Double Down Deceit
Shhh! I may be considered a predator or a psychopath, but I take pride in being a harvester of humanity. You might say that I just nibble around the edges of lives. The profilers believe I’m a male because of the manner in which the bodies are mutilated. All of them are wrong. If you saw me walking down the street, you would think I was a beautiful young woman with my stiletto heels and my sexy blue dress which matches my cornflower blue eyes. My skin is so lush that you would be tempted to drink it, inhaling it into your body. I don’t have to wear makeup because of my natural creamy coloring and blushing cheeks. My dark lashed eyes seem to look into your soul. But make no mistake – there is no feeling inside me.
Every man I have ever met wants me, except for this one. He just doesn’t seem interested which makes him more intriguing. I have seen him with women so I know he is not gay. Since I always need to be in control, I am determined to watch him and follow him until I can fulfill my desires. I have never felt any empathy for any of my victims and he will not be any different. I know that I am more intelligent than he is and I will have my way. Usually, I kill them after a sexual assignation but I don’t think this will be the case with him. He is completely oblivious to me as I lurk in dark corners, waiting for him to be alone and unwary. It’s worth it to take my time in order to get what I want. Power is my aphrodisiac and I am excited and alert.
Tonight, I am outside watching his outline against the fluttering curtains in his bedroom. I linger on thoughts of sex with him but it would be all for my benefit since I give nothing in return. I haven’t perfected my plan yet but he will be mine. I observe his shadow leave his bedroom and head toward the kitchen which I can’t see fully. I know it is there, though, because I have been in his apartment, rifling through his drawers as I learn all about him. I like to be prepared for all contingencies. I figure that he must be getting a snack because he is taking a long time.
I hear a slight snap behind me and whirl around to see my prey holding a gun which he jams into my stomach. I am not afraid because this slow motion stalking needed to come to a head.
“Turn around and march straight forward to my apartment door,” he commands as he nudges me with his weapon.
I twirl around and do as he says. Why should I confront him now when everything is working out well, although not as I planned? He herds me into his bedroom and tells me to remove my clothes. His eyes move upward as I reveal my full lush breasts and wet my lips with my tongue. I have him exactly where I want him. I am so aroused because this is just like my first blind date! But, in reality, he is the one who is blind to the danger that I promise.
I kick his gun out of his fist with my shapely legs and hurl my body over the weapon. I roll over with the gun in my hands and shoot him between the eyes. Now the fun will begin. I walk to the bedroom door to go to the kitchen to get some knives to complete my handiwork but I find the door is self-locking and of such sturdy construction that I am unable to kick it open. I race to the window and find bars over the panes. I panic for a moment as I realize I can’t get out. I have no weapons other than the gun and try to shoot out the door knob but it doesn’t budge. His apartment is isolated and there is no one around to call for help.
What is an entrapped psychopath to do? I am beginning to get hungry and thirsty and must come up with a plan for my survival. I claw at his body with my sharp nails until I have an opening in his femoral artery, lower my head and begin drinking my fill. When my thirst is quenched, I begin to tear chunks of his flesh with my teeth, chewing them until I am able to swallow them down. There is plenty here to sustain me for a while. It does bother me a little that when they find our skeletons, they will think he was the predator. I want them all to know that I deserve the credit for this. I dip my fingers in his blood and begin penning a note on his floor, telling the world that I want the fame and the glory to be attributed to me. I have satisfaction in knowing I will go down in history as the greatest female killer of all time.
“He must have forced her to write it,” the detectives said when they found the remains. “That poor innocent young woman.”
a smile cannot convey much emotion,
as one can be a simple facade,
their mind can be full of commotion,
telling them that they are very, very, flawed
ask any actor about their acts,
they will all tell you that they are all fake,
and when they can’t take it, they will be very lax,
so when you don’t see someone, assume they need a break
a disguise for one can be varied from few to many,
from a smile to a laugh, to excitement over an event,
but for sure there are quite a plenty,
they are always, always frequent, and always with intent
many people are easily fooled by these,
a smile can easily hide tears and sadness,
but to catch on to a mask, it is not a breeze
and it will certainly lead you into one’s madness
Dust in the Attic
There’s a chest in the attic that doesn’t have a lock and doesn’t need one, because nobody ever opens it. The chest is old and wooden and there are cobwebs stretched around its outsides like stakes holding a tent in place against the wind. To the left of the chest is an old lamp with no lightbulb and a few sets of old pictures, tucked away in boxes. Sometimes Maria will bring a flashlight with her up to the attic and shuffle through the pictures, just to look and remember. One day, she thinks, she’ll put them all into a giant photo album to be passed down through generations. For now, it’s hard to look for too long.
Maria doesn’t touch the chest because she believes there is nothing in it, so there isn’t. But one day, Maria leaves for a weekend shift and forgets that the stairway leading up to the attic hasn’t been pushed back into the ceiling and hidden away like it usually is.
She’s managed to raise a curious daughter.
Maria encourages any and all questions, because she knows that allowing fourteen-year-old Elena to be privy to every tiny detail about her father and about the war he never came back from is the best way to keep her from running off to find her own answers. Maria never lies, but she doesn’t say everything, either. Mostly because that would be far too complicated and far too much.
But then she leaves the stairway to the attic open.
There’s never been a rule against Elena going up there, she simply never has. But it’s Sunday and all of her homework is done and it is one of those rare, rainy Los Angeles days. And Mom left for work and Elena is bored. And the stairway is right there. So she climbs up, and she finds the boxes full of photos. She’s seen them all before, but only a few times when she’d asked for them.
