A mockery of justice.

I’m swimming in a sea of black. They’re everywhere, surrounding me. Their swords drawn and their eyes locked onto me. I tell myself that I can take them, but a betting man would not stand beside me.

I’m perfectly still. My eyes dart back and forth, they hope to spot the last mistake my enemy will ever make. Yes, I am afraid, but I will not back down. I have a purpose and I am right.

I will not be intimidated by the sheer volume of cowards. I will stand alone, but I will stand.

Even though they’ve gathered en masse, afraid to face me and stand on their own merits, and they’ve shrouded themselves to gain the strength of anonymity, I know these devils well.

I have shared meals with them, I have told them my dreams, I have trusted them, and they’ve used me against myself.

It doesn’t matter. These cowards will not best me. The first of them to move will be the first of them to feel my revenge. Mercy is no longer an option.

Mercy, the friend of my friends. These devils, with their double standards and their perceived infallibility, they’ve signed away their rights to mercy when they decided to cast judgement on this soul.

“Fight me, cowards!” I taunt. “Drop your gavel on my impurities.”

The hot breeze caresses me, like the tender touch of a former lover trying to regain my affections. I will not be purchased. I will not be coerced. I will not be manipulated by these unholy beasts.

“Who among you is without sin? Cast thee your stone.”

What lot this, this group of misguided angels. Blinded to their own failings, clinging to the hopes and dreams of the long-forgotten.

“You are not God, and God would not have you back. You have failed him, and he will strike you down.”

The ocean starts to wave. Some of these devils are losing their resolve. Perhaps my mention of their master brings a chill to the spine.

“He will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger!

Those words should bear weight. What’s this? Their eyes are breaking. Some of them look away, they size each other up. Not so stern in your convictions, I see.

I must not get overzealous. I am no god, and he himself might take offense to my repurposed verbiage.

Perhaps if I draw my sword, that will encourage the impatient in the lot.

Sword raised. “Come, children, let us feel for the last time.”

My blade reflect the bright sun onto those evil eyes. Those angry eyes. Those terrified eyes. It has become easier to spot the sole orchestrator of this cleansing ritual.

I now know who my enemy is. He knows that I know. They know, and it is as if we are now alone.

My blade, as if a divining rod, pulls me towards him. The blackness shifts, and like a swarm of filthy flies they clear my path to the steaming pile of rotting flesh who has chosen to defile my honor.

Every snake has a head, and I’ve got just the thing for that.

“Are you king?” I ask. “Are you judge?” He looks around. He knows he’s losing them, he must choose his words carefully. “You, demon, are you king, judge, or god?”

I can sense his frustration. It isn’t so easy to face your enemy once you’ve lost your shield. His eyes are familiar. We were close once.

“Brother, you cannot strike me down. You are weak. You’ve misplaced your authority. You’ve mislead your flock, hoping they would carry out your sentence. They will not die for you. They will not defy God for you. They are not yours to command. These heavenly creatures which have lost their way. They trusted you to guide them and you took advantage of their servitude.”

He’s sweating. This warm sun affords me an advantage. I’m not the one cloaked in black. I’m not the one hiding, like a child.

“Brother, remove your shroud and feel refreshed. Show yourself.”

The blackness has thinned. It seems I have dissuaded the word-strong. Left behind are few, most likely it is curiosity which keeps them here. I do not fear them.

“Enough, you crazy fool! You WILL die today, this I can promise you.”

“Brother, your promises are as thin as your blade. You will not strike me down, for my blade will strike with more than just my strength. My blade will be driven through your wretched vestige by the powers that keep you up at night. I strike with honor, unlike a snake such as yourself.”

Yes, things are getting interesting. I can see his rage.

“Brother, go. You have no power here. You are ruler of none. Let us end this and be brothers yet again.”

Curiosity must have proved unfulfilling for the onlookers, it was now just he and I.

“You are a monster. An arrogant creature. You are self-indulged and you cannot see the world as it really is. You are swimming in fiction, and when you die, your story will have it’s end.”

He’s leaving. I did not think he would give so easily. To make such claims, only to surrender. How peculiar.

This is quite unexpected. I am suddenly feeling very alone.

I hear a sound. A click, followed by whirring. My arms have gone cold. My fingers are numb. I taste.. metal. I want to wet my lips, but my mouth has gone dry. What curse is this?

What devil has me? I am of God! Why?! I cannot see! God, save me! What have I done.. to..

“Make a note. Prisoner number 01031, sentenced to death by the Honorable Judge William Reinhold, has been successfully administered a lethal injection.
Time of Death, 5:35pm.”

