Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2017/06/11

“Tell me once more, Olivia. What do you see when you look in the mirror?” I’d asked the question a thousand times, and Olivia always gave me the same answer.

“Not what you want me to see, doc.” She shook her head, and looked into the mirror in the remains of her family home. “Not what you want me to see.”

“I know.” I took a deep breath. This wasn’t about fixing things. Fixing things was easy. No. This was about bringing the dead to life. “So, tell me, please. What do you see?”

Olivia stood from where she sat, legs crossed, on the barren, wooden floor. A floor desperately in need of repair. Cleaning wasn’t enough. The floor needed work. Lots of it. So did the walls, and the brick they were made of. Brick that once hid behind smooth, well kept plaster. She walked to the mirror, cracked and no longer held in its casing. Like the entire home, it was wasting away.

“He’s there, you know.” She pointed at the remains of the mirror. “He’s there. Waiting for me.”

As the house wasted away, so did Olivia. Every since that day, so long ago, when the car came around the corner too fast. Jonathan had been playing, dancing to a sound only he heard. “He told me it was the piano from Beauty and The Beast.” She always cried when she spoke the words. “He moved right in time with it. I could hear the music as he danced.”

She collapsed to her knees, and once more was consumed by tears and grief. “He’s there. I see him dancing in the mirror.”

The car came around the corner too fast. The driver crossed into the other side of the road, aimed straight at an oncoming car.

Olivia stared into the mirror. “It’s there. In the mirror. Over and over again. My boy. Dancing.”

The oncoming car had nowhere to go. The fast car struck it head on. Parts flew in all directions. Glass from windshields, parts of headlights, side view mirrors, plastic and urethane from car bodies. Radiator fluid. All of it. Everywhere.

“He never got to say good-bye.”

All of it. Right next to Jonathan.

“He never got to look at me.”

Some of the parts from the collision had struck the boy. Olivia had seen it all. Seen her son stop dancing, the music of the song stop playing, as Jonathan was yanked in strange directions by the shrapnel from the wreck.

Then, before she could even scream, the momentum of the collision pushed both cars straight into Jonathan. The boy never had a chance.

Olivia stared into the mirror. “He’s there. Waiting.”

I’d been trying to reach her every since. Trying to help her through her grief. Through her sorrow. Not to heal her, for I knew, there are some wounds that never heal. Like the loss of a limb, or the ability to walk, or talk, or hear. Olivia had lost part of herself.

On that day, when those cars collided, and Jonathan died, so did Olivia’s heart. So did her soul. All that was left was an empty shell, slowly decaying, like the house she never left.

And I wondered, as I had every day for three years, if her heart and soul had died, was there any way to bring her back to life?

563 Words
@mysoulstears


Miranda Kate‘s weekly short fiction challenge is in it’s 14th week. You can read about the challenge here. As I do every week, I wonder where the words I have written came from. How this started as a picture, and a song, and wound up where it did, I may never understand. But, I’m OK with that. Please, go read Miranda’s short tale this week, and any others that show up. They are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed.

#MWBB Week 2-36 : When Darkness Falls

When darkness falls, I am free from you. In the light of day I’m trapped and must do everything you do, echo every move you make, mimic you. So you don’t know, so you can’t tell, so you won’t see the truth of me.

When darkness falls, I am free to move on my own. Without you.

Tonight, there is no moon, the sky is black, the stars are hidden behind the clouds of a storm. There are no shadows anywhere. I am free to move, walk, run, crawl, jump and dance.

In the darkness, I am free.

I wait beside you, on your bed, as you read stories of space ships engaged in magnificent battles, of fighters zinging through the vacuum, guided by heroes. I wait until you’ve had enough, and can’t hold your book up any longer. I wait as you lift your hand, and flip the switch on your bedside lamp, and the room goes dark.

And I am free.

I start by moving down the side of the bed, to the floor. I walk beneath you, looking up into the box springs, checking where the covers touch the carpet, Slip beneath the cedar chest at the foot of the bed, but nothing’s there.

Beneath and behind the chest of drawers, I find nothing. I didn’t expect to. If they are here, they will wait, hidden, until I leave the room, then they will come out, and whisper in your ear as they twist your dreams.

I check behind your bookcase, beneath your desk and chair. I carefully examine the pile of clothing you collect in the corner of the room each week, and the miscellaneous items, mail, papers, empty soda cans, and other things, you leave randomly scattered through your room and still I find nothing.

I slide beneath your closet door, into the dark world inside. I check the corners of the room, the insides of your shoes and boots, and the box of wrapping paper, looking for any signs of them. I find none.

I slip back into your room and stand at the foot of your bed, “I wonder where they are hidden tonight.” I consider staying in the room, standing guard all night. It is the only way to make certain they don’t twist your dreams. But I can’t stay. Freedom calls me. It drags me away.

Through the door, down the hall, to the living room, where my family members wait for me. My father shares the story of his battle last night, against one of them. He found it hidden beneath your father’s pillow. He shows us the new notch on his sword’s hilt, “Another one that didn’t get away.”

My mother hugs him, “My hero.” She kisses him. He blushes.

My sister suddenly looks nervous, “I haven’t checked beneath her pillow!” She dashes from the room, racing to your sister’s room. She draws her sword as she runs down the hall.

If they have hidden beneath your pillow, I will have to deal with them when I return to your room. For now, I stay with my parents. We walk to the front porch, then the foot of the driveway. It’s time to visit the neighbors. More of us, from each house along the street. We gather in the street each night, and tell our tales of glorious battles with the demons of the dark. I find I like visiting the girl three houses north of yours. I like her smile. And her growing curves. I especially like holding her hand, and dancing to the music of the birds singing in the night.

I never will forget the first night she kissed me.

