You wouldn’t believe me if I told you the whole story, not that I’ve ever told anyone before who blatantly argued against the tale, but being that this is my final statement, I’ll only tell the truth and the whole truth at that.
It was October thirty-first, not that that’s any surprise considering what happened that night. I was out late, not that I was invited to a party or celebrating All Hallow’s Eve in any way. Not that I wouldn’t have celebrated if given the opportunity, but I was alone that night, much like every night since then which explains why I’m sitting alone in a cabin with nothing but this typewriter and a shotgun. So alone, I am, that I fear that if my smell doesn’t give away my whereabouts to a passerby that I will never be found because I will never be missed.
Anyway, to the point. I was out late after all the kiddies had returned home with their sacks full of treats having missed the tricks that were lurking in the shadows there, the tricks that waited in the quiet of the Halloween moon for a lonely, lost man to meander by on his drunken walk home. The bar was loud and I had grown tired of the squealing of scantily dressed girls who feigned fear when boys crept up behind them. I left, walking one staggering foot in front of the other, trying to find my way home in the dark. To my left, the houses had gone silent, festive decorations dimmed if not already torn down to make way for Christmas décor. To my right, the woods whispered eerily about its vicious plot for anyone brave enough to breach its border on this night of the walking dead.
Suddenly there was laughter behind me. Not that of the drunken Halloween tramps, but a child’s laughter. I turned, but the street was empty just as it had always been. I picked up my pace, my feet momentarily ignoring the vast amounts of alcohol coursing through my veins.
That laugh again. I turned quicker, but still there was nothing behind me. I waited, pretending to take a few steps forward to see if someone would emerge from the woods, but there was nothing. I laughed to myself and turned back toward my house and there she was. A tiny, dark haired girl no more than eight years old. She was staring at the ground crying.
Now, I’ve never been a kid person. I never had any nieces or goddaughters and I certainly never had a kid of my own. So what’s a man to do when confronted with a crying child well past midnight on All Hallow’s Eve?
So I knelt down before her, keeping my distance so as not to be accused of anything unsavory, because that’s what happens now to men like me. I asked her if she was alright, but she just kept on crying and crying. I couldn’t stand the sound of it, but I couldn’t just leave her out there either. What if something happened after I left? I couldn’t live with that on my conscience. So I reached out and touched her shoulder, really gently and asked again if she was alright. At that exact moment, her head snapped up and the empty holes where her eyes should have been pierced right through me, chilling me down to my bones. She screamed, her blackened tongue and teeth vibrating with the force of that scream. Then she disappeared. She was gone.
I stood up and looked around for her, but she was nowhere in sight.
Now, some would just say this was the alcohol and the holiday playing with a lonely man’s brain, but the next morning, I’m sitting there in my living room, nursing a rather mean hangover with some overly strong coffee. and I couldn’t believe it, but I see that little girl on the news. The reporter lady said she went missing while she was out trick or treating with her brother, but they found her body in the wee hours of the morning right where I saw her, but about 100 yards into the woods. Some madman had carved out that little girls eyes before burying her alive in the dirt. The dogs had sniffed her out, poor thing.
So now you know why I wouldn’t want to tell anyone about seeing her. You go ranting about seeing a dead girl on your drunk walk home and they’re sure to lock you up for the crime or at least for insanity. I looked down at my hands to see the coffee cup was shaking in dirt-caked fingers. I figured a shower would be a better way to sober up.
As soon as the elevator doors closed, I found myself wishing I hadn’t run that red light. Just two minutes later and it could have been somebody else in here with this man whose stench was impossible to ignore. It was mixture of gasoline and burning meat that rolled off him in waves and heaved from his mouth with every breath. I hadn’t realized I’d been holding in my own breath until he spoke.
“Would you ever have imagined that this is how it all ends?” His voice sizzled and snapped like firewood. He stood in the opposite corner, unmoving, his face hidden by the black hood of his jacket. He was so still I almost thought I’d imagined the question.
“Excuse me?” My voice caught in my throat, my response barely audible over my pounding heart.
“Life, my dear,” he turned his piercing blue eyes upon me. “One moment, you’re driving home from a job that you hate, speeding through stoplights to get home to your pathetic apartment and needy cat without a care in the world for anybody but yourself. Then the next moment, well…” he paused, a terrifying grin pulling on the paper thin skin that clung to his jagged cheek bones. “Why should I spoil the surprise?”
“Who are you?” My mouth felt like it was made of sandpaper. I glanced anxiously at the floor indicator. It remained blank, but I could feel we were moving. Were we going down?
“You know who I am,” he breathed, another wave of that stench washing over me.
