This day is history. Just like yesterday and just like the day before that. Every second becomes a relic of time, a passing blink of an eye that no one will remember. The only way to make them remember is to make that second memorable. Do something that shocks the world, causes it to freeze in place and turn around slowly to stare, open-mouthed, at what you’ve done. You need to send a message, written in the ink of champions.
Unlock that drawer in the basement with that special key, and pull out your beautiful instrument. Dust it off, rub on the shine, clean out the release and load the history makers. Prepare it for the legend it will soon become. Make it ready to face the world after it has done its job, and made a difference.
Head out to the car, and throw the utensil of your reckoning in the back seat. Start up the engine with a series of clicks, snorts, and puffs of dinosaur-scented smoke. Press on the pedal, and speed off to the location of history’s newest creation.
You arrive, and steady yourself before stepping out of the car. This is a big moment, and wasting a second of it on worry is simply a waste. You get out, and breathe in the air of a new day of history. A sun shines down on you, like a heavenly body telling you everything is perfect. You were born for this day.
You grab your instrument, and head towards the doors of the building you’ve arrived at. A sign above the doors tells you exactly what you want to know. This is the place where new humans are sent to become great, so that they may make history one day as well. You never went to one, but you’re about to make a much bigger difference than they ever will. You’re better.
A desk stands off to one side, a guardian of youth sitting behind it. You approach calmly, yet when she glances up she screams. You tire of her inability to cooperate with history’s newest hero, and so you eliminate her with the pluck of your instruments sensitive strings. She is silenced by your amazing beauty, so shocked that she collapses onto the desk in a faint.
Men run out of doorways, yelling and screaming in terror. They cannot comprehend your genius. You swing to and fro, politely quieting their fears by playing magic on your instrument, and one by one, they comply, too entranced by your aura to resist. Satisfied, you walk on, exploring, searching for the one thing that will let you leave your mark.
You kick open a door, and spy it. A sea of faces, wide-eyed and revering, all wondering exactly why you’re there. They don’t know, and they never will. They’re much too young.
You smile at them, softening their response, convincing them to accept you. You stand up straight, place your instrument upon your shoulder; breathe in, out, in, and out. And then you play.
You play notes of such unknown beauty, that the audience of your brilliance is appalled. They collapse, like everyone else, expressions of shock and wonder frozen on their faces forever more. They could never have understood your masterpiece. You laugh, the first real smile of your life lighting up your eyes like fireworks on a nation’s birthday. This is your moment.
It lasts for a lifetime, yet ends instantly. But the laugh continues on, echoing across an empty hall, throughout a building filled with stunned viewers, and bounces off the reddened walls of history’s newest monument to you.
You hear many bells and whistles, gradually approaching. You become alert, ready to perform once more for a new audience. But you never get the chance. This time, they put on a show, one that destroys the very fabric of your mind, blowing you away.
You fall back, eyes becoming vast seas of space and time, reflecting back a life that ended in victory.
You had your second of history.
And you made it count.
I make a circle in the dirt with my finger. Then another. And then one more. A nose-less face sat in front of me, surprised at the world above. His gaping mouth took in air from a brilliant sky, flushing his brown cheeks and widening his soily eyes. I’d never seen someone so surprised to exist, as though every millisecond was new to him. This creation of mine was a newborn, and completely flabbergasted to discover this.
My last name was Connor. For a time, it was Brett, and for a time before that, it was Finn. I’d changed it around to suit my environment, like a wolf sheds its fur in the summertime. I was versatile, interchangeable, and replaceable. No one needed me, and I most certainly needed no one. My life was how it should be; empty, fleeting, and blissful.
My new name is Alexander. I chose it from a book I was reading. The story went on about a farmer’s son, lost in a field of emptiness. He spent each day plowing, planting, harvesting, and preparing to start the same cycle again the next day. Nothing extraordinary happened, nothing exciting, nothing new. He was Alexander the farmer boy, and was to be like that for the rest of my life. I’d enjoyed this plot point so much I’d pocketed the book from library and left with it, eager to finish it later at my leisure. And as I walked away from the old town and on to the new, I figured that Alexander would be the perfect name for a man with nothing interesting to tell about. I was now Alexander the farmer boy. Minus the farm.
I picked myself up from the dirt and brushed off my old green pants. I hoisted my leather satchel over my shoulder and set off for the next destination, a cozy little town I’d located on my travel map. A bright red X crossed over my future home. I hoped it would be just as non-fulfilling as the rest of them.
I walked for nearly an hour before I began to feel a little drowsy. I looked to the west, and saw the last rays of a country sun beginning to fade beneath a grassy horizon. Night had fallen upon me, and of course, I was ready. I decided to walk a little farther to let my eyes adjust properly. I happened upon a small flowing river, the new moon’s light bouncing glittering spikes of white off the water. The air was alive with the voices of crickets and frogs, chirping at each other in different languages, yet somehow maintaining a harmonic relationship. It made humans seem almost anti-social. I breathed deep, inhaling fresh spring air into my worn out lungs, appreciating every second of it. I let my bag drop off my shoulder, and slowly fell back onto a soft patch of chilled green grass. The early evening stars were just beginning to twinkle. I was just in time for the show of a lifetime.
I spent the next few hours observing the heavens, tracing constellations of my creation out of tiny dots billions of miles away. I was making art on the canvas of gods. Whole scenes came to life; visions of great battles between man and beast, lover’s tales ending in joy and tragedy, and ludicrous stories of the antics of great men telling their jokes and stories before massive drunk crowds. I was forming a history that never happened, all within the compounds of my tiny little head. I only wish my brain was as strong as a god’s, because a god would’ve stayed up for eternity enjoying his creations. I had to sleep. And so I did.
I awoke some hours later, wiping the sleep out of my eyes and stretching the cramps from my joints. The chitter-chatter of the crickets and frogs had been replaced by the morning bird’s song. I guess you could call it beautiful. I was too tired to notice, honestly.
I stood myself up, adjusting my eyes to the bright sunlight. I heard the coursing river nearby, and figured it would be a perfect spot to wash up before I finished my walk. I stripped off my heavy clothes down to my bare skin. The morning was still chilly, and I grabbed both arms across my chest to try and adjust. I grabbed a bar of pine soap from my bag, and stepped down into the river. The rounded rocks at the bottom didn’t make for the most perfect of footing, but I managed. I scooped a handful of the crystal clear water from the river’s bed and raised it above my head, letting it trickle through my fingers. The soft splashing sounds it made as it connected with my face cleared my mind of any troubles. A wonderful aura seemed to extend from my fingertips, cleansing me like holy water cleanses sins. The empty life I led seemed to mean a little more than it ever had before.
As I stood enjoying life, I failed to notice a figure sneaking downstream towards me, crouched in the shadows of the river bank’s leafy trees. I was scrubbing down with soap when I glanced up and nearly fell backwards in surprise.
A young girl, wrapped in leather and furs, with a foxlike face accented by rich brown hair was staring into my eyes from not two feet away. I gave a shriek and rushed to cover myself, my natural instinct of embarrassment taking over. Her wide-eyed stare grew larger, and she smiled mischievously, like a shrew discovering an unguarded morsel of cheese. And I realized quickly that in this situation, I was the cheese.
