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Preview: The Chrysalis Stage

The Chrysalis Stage



The blog of Vanessa Victoria Kilmer - author



Updated: 2018-01-23T10:58:25.798-05:00

 



Cimmerian, part 1

2018-01-19T10:45:12.770-05:00

Rachel brushed her teeth. She spit. White foam tinged with pink swirled down the drain. The sink needed cleaning. A glob of neon green toothpaste clung to the rim. Congealed liquid soap pooled around the faucet. She moved her eyes away from the mess and captured her gaze in the medicine cabinet mirror.The shock of seeing herself brought tears to her eyes.She couldn’t even remember the last time she had looked at herself. The image in the silvered glass did not match the picture of herself she had in her head. She tried to look away but stared at the person in the mirror the way you stared at an auto accident.Her eyes were puffy, with dark slashes under the pocket of fluid. There weren’t many wrinkles, but gullies went from the corners of her nostrils and down beside her mouth. Corpulent flesh swallowed her eyes, nose, and lips. A wobbly turkey neck hung below her chins.If she had looked at herself more often would she have been so shocked? Would she have been able to prevent the horror that stared back at her? How was it possible that anyone else could stand to look at her?She cried great gulping sobs. Sounds escaped her mouth, louder than the water running from the faucet. She had forgotten to turn off the water. She cried harder thinking of the water she wasted, lost down the drain, never recovered. She sucked in her breath, held it, smashed her lips together and covered her mouth with both hands. When stars flitted in her vision, she allowed herself to breathe once more.Pathetic much?The empty house didn’t care how much noise she made or how loud she was. It wouldn’t even echo back at her despite its size. She was alone after decades of caring for others, and the house was not a solace. The house now belonged to her alone, but it had never been her home and was not her home now. She did not belong here. She never did. She did not belong to anyone, anymore. It wasn’t likely that she ever would again.She slammed the lid of the toilet down. She sat. The cold plastic shocked her naked ass. She leaned her elbows on her knees, placed her chin on her fists and closed her eyes. The tingling of cut off nerves in her thighs woke her up. She stood, steadied herself with the sink and forced herself to look at her face again. She stuck out her tongue.God, she hated being pathetic.She was free to do whatever she wanted. She walked around the house naked: through the kitchen and into the basement. She laid on the beds in all four bedrooms. She went into the backyard. She dared the neighbors to peak over the fences. The spring breeze raised bumps on her skin. She went back into the house, crawled into her unmade bed and slept for the next three days.Her cell phone rang several times. She texted brief responses back to her daughter and her sister, unwilling to chat. She had to maintain some contact, or they’d be on her doorstep. Seeing her relatives at the funeral had exhausted her.The next time she looked at herself, her hair was greasy and stuck out at odd angles. She stank. Her cheeks smelled from where she drooled and hadn’t brushed her teeth. Now, she looked hideous: as bad as she felt. Her stomach grumbled. There was no food in the house, and she was hungry. She smelled. She couldn’t even consider going to a fast food drive-through.Fine.She forced herself into the shower. As soon as the water hit her face, she cried, drowning in the hot spray. She sat down, her legs unable to hold her up in her hysteria.  Her heart was breaking. She pressed on her chest trying to stop the pain she felt there. She wrapped her arms around her knees and rested her cheek there. The water ran cold.She rose, shaking; turned off the faucets. She walked wet into her bedroom. She grabbed her big, white terrycloth robe, wrapped in it, and crawled under the blankets. She’d eat later.***For this week's prompt at terribleminds - a song lyric I picked."Hello darkness, my old friend, I've come to talk with you again..." The Sound of Silence[...]



The Mind of Melissa

2018-01-21T08:29:11.409-05:00

My mother died when I took my first breath. Her’s was the earliest life I took in payment for the gods’ blessings. I have memories of that time given to me by the spectators of the grave moment. Chaos reigned as I struggled to free myself from the confines of my mother's body. The medical staff fought to keep us both in the world. The calm that descended as she moved on and I moved into the world. My first experience with admiration for the perfection of my physical appearance.Father worked three jobs to buy me the latest fashions. He gave me designer clothing, dance lessons, horseback riding, salon treatments. All the best pampering money can buy. He grew in stature in business and the community to elevate my status, knowing it took more than money. You need a name for fame. So he gave me one. I rarely saw him.Nanna sat me in front of a mirror. She brushed my hair and told me her daughter’s death was a worthy fee to pay for such a beautiful child. She pampered and preened me. She didn’t mind giving up her child for the doll she received as long as I knew the cost.As she made my hair shine, she’d pull out a strand here and there. I understood the lesson she tried to teach me. When she guided the silk slip over my head, her hands trailed to the soft skin under my arms. She pinched me, watching to see if tears sprang to my big, blue eyes. They never did.Someone had to foot the bill for my beauty. I vowed that someone would always be someone else.* * *“Ms. Tamlin,” said Jessica, as she waved to our second-grade teacher. Her voice carried over the heads of the other children on the field. “Melissa has my bracelet and won’t give it back.”Ms. Tamlin stood in front of us with her hands on her hips. She wanted her students to work out their arguments without her involvement. Jessica had gotten the attention of everyone on the playground, students, and teachers. Now Ms. Tamlin had to get involved.“Melissa,” she said to me. “Do you have Jessica’s bracelet?”“No, Ms. Tamlin.” I looked up at her through my long eyelashes.“She does,” said Jessica. “Look. It’s in her hand.” Jessica grabbed my left wrist.I winced, a tear sliding down my cheek.“Jessica. We do not touch each other in this school.” Ms. Tamlin handed me a tissue. I blew my nose, wiped my eye and smiled at Ms. Tamlin. She smiled back. Jessica’s cheeks turned red.“She has my bracelet. Make her open her hand.”I held out my open palm to Ms. Tamlin before she could speak. A bracelet with a letter M charm lay in my hand.“See,” said Jessica.“This is my bracelet,” I said. “See, the letter M for Melissa.”“I got that for my mom,” said Jessica.“Do you have a receipt?” I asked. She had told me she had shoplifted it this past weekend.“No.” She scowled at me.Ms. Tomlin walked away shaking her head.For the rest of the school year, I pinched Jessica in the soft skin of her underarms when no one was looking. She grew pale and thin. She did not return for third grade.* * *“You’re putting on some weight,” Nanna said to me as I licked the sugary 13 off the top of my birthday cake.I reached for more frosting while maintaining eye contact with her. She slapped my hand.Later that night at bedtime, I gave Nanna her tea.“You are sweet,” she said. I handed her the cup, wrapped in a lace doily, so the heat would not burn her fingers. “Did you enjoy your birthday party?”“You made it memorable for me,” I said. I kissed Nanna’s cheeks and went to my room to sleep.The next morning, Nanna’s cup lay on the floor. Digoxin-laced tea soaked her quilt. I removed the cloth napkin from her stiff fingers. I used it to place her empty pill bottle next to the saucer on her side table. I tucked the linen into my pocket. I used it later to wipe the tears from my face when the police and paramedics came to take away the body.* * *My image splashed over screens on phones, computers, and TVs around the world. The hoi polloi acknowledged my fame. I stood accused of hiring illegals to wait on [...]