“I believe I’d remember you if we had ever met before.”
“We’ve never met, but you know who I am,” he said, the campfire tone of his voice seeming to grow from a blaze to a brushfire.
I took a step toward the elevator buttons, hoping that any one of them would let me off this horrifying ride.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he chuckled. “If you try and leave too soon, I can’t guarantee the outcome.”
“What do you want from me?” I could feel tears pricking at the edges of my eyes. My knees were trembling beneath me, threatening to give out at any moment.
“I want to give you a choice,” he said, that wicked smile spreading again revealing his dirty, sharpened teeth. “Let me ask you a question,” he said, though I barely heard him over my heartbeat as it pounded in my ears. “Are you happy with the way your life is going?”
“Happy?” Was this a joke?
“Are you happy? I mean, you hate your job and your coworkers. You live alone and never go out with friends. Do you have any friends?” He waved the question away with a bony hand. “That’s beside the point. The only creature you confide in or even remotely love is your cat who is going to die in two weeks, three days, fifteen hours, and twenty three minutes. So I ask, are you happy?”
“No, I’m not happy,” I said as tears ran down my cheeks.
“What if I told you I could make you happy?” His eyes sparkled in the dimly lit elevator. “What if I said that you could have everything you ever wanted?”
My heartbeat skipped, fear bumping its rhythm askew. “How?” I whispered.
“Just a little trade,” he said, clasping his skinless fingers before him.
“I don’t have anything to trade.”
“Oh, but you do!” He reached a bony finger toward me. My back pressed against the wall and I became horribly aware that I had nowhere to run. His finger stopped an inch from my chest, pointing at where my heart was rapidly beating.
I made the mistake of looking into his eyes at that moment. The unnatural blue seemed to stretch far beyond this box. Looking into them, I could see mushroom clouds blooming above desecrated landscapes. I saw dismembered bodies crawling along deserted streets. There were prison camps filled with starving people who looked like walking skeletons. I could see abused children crying alone in dark and dirty rooms.
He smiled and the wicked grin seemed to split his head in two from ear to ear.
“And if I don’t trade?”
I could see the answer within the blue ocean of his eyes.
“I don’t want to die,” I cried, tremors shaking my body.
“Then trade and I’ll be on my way,” the fire within him raged. The cracking heat of his voice blew against my face, my lungs filling with the putrid odor.
I wiped away my tears, daring one last look into his eyes. The scenes of my death replayed over and over within them. I pulled my gaze away and nodded. “Okay, I’ll trade.”
“We just need to seal the deal with a kiss,” he continued to grin as his bony fingers grabbed hold of my chin. “This might hurt a bit,” he laughed as he leaned in.
Nobody drives on this bridge anymore. Since the highway has offered a convenient bypass, the road leading here has become cluttered with fallen trees and overgrown weeds. The water does not flow as freely anymore as through the currents have realized they flow through a forgotten world. It’s an hour hike along the abandoned dirt road to reach the bridge, but today was a worthy day of such a hike. The wooden planks are rotting and draped in various shades of mold. Harlequin, pistachio, shamrock and asparagus painted in intricate patterns along the wooden planks and pillars. It looks so intentional it’s as though someone told the mold where to lie.
There is a wet, creaking sound at every step I take as the boards threaten to snap beneath me. It’s a warning. “Go home,” they say. “Leave before we decide your fate.” I ignore them, trying to make sense of the mold, the intoxicating, entrancing, captivating mold.
The trees hang low, low enough that if I risked a jump on the feeble planks, I’d be able to grab a handful of autumn stained leaves. The yellows, oranges and crimsons seem to glow above the damp and dismal bridge. It’s seems the sky has caught fire and the greens and greys of the bridge are standing in protest against the blaze.
I stand at the peak of the bridge, gazing at the bright path beyond. There is such a contrast between the path from which I wandered and the path that lies yonder. I traveled through dark and gloomy. I journeyed over treacherous and frightening. But there, on the other side of the bridge, the trees part to allow the sunlight to fall warmly on the path. Is it an illusion, I wonder? Allowing wanderers the reassurance of safe travels only to swallow them whole in more darkness. I dare not find out.
I rest my hands on the simple wooden railing. The water below is rushing furiously despite its diminished volume. If one stares long enough into the dark slate grey, it almost seems to stop moving. It appears as a solid mass of darkness. It calls. Beneath the rushing roar is a subtle whispering. It beckons and I feel my flesh warm to its sound. The water catches flecks of the fire above me and it appears there are ribbons of gold caught in the grey water.