I stumbled onto the shoreline, grabbing at a pair of underpants to cover myself with. When I finally straightened up, I turned back to see the girl, once again, a few feet from my face. She was quite short, barely five feet tall and obviously light on her feet. She wore her random items of clothing in the arrangement of a homemade dress, with one strap hooked over her shoulder. Her feet were bare, and worn down to the texture of sand. She was absolutely out of the ordinary.
I gave her a very nervous smile, and introduced myself.
“I’m…,” I struggled for second to remember my most recent name, and suddenly recalled my book. “Alexander. I’m Alexander. Who are you?”
She cocked her head like a collie, and smiled at me. “I don’t really have a name,” she said, confusing me greatly.
“You don’t have one? But, everyone has a name. Even me, and according to the rest of the world, I don’t exist. But at least I have a name.”
She dropped her head to stare at her feet, and I was worried I’d hurt her feelings. “I’m sorry,” I said hurriedly, trying to fix my mistake. “There’s nothing wrong with not having a name. I don’t know what I should call you though.”
She smiled at me again. “You’re cute. Don’t worry about it, I don’t need a name. I have an identity. That’s all that matters to me.”
I took a seat on my patch of grass, pulling my shirt on as I did so. She plopped down across from me, sitting with legs crossed like a baked pretzel. I reached into my back and pulled out a few books to search for my comb. The girl reached for the books, and pulled one away titled “Jordan: A History”. I’d nabbed it from a used bookstore in a town a couple months back. I was nearly finished reading it. She thumbed through the pages, revealing weather photos of maps and mountains and deserts. She was nearing the back of the book when a large two-page photo appeared, of a river snaking through the land, a brilliant streak of blue surrounded by brown. She traced it’s path with her finger, a certain look of curiosity filling her face.
“That’s the River Jordan,” I explained, causing her to look up at me. “There’s an old story about the Israelites crossing the river to reach the Promised Land. A beautiful place where theirs is an abundance of food, drink, and happiness… heaven on Earth.”
She stared back down at the river, her beady eyes flashing across the photo, taking in every detail. I was amused by her heavy curiosity. “You know, that river kind of reminds me off you,” I said, staring at the page with her. She looked up at me, obviously interested in my comment. “Why’s that?” she asked.
“Well, it’s quick, agile, and strong. You clearly possess those traits. And it’s surprising too… and you most certainly startled me a few minutes ago,” I said grinning at her. She giggled, and I pressed on. “You know, since you don’t have a name, maybe that could be your name,” I said, looking her straight in the eyes. “Jordan.”
She closed the book and laid it on my bag. She sat back and grabbed her feet with her hands, rocking back and forth. Her long hair swished along her shoulders, making gentle sounds of wind near her pointed face. Her lips were pressed tight together; her eyebrows knitted up like a stitch work pattern. Yet, she seemed to smile with her eyes.
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” I asked. She smiled shyly, and nodded at me. “I thought so,” I said, and stood, extending a hand to her. “Care to accompany me?”
“Where are we going?” she asked, grabbing hold off my hand and pulling herself from the ground.
I stared back at the pile of books, and reached down to grab the one on Jordan. I flipped through the pages while balancing it on one knee, and found the photo of the River Jordan again. I tapped the river with a finger, and said, “I think we should go here. To your namesake… Jordan.” She smiled at me, and I felt her grip tighten on my hand.
“How will we get there?” she asked, biting her fingers in anticipation.
I stared off into the distance, looking over miles of untilled field. “I don’t know. But I do one thing, and that’s that I want you to come with me. Even if it takes a lifetime… I’d rather be with someone than be alone,” I said, looking down on her pale face.
She smiled back at me, and picked up my satchel from the ground, and swung it over her shoulder. We set off, footsteps in sync, and minds pointed towards one thing… the future.
We traveled together for many months, and I managed to finish that book about Alexander the farmer boy. I must’ve have felt something special about that book before I read it, because our stories collided when Alexander visited a small prairie river on his way home one day. He saw a young girl sitting next to the river bank, and approached her, asking her for her name. She answered with Samantha. In the end, the two Alexander’s ended with very similar stories. Alexander the farmer boy ended up with Samantha. And I, Alexander the wandering boy, found Jordan.
I am still a wanderer. I still remain unknown to the world, a shadow that will leave no mark, and who will one day die, and fade into nothingness. But I now go through life with a dream clenched in my hands, one that shares my thoughts, my emotions, and my desire for freedom. The waters of the River Jordan cleansed my soul and allowed me to see from the viewpoint of the gods. I saw down on my life as an observer, and noticed that one thing was missing. A partner.
I stopped at that little river with a dream.
I left it with a purpose.
Right now, there is woman. A worker. A wife. A mother.
Or, she once was a mother.
Today, she has been stripped of her title. Of her greatest achievement. Of her most precious treasure.
She is not alone. Dozens, maybe hundreds of people tonight have lost something. Something more dear to them than the greatest piece of gold. Than the fanciest piece of technology.
Something more important to them their own lives.
Because of tonight, there will be no bedtime stories. No night lights to turn on. No silent moments, checking for a steady breath.
There will be unwrapped presents under the tree this year. Stockings that remain stuffed. A spot at the table that won’t be filled.
This summer, there will be no sports camps. No pool parties. No play dates. And then there will be no walk to the bus on the first day of school, no kiss goodbye, no one to say I love you to, one last time.
Because of today, there will be no homework to help with. No chances to teach life lessons. No discussions about bad grades, no trips to the ice cream store to reward good ones.
There will be no birthday.
Well, maybe five or six candles.
But unfortunately… that’s as many as there will ever be.
Today’s events in Newtown, Connecticut were as tragic as can be. The actions of one man have managed to shock an entire nation. Not simply tug at our heart strings, but cut them with a steel knife. For another month there will be nothing but talk and tribulation, a thousand men and women screaming at each other across tables to sign new laws and decrees, a multitude of never-ending news broadcasts that speak of guns and lunatics and life itself.
This is not the time for talk.
This is a time for regret.
And for understanding, that thought together we can sometimes be weakened, and broken down.
There is no force alive that could ever hurt us while we stand together. Do not remember today as a stain, but as a marker on our path. A reminder, to stay strong, and to never falter under a pretense of evil. We are all greater than that.
It took 26 innocents to let us remember. It will take 300 million of us to never forget.
I can see the doctor fooling around with something in his desk. His back is turned to me, so that I all I can see are his sloping shoulders embraced by the long white coat. I wish he could hear me. Oh how I wish he heard my cries.
He straightens up and turns to face me. A stern look has crossed his face, and he holds a clipboard covered in notes and scribbles under his arm. There’s a picture of me – the patient – attached to the board with a paperclip. I recognized it from my driver’s license. A driver’s license that was revoked not three days ago, when my car flew off the interstate into two pedestrians, killing them both. It wasn’t an accident either; I did it on purpose. Or at least, he did.
