Monday, October 10, 2011

Excerpt from Deathly Compromise

* Reference last post prior to reading *

A young couple who had gotten into a car accident came storming in on gurneys in the middle of the night. I had long abandoned the magazine doodling and was elbow deep in vending machine cookie wrappers and sugar coma when the slamming of the doors and medical alarms rustled me up. Both the girl and guy were attached to oxygen and nurses began swarming them as they turned into separate rooms across from each other. Their invisible tethers called to me. For a moment, I hung in the middle of the hallway, my boots squeaking along the tile, watching the life unravel around me. I stepped into the man’s room first. The smell of iron hit my nose like a hammer and the desire for sleep completely dissipated. I watched patiently as the nurses worked in a circle around the doctor. The sound of clothes being ripped echoed in the room, and drops of blood seeped down from the surgical bed to the cold floor. I found myself licking my lips instinctually, and flicked my eyes back towards the man’s chest.

            When his shirt came off, and the deep gashes in his side and abdomen came to life from the oxygen exposure, I let out a small gasp.

            The crunch of bone gritted in the air.
            For once I didn’t feel queasy.
            I was transfixed.
            I was entranced.
            I was hungry.
            I was…smiling.

            I walked over to the man, getting a close up of the damage. Internal bleeding, collapsed lungs, broken hip and collarbone, and a heavy blow to the abdomen; not exactly an easy fix. I felt for the girl across the hall, but all I could see was silent life there. I could tell she was already stable. The call came through and it was for him. When it pulled me in, I stuck my arm out between two nurses, and reached for his abdomen drenched in blood. The blanket of images enveloped me, making me let out an exhalation of relief. When it was over, there was nothing but static and emptiness. I stared at my hand for the longest time, turning it from side to side, fascinated by the staining of A negative. The crimson glistened in the luminescent light, thick with iron and gloss. It felt extraordinary, the overcoming of rapture, so much so that I found myself putting my hand up to my mouth, and licking each finger one by one like a cat bathing its self after a messy dinner. As the clean up began, I walked into the hallway, vaguely aware of the residue left on my face and hand. I sat in a nearby chair and contemplated, waiting for normalcy to return. It was achingly slow, but I started to get a grasp of where I was again.

            It had been ages.

            This body was starting to fail me, or my mind was. I couldn’t tell anymore. The lights in the hall flickered, and it was then that I noticed the rain had finally come, smashing like a titan on the rooftops of the building. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rough Draft--A Deathly Compromise Prologue/Chapter 1

I hate Jell-O.

With the fiery passion of a thousand hells, I hate it. It's not quite dry, not quite wet, and goes down your throat like a cold worm. Actually, I've had my fair share of worms in past centuries, and they tasted quite pleasant compared to Jell-O. I can smell the syrupy concentrate from a mile away; its sickening sweetness stuck in my nose. Suffice to say that being around the concoction all the time makes my day pretty stressful.

But not as stressful as Mrs. Williams.
I'm looking at her across from the hospital bed, from the guest chair in the corner. I'm laying back, my black Chucks propped up on the edge of the bed, giving her an annoyed glare. She's giving it back to me, tenfold. Her breathing becomes labored every few minutes, but she tries to stay as relaxed as possible. I cock my eyebrow and crack my knuckles. Her eyelids close half way in a menacing manner, and I notice her hand beginning to clutch the trigger for the morphine drip. I sit up. "Don't you fucking dare," I tell her.

She coughs and I see a small smile creep in the corner of her lips.
"I swear to Hades, Millie, if you press that damn button..." She presses it. Of course she fucking would. I throw my hands up in exasperation. "I hope you enjoy that morphine, like really enjoy it, down to your toes." I stand up and grab my sunglasses off of the counter. "I'm tired of this wishy washy shit, Milly. This is my 26th time being in here with you and frankly, I'm getting tired of it. You either want to die or you don't. Next time you call on me, you better be ready." I put on my wayfarer sunglasses and grab my jacket off of the chair back. I subtly hear a whisper coming from her lips.

"You're horrid," she tells me with whatever voice she has left.

"And you're kind of a bitch. Leaving all your money to your lover, but leave your dog to your son? That's low, even for me."

