Chapter 32: Bloodshed on the Battlefield
March 8, 1862
William Farragut sighed as several shots rang out. Having been rerouted on a simple frigate, in a rather pathetic and desperate attempt to disguise him as he sailed nearer to Virginia, he found himself without any way to command and, frankly, was becoming quite bored. Even as the opening shots had commenced some hours earlier, the day was still cool and more or less calm on the roadstead. Two ironclad ships, it appeared, had engaged in combat some hours earlier.
Personally, William had heard of ironclads before; he had read about the first ironclad ship to ever sail the seas in 1859: a French ironclad by the name of the Gloire. Of course, it was never actually in significant combat.
But this battle unfolding before him between the Monitor and the Merrimack, or something—he had hoped would be exciting: the first time ironclads ever faced each other on open waters.
Unfortunately, the battle was boring at best. The two ships seemed to be reluctant to sink the other; not due to any lack of effort (well, perhaps a little), but more so due to the fact that both ships seemed to refuse to sink. In fact, the less-attractive conflicts between traditional, wooden vessels and shore batteries seemed far more amusing.
Right at that moment, as William sat aboard the command deck and sighed again, he rolled his head over and spied another Union frigate advancing upon a Confederate wooden warship. He turned to the captain of the vessel, an older man with a beard and black hair that was turning grey with age, and cleared his throat.
“Let’s have some fun, shall we?” he reasoned, somewhat reluctantly.
“Send us to that ship over there.”
Early Morning, April 7, 1862
Trekking through forest and grasslands, copse after copse in the dark. Occasionally, lanterns and campfires would break through the haze, and here and there were solitary wooden buildings from which light would glow. Hundreds of people bustled about through the darkness.
Back in town, William Jr. witnessed doctors running to and fro between houses, across the streets, their hands and aprons smeared in blood. Walking wounded came in droves. Men had gashes upon them, bullet wounds, and even missing limbs. Some clung to one another, some sobbed, and some were silent and alone, and simply looked sullen. Still, the most-shocking ones were those that were horribly wounded; like one man, who had a gigantic burn along his entire right abdomen, so severe that even part of his large intestine was showing—and yet, they did nothing.
That man sat calmly, smoking a cigarette, against the wooden wall of some shop or another. He seemed not in the least bothered, or even aware of his wound.
“He’ll be dead, that one,” Gover, an Irish immigrant, with a very peculiar nickname, who was serving in the Union military, stated. “If they can’t feel the pain, it means that the wound is too great.”
William had been ushered through training so swiftly that he felt inadequate to fight. He was moved around in Virginia, and then to Tennessee, and saw no action whatsoever. In truth, it relieved him more than he felt bored: he had not actually wanted to fight, or leave his wife, Anna, for that matter, but he felt obliged to fight.
Now, however, with the Union forces being absolutely slaughtered at Shiloh,
reinforcements were called in. In a desperate attempt to garner enough federal troops to oppose the Confederates, companies and platoons were rearranged, and William, an upper-class private just short of a lance corporal, was swiftly introduced into an Irish company. Most of them were the sons of poor immigrants, or immigrants themselves: new to the United States, mostly, and in need of a paying job. Foolishly, they had seemed to have chosen the army.
Within hours of being relocated, William had befriended the man who marched by his side: a short, brown-haired Irishman with a stubbled chin, age nineteen, who went by the name of Gover McFain. But their conversations were anything but lighthearted, in the traditional sense. In some way, William found himself ready to laugh at about anything, merely as a result of the tension of the situation. By the time they had reached the front lines, he was nearly hysterical with nervous laughter.
But then the sounds of gunshots and artillery came into earshot. Along the ground, beside and within each dark copse, by the light of lantern, he witnessed hundreds of dead and dying on both sides. Some had their organs hanging out of their abdomen. Others were simply shot.
Shining blood and the lustrous silver of discarded rifles reflected a hellish yellow glow given off by the lanterns of the soldiers around them.
William’s heart pounded, and he suddenly wanted to cry. Screams and shots that rang nearly a mile off suddenly seemed deafening.
William glanced around nervously. In the yellow glow of the lantern, he felt pressed in and consumed by the men around him; he saw the backs of blue uniforms, and heads with black, brown, red and blond hair. Most of them Irish, but so many different colors of hair…Such diversity in the beauty of hair color; all of them in blue coats, and all of them about to die.
The yellow light reflected eerily off of the gleaming ends of wooden-stocked rifles, hoisted over the men’s soldiers, or cradled in their arms, clanking, and rubbing against their other supplies. William wanted to melt into his uniform. The night seemed hot, though it was actually quite cool. The lanterns created crude shadow effects around them.
“Look at that bloke,” Gover pointed in his heavy Irish accent, with an eerie chuckle, to a Confederate soldier who lay dead—no, dying! His lungs were expanding and contracting on the ground—with his organs all lying neatly on display, but still technically attached to him. “What a profound display of human anatomy!”
William swallowed and looked back to Gover; the shadow of the lantern was cast over his face. His one eye, the one in the lantern light, seemed to reflect the fires of Hell itself, and the other side of his face—the side that was in shadow—seemed drenched in blood. William looked around him—all the men were covered in blood! Smeared in blood everywhere there was shadow!
He looked down at his own hands: blood. Blood, blood, blood!
He was going to die that night; he was sure of it. Somewhere, a man began moaning, but still, the sound of boots on mud created such a rhythmic tune of death on parade. The moaning didn’t stop. The man simply would moan, and then take in a breath, and moan again, and yet he marched on. William knew deep down that he would never again see the light of day. He would never see his wife. He would never see his family. He wanted to cry out, “Oh, God, why am I here?” But tears choked him. He could do nothing but march on.
Here and there a wounded man would groan for help, men on both sides—they were ignored: William, the Irish, and the officers’ minds were all somewhere far away from that battle, too far away to comfort those who lingered somewhere between life and death. William was convinced that he fell into that category. He did not feel alive, he felt dead, even—he knew he was already dead; he must be, but he wasn’t.
Finally, as the light of dawn came up over the horizon, and the company exited another copse, William strained to glimpse the grassland hiding behind the backs of the men in front of him. Just as the sun spilled its muffled, golden, hellish rays over the foggy battlefield swept up by smoke, smog, and haze, the landscape came into viewAll at once, William felt as if a chorus of singers were boasting their impressive song of strength and valor in his head—it was deafening! He wanted to shrink further into his military jacket and hide away. The moaning man was still moaning but was farther off now. As the soldiers spread out, the day seemed to suddenly brighten in a terrifying, eerie fog; and the smell of gunpowder and smoke, and the horrible scent of blood and gore spilling out into open nature that cannot be described, grew to an intensity that William had never experienced before.
It all came to a head, and he saw the field before him littered with dead and dying men, blood, dead horses, wrecked cannons, scattered bits of abandoned and ruined supplies. It seemed, for no less than a better word—glorious. No other word could describe it. It was if Ares himself had been there to compose the perfect scene.
At the far end of the field, the smoke of the rifles and cannons of the Confederate forces rang out in pops and bangs. For each dozen little cracks, it appeared as if there were one low boom. The smoke created a scene that hid them well and muffled the rays of the sun behind white and gray haze and the morning fog. Before them, a field of corpses.
William wanted to melt into his boots, but he had no time, for the captain was already standing before the company, his pistol in hand, with the flag-bearing private behind him.
“Company!” he began proudly, cupping his hand around his stubble-marked face.
And as if the enemy were waiting just for this moment to inflict their wrath upon them, just as the captain turned to sprint toward the enemy, an artillery shell zipped through the air and exploded right before them, sending the captain flying feet-backward, belly-down through the air, his arms flailing. He landed right before William, dead, and face down (a good thing, too, because if William had seen the captain’s dead face, he may have collapsed entirely). The flag-bearer, likewise, was launched into the air, and did not flail or give any grunt or display, but simply landed and rolled onto his back. The American flag was broken, torn, and the pole split.
For a few moments, no one moved, but then one of the lieutenants stepped forward and shouted, “Charge!”
