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The Mandela Effect
Written by Valerie in portal Paranormal

Confabulation.

He was not lying.

They all sat there staring at him, staring at a man who sat on his hands yet kept his tongue unbitten. He had to keep the hands contained for fear of slapping their faces. He wasn't a violent man, no, but to be accused over and over of the same thing was trying his patience. His tongue wagged again and again. It bore no fiction. It falsified nothing, yet they did not believe.

“I did not kill him,” he would say.

In came the accusations. The proof. The photos of a corpse he did not remember. The bloody trousers he swore he'd never worn. It was all quite gruesome, truth be told. Whoever had killed the fucker sure was a violent man, that was certain. Smashed the other guy's head against a wall until it split. From the picture, it looked like he kept smashing long after the legs stopped that odd, sporadic, dying-insect twitch. After the eyes had come out of the sockets with odd, wet pops, like shapes out of one of those sorting cubes that children loved to poke around with, looking for the right hole. The eyes wouldn't fit again, though. The holes were too contorted because of the damage done to the skull.

They stared at him. Their hands pawed the photos closer, thrusting them across the table and tapping with bony fingertips. Look, they'd say. We know you did it. We have the proof. We have witnesses. We have. We have. We have.

“I know what I did!”

He'd shouted it. They leaned back in their chairs, eyes widened or narrowed. They waited, expectant.

“And I didn't do that.”

Quieter that time. They scrutinized him, bore down on him with looks of disgust and then tore in again.

A man in the corner scribbled furiously at his notepad. He'd glance up on occasion, perusing the lot with a quizzical brow, and go right back to his frenzied writing. At first he imagined smoke drifting up from his pen, just to be funny – but now he was certain it was actually real.

My word. He'd burn the whole place down, at this rate.

It went on. The accusing, the questioning, the heated responses. Always no, forever no, because he would not admit to something he did not do.

It was clear in his mind's eye. Perfectly so. Rounding the corner at the bar to pick up his fiance. Seeing the victim kissing her, leaning her against the wall. Her kissing him back, pulling him closer when she should have been shoving him away. Screaming for help. He'd run in to save her, beat the man to death, batter his face against the concrete until it was unrecognizable. No one would want him then. No one would want him after -

“I walked on by. I left them there. I showed up at the courthouse to file for a divorce.”

“And do you know why the police were called on you?”

“They weren't.”

Blank stares around the table. Silence, save for the persistent scribbling of the pen. He was convinced that sound was eternal. That it would go on until the world stopped spinning and God came down to smite everyone who ate bacon and wore dresses made of various fabrics.

“He's not lying.”

Heads whipped towards the notepad man. Their expressions were incredulous, the lot of them, their mouths dropping open.

Finally. Someone gets it.

“He thinks he's telling the truth because that's the way he remembers it. You could shove the corpse in his face and he still wouldn't own up. You could drag his hysterical fiance in here and even she wouldn't be able to convince you. He's telling you what he believes happened, and nothing is going to convince him otherwise. Nothing you could say, anyway.”

“You're willing to testify to that in court, doctor?”

The man snorted. He stood up, screeched the chair over the floor and to the table, reclaiming it with a dull thump.

“After a bit more study of the subject, maybe. Alone.”

A brief, murmured meeting ensued. Glances were cast his way, and still he sat on his hands. Still he sat, though now the tongue was bitten. To be called insane on top of everything else? It was absurd. Insulting.

It was so good he was not a violent man.

The rest of them filed out, a long procession of haughty looks and pointed glares. The door shut behind them with a definitive click. The psychologist took up a place directly across from him, made a bridge of his fingers, and asked:

“Now. One more time. What happened when you found Jessica cheating on you?”

Later, he would swear that the fellow had fallen out of his chair. That he'd gotten that pen stuck straight through his throat because of it, isn't that the damnedest thing? What a way to go, honestly. What a stroke of rotten luck. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.

And he didn't know what to make of that security footage, but it certainly wasn't of him.

He was not lying.

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The Mandela Effect
Written by Valerie in portal Paranormal
Confabulation.
He was not lying.

They all sat there staring at him, staring at a man who sat on his hands yet kept his tongue unbitten. He had to keep the hands contained for fear of slapping their faces. He wasn't a violent man, no, but to be accused over and over of the same thing was trying his patience. His tongue wagged again and again. It bore no fiction. It falsified nothing, yet they did not believe.

“I did not kill him,” he would say.

In came the accusations. The proof. The photos of a corpse he did not remember. The bloody trousers he swore he'd never worn. It was all quite gruesome, truth be told. Whoever had killed the fucker sure was a violent man, that was certain. Smashed the other guy's head against a wall until it split. From the picture, it looked like he kept smashing long after the legs stopped that odd, sporadic, dying-insect twitch. After the eyes had come out of the sockets with odd, wet pops, like shapes out of one of those sorting cubes that children loved to poke around with, looking for the right hole. The eyes wouldn't fit again, though. The holes were too contorted because of the damage done to the skull.

They stared at him. Their hands pawed the photos closer, thrusting them across the table and tapping with bony fingertips. Look, they'd say. We know you did it. We have the proof. We have witnesses. We have. We have. We have.

“I know what I did!”

He'd shouted it. They leaned back in their chairs, eyes widened or narrowed. They waited, expectant.

“And I didn't do that.”

Quieter that time. They scrutinized him, bore down on him with looks of disgust and then tore in again.

A man in the corner scribbled furiously at his notepad. He'd glance up on occasion, perusing the lot with a quizzical brow, and go right back to his frenzied writing. At first he imagined smoke drifting up from his pen, just to be funny – but now he was certain it was actually real.

My word. He'd burn the whole place down, at this rate.

It went on. The accusing, the questioning, the heated responses. Always no, forever no, because he would not admit to something he did not do.

It was clear in his mind's eye. Perfectly so. Rounding the corner at the bar to pick up his fiance. Seeing the victim kissing her, leaning her against the wall. Her kissing him back, pulling him closer when she should have been shoving him away. Screaming for help. He'd run in to save her, beat the man to death, batter his face against the concrete until it was unrecognizable. No one would want him then. No one would want him after -

“I walked on by. I left them there. I showed up at the courthouse to file for a divorce.”

“And do you know why the police were called on you?”

“They weren't.”

Blank stares around the table. Silence, save for the persistent scribbling of the pen. He was convinced that sound was eternal. That it would go on until the world stopped spinning and God came down to smite everyone who ate bacon and wore dresses made of various fabrics.

“He's not lying.”

Heads whipped towards the notepad man. Their expressions were incredulous, the lot of them, their mouths dropping open.

Finally. Someone gets it.

“He thinks he's telling the truth because that's the way he remembers it. You could shove the corpse in his face and he still wouldn't own up. You could drag his hysterical fiance in here and even she wouldn't be able to convince you. He's telling you what he believes happened, and nothing is going to convince him otherwise. Nothing you could say, anyway.”

“You're willing to testify to that in court, doctor?”

The man snorted. He stood up, screeched the chair over the floor and to the table, reclaiming it with a dull thump.

“After a bit more study of the subject, maybe. Alone.”

A brief, murmured meeting ensued. Glances were cast his way, and still he sat on his hands. Still he sat, though now the tongue was bitten. To be called insane on top of everything else? It was absurd. Insulting.

It was so good he was not a violent man.

The rest of them filed out, a long procession of haughty looks and pointed glares. The door shut behind them with a definitive click. The psychologist took up a place directly across from him, made a bridge of his fingers, and asked:

“Now. One more time. What happened when you found Jessica cheating on you?”

Later, he would swear that the fellow had fallen out of his chair. That he'd gotten that pen stuck straight through his throat because of it, isn't that the damnedest thing? What a way to go, honestly. What a stroke of rotten luck. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.

And he didn't know what to make of that security footage, but it certainly wasn't of him.