When he took over, I didn’t go down easy. It was a battle. Many days of internal conflict, a war within my own mind, trying to see who had the better weapons. Unfortunately, as it seemed, he was better prepared. He brought a gun to a knife fight. And shot me through the psyche.
The doctor is resting on his knees now, peering into my eyes. He holds a medical tool of some kind, flashing a light through my orbs to my cranium, attempting to part the clouds covering my judgment. It’s no use. I’ve tried time and time again to push away the veil and break through, but to no avail. I’m trapped. Forever.
Just as the doctor was cleaning up his tools – obviously his work was done for the day – the heavy iron door behind him swung open. An armed guard stood with my family, with the people that used to love me. My mother. My father. My little sister. They’re all there… except for me.
My mother was crying, a tissue held to her eyes, and she is cradle in my father’s arms. My little sister looks distressed as well. She’s hugging a stuffed rabbit I bought for her birthday two years ago. She named him Jumpy, and rarely let him out of her sight. It was a joy to see them all there. They can get me out! I thought. This is my chance to escape!
The doctor, rubbing his temple, began to speak to my family. I couldn’t hear much of what he said, but I caught some words; critical… hazardous… indefinitely. Indefinitely. That word resonated with me like no other. What could it mean? Why did my family look even more depressed? My mother had burst into sobs now, her head buried in my father armpit. He’s crying too, but trying to look strong for my mother. My little sister is watching me. Two pigtails hover around her head, and her cute button nose is bright red from the cold outside. I cry out to her, asking for help. She doesn’t respond in urgency; instead, she looks frightened.
I scream out to my family, begging, pleading, and trying to tell them I’m alright. That I just need their help to get out of my own head. That I’m still here. No one notices. They only cry.
My father is signing something on the doctor’s clipboard now; his hand shaking is he does so. I scream at him to stop, but he persists, spelling out his name on the line that has sealed my fate.
I watch them file out of them room, heads bowed in sorrow and shame. The guard leads them away.
The doctor glances at me, and as he too walks out the door, I hear the slightest phrase cross his lips. “Welcome to your new home.”
He shuts the door behind him, the heavy lock sealing me away from the world.
I’m alone now.
All that’s left is the yellow padded walls, the straightjacket holding my arms tight at my sides… and the smile on my face that lies to the world.
If only they knew I’m still in here.
A prisoner to myself.
Then maybe they would have stayed, and helped me through my troubles. Solved the crisis within my head, and set me back on my feet.
They’ve left me alone. To live alone. And to die alone.
I could be free…
If only they knew.
“Just give me another chance!” yelled Sam, every word stressed with regret and worry.
I dared to look into his wretched face. The bastard’s eyes were filled with liar’s tears, his hands clasped like they were holding on to life itself. He leaned on one knee at my feet, as though proposing once again. I thought of the day he first kneeled before me and instead of crushed hopes locked in his hands he held a beautiful ring… a ring I now wore on my finger. I’d worn it for six long years. Six years of joy, pain, and regret all mixed into one. I twisted it off my finger and held it up to his face.
I breathed deep. “Remember this ring, Sam? Do you remember why you gave it to me?” I asked him, trying to maintain some composure.
“Felicia, please…” he whispered, but I refused to hear him.
“SAM! Answer me! Why did you give me this ring?”
He looked into my eyes. “Because I loved you,” he whispered.
I couldn’t hold tears back anymore. “That’s right Sam… you loved me. But not anymore.” I threw the ring in his face, and heard it connect with his forehead. He let it drop to the floor in front of him, his mind too full of thought. His bare chest, hairy and well-shaped, rose up in down in heavy breathes. Behind him still laid some random broad, covering her naked body him my rose petal sheets.
Her long blonde hair was rustled from several hours of hard work. Her cherry red lipstick was smeared across her mouth, and I could see traces of it on Sam’s cheeks. Long artificial nails stuck out over the edge of the sheets, painted a number of neon colors. She looked absolutely baffled to witnessing our little showdown. Chances are she didn’t know I existed before today. I didn’t blame her. Sam wasn’t one to bring up past memories, of any kind.
I gave her a hard stare, and looked away. This wasn’t my fight. I looked Sam in the eye, and spoke to him one last time. “I’m leaving. I’ll be back, well, whenever I want. I want your sorry ass out of here when I return. If it isn’t, I’m calling the cops.”
I turned around to leave, and as I grabbed my purse and phone from the bedroom dresser, he called out to me one last time.
“Felicia… I’m sorry!”
I paused, and looked back at him for the last time. “Not going to work this time Sam.”
I left the bedroom and walked past the kitchen we’d spent a year remodeling to our liking. So many hours spent next to each other, covered in sweat and sawdust, pausing only to laugh at each other’s mishaps. His white-teethed smile shone through all the hazy air between us, and I could swear there was a twinkle in his bright blue eyes. In those few, sacred moments, everything was perfect. I just wished they could’ve lasted so much longer.
I spotted my sunglasses on the table. They were the reason I’d come back. I’d planned to take a drive to my favorite reading spot, a grassy knoll off the coast of Redback Beach. It gave the perfect view of a rocky coastline, and if you waited till sundown the beams of light from a dying sun would bathe you in fiery light. Sam and I had visited the hill only once before, two months before our marriage. We’d planned a full day of touristy activities, and when all the items on our list had been checked off, I dragged him down to the beach. We laid out a blanket, and sat in the light of the sun, holding each other. Another moment of infinite time. How perfect it would have been if time had frozen, leaving us to spend eternity smiling and holding each other tight. For me, that would’ve been heaven, only if nothing had happened. I shook my head, and left the glasses sitting there.
I walked to my car, and got in. I had no idea where to go, but I just had to get away. I glanced up at our bedroom window as I started up the car, wondering what they were doing. If Sam was throwing clothes into a suitcase, packing away his belongings for good and grabbing his keys. Or maybe he’d just leapt back into bed with his newfound love. I honestly didn’t car anymore. I threw the car into gear and sped out of the driveway, cruising off to find someplace peaceful.
I must have drove for hours, because when I finally pulled into the parking lot of our community gardens, night had already fallen. I stepped out of the car, and a bitter chill ran down my spine. It was early fall, yet winter’s cold fingers had already begun to creep out of their cave. I pulled my meager sweater from the backseat and threw it around my shoulders. I began to walk off into the dimly lit park, hoping for some solace.
I walked for about ten minutes until I came across a stone park bench. “Might as well,” I thought to myself, and took a seat on the chilled stone seat. In the darkness, all alone minus the invisible creatures of the night, all the pressure of the evening must have gotten to me. The tears began to fall, and wouldn’t stop. The gushed from my eyes like a broken fountain pen, smearing my eyeliner and wetting the tips of my sweater. I sobbed like a newborn child, trying to desperately to wipe away tears faster than they could come, but there was no stopping the current of a recently freed river. The hopeless poured out of me, and I finally let it happen.
Amidst my sobs I failed to notice the sound of approaching footsteps. A strong voice rang in my ears.
“Miss? Miss, are you alright? Why are you crying?” said the voice.
