Marble

blue-wood-balls-focus-depth-of-field-deck-reflections-marble_preview_9f58Flick.

The orb danced through the air, spinning, in a parabolic arc. Each rotation caused a twinkle which reflected in the eyes surrounding the ring. For a breathless lifetime it hung there until gravity won out and it descended, landing with a clack and a thud. Then the world was silent and small and only contained the two young bodies who were extended over the ring. The bodies relaxed and contracted as the electricity left the air. One relaxed in triumph, the other in defeat.

The clack seemed to hang in the air for an eternity. It echoed off the nearby walls, once, twice and then all as quiet.

“No,” the boy said breaking the silence. He repeated himself without making a sound and then kept on repeating himself growing louder and louder until he was almost shouting. He thought of some bad words to say but he could not remember what they were exactly, the R-Rated movie his brother watched with him had been so long ago. He reached back into his memory, trying to capture the image of the theater they had snuck into, desperately grasping at the smell of the popcorn, the pimples of the teenager checking tickets and the blood on the screen as the monster chased down its victims. The boy reached far back into his memory for the words he had repeated that night in front of his mother which earned him a mouth washing and a spanking, and he grasped at the worst one he thought he could remember.

“You’re a forking cheater!”

“Nuh-uh!” the girl yelled. She snatched the orb which had brought her victory with lightning speed and then she pounced on the others. A blue one filled with gold stars, an orange one that looked like it would taste like his favourite popsicle, a clear one that turned tiny things behind it into giants and a black one that was pockmarked from overuse and darker than coal, they all disappeared into her rough leather satchel.

As she continued collecting marbles the boy fought back tears.

“I’m telling! You cheated! You stole my marbles!” he screamed. His voice was more than loud enough to carry across the playground but it was drowned out in the shouts and yells of the other children.

“Nuh-uh!” the girl said again as she stood up. Then she turned on her heel and ran off with her black locks whipping behind her head.

The boy clenched his fists and tried his best not to cry. He could not cry again. They would all laugh like they had the last time. But he could not hold himself together and soon he was under a tree far away from the others and sobbing. It did not matter so much that he had lost the game; he rarely won anyways. It did not matter that he had lost to a girl; the other boys already teased him mercilessly for being the shortest and slowest and fattest kid in class. The worst part was that he had lost the black marble. Cam’s marble. He cried for a while and hoped that nobody would see him all by himself watering the tree with his grief.

Then minutes later he heard footsteps. They were running towards him over the soft grass but they weren’t the heavy steps of a grownup, they were the quick strides of a kid like him.

“Go away,” he said to the footsteps as they got closer but they did not stop and they did not turn around.

Then, when the footsteps were right in front of him they stopped and the boy looked up through red eyes to find the girl looking down at him. She pushed her hair out of her face and smiled with big a toothy grin and big brown eyes.

“What do you want?” the boy asked, wiping his eyes. The orbs in his head felt raw as he wiped away the tears with his sleeve.

It seemed to take her forever to answer the question. Time hung still. A breeze sent autumn leaves tumbling from the tree. For a moment they were trapped in a shower of colours and for a moment the boy saw the girl not as the one who stole his most prized possession but as… he could not quite say. It was a shower of feelings. He wanted to cry again. He wanted to scream. He wanted to push her down and take all of the marbles and run far away where nobody could ever find him. But he also wanted to smile because he remembered in class when her hair would keep falling over her eyes and she would have to brush it off and he remembered her arguing with her mom about the head band and how she hated it because it was yellow and her mom made her take it but she just hid it in her locker before they went into the classroom.

The girl’s grin widened and she dug into her pocket. Then she stretched out her arm and opened her hand to reveal the black marble.

“Do you wanna play again?”

Forest Clearing

I stop beside a huge oak tree on the edge of a clearing. In the distance I can see my destination: a mighty castle carved into mountain. I know not what awaits me inside, only that I must reach there if I am to ever be at rest. There my fortune and destiny await. There my journey ends. But the mountain is far off, the climb is high, the forest is thick and I am weary of travelling.

The clearing I stop in is only partially natural. It is a patch created by many travelers who stopped to ponder their journey before me. Their legacy here has nearly been swallowed by the growth of the forest: names carved on bark have faded. Items left behind have rusted or been buried. The grass has taken back the paths they made leading to and away from this place and the monuments they left to their passing have all but crumbled.

It seems only right to leave some legacy of my own. Just as it seems a rite of passage for travelers through this forest to face the many mighty rivers which crisscross it, so too it seems a rite of passage to try and immortalize oneself in this spot despite all evidence that such attempts are futile.

