Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2020_04_01 (Week 148)

My mother was too old to be in the forest behind her house, but she’d insisted. “There’s something you need to see.” I’d tried to talk her into staying in the house, to tell me where to look, or to let me put her in her wheelchair, and push her where she wanted to go. She was stubborn, and wouldn’t hear of that. “I promised I’d show you.”

It had been slow going. She’d had to stop several times to rest, and catch her breath. But, always, she was stubborn, and answered any concerns I had for her with, “I promised I’d show you.”

Eventually, we came to a small clearing, beneath a canopy of leaves. “Here we are.” Mother smiled, and patted me on the shoulder, “Here we are.”

It wasn’t anywhere special. I thought it looked like a half dozen small clearings under the trees we’d already seen. Until Mother pointed at something. “There.” It was a park bench. And old, wooden one, covered in mosses, and partially rotten. “There.”

She wobbled over to it, and sat down. “This is where I promised I’d show you.”

“This?”

“And before you say anything, a picture wouldn’t work, because I promised him I’d show you.”

“Who did you promise, and show me what?”

“Your father. I promised him.”

She hadn’t spoken of him since he’d passed nearly a decade ago. If anything, she’d carried on like she’d never been married, and never had anyone to miss. “Life goes on.” That’s what she told me.

“Dad?”

“Yes.” She leaned back against the wood. I worried it might collapse under her weight. “Don’t worry. He built this well. It’ll be here another hundred years.”

“Dad wanted you to show me something? Something here?”

“No. He didn’t want me to show you something. He wanted me to show you this place.”

“I don’t understand.”

“That’s what he said. ‘Mary, he’ll tell you he doesn’t understand. You’ll have to explain it. And show it to him. So.” She patted the space on the bench next to her. “Have a seat.”

What else could I do? I frowned, and sat down. Mother chuckled, “That’s just like you. No time for anything. Not even time to breathe.” She took a deep breath, “Humor an old woman, and sit still for a bit, while I talk.”

She sang instead. Amazing Grace. I hadn’t heard that song in years, but I knew the words. She’d always sang it, every Sunday.

Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
T’was blind but now I see

Mother stopped there. “Just sit, and listen to this old woman.”

She didn’t say a word. I waited for her to talk, but she didn’t. Just before I asked her if she was going to say anything, she cut me off, “I said listen.”

It took a while, but eventually I began to notice sounds. Leaves on trees rustling when the wind blew through them. A couple of birds singing, somewhere. Mother smiled at me. “Just listen.”

I waited, and watched Mother, and listened. I watched as she fell asleep on that bench. I listened to her breathe, to know she was still alive. I listened to my own breath. I’d forgotten what it sounded like. I listened to the trees. To the forest.

I didn’t notice when she woke. I was watching the sunlight patterns on the ground, where the sun peeked through the canopy. It changed all the time, every time the wind blew, and the leaves shifted. I noticed the sound of the wind always happened before the pattern changed. Then, I realized I was listening for the wind, just to see the pattern change.

“I promised him I’d show you.” Mother smiled. “Promised him I’d remind you of all that really mattered.”

I helped her to her feet, and we started home. “He’ll be happy now. Now, when I see him, I can tell him your heart is still alive. That there’s still hope you might learn how to live.”

I didn’t say a word on the walk back, but Mother knew. Somehow, she knew. My father had been right. I’d forgotten what it meant to be alive.

710 words
@mysoulstears


Written in response to the prompt for week 148 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.

 

When Will Your First Book Be Ready?

A good friend asked, yesterday, when my first book was coming out. Of course, I answered with a, “When it’s ready” answer.. Isn’t that what everyone that’s never published a novel answers? “When it’s ready.”

But here’s where things get different. With me, “When it’s ready,” may translate to “Never.” It’s an anxiety and depression thing. It’s a war with myself thing. A conflict I’m all too familiar with, and have struggled with all my life. These days, when I think of writing the 2nd and 3rd drafts of “White Witch”, then getting beta readers, and finding an editor to help me clean it up, an artist to help me with the cover design, and learning what I’ll need to learn to publish my book, I panic.

Yes, I panic.

And until now, this morning, sitting here, writing these words, I’ve never admitted I panic at the thought of completing my first novel. But I do. Every symptom, every signal, shows. My fingers vibrate like the tines of a tuning fork. My left wrist does its “I can’t support any weight” number. My chest constricts, all the muscles in my neck, shoulders, and chest behave like I’m lifting a five-drawer file cabinet over my head. My pulse rate pushes up to near 3 digit levels, and I have to force myself to take full, deep breaths, to breathe normally.