The Final Thoughts of Bartholomew James

“How’s this?” asked the lady behind the counter as she peered over her bifocals and continued to rearrange the roses in the glass vase.
“Twelve roses. That’d make you stop being mad at me, right?” Mr. James replied with a grin.
“Well, that all depends what you’ve gone and done this time. Doesn’t it, Bart?” she snapped, disapprovingly.
“Yeah, that’ll do,” he said and with that he dropped a twenty on the counter, grabbed the vase, and started to leave. “See you next week, Judy.”

It was pouring cats and dogs. “Of course,” Bart thought once he got outside. He looked up at the apartments across the street. Particularly at a window on the third floor. The water beaded and rolled off the bill of his Bruins cap and onto his blood-red shirt, which grew darker by the second. He darted across the street, trading the illusion of avoided rain for a lost rose or two. He stepped into the building and made his way up the steps to the third floor.

He stood outside his apartment and straightened himself out, trying to dust off as much water as possible. An attempt that made little to no difference. He sighed deeply, then grabbed the doorknob and stepped into the room.

“Precious?” he called out. “I’m home, babe.” There was no response. He searched the bedroom and kitchen and found the place empty. He set the vase down on the living room coffee table, a rose snapped in half and drooping over the vase as he did so.

Bart plopped down on the couch and reached for his cellphone. He tried calling her again, for the twelfth time today. No answer, yet again. Out of habit, he checked his email and noticed that she’d sent him an email..

Dear BJ,

I think we’re done. I’m staying at my mom’s for a while, to sort things out. I love you very much, and I know you try but your flowers only go so far. I know you care about me, but you’re not over her and I can’t let you keep pulling at my heart knowing that.

You need to get over her, or you need to go get her.
I wish you the best. My brother will come get my stuff, please stop calling me.

Jess

Bart’s hand fell to his side, perhaps mirroring his heart which had just sunk into his stomach. His eyes welled up and before long his sobs would be keeping the neighbors concerned.

He managed to pull himself together and stood up and walked to the window. It was still raining out. He stared out at the passing cars, speeding through and splashing pedestrians with water that all but appeared to be saving itself by leaping out of oncoming traffic.

He looked at his cellphone, touched the screen a few times, and put it up to his ear.
“Hey, Riles, what’s up?”
“Hey, bud! How’s it going?”
“Not so good. She left me.”
“What? You’re kidding. Why?”
“I accidentally called her Annie last night.”
“Oh shit, you didn’t!”
“Yeah. She was pissed. She kicked me out of bed and made me sleep on the couch. When I got home today she was gone. She emailed me and told me it’s over. She broke up with me by email, man.”
“Fuck, man. That blows.”
“She said if I love her so much, I should just go get her. You believe that?”
“Who, Anne?”
“Yeah.”
“You didn’t tell her Anne died?”
“No.”
“Well shit, man! Tell her! Everyone knows about that dickwad going on a shooting spree, if you tell her Ann was a shooting victim, I know she’d understand.”
“Nah. She’s right, I’m not over Annie. She’s right about another thing, I need to go get her. Do me a favor, you’re my best friend, make sure people know why I did it, and you can have my shit. Take care, bro.”
“Bart! Bart! What the—”

Bart dropped the phone and opened the window. He looked out at the ground below him, then turned and sat on the windowsill. The rain wet his back, reuniting the wetness that had begun to dry with its newly-fallen brethren. He looked around his cozy apartment, nodded, and pushed himself backwards.

He rolled as he fell, catching on an overhang below, and spinning as he landed in the road. He screamed as his limbs had become folded in directions for which they were not designed. He lifted his head and through the heavy rain could see the oncoming light that would once again give him a shot at conquering Annie’s love.

“I love—” he thought.

Getting To Know Jack.

This is the story about Jack, and the day that poor Jack died. It was on the day of his 29th birthday. Jack had decided to celebrate the big day by going skydiving for the first time. Not being one to take the easy way out, he had signed up for the expert course and after six long hours of boring safety lectures, it was finally time for the drop. This was quite the big deal for Jack, for you see when he was a little boy his brother accidentally pushed him out of a third-story window. Much to everyone’s surprise, Jack was unharmed by the fall, this however did not stop him from fearing long drops or the sudden stops that accompany them.

The instructor had mentioned that this was a fool-proof drop. Each student’s parachute would be tethered to the airplane, and as the student left the plane, the parachute would automatically deploy. If by some freak occurrence the tether should sever, there was also a backup parachute with a sensor which would automatically deploy in case of emergency. This helped relax Jack a little, but very little.

