My name is John Meadows, at least, that’s what it says on my birth certificate. At this moment, I’m not sure if that is even true.
I woke up in a bedroom. It was an unknown space. Except, as I lifted my head up off the pillow, I noticed a picture that looked familiar. I stood, walked over to it: it was flush with the wall. An outdoor moment in time. There was a man, and a woman. They held each other, big smiles on their faces.
The man leaned on a vast gnarled tree. Instead of branches, It looked as if seven tree trunks wound around each other, an abstract weave of latticework wood. The leaves were thick, a dark shade of green that looked almost like they were black. They hung over the couple like a frame.
The woman had her head resting on the man’s shoulder. His hair fell to his collar, so dark that at first, I thought it looked like it was cut out of the photo. Her hair was lighter, a mixture of golden brown and red. I remembered that it was called Auburn. I don’t know why I didn’t realize that at first. Yes, Auburn-haired, long, it fell down and over his chest, making his torso look like it disappeared as well.
The photo bothered me. Her eyes sparkled when the shot was taken. His eyes held little to no reflection. I looked. His didn’t, even with the sunlight spotlighting where they stood. Her eyes, the tilt of her head, her smile: there was life. He smiled, but it didn’t seem to reach his eyes. They were flat.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a free-standing full-body mirror to my left. It stood at a tilt near white folding slat doors. I shuffled my way over to it. I could not remember what I looked like, nor who I was. Maybe, I thought, looking at the reflection, things would come into focus. My heart began to accelerate, chest tightening, and it was getting difficult to breathe. I hadn’t been aware of breathing before this. I was now.
Coming into full view, I felt my head had received something smashing into it. It hurt like hell. I had to touch my head. It felt like bone shattered. I checked. It felt solid. But the pain. It was like a steel bar was slammed against my forehead.
A steel bar? Why did I…no, more a bat? Baseball? No, no. A baseball. Yes, a baseball hurtling to me, not even registering that I needed to move, to duck, do something. But it was too fast. I was too slow. I was up, then nothing. It felt just like that, although I didn’t know why. I still don’t know why I felt that way when I stepped in front of the mirror.
Yes, I was the man in that photo, even though I did not remember that. It was clear upon viewing, my eyesight was waving, no floaters, no film distortion over the irises. I looked at myself in the mirror, then over to the photo. Goosebumps paraded across my spine.
Turning, I took in the rest of the room. White minimalism in paint and fabrics. Same with my pajama pants. I noticed, then, that I had no shirt on. A look in the mirror traveled down; before, I was solely intent only on my face. My chest was hairy but not matted. Three parallel deep pink scars ran from my left armpit to just past the bellybutton. An inny. They didn’t hurt as much as throb. Noticing them did not help my rapid breathing and heart rate.
The next moments are still a blur. I know I looked around: the place had been tidy when I awoke. Now, drawers, men’s clothing, papers littered the white. All the bed linen was on the floor. The sliding slat doors were open wide, showing a closet that was only half full. I took this all in, sitting on the floor, leaning against the bed. I felt something hard and looked down. I had a metal lockbox in my hands. My breathing shallowed, and I felt myself calm down to regular human beats. At least, what I thought were normal.
There was no lock to have to break into. The lid swung up with ease, showing the mound of papers it carried. I riffled through the envelopes, unfolded the various papers, and only stopped when I found a Birth Certificate. Mine, I have assumed, until someone tells me differently.
My name is John Meadows.
If you are listening to this tape, then most likely I am dead. Or too far away for any meaning of living or dead is inconsequential. This is the story of what happened from that moment of waking, clueless to everything that had meaning to me. I know that the woman in the photo was Jean, my partner. I know she no longer…is here. Where? At this time, I still do not know how to answer that.
Whoever you are, whenever you are, do yourself and loved ones a favor.
Do not stand under the leaves of that massive, gnarled tree.
Mark convulsed in the mudded pit and dissolved. Spasms had wracked his form as he wormed his way along the rain-drenched ground. He did not sense the sharp drop that brought him to his end. Yes, I watched his final journey. I stood at the lip of the pit, watched his death, and walked home.
Why did I watch? Why didn’t I do anything? I had done something. His ending began with me.
You look startled. Why? You know Mark and I were never friendly towards the other. He stabbed me in the back as many times I stabbed him. Staying away from each other was the prudent thing to do, we both knew that. We even laughed together one evening over that thought, sipping our glasses of red. The bar was thriving that night.
Some weren’t after we finished with them. Yes, I know, Mark and I, rivals, blah blah blah. The hunt drew us together now and then, generally by sheer coincidence. At least, that is what I had always thought.
