Saturday, February 4, 2012


Time for a "scary" story from my Fiction class ...

     A woman leaves the Surf and Turf and rounds the corner onto a now wet, deserted street, the moon absent from the void black sky. No-one should be out this time of night. The night hadn’t gone well, with another and last argument with that now, thankfully, exboyfriend. In the distance, the sound of traffic looms, as the city never sleeps. She starts her way alone along the stained concrete, of urban sprawls whose dwellers sleeps in multicolored quilts or a lover's fold; minds imaginably filled with easy, pleasant dreams. She looks up at a flickering streetlight, lights a cigarette and curses, smoke whisking behind her in the breeze, jacket collar pulled high, head low. The orange glow of the streetlights was reflected by shards of glass and puddles of water.
  There was a giggle from a girl and slam from the door and that was that, more stillness. The welcoming party ahead of her consists of a traffic-free street, adorned with burnt out butts, drenched newspapers and empty packets of cigarettes. The rain, as if to remind her of its presence, grows more intense for a second or two, then lingers in a mist. Now she just wanted to get home quickly before it’d rain further. The weather sure knew how to makes things depressing all the more. ‘Rain in January when it was supposed to snow? Where is the snow and ice, the white and diamonds that bend the light in all shades, bringing some life to the dirty muddy roads and melancholic grey trees?’

     She was cold, her lips pressed together; she resumed walking the darkened streets towards home. Almost immediately she hears the tap, tap, tapping of someone walking behind her. ‘Time to be cool’ … she picks up her pace. Tap Tap Tap. ‘Damn, they are speeding up!’ She sees a cab across the street about a block ahead and begins to cross towards it, trying to appear calm and composed. Suddenly she thinks better of it and stops, returning to her side of the street. She has heard things about pretty young women in cabs at night. Best to walk it. She continues on, but the tapping is closer now. TAP TAP TAP. She doesn’t want to run, never show panic, that’s what she learnt. But inside panic is building … quickly. She keeps her eyes open for a lit window, any house will do, just want safety. With a sigh of relief she finds one, but it is still quite far away. She speeds up again, hoping that whoever is following won’t notice. But they do! TAP TAP TAP! That’s it! Had enough! She begins to run, looking cool be damned! Closer and closer to that door. But they are running too! Taptaptaptap. Trying to go as fast as she can, but they are catching up! TapTapTapTap. Reaching the steps of the house, stumbling slightly, she reaches for the door. But then, a hand grabs her shoulder. She spins around and …

     … Finds herself looking into a pair of friendly brown eyes. It’s one of the bartenders from the club. He smiles, “No-one’s out to get you, you left your purse at the bar Miss, I followed you to give it back.”

     She almost falls to the porch in relief but he holds her up. She manages to whisper, “Thanks.” 

     The barman chuckles softly, “Sorry, if I scared you. You sure that you don’t want that cab?” After she nods her pretty head no he waves, “Have a good night, be safe.” He walks off in the opposite direction and she is alone again.

     Taking a moment to unwind, she continues to walk down the street. She hears the bells from the Holy Cross Catholic Church toll three; it is quite late into the night. The moonless sky overhead coupled with the subtle whistling of the wind sends chills down her spine. Plip Plip. Quickly swiveling her head, she frantically glanced around until she found the source; a leaky gutter, spilling droplets of rain water. Plip Plip. There’s a long sinister alleyway, shadowy and menacing, with its single source of light coming from a sickly amber light over a doorway, which causes her to quicken her step. Every once in a while she’d hear what sounded like a footstep behind her, but she knew that No-one in their right mind would be out this late at night, and that the depressing atmosphere was getting the better part of her imagination. The streets seem darker tonight, and the sounds seemed clearer. ‘It must be the cloudy, rainy skies,’ she figures …

     She grew more tired with every step, but there are only a few blocks to go before she’ll arrive at her cozy little apartment. She stopped to tie her shoelaces under the peculiar Willie’s Deli streetlight. Tonight the light decided to be on and it seemed to be smirking at her. Such a joker, it never seemed to care what anyone thought of it, and thus it could decide to take the night off and decide not to shine. Whenever I was reported broken it shone as brightly as ever, like nothing was wrong. It must get huge kicks out of it, she couldn’t think of any other reason for such behavior. Well, other than just to piss people off. You never know …

