The Day Alice Arrived – A Fantasy Short Story

The rain pounds, like thousands of toy soldiers beating on their drums. The wind moans off-key between the screen and my window. The swoosh of the oak tree beating against the house drones on above. It is the second night of the relentless March drench. I hate this time of year. I am unable to pry my eyes away from the evil face that lives in the ceiling as I lay in bed. Its mouth stays in a permanent howl of agony, and its eyes are small and beady. Sometimes I swear it moves to different parts of the ceiling. It is probably waiting for the perfect time to snatch and gobble me up. That would teach them. Why grandpa won’t just hurry and scrape the popcorn off of my ceiling, like he did for everyone else in this stinking house, I’ll never know. Mama teases that it’s because I don’t listen.

Good children are supposed to be in bed after nine, Mama says. Good children, like Mary, mind their mamas. And good children most certainly do not go adventuring in their best clothes and blame it on following faeries, gnomes, and other such nonsense into the woods. I get so mad when she says this I could split a coconut in two with my mind. Just because her old eyes can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. How would mama know anyway? She’s never gone farther than twenty steps from Sir Brisbane’s dog house. Mama keeps calling him puddles. I worry for her. Sir Brisbane does not take kindly to such insults and has been known to take a bite out of calves. Particularly plump ones like mama has. He is, after all, part of the high court of Chauncey and a knight to boot. He’s been keeping the dark faeries from creating mischief in the human world for thirty plus years now, and he believes my mother should be more respectful to him, thank you very much.

I’ve long since known that animals can speak. You just have to have good listening skills. Their voices are on a different frequency than humans and much more soft, too soft for adults to hear. Once, I had a most delightful conversation with a sewer rat about the art of balancing on pipes. The trick to keeping yourself up is to swish your tail quickly from left to right. I try telling mama about this, but she just spanks me, yelling, ‘stuff and nonsense’ then sends me to bed hungry.

My eldest sister, Mary, is a yellow-bellied chicken. She’s seen things, just as I have, but keeps it quiet. And she never stands up for me around mama. Mary’s a bit of a pushover but we get along okay. Alice, the youngest of us, just ignores everyone and plays in the attic with her dolls. A real creeper, that one, I once found a whole trunk of headless dolls. Mama’s seen it too, but I think she’s too afraid to ask. As a matter of fact, we never talk about her. I’ve tried a few times, but Mama just changes the subject and Grandpa tells me to go to my room. Cowards, all of them.

During last year’s drench, after the third night, I heard strange thumping sounds outside of my door. I was too scared to open it, so I crawled on my belly and peered beneath the crack. I remember it like it was yesterday. Two glass eyes and stringy blonde hair stared back at me. It was one of Alice’s doll heads. I’ve never sprinted for my bed and leaped beneath the covers so fast in my life. I recited the Lord’s Prayer until dawn. That did not work. The next night I heard more thumping, followed by swift pacing on the other side. I was glad that whatever it was couldn’t come inside.

From the third night, until the very last day of the drench, the thing kept up the pacing and thumping last year. Then, as soon as it came, it went away. All that remains of its existence today is a faint groove in the wood. I, of course, got blamed for it and received two nights without supper, a firm talking to, and a whooping. I suspect now that it might be Alice− or something wearing Alice’s skin. I haven’t ruled out the theory of a body snatcher yet. Sir Brisbane tells me they’re as real as Mama’s mustache. I hope that it at least keeps the trend of not coming back until the third night. And I keep wishing this, as I stare up at smiley-mcbeady-eyed-creepy-pants, and hear the thumping outside of my door return. I may just wipe that stupid face off of the ceiling myself since no one else will. Bang, thump, scrape. I let out a yelp and pull the covers over my head. Alice is starting early this year. After several moments, I sneak a peek out of the blankets. The sound is finally gone.

Peeling back my blankets, I tip-toe over to the window, and pull back the curtains. Sir Brisbane Pettingsworth is huddled to the back of his house and panting as if he’s run several laps. When he notices me, he smiles, then bows. I roll my eyes at him. Really, being cordial at a time like this, how silly. I motion that I’m coming out and lean down to open the window. Forget staying in this house, I’ll just keep him company until dawn. Let Alice bang, thump, and scrape her little heart out. My hand touches the latch and I nearly jump out of my skin when the high pitched voice squeaks above me.

“Would hurry if I were you dear.” I gape at the ceiling, unsure of what to do.

“Who said that? Alice?” Bang, bang, thump, scrape is my only answer. Something scratches at the metal part just below the doorknob, and it sounds impatient. Tiny, perfectly pointed nails waiting to−I try not to think about it as a lump forms in my throat. Where is mama anyway, can’t she hear any of this from down the hall? I know she keeps her door open at night. They’re a bunch of sissies, all of them. Then I remember we are still in the middle of the storm, the oak tree is probably drowning out the noise. I decide to heed the voice’s warning and I undo the latch and pull on the window. It doesn’t budge.

“Nailed shut I’m afraid.” The voice chirps.

Annoyed I look up, “well then, how on earth am I supposed to hurry?” It’s a peculiar feeling, talking to the ceiling in the middle of the night. Mama must never know. I already see some quack twice a week for the faerie and gnome remarks.

“Break it of course.” It says.

Naturally, let me just pick up my vanity chair, and we’ll make a game of it, I think. Mama would just love me to pieces then. Bang, bang, bang. Alice is getting more creative, the banging almost taking on a beat to a song. I cross my arms and tap my foot. This is ridiculous, why am I hiding from my little sister? What’s the worst she can do bite and scratch me? I need to stop being a ninny and open the door. I march three paces and then halt. The beating has ceased, replaced by complete silence. Even the rain has softened. I know why I can’t open the door. Alice is anything but a normal little girl. I can’t explain it, call it intuition, or whatever, I just knew.

“Better hurry.” It taunts. I want to slap that voice from the ceiling, but I know it is right. I dash for the chair and smash it against the window. The glass showers the floor in tiny, clear crystals. I tense at the horrible screeching outside my bedroom door. She knows I’m trying to escape. I hear her footsteps descend down to the living room. What was Alice doing?

“Now you’ve done it.” The voice sounds like it’s enjoying this a little too much.

“What have I done?” I ask.

“I didn’t say break it loudly.”

I want to strangle the ceiling, and then I realize how mad that sounds. Oh well, I’ve gotten this far. “What do you mean break it quietly? There’s no such thing.” I say. The front door creaks open. Each pop and groan feels like a nail pounding shut the lid on my coffin.

“Oh, there’s always a way.” It quips. “Like a well-placed glass cutter, had you have had the sense to look around.” Ignoring the insult, I glance around the room and see a silver glint in the moonlight. There it is, on my vanity. I can just scream. The screech bellows from the right of my window. Then Alice begins to climb up the drainage pipe.

I don’t have time to think. I wedge the chair in the window and pull the curtains shut. I charge toward my bedroom door and twist the doorknob when I stop. Something isn’t right. I plunge to the floor and peek out. I freeze.

The cold, dead stare of Alice’s eyes look back at me. Her grin twists upward in a sea of black─ no teeth, no tongue. Just dark and nothingness. My eyes linger on the swirling soot that inhabits her insides. It is busy, flitting uniformly about as if a swarm of insects would. I jump up from the floor and slowly back away from the door. How could she possibly be two places at once? The chair wiggles behind me as the scrapping continues under the door. I pray that I am able to make it until morning. The doctor will be there.