He was not lying.
#fiction  #horror  #streamofconsciousness 
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Prose Challenge of the Week #17: You are a superhero. Write a piece about your powers and how you’ve abused them. 50 words minimum, 250 words maximum. The winner will be chosen based on a number of criteria, this includes: fire, form, and creative edge. Number of reads, bookmarks, and shares will also be taken into consideration. The winner will receive $100. When sharing to Twitter, please use the hashtag #ProseChallenge
Written by Valerie

Push

“This is what I want.”

He exhaled white smoke and hovered, one foot lofted over the nothing. Despite the wind his eyes bulged wide and bloodshot, cracked lips parted to bare teeth. The knuckles of his fingers gave arthritic, crackling pops as he opened and closed them, opened and closed them, opened and -

“This is what I want.”

The foot hovered. The traffic whirled by below. Rush hour over the freeway. A little boy in a minivan pointed up and wondered what the man on the big building was doing while his father told him to be quiet, daddy was busy. A police officer in an unmarked car hid from sight waiting for some poor fucker to start driving like an asshole so he could get a brief thrill.

“This is what I want.”

“Shut up,” the man hissed. His spittle dripped lazily down his chin, made it feel cold. “Just shut up.”

“I deserve this,” the woman murmured. “I deserve this for what I did to that kid. God, the look on his mother's face. The way his father just stared, like he couldn't believe it. They hate me. If they knew who I was, they'd hate me.”

“SHUT UP!”

His leg began to shake. The one holding him up. The one securing him above the nothing.

Her voice was in his head. Louder than words. Louder than anything.

“Jump,” she whispered. A command. A push. 

Sobbing, he fell forward.

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Prose Challenge of the Week #17: You are a superhero. Write a piece about your powers and how you’ve abused them. 50 words minimum, 250 words maximum. The winner will be chosen based on a number of criteria, this includes: fire, form, and creative edge. Number of reads, bookmarks, and shares will also be taken into consideration. The winner will receive $100. When sharing to Twitter, please use the hashtag #ProseChallenge
Written by Valerie
Push
“This is what I want.”

He exhaled white smoke and hovered, one foot lofted over the nothing. Despite the wind his eyes bulged wide and bloodshot, cracked lips parted to bare teeth. The knuckles of his fingers gave arthritic, crackling pops as he opened and closed them, opened and closed them, opened and -

“This is what I want.”

The foot hovered. The traffic whirled by below. Rush hour over the freeway. A little boy in a minivan pointed up and wondered what the man on the big building was doing while his father told him to be quiet, daddy was busy. A police officer in an unmarked car hid from sight waiting for some poor fucker to start driving like an asshole so he could get a brief thrill.

“This is what I want.”

“Shut up,” the man hissed. His spittle dripped lazily down his chin, made it feel cold. “Just shut up.”

“I deserve this,” the woman murmured. “I deserve this for what I did to that kid. God, the look on his mother's face. The way his father just stared, like he couldn't believe it. They hate me. If they knew who I was, they'd hate me.”

“SHUT UP!”

His leg began to shake. The one holding him up. The one securing him above the nothing.

Her voice was in his head. Louder than words. Louder than anything.

“Jump,” she whispered. A command. A push. 

Sobbing, he fell forward.
#fiction 
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Write a story in which something is implied, then flip the implication on its head.
Written by Valerie in portal Fiction

Brandon waited for the sound of a pin dropping.

Silence like this had to be pierced at some point. He prayed for anything besides his wife's breathing next to him, besides the clink of her pearls as she fiddled with her necklace. The jury was eyeballing him with a mingle of sympathetic looks and scowls. The sympathy outweighed the anger, which was why he'd be getting his son back again.

The gavel had been struck. Soft murmurings started up as people finally became mobile.

"I know he did it."

"That boy's going to get killed."

"Wait to see it in the papers."

Heavy doors creaked open somewhere behind him. Brandon stared up at the judge and hated him, hated the way he looked down at him, the way his thoughts were written all over his face. I can't wait to land your ass in prison next time.

You wish, fucker.

His wife put a hand on his arm. Her fingers were delicate and dainty. The engagement ring he'd given her so long ago glared up at him, condemned him. He wanted to take her pretty little hand and crush it between his fists. To bruise her eyes and leave the imprint of his knuckles along her lovely face. She'd deserve it. Deserve every little bit of it.

"Come on, sweetheart," she murmured. "We won. Let's get out of here."

Their lawyer smiled at them as they walked past. Perfect teeth, perfect hair, and the reek of pricey cologne. The best con money could buy. He followed them out to their car and opened the door for his wife.

"That was a great victory today. I'm so glad for your family. I hope you'll contact our firm with any furth-"

Brandon put it in drive and pressed the gas. Deb gasped, the door on her side shutting awkwardly as she tugged it in. The lawyer stood behind them, dumbstruck back to that plastic smile, polished leather shoes glinting on the asphalt.

"That was rude," Deb said. Her voice was like nails being driven into his eardrums. "He's done a lot for us."

Brandon's teeth clicked together hard. It hurt down to the roots and he clenched harder. He merged onto the highway past a minivan that blared its horns angrily, gunning it up to eighty, then ninety.

"It's sixty," his wife pointed out. Her voice was tense, her shoulders pale and borne through her red dress. It was a ridiculous thing to wear to a trial. She looked like a slut, not like some saddened mother whose son had broken a leg. An arm. A son that had had bruises often enough the nurses of his private school called protective services.

They'd showed up at the hand-carved door of their sprawling house with grim faces. Their son had watched from the staircase with his teddy in hand, wide-eyed and wondering.

The blue on his cheek had been steadily turning yellow. It'd be gone by the time they picked him up, like it'd never happened. But it had, everything had, and that truth would never go away.

"The speed limit is-"

"Shut the FUCK up!"

He whipped around a semi and she shuddered, turning her head away with tears in her eyes. He didn't care. He couldn't bring up even a single shred of empathy, not anymore. Enough was enough, and he'd had his fair share. His hands tightened on the wheel and he imagined choking the life out of her slender throat. He imagined it and wished he had the balls to carry it through.

She'd earned a taste of her own medicine.

"I'm not covering for you anymore," he rasped.

Deb didn't answer. She turned her face away, watching the cars whiz by, worrying her hands in her lap.

"If you ever touch our son again, I'll fucking kill you."

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Write a story in which something is implied, then flip the implication on its head.
Written by Valerie in portal Fiction
Brandon waited for the sound of a pin dropping.

Silence like this had to be pierced at some point. He prayed for anything besides his wife's breathing next to him, besides the clink of her pearls as she fiddled with her necklace. The jury was eyeballing him with a mingle of sympathetic looks and scowls. The sympathy outweighed the anger, which was why he'd be getting his son back again.

The gavel had been struck. Soft murmurings started up as people finally became mobile.

"I know he did it."

"That boy's going to get killed."

"Wait to see it in the papers."

Heavy doors creaked open somewhere behind him. Brandon stared up at the judge and hated him, hated the way he looked down at him, the way his thoughts were written all over his face. I can't wait to land your ass in prison next time.

You wish, fucker.

His wife put a hand on his arm. Her fingers were delicate and dainty. The engagement ring he'd given her so long ago glared up at him, condemned him. He wanted to take her pretty little hand and crush it between his fists. To bruise her eyes and leave the imprint of his knuckles along her lovely face. She'd deserve it. Deserve every little bit of it.

"Come on, sweetheart," she murmured. "We won. Let's get out of here."

Their lawyer smiled at them as they walked past. Perfect teeth, perfect hair, and the reek of pricey cologne. The best con money could buy. He followed them out to their car and opened the door for his wife.

"That was a great victory today. I'm so glad for your family. I hope you'll contact our firm with any furth-"

Brandon put it in drive and pressed the gas. Deb gasped, the door on her side shutting awkwardly as she tugged it in. The lawyer stood behind them, dumbstruck back to that plastic smile, polished leather shoes glinting on the asphalt.

