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The Watchmen Part IV – I’ve Decided – A Horror Novella

I stood outside for a moment as I watched the cars slowly pass. Everything moved so much slower here than it did in Dallas. No one seemed to be in a rush, or cutting each other off. It really was beautiful and even from here I could make out the mountains in the distance. I would be going back home tomorrow. Not back up to mom and dad but to my place in Dallas. I still had to figure out what I was going to say to both my parents─what I could say to anyone. Devon’s smile flashed in my head. I found myself wondering if he would smile at me like that again before we all faced the end. I think given time, I would have liked to get to know him better. I’m not sure in what way, but I know that I enjoyed his company. I certainly didn’t want him to die in the way that I have been. No one deserved that. 

 

I trudged into my room, setting my key-card on the nightstand and my bag on the floor. Whether I wanted to or not, I was going to that funeral tomorrow. Not just to show my support to the company, but to talk with a close friend of his. Maybe he spoke to someone before he passed away or he had confided in someone from our department. I’m not sure of the dynamic between him and his team, but I knew that him and Devon worked together a lot and seemed comfortable talking to one another. I would worry about that tomorrow. 

 

I picked up my phone and checked my messages. Mom had sent me a link to a pie recipe she found and asked if I would like her to make that this year. Leave it to mom to ask something like that a solid three weeks before Thanksgiving. She was forever worried about including everyone. Last year she had managed to cook a full traditional thanksgiving and a full vegan one for her sister. Aunt Marie was always obsessed over something─ her fine wrinkles, the little bit of weight around her tummy, the horrible meat industry and how they all lobbied together to get the public to buy into meat and animal products. I would get a link to a documentary at least a few times a year. Everyone had an agenda. Though, admittedly she probably wasn’t wrong about the lobbying. I’m sure it happened in just about every industry. 

 

I admired her for it none-the-less, I certainly couldn’t do it. I tried being a vegetarian for a while and promptly lost my shit. Even my mom had broken her no cursing rule and told me to stop being such a bitch. I still laughed at that from time to time. My mom, miss prim and proper cursing me out and shoving bacon in my face. I guess we all had our limits and I apparently was a real asshole when I didn’t eat meat. 

 

I opened up my work email and glanced through. There was a few messages from corporate about Zedd and a personal email from Devon. It was titled ‘I’m sorry for all of this.’ I immediately opened it. 

Hey Kate,

 

I just wanted to say again that I am so sorry your first week happened this way. Zedd was a good friend of mine and to say that I am in total shock is a bit of an understatement. I hope that this hasn’t changed your mind about working for us in any way. I hope to have you on our team for quite some time. I’ll see you in the office tomorrow, we’re all going to work half a day and then attend the service. You are more than welcome to join us or head home. You won’t be judged either way. 

 

Take care, 

Devon  

 

I reread it and then hit reply. 

 

Devon,

 

I want you to know that I plan on staying with the company for a long time. In no way is this anyone’s fault and I would never hold you or the company accountable for someone else’s actions. I’m sure that Zedd had a reason for all of this even if we couldn’t understand them. I lost a good friend of mine this way before high school, so I do have a bit of an idea as to what you must be going through. Just focus on the good times and the time you shared together. I’ll see you tomorrow at the office. 

 

Yours,

Kate

 

I was surprised to find a bit of wetness had gathered in my eyes. It had happened nearly ten years ago but I remember James. In some ways, he had reminded me of Zedd─ quick witted, shy, but very vocal when he was passionate about something. Why did it seem like the best people in the world took their own life? This thought depressed me more and more over the years. I remembered taking several psychology courses talking about how some of the most brilliant minds struggled with daily depression. I could believe it. Seeing the world as it really was had to have its downfalls. 

 

I sighed heavily on the bed and then pushed one foot over the other as I shoved my shoes to the floor. I just wanted to be done with all of this─ done with knowing about it and most importantly, done with feeling it. I had a few hours before I would have to leave for Dallas since it was a ten hour trip. We were expected to be in tomorrow morning, so I would have to go back to my place in time to shower and dress. I wasn’t honestly sure if I had something appropriate to wear to a funeral. Most of my clothes were very casual and the few dresses I owned were sun dresses. I couldn’t exactly show up in a flowery sundress for the death of a coworker, and jeans just seemed wrong somehow. 

 

After a little bit of searching, I found an online delivery service that would pick up something for a nearby store and deliver it tonight. I quickly browsed through some dresses and pantsuits before deciding on some slacks and a blouse. I at least had some black flats at home just for this sort of occasion. My parents had always told me to have a pair of black dress shoes in case of a wedding, or funeral. 

 

I sigh, browsing through the t.v. It had been a long time since I’d been to a funeral. The last one had been my Nana Genny’s. It had been a very cold day, the sort that made you shiver no matter how many layers of clothing you put on. I was still in my teens, old enough to understand death, but still immature as to what it actually meant. It didn’t really hit until grandpa Jay had started dating again. When he remarried, mom had stopped talking with him. I’m not sure why she did, after all he was only human. He’d been with nana for over forty years. It must have been hard to have been used to being with someone for so long and then they were gone. I don’t think I would want to be alone either. I still called him from time to time to check in and see how he was doing. Grandpa Jay had hoped someday mom would come around. I did too.

 

A chill ran along my arms and up through my head. I wondered if maybe I was getting sick from all the stress. I wasn’t one to get sick often, but when I did it normally took me out for a few days. I had the flu once as a child and I’ll never forget it. It was probably why I got my shot every year and washed my hands like it were some sort of religion. The kids always poked fun of me for it, but guess who never got sick? Let them laugh, cleanliness always wins and I was the proof. 

 

After wasting some time browsing my phone and trying again for the hundredth time to find these mysterious Watchmen, I decided that a trip to the sauna sounded better. I was worried that since it was still somewhat early in the day it may be crowded, however when I arrived there was only a family in the pool and an older man in the hottub. The sauna was people-free. I slipped my shoes off and walked into the heated bliss. I sighed, stretching out on the bench and wiggled my toes. It felt good─ really good. The heat stung a little to breathe but I didn’t mind that. I just wanted this chill to ease away. I couldn’t tell if it was all in my head or if I was actually getting sick. 

 

I close my eyes and breathe deeply, only focusing on my breath drawing in and out. I imagined that I was floating in my own ship in the middle of space, staring at the small particles floating by. The sun heated my back as I faced out toward the galaxy. Jupiter loomed nearby, huge and deadly─ but beautiful. I stared mesmerized by the swirling multicolored gas as I bathed in the glow of the sun. I am completely alone. This has been my form of meditation for years. Somehow, the thought of being completely isolated and floating through space comforted me. I think it would probably have the opposite effect on most people. For me, it was a haven.

 

I find myself often wishing that I could be alone. Totally alone with nothing more than me, my computer, and art. Art has been a way of life for me for as long as I could remember. I would love to sit outside and draw everything I saw, especially people. I’d brought my sketchbook along on the trip and thought that it was probably time to do something calming before the funeral. Plus, I would need to present something at work tomorrow. We had the weekend off, but I always grew anxious not having anything to do. 

 

I took several long, slow breaths. Don’t think about that now, I say to myself, think about the warmth. I focus on the heat and my breath. Suddenly, my mind wandered to the first night I experienced all of this─ the first night I experienced them. Despite the terrifying sensation of another being thriving off of my pain, I was curious about what they were. Their black hoods flashed in my mind, nothing but blackness behind them. Their long, thin bodies would disappear into a sort of translucent grey haze. They would never move, but stand perfectly still and stare.

 

They never said anything. They didn’t need to. You could just sense them. Sort of like when you were a child and tried to sneak up on your parents. No matter how quiet you thought you were being, they would turn around and shout, ‘boo!’ scaring you instead. Only, these things were more like a heavy and dense presence, pressing in upon you until you could barely breathe. Your breathing becomes shallow, your chest heavy. Your heart feels as though it will tear its way from your chest. Then comes the cloying, damp air as they invade our plane of existence.

 

They stand there, merely existing where they should not. Yet, all of that I could get used to if it were something as simple as discomfort. Nothing compared to the sensation of dying again and again, painfully with no sign of reprieve. If it was as bad as my dreams, if that’s even what I could call them, I would lie there suffering until they released me. Death didn’t scare me, living did. I could handle knowing that the blast would take me out in one shot and I’m gone. 

 

There was a thought that had started sprouting with each passing day. Little by little, I watered it and you could see the bud forming just above the soil. It’s perfect little leaves wrapping protectively over it. Zedd was right to do what he did, and I was going to follow suit. Whatever these creatures were, they weren’t going to stop. I was going to die slowly, and horribly. I could try getting out of the city, stock up, and move out to the middle of nowhere, but it wouldn’t save me from the fallout. Unless I could find someone with an underground bunker, that’s willing to share. There had to be a few of them out there, right? 

 

That would save me, but what about the nearly eight billion people out there? In seconds, entire cities would be wiped out, followed by radiation poisoning and then black rain. The bombs would take people out directly in the city immediately, but the ones just outside of it would suffer slowly, painfully, and then finally die after days of agonizing pain. People like my parents. Families. 

 

Even if a decent sized population had managed to somehow make it, the hospitals wouldn’t be able to keep up with that sort of catastrophic event. It would take decades to recover from it. 

 

I sigh, my eyes opening as I stared up at the wooden ceiling. I wanted to be hopeful. I wanted to be one of those people that have decided that no matter what, humanity could prevail and I could save them. The truth was, no matter how hard I tried or what I said, I had zero proof. 

 

And proof was all that would matter. If I was me, listening to someone tell me that the world would end, I would laugh, maybe roll my eyes and move on. 

 

No matter. I would do my best to warn them all and leave with a clean conscience. 

 

I had made up my mind, as soon as I got back, I would make it my mission for the next five days to do what I could. I didn’t want to live in this world, or the way it would be, but I could help everyone else that would be stuck here. 

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The Watchmen – Part III – I’ve Tried to Warn People – A Thriller Novella

Part I

Part II

 

Seven days.

