I am really just terrible at naming things

Mark took a long sip from his warm whiskey and dropped the glass a few inches from the bar, where it ungracefully made a loud clunk. The remaining whiskey stayed obediently inside, but just barely. The noise hit the dead, still air of the tavern and stopped, managing only to startle a cat sleeping under the bar, who went immediately back to pretending it hadn’t noticed. Rain dripped lazily down the windows and scattered the light from the neon signs that hung in them. Occasionally a pair of headlights went by and illuminated the bar just a bit too much for Mark’s liking, but at this time of night it didn’t happen enough to make him want to leave. His own beat up sedan sat patiently across the parking lot, beckoning him to drive home every time he looked that way, but home was the last place he wanted to be right now. Aside from that, the fuzziness behind his eyes told him he might get in trouble for driving in his condition.
Behind Mark, at a small table, a very drunk and fairly fat man slept leaning against the wall, a half finished beer sitting before him going flat along a forest of empty glasses. A trucker sat close to the front window, drinking spiked coffee and staring at a map like it was a Latin Math Book. He wore a puzzled expression that lapsed every few seconds into a blank stare, which coupled with his dark eyes did nothing to hide his exhaustion. Nor did his map and furtive glances do anything to hide the small tin of amphetamine pills he kept poking at in his shirt pocket. Squinting into the light from the half moon and a few street lights, he planned a route that would get him to Chicago in less than 30 hours, or so he hoped. He’d been awake for 4 days now and he tried not to go over a week.
The bartender sat on a stool near the rows of liquor bottles and sipped coffee himself while reading a newspaper. Mark’s hand sagged from where it held up his chin slowly down to the bar as he got lost in thought. Eventually it reached the ashtray next to him and the cold plastic brought him back to reality. The ash had stained the cuff of his faded blue uniform shirt with his name embroidered on it, but he didn’t care. He would’t need it anymore anyway. He reached for his glass and drained it, this time replacing it a little more quietly. It might have been the liquor or the rain or the silence in the bar, but his mind was clear at the moment and he relished the sensation that he knew was short lived. The bartender looked up at his empty glass.
“‘Nother?” he asked, placing his newspaper down on the bar. Mark nodded. He grabbed a bottle and poured out another three fingers of whiskey.
“What’s keeping ya out this late Mark?” the bartender asked, leaning his forearms on the bar. Mark just shook his head.
“C’mon, what’s got ya so down?” he tried again. His voice was warm and friendly, and it made Mark look up. He could see real worry in the old man’s eyes. He sighed.
“I don’t know, Ed.” he lied, looking deep into his glass. Ed didn’t move.
“Look, I’m alright man. Thanks, but I’m good.” he said, looking up. One corner of Ed’s mouth pulled back, but he didn’t move. Mark sighed again.
“I just…I don’t know if I can do it, ya know.” he said. Ed’s brow furrowed. “It’s…I just…” Mark tried. He sat up, ran him hand over his goatee, and took a deep breath. “It’s hard, you know? Have you ever felt helpless before, Ed?” Mark asked. He’d known Ed for years but never quite considered him a friend. But it was just late enough, he was just drunk enough, and the rain and beaten it’s way into his thoughts in just the right way for him to think it was a good idea to bare his soul to a stranger. He immediately felt like a fool and took a long draught of whiskey. He’d back out and leave, he’d clearly had too much. But Ed nodded, keeping him in his stool.
“You don’t know the half of it. When my niece got sick and I was taking care of her, I felt helpless. No worse kind of helpless either, watching her waste away day by day. Asking me to stop her hurting when it got bad and her mind started to go. Couldn’t do anything. She’d beg me to do something, anything…” Ed said, and a haunted look passed over his face. Mark was surprised and didn’t know how to react, and luckily he didn’t have to. Ed continued. “Feel helpless come time that rent’s due.” he said with a soft chuckle. Ed was surprised by his own confession, and the length he went through to keep Mark there. “And I got a couple regulars come in that drink too much a little too often, seems like they got a problem. But I can’t help them. Folks gotta want help ‘fore you can help them.” he said, shaking his head. He wasn’t sure where he was going with this, but Ed liked having something to talk about. It was rare to find someone to talk to a bartender nowadays, and he liked Mark. He was a good guy, though he’d fallen on some hard times recently.
“Yeah, I get you.” Mark replied with a fake smile. He appreciated Ed’s attempt, but that wasn’t what he meant. Mark felt more alone and sunk further into his whiskey.
“You still ain’t said what’s gettin’ at you though.” Ed continued, though Mark wished he hadn’t. Mark sipped from his glass.
