Threads of Light

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Threads of Light

Thank you Chelsea! Follow her on Twitter @Infinitevirtu.

Luminous clichés hide the truth that we refuse to acknowledge, out of hope or mere apathy. Surfaces absorb them, morph them into perspective and reflect our personalities like mirrors. Sure, we’re afraid of the dark, but we should be afraid of light; its illusions and misdirection. We ignore the reflections, maybe because they travel deeper within us than we’re comfortable with. But it’s not the light that binds us–light is invisible.

Grandma was blind; simple cataracts really. She was old, so no one was surprised. We were shocked when she refused of surgery, though. “I already have a lifetime of palettes,” she defended, but only once. At first, lines blurred, then whole images. Soon after, her vision diluted into Starry Nights and eventually blinked out entirely. She never seemed to notice, but I did.

From then on, piles of quilt work covered her as she worked, strictly from memory. Frail hands picked expertly at the cloth, as if she’d never once saw her own work. They tremored slightly with each push of the needle, but never faltered. Each night, mom would help her to bed, setting her work aside for the next day.

I couldn’t look into her eyes anymore. Her flesh, though wrinkled, pulsed with life, but her eyes, clouded with gray cream from the cataracts, buried the her I knew. The light from her lamp used to shine into her pupils, forming tumblers of wisdom that she poured back into mine. I could never remember the intricate details of her stories, but I always felt fuller after each tale. We used to talk every day after school, for at least a few minutes. I’ve avoided her room since. It’s empty and grey and void of substance. Someone foreign lurks within, boxed up, wrapped in old newspaper and tied shut with black twine. I knew that the box was empty; I could see it from her doorway.

*  *  *

I justified grandma’s passing in every rational way possible. Numbed behind logic and fear of the unknown, I marched systemically into and out of the proper functions, exercising rehearsed decorum. Shake hands, head down, say thank you, try to remember her friend you met two years ago, who still wants to know how her cookies tasted, tell her they were great. The routine distracted from reality, but the absence of loss hurt the most, and I blamed her for closing the levee–for hiding the her within.

A couple of weeks later, I snuck into her old room. There was no reason, no search. It looked almost as I expected: grey and dusty. Her life, however, filled every corner. Pictures from past vacations and births of my brothers and me, antique dolls with fading red lips and cheeks, and a rainbow pile of knitting materials in a basket hid the emptiness, I thought; illusions. But something rattled in the box, so I decided to rip it open.

In her closet, quilts lay stacked up to my waist. Each one a myriad of different colors; each one spilling a story of which I’ve heard a thousand times but ignored the details. On top lay a single piece of loose leaf paper with the fringes still attached. It was folded in three parts with a bright purple string of yarn tied into a bow over the top of my name, which was written sloppily in pencil. As I untied the note, I thought about how she used to smile when she told her stories. Even the sad ones, she reflected on how they led her to these moments with me, which she said she wouldn’t trade for anything. I started to realize that she saw more color blind than I did in plain sight. Her shell reflected upon me, and I chose to see grey. It turns out it wasn’t her shell in the first place, but my own, and it was colorless, grey, and empty.

I lay the note on the stack of quilts. Grandma’s lamp shined over and around my shoulders. The sloppy letters, framed by multihued fabric, reflected back into me in black and white, “Have a lifetime of palettes.”

The Rebellion

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Thank you Chelsea! Follow her on Twitter @Infinitevirtu.

Thank you Chelsea! Follow her on Twitter @Infinitevirtu.

He hated mud, especially the way it locked his boots in place. Each step took three times more energy as walking on pavement, which he thought horribly inefficient. Still the teenager trudged forth with soft sighs and mucky suction cups. He didn’t want to admit that his grandfather, although much older, seemed to glide through the trails on ice skates while he struggled. Sweat trickled onto his shirt sleeve as he wondered how many more times they would make the trek. “The old bastard can’t live forever,” he thought, out of jealousy more than spite–also while quietly gasping for elusive oxygen.

The two swam through smothering humidity, suitable for the high time of the year, which his grandfather almost always seemed to schedule instinctively. Resentment ran as thick as the atmosphere, but less than the swarms of mosquitoes. If he thought it would help, he would uncap his plastic bottle of Off bug spray and digest each and every drop. Years of experience, and hundreds of scratching scars, taught him the futility of escape. Like years past, he would watch in envy as each individual parasite veered evasively from his grandfather and attacked him instead. He became a master of the quick slap.

