Once

I was like you, once.
Not so long ago, really.
My life was defined.
Planned.
Everything was organized.

I walked a fixed path.
A predefined path.
Cut through existence.
Trees, brush, animals, birds, squirrels,
Everything.
Gone.

The path was clear.
Maintained.
Perfect.
Used by everyone.

I was like you, once.
Not so long ago, really.
The professional.
The success.
Everything I was supposed to be.

I walked a fixed path.
What to wear.
What to say.
When to speak.
When to be silent.
Everything was planned.

Do your job.
Never speak the truth.
Only positive words.
Can do words.
Even if everyone knew
It was a lie.

I was like you, once.
Not so long ago, really.
I had all the signs in place.
The house.
The cars.
The yard, well kept,
Always edged,
No weeds anywhere.

And perfect flower beds.
I knew the path.
I knew the way.
What to do every day.
What mattered.
What didn’t.

I was like you, once.

And then I changed.
I saw the path
For what it was.
How barren,
How empty.

Nothing lived there,
On that path,
Where every day,
And every one,
Was the same.

A path that lead from life
To death,
In a straight line.
Turning neither right,
Or left.

Oblivious to everything.

So I stepped off the path.
To see what lies beyond.
To greet the unknown.
And explore the world,
Outside the land of safe.

I was like you, once.

No more.

I’m free.

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#MidweekMusings 1×01 : Defeated

“Define defeat.”

I stared into my eyes in the mirror, and heard that voice in my head.

“Define defeat.”

Chaos. A cacophony of thoughts, of feelings, of beliefs erupted inside me. “I’ve lost everything.”

“Everything?”

“Yes.” The flash of anger I saw in my eyes shocked me. I’d never noticed such violent emotions in myself before. “Everything.”

“Have you?” Such an innocent question. Such a simple question. “Have you?” That damn thought echoed through my mind. My hands shook. My heart raced.

“Everything I was! Everything I had! Everything I built!” I’d never known I could feel such anger. I wondered where it came from. What powered it. What fueled it.

And that damn question echoed through me again. “Have you?”

“I worked so hard to take care of them!” That was my answer. Them. Everything was for them. Everything was to take care of them. Help them. Give them what they wanted. Hold them when they needed holding. Dry their tears when they cried. Give them the means, the tools, the inner strength needed for happiness. To smile. To live. To love. To be what they wished. Do what they wished.

“Have you lost everything?”

“I can’t take care of them anymore!” I was a failure. I’d failed. Everything had imploded. My job, gone. My income, wiped out. I wasn’t taking them to the doctor when they got sick. No. Not anymore. This time, it was me. Visiting the doctor endlessly.

What did I feel? Numb? Broken? Defeated? A failure? I heard the words of my doctor, “All his greatest fears have come true.”

Was that it? Was I afraid?

“Do you remember?” I stared into the eyes looking back at me. “The nights you couldn’t sleep. The endless days.”

I remembered headaches. Every day I went to work. I remembered eating naproxen pills, two of them, every morning when I reached my desk. Before I did anything else. I remembered, the pills didn’t help. The headache was always there.

I remembered nights. Spent with my eyes open. Staring at the ceiling. Not seeing anything. Not thinking anything. Wondering if I could ever sleep. Wondering if I’d stagger to work having been awake all night. If I could function on three or four hours of sleep. Wishing I could close my eyes, and dream. Just for one night. But sleep never came, until I passed out from sheer exhaustion. Until I pulled the covers up, and without thinking, without trying. Without turning out the lights, turning off the TV, brushing my teeth, or any of the things I did to get to sleep. I pulled the covers up, and passed out.

It was the only time I slept.

“Have you lost everything?” echoed through my mind. “Or have you found something?” My eyes in the mirror wouldn’t let me go. “Have you found something?”

I knew the truth. I knew what had happened. I knew what I’d done to make everything happen. To make everything inevitable. I knew I wanted out of the work I’d had for years. I wanted change. I wanted a question answered.

“What about me?”

Every decision I’d made, everything I’d done, for nearly 30 years, was never about me. Never had been. Never what I wanted. What I felt. What I believed. Everything had always been to care for someone around me. To help someone around me.

“What about me?”

