Take A Step Outside

Mary knew that her sons were growing up, she knew that it wouldn’t be long until her eldest wasn’t even living in the same home and that, not long after (to her reckoning) her youngest would also ‘leave the nest.’ She both was and wasn’t looking forward to it.

She was looking forward to it because it meant that her sons had lived long enough to move out. It meant that they were able to support themselves and possibly a family of their own. It meant that she would no longer have to work as hard to hide the grief at the loss of her Bonded.

She wasn’t looking forward to it because it meant she would be alone more. Her sons might not visit very often or even call. Hadn’t her coworkers often complained at the lack of interaction with their grown and moved out children? It meant that the emptiness that was forever within her at the loss of Warren would no longer be partially covered up by the sound of Warren’s sons. It meant that the urge to end this existence sooner rather than later would also be stronger.

Mary was afraid to be by herself. She was very afraid.

What Mary didn’t take into account (what she so often forgot) was that her sons were aware of her feelings in this regard and were working to take steps to avoid the thing she feared most from happening.

“Terry, we can’t leave Mom like this, she will die if we leave her all alone.”

“I knot that, little brother, but I don’t know what else to do!”

Matt nodded an agreement with his elder brother, something that he’d thought as a child he’d never do. “She doesn’t want us to stay living with her once we’re married because she thinks that newlyweds need their own space, but doesn’t want us to invite her to live with us after the newlywed phase has passed.”

“Why is Mom so insular?”

“That’s a big word coming from you.” the younger of the two retorted on principle alone.

Neither of them really knew why their mother didn’t seem to have any friends. They didn’t even know why their parents had separated as there hadn’t been any kind of fighting that most other kids whose parents had divorced talked about.

Terry sighed and closed his eyes. He knew that his brother liked to pick at him, he liked to pick right back, but they needed to talk about this, not ignore it like they’d been doing most of their lives.

“Sorry,” Matt mumbled, “It’s just so much easier-”

“I know,” Terry interrupted, “but we need to have some kind of plan if we’re going to convince Mom not to finish closing herself off to the world.”

Matt hung his head, “I…I don’t know how we can do anything about it. She’s never really listened when we’ve tried to get her to have some kind of life for herself. She always replies that we are her life and that it’s more than enough for her.”

“She’ll die if we can’t help her, I don’t care if she’ll still wake up and eat and move about, inside, she’ll die.”

They didn’t know what to do, but they wouldn’t let the woman who brought them into this world and raised them to fade away. Now if only she would give them some kind of clue on how they could do it.

Inspired by Light and Shade Challenge.


Not Really Here

Gunpowder, treason and plot
–From a traditional English children’s rhyme
Now it is time again
And of me little will be seen.
November swallow me whole
Of this, I surely know.

‘Tis that time of year again. I’ll be on here sporadically, but I’m working on my Nano novel so anything on here will likely be short.

This little ditty was inspired by the Light and Shade Challenge, which I adore even when I’m super busy.

Merciful Coward

It wasn’t something that she had done. No, it was never something she had done. It was always the opposite.

It was what she hadn’t done.

What she had allowed others to do.

All because she was weak.

There were those that said differently, that said what she had allowed to happen was a kindness, was mercy.

“You could have sunk to his level, ma’am, if you had killed him.”

“You granted him the mercy that he did not grant others.”

“You are more forgiving than many.”

What they did not realize was that there had been no mercy in her heart, no forgiveness that had stayed her hand.

It was cowardice, pure and simple.

She’d never been alone, not truly alone, as she’d always had her other half with her. Even if they were on opposite sides of the globe she would still hear and feel her other half in the back of her head.

Her other half was gone now, sent away to give her a chance at finding more than just her life, but her very sanity.

She could no longer hear her in the back of her mind, could not longer feel whether or not she was happy or even still lived.

And so when her cousin, the one who was her brother almost in spirit if not in blood, had knelt before her, hands chained behind his back and a defiant look upon his face and bruises scattered about his frame, her hand froze.

