I stand at the counter, pouring cheap coffee into an equally cheap cup.

“Hey, man,”

“Hey,” I say without looking up. I know who it is. That’s how life gets when you work at the same place this long. You don’t even say names anymore. Everyone is “hey” and “so” and “oy”.

I put the coffee back on the warmer. It smells like it’s been there too long already. I’m not drinking it for the taste.

“Shiiit, man,” Brian says, “you look rough.”

“Bad hair day,” I deflect.

“That what you call that?”

“Just tired is all.” And I am. My eyelids are lead curtains. I probably have bags under my eyes. I dunno. I didn’t look too hard this morning.

I take a sip of coffee and let the silence spread its legs. I don’t know Brian like that. We’re associates. We work together. We don’t go out for beers after work.

“So, man,” he says, his body partially leaning. That way that people do when they say, ‘You know I’m not racist, right?’ but they’re clearly about to say something racist, so they need to feel like they’re in the right battle stance for saying something that they shouldn’t.


“You hear about Krista?”

“She sick or something?” I ask. It’s a genuine question even if it lacks genuine concern.

“What? No,” he says, with a look like he’s confused or offended…or both. “I heard she broke up with uh…oh…what’s that guy’s name?”

I know he knows that guys name. That’s what guys do when they want to act like they’re not smitten. They play it down. They do it poorly. I’ve done it, too. Guilty as charged.

“Uh…” I say. I draw it out because I seriously can’t remember. I seriously don’t care.

“Anyway,” he says, seeing that I’m either not taking the bait or just not that kind of fish, “I hear they broke up.”

“She okay?” I ask. It’s a disingenuous question.

“I, uh…” he stammers – this isn’t how he thought this conversation was going to go, “I, uh…yeah, I mean. I guess. I don’t really know. I was just,” he goes over to the coffee maker and pours a cup. Using simple actions as a momentary respite from feeling awkward. “You work with her more than me, and I just…” he pauses and takes a drink. I already know the coffee is shit, but I didn’t care. His face reacts before he realizes he’s done it.

“Hook a brother up, right?” I say for him.

“I mean…you know, if it’s not a big deal,” he says. It’s a dishonest statement. He doesn’t care if it’s a big deal. “I mean,” he says with one hand up, “I’m not saying like, ‘Hey, bro, if you could ask her if she likes me,’ or anything. I mean…you know…we’re not like, passing notes in school ‘Do you like me?’ with a yes and no checkbox.”

“No,” I say, more an answer to the question of whether or not I like him. “No, we’re not,” I say in response to the whole statement. “I’ll see what’s up.”

“Cool, man. Cool.”

He puts his coffee down and leaves.

I have no intention of finding out.

I don’t care.

Work is a cycle of repetition. It’s worse than normal. The minutes grind like hours. It’s 5 pm in my mind four hours before it’s even lunch.

I sit through a meeting about some new policy that they’re implementing. I feel like I’m talking along with them. Meetings all sound the same after a while. This one’s just worse.

When I get home, I do it with a deep breath. With a hand that opens the door slowly.

Three hours later I’m on my bed. I write in my journal like I’ve done for the past year. I tell myself it helps.

I’m not sure it’s helping.

I take a deep breath and close my eyes.

I can’t use a timer. I found out a long time ago that they don’t work…for obvious reasons. So instead, I tap on my wrist. My timing has gotten pretty good.

I slow my breathing.

I wake up in bed, and the sun is that weird shade of orange-red. Like it’s struggling to get up, eyes bloodshot from a night of heavy drinking.

“I feel your pain,” I whisper.

In the kitchen is a note: “I have that thing with Claire later today. We should eat out. You pick.”

I muscle through the motions at work. I chew the nomenclature and drink down routine verbiage of a professional pencil-pusher.

I get off work. Shower. Change. I send a text. “Mondino’s”

“K,” she texts back.

I get there before she does.

She sits down, her eyes on her phone. “Sorry,” she says as she kisses the side of my face. “Claire was just…uh…” she looks up finally as she’s sitting down with a light press of her finger to turn her screen off. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” I lie. “Just tired.”

“Aww,” she says. “You should try valerian root or…oh…” she scrunches her face up like she always does when she’s thinking, “Shit…” she says with a shake of her head, “right on the tip of my tongue.”

