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Written by albertaj in portal Publishing

A STRANGER IN MY HEAD

I hid behind the curtain as a stranger entered my domain. He acted like he owned the place!  I, trembling, held my breath and slowly crept toward the hallway closet and hid myself amongst the lifeless coats. He had the nerve, this unwelcome guest, to sit in my favorite chair and reclining it back, closed his eyes and was soon fast asleep. I was trapped! I was nearly frightened to death and tried to still the pounding of my heart. I had no cell phone as I had never figured out how to use one. There was no lingering odor of moth balls surrounding these clothes I was enveloped in and the stranger must have replaced all of my coats and old umbrellas with his. I hated him now for disrupting my life and taking over my humble house. Little though it was and alike the others in this cookie-cutter neighborhood, it was mine. My ears picked up the snoring sounds leaking from the hole in his face which now looked a little familiar to me. No, that couldn't be. No one I knew would creep into my house and invade my private space. Could I now escape and find some help? Now I heard the meowing of a cat; but I don't own a cat. Was the cat his or did it also enter my home without an invitation?  I took a deep breath and crawling like a cat, I escaped out the front door. Running through the yard, I turned my head towards the house and was caught in the lights that had just been turned on. A loud voice said, "I'm calling the police, what are you doing in my yard"? I was bewildered and then saw a house next door that looked just like the one I had just left. The door was open and I stumbled through it. This place looked more familiar to me than the one I had just came from. The stranger, called 'Dementia', had followed me home and wouldn't leave me alone, wouldn't let me escape from it's hold on me.   

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Written by albertaj in portal Publishing
A STRANGER IN MY HEAD
I hid behind the curtain as a stranger entered my domain. He acted like he owned the place!  I, trembling, held my breath and slowly crept toward the hallway closet and hid myself amongst the lifeless coats. He had the nerve, this unwelcome guest, to sit in my favorite chair and reclining it back, closed his eyes and was soon fast asleep. I was trapped! I was nearly frightened to death and tried to still the pounding of my heart. I had no cell phone as I had never figured out how to use one. There was no lingering odor of moth balls surrounding these clothes I was enveloped in and the stranger must have replaced all of my coats and old umbrellas with his. I hated him now for disrupting my life and taking over my humble house. Little though it was and alike the others in this cookie-cutter neighborhood, it was mine. My ears picked up the snoring sounds leaking from the hole in his face which now looked a little familiar to me. No, that couldn't be. No one I knew would creep into my house and invade my private space. Could I now escape and find some help? Now I heard the meowing of a cat; but I don't own a cat. Was the cat his or did it also enter my home without an invitation?  I took a deep breath and crawling like a cat, I escaped out the front door. Running through the yard, I turned my head towards the house and was caught in the lights that had just been turned on. A loud voice said, "I'm calling the police, what are you doing in my yard"? I was bewildered and then saw a house next door that looked just like the one I had just left. The door was open and I stumbled through it. This place looked more familiar to me than the one I had just came from. The stranger, called 'Dementia', had followed me home and wouldn't leave me alone, wouldn't let me escape from it's hold on me.   

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Written by Interludiza

Innocence To Experience

Innocence

Lilly my love, what shall you be?

Fly to space or live in a tree,

Vine to vine, you fly so high,

Stretch your hands, you’ve touched the sky!

Lilly my love, where shall you go?

Peak to peak, you’ll barrel through snow.

Tinkling bells, your laughter rings out,

Searching for reindeer, along your route.

Lilly my love, what shall you see?

As you explore the seven deep seas.

Singing with dolphins, swinging your oars,

Ahoy there Lilly! Treasure is yours.

Lilly my love, what shall you be?

Your future is great, as I foresee.

President, you say? A noble goal,

For you, my dear, it’s the perfect role.

Lilly my love, you’ll make me so proud.

First female president, you avowed.

Stretch your hands, you’re almost there.

Then it's I, Lillian, do solemnly swear.

Lilly my love, I know you'll make it,

It’s never been done but the time is now!

Break the mold, tradition, forget the norm,

Take the world by storm, take a bow! That’s how.

Lilly my love, what can you be?

Anything you want, you shall see.

The world is your oyster, your castle, your space.

With indomitable spirit, you’ll win every race.

Now Lilly my love, close your eyes,

Tomorrow a new day shall rise.

Filled with wonder, joy, possibilities.

Endless arrays of opportunities.

Experience

Lillian Sinclair, what shall you be?

My! President? I must disagree.

What is this nonsense that I hear.

Honey it’s a man’s world out there.

Lillian Sinclair, four fast years flew by,

You blossomed in college, now say goodbye.

Have you thought, about what you will be?

President? Oh my! With that degree?

Lillian Sinclair, listen to me here.

Why not a nurse? Or a volunteer?

Women are teachers. Oh its law you love?

At best you’ll clerk, and nothing above.

Lillian Sinclair, what have we here?

Tighten your shirt, and curl your hair.

Your assets? Physical, not mental my dear,

Honey it's a man’s world, that much is clear.

Lillian Sinclair, tell me why are you here?

Sitting the bar, with these smart men my dear.

Keep up if you can, and feel no shame,

If you drop out, to play an easier game.

Lillian Sinclair, what have we here?

How indecent! Oh my! Cover up, my dear.

There’s a fine line, from dull to risque.

It’s a predator’s world, and you look like prey.

Lillian Sinclair, come dry up your tears.

There’s no sympathy here, mere sneers, and jeers.

You will be President. Is that what you say?

Don’t be silly my dear, that’s a man’s way.

Lillian Sinclair, what shall you do?

Legal assistant. That’s what you’ll pursue?

A reasonable goal, but just to make it clear,

It’s a man’s world out there so good luck, my dear. 

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Written by Interludiza
Innocence To Experience
Innocence

Lilly my love, what shall you be?
Fly to space or live in a tree,
Vine to vine, you fly so high,
Stretch your hands, you’ve touched the sky!

Lilly my love, where shall you go?
Peak to peak, you’ll barrel through snow.
Tinkling bells, your laughter rings out,
Searching for reindeer, along your route.

Lilly my love, what shall you see?
As you explore the seven deep seas.
Singing with dolphins, swinging your oars,
Ahoy there Lilly! Treasure is yours.

Lilly my love, what shall you be?
Your future is great, as I foresee.
President, you say? A noble goal,
For you, my dear, it’s the perfect role.

Lilly my love, you’ll make me so proud.
First female president, you avowed.
Stretch your hands, you’re almost there.
Then it's I, Lillian, do solemnly swear.

Lilly my love, I know you'll make it,
It’s never been done but the time is now!
Break the mold, tradition, forget the norm,
Take the world by storm, take a bow! That’s how.

Lilly my love, what can you be?
Anything you want, you shall see.
The world is your oyster, your castle, your space.
With indomitable spirit, you’ll win every race.

Now Lilly my love, close your eyes,
Tomorrow a new day shall rise.
Filled with wonder, joy, possibilities.
Endless arrays of opportunities.



Experience

Lillian Sinclair, what shall you be?
My! President? I must disagree.
What is this nonsense that I hear.
Honey it’s a man’s world out there.

Lillian Sinclair, four fast years flew by,
You blossomed in college, now say goodbye.
Have you thought, about what you will be?
President? Oh my! With that degree?

Lillian Sinclair, listen to me here.
Why not a nurse? Or a volunteer?
Women are teachers. Oh its law you love?
At best you’ll clerk, and nothing above.

Lillian Sinclair, what have we here?
Tighten your shirt, and curl your hair.
Your assets? Physical, not mental my dear,
Honey it's a man’s world, that much is clear.

Lillian Sinclair, tell me why are you here?
Sitting the bar, with these smart men my dear.
Keep up if you can, and feel no shame,
If you drop out, to play an easier game.

Lillian Sinclair, what have we here?
How indecent! Oh my! Cover up, my dear.
There’s a fine line, from dull to risque.
It’s a predator’s world, and you look like prey.

Lillian Sinclair, come dry up your tears.
There’s no sympathy here, mere sneers, and jeers.
You will be President. Is that what you say?
Don’t be silly my dear, that’s a man’s way.

Lillian Sinclair, what shall you do?
Legal assistant. That’s what you’ll pursue?
A reasonable goal, but just to make it clear,
It’s a man’s world out there so good luck, my dear. 
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Written by Comets72 in portal Publishing

Panic Room

   For days now, in their basement was a room. A dull, silver block from floor to ceiling, it was big enough to house a few animals in, but its only use was for her husband, Jay. Every day, he treaded behind those solid plates like he just renovated another room in their home, fixing it up, making it look nice, look normal. But it wasn't for Emily. None of it was. All she could ever do though was look at her husband and wonder why. Why it was there, standing like a monument to senseless behavior. When she finally spoke was when he gave her the key and told her to lock him in.     

   "I'm through with the world outside with their trivial concerns and their constant need for validation," Jay looked at her with a passionate, almost crazed sense of purpose. Like this was a life's work completed. Like he was waiting to explain this. "I've worked as a therapist for almost a decade now and all I get is the same thing. Someone's cheating, someone's lying, the world is against them. No one wants their problems solved. They just want me to say they're right. That's not what I'm here for!" A huff came from Jay's mouth that only hid the growl beneath it. "It makes me so mad, and I don't want do anything short of ripping their throats out. But I can't. I mean I can but... I just need a place to escape for a while, that's all."

   "Fine. I get it but putting yourself up in a cage is not much of a solution," Emily said unsure of what she just heard. "You could do anything else. Quit the job, take a vacation, turn this into a man cave for all I care, but why... this."

   "I've considered my options. Everything all my 'concerned' friends gave but none of it made sense to me. I'm not going to join an activist group where everyone's yelling and no one's listening, I'm not touching any drug even if it will 'mellow me out', and I can't just quit when this is the only source of income." Jay stopped only to give a breathy laugh to a popup thought. "Did you know someone suggested therapy like they forgot I'm a therapist? Or that you only do that when you already think someone is crazy? That's borderline offensive."

   "They're just trying to help, Jay. You're being a pessimist."

   "I'm not a pessimist, I'm a realist and I've came to a real conclusion. Everyone's so self-centered nowadays that all that matters is how much attention you get. How much praise or controversy you receive. Everyone's in it for themselves.  If that's the only pursuit left in the world, then why should I take part in it any longer? I'd rather be caged in here with my own thoughts than to be out there succumbing to the views of people around me."

   "You cant just cut yourself away from the world," Emily said. "Especially when you're just mad about some clients. If you just need time away, then we could go somewhere. A beach, the country, you could seclude yourself in our room but I can't just have you locked in the basement where I can't see you. I want to see you. Don't you want to see me?" There was silence. Silence for too long giving her all that she needed to know. "You don't."

   "I do," Jay tried to comfort her through his arms. "I love you Emily... but I cant just be around people.  Not now. Not when I keep seeing all of the same self-centered bullshit everywhere I turn. I need to be with me until I can figure this out." 

   He felt the need to kiss her but she backed away from his arms, herself pacing, getting angry, trying to figure out what was happening.

  "No no. This is stupid. This isn't... why the hell are you doing this?! You spent days and god knows how much money just to put yourself behind bars!"

"I thought you of all people would understand."

     

  "How can I understand this? A little frustration and suddenly you build something that's totally crazy!" 

"I'm not crazy!" Jay refused to hold it back any longer. "I'm sick of hearing it! This is my method! My way of coping!"

  

"There are better ways, Jay! You don't have to lock yourself up. Just because no one will listen to you doesn't mean you have to treat everyone else the same way."

  

"What is wrong with this, huh? What is wrong with what I'm doing!" 

    

"Everything! You don't even care how this will affect me. What am I suppose to do while you're here? Live without a husband? Sleep alone in our bed? Bring food down every night like am taking care of some prisoner? I couldn't handle that. I can't handle that!"

   

   "Listen to yourself. You sound as selfish as the rest of them."

    "Well maybe I am because I didn't marry someone to have stuck in a cage."

With remorse, with anger, she looked him in the eyes. She saw nothing for her to grab hold to. No sense of regret or sadness she could appeal to. He's changed into something else. Something that maybe needed this cage after all. All she could do was look at her husband and wonder why. Why he was standing there like a monument to senseless behavior. She dropped the key back in his hand, and walked away, out the door, out of what ever life this was now becoming.

    

     

      

   

  

  

    

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Written by Comets72 in portal Publishing
Panic Room
   For days now, in their basement was a room. A dull, silver block from floor to ceiling, it was big enough to house a few animals in, but its only use was for her husband, Jay. Every day, he treaded behind those solid plates like he just renovated another room in their home, fixing it up, making it look nice, look normal. But it wasn't for Emily. None of it was. All she could ever do though was look at her husband and wonder why. Why it was there, standing like a monument to senseless behavior. When she finally spoke was when he gave her the key and told her to lock him in.     

