#EVERyTuesdayWordplay Week 20 : Wait

“Don’t say a fucking word. Not one word. Don’t do anything. Wait. Just. Wait.” A thought learned from experience. From lost friendships, destroyed careers, and countless times I hadn’t waited. Where I’d paid for not waiting.

“Breathe.” Another bit of wisdom from my thoughts. A long, deep breath. Let it out slowly. Take a second. A third if needed. More if you have to. “Breathe. And Wait.”

I closed my eyes and took that deep breath. Then a second, third, and fourth.

“Music. Listen to the music in your memories.” A third bit of wisdom, learned from decades of emotional torture. “Just remember something.” Then, the words, and sounds came back from my memory.

I once had an understanding that everything would go my way
But now we’ve come too far along for me to hold on to my own beliefs
I’m not in it for the fun of it but for the pain
I’m not at all interested in your temporary fame
And the same old song we sing(1)

I wished I could leave. Walk out of the room. Out of the building. Go find a beach, stand on the sand, and watch the ocean. Just to escape the reality, the constant noise, the constant insanity of life.

Hell, I couldn’t even reach for my headphones, they weren’t allowed at work. And, no music in the workplace. Some people found it disruptive to their work processes. No pictures at your desk, no comic strips, nothing that was a form of self expression. No plants. Nothing.

A machine world. Filled with people. People who knew exactly how things were. I knew that. I saw them speak to each other. “Let’s make our appearance at Judy’s Birthday Celebration. They have cake.” I could almost see them wink at each other. Even if they didn’t want to go, they went. Because. It’s what you did. “How are you today?” And the answer was always, “Fine.”

“Wait. Just. Wait. Sit here. With your hands on the keyboard. And text windows all over the screen. And wait.” Noise. The noise of silence. Have you ever heard the overhead lights? The high pitched whine they make? The air being forced through the vents into the room. The same keyboard at everyone’s desk, attached to the same computer, making the same clicking sounds. With the same fans making the same racket in their computer cases. Endlessly.

The clock said 4:56. “Wait. Another 4 minutes. Wait. It’s almost over.” God, how I hated the lights. They drained the soul, the life, out of everything. “Only 4 minutes, and you can escape.”

Yes. Escape. To the car. To drive home. With a zillion other people I’d never met. To wonder if I’d make it home alive, or if someone would crush my car, with me in it, as I waited. In the traffic.

“Wait. Just. Wait. And don’t forget to breathe.”

480 Words (not counting footnote)
@mysoulstears


For week 20 of Ever Addams weekly #EVERyTuesdayWordplay Flash Fiction prompt. Sometimes, sensory overload triggers panic attacks. Life’s a headache sometimes, isnt’ it. Go read the other stories for prompt #20.

(1) – “Here Come The Vultures”
Songwriters: Guus Eikens / Martijn Westerholt / Johanna Wessels
© Robot Of The Century Songs, A・k Company Limited, Kobalt Music Netherlands International B.V.

 

#MenageMonday Week 2×49 : Can’t Cheat Death

The big empty. It’s where I was born, where I’d always lived, where I was trapped. A world where you got through high school, and went to work on a farm. Maybe you got a job at the nearby chicken or pig warehouses. Maybe you got nothing but a summer job at the nature adventure tourist trap 50 miles from home, and spent summers in a tent city, working for virtually nothing, and spending half of it on food from the only place you could get it. The place where you worked.

At 18, you got engaged, at 19 you became a parent, and at 21, you got your first divorce. Because. That’s how it went in the big empty.

That’s why I packed my few belongings in a backpack, and walked out of the house one day. “You can’t cheat death, but you can change everything else.” I wasn’t going to die in the big empty. I wasn’t going to have no education, no job, no future. I was going to escape to anywhere.

Anywhere was better than the big empty.

I’d never tried hitchhiking before. I’d never been on a road trip either. Yet there I was. Trying to catch any ride I could, away from everything I’d ever known. Yeah. I was terrified. But I knew it was better to be terrified than to become as empty as the big empty itself. So, I kept walking. And working. For that first ride. That first step.

