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In My Last Scorching Breath; Part I



“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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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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      Tension makes fists out of her heart. You can see it in the way she’s standing in front of me.  Feet spread, a hand holding onto her neck, fingers flexed and holding on to the spine beneath her skin.
     I pace the room nervously, a leaf in the wind and she just stands there, still as the tile flooring beneath her. She just stands there, her eyes following my movements through the small, bland room. I run into the teal curtain and the rings suspending it from the ceiling clang and scrape and she doesn't move, just shifts her gaze up to them, and then down again to me.
     I start babbling about the blandness of the room and the awful teal curtain. I make a joke about it, I think, and her face does not react. No smile, no admonishing frown. I think that I’ve made more inappropriate jokes than that, but at the moment none came to mind. I still babble though, and I think I’m sure she’s listening. I talk about the road conditions on the way here, about the snow and how it looked so pretty the way it clung to the leafless trees, like they were white instead of the dull gray-brown. She does not say that she thought that they were lovely as well, that the snow on the pine reminds her of her home in the north woods, where the snow falls and collects in such a manner as it did through the night, while she was asleep.
     I have not seen her chest rise and fall with the breaths I think that she must be taken, she takes them so imperceptibly. I cease in the words, but continue to pace, surreptitiously stealing gazes at her, gauging her lack of responses. There is a fluster of activity in the hallway, a gurney being rushed to an elevator. I look past anxiously, but she stands near the doorway facing in, looking ahead to the bed and to the window in the corner of the room.
     I start talking again, words pouring out of my mouth like water I had forgotten to swallow. I swallow, just to make sure that I do. I say that the snow is falling again, that we should be careful when we go home, that accidents can happen on the roadways, but she does not respond to my cautions. She must be able to see the snow falling outside. I say that the roads will be slippery and that accidents can happen when the salt and the sand haven’t been sprinkled over the asphalt yet and that accidents can happen. I say that winter is deceptive that it looks all still and calm, even as the snow is falling and that things look still and calm. I need her to respond in some minuscule way for me to be able to disregard the way my heart is twisting and writhing in my chest, not pacing but sprinting hitting the walls of my ribs like a bird in a glass cage, but she does not.
     Her fingers do not shift upon the spine in her neck. Her eyes still follow me, invisible lines forming intersections, oh no, intersections through the room. I want to stop moving, but cannot; my feet keep moving through the small hospital room like they’re sliding on ice.
      I keep babbling on about the weather and accidents and the way the trees looked this morning, and I realize that I can no longer form words and a groan escapes from the back of my throat, from my spine. She still looks at me.
     I finally catch my footing as a man in a long white coat quietly opens the door and enters looking still and calm.
     As he speaks, I look at her. She’s not looking at me, she’s looking out the window. Her heart is a clenched fist in her chest. Her feet are spread. A hand is holding onto her neck, fingers flexed and holding on to the spine beneath her skin.


1 0 1

She's A Wonderful Wife

Call me a traitor if you like. Soon, I won't hear you.

I don't want to hear it, anyway. All my life, I've labored after love, because from day one, I've been fed the line that love is labor. It was hard work getting my thick head out of my petite mother's abdomen, and life's only got a little easier since. I worked for my mother's poor heart, my dad's hard-earned approval. I worked for a job. I worked for a degree, a home, a future. Then what? "Work to live, don't live to work!" Sure. So I did. Like I'd always done, I worked hard at it.

Her name was Monica. Yeah, she'll miss me. And me? I don't want to talk about it.

So when that Mazda came crashing down? When that blue-hot halogen bore down on me and you stopped time? Yeah, I was impressed. Amazed. Tearstruck. Awestruck. Awed. Touched, even.

So then you tell me, "Keep going. Have faith. A kingdom awaits the meek, humble in love."

Well, you know what? Fuck that. Kingdom, please? I've done my time. I've said my prayers.

I'll miss this world...

...but not that much.

Monica? No. No, I don't want to talk about it. You don't have the right to ask me. Just don't.

