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In My Last Scorching Breath; Part I

PART ONE: WHERE THE BURNS BEGIN

 

“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host.

But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.”

—Maya Angelou

 

 

            He still bore scars, livid at his fingertips, from how he had fumbled while lighting his first cigarette.

 

            It had been an accident, his first burn. The chilled air of that morning had scraped his lungs until his voice was raw, and his hands had been shaking—so violently that his fingers stumbled over each other, letting flames sear his skin.

 

            It had hurt, of course, but it had been a good sort of pain. It had blocked the memories of the night before and it had burned out all remaining feeling. It was what Will had needed then, and it was what he needed now.

 

            The thought of what he’d seen just that morning made his heart slam around in his throat. His stomach lurched and twisted and writhed inside of him, an untamed, beastly thing born of his own weakness and disease.

 

            While Will’s hands struggled with the keys to his house, his mind fought to raise walls high enough to keep ragged memories from drowning him.

 

            The accident he had seen on his way to work had been far too familiar. Twisted, misshapen wreckage and contorted figures smothered in their own blood, and the blood of other victims, dragged grimy fingertips through his memory. The images his eyes had absorbed earlier that day had brought snapshots of his accident back within his grasp, and his need for the sweet sickness of the fire had overcome him, smashing him around like a ragdoll for the remainder of the day.

 

            Will wrenched his door open, his hands falling limp to his sides as his bags plummeted to the floor.

            The memories were dark, and they consumed him, killing anything and everything else he was capable of feeling. It wouldn’t be long before he sank so far into them that he would forever be lost within their despair. He had never been able to drive them away—only the fire could do that.

 

            Only the fire—and as the flames dragged over his skin and left marks of untempered anger, Will momentarily found refuge from his monster.

 

 

            He’d been drunk—but far more intoxicated than he was now. In the present moment, things were a little bit blurred and a little bit bright, amplifying and bringing into focus the self-resentment that made his insides churn and his teeth clench. Amid the depths of that night, he had been too drunk to understand any of his own thoughts, too drunk to rationalize, too drunk to know that driving was asking—begging—for a life to be stolen.

 

            When he had woken up in the hospital, he had not known what had happened—not at first. But sluggishly, as the morphine had drained from his damaged body and his consciousness had become cloudless and lucid, he had begun to remember.

 

            A nurse had come in to give him more medication, skirting around the edge of his bed like a cat, and he had asked her, “What happened?”

 

            “You were drunk,” she’d said tersely. He could still recall the unadulterated, toxic disgust in her face. “You got into a car accident.”

 

            He remembered thinking that she would not be looking at him with such an unpolluted hatred unless someone had died.

 

            “How many?” he had croaked. His voice had sounded cracked and worn, like parchment. “Was it my fault?”

 

            The nurse had stared at him, the anger in her face creating lines and frown marks and crevices in her face. She seemed to age several decades in that moment. “Three,” she said, “And yes, it was your fault.”

 

            In the present moment, he lay sprawled on his couch, lazily flicking the lighter on and off and watching the warm glow of the flames as they licked his fingertips. It was a soothing warmth that blistered at his fingers, soft and rather bearable compared to the jarring, knife-like pain that seared through him whenever he cut.

 

            Even now, lying on the couch, he could still hear the peaked sounds of his family rushing into the hospital room he had lain in. They had known it was his fault, and they had not blamed him. He still hated them for that. Uninformed, irrationally, they had leaned over his bedside and told him it’d be okay and that they’d take care of everything, and he wouldn’t have to do any jail time.

 

            These memories weren’t as harsh as the memories of the crash, but they were no less unpleasant. They still fogged his mind, and they still turned the fire inside into a raging inferno, hell-bent on tearing him to jagged little pieces.

            And he would let him.

 

            He was determined to be destroyed by his treacherous fiend.

 

 

           “Pass me a cigarette, would you?” Her voice was astute and had a lilting sound to it, not unlike the rolling of wind off the waves. He didn’t have to pretend to like it. Her face was sharp, her eyes seemed to be dark caverns cut into her face by knife edges. She had an interesting face—not traditionally beautiful, but one that was fascinating to look at, and to explore.

 

           Wordlessly, Will handed over the second last cigarette in his pack to her. “You run out, Keahi?” he asked, drawing in a long breath of smoke.

 

            “I had my last one this morning,” she told him, lighting the cigarette with long, tanned fingers. “I won’t be able to afford any more smokes until I get paid, so I better enjoy this one.” She blinked lazily, like a cat basking in the sun, as she breathed in the smoke, and exhaled.

 

            Will was quick to notice the red, irate marks on the insides of her forearms. Nobody at work had ever dared mention them to her, but Will understood. Her weapon of choice was different than his, but the reality was that they were the same: something had gone horribly wrong, and they were to blame. 

 

            Keahi caught him looking. “What’re you staring at?” she asked, her voice sounding incensed beneath the casual tone that only just barely masked it.

 

            Will shrugged. “Your scars,” he said bluntly, and drew in another breath of smoke. “They look a little bit like mine.”

 

            Keahi arched one eyebrow. “Yours?” she inquired, her melodic voice rising and falling rhythmically in pitch.

 

            Will shrugged. “I stopped cutting a while ago. I have different methods, now.”

 

            Keahi glanced at him, and brushed a strand of dark hair from her face. She did not look at him, and it was at this moment that Will realized he had made a mistake.

 

            She had not come to terms with her own destruction, he realized. She had not accepted that she would be the beast to tear her out her own heart. She had not realized that it was she who would be her own demise. In this, she was not like him.

 

            Will knew he was going to die, someday, and likely by his own hand.

 

            It was just a matter of being ready to walk into the fires of hell and embrace the devil’s demons with open arms.