They sprinted into the morning death as if they had full conviction and valor, but William did not even feel like what he was experiencing was real. Almost immediately, the unseen shower of bullets sent man after man sprawling, and mark after red mark appearing on the backs of the dark-blue uniforms of those who had managed to run just a little faster than William. Artillery shells and other projectiles came and exploded around them, sending troops into the air: some screaming, and others silently dead already. Still, other projectiles did not explode, but bounced, rolled, or in some other way found a way in which to rip someone’s head off or break their legs. William clutched his rifle over his chest; he hadn’t even thought to aim it at the enemy. By the time he was almost ten or so yards from physically confronting the Confederate line itself, he finally snapped out of his trance and came to his senses. In a fit of overreaction, he aimed his rifle into the line and fired at random. Time seemed to slow down as he realized that he had been aiming right at a young man’s face, a man not even five feet away from him. He had a thin brown beard and appeared to be raising his pistol to shoot someone else in William’s company. It was a point-blank shot, and the man’s nose seemed to implode as he fell, but his arm, the one in which his hand held the pistol, continued to swing around him. The dying actions of an attempt which never saw truth.
By the time William had realized his deed, his bayonet had already found soft flesh, and he felt warmth dripping down his lower uniform.
He shoved the corpse away from his legs and the man fell, doubled over onto the ground. He had stabbed him in the stomach, William had, but it would be good enough if he were simply wounded to the point where he could no longer fight.
As William charged forward again, he confronted a man who also had his bayonet at the ready. William lunged toward him and felt the sickening manifestation of a blade finding its way between the framework of his small intestine. In an instant, his mind flashed to basic training, when someone asked what to do if their bayonet got stuck in an enemy soldier. The instructor had replied: “If you can’t get your bayonet out, just shoot it out.” William comprehended all that in a fraction of a second, and he began to open his mouth to plead for mercy, but a loud bang erupted, and a hot feeling engulfed his entire abdomen.
He let out a curdling, massive, pained scream that could only ever be uttered by someone enduring searing agony. The man who had shot him was already off somewhere else, as a fearsome melee battle had erupted around them. William stood where he was for a moment, bent over, clutching his abdomen, and then fell over. He fell silently into the blue-sleeved arms of some other soldier, who seemed surprised, given the way he grabbed him in return. A tear rolled down William’s cheek as he glimpsed the sun shining through the smoke and fog as thousands of men killed each other beneath the beautiful sky.
It suddenly seemed so pretty, now. Why had he never noticed it before? The man whose arms he had fallen into pushed him out of the way, finally, and William fell to the ground.
April 28, 1862
Flower pushed through the crowd with such determination that it was surprising for her age. The hospital was in a repurposed church. The pews had all been torn out and used for fuel or kindling, and cot after bloodied cot held two to three soldiers upon them. Many others, still, lay on the ground. The place was full of crying loved ones, moaning, and resting wounded, and doctors rushing from patient to patient—doctors who had gone for days without breaks.
“Here he is,” Anna stated as she pointed to a bed a few rows over. The two of them rushed to confront William, who was asleep on one of the few beds in the place. His wounds were so severe that he had been given his own sleeping arrangements. For two weeks, his family had been trying to track him down. All they knew, via letter, was that he was “wounded in the abdomen and highly unlikely to survive.”
When they found him, he opened his eyes. He was under the blankets and wearing nothing but a white nightshirt. He smiled once he saw Anna. He did not let them say anything; all he stated was, “It’s actually healing,” and smiled.
“They say I might actually live.” He laughed, and a bittersweet stream of chuckles and tears erupted from the trio. Flower knew, by some force or power, she knew that William, her son, would not die. She knew that he would get to see his son again.
Maria stood at the back of the tavern. She didn’t know a few hours before, of course, that it would be full of scalawags and Union sympathizers. She rolled her eyes in disgust at the sound of the dozens of men jovially singing in drunken lore to “John Brown’s Body” as a man played on the piano: “‘…the stars above in Heaven are-a lookin’ kindly down on the grave of old John Brown! …’ "
She shook her head and walked toward the door. It was late outside, and thus probably not too safe for her to be out much longer. Besides, a group of pro-Confederates, equally drunk, seemed to be arguing with some other patrons at one of the bar tables. Maria decided to get out of there before a fight broke out.
In the street, there was one other gentleman, well dressed, and also drunk, with a bottle in his hands. “Glory, glory, hallelujah!” He still sang, though alone, as he walked home through the dark streets.
“Hey,” Maria shouted. The man turned around, his bowtie undone, and faced her.
“What,” he moaned as he slouched backward and spread out his arms. Maria rolled her eyes.
“Stop singing that song.”
“Oh, so you support treason, do you?” The man chuckled, and turned around once again, slowly walking away.
“Watch yourself,” Maria shot, then suddenly worried that she may provoke his anger (which, as he was drunk, could be dangerous).
“The Union will win the war, my lady,” the man chuckled as he walked, without even turning around.
“A false anticipation.”
“But we will.”
“So what?” Maria questioned. “Even if you do win,” she shouted after him, “war merely determines the stronger power, not who was right.”
“So?” the man shouted back, nearly so far down the street, now, that he was almost out of sight.
“I will keep fighting, somehow, some way, for what I know is right.”
The man only walked on, either not wishing to reply or not having heard Maria. Maria heaved and walked on.
Diana coughed into her handkerchief and looked at it—drops of blood. Her congestion was becoming worse, and the medication that the doctors prescribed seemed only to lessen her symptoms rather than eliminate them. She feared that the worst may follow, but in time. At present, she merely wished to see a day when the war did not divide both her family and her country. It seemed as if, for a moment, everything was falling apart…
Anna was in Tennessee, near the front lines, accompanying her husband from hospital to military hospital. She was moving a lot, thus, and the war was constantly shifting matters drastically, both mentally and geographically. It was on her request that young Timothy be watched by Hope, as, with most of the family seemingly misplaced in some way or form by the war, Hope had nothing left to do, and no one left to talk to.
She happily watched over Timothy until Anna was ready to return with her husband (should he be well enough and yet still injured just so as to exempt him from service; but anything could happen). Admittedly, she felt as if, by being with Timothy, she was regaining the time lost with her own children. She adored Timothy and spent much of her time with him.
He, in turn, became rather fond of her. But Hope considered how her actions could be affecting Anna. Just as she had been in the past, Anna was being separated from her child. Hope, therefore, tried her best to treat Timothy merely as a close relative, but she did enjoy having a child to care for once again.
A hard knock awoke James. He sat up in bed, somewhat alarming Etta. The knock sounded again, and he went to the door. It was early in the morning, the sun not yet over the horizon, so he was anticipating an unfortunate encounter. However, upon opening the door, he saw none other than Blue Snake.
“What are you doing here?” he asked in surprise. But Blue Snake merely held a hand to his head and looked up.
“I need to sit down.” He seemed troubled. James and Etta made haste to produce a chair and some water, and Blue Snake began to recount his tale.
“It was in the Dakota territory, on work,” he began. “The tensions between the settlers and the natives had been growing. I didn’t care much then; they were not my people. But then the fighting started. Small clashes, at first, and then larger ones. I just got swept into it. The Dakota tribes were winning, but it didn’t last—it never does. Little Crow and his force scored many victories against the settlers, but they were soon defeated, and fled. I, I—I was horribly wounded, James.”
“Blue Snake, what are you doing here?” James asked, still astonished.
“I was wounded in the chest,” he continued. “I don’t know why I even got involved; it just happened. I almost died, but I didn’t. But—I’m dying. They say it could be lead poisoning, or maybe just a weakening heart. I could have as long as ten years, or as little as one; they didn’t know. I came all the way here to see you.”
“What do you want me to do?” James asked, genuinely concerned for his friend.
“I don’t know.” Blue Snake shook his head. “I just have nowhere to go, and no one to trust.”
Just then, a child cried from another room. Etta got up and walked into the room, coming out with a little child in her arms.
“This is little Chadlynn,” James stated. Blue Snake looked at the child with tired eyes. He nodded as if approvingly, and then stood up.
“I must ask for a place to stay for the night,” he requested.
February 20, 1864
Samuel held his rifle straight in front of him—it nearly touched his nose. Union troops had landed in Florida, at Jacksonville, and were trying to occupy Tallahassee. In response, a Confederate force had been sent down from Charleston, South Carolina, and Samuel’s company among them. The day was sunny and warm, and only growing hotter by the minute. The Union troops appeared a few hills away, making their way along the grasslands, with small patches of forest dotting the land here and there.
Samuel stood in his gray uniform with his company, in line at the top of a hill. He stared down at the battlefield. Any moment, now, they would be ordered either to advance upon the opposing forces, or to hold their ground and prepare to defend.
