Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2021/04/04 (Week 193)

It was another week before I got out of the hospital. Something about life threatening injuries, broken bones, internal bleeding, something like that. All I knew was it hurt like hell.

Deborah had explained everything to me, during that week.

“You remember where we were?”

I didn’t.

She’d held up a picture. “It was a pretty little place.”

I did recognize the picture. “The old Hamlin building. The one they want to make a historical site.”

“Not any more they don’t.” Deborah held up a picture of what was left of the building.

“Holy shit. What the fuck happened?”

The entire front of the building was gone. I had no other way to describe it. The rest of the building was damaged. There was no fixing this building.

“I remember you said it was too late.” She’d nodded. “Then everything went black.”

She nodded again, “And the wind screamed.”

I thought about it, trying to remember, “Yeah. The wind screamed. I’ve never heard anything like it.”

“Me neither.”

“What was it. Bomb? Gas line? Some kind of space laser from up there somewhere?” I’d waved at the ceiling.

“No one knows.”

“What?”

“No one knows. There’s no focal point, no point of origin, for the blast.”

“Can’t be. There has to be a point of origin.” My head had started to hurt. I didn’t need to be thinking that hard, and I knew it.

“Normally, yes. There’s no blast pattern either. No place on the front of the building with more damage than any other.”

“Can’t be. Uniform damage across the diameter of the blast doesn’t happen.”

“I know.”

“Then was it some kind of planned thing? Where everything was planted, and set to go off, and do the same damage everywhere?” I was thinking a planned demolition would have done the same damage across the entire front of the building.

“Harvey. There are no traces of explosives. None. Of any kind. Plastic. Thermal. Nothing.”

“No explosives?”

“None. They even called in the feds. And the feds found nothing.” Her eyes told me to stop asking what caused it. “No one can explain what happened.”

“Then how’d the building blow up?”

“Look, OK. Look at the picture. The building didn’t blow up.”

She was right. The damage was catastrophic, but was exactly the same kind of damage all the way across the front of the building. Nothing beyond the front of the building was destroyed. Knocked over. Jumbled. Glass broken. Papers blown toward the back of the building. Looked like you could clean everything up, and have a building someone had used a big ass saw on to lop off the front, so you could see a cross section of the interior.

“That’s not possible.”

Deborah had nodded. We’d sat there, neither one talking, for a while. I’d finally looked at the picture again, “And yet. There it is. It obviously happened.”

“It’s like your injuries.” She’d nodded at me. “Like how they describe your injuries.”

“How do they describe my injuries?”

“You don’t remember?”

I’d just frowned at her.

“OK. Let me tell you what they said.” She’d paused, to organize her thoughts. “They said it’s like a uniform shock-wave hit you.”

“Uniform?”

“Yeah. The same strength top to bottom, left to right.” She’d paused again. “Almost like you got hit by a wall of some kind. The doctors said it was like a wall of air ran into you. And because you were in the way, the air hit you, and didn’t reach me. Like you punched a hole in it that I fit through.”

She’d paused again. I’d looked at the picture again, and something snapped into place in my brain. “Crush damage.”

“What?”

“The damage to the building. It looks like crush damage.”

It was her turn to stare at the picture.

“Deborah. It’s like someone stomped on a soda can. And crushed the entire front of the building.”

She’d looked shocked. Then her eyes had lit up. “That’s it! That’s what I was feeling!”

There I was, once more wishing I could understand what she felt. She was an empath, yes, but also something more. Sometimes I thought she could feel what the world around her felt.

“Harvey! That’s it!”

“What?”

“It was a wall of air that crushed the front of the building!”

All I could do was stare at her.

727 words
@mysoulstears


The 3rd part of a story that’s writing itself, and telling me what to put on the pages. I have no idea where this is going. Part 3 is for Week 193 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.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2021/03/29 (Week 192)

“Um. Zed? Is there more than one galaxy?” I had this bad feeling there was.

“They’re like marbles. They’re everywhere.” I guess my facial expression caused him to continue, “Why do you ask?”

“Um. Turtles.”

“What kind of turtles?”

“Big? And covered with mosses?”

“The space turtles from Orion?”

“I don’t know. I’ve only seen the one.”

He pushed a button on his desk, and a hologram displayed between us. It was of a turtle. At least 10 feet long. Covered in green mosses and lichens.