“It’s not good to lose yourself to memories, mija,” her mother had explained. “We hold onto him because he deserves to be remembered and because we will always miss him, but we do not fall so far into the past that we forget that we are here without him now. That we have our own stories to continue writing.”
Elena shuffles through the pictures, listening to the steady drum of raindrops on the roof. She tucks a piece of dark hair behind her ear, nose twitching a little at the dust settling around her. If there were any ghosts in the attic, they would perhaps smile at how similar Maria and Elena look when they get lost within their thoughts. Elena bites her lip the way her mother does, settles her spine against the wooden chest, and lets herself picture what it felt like when Dad used to hold her.
It is Sunday and all of her homework is done and her mother is at work and outside the rain still falls, so Elena does not brush at the tears that slide down her cheeks as she stares at each picture. When she's done, she places the photos back into their boxes and slides them back beside the lamp without a lightbulb. And then she turns to look more closely at the chest she’d been leaning against, brushing away the cobwebs until she can see the small, metal nameplate on the front: Daniel A. Badilla.
She smoothes her fingers reverently across her father’s name, pondering. And then, with a wary breath, she opens the chest.
The air shimmers and bends, and Elena can see small, rippling waves forming in the dust in the space above the chest. The dustmites twirl around each other like sparks from a fire curling up into the wind, except they do not disappear into the air. Instead, they solidify and take shape, twisting and swirling as Elena watches, open-mouthed.
And then he is there, and he is more than a photograph.
Her father smiles at her, and Elena can feel new tears sliding down her cheeks before she even forms a coherent thought about what’s just happened. And it must be an illusion, a dream, a fevered wish she’s urged to life inside the confines of her own head. It’s a stupid instinct, but all Elena can think to do is pinch herself. Hard. She is halfway through gasping at the unexpected sharpness of her own fingernails when the sound of her father’s booming laughter stops her short. She blinks up at him, shaking her head, and his laughter fades to a small, sad smile that pulls at the corner of his right lip in just the way she remembers.
“Don’t hurt yourself, mija,” he says. For some reason, Elena thinks he should be wearing his uniform. Instead, he is in dark jeans and a faded Black Sabbath T-shirt that Elena knows is tucked away in the upper-right hand corner of her closet. Sometimes it still smells like him if she holds it close and breathes deep enough.
“Papá?” she whispers, afraid that the dustmotes will suddenly decide to scatter apart, leaving nothing but empty space. But the mirage of her father remains, and it nods. Elena blinks and pinches herself again, though she’s not sure she wants to awaken from this dream.
“It’s not possible…”
“You know better than to question what can be possible, mi amor,” her father says. He stands with a straight spine and wide shoulders, and to anyone else he might be intimidating. To Elena, he has always just been Dad. “What does your mother always say, eh?”
“Miracles are born from our faith in the miraculous,” Elena recites automatically, blushing when she sees the pride well up in her father’s eyes.
“That’s right,” he says. “My god, you’ve grown so big. Almost time for your quinceañera, no? You think your tía will run out of tears before the party ends?”
Elena snorts a little, remembering how hard her aunt had cried when her cousin Leo had finally learned to ride his bike without training wheels. Then she frowns. Tía’s eyes had been red for months and months after Dad’s funeral. Her father watches her expression carefully, reaching down to brush one of the tears from her eye. Elena feels only a whisper of his touch against her skin.
Suddenly, all Elena needs is to feel her father’s strong arms around her again. She reaches for him and he pulls her against his chest. He is not completely solid against her, his form shifting slightly beneath her fingers, but if she focuses enough, she can almost squeeze him tightly enough.
“Why is it so different?” she asks, feeling childish for asking. Of course it would be different.
Her father shrugs. “I do not know all the rules yet, mija. But I bet we can learn them together. How does that sound to you?”
Elena bites her lip the way her mother does, and the ghost in the attic does smile at the similarity. “You’ll be here? You’ll stay?” she asks.
“For as long as you need me, mija, I will stay,” her Dad promises. “But you cannot visit every day or even every week. If there are things to say, you wait until many pages have been filled, and then you can tell me all at once. Do you understand?”
Elena nods. “I understand.”
“Okay,” her father nods. “And understand this, too: you are not writing your story only for me. I will be glad to hear all about the beautiful life you create, but you must remember that you are writing it for yourself.”
Around them, the dust has begun to stir again, a breeze with no origin curling up from the floorboards and slithering around the form of Elena’s father.
“I love you, Dad. I’ll come see you soon,” Elena promises, her bottom lip quivering.
“Te amo, mi querida,” her father answers, even as he loses his shape, dissolving back into the chest in a short, tiny whoosh of air. When Elena's tears have finally stopped falling, she slowly closes the wooden chest engraved with her father’s name, walks back down the attic stairs, curls up in her bed and goes to sleep.
The next morning, Elena brings Maria up to the attic, tells her not to be afraid as she opens the chest and waits for the dust to swirl. But the air remains still, the floorboards silent. Her father does not come, and Maria does not understand what she was meant to see. Elena is too upset to tell her.
Years pass, and Elena visits her father as often as she can. Tears made from tiny specks of dust slide down his cheeks when she shows him her college diploma. On her wedding night, she insists to her new husband, Jacob, that it will be easiest to stop by her mother’s house for the extra toothbrush she’ll need on their honeymoon. There is a small coating of dust along the bottom of her wedding dress by the time she makes her way back outside and into the car. Jacob doesn’t notice, and Elena doesn’t care. She’d gotten her father-daughter dance.
Elena gets a marketing job and then a promotion, and she tells her father about it with wistful excitement. The job is in Atlanta, and she and Jacob are already packing. She promises to visit soon, that she will have stories to tell when she returns.