So Zoom zoom, little fucker. Zoom. Fucking. Zoom. The light at the end of the tunnel's waiting.

Prompt: via knowyourcharacter

"Your character finally gets everything they ever wanted…except at the cost of the one the love? Is it worth it? Do they take it or give it up?

(c) 2013 Lawerence Hawkins. This is a test of my sense of humor. Mmm. Little bitter.

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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.”


“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?”



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


“Hey, can I tell you something?”


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


“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.”






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.”





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?”


“I changed my mind.”


“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.”




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.”



“Do you want to be with me?”



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


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


“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 what do you think we should do?”

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



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.  

0 0 0


I Put a Spell On You by Willy Moon on Grooveshark 

"I love you." I hung above, on my knees. Tears in hard eyes, hair draping a blood-soaked frame.

Three words have never started, stopped, or twisted so much. Those three words ended me.

The feeling started in my fingertips. Copper-soaked but careful, I seized and scraped against an almost human clavicle. My focus narrowed down like a masked lamp, until all that I could see was that glimmer of that blood against nail's edges. I could taste it. Then? It crept inside me.

"I love you." Little trickles, like winter ice, phalanx by phalanx, pooling in frozen lakes between my knuckles. My wrists locked up in rigor mortis. All too soon, elbows, once clean and dry, hung limp, soaked in something frigid. Steady hands started to tremble. Healer hands. My hands. Mine.

"I love you." Like ladders of lightning, sensation snapped across my femurs, to strike hard at my chest. My chin. My tight jaw. My eyes snapped wide. Hairs atop my head, against my brow, behind my straining neck - all rose up like regiments. Like green recruits, like soon-to-die sons.

"You don't," a voice not quite my own answered. My voice was strong. Stern. Hard-earned afield.

That voice was weak. Trembling. Unsure. Interrogative. It wasn't mine. It couldn't be my voice.

"I do," he whispered. Eyes as red and dark as dried bloodstains looked up at me. Certain. Sure.

Around us lay two dozen bodies, two dozen of my former countrymen. They lay in bits and broken halves, like a butcher's bloody practice, laid across their prince like dry wood for his pyre. With him, my hope would have burned. He'd killed them all. So many before. So many to come.

"I love you," whispered the monster man, the hell soldier, the iron door to Hell. I felt his heartbeat underneath my palms, an inhuman cantering rhythm that tried and failed to match my own racing heart. His heart was covered by hard, scarred flesh, sewn close by a lacing of my hair.

"You saved my life," he whispered. "It is yours." The blood taste in my mouth turned to gorge. 

I didn't dare let myself weep. I knew exactly what he was. Surgery, bloody and exact. My tool.

"I love you, too," I lied. The iron door to Hell, underneath my hands. A heart more like a demon.

My kind healer's needle made the perfect key.

Prompt: A locked-away Anonymous asked me:

A keyless door

(c) 2013 Lawerence Hawkins. Seeking likes, reblogs, writing prompts, and your attention.

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One passport with the wrong name.

Three yellowish-green apples.

200 euros, the only things still crisp and clean in a tight, plastic wrap.

One 7-inch KA-BAR fighting/utility knife. A gift from her father.

The girl had everything she needed to survive. Everything material, anyway. She had her pack, the kind of layered clothes that could cover three of four seasons, and she even had a mission.

The girl was 12 years old, but it was up to her to own Cythera by her eighteenth birthday.

She didn't want an island. She'd have preferred a nicer backpack, but Mama had insisted.

So now the girl was, but wasn't, Aphrodite Constantinopouli, a name she didn't like but couldn't change. She was wet, cold, and tired from the inflatable raft ride to the harbor. Aphrodite hadn't landed in Greece with quite the style of her new namesake. The girl knew the story and hated it.

She'd have preferred a nice plane, one that served frappe, but Mama had insisted.

She smelled like the kind of ocean that saw ships - not schooners, but the kinds of ships that work for a living. So she took her hated passport, traded an apple for a chance to shower, hid the euros in the soles of her practical hiking books, and wrapped the KA-BAR's sheath to an easy draw at her back. She had everything she needed to survive. Everything material, anyway.