Keeping Warm in Revena's World

2018-01-07T18:43:44.041-05:00

Revena lives in Castle House, built for battle and protection. It's made of the local Nagelfluh stone quarried from the glacial lakes created during various ice ages. A combination of limestone, sandstone, gneiss, amphibolite schist, dolerite and quartz, with a surface that looks like it's dotted with nail heads. It hardens upon contact with the air and resists deterioration, weathering and erosion. Buildings made with this material last for centuries and are perfect for resisting sieges and attacks.

Unfortunately, it makes for a cold and drafty living space, especially when located on a ridgeline surrounded by the rushing Salt River, fed by alpine snow melt, on the north and west and the High King mountain range (elevation 3,000 m) on the south and east. While the hilltop has been occupied for over 4,000 years by the time Revena was born in the year a.i. 883, (ab initio, from the beginning of the Principatus) the fortress was begun in a.i. 866, by her father, The Margrave.

To keep occupied and warm during the Winter months, Revena spends her time creating woolen clothing. She uses a technique, thousands of years old, called needle-binding or knotless-netting. Unlike knitting and crocheting which won't be invented for another 700 or 800 years, needle-binding is made using short lengths of yarn and one single-eyed, flat needle. This form of fabric making is used across the world. With this technique, Revena makes socks, mittens and scarves.

By layering clothing, indoors and on the rare occasions when she ventures out to get a bit of sun and to combat boredom, Revena keeps warm. She knows that covering feet, hands and head will prevent the chills and prevent cold weather ailments.

If you are interested in learning Nålebinding and working on a piece this month with me and Revena, here's a video tutorial to get you started.

Mittens, hat and scarf pictured above crocheted by vvk.(image)



Let the Real Work Begin

2018-01-02T19:28:31.099-05:00

It's been six months since I've looked at Revena's Revenge: not a pretty love story. That should be enough time to let it look fresh to me so I can do one more edit/rewrite.

There are a few areas I want to tweak and expand, things I didn't have time to do while I was preparing it for my Pitch Week in Vermont.

I will take the opportunity to review the story and characters for the eventual movement into book two of the Storm Sword Trilogy, The Bastards' Battle.

My deadline for finishing will be March 31, 2018.

I am also working on my synopsis for Revena's Revenge. This is hard work. My deadline for the second first draft (the first one was ok but too short) is Sunday, January 7, 2018. This deadline is so short because I've been putting it off for way too long.

Finally, I am writing a short, short PDF book in the What Would Revena Do? (WWRD?) series that will be a give-a-way to build my email list. It will be about the basic tools of magic that Revena would use and how to duplicate them in your own home. The deadline for this is January 31, 2018. 

Thank you to my friend, Mike Keren, author of FOUR FUNERALS, NO MARRIAGE, a funny memoir of love, care taking, and loss for the WWRD? idea.

Time to go write those deadlines on my calendar and then actually do some work.
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Last WiP for 2017

2017-12-31T23:14:17.855-05:00

One thousand, seven hundred and forty-five people from eight hundred twenty-four households located in one point one square mile of a valley in the Shale Tier. Jon knew the names of all of his constituents. He greeted them on the street, in the grocery store and the VFW. They smiled when asked about their families, their jobs, and pets. As mayors went, he was the best. He kissed babies, shook hands with farmers and listened to women. In every election year, the good people of his town re-elected him. He led his fiefdom for twenty years now.He was born in 1956, in this town. His mother gave birth to him at home in her marital bed. He grew up here, running between corn stalks, laughing, mouth wide open, occasionally swallowing a bug. He stacked bales of hay into tunnels in a barn, crawling through the straw up to turrets above the cow stalls. He warmed his bare feet in fresh patties, squishing them between his toes. In one of these rocky mountain fields, at the age of twelve, Jon spoke his promise to a hawk circling over his head. "One day, I will be king."He spoke these words in a rush as he ducked behind the old rusting cars his father had dumped in the upper cow pasture. He peeked around a dry-rotted tire. The old man carried his black belt between both big hands, snapping the leather and clicking the pin against the buckle. The sound traveled up the hill to Jon's hiding place. Jon picked up a rock. His father came around the car. Jon stood. He topped his father by three inches. Jon looked at the house. His mother leaned on one of the porch columns, blood from her forehead smearing the white paint. The wet dark smudges called to Jon like a neon sign telling him it was time.His father raised the belt. Jon pushed his father's drunken arm aside and smashed the rock on his father's head. The insurance money sent Jon to a private high school and a prestigious college. His mother turned out to be an investment wiz which set them up as small-town royalty. Jon came home at twenty-two to do good works. The next year, he took part in his first election, and he won in a landslide.Here he sat in his huge black leather chair surrounded by comfort and gilded fortifications. He looked out of his office window. The large panes gave him an unobstructed view the town's main street. His people traveled the center of the village with purpose. They dressed in grays, browns and dull blues. He watched them with an unexpected sense of dissatisfaction. Yellow caught his eye. Lavender, red and stark white flashed. A girl danced on the sidewalk in front of the bank, her blonde hair floating in the breeze. He leaned forward placing his hand on the glass. His mouth watered. His body tingled. As he watched the girl spin, he heard music swell around him.She was new. Her name was unknown to him. She blazed against the dull backdrop of his domain. He wanted her. He wanted her in the way he had wanted his father dead. He was now king of all he surveyed so that she would want him, too.Jon stood in front of the girl, impeccable in his silk suit. He didn’t remember how he got there, standing on the sidewalk. It was like magic. He just appeared. The girl pirouetted, arms raised to the sky, twirling a belt like a gymnast’s ribbon, eyes closed.“Beautiful,” Jon said, as he reached towards her.Her eyes snapped open. She pushed Jon's arm aside as she backed away from him, her eyes wide, mouth open. Jon looked up and down the street. Empty. He stepped a pace closer to the girl. She ducked behind a beat up Chevy with its bald tires cornered by the curb. “Stay away,” she said. They moved in a perverted sort of tango, Jon steering her into an alley.“I’m the Mayor here,” he said. “It’s ok.”“No,” she said.Jon shook his head. “I haven’t been told no in many years,” he said. He towered over the girl. Her back pressed against the wall of the Colonial-style bank. Her blanched face contrasted against the rust red behind her.“No,[...]



