Into the Mystic

“Do you believe in magic? Not just in any magic, but the magic in a young girl’s heart, how the music can free her, whenever it starts? . . . I hope you do, because what follows is a story about the magical power of music, memory, and love.”

This was the prelude to the story Christy shared in October on Words for the Weekend. She and Cayman revived our beloved characters Sam and Dave, and suddenly, the story is taking on a life of its own. Jennie created Sam in the very first volume, and we have all fallen in love with her…and the journey.

If you need to get caught up, here are the stories from Jennie, Cayman, and Christy in order of publication.

Volume 16; The Day the World Went Away
Volume 43; It’s the End of the World as We Know It
Just Another Day: Signs, Memories, and Bob Marleys
Walking on a Blood Red Moon
The Long Way Home

 After reading Walking on a Blood Red Moon, I wanted to know more about Rebecca. What follows is my entry into the lovely madness.

*****

Into the Mystic

These mortal lullabies of pain
May bind a book, may line a box,
May serve to curl a maiden’s locks;
Or when a thousand moons shall wane

~~Lord Alfred Tennyson

I was supposed to be a doctor. Not your average Dr. Prick with a vacation home and a shitty bedside manner, but one who was going to save lives. You know, cure cancer, eliminate diabetes and abolish infant mortality.

Even by my unreachable standards, I was a badass. Ivy League sweaters had recruited me before I was out of high school, and I sprinted to Emory University with a full scholarship. The Marta was both a highway to Hell screaming away from a rough, roach-infested childhood, as well as the rail leading to dorm rooms and roommates with daddy issues. After the first semester, the white coats fast-tracked me, and I graduated from med school before my eighteenth birthday. I liked the shiny objects in the lab, and I could dissect a cadaver in my sleep. Like a junkie, I thrived on the adrenalin produced by thirty-six-hour shifts in the ER and a side-gig at the CDC.

The CDC is where I met Jimmy—we shared a hood and a Bunsen burner. Like me, he first-year gunner resident, but that’s where our similarities ended. He was confident, smart, and damned sexy. Larger than life, gregarious with an easy smile and dimples that knocked the sensible shoes off of my feet.

I was in love with him, but too chicken to tell. Love scared the shit of me. You know? And I didn’t want jinx the chemistry. My stomach lurched when his fingers knocked on mine, and I relished catching him map out every inch of my body during morning cardiology rounds. Yeah. Cheesy, like a bad zombie movie. I was a fucking idiot when it came to matters of the heart.

He made my gut hurt when he looked at me in a certain way. Expectant—like he imagined my belly big with his babies. I’m not denying having written his last name next to mine inside a borrowed Grey’s Anatomy textbook. Rebecca Du Maurier. I wanted his ring on my little green finger, but first, I had promises to keep. Cancer was not going to cure itself.

When in doubt, always know your way out.

I’d put on a chastity belt long ago. Not because I’m virtuous, God no! I was cautious and level-headed, but a crazy part of me worried that I’d burn in Hell if I broke that seal. Thou shalt not. Sure, I didn’t mind messing around a little, but it was difficult for me to maintain control when he touched me. During one of our “study sessions,” he peeled off his tee-shirt with such self-confidence that all I could do was stare, and then struggle to keep my perky parts covered. I shook like a stupid little girl, and he liked it.

But, I fought him (and me) and remained a technical virgin until the very end. And the end came too soon.

A woman with a commanding presence and a government badge tried to shoo us lab rats out before things got terrible. She was off to catch a plane, and suggested that we do the same, HICPAC practices be damned.

People scurried out of the air-sealed room leaving only Jimmy and myself. A virus was wiping out the population, and all I could think about was that I was never getting laid. (really?) He would never have the chance to know me. To know that I could have rocked his world. (I would have) That I’d never get to be his missus. (truth)

No matter how desperate the situation seems, time spent thinking clearly is never time wasted.

I left Jimmy slumped over in the isolation room. It sucked, but I had no time to dwell on the Alanis-ish irony. I emptied my backpack and filled it back up with matches, a scalpel, scissors, antibiotics, Neosporin, and a propane torch. I reviewed the discarded stack of books and weighed my options. I ditched Netter’s for Tennyson, and Lippincott’s for Bronte. If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.

Travel light.