 

Somehow, I had made it through the night. My head felt as if it were disembodied. I had the beginning of what felt like a horrible migraine. I downed a glass of water and took a couple of painkillers. Shuffling into the bathroom, I got a good look at myself. My cheek bones looked sharper than usual and my eyes looked watery. There were two dark circles under my eyes. I pawed through my hair and gave up. Maybe a shower would tame my unruly mane.

 

After a long, hot shower I felt energized. I still felt floaty, but that was to be expected given my lack of sleep. I made an attempt to comb through my curls, dabbed on some concealer, and chapstick. I wasn’t a huge fan of makeup, but I still liked to look presentable from time to time. Normally my hair is thick and wavy. It could never make up its mind on color, it was red or brown. I remember someone once told me that it was auburn, but I think it really depends on the time of year. Summer it was like a fiery copper, and winter a dull red, like a fox’s coat.

 

It could get bushy just like their tail floof. It was something I always hated about it, but, I had good hair days too. I’m not a tall girl, but I’m not short either. I’m stuck between what guys considered cute and not cute.The girls that got the most attention in high school were small and petite. I’ve always been awkward, and quiet. Dating didn’t make much sense to me. I usually got through it by reading, playing games at home, and drawing. No one really talked to me because of my quiet nature and I sort of liked it that way. It was easy to keep track of a few friends from time to time.

 

I’m not sure why I was reflecting on this now. It had been five years since I had been there. Once I had gone to college, I had replaced my old friends with new ones. But even they had started moving on with their own lives. But when I thought about it, I was never one to fight very hard to be in anyone’s life. I guess I have enjoyed my own company just fine.

 

I can’t believe the one person that could count on believing me was gone. I had so many things that I wanted to share with him, ask him. Granted, we only had a week left. If this all was in fact the end of the world. I can’t say that I blame him, these visions are awful. They are so vivid that you can’t stand being in that moment, let alone know that you will have to face that pain at the end. I shiver thinking about how much suffering we will have to go through and the pure joy the creature’s will take devouring us all.

 

Will it really be so horrible? Or will I fold over and die immediately after the first blast. Even if the bombs only hit every major city, the fallout would be devastating. I couldn’t save everyone, but I could try to spread the word to several people I knew. Thinking about it depressed me, because who would really take me seriously?

 

They wouldn’t. I sag into the bed and tuck my legs under me. The only way they would understand is if they had seen what I have seen. That got me curious. If Zedd had seen them, there had to be others right? I can go online, seek others through communities and maybe discuss it with them. I have seven days, maybe we could all meet up and change other people’s minds.

 

Yeah, like a doomsday cult? Ugh. No, we’re fucked. No one would buy it and honestly, maybe it was just a freak coincidence. Some odd occurence that two people shared. I knew, in the deepest parts of my heart that was wrong, but I wanted to believe that somehow none of it were true.

 

I had been putting it off long enough. I stood, walked over to the piece of paper and opened it. I scanned, frowned and then looked at it again. It had not changed since yesterday. It changed every day, why had it not changed this time? What had I done differently?

 

Shit, I cursed silently, it’s because I haven’t slept. It had even changed the number of days, but the picture was the same. I only got to see it if I lived that pain and I would have to live that pain for another six days, almost seven. At least, it’s what I hypothesized. I had fallen asleep on the bus and the picture didn’t change, but I’m pretty sure that had to do with the fact that it was the same day. There was only one way to test it and I really didn’t want to.

 

I alerted the front desk that I would be staying another day and they said that it would be fine. It was the slow season, so no one had reserved the room. I told them there was no need for fresh sheets, asked for a few more towels and then got off the phone. I suddenly felt exhausted, there was no way I was going to stay awake, even if I wanted to. I wrote a note on the door to leave the towels inside even if I was asleep inside and then collapsed under the blankets.

 

#

 

When I woke, the sun had nearly set. It was low in the sky and the room had become very cold. I sat up and stretched, glancing at my phone. It was nearly six o’clock. I yawned and threw the blankets off of me, feeling good and refreshed. I relieved myself in the bathroom, washed my hands, and applied a bit more chapstick and base.

 

Ready to get out of the room for a while, I grabbed my phone, laptop, the paper, and changed into a pair of jeans and a long sleeved shirt. I took one last look at myself, grabbed my wallet and was out the door. Thankfully, the town had a little strip and there were several restaurants and coffee shops to choose from. I settled on a diner that had wi-fi and claimed to have the best breakfast in town. My stomach grumbled, reminding me that I hadn’t eaten in twelve hours as I slid into the booth.

 

The place was warm in colors and modernized enough that it didn’t feel like a diner. There was no tacky art, or cheap looking benches, and the colors were tasteful and calm. I immediately felt comfortable here, it was an environment that invited you to stay with soothing music and friendly staff. I couldn’t remember the last time I had ever felt like a place wanted you there for a while.

 

“Hey there,” the lady smiled as she walked up to me, “what can I start you off with?” I could tell she was older, but still extremely pretty. She had a kind face with warm brown eyes and silky dark brown hair. I hated to admit it, but I was pretty jealous of that hair. I’ve always wished that I could have those edgy, straight haircuts instead of my mange of fluff.

 

“Hey,” I smiled back, “is it OK if I stay here for a bit after I eat?” The woman grinned from ear to ear as if I were the most precious thing in the world. “Of course you can, sweetheart. Stay as long as you like. What can I get for you?” I glanced over the menu, quickly realizing there were way more options than I anticipated. “Uh,” I stuttered, “how about pancakes and sausage with some coffee?” Her eyes crinkled as she jotted down my order, “you want one or two pancakes?” “Three,” I say quickly. Her eyes widen, but she nods. “You take cream and sugar?” “Just cream,” I say. She nods again and then walks away calling over her shoulder that she’ll be right back.

 

I’m not sure why I keep putting off looking at the paper. I’m still in shock over the fact that I slept so peacefully. I honestly can’t even remember dreaming. Thank goodness for small miracles. I stared across at the little sliver of paper as if at any moment, it would catch fire in my bag. I wanted more than anything for the same city with the same hooded figures to be present. Maybe it was just affecting the new city I moved to. Either way, I wasn’t prepared at that moment to find out. I had the weekend to depress myself further. And then what? I wondered. Warn everyone in those two cities to evacuate? Yeah, that would go over well.

 

About the only thing I could do to make anyone take me seriously is phone in a bomb threat. I’m not familiar with protocol on this, but I’m quite sure they would dismiss it as a practical joke in less than a day. It may save several people’s lives though, so it was looking like my best option.

If they would even issue a city-wide evacuation. I grew more apprehensive by the second. There is no way the city would take a woman’s threat seriously. Even if it were a bomb threat. They probably received those at least once every few months. Shit, with all the crazy people out there, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were once a week.

 

I make a mental list of what I would need to do in order for anyone to take me seriously:

 

  1. Voice changer
  2. Google number
  3. Suspicious activity that could point to potentially being a bomb placed there?

 

Ugh. Shit.

 

This wasn’t going to work, why would I even think it would? I suddenly feel sick to my stomach. How in the actual hell do I make other people think I’m not insane? The one person that would have helped me is dead. At least he won’t have to suffer through all of this. I’m slightly jealous of that fact right now. I want to be gone, boom, light’s out. No pain, no skin peeling back or shards raking through the meaty pulp of my exposed flesh. No creaking bones, or dangling eyes.

 

I swallow, grasping at my neck. Suddenly, I felt extremely parched. My hands shook as I guzzled down the water the waitress had brought me earlier. If there were any hint of me finding some solace, it was gone. I felt heavy in my skin. I couldn’t move. I didn’t want to. The weight of everything was seeping in.

 

How could so much have changed in a matter of a week? It went from the best moment of my entire life, to the single-worst experience I’ve known in my twenty-three years─ Never knowing when I was going to experience that nightmare again and again. A bullet to the head wasn’t sounding too bad right now. I remember taking a neuroscience class and the professor telling us that there were no pain receptors in the brain. Once the bullet got past the nerves on the flap of skin that covered my skull, I would feel nothing. I never thought about that before today. It’s developing into a sort of fantasy now. One in which I could squeeze the trigger and─

 

“Here you go, sweetie.” I jerked slightly at her soft voice, but managed a smile. “Thank you very much,” I quickly replied.

 

She paused and then takes on that sort of tone you only ever hear your mother make, “You OK hun? You’re looking a bit pale.” I take a moment looking into her soft, amber eyes and then shake my head at her, “oh, I’m fine. Just a little tired is all.” She purses her lips and raises a finely manicured eyebrow at me, “alright, I get it. I was a young girl once. Your food will be right out. You just holler at me if you need anything else.” She places a hand on my shoulder and pats it softly.

 

Normally physical touch would be something that bothered me. I would shy away or tilt my body in a way that would keep them from reaching me. Sort of an unspoken message about boundaries. I’d done it all my life. Strange how lately I’ve welcomed other’s touch, like an attention starved child. Both this waitress and Devon had managed to do it in less than a handful of days.

 

#

 

I sigh, content with a full belly. I’ve put the note off long enough, but I still go ahead and check my phone messages and emails first. Zedd’s funeral was going to be held on Monday and everyone from work was invited to come and pay their respects. Poor Devon, I wanted more than anything to make it better for him. It must have been hard losing someone that he was obviously close with and have a new employee that same week. I couldn’t imagine what he was going through right now. I tried thinking of things that I could send in a text message, maybe some comforting words, but my brain just drew a blank.

 

What did you say to someone that you barely knew about someone else you barely knew dying? I decided I would wait and do it later, I felt too scattered right now. I was on my third refill of coffee when I finally decided that I was ready. No matter what it showed me, I still had some time to think on what it was I could do.

 

With shaky hands I reached into my bag and removed the folded paper. I slowly pried open one side, and inhaled deeply─ steadying my heart. It was now, or never. I am about to find out if this is going to happen all over or just in my home town and back in Dallas. I knew it was hoping for too much, to think it all just coincidental, but who knew? Maybe it was all just a horrific coincidence.

