#VisDare 121 : Tethered

7d0cea8ce224841c5cfd76f76b38f058I peered into the crack in the wall, I could see something beyond, I knew something was there. Others in reality watched me peering into the crack. “One does not look into the crack!” Always they told me, “One does not look!” and “You can’t do that!” Soon, everyone I knew told me the same thing, how I needed to fix that crack. “If that crack grows, it can become dangerous!”

I let the crack grow. Each day, it grew a little more. A little deeper, a little wider.

Soon, people stayed away from the crack, and from me. And when I looked at them tethered, tied, bound to their places, anchored to the ground, unable to walk around, unable to explore the small world of reality. I saw them all turn away from the crack, ignoring it, hiding it from their sight.

I saw them afraid. Uncomfortable. Disturbed.

149 Words
@LurchMunster


Part 2 of a story I’m writing for Angela Goff’s Visual Dare. Please read the other entries in this week’s Visual Dare challenge. Be amazed at the magic people can put into 150 words or less.

#MidweekMusings 1×08 : Lowlife

The wolf lead Kelly into the clearing, where the woman was standing. She wore one of Frank’s shirts, Kelly recognized it. The woman saw the wolf, saw Kelly, and looked terrified. “Jessica sent me. It’s OK. It’s alright.” The wolf stretched out on the ground, his tail wagged.

Kelly looked around, her eyes searched the trees, the brush. Nothing. No sign of Frank. “Frank brought you here, didn’t he.”

The woman nodded.

“Is he still here?”

She shook her head.

“Damn!”

The woman looked terrified, and Kelly could understand that. She’d been used the same way. By a group of six men. She’d thought it would never end. The things they’d done to her. She fought, she cried, she screamed, she tried. But one against six. She lost. They used her. They beat her.

She knelt on the ground, held out a bag of nuts and berries, and a container of water. “These are for you.”

Frank watched from the trees. He hadn’t expected Kelly to show up. One of the others, yes, but not Kelly. He wanted to step out of hiding. Hug her. Ask how things were at the village. Ask how Valerie was.

The wolf yipped, leaped to its feet, and raced into the trees. “Frack!” Frank silently cursed. It raced to Frank’s side, and yipped and ran in circles. “Frack!”

Kelly saw the wolf race into the trees, saw it yipping at a tree, running in circles. “Frank?”

The wolf bounced around, “Yip! Yip! Yip!”

Kelly raced into the trees.

There was nothing to do but step out of hiding. Frank gave up. “Hi.”

Kelly plowed into him, nearly knocked him over, “FRANK!” She wrapped her arms around his neck, and hugged him like she would never let him go. “Thank, God!”

“Hi, Kelly.”

She grabbed his hand, and hauled him back to the clearing, where the woman waited. The wolf parked beside the woman, then nuzzled her ankle. The woman smiled.

“I see you rescued someone.”

Frank said nothing.

“Was she alone?”

He shook his head.

Frank hated to see sadness in Kelly’s eyes. “Oh.”

“A trap. She was bait.”

Kelly placed a hand on the woman’s shoulder, “Oh, you poor dear.”

“He…” She tried to speak.

“How many were there?” Kelly knew, it was several. She knew, with Frank, it didn’t matter. None of them would have walked away.

“Seven.”

“Where?”

He shook his head. “Not saying.”

“Valerie cries every night.” She didn’t let go of his hand, “Every night, Frank.”

There was no answer. No response.

“What happened? Tell me, Frank. What happened?”

“Take her to the village.” He started to walk away.

The wolf cut him off. It whined, and stayed in his way, no matter where he turned. Kelly grabbed his hand again, and the woman grabbed his other hand. Neither would let go. “Please.”

He wanted to run. To get the hell out of there, and never come back. But, Kelly’d said, “Please.”

“I can’t.” He squeezed both their hands. “I can’t.” He shook his head.

“Why, Frank? Why?”

For the first time since he’d saved her, the woman spoke, “Broken.”

