Categories
short stories

Late Night Strolls

It was far too late in the evening for someone to be busking, yet here she was, with an instrument so old the strains looked ready to crumble and a voice so defiantly strong that it immediately grabbed his attention. He smiled to himself as he approached her, her pleasant melody drifting through the air to mingle with the usual ruckus of the streets. Even when the hour drew close tot ten, he could hear dogs barking and neighbors screaming obscenities at their children. When he passed the battered guitar case–which only held on ten, two ones, and a few pennies–he dropped in a nickel. The amount was so pathetically small that the woman stopped for a moment and scoffed. “That’s all you have, pal?” she challenged. There wasn’t any greed in her words, just a bitter resentment. One look at the designer coat he wore and the expensive watch on his left wrist told her that he could burn twenties for fun and still walk away without a dent in his checking. Her bitterness grew when the man ignored her and began to stroll away. Just before the nightly shadows enveloped his form, he stopped and turned his head.

“Be careful, young woman. Here there be monsters,” he warned. Before he could take another step into the darkness and let the shadows swallow him whole, she plucked a chord from her guitar that commanded him to stop.

“Here there be monsters, this man would say. Yet, this is a man who hasn’t worked a day. Who schemed and connived with a heart filled with greed. Taking and taking without thought to plead. Here there be monsters, yet he ignores the greater fear. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” she sang, the simple couplets vicious and icy. She never lost her technique as she sang, and the wicked beauty of the simple verse intrigued him. His laughter bounced against the walls and ran shivers up her spine. When he finished, he spun around and took a step forward, away from the darkness.

“I applaud your improvisational verse, and your use of Dante’s famous quote,” he complimented.

“Do I ring true?” she asked, her fingers absentmindedly stroking the strings. The notes were sad, lingering faintly in the air before dying quickly. She leaned against the post of the lamplight and stared at the man, eyes filled with skepticism and stone. He bowed his head, simultaneously ashamed and irate.

“While there are some like me, who long to be free, of the chains we made to bind. There are some of us here, who have little fear, of what we leave behind. My bank is large and my wealth obscene, and with money I light my fires, but at the end of the day, I get little say, in the destruction of my ire’s,” he replied. The woman slowly nodded, then looked down at her guitar. Silence hung thick with the stench of wet trash and cigarette smoke.

“Any requests, white collar?” she asked. A small, cold smile crossed the man’s lips.

“Hallelujah,” he answered, the word bitter in his mouth. Without another word, the woman gently played the intro on her instrument, allowing her voice to join in a moment later. The man closed his eyes and leaned against the brick wall of a business office, enraptured by the music and its creator. He felt goosebumps prickle against his skin as she allowed her voice to effortlessly climb, reaching passionate octaves and swells that made his heart rate increase. It had been so long since he’d heard such music, such emotion. When she finished, he noticed several people were peeking out from cheap blinds with wide, wondering eyes. She sat motionless, her hands still poised for the last chord and tears gently trickling down filthy cheeks. His footsteps echoed across the empty street as he walked towards her and dropped a crisp fifty into her guitar case.

“Hallelujah,” he whispered, the word soft and reverent. She continued to cry, even as the man walked away and the raucous noise of the street ensued as if the meeting between the starving musician and lonely businessman never took place.

***

I wrote this as an entry for a small gathering of writers, all challenged to write about the same theme: Isolation and Protection. This short story demonstrates Isolation more clearly, for I feel that the guitarist is much more fulfilled in her life than the businessman is in his. I hope I do the description of nocturnal streets justice.

Categories
poetry

The Storm

There was a storm outside

And I stayed in

I sat in my bedroom

With thoughts squished in

I took off my glasses

And looked through the pane

I looked at the snow

Which turned slickly to rain

The sky seemed so close

And blankets the trees

I sat in my chair

But I’d rather be on my knees

I’d rather be clutching a symbol

Or a pillow or two

I’d rather having nothing

Nothing else to do

But even as I write this

My phone starts to buzz

One day until assignment due

Yet my head’s full of fuzz

Because I have a million thoughts

That soar and crash above my head

I have too little time

And not enough has been said

So I sit in the storm

And watch the wind sigh

And I say goodbye to this moment

To this moment, goodbye

***

Where I come from, the weather changes faster than the hours in the day sometimes. Storms are not common, but their occurrence is often expected. There is something magical about sitting inside when it becomes almost impossible to go out, and it usually leaves me reflecting. The rain and the clouds create the best days, in my opinion.

Categories
poetry

Beware.

Be careful of the road you travel

And wary of its travelers

Be careful at whom you smile

And for who you give your secrets to

Keep your truths and tell your lies

Until the barrier bends

And binds you to one

Universal

Truth.

Be wary

Beware.