I’d never seen such fear in any eyes I’d ever studied. Such confusion. “How hurt am I?”

I didn’t know. Staring at my eyes I saw a lost little boy. A child. Wounded. Confused.

“I don’t even know who I am.” That changed everything. Every part of me “I don’t know who I am.”

And that voice in my head laughed. “Now I can change.”

I’d lost my life. The life I’d worked so hard to build. The life I the world taught me to want. The one we’re all supposed to want. That dream, of a family, a job, success. It was gone. All of it. Burned to the ground, turned to ash.

“I’m free.”

As I stared into my eyes, the chaos faded, the cacophony grew silent. Until there was only me. The lost little boy. “Now. I’m free.” I actually smiled. I hadn’t smiled in days. I couldn’t remember when. I couldn’t remember feeling anything but anger. Burning through my blood.

And I smiled.

“Now, I’m free. To learn. To grow. To be.”

I wasn’t defeated. I wasn’t broken. I hadn’t lost everything. I’d gained everything. I’d broken free from the life I’d been trapped in. The life that owned me. Suddenly, I was free. To feel. And to learn the answer to that question I’d never answered.

“Who am I?”

789 Words
@LurchMunster


This is for week 1×01 of #MidweekMusings, another flash fiction adventure hosted by #FlashMobWrites (Ruth Long and Cara Michaels). Please, go read all the stories for this week’s prompt.

#MWBB Week 2.43 – Dance The Hanged Man’s Jig

[MANDATORY CONTENT WARNING – A story about suicide. Read at your own risk.]

“Another soul no longer part of this world. Another ray of light, gone. One less spark of hope.” Zain read the headline on the paper again. Another music star found dead. He’d shot himself in the head. Left bits of his brains scattered around his hotel room.

“And no one knows why, as always.” Zain shook his head. He didn’t want to go to work anymore. Not that day. He knew what would happen, how everyone would talk about the suicide. “He shot himself. Why? Why didn’t he get help? Such a tragedy.” It would be the topic of the day, perhaps for days. He didn’t want to look at his social network feeds, they’d be the same. An endless string of people saying, “What is wrong with this country? Why can’t we take care of those who need it?” And countless pleas from millions upon millions, “If you’re thinking about it, get help! Please!”

Zain didn’t want to have it shoved in his face endlessly. It was mindless, always so mindless. “Get help? The man had help!” He wanted to scream. He knew the stories, the years of psychotherapy the singer spoke of on talk shows. The book he’d written about his journey, his walk through depression, the way people treated him.

“Idiots.”

Zain closed his eyes, the words of his therapist echoed in his head, words he’d heard a million times, in a million sessions, “Breathe. Just breathe.” He’d learned well. He opened his mouth, and took a deep breath. As deep as he could, while he thought the first half of his mantra, “Breathing in, I’m breathing in.” Then, he breathed out, “Breathing out, I’m breathing out.”

He felt the tremble of rage in his left wrist, that old familiar vibration in his fingers. “Is it rage? Or is it panic?” He never knew. Perhaps it was both. Perhaps it was only memories.

Normally, he’d run the shutdown script to safely power down his computer. He didn’t feel like waiting for it that morning, so he pulled the plug from the wall, and watched the screen go blank as the cooling fans fell silent. “No. Not going there today.”

One quick dial button on his phone, and he’d called the office, “Not gonna make it in today. Not well.”

And the boss always said the same thing, “Feel better.”

No breakfast. No food. Zain couldn’t eat. “I need a walk. I need a walk. I need a walk.” He grabbed a soda, popped it open, drained half of it. Then, grabbed his daily doses of fluoxetine and Vitamin D. He washed them down with the other half the soda.

“I need a walk.” Zain walked for miles. He watched everyone driving to work, an endless stream of cars. As he walked, he smiled. “He’s free, you know. He is.” Zain glanced at the clouds, “Take good care of him. Heal the wounds this world put into him. The scars. And take away his pain.”

Zain walked, knowing why another soul was gone. Knowing the scars within him, in his heart and soul, the missing pieces of himself, would only grow in number. Knowing he’d never find escape. Never find peace.

“You’re free at last.”

Zain liked the color of the sky, it’s pale blue, with high, wispy clouds scattered on the roof of the world.