 

 

            When he arrived home, he lit some more candles and lay on the couch for a while. As the sky grew dark the candles glowed brighter, so did the clarity of his own memory. He always remembered everything at night. It seemed that darkness brought with it a hoard of new details, new sights and smells for him to agonize over, new details to remember from that night.

 

            In the dimness of his home, Will took the last cigarette from his pocket and lit it. He breathed the smoke in and out, wondering absentmindedly if dragons would feel the same burning sensation in their lungs when they reduced their victims to ashes.

 

            Slowly, he became aware of his eyes beginning to drift shut, but not aware enough of the cigarette falling from his fingers and to the carpet. 

 

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impressions

Fire extinguishes humming ocean, and cloud feeds writhing flame. Stars breathe again, and fill expanding lungs with pleasant white fumes. Wait. Stop. Blink. Collect your facts and history. Check them off, fold them up, blow a kiss, and let them burn.

“This is the edge of the earth, you know,” no one says, and wraps their cold arms around your waist from miles away and years ago. You shudder further into the touch you cannot feel, all trembling passionless bones in hot tissue, looking on.

“I should have buried them,” you decide, and of course it’s too late. No one smiles against your neck and kisses it.

“It doesn’t matter. It’s all dying.”

The stars nod. They blow hot smoke and ash at your feet, softening the earth to a bubbling, boiling paste. Fire extinguishes deafening, screaming ocean, and you begin to sink and dissolve.

And so, your world is ending. Are you frightened? Close your eyes. Think of no one. Disappear.

“Are you ready to know what nothing tastes like?”

Your body blends with the earth. “Yes. Stay with me?”

“Always. Never,” isn’t said.

There’s nothing left.

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Life Magic

It is said that shooting stars grant wishes

In truth, these lost souls trying to make their way back to Earth carry wishes of their own. Ancient wishes of love lost but not forgotten, for these stars once walked the land very much like we do.

It began a millennia ago when magic was as simple as a breath or a look, when spirits took shape and danced among the fledgling contours of what are now called mountains. The spirits enjoyed peace for an age, singing enchanting silken webs across the expanse of stone and dust.

All were happy

As the ghosts of life and birth spun their magic and created in the greatest feats of art ever known there grew a great darkness (for light cannot exist without its silent brother) and this darkness became Man. The spirits continued to revel in creation not knowing the threat to all they knew, for how can a soul know pain until after the first pinprick?

These wisps of purity twirled and dived, meeting each other in great bursts of light. Shining parts met to become a whole and as each joining was completed a new life was created. Tiger was called one. Willow another, yet more still as life borne of love was realized in the high magic of dawns beginnings.

Man as he grew through magic of his own, watched with jealous desire. Wishing to own the secret of creation. He schemed and contrived to steal the magic off these joyous beings so he could mold life to serve his own ends but there was one - named Woman - who listened at the mouth of Man’s lair as he plotted. Woman, though a creation of the same balancing magic that created Man, could not let the evil plan go ahead at the detriment of the unwary spirits curling around on ground and in sky, she must warn them.

And so she journeyed far and long, beseeching any who would know her warning to come near and take heed. But spirits speak not the tongue of tangible things and her cries fell on ears that did not exist in our fashion. And so she wept great salty tears that filled the low lying places for a thousand years until these canyons were full and her heart tender, at this the spirits took leave from their heady dance (those that were left, as they now only numbered in the millions) and descended upon weary Woman.

Unable to explain the fate that would surely befall them Woman felt she had no option, she must show them what was to become of them should they not protect their magic.

She swallowed one.

At this the spirits suddenly understood pain and using their magic flew off and away in every direction, leaving the Earth unfinished and Woman alone. But there was one still who remained, that inside of Woman. At the sudden silence Man became enraged as he had finally devised a way to steal life energy by swallowing it (for as all spirits understood pain as one of theirs learned, so too did Man learn at the same time as Woman felt life inside her)

Leaping from his lair, Man let out an awful scream and all the world as far as could be seen in every direction became dark. But lo! as darkness spread and took root on the horizons, Man and Woman both stared skyward for there above them where all the spirits who had fled. Sparkling out of reach in the firmament, longing to rescue their abandoned Sister

Man grew to let go of his thirst for magic, though darkness still takes root in his heart

Woman grew to embrace the life-magic within and carries the secret to this day

Star spirits still fly through the darkness from time to time, longing to finish their magic and collect their fallen Sister

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Pull

(Prompt: This image by piper60, via picturewritingprompts)

Closed doors aren't all that new to me. I've been pushing all my life.

Inside, I can hear them. Sometimes, they're singing holiday songs. Sometimes, the only noises are the gnashing of something fleshy in between jaws, maybe the slosh of milk or wine. Sometimes, they're shouting. Sometimes, they hit each other, but that doesn't scare me.

We hit each other out here, too. Some of them don't know when to stop.

Inside, I catch all kinds of smells. Some good. Some bad. Some weird and rank and vile, like potpourri. Who's idea was it to dry out flowers, to ruin them in such a way, to fill the air with a sort of sun-scorched rot? Still, that doesn't scare me, either. Sometimes, it smells nice in there.

We get smells out here, too. Some of them remind me of too many things. Some of them just remind me of too much. Most aren't good.

Inside? I like to think they keep futures in there. It's silly, I know. They keep futures in banks and bedrooms, not in the foyer where I might see them, scent them, hear what one sounds like. I could have been a poet.

We get poets out here, too. After. Always after. It isn't pretty, not one bit.

I've been pushing on these doors my whole little life. And yeah, I know. They've got those kinds of handles. They're not push doors, they're pull doors. Still, I can't stop my palms, the sides of my arms, my shoulders. I push and push and push, and I think I know why. I don't want in there.

We get them out here, too. Some of them need to stay in there forever.

Some of them should never be let out.

If I pull? That kind might just pull back.