I swallowed some of my sadness and managed to wipe the majority of tears from my eyes. I looked up and saw the outline of a man, one that was tall and shapely. He was dressed in jeans and a corduroy jersey, a blank version of the one football players wear. His sharply cut jaw was clean shaven, and a pair of brilliant jade colored eyes appeared full of worry.
“Miss, is there anything I can do to help?” he asked. His voice was golden, like a dog whisperer calming his hounds with silent, unrecognizable words.
I finally worked up the strength to respond to him. “I… I’m crying because of my husband,” I croaked in a choked voice. “I caught him with… with… some dumb blonde, and now I don’t know how I feel. Everything is wrong. I just want the world to go away.” I said, realizing only afterwards how stupid and pointless that sounded.
He didn’t seem amused though. “I’m very sorry to hear that ma’am. But why are you out in the middle of a cold park at night? There’s a lot worse than cheating husbands out here, miss.”
“Because I had nowhere else to go. I’m alone now,” I said, feeling the tears begin to show once more.
He sighed, removing his cap to brush several curly black hairs away from his eyes. He sat down beside, and looking at the ground, he asked “Are you going to be okay ma’am? Because I’m not about to leave a beautiful young woman crying in a park at midnight. I want to make sure you’re alright.”
I was confused. ‘Why would you want to do that?” I asked.
“Because until they prove me wrong, everyone deserves a chance. And I just want to make sure you have yours,” he said, looking me in the face this time. “I’ve had my fair share of disappointment in my life ma’am, and I’ve made up my mind to do the best I can to ensure no one else has as much as I did”
I looked this stranger in the eyes, wondering what secrets those beautiful emerald orbs held. I wanted to know. And at the same time, I wanted him to know mine as well. “Well, thank you very much, mister…?”
“Clark. Ben Clark,” he said, extending an enormous paw outward. I shook it gently, and gave him my best smile. He smiled back, and I noticed a wide space between his two front teeth. It looked cute, really.
“I’m Felicia, Felicia Dawson” I said. “Now, can I ask why you’re out here?”
He looked up at the stars and trees, and gave a long sigh. “Well, it’s a complicated story, but the short version goes like this. I lost my job two days ago, and I’ve been wandering around town, living off my remaining funds. Like you, Felicia, I ain’t got a home to go to. It’s just a snag in life, but, I’ll admit I ain’t liking it so much,” he said.
“I’m really sorry to hear that Ben. Really sorry,” I said woefully, placing my hand on top of his. He looked down at it, and then at me. He smiled, but with a sense of caution about him. “Felicia, it seems you’ve let your hand slip a little,” he said. I noticed a touch of nerves in his voice, and I felt a little excited.
“I’m sorry. Do you mind?” I asked innocently, trying to hide my mischievous smile.
He looked back down at my hand on top of his, then flipped it over and gripped mine back. He smiled at me again, flashing that sly little gap of his. “Not at all.”
We held hands for a few minutes, and then he flipped back his sleeve, and looked at a cheap plastic sports watch. He turned back to me. “Felicia… I’m sorry, but I can’t stay. I have, well, somewhere else to be. But I want you to know something first,” he said.
I was startled by his suddenly flippant attitude, but decided to answer him. “What is, Ben?”
“I want you to know that you are an amazing, strong woman. You have a lot of time ahead of you. It may seem like this is the end, but it’s nowhere close. This is a new beginning. Take it with everything you have,” he said, gripping my hand in his huge ones. He smiled again, and then stood. He removed his corduroy jacket, and draped it over my shoulders. “Take care, Felicia. I hope to see you again, in a better time,” he said.
Fear filled my heart. I couldn’t let him slip away so quickly! “Wait!” I yelled, standing up and clutching the warm jacket to my chest. He stopped. “Can, can you just stay a little longer? At least till morning?” I asked, a touch of begging in my voice.
He checked his watch again, and after a long sigh, he gave me small, sympathetic smile. “Alright. If it makes you feel better… I’ll stay.”
Warmth flowed through me again. He sat down on the bench again, and I sat down again next to him, and nestled into him, stealing away his furnace-like heat. I closed my eyes, and for the first time that night, I felt at peace. I was trying to stay awake, but I felt myself falling away.
I awoke sometime later, to piercing sunlight in my eyes. I was lying flat on the bench, still wrapped in Ben’s corduroy jersey. However, Ben was nowhere to be seen. His warmth remained embedded in the jersey, somehow keeping me safe. I stood up, rubbing my eyes and trying to figure out what to do next. I could return home, to see if Sam had left. Return to a place where all the bad memories continue to live. Or go somewhere where the memories haven’t died away yet. I thought back to last night, and of Ben’s gap-toothed grin, and suddenly I knew where to go.
I got back in my car, and began to drive away, Ben’s jacket still wrapped around me. I drove for a couple hours, to the place I’d wanted to be all this time. When I arrived near the coast, I grabbed a book from the glove compartment – a worn paperback titled “Love’s Trust” – and headed for a grassy knoll a little while back from the beach. One solid oak tree stood at the top of the hill, and I leaned up against it, feeling its strength beneath me. I flipped the book to its back cover and read the synopsis.
In the midst of hopelessness and despair, a young girl finds a new light in the darkness of life, led only by the hand of unknown stranger. So goes the curious tale and life of Felicia Dawson.
I gasped as I read the last sentence. My thoughts, however, were interrupted by a loud crash from below. The waves beneath me were smashing into the jagged rocky coastline, and I stared into them for a few minutes before I noticed a tall shape near the shoreline. It was thick, like the oak tree behind me, and was stood staring into the ocean, the light of the sunrise illuminating its form.
The shape turned to look up at me, and even from far away I could see a glimmer of teeth, and a square face draped with curly black hair. A giant bear paw raised up to wave at me, and I stood up as fast as possible, my arms swinging back and forth above my head, shouting out the name of the shape I now recognized.
“Ben! Ben! BEN! Ben, come here! BEN! Ben, please!” I screamed, but to no avail. The shape dropped its arm, and turned back to the wide ocean before him. He began to walk into the waves, water licking at his legs like a hungry dog. He continued to walk, until the water had risen up to his chest, then to his shoulders, and then finally up and over his head. He disappeared into the blue waters, and took every hope I might have had with him.
I dropped my arms in defeat. He was gone. He’d disappeared, just like that. I wondered why he’d ever appeared in the park that night. And where he’d gone. I felt the jacket around my shoulders, drinking in its warmth, and realizing that that’s where he’d gone. He’d gone, leaving his warmth with me. Every problem I’d ever had was useless, and he’d showed me that.
I picked my book off the ground, and turned it around to look at the cover, a faded picture of a bright blue sea, with a reigning sun above it. I looked to the bottom of the cover and saw a badly scarred name, barely legible. I turned the book towards the light, and suddenly a name was revealed in the hopeful morning sun.
I feel so helpless. I feel like I’m a mountain climber, watching my partner as her hands slip from a poorly chosen rock, and she tumbles aimlessly to the ground so far away. All I can do is call to her; scream her name for the birds and the trees and the world to hear, to listen, and to help. But there is no answer but silence. There is no help. There is nothing my heart beating in frustration. I am helpless to help you.
