Her protest

The words, “Never again,” flashed into sight, glossy white posterboard boldly inscribed in crimson.

Then the girl shoved a flimsy plastic case, holding one DVD, into a bystander’s hands before she swan-dived onto the tracks below, just in front of the 4:10 from D.C.

The detective turned from the recording to his captain, his hands cradling the evidence she left. “It’s him. The mayor.”

The captain shook his head, trying to deny it. But the detective went on, “And not just him. It goes higher, deeper. All the way.”

Once again the captain shook his head. “The world will burn.”

…because I’m not… (a political piece)

I despise politics, but hate, racism, and misogyny are even worse, especially when espoused and encouraged by people in positions of power. The following piece is political, intended to make the reader think, listen, and discuss. If you don’t like it, I don’t care.

So, all Muslims have to register. So what? It doesn’t affect me, I’m not Muslim. In fact, it will let us see who is listening to extremism, so we know who to watch, just so we don’t get blown to bits.

Well, we have all Muslims registered, but since I don’t carry the registry around with me, it’s still hard to tell who might be planning something. So how about we make them wear a symbol, or mark them permanently somehow, so it’s easy for me to see who to watch. It’s all fine, because it doesn’t affect me, I’m not Muslim.

Hmm, although that seems to work pretty well, I’m still worried. The clearly marked Muslims are everywhere. Wouldn’t it be easier if they were put all together, in just a few well-defined areas, so they can all live and work together? That way, we can keep an eye on them much better. It’s a good idea, because it doesn’t affect me. I’m not Muslim.

Oh, well, now that we’ve gotten all the Muslims moved to their own areas, we’re missing workers in the areas they left. But we can’t let them mingle with the regular workers, they might spread their religious messages. How about we build special work areas for them, away from everyone else, so they can work on only what we want them to work on, and we can still keep an easy eye on them? But, it costs too much to bus entire groups to a different location every single day. Why not just build barracks for the Muslim workers at their new job sites? Yes, that will work. And it doesn’t affect me, because I’m not Muslim.

Workers eat so much, and this is costing the government a pretty penny. I don’t want my taxes going up just to feed those Muslims who want to blow me to bits. So, lets keep them on a strict nutritional regimen, regardless of what their religion tells them to eat. It doesn’t matter to me, I’m not Muslim, so I’ll be fine.

Oh, a lot of workers are sick in the Muslim work camps. I suppose we’ll have to supplement with Hindu workers. Or Catholics. Or LGBTQ. But we’ll leave the Jews alone. They’ve been through this before.

And besides, it doesn’t affect me, I’m not…

Realization

She thought he was coming to rescue her. She’d dreamed of him, several times, during the lonely, pain-filled nights, locked away in the forbidding stone room.

He was handsome, of course, as all rescuers should be. He was also brave and kind, confident and able. She was near to giving up when she first dreamed of him. The weeks of torturous waiting had taken a toll on her mind and body. The stone walls were like ice they were so cold and the tiny stream that wound its way through the floor cobbles kept the small chamber drippingly damp. Her meager bodice, fine linen as it was, did nothing to insulate her from the chill, especially with the droplets of humidity that clung to it.

Her first dream of her handsome knight revivified her somewhat. She expected to see him when she awoke, but he wasn’t there. Neither was he there the next day, nor the next. Even after a week of dreams unrealized, she still clung to her hope.

She held tightly to that hope, even as she collapsed, exhausted and soul-worn, into the small, icy stream. Lying in the stream, her body rapidly losing what little heat it held, she dreamed once again, of him, her longed-for rescuer.

But the last dream, the dream of the water, gave her no respite. Her way of escape, her knight in shining armor, was absent, the void that was left echoing in her heart and mind.

She realized, at the last, with exhaustion and pain stripping her constitution from her, that she was her own rescuer. And that she had given her hope, love, and strength to a dream that would never be realized, all because she had lived for someone else.

The end of the world

For years, ever since the near-fatal motorcycle accident, James had been having strange dreams. Dreams that always seemed to mean something, almost, but not quite, prophesying a major event looming on his life’s horizon.

James, along with his partner Alex, had spent countless waking hours, and hours of intensive library research, interpreting his vivid foretellings. They had gotten quite good at it, all in all, although, in every dream, there would be a few minor details either forgotten or misinterpreted.

