Goldenstar Kytori – The Place Where the Sun Never Dies

The scent of the Earth is richer in autumn. The light is tender and sweet, and the Sun becomes golden-white, like an old person, like my grandma. You don’t know what I am speaking about, do you? ‘Cos you grew up on the dusty streets of a city smelling like gasoline and looking like white serpents on the sunset.”

The girl looked puzzled. “No, I don’t,” she said softly, then stopped to pick up a little rock from the dust.

Mom kept walking. “That’s OK, ‘cos the things we knew once won’t come back ever again.”

Yes, they will. There are still farms out there, and cows, and all that stuff.”

Yeah, right.” She sighed. “It’s not the same. It’s different. Here, come here!”

The little girl ran fast by her mom’s legs. “What is it?” she asked.

My father used to make wine right here, right on this spot.”

Oh, but there is nothing here,” said the girl, looking at the stamped ground beneath her feet. “Doesn’t he make wine anymore?”

No,” said the mom. “But he still drinks it, hahaha…”

Yuck!” The girl’s face expressed such disgust that her mom couldn’t suppress a loud laugh, still remembering the time, years ago, when she had given her spinach puree. She was just a baby then – her mouth wide open, her eyes pointed with naive trust towards her mother – nothing wrong could happen. And then the sudden repugnance…such an unpleasant surprise…unbelievable…coming from her own mom…and she was soooo confident; she thought of that sweet mash she always got before nap time.

Ha, ha, ha,” laughed the mom again. “Have you ever had wine?”

The child started jumping up and down around the small room crying, “Yuck, yuck, yuck, the wine is yuck! Yuck, yuck, yuck, the wine is yuck!”

Her shout was echoing, bouncing from one wall to another, and even the girl noticed that it was a little out of place. “Mom, can we go now?”

You go find your father, Elena. He must be by the gate with your aunt. I’ll be back soon.”

They had to wake up early in the morning and make a four hour drive from Bucharest to this remote village, somewhere by the feet of the mountains. She hadn’t been back there for 20 years, since the revolution. “I really do not remember that trip,” she had confessed in a letter to her sister, but that was a time of turbulence in which the important things were happening elsewhere. The house, the village, the place she grew up, would be there forever for her to visit at her convenience, she had thought, not contemplating that possibility would be half a world away. Now, when the time finally had come to go back, she could only take 30 minutes to see what remained after all these years.

I have always been thinking about those poplars by the fence, the rustle of the leaves in the mellow wind of autumn. I never liked the dusk. No light anywhere, because it is too early for people to turn on their lights, and because there isn’t any street lamp. And I hated the sunset. What have you done to those poplars, Father?”

I cut them down long ago. They weren’t good for nothing. They only made leaves for me to clean. Sorry, I didn’t know you like them so much; I could have sent you a stick. Hee, hee.” Her father took off his hat and wiped his head with his cracked, dirty hands. The fire was reflecting on his shiny baldness. He was making Tuica, a strong alcoholic beverage made out of plum and grape marc. He would be distilling it three times, until it came out of the copper pipe as clear as spring water and as strong as a poison. “Here, take a sip,” he said, handing her a little glass.

The Tuica was like fire, burning down the throat. “Yuck! Jeez, dad, are you gonna drink this?”

Her father laughed; and when he did so, he looked like a goblin that had just played a trick on somebody. Otherwise, he was still a handsome man in his late 50’s, with few dip wrinkles around the mouth and an always fit body.

I have three customers lined up for it, already,” he said, suddenly serious. “I have to rebuild the south part of the house, ‘cos it is coming down on us.”

He put more wood on the fire, arousing a storm of sparks that floated in the air for a while before vanishing in the bluish light of the evening.

I don’t like evenings,” she said, looking out through the open door of the porch. “I like the daytime, when the Sun is up.”

Don’t you worry, girl; there is a place where the Sun never dies. You can go there.” Her father was mysteriously smiling.

Yeah? Like where? In your mind?” she said.

Her father laughed again like a mischievous goblin, and said, “The Arctic Pole! Have you ever heard of it?”

Standing there, right on the spot where so many spirits had been brewed and so much wine been bottled, she remembered the place where her dad used to store the wine for winter. If she could only find a shovel.

The porch was still standing, although the roof was almost gone. On the walls hung some of her father’s tools. The chimney and the fireplace had been destroyed, but the ground beneath was still black and burned. Across the front door, on that corner, there was a pile of things she could not identify, so she went to check them out. And bingo! the shovel. It was a big rusty piece of metal, which she thought was still smelling like cow dung.

The broken handle was nailed together in a few places, and felt sturdy. She took it and walked outside. Finding the spot took no time at all. Ah, she could not have forgotten the place where she would always dig when they had guests, taking her father’s tasks just because she imagined she was digging for a treasure. There was the corner of the house, and once there were some raspberry bushes a few steps apart. Now there were only weeds.

She started digging. The soil was hard as a rock because it hadn’t rained for weeks. She took off her jacket after a while. Drops of sweat were coming down her forehead, oozing around the ears and face, making her cheeks itchy. “Why am I doing this?” she whispered. She must have been close, because the shovel made a harsh noise; she gave it two more strokes, then threw the shovel and knelt. Her hands reached inside the hole, and one by one brought out the moldy pegs that her father had placed over the hole. The last item she got out was a bottle of wine.

Everybody was waiting for her by the gate. The neighbors were there too. They were all talking loud and laughing. Elena, followed by some instant friends at her age, was chasing some puffy yellow chicks, screaming in plain English, “Get them, get them!”

Only her sister was wandering around with a nostalgic look on her face. She came close and showed her the bottle of wine, hidden in the sleeve of her jacket. “Look what I found,” she said; “let’s have some dinner!” They all left before the dark took over one more time. As far as she could tell, she still didn’t like evenings. “Where was that place that the sun never dies? Oh, yeah…,” she remembered. “In my mind.”

