Recurring Story: Thirty-Four

The space around her undulated with excited preparations, but Wil sat on an island of stupor.

She felt completely indecisive in the face of probable conclusion. The X on the final fragment of a treasure map led right around the next clump of trees, and she was strangely unsure of unearthing what lay buried.

As people accidentally brushed past her desk or herself, a galvanizing thought finally sunk through: if she didn’t move, she’d be stuck alone with Mr. G.

So quickly that she actually finished before a few others; Wil gathered up her things, moved down the narrow aisle of desks, and edged open the heavy metal door into the chill afternoon outdoors.

Nature’s cool hand stroked Wil’s cheek, reminding some primal part of her what being alive truly felt like. Anxiety blew away. She felt strong, clear-minded, and brave.

She also remembered that she’d have to hurry, to meet her destiny and still have time to catch her ride.

Wil scarcely saw the stands of chattering or texting or zoning out teenagers. They were posts she had to walk around -as uninteresting and lifeless as the swimming salad utensil décor that occasionally interrupted the walls of the hallway she hurried down.

Wil made record time arriving at and emptying her locker. She headed toward the library, squinting ahead to see who might be waiting.

She saw no one standing.

Wil reached the doors, which were closed and locked. Their librarian strongly believed her day ended when the teenagers’ did. In practice, she left as soon as she could without the principal noticing.

Wil looked around for another paper scrap or a hidden agent. Nothing and no one presented themselves.

Looking agitatedly at the exiting masses, Wil’s eyes were drawn to one body heading across the crowds to her position. She felt her heart rate increase and anxiety return.

He was a boy. Wil thought she’d seen him in two of her classes. Had Mrs. T. been right?

He reached her. He smiled.

“Hi, I’m Derek,” he supplied in a voice-still-changing tone. “This is for you.” He held out a note with an edge that showed it had been torn from a notebook.

“Don’t worry,” he assured Wil. Her agitation of more clues conveyed itself as a panic on her face. “I’ll see you later.” He gave her another simple smile, then turned and walked away. He was swept with the crowds down the hall and out the doors.

This time, Wil was marooned for a shorter time. She pocketed the paper and ran to carpool.

 

Continued from Thirty-Three.

Plantae uel Animalia

Forget me not
(Picture from Memory Foundation.)

If you were to assign a flower to my childhood personality, you might search among the less-desirable weeds. I wouldn’t have minded; I’d have stuck my prickly, unwanted self even further into your business.

My grandmother, however, was a soft-spoken, kind-thinking sort. I never heard her raise her voice nor speak insult. She was more like the gently-swaying field flowers of springtime, shyly smiling to a beckoning sun.

While people greeted my coming akin to a dandelion outbreak, we all recall my grandmother’s mischievous blue eyes with forget-me-nots.

At least dandelions are my son’s favorite.

Dandelions

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge.

Fairy Tale Life

Once upon a time, there was a poor homemaker who barely had enough time to wash the clothes or dress her children. She never seemed able to sweep her kitchen floor.

One night, as usual, she cleaned enough dishes to make it through the following meal, dressed the children and got them to bed, then started some laundry and fell asleep quite late.

The next morning, she was surprised to find that a small army of ants had cleaned all the crumbs off the floor for her!

If you think she’s going to make them little outfits in gratitude, though, you’re reading the wrong fairy tale.

Skinwalkers, IV

His newsfeed was not as interesting as Nathan had hoped, or he was simply too anxious to be captivated by its stories. He suspected a mix of both. Perhaps it would help if something newsworthy happened besides the unending reports of famine, over-pollution, rising costs, and no jobs.

Too bad he couldn’t risk watching something more interesting, but he wanted to appear confident and collected for the interview. He wanted to radiate the impression felt during his last glance in the mottled bathroom mirror.

The humming transport moved in measured automation down its predetermined strip. Strips of light, both natural and artificial, panned through the thickly-tinted windows and played across his comm, his suit, and the back of the operator’s head. Nathan was distracted by their movement, in part because his eyes still felt over-sensitive to strong contrasts of dark and light.

Not a minute too soon, they pulled up under the street shade of a grey office complex. The door immediately to Nathan’s side popped open, and he shifted over and out. Pocketing his comm, he carefully looked up to the heaven-reaching monolith.

A gray building tapered up to a gray pinnacle, surrounded by gray clouds against a gray sky. Nathan felt slightly mismatched in his dark blue garments.

The transport door closed and it left in a near-silent hum, a bit faster than regulation. Nathan snorted derisively at the operator’s obvious desire to get back, and hopefully ferry a more lucrative client.