To anywhere.

246 Words
@mysoulstears


It’s week 2×49 of Cara Michaels‘s #MenageMonday flash fiction challenge. You can read about #MenageMonday here. Please, go read all the short tales from this week. The tales are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2018/01/08

It was exactly what I’d wanted. A small place, private, isolated, away from the train wreck of the human race. With no phone, no television, no internet. Absolutely nothing. No one could call me, no one could knock on my door trying to sell me shit, no one could walk in, and shoot me in the middle of the night while I slept. No sirens could go off, no cars would wreck, and kill people.

It was perfect. I signed the paperwork, and plunked down every dime I’d ever saved. In a couple of days, I’d moved to my island. My own, private island. Hell, there wasn’t even a house on it. No hills. Nothing. And I didn’t care, because there were no people.

I sit on my beach every night, and watch the sun set. I watch it rise every day. A beach is only a short walk, in any direction. Sometimes, sea birds pass through. They eat everything, but that’s OK. I can always go fishing in my tiny boat. Sometimes, turtles show up. They nest on my island every year. I get to watch hundreds of tiny turtles dig out of the sand, and wander toward the water. They have better odds since I showed up. I tend to scare off the birds, and I’ve eaten the predators that were here. It’s kind of fun to watch over the nests, and see the babies hatch.

Turtles are simple. Birds to. Not like the humans I’ve abandoned. Lord, but humans are hosed up, aren’t they. Everything about money, and material goods, and each of them getting theirs.

I’ve named everything. Birds, turtles, lizards, fish, insects. There are a few insects I don’t like. Like that one with the nasty bite. First time I got bit by that thing, it was two weeks before I could use that hand again. Holy crumbs. I named that whole family, “Son of Sam”, because, they exist only to kill me. I see one of those, and I drop a coconut on it, like 500 times, to make sure it’s dead.

The spiders are fun, and they leave me alone. I get to watch them make their webs, in the brush. They make big caverns in the sand, and hide there, building little communities. And every year, when the babies hatch, little spiders hang from little parachutes, and the wind blows them who knows where.

It’s quiet here. I like that.

Marla, the one human I liked, told me, “You can’t move to an island in the middle of nowhere. You’ll never survive. We’re people. We’re humans. We need contact with each other.”

Ha! That was years and years ago. She wanted to have a job, work in an office with hundreds of other people, drive in the chaos each day. Cars streaming down roads, almost like blood flowing through veins, keeping society alive. Keeping the money flowing. And always needing a new car, and a new house, and new clothes, and new shoes. It never ended.

I got tired of it. The artificial nature of it. Of feeling like a single, useless cell in a giant life form, with no life of my own. Just another skin cell in the human organism, with no control over what that organism did, how it lived, what it cared about.

I wanted to be me. To feel alive. To feel complete. Whole. Independent. To decide everything for myself. When to eat, when to sleep, when to work, and what to work on. When to watch the clouds, or the ocean. I couldn’t do that in the world of humans. The world of people.

I can here. On my own, little island. In my own, little world.

Here, I’m free.

You can keep your world. Your societies. Your cities, and towns, and churches, and shopping centers, and wars, and guns, and everything else. Go ahead. Be the cells in some big, nebulous organism called society.

I don’t miss that at all.

664 words
@mysoulstears


 

It’s week 88 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. I never know what the picture will cause me to write. I get an idea, and have to let the words happen. This week, these words showed up.

You can read about Miranda’s small fiction challenge here. Please, go read Miranda’s short tale this week, and any others that showed up. The tales are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2018/01/28

Marty took the pill, washed it down with his whiskey. Kept drinking the whiskey until it burned. “Ah, yeah!” He closed his eyes, and waited, even though he knew, when he closed his eyes, his mind wandered. And he thought of things. Things he kept trying to forget. Like the rent payment. The car payment. The credit card payment. The power payment. The grocery bill. The list was endless. “Fuck, they’ll charge you to breathe before you know it.”