“Yeah. That’s what it looked like.”

“They come from Orion. Some of our residents keep them as pets. You almost never see one. They tend to keep them on the bottom of lakes in swamps. Like the one in under the muck in Lake Drummond, in Virginia.”

“Oh.”

Zed did the math himself, and I didn’t have to explain why I’d asked. “You mean you saw a space turtle? And a galaxy?”

I nodded, “And the turtle ate the galaxy.”

Zed pushed another button, and J and K answered, their holographic selves hung over his desk. “We have a problem, guys.” Zed pointed at me.

J was the talker, and started first, “Hey, Epsilon! How’s the training coming?”

K glared, like always, “Shut up and let him explain.”

Zed tapped his fingers on his desk, “Well?”

Not knowing what else to say, I explained, “I saw a space turtle.”

“Those are ugly, aren’t they? All covered in green slimy stuff. Like that Swamp Thing from the comic books came to life, but uglier.” That was J. Always talking.

K cut in. “What did the turtle do?”

“Um. He ate a galaxy.”

“Oh, dear.” That’s all K said.

Zed took over, “We’re gonna need you boys to find that turtle, and get him off planet before his dinner is digested.”

J looked at K. “Is this a not good thing?”

K nodded. “It’s good if you want to swim in turtle shit 100 feet deep around the entire planet.”

J nodded, “So this is definitely a not good thing.”

K nodded at Zed, “We’ll handle it, Zed.”

“I’m counting on you, boys.”

The holographic display of J and K vanished. “I do hope they find that turtle in time.”

“Turtle shit 100 feet deep around the entire planet?” I had to ask.

“Well, Epsilon. It did eat an entire galaxy.”

395 words
@mysoulstears


I pretty much had to write this, when I told Miranda, “OK. So, MIB hasn’t done this one yet, where some giant moss covered turtle eats a galaxy…” And then she answered me with, “Write it for me!” How could I say no? So, for week 192 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge, we get a fan-fiction story about Men In Black. 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.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2020/10/28 (Week 171)

The observer sat in their pitch dark room, the only light shining from the monitoring devices, observing everyone she was directed to observe by the Law Enforcement Agents. It was a large list, with hundreds of names, but she kept observing, moving from one name to another, endlessly, and at random. That was the key to catching behavioral violations. Observation had to be unexpected, and at random, so no one could plan for them.

She was almost half machine any more. Her eyes gone, replaced by a digital and mechanical system that had a replay memory built into it. She could replay the last few seconds over and over, to determine if the observed behavior needed to be reported to Law Enforcement.

There had been a book, a work of fiction, at one time, about a world in which everything people do is observed, monitored, and if necessary, corrected. Where deviant thinking, and departures from managed lifestyles, were punished, and where those who exhibited such behavior, were re-trained. Taught the error of their ways. Corrected. And when they no longer exhibited such deviant behavior, they were released, although an asterisk was always next to their names on the list of those she observed.

The observer never wondered if there were other observers, she knew there were, she was only one of many. It took many to keep things right, to maintain order, to protect all there was, every life, every detail of life.

She’d reported a person the previous day, before she got to rest, and recharge with sleep, and sustenance. A male. White. What had his name been? S2315. That was it. S2315. He’d been exhibiting deviant behavior consistently for a time. Reading paper books, not watching entertainment, cooking, not requesting sustenance. Multiple violations. One violation here or there was normal. No one was perfect, all people made mistakes. It was when the violations became consistent, and deliberate, they needed to be reported. S2315 had become consistent, and the number of violations he made was growing.

She’d reported him.

She remembered him because Law Enforcement had given her a new directive to increase the frequency of observing him. It was them, collecting evidence, before they incarcerated him. Before they retrained him.

“Why do people become deviations?” It was a question she’d asked herself countless times. A question she couldn’t answer. It made no sense to her. Avoid deviations, and live a peaceful, happy, full life, with no chaos, no job losses, no massive debts, no ending up homeless, no going hungry. If you remained compliant, within the system, following the rules, life was good.

The observer knew why she watched. Why she reported. It was to keep others safe. To keep chaos from returning to the world. Chaos that nearly destroyed everything, and everyone, according to history. Where people went where they wanted, did what they wanted, believed what they wanted, ate what they wanted, and got themselves killed in accidents, or made themselves sick from consuming the improper foods and drinks.