Though he had a bad leg, he had managed to keep up with the others even when, at times, he could feel intense pressure followed by pain exacerbating up and down his leg. His penance, he supposed, but he would deal with it privately. Besides, he wasn’t exactly the only one who fought with prior injuries.
“All right, lads,” the captain of the company began as he stepped out of the line and paced back and forth with intense conviction. “We’ve been given orders to be part of a flanking operation while the rest of our forces defend…”
Samuel shuddered at the thought of advancing. In truth, he was not too afraid of entering combat, for he had been in more minor skirmishes, though this was his first larger battle. He was more worried, however, of fighting for a side that he had come to doubt the validity of more and more as the months passed on. He had joined the military for food and for the standard wage, but by then, it was evident that the Confederacy was probably on the losing side of the war. Many people thought they could turn things around, but to the rest, it was merely to inflict as much damage as possible upon the federal forces before they went down.
But Samuel was having doubts, now more than ever. He swallowed as the captain gave his speech. He wanted to get away from that place.
Looking from soldier to soldier, he saw intense conviction in most of their eyes. Samuel did not have that conviction. What if I die fighting for something I don’t even believe in? he thought. Do I believe in it? He assured himself that many people fight for sides that they do not fully support, but as he looked around again, it was difficult for him to convince himself of that fact. What? No! Who fights for what they do not truly believe in?
“Steady! Advance!” the captain ended. The company marched forward at a moderate pace. Samuel swallowed. He was not ready to fight for this cause anymore. He could not see himself fighting the soldiers of the Union, no matter how much he had been indifferent to the whole thing before. It made him feel sick, now. But it was too late.
He was going into combat.
Written By: ValiantRaptor47
things that find their way to the shore
when you let yourself feel devastated
and forgive yourself for it,
hope seeps in
— Heather Havrilesky
She sits on the sofa, covered loosely in a blanket, a cup of still-warm tea nestled in her hands, mind in so many places at once. Shivering a bit as the cool air drifts around her ankles, somehow masterfully slipping between the woolen socks and worn-out sweatpants that she has on today, causing goosebumps to explode on the skin like tiny fireworks, the hairs on her arms lifting instantly. The old windows, miserably failing to stop the cold from coming in on a frigid day like this. The heaters, not making that much better job at keeping her warm. Unless she would consider clinging to them directly from floor level and with high levels of affection. Well, something to think about. Shrinking a bit, she wraps the thick rust-colored blanket tighter around her, making a face as the over-sugared liquid slips down her throat. Then she sighs, staring numbly at the darkening room. Feeling too tired to even get up and turn the lights on.
Yesterday proved to be a very long day, not just for her but also for Charlie. Funny enough, her collapsing in public and then later exposing herself emotionally on the roof didn't even prove to be the hardest or the strangest part of the day. She looks down at her hands, the fingers still wrapped around the chipped, red ceramic cup, wondering how much crazier her life could still possibly be. There really was no answer to that. All she could do was square her shoulders and soldier through whatever the world had in store for her.
Slowly, her mind returns to the cafeteria and the plastic chair that got more and more uncomfortable the longer she sat there alone, waiting for him. Arms crossed, and her back shoved into the seat as if she wanted to sink into it and blend with its structure until she would disappear altogether. Time, the surroundings, and the people around slowly blurring away, fading into oblivion as everything inside her became loud. So loud while lost in the soundless world that held her in a tight, nearly suffocating embrace. Destructive tenderness, and cold fingers against the skin, that were calling her home. A home that nobody wanted. A home that scorched and burned until there was nothing left.
Lost in your thoughts, stranger?
She remembers flinching then and then looking up a bit dazed until her stare had gained some focus, eyes meeting his as her muscles lost some of their tension.
Concentrating, she slowly makes the rest of the scene come back to life, playing out as if she was there again. The past and present blending together as she holds the cup tighter in her hands. Her mind, settling all too easily in the conversation they had. Breathing and inhaling each word as if it was all happening now. His question, still vibrating in her ears.
You could say that. All gloom and flawless skin in one. Always some upsides to every situation.
She had tried to add a smile to her words, but it came out crooked and mangled somehow. Not that she was surprised much. One could only pretend so long before everything started to fall apart.
Yes, there are always some.
He said slowly and then tilted his head, his hand resting questioningly on the chair opposite to her.
Can I join, with the threat of my head being chopped off by any uneasy topics?
She stared at him for a moment, getting herself together, and then outstretched a hand with ease as if she wasn't really strained or bothered by the whole situation. As if there weren't any chunks of ice swimming in her veins, making her body become unnaturally still. She wanted to act naturally in front of him, yet each physical action felt like moving through rust. Just rust and countless wholes.
Go right ahead. I won't stop you.
He nodded and then sat down slowly, the chair's metal legs making a screeching sound that made them both flinch painfully.
Sorry about that.
No worries, it's my daily soundtrack in here.
She tapped a finger at the side of her forehead, trying to bring some comic relief, but it only made him frown more.
I wish you wouldn't have to go through all of this.
His voice had been soft and gentle and made her even more uneasy than before. Receiving comfort and affection was still a rather alien concept for her. Before Charlie came along, she had many dark months to go through, her soul or whatever was left of it at its lowest. And now, all those weeks later, she was still baffled that all that warmth was meant for her. Still looking at him almost suspiciously whenever he spontaneously did something nice for her, feeling like a wild animal that was brought into the house. Or a beaten-up dog that was doing its best to figure out all the new surroundings. Not knowing how to react to all the good that was coming its way. Rolling into a tight ball somewhere in the corner and only very gradually getting used to the kindness that was being given away so effortlessly, it seemed.
I think I lost you again.
His voice made her snap back into reality again.
Just for a moment, but I will always come back to you. Promise.
His voice became gentle, and she inhaled deeper, watching him tap against the table a few times before looking up at her again.
I'm not any better at picking at an awkward conversation than you are, trust me.
Her forehead creased automatically at the words.
Oh, I could argue with that.
I am aware, after all, arguing is your favorite activity at the gambling table.
Slowly, her eyebrows lifted then, the corners of the mouth shifting into a faint shadow of a smile.
You're not entirely wrong there.
She smirked a bit. And this time, the smile felt less broken.
Well, I will take that answer as a win. Hopefully, not my last.
She inhaled quickly and spoke before her old patterns caused her to stretch out the conversation, only sliding past the surface and not cutting anywhere deeper. Not touching the layers that were covered in cement and rubble of her previous life.
I had someone very close to me, someone I loved so much that it brought me pain. The good kind, the kind that has no explanation that could ever be put into silly, meaningless words.
She said with surprising calm, things that stirred in her mixing with the ones that felt relieved that she could finally let go of some of her burdens. Observing as his vibrant blue eyes became slightly bigger. But beyond that small change, he remained calm as well, not even moving or trying to speak. She nodded, mostly to herself. A sort of reassurance to continue.
It wasn't an easy kind of love to live with. It was chaotic, unpredictable, and not possible to put, in any kind of frame. It brought the worst and the best in me at the same time. It made me stronger, but it also made me more vulnerable, weaker to what could come. Because when you love like that, there aren't that many places that you can hide to avoid the grief and pain that would come when it's taken away from you.
She had taken a slow, steady breath and marveled at how strangely easy those words flowed out of her. Words she thought that she had thrown away on her darkest day just to remain breathing, but now realizing that they had never left her. They clung to the skin and wrapped themselves under the muscles, mixing with the oxygen that colored her lungs so well. It was at that moment when something in her shifted and bend unpleasantly. Her chin raising, and the jaw clenching, knowing what had to be said next.
But unfortunately, that day came sooner than I feared it would, the empty prayers that I whispered every day proving to be just that. Just empty things.
She swallowed as a sad smile appeared on her lips, and he outstretched a hand automatically to soothe her pain. But she just shook her head and quickly moved the fingers away, crossing her arms tightly over the chest.
I loved him, Charlie. More than anything in this world, it seems at times, but that wasn't enough to keep him alive... with me. Because one day someone decided that his life was no longer worth the while.
She looked to the side and stared out the window at the thick clouds coloring the sky with deep greys and shades of purple that brought some unexplainable beauty to the picture. Yet, her brain decided to ignore any form of such comfort, her fists clenching until the knuckles became white. Not that she cared much. The only thing that mattered to her at that moment was to let it go. To shed some of the layers that no longer served a purpose. Almost like a snake trying to wriggle itself out of its old, dead skin. Even though the process proved to be rather brutal.