Instead, she had him banished and his abilities locked.

But though she was older than most empires and countries and the written memory of mankind, even she was not omnipotent nor all-powerful. Her abilities, while stronger than his, were not as tricky.

It wouldn’t be until much, much later that she learned that he had found a way around the binding. The fullest parts of his abilities were still out of his reach, but he had enough to cause more than just mischief.

One of the things he had been partially successful in undoing was the runes that would bring him to her or her to him. She would still be able to find him, but it would be a hunt across space, time and the dimensions throughout them.

“I didn’t spare him because of mercy or forgiveness.” she would whisper to the night sky, “I left him alive, because like me, it is hard for him to die and I did not want to be the last of our kind.”

Inspired by this week’s quote from Light and Shade Challenge.

Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do. –Voltaire

Wiggle Room

At times I find myself browsing through online,
Readily seeing what I would have, should more money be mine.
Even though I forget that the whole wide world is Thine.
You give me more than enough to face my longest days
Or gently take my hand in yours when I don’t know Your ways.
Until I walk beside You in peace and nevermore will I strays.
Just keep in mind as the days go by that there’s more to life to see
Even though there’s more I want, I have all that I need.
Life is not about gaining all and letting more go to seed.
Life is about who you surround yourself not only in times of need.
Yet there is more that I would say because this is not quite all I see.

I didn’t used to understand why jealous was shortened to ‘jelly’ other than it took less articulation to say. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, jelly wiggles all over the place even when it hasn’t been broken up and stirred whenever there’s a big movement (or not so big movement.) When we see something we want that someone else has, we wiggle around in discomfort (even if only in our minds) because we want it too.

When jealous, we are just like jelly except the emotion isn’t quite as good when we swallow it as the food is.

This little poem and thought was inspired by the quote from this week’s Light and Shade Challenge.

Jealousy is all the fun you think they had.
–Erica Jong

Ghost in the Window

This was an empty place, no one came by anymore and the dust piled up. Occasionally she would see an animal trying to make its home in the abandoned hallways but more often than not it was just her and the spiders.

Sometimes she wished to leave, to go out into the world and see what there was in the sunshine. Instead, she would look out of the dust and grime covered window or look at the motes that floated down through the beams of light that managed to make it through.

Trapped forever as a lost soul, she was.

image: Wikipedia Commons, in the public domain as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey

Inspired by a prompt from the Light and Shade Challenge.

Silent Apocalypse

The world was a silent place. The wind would blow, the rain would fall and the snow would pile up, but it did so without stereo. Without even a whisper.

Was it always like this? Was there a time when it was different?

Nobody really knows.

In books and old magazines that are sometimes found, we read about the constant drumbeat that underscores all of life.

Yet how can such a thing ever have existed when no one alive can hear a thing? Is this some kind joke that our ancestors have played upon us?

(There are still writings that document the false apocalypse that was supposed to have been the destruction of the world. Whether it was supposed to come via infection, an evolution in the life cycle itself, by the mutation of a virus or even from a cure gone bad, we certainly have nothing that could be considered a zombie or one of the ‘infected’.)

There is no sound and no noise. Science has failed us in a way that we never suspected. It was always believed that science would prevail in all things.

We are baffled by this as science has always proven to be right in the end. Was not the Earth round? Was not the sun the center of the solar system? Were there not more planets and suns and solar systems out there in the universe?

We thought we knew everything.

No! We did know everything! Science was our religion for we needed nothing else.

So how could science fail us in this endeavor? No, this is nothing more than a cosmic joke that our ancestors have played upon us.

Sound is nothing more than a myth.

This was inspired by a combination of listening to a beautiful movie that dealt with a choir while watching the wind create a mighty ruckus outside, but was silenced by the thick window panes as well as from the Light and Shade Challenge prompt for this week.


Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
I wish, I wish he’d go away…
–Hughes Mearns

Life Went On

I just want the truth.

