Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2020/06/24 (Week 163)

I don’t know why she followed me, and I couldn’t figure out if I was glad she had, or if I wished she was anywhere else.

“So. This is where you wander off too.”

I didn’t say anything. Hell, I wasn’t sure if I could find any words, even a simple yes, or no. I wasn’t sure if I felt like she was an invader into my world, into one of my safe places, or if I was happy to see her, to see she’d finally followed me. Whatever I felt, I’m not sure it mattered right then. With her there, I couldn’t hide, not from her, not from me.

I nodded, and turned away from her, my hands shoved as far as possible into my pockets, and everything inside me screaming something different.

“This empty field? This is where you come?”

I wanted to answer, I really did. I wanted to tell her I went there to escape the noise, and the chaos in my head. The voices that were screaming at me, and arguing with each other, as I tried to figure out why everything had gone so wrong, so suddenly. But, those parts of me, the ones that were in my head, screaming at each other, made it where I couldn’t.

She seemed to know that, to understand that. I heard her thinking, I swear I did. But I couldn’t tell you what, I couldn’t hear her over the screaming in my head, over the angry, scared, confused, frustrated, impatient, and wounded voices in my head that kept screaming, endlessly.

I don’t know why she did it, but she walked up next to me, and didn’t say a thing. Not one word. She just stood there.

I was a wreck. The screaming was so loud, so overwhelming, I couldn’t escape it. I looked at my hands, something I always did. Like I was blaming them for everything. Blaming them for being alive, being able to feel anything. The wood from a table top, the Formica on a counter, the cold steel of a metal kitchen sink.

The texture of the skin on her hand as she took mine, and laced her fingers between mine, and waited, I have no idea how long, for my hand to stop shaking, and finally, slowly, respond to her, by holding her hand as she held mine.

“I sometimes wonder,” I heard her voice, magical, like music, like a favorite song, that somehow cut through all the noise, all the chaos, “why the lake dried up, why the stream died.” I know she looked at the ground, dried, broken dirt, where a stream had been.

That cold, heartless part of me answered her, “For the water.”

She didn’t answer, she simply kept holding my hand, as the screaming in my head started to fade, and the voices fell quiet, one by one.

“I come here because it’s quiet, and I can…” I couldn’t figure out the words to say, “Sometimes I need the quiet.”

Somehow, I managed to look at her, at her face, with those eyes, and that magic smile. I don’t know why, I don’t know what happened to me when I did. But I always felt safer, calmer, when I did. Somehow, she could always reach me, when no one else ever had. She could always reach past the chaos, to me.

“I come here because it’s quiet, and I can escape the chaos.”

“The chaos?”

“Yeah. The chaos. Inside of me.”

There was that smile, like when the sun comes out after a big storm, when it first breaks through the clouds, and the world gets lighter, more colorful. She kept holding my hand, “What do you feel, right now?”

“I…” I realized I couldn’t answer. Not because I didn’t feel something, but because I felt everything. I felt too much.

“You’re safe with me, you know.”

I nodded, because I couldn’t talk.

“And maybe, together, we can help you learn what you feel. And not be afraid to feel.”

I knew she understood. I didn’t know how to live with me. Didn’t know how to live with everything I felt. And the voices in my head were my emotions, screaming at me.

“I come here to hide. Somewhere safe. Alone. Until I can get back in control.”

And we stood there, her holding my hand, until I could breathe once again. Until the screaming in my head was gone.

744 words
@mysoulstears


Written in response to the prompt for week 163 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can learn about Miranda’s challenge here. The stories people share for the weekly challenge are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. Please go read them all.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2020/06/14 (Week 161)

Bobby was never the romantic, emotional type. That’s why I hauled him to the old house I planned to buy, and renovate. I knew he’d hate it. Knew he’d have nothing good to say about it.

Sure enough, he didn’t. “This place is in the middle of nowhere. You’ll have to pack an ice chest in the car to make a grocery run. Jesus, why would you do that?”

On the front porch, he’d stopped, and looked around, “And, you have allergies.” He waved his arm at the gorgeous trees all around, “You’re allergic to half of these you know!” We’d walked the length of the porch, and he’d commented on every board that made noise, “House has its own choir. At least no one would be able to rob you. The noise would wake you up.”