See. I know. I just don’t talk about it. I hide it, and pray it goes away. I pray everything goes away. As I have all my life.

Because I want to fail.

Yes. You read that correctly. I want to fail.

It’s a hard thing to explain to people. A thing that makes no sense to anyone, except me. It’s not a refusal of responsibility. It’s something deeper, much more complex that not wanting to grown up and be responsible. Because I am a grown up, responsible adult.

It’s a fight even I have trouble finding the words to explain. The only words I’ve ever found are, “I want to fail,” which doesn’t really explain what I feel. So, let me explain a bit more.

In October, 2010, my last career came to a spectacular end, with me out on medical leave for 13 weeks. If you’re not familiar with the story, perhaps I’ll explain it someday. My doctor will tell you I wanted out of that job, and my subconscious did what I had to, to get me out of that job.

Here I am, in 2014, back at full-time work status, in another job. One I wasn’t even working to get. It just kind of happened. Like the last job I had. Like things always have. I’ve explained countless times, “I don’t have to look for work. Work always finds me.”

I know why this happens. It happens because I’m good at what I do. I’m not top ranked, far from it. It’s one of those things my Doctor and I have talked about many times (after 4 years of therapy, I’ve lost count of how many times). I’m damn good at what I do. Whatever I decide to do, I do it well. This past week, my doctor explained it to me this way, “Mark, if the best people at this are in the 99th percentile, you’re in the 97th, or 98th. Your not the best, but you’re damn good. Exceptionally good.”

Yeah. That’s the problem. Everyone knows that. Everyone who knows me knows that. And I can’t escape that. I can’t escape people knowing I’m good at the things I choose to do. And it’s not just in the land of computers, and computer software. Things would be far simpler if I had such limits.

I write, too. As more and more people are finding out. I write. And I’m not bad at it. To the point where I’ve been told, and have lost count of how many people have told me, I’m not bad at it, and should write a book.

I take pictures, too. With a $400 (US) Canon point and shoot camera with a 840 mm optical zoom lens. Not even a real camera. A point and shoot camera. A camera a lot of people look at, and laugh at, because it’s not a “real” camera.

Yet, even with that “toy” camera, I take pictures people like. I’ve heard many times, “You’re a photographer, right?”

Wrong. I’m not. I just take pictures. Snap-shots. I’m not a photographer.

I’m not a writer.

I’m not a computer genius.

And I struggle, every day, with the idea, the thought, that I am, and that people think I am.

Could I start a computer services business? Yes. Easily. Would I be successful at it? Almost certainly. Then why don’t I? Because I want to fail. Because the thought of meeting those expectations leaves me gasping for breath, and needing to take a long walk to make it through yet another panic attack.

Could I write, and publish, my first book? Yes. For me, it would be surprisingly easy. Would it sell? Who cares? That wouldn’t be the point. Do I want to? Yes. Then why don’t I? Because I want to fail. Because the thought of completing my first book, and publishing it, and putting it out in the world, triggers another panic attack. And leaves me terrified of the knowledge I would publish more stories. The first book wouldn’t be the only book. And again, I end up taking long walks to de-stress myself, and beat back the panic.

There you have it, people. What I’m really saying when I answer the question, “When will your book be ready?”

Me. Screaming at life, trying to run and hide, because I know where that next step leads, and I’m terrified to take that step as a result.

It’s not “when will the book be ready?” It’s actually, “When will I be ready?”

And I don’t have an answer to that question. Other than to look at my hands, and scream at them, “Stop doing that!” and then go walk until my heels bleed.

That’s what terror is.

That’s what anxiety is.

That’s what I live with. Every breath and every heartbeat of every day.

#ThursThreads Week 111 : You Sure This Is The One?

Cynthia moved like a layer of dust along the ceiling, observing the scene below her. Observing the pictures spread on the table. The male at the head of the table patiently ask, “Which one?”

The man seated at the table studied the pictures. Two nasty looking men stood beside him. They tried to look relaxed, but Cynthia knew from their heart and respiration rates, they were anything but.

She ordered a stream of herself to jam shut the door behind the patient man, then sent separate streams down the wall behind the nasty men where they silently climbed up their clothing, and slipped into their lungs through their noses.

The seated man picked up a picture of her.

The patient man asked, “You sure this is the one?”

“Yes.”