When They Leave

2017-12-27T05:56:51.378-05:00

      Our mother stopped breathing at 10:10 am on 11/11/2014. She never wanted to be in a home or hospital or any sort of facility. And so she refused to comply.     She fell down and passed out a lot that last year. It was like her spirit could no longer hold her up. She’d dribble to the ground while sitting in a wheelchair. She toppled over into the shower. Yes, she fell and she couldn’t get up. So many times. She tried to go on. We went to the places she loved. Parks and small festivals where she could be around flowers and children, leaves falling like confetti to be picked up and brushed against soft cheeks. She liked having the sun shine on her face. We ate sherbert in cones in the cold on a park bench. She cuddled her grandsons, one in person, the other in her broken heart.     Then, like a wounded animal, she lay down, pulled inside herself and faded away from us until that very last moment when we saw her leave in the exhalation of a breath. A quiet exit that took us by surprise by its uncharacteristic nature for our mother.     Our father willed himself to death on June 4, 2017 at the age of eight-six and fifty-nine days. He refused not to know himself.He clutched his hands into huge hammers of flesh and bone. He tensed his body, tendons tangled in angry kots. Rage covered the surface of his face, bubbling up from deep within the man he no longer knew. This stranger took over his days and nights and hid who he used to be.     Big Jim no longer existed except in the shell that remained.     Restless, awake in the dark, awake in the day, not knowing which was which. Roaming, searching, time confusing his body and mind into constant movement. Up and down. Never still. This in a man who knew how to relax and keep calm. Never a harsh word. Life rolling off his shoulders as he floated to the quiet of his cabin, the next perfect pitch of the horseshoe, the soothing pop of a beer can. He moved through a life empty of all he loved. He roamed the house looking for his former peace, never to find it.     “Kill me,” he said. “I am dead, so kill me.”     He woke every few hours searching for normal, a normal forever out of reach of those big hands that worked so hard his whole life. Hands wrapped around steering wheels of big eighteen-wheelers. Now, his new truck, one he wanted all his life, one he never got because someone else always came first, sat in the driveway where he could stare at it, but forever remained a virgin to his hands. He was a passenger, never the driver. He bought it so another would have the joy he never got to experience.     For a while, he lived in Mayberry with his friends, Don Knotts and Andy Griffith. He laughed when Don dropped his gun and shot at his foot. His laugh was big and beefy, from the belly, full of boyhood and running through corn fields, shoving outhouses down hills with his brothers. And then the laughter was gone, replaced with the embarrassment of having his daughter put a diaper on him each night because he was so afraid of going to sleep and wetting the bed. A different kind of childhood regression.     The spoon turned over so the bottom of the bowl prevented food from getting to his mouth. He stared at it in wonder, unable to fathom its function, aiming at the dish and hitting the table. He stared at the objects in front of him with unseeing eyes. He didn’t recognize any of them. He didn’t see them. He moved his hands over the space, knocking the bowl and spilling the milk. The spoon followed, clattering to the floor. The sound rang out like a bell, clanging like a death knoll. Everything aimed toward death. It was all over. There was nothing left except the shell. A healthy, still vigorous shell. A body with the man absent. The man was gone.      The big bl[...]



#NetNeutrality

2017-12-27T05:39:45.989-05:00


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Throw Back Thursday - 3rd Grade Grades

2017-10-19T18:01:38.795-04:00


I'm so glad God invented Spell Check.
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Neverland

2017-10-08T12:18:46.522-04:00

The stinging pain of her mother's hand print on her cheek faded. The sharp burn of her mother's angry, hurtful words continued to clamor in her head. She closed her bedroom door without a sound. She stuffed a handful of her mother’s sleeping pills into her mouth and swallowed. She flung her body on the bed. She wanted a few moments of peace, of nothingness. She tried to snuff out her life with her pillow, the feathers old and broken, the quills poking through the navy blue stripes faded to gray and the white stripes dull as fog. She passed out, her internal vision going black except for the pinpricks of stars swirling around her mind, that moment of dizziness the brink to another one of her existences.* * *The wizard stood on the precipice, his toes curled over the sharp edges. The rock cut into the naked flesh of his feet, his blood dripped down the red wall below. The iron from his blood mixed with the iron in the stone making both stronger. Wind ripped at his clothes, shredding them to rags. The tendrils of fabric tangled with his long blond hair, pulling at his body and his scalp, keeping his body anchored to the earth. Without that stinging and pressure, his consciousness would float away. He felt ten times older than his seventeen years, but he had been at this all his many lives. If he added them all up, he might just very well be one hundred and seventy. He deserved a break. But they needed him again so here he was once more.The rocky bottom of the rift beckoned him. He wanted to fling himself over the edge and fall until the world went black. He tilted his face to the night sky. The stars winked at him, teasing him with their glorious light. He sacrificed his blood every year and every year remained the same. He could give in to the dizziness. No one would suspect he had done it on purpose. None of the other wizards made the sacrifice for more than a couple of years. He had lasted seven. Surely, seven years of spilling his blood over the cliff was enough. He inched his feet forward. He shook his head. He closed his eyes, lifted his hands in supplication and leaned forward. He floated down like a feather, the wind slowing his descent. At first he was worried that he was going too slow to hit with enough forced to die. Being crippled would be a worse fate than his current life.The breath left his body in a loud rush as his bones and blood and flesh meshed into a pulpy mess. He didn't care. He had left his body about a hand's width above the ground.* * *Her whole body felt like she had been hit by a truck. She knew what being hit by a truck felt like. When she was eight, she had run into the street to retrieve her flip-flop. Her mother had told her to cross then called her back. The confusion forced her to lose her shoe. Her mother had her go back to get it. That's when the truck hit her, pushing her into another journey. * * *His hard and distended belly bulged out like a melon. It felt like a melon was lodged in his body just at the top of his colon and anything he put in his mouth, whether it be food or drink, sat upon that blockage. He knew how that little boy with his finger in the dike felt. The pressure built. He felt like throwing up. He spent the last six days walking, swallowing castor oil, drinking prune juice and eating stool softening pills. Nothing worked. If the dam didn't break soon, he'd be forced to go to the hospital, and that he couldn't risk. They'd draw blood and find an ancient strain that hadn't mutated in thousands of years. His blood was at once ancient and young, his DNA so pure that he had no antibodies for some of the most basic diseases that men in this age survived. Constipation would kill him and he was ok with that. He'd had enough of this particular life as it was.He knew, of course, that technically he wouldn't be dying, ever. Contrary to popular belief, reincarn[...]