She'd rather have gone to boarding school with friends. Boys, maybe. Girls, maybe. Science class.

She'd have preferred a lot of things, but Mama had insisted. She couldn't say no. Who could?

She had to buy new clothes without bloodstains by the second night. She didn't have to use her own euros. By then, she had four-hundred and thirty-seven sticky and iron-scented bills.

She didn't like it, even if didn't feel right or wrong. She didn't want to be normal; just nice.

But Mama had insisted. 

Prompt: A negligent Anonymous asked me:
Write about a little girl in a foreign country.

Pardon the rough work. On the road, thoroughly exhausted, and experimenting with hooks.

(c) 2013 Lawerence Hawkins. Seeking writing prompts, questions, feedback, review requests, etc.

0 0 0


I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by Sleeping at Last on Grooveshark


There's nothing wrong with silly little love songs. There's something wrong with heaviness.

I sat there, propped against a door and buried in the road dust of a dozen years. I couldn't see my face reflected in the little mirror wind-chimes anymore. My legs were too long and couldn't hold me up. The cracked white porch. The cracked white swinging chair, half-cracked and half slapped to the ground. Worn and weathered, that was us. Worn, weathered, and too heavy to fully fall.

So we lean.

I know there's nothing on the other side of that door. The road dust of a dozen years doesn't just wash away. I'll never be a boy again and you're already long gone and lighter than air. The only way to get less heavy is to fall, but we old things are heavy. We're stubborn. We're tough.

So we lean.

I'd cry if I still had tears in my chest, the kind of fluttering panic that used to move my eyes whenever you looked too hard at me. I'd get up, if I had anywhere to go. I'd fall over, if I had the strength. It would be comfortable with any company. Well. I had the door. The house. Time.

So we lean.

In time? Time will crumble us and we'll both be as light and free as the dust I couldn't touch.


Prompt: writeworld:

 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!

0 0 0

Unprompted: Before Dawn (TW: Suicide)

Mary Shelley couldn't have made me any more romantic. I'm just a mess of moods and pieces.

I'm so tired.

It goes deeper than what's left of my  marrow, down to the hollow air inside of sawed-off bones. Nerve connectors whistle on the wind each morning as I wake up, a mix of phantom limb and dry socket. It isn't pain, not really. It's the core behind the sounds and syllables. It's not a scream. It's the older, aching silence.

That's the kind of tired I am.

The kind of tired I was. I've wanted to let go so many times; I tried twice, early on. The first time, nine years ago, only my life died. The second time? Well, I've been working in the blinking black for the last seven years. Just like the project, I'm living salvage. Plug and play prostheses.

When I close my right hand around the wrist of a ladder bar, I remember the taste of a man's sweat, the color of his mahogany smile on cream sheets. His schematics and missed goodbyes.

When my spider legs mag-lock onto a section of outer hull, I remember a woman's honey. The pain of children. The joy of childbirth. The howling, vast depression that follows the end of both.

My heart is wrapped in construction paper monsters and songs I've never sung. I hum along.

My spine is hard, tough, scarred and ruggedized. It's seen too much. Done more. But we survive.

They call it neuroplastic residue, a side-effect of skill retention. I call it my reason to wake up.

The parts survive. Debris storms. Fires. Machinery malfuctions. Even a terror crash.

The parts made it. Marcus. Diana. Dongmei. Sergeant Raines. Even a wreck like me.

They believed in a tomorrow made of scraps, salvage, or tired hearts. It's shaping up. I think.

So I keep waking up.


Today's piece is prompted by some events I ran into in my personal life. I won't go into details, but I will say this. We are the ones we're waiting for. You can listen. You can speak. You can help others - in fact, that's all you can do. You can't save anyone, but you can help everyone.

And as I've said before - Keep going.

(c) 2013 Lawerence Hawkins


4 0 4

Red, Revisited

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