Word I never meant to say – #1

The Mountain Goats – Jeff Davis County Blues (from All Hail West Texas)

 

I told myself not to use the L word, even though I loved you. I had an elaborate justification to avoid it. It seemed really plausible.

But I also told myself: If the L word is going to be used, I will be the first to use it.

And you stole that from me.

And then, you were gone.

Fucking hell…

I miss you.

I love you.

I’m sorry.


I may not be around much for a while. Reality has this way of sneaking up on us and biting us in the ass. I’m trying to get in touch with reality – to make friends with reality. I’m not sure such a thing is possible.

Those of you who are into praying or similar practices, please say a few for me.

 

 

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Apollyon

Wonderful, sensual words from dancewithtricksters

Dances with Tricksters

More shitty erotica from college. Everybody wants to bang Satan!

I’ve entered a kind of paralysis; limbs frozen as shots of liquid terror race through my veins.  The darkness clamps down like a straitjacket, suffocating and restraining me, while a banshee wind rattles the rotten wood of the decrepit mansion.  Nana’s still snoring, deaf to the howling storm outside, and I know I am alone, the only conscious being for miles around.

He’s staring through the rain-dappled window with serpent eyes, crimson skin slick with water.  Ebony hair hangs in a tangled mat as he breathes black fog across my window. He smirks, tracing letters in the vaporous sheet:

“Come Out, Helice.”

My legs, moon pale, slide out from under the downy comforter against my will.  They lead me the cold stone floor, and like Frankenstein’s monster I stumble out of my room, blindly following the dark corridor of the…

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Still not dead

Yeah, I’m still not dead. I had to kind of drop out of the blogosphere due to:

  • The kids starting school
  • Things getting hectic at work
  • Family illness
  • Getting serious about revising The Mice Waiting, Wailing

I know it’s pretty bad timing because I started following some really great blogs! (I’m looking at you, Murder Tramp Birthday, Little Luna, Lady Lazarus, and Blind Zany Girl.) Hopefully, I’ll get through this lickity split and be able to catch up on all your posts that I missed.

The Presumption of Darkness Part 9 has been outlined. I’m excited about it, but so far, I can’t really estimate when it will be available. Maybe now’s a good time to go back and read – or re-read – the piece from the beginning.

That’s all for now, I think. Hopefully, I’ll have a more substantive post soon.

 

Gillian Welch “Tennessee”

Precious one,

I think this may be one of my favorite songs

There is something so sensual about this song. I imagine you and I slow dancing at some shack in the woods that doubles as a dance hall where they serve bootleg liquor till the sun comes up.

She didn’t mean to be so bad. Sure she had a little bad in her

they threw me out of Sunday school when I was nine

And the sisters said I did just as I pleased

She wants to be good. She tries. But sometimes trying isn’t enough. How do you want what you don’t want? Or, how do you not want what you want?

Even so I try to be a good girl

It’s only what I want that makes me weak

Still there was a reckoning

I had no desire to be a child of sin

Then you went and pressed your whiskers to my cheek

Does this story sound familiar?

But of all the little ways I’ve found to hurt myself

Well you might be my favorite one of all

Sometimes you have to push someone away when they’ve gone too far.

Why can’t I go and live the life of Riley?

Why can’t I go back home to apple pie?

Cause your affront to my virtue was a touch too much

But you left a little twinkle in my eye

Tell me I’m your favorite way to hurt yourself.

Tell me I left a twinkle in your eye

I miss you, precious one.

 

The Presumption of Darkness – Part 8

Here’s the link to read from the beginning Part 1

Working Title: The Presumption of Darkness

Word Count: 3,100 (approx)

Reading time for average reader: 16 minutes

Part 8

Cassie

It wasn’t a dream. I know that. I was jogging – in broad daylight, down a perfectly normal road that I’ve jogged down dozens if not scores of times – and then suddenly I was back in the jungle. The rain was coming down hard just like when we were there, listening to Eric scream as he was torn apart.