A blur of days followed, and I prayed for amnesia. I couldn’t ditch the memory of Jimmy’s terrified, hazel eyes filling the rectangle of the PAPR face cover. He looked at me through the glass, plasma seeping from the lesions all over his body. His hands were splayed across the glass. Like that same bad movie, I matched my fingers to his, pretending that the two-inch barrier didn’t hinder our shared energy. He pleaded for me to leave, so I did. Like a chicken shit.

I grabbed the bag and mentally thanked the Romanesque rowing coach for moving me to the hammer spot mid-season. The training hours paid off as I sprinted through and around parked cars on I-85. Ha! The easiest I had ever been able to navigate through traffic leaving Peachtree at rush hour. The physical exertion provided enough morphine-like endorphins to block the pain of the previous twenty minutes. I didn’t take the time to see the viral effects on the people trapped in their cars. My life-saving innards left their cozy philanthropic cells while self-preservation pervaded every ounce of my lithe body.

Cardio.

At some point, I must have fallen asleep on that first night. Tucked in the underbrush, with an English teacher’s voice in my head.

“Do you know where the wicked go after death?”
“They go to hell.”
“And what is hell?” Can you tell me that?
“A pit full of fire.”
“And should you like to fall into that pit, be to be burned forever?”
“No sir.”“Then what must you do to avoid it?”
I deliberated a moment: my answer when it did come was objectionable. “I must keep in good health, and not die.”

The group I crossed paths with appeared trustworthy, at least at the outset. I liked Dave’s deep-set eyes, and my ancient soul stirred when he spoke to me. He let me lay beside him at night. He thought I was scared and cold, but I just wanted his man’s body next to mine. I have a degree in biochemistry and know the Voo Doo response a woman’s body has. Fucking oxytocin. He made me miss Jimmy. The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.

Dave waxed on about Buddha, but I could tell that his words belonged to someone else—someone decidedly feminine.  I heard his breath hitch when I flung my unruly hair around my head and pretended to strike a tree pose. It was my first attempt at levity after I’d abandoned Jimmy. Dave’s eyes saw me for a moment and then left to find something else.

Who was this woman? A wife? A lover? Whoever she was, she traipsed and hop-scotched through his nightmares. Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing. His lilting words and poetic descriptions of her reminded me of the government chick who had evacuated the CDC offices. Even with her fancy title and government clearance, she possessed the humility of someone who’d give you her world if it made yours better. Despite myself, I was jealous of her long and lean with legs that seemed to snake all the way to her eyeballs. Her laugh was a crescendo of notes accentuated by a look that would command a man to part the sea just to be between her legs. Would I have the chance to be old enough to feel comfortable in my skin?

I imagined Dave and his woman had a cute dog with a hippy name and danced in the kitchen. To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love. I bet she wore lipstick when she folded his laundry. I imagined her tree poses were real and that she had mastered the bakasana. She probably made him wait to take her to bed, and I respected her for that.

I almost asked him where she was, this Sam, the name that left his lips when he struggled against the dreams.  I didn’t want or need to know, even though he did. I could empathize–being driven crazy by the not knowing. But I knew where Jimmy was, where I left him, and the thought didn’t comfort me at all.

I was rifling through my bag when ratty pages of a Keats poem fell onto the ground. Rife between the Neosporin and Twinkies, Dave handed the folio to me and said, “Will you read it?” I recognized a look I was used to seeing on Jimmy’s face and obliged.

Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall

Keats could always take me to another place; it wasn’t long after that we were knee-deep in shit again. Dave tried to steer me away from the fire and the bikers who thought I looked like a sweet treat. Red hair was my life-long sorrow. Memories of my dad’s Vietnam era music rang in my ears as I struggled to maneuver through the brush. Over on the mountain, thunder magic spoke. Let the people know my wisdom. Fill the land with smoke.

It was useless, though. My trained legs were worthless with only Twinkie fuel in the tank, and I started to fall behind. Why the fuck were they wasting their bullets on us anyway? I was just about ready to dive into the clay when the ammunition hit its target—my heart. Another Morrisette moment.

