Sunday, November 6, 2011

Half Astronaut

The ground beneath him was scorched by the fires of the rocket which propelled him upward to the heavens. For years, it was just a dream in his head. It was a dream that permeated his very being. He had floated through life, adrift on his thoughts of being a spaceman. No one could touch him, and their sounds didn’t travel to his ears. He was already there. Then, one day, he awoke.

He was driven by unholy forces. His hands had drawn the plans before he could fully comprehend them. His legs had taken him to places he’d never heard of just to get as high as he wanted to be. He had gathered so much, assorted pipes and materials, but most of it was used in trial combustion, and so he scraped the very bottom to get more. It was all he wanted in the world.

As the earth departed from him, he took no notice. He saw the endlessness of his goal, and he embraced it with open arms. He didn’t care what came after; the mess that he had left. He didn’t care about the people on the ground. His rocketship was like a fiery dragon, soaring through the blinding, deafening sky. He felt nothing but elation.

A study of man

“My god,” the doctor said, stunned at the lab results.

“What is it, what’s wrong with my babies?!”

“No, it isn’t like that. It isn’t something that’s wrong, per say.”

“What are you saying? Damn it, I don’t understand!”

“Mrs. Kelsey, your twins are… anthro kids. They’ll be uncovering bones in your backyard by the time they’re walking.”

“Wha… What?”

“Anthro kids. They’re going to be really into anthropology.”

“Is this a medical condition? What am I supposed to do?”

“Well, I’d buy the season tickets to the museum if I were you. You’re going to be there a lot.”

Wilhelmina turns her gaze away, unable to find joy in the news.

“Here, take this card; it’s a support group. Hopefully, you’ll make some friends who can help guide you through this new world.”

She leaves the clinic, unable to speak. She knows she should call their father, but she can’t muster it. After twenty-five silent minutes weeping in the front seat of her car, she remembers a place where she can go; a place where she finds comfort.

The drive seems to pass in slow motion, while the colors and shapes move passed her with blinding speed. She can’t decipher any of the signs anymore; she’s driving on pure blind intuition. Where she’s going, she’s been before, and she trusts her movements to get her there one more time. There is safety there, but she knows that when she leaves, she’ll feel conflicted and empty. Five minutes later, she’s parked in front of it, staring down the garish nativity scene peeking out from just behind the sign. The Creation Museum: the one place where anthropology doesn’t exist.

She walks through the hall where a video of Satan planting evidence against God plays on a loop, and the process of humans being formed of dirt is thoroughly buried under rhetoric and flashing lights.

“No child of mine, she thinks.”

At the very back, she finds a chapel. The priests there are perfectly styled and clean, but a sinister undercurrent immediately envelops her. She takes a seat and waits for the sermon to be over. An older man begins to rub his hand against her thigh, and she winces.

“I know what you need,” he whispers into her ear.

“Yes,” she says, with a silent tear running down her face. “Give me what I need.”

An hour later, she’s back in the parking lot, this time crying her eyes out. She finally calls him.

“Zach. I can hardly breathe right now. The doctor said… it was a miscarriage. I’m so sorry.”

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Honeypot

Just one more pull, then we bolted. The bees were out to get us. Normally contending with bears for their sweet honey, they didn’t suppose Jim and I were terribly intimidating targets. Bears have stubby legs when they’re bipedal, but they run fast on the ground. Jim was a strong runner, but by then I had already set into my chubby teenage years, and every second of that afternoon, where I could see nothing more than the back of Jim’s shirt in front of me the sound of angry suicidal pricks to my rear, was sheer terror. It was a pure rush of adrenaline, followed by endorphins to treat the pain. The bears didn’t need to run though; their fur was more than enough to avoid stings. My old Lincoln was our equivalent. It was a steel fortress on wheels.

“We made it. I don’t know if we can keep doing this though. It’s a lot of effort for something we could just buy. In fact, we could probably find lube that was even better for our lovemaking if we just looked.”

“Don’t you start that shit on me again, Jim. You know I like to be slathered in honey, and I need it fresh. Besides, there’s no way I’m going to face the judgmental store clerk who’s ringing up fifteen honey bears every week. I won’t be thought of as a pervert!”

“But…”

“It is much better to be a pervert than to be thought of as one!”

“But they have self checkout now!”

“And what happens when something goes wrong on one of those? You have to wait around until a clerk is there to help you, while the line of angry people in an unreasonable hurry stares you and your honey down. I won’t have it.”

“You’re a wonderfully odd man, you know that?”

“Shut up and fuck me.”

Friday, October 28, 2011

Converbortion

con-ver-bor-tion [kon-ver-bawr-shuhn]

noun

When the conversation that is being attempted is so unspeakably malformed that it must be terminated.

Example:
The attractive woman began talking to me and in my anxious haste I caused a converbortion.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Already Dead

Consciousness - I feel it drifting away, piece by piece. It is a shattered window, worn down by time and elements, being removed by overwhelming outside forces. I start to dream, still half awake. Scenes begin to play out in bits in my mind, apropos of nothing, as an interlude to the reality that surrounds me.

The clocks turn over to twelve noon. It’s going to be another lousy day at work.

Staring down the line, I make the necessary preparations. The seconds seem to drag. I check again. People look anxious and uncomfortable assembled into a makeshift lineup. The pressure of their desire to leave and the intensity of their stares attempts to pierce my indifference, but very little can penetrate the walls I’ve built. I’ve been doing this for too long. I’ll be doing it just a little bit longer.

The people here are not my friends. They’re mercenaries, traders and thieves. Every one of them is in it for themselves, and deception is just another tool at their disposal. I won’t play their games, and for that, I stay trapped. I am still exactly where I started. I’m afraid I’ll die here. I’m afraid that the walls I’ve built form my coffin.

Buried under the weight of my thoughts, I indulge them. I press the button. A number flashes, and an autonomous voice emanating from above announces me to my audience. I sleep. I imagine that I am a free man. I cross oceans and cure diseases. The city and the stars are my home. I pursue science and the arts with equal fervidity. The details change, but my freedom remains a constant. I may never be free. This realization always gives me pause.

I have to keep moving. I have to keep trying. The very moment that I stop going forward is the moment that I am dead.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Life on Mars Part 2: The lies we tell ourselves

Writer’s block.

I’ve never really understood it before. I’ve been able to create magic with my fingers for so long; I just never thought it would end. Here I am though, looking at a typepad, with not one goddamn thing to type. I’m getting drunker quicker, but it isn’t helping. I’m not inspired. I don’t have that one thing that really intrigues people. I have no idea what to write about. It’s been my nightmare since I started this ridiculous farce.

I watch the band play, with the sort of analytic tick that would ruin anything. I over think each movement. I kept expecting things that never happened. It was no different with the chatter from the customers that I overheard. No one had anything more interesting to say than a cricket’s chirp. It was a conversation I could hear on any regular night from any number of people. Had I lost it? Was my gift to be torn away from me abruptly? No. The doubt is what will get me. I need to be confident. I need to know that I’ll turn this out.

But I don’t know.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Logic & Empathy

EPS: "It gets better. Life is an open landscape."

CLOS: "Many of us are trapped, and many more feel that they are."

EPS: "It isn't perfect, but a lot of time and luck went into our very existence. I am overcome by the thought of how unusual and fortunate it is that I live. I get to have experience. I learn, love, laugh, and live."

CLOS: "At the very least, you think that you do. Our pain is what really connects us all, and I sometimes wonder how much longer I can stand this experience."

EPS: "But there is nothing else, and as far as I can tell, this is my only chance. Why dwell on that which makes me unhappy? Why let things make me unhappy?"

CLOS: "Because we are problem solvers, each seeking to fix the universe which bore us. We need that pain in order to keep surviving. If we are numb to this sensation, we are stagnant."

EPS: "Some pain cannot be solved, and besides that, there are far more capable solvers than I."

CLOS: "It doesn't work that way. We don't get to take the good without the bad. Each of us learns and adapts. When we cease to do so, we cease to live."

EPS: "How do you explain that to those who suffer? Those with real problems?"

CLOS: "What are real problems? What aren't real problems? It's not my place to decide that."

EPS: "Then what is it you propose, if it isn't comfort?"

CLOS: "Perspective. Stand back from your own personal situation and think about the city, the country, the planet, and the universe. See how small a part you are of the past, present and future of these things. Then re-evaluate your priorities."

EPS: "They'll never go for that."

CLOS: "For once, I think we agree."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Wonderful End of the World

He was a brutal looking man. His downcast face was host to generations of scars that connected the wrinkles of his patchwork scruff. Despite his intimidating figure, he was known for his kindness and his understanding. No one knew what had marked his skin, but his brilliant empathy had made him seem younger and more beautiful than the braggart men who were a third of his age. Young women brought him gifts and told him of their fondness, but he always kept his distance. He knew they didn’t want him; they wanted a man their own age with the strength and vigor to keep up with them, but with his wisdom. They were in love with a person who didn’t exist. After all, you don’t gain that sort of wisdom without a lifetime of shit preceding it.

He was once one of those young men that he now reviled. He was cocky and self-centered, but he was also crippled with fear. He was the sort of contradiction that you wouldn’t expect to be able to exist – a man with self confidence who couldn’t handle other people. Even he didn’t understand it, but he had plenty of excuses he could fall back on. His father was violent, but not in the way you’d expect. He was an emotionally volatile man who set the seeds of injury from deep within you and kept the wound from ever healing. His father had made him feel helpless and worthless, and after a while he could no longer voice his thoughts in front of him. By the time he was an adult, he was so disconnected that he didn’t trust anyone who was older or younger than he was.

His mother was dead. She had lived long into his life, but she was dead before he was born. She had no will to fight his father, and her frustrations were passed on to her children. When age finally took her, he mourned, but he was relieved. He couldn’t side with her, because she clung to all the things that he had come to hate. She had genuinely cared about him, and he knew that, but she was a mess. Between the religion and the man she didn’t have the strength to leave, he just couldn’t respect her anymore.