My Friend, Rabbit

2017-10-01T12:40:21.358-04:00

It took me a while, but I finally communicated with my friend, Rabbit. Reaching the dead is not easy. While I had some practice at it over the years, I couldn’t safely say I was an expert. Finding the quiet time I needed wasn’t easy either. With all of the people traipsing through the house at all hours of the day and night searching for the treasure, any ectoplasm I conjured dissipated each time a door opened and a draft passed through.I bet you want to know about the treasure. You are not alone. The hunt began about six months ago. Rabbit had gone on safari to Ethiopia. One day last October, he sold me his car for air fare, stuffed a pair of jeans and a couple of T-shirts in his backpack (he liked to go commando – made traveling light easier) mumbled something about gold between goodbyes and he was off on another adventure.When I went to clean his room before Samhain Eve, I found the walls covered in maps and arcane symbols. I hadn’t a clue what they meant and didn’t want to know, if I could figure them out. Rabbit is a bit daffy.Two days after Winter Solstice, he was back, tattoos on his face and hair halfway down his back. He locked himself in his room, refusing to eat and ranting during the night, mimicking the sounds of jungle animals. This went on for six days. On the morning of the seventh, he came downstairs to breakfast, showered and shaved, to show me pictures he had drawn of a golden treasure he had found and stolen in Africa. He hid it upon his return home.I listened while he wolfed down buckwheat pancakes doused in melted butter and good Canadian maple syrup. His eyes looked as thick and viscous as the syrup that ran down his chin as he talked around his food. I worried about his sanity while he worried about cashing in his cache. Once done filling his belly, Rabbit rose from the dinette table and came around to where I sat. He kissed me on the mouth, sweeter than usual, and thanked me for being such a good friend. He moved his lips to my ear, anchoring my hair to his chin like a fly caught on fly paper. He whispered that my good deeds would not go unpunished, laughed his insane-person laugh and skipped up the stairs to his bedroom.When he didn’t come down the next day and I had heard no noises during the last 24 hours, I cracked the door to his room to check on him. He was dead as a door nail. His laptop sat on his dead lap. As his last living act, he had blogged about his expedition and his hidden treasure. I posted an update, letting the world know that Rabbit had moved on. That’s when the hunt began.Now, six months later, I just wanted the keys to Rabbit’s car so I could get out of there. Once I tapped into the great beyond, Rabbit told me the keys were in the coffee can above the refrigerator and have a great time. I responded thanks and will do. I got the keys, grabbed my suitcases and went out to the garage. I opened the trunk to toss in my bags but there was no more room, what with all that gold in there.Originally posted in 2010[...]



Pro-Athlete, Ex-Military, White, Takes a Knee

2017-09-25T10:27:06.939-04:00

Picture this:

Professional athletes - football players, race car drivers, baseball players, hockey players, basketball players - from all the big dollar sports - ex-military men all, take a knee during the National Anthem at the start of all of their events, while those men who did not serve in the military stand at attention facing their fellow players. When the anthem is over, those standing reach a hand to those kneeling. They shake.

The leagues and the team owners support, publicly, vocally, all of these players.

During press conferences, all of these men speak out about free-speech and social injustice.
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Blinded by the Light

2017-09-06T18:45:35.919-04:00

I've written a short story and 
it's published over at Short Fiction Break. 

Check it out. If you like it, you can vote for me 
in the Peoples' Choice Awards. 

Here's the story: Blinded by the Light

To vote, go to this page

scroll down for the big green button and 

use the drop down to find my story, 

Blinded by the Light 
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Revena's Revenge - cover

2017-08-14T06:10:07.224-04:00


Stay tuned for future developments.
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Thirteen Projects I Must Finish in July

2017-07-13T18:54:24.771-04:00


Olive Oyl Poster
Deadpool / Philadelphia Poster
Rachel - Short Story Edits
July's 1 Year of Stitches
Personal Banner
RR Reading Edits
RR Reading - Practice
RR Power Point Presentation
RR - Elevator Speech, Synopsis
Heart Felt Love Potions
Sword - refinish
Author Bio
New Short Story
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Rachel - Part 2, First Draft