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

From across the river, they watched me crumble as my eyes faded to black. Was it this dark or am I staring at the insides of my eyeballs? Misery racked my weary bones, but I couldn’t decipher the origination. My eyes fluttered open to find three little birds perched on the tree above me. The breeze kissed my face–warm waves interlaced with flecks of cold peppering my cheeks. God, I loved that sensation. Peaceful, enveloping, sensual. Jimmy used to make me close my eyes so he could run his lips over my eyelashes, and breathe into my hair. He’d press his forehead to mine, inhale and then whisper, “You smell like vanilla and chocolate.”

I cried, sobbed, retched–racked with guilt and longing. I ached to hear his voice again. To feel him take me in. I should have never left.

Then the calm returned, the little birds sang, and I snuggled into the bank—burrowed into what would be my forever home. The clay was malleable, familiar, and warm, and the timing was right. Hello, Love. I’m on my way.

We were borne before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won
As we sailed into the mystic

I don’t have to fear it and I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And together we will flow into the mystic
Come on, girl

Too late to stop now

*****

Playing off of what Jennie, Christy, and Cayman created, I left a few Easter eggs of my own. Did you find any along the way? Hint: Rebecca was a ravenous reader of the classics.

And, what would the next installation in the Zombie Apocalypse be without a playlist and a signature video?

Sending a heartfelt thank you to Christy and Cayman for inspiring me, and coaxing me out of my tightly wound, twined ball.

Bonus: Something wicked wonderful this way comes. Stay tuned.

Freak Shows and Firestorms

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via Pinterest

She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen the stars.

It must have been the first time her stepfather threw her to ground right outside the barn and pounded the innocence from her little body. She had fixed her eyes on the North Star while he clawed at her young body and ripped away the threadbare linen that was plastered against his sweat-drenched chest. His drunken smell and calloused hands had ruined the beauty of the star-soaked sky and she kept her eyes closed each time after that.

Even tonight, under the Milky Way, rage filled her heart as she plotted. She watched the red horizon crackle with a fiery blaze and knew they had to go before the dogs showed up.

If only the stock market hadn’t crashed and her daddy hadn’t died. If only her mama hadn’t married that man or been passed out when the circus came through town. Millie’s stepfather grabbed her by the hair, dragged her through the kitchen and out the door while her mama slept off the absinthe purchased with a day’s wages.

The manager licked his chops at the curves barely hidden by her best dress and knew that the novelty of one green eye and one blue would bring more sad saps to the after-midnight tent. He thrust two dollars into the stepfather’s hand and took Millie.

She spit at and slapped the men who filled the burlesque show. She didn’t dance and never smiled. It was after Millie grabbed a customer’s knife and held it to his balls that the manager banished her to clean animal pens. She slept on the ground outside the wagons and used the steady sound of the horses’ breathing to block out the noise–invasive, lecherous thoughts of the men who filled the peep-show tent.

One day, she stole away to see the gypsy who she’d seen hiding in the corners of the grounds.  Millie was drawn to her bright, blue eyes framed by the colorful scarves that hid her brilliant red hair. She felt a kindred soul in her sad spirit and wanted to know more than what the woman’s veiled thoughts revealed.

Millie sat across from her and offered the two cents she’d earned the day before. The gypsy looked at Millie’s pixie face and pushed the pennies back. Her skin prickled with goose bumps as she took Millie’s palm, “You know the hearts of men. You can hear their thoughts?” It was more a statement than a question.

The gypsy continued to move her fingers along Millie’s palm and bristled at the touch of her skin.

“Hatred ravages your body. What is wrong, little one?”

Millie snatched her hand away, looked the gypsy square in the eye and said, “Nothing! You are full of shit!”

Millie hopped up from the table and knew she needed to run. But, it was too late. Sadness and self-loathing emanated from the gypsy and traveled across the room in crimson threads to tangle with Millie’s thoughts before she had a chance to leave.  Millie stopped at the door, turned around and grabbed the gypsy’s face on either side and peered into her lightless eyes.

In that moment, Millie saw every abomination and crime that had been committed against the poor woman. Lost lover and child. The Depression and human slavery. In one vision, she saw the gypsy laying in pig slop looking up to the heavens while the circus manager defiled her over and over again.

“What’s your name?” Millie asked.

“Madame….”

“Your real name!” she spat.

“Dorothy.”

“Dorothy, pack a bag.”

Without question, the gypsy filled a satchel and grabbed Millie’s hand as if in a trance. Millie squeezed it warmly and they exited the wagon under the cover of night with one lantern between them.

