Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Abusing Snooze

You came already blackened,
I gave you the blues.
You slept beneath my lampshade,
Threatening my muse.

If I could cradle candles,
I'd light you aflame.
For each missed opportunity,
your shape is to blame.

I slap at your happiness.
I pound out your sound.
When you grow more persistent,
I throw you to the ground.

You crack up my sanity.
You tear apart my dreams.
With every time I waken,
I suffocate your screams.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Slaughtered by grilled cheese and weeds

Come in to assemble a bookshelf too big for me to read.

I just lost. Oh coffee – don’t splash me.

Watch tonight’s Packers/Vikings game. Or fail me now and hate football.

The game totally found an “everything that annoys you” mode.

Was feeling all artist statement for working again tonight.

Dishes and dinner, pants that fit, just sitting down to eat.

Top-chef like, grinding, watching the game, did laundry,

Getting into the can’t, doing it because they’re human.

Find the gay time four months ago and we’re all a touch of the same.

I’m going to really enjoy playing with person artforms, with war.

Sea salt, ya dig?

I will give sometimes the world as a Christmas present

Or less than maybe someone’s several dollars.

5 hours, the time anyone wants to feel way too big.

Come over and the recall will begin to help me.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What keeps a girl up all night

The dress barely fit into the fireplace. I had to stuff it - like so many layers of rich, white cream - into the tight, small space. It scraped against the bricks and as I lit it on fire, the flames licked up along the sides, crenallating and smoking up the space. It was a filthy thing, a very unsanitary way to do it, but I could not wait. I did not care how much of a mess it made. I didn't care what my mother said or if my brother smelled it when he got home from the university a few days later. I just wanted it be gone, once and for all.

As the dress burned, blackened and burned like a fire-bitten corpse, I could feel the locket around my neck filtering heat against my chest. It felt as if it, too, had been smelted by flame. As it grew warmer and warmer to the point of getting unbearably hot, I pulled it frantically from my frame and tossed it in with the flames. Even the veil was burning, burning away into ash and soot and wonderful cinders.

"I will not use contractions," he said. "I will use proper English and nod my head like an idiot."

For good measure I gave him a good smack. "What kind of bull crap is that, Aaron? We're getting married. It's a wedding. You're allowed to have a little bit of fun."

"We are getting married," he repeated, sounding like a robot as he rehearsed. "It is a wedding. And I do want to have fun."

"You don't have to sound like a weirdo to be formal. And besides, we're working on the two-month plan, not the two-year plan."

"What are you talking about?"

"Never you mind."

We sat in a dimly lit room. The only light came from tea lights which cluttered every open surface. The small, whitish yellow flames created an ambient glow around the table and cast strange shadows across our faces. I found myself wishing for a mirror so I could see my own creepy-looking reflection. Even if I did believe in ghosts, I would know enough that this lighting was part of the trick to it. There was something about the way the light brought them in. It brought in the ghosts, the shades, the shadows, the things that go bump in the night. It no longer mattered if they were real or not. They seemed real in that small space.

Tonight the words don’t want to come to me. My lips are sealed so tight that I can’t speak above a whisper. Can I write for you what I want to say? Sometimes it helps if I can think about it for a minute before I have to communicate what it is that I have to say. Maybe it would help if you have some snacks for me? The food here is crap. We talk about it like we’re on the inside. I could talk more if you gave me some food. The mashed potatoes they served us at dinner didn’t sit well in my stomach. I promise I will make it worth your while. You understand this writing thing, right? Here, I’ll get my notebook and you get me some cookies or something. The nurses usually have some chocolate chip cookies – those Chips Ahoy ones – hiding in their break room. I watch them in there sometimes. Not in a creepy way. I mean, I notice things, but I am not tempted.

Who is telling this story? The words will not come to me tonight. They flee from me as quickly as the light fades from the sky. The sunset is brilliant, lighting the clouds with a gorgeous pink and purple hue, but as soon as it fades it takes with it all my hope. With the darkness come my fears and the nightmares return. I do not even need to be sleeping anymore. They just come to me. I wish I even remembered what it was like to get a decent night’s worth of sleep. Instead, I wake, shaking in my own sweat, clutching my knees to my chest and sobbing. I don’t always remember exactly what it is that I have seen. All I know is that I want to stop these haunting dreams. I want to sleep. Please help me sleep, not just for one night but forever. I want to sleep and never ever wake up again. I think that is the only way I will ever be happy again.

I woke, feeling like I hadn’t slept a wink. I felt restless and uneasy. My phone rang moments after my feet hit the floor. It was Aaron, asking after me, after the dutiful fiancé.

“Good morning, sexy,” he crooned. “Some night, huh? So sad you could not stay until this morning. What did you say you had to do today again?”