The observer reported deviations, and endlessly watched for them. Because. Without her, chaos might return.

528 words
@mysoulstears


An idea that may tie into something I’m working on writing. Not even a draft, really. Too rough. But it’ll do for some words for Week 171 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.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2020/10/25 (Week 169)

“I like that. Looks good.” I know I wasn’t supposed to grin, certainly not a happy grin, but looking at that frigging angel’s blue wings nailed to my garage wall brought a big smile to me. “What that ass hole fucking deserved.”

Angels, I’m telling you. Sitting there, in the clouds, looking down at us, judging us, telling us, “God the Father said do this.” This one had been a guardian angel, you know the type, sent down to protect us from ourselves, watch over us, make sure we learn the ways of the Lord, all that shit.

Bitch didn’t take it well when I lopped off his head with a machete. I kept hearing that song from that old musical, “He had it coming. He had it coming. He only had himself to blame!”

I cut off those blue wings to remind me of him, and the chaos he caused in my life, and burned the rest of him into ash. Wasn’t murder, you know. Not according to the law. I didn’t kill anyone. By the law’s definition, it was like murdering a dolphin, or eagle. Sportsmanship. And then collecting a trophy.

I’d had to do it. Asshole gave me no other option. Wouldn’t answer any questions. Wouldn’t explain anything. Just stuck with “God said.”

“Yeah! I know! But why the fuck did God say?”

And really? Did God say, “Burn all the fags at the stake!” Really? Or, “White people are better than everybody else!” Really? God said that?

That’s the same kind of shit dictators say. Authoritarians. “I write the rules! You do what I order!”

So, there I was, in church, growing up, wondering how God could say, “Love your neighbor as yourself” in one sentence, and in the next declare, “Kill all the Muslims before they kill you, my people!”

I told those damn wings, nailed to my garage wall, “Yeah, you’re why I’m so fucked up!” But it was OK. I was free, finally. I could finally explore what right and wrong were. What good and evil were. Outside the control of some damn angel sent to beat me into following the straight and narrow path.

And I know God wasn’t happy, if that was indeed His angel I’d cut up, and burned to hell, as I stood there, looking up at the heaven He was supposed to live in, and told him, straight up, “Now I can find out for myself. Now, I don’t have all your Christians, and angels, and minions trying to make sure I behave. Now, I can figure out what good and evil are. And I can finally figure out what love your neighbor as yourself means. Without having some 4000 year old set of rules, written by other people like me, who were every bit as mortal, and error prone as I am, being shoved down my throat by some ass hole with fucking blue wings!”

Yeah. Take that you angels, and your God. It was time for me to figure out if people who were different from me were good or evil, or if it was some stupid ass social construct that declared they were evil.

528 words
@mysoulstears


Written in response to the prompt for week 169 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.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2020/10/18 (Week 170)

I suppose it’s what I deserved, for looking in the mirror. Even though I knew what I’d see, I looked anyway. I saw all that was left of me. Not my body. Not my skin, hair, clothes. None of what people look in a mirror to see.

I saw a dead, rotting, wasteland. Dead trees reached to the sky, their long dead trunks covered in molds and lichens, their leaves, in a thick layer on the ground that was slowly turning to dirt.

It was silent. Dead silent. I couldn’t hear anything. No birds, animals, even water in a stream, or leaves rustling on the ground. There was no wind, no clouds, no life at all. It was all dead. Dead, and rotting, turning back to the dirt it came from.

It wasn’t easy to look, especially since I knew what I was looking at. My brain knew, and heard my own words, echoing endlessly. “There’s nothing left of me. Nothing but the fire. Nothing but the anger, the rage. Everything else has been lost.”

It was my soul, in that mirror. My heart. All of it, dead. Everything I’d been, everything we are when we’re born, every dream we have, ever hope, ever feeling, laughter, sorrow, pain, joy, smiles, tears, all of it. Gone. Dead. And turning back into the dirt it had come from.

“You know, I did try to explain to them. I tried to tell them. I even said, more than once, there are parts of me that are gone, and I don’t care who you are, those parts aren’t coming back. They’re gone.”

“Anger destroys everything.” I seriously considered throwing something hard, and heavy, at that mirror, shattering it into a million bits of glass. I didn’t. I knew. That would only be another image of what was left of me. Tiny shards of glass, scattered everywhere, waiting to cut up the bare feet that walked across them, waiting to sink into the fingers that tried to gather them up, and make the ground safe to walk on once again.