When he was finally on his own, he was too damaged to carry on a normal life. He was, by all rights, a very smart and productive man, but he avoided other people at all costs, including his career and his personal ambitions. He saw himself passed up time after time by people who were less skilled, but were disgustingly outgoing. The women he had in his life were similarly damaged, as his demeanor didn’t attract the healthy happy type that he longed for, and eventually he left them all without even a hint of sadness. The loathing that he felt was too overpowering to feel anything else. He was not able to hold casual relationships, because he was overtly jealous and controlling. He had inherited too much of his father.

This painful realization had kept him alone in the worst way for the last 25 years. He was outwardly very kind because he saw life in the shades of gray that it really was, and he couldn’t help but be reasonable. He had nothing to gain and nothing to lose, so he was the perfect sounding board. Long ago he had developed a plan, and as introverted as he was, he could easily commit to it. He was saving his money. He worked hard for a long time, making very little, but he saved all that he could and he knew that he was close to his goal now. He didn’t show it, but he felt happiness. It had been a long time coming, and he had stuck through it. He wasn’t retiring - he couldn’t bear that loneliness - but he knew that his working days were coming to an end, and his sentimentality brought him a solemn joy.

Finding what he needed was easy, at least compared to the years of saving. In order to get it without arousing suspicion, he needed to assemble it himself. This didn’t bother him. Even if he fucked it up, it would have the effect he desired. He wasn’t trying to live forever, after all. He didn’t feel bad about betraying the affections of the young women who loved him, so long as he remained a non-sexual object. They had squandered their time fretting over the sort of men he had exactly avoided becoming. Needless to say, he cared even less for the men.

The duffel bag he carried with him was a common affair, as it had held his meals and other various objects that he felt were useful. Today, however, it held more; it held the futures of him and everyone within a fifty mile radius. No one would check it. This had long been a part of his plan. When he arrives, he sets it in his locker, making sure that he was alone. As he attaches his nametag and walks to his station, he keeps the countdown in his mind. His smile is the most unnatural thing about him, and draws the attention of those who know him best. He tells them that he is just happy. He has finally accomplished something that makes him proud, and looking out over the faces of the unappreciative people, he knows that he has made the right choice. They wouldn’t feel so stressed soon, and neither would he.

Just then, he is unexpectedly called to his manager’s office. This is unusual, but nothing can break his stride today. He’s still counting downward in his head. When he arrives in the office, he finds it empty, so he takes a seat, and sprawls himself out, more relaxed than he had previously been during his long career at the company. His managers arrive, with a sad look that he can’t decipher. Finding their own seats, they give knowing nods to each other and sigh heavily.

“We have to let you go.”

He’s shocked. After all this time, he had long felt invincible. He had made mistakes, but nothing so severe that he should be fired.

“Why?” he says with a forlorn passion, not seen in his work since he was a teenager.

“You’re just not the face we want on our company. You scare children. You’ve been here for a long time, and we appreciate everything you’ve done, but we have to think about profits first.”

In his final moments, he stares down at the floor disparately. He doesn’t have anything to say. Still conscious of the time, he stares deeply into his managers eyes and begins to count backwards.

“3… 2… 1..”

The explosion was so great and so damaging, that they never found his body. The parts they did find were indistinguishable from the rest of the rubble. He had set a nuclear device, the range of which destroyed his entire town, and caused lasting effects for miles beyond that. It would come to be known as the greatest disaster in the history of the country, and no one could figure out why it had happened. The dust swirled about in the radioactive breeze that only nature felt, having reclaimed the land. His long journey had ended, and the emptiness that he had inside him had become a literal emptiness.

As the sun set on the ashes, there was a quiet and destructive beauty that was reminiscent of his own.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Crusade

You can only be wrong so many times before you start believing you're right.

Looking down beneath him, he sees the ants filing away; fulfilling their meager purpose. He can't gleam a reason to it, so he smashes it. The ant hill survives - their foundation being deeper than he could surmise.

He feels victorious.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Coffin

Every building is a landmark of my disappointments. I’ve passed by them hundreds of times, and somehow they’ve absorbed certain moments in my life. I not only see them in my mind, but I feel them. I am, once again, in those moments. The hatred and the embarrassment and the shame and the jealousy are all just as palpable now as they were then.

“I need to get away from here,” I say to myself with no conviction in my mouth. I know I’m trapped. If I leave here then I lose everything. I can’t leave on my own anymore. I’m waiting, instead, to be taken.

The sadness turns to anger as I pass through the rougher side of town. “It’s a goddamn injustice,” I say, screaming in my mind, but as silent and solitary as any of the other shadows in the city. This is where I feel the most pain; just before I’m home again.

The house itself is a testament to my failure, but it’s safe. I can settle in and feel comfortable in my own little pocket. When I open the door, I am greeted by a foul stench, the origin of which I simply lack the motivation to discover. Piles of trash and rotten food litter the kitchen, the dining room and the living room. It’s not my doing, and it has become too big a force to fight anymore.

“I can’t live like this,” I think, knowing that I can and I have. I find myself haunted by the past, crippled by the present, and holding no more hope for the future. I lie to myself, and sink further into intoxication.

“This is my life; everything else is imagined.”

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Twenty Four Minutes

Stop talking; we're losing light
Shadows and black, I'm losing sight
One thing before another, I forget the order
She moves swiftly, shoulder to shoulder
Skin glistening in twilight, this quiet landscape seems louder
My body aches to confide in her - to surround her
I'm left shaking, face to face with human mortality
And daylight has gone, overcome by bald frivolity.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Day at the Amusement Park

We bounced all the way there, our childlike enthusiasm unwavering. It was childlike, not least of all, because we were children then. The days were full of enigmas, but none of them held any weight; indeed, ours was a world of feather-light gravity and constant intrigue. Our spirit was hardly dampened by our father’s constant grimace and perpetual awareness of the drudgery of his daily life. He didn’t ask to be tied down, and to have his every move revolve around others who were utterly dependent. We could hardly detect such things back then. In any event, he was there, and he was trying. So what if he didn’t want to be there?

Looking back, we didn’t want him there either.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Limits

The ride to the office was quiet, aside from her occasional screeching. She would say things that didn’t make sense. She asked questions that didn’t need answering. It was a lovely day, as we passed the rocky hills of the pacific coast. I watched the road, and dreamed of hearing the words that would change my life. I dreamed that there would be an answer, finally, at the end of this long road. I no longer held out hope though; it was just a silly dream. The years of struggling had long since killed it, the way she had killed her father. The road seemed as though it would wind on forever before I spotted the sign.

“Jerry Staller, Pediatrician & Child Neurologist.”

I sighed, and pretended to read a magazine. She stares deeply and intently toward the floor, as though she were trying to solve it. She is my flesh and blood, my DNA. She might as well be me. She is so strange though; so very different from who I am or who I’ve been. I was a normal child. I ran around, I jumped and laughed and cried. She stalks about the house like a ghost, ashamed of having to haunt you. I can’t look into her eyes without seeing disappointment.

“Your daughter is perfectly healthy. I see no reason to believe she suffers from autism or any other ailment.”

“Then she is simply burdened?”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand your meaning.”

“Look at her. The weight of the world rests atop those shoulders.”

“Is everything alright, Manal? Are you feeling okay?”

“Yes. Everything is alright. Everything is fucking grand. My child lives in a bubble of her own thoughts and creations, oblivious to others, or simply disinterested in them. What could possibly be wrong? You know what the worst part is though? Do you know what the worst fucking part is? I don’t like her. I don’t love her. I don’t like seeing her everyday.”

“Uh… I don’t…”

“And I fucking hate myself for feeling that way.”

It was the first time I had ever admitted it, but it had crossed my mind many times before. Everyday. Everyday, since she was born. My instincts never showed through. That intangible thing that causes you to love your offspring, no matter what, that blind spot for all their faults; I didn’t have it. I just had unmet expectations and a life of servitude to this terrible being who is needier than most, while she stares off into the fucking ether.

Tears ran down my eyes as I stared out over the cliffs and we drove home.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Artist and the Theorist

“Spin, spin, Satan”

As the pentagram in front of me rotated in a counter-clockwise motion, I couldn’t help but think how silly the whole thing really was. I liked the image for what it reminded me of; it was the music I listened to, and the things I liked in those lost halcyon days. I never believed in the occult or in the existence of some sort of demonic being. I did rather enjoy offending those who were frightened of those things though. What did it really say about me though?

“I want it, but I don’t know why. I don’t think I’m going to regret it, I just don’t know why I like it.”

The man in front of me was not interested in my stories or the introspective journey I had embarked upon. He was only interested in whether or not I could afford his services. I assured him that I could. As I lay there on my stomach, trying desperately to relax and not think about what was actually happening, I pondered the choices I’ve made in life. Do I really understand anything that I do? I don’t suppose it really matters.

“Why is it that self-awareness seems like a fraud?”

“What?” he said, stopping his work momentarily.

“Nothing. Just thinking aloud.”

Monday, May 23, 2011

For Now

The weekend is gone. It has revolved to the back of the figurative line. Time seems to pass as if it were meaningless; as if it were a figment of our collective imaginations. In our memories, we will distill the past to only the necessary bits. Did something upset us? Delight us? Intrigue us? We shall file it away for later. Yet, a lot of the actual event shall become collateral damage; destroyed by nothing more than our disinterest in it.

I’m drinking wine and thinking. He’s reading a book that he has written and underlining and circling the errors. The others sit across from us and discuss matters which I’ve accepted as trivial. When we die, we won’t be remembered for this.

Earlier, the parade marches through town, oblivious to my existence. I go out of my way to avoid it. In what is neither an instant nor an eternity, it begins and ends. It is now entirely gone, while I remain. I am victorious, for now.