Not long into their hike, the air struck them with a dank and putrid smell. It consumed him the way the unfamiliar often does. Just off of the trail lay a whitetail, gutted innards resting in a pool of red. A small slab of pink hung from it’s mouth, it’s empty eyes staring daggers into the wood, and a puddle of blood sat on it’s head where the antlers were removed. The wounds were imprecise and sloppy–less the hands of a surgeon, but a child pulling dandelions in eager anticipation of his mother’s response. As he stared into the deer’s eyes, the smell disappeared and the playful sounds of nature stopped. Movement stopped, the world turned white. Loneliness swept over him, and he never felt younger.

He mustered focus and muttered a simple, “why?”

“Humans hate freedom. It eludes us in the day to day until days no longer come. We are guided by this hatred, digging our heels deeper into enslavement. Freedom is powerful, and we are not. Laws and bylaws and clauses and promissory notes and amendments are guised by safety. They’re not safe, they’re power mulchers, and when someone breaks the rules, it reminds us of how powerless we really are. Nature does not follow our rules. Lawyers cannot dictate terms to a pine, nor an owl. Their freedom is abundantly powerful, and it frustrates us to no end. They do not respect our reign. Each liberating breath is a reminder of what we have cease to be and will never be again. To fill our void, we reduce freedom to rubble–we take trophies that are chain links and locks made of flesh. We are lost.”

His grandfather stood weathered–a nail beaten sorely into steel. For the first time, he felt somehow sturdier and fresher than the old man, but mostly he felt uncomfortable. Death, although less intense than before, refilled his nose. Mud reappeared beneath his feet, surrounded by the woods and fading green. He pulled his lucky rabbits foot from his pocket, calming himself by shifting it in his hands, and left the deer behind.

Soles of our Shoes

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This story marks the start of  new challenge for me. As often as possible, my good friend Chelsea Carbonell (Twitter: @infinitevirtu) and talented photographer, is going to send me a picture. Using that picture, I will try to create some sort of relevant story. My goal is that this will force me to write more and motivate her to get out and find interesting photographs. Either way, it’s going to be a blast for the both of us, and I already cannot wait for the next picture! Visit her twitter and give her some love if you like her pictures.

Soles of our Shoes

Thank you Chelsea! Follow her on Twitter @Infinitevirtu.

“But I miss the mountains,” she complained, “plus, it’s so hot.”

“No sense talking about that now. Would you like some water?”

She nodded, and he fished a bottle from the old suitcase he was carrying. The bottle crinkled under his grip and the contents were warm, but he handed it to her anyways.

His suit had faded from a dark to a light gray. He used to wear it to special occasions, like when he received his first promotion or when their grandson turned one, but he has long since retired. Now, the cuffs spliced into ragged shards, no longer held together by links–he lost one of them miles back and discarded the other for sake of symmetry. He loosened his top button and tie, wearing it lower along his chest. Everything in shambles, especially the shoes, which held together by thin sinews of leather.

They walked south along a desert road, flat as boredom and everlasting. To the west, an old railroad paralleled their path, cutting them off from a distant rolling of hills. No trains had passed since they have been walking, but the distant crossing lights seemed operational. Above all else, however, they noticed the heat; not heavy, but oppressive nonetheless. It wore them to the core without compassion nor escape. Yet, they kept walking.

“Does your hand hurt? Let me take your suitcase, darling.”

Together, they inched along, best friends understanding without talking. Up ahead they noticed a man standing at a road crossing over the rail. They had seen crossings before, but never thought to, or were never called to go over them. He leaned against a sign with one leg propped up. He wore a black baseball cap, faded and dirtied by the desert heat. A cigarette hung from his lips as he looked towards the ground, raising them calmly only when the old man spoke.

“Where does this lead?,” the old man inquired.

“Down a’ways is a rest stop. Ain’t much but a place to rest your head.”

“How far? We have been walking for a long time.”

“Not sure, but I’ll take y’ there.”

“What is your name?”

“Charro.”

“That’s a unique name.”

“These are unique times.”

The old man handed over their suitcases, and together, all three crossed the tracks and continued down the road.

Circles in the Dirt – Chapter 1: Transformation

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Thank you for reading! This is an unedited teaser for my upcoming novel Circles in the Dirt. I hope you enjoy it. Please comment anything positive or negative.