Straightening his lapels, coat, and sleeves compulsively, he strode forward under the shade. It was a nice, expensive, semi-translucent roof that covered the entire width of the building’s front, and led from street to entrance. Remembering the brief precipitation during his drive, Nathan realized and marveled at the costs of maintaining the shade’s transparency.

The doors, too, were immaculate. They were guarded, by a man better-dressed than a hotel concierge. Nathan felt trepidation raise his heart rate; his palms threatened to sweat through his skin.

I can do this, he told himself. Considering, he altered his mantra, will do this.

Forcing himself to keep his nervousness thoroughly internal, he walked an even gait up the steps to the formidable front. The guard barely granted him a glance, but Nathan knew the man had already measured him up and down since he first stepped on to the curb.

The guard offered his tablet, expressionlessly. Nathan scanned his own device, matching and surpassing the man’s seriousness. A green bar flitted across the tablet’s surface; its owner blinked in acknowledgement and returned it to its pocket. Reaching somewhere behind his person, the guard activated the doors.

Resisting the urge to breathe a relieved sigh, Nathan cleared his throat and strode forward. The opening split rapidly, pushing surprisingly-fresh air gently against his body. He almost stumbled, stupidly, with the flavor of the expensive building-breath. Knowing, however, of the guard’s continued scrutiny, he fought natural reactions and continued walking. Internally, Nathan couldn’t help but marvel.

How would it be? He wondered, To breathe this well every day? He couldn’t wait to find out.

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, III.

Do Not Acknowledge When the Grim Reaper Calls

Old Folks

I am afraid of dying. It’s not a unique fear, nor a novel one.

From people in the religious community to which I belong, my statement draws vocalizations of denial. They say life persists after death. They know I will see my passing friends and relatives again in some grand family reunion.

But even they avoid reminders of The End.

They do not house dying relatives, attend festivities at Adult Day Care centers, or wish to visit those inevitable hellholes that await the living: nursing homes.

They’re just as afraid as I am. We’re all afraid.

My parents took us to visit relatives in “care centers” when we were young. I didn’t like going. I resented being forced to sit there while some wrinkled, age-stinked woman barely recollected her younger years. I didn’t realize my parents didn’t like the situation, either. Still; it was a sense of duty, family, and love.

Perhaps our problem is not entirely a fear of death.

True, we are scared. We do not wish to stare at the handiwork of The Grim Reaper and know it is our end as well.

However, the whole picture of avoiding age is a painting of mural dimensions. The painting, of course, is not a happy scene of meadows, sunlight and wildflowers. It’s more like those dark-shaded scenes of swirling landforms and moody lakes.

painting

(Pinterest)

See those painted weeping willows over the water? They are not happy trees. They are our own, selfish sadness at losing our loved one. We feel the hole in our lives, to some degree. We recall happy (or sad) memories and accordingly droop to the reflective surface morosely.

Mountains and hills shading the background represent trials and difficulties. Why is an entire range present, and why are they so far away? We want them far; we don’t like discomfort.

Real life, adult life, needs people willing to face and overcome uncomfortable things.

One such uncomfortable activity is the care of helpless, dying humans. If you think you don’t want to do it, think about the people who are paid by hospice companies or care centers. The high turnover rate is an obvious sign that no one likes wiping old peoples’ bottoms.

Filler scenery like grasses, dips, valleys, and bushes are the long, unknown journey. It’s not a cushy trip, nor one we can predict the duration of. It’s annoying. It’s a detraction from our regular life and a depressing play on our emotions.

Finally: the lake. Water is a favorite metaphor in creative works. We think we see the bottom, though it’s a murky, weed-choked one. Simultaneously, saddened viewers may see a reflection of themselves on the surface, of their mortality.

The water is the dying one’s life. The size and depth thereof depends on their personality and experiences.

So, what now, art lover? Do you wish to continue avoiding your picture as it takes on more and more of your regrets and negligence?

Dorian Gray

(Wikipedia)

I don’t blame you, really.

I’ve brushed closer to Death within the last week than I’ve had to for many years. Good healthcare, I suppose.

My grandmother is drawing her last breaths, completely unaware of the world around her. She hasn’t been awake or eating for five days. She hasn’t known who I am for a few years.

She was moved to a special Alzheimer’s facility last autumn. It’s only ten minutes from my house, but I have not gone frequently. I’ve felt impotent, as she stares at everyone around her in confusion.

I’ve felt deeply saddened as I briefly made eye contact and saw only emptiness.

Why go, then? She doesn’t know.

Fear of an eternal religious judgment? I’m not that superstitious anymore. Mostly.

Judgement

Let me draw you a death-scene a little different than the one my grandmother is part of now. Different, slightly, than her being completely asleep; with her anxious children staring at each other for hours, for hours of days.