It's not so bad out here, is it? Nah.

(c) 2013 Lawerence Hawkins. Seeking writing prompts, as always.

Last: Unprompted - Come One and All

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There is something tragic and beautiful about falling in love with a ghost, the unspoken words of experience that lingers in the air, and I was good at it.

I turned moments into poetry.

You can't help loving a poem.—  The embodiment of things that can't be fully explained, like love. Like falling in love.

My first experience of love was meeting in the midnight hours, laying in the cul-de-sac and looking up at the stars. It was notes tucked into trees by the lake. It was being given a book of love poems, with a page marked with the words meant for me. It was giving my journal, myself, in written form to someone else and having it returned with a page that said "I LOVE YOU".

What else is love than having someone accept you for who you really are?

But it wasn't real.

And then like the Santa Ana winds it disappeared seemingly without notice. Because at the time, love, to me, was a fairytale. It was moments made into poetry.

I lived inside the poem and not the moment.



I have honed my craft in building structures out of words.

Surrounded my heart with a structure built on heartbreak, graffitied the walls with every broken promise and lie. Boarded the windows and nailed them shut.

I built a maze of hopes winding underneath but always leading back to the same heartbroken home.

I have been living in a world of yesterday's and tomorrow's possibilities but never the moment.


My heart is aching for a demolition.



-Melanie Hamblin

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A Patient Blue Vespa

Silently I sat in the store's parking lot, it was a cool spring day. Across the empty spaces before me, I noticed a light blue Vespa. It was peculiar in color, a Robin's egg hue. In my thoughts I mused, who this interesting Vespa's owner might be. Thoughts of a fashion friendly young woman, with tall boots, and slick-straight hair came to mind. I thought of, too, a young man eclectic in his tastes.

As my mind whirled on, an electric cart wheezed out to cross the white-lined threshold that laid before the store front. The soft electric churn caught in my ear and my attention drew, there, to the frail man making his way out. His basket full of groceries, I thought it strange no one followed to assist him to his car. His demeanor exuded pride, self-reliance, even as his feet were protected with slippers, well worn with time. I watched on, my eyes trailing the slow buzz of his transport.

He came to pass the front of a paler red pick-up, and I felt a soft smile begin to form upon my face. Well aged, I found it fitting that this might be his truck. As he passed it, I felt my smile fade and my brows become an indicator of confusion. It was then I felt my heart squeeze in the center of my chest.

The buzz quieted as he came to a halt before the awaiting little Vespa. My expression changed into one of wonder, while I watched on intently. He gathered himself, setting the cane that rested between his legs out onto the pavement, to rise steadily from the electric cart. It was the first moment I noticed the cane, a bamboo like structure in a deep, tasteful mahogany. The curve of the cane was a sophisticated bend, much like the bend in the frail man's back-- a dedicated C for courage.

With a determined hobble and slow purpose, he pulled from the Vespa's little front pack, canvas bags and short bungee cords. My disbelieving eyes followed his every movement. With the bungee cords, his coarse hands worked steadily to make saddlebags for the little Vespa.

He attached the hooks of the bungee cords to the handles of the canvas bags, and tethered the contraption across his seat. Once he was satisfied with his work, work he labored on for almost fifteen minutes, he turned his attention to the cart of groceries. He searched through the front basket of the electric shopping cart for a moment, pulling out the heaviest of items. Juice was set in one bag, on one side of the Vespa, and milk was set in the other bag, on the other side of the Vespa. He carried on, slow and steady, distributing the weight evenly between the bags. I was awe-struck, debating between thoughts of offering help and allowing him the right to succeed on his own. With one bag left, he shuffled his slippered feet towards the front of his Vespa, his cane loyal at his side. He reached for a little white helmet that hung to the Vespa's handlebars by its straps. Moving to rest his cane on the light blue paint, he pulled the helmet over his head, and snapped the straps securely under his scruffy bearded chin. Well into the half-hour mark, he was near departure.

Shuffling back to the cart's nearly empty basket, he pulled out the last of his groceries. It was a bag that held a carton of eggs beneath a loaf of bread. Leaving the electric cart stranded, he placed the last bag carefully on the floor of the Vespa, and with his cane to aid him, made his way onto his ride too.

As he shifted himself onto the seat of the Vespa, I know I was grinning from ear to ear. I watched as his slippered toes pushed against the pavement, his body lunging forward to release the kickstand that held the Vespa so patiently. How I wished I knew this man, so delicate in stature, but with a mind as determined as any ox. As my thoughts took hold, I heard the Vespa's motor. He was gone, and in his dust, he left the puttered out shopping cart as my only witness.

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The Cabin

Michael reaches the climax of the story, his deep voice filling the room. He likes the way his story makes Beth squirm, but he’s overdoing the theatrics, trying to get a reaction from John who is as stoic as ever. I listen carefully, using the action of the story as an excuse to curl closer to Kyle on the couch.

“He lunged at the knife in his attacker’s hand. He wanted to kill the girl. He couldn’t help himself. Tears blurred his vision, but his anger propelled him forward to overpower the stunned girl. And without hesitation, he stabbed her in the stomach. One penetrating blow into the hot, slick flesh wasn’t enough for him. No. He stabbed the girl again, and again, and again until the blade finally slipped in his bloody hand, slicing his palm open. He walked away slowly. His shoulders hunched in defeat. He crumbles on the floor next to his dead lover’s body, weeping cradling the almost decapitated corpse.”

Michael stares at each of us in the silence, letting the images from his horror story sink into our psyche. I try not to laugh at Beth’s overreaction, with her iron clad grip around John’s arm, her face buried in his shoulder. Michael becomes more animated as he finishes.

Somehow, he has roped us into sitting next to the fireplace as he waves a flashlight in his face attempting to scare us all. This is not how I planned for the weekend to go, but I’m content right now, sitting next to Kyle who cannot take his eyes off of Michael and his story.