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W.E. – Great Thinkers Gallery: Lola Taft

The Mother of Shadowism

1911 – The early shock

It happened at the age of 10, her parents were away, and the nanny had fallen asleep. She stood up to get a drink of water from the kitchen, thought she heard something, turned around abruptly, and then saw what appeared to be a much larger version of herself stretching out on the floor.

When her parents came home that night, the nanny complained that Lola had been all hysterical and difficult to handle. Mr. and Mrs. Taft were patient people but had no tolerance for anyone speaking badly of their child, and so the young woman was promptly dismissed without a letter of recommendation.

In her bedroom that night and with both parents present, Lola tried to explain what she had seen, her eyes all red from having cried for hours. “It’s true mama and papa,” she swore. “The shadow was in front of me.”

“It is not possible,” said her father, a state-employed librarian who possessed impressive knowledge about a number of things. “Shadows are behind us my darling, and then only when there is strong sunshine or a strong source of light on a darker background. You must have seen a ghost!”

The word “ghost” made the child burst into tears once again, and Mrs. Taft slapped her husband’s wrist while trying to comfort her daughter. “This is no time for lectures, however correct,” she complained, which sufficed to send her husband to bed with a yawn. It had been a long evening, much talk and intake of wine and food, cigars for the men.

1923 – Free at last

Now a young independent woman, Lola had left home and taken residence in a remote cabin high up in the Wilmington Mountains, where she studied the Moon and its light, the slow wanderings of seasons and transitions between day and night. Using expensive cameras donated by the Willmar Foundation, she constantly photographed herself and her surroundings in the hope that her own shadow would appear in front of her. She had never succeeded, but made a decent profit selling some of the pictures to eccentric collectors back in Buenos Aires.

1926 – The Great Revelation

This was the year when she had to return to the city, worn out from loneliness and the unsustainable mix of soup and bread with only the weekly bottle of condensed milk. Although she carried no visible proof of her sightings, she did claim – as backed by detailed journal entries – to have seen her own shadow in front of her many, many times while in the mountains. She gave lectures on the subject, which proved a divisive undertaking, as those who believed her could not get along with those who labeled her a fake.

In 1928, now aged 27, she published her monumental thesis Tan Cierto Como la Combra Ante mis Propios Ojos Propios (“As True as the Shadow Before my Very Own Eyes.”) It was turned down by the university’s Doctoral Commission, but widely publicized in academic journals and beyond. Basically, it consisted of drawings and her diary entries, as supplemented by talk about the paranormal. “Without the paranormal and abnormal, there could never be normalcy,” she claimed in the preface. “It is our utter fear of succumbing to mysterious forces beyond our control that holds us in check, compelling us to lead regular and productive lives.”

She died from tuberculosis in the following year, and her final words upon her death bed were reported to have been: “My life had only the weight of my own shadow.”

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Roman Trend – Bestseller: Selling Lots of Copies from Death Row

Not all that educated

Johnny Handsome – Handie for short – is an elementary school dropout. No point in beating around the bush about it: He was a petty thief at age 12, had robbed his first gas station at age 13, and to this day “hands up!” remains one of his most eloquent sentences on record. Matter of fact, his preferred manner of expression is showing off his tattoos, which are indiscriminately plastered across his chest and arms. “Pretty cool, huh?” he’ll say while smoking an unfiltered cigarette or chewing some tobacco.

Admittedly, he’s had lots of free time at his disposal recently. Now 39, he’s doing some solid, rather serious time in Dade County, Florida, for a string of robberies mostly aimed at jewelry stores and such. His cellmate Bubba, a big and corpulent man, is scared of him and doesn’t speak much except in sleep, where he tends to call home for mommy. “Gimme some of that apple pie with whipped cream and strawberries on top, will ‘ya, ma!” he moans, and some other night he’ll go “waffles” or “pancakes” instead. That’s about the extent of Bubba’s imagination.

With such a quiet cell mate, Handie should be perfectly positioned to mull things over and maybe come up with an idea or two. Indeed he has, orchestrating several crime sprees to be carried out by his minions, the thugs that roam around the streets freely, some of them on bail, some on parole, and others hidden behind fake identities. All of them are willing to serve Johnny, who merely needs to send out a few text messages via his hidden cell phone or to pass on a note to one of the friendly guards.

When time is of essence, Johnny Handsome is the Man

The life-altering event was when Garry McRow, a.k.a “The Lonely Strangler,” asked Johnny to help him write a bestseller. Garry was scheduled for execution merely six weeks down the road, and had pretty much given up hope, which in turn had made him preoccupied with improving upon his “legacy.”

“Dunno,” Handie had replied to McRow’s intermediary in the work shop. “Killin’ them littl’ girls not nice! Dyin’ ain’t wrong fuh Garry!”

“Look at it this way,” said the intermediary, who used to work for a publishing company. “Everyone has the freedom of expression, and McRow’s story deserves to be heard. A cut-throat endeavor one might call it!” The man laughed at his own joke.

Handie rocked his head back and forth, thinking hard. “I can’t even write five words, man!” he said, looking seriously puzzled. “I know them body parts, I guess I could write about that?”

“No, no,” the educated inmate said reassuringly. “You don’t have to write anything, that’s already being taken care of. All you need is to be sure that it becomes a bestseller.”

“Okey-dokey!” Handie said, nodding and coming about as close to smiling as anyone had ever seen. “I’ll pass it onto the street level, pickin’ up some purty good vibes there. And eh…, let’s see if any of them low-lifes has any good ideas for passing on a few of them books.”

“Not a few!” the intermediary whispered. “It’s gotta be at least 10 thousand copies before the execution!”

“Humph?” Johnny exclaimed nasally. “That’s a load of books. They’re any good?”