   "I'm through with the world outside with their trivial concerns and their constant need for validation," Jay looked at her with a passionate, almost crazed sense of purpose. Like this was a life's work completed. Like he was waiting to explain this. "I've worked as a therapist for almost a decade now and all I get is the same thing. Someone's cheating, someone's lying, the world is against them. No one wants their problems solved. They just want me to say they're right. That's not what I'm here for!" A huff came from Jay's mouth that only hid the growl beneath it. "It makes me so mad, and I don't want do anything short of ripping their throats out. But I can't. I mean I can but... I just need a place to escape for a while, that's all."

   "Fine. I get it but putting yourself up in a cage is not much of a solution," Emily said unsure of what she just heard. "You could do anything else. Quit the job, take a vacation, turn this into a man cave for all I care, but why... this."

   "I've considered my options. Everything all my 'concerned' friends gave but none of it made sense to me. I'm not going to join an activist group where everyone's yelling and no one's listening, I'm not touching any drug even if it will 'mellow me out', and I can't just quit when this is the only source of income." Jay stopped only to give a breathy laugh to a popup thought. "Did you know someone suggested therapy like they forgot I'm a therapist? Or that you only do that when you already think someone is crazy? That's borderline offensive."

   "They're just trying to help, Jay. You're being a pessimist."

   "I'm not a pessimist, I'm a realist and I've came to a real conclusion. Everyone's so self-centered nowadays that all that matters is how much attention you get. How much praise or controversy you receive. Everyone's in it for themselves.  If that's the only pursuit left in the world, then why should I take part in it any longer? I'd rather be caged in here with my own thoughts than to be out there succumbing to the views of people around me."

   "You cant just cut yourself away from the world," Emily said. "Especially when you're just mad about some clients. If you just need time away, then we could go somewhere. A beach, the country, you could seclude yourself in our room but I can't just have you locked in the basement where I can't see you. I want to see you. Don't you want to see me?" There was silence. Silence for too long giving her all that she needed to know. "You don't."


   "I do," Jay tried to comfort her through his arms. "I love you Emily... but I cant just be around people.  Not now. Not when I keep seeing all of the same self-centered bullshit everywhere I turn. I need to be with me until I can figure this out." 

   He felt the need to kiss her but she backed away from his arms, herself pacing, getting angry, trying to figure out what was happening.

  "No no. This is stupid. This isn't... why the hell are you doing this?! You spent days and god knows how much money just to put yourself behind bars!"

"I thought you of all people would understand."
     
  "How can I understand this? A little frustration and suddenly you build something that's totally crazy!" 


"I'm not crazy!" Jay refused to hold it back any longer. "I'm sick of hearing it! This is my method! My way of coping!"

  
"There are better ways, Jay! You don't have to lock yourself up. Just because no one will listen to you doesn't mean you have to treat everyone else the same way."
  
"What is wrong with this, huh? What is wrong with what I'm doing!" 
    
"Everything! You don't even care how this will affect me. What am I suppose to do while you're here? Live without a husband? Sleep alone in our bed? Bring food down every night like am taking care of some prisoner? I couldn't handle that. I can't handle that!"
   
   "Listen to yourself. You sound as selfish as the rest of them."

    "Well maybe I am because I didn't marry someone to have stuck in a cage."

With remorse, with anger, she looked him in the eyes. She saw nothing for her to grab hold to. No sense of regret or sadness she could appeal to. He's changed into something else. Something that maybe needed this cage after all. All she could do was look at her husband and wonder why. Why he was standing there like a monument to senseless behavior. She dropped the key back in his hand, and walked away, out the door, out of what ever life this was now becoming.

    




     



      

   


  



  
    
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Written by swatson

Misplaced Affection

The blue water was disturbed by the toe of the quaint kitten heels she had worn. She had gotten dressed up. Sitting at the end of the concrete pier her legs dangled long enough so that her foot only kissed the water below. Her toe traced circles of figure eights and watched it ripple with the blank eyes of someone whose mind was far away. It was back in a restaurant further along the beach from the pier. A place where her name had sat written in a reservation book for weeks only for him not to have come. She sat there at a table by the window and watched the water, waiting for him. The same kitten heel that now traced ripples had tapped under the table, first idly, then impatiently and finally desperately. It had only been days ago late in his bed that she had reminded him of their date. Sitting on the bed's edge buttoning up his shirt she knew he had heard her and was reassured when he finished buttoning and turned to her smiling. “I know, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

But the world was still turning after the third coffee she had ordered and he was two hours late. Escaping the pitying smiles of the staff, to which she could only reply with her own terse ones, she left. And she sat at the edge of the pier, unwilling now to go home to a lonely apartment where come the early hours of the morning she knew he would call. The abrasive ring of her telephone splitting the silence of her room where she lay unable to bring herself to sleep. She liked to pretend that maybe she wasn’t tired, or that the book in her hand was too good to put away but she was waiting for him. Nothing was worse than the nights he didn’t call at all. When at 3 am she admit defeat and curled into bed, and in her dreams, she would imagine the phone ringing.

He lived one floor down the apartment block she lived and after he called she would slip out of her door, barefoot and dressed only in nightclothes save for whatever coat she dragged off her bedroom floor. He always had a record playing when she knocked quietly on his door and slid into his room. There was never much talking. He swept her off her feet and into the bedroom with his strong hands, his generous hands. He never waited long afterward to sit up and put on his clothes. First his pants, always rocking backward so that he was lying on the bed, kicking his feet, jumping the slacks up his legs to get them on, not unlike how a child would. Then he sat on the side edge, back turned to her buttoning his shirt. She never felt so vulnerable as when he turned his back to her. Aware of only the white linen sheet on her skin she always tried desperately to cover herself with it before he turned back to look at her, in a way that was both modest and sexy. She feared nothing greater than upon him turning to face her again, seeing regret in his eyes.

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Written by swatson
Misplaced Affection
The blue water was disturbed by the toe of the quaint kitten heels she had worn. She had gotten dressed up. Sitting at the end of the concrete pier her legs dangled long enough so that her foot only kissed the water below. Her toe traced circles of figure eights and watched it ripple with the blank eyes of someone whose mind was far away. It was back in a restaurant further along the beach from the pier. A place where her name had sat written in a reservation book for weeks only for him not to have come. She sat there at a table by the window and watched the water, waiting for him. The same kitten heel that now traced ripples had tapped under the table, first idly, then impatiently and finally desperately. It had only been days ago late in his bed that she had reminded him of their date. Sitting on the bed's edge buttoning up his shirt she knew he had heard her and was reassured when he finished buttoning and turned to her smiling. “I know, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
But the world was still turning after the third coffee she had ordered and he was two hours late. Escaping the pitying smiles of the staff, to which she could only reply with her own terse ones, she left. And she sat at the edge of the pier, unwilling now to go home to a lonely apartment where come the early hours of the morning she knew he would call. The abrasive ring of her telephone splitting the silence of her room where she lay unable to bring herself to sleep. She liked to pretend that maybe she wasn’t tired, or that the book in her hand was too good to put away but she was waiting for him. Nothing was worse than the nights he didn’t call at all. When at 3 am she admit defeat and curled into bed, and in her dreams, she would imagine the phone ringing.
He lived one floor down the apartment block she lived and after he called she would slip out of her door, barefoot and dressed only in nightclothes save for whatever coat she dragged off her bedroom floor. He always had a record playing when she knocked quietly on his door and slid into his room. There was never much talking. He swept her off her feet and into the bedroom with his strong hands, his generous hands. He never waited long afterward to sit up and put on his clothes. First his pants, always rocking backward so that he was lying on the bed, kicking his feet, jumping the slacks up his legs to get them on, not unlike how a child would. Then he sat on the side edge, back turned to her buttoning his shirt. She never felt so vulnerable as when he turned his back to her. Aware of only the white linen sheet on her skin she always tried desperately to cover herself with it before he turned back to look at her, in a way that was both modest and sexy. She feared nothing greater than upon him turning to face her again, seeing regret in his eyes.


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Written by alexhillcoat in portal Publishing

Loop

I clutched Ears to my chest.

The smell of home was trapped in his pink, polyester fur and I breathed it in deeply, as if that would make everything go back to normal.

But when I peaked up again from behind his long, rabbit ears, I was still in my bedroom that was not my bedroom. I could see my bed, but the blanket was gone and the mattress was chewed and turned grey from dirt and dust. I could see my shelves, but Tail and Stripes and Dots were all gone. I pulled Ears closer as if that could make up for the absence of the others.

I shuffled cautiously towards the window that was not my window. Sure enough, I could see the forest and the lake that surrounded my home on the mountain, but the trees were bigger than I remembered and a thick fog lay across the water. I leaned forwards, frowning, but when I put my weight on my new window frame, the wood crumbled in my fingers, completely rotten.

I fell against the wall, only to shrink back when I realized that the new pink paper was faded and peeling. My hand trembled as I reached up to touch it. What was going on?

I scrambled to my feet, fighting tears. I needed to find Momma. She would know what to do. She always knew what to do.

“It’ll be okay, Ears,” I whispered, taking him by the paw and dragging him beside me “Momma will be in her room. We just need to get to Momma’s room.”

The floorboards creaked in protest as I opened my door that was not my door and crept into the hallway. I tried not to look around, terrified of what might be in the grey shadows that filled this house that was not my house, but my mind still took note of everything that was wrong: half of the stairs had collapsed in, and the mahogany banister was now a feast for termites. The chandelier was missing its crystals and covered in dust so heavy that it fell on me as I walked beneath it. I coughed and tried to pull Ears closer to me, but he wouldn’t move any more. I turned around, whimpering. A shard of wood sticking up from the cracked floors had caught on his stomach. I tugged harder, and harder, and hard, and harder until there came an awful ripping noise, and he flew up towards me.

Shaking, I looked down at the little rabbit, stuffing pouring from the hole that reached from his neck to his legs like blood. I moaned, dropping him on the floor and stumbling backwards. I really had to get Momma now. She had to save my poor, poor Ears.

I forced myself to look away from his mutilated form and scrambled towards her room. I held my hand out to open the door, but it was splintered and attached by only one hinge so, when I pushed it, it simply collapsed inwards in a cloud of dust.

Coughing, I stumbled forwards and landed on my knees next to Momma’s bed. I expected her to react, but everything stayed silent and for a moment I was gripped by the awful realization that she might not even be home. Something was so wrong, the house had fallen into disrepair overnight and now Ears was ripped up in the hallway, what was to say that Momma was here at all?

I looked up at the bed, panicked, and breathed a sigh of relief. She was sitting cross legged on the bed, paler than I remembered but definitely still there. Her head was down, staring emptily at something on her lap. I wiped the tears from my eyes and pulled myself to my feet.

“Momma?” I whispered.

She didn’t move, but that was nothing new. Momma had been acting weird since the baby died and Daddy left.

“Momma?”

Her head jerked up, eyes disoriented as if I had woken her up from a dream, and then settled on me. Her lips twitched as if they were trying to remember how to smile, and some emotion that I didn’t recognize flickered across her face. Not quite dread, but… Grief? Maybe a mix between the two?

“Ears ripped,” I said loudly, as if my voice could stop her from looking so empty.

“Come here, Sweetheart,” Momma said quietly, ignoring my declaration.

Some small part of my mind warned me to stay away, but I pushed it out of my head. This was my mother, and if she told me to come I would come, no matter what. I climbed onto the bed beside her, still slightly uncertain but determined to be a good daughter, and I saw that what she had been looking at was a bottle. She unscrewed it carefully despite her shaking hands, and when she tipped it over pills upon pills upon pills tumbled out.

She motioned for me to cup my hands and I did, and she carefully shook a third of the pile onto my palms, keeping the rest for herself and dropping the empty bottle on the floor.

“What’s going on?” I squirmed uncomfortably, looking longingly at the hallway where my bunny still lay “We have to go rescue Ears.”

“It’s okay,” her voice was slow but determined, “We’re going to see Ears, alright? We’re going to see Ears and we’re going to go to a place where there will be a better mommy who can make you happy.”

I stared up at her, confused. I didn’t want another Momma, I wanted her. She made me happy. I opened my mouth to tell her that, but she shook her head as if she already knew what I was going to say.

“Do you trust me, Dear?”

I nodded mutely, and she looked at me sadly.

“Then don’t question me, okay? This is best for both of us.”

I nodded again, and she gently kissed me on the forehead.

“On the count of three we’re going to swallow all of these candies, okay?”

I didn’t bother to tell her that I knew they were pills: it would only hurt her.

“One…”

I cuddled up beside her, and she put her arms around me.

“Two…”

I felt something wet fall off her cheek and onto mine.

“Three.”

I crammed them all into my mouth, ignoring the bitter taste as they began to dissolve on my tongue. Momma wrapped me in her arms, and I felt her body shaking as she cried and cried and cried.