The downstairs walk-through had gone as well, filled with endless comments. “That staircase is a death trap. Look at that. Like it was made when Queen Cleopatra was around.” Followed by, “And the porch isn’t all that sings,” as we walked down the hallway to the Living Room. “And where would you put a big flat screen in this tiny space? This is no place to watch movies, or listen to music, and relax,” summed up his view of the Living Room.

The Dining Room drew more words from his brain cells, “What? They held banquets for the whole church in here? Listen!” He screamed, “It echoes!”

I didn’t feel like setting him off by telling him the wiring and plumbing were beyond repair, and I’d have to replace them. There was no point. I knew he’d simply spew more words into the air.

The kitchen got one word. “No.” He couldn’t even describe it, until we headed back toward the stairs, “That room is all wrong. No place for anything. No room for a dishwasher. No room for a microwave. Itty bitty counter space. No place to store anything. Only what, four cabinet doors in the entire kitchen?”

On the way up the stairs, he threatened to sue me if the stairs collapsed. “You’re risking my life, here!”

The upstairs went the same way the downstairs had. An endless stream of negative thoughts from him. An endless stream of all the things I already knew.

Especially when we reached the full sized bathroom. The toilet and tub were long gone. So were any visible pipes, having been stripped and likely sold as scrap metal. Copper pipes did have a good price on them, after all.

“Would you look at that window!” He had to know I’d already looked. “One big honking window! And it’s round! You can’t put a curtain on that, you know!” What was left of the bathroom sink hung off the wall right under that window. “And that’s where they put the sink? You can’t use a mirror that way!” He looked out that window, “And the whole world can see right in, and see whoever’s in here walking around naked! That’s such a great plan!”

I don’t know how, but somehow, I didn’t laugh as he rambled on about everything that was wrong.

Eventually, I’d seen enough of my future home, and wandered back to the car, with Bobby tagging along.

Never will forget what happened on that drive home. Took a few minutes, but Bobby finally stopped talking about the house, and got quiet. He didn’t say anything for a while, just stared out the window, and watched the trees go by. Until. Out of nowhere. “It’s the perfect house for you, isn’t it?”

I nodded. “I love it.”

“Let me know how I can help with the fix up, OK?”

“OK.”

“And, one more thing.”

“What?”

“Thanks for bringing me along. Thanks for trusting me that much.”

I knew all along he’d understand. That’s why I’d wanted him to see the place.

646 words
@mysoulstears


Written in response to the prompt for week 161 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can learn about Miranda’s challenge here. The stories people share for the weekly challenge are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. Please go read them all.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2020/06/08 (Week 160)

Nathan James was one hell of a fruit-cake. I couldn’t come up with any other way to describe him, yet, there I was, out in the middle of nowhere, in a factory town attached to what had been an open pit mine, to interview him about his pet project.

“That’s a rather big hole in the ground, Mr. James.”

“Needs to be. Only way to make it deep enough.”

I hoped the video team was getting lots of footage of the Caterpillar 797 dump trucks driving in and out of that hole. “They tell me you are trying to prove hell exists?”

“It’s true.” Nathan nodded. “I’m going to dig here until we reach it. Then, no one can say it doesn’t exist.”

From the air, looking down at the pit, it looked like they’d dug a mountain sized hole. “How far do you think you have to dig?”

“30 to 40 miles.”

I kept reminding myself to not laugh, I was doing my job, making an interview for the news program. A human interest story. I had to wonder how many humans would be interested in this guy. “That’s a long way. The deepest we’ve ever dug is 7.5 miles, and it took them 20 years to get that deep.”

“That was a bore hole.” Nathan nodded. “Only 9 inches wide. That’s why it took so long to get that deep. They couldn’t use better techniques.”

I looked at the pit again. “Better techniques?”

“We’re able to drill small holes, and use explosives to fracture the rock. We can also move around large blockages. They couldn’t.” Nathan looked outside. “It’s like clearing a path for a road through the mountains.”