Like at that moment, inside the cafeteria. On those two plastic chairs and that big table. And the silence, separating them physically, with all the words that still had to be said, making them even further away. And she didn't want that gap to grow. No, that was something that she could no longer allow. Sometimes you just have to forgive yourself, or it will drag you down under all the dirt you were already under, but this time there would be no air left to breathe in between.
The softest of inhales. Say it. She urged herself in that second that somehow seemed like the most fragile second in the world.
Dan. That was his name.
She whispered and heard his chair scrape a bit against the linoleum floor. After a few seconds, she glanced back at him, fingers unclenching slowly.
You see, Charlie, Dan tended to have a talent for making bad decisions. Repeatedly, somehow never learning from his mistakes. And I was there to see him through all the storms and fires he recklessly jumped into without a second thought. At most times, he was lucky. Dangerously lucky.
Her eyes searched his for a moment, and then she pointed a finger at him, almost accusingly.
But you know how it is with luck, don't you?
He nodded slowly, cautiously, apparently sensing a shift, and her smile grew heavy and dark. Thick and black, like tar that drips down your fingers. Deadly, slow calmness.
Yes, exactly. Luck runs out, even for the dark horses of the race.
Silence swelled in around them as the people in the cafeteria kept on talking. Plates and cups, shifting, hushed conversations filling the vast space. So many worries in one room, it caused her a headache. Unfiltered sadness, and anger sipping into the brain, pulsating accusations and dread she could not block, throbbing whispers tightening around her. Just another day in hell, nothing else. She exhaled and put her hands on her lap, rubbing them slowly against the knees in thought. Memories flooding her slowly but with power as she put the physical pain away, separating from it for now. Only one destruction at once, God. Something in her smiled in a bitter way. She wasn't even sure if she believed in any higher power, and yet she begged for its mercy at times like these. She tilted her head slightly and let out a breath, eyes gliding numbly over his worried face.
So, one day he didn't come back. I wasn't really surprised that much as he had episodes like those before, drifting away from me for a day or two. Sometimes even three. Once again handling, another new lucrative business that "this time will work for sure".
For a second, she heard Dan's voice as if he was right there with her. This time it will work, baby. This plan is bulletproof, I just feel it. She breathed out and tried not to taste the bitterness on her tongue and instead just continued, her voice becoming dull and empty.
But it never really did. And on that day, instead of seeing his tired, mangled face, which somehow always had a smile reserved for me. Just for me...
She inhaled through her teeth sharply, and without warning, the wounds opened up again, catching the light and gushing blood all over the table. The motion nearly too painful for her to swallow, her throat tightening. But she fought it and clenched her fists again. It's just pain, it's nothing you haven't felt before. Get a grip on yourself. Finish something for once. She told herself with sternness, trying to replace the ache with anger. Grabbing her side as if wanting to stop the invisible bleeding and barely stopping herself from growling as the pain became too physical, too real.
But I didn't get to see it. Instead, seeing a different face and different eyes. Those eyes were serious and respectful. The officer that I had opened the door to; surprisingly gentle as he explained to me that the person most important to me, someone I could not imagine breathing without - not fully, anyway - was gone. No longer... here.
She stumbled on the last word like there were pieces of shredded glass in her mouth. Feeling the ice in her veins, stirring and covering the spaces between the ribs as her chin lifted slightly, back straightening in the plastic chair. The urge to disappear in it was gone. All she felt was her muscles thickening and beginning to settle like concrete. Matching the texture of her bones as the next words felt out of her mouth like tiny sharp pebbles, covering the floor with dust and rubble.
Murdered coldly in some dark, disgusting... sickening alley.
She looked up at the ceiling, letting the light from the lamps blind her a bit as her shoulders rolled slowly. As if she was trying to make her body move. As if she was trying to remember how it was to be human again.
The officer said a fight must have had broken off between him and the attacker. And the other person had no trouble taking one step too far. These things happen more often than one thinks, apparently.
She said in an empty voice, sarcasm coloring her words and seeming to be the only audible shade of life left in her on that day.
Hey, but what to expect when drugs and gambling issues are involved, right? Some people are just problems from the beginning. And society doesn't like that, Charlie.
For some reason, her voice managed to turn sweet as her tongue ran slowly against her teeth, threateningly sweet. As if she had been hanging on the last thread that kept her from tasting insanity fully. Tasting it and enjoying it.
Did you know they found cocaine on him? I mean, beyond finding a wide, gushing gap in his chest? Mmm, not the prettiest sight, in my opinion.
She hadn't looked his way as she asked the question. Lost somewhere between the past and what was actually going on around her. She felt disconnected from everything and didn't have any will to resurface.
He lost so much blood.
She murmured it very low, making it sound more like rusting leaves than actual words.
Whispering them almost to herself as if she was the only one in the room.
But there was nothing they could do when he was found. Nothing to be saved. It didn't matter though, as he was left there to rot there the entire night. They found him early in the morning. On November 12th. The policeman knocked at my door a few hours later. It was 9:32 a.m.
She faintly heard the voices return, creeping into her head and bringing tension under her forehead. She couldn't care less.
9:32 a.m. It's funny how a human brain can recall such small details. Don't you think?
Her voice trailed off, and she shivered after a moment, somehow smelling the snow in the air. Even if she was inside, sitting in warmth. Maybe it was because of how frozen her body felt against her numb thoughts. Or perhaps she remembered how the air smelled when she had to go in and identify the body. And feel the cold skin of his cheek as she stroked it for the last time, in that soulless room with fluorescent lights and metal, shiny surfaces everywhere. Standing there, feeling like being inside a freezer. But then again, since that day, everything felt cold to her.
Suddenly, she felt gentle fingers wrapping around hers as he pulled a chair next to her and sat down, not saying anything. Just being there and coating her with a soft warmth that she needed so desperately.
It's okay. I'm here, and I'm not going anywhere.
She stared at her hand in his, not looking at him until he reached out with his other hand and lifted her chin lightly. A kind smile that brought some light to her state and gradually melted the ice covering her skin. Just like the winter sun as it allows the Spring to shyly creep onto the stage. Slowly for now, but enough to let some hope to seep in. A trace of waking up life.
Is that where you were last week, Nora? Honoring his memory? Dealing with the date?
He asked after a few seconds, but to be honest, it might as long have been hours or days, for all she knew. Time felt like a very surreal thing to inhale and breathe with on that day.
You don't have to answer now. I'm sorry, that was probably a bit insensitive.
She shook her head slowly as his hold was still on her. Smiling a bit at him, his fingers on her chin seemed to burn right through the flash. It was a good burn.
No, it's okay. And yes. I went to visit him at the cemetery.
It must have been a rough time for you.
You have no idea.
He nodded and let go of her chin, letting her lean in and rest her head on his shoulder, as his arm wrapped around her body, his other hand still squeezing hers reassuringly.
I can only guess all the things you have been through in the last couple of years. But I"m here for you, whenever you need me. I mean it.
I know... I know.
It was then when he rested his chin against her head, and her body nestled itself into him. As always, somehow so naturally as if she had known him for years and not just a couple of months. But she didn't fight it as much as in the beginning. No, at that moment, she just let herself sink into him and forget that anything existed, apart from here and then.
_ _ _ _ _
She shakes her head and comes back to reality unwillingly, as the cold of her flat and the empty couch without another warm body against hers hits her harshly. Less than 20 hours, and she already missed him and his presence. And there was less and less in her to fight that feeling. She wraps herself tighter in the rusty color blanket, and sinks deeper into the pillows, letting her body fall and roll into a ball, the street lamps coloring everything in shades of orange and gold.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
https://theprose.com/post/230936/with-all-my-senses ( the beginning )
Previous chapters :
Honkleberry Hog has been a good boy all year, and has quietly attended to all of his scriptorial duties with the alacrity and dispatch of a true professional, plus without all of that verbosity one is saddled with in Yankeetown, which is a plus. His language is simple and succinct, yer adept and imaginative. He would use "treasure" exactly where it should be used, but never "treacle" unless forced, or given a choice between it or voting ass.
We two are split by geography, but also by what seems like a zillion years of cultural animosity between "genteel" North and "simple" South wink. There are multitudes between us, excluding 20% of the Earth's surface in the form of the Atlantic, the "T" word, the "G" word (rhymes with "runs"), blue bloods (one word?), something called "joe lieberman (though I admit I would have to Goggle that), Yogi Bear, big business, my take on Native Americans, my take on burnt umber (maybe), and choice of cars in a perfect world (maybe)(say you'd take a '62 Studebaker!! Please!).