"That was rude," Deb said. Her voice was like nails being driven into his eardrums. "He's done a lot for us."

Brandon's teeth clicked together hard. It hurt down to the roots and he clenched harder. He merged onto the highway past a minivan that blared its horns angrily, gunning it up to eighty, then ninety.

"It's sixty," his wife pointed out. Her voice was tense, her shoulders pale and borne through her red dress. It was a ridiculous thing to wear to a trial. She looked like a slut, not like some saddened mother whose son had broken a leg. An arm. A son that had had bruises often enough the nurses of his private school called protective services.

They'd showed up at the hand-carved door of their sprawling house with grim faces. Their son had watched from the staircase with his teddy in hand, wide-eyed and wondering.

The blue on his cheek had been steadily turning yellow. It'd be gone by the time they picked him up, like it'd never happened. But it had, everything had, and that truth would never go away.

"The speed limit is-"

"Shut the FUCK up!"

He whipped around a semi and she shuddered, turning her head away with tears in her eyes. He didn't care. He couldn't bring up even a single shred of empathy, not anymore. Enough was enough, and he'd had his fair share. His hands tightened on the wheel and he imagined choking the life out of her slender throat. He imagined it and wished he had the balls to carry it through.

She'd earned a taste of her own medicine.

"I'm not covering for you anymore," he rasped.

Deb didn't answer. She turned her face away, watching the cars whiz by, worrying her hands in her lap.

"If you ever touch our son again, I'll fucking kill you."
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Your biggest fear.
Written by Valerie

Take Me to Church

In went the cassette. The old woman had bleached blonde hair and lipstick right inside the smiling lines. She hit play with a nail painted scandalously red.

"Remember to take notes, girls!"

Pens hit paper inside pink notebooks. There are crosses on them, glammed up with fake rhinestones worthy of prostitutes. Five thirteen and fourteen year olds just starting to come into the prime of Knowing It All.

The cassette plays. An old man drones out at us, low and methodical. Verbal morphine. His words drip with euphemisms. I can picture him hunched over his desk at a bible college as he writes his script. His skin is wrinkled. His hands are shaking. His chapped lips curl up at the corners as he revels in his wisdom.

"You are a sacred gift."

"A perfect bride."

"A holy vessel."

His smile grows wider. Page after page is filled with it, his mantras, his tried and tested words. If he could still get it up he'd feel uncomfortable in his tight black suit. The thought of it arouses him. Makes him feel young again. He'll shape so many young virgins for so many young men. They'll be awkward and frightened and clueless. They'll expect nothing and nothing will be given to them.

"Your bodies are temples that musn't be sullied."

Don't fuck anyone.

"The more you explore, the less special it will be."

Don't fuck anyone.

"Every kiss you give is a kiss stolen from your husband."

Don't fuck anyone.

He unconsciously grinds his hips. The writing gets a little sloppier. The tip of his tongue pokes out between his white, perfect dentures. Finally he looks up at us over the speakers on either end of the boom-box. His smile is so wide and brilliant. He looks so grandfatherly and sweet as he tells me that if I let myself be defiled I am

"Worthless."

I am

"A whore."

I am

"Unworthy."

He thrusts into the mahogany. Ecstasy. His typewriter quivers as his desk violently jolts. He taps the papers together and staples my newfound phobia. He leans over and bequeaths it to me, his tie askew, his eyes piercing. I rip open my ribs and put his words there. I slip them inside and close myself off. He looks on with approval and a sagely nod as he locks the chastity belt in place and pats my cheek. All of my worth protected under lock and key.

"You are your virtue."

I am reduced to what lies between my still-growing legs.

The cassette stops playing. The blonde ejects it and stows it away from the next group, patting it lovingly.

"Now girls," she says, eyes twinkling. "What did we learn today?"

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Your biggest fear.
Written by Valerie
Take Me to Church
In went the cassette. The old woman had bleached blonde hair and lipstick right inside the smiling lines. She hit play with a nail painted scandalously red.

"Remember to take notes, girls!"

Pens hit paper inside pink notebooks. There are crosses on them, glammed up with fake rhinestones worthy of prostitutes. Five thirteen and fourteen year olds just starting to come into the prime of Knowing It All.

The cassette plays. An old man drones out at us, low and methodical. Verbal morphine. His words drip with euphemisms. I can picture him hunched over his desk at a bible college as he writes his script. His skin is wrinkled. His hands are shaking. His chapped lips curl up at the corners as he revels in his wisdom.

"You are a sacred gift."

"A perfect bride."

"A holy vessel."

His smile grows wider. Page after page is filled with it, his mantras, his tried and tested words. If he could still get it up he'd feel uncomfortable in his tight black suit. The thought of it arouses him. Makes him feel young again. He'll shape so many young virgins for so many young men. They'll be awkward and frightened and clueless. They'll expect nothing and nothing will be given to them.

"Your bodies are temples that musn't be sullied."

Don't fuck anyone.

"The more you explore, the less special it will be."

Don't fuck anyone.

"Every kiss you give is a kiss stolen from your husband."

Don't fuck anyone.

He unconsciously grinds his hips. The writing gets a little sloppier. The tip of his tongue pokes out between his white, perfect dentures. Finally he looks up at us over the speakers on either end of the boom-box. His smile is so wide and brilliant. He looks so grandfatherly and sweet as he tells me that if I let myself be defiled I am

"Worthless."

I am

"A whore."

I am

"Unworthy."

He thrusts into the mahogany. Ecstasy. His typewriter quivers as his desk violently jolts. He taps the papers together and staples my newfound phobia. He leans over and bequeaths it to me, his tie askew, his eyes piercing. I rip open my ribs and put his words there. I slip them inside and close myself off. He looks on with approval and a sagely nod as he locks the chastity belt in place and pats my cheek. All of my worth protected under lock and key.

"You are your virtue."

I am reduced to what lies between my still-growing legs.

The cassette stops playing. The blonde ejects it and stows it away from the next group, patting it lovingly.

"Now girls," she says, eyes twinkling. "What did we learn today?"
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trauma
Written by Valerie in portal Health

Liberated

The carpet was ruined before she moved in.

It was pocked by burns from cigarette butts and browned by coffee stains. It reeked of urine from an old cat that died in the closet, leaving its stench behind as a ghost. The dull blue fabric was bright once, but whatever vibrancy it’d had was long gone.

She parted the curtains to sunshine and dust motes.

“It’s shit,” she told the window.

She burned the bottom of the pan making a packet of 25 cent ramen. She ate it that way, tasting it all acrid against her tongue. Her boxes were half opened and half closed, spread around her in a near perfect circle like the makings of some second-rate wizard trying to summon demons.

“Here I am from the depths of hell,” she murmured.

If she said it too loud he’d hear her. It was silly, nonsensical, and she laughed at it even as she took it in.

She threw out the pan. Too used and abused to be worth much anymore.

Unpacking was gruesome. Her fingers convulsed around things. Gripped them tight enough that she hoped, just maybe, they’d disappear. A sleight of hand to wash away the clothes he’d picked out for her, the jewelry he’d bought for her, the things he’d shower down in a sacrifice against the bruises. Blood washed over her altar to account for his sins.

Most of it she’d sell. The rest she needed just to get by for a while. Just to get by.

Night came creeping through the window. Winter brought it fast on the heels of five o’clock, bleak and vindictive. She closed the curtains again. She shuttered the blinds and locked the door. Turned the deadbolt. Pressed her forehead against the wood and breathed.

There was a red streak between her feet. It grinned up at her with bloody ferocity, and she found herself grinning back.

“You’re free,” she whispered.

And suddenly she didn’t want her blouse on. She didn’t want the Victoria’s Secret bra holding up her breasts. The skinny jeans he’d brought her because they made her ass look so good. They were his hands all over her and she didn’t want them anymore. She could say no. She had.

The buttons flew across the room. Her shoes cracked against the wall. She was laughing, loud and hysterical and manic, and she didn’t care. She was pale and naked in the darkness. It washed over the marks he’d left on her, concealing them.