I eat a cupcake from a tray she has placed on the table. It is small, brown, and topped with a chocolate frosting. And cold; it is directly from the freezer. For how long should I internalize this memory? Of what use will it be to me in the future? For now, it remains. It is just as real as it ever was; just as I am. Men and women have lived and died, accomplished an untold number of things and passed out of thought. Congratulations, little cupcake.

You and I are victorious.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Broken Keys

I’m initially in a panic.

“I can’t use this. I need to use this. I use this a lot. What the fuck can I do now?”

I stare down at the instrument I’ve used to create my sad melodies for so many years, heartbroken. I’ve dreamed about replacing it. I’ve thought about being wealthy enough to buy the top of line replacement. I’ve always imagined that it would make me terribly happy to do so. Now, I just want it back in one piece.

I’ve done so much of my work with it; it is more than a tool, it is an old friend. In all my dreaming, I never imagined that it would simply be lost forever. I thought I kept it in such good condition. I thought it would last. I can’t afford to replace it now.

“I suppose I can try to work around those keys… Sometimes restrictions lead to further creativity.”

Plunking away, I instinctively press on a key, and it sinks, doing nothing. My head falls below my shoulders, and I let out a long sigh.

“This might take some work.”

Monday, May 16, 2011

Life on Mars, Part One: A little something about myself

It is sometimes surreal.

Walking around the more tourist friendly areas of the planet, I notice familiar foliage in foreign soil. Not that there are tourists here - the three-year travel time tends to put most people off of the shorter visits. Still, I see a lot of very familiar looking people here. They are nuclear families, usually with two or three children, and invariably dressed in expensive clothing that is made to look rather plain… possibly plain clothing that is made to be very expensive. One does need a healthy sum of disposable income to be living here, I suppose. Not me, of course; I'm exempt. I just happen to be lucky enough to be a charlatan parading around as a journalist. This place needs the documentation. They're all dressed up in their swimwear. Many of them are workers, who saw the opportunity to be a part of something historic and brought their families along. They must feel like pioneers. They wear shorts and bikinis, as if we they were gallivanting down the Pacific coast. I wonder about the younger children; do they remember Earth at all? Can they be considered native Martians? I should probably be writing this down.

The lakes here are deep. They are man-filled, but not man-made, so people contend that there is still plenty of exploration to be done. I don't know what they expect to find. Many are old volcano shafts, weaving deep through the planet until the heat and the pressure is enough to kill any living thing; anything we know of, at least. Sunken pirate treasure seems like a stretch. Even fish would be a shocking sight around here. Yet, I feel a strange tinge of disbelief to be floating upon the waters here, idly noticing the movement of unfamiliar moons, and imagining the Earth is now so far away. The dome, however, is a strong distraction from getting lost in your thoughts. I understand the necessity, but I feel like I'm someone's pet, trapped in a terrarium. It might be just like home if I could see far out into the ether, unhindered.

I suppose I should explain. This is a private journal, but no one writes a private journal without intending for someone to read it eventually. We are all vain and full of self-importance at our core; most people are simply less honest about it. I’m not here because I’m a pioneer, or an adventurer, or some brilliant writer. I’m here because I was bored and I needed the money. I am the wrong person to be doing this job. Then again, I’ve always felt like I was the wrong person, no matter what job I was doing. There is, fortunately, very little oversight. I could write about what I see, and what is really going on here, but that isn’t what they want anyway. There are lots of stories that get passed around here, originally based on truth, but turned to legend by oral tradition, and those are what really intrigue people. They might not be true, strictly speaking, but they’re true enough. Barring that, I just make something up. Creative writing was always my forte.

Today should to be my day off, as it were. I’m trying to relax, but I can’t really. There is something about this place that gives me a constant feeling of tension. At least, that’s my excuse. Alcohol is very expensive here, but they are talking about building a local brewery or refinery or whatever they need to make the liquor flow. It is telling that this has been my most pressing concern. I’ve been spending my entire check at that damn bar. Not that I need that money for anything else, but it would be nice to walk away with something after this. If people ever figure out that I’m full of crap, I might not be able to get another job. I think this rum might have gone to my head too quickly. It’s becoming difficult to focus.

“Hey, we’re closing.” A voice I don’t recognize emanates from a short distance away.

It is some time later, and I realize that I have fallen asleep. I’m the only person left, and it’s getting dark. That’s one of the symptoms of the alcohol. I seem to fall asleep randomly and uncontrollably. I usually know that it’s coming about ten minutes beforehand, but am so overwhelmingly tired that I can’t do anything about it. I suppose I should get out of the water now. Maybe freshen up my drink while I’m at it. Even though it’s my day off, I can’t relax. I have to start working on something, and I have to do it now. There is no pause between when I complete a story and the fear that I won’t be able to come up with the next one. I’ll have to hit the bar. It’s the best place to overhear chatter without having to attribute it to anyone in particular. It’s also one of few places that will stay open.

I take my usual seat, in the corner next to the wall. I enjoy having walls on two sides of me, it feels safe. It is as if the building is cradling me. There is a fairly good turnout tonight, despite being a Sunday. I say Sunday, but it isn’t really. We don’t have the same time here as on Earth, but we keep the calendar, because it is comfortable, like my corner spot. The workers here are very good drinkers. Writing is a profession that is littered with alcoholism, but I think these people have us beat. There’s something to admire there. Looking around the room, I can see stories on all their faces. One man has scars, and is grizzly looking. You can tell that he is not a family man. He pushes harder than most, and takes more risks. So far the risks have paid off, but they’ve left him with their mark. Someday, they’ll take him. This isn’t something that will appeal to my demographic.

There isn’t much tonight. I’m going to have to figure something out myself. I’m feeling like a feel-good story this time; something annoyingly heartwarming. Nothing pulls at people’s heart strings like a child. A child will discover something. It can’t be something terribly important though; that would be too obvious. It has to be something that is equally intriguing and insignificant. A piece of a lander, perhaps? Those have been missing for quite a while under the red sand. It’s just filler though. It’s bullshit to get through to another day. I have to find something great. I can’t just pass the days anymore; I have to make a name for myself here.

“Yes, I’d like another Irish whiskey, and make it double.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sad Sack

“Mark down another one.”

“Defeat.”

“This time, it was perpetual self-sabotage. A man goes through life with a certain degree of paranoia, and he’s bound to screw himself up. It’s difficult to relax, sometimes. It’s difficult to accept a situation, particularly if it’s a good one.”

“But, to do it every time; isn’t that a special sort of fucked up?”

“It’s more common than you’d imagine. Two or three times in a row, and suddenly they think ‘it will always be that way.’ Once they start believing that, they’ll start ensuring that it is always that way. The real surprise is how many chances a man gets.”

“It’s some bullshit; the whole thing is. Why should you make yourself miserable? Aren’t there enough things out there to do that for you?”

“You’re telling me.”

“Anyway, we should probably get these fucking hostages tied up and get the money.”

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Cosmonaut

He had always loved his wife, but the distance between them had grown vast and perilous. The key word was 'wife;' he had not loved her nearly so often before then. They had their ups and downs, and he questioned the whole thing on many occasions. Did they stay together because it was easier? Had the tensions ultimately made them feel more attached to one another? Now, however, he loved his wife. Of course, the word love was utterly meaningless to him. He felt many different things - comfort, happiness, passion, attraction - but he could put names to all of them, and didn't feel the need to call any one of them love. Perhaps, he wondered, the combination of all of them was love. On some nights, he wondered if there wasn't another emotion, and he was simply incapable of feeling it.

He stared up at the sky, wondering what it was like to float through the vast emptiness of space and contemplate only the stars.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Interview With a Dullard

[Fade in]

Dwight:
"Hello folks, and welcome to Fridays with Dwight! It's the hard hitting investigative journal that really goes deep, into the heart of humanity. As always, my goal is to show you the side of life that you're already aware of, but that isn't usually put on TV, because then TV isn't escapism anymore. It's that gritty reality that you'd have to walk outside to see! Today, we have with us in the studio, a special guest: Garrett H. Tiemann. In case you don't know, he's a writer from California, a graduate of UC Davis, and a truly fascinating guy. So far, he's published nothing. I'd like to get to the root of who this guy really is, so let’s just jump right into it."

[Dwight turns to Garrett. They are both seated in arm chairs, facing each other, but tilted to face the camera as well. There is a coffee table between them with non-descript mugs sitting upon it. The lights shine down on them brightly, and the background is a seemingly endless depth of black.]

Dwight:
"So, Garrett; you've done nothing to progress your writing career, but you do work a minimum wage job as a cashier. I have to ask, how do you spend your days off; the time when, arguably, you should be trying to get your career started?"

Garrett:
"I don't know. I just sort of wait around, trying to relax. I end up feeling anxious though, because I can feel the time creep, and I know very well that I'll be working again soon."

[Dwight leans forward, to show that he is very interested. Garrett takes a drink from one of the mugs.]

Dwight:
"You don't look through job listings or anything like that?"

Garrett:
"I sometimes do, but most of the time I don't meet all the qualifications, or it's too far for me to commute. I figure I should start looking for a serious job after I get some more money, so I can maybe buy a car and travel further."

Dwight:
"How much do you have saved up for that?"

Garrett:
"Oh, I don't have anything saved. Can't afford to save."

[Dwight sits up, now looking somewhat surprised.]

Dwight:
"So, how is it that you think you'll get a surge of money?"

Garrett:
"Who can say? I found $9 on the ground just the other day."

Dwight:
"You don't say. Well, if you're not trying to progress your career, what is it that you do? What things do you like?"

Garrett:
"I like music. Well, I sort of like music. I've owned some instruments, but I never learned to play them. I listen to music, but pretty much the same music over and over again. I don't pay for music either, and I don't like going to concerts. But yeah, I like music."

[Dwight is leaning back now. His face has taken a very solemn expression that is not unlike contempt.]

Dwight:
"It doesn't sound like you care much about it."

Garrett:
"What is there to care about?"