Jagged rocks peek through the surface of the water. They were once invisible, I imagine. They, too, wear the collage of mold; a grey canvas that blends into the grey water. The mold must continue beneath the rocky surface. It crawls up the river bed, intermingling with the vibrant grass. Mold everywhere. Perhaps that’s why this place feels so perfect.
There are no fish, I notice. Not a single living creature, in fact. I hold my breath, which is useless with the rushing water, but I cannot hear a bird chirping. There are no signs of life either. There aren’t any papers or bottles littering the sides of the bridge, something that is expected when one gets closer to the city. The river just keeps running, unaware that life has continued on without it.
I cannot see the sky from where I stand. A canopy of trees blocks my view. All I can see if river and trees stretching for miles before and behind me. It’s endless beauty. Endless and forgotten.
The air is cleaner here. Breathing in deeply there isn’t the fragrance of city life; neither the pollution in my lungs nor the pollution in my ears. Birds chirp unimpeded by traffic or the hum of electricity. The insects click and buzz and whine creating a cacophony of nature sounds. The temperature gage on my car dropped ten degrees as I drove up the mountain and the air is perfectly chilled. The sights are breathtaking. Rolling hills of trees bathed in varying shades of sunlight. Auburn, crimson, and evergreen under skies of coral, violet, and velvet blue. The trees create shadows amongst themselves adding to the depths of the valleys and accentuating the height of the peeks. If I stand close enough to the railing and ignore my peripheral vision, I feel as though I’m soaring above the trees. The gentlest breeze strokes my cheeks and tangles in my hair. I inhale the fresh, clean air. The sun dips further beneath the mountains and the city below twinkles silently. From here, I cannot hear the hum of life. It’s utterly silent and still, the woodland creatures unaware of the intruder. A squirrel scampers by, pausing and glancing at me as if to say “hi” before he disappears into the trees. The breeze seems to whisper of memories from this place, but I consider it my own. Sure, others have been here, but when I’m alone, it is mine. The sun disappears and suddenly the air is bitterly cold. The first of the stars shine behind me as the coral and violet disappear from the sky. The trees are swallowed in the darkness of their brethren’s elongated shadows. The shadows loom, almost ghostly, caressing my hands with their chilling touch. I melt into the scenery, becoming one with the forest. I could live here, I think to myself. Become lost in the woods, one with nature. Never see another person as long as I live. It would be peaceful. It would be soothing. Nothing to worry about except living, surviving. For some reason I believe the woods would take care of me, take me in as one of its own. The moon shines its ghostly light upon the trees and they glisten. The wind whispers and I long to hear the words buried within.
I love when I can recall the happy memories, those memories before all the pain that have somehow remained untainted, unstained.
It was when we decided to tell everyone what we had taken so long to discover and everyone thought we were playing a prank. We sat them down and told them that we were together and no one believed us for the longest time.
I just need to keep this here, tuck a smile in my pocket rather than another book of tears. That was a great day. Those smiles were pure. That feeling was joy; it was love.
I long to see what lies beyond this cold and dark place. I’m trapped here, watching my love carry on as though I never was, as though we never were. He lays there in our bed with her as though I’m not here at all. I call, but he cannot hear me. Darling, what happened? Where did we go wrong?
The room is not as bright and warm as when we laid there together. The sunlight has lost its amber hues, its caressing crimson vanished. Everything is bland and grey, loveless, lifeless, hopeless.
I tried to leave this place, but I cannot seem to escape. The doorknobs no longer work and the windows are sealed shut. I wander from room to room, straightening up, because he never does. And do I get a thank you? No. It’s as though I’m not here at all. The only sign of my existence is the chill up his spine when I get too close. In those moments, the hair on his arms and neck stand on end and I almost feel alive. Those moments fade too quickly, though. Too quickly to be any sort of comfort.
I remember thinking that people like me, if I’m still a person at all, were trapped because something was left undone. An untimely death would surly leave business unresolved, but for the life of me, I cannot think of what that may be. I cannot imagine what I can accomplish when I cannot open doors or talk or scream. Maybe it’s to save this new girl from the same fate, but how would I do that?
It happens every day at dusk, when the last of the corals are fading from the sky. I’m forced to relive my final gasps around his white-knuckled grip. It’s misery, this eternity of repeated dying. His eyes were as sparkless as mine became and I couldn’t read his face. There wasn’t hate in that empty stare. It was as though he wasn’t there at all. My love, squeezing the last bit of life from my lungs.
Now we share this space, though he hasn’t quite admitted to himself that I’m still here. I see him pause when he notices the salt and pepper shakers have been pushed against the wall and he doesn’t remember doing it himself. I see him shiver as I run my fingers through his hair. He knows, he just won’t tell himself the truth. I know this because when his hands get too close to her throat he pauses, looking around the room, looking right through me, knowing that I’m watching and waiting.