The airplane took to the air with Jack, the instructor, and two other brave souls aboard. Jack had cleverly positioned himself so that he would be the last to jump. Cleverly, or so he thought. As each student took the big leap, Jack’s heart pounded harder and louder. He wondered if the others could hear it. He wondered if he could change his mind. “Jump or don’t, but there are no refunds,” the instructor said at the beginning of class. “Well, I already paid, so I’d better do this,” thought Jack. It was finally his turn, and he now knew the drill very well.

The instructor slid open the door and gave Jack the sign to proceed. He positioned his feet on the small pad just outside the plane and grabbed on to the strut on the wing. He nervously looked back at his instructor, who smiled and nodded, Jack stood and pulled himself onto the oncoming wind, fist by fist, across the wing until he was hanging on like superman. One final glance at the instructor, who was patiently waiting, giving the “okay” sign with his hand. “Okay indeed, “ thought Jack, “Look up and let go.” The steps were simple enough; look up, let go, count to five; by then the tether on the parachute would deploy and all he’d have to do is listen to the man on the walkie-talkie guiding him to the landing zone.

“One-Mississippi, Two-Mississippi, Three-Mississippi, Four-Mississippi, Five-Mississippi, Six-Mississippi, Seven??” Jack turned his head to try to look for the tether and saw that it was not attached to the plane, but was flapping freely in the wind instead. Although Jack was completely terrified, the words hammered into his head during the six-hour course reminded him of what he had to do. If his primary chute had deployed, he would have to execute an emergency maneuver to cut it loose in preparation for the emergency chute, but it never deployed, so all he had to do was wait.

He tried to mentally calm himself, something which did not come easy as the ground quickened its approach. He was surprised by the pure silence of the free-fall. “Any second now,” he told himself, “really, any second.” He heard a sound behind him and felt a moment of relief, he looked back in search of a deploying chute, but instead saw what appeared to be two eagles fighting in midair. That would have been of interest at any other moment, he thought, but not this one. Looking back down, Jack finally started to panic. He reached frantically, trying to grab the tether and pull it by hand. He twisted, writhed, and tumbled until finally, Jack met with the Earth.

The Devil Says Hi

It was 2am, on a cold autumn night, when I first met the Devil. Earlier that evening, I stopped at a gas station to fill up, when I noticed an ex-lover in a car with her new man. They looked so happy, laughing and touching. I quickly drove off before I could be noticed. I spent the rest of the night obsessing, wondering if I was right to have let her go, to let any of them go. I second-guessed every choice I had ever made, and couldn’t help but feel that I was destined to always choose poorly. I tried to reassure myself that it was all in my head; I had a lot of good things in my life, so obviously, not all my choices sucked. I figured I’d call it a night, and start tomorrow anew, but once in my bed I just tossed and turned. My mind would not stop racing. I got up, looking for something to eat, but all I had was cold hard-boiled eggs, and that was not going to hack it. I put on my socks and shoes and my jacket, then I went out looking for some grub.

I found a diner still open. The place was empty, a waitress named Alice greeted me with a forced smile and way too much eye-liner. She sat me at a booth and I ordered a coffee, it’s not like I was going to sleep anyway. With the menu before me, I became lost in my thoughts once again. Overwhelmed with sadness, and feeling lost. I felt a tap on my shoulder, and turned expecting the waitress, but instead saw a man who was way too awake, way too happy for this time of night.

“Hello, friend! I couldn’t help but see that it’s just you and me, mind if I help you occupy this seat?”

His smile was so big, I couldn’t refuse him. He sat down and took off his hat. He looked like Don Draper from Mad Men, or otherwise from the 50’s. A well-tailored grey suit and a matching fedora. Slick black hair with just enough grey to give him character.

“So tell me, friend, how goes your night? Why up so late, out for a bite?”

I smiled just a bit at the silliness of his words. “I just couldn’t sleep, nothing at home to eat, so why not?”, I said. He was staring at his menu, eyes squinted as if he’d forgotten his glasses. His eyebrows raised, as if he’d found what he wanted, then he placed the menu back down.

“Yes, hard-boiled eggs are fine, but there’s finer. I really am glad that I chose this diner.”

My back tightened up and my posture straightened. How did he know about the eggs? “Eggs?”, I questioned.

“Yes, eggs, they come with my meal. But I think I’ll just ask for a side of oatmeal.”