“It’s fine,” I say with an honest smile. “It’s not that big of a deal.”

“It’s gonna bother me.”

“I know it will,” I say. I clench my teeth. I hold back a tear.

“You sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah,” I lie. “Just tired. Dull day at work. You know. Like driving on an empty highway all day. It’s sadly draining.”

“You should see about that job at Lochlan and Callister,” she says as she clicks into her phone, “Trish told me that…” she’s scrolling, “…yeah…yeah, they have something going on there. They’ll probably be hiring.”

“Yeah,” I say. “I’ll shoot em my resume in the morning,” I lie.

Dinner is nothing fantastic. It’s only saving grace is the company.

I wake up the next morning and she’s still there sleeping. I kiss her on the cheek before I leave the house. I whisper that I love her. I mean it.

The drive to work is the same as ever.

I’m standing at a counter pouring cheap coffee into an equally cheap cup.

“Hey, man.”

“Hey,” I say, without looking up.

I go through the motions. I give all the same answers.

“Hook a brother up, right?”

“I mean…you know, if it’s not a big deal,” he says. It’s a dishonest statement. He doesn’t care if it’s a big deal. “I mean,” he says with one hand up, “I’m not saying like, ‘Hey, bro, if you could ask her if she likes me,’ or anything. I mean…you know…we’re not like, passing notes in school ‘Do you like me?’ with a yes and no checkbox.”

“No,” I say, more an answer to the question of whether or not I like him. “No, we’re not,” I say in response to the whole statement. “I’ll see what’s up.”

“Cool, man. Cool.”

He puts his coffee down and leaves.

I have no intention of finding out.

I don’t care.

I muscle through the day. I feel like Sysiphus. I idly nod during a presentation. I feel myself reciting the words.

I’m standing my front door and I take a deep breath. I open it slowly.

I listen for something.


I walk into the kitchen. The bedroom.

I go into the bathroom last.

She’s there. She’s on the floor. Pills scattered on dry tile.

No note.

No last words.

I clench my teeth and close my eyes.

I go over everything that happened. Everything that didn’t.

I sit down and write it all out in my journal. I don’t even know why. I tell myself it’s helping.

I don’t think it’s helping.

I can’t use a timer. I found out they won’t work…for obvious reasons. I close my eyes and tap slowly on my wrist.

I slow my breathing.

I wake up in bed, and the world is still dark. The sun hasn’t even stirred from its slumber yet. A world of deep indigo and charcoal.


Aberration – pt. 8

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

I’m standing in a barren field and it’s crowded all the same. My companions are silent. They’re still. They don’t cry here but everyone else always does.

I’m thinking about how it felt when I watched her being lowered into the ground. All the shit that came before.

Life in slow motion.

I’m thinking about the news reports and how barely half of what happened is in black and white. How the other half is always written in red. No one ever gets to see that part. No one ever really knows.

I’m thinking about how I used to call her Sunshine.

I’m holding a flower in my hand as gently as I’ve ever held anything. As gently as I’m capable these days…whatever that’s worth.

I’m thinking about the day I put in that shitty vase. How I tied the bottom of the stem to a ring. How she’d notice that, unlike all the plastic ones, it was starting to die. She’d pull it out and she’d see it.

Maybe it was a strange approach. Maybe it was a dark way to say whatever I was trying to say in whatever way I was trying to say it.

I’m thinking about how life is always this road of destinations that we think are guaranteed. How we’re hurtling down freeways of insanity with pop music playing and a GPS navigator telling us how certain everything is.

I’m thinking about all the things I never got to tell her. I tell myself that it was because it was too late after what happened. That she wouldn’t understand. That I didn’t understand.

That there was time. There was always supposed to be more time.

I’m thinking about a world with superheroes and what happens when Superman kills Lex Luthor, but Lois dies as well, and we find out that Lex didn’t have a fucking clue about what kryptonite really is.

I’m wondering about a world where superheroes don’t deflect bullets, just absorb them. They’re not immune to fire and knife wounds, they just bounce back from them. I’m thinking about a world where they look like I do. It reminds me of Dorian Gray and how his painting looked at the end.

I’m wondering if it even matters.

I tell myself that she found that flower. That she knew. She always knew. That she kept it because…

I’m trying not to think about it because I’ll never really know, and I don’t want to live in a world of what-ifs and could-have-beens. Part of me just doesn’t want to live at all.