Kelly stared at him. “Broken?” She looked in his eyes. Frank wanted to look away, but found he couldn’t. “Broken?” She held his hand tightly, as if he might run if she let go. “Frank?”

“You said it’s safe. With Jessica.” She wouldn’t let go of his hand. “I’m afraid.”

No one spoke for a while. The only sounds were the leaves in the breeze through the trees, a soft, quiet rustle.

“I don’t belong.” Frank finally spoke. “Not there. You build things. Have hope.” He tried to look at Kelly, but couldn’t. “All I do is kill things.”

The woman shook her head.

Kelly embraced him again. “Please. At least visit. One night.”

He needed to say something. Anything. “How is Valerie?”

“I’m not going to tell you.” Kelly wouldn’t let go. She held him like he’d vanish if she did. “You’ll have to come check on her.”

He didn’t move, just stood there. She swore he’d stopped breathing. “There’s a heart in you, Frank.” She pressed her head to his chest, “I can hear it beating.” She smiled at him. “And you saved her.” She nodded at the woman. “You could have walked away. Left her to die. But you didn’t.”

The woman whispered, “I’m afraid.” Frank saw the fear in her eyes. She knew him. Knew he wouldn’t hurt her.

“See, Frank? See? I felt your heart move when she spoke. I did. You’re not evil, Frank. You’re not. You save people. Like me. Like her.” She looked in his eyes again, “You still have a heart.”

The woman whispered, “Don’t leave me alone.”

Frank sank to his knees. He couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t think. Valerie held him, wouldn’t let him go. “You brought her this far. Won’t you take her the rest of the way. Just to make sure she’s safe?” She pressed her cheek against his, “Please? I know your heart. It’s still alive.”

Frank cried. He held Kelly, and wept.

And the woman whispered, “Broken.” She knelt beside them both, “Take me where it’s safe.”

Where it was safe. Where broken, wounded people, like Kelly, Gina, and the others went to heal. Safe, where the woman who’d lost everything a few days ago could start over. Maybe learn to smile again.

And maybe the ache in his chest would finally start to fade.

“Take me where it’s safe.”

915 Words
@LurchMunster


For week 1×08 of #MidweekMusings, a flash fiction adventure hosted by #FlashMobWrites (Ruth Long and Cara Michaels). Please, go read all the stories for this week’s prompt.

#VisDare 49 : Devoted (Taran’s Tale, Part 32)

After the videos, Alice spoke. “Cynthia is my mother. Leighla is my daughter.” She looked into my eyes, and I got lost in hers. “I have a son. The hordes took him.” Her blue eyes became wells of sorrow. “I’m afraid,” She pulled away from me. “Of what I feel.”

I knew not to touch her then. It would hurt her. “I’m from the caves.” It was time to tell her. “But I lived alone. Alone.” Her eyes wouldn’t let me go. “I read the books of the ancients. I left the caves to find a new life.” I let my eyes return to hers. “And I have.” I tried to smile.

“Me?”

“No.” I couldn’t lie to her. “Me. And I’m afraid. Of what I feel.”

I slowly offered her my hand. She slowly reached for it, and what we both felt began to grow.

146 Words
@LurchMunster


This is part 32 in the continuing story I’m working on for Angela Goff’s Visual Dare. Please read the other entries in this week’s Visual Dare challenge.

The entire story, from part 32 to part 1, is located here.

#VisDare 46 : Silhouette

“Taran. I’m afraid of love.” I felt her hand tremble in mine. “I’m afraid of you.”

We walked to the lake. “There’s a statue in the cave. Of the monsters on the surface. Of a little girl controlling them.”

Alice nodded. “Jessica.”

“So they teach.”

“What do you mean?”

I looked across the lake. “I’m no longer in the caves. I’m on the surface.”

She leaned into me, drew my arm around her waist. “Taran. What are you afraid of?”

What was I afraid of? I didn’t know. I’d never thought about it. I’d never asked myself. I’d always tried to follow what I thought were the rules of life. The way I thought was right.

“Everything’s a lie.”

