Paranormal Revenge Fantasy (Cont.)

4. Back to the Beginning

John panicked. He was terrified by his own words spoken back to him. Those words are the ones he always whispered to women the moment before he kissed them for the first time. His mind flipped back through time, through each woman, flashing through pictures, rapidly increasing in speed. Then everything came to a bright, white halt.

He landed on the one picture he didn’t expect to see. His own mother. The image in his mind began to play like a home movie, soft and dull at first. Her dress and hair faded into vividly bright spots of swimming color. Her face comes close to his. Her face is distorted. She whispers, “You know what were going to do, don’t you?”

John shuddered and dropped the image like a boiling pan. He shut his eyes tightly and went blank. He tried to dampen the overwhelming feelings that struck like lightning bolts.

Hy sneered. “You’ll do whatever it takes, huh?”

“I get it,” John whimpered.

Hy reassured John. “You don’t get the half of it. That’s only the beginning.”

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Paranormal Revenge Fantasy

1. Time To Wake Up

The room is white. White, sheer panels over the windows. White sheets on the bed. White carpet, white furniture, white trim. The only bit of color is a tan, overweight man sleeping peacefully on his stomach in a twist of wrinkled cotton ridges.
And…
There is a dark figure sitting on top of a dresser in the corner. Its legs are folded underneath. It is motionless and silent. The white panels ripple in the breeze and rising sun. The shadowy form flaps in and out of focus behind the curtains as they fly. The almost stillness hangs on for several moments.
The black figure leaps.
“WAKE. THE FUCK. UP!”
John was immediately awake. Barely able to inhale, John struggled for his breath, partly from the terror running through his body, partly from the pressure of something very large on top of him. John could not move. Only the figure’s sick-red lips and milky chin emerged from the dark hood surrounding its face. It whispered wetly in John’s ear.
“Rough night? I know you’re awake now, right? I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, John. I’m going to enjoy this.”
There was a long pause. John was terrified. He didn’t bother to ask the question of who the figure was. He understood. This was a person that he had wronged. His lifestyle and work placed him next to dangerous people. He ran a successful car service. Most of the people in Miami who used his company were powerful men who played terrifying games. Drugs, sex, crime. He had arrangements, entanglements, loans with these men. His success had come at a great price, his freedom. It wasn’t a surprise to have someone threatening him, but an invasion of his home was new.
The voice on top of him sang sweet like a woman, but the body was very large and heavy. Even if he had wanted to ask some question, he was not able to speak. He had just enough air to keep from losing consciousness. His mind seized as well. He could simply listen and wait for the next moment.
“I know you didn’t expect to see me. I know you thought you would never have to think about what happened again. Oh, you thought about me for a couple of days. But you didn’t worry about how I felt. You only shuddered occasionally thinking I would show up at your door. But how could I? I only had your number and you took care of that. But you didn’t need to unplug the phone, I only called that one time.”
John’s mind immediately flooded with memories of many girls from the past. He tried to place the arousing lilt and scratch of this voice, but it vibrated with echoes and harmonies. He thought of how many times he had unplugged his phone. Avoided the calls of those girls he wanted, slept with and couldn’t bear to see again. John always looked for girls. Women.
He couldn’t help it. It was a habit. Like chewing gum or biting fingernails. He didn’t sweat over it. He did it unconsciously. Involuntarily. Like bleeding.
“I’m Hy.” She placed her elbow in John’s back as she steadied herself to stand. John yelped and squirmed in pain. “Sorry, John.”

Dog with a Blog

So. I had a tiny come-to-Jesus moment the other night. I proverbially, threw my hands up in the air and said these words, “I just want to write, I have to write. And I don’t care any more if anyone reads my stuff or even likes it.”

You see. I’ve been worried, for a very long time, that my work is not work unless it has a price tag dangling from the corner. One or more of my graphic design teachers (when I went to a 2-year community college for art less than 10 years ago) told me never to do any work for free. Which is funny, because every other entry-level graphic design position in KC seems to be an internship. Unpaid. Ha!

So I decided to harness my art skills, writing skills and any other skills I had by writing a book. I had big dreams of book signings and elbow rubbings. And everything started to make sense. I thought I had found my calling (132nd calling, to be exact, but who’s counting? Stop counting!). But writing books takes years and I can’t seem to get past short-story status.

When book writing didn’t pan out, I figured blogging was where I might find my stride. Short, little bursts of wisdom and creativity with creative media on every post. Perfect! I was made for that. My skills line up with that like 2nd graders going to extra recess. But everyone has a blog. I even know a dog with a blog. And several babies. Pretty sure.

So. Being creative sucks. It’s hard to find an outlet. One that pays anyway. And you’re competing with a bunch of talented and untalented creatives, alike. Ones that have gone to school for journalism, English majors, natural-born Hemingways or Picassos. And the other heaps of craft and Christian blogs that fill the ocean of online literature. How can I ever hope to keep my head above the waves in a sea of blogs?

But in my come-to-Jesus moment, with tears, I realized. Who are you doing this for?