“There’s plenty of sex and violence. I’ll have one of the guards drop off a copy tonight. That’ll give you something to get your rocks off.”

“All right my man,” Handsome said as he turned around and started walking down the hall back towards his cell, his long hair swaying from side to side.

It really worked!

Now, three weeks later, about 16,000 copies of Garry McRow’s book – “Messing With A Silver Blade” – have been sold around Dade County alone, many of them at gun point. Another 23,000 have been sold through Ebay – usually as part of a package including free stolen jewelry or vintage wines. Over a thousand copies are each day being sold by prostitutes, who offer a “free quickie” to anyone buying at least two signed copies, hardback edition.

McRow, while not looking forward to the execution, is a lot happier now that his legacy has been preserved. “Spring me outta’ here and I’ll go on a book tour with ‘ya,” he says to the intermediary, whom he has hired as a literary agent. “That’ll really blow their minds.”

Johnny, who merely had to send out a bunch of text messages to orchestrate this marketing campaign, has started writing a book of his own. “Cool is Better than School” is the working title, and he already has a solid sales strategy for that one too.

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Dotty Simone – His Hell

The lone figure sat crouched upon the cold, wet floor of the yard. Stray rubbish brushed past him from time to time in the breeze; but his matted, long brown hair stayed stuck to his neck. A heavy chain circled his neck to keep him from escaping, even though his naked body was now so weak he would have had to have been carried out of there. His face showed no emotion; the windows of his soul had their curtains tightly drawn, as this was the fifth day.

As darkness fell, so did the rain, causing his body to shiver violently. It is getting close to that time again, he thought, the fear causing a trickle of urine to puddle around his feet. It was warm, at least.

A few moments passed until a loud crash followed by canine yelps filled the air. The growling was so terrifying that he could not open his eyes to look. It sounded like wild wolves, huge wolves. The growling moved nearer, a tear slid down his muddy cheek, pooling by his mouth. The salty liquid filled his mouth as he gasped for air, knowing it was coming.

The chain was yanked and his body pulled hard, he heard snuffling, and a sharp whip-like implement was brought down onto his back causing large welts to form on his naked skin.

“Our Father, who…,” he desperately tried to recite, “art in heaven.” He was struck again, this time in his face, which took him by surprise. Blood filling his mouth, he raised his head and – against better judgment – opened his eyes.

Eat!” came the deep growl from his captor, and he tilted his head towards the noise. His heart was thumping so loud, his body bleeding, but he was numb both in body and in mind. The sight before him was like nothing he had ever seen before; wiry, brown dirty hair he could see. And it covered most of the creature’s form.

I said eat!” it said louder, moving forward. It then brought its limb down hard onto his head, forcing his face into the foul-smelling mush it had placed in front of him.

I can’t, I can’t!” he cried, gasping for air as the pungent mixture was drawn up into his nostrils, causing him to gag. Bile rose into his throat.

You will obey me!” His captor pulled the chain again, forcing his face full into the food.

The fear was too great, it shut his mind down, his unconscious body slumped to the side, and for a moment at least he was at peace.

In his dream he was at home, lying on his sofa; his warm, comfy, threadbare sofa. He had necked some beer, two or three. He remembered this so clearly, so how had he gotten here? He remembered getting in his car after the beer had run out. It was only a short drive to the store, and as he hadn’t had many he’d be okay. Only he remembered now: He hadn’t been okay. The visions passed through his mind in slow motion, he had lost control. He hadn’t seen the other car, had been fiddling around for his phone, damn thing, it always fell on the floor. Then he remembered blood curdling screams as the oncoming vehicle had been catapulted into the air as he ploughed into it head on….No, this was not what he wanted to remember, they were dead. A mother, a baby and its father were gone because of his thoughtless, stupid actions.

The visions stopped suddenly as he was thrown back to consciousness. Realizing that he had been lying on his own excrement, he was frightened, confused and so terribly ashamed. Covering his modesty with crossed legs, he sat up and surveyed his surroundings. The yard was dark now, but a light beamed out from the house, he could hear the distant sound of music every now and then. He crawled until the chain was taut, straining to peer through the window.

There were more of those creatures, a whole group. Drinking, dancing, and all while on all fours. They were dogs, he realized. The back door swung open suddenly, causing him to freeze to the spot.

Where is it, then?” a gruff female sounding voice asked.

It’s here somewhere, disobedient li’l shit,” came his captors voice.

Aw, it’s nice, a little dirty but nice, I’ve always wanted one,” she snorted. ”Here boy,” she beckoned him with her paw.

Panic filled every vein in his body, he was their pet, he was disobedient, he didn’t understand.

The two dogs turned, and he saw his captor lower his head to sniff the female.

Not here!” she said, giggling flirtatiously, but the captor nuzzled into the back of her neck gripping her flesh between his teeth. She bent her four legs to allow him nearer.

The prisoner could not watch any longer and closed his eyes tightly, hands clasped over his ears. It was at this moment he realized that he had died in that crash, also. This was his Hell, his penance for what he had done.

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W.E. – The Gold Ring

Life is full of paradoxes and compromises. Some of them are utterly ridiculous, like the Israeli-Palestinian situation where walls have been built to separate people that used to live together side by side. Extensive walls, surrounded by high-tech equipment, have been built to keep the Palestinians out. 

No matter how heavy-handed the security precautions are, and no matter their toll on daily life, there is no way to build a foolproof system. In some areas, there are simply too many people living too close together for them to be physically separated across an artificial boundary. Someone standing on his balcony on the Israeli side can literally wave and shout to a distant relative who walks down the street just across the border. A youngster merely needs a box to stand upon to look at the Promised Land.

Each day, individuals are being bothered by these artificial boundaries, their lives barely livable as they struggle to scrape together the raw essentials.

