Thursday, February 27, 2020

California Dreamin

Dusk was falling as Liz revved the engine on the old Chevy Blazer around the bend of the I-8 heading up into the Laguna Mountains and the Border Patrol Checkpoint. Up ahead, near the sign warning about overheating was a newer looking Junjie Wagon. Its hood was up and she could see the back window of the station wagon was packed as full as a gypsy caravan. Steam wafted out from behind the hood that had a hand-written sign in Spanish, English, and Mandarin asking for help.

It wasn’t unusual for a car to need water when cruising up the mountains on the way to San Diego, but something about the scenario just tickled a nerve in Liz. The placement of the car and the sign was just too perfect. A man popped out of the Junjie and started waiving his hands. Liz moved her hand from the archaic MP3 player attached to the lanyard around her neck to the cannon that was holstered on her left hip. With a quick flick of her thumb, the safety was off and the  gun was loose from the holster.

Elvis came through on the earbuds.

There always seemed to be a pissing contest whenever she came into any town or checkpoint that was tucked away from a major sprawl like San Diego. The freaks always wanted to come out and prove something to the tourists. The only thing that it proved to Liz was how small their dicks were. They were just a bunch of assholes who didn’t understand that a maybe a girl just wanted to get a shower and eat a candy bar before getting some rack time.

The assholes never understood. They didn’t even bother to try. There was a time and a place for the hardcore playtime, whether it involved a swelling cock filling her up, knife and fist play, or a simple game of show-me-yours-and-I’ll-show-you-mine. She didn’t mind either or even all of them within the same night, but when just coming off the road from a long haul was not the time to play let's-poke-Lizzo.

Liz could feel her muscles tense. If this was a power play of some nature, she didn’t want to be caught with her big girl panties down. She wasn’t in the mood to be gang raped by a squad from either the Bing Kong Tong or the 14K Triad. She definitely didn’t want to be shipped up to San Francisco to become part of a performing act on stage. It just wasn’t going to happen.

Not again.

The grip of the PT145 felt comforting in her hand. The Asian who had gotten out of the Junjie was still trying to wave her over. The white tank top fitted him rather well. Liz hoped that the encounter wasn’t going to slip sideways. She wouldn’t mind a bit of the rough-and-tumble with the guy. He was slim, athletic and a ripe juicy piece of meat.

Liz let up on the gas and let the Chevy coast to a slower speed. The man flashed a brilliant smile that was too perfect. It had to have been sculpted in Los Angeles along with the rest of his body. Liz hit the brake and let the engine idle. A perfectly molded face along with two equally proportioned chocolate colored almond-shaped eyes came up to the passenger window with and smiled that scintillating smile that could only be bought in LA with two fistfuls of cash.

“Nǐhǎo,” the voice was laced with sweetness. The eye candy was starting to look like a good prospect, “Nǐ tīngdǒng ma?” Liz smiled her own crafted smile at the man and nodded. She understood all right. There was really only one reason that the Junjie was out on the side of the road. Liz shifted her weight making it easier for her to draw the Brazilian-made Taurus hand cannon.

“Nǐ qù shèngdìyàgē ma?” the honeyed voice asked. It wasn’t hard to guess that she was headed to San Diego. It was an educated guess on his part, it wasn’t brain surgery. Liz was getting that creepy feeling in the pit of her stomach. The flawlessly crafted Asian wasn’t coming over to her truck to play checkers. He wanted something more than a ride to San Diego.

Liz cocked her head sideways and looked into his eyes and nodded again. The doctor did a great job on him. He was just so piàoliang! It was going to be pitiful to mar the doctor’s work. Liz could feel the hammer beginning to drop but she didn’t know how many of the pretty boy’s friends were in the Junjie waiting for the signal. She tightened her grip on the handgun.

“Shì de.” Liz smiled at the pretty boy. The words tasted funny in her mouth. She hadn’t spoken Mandarin since she left Californian Republic of China. “Nǐ ne?” Liz brought herself into the game. The pretty boy wasn’t the only one who could play scorpion and frog.

“Hǎojíle!” the almond eyes widened as the word bolted out of his mouth loudly. Liz’s nerves switched from tickle to full awareness. That was the signal for the rest of his crew to come out of hiding. Liz heard more commotion from the Junjie. Three more sculpted Asian thugs jumped out of the wagon. Liz bit her lip as she locked eyes with the pretty boy at the passenger window of the Chevy – such a pity.