I try to tell myself that it wasn’t always about her. That I’d found a purpose in what I was doing. That I was making a difference. And I’m wondering how much of that lie I can swallow before it makes me sick.

I’m wondering what comes next while I hold a flower that should have died years ago, looking at a ring that’s still tied to a stem. I wish I could tell you how and why. I wish I could say I knew the answer.

Far away, the noise of the city is a wall of static that undulates and shifts. It rises and falls. I can hear the high notes call out. Sirens and screams. Tears are falling on hard pavement. Fists are taking out sad inadequacies on people who don’t deserve it.

Life in slow motion.

I’m wondering how much hero is left in me. How much is just a guy who doesn’t know when to let go? I’m wondering what it says about us as people when we realize the most important thing we do is sometimes for someone else. Someone who maybe doesn’t know. Someone who may not even care. I’m trying not to let the answer to that question sting.

I’m wondering if it matters.

I’m trying not to think about words like “end”, “final”, and “death” while I stand in a cemetery.

On the side of her headstone, I etch my initials and I put the dates I died.

I put both of them.

They matter just as much.

I wish I could tell you what happens next, but life is a weird place. The music isn’t playing for me anymore. The GPS is gone. All that’s left is the sound of me moving forward into some form of oblivion.

Hell now, or hell later…

I wish I could tell you that there’s some happy ending here…but that’s not how life works, Sunshine. Sometimes…that’s not how death works either.

The End

Aberration – pt. 7

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

I’m sitting under a small shower of dust.

I’m imagining it as a storm of ashes. The remains of a dead world raining down upon me. I’m a demon. A devil. One of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. I’m the end result of a lot of bad decisions, and even worse intentions.

I hear the ricochet of bullets and the sound it makes when it tears through flesh and bone. I know that none of the damage is mine – at least, not really.

Reality speeds back into existence and slams into my primitive cerebrum and everything feels like its no longer moving in slow-motion. Not that it ever was. Not really.

I hear the chaos behind me where a hole the size of three of me is left like a gaping wound in the side of a building that should only fear tanks and tomahawk missiles. I can hear the people outside as they creep forward like voyeurs who can’t seem to understand that you shouldn’t come running when someone yells fire. It’s a maelstrom of tires screeching, of feet shuffling, of that camera clicking sound that people put on their fucking phones so that they feel retro.

It’s the sound of people screaming while they pay for my mistakes. Past and present.

I’m wondering if it was always going to lead to this. Hell today or hell tomorrow.

I’m wondering if it matters.

I’m wondering if it ever did.

I’m tearing through walls and leaving the scattered remains of idiot henchmen behind me like they’re nothing but exhaust and I’m a tanker truck. It makes me think of the movie Akira when Tetsuo paints the hallway with those guys after he gets out of his room. He didn’t know what he was capable of yet.

I do.

Words like “caution” fade out like whatever patience I have left.

I’m leaving staircases as piles of splinters and stone. I’m up walls and through them and I hear sound catching up with me with a roar that deafens anyone who isn’t dead yet.

I’m telling myself that he pushed me to do this.

I’m telling myself that if it wasn’t him, it’d be some other asshole.

I’m telling myself that this is it. High noon. Showdown.

I’m coming to terms with words like “end”, “final”, and “death”.

Words that I thought I’d escaped a long time ago.

Words that are proving that you can’t ever really escape from. Taxes and death, they say. They were apparently half-right.

I’m at the top floor of what looked like a fucking accounting firm. I’m looking at a door that shows nothing of the chaos I’d left behind me and I’m watching it open wide while this smarmy prick stands there giving me the slow clap.

I see the chair behind him.

I see her sitting in it.

She’s crying. Tears running down her face. She doesn’t recognize me. I’m wondering if that makes it better or worse.

I hadn’t stopped to see her before I opted for war. Blood pumping in my ears. Gunfire and debris. Hatred running in my veins. I hadn’t thought to pay attention to the obvious details. I should have known.

Too late now. This is where I am.

“So we go with option C, eh?” he says when he’s finished clapping. “Burn it all down. Fuck the innocent. Fuck it all.”

“No,” I say, “Just you. Fuck you.”

I’m looking around. I’m starting to think. Wheels are turning.

He doesn’t need to pull a gun. I’m faster than he is. He knows it. I see the red dots on her blouse even if she doesn’t.