The burns that pocked her skin.

The yellow of her stains.

The dullness of her skin.

The carpet was ruined before she got there, but she’d call in the morning to have it replaced.

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trauma
Written by Valerie in portal Health
Liberated
The carpet was ruined before she moved in.

It was pocked by burns from cigarette butts and browned by coffee stains. It reeked of urine from an old cat that died in the closet, leaving its stench behind as a ghost. The dull blue fabric was bright once, but whatever vibrancy it’d had was long gone.

She parted the curtains to sunshine and dust motes.

“It’s shit,” she told the window.

She burned the bottom of the pan making a packet of 25 cent ramen. She ate it that way, tasting it all acrid against her tongue. Her boxes were half opened and half closed, spread around her in a near perfect circle like the makings of some second-rate wizard trying to summon demons.

“Here I am from the depths of hell,” she murmured.

If she said it too loud he’d hear her. It was silly, nonsensical, and she laughed at it even as she took it in.

She threw out the pan. Too used and abused to be worth much anymore.

Unpacking was gruesome. Her fingers convulsed around things. Gripped them tight enough that she hoped, just maybe, they’d disappear. A sleight of hand to wash away the clothes he’d picked out for her, the jewelry he’d bought for her, the things he’d shower down in a sacrifice against the bruises. Blood washed over her altar to account for his sins.

Most of it she’d sell. The rest she needed just to get by for a while. Just to get by.

Night came creeping through the window. Winter brought it fast on the heels of five o’clock, bleak and vindictive. She closed the curtains again. She shuttered the blinds and locked the door. Turned the deadbolt. Pressed her forehead against the wood and breathed.

There was a red streak between her feet. It grinned up at her with bloody ferocity, and she found herself grinning back.

“You’re free,” she whispered.

And suddenly she didn’t want her blouse on. She didn’t want the Victoria’s Secret bra holding up her breasts. The skinny jeans he’d brought her because they made her ass look so good. They were his hands all over her and she didn’t want them anymore. She could say no. She had.

The buttons flew across the room. Her shoes cracked against the wall. She was laughing, loud and hysterical and manic, and she didn’t care. She was pale and naked in the darkness. It washed over the marks he’d left on her, concealing them.

The burns that pocked her skin.

The yellow of her stains.

The dullness of her skin.

The carpet was ruined before she got there, but she’d call in the morning to have it replaced.
#fiction  #philosophy  #culture 
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Written by Valerie in portal Fiction

“My younger sister was autistic.”

Neon flashed through the window. One of the letters was broken, the ‘A’ in ‘Gentleman’s’ flicking on and off between pulses. It glanced off the side of her face, leaving it green and alien-looking.

“That so?”

“Yeah. You should have seen the fits she threw.” She pulled her stockings slowly up over her legs, slipping her underwear beneath her rumpled skirt. “The slightest change would drive her to screeching melt-downs. Usually in public, with my parents wringing their hands.”

He lit a cigarette and watched her, fingers thumping over the comforter. “Sounds rough.”

“Not for the reasons you’d think. I mean, it was embarrassing, sure, but I was a kid too at the time. Nobody blamed me for it.”

“Naturally not.”

“They planned everything around her,” she continued softly. Her nimble fingers began lacing up her high-heeled boots. “Whether or not we could do something depended on Abby. Could Abby handle the noise of it? The lights? The sounds?”

“Mmmm.” He flicked some of the ashes into the tray near the bed, looking up at the ceiling and blowing out smoke.

“It was like I was competing with her, after a while. Trying to tear their rigid attention away from her just for a moment. I was all over sports. Academics. You name it. I did everything to try and win a little.”

“Like you won my heart?” His voice had a slight slur to it. A half empty bottle of vodka sloshed as he bumped the nightstand.

“I think on some level she knew it. What I was trying to do. I swear she’d get this gleam in her eye and start her screeching if they so much as patted me on the head. If she made it a day without freaking out they’d take her for fucking ice cream or buy her some new toy.” She laughed dryly, bunching her hair up on her head. “Every time they said ‘good job Jess’ to me, it was an afterthought.”

“S’rough,” he muttered. The bottle gleamed in the faint light as he picked it up, choking down a few swigs. “S’real rough.”

She stood and moved to her purse, putting the cash inside. “She threw a tantrum at my graduation. I got magna cum laude if you can believe it. A whopping four-point-oh.”

“H’I didn’ know you spoke Latin,” he babbled. “S’sexy.”

“Right when they called my name, right then, she started screaming. She filled the whole auditorium with it. People turned and stared. Every eye in the room was on her as I walked up on that stage to shake hands. My parents didn’t even see me do it. They were on their way out the door when they handed me that diploma.”

“Ooouuuuuch. Y’want me t’kiss it better?”

Jess slung the purse over her shoulder and closed the curtains. “I hate her,” she whispered. “I’ll always hate her.”

“Awwwww,” he said. “I love’ya baby.”

She crossed the room to the door and pulled it open. “Nah,” she replied. “Bet you’ll forget me. Might remember the story though.”

There was no reply. She glanced back at the bed to see him passed out, his gut exposed pale and milky in the sparse light.

“Goodnight Casanova.”

She stepped into the night unheard.

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Written by Valerie in portal Fiction
“My younger sister was autistic.”

Neon flashed through the window. One of the letters was broken, the ‘A’ in ‘Gentleman’s’ flicking on and off between pulses. It glanced off the side of her face, leaving it green and alien-looking.

“That so?”

“Yeah. You should have seen the fits she threw.” She pulled her stockings slowly up over her legs, slipping her underwear beneath her rumpled skirt. “The slightest change would drive her to screeching melt-downs. Usually in public, with my parents wringing their hands.”

He lit a cigarette and watched her, fingers thumping over the comforter. “Sounds rough.”

“Not for the reasons you’d think. I mean, it was embarrassing, sure, but I was a kid too at the time. Nobody blamed me for it.”

“Naturally not.”

“They planned everything around her,” she continued softly. Her nimble fingers began lacing up her high-heeled boots. “Whether or not we could do something depended on Abby. Could Abby handle the noise of it? The lights? The sounds?”

“Mmmm.” He flicked some of the ashes into the tray near the bed, looking up at the ceiling and blowing out smoke.

“It was like I was competing with her, after a while. Trying to tear their rigid attention away from her just for a moment. I was all over sports. Academics. You name it. I did everything to try and win a little.”

“Like you won my heart?” His voice had a slight slur to it. A half empty bottle of vodka sloshed as he bumped the nightstand.

“I think on some level she knew it. What I was trying to do. I swear she’d get this gleam in her eye and start her screeching if they so much as patted me on the head. If she made it a day without freaking out they’d take her for fucking ice cream or buy her some new toy.” She laughed dryly, bunching her hair up on her head. “Every time they said ‘good job Jess’ to me, it was an afterthought.”

“S’rough,” he muttered. The bottle gleamed in the faint light as he picked it up, choking down a few swigs. “S’real rough.”

She stood and moved to her purse, putting the cash inside. “She threw a tantrum at my graduation. I got magna cum laude if you can believe it. A whopping four-point-oh.”

“H’I didn’ know you spoke Latin,” he babbled. “S’sexy.”

“Right when they called my name, right then, she started screaming. She filled the whole auditorium with it. People turned and stared. Every eye in the room was on her as I walked up on that stage to shake hands. My parents didn’t even see me do it. They were on their way out the door when they handed me that diploma.”

“Ooouuuuuch. Y’want me t’kiss it better?”

Jess slung the purse over her shoulder and closed the curtains. “I hate her,” she whispered. “I’ll always hate her.”

“Awwwww,” he said. “I love’ya baby.”

She crossed the room to the door and pulled it open. “Nah,” she replied. “Bet you’ll forget me. Might remember the story though.”

There was no reply. She glanced back at the bed to see him passed out, his gut exposed pale and milky in the sparse light.