I don’t know why, but Alice always disappears after the doctor gives me the burning medicine. Alice has not moved from the floor.  There must be something keeping her back. I pray to whatever would listen and squeeze my eyes shut. When I open them, Alice’s shadow has moved away from the door. I no longer hear her scraping, or footsteps but the rattling at the window has gotten louder. I take a chance and look beneath the door. Alice is gone, now is my chance to run to Mama’s room. My hand grips the knob.

“Not very bright are we child,” the voice states. Now it’s just being rude.

“And just what do you mean by that? I’ll have you know that I am top of my class at Bishop’s Middle─”

“School,” it interrupts, “has nothing to do with your predicament.” It yawns loudly. “You need to get outside to your friend. I thought we had discussed that already.” We most certainly had not, but I let this one slide. “Yes,” I say playing along, “but how would one do such a thing? You have clearly made it known that I cannot go out the door, though goodness knows why not.” His next sentence flies out, “goodness knows why─” he pauses and takes a breath, “listen here, you insolent child, I’m trying to save your life when all you’ve tried to do is have me removed from the ceiling.” He sputters something unintelligible and then shouts, “I’ve half a mind to up and leave you to your own demise.”  I stand by the door with my mouth gaping so wide I could catch a school of fish. This guy is a total loon. How am I supposed to know what to do? It occurs to me then that the chair has stopped jiggling in the window.

“Where did she─”

“Go?” The voice interjects, “she’s right where she’s always been. By your bedroom door.”

I’m tired of him cutting me off. Maybe I will have grandpa remove him in the morning.

“Well excuse me for not knowing that,” I replied gruffly, crossing my arms.  Then it clicks, the chair has stopped rattling. Why didn’t Alice burst through the window when she had the chance? I turn my gaze to the ceiling at Mr. Beady Eyes, hope starts to well up. I hope that it is not misplaced.

“Alice didn’t break into my room. Why is that?” I ask. For the first time I take a look at his face, I see his prickly mouth curl into a smile. “Why my dear, surely you have figured out some things along the way.”  His eyes shift over to the chair lodged in the window. Quiet as a church mouse I creep over to the window and peer outside.

There he is, not ten feet from the house─ my golden friend. There is no sign of Alice. I look down at the chair, it has fused perfectly with the glass. I feel like my friend has done this. I smile and look up. He is gone. A slow scrape sounds outside of the bedroom door. I wonder why she hasn’t come in yet. This thought troubles me so much that I have to know.

“Sir,” I hesitate, “why hasn’t Alice come in yet?” His response sounds dangerously close to an answer. “If you’d cared to glance at the knob you would know.” “The knob?” I ask. The ceiling lets out a long sigh, “must I tell you everything?” he drawls. I nod my head, inches from the door. I try a different approach. “Please. I’m running out of time. How do I get out of here?”

“I’m afraid I can’t help you there. I’m neutral.” he says softly.

“I─beg your pardon?” I stutter.

“I’m neutral dear. Which means I cannot meddle in your affairs.”

“But, you just─”

“I most certainly have not. I’ve only given you clues. Now, if you’ll excuse me. This has gotten rather dull.” I hear a crackling as the popcorn draws back into its original shape on the ceiling.

“Wait!” I yell. He shifts back into a face. “Well?” he asks impatiently.

“I need─” I trail off, looking at the floor. I don’t want to say it, but I know it’s my only hope. “I need a clue,” I mumble. It will stay like this forever until Alice finds a way break through. If things have escalated this far in just a year’s time, there’s no telling what she will do. I can’t stay locked up in my room forever. What I can’t figure out is why she wants to get to me so badly.

“Ah, a clue indeed,” he says smacking his lips together. Beady eyes sounds like he’s savoring a bit of candy. “If I were you,” he whispers, “I would try looking at a dead end.” Bang, thump. Alice is back to her pacing.

“What does that even mean?” I ask impatiently. I know what is coming next.

“Neutral,” we both say at the same time. “Figures,” I grumble.

I jumped as something large crashes into the door. Alice is becoming bolder by the second. I cannot wait any longer. The next blow would shatter the door. Mama, where are you? I wonder. I run to the only place I can think of as the next crash splinters the door. Huddled inside I pull shut the closet door, and back against the wall. A series of metal clicks sound behind me. My eyes widen as the wall gave way and I fell into a vast pit of darkness. The only sound I hear is the loud screech of Alice having lost her prey.  Her disembodied head hovers above me, then slowly disappears in the distance. The ceiling’s voice sounds around me, sounding rather proud, “there now, I knew you would understand.”

I tug at my nightgown, placing it between my knees. I begin to think this fall will never end and then─ it happens. I plunge into the frigid water, the force hitting me like a ton of bricks. I tumble head over heels in the frozen depths. When I finally stopped spinning, I look around and panic for several heartbeats. I’m unable to orient myself to where the surface lies. I had not taken a deep enough breath and my lungs already feel as if they are about to burst. A twinkle catches my eye and I flip my body around. I claw toward the light with all my might. How far had I fallen in? More than anything I wanted to hear Mama’s stern voice. I wanted to hear her calling my stories nonsense as she pressed the cool cloth against my forehead. I sputter and choke, releasing the last of the air from my lungs. Where is my furry friend now? I want desperately to feel him by my side. These last few moments I think of his warm eyes and wagging tail.

The twinkle from above seems  as far away as it was before. I make a last ditch effort to reach the top. Nothing happens. There is only the icy liquid between my fingers. I fall down further into the cold. I do not want to think it, but it creeps into my mind as the water seeps into my lungs─

I will die alone.


I wake to rocky pebbles pressed against my face and water lapping at my legs. I try to stand but only managed to get onto all fours. Water retches from out of my lungs and then I collapse on the shore, too tired to move. Finally I am able to sit up. I rub my eyes, blinking a few times. The cavernous room is vast. There are openings and tunnels that snake in and out of the walls. It is cold and damp. I rock back and forth, crying into my knees. How will I ever get home and if I do, will Alice be there? If only I could have made it to Mama’s room. If only the doctor had came on his usual day instead of coming tomorrow. His medicine would have made Alice go away for a while. I want to see my friend and run my hands through his feathery-soft fur while we gaze at the stars above.

There is no grass in this room─ only dirt. I lay on my side and curl my legs to my stomach. I had always been told if I got lost to stay where I was but who would ever think of looking for me here? I close my eyes. Maybe I should just sleep until someone gets here. As soon as I think this, I’m surrounded by warmth. He says nothing, but I feel him there. My friend has come for me. I open my eyes and stand. My lungs for the first time in years feel whole again. His fur is more golden than usual and he stands upright like a human. His armor, which he has never worn before, shines bright. I can’t help but reach out and brush my hand against the glittering surface. A gentle breeze carrying the scent of our garden rustles my hair. He smiles down at me and for the first time, I notice the vibrant flecks of color in his eyes. His muzzle has been replaced with a golden, crinkly smile. His paws have grown smooth and fleshy. I blink, realizing they are not paws at all but large, strong hands. The room brightens like the surface of the sun and I shield my eyes from its brilliance.

Reaching out, he gently grasps my hand and we walk down the stark, white corridor. I look down, marveling at the golden silk sash that crosses just above my belly. I wonder when my nightgown has become such a splendid garment, but I quickly forget about it. That all seems so trivial now. I try to turn my head to look back at where I had fallen in the water but my friend gently wraps his fingers below my chin and turns me the other way.

“Best not to look back child,” he says. I smile nod, walking hand-in-hand with my best friend.