When I was young, I used to pretend I was a pilot, or a race car driver. I’d zoom around on an imaginary track, shifting the gears of an engine that never would exist. It was the dream of a child, someone without common sense, or rationality, or realism. Someone who wanted the world to himself, and thought it was possible to get it. How people laughed at his antics, at his hopeless dreams. They thought he would grow up, and become just like them. And he did. Almost.
You see, within every child there is a spark. A spark that dreams for success, for bliss, and for impossibility. It never flickers, for there is nothing to put it out. It is an eternal flame marking not a grave, but a crib. A place of a birth, of new life. It is forever young, hopeful, and beautiful. It’s only enemy is life itself.
There is a giant boot that wishes to stomp out the light, to bring reality out of its cold habitat to leech away your happiness. It makes you feel worthless, forcing you to judge yourself harshly, with the eye of the monster itself, to break yourself down from the inside. It is evil, and it wants you to join it in everlasting darkness.
I want you to remember a child’s dream. Remember the time in life when everything seemed achievable, when walls were always short enough, and when rules were nothing but words. Because when you remember them, you’ll realize that they are still possible. All the dreams you ever had have never gone farther than an arm’s length away. You just have to reach out and grab them.
You need to remember how beautiful you really are. No one but you hates yourself… so who’s the real enemy here? It is not society… it’s you. You fight yourself like a fish out of water, and cry to the world about its emptiness while a million hands encircle you, reaching out to hoist you off the ground. You are blind to your own beauty. I beg of you to let me grant you the power of sight so that you may see a world that loves you for who you are.
Don’t make me hate myself for letting you slip away into darkness. For not being able to catch you as you fall off the mountain wall. I’m only as strong as you allow me to be.
You must help me to help you. For without you, I am helpless.
A blind man could see how beautiful you are. And since you cannot see it yourself, I guess we’re all just blind, stumbling around in the darkness, broken only by a glimmer of light. You are that light. Burn brighter, and soon you will see yourself, and smile, because the child within remembers your dreams, and knows that no matter what happens… they will always live on.
I don’t normally write letters.
I wanted to thank you. For everything. It’s only been a short while, but the tension inside my heart has begun to lessen, like the calming of a great lion at the hand of a trained tamer. You have not used a whip to soothe the savage beast, but a soft touch. And how beautiful a method that turns out to be.
Before you, there was only an everlasting pain. Something no doctor could cure, no medicine could calm, and no therapist could decode. You were like the world’s greatest detective, swooping in to solve the mystery. However, instead of a magnifying glass and smoking pipe, you wield soft words and a gentle smile. These tools, all lined up in your belt like a tinker’s treasure trove, have done more for me than any expert of the mind ever could.
I hope my own words deliver enough of a kiss to brush away the fears, the pains and the worries. You deserve none of the pain you have felt, and I only wish that I’d been there from the beginning to keep you safe. To use myself as a shield, and let you hide behind me. To let the abuse batter me… but make sure you are never hit. I wish you were never tainted, never scarred, and never bruised. I would’ve taken every blow, if only I’d been there.
But I’m here now. And I assure you, my beloved friend, no harm shall ever come to you again. You’ll be safe. I don’t mind the abuse. My shell of a body has taken far more than you’d ever care to know about. But you… you still have that spark. There’s a lantern light shining from a bedroom window of an ancient castle, and like a tired knight in dusty armor I’m drawn towards it, for as long as there is light, there is life.
Please promise me that whenever you are hurting, and the pain has become too much, you will grab my outstretched hand so that I may pull you from the wreckage, to a higher peak, where you will never be harmed again, and where the light is always lit. Promise me that, and forever more will our hands clench together as one, as companions, as partners…
How It’s Meant To Be
I wasn’t feeling all too well that day. The night before, my commanding officer, a brute of a man named Felix, had taken out his anger spurred by the loss of a game of gin rummy on me. I’d lost my desert that night, and had to sleep near on the window bunk. Everyone hated that bunk, because the wind always sent the smell of burning bodies right through the shades and into my face. Have you ever smelled a burning body? Imagine a bunch of cockroaches covered in blood on fire. Multiply that by about two thousand times a day, and you’ll understand the stuff I have to go through.
But that’s the life of a Government Issued Concentration Camp worker.
I started training almost three years back, after leaving college. I’d spent a good portion of my time there working towards my medical degree. There was a grand amount of professions I could have put my diploma towards, but with the most recent uprising, more Organizers were needed within the concentration camps. And my degree in Human Studies just so happened to fit the bill. I was drafted four weeks into what was now called the European Federation War. After eighteen countries split from the EU back in 2086, the newly found European Federation had become rather… troublesome. Not only did conflict break out amongst the EU and EF, but small battles erupted inside each organization. Countries bickering over ideas, morals, and laws; it was chaos.
It took the combined efforts of three great men to bring the Federation together. Elfric Hamenfroud, Joseph Battletribe, and Quagmir Doonshlav were our saviors. All came from prominent families within the Federation, and each had extensive political backgrounds. They brought with them order, peace, and salvation for everyone… well, almost everyone. In a government, there are laws, and there will always be people who oppose these laws. A proper government needs a system to handle said dissenters. That miracle cure came in the form of a tradition used by the instigators of genocide (a term that disappeared a good while back) many hundreds of years ago. They were concentration camps, reborn.
That day I was strutting through the camp, a tablet computer full of names and numbers in hand. I was, as per regulations, accompanied by two men in soldier’s garb. They both carried advanced automatic rifles, with .45s strapped to their thighs with thick elastic holsters. Both men were of Russian descent, and their gruff mannerisms showed off their heritage quite well. I was the son of an English mother and a Danish father. They’d met twenty-seven years ago, on a boat tour in Italy, while my father was off duty. He convinced her to leave the struggling European Union and England behind, and start a new life in the Fatherland. It wasn’t really a story of love; my father was a habitual drunk, and the only reason she went with him was because of his serpent’s way with words. He twisted his tongue around her brain and pulled her along for the most dreadful of rides. Her savior came in the form of a disease known as Berch’s Syndrome. The effects of this disease are quite terrible.
After it has settled in, the disease then overtakes the brain. It pushes you aside and takes your place. It forces you to watch as it ruins your life, destroys your bonds, your hopes, your dreams. It harms the ones you love and betray the ones you care about. It takes all your accomplishments and grinds them up into failures.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this is a man-made disease.
Here at the concentration camp, Berch’s is used quite frequently. It makes for a fantastic torture method. There is a cure, but it is held safely by the creators, and of course, the buyers, those being the Head Wardens of the camp. Each carries one syringe of the cure, ready to administer if the situation demands it. Many of the vials have remained full for almost two and a half years.
I was actually on my way to a stockyard full of Berch’s victims. Luckily for me, the disease is not contagious. Rather it is genetic, or can be administered through shots or pills. Many of the tortured prisoners received it through a series of shots, while strapped to a wall in the medical ward. I didn’t spend too much time in there; the screams and groans were annoying, to say the least.
