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

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

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

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

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

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

“This?”

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

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

“Your father. I promised him.”

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

“Dad?”

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

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

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

“I don’t understand.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

710 words
@mysoulstears


Written in response to the prompt for week 148 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can learn about Miranda’s challenge here. The stories people share for the weekly challenge are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. Please go read them all.

 

Inside My Eyelids (13)

Of course, I never knew her, she was part of a dream. But I remember her name, and always will. I remember she stood on a tiny bit of what was left of the world, with her violin, and she played for me, as I stood on another tiny bit of what was left.

One by one, we’d watched people vanish. Everyone we knew, loved, befriended, grew up with, hated, wished would die, wished would live longer than we did. Everyone. We watched them vanish. One by one, into the cold, as their tiny parts of the world crumbled into dust which the wind blew away. One by one, the wind grabbed them, and took them beyond the edge of everything, and they were gone.

“I feel like I should know who you are.”

“Nava.” She didn’t ask who I was. She smiled, and held up her violin. “Now, old man. Before we too vanish, I would play one last song.”

It was a song I’d never heard. A song that needed no words, only the sounds of her violin, the beating of her heart, and everything either of us had ever felt.

As she played, one by one, the little bits of land, floating around her, slowly turned to dust, and they too were gone. Her music said good-bye to each of them. To each person she had ever known. To each heart that had never turned to stone.

Then, she played for me. Her music said, “I never got to meet you in this life, except to say good-bye. I wish we’d had more time to spend. I’d love to play you many songs.” As she played, the wind picked up, it blew her hair, and dress, and I knew what was to come. I know she knew too.

At first, it was only the edges of her little bit of land. A bit of dust, every now and then. Then, the bottom began to crumble, and I watched, and wondered, if she saw the tears I know I cried. Too soon, all that was left was a tiny place for her to stand. But, still, Nava played that one last song for me. As the last bit of ground beneath her feet began to crumble, and the wind took it away, bit by bit. She played on, until the last of that ground was gone.

And then, the wind carried her away.

To this day, I wonder what it meant, that dream of the end of everything. Where the world fell apart, and crumbled, as it turned into dust, and everyone was gone. To this day I wonder what it meant that Nava stood there, on that last bit of land, and played one last song for me, and me alone, before she was gone. To this day, I wonder why I was the last one left, and how long I was there, on that bit of land and rock that was all that was left of everything I’d ever known.

And to this day, when I look in the mirror, at my eyes looking back at me, I wonder if that dream, and all the others I have had, where I’m the last one left of everything, and every one I’ve ever known, is life’s way of telling me I’ll have to say good-bye to everyone, one soul at a time, until I’m the last person on this world I’ll have ever known.

577 words
@mysoulstears


Written in response to the prompt for week 147 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.

Inside My Eyelids (12)

It was one of those nights I didn’t want to sleep. “If I sleep, I know the dreams will be there.” In the process of avoiding sleep, I wound up in front of the bathroom mirror, staring at the me I saw there, hearing the words of an old song.

“A mirror, is a negative space with a frame,
And a place for your face
It reveals, what the rest of us see
It conceals, what you’d like it to be” (1)

When I closed my eyes, and shook my head to clear my thoughts, I heard the words an old friend, one who was lost to time, and to my past, had said to me. “Most people know. They know. And they will do anything to not have to think about it, to make it not real. Because, if it’s real.” They never finished the thought, instead, leaving me hanging, with no understanding of why people were how they were.

But those words echoed in my head that night. “Most people know.” And it combined with the words of that song. “I conceals, what you’d like it to be.”

I opened my eyes, and looked at the me in that mirror again, “Why?”

It was always the same question. My entire life was the same question. “Why?” As if the only thing that mattered, the only thing there was, was the question, and the search for an answer.

When I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror, at my eyes looking back at me, I wandered down the stairs to the kitchen. I didn’t turn on a light, but walked in the dark. I needed it to be dark. In the dark, the details went away. In the dark, no one could see me. In the dark, I knew I was free from the games of life. The pretenses that others made me, expected me, demanded me to wear.

In the dark, my facade faded, and I could be me.

And let my soul cry.

People had always told me, when you sit alone, in the dark, late at night, on the floor of the kitchen, something’s wrong with you, and you need to get help. Yet, there I was. On the floor, in the dark, trying not to think, not to feel, and maybe to not even breathe.