It’s not everyday we’re asked to walk in circles; in fact, we have such few opportunities that we often confuse the duty with a tedious chore. Each ungrateful step takes us bounds away from the greatest elusive truth–we’re alive, and that alone is a power immeasurable.
I measured each step against two and a half adjacent logs firmly impales into the ground. Two and a half logs paced steps in perfect rhythm, like walking to the ticks of a metronome. When I was young, I did the same thing to slabs of concrete, except I had to reach for each crack to catch tempo. The routine soothed me, only I haven’t seen a slab of concrete since everything changed, parted, disappeared.
Beforehand, people toyed with “The End” like some sort of heroic romance. Stories on screens and games painted a pastoral collapse of society, survived by men clad in futuristic armor or purposely ratty outfits paired by professional stylists, armed with automatic weapons–a population of modern, yet primitive, ubermensch. They ran camps like the old wild west I used to hear stories about, shooting aimlessly at beast and man alike. Most importantly, their mortality depended more on dramatic shock value than danger, accident, or lack of survival skills. They were heroes of inarguable moral and physical stature.
In reality, however, the world transformed imperfectly. Bullets and psychological medication drew thin, then ran out. Those who casually planned intricate escape plans panicked or turned to violence and ended up wiping themselves out. Many gaudy business men and their families sought shelter in bunkers designed for myths. Isolated and alone, most turned to familial homicide motivated by mercy or overwhelming solitude. When preparation became reality, guidebooks reduced to kindling.
Initially, survival depended on an intricate balance of innate human drive and compassion. The hopeless gave up while the fanatics killed each other off. In the same way, the charitable were discarded by the self-seeking. Towns and cities collapsed under politicians whose only powers were twisting words and marshal law, which lasted until local aid stockpiles diminished. Then, all structure and logic wilted and decayed just as most of the crops had months before. The chaos spread from city centers, reaching the outer suburbs, where the stubborn and naive recognized their mistakes but were too late. Our country neighbors who came together, however, overcame. Through painful sacrifice and often irrational altruism, pockets of survivors from the area eked past the initial surge of violence, famine, and pestilence, but not without losing loved ones.
There were no celebrations, no comic relief, nor heroic expressions of love. Each day number than the last, passion meant sharing a can of food and helping to bury, or burn, dead family members. But with small triumphs and greater tragedies hung faces like nature: dry, grey, and expressionless–droning survivalists both.
From these pockets formed our ragged tribe, and from the tribe, a sense of isolation driven by collective fear. My mom looked skeptical when the elder men decided to construct Endo, but hid her protest behind quiet, shy eyes. A year and a half later, a wooden palisade hidden within dying foliage surrounded us;  a blanket of comfort, according to mom, separating truth and struggle from reality–a sense of security to the rest of us.
Since our world shrank to just over a square mile, each day a member of the community endures the responsibility of walking the entire perimeter of the fortress; a duty called circumventing, which involves checking the wall for damage or breaches. Besides a few minor repairs, nothing has ever been reported. Circumventing is better spent day dreaming and making up meaningless games, like timing steps according to log placement. And so I walked in circles, carefully distancing each ungrateful step.
I wondered about the unnamed warriors mom used to describe in stories meant to drown out the groans of pain and starvation around us. My favorite traversed violent oceans, fought enemies of both natural and supernatural realms, and returned a couple decades later to reunite with his family. She always told me there was more to the ending, but never actually finished. I guess she didn’t feel stories, nor circles, were meant for finishing. “Two and a half logs a step,” I shook myself, refocusing on the dull eluding of truths.

 

Burrow

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My feet sank into the open holes two at a time and locked into place. I lifted the soft polyester past my knees and up to my waist, feeling each inch cling and squeeze until I couldn’t bend anymore. Suspenders fit over my young shoulders, assuring that I could roll around in the cold for hours and remain unscathed. After I fitted myself with the hat and gloves left on the heater from the day before, I escaped into the light.

I hated the kids who wore jeans in the snow. Sure, they wore a layer of long johns and another of regular sweats underneath and swore they would be fine, but they always quickly gave in to hot chocolate and video games. Just the day before, I spent an hour designing and building a snowboard ramp with a denim clad friend, only to jump it by myself for 15 minutes until boredom took over and I left. I couldn’t trust them, so today I decided to go it alone.

The blizzard from the night before generously blanketed the yard and roads with enough snow to stop the small town country busses long enough for the local news to catch wind and declare our freedom. Drifts pushed piles of only the best packing snow next to trees, stumps and hills, creating prime conditions for a snow fortress. Choosing the best foundation required meticulous attention to detail. Too steep and the hole could only be so wide, too shallow and the hole could only be so deep. After careful examination, a small hill appeared to have caught an impressively balanced mound. I speared my fingers into oblivion and started digging.