I unhitched the double lock on the outside of the stockyard. A guard with a military shotgun gave me a nod as we passed through to the rank cesspool of prisoners within. Living conditions were kept at a minimum within the camp. Piles of straw were cheap, and made mediocre bedding for the campers. It was common for piles to be infested with maggots, worms, or ticks. The wardens and bugs lived in a sort of chaotic peace; we provide the food, they stay away from us. And believe me, there was no shortage of meat for the insects to feast on.
I gave a loud shout as the guards and I entered the yard. “Stay ten feet back!” I yelled to the campers. “If anyone comes closer without permission, they will be shot. You have been warned.”
Flurries of motion began to rise from the festering bales of hay. Humanoid shapes clothed in tattered cloth pajamas shambled to the sides, their graying bald heads shimmering with sweat and boils. One man was dragging behind him the corpse of young boy, probably not much older than seven. Why he hung on to such a useless thing, I’ll never know. I marched towards him, the guards close behind.
“You there!” Stop what you’re doing!” I called to the man. He slowed, turning to look at me, still clutching the wrist of the boy tightly within his bony hand. The lad was most obviously dead. His eyes had been eaten away by disease and bugs, and I could see ribs poking through the skin on his chest. Disgusting really, for this old fool to hold on to him for so long. It was stinking up the stockyard.
I motioned to one of the guards, and he stepped forward, and reached down to grab the corpse. The old man pulled it tighter, shaking his head, worry beginning to fill his giant eyes. The guard grabbed hold of the boy’s legs, and pulled. The man fought with him, trying to hang on to what I know figured was his son. I could frustration in the guard’s face, and sensed anger beginning to boil. I put a hand on his back, and when he looked at me, I gave him a sharp nod, followed by pat on the shoulder. The guard smiled mischievously.
He wrenched the boy from the man’s grip with livid strength, pulled his pistol from his belt and shot the man in the head. The frail body crumpled to a heap. He kneeled, and scooped the body up, tossing it over his left shoulder, the boy on his right.
“You can take them to furnaces, Blake. I’m sure they won’t mind two more,” I said, checking a couple boxes on my tablet. The guard nodded, and headed off in the direction of the smokestacks.
I surveyed the rest of the campers around me. There wide, hungry eyes seemed complacent enough. No more trouble was to be had. I gave my daily speech before I headed back to Main Camp. “I thank you all for your cooperation, and for your undivided loyalty towards the European Federation. Do not forget your place, and we will not forget yours.” And with that, I left the stockyard with my modest battalion of guards, and set off for Main Camp, and my bunk.
As we walked, a chain of hardworking campers began to trudge by, each carrying a heavy stone or chunk of cement. I singled out one man in particular, and ordered him to approach me. He walked heavily towards me, his brown eyes lacking any expression. I told him to put out hands, and as he did, I spat a large wad of phlegm into his waiting paws. The smoke in air did quite a number on my lungs, and it was unprofessional to just spit on the floor.
I walked away, leaving the man to stare at my retreating backside, the cold spit leaking through his fingers. He did not frown, cry, or yell. He simply wiped his hand on his thighs, hefted his stone off the ground, and shambled back into line. We’d broken his spirit a long, long time ago, as we’ve done with almost seventeen million other Jews, gays, blacks, women, Protestants, transsexuals, Arabians, whores, bastard children, peasants and elders.
Did I mention how much I love my job?
I must admit that there is something off putting about wearing dead cats as a coat. But who am I to judge? A man is entitled to his opinions, even if said opinions involve the murder and fashioning of felines into outerwear.
This man was a rather peculiar fellow. When I moved here I thought little of him; he was quiet, lived three houses down in a cottage-like construction, a building thrown together with the force of a disturbed giant, and with about as much creativity as a frog with down syndrome. The “front yard” was a mess of browning grass, leaves from the neighbors ancient birch tree, and plastic sporks. One lonely blue lawn chair sat to the left of the window-less door, grimy and older than my grandpa’s lucky socks. Every once in a while the man would sit out in the yard, a ferocious looking cat perched on his shoulder, and a newspaper dated March 3rd, 1965, the same day that the song “My Girl” by the Temptations reached the number one spot in American music charts. That little bit of trivia adds absolutely nothing to the plot of my tale, but I felt it was pretty cool nonetheless.
It was a brisk Tuesday afternoon that I saw the man peacocking down the street like… well, a peacock. His hands were hidden deep in his pockets, and another brand new tabby seated on his right shoulder. His luxuriously flowing catcoat was an assortment of colors, stitch work and surprised faces of felines. He wore it proudly like an ancestral family heirloom, staring each and every passerby directly in the eye. The man was an expert at the uncomfortable.
As I approached, his gaze swiveled onto me. Eyes worthy of a giant squid peered down to examine his prey. The cat man was very tall, at least six foot five, and he never slouched. He came closer, and I sensed a strange amount of energy emanating from him. Though it wasn’t visible, he seemed to glow strongly, almost attractively. But it was his first spoken words to me that threw me off guard.
“You mustn’t dally if you want to leave this world before noon!” exclaimed the cat man.
I blinked in surprise. “Leave… this world?” I asked.
“Yes! Yes yes yes yes yes! This world is useless to me. I’ve squandered the mediocre resources, seen the relatively interesting sights, and experienced the underwhelming taste of fried chicken. I have nothing left to do. It is time to, as you say, take flight,” he finished his speech with an abrupt turn on his heel. He headed back towards his shanty.
“Wait!” I called after him. The man turned his head back to me.
“Can… can I come?” I asked.
His eyes narrowed. He came back to me, and peered into my eyes, studiously studying my inner psyche.
“What do you have to offer me, mortal man?” he asked.
“Uh… well. I am an accomplished lacrosse enthusiast. I write poems, and placed second at a regional poetry competition. I have a pet lizard named William who is very agile and homely. I’d say my life is quite the catch!” I answered, a small grin creeping onto my face as I talked.
“Hmmm,” hummed the cat man. “Well, I’d say that’s quite satisfactory. Come along. And quickly. I am not without the knowledge of time, and I wish to be as punctual as possible.” And with that, he spun around, the tabby cat swaying on his shoulder as he did so, and hurried down the sidewalk. I hastened to follow him, for I had the strangest feeling that I was about to go on an adventure of rather peculiar proportions.
(A work in progress)
Click clack, click clack, click clack.
The shackles racked the floor over and over, in time with the hammers, with the breaking of stone, and with the cracking of backs. Sweat poured down faces, muscles flexed against skin, and lyrics spilled from mouths:
We plan to stay, til our days of old,
Whether the days be warm, or frosty cold,
Our grief is gone, our pain away,
We live to work another day.
The prison camp was alive.
One man in particular was off in his own corner, working harder than most. He was tall, lean, and strong. A squared cap covered his shaved head, and his blue working uniform was ripped at the elbows and knees from constant tumbles. Every fall of his sledge broke another heavy stone in two. Another prisoner would come in, lift up the halves, and pass them to the next man, who would then throw them into a rickety old cart. The cart was pulled away by another man, and its contents were dumped into an enormous stone-burning furnace; the newest addition to the prison.