Until the ache in my soul faded just enough I could feel the fatigue in my body. It was time to face the dreams painted inside my eyelids for another night. To find some rest, however brief, to prepare for another day in a world where most people knew, but were too terrified of the truth of life, they forgot about it, or denied it was there.

My dreams did not disappoint me.

Mirrors appeared, hanging in air, nothing to hold them up, reflecting everything they faced. Reflecting the world, and the people I knew, the society I lived in. Rain and storms in one. Sunshine, blue skies, and wispy white clouds in another.

And that damn song echoed in my mind once more.

“A mirror, is a negative space with a frame,
And a place for your face
It reveals, what the rest of us see
It conceals, what you’d like it to be” (1)

That morning, I looked into the eyes in the mirror that looked back at me, and I knew. I finally knew. Everything in the mirror is two dimensional. It has no depth. There is only what you see. And I knew, suddenly, why, “Most people know. They know. And they will do anything to not have to think about it, to make it not real. Because, if it’s real…”

615 words
@mysoulstears


1 The song is “Mirrors” by Blue Oyster Cult.
Songwriters: Abbott / Roeser
Mirrors lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

I wrote this for week 146 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.

Inside My Eyelids (11)

Each step I took, I heard the sound of my shoes striking the ground echo down the length of the stone hallway. It was a dark, damp hallway, and as I walked it, I could feel the weight of the stone above me. Solid, heavy rock, that threatened to crush the tiny hallway I was in, and thus crush me.

The hallways walls emitted a soft, faint light, just strong enough to see the world inside it in black and white, with no detail. Only the endless echo of my shoes on the cold stone floor as I walked along.

There was no way to know how long I’d been in that hallway, no way to measure its length, no way to reach its end, or its beginning. It remained the same, in both directions, endlessly. To walk it seemed pointless, and yet, something inside me, some feeling in my bones, told me to walk, and that if I walked long enough, I would find something.

Walk I did. I couldn’t remember when I started walking. I couldn’t remember how I got in that hallway. Had I always been there? Had I found my way to the place, and then gotten lost in its endless stone?

One step after another, I walked. I tried counting steps, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Eventually, I lost count. I started again, counting by blocks of ten steps, and grouping those into groups of ten, and those into groups of ten. I lost count again, after countless thousands.

“Perhaps this is a circle. A large circle, that barely turns to one side. Just enough that eventually, it comes back on itself. And I’m walking in a circle. Endlessly. Without knowing it.” My mind tried to explain the hallway. “It’s a circle, and I’m trapped to walk the same path, endlessly.”

When I found a light hanging on the left wall, I decided it wasn’t a circle. I’d never seen that light before. Another hundred steps, and I found another light. A third one at 50 steps. Then one at 25 steps. Then, three lights. Between the first two, hung on the wall, was an old, wooden shield. Painted blue, with white and black circles. In places the paint had worn away and revealed the wood beneath. The blade of a large knife hung by a chain on one side of the shield. Another weapon hung by a chain from the other side. I wasn’t familiar with it, having never seen anything like it.

Between the second and third lights was a door. One look told me it was ancient. A sign of the door read, “It is the demons who take life.”

Maybe, after walking that hallway for however long I had, I’d lost my mind, lost my ability to reason, or to understand written words. Because I opened that door, and stepped through it.

Into a room filled with weapons. Swords, knives, whips, bows and arrows, spears, pikes, axes. Every weapon I’d ever heard of, and what seemed like an endless array of weapons I’d never imagined existed. I couldn’t see the back of the room. It was like the hallway, unending.

Beside each weapon there was that same sign. “It is the demons who take life.”

I heard her voice, her words to me, from years ago, “The Devil and his minions can’t create life.”

Then my own words, “Neither can humans.”

Then, the thoughts of my mind, “But both can certainly take what they are given, and modify it, change it, adapt it, for their own purposes.”

That sign was beside every weapon in that endless room, “It is the demons who take life.”

And I opened my eyes, as I realized it was daylight, and time for me to get ready for another day at work. But, since that dream of that endless hallway, and that endless room filled with creations used to end life, I have never escaped the words of that sign, “It is the demons who take life.”

644 words
@mysoulstears


I wrote this for week 145 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.

Inside My Eyelids (9)

It’s the dreams that happen after I have to wake up in the middle of the night, for whatever reason, and then go back to sleep, that are the the most colorful. And the most difficult for me to cope with.