I sighed and smirked. How paranoid am I? Alice hadn’t shown up with my coffee yet. I looked around, tilting around to be as obvious as possible that I was becoming impatient, but she was nowhere to be seen.

“Service, so late, with nobody here, you’d think it’d be great.”

I turned back, starting to get frustrated. “What’s with the rhyming?”, I asked. He tilted his head, as if not sure what I was talking about. “The rhyming, you rhyme all your sentences!”, I snipped.

“No need to yell, that’s quite absurd! But fine, I will tell you why I rhyme my words. I’ve been on this world a bit longer than you, and in that fair time I’ve learned things you must do. Stand out from the crowd, speak not softly, nor loud, and do all that you can to be remembered somehow. If I sing when I speak, well then, that’s quite unique. Hence, my words will arrive where I want them to reach.”

“Dude, no offense, but are you ok?”, I nervously joked. I scanned again for the waitress.

“What is it you seek?”

“The waitress!”, I replied. Wasn’t that obvious?

“No, David, what is it you seek deep inside?”

My body seized up. I couldn’t move. I never told him my name. How did he know? I slowly turned to face him; fear gripping my insides. “Who.. told you my name? Who are you??”, the words barely came out.

“Come now, Dave, try to be brave. Your life I am here not to hurt, but to save.”

Fear turning to rage, I slammed my hands on the table, “WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU??!” He just sat there, with a smile that was no longer pleasant. The fluorescent lights in the diner started to buzz and flicker. Half of them went off completely, and the diner looked like something I’d seen in horror movies. My blood ran cold, and my lips mouthed the words, “the.. devil.”

“If that’s what you must call me to accept what you see, well then, you will get no fighting from me. Now then, where were we?”

“What do you want?”, I sheepishly asked.

“Ah, yes! Exactly, my thanks. What should I do for your life to advance?”

“I.. I don’t understand,” not that anything would have made sense to me at that moment. I mean, c’mon, it’s the Devil in a darkened diner!

“David, please, I’m here as a friend; I want to find a way for your torment to end. Tell me what it is that you want for your life. Is it a new car, or a beautiful wife? Perhaps some children of your very own, and a big, spacious house you can call a home? Just say what you want and I’ll make it be, you’ll get nothing but goodness from a friend like me.”

“But.. you’re the devil! I didn’t believe in you twenty minutes ago, but I’m sure not going to give you my soul now!”, I defied.

“You people have no clue of what really happens, you all think I’m here with some sort of.. entrapment. Think of me as a genie, you’ve nothing to lose; your life will be granted, as always, what you choose.”

“So you don’t want my soul? ..what’s in it for you?”, I pondered, feeling an unexpected sense of calm.

“I can’t tell you all that there is to know, just know with no doubt that I’m friend and not foe. I’ve only one option, and that is to give, for it is by giving that I’m allowed to live.”

He still wore his smile, it never left his face. I couldn’t believe that this was the devil those crazy bible-thumpers always went on about. This guy didn’t seem evil, sans the darkened diner and whatnot. His words were soothing, and he seemed to genuinely care about me. He wasn’t asking for anything in return, he just wanted to give me something.. for nothing. For nothing? Would he die if I refused him? Would he hurt me if I refused him? Why would I refuse him? I’d have my own genie! Here’s my chance to finally do something good. I no longer felt fear, it was replaced with excitement. So many things I could ask for!

“David, friend.. tell me, have you made a choice? Whatever you’ve chosen will surely make me rejoice.”

“It’s not exactly the easiest thing, to pick out of anything. But yes, I think I know what I want. I just want the world to be a better place, for everyone.”, I modestly answered. It felt good to not focus on myself, to use this opportunity to make the world a better place for everyone. How awesome am I?

“Are you sure, dear David? THAT is your thing? Wouldn’t you rather have diamonds or platinum rings? How about your ex-girlfriend, I could bring her right back. Are you sure that you wouldn’t rather have that?”

“No, sir. I’ve made lots of bad choices, here’s my chance to choose right. I choose for everyone, not for me, not tonight.” He smirked at me, and I smirked back. It was silly, I know, but I felt cocky. He reached over and placed his hand on mine, the lights came back on, and Alice showed up with the coffee. “Oh! I didn’t know you were expecting a guest. What can I get you to drink?”, she asked my new friend.

“Nothing for me, thanks; there’s nothing I need. I have what I came for, so now I must leave.”