Once he feels like the silence has completed its purpose, Michael lowers his voice, angling the flashlight under his face so the contours of his features are more pronounced.

“He glared at the body of his attacker, angry he could not reanimate it for the sole purpose of killing her again. He didn’t want to remember what had happened and what he had done. He grabbed the spare tanks of gasoline from the shed, spreading the contents throughout the house, taking slight pause in his work to douse each body thoroughly. Outside, in the night, he threw a lit match on the wet steps, watching calmly as the cabin was quickly engulfed in flames, burning brighter than the stars in the sky. Satisfied. He walked away without looking back, not wanting to think of that dismal weekend ever again. Today, he walks among us as a broken man.”

Once Michael finishes his story the spell breaks, and Beth fills the silence. “Did they really have to be in a cabin in the woods? I’m terrified now.” Beth’s voice breaks as she cautiously looks from around John’s shoulder.

“So it worked.” Michael answers with a charming wink.

John gently pries Beth away from him, shaking his arm to regain blood flow. “At least someone makes it to the end. It should have been the black guy for once. You know, mix it up a bit. You could have even thrown in a lesbian, a samurai, or a witch. They are very underrepresented parties in the creepy campfire genre.”

“Or, their parents could have showed up and baked them cookies. Well, not in my story, buddy.” Michael retorts, slightly annoyed at John’s slight critique.

John ignores him turning to Kyle, “What did you think of it, Kyle Earl Scott?” He smiles at the mention of his full name. John’s the only one that calls Kyle by his full name. It’s weird.

“I think there was a great moral to the story.” Kyle looks between me and Beth as if he knows he’s about to say something he shouldn’t. “Chicks are crazy.”

“Shut up.” I playfully hit Kyle across the shoulder, but all of the boys can’t stop laughing.

“Ow, Natasha,” Kyle rubs his shoulder, speaking only after his fits of laughter subside. “It was only a joke.”

Beth doesn’t respond to Kyle’s comment at all. She’s still terrified from the story. She has her hands clasped together, shaking in her lap. Her makeup is smudged all over her face, but her hair is still tied back immaculately, a glimpse of Beth’s true nature when she’s not scared out of her mind. “Can someone please turn on the lights? And get some firewood? I’m freezing.” Beth starts rambling off demands that are hidden as requests.

I like the cold. I like the draft that’s natural to the cabin and the random creaks of the old wood. It comforts me to know that this place has history. People have lived here. People have died here. It’s wonderful.

Michael turns on the light, while John offers himself and Kyle to go get the firewood. Kyle agrees because he’s a nice guy, but I want him to stay. That is the whole point of the weekend, for me to be with Kyle. But, somehow, John got invited and then Beth and Michael. I’m just trying to make the best out of the situation. Think positive like the book my mom gave me tells me to.

John puts on his letterman jacket before leaving, beckoning for Kyle to follow, “C’mon. We have tiring work ahead of us.”

“Don’t worry Natasha.” Kyle gently adds, still trying to get away, “If a mad slasher woman comes barreling through the woods, Michael will be here to protect you.”

“Yeah. Whatever,” I can only roll my eyes at the ludicrous comment, before finally letting go of him.

“Fat chance,” Michael retorts from the kitchen. “I know what happens to people like me. We die. First sign of trouble, I’m hoping in my car and driving until I get a signal on my phone. It’s everyman for himself. Survival of the fittest. It’s only natural for-” The rest of his rant is lost in muffles as he begins to stuff his face with food.

“You don’t mean that,” Beth snaps, slowly getting back to her normal self. She’s opened a compact mirror and has begun to put back on the foundations of her face.

“It’s okay,” John remarks in the frame of the door, obviously eager to get out into the night. “If you scream loud enough, we’ll come running back.” Kyle slips out the door behind John and the wait for him to come back begins.

“You ladies hungry?” Michael momentarily surfaces from in the kitchen, offering us a plate of food.

Beth waves him away with a hand, and I leave as an answer. I don’t like either of their presence here, ruining my weekend away with Kyle. I walk upstairs to my room. My parents and I move around a lot because bad things always seem to happen around us.

This cabin has been in the family for years, and it just so happens that this year we live close enough to it that I can use it on a regular basis, instead of as a vacation destination. I haven’t been back long enough to redecorate my room, so it is still filled with all of the things I loved when I was seven. Random CDs and a picture of me and my best friend at the pool are all scattered on my dresser. Her name was Alice. I saw her drown. Then we moved for the third time in two years.

The Secret, a book my mom gave me so long ago but I only recently cracked open, lays on the bookshelf as the only new addition. My mom gave it to me as a not so subtle hint. I resented her at first, but I’ve been trying to follow what it says about positive thinking lately. If the start of this weekend is any indication, positive thoughts don’t work.

Someone knocks on my door. Michael pops his head around the wood, with the last vestiges of his sandwich disappearing between his lips. If I’m not with Kyle, I want to be alone, but Michael can’t seem to get the hint.

“Go away,” Even before I spoke, I knew my command would fall on deaf ears. He walks into my room anyway and sits next to me on my bed. Wait. Positive thoughts. Hopefully, Michael will get hungry again and walk away.

Michael begins to do the most irritating thing he could possibly do right now. He opens his mouth and words start to come out. “I’m trying to figure you out. You invite us all down here yet-”

“I didn’t invite all of you.” I interrupt him, trying to make it clear that this weekend has not been going the way I wanted it to. If he knows that I positively don’t want him here then maybe he’ll go away. “I only invited Kyle.”

“Oh, if that’s the case then let me tell you right now that it’s not gonna happen, sweetheart. Trust me.” Michael smiles as if he’s laughing at an inside joke. “Don’t waste anymore time on him.”