Things seemed to slow down, as they always did. The combination of training and tactical drugs rushing through her system allowed her encephala implants to slow the impulses being routed to her brain.

“Popcorn!” Liz blurted. She pulled out the Taurus and leveled at the pretty boy’s face in a swift motion. Her finger squeezed the trigger twice before she knew it. Duplicate holes appeared as the bullets ripped into the soft and beautiful face. There was a momentary confused look before he fell.

Loud ringing echoed Liz’s ears from the concussive blast. The earbuds protected her ears from some of the force, but they weren’t as good as the Caldwell clamshells she had packed in the back of the Chevy with the rest of her gear.

The body seemed to flay away from the side of the Chevy in slow motion. Liz watched the look of shock spread to terror and then change to the realization that his chi was no longer going to be contained within the fleshy vessel he had paid so much money for. It was no longer beautiful. It was now just a pretty piece of flesh for the bugs to eat. She’d have to wash the truck before entering the Border Patrol Checkpoint.

His blood, bones, and crafted flesh were the only things of value. He put it on the line for what he thought was a milk run. He thought it was going to be simple. It was always supposed to be simple. The gang didn’t count on Liz suspecting. She was just a guǐ lǎo in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was the ticket to pay for his LA looks. Either that, or to pay off a debt to the triads.

Blood leaked out of his braincase out onto the rocky shoulder of I-8.

The other skinjobs just watched as their face man fell onto the side of the road. It took a moment for them to understand just what had happened. They were expecting tourists from Mexico or Arizona. They were usually easy marks. Liz was another story. She had been trained by the Ghost Shadows after she had been smuggled out of the Californian Republic of China.

“Aiya!” one of them screamed. “Bùhǎo! Bùhǎo!” Liz could almost agree. It wasn’t going to be good for them. She learned well from her masters and these skinjobs weren’t trained as she was. They didn’t have the instincts or the reflexes it took to drop in and out of the shadowy underworlds of Phoenix Metro or El Paso del Juarez. They belonged on a runway somewhere. Vegas would have suited them. She could see the one she had to drop dancing there.

They were running a scam that was predictable and played out. Liz could tell by their shock that they weren’t all that smart, just petty. They were nothing but living dead men feeding on the scraps that were left to them. Now that she had found them, Liz wasn’t going to leave the skinjobs to keep on feasting on the folks that happened to run into them.

“It starts.” Liz felt the words come out of her mouth but couldn’t hear them clearly. She let her training take over as she began to ascertain the surroundings to find the terrain’s advantage.

Zombie number one looked at Liz and then the body of his friend and looked at her again. There was fear in his face. Liz spotted the NP-20 in the skinjob’s hand. The odd thought passed through Liz’s mind as to how the shuàigē acquired the Police Pistol. It passed, there was work to do.

The second one was rushing alongside the Junjie trying to hide behind the vehicle. It wasn’t going to work. She had him spotted on the passenger side huddling by the rear axle. She could almost smell their fear wafting off of them now.

“And, so goes my life.” The ringing was starting to subside. “Perfect.” Zombie number three seemed to be the only one with a brain. He was heading off in the direction of the checkpoint, towards the Chinese soldiers who were defending their border.

Asshole.

Liz jammed the gearshift and threw the Chevy into park. The truck lurched as the gear was engaged. Skinjob one flinched. Liz smiled the smile that the Hǎi Shān had given to her. Her flawless teeth and sculpted lips that were made to make men feel at ease peeled back into a snarl as the skinjob stared on.

Panic was in the man’s eyes. Fear was in his stance. He didn’t know whether to run or raise the pistol in his hand. As Liz watched, she could see the dark stain start to appear in his crotch and run down his right leg. She had him. His mind had shut down. The doe-eyed stare was pathetic.

“Popcorn!”

Two more shots echoed through the cab of the Chevy. The windshield spiderwebbed as the bullets went through the protective glass and into the skinjob’s central mass. A million cracks laced through the glass blocking Liz’s view, but she knew she acquired the target. His screams were enough to tell her that he was down.

Liz wrenched on the door handle and kicked the door open. Squinting against the shadows cast by the mountains, she could see zombie three running up the interstate. At least his flight instinct kicked in. Liz could almost respect that. She drew a bead on the runner.

“Popcorn!”

A quick double-tap from the Taurus exploded into the air and echoed through the canyon walls. In the distance, she saw the runner fall.

“Three down. One to go.”