“Just been feeling small, you know.” Mark tried again with no hope of making him understand. “Like I can’t change nothing, it’s all just happening around me, and too me. Like it’s all a part of somethin’ bigger.” Mark said, motioning with his arms. “And I’m not privy to it. Seems like everyone else is, most everyone else at least. They seem like they know what they’re doin’, know how it all works. I’m not keen on the feeling.” The hair on Mark’s neck stood on end. Briefly he was angry, intensely angry, at Ed’s simpleminded inability to grasp the scope of his problem, but it fizzled out quickly.
“Seems to me like a mid-life crisis. I’ve been there.” said Ed as he stood up and poured himself a drink. “There comes a time when you start thinking about the end. Makes you feel all kinds of things, real hard to describe. Can’t really know unless you’ve been there, right?” Ed said with a light nudge of the back of his hand. Mark had been there, but got the feeling that Ed hadn’t been where he was.
“Yeah, yeah…” said Mark, spinning his freshly emptied glass in his hand. “I’m think I’m gonna get going Ed, ‘fore I can’t drive anymore.”
“Sure you can drive now?” Ed asked with a smile as Mark stood up. Mark smiled back.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine.” he convincingly lied. Ed went to collect the fat man’s empty beer glasses. Mark was putting on his jacket when Ed patted him on the back.
“Listen Mark, I know it’s tough for you right now, but I got a feelin’ things are gonna turn around for you real soon. You just don’t know it yet.” Ed said. He held his hand out and Mark shook it, feeling strangely close to tears.
“Thanks Ed, I hope you’re right.” he replied. He turned to leave.
“One more thing.” Ed said, and Mark turned around.
“Before you make any decisions…” Ed paused, staring right into Mark’s eyes. “…before you do anything tonight, you sleep on it. You got a little time, don’t do anything without sleepin’ on it. Especially drunk.” he added with a comical wagging finger. Mark feigned a chuckle.
“I won’t.” he replied as he walked.
“I’ma hold you to that!” Ed called after him, and Mark waved. Ed’s shout woke the fat man and Ed told him it was closing time.
Mark pulled out onto the road and headed home. This late there was no traffic to worry about, or, luckily for him, cops. He couldn’t find anything on the radio and turned it off. Mark kept spiraling down, and the lonely, quiet town didn’t help. He thought about how he’d never escape this place, everything he could have done with his life, and then that no matter what he did, it wouldn’t have meant anything anyway. Not really. An existential weight came bearing down on Mark’s shoulders. His thoughts turned to the morbid and morose. Nihilistic despair began to eat away at him, his troubles grew in his mind, feeding off of his recent sorrow and strife.
Tears leaked from his eyes and his chest seemed to fill with a black sludge that wouldn’t let him breathe or speak. He didn’t sob, he didn’t have the energy. He just aimed his car with deft movements and followed the too familiar route back home while his mind cast itself into the void and sunk for an eternity. He didn’t even try and fight against himself anymore, he didn’t have the will. Some days he would try to force himself to cheer up, but though he might be able to pull hard enough to stop the descent, he couldn’t drag himself back up. Tonight he couldn’t do anything. His car rolled into the driveway. Mark spent 10 minutes in it with the engine off because he couldn’t bring himself to go inside.
He eventually pushed through the front door and made his was to his bedroom. He pulled out a .357 revolver and popped the cylinder out. With slow, trembling hands he slid two rounds into the empty holes and clicked it all back into place. As he stood there, grappling with himself, he thought about what Ed had said. He stared. He thought. He fought against himself and was at a draw. He stood there next to the nightstand forever. Then he thought about Ed again. Ed was an old man, standing alone on the shore of a tiny island with darkness drawing in all around him. But he stood there, waiting, smiling, always ready to help someone else amidst his own tribulations. In the bar, Mark had seen him, really seen him, another human being separated by an infinity of space. There could never be a connection, there weren’t enough words to build a bridge that long, but he was a friendly light in the distance. “Sleep on it” Mark thought. He dropped the gun back at his nightstand next to the phone and sat on the edge of his bed. He light a cigarette, smoked half of it, put it out. He turned and laid in bed staring at the ceiling.
Eventually, he woke. He didn’t remember falling asleep. He sat up and finished his cigarette, letting everything from last night run through his mind. All of that loneliness came rushing back. He reached for his nightstand again. He picked up the phone. He felt better. He felt like he could do one more day.
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I am really just terrible at naming things