Soldiers walking upstream, with their weapons placed lazily across shoulders as they seek no harm. A loud bang rips open the late afternoon, one of them drops to the ground, and his comrades are scattered all over the place in an instant. The blood of a brave soldier oozes from the gaping stomach wound, a painful death awaiting him as the golden sand turns red. His flask has fallen down, its cap sprung open, fresh water runs in a thin stream and mixes with the blood. 

It’s real, but you cannot take it to the bank. Except the river bank… His widow is walking there now, she searches for the gold ring. Who took it? 

“Not me,” his soldier pals all say, as they look the other way to conceal their embarrassment. 

Since no one took it, the ring must have fallen into the sand, she is thinking in her distraught mental state. Then it must appear in a moment, glittering in the Sun.

She looks up hours later, staring defiantly into the Sun, which returns the favor by blinding her. She falls to her knees, sobbing as her utter misery becomes clear: Alone there by the river bank, a smell of corruption, her husband’s soldier “pals” assisting her lazily in a fake search for a ring they know isn’t there – because it’s already been sold!

“It’s on the market, isn’t it?” she cries, as she rises to her feet and starts dashing towards two of the soldiers, fists clenched. “Our wedding ring is soiled in my husband’s blood, and you stole it!”

“Stop right there or I’ll shoot,” shouts an MP officer.

She halts in her tracks, slowly opens her fists, and signals she’s unarmed. Just a harmless, lonely, desperate woman searching for a ring.

The old man is standing by the river with his fishing rod bent over the rail of the bridge, so frail-looking yet durable. He shakes his head at the sight of this commotion, it happens almost every day that someone gets shot on either side of the border. “Demilitarized zone!” he contemptuously laughs. “I’ll stick with the fishes if it’s the last thing I do!” 

A Jeep vanishes in a dust cloud resembling the black velvet curtain that went down in front of the brave soldier’s eyes.

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W.E. – In Defense of Love

In Defense of Love

The Offense

The year is 2032. The authorities have finally gotten it figured out. The official doctrine now has it that love and hate are inseparable. History records have shown that an astounding 77 percent of all wars were fought over matters of the heart: Love of God, love of Fatherland, love of one’s peers. Conversely, there was strong hatred against the opposing side that professed devotion to the very same values.

For some time, it had been debated whether certain types of love could continue to be tolerated, but further studies revealed that love shares a universal core. One type of love invariably leads to another. Hence, to get rid of the types of love found to be associated with violence and hatred, one has had to abandon the concept altogether.

Source: By meric on Panoramio

Proceedings

THE JUDGE – You stand accused this day of the severest crime of falling in love. What have you to say?

THE DEFENDANT – I never loved anyone. I am incapable of loving anyone. Except…

THE JUDGE – Yes, except?

THE DEFENSE LAWYER – Himself. That’s probably what he means. Himself.

THE PROSECUTOR – Objection, your honor!

THE JUDGE – Let the man speak. He has a mind of his own, a free will. He will be punished severely in case of perjury.

THE DEFENDANT – I couldn’t love anyone except the birds.

THE JUDGE – The birds? Which ones? All of them? 

THE DEFENDANT – The love birds, of course.

THE JUDGE – Ah, the love birds. Were you one of them?

THE DEFENDANT – Yes, your Honor. At one point in time I must have been.

THE JUDGE – Now?

THE DEFENDANT – I love them all. The love birds remind me of the time when I was one of them. Back then, love was permitted.

THE PROSECUTOR – That may have been, but our rules have changed as you well know. You had ample time to change your ways and views. If you live in the past, that makes you an accomplice to illegal love. Something we needn’t encourage.

THE DEFENDANT – Without love, life is meaningless.

THE PROSECUTOR – No, but without reproduction, life is unsustainable. With artificial reproduction, love is no longer needed. We did away with alcohol, cigarettes, chocolate. Then love.

THE DEFENDANT – You honor, may I speak in defense of love?

THE JUDGE – You may.

THE DEFENDANT – Love is the essence of life. Without it, the skies might as well fall down from the Heavens. The birds might as well drop down from the trees. Winter might as well last forever, with no hope in sight, anyway. If love costs me my life, I couldn’t have died a happier man. Animals love their children, too. In every species, there is love and affection; only man has tried to wipe it out at great expense, at great pain to the people and permanent damage to our society.

THE PROSECUTOR – It’s all hearsay, your honor! I request his blasphemous statement be stricken from the record.

THE JUDGE – I’ll let it sit there for now, but that is as far as it goes. The defendant is guilty as charged. Sentencing will be tomorrow afternoon. This Court is adjourned!

The Consequences

Even though love has been abandoned and outlawed as a concept, this does not mean that society has lost it ability to be compassionate. Quite the contrary. Since love and hatred are no longer permitted, any decision will have to rest solely on pragmatic grounds. The society does not have to demonstrate its wrath, merely to do what is considered best to uphold the rule of law and to preserve the social order. The individual needn’t be punished, merely prevented from repeating the offense.

THE JUDGE – Having been found guilty as charged, you are to live in the wilderness amongst the animals whose instincts you so admire. “Love” – or whatever it is that goes on – is not prohibited amongst animals. You shall wear an angle bracelet at any time. Any attempt to remove the bracelet or to return to society will result immediately in your capture and incarceration in an isolation cell for life. Is that understood?

THE DEFENDANT – Yes, your honor. I rather look forward to it, now that Man has fallen to below even primitive animal levels.

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Dotty Simone – The Lonely Limb

The young girl lay quietly on the crisp white sheets of her hospital bed, with her long hair spread out on the pillow above her head like a glistening chestnut fan. She looked so perfect, so beautiful and the absolute epitome of innocence.

Her small frame shuddered suddenly, yet there was no breeze to have cooled her. Janice’s eyelids flickered, then opened, returning to the dirty, cracked ceiling where they had rested for the last eighty-four days.