The patient man nodded, and the nasty men drew guns from beneath their jackets, and pointed them at the seated man.

“What?” The seated man’s started sweating profusely, his pulse rate exploded, and Cynthia noticed he’d wet himself.

The nasty men fell over, unable to breathe. They twitched in agony before losing consciousness. The patient man leaped to his feet. “It’s here!” He yanked on the door behind himself but it wouldn’t open. He clutched his chest, “Arr!” He fell to the ground. Cynthia let his heart resume beating. She called all parts of herself back.

All that was left to do was figure out what to do about her male friend, Jerry, now that he’d figured out she wasn’t human.

250 words
@LurchMunster


I wrote this for Siobhan Muir‘s #ThursThreads, Week 111. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are good reading.

#ThursThreads Week 89 : Then I Can Help You

Jonathan had not touched the clay he  loved so much in years. Every time he thought of his clays, he saw his beloved Daphne, and their daughter Chelsea, and his hands went cold, and his world turned black.

Everyone lied. “Give it time. You will get over it.” But the magic was gone.

He sat at his table. His tools to his left, a block of clay before him, and wondered if he could ever touch clay again, or if all his dreams had died with them.

He watched his hands shake, then closed his eyes. “Just remember to breathe. Remember to breathe.”

I floated close to him, and whispered in his ear, “Listen to your heart.” Jonathan sat, motionless, as the hands of the clock on the wall moved. “Listen to the words it speaks to you.”

His hands touched the clay, and slowly began tearing chunks away. Then they reached for his tools and began carefully carving fine lines, curves, surfaces. Placing fine detail in. Bringing the clay to life.

For three days, he left the table only for another can of soda, or to answer the call of nature. When he finished, he studied his work.

A Valentine’s heart, torn in half, jagged edges unable to heal. Two tombstones, one on each side of his heart. A river of tears flowing from the heart to the ground.

I whispered in his hear. “When you listen to your heartsong, then I can help you.”

246 Words
@LurchMunster


I wrote this for Siobhan Muir‘s #ThursThreads, Week 89. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are good reading.

#FTT 11 : Breathe

I waited, trembling, for them to call my name. After what I’d done, I knew they would. I felt the sweat on the backs of my knees as I stared at my hands, watching them vibrate like tuning forks. “Breathe.” I forced myself to inhale deeply. “Just breathe.” I exhaled. “Fear is just a feeling. Nothing more.”

Thoughts raced through my mind as it created one scenario after another, one punishment after another. They could put me outside the shield where I’d eventually be crushed by the weight of the ocean as my body armor gradually failed. I could be sent on a suicide mission in Challenger Deep, fight the Kraken. No one ever returned from that. There was always the coliseum where I’d fight, as a gladiator, until I lost a fight, and died, as a gladiator. Gladiators were undefeated and alive, or defeated and dead. There was nothing else.

“Breathe,” I told myself. “You have no way of knowing that which has not happened yet. All you have is fear of the unknown.” I inhaled deeply, and slowly exhaled. I knew my thoughts were only expressions of my fear. “Fear is just a feeling. Nothing more.”

But there are times fear is a very powerful feeling.

As I waited, I reviewed the events of the past few hours that had led me to this point. How I’d found Bakula, tied to her bed, her hands and feet bound to the bed posts. Naked. A gash in her chest where her heart had been. Her blood soaked the sheets. Sacrificed by one of the religions. It happened all the time. To men, and women.

Bakula had been my mate. To find her with her heart cut out, and gone was too much. I pulled on my armor, pulled my swords from the wall, and did what only a fool would do. I hunted down those that sacrificed my love. Tradition be damned. Religion be damned. Rules be damned. Laws be damned.

They’d taken my love, my life, from me. I took theirs from them.

Bakula was a member of the sect of the Kraken. It was the season of prayer for protection from the monster of the deep. The season always started with the sacrifice of a member. No one volunteered. The Priest of the Kraken controlled the sacrifice. He chose the victim. He’d chosen Bakula.

I’d left a trail of blood behind me as I carved a path through his house guards, to his sanctuary. I’d extracted my vengeance, taking his heart for hers.

Justice was mine. Vengeance was mine.

But the past was past, and I could not undo it. Even if I could, I would not. I would answer when called. I would face what the future held for me. Knowing on the other side of my future, I would be reunited with my love. My Bakula. She who waited for me beyond the veil of life.

491 Words
@LurchMunster


I wrote this for Week 11 of Alissa Leonard‘s Finish That Thought. Please, go read all the creatively shared stories in this week’s challenge.