I ran, Sammy, just like I did before. The branches and vines tearing at me as if they were just extra limbs that Our Dark Friend could use to tease me, to let me know that I only escaped because he willed me to survive.

But this time it was different than all those years ago. This time those tendrils of blackness shot out of the cave, blocking out what little sun was penetrating the tree cover, surrounding me. I’m going to die, I thought. And I thought of you, Sammy. Not my husband, my daughter, or my sister. I thought of you, you bastard.

But I kept running, despite the hopelessness.

And then I saw him.

He was just sitting at a kitchen table – my kitchen table – in the middle of the jungle. He was clearly Jewish. He had a yarmulke and a beard – not one of those crazy ultra-orthodox beards. It was quite neatly trimmed. I remember, despite my imminent demise, being taken aback by the range of colors in his yarmulke. I remember trying to bring to mind anything I might have learned about color symbolism in my Jewish history classes. Was he making a statement? Or did he just like color?

He waved at me, lit cigarette in hand as I nearly dashed past him. “Miss? Miss? Please sit down,” he said.

Something in his voice radiated safety. So, I sat down.

And we were no longer in the jungle. My kitchen table was now safely back in my kitchen along with this strange semite. I was still wearing my jogging clothes, and the A/C was making my sweat evaporate, giving me chills.

“Who are you?” I picked up a cup of tea that had been placed on my kitchen table. For me, I guess.

“I’m Sammy’s rabbi.”

“Uh, huh…” I said. What I wanted to say was: what the fuck are you talking about? I tried to focus on drinking my tea and not letting my thoughts run wild.

“Well, I used to be. I’m dead now. I’m a ghost, just like Eric. And I’m here to talk to you about Jesus.”

“Uh, huh…” I felt kind of dumb saying that again, but I had nothing.

“Oh, I see. I forgot. Sammy probably never told you he was born Jewish, right? His family wasn’t observant. But some of the older relatives insisted he have a bar mitzvah, so his parents sent him to me. He was a good kid. Really smart, but plagued in the way intellectuals are plagued. You know how it is.”

I nodded. You were always tortured, that’s for sure.

“Anyway, everyone makes choices. Everyone hits these places where they have to make a decision. Sammy made a choice, and it haunted him. You know some people – the most painful things, the most defining things are the things they never talk about. This is true for Sammy. He was faced with a choice. He fell in love with the prose poems you call the gospels. He turned his back on his heritage, and that was one of the most painful things he ever did. So, of course, I should have guessed he would never speak of it unless forced.

“And, I suppose, I am forced. Sammy made a choice, and he provoked me to a choice. He read those strange documents you theologians call gospels. Sammy kept tripping up, getting distracted from his studies. So, I read them, too. And something extraordinary happened all the way back then to Peter, John, and the others. Something that is hard to explain. It was something that seemed to me at the time to either be a violation of the laws of human nature or a violation of the laws of biology. Sammy and I made a choice – we were forced to. Most people choose what is easiest for them. For me, it was easier to believe that some combination of a messianic furor, PTSD, and bereavement hallucinations led Peter and his friends to die for a crazy dream. For some reason I don’t understand, Sammy made the other choice. He decided that the disciples saw Jesus risen from the dead.”

I could tell from the way he took a long breath that he was about to launch into some lengthy exposition about history and the human condition. “This is all very interesting, but what are you doing here?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Well, you know Abigail, right? She has afflicted her soul. She has put down every impulse to hate you and prayed to love you. And she has prayed for your blessing. Well, when you pray like that, things happen. I’m the answer to her prayers. I’m probably not the answer she would have chosen. I’m not the answer I would have chosen, either. I barely know the Sammy you know. I see some seeds of the Sammy I knew have borne fruit in the Sammy you know. But still, he really is a stranger to me.”

“Can I ask you a question? What is the afterlife like?”

“You theologians. I always hated theology. I wanted to help people’s souls, not their minds. And that’s why I’m here. I’ve come to help you with your heart, but your curiosity can’t be restrained, yes? Let’s put it this way, it is fascinating. And it is really different from what I expected, but exactly like I should have expected if I had been thinking more clearly.