–Charlie, “Revolution”

The world was barren, there was nothing left.

How did it happen?

Was it some kind of plot against all organized government? Or was it the final breakdown of the changing of the season because of climate control or something like that? Were the paranoid theorists right?

Or maybe it was something more and something less than what we all have been  concerned over. Maybe it was something that was stoppable, but not because of any government or organized group of people. Maybe it was something that could only be stopped by the ordinary, every day person. Not doing anything spectacular or particularly clever or outside of their normal duties. Just something…different.

No one really knew what it was that caused it, but in the end, everything that had made up civilization was gone. No explanation, no reasons, nothing. It was just…gone.

I’d go further into this, but I wasn’t all that old when this happened and so the whys and hows aren’t really all that important to me. They might have been to my mother, she always had to know why so that she could know best what to do. My father, on the other hand, didn’t bother finding out why or how. He’d never been the kind to worry all that much about what was going on outside of the house. He’d been content to stay home and worry about what was going on inside the house.

Of course, he’d been like that before everything collapsed. Mother had always been the one to go out and earn our bread while Father stayed home and baked that bread, kept the house clean and made sure we children did what we were supposed to be doing.

This arrangement between my parents stayed much the same; Mother left the house to find what we needed, barter for it, hunt for it, do whatever it was she did for it and Father stayed home to watch over the children, to keep house and to make sure that our education never failed.

Life went on as usual, though much of what used to be considered ‘usual’ was anything but. They had no new children added to the family, but even if the life of Before hadn’t changed they wouldn’t have had anymore anyway. Mother couldn’t have children, hadn’t given birth to any of the children their parents currently had.

All six children had been adopted or fostered or whatever phrase was used Before.

It didn’t matter. Most children look an awful lot like adults that they spend most of their time around anyway simply because of muscle mimicry.

(Father studied psychology in his spare time Before and After. I, as the eldest, learned a lot of whatever caught his or Mother’s fancy as the only one that was old enough to understand most of what they talked about when the other wasn’t able to chat.)

Even with different eyes and shades of skin or hair, most of us had the same exact expressions that Mother and Father used so most people, Before, had been surprised to learn that every single one of us was adopted.

Now, however…

Now it wasn’t that strange to find a family made up of people that didn’t actually have any blood relation between them. During whatever it was that destroyed civilization people died; some were adults but an awful lot were children. No one really knows why, they just started dying faster than most of the adults.

At least, where I live it was like that. We didn’t lose anyone, but it was close for the youngest three. We thought Carlos was dead for a bit there. Father had covered his face and Mother and Julie had started picking where in the garden we were going to start digging the grave when Sally (she’s only four) kept insisting that Carlos play with her. She kept tickling him and Father couldn’t get her to stop.

It was a good thing he hadn’t because otherwise we probably would have buried poor Carlos alive.

I try not to think about it. I keep myself busy, really busy, so it only starts to bother me if I can’t fall asleep right away at night. so I work myself as much into exhaustion as possible.

But that isn’t what I was talking about.

(It’s hard to stay on track sometimes.)

I was talking about how it isn’t that strange for families to be made up of people that have no blood relation. Those who want children find children, those who live out on the streets, those whose parents died instead or even those who have snuck across the boarders in order to find better food for themselves.

Sometimes there are fights over the children. Adults on all sides wanted someone to remember them or to feel like they have a purpose. We’ve even had to fight off several passersby who want to take one of us as their own.

Father doesn’t like killing, it’s part of why Mother is the one who goes hunting, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t do something to someone who threatens his children. Like a mother bear (even though he isn’t a mother, but a father) he will attack and kill anything or anyone who threatens his children. Even if that threat is to take them and try to give them a ‘better’ life in the different towns that still sport ‘civilization.’

