Work is Work

 

 

“…that the souls of men are demons, and that men become Lares if they are good, Lemures or Larvae if they are bad, and Manes if it is uncertain whether they deserve well or ill… ”

— City of God, Book IX, Chapter 11, Apuleius

 

 

 

 

Serge had spent enough time down in the gutter to know that his number was up. There were no two ways about it; he was gonna bite it and it was going to be awful.

 

 

He’d been assigned a case by the Myskatonic University’s External Survey division. Something about a Lapis Manalis – a gateway to the underworld, so to speak – popping up in a small town just outside of Springfield. He now recalled wondering if there would be an Evergreen Terrace there – unlikely – and chuckling at the thought. The morning had been just peachy; a promising bout of boring with an extra helping of kill yourself tonight, maybe. Oh, how wrong he had been about that particular forecast.

 

 

Fast forward thirteen hours and a few too many wrong turns of conversation and you had Serge in chains, naked, gagged, dehydrated and with a burning case of hemorrhoids the likes of which he’d not experienced since that one time he’d eaten too much Lebanese food. Oh, and the locals just happened to be the hybrid offspring of a chthonic deity bent on world domination through – get this – love. Yeah. That’s right. The ol’ L word baddie. The reason great empires were built and torn down.

 

Serge wasn’t a fan, and much less now that it was the very reason he was there about to meet an untimely death. There was, after all, only so much a man could take of the dreaded chemical on its own. Couple it with actual threats to his physical well-being and, well, you got one dogged aversion to romantic notions.

 

 

Of course, as much as he hated to admit it even to himself, Serge had fallen prey to a woman. Yes, he had swallowed the whole thing, hook and sinker. That very lady was the person responsible for his current predicament.  Oh, he was a fool and he knew it.

 

 

Speak of the devil! There she was, sharp knives and all, and Serge still found her charming. He really did deserve to get offed. He had sold out the world for a sweet smile and the promise of little tender love and care.

 

Here comes the blade! Yup, there it is, on his neck, right on… the slash came, as expected, and he felt his lifeblood deluge out through his neck. Samantha, she’d said her name was. If that could be believed. It took seconds and the noise he made was embarrassing, but it’s not like you get to practice dying, now, is it?

 

A minute later he was a disembodied something, looking at what was the most pathetic thing he had ever seen: his dead, unflatteringly underkept corpse. He had not been kind to himself in life, that was evident.

 

He felt a strange pull, something beckoned him…

 

Ah, there it was, the chthonic deity itself. It was a dark, oddly female shape. Voluptuous, full, and every bit the opposite of what most would consider sexually attractive… and yet she stirred feelings in Serge he didn’t even understand how they could happen without, you know, having an actual body any longer.

 

You are not worthy. Spoke the strange deity. But you are not devoid of value, either.

 

Oh, shit. He was being judged. Weighed. He had the terrible notion that he would not pass muster. As usual. Why should things change just because he was dead?

 

You will remain and help. You will remain and either redeem your soul’s worth, or damn it beyond redemption.

 

This was a far better outlook than Serge had expected. However, he still felt a strange sense of foreboding. Something heavy was just placed upon him.

 

You will remain.

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Patches

“There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.” – Linus van Pelt, Peanuts

Tending a pumpkin patch during the autumn months wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Well, Murray thought, there wasn’t much to crack at when you got down to brass tacks. He made the best of it by arranging the plumper fruit in ways that might give the local kids a fun time to play around as they often did in the days leading up to Halloween. It was his favorite holiday of the year, hands down. Christmas was fine, but he wasn’t all that fond of the snow, and there really was something dishonest about how much it had been changed and pilfered from its mishmash of pagan folklore origins. Halloween was still close enough to its dark, raw source. The ugly side of things celebrated even by the children, as it was in the olden days.

Murray had spent his life, since coming to the North American continent and settling in the upper Midwest, as a groundskeeper for the Blackwell Estate. The estate was a sprawling property with plenty of patches of different crops dealing mainly with varieties of squash, as well as watermelons (in one of the green houses), and they all had the same general purpose: just to be there and grow.

Murray understood the reasons behind that; they all dated back to the old country, to European folklore and legend. Whether any of that would fly out here where other myths and legends abound. Through the murk of the ages Murray had lived, he still managed to keep a clear vision of what his role was. So, he waited and tended to the vegetable and fruit vessels of the ancient overlords.