     She crossed the road and came to the entrance to the city park, which was so dark it made the street look as bright as day, as it seemed to suck all of the light from the area. She could not even make out the lights on the opposite side of the park. She nearly walked past the entrance, but stopped to ponder a moment. She knew that if she cut through the park she would save a few minutes from the trek, then again she was hesitant to enter. Her mother always had told her not to walk alone at night, telling her about grisly murders, always about the pretty young lady out on her own. ‘Why would anyone be in the park this late at night?’ ‘No-one,’ she answers herself. She mused a moment longer, she’s crossed it hundreds of times before, and then let out an uneasy laugh. Once more she was letting her imagination get the best of her. At last she reckoned that an extra fifteen minute walk, as she was dog-tired, did not warrant her to walk around the perimeter. She cautiously stepped into the entrance, taking a last drag off her cigarette and discarded the butt on the cobblestone walkway.

     She stopped for a moment as though to capture some of the crooked light before going into the darkness. Home is not far away, yet this spot has always creeped her for some reason. She set off further into the park, but couldn’t help but to think that on this night it seemed oddly unfamiliar. A few more yards in she turned her head around to see he park entrance, seemingly the only beacon of light in the void black park, and then continued on her way. The trees above were glistening, wet and bare, which contrasted with the thankfully, now seemingly, not-so-dark-sky. She could make out the silhouettes of the gnarled tree limbs moving in the wind, which seemed to have picked up a bit. A burnt out light in the parking lot stood like gallows in the shadows, she wonders why they never fix it.

     There it was again, the tapping sound on the stone, but then it stopped. Tap. Her heart sank, and the dread builds as the seconds tick by. “Let me be wrong.” A Northern Mockingbird takes flight. She now nervously smiled, “Just my imagination,” she whispered to herself. The entrance to the park was now well behind her, there was no going back. A flickering lamp came into view up ahead illuminating a bench, she pressed on. The tapping noise would start and subside at random intervals; she tried to imagine them as tree branches colliding in the wind, although she knew in her minds-eye that it was not. Nearing the bench, there seemed to be a sense of salvation, almost as though the light would keep her nightmares at bay. Perhaps it was foolish … Nevertheless she did not care. When she got to the light she found that she was short of breath, noticing how hasty she had been, her legs began to ache with fatigue. She reached into her pocket for her Marlboro’s, only to realize it was empty, she crumpled her pack and tossed it indignantly towards an open trash can. As her heavy breathing stopped, she tried once more to rationalize. The tapping was mute; her ears were playing tricks on her. Nothing more.

     The damp, porous, wooden bench under her creaked, as though it felt to be called to bring her to terms. She knew what it wanted to say. She should go, because it was senseless to wait for something, which would never happen. After resting a minute or two, she turned and started on her way. But there it was again, the tapping on stone. Her mind ran wild picturing night prowlers, drug addicts, vampires and monsters of every kind rushing after her in the darkness. Ha! Later she’d lie in her comfy warm bed and laugh about what a silly unaware child she had been. In the distance the old Holy Cross Catholic Church sounded once more –one chime- three-thirty.

     She continued on the long winding path, trying to ignore the sounds at her back when … Was that an animal? A quick but smooth movement caught her eye in her periphery. Must have been, No-one is out in the park this time of night. Without hesitation she quickened her step and moved on. The sound was more consistent now. Tap, tap, tap, and tap, each time sounding closer and closer together. Her heart begins pounding like thunder; she began to vigorously grind her teeth as she attempted to move even faster. The shadows danced at her back, heckling her futile attempt to escape their cold dark embrace.

     Even at the end of her wits, and while her legs burned as if on fire, her feet numb, she thought over and over in her head: ‘No-one would be out at this time of night’, ‘No-one would be in a dark park at half past three in the morning,’ ‘No-one would be out at this hour.’ The shadows seemed to wrap around her from behind, closing its grip around her throat. She opened her mouth to scream but no sound came out.  She tried and tried to cry out but still no sound came. Thump, thump, thump. Her feet moved at a mile a minute, her mind raced even faster, but she seemed to go no-where. She tried yet again to let out a shrill scream for help, for mercy. But all that escaped was a small amount of air and a bit of saliva. Her feet thrashed, looking for ground, no-where to be found. She gasped for air, her throat would not allow. She felt a sharp pain at her side, and again, and again, and once more. The pressure from her throat ceased, but her cries for help revealed only a hoarse whisper as she stared up into the darkness trying in vain to see anything.