Positive thoughts aren’t working. Michael isn’t going away, so I have to make him got away.

“Follow me,” I say with a smile, instantly switching strategies.

“Um, okay,” Michael stutters before stupidly following me into the bathroom. “What’s going on?”

“I just want to show you something,” I turn on the shower first then quickly look for the knife I used to keep in here. “Here it is.”

I turn around and jam the dull knife in Michael’s neck. He doesn’t even have enough time to look surprised. A soft gurgle escapes his red lips, but the steady rhythm of the shower drowns out his muffled screams. His fingers weakly grab at me as I stab him again with more precision, making sure to hit a major artery. He crumples on the floor in front of me. For fun, I stab him in the chest; his last heartbeat reverberates from the steel of the blade to tingle the palm of my hand.

“Everyman for himself, right?” I whisper mockingly over Michael’s corpse. Not wasting any time, I drag his body over to the bathtub. First, I lift his legs into the tub, then the rest of his body. I’m covered in blood so I decide to take a shower while I’m here. The water feels nice cascading down my back as I straddle Michael’s body, my feet completely immersed in his blood. With one down, I have two more to go before I’m alone with Kyle. This weekend might not be so bad after all.

After I’m all cleaned off, I hear boots and the door opening downstairs. That has to be Kyle returning. I can’t help the smile that engulfs my face and the excitement I feel as I put on fresh clothes.

I reach the bottom of the steps before I can see Kyle. He’s smile beaming as he puts his logs on the fire with one hand, using the other to brush leaves and twigs out of his dirt hair. If we were alone, Kyle and I would be sitting next to the fire together. He would whisper in my ear and I would-

“Where’s Michael?” Beth interrupts my thoughts.

“I don’t know,” I answer with a shrug of my shoulders, switching my attention from Beth to John. “You guys didn’t bring back enough firewood.”

“That’s all we could find. We checked everywhere,” John shares a laugh with Kyle for some reason.

“Well you didn’t go in the shed. That’s where we keep most of the firewood. Follow me John. I’m going to need some help,” This time John follows me out the door, and we make the short trek to the shed.

“So why do you call Kyle by his full name?” I ask, wanting to know before I kill him.

John opens up easily, “With a name like Kyle Earl Scott, how could you not?” John gets oddly animated when talking about Kyle’s name. “It’s so perfect. Each part of his name could be a first name. And it’s like you just know one of his parents wanted to call him Earl and the other didn’t want their son to go through his childhood years with the name of a grandpa. And it’s just one of those names you have to say it fully because it just sounds better. And of course, once I started calling him by his full name, I couldn’t stop.”

We finally make it to the shed, and I let John enter first. I follow, but instead of going to the piles of firewood, I go to the back of the shed, grabbing my axe. I stand there for a moment contemplating what John said about Kyle’s full name. Kyle Earl Scott. Kyle Earl Scott. Kyle Earl Scott. It sounds nice, but I don’t like it. Kyle Scott sounds better.

I turn around and John is still bent over the pile of firewood. Without a moment’s hesitation, I swing the axe high, aiming for his neck. I feel a satisfying thunk as the blade of the axe connects with bone. Blood splatters against the wall and along the piles of wood but thankfully none gets on me. I could explain one costume change but not two. Beth already thinks I’m weird.

John slumps onto the ground, his head jutting off at an unnatural angle but still connected to his body. I’m impressed with my work. John has a thick neck, but I easily cut through half of it with one swing. Those trips to the gym have been paying off.

I want to move him into my bathroom so all of the bodies are in the same place. I wrap John’s body in a tarp and drag him to the back door of the house. I make sure Beth and Kyle Scott are not around before entering the house. For being a starting football player, John is oddly light. I get him to my bathroom without any problems. When I come back downstairs Kyle Scott and Beth are sitting on the couch together, looking worried.

“What’s wrong?” I feign concern.

“Michael. We can’t find him anywhere and his car is still here.” Beth answers truly concerned.

“Where’s John?” Kyle Scott asks, his eyes wide with panic.

“He’s still getting firewood. Calm down.” I answer, sitting next to him on the couch and grabbing his hand. “Maybe Michael saw trouble and left. Everyman for himself and whatnot.” I say with a halfhearted laugh.

“But his car is still here.” Beth says, clinging to logic.

“We can look for them again if you want,” I say, giving in so I can get her alone with me. “You and I can check upstairs and Kyle Scott can stay down here.”

“What did you call me?” Kyle Scott asks stunned.

“Kyle Scott. I like the way it sounds.” I look at him, wanting him to smile like he did when John said his full name, but I don’t even get a smirk. That will change when we’re finally alone.

I walk upstairs and Beth follows. “We should look in my room first since it’s at the top of the stairs.”

Beth can’t find the words to answer but she nods. Beth had just finished putting herself back together, now she’s starting to unravel again. Her usually pristine nails are chewed to bits.  Her clothes seem ruffled and her face seems to be riddled with lines. She is stressing herself out and it is tearing her apart. If I toyed with her a bit more, I bet she would go crazy and take her own life. But I don’t have that kind of time.

I slip into the bathroom, grabbing the knife I used to kill Michael. I do have some time. Maybe I can gag her and have a little fun. I could get rid of the rest of her nails or make my own lines on her body. The knife is old and dull so it will hurt, and I will be able to see the pain in her eyes. I scurry out the bathroom in my excitement, careful not to open the door too wide.

Immediately, I see the red cover of The Secret flying at my face, knocking me on the head. Someone throws me against the wall and my feet give out from underneath me.

“It’s you. You’ve done something to them?” Beth says calmly while kicking the knife out my hand. For once someone has taken me by surprise. “Michael goes to look for you then we can’t find him. John gets wood with you, and he still hasn’t returned. Where are they? What have you done?” Again her questions demand answers.