Through some pretty painful thoughts, my epiphany rose. Your writing is the voice you always wanted. And you just want to be heard because you felt like you never were. Same with acting, art, anything. Your hands and mouth and mind won’t stop, even if you tried. They’ve had their freedom. You were the 4th child of a crazy family who wasn’t big on sharing, feelings or truth. Your voice was lost on that sea of insanity. You don’t want to be ignored. You have something to say.

But, it has to be more than that. Because everyone has that story. What God is leading me to is this.

GOD: If I gave you a voice, it was to use for me. Not to heal your broken heart. Not to sermonize. Not to exorcise your demons. Not to psychoanalyze your issues. But to work for me. And I have taken care of you. I will continue to do that. You show my power in your weakness. Stop worrying about money. I will not let your voice drown. Like the boat that I was in and kept tall on the waves that I stilled, I will raise your voice for those that need to hear it.

After having my moment, I received an email the very next day. It might have been spam, but God can even use spam I think. Here’s what it read:

Hi There,
I came across your artwork and absolutely love it. 🙂

Probably spam. But it was an offer for artists to send in their designs and earn a percentage on what they sell. They probably saw my art because I started working on customizedgirl.com to sell my art on t-shirts and bags. This email featured a site that was very similar to customizedgirl, just an upscale version of the same concept. And they claim to be socially conscious. Of course they do.

But whatever. It was simply a reminder. Keep doing what you love. It doesn’t matter where your art goes. It goes.

And. I saw a blogger post a blog post (one they had not written) on Facebook, liked by another blogger. The blog post was about an amateur blogger asking advice from a successful blogger. That’s like 4-blogger deep. Not kidding. “That’s like Inception in the blog-o-sphere.” (joke credit: Guy C. Maggio)

Great article. It opened my eyes. Her advice was stop worrying about your writing. Just let it speak for itself. I saw this after my meltdown. I mean, moment of clarity. Ha! It was a confirmation of what I already decided. God was showing me that. Affirming that. Assuring me.

Every time I have reached a meltdown-able moment in my life about anything. Love, work, school, parenting. I have to reach a point of clarity from exhaustion. I’m fairly hard-headed and I love beating that big, hard head against the wall. I usually try to force my agenda/dreams/choices through some narrow, attractive door of opportunity. Until I see for myself, it just won’t go. Then I can let go and walk away because I have no pushback left.

And then I usually walk by an open window. Usually. 🙂

Survived By…(Volume 2)

One Month Later by Martha Maggio

“Hi.”

She didn’t look at me as she sat down at the table.  Syl had grown distant from me over the last month.  Understandably so.  I was of no use to anyone, including myself.  I did not usually even drag a comb through my hair.  I had cut it all off the day after the funeral.

I just took the clippers I used every month on Harold, our dog, and shaved my entire head.  No hair guides or tapering, just full on buzz.  That was the first time I hadn’t cried about an activity in several days.  I had always promised myself to shave it on some strange occasion and that day seemed like the exact moment to pop that cork.  It was intensely freeing and satisfying, just as I thought it would be.  With my preoccupation in crying and eating, I had no time for hair.

But this drastic measure had naturally disturbed my daughter.  We didn’t talk about it.  She casually rubbed my head one day and said with a small smile, “Feels like teddy bear hair.”  I returned her smile with a solitary wink.  And that was all the conversation we had regarding Mommie’s new do.

On most days, I would take a shower, towel dry my very short hair and collapse into bed.  I wore sloppy shirts and dirty yoga pants.  I waited around for breakfast time, fed Syl, walked her to the bus stop and quickly walked back home to take a nap.  Today was different.

“Hi,” she whispered.

“How ya feelin’?” I asked.

“Okay.”  And she immediately started eating her cereal.

We sat in the dining room for fifteen minutes.  Silently.  While she slowly ate her flakes.  I read articles on my tablet and I could feel her eyes scanning me.  But every time I would look up to catch her eye, she would automatically shift her eyes to the window behind me.  The last time I looked up, she had stopped eating and was frozen, spoon in hand.  Tears rolled off her cheeks and landed in the sweet milk.

“What? What is it?”

She couldn’t speak.  She just kept crying into the bowl.  Her hand finally released the spoon and it fell awkwardly to the table.  She grabbed her face and finally let out a whimper.  She sniffed and sucked the fluids escaping her face and hands.  She lost complete control.

“Tell me, sweetheart.”

“I miss Daddy.”  More sobs.

“Me too.”  I touched her back and ran to the kitchen for tissues.  I plucked one of the two boxes on the counter.  It was too light and I shook it.  Empty.  I ran my finger inside to make sure.  The other box was empty, too.  No tissues, as we had used them all very quickly.  I wasn’t ready to go out in public yet to get some and I forgot to ask my mom for more each time she brought groceries.  I grabbed the paper towels off the rack and ran back to the dining room.

“Here.”  I laid the paper towels beside her hand.  She didn’t take them.  She was sober and distant again.  I couldn’t help but feel like a failure about the tissue.

Dangit.  Dang Kleenex.  I should have a pack of Puffs strapped to my friggin’ wrist these days and all I can think about is taking my nap.