The edges of the world began to go black and I clutched her arm, shutting my eyes desperately as if I just had to reboot them.

“Something’s wrong, Mommy,” my lip trembled, and I felt tears run down my cheeks, “something’s going wrong.”

“It’s okay, baby. I promise it’s going to be okay.”

I collapsed against her, and terror seized me. Frantic, I tried to push myself back up, tried to move my arm, my leg, anything, but I was suddenly so tired, so, so tired. I began to sob, because it was the only thing I could do.

“We’re going to a better place, my darling,” Momma was sobbing too as she stroked my head “I promise.”

She held me as I stopped being able to open my eyes, as I stopped being able to think, and then, some minutes later, when I finally stopped being able to breathe.

I clutched Ears to my chest.

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Loop
I clutched Ears to my chest.
The smell of home was trapped in his pink, polyester fur and I breathed it in deeply, as if that would make everything go back to normal.
But when I peaked up again from behind his long, rabbit ears, I was still in my bedroom that was not my bedroom. I could see my bed, but the blanket was gone and the mattress was chewed and turned grey from dirt and dust. I could see my shelves, but Tail and Stripes and Dots were all gone. I pulled Ears closer as if that could make up for the absence of the others.
I shuffled cautiously towards the window that was not my window. Sure enough, I could see the forest and the lake that surrounded my home on the mountain, but the trees were bigger than I remembered and a thick fog lay across the water. I leaned forwards, frowning, but when I put my weight on my new window frame, the wood crumbled in my fingers, completely rotten.
I fell against the wall, only to shrink back when I realized that the new pink paper was faded and peeling. My hand trembled as I reached up to touch it. What was going on?
I scrambled to my feet, fighting tears. I needed to find Momma. She would know what to do. She always knew what to do.
“It’ll be okay, Ears,” I whispered, taking him by the paw and dragging him beside me “Momma will be in her room. We just need to get to Momma’s room.”
The floorboards creaked in protest as I opened my door that was not my door and crept into the hallway. I tried not to look around, terrified of what might be in the grey shadows that filled this house that was not my house, but my mind still took note of everything that was wrong: half of the stairs had collapsed in, and the mahogany banister was now a feast for termites. The chandelier was missing its crystals and covered in dust so heavy that it fell on me as I walked beneath it. I coughed and tried to pull Ears closer to me, but he wouldn’t move any more. I turned around, whimpering. A shard of wood sticking up from the cracked floors had caught on his stomach. I tugged harder, and harder, and hard, and harder until there came an awful ripping noise, and he flew up towards me.
Shaking, I looked down at the little rabbit, stuffing pouring from the hole that reached from his neck to his legs like blood. I moaned, dropping him on the floor and stumbling backwards. I really had to get Momma now. She had to save my poor, poor Ears.
I forced myself to look away from his mutilated form and scrambled towards her room. I held my hand out to open the door, but it was splintered and attached by only one hinge so, when I pushed it, it simply collapsed inwards in a cloud of dust.
Coughing, I stumbled forwards and landed on my knees next to Momma’s bed. I expected her to react, but everything stayed silent and for a moment I was gripped by the awful realization that she might not even be home. Something was so wrong, the house had fallen into disrepair overnight and now Ears was ripped up in the hallway, what was to say that Momma was here at all?
I looked up at the bed, panicked, and breathed a sigh of relief. She was sitting cross legged on the bed, paler than I remembered but definitely still there. Her head was down, staring emptily at something on her lap. I wiped the tears from my eyes and pulled myself to my feet.
“Momma?” I whispered.
She didn’t move, but that was nothing new. Momma had been acting weird since the baby died and Daddy left.
“Momma?”
Her head jerked up, eyes disoriented as if I had woken her up from a dream, and then settled on me. Her lips twitched as if they were trying to remember how to smile, and some emotion that I didn’t recognize flickered across her face. Not quite dread, but… Grief? Maybe a mix between the two?
“Ears ripped,” I said loudly, as if my voice could stop her from looking so empty.
“Come here, Sweetheart,” Momma said quietly, ignoring my declaration.
Some small part of my mind warned me to stay away, but I pushed it out of my head. This was my mother, and if she told me to come I would come, no matter what. I climbed onto the bed beside her, still slightly uncertain but determined to be a good daughter, and I saw that what she had been looking at was a bottle. She unscrewed it carefully despite her shaking hands, and when she tipped it over pills upon pills upon pills tumbled out.
She motioned for me to cup my hands and I did, and she carefully shook a third of the pile onto my palms, keeping the rest for herself and dropping the empty bottle on the floor.
“What’s going on?” I squirmed uncomfortably, looking longingly at the hallway where my bunny still lay “We have to go rescue Ears.”
“It’s okay,” her voice was slow but determined, “We’re going to see Ears, alright? We’re going to see Ears and we’re going to go to a place where there will be a better mommy who can make you happy.”
I stared up at her, confused. I didn’t want another Momma, I wanted her. She made me happy. I opened my mouth to tell her that, but she shook her head as if she already knew what I was going to say.
“Do you trust me, Dear?”
I nodded mutely, and she looked at me sadly.
“Then don’t question me, okay? This is best for both of us.”
I nodded again, and she gently kissed me on the forehead.
“On the count of three we’re going to swallow all of these candies, okay?”
I didn’t bother to tell her that I knew they were pills: it would only hurt her.
“One…”
I cuddled up beside her, and she put her arms around me.
“Two…”
I felt something wet fall off her cheek and onto mine.
“Three.”
I crammed them all into my mouth, ignoring the bitter taste as they began to dissolve on my tongue. Momma wrapped me in her arms, and I felt her body shaking as she cried and cried and cried.
The edges of the world began to go black and I clutched her arm, shutting my eyes desperately as if I just had to reboot them.
“Something’s wrong, Mommy,” my lip trembled, and I felt tears run down my cheeks, “something’s going wrong.”
“It’s okay, baby. I promise it’s going to be okay.”
I collapsed against her, and terror seized me. Frantic, I tried to push myself back up, tried to move my arm, my leg, anything, but I was suddenly so tired, so, so tired. I began to sob, because it was the only thing I could do.
“We’re going to a better place, my darling,” Momma was sobbing too as she stroked my head “I promise.”
She held me as I stopped being able to open my eyes, as I stopped being able to think, and then, some minutes later, when I finally stopped being able to breathe.
I clutched Ears to my chest.

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Written by apove in portal Publishing

Imagen

Dear Imagen,

I asked you for a book of poetry.

You gave me the lyrics to never going to give you up.

Dear Imagen,

I asked you for a drop of rebirth in human kind- you gave me a shitting egg.

Dear Imagen,

I asked you for something simple. I asked you for pants.

You gave me Jeggings.

What is this cruelty? What is this monstrosity? In all honesty maybe I made my requests too vague.

So I asked for something ornate.

I asked to make love and write stories on a cloud. You said you'll finger fuck me phonetically in the back alley or maybe make me choke on my chastity poetry charts.

I asked if I could take the syllables from your stories and spiral and string them into a  cocoon of love, I could later wear as a necklace.

You handed me a necklace, it was 20 dollars. With I Love You written on the front. On the back Made in China.

Imagen, I begged for a brush of brilliance. A Crayola of crimson. You gave me lipstick and a pec and said "think before you speak."

So I screamed.

Supersonic!

You gave me superficial.

I asked you for art!

You gave me artificial.

Imagen, how do I get through to you?

You simply shook your head like a weighted spade and said

Give me the flame body thrower

Enough of this grimacing disorder

I want a spring time silhouette of silence

Finish this compliance

Stop putting suck tape between my teeth

Give me an answer! Give me an answer!

Give yourself a reason to be listening to me.

So I asked you for a reason. You agave me a blank page and a religion I did not know the name to.

So, my imagination, Imagen, when I asked you for a way to access without barrier

Naked in my grave

Teeth stung

Body concavedYou gave me a book of poetry.

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Written by apove in portal Publishing
Imagen


Dear Imagen,

I asked you for a book of poetry.

You gave me the lyrics to never going to give you up.

Dear Imagen,


I asked you for a drop of rebirth in human kind- you gave me a shitting egg.

Dear Imagen,
I asked you for something simple. I asked you for pants.
You gave me Jeggings.

What is this cruelty? What is this monstrosity? In all honesty maybe I made my requests too vague.
So I asked for something ornate.


I asked to make love and write stories on a cloud. You said you'll finger fuck me phonetically in the back alley or maybe make me choke on my chastity poetry charts.


I asked if I could take the syllables from your stories and spiral and string them into a  cocoon of love, I could later wear as a necklace.

You handed me a necklace, it was 20 dollars. With I Love You written on the front. On the back Made in China.

Imagen, I begged for a brush of brilliance. A Crayola of crimson. You gave me lipstick and a pec and said "think before you speak."

So I screamed.

Supersonic!
You gave me superficial.

I asked you for art!
You gave me artificial.

Imagen, how do I get through to you?
You simply shook your head like a weighted spade and said
Give me the flame body thrower
Enough of this grimacing disorder
I want a spring time silhouette of silence
Finish this compliance
Stop putting suck tape between my teeth
Give me an answer! Give me an answer!
Give yourself a reason to be listening to me.

So I asked you for a reason. You agave me a blank page and a religion I did not know the name to.

So, my imagination, Imagen, when I asked you for a way to access without barrier
Naked in my grave
Teeth stung
Body concavedYou gave me a book of poetry.


















































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We are a literary agency seeking fresh talent. In 200 words or more, demonstrate your writing talent. We will be in touch with any and all promising participants throughout the rest of this quarter.
Written by cloclo in portal Publishing

Interruptions Plague Xanthe

After dark, the kids tucked up and sleeping, and her sceptical friend parked on the couch with a packet of chocolate biscuits, Xanthe heads out once again. This time, she follows a black hatchback to a bowling alley. She watches as a frizzy blonde head ducks out of the car. The woman stops, tugs on the hem of her sequin mini-skirt, and then teeters across the carpark. She’s only a few steps from the door when a man comes out. She pauses, he walks toward her, she backs her way along the edge of the wall. She clearly knows this man but her body language is hard to read; is she frightened of him? Then he closes the distance between them, drawing her into a long embrace; not fear then. Xanthe snaps some photos and she checks the shots she’s captured. Not conclusive enough, there’s no kissing, nothing that couldn’t be explained away by a quick thinking adulterous as a friendly hug. The right, tell-all photo is so hard to capture. Xanthe watches them enter the building and decides she has nothing to lose by doing the same.

As she’s tucking her camera away – far too obtrusive in a well-lit building – the phone she’s just picked up to act as proxy begins to ring. ‘Jesus Christ.’ She slams the steering wheel with her palm and her car gives a short, strangled toot. ‘Shit.’ Thank God the suspected couple already gone inside. ‘Hello, Mother. What can I do for you?’

‘Xanthe, I called the house. Imagine my surprise when Grace answered your phone.’

‘Yes, she’s fully capable and equipped to answer phones Mother, I’m not sure why that gave you such a fright.’

‘Oh, don’t be ridiculous. I was merely surprised to find that you weren’t home. And at night, while your husband’s out of town.’

Crap. Xanthe hasn’t thought of a cover story, she’d never had to formulate one before. No one was ever shocked to find a twenty-something single woman out at night, that never begged explanation. She checks her watch. ‘Mother, I’m sitting in a gym car park right now trying to recover from forty-five minutes of cardio that I swear came close to killing me. If you have something you want to say, can you just get on with it.’ It doesn’t occur to her that Grace could have given her mother any alternative explanation in the world for her absence.

‘Grace told me you were picking up groceries.’ Her tone is smug.

‘After the gym Mother. I’m hardly going to leave bags of food to defrost in the boot of my car while I sweat my ass off, am I?’

‘Oh, don’t be vulgar.’

‘Again, why are you calling?’

‘No reason in particular, can’t I just call my daughter? Do I need a permit?’

Xanthe takes a deep, patient breath. ‘Well I must be going now and it’s dangerous to drive while on the phone so, goodbye.’

‘Just one more thing, I was driving past your place today and I noticed your lawn was looking a little dry. I know Mike’s away and you so hate yard work, but would it kill you to turn the hose onto it?’

‘Goodbye Mother.’ Xanthe hangs up.

In this short exchange, though justifiably distracted, Xanthe has been watching the door of the bowling alley to make sure her targets remain inside. She gathers her bag now – turning her mischievous phone to silent – and sets about her waylaid chore.

The fluorescent lights inside the building take Xanthe some adjusting to as she steps in from the steadily darkening parking lot. She takes in the scene, which can be summarized as sparsely populated and more than a little depressing. Three lanes are in use; players are slumped on seats in various states of engagement/drunkenness. She had hoped for a busier, more vibrant atmosphere, one that would provide more cover for a solo woman who has no intention of bowling tonight. The advantage is, though, that Xanthe can more easily spot her frizzy blonde. In a booth against the far wall, she manages to do just that. The male companion is nowhere to be seen and the woman is engrossed in the screen of her phone but this is a start at least. Xanthe must now find a way to blend into the scenery, she goes with the obvious choice, a seat at the bar.