Liz dropped her arm and marched around the idling Chevy. Zombie one was whimpering from the chest wound. She looked at him. His eyes were glossy and staring off into the distance. He was already lost. There was only one thing to do for a wounded animal. Liz ended his suffering with one shot.

White-hot pain ran through Liz’s arm causing her to drop the Taurus. Quickly scanning ahead she saw skinjob two’s head pop over the roof of the Junjie. This one had the fight reflex.

“Zhēnde!” Liz screamed through perfectly sculpted teeth. “Tā mā húndàn!” she swore. Liz couldn’t believe the luck that the skinjob had. She couldn’t feel the dull ache yet. It was still sharp from the entry and exit wounds that were in her forearm. Through-and-through, she noted. She touched the wound tentatively and immediately regretted it.

Liz pulled the lanyard holding her MP3 player over her head and gingerly put her left arm through the loop of the nylon knit cord. She held the MP3 player with her teeth and tightened the cinch around her arm. Liz knew it wasn’t the best tourniquet, but it would do in a pinch

For the first time in a long time Liz could feel tears welling up in her eyes. She could hear the zombie scrambling around behind the Junjie. He was banging the gun on the side of the car. Liz reeled from the pain lancing her brain from the wound that had fortunately just destroyed the meat between her ulna and radius.

“Tā mā!” his voice carried over the station wagon. “Stupid piece of dì léi! Nǐ míngbái nǐ sǐle, duì ba?” Liz smiled through the pain. Telling the skinjob that she was going to kill him brought a singular enjoyment.

“Gāisǐ de!” she heard from the other side of the Junjie. Her smile broadened. His pistol jammed. The mystery was solved. The pretty pieces of flesh bought defective handguns on the black market. Amateur move.

Despite the pain, Liz started laughing. It started in her belly and worked its way up to a full roar. Somehow, somewhere, she had paid in karma to turn the tables her way. The only fighter in the group had his one shot and he had missed the mark.

“I am your death little man!” Liz laughed. “I am one of the wúshēng shāshǒu, and I will end you.” She approached the Junjie.

The last skinjob stood up and threw the NP-20 down on the shoulder of the interstate. His perfect face couldn’t quite do angry. He tried, but it was just wrong. He hadn’t learned how to use the newly crafted muscles in his face to perform on that level. The man tried to scowl but it came across like he was retarded.

“Nǐ piányí de jìnǚ!” the pretty boy spat. Liz only flashed her million dollar smile at the skinjob.

“The hell I am!” She continued to walk over to the man who was trying so hard to be intimidating. His face was just so silly. The eyebrow ridge and forehead came too far down on his head and the curl of his lips made him drool a bit.

“We’re done here. Nǐ tīngdǒng ma?” Liz looked the man in the eye working hard to keep her face straight through the pain and the work of comedy standing in front of her. “You’ve lost and I’ve lost. We walk away from this. No more sixes and sevens.”

The man slowly looked at the carnage around him. Liz waited for the understanding to sink into the skinjob’s brain. It was a good thing that he had a nice package in his lunchbox and some skills in displaying his looks. He could still learn a thing or three from a modeling coach.

“Shì de,” he finally said, nodding to Liz.

Liz turned and walked over to where she dropped her Taurus on the asphalt, carefully avoiding the bodies on the road. She really didn’t want to go into the Border Patrol Checkpoint covered in blood. It was never an easy explanation. There were always questions. Right now, she didn’t have the credible answers to give to the officials.

She leaned against the front of the idling Chevy and watched the sky flame up as the dwindling sunlight reflected off of the Pacific. The fact of the matter was that Liz truly loved California. It was just the people that made it bad. Liz glanced over at the last member of the gang and nodded her head towards the checkpoint.

He nodded in understanding and started walking.

He was an asshole anyway. Liz looked around and sighed.

“Another day in the life. Living the shàngdì sǐle dream.” LIz holstered her pistol and crawled into the Chevy. The combat cocktail was still running through her system. The blood was coagulating already. With a grunt, she shifted the Chevy into gear and headed for the checkpoint.

The skinjob was still running up the road. She pulled alongside him. Liz waited for him to look at her. She kept pace with him until he stopped. Liz leaned over and opened the passenger door and flashed her sculpted smile.

“Nǐ qù shèngdìyàgē ma?” she asked him coyly. He would probably be fun in San Diego.

