Keepsake: A Story Written In Preparation for Foggy Nights

Still attempting to maintain radio silence in the department of poetry, I opted for this story. It is supposed to be frightening. It is supposed to be harrowing. And it is supposed to continue if I can find the gall to continue it.

Further adventures aside, enjoy. Let the chills run up and down your spine like five invisible fingers and tell me what you think once you’ve reached the other side. Let me know if the view is worth the trip.

TTFN

Keepsake

Cora’s lover had died two weeks before the package arrived and it had sat on her mantle for a month since then feeding shapeless waking nightmares of Paris and death. Dust rose into the air like smoke and stuck to her sweating fingertips as she peeled away the cardboard and slid the contents onto thighs. The box within rested on her lap with the weight and dimensions of a very heavy hard-back book. It was perhaps five inches long, eight inches wide and four inches deep. The glass from which it was formed was crystal clear and glinted in the firelight, but it was painted black on the inside so the contents would remain hidden. The solder that held the panes together was of a golden shade and on the top was etched a little Eiffel Tower, or La Tour Eiffel, as her lover had explained it was called. As she stared at the box’s gleaming edges and sharp angles, she remembered how quickly her lover had fallen out of love with the City of Light. The letters he had sent her lauding the gardens and the music and the art and the sun turned to mordent commentaries about the falseness and the duality and the loneliness he found there. And soon, letters of disillusionment had gradually become letters of desperation, sadness, and grief.

Cora swallowed and fought off a sob. Only a week before he had been reported found dead, she had written a letter begging him to come home, but something about the place ate at him and would not let him leave. He was going to find the key to the magic Paris held for artists if it killed him. She ran her fingers over the golden lock on the front of the box.

Key.

He hadn’t sent a key with the box, but she knew precisely how to get in. She began to lift a long golden chain from around her neck, but stopped halfway. The chain was long enough to reach the box from her neck. And, if not, either the box would come to her or she would bow her neck to the box.

She leaned over a smidge, lifted the box up towards her face and reached for the little key on the end of her necklace. The words Je t’aime, etched on the underside of the key, flashed at her as she put it in the lock and turned it.

Clever man,” she thought to herself. The key was a gift he had sent before Paris had become his hell. She had never imagined it was anything aside from a charm.

As the lock had admitted the key, the key admitted her entrance into her lover’s last gift. As she slowly opened the lid, a strange oriental perfume, drifted to her nose.

Shalimar?” she wondered, thinking that maybe he had bought her a bottle of that rare perfume. “How in the world had he afforded it”?

Expecting to find a cracked glass bottle, Cora finished opening the box and stared down at the contents of the glass reliquary, the perfumes of the Far East curling like dragon whiskers from the box to her nose, mouth and face.
Inside was a cloud of shimmering gold tissue that seemed to provide protection to a smaller cardboard container. Lying atop it was a small piece of paper bearing the watermark for her lover’s hotel and a few lines of writing scribbled in blue ink. Smiling sadly as she did it, Cora lifted the paper out of the box and did the best she could at deciphering his spidery handwriting.

But now the Caves of Hell I view,
Who shall I dare to show them to?
What mighty soul in Beauty’s form
Shall dauntless view the infernal storm?

Cora blinked. Her head was swimming with the scent of jasmine and musk. The vanilla rounded it all off, pouring over her brain and dulling its function like a heavy, poisonous cream. Still clinging weakly to thoughts of Shalimar and frowning at the bit of Blake her lover had sent her, she reached for the paper in the corner of the box determined to discover what all of this was about. But as her hand moved, so did her shoulder. And as her shoulder tipped over, so did her head, neck and entire upper body.

Cora dropped the papers on the floor and clutched at the green upholstery of her armchair as her fogged brain processed the pitch forward. Avoiding the fall, she shifted herself backwards into the chair and tried to catch her breath. She felt the thump, thump, thump of her heart being sent back to her in miniature earthquakes through her chair. Her eyes flitted from  looking for any clues at to what was causing this. Was it the perfume, was it the dust? Cora  felt her eyes roll back into her head and her body go slack. She gasped in fear as she groggily righted her eyes by lifting her heavy head like a baby doll.  When her eyes focused, Cora made a move to stand, to run away from the feeling, but a second wave of unconsciousness washed over her. Uselessly she clawed for the light, trying desperately to keep her eyes open. But she knew there was no avoiding this fall into the unknown.

The last thought she had was the anticipation of breaking glass, but the sound of oblivion reached her first.

To be continued…

It was the summer of two-thousand-and-god-knows-when

I named my flute Lucius. I had my reasons, none of them having to do with Harry Potter. But, like that kid in the habanero pepper video, I immediately regretted my situation.

It was the summer of two-housand-and-god-knows-when, my first season of band camp. I was one of a few new recruits, all of whom I hated in a political quietness and none of whom liked me very much though their personalities kept them from saying anything outright.  The age gap between us newbies and our mentors was broad. Very broad. So very broad that the next year we would be the eldest members of the flute section and would be left all alone to look into the shining faces of newbies who were only a year younger than ourselves. For the moment, however, we had our senior mentors.