‘Vodka lime and soda please.’ One drink won’t hurt. Xanthe takes the stool right at the end of the bar, nestled next to the wall. She can prop herself against it – most of the people here are propped against something – and swivel her head for a full view of the room, more specifically, frizzy blonde Sonia. She turns her attention now to locating Sonia's male companion but given the poor lighting outside, she can’t be sure which, if any of the men loitering around the place, is him. She must watch and wait to see who joins Sonia in the booth. Xanthe sips at her drink and stares listlessly around the room. She fits right in.

Finally, a man walking in Xanthe’s direction sparks some recognition but almost immediately thereafter she registers that this is not the man she is trying to spot, this is not a man she hopes ever to spot, anywhere. He sidles up to her and leans across the bar. ‘How’s it going my love?’ he asks her, his tone teasing. ‘Wasn’t expecting to see you here.’

‘Shane,’ is all she gives him in reply.

He orders a drink and stubbornly stays put. Xanthe looks anywhere but him wondering how this night could possibly get any worse. Just then, she spots the man from the parking lot. She’s sure it’s him and this is confirmed when he walks over to Sonia’s booth and slides in cosily next to her. There’s no inconspicuous way to get footage now with this oaf by Xanthe’s side. She can’t give away her reason for being here, her target. The strongest motivation for an investigator to keep their dealings to themselves is reserved for bitter rivals.

‘You’re looking bloody fantastic might I say?’ Her antagonist gives her an appreciative appraisal.

It’s far from appreciated by Xanthe. ‘Look, Shane, I’ve just been talking to my mother on the phone and that’s been more than enough hell for one day; I’m really not in the mood.’

‘I’m just sayin’, couple of kids and you still got it. Most women aren’t so lucky.’

‘Is there a reason your still here?’

He throws his hands up in disbelief, almost toppling his beer, which he deftly steadies in the next move. ‘Can’t I enjoy the company of a beautiful colleague? What the hell’s this world coming to? Feminists, that’s the problem. Can’t even look at a woman now without them feeling violated.’

‘Last time we ran into each other Shane you tried to set the room on fire, with me in it, I find it hard to believe you suddenly enjoy my company.’

‘Yeah, but things were different then, weren’t they? Times were tougher, competition was fierce.’ He draws the last word out, giving it a sleazy quality that makes Xanthe shudder.

‘How’s it any different now? I guess you’ve gathered I’m not here because it’s my favourite hangout? You’re many things Shane Mason but unobservant isn’t one of them.’

He gives her a sharp-toothed grin. ‘Oh, how things have changed my sweet, you just paid me a compliment.’

‘Come on, either tell me why you’re talking to me and getting in the way of my business, or piss off.’

He raises his palms in defence now. ‘Hey, hey, settle petal. Look, competition isn’t as brutal as it used to be is all I’m saying. I’ve got work coming out my ears, I couldn’t care less if you’re back on the scene. Heck, I’ll send some your way.’

‘Why?’ Xanthe asks trying to sound far less interested than she is.

Shane misunderstands which part of that she’s questioning. ‘Ever since the latest gangs rolled into town the competition has, well, dropped off, so to speak. Pyro 9’s, Darts, couple other smaller ones, they all streamed in about the same time thinking there was all this relatively untouched territory for the taking. They didn’t count on each other, see. Within a week two-thirds of this town’s PI’s were hired by one gang or another to dig up dirt on their rivals. Within a month, two-thirds of this town’s PI’s had turned up dead. Extremely dead.’

‘I read the papers.’

‘Yeah? Well, it was something else living through it. What a change in the marketplace.’ He laughs here and Xanthe fights the urge to punch him squarely in the balls. ‘It’s true what they say, survival of the fittest and all that. I knew it was a bad move to take on that shit and it turned out to be not only my saving grace but my considerable vocational advancement.’

Xanthe is surprised Shane knows such big words. ‘So, you don’t care what I do now because you’ve got more than enough work, too much in fact.’

‘Exactly.’ He winks.

‘In that case Shane, as much as I’ve loved catching up, how about you fuck off and let me get on with the work you don’t mind me doing?’

He chuckles. ‘Always did have a mouth on ya.’ He gets up from his stool. ‘I’ll be leaving you to it then precious. Tell you what, you give me a call if you ever want me to liaise on anything.’ He tilts an invisible hat and makes his way toward the front door.

‘Asshole,’ Xanthe mutters under her breath. She turns her attention back to the booth now only to find it empty. She frantically scans the massive room but finds no sign of Sonia or her man. ‘Fucking asshole,’ she corrects.

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Interruptions Plague Xanthe
After dark, the kids tucked up and sleeping, and her sceptical friend parked on the couch with a packet of chocolate biscuits, Xanthe heads out once again. This time, she follows a black hatchback to a bowling alley. She watches as a frizzy blonde head ducks out of the car. The woman stops, tugs on the hem of her sequin mini-skirt, and then teeters across the carpark. She’s only a few steps from the door when a man comes out. She pauses, he walks toward her, she backs her way along the edge of the wall. She clearly knows this man but her body language is hard to read; is she frightened of him? Then he closes the distance between them, drawing her into a long embrace; not fear then. Xanthe snaps some photos and she checks the shots she’s captured. Not conclusive enough, there’s no kissing, nothing that couldn’t be explained away by a quick thinking adulterous as a friendly hug. The right, tell-all photo is so hard to capture. Xanthe watches them enter the building and decides she has nothing to lose by doing the same.
As she’s tucking her camera away – far too obtrusive in a well-lit building – the phone she’s just picked up to act as proxy begins to ring. ‘Jesus Christ.’ She slams the steering wheel with her palm and her car gives a short, strangled toot. ‘Shit.’ Thank God the suspected couple already gone inside. ‘Hello, Mother. What can I do for you?’
‘Xanthe, I called the house. Imagine my surprise when Grace answered your phone.’
‘Yes, she’s fully capable and equipped to answer phones Mother, I’m not sure why that gave you such a fright.’
‘Oh, don’t be ridiculous. I was merely surprised to find that you weren’t home. And at night, while your husband’s out of town.’
Crap. Xanthe hasn’t thought of a cover story, she’d never had to formulate one before. No one was ever shocked to find a twenty-something single woman out at night, that never begged explanation. She checks her watch. ‘Mother, I’m sitting in a gym car park right now trying to recover from forty-five minutes of cardio that I swear came close to killing me. If you have something you want to say, can you just get on with it.’ It doesn’t occur to her that Grace could have given her mother any alternative explanation in the world for her absence.
‘Grace told me you were picking up groceries.’ Her tone is smug.
‘After the gym Mother. I’m hardly going to leave bags of food to defrost in the boot of my car while I sweat my ass off, am I?’
‘Oh, don’t be vulgar.’
‘Again, why are you calling?’
‘No reason in particular, can’t I just call my daughter? Do I need a permit?’
Xanthe takes a deep, patient breath. ‘Well I must be going now and it’s dangerous to drive while on the phone so, goodbye.’
‘Just one more thing, I was driving past your place today and I noticed your lawn was looking a little dry. I know Mike’s away and you so hate yard work, but would it kill you to turn the hose onto it?’
‘Goodbye Mother.’ Xanthe hangs up.
In this short exchange, though justifiably distracted, Xanthe has been watching the door of the bowling alley to make sure her targets remain inside. She gathers her bag now – turning her mischievous phone to silent – and sets about her waylaid chore.
The fluorescent lights inside the building take Xanthe some adjusting to as she steps in from the steadily darkening parking lot. She takes in the scene, which can be summarized as sparsely populated and more than a little depressing. Three lanes are in use; players are slumped on seats in various states of engagement/drunkenness. She had hoped for a busier, more vibrant atmosphere, one that would provide more cover for a solo woman who has no intention of bowling tonight. The advantage is, though, that Xanthe can more easily spot her frizzy blonde. In a booth against the far wall, she manages to do just that. The male companion is nowhere to be seen and the woman is engrossed in the screen of her phone but this is a start at least. Xanthe must now find a way to blend into the scenery, she goes with the obvious choice, a seat at the bar.
‘Vodka lime and soda please.’ One drink won’t hurt. Xanthe takes the stool right at the end of the bar, nestled next to the wall. She can prop herself against it – most of the people here are propped against something – and swivel her head for a full view of the room, more specifically, frizzy blonde Sonia. She turns her attention now to locating Sonia's male companion but given the poor lighting outside, she can’t be sure which, if any of the men loitering around the place, is him. She must watch and wait to see who joins Sonia in the booth. Xanthe sips at her drink and stares listlessly around the room. She fits right in.
Finally, a man walking in Xanthe’s direction sparks some recognition but almost immediately thereafter she registers that this is not the man she is trying to spot, this is not a man she hopes ever to spot, anywhere. He sidles up to her and leans across the bar. ‘How’s it going my love?’ he asks her, his tone teasing. ‘Wasn’t expecting to see you here.’
‘Shane,’ is all she gives him in reply.
He orders a drink and stubbornly stays put. Xanthe looks anywhere but him wondering how this night could possibly get any worse. Just then, she spots the man from the parking lot. She’s sure it’s him and this is confirmed when he walks over to Sonia’s booth and slides in cosily next to her. There’s no inconspicuous way to get footage now with this oaf by Xanthe’s side. She can’t give away her reason for being here, her target. The strongest motivation for an investigator to keep their dealings to themselves is reserved for bitter rivals.
‘You’re looking bloody fantastic might I say?’ Her antagonist gives her an appreciative appraisal.
It’s far from appreciated by Xanthe. ‘Look, Shane, I’ve just been talking to my mother on the phone and that’s been more than enough hell for one day; I’m really not in the mood.’
‘I’m just sayin’, couple of kids and you still got it. Most women aren’t so lucky.’
‘Is there a reason your still here?’
He throws his hands up in disbelief, almost toppling his beer, which he deftly steadies in the next move. ‘Can’t I enjoy the company of a beautiful colleague? What the hell’s this world coming to? Feminists, that’s the problem. Can’t even look at a woman now without them feeling violated.’
‘Last time we ran into each other Shane you tried to set the room on fire, with me in it, I find it hard to believe you suddenly enjoy my company.’
‘Yeah, but things were different then, weren’t they? Times were tougher, competition was fierce.’ He draws the last word out, giving it a sleazy quality that makes Xanthe shudder.
‘How’s it any different now? I guess you’ve gathered I’m not here because it’s my favourite hangout? You’re many things Shane Mason but unobservant isn’t one of them.’
He gives her a sharp-toothed grin. ‘Oh, how things have changed my sweet, you just paid me a compliment.’
‘Come on, either tell me why you’re talking to me and getting in the way of my business, or piss off.’
He raises his palms in defence now. ‘Hey, hey, settle petal. Look, competition isn’t as brutal as it used to be is all I’m saying. I’ve got work coming out my ears, I couldn’t care less if you’re back on the scene. Heck, I’ll send some your way.’
‘Why?’ Xanthe asks trying to sound far less interested than she is.
Shane misunderstands which part of that she’s questioning. ‘Ever since the latest gangs rolled into town the competition has, well, dropped off, so to speak. Pyro 9’s, Darts, couple other smaller ones, they all streamed in about the same time thinking there was all this relatively untouched territory for the taking. They didn’t count on each other, see. Within a week two-thirds of this town’s PI’s were hired by one gang or another to dig up dirt on their rivals. Within a month, two-thirds of this town’s PI’s had turned up dead. Extremely dead.’
‘I read the papers.’
‘Yeah? Well, it was something else living through it. What a change in the marketplace.’ He laughs here and Xanthe fights the urge to punch him squarely in the balls. ‘It’s true what they say, survival of the fittest and all that. I knew it was a bad move to take on that shit and it turned out to be not only my saving grace but my considerable vocational advancement.’
Xanthe is surprised Shane knows such big words. ‘So, you don’t care what I do now because you’ve got more than enough work, too much in fact.’
‘Exactly.’ He winks.
‘In that case Shane, as much as I’ve loved catching up, how about you fuck off and let me get on with the work you don’t mind me doing?’
He chuckles. ‘Always did have a mouth on ya.’ He gets up from his stool. ‘I’ll be leaving you to it then precious. Tell you what, you give me a call if you ever want me to liaise on anything.’ He tilts an invisible hat and makes his way toward the front door.
‘Asshole,’ Xanthe mutters under her breath. She turns her attention back to the booth now only to find it empty. She frantically scans the massive room but finds no sign of Sonia or her man. ‘Fucking asshole,’ she corrects.