The courtyard in which the men worked was built of four chrome walls, thicker than dump trucks, and topped with auto-turrets, their thin laser sights watching over the courtyard. Battle-ready guards strolled along the walls. Each carried an Arm Rifle strapped to their forearm, connected to the goggles covering their eyes. Every prisoner understood every guard, and vice versa. This was how it was to be. There are no objections, or the roles are switched; and no guard wanted to be a prisoner.
A long-winded horn rang out across the courtyard. In unison, hundreds of shovels, picks, and hammers dropped to the ground with an almighty crash. The men formed ten lines of fifty, in a perfect, predetermined order. Three guards covered either end, and slowly, one after another, each line shambled towards the prison doors.
Two slabs of steel slid apart with a dreadful grinding of heavy gears. The lines of prisoners walked through into a dimly lit entrance hall. A row of security scanners split the room in two. One by one, each prisoner stepped up to a scanner. A guard unzipped their work suit so they were standing in nothing more than a pair of crystal clean white underwear. The prisoner turned, and a gaudy, unique tattoo was revealed.
Every tattoo glowed with a mysterious light. A thin line of blue light beamed from the scanner, and went up and down the emblem before flashing green. The prisoner walked through to the other side of hall. On the opposite wall were doorways, each leading to a cleaning line. A prisoner would walk in, and raise their arms out to their full width. Two metal hands clicked around their wrists, and the same for their ankles. A conveyor belt began to move slowly down the line. They were sprayed down with water, concentrated, non-acidic soap, and then dried in a blaze of intense heat. The dryer – nicknamed the Baby Killer for its tendency to render the user infertile – blew away so much moisture than not even their underwear stayed wet.
The tall, lean man stepped off of the cleaning line. He stuck his feet through the legs of his bed suit. It was white, and made of heat-absorbent cloth. The guard zipped him up, and he was escorted down the long silvery hallway. Doorways outlined by iron bolts lined both sides of the hall, each one decorated with a number and a glowing symbol. The tall man was led to a door marked with a black number 98. The guard reached out and touched a finger to the tall man’s symbol, then unzipped the prisoner’s jacket and touched his finger to the tattoo. The door hissed, and slowly slid open.
Inside was a perfectly square room. Its furnishing consisted of a glass-less mirror, two floating cots, a wall toilet, and a metal table fused to the wall. The tall prisoner walked in calmly, and the door closed behind him. He lay down on the cot, and began his Redemption Thoughts. For tonight, after all, was the last night before Judgment Day.
The tall man thought of his family, back in the newly formed state of “Region 4056”. He had a wife, and two children: a boy and a girl. They lived together on a humble little farm. He had owned a pig, a cow, and a chicken, all genetically engineered to live forever and produce delicious products. It had cost all of savings to afford them, but they kept his family fed and healthy.
The tall man thought of his crime; he had thought too harshly about a certain Warden, and the MR device on the Warden’s belt detected it. They had shackled him and brought him to a county prison for two days. Eventually, they decided it would be best to send him to the Quinton Redemption Center, almost seven hundred miles from his home. They had strapped him down, and removed all but the most important thoughts; the ones he was thinking right now.
A bell rang, and the tall man’s eyes closed for the night. He awoke exactly eight hours later, to the same bell, and to a guard outside his door. The door hissed open again, and he swung his legs over the edge of the bed and went straight for the door. The guard unzipped his bed suit, and he replaced it with a bright yellow daytime suit. The tall man was escorted back down the hall and to the left into a secondary doorway. It led to a short hallway with only three doors. The guard opened the first door on the right, and the two of them walked in.
The room was tiny, with only a desk and two chairs, one on either side. The Director of the prison stood behind the desk with his hands behind his back. Ancient gray eyes studied the tall man. The tall man sat in the wooden chair. Judgment Day had begun.
“Name?” asked the Director.
“98 A,” answered the tall man.
“Crime?” questioned the Director.
“Unlawful thoughts,” stated the tall man.
The Director nodded, and then circled around the table to the tall man. He unzipped his suit, and touched the symbol, only to pull his hand back in sudden pain.
“Why does it burn?” he asked the guard sharply, cradling his wounded hand.
“I’m sorry sir. I do not know. It has never burnt me before,” said the guard.
The Director turned back to the tall man. “You know why it burns, don’t you?” he asked.
The tall man stared at him. He shook his head, but inside, he felt something different. A feeling that whispered to him, inside… in his mind.
The MR device on the Director’s belt went off like a fire alarm, vibrating and beeping unwaveringly. The Director ripped it from his waist, and read the data stream scrolling down the screen. He snapped his head up to look at the tall man.
“You’re… you’re… thinking?” he asked uncertainly, almost appalled at the words coming out of his own mouth.
The tall man couldn’t answer. His mouth hung open in misunderstanding and confusion. The guard stepped in. “Sir, the prisoners are not allowed to think in any way other than Redemptions and work. He cannot possibly…”
“SHUT UP, YOU MISERABLE COW!” screamed the Director. His eyes were wild with rage. He grabbed the tall man by the neck tightly, and stared into his eyes.
“No prisoner has ever showed the slightest signs of thought after they’ve been Coded. You are not normal. And normality is, as you know…”
“Normality is what binds us. It makes us human. It makes us worth anything more than dirt. To be different is to be wrong, and deserves equal punishment by the law,” quoted the tall man, his eyes never wavering from those of the Director.
The Director released his grip on the tall man’s throat. “Maybe… I was mistaken. It might have been just a Glimmer. Nothing more. Nevertheless, Judgment Day, for you, has come. And in light of these recent events, I have decided your Judgment Ranking is to be Rank 5. Congratulations. Your purpose has been served. Guard, please escort him to Judgment Room 5.”
The Director turned around and left the room, so calm that no one would have known of his prior outburst. The tall man sat quietly in his chair. He was not thinking of what had just happened. To the contrary, he had already forgotten it. The guard tapped him on the shoulder, and he rose. The two left the room and went back towards the Detainment Hall. As they walked by each door, every prisoner stood and approached the tiny window, their dark, depressing gaze following the tall man and his guard. The two of them continued on through a pair of double doors, into a laboratory of sorts. It too was quite void, other than a medieval looking chair, decorated with a variety of clamps and buckles. Two Judges stood on either side of the chair. One held a tray with a strange assortment of items: a tub of cotton swabs, an unmarked tube of ointment, and a silver, button-like object.
The guard unzipped the tall man’s suit. This time, there was no replacement suit. The tall man sat in the chair, and the Judges strapped him down. The back of the chair dropped down, leaving the tall man’s tattoo exposed to the Judges. One of the Judges took the tube of ointment, and spread some of it across the symbol. It glowed brighter than it ever had before. They took some of the swabs, and carefully began wiping down the symbol. It was being removed.
Decoding had begun.
The tall man felt the cold ointment on his back, and experienced an even deeper chill as the Decoding went on. His gaze was blank; he did not even blink. A Judge wiped the last speck of the tattoo off, and reached for the silver button. He took a deep breath, and then placed the coin on the tall man’s back.