“Shì de,” he smiled back at her and climbed in. Between the both of them, they could make a believable story for the Border Patrol.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Another Night in the Souk

As I sit in the wake of time, I'm reminded of a story of a man that has yet to happen. The Marrakechi stands in an intersection of the Medina with a tea in one hand and a handful of dried figs in the other. Unbeknownst to him, his destiny is approaching from the west.

He stands watching the crowd and listening. Dyed wool hangs from rafters. Tourists stop and point. They are amazed at the bright colors and the use of space. Across the way, the Marrakechi sees a young troupe picking out marks in the crowd.

Life in the Souk has its patterns.

The troupe is made up of a woman with thick eyebrows and soft eyes and two men. A small stud with a diamond sits in the fold of her left nostril. The three have some Western attire, seemingly to appear more approachable. The woman has a brilliant and practiced smile. She wears a pink polo shirt and denim pants.

The more dominant man has wavy black hair and similar eyebrows to the woman. Their resemblance is strong. He wears a black T-shirt and loose cotton trousers. The night is going to be hot and he's picked his clothing deliberately. The white of his tagiyah matches his pants.

A younger man, the subordinate, also wears a tagiyah and off-white cotton trousers. His face is hidden with a thick beard. A brown shirt with a small Tommy Hilfiger flag on the lower right covers his chest. An intricate Henna is on his right hand in the shape of a peacock.

A young German couple approaches from one of the western footpaths leading into the Souk. Their eyes shift nervously as the instantly feel the pressure of the sights, sounds, and smells. The Marrakechi has seen their type before. They are looking for the Jemaa El-Fna.

These tourists want the legends of old Morroco. They want to see the snakes and taste the teas. They want to be imprinted with the scent of cinnamon and cardemom. They want to be a part of the everlasting Marrakech. It is no wonder that they are so very lost in the pathways.

The troupe of young criminals see the two tourists. The Marrakechi simply watches the scene unfold as he nibbles on a fig.

Pulling out her phone, the German girl says something unintelligible to her partner and points in the direction to the El-Fna. Her man shakes his head.

Here, the troupe's girl approaches the couple and speaks in broken German. She is full of smiles and dumurity. Little do the tourists know that she is the bait in a well-founded trap. Yes, Nosering knows the way to El-Fna, but the Germans may not get there without molestation.

Herr Tourist agrees to the help from Nosering. The Marrakechi knows it is a mistake. She take the hand of the Fraulein and weaves them through the throng of people. The two men follow behind at a distance. Bearded Peacock smiles and tries to hide it beneath his beard.

Swallowing the rest of the minted tea, the Marrakechi follows along. There are no plans to be a hero, but he does want to make sure that there is no bloodshed. Money is money, even in the Souk, but there's no need for extreme violence. There's no need to go overboard.

Other front-men outside of shops try to gain the attention of the German couple. They also know what's going on. The tourists want nothing to do with them. They are tired of haggling and being drawn into shops. They just want to get to the El-Fna and rest for a moment.

At night, it's hard to gauge where one might be if one is not familiar with the Souk. There are telltale landmarks, but the tourists are not going to know them. Nosering is still smiling and leading Fraulein Tourist by the hand through the many twists and turns.

Brother Eyebrows and Bearded Peacock are following a good pace behind, but they are not lost. They know where they are going. It is an alleyway with a dead end where they can corner the tourists and take their money. The Marrakechi keeps watch on the pair anxiously.

Up ahead, Nosering has lead the Germans off of the main path. The Marrakechi nervously pops another fig into his mouth and munches on it. Peacock has separated from Brother Eyebrows. There must be another way into the dead end alleyway. Herr Tourist smiles down at his girl.

Brother Eyebrows slips off of the main thoroughfare and fumbles for the knife sheathed at the small of his back. Few of the others in the Souk notice what is going on. The Marrakechi makes a silent prayer to Allah to grant him the strength to get through this trial.

Quickly pocketing the dried figs into a pocket, the Marrakechi hastens to catch up with Brother Eyebrows. The throng of people are pushing back against him. He is apparently going the wrong way in the stream. A man in front of a metalsmith's shop tries to grab him.

A stern look passes between the two and the front-man eases up on the Marrakechi's sleeve. There is no time look upon the wares. There is no time to talk of how the day is. There is no time to discover the wonder and artistry. Lives could be at stake. The Marrakechi rips his arm away.

Turning the corner, the Marrakechi sees the Bearded Peacock at the far end of the alley brandishing a large knife. Brother Eyebrows is opposite him and has blocked the tourists from leaving. He watches the rehearsed pleas of Nosering in rapid Arabic as she plays the victim.