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We are a literary agency seeking fresh talent. In 200 words or more, demonstrate your writing talent. We will be in touch with any and all promising participants throughout the rest of this quarter.
Written by CBR

The Muse

The needle slipped into her arm, and the vial flooded red. Gretchen watched it, this flow of unmitigated truth. Next to her, the woman in wrinkled blue scrubs smiled.

“You’re my last draw for the day, Ms. Collier,” the woman said. Her name tag read Sandee Johnson. “Then I’m off to see my grandbaby at Heckscher Playground, make the most of this beautiful weather.”

This last statement, a bit of irrelevancy disguised as small talk, was meant to distract from the blood draw, as was Sandee Johnson’s smile: twin rows of gleaming white Chiclets in a kind black face. It was a medical professional’s smile: the mouth resolutely cheerful (never mind that hypodermic needle), the eyes soft and reserved (in somber acknowledgement of whatever Sandee Johnson imagined Gretchen’s circumstances to be, not that it was any of her business). When the woman’s gentle scrutiny lingered a beat too long, Gretchen made a show of dropping her own eyes and tightening her lips into a pitiable expression before turning her face away.

Of course Sandee Johnson could not possibly suspect the real reason behind Gretchen’s blood work. But truth was not part of this game. Sandee Johnson fished for something, and so Gretchen gave something to her. She allowed herself a glance back at her phlebotomist, and was satisfied to find a ghost of pity in the woman’s furrowed brows. Her satisfaction was cut short by the realization she’d promised to stop playing such games. It was true what they said about old habits.

“That’s lovely: a visit to the park with your grandchild,” Gretchen said, engaging with Sandee Johnson as reparation. How false, how American she sounded. She gestured toward the lab’s skylight, where a rectangle of blue sky could be seen. “You’re right about it being a beautiful day.”

Sandee Johnson smiled again, genuinely this time, her eyes filled with love for a grandbaby at the playground.

“No grandchildren for you though, Ms. Collier, huh? You can’t be old enough.”

“Maybe someday.”

Did this mundane conversation set things right? Gretchen couldn’t tell. Reparation, penance, amends. It was all a new endeavor, one brought on by a voice through a metal grate. Now, her blood continued to spill into the vial, bright and full of promise. The rubber tourniquet pinched Gretchen’s bicep, and she sat immobilized on the lab’s cushioned, thick-armed, elevated throne, saying nothing further.

She’d done a different kind of tongue holding on the phone with the lawyer two weeks earlier. His accent over the line saying Brooklyn to her the way her own likely had said Somewhere-in-France to him, he’d requested she bring to his office all relevant documents. She’d said nothing at all for three full seconds before uttering a breathy, “Got it,” as if she’d been taking it all down on paper. Her silence made one implication, and her response another. Gretchen had no relevant documents. But what mattered—securing the appointment—had been achieved.

She’d walked into that lawyer’s office carrying a red leather tote large enough to contain relevant documents. She wore shoes that implied she could afford to pay for this consultation. Her hair—its scattered grays purposely untouched—she wore twisted back in a way that said she was sincere and trustworthy. She’d also painted her lips full and red in the event all else failed.

The lawyer, Jonathan Bellerman, had the graying temples of an early forty-something expecting to be taken seriously. He’d rested his elbows on his cliché of a mahogany desk and teepeed his fingertips together in a gesture of sincerity and professional interest.

“You are here, Ms. Collier,” he’d said in his stickball-on-Ditmas-Avenue accent, his pen scratching across a notepad on his desk, “because you seek to establish paternity—for your own father, is that correct?

Gretchen did not parrot “correct” back at him but only nodded, once.

“You anticipate he will deny your claim. I’m guessing there is an estate he’s interested in protecting?”

“I imagine there is. The man in question is Marty Murphy. The writer?”

The lawyer blinked, a micro-reaction. “I just read the piece on his book in The New Yorker: ‘The Muse Turns Fifty.’ The article did say he’d fallen ill.”

“He is terminally ill.”

The words were all but legible in the lawyer’s eyes: gold digger. Mr. Bellerman clicked the pen in his fingers, once, twice, three times, and then set it down on the pad.

“You should know I am not an estate lawyer, Ms. Collier, but I could refer you to one.”

“I don’t need an estate lawyer. I am not doing this to gain an inheritance, Mr. Bellerman.” Gretchen watched the man conceal a dubious expression behind a new finger teepee. This was the problem with the truth. It sounded too much like a lie.

The lawyer’s hands dropped open. “May I ask why you are doing it?”

She would not say penance. “My father is dying alone in a hospital, Mr. Bellerman. I’m his daughter, and I have no legal access to him. Not even to say goodbye.”

Mr. Bellerman’s expression wavered between doubt and sympathy before squaring again into lawyerly professionalism.

“All right,” he said. “You want to visit him. Are you aware that the federal regulations for patient visitation rights have changed? You don’t need to be blood-related to visit sick loved ones in the hospital.”

“Well, I am aware that visitation privileges must be granted by the patient—or his representative. You don’t have to have read the article in the New Yorker to know my father has been a recluse since The Muse was published. That was, what—1961? His privacy has been fiercely guarded by the same attorney for decades. My guess is any number of crazed Marty Murphy fans would like to ogle the man on his deathbed. You think his lawyer will freely grant a stranger visitation?”

The muscles worked in Mr. Bellerman’s cheeks. “Probably not.”

“If we were in any other state in this country, I could pluck a hair from my father’s hairbrush and send it off to a lab. But we are in New York State, where a paternity test can only legally be ordered by a doctor, a court, or a lawyer.”

“You sound awfully confident about the test results. Are you prepared for the media circus if you’re wrong? Or for the matter, if you’re right?”

“I’m not interested in subjecting my father to the public he detests,” Gretchen said. “If his attorney agrees to a paternity test, I will keep the test and its results private for as long as he is alive, and possibly longer. On the other hand, if my father’s attorney does not agree to the test, then, yes, I’m willing to go into the spotlight. I have nothing to lose by going to the media.”

She had everything to lose by going to the media. But Mr. Bellerman’s hungry look revealed twin facts: first, he would indeed represent her. And second, her threat of going to the media would likely be sufficient to keep her out of it. She, for whom everything hung in a delicate balance.

“Not all lies are harmful,” she’d told the priest.

“Justifying a lie does not change its nature. A lie is a lie, whether a white lie or a whopper.” Gretchen had not liked Father Silva’s use of the word “whopper.” It sounded too foreign in his Brazilian mouth. More, “whopper” implied something gratuitous, which no serious supplanting of the truth ever was. “Whopper” suggested an arbitrary act, freely chosen. It did not evoke that sense of your back against the wall.

“Surely there are degrees of lies, just as there are degrees of sins,” she’d answered back into the shadows beyond the grate. “Venial, mortal?”

“If mortal sin is the house, then venial sins are the front steps,” said Father Silva. “The same with small lies and big lies. No one just appears in a house. You must first go up the steps.”

Releasing the tourniquet, Sandee Johnson drew back her needle and attempted to divert Gretchen’s attention with a cotton ball and a bandage and a stream of chatter as she capped the vial of Gretchen’s blood. Gretchen unrolled her sleeve and imagined this vial winding up next to that of her father’s on a metal lab table, where a technician would discover the commonality in their white blood cells, how the links in their respective chains of DNA told the same exact story.

It was mere formality, this test. It was for the satisfaction of lawyers and, possibly, of courts. It was a confirmation of what Gretchen already knew. The truth about the lie they’d lived these many years.

Mr. Bellerman managed to arrange a trip for her to the hospital to witness the blood being drawn from her father. The emaciated and liver-spotted Marty Murphy lay under a hospital blanket, connected to beeping machinery and tubes of narcotics, and when the needle had gone into his arm, his eyes simply opened as if waking from a nap. These eyes, which had rested upon hers just one other time in their lives, looked at her again with the same stunned expression of recognition, and as the lawyers looked on in amazement, the writer infamous for his refusal to speak to strangers murmured to her in the faintest, hoarsest French, “You’ve come.”

The lawyers might or might not have spoken French, and they certainly could not have known the remarkable resemblance between Gretchen and her mother, but they could not have missed the import of Marty Murphy speaking in Gretchen’s native language. The lawyers shifted uncomfortably in their upholstered hospital chairs and looked over at her as she held the gaze of the man in the bed and answered,

Oui. Je suis ici.” I am here.

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We are a literary agency seeking fresh talent. In 200 words or more, demonstrate your writing talent. We will be in touch with any and all promising participants throughout the rest of this quarter.
Written by CBR
The Muse
The needle slipped into her arm, and the vial flooded red. Gretchen watched it, this flow of unmitigated truth. Next to her, the woman in wrinkled blue scrubs smiled.
“You’re my last draw for the day, Ms. Collier,” the woman said. Her name tag read Sandee Johnson. “Then I’m off to see my grandbaby at Heckscher Playground, make the most of this beautiful weather.”
This last statement, a bit of irrelevancy disguised as small talk, was meant to distract from the blood draw, as was Sandee Johnson’s smile: twin rows of gleaming white Chiclets in a kind black face. It was a medical professional’s smile: the mouth resolutely cheerful (never mind that hypodermic needle), the eyes soft and reserved (in somber acknowledgement of whatever Sandee Johnson imagined Gretchen’s circumstances to be, not that it was any of her business). When the woman’s gentle scrutiny lingered a beat too long, Gretchen made a show of dropping her own eyes and tightening her lips into a pitiable expression before turning her face away.
Of course Sandee Johnson could not possibly suspect the real reason behind Gretchen’s blood work. But truth was not part of this game. Sandee Johnson fished for something, and so Gretchen gave something to her. She allowed herself a glance back at her phlebotomist, and was satisfied to find a ghost of pity in the woman’s furrowed brows. Her satisfaction was cut short by the realization she’d promised to stop playing such games. It was true what they said about old habits.
“That’s lovely: a visit to the park with your grandchild,” Gretchen said, engaging with Sandee Johnson as reparation. How false, how American she sounded. She gestured toward the lab’s skylight, where a rectangle of blue sky could be seen. “You’re right about it being a beautiful day.”
Sandee Johnson smiled again, genuinely this time, her eyes filled with love for a grandbaby at the playground.
“No grandchildren for you though, Ms. Collier, huh? You can’t be old enough.”
“Maybe someday.”
Did this mundane conversation set things right? Gretchen couldn’t tell. Reparation, penance, amends. It was all a new endeavor, one brought on by a voice through a metal grate. Now, her blood continued to spill into the vial, bright and full of promise. The rubber tourniquet pinched Gretchen’s bicep, and she sat immobilized on the lab’s cushioned, thick-armed, elevated throne, saying nothing further.

She’d done a different kind of tongue holding on the phone with the lawyer two weeks earlier. His accent over the line saying Brooklyn to her the way her own likely had said Somewhere-in-France to him, he’d requested she bring to his office all relevant documents. She’d said nothing at all for three full seconds before uttering a breathy, “Got it,” as if she’d been taking it all down on paper. Her silence made one implication, and her response another. Gretchen had no relevant documents. But what mattered—securing the appointment—had been achieved.
She’d walked into that lawyer’s office carrying a red leather tote large enough to contain relevant documents. She wore shoes that implied she could afford to pay for this consultation. Her hair—its scattered grays purposely untouched—she wore twisted back in a way that said she was sincere and trustworthy. She’d also painted her lips full and red in the event all else failed.
The lawyer, Jonathan Bellerman, had the graying temples of an early forty-something expecting to be taken seriously. He’d rested his elbows on his cliché of a mahogany desk and teepeed his fingertips together in a gesture of sincerity and professional interest.
“You are here, Ms. Collier,” he’d said in his stickball-on-Ditmas-Avenue accent, his pen scratching across a notepad on his desk, “because you seek to establish paternity—for your own father, is that correct?
Gretchen did not parrot “correct” back at him but only nodded, once.
“You anticipate he will deny your claim. I’m guessing there is an estate he’s interested in protecting?”
“I imagine there is. The man in question is Marty Murphy. The writer?”
The lawyer blinked, a micro-reaction. “I just read the piece on his book in The New Yorker: ‘The Muse Turns Fifty.’ The article did say he’d fallen ill.”
“He is terminally ill.”
The words were all but legible in the lawyer’s eyes: gold digger. Mr. Bellerman clicked the pen in his fingers, once, twice, three times, and then set it down on the pad.
“You should know I am not an estate lawyer, Ms. Collier, but I could refer you to one.”
“I don’t need an estate lawyer. I am not doing this to gain an inheritance, Mr. Bellerman.” Gretchen watched the man conceal a dubious expression behind a new finger teepee. This was the problem with the truth. It sounded too much like a lie.
The lawyer’s hands dropped open. “May I ask why you are doing it?”
She would not say penance. “My father is dying alone in a hospital, Mr. Bellerman. I’m his daughter, and I have no legal access to him. Not even to say goodbye.”
Mr. Bellerman’s expression wavered between doubt and sympathy before squaring again into lawyerly professionalism.
“All right,” he said. “You want to visit him. Are you aware that the federal regulations for patient visitation rights have changed? You don’t need to be blood-related to visit sick loved ones in the hospital.”
“Well, I am aware that visitation privileges must be granted by the patient—or his representative. You don’t have to have read the article in the New Yorker to know my father has been a recluse since The Muse was published. That was, what—1961? His privacy has been fiercely guarded by the same attorney for decades. My guess is any number of crazed Marty Murphy fans would like to ogle the man on his deathbed. You think his lawyer will freely grant a stranger visitation?”
The muscles worked in Mr. Bellerman’s cheeks. “Probably not.”
“If we were in any other state in this country, I could pluck a hair from my father’s hairbrush and send it off to a lab. But we are in New York State, where a paternity test can only legally be ordered by a doctor, a court, or a lawyer.”
“You sound awfully confident about the test results. Are you prepared for the media circus if you’re wrong? Or for the matter, if you’re right?”
“I’m not interested in subjecting my father to the public he detests,” Gretchen said. “If his attorney agrees to a paternity test, I will keep the test and its results private for as long as he is alive, and possibly longer. On the other hand, if my father’s attorney does not agree to the test, then, yes, I’m willing to go into the spotlight. I have nothing to lose by going to the media.”
She had everything to lose by going to the media. But Mr. Bellerman’s hungry look revealed twin facts: first, he would indeed represent her. And second, her threat of going to the media would likely be sufficient to keep her out of it. She, for whom everything hung in a delicate balance.