I will be posting this on my Royal Road as well.

xoxo Grey



Handmade Mini-Book Giveaway

Hi guys! My birthday is next Thursday and to celebrate I wanted to give away a hand drawn, hand written fantasy mini book. If you would like to enter, you can enter here. 

I’ll announce the winner on my Birthday!

The story will be all fantasy and done in mixed media. I will hand bind it, draw it, paint it, and write it. I’ve always been a lover of making things and especially for other people. If you know someone that also may love this, send them over to Twitter~

Have a wonderful, glorious Friday dears. ❤



How To Beat Going Back To Work Anxiety


You’ve had basically two weeks of a whole lot of nothing and suddenly, boom, responsibility hits and you’re stuck with two more days of hell before the weekend. What do you do? How do you cope? Does anyone at the office follow your Instagram because not even you can remember what you posted the night before last and it sat on there a whole day before you deleted it.

Your emails have piled up, you’re dead tired, and why the hell is Carroll breathing so loud today? And for the love of everything why are we the assholes stuck working this week when half the building isn’t here?

Well at the very least let’s try not to worry about all that and focus on the positive, right?

Please stop cussing at me mentally, I’m here to help.

I get anxiety (like, every few minutes a day and it gets 10000XFUCKINGHELLMF#%! worse during certain times along with my awesome IUD creating more)  so I totally get the backlash from you right now. But let mama bear share what really helps. ❤

No. Thinking positive does not always fix the problem. Over an extended amount of time, and if you make it part of your daily routine, yes it will slowly start improving your mental state. But it doesn’t help the physiological problems that come with it.

Tightening of the chest, shallow breath, increased heart rate, and the feeling that makes you want to tear off your meat suit and fling yourself from the highest building, unfortunately, is still present.

And while hating on the staff and holing yourself off from the world may keep you safe for a moment or two, you’re going to have to face reality at some point.

Especially after every boss in existence is on dat New Year’s high where they drag all of you down with them with these big plans of really shaking up the department.

So, how do you do it? How do you face the mornings after your big break?

You aren’t going to like me with this next sentence. If you stressed the night before or the next couple of nights before and didn’t get a lot of sleep─ avoiding too much caffeine may be a good way to go. Multiple studies have shown that consuming past a couple cups of coffee can increase anxiety. While one or two may be beneficial (dare I say healthy) more can cause heart palpitations, fidgeting, uneasiness, and dehydration. Which causes headaches, ironic since a little caffeine can be used to treat migraines.

Get sleep.

Go to bed early if you know your anxiety is getting the better of you. Try giving yourself an additional thirty minutes up to an hour to sit comfortably in bed. Watch a show, play on your phone a bit, or read a book. I know every story out there tells you not to do anything in your bed but sleep, but that has NEVER worked for me.

My anxiety goes through the roof if I have nothing but me and my brain alone.

That’s not to say that you just distract yourself enough until you’re tired, you still need to face what’s causing your anxiety, but now you have more time to ease into the bedtime.

Which brings me to schedule, schedule, schedule.

Girrrl, I know you can’t be caged and you a wild animal and all─ but if you wanna get paid and not have a mental breakdown, get your sleep schedule on track.

Ready to put on your big girl pants?

Breathe. Just focus on drawing breath in and drawing breath out. Feel the air moving in and out of your nose. Breathe deep and long with a rush of aaaahhhhh when you breathe out. If you’re familiar with yoga, they call this ‘lion’s breath.’

A key element for beating anxiety for me is focusing on this and nothing else. Take a minute (or two), go to the restroom or shut the door to your office.

I have an app on my watch that I use once a day working on my breathing for two minutes. It’s glorious.

When I say this, it doesn’t work for everyone but can for you─ try and clear your mind of your daily routine or what you have going on that’s stressing you. Focus, instead, on things that bring you peace. Whatever that may be and breathing.


Next, give yourself a little pep talk.

“I know you feel shitty, but you handled that email like a boss.”

“Damn girl, your booty don’t quit.” Alternatively: “Damn man, your booty don’t quit.”

It’s the current year─ men can be booty positive too.

Make it a habit to give yourself a pep talk every day. It really does make a difference.

Drink loads of water (like, way more than you think you should) because that will keep your energy up instead of tons of carbs. And, often times you’re not hungry just thirst confused for hunger.

I learned that ages ago when I was (omg) 100 lbs heavier. Not joking. Don’t eat when you’re bored/depressed, you make horrible decisions.

Most importantly, when you walk out that door at 5:05 p.m. work stays behind those doors. Never mix life with work, they need to be kept separate. Another hard lesson Grey had to learn the hard way.

Love yourselves ❤










The Fat Man – A Christmas Poem (funny)

So for those of you that follow my Twitter, you saw my Christmas tradition of ‘Battle with the Fatman’ I do every year. The tradition continues with this year’s shenanigans. For those of you that missed it, here it is:

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,

I was waiting alone for him to come out.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

I’d lined them with noise makers to know when he’s there.

The family was nestled all snug in their beds,

Unaware of the battle that was ahead.



My dog Ketti laid in my lap, And had just settled in for an evening nap.

When out on the lawn there rose such a sound she leaped from my lap and barked very loud.

Away to the window I rushed to see,

If the fat man had finally gotten to me.

The moon shone brightly on the new fallen snow,

As I waited impatiently for him below.


When what to my eager eyes did appear,

but the fat man himself and nine tiny reindeer.

Faster than a bullets through the sky they flew,

And he yelled and snarled his commands to his crew.

On,dasher! On, dancer! On, prancer! and Vixen.

On, comet! On, cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!

Rudolph guide us to that home, travel fast,

For this night we’re going to kick major ass.

So up on the house top the reindeer did fly,

& I reached under the couch & gripped my .45.


To my utmost dread I heard on the roof,

the scraping & pawing of each little hoof.

As I tucked in my elbows & was turning around,

Down the chimney ‘Saint’ Nicholas came with a bound.


He was dressed in armor from his head to his foot,

and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.

A bundle of guns he had flung on his back,

and he looked like Clint Eastwood but…really fat.

His eyes how they squinted,

His voice, how it scratched!

And he sized me up as he struck a match.

He lit the cigar that hung from his grin,

And he gave a hearty laugh whispering, “what trouble you’re in. ”


He reached behind him & drew weapons with a jerk,

And said not a word as he got straight to work.

The first shot fired mere inches from my head,

And I rolled to the ground thankful to not be dead.

I took a second to gather my wits,

When the couch in front of me was blasted to bits.


Quicker than lightening I aimed for his face,

but the asshole had teleported to another place.

Ketti stayed hidden as the battle waged on,

the coward, no doubt, was probably long gone.

My family was clueless, or they’re fraidy cats too,

but I won’t let that stop me from killing his crew.

If I can’t take him out with any of my moves,

then I’ll aim my next shot up toward…The roof.


With a massive grin as the fat man gained ground,

I squeezed the trigger and he froze at the sound.

His head shot up and his body went slack,

then I lowered my weapon, aiming at his back.

This was my chance, I must make it work,

it was time that he learned to stop being a jerk.

He’d terrorized this town for the last damn time,

and my finger found the trigger as the clock began to chime.


The blast was deafening, but my grin stayed fixed,

I’d finally got him that jolly little bitch.

But as the smoke cleared, my grin faded away,

the bastard had managed an impossible escape.

I roared at the magical lights that filled the room,

And swear to the nine hells that I’ll get him, soon.