“You’re free at last.”

Then, he waited for the next soul to fall. Wishing to his God above more people understood why some people sought escape, asking for world would change, to stop wounding those who dream, who create, who dare be unique, different, alive. Knowing nothing would ever change.

“You’re free at last.”

623 Words
@LurchMunster


This is my entry for Year 2, Week 43 (Week 2.43) of Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge. This week the prompt is the song, “Dance The Hanged Man’s Jig” by Aghast Manor. Please, go read the other stories in the challenge.

#MWBB Week 2.42 – Ishq Love and the Veil

It would be sunrise in twenty minutes. It was time to set up my tent and prepare for another day of survival in a virtual oven. I dropped my backpack, pulled out my tiny tent, an a-frame tent, with lightweight aluminum poles, not fiberglass. The aluminum worked better for me. Made the tent easier to set up.

After my tent was ready, I grabbed my camera from the pack, then tossed the pack in the tent, sleeping bag and all. Soon, I’d have to hide inside for what would feel like endless hours. I adjusted the rain fly to block as much sand as possible. I knew it would be as much as twenty degrees cooler in the tent than outside.

It was day six of ten. I’d planned my trip for a year. A year of physical torture, walking miles in the heat of summer, learning to find water where I could, learning to set up water capture netting. Learning to eat what I could find. How to live off the desert. I’d even had to spend three days and nights in Death Valley solo to earn the right for my trip.

I walked along the netting. I’d set it up at the first sign of fog. You can taste the water in the air. I threw the netting up, and prayed I’d catch enough water to fill a glass or two. Enough to get through the next day.

I’d reversed the entire schedule. Walk at night, hide in the tent during the day. During the night I needed less water. At night it was cold as hell, but in a jacket, hauling 50 pounds of gear, I burned enough energy the cold didn’t bother me so much. And it certainly beat walking beneath a sun that could fry an egg in minutes on sand that could melt car tires.

Yeah. I know. “Why would anyone want to cross the desert?” You ask, ‘cause you ain’t me. You don’t know what I go through, working five days a week, in a job that’s trying to kill my soul. You don’t know what it’s like when you can’t say what you feel, what you think, because what you feel and think are wrong, and you’ll get told again, “You can’t be that way.” Or, “That’s wrong! You’re wrong!”

Daily life kills me. One bit at a time. One thread at a time, my rope frays away. Until I have no choice and have to escape. I have to escape everything. Phones. Radios. TV. News papers. The internet. The civilized world we’ve made. I have to escape it all.

This year, I escaped to the desert. Where no one could reach me. No one could tell me what to feel. What to think. How to live. In the desert, I was alone. All the voices that haunted me every day were gone. All the rights and wrongs were gone. All the good and evil, gone. All that mattered was survival. All that mattered was my next breath, my next heartbeat, my next swallow of water, my next meal. All the lies, the myths, the artificial things made by mortal men, fell away. The veil of civilization was cast aside.

And I was free.

And I was alive.

Once I knew the net was right, and was collecting what water it could from the ground fog, I turned Eastward, and waited. Soon, the sun would rise. And the colors of the world would come to life once more. The black sky, and black sand would light up with color. Golds, reds, oranges, pinks, yellows. High, thin, wispy, pink and orange cirrus clouds painted against a pale pink sky.

It was stunning. Just like life, without that veil we hide it behind.

628 Words
@LurchMunster


This is my entry for Year 2, Week 42 (Week 2.42) of Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge. This week the prompt is the song, “Ishq Love and the Veil” by Niyaz. Please, go read the other stories in the challenge.

#ThursThreads Week 123 : Things You Wish You Hadn’t Done

We sat around the campfire, holding our paper and pens, wondering why we were awake at 3 o’clock in the morning. When we were all seated, Sergei commenced. “Now, we take the next step in freeing ourselves from the past.” He scribbled on his paper, “Start by naming your list.”

“But what’s it a list of?” Shelly always asked the first question.

Sergei answered “It doesn’t matter. What matters is what you feel in this moment, this heartbeat, this breath.”

I wrote, “Sergei’s Friggin’ List.”

When we’d all named our lists, Sergei continued. “Now, write a list of things you wish you hadn’t done. But you may not include things like I was born. List the things you regret doing.” He paused. “No sharing. The lists are private.”