“Anyway, I’ve been telling you about choices. You have a choice right now. Do you believe that the eternal grayness is real? Or do you believe life is full of meaning and miracle? You have to make this choice. But there are ramifications. Just like the ramifications of Sammy’s choice.”

He took a drag from his cigarette and then a sip of tea and said, “Jesus was a good Jew. You have to understand that.”

“Didn’t he say he and the father were one? That sounds like blasphemy according to a Jewish worldview.”

“Right, right. That one… Again, such love for the fourth gospel. Yes, he did say that, but what he meant was that his purposes were the same as HaShem’s. And what were those purposes? To push the Torah deep into the hearts of HaShem’s people.”

“It didn’t work, did it?”

“No, Cassie. It didn’t work. He got co-opted. The church got tangled up in empire and traded the moral high-ground for the sword.”

“The tomb wasn’t empty?” Why is this question so important to me?

“I’ve no idea, Cassie. It hardly matters”. Then he stubbed out his cigarette. “These are the things that killed me,” he said while eyeing the still smoldering cigarette butt closely. “You should have seen me on my deathbed. I didn’t look anything like this. People kept being obviously shocked at my appearance when they would visit me in the hospital. It was hardly comforting having people gasp and gape at me as I was dying.

“Listen, this is the important part. Don’t throw away your marriage, Cassie. Find a way to treasure what you have with Sammy if you must. But draw hard boundaries. Please, his better self knows to leave you alone. Don’t let his Yetzer Hara ruin you.”

And with that, he was gone, and I was alone in my dining room. His cigarette stubbed out in an ashtray. Which was weird as Nick and I quit smoking years ago. I looked at the ashtray, it was from the Omni Parker House in Boston. The stubbed cigarette was still warm, Sammy.

I almost called you. I almost risked the call being intercepted by Abigail. I almost called but thought better of it.

I opened the door to Lisa’s bedroom. She had gone out. I didn’t even know if it was morning or afternoon. My sense of time has been so out of whack since you came back into my life and brought these horrible apparitions with you. I picked up the framed family picture she kept on her dresser. Nick looked so happy to have her and me in his life at that moment. Does he still feel that way? I wondered.

Lisa is so beautiful, Sammy. Part of me wants to introduce you two – two of the most important people in my life – but can I trust you with her? I know how dark you can get. We’re both selfish, aren’t we? But Eric’s hooks were deeper in you. And how would I explain who you were to her? How could I ever explain you?

And Nick… He had another one of those awful headaches. I guess it was last night, but, like I said, I don’t trust my sense of time. He deserves better than me. Well, sometimes I think he deserves better than you. Let’s face it, Sammy… You’re an asshole. You sweep back into my life, after I’ve tried to repair things with Nick… And you just mess with my head.

I know I should hate you. I know I should tell Nick. I know I should shut down this weird… link… we have and just let you rot there in that vast grayness you have found such comfort it. And yet…

And yet, I would rather be there with you than be here with these people who really love me. People who actually know me and love me, I should add.

Do you know me, Sammy? Do I know you?

I know Nick. I know he’d try to break your neck if he knew you were still kicking around. I know Lisa would probably develop a mad, school girl crush on you. I know them. Sometimes I think I know Abby better than you and I’ve only spoken with her once in my life. But she has no shields, Sammy. She’s just herself.

Why didn’t you tell me you were Jewish? I mean, not that it matters… But the story of your conversion… That was a big part of your life. What does it all mean?

Shower… I need a shower. I pulled myself up, my legs aching from the crazy sprinting through the jungle and headed to the bathroom.

I started the shower and began to wash myself. And then…

I sometimes feel like my life has turned into a cheap novel. One thing after another. And then, and then, and then…

It was like the shower stall elongated itself. The rear wall seemed to pull off into an impossible distance until I could no longer even see it. It just faded away into shadows.