“Right young Janice,” Nurse Eve said loudly, bursting into the room. She stopped at the foot of the bed flicking through her notes, not once meeting the sad blue eyes that had fixed upon her. “No feeling sorry for yourself now, after all it is Christmas Eve.”

Janice smiled weakly, although her face really did not want to. The dull ache had returned in her lower body, and her head felt fuzzy as she slowly realized she was still part of her own life, still confused, still feeling hurt.

She pulled herself up against the pillows. “Will I see me mammy again today?” she asked the stocky nurse quietly.

“Ooo, Janice, not for a few days, she has so much to do what with Christmas tea to prepare. And now a trip to town for new sheets.”

The almost silent “oh” didn’t quite make it out of her lips, the voice just would not come. She sensed now, for sure, that some of the pain she felt was from her broken heart and not just her throbbing bad leg. Not wanting nurse Eve to see the tears, she pushed her big toe on her good side hard into the bedclothes, as if that would switch them off.

It did not work, each big fat tear seemed to mark each puddled thought that whirled around her head.

I stayed so still in Mammy’s bed, didn’t move once, she thought, looking back at another year with no Santa. She thought she had been good this year, although last year she hadn’t known why he didn’t come.

Janice did not realize that her mother had a large void within her body where her motherly instincts should have been, didn’t understand that her Mammy felt nothing but hatred when looking at Janice and her deformed leg. But how would an innocent child know? How would the child realize that its deformity was largely due to their drunken father having punched the mother so very hard it had sent her flying down the stairs from top to bottom, while her unborn child felt every bump and was changed forever?

During Christmas the year before, while her sisters squealed with delight, ripping paper from parcels, Janice had re-stocked the fire, poured Mammy’s drink, and managed to swerve Papa’s hands. She didn’t like his hands, they hurt her, as they had hurt her mother so many times also. Mammy had laughed with Janice’s sisters, she brushed their hair and sung songs with them, but Janice was never invited to join in. She had been treated so coldly since the day she was born; she was their live-in maid, and had never felt her mother’s warm arms around her or heard words of love. Yet Janice never stopped praying that one day this might change.

Janice had never been more hopeful than she was now, her deformed leg had never grown. She had worn calipers and a built-up shoe since she could walk, but she could still not run or be a daughter worthy of her mothers love. She was in hospital now being prepared for the amputation. Part of this process was the fusing of her knee, hence the two metal poles that went straight through. They had to stay there for four weeks until the operation.

Tears came heavier than before, as she felt guilt overwhelm her, guilt for not being able to walk right, guilt for being different, guilt for tearing Mammy’s sheets. Add to this the confusion as to why they did not seem to love her. If her mother had loved her now, would it have mattered that the poles had ripped her bed covers? Would a mother who loved her child have sent her back to hospital to spend Christmas eve alone?

Her bad leg throbbed so much now, distracting her from the scrunched toe and the ceiling focus point. Looking down her body, she could see the glistening metal poles. Tomorrow the bad leg would be gone, thrown away forever. Maybe then Mammy would love her.

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W.E. – It All Came Tumbling Down

The bonfire

Standing in the rain. The skies were open, and it all came tumbling down. The doors to his soul were forced open, then torn asunder by who knows – a poltergeist, a trance, a broken jar? There was no safety now. The streets were littered with broken glass, the cars set ablaze by masses too angry to ever be controlled again. A total mayhem out there, even Mr. Staunton felt like cutting loose the ties to sanity and simply let it all hang down. He could walk barefoot on glowing coal like some Medicine Man down in Africa. He could…

Someone threw a bottle, Staunton heard it whistle by his left ear, turned around and saw a group of looters swinging big fat torches. A young man tossed a Molotov cocktail in front of an approaching limousine, it went straight through the windshield and instantly set the expensive vehicle ablaze. Staunton saw the driver fight for his life in there, not knowing how to get rid of the hot sticky fluid, which must have landed on his lap or something. The elegant white limo swayed wildly, struck the curb, then frontally collided with a light pole. At that moment, sparks filled the air, and the vehicle was ablaze. A woman and a man came out from the back seat, all dazed and frightened. The driver opened the door, but only made it halfway, then fell down, half laying on the sidewalk, half sitting inside the burning vehicle. The looters screamed triumphantly, dozens of onlookers in the street and in the surrounding apartments cheering them on.

Mr. Staunton hailed a cab, the first one he’d seen all night, and by some miracle it stopped. It took him right to the building, the cabby and he never spoke a word. Staunton had no conscious recollection of giving out the address; maybe the driver knew it all along? He was feeling a bit dizzy all of the sudden.

The Fireplace

The penthouse was a world of its own, make it up here and safety will return. The doorman nodded, his smile faint but real; he knew the drill, suppressing and pushing into the deepest corners of the soul the horrors he had to endure. Where would he sleep tonight? He certainly looked tired, although clean-shaven. What about his family, how long would they survive this civil riot without their father and a husband to protect them?

“Tell me Raymond, your family and yourself doing alright?” Staunton wanted to ask, but handed the man a 100 dollar bill instead.

“Well thank you, Sir,” the doorman said glowingly. “I’ll die for you, should that be required. $100 buys a friend for life on a night like this!”

“The feeling is mutual,” Staunton said unconvincingly. Raymond seemed not to have noticed that Staunton’s coat was torn, his shoes bloodied from walking on broken glass.

“Have a pleasant evening, sir.”

“You too, Raymond. You too.”

Staunton was back home now, so safe and dry. He sat by the fireplace wrapped in blankets, which covered his naked skin. His clothes, all soaking wet, had been strewn across the foyer as he undressed spontaneously while heading to the hot shower. The water, so very hot, caressed his body and gave him back the lifeblood that had withdrawn from the surface of his skin because of the bitter cold rain drops. He kept staring at the candlelight, breathing deeply, relief was evident. He wanted to win, not despair.