“As last words go, they’re a bit thin, don’t you think?”

I’m smiling.

“You didn’t know.”

I hear the gun after I see the bullet wound. Her body jerks from the impact. I clench my teeth. I try to tell myself it’s collateral damage. I try to tell myself that it’s not the worst case scenario. I try to tell myself that that makes it any better.

I try not care that she’s hurt and crying and doesn’t know why.

I take some small solace that this dickless piece of shit had all the pieces of the puzzle and put together the wrong fucking picture.

I’m moving faster than people blink. I’m in front of her like a human shield. I know I can’t grab her and move her as fast as I do, the physics would kill her. People underestimate reality and how deadly it is.

Bullets are for amateurs.

I know I can’t move until she’s safe.

So does he.

It’s the worst kind of stalemate.

“Get under the desk,” I say, knowing that they’re not as bullet-proof as TV shows and movies pretend. Still, it’s something.

She’s not moving. She’s terrified. I’m trying not to let that be the most important thing on my action-item list. I’m not succeeding.

“You’re a dead man,” he’s saying. “You have been for a long time. You didn’t have to take her with you.”

“Only one I’m taking is you,” I say. It feels like a hollow threat, but I don’t give a shit.

She’s finally moving. She’s under the desk. A trail of blood like some macabre Hansel and Gretel story.

I’m at his throat while I hear guns fire. I have him on the ground. My hands are anvils. They’re tanks. They’re nuclear fucking weapons.

The ground falls out from under us. I’m a fucking supernova.

He’s nothing but red mist and a lumpy torso.

There’s a crater in the earth where his corpse is left.

I’m up again and moving as fast as I can without tearing apart reality.

I’m in a silent room. I see her under the desk. She’s not crying anymore.

She never will again.

Part 8

Transistor pt.3

Part 1, Part 2

A whirlwind of screaming beckoned. A tremolo effect that saw a roar of life and death set in peaks and valleys turned sideways and then shifted backward into yesterday; stretching forward into tomorrow. The world was a blur of dizzying light and chaos. A veritable vista of vibrant views that now played upon a viola at three thousand decibels and slowed down to one seventieth its natural speed.

The earth was nothing but quakes and quivers and my legs were very much the same. My heard pounded like a timpani beneath the world’s most aggressive arms playing Tchaikovsky in the world’s most extreme orchestra.

Life was a wall of death that spanned millennia. Death was a dot on the horizon that called like a siren song. Sang a tune of sweet nectar that flooded my ears with the warmth that might have just been blood.

Trepidation stayed my feet while curiosity moved my arms. Doors parted like the red seas before Moses. The person at the front was hidden behind a sheet of glass that only reflected my face – some unknown entity that made me think of the Wizard of Oz. It was like trying to exchange pleasantries through a glory hole.

Name? Why was I there? Who did I need to see? Take a seat.

Life in a standstill.

Eventually, I heard the buzz. Saw the man enter. Clean shaven, all blue and black and brass. Said to follow him.

T.V. always made it sound like you walked in and just asked for the detective. This made it feel like I was turning myself in. I started to wonder if that’s what I was doing.

We entered a room that actually looked a lot like T.V. shows seem to depict. Desks and shitty computer monitors, towers that were probably still getting Windows Vista updates. The door closed with a heavy thud – like a gavel hit from an annoyed judge.

Suddenly, I felt like all eyes were suddenly on me. It was that creeping sensation like when you wake up from a night where you’ve clearly drunk too much and you’re waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop. Waiting for that one person to finally say, “So…how you feeling today?” with that look in their eye that says they know more about what you did than you do.

I walked past desks until the officer points forward to an actual office.

“Detective Harvel,” he introduced himself. “Have a seat.”

My heart is a hive of hornets. My skin is nothing but goosebumps and sweat.

He pulled out a bag and put in on the table. My heart stopped and my ears dreamt a million accusations and a great blank space of rebuttal. My mouth hung open like a fish gasping for air. I barely heard his words.

Life in slow motion.

“You okay?” he asked.

I gave him one of those, “Huh?” replies that I imagine cops love so much.

“These are yours, right?” he said with a tone that implied he was repeating himself.