Out of the shadows, she came. The Magdalene sauntered out like she owned the place. And honestly, if she had asked for the deed to my house, I don’t think I could have held it back from her. Her silky robes slid off her as if strategically, yet gently, pulled by unseen hands. My eyes lingered on each curve, on her lips, on her delightful, hard nipples.

I don’t even know how to describe her body. It was so unlike anything I would have thought. It was so real looking – no surgery, no hundreds of crunches – just real, honest woman. And yet, for all the slight imperfections, she was more beautiful than any woman I had ever seen in life, movie, or dream.

“Don’t listen to these little men. You know. You know the love of my Savior. Don’t listen to the others.” She moved closer to me, like a vast, deadly wave – yet so slowly.

“Spending oneself, giving oneself over, sliding into ecstasy that abolishes the boundaries between you and Him… Isn’t that all you ever wanted? No rituals, no dogma, just the bliss of being swept away in The Lover’s arms…

“Don’t listen to the little men with little dreams. Even the ones who are back from the dead. Even the ones who cannot die. They are not the path. They try to reach The Lover with their minds. They hurl themselves at Him again and again, and they fail. They will do anything to avoid me, but My Lover, The Lover has set me as the guard over His heart.

“My Lover has so much desire for all these beautiful monsters that seem to gravitate into your life. I know you are in touch with Samuel. I don’t understand the connection you have with him. My Lover has not seen fit to explain it. But you must tell Samuel that there is still time for him. The path of life and the path of death is open to him. He still has the chance to choose life.

“My Lover is eager to welcome Samuel. And He has given me a gift for you. I need you to listen carefully, Precious Cassie. Samuel is such a changeable being. It’s not entirely his fault, as he has been caught up in a war he doesn’t even see is going on. But trust in this, Cassie. You will always be that young damsel that he read poetry to.

“And I have a harder message, too. Samuel could have saved Eric, but he knew that Eric would never stop haunting you. Unfortunately, Samuel didn’t know that death doesn’t always stop monsters like Eric.

“I tried so hard to reach your friend Eric, but he spurned me. He could never see past sex as an indulgence and a weapon. For all his talk about transcendence, he was still a puritan at heart. He didn’t understand that sex is a doorway.

“There is still time to for you reach Sammy…”

And then she put her hand on my cheek. I could have melted right then. Her hand moved to my neck and pulled me, gently yet firmly. Our lips touched and parted, and I felt her tongue reach out to mine. It was like electricity pounding at my brain.

Her other hand began to caress my back. I pushed my self into her, buried my face in her beautiful chest. She sighed and pressed my face into her cleavage.

She led me by the hand to the bedroom…

The orgasm, Sammy, was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It wasn’t just sex. I felt like a part of my heart opened up. Physically, not metaphorically. I felt like something in the actual physical organ of my heart changed and radiated a new warmth to the rest of my body. I rode that warmth into sleep.

I woke up exhausted physically and emotionally. But still, there was this strange heat in my chest. It wasn’t disturbing. It was quite pleasant and peaceful.

It was dark, so I thought I had slept the whole day away. But then I noticed something about the darkness. It seemed to have a totality to it that 21st Century life never really affords. There’s always something blinking or some little status light or something with an LED clock… Some light somewhere… Not here, not now.

I knew Our Dark Friend was there with me. Of course, I couldn’t see him. Or, instead, I think, all I could see was him. He was the darkness itself. I was inside of him. I felt him invading my lungs, pushing his way down my throat, in my ears, into my sex and even my anus. I mean, I didn’t actually feel him but knew he was seeping into me from every angle. I wanted to cry and gag and thrash around till he went away, but I knew it would do no good.

“Don’t believe that little tart. The Magdalene has an inflated view of her role in things. I’ve shown you the end of all things. I’ve shown you that cold, immense emptiness. Little rebels like The Magdalene and her Jesus cannot stop this. Remember, Genesis chapter 1. I was there before your pitiful gods… darkness over the deep. I let them play their games for a while. I let them fashion you disgusting creatures out of dirt and mud – out of my being. But I will take it back, and they will collapse into the infinite nothing from which they came.”