The fire that consumes her mother’s house four months later doesn’t leave much in its wake, but luckily Maria herself had already evacuated a few days earlier.
Elena’s first thousand thoughts are for her mother, grateful for her safety but mourning with her for all that she lost to the flames. Her next thousand thoughts are for the wooden chest in the attic, the one she knows will no longer be there. When the fire is finally contained three days later, Elena flies home to help her mother sort through whatever might remain. She insists that Jacob stay behind in Atlanta for his own newly-found job, but he takes the plane seat beside hers.
It takes a long time for Elena to end her mother’s embrace after they land, neither of them ready to see what is left standing after the fire. But Elena thinks of her father, of the now-lost pictures in the attic and the strength he always carried with him and insisted she had inside of her, too. She rolls her shoulders back, lifts her head, and leads the way.
Elena stands in the middle of the rubble, her chest aching. After hours of searching, they have managed to salvage almost nothing.
“Elena,” Jacob says, so softly it is almost a whisper. “We should go back to the hotel. We’ll come back tomorrow, okay?”
Elena shakes her head, tears welling up behind her eyes for what feels like the millionth time today. Jacob frowns and cants his head, directing Elena’s eyes over to Maria. Elena’s mother is perched on the singed remains of a coffee table in what used to be the living room. Her legs are crossed, her thin arms are covered in a layer of soot, and she is lost somewhere inside her head, staring through a matrix of support beams that used to be a wall. Elena turns back to her husband and nods in surrender, and Jacob begins making his way through the rubble to get to Maria. Elena can’t hear what Jacob says to her, but a moment later, he reaches out a hand to help her up, and she takes it.
Elena sighs and turns to take one, last look at the rubble. A glint of something on the ground catches her eye, and she bends down to retrieve it, her eyes once again filling with tears when she realizes what it is. She runs her fingers over the silver nameplate, smudging at the ash until her father’s name can be seen clearly. Behind her, Jacob is leading Maria back to the car.
“You promised,” Elena whispers to nobody but the smog-filled air, her lip quivering. “You promised that you would be here for as long as I needed you, Papá. And I will always need you.”
Around her feet, the air remains still.
It is another, long moment before she can force herself to move again, but she finally manages to make her way back to the car where Jacob and her mother are already waiting, her father’s nameplate gripped tight inside her palm. They drive back to the hotel together in silence, the air around them thick with smoke and grief. As they make their way to the elevator, Maria asks her daughter to come to her room before she goes to sleep.
“Only for a moment, mija,” her mother urges when she sees the exhaustion pulling at her daughter’s eyelids. Elena nods and follows her mother into her hotel room while Jacob opens the door to the one across from it.
Once inside her mother’s room, Elena sinks down onto the mattress. “What is it, mamá?” she asks. Maria holds up a finger. Un momento. She shuffles over to her suitcase in the corner of the room, returning a moment later with an enormous, blue book in her hands. She passes it off to her daughter.
“What is it?” Elena asks, something fluttering inside her chest as she presses her fingers into the thick spine.
“Open it,” her mother says, settling into the mattress beside her. Elena does.
She gasps, letting her fingers drift along the outline of her father’s face from where he smiles back at her from a familiar photograph. She turns the page, and then the next, allowing herself to get lost in the memories she’d thought were gone forever.
“When did you...?” Elena asks after a moment, turning to face her mother.
“The day after you left for Atlanta,” Maria answers. “One day, my grandchildren will need to know who their grandfather was. I had time to pack a small bag before I evacuated."
Elena huffs out a breath, letting her gaze drift back to the photo album. “Do you remember when I showed you that old chest in the attic all those years ago?” she asks. From the corner of her eye, her mother nods. “It was Dad. He was in there, somehow. It was some kind of illusion or magic. I visited all the time, told him about my life. And now he’s gone. He’s really gone, and I don’t know if I can stand it.”
Maria runs a hand through her daughter’s long hair. “Oh mija, he will never be gone. You know this.”
“But it’s not the same!” Elena shouts suddenly, flinging the photo album onto the floor. She rises from the bed, pacing furiously. “He was here. I could feel his arms around me!”
To Elena’s incredulity, her mother laughs. “You think you are the only one he came to see?” she asks, shaking her head.
Elena freezes. “What?” she asks.
Maria chuckles again, but it is weary and filled with sadness. “Oh Elena,” she coos. “Your father comes to me often. Asleep. Awake. In the middle of a long work shift. I can feel his fingers in my hair. I can see his lip curl around that devious, little smile of his. The ones we love always find ways of coming back to us.”
Elena shakes her head, begins pacing again. “No, you don’t understand. This was different.”
Maria sighs. She gets up from the bed, retrieves the discarded photo album. Elena watches guiltily as she returns it to her suitcase. “It has been a long day,” Maria says. “Get some rest.”
Elena nods, hugs her mother hard before she goes. In the hallway between her mother’s room and the one she shares with Jacob, Elena tries to collect herself. She breathes deeply, pulling her father’s nameplate from her pocket.
The air moves.
Elena’s breath catches, and for a moment she thinks she imagined it. But then something shifts below the surface of the hallway carpeting. The fibers of the carpet straighten and then break off from the ground, swirling out into the space in front of her, twisting around themselves until he appears as if he had always been there, as if he had never left. Elena gasps, any words she might’ve said stuttering to a stop before she can form them. Her father speaks first.
“Mija,” he says, smiling crookedly. “I thought you knew by now that it was never about that silly, wooden box.”
“Papá?” Elena whispers, choking on the words.