I looked over the contents. Wallet, movie ticket stub, key to my high school locker. Why the fuck do I still keep that? Oh…yeah…I suppose that…

“You need some water?” he said. “Coffee, maybe?”

I didn’t understand.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I’m just…” I just…what? “I’m having a hard time processing this…”

“Well,” he said, “these appear to be your things unless that license belongs to your twin…who also has the same name as you and lives at your address and has your same phone number.”

“Right,” I said, “I…I mean…I get that,” I half-lied, “but…”

“Like I said,” he said, “we found it on some guys down in Allensville.”

I looked at my hand. I thought about my injuries.

My desire for an inquiry was buried beneath a hesitation that said that too many of the wrong kind of questions would make me a suspect. “Uh…I…uh…” I eloquently replied.

“Look,” he said, “we got a call. Intersection of Marvin Boulevard and 36th. Get there and we got three dead. Still not sure what the hell happened. Turf-related, maybe. We’re still trying to sort it out. We found your wallet on one of the guys, a…” he flipped through papers while the silence spread out like an old afghan on a cheap bed, “a….Mr. Timothy Wallers, alias T-Wall. Ringing any bells?”

I shook my head.

“I was…” I paused, measuring my words, “I got mugged about a week ago. Wrong place, wrong time kind of thing.”

“And what were you doing in Allensville?” he asked.

“Stopping for gas,” I lied. “Guys came out of nowhere. I gave ’em what they wanted and limped on home.”

“And why didn’t you report it?”

“Group of random guys that I can’t describe in a bad location who took a wallet. I might not be a cop, but I know that the odds of that panning out is pretty slim.”

“Didn’t happen to be there last night, did you?”

“I was at home last night.”

“Anyone able to corroborate that?”

“I…I mean…I live alone, so no.”

He gave me a mile long stare. He sat silent for just long enough to make me feel more uncomfortable than I already did, and then he kept going for another minute.

“Well,” he finally said, “glad to get your belongings back to you.”

“Yeah,” I replied as smoothly as a man who doesn’t know if he’s guilty or not, “thanks.”

I went to leave while I stuffed my wallet back in my pocket. It felt out of sorts. It felt like there was something in it that didn’t belong. I knew I’d have to wait until I got home to find out what.

“Do me a favor,” the detective said, “don’t leave town for a while. In case we have more questions.”

“Roger dodger,” I said, knowing that I sounded like a fucking moron shortly after saying it.

Part 2

Transistor pt.2

Part 1

A wall of yellow-white stretched out before me while a cacophony of a world gone wild played a symphony of iron drums, on clouds of steel that screamed out thunder made of rusted nails that scraped a blackboard of confusion. All around me was the whirlwind of inevitability – the final sum of things.

I held the picture so hard that I felt my knuckles strain, felt my fingertips driving into one another. Even had I brought it to my face, I don’t know that I would have been able to see it over the glare. I was being swallowed slowly by a miasma of forced circumstance.

I could feel my heart vibrating – pumping like cannon fire. My lungs squeezed and heaved, and I couldn’t tell at times if I were breathing or not. I tried to tell myself that it didn’t matter. Part of me wanted to run from that revelation as sure as I wanted to flee the raging torrent that barreled toward me – unrelenting. Ravenous. Unforgiving.

I almost let a tear form when I realized that I was not so different.

I spent days mulling over what to do. Like the appearance of strange advertisements on the sites I frequent online, I saw connections and told myself they weren’t there.

Unless they are.

I thought about heading back but thought better of it. I wasn’t a private detective, I didn’t need to return the scene of the crime. Even if I did, what would I say? “Hello, I’m…uh…well, actually you don’t know me…and so, yeah. Hey, do you recall about a week ago…”

I’d driven half the distance there on three occasions before I finally realized I didn’t have the stones to do it. I tried to find more information, but news has a strange way of not staying at the forefront of a news cycle when it isn’t big enough…dark enough…violent enough. I found little more than what I’d seen when it’d first been reported.

Boy returned home. He’d been missing for over a year. Person who had him had run a red light, hit a fire hydrant. He’d fled the scene, so the cops went to his house. He’d made it inside and died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Cops found the boy in his basement. I couldn’t imagine what he must have looked like. What came to mine was these big, vacant eyes – a catatonic expression…like a body whose soul was now missing.

Bad shit happens to good people. Sometimes bad shit happens to bad people, too. Maybe it happens with the same frequency. Maybe we just hear about it in different quantities.