This year managed to be a bust,

but next year, yes, next time he will be crushed.


You can follow my mini-campaigns weekly on Twitter as well for more awesome adventures. ❤ Greysanta



Merry Christmas – Happy Holidays!

It’s that time of year, the one that makes you reflect over the past eleven months and wonder: How did I gain another ten pounds after eating so poorly for the past two months? smh, we’ll never know.

But what I do know is that it’s a mixed bag time of year for me. One that I usually find myself contemplating over the good and the bad. I feel somewhat accomplished in my writing endeavors, having completed a few short stories and almost finished with my next novel. If you’d like to check out my work, you can read it here. 

I’ll be slowly updating them on here too with links to the other parts. If you really are enjoying my work and would like to support me, you can here. I post my work free because I’ve always been torn over charging others over it since it really is a joy of mine.

One thing I am ripped up about is I didn’t get to send my work off to a publisher this year like I’d hoped, but my goal is to do that this coming year. There’s always this still-small voice in the back of my mind that says, “you’ll never be good enough.” She won this year, unfortunately. The depression was real this year you guys.

Not because of the fact that I don’t love every moment of my life and cherish those in it, but because I shut down. To add to that, I work something like 70 hours a week and creativity can be stretched thin when you get home at 6:30 and have to go to bed at 8 to wake up at 4. I got down because I need to do this in order to survive, but my heart has always been with writing and creating. I love sitting in front of a blank canvas, or a blank google doc and just─ going to town.

I know every artist/writer out there wants to do this, but I think it really is the most important thing to us. We thrive off of expressing that creative energy, it moves us. My guilt, and downfall, has always been being timid about asking people for things. Namely, money. And I wonder if every artist struggles with this very thing.

I think: “Ok, you are going to start promoting your work and stop offering it for free.”

Then, the evil half that takes up like 80% of my brain goes, “bitch, look at these other writers and artist out there, you ain’t shit.”

Then, it happens.

I agree with her and just keep throwing it up for free. I need to get to a place emotionally where I can view my work as worthy. And see, this is where I struggle.

Those of you that read my blogs know that I come from a past that is not exactly Disney movie friendly. I find myself pushing everyone away, yet feel sad that there is no one in my life. Depression does this to you. It makes you think, “I don’t need anyone in my life, and I don’t want to be in theirs” and then later you think, “I’m so alone and need someone, why doesn’t anyone care?”

Idk, maybe because you sit on your ass eating cheetos and ignore the 9,856,420 text messages at people’s attempt to get you to hang out with them? Then eventually they stop caring because it seems like you don’t.

It’s an odd mixture of being eternally hopeful, and completely hopeless. 

It’s exhausting and annoying, even to you.

So for all my fellow sufferers out there, I just want to say that you are not alone. My Christmas will be quaint and quiet, but I’m going to force myself to have a good one this year and focus on the positives. Hopefully you will too.


Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and love yourselves. ❤



Tuesday Musings – Anxiety in Men and Women and How they Differ



Before we begin, let’s just all take a breath. A deep one.

Ok, we ready?

Anxiety sucks. For anyone that has ever experienced it knows─ it is the worst.

From panic attacks to full-blown panic disorders many people in the U.S. (and in the West in general) suffer from this. It affects their daily life, and their long-term life.

It’s so prevalent in our society that many people affected by it are shown to take more time off of work, are far less social, and are less likely to finish school. Think about how that impacts their quality of life. 

Could you imagine waking up, your heart pounding for no reason as you lay in bed? Everything feels off. I mean, really off. Like at any moment, the world would explode around you and you just want to run away. But, you can’t. You are stuck in your own skin, feeling this miserably-awful gut-wrenching fear and that you are not ok.

Your skin is clammy, your fingertips like ice.

Your chest is tight and your heart just won’t stop beating like you’ve run a marathon, both ways, uphill in the snow.

It gets better. Many people that have crippling anxiety also win the genetic lottery with depression. Oh yeah, this girl right here knows.

Party at Grey’s place, wut wut

While mine stems from my childhood and early adulthood trauma (yay PTSD) many more are affected by this in some form or fashion. Women are two to three times more likely to suffer from anxiety than men. Why is this, I’ve wondered?

Well, there is some debate to this but many people believe it is due to girls and women experiencing trauma earlier in life. That, or if it is possible that it is inherently increased in women.

Oh great, thanks ancestors.

Another fun thing our brain tends to do is process serotonin release slower than our male counterparts. 

While we all laugh it up and drown our sorrows in wine and other recreational drugs


Let’s be real.

Women tend to ruminate and medicate to cope while dudes get physical. Curiously enough, men also have the positive side of their brain light up when they are under pressure. Damn, I wish my brain got overloaded with serotonin and cortisol.

Ladies, we can learn from this. One of the biggest challenges I faced when going through treatment was to shut that shit down. My brain tends to do this thing where it loops all the bad things on repeat.

Oh, you don’t like that? It used to taunt.

Let’s turn this shit up to you crying in the shower for thirty minutes to end your day.

Yeah. My life was hell for the better part of fifteen years emotionally. I still get bouts of it, but I’ve learned a super secret technique I’m going to share with you:

It’s called keeping yourself busy, mentally and physically.

Get real physical guuurl. Because thinking is the devil.

No, not in an unhealthy way. Clearly if you have issues that you need to go talk to a professional about do that along with this. However, several studies have shown that as Westerners, we have way too much idle time and we also suffer from more anxiety and depression than those in other countries. I think if I had to work my fingers to the bone every day, I’d probably collapse in bed in a heap of exhaustion and not have time to focus on all my mental hang-ups.

Except─ hold on, I have.

This year, I quit my full-time job to help run a company. On top of all that, I write and stream. I started noticing something I never had happen before. My anxiety was easing because I felt like I had purpose─ which gave me drive. Something I haven’t experienced in a long time. My depression and anxiety have always centered around feeling worthless and that I didn’t feel accomplished at the end of the day.

It was something I always lacked because I had the same facts drilled in my head every day of my childhood:

you aren’t good enough, you never will be, you’re useless, you’re pathetic. 

It all goes on.

So, while our hormones react differently (and different centers of our brain light up during stress and anxiety) there are a few similarities between men and women with anxiety.

The major one that a lot of people report is the feeling of impending doom (yay flight center of the brain!) shortness of breath, tight chest, and the feeling of discomfort in their own skin.

Unfortunately, having estrogen and progesterone kind of plays havoc on our brain-place. Ugh, as if women needed more added stress to their lives.

Don’t fear, ladies─ there is hope! With a healthy dose of physical activity, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and daily mindfulness and rest, you can combat the daily demons.

Numerous studies have shown that taking as little as two minutes up to twice a day of breathing exercises and mindfulness of stressors/triggers(TRIGGERED) you can lower your stress (and blood pressure) to a healthy level.

I use the breathing app in fitbit. Some people love Calm

There are many others, but I’ve heard good things about these. I know they help keep me stay on track, just like having a regular daily routine and lots of sleep. (but damn, sleep is important.)

I think we can all take a little time to appreciate the importance of ourselves, and others and value what we have to offer each other. I tip my hat to the guys on this one, so far it’s worked for me and maybe it can work for you too.

But hey, just my thoughts on a Tuesday.

Take care everyone and feel free to discuss below. I’m more than happy to share my own battles and victories with anxiety and depression.