“Goodnight Casanova.”

She stepped into the night unheard.
#fiction  #culture 
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Write about the selfishness of suicide.
Written by Valerie

You’re drunk.

Your words are cyclical. You keep tripping over your tongue and yourself. I can hear the slurs and the grunting. Your teeth are chattering and you keep telling me how cold you are.

“You shouldn’t be outside, bud. It’s freezing out there.”

I want to be relieved you picked up the phone. I tell myself I should be, that any sister would be. I keep distracting you with words, meaningless babble you won’t remember past the booze.

“I…I don’t even kn-know what to say t-to you. I haven’t kn-known what to say to you for a l-long time.”

More words. I don’t remember what they are the moment they leave my lips. I’m hurling them through the receiver, using hints and clues to tell the cops where you are. Downtown, somewhere. You’re not wearing gloves. You could get frostbite in this weather.

“I n-need to hang up and c-call my f-friends.”

What friends, I want to ask. The ones that feed your addiction? The ones that got you the weed you smoked? All those chemicals volleying around in your brain are about to pitch you over a bridge, boy. Or maybe they’ve just loosened your long-bitten tongue to honesty.

“Y-you’ve always been the responsible one. Y-you were right. I sh-should just d-drown.”

And that’s it, isn’t it? I can’t say I’m surprised, really. You’re standing on the precipice and now you’re cutting the belay line. You want to make me bleed before you go. Drive the dagger in, up, and out. Eviscerate me and leave me cut wide with my guts on the ground.

After all these years of pushing me away, you’ve come to blame me for the distance. All the lying to get what you want, all the scheming and charming your way out of consequences.

There’s no one to scheme now. No more people to lie to.

Standing in that place, you want to leave me with the guilt so you can go free. You’ll let me be your scapegoat. Your ghost will grin as your family is ripped apart with finger-pointing.

“I-I’ve gotta go n-now.”

I will not bear your cross for you.

I will not.

“Stay on the line, bud. Don’t hang up. I love you.”

Fuck you for that.

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Write about the selfishness of suicide.
Written by Valerie
You’re drunk.

Your words are cyclical. You keep tripping over your tongue and yourself. I can hear the slurs and the grunting. Your teeth are chattering and you keep telling me how cold you are.

“You shouldn’t be outside, bud. It’s freezing out there.”

I want to be relieved you picked up the phone. I tell myself I should be, that any sister would be. I keep distracting you with words, meaningless babble you won’t remember past the booze.

“I…I don’t even kn-know what to say t-to you. I haven’t kn-known what to say to you for a l-long time.”

More words. I don’t remember what they are the moment they leave my lips. I’m hurling them through the receiver, using hints and clues to tell the cops where you are. Downtown, somewhere. You’re not wearing gloves. You could get frostbite in this weather.

“I n-need to hang up and c-call my f-friends.”

What friends, I want to ask. The ones that feed your addiction? The ones that got you the weed you smoked? All those chemicals volleying around in your brain are about to pitch you over a bridge, boy. Or maybe they’ve just loosened your long-bitten tongue to honesty.

“Y-you’ve always been the responsible one. Y-you were right. I sh-should just d-drown.”

And that’s it, isn’t it? I can’t say I’m surprised, really. You’re standing on the precipice and now you’re cutting the belay line. You want to make me bleed before you go. Drive the dagger in, up, and out. Eviscerate me and leave me cut wide with my guts on the ground.

After all these years of pushing me away, you’ve come to blame me for the distance. All the lying to get what you want, all the scheming and charming your way out of consequences.

There’s no one to scheme now. No more people to lie to.

Standing in that place, you want to leave me with the guilt so you can go free. You’ll let me be your scapegoat. Your ghost will grin as your family is ripped apart with finger-pointing.

“I-I’ve gotta go n-now.”

I will not bear your cross for you.

I will not.

“Stay on the line, bud. Don’t hang up. I love you.”

Fuck you for that.
#nonfiction 
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Written by Valerie in portal Fiction

VOICES

The room had four whitewashed walls that flowed into four corners. Each was a perfect ninety degree angle, forming lines indicated only by shadows. The temperature was an agreeable seventy degrees. The floor was plush and malleable, and there was a clean steel table across the way from a hole made to vacuum away urine and bowel movements after meals came out the other end.

“It’s for the birds, really. It’s all for the birds.”

The woman’s voice was shrill. She hunched like a magpie, her shawl strewn across her shoulders, her beady eyes flicking about. Her manicured nails clutched at the black hose covering her knobby knees.

“There’s no helping it. None at all. I’m telling you we’re stuck in here, and nothing’s going to get us out.”

“Shut. Your fucking. Mouth,” came a snarled reply. Across from her, huddled in his own corner, was a massive man. A serpent had been tattooed over his bald head and trailed down the back of his neck into his shirt. Its eyes were his eyes; those of a snake.

“Why should I?” She snapped back. “I’m just stating facts, and facts-”

“Aren’t. Helping. Anything.” The joints in his fingers popped as he balled his hands into fists. Each word was forced, garbled. It seemed to pain him to speak.

“It’s better than sitting here in silence. It’s better than sitting here staring at each other saying nothing.”

“Silence is. Better. Than your nattering.”

“When I want your opinion, Neanderthal, I’ll ask for it. You’re what got us in this mess in the first place.”

The veins on the man’s temples bulged. “What’d. You say. To me?”

“You heard me, bastard. This is all your fault. If it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t be here. We’re trapped here because of your temper. If you hadn’t-”

He charged. His feet left impressions as he leapt, showing his weight. He reached his hands out and wrapped them around the woman’s throat, leering at her, choking off a scream. Her eyes flew wide with horror and the nostrils on her beak of a nose flared.

“Enough.”

It was a statement and an order. The snake returned to his corner, the magpie took rasping breaths. The speaker regarded both with cool reproach, his features sharp, his face clean-shaven and his eyes bright.

“You’re behaving like animals,” he said softly. “Show some decorum.”

“Come. Off it.”

“No,” he replied. He crossed his legs, straightening his spine. The curve of it fit into his corner perfectly. “She’s right. It is your fault, but it is also mine. I failed to stop your foolishness.”

The snake only growled in reply.

“I allowed you to overpower me. At perhaps the most crucial moment, you won out. Had I been stronger we would not be here now.”

“The fucker. Deserved. What he got.”

“Did he?”

“Yes. He did.”

“He deserved being stabbed thirty times?”

“Every. Single. Time.”

“And having his corpse mutilated? Having his skull smashed open on the pavement? Having his eyes gouged out wi-”

“HE. WAS FUCKING. MY WIFE!”

The shout reverberated impossibly off the walls. There was silence. Then:

“Your wife appeared to be fucking him back quite readily.”

The snake roared. The magpie cried out and curled into herself as he hurtled towards the quiet man, hands out to strike.

Their eyes met. It was silent enough to hear the breathing, hear the hearts beating. The quiet man remained seated, his legs crossed, his back straight and unrelenting. The snake hissed through his teeth.

A slit opened in one of the walls. A tray slid through bearing food and drink. It spun to the final corner and stopped.

Bony hands reached out and picked it up. The bedraggled man pulled it into his lap and lifted the spoon. Applesauce, strips of meat and green beans were all eaten in the same way. His mouth opened like a baby bird’s, giving a soft pop as he placed the worms inside. He macerated each bite slowly and noisily. The mechanisms in the room assured he was regularly bathed, yet he still managed to reek. Despair had a scent and it hung heavy on him.

“He should chew with his mouth closed,” cooed the magpie. “Should have beat that into him when I had the chance.”

“Would have. Stopped you,” grunted the snake. He glared at the woman with a malice that went beyond mere words.

“How?” She mocked. “By throwing a tantrum? You weren’t so big back then, boy. I should have, could have, curbed you then.”

“Could. Not have,” he replied confidently. “Not even. With your. Little stick.”