I decide to leave a map of all of the places in the forest where I have been. The map is crude, hand drawn and several patches are missing for I either forgot how I reached them or have willingly left them out. I did not make it, I found it in a clearing much like this one, under a rock. I filled it in with what I learned as I travelled. The map has aided me greatly as I journeyed, it became a diary, a companion. It became a physical manifestation of my memory. Sometimes, before I slept for the night I would examine it and remember my past adventures.

In time the map will fade or rot or its destinations will be swallowed and changed by the growth but hopefully future travelers will be guided by it.

I nail the map to the bark of the tree I first rested on and am on my way shortly. I would like to spend more time in the clearing but travelers can never stay in one spot too long, we can only rest awhile there and leave a bit of ourselves behind to guide those who journey behind us.

The Dragon Slayers

Once upon a time there was a terrifying dragon and a peaceful, sleepy village. Every new moon the dragon would burn the village to the ground, steal livestock and kill any that got in its way. This went on for hundreds of years until the villagers finally had enough. They put out a call for a dragon slayer. Soon their call was answered.

The first to show up was a brave young knight in shining armour atop a powerful black steed. The knight wielded an awesome sword with a jewel encrusted scabbard and ivory-gilded hilt.

The second was a mysterious wizard who arrived in a puff of smoke and spoke with a voice that boomed like thunder. The wizard’s eyes were an unnatural shade of green and glinted even when no sun shone on them.

The third dragon slayer to arrive was a young boy no older than five years old. He was dressed like a pauper and had messy hair. The boy had the usual childlike wonder and optimism in his eyes and smiled whenever he spoke.

The townspeople asked each of their heroes how they would slay the dragon.

“I will have an epic battle with the dragon and cut off its head,” said the knight.

“I will turn the dragon into a harmless frog,” said the wizard.

“I will give the dragon a hug and teach it to not be so mean,” said the little boy.

The villagers were shocked. Surely they could not let this naïve child walk to his death. But it was too late, all three dragon slayers had left to be the first to defeat the terrifying monster.

The villagers only had wait until the next sunrise to learn which of their heroes was successful. At dawn the wizard stumbled back badly burned. It was certain that he would die from his wounds.

“It was horrible, the knight went charging in, screaming at the top of his lungs and the beast burned him and his horse to ash.”

The villagers once again were horrified. They asked about the little boy. The wizard shook his head.

“He walked up to it arms outstretched and it swatted him away. I still remember him bouncing as he went flying into the forest. I’m sorry we have failed you so miserably.”

With that the wizard breathed his last.

The villagers realized that their situation was hopeless. Their only choice would be to leave their ancestral home. But, just as they were packing up their worldly goods the little boy walked into town, drenched in blood, carrying the knight’s sword in one hand and dragging the dragon’s head in the other. The look of optimism was gone from his eyes.

“Fuck hugs,” was all he said as he walked on.

Six Shooter

A stranger walked into my town one Thursday with six names on his lips and a six shooter at his hips. He walked with purpose, not looking at the brothel, the inn, the sheriff’s office or at any passerby who gave him strange stares. He walked with a limp in worn boots, worn jeans and wearing a worn shirt and vest. He walked against the wind.

He walked into the bar, up to the counter and bought a bottle of whiskey paying for it with a twenty dollar note and telling Samuel the barkeep to get another ready. Despite his tanned skin he looked like he had been out of the sunlight for years. He took his bottle and sat in the corner furthest from any windows. The stranger was obviously a man most comfortable in the dark.

I was just twelve years old at the time and should not have been there. My mother, a good Christian woman and the local seamstress always told me to stay away from the tavern. She was worried I might end up an alcoholic like her father or be wrongly shot in the street by a drunk like the county priest was two years ago. But she was away comforting her recently widowed sister and I was free. I loved being around the ranchers and wanderers and salesmen who always had a tale to tell or who were always challenging each other to some new insane bet. I would watch their card games and I would memorize their jokes to tell later to my younger siblings. The tavern was a second home to me and there was now a stranger in my home.

He had blond hair, blue eyes and a faint scar beginning under his right eye and cutting across his lip to the centre of his chin. There was hunger in his eyes, as if he had been searching for something for a long time and finally found it. He saw me eyeing him from across the room and motioned for me to come over. I hesitated at first. While he fascinated me, there was an air about him that told me to stay away. He was clearly an outlaw, outlaws were always dangerous, and our sleepy town had never had an outlaw walk in and not leave a bloody mess behind or leave bloodied himself.