It turned out that Mark had planned every encounter. I have to give him his due: his skill in lying far surpassed mine. When I found the truth, I was a tad humbled. Mark’s lying was at mastery level. I worked hard to take mine to his level.
Why did he do it? Why did he hate me that severely? Old story. It was always a game of one-upmanship between us. Always. Mark would not accept that I could exceed him in any way. It was no more than a game of egos, until, it wasn’t.
It all started with Claire. He wanted her. She chose me. Once her bloodied body was discovered, nothing between us would ever be the same game again. I’d take from him. He’d indulge in returning the favor. We were living in a harsh cycle. The drawn blood between us had been notorious.
Yes, yes. That was centuries ago. So?
Why now, you ask? What brought our mutual loathing to an end now?
Mark and I have always been scrutinizing each other. Weaknesses praised and used to our advantage. This became our goal: seeking knowledge to use to the other’s detriment. Who won or lost these challenges was of no concern, then.
It came to my attention that Mark had studied me far deeper all along. It came to me in whispers along the way. Sycophants whose loyalties drifted between Mark and me. I ignored most of them as pure gossip. I knew I spun my tales to unsettle Mark.
Until most recently, I believed we were on even ground.
What? Of course, I was wrong! Yes, yes, always headstrong, blah blah.
Mark’s planning had reached a summit. It was due to begin this very evening. Ha! He had rallied many to his side. I thought we were equally loathed. Again, I was wrong, but…there will be a reckoning.
His plan: attack and obliterate everything, and everyone, that I possess. Every single element that is mine. I may not have a heart, but Marks’s scheme was that threat one step too far. I confronted him on this.
Of course, he denied it all. What else would one expect?
No matter: he would never take what was mine again.
That night’s storm was tearing up the sky. That was pure coincidence, convenient on my part.
I had reached out to him. He responded, and met me that night outside of a long-standing bar we both favored. Accusations and denials tore into the night sky. Sharp words turned to sharper claws.
We did grave damage to each other, of course.
On a muddied slope, Mark lost his balance. Miniscule, but I took my advantage. I was getting the best of Mark. Deep in the forest at this point, Mark went down to the earth, glaring my way. I imagine that he felt this was our usual. Spar, hurt the other to that point, He hadn’t prepared for me to take this to a true Endinig.
I did. I fought dirtier than usual, slashing his in violence I had not known I was capable of. Panting, Mark began to sidle away. I pulled out a weapon we had both sworn would never enter our conflicts. Embedded with Elder rune, I weighed the silver blessed dagger in my left hand. Mark screamed as the dagger plunged through his hide with ease.
Yes, more than once. Many more times.
You would have laughed at the look on Mark’s face as he passed on.
I did. It was exquisite.
No? You’d instead it was my face, my death?
Ah, friend, I’m not sure I believe your poo-pooing. That will be another discussion between us. Yes?
On your central question of “Why?” Really? After all these years we have left behind us, you feel the need to ask, “Why?”
Claire. It was still about Claire. For me, always, it has always been about Claire.
Drink up. Your glass of red is cooling off.
Good. Good. Now, let us discuss one last thing.
Why did you join Mark’s plot against me?
Looking for a new online writer’s group to satisfy your passion?
I am the organizer and host of two separate groups:
This is what has kept me very busy over the last couple of weeks. Michael Grant, Artie Ohanian, and I have put together a Virtual Writer’s Group. RevitalWriters is for writers of any style or genre (poetry; fiction; non-fiction; memoir/biography; etc.) who want/need support for their WIP (Work(s) In Progress). All this leading to achieving a finished manuscript to send off to agents and/or publishers.
The sessions will run every Friday night, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm, EST. If you are in any other time zone, if you’d like to become part of the cohort, let us know.
Our Goal: To offer support, encouragement, and constructive critique in a safe space.
We are not a prompt/generative writing group that you join when the planets align. Our intention is that writers serious about their craft get what they need to to finish and submit.
For full details of how each session will be run, visit RevitalWriters. You’ll find our guidelines, About page, contact information, and upcoming Resource For Writers and Blog pages.
I hope you can join us in our first group meeting at RevitalWriters Session. Friday, July 10, 2020, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm, EST.