2017-02-24T14:11:28.840-05:00

Her pillow had soaked up all of the water from her wet hair. The damp was cold and uncomfortable. The room was pitch black when she opened her eyes. She reached for her phone, and knocked it on the floor. She hung over the side of the bed, feeling around on the wooden planks, leaned too far over to check under the bed and fell onto the floor. Her naked breasts, belly and thighs were plastered to the floor. She rolled over and stared at the ceiling.She smiled at the ridiculousness of her position. She swept her arm and hand under the bed, shaking off dust bunnies. Her fingers touched the glass case of her phone. She pulled it towards her, pressed her thumb to identify herself. It recognized her and flashed the time at her in bright blinding light.Fifteen hours since she had collapsed into bed.Banging on her front door startled her. She lay still, barely breathing. They’d go away whoever they were. They did. After two brief poundings. She was happy and sad at the speed with which they gave up. She really didn’t want to see or speak to anyone but she kind of wished someone cared enough about her to keep trying.Her stomach moaned.Rachel crawled up onto her knees, leveraged her hands on the mattress and struggled to stand. She hadn’t managed to die in her sleep. She was still alive.Perhaps she should try to act like it.She turned away from the bed. She desperately wanted to crawl back into it but her body insisted she feed it and she had no food in the house. Ketchup and olives wouldn’t cut it no matter how much she loved both. She threw on some sweats and ran her fingers through her tangled hair. She brushed her teeth without looking at the dirty sink. She might need to speak to the cashier at the grocery store and couldn’t bring herself to expel putrid breath. She didn’t care how she looked. She had no one to impress.She cried in the bakery section. She didn’t have to buy Danish anymore and it broke her heart. Her tears leaked out from under her black sunglasses. A man looked at her.With pity.He made eye contact. She ran to the bagged salad aisle, concentrated on finding the bag of butter lettuce with the longest sell by date. He was there beside her. He asked her if she thought one brand was better than another. Ingrained politeness made her answer with her favorite one. Then, she spun her cart and escaped to the cereal aisle, grabbed a box and snuck over to the checkout lines, hiding behind displays like some spy master evading the enemy.As she loaded her cloth bags of supplies into the back of her van, she glanced up. He stood in the next lane over, near his car, his back to her. She watched him move. He had a nice ass.Where the fuck did that come from?He turned to put his empty cart in the kiosk. He saw her looking at him. He smiled, gave a little wave, got in his black SUV and drove off.She changed the day and time she went to the grocery store the next time she went. She didn’t want to take any chances. But she did start wearing clothes. Just in case the universe had other plans.It didn’t, of course.Oh, well. She knew better.She got a part-time job working a couple of hours each morning at the local convenience store so she had a reason to get out of bed and get out of the house. No pressures. No responsibilities, although she did have a hard time not organizing things. She had to remind herself that she had no business being in charge of anything since she couldn’t even manage to manage herself.In the afternoons, she explored the town with her camera. She haunted the graveyards, examined the architecture and strolled the banks of the river. After a few hours of discovering the place she had lived in for more than twenty y[...]



Rachel - Part 1, First Draft

2017-02-17T18:04:05.911-05:00

Rachel brushed her teeth. She spit. White foam tinged with pink swirled down the drain. The sink needed cleaning. A glob of neon green toothpaste clung to the rim. Congealed liquid soap pooled around the facet. She moved her eyes away from the mess and captured her own gaze in the medicine cabinet mirror. The shock of seeing herself brought tears to her eyes. She couldn’t even remember the last time she had looked at herself. This wasn’t her. The image in the silvered glass did not match the picture of herself she had in her head. She tried to look away, but stared at the person in the mirror the way you stared at an auto accident. Her eyes were puffy, with deep dark slashes under the pocket as of fluid. There weren’t many wrinkles, but gullies went from the corners of her nostrils and down beside her mouth. Her eyes, nose and lips were swallowed by corpulent flesh with the notorious wobbly turkey neck hanging below her chins.If she had looked at herself more often would she have been so shocked? Would she have been able to prevent the horror that stared back at her? How was it possible that anyone else could stand to look at her?She cried great gulping sobs. Sounds escaped her mouth, louder than the water running from the faucet. She had forgotten to turn off the water. She cried harder thinking of the water she wasted, lost down the drain, never to be recovered. She sucked in her breath, held it, smashed her lips together and covered her mouth with both hands. When stars flitted in her vision, she allowed herself to breathe once more.Pathetic much?The empty house didn’t care how much noise she made or how loud she was. It wouldn’t even echo back at her despite its size. She was alone after decades of caring for others and the house was not a solace. The house now belonged to her alone but it had never been her home and was not her home now. She did not belong here. She never did. She did not belong to anyone, anymore. It wasn’t likely that she ever would again.She slammed the lid of the toilet down. The cold plastic shocked her naked ass. She leaned her elbows on her knees, placed her chin on her fists and closed her eyes. The tingling of cut off nerves in her thighs woke her up. She stood, steadied herself with the sink and forced herself to look at herself again. She stuck out her tongue. God, she hated being pathetic.     She was free to do whatever she wanted. She walked around the house naked: through the kitchen and into the basement. She laid on the beds in all four bedrooms. She went into the backyard daring the neighbors to peak over the fences. The Spring breeze raised bumps on her skin. She went back into the house, crawled into her unmade bed and slept for the next three days. Her cell phone rang several times. She texted brief responses back to her daughter and her sister to let them know she was still alive but unwilling to chat. She had to maintain some contact or they’d be on her doorstep. Seeing her relatives at the funeral had exhausted her. The next time she looked at herself her hair was greasy and stuck out at odd angles. She stank. Her cheeks smelled from where she drooled and hadn’t brushed her teeth. Now, she really looked hideous, as bad as she felt. Her stomach grumbled. There was no food in the house and she was hungry. She looked and smelled so bad that she couldn’t even considered going to a fast food drive-through. Fine.She forced herself into the shower. As soon as the water hit her face, she cried, nearly drowning in the hot spray. She sat down, her legs unable to hold her up in her hysteria. The sadness was so profound. Her heart was breaking. She[...]