He stood up and put on his hat. He slid his finger across the brim as he caught his reflection in a window. Still smiling, he turned and gave me a wink before heading out the door. I stared at my coffee, feeling happy and proud. I heard the door close behind him, then suddenly bust open again. Perhaps he’d forgotten something? I looked up and two masked men had burst into the diner. They were armed, one went for Alice, knocking her towards the ground. I instinctively leapt out of my seat to help her when I heard a loud pop. I couldn’t breath and I collapsed to the floor. The men started yelling at each other, then they ran out. I could see Alice, she was fine. She rubbed her head, then noticed me and crawled over. I felt warm. She was sobbing, her makeup a mess. Someone needs to teach her how to put on makeup.

At first I heard sirens, then everything went bright. I had only one comfort, that I finally chose right.

The Uninvited Guest

The year is over, yet this bad comedy continues.

The new year approaches, and the time has come for change. It is my wish that this new year brings you many blessings, that you never feel sorrow, and that all your dreams come to be. I must let you go.

I cannot continue to write for, or about you. I must stop trying to understand why you do what you do. I must take the pain I feel and bury it deep enough that even I cannot find it again. Enough is enough.

My name is Skid Vis. That is who I am. I am strength. I set fire to the worlds of those I touch. I inspire action. I am more than my feelings, my memories, and my pain. This is my purpose.

Today, I will feel. I will focus on the joy you’ve given me. I will focus on the loss. I will remember you for the amazing angel you are. I will smile. I will try to imagine the world you wanted, and suppress all the fears that live in that world. I will feel the flames consume my flesh, as the pain wraps itself around my very being. Tomorrow, I will rise.

I will leave the ashes behind me, and set for the skies. I will shine like I’ve never shone before. I will set the world ablaze, or I will die trying.

You are my heart. You are my hope. You are freedom.

Your life will be wonderful, and everything will be just fine. You’ll smile often, cry rarely, and think of me even less. Our memories will come, now and again, and they’ll pass through you like a ghost. For a second, you’ll feel me, and even sooner, you’ll let me go. I will fade into the abyss of the past, and your joys will fill your life with meaning. This is my dream.

I will miss us. I will think of you. I will adapt.

My days are numbered, like it or not. Change is inevitable. I must stop this game and give this life a go. The pieces aren’t falling how I imagined, so I must snatch them from the air and put them in their place. I will no longer be an observer. The time has come to make things gooder.

I will win. I will exist. I will matter.

I’m Skid Vis, and I do what I want.

The Counter

It was just another lazy night.

I was on the couch, catching up on my DVRed episodes of The Biggest Loser, trying not to laugh at the irony of me sitting there practically inhaling Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream. “I’ll just spend an extra hour on the treadmill tomorrow, it’s worth it!”, I told myself.

It was getting pretty late, it was past eleven and if I was to get that extra hour in on the treadmill, I needed to hit the hay. I grabbed the remote and turned off the television. Oddly, as soon as I powered it down, it came right back on. It was on channel 60, then it went down to channel 59, then 58. I figured that a button must have gotten jammed on the remote, so I tapped it on my wrist and powered the TV off again. That seemed to do the trick, so I went upstairs to clean up and get ready for bed.

As I started to change, I couldn’t help but have mixed feelings about my current relationship status. I mean, on the one hand I was glad to be single with no one to impress; I could wear sweatpants and a t-shirt to sleep and nobody would care. On the other hand, it was a little chilly and I wouldn’t have minded having a nice warm man to snuggle up against. Oh well, them’s the breaks, right? “I’m a successful, independent woman and that’s just the cost of doing business.”, I muttered.

I killed the lights and slid under the sheets, fluffing up the pillows behind me so I could get in a little light reading. I have trouble falling asleep sometimes, and reading usually helps me zonk out. The History Of Love is what’s on my Kindle. It’s quite a complicated story, I’m not sure what’s going on half the time, which makes me wonder why I’m reading it before bed when I have even less focus.

I dove right in and started leafing through page after digital page, unable to retain a word of it and being more on autopilot than anything. It wasn’t long before I noticed the Kindle laying flat on the bridge of my nose and I decided that the time had come to call it a night. I glanced over at my alarm clock, curious of how much time had elapsed. I expected to see the time, but instead the clock said 00:47, then 00:46, then 00:45. I blinked rapidly and shook my head, another glance revealed it was 11:45. It must have just been the sleep in my eyes, or that weird state between awake and asleep. I smiled, let out a sigh of relief, and off to slumberland I went.