A shock rippled through the tall man’s body. He began convulsing, frothing at the mouth, emitting alien sounds. Inside his head, things were unlocking like the cages to a compromised zoo. The man began to think. The MR device on the guard’s belt went off, much louder than ever before. The data stream moved so quickly that words and numbers blurred. The guard did not bother to reach for it.
The tall man’s mind was changing. It could not comprehend such an immediate burst of thought. He was remembering all the things he had done, had seen, had heard, had smelled… he was remembering a life he’d spent years living, but forgotten everything about. It was overwhelming.
He saw the farm. There was his family. His wife; her name was Julia. His children, named Patrick, and Catherine. He remembered tilling the fields, milking the cow, tending to the pig. He remembered walking in the house and picking up his two children, hugging them close, leaning through their smiling faces to kiss his wife’s face…
On the outside, his body was going haywire. Two twisting eyes jostled around in his skull, crazed arms strained against the straps, the muscles bending. A vein popped in his eye, sending a small trickle of blood down his cheek. He couldn’t take it.
The Judges looked at one another, and nodded. One of them leaned in close, and whispered into the tall man’s ear, “You have been Judged. You have hence been deemed… Unworthy.”
The Judge stepped back, and the other Judge stepped forward, and leaned in close, “What is your name?” he asked.
The tall man’s mouth opened, but only a gurgle came out. He swallowed, and said “Brian!” My name… is Brian!”
The Judge smiled, “And how do you know?”
The tall man’s eyes watered up with tears. He opened his mouth once more, and spoke in barely audible whisper:
The Judge smiled, and as the tall man’s head flopped to one side, he turned to the guard and the other Judge, hands clasped together on his chest.
“Gentlemen,” he said with a devious smirk, “Judgment Day has come to a close. Prisoner Brian Willis has been Judged via the Rememberance Process. May his thoughts forever burn.”
He ripped the silver button from the tall man’s back, and brought it to small desktop furnace. He undid the latch, and tossed in the silvery coin, where it caused an eruption of tiny flames. A puff of smoke drifted through the open door and dissipated into the sharp, clean air of the laboratory.
Outside, the prisoners had begun the day’s work, and started up their daily song:
We live in fear,
We live in shame,
We live in quiet,
We live in pain
We thought too much, so now we’re here
Paying our debts for a hundred years
Until our Day of Judgment comes,
We’ll work until we fall.
Until our Day of Judgment comes,
Our minds are dead and gone.
The Dream Yet To Come True
I’m sitting in an armchair in the middle of a tiny living room. It’s late in the evening, and outside the window, tiny snowflakes float past, coming to rest on the frozen earth. A fireplace roars before me, its warmth racing to protect my vulnerable toes. Besides the glow of the fire, the room is dim. Its soothing warmth has calmed me to sleep, and I look peaceful and content as my head lies on the chair backing.
I am not alone. Across my chest is strewn a person that matters more to me than the world itself. Her long hair is strewn across my torso like the lemon-scented aftermath of a great storm. Her face rises and falls as I breathe. My deep inhales of breath overpower her timid puffs of air. She is at peace with life, and with me.
Our hands lay with one another, fingers intertwined like the vines of rich, green jungle forest, flowering with life and beauty. Her hands are soft and small, while mine are gangly and coarse. Even in my slumber, I squeeze tightly to make sure she’s still there. And she responds to my call with a squeeze of her own.
Suddenly she stirs, and it wakes me. Ever since I met her, I sleep lightly, ready to awaken at a moment’s notice. My eyes flutter open. I yawn quietly and sit up slightly in my chair. I look down at the blanket of hair – it’s much too dark to tell what color it is - and I smile, and reach down to brush it off her face just she turns to look at me…
And then the dream ends.
Over and over it repeats this way. Over and over it ends without me ever seeing her face. I am frustrated. I want so desperately to know who she is, and yet my own mind continues to deceive me. I can’t describe the deep pain I feel, as I ache to know who the person I long for truly is. Who she will be, and when she will finally arrive.
I know why I have this dream. It is showing me what it is I want in life. What my heart beats for and what all my energy is headed towards. Every accomplishment is geared towards making this dream come true, making that tiny moment happen. Making my life… complete.
I’ve gone through tough times. Times of struggle, of hardship, of disappointment, of near-depression. Dealing with life is a daily activity, and one that I sometimes have trouble accomplishing. I know I’ll never give up completely… but sometimes, I just want to let go. And so far, the only thing that’s worked is this dream. It makes me happy, and puts me at peace with the world. It gives me hope. As long as I have hope, I will never give up on my dreams, especially not this one.
I do not yet know who that face is. Where she is or what she is doing with her life. I may have already met her. I may have passed her on a busy street. Or maybe, ten, twenty, thirty years from now, I will find her. I do not know. Not yet.
But when I find her, and she finds me, then the dream can end. When I bring her home, hold her in my arms, and whisper into her ear sweet nothings of love… the dream will come true. And one night, while she lies next to me, comforted by my warmth, I will sleep. And the dream will begin again. Again, and for the last time. There I’ll be, lying in my armchair, with her resting upon me. I awake, and look down on her head. I brush back her hair, and she turns to look me in the eye… and I will see her. I will see her beauty, her details, and her face. The face I’ve waited years to see. The circle will complete itself, and the dream will come true.
But it is not just the dream. Love is not so abstract or complicated. Inside each and every one of us is a soul… different as they may be, they are souls, and out there, in this vast, floating blue and green orb is someone that matches your soul. They are the key to your lock. When you find them, no matter how long it takes, you’ll know. When you look into their eyes, when you hold their hand, and when you kiss their lips… when you turn the key and open the door… you’ll know.
Me, I’m different. I’m complicated. An enigma of emotions that struggles to plant his feet on solid ground. I must dwell in the world of dreams, of the unnatural, of the abstract, to fully understand my own path. That is how my life works. How every single day goes by, whether long, or short. But not in love. It is the one thing in life I have yet to experience, yet I already understand. When my dream finally comes true, and she turns her head to look up at me, deep in my heart where my emotions lie curdled and frightened, a new beginning will occur, and her smile will awaken the beast within.
One day you might have a similar dream, one that guides you the person you have been searching for.
Maybe… it will help you.
Finally. Some alone time. Just me, and her.
I’ve waited a long, long, long time for this moment.
Hours spent watching.
Choosing my tools.
And most important, my moment to strike.
To reel her in, and take my prize.
It’s been hard going.
People get suspicious.
They try to stop you.
But you must never let them get in the way of your dreams.
Of what you love.
And that’s what I did.
All those people are off in another room. They won’t leave to come bother us. Not anymore they won’t.
I got them to stop. So I could get to her.
She took some convincing.
Well, a lot of convincing. Maybe a bit too much convincing.
It only took a flash to get her on my side.
Just a sliver.
Just a scrape.
It’s amazing really.
I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner.
We could’ve been sitting here together.
Her head on my shoulder.
My only regret is that I can’t hear her soft little breathes anymore.
But that’s a small price to pay for infinite time together.
For time spent doing wonderful things.
But every night, I pick her up, walk to the bedroom, and set her head on the pillow next to mine.
I’ve yet to reattach it to the body in the freezer.
But that will come soon.
After all, we do have forever to spend with one another.