“No. It’s not.” Her fingers brushed my cheek. “It’s just bigger than you knew.”

“I’m afraid of me. Alice.” I closed my eyes. “I don’t know who I am.”

147 Words
@LurchMunster


This is part 29 in the continuing story I’m working on for Angela Goff’s Visual Dare. Please read the other entries in this week’s Visual Dare challenge.(And yes. I know I’m days late getting this one written and posted.)

The entire story, from part 29 to part 1, is located here.

#MWBB 40 : The Ballad Of Cable Hogue

As the song finished playing, she belted out, “Thank God that’s over!”

I had to laugh. Her remark was so like her. “I take it you did not like the music?”

Ever had pretty blue eyes drill holes through you? I swear that’s what hers did to me. “You know damn well I don’t like that type of music.”

To be honest, I knew she didn’t like any type of music other than the few artists she listened to. And I wasn’t sure if artists was the right word. “You don’t like much of anything.”

She gave me this little “Hm!” as she turned her nose, and looked anywhere else.

“No! It’s true! You don’t like much of anything.” I wasn’t really trying to pick a fight. But I didn’t see any way to avoid one.

She punched the station 1 button on the car radio, tuning it back to her radio station. Beyonce’s voice filled the car. I think it was “Single Ladies”. Again. She sang right along with it. “All the single ladies…”

Every hear that saying, “Put up or shut up”? That’s the option I had on this. Sit there, silently, not daring to say a word, or sing along with her.

That’s why I was leaving her.

“You know, you’re boring.” Well, she was.

“I’m not boring!”

“You listen to the same, what, ten songs, over and over again.”

“I do not!”

“You watch the same TV shows every week.”

“I do not!”

“You eat at the same five restaurants every week.”

“No, I don’t!”

“You shop at the same three stores. You never, ever read a book of any kind. You own everything Apple ever made.”

She laughed. “I do what makes me happy!”

It was time for the fight. “You do what makes you safe, and comfortable.”

“So?”

I knew she’d have no idea what I was trying to say. How do you tell someone they live in a box, and to them, nothing outside that box exists? I punched the “tune” button, and set the radio to a random station again. I almost laughed. The station was playing a Calexico tune. And I knew she’d hate it.

“Hell, they aren’t even singing!”

“They’re singing.” I laughed, spitefully. “You just have too narrow a mind to see it, or hear it.” Oh, hell, you should have seen the look she gave me. “They’re just different. And that scares you.”

I kept driving, and started singing along with the song. “I should’ve stayed way out yonder better off with the scorpions and snakes.” Yeah. I should have.

She huffed and looked out the window. And didn’t say a single word until I pulled up to the curb by her apartment. “Don’t call me anymore,” she declared, spitefully I might add, as she opened the door.

“Don’t worry, darlin’. I won’t. It’d be a waste of time.”

As least the window didn’t shatter when she slammed the door.

490 words
@LurchMunster


This is my entry for week 40 of Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge. Please, go read the other stories in the challenge.

#FTT 23 : This, To Me, Represents Love

“This, to me, represents love.” I held up a dozen cut roses. They had been Valerie’s favorite kind. Yellow in the middle, with red along the edges. I will never forget the day she left. She didn’t say where she was going. She just left a note, explaining she was leaving to find herself.

“Roses?” Helen laughed. “The ancient symbol of love, and beauty.” She looked at the roses. “And they are beautiful.”

Helen was a good friend. I sometimes dreamed of falling for her. But it was always just a dream. I knew it couldn’t happen. She was my friend. And love? Well. All I had to do was remember Valerie.

And remembering Valerie always caused me to hear Dan McCafferty’s voice, screaming in my mind.

“Love hurts,
Love scars,
Love wounds,
And mars,
Any heart
Not tough or strong enough
To take a lot of pain,
Take a lot of pain.”

I knew I’d never fall in love again. I knew I’d never survive that kind of pain again. I could still see holes in my heart where pieces had been. Pieces gone since Valerie left.

“You think they’re beautiful?” I had to ask.