I say ‘sport’ because that’s all it really is. Someone who is strong enough, knows enough people or otherwise controls a town show or allow whatever brand of ‘civilization’ that they prefer within the borders of their town. Some people have even tried to control more than one town, but now one that I now of has succeeded. There are towns that have allied with one another, but in the end, it’s every town or everyone for themselves. No one really trusts anyone else that they don’t have a reason to do so.

And no one wants to find a reason to trust whoever they view as ‘outsiders.’

We’re not really part of a town, but there is a lose collection of farms ’round about where we live and we’re on fairly good terms with our neighbors. All that really means, though, is that when something goes missing or is damaged, we don’t immediately suspect any of the neighbors as being ‘behind the plot.’ We help each other out now and then, but we don’t have church together or barn raisings (most of the time) or things like that. We keep to ourselves and only really meet up when something goes wrong.

Like if people are getting sick or someone is attacked or something large is stolen.

Or if someone tries to take your children.

Father doesn’t own a gun. Mother does, but Father doesn’t. He knows how to basically clean one out and does so for Mother when she can’t, but he doesn’t know how to use one.

He does know how to use any other kind of farming equipment, like a hoe or a rake or a shovel, anything that can be a basic club with a sharpened end. I know he does, because I’ve seen him use one.

Someone tried to take Sally once. I don’t even know why. She’d too young to do much of anything but occasionally help out with chores. She can’t cook, she’s not the best cleaner and she is still learning how to tie her shoes. There really isn’t any reason to take her.

Unless you want someone young enough to forget who their parents were first.

Father was doing the laundry in the yard, hanging it up to dry after scrubbing it on the scrub board. Sally had been moving the laundry into the rinsing tub, which really meant she was splashing anyone or anything close enough to get caught in a small wave of water.

She wasn’t too far from Father and whoever took her was likely desperate or arrogant or something, because they ran up from the road, grabbed Sally and started running away with her.

Father dropped what was in his hands, not caring if it fell into the wash basin or onto the dirt ground, grabbed the nearest thing that would be described as a weapon (it was the yard broom that he’d used to rake away the leaves earlier in the day and hadn’t put up yet) and gave chase.

We’d had drills on what to do if this kind of thing happened after one of the neighbor’s boys was snatched the season before.  I hadn’t needed to stay with the other children because Tom was there and he’d make sure no one else was taken. I was supposed to follow Father and help when and where I could.

When I caught up, Father had tripped the man, pulled Sally away, shoved her into my arms with a stern shout to keep her head pressed into my shoulder and wait for him in case there were others nearby waiting to snatch the both of us. I held the metal bat that had been Tom’s from Before in one hand while clutching Sally to my chest with the other. I kept my eyes from watching Father and the man too closely (hearing the meaty thunks of the yard broom as it met the flesh of the man were bad enough, I didn’t want to watch) and kept aware of our surroundings, just in case I needed to warn Father of any one else.

No one else was there, or came forward at least.

I don’t know if Father killed the man, like I said, I didn’t look too closely, but if no one else was there (or willing to come forward) then it is likely that the man died eventually. I do know that after Mother came home, she and Father went to where we had left the man. They were gone for what seemed like hours, it probably was with the way Tom kept looking at the wind-up clock after we’d put the other children to bed and cleaned up the kitchen.

When they came back there was dirt on their shoes, thick dirt. Neither Tom nor I asked what had happened or what they had been doing. They didn’t offer anything, simply hugged us tightly, looked in on all of the younger ones, sent us to bed, bolted the door tightly and went to bed themselves. We still had to wake up bright and early, before the sun was really up, to milk the cow and take care of other chores before the younger ones were to wake up and get ready for the day.

Life went on, but I never forgot that though Father was kind and gentle and had never successfully learned how to shoot a gun, he was more than capable of defending his children.

He wouldn’t let anyone take us or hurt us or do anything that would be against our better interests.

He loved us and the best way he had to show us was to teach us how to do things, how to cook and clean and work a farm. How to survive until you could live.

Be brave in your pain, son.