Riley’s Blog – Entry 1

Thinking about it recently, I have found that I have two main modes of thought. I can either be motivated and optimistic, full of energy and ideas and ready to do everything and advance my life, or I can dwell in resigned complacency of my vices and while away the day in nihilistic despair. It would be obvious, if you knew me, which was more frequent. Perhaps if you’ve read my stories you can make a good guess.
I wonder if this is normal for people; how many before me and went through the same thing, which side they decided to nurture and grow, and how that turned out for them.
I wonder how many people wake up every day and face the brutal realization of mortality, are hit by the same overpowering force I am, and then just push it aside and go about their day because I am one of the few who can’t handle it.
I wonder how people manage to hold on to that motivational energy, to feed off of it day in and day out and stay so busy and do so many things and manage to accomplish so much while being happy and healthy and seemingly winning at life.
I wonder if there is someone out there who is faced with the same problem I am. I wonder what they are doing about it. I wonder if I could reach out to them, talk to them, share ideas with them, if we could both come to some realization and our lives would be the better for it.
I envy those who find solace in religion. I was raised Baptist and sorely wish to find comfort in it’s doctrine again. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I have not been able to believe to the point of relief. I can’t bring myself to find peace in the idea of an afterlife. So I’ve abandoned those kinds of ideas and seek truth and knowledge and reconciliation only while I am still here, a part of the earth, however long that may prove to be. I hope to find something that will ease the hell of facing my own demise at the beginning and end of the day, and everything in between.
Thinking about it is like picking at a scab. You can’t stop doing it even though you know it’s counterproductive and frequently painful. But it’s enticing because it’s a relief all it’s own to be doing something about it, even if it never helps.
People don’t want to hear truths. I’ve yet to meet someone who does. You tell them what you know of the truth and they recoil, retreating back into the safety of not thinking about the universal, the objective. They believe what they believe, perceive what they perceive, and refuse anything else, even going so far as to seek out entertainment, media, quotes, stories, ideas, and people that align with their truths already, lest they be forced to hold themselves and their ideas up to scrutiny and see how they are flawed.
We all get to find a little piece of the truth, if we try. We could put them all together like a giant jigsaw puzzle and finally see the whole picture, but the truth is a brilliant, painful light that wants to be hidden. Finding someone not only willing to share what they’ve found, but having it mesh with your piece when there are so many missing, is an exceedingly rare event.
Humans are social creatures, so you’d think it would be easy, but it seems like we try so hard not to be, and when we do it’s always superficial. By design, barring some severe, rare mental imbalance, (if you’re reading this, that excludes you), humans require other humans, whether it’s their presence, words, voice, body, ideas, anger, or problems, we all need to connect with someone else. It is always good for us to hear new ideas, new perspectives, to widen our understanding of the people and world around us. Both are always and forever inexorable in their continuing semi-cyclical changes. If you close your mind and stay still, content with your own truths, you get left behind.
Humans need trouble, and strife, and conflict. They need that pain that comes with hearing what they don’t want to hear, and the problems with doing what they don’t want to do. All of human life is based in turmoil and chaos. We are lost without it, but constantly strive against it. We live in a world where it’s far too easy to be comfortable and stable, and so we make up things to be angry about; silly, petty things to find conflict in because that’s how we measure our lives, our selves, and our worth.
So here I complain to you, reader. I put my thoughts to paper that maybe you feel the same way I do, or you did, or you will. Hopefully you’ll think about this and feel like you are a little less alone. Or you’ll meet someone who can relate to this, and you’ll relay the story as you’ve read it here and help that person feel a little less alone.
We can really only chose, as far as we can prove, two things to do with our life. We know it’s started, we know it’s going to end, and we know that we control the in between more or less completely. That’s all we can prove. So there, in the in between bit, we have a choice, two options. We can be happy and make the best of what we’ve been given, or we can be bitter and rage against our dealt hand even unto our dying breaths.
We can make and take opportunities and find as much happiness as we can for ourselves and, with any luck, some other people, too. Or we can wait for events to be thrust upon us, complain about them, letting current events float us away as they will. It seems like an obvious choice to make, but when presented with it in real life, it’s much harder to choose to be happy.
Take from this what you will, straight from my mind to yours, with only the variable and imperfect medium of words to convey the most complex, intangible, abstract things we can imagine: thoughts. If you glean a lesson from it, great. If you were simply entertained, that’s fine too. If you were bored and hated everything I had to say, at least I’ve given you something worthwhile to complain about. But once you finish this sentence, you’re going to go on living your life having crossed paths with me and my ideas, an event which may never happen again, but I want to wish you luck in whatever endeavors you take on for the rest of your life, and I hope that you find some comfort in them when it comes time for you to depart.