It had been so long since he’d seen a proper, full-fledged vampire watermelon…

Murray was putting down mulch around the pumpkins, making sure there wasn’t any rot or the like since these were humid months, after all, when he heard the rustling. At first, he thought it might be local kids rummaging and running amok through the patch, but a careful minute spent in observation proved that to be an erroneous conclusion.

The rustling came from the squash patch, he deduced, and so made his way there slowly, carefully. He made it to the patch and found that there was a clearing where a very large squash must have been. In the little clearing, he found a baby-blue blanket – the kind a child might use as what is colloquially referred to as a security blanket – and a pair of children’s shoes. He wondered at that, trying to puzzle out what it meant, when he heard the peals of a small child’s laughter ring through the air.

He looked toward the horizon and its fire red and indigo blue hues and he saw… what? It couldn’t be, could it? It was. It was the biggest squash he had ever seen, easily a meter in diameter half again as long judging from its size relative to the diminutive child with a red shirt who rode it as it flew around in the air.

Well, I’ll be damned, Murray spoke aloud to himself. I guess they really are back!

Untitled (04/05/2009)

Riptide…
Flowing contradictions
Wind-whipped, tatters torn.
Diluvial aftermath worn
Given to flight; wont of running away
In uncertain times with uncertain companions
At the first sign of adversion

The heart is light when light is bright
And love flows unhindered
Uncertain bedfellows weigh it dearly
For uncertain then turns its nature

Fleeting is then emotion pure
Sullied by the whims of mind and time
Where surely there once lived hope
Warts of weakness now fester

Feral grows the soul as it sheds the trappings of convention
Tired of the games and the feeble lover’s question
Weary of the hunt and the erstwhile friend’s suggestion
Fed-up with the ancient rhyme

Troothy Truth Tooth

Up and down it runs. It splotches and it grimes.
I smell it but I pinch my nose.
I spray it with my garden hose.
Leave it under the sun to dry and hope it doesn’t die
Half hoping it might
Half hoping it’s right
Highlight my errors and draw new plans
It turns to dust in my hands
I inhale it for my glands
And it burns brightly in my brain, right as rain
the light it gives is warm
and it becomes my charm

Empty and cold, the mind tells itself it is not shallow
But all throughout life in these dark things I wallow
Stubborn and bold, the fire takes its hold
I burn, I burn, I burn
Will I rise from my own ashes?

Le Fou

In looking for truth
We surround ourselves with lies
In searching for love
We sever all good ties
What little faith we have
Is often squandered on false idols
If heaven is a place
I have yet to find the isle

So many nights in vigil
So many days in siege
So many lives in sigil
The pawn of a cruel liege
The bird longs to touch ground
Much the same as we long to taste the sky
Yet for every answer found
We can only continue to ask why

I have often praised a warm body
And nurtured it with my tenderest caresses
Yet find my self so often cold
Seeking a goddess of silver-streaked tresses
In the darkness we spill our secrets
To gods unknown in despairing hope
Pleading for the dreams we hold dear
Parlaying for the strength to shed these tropes

Find me a fool once, you are entitled
Seek me a fool twice, you will be humbled

Old Habits

Note: It’s a hard habit to break, in my case, the having to live outside my writing, involved in real life. Ergo, my publishing schedules is invariably disrupted. Having briefly gone over this short before publishing, I can’t say it’s a great edit, but at least it’s somewhat legible and that’s good enough for me… hope it’s good enough for you. Now, this is the third, and we’re on the fifth day since I began this challenge, so I owe you guys 2 shorts more, 3 if we count tomorrow’s. I can compromise to post another today, and two more tomorrow, and maybe that way I will actually catch up. Now, in regards to this actual short, the story was inspired by a sad situation in my home country of Costa Rica where many elderly persons are being abandoned with nothing but a note stating their state of unwantedness. It’s terrible and I’m sadly sure that it’s something that takes place the world over. It got me thinking and, as my mind is wont to do, I segued from charitable thoughts to what sort of story might lay behind such terrible abandonment. While i may protray things a certain way in the story, I do earnestly believe abandoning your elders is a terrible thing in general, and you should go hug your elders right the f**k now, be they grandparents, parents, or some other manner of sibling or friend. Seriously. Do it!

 

 

He found himself in the street, ambling aimlessly, disoriented and hungry. He couldn’t quite remember why he was there, what his name was, where he was going, and all he felt was fear taking grip of his heart slowly, its cold hand closing harder until chills ran up and down his spine. A strange sadness grew in him and knotted his throat, tears threatening to flow over the dam of his eyelids.