The stranger beckoned me over again. I crossed the tavern doing my best to appear confident in the face of this dangerous man. My heart stopped when I tripped over a chair leg but he just looked at me as if nothing had happened. The short walk across the tavern was the longest of my entire life but eventually I reached the stranger’s table. When I got there he finished his glass of whiskey and motioned for me to come even closer. As I leaned in I got a good whiff of the alcohol from his breath; it was so strong that I almost fell from my chair. But this man’s hard stare held me in place.

“Boy,” he said. “I want you to go find the some people for me and bring them here. I think you know them. I want you to go find five men for me. Martin Gamble, Dick Hiskins, Charley Wex, Roy and Roger Pearle and Arthur Fullorton. I want you to bring these men here or at least tell them where I am. Tell them Buck wants to see them. Here’s a hundred dollars, you’ll get another hundred when you get back. Run along now and be quick.”

I raced off with the note in my hand and the promise of two hundred dollars in my head. I rode as fast as I could to the various ranches of the men the stranger sought. Each of them had arrived in town about three years ago and had lived peaceful lives since then. I did not stop to think what such a man could want with gentle folk.

When I reached each farm and passed along the stranger’s message each man’s face went white. They all stammered and asked me to describe just who was sitting in the tavern and I told them all the same answer: a blond haired, blue eyed man called Buck with a scar on his face and a thirst for whiskey. When I was finished I raced back to the tavern to collect my reward; Buck was still sitting in his corner. He paid me in full and gave me a drink from his bottle. It burned my throat.

Two days later Martin Gamble, Dick Hiskins, Charley Wex, Roy and Roger Pearle and Arthur Fullorton arrived in town each holding a firearm. Martin had at his side a pistol, Dick a shotgun, Roy and Roger held rifles and Arthur carried his own six shooter. They walked through town in a line, eyes wide and steps unsteady.

“What’s with the iron Arthur?” asked the blacksmith.

“Go inside Bob, keep your family safe,” replied Arthur.

The stranger called Buck stepped out of the inn wearing the same worn clothes from before. His gun hung at his hip in an unclipped holster.

“I was wondering where I would find y’all. Didn’t think it would be in a place like this,” he shouted. This time Roger spoke.

“You should be dead right now. How’d you worm your way out of that jail?”

“I convinced them that I had been framed.”

“Bullshit,” now it was Dick’s turn. “You were with us the entire time on that train. It was your goddamned idea. You were even the one who shot that engineer, not us.”

“I said I convinced them, I didn’t prove anything.”

The seven men stood in the middle of town, outside the inn, six in a line facing down one. I was peeking out through the shutters of the tavern, fearing what would happen next.

“I told y’all that I would kill you for betraying me like that, even if it was the last thing I did.”

Buck reached for his gun. The six men facing him did not even let him remove it from his holster before they each unloaded their own firearms into his chest. Amazingly Buck took each shot and remained on his feet for a moment or two before staggering over onto the inn’s steps. He twitched a little before he came to rest.

All six men dropped their guns and raised their hands for the sheriff. He jailed each and every one but released them the next morning saying that what happened was clearly self defense.

That was the last time anybody ever spoke about that day. It only existed afterwards in memories and those memories quickly became as faded as the stranger’s jeans. But I remember still, I remember a dead man handing me two hundred dollars to bring his six reapers to him.

The stranger walked into my town with six names on his lips and a six shooter at his hip. Those six names sent him out of this world with six holes in his chest.

Kevin

I’m trying really hard right now not be like this, but it is exhausting. I keep telling myself “Don’t be Kevin. Don’t be Kevin. Don’t be Kevin.” I want to sleep.

Kevin knew something was wrong. He was facing impending doom, total failure, a complete collapse of what should be, and he did not give one single fuck at all. He knew that the utter collapse of the status-quo would only result in a negative situation. It would be inevitable, prior experiences and evidence showed that only one outcome was possible if he stayed the course.

But Kevin did not care. His eyes were glazed as he looked around at is travelling companions. They were his friends and he had set out on this course with them. He would go down with them.

He thought to himself “I should stop. I should turn myself around, I should jump out of the way. I should take a single step in another direction to correct myself from the self-destructive course I have set.”

But instead Kevin let himself continue.

Kevin looked around him at the people who had been his travelling companions and saw them all abandon him and urging him to follow. He simply looked back at them with mild confusion, mild longing, and mild apprehension but mostly with apathy.

Then something happened, Kevin once again acknowledged the gravity of his situation and realized that with very little effort he could change his direction. He could save himself. All he needed was a catalyst, all he needed was a little push. All Kevin needed was a fuck to give.