Love yourselves,

❤ Grey





We Are The Last – Chapter III

Chapter I

Chapter II

My heart races as I watch the words slowly dissipate and then the screen disappears. I’m not sure what I’m feeling, but I know this was incredibly stupid of me. What if this isn’t what I was sent back to do? I pull up statistics for the degree plan that I’m currently in and start to waver. In six weeks, I could have my degree and start the slow climb politically. Yes, there was a huge chance that I couldn’t figure out what was the cause of the bombings, but it was safer. Then I look up viewership rates and cross reference them with how often their faces are seen to how politically revered they were, no matter their past. Money, power, success, and most importantly being able to talk with the people that know something about immortality. It isn’t about how much you know, it’s about how much the population likes you. Being likable is the key factor to becoming the small percentage of people that owned everything. I needed to be able to rub elbows with these people, I need to be seen as one of them. It has been this way since the turn of the new century. Lunar Lander was just one of the companies that was part of several other companies that were effectively owned by the same company. I have a sinking feeling that no one is actually aware of what the company does and with a team of lawyers behind them, they would be virtually unstoppable to do as they wished. What were they planning to get out of us in the competition? As much as I hate to admit it to even myself, this was the only way I was going to be able to get to where I needed to fast enough. 

I close out the tabs, and then open the game back up. The official meetup was in a week, which means that the contest isn’t going to official start until after the interview. It makes me wonder, if our current scores will actually be used, or if it is going to reset us to zero. I’m hoping that it will be based off of our current scores and that they will start officially grading us based off of the rules. I frown thinking about that. If that’s the case, I definitely have some catching up to do. I look at the time and gasp. I have wasted two hours dicking around with the contest entry. It is past three in the morning and I haven’t even started on the game. In a blind panic, I open up the scoreboard and sigh in relief. Eric’s score hasn’t changed, he must have decided that it was a large enough gap and that he could relax tonight. He’s probably snoring his head off about now. I eat the last portion of the candy bar slowly and then finish off the coke. That was probably the last time I was going to be able and enjoy something that tasty in quite some time. I know my nervous bladder was going to be a huge issue, so I make sure to take care of business before hopping back on. I push the table back into its place against the wall and then slide the headset over me. I decide to remain in a relaxed seated position, knowing that this will keep me comfortable for at least eight hours. I’ll refrain from drinking any water unless I absolutely need it and I have the pitcher next to me with a two glasses in case I do. On a more gross level, I have a second glass here if I find the need to relieve myself again. Having a nervous bladder is the worst. I generally have to use the restroom several times before doing anything that I know will be time intensive. I know it’s all mental, but it hasn’t stopped, so I assume it’s pretty safe to say that it’s not going anywhere. 

I’m back to the title screen again, but this time I’m looking it over. The colorful pixel images greet me and I’m looking them over with renewed interest. Why is this so different from the main game? And in our time, the fact that the graphics are outdated is the understatement of the year. Especially considering that you can’t distinguish reality from fantasy if it wasn’t for the fact that you were wearing the gear. If I had really splurged, I would have turned this entire space into a fully immersive world complete with wind effects, smells, you name it. It might be my youth kicking in, or stupidity, but I’m really debating on doing that with some of the funds I pull out next month. 

I’m really not sure how kids could take these games seriously back then. The bright, flashing colors hurt my head. I don’t want to stare at this longer than I have to, but I know I should be more careful and pay attention. Eric didn’t just get that score off of beating the Night Queen alone. That was an impossibly large score for the first boss battle. I relent, looking at the score. Was there any game I could actually think of that kept a scoring system at all like this? Especially, a first person shooter? Hell, even a puzzle based RPG, or role playing game, like Dragons of Evermore that released last year. It was considered one of the toughest games to complete and was notorious for taking so long to complete raids or dungeon crawls that a few people had been reported dead while playing it. I was with a small amount of people that believe this was a publicity stunt set up by the game company Fantasy, Lunar Lander’s biggest competition. A raid is basically a large team of people online that ban together to defeat a particularly hard boss. Dungeon crawlers are viewed as incredibly redundant to some people, but I love them. And with the luck of the draw on loot mixed with randomized terrain, or dungeons that included crypts, mountains, underground, abandoned buildings, or even other planets─ the possibilities are endless. You have to bust your ass to gear up and somehow defeat something that has several times your hit points, or health, and find a way to outwit them. I am excellent at figuring out patterns, which is why I love this type of adventuring. As much as I love loot, I love the storylines even more. They are often tales of tragedy, or a people wronged. Basically, it follows some nobody from a random village who is destined to save the world. It’s one of the oldest tropes known to the western world but I can’t get enough of that shit. Ironic, considering the position I’m in if I can’t locate my own crew.

I’m wasting too much valuable time thinking about this, so my attention goes immediately back to the flashing images on the screen. Phantom scrolls from the top of the screen to the middle and blinks a few times before fading. On the bottom right a guy walks across the screen and pauses in the middle. His hair is brown, and he is wearing a pair of blue pants, and what looks like a white sweater. His hands go up and a bunch of pixelated mean-looking cops enter from the left, their guns drawn. One of the officer’s fire and the man holding up his arms falls to the ground. Red pixels fill the bottom of the screen and then the entire screen turns red. Then, it twinkles and turns into the night’s sky. This is all that happens, before the scene replays. I watch it for a fourth time, trying to see if there is some clue based off of what they are all wearing, but nothing is jumping out at me. Then I notice it. The background is a pixelated version of the constellations, all slowly twinkling. The only reason that I realize this is because the pattern of the twinkling. Sudden, the shape of Ursa Major, or the big dipper. Pops out at me. Next, I spot Hydra and then Virgo, which is incredibly hard to spot until I watched it for a third time and realize that the star Spica, which represents the ear on a grain of wheat from her hand is there. Then one last one appears and I stare for a moment at it. The pattern looks vaguely familiar, but I can’t exactly remember which one it is. 

My mother, bless her, she loved looking at the stars and she taught me everything there was to know and what time of year you could see them from the Northern Hemisphere in the US. My grin goes ear to ear at this revelation. Ok, so I know that if both Virgo and Ursa Major are visible, this means that the constellations are exactly where they would be in the night sky right at this moment. I’m not sure how this is going to help me, but I have to try. I pull up a map of the night’s sky this time of year and prompt the program to name each constellation. It confirms and starts the long process of mapping the night’s sky visible to me. I keep the start screen playing, as I wait for the software to finish, when I hear the pleasant series of jingles I know that it’s finished. I open it up and I’m immediately overwhelmed by the amount of names listed. This won’t do at all. I need just the name of one particular constellation, not this mess. Then it dawns on me, “Alexa, take a screenshot when I tell you.” “Of course,” she responds. I flip open the screen and wait patiently at the final rotation. When it comes back around, I’m practically on the edge of my seat with anticipation. The final pattern twinkles and I yell, “Now.” There’s a pause as the program takes a photo. “Photo is prohibited and is against the developer’s privacy policy. See the gamer’s manual on page─” “That’s enough, Alexa, thank you. Please open a free drawing program.” A drawing program opens and I hastily sketch the shape onto it and then save it on my cloud drive. “Alexa, compare the sketch I made to any known constellations recorded.” “Sure, no problem.” She says cheerily. Barely a few seconds pass before she is back. “This drawing best matches with a known constellation called Cassiopeia.” My brows go up at the mention of the constellation, I’ve never heard of this before. “Alexa, what is the mythology behind Cassiopeia?” A pause. “Cassiopeia was known as the wife of the king Cepheus, which is represented by the constellation Cepheus next to Cassiopeia. In mythology, she boasted that her beauty far surpassed that of the Nereids or the sea nymphs that were fathered by the Titan Nereus. Angered by her bold statements, the nymphs appealed to Poseidon, the god of the sea to punish Cassiopeia for her words. Poseidon was married to one of the nymphs, Amphitrite, and so he obliged and sent out Cetus, also known as the whale, to decimate Cepheus’s kingdom. Cepheus turned to an oracle for help, and the oracle revealed that in order to please the angered god, they must sacrifice their daughter, Andromeda to the sea monster. Andromeda was saved at the last moment by Perseus, a Greek hero that happened to be traveling that way. After saving her life, the two became engaged. At their wedding, one of Andromeda’s suitors named Phineus appeared and claimed that he was the only one who had the right to marry her. There was a great battle, in which Perseus was gravely outnumbered. In desperation, he used the head of Medusa, a monster that he had recently slain to defeat his enemies. For you see, one look at the beast’s head turned the viewer into stone. Unfortunately, in the chaos the king and queen both died gazing upon the head. Poseidon then placed both the queen and the king in the night’s sky. Cassiopeia was condemned to circle the celestial pole and spend half of the year upside down as punishment for her vanity. She is usually shown as sitting on her throne, combing her hair.” 