-RDent

Riley’s Blog – Entry 1

Trin’s Adventures – Part 1

Today started like any other day for Trin. Being a homeless girl gives a person a surprising amount of consistency in their life. She roused herself from the back alley that she didn’t get chased out of last night. This one was a nicer one, no rotting food or rats and a warm air vent to keep her company throughout the night. It even dried out the clothes she was wearing. None of them fit properly, and they certainly didn’t match, but when you need to steal from a thrift store or take handouts from a shelter, a girl doesn’t have a lot of options. At least they were fairly new today, not too dirty yet. She stretched and moved her limbs around, trying to get her blood flowing again after sleeping propped up against concrete and brick. She absentmindedly touched the leather pouch on her side to make sure it was still there.
Inside of the leather pouch was a large crystal marble that was bigger than her fist. It looked as though a rainbow of colors swirled through a white fog inside of it when she glanced out of the corner of her eye, but when she held it very still and looked it was a plain white. Trin didn’t know if it was valuable. She never showed it to anyone. It never left her pouch, and the pouch never left her side. It was always hidden under the fold of an oversized sweatshirt or tucked under the waistband of a high-waisted, dirty skirt, whatever she had available that day. That marble was all she had left of her family now. It was hard to remember them sometimes. Harder every day. She was only eight years old when she last saw them, and 6 years later that seemed like a lifetime ago. She didn’t know for sure that they were dead, but since they hadn’t found her by now, she didn’t hold out much hope.
Trin didn’t like to think about that day in the woods. It was the only memory she had that didn’t fade, the only place she could see her father’s face again, but going back to the woods, to the cabin, in her mind, was painful. There had been days and weeks where she didn’t think of anything else. She obsessed over it, every detail, trying to find some clue that she missed so she could find her parents again. But those days were over. This country wasn’t that big. She knew that if they were alive they’d be looking. And in six years she’d have heard something about them in a city this big. But there was nothing. So she kept that memory locked away, refused to touch it, lest it be tarnished by time the way she was now. That was a sacred place, full of pain and love and tears and longing. This morning, like always, she stayed away from it.
Instead, she set out walking. Most don’t know it, but the homeless of a city form a kind of network. When you don’t have anything, what you do have is your friends. It’s rare for any serious quarrel to break out, and when it does it ends quickly. Trin’s people, she considered them her people, depended on each other. They all did what they could to help each other and they all survived another day. Usually. It was getting late into Spring now, which was good for Trin because Winter was always the scariest time. Around Christmas people were a little more generous, but frostbite and starvation needed more than a few extra bucks to stay away. But Spring also brought more people walking about, and that meant more cops being called, more derisive looks, more being pushed and kicked and thrown out of stores. Trin has long ago learned to disappear into a crowd, and her size helped, but crowds had a way of outing you once they heard shouts of “Thief!” and “Stop Her!” Everything was a double edged sword on the streets, but Spring made Trin cheerful anyway.
She made her way under the interstate with a smile on her face.
“Good morning Mr. Holden.” she called out to a bent, bearded old man leaning on a massive concrete support.
“Trin! Good ta see ya around these parts so early. Was tha night good to ya?” he said back. His face was a permanent scowl, but his voice echoed Trin’s good mood.
“It was Mr. Holden, thank you. And was it to you?” Trin replied. She did her best to be as polite as she could. People were more receptive to a polite, homeless child, and she found that if she never dropped the act, even her own people were more receptive, especially the older ones. Sometimes she wondered if it even was an act anymore since it was how she always acted.
“Well mah old bones don’t take kindly to any nights anymore, but thank ya for askin’ girly.” he replied. Trin smiled and kept on walking.
“Ya know…” the old man started. Trin stopped in her tracks and turned to face him. She kept on her smile even though she was annoyed at the interruption. Mr. Holden was bound to go on one of his rants again and Trin needed to get started with her day. But being rude wouldn’t due, Mr. Holden was a good friend to her and had kept her from starving on more than one occasion.
“This is tha site’a tha worst accident in recorded history. Problem bein’ that they didn’t record it!” he started. Trin started slowly walking towards him, wondering how much truth this story held. “Yep, there was a kintergarden class come down here and was passin’ by on a field trip. Each one’a them childrens had a puppy they had just adopted, from an orpahnage! Yep, tha’s right, a puppy orphanage. Man come runnin’ along tha otha way carryin’ tha cure for AIDS! First and only time they made it causea tha formula bein’ with him too. Alla the sudden, the highway up an’ collapsed, killing every one’a them. 30 sum kids, their pups, and that man. Concrete broke through tha road and broke a gas main, choked nigh on two hundrit people ta death ‘for they got it shut off again. Among tha dead was a convention for tha Scientists for Tha Advancement ‘A Mankind. Sixty-five of tha brightest people in the world, dead in tha same room.” The old man stared off into the distance as though contemplating the tragedy where he stood. “Believe it was onea them super fellas, but the bad kind, dropped down here tryin’ ta scheme one plot or anotha, managed to break tha highway.” he said softly, like in a whisper. Trin’s smile dropped.
“Now Mr. Holden, you know you ought not talk about the super people out loud. You’ll get in trouble.” Trin said, annoyed at her own use of ‘ought’. Hearing Mr. Holden talk tended to rub off on her own speech and she had to try and keep up her manners.
“You’re right girl, you’re right.” said Mr. Holden.
“Tell you what Mr. Holden, I’ll come by later and we can build a memorial to the worst tragedy in history. Even if it wasn’t recorded. We’ll make people remember.” Trin said. Mr. Holden looked up and smiled a large smile.
“That’s mighty kind’a you. Thank ya Trin, I’ll try ta get some supplies.” the old man replied. He started off in the direction Trin had come, moving faster with his cane than Trin had seen in a long time. She went on her way as well.