I once had a buddy in the Army who reminded me not at all of Honkleberry; he was as skilled with words as our former President ("honered," "Thighland," "unpresidented act") and was actually from the North. Back in the day I would have taken a bullet for John, and I'm nearly sure he would have taken one for me. Then T**** happened, and that was the end of our friendship.
Despite all of these wonderful arguments for us to not be pals, I consider Honkleberry Hog to be a friend. It was important to me when I first began communicating with him and realized how different he was that I proved to myself that division was not a natural sequence of events in the lives of two Americans with differing views. Maybe it was my way of trying to "win" back John. For whatever reason, I'd say the endeavor worked out fine, and I'd love for our story to inspire others, since NONE of the problems we now face can be solved by partisanship (word?).
So I'm thankful that I've made Honk-man's acquaintanceship, even though he sort of suggested I'm a "creepy, emotionless [person]..from [a] familiar, if shadowy world. I'm from Massachusetts not Transylvania, fer Chrissake.
I have given it a lot of thought, Santy, and for all of the reasons I've so obscurely listed above, I would like to gift Honkleberry Hog with something special this year for X-mas. If it's not too much trouble, Santy, please get him what every Lynyrd Skynyrd listening white male in Mississippi dreams about, something on his list every Christmastime since he was six (secretly), sitting there in his overalls. Please give him a Yoga mat.
I'll keep my sticks and he can have his coal, but if you can let him know I prefer football, hockey, basketball, and baseball to...um...football (the one everyone sucks at in America except girls), that would be swell. And that I love beer, just not no shit Budweiser. And not too often cuz of the glutens. :-)
Thanks Santy your the best.
Merry X-mas yourself Huckleberry!
Chapter 31: When the Road to History Changed Forever
June 1860, Chicago Pavilion
“Friends and citizens, I need not enter further into the causes which led to this anniversary. Many of you understand them better than I do. You could instruct me in regard to them. That is a branch of knowledge in which you feel, perhaps, a much deeper interest than your speaker. The causes which led to the separation of the colonies from the British crown have never lacked for a tongue. They have all been taught in your common schools, narrated at your firesides, unfolded from your pulpits, and thundered from your legislative halls, and are as familiar to you as household words. They form the staple of your national poetry and eloquence.”
“Bunch of hogwash, if’n ya ask me. Nigger standin’ up there talking like he has rights.”
Oliver turned around in his seat facing a large unshaven man in a plaid shirt and well-worn pants.
“Sir, if you wouldn’t mind, please keep your remarks to yourself. Mr. Douglass has been given the honor to speak before the public and he should be afforded our courtesy.”
“Curt’sey be damned, stranger. Where I come from, a nigger talks like this to us, and we put him in line with a whippin’. I can’t sit here and listen to this shit anymore.”
Looking left and right he said, “C’mon boys, let’s go get us a drink.”
Relieved that they had left, and without causing any trouble, Oliver turned back to listen to more of what Frederick Douglass had to say.
“Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. ‘The arm of the Lord is not shortened,’ and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope.”
A few minutes later when he had concluded, Oliver rushed to the podium as several others were thanking Douglass for such a fine lecture. When they were finished, Douglass turned to leave the Chicago Pavilion through the back doors when Oliver blurted out his name. Douglass turned.
“And what may you want,” he said, more statement than question.
“I want you to know I understand the message you brought here today and, sadly, many people in this country are failing to even look in the direction of your words. It appears we may soon be on the brink of war over slavery and there seems to be no one who will be able to stop this from happening. Perhaps Mr. Lincoln can if he is elected president, but…”
“Let me stop you right there. Yes, like you, I feel war coming, but make no mistake; it isn’t all because of slavery alone. I could give you a list of reasons long as your arm is, but I will narrow it down to three for you.
“First one is economics. Cotton in the South is big business and with the North wanting to abolish enslavement, if that happens, the South will lose out on workers they pay very little, if anything, other than supplying them with a meal a day and sleeping quarters. Without workers, cotton cannot get to market, and if it cannot get to market, no one makes money.
“Second one is when the Fugitive Slave Act went into effect and that meant the states could overrule federal rulings which led to political upheaval and a whole mess of angry plantation owners.
“Last, when you look at the Dred Scott case, the abolitionists preaching their words that all people should be free, and well they should be, but this has caused a division among the people and the black man in this country has no civil rights to fall back upon. And I fear, since Mr. Lincoln is also an abolitionist, if he gets elected, it will be the final straw that will put us at war. And let me just add one other thing, and that is the desire for more territorial expansion of the United States. We have become a greedy nation.”
“I understand things better now that you have it explained it this way, and, Mr. Douglass, I have a request of you, with your permission, of course.”
“I don’t do book signings after a speech.”
“That isn’t my request. I would like to have you sit for me so that I can paint a portrait of your presence. I feel strongly about this that you will become part of the teachings for generations to come and that people should be able to look upon you and see the man who made a difference in our society and societies yet to come. Although I am primarily a writer, I have dabbled in several styles of paintings.”
Douglass smiled, something he rarely did. Reaching inside his breast coat, he pulled out a sheet of paper and a pencil, quickly wrote something down, and then handed it to Oliver.
“This is my address. Perhaps you could start tomorrow?”
Oliver nodded with a huge smile.
James must have ridden well over a million miles, or so it seemed to him. Didn’t matter the weather either. Rain or dry heat, the mail had to get to its destination.
He had been lucky so far. Twice he found himself being chased. Once by three men bent on robbing and killing him, probably believing he was carrying more than the mail, which he wasn’t. As it turned up, James had the decency to dig three graves before he set out on the trail again.
The other time was when a band of Arapaho was after him. He managed to find cover behind a few boulders as his horse was labored under an already fierce ride and wouldn’t be able to outpace the Indians much longer. It was twenty to one and James felt he was going to meet his Maker, when riding from the west came a rider for the Pony Express to lend a hand, and an extra gun.
After sustaining heavy losses, the Indians fled and there was James, standing in front of Etta Mae Jenkins.
“I would have been done for if you hadn’t happened along when you did. I am in your debt, Etta.”
“I know a way you can pay me back, James, and it won’t take long either, I don’t reckon. I’ve seen how you’ve looked at me when we are at the station and being quite honest with you, I fancy you.”
Etta Mae started removing her shirt and with no more words said, the mail could wait on James for a change.
It was a gala event at the Regency Hotel in Washington. Three weeks before, Abraham Lincoln was elected president and several dozen people were invited to a ballroom event in his honor. Two of the people in attendance were Flower, in a pale blue gown she made herself, and William, fully in uniform as would befit the first Admiral of the Navy, a new title voted on and approved by the Senate and then signed by James Buchanan, which became his last official act as president.
The food was excellent, the music was heaven, and Flower was ecstatic as this had been the first time in years they had been to any social events, especially one as important as this one. It made her mind go back in time to their first public outing together. It was at The Silas Eatery.
“Order anything you’d like, Flower.”
“But look at the prices; they are expensive. Are you certain you can afford this? Once we are married, we will have responsibilities to adhere to, and I fear spending money on something I can cook at home, William, will be a waste.”
“My dear, I assure you this is something we will do but only on occasion. Besides, I brought us here for a celebration.”
With that one word, William stood tall, nodded to the owner, who in turn nodded to three men who started playing the piano, a banjo, and a harmonica. William then boasted loud enough for all to hear:
“My friends, today I wish to announce to all of you that Miss Flower Kincade has accepted my proposal of marriage.”
Oh, how she had smiled then, laughing with glee. How she so loved William then and even now, even when he was away for extended periods of time because of duty, she loved him even more.
She recalled right after Randolph was buried and they returned home; it wasn’t until then that William broke down and cried at the loss of his son.
Publicly, he was a professional in every sense of the word but privately, he was a father left stunned by the loss. Thankfully, they still had William Jr. and, with his wife, Anna, and a son, they were now the ever-doting grandparents. Timothy, soon to be three, gratefully seemed to be coming out of the dreaded terrible twos age, but Flower smiled just the same.
Just as quickly her smile disappeared when she thought of the growing tensions over Lincoln’s election and the slavery issue. Where would this put her beloved William?
“Flower, please smile for me and do me the honor of this dance to new music, written by Franz List. I think it's called ‘Mephisto Waltz, number three.’”