“Yes,” she smiled, and grabbed my hand, slipping her fingers between mine. “But, fleeting.”

“How so?”

“They’re cut. They’re pretty enough now. But in a few days, they’re whither. Their petals will turn brown, and black, and fall off. And they’ll become slimy where they’re in the water in the vase.” She squeezed my hand. It felt good. I squeezed back, enjoying the simple physical contact. Just being able to touch her. Feel her hand in mine. I always found my smile when we held hands.

“Yep. Just like love.”

She frowned, but didn’t let go of my hand. “I know. You’re still wounded from her.”

I had to stare at the roses. I couldn’t look at Helen. Not right then. I couldn’t let her see the parts of me missing. I couldn’t.

I was too afraid. Afraid of what she’d see. Afraid of what I’d feel. Afraid of how I felt about her. Afraid of so many things.

“It’s OK. The roses always grow back.” She smiled again. “Every year, they bloom again.” She put her hand under my chin, and gently lifted it up, looking into my eyes. “Just like love blooms again.”

I handed her the roses. “For you.” I whispered those words.

She squeezed my hand again. “I love them.” She smiled. “And I’m not going anywhere.” She kept looking into my eyes. “I’ve got plenty of time. I intend to wait for spring, when love blooms again.” She let me look away, but kept holding my hand.

“I’ll wait for the roses to bloom again.”

456 words
@LurchMunster


I wrote this for Week 23 of Alissa Leonard‘s Finish That Thought. Please, go read all the creatively shared stories in this week’s challenge.

#VisDare 32 : Undecided

That night, we ate in the church in Old Phoenix. As we ate, I noticed Alice staring at her glass of water, lost in her thoughts. I knew she was afraid of how she felt about me. She’d lost everyone she’d let into her heart.

“You really think I’m pretty?”

I smiled at her and held out a hand. “You are beautiful. And your heart and soul are the most beautiful I have ever found.”

She smiled and held my hand. I knew she was the missing part of me. I wanted to tell her to take her time. I wasn’t going anywhere. I’d wait forever for her. But I knew not to.

“I’m afraid.”

“So am I.”

She held my hand as she stared into her glass of water, too afraid to care for me, and too afraid to let me go.

143 Words
@LurchMunster


This is part 23 in the continuing story I’m working on for Angela Goff’s Visual Dare. Please read the other entries in this week’s Visual Dare challenge.

She Doesn’t Know

I took a chance.
I admit that.
I deliberately broke the rules.
Me, the married guy,
Choosing to sit with her,
The divorced woman.

Everybody knows,
You don’t do that.

I took a chance
To show a friend
How I felt.
What I felt.
About her.
I deliberately broke the rules.
I knew it then.
I understood the risk.

I’ve never been
Much of one
For the rules of life
I see people following.
I suppose it’s because
I’ve seen how those rules
Rip out a person’s heart,
And burn their soul
To ash.

Then I broke one more rule
On that Sunday morning.
I actually put my hand
On one of hers.

I’d say I walked her to her car.
Because that’s what I did.
But I can always claim
I had no real choice.
Her car was between
The church’s doors,
And mine.

There are those that would declare
I knew what I was doing
When I parked where I did.

I can only shake my head.
And wonder.
Will any of them learn?
Will any of them ever change?
Will any of them
Begin to grow again?
Or are they done?

And I know
From the way my heart aches,
And the tears of my soul,
I know.
They never will.
They’re done.
They’re where they want to be.
They’re where they’re safe.
Where they’re secure.

And there,
They choose to stay.

It saddens me to know
She’s that same way.

Unable to acknowledge
What her heart tells her.
She lets no one in.
No one close.
To protect herself.
From pain.

I can understand that.
I really can.
I’ve been hurt myself,
Time and time again.

But that’s all it is.
Hurt,
And pain.
Like when you make that mistake
At the oven now and then
And stand there staring
At your bright red fingertips
As the blisters grow on them
Again.

It happens.