Pulse

I know what it means.
I know the symptoms.
I can feel them.

The tension running across my chest.
The tenseness in the muscles.
As if I were trying
To hold up
A very heavy weight.
And slowly failing.
Soon to be crushed.

The pounding in my ears.
I know what that is.
My pulse.
Racing through my veins.
They tell me it’s not good
For someone my age
When my pulse does this.
Tops 3 digits.
100 beats per minute.
Or more.

The way my hands shake.
Endlessly.
I know the only way to stop them.
Press them down.
Hard.
Against a table top.
Or desktop.
Or wall.

And my knees never stop.
Ever.
They bounce.
My heels tapping out
Machine gun fire
On the floor.

When I try to think.
Try to talk.
Even to myself.
And all I get
Is scattered syllables.
Lots of no.
And I can’t.
Lots of endless,
Mindless
Repetition.

And nothing in my head
Makes any sense.
Other than one word.

Run.

Run like hell.

Don’t look back.

Don’t stop.

Run.

I know what this is.
I know what it all means.
I’ve been here.
Countless times.

Panic.

I tell myself to breathe.
I close my eyes.
I focus
What little of me’s left.
On the simple,
Single
Act.

Breathe.

Breathe in and know this truth.
I am breathing in.
Breathe out and know this truth.
I am breathing out.

Breathe in once again.
And then breathe out once more.

Breathe in the fear
That consumes me.
Overwhelms my mind.
Breath out the truth.
Fear is just a feeling.
Nothing more.

I focus on just breathing.
Looking into fear.
Knowing what will happen
If I let the terror
I am feeling
Consume me.

I breath in.
And out.
And remember.
Whatever happens on this day.
While I am at work.

It won’t be the end of life.
I won’t die.
I’ll be alive.
To take another breath tomorrow.
To feel the warmth of the sun.
To feel the breeze as it flows past
The fingers of my hands.

It’s just fear.
It’s just a feeling.
Nothing more.

There Are Days I Forget

There are days I forget.
Days I get lost.
Days like today.
When I feel empty.
When I feel wounded.
When I feel drained.
When I feel all wrong.

There are days I forget
Now.
Here.
This moment in time.
This place.
When I remember everything.
When I can’t find my way
Out of my past.
Out of what’s already done.

Other times
I get lost other ways.
Worrying about too many things
That haven’t happened.
That are not happening.
That may never be.
Lost in wondering about a future
That I can’t possibly know.
That I can’t possibly see.

And I can feel my jaw clinch.
And my pulse begin to race.
I can feel my anger build.
Fueled by all my fears.
And all the experiences
Of my life.

The seeds of self-doubt
Sewn so many years ago.
When everyone I knew
Told me I couldn’t be
Me.
Told me I had to be
Them.

It’s on days like this,
When I’m so lost.
So confused.
Remembering my past.
And worrying about things
That haven’t happened,
And may never be.

It’s on days like this
I have to sit down.
And stop.
And breath.
And close my eyes.
And remember.

Now.
This heartbeat.
This breath.

They taught me long ago
The air is invisible.
You can’t feel it.
You can’t see it.
How can you know it’s there?

Like so many things
I was taught
In the life that was,
What I learned
Was all a lie.

For I know
As I sit here on my own.
And I close my eyes.
And simply breathe.

I know.

I can feel the very air
All around me.

I can hold out my hands.
Spread my fingers out.
And I can feel the air
As it flows across my palms.
And between the fingers
Of my hands.

How can anyone believe
The air isn’t really there?
When you can touch it.
When you can feel it.
Everywhere.

So I sit,
Silent and alone.
On the sofa
In my home.
And I close my eyes.
And breathe.
Just breathe.
And feel.
Everything my body feels.

And it only takes a few heartbeats
For my body to remind me
Of the truth.

All I have,
And all I am.
I now.

In this breath.
In this heartbeat.

And there is nothing else.

There is no past.
It’s gone.
It’s done.
No one anywhere
Can go back and fix
Anything that’s happened
Already.

No one anywhere
Can even fix what happened
In the last heartbeat.
In the last breath.

There is no future.
Because it hasn’t happened yet.
And while it’s possible
To extrapolate,
And project,
The events that might happen,
Based on what’s happened
In the past.

But there’s no way
To guarantee
What will happen
In your next heartbeat.

So I sit here.
And I breathe.
And I remember.
Now.
This breath.
This heartbeat.

I sit here
And remember
Me.