“Mom.”  she started.  “Mom, I love you.  But you’re making me miss Daddy more.”

I was gutted.

Oh my God.  She’s right.  I am a failure.  Get it together.  She needs you and you are freaking out.  You selfish, horrible mother.  You are letting your baby fall through the cracks.  GET. IT. TOGETHER.

I took a deep breath.  “Okay.”  I smiled.  “I’m sorry.”  I felt like dying inside.  I felt like smashing myself in the face a thousand times.  I felt like flipping out and bawling my head off.  But I just breathed deep and smiled.  The tears came to my eyes, but I held them back.

She got up from the table after holding my gaze for a few moments and then took her dish to the sink.  She went to the door, put on her backpack and waited for me.  I grabbed my keys and put my arm around her.  We walked together to the bus stop.  We sat on the bench just a few steps from the stop and waited for the bus.  We were really early, but we enjoyed just sitting together in the cool morning.  She touched my hair and whispered, “Teddy bear hair.”

The bus pulled up and I didn’t want to let go.  She pulled away and I saw my hand flop back to the bench.  My hands.  They were so pale and thin.  They seemed just as old and wrinkled as my mother’s.  When did they age?

Syl looked back at me and knew that something had changed.  She knew that we could move forward now.  And that she could count on me again.  This seemed to make her happy.  She didn’t smile, but I could see the light had returned to her eyes.  She didn’t have to worry about losing her other parent to a mental breakdown.

“Have a good day, Sweetie.”

“Have a good day, Mom.”

A Pleasant Surprise by Lillian Maggio

I wasn’t ashamed to walk onto the bus, my face soaked with tears.  I got quite a few odd looks from my classmates though.  Even the bus driver seemed concerned.  I suddenly realized I might look like a mental patient ready to be committed, and felt a warm sensation crawl up my neck and onto my cheeks.

Holy moly, this might just be the most embarrassing moment of my life.

I walked down to the back of the bus and sat down. I pressed my face against the window and watched as my mother disappeared into the distance.  The moist, refreshing glass felt good on my embarrassed-hot face.  I wasn’t happy, but I was… almost relieved. Things were finally going to change.

I hardly noticed him sit down next to me.  “Hey.”  It was a boy that I had seen wandering around at my dad’s funeral.  I whipped around, hitting my elbow on the hard metal wall.

“Um.”

Stupid, careless, ridiculous.

The warm feeling came back.  I hoped he couldn’t see me blushing, then immediately pushed that thought out of my head.

Why do I care what he thinks of me?  I don’t need him.  I don’t need anyone.

But who was I kidding?  I would latch onto any friend I could find.  “Hi.”

He looked away.  It may have been the light, but I swore the tips of his ears were slightly reddish-pink.  “Max,” he whispered, barely audible.  So his name was Max, or maybe Maxwell.  I held back a giggle as I thought.

Maxine?

“Syl,” I stated.  “Short for Sylvestra.”  I made a slight gagging noise and pushed my tongue out a bit while I laughed to indicate my acknowledgement of my too-big, too-formal first name.  I shifted in my seat, studying him.  He wasn’t exactly cute.

His skin was pale, as if he didn’t get much sun (but how could anyone, here in Oregon).  He had shaggy brown hair and bangs that might have covered his eyes if he didn’t keep them tucked away behind his ears.  His round-framed glasses gave him an almost-comical appearance, but he wasn’t smiling.  I doubted he smiled very much at all.  Neither did I, though, after everything.  Only when I was nervous. Like now.

“Gum?” he offered.  I took it, the polite thing to do.

Tropical Mango.  Yuck.

I chewed it anyway, and was surprised by the taste.  As a little kid I had always hated anything mango-flavored, but it didn’t seem so bad now.

“Thanks,” I muttered.  “Can you keep secrets?”

His eyes lit up, but he didn’t smile.  “Sure,” he said.  “Can you?”

“One million percent.”  I mimed crossing my heart, and he did the same.  I felt about seven years old.  “You first, or me?”

“I don’t mind,” he mumbled.  He began absentmindedly tapping his fingers on the seat, in the few inches between the two of us.  Taptaptap.

“I like reading.  A lot.”  People thought it was weird that I loved books, but for me it was like a portal to another universe. Another way for me to ignore the problems of my real life.

He stopped tapping, and his legs began to swing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.  “My mom’s in the army.”

“I still play pretend.”

“I sleep with a stuffed dog.”

“I’ve watched R-rated movies since I was seven.”

“My dad wouldn’t let me watch R-rated movies until last year.”

It almost became a competition.  Who has the most embarrassing secrets?  Is it Syl, with her weird addiction to grape soda?  No, here comes Max with his ten-second rule of picking up dry food off the floor.  It seemed to go on and on.  I didn’t care that he was almost a stranger anymore; everything we said somehow brought us closer to being friends.

It’s just like the pleasant surprise of mango-flavored gum.  Something you didn’t think you’d like, might actually be pretty good.  Someone you thought might be an idiot, could turn out to be the best friend you’ve got.  Who knew what curveball life was going to throw at me next?

I certainly didn’t.