Over a year ago, we were told my husband’s grandmother was failing. Confined to her bed in a home shared with her oldest son, she woke occasionally and spoke little.

When I arrived, armed with disruptive children and a picture book of garden flowers, I found my husband’s cousin already there. She had brought a guitar. Patiently, sweetly; she strummed it and sang.

She had a lovely voice.

Right then, I decided I wanted to be loved enough that someone would sing me off to Eternal Sleep.

And that, fellow Thanatophobics, is my impetus for care of the elderly. It’s a Golden Rule sort of thing. How would I want to be treated? What attentiveness may I expect?

Given the obvious truth that I may be susceptible to Alzheimer’s as well, I’m likely to degenerate to a similar state of ignorance. When I am anxiously rubbing my hands, wondering at the empty walls of strange rooms, and feeling a strange sort of violation at having others bathe me -who will care enough to visit?

Will you?

While You Sleep

Who will love you, when you’re empty;
A stranger sitting, all alone?

Whose anxious faces keep appearing;
Some of whom have your blue eyes?

What hands will gently still your shaking,
With fingers just like yours?

What voices will tell nighttime stories
As you nap away the days?

Who will sing your childhood songs
In sweet, soprano tones?

Who will come, when days are past
And only night awaits you?

We will love you, Grandma, Dear;
We’ll hold, and tell and sing.

We’ll care for you, though you’re not here,
While you go to sleep.

Recurring Story: Thirty-Three

Fortunately, Wil was able to keep awake the remainder of History. She wouldn’t have put it past Mr. G. to try the correctional fluid method if she dozed again. There was no telling what that crazy Air Force fanatic would do.

She hurried to finish the reading and its questions. The silence around her was slowly replaced by the hum of conversations, as her classmates began visiting with each other or working on other homework. They had started the simple assignment whilst Wil was airborne, and most were now finished.

“Done,” Wil said quietly and triumphantly. She set the notepaper with her answers to the top right on her desk, then extracted the secret crossword from her binder. “T-M-E-E-Y-B-R-R-L-I-A-B-Y-R-E-F-A-T-S-C-H-O-O-L,” She read, under her breath.

She had despaired a bit, at first glance, that she had yet another step before resolution. Now, however, Wil could see that not all of the words were scrambled. Clearly, there was “by,” “fat,” and “school.” Perhaps the letters AND the words were scrambled, which would account for “fat” being right before “school.”

Logic told Wil that there wasn’t a good reason to have “fat” anywhere in the message, though. No one at school was named that, nor any location. Perhaps she was supposed to seek out a person who was fat, but she also doubted that.

She stared at the page, thinking, as the room buzzed around her.

Just then, Wil noticed that the key letter boxes in the crossword itself were not all the same. Five of the squares had an extra line on the side. She’d thought it an error of the print before, but now entertained the idea of it being another clue. The letters affected by the extra line were E, B, Y, T, and L.

Thanks to the assignment she had just completed on Morse Code and other methods used for communication during America’s wars, Wil remembered that a space between words is written with a slash. This meant that T-M-E-E was one word, IF her code-writer intended for her to copy the letters down in the order she had. Wil sincerely hoped that was the case. She felt reassurance that it was, since “school” copied that way was not scrambled.

“Eetm, Mete, Meet!” Wil said, a bit too loudly. A few people near her looked at her questioningly, and she smiled shyly before quickly looking back down at her paper. She pretended to be absorbed by it as she attempted to cover most of it with her textbook and hand. They returned to their own conversations and work.

Wil exhaled in relief, and really did become absorbed.

Y, B became “by;” R, R, L, I, A, B, Y was “library;” and R, E, F, A, T was “after.”

“Meet by library after school,” Wil read excitedly in her mind. In answer, the ending bell rang.

 

Continued from Thirty-Two.

Jeweled

Jewel often asked what her name meant; why Mother also carried it.

“You’ll see,” Mother demurred.

Their crumbling dictionary said Jewel was a stone that refracted light into color; but what was refracted? What was color?

Other things, odd things -things Jewel couldn’t quite define- also set them apart.

“Cheer up; tomorrow’s another day,” Mother reassured a stranger, in passing. How did she know he was sad? Jewel wondered, looking back at the black and white face.

One day, at school, Jewel finally knew. Amidst the monochrome playchildren; her friend, Tom, smiled.

In that glittering instant, he glowed yellow.

 

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge

Midnight Musings

Do you ever stay up late because you had something you had to do, then stayed up later dreading how tired you’d be the next day?

No? Oh. Well, go back to sleep then. I’m sorry for waking you with my questions.

Moon