I try to get off the floor but she kicks me back down. Instead, I tackle her knees, taking her down with me. We grapple on the floor, but I easily gain the advantage. I wrap my arm around her neck, pulling tight. She struggles. Who knew Beth would be the fighter in the group? I like it. I like not knowing if she will overpower me or not. She struggles and struggles until she’s finally still in my arms.

“Is everything okay up there?” Kyle Scott yells from below while running up the stairs. Panicked, I quickly kick Beth’s body into the bathroom, unable to fully close the door before Kyle Scott finally barges in.

Getting over my initial panic, I can’t help but smile. We’re finally alone.

“What’s going on? Where’s Beth?” He belts, frantically walking to the other end of the room as if one of his friends will magically appear.

“She’s down the hall, looking for Michael.” I answer calmly.

“I heard something in here, though. It sounded serious.”

“That was just my book falling.” I lie unconvincingly as Kyle Scott’s eyes find the smallest book on the floor. He raises an eye, trying to connect the amount of commotion with the small novel. I should really get better at lying on the spot. I don’t want to have to kill Kyle Scott. That would make this weekend a waste.

His eyes find the knife instead still coated with Michael’s blood and his eyes turn wide. “John never came back. Michael is gone and now Beth. What have you done, Natasha?”

“Nothing,” I answer. “I just wanted for us to have a nice weekend together and they were in the way.” I try to grab Kyle Scott’s arm and pull him toward the bed but he doesn’t budge.

I can tell that he’s not taking it well. My parents didn’t take it well the first time they found out either. I don’t want to hurt him, but I might be forced to. Maybe, he will see that I did this all for him.

“Natasha. Where are they?” Kyle growls at me, demanding an answer. I point to the bathroom. He gently tries to open the door but is stopped by Beth’s body. He steps over her body and disappears behind the door.

“No! No!” Kyle Scott yells as he fully begins to comprehend what I’ve done.

“But we’re alone now. We can be together.” I try and convince him through the door, but I pick up the knife in preparation.

“I’m gay, Natasha!” Kyle Scott yells barreling through the bathroom door, blood on his hands and tears streaming down his face. I see the fury in his eyes, and he lunges at the knife in my hand.

I’ve already been told what’s going to happen next. I’ve already lived this life. This is the story of how I die.

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Start to Finish

Eye contact. Smile. Look away. A sideways glance. Eye contact. Grin. Uncertain Laughter.  

“Is it just me or is this super awkward?”

“It's not just you.”

“Well that's a relief...”

 

Pause. Look away. Look up.

 

“So, you like me, huh?”

“I mean... I don't know you.”

“Oh.”

“But I would like to.”

“Oh.” A smile.

 

A meeting. Refreshments. Conversation. Laughter. Conversation. Deep and intimate thoughts, exchanged.

 

“This is weird.”

“What is?”

“I don't know...” Awkward half-laugh. “I guess it's just that, we've only just met. You and I have really only seen each other a few times but the way we talk, it's familiar. Like we've been exchanging witty banter for years now and this is just a part of our routine.”

“Is that a bad thing?”

“No... It shouldn't be...”

“You don't seem sure of your answer.”

“I suppose I'm just not used to letting people in.”

“Is that what's happening here? You're 'letting me in'?”

“I think so.”

“Does that scare you?”

“Yes.”

 

Another meeting. More conversation. More laughter. Performances given. Performances observed. Performances, enjoyed. A car ride. A confession.

 

“Hey, can I tell you something?”

“Always.”

“I haven't been totally honest with you.”

“Okay...”

“Well, you see,” inhale, “I like you. I mean, I guess I have sort of a crush on you. It's fine if you don't feel the same I just – I wanted to clear the air.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.”

 

Time wasted. Time spent. Time shared. A plan. A get together. A weekend get away. Alcohol. A touch. A joke becomes a proposition. A kiss.

 

“I thought you didn't feel the same way about me.”

“Maybe I changed my mind. Maybe you misunderstood me. Maybe I lied. You'll never know.”

“Won't I?”

“Maybe.” Pause. “I'm not looking for a relationship.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Okay.”

 

More kissing. Touching. A break. Lie down. Sleep. A day passes.

 

“What happened yesterday probably shouldn't happen again.”

“Alright. Why?”

“I really like you. I don't want to get hurt.”

“I understand.”

 

Weeks pass. A friendship grows. Feelings grow. Two people. A sleep over. A morning spent together. An afternoon spent together.

 

“I have a problem.”

“What is it?”

“Well, remember what I said? About keeping 'us' a friendship?”

“Yes.”

“I changed my mind.”

“Why?”

“I want you. And even if I can't have all of you, I like you a lot. I shouldn't not do something because I'm afraid of being hurt.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

 

A nod. Smile. Lean in. Kiss. Kiss harder. Fall back. Hands push. Pull. Hips sway. Fingers wander. Lips wander. A tongue slips. Lips part. A moan. A sigh. A plea.

 

“Don't stop.”

 

A dynamic changes. Hugs. Hands held. Kisses. Warm embraces. Bodies fit like puzzle pieces. Heads on shoulders. Sounds absorbed. Scents memorized. Sights, mesmerized. Time passes. A dynamic changes.

 

“I guess I'm just afraid that, if we get together, I don't know... things will change. Or, worse, they'll end. Just like that, just as soon as they've begun.”

“I mean, we're already pretty much in a relationship, all that's missing is the title.”

“I know but it just feels different”

“Well, I don't want to pressure you but I know what I want. It's still the same. I still want you. We could stay together years or we could break up an hour from now but I'd like to give us a shot.”

“Fine.”

“Fine?”

“Do you want to be with me?”

“Yes.”

 

Time passes. Happiness. A relationship grows. A love grows. Suddenly, things change.

 

“So, I think it's for sure. I think I'm leaving.”