Mr. Holden was a nice old man, but crazy to boot. And since he was alive to see the rise and fall of Aberrant Humans, or the AEM as they were called, he didn’t mind talking about them even though it was illegal now. All mention of the AEM was outlawed and all of them were tracked down and killed. But Trin didn’t remember any of that, they got the last of them years ago and most of her life had been in the city, after they were gone. Sometimes she fantasized about what it would be like if they were still around, fighting their epic battles in the streets, good vs. evil. She’d dream that one of them would come and take her away, give her a home and love her and—well they were gone now, so it didn’t matter. What mattered was making it to tomorrow, and that’s just what Trin planned to do.
Headed uptown, she saw that the construction was still blocking off half of West Street. It seemed like the construction had been going on for literally forever, Trin didn’t remember a time that the road was completely passable. But it gave her the practice to be adept at navigating construction sites. Trin was already running late and couldn’t afford a detour. She broke into a light jog, heading up Cleveland Boulevard towards West Street.
She passed a few alleys that she knew well, and waved at her people in them, and to the ones on the street corners. Most of them just waved back when they saw her running, or yelled out a short greeting which she always returned. But then she passed Mrs. Livinston.
“Oh Trin sweetie, where are you headed?” she asked as though Trin had just walked into her living room and sat down for tea.
“Over to the shelter Mrs. Livinston, it’s Tuesday so they’re handing out bread today.” she said, managing not to slow her pace.
“Would you be a dear and–” the older woman started, but Trin interrupted her.
“Sure thing Mrs. Livinston, be right back!” Trin called as she left.
“You’re such a dear, thank you.” Mrs. Livinston replied as she used her old multicolored poncho fan a small fire she’d set to make coffee. Trin’s people lived in a culture of mutual respect, but Mrs. Livinston maintained just barely enough to be accepted. She shared just enough, attracted the cops to the brink of everyone’s tolerance, but never managed to do enough to be a pariah no matter how much she pushed people’s patience. Occasionally, she did something really nice for someone, and never drew attention to it, but people remembered and always repaid the favor.
Trin approached the constructions site and jumped the orange plastic fence with practiced ease. She turned to see that they had torn up more of the street and the passable lane was full of traffic. Today would be a difficult run. She broke into a full sprint, throwing her legs out as far as she could. With an empty stomach and a purpose, it was easy to be athletic, and Trin was already fairly acrobatic. Most of the construction workers ignored her, but a few waved to her with a smile. They were used to this by now and usually just let her pass. All of them except one. The foreman came running out of his trailer in his three-piece suit and brand-new hardhat. He was the kind of guy who never actually got his hands dirty and still needed everything done his way, more of a businessman than a leader of construction workers.
The man waved his arms and screamed at them to stop her. He himself didn’t chase too far, but threatened the jobs of every man who didn’t try to catch Trin, and a bonus for actually apprehending the small construction-zone serial trespasser. This was the hard part for her. Trin doubled her efforts, hurdled herself over a crane cockpit and slid down onto the arm of a backhoe. She scrambled up it and almost called out when it started moving. The man inside was trying to swing her back towards her pursuers, but she let go and flung herself past some empty water drums. Trin hit the ground hard, but rolled and sprung back up. She was at a full sprint again in no time. There was a man coming at her from the left. She tried to jump a concrete barrier but the man clipped her leg with his hand and Trin tumbled. Luckily she slid under a pile of lumber supported on either end and she quickly scuttled out from underneath and made for the end of the site. One man stood in her way, hunched down with his arms spread. Trin recognized the man, who smiled at her. She smiled back. He’d never actually grab her. She lept just a few feet in front of him, pushed off of his outstretched hands that he brought together in a feigned attempt to grab her, and cleared the orange plastic fence. She hit the ground running, glancing back just long enough the see the man stand up, dust himself off, and give her a subtle thumbs up.
Trin made it to the end of West Street, grateful to have made it with the help of a friendly stranger, but she was too late. All of the bread had been passed out. Her jogging stopped, and she walked up to some of her people who were walking away with their hands full. She implored, one person after the other, to share with her. One after the other, they all couldn’t. Some had families, and she understood and didn’t hold it against them. Some where much worse off than she, and she was glad they got something to eat. Eventually someone gave her a few rolls. Not enough to get her through the day, but it was something. Trin ate two of the rolls slowly, taking the long way back around to Mrs. Livinston. When she got there, the fire was out. ‘Looks like the police didn’t get called this time’ she thought to herself. Trin went down the alleyway and gave Mrs. Livinston the extra rolls.
“You’re such a sweetheart, thank you Trin. Would you like something to drink?” the older woman asked.
“Yes please, Mrs. Livinston.” Trin replied, sitting at the makeshift table.
“I saved you a cup of coffee, still piping hot.” she said, “and I even put in a little something extra for you.” Mrs. Livinston winked at Trin, who sipped the cup. Normally she hated the bitter drink, choked it down only for the warmth or the energy, but it was sweet this time. Trin saw that it was light brown and assumed it was creme, maybe a little bit of sugar. But it also had a bite to it. Trin sipped it again. It was alcohol. Trin smiled a large, genuine smile at Mrs. Livinston and she laughed back.
Trin sat back and enjoyed the cup of coffee with ‘something extra’, letting the warmth flow through her. If there was anything that her people never shared, it was alcohol, unless they had an abundance, but no one ever did. And Trin couldn’t even get into a liquor store to get any. She couldn’t be more grateful. Sugar and liquor were the things Trin craved the most, in part because of their scarcity. Mrs. Livinston sat next to her and they sipped their drinks, chatting about nothing in particular. When she was done, Trin thanked Mrs. Livinston again and walked away, down towards the river where the Liberal Arts college was and people were usually friendly enough to let you eat their leftovers. It could have been the courage in the coffee, but maybe she could even get a bath in the river.
Trin’s Adventures – Part 1