and now for something completely different

2017-02-10T20:14:23.900-05:00

I walked into the dark bedroom, closed the door. I flicked the light switch.“Turn off the light.”I paused, my back to the room. My pulse rate increased.“You know how this works.”I obeyed. A soft grayness tinted my vision. I breathed deep, air caught in my constricting chest. I waited.Time stood still, its weight pressed in on me. I imagined that I heard his breathing, but it was just my mind yearning for contact. My ears ached. My cheeks burned as my need grew. I wanted. My skin tingled. My breasts tightened. My nipples throbbed. My legs weakened and trembled.“Turn around.”I obeyed.“Unbutton your blouse.”I looked down at my shaking fingers as I slipped the top button from its hole.“Keep your eyes on me.”“I can’t undo my shirt without watching what I’m doing,” I said.“I didn’t give you permission to speak.” His voice was calm and quiet. Adrenaline surged through me.“Take your time and do the best you can. Just keep your eyes up. You may respond.”“Yes, Sir,” I said.I pushed the second button loose. I watched the dark corner from where his voice emanated. I glimpsed a large chair, a body positioned as if on a throne, elbows and hands resting on the arms, feet planted on the floor. The only light in the room came from behind the chair, soft, velvety and aimed at me over his head.My fingers slid over my shirt, searching for the next button. Not looking down was a real challenge, but I knew, from before, that not following directions would lead to punishments. Since he was very creative and thus, unpredictable, no two chastisements were the same. Each pushed me to a new place, unchartered territory. I wanted to step into the unknown. I craved new experiences. I yearned to be free of responsibilities. I dreaded what I had not yet done. I warred within myself over the fear of what he might tell me to do and the desire to release all of myself to what he would require of me.But it was too soon to give in to my itch to disobey.I kept my head up, my eyes focused on his invisible eyes, my mouth slightly open, panting. “Very good,” he said. I thought I could hear a smile in his voice. I revelled in his approval.The fourth button popped out of its tight prison. I slipped my fingers along my exposed skin, parting my blouse until my hands reached the junction of the fifth and final button. I grasped the material on either side and pulled the two halves of my shirt apart, a small violence in the motion. The button caught, held and I pulled harder. The fabric ripped. The button popped off and pinged on the floor.I looked down, watching it roll across the hardwood. It came to rest on the edge of the plush area rug. “I told you not to look away,” he said.[...]



semi-colon

2017-02-04T12:16:07.290-05:00

When you lay face down in the bathroom sink and your tears and drool are circle down the drain with the escaping water, your eyes see a semi-colon. Your arms tremble and go numb with the strain of holding yourself upright. The tooth brush drops from your tingling fingers and you think, “All you have to do is rinse out your mouth and you can go on.” Eons pass as you try to convince yourself you have a reason to go on, yet no good excuse seems to come to you. The white sink, the clear water, the lit room all seem thick and black. Reality has no bearing on what your brain sees. Whining, like the bird call of a wild fox echoes and drones on in painful stabs inside your ears. You feel phantom blood worm its way over cartilage, down the column of your neck and over your collar bones, drip and stain the porcelain bowl.Once the guilt of twenty-eight minutes of wasted water seeps into your brain, you stand, look at your puffy eyes in the mirror. The red mark on your forehead and your red nose also make a semi-colon.This might not be you, but it is me. It’s funny the things that keep me going. I need to shut off the water running into the drain.I can’t leave the car with an empty tank of gas when the temperature drops below 20 degrees.  No dying in old underwear.My password list isn’t up-to-date.The upstairs closet is full of twenty year old papers.There’s one vanilla cupcake left.The darkness recedes.I rub my forehead, look into my eyes. I never seem to remember that they are green. I pull worn black jeans over my worn, cotton panties. A soft, gray t-shirt goes over my two year-old bra, the long sleeves cover my scarred wrists down to the knuckles of my fingers. Black socks and black storm trooper boots go on my feet. A deadly-sharp switch blade and my wand go in the left back pocket of my pants, in easy reach of my dominate hand. I check on my stash of heroine in the medicine cabinet. Still there, just in cases.I brush my blonde hair and gather it into a black scrunchy. I won’t pay it any attention again until tomorrow morning. One green and two clear crystal studs go in my ear lobes. Four stack rings go on the ring finger of my right hand. I read the words on each as a morning mantra as I slip them on my finger: live – one – more – day. I slather balm on my chapped lips. I take a deep breath, watch the silver pendant stamped with a semi-colon rise on my chest. I hold the air in my lungs for the count of seven and let it out to the count of nine. Rites, routine and ritual and I’m ready for my day.It’s time to go out and kill something.    [...]



Theobald the Great

2017-01-27T17:19:10.083-05:00

Storm clouds hung in the sky, dark, thick and heavy. The trees held them back, branches out like arms extended in supplication, leaves palm-up, their lighter undersides shaded by the angry black of swollen cumulous. They leaned into the wind, straining against the buffeting air, gaining strength in resistance. They dug their roots into the ground like toes curled into the dirt. They communicated with one another in a language secret to themselves, born of shared water and oxygen and earth.Just hold on. Stand tall. Stand strong. Bend. Don’t resist. Move with the onslaught.Sharp, frozen water, condensed and solidified into knives of moisture shooting down, cutting bark, causing sap to flow like amber blood. Timber groaned and cried out in pain, creaking and cracking along the grains within old and new wood. Limbs broke off and fell on ancient turf. Thunder growled, vibrating the air. Lighting struck out, attacking with electrical precision. Fire engulfed the defenders, their silent screams swallowed by crackling heat. A mere hour later, the battle field smoldered under a clear, blue sky. Ashes and soot floated where a once majestic forest stood, devastated now by magic driven weather. Death lay upon the world.Theobald walked among the dead trees, a small smile raising one corner of his lips. This destruction required so little of his power to accomplish. These remains would fertilize a new generation of plants that would know only his domination and influence, producing poisons he would use to take over other beings or used to kill them, if they, too, tried to resist him. He stretched into his satisfied feelings, the joy of his exertions humming along the hairs of his body. He strolled through the wasteland as if he were on a leisurely morning constitutional.The cuffs of his white wool slacks turned gray. The burnt cells of the trees crawled under the cloth and clung to the skin of his shins. Angry chemicals burrowed their way into the wizard’s DNA, making changes to his most basic being as they went. Theobald’s skin tingled with tiny needle-like pin pricks, that feeling one got when blood rushed back into a sleeping limb. He stomped his feet, willing the sensation to go away. And it did. His feet grew warm and went numb. His knees trembled and vanished. He looked down to see if they had, in fact, disappeared. Pain stabbed his belly which had blown up like a bloated corpse. He doubled over, retching vile acid, the spittle stretching from his overly moist mouth to the blackened ground. A high-pitched squeal pieced his eardrums, coming from inside his head, causing him to lose his balance. He fell face first into the cinders.. The trees, not extinct in essence, but merely changed in form, rolled Theobald over on his back, crawled along the edges of his body that had contact with the land, engulfed him, covered him like a sarcophagus sealing a mummy for burial in a tomb. He wailed but the sound got lost in the newly sprouting trees from his eyes, throat, lungs, stomach, groin and calves.[...]