“Anger destroys everything.” I couldn’t even remember where I’d read those words.

That’s when I told the mirror, “It’s all I had. This world,” I looked around, even glanced out the window, “there was no other way I could be.”

Perhaps another man would have cried, mourned for the loss of his soul, felt the emptiness of the shell that was his body. But that wasn’t me. I’d mourned decades ago, when I realized I couldn’t survive in this world, that this world would drive me, little by little, day after day, into insanity.

“Well. At least I did my best with what I did have. At least I tried to do something positive, something good.”

There was an old phrase I’d learned, over 30 years ago, “Even doing the right thing, for the wrong reasons, is wrong.”

I still didn’t know how to respond to that thought. Was it wrong to take rage, anger, hatred, and do something positive with them? All because rage, anger, and hatred were wrong to start with?

“Wonder if I’ll ever learn an answer to that?” I asked the desolation in that mirror. “Or is it not possible for a destroyed soul to learn anything?”

546 words
@mysoulstears


Written in response to the prompt for week 170 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.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2020/09/21 (Week 163)

“There’s this thing about history that no one teaches you,” sometimes roaming city streets was a better teacher than any book.

It was Cinthia who asked the first question of the trip, “What do you mean, professor?”

“I won’t tell you, because you won’t really understand.” I kept walking across the parking lot, to the road, where the city was putting in new fiber optic cable. “You’ll remember the lesson that way.”

“Why are we outside, in the cold, and the dark, at stupid o’clock?”

“Ah, Beverly. We are here to learn this.” I stopped, and pointed at a space on the pavement of the road, next to the trench the construction crew had dug for the cable. “What do you see?”

Cinthia didn’t disappoint me, “History.”

“Precisely!”

The asphalt surface of the road had come up next to the cable trench, most likely because of ground stresses, as the adjacent pavement  had been ripped up, along with everything beneath it. The missing asphalt revealed cobblestone pavement.

“Brick?”

“Yes, Beverly. Brick. And you won’t find a record of it anywhere in the city’s archives, blueprints, road plans, or anywhere else.” I took a picture of the brickwork, “It’s what the road was made of before the layers of asphalt.”

“You mean, there was a  time the road through here was brick?”

“Yes. It clearly was.”

The entire reason I was at that location was to record everything I could about what had been found. The trench for the cable cut straight across several layers of earlier construction. When the construction team spotted the brick, and the other layers, they’d stopped work, and reported their discovery, as they were required to do.

In response, the city requested an archeological team to examine the discovery, and determine if the layers needed to be preserved.

“And what,” I looked squarely at Cinthia, “do the layers here, and in the trench we are about to explore, tell us.”

“There’s more to history than what is written down.” Cinthia didn’t disappoint. But then, she never had. Sometimes, I thought she already knew how history worked, how archeology worked, and how the past wasn’t recorded, but was forgotten, and rewritten into something that worked better for the current day and age.

We examined the nearby trench, and found several layers of history, two layers of earlier brick, a layer of gravel, and through it all, several layers of electrical cables, and pipes, all of which were no longer used.

“No one knew this was here. Because. Whoever writes the history of a place, of a people, of a nation, only writes what they want those who come after them to see. Only writes what fits their beliefs, their understanding, of the place, and the people who live there.”

Cinthia once more didn’t disappoint me, “Like now. How things in our history people don’t want to remember are being erased from the books.”

“Yes. Just like now.”

490 words
@mysoulstears


Written in response to the prompt for week 166 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.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2020/06/24 (Week 163)

I don’t know why she followed me, and I couldn’t figure out if I was glad she had, or if I wished she was anywhere else.

“So. This is where you wander off too.”

I didn’t say anything. Hell, I wasn’t sure if I could find any words, even a simple yes, or no. I wasn’t sure if I felt like she was an invader into my world, into one of my safe places, or if I was happy to see her, to see she’d finally followed me. Whatever I felt, I’m not sure it mattered right then. With her there, I couldn’t hide, not from her, not from me.

I nodded, and turned away from her, my hands shoved as far as possible into my pockets, and everything inside me screaming something different.

“This empty field? This is where you come?”