Last night, I woke at three-thirty in the morning. I’m old. I wake up every morning to go pee. Last night was no exception. After my nightly trip, I pulled the covers back up, and waited for the heat to build back up, which always sends me back to sleep.

Back to the land of dreams.

I remember walking. The same streets I’d always walked, all through my neighborhood. A long walk this time, one that took over two hours. As I walked, I wondered, “Where are all the houses? Where are all the cars? The trees. The buildings. The signs. Everything was gone. Everything. There was nothing to either side of me, nothing ahead of me, nothing behind me. There were no clouds, not birds, no planes, not bugs, the sky was empty.

It had rained earlier, though, I could tell because of the puddles on the street, and the sidewalk. Puddles that worked like mirrors, and reflected the images of everything around them. Those puddles were more confusing than everything being missing, because they were filled with images of everything that had been there. Everything I always saw when I walked was still in those puddles.

But none of it was left anywhere.

I walked from puddle to puddle, examining each one, trying to figure out what I was seeing in each puddle. The one in front of where my home had been still had reflections of my crepe myrtle trees in it. I watched the image of the bottom of my car in the puddle as my invisible car drove across it. The water didn’t move, there were no splashes. It was like my care wasn’t there. Like I was watching a movie screen.

There was a puddle a few blocks from home, where I could still see the buildings that used to be beside the road, even though there was no sign anything had ever been beside the road. In that one, I watched a passenger jet fly through the puddle, while no jet was anywhere to be seen.

Except in the puddle.

Most interesting was how, as I walked, I saw myself in the reflections of the puddles. As if the puddles were saying to me, “We only reflect what’s actually there.” And yet, there was nothing there to reflect.

I decided to try finding one of the street signs I saw in a puddle. A stop sign, at the corner of a road. It was crystal clear in the puddle. I kept my eyes on the puddle, as I moved my reflection closer to the signs reflection. Until I could reach out, and place my reflections hand on the sign. Except, there was no sign. There was nothing.

I wound up back at the puddle before where my house had been. I walked back and forth, left and right, even in circles. Nothing. My house wasn’t there. There was no sign it had ever existed.

There was a song, long ago, where the singer sang,

“Let me take you down
‘Cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real
And nothing to get hung about”*

As I woke from my dream, I heard that song playing over and over again in my head, with some strange voice asking me, “What is real, and what is a dream, and how do you know?”

599 words
@mysoulstears


* The song is Strawberry Fields, by the Beatles.

Songwriters: J. Lennon / P. Mccartney
“Strawberry Fields Forever” lyrics © Sony/atv Tunes Llc, Sony, Sony Atv Tunes Llc, Sony Atv Music Publishing France, Sony/atv Tunes Llc Dba Atv Obo Atv (northern Songs Catalog), Wixen Music Publishing Inc Obo Harrisongs Ltd

I wrote this for week 144 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.

 

Inside My Eyelids (8)

I walked along the sidewalk, beside all the different houses of my neighborhood. Was I dreaming? I don’t know. I could feel the breeze, hear the cars on the main road outside my neighborhood, see the clouds in the sky move over time, watch birds fly from place to place.

I wondered if it really mattered if it was a dream or if it was real. I wondered if there was a difference between dreams, and reality.

As if the universe sensed my thoughts, it sent me on a walk through a forest, beside a small river, in the mountains somewhere. That told me I was dreaming, or at least convinced me I was.

Lacking anything else to do, I wandered along the trail I was on, through the trees, beside the river, realizing I couldn’t hear anything. No leaves rustling in the breeze. My feet on the ground as I walked. My breathing. No birds, no squirrels, nothing. No sound at all.

Until I came across a door frame the trail passed through. I looked around. It was a door frame, made of short sections of tree branches, cut to similar lengths, and put together to make a frame. There were vines and branches growing along its exterior, some reaching out a couple of feet from the frame, as if to tangle with the trees, to form a wall, and anchor the frame in place.

A short little man, maybe three feet tall popped out of the trees, next to the frame, “You asked about reality and dreams, I do believe.”

For some reason I nodded yes at him, “Am I dreaming? Or is this real?”

“What are dreams, and what is real? And are the two the same for everyone, or are the different for each person?” The little man smiled. “Do you see a door?”

“No. Only a frame.”

“Can you walk around it? Or through it?”

“Yes.”

“Is the trail on the other side the same? Is the air the same? Are the same trees on both sides of the door?”