It defied my imagination, “How wide would you have to build this to get 30 miles deep?”

“Don’t really know. No one’s ever tried.” He laughed.

“And you’re convinced it’s there?”

“Oh, it’s there. Down where the rock melts, and gets soft. The heat and the pressure down there is hell. Literally.” He paused, “They gave up drilling when the heat and pressure got so much, the bits stopped working. You can’t go deeper unless you make an open pit.” He paused again. “The pressure and heat melted their drill. They had to use titanium and diamond to drill. Very expensive.”

“Did they reach hell?”

“No, they did not. They barely got deep enough to notice any signs that it’s down there.”

I wanted to ask him about science, about how spherical planets form, and how gravity, heat, and pressure melts the interior, and it separates into layers, heaviest at the center, and lightest at the surface.

It was like he knew that, “I’m also proving the flat earth people are fruit loops.” Nathan laughed. “You might want to use another set of words.” He laughed more. “You can’t have those layers in a flat earth. To do that, you need a round, spherical object. Also demonstrating you can’t dig through the flat earth. That you dig through layers.”

I stared out the window at the pit a moment, “Have you found anything interesting so far? Do you expect to find interesting things as you dig?”

“We have found a few fossils. The deeper we dug, the further back in time we went. But, we’re deep enough at the center now that we’re past the fossils. Now, it’s unknown bacteria.”

“Unknown bacteria?”

“Yes. That stuff lives in the harshest conditions. Any kind of crack in the rock, any kind of surface, they turn up. Living on the heat, and on minerals.”

“How will you know when you find hell?”

“That will be where damned souls are. We won’t be able to see them any more than you can see them now. But we’ll know they’re there. We’ll sense their screams of agony.”

“Agony?”

“Where they get endlessly crushed, and burned, and ground to nothing.”

I must have looked pretty funny when he said that, because he continued. “When we reach the place where nothing could possibly live. That’s when we’ll have found hell.”

It was the strangest interview I’d ever done, interviewing a filthy rich fruit cake with a pipe dream of finding hell, and proving it exists. Don’t think it’s what I’d have done with all those billions of dollars.

713 words
@mysoulstears


Written in response to the prompt for week 160 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can learn about Miranda’s challenge here. The stories people share for the weekly challenge are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. Please go read them all.

#ThursThreads Week 416 : What’s In It For Me?

My therapist has been working through the layers of me for several months, trying to find who I was, buried under everything that is life. Buried under work, bills, the wife, the family, three cars, two cats, a monthly mortgage. After that I lost count.

I told him that, “I lost count, you know.” In that session, on that day, “I lost count, you know.”

You’d think it would be infuriating, and I’d have pitched a fit, when he said, “I know. That’s why you’re here.” But I didn’t.

“You’ve been coming here for months.”

“Yeah.”

“Why are you here? What’s in it for you?”

I don’t know how long I stared at my hands when he asked that. I don’t know how long I stopped breathing. Everything froze. Even time, I think.

He didn’t ask a second time. He waited. As if saying, “I have nothing but time. I can wait. When you’re ready, I’ll listen.”

“I lost something.” He knew when to talk, and when to wait. “I’m trying to find what I lost.”

He nodded. The man had a quietness, and more patience than I’d ever seen in anyone.

“What’s in it for me?” I froze up again. I swear my heart stopped beating. Until I hear myself, “I lost me. And now, I’m trying to find me.”

That’s when he told me it would all be OK. “Because, you finally know why you’re here. And you can finally admit it to yourself.”

246 Words
@mysoulstears


It’s Week 416 of #ThursThreads, hosted by Siobhan Muir. And more words in whatever it is that’s writing itself have turned up. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are always fun to read. And there are some great writers who show up every week.

#ThursThreads Week 414 : Everything Comes Full Circle

Laying down in the bed of my truck wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had, but I wasn’t going to whine, after all, I was doing this because everything comes full circle. And the people that had killed my sister had it coming. My sister. Shot full of holes by some ass hole with a gun. A gun he wouldn’t have had, if not for these people.