“I don’t care what it is called; let us dance.”
April 16, 1861
“The siege at Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor, after a brutal thirty-four-hour exchange of artillery fire, ended when Major General Robert Anderson of the Union forces and eighty-six soldiers surrendered the fort on April 13. Confederate troops then occupied Fort Sumter. It became the first confederate victory and soldiers have stated they would make this war a quick one, ensuring that Jefferson Davis would replace Lincoln as the new president.”
Looking up, Diana said, with slight tremors causing her hands to shake, “Flower, I fear for our family and what this will do to the country. I do not see this as a quick war.”
“Nor do I, sister. Thank goodness that William is more in charge of handing out orders instead of taking them. At least I have no fears of his being injured or maybe killed.”
“There has been much talk in Baltimore of Union forces being pulled together to squash this rebellion,” said William, Jr. “Word has it already an attempt on Lincoln’s life was made. Several states have ceded from the country, and Jefferson Davis vows to never surrender in defeat but to attain absolute victory.
“And—I have given thought to join the Union forces.”
Three faces looked aghast. Diana, Flower, and Anna were shocked with this revelation.
“Why would you do such a thing, William?” asked Anna. “We have a family, a good home, and you have a stable practice in Baltimore, and you are willing to throw all of that away to fight in a senseless war! How dare you do this to me! To our son! To your family!” Anna rushed out of the living room.
“As much as it pains me to say this, son, you are your own man,” Flower said. “I don’t care for the idea, either, but you have your own mind. Now let me go to be with Anna.”
Looking at Diana he said, “Surely you have something to say to all this?”
“Yes, I do. William, surprised as I am, I’m really not all that surprised. You came into this world from good stock and the Kincade blood has never backed down when called upon or a decision made. If and when you make the move, I will support you, and trust I shall not love you less for doing such but rather—love you more for your conviction.”
Outside on the front porch Flower sat with Anna.
“Anna, he is a man who feels obligated to do the right thing.”
“I know, but he could have said this privately to me first. When we first met, I was in love with him from the first meeting, if that is even possible, but—I played a game. I wanted him to chase after me. Is that so wrong? Then came the trip to Melbourne and the ship sinking. I never thought we would ever be rescued but hope came and with that hope came William, and, of course, Oliver. I was never so overjoyed in my life to see him and knew then I would end my charade and become his wife.
“With Oliver and Azalea, those two seemed destined to be together and Azalea actually was the bolder of the two the second day they were on the island before we left. But once in Melbourne, we had a double wedding ceremony. It was beautiful and something I will always remember, but if William goes off to war and is killed—all the beauty I remember now will not be so any longer. And then there is Timothy. He is at that age where he needs his father most. What do I do, Mother?”
“You love him is what you do. Let him know that you don’t have to like his idea, but at least respect whatever final decision he makes.”
It was a cool late night in Augusta where Samuel was walking slowly, thinking about how this war was beginning to take shape. On several occasions he had witnessed public hangings of runaway slaves or the brutal whippings they received. Since the time when he found and brought Eloise Martin to Dr. Starry and she gave birth to a boy that she named after him, his thoughts on slavery still existing were dwindling.
Everyone has a right to their own life.
Loud voices interrupted his thoughts.
“Bring those mangy dogs over to the wagon and make sure they are chained up good. We don’t need them tryin’ to make a run for it.
“Missy, ya done good. This here makes about a hunnert blacks that’ll be back where they belong. Here’s your cut from the profits.”
“I’ll take the money but like I said before, it isn’t about the money. It’s about establishing their rightful place. Colored people aren’t worthy of the freedoms we have, and I just want to be part of doing the right thing.”
Samuel recognized that voice and shouted out, “Maria!”
Turning toward the voice she walked away from Taggert who grabbed her by the arm and said, “Who the hell is he?”
“My brother. Now take your hand off me.”
Maria walked up to him, each of them with smiles on their faces, and they hugged each other tightly.
Sitting on a nearby bench, they talked about all that had gone on since they last saw each other.
“Maria, you know well by now how I first felt about the slavery issue, but I have found myself questioning the validity of it and I fear what you are doing may cause you serious harm if you persist in it.”
“I’m not doing anything much different than what President Jefferson Davis would have us all do: keep them in line and make them do as they are told.”
“I hope you can understand what I am about to say, but from what I have been gathering, this war going on isn’t about slaves—it’s about the rich getting richer off the men they can control and has nothing to do with slavery or a person knowing their place in life.”
“Samuel, I respect you as my brother, but don’t agree with you. When the Confederate armies win this war, you will see that I am right.”
“Then, this much is settled. We shall never see eye to eye on this and that pains me.”
“Then you have forgotten it was slaves that murdered our father—a father who had never harmed anyone—and since you are so intent on dismissing that, we have nothing further to say. Goodbye, Samuel.”
Maria stood abruptly and started walking away even as Samuel kept calling her name and asking her to come back. She never did and it would be the last time he ever saw Maria alive and well.
Dear Aunt Diana,
Since the Pony Express went belly up, as the telegraph and railroads are making the mail reach their destination faster, there have been some changes in my life.
First off, remember me telling you about Etta Mae Jenkins? Crack-shot and can ride a horse better than most men can walk? Well, she’s a Kincade now. We got married at my ranch here in Chalfin Springs. It was a small ceremony and Blue Snake was the best man and doubled, so to speak, as the one who walked her across the room; sort of a thing a father would do.
She’s ten years younger than me but it’s working out fine. So fine, in fact, we are about to become parents, I'm guessing sometime in July. Never guessed this would happen to me, but it did and I am a much happier person now than I have been in years.
If you would please let Oliver know for me and also tell him that Etta Mae has decided on a name if it’s a boy. She wants to name him after our father—Chadwick. I love her too much to argue, and I already know that would be a fight I would lose.
Out here, we haven’t been involved with the war nor has it even come close to us.
I do hope you and Aunt Flower are safe and well, and that all the rest of the family is well. (Any word as yet as to where Samuel and Maria are? I know it has been a while since they left home.)
Be safe and stay well,
Written By: Danceinsilence
Journal entry #100
Today wasn't much different from the past two months. I've been finding my way on nuts, berries, and the few wild animals I find. I hope someday someone will find me on this forsaken island. If starvation or thirst won't kill me, maybe loneliness will. As far I as I know, I'm the only survivor of the shipwreck. The only person to have survived the thrashing ocean waters.
Of all the days I wrote on page after page in a couple journals, I don't know why I decided today I would share some of the story of the nightmare I will never forget. A box of empty journals, pens, pencils, and books washed ashore with me. The journals were dry, well most of them. I let the others dry for days, in the baking sand and scorching sun. The books.. well, they didn't really survive the salty waters. The pages were soggy, words bled everywhere. Useless. I let them dry and ripped pages, using them for the fire. One other box washed ashore, with some salvageable food. Barely enough to last me the first couple days. After the first day, of hunting the island's beach, I decided to make camp. I gathered branches, sticks, leaves, grass, anything –– and made a tent. A shelter to keep me safe. In the brush there are berries and nuts. Sometimes I find a lizard, frog, or small animal. Then I bake it over my fire. I eat, write, sleep, hunt, and repeat. Day after day, night after night. Week after week and month after month. It's the same. The same grueling days, the same loneliness, boredom, and heat.
Perhaps, because I'm bored. No one to talk to, no one to look at. Just the ocean, the sky, and the never-ending sun. If I hadn't built a little covered area under the trees, I might have shriveled into a raisin by now. Thankfully, I found a fresh spring of cold water, saving myself from dehydration or salt-water. This island is full of new discoveries. Yet, I still don't know what life is beyond the few chirping birds and waving trees. Should I look for more life? What if there are cannibals, ready to devour me? What if there are wild beasts, ready to take me down? The fear I allowed to build inside my mind, keeps me from going on into the depths of this unknown island.
Loneliness. Boredom. Probably one of the things I dreaded most in life. Really, you don't know what it's like to be lonely, until you've experienced it. All I can think of to keep myself company, is making up small stories. Or.. telling my life stories in these journals. Why should I? Maybe it'd be better to bury myself in the sand and lay there, dying. No one will come after me. I'm no princess nor queen, why should anyone look for me? I'm just a lowly girl, from a poor family. Her father decided one day, he could gather enough money to let her explore the world. No one knows what happened. No one cares. No one.