I gasped. Suddenly, my sleep-sucking dream came back to me. I remembered the woman in the white dress, sobbing on my shoulder. She looked at me with saddest black eyes broken apart like flat plates. “Hmm?” I mumbled. I wasn’t exactly listening to Aaron anymore was I?

“Wasn’t that a great night?” he repeated.

“I do not know what you are talking about,” I mumbled. “I did not get a wink of sleep.”

“I know, right? You were wild!” He laughed, clearly enjoying himself. It must be some kind of joke, I reasoned. What the hell was he talking about? He started cat calling at me and it suddenly sunk through my thick skull. He thought we had had amazing sex the night before.

“Don’t know what you’re on, but I didn’t get any sleep last night. Glad you had a good time. You must have had a lot better dreams than I did.”

“Hah. Dreams! Call it what you want, I know your true side now,” he said. “You are a dirty, dirty little girl. And the best part about it is you’re mine!”

After I got off the phone, feeling quite embarrassed and not remembering what it was that might have happened the night before, I mulled over it in my mind. What was it that I had done or not done the night before? I certainly didn’t remember having a wonderful sheet-ripping night with my fiancé, as much fun as that would have been. Instead, all I had were vague memories of that dream. Who was that woman who kept haunting me in my dreams, wearing my great aunt Genevieve’s wedding dress. No, now she was even wearing my wedding dress. It was becoming suddenly intensely personal. A shiver quaked over my skin and into my bones. I wondered briefly if it would be possible to sleep walk and have sex in my sleep – but it didn’t seem likely. What craziness was afoot? Was it me or Aaron who had fallen off the deep end?

At the séance I am not sure what I was expecting. I wanted to get some sort of answers, even though I still didn’t believe in ghosts at that point. I was very quickly beginning to believe, though. The dreams had not left me. They came to me even in my waking hours. They leapt into my brain whenever I closed my eyes. They would not leave me alone, by any means. These visions would not let me forget that I was wearing a dead woman’s wedding dress for what was supposed to be the best day of my life – my own wedding to my beloved. It was a day meant to be of great joy and excitement but already it was tainted by a fear I couldn’t break free from.

Was I just getting a bad case of cold feet? It was normal for such things to happen. You could know someone your whole life and love them for most of it, and still that pang of doubt would come to you as soon as you started to even think about walking down the aisle to take your wedding vows. Everyone felt it, didn’t they? I hoped, deep down that it was nothing more than a horrible case of the jitters. My nervous brain was inventing things that simply were not there. There could be no other logical explanation.

But when I looked in the mirror, my reflection told another story. I was looking more and more like her every day. I was looking more and more like the beautiful woman in my gold locket, the woman with the luscious mane of thick, curly blonde hair. I had never seen my own hair so curly in my entire life. In fact, it used to be bone straight when I was a child. I was just getting paranoid, that was it. I was getting paranoid and worried sick about this wedding. Maybe what I needed was to pay for a professional massage. That would be nice. What was I doing here in this place, waiting for a stranger to call up ghosts from the other side? Didn’t that usually lead to even more problems in the stories that I read. These were the same kind of stories that could keep a girl like me up all night. The last thing I needed was yet another thing to keep me from sleeping. That was the last thing I needed.

(1566 words)

Faith in Dog Whistles (random excerpts)

“What are you best at? I mean absolutely the best at?” the woman wearing red-rimmed glasses asked me. Although she sounded like a high school counselor, I had actually hired her to be my wedding planner. She looked quizzically at me over her glasses.

“Seriously?” I mused. “Procrastinating. Lately it seems to be the only thing I’m any good at. I have just this giant list of things I have to do, and it keeps getting added to. I feel like I’m never going to get out from under it.” It was true, too. As the wedding grew ever closer, I could feel the pressure rising. There was no way I would ever be able to get everything done on time. It didn’t help that I was a perfectionist on top of everything.

“Have you considered enlisting the help of your bridesmaids?” the woman asked, trying to be helpful. This was a preliminary consultation, too, might I add, so I was looking for any suggestions I could get.

“What bridesmaids?” I asked tentatively.

“You don’t have bridesmaids yet?” she asked incredulously. “Have you even considered who to ask?”

“There is no one I trust that much, besides maybe Aaron’s sisters. I have a cousin who might want to help out. They have to buy their own dresses right?”

“Don’t tell me you’re getting married because you’re pregnant,” said the woman. Meredith, I think her name was but she wanted me to call her Merry.

“What makes you say that?”

“It just seems like you are in a rush to get hitched is all. You should give yourself at least a year to plan the wedding. If you want a very formal affair we’re talking more like two.”

“Heh,” I laughed. “Try two months.”

“Why the rush?”

“I just want to be married.”

“Sweetie, you have your whole life to be married.”

“I know. What’s a few months more?”