Millie could hear his dirty thoughts as she sneaked around the perimeter of the manager’s living quarters. She nearly vomited in disgust at his perverted dreams and her body shook as she torched the entrance and set fire to each corner of his tent. Even if he had been able to wake from his drunken stupor, he wouldn’t be able to escape.

After they reached a safe distance, Millie grasped Dorothy’s hand and sent a message of love and kinship. They watched the blaze a moment longer, set their sites on the North Star and wordlessly planned a trip back  to visit Millie’s stepfather.

aphoto

via Pinterest

 

 

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Woo Wee! 748 words of devilish fun. Not one to write much from my dark side, it was a lesson in exploration. All of you flash fiction readers/experts feel free to fire away with suggestions and comments. I cared about these characters, but I have no idea if you did and it seems that the reader caring about the characters is the most important thing…no matter what the plot or circumstances.

For those new to Yeah Write, click on the icon to see this week’s challenge sentence and video prompt. You still have time to join!

Grow S&*t, Write S*+t

Until the day I die, I’ll never forget those glassy, unblinking eyes. Sizing up my hips and breasts with the look of remembrance where his experienced hands had been hours before.

Each time had me tasting the bitter good-bye in his hello kiss. His tongue telegraphed the warning message and I ignored it. As in the beginning, he flashed me the smile that never reached his eyes–eyes that always said so much and so little at the same time.

For the countless time in the last two years, he let me walk away and followed up with a text message the following morning while I was weeding my garden.

I always have a hangover after being with you

His words triggered the itch even though I was determined to stop the cycle. He was like nettle and I was tired of the prick.

Me, too. I’m going to disappear for awhile

Me, too
We can’t keep doing this

Augh. Really, bastard? You’re gonna say it again? But I hardened and resolved.

I’m just going to grow shit and write shit. You won’t hear from me

The conversation continued like it typically did. Both of us confessing remorse and promising to be better. All the while, I weeded and snatched and pulled and plowed the earth to make it whole. I took off my gloves only long enough to reply to each and every last nail he put in the coffin.

He finally ended it with a promise to love me forever (rain or shine) and said he prayed that I’d have a beautiful garden. I prayed that he’d have a beautiful life and meant it. He could always pull that last bit of harshness away and find my soft truth.

The garden that summer was a complete disaster. I nurtured, teased and tried to tickle life to the surface. The result was lifeless, pale-green and lackluster. Storms demolished the heirloom tomatoes, drought sucked the nutrients from the soil, and over-zealous weeding plucked out seedlings before they had a chance to grow.

Typical me. Fluttering, fixing and fucking up. Making mountains while they were still mole-hills. His memory continued to plague me though the vision of his cruel eyes were buried deep in my darkest places.

Places that only he had been.

ALBREC~1

How different would life be had I not glanced his way? Had I not reached out when his eyes spoke to me. Had I recognized the emptiness behind his allure. He didn’t even see it himself until we were too far in.

I never meant to hurt you

You are my one true love

The view of my gardens both sickened and delighted me. Flower and vegetable beds each bore a tribute to our “last” times together. Roses for the first sweet good-bye and pink peonies for an encore the following week. Daisies for a resolve to do better and an entire bed of zinnias when I caved again. We were each consumed by cocaine-laced kisses that devoured us and left a path of pain and regret in its wake.

Grow shit. Write shit.

It was all shit.  No words to feed the craving in my body and nothing that would grow in the wasteland I’d created.

Except for one patch.

A small section in the woodland where I’d carelessly thrown seeds of peppermint. Neglected and forgotten, the mint spread and flourished filling the air with a faint scent of recognition. Just as Hades intended when he created the persistent little plant.

In a flurry, I yanked out stems by the root hoping to contain the infiltration and keep it out of my failing corn patch. Each morning, new life appeared with more vigor until I couldn’t kill it any longer. I surrendered and laid in its bed of invasion. Wisps of peppermint circled my halo of hair and the cool, sticky leaves clung to my thighs. It was then that the phone vibrated and rang the tone reserved just for him.

Are you growing shit?

My fingers sketched the same expanse that his hands had navigated on my body the months before. Lines of regret, scars of passion and the memory of being full right before he emptied me again.