The light started to seep in. Our Dark Friend seemed to be pulling himself back. “And now, a lesson,” he said.

The darkness vanished, but instead of being in my house, I was back on that subway platform. It had been a while since I had dreamed about that day. Was it a dream? The line between dream and life seems to have broken down. Sometimes I wake from these dreams and find myself cooking dinner, or at my office grading papers.

But yes, I was back on that subway platform. Back when I thought you were dead. I watched her life slip away, that poor girl. But this time it was unlike any dream I had ever had of this trauma. I could see her life flash before my eyes. All the things left unsaid. All the promises left unfulfilled. All the days she should have had. Our Dark Bastard gave me a gift, he showed me all that the world had lost at that moment. I had a front-row seat. I hated him. I knew those images were burned into my brain.

“I could make this all go away,” he said. “Just let go. Let yourself drift. Let me be your god.”

How did you know I was dreaming this? Why are you in my dreams, Sammy? Why do you haunt me? You scare me, but I’m glad you are there. I don’t know how you knew – maybe Eric whispered it in your ear – but yes, yes, I held her. I still cry sometimes when I think of her.

And is it true? Could you have saved Eric? How? Is there still some hope that you could put him to rest? Will Our Dark Friend leave us alone if Eric really, truly dies?

And are you choosing death? Do you really want to let Our Dark Friend win?

Am I really still that young damsel?

 

Faithfulness and the loss of faith

I know it won’t come as a surprise to you, but my current WIP is a deeply personal piece. I’m trying to use it to come to some kind of cohesion of the various threads of my life. And, at the same time, I’m trying to make it something people will like to read. One of the big themes of Resumption of Darkness is that both Sam and Cassie are having a sort of worldview crisis. Before the tragedy that forms the backdrop of the story takes place – well, at least, before they met Eric, the instigator – they are quite comfortable in their Christian worldview. After they a pulled into Eric’s orbit, everything starts to fall apart. Then, during their trip to the rainforest, their worldviews implode.

Seven years later, they still haven’t put the pieces together.

In fact, their story mirrors mine. (I know, a big surprise! An author writes a story that has an autobiographical element!) There was an Eric of sorts, and a Sam and a Cassie. They are at once people separate from me – more or less – and they are also aspects of me.

Emotionally, I am still haunted by Eric. He’s about as dead as any ghost and yet, at times, he seems more real to me than most of the people I interact with on a daily basis.

Spiritually, I am torn between the way Sammy is responding to the crumbling of his faith and Cassie’s reaction. Sammy is slowly descending into pessimism. Cassie is trying to reconfigure her faith into something that isn’t so closely tied to the triumphalism she had before her Latin America tour

As I have been processing this, a friend sent me this link from another disillusioned Christian. The essay shows his path through intellectual disillusionment to the renewed worldview he has on the other side.

Here is a tidbit that I have found helpful:

People who doubt can have great faith because faith is something you do, not something you think. In fact, the greater your doubt the more heroic your faith.

I learned that it doesn’t matter in the least that I be convinced of God’s existence. Whether or not God exists is none of my business, really. What do I know of existence? I don’t even know how the VCR works.

I am trying to pray as he prays the following:

God, I don’t have great faith, but I can be faithful. My belief in you may be seasonal, but my faithfulness will not. I will follow in the way of Christ. I will act as though my life and the lives of others matter. I will love.
I have no greater gift to offer than my life. Take it.

My faith doesn’t need to be tied to the existence of some supernatural entity, nor does it need to be tied to that question Cassie asked: Was the tomb empty that first Easter Sunday? Instead, my faith can be a form of faithfulness to this picture of Jesus – the teacher who hung out with tax collectors and sinners. As Eric says, maybe he’d even like a monster like me.