A young woman, perhaps in her mid-twenties, approached him. She was fair-haired and had blue eyes like sapphires. Her smile was kind and warm, the warmest thing he could recall every seeing. It warmed him just so and gave him a strange sense of hope that almost pushed his tears out in relief.

Her soft voice like honey asked “Are you alright? Are you alone?”

“I don’t know,” he spoke in a voice so tremulous and creaky he nearly started at the surprise of hearing it coming out of him. He was… old? He couldn’t remember that, either. “I don’t know!” he repeated, and this time he did break into tears.

The young woman touched him, took him gently by the arms, handling him as though he might break. How he must look, he wondered, oh, how frail and brittle he must seem for her to treat him thus.

“My name is Amanda,” she said, her smile intensifying radiantly, almost obscenely so. “Come, I will take you somewhere safe where we can see to you and find out what your situation is. Come.”

He let her lead him off… to where? He could not guess.

 

*************************************************

 

The Wilsons had been good to him, to Aiden – that was his name, as he recalled it after a few days in their household.

They were a benevolent, well-to-do family with some means brought about by a long-running family business that spanned a few generations. They were old money.

When he had come upon Amanda, or rather she upon him, he had been wearing tattered clothes that could have easily been worn for months on end. He had been unwashed for some time but had been thankfully parasite and disease free, so it was unlikely that he had been on his own for more than a few weeks. He’d had no actual possessions save for the near-useless clothes he’d been wearing and a small gold pendant, the kind that would hold a pair of small portraits, but would not budge open when pried. It had been a wonder that he had kept it despite being on the streets and at the mercy of the vultures, as it were.

Aside from the few items on him, there was a note, covered in plastic so it would not deteriorate, where scrawled upon it in block letters it read:

DO WITH HIM AS YOU WILL. HE IS NO LONGER WANTED HERE.

He could only imagine what sweet, kind Amanda Wilson might have made of that terrible note, but he was glad she had made no more of it and taken him in. She and her husband, Roderick, had been a blessing on him. And their children, oh, the children! They had been a boon; instrumental to the slow but steady recovery of his memories or what little may remain of them in his addled brain.

Molly, Adrian, Ernest, Ronald, and little Holly; ages 10, 9, 7, 5 and 3; they were the life of the expansive household, the Wilson Estate, and had been Aiden’s companions since he was first brought in on that hazy, sunny day. Having had no living grandparents to speak of on either side of the family due to illness and old age, the children were immediately taken with him, making him their ad hoc grandfather right out of the gate.

He was sure they had been pivotal in his recovery, he clearly remembered being enfeebled and confused, what bits and pieces of memory he could summon from the time he was lost showed nothing of substance or note, but in the few hours after he was introduced to the little ones his brain seized upon their rambunctious energy and moxie as if feeding off of it, drawing health from them by sheer proximity. He had come to love them, he felt, though he wondered, did he have grandchildren of his own, out there in the wide world, where some family related by blood to him carried on, feeling now free of the burden he had represented?

No matter. He was confident all he needed to remember would eventually come back to him, as he had been able to recall so much in the past weeks. His last name – McDiarmid –, bits of his childhood growing up in a small, rural town that had a railroad being built… he was a little unsure about some of the details, as what he saw in his mind seemed to be far older than any age he could possibly be within reason – that was another thing, darnedest really, that he could not remember how old he was! –, and many situations seemed culturally anachronistic… but he chucked it up to his faulty memory.

He felt he was, somehow, happy, truly, finally. He wasn’t sure why he felt that last adjective, “finally”, weighed heavy, pregnant with significance. Another darned, odd thing…

*************************************************

 

Awakenings.

Awakenings are things of wonder, Aiden thought as the sun pierced through the drapes, now drawn so as to allow the sun’s full fulgurous glory into the room. Sometimes beauty, sometimes horror, but always things of wonder, he mused. One has beaten the night, after all, staved off death for one more evening after giving oneself up to the whims and terrors of sleep, bereft of real autonomy and any sense of agency. What a glorious victory we mortals earn every single morning after slumber!

He got up from the bed, his blue, two-piece silk pajamas wrinkled and hanging on his not-so-decrepit frame. His mind was aflame with activity, it was abuzz, it was churning like an ancient engine, digging deep into the recesses of his deepest memory coffers in an attempt to bring back what was hinted at in oneiric reveries during the dark hours of sleep.