The last few months, James has had the same dream, a horrible vision of the ending of the world. At least, that’s the interpretation James and Alex had come up with.

In the vision, James is wandering the streets, lost, looking for something unknown in a city totally foreign to him. It doesn’t even look real, this city, with its strange buildings of purple and orange, streets of fine silver sand, and ambient green light all around. But James always finds himself here, wandering, calling and crying for someone, or something. But every time, just when he spies what he’s looking for, the world ends.

Not with a huge, violent explosion. Not with a shudder and upthrusting earthquake. No, the world ends in a flash of brilliant puce light, silent and overwhelming. The light engulfs the city around James, then James himself. Then there’s only darkness, where James floats for a brief moment, bewildered at the alignment of stars, before he wakes up, stinking of sweat and fear.

Neither James nor Alex have yet determined when this ending of the world will take place. Neither one has mustered the courage to tell anyone else. They merely cling to each other, quaking with fear, each time they see a news report of another disaster in a world densely populated with staid, present-tensed people.

It wasn’t until the fatal plane crash that James realized his mistake. His world, for years, was Alex. The simple business trip, the last of his career, was to have taken Alex halfway across the country. But after the world ended, James floated, confused, angry, and bewildered by the nonsensical darkness around him.

The inheritance

My grand uncle, or something like that, died on Sunday. I barely remember him, and then only as a fuzzy, half-dreamed sort of remembrance. He was some sort of eccentric traveler, though I only know that from his will.

His will. That was unexpected. Though I’ve got cousins upon cousins, and surely some are related to the man, somehow I became the sole inheritor of his estate. According to the lawyer, whom I’ve just seen today, it’s nothing exorbitant, just a house with its contents and acreage, an ancient Rolls Royce that’s seen better days, and a bank account with less than twenty-thousand dollars. Fortunately, the old-timer left no debts for me to scurry and pay off.

The lawyer gave me the keys to the house and the car before I left, along with a copy of uncle’s will, with instructions to visit the manor before I decide to liquidate. I suppose the madman must have thought I’d fall in love with his drafty old pile of sticks and march right along to his wishes. Ha!

Well, I do suppose it wouldn’t hurt to take a look. After all, my distant relative was supposedly some sort of collector. He certainly traveled quite often, to many distant and unheard of lands. I owe it to myself, and him, I suppose, to at least go see what trinkets and baubles he may have collected over the years.

I’m a bit spooked, I don’t mind saying. I’ve just turned off the main road onto the long, winding, tree-canopied lane that leads to uncle’s house, and the mid-afternoon sunlight has suddenly dimmed, to near twilight levels. On the highway, I’d begun to fear someone was following me, but I see no one now. My imagination has gone haywire since I found out about my newfound inheritance.

The lane is quite long, nearing two miles, I’d say, although it is hard to tell since it winds so. Ah, the house, I can see it, now, looming above the trees ahead. It seems to be an old Victorian style, quite gothy in its architecture. Doesn’t help much that it’s painted a dreary grey-ish purple color, with a deep grey trim. Uncle apparently loved the dramatic.

No matter, the sun is shining much more brightly now that I’ve emerged from the tree lined lane. No lights on, of course. My globe-trotting relative died in while in some African country, so there’s been no one here to bother with lights. The deadbolt lock is surprisingly quiet and smooth. It appears quite new.

No dust. Anywhere. That’s surprising, as the lawyer had said that uncle was gone for over a month on this journey. Either the house was much more well-built than I’d imagined, or someone has been here, at least to clean, in the last month. I must find the man’s ledgers, probably in his office, to discover who his housekeeper is and where to find her. She must be made aware of the eccentric’s death and his bequeathal of all to me.

I’ll start my perusal here, on the ground floor, in what must be the parlor. Antique chairs, in a state barely above shabby, a few pitted hardwood tables, a pair of Tiffany lamps, gaudy as can be, all together should raise a few dollars for me. But nothing important, really, so on to the formal dining room I go….

All in all, not such a bad start for my inheritance day. I’ve found several things that could be sold. Collectors adore such trinkets as I’ve found. The downstairs rooms are a small mine that will support my lifestyle even better than the pittance that the dreary old man left in his bank ledger.