–John, “Ragamuffin”

Mother taught us how to be strong, how to go out and find what we needed when we couldn’t make it ourselves. She taught us how to defend ourselves and how to move on the offense instead of reacting on the defense. She taught us how to love someone so much you didn’t stay in one place and always watch them, you moved around and then you came back.

You always came back, because you loved them more than whatever it was out there that had lured you away in the first place.

So yes, the world ended, it ended in the way that most people saw it. Electricity was still there, if you knew how to generate it, use it, make it safe for daily use, but all the trust and the interconnectedness that had abounded Before was gone.

But people lived on.

We didn’t stop and waste away. It’s likely that some did, because they couldn’t or wouldn’t live on without everything that they’d had Before. But many just kept going, they had to adapt and change and do things differently, learn things that they hadn’t known or even thought about Before, but they did it because giving up wasn’t an option.

Mother and Father were like that. They refused to give up and stop and they didn’t want us to give up or stop either, so they taught us everything they knew and sometimes things that they didn’t know so that we could first survive and then learn how to live once we’d learned how to do the first thing.

There is more, so much more, that I could say or write and tell you, but in the end, it’s not something you can learn from a book. It’s things that you learn from living your life that I can’t tell you about because if you really want to learn it then you need to be right there next to me, learning it. I’ve been told that it’s possible for someone to be next to you if they read what you’ve written and it’s like they’re learning whatever lesson they needed vicariously through you. I don’t know how well that works out, but if it does for some, then I’m happy for them.

As for myself, most of the time it was something that I needed to find out by doing it or watching it and not just reading about it.

But everyone’s different and I’m glad for that. It’s because of that that Mother and Father worked so well together, not because they learned or did things the same, but because they were different enough in most things, but had the same purpose that they were able to do so much together.

Maybe someday I’ll write more and hope that someone, somewhere, is reading this and learning from it. I don’t know if I will, though, because it still doesn’t make all that much sense to me to read the ramblings of someone whose likely long gone.

Inspired by the first Monday prompt from Light and Shade Challenge.

New Life, Old Chains

image: Wiki Commons and used under the Creative Commons Agreement, taken by Tony Bowden in Tallinn, Estonia

Bygone days of leisure and pleasure
Right under your very nose is taken.
Or did you not lost it, but let it go?
Keeps you on your toes
Even when you think you’re at your sharpest.
Now it’s time to really set out and life your life.
Can you really live without a plan?
Has that plan ever really helped in the past?
As far as I’m concerned, no it hasn’t.
find that I’m more flexible than I thought.
Not even going to forget the price I paid for this.
So I shall face my future boldly.

This poem is dedicated to my mother. It is her birthday today and this kind of describes what I know about her from childhood to adulthood to grandmotherhood.

It was also partially inspired by the Light and Shade Challenge.

The Dark Yard Entry

image: Thomas Marlow

 She didn’t bother looking furtively over her shoulder or pretending that she didn’t belong. People tended to notice you if you were trying to be unnoticed in a very noticeable way.

(She tried not to think about that one sequence during “The Emperor’s New Groove” that Disney had released several years ago.)

She simply walked down the street and turned the corner and entered the Yard as if she belonged there.

Because that was the thing.

She did belong there.

She more than belonged there.

Places like this were created because of people like her. People that needed something done and done right the first time instead of the umpteenth time. She didn’t want to wait for them to mess it up or for the item to be broken even once.

She wanted it done all the way the first time.

Lizzy didn’t shake her head to clear her circling thoughts. There was no need. She simply turned them towards something else.

Like what she was going to do after this little…problem…was taken care of.

Maybe she’d go out and treat herself to a night on the town.

Lilly closed her eyes and pictured herself after all of this was over…

She’d get her hair styled, pick out a beautiful new dress, the kind that swirled just right when you went dancing. Maybe some new shoes, also the kind that treated your feet and back well when you only go home long after dark. Maybe she’d grab a bite to eat now and then in between sets on the dance floor.