PLEASE DO NOT HESITATE TO CONTACT US FOR MORE INFORMATION:
The party took a turn when I was in the shower. Steam clouded the entire bathroom. I was waiting. It was taking its time tonight. A heavy thumping on the door makes me jump every time. Three times: THUMP pause THUMP pause THUMP! Silence. I thought it wouldn’t happen tonight. I was wrong. My eyes jerked to the curtain with the first THUMP. The second THUMP and my stomach falls to my ankles. My heart skips a beat while my testicles disappear with the third THUMP. The sound of the water beating down drowned out. Rain without sound. That rain was now scalding my skin. That damn noise!
It always takes a few moments for my breathing to get close to normal. I took hold of the shower curtain, hoping to catch a glimpse of the noisemaker. On the other hand, I wished I never caught that glimpse. No matter what, this had to stop, especially tonight. I peeked.
Like every time before, nothing was out of place. The Medicine cabinet was in one piece, its mirror fogged over but whole. Same with the pictures on the walls. Nothing had exploded out of the toilet, to my relief. I pulled on the towel rack. The best epoxy mortar firmly held it tight. Nothing was out of place. Again.
I’d had enough. Too many nights to count. Way too much fear.
On the balls of my feet, I inched over to the door, only to fling it open with an “AHA!” like I’ve done every night it’s happened. This night there was something beyond the door, in the hallway. My yell turned into a combo “AhaaaaAhhhhhOoooo,” ending with a yelp. Jan and Patty were just outside in the tight corridor. Jan had one hand over her mouth with the other pointing at my, ahem, sacred space. Of course, she was laughing. Patty’s hand flew to her heart, at first. Then the grin slowly built up her wattage. They were both laughing tears together by this point. Patty tried to bring Jan’s pointer finger hand down, but that brought the two of them to extreme giggling.
“We need the bathroom, Davey.” Jan knew I hated that. David. I’m David.
“Um..uh…,” Patty started. “Everyone is waiting for you. You know. Downstairs. It’s your…” and then she cut off with fire rising in her cheeks that spread to the rest of her face. She was still looking. I hadn’t done anything to cover myself or hide. Hiding was always a good option.
“It’s your frigging Birthday, you nimnut.” She pointed at David’s descending pair. “Make that nimnuts.” Jan’s smile combined a shit-eating grin with that of the cat that got the canary. I started to yell at her. Mid rant, she clutched my arm, pulling me out of the bathroom. The click bounced in the hallway as Jan locked the door behind her.
Patty stood there, admiring the newly waxed parquet floors. Water was dripping off of me. I sighed. Patty giggled. I had to sidle past her. I was sucking my gut in, squeezing past Patty. As I made it to my bedroom, I heard Patty’s giggle morph into a heavy sigh as I closed the bedroom door. I think she wanted me to hear that.
Drying myself was pretty much-taken care of by then. I threw on my clothes, gelled my hair, and opened my door. I left the room, expecting to see Patty still in place outside of the bathroom.
Nope. Jan. Of course, she noticed my instant let down hound dog look. I thought I was quick to control it, but again, nope. Jan knew me too well, growing up together, one year apart. My sister was a royal pain most of the time; tonight, she wanted to be one.
“Aw, Davey, little Patty’s gone for a tinkle. Or she’s hiding. Probably both.” Jan leaned in close. “Psst…Patty knows you like her.”
“What are we? Twelve?” I shouldn’t have answered her. I should know better by now.
“Davey wants to kiss Patty. Davey wants to…”
I lightly stamped on her foot. I moved back out of reach.
“YOU SHIT!” was loud enough to quell some of the noise from downstairs. Jan took the stairs with an “ouch ouch” here and an “ouch ouch” there. I could tell she made it in one piece. Everyone yelled, “Jan’s back!” The noise from the party ratcheted up.
The bathroom door unlocked. Patty joined me in the hall, closing the door behind her. I noticed the shower was off. One of them had to have done that because I forgot to.
Patty looked at me, her cheeks still pink.
“David, I’m sorry. We shouldn’t have…”
“It’s over, Pat. Let it die. Jan is Jan. You know that as well as me.”
Suddenly, three heavy thumps pounded on the other side of the bathroom door.
Uh oh. Monsters!
Creeping out from under the bed
Don't turn around; about to eat your head
Running won't save you. Nothing can
Hi Cthulhu. I'm a really big fan.
Distorted landscapes leading nowhere
Something clawed tangled in your hair
Figures all around but they're only rust
Hell, there is no one you can really trust!
Now you see some faces known to you
No reaching them; feet are stuck in glue
Made from the families up & down the hall
It's coming right at ya, a spikey ball.