“He’s right,” said the quiet man. “Beating him never would have worked. It only made him stronger. It fed him.”

The woman huffed. “And what would you have suggested?”

The quiet man smiled. He pulled a pair of glasses from his pocket and placed them on his nose. They made his eyes seem larger. “Talking to him. You would have learned more about him by talking to him. Children learn nothing from fear.”

“Oh, and you got so far with just talking to him. We’re still here, aren’t we? Even after all your efforts?”

His large eyes grew sad. “Yes. We’re still here. He was a very troubled child.”

“Oh boo hoo, daddy beat me, mommy was a druggie. There’s plenty of kids out there like him, but they don’t KILL people!”

The snake hissed at the magpie again, but she ignored him.

“Every mind is different,” replied the quiet man. “Every child is different. But by beating on the boy, you only became another tormentor. You closed his mind to you the moment your switch landed across his legs.”

“I was trying to stop him from winding up HERE!” She shrieked. Her hands flashed about the room. Her expression showed her distaste. “Really, as though this is a feasible alternative to just killing someone and being done with it. Cruelty, I say. Whoever came up with that law, a hex on them!”

The spoon clattered down against the tray. All heads turned back towards the corner where the thin man was sitting. They watched him bite the scab off his thumb and press the bloody skin to the wall. There were many such marks. The first were beginning to fade, but he renewed them whenever the brown gave way to the white.

He began breathing heavily. Excitement got his legs churning. Bedsores covered them, signs of his rare movement, but he scrambled towards the wall where the slit had appeared before. He gazed up lovingly, adoringly, towards the ceiling and waited.

“Pathetic.” The woman’s face showed disgust.

“Weak.” The snake, for once, agreed.

“Sad,” murmured the quiet man pityingly.

An automated message played. The room was full of it, full of the metallic, unfeeling voice. The man’s ribs trembled with each breath as he reached desperately upwards and began to weep.

CONVICT: NATHANIEL JORDAN

CRIME: MURDER OF THE FIRST DEGREE

TIME SENTENCED TO SOLITARY CONFINEMENT: TEN YEARS

TIME ELAPSED: FIVE YEARS AND TWENTY ONE DAYS

A sound like a dying animal rose out of the man’s throat. He clawed at the wall, his tears disappearing into the mangled beard on his face. “Please,” he rasped. “Please. Please. Please.”

The magpie sighed and tugged at her shawl. “It’s for the birds,” she murmured. “It’s all for the birds.”

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Written by Valerie in portal Fiction
VOICES
The room had four whitewashed walls that flowed into four corners. Each was a perfect ninety degree angle, forming lines indicated only by shadows. The temperature was an agreeable seventy degrees. The floor was plush and malleable, and there was a clean steel table across the way from a hole made to vacuum away urine and bowel movements after meals came out the other end.

“It’s for the birds, really. It’s all for the birds.”

The woman’s voice was shrill. She hunched like a magpie, her shawl strewn across her shoulders, her beady eyes flicking about. Her manicured nails clutched at the black hose covering her knobby knees.

“There’s no helping it. None at all. I’m telling you we’re stuck in here, and nothing’s going to get us out.”

“Shut. Your fucking. Mouth,” came a snarled reply. Across from her, huddled in his own corner, was a massive man. A serpent had been tattooed over his bald head and trailed down the back of his neck into his shirt. Its eyes were his eyes; those of a snake.

“Why should I?” She snapped back. “I’m just stating facts, and facts-”

“Aren’t. Helping. Anything.” The joints in his fingers popped as he balled his hands into fists. Each word was forced, garbled. It seemed to pain him to speak.

“It’s better than sitting here in silence. It’s better than sitting here staring at each other saying nothing.”

“Silence is. Better. Than your nattering.”

“When I want your opinion, Neanderthal, I’ll ask for it. You’re what got us in this mess in the first place.”

The veins on the man’s temples bulged. “What’d. You say. To me?”
“You heard me, bastard. This is all your fault. If it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t be here. We’re trapped here because of your temper. If you hadn’t-”

He charged. His feet left impressions as he leapt, showing his weight. He reached his hands out and wrapped them around the woman’s throat, leering at her, choking off a scream. Her eyes flew wide with horror and the nostrils on her beak of a nose flared.

“Enough.”

It was a statement and an order. The snake returned to his corner, the magpie took rasping breaths. The speaker regarded both with cool reproach, his features sharp, his face clean-shaven and his eyes bright.

“You’re behaving like animals,” he said softly. “Show some decorum.”

“Come. Off it.”

“No,” he replied. He crossed his legs, straightening his spine. The curve of it fit into his corner perfectly. “She’s right. It is your fault, but it is also mine. I failed to stop your foolishness.”

The snake only growled in reply.

“I allowed you to overpower me. At perhaps the most crucial moment, you won out. Had I been stronger we would not be here now.”

“The fucker. Deserved. What he got.”

“Did he?”

“Yes. He did.”

“He deserved being stabbed thirty times?”

“Every. Single. Time.”

“And having his corpse mutilated? Having his skull smashed open on the pavement? Having his eyes gouged out wi-”

“HE. WAS FUCKING. MY WIFE!”

The shout reverberated impossibly off the walls. There was silence. Then:

“Your wife appeared to be fucking him back quite readily.”

The snake roared. The magpie cried out and curled into herself as he hurtled towards the quiet man, hands out to strike.

Their eyes met. It was silent enough to hear the breathing, hear the hearts beating. The quiet man remained seated, his legs crossed, his back straight and unrelenting. The snake hissed through his teeth.

A slit opened in one of the walls. A tray slid through bearing food and drink. It spun to the final corner and stopped.

Bony hands reached out and picked it up. The bedraggled man pulled it into his lap and lifted the spoon. Applesauce, strips of meat and green beans were all eaten in the same way. His mouth opened like a baby bird’s, giving a soft pop as he placed the worms inside. He macerated each bite slowly and noisily. The mechanisms in the room assured he was regularly bathed, yet he still managed to reek. Despair had a scent and it hung heavy on him.

“He should chew with his mouth closed,” cooed the magpie. “Should have beat that into him when I had the chance.”

“Would have. Stopped you,” grunted the snake. He glared at the woman with a malice that went beyond mere words.

“How?” She mocked. “By throwing a tantrum? You weren’t so big back then, boy. I should have, could have, curbed you then.”

“Could. Not have,” he replied confidently. “Not even. With your. Little stick.”

“He’s right,” said the quiet man. “Beating him never would have worked. It only made him stronger. It fed him.”

The woman huffed. “And what would you have suggested?”

The quiet man smiled. He pulled a pair of glasses from his pocket and placed them on his nose. They made his eyes seem larger. “Talking to him. You would have learned more about him by talking to him. Children learn nothing from fear.”

“Oh, and you got so far with just talking to him. We’re still here, aren’t we? Even after all your efforts?”

His large eyes grew sad. “Yes. We’re still here. He was a very troubled child.”

“Oh boo hoo, daddy beat me, mommy was a druggie. There’s plenty of kids out there like him, but they don’t KILL people!”

The snake hissed at the magpie again, but she ignored him.

“Every mind is different,” replied the quiet man. “Every child is different. But by beating on the boy, you only became another tormentor. You closed his mind to you the moment your switch landed across his legs.”

“I was trying to stop him from winding up HERE!” She shrieked. Her hands flashed about the room. Her expression showed her distaste. “Really, as though this is a feasible alternative to just killing someone and being done with it. Cruelty, I say. Whoever came up with that law, a hex on them!”

The spoon clattered down against the tray. All heads turned back towards the corner where the thin man was sitting. They watched him bite the scab off his thumb and press the bloody skin to the wall. There were many such marks. The first were beginning to fade, but he renewed them whenever the brown gave way to the white.

He began breathing heavily. Excitement got his legs churning. Bedsores covered them, signs of his rare movement, but he scrambled towards the wall where the slit had appeared before. He gazed up lovingly, adoringly, towards the ceiling and waited.