 

The city of Santa Fe burned in front of me as I unfolded the last piece of paper. Crestfallen, I searched the page. The hooded figures were hard to see, but they were there in the mountains. The beautiful, charming city was a pile of rubble. The mushroom cloud loomed over it high in the mountain air. A single tear dropped down and landed at the bottom of the page. I swiped at my face, embarrassed to be crying in a public place.

 

Before I folded it up, I scanned back up to where the poem ended:

 

This night, hallowed night, They gifted the world to silence.

 

6

 

I had less than a week. I mused on the last line, really at the poem in its entirety. It sounded as if people were these little, lost creatures that death would guide home. Except this is nothing like I expected it to be, these horrible, awful beasts that enjoyed my suffering. From everything I’d ever been taught as a child the death bringers were supposed to be kind, compassionate beings that transitioned us to the other side. Granted, the four horsemen were another story in the book of revelations.

 

But, it isn’t like I would even be educated on any of that even if I did think that what was going on was biblical. I haven’t touched any religious book in my life and from what I did know I was a child at the time. I do remember one of the horsemen was someone that was said to bring war. Surely, these harbingers of death weren’t with a divine being that created us. Why would they even be created if they enjoyed so much─ suffering?

 

This was pointless thinking, where would it really get me? Even if I knew exactly what they were, I would be powerless to stop it. And six days isn’t exactly enough time to research anything properly. I slunk into the chair. Every waking moment was merely a countdown to the inevitable end.

 

Everything I was doing up until now was.

 

I stare outside into the beautiful, quaint town and then over at the kind waitress. I would certainly do my best to at least protect her. Maybe anyone that would listen. It may have been a fruitless endeavor, but at least I could die knowing I tried. I guess I’m just that brand of idiot.

 

I sigh and pull out my laptop. Maybe I could find something online that would help. Maybe others that are like me.

 

#

After more than an hour of searching, I’ve about given up. There are, as it seems, a lot of people that believe that the end of the world has been coming for a while now. There’s cultists, evangelists, standard forums with conspiracy theory nutjobs, and just about anyone in between but none of them have described what both me and Zedd had described.

 

I pulled the note out again and looked it over. What was I missing? Surely we weren’t the only ones. I even googled notes about end days, and bombs, and near death experiences with bombs. All of which had some─ interesting results, but not the ones that I want.

 

“Hun, I just wanted to let you know that you’re fine to stay as long as you’d like but would you mind scooching over to the smaller table there, in the back?” She motioned over to where the tables were back toward the kitchen. Her face looked genuinely contrite as if she’d disturbed me during an important bit of work. My face must have had the serious look my mom would always point out when I’d become lost in my art. “It’s just, I’ve got a family that needs seating and that table’s a might small for them.” I nodded my head and quickly shot up. “Of course” I stutter, “not a problem at all.” It takes a minute to realize how busy the place has gotten since I’d come in. I make my way over to the back to the smallest table I can find and set myself up again. The soft voices have risen to a dull roar as the restaurant fills with noisy guests. I know I could probably just go back to the hotel, but I prefer the company of the waitress and the people. It makes me feel less alone.

 

I again unfold the paper, hoping that I’d catch something else before I call it a night. I’d googled everything, except─ I’m noticing the name a few times throughout the body of the script: watchmen. I feel my excitement rising, maybe there was something to that. I try my luck at searching watchmen. I frown at all the cartoon images and shortly find out that there is a comic by the same name and a t.v. show. Damn. I try again, this time adding the term apocalypse with it─ and then, end times. All that manages to bring up are nut jobs claiming it’s the end times.

 

Nothing, or no one is mentioning them specifically.

 

Hooded figures brought up the usual comic-like illustrations of death, but nothing like the hyper-realistic drawings that lined my page. Nothing that could instill the sort of dread I had in the pit of my chest as I stared at their dark, hungry faces. I shivered, running my hands up and down my arms. I knew I had been at the diner for a while, but I didn’t realize how long until the smell of food made my stomach rumble.

 

I smile over at my coffee mug. The waitress had been amazing and kept it full for me. I waved across at her and she quickly shuffled over. “What can I do for you? You about ready for that check?” I smiled sheepishly at her, “Actually, I’m starving and ready for round two. What’s really good here?” Her smile widened and she glanced over at the kitchen, then leaned in, “you won’t believe it, but we have the best enchiladas on this side of town. Even better than Enchilada’s up the street. The owner’s son makes his mama’s recipe and I swear to you, that boy puts love into every layer.” I grinned back at her, “Alright, um─ I pause looking at her nametag but frown when I don’t find one. “Laura,” she says softly. “Laura,” I repeat. We smile, “I’ll take the enchiladas with red sauce.” She makes an ‘ooo’ shape with her mouth nodding her head, “good choice um─” she looks down at me, her lips pursed comically as she waits on me, her pen posed in the air. “Kate,” I say giggling at the silliness. Man, I needed this in my life right now. “Alright Miss Kate, I will have those mouth-watering enchiladas out to you asap.” She swishes away and I’m practically glowing from the experience.

 

It’s been a long time since I’ve managed to really speak to someone else in this manner. I missed it. It reminded me of my college days with some of my closest professors and friends. The sun looks like it’s about to come up and I find myself wondering what time it actually was. I glance at my phone, and then look again─ it was 5:45─ in the morning. I can’t believe I had managed to be here for nearly ten hours. Enchilada’s must have been an anytime meal here but they sounded like a pretty damn good breakfast for me. I watch as Laura bustles about wiping off the tables and grabbing the checks. It was probably reaching the end of her shift.

 

I wanted to tell her, but not sure how to say it without her becoming alarmed, or thinking I’m some sort of nutjob/terrorist. I don’t look like a terrorist, it’s kind of hard to when you’re still mistaken for a teenager at twenty-three. But, she wouldn’t take it seriously unless I worded it carefully. At least I would have time to think over another hot meal.

 

In less than ten minutes, it’s in front of me and my mouth waters. It’s unlike any enchiladas I’ve ever had. They’re stacked like pancakes with layers of tortilla, egg, and cheese drizzled with the red sauce. It’s so pretty I almost don’t want to dig in with a fork. My stomach has other ideas, however, and I find myself practically wolfing it down. About halfway through, I slow down and really taste all of the flavors. There’s little crispy bits of fresh onion and I sigh in content. Normally, I’m not a fan of raw onion but somehow it just works with all the heavy cheese and red sauce. I need to get this recipe, this was definitely last meal worthy. Laura hadn’t been kidding when she said it was made with love.

 

I panicked when I didn’t see Laura for a few minutes, nervous that I had missed my chance to save her. My eyes teared up when she rounded the corner with a fresh mug of steaming coffee. “Hey sweetheart, I’m about to end my shift but I thought I’d bring─” she pauses, getting a look at my face. “I know it isn’t my place, but, you sure you OK? I got a few minutes before I need to head home and feed the pups.” I smile through blinding tears and through I’m trying to be brave, they manage to slip down my cheeks.

 

I pat at the chair across from me. She doesn’t even hesitate and slides into it. “What’s going on? Boy trouble?” She smiles with a faraway look in her eye as she stares out into the street. She turns back to me, her warm eyes widening. She places a hand over mine and pats it gently. “This seems much worse than just a man. You’re not in trouble are you?” She hesitates and glances around before leaning in and whispers, “my brother is a cop, he wouldn’t be awake right now but I could see if there is something that could be done for you.” She crosses her legs and leans back, her cool hand not leaving mine. “Some cities have piss-poor excuses for cops, you know the usual amount of corruption and politics. I’m not saying we don’t have any of that, we’ve got our share too, but the cops around here take care of us and I guarantee Rob would listen.”

 

I’m floored by this woman’s kindness. Back at home waitresses wouldn’t have hardly looked at you, let alone offer help to a stranger. Everyone was sort of buttoned up in Pennsylvania. You just didn’t talk about your problems, especially at home. Talking to a stranger? That would be unheard of. Mom and dad were good people, but not warm people. We’d always been quiet about most things. If I came home with a bad grade, I would get a head shake from dad and my mom would softly say, “Kate, you can do better.” It was that quiet that always pushed me to get some sort of reaction or acknowledgement of my achievements. The best I got was a satisfied grunt from dad and a smile and pat from mom. Maybe she would even rub up and down my arms affectionately. I lived for those sort of reactions, it made me warm and feel all glowy─ like I could accomplish anything.

 

It wasn’t as if they didn’t show affection or show that they were worried, it was just a different sort of love. This was open and raw. I really couldn’t wrap my mind around it, but I appreciated it just the same.

 

Finally, I manage to find my voice, “I need you to listen to me and not judge. Just, keep an open mind─ OK?” My voice comes out far shakier than I wanted it to. I never sound strong. I always sound like a scared little girl. I hate how soft my voice is. She raises her eyebrows and nods slowly, “alright, I can do that. Don’t you worry about how you sound.” Her voice is encouraging because she thinks she’s rescuing me from something. She thinks maybe I’m running away from an abusive relationship, or bad parents. If only it were something so simple.

 

I inhale deeply, steadying myself to try and sound like a rational human being. How could I word it to where she would listen? I decide on telling her the truth, but add a believable lie. I feel somewhat guilty about it, but it was the only way she was going to buy what I’m selling. I clear my throat, “my family works in the government,” I start. She frowns and then nods at me. I can tell she is realizing that this isn’t going to be a normal problem. I wasn’t entirely lying about that, my dad, now retired, had worked in the post office for over thirty years and my mother was a public school teacher. “I came out here because I wanted to see for myself if things were happening like back at home.” My voice sounded a little more confident this time and I feel my shoulders relax. I can do this, I tell myself, maybe I can save some people.

 

Laura has let go of my hand now and she’s hugging herself. “OK, go on,” she whispers. I look back at the restaurant and then lean in toward her, “You and your brother should get as far away as you can from any major city. I’m talking miles away, go to the desert or Colorado woods, or Arizona, or hell even Texas. Just─ get away from Santa Fe.” Her eyes grow hard and she purses her lips. She crosses her arms over her breasts and looks me up and down. Laura looks like a real mom now, assessing whether she’s being pranked or having something pulled over on her. The tears are really starting to come and I grabbed a napkin and swipe at my face and nose.