Detective Christopher Grady – Part 2

Squatting before him, surrounded by buckets of black liquid that smelled an awful lot like blood, was a creature that Grady could barely comprehend. It was a twisted mound of lumps of flesh and bone that only vaguely resembled a living thing. It had black, pulsing roots that split the floors around it to make way to branch out. It seemed to be moving even when still, like it was constantly fighting to hold it’s shape, if you could call it any one shape. It was already facing him with a manic grin that literally split his face and eyes that made his blood turn to ice. They stared at him, each bigger than his fist, blacker than the pits of hell but with a glint of intelligence and insanity shining from deep, deep within them.
It laughed as Grady froze in place, stricken with a mortal fear he couldn’t believe possible. The world started to fade from around him, leaving him only able to focus on those eyes, and the laugh that could rend bone from flesh with it’s hidden terror. It was a laugh that resonated with immense pain and guilt. The creature cackled and chortled, making every hair on Grady’s body stand and causing the air itself to tremble as it’s tumultuous notes bounced around the room. The world had nearly faded but this Detective was well versed in mental combat and fought his way back. When he was back in control of himself, he noticed one monstrous, segmented claw was dipping into the buckets and spreading the viscous, foul liquid on the wall. The creature spoke.
“Oh, this one is special.” it rasped. The voice was like teeth tearing at meat and bone and breaking at the same time. “Let’s see what it can do.”
Mostly out of habit, but also a bit out of morbid curiosity, and a strange compulsion he couldn’t place the origin of, Grady opened his mind to try and touch the creature. He thought better of it and tried to back away before he made contact but the creature pulled him in. Grady immediately let out a blood curdling scream, a wail of such agony his throat ruptured and bled from the inside. His mind was torn apart, every nerve in his body exposed and alight with insurmountable pain. He felt his body melting and reforming and melting again. Through it all, there was the desire to paint this wall a very specific color. Dark red, like dried blood. No, not like it, it needed to be dried blood. There were only waning seconds of lucidity left and Grady seized one to wretch himself free of the monster’s mind. He returned to himself and the monster seemed still now, the light in his eyes gone and the ceaseless claw stilled. Grady was moving before he even thought about it, sprinting across the room.
In one swift action he pulled a knife from his belt, swung it at the rope attached to the paralyzed naked man, cut it, and had the man over his shoulder, making a break for where the steps had been, hoping they’d returned. They had. He bounded up them four at a time and barreled across the main room and through the front door. He was talking to the police station on his cellphone before he left the porch and didn’t stop running until his legs gave out and his lungs burned in protest 10 blocks away. There he collapsed, put the man on the ground, and smiled as he heard cars begin to arrive. The cops wrapped both men in blankets and tried to get a story out of them.
The naked man was in tears, though he couldn’t remember anything. After a few minutes he could only relay that he was out for a smoke (though he didn’t remember on which day) and then the detective had carried him out of that old house. He couldn’t stop crying and shaking and eventually they took him home with three men to watch over him until he could give remember something and produce a testimony.
Grady felt an unusual calm. He couldn’t quite believe what had just happened, but again found it easy to push out of his head. He shivered against the cold and told them all the story with his horse, shredded voice, from the trail of mushrooms and disappearing stairs to the monster painting the wall. He even invited them to go look for themselves if they wanted proof, but he wasn’t sure if it was dead or not so he wasn’t going back without a really big gun and a few other cops. The other detectives were used to his crazy stories about entering killers minds, usually it was something about how they viewed themselves as the hero, not as a hideous blob of flesh. But they took him at his word. Grady wasn’t a liar. On his way home, Grady felt a little accomplished despite the strange circumstances and mind-bending horror. He’d saved that man and stopped the killings.
In the passenger seat, he chuckled to himself. He didn’t know how he did it, but he had beaten that horrible creature and was alive to tell the tale. He wanted to figure out what happened but pushed the thought out of his mind and laughed again, this time out loud. It didn’t matter. He stopped the killings, saved a man, and was on his way home. Maybe he’d take the day off and do some of that painting he’d been putting off. He chuckled, harsh and unpleasant, drawing strange looks from the driver, but that didn’t matter either. He’d do some painting today. It would be fun. He had a very specific color in mind.
Detective Christopher Grady – Part 2