Our mentors taught us everything. They taught us which songs to memorize and keep memorized, which places around the school were the best to practice when we broke up into sections (and to get there quickly before the saxophones did), how best to navigate the closed school to get to the lunchroom…Everything. All of those important, secret things you’re supposed to pass on to newbies. And there were a few things they passed on that weren’t so general, weren’t so impersonal. When our group time was nearly up and we had practiced all we could, that was when we got to hear anecdotes about the band leader or long-graduated flute players. One day, we got to learn our mentors’ flutes’ names.

“Mine is Olivia,” said the girl with the short hair. She had a name I never could remember and sat there smiling, holding up her flute like a football trophy.

“And mine is Claire,” said the girl I’ll  call “S“.

I smiled at the names, neither of which I really liked. Olivia sounded like a woodwind to me, but an honest to goodness, round-sounding woodwind like a clarinet. Olivia…it wasn’t a name for a flute. And S‘s Claire…it made sense for S to name hers Claire. Claire was a light name, a sweet name, an airy name. It was the type of name a girl would choose to name her doll. The type of name you never actually heard attached to real person. Whoever a Claire was, she breezed in and out unaffectedly and smiled all the time.

Then I looked down at my flute and rubbed an oily patch where my thumb had rested for too long. My flute was besmirched and smeared with fingerprints and sunblock. It was dented from where I had dropped it down the school stairs two years ago. It was missing its silver in patches from where it had been used years before I owned it and the poor thing probably could have done with fresh key pads.

All the oil and grime I had lent my imperfect flute was helping the flute to tell me something. But I wouldn’t understand it until I made the mistake of naming it.

For a few moments I felt around in my brain for something I liked. I had never considered naming it, but if I was going to, I needed something I felt fit my flute.

“Mine is Lucius,” I said, throwing out the name of a hero from a movie I had recently watched.

Lucius. It was good, it was dignified. But then…Lucius. The name echoed through my head and I suddenly felt abandoned.

Both the girls looked at me with a sort of blank surprise and confusion after I made my announcement. It was the look a mother gives her paint-covered child just before she says “Well, good for you, honey. You’re painting is beautiful. Hey, why don’t we go clean you up?” Then they smiled, said ok, and we started packing our things to leave our practice spot.

Oh, how terrible I felt. How strangely, mysteriously terrible I felt. Their approval would have been welcome at that moment. In fact, I almost needed it like a hug. Something odd had happened the moment I dared to name my flute and I felt adrift.

Studpid thing,” I thought. “You named your flute after a boy. Is it a boy flute? They’re both playing girl instruments, but you’re playing a boy flute. How sick.”

But that wasn’t it. That wasn’t all of it, anyway.  Now I looked at the grease on my flute and had to call it Lucius. I was touching Lucius. When it sat by itself in the case looking at me dubiously and with contempt, it was because I had named it Lucius.  Until that very moment, my flute had been an extension of ME. It had been MINE. It was a greasy, grimy mess like I was, like my skin was. It was my arm, my torso, my heart. But not anymore. Now it was Lucius.

I immediately tried to take it back. I tried to wipe off the name like I wiped off my fingerprints, but it didn’t work. I had stained it. To this day, when I think of my flute, I have to respect the ghost that drifts through my head whose name is Lucius. I have to listen to the mistake I made that also calls itself Lucius. And I have to close my eyes and cry a little for the little machine I had a chance at knowing better, but like Catherine did to Heathcliff, I put a wedge between us when no one else could. And now I can only intrude on the thing I want desperately to call  “flute” but will always have to be called Lucius.

 

National Book Lover’s Day

Last Night's Parties and Last Night's Horrorshow

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Those who know need no prompting to indulge so to you we offer an understanding smile.

To those who may be wondering what all the fuss is about, we invite you to take a trip to your local bookstore or library and walk amongst the stacks. Search your favorite subject or reacquaint yourself with a beloved book from your childhood.

Content is not what is important, your love and enjoyment of the work is what matters.

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“Realize that your inner sight is blind…”

In all the struggles I have had with writing, my biggest complaint is that I am not allowed to see where I am going, so to speak. The seven words that make up the title of this blog provided a sort of catharsis and a poem was born. It is a sister and a part two to Writing the Plot: When What You Want Doesn’t Matter, so I would recommend reading it if you feel a little lost (don’t feel bad, I always do).

“Realize that your inner sight is blind”
and paint it black
like ravens
like your memory
Inspiration is sitting on a mushroom eating apples
and looking at you with white fogged eyes
smiling darkly.
“I will never give you stories if you use your eyes to see
and with me, no eye is welcomed.
All the dark you can find is mine
and I will give you what you need.
Let’s begin with what can you hear
now that you know you cannot see.”

 

The moral of this story? Maybe one day I will learn not to argue.