I still had dreams. I’d wake up in a cold sweat, my stomach tightened so hard that it was cramping, my teeth clenched so hard that my jaw ached.

James had been right, to a degree. Things hadn’t been going well. Not after…

Don’t say her name…

I didn’t know enough about drugs to try getting them from somewhere that I shouldn’t have. It was my own fault. Bad shit happens to good people. Sometimes bad shit just happens to people like me…not good…not bad…just…  …just… whatever…

I stayed home most nights after that. I didn’t have the stomach to put up with James. We’d been friends by default for too long, and actual friends almost never. Like that last two drunk people left in a bar that no one goes to anymore. We just kept talking. Maybe it was because we didn’t know who else to talk to. Maybe we just didn’t know how to talk to anyone else. Maybe we’d given up trying.

With a half a fifth of cheap whiskey in my stomach, I’d thought about that night. Half-pissed at myself for being stupid. Half-pissed at myself for being such a pussy. Fully pissed at myself for just being myself. The night turned into a blur of empty glasses and failed attempts to fill in the emptiness with the right song from the right artist or band. As if the right set of words or notes could make it better – a bandaid for a wounded soul.

When I woke up, my head was pounding. My skin felt tight and ill-fitting around my forehead. My right hand was cut but there was too much dried blood to tell where the wound was.

Two ibuprofen and a hot shower later, I put a bandaid on my left eyebrow and put gauze on my hand. I tracked down the part of the wall that I must have punched but couldn’t figure out what I’d hit with my head.

Two days later I got a call from the police department.

Part 3

Transistor pt.1

I stood there looking forward into what might as well have been the abyss. Some great, cavernous reality that was speeding forward at a rate that felt forever faster. It met me with beams of light that shifted from dimes to nickels to quarters to plates to a wall of yellow-white – a sprawling canvas of termination that was stretching out and away, reading itself for the paint of finality.

All the while, the world trembled and shook. Reality itself in the throes of a great, growing earthquake. The ground went from the slow oscillations of a giant’s hand steadily drumming upon a hollow drum of broken earth and grew in waves into a cauldron of storms that lashed out and through my mind – like a star gone supernova.
I clenched my hands, felt the wince of pain from where knuckles were still bruised, cuts were still fresh. I waited patiently. My other hand held the picture like a man of unwavering faith with a cross while he looked upon the growing visage of demons rising from the charred remains of a now-desolate church.
I waited.

And I thought about how I’d gotten here…

I sat across from James while I picked at scabs while simultaneously worrying about making them bleed. My knuckles were bruised, and I could tell by the looks I was getting that the black eye that I’d previously believed “wouldn’t be that noticeable” was anything but.

“The fuck you get into, man?” he said while he turned his tumbler around on the table as he was wont to do. The glass stuttered along as it turned back and forth – a noise that I always found somewhat grating. I found it even more so now.

In the distance, the TV was on but inaudible over the sound of other patrons.

I looked at it for a minute before looking back. “Got into a fight,” I said with the tone and timbre of a man who says such a thing nonchalantly, knowing I was anything but.

“And?” he said, eyes widening.

“We came here to drink, Jimmy. Can we just do that?” And who the fuck goes by Jimmy at your age? I thought to myself.

“No…I mean…” he shied back a bit, “Yeah…no, man. I’m not trying to pry…”

Yes, the fuck you are…

“I just…You know. I mean…”

“I’m me.”

“I mean, if someone’s fucking with you, man…”


“No. No one’s fucking with me,” I said with little finger quotes. “I was somewhere I shouldn’t have been.” I took a small drink of beer. “Lesson learned.”

James nodded, looked around a bit. “Where at?”

I gave a sigh the size of Texas and said, “Allensville.”

His face said plenty that his mouth didn’t. “Look, man, I know that shit’s been rough since…”

Don’t say her name…

“Well…since…well, you know.”

“It’s fine…”

“I’m just saying, man…”

“I…” I paused, “Wait. Are you saying…”

“Hey,” he said, his hands raise, “no judgment, man. I mean, hey, I know guys who pay for it. But, shit, man, you know. Just like…be careful.”

“You think I went there for a hooker?”

“You went there for not-a-hooker?”

I ran the words through my head. I thought about the truth. I thought about the lie. I thought about the lesser of evils.