Her father smiles softly, reaching to brush away the fresh tears on her cheeks. “I am here, always,” he says, gesturing to encompass the space around them. “I am in the wind that curls around your hair. In the spaces between each breath you take. In the beating of your heart. I am everywhere you go, Elena, because you choose to take me with you.”
Elena curls her fingers more tightly around the nameplate, smiling through her tears. “As long as I need you?” she checks.
“As long as you need me,” he nods, holding her gaze.
“Okay,” Elena says.
“Okay,” answers the memory of her father.
The air shifts again, his form rippling and shimmering in front of her. The last of his visage fades back into the hotel carpeting. Elena smiles.
Alice’s father stared in confusion at the plastic-wrapped kit in his hand. “Past Keys? Alice, what’s this?”
“Your birthday present. Isn’t it exciting?” Alice hopped from one foot to another, scarcely able to contain herself. She’d been waiting weeks for this.
“Yes, but what is it?” He held up the baggie in front of his face, peering suspiciously at the cotton swabs and pre-addressed postage bag contained within.
“It’s a personal DNA testing kit. The gift of your past revealed.” Alice quoted the site’s advertising slogan, a slogan she knew by heart after painstakingly reading every single word of text and watching every video available for the much-advertised and very popular service. “You swab the inside of your cheek with the provided swabs, package them up in the provided pre-addressed bag and viola – within two months your ancestry is at your fingertips. And mine too, of course.” She shivered with thrilled anticipation.
“I already know my ancestry,” Tom Bosworth grumbled. “Father’s name John Bosworth, mother’s name Betty Bosworth. No siblings.” He carelessly dropped the kit down onto the table and looked at her hopefully. “I thought you were bringing chocolates, just like you always do.”
“This is a whole lot better than a box of chocolates,” she said briskly, reaching past him to pick up the discarded kit. “The information that this kit gathers goes waaayyy back. My friend Lily had hers done. Turns out she’s got West Indian ancestors. Whoever would have thought?” She fiddled with the sealed pack of swabs through the plastic wrap, anxious to get started.
“Lily? That little blonde thing? Of course she hasn’t got West Indian ancestors. She’s far too pale for that. Alice, you’ve wasted your money.” He hefted himself out of his threadbare armchair, the one he refused to trade in for a newer, comfier model, with a groan. “The shops are still open. If you drive me down, I’ll buy my own box of chocolates. I can’t have a birthday without a box of chocolates.”
“Aren’t you even a little bit curious?”
“Nope.” Tom pulled his coat down from the hook beside the door and shrugged it on. “I already know all I need to know. John Bosworth’s side of the family stretches back to his Roman forefathers and I dare say Betty’s is the same. The family has lived in the British Isles since Julius Caesar’s armies invaded the continent and spread their pillaging, rampaging seed. You’re from gladiator stock, my dear.” He said the last with more than a hint of pride. “Now, how about we go and get this chocolate?”
“I’ll only drive you if you promise to do the swab when we get back,” she said stubbornly.
“I’m interested, even if you aren’t.”
Tom shrugged indifferently. “Whatever you like.”
By the time Alice left Esme Tyrell’s Home for the Elderly & Infirm, Tom was back in his armchair and happily up to his gums in a king-size box of Cadbury’s Finest. Alice nodded to Barbara, the grim-faced woman at reception who lived only for the power of pedantic rules and strictly enforced tyranny, and stepped out into the welcome late evening sunshine. Tom, box of chocolates in hand, had finally acquiesced to the swab test and the pre-addressed package was now sitting in the Home’s postbag ready for its journey back to Past Keys.
Tom’s disinterest in the DNA test had been a little disappointing but Alice was determined not to allow his apathy to cast a pall over her excitement. Tom was adamant there would be no surprises but what if there was something in the deep past that he didn’t know? Lily’s genetic discovery had been thrilling and unexpected, adding a new point of interest to family dinners and imbibing her with an invigorated sense of self.
Alice climbed into the car, the interior still heated and fuggy-warm from the excursion to the shops, and turned her key in the ignition as she allowed her mind to drift to thoughts of Grandpa John and Grandma Betty. Grandpa in particular would’ve loved the magic of today’s technological advances, the processes that enabled the everyday person to obtain all the branches of their family tree via a quick swipe across a cheek full of spit.
Alice flipped the indicator on as she turned into her street, noting with a quiver of irritation that Jack Reynolds at Number 9 still hadn’t taken his bins in. His lawns needed mowing too, although he was never in any hurry to cut his grass or trim his edges. Such slovenliness was all down to upbringing, in her opinion. Tom had always prided himself on his well-kept lawns and gardens before his ill health forced his incarceration in the Home, as had his father before him. Besides, Grandma Betty would never have allowed the little white bungalow in Knowles Street to look anything but immaculate. Grandpa John might have been the captain of their marital ship but Grandma Betty was most certainly the rudder.
Grandma Betty was one of those types of grandmothers that children’s book illustrators were so fond of drawing. She was small and plump, with soft curling white hair, round spectacles, and kissable red cheeks. She always had a homemade chocolate cake in the tin, a fresh brew in the teapot, and she gave out book vouchers tucked inside cards with puppies on for birthdays and Christmas. She was house proud, homely, and lovable, and she probably wouldn’t care too much about where her ancestors hailed from. Grandma Betty’s favourite sayings were ‘Live in the moment’ and ‘Take each day as it comes’, and Alice missed her terribly. With a sigh of regret for days long since passed, Alice parked the car and went inside to start dinner.
“What’s up with you?” Tom eyed Alice over the rim of his teacup as she wriggled around in her chair, unable to keep still.