The two Germans look to each other and then the men holding the knives. The fear on their faces change into something the Marrakechi has seen before on the many street toughs in the Souk. It is one of predators who have found what they need.

It is a lust for blood.

The change stars with the eyes. They glow in the darkness of the alleyway. Faces change into something resembling a jackal. Snouts elongate. Fangs grow.

Not so silent prayers of protection rattle off from both Brother Eyebrows and Bearded Peacock. Both stand fast in shock. They do not know what to make of this unholy magic.

The Marrakechi could only watch as Fraulein Tourist, now unknown beast, snapped at Nosering's throat. A crimson stain marrs the space between them as blood flows in the pulse of a fading heartbeat. Nosering's face begins to loose color quickly. Herr Tourist raises his head.

Bearded Peacock drops his knife and strats to run. The Fraulein Monster leaps as the Marrakechi never saw anyone leap before. A high arc takes her from Nosering onto the Bearded Peacock's back. Another quick snap and the young man is down. Blood soaks into the Tommy Hilfiger.

Herr Beast moves with alarming speed and collides with Brother Eyebrows. The once pristine trousers takes the stain of blood easily. The Marrakechi drops to his knees. There was no way that this nightmare could be happening. Three young people are now dead in the Souk.

This was not how it was supposed to be. There was to be no life's blood spilled. Money, only money was to change hands.  The violence was not to be. It was only for money, not for blood.

Low growls brought the Marrakechi back into the present. Here were the three of them.

Time seemed to slow as the two Germans launched upon him. He could see the blood on their faces and gore in their fangs. There was a glint in their eyes that spoke of happiness, satiation, and camaraderie. This was not the first murder for them, nor would it be their last.

The feel of his flesh ripping was a new expression in pain. He remembered trying to scream, but there was no sound. All that came out was a gurgling as the wind from his lungs pushed the blood of his throat out of the wound. Growling and fast chewing filled his ears.

The Marrakechi could feel the slowness starting in his heart. He could feel the flow of energy ebbing out of his body. It was being absorbed by the cobblestones and the monsters feasting upon him. He was being shaken by their passionate feeding frenzy.

He couldn't see the stars, but he knew they were there. He saw the hairless faces dyed in crimson. He saw the saffron-colored eyes. He could smell the coppery aroma of his blood. He could hear the hammer blows of the metalsmith from several shops away.

When the Marrakechi succumbed to the nothingness, life, and death, carried on. Merchants and hawkers were yelling out to passers-by. Monsters lurked through the streets as well, licking their chops.

It was another night in the Souk.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Christmas Socks

It is supposed to be about family. All of the stories have these amazing families. The classic, ‘A Christmas Carol,’ even ends with a family, two in fact, that have come together because of the magical change caused by the Christmas Spirits and a man understanding that he was an asshole. Christmas was supposed to be about seeing the change in people. The stories are about seeing what they can do when they reach deep inside and look at themselves. It was about sharing and developing that penultimate bonding of the human experience.

What a crock of shit.

Christmas shopping began on Thanksgiving Day. There were the lines. There were the people. There were the problems. Folks got bruised and bashed. Folks got trampled. Folks died. Happy Fucking Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas too! Yeah human spirit at its best, ain't it grand?

I remember a time when folks didn’t start to even think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving. Now, folks are lucky to not see Christmas creeping into the stores by Halloween. I remember shaking my head about it all before the guy in the black polo shirt came to ask me to leave the store.

Yeah, this kid asked me to leave.

The guy was maybe twenty. Twenty. Young kids trying to play grown-up, they didn’t even know the world around them. I had been on the streets longer than he was alive and he was asking me to leave. I couldn’t really blame the pup. He was young and dumb. ‘Just following orders,’ was something I had heard too much of that in the past.

“Can I at least pay for the socks?” I asked him. He didn’t know what to make of that. His face drained slightly and his mouth opened up. It was subtle. The average sheep in society wouldn’t notice the change. Me being out in the cold on the concrete or the in missions taught me to notice. Yeah.

“No. You’re going to have to leave.” The nervousness came through in his voice. He wouldn’t notice that for a few years though. He tried to stiffen up slightly to bring his overweight body and pear-shaped frame into a more intimidating stance. His feet and legs were angled. His pants were too long and didn’t fit well. I could have still taken him, but it wasn’t that cold outside yet and I wasn’t that desperate. I had already found a good squat and it was warm. There was no need to spend the night in jail. Besides, the kid didn’t deserve it.