“Pathetic.” The woman’s face showed disgust.

“Weak.” The snake, for once, agreed.

“Sad,” murmured the quiet man pityingly.

An automated message played. The room was full of it, full of the metallic, unfeeling voice. The man’s ribs trembled with each breath as he reached desperately upwards and began to weep.

CONVICT: NATHANIEL JORDAN

CRIME: MURDER OF THE FIRST DEGREE

TIME SENTENCED TO SOLITARY CONFINEMENT: TEN YEARS

TIME ELAPSED: FIVE YEARS AND TWENTY ONE DAYS

A sound like a dying animal rose out of the man’s throat. He clawed at the wall, his tears disappearing into the mangled beard on his face. “Please,” he rasped. “Please. Please. Please.”

The magpie sighed and tugged at her shawl. “It’s for the birds,” she murmured. “It’s all for the birds.”
#fiction  #horror  #culture 
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Written by Valerie in portal Stream of Consciousness

Insomnia

The clock is ticking. The grandfather clock, tick tick, rackety tack. Clicking back and forth, an executed pendulum on a gold-chained noose. I can't see it, but the sound is RACKETY TACKing into my head. Loud. My eyes are roving. Back, forth, dance to the beat. They hurt behind my lids. I shouldn't have cried so hard. Then they wouldn't.

Flash open. Glow in the dark stars wink at me. My mother got them from a dollar store. The man behind the register was fat, with slick, greasy hair and crooked yellow teeth. He smiled at me and I wrinkled my nose. Mother's swat stung. It's very important to be polite.

Closed again. Shut tight, small pinpricks of light suspended in the darkness. She knew I liked stars. Look to the stars, she said. "If you ever feel scared," she poked me on the tip of my nose, "just look on up, Anna. All stars are Angels, and Angels watch over children while they sleep." A warm hand on my cheek. Soft lips on my forehead. The sound of the light switch striking off.

My tears are hot. My eyes are open. The grandfather clock, noble thing, keeps ticking. Faint whispering and breathing in the bed next to me. The bed below me. Trembling fingers reach up to touch the glowing stars. Pale, skinny, listless fingers. My wrist feels watery. My eyes have no more water to give. The last trickle disappears beneath my chin. Mother's chin was always stronger. Mother's tears were always softer.

It was summer. Sweltering heat, a mosquito whizzing by my ear. Introduced as the new boyfriend, he had hard eyes and a practiced smile. I liked the smile less than the eyes. Little kids know more than grown ups give credit. I know mamma's lonely. I know mamma's missing pappa. I know mamma needs help to pay the rent. Strange, the way these things were muttered from her red-painted lips. She was never mamma before. It was less prestigious than Mother. I hated it.

Mother hated red.

There was blue on her face.

It wasn't makeup.

The grandfather clock chimes. Time made her get too old. The lines got deeper. Her hair got white at the roots. Her voice hoarse. That's from the shouting. I crawl into the closet because the wall is paper thin there. I listen. The yelling's loud, the hitting's louder. Michael doesn't swat like Mother used to. She was sharp, fast, one pop and the pain was gone. He doesn't want the pain fast. He wants to make his mark.

Mamma never talked about the Angels.

Michael didn't take his name from the bible.

Thirteen. I felt thirty. Mamma didn't look at me from over her coffee. The steam curled into her swollen eye. Boyfriend was reading his newspaper quietly. One of the articles upset him. His fists on the table made the glasses rattle. His fists lashed out at her coffee-drinking lips. My mind snapped. I threw myself at him. He threw me at the wall.

It's midnight. The clock chimes again. My broken arm sits limp in a cast in a sling on the bed. It feels dead. They didn't believe the story about the stairs. The stairs can't rip out a chunk of hair. Mother doesn't fight for me. Mamma has beaten her. Her lips are always red. Her face is always blue.

She is not with an Angel. They are not in my stars.

The clock is chiming. I can hear the other children breathing.

I can't sleep.

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Written by Valerie in portal Stream of Consciousness
Insomnia
The clock is ticking. The grandfather clock, tick tick, rackety tack. Clicking back and forth, an executed pendulum on a gold-chained noose. I can't see it, but the sound is RACKETY TACKing into my head. Loud. My eyes are roving. Back, forth, dance to the beat. They hurt behind my lids. I shouldn't have cried so hard. Then they wouldn't.

Flash open. Glow in the dark stars wink at me. My mother got them from a dollar store. The man behind the register was fat, with slick, greasy hair and crooked yellow teeth. He smiled at me and I wrinkled my nose. Mother's swat stung. It's very important to be polite.

Closed again. Shut tight, small pinpricks of light suspended in the darkness. She knew I liked stars. Look to the stars, she said. "If you ever feel scared," she poked me on the tip of my nose, "just look on up, Anna. All stars are Angels, and Angels watch over children while they sleep." A warm hand on my cheek. Soft lips on my forehead. The sound of the light switch striking off.

My tears are hot. My eyes are open. The grandfather clock, noble thing, keeps ticking. Faint whispering and breathing in the bed next to me. The bed below me. Trembling fingers reach up to touch the glowing stars. Pale, skinny, listless fingers. My wrist feels watery. My eyes have no more water to give. The last trickle disappears beneath my chin. Mother's chin was always stronger. Mother's tears were always softer.

It was summer. Sweltering heat, a mosquito whizzing by my ear. Introduced as the new boyfriend, he had hard eyes and a practiced smile. I liked the smile less than the eyes. Little kids know more than grown ups give credit. I know mamma's lonely. I know mamma's missing pappa. I know mamma needs help to pay the rent. Strange, the way these things were muttered from her red-painted lips. She was never mamma before. It was less prestigious than Mother. I hated it.
Mother hated red.

There was blue on her face.

It wasn't makeup.

The grandfather clock chimes. Time made her get too old. The lines got deeper. Her hair got white at the roots. Her voice hoarse. That's from the shouting. I crawl into the closet because the wall is paper thin there. I listen. The yelling's loud, the hitting's louder. Michael doesn't swat like Mother used to. She was sharp, fast, one pop and the pain was gone. He doesn't want the pain fast. He wants to make his mark.

Mamma never talked about the Angels.

Michael didn't take his name from the bible.

Thirteen. I felt thirty. Mamma didn't look at me from over her coffee. The steam curled into her swollen eye. Boyfriend was reading his newspaper quietly. One of the articles upset him. His fists on the table made the glasses rattle. His fists lashed out at her coffee-drinking lips. My mind snapped. I threw myself at him. He threw me at the wall.

It's midnight. The clock chimes again. My broken arm sits limp in a cast in a sling on the bed. It feels dead. They didn't believe the story about the stairs. The stairs can't rip out a chunk of hair. Mother doesn't fight for me. Mamma has beaten her. Her lips are always red. Her face is always blue.

She is not with an Angel. They are not in my stars.

The clock is chiming. I can hear the other children breathing.

I can't sleep.
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Written by Valerie in portal Fiction

Small Talk

“Mother nature designs us to be assholes, man.”

Greg cracked the crab leg open with gusto, soaking it in melted butter before popping it in his mouth. She could see it moving around in there, dancing between his tongue and teeth.

“Seriously. Think about it. The smart ones and the strong ones survive, but the compassionate ones, they don’t. The whole world is like, designed to make sure the douchebags get ahead, and all the bleeding hearts get dead.”

He smacked the cracker against the claw. A woman a few tables away snapped her head to him and glared. Patricia could see her leaning in to mutter something to her kid. ‘Now listen here sweety, if I ever see you eating like that in public, you’re grounded.’

“…and that’s just how it is. I mean, do you agree with me?”

Patty blinked and forced herself to look back at Greg. His eyes were still bloodshot from lighting up a few too many times the night before. She could smell it on him and doubted he was still back on earth even now. Ever full of revelations was Greg, right after hanging out with ol’ Puff the Magic Dragon.