“33, 32, 31”

I lept out of bed in a mad panic, my forehead instantly glistening with sweat. Was that a dream? “Hello? Is anyone there?”, I asked, hoping to dear god that no one would answer back. I slowly made my way to the top of the steps, listening ever so diligently for the slightest sound. I had made my way down the steps when I saw that my front door was wide open! Fearing an intruder, I hauled my pretty ass outside, making sure to grab the cordless phone from the living room on my way out.

I waited outside until the police arrived, which thankfully didn’t take long. They did a thorough search of my home and did their best to not make me feel like a fool. “There’s a strong breeze tonight, more than likely you just didn’t fully close the door.”, said one of the boys in blue. Sounded reasonable enough. They said their farewells as I half-jokingly asked if one could spend the night. No such luck.

Back in my officer-approved home, I conducted my own last inspection. Everything looked fine, of course. Still, I felt a bit uneasy. I called up my friend Jeremy, he’s sure to be up, the man never sleeps. I told him about my scare and he ensured me that the cops were right, I just didn’t fully close the door. “I could swear I did! Anyway, it’s closed now! Closed, locked, and there’s even a chair in front of it, just in case!!”, I joked.

As if it hadn’t been cold before, now that I was thoroughly scurred and that door had been open forever, it was damn chilly. I asked Jeremy if he’d come spend the night, but he started rambling off excuse after excuse. “Ok, Ok, I get it!”, I said. He generously volunteered to stay on the phone with me until I fell asleep, that would have to do.

We spoke for a while as I asked him to tell me about his day, and then about his weekend plans, and then about whatever he was looking at. He just talked on and on about everything and nothing until his voice made the fear disappear and I slowly drifted off into blissful sleep.

“16, 15, 14”

I let out a scream and reactively threw my phone fiercely against the wall, shattering it into a billion little plastic pieces. At first I thought that Jeremy was just being a dick, but then I noticed that my bedroom light was on. “I turned it off, I fuckin’ turned it off!”, I nervously mumbled. I grabbed my cellphone and tried to call Jeremy, no answer. He probably fell asleep while on the phone himself.

I stepped out into the hall and saw that all my lights were on. Did I leave them on?? No, I was pretty sure, but maybe? I stood there, frozen, debating myself over and over. I tried to recall my every step, desperately seeking out that vital memory that would make it clear that I did leave the lights on and everything was ok. “But what about the counting on the phone??”, said a persistent little thought in my head that was determined to keep me scared.

Standing in the upstairs hall, entertaining a mental debate between fear and logic, time seemed to stall. Suddenly, the silence was broken and there was a clear winner in the debate. The toilet downstairs flushed, and there’s no way I was the one flushing it!! I’m pretty sure I turned six shades of white. I heard the bathroom door open, so I did what any logical person would do in this situation, I set my cellphone to vibrate and jumped into the hallway closet!!

I stood in the closet, it was dark except for the light sliding in through the bottom of the door. My heart was pounding so furious, I was sure it could be heard a mile away. I held onto my cellphone, trying fiercely to reach out to my police friends once again, but my hands were shaking uncontrollably. I could hear footsteps making their way up the stairs, I became frantic, I wanted to cry, but I had to keep it together! The footsteps stopped, and I could see a shadow stopped before the closet door. I placed my hand over my mouth, as if my body was telling me to shut the hell up. I just wanted to scream!! “Deep breaths, deep breaths..”, I reminded myself, trying to calm myself.

A buzzing in my hand almost threw me over the edge. My cellphone had just gotten a text message. I nervously looked at it, it was a message from myself, how could that be??

“3, 2, 1”

The Devil’s Back Pocket

I’m not a bad guy. Sure, come morning that’s what you’re going to hear. They’re going to say I’m a madman, a villain, the scum of the Earth; but I’m not.

My name’s Francis Oliver Emerson, but my friends call me Frank. I’m a mechanic. Ever since I got my first car at the age of fifteen, I’ve been tearing into them. I’m a good mechanic, It’s all I know. I enjoy fixing cars, it takes my mind off of my problems. I’m wishing I had a carburetor to clean right about now. As far as my problems are concerned, this one takes the cake.

In two hours, the clock will strike midnight and it’ll be my little girl’s eleventh birthday. It will also be a year since her bitch-mom walked out on us. Who walks out on their kid on her birthday?? A drug addict, that’s who. Last year was rough. How do you tell a ten year-old, on her birthday, that mommy’s gone? I felt so powerless, so useless. All I could do was hold her, hold her and use every tear she shed as fuel for my anger.