Upside down, I muse. That’s what is throwing me off. There was something else bugging me about this, but I can’t figure out what. What did an ancient fairy tale have to do with the game? I don’t even bother glancing at the time, I knew it had to have been close to five in the morning. It wouldn’t be long before I would lose every advantage I have with Eric choosing to sleep tonight. Maybe I should just play the game instead of messing with a stupid title screen. Maybe it was just some artistic flair the developers decided to add to do something different. That was a more popularized trend these days, finding a way to really stand out from the others. Games were often portrayed as fully immersive and real life. Especially first person shooters. They were beloved by people because it was something that they could use to get away from real life. It was a way to finally become that action hero that saves the world and is adored. It wasn’t just that way with first person shooters. Many people could live out dating sims, survival horror, pop idols─ you name it, it could be simulated in a way that was exactly like real life. Somewhere along the line, people traded their own dull lives for living in an online adventure. Who honestly wouldn’t? Compared to what was actually available in the real world, why would you even second guess? It isn’t entirely present now, but it’s getting there. Soon, any and all social events will be converted to online and no one will have a need to come face to face with each other. At least, for the next year. 

What was interesting about what Lunar Lander was doing, was that no one had used the pixelated graphics like this except for nearly fifty years ago when there was a revival of the old pixelated games. This is the reason why it was so different, and why I was so hung up on an opening screen. With it being a huge point of debate on all of the online forums only strengthens what I originally thought. I pull up the Phantom forums, including the sites that are most known for helping others. We’re talking the sites that you have to click on several different links and read through thousands of comments to find. Usually only the most popular votes appeared at the top, but you have to do some digging if you are going to find what you need to. Almost all of the sites I pull up are huge disappointments. Since the competition was announced people have either removed their comments, or moderators have in the spirit of the game. This meant that not only did Eric probably know more than me, he also had gotten to see all of the clues on the message boards. Not only him, but potentially thousands of others that had read the comments before me. My heart sinks as I think about not only the people that saw them, but the moderators. How much do they know? The trail was going to be completely cold on all of the major sites that much I know. I need more time to think. It’s like the world has pulled the rug out from beneath me and I know I’m about to fall, but I’m protecting myself along the way to prevent too much damage. 

It’s seven a.m. when I spot it. I’m literally at the end of my rope, and nearly about to give up when I find my first real clue in one of the most unlikely places. It’s a single comment in a child’s game forum. The game is called Mini-Game Haven and it’s a collection of all the puzzle games ever created within every game ever made in recorded history. Its sole purpose was to let kids play just the mini-games if they didn’t want to play the actual games themselves. Everyone else is discussing how to defeat Medusa in the third mini-game of Pantheon. Pantheon is a game in which you played out all of the Greek or Roman gods’ stories and how I actually remembered learning ancient history in one of my specialty courses. All of them were comments geared toward how to defeat her, except for the one comment about two-thirds of the way down the main page. I’m laughing at myself for actually believing this person, especially since the user’s name is uncle strawberry. I stare at the sentence, trying to scrutinize if it is legit or not. No one in the forum has caught on to what they are saying because it actually has nothing to do with the mini-game. It even has several down votes and people calling him an idiot. The comment reads, “For you see, one look at the beast’s head turned the viewer into stone.” There is a line break and then it is an asci picture of the upside down constellation of the woman. She looks the same except for one difference, there are a series of points on the top of her head. I take a screenshot and then pull up the story. The others on the forum might not be aware of what this is, or how much this is actually worth, but I am. This has got to be a clue, or one of the most well-placed troll comments I’ve ever seen. I scan the few lines of text and then compare it to the information that Alexa has gotten for me. I scan through the fairy tale and then pause halfway through. Cassiopeia was defeated by Medusa’s head which is what caused her to ultimately die and be placed in the night’s sky as punishment. I lean back and look at the art again, then back to the information. What was it I was missing? What in the blue hell did this have to do with the game? I thought on what I actually had revealed with the game. 

Lunar Lander had not only done something different with the main access page and credits, they also had done something that was unprecedented. They had done something that would have caused most major gaming companies to lose all of the money they actually put into their game and tank horribly. No one actually knew what the game was about. The trailers, were simply of the developers and the designers talking about how it was going to be something that changed the way the world played games. That’s why so many people found it intriguing. How could you expect to actually gain a following if people didn’t know what it was about? Yet somehow, it had the complete opposite effect. The game had an unholy amount of people that downloaded it, and the game forums had blown up talking about what they knew. Until yesterday when everything was removed. Here’s what I do know from what I’ve played: The main character, Victor Credence wakes up in a single cell room with no lights, no running water, and what appears to be a completely sealed room. He remembers his name, but little else. Sure, it sounds like every dumb action or mystery trope everywhere but this one feels different. Not only are you able to be fully immersed in the world, you could actually feel yourself crawling through spaces, smell the stale air, and hear the rats scuffling through the spaces and the soft murmur of the men. You have no other information than that, just a name. I have no idea how it manages to make me actually smell what the main character does, because my headset isn’t even capable of doing that. Part of me thinks that it must be lighting up the sections of my brain that causes smelling and that it is just creating the illusion that I am there when the character remarks about the smells. 

There is a co-op version, but you have to play through the beginning solo and then you are able to meet up with the other players. But that was only in the player versus player arenas. The main story mode had to be played single player. The first part of the game didn’t leave you with much. All you literally had to figure out how to exit the room was the clothes on your back. I could hear muffled talking on the other side of the walls, so I had known that there was a way out. Banging on the walls only resulted in a slat opening and a single dart shooting through. This was a completely frustrating in-game time out. I had been locked out for twenty minutes until my character ‘woke up’ and I could try again. After figuring out that drawing attention to myself was not the way to go, I started really looking at the space that I was in. The entire room appeared to be made from an extremely durable plastic that was bonded with some sort of thick resin. When I knocked on the hard surface, the sound came out muffled. After nearly an hour of being stumped and several minutes of me cussing out the walls, a thought occurred to my dumbass. In hindsight, I gave myself tons of shit for not thinking of it beforehand and losing my cool like an idiot. The room would need a ventilation system. I wouldn’t need to leave this room for anything other than the restroom, but this was a game and bodily functions were never taken into account in the digital world. Since it was a game that meant it was probably going to be something outlandish. Instead of pace the room like I was doing, I decided to sit on the floor and close my eyes. At first, I was just a jackass sitting in the middle of the floor in a game. After several seconds though, there was a distinct sound to my left and just behind me where a window might be in an actual jail cell. As soon as I stood, it went away. When I walked over to where I had heard the noise, nothing happened. Frustrated, I sat down and closed my eyes again. There it was. It was now coming from my right since I had switched myself around the face the area I had first heard it. When I stood again and it ceased, I knew that it must be something I would have to view from the ground, or that I was activating it by placing pressure on the floor. I literally scooted my ass along the floor toward the sound and then broke into a smile. It had gotten louder and now I could feel it brushing against my skin. 