I can tell she isn’t convinced. “I─” my words falter a bit as I hiccup. I wipe again at my face and try again, “I just wanted to, you know, tell someone. I don’t expect you to believe me, but Laura,” I look deeply into her eyes, my brows creasing, “Something very bad is going to happen here and I need you to believe me. I’m not crazy, or some sort of conspiracy nut, I just wanted to help you because you’ve been very kind to me.”

 

She nodded, biting down on her lip. “I appreciate what you’re trying to do here,” she paused, “but this is my home. I don’t know where I would go, and I mean, I just met you. You could be pranking me for all I know.” I sniffle. “I don’t think you are though,” she adds quickly. She looks off to the side, her voice taking on more of a resigned quality, “Listen, I miss a day of work and it’s a big deal.” She shook her head at me, “I’m comfortable, but it’s because I keep my longer hours and I have my regular customers.” She sighs, “even if it were something bad, Antonio could lock up the place and we could just hide in the back or stay put.” She’s dismissing it in her mind and thinks I’m some sort of spooked child.

 

“You can’t hide from this,” I say firmly, “no one can. It’ll take out half the planet, Laura, at least.” She stares into my eyes, “you actually believe this, don’t you?” I nod. “I don’t just believe it, I’ve seen it.” She fidgets with her hands, “like a bomb going off? They would have had that on the news, hun.” I’ve lost her, I can feel it. No matter what I say, she’s going to think I’m just some misinformed girl who’s father had scared her. She probably thinks he’s some government conspiracy nut too. There were a lot of them in government offices. How could I make her understand?

 

The answer was, I couldn’t. I could try my best at the end of the day, but it would boil down to what she would accept in her own mind. I feel sick to my stomach, but I realize this is all I can do.

 

“It won’t be in the news. It will just hit. And I know how all of it sounds, but I just wanted to help. There’s nothing that I can say to convince you, I just wanted you to know.” The tears keep coming and I dab at them gingerly.

 

“Well, I appreciate it sweetheart, but I think someone is just messing with you. If it were something this big, I think half of the world would have known about it by now. Especially with all these damn satellites, and movement detection, and thermo-whatevers─ these men have got their war devices on lock down. I don’t think anyone really wants to use them, you know? Doesn’t bode well for the planet’s health and just about everyone would die.” I nod, lost to my own thoughts. I knew this would be the way it would go, and that’s how it would be with anyone.

 

Even if someone told me the same way that I’m telling her. It was pointless.

 

I stood up, extending my hand, “Thank you, Laura. I really appreciate everything you did for me today. You take care of yourself.” I heard her mutter something but I’d already walked several feet away and didn’t catch it. It didn’t matter, and I couldn’t care about her anymore. She would be lost like the rest of them.

 

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You can find all of my work on Royal Road now

If you’ve wondered what I’m about, I’m not just a blogger─ I write novels, novellas, and short stories. (when we aren’t adventuring with our stories on Twitter.)When I have time, I record podcasts and audiobooks for all of you as well. Occasionally, I will post my work on here for you to read but I thought it a good idea to post where you can find all of my work!

I’m aiming to become published, (so that I can write and do podcasting for a living) but until I become one of the lucky few to do that, I like to share it with others. It gives me real joy and excitement to create these worlds for all of you.

If you would like to see what I’m about, you can find all of my written work here. 

I don’t have all of my work up, but I am working toward getting it ALL slowly uploaded (I have to sort through tons of stuff) but I should have it all up in the next month.

If you’re familiar with my work and you’d love to support it, this is a great site to do it through, or through my Patreon page.

For anyone and everyone that takes time out of their day to read my stories and check out my work, thank you.

Have a wonderful Tuesday

❤ Grey

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Hell’s Gate Awakening – A Fantasy Novel

If you would like to read this in it’s entirety, you can find it here. 

 

“My Goddess The Moon Can be as Bright as The Sun,

But She is Only a Reflection.” 

Her eyes flew open, the magnitude of the dream still lingering in her vision. The swirls of darkness lulled above her bed, the last of it lazily rising from her still form. Celeste pressed her eyes closed, willing it away. Please just leave, she pleaded silently, you aren’t real─ you can’t be real. She opened her eyes and focused her vision. The last of the fluid seeped into the ceiling, leaving behind a discolored smudge on the surface. A rustling sounded and she turned her gaze to John. His hair stood out in stark contrast against the sheet─ a sea of black that kissed the golden beach. She frowned, her eyes shifting to the ceiling. Celeste had longed to feel a connection with others, especially with John. But now, she wasn’t so sure. The thought genuinely terrified her.

John sighed softly, and then turned on his side. Her eyes returned to him and then moved down to the chiseled lines along his back. Her eyes lingered on the pale flesh, frowning at the twin scars behind his shoulder blades. Once back when they were first dating, she had mistakenly reached out and touched the marred flesh. He had jerked away and then moved to cover himself. Since then, she mostly kept her curiosity to herself─ but now as he rested, they were open and bare. Celeste couldn’t help but stare.

 Her vision blurred for a moment and she closed her eyes drawing a deep breath. She remembered it like it was yesterday, the first time his lips had graced hers. It had been an exceptionally cold winter last December. They had spent the weekend in her Father’s cabin along the slopes in Aspen. It was John’s first time to travel anywhere. She remembered his infectious grin as he stared up to the sky, marveling at the large flakes as they swirled to the ground. 

 Celeste would never forget how John’s face glowed as they sat by the fire. He was reading his favorite bits of poetry as she lay in his lap. This had been where he found much of his inspiration for his work─ poets that wrote anonymously. He had a real fascination with people not claiming their own work, or working in secret. Celeste never knew where he found them, but they were full of insight, and sorrow─ many speaking of an alternate universe or hidden worlds.

That weekend trip was the first moment she knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. She had always felt something that drew her to him, some force of nature. But as she laid there, watching his face light up as he talked about the meaning behind his latest poetry obsession and tying it to the possibility of a multiverse, she knew he was the one.  

John’s sculptures were profoundly beautiful. Among his regular clients, he was considered a modern Bernini. Known for his exquisite attention to detail, most of his works were portraits of mythological creatures and people. John’s ability to capture other’s lives brought many to tears, including herself. It looked as though the stone could simply stand and walk away. Every detail was hand-molded, even down to the flaws. His stone fabric flowed as if it was a real garment.

His sculptures were something to behold, but John’s paintings were even more so. The colors blended in a way that you would swear it was a window into another world. A secret one, far better than our own. It was otherworldly─ just like him.

Celeste’s attention returned to the present as her gaze fell to the addition on her left hand. Surrounding her finger was a silver band with a princess-cut solitaire. A blood red stone sprouted from the center. It was made from garnet, her birthstone. She had never found diamonds appealing, the lack of color reminded her of death. Her eyes shifted to the Baroque paintings and décor in the room. Father spoiled her too much. He knew it was her favorite period in art and made it a point to collect things for her over the years. Each piece of furniture that surrounded her was dainty and hand-carved from dark mahogany wood.  She adored the crushed red velvet that lined the chaise that was next to the fire. It was her absolute favorite. Every night she would curl up with her blanket and book in hand. Celeste knew it was old-fashioned. Most of her friends had some type of reader or listened to Audiobooks. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but there was something magical about holding a book next to the fire. It brought back memories from her childhood. Mama had read to her every night. She would download the app eventually, but for now she was content with paperbacks.

 Celeste looked over and smiled at the crimson drapes along the windows. It was her first real purchase, one of the few things she could be proud of. She had to defend them constantly against her friends. They said it made the room look like something out of a Dracula novel. She stuck her tongue out at them mentally. Let them think what they wanted─ she preferred it this way. 

Shadows drifted along her marble sculptures, Celeste’s eyes stopped on the one close to her dresser. Deep shadows encased the young mother and child holding hands. It was as if it welcomed them into the shadow realm. She relaxed, thinking that maybe this time the dream left her with nothing to fear. The dreams were coming more frequently now, each more menacing than the last. Her head tipped up to the ceiling again and she stared uneasily at the smear and frowned. It was still there. Were they just dreams? Maybe there were warnings of things to come. 

She jumped at the loud tapping sound on the side of her window. She tensed, straining her ears to see if she could hear anything else. When the sound happened again, she released the breath she had been holding in.  It was the Japanese maple her father had planted some years ago. She closed her eyes, listening as it brushed lazily across the house─slow and rhythmic. Celeste had always been fond of them, so for her twentieth birthday, her father had surprised her with one for her housewarming party. Shaking her head, she grinned at the stubbornness of the old man. No matter how many times she refused his gifts, it only strengthened his resolve to do more.

A crackling came from the foot of the bed and she jerked toward the sound. Celeste half chuckled, half sighed in frustration, feeling foolish. It’s just the fire place, Jesus get a grip, she scolded herself. It was one of the major selling points for Celeste. Even though she lived in Texas, and winter lasted all of two or three months, she used it every year. The fire place acted as a sort of divider, separating the small library from the bedroom. It was designed to provide a reading nook on one side, but kept the space open enough that she could see outside through the bay window. 

Unable to sleep, Celeste stretched and pushed back the covers. With cat-like grace she slunk from the bed, careful to not wake John. Grabbing her robe from the chaise she quickly glanced back at John before slipping from the room. Out cold, she mused. 

Celeste emerged from the long hall, her attention shifting to the left. The robe unclasped as she came to a halt, revealing a petite frame beneath the billowing gown. Just to the left of the French doors sat her mother’s piano─ an oasis of red against the desert-colored walls. The keys were worn, but she could never replace it. Celeste knew it was silly, but somehow the thought of restoring it would feel as if the last of her mother would disappear. Her hand trailed the length of the case, and then slowly pulled it back─ revealing the ivory keys. She sat and placed her slender fingers on the cool surface. A millisecond passed, and she began. The chords started shaky and uneven as her mind struggled to remember the notes. Finally, it smoothed itself out and she eased herself into the composition. Celeste swayed back and forth lost in the melody. There was something familiar about it. She couldn’t remember when, or how she had learned to play it─ and yet, the song now flowed easily from her fingertips. She strummed the last chord, blinking back the wetness that had gathered at the corners of her eyes. The air was heavy with silence. It left her longing for the past. Why did you have to die? Celeste wondered. Her mother’s smile flashed through her mind. You were always so warm, she thought.