      The now sure-to-be footsteps confidently dwindled away into the darkness. Now another sound joined the gnarled tree limbs moving in the wind, a pair of lips whistling “Silent Night,” tantalizing her. As it died away into the dimness of her fading conscience, her mind replayed over and over. ‘No-one walks the park this time of night.’ ‘No-one is out in the dark at three-thirty in the morning.’

     She was quite right. No-one in fact was out in the night, and now only No-one knows where the pretty girl was, so late that January night.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

... And Sing To Me

In fiction class we were to choose a season and write a story with it in mind. Here is what came of it ...

… And Sing To Me

“There is magic in the hearts of people, a magic by the name of hope and compassion. And in the darkest moments, this magic is the only light we have.”
                                         ~Author Unknown So Far

     In dreams, wild untamed thoughts can take wing and soar into the depths of the imagination, creating mysterious worlds where the lines between the real and the unreal are often obscured. Truths and fictions weave as one thread to create luminous memories. The ancient Celts were said to believe that there are thin places that not only transcend the senses, but transcend the boundaries of time and space. It is a realm of infinite possibilities. Who is to say they are mistaken? Fantasy is like thousands of flickering candle flames set in the dark like stars. Most of the flames were unremarkable; they sputtered and were swallowed by the darkness in quick succession. But every so often there would be a flame that was so full of magic that burns brighter than the rest. The darkness retreated from its terrible glow, and the flames around it burned all the brighter. And even if the bright flame dies out, oh how brightly it burned! This is how it began …
     The scent of pine trees fills the air. On an icy evening in December, snow fell from the sky and caressed the earth with a glow that seemed to come from angels. There are no other people for miles around, and the forest lays silent except for the soft sound of a gentle wind caressing the trees. It whispered melodies in a language to ancient to fully understand. If you close your eyes you can drift away from the industry and hardships of modern life and return to a simpler primal time, a time when we were one with the boundless forest. Leafless trees trembled and concealed sparrows arose with circling beauty.
     Eli was cold. Terribly cold. Breath steams the air as his feet crunch on the ground. He stopped and looked at his red and numb hands as he raised them toward his face. Skin seemed to flake from shaking fingers before they were shoved deep into jacket pockets. He wrapped his narrow fingers tightly around a cracked compass, his last remaining tether to a recognizable world.
     A cool breeze gently brushed across his reddening face. Eli couldn’t bring to mind much of this time outside the forest well enough to say what exactly he was thinking about. “Why was I out here at all?” But with or without knowing the reason, there he was at the mouth of the forest. He stopped moving and looked up to the grey sky; it had started to snow again, sending zillions of crystalline flakes down to Earth. With each gust of wind the trees danced in tune with the breeze. It seemed as though the trees and the forest itself was breathing.
     Whether it was that or something else, Eli was drawn into the woods.
     The forest pulled him in.