“Yeah, sure Greg. Assholes, the lot of ’em.”

He pulled a face and pried the shell apart with his bony fingers. “You’re just appeasing me. I hate it when people appease me. Nobody’s down for an actual debate these days.”

Patricia smirked, stirring up her soup and watching the noodles rise and sink back down. “Wouldn’t be fair to you.”

Greg huffed. He stuck out his chest like an overconfident gorilla. She half expected him to pound it, and in a way wished he would. It’d be hilarious. 

“You think you can prove me wrong? Even half the ‘good’ people were dicks. Fucking Ghandi was suspected of pedophilia. ‘Yeeeeah, mean. I’ll sleep with these young girls in my bed to test my self-control.’ Sure man. Sure.”

“People are capable of being both great and terrible, Greg. That doesn’t discredit the good things any more than the good discredits the bad.”

He picked up a napkin and wiped the butter out of his greying beard. “Of course,” he replied. “But the world still punishes the good and rewards the bad all the time.”

“True. But I don’t think it’s about the punishment and reward. I think people just get genuine pleasure out of helping others. Makes them feel like they’re doing something worthwhile.”

“Doesn’t that make it inherently selfish?” He grinned. “Just doing it to get off on your own emotional high?”

Patty shrugged. “Maybe a little. Then again, they could also be doing it out of empathy. You feel something when you see someone else get hurt. You wince, get phantom pains even. Our society functions as much on dog eat dog as it does on compassion. Nature worked them both into us.”

“That’s just herd instinct.”

She laughed, shaking her head wryly. “Come on, Greg. Herd instinct only goes so far. What about people tossing themselves on others to protect them from bullets? What about people who pour their life’s savings into finding cures for illnesses they don’t have? People sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others all the time.”

“Some do,” he admittedly grudgingly. “But it’s not the majority or anything.”

“No,” she conceded, waving her hand. “Yet again, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.”

Greg rolled his eyes and leaned back in his chair, legs tipping. “So, what? You have the assholes and the wannabe saints, and that’s just the way it is?”

“No,” she replied. “You’re looking at it as opposites. Blacks and whites. That’s not how it works. Today you’re going to be kind to some folks and cruel to others. Today you’re going to spread some joy and spread some pain. You’re capable of both of them. Everyone is. It’s your job to decide which mode you’re going to operate on.”

The mother and her child from the other table were standing up. Patty watched them from the corner of her eye as they walked outside the restaurant, the girl clutching at her leftovers. She passed some bum sitting on the corner and simply held it out to him. Her mother gesticulated wildly, tugging her away, probably telling her not to talk to strangers. But she got the food in the guy’s lap, and his smile lit up his face.

“God damn,” Greg muttered. “Something cosmic just threw you a massive bone.”

Patricia dipped her spoon into the soup again, laughing softly. “The world’s a giant mixing pot, Greg. It’s just, we have the power to change the flavor. We can make it bitter and taste like ass, or we can make it the most delicious, awesome thing to ever grace a table. People can be beautiful and terrible, it’s true. It’s just about deciding which way you want to go with it.”

Greg scoffed, raising his hand at the waitress and asking for the check. “You didn’t beat me,” he insisted. “You’re just too stubborn to accept defeat. And distracting me with pretty metaphors.”

“But of course.”

“Dude,” he drawled. “You really need to come back to my place tonight. Got something for you to try that is the total sh-”

“Is it going to make me smell like you? If so, not a chance.”

“Ass.”

“Love you too.”

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Written by Valerie in portal Fiction
Small Talk
“Mother nature designs us to be assholes, man.”
Greg cracked the crab leg open with gusto, soaking it in melted butter before popping it in his mouth. She could see it moving around in there, dancing between his tongue and teeth.
“Seriously. Think about it. The smart ones and the strong ones survive, but the compassionate ones, they don’t. The whole world is like, designed to make sure the douchebags get ahead, and all the bleeding hearts get dead.”
He smacked the cracker against the claw. A woman a few tables away snapped her head to him and glared. Patricia could see her leaning in to mutter something to her kid. ‘Now listen here sweety, if I ever see you eating like that in public, you’re grounded.’
“…and that’s just how it is. I mean, do you agree with me?”
Patty blinked and forced herself to look back at Greg. His eyes were still bloodshot from lighting up a few too many times the night before. She could smell it on him and doubted he was still back on earth even now. Ever full of revelations was Greg, right after hanging out with ol’ Puff the Magic Dragon.
“Yeah, sure Greg. Assholes, the lot of ’em.”
He pulled a face and pried the shell apart with his bony fingers. “You’re just appeasing me. I hate it when people appease me. Nobody’s down for an actual debate these days.”
Patricia smirked, stirring up her soup and watching the noodles rise and sink back down. “Wouldn’t be fair to you.”
Greg huffed. He stuck out his chest like an overconfident gorilla. She half expected him to pound it, and in a way wished he would. It’d be hilarious. 
“You think you can prove me wrong? Even half the ‘good’ people were dicks. Fucking Ghandi was suspected of pedophilia. ‘Yeeeeah, mean. I’ll sleep with these young girls in my bed to test my self-control.’ Sure man. Sure.”
“People are capable of being both great and terrible, Greg. That doesn’t discredit the good things any more than the good discredits the bad.”
He picked up a napkin and wiped the butter out of his greying beard. “Of course,” he replied. “But the world still punishes the good and rewards the bad all the time.”
“True. But I don’t think it’s about the punishment and reward. I think people just get genuine pleasure out of helping others. Makes them feel like they’re doing something worthwhile.”
“Doesn’t that make it inherently selfish?” He grinned. “Just doing it to get off on your own emotional high?”
Patty shrugged. “Maybe a little. Then again, they could also be doing it out of empathy. You feel something when you see someone else get hurt. You wince, get phantom pains even. Our society functions as much on dog eat dog as it does on compassion. Nature worked them both into us.”
“That’s just herd instinct.”
She laughed, shaking her head wryly. “Come on, Greg. Herd instinct only goes so far. What about people tossing themselves on others to protect them from bullets? What about people who pour their life’s savings into finding cures for illnesses they don’t have? People sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others all the time.”
“Some do,” he admittedly grudgingly. “But it’s not the majority or anything.”
“No,” she conceded, waving her hand. “Yet again, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.”
Greg rolled his eyes and leaned back in his chair, legs tipping. “So, what? You have the assholes and the wannabe saints, and that’s just the way it is?”
“No,” she replied. “You’re looking at it as opposites. Blacks and whites. That’s not how it works. Today you’re going to be kind to some folks and cruel to others. Today you’re going to spread some joy and spread some pain. You’re capable of both of them. Everyone is. It’s your job to decide which mode you’re going to operate on.”
The mother and her child from the other table were standing up. Patty watched them from the corner of her eye as they walked outside the restaurant, the girl clutching at her leftovers. She passed some bum sitting on the corner and simply held it out to him. Her mother gesticulated wildly, tugging her away, probably telling her not to talk to strangers. But she got the food in the guy’s lap, and his smile lit up his face.
“God damn,” Greg muttered. “Something cosmic just threw you a massive bone.”
Patricia dipped her spoon into the soup again, laughing softly. “The world’s a giant mixing pot, Greg. It’s just, we have the power to change the flavor. We can make it bitter and taste like ass, or we can make it the most delicious, awesome thing to ever grace a table. People can be beautiful and terrible, it’s true. It’s just about deciding which way you want to go with it.”
Greg scoffed, raising his hand at the waitress and asking for the check. “You didn’t beat me,” he insisted. “You’re just too stubborn to accept defeat. And distracting me with pretty metaphors.”
“But of course.”
“Dude,” he drawled. “You really need to come back to my place tonight. Got something for you to try that is the total sh-”
“Is it going to make me smell like you? If so, not a chance.”
“Ass.”
“Love you too.”
#fiction  #philosophy  #culture 
12
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6
Juice
194 reads
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