I don’t know about tomorrow, but for today, I am betting my life on the belief that trying to live a life that Jesus would be proud of is a good way to live. Tomorrow… Who knows? Maybe I’ll make my home in the infinite grayness of a universe without meaning. Or maybe I’ll take another swing at following Jesus. I’m better off not worrying about tomorrow. Tomorrow has enough trouble to keep itself busy.

Anyway, sorry for the long, over-personal post. I hope to have Chapter 8 of Presumption of Darkness out soon. In the meantime, you can re-read it starting with Chapter 1.

As always, I’m eager to hear your thoughts.

People of faith, what do you think is the role of belief? And what do you think is the role of faithfulness?

People without faith, what are the principles by which you guide your life? What pictures drive you?

Writers, what role does writing play in the way you ask questions about who you are and what your life means?

Readers, what pictures renew you?

 

The Presumption of Darkness Part 7

Here’s the link to read from the beginning Part 1

Working Title: The Presumption of Darkness

Word Count: 1,900 (approx)

Reading time for average reader: 10 minutes

Part 7

Sammy

Cassie… I’ve been quiet.

What if Eric is right? What if that vast grayness is all that is real? Then what should stop us from shaking off these shackles – these traditions of men – and running away together, holing up in some cabin in the woods to watch the stars flicker out of existence, one by one, keeping each other warm with our bodies as the earth grows cold?

And yet, I know what you’re thinking: how many dead bodies and ruined lives will we leave in our wake? What if there really is some thickness to life that will keep that vast grayness from having the last word?

Yes, I used to think that was true. I’d have bet my life on it until I got to close to Our Dark Friend. I hate him. I think even Eric hates him. But hasn’t he shared wisdom with us?

Or has he just given me an excuse?

I feel like my body was not designed to withstand such intense longing.

Can you even hear me, Cassie? Or am I already lost in that vast grayness: screaming, screaming, screaming…

Can you hear me? Do you really feel my voice inside your dreams? Maybe even your nightmares? Do you sometimes feel my breath on your neck when no one is around? Do you see my shadow out of the corner of your eye?

I wonder if I am even human anymore. Have I turned entirely into a ghost? Do I merely exist to haunt you? Would I lament such a fate? My ethereal fingers continually in your head… It seems more dream than a nightmare to be such a ghost.

How can I stay quiet?

But reality, normality – such as it is – invades. That is what normalcy has become to me, an intruder to be resisted. But no Molotov cocktails can keep normality at bay for long.

Normality made an incursion the morning after Abby told me she knew about you. I hadn’t seen her all day after her revelation. I wasn’t sure she was even coming home. But I woke up and there she was clicking away on her laptop in the bed next to me.

It was just like nothing had happened. Morning came and went. I kept expecting some kind of blow up or confrontation. Was it all my imagination? Is this how she must have felt when she started to put the pieces together? And what were the parts? How did she discover this?

She left for work without saying goodbye. That was odd, but not unprecedented. I didn’t hear a word from her during the day. Again, unusual, but not unheard of.

Every time an email showed up in my inbox, I cringed. Would it be Abby telling me how much she hated me? Every time my phone buzzed, I jumped. Would it be some agony filled text or voicemail message?

Dread. I wasn’t even really sure why I dreaded Abby’s return, but fear was all I felt.

Abby walked in the door, placed her laptop case on the dining room table and said, “Everything has changed. I tried to pretend it hadn’t because I know I’m supposed to win you over without a word. I can’t do it. Can’t pretend.”

She didn’t wait for a response. She just walked into the bedroom and closed the door behind her.

I cobbled together some dinner for us, but she didn’t come out. So, I drank her share of the wine. I felt relieved. The silent treatment was annoying, but I much preferred it to yelling and the throwing of kitchen tools.

The evening dragged on without a sign of her. I figured I needed to get myself ready for bed. I fully expected to have to sleep in my office, but I went into the bedroom to grab my pillow and toothbrush.

“Listen to this, Sammy,” she said and then read from her thick, study bible:

He drove into my kidneys
    the arrows of his quiver;
I have become the laughingstock of all peoples,
    the object of their taunts all day long.
He has filled me with bitterness;
    he has sated me with wormwood.