I wanted to answer, I really did. I wanted to tell her I went there to escape the noise, and the chaos in my head. The voices that were screaming at me, and arguing with each other, as I tried to figure out why everything had gone so wrong, so suddenly. But, those parts of me, the ones that were in my head, screaming at each other, made it where I couldn’t.

She seemed to know that, to understand that. I heard her thinking, I swear I did. But I couldn’t tell you what, I couldn’t hear her over the screaming in my head, over the angry, scared, confused, frustrated, impatient, and wounded voices in my head that kept screaming, endlessly.

I don’t know why she did it, but she walked up next to me, and didn’t say a thing. Not one word. She just stood there.

I was a wreck. The screaming was so loud, so overwhelming, I couldn’t escape it. I looked at my hands, something I always did. Like I was blaming them for everything. Blaming them for being alive, being able to feel anything. The wood from a table top, the Formica on a counter, the cold steel of a metal kitchen sink.

The texture of the skin on her hand as she took mine, and laced her fingers between mine, and waited, I have no idea how long, for my hand to stop shaking, and finally, slowly, respond to her, by holding her hand as she held mine.

“I sometimes wonder,” I heard her voice, magical, like music, like a favorite song, that somehow cut through all the noise, all the chaos, “why the lake dried up, why the stream died.” I know she looked at the ground, dried, broken dirt, where a stream had been.

That cold, heartless part of me answered her, “For the water.”

She didn’t answer, she simply kept holding my hand, as the screaming in my head started to fade, and the voices fell quiet, one by one.

“I come here because it’s quiet, and I can…” I couldn’t figure out the words to say, “Sometimes I need the quiet.”

Somehow, I managed to look at her, at her face, with those eyes, and that magic smile. I don’t know why, I don’t know what happened to me when I did. But I always felt safer, calmer, when I did. Somehow, she could always reach me, when no one else ever had. She could always reach past the chaos, to me.

“I come here because it’s quiet, and I can escape the chaos.”

“The chaos?”

“Yeah. The chaos. Inside of me.”

There was that smile, like when the sun comes out after a big storm, when it first breaks through the clouds, and the world gets lighter, more colorful. She kept holding my hand, “What do you feel, right now?”

“I…” I realized I couldn’t answer. Not because I didn’t feel something, but because I felt everything. I felt too much.

“You’re safe with me, you know.”

I nodded, because I couldn’t talk.

“And maybe, together, we can help you learn what you feel. And not be afraid to feel.”

I knew she understood. I didn’t know how to live with me. Didn’t know how to live with everything I felt. And the voices in my head were my emotions, screaming at me.

“I come here to hide. Somewhere safe. Alone. Until I can get back in control.”

And we stood there, her holding my hand, until I could breathe once again. Until the screaming in my head was gone.

744 words
@mysoulstears


Written in response to the prompt for week 163 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.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2020/06/08 (Week 160)

Nathan James was one hell of a fruit-cake. I couldn’t come up with any other way to describe him, yet, there I was, out in the middle of nowhere, in a factory town attached to what had been an open pit mine, to interview him about his pet project.

“That’s a rather big hole in the ground, Mr. James.”

“Needs to be. Only way to make it deep enough.”

I hoped the video team was getting lots of footage of the Caterpillar 797 dump trucks driving in and out of that hole. “They tell me you are trying to prove hell exists?”

“It’s true.” Nathan nodded. “I’m going to dig here until we reach it. Then, no one can say it doesn’t exist.”

From the air, looking down at the pit, it looked like they’d dug a mountain sized hole. “How far do you think you have to dig?”

“30 to 40 miles.”

I kept reminding myself to not laugh, I was doing my job, making an interview for the news program. A human interest story. I had to wonder how many humans would be interested in this guy. “That’s a long way. The deepest we’ve ever dug is 7.5 miles, and it took them 20 years to get that deep.”

“That was a bore hole.” Nathan nodded. “Only 9 inches wide. That’s why it took so long to get that deep. They couldn’t use better techniques.”

I looked at the pit again. “Better techniques?”

“We’re able to drill small holes, and use explosives to fracture the rock. We can also move around large blockages. They couldn’t.” Nathan looked outside. “It’s like clearing a path for a road through the mountains.”

It defied my imagination, “How wide would you have to build this to get 30 miles deep?”

“Don’t really know. No one’s ever tried.” He laughed.