Celeste rose from the bench and glided from the piano to the patio doors. The Moon’s light drew her in and she pressed herself into the glass, longing to feel the night on her skin. She clutched at the doors and thrust them open. The Moon sensed her, emitting a soft hum as it pulsed─ her own life force felt as if it was joining with it. She stared openly, captivated by its beauty. She didn’t want to, but finally tore her eyes from the glowing goddess. She crossed the threshold into the cool night air. The wood felt soft and warm beneath her feet, it was similar to the feeling of packed dirt. She walked five feet to her favorite spot on the patio and eased herself down.

Celeste stretched out her arms and leaned back on the wooden swing, her legs dangling. Her skin shone like porcelain in the moonlight, further emphasizing her doll-like figure. She stared down from the patio ledge─ the wind gently combing through her long, obsidian hair. She swept a strand from her eyes, troubled by the thoughts that traveled through her mind. She looked down to the untouched gardens─ at the plant life swaying to the Earth’s sigh. It had been years since Celeste felt so normal─ so nice. John was the best thing that had happened to her this past year.

Then what was this feeling slowly curling in the pit of her belly? It was naïve to think that somehow the curse had vanished and that maybe, John had something to do with it. She cringed as thoughts began snaking through her mind. They undulated and curled, twisting around her head. She gasped, as it bit down, pumping the venomous thoughts throughout her brain. No more, she silently begged. Please. She moaned, clutching her head. John, please, no. The thought echoed through her mind over and over until it lost its meaning. She hugged her knees to her chest as the tears flowed. Images of people lost to her flashed within seconds of one another, their faces full of contempt. You did this to us, they seemed to say. Smiles leered from the dark cracks and crevices. They were calling to her, a mix of jeers, and begging. She couldn’t make out a single thing that was being said, it was all a jumbled mess. 

Then suddenly there loomed a sea of faceless demons behind them. The silence was heavy in the air as they drifted closer. There was a low, menacing hum, amplifying with each of their steps. They lashed out─ their grip ice cold against her flesh. She panicked as they drew their frigid limbs across her frame. Her mind screamed in agony as each entity burned through, trying to be heard. It was so cold that it burned. She prayed that it would stop, raising her hands up to her ears and squeezing them tight. All sound ceased, and in a flash─ they were gone. Celeste sighed, her hands falling to the sides. The earth trembled, then turned on it’s side. She screamed, her hands shooting out and gripping the swing as the violence continued. In seconds, something flashed before her, something far worse than before pushing it’s way through. Celeste stared at the face of pure evil─ at death. She was face to face with what the others must have seen seconds before it had claimed her friends and family’s lives. Celeste was looking into the eyes of Hell. It was soulless─ a deep, black pit. The tunnel stretched, and stretched into nothingness. She wasn’t sure how it was possible, but it was there inches from her face. The black death. It was that same smudge, that tar that had oozed from her ceiling. The darkness released her finally as the remaining images roared across her mind like sirens to the damned. Unable to stand it, her eyes shot up to the pure, heavenly body as she pleaded to the sky.

Kami-Sama, please.” Celeste drew herself up on the railing and looked down. She spoke again, this time with feeling “Please, let this end.” She clasped her hands together, her eyes glued to the massive glowing orb. The goddess flickered, and then grew brighter. It had acknowledged her plea, she felt it. She pressed her eyes together and filled her lungs with the wintry air. It was crisp, and clear. All at once, the idea came to her and she knew what had to be done. A breath, then a blink, and she threw herself from the edge. Like an angel her white gown flowed behind her, the illusion of wings on her dark form. For a few precious seconds, she felt the cleansing glow from the Moon’s light. How she longed to be bathed in Its purity. It wrapped her in Its loving embrace, cradling her delicate figure. Child, my child, It seemed to whisper. The sounds of the passing cars filtered through, their drivers’ unaware of the fast descending girl meeting her end. She felt the wind, and peered out at the sprinkle of lights. Each twinkling, pale yellow glow held families. Families that lay dreaming, and warm in their beds. Celeste smiled. It was the right thing to do. The last of her thoughts were swept into the wind as the deafening blow reverberated down the street.

 

*              *                *

The loud thud woke Celeste from her dream. She bolted upright, pulling the sheets from her chest. Her hands ran along the length of her frame as she made sure she was still in one piece. Her hands moved around her throat and she swallowed thickly. It felt extremely dry, she must have been screaming. She glanced around, confused for a few seconds before realizing that she had fallen out of bed. A dream, she thought bringing her hand to her face. She got up and sighed, apologizing to John about the scream. She paused and frowned at the empty space on the bed. He hadn’t come over tonight. Then Celeste remembered John had mentioned a meeting early in the morning with a client. He had probably stayed at his place Downtown. She picked up her phone to check, and then placed it back on the stand? Of course not, she thought. It had been a week since she last heard from him. She was beginning to wonder if they were still dating. Her mind switched to the dream. What did it mean? She wondered.

Celeste glanced down at her barren hand. Why had she dreamed that John had given her a ring? He had asked questions about how she felt about marriage, sure, but he had not asked yet. Maybe one day, she thought wistfully. Or you’re just fooling yourself, she added. John had been spending long hours away from her lately. It wasn’t as if marriage defined her, or she would simply fall over and die from not being married. She just─ wanted to. It was beyond the whole tax thing, or paperwork. It was something she had dreamed about since she was a girl. It was a dumb, old-fashioned sentiment but it was hers. Things had just felt right with John. Or her ovaries were wreaking havoc on her decision making. Stupid hormones. She had the University to keep her busy, and her piano students, but it wasn’t enough to fill the emptiness she had been feeling. John was still warm and loving with the time they had spent together, he just wasn’t always there mentally. She was being silly. They were, after all, both happy. Wasn’t that all that mattered? Maybe she was being too quick to judge. John had been working hard lately and daddy hadn’t been much help, telling John to ‘get a life and a real job.’ Sometimes her father could be a huge traditionalist and it bugged the crap out of her.

Celeste crossed the room and walked out to the kitchen. Her throat felt like needles had been jammed into it. Her hands shook as she grabbed for the edge of the counter. I’ve never had a dream like that before, she thought. Celeste snatched orange juice from the refrigerator, gulping it down. She was wiping her mouth when a series of booms erupted at the front door. She relaxed, realizing that it was knocking. Then she scrunched her face in confusion, looking at the time. Who could be here at this hour? She wondered. It was four a.m. 

She left the kitchen and slowly walked down the stairs to the front entrance. Standing on her tiptoes Celeste peeked through the peep hole. It took her a minute to focus as she flipped the outside light on. Sighing, she unlocked the door. It was her neighbor Sally. Probably heard me screaming my lungs out, she guessed as she pulled it open. Standing before Celeste was a very unhappy Sally─ arms crossed, and a scowl in place.

“Celeste, what on God’s-green-earth is going on over here? It’s four o’clock in the morning and I have to take the boys to school in a couple of hours.” Celeste opened her mouth to respond but did not get a word out before Sally talked over her, “Not to mention, oh, I don’t know? you scared the bejesus outta all of us.” It took all of Celeste’s strength not to giggle at her neighbor. She pronounced ‘bejesus’ with a southern drawl. She started, realizing that it wasn’t just Sally standing outside. 

Celeste leaned out and glanced at several of the neighbor’s worried faces. She waved nervously and apologized. “Sorry, everyone, I had a horrific dream.” They didn’t budge. One of her neighbors stepped forward and spoke. He had an air of confidence in his speech, someone that took to authority well, “Ma’am, I don’t mean to get in your business, but─” he shifted from his left leg to his right, glancing up the stairs. “That was some yell. It woke up half the neighborhood.” His eyes rested on hers and he softened his tone, “Only reason I didn’t call it in is because I wanted to make sure before I went bothering anyone at the station.” That’s right, now she remembered─ her neighbor was a police officer. She frowned, trying to remember his name. Was it Geoffrey? No that didn’t seem right, George maybe? They all stared at her quietly and she realized they might be taking it for something else. She quickly shook her head, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten any of you. It was honestly just a bad dream.” The man nodded, appearing relieved and walked over to his wife. She waved again, her face feeling like the surface of the sun.

She winced, as Sally hadn’t moved from the doorway. Jesus, did the lady have an ounce of tact? Glaring down at her, Sally opened her mouth to speak, but Celeste quickly interrupted, “I’m sorry I woke you and your family, Mrs. Henderson, I’ll try to keep it down.” Nodding, she looked up at Sally, giving her best ‘I’m sorry’ look and pulled the door toward her. Sally, like Celeste knew she would, put her foot in the way. She always had to get that last word in. Celeste yearned for the polite neighbors in Japan. No one would have dreamed of behaving this way, let alone keep doing it.

“Well, alright,” she boomed, “Can’t be too careful these days, what with all the murders going on.” Sally ran fingers through her frizzy hair, her eyes darting outside, then back to Celeste conspiratorially. The curls took on a life of their own as the copper strands bounced around Sally’s face. She had that kind of hair you wanted to reach out and touch. Her light mood darkened as Celeste thought about the locals. Now it made sense, the neighbors weren’t just concerned about a scream. They thought─ oh god. Now she really felt awful. She made a mental note to write an apology to everyone, maybe send them something. 

The deaths were a great shock to the local community. It was all her students talked about on campus anymore. Every time she turned on the news it seemed like there was another murder. So far they had uncovered seven bodies. Were they ever going to catch this guy? All the victims shared the same appearance─ dark hair, younger, and petite. The main connection was how they were murdered. Each was found in some type of water and drained of blood. It sounded like some sort of lame vampire flick.