He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
    and made me cower in ashes;
my soul is bereft of peace;
    I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, “My endurance has perished;
    so has my hope from the Lord.”

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
    the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.

“Lamentations, I think,” I said. “You stopped too soon, just before the lines about the Lord’s mercy,” I said.

“Which of us needs to know about the Lord’s mercy right now?” she asked.

I felt my stomach drop.

“I’m sorry, honey,” she said, “but you need to hear the truth. Between my physical and emotional health, I can’t just beat around the bush.”

I picked up my pillow and started to head for the bathroom to get my toothbrush.

“You don’t need to go. This is your bed as much as it is mine,” she said.

I stood perfectly still.

She sighed and said, “I’m not going to stab you in the middle of the night. And you can trust me. I’m not the liar here.”

I felt my shoulders tense, and my eyes burn a little. But I kept my mouth shut. What else could I do? She was right.

I changed and brushed my teeth and got into bed. She was on her laptop. The only light in the room came from her screen

“They’re making a Mary Magdalene film. I’m sure it will be terrible. I can tell they are going to trot her out to shore up some political agenda. I hate that, women as prizes. Jesus was so kind to women. That’s why he appeared to Magdalene first event though it meant the gospel would be harder to believe. He didn’t care that women couldn’t even testify in court.”

“That’s a gross oversimplification. Women were allowed to testify when no men were present at the event in question. And if Jesus appeared to Mary first, she’d certainly be allowed to testify that he was alive. I’m not saying 1st-century Jewish culture was egalitarian, but when I hear people pull that tired old argument out… Of course, I can’t blame you for thinking that. A lot of biblical scholars haven’t read the Talmud very closely.”

“Don’t throw your scholarship at me. The point is that Jesus loved women, he cherished them. He didn’t play games with their lives. I want her to be left alone so she can speak for herself. Don’t you think Mary has turned into a #MeToo story? She’s defenseless and being used by any hack who wants her. And she doesn’t even get a share of the profits.”

“Yeah, it’s terrible,” I said, staring at the ceiling. I could barely move, barely hear her voice over my pounding heart.

“Really,” she said, “but aren’t you doing the same thing? Aren’t you playing with Cassie’s heart like she’s some kind of game? And mine, for that matter?”

I kept my eyes fixed on the ceiling, waiting for some appropriate words to come. They didn’t.

“I love you, Sammy,” she said as she closed the lid of her laptop, letting the darkness take over the room.

At some point, I started floating in the expansive, cold grayness. Never has the meaninglessness of the universe given me such comfort.

But the comfort didn’t last long.

Eventually, I started dreaming. I dreamed I was on a subway platform. It was crowded. I saw you on the other end of the platform. I began to run toward you, but my feet moved like they were rooted in tar. The train screeched into the station. I heard the brakes engage harder than usual – sparks jumping. Then I heard the screaming. Suddenly, I was across the platform, looking down on you.

Cassie, I saw you, tears streaming down your face. You were cradling the head of a young woman. Was she hit by the train somehow – in some freak accident? You were talking to her, trying to encourage her to hold on, but even I with my almost non-existent medical knowledge could see the life draining from her face. Her eyes got real cold, full of that grayness that haunts my dreams.

I felt like an intruder, but I couldn’t leave you. How could I leave you to deal with this alone? But I know you couldn’t see me or hear me. I wanted to reach out and touch you, but you I knew you wouldn’t be able to feel me. I just stood there, wishing I could do something. Until…

Until I saw Eric lurking in the crowd, smirking at us.

I turned and ran toward him. I grabbed his shirt and lifted him and pushed him into the wall.

“You think you can hurt me? I wasn’t expecting such a hostile reaction. Especially when you seem to be getting everything you want.” He wasn’t smirking, but he hardly looked afraid. Even though my dream body seemed supernaturally strong, what could I do to a dead man?