Detective Christopher Grady – Part 1

Detective Christopher Grady approached the lock on the gate of a wrought black-iron fence. He looked up at the sharpened spikes that topped it, then to the side as it ran unbroken around the entire property. He’d try his luck with the gate in front of him rather than ending up being found in the morning, skewered on top of some remote bend in the property that didn’t allow unwelcome visitors. Grady pulled a flashlight out of his suit coat and fumbled with it while the soft rain made everything slick and his feet wet.
With the flashlight firmly between his teeth, he fiddled with the lock and a few pieces of long thin forged steel. His clothes were soaked through by the time the lock clicked softly and granted him passage. His feet slapped the ground as he stashed his flashlight and plodded his way up the driveway to the porch. By the moonlight he could find his way that far, but it was all shadows and dark, lonely corners beyond. Grady’s plodding became a stealthy stride as he closed his eyes and he concentrated. ‘Nothing here’, he thought to himself. ‘He must not be here.’ But following his gut, the Detective kept going, crossing the unnaturally dark porch to the front door.
The door knob turned on the first try, and Grady walked right in. There was no time for civility when you’re tracking down a serial killer. No knocking, no questions, no killing. Those were his rules, and he was remarkably good at the game he played of finding wanted criminals. Of course, he had an advantage. A one up on all of the other detectives. He stopped and stood still, concentrating and opening his mind again, pushing out and feeling for a person. His mind couldn’t find another, but he pressed further, reaching farther. Every other clue had led him to this house, specifically tonight. There must be something he was missing.
The serial killer dubbed “Blood-Letting Insane Noose Killer” was the longest case he’d ever worked. When you can place yourself in another person’s mind, see what they see, feel what they feel, and think what they think, even murder cases become a lot easier. But his gift was of no avail on this one. He had to rely on old fashioned police work and shoe leather. Judging by the growing wet spot on the ball of his left foot, he figured he’d spent enough shoe leather. Grady hated the name that his department had given the killer. It was supposed to give the media something to chew on to keep them off of their backs for a while, but even a clever acronym like “B.L.I.N.K.” was wearing thin and they needed a break in the case soon. Plus the name was very accurate. Every victim had been found completely drained of blood with a broken neck consistent with a hanging.
Grady returned to his own body and opened his eyes again. He was adjusted enough to the dark now to see the outlines of rotting wooden floor and old furniture long since lost to time and mold. Nothing had been covered or sealed when this antique two story house was abandoned. Owners up and left and never spoke a word about the house or why they were moving. Overnight they just left town. That spooked plenty of people by itself, but the occasional lights coming from the windows is what really did it. They’d had people inspect it top to bottom, in the middle of the day of course, and they found nothing. They erected a tall, strong fence planted in concrete around it to keep everything out. The gate was locked, the building condemned, and everyone moved on with their lives.
Problem is that one day someone noticed that the spikes on top of the fence near the gate, previously just decorative, had been filed into sharp, shiny points that were keen enough to turn an unlucky bird into a kebab before it even knew what hit it. People started to take notice as more and more points were sharpened as weeks went by. Then finally the killings started. There’d been 6 so far, every one the same. And no one had the nerve to check the most suspicious place in town. The rotting house with the unbroken fence.
Grady didn’t chance using his flashlight, but moved around slowly. Listening, feeling, touching, smelling, urging the fabric of the world around him to give him something he could use. Unfortunately it did. At the back of the main room, the one he entered from the front door, there were huge toadstools of exotic fungi growing out of the fireplace and surrounding it. They led down the stairs into the cellar, getting thicker and thicker as they went. Grady tried one more time to feel for another person, but got nothing, so he soldiered on down into the darkness.
It was pitch black now, or at least it should have been. Just as he had reached the bottom of the steps and was reaching into his jacket for his flashlight, Grady saw a lantern light at the other end of the room, some 40 feet away. It was dim and didn’t reveal anything other than an empty wall. But there was no one nearby to have lit it. Grady froze. With his eyes still open, he searched with his mind, pushing out into the darkness, and to his surprise he found someone. Entering their head, he was overcome with fear, with dread. He was now standing on a stool, rough rope around his neck, but alive. ‘This must be the victim’ he thought, ‘so I’m not too late to save him’. Grady searched the mind’s thoughts but couldn’t find anything. Not even an identity, name, address, or family. Nothing. Only complete and consuming fear, some occasional words like “Help” or “Save Me” but always half hearted, drowned out by all encompassing dread. Grady was overwhelmed himself and he started to shake. This was new. He’d never be in a victim’s mind that was so destroyed by their ordeal, and for the first time in a long time, he started to fear for his own safety.
Grady let go, entering his own mind and composing himself. He turned to look up the stairs but they had gone. Now there was only darkness, a heavy pitch black that pressed down on him like a weight. He felt with his foot for a few feet past where the stairs should have been, but there was nothing. Only fungus and rot that invaded his shoes and his nose. He couldn’t even see the door anymore. He was alone is a sea of night with only the lantern to guide him. He tried his flashlight but it wouldn’t turn on.
‘Well, only one way to go now’ thought the Detective, feigning bravery as he began his slow march towards the lantern. This was weird, bordering on supernatural, and Grady was deeply disturbed, but with nowhere else to go and the next victim in his reach, he forced his nausea back and inched forward. Maybe he’d find a window to go out, and he could come back and explain this to himself in the morning. For some reason it was easy not to think about it and just keep moving forward. His feet squished through deepening fungus that was more rancid with every step. When he was within ten feet of the edge of the light, he found the man on the stool. He was shaking so hard it was a wonder he hadn’t fallen off yet. It could have been fright, or could have been because he was naked in the cold, wet, dark basement.
Grady tried to help him down but the man shook his head side to side. His mouth was covered but he pointed with his frantic, dying eyes to his left, past the aura of light that the lantern cast. Grady steeled himself and crept towards it. He skirted the edge of the light, silent as the grave, to keep his presence hidden as long as possible. When he was close enough to see the wall he’d finally got his first glance of the killer. He wished he hadn’t.