     Eli awoke to a feeling that could only relate to vertigo. He felt lost. Fear was there, of that he was certain, but it took an immediate backseat to his own captivation and reckless infatuation with the world around him. His eyes were open; being sure they would not close again.
     He arose from a stone table which was standing alone in the heart of the woods. It was in a pleasant clearing. Not too large; nor too small, and the surrounding trees were a pleasant and greenish green under their snowy veneer. Turning around it was surprising to notice that the table had no snow on the top of it. Now seeing that at any other time would have mystified a man. But, at that moment, there seem to be so many other imperative things other than a stone block that collected no snow on a winter’s morn.
     Curiosity overtook everything that morning.
     Looking back, Eli realized that with the inexplicable he really should have been anxious. Using logic, one waking up in a strange place, with no understanding of how he got there, would be troubled, if not outright frightened. To a logical person, in a logical situation, this could truly be terrifying!
     Curiosity overtook logic that morning.
     Eli became intoxicated with the dreamlike beauty of the forest. The perfect white of the snow, the nakedness of the frozen trees, the eternal rhythm of death and rebirth, the beautiful innocence of nature encircled him. He softly exhaled and dropped to his knees in the fresh, soft white powder. He dug his hands into the snow playfully and lifted up two handfuls, then slowly let it drop to its original spot. Watching the spot for a few moments, then lifting his head, scanning with his deep indigo eyes what lay in store around him. However, there was nothing … Nothing but the miles of crystalline snow and his footprints behind him. Eli turned his head toward the sounds of animals in the distance, trying to stay warm on this crisp morning. And that was when he realized that he was not cold whatsoever. He couldn’t help but notice that while inspecting his hands, which were once raw and red, they were now simply his hands.
     And unexpectedly, a different thought crashed into his mind: It just might not have been the next morning at all. It’s possible it could have been days - weeks – later. You know, a rational mind considers the possibility of these things. And it’s a rational mind that comes to fear them, after which it’s the rational mind that dismisses them out of hand.
     Curiosity overtook rationality that morning.
     Eli ambled over to the stone table, running his hands over the reflective slate. His gaze wandered through the snow covered everything. A gentle breeze swept snow from the canopy in a powdery cascade. With lifted arms, he felt alive with the forest. Closing his eyes, it was felt within. He inhaled deep, deeper than ever before. There was this feeling of being one with the woods which was enticing his spirit. Memories were an anthology of lives he'd never lived. He was a writer, a singer, a painter, a pianist, an architect, a doctor, a teacher, an engineer.  Eli had seen everything and nothing, and so now he needed to travel, to see everything again or for the first time. This was the day, the hour, and the minute he would start looking at and beyond everything that enveloped him. Losing him, losing reality, losing everything …
     Something was heard in the far-off distance and that something brought him back. Standing completely still, there came the recognition that it was a voice. A woman’s voice; by far the most beautiful thing that he had ever heard. The notes were soft at first but slowly rose. The ring was like ivory bells - not silver. Silver? Too common; anyone can have a silver voice. No, hers was carved of ivory, incandescently glowing. Creamy bone freckled with drops of shining beauty. Eli listened to it and was captivated. A last he opened his eyes and mused, not the origin, but the sound. The sound of it alone made him forget his station in the clearing. It was suddenly forgotten how alive and on fire the forest had made him, as the sound of the lady’s voice made him being more alive than even the forest could.
     Eli found that the beauty of that voice resonating had brought him to his knees, even tears; it was known in the depths of the heart -his very bones- that this voice was why he was drawn, no pulled, to this place. That voice gave meaning to the senselessness and filled in the pauses left in his heart by the secrets of the woods. It was understood, at that very moment in time, that the melody was meant for him.
     “I need to find this woman!”
     But alas, the sound of her exquisite voice was fading, fighting a losing battle against the subtle sounds of the forest and the graceful mourning doves. She was fading into the deepness of the snow covered trees, dulling the sound, where soon the silent breeze would erase what little beauty of her song remained.
     This just cannot be allowed to happen! After having that splendor, it just couldn’t be given up. It wouldn’t! Eli had to find it … Follow it …. Take it. He needed it!
     Rising from his knees, he absently brushed off the snow and began to follow the distant sounds into the thick of trees, and the darkening wilderness. Trying his best to squeeze through apertures of the snow kissed trees, which were becoming ever more difficult to negotiate. Crafting a way through corridors and leafless thickets lashing sleeves and legs, he forged ahead. The mist creeps closer covering the forest like a cape. Moving as quickly as possible, with legs feeling like stone. But despite all the effort, he didn’t make it to her voice.
     Her call stopped. The magnificence hadn’t gone entirely. Each astonishing note was etched into his memory, and engraved on his soul. Lord knows how much he needed it back. His mind wasn’t allowing for anything less. Eli backed himself into a tree and allowed himself to slide down, slowly catching his breath. Tears gradually fell in sorrow. The sun’s rays spun silver. In the end he fell asleep in the still quiet of the winter’s morning.
     Eli slept for a long time after that.