I knew better than to linger and look at the Christmas décor. The PTB apparently thought I wasn’t fit for human consumption. I hadn’t much more than a spit bath in days and my dungarees were stained. They stunk a bit. I needed some new socks for the upcoming winter. Even in the Southwest, it gets cold and I wanted some new socks to keep my feet warm.

More to the point, the socks I had were a bit overripe. My feet were beginning to itch with that familiar feeling again. It was time to wash them and change my socks. It was what I was taught back then. Above all else, we were taught to remember our training when shit went sideways.

I left the store without incident. I knew who I was. They really didn’t. I knew I didn’t belong there specifically, but for all the shit I’ve done, I would have expected to be able to buy some socks. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but it stings every time. I shouldn’t let it, but it does.

Every.

Damn.

Time.

A little less than month later, I saw the crowds building. They started around five or six o’clock. Dusk was starting to set and the night was still on the warm side. Cars parked and people ushered themselves into a line. I could see the faces milling about in a line. It revolted me to see cherub-cheeks standing together in a show of solidarity in consumption.

They reminded me of a bunch of cattle.

I sat on the far side of the huge parking lot and watched the crowd gather. They were as brainwashed as those FNG’s that would come into Basic. This time though, the conflict was on American soil rather than in some God-forsaken desert or crumbled urban landscape. Nah, this time the enemy was wrapped in dollar signs, camouflaged in shiny paper patterned in bright colors, clad in Teflon, and slick with Snake-Oil. Who would have known that they still wanted to oil snakes?

They just lined up, waiting. I had seen lines like that. Mainly it was in Texas when livestock was being led to slaughter. In another world, it was for little women being pushed into a cargo container. Now, the populace, the future I helped defend was lining up to save money on things and gadgets that serve no other purpose but to exaggerate their own self-worth.

Cattle with ego.

Jean Shepherd had it right, we can never go home. In front of the store were hundreds of Ralphie’s looking for a way to get that damned B.B. Gun. In retrospect of the years, it had been the game all along. The long game was in deception. Make the populace want what you’re selling. Poison their minds and environment. It wasn’t changing the world through terraforming, it was social engineering, it was a hack. Change the things little by little until no one knows or remembers how it used to be.

The younger ones are just dancing to the music now. They don’t listen to the old ones anymore. We are useless to them because we don’t have a phone in our pocket or an internet page. We don’t exist on the grid anymore. We aren’t tracked by the NSA. We are just moving and surviving just outside of the daylight. One the edge of the shadows. No one wants to know what went on before. No one wants to see how we got here.

They just want their holiday. They don’t know the divinity of it anymore. Sure, they go to their churches and temples. They sing about the praise of God, but they don’t understand it anymore. They are caught up in the fencing and turnstiles. They don’t even know why they feel the need to buy anymore. The urge just seems to be ingrained and passed on like some sort of racial memory.

I got up and left the parking lot after the doors opened. The great cheers of, ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ being shouted out from the cattle were just too much. What were they thankful for? Was it the opportunity to deprive others of time with their families? Was it the opportunity to buy the love of someone? Was it just that they were no more than wide-eyed meat sacks?

All I knew was that if I didn’t leave, the security would find me sooner or later and I didn’t want to deal with another kid who was just following orders. He would be just another variant of the cattle in line at the department store. An unthinking golem that was made from the union of souls that should have been swallowed instead of leaked out on his momma’s thigh.

There was no heartwarming sight here. There was no sign of a George Bailey type struggling against all odds to find out exactly how worthy his life was. There was the herd of consumers rushing into a den of debauchery to get a savings of fifty dollars. No, the long game was to put us all in Pottersville.

The cattle thought they were free. It was pitiful. I picked up my pack and walked out of the scene. It made me sick to watch it. This was the true beginning of Christmas these days.

Marjorie Holmes was wrong. All roads do not lead to home at Christmastime. All roads lead to the merchant temples. They lead to the sales of candy, of fast-food, and beer. The roads lead to opening presents instead of hearts and eyes. The roads lead to an empty feeling of gratification that can only be filled by more and more things. The roads lead to an ever-hungry monstrous black fucking hole.

I looked back at the joyously gay crowd in front of the store and wondered what the men who reconstituted the Gospel of Matthew would think if they saw them under the harsh glow of fluorescent light here in the darkness. Would they have changed the line? Would it now be, ‘When they saw the doors opening and the baskets full, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy?’