“Everything I want? Watching all this suffering? I think you’re playing me for a chump.”

He laughed. His laugh, Cassie, was like a piercing shrill shriek, but at the same time, it had some sort of deep bass that shook me down to my intestines. I thought I would be sick right there from all the vibrations. The walls seemed to shake, and the bricks seemed to loosen, spraying dust and grit. Was the ceiling going to fall down on me? On you?

“You think I am behind all of this? Ask yourself a question, Sammy. What if I am just a conceit? What if I am just an illusion, an excuse for you to reach out to Cassie and ruin her life? Why didn’t you leave her alone? Your sweet Abby is right. You are no better than all those Hollywood scum bags.”

I let go of him. “I’m no better than them,” I said, and then I woke up.

Abby was already awake. I looked at the light coming in through the cracks in the blinds. It was late. Was she going to work today? I was too scared to ask.

“I’ve been researching your old friend, Eric. He was a pretty sick guy, wasn’t he? He wrote some pretty horrifying stuff. He had some fans, too. They posted comments on his blog. It was like some weird little blogger universe. I researched them, looked at their blogs. They all seem so normal except for their infatuation with this sick pervert, Eric. What did you see in him?”

“I don’t know. I thought he could give me something I wanted. I don’t even know what it was.”

“Yes you do, Sammy. Why won’t you tell me?”

I turned over and tried to go back to sleep. The rest of the day made me long for the relief of that ever-expanding grayness.

Listen! Listen! I’m talking to you, Cassie! If this were a play, I’d be the narrator breaking the fourth wall in some egregious way. None of these even matters – not Eric, not Our Dark Friend, not my wife’s illness. It’s all about reaching you and letting you know I still think you’re precious. I miss you. Never forget that.

 

Click here for Part 8

Seen… Never seen

I see your eyes

I have never seen your eyes

Full of tears for

Death finds you, untouchable

He touches you the only way He can


Where was I when you were cradling her

dying body in your arms

I see your eyes

I have never seen your eyes

searching for help, hope

but the thing with feathers

fled when the tires started squealing


I see your eyes

I have never seen your eyes

I brush the hair away and I stroke your cheek

with my ethereal hand

Do you feel it as I look

into your precious eyes

I have never seen your eyes



Author’s note: A little background… I found out, quite by accident, that someone who I had claimed was precious to me had experienced a traumatic event. It had just passed me by. The discovery that I had missed this… Well, it made me reflect on how presumptuous my entreaties and claims of friendship really are.

 

Dr. Seuss Challenge and News

I’ve been challenged to write a scary, twisted Seuss-like poem. I’m not sure it’s great poetry, but I figure it’s my modest tribute to one of my favorite poets and illustrators. It also happens to dovetail nicely with a new story I’m outlining. It’s a sequel – of sorts – to The Mice, Waiting, Wailing in that it will bring back Peri. Jack will be there, too, but as of now the outline is too vague for me to have any idea how much of a role he will have.

The poem – or a heavily edited version of it – will play a role in the new story.

Anyway, without further ado, The Ballad of Mathilda:

The Ballad of Mathilda

Everywhere Mathilda goes
She sees some vicious, scary ghost
She sees them when she goes to bed
She sees them when she turns her head
She sees them at the local bar
She seems them tampering with cars
The follow her into the night
The always stay within her sight
She cannot shake them
She cannot take them
Until she becomes one of them
The kids at school all laugh at her
When she jumps
They cannot see the Ugly one with Bumps
One day they will see them
One day they will regret
They way they laughed
At poor Mathilda
Now head of the class

 

I haven’t died

Still alive. Still writing. I had to slow down due to heavy increases of hours and attention needed for my day job.

I’m making copious notes on Chapter 7 of Presumption of Darkness. And I’m making notes on a new stand alone story. It’s a sort of sequel to The Mice Waiting, Wailing. That’s all I have the strength to say for now.

Until next time, I’ll leave you with an interview I found. The subject is an interesting writer. I look forward to reading more from her!