When Celeste didn’t respond Sally cleared her throat and added, “I just wanted to make sure, you know?” She paused and peered over Celeste’s shoulder, looking inside. Sally had one of those large frames. She was solidly built, but lumpy, like a sack of potatoes. Her eyes, though a vivid blue, were much too small and set close together. She appeared to be in her late forties, possibly early fifties, but wore clothes that no self-respecting sixty-year-old would touch. She looked like something straight out of a bad 70’s film. Sally was a bear of a woman, but honestly, it didn’t take much. Celeste had the stereotypical Japanese build. But that’s where it ended. Her features were a blended with large, expressive brown eyes. She had a more round nose, yet a petite jaw line. Her hair was a soft black, almost brown, and her skin a peachy-white. She was tormented maliciously in Japan, they called her half-breed. It was something Celeste was very self-conscious about. At least here in the States with her adoptive parents, kids had been slightly more forgiving. 

Her adoptive mother, Kotone, had shared a little about her past. Celeste had always assumed that an American soldier had fathered her, or a European man. She long came to the conclusion that she probably brought shame to her real mother─ so her biological mother had given her up for adoption. All she could do was guess, she had never known the truth. Celeste had the kind of frame that people found adorable. If only they knew how annoying it was to have to use a step ladder every time she needed something. Forget trying to see anything at a concert. 

She stared at Sally, sizing her up. The old minx would have put Nancy Drew to shame. She may have looked frumpy, but that’s where it ended. Sally had that keen sensibility about her, the kind that missed nothing. Celeste noticed that the old woman had checked both her shoe rack, and the coat hanger at the front door. And while, she definitely appreciated it this time, she didn’t normally. For as long as she could remember, Sally was at her front door snooping around and asking questions about her life. Especially about John. He had a tough exterior, but was gentle as a kitten. It was a shame that people had the habit of only seeing with their eyes. She forced a grin, and bowed, “Thank you again for your concern, Mrs. Henderson. I am fine.” Saying good night and apologizing, she firmly closed the door.

 

I will be posting this on royalroad.com

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The Watchmen – Part II – No Escape – A Thriller Short Story

Part I

Nine days. 

 

I stare up at the ceiling in my room, completely lost in thought. Just to be sure, I had even asked Zedd what his dreams looked like. He had described in vivid detail my worst fears: his suffering was identical to mine. There was a small part of me that hoped these monsters just showed us our worst fears. That maybe they were some sort of creature that fed off of fear and pain. The more he shared with me, the more I wanted him to stop talking. 

 

I rolled over on my side and frowned at the poem on my nightstand. The 9 seemed more bold than usual. 

 

There’s no escaping it.

 

His words echoed in my mind. If that were true, there would be absolutely no reason for me to continue any of this. My whole entire existence was pointless. I wanted to cry but nothing would come out. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs and never stop screaming. It ached to be in my own skin and I was angry. Angry that I was one of the few people that actually knew what was going to happen, but powerless to stop it. 

 

Even if I were to try and call someone, or reach out to people─ no one would believe me. If someone had told me this a few days ago, I wouldn’t have believed them. I would have thought they were some conspiracy theorist or nutcase. Unless─

 

I sat up and checked my phone. It was early, but Devon normally got in about eight or eight thirty. I might be able to chat with him for a while. I had an idea, but I wasn’t going to come off as completely crazy until I was sure. I dressed as quickly as I could and jumped on the first train. 

 

#

 

“Kate, hey” Devon said smiling, “what brings you in so early?” I was surprised to find him already there when I came in at seven forty-five. I smiled nervously at him, checking my pocket for the hundredth time to make sure the piece of paper was still there. I relaxed as I felt it crumple against the weight. “Hey Devon,” I said, “I sketched this out last night and thought you might want to take a look at it.” He raised an eyebrow, “Oh yeah? Sticking to those old-school guns, I like it. Let’s take a look.” I tried to steady my hand as I reached into my pocket. 

 

I unfolded the paper and stared. More hooded figures had appeared and the skyline looked less blurry. I could make out shapes and finer details of the buildings. The hooded figures all stood outside of the city, staring at it. Waiting. 

 

“Kate?” 

 

My legs moved and I walked over to his desk, passing the little paper over to him. His hand briefly touched mine and I was suddenly very aware that I hadn’t showered that morning. I must look an absolute mess. I fidgeted with my hair and tugged at my shirt.

 

He was quiet for a few moments and then furrowed his brow. “I don’t get it.” His face broke into a wide grin, “Did one of the guys set you up to this?” He chuckled and handed the paper back to me. “ Is it some secret code that I have to pour milk or lemon juice on it? Maybe wave it over the stove?” he waved his hands around. “Already messing with the boss, huh?” I smiled at his words but at that very moment I died inside. Why could Zedd and I see it, but not Devon?

 

It must have been awkward for me to walk in there like that and not have some sort of a come back, so I forced a chuckle of my own, “You got me.” I wanted it to sound casual but it ended up sounding even more awkward than anticipated and it hung in the air, stagnating. I cleared my throat and turned to leave. 

 

“Hey, Kate.” His voice sounded off. I turned back toward him from the doorway. “Take care of yourself, this job can get really stressful.” My face burned but I managed a lame, “oh totally, no worries.” I spun around, nearly plowed into the wall and shuffled my way out. 

 

Great, the end of the world comes and I’m still managing to make a complete and total asshole of myself. I guess some things will never change. 

 

#

 

I’m still feeling slightly sore over my love life a few hours later, but I’ve knocked out a ton of progress on my main character. So, that’s a bonus. I’ve rationalized that if nothing else, this gives me something to do. It’s pointless, the game will never be released. I don’t even know when the bomb will go off. 

 

But I know the day. 

 

It made me wonder if it was just going to happen here, or all over. Maybe the beings only showed what would directly affect us. That gave me an idea. It’s my first week, but considering I’ll only have just over a week left to live, I figured fuck it─ road trip it is. 

 

I finished up my tasks for the day with a couple of hours to spare. Zedd had been oddly quiet today, in fact, I hadn’t seen him all morning. It’s a possibility that he is going to work on the night shift. Most of us hated that schedule, but there was a team that worked from four until midnight. 

 

Even if he never showed up to work again, it’s not like I could blame him. I mean, there was at least some hope that you are just over-tired and hallucinating, but to have someone confirm your worst fear? That’s true terror. I was hoping to at least talk with him a bit more today. The way we had left things last night made me feel beyond depressed. 

 

I felt more helpless than I ever have in my life. I was desperate to cling on to some hope that we could find a way out of this. Somehow. 

 

I woke up feeling a little better today, but having the kind of unwanted knowledge that I did made it that much harder to breathe. I shot him a text, just to check in on him and then headed to Devon’s office. 

 

I tapped lightly on the door. There were a few murmurs on the other side and finally I heard, “come in.” I peeked my head around the door and smiled. “Hey, there’s my favorite gal. I just got your completed works for the day. Careful─ you’re making the other guys look bad.” He winked conspiratorially at me and grinned. I laughed and shook my head, “Oh, that can’t be true. I’ve seen their work.” He typed a few things on his computer and then turned his full attention on me. “What can I do for you, ma’am?”     

 

I smiled at the southern drawl. I noticed that people here tended to address each other as sir or ma’am but it wasn’t in a professional way, it was polite and respectful. I was still getting used to their drawn out words and pronunciations. It took me ages to figure out the guys were saying pen instead of pin, which they pronounced as ‘pin’.

 

“I’m so sorry to ask this, but I’ve had a family emergency come up. Is there any way that I could work remotely and maybe take half a day off to drive up there?” His face suddenly grew serious. “Oh, Kate. I’m sorry to hear that, is everyone OK?” I shake my head feeling guilty over the lie. “No, no, nothing serious. My dad is out of town and my mom broke her leg. She just needed me to help out at the house until dad gets back Friday.” 

 

“No problem at all. Honestly, just go ahead and take tomorrow off and you can work a half day Friday, how’s that sound?” I’m shocked at how understanding he is. 

 

I’m also slightly disturbed how easily the lie slipped from me. I’d have to address that with myself later. One thing at a time. “Oh, and Kate?”

 

“Hmm?” I responded. “Zedd is not feeling well, but he’ll be in tomorrow. I’m loving the direction you two have come up with.” 

 

I thanked him and quickly made my exit. This was a weird day, but it wasn’t entirely bad. I felt accomplished, which was a weird feeling given the circumstances. I’m taking this all too well. 

 

 #

 

I stare out the bus windows for the hundredth time. I’m not sure what I’m expecting to see, but the tree lined roads are finally giving way to mountains. It’s something to stare at as I listen to my audiobooks. I knew going too far would be silly, and if I went back home I felt like I would somehow get the same result. I decided on New Mexico. It was twelve hours from Dallas, but it was at least another state and would help prove my theory. 

 

I was still working on that theory, but at least this would hopefully get me another step closer to figuring something out. It was better than sitting at home and sulking. My eyelids grew heavy as we got to the last hour or so stretch. This state was huge. I couldn’t believe how long it took to get across. I could have gone to Louisiana or Oklahoma, but I figured if I was going to go somewhere it was at least going to be pretty. The constant drone of the audiobook’s narrator wasn’t helping and before I knew it, I was out. 

 

I blinked a few times, staring from the familiar building. This time, the entire floor was filled with everyone at the office. Devon walked past and flashed his winning grin, his warm brown eyes crinkled around the edges. I smiled shyly back and then started walking toward my desk. Usually the things had appeared by now, but instead it seemed like a typical day. 

 

I glanced around, curious about where this dream was going. I was vaguely aware of movements at each cubicle as I passed by. People were glued to their monitors, little clicks of the mice sprinkled through. At any moment the terror would unfold and I would stare at my insides. 

 

I would sit helplessly as the blast would blow me apart and I would feel every agonizing second. 

 

I squeezed my eyes shut, willing myself to wake up. Please, I silently begged, I don’t want to go through it again. Don’t make me go through it again. The second I close my eyes I feel it. The office shifts and then trembles violently. Seconds later, the screams began. My eyes open and I’m once again faced with the tall, spiraling cloud that mushrooms and expands. It hurtles toward us and then slams into the building with a crushing blow. 

 

God, no. 

 

The glass cuts into me, embedding itself as the flesh peels back from my face. Adrenaline will not kick in, I can feel everything. People drop like flies around me, their screams eventually replaced with wet gargles. My lungs fill with blood and my one good eye watches as the earth shifts and I fall to the ground. My exposed nerves and bones take on a dull ache as my body finally accepts what is happening. Just like the ones before, I’m alive and I won’t die.