Dwight:
"Indeed. Is that it? No other interests?"

Garrett:
"I play videogames sometimes. I don't finish games very often though. I get bored. I never play online. I don't like how serious some people get. I know a lot about videogames though. I have an interest in them, just not enough to really play them."

Dwight:
"I see a pattern emerging. Is there anything that you like that you actually want to do?"

Garrett:
"I want to do everything, there just isn’t the time."

[Dwight lets out an indignant huff. He is not so subtlety annoyed.]

Dwight:
"But you just said that you spend your days off doing nothing."

Garrett:
"Well, yeah. I'm too tired from the work week. I don't want to do anything on my days off.

Dwight:
"I see. Well, you must be doing something while you're doing nothing."

Garrett:
"True. The TV is pretty much always on, though I just set it to something I don't have to pay attention to. I browse the internet, but most of that time is spent looking at funny pictures and refreshing the same half dozen websites."

[Dwight just stares at his guest for a few seconds, motionlessly, as if deeply contemplating something else, before he continues the interview.]

Dwight:
"Why don't you seek out new things? There's so much on the internet; surely you could have an endless supply of things to read and learn about."

Garrett:
"Sounds like work to me."

Dwight:
"Speaking of which, what do you do at work?"

Garrett:
"I help the customers, of course. I'm a cashier."

Dwight:
"And is that really taxing for you, mentally?"

Garrett:
"No, I pretty much turn my brain off during it. I can do that job in my sleep."

Dwight:
"So, it's physically exhausting, right?"

Garrett:
"Oh yeah. I have to stand up for like three hours at a time sometimes. That's bad for your back."

Dwight:
"You just stand around?"

Garrett:
"Yeah. You'd think they'd give us chairs or something."

[Dwight stands up, rips off his microphone, and silently walks away in the opposite direction of his guest. Off screen, you can hear some loudly whispered arguments. Garrett takes another sip from his cup.]

[Fade out]

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Party

"Well," he thinks aloud to himself. "This certainly is interesting."

He had always felt alone in a large world, separated from others by an excess of space, both real and imagined. As time had worn on, he felt as if he was shrinking. As a child, the glare of those around him penetrated his thoughts. He believed that they would whisper behind his back; that he was constantly on parade for their amusement. Now, an adult, he was not looked upon. He was no more thought about than were the birds and insects that pestered the happy picnicking families. He felt reduced to a mild annoyance, and was greatly relieved by it. Eventually, he thought, he would fade away completely, and then he would really feel free.

He sits, glancing through a magazine, reading the headline too quickly and staring into the pictures for too long. He has been drinking again, and the words jutted back and forth too quickly for him now. It wasn't his way of escaping so much as it was his way to become enveloped more deeply. He is lost in the pictures.

It wasn't that he had anything to hide from the world. He was simply uncomfortable; uncomfortable in his skin, uncomfortable in his clothes, uncomfortable opening his mouth and letting his thoughts spill out. He does open up if the opportunity arises, but the results of such out pours have proven to be mixed enough to make him cautious. He does not lack self confidence, it is not an issue of being self-conscious, but the thoughts of others are mysterious to him, and imparting any piece of himself to them often leaves him feeling even more alienated.

Tonight, he attends another dinner party. Their occurrence is as predictable as his consistent inability to connect with the other guests. He was invited because it is polite, but no one would feel too bad if he had an excuse not to attend; he had no such excuse. The people there are certainly personable, and he should have no trouble finding common ground amongst them, but their conversations bore him, and he can't find it in himself to contribute. He doesn't know what about them he finds dull, but it grates upon him somewhere deeply inside his mind.

"I have no idea who these people are," he says to himself, staring at candid photos with poorly written captions. "Even if I did, why would I care about their weight gain?" He makes certain that no one can hear him.

The liquor loosens him, but it also thins his blood; blood that was already crying out for mercy. There was a constant pain in his arm, all the way from his shoulder to his fingers, where he can feel the pressure in his veins rise and fall. He goes to sleep terrified at night that he won't wake up; that his heart will finally revolt and leave him there alone. He attends the parties because of this same fear. At least, he thought, if he should die then, someone will notice. He hopes someone will notice, anyway.

It was time to leave now. He was driven and delivered to the front door, dressed up in his casual suit, with a liquid offering he hoped to personally ingest a fair amount of. It is expensive, but not lavishly so. Like him, it treads somewhere in the middle, and while he likes it, no one else has any particularly strong feelings toward it. He usually gets his wish.

Standing in front of a large door, he imagined what was happening on the other side. All the menial small talk and milling about. The ladies gossip and the men boast and, somewhere inside, there is a couch which knows him more intimately than any of the attendees. He stood and stared at the door, motionless. While he debates the relative merits of knocking on it and simply running away into the night, he noticed it begin to move. He had been spotted, and was now being drawn inside. He was still undecided.

Inside, it was much how he expected, with the exception of some more garish decorations than he had anticipated. The colors were vomitous and flamboyant, but it was their excess that was most unforgivable. He could not look his drowsy red eyes in any direction without being assaulted by them, so he looked only downward at the hardwood floors that were occasionally patched with familiar Persian rugs. Eventually he found his way to his normal spot, and, glass in hand, he tried to relax and settle in.

He forgot how the sound echoes around in his head in the large ballroom that the party primarily takes place in. Normally, this wasn't something that would even be noticeable, but the liquor makes him sensitive, and suddenly there is a flurry of cricket-like noise. The scattered groups chatter senselessly around him, and he can't make out a word of it. Then, he was disturbed by a louder noise that comes from directly to his left. She was standing there, the only other thing that compels him to attend these parties. The light behind her illuminated her form in a way that filled him with awe, and he scrambled to cover the fact that he did not hear what she said.

"You look lovely tonight," he says, hoping it's an acceptable response. She has done her hair differently, and her dress is like none that he had ever seen her wear, but there is a familiar quality to the proceedings that filled him with confidence. He likes her, but she's too young. She likes him, but he's too quiet and reserved. It is a relationship of unfulfilled desires that is likely to stay unfulfilled, but something about the awkward hope makes them both happy.

"You're so silly," she says. He has no idea what she means.

He wished that she would stay with him. He wished that she would ask him to leave and that they would be alone somewhere. It hasn't happened yet. She was already gone. He watched as she disappeared into a sea of black tuxedos and elegant dresses. He disappeared into himself, once more. He leaned back and stared upward toward the chandeliered ceiling and watched the light refract through the crystal. Suddenly he was jostled awake.

“What time is it? How long was I asleep?”

He speaks to no one. The people are still around him, but no longer in the same order. Everything feels strange and out of sorts. He can’t put his finger on it.

“It must not have been long.”

He rubbed his eyes and continued to look around. As he focused, he began to realize that something was very wrong. He recognized no one. He may not have been close to anyone before, but he at least knew who they were. He had, in his mind, a dossier of every person who would have been at that party, with few exceptions. He could not now accept that he was surrounded by strangers. He felt more sober than before, but without the customary hangover and dry mouth that accompanied it. His drink was still in his hand, and he finished it as quickly as he possibly could.

Before he can decide on a course of action, a woman approaches him. “I’m sorry to have run off like that, but these parties require a certain level of social decorum, you know.” He stared at her, with confusion in his eyes, trying desperately to recognize her. “If it were up to me, I’d probably plop right down and sit here with you all night.” He was no fool. She acted as if she were the woman that he admired, the woman that he longed for; but he has never met this woman. "What was she trying to accomplish?" He thought. "What is this game?" She sighed, and looks at him disappointed.

“You usually have something clever to say. I do so enjoy your flirting. It’s practically the highlight of these gatherings.”

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I’ve got a lot on my mind right this second.”

He didn’t know what sort of game they were playing, but he was too dizzy and confused to begin throwing around accusations, so he simply went along with it. He stood up, and nearly stumbled trying to find his balance. He was resolved to freshen up his drink. Regardless of whatever was going on, alcohol was always his friend. It may have been trying to kill him, but it had never deceived him about that fact. The whiskey was soft, sweet, and a pleasant against his throat, and pressed against his lips, he felt a sense of revitalization and then a continued throbbing pain.

He had a better view of the room now, and as he moved his head from right to left, ending with where he had started, he reaffirmed his earlier conclusions. There was no one here that he could identify, and it made him uncomfortable in a way that made him long for his earlier sense of discomfort. For a while, he could not move. He became a statue of indecision, as his intoxicated mind contemplated his next motion. He decided to make a phone call and return home early, or, at least he thought it must be early still.

He walked into the kitchen to use the phone, and while he dialed the phone, he glanced at the clock on the wall. He couldn't believe it. It was mere minutes after he had arrived. It seemed as if he didn’t fall asleep so much as he blinked. The phone rang, but no one answered. Given the time, it’s possible his driver was not yet back home to answer the phone. By the twentieth ring, he had given up. He would simply have to wait. He doesn’t like this one bit.

Returning to his comfortable spot, he notices that the imposter who had spoken to him earlier was still lingering about. This woman is equally beautiful, and young, and clearly an inappropriate match for him, but she was not the right inappropriate match. She was not the one that he had wasted years thinking about. Where he would normally feel bad about himself, he now felt anger at this stranger for intruding into his life.

“Tell me what’s going on here.” He says, in a low but serious and authoritative manner. He hoped to convey his distaste for what was happening, so that he would not be toyed with any longer.

“I’m sorry; I just thought it would be nice to spend more time with you. Jeez, what’s going on with you tonight?”

“You know very well what I’m talking about. I don’t know you. I don’t know anyone in this room.”

“Well, you’re just so quiet. How can you know anyone if you never talk to them?”

He was becoming frustrated now. He was not normally given to anger, but some combination of the events he was now experiencing had filled him with a self-righteous rage. He was too old to be played tricks upon, and he never liked to be the butt of the joke.

“You fuckers think you can dick with me because I keep to myself? Fuck you. I don’t need this.”