Point is, after several more wasted minutes I figured out that the breeze was coming from a weak area in the back of the cell near the floor. When I’d finally managed to remove a hunk large enough to dig at the rest of the wall and pull myself free─ I was met with a new problem. The cell was part of many other cells that were suspended over a drop. A very large drop. The kind that you knew if you fell, there wasn’t going to be much of you left. My hands had instantly got sweaty looking down at it and I had to tuck my head back in to relax and take a deep breath. So the traditional ‘dropping down some ventilation shaft trope’ was a no-go. It took many more hours, but I had finally found out that my character had something called a stamina meter which appeared any time I had to climb, or exert myself. Given that there wasn’t much in my cell implied that my character was probably weak from sitting and doing nothing, or just doing push-ups and sit-ups. That meant that I had little means to train myself for lifting my actual body weight. There were no bars, which meant if I had managed to work out I couldn’t strengthen my hands or fingers to grip. They really had taken everything into account with this game, the sheer amount of detail was insane. I had no way of knowing who was keeping me here, or how long I had until they came back, but the music was becoming increasingly foreboding which meant I probably had little time before they discovered what I had done. Whoever ‘they’ were. Shit, for all I knew I was a damn criminal trying to escape. Maybe I was the bad guy. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to get the hell out of there. After several failed attempts and having to go back to my cage, I finally found a small indention that was marked every two feet. The notches weren’t much, but it was enough for my fingers and toes to grasp onto. I was nearing the top when my cell started to move. There was a tremendous rush of air behind me and I snapped my neck around to see what was going on. Loud buzzers went off as a roar filled the enclosed space. I actually had to turn the volume down on my headset it was so loud. At first, it reminded me of a rushing train or the tornado simulations I’d heard but then I realized with growing dread what it actually was. Water, lots of it.

There was a groan, and then suddenly I was weightless. Terrified, I climbed the rest of the way to the top of the giant cube. The only thing I can think that kept me on top was the sheer terror of my grasping onto my hand controls as I gripped the cable at the top. Well, that and dumb luck. I smacked my head and jaw as the structure made contact with the water. The entire thing twisted and spun as the other cubes landed around it. Then, we were on the move yet again. Even though I was spinning violently, I somehow managed to hang on. I felt like I was one of those men riding a bull, one-handed and blindfolded. There was so much water splashing around me that I couldn’t even keep my eyes open. After several seconds of struggled to orient myself, I realized where I was heading. It was the only place that made sense since it was where the air had been rushing from. The dark room had quickly faded behind me as the blinding light charged in at an alarming rate. The cubes around me were funneled behind my own and it took a moment to realize that there were bumpers on either side of the room. I bent my head around at the open space and gasped. There was an entire city out there, one that I had never seen before. The lines of the buildings were so smooth, it was almost unrecognizable as a city at first but then I noticed the gleam from the light and realized it was a reflection. Only one thing in nature actually did that, and it was water. Those shapes were too geometric to occur in nature, which meant that it was definitely man-made. I managed to twist myself around while holding on to the cable as the bobbing subsided and the ride was starting to even out. Everything slowed as we neared the edge of the giant open doors. This was probably the next area we were supposed to travel toward, but I knew it was probably going to take quite some time to get to. Judging by how long it had taken me to get to this point, I knew that traveling to a city that appeared to be several miles out, wouldn’t be easy. We had slowed nearly to a crawl and I was just starting to relax─ but then, I looked down. The only thing I knew to say was a word that was repeated over and over again, the whole way down the waterfall. That word, was shit.     

That fall was so intense, I had nearly thrown up. Roller Coaster simulators had nothing on that drop. I’m not sure how the hell I managed it, but somehow my ass snapped into self-preservation mode and I had leapt over the side with the cable. I tumbled into bottom of the cube feet first and rolled to the opposite wall. The next thing I know, there is a huge crash as my cube hits the water. Now I know why the walls are so thick. Even though they are padded, every part of my body is singing in pain from crash. The cube topples a few times before it rights itself. Then it dawned on me, there must have been some sort of weight in the bottom of the cube to make it tip back. I was screaming like an idiot, whooping and laughing my head off when the next problem happened. In all my excitement to actually be alive, I’d forgotten two things: 


one, I was inside the cube that now had a hole in it and two, we were in water


As fast as the water rushed in, the color left from my face. Then I remembered the cable. The room was too small to gain enough leverage to get my way out, and the water was rushing in which meant I wouldn’t be able to have the strength to pull myself out. The current was my advantage here with the cable, it wouldn’t pull it from my hands. I needed to wait until it was mostly submerged and then pull my way through the space. The water had been icy cold that much I remember, and once it reached over my head, I had barely been able to feel my fingers. But I did it. I drug myself through the two and a half foot space. When I surfaced, epic music greeted me on the other side as I drug myself toward the tree-lined shore.


 Enter me, currently.


 This was where I had left off the first time that I had run through. I had been lying when I told him that I’d made it to the queen in the first part. The truth was, I had barely figured out how to get to the damn shore. I was only aware of the Night Queen because of all the forums online talking about the first big boss. The only reason I was second on the score charts, was because I hadn’t died yet. Apparently, each time you died it meant you had to work twice as hard to score higher points. Many of us had suspected that it was a way to also let the moderators grade us on our use of creativity. I’m not sure what I had done differently than the rest of them, but they must have liked something that I did.  


And here we are, back to me staring at these lines of text and an archaic way of drawing art on a computer. Ok, so a goddess placed in the night sky upside down and defeated by Medusa. Then a particular part of the text sticks out to me. Not a goddess, a queen. A queen placed in the night’s sky. “Alexa, give me all the names that Cassiopeia is known as.” “No problem,” she says, then, “Cassiopeia is also known as Queen of the Night’s Sky,” I ground my jaw in annoyance. Duh, I think sarcastically. “She is also known as Queen of the Night, and Night Queen.” My eyes grow wide as I make the connection. This was it, this was why it was placed on a random game forum. This beautiful person was giving us a clue on how to help with the Night Queen. The Night Queen was none other than Queen Cassiopeia and I had a huge clue on how to defeat her. I’m bouncing in my seat and clapping for joy when suddenly my alarm goes off. “Attention, tenant 10127, you have been online for eight hours. This is your daily reminder that you need to eat, use the restroom, and drink at least eight ounces of liquid. You also have not gotten in your four R.E.M. cycles, which is required to repair your body─” “Yes Alexa,” I interrupt. “I’m aware. Thank you for the warning, I will be fine for one day.” “Understood, however, your system is locked until you first complete these necessary tasks to ensure your survival.” I frown at the computer, “All of them? I can simply take a nap, right?” There is a slight pause. “You may take no less than a ninety minute nap to sustain normal bodily functions for the day.” I nod my head, “Yes ma’am, you’re the boss. I’m going to get up and stretch and do the other stuff.” “Understood, 10127.” Despite my grouchy-ness, I manage a smile as I stand, remove the headgear, and stretch. She was probably right. I get a whiff of my underarms and grimace. Yep, definitely needed a shower. My stomach growled loudly as I padded toward the kitchen. “Alright, alright, I get it,” I say patting my waist. I leaned down and pulled the door open, then remove a nutrition bar from the fridge. I quickly down it and a glass of water impatiently. The faster I got in a few hours of sleep, the faster I could get caught up to mister two million points.