Proper fort building snow doesn’t pepper off like sand, but compacts into neat little heaps that serve to remove easily and gel around newly formed strongholds. Due to good fortune and impeccable planning, I disappeared—almost entirely—within the mound in a manner of minutes. Though a dim light from the clouded sky snuck in, when enveloped within the icy fort, the wind and the world ceased. At once, I noticed to myself that escaping into the cold is actually remarkably warm. I figured that, even if I had worn jeans, I could survive comfortably tucked away.

As I sat reclined with my back against a rounded wall and my legs fully extended, nothing moved. The air, though surprisingly warm, nearly froze. My breaths paused at my lips, retreated back into my lungs, and repeated consecutively. I stared at my feet, admiring the odd serenity of my formidable construction, just as I noticed a dull rumble outside. Unsure if it just began or always was, I reasoned my options and determined that digging deeper was indeed the safest plan of action.

At first, the snow moved like blocks of ice, with each chunk needing laborious attention, but there was no immediate rush. The rumble was soft and, despite the difficulty, the worked seemed curiously like play. Each foot I descended meant one more to brag about to the jean kids, but the rumbling continued, actually increasing in volume and vibration. To ignore the distraction, I carefully plugged the hole and packed it tight. The only light now seeped unwillingly through the fort’s thin crust roof.

By now, the snow moved much easier, but my makeshift sound buffer struggled to reduce the increasing violence outside. There would be no escape, I decided, and panic set in. I dug furiously downward thinking that I would reach ground and feel anchored once again, but the ground never came. Like the world outside, it disappeared or eluded me. In desperation, I vigilantly packed each new handful of snow at the top, hoping to drown out the noise and protect myself from whatever biblical catastrophe occurred outside. With the increasing darkness returned comfortable stillness and a sense of safe familiarity—an escape from imminent and uncertain obliteration.

There I sat content in a drift upon a mound; a slight, unnoticeable depression upon a disaster upon a world of which I ingeniously escaped. For now, though time stood still with my feet and my breath, I was secure from the rumbling above. My snow pants and snow ceiling kept my warm. I didn’t know if a mug of hot chocolate waited for me on the kitchen table or if the world I loved cosmically vanished, but I liked the unmovable stillness—I decided to stay.

Snow Hole

http://www.summitpost.org/snow-hole/738637

Wind Power

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50 feet above our heads, perfect blades chopped through the open air. We sat far enough from the freeway that the low hum of wind on metal resonated. “I feel so small,” she always said to me, and so I felt, sitting illegally in a long since harvested corn field, deep into a damp spring with her by my side. I tried to enjoy feeling invisible, even though I knew that the last time we kissed, I would disappear entirely.

If you look west from I-75 south about two miles from exit 181, beyond the horizon of Midwest agriculture turns a set of light grey windmills. They are not a secret, though finding them while returning to school initiates me into the exclusive many who care to search. They used to welcome me home, but now each turn is a perpetual reminder that, while they are dwarfed by their surroundings from a distance, up close they truly are giants.

People I pretend to trust tell me to let go. They point out the obvious–that I’m picky and idealistic. “You just need to take a leap of faith,” they repeat over holiday meals. Apparently, there are a slew of actions I “just need to take” in order to curb their judgment of my love life. What they don’t care enough to find out is that I’m too crippled to leap, and that I left my faith in a muddy field of Bowling Green, Ohio, along with my idealistic dreams of overwhelmingly irrational love.

I took a walk with her once, down a snow covered path plowed by the footsteps of those who, like me, droned through life often without looking. She pointed to a lone tree in the middle of a snow covered canvass which felled the tree and made it stand like a meticulous binary painting on the wall. When she wanted to escape, she told me, she would sit under that tree and marvel at how easy hiding in plain sight could be. Out there, she became merely part of the scenery–an illusion important to no one but those who cared enough to look closely. I always noticed her most when she shrank, or I looked more closely. In ether case, my dreams stood high on easels, then disappeared at every turn.

I took her to the windmills to shrink, hoping that if we were close enough, we might lose ourselves together in the same impervious image. We sat at the base, staring up at the blades, listening to the low hum and saying nothing. Her perfume sparked the towers to life. I tried to hide with her. I tried to protect her from giants and from feeling small and from those who couldn’t find her when she did. I kissed her, dropped her off, and shriveled out of existence.

Image

http://pics3.imagezone.org/image/bowling%20green%20ohio%20wind%20turbines#