Meredith, I mean Mary, sat at a small child-sized table set with a china tea set. The store itself was more of an antique and gift shop than a wedding shop, but it was the quaint oddity of the space that had drawn me to it in the first place. It was one of the many shops in the downtown district of my city – a few last blocks that still felt small-town and cozy in the giant bustle of working life. There were few jobs here but plenty of artists’ galleries and cafes.

“I’m sorry,” said Merry as she straightened her skirt. “I think you and I have gotten off on the wrong foot.” Her forehead wrinkled a little bit.

“I think we have,” I said. “How about instead of telling me what you think I need that I tell you what I need and we work on that.”

“Maybe a list of what you already have? That way we start on a positive note.”

She pulled a notebook from a tote bag she had stored under the table. It was very bright pink and had blue lined paper inside. She also pulled out a purple pen. The colors were not only obnoxious but reminded me of Mary Poppins for some reason. I think it was the combination of them coming from a cavernous bag and Merry’s name. We started a list, headed off by the fact that, yes, I did already have a groom and a venue for both the wedding itself and the reception. We had even started shopping caterers to see their food options and pricing. Merry pooh-poohed the fact that we hadn’t set a budget but oohed and ahhed over the fact that I already had a dress.

“That’s one of the hardest parts!” she exclaimed. “It took me nearly three months alone to pick out a dress!” She blushed a little bit as she reminisced. “Then again, I was on the two-year plan. You said already that you don’t have even three months to spare. You must really be in love with this boy.” She paused, took a long look at me that started to make me uncomfortable.

Have you ever had someone give you one of those looks? It’s one of those excruciatingly long looks, during which no words are exchanged. It feels like their eyes are boring a hole right through your head. In my experience, it means that the person staring at you knows something you don’t – something important.

“Or maybe there’s something else afoot,” she finally said. “Are you trying to get away from something? Is he your knight in shining armor come to rescue you?”

“I stopped believing in fairy tales a long time ago,” I said.

A tinkle at the door marked the arrival of another customer and Merry stood to greet them. It was two young women looking for penis-shaped paraphernalia to bring to a friends’ bachelorette party. When she came back to the table, Merry added that to my list of to-do’s: hire a male stripper. I shook my head – I needed to find a maid of honor and fast before my wedding turned into some kind of zoo.

Have an engagement party! What do people wear for an engagement party?

“I don’t want to pay $700 for a dress that I am only going to wear once,” I said. “I might as well wear this old thing.”

“I told you, Gen,” said my mom. “We can get you a dress. Maybe not a $700 one, but we can go look anyway. We can have you try some on.”

“Can we go to a second-hand store or something? I just don’t want you to go broke. I know we don’t have a whole lot of money lying around.”

“I appreciate your consideration, dear, but don’t worry about it. My little girl is only going to get married once, after all.”

She smiled at me and I felt immediately guilty. The truth was, I just hated going clothes shopping, for any clothes. It didn’t matter that it was for a wedding dress. I knew I should be more excited about it, but it would only be more disheartening when it didn’t fit me. I suppose there are always alterations, but that’s beside the point. And, of course, I never wanted to diet.

Why is this girl taking my life? She has my dress. Who gave her my dress? She has my name. Who gave her my name? Where did she get these things? How can she walk around, pretending that she owes me nothing? Why does she not notice me? Why is my Mortimer paying more attention to her than to me? Why are my flowers wilting? My yellow flowers are wilting. My yellow flowers have become dry and brown. They are dying. Why are they dying? Morty told me they would live forever. He told me that we would live forever in a little cottage out in the woods. He told me he would love me. Is this why he left me? Did he leave me for this one, this young woman so fresh? This woman who smells like a lily and smiles too broadly, her teeth are too straight. I wish I could smash them in. I wish I could teach her a lesson. Why doesn’t she notice me? Why can’t she hear me when I call out to her? Who is she and what does she want with me? What does she want with my dress, with my man, with my name, with my life? What makes her think that she can ever be a wife?

Morty, my Morty, I will win you back. I will do whatever it takes to make you take me back. I will not let you forget how you trampled upon my heart. I will seduce you. I just need to get you alone, to find you in the night when she is not near you. I will make you remember my touch. I will make you remember and keep the promises you made me. And if you will not take me back, dear man, I will make you bleed. I will make you wish you never left me. I will make you curse the day you were born because I will leave you in so much agony you will wish you were dead.

And then I will turn upon her. I will make sure that you have no one to run to. She has stolen everything from me. She has intruded upon my life and ruined it. I saw her in the mirror that first day, trying to steal my reflection. Now that she has found it, I need to take it back. What made her think that she could keep up the glamour given to her by a sorceress? Women like that always play in foul trickery. They do not know the depths of the things they dig into. They do not know how deep the holes can go or how far they can fall if they lose their footing. I will be the one to push her over the edge. I will be the one to drive her mad. And once I have done that, I will be able to take back what is mine once again. I will be able to breathe again the air I once breathed. And she will be the one trapped here in this photograph, doomed to wait in this locket until she can earn her release. She will feel my wrath.