It was strange, this mixture of feelings. He was feverish in his elation, his feeling of euphoria at being on the edge of revelation. It was good, was it not? He wondered, musing at the sense of foreboding and resistance, a growing little seed of dread that began to grow inside him as the knowledge lost to the years loomed ever nearer. Why should he feel reservations at recalling, at recovering all that was he from before his good fortune of having happened upon the Wilsons’ generosity and love?

Suddenly he became aware of his surroundings again; he had made his way downstairs to the ground floor as he was lost in his self-reflective avenues of thought without realizing it, his body taking him on instinct to where he could fully recover. He was at the door to the estate’s backyard.

He opened the wide double doors and stepped out into the glaring sunlight, its warmth maná from the heavens themselves, seeping into his being and reviving that which had been dormant, the memories of his former life flooding back into him.

He could still feel his mind divided; there were two persons in him. There was the Aiden who had been taken in by the Wilsons, stricken with fear and confusion, almost childlike and, in many ways, exactly that; and then there was the Aiden who was awakening now, recovering from the ravages of age that he had managed to fight off and delay through means better left unspoken, un-thought of until they were necessary to harness that which kept him longevous, eternal.

He was two persons at once, for the first time in a very long time, almost since the first time when he had still been young, or rather young for the first time, back when he had first split into the man he had been and the man he would become. The dichotomous debate was beginning anew, although the matter of debate, the question of who of the two was the true Aiden, had long been abandoned in favour of the adage that might makes right; that is, who was the real person was no longer an important subject, it was moot. Nevertheless, the simultaneous duality was a strange pleasure, a rare phenomenon that had been long inexperienced. It was welcome, to the Aiden who was now rising from a slumber long and dangerous.

He looked upon his surroundings while the younger Aiden within shrank slowly, filled with ever-growing dread. What a fine turn of events, the rising one thought, that we have turned up at such a bountiful place. The rising one had sequestered himself in one of the buildings under their name, knowing that the frail nature of their human brain was giving in to the ravages of time and he would soon lose full cognition like many times before over the last three centuries, hoping in a way that he could find a method to fully prevent the decay cycle but failing yet again. On that occasion he had gambled on the generally kind nature of humanity in modern times, as they had grown soft over time thanks to the commodities of technological advance, and would not likely just kill a senile old man walking the streets without a clue to what his current situation was, and scribbled the note to draw pity and, perhaps, a helping hand he could eventually leech some energy from.

When envisioning this plan, he had not hoped for such a wonderfully rich bounty! He had seen it happening in increments; a little energy here, a little energy there, and eventually a payload that would allow him to turn back the effects of time on his mortal frame once again. He had hit the motherload, this time. Oh, what fortunate turn of events!

He recalled the locket pendant and realized he’d still had it with him through it all. He fished it from where it hung around his neck, and deftly opened it by placing his fingers in just the right configuration. Ah, there it was, the old formula, and the little device. All was good with the world again, for him.

He looked out at the large yard, at the green, freshly mowed grass, taking in the scent and rejoicing in it, at the sheer pleasure of being alive and sentient. He turned his attention to the children… what were their names again? Ah, yes, Molly, Adrian, Ernest, Ronald, and little Holly. They sure seemed full of life, did they not? The rising one said to the one subdued within. Had the Aiden waning any eyes, they would have been wide with increasing terror at the realization of what would ensue, the poor children. Having control of the only pair of eyes shared between the Aidens, the rising one simply blinked and squinted at the bright little souls. It had to be done, you see, it was necessary.

As the waning one succumbed to the mechanisms of the shared mind, trapped in schemes of distractions devised by the rising one long ago, the echoes of cries of denial rang within the proverbial halls of that mind. The rising one was now effectively risen. He was dominant, as should be.

Now, it was time to do what must be done.

The 12 Shorts of Christmas

Admittedly absent form the blog for a good while – what with all this obnoxious editing and re-writing of my novel – I figured it was time for some much needed literary recreation. All the intensive self-examination that accompanies reworking a novel has me in a haze that can only be cleared up by going on wild storytelling tangents and non-sequiturs, the kind that keep the creative muscles fit and spry, if you will.

In keeping with the holiday spirit from a consumerist, Judeo-Christian standpoint – or rather flavor since I hold neither view personally – I will be posting 12 short stories everyday – one a day -, starting tonight and ending on they day after Christmas (I started late, shut up!).

Hope my dribble is still to your liking! Happy holidays!