Sometimes, Marty thought about what he was doing. Washing down an unknown, undefined chemical concoction he bought with his last $10 bill, with the contents of his last bottle of whiskey. “Pills and whiskey never mix, right?”

It was OK, though. It was OK. Because. The whiskey burned on the way down. It gave him something to focus on, standing up to the burn. Seeing how much he could take. The first time he’d tried, he managed one swallow, and almost choked. Now, he could drain almost half a bottle in one shot.

“Lord, kill me now,” he thought for the billionth time. “Just kill me, and set me free.” His eyes still closed, he tried to detect the change in his feelings, in the things he felt, the whiskey and drug would bring. It only took a minute. Maybe two. Before he felt that flush, that sudden rush, like every nerve in his skin had come to life. Like he could feel the wind blowing, the sun shining on his face, the heat of the concrete sidewalk through his shoes.

Instead of being numb. Instead of wishing the ache in his head would stop. That ache nothing could ever kill. Except the whiskey and the pills. Instead of feeling empty, like he was waiting for his body to die, so he could stop worrying about everything.

Instead of feeling like his guts were twisting around a pole wrapped in barbed wire, as he bit his tongue so hard he drew blood again, so he didn’t say anything to the boss. As he nodded, and lied, “I’m on it.” As he did whatever he had to do to hang on to his job. “I’ll stay here until it’s done.”

Gods, he hated those words. That meant he’d be there hours. Sometimes all night. Getting the work done. Doing what he had to do to keep his job. Calling home and telling his wife, “I’ve got to work late.” Listening to her bitch and moan about it. Funny how she didn’t care about anything but the money he made. Take away her house, her car, and she’d leave him.

Everything was money. Everything was that damn job.

Marty knew he was a walking dead man. One with no dreams. No hopes. No laughter. Only pain. Only emptiness. Like the guy at work who died in the car wreck. Marty worked next to him for six years. Then one day, he was dead. A week later, someone else was working next to Marty. Just another human resource. Another person who’d do whatever it took to hang on to the job.

“Enough thinking,” Marty opened his eyes. It was time to enjoy the escape. The precious moments of time where he would be free from everything.

“Woah, dude…” He almost lost his balance. Everything was wavy. The street wasn’t flat. It looked more like corrugated cardboard. The buildings too. And the cars. And the people. “This is so cool.”

He slowly walked along the sidewalk, careful not to bump into anyone. Not to step off the curb, into the street. The distraction was exactly what he needed. He knew, as long as it lasted, he wouldn’t think about anything, feel anything. All the shit in life would stay away from him.

Until it faded.

Until he needed another pill, and another shot of whiskey. To escape the hell of life once more. “Maybe one day I’ll get lucky. And this will kill me.” He knew he wouldn’t mind being dead. At least he’d be free.

670 words
@mysoulstears


Miranda Kate‘s weekly short fiction challenge is in it’s 39th week. You can read about her small fiction challenge here. This week, I knew what I wanted to say. Don’t know if I said it, but at least I tried. Please, go read Miranda’s short tale this week, and any others that showed up. The tales are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. And many of them are amazing.

#AtoZ2016 : K Is For Keys

It started on 13 July 2010, and I will never forget the experience. That was the first day I walked out of work, got in my car, and left. The first day I reached in my pocket, and felt the presence of my keys.

I can never explain what I felt that day. Most would call it panic, others would call it anxiety. I don’t really know what the people I worked with at that time called it, although my memories of how they treated certain people I’d worked with suggests they called it deliberate bad behavior.

I’m not certain many of them believed in mental illness then, and I doubt they have changed.

That day was the first uncontrolled panic attack I had as I spiraled into Major Depressive Disorder. I had no ability to think, no ability to question, no ability to pause. I knew of one thing, and one thing only. I had keys in my pocket. Keys to my car. Keys to my escape.

And I desperately needed to escape. I didn’t need to walk on the beach. I didn’t need to hide in the secured lab. I didn’t need to talk to someone.