After a deep breath, I double checked everything. “3 AR-15s, all loaded. Check.” One piece at a time, carefully, it had to all be right. I’d only have one chance. “3 clips for each, all loaded and ready. Check.” I already knew I wasn’t going home that night. I wasn’t going home ever.

It occurred to me I was going to miss watching the sun rise, but that was OK. My sister deserved to be remembered. Especially by those people.

Just past nine that night, the front door of the building across the street opened, and the first people started walking out. “Patience. Patience. Not yet.” I waited. There had to be enough of them outside before I acted.

“There. That’s enough.” I aimed an AR-15 from the bed of my truck, and I opened fire. I shot as many of those bastards and bitches as I could. It was karma, unleashed.

That’s how I wound up here, talking to Satan about the NRA, and how their meeting was the perfect time to complete the circle.

243 Words
@mysoulstears


It’s Week 414 of #ThursThreads, hosted by Siobhan Muir. And more words in whatever it is that’s writing itself have turned up. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are always fun to read. And there are some great writers who show up every week.

Miranda Kate’s Mid Week Challenge : 2020/05/19 (Week 157)

“It’s a book,” she pointed at the book I was reading. “A purple one, with gold letters, and this candle thing on the front.”

I nodded, and kept reading.

“Why do you waste your time reading so many books?” She plunked down on the sofa next to me. “There’s so much to do in the world. So many places to go. So much to see.”

I nodded, and kept reading.

“And you sit here, reading books all day.”

Carefully, I placed my folded sheet of paper I used as a bookmark between the pages, and closed the book. “Yes, I do.”

“Why?” She grabbed my book, and put it on the far end of the sofa from me. “There’s so much to life, and you read books? Why not do something fun?”

There are times when words are useless, and I knew this was one of those times. There were no words to explain my fascination with books to her. She would not understand any words I said. Which is why I started saying them anyway.

“They change me.”

“What?”

“The books. They change me.”

“Oh, really.” She gave me a good look over, “You look just like you did this morning. Nothing changed about you.”

“They change me anyway.”

“How can books change you?”

“I learn from them.”

At first, she didn’t answer. Then, all at once, “You learn from books, but you don’t learn from life?”

“Of course I learn from life.”

“Then why do you read so many books?”

“To learn more than I can from life.”

“What more is there to learn?”

There it was. The reason she would never understand a word I said. Her mind was closed, she’d already determined books were a waste of time. “OK. Tactic change.” I made certain I didn’t look at her eyes, I knew, if I did that, I’d give up instantly, and do whatever she wanted. “Why do you watch movies?”

“The same reason everyone watches movies, silly. To escape reality.”

So much for that idea. I could hear her thinking, “You read to escape reality? Seriously?”

“OK. That’s not going to get anywhere either is it?” Any discussion I could have had with her was already over, and I knew it. “You already know all the answers to everything, don’t you.”

“No, silly. No one does.” I thought she was going to laugh for a moment, “I know what I need to know, and that’s more than enough.”

I wanted to ask her about all the religions of the world. Then about the languages, and why there were so many, and why different languages allowed people to say things they couldn’t say at all in other languages. I wanted to ask her about politics, and Conservatives, and Liberals, and Socialists, and Marxists, and a thousand others.

I didn’t.

I already knew. Her mind was closed. She’d picked one religion, one language, one political viewpoint. And she’d closed everything else down.

“That’s not enough for me.” I reached past her, and picked up my book. “It never will be.”

“Idiot.” She stood up, and walked off. I didn’t know where. I thought about following her, maybe apologizing. Maybe doing something like taking her to dinner, and a movie, and spending time with her.

But she was so small. So limited. So set in her ways.

The thought occurred to me, perhaps I should be sad because I’d grown apart from her, and she from me. I was still sitting there, thinking, when I heard the door to the apartment slam.

“This can’t be fixed, can it.”

I swear I heard the walls of the room answer me, with a quiet, “No.”

614 words
@mysoulstears


Written in response to the prompt for week 157 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can learn about Miranda’s challenge here. The stories people share for the weekly challenge are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. Please go read them all.

#ThursThreads Week 413 : I Told Here I Wouldn’t Ever Come Back Here Again

Everything comes full circle, I suppose. Perhaps everyone does too.