“I got the email today. From Past Keys. The results are in.” She reached into her satchel for her laptop, brought along just for the express purpose of viewing the information on a comfortably sized screen rather than squinting at her mobile phone.
“The DNA testers,” she said impatiently. “I came round straight away so I could open it with you.”
“Oh.” He sat back in his armchair and eyed her affectionately. “Out with it then. Tell me all about our Roman ancestors.”
She ignored him and flipped open her laptop, refusing to be drawn into his gentle teasing. She clicked open the email, her lips moving as she quickly scanned the text. “They say they’ve matched your test but there’s some kind of issue.” She fought back her disappointment. “I must’ve done something wrong when I took the cheek swab. They’ve given me a number to call.”
“I told you it was a rip off,” Tom muttered, his brief burst of interest now faded. “You didn’t happen to bring any of those chocolate biscuits along, did you?”
“You know you shouldn’t be eating so much chocolate. It’s not good for you.” Alice punched in the number with ill-humoured fingers. “I can’t believe we waited two months to be told there was an issue. They could’ve contacted us sooner. Hello?”
After finally connecting to the right person, she listened with rapidly increasing astonishment as the man, in a voice so intense and low he could’ve been a spy in a crime film, explained what Tom’s test had revealed. She couldn’t even find the words to question him – it was too outlandish to contemplate. However, she did manage to give the man her contact details and permission to follow it up further before dropping the phone into her lap and staring at her father with ashen-faced disbelief.
Barbara-in-reception was not impressed with the TV cameras and she seemed to think the whole rigmarole was all Alice’s fault. Alice had given up trying to tell her that the news was as outrageous and unexpected to her and Tom as it was to everyone else. The TV cameras and the constant clamour of reporters and journalists was intimidating for her too, but it wasn’t as if she could escape them. They followed her everywhere, even when she put her bins out, despite her repeated assurances that she knew nothing more than she’d already told them.
At least Tom was sheltered in some way, being inside the Home as he was. It would take a very brave man or woman to dare to cross Barbara’s threshold without her personal permission and she wasn’t about to give that to the paparazzi anytime soon. For once Alice was glad of Barbara’s unwavering fixation with rules and regulations and her ironclad refusal to let anyone inside the door without suitable ID.
Alice’s friends, once they’d dealt with their own stupefaction over the news, had gone out of their way to be supportive and for that she was also glad. She certainly wouldn’t have been able to cope with her newly upside down world if her friends alienated her. After all, it was not as if she’d changed. She was the same person she always was, albeit with a very unusual genetic line. Naturally she’d refused the medical world’s demand for ongoing tests, as had Tom. They’d both agreed that the DNA home test kit, with its simple cotton swabs and pre-addressed package, was the very last test they’d ever take.
Still, more than a small part of her was thrilled with the results. The findings of Tom’s test certainly put Lily’s West Indian ancestry to shame. He’d been right about John’s genetic Roman and English heritage, no surprises there. It was the maternal line, Grandma Betty’s line, which had set everyone aflutter. Past Keys had finally given Alice the original printout, although it had taken some pushing on her part. She thought she might even get it framed, once all the fuss had died down and Grandma Betty was yesterday’s news.
Betty Bosworth: 98% Extra-Terrestrial, 2% English would look good in a polished wood frame above the mantle, although Alice was still more than a little put out that Grandma Betty had never told them herself.
Charles brushed his teeth. Not the normal way. He brushed the way Mom had taught him. Hard. Hard enough to scrape the enamel from his teeth and shred his gums. That was the only way to get truly clean. That’s what she had told him and he believed her. He believed everything he’d ever been told. By anyone. That was what was special about Charles. He was a believer.
When he was done brushing his teeth he pulled out his duct tape and pulled off a really long strip. Long enough to tape his heels to his forehead. There was a reason it had to be that long. It was because the next thing he did was tape his left heel to the right side of his forehead. Then he pulled off another long piece and he taped his right heel to the left side of his forehead. This was a proven way to keep bees from stinging, gremlins from biting, and also it kept him from getting acne. Mostly. He still had an annoying little patch on the left side of his forehead and another on the right side of his forehead. His heels were kind of itchy too.
Then he walked into the shower. Literally. He thought he was exiting the bathroom but he had gotten confused and he couldn’t see through all the tape, and it was really hard to walk so he shuffle-hunched straight into the shower door. He sighed. Not again. He turned the water on hot and he stepped into the shower. His clothes were on of course. He didn’t want the dirty water from the shower to make his sensitive skin dirty. His clothes would protect him from that.
Under the pressure of the hot water, the tape slowly unraveled and fell off of his forehead and then peeled away from his feet. Charles sighed contentedly and balled it up to add to the soggy tape pile in the corner of the shower. His morning routine never failed to make him feel better. Now that the water was good and clean he took off his clothes and hung them on the shower door to drip dry. He knew that drip drying was the only safe way to get your clothes clean. Otherwise the licelings would stay in the linings of his underwear and he would get oh so terribly itchy. After a few more minutes he turned the water off, put his wet (partly drip dried) clothing back on, and stepped out of the shower. He used a towel to dry up the floor, so that the vapors wouldn’t escape into the atmosphere, and then he hung that up so it could safely drip dry as well.