She was silent. He saw something in her face that he didn’t expect; she was hurt. She was deeply and immensely hurt. He only noticed this for a brief moment, as he found himself storming out of the building, grabbing the bottle he had brought with him on his way out. The awkward parade to the door was filled with confused looks and whispers that reminded him of his past, and once again filled him with indignant vitriol. Outside, he didn’t know what he was doing, but he couldn’t stop walking.

He imagined he could find his way back home, but it would take at least a couple of hours, where the drive had only been about 20 minutes. Still, he had no where else to go. Everyone he knew was supposed to be at that party, now replaced with a gaggle of pretenders. He began his trek, with a modest amount of speed, but the darkness and the trees begin to frighten him and he moved faster. He saw the shadows moving and heard rustling. The path back home was long and dark, and he was having second thoughts about the whole thing. He had not drunk enough to be fearless; indeed, he never seems to be able to.

Suddenly, he was struck by the reflection of the moon against a nearby lake. The light filled the entire area, illuminating it amongst the surrounding darkness. It seemed, to him, harmless, innocuous; a safe haven. The water barely moved on the surface of the lake, proving to be a perfect mirror for the sky. As he approaches it, he looked up toward the constellations, brightly glowing in the night. He doesn’t take the time to admire them much anymore, and he lamented the fact that he was never able to learn their names. “It’s much too difficult to remember the imaginary lines between them,” he says to himself, “and whatever they’re supposed to represent.” He saw a ripple upon the lake and moved toward it.

There was a thud of thick glass against dirt, but he doesn’t hear it, too engrossed by what he saw. He no longer felt safe; now he felt terrified. He stared down upon his own visage, and to his horror, he was not himself. His age was about right, and all the basic facts stayed true, but his features were not his. His hair and his eyes were not the ones that had stared back at him in maudlin disgust everyday. He had neither the affection nor the hatred for this figure that he carried for himself, and he was afraid.

He remembered nothing else from that moment on. His body collapsed, and the speckled blur of yellow and black passed him quickly, but it gave him adequate time to accept his fate. Something had happened at that party. Someone had played a cruel trick upon him, but it had not been the other party guests. His hand no longer throbbed. He had finally really disappeared.

“Well,” he thinks silently to himself. “This certainly is interesting.”

Monday, April 25, 2011

Family Road Trip

Prepare yourself. When you eat a peanut butter sandwich, prepare yourself. You will need something to drink. Any man who tells you otherwise is a damn dirty liar. I suggest you make them prove it. Water is good. I washed mine down with soda, but I'm too badass for good. Still, water is good. How can there be a drought when we live on the coast? I washed mine down with soda. That part is true. The other half is a lie. I am no more a bad-assed than Vida Guerra, but I do only own one cup, and that leads to some tough decisions, mostly regarding what to fill it with, and otherwise just theorizing on the philosophy of a cup and the possibility of more cups in the future. There’s no money in philosophy. I don't have a philosophy of money; I don’t need to, my cup runneth over.

That’s not where this story begins, or ends, and it may or may not take place in the middle, regardless, it will be omitted. I’m driving you know. By driving I mean not driving, but rather sitting in the backseat of the car being a passenger. I don’t know how to express that any shorter than that, so for brevity's sake, let’s say I'm driving. I've been driving all day. This was not my idea, my ideas center around me, and occasionally fictionalized people whom I pretend I am for a while, although ultimately the idea changes so much that it’s impossible to know exactly who I am, and then I return to being me. No, this was their idea. It was very much for them too, despite what they might say to the contrary. I understand. If I were either one of them I'd have done it just for me as well, after all, god only knows what other people want. Still, I wish they had left me out of it. We’ve been driving all day. This was their idea of fun. No stopping and looking around and taking it in, just whizzing past it towards parts unknown until the realization that it is known, people just don’t admit to knowing it, because they want to fit in.

We stop at a little restaurant at the end of the universe. Well, for all I know, all I have seen is trees and road for as long as I can remember, excluding the portion of my life previous to this outing. We get an outside seat so that we can take it all in. I am wrapped up in spite for their lack of consideration, but I take time to learn everything, in the hopes that someday I’ll be able to explain it to them well enough that they will actually remember and understand why I hate them so much for subjecting me to this. The view is amazing. None of them will remember it; only me. They don’t care about things like that. They’re tourists. They will do it so that they can say that they did it, because they want to fit in. Seafood alfredo. It doesn’t require preparation on my part, and as such I was unprepared for it. Certainly one of the best meals I’ve eaten at a restaurant at certainly one of the prettiest spots I've been to in my life. All I can think about is how I’ll never forget this. I hate them so much for subjecting me to this, and I will never forget it. None of them will remember it.

I had to take some of it with me when I left; the seafood alfredo, not the restaurant. Food at a restaurant is usually two servings if not more, but there is no shame in finishing it all, after all we must get our money’s worth. The free bread however is free, so it must be eaten; it’s free. Some free things should not be eaten. The free bread however is not one of those things. I’m driving you know. All the same things I sat and stared at before are flashing by again, but in the opposite direction. This is not unlike the experience that clothing goes through in a washing machine, but that brings up the issue of a cyclical universe which seems to ignore the fact that most circles were at some time square. I'm not willing to get into that right now though; I'm driving. I know where I'm going, I know how long it will take to get there, and I know that this is simultaneous the most exciting thing that they've planned for today and the most annoying thing they could have possibly chosen. That is in regards to me though, and they did not do this for me.

She has already forgotten. She is not them, but she tends to side with them, perhaps because they will do more for her than I, or perhaps she just enjoys making me mad, neither seems unreasonable at this point. I don’t think about her though, I leave that to her, I simply bring her up because she has already forgotten. I remember it so vividly. the cold outdoor seating in which we were harassed by flies who no more understand why they were there than I do, the menu so short and boring and overpriced that I order the most expensive thing on it, just to emphasize their folly. After all, seafood is not my thing. They didn’t notice any of this; although I’m sure I let them know it plain and simple at the time. Nothing but a bunch of trees and water all around me. The patio was old dry wood, the table was cheap and plastic, and the chair was even cheaper and even more plastic. I remember everything.

I did like the waitress. Not for anything she'd done, and she certainly wasn’t the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen, but in a day spent driving and staring and trees and road, it was certainly a welcome change. She made no offer to help me though. She must have seen that I was in pain, that I was swelled with hate, and yet she ignored me and made no offer to help at all. She might have been twice my age, but that doesn’t explain why she was working there. I imagine she was only there to help others in one way or another. I liked her for that. I don’t actually remember the waitress, but there must have been one, and I’m relatively certain that this is what I would think if I could remember her.

God, I hope tomorrow is better. I don’t hold out any hope for it though. We return to our hotel room; as cold and heartless as four walls can possibly be. I sit on the stiff bed and recount the details of the day, as if I thought about it enough it would change or go away. I remember everything. I turn on the television and it helps me to forget. The shows are not the same, but none of them revolve around me, and this is a relief to me. I sit in respite and hope to fall asleep while the show I love is still on, before I have to interrupt my attempt at sleep to find something else to watch. I've become quite skilled at this though, leading to some interesting dreams that I don’t remember now, but seemed interesting at the time. I’m just glad not to be driving anymore, off into the parts unknown; the warm uncertainty of sleep now envelops me.

Vapid

as directly as I possibly can
I have avoided every opportunity given to me
if appearing as though
there is some semblance of intelligence
behind the vapidness
is misleading, well then I'm just too stupid to realize
aren't I
some nights, my only wish is to go to sleep
feeling as good as I do when I wake up in the morning
with a clear mind, and a quiet life
with the misguided concept that something different could happen
life may yet become worthwhile
or, god forbid, fun
I want to love, I know I could
Ive seen it on TV
it doesn't end well, but I can recover
for your sake, I will avoid the impending destruction
as I have always done
(that's not to say you didn't help)
but I care far too much to put any effort forth
these days I feel dead

Quartarly Evaluation

morning sunlight drifting through curtains
hung slightly askew
and the fear of all that is outside
knows very well what can see me now
through cracks and window pane
and I too drift away

perhaps contaminated
my mind continues to travel
on one thought to another
leaving behind the significance of the past
ethics sewn into my very heart dictate only guilt
and I am sorry

in daydreams when you speak to me
I feel it is my great misfortune to have ever known you
or rather to have seen you
not so distant that I couldn't speak
but entirely wordless
and I still sit silent

I had friends once as we all do
but a worthless man makes little difference
but to take up space
easily occupied by his better
without regrets
and I cannot bring myself to be remembered

drifting further
I notice there is nothing that could have tied me down
it wasn't so much a decision as the decision
and I did not feel as though I needed support
I simply felt as though I had it
and I have made still more mistakes

Pie and I

I was a dull boy. I had a few friends, but they seemed to hang out with me out of obligation more than anything. I just wasn't very smart, and the other kids didn't like that. Anytime mischief was being had, I was inevitably the one who got us caught and punished. I hated myself, and I had considered many ways in which to kill myself. Hanging seemed good, but the potential for error was too great, plus I didn't know how to tie a noose. I considered setting myself on fire, but I get headaches when I'm around fumes. I once thought perhaps I could just walk into traffic and get hit by a car, but I didn't want to dent someone’s car just because I didn't want to be alive anymore. It seemed like all hope was lost. Until...

Lehnard:
How will I ever end my miserable life?

Talking Pie:
I know a way that will be mutually beneficial to you and myself.

Lehnard:
Since when do pies talk?

Talking Pie:
Hey, you want my help or not?

Lehnard:
I guess.

Talking Pie:
So here's the plan...

Right then and there he detailed to me the most magnificent and extravagant plan for suicide, and in his case, revenge. I was to go through the entire town and eat up every last pie, every crumb, every type, until I was so fat that my stomach exploded. I would die in a tragic and memorable way that would make people stop and say "that kid Lehnard, he was really fucking fat, so fat he exploded!" Meanwhile, the pie would have his revenge on all the other pies in the neighborhood, whom he suspected had conspired to help a key lime pie fuck his wife without his knowledge, which had resulted in her divorcing him and taking full custody of the little pies with her. He didn't even have visitation rights.