The first town I lived in didn’t have a stop light, or a school, but it had a Southern Baptist church. It didn’t have a McDonald’s, or Taco Bell, not even a mom and pop place, or a gas station. It wasn’t even a town, being unincorporated.

My family lived there until I was 12. That’s when Dad went stupid, and Mom left him, and took me to Jackson with her. That’s when I said goodbye to Bonnie.

Bonnie lived next door. She was cute as cute gets, with amazing red hair I got caught staring at too many times. We’d been friends as long as either of us could remember, and we’d never thought our friendship would end.

Until Dad went stupid, and Mom and I moved.

The night before we left, I took a walk with Bonnie. Mom told me, “She’s your friend, you need to say good-bye.” That night was when Bonnie kissed me. We had no idea how kisses worked, but she kissed me anyway, and held my hand as we walked.

The next morning I went next door, and said good-bye to Bonnie. She asked me to write, and to come visit someday. “Mom cried herself to sleep last night.” I told her. Then, I told her I wouldn’t come back here again.

And I never did. Until now. For Bonnie’s funeral.

Everything does come full circle, you know.

Everything.

244 Words
@mysoulstears


It’s Week 413 of #ThursThreads, hosted by Siobhan Muir. And more words in whatever it is that’s writing itself have turned up. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are always fun to read. And there are some great writers who show up every week.

#ThursThreads Week 412 : I Should Not Have Come Here

My curiosity sometimes got the better of me. That was one of those times. I’d wondered how people behaved at a popular music concert, so when I learned one of my favorite bands was having a show at the local amphitheater, I decided to attend, and find out.

I found the idea of sitting on a hillside covered with grass, watching several bands play their songs, fascinating. Before the first band went onstage, I focused on watching people find places to sit. I was stunned to see how many of them purchased drinks, mostly beer, from the amphitheater’s vendors. I knew those drinks were absurdly overpriced. But that didn’t seem to matter to those attending the event, as they kept obtaining more drinks every time they ran out.

Unfortunately, when that first band started I realized I was alone. Surrounded by an ocean of strangers, thousands of people I did not know. My mind stopped working correctly, and began asking, endlessly, “Why am I here?” and “What am I doing?”

I began to feel like an ant crossing a table surrounded by humans intent on smashing it. I lost track of the music, and kept reminding myself to breathe, as I desperately tried to control the panic attack I knew was engulfing me.

All the while, my mind kept endlessly repeating, “I should not have come here.”

I don’t remember the music at all. All I remember is I survived.

240 Words
@mysoulstears


It’s Week 412 of #ThursThreads, hosted by Siobhan Muir. And more words in whatever it is that’s writing itself have turned up. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are always fun to read. And there are some great writers who show up every week.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2020/05/06 (Week 156)

The team of Russian, French, Japanese, Chinese, and German scientists, and their heavily armed escort, worked their way through the remains of Oklahoma City. Half of it was rubble, melted glass, and scorched ground. The other half still stood, though it clearly needed repair.

They’d seen too many bodies on their walk already. Bodies in every city, and every town. Many of them as charred as the ground, others as damaged as what was left standing. In the cities, and towns, almost no one survived.

The French team checked their radiation exposure badges, “We may have 30 minutes left.” Then they resumed measuring the radiation levels of everything. Dirt, parts of bricks, chunks of concrete, melted pavement, everything.

The Russian team took pictures of everything, hoping the pictures could provide a three dimensional digital reconstruction of the area, so they could identify where the cruise missile had impacted the ground.

The Chinese placed markers every 10 feet, in a square pattern, to help measure the size of the area the blast had leveled. Several of them knelt, and silently prayed to whatever gods there were, that this never happened again.

The Japanese and the Germans worked on air flow patterns, cloud cover, humidity, temperature, and general records about the environment. Several of them spoke quietly to each other of how the Americans had sown the wind, and sadly reaped the whirlwind.

All of them knew they would find nothing alive. No people. No cats, dogs, rats, birds, snakes, squirrels. Nothing. Nothing would have survived the power of the blast, and the overwhelming dose of neutron radiation it released.