And what of the Gospel according to Luke? There was no baby here wrapped in swaddling lying in a manger. There were only the parents and children who were being led by the nose thinking that they were hunting down the best game in the disguise of retail sales. They thought that they were linked to the hunters of their past. Nah, the hunters didn’t need to hunt anymore. Put out the ads in Thursday’s paper and they’ll come running.

Moo!

Yeah, Christmas had started that night. Soon the entire city was aglow with the new LED lights or ropes or too many damned snowmen. There wasn’t any snow. It didn’t stop the things from showing up. Oh yes, the secular and the religious alike put up their decorations.

Snowmen, Santas, frigid blow-up mechanical penguins that shook from electricity rather than the cold were out in force. It was a time of lights, a festival of color. It all meant nothing. It was a fucking smokescreen. It was the sham of all shams. I knew if I had walked up to any of those houses and asked to use the bathroom that I’d be turned down. After all, how can a stranger be trusted at Christmastime?

I know the churches and the missions would take me in. There may even be one or two folks in maybe three hundred that would even be bothered to notice me when I walked down the street. This was the nation that promoted peace on Earth and goodwill toward men? Goddamned zombies.

I know I have issues. I’ve been through too much, seen too much. I know that I’ve done despicable things in the name of the country and protecting freedom. I believed once. I thought I was making a difference. I thought I was saving the world. I was Jesus Christ, Tom Cruise, John Kennedy, John Wayne, Bruce Willis, and  Jason Stathem combined and packed into battle dress.

We were from different stock. We came from a different philosophy. Men like me, we had honor and knew what we were. We knew what we were before we were twisted by what we were made to go through. We knew what it was to have family. We knew what it was to spend time with them. Now, the country, the people, the innocent are twisted in a different way by this mockery. It’s like the song goes, “Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?”

On the first cold night, I was lucky enough to find a cot in a shelter. Some others weren’t so lucky. They had to keep moving or find a deep shadow somewhere to hide from the law. The smarter ones started up something to make sure that they could spend the night in jail instead of the cold. The next few nights, I wasn’t so lucky. It was frigid and my feet hurt.

If and when the people noticed me, I feel he disgust wafting off of them. The wave of hate was just as cold as the air. Where was the milk of human kindness that was supposed to be so present? Somewhere it had turned into soured mash that wasn’t even good to make whiskey. Somehow the meaning behind the stories had been forgotten. It was so much gloss on a polished boot. It was the shine on a new Butter-bar.

Yes, the choices I had made brought me to where I am. It didn’t mean I was scum. I had known bravery, honesty, and so many other things before the soul-wrenching twist I had endured. My own family didn’t understand. So many couldn’t understand what we had to do. So many didn’t understand why Christmas was so important.

Christmas.

Yeah.

The cattle had become as twisted on the inside as any of us that were exposed to the deep darkness. They didn’t know how it was to be on stage when all you wanted to do was either kick the shit out of someone or cry.

They couldn’t understand standing in the shiny new uniform, crisp and clean in front of a gathering of reporters while cameras stared on while a strand of ribbon and a star was hung on me. Yeah, look at me! I’m a fucking Christmas tree! I was decked out in white, black, blue, red, and gold. I was the finest specimen in that room. I was the epitome of the human condition. I had given of myself for no other reason other than I was asked.

Where is the reciprocity of dedication? Where is the feeling of appreciation? Where is the love for me and my brothers? It’s not in a box. It’s not in a stocking filled with meager treats. Better yet, where is the love that we’re supposed to have for one another?

Perhaps it’s on special at the Hallmark store. Maybe it’s at the bakery covered in Royal Icing. Maybe it’s in the Starbuck’s down the street, or maybe the other one down the block away from that one.

Oh yes, thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.

I don’t know exactly when I died out there in the cold. I remember bunking up against the side of a barn. I knew to stay out of the stables. God knows I didn’t need to get shot for trying to stay warm. I know my body was moved to a ditch and found after Christmas Day. I just remember my feet were cold and they hurt.

I never did get those damn socks.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Μάθε τον εαυτό σου

Slam Words 24
It was never planned, it just kind of happened. Lucius Ashcroft was always in the middle of the spontaneous happenstance. It was his cross to bear. The weirdness abounded whenever he walked through the world. It was this way from his earliest memories.

It was never a party. It was more like a walk through the strange and unusual. Cats would randomly stop and stare at him. They wouldn't hiss or arch their backs in fear. Their eyes wouldn't dilate. They would just stop and stare at him in feline curiosity.