“And you’re convinced it’s there?”

“Oh, it’s there. Down where the rock melts, and gets soft. The heat and the pressure down there is hell. Literally.” He paused, “They gave up drilling when the heat and pressure got so much, the bits stopped working. You can’t go deeper unless you make an open pit.” He paused again. “The pressure and heat melted their drill. They had to use titanium and diamond to drill. Very expensive.”

“Did they reach hell?”

“No, they did not. They barely got deep enough to notice any signs that it’s down there.”

I wanted to ask him about science, about how spherical planets form, and how gravity, heat, and pressure melts the interior, and it separates into layers, heaviest at the center, and lightest at the surface.

It was like he knew that, “I’m also proving the flat earth people are fruit loops.” Nathan laughed. “You might want to use another set of words.” He laughed more. “You can’t have those layers in a flat earth. To do that, you need a round, spherical object. Also demonstrating you can’t dig through the flat earth. That you dig through layers.”

I stared out the window at the pit a moment, “Have you found anything interesting so far? Do you expect to find interesting things as you dig?”

“We have found a few fossils. The deeper we dug, the further back in time we went. But, we’re deep enough at the center now that we’re past the fossils. Now, it’s unknown bacteria.”

“Unknown bacteria?”

“Yes. That stuff lives in the harshest conditions. Any kind of crack in the rock, any kind of surface, they turn up. Living on the heat, and on minerals.”

“How will you know when you find hell?”

“That will be where damned souls are. We won’t be able to see them any more than you can see them now. But we’ll know they’re there. We’ll sense their screams of agony.”

“Agony?”

“Where they get endlessly crushed, and burned, and ground to nothing.”

I must have looked pretty funny when he said that, because he continued. “When we reach the place where nothing could possibly live. That’s when we’ll have found hell.”

It was the strangest interview I’d ever done, interviewing a filthy rich fruit cake with a pipe dream of finding hell, and proving it exists. Don’t think it’s what I’d have done with all those billions of dollars.

713 words
@mysoulstears


Written in response to the prompt for week 160 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.

Miranda Kate’s Mid Week Challenge : 2020/05/19 (Week 157)

“It’s a book,” she pointed at the book I was reading. “A purple one, with gold letters, and this candle thing on the front.”

I nodded, and kept reading.

“Why do you waste your time reading so many books?” She plunked down on the sofa next to me. “There’s so much to do in the world. So many places to go. So much to see.”

I nodded, and kept reading.

“And you sit here, reading books all day.”

Carefully, I placed my folded sheet of paper I used as a bookmark between the pages, and closed the book. “Yes, I do.”

“Why?” She grabbed my book, and put it on the far end of the sofa from me. “There’s so much to life, and you read books? Why not do something fun?”

There are times when words are useless, and I knew this was one of those times. There were no words to explain my fascination with books to her. She would not understand any words I said. Which is why I started saying them anyway.

“They change me.”

“What?”

“The books. They change me.”

“Oh, really.” She gave me a good look over, “You look just like you did this morning. Nothing changed about you.”

“They change me anyway.”

“How can books change you?”

“I learn from them.”

At first, she didn’t answer. Then, all at once, “You learn from books, but you don’t learn from life?”

“Of course I learn from life.”

“Then why do you read so many books?”

“To learn more than I can from life.”

“What more is there to learn?”

There it was. The reason she would never understand a word I said. Her mind was closed, she’d already determined books were a waste of time. “OK. Tactic change.” I made certain I didn’t look at her eyes, I knew, if I did that, I’d give up instantly, and do whatever she wanted. “Why do you watch movies?”

“The same reason everyone watches movies, silly. To escape reality.”

So much for that idea. I could hear her thinking, “You read to escape reality? Seriously?”

“OK. That’s not going to get anywhere either is it?” Any discussion I could have had with her was already over, and I knew it. “You already know all the answers to everything, don’t you.”

“No, silly. No one does.” I thought she was going to laugh for a moment, “I know what I need to know, and that’s more than enough.”

I wanted to ask her about all the religions of the world. Then about the languages, and why there were so many, and why different languages allowed people to say things they couldn’t say at all in other languages. I wanted to ask her about politics, and Conservatives, and Liberals, and Socialists, and Marxists, and a thousand others.

I didn’t.