“To win, not despair!” he said out loud, his voice echoing through a room that seemed much larger than his ability to occupy it. The sound of his own voice overwhelmed him with horror and sorrow of what he’d just seen: The evil people in the street, the torches, the burning bottle, the burning limousine.

He turned around, ashes flowing from the fireplace, coming so weightless through the air.

“Lucille?” he asked, calling out for the woman who used to be his wife; half expecting to see an angel, half a ghost.

The Chill

“Sir, are you all right?” a vaguely familiar voice asked.

“I don’t know, Raymond,” he said. “It’s been a bit too much for one night.”

“Let’s have a look at your foot, shall we?” the doorman said. “I followed the blood trail up the elevator and down the hall, all the way to your front door. I’m sorry, sir, but when you didn’t respond I had to use the passkey to let myself inside. I hope you don’t mind.”

“It’s all right, Raymond. I don’t mind if you have a look.”

“It’s a deep cut, but clean,” the doorman said while holding Staunton’s right foot in his hands. “Did you walk on broken glass? Those bastards!”

“I must have stepped on something. Oh, could you feed the fireplace, I’m getting cold.”

“No sir, it’s very hot in here. We’ve got to get you a doctor. I’ll go call for an ambulance right now.”

“How much blood?”

“How much you’ve lost? I’m not sure, it’s got to be a lot. Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you do anything?”

“I don’t know anymore,” Staunton said. “It’s all getting a bit rich for my taste, the chaos and the violence. What’s left worth fighting for?”

“All right, sir, if that’s how you feel about it,” Raymond said. “You’re sure you won’t be wanting your hundred bucks back?… Sir… Sir?…Sir?”

“Sir” was the last word Staunton heard. He’d been called “Sir” all of his adult life, even though he never got a knighthood. He’d been Sir Superficial, Sir Charming, Sir Lightfoot, and Sir Lucky. At long last, his luck had run out. Because he wanted it to, maybe. Or he just lost the will to fight back.

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Lora Palmer – Defying the Darkness

We are the last generation. We’ve known our whole lives that we would be. Our sun, once a cheerful yellow that I vaguely remember from when I was little, now burns an angry red in a foreboding dark purple sky. Most days, it’s too hot to go outside. Soon, in another decade or two, it’ll be too hot for us to survive at all. I often wonder exactly how much longer we all have left to live.

After we’re gone, the oceans will boil away. The sun will consume all its nearest planets, including this one. It’ll slough off its outer atmosphere and destroy everything else, and all that will remain will be a white-hot core, a white dwarf, which will slowly cool and fade just as we ourselves have done. Then nothing will be left here but darkness.

My name, though I’ve never once heard it spoken, is Audra. I’m only fifteen, and I won’t live to see forty. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I hate it here on this planet, how we’ve given up long ago and resigned ourselves to this fate.

Our race could have explored the solar system generations ago, our whole galaxy even, and we could have started over on a whole new world by now before things ever got this bad. We didn’t. Pettiness and short-sightedness got in the way. Then it became too late to make it off-world. The best our scientists can do now is to send a probe out into space, filled with a time capsule of sorts to show what we once were.

What will it matter then? Who will find the probe, or even care if they did find it?

We’ve lost who we were generations ago. I see that in the glimmers of humanity, of life, of a spark of something that people in the ancient vids used to have. Even the buildings were colorful and had character back then. And the walls! There used to be actual artwork and even group photos on the walls. Now there’s just nothing. The instructors don’t show us those vids often, but the brief clips are enough for me to have noticed the stark contrast between the vibrancy of those long-ago people and the empty, hollow eyes of everyone around me now. What we’ve become isn’t worth advertising to whoever might be out there.

I reflect on all this for the first time as I sit at my glass cubicle and watch the small, flat monitor displaying the current history lesson. I hate it here at this “boarding school,” too. This is where we girls live. None of us knew our birth parents, even though I know we must have had them. We were removed from them at birth to avoid any sort of family connections. Thirteen other girls about my age are in the room with me, but none of us speaks. None of us even really looks at each other. It’s not allowed. Each of us might as well be utterly alone here. It suddenly seems so unnatural that we know nothing about each other. We can’t share one thing about our innermost thoughts with each other, or even discuss something as simple as our favorite things to eat or what books we like to read. We’ll live our lives in silence and then die never knowing anyone else, and never being known.

Preparations are underway to introduce a new sterilization shot everyone will be required to receive. We don’t want to risk introducing any new human life…” I quickly tune out as the voice of the blonde lady instructor drones on, oblivious to the fact that she’s completely lost my attention. One advantage of prerecorded lessons. What she’s saying is just too painful to hear. I don’t want to take that injection! Isn’t it bad enough that they control every other aspect of our lives? It doesn’t make sense to bother with such an extreme precaution, anyway. We’re not allowed near boys. I’m not sure I’ve even seen any boys in my lifetime except in the vids.

After the lesson, I walk silently down the stark white hallways illuminated by harsh, too-bright lights. Silence is an absolute law except for teachers and the authorities, and even then speaking is only allowed in explicitly prescribed situations. Anyone breaking that rule will be confined to physical solitary for the rest of their lives, no questions asked, no excuses accepted.

It’s been that way since living memory, and no one alive can really explain why this law came into effect. It had ostensibly been declared as a law of mourning once it was discovered that our sun would soon be going nova. It was originally meant to be temporary, a time to prevent panic in the face of the initial announcement. A moment of silence to reflect on our humanity and what it meant, what we wanted to preserve.

They simply continue to enforce it because it helps them keep the peace.

The lawmakers realized that it served as a useful form of crowd control. No discussions means no disagreements, no conspiracies, and no divisions. No interaction means that people don’t hurt each other in panic, because we’re simply that isolated from each other. It also makes us numb to each other, so the grief won’t be as great this way. No connection, no real sense of loss. What they forget is that it keeps us from really living our lives in the time we have left.