some days

2016-12-16T06:50:25.155-05:00

Some days, I stand in my kitchen balling my eyes out because the garbage can I just cleaned and sanitized to white perfection has tomato sauce all over the lid.Some days, my To Do list is so long I want to jab my pen in my head and scramble my brain to mush.Some days, I lie in bed at night marking, by coughs and groans, the slow death of two men.Some days, I wonder if I no longer do anything will anyone love me.Some days, I wonder if I can ever do enough to be loved.Some days, I forget how to breath.Some days, the air moves like a dance, twinkling lights draw me into vast galaxies, cinnamon, cloves, rosemary and lemons awaken my dna, a mournful, lyrical chord tightens my chest and my mouth yearns for a kiss.Some days, I can’t even.Some days, it’s all too much.[...]



In the Beginning

2016-12-03T07:48:01.584-05:00

I like to travel. I want to travel more. I want to tell you all about it. A big part of traveling involves what I take with me when I go places. I have a huge bag addiction. I have spent a fortune on briefcases, tote bags, messenger bags, suitcases, purses and backpacks. I have found it difficult to find perfection because I hate not having what I need with me when I need it. But, I also don’t like being encumbered by too much stuff. So, like with clothing, layering is the key.My absolute minimum list of must haves:Cell phone - I have the large Apple iPhone 6s Plus because it’s beautiful. I take pictures and videos, read, watch movies, write, check-in on all of my social media platforms, listen to music and books, and map out my routesCash and cards - good food and drink costs IDs - drivers’ license, passport, medical card, etc.Small notebook and felt tip pen - sometimes I just need to go old schoolLip balm - it’s not likely, but I might kiss someone (it could happen, I’m not dead yet, you know and travelers are a friendly bunch, so it pays to be prepared)Tissues - speaking of being prepared: for napkins at dives, wiping away tears of joy and potty breaks on the side of the road Contact cards - I’ve got to promote, market and connectKeys - the Silver Bullet gets me there and everywhere (it’s a pretentious name for a minivan, but I live large in my head.)After much trial and error, I found this bag. Whether it’s going to the grocery store or a two week trip to Europe, this leather Passport Wallet holds all of the above. Light-weight, small, sturdy and convenient, it’s a perfect fit and low cost. It has a very long and strong cord that adjusts for tucking in a jacket for security. I’ve used it everyday for several months and decided it’s a keeper.[...]



yin and yang

2016-11-06T08:14:29.641-05:00

Emma kicked the marigolds that grew along the crumbling sidewalk. She scowled at the dandelions growing in her uncut lawn. They were half mustard yellow and half faded white. She plucked one up and crushed the head between her fingers.The front porch screen door slammed as her daughter, Sara, struggled out with her suitcases. Her turquoise capri slacks caught on a protruding nail and ripped. Sara ignored the damage, dragged the luggage across the dirty planks of the deck and down the stairs, bumping and banging the bags as she descended. He leaned against his beat up jalopy, smoking a cigarette. He called it a classic, but he drove it everyday to his minimum wage job - if it started. He threw his butt on the ground. He smashed it out with the toe of his worn boot so it wouldn’t light the trash on fire.Sara tripped in a concrete hole. Emma held out a hand to steady her. Sara leaned in to kiss her other on the cheek. Emma turned away, eyed the peeling paint around Sara’s bedroom window devoid of curtains. Sara’s lips fell on flaccid skin. She turned away from her mother and towards him.He popped the trunk jangling the tin cans tied to the car’s bumper. He got behind the wheel, cranked the motor several times before it caught and started blowing black smoke onto Sara’s shins.Sara lifted her bags into the cavernous compartment and slammed the lid. She climbed into the passenger seat. She waved to her mother as he pulled away from the curb.Emma watched her daughter’s reflection in the dirty windows across the front of the house. Her image grew smaller as she moved right to left, then disappeared at the corner.~ ~ ~Sunshine filtered through shear lace curtains glinted on crystal wine glasses, a set of silver ware for twelve and two china gravy boats. Emma sorted through the gifts, placing them in bubble wrap and totes so they could be taken to Sara and John’s new home when they found one. Sara had plenty of space in her family room to store the items while they looked. John moved the containers off of the table as Emma filled them. He smiled when Emma showed him items from her relatives: electric foot warmers from Uncle Bob, his and her back scratchers from Auntie Anne and yellow ducky sheets from cousin Mary. John held up a decorative figurine of the three monkeys. His brother Manny signed the accompanying card.They took a break when the Timothy Mason longcase clock in the corner of the formal dining room chimed out three o’clock. They waited for the echo of fifteenth ring to still before the moved outside.Sara brought warm chocolate chip cookies to them on the front porch after they finished their cataloging of the presents. They rocked in Emma’s chairs, inherited from her grandparents. Ruts marked the wooden slats. Sara sat on the swing like she always did. A tear rolled down Emma’s cheek when she looked at Sara and John’s luggage stacked near the railing. Pink hearts covered Sara’s ID tag and smiley faces decorated John’s. John handed Emma a crisp, cloth hankie. She blushed, got up and went to smell the coral tea roses growing by the stairs down to the sea shell covered path. Sara joined her, placed an arm around her mother and led her back into their ancestral home. John followed carrying the suitcases up to Sara’s childhood bedroom.[...]



tightened up

2016-10-28T18:47:35.675-04:00

Light flashed across my bedroom window. Magic bloomed.

Ectoplasm wafted over my naked feet. It formed a bat, larger than normal. It’s claws gripped and ungripped the wood of the foot board to the beat of my racing heart.

“Dracula greets the Green Witch.”

I touched my chartreuse hair. “What’s up, Drac?”