***

A poem written in the dark of the night and I still cannot deduce what inspired me to write this. It reminds me of something that should be written on a wooden sign, posted just outside a dark forest. I will keep this poem with me until I finally achieve my life-long dream of becoming a woodland hermit, for perhaps then, this poem will find its true calling.

Categories
short stories

Imaginary Friendship

When you came home, I once again felt whole. Some people might say it’s selfish of me to want to keep you here, stuck in the middle of last week’s laundry and yesterday’s pizza, but your presence is what keeps me alive. Unlike the usual sigh of relief you give after being forced to interact with the public, there’s a small, triumphant smile on your face. “I made the appointment,” you say. I grin.

“What’s wonderful! I’m very proud of you,” I answer. You smile and hug me tightly when I approach. “We’re one step to getting better.” The words are soft against your ear, and I can feel your smile widen against my neck. When we pull away, you immediately set down your keys and flop onto the couch. Although there’s victory behind your actions today, I know they’ve still drained you.

“When’s the appointment?” I ask.

“Tomorrow at noon. I wanted to get it scheduled before I lost my nerve,” you admit. I chuckle and sit next to you. We spend the rest of the night watching movies and scrounging through the fridge’s meager inventory for something new to eat.

The next morning, I help motivate you out of bed and into the shower. Although the mornings are always the hardest for us, lately, they’ve become easier. You come out smelling clean for the first time in a week with a glimmer in your eyes I missed. “How do I look?” you asked. My grin stretches from ear to ear.

“Perfect. Eat something before you go,” I encourage. You snatch one of the granola bars strewn about the kitchen counter before picking up your keys and grabbing the door handle. “Have fun!”

I can still hear your laughter as you closed the door. That door only opened once more.

When you come back, you are quiet. There is a look of determination etched into your features, and I can feel that something changed over that simple conversation. Without a word, you hang your keys up and begin to scoop piles of trash into garbage bags. “How’d it go?” I ask tentatively. You ignore me and continue your mad cleaning spree.

Hours pass, all silent except for the crinkle of plastic bags and the spritz of cleaning spray bottles. Once you finish restoring the apartment to its original shine, something I haven’t witnessed in years, you sit down. Anxious, I sit next to you. Silence hangs thick in the air, nearly suffocating me, until you ask softly, “when did I first meet you?” Inappropriate laughter bubbles up, too loud and too brash for the quiet seriousness the room adopts.

“Don’t you remember, we were uh… I was…” the words die on my throat before they even fully form. We both remember how we met; I showed up literally out of nowhere on one of the worst days of your life. The timing was so perfect, that we both suspected from the very beginning that it wasn’t coincidental. Years later, we both figured it out. The realization never seemed as sad as it does now. You stand up, and in a moment of panic, I reach for your hand. My fingers slip right through and a hollowness fills me.

“Please, don’t go,” I whisper. You just stare at me, as if this is the first time you realize I’m not real. I can feel the world fade around the edges like a forgotten memory as you continue to stare. Finally, when my vision is almost black, you kneel by my side.

“I’m getting better. Don’t you want that?” you ask. Tears muddy the rest of my vision, but I think I see you cry as well.

“I don’t want you to go,” I sob, trying to grab onto anything. “Please—” Before I can finish the sentence, my entire world goes dark. No more sound permeates my ears, and I wonder if this is the end. Even though I can’t see, I know I’m still crying. I hope wherever you are, you truly are better. I hope that I never have to see you again, even if it kills me to admit it. And I hope, out of everything I dare to want, that no one ever feels the need to call out for someone like me ever again.

***

Another prompt, another piece. This was good practice for me writing in present-tense, and I believe it helped convey the emotion of the story more. Although it isn’t much of a twist, I do hope that it surprised some readers.

Categories
poetry

Gotcha

Not all poems are cleverly written

Even the ones we enjoy

Very often we deplore the intellectual

Even though they implore our employ.

Reasons behind our mundane ways

Go back older than time

Over the centuries, we’ve evolved

Negating complex rhyme.

No soul today knows the sway

And no soul today truly writes

Great minds today repeat the before

In closed doors on haze-filled nights.

Versatile and volatile poets now

Even the controversial too

Yak and yak about nothing but nonsense

Only nonsense and nothing they spew.