Detective Christopher Grady – Part 1

Ballivo

Ballivo woke from a deep slumber. He’d been alone, unbothered, unneeded, for thousands of years now. One might think that in order to be alone so long, he’d have to be deep in the earth, but he had been lying on it’s surface. His dreams bent the wills of those who walked the land to stray from his location and occasionally, when they got too close, get rid of them, but these times were few and far between. Now, however, he had risen to bring the world once again into balance.
Ballivo stood to his full 8 foot height and stretched the kinks out of his muscles. Thousands of years of sleep made him a little stiff. Once he felt adequately limber, he knelt on the beach of his small, unmarked island and let his hands sink slowly into the sand. He spoke to the earth in a long, low whisper, the only way she could understand him. When you’re a planet, things tend to take time for you. Ballivo was the earth’s mate, it’s lover and protector. When the time came, he would step in where she was not quick enough to prevent disaster. Whenever he was needed, the situation was indeed grave, so he spent no time on pleasantries. He sent her a reassurance and left in search of his task.
The land masses were different now, and it confused Ballivo for a time, so he lept into the atmosphere to get a better look, and from here he could tell where he was needed this time. A huge swath of land miles across, rent with craters and ash and fire still smoldering in places near the edge, threatened to spread at the slightest provocation. “She must be in so much pain,” he thought, growing angry. He dropped down to the ravaged land, into the middle of a skirmish that was still taking place. The men of the earth are not used to people falling into the middle of a battlefield and living. When those people are 8 feet tall, inhumanly muscular, and have green-hued skin and long brown hair, they are doubly confused. They also tend to fire on those who are different than themselves, a category that Ballivo easily fit into. Unfortunately for them, their bullets did nothing, served no purpose but to anger Ballivo further. None of the materials the people of this planet had could harm him.
When their small arms fire failed, they called in airstrikes and mortars and fled as quickly as they could, but the giant in their midst sat down peacefully on his crossed legs and placed his palms on the ground. His eyes began to glow first orange, then red, then blue, and finally white as he searched deep underground for the threads of power that flow through her. They were failing, weak, but would suffice. However he felt that he was only just in time.
Ballivo plucked a string and the ground trembled, or more accurately, reverberated, like it was the hollow of an acoustic guitar. He plucked another, but this time it was the air that shook, shifting nauseatingly quickly, sending the planes and their payloads off to either side of him to crash into the ground without disturbing his work. The mortars fell at his feet, but lay intact. Next was a chord, and the moisture in the air fell immediately as a cold wind blew through the area. It drifted all the way across this razed blight on the earth and soaked it. The wind circled higher and drew in clouds that released their burden as well. A warm, heavy rain pelted the ground and turned it to mud. Ballivo hit a few more strings and grass sprung from the ground, the kind that grew there before war and pestilence made it infertile. He could feel how pleased she was so far, and set about really making the place nice.
What followed was, as Ballivo called it, the song of life, only playable on the thrumming veins of power that flow through a living planet, and only able to be understood by powerful beings who can manipulate such an instrument. As it happened, there was one passing by by the name of Patra. She smiled as the sound reached her on herm, but was stopped short by the song. It was different than she knew.
Ballivo had started to improvise upon the song of life, letting his love for the planet and anger at it’s destructive lifeforms to guide the ballad that wrought change on a level never seen before. The radiation that plagued the beings on the surface found it’s way deeper into the mantle, heating the magma back to it’s proper level and speeding the iron core. The magnetic field strengthened and, for the a time, all the inhabitant’s electric devices stopped working. New plants began to bloom. The men who fired on him were drawn into the earth and reused as mineral rich soil to begin to reshape the land they had destroyed. Toxins collected in the waters were drawn into the vents of the ocean floor and recycled as their base components. The ice caps froze together again. Carbon in the air collected and dropped as tiny pellets ready to fertilize the new trees that had just begun to germinate.
Patra listened for a time, captivated by the beauty and passion in the song she heard. When finally it ended, she dropped to Earth to find the being who created such a masterpiece.
Ballivo

Dealy MaJigger

Dealy MaJigger crossed the smoldering battlefield with a characteristic smirk on his face that made it difficult to tell, should a casual observer ever survive long enough in his vicinity to casually observe him, whether or not he was putting on an act of enjoying slaughter, actually enjoyed it, or just had a psychotic fixation on creating as much of it possible. Sweat dripped off of his sun-darkened skin and across the leather vest, which used to be able to call itself a jacket before Deals, as his friends called him, lay his smirk upon it. It clung to him and the dirty T-Shirt under it like it was afraid of falling off in the middle of Deals doing what he does and being subjected to whatever it was that Deals was doing to whoever it was in front of him. He paused to light a cigar and let his boot rest on a scorched skull that promptly crumbled beneath him out of respect. His boots, heavy and black but stained red, rested in the ground slick with mud and gore. They themselves smiled at the thought of being caked in viscera, insomuch as a boot can smile, which is to say not at all as far as I know. But if they could, they would be the only part of Dealy to give a genuine smile, despite reflecting how he actually did feel right now. Today had been a good day.
Aside from the fires still burning in a lazy way across the acres and acres of carnage that lay before him, the cigar that he now puffed as he surveyed the scene was the brightest thing for miles. The sky had been dark for hours from the smoke of burning flesh and the fuel of the machines of war. The sun was trying to vain to bring some soft oranges and yellows to the sky, but it gave up and sulked off past the horizon. The sun must have been the only thing not to fear the rough, bearded, muscular man that was now the only living thing still standing, but even that was only because of it’s distance from him. If Dealy MaJigger had somehow made it to Mercury or a comet that was making a near pass, the sun might find itself a little apprehensive about looking at him the wrong way.
Dealy stood there for several long moments, drinking it in the way a great artist does his work. Despite the size of the Cold War Era Russian army, once word had gotten out that he traveled back in time to find them and hunt them down, they were surprisingly hard to find. He had to spend 6 weeks weeding out snow-camo ambushes before he caught wind of the main force. Once he had them in sight, he began his one man march on their camp. An hour after most of them had fallen asleep, he let loose a war cry that sounded across the snow drifts and bounced from mountain to valley, over hill and dale, shattering a nearby frozen-over lake and causing any of his adversaries who didn’t quite have the fortitude to handle it to mess their shorts just a bit.
As the men scrambled to grab their weapons and mount the larger guns, Deals had already rigged a set of claymores to the side of the tank he drove through the camp to fend off any possible heroes in their midst that might try and mount it. Midway through his joyride, a fuse reached it’s end and a volley of mortars took out the big guns and armored vehicles that may have slowed Deals down. The tank path had been chosen to run over the commander’s tents who then couldn’t bark out their orders and give Deals too much trouble. It worked like a charm, and he’d spent the rest of the morning slaughtering those who chanced a frontal attack, and the afternoon chasing down stragglers and runaways and burning everything in sight to the ground. Today had been a good day for Dealy MaJigger.
When at last the night had fully set, Deals put his cigar out on his arm, in the usual place. The ever growing scar was the only way that Deals could tell time was passing, one victory cigar after another. He began his march home, stopping only to scoop some snow to pack onto a burn his leg had suffered from a stray, lucky grenade. Not bad, he thought to himself, but I can do better. About midnight he got hungry so he tracked down a pack of wolves and killed them all with his boot knife.
Dealy MaJigger