     Waking up, the first thoughts are of her. A smile spreads to his face as he considers her voice. “If only” he whispers, “I wish we could be …” Sunshine was streaming around him, dappling the earth and turning the misty air gold. A tear rolled down his cheek as he rolled over and knew that she was gone. Another fell as it was recognized that she was never there. What had transpired seemed as if only a dream.  It was some distant fantasy Eli couldn’t bring himself to entirely remember. Everything condensed to a speck of dust, floating through the corridors of his mind.
     The time that was spent sleeping was not an empirical fact that could be recalled with any certainty. The sun was high in the blue morning sky, so it was either still late in the morning, or this was later … Far later. Eli managed to suppress any doubts of time and simply convinced himself that it was only a couple of hours later in the same day. It was feeling cold again and the curiosity has all but evaporated.  Vertigo too had turned its unpleasant head toward him; and fear had revisited to play a bit part in the family of things. It was time to leave the forest then, but …
     “Where is the way?”
     Eli began to walk toward the rising sun, although he knew not the reason why. Maybe it was just assumed that if one walked in any one direction long enough and far enough, one should, by all logical and rational means, reach the end of such a place. Then again, maybe he wasn’t thinking much at all.
     Hours slid past. The pit of his stomach is hollow, empty. Nothing fills it. His skin was red and stung like an inferno from the cruel cold. A breeze began to pick up and Eli tucked his arms under his shoulders, and his chin to his chest for warmth. The whispering of old wood, groaned as it strained against the cold which filled his ears. Clenching his fists, he kept walking. The pain of his nails digging into his palms kept his mind off the trees and predicament. Some of their bark, so wanting of color it looked to be blackish-gray, seemed warped. Knotholes made misshapen eyes, apparently peering out at him from mutated skulls of wood. The wind traced over his shoulders. There were the spreading stages of giving up hope of ever escaping this hopeless place.
     That was when it was heard again.
     The voice. Her voice! The Lady’s exquisite voice was trickling through the trees. Soon it began to ring loudly and distinctly through the crisp smells of forest pine. It was coming from the direction he was headed! Eli ran.
     Wasting no time he was soon racing up the gentle grade at a full on sprint, heedless of stray branches that may have drifted in his way. With every beat of his heart, with every breath of his lungs, her voice grew louder, and in some unknown way even more wonderful. He ascended the rise, and the river below began to impart harmony. The sweet melody resonated as he ran down through the trees faster and faster, kicking up clumps of snow in his wake. Some might propose that it was the running through the forest that had made every part of him regained warmth. But no one would be able to convince Eli, now, then or forevermore, that it could be anything but her.
     Finally he skidded to a stop, and away went the voice.
     Eli was there.
     She began to sing again. It was still so beautiful. The beguiling tune made gentle love to his ears. It was as delicate as a Lotus petal, yet as powerful as a full symphony performing Beethoven. Standing at the mouth of the river, frozen with both ice and time, he finally saw her. She was walking along its solid surface, singing her pure melody, and without as much as a glance, toying playfully with his fascination. She, with her long silver hair, and elegant long ivory colored dress, was as beautiful as the song she sung. From the beginning he just wanted to lay back and watch her sing. Just to pass the time looking into her eyes, and engaging himself to her song, was everything Eli would ever need to do.
     As she walked there was heard a cracking beneath her feet, a minor fracture, and an imperceptible slim line. Quickly a spider web of crevices spread across the surface with growing speed. The ice groaned and popped. Abruptly … The Lady fell into fragments of crystal, plunging into the freezing depths, and the song drowned away with her, taking with it every part of Eli.
     He needed it back. “I need her!”
     Without thinking, without logic, without rationality, and so swift as to be without fear, he leaped into the abyss after her. It was a mistake he would ever regret. They were both in the water. There, together, they at last looked into each other’s eyes. And in that split second, they knew. And suddenly the world was warm and soft – suddenly, time stood frozen, spellbound.
     Eli outstretched his arm and extended his fingers. She clung to them, and he pulled her to him. Together they swam against the flow of the river towards the chasm in the ice. The struggle was excruciating. Each stroke was a meager attempt against the prodigious current. Every second seemed like an hour, every minute seemed like an eternity. The frigid water seemed as a vice holding on to him. Yet … with her he felt warm, with her, they prevailed. Reaching the fracture, Eli pulled with everything he possibly had left, and lifted her onto the ice. She turned to help pull him on the icy surface.
     Arm in arm, she helped him to the bank where she laid him down in the snow. She kissed him sweetly on his forehead and whispered into his ear, “Thank you.”
     After that his memory dissolves …
     Eli awakened in a cabin which was clearly in the woods. The scent of cedars and firs hung in the air. Across the room was a fireplace, its lingering crimson color, dancing around, painting the walls. And she was there, gazing very gently towards him. She rose from her Bentwood chair, bent over him, hair softly brushing his arm and touched his face with her smooth hand. “You saved me” she began, “Thank you, thank you so much.”
     “You want to thank me?” Eli asked pulling away. “More than anything!” she exclaimed, her eyes watering, smile spreading.
     “Then let me close my eyes …” he said, pausing again, “… And sing to me.”
     Every so often there is a flame that was so full of magic that burns brighter than the rest. All Eli did know was that he wasn't dreaming. And he had taken the final step into the light.

*The End*