It was difficult enough trying to support my little girl and her junky mom, but it worked. There wasn’t much, but at least there was something. I was able to pretend that her mom was taking care of her while I was off shedding blood for ends meet. Now however, I can’t dilute myself. I know she’s sitting at home alone, missing me, and probably missing her mom. She’s such a sweet girl, she’s always so happy when I get home. I’m exhausted when I do, but her smile snaps me out of it. I sit with her while we eat our supper and talk about the day. She always has so much to say, and I’m always happy to listen. I sit with a huge grin, fighting back the tears that are just aching to come out. She’s my world.

I wanted this birthday to be awesome. God, how I’ve fucked that up. It’s getting hard to breathe here, my best guess is that I only have a couple hours of air left. This wasn’t supposed to happen. It was supposed to be a simple robbery. The plan was fool-proof. Hide in the bank’s bathroom until everyone but the manager left, have him show me to the safe, tie him up, grab the loot, and get away. Simple.

Fool-proof, and what a fool I am, locked in this safe. I didn’t know the door would close, I didn’t think I’d be trapped. I’ve ruined my little girl’s life. She’ll be shuffled through the system, the daughter of a druggy and a criminal. She’ll hate herself, she’ll hate me. Every year, she’ll recall the horrors of her life. She’ll need to be held, she’ll need to be comforted, and I won’t be there.

I could sure use some luck. Maybe the manager will break free and the cops will get me out of here. Maybe I’m dreaming! Maybe I’ll wake up and this will all just have been one hell of a nightmare. A reminder that things could always be worse. Yea, I’m no bank robber. Where would I even get a gun? This has to be a dream, but damn, it’s hard to breathe.

The Hard Place

“Hello, you’ve reached 9-1-1. We’re unable to answer your call at the moment, please leave a message after the tone.”
BEEEEEP
Uh, Hi..
So here I am, stuck between a rock and a hard place, Quite literally! I’m dangling off the side of a cliff, hanging from a tiny branch, staring down a hundred foot drop. Can you send help? I could totally pull myself up, and I would, but there’s a cougar at the top of the cliff who’s really mad at me! I think she thinks I’m here to hurt her, or her cubs. Isn’t that funny?? I mean, ME? Oh wait, sorry.. my name’s Max, and I guess you could call me a “nature enthusiast”.

See, today started out harmless enough. I slept in and was woken up by the wonderful sounds of nature. The birds were performing their symphony as my eyes crept open, I couldn’t help but smile as I tried to imagine what they were trying to convey. Were they calling for help? Looking for a mate? Signaling their young ones? We have no idea what all those sounds mean, but they’re still music to my ears.

Anyway, I got inspired and decided to go on a nice nature hike. I have to be at work at noon today, so if you could hurry up, that’d be great. But yea, so I grabbed my gear and headed for the hills. It’s really beautiful first thing in the morning. I chuckle when I’m up here this early, I imagine all the critters moping around, half-asleep, anxious to get their first cup of coffee. It’s silly, I know, but that’s me!

So yea, I started my hike up the hill. I wanted to make it to the peak before the sun got too high; the view from the top is just spectacular, but more so at certain times. I put my headphones on, had a few swigs of water, and I was making really good time. I bet you’re wondering why someone who loves nature would listen to music while hiking, right? Well, I’ll have you know that I wasn’t! That’s one of my pet peeves, people who want to be around nature, but not really. Well, I guess I am one of those people when it comes to camping, but still. I wasn’t listening to music, I was listening to my dad.

My dad passed away several years ago, quite unexpectedly. He was a Biologist, and a damn good one. He always wanted me to follow in his footsteps, but I’ve never really been cut out for school, you know? I left my hometown the second I got my wings. It’s been almost two decades since I left that place. I wish I could say I miss it, but I don’t. I do miss my dad, though. He died relatively young, he was barely sixty. I imagined him living a lot longer than that, I pictured him hanging around way past eighty!

I miss him. Sometimes when I laugh, I can hear his laughter, which makes my laugh bittersweet. He was a good man. He didn’t always do the right thing, I mean, who among us does? But he always meant well, and he had a huge heart. I remember days we’d play wiffle ball, or throw the frisbee around, I remember how he’d just sit in amazement as I played videogames, and I also remember how he’d try to play when I wasn’t watching. He taught me so much about life, and treating people well, and something that was very dear to him, treating animals well.

You know, I don’t know what kind of voicemail system you guys have, but it’s pretty awesome. I mean, my voicemail will cut people off at about thirty seconds, but I’ve been rambling for minutes. Sorry about that, by the way, but I fear I’ll shit a brick if I don’t keep talking. Can you hear her? She’s just roaring her little heart out. I can see her pacing back and forth, she’s very patient.