“When?”

“A couple weeks...”

“Okay... You know, as much as this is going to hurt, I think you're doing the right thing. This is really important for your future. No matter what, I support you one hundred percent.”

“Thank you. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

 

Four days before three months. A great distance. One has been gone some days. Things have become too much. Tears. No embrace.

 

“I love you. I love you so much. But I can't handle this.”

“I love you too. What do you want to do?”

“More than anything, I want to be with you. I want us to be happy again. But that's not something that seems possible right now.”

“I know.”

“So?”

“So what do you think we should do?”

“I don't know... I guess... I guess, for now, we should just be friends.”

“Okay.”

 

For weeks after, her eyes watered as though she'd been staring at the sun and had only just stopped to make eye contact. She stumbled when she walked, drunk off sleepless nights and restless thoughts. Her only redeeming quality was that she did this with a smile on her face. People believed that her allergies were acting up. People believed that the medicine was having side effects. The smile she so often wore to comfort others, remained, as genuine and soothing as ever. As quickly as they were created, whole worlds shattered inside her. Universes fell apart in the folds of her skin. Stars didn't explode out of existence, they simply ceased to be and all she was left with, was the hollow black of empty space.  

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Bringing the Band Together.

o0Oo0Oo by Oberhofer on Grooveshark

Nimble fingers plucking out a random rhythm on a beat-up bass. That was everything to her.

She used to care about big, shiny parties. Sometime, she still shivered from the long-expired leftovers. She could feel the hungry people, clutching at her like finger sandwiches, soaking her skin in champagne. She remembered feeling beautiful at first. Like a tablecloth, you know, before.

White-on-black kicks, scuffed into something gray, textured, and tough tapped out a rhythm.

She used to dream about music. Now she needed songs to sleep. She used to roll down rivers, Brandon Boyd singing a lullaby while whatever new dad roamed the halls in the wrong direction. Her way. She let Lostprophets drown out all the girls who hated her hips, all the boys who loved her body, while she sunk deep into circuit boards and sound consoles. She was Tragedy Bound.

Lips popping out percussion, until clean, white teeth part and pull at the cheap, red second skin.

She lights went brought across the cityscape and she looked up. The gunshots didn't get any quieter. Police sirens and ambulances still roared like an angry crowd. The light was supposed to be about hope, but what's hope without music? What's imagination without a little desperation?

Then some creeper walked by, a zonked half-naked girl in his arms. Her mental record skipped.

STALKER by the pillows on Grooveshark

 

He was dressed like Chippendale's. It was just the sort of thing she'd see at the wrong parties back West. The music stopped, or at least it shouldn't have. She didn't notice the riffs ramping up. She only heard the ringing in her ears, her half-imagined battle aura like some anime. She imagined being strong.

Then she slammed her Rickenbacker hard across the back of his skull. He didn't see it coming.

The girl dropped, but he went flying a good 30 feet into a Cadillac. She hadn't seen that coming.

Then the gang across the street spilled out like ants. Then the blonde girl woke up and spontaneously combusted. Then a black girl cosplaying TRON goes to PROM descended from the sky. Then a random... girl? Boy? Street kid dropped a reuben and screamed like all hell. At her.

Holy rusted metal, Batman... She was glowing. Her bass vibrated like sex. The track changed...

Gold Guns Girls by Metric on Grooveshark

Nessa blinked. Nessa freaked out for exactly two and a half seconds.

Then Vanessa Elliot kicked a lot whole Metric ton of ass.

Prompt:

Writer’s Block

Music is love in search of a word. Find the words.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this song. Write something about this song .

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

And with the team brick, I'll shelve that experiment. That said, if anyone requests more stories of any/all of these characters, I'm happy to continue. (Adamant | Michael/Noel | Cali | Legacy )

You never call... You never write... These old bones start to worry.

(c) 2013 Lawerence Hawkins. Seeking writing prompts and more.

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The Truth is in the Pattern

The medium says she wants to talk about the father figure in my life.  Every muscle in my body finally relaxes.  Out of all the people I have lost he is the only person I want to hear from.  I’m not spiritual but I have been praying for hours for him to come to the medium, so when he did it felt like sitting down after standing all day.  My father and I had an interesting relationship.  There were times he showed me unconditional love yet more often he didn’t want anything to do with me.  He would brag to his friends about how smart and talented an actor I was, then shun me at the dinner table.  I more than loved him, I admired him, he seemed so confident, I wanted to be just like him, so on the times he rejected me it was like lightening without thunder.  I think he knew I was different and that confused him.  When he passed suddenly I was unprepared.  The medium’s head tilts to the side and explains, “I’ve never seen anything like this before; he’s showing me a room full of ties?”  I laugh a little too loud.

My father was a hoarder of ties.  We counted them once, 237 exactly.  He hoarded ties the way CEO’s hoard money, proud of his collection; each tie had a purpose and he wore one or more a day.  Until the age of ten, I was convinced he wore the tie with stars to bed, when he turned around the light from the refrigerator revealed he wore shorts and a t-shirt.  It is the only memory of my father without a tie.  I came to understand he cherished them, more than he cherished me.  He had a complex system of ordering them, depending on length, color, and pattern that I never understood.  He kept them under plastic bags; he said it was because he wanted to preserve their energy.  He has been gone for two years, I have kept all his ties in the same order, who knows what ramifications would come if I moved them, or wore them.  The entire world might crumble beneath me.  The first one I remember was a white and blue paisley tie he wore to church.  He said it connected him to God.

The medium then asks, “What’s the connection to Johnny?”  My father was the typical strong silent type.  He was never the center of attention.  He was an observer, I think that’s why he liked Johnny Carson so much – he was the opposite of my father, an outgoing man, who always had the punch line.  He was the type of guy to come up with the punch line a week after the joke was told.  I could feel his eyes grow with envy in the evening.  I inherited all my quite from him.