“I mean, either that or you put a hood with bat ears on and go fighting crime,” he said with a laugh.

“Yeah, not really my skill set,” I said.

Silence stretched for a moment while the noise of the small bar moved to fill in the gaps.

“Just don’t tell anyone,” I said.

“Hey, no big deal, man,” he replied. “Who the fuck would I tell anyway, right?” he offered with a smile.

Literally anyone you talk to…

Yeah…no big deal, I thought while I picked at the scabs on my hand while trying not to make them start bleeding.

On the TV, I saw the news unfolding. I recognized the face I was seeing, even if I didn’t recognize the story that was circling around it. She’d been standing on a corner not far from where it had happened.

It was one of the only things I remembered clearly. Well…that and how much it hurt.

“How much did it cost you?” James asked playfully.

“More than it should have,” I answered.

Part 2


I woke to the gloom of morning. Fog clinging thick to the ground like layers of translucent feathers. Trees shifted softly while their branches played brittle songs with new leaves – casting shadows that hung like inverse chandeliers.

Fresh from my waking, my mind held the echo of the last tone my sleeping mind had heard. A sharp sound. A heavy sound. It reminded me of axes falling – crashing through the fallen trunks of mighty oaks that had become half-soaked in ice.

Much and more had gone flitting from memory like tiny insects when light disturbs their twilight agenda. Those that were left were little more than the three-day-old remains of where muddy feet had gone tracking against a once-clean floor. Looking at them now, I saw only the broad strokes – memories that seemed to mirror the fog-ridden land around me.

By habit or by necessity…or perhaps the sad and sweet entanglement of both…I reached, as always, at that which rested upon my chest. Cold as ever. Cold enough that sometimes it felt as if it burned.

Far up and away, I saw the light as it blinked. Once then twice. It disappeared like sudden beauty in a crowd, a vision of loveliness that marks the soul like a burning needle. Like the eyes of eternity half-hidden behind a veil and I awaited the moment when those eyes would open fully.

A waiting borne of both desire and dread.

I rose from the hard earth that was not so far beneath the soft respite of my slumber, felt the autumn cool ground beneath my feet. I listened to the sound of where water still trickled in from above and down through rocks and crags into those soft and sacred places not far from where I stirred.

I listened long to the music of the moonlit world – that song that it plays when few and fewer are there to listen. That song that never truly evaporates, merely finds itself hidden behind the morass of mortal life. Turned to naught but a whisper under the raging din of a sunlit world.

I glanced again at where she rested in the sky. At where she rested…and yet did not. Looked to see the light that had not yet returned as I turned to go within the darkness that spread out and spiraled away where even moonlight does not follow.

Down and around and through the dark and darker places. Where the world around me seemed to grow whiskers and filaments. Where the lands offered soft tendrils that jutted up and through, or out and down. All the world that bloomed up and away giving birth to a land made reverse – a little garden expanse of those parts of themselves that were meant to remain secret. Remain hidden.

Where the path narrowed and spiraled round – where it bit into the land with the sharpness of hunter’s ax, and then turned and twisted with jagged strokes like the worry of a nervous painter’s hand, I came to where the water gave back the small glow of moonlight in a land of pitch and primrose. Where the land drank in the view from the skylight above, so high and far-reaching that no efforts of mine could hope to ascend to such heights.

By the water’s edge, I looked upon the warping reflection of the world that was cast back into my own black mirror. Saw the stars moving like silk caught in the breeze as they rode the peaks and valleys of the ripples in the water below.

I watched as the world above began to brighten, if only just.

And saw, before the sun finally devoured my twilight world, the tiny light blink into being. Once…twice.

Even as the sun began to rise and so call to effort the louder symphony of the waking world, and as the notes of my beloved nocturne ever waned, I saw the light blink again. Once…then twice.

I saw her fade from view, but not as a face lost in a crowd, but as face now given distance on the other side of some great river of gold. Where she must be there and I here.

I would have to wait to see if she yet remained when darkness returned to me. I would have to wait while the cold upon my chest told me of a return that never spoke of time.

A waiting borne of desire and dread.

This might be a collaborative post…or not. A friend of mine (and fellow blogger) said we should collaborate on something. This is what I came up with for “part one”…

I guess you’ll know if this continues if you see another part show up… 🤷‍♂️