“Obviously. It’s a frame, standing in empty space, nothing more. No walls. No buildings. A doorway that leads nowhere.”

The little man laughed. “Like all doorways, isn’t it?” He shook his head. “And if I put a door in the frame?” He waved his hand, and a door appeared. “Does that make what’s on this side different from what’s on the other side?”

“No. I can still go around.”

“What if I add a wall?” A walk appeared on either side of the door, that stretched as far as I could see in both directions. “And make it too tall to climb.” The wall reached to the sky. I could not see it’s top.

“It’s a barrier. It separates this place into two places.”

The little man laughed. “And yet, the path continues as before, doesn’t it. And the air remains the same. And the trees are still the trees.” The door opened, “Go on through. Pass from this world to the next, if you wish.”

I walked through the opened doorway.

The little man followed me. “I don’t see anything different. Do you?”

“No.”

We both looked back at the doorway, and the wall. “And yet, you have said this is a different place. A separate place.”

The little man shook his head. He frowned at me. “So limited. So sad.” And he was gone. So was the wall, and the door. Only the frame remained.

It took time, but as I walked along the trail, by the small river, I wondered what a symbol was, and if a doorway was a symbol. Like a line on the sand. Or perhaps, like the houses of my neighborhood, where I was walking once again.

Now, I find myself asking why attach so many rules to symbols, to things that aren’t real, and really only separate us from each other. Like the lines on a map. Or the fences between yards. Or perhaps our colors, religions, and politics.

Now, I wonder, do our symbols bring order? Or do they bring chaos? Do they bring peace? Or do they bring war? And do we even know they are only symbols.

Like that doorway, on that trail. A symbol. And nothing more.

714 Words
@mysoulstears


I wrote this for week 143 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.

Inside My Eyelids (6)

Another night, another dream I wish I didn’t have. Another dream I’d had a thousand nights, in a thousand different ways. Bobby and Julie were holding hands, walking through the museum. I don’t know where it was, or what museum, only that it was a museum.

“Really weird art show, isn’t it?” Bobby waved his free hand at the paintings along the wall.

“Yep. Weird.” Julia kept pulling him from one painting, or one sculpture to another. Endlessly.

It took a while, but somewhere along the way, amid all the paintings, and statues, and abstract displays of spheres floating through rectangles inside of snow storms, and all the rest, they came across a statue not like the rest.

Julia tapped Bobby on the shoulder, “Dude, look at that one.”

“Wow.” They approached the display slowly. “Guy looks just like him, doesn’t it.”

“Yep. Just like him.” Julia drug Bobby around the display of a statue that looked strikingly like me. Why it was there, I don’t know. Why anyone would make a statue of me, I don’t know.

“Look at that.” From the front, it looked like me, but, as they moved to either side of it, the statue turned into an empty mold, with ragged edges along the back, and nothing inside it. “It’s like a shell. A prop.” They read the description of the artwork displayed on a stand next to it.

“The Facade. An illustration of what the world perceives us to be, and the reality that what the world sees is not real at all, rather it is only an image. A mask. A facade.”

Julia shook her head, “Looks just like him, doesn’t it.”

For some strange reason, I always woke up when the dream reached that part. Damn thing drove me nuts for decades, until I figured it out one day, at work. I wish I could forget that day, but know I never will. That was the day I told her, at work, the truth.

“It’s all a game, you know.”

“No. This is not a game. This is real life.” I remember the light in her eyes. There had been flashes of fear, and of concern in that light. As if I was speaking of a secret no one dared speak of.

“It’s got a set of rules. A specific behavior to follow. Ways to make bonus points. Ways to get penalized.” I’d made a point to look straight into those eyes, even knowing how dangerous it was for me to do that, knowing those eyes tore my own facade down, and left me standing there, unprotected, revealed, in broad daylight. “It’s a game. One everyone plays.”

That statue in that dream, that facade. That had been me. That had been what the world saw of me. Something artificial. A character in a story, an actor playing a part in a game. The things everyone knew about me, the person they all worked with, talked with, every day, wasn’t real.

It wasn’t me.

It was a facade. One I’d made, crafted carefully, over time, to be what I needed to be, in that environment, to make everyone shut up, and leave me alone. So they never got angry with me. Never fought with me. Never learned who I was. So I was always safe from them.

Until I looked in those eyes one day, and that facade started to crumble. Because. I found I could not lie to those eyes.

578 Words
@mysoulstears


I wrote this for week 142 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.