I needed to escape. To run. To flee. To save my life. My sanity. My soul.

The moment my fingers found the keys in my pocket, I stood, I walked, I left. I unlocked my car, got in, and drove.

I remember I stopped in the parking lot of the closest Walmart store to the base. I don’t know how long I was there. It may have been a couple of minutes. It may have been half an hour. I don’t know. Time didn’t exist.

I listened to my music, the doors shut, the windows rolled up, the volume turned up. I listened until I couldn’t think, couldn’t feel. Until the only thing left in life was the music I loved.

And that’s when I found myself. That’s when I realized I was in the car, in the parking lot at Walmart. That’s when I remembered I’d fled work, the office, the people, the environment.

I’d escaped.

And in doing so, I’d found a way to breathe.

I called the office I’d fled, and let someone know where I was, and I didn’t know when I’d get back. I called my boss, at the home office, and told him I needed to talk.

You know. I don’t even remember that talk. Not one word of it.

I went home, ate something, and when I could breathe, I went back to work. I knew I wouldn’t get anything done that day. By that point, I’m fairly certain everyone knew I wouldn’t get anything done.

I spoke with her. One of the three voices in that place, in that office, that environment, I could breathe around. One of the three voices I didn’t need to run from, didn’t need to escape, didn’t need to fear.

I can’t explain that. In the months that followed I learned, in the presence of any of those three voices, my hands didn’t shake. In the presence of anyone else in that place, my hands shook.

I spoke with her about the trip I was making to the doctor’s office a few days later, to discuss my depression, and start getting the help I knew I needed, but didn’t know how to get. Then, I went home. It was a lost day at work. The first of many in 2010.

That day when I touched the keys in my pocket, and all I could do was run.

I can’t explain it. I won’t try. I know this simple truth. As an individual, you either understand what I’ve written here, the story of the keys in my pocket, and how I ran. Or you don’t.

For some things, there are no words.

 

Mark.


It’s April 15th, and I’m a two days behind on the A to Z Challenge for 2016. Only 15 more letters to write stories for this month.

Please, go explore the A to Z Challenge, and the sites of others who are participating in this adventure.

#FSF : Abandon

 

I should never have visited that ghost town. There, I couldn’t hide from the truth. I couldn’t escape my own emptiness. Among the empty streets, abandoned houses, and emptiness, I screamed, panicked, ran. Until I found myself in an empty hotel, staring out empty windows ask I asked myself,  “When did I abandon life?”


One for Lillie McFerrin‘s flash fiction challenge, Five Sentence Fiction. This week, the prompt is Abandon. Please, go read all the other entries to this week’s Five Sentence Fiction. It’s amazing what creative people can do with just five sentences.

I Never Told Anyone

Today, at psychotherapy, I finally said something I’ve never said. And it’s something I need to get into the open. So, I’m going to put it here. My doctor said this is one of those things that older far beyond my years, and certainly was beyond my years when I said it the first time.

I can’t remember if I was in 6th or 7th grade. Yeah. That long ago. Dad had just finished a big project at his work, and I got to see the finished document he’d written. It was a stack of paper, notebook sized, a good inch and a half thick, maybe two. He was proud of it, and I knew to write something that size took a lot of time and effort.

But I heard my thoughts back then. It was years before I finished burying them. Back then, I’d just started burying things. And that day, I heard my terrified thoughts. The work he’d shared didn’t terrify me. Neither did his pride in having completed that work. No. What terrified me was what I saw in him, and the people he worked with.

They were all practically dead. In lives that didn’t change. On career paths. However you wish to define it. Every aspect of their lives matched a plan each of them had made years, perhaps decades, earlier. Many of them were in their 30s. As I watched them, I knew they would never really change. Never really do anything other than what they were already doing.

They’d stopped growing. Stopped changing. Stopped learning. Stopped exploring. They’d grown up, and there was no room in their lives for such childish pursuits. They had responsibilities.