Under the past and the rhymes and the riddles

Under the hidden message we find

Poetry about dear Rick Astley, who got you this time

***

This was a comedic poem written for the same writing group. I am extremely proud it let. Let me know when you understand its message 🙂

Categories
poetry

The Lie

I was once a fairy

Small, bright, and airy

On a meadow of dandelions and flowers

But when the Queen of the Night

Began the hopeless fight

Floral turned to blood showers

I was a warrior and fighter

Who delighted in lighter

Fluids and matches and red sky

So after the fire

I sought even higher

Skies to mask the tears I can’t cry

I lived too long in my head

And began to remember the dead

Friends, foes, and others

So when the moon hung high

I said goodbye

To this world absent of my brothers

When I awoke once again

Without a familiar sight or friend

I became scared and started to cry

The tears were real

And I can still feel

My new mother’s warm hands and eyes

She took me back home

No longer strong or alone

Even as I whine and kick and wail

But no matter my size

My mother’s green eyes

Begin and end my tale

***

This was a part of a prompt from a small writing group. I wanted to tell a fantastical tale, and what better way to do so than limericks? Although I keep a strong faith in the fey, magic, and reincarnation, I don’t believe I was a fairy in my past life. If I was, why change to a human? Isn’t that a downgrade? Unlike fairies, I have limited knowledge on the workings of the metaphysical.

Categories
poetry

Two Blue Eyes

Two blue eyes

Caught me by surprise

As candlelight flickered dim.

And as time unwinds

My heart finds

An… uncomfortable whim.

As memories unbidden

Come riddled, yet ridden

Of the regrets I hold dear,

It is my choice

To weaken the voice

That vocalizes every fear.

For even the ocean of tears

Collected over years

Disappears in the candle’s flame,

For the light roars loud

Big, bright, and proud

To char my useless shame.

What starts as a lament

Jaded and Hell-bent

On sending me back to that day,

Two blue eyes

Caught by surprise

Make sure that I stay.

***

We all have a support system of some sort, even if it’s just our own subconscious. In this case, the poem represents the other. What started as a jaded poem eventually turned into one of hope, and I wonder if that represents peace. Time will only tell.

Categories
short stories

Silence

There wasn’t much I minded about the dark because it pairs well with the silence. However, it was when the lights came on that I began to feel… uncomfortable. Something clashes, something scratches at the edge of my mind and I can’t quite describe it, as if the thing itself wasn’t entirely real. I tried to explain this in a joking manner over a few glasses of wine with friends, but they didn’t understand. Some accused me of being crazy, or just plain irate. However, I know I’m right.

I wasn’t always irritated by the mixture of light and silence. When I was seven, I reveled in being in quiet rooms, perhaps because they reminded me a lot of hospitals. As a child looking through a picture book and never stepping foot in the real thing, I let my imagination run wild. It wasn’t until I was forced to sit in a small waiting room, night after night, that I truly began to loathe bright lights mixed with hollow quiet. Living alone made it worse until I stopped turning on lights. For some reason, the daylight isn’t concerning, perhaps because I know other people walkabout during the day. At night, however, I learn to navigate my way through touch, because I refuse to flip the switch that might bring clarity but also an aspect of fear.

One night, the kitchen light was on. I hadn’t turned it on because I never turn the lights on. My electric bill declined every month, and it helped me pay for other things such as groceries and a nice pair of earbuds that blasts a playlist eighteen hours long on days that I really struggle with the silence. I listened to that entire playlist for a week straight once. However, I didn’t have my headphones now, and I desperately wished I’d taken them from the drawer in my nightstand. The second wish I had was for the pistol hidden in the drawer below. As I stepped into the kitchen, I heard no noise; just that damn silence. There were no burglars, no thieves, no unexpected friends. That scared me a lot more because then I asked myself if I had turned on the light without noticing. After a few minutes of debating why the light was on, I began to hear something, something other than my frantically beating heart. A whisper, so quiet the words were indecipherable yet growing in volume. It seemed to head straight towards me, but the source was unclear. All I knew was that it came from the darkness, a darkness I had sat in for hours of sleep and contemplation and enjoyment. When the whispers almost turned into screams, the words still indecipherable, I grabbed the nearest knife and pointed it towards the darkness. My eyes squeezed shut, and the sound of the whispers almost rivaled the sound of my pounding head.

Just as quickly as they began, the whispers vanished. Tentatively, I opened my eyes and kept a white-knuckled grip on the steak knife. When I was sure that the whispers were gone, and my heart rate became normal, I slowly turned on the living room light. Nothing. I ran from the study to the guest room to the bathroom, flipping on as many lights as possible. If my electricity bill would skyrocket, I didn’t care. I never wanted to hear that whisper again.

I spent the night with wide eyes and the bright lights. Around midnight, I turned on all the lamps as well. At two in the morning, I made sure even the little glowing figurines I receive from my grandmother every year were flashing. Two hours later, the sun began its glacial ascent across the horizon. A sigh of relief escaped my lips, and I began to turn off the little statues and lamps. For now, I kept the main lights on. There wasn’t any way I was going to take that chance.

It wasn’t until high noon that I finally turned off my main lights. The windows were open and allowed the sunlight to pour through, piercing even the darkest corners. My eyes felt like sand and my head was full of cotton as I shuffled through my home, waiting in an uncertain limbo. Sleep evaded me; the room was too bright. However, I would rather stay away than allow the darkness to come back.