I had always thought that this was the part of dreams you would wake from and scream. Even in my more terrifying dreams I would wake up just as I was attacked or fell. Not only could I feel the pain, I could taste my own blood, feel the aftershock as the building groaned and tilted.    

 

And then, they are there. Or they always have been and I am just now noticing them. I try and close my one good eye, but to my horror I realize that my eyelids are gone. The debris lands softly on my exposed eye. The reflex to blink happens but all I can do is stare forward. The burning is so intense against all of my softest parts that I’m sure I will pass out from the pain. 

 

I can’t die. 

I can’t die.

I can’t fucking die.

 

They close in on me and groan in ecstasy, peeling my suffering from me as if I were a bit of string cheese. They fed on the others in seconds, but me, god fucking help me─ they were having a four course meal. I tried any way I could to die faster. I tried biting my tongue, but there wasn’t enough left of it for me to get ahold of. I tried in vain to move either of my arms, but too much of the muscle lay piled on the floor. I was stuck here, being consumed piece by piece─ layer by agonizing layer. 

 

#

 

 

I roared awake, my screams filling the bus. I heard a man curse in the seat in front of me and the driver came to a screeching halt. I ran my hands over my face, and then my body searching every bit just to make sure I was there. I drank in the air, so much clean, fresh air thank god. 

 

I sat back in my seat and let out a sigh. “Hey,” I jumped at the loud shout from the driver, “everything OK back there?” I peered around the row of seats and crumpled slightly at all the confused faces of the passengers. I cleared my throat, “um, yeah sorry,” and then I added “bad dream.” The entire bus groaned and people muttered, throwing angry looks my way. Sorry, I mouthed at them, my face on fire.  

 

I disappeared back to my seat and hugged my legs to my chest. 

 

Whatever that was, it wasn’t a dream. I’m not sure what it was that kept those monsters feasting on me but I had a sinking feeling they were the reason I was kept alive. I shuddered, running my hands along the length of my legs trying to spread some sort of warmth through them. The air on the bus had grown colder, we must be in the mountains. 

 

A quick glance outside confirmed it as we chugged along uphill. 

 

My thoughts turned dark as I stared out across the misty mountains, I had been able to sleep OK last night, but what if the dream returns tonight? Could I ever sleep again? 

 

#

 

The hotel was nothing fancy, but it was cozy. After speaking with the front end and getting my room key I was all set up. I walked down a few hallways until I found the first set of double doors the man at the counter had described. I walked through and saw to my delight that it opened into a large pool area. It was all enclosed and there was a hot tub. I’m glad I decided to pack my bathing suit. I was hoping the place had a sauna or something I could relax in. 

 

My mood got even better when I saw they had a sauna as well. At least there was something to look forward to tonight. 

 

After I got in my room, I set up my work laptop and placed my phone on charge. The signal here was awful and my battery was already at forty percent. I checked my messages and email. Devon had sent one about an hour ago and it was just to check in and make sure I had made it to my parents. I sent him a response that I was fine and I would be able and work by tomorrow afternoon. I added that he could call or text me for emergencies and then sent it. 

 

I was surprised to find that I felt energized. Despite the dream, it must have refreshed me. I glanced over room service and then checked out some local food on my phone. I was starving. I finally spotted a local pizza place that had decent reviews and placed my order. In less than an hour it was sitting on the dresser and I had a scary movie playing in the background. Even though my own life was the stuff of nightmares, I still found it comforting to watch someone else go through hell instead of me. 

 

I’d seen just about every horror movie made, even the campy ones from out of the 80’s. The boogeyman always fascinated me because they never died. I loved Halloween, Jason just kept coming back. Ironic, given that my own hell in these visions paralleled that. Maybe he was just pissed off that he couldn’t die and took that out on others. Suddenly, I had a soft spot for the guy. 

 

I devoured three pieces before I finally slowed down. I was ravenous and sure that even if I ate this entire pizza, I’d want more. But after the sixth slice, it seemed to do the trick and I sighed and patted my belly.  

 

I wasn’t entirely sure how all of this would work, but I checked the image when I first arrived and it hadn’t changed. It was still the Dallas skyline and the hooded figures surrounding it. 

 

I was hoping that spending a night in another state may change it. And if that were true, maybe these things did prey off of scaring you. Or, it meant that this was going to happen everywhere. Maybe we were witnessing the end of it all. Surely we could travel miles out from major cities and be safe right? Isn’t that what someone sending a bomb would do? Target all the major cities? I remember learning in one of my science classes that if several bombs went off it would affect the entire planet and that eventually the fallout would kill us all. Radiation poisoning was no joke. We’d not only die, we would die horribly. 

 

There really was no brighter side to this no matter which scenario was true. 

 

#

 

After finishing off the pizza and the movie I decided to go ahead and hit up the hot tub for a good soak. The chill in the air brought a chill to my bones, even with the heater on. I opened the closet and smiled as I pulled out a robe. This place may have been old, but it was full service. You would never find things like this in a normal hotel. At least not one that I could afford. I slipped it over my bathing suit, grabbed my key card, and walked down the hall. 

 

A few doors down I could hear someone’s T.V. blaring. It was loud as hell, the person watching it must have been ancient. Reminded me of my grandfather’s shows of old westerns. I’m pretty sure I heard a horse whinny. Well, at the very least it brought me comfort knowing that I wasn’t alone. I walked into the pool room, hung up the robe and slipped into the tub. I sighed and then smiled, I was in complete bliss. If the end of the world really was happening in eight days, this was my idea of a great way to spend my time. It was perfectly quiet, just me and the warmth. 

 

My body sagged as the weight of the world slipped away. My eyes shut and I rested my head against the cool concrete. Seconds after I closed my eyes, there was a thunderous boom. I jumped, whipping my head around. The sound echoed and vibrated around the room, but nothing was out of place. Both doors were sealed tight. My lower lip trembled as the water trickled down my face. 

 

That boom, I knew it anywhere. I had it etched in my memory. I expected at any moment the room would collapse around me. I imagined the burning blast of air that stripped me of my insides. 

 

Stop it, I told myself, just stop. There is nothing there, you’re just tired. I tried to rationalize it. Maybe it was my neighbors T.V. Or maybe, I thought, every time you close your eyes you’ll relive your own death again and again. My blood ran cold at the thought of possibly never being able to close my eyes. 

 

How long could I last? One day─ two? I shuddered despite the surrounding warmth. Suddenly, the sauna didn’t sound so good and I decided to head back to my room. 

 

#

 

It was around three a.m. when I got the call. When I’d gotten back to my room earlier I had ordered as many caffeinated drinks as I could. After two monsters and several diet cokes, I was fairly sure I couldn’t sleep even if I wanted to. I kept action movies on and played games on the laptop. I figured, as long as I was moving, or doing something I couldn’t fall asleep. 

 

I was in the zone blasting away at bad guys when my phone went off. I paused and looked at my phone, it was Devon. Confused I answered immediately. 

 

“Hello?” 

 

There was a pause on the line, followed by a few sniffles. I decided that maybe he had dialed me by mistake, but I answered again anyway. “Hello? Devon?” 

 

“Hey, Kate. Yes, I’m here.” His voice sounded shaky as if he had been crying. I was instantly alarmed. 

 

“Hey, is everything OK?” I asked. There were a few more sniffles. “Kate, I’m so sorry to be calling this late, but I thought it would be better to hear it from me than the news.” 

 

“OK.” I answered. My heart was beating out of my chest, I didn’t know what to expect. 

 

“This is really hard to tell you, especially since it’s your first week. I’ll be making an announcement on Friday, but I’ve also been making calls to all the team members.” He sniffed again. “I’m sorry to have to let you know that Zedd will no longer be coming in to the office.” 

 

My hands wouldn’t stop shaking. I had just seen him less than two days ago. “Was it an accident?” I asked softly. 

 

There was a long pause on the other end. I thought maybe he had hung up, but then finally he answered. “Zedd, I’m afraid, took his own life earlier today. I’m so sorry, Kate, but I have to go. We are closing the office down tomorrow, so don’t worry about work, OK?” I thanked him for letting me know and hung up the phone. 

 

Part III coming soon.

❤ Grey

 

I will be posting this story on RoyalRoad.com

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A Madwoman’s Guide To Overcoming Anxiety

Ok, most of us have heard it─ the typical b.s. that never works:

Just train your mind to think differently, what’s the problem?

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The problem is, that is great for long term over continual months of practicing breathing techniques and retraining your thoughts to go in a positive direction. It’s called cognitive behavioral therapy, and it does work.

But what about when you are in a pinch or can’t afford to see a professional?

How about all the physical feelings you get? The tightening of your chest, or feeling like a stranger in your own skin. I mean the actual feeling of being irritated to be awake, alive, and doing things when you would rather just eat and go to sleep.

Or, my personal favorite─ when you are trained to know your signs, but all the ‘you’re not being a rational person’ speeches in your mind aren’t quite getting through.

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I feel you, I’m there. At least two to three times a week, sometimes more.

 

So, this isn’t fool proof and I’m not a licensed professional, but I can tell you what has worked for me after dealing with anxiety and depression my entire life. I mean actually work, not some bullshit click-bait that every site seems to have.

Hello, hi, we’re a website─ just click on these next 100 pages of advertised products and we’ll never get to the real point. 

Ugh.

Get physical

I’m not going to lie, I work out a lot. Like 5-6 days a week a lot. Not because I want to be thin (but bonus!) but because it keeps my mind preoccupied. The key to not going mental is to keep yourself physically active. It releases good chemicals called endorphins. They interact with receptors in your brain that reduce the feeling of pain. I also love a schedule and repetition, which brings me to my next point:

Repetition

Keep. A. Schedule.

Rinse, repeat. I’m not joking. You will function significantly better when you know what is going to happen from day to day. It’s calming because your body goes, ‘ok, I know this, I’ve got this.’ Having daily rituals has saved me more times than I can count.