Kevin’s eyes momentarily cleared and he searched frantically for a single extra fuck. Alas, his supply was occupied elsewhere; given to other people and left behind long ago.

Kevin let himself return to his previous state of apathetic calm. His course was set. His doom was before him. And Kevin did not care.

He failed the next day’s test.

A Christmas Horror Story

I wrote this Christmas eve. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

I knew something was wrong as soon as I came back from school and saw a twenty foot tall inflatable Santa Claus standing on our front lawn. The thing was illuminated by a glowing red light from inside and it was grinning from ear to ear and holding a bell in its hand. I had never  had any problem with St. Nick besides some incidents when I was a child at the mall and refused to take a picture but looking at the elf’s visage today gave me the creeps. I think it was the eyes. They seemed wrong.

“Mom,” I began after the usual greetings, “Why is there a horrifying inflatable Santa Claus on our front lawn?”

“Ask your father honey,” she replied with exasperation.

Dad never really explained himself when asked about his random (and usually ill-advised) purchases. This time was not much different. he grunted in his typical retired cop fashion and muttered something about a sale and the Johnsons having “some big damn light show on their lawn so why the hell not.” I left him to his football game.

That night and every night for a week I looked out my old bedroom window to see the inflated Santa staring at the neighborhood. But since I was so close to it I could almost see through the back of the elf’s head at its eyes. Those inhuman eyes. I had trouble sleeping.

It was three days until Christmas when the Johnson’s dog turned up in their oven trussed up and stuffed like a turkey. Everybody was visibly shaken, that dog was beloved throughout the neighborhood. It was safe to say that the Johnson’s Christmas was ruined.

I don’t know why but I remember looking back at the thing inflated on our front lawn. It’s grin had gotten wider.

I lay in bed that night trying not to look at the evil Claus inflated outside my window, trying to drift off to sleep. I thought to myself “this is ridiculous, I’ve slept on park benches, floors, in cars and sometimes on amusement park rides. There is no reason that I shouldn’t be able to sleep in my old bed. You’re being silly, just get up and throw something over your window to block out the light. But as I stood something awful happened.

The head turned to look at me. It leaned in. It looked right through my window.

I tried to run from the room and reached the door just as a gigantic gloved hand broke through my window. It got me by the leg and I kicked with all my might to get free.

Scrambling down the hall I could hear the thing banging on the house with its fist and bell. Throughput all of the commotion my parents had not stirred and I barely began to wonder why not until I reached their bedroom. There was my mother standing with her famous fresh baked holiday cookies and a crazed expression in her eyes. My father had two candy canes, both sharpened to points. They lunged at me and I evaded and made my way for the stairs all the while Santa’s banging continued giving rhythm to my flight like some of mad carol.

I reached the main floor and scrambled for the phone to call the police. My parents had gone insane, they were trying to kill me! Then I heard a pounding at the door, different from Claus’. There was Mr. Johnson, and at the window was Mrs. Johnson, and on the lawn beside Santa was Mr Eddly from down the street and in fact, the entire neighborhood was on our lawn. They carried pitchforks and baseball bats and shovels and car scrapers and they all had the same look in their eyes, the look to kill.

Then I realized what I had to do, if I was to stop this madness then I would have to take down Santa Claus. Simple enough, I could just puncture him with something sharp. The trick was getting around his army.

Mom and Dad were at the bottom of the stairs, I would have to act fast. I grabbed a knife from the kitchen sink and ran to the front door throwing it open and bowling over Mr. Johnson. I darted around the neighbors and jumped at Santa’s leg knife first. The knife broke through the elf’s shin and i felt a rush of air on my face from the new hole.Unfortunately I continued forward and landed headfirst on a hidden rock on our lawn.

I awoke on my bed some time later with my parents standing over, me mother’s expression filled with concern, my father simply shaking his head.

“What happened? Is it dead?”

My father answered first.

“What in the hell is wrong with you?”

Then my mother.

“We found you this morning stabbing the Santa Claus and screaming that it ‘did it’. Son, are you okay?”

I explained my actions and even though my parents were skeptical of y mental state they chalked it up to an exam-stress induced nightmare accompanied by sleepwalking and sleepstabbing. Then they left me alone.

I stayed in bed for a while longer, too tired from the night before to even to go back to sleep. It made me feel a lot better to know that the stupid thing would not be looking through my window any more.

My window. There was something written on it. Somebody wrote in the morning frost.

I got out of bed to get a closer look.

“Ho ho ho. You’ve been very naughty this year haven’t you?”

I Lied…

So I lied about what the next post will be. Sue me. This one popped into my head and I had to get it down.