“Not all lies are harmful,” she’d told the priest.
“Justifying a lie does not change its nature. A lie is a lie, whether a white lie or a whopper.” Gretchen had not liked Father Silva’s use of the word “whopper.” It sounded too foreign in his Brazilian mouth. More, “whopper” implied something gratuitous, which no serious supplanting of the truth ever was. “Whopper” suggested an arbitrary act, freely chosen. It did not evoke that sense of your back against the wall.
“Surely there are degrees of lies, just as there are degrees of sins,” she’d answered back into the shadows beyond the grate. “Venial, mortal?”
“If mortal sin is the house, then venial sins are the front steps,” said Father Silva. “The same with small lies and big lies. No one just appears in a house. You must first go up the steps.”

Releasing the tourniquet, Sandee Johnson drew back her needle and attempted to divert Gretchen’s attention with a cotton ball and a bandage and a stream of chatter as she capped the vial of Gretchen’s blood. Gretchen unrolled her sleeve and imagined this vial winding up next to that of her father’s on a metal lab table, where a technician would discover the commonality in their white blood cells, how the links in their respective chains of DNA told the same exact story.
It was mere formality, this test. It was for the satisfaction of lawyers and, possibly, of courts. It was a confirmation of what Gretchen already knew. The truth about the lie they’d lived these many years.

Mr. Bellerman managed to arrange a trip for her to the hospital to witness the blood being drawn from her father. The emaciated and liver-spotted Marty Murphy lay under a hospital blanket, connected to beeping machinery and tubes of narcotics, and when the needle had gone into his arm, his eyes simply opened as if waking from a nap. These eyes, which had rested upon hers just one other time in their lives, looked at her again with the same stunned expression of recognition, and as the lawyers looked on in amazement, the writer infamous for his refusal to speak to strangers murmured to her in the faintest, hoarsest French, “You’ve come.”
The lawyers might or might not have spoken French, and they certainly could not have known the remarkable resemblance between Gretchen and her mother, but they could not have missed the import of Marty Murphy speaking in Gretchen’s native language. The lawyers shifted uncomfortably in their upholstered hospital chairs and looked over at her as she held the gaze of the man in the bed and answered,
Oui. Je suis ici.” I am here.

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Written by KRShiflett

Avenging Angels

                                                                  Canvas

In the dimensions of the boundaries of Heaven and Hell, imagine a sphere. This particular sphere is composed of the most translucent material, yet holds the components needed for existence. Within the sphere, there lie three levels. Underneath each of these levels is a transparent, glass-like material, through which each of the other levels can be seen. The first level is known as Heaven, this is naturally where my father resides in all his greatness and power, along with the remainder of my siblings. Within Heaven, there were rumored to be seven dimensions. However, each level served a purpose, and only housed those who belonged to that particular purpose. I myself was told that I resided on the fifth dimension; and had only ever been allowed outside for random trips into the Garden. I wasn't at the time sure of which way the dimensions ascended, or what level my father called his dwelling. All I knew is that whenever I was needed, I was found and that suited me just fine.

The second level is home to Eden; a beautiful garden created for the pure and innocent souls to reside within. This regrettably did not last, my brother becoming jealous of man and our father's adoration of them. Lucifer seduced the wife of Adam, and allured her into eating the forbidden fruit; they were no longer allowed to remain in the garden. Their purity being stolen; my father created a world to place his creations on as a form of punishment for disobeying him. He placed the world on a pedestal in a room of pure white. It was glorious and tantalizing, every angel wanted to delve inside, but alas we were forbidden. He still loved his creations, he loved them enough to give them choices, unfortunately giving the beings the right of free-will made for an intriguing outcome. Darkness consumed some of the mundane folk, and this created wickedness. Father also made the mistake of giving Lucifer the gift of human emotion, which caused heaven and earth a bit of chaos. The gift my father gave to his favorite son bore him two grandsons, or at least that's the human term for what they were called. Half human and half angel these beings lived in heaven, unable to live in the mundane realm. Years later they would be the cause of much chaos and destruction.

My sister had once told me about the humans whose souls she so gracefully cared for. She described how gentle she was, and how each was temperamental to its environment, and that the sustainability of every human soul depended on a delicate balance. Each piece of beautiful light used to make the soul needed to be tended to in the most loving manner, as to not prematurely tarnish its essence. I had never seen the soul of a human. I had not wanted to. I was content with creating them, molding them with my hands, and making them appear beautiful on the outside. Their inner workings seemed to be none of my concern; otherwise, father would have allowed me the pleasure of attending to them as well. But alas, he did not. My specified job was to outline each person's appearance, as their names appeared on the scroll I kept open inside of my chambers. The only information ever directly given to me was their name, from there it was up to me to adventitiously create the rest of their natural born lives from my head. Unlike the majority of my siblings who were also in the occupation of working with humans, I only had this interaction with them. After the sculpting was finished, and the plans drawn in the most delicate manner, they disappeared from my sight, never to be seen again. I had never seen a human living, moving, or breathing for that matter. All I was allowed were the lifeless shells. This confinement earned me my name. The name I was given upon creation was long gone among my siblings; to them, I was Canvas. I was told that this was a human term for a blank space used for creating the next masterpiece of the artist. The name seemed to enthrall my brothers and sisters; and therefore, it stayed.

I remember receiving the orders to create Adam and his lady, Eve. My siblings had only been warned about Adam, father however knew that Adam was going to need a companion in his paradise. Thus I produced Eve the same time as I produced Adam. This was the first time I had worked with clay. I couldn't help but like how it felt beneath my fingers. Once beginning to create the pieces, I was shocked to find that I knew exactly how to manipulate the substance to produce exactly what I wanted. I held them in the chambers that father had created for me, and hid them from the curious eyes of my siblings on the other side of the door. When father came to examine them, he complemented me on my efforts, and took Adam away with him. Eve remained in my chambers, lifeless and beautiful. I marveled at my handy-work; admiring the way that the human women would look. Immediately I stopped myself, realizing what I was doing and left the room, hanging my head in shame. I went to find my father to ask when Eve would be moved, however to my dismay; it seemed my beautiful artwork would remain hidden in my chambers until Adam was ready. He wanted Adam to realize on his own what he wanted. My father was lenient in that manner. He allowed every being he created to have the pleasure of freedom; no matter how dangerous the idea might be.

To humans, time is of the essence, however, as for angels, time does not exist. In an endless eternity, father had intended us to live a blissful and serene existence. But when Lucifer's son decided to turn against us; the peaceful oblivion was shattered; like glass hitting an unforgiving pavement. Our 'time' had become about doing what was necessary, and more importantly keeping Lucas at bay and away from innocent souls. After Adam and Eve; I received more names; and more images in my head begging to be crafted from the clay. From the start, I couldn't tell which of the vessels that I molded would turn to wickedness or which ones would remain loyal to my father. It was some time after making my 400th vessel that I understood the meaning of the name I had been given; I created canvases. Each of these bodies were blank canvases that a soul would eventually paint, making them human. Because of my father's gift of free will, there were endless opportunities that would make each canvas unique and unlike any other in all of creation. I suppose in this way, humans had the advantage. To be their own person, and to lead a life they chose to live; even if only for a little while.

Deep inside of me, I knew something big was coming; and my emotions reacted strangely to this. In human terms, I guess the feeling would be called fear. Yes, I was afraid. I wasn't sure what it was, or when it was going to happen; but I was afraid for the outcome. I feared for the humans, for the choices they were making and where it would land them when this was all over; but mostly, I feared for my brother. Call it what you may, but Lucifer never meant to create this mess. As the story is told on earth; he was indeed the most beautiful angel inside and out. However, the day that father made man, something changed inside him. Jealously overtook his demeanor at first, and his soul darkened, as if the fire that had created us burned the goodness inside of him to ash. But when Mary intervened, he was changed. His love for her saved him in a way that is unexplained to my kind. It was even harder to imagine that our father had allowed this without having some ulterior motive. For once I wished that I could ask questions; but to question father was blasphemy. So I sat in silence, wondering the possible outcomes of the war, and questioning my nephews unknown mission.

                                                              Lucifer 

"Mary come back to bed love, it is far too late for this argument." Lucifer said looking at his adorable lover with her arms crossed over her chest and lips formed into a pout. His essence heated at the sight of her; he could never love another being more. "I do not understand why it is that you will not tell me where it is that you go every night. I think you have found another lover, one better suited, one less... fat." She pouted, looking down at her enlarged tummy. Lucifer laughed, unable to contain his amusement. "You are pregnant my darling, and beautifully so... please come now and stop this nonsense. How could I even think of another when the most beautiful woman is carrying my children? Come Mary, you must sleep, and I am late." "Late for what?" she questioned, her eyes looking to his for answers. "In time my love I will tell you everything... now come you must sleep, if not for yourself, for me, and our children." They looked into each other's eyes for what seemed like eternity. Finally, Mary gave in and slid into her bed, nestled next to Lucifer. He rubbed her back gently as she fell into a peaceful sleep, her hands cradling her stomach. Lucifer watched her as she slept, so completely and utterly in love with this human woman he could barely contain his natural state within his vessel. He pushed her hair from her face and kissed her forehead. Soon he would tell her everything, soon he wouldn't have to keep secrets from the people he cared for most in this existence. He rose from the bed and left Mary sleeping, walking outside under the sky. Stripping down to his bare human skin he raised his arms to the sky and ascended to heaven.

***

The room was brilliantly white, pristine, and empty. In the center stood a pedestal with a sphere sitting directly in the middle, twirling slowly. There was a light fog coming from the sphere, making the room hazy in comparison to the clear hall outside. Lucifer appeared before the sphere, his seraph form towering overhead. He sighed, feeling his wings stretch out behind him. Time was different between heaven and earth; this fact alone had kept his secret. He could spend hours with Mary and be gone only minutes in Heaven. The reverse was very dangerous... too long in heaven could be days and weeks away from Mary and his unborn children. Surely, he would never forgive himself if something were to happen to them while he was here, playing caretaker. Lost in his thoughts Lucifer didn't realize that another had crept into the room.

"Father has been looking everywhere for you brother, have you been a bad boy again, canoodling with the mortal women? Tsk Tsk... you know that he does not like it when you do so." Casius said folding his arms across his broad chest.

Lucifer turned to his brother, smirking. "Excuse me brother, I have things to do." He said placing a hand on his brother's shoulder and walking from the room briskly.

Casius watched him leave, unable to shake the uneasy feeling that Lucifer was putting off these last few days. He was hiding something, but Casius knew better than to go meddling in Lucifer's business. Though created equal, they all knew that Lucifer would always stand out to their father as the brightest and in turn had been given the most power, the most fire. Unjust as it was, no one ever questioned it, and Casius would not be the first.

***

He did not have much time before he had to be back. It was nearly dawn on Earth, and Mary would awaken soon, looking for him. He descended each staircase with reason behind his quickened pace. When he reached the end of the narrow path he quickly flipped the hatch and dropped, landing on his feet in the middle of the garden.