One of the Russians stopped his work before a steel door, embedded in the remains of a rebar wall. The door stood alone, the building it had been part of was gone, nothing but piles of debris here and there.

The other teams stopped when they saw him standing before that door, and they joined him.

Somehow, by some magic unknown to human science, the door still stood, and the paint on it had not burned away, nor was it black or charred.

It was a painting of a man. He was crouched down, one hand touching the ground, the other his head. None of them knew what it meant. The Russians took pictures of the door, from every angle.

Too soon, their time was up, and the transport helicopters touched down, they boarded them, and were carried away, to the safety of the heavily shielded research base the United Nations had constructed to support their research.

The Chinese and Japanese scientists spoke frequently of what had happened, and why, and how many lives had been lost, and how much of the world would be uninhabitable for centuries. The Japanese were the most experienced with post nuclear blast recoveries, and their insight was highly valued.

The lead Chinese scientist politely noted, “There was no other way.”

The lead Japanese scientist responded, “Indeed.”

They both looked out of the helicopter windows at the devastated landscape below. The Chinese man spoke first, “All this because one of the corona-viruses mutated, and became able to spread among humans.”

The Japanese man nodded, “The Americans always sought someone to blame.”

“It was not our fault,” the Chinese man shook his head, and was no longer able to hold back his emotions, and tears silently flowed from the corners of his eyes. “It was no one’s fault.”

“We all know that. Even half the Americans knew that.”

The Russian leader placed his hand on the Chinese man’s shoulder, “It was their own fault.” He looked at the devastation below. “They insisted on blaming someone, and then set about getting even.” He paused, then sighed. “It was their way. Their nationalistic pride. And it killed them.”

The Chinese man knew. The US had launched military strikes at China, and all its allies. They’d blown North Korea off the face of the planet. They’d left a hole in the ground where Wuhan had been that glowed green in the dark, and was visible from the International Space Station. That, all by itself, triggered a global response, with thousands of nuclear weapons launched against the US.

The Russian nodded at his Chinese friend. “We could not let them destroy the entire world out of their pride and arrogance.”

The Japanese man spoke, quietly, “They sowed the wind. They reaped the storm.”

729 words
@mysoulstears


Written in response to the prompt for week 156 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can learn about Miranda’s challenge here. The stories people share for the weekly challenge are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. Please go read them all.

#SwiftFicFriday : Week 37

My camera turned itself off, and I knew the battery was drained. As I wasn’t done taking pictures of the damage yet, I pulled the drained battery out, and put in the last of my spares. Six batteries, drained, taking pictures of this site.

“There’s a pattern in the damage,” was all I could think. “A pattern that repeats.” Pictures tend not to lie, especially unedited pictures, captured straight to film. Not like digital images where you can change everything. It’s why I used film for the research.

“Same damage as the other seven sites in the state.” The tension in my jaw made my teeth ache, and I wondered if I’d crack another tooth from the stress. “Breathe, damn-it. Breathe.”

The damage wasn’t to destroy the structure, or the framework of the building. It was designed to lower the value of the building. To make it ugly, and unmarketable. It was always focused on surfaces. Taking down walls, leaving the maximum amount of debris, destroying stair rails, but leaving the stairs in place, pulling down the ceiling, showing the framework, cables, pipes, and insulation.

The framework of a building was the least expensive part, relatively speaking. What made it expensive was the appearance. Wreck the appearance, and the price of the building plummeted.

A second aspect of the damage, people stopped visiting the damaged places. Business inside went under, closed, left. No one wanted to shop amid the damage. No one wanted to watch a movie, or a theater performance in a wrecked place. Didn’t matter how big the place had been. The damage killed it.

With enough pictures, from enough sites, I hoped to show the damage was deliberate. Someone wanted the framework to use for themselves. That was obvious. What was not obvious was who.

298 Words
@mysoulstears


It’s Week 37 of #SwiftFicFriday, hosted by Kathryn J. Avila. I’m trying this fiction writing challenge out for the first time. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #SwiftFicFriday, and if you like a story, click on the like button.