Now that I’m free for the day, I decide to take advantage of the increasingly rare days when it’s cool enough to safely go outside. The temperature warning system indicates green, so I exit the sleek domed building and head toward my usual retreat down by the beach to escape being around everyone. It’s much easier to bear the solitude when you’re actually physically alone.

At the beach, I find more people gathered than I’d expected. Like a good girl, I find a place to sit away from everyone else. The cameras are watching, always, even here. I take off my shoes and socks, and drop them on the sand, then sink down beside them to gaze out over the clear blue-green waters of the sea. I love it here. It’s so peaceful, and for a time I can almost forget everything else. Almost.

The sun out across the horizon dominates the sky much more than it should. It’s blazing hot against my skin. Soon, it’s too hot to just sit here on the sand in this long-sleeved silver dress uniform, and I stand up. Even the white sand is so hot it nearly burns my feet as I run to water to cool off and splash around. We’re allowed to wade in the water, but going out further than that is forbidden. Once there were such things as lifeguards, ages and ages ago, but nobody could rescue another person from the water now. Touching is forbidden.

You know what? I’m going to take my chances out in the sea. I don’t want to die never having really lived. Determinedly, I slip out of my dress and leave it on the shoreline – he immodesty of this act alone will probably get me into solitary – and wade out into the water, resisting the urge to turn and flash the hovering cameras a triumphant smirk. I’m grinning. For the first time in my life, I’m truly excited about doing something. What a rush! Soon I’m up to my chest in water. People are probably looking at me like I’m crazy, and some are probably alarmed at what I’m doing, but I don’t care. This is heavenly! I venture further and further out, until my toes can no longer touch the bottom.

I see the cameras flashing, and some of the other girls surreptitiously waving me in. I shake my head. I’m not going to solitary, or worse. I lay back and try to float, astonished when I find that I can, then kick my feet to move further out into the water. I hear the sounds of splashing closer to shore; and to my shock, some of the other girls are venturing into the waters. I try to swim back toward them, but can’t. I’m in over my head, and nobody taught me how to swim.

Frantically, I scream out, primal terror consuming me. I don’t have the word for what I need: help. It’s a foreign concept, which has no word in our language. The only thing I can do is scream.

The girls cautiously dare to look at one another, as if silently asking each other what to do, as I flail and struggle to get back to where I can stand. Someone – is that a boy? – yells out, “Hang on! I’m coming.”

His words, and the look of concern on his face, kindle feelings within me that I never knew existed. Joy. Relief. Exhilaration. It gives me the strength to keep bobbing, treading water, and grabbing gulps of air to last until he can get to me. He jumps into the water, executing a perfect running dive once he’s in deep enough, and swims over to me like he’s been doing this his whole life. His arms wrap around me, buoying me as he pulls me back in to where I can stand. I cling to him like a lifeline, and we’re still holding onto each other even when I’m finally out of the water and sinking down onto the sand near my discarded dress.

Are you all right?” he asks huskily, gazing into my eyes. I can’t help but stare back. He’s beautiful, tall and tanned with an athletic build, dark hair, and hazel eyes.

I swallow nervously and nod. “I’m fine. T-thank you for saving me.” It’s the first time I’ve used my voice, and it sounds strange to my ears, low and soft, like it’s an effort to produce the sounds.

He smiles brightly, his eyes sparkling. “Not a problem. Glad you didn’t drown out there. I’m Kyle, by the way.” He says this so naturally, as if this were the most natural, ordinary thing in the world. He holds a hand out to me, and I shake it.

Audra. It’s great to meet you, Kyle.” I smile, enjoying the feel of his hands on mine. I’d never realized how intoxicating a mere touch could be. Neither of us wants to let go of the other’s hand, so we don’t. We’re still holding hands, entranced in each other, when the other girls come up to us accompanied by, presumably, some of the other boys who go to Kyle’s school. As though a dam had burst, everyone starts talking, and we’re all clustered in a group. Together.

Were you hurt?” This timid question comes from a small blond girl. Out of everyone in my boarding school, she’s the one I’ve most wanted to talk to all these years. She has such a sweet face, and I’m sure she’d be the kindest of us all.

I give her a gentle smile. “I’m fine. I just panicked for a second out there, but it was totally worth the adventure. I’d do it all over again for this, having you guys all here to talk to.”

The smiles lighting up everybody’s faces when I say this melt my heart. The looks in their eyes show that they’d been hungry for this chance to connect with each other, too. Now that we’ve all started talking, we can’t seem to stop.

You were really brave to go out there! I always wanted to do that.”

Unbelievable rescue!” This comment from one of the boys draws a grin from Kyle.

I was so worried!” The brunette girl, slightly older than I am, launches herself at me and wraps me in a hug. It’s an indescribable feeling, and I return the hug just as eagerly.

Guys, we’ve got trouble.” Kyle’s voice cuts sharply through the chatter, so we all fall silent and follow his gaze. The other girls start to panic, clutching each other for dear life. Kyle and I stand up together, side by side, facing the incoming threat. It’s the law.

We have to do something. We have to convince them that it’s wrong the way we’ve been having to live,” I say.

Kyle slips his hand in mine again. “They won’t listen to us, and we can’t fight them here. There’s too many of them.”

There has to be a way!” I protest.

Not here, not now. We’ll take a stand and shake things up, but we have to be smart about it. Come on, I know where we can go while we figure it out. We need to get to the caves!”

The caves? They’re supposed to be dangerous. Nobody, not even the law, would dare go in there. Or maybe that’s just propaganda to keep us from exploring. Kyle doesn’t look worried. Maybe he’s been in the caves before.

I nod. “Let’s go.”