If someone was a Marine, he’d stay a Marine. If Navy, they’d stay Navy. If civilian contractor, or civil servant, they’d always be that. If someone was an administrative assistant, they’d always be assisting someone.

It was the first time I understood how life in our social system worked. That’s what terrified me. And I heard my mind, screaming, “I’m not going to be dead at 30! I’m not going to be like them!”

Of course, I can say this all I want. I can share it. I can talk about it. But sharing it is useless, because, as I’ve said before, no one will understand. Oh, there will be some that understand. There always are, always have been, always will be. But many people will never understand what I saw that day, or how I felt about it.

My doctor and I talked about many things today, centered around that thought.

I told him if you ever want to see the true nature of someone, murder their smart phone. Break it, and watch what happens to them. Watch as they go crazy. “Do you know, there are guys out there, if their phone shuts off, and they can’t turn it on, I wouldn’t be surprised if they throw that sucker through the drywall.” Yeah. I said that.

“Same with their computers. Or their video games. Or NetFlix. Or the Internet.”

I reminded him of the study I’d talked about a couple of weeks ago. The one about 67% of men in the study electing to endure a painful electric shock to get out of sitting still, in a room, by themselves, for 15 minutes, with no electronic devices. Yeah. That’s right. Put a guy in a room with nothing but a chair, and a button that administers an electric shock to himself, and tell him he can leave after 15 minutes, or he can shock the shit out of himself, and he’ll shock the shit out of himself.

And that’s when the lightbulb turned on over my head, and I said, “Holy crap!”

My doctor knows exactly what I mean when I say, “Holy crap!” I’d just had an epiphany. I’d just realized something. Or, as I like to express it, another piece of the puzzle of life finally fit into the puzzle.

“They’re escaping, aren’t they.” It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. I was reciting a fact. “They’re escaping from their lives. That’s why they go crazy when their phones die. Why they spend hours glued to NetFlix, watching streaming media. Why they bury themselves in video games. They’re escaping the misery they live in. And when they can’t escape, and have to sit silently for a while, they can’t. They’ll shock themselves to escape. So they don’t have to deal with who they are. What their lives have become. The truth that they’re all walking dead.”

My doctor and I spent a lot of time talking about that today. About how people try to escape.

I know. I hear the voices screaming, “It takes one to know one!” and “Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!” Yeah. Most people will never understand, I know. I’m flawed. I’m guilty. I’m not perfect.

On my drive home, I listened to my music, playing through the car stereo. I turn it to 24 on the power meter when I’m in the car alone. I can feel the door panels shake in time with the music. I can see the rear view mirror vibrate as the sound waves move it around just a touch. I can feel the music through every cubic inch of me.

It’s my escape. From the misery. My own personal misery. Of dealing with a world I don’t understand, and never made.

But, what happens when that music goes away. In May, 2012, it did. I got dunked in some rapids leading to a waterfall. The camera I owned at the time drowned. It never worked again. The MP3 music player I owned also drowned, and never played another note from any music. It never turned on again. My cell phone took days (at least 3) to dry out. I was without any of those devices for days.

This happened on day two of a five-day camping trip. We had no TV. No Internet. No electricity. And pretty much no cell phone service. It would have wrecked many of the people I know, and have known in life.

I did OK. I was happy to get a new player, a few days after we got home. I was happy when my phone started working, also a day or two after we got home. I was happy when we replaced my dead camera in July of 2012.

I survived without them. And I can survive without them now.

I know people who would shrivel up like grapes turning into raisins if they had to endure such an ordeal. I know people who can’t live without being on their cell phone, on Facebook, or Twitter, or being able to watch another movie on their phone, to kill the time.

Time they can’t face on their own.

Because, if they had to face it, they’d have to face their lives. They’d have to face themselves. They’d have to deal with who they are.

And I see people like them every day. People who will do anything to escape themselves.

“I don’t want to be dead at 30! I won’t be like them!”

I never told anyone.

Until today.

Here’s a link to the study I mentioned.

Study: People Would Rather Suffer Electric Shock Than Sit Silently