As I began my journey, I did all my chores, went to school, turned in my homework, made my bed, just as I always had, but instead of going to play with the guys or going into the bathroom and masturbating, I opened the fridge. Lo and behold, my mother, the master pastry chef had no less than three whole pies sitting there, just waiting to be devoured. The first pie was easy, apple, my favorite. The second pie was delicious, but it was starting to hurt; it was working, and I was only two pies in! This might be easier than I thought! The talking pie just looked on and smiled. When I was done, I made my way to the neighbor’s houses. It was easy to get access, I just said I needed to call my father for an emergency and they let me in. Once inside, I snuck every last bite of pie they had. Those fools had no idea.

Once I made my way through the residential area, I could barely move, but talking pie encouraged me in my mission, and I knew I had to stay firm in my conviction. I must have eaten 40 pies by then. I had to go to the grocers. I couldn't see how those pies had wronged talking pie, and I couldn't help but ask if they really deserved it.

Lehnard:
Magical talking pie, the pies at the grocers are new, sealed, unpurchased pies. I doubt they could have had any hand in your situation.

Talking Pie:
There’s no way to know now is there?

Lehnard:
Well, some of them haven't even been in the area long enough to...

Talking Pie:
Look kid, you don't know how this whole pie racket works. If one pie is in on it, odds are he's working for a more powerful pie. It goes all the way up to the president!

Lehnard:
There’s a pie president?

Talking Pie:
No, asshole, the regular president. You know, the American president, running the country and shit.

Lehnard:
Oh. Well, if it must be done.

Talking Pie:
You're not dead yet, right? Keep walking!

I did as the pie commanded. He was bossier than I had initially figured, but he had been through a lot. The grocers couldn't stop me from eating all the pies, and I moved on. So many pies. By now, it was night time, and most of the stores were closed. After getting kicked out of the grocers with a stern warning about childhood obesity and diabetes I wandered the streets looking for the one last pie that would put me over the top. I could feel it inside me, I was ready to go, but I just needed one more. It was then that talking pie did something I had never expected.

Talking Pie:
Eat me.

Lehnard:
What? I can't do that!

Talking Pie:
You have to. The bakery is closed. You've cleaned out the entire town. You don't have any other options.

Lehnard:
But...

Talking Pie:
But nothing. I got what I wanted. They're all dead. All those bastards who wouldn't let me in their stupid club.

Lehnard:
I thought they conspired to cheat on your wife and stuff?

Talking Pie:
Oh yeah, yeah! Those bastards! My wife, I sure loved her and stuff. Miss those kids of mine. That's not important now though, kid, what is important is that you've given me the satisfaction I needed, and I want to give you yours. Besides, I got nothing to live for now. I was so focused on revenge for so long, that that's all I had.

And so, I dug deep into the talking pie, knowing that soon both of us would be dead, and it occurred to me, in the last few moments I had of consciousness that talking pie was the best friend I'd ever had.

My Life as a Box

I don't even know why I'm here. This is a place for criminals. Thieves, killers, confidence men and the like. What I have done was none of these things. The first few weeks I held onto the hope that there would be a trial. The hope that I would have some chance to defend myself. I know now that all I have is what I can see, what I can feel in this cell. There was no talking, no communication of any sort in this place. Even those who had cellmates simply went about their days in silence, ever looking at the dirt floors and away from the light of the small windows that were placed in every other cell at the north end. The residents of those cells had it the worst, and in many cases simply held their hands over their eyes to block out the light. This wasn't natural light. This wasn't sun light. This was something else, something terrible, unceasing, blinding, and there was no where to hide from it, no crevice or corner that wasn't filled with the hideous glow. Distance eased the pain, but it was a hollow victory in this place.

I had been alone for a long time, or what seemed like a long time; I could only estimate the passage of time when there was no separation of night and day. They had brought me something today though. I was almost afraid to see what it was; I couldn't trust them. Perhaps it was cat fur, I thought, but how would they know that I was allergic to cats? I had no official medical record of it. Perhaps it was a noose, or some other way out of this place. I had begged to be let out. I hadn't said a word in a long time, my mouth filled with dust and chapped, but maybe one of the guards felt sympathetic towards me, and was offering me a chance to be let out of my misery. They had prevented anyone else from leaving this place in any method less than torturous, but what did I know, maybe they knew I was an innocent man.

I don't remember the last time I slept. When I close my eyes all I see is that box. It is terrible, and I am certain that opening it will bring about my end. I am afraid. Is this some sort of game? Why was I the only one who received anything? I had no one to talk to, no one to express my fears to. The box just sat there, ever vigilant, knowing that someday I would have to take a look inside, that I would have no choice but to accept whatever fate it held. It was a brown box with no distinctive marking on the outside except for a few dents in the cardboard it has sustained during travel. Where had it come from? I had postured that it was a gift from the guards earlier, but it seems better traveled now. Did it come from the warden? Did it come from a family member; did my family even know that I was in this place?

No one looked at me, and I didn't look at myself, only at the box. Everything else would simply drift away and it was just me and that box. I can't open it. I can't open it. Did I even have the strength anymore to open it? Was it even sealed? I can't open it. As time passed I forgot more and more of my past and thought less and less of the future. The box, which I had situated myself as far as I could be away from, was the only thing I thought about. It was not a very tall box, but it was as wide as I was in either direction. it sat on the one bench the cell had while I sat on the floor, putting me at eye level with it. It didn't move, so I didn't move.

I began to wonder if there really was a box there, or if I had simply gone mad from the lights and the smell of this place, from the lack of nourishment. Perhaps my retinas and burned away a long time ago and I sat in complete darkness merely imagining what I saw before me. I had not seen a guard since the box arrived, or at least I had not noticed one. Was I still alive? Was this place hell? I could not stand to think anymore, only to gaze forward. My body was soaked in the sweat of my fear. I scarcely could separate the smell of my body from the smell of the cell, which had at first been worse than the stench of death to my senses. Now I was a part of it, I was merely a fixture in this place.

In my mind or perhaps in reality the box spoke to me. The box made grandiose promises; the box told me that he would help me leave. I never spoke back. The voice of the box was that of my great uncle, a man I had no affinity for, but who made an impression on me with his foul raspy voice and the way he laughed. He laughed as though he were a sociopath; as a killer would laugh while completing his grandest murder and this is how the box laughed now. It made me ill, though I had no recourse for that. I could not vomit, I could not cry, I could not scream, but the box would not stop and my stomach turned. Could no one else hear it? Or did they simply refuse to believe that they heard it? I recalled that some had packed their ears with the dirt that sat underneath us all, that was damp under the surface and filled with insects. Now I wish I had done the same.

I had finally had it. My eyes were blind to all but the box and my ears were deaf to everything except its ramblings. I had to open it. Nothing it held could be worse than living in fear of it. I got up as best I could, faltering with my weakened muscles. Everything was sore and I had a headache, but it didn't matter, I had to press on. I eventually arrived and went down on my knees directly in front of the box. It was louder than ever now. I slowly looked for the opening, finding two flaps side by side that were not being held down, but simply lay flat. I lifted one and then the other, and there were two more, perpendicular to the previous ones. What kind of hell was this? Could this box not be opened? I continued to lift those two and then it was done. It was actually open. I could hardly believe it; everything had come to this moment. I looked down to see what it was that had become the living specter haunting my life. It was over. It took everything I had to keep from collapsing at that moment. There it was; a pie. A talking apple pie.

I fell backwards and laughed. I laughed as though I were a child who had just learned the virtue of laughter. I laughed like my serial killer uncle. I laughed until there was no breath left in me. It was just too absurd. For the first time since I had arrived here I felt the eyes of the other inmates upon me. The whole world could hear me now. The whole world could see me now. I could finally feel the darkness of night upon my skin again, and I drifted away to sleep with a smile on my face. It was just too absurd. Too absurd.

Pocket Men

Today's the day. I'm so excited. I'll finally get to be a real trainer, like my brothers and my father before me. It's only too bad they all died seperate yet tragic and mysterious deaths years ago. Oh well, no use in worring about that, I'm me, not them, surely I will succeed without any problems. Surely.

Mom:
Are you ready? It's almost time to go!

Tree:
Of course I am! I've been practicing for this for years. Well, days, but I got the gist of it.

Mom:
Great! I too achieve my lifelong goal today, my goal of having all of my children out of my house, so I can sell it, move somewhere nice, meet a rich man, and live off of his wealth in exchange for sexual favors.

Tree:
Huh. Doesn't that make you a whore?

Mom:
Oh yes. You're not the only one around here with a dream you know. Now out the door, scoot scoot, the realtor is coming later and I want to get all your crap out of here. I packed you this lunch, now go, and remember, don't come back!

Tree:
Thanks, you're the best mom!

Ah, to be on the road. Nothing but my backpack and the clothes I have on, that I won't ever wash because I'd have to be naked while I washed them. I have to get to the professors! He'll be expecting me. Oh, which one will I choose, I hope they're good choices.

Professor Soong:
Tree! You made it! I was starting to think I'd have to start a fire and kill everyone you cared about!

Tree:
No need. I'm here, and I'm ready to choose my pokemon!

Professor Soong:
Wonderful. Here are your choices: First, we have a wild Barclay, a neurotic pokemon with psychic powers who causes more trouble than he's worth. Next up is a Geordi, he has good engineering skills and a neat visor, but he is weak against optical type pokemon, which, unfortunately, is every other pokemon. Last, our youngest pokemon, Wesley, who is smart but obnoxious, and utterly unlikeable. Choose wisely.

Tree:
I was hoping they'd suck a little less than that. Oh well. I guess I'll take Barclay.