Journal entry #101
This is the second entry for today. My fire is built, the flames licking the air. In the hottest of the day, I sit in the shade and write, bored. Sometimes I sleep. In the dimming evening light, I write. The moon shines so brightly some nights, I'm able to write thoughts at any time.
What if someone finds these journals? Maybe I could bury them. In the hope, someone will come after me. If I'm long gone, by either starvation, loneliness, or whatever creatures live past this beach; they'll find this. At least they might find out who I am. Maybe shed some light on my family.. share the news with them. Perhaps, I should stop wishing. This island is in the middle of the ocean. If help were to arrive, it could take months –– who am I kidding? It's been months already. Maybe it'll take years. Hopefully, I'll be alive; maybe thin and scraggly, but alive when help finally arrives for me.
As I stare at the journal and the fire glimmers, the screams of everyone on the ship haunt me. I have nightmares at least once a week. Maybe more. I don't even know what day it is. I lost track ages ago. I only hope the other passengers found help, if any survived. It would have been better to die in the ocean's waves, or receive help while half-alive, then have to live on an island. Where there is no life and each passing day is the same. Maybe one day, I'll build a raft, and float out of here. Then again, maybe it's just my mental state, wishing such things. I fear I won't survive on the food that's here. I already got sick from some of the foreign berries. Maybe I should find new ones... better looking ones.
There's something that howls in the night, I always crouch closer to the fire, afraid to leave it. When it's light, I gather as much wood as possible. The darkness is full of unknown creatures. I'd rather stay close to something I can feel safe. The darkness haunts me, it tries to smother the light I have left. The light I try so hard to keep alive. It's dying, slowly, but it is.
There's something creeping close by, I can feel it. A twig just snapped. It would be a shame to stop writing now. Perhaps... wait! There's a shadow! It's... a... human..? No! Wait! It's gone. Phew! That was close. I'll write faster, in case this.. this human or creature decides to take me.
Whoever finds these journals, if anyone does.. please give my love to my mother and father. I regret not being able to tell them how much I cared about them. I was a foolish girl, desperate for adventure. Where did that get me? Lost. Lost in the middle of an island, where loneliness will be my death.
Santa, Scratchy and Me
I am Scratchy’s negative… youngsters out there wouldn’t know, but I am sure you can remember back in the old days when we had to get camera film developed. The drug store, or the Photomat, would give us a strip of negatives along with the envelope of photos, just in case you wanted to have another print made later. As a kid I loved the negatives even more than the photos; those creepy, emotionless people with their light burst eyes looking out from their familiar, if shadowy world. Yep, the lighting on the negative was the exact opposite of the lighting in the photo, and that is me and Scratchy.
We are such polar opposites in durn near every thought that it is hard to believe that Scratch and I both hail from the same ”Made in America” envelope. Scratchy is everything new, bright, and shiny, while I am a reminder of older, darker days. Scratch is Joe Lieberman. I am Ronald Reagan. Scratch is soccer, I am football. Scratch is weed, I am beer.
Neither of us has been all that good this year. We are both disgusted with the state of things, albeit very different things disgust us. Scratch is disgusted by big business. I am disgusted with big government. Scratch is disgusted by all the pollution people make. I am disgusted by all the people who make the pollution. Scratch is disgusted by Karen Carpenter. I am disgusted by Rick Ocasec (sic?). In fact, the only things Scratch and I seem to agree on are our dislike of the Yankees, and my assumption that he also prefers crunchy Peter Pan over creamy Skippy. (Please say it is so, Scratch!)
And so, for Christmas, I believe Scratch should get the bundle of sticks, as he is pro environment, and I should receive the lump of coal, as I am pro-energy, but really no matter, Santa! We would both appreciate anything you care to bring, and as we have no plans to change or improve in the new year, you can always switch the gifts up next year! Who knows, if I am able to wind ’Ol Scratch up tight enough he just might squeeze that coal to a diamond! (On second thought Santa… the wealth of it would only leave Scratch feeling anxious. You had better bring the coal to me.)
Your bacon and beer are on the mantle, Santa. I put double this year as Scratchy is fasting, so you will have to go without over at his place. Wake me if you have time for a selfie… we‘ll send the negative over to Scratch.
Thanks for remembering us Santa, and Merry Christmas Scratchy!
Harry Situation’s 350th Review Special: High Guardian Spice Part 2: “Is Sleep a Food?”
Continuing from the last part, if the characters are badly written at least the voice acting is good, right? Right?
Yeah, the voice acting ranges from passable to the worst my ears have ever heard. The voice actress for the main leads do a decent job, however it was clear the one who voices Rosemary didn't have much direction since she starts the series with this raspy voice and then as the series progresses she sounds normal. It's pretty clear that most of the voice actors are new at this because they sound like they're bored as hell or have no clue what to do. The worst example is a character named Slime Boy. Holy shit, this is the Tommy Wiseau of voice acting. The motherfucker that voices him mumbles so much that I can't understand a fucking word that comes out of his mouth. There is no emotion in his voice. There is no tone or pitch. Just unintelligible noise. What's worse is that he sings too. So on top of being a terrible voice actor he's also a terrible singer. Seriously, go to YouTube, search for Slime Boy and see for yourself.
The writing is really bad. I don't believe I've seen a show with writing this atrocious, and I'm not exaggerating. The very first episode has Rosemary and Sage travelling to their destination for half the episode. I'm not joking. The very first episode felt like filler with nothing happening. We don't learn anything about our main characters. We don't know anything about their families or village. We don't learn how exactly they got accepted to High Guardian Academy. Later on in the same episode Rosemary's locket gets stolen by a small rodent creature. After following the creature Rosemary and Sage watch it use the locket to attract a mate, resulting the locket getting broken. But by the end of the episode Sage's cousin said that they protected an innocent creature. Um, did we watch the same episode? They didn't do anything. When exactly did they do any such protecting? Was there a scene missing where Rosemary and Sage save the rodent from predators or something? See what I mean? There are inconsistencies like that throughout the series. Again, this is shit you notice right off the first episode.
I bring this up because the first episode throughout this review because, for any series, the first episode should be your main selling point to get audiences invested in. If the first episode has nothing to offer, doesn't establish the setting or characters, doesn't get me invested in the plot, why should I care? Why should I keep watching the series?
The dialogue in this show is honestly the worst I've ever heard. It is omega cringe. The very first thing Rosemary says is "We'll fight mermaids, explore crevices, and we'll be totally awesome dudes."
You people have no idea how hard I cringed writing all of that. Unfortunately, dialogue like that is scattered throughout the whole show. The dialogue doesn't come off as natural. It sounds like something aliens trying to pass as humans would say. There's a dream sequence where a younger Rosemary asks her mother if she likes being a guardian, and her mother responds with, "Yes, it is hard being apart from you, from my family, but my guardian vows are sacred, as will yours be someday."
What the fuck!? Where did this come from? Who talks like this?
If you want this conversation to sound natural, then it should have been written like this:
Rosemary: "Mom, do you love being a guardian?"
Mother: "Of course I do, sweetheart."
Rosemary: "More than me?"
Mother: "Wha- where in the world did you get that idea?"
Rosemary: "Because you're always gone. And I miss you when you're gone."
Mother: "I miss you too when I go. But sometimes being a guardian means having to make sacrifices. This means having to leave so I can protect other families from the dangers of this world. But know that no matter how far apart we are I will always be with you, even if you can't see me."
There! Sounds better, doesn't it? Sounds like something two humans would say to each other, right?
What pisses me off the most is that this show breaks the central rule of storytelling: show, don't tell. Much of the conversations are explained to the audience. Sage constantly goes on about how her mother hates new magic, but the question is why? Why does her mother hate new magic? Since when does she hate new magic? When was that ever established about Sage's mother? How about show us a flashback of a younger Sage wanting to explore new magic but her mother catches her and scolds her for it. That way the audience is shown her mother's attitude towards new magic and why she restricts Sage to using only old magic. Or have a flashback showing the audience Sage's mother teaching her about old magic and how it has a personal touch whereas new magic is artificial and it doesn't quite have the same effect as old magic. Hell, later on it's revealed by Sage's cousins that her mother dabbled in new magic. So what made her turn against it? Why not show why Sage's mother resents new magic?
There are many moments scattered throughout the show where the characters talk about what's happened versus showing the audience what is happening. Sage mentions to her cousins that the other students tease her or laugh behind her back because she continues to use old magic, but we're never shown this. Sure I've seen Amaryllis mock and bully her, but what about the other students? Sage specifically said everyone at school. What other students have made fun of her using old magic? I guess we just gotta take her word for it.