Lucifer walked directly to the next hatch, unable to look at the souls of the young children playing by the stream. Tending to Eden had been his punishment for the jealousy he had shown Adam and Eve; and at first it was not torturous. The garden, fueled by the holy fire below, was abandoned for a while after his father placed his mortal creations on earth; and Lucifer performed his duties in peace. However, after a few mundane years passed, the world became a different place, and children began to die, their souls never reaching maturity, never reaching their full potential. God decided to place those tender souls in the garden, unsure of what to do with them. Day by day the children lived the same life, never changing, never moving forward; their humanity pushed far beyond anything Lucifer had ever seen. They were a pleasantry at first, Lucifer's second chance to love the mortal kind as his father, but soon it became uncomfortable. It was in the nature of human souls to move forward, to progress, and for those taken before their time were stuck. Of course they were blissfully unaware of their own discontent, never fully aware of why they had such a melancholy nature if one spent too much time with them. But Lucifer could see their flaws and sorrows. He had often mentioned his thoughts to his father of ending their suffering, or at least trying to recycle them through the loop. However, every conversation ended the same. Though his father had great power, Lucifer knew that his father did not have the heart to destroy anything he had created.

Descending down the final staircase Lucifer came to the bottom of the sphere, the darkness curling around the transparent bottom, before him the fire dwindled, and the room was ice cold. He planted his feet firmly on the ground and raised his hands out in front of him. Holy-fire fueled the garden, and Lucifer fueled the holy-fire. He poured his being into the flames, rekindling the almost diminished inferno, and it soared to the ceiling, its warmth quickly spreading around the room. Nodding to himself at a job well done he ascended quickly, careful to avoid the children once more and headed back to Mary.

As Lucifer stood over earth and descended down, Casius stood in the background, watching his brother leave heaven once more for earth.

***

Mary was screaming; a painful, blood curdling scream. She was lying across the bed, legs bent and spread apart, breathing heavily in between her outbursts. Sweat poured from her, dripping down her face and back. Lucifer watched, unable to do anything but comfort her as she struggled to push out the first. The midwife from the village a few miles from them gathered pans of water and tools that the blacksmith had prepared in the event of an emergency. Quietly the woman worked and Mary screamed, blood flowing out of her. A few minutes passed and the cry of Lucifer's first born filled the room. "You have a son." The midwife prompted as she hurriedly cleaned the infant and passed him to Lucifer. Lucifer looked down at the tiny human; feeling a strange emotion pour out of his vessel. Mary screamed again, the woman prompting her to keep pushing. In time the second child came in the world silent and pondering. The nurse looked over the infant who was not initially crying as most babies do. Astonished, she found that everything with the infant was well. "Another son." She said, breaking her silence. She passed the second baby to Lucifer and rushed to tend to Mary. Lucifer looked at the two little beings in his arms, unable to fathom how such beautiful creatures had come from his love for Mary. He considered each of their dark eyes, both children silent as they watched their father watch them. Lucifer had never felt so much emotion in his throughout his being. He looked back to Mary, still cradling their infant sons. She smiled weakly at him, loving the sight of the man she adored most holding their sons proudly. Mary was dying, and she knew, but the sight of the man she loved being truly over joyed at children that their love had created gave her the peace she needed to pass easily. She closed her eyes and sighed; a great light flashed, and the room was empty.

***

Lucifer flinched as he hit the floor with a loud thud. He was no longer in a room with Mary and his sons, but standing before his father alone and empty-handed. He bowed his head in silence. "Where are they?" he asked softly. His secret had been found and Mary and the children were gone. "I have taken Mary, wiped her sin and her memory of you; the children are with Zophiel and Canvas, being cared for. And you, where are you? Why did you? You knew my plans for Mary, for the human race... why have you done this Lucifer, my morning star, my son, deliberately disobeying my orders for the benefit of your lust and fantasy." Lucifer could not answer him. He was ashamed, not for his actions, but for his negligence to keep Mary and the children a better-hidden secret. His love for Mary was not wrong, it couldn't be. The way that he felt when he was with her, his desire to worship and protect her fragile mortality could not be a sin. "Father, with all due respect to your authority and power, I believe that you have misjudged me and my intentions. I love her with my entire being, more than love than I have ever expressed to my kind. How can this be wrong?" Lucifer pleaded, staring up at his father. "You disobeyed me, that is why you are wrong. I have given all of my creations the power of free will, the chance to choose what is right over what is wrong. By disobeying me, you have dishonored me. I do not know how to punish you Lucifer. Stay away from Mary, away from the mortals, do not go back to earth my son." God said unable to look his son in the eyes. He strode from the room and Lucifer sank to his knees and began to cry.

***

Months had passed on earth; Lucifer was certain of that. In Heaven there was no sense of time, but Lucifer was attuned to Mary's life. He longed to lie with her as she slept, to see her smile up at him when she awoke. He missed her, the space in his chest throbbing with pain and longing. He stayed in the garden, sulking and glum, away from the other angels and away from his father. He could not stand to be around his brothers and their impassive behaviors, just continuously performing their duties as if nothing else mattered, no one else mattered. Lucifer had never felt as they did. It was the one thing that God damned his favorite son with. He allowed Lucifer the gift of emotion, the gift Lucifer saw as a curse. He could not control anything he felt anymore, his mind wandering with details of everything he had ever experienced with Mary and of earth. For the second time in his existence, Lucifer felt the jealous of the mortal kind; envious that they could express their love and affections to those around them and have the feelings returned. He jolted up feeling his anger throughout his being and ascended up.

***

Time passed, and passed, and passed, and the pain inside him wouldn't arrest to any of its usual vices. He had left a trail of destruction. So many women he had used, so many things he had destroyed in his anger. He had fled heaven and was living life a refugee on earth, spending half his time drunk on earthly substances, the other half wrapped in the arms of someone who would never satisfy him. Stumbling through a village, his mundane clothes all too warm for his vessel that was surely over heating at this point. He walked through the city, his mind still fresh with the thoughts of Mary and how he longed to be loved by her once more. Looking ahead Lucifer stopped abruptly, causing the person coming from behind him to bump his shoulders from behind. A disgruntled apology was thrown out as the passerby went around him. Lucifer's attention to the interaction was frayed. In front of him Mary stood, talking to a peddler and picking up fruit. Her kind face displaying her warm smile. She was beautiful. Lucifer wanted to call out her name, to run to her and never let her go. As he fought with his mind on how to react the scene became clearer to him. A man stood behind Mary, his arms placed lovingly at her sides. Her stomach was round, just as before, but this time it was not Lucifer's child. Mary was happy and pregnant, beautiful and radiant, and in love with another man. Lucifer choked back any words that he was about to call out, and a mutilated sound left his mouth as if he were voicing the pain that he felt in his soul. His knees buckled, and he began a slow descent to the ground only to feel arms around him and a great white light flash.

Mary looked up, feeling that someone was watching her, only to see an empty street and peddlers retreating carts heading home for the day.

***

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Written by KRShiflett
Avenging Angels
                                                                  Canvas
In the dimensions of the boundaries of Heaven and Hell, imagine a sphere. This particular sphere is composed of the most translucent material, yet holds the components needed for existence. Within the sphere, there lie three levels. Underneath each of these levels is a transparent, glass-like material, through which each of the other levels can be seen. The first level is known as Heaven, this is naturally where my father resides in all his greatness and power, along with the remainder of my siblings. Within Heaven, there were rumored to be seven dimensions. However, each level served a purpose, and only housed those who belonged to that particular purpose. I myself was told that I resided on the fifth dimension; and had only ever been allowed outside for random trips into the Garden. I wasn't at the time sure of which way the dimensions ascended, or what level my father called his dwelling. All I knew is that whenever I was needed, I was found and that suited me just fine.

The second level is home to Eden; a beautiful garden created for the pure and innocent souls to reside within. This regrettably did not last, my brother becoming jealous of man and our father's adoration of them. Lucifer seduced the wife of Adam, and allured her into eating the forbidden fruit; they were no longer allowed to remain in the garden. Their purity being stolen; my father created a world to place his creations on as a form of punishment for disobeying him. He placed the world on a pedestal in a room of pure white. It was glorious and tantalizing, every angel wanted to delve inside, but alas we were forbidden. He still loved his creations, he loved them enough to give them choices, unfortunately giving the beings the right of free-will made for an intriguing outcome. Darkness consumed some of the mundane folk, and this created wickedness. Father also made the mistake of giving Lucifer the gift of human emotion, which caused heaven and earth a bit of chaos. The gift my father gave to his favorite son bore him two grandsons, or at least that's the human term for what they were called. Half human and half angel these beings lived in heaven, unable to live in the mundane realm. Years later they would be the cause of much chaos and destruction.

My sister had once told me about the humans whose souls she so gracefully cared for. She described how gentle she was, and how each was temperamental to its environment, and that the sustainability of every human soul depended on a delicate balance. Each piece of beautiful light used to make the soul needed to be tended to in the most loving manner, as to not prematurely tarnish its essence. I had never seen the soul of a human. I had not wanted to. I was content with creating them, molding them with my hands, and making them appear beautiful on the outside. Their inner workings seemed to be none of my concern; otherwise, father would have allowed me the pleasure of attending to them as well. But alas, he did not. My specified job was to outline each person's appearance, as their names appeared on the scroll I kept open inside of my chambers. The only information ever directly given to me was their name, from there it was up to me to adventitiously create the rest of their natural born lives from my head. Unlike the majority of my siblings who were also in the occupation of working with humans, I only had this interaction with them. After the sculpting was finished, and the plans drawn in the most delicate manner, they disappeared from my sight, never to be seen again. I had never seen a human living, moving, or breathing for that matter. All I was allowed were the lifeless shells. This confinement earned me my name. The name I was given upon creation was long gone among my siblings; to them, I was Canvas. I was told that this was a human term for a blank space used for creating the next masterpiece of the artist. The name seemed to enthrall my brothers and sisters; and therefore, it stayed.

I remember receiving the orders to create Adam and his lady, Eve. My siblings had only been warned about Adam, father however knew that Adam was going to need a companion in his paradise. Thus I produced Eve the same time as I produced Adam. This was the first time I had worked with clay. I couldn't help but like how it felt beneath my fingers. Once beginning to create the pieces, I was shocked to find that I knew exactly how to manipulate the substance to produce exactly what I wanted. I held them in the chambers that father had created for me, and hid them from the curious eyes of my siblings on the other side of the door. When father came to examine them, he complemented me on my efforts, and took Adam away with him. Eve remained in my chambers, lifeless and beautiful. I marveled at my handy-work; admiring the way that the human women would look. Immediately I stopped myself, realizing what I was doing and left the room, hanging my head in shame. I went to find my father to ask when Eve would be moved, however to my dismay; it seemed my beautiful artwork would remain hidden in my chambers until Adam was ready. He wanted Adam to realize on his own what he wanted. My father was lenient in that manner. He allowed every being he created to have the pleasure of freedom; no matter how dangerous the idea might be.

To humans, time is of the essence, however, as for angels, time does not exist. In an endless eternity, father had intended us to live a blissful and serene existence. But when Lucifer's son decided to turn against us; the peaceful oblivion was shattered; like glass hitting an unforgiving pavement. Our 'time' had become about doing what was necessary, and more importantly keeping Lucas at bay and away from innocent souls. After Adam and Eve; I received more names; and more images in my head begging to be crafted from the clay. From the start, I couldn't tell which of the vessels that I molded would turn to wickedness or which ones would remain loyal to my father. It was some time after making my 400th vessel that I understood the meaning of the name I had been given; I created canvases. Each of these bodies were blank canvases that a soul would eventually paint, making them human. Because of my father's gift of free will, there were endless opportunities that would make each canvas unique and unlike any other in all of creation. I suppose in this way, humans had the advantage. To be their own person, and to lead a life they chose to live; even if only for a little while.

Deep inside of me, I knew something big was coming; and my emotions reacted strangely to this. In human terms, I guess the feeling would be called fear. Yes, I was afraid. I wasn't sure what it was, or when it was going to happen; but I was afraid for the outcome. I feared for the humans, for the choices they were making and where it would land them when this was all over; but mostly, I feared for my brother. Call it what you may, but Lucifer never meant to create this mess. As the story is told on earth; he was indeed the most beautiful angel inside and out. However, the day that father made man, something changed inside him. Jealously overtook his demeanor at first, and his soul darkened, as if the fire that had created us burned the goodness inside of him to ash. But when Mary intervened, he was changed. His love for her saved him in a way that is unexplained to my kind. It was even harder to imagine that our father had allowed this without having some ulterior motive. For once I wished that I could ask questions; but to question father was blasphemy. So I sat in silence, wondering the possible outcomes of the war, and questioning my nephews unknown mission.
                                                              Lucifer 
"Mary come back to bed love, it is far too late for this argument." Lucifer said looking at his adorable lover with her arms crossed over her chest and lips formed into a pout. His essence heated at the sight of her; he could never love another being more. "I do not understand why it is that you will not tell me where it is that you go every night. I think you have found another lover, one better suited, one less... fat." She pouted, looking down at her enlarged tummy. Lucifer laughed, unable to contain his amusement. "You are pregnant my darling, and beautifully so... please come now and stop this nonsense. How could I even think of another when the most beautiful woman is carrying my children? Come Mary, you must sleep, and I am late." "Late for what?" she questioned, her eyes looking to his for answers. "In time my love I will tell you everything... now come you must sleep, if not for yourself, for me, and our children." They looked into each other's eyes for what seemed like eternity. Finally, Mary gave in and slid into her bed, nestled next to Lucifer. He rubbed her back gently as she fell into a peaceful sleep, her hands cradling her stomach. Lucifer watched her as she slept, so completely and utterly in love with this human woman he could barely contain his natural state within his vessel. He pushed her hair from her face and kissed her forehead. Soon he would tell her everything, soon he wouldn't have to keep secrets from the people he cared for most in this existence. He rose from the bed and left Mary sleeping, walking outside under the sky. Stripping down to his bare human skin he raised his arms to the sky and ascended to heaven.