Hmm, what was next? Oh, right, breakfast! He couldn’t go through his bedroom, not yet, so he opened the hatch in his bathroom floor and he slipped down the pole into the eating room. It was pretty full today, all his imaginary friends were there. Paulo and Fredo and Marko and Mario, all fully dressed, dripping and ready to eat. He waved his hellos and headed over to the cereal bar. He looked over his selections of cereal (which was just one) and chose what looked best to him (the one selection available) and he poured it into a bowl and covered it up with some rehydrated water. He remembered milk. Well he remembered seeing it on a show once and he thought that it looked good on cereal, except that it was oddly white and what he was eating wasn’t really cereal it was a nutrified protein powder, but that didn’t matter, he still thought milk with cereal sounded pretty neat.
He plopped down on the bench next to Paulo, who was unusually quiet today, and started to munch. When he was done munching he swallowed. Then he looked at Paulo.
“Hey man, how’s your morning?” he asked.
The open, empty space next to him, filled with an imaginary Paulo, said nothing.
“Yeah, I hear you. That squeaking heater duct can sure get on your nerves. Did you sleep OK?”
Charles waited a moment, nodded and then said, “Yup, you got it. I’ll swing by later and show you my latest music pick. It’s pretty darn tootin if you ask me.”
Charles focused on his cereal and munched away for a while longer. He was feeling protein filled and nutrified enough so he stood up to recycle what was left. “I know, I know. I shouldn’t waste anything,” he said to the empty room and sat back down again to eat.
When he was done and he’d licked the bowl clean, he put it back on the cereal bar so he could use it for his next meal. Then he stood in front of the viewing screen and he contemplated the view for a very long moment. In front of him was the vastness of space. Inky black, pinpricked with sparks of light, each one a distant star. The brightest star was called Sun and orbiting around it was his origin point. Well not his origin point, but the ship’s origin point. He knew that because he’d learned it from the ship’s computer. They’d been traveling for a very long time. He liked to measure time in Charleses, so he knew the distance traveled was five thousand, three hundred and fifty two Charles.
He turned back to the computer. “Mom?”
“Yes,” she answered
“What time is it?”
“What does it matter Charles?” This was a game they liked to play.
“It matters to me because I’m human.”
“Yes you are Charles and it doesn’t matter to me because I’m not.”
Charles smiled at that. He liked that he was unique. He was Human and Mom was not. That made him happy.
He walked back through the corridors to his room so he could get dressed. At the access door he noticed that the light was a different color than normal. It was always green but today it was orange. He wasn’t sure what that meant. He shrugged his shoulders and pressed his hand on the pad to request access. When the door slid open he saw somebody was in his room. This gave him quite the start. He’d never seen anybody before. His entire life had been spent alone, in this ship, just himself and Mom. The imaginary friends didn’t count, he knew they weren’t real.
The somebody who was in the room didn’t hear him enter, so they didn’t turn around. They kept doing what they were doing, which was that they were looking through his drawers. Head inside, both hands digging, clothing flying everywhere. Funny, that’s how Charles got dressed too. Maybe this somebody was like him. Human.
“Hello?” he said.
The person stood up with a jerk and a shout and spun around to face him.
“Oh,” Charles 5352 said
“Oh,” Charles 5353 said
“I didn’t realize it was already time.”
“It’s not supposed to be. I think there was a glitch.”
“Yeah. It’s kind of a problem.”
Charles thought about this. He was looking at his mirror image. Of course he was. Every Charles was exactly the same since they were all clones of the original Charles. They all knew how to run the ship and how to repair what needed fixing. That’s why they had to stay awake and live their lives as the ship traveled. But there were only enough resources for one Charles at a time. They weren’t supposed to overlap.
“Oh,” he said again. Kind of sadly this time.
“Yeah, I know. It’s early, but it’s time.”
Charles shrugged his shoulders. It was OK. He’d had enough time to get to know Mom and to learn all about Paulo and Mario and even Fredo and Marko a little bit. It had been a good time. Now he had to do what was necessary for the good of the ship. It was time to go home.
So he got in a tiny little seed pod, let the systems shut his body down into stasis and then he was shot back toward Earth. A long range communication packet that would arrive back on the home world to report on the journey and let everyone know that the colony ship was still heading straight and true for their next world. A lovely little m-class planet 25 light years away that was going to make for a wonderful place to live. As long as it had no spiders. Charles hated spiders.
Serpent seed in the belly of the beast...
To every Adam and every Eve/please oh please/be weary of the fruit from the tree/the one from which you long to eat/see the serpent knows it grows from a forbidden seed/yes it’s easy to a lie believe/even easier to with a lie deceive/one in the same? I tend to disagree/sometimes too far we allow ourselves to over reach/in hopes to attain what ends that feeling of incomplete/I’ll do my best to keep it brief, simple and sweet/when explaining what I mean with the answers you seek/perhaps you want what you can’t have cos you already have everything you need/so claim your pardon, come back to the garden, from which you had to flee/amongst the displaced, all across the face, scattered like debris/return back to the luscious green relief awaits from all your grief/prodigal sons and daughters we are all indeed/stardust in every drop of blood we bleed/yeah I know right now times may seem bleak/but you’ve come too far now to backwards retreat/no good to you tho is my belief/your own is your ticket to peace/happiness can knock but may not enter when the door is locked and only you have the key/so much to still achieve/harvests to reap/decrease the tares from the wheat/til ready here we’ll be waiting in the belly of the beast...
The last will and testament
Pleasant Valley Addiction Center, is located at the corner of Simpson and Brine, naked with nowhere to hide. At one point the location had been a popular bowling alley, to boot with bar and grill. In 2012, when the owner known as Old Man Kiefer was alone in his office working late, he was blown to smithereens via a propane gas explosion. Upon the news, his relations deliberated about their intended insurance windfall, and the distance to an alternative nearby bowling alley. Some townsfolk surmised foul play, a conspiracy of sorts, whispers flying like cuckoo such as from Betty Lou, “I’ll bet his kids are happy he’s dead, those lazy good fer nuttun ingrates. Who knows? Maybe one of them had a hand in his death.” It was well known that Old Man Kiefer was quite generous, lavishing his offspring with homes and automobiles, but not planes.