Sometimes, one of the braver ones would approach him on the sidewalk and sit down blocking his path. No expectation. No jubilation. They would look up at him in silence. There was no purring. No rubbing against his legs. It was all in silence.

Lucius was annoyed with them. The frustration ran from the inside out. the interaction was often ill-timed and seemed to make him late. He'd sidestep the furry blockage only to have another set their furry rump down in front of him a few minutes later.

It got so bad during the summer of 2011 where Lucius began to carry around a lime green squirt gun to thwart the cats. A quick spritz and they would run off to where they came from. Still, he was late. Still, he wasn't over the moon in playing catch-up.

While at a New Year's Eve party in 2003, well before the celebration was supposed to begin, the Champagne uncorked itself. The sound of corks popping off filled the air some two hours early. Empty glasses clinked as bubbly liquid flowed onto the floor.

It was at the party when Lucius met Angelina Wills. Her mocha skin and bright smile made the night exponentially better, defying the odds that there would be another strange night. Her effervescence and eyes drew him in. Her bald head, a beautiful mystique.

She was in a little black dress that could fit into a clutch. It was as if she were wearing silken onyx. It moved and swayed with an unnatural rhythm. Lucius chalked it up to another weird moment, a strange confluence of his life. Angelina was the anomaly.

Angelina was able to seemingly find the patterns for Lucius. Personal milestones were reached despite the weirdness flowing into their lives. Lucius' tardiness reached the point where he was fired from the import firm just before sanctions were brought.

From Angelina's perspective, Lucius began to understand the weirdness a little better. It wasn't all confetti and cake, but it was better than wading through the series of wholly outlandish events in his life being oblivious. He began to embrace them.






Saturday, June 1, 2019

vss365a : Ancient

The ancient texts written on splints of wood were bound together with leather strips. Spider-like script told of what was to come to pass once the world warmed and the ice floes melted. The horror of what was to be released could not be named. Shan had to be ready.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

A Witch's Bargain

Richness.

Not monetarily, no. It is in melancholy and desperation. It is in loss and inability to hold the light. The movement is somber and wicked. It is a shroud that envelops me.

Yes, I am affluent in ash. I am abundant in self-antipathy.

I walk in shadow.

I seek the benevolent and healing hands of those who could once look upon me and still smile. They have passed into the lit realm of fancy. They have walked through the veil into the boundless sky where they can float freely. Penumbral responsibilities lay undone.

Countless shades and tasks keep me here. Mostly from my own ego. The copious amount of pride in walking the border between the knowing darkness and the unknowing light on the other side of the veil. I've made my home here. I retreat to it. It is my horrid comfort.

It was not always like this. This cornucopia of dread and insignificance was not as infinite as the moonless and cloud-filled night.

Once there was exuberance.

In the time before. In the time when I was I, and she was she. In the time with us there was song.

She was my foison, I her jocular hero.

We braved the highlands and the deep cairns. We ran rampant along the broken walls and deep fields of grass. It was a time of laughter and love. The stars were jealous.

Her hair was honeyed mead. Her eyes, bluebells.

We would gather the myriad of herbs and hunt the numerous game.  We built and farmed. We were shepherds of joy. We reaped happiness. We had want for little as we had each other. She, as wholesome has heather, soon lead me towards the path of fatherhood.

For six joyful winters the three of us were together. I taught the boy how to track and to work in stone. I taught the boy how to live.

Upon the seventh, a profuse blackness surrounded him. He had gone far and away off of the known paths. He went into the woods.

The bleak winds were not prosperous as he came out of the copse of trees. It was black and foul. It had the smell of magick and ill tidings. A murderous band of hooded crows had plentiful wings on that wicked wind. There was no doubt, a witch placed a mark on him.

Her wart-ridden hide came out of the forest behind him. She had a surfeit collection of souls around her twisted frame bound in teeth and wood. Her eyes chilled the air. I was thankful for her bargain in the end. To save him, I now walk in shadow, behind the veil.



Special thanks to those over at @Slam_Words for the prompts.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Punchline

Before, I was petty, less of a man
Roaming around in a hood, with a gun.
It was all about money and my wealth.
The acid changed me, molded by Batman.



Destiny came as my body healed up.
My mind, though, never the same. I began
To understand my new transformation.



I am the light to his dark bogeyman.
My ugliness is not a hidden pun
Behind a mask that's not good for my health.
No, because now I am the laughing man.