For example, when I wake up─ I make myself breakfast and coffee. As this is happening, it gives me time to tidy up and think on what I need to accomplish that day. P.s. this also knocks out two things that need done: cleaning and scheduling.

This doesn’t need to turn into: OMGIHAVESOMUCHTODOTODAYFUCKI’MFREAKINGOUT

It’s more a collection of thoughts. “Ok, today I need to get a project done at work─I have a meeting at 1 with Jeff.” The end. Refreshing your memory, keeping yourself on track. Check your google calendar.

For the love of god, keep yourself some sort of reminder on google calendar, or remember the milk, or whatever app you have. I am the sort that I will forget instantly if I don’t set up a reminder─ and I’m pretty sure most people are. This will also help keep that crazy voice down instead of a self-induced panic attack for forgetting things.

You know the one─ the bitch in your head that shouts shit like:

“How could you be so stupid, why did you forget to just set up one simple reminder, god you’re useless.” 

She’s fun, I take her to parties sometimes─ or dates, or you know, family events.

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Breathe

Ok, I’m aware that not everyone has a fitbit but it’s what I use. It’s called Relax and it makes you practice inhaling and exhaling. Some people can meditate, some cannot. Instead of getting yourself into a tizzy over how to meditate, just focus on drawing breath in and out for two minutes in a comfortable position. (don’t cross your legs, that raises blood pressure) Most people can spare 2 minutes.

Whether you use an app on your phone (like Calm) or the fitbit app, Alexa, Google, or what have you─ these are all wonderful tools for helping to get your mind into a head-space that calms you. You’ll eventually (slowly) start being able to do it on command.

It’s pretty neat.

I’ll share a weird fact with you, since we’re sharing.

I love to visualize when I’m doing my breathing exercises. I think of the strangest thing that would probably freak most people out but somehow calms me: I love to imagine I’m by myself in a ship, floating in space out in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes, I can see a star in the distance, or planet─ occasionally an event horizon ringing beautifully around a black hole.

But I’m a freak so, you know, you do you.

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Clean:

I’m not kidding. Keeping a clean, tidy environment has been known to release the happy chemicals like serotonin and cortisol (much like the runner’s high) and gives you a sense of accomplishment. When you meet goals, even small ones, you feel happier.

Marie Kondo is definitely on to something with this one. Bring in those happy vibes by feeling in control, accomplished, and clean. You would be shocked what that does for you mentally.

 

Morning showers are amazing to me. I feel like a new human being.

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Goal Setting:

Set small goals, and I mean small. You can always plan your yearly stress for long term goals in January. They’re great, but they set high expectations throughout the year and bring you down when you don’t accomplish them.

So, set up daily ones!

Today, I’m going to get through one day without having a negative thought about myself. Go on, try it. It feels good to pat yourself on the back for accomplishing something!

Hey, I got through that meeting and I paid attention and interacted. Way to go me!

I set out to clean the kitchen this morning and I finished it. Great job.

Rewarding yourself daily allows the long process of having a positive mindset to kick in. Keep it up, and you’ll be one of those people you make fun of for being too happy in no time.

Well, maybe.

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I really feel like over the course of just a few more years, AI will be a wonderful tool for anxiety. Alexa and Google are already looking into this. If you missed any of my podcasts, I talk about them in the Grey Space series on Soundcloud you can check out here:

 

Slow it down

Take each day, one day at a time. (much like we covered in small goals) I can’t stress this enough. I’m a huge offender of thinking about everything that needs to get done and get completely overwhelmed. Instead, focus on the day. Focus on tasks instead of the entire day at once.

My mantra on bad days:

3…2…1… time to get out of bed and start the day. 

3…2…1 brush your teeth and take your medicine.

One foot in front of the other, all day if you need it. This has helped me tremendously on very bad, no-good, terribly-awful days.

Big no-no─

Don’t drink while you are depressed or anxious. Alcohol is a downer, a huge one. Avoid drinking during a time you are freaking out.

Steer clear of too much caffeine too. I found on days I had more than three or four cups of coffee, my anxiety was insane. It made me jittery and I was incredibly irritable.

I know, I know: fuck off, Grey.

I am very serious about this one and have seen first hand what it does to your body to drink and suffer from worse anxiety the next day. Crippling anxiety.

Don’t do what dumb Grey did.

 

One of us:

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Try your best to actually steer your mind away from negative thoughts as soon as they enter your head. While this is like, 1000% impossible all the time, it does start to become habit forming.

My inner bitch, “damn girl, your ass gettin thicc AF”

Counter argument? “Damn girl, dat ass don’t quit” Then do a booty shake and take your fine ass into the day with a grin.

Love yourselves.

❤ Grey

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Understanding Child Abuse – An Open Letter To The Public – Part II

Warning, NSFL. Ages 13+ recommended. 

Cue the tiny violins folks, we’re off to Pityville, party of me. If you’ve ever been through this─ my intention is to raise awareness for all of us. Though each of our experiences are different, I hope that by sharing my own suffering we can shed some light on what others have experienced.

Warning, this is raw and graphic and my unfiltered experiences. I recommend getting a hug or watching some warm fuzzy shows after this.

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Alienation

By the age of nine, I had graduated to getting into minor trouble at school. Nothing major, mostly just talking too much and not paying attention with the occasional petty theft of other kids’ pencils or erasers. This was because I had pretty severe ADHD (not the petty theft, that was just me being an asshole and there was zero excuse for that.) but I really struggled hard in school to focus.

I daydreamed, lost focus, and found it incredibly hard to sit still. I would constantly feel trapped in my skin and irritable, my legs would bounce, and I would fidget. Children back then were just classified as kids, and boys had ADHD, not girls according to most doctors.

This is where my mother would talk about me being a difficult child. I would blurt things out, or correct things I heard that were wrong. (I still do this, embarrassingly enough. I was known as the ‘um, actually’ girl at a few of my jobs.) I would talk over others, or jump around excitedly which would often lead my mother to call out in exasperation, “What the hell is wrong with you?”

It got me thinking recently. Especially with it being mental health awareness week.

No one, not even once, asked me as a child what I was going through at home. Other than a child psychologist I was made to see to build a court case against my father.

Did I mention my mother hated my father?

Let me tell you how much. She wanted him to be out of her life so bad that she convinced herself that he was horrible. Bipolar does that to you. It makes you paranoid (at least the type my mother had) to the point that they feel people conspire against them.

Someone was always out to get my mother, or harm her. She was forever a victim of something.

So for the entirety of my childhood, my mother kept me from my father whenever she could, built up a false court case against him and sent him to prison on circumstantial evidence.

Do you know how long an innocent man got sent to prison over evidence such as, ‘spoke crudely to a child, threatening a child, and inappropriately touching child (this was based off of some redness my mother had found when she was bathing me and something she cooked up in her mind)?

Twelve years. He was originally sentenced to twenty. 

For being suspected of doing those things.

The justice system used to take women’s word against men’s (still bias in this department in a lot of states) without solid proof of it ever happening. And while, it’s horrible that things like this exist with the opposite and men get off the hook that have done vile things, this was not the case with me.

My mother had convinced me that these things happened. Had me testify in a court against him. I was a child, with a very impressionable mind.

She thrived on this sort of attention─ everything had to be circled around her.

I can’t stress this next part enough. The only reason my father was able to get all of these charges against him expunged was because I had to go on trial a second time as an adult and explain what really happened.

Even then, my mother said she thought he did it─ After I had repeatedly told her otherwise. I mean that I told her directly after it happened, in tears saying he didn’t do anything. I had no idea what I had done until my grandmother called me in tears and told me I’d never get to see her or my father again. I was six years old.

This all came full circle to her plans of excluding me from others’ life.

While all of those things went on, my grades, much like my social life, slipped from my grasp. I became alienated with very few friends. I wanted desperately to make friends, but had no idea how. My mom would make that more difficult by yelling at me or beating me in front of other children, like neighbors.

Which is key to my next point: Abusers like to alienate their victims and have complete control. My mother would always make excuses to taking me anywhere, especially to sleepovers, or allowing me to have play dates. She didn’t like me being anywhere that she didn’t have complete control over.

They start by making it seem like it is in your best interest, ‘oh so-and-so is a bad influence’ or, ‘I don’t like how they behave.’

I once dated a guy that I never realized did this until he got jealous of me hanging out with friends. That was a huge red flag and I left him immediately.

p.s. he showed up at my house after that and it took calling the police to get him to leave. Watch out for these personality types and don’t be dumb like Grey.

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The Day I Accepted Death, I Was 12 Years Old

There are hundreds of times that stick out in my mind, but the biggest one is the day my mother tried to kill me.

I was in seventh grade. My stepfather was working a full time job and going to school. It was a stressful time for all of us.

My mother had come out to tell me to do the dishes and to be quiet because my stepfather was sleeping until his shift. Now, my mother was someone that put the fear of god into you.

Nothing trumps that, except one thing:

Teen angst.

What any doctor that has majored in Biology will tell you, is that the pre-frontal cortex of your brain is not fully developed until your early to mid twenties. This is the part of brain that develops logic and reasoning. I apparently had none of those as I muttered things and put the dishes (softly, but still clanging occasionally and probably on purpose) because I hadn’t had a chance to do anything except clean that day.

I have no idea what she said, or what was yelled at me other than, ‘you ungrateful little bitch’ and suddenly I was bent backwards over the sink. I couldn’t move, but what was going on didn’t fully register until I started getting that famous tunnel vision.

When you’re getting choked out, you don’t necessarily feel that you are being choked. It’s a lot of pressure. Things start to go black, or you start hallucinating.

What I do remember is that as she squeezed and I could no longer make gasping or crying noises, one thing stuck out in my head:

Maybe I won’t wake up this time.

That thought gave me a complete sense of calm and everything felt right.

At the age of twelve, I was ready to die.

My stepdad rounded the corner and pulled her off of me. I remember bolting around the corner and catching my breath as she screamed over and over again that she hated me as he calmed her down.

That day, I learned that mothers really can take the life that they give.

I always thought that somewhere within her was the capacity to love me. After that, I knew she couldn’t.

Get lots of hugs today and hold your children close. Tell them what they mean to you.

❤ Grey