “due for one,” either. This was a fluke. Of all the times… If she’d believed in God, he was laughing and pointing right now. Asshole.

Her body engaged. She leaped to the sidewalk. It shuddered, lurched. The ground split. A chasm appeared, widened. She bolted at a break-neck speed, raced splitting earth. Her feet bucked and trembled, bounced and skipped against the upheaval of concrete. She felt as if levitating, rather than running, feet never touching ground. Asphalt cracked. Car windows shattered. Something exploded far-off.

All the while the hot sun beat through a cloudless sky as if in a reality all its own of peace and serenity. Bastard.

She sprinted past falling debris, flocked with crowds rampaging the city. They were stampeding in every direction. Fleeing for nowhere in particular. Fleeing just to flee. They were no longer people: scared animals, directed and steered by crashes, cracks. The cluster around Laura grew larger each second. It became a gathering, an assembly, a stadium, so on until everyone in Seattle had joined them.

They fled together. Some manifested only panting terror, fueled by adrenaline. Normally Laura would’ve joined them– panting, wheezing, stumbling and eventually falling back to accept the inevitable. Being heavy and learning to run meant learning to breathe again though. If the quake had hit even a week earlier, she’d have fallen miles ago. She’d have been trampled to death by the crowd surging around her.

Now, she ran.

Her muscles ached. Joints burned. Her heart was a metronome set to insanity. Until now, she hadn’t liked the aches, the pains. Now, it meant she was still alive, intact, still running. She needed that. She managed to pass a few people, push nearer the mob’s front. She could jealous hatred around her:a fat girl outpacing them? Well they never! Jackasses.

Near an intersection, someone fell. People trampled him, unaware of his cracking bones in their terror-flight. He screamed, bellowed for help. Laura pushed her legs toward him, threw her weight around to shoulder and elbow people away. One strong arm pulled him up. His eyes and face were red, wet. He bawled “thank yous.” People tried to shove her away, force her along the current of bodies. Between her new muscles and still-heavy build, she was a boulder in the rapid.

Something exploded, forced them into a half hunch. A half demolished car careened out of control. It ramped off un-level asphalt, arced nearby. Its rear-end caught a fire-hydrant, tore it free. A geyser erupted the persistent swoosh of pure, liquid fury. The car punched through the front of a coffee shop, pinned a few people down inside. The man half-pulled, half followed her toward the still-running car. Its roof was dented from an impact of debris, driver dead. Laura’s adrenaline suppressed vomit and fear. They scrambled over shattered glass, angled nearer the pinned screams.

The man managed to kill the engine, the Earth’s trembling lessening each moment. Laura’s tone– “bitch” as it was often called by, at last count, everyone she met– rallied the people still standing in the shop. Together twenty-five people helped turn the car onto its side. The people still able to walk fled for their lives. Others merely moaned in pain. A few people helped to set bones over screams, a couple ending as their producers passed out. Jerry-rigged splints were fashioned from broke tables and various miscellanea. Someone even managed to loot crutches and from a drugstore nearby.

Laura turned to eye the man she’d saved. A doctor tended to him, an off-duty ER doc in from the street to check the injured. The rest were being carted off for nearby hospitals. The doctor assured the man he had a few broken ribs, some bumps and cuts, but otherwise was fine. The man stepped over to Laura, and as best he could, hugged her with thanks.

Then came a moment of almost total silence. Reality was still. The world had stopped. Laura swiveled: the entire coffee shop eyed her with gratitude. Someone said “thank you.” Someone else clapped. Another person whistled. Laura reddened. A line formed of people wanting to shake her hand or take pictures with her– even though her face was beet-red from exertion and bashfulness, her skin slick with sweat, and her hair wild.

The moment passed and the man pulled his savior aside to slip his phone number over sheepishly. “For, you know, if you wanna’ actually have coffee some time.”

Laura giggled. Then together, they laughed full on. Maybe her luck had changed. Maybe, it wasn’t such a bad day after all…

Poetry-Thing Thursday: The Species Human

A classic abridged,
s’like an empty fridge;
all potential courage,
but no porridge,
n’ dropped from’a ridge,
takes less damage,

for there’s nothing spoiled,
nor laboriously toiled,
and man a-foiled,
when reality’s roiled,
the would-be uncoiled,
to be re-boiled.

Humanity’s no dif’rent,
that much’s apparent,
sanity for-rent,
while ev’ry torrent,
of life goes unspent.

And empty are minds,
that should’a been fined,
by their own kind,
when forced to remind,
of the contract signed,
and battles they’d wined.

If not for facts,
we’d be without tact,
for solemn’s the tract,
which man does attract,
but when he’s in pact,
he uses his knack’t,

for wit and creation,
to seek out libation,
from life’s equation,
with hopeful elation–
sunny prostration,
and ocular dilation.

So may we rejoice,
with robust-like voice,
and plentiful choice,

in light of day,
with a better way,
where none can say,
that we didn’t try,
whether obvious or sly,
to use up, fly,

as one greater than kin,
or any name-pin–
the species Human.

Bonus Poem: We Are All Mutants

A hundred million years,
or more of evolution,
has made us all mutants.
From dull, single-celled organisms,
to complex universes of life and intelligence.

We came from the sea,
after a bubbling froth,
formed us in its foam,
and boiled over,
spilling us out,
into the Earth.

People,
hung up on monkeys,
so narrow-minded,
and refusing to realize,
how powerful is nature,
that it can outlast us so greatly,
and yet attune us so perfectly.

Science is no myth.
Evolution only a theory in name.
One is the process of confirming,
what the eyes see.
The other,
is the process of how they came to be.

So black, white,
red, brown,
or a color we’ve yet to meet,
We’re all the same,
in a way;
the universe forming itself,
through forge and fusion,
reaction and fission,
and chemical concoctions.

The end result?
No creature could imagine,
nor form in mind,
without prior observation.

All the things of life,
existence;
love, hate,
joy and pain,
everything in between
is the reaction of life,
greeting itself–
of the universe,
creating itself.