Upstairs, I warrant, is where his office will be. The servant’s stairs, just to the left of me here, will allow me to access the back of the house and then I’ll work my way forward to the grand staircase.

Hmmm, I swear I heard footsteps, creaking along on the floorboards below. Ah, well, must be my imagination. I know I wasn’t followed, and who would, besides? I’m only allowing the air of the house to cloud my mind. Work to do, continue on!

Aha! I’ve found the old-timer’s office. His ledgers were indeed inside the massive oaken desk, along with diaries of his travels. Most peculiarly, there was one with my name written upon it in a spidery hand. I’m in need of a rest, so there’s no better time than now to read what the loon had to say to, and about, me.

Dear God! Indeed, poor uncle was mad. Werewolves? Silver bullets? What nonsense!

Was that a howl?

I did remember to close and lock the front door, didn’t I?

 

The meeting

Evan warily watched the vaguely man-shaped shadow writhe and undulate in the corner of the room. No one else in the meeting seemed to notice it, but that wasn’t unusual, since Evan regularly saw things no one else did. He worried about that, sometimes, especially times like right now.

With only half his attention on the meeting, Evan missed the details of his boss’ new plan for sales growth. He missed the first three times his boss called his name, too.

“Sorry, Stan, I missed all that,” Evan said. “Guess I’m having a rough day today.”

The tall, lanky man at the head of the table sighed, “It’s fine, Evan. I’ll just email all the pertinents to you later today. Why don’t you head home, now?”

“Hmmm?” Evan’s attention wandered back to the corner of the room, where the shadow was now tugging at something that appeared to be stuck on the other side of the wall.

Stan sighed once again, signaling the others in the room to leave him alone with the distracted man.

Evan had eyes only for the shadow. He didn’t even notice when his employer sat down on the conference table beside him. The long-fingered hand on his shoulder managed to gain only half his attention.

“Evan,” Stan whispered, “what do you see?”

“There’s a shadow-man, in the corner.”

Stan turned his deep, emerald eyes to gaze into the empty corner. “And what is he doing?”

Evan giggled, a slightly hysterical sound, and said, “He’s a she, I think. And her handbag is stuck, I  suppose, on the other side of the corner. It’s pretty funny, actually.”

Evan’s attention once again wavered, pulled to the dark shape and its struggle. He never heard the muttered intonations that fell from his colleague’s mouth. He did, however, see the shadow become clearer, the image of a woman struggling, her handbag now clearly restraints of some kind.

“Help me!”

Evan heard her clearly, her sobbing voice full of misery and panic. Amazed, Evan turned toward Stan, but all he saw was a shadowy figure, striding past office chairs, moving toward a gaping, black portal.

While his attention was on the shadow, Evan didn’t notice the rubbery, ropy tentacles whipping their way toward him. The death-chill from the vines wrapping themselves around his arms only gained half his attention.

“Stan,” he begged, “help me….” But the shadow of his former boss faded from view.

Faces

There are faces on my ceiling. I’m not entirely sure why, or why I hadn’t noticed them when I moved in. I suppose it’s possible they were hiding, then, and only came out once they got comfortable with my presence. Or, maybe, they’ve all simply migrated here over the past several months.

Whatever the reason, there are faces on my ceiling. Most are frozen, immovable, fixed in horrified gazes, peering at me from among the ancient water stains left by the once-leaky roof. A few, however, move. Not while I’m watching, of course. Those few change expressions at least weekly; one or two are more changeable, swapping terrified, gaping mouths for smug, knowing grins. That meager handful also manage to leap about upon the ceiling, moving from the northeast corner’s morning rays to the western window’s setting sun.

I suppose those are the faces not yet accustomed to their fate, still wandering in the way of the living, breathing faces they might once have been.

I’m rather used to the many faces, now. They keep me company in the solitude of my room. Loneliness was never a condition I yearned for. Unfortunately, the years have left their mark, picking off my family and friends, one by one.

Perhaps the faces on my ceiling are my loved ones. Yes, now I see familiarity in the frozen masks of pain. Perhaps they’ve followed me, to remind me of my past. That must be the reason I’d not noticed them before.

Go on, then, faces, remind me of what I’ve done, who I’ve become. I reveled in your fear and loathing once, I’ll do it again.

There are faces on my ceiling. And bars on my windows.