Lilly loved dancing. She hadn’t been able to really let herself go since this whole things started. She missed dancing with a fire and a passion, because that’s what it had been to her. Her passion.

She had been nothing before her dancing and she had been nothing after.

This step she was taking, walking down this street and into The Dark Yard wasn’t something that she was doing lightly and not just because she missed wearing brightly colored clothing and meeting beautiful people. It was because without her dancing, without that magical beat right where her heart was, that’s all she was.

Nothing more than another random girl in another random place that no one cared about.

Lilly held her head up high and turned off the street and into The Dark Yard.

(Poor silly Lilly,
The little children cried,
How far will you ride?
When all is gone
And you’re alone,
What will you hide?)

It had started simply. She had been dancing, like she always was, but this time it wasn’t just for practice or some silly two-bit show. No, this time she had been going to come out in the top of her tournament. She was going to win and win big enough to be noticed (finally!) by either one of the judges who ran a professional team or be recognized by one of the scouts for another.

Lilly had put on her prettiest dress and her best dancing shoes, shined to within an inch of their lives (if inanimate objects could be said to have lives) and she took the hand of her partner and stepped out into the bright lights.

She danced as she’d never danced before.

And she won.

Lilly had accepted the award, the prize money and the bouquet of beautifully arranged flowers with a gorgeous smile and a graceful bow to the others who placed, lower than her.

One of the scouts for a prominent troupe had approached her and asked to meet with her, and her partner if he was interested as well, over dinner as soon as the event was over.

Her partner had declined. Allen had only wanted to dance partially as a way to return a favor to her from something long passed. He wasn’t interested in letting his talent take him anywhere farther than it already had.

Lilly had eagerly joined the scout for dinner, wine and even a little dancing that night.

Maybe they had, had a little too much wine.

Two months into her new contract, she’d noticed that she’d missed another cycle. It hadn’t worried her the first time, dancers had a finicky system and missed things like regular cycles all the time. Except that Lilly had never missed two in a row.

She hadn’t mentioned it to anyone-

(She wasn’t going to risk anyone benching her on hearsay!)

-but she’d made sure to go see a doctor on her own, making sure he was a discreet soul before ever stepping a foot through his door.

Lilly hadn’t liked the news that he’d given her, but she’d acted as graceful within the confines of the white office just as she did everywhere.

But she didn’t want to risk something like a little bundle of cells destroying her career before it ever really got started.

(Silly Lilly, the children laugh,
Why do you get in the bath?
What can you possibly find
With so little time?
Put your ear to the ground
And listen for the right sound.)

She’d heard things about The Dark Yard and how they took care of different problems for the right price. Some problems were like hers and they were incredibly discreet. No one would ever know you’d been there.

So she waited for her next day off, let everyone know that she was going to take a day out just to wander and get lost in the city. It was the new ‘in’ thing amongst the young and talented. If you were lucky enough, you’d find a wonderful little hole-in-the-wall cafe and meet the love of your life in a cup of coffee prepared to perfection.

No one would question her coming in a little late from a strange direction.

No one you think it strange that she would moved slightly differently the next morning.

It was a pity that the price for her problem was higher than she knew.

No one would ever know.

(Poor silly Lilly,
The children would say,
Life is not so easily thrown away.)

This little story was inspired by this week’s special Light and Shade Challenge in honor of it still going after six months. Took me a few days to get this all out.


Women’s Intuition

I have no idea what this means. I’ve heard it referenced nearly all my life, but whatever it is has continued to elude me. Any kind of ability, in my experience, has been equal between men and women when it comes to being able to intuit something. In fact, my youngest brother is a lot better at intuiting anything than just about anyone else in the family (barring Mom).

So the label of this ability has never made any sense to me.

Does exactly what it says on the tin.

Really, it doesn’t do what it says.

This post was brought to you by the Light and Shade Challenge for Friday as well as a bit of glancing through my drafts folder.