Even the best fall
Every now and then.
Like the time the favorite
For the gold medal
At the Olympics
Never reached the end
Of the race
He was in.

It happens.

I know how badly
She’s been hurt
By events in life.
The one that left her
On her own.
With their daughter.
She raised their child
On her own.

The way people talk
About those women.
You know the kind I mean.
The divorced ones.
Looking for another man.
The ones that might just settle
For a fling.

People are so ready
To believe
Lies and gossip are the truth
When they don’t understand
Something.

It was on the day
She spoke those words to me.
Told me she had an image
She had to maintain.
So people wouldn’t see things
The wrong way.
Wouldn’t say things about her
Behind her back.

She had a reputation
To uphold.

In a church.

Of all things.

It was on that day
I knew.
My days there
Were nearly through.
And the time had come
For me to stand
And walk away.

For I will not live my life
Afraid
Of what the blind,
The ignorant,
The ones afraid of life,
Will say.

Will I get hurt again?
Hell, yes.
I will.
It’s part of life.
Like love,
And laughter,
Tears,
And pain.

You aren’t alive
If you can’t be hurt.
You’re simply hiding.
In a cave.
In a box.
In a little space.
Where all there is to life
Is what’s around you,
What’s in your room.

So you live isolated.
Hidden from the world.
But safe.

The saddest part of all
To me?

She doesn’t know
She lives that way.
No one in those rooms,
Hiding where it’s safe,
Knows at all.

Because nothing they’re afraid of
Gets within those walls.
Nothing can ever change.

I turned and walked away.
Never to return
To that church.
To her world.

But to this day.
And through my life.
If she should ever call,
And ask for any help from me
At all.

I’ll find a way.

Because to me,
She was
And is
My friend.
And my friend
She always will be.

Even thought
She doesn’t know.

Can I Ever Change?

I stopped looking for a job
To replace the one that’’s gone
In January of 2012.

I haven’’t looked since then.

My doctor has tried
To convince me to start
A small business
Of my own.
Since January of 2011.

I haven’’t.

I ask people
All the time.
“What are you afraid of?”
Because I know.
I can see the fear in them.
The way they try
To avoid pain.
Of any kind.
Of every kind.

And yet,
I wonder.
Why am I still here?
Motionless.
Doing nothing.
No longer looking.
No longer planning.
Just here.

Sometimes, I remember.
I remember the hurt.
The pain.
How I felt betrayed.
By everyone I worked with.
Everyone.

I remember the anger.
How I spent weeks.
Walking.
Miles and miles.
Day after day.
Blistered heels.
Blistered toes.

Hell,
I lost three toenails.
Three.

I remember the countless times
I pulled off my shoes
And saw blood
On my socks.

My blood.

I remember
How it never hurt.
Not even once.
How I never felt the pain
In my toes.
In my heels.

All I felt
Was the pain
In my heart and soul.

And I know.
I know.
Why I have stopped looking
For a job.

Sometimes I ask,
“If the last job you had
Drove railroad spikes
Through your hands and feet,
Ripped your fingernails
Off your fingers
With pliers,
Used a barbed whip
On you back
Until you felt nothing at all,
No pain.
If your last job
Did that to you,
Would you ever
Try again?”

I know why I stopped looking.
Why I may never look again.

I know too
Why I haven’’t struck out
On my own.
Why I keep saying,
“Someday.
Someday I’’ll start a business.
Of my own.
Someday.”

I look at all the things
I’’d have to do.
Have to learn.
And I’’m not sure at all
I want to.

And yes.
I am afraid.
Afraid to even try.
But there’’s so much more than that.
I could fail.
Could fall on my sword.
But that’s not what’’s stopping me.
There’’s something more.

I’’ve always been a failure.
In my eyes.
Never once believed in me
In my life.
Hell,
I don’’t even believe
I can write.

And if I’’m worthless.
If I’’m the failure
I believe I am.

How can I even try?

I know what I’’m afraid of.

And I wonder.
Every single day.
Can I ever change?

Can I ever change?