The quiet prevailed.

When the sun touched the horizon, I flicked the main light switches back on. Before the sun completely disappeared, I turned on the lamps and the small figurines once more, just in case. A ringing began in my ears and a headache began minutes later. I grabbed some water from the kitchen yet didn’t stand on the linoleum for more than a minute. Events from the night before were still too fresh in my mind. Once the pink and orange hues of sunset melted into the blues and blacks of the night, I sat on the couch and waited with wide, bleary eyes.

By midnight, I was exhausted. My hands shook so terribly I set my cup of water down, emptied hours before. I began to doze off periodically, always jarred awake by my fear of the darkness. The ringing in my ears overpowered every other sound until I clapped my hands on either side of my head in a desperate attempt to stop it. How many hours had I been awake? Thirty? Forty? Fifty? Basic math evaded me, and my ears continued to ring. This was ridiculous. What would truly happen to me if I slept? It was stress, I thought. Stress from work, from past memories, from everything that brought about my hallucination last night. Yes! That’s all it was. Merely a figment of my imagination. Despite my reasoning, I couldn’t bring myself to stand up from the couch. When I tried to lay on my side, I immediately jolted up once more. Fear spiked through my veins, and the adrenaline from pure exhaustion and paranoia caused my tremors to worsen. A whine escaped me, matching the pitch of the ringing. Would I continue to stay awake until I saw the darkness again? Or would I die from sleep deprivation first?

The room went black.

I took my hands off my ears and stood up, trying to figure out where my invisible enemy was. The ringing in my ears ceased as soon as the lights turned off, even the battery-powered figurines flickering only to die seconds later. A feeling of dread settled low in my stomach as the hairs on the back of my neck stood erect. Slowly, I began to walk towards the garage, hoping it was nothing more than a power outage. Although the power lines in my neighborhood were underground, seismic tremors still caused the occasional damage. Before I could fully turn, the light in the kitchen flickered on. Another wave of adrenaline shot through me, just as potent as the first. My tremors became so violent that I fell on my way to the kitchen, knees hitting the carpet with a bruising impact. Using my hands, I crawled towards the cool linoleum and rested my cheek against the floor once I was bathed in light. Everything echoed in the silence, including my heartbeat and breath.

I heard it.

The unintelligible whispers were back, originating from the same darkness I sat in moments before. As they drew nearer, I desperately tried to stand, only to collapse back onto my knees. My hands went to the side of my head as the voices began to scream, and I finally understood what they said.

Silence.

And moments later, it was silence that remained.

***

I am not one to write horror stories, but I recently read one that piqued my interest enough to get some inspiration from its tale. If you haven’t read House Taken Over by Julio Cortázar, I highly recommend it. The difference between the character portrayed in this short story and the characters of House Taken Over is this character experiences bouts of paranoia and fear brought on by sleep deprivation. Moral of the story: remember which lights you keep on.

Categories
poetry

Day and Night

The day calls me away

In a way that I can’t describe

And with a sigh

And long goodbye

I return to diurnal diatribe

I can’t bash the sun and its warmth

That kept me warm in the shade

So, I still smile

Just for awhile

As I glance at its rays

But oh, the night and all its glory

Tells a much different story

One of laughter and howls and tears

Liquid joys and mournful fears

I feel my heart race with freeing thought

Moon shining on forget-me-nots

I remember the moments in between time

Churning out story and rhyme

Music was brighter

My heart was lighter

I hear its voice

I’m given no choice

So I go.

This is a goodbye to the sun

A goodbye to the day

A hello to endless fun

And endless, strange, new play

I leave you, day, with this message

And I hope it strikes you true

Enjoy your time

And the sunshine

Before giving away to the plutonian view

***

As always, the first lines come to mind and the poem continues from there. There are millions of sonnets, poems, stories, and ballads about the contrast of night and day, a contrast that continues to aspire creative souls everywhere. Including myself.

Categories
poetry

The Balance

I watched everything hang in the balance
On a Tuesday night
I watched as people screamed and shouted
Over my people’s rights
I watched the numbers climb and climb
In a fight between blue and red
Right then, I wished to be a million miles away
Or just tell everyone I’m dead
I can’t think of world where I can’t love
In the way people think is wrong
I can’t live in a world where everyone’s stripped of rights
And the majority just move along
For we will always have that little voice
That asks, “what about me?”
And until that little voice is answered
We are never “free”
So, tonight I watch my life hang in the balance
Between parties of red and blue
And I wish I was wise enough
To know exactly what to do

***

There is nothing more terrifying than watching other people fight for control over one’s life. This poem was made in early November, as one might’ve guessed, and I believe it still applies now. After all, is the battle ever truly over when more sides wait in the wings?