Blood is on you, dripping from your hands
No way to wipe it off, wrists are rubberbands
It's infinite dark and it will stay that way
Here come more monsters, comin' out to play
The lights are off, this ain't the norm
Frozen in place, sweating up a storm
A dessicated finger running down your cheek
Vocal cords are locked up, not even squeek
A vibrant E decends into your place
Glowing green & red, vanishes no trace
The door is wide open, leading to more gloom
Only thing driving you is get outta the room
A crowd is pushing, you have no control
Cars zoom around you eating an eggroll
Then a figure jumps over a truck
A clown with a knife, you are out of luck
Running doesn't help, she is right behind
Wraps those arms around you, the circus bells grind
You rip off the mask; You rip off the face
A void with stars drags you in to its place
Thrashing around, tie yourself in knots
Breathing's getting hard, now seeing spots
Heart beast is choking, it's time to fly
Eyes fly open; there's a blue sky
Shake it off, get yourself clean
Time to leave, forgot to grind the beans
Fling open the door, take a step beyond
Then you realize: there is no sound.
Uh oh. Monsters.
Yes, I have signed up for the A to Z Blog Challenge for this year. I started my blog in 2011 a few months before April sprang on me. I went for it, and it was one of the best things I had done. Happy to have joined.
Except for a couple of skip years, it’s been fun and agony to write (almost) daily through the month. 26 posts, Sundays off.
It’s a challenge (the title says so) but, in my opinion, well worth it. Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Essays, photos, recipes, critiques, How To…, etc. Whatever your blog is about, join in. Great way to discover other blogs, make friends (I have), and for others to find your blog. I’ve gained many followers through this.
Yes, I am taking part in this year’s NaNoWriMo event. It is kicking my buttocks and taking names.
For those who don’t know:
NaNoWriMo is a month-long writing challenge to get out the Great Novel you swear is in you.
Start a brand new Novel on November first;
write EVERY day during that same month;
Match, or surpass, the daily word goal they have set, just a teeny tiny bit under 1,700 words a day;
Ultimate Goal: 50,000 words that will hopefully lead to a brand spanking new novel.
Yes, 50K does not a novel make. Start it, write more, boom! Novel.
As of 11/10/2019, I have scribed 16,684 words of my “novel” idea, one that has been percolating since 2010. Yes, I know, not “brand new” 100%, but I’ve discarded so many ideas over the years of how to approach this. New start, new path. New. Don’t mention all the first chapter first drafts that I wrote, and deleted.
Don’t. Mention. Them.
I joined a Buddy Group. I signed up on the main site. Posted my daily achievements on the site and on FB. Procrastinated a bit (why do you think I’m writing this post?). And thought and thought, researched and thought, finally actually sitting in front of my WIP and adding more and more as the days pass.
Check it all out if you like. I am not discussing exactly what I am writing, but, sad to say, it is not The Abysmal Dollhouse. That is a major editing re-write that I’m taking a few steps back from. It’s a bigger job than I initially thought: to take the individual pieces and novelize them.
If you enjoyed AD, I think you’ll enjoy the new WIP.
I’ll be silent here for the rest of November. For those who celebrate Thanksgiving, go celebrate.
Celebrate anything that warms the cockles of your heart. Fight for your right…to PARTAY!
Speculative Fiction is a genre of fiction that encompasses works in which the setting is other than the real world, involving supernatural, futuristic, or other imagined elements. It includes Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Magic Realism, and so much more. Speculative fiction writing takes the imagination as far as it can go, and then some.
Located in beautiful Rockland County (less than an hour northwest of NYC), the Haverstraw King’s Daughter’s Public Library is holding their annual comic convention, KingCon. Yes, the pun fits.
Taylor Voght, author and MFA at Manhattanville College, will be our moderator as we delve into what makes Speculative Writing so attractive, contemplate the nature of sequential narration, and share what inspires us to write as we do. Sitting beside me will be noted authors and editors Michelle Levy and Gerrit Overeem.
This is Haverstraw’s SDCC and NYCC, just without the mile-long lines!!
I hope you can make it. If so, stop by after the panel and say ‘Hi!’
SATURDAY, AUGUST 3, 2019: KingCon!!
Haverstraw King’s Daughters Public Library
10 W. Ramapo Road
Garnerville, NY 10923
Modern Speculative Writing
1 pm – 1:30 pm, Community Room
For all ages. Speculative fiction requires using your imagination to create entirely new worlds, and it has never been more popular! In this panel, learn from science fiction and fantasy authors Taylor Vogt, Stuart Nager, Michelle Levy, and Gerrit Overeem on how to write your own speculative fiction novel. All attendees will leave with the tools to write their own story!