Or what about Rosemary's relationship with her mother? She keeps saying how awesome her mother is but we hardly get to see that. We've only been given a flashback and a dream sequence about her. And apparently her mother is a famous guardian. We don't know what she's done to be so famous. Again, we just gotta take this show's word for it. We learn that her mother was once a student at High Guardian Academy, so why not show off her accomplishments? Why not have pictures of her throughout the school of her get the best grades, or all her trophies in various sports, I don't know. Better yet have a statue of her somewhere in the school or the city or something. Have bards sing her praises with ballads of how she alone or with others took down a Lich or how she One-Punch Manned a Tarrasque or something. Show what a legend she is and why Rosemary strives to be like her.
What's frustrating, to me, about this show is the worldbuilding. Now I love worldbuilding. I get ecstatic when I'm thrust into a world so cool, so alien, and so fantastical that I wish I was apart of that universe. I want to explore and experience the world as the characters do. The worldbuilding in High Guardian Spice is unfortunately so lackluster.
Let me share with you two recent shows that do their worldbuilding quite well: Amphibia and The Owl House. Both shows are made by Disney and both have well established worlds. In the world of Amphibia the land is shaped like a giant lily pad and all the inhabitants are anthropomorphic amphibians. As the show progresses we learn that each amphibian species represents a different caste system. The frogs are viewed as simple farmers, the toads act as law enforcement and warriors, and the newts are shown as upper class nobility.
And then there's The Owl House where much of the world is enchanted yet so bizarre, since it is inspired by artwork by Hieronymus Bosch. Seriously, check out his depictions of Hell and how bizarre it all looks. This helps give the series its uniqueness compared to other fantasy shows. Hell, compared to other Disney shows for that matter. They also go into detail of how the magic system works, how witches tend to join covens and there are severe consequences if a witch doesn't join a coven.
What does High Guardian Spice have to offer in their world? Nothing. It looks like every goddamn fantasy world I've seen a hundred times. It has warriors. It has wizards. It has elves. It has dwarves. It has dragons. It has mermaids. It has magic. It has every motherfucking cliche you can think of in every motherfucking fantasy movie, book, game, whatever you think of when you hear the word fantasy.
You know what let's talk about the magic system in this series too. There's this constant debate between old magic and new magic. The problem is that we're not really given much information on what the different between the two. At most I get the gist that old magic is more connected with nature and it takes time to learn versus new magic where all you need is a staff or arcane focus to do the magic without major consequences (sorta). But this isn't explained. Even if it was it wasn't explain, or even explored, very well. Just another thing that this show seems to be vague on.
And speaking of being vague, what the fuck is a guardian exactly? Our main protagonists clearly want to be guardians and they go to a special school to become a guardian, but it's never explained what a guardian is in the context of this world. What does it mean to be a 'guardian'? Why does one want to be a 'guardian'? Is there more than one path to becoming a 'guardian'? Are they meant to protect something? If so, what? The school? The kingdom? The local bank? What does one do when they are a 'guardian'? It's amazing how a show that often explains what is happening they also explain very little.
My friends, I'm afraid it doesn't get any better than this. But I haven't addressed the worst that this show had to offer. Those who may be familiar may already know what I'm talking about and wish to know why I haven't mentioned it earlier. Simply because I've been saving it for the final part of this three part review. Please join me next time on how High Guardian Spice fucks up its own representation, and my final thoughts to the overall series.
#harrysituationreviews #film #opinion #animation #fantasy #adventure #magicalgirls #magic #LGBT #ThisMovieSucks #PartTwo
I Am, Therefore I Write
I am Chuck. I like telling stories, particularly stories with happy endings, but the worldview these days is making that difficult, even contrite. I sometimes wonder if people want to be happy anymore.
I like to read. I like to read writing with handsome, galloping language. I love when the page whispers by light. I love to read poetry, but cannot write it well, so I settle for attempting short stories fleshed out with poetic prose, which I am decent at I think, or the occasional humorous, rhyming story (what I call ”Rhyme-Time”).
I love The Prose site and the people who respect what I wish was it’s purpose… the sharing of lyrical language. So much so that I find it difficult to coincide my selfish desire for Prose to remain an intimate space with my appreciation of it’s true economical purpose, which as a business model must always be growth, particularly financial growth. (Woe be to those who make business of art, you dastardly bastards ;)
Regardless, I am glad to be here. I am glad you are here. I am glad for a place where I can share my passion for life, my love of dogs, and my fear of death; a place where I can yawp, “I am here! Come breathe with me… if only for a sentence.”
Press on with your Prose-on, everyone.
Topic no. 9
It is ludicrous for me to pick topic number nine when many of the eight other topics contain special significance to me...
I first wanted to write a story about Heliciculture; the main character would be a bizarre Frenchman in charge of breeding escargot who started getting a little hermaphroditic, like you know how people start acting or looking like their pets? But then of course it started to get kinky with the mucus harvest and the topic became too controversial.
The next topic I set my sights on was Gila Monsters. Could be non-fiction, that one; I held a Heloderma once. His name was Tommy, (which seems excessively un-creative, so you know I'm not making it up) but actually he was a Heloderma Exasperatum, not a Heloderma Suspectum, which was fitting because he did look quite exasperated at being called a Gila Monster when he wasn't one. I scratched off this topic as I was worried that the true Gila Monsters would be Suspectuming me of taxonomic-appropriation.
My next idea was too cliche: the landfill fairy romances Der Erlkönig, reforming his character and convincing him to start using his soul-sucking power for good: consuming used plastics instead of little German boy's life essence. ...But it seemed like cheating to mix and match the topics like that.
In the end I settled on the most predictable topic; entitling my piece "The answer to number two in Morse code" and (as I don't know Morse code by heart) went through the painstaking translational effort of typing out my scandalously libidinous answer whilst referencing a Morse-code alphabet, the result of which I posted proudly and with nary a scrap of remorse. But there was a glitch with the new site and it posted my post twice and when I deleted one of them they both disappeared! My heart sunk to the depths and glooms of the bottomless ocean, rising only for a moment at the futile hope: was it saved to drafts? but no! it was lost to the greedy abyss! Suffice it to say I won't be going through that again. I mean lets be honest; who was ever going to read Morse erotica anyway?
So we're back to the soul-crushing philosophical exploration of topic no.9: what does anything mean? Well it could mean anything couldn't it?
Far too open-ended, I know. Also alarmingly obvious and existentially irritating. But that's about all I've got left sloshing around in the old mind-bucket. I'm off to go drown my sorrows in a cup of tea. So long and thanks for all the random topics, and the awesome nerdy reference which I'm currently butchering.
The time of year has me thinking of those I'm grateful for. Thanksgiving and Christmas do it to me each year, and I think of the progression of my healing since the fateful spring we met.
I was scared. I was swamped with memories that seemed to have come out of the blue, forgotten, buried and hidden deep inside a locked box in my subconscious. Disturbing memories of childhood sexual abuse which were never addressed. Which were never talked about. Which destroyed so many things I never admitted to and didn't want to face.
The six of us sat in the waiting room at the Jewish Family Center and sent cautious glances through eyelash shielded eyes, trying to assess our emotional safety. We knew this was a group for sexual abuse survivors, but not one of us was able to look at ourselves as anything but victims with horrifying flashbacks. As we would discover, none of us thought we had it the worst. Each of our stories were unique and each of us were more sympathetic to the others than to our own suffering.
You taught me to nurture my inner child. You taught me to celebrate my survival. You gave me a group of friends who have stood by me for twenty eight years now, and we continued to meet as a group, weekly and then monthly for over two years after our official time with you ended. You taught me to celebrate the strength, courage and compassion which were gifts brought to me through what I experienced.
One of our group went onto much more intensive therapy. Sandra had deep seated issues which required some time in rehab and one on one counseling to get her into the light again. We always wondered how she did. The five of us, however, became fast friends and were there through the cycles of recurring memories all trauma survivors go experience. A phone call, an email, a letter, a text and one or the other would respond.
So, thank you from the bottom of my soul. Thank you for giving me the foundation to deal with all the other goodbyes in my life by teaching me how to deal with saying goodbye to my innocence. Goodbye to my trust in adults, and hello to my fierce fighting spirit which I embrace today. And thank you for giving me back my dreams instead of the nightmares.
Your grateful client,