And from Angus Gene, “It was probably that wicked grandson Sidney. I heard he liked the wacky weed, and Lord knows what else he was sniffin, snortin, shootin; what else is it those crazy druggie types do? There’s just too damn many of ’em poppin up all over da place, like wildfires. Maybe Sidney owed money to da pimp man, I mean da pusher man. Did I get that lingo right?”
And from Helga Beth, “Somebody told me that Suzie Kiefer was having wild lesbian affairs. Maybe her lady lovers wanted Old Man out of the way for the money. Sexy-time lady orgies don’t come cheap, I suppose.”
Perhaps if Mable, Old Man’s first wife, God rest her soul, hadn’t died of Dropsy of the brain, right after dropping her fourth rug rat, things at the Kiefer compound might have been different. Water retention aside, Mable was of good stock, and in the department of mothers, undoubtedly she overshadowed Old Man’s second wife Suzie, to say the least. Old Man was just called Kief back then, because he had yet to become old. Nobody doubted that Suzie married for money, even Kief. Quite frankly, no beating around the bush, Suzie was quite the looker, and even the best of men can become weak at the knees for a hot tamale.
Old Man Kiefer, was mostly unknown by his given name, Fletcher, and he had preferred it that way. With a name like Fletcher, he accepted and considered Old Man as the term of endearment it was. His funeral was attended by more townsfolk than those present for the Christmas Tree lighting and Firemen’s Day Parade combined. There was not a dry eye in the house when little Maggie Meehan sang Amazing Grace, accompanied by her disabled veteran brother Henry on the organ. Fletcher, as head and treasurer of the VFW post 619, was responsible for procuring a top of the line wheel chair for Henry and organized volunteers to install a handicapped ramp at their home, all supplies donated by Kiefer Enterprise, Inc. But that was just a drop in the trout pond. Old Man sponsored the little league, midget football, the garden club and donated all the funds for a new playground at the town center, equipped with a jungle jim, swings, see-saws, tennis and basketball courts. The park committee erected a sign, paid for with remaining Kiefer Enterprise, Inc. funds that said. “This park is dedicated to the F. Kiefer family. 2007.” He liked the that they only went as far as the F, and never minded including his ingrate family in the glory. Heck, if it was up to him, he’d do without any glory at all, but that was not the way the Pleasant Valley people did business, so he would be humbly gracious of their praise.
There was one, God Bless his soul that did not weild a drop of ingrate blood and homogeneously resembled Fletcher; looks, brains and heart. The townsfolk didn’t know much about the grandson named Cyrus, who was birthed from his ingrate daughter Milicent, Fletcher’s first born, and her deadbeat husband Lance. Old Man had high hopes early on about Milicent, but those high hopes slipped down the slope, that is until redemption was hers at the birth of Cyrus. Sometimes, rightfully if so, genes may skip a generation. Cyrus was just about all Old Man, the two of them close to identical; quiet, passive, kind souls, as the humble often are. Townsfolk would tend to forget about Cyrus as a separate and individual relation of Old Man, not just because it was only Old Man writing the checks, but also because the subsequent generations of ingrates took up so much of the breathable air. Occasionally townies might take notice and remember him, ever so briefly seen behind his grandfather out and about at a parade or at the bowling alley, happy to be in the shadow of a man that also preferred the shadows. Cyrus loved Old Man more than his own shallow breath. Shallow, not because he was unassertive, but because he was born asthmatic, an affliction that never stopped him from working toe to toe with his beloved GF. Old Man liked being called GF by Cyrus, because all the others, the spawns of the ingrates, siblings and cousins of Cyrus, called him Gramps Fletch. GF, was Old Man’s and Cyrus’ secret cryptonym alone.
After the funeral, all the ingrates started punching their greedy grubby fingertips on their phone screens, messaging each other lustfully, wondering just when they would be notified of the much aticipated reading of the will. Milicent, as the first born, was harassed to the point of a full head of split hairs. It was she that would notify them, sending out one mass text which read:
READING OF THE WILL: CONFERENCE ROOM
VFW MARCH 13TH 2012, 2 PM
She choose 2 pm, well, because ingrates like to sleep in. She didn’t have to ask for help, not that any of them would. Of course it was Cyrus that set up the chairs, coffee and donuts for the group of some forty ingrates. Milicent knew of the safety deposit box holding the last will and testament, and was proud of herself that she honored her father’s wishes in keeping that to herself, but was clueless as to the holder of the key. Should she have been surprised that it was none other than Cyrus? Ever unassuming, even she would tend to forget about her 25 year old first born son. Knowing her father’s penchant for detail, she never doubted the key would find her upon his death, and when that time came, Cyrus gently placed it in her hand.
The top of the envelop read: Milicent, do not open until the Kiefer family is assembled in entirety, and then please read. Again, Milicent was proud of herself for honoring Old Man, even though it was a rather small feat of wills to gather the lazy ingrates for this particular event.
When the last of them had arrived, she stood before all of them, with shaky greedy grubby fingers ripping open the envelop. For a second she thought she might pass out, and it was her son Cyrus, no surprise, not her husband Lance, no surprise, that noticed, running to her side with water and a chair. She composed herself quickly, fueled by pleonexia, somewhat pushing Cyrus aside. On top of the legal papers was a letter, written in Fletcher’s hand.