Barclay:
Barclay Barclay!

Professor Soong:
Well, do what you want, who am I to discourage you. Here's his pokeball, now beat it; there's a lot of other kids waiting to get ahold of my balls.

Tree:
Thanks, professor!

And so, I began to wander. For some reason there were meticulously placed fences that made a maze and a lot of tall grass, as if no one ever came to or left my town, which is just silly. Pokemon are often found in tall grass, and this is a chance to try out my skills! I'll have to walk around in a circle in this same spot until I'm attacked by a random pokemon who is conveniently near Barclays current level.

[5 minutes later]

Fuck this shit, I'm hungry. I wonder what my mother packed for me. Egg salad sandwich, Oreos, string cheese, and.. an uncooked tv dinner. Well, I'm sure there's a lot of microwaves out in the wild. Maybe I'll catch a microwavemon. Oh shit, here comes a pokemon! get read, Barclay!

Barclay:
Barclay Barclay!

Tree:
It's a Riker! What's such an advanced pokemon doing in this part of the map? He must be with...

Team Stamos A:
To mullet and sing throughout the land!

Team Stamos B:
We'll rock the smash club with our band!

Team Stamos A:
For Elvis and his acting career!

Team Stamos B:
Being Married to Rebecca Romijn for seven years!

Team Stamos A:
On TV I knocked up Becky!

Team Stamos B:
Meanwhile Joey was banging Stephanie!

Team Stamos A:
I'm still hot, though half as famous!

Team Stamos B:
Now we wander around battling aimless!

A & B Together:
Go Go Team Stamos!

Riker:
Riker Riker, that's right!

Tree:
Wow, that was long and irritating, but informative at the same time. Do you do that for all the trainers you meet?

Team Stamos A:
Most are smart enough to avoid us now.

Team Stamos B:
But you're a novice, your skills are weak; you will fall easily and your Barclay and oreos will be ours!

Tree:
If that's how it has to be. Go Barclay! Use neurotic ramblings!

Barclay:
Barclay! Barclay Barclay! Barclay Barclay! Bar Barclay!

Riker:
Riikkerrrrr!

Team Stamos A:
Oh, that's horrible! why won't he stop?

Team Stamos B:
Riker, use uncontrollable libido attack!

Riker:
Riker!

Tree:
Oh no, he's pretending to listen to Barclay's problem to convince him that he cares about him. Barclay is falling for it because of Rikers sexy beard! Oh no, now he's mounting Barclay! This is the worst thing I've ever seen!

Team Stamos A:
Go Riker! give him all you've got!

Team Stamos B:
It's oddly erotic.

Tree:
Make it stop! For the love of Gord, make it stop!

Mysterious Figure:
Go Talking Pie!

Talking Pie:
Pie Pie!

Mysterious Figure:
Blueberry attack!

Team Stamos A:
That's a level 29 Talking Pie!

Team Stamos B:
We don't stand a chance!

Team Stamos A:
Return Riker! Today we flee, but we'll be back!

[exit team stamos]

Tree:
Thanks mister! you really saved my Barclay's ass, but who are you?

Mysterious Figure:
A friend. I want to give you this Talking Pie. He'll help you. Now go! Become a champion!

Tree:
Yes sir!

What a strange and friendly man, and now I have this new pokemon, Talking Pie. My first day, and I already have two pokemon. I'll bet my dead dad is looking up from hell and smiling. Well hear this, you dead bastard! I'm going to be the best! I'm going to collect all 9000 pokemon in their various forms, and beat all the best trainers in the world. But first, egg salad!

The journey begins...

Maudlin, Very Maudlin

We rode turtles first, or at least we tried. The logic was that they were slow, but large enough to carry a person and unlikely to be very much trouble. We had to sleep atop them, to ensure that we had enough time to get to work. We set them in the right direction and then while we dreamt they would turn about and you'd end up in the most peculiar places. Clearly, this was not the answer we were looking for.

Always Have a Plan

"This is a fire. It's burning pretty much everything. I don't want to sound like a jerk or anything, but maybe you should put it out." Fiery Joe was right. Of course we just called him Joe at the time; like ordering french bread in France, when Joe was immersed in flames it just seemed redundant to add the prefix. As Fiery Joe ran off screaming that night I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to have a nickname.

Pretty great, I imagine. Pretty great.

Sinking

This night is cold and lifeless, like a corpse in a morgue, waiting to be cut into, dissected, discussed and buried. I am still as I can be, but my body shakes, my chest heaves with the warm forced breaths I take, entertained as I am by the dispersion I see. This is my time, but I'm selling it to them, and I'm a cheap date. They’re watching. I know what they want from me, but I'll give it to them at my own pace.

My stomach turns and reminds me of the night’s transgressions against it. I am guilty. The vivid colors that surround me under the bright lights sometimes trap me. there is no one to say "stop." all the words that run through my head are waxing poetic of many very different places and very different times, none of which are particularly useful to a man like me. Some strike me, but most just fade past into the lonely night, and I envy their ability to abandon me.

I'll wait, longer than I should. Eventually, I too shall break away, and separate myself from the night that has held me, but it won't matter. In my freedom, I will sink further with my attempts to deny everything that I am. I will lose myself in the hopelessness of everything that I am not. Even if I could trade intellect for charm and wit, even if I could reshape the mess of living ruins that holds me, I could never escape myself.

Another night comes and I am theirs again.

Death Amongst the Dead

I'm walking. It's dark... light? Maybe. It's all the same empty streets to me. I pass one of the zombies, the other zombies, and I just leave 'em be, let them go about their business; do they see me? How many days have I avoided them simply by being insignificant? People have it wrong. You only get chased when you act like you're too good to die. Easy meals don't interest them. I waited. I waited on my knees for them. I was ready... I am ready. I saw them take everyone else, one by one, all of my friends were taken, hunted down, made one of them. They screamed when they were caught, but after the screaming, somewhere after all the pain, there was something else. There was a sort of mindless contentment to them. They weren't dead, they'd just become animals, no longer concerned with trivial things like religion and science. They hunt, they fuck, and they fight. They're animals, and I was ready. I am ready.

I'm walking, but I know where I'm going. I'm going to the starting line of a race I'm not intending to win. I have to give them what they want; make my sacrifice to their alter. I'm not nervous. I'm ready. They're looking at me now, they're curious. I am almost there, my hundred meter dash, my Olympic games, my gold medal. I'll scream for them, I'll make it real for them, but I'm not scared, I'm ready. I can see it, I can see my marker now, and I can hear the gun fire, the crowd cheering me on. This is it.

They look away. I drop.

A New Career

I pushed down on the lever and along with the paper towels I was expecting, a small white spider fell out a bit and caught himself on the trash. He was running full jaunt down to the floor and in a feat of self preservation, I stomped down upon him. Satisfied that he was no longer a threat, I went on with my work.

it soon became apparent that he had burrowed through my shoe, and indeed through my skin. He split himself into a thousand separate pieces each with its own consciousness and they moved through my veins unhindered by the blood cells and the soda that now replaced water as the primary liquid in my body. At each pore and at each follicle they made their home and each of the thousand split into a thousand of their own until they filled every presence of me. they had influence over the very molecules that made up my DNA and they made it their own.

For a time, I felt nothing, saw nothing. Then I saw flashes of red matched against the most agonizing pain, it was four shades deeper than blood red and just as thick. They disseminated the parts of me that they didn't like and replaced what they found unsatisfactory. My eyes were split into fourths and I saw like they saw. All the teeth, short of my incisors, fell from my mouth. Limbs sprang from my torso and my back lurched. I still stood upright, but ready to strike, and strike I did.

My brain, now made up of a million tiny spiders, was no longer the realm of thought, merely their control center for directing my mass. I made victims of all that crossed my path, consuming and converting them until I had raised an army. First, we marched against the earth, then the heavens, and finally we stormed through hell itself, devastating all and leaving nothing. Once all life had been wiped clear, we turned on each other. Just as quickly as I had brought them new life, they had slayed each other. I was left, the defacto victor, but I wasn't done. I had to eliminate all of my weak points. I tore the flesh from my bones. I ran my fingers through the drums of my ears, deafening myself. I grinded away my fangs to dust. One by one I tore out my eyes, serrating the ligaments and tendons that held them in place. Now I was ready.

I take my place on the throne that sits atop the universe.

King death.

The Writer Writes

As the sky changes shade from blue to gray and the earth below me rotates my escape, the ever darkening heat feels more and more like a warm bath drowning the day. My enthusiasm has long passed; together, we are going down, heads under water. The struggling is ceaseless and silent; I am alone, just as I always was, but the light is nearly dead and I am nearly alive. My mind turns first to the limited possibilities before me, but descends into the past that the dreary fading sun's soon-ended-rampage always reminds me of. The people give me no chance to consolidate the confused memories I have from a time when I truly believed in them, though they still hover around in my life as distant satellites, they don't recognize me anymore. Every morning has been a new opportunity to keep living, but by night fall I am still dying.

Espionage

What memories could I associate with this place that would make me think fondly on it? Doors, windows and something like crushing defeat. How many people have walked out that door before and just never returned? I needed some time to myself. I needed to go a little crazy.

I'm walking down the cold dark streets every night now. They're just dark enough to feel dangerous until I walk past the drunk girls who are screaming and laughing and crying all at once. Maybe it's all new to them, it's the fun they couldn't have before, the best night of their lives. Maybe they've been doing this night after night because they can't deal with it anymore. I'd like to ask them, but they couldn't tell me; they're walking around in the darkness too.

ZB

There at the table the smell of paper and ink was almost palpable. Things were being turned in and turned over; indeed something of mine was there too. I didn't know what was in the report, I think I must have authored it, but it seemed empty and no memories of it would surface; most of it had been blacked out, and I took credit for that as well. I had only glanced at what she was turning in and noticed that my name was attached to it. I got the strong sense that I had done something with her under the guise of science and that, like all science, sex was the real motive. I still don't remember.