The thing about my father is that he had a tie for every occasion.  He had one that was brown with torn edges for the horse races.  He once told me a thread broke every time he won big but that he was never the one to prick the strings.  For the concerts, the plays, and the recitals he wore this bright red shiny tie that could be seen anywhere in the auditorium, simply so I knew he was there.  I would search the audience for him; he never acknowledged my eye contact.  When I started playing t-ball he actually took me to buy a special tie just for my games.  It was the only time he let me pick one out.  I had no idea what I was doing; at the time our team name was the bumblebees so I picked a yellow tie with thin black horizontal stripes.  I knew he hated it but he wore to every single game.  By the time I graduated high school dirt and dust had changed the yellow to brown, he refused to wash it in fear of messing with karma.  And of course he had a different themed tie for each holiday.  Santa for Christmas, bunny’s for Easter, American flag for the fourth, fireworks for new years, and one that looked like the butt of a turkey for thanksgiving.  We could never eat or open presents until he changed to the festive tie.  No matter the colors he always wore a tie with these weird oblong geometric shapes with a pink and purple color scheme to weddings.  It was hideous, and always clashed with the bride’s colors.  It was the same tie he wore at his own wedding, he would say “I have been blessed with a beautiful family because of this tie, and I want this couple to experience that.”  For funerals he wore a simple skinny black tie.  It’s the only tie I don’t have.

When I say my father wore a tie everywhere, it is not an exaggeration.  Imagine a 45-year-old man behind a boat swerving between the wake and open water wearing a blue tie with abstract waves outside his life jacket, flapping in the wind behind him.  It was my job to hold the flag in case he fell.  I held the orange so tight and high, every boat knew he was down in the water, I was panicked he would get caught in the propeller of someone else’s boat.  When it came time for him to teach me to ski, he didn’t give me his tie, even though I asked many times.  He claimed I was not responsible enough to be trusted with a tie that held the universe.

If you couldn’t tell my father was a very spiritual man.  He didn’t identify with any particular religion, but he always attended church.  He believed that everything is connected, that what tie he wore and when could cause earth to fall out of rotation, make volcano’s erupt, and stars explode.  Ties could only be worn once every two weeks, with the expectation of holiday’s or any other special event.  It was ritualistic.  When I was 10, I went into his room and tried on a few of his ties, I put them back in, what I thought was exactly the same order.  He knew they had been tampered with. He found me in the dining room doing homework.  It would be an understatement to say he simply yelled at me.  He was changed, morphed into something else, at that moment he was no longer my father but a werewolf.  My mother, a peaceful woman came rushing in, grabbed me, threw me in my room and went back to calm him down, but there was no stopping his rage.  I was a child being introduced to wrath; I hid under my pillow, while I heard my father.  I heard lamps shatter, dressers cracking, and my mother scream in pain.  The next day, I went to apologize and saw my mother applying concealer to her eye.  My father was not home for a week, when he came back it was as if nothing had happened.  He walked through the door, kissed my mother, patted me on the head, and started reading the days newspaper; he was wearing a tie I had never seen before.

My father never taught to me shave, instead he taught me to tie a tie but only after years of begging the night of prom.  I rented a tuxedo that matched my dates from the quilting store downtown.  It was supposed to have a tie that zipped but they ran out before I had a chance to order mine.  I wasn’t planning on attending prom but after my date Sarah’s boyfriend broke up with her, I became her replacement.  It was minutes before I was supposed to pick her up.  At first I tried myself, I had seen him do it so many times I thought it would be easy.  There is a difference between watching and doing a task.  I wanted him to be proud of me, to walk out my bedroom door and show him I could do it.  He taught me not out of wanting but out of necessity.  I took the knotted fabric to him, he stood behind me, over, under, up through the neck, wrap around, up the opposite, tuck under, shape until you look like a God.  It was a right of passage with my father, even if he wasn’t ready.

I set up this appointment with the medium because I wanted to know if my father knew what I never told him.  The words ‘I am gay’ sat on the tip of my tongue for years but there is no tie to give when you come out, trust me I shopped for days.  I knew I would see the rage in his eyes again and as the years went by it started to melt my sand into glass, so when he passed, it shattered me.  I stood over his cold and stiff body the smell of formaldehyde and ethanol coming from every pour.  I leaned over the casket, placed my head in his chest and told him threw snot and tears who I was.  I went back to my husband who held my hand like a vice grip. 

The medium tells me he is showing her a blanket and holding his arms as if to hug me.  She tells me that my father knows about my partner and that he was there on the day we got married.  She smiles and relays “it was his proudest moment.”  All the words have left my tongue; I am emotionless attempting to wake the synapsis that can process what I just heard.

The last thing my father says is he kept the ties for me, so one day I could feel as strong as he felt wearing them.  He’s gone, again.  I beg the medium to bring him back, that I still have a wealth of language to share with him.  She holds my hand and says, “It doesn’t work like that, once they are gone, we can never speak with them again, but he is still looking over you.  You can still speak to him, he simply won’t reply.”  I can’t tell which is more painful that he can still hear me or that he can’t respond.  Both of us living a one sided conversation.

After she leaves, I take the ties out of my basement storage, slowly peel back to the plastic that now sticks to them, and lay them neatly on my bed.  I look at them, trying to decode what type of legacy he left.  There are so many colors and patterns; it’s hard to pinpoint my father.  I guess that’s what he was, a character wanderer, trying on different people, desperately wanting to stand out in a world louder than him.  I understand the medium could have fabricated most of what she told me but right I know my Dad loved me.  I take the white and blue paisley tie he always wore to church.  I make the same knot he taught me, over, under, up through the neck, wrap around, up the opposite, tuck under, feel his hands guiding me, look in the mirror, and see him.