Too soon, it ends. Dawn will arrive shortly. We have to return to our duties. I have to return to you.

I slip into your room, my sword drawn and ready. I sigh with relief as I see no shapes beside you, nothing whispering in your ear. I slide beneath the covers, and I wait for you to wake. And when you rise in a few short minutes, I’ll be your shadow once again.

688 Words
@LurchMunster


This is my entry for Year 2, Week 36 (Week 2.36) of Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge. This week the prompt is the song, “Long Black Curl” by Tuatha Dea. Please, go read the other stories in the challenge.

Will Any Of Them Ever Wake Up?

I sat in a chair at the table in the corner of the room, and watched everyone else. Every now and then, I watched my hands. Sometimes, they shook, telling me, “Breathe, stupid. Just breathe.” I had a way of sometimes forgetting to breath properly. Started taking little, short, shallow breaths. One of the first steps along the path to a panic attack. At least I’d finally learned to recognize what was going on, and for the most part, I’d learned to respond appropriately. I seldom had an attack. Maybe one or two a year. Much better than the one or two a week I had at my worst.

After a few deep breaths, I found myself again, and smiled. Seems I was always right there. Just a breath or two away.

Once more, I watched everyone else.

It was sad, really. To watch them. Oh, I didn’t cry about it. There was a time I did. But that’s behind me now. I’ve faced the truth I found. I’ve accepted it. I know there’s nothing I can do about it. Except watch. At one time, I would have tried to intervene. And I would have been psychologically assaulted for having tried. I had been. What does it mean when you can’t count the number of times something’s happened? Hope springs eternal my ass. Hope keeps you beating your head against a concrete lined, cinder block wall in the mistaken belief you can eventually punch through it, as you slowly pound your noggin into a bloody pulp.

I’d learned. I could stop the oceans tides before I could stop them. So, I went into my observation mode. Like a scientist. Observing the behavior of others, and cold bloodedly recording it for future generations. I watched.

The group ten feet away. Mary, Helen, Wendy, Doug, Fred, Scott and Ted. Always friends. Always socializing as a group. Always telling stories about their kids, their work, their church. And always, at these holiday parties, acting like sponges trying to sop up all the alcoholic beverages they could get their hands on. I knew. If you asked them why, they’d all say the same thing. “Because we’re just blowing off steam, and having some fun!”

It was a lie. Every one of them knew it. They weren’t blowing off steam. They weren’t having fun. They were escaping. Running as fast, and as hard as they could to escape the traps their lives had turned into. Anyone could figure that out.

If you asked any of them how they felt at work, they’d tell you the same thing. “Fine.”

“How are you, this Monday morning, Mary?”

“Fine.” Then she’d smile, “And you?”

Fred’s son totaled the car one Sunday night. Fred showed up at work the next day. “How are you, Fred?”

“Fine.”

“How’s your son?”

“I haven’t killed him yet.”

“He didn’t get hurt, did he?”

“No. He’s fine. They checked him out at the hospital. He came home last night, a few hours after the wreck. He’s fine.”

And all the while, you know what he wanted to say. “I’m gonna turn that idiot’s butt black and blue, and he ain’t gonna be able to sit down for a month!”

Lies. Lies, and more lies. It’s what people did. They lied. About everything. To everyone. Even to themselves.

I looked at the dance floor. The usual couples were there. Mike and his wife. Jill and her husband. Tommy and his fiancé. Dancing their legs off. Ever watch people do that? “Play another song! Play another song!” They’d dance until they couldn’t breathe, and sweat was pouring off them. Then, they’d go sit down, have a drink (usually wine, or beer, sometimes something with a little more kick to it), and after a few minutes, they’d march back out there. “Play another song!” And the cycle would repeat endlessly.

Ask, “Why do you dance so much?”

They all answer the same. “We’re just having some fun! It’s fun! We’re blowing off steam. We’re relaxing. Try it!”

It’s the same lie. Again. I sat there, in the corner, at the table, watching them dance themselves to exhaustion. Knowing they couldn’t dance themselves to oblivion. Knowing they’d wake up the next day, and tell themselves how stupid they’d been.

Hell, Tommy would be so dead on his feet, even if he wanted to he wouldn’t be able to screw his girl. They’d probably pass out fully dressed, and wake up the next morning, and go, “Oh, God! Why did you turn on the sun!”

Because they never faced the truth. They all knew the truth. But they never spoke of it.

Every one of them hated their jobs. Hated their lives. Hated the same schedule every week. The same work every day. Ted said it once, trying to explain things to me. “I hate it. I’d rather be anywhere else. But, it’s got to be done.”

No, Ted. It doesn’t. The world will not end if you don’t edit that fucking document. You might get fired. You might have to look for another job. But the world will not end. So, it does NOT have to be done.

He never spoke the truth. “If I don’t edit the document. If I don’t do the work. I’ll lose my job. And I don’t want to lose my job. It would be a bitch of a problem for me. It would cause my family a lot of problems. The wife would be angry with me. We’d have to eat in a lot while I hunted another job. I’d lose my medical benefits. My insurance. Everything.”

That was the truth.

“I’m an economic slave. An indentured servant. I’ll do what I’m told to do, so the world doesn’t beat me senseless, and make my life a living hell.”

That was the truth.

And that was why they were all at the party that night. And why they were drinking everything in sight. And dancing until they collapsed. And telling stories about their kids. They were escaping. Running. Fleeing the truth.

That not one of them was happy.

I sat. In the corner. At the table. And watched.

It was sad. Really. There was a time it would have broken my heart. But, after seeing it happen every day. After living with that truth, every day. My heart’s gone numb. And I don’t care any more. I just watch. And shake my head. And wonder.

Will any of them ever wake up?