We all take off running, leaving our old lives behind. The freedom of doing this is exhilarating! My heart pounds furiously in my chest, partly from exertion and partly from fear about being caught before we can get away. Along the way, the small blond girl trips and nearly falls more than once, struggling to keep up. Kyle and I each take one of her hands, and we practically drag her so she doesn’t fall behind. The other stronger runners do the same to help everyone else, so that none of us get caught.

Stop right there, citizens! You have broken the law, and are to be transported to solitary confinement.” The voice is close, too close for comfort. We all run faster, ignoring the command. None of us wants to risk getting caught now. We don’t even turn our heads to look back.

Forget it!” I shout back. “We don’t want to live by your rules anymore!”

I swear that out of the corner of my eye, I see one of Kyle’s schoolmates making a rude gesture and smirking at the law enforcement. We’re all laughing, but we don’t allow ourselves to slow down. I’m actually kind of shocked they don’t have some sort of weapons to try to stop us. I wait for a blast that never comes, maybe because they could hit other innocent people around us or maybe because we’re out of range.

We make it to the cave, and Kyle ushers all of us inside. I spare one glance backward at the enforcement officers, and see that they are utterly astonished by our actions. They have no idea what to make of it. For one heart-stopping moment, I think they might not freeze at the cave entrance, but they do.

You’ll have to come out sometime,” one of the officers says, narrowing his eyes. He looks very much like he wants to come in after us and is only restraining himself because his orders forbid him doing so.

This way,” Kyle urges, wrapping an arm around me and leading me away from the officers. I can tell he’s wary of what they might do and is eager to get further into the cave, where he’ll feel safer. He leads us deep into the cavern, where it gets so dark we all have to hold hands to stay together. Finally, we emerge into a chamber lit from above by a skylight of sorts, a crack in the cliffs overhead. There’s a river through the middle of the floor, and the light reflecting off the waters creates a rippling effect on the walls. “I found this place a few years ago. I knew it would come in handy, someday.”

It’s fantastic,” I say, beaming. Now this is a place with character, and beauty.

An amazing find,” one of the guys agrees, settling himself on the cave floor. “So, let’s get this party started! We have planning to do.”

I have an idea.” The small girl pipes up, sitting down beside him. “We need a way to show everyone what this is like. They all need to see it for themselves and then they’ll know.”

Yes!” I nod enthusiastically, pulling her into a hug. We rest our heads together, grinning as the plan takes form. “We’ll show them what they’ve been missing their whole lives, and it will wake them up. Our generation doesn’t have to do what everyone before us has done. We can go back to living the way those people in the vids used to.”

Kyle’s eyes light up. “Not to brag, but I’m excellent with programming. As long as we can get access to a computer, I can hack into the system to play our videos to everyone.”

We’re really going to pull this off, aren’t we?” The brunette girl who gave me my first hug laughs in sheer delight at the idea.

Oh, yeah!” I’m laughing, too, because I believe we’ll succeed.

Just like that, we’re all sitting down together, laughing and talking and getting to know each other as if we’d been doing this forever. This is the best day of my life. No matter what happens from here on in, we won’t let them stop us from doing this. They can come after us and try to stop us, but it doesn’t matter. We will defy the darkness by never giving in. When we send up that probe, we can show we didn’t just give up. We lived, till the end.

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W.E. – Shattered Impressions

COMING ASHORE

In the first part of the last century, a number of Englishmen arrived at the shores of Dunnes Bay. They held their breath before climbing off board, but nevertheless, they obviously wanted something, perhaps even something which they dare not mention, and it soon became obvious that that which they wanted was more than just a few pearls and some silver to bring home as a souvenir. They had not been travelling thus far in order to be belittled or shamed in any way, but in order to prove to themselves and to their kinfolk that they had plenty of gall and guts to take on any rival, whether perceived or real. But upon their arrival they found, to their great relief, no one to greet them but a few natives that proved hospitable enough.

DREAM

Glazier-like ice mountains and rocks shattered all over the place. I am lost. My best friend and my girlfriend are searching for me, repeatedly shouting my name with voices that echo and sound urgent but remote. I can hear them, but I cannot speak. I can even see them, but they cannot see me, because they are in the dream, not me, so I can never be found. It saddens me to think about that.

JOURNEY

The Kinshasa sunlight that creeps in, seemingly, through every window is inferior to nothing on Earth; so destructive, yet beautiful are its powers that more than just a few travelers have confused it with a somewhat similar, yet essentially different phenomenon called “Southern Eclipse.”

We are trailing along, just trying to keep track of the transmission of history; in itself a daunting task which certainly is made no easier by the monotonous sound of palm leaves, birds singing in complex, yet ultimately predictable patterns, and the unmistakable Chimpanzee. This is no place of change.

Our car is in an awful condition and is in desperate need of repair, yet somehow neither we nor our driver seem to object to the day-long, sometimes week-long delays caused by the chronic lack of spare parts that is too common in these balmy environs.

SEARCHING

In less tumultuous times, the angels might have swept down the street forming a crisp chorus of voices ringing like bells into the night. Before it would be dawn, they might have instilled into our minds a confidence which, although we would be mystified and stupefied, would teach us how to finally tell ourselves: Thou shall fear no more, thou shall harbor remorse no longer!

Unfortunately, in our part of the world – and a similar tendency applies to those other parts of the world with which I have become familiar – angels do not often tend to make their presence known in the hardest of times. Noise and unrest of any kind seems, rather, to discourage them, as if they mistook our despair for preoccupation with our own problems, as if in the bewilderment of our eyes and our downward lips they would read a signal saying: Don’t come near, leave us alone!

Therein lies the source of our loneliness. We, the people, do not often smile or reach out to our fellow man in times of need and trouble. Rather, we isolate ourselves and become less approachable than in happier hours, when our need for contact, whether divine or human in kind, would appear to be so much less significant.

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