I already knew. Her mind was closed. She’d picked one religion, one language, one political viewpoint. And she’d closed everything else down.

“That’s not enough for me.” I reached past her, and picked up my book. “It never will be.”

“Idiot.” She stood up, and walked off. I didn’t know where. I thought about following her, maybe apologizing. Maybe doing something like taking her to dinner, and a movie, and spending time with her.

But she was so small. So limited. So set in her ways.

The thought occurred to me, perhaps I should be sad because I’d grown apart from her, and she from me. I was still sitting there, thinking, when I heard the door to the apartment slam.

“This can’t be fixed, can it.”

I swear I heard the walls of the room answer me, with a quiet, “No.”

614 words
@mysoulstears


Written in response to the prompt for week 157 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.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2020/05/06 (Week 156)

The team of Russian, French, Japanese, Chinese, and German scientists, and their heavily armed escort, worked their way through the remains of Oklahoma City. Half of it was rubble, melted glass, and scorched ground. The other half still stood, though it clearly needed repair.

They’d seen too many bodies on their walk already. Bodies in every city, and every town. Many of them as charred as the ground, others as damaged as what was left standing. In the cities, and towns, almost no one survived.

The French team checked their radiation exposure badges, “We may have 30 minutes left.” Then they resumed measuring the radiation levels of everything. Dirt, parts of bricks, chunks of concrete, melted pavement, everything.

The Russian team took pictures of everything, hoping the pictures could provide a three dimensional digital reconstruction of the area, so they could identify where the cruise missile had impacted the ground.

The Chinese placed markers every 10 feet, in a square pattern, to help measure the size of the area the blast had leveled. Several of them knelt, and silently prayed to whatever gods there were, that this never happened again.

The Japanese and the Germans worked on air flow patterns, cloud cover, humidity, temperature, and general records about the environment. Several of them spoke quietly to each other of how the Americans had sown the wind, and sadly reaped the whirlwind.

All of them knew they would find nothing alive. No people. No cats, dogs, rats, birds, snakes, squirrels. Nothing. Nothing would have survived the power of the blast, and the overwhelming dose of neutron radiation it released.

One of the Russians stopped his work before a steel door, embedded in the remains of a rebar wall. The door stood alone, the building it had been part of was gone, nothing but piles of debris here and there.

The other teams stopped when they saw him standing before that door, and they joined him.

Somehow, by some magic unknown to human science, the door still stood, and the paint on it had not burned away, nor was it black or charred.

It was a painting of a man. He was crouched down, one hand touching the ground, the other his head. None of them knew what it meant. The Russians took pictures of the door, from every angle.

Too soon, their time was up, and the transport helicopters touched down, they boarded them, and were carried away, to the safety of the heavily shielded research base the United Nations had constructed to support their research.

The Chinese and Japanese scientists spoke frequently of what had happened, and why, and how many lives had been lost, and how much of the world would be uninhabitable for centuries. The Japanese were the most experienced with post nuclear blast recoveries, and their insight was highly valued.

The lead Chinese scientist politely noted, “There was no other way.”

The lead Japanese scientist responded, “Indeed.”

They both looked out of the helicopter windows at the devastated landscape below. The Chinese man spoke first, “All this because one of the corona-viruses mutated, and became able to spread among humans.”

The Japanese man nodded, “The Americans always sought someone to blame.”

“It was not our fault,” the Chinese man shook his head, and was no longer able to hold back his emotions, and tears silently flowed from the corners of his eyes. “It was no one’s fault.”

“We all know that. Even half the Americans knew that.”

The Russian leader placed his hand on the Chinese man’s shoulder, “It was their own fault.” He looked at the devastation below. “They insisted on blaming someone, and then set about getting even.” He paused, then sighed. “It was their way. Their nationalistic pride. And it killed them.”

The Chinese man knew. The US had launched military strikes at China, and all its allies. They’d blown North Korea off the face of the planet. They’d left a hole in the ground where Wuhan had been that glowed green in the dark, and was visible from the International Space Station. That, all by itself, triggered a global response, with thousands of nuclear weapons launched against the US.

The Russian nodded at his Chinese friend. “We could not let them destroy the entire world out of their pride and arrogance.”

The Japanese man spoke, quietly, “They sowed the wind. They reaped the storm.”

729 words
@mysoulstears


Written in response to the prompt for week 156 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.