Her sister was with her there and seemed to know more than her coy smile would let on. All of the sudden, a man I am very familiar with was with us all, and I became angry. I know him, I may not know where I am or what I've done, but I know all about him. He shouldn't be here. I realize then that I have not bothered to look at her and my thoughts about the man disappeared as quickly as they came. Now, instead of a glance, I gaze full stare into the face of the girl who seemed to be central to everything but just as much a mystery to me. She had brown hair with a light hue of red in the overhead lamps. Her soft complexion seemed foreign and sweet and revealed nothing like my own scars. As I tried to take this all in she smiled just a bit, embarrassed, and looked me in the eyes.

"Who are you?"

My mouth was dryer than anything and my head was still swimming as I lay in my bed. The dead bugs on the wall painted a mosaic of dark colors that didn't seem to spell anything out, but occupied my full attention. It had been the fevered dream of a drunken stupor and nothing else, but who was she? Where had I seen her, how did she get so lodged in my subconscious? Already, details were fading from my mind; her eyes may well have been haunting, but the ghosts had been exorcised from me. The color was leaving her ever paler skin. Her proportions seemed wrong and all the minute adjustments I could make to them alike. She had left me and I would soon be without even the memories, as they were being sloppily rooted out of my mind like weeds pulled by an unenthusiastic kid with a summer job, envious of the fun his friends were having during a time in his life he would never get back and expressing it with overt passive aggressive tendencies. Overall, it would be the best relationship I'd ever have with a woman.

Undiscovery

Nothing seems to work right. Rows of machines are stacked, side by side and on top of each other, their general purposes lost. When I was young, I would dream of adventure, I would run through the trees and grass and imagine a foreign land where I could climb and discover. The dreams slowly transitioned to the world of circuit boards and user interfaces. The world around me slipped away as new worlds were being created and sold at retail for a reasonable cost. I read about them, I looked at pictures of them, I watched videos of them, I heard anecdotes about them, and I absorbed all of it. I bought them, and I keep buying them. My dreams have become expensive and unfulfilling, and now I am surrounded by my failure.

As much as my imagination creates mystery, these objects take it away. As much as I spend on mobility, they have taken mine away, yet without them I feel isolated and non-functional. With them, I am isolated and non-functional. There is no green field for me, and the clouds yield no peculiar shapes. Only the stars, only the world enveloped in darkness can pique my interest anymore. The night is my comfort; when the world becomes a very small place again. The same old streets seem less weary and there is mystery in every dark corner. The corners are empty. The streets are empty.

Despite the poetry of the darkened world, the same glowing beacons of scientific advancement still keep me enfeebled at their feet.

Burning Halogen

I'm searching for her now, but she found me and she's the one who knows how to find me. I'm searching and I'm getting nowhere. I'm worried, not because I'll never see her again and not because she didn't mean a word of what she said, but because I'm starting to forget; I'm starting to forget the facets of her that make her unique from any of the other girls, from the girls I see in the streets and in the stores, the girls who will never mean a thing to me. She becomes like me, a shadow on a wall, a specter in a room, a ghost of a life form and though she has left, I don't want to lose her, so I'm searching.

Through the hours of the night she penetrates my thoughts with a force her small being could never have mustered on its own, and with her, without her, I feel truly alone.

Harvest

The lock is unlocked, broken, in disrepair, broken, I'm turning the key, broken, it's not letting me in, broken, I push and it opens. This place is the same place, but it's new to me, the difference between then and now, it's new to me. I drift through the wreckage, looking for the clues that will save me, I see a mess, and a lie, and a mess, and you live like a slob, drifting through the wreckage. The things I left are gone, replaced by an eerie moss, the walls are cracked, filled in by moss, darkness would yield such horrors as these, but you left the lights on, filled in by moss, you live like a slob. upstairs, the room I left, it's filled with your emptiness, I throw it out on the grass, the emptiness, a clock that is fast, these CDs are not mine and I never asked for this, you said you'd pay, you never did, but you'll pay for this. Closed locks, clenched fists, you'll return, and you'll pay for this. You never did.

A Vague Memoir

She yelled at me with tears in her eyes, hugging me for the last time. My elbow bent strangely behind her back, with my forearm traveling up the length of her spine. Monday, she'd said; we had met on Monday, and today was Friday. It had not been a lengthy romance, or, in fact, a romance at all, but she had visited every evening in the dead of night. She had had a boyfriend, whose name I never asked about and whose details seemed a pointless matter to pursue, but this was the crux of her visits, and my awareness of him had not relied on her ever speaking of him; indeed, I saw it in her eyes the first time I looked at her, when I had invited her in. On Thursday he had followed her to my door, and in madness, meant to kill her. He had not thought to do it quietly or swiftly, and I only managed to pry the bloodied electric turkey carver from his hand because he was at a severe height disadvantage. The rest of Thursday had been such a blur in my mind; I saw the blood on my hands after holding the instrument and I had met her Father, who was an unreasonably understanding man, and lying in my bed in the sunlight of the morning, I had reasoned that it was a dream I had woken up from. Thinking back, then, on the previous days it was something that I was sad to see disappear so quickly, but in the superficiality of it, it made sense that it was not real. There was no time line in my mind for the week that had passed, just scattered moments, fractured the way the events of dreams are. I was sure then that it had been a dream.

I must have given her such a strange look to evoke such emotion in her eyes, and she practically shivered in the silence of it. 'What day was it that we met?' were the first words to come out of my mouth and she answered dutifully my curious inquisition. 'I thought it had been a dream,' I said, and with that she came to life. The fear in her face gave way to joy and she yelled at me, with tears in her eyes, hugging me for the last time.

Shadows

I pursue my favorite crime; the darkness better
When we're all blind, we'll lie together
Too attached to the silent passion
Passing my time with false impressions
I'd never ask or want to know
I prefer to dream and then let go
As our paths fail to collide
I'd rather not open my eyes
But the sun still rose on my eastern shore
An old truth dawns and floods my world

Deconstruction

..Fraught with disappointment, my stomach turns. Is this the same world that I've been living in? Where have I been for the last six months? Every road is a dead end, and I want to feel the impact of the crash, the metal frame wrapping around me, and the embrace of leather and steel as I twist and shed skin, blood, and bone to fit my new home. I'd like to, but I can't, I wouldn't, I can't go down these roads. I'm scared to make a move in any direction, so I stay, stomach turning, watching the traffic.

"I am the guiding light," she said, and I could see through my haze. There, I had visions, and I communed with them, and for a moment I was sure. "I am the lonely night," I said, "but I'm willing to change." there, I stood, and she cried silent shining tears of blue. The world disappeared around us, and I became entranced in the soft glow of her cheeks, and the fiery brown in her hair.

Now I'm awake, and the darkness remains, filled with specters. I try to follow her path, but each dim light burns in the distance and fades away. I begin to develop a miserable pain in the pit of my stomach, as though lacking in her nourishment. I move through the uneventful, disheartening, empty days. Finally, I see her standing there. "You," I said, "you are the guiding light." Her back is turned towards me, and she stares into the empty scene.

"No."

Vieux Canapé

A knock at the door. Two young women sit on an old couch. It's threads are coming apart here and there and the patterns worn, but they've covered most of the stains up nicely. It's a blue couch, mostly, a dark navy blue that was once almost indistinguishable from black, but over time has changed into a sort of bluish grey. There are three couch cushions, wide enough for any normal person to sit with plenty of personal space, but the girls are sitting side by side in the middle.

"I'll answer it" says a disembodied man's voice in the kitchen.

The two sit on the crevices of the couch, where dirt, crumbs, lint and odd assorted items regularly gather. Things that no one uses or needs lie forgotten under the cushions, lost in time to these crevices. There are buttons of questionable origin, unsharpened pencils with used up erasers, a plastic spork and, somehow, the may 1998 issue of a now out-of-print urban design magazine, which is no longer relevant to contemporary styles, but is interesting to thumb through nonetheless. Pennies and individually wrapped wintogreen lifesavers have made their way from someone's purse into the crevices of this particular couch as well, and have been observed and ignored by the young women during countless searches for spare change.

The door is knocked upon again.

The back of the couch is against a wall, but is marked with deep cuts, cat claw scratches, and most damningly the residual staining from the time that one guy drank a little too much and a carpet cleaner needed to be rented, as well as a few towels tossed out. He was only invited back six more times before he left for the greater northwest and was never heard from again, except on every social networking site about ten times a day. The ladies have tagged him in the various photos documenting this event, and he informs them that he has laughed loudly at them all. There is also some dirt build up, but the corner stitching still looks rather solid after all this time.

"Actually, I can't really stop what I'm doing over here" the absentee voice says with an inflection of apology.

The couch is about 4 inches off the ground from the legs, and while it's not impossible to clean this area with the hardwood floors, it's simply too much effort. Balls of dust and hair camouflage artifacts from a forgotten history underneath. The couch is made of corduroy. The bottom of the couch, however, is a thin white paper material that reveals the wood and springs within, and make the lounging device's secrets a little more transparent. The girls are not even remotely interested in these secrets, as they sit, side by side, on the crevices between the cushions.

A time passes and the door remains silent.

The couch sits in the living room, adjacent to the western wall and roughly ten feet in front of the television. Between the two is a square coffee table on top of an oval throw rug. Shelves line the wall to the right of the couch, and the kitchen is barely visible from around a corner on the other side. Various other seating fills out the room, while a standing lamp sits shyly in the corner. Several windows, as well as a skylight, give natural light and heat to the room during the day, but most of the blinds have been pulled for privacy.

"I've done it!" the man's voice yells with mad delight. The girls rush to the kitchen to find what looks like an ordinary peach cobbler, freshly baked. The room is otherwise empty, and upon inspection, the oven is still cold.

The young women return to the living room, to the comfort of their old blue corduroy couch, and sit side by side in the middle.