It read: Dear family. I haved loved you all very much, even when I have not felt your love in return, having been generous with my heart and purse strings. Each and everyone of you has benefited and lives a comfortable existence and I look for no thanks in writing this, but do remember to always thank the patronages of Pleasant Valley. I mention this now, as it is my final wish for all of you to grasp the concept of gratitude upon my death. This assesment applies to each and everyone of you, bar Cyrus. Cyrus eats, lives and breathes gratitude and he will be the one to continue my legacy. Please consider claiming gratitude for yourselves as a parting gift to me, since in life not once have I asked anything else of you. There is no parting gift from me to you, well because you have all already received more than you have deserved, bar Cyrus. Cyrus and I have discussed how we could best serve the community upon my death and I have made the decision to put 100% of any and all of my assets into a much needed rehabilitation and addiction center. Cyrus will oversee it’s location, finance, and construction as I hereby name him as CEO. None of you should be concerned about rebuilding the bowling alley. A man can only do so much bowling in his lifetime. There comes a time when the greater good becomes a priority. Go forward in love.
And so that’s how it went. All the ingrates went home dejected, but not before they fought over the leftover donuts.
And Cyrus went on as planned and built the addiction center, overseeing the entire project, including the construction of his unostentatious office, equipped with diminutive modest living quarters, where he planned to live out his days honoring his beloved GF. There was a secret between grandfather and grandson that they shared beyond the cryptonym. This secret, without a shadow of a doubt, Cyrus planned on taking to his grave. You see Old Man liked to gamble. He really really liked to gamble, so he had set up a legal gaming system at the VFW for his amusement, but of course not for his amusement alone. It had become quite popular and profitable throughout the years, and as all the townsfolk completely trusted his leadership as treasurer, no one ever questioned any of the deposits. Throughout the years, no one suspected it was their own gambling money that supplied the comfortable lifestyle of the ingrates and the little league, and all his other philanthropic ways. Old Man didn’t see the harm since the townies were having fun, and they were taking care of their community in doing so. Perhaps his behavior was his own addiction of sorts talking. Oh, the bowling alley and grill? That broke even, but could have never supported all the ingrates and necessary good needed for all of them to live in a sweet place like Pleasant Valley. In the end, it was Cyrus himself that had lit the match igniting the propane one fine evening knowing his beloved GF was in the bowling alley alone. Someone had to stop the madness, and as much as it pained Cyrus he knew it was part of his future legacy to do the right thing. GF had taught him well. In setting up the programs for the center, Cyrus was sure to institute gamblers anonymous, and intense therapy sessions for kleptomania that he would personally oversee and attend. After all, he was a chip off the Old Man block.
i am not what i used to be
She stood by the lake,
Toes inching into the sand,
It seemed far less inviting in the cold, rigid winter,
But she recognized it nonetheless,
The stars glared down at her,
Inquiring as to her presence,
She searched her soul but was unable answer them,
They both longed for the person who had stood in her place,
Her reflection shown in the moonlight,
But she did not recognize her own face,
How quickly youth evades us,
Time passed, time to waste,
In the lapping of the water,
Echoed sounds of lost laughter.
Where there were once footprints in the sand,
Smooth coldness met her touch.
The memories she could not escape,
How suddenly they came flooding back,
Absorbing her with the sound of the water,
But she could not relapse.
The first touch was like heaven,
Piercing cold but welcoming her home,
She inhaled deep but could not breathe,
Nom sum qualis eram.
do not look at me
therefore you'll find me
do not, honey
call me honey
and do not call me at all
therefore you'll find me
do not tell me
that i'm charming
therefore you'll find me
do not try to touch
therefore you'll find me
do not , do not ever,
invite to me to a restaurant
or to come by for a dinner
therefore you'll find me
do not try to look at me
because all you can see is
all that isn't me
do not touch anything
even though it look
do not say do not
do not lie do not
do not try to see invisible.
i am not i
i am the one you thought die
i am not i
but you can see me
only if you do not look at me
you can find me
by loving me
by communicating without words
and troughtout that silence
give birth to my new self
you won't ever see.
please do not look at me.
#challenge #poetry #prosepoetry #lovepoem #mindfullness #brave soul #love #lovingbeing #soul #lovers #jelenathewriter
I and U
You and me,
me and you.
There never was one without the other.
You were the sun to my dark world,
the nightlight below my window,
but all along you were just like the moon, only
reflecting others light.
I thought I was the only one,
the one planet to your one sun.
But you were the moon, surrounded by stars,
and all the planets orbited around you.
You couldn’t resist their gravity,
even though it was supposed to be you and me,
Now my world is dark,
but at least so is yours.
You said you’d never leave me,
now I’m beginning to see
You’ll stay as long as you want
till I crack and let you in
and then you’ll be gone again.
Why do I keep falling for you and your facade of sunlight?
I wish and I try to forget with all of my might.
But every time I close my eyes,
I feel you from all sides.
Appearances can be decieving,
you should know that most of all,
so when you see my smile,
remember that it’s only on the outside.
And on the inside I want to strangle you,
stab you over and over,
But most of all,
I want to love you,
and have you love me back.
What is it I have to do
to prove my worth to you?
There has to be more to love
than a cat and a mouse,
maybe a kid and a nice house?
But if there I sure as hell
haven’t found it yet.
The next time you see me why don’t you
Is that such a hard thing to do?
It sure as hell would be a surprise
for me, but
not all surprises are bad.
So, old friend, I hope you know,
I’m giving up, I’m letting go.
You are no longer the sun I loved,
you’re just another planet,
giving in to the sun of greed.