“The Beast bursts from the Netherworld.” Dracula took a breath. The air passed between his fangs and he whistled. “He hunts you.”

“Not new news, Drac.” I hefted my dead legs out of bed and touched the power points on the outside of each knee. Energy sizzled. I stood. When I faced Dracula, he appeared in his elegant vampire form.

“Gorgon fractured the prison of the House of Mirrors.” Dracula slashed his long fingers in the form of a “Z.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“He shocked his guards into oblivion.” Dracula stroked my white unicorn stuffed animal. “He captured Rust.”

Rust. The town of my birth. The place of my ancestors and my descendants. Ten generations in both directions.

My magically animated legs moved me closer to Dracula. I took the unicorn from his lifeless fingers. I touched the silver horn. It transformed. Ignis Fatuus, the sword of illusion, deception and confusion - Fool’s Paradise. I kissed the rainbow blade, slid it into its sheath. I rolled my shoulders, remembering its weight.

“He will crucify one person a day until you meet him in the mountains.”

“How do you know all this?”

Dracula blinked. There was no reason for him to blink. His eyes turned red, the black pupils fading to scarlet. Dracula wanted my blood.

“He sent me.” Dracula’s incisors elongated. He lunged in my direction. I thought of Rust. I moved a hair’s breadth in reality, folded space and time and flashed out of hiding.

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Fool's Paradise

2016-10-21T19:35:56.775-04:00

What just happened?A dog barked. Birds twittered. A cricket called from the other side of the wall.Light flashed across my bedroom window. I lay on top of my blankets unable to sleep. I didn’t toss and turn, or tangle in the sheets. I was just too tired to sleep. I closed my eyes. Light strobed against my lids. Magic bloomed. A wisp of ectoplasm wafted over the foot of my bed, hanging over my naked feet. It thickened to form a solid bat, larger than normal. It’s claws gripped and ungripped the wood to the beat of my racing heart. Bats looked weird right-side up. Random thought. Not important. It ruffled its black, leathery wings, settled lower on its tail and spoke.“Dracula greets the Green Witch,” Dracula said. I touched my bright chartreuse hair. “Trite, baby,” I said. “What’s up, Drac?” I sat up, plumped my pillows.“Dracula brings news of import.” “Do tell.”Talking to the vampire in his bat-form caused a stabbing pain behind my left eye. He slurred his words and had an accent.“The Beast bursts forth from the Netherworld.” Dracula took a breath. When he converted to a mammal, he needed to breathe. Just one of those odd things about magical creatures. The air passed between his fangs and he whistled. “He hunts you.”“Not new news, Drac,” I said. “Gorgon has been grunting through the various planes of existence looking for me for several centuries.” I hefted my dead legs over the side of the bed and touched the power points on the outside of each knee. Energy sizzled and I stood. When I faced Dracula, his stood in his elegant vampire form. “Gorgon fractured the prison of the House of Mirrors.” Dracula waved his elegant, long fingers in the form of a slashing “Z.” I raised an eyebrow. “He shocked his guards into oblivion.” Dracula lifted my white unicorn stuffed animal from my granny square quilt. He stroked the soft plush.“Can you feel that?” I asked.“You know I can not,” he said. “My skin has no nerve endings. None of my senses function in this form. I am dead.” He frowned.“But, hey, you get to live forever,” I said.“Droll.”“No one says that anymore.” Some old creatures had a hard time adjusting to current times.“He has captured Rust.” I stopped smiling. Rust. The town of my birth. The place of my ancestors and my descendants. Ten generations in both directions, past and future. My magically animated legs moved me closer to Dracula. I took the unicorn from his lifeless fingers and touched the silver horn. It transformed into my sword, the metal of the blade a mother-of-pearl rainbow, the hilt wrapped in soft white leather. Ignis Fatuus, the sword of illusion, deception and confusion - Fool’s Paradise. I kissed the blade, slid it into the sheath that materialised on my back and rolled my shoulders, remembering its weight. “He has imprisoned the entire town and will crucify one person a day along the perimeter until you meet him in the mountains.” “How do you know all this?” Dracula blinked. There was no reason for him to blink. His eyes turned red, the black pupils fading to scarlet. I moved a hair’s breadth in reality and saved my life. Dracula was starving. I don’t know how he had hidden it from me. He wanted my blood.“He sent me,” said Dracula. His incisors elongated. He lunged in my direction. I thought of Rust. I folded space and time. I flashed out of hiding.[...]



i don't belong

2016-10-14T15:30:06.160-04:00


The narrow opening sucked me in. Bricks in shades of cranberry, pomegranate and plum laid in alternating patterns of Flemish bond and herringbone paved the ground and curved up into walls and archways that cradled dark, tinted windows three stories tall to form a cul-de-sac canyon with a waterfall on the butt end. The air was heavy with moisture. Breathing the thick air slowed my movements. I strolled among empty tables covered in blazing white cloths.

I sat at the very back, my back to a vine-covered backdrop hiding wireless speakers. Aaron Neville crooned through lush, mottled leaves, “...Life is too short to have sorrow, you may be here today and gone tomorrow …” I smoothed my hands across the clean, linen surface in front of me. The stiff fibers scratched my fingertips. The bartender placed a Virgin Bloody Mary in the center of the circle, an open wound in perfection. Heat stung my tongue, as I sipped the sharp, bitter cocktail. Ice cold condensation soothed my irritated palms. I wiped the wet onto my jean-wrapped thighs.

Couples meandered into my secret garden. The women in white silk blouses and jeweled skirts, toes peeking from strappy sandals, hair sleek, unmade-up make-up. The men wore collared polo shirts and Palm Beach slacks. Wrinkle-free. Stainless. Relaxed. Nondescript waiters addressed the invaders by name. They chuckled at quips. They anticipated needs. They provided the usual. They waited. I watched while I ate butter-tender sea scallops and golden potato hash, I absorbed fluttering fingertips, deep-throated laughs, crossed ankles and slouched postures, arms that rested around shoulders, fingers that plucked at loose necklines, lips that brushed at wrists and cheeks and whispered into ears. They felt my stares. They glanced my way. Their eyes slid off to the pool on my right. The fountain with its dancing water didn’t hold their attention, either.


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