I started my list with:

1. Letting people talk me into keeping that job.
2. Never telling Sarah how I felt.
3. The fights I had with my brother.
4. Never calling my Dad.
5. Losing Barbara.

I added things I could never forget. Mistakes I’d made throughout my life. Sergei waited until the last pen stopped moving.

“Now, it is time to let go of the past, stop letting it hurt you, stop letting it get in your way.”

Sergei burned his list in the fire. Then each of us did. And when the sun rose, I knew I’d finally cauterised the wounds my regrets had always carved in my heart and soul.

I was free.

239 Words
@LurchMunster


I wrote this for Siobhan Muir‘s #ThursThreads, Week 123. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are good reading.

#Horror Bites 3 : The Mirror Spoke

I watched the adjacent train tracks moving past the window, then watched her translucent reflection the glass.

I knew the other track wasn’t moving, rather, the train we were on was moving. But since we were stationary on the train, our movement created the illusion of the world moving past train’s windows.

Everything changes, depending on how you look at it, how you choose to understand it.

She kept watching the world go past, as I kept watching her reflection in the glass. But as time passed, her reflection started watching me. Then, it began to speak.

“Why?”

I know I didn’t speak, but I heard my answer anyway, “Why what?”

“Why doesn’t it end?”

“What doesn’t end?”

“This dream.”

“Dream?”

She began to cry. I saw the tears fall from her eyes. “This nightmare.” She brushed tears from her eyes, “This life.”

Through her tears she whispered, “I killed them. To spare them. To save them. From life.”

I couldn’t look away from the darkness, the longing, and the pain in her reflections eyes, as it looked at me. The reflection reached from the glass, her fingertips brushed my cheek. “But there is no one to spare me. To save me. From life.” I felt her desperate longing to be free, and knew I would help her any way I could.

Those translucent hands moved my hands to the woman’s neck. Those pleading eyes. Those tears. “Will you save me from life?”

I had to do what she had asked. And my hands squeezed tightly around her throat, and stayed there, until she no longer breathed. Her reflection smiled as it faded away. “Thank you,” her eyes came alive, “for saving me.”

“Your welcome,” I whispered as I removed my hands from her neck. “Now, you are free.”

299 Words
@LurchMunster


I wrote this for the third round of Laura James‘s new flash fiction challenge, #HorrorBites. Please go read all the other #HorrorBites stories. They are well written, and just might scare you.

#FinishThatThought 42 : Sleep Is A Marvelous Thing

Sleep is a marvelous thing. For when I sleep, I dream, and when I dream, I am free from this world, and my pain wracked, broken, crippled body. When I sleep, I leave this world. That night I put my head on my pillow, closed my eyes, and let go of the world that tortured me.

There was no ground, no sky, no up or down, no left or right. Perhaps I was falling. Perhaps I was floating. Perhaps I was motionless, and the universe moved past me.

I heard her voice in the nothing, Come back to me, my love.” I felt her fingers laced between mine, her lips on mine. “Come back to me, my love.” I opened my eyes in Terres Fae, wrapped my arms around my love, and kept her lips on mine.

“Welcome back, my love.”

“How long was I gone?”

“One day.” She smiled. “Perhaps the time is near, and you will be free to stay?”

“No one knows what tomorrow brings, my love.” I took a deep breath, feeling the warm, moist air of Terras Fae fill my lungs, relishing the lack of agony and pain.

“Is the agony of life now gone?” She knew I was a helpless cripple from Earth’s past. knew I was from Earth. She knew I was a helpless cripple on my world.

“Yes.”

“Then, it’s time for us to fly.” She stepped back, spread the gold, orange and black butterfly wings on her back and with a flick them, launching herself into the sky. I followed, my blue, green and silver wings lifting me easily into the sky.

I was free once more. Free to help my Cheris, and the fairies of Terres Fae stand against the humans from Earth in a time yet to come. Free to help save a living world from certain death.

In my life on Terres Fae, I was free to live the story of life the universe had granted me.

329 Words
@LurchMunster


I wrote this for Week 42 of Alissa Leonard‘s Finish That Thought. Please, go read all the creatively shared stories in this week’s challenge.