Every once in awhile, I have moments where I am excited about being a single mom in the future. I look forward to movie nights with her because I know she’s going to love horror. I look forward to being so close with her because there wouldn’t be anyone to distract from our relationship. I look forward to hearing about the drama and excitement of high school life and being able to support her when the world gets really shitty. I look forward to the quiet nights when she’s out with friends and family vacations where it’s just the two of us exploring the world or laying on a beach talking about the surfer hotties. I look forward to helping her achieve her dreams.
But then I think about going to bed alone after those movie nights, having no one to lean on when she decides she hates me because I wouldn’t let her go to some party on a school night, and having no one in my corner when she’s being a typical teenager. I think about her being alone while I’m pulling a double shift at the hospital; so much could happen, so much could go wrong, so much can be buried after a few hours of sleep without me to see her tear stained cheeks when she gets home from school. And mostly I think of how terrifyingly quiet the house will be when she goes off to college.
Maybe I’ll meet someone before then, but what if she hates them? What if he’s a monster? What if my happiness is her despair?
Sometimes I think about how much easier my life would be if I hadn’t made certain decisions along the way. But to think of life without her… I wouldn’t be here today.
1. I’m sitting on my porch listening to the rain bounce lightly off the leaves and it feels as though my need for love is a thing of the past.
2. I forgot to rinse the conditioner out of my hair and I’m not at all concerned about how it will look in the morning. There is a strange sort of freedom in this.
3. The only thing between my skin and the cool breeze is a sun dress that is far too skimpy for every day wear.
4. Thanks to the man who I fuck on occasion, I’ve developed a much higher set of standards for the bedroom. Unfortunately for me, the type of man to fulfill these simple requests are few and far between. Is it really so awful to cuddle afterwards? I honestly think that’s the best part.
5. I’ve discovered that no matter what anyone says, physical attraction can make or break any relationship. Regardless of the chemistry before, if the physical attraction is not there, he will walk away as though your heart were made of stone.
6. I don’t want anymore kids. I hate children. They are self absorbed little shits. I love my daughter and she will get all my motherly attention because she’s it.
7. I’m halfway through summer semester. One month from applying for the nursing program. Three months from finding out if busting my ass for the last year was worth it.
8. It’s hard going to birthday parties with Kara and being the single mom. I feel like I’m being judged or pitied. I feel like eyes are on me wondering where the father is. Was she married? Does she even know who the father is?
9. I wonder if I’ll ever find someone in the flesh who wants to spend their life with me. I wonder if I’ll be able to commit my life to them.
10. The rain has stopped and the air has grown cold. I’m off to my bed to sleep alone.
It’s an interesting thing, dating mere mortals. Now that I look back over the past few weeks, I suddenly see all that was missing. With the poets I’ve loved, lusted after, and longed for there was a certain… je ne sais quoi that was so obviously missing in hindsight. There’s a spark that exists between writers. A burning fire only another writer can fuel. Sure there were smiles and butterflies and aching, but an affair with a poet, no matter how brief, is all consuming. There’s something about the creative energy there flowing back and forth like tidal waves crashing against rocky shores only miles apart. It crashes, reverberates, grows and crashes again.
I think what it is is the ability to act out the stories I’ve written in my head because another writer knows where to take your lead. There was a guy, one I’ll never forget, where for the first three days of speaking to each other, we spoke only in haiku. Another with whom I wrote soulful, heart wrenching poetry. Another whom I pleaded to love me in verse. And one who was the embodiment of the written word. Even my friends who write are poetry in motion. Every sway of their frame is a verse worth remembering.
But the mortals, the muggles, those who only see the color in the sunset or the dim reflection of the sun against the moon… how can they comprehend my heart? How can they grasp the tales I’ve written in our unfinished books? How can they understand how their words do not etch upon my flesh like those that came before them?
They will so quickly escape my memories, but the writers, the ones who have tattooed my heart, will forever live within my shallow heartbeats and settle as ashes on the bottom of my grave.
Love is a concept I can no longer grasp. The idea of forever, “til death do us part,” seems an impossible notion.
"Marriage takes work," I’ve heard time and time again. Perhaps it’s having someone you’d rather fight with than live life without.
What have I been doing? What was that I felt under the moonlight when nothing was between us; nothing except the midnight air seeping between our intertwined fingers? It was longing until then. It was a needing, a yearning. But with you there, my heart purumping in my syllables… was that love then? Then how could I let you walk away?
Does love exist or is it a yearning, a needing to never be alone?