Living In That Box

I remember words from August of 2010.
Words spoken by a friend.
As he tried so very hard
To explain to me
How things were,
And why people behaved
The way they did.

“They’re private people, Mark.
They don’t show what they’re feeling.
They don’t talk about such things.
They just do their work.”

I didn’t understand his words.
They left me confused
And lost.
Without a shred of understanding
Of how people are.
Of how they behave.

I remember words from September of 2010.
Spoken by another friend.
He knew what would happen to me.
He saw it coming.
Tried to warn me.

“I know working here sucks.
But you have to behave.
Be like they want you to be.
‘Cause they’ll get rid of you.
Doesn’t matter how good you are.
If you don’t fit in.
They’ll get rid of you.”

I didn’t understand his words.
They made no sense to me.
Fit in.
Behave.
How could people be
Someone they are not?

I remember words I spoke
To her.
The Lenten Rose.
On the last day I worked
In the job
I used to have.

October 6th.
2010.

“They’re all broken,
Aren’t they?
Every one of them.”

I remember how she smiled.
I remember how she nodded.
“Yes.”
Was all she said.

I never returned
To that land of work.

I remember words
My boss spoke to me.
When he expressed his frustration
In dealing with me.
It was his way of saying
That I had to learn
To live inside the box.

“But you can’t be that way,
Mark.”

I could have tried to say something.
To explain to him.
That I can’t be any other way.
That I can’t fit
Back in that box.

But I knew
He wouldn’t understand.
So I didn’t try.
I let him believe
What he wanted to.
‘Cause I knew
All he saw
Was inside the bounds
Of that box.
And in his eyes
There is not other way
To be.

I remember several months.
In 2011.
Starting with May 1st,
And Ending in October.

I tried to go to church.
I did.
I tried to find a place
Where I could fit in.
Where I could feel
Like I belonged.

At that church I found
An old friend.
One I hadn’t seen in decades.
It was great to see her
Once again.

But as time went by
I ran into the same thing
I’d run into
In the land of work.

I did things differently.
Reacted differently.
Felt differently.
About almost everything.
About the word of God.
About the way things are.
About how people
Should behave.

And I saw once again,
How very broken deep inside
Almost everyone there was.

This time I didn’t wait
To be pushed away.
This time
I walked away
All on my own.

I’ve written many times
Since then.
About how I pray for them.
The people I once knew.
I’ve spoken with my doctor
Week after week.
For months on end.
About what I see
When I think of them.

They live inside a box.
A single box.
That defines how life
Should be.
And never step outside that box.
For any reason.

It’s very much as if
Outside the box is where
All the monsters live.
And if you leave the box
You’ll get eaten.
You’ll be some monsters
Lunch.

And I’m outside their box.
Outside their way of life.
I see things differently.
Which bothers them
A lot.

So here I am
Outside their box.
Wishing they could understand
How I care for them.
How I wish them well.
How I wish they would wake up and see
The scares upon their hearts.
The chains upon their souls.

But I know.
I’ve learned.
Through time.
And pain.
They don’t see things
As I do.

To them.
I’m wrong.
I’m dangerous.
Hell,
I’m a spawn of Satan,
Don’t you know.

Their world is all there is.
And that works for them.
And in their world,
Inside that box.
Everything’s OK.
There’s nothing wrong
With them.

They don’t even understand,
And they don’t see at all.
How broken and afraid
They really are.

All they know is
That they have to stay
Inside the box.
Where it’s safe.

God,
How I pray for them.

I will never fit
Inside the box
That they live in.
I will never be
Like them.
Never do things
In their way.

But I won’t judge
A single soul
That lives inside the box.
How could I?
When just two years ago
I lived inside the box
With them?
And just like them
I didn’t know,
And couldn’t see
How hurt and broken
I’d become.

Living in that box.

But I woke up.
Came back to life.
And stepped outside the box.

Now that I can see
The way things are
Inside that box.
I know this simple truth.
There is nothing I want.
Nothing left for me.
No reason at all
For me to stay

Living in that box.

I’m free.

And I like being that way.