Gen makes a deal with a sorceress

Genevieve escapes from the locket and seduces Aaron

Gen burns the wedding dress, but doesn’t destroy the locket

What is the third thing? As in most creepy stories/ horror stories, there is always a third thing. The third magical thing is in the name, I think. Gen must either take more claim of her name or change it for the sake of breaking free from her great aunt’s curse. Why is the great aunt cursed? Maybe, she too, made a deal with a sorcerer to gain undue beauty – a beauty that wound up doing her no good, that made her grow old before her time – that made her lover not recognize her and so not love her any longer. He actually preferred her looking more plain. This is starting to sound a little bit like the little mermaid, but every story that has ever been told has been told before.

Every story that is worth telling has already been told before. Where the first one started, I do not know, but from that first tale told around a dwindling campfire arose the makings of each story thereafter. This does not mean that the stories we tell need be boring. That is far from the truth, as I have known it. It only means that we are interconnected, each one of us, by the tales spun by our ancestors. We cannot forget these stories, because as soon as we forget, as soon as we even try to forget, we are doomed to a fate too gruesome to face. Instead, it is better to listen, to listen to and to learn from what our elders tell us.

As young people, we do not want to hear. We will continue to stumble and falter on our path, though, until we start to listen. For with every story that can be told, comes a lesson that can be learned the hard way or the easy way. I think you’d agree that avoiding as many painful mistakes as possible would be ideal, no? Yet some of us keep running into the same brick walls time and time again. No matter how many times we see it coming, we just keep going down the wrong path, thinking that we will find our salvation if we just try one more time. That way leads to insanity. I should know. How do you think I wound up here?

I have always felt the pull of the other side. For me, the barrier had always been thin, easier to move from one side to the next. What barrier, you ask? The barrier to the land of lost souls, to the dead, to those who are still clinging on to something of this life and aren’t ready to give up yet. Sometimes it is a blessing. Sometimes it is a curse. More often than not, it has been a nuisance in my life. A disturbance, if you will, keeping me from functioning like a normal human being. If I didn’t hear these voices all the time…well, I wouldn’t be here would I?

You say I’m crazy, but you know I am really just more in tune to things you can’t hear. Think of it like a dog whistle. Only the dog can hear it, yet you know it’s there, that it’s making a noise when you blow it. How do you know? Is it just faith? Or is it the reaction you get from the dog? Ask me how I know ghosts and other semi-real things actually exist. I can tell from how they react. They react to the same things we do, but in a different way. It’s kind of hard for me to explain.

Here, give me your hand. Do you feel that vibration in your fingers? That energy comes from the other side. Do me a favor. Think of someone you really love, someone who has passed over. Or, if you dare, think of someone you didn’t particularly like all that much. Think of your strange uncle, perhaps, the one that smelled like moldy cheese. Can you see this person in your mind’s eye, picture them as if they were standing before you or sitting at this table here with us? Can you see them? Now, put both your hands in mine and close your eyes. Do not be afraid. There are other people in the room with us if you don’t feel safe, but I promise I won’t hurt you. Can you feel them? Can you feel them tugging at you from the other side? This is what I feel all the time. I don’t even have to try. They are always tugging at me, wanting something. They are always pulling at my insides.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

In the Attic

The last thing Gen wanted to be doing with her Saturday afternoon was sorting through the remnants of her great aunt's possessions. Although her aunt was her namesake, Genevieve had been a very eccentric and cloistered woman. She had never married, lived alone and rarely came into the light of day. She had also been a hoarder. When she passed away, the house she lived it was filled room by room with everything she had collected over the years. Papers were piled up on every surface, candy wrappers and half-finished crafting projects - like an afghan she had started to knit but never finished. It lay across the couch, frayed at the edges with the remaining yarn and needles still attached to it. Genevieve died - not suddenly - and everyone saw it coming - she was old, but no one was very sad about it.

Gen's mother dug through the jewelry with wild abandon, looking for something valuable more than something she would even want to wear. She wanted to sell it.

Somehow, Gen got assigned to the attic. By the time she made her way up there, she could barely breathe with all the dust collected in the small space. A mannequin stood by the one small window, blocking out the little bit of light that filtered through. Sunshine shone on the dust moving around in the air like small insects in the air - if it didn't cause her to sneeze so much it might be considered beautiful in its own strange way. It was difficult for Gen to move very far in the attic without tripping over something.


November is upon us - and with it National Novel Writing month! I am conquering this challenge this year - even if it puts me over the edge with the sheer amount of work and commitment involved. We're talking 50,000 words in one month! Expect updates - triumphs and complaints - as I work my way through it!