Hello, my name is Arthur, and I am an addict. I have been using for about three years now and I realized that if I continued I would only be hurting those I cared about. I’m sorry if I sometimes get off topic or if I – uh, it’s just that this is a little difficult for me. I’ve never been able to do this without the pills.

I suppose I should begin with how I got addicted then.

In my family, there were always, issues. Specifically with trust and the things that come and go with it. I mean, sure, every family has a problem now and then but you could say mine was truly dysfunctional. I remember my father coming home one night from wherever it was he went during the day and telling me to keep it a secret from my mother who was working a night shift that he had lost five thousand dollars. He was impressively drunk at this point; I remember clearly the smell of cheap booze on his breath. The next day, when I accidentally broke a vase and lied about it my mother chastised me to the point of tears. I angrily cried out that dad had lost all that money and, well, things pretty much went downhill from there. Dad beat me later that week when mom was working another night shift and he started coming home drunker and later than ever. And mom, she started looking worse and worse. Their marriage imploded within months.

I never really thought about it until recently, but this is probably how I became so addicted. I came from a household of substance abuse and dishonesty. So, when I was perusing the net one night and happened upon some pills that promised to make those who took them speak only and ever the truth, well, the little kid inside me with the trust issues thought it was too good to be true, even if the adult inside me was sure it was a bunch of crap.

But it wasn’t.  Three easy payments of almost thirty bucks later and I had my own ten year supply of truth pills. I wasn’t sure how to test them at first, I mean, they easily could have been poison. So I, well, I went a little crazy. I fed them to the neighborhood cat and when it didn’t die I figured they were safe for humans. I tried them on my neighbor next, popped two into his beer during a football game. He didn’t start blurting out all of his dirty little secrets like I expected though. Instead, he would just answer every question with complete honesty. I asked him his name, and he gave me the answer. He was a little confused, we knew each other well enough to know each other’s first and last names, we had been living door to door for the past year. Next I asked him his social security number and without any coaxing at all he answered me. I asked him all sorts of things, where he was born, how much he made in a year, if he had ever broken the law. He answered me every time like nothing was wrong. He asked me why I was asking all of these questions, but he had no objection to answering them. Turns out he once broke into somebody’s house and stole their television so he could afford concert tickets.

So, I realized that these little pills could make somebody tell the truth without realizing that they probably should not have been telling the truth.

And I started taking them every day.

Since the day I blurted out my father’s secret I had become an habitual liar and I hated myself for it. Countless relationships had crumbled because I didn’t know how to tell a hurtful yet necessary truth. But with these pills I was free from my bad habit. I could self-medicate away my deceit. It was an amazing feeling at first, extremely liberating. But over time I noticed that people avoided my opinions. And then I noticed myself growing further away from people, friends, coworkers, family. The problem was that my honesty was getting in the way of their happiness and they didn’t like that. So I thought “screw them, I am who I am”. But the problem was that this wasn’t me, this was the pills talking. The only person I wasn’t being honest with was myself.

It hit me that I had gone too far when at thanksgiving last year my four-year-old niece showed me a picture she had drawn in crayon of a pink dinosaur. The picture was as bad as you would expect a little kid’s drawing to be. All of the other adults loved it but I looked that little girl straight in the eye and told her that she had drawn a bad picture. She wasn’t sad or anything, didn’t cry. She’s a tough kid. But it was at that moment that I realized that maybe I had gone too far with the pills. The lies we tell to children aren’t told to hurt them, if anything, many of these lies are told to make kids better people:

“You can be president one day if you work hard enough, rubbing alcohol and needles don’t hurt at all, there’s no such thing as monsters.”

Santa Claus is a perfect example: good kids get rewarded with toys, bad kids get punished with coal.

Yeah, so, back to the pills…

I tried quitting on my own but being honest after years of being false is a stronger habit former than nicotine. I mentioned the liberating feeling earlier. I relapsed about six times over the course of the year. Each time I fell back harder on the pills than before. At first it was jury duty, then it was when I couldn’t bring myself to admit, something, to my doctor. Then it was this and then it was that n and the reasons became more and more asinine until I finally broke down and asked my sister for help. I told her everything, the pills helped with this too, and she brought me here. To be honest, I didn’t think such a place existed, but then again, six billion people on this planet, I couldn’t be the only one with such a vice.

I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been here. Namely,the truth hurts sometimes, and while it is often necessary, sometimes that hurt can be avoided. Also, lies aren’t good all the time, but it’s okay to lie once in a while if it means protecting what’s dear to us.

So, uh, yeah. My name is Arthur and I have been telling lies for about a week now. In fact, I just told one.