***

The room was brilliantly white, pristine, and empty. In the center stood a pedestal with a sphere sitting directly in the middle, twirling slowly. There was a light fog coming from the sphere, making the room hazy in comparison to the clear hall outside. Lucifer appeared before the sphere, his seraph form towering overhead. He sighed, feeling his wings stretch out behind him. Time was different between heaven and earth; this fact alone had kept his secret. He could spend hours with Mary and be gone only minutes in Heaven. The reverse was very dangerous... too long in heaven could be days and weeks away from Mary and his unborn children. Surely, he would never forgive himself if something were to happen to them while he was here, playing caretaker. Lost in his thoughts Lucifer didn't realize that another had crept into the room.

"Father has been looking everywhere for you brother, have you been a bad boy again, canoodling with the mortal women? Tsk Tsk... you know that he does not like it when you do so." Casius said folding his arms across his broad chest.

Lucifer turned to his brother, smirking. "Excuse me brother, I have things to do." He said placing a hand on his brother's shoulder and walking from the room briskly.

Casius watched him leave, unable to shake the uneasy feeling that Lucifer was putting off these last few days. He was hiding something, but Casius knew better than to go meddling in Lucifer's business. Though created equal, they all knew that Lucifer would always stand out to their father as the brightest and in turn had been given the most power, the most fire. Unjust as it was, no one ever questioned it, and Casius would not be the first.

***

He did not have much time before he had to be back. It was nearly dawn on Earth, and Mary would awaken soon, looking for him. He descended each staircase with reason behind his quickened pace. When he reached the end of the narrow path he quickly flipped the hatch and dropped, landing on his feet in the middle of the garden.

Lucifer walked directly to the next hatch, unable to look at the souls of the young children playing by the stream. Tending to Eden had been his punishment for the jealousy he had shown Adam and Eve; and at first it was not torturous. The garden, fueled by the holy fire below, was abandoned for a while after his father placed his mortal creations on earth; and Lucifer performed his duties in peace. However, after a few mundane years passed, the world became a different place, and children began to die, their souls never reaching maturity, never reaching their full potential. God decided to place those tender souls in the garden, unsure of what to do with them. Day by day the children lived the same life, never changing, never moving forward; their humanity pushed far beyond anything Lucifer had ever seen. They were a pleasantry at first, Lucifer's second chance to love the mortal kind as his father, but soon it became uncomfortable. It was in the nature of human souls to move forward, to progress, and for those taken before their time were stuck. Of course they were blissfully unaware of their own discontent, never fully aware of why they had such a melancholy nature if one spent too much time with them. But Lucifer could see their flaws and sorrows. He had often mentioned his thoughts to his father of ending their suffering, or at least trying to recycle them through the loop. However, every conversation ended the same. Though his father had great power, Lucifer knew that his father did not have the heart to destroy anything he had created.

Descending down the final staircase Lucifer came to the bottom of the sphere, the darkness curling around the transparent bottom, before him the fire dwindled, and the room was ice cold. He planted his feet firmly on the ground and raised his hands out in front of him. Holy-fire fueled the garden, and Lucifer fueled the holy-fire. He poured his being into the flames, rekindling the almost diminished inferno, and it soared to the ceiling, its warmth quickly spreading around the room. Nodding to himself at a job well done he ascended quickly, careful to avoid the children once more and headed back to Mary.

As Lucifer stood over earth and descended down, Casius stood in the background, watching his brother leave heaven once more for earth.

***

Mary was screaming; a painful, blood curdling scream. She was lying across the bed, legs bent and spread apart, breathing heavily in between her outbursts. Sweat poured from her, dripping down her face and back. Lucifer watched, unable to do anything but comfort her as she struggled to push out the first. The midwife from the village a few miles from them gathered pans of water and tools that the blacksmith had prepared in the event of an emergency. Quietly the woman worked and Mary screamed, blood flowing out of her. A few minutes passed and the cry of Lucifer's first born filled the room. "You have a son." The midwife prompted as she hurriedly cleaned the infant and passed him to Lucifer. Lucifer looked down at the tiny human; feeling a strange emotion pour out of his vessel. Mary screamed again, the woman prompting her to keep pushing. In time the second child came in the world silent and pondering. The nurse looked over the infant who was not initially crying as most babies do. Astonished, she found that everything with the infant was well. "Another son." She said, breaking her silence. She passed the second baby to Lucifer and rushed to tend to Mary. Lucifer looked at the two little beings in his arms, unable to fathom how such beautiful creatures had come from his love for Mary. He considered each of their dark eyes, both children silent as they watched their father watch them. Lucifer had never felt so much emotion in his throughout his being. He looked back to Mary, still cradling their infant sons. She smiled weakly at him, loving the sight of the man she adored most holding their sons proudly. Mary was dying, and she knew, but the sight of the man she loved being truly over joyed at children that their love had created gave her the peace she needed to pass easily. She closed her eyes and sighed; a great light flashed, and the room was empty.

***

Lucifer flinched as he hit the floor with a loud thud. He was no longer in a room with Mary and his sons, but standing before his father alone and empty-handed. He bowed his head in silence. "Where are they?" he asked softly. His secret had been found and Mary and the children were gone. "I have taken Mary, wiped her sin and her memory of you; the children are with Zophiel and Canvas, being cared for. And you, where are you? Why did you? You knew my plans for Mary, for the human race... why have you done this Lucifer, my morning star, my son, deliberately disobeying my orders for the benefit of your lust and fantasy." Lucifer could not answer him. He was ashamed, not for his actions, but for his negligence to keep Mary and the children a better-hidden secret. His love for Mary was not wrong, it couldn't be. The way that he felt when he was with her, his desire to worship and protect her fragile mortality could not be a sin. "Father, with all due respect to your authority and power, I believe that you have misjudged me and my intentions. I love her with my entire being, more than love than I have ever expressed to my kind. How can this be wrong?" Lucifer pleaded, staring up at his father. "You disobeyed me, that is why you are wrong. I have given all of my creations the power of free will, the chance to choose what is right over what is wrong. By disobeying me, you have dishonored me. I do not know how to punish you Lucifer. Stay away from Mary, away from the mortals, do not go back to earth my son." God said unable to look his son in the eyes. He strode from the room and Lucifer sank to his knees and began to cry.

***

Months had passed on earth; Lucifer was certain of that. In Heaven there was no sense of time, but Lucifer was attuned to Mary's life. He longed to lie with her as she slept, to see her smile up at him when she awoke. He missed her, the space in his chest throbbing with pain and longing. He stayed in the garden, sulking and glum, away from the other angels and away from his father. He could not stand to be around his brothers and their impassive behaviors, just continuously performing their duties as if nothing else mattered, no one else mattered. Lucifer had never felt as they did. It was the one thing that God damned his favorite son with. He allowed Lucifer the gift of emotion, the gift Lucifer saw as a curse. He could not control anything he felt anymore, his mind wandering with details of everything he had ever experienced with Mary and of earth. For the second time in his existence, Lucifer felt the jealous of the mortal kind; envious that they could express their love and affections to those around them and have the feelings returned. He jolted up feeling his anger throughout his being and ascended up.

***

Time passed, and passed, and passed, and the pain inside him wouldn't arrest to any of its usual vices. He had left a trail of destruction. So many women he had used, so many things he had destroyed in his anger. He had fled heaven and was living life a refugee on earth, spending half his time drunk on earthly substances, the other half wrapped in the arms of someone who would never satisfy him. Stumbling through a village, his mundane clothes all too warm for his vessel that was surely over heating at this point. He walked through the city, his mind still fresh with the thoughts of Mary and how he longed to be loved by her once more. Looking ahead Lucifer stopped abruptly, causing the person coming from behind him to bump his shoulders from behind. A disgruntled apology was thrown out as the passerby went around him. Lucifer's attention to the interaction was frayed. In front of him Mary stood, talking to a peddler and picking up fruit. Her kind face displaying her warm smile. She was beautiful. Lucifer wanted to call out her name, to run to her and never let her go. As he fought with his mind on how to react the scene became clearer to him. A man stood behind Mary, his arms placed lovingly at her sides. Her stomach was round, just as before, but this time it was not Lucifer's child. Mary was happy and pregnant, beautiful and radiant, and in love with another man. Lucifer choked back any words that he was about to call out, and a mutilated sound left his mouth as if he were voicing the pain that he felt in his soul. His knees buckled, and he began a slow descent to the ground only to feel arms around him and a great white light flash.

Mary looked up, feeling that someone was watching her, only to see an empty street and peddlers retreating carts heading home for the day.

***

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We are a literary agency seeking fresh talent. In 200 words or more, demonstrate your writing talent. We will be in touch with any and all promising participants throughout the rest of this quarter.
Written by writerjess in portal Publishing

When Reality Fades...

We stood there, on the edge of life. Watching as time and people passed around us. 

There, we witnessed the hustle and bustle of a big city on a weekday morning. We saw dogs barking and car horns blaring. A bell dinged as another busy customer entered a shop for their morning coffee. A man ran from the police with a duffle bag over his shoulder and a can of spray paint staining his right hand. The raspy voice of a busker with an acoustic guitar traveled through the bitter, cold air. 

Human beings in heavy jackets and woolen scarves shouldered past each other without noticing what an image they were painting for stragglers like us. That's what they did, fixate on how other people think of them without ever noticing other people. Everyone lived in survival mode, no different from their animalistic ancestors, gallivanting on a mission to success, to happiness, to fulfillment. 

I thought that life was a lot like being stranded in the middle of the ocean, with only a canoe to hold you up. You have a goal in mind, the tropical island with sandy beaches and vibrant fruits to make your mouth water, but you have no way of telling which direction will get you there. You look to the sky for assistance but realize you don't know how to navigate the stars. You look to the movement under the water but you can't tell where the dolphins are and where the sharks are. You can't stay still so you row on and on and on 

and on

and on.

I supposed it's unfair that even the ones who make it drown some day. But maybe even islanders get bored eventually, finding themselves longing for their days traversing the turbulent waves. 

Here, on the edge of life, we could watch the journey's of endless new faces with the same stories, and pretend we weren't just condemned canoers. 

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We are a literary agency seeking fresh talent. In 200 words or more, demonstrate your writing talent. We will be in touch with any and all promising participants throughout the rest of this quarter.
Written by writerjess in portal Publishing
When Reality Fades...
We stood there, on the edge of life. Watching as time and people passed around us. 

There, we witnessed the hustle and bustle of a big city on a weekday morning. We saw dogs barking and car horns blaring. A bell dinged as another busy customer entered a shop for their morning coffee. A man ran from the police with a duffle bag over his shoulder and a can of spray paint staining his right hand. The raspy voice of a busker with an acoustic guitar traveled through the bitter, cold air. 

Human beings in heavy jackets and woolen scarves shouldered past each other without noticing what an image they were painting for stragglers like us. That's what they did, fixate on how other people think of them without ever noticing other people. Everyone lived in survival mode, no different from their animalistic ancestors, gallivanting on a mission to success, to happiness, to fulfillment. 

I thought that life was a lot like being stranded in the middle of the ocean, with only a canoe to hold you up. You have a goal in mind, the tropical island with sandy beaches and vibrant fruits to make your mouth water, but you have no way of telling which direction will get you there. You look to the sky for assistance but realize you don't know how to navigate the stars. You look to the movement under the water but you can't tell where the dolphins are and where the sharks are. You can't stay still so you row on and on and on 

and on

and on.

I supposed it's unfair that even the ones who make it drown some day. But maybe even islanders get bored eventually, finding themselves longing for their days traversing the turbulent waves. 

Here, on the edge of life, we could watch the journey's of endless new faces with the same stories, and pretend we weren't just condemned canoers. 

#nonfiction  #philosophy  #opinion 
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