So, right, I was listening to my dad. Before he died, he made a bunch of tapes. A sort of “Biology for Dummies” thing. He loved to talk about nature and all that. It’s the closest I can come to being with him again, so I like to listen to him while I hike, and imagine that he’s right behind me trying to learn me on the importance of genus, phylum, and such.

I made it to the top of the hill and grabbed the best seat in town. I peered over the edge, staring out towards the vast forest below. It’s truly an amazing sight. This time, Dad was going on about stratigraphic ranges or something. I think it has something to do with fossils or something. I gotta admit, I don’t ever really listen, I just like to hear him talk. So there I was, hearing his voice, feeling the warmth of the sun, and admiring the view. Then something strange happened, I felt him touch me! Well, that’s what I thought happened.

I felt something warm at my back, so I spun myself around with a quickness! There, behind me, was Puma concolor! Sorry, a baby cougar! Have you ever seen such a thing?? He was adorable! He had hundreds of little whiskers and feet so big, it’ll be a decade before he fills them out! I reached out to him and he dropped on his back, paws up, ready to play.. it was amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not stupid, those baby claws could puncture an artery in a second, so I was very careful. Come to think of it, I must be pretty stupid. I mean, it never crossed my mind that the momma would be nearby! So I yanked my earbuds out and played with the little fella.

A baby cougar

It wasn’t long before the bliss was broken. I heard a noise. A noise that, even though I’d never heard it before, I was deathly afraid of. It was a deep, rumbly sound. Almost a mix of a train rolling down the tracks and a really hungry stomach. The cub heard it, too. He, however, knew what it meant. He hopped right up on all fours and turned towards the source.

There she was. Momma cougar, and yet another cub. Shit, right? My friendly little cub hung his head and moped over to momma, as if he knew he’d done something wrong. It was kinda cute, thinking back on it. At the time, however, all I saw was my bargaining chip walking away.

Soo, bada-bing, bada-boom, she took a step forward, so I jumped off the ledge and grabbed on to this branch, and here we are. I don’t know if it’s your lunchtime, or if it’s just a really busy day for Emergency Services, but I could really use your help. Before noon, that’d be nice. I’m gonna go now, I just realized I could be uploading some really cool pictures to Facebook.

Please, send help. Thanks for playing!
click.

Live. Love. Leave.

So there I was, naked, in the desert…

Oooh, Sexy!

My exhausted body, tested by time and the great sun above, stands as if held up by strings. A mixture of blood, sweat, and tears rolls off my nose and presents a thump, barely audible, as it becomes an offer of mercy to the red, dusty clay beneath me. Behind me, the light yet searing breeze slowly erodes away at my tracks, as if wishing to deny the world proof of my existence. Before me, a deep chasm, long and wide, with no visible end on either side. Strewn within it are the remains of those who came before me, those foolish enough to try and cross it. What would compel such an act of desperation? That very thing which catches my eye and gives me reason to smirk even in such dire circumstances. Beyond the chasm lies an oasis. A beautiful tree stands in the distance, surrounded by the bluest water mine eyes have ever taken in. A chance to finally quench my thirst, a chance to escape the evil glare of the angry sun.

The moment passes, as the reality of the situation sets in. I realize I have now been presented with choices, each one riddled with life-ending risks. I can turn back, I can take the path with which I’m most familiar, one which has not yielded me relief, yet possesses the least amount of risk. I can tread along the edge of the chasm, even though no end is in sight, it does have the potential to surprise me. Lastly, I can follow the dreams of those who’ve perished before me. I could close my eyes, spread my wings, and harness every last ounce of strength to bring myself over the boney hands reaching for my soul, and land gently on solid ground, ever closer to happiness.

I believe in myself, I’m almost cocky. I am clearly a mightier man than the fallen, I do not doubt my success. Doubts do exist, however. My eyes lock on the oasis and my head lifts and turns as I start to question what I see. Is the oasis as close as it seems? Is it as safe as it is inviting? Does it even really exist?? Each doubt that enters my mind weighs me down. Each one, a heavy shackle around my legs.

I break myself from this line of thinking. Doubting will only guarantee my demise. I lift my head as my posture evolves. I no longer resemble a walking corpse, but rather a proud warrior, excited and eager to prove himself on the battlefield. The smirk returns to my face. Let’s do this. Let’s fly.

Man.. that’s deep.

That’s what she said.

Har har.