I stripped off my clothes and stepped into the small shower, letting its heat massage my aching shoulders and neck. I really needed to invest in one of those fully immersive models, that way I didn’t have to sit uncomfortably for several hours. Which meant I could spend way longer than eight to twelve hours at the headset. The real problem was my damn body having actual needs. I didn’t even know Alexa monitored my sleep patterns, but it made sense. If bots were programmed to assist us that meant that they are going to remind us when our needs haven’t been met. My mind whirls with the possibilities from my earlier discovery. I might have figured out a clue on how to kill the night queen, but why was the comment there of all places? It could just be something as simple as someone didn’t want their comment deleted, so they placed it in a spot that no one would think to look. But that only raised more questions. If that is true, why would someone actually try to help other competitors if they are a competitor themselves? At this point, the entire US probably knew about the contest and with everything being pulled from online, even if someone wanted to help others they couldn’t. So why had this comment been spared? With all the search engines and bots that could have easily found it and deleted it, it was still there. Unless. Was it possible that this had been a clue planted by the Phantom creators themselves? Had Lunar Lander actually hidden this for someone to find? Then I think about how much trouble I had to go through to even enter the contest. This is absolutely something that they would do. I can’t believe it. I have found an official clue on how to beat the first boss. If that’s true, it is almost as if they wanted all of us to get to a certain point before the contest begins. The official orientation, much like the forms we are supposed to fill out, isn’t our interview. This was. 


“Alexa, wake me in exactly 90 minutes or when I have completed exactly one R.E.M. cycle.” “Affirmative,” she responds, “your alarm is set and I will be monitoring your sleep patterns.” “Thank you,” I say following it up with a big yawn. I’m more tired than I realize, but the motivation to find more in-game is strong. I crawl into bed and slip beneath the covers. Thank god it’s Saturday and I don’t have to worry about class until Monday morning. “You’re welcome, tenant 10127.” My mind wanders as I feel my mind slipping away. Despite my obvious need for rest, I can’t sleep until I ask it out loud. “Alexa?” “What can I do for you?” her soft reply comes. “Can you call me something different?” There is a brief pause as she pulls up a personalization bar on the wall. “Sure. What would you like me to refer to you as?” “Please, call me Hull.” I whisper. The letters appear on the wall, “Is this correct?” I look over at them, “Yes.”  “Confirmed. I will change this in all of your preferences and personalize your online experience.” “Thank you, that’s all.” I say. “Ok. Get some rest, Hull.” I only manage a nod before my eyes close and the world fades away. 


Holiday’s Confuse Me

Ever since I was a little girl, I could remember being wildly conflicted. I liked being near people, but interacting with them was exhausting.

The strange thing is, I can talk about anything and usually get along with others easily.

But to do it all the time? Brings a great weariness to my bones.

I used to stream 6 days a week. o.o Can you imagine? I think it’s for some people, but definitely not for me. I prefer the ‘record a show and post it afterward’ format. Engaging with people just wore. me. out.

Mostly, it’s the toll it takes on your soul and then somehow being ‘ready’ to be with your loved ones afterward. They got a half version of me. And gurrrrl─ the crankiness is real.

The holidays are a special sort of pressure for someone that is used to being alone for 8-10 months out of the year. My family has never really understood that and I get razzed over it constantly.

I’m mostly just a hermit, but I do occasionally like the company of others.

Sometimes. Maybe.

Ok, let’s be real─ I would probably build an empire of bots, order everything off of amazon, and cook for myself. (I just need those damn bots to be made for companionship, I’ve got everything else covered.)

I have this odd problem of understanding people’s life issues that sometimes make me seem─ cold or distant. When someone tells me an issue, I tend to offer them a solution. I hear that is a no-no, and have learned since then to pause before answering and ask if they would prefer comfort or to just listen vs. telling them what I think is the ‘correct solution.’

That isn’t to say that I don’t understand emotions, or that I lack those sorts of feelings─ I just can’t understand why people tend to stay in situations that make them unhappy.

I didn’t understand what they all got upset over when they got dumped. I guess I’m someone that has always found a brighter side to everything. Like, “oh well, at least I get more time to myself now─ win!” I offered this explanation once and was promptly told that normal people don’t work this way. I still to this day don’t understand why it’s upsetting to not be with someone who doesn’t want to be with me─ but, I can at least offer comfort to those that it does upset.

High school was fun, y’all.

My entire life has been this viewpoint:

  1. Presented with problem─ research problem, find solution. Excellent.
  2. Presented with emotional problem─ research problem, find several solutions, offer said solutions─ receive angry person?
  3. ???
  4. shitshitshit 
  5. panic and run away
  6. lock self away for several months until everyone has forgotten about it
  7. resume normal friendship
  8. excellent.

I had the same problem understanding girls in my life. I would hear them complain about certain shoes, or hairstyles, or clothes and I would say, “just…don’t wear them?”

Holidays to me are a giant weird blob of nope. 

I have to drive hours through an area I’m not familiar with to sit and listen to a side of the family that makes me want to tear my ears out. (I go because my dad would get sad if I didn’t) I stopped participating the the gift exchange years ago because the gifts for women always included some sort of horrendous body spray/lotion set, skin paint, or smelly wax. And not the good, clean scented smelly wax that you burn after you poop─ but an odd, mysterious musky scent that all older ladies seem to slather on everything they own.

Then, there’s the endless amount of questions which inevitably lead to the fact that I had a horrible, awful childhood with nothing remotely entertaining to talk about. (unless you count my interaction with other human beings.)

I still cannot understand why handing someone a gift card or money is viewed negatively. Alternatively, I do make things for people─ but there is that still-small voice that says, ‘you know, they could just buy what they want instead of you spending time and effort making something that collects dust.’

Yet every year I’m made to be part of this horrible ritual.

Until, recently.

The last few years my family grew further and further apart. I started realizing it just last year when the tiny little social creature that lives in a locked box of my subconscious peeked out and said, “it’s time.”

Which brings me to the next part of my level of fucked-up. Now that no one wanted to meet up, it made me recognize how much I miss being a part of─ well, anyone’s life.

My brain: “I like people, they real nice”

Also my brain: “I hope half the entire planet dies in a pile of shit and fire.”

I know, right?

So, I’m always stuck between absolutely feeling lonely and 100% do not want human contact like, 80% of the time.

I guess the weird and messed up point I’m trying to amble my way over to is this:

Don’t screw up relationships with people that tend to show they care for you. Also, no matter how crazy your family makes you, they still love you and choose to be a part of your life.

And for the love of all that is good, please stop texting that ex (or anyone) you never got over. If they aren’t in your life─ they don’t care. And neither should you.

Take it from someone that focused on all the wrong people for a majority of her life.

Love yourselves.

-Grey ❤







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, 



I reread it and then hit reply. 




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. 





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. 


The Watchmen – Part III – I’ve Tried to Warn People – A Horror 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.




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.