I walk out of the room into the hospital hallway. I hear the hustle and bustle of nurses passing, the beeping of heart monitors, visitors laughing and crying, nervous feet shuffling in the waiting room. The rain is really coming down outside; the drops pounding on the room, and thunder clapping, static hitting the hairs on the back of my neck. I grab a cup of coffee from the waiting room as I go towards a window. I haven't needed the necessities of food or drink for quite some time, but I enjoy some good sustenance every now and then. It keeps things interesting. However, whoever made the coffee today should be flogged because it is just piss poor, even for me. I hear a baby cry in the waiting room down the hallway and I curse under my breath. Seriously? Important rule of thumb: Unless it's coming out of your uterus or it's sick, don't bring a baby in a hospital. And never on a plane if you can spare it. They can sense me, and it drives me absolutely bonkers. I cringe at the high pitch scream and leave the cup of coffee on the window sill. Luckily, a call for me comes and it interrupts the wailing. Mr. Flock in the next ward...hmm...didn't think it would be today. A girl's work is never done.

I walk into his room, and he looks at me skeptically. He looks at me up and down, still in pretty good shape of someone of his age. "You?" he asks, surprised like most people. Obviously, he's seen me out and about.

"Yeah, what'd you expect?"

"Well, white?"

"Sorry to disappoint, Flock. Darker hues are more my ammo. You ready?"

"You're not going to talk me through this?" He coughs.

"If you just had to deal with Milly Williams, you wouldn't want to talk to anyone...ever again. Trust me on this."

"What's with the glasses?"

"It's the fluorescents. Make me all sallow looking." I wave my hand in a carefree manner, but take off the glasses nonetheless. "Satisfied?"

"Better. At least you're fairly attractive."

With a slight curtsy, I quip, "I aim to please."

He gives me a smile, but furrows his eyebrows in obvious pain. "So how does this work?" he asks, all humor aside.

"Well, I touch you and you pretty much fall asleep. You a Christian?"


"Phew, makes things easier. Okay, well...It all kind of feels like a dream. Whatever heaven you want, it'll be planned out for you. It's pretty fucking wonderful." I pause with concern. "You didn't kill anyone did you?"


"Alright cool, then yes, it'll be pretty great. You're gonna have a blast. Do you have any family coming?"

"I didn't have any children. All the others have passed."

"Well they'll meet you there, then."

"Oh god, I hope the hell not."

"Alright then, boss. Now, I'm going to touch your hand, okay? It'll be quick, painless. Just concentrate on something you something?"

"My dog, Bart."

I cock an eyebrow at him, teasingly. "Whatever floats your boat, man."

I walk closer to him, and smile, genuinely. Despite the prerequisite, it's fulfilling to see someone pass so they no longer have to live in pain. I reach my hand out to him, and with just a light touch, I see his memories. Some sad, some happy; a life mostly filled with empty smiles and regrets. And lots of women. Whoa. The later the life, the faster the flashes, in one fast forward motion, until it all fades to a white flash, then darkness. The darkness was soothing, an eerie calm down in the pit of my stomach, like a hot chocolate on a winter night. His monitor drones down to its long, low pitched tone, and I disappear before his nurse comes in. I put the glasses back on and stuff my hands in my pockets. I pull out my mp3 player and slide the ear buds in my ears. I have some Beach Boys to listen to. It's only 9:00AM, and I'm not happy about my first passing. Why is it always the semi-cool ones that go first and the damn annoying ones that last forever? This era is kind of shitty.

I'm Death, by the way. Everyone calls me Dee. Well, those who see me anyway. I like desserts, classic pop, and rainy nights. I also like awesome car accidents and cataclysmic events. But I hate Jell-O. I really regret not being available to kill the bastard who invented it.
I first transferred to this particular hospital in Seattle about 30 years ago. The rain's not as bad as everyone makes it out to be, and while most days are actually quite beautiful, I prefer the rain. It keep people in, keeps them safe; leaves less work for me to do than the routine hospital patient. There are only so many rain induced car crashes I can deal with on a daily basis. Come on, keep things interesting for me.
I chose my body a couple of centuries ago. It's been pretty sustainable. She was some rebellious daughter that was arranged into a Spanish marriage and hung herself the night before the wedding. I can commend a woman for sticking to her guns. Every new body I choose comes with certain memories...I see hers from time to time, not to mention her nature and urges, but we're pretty alike so I've come to see this thing as home for a few more years. Also, I think I look pretty decent. Black hair, light eyes, cream skin...can't really beat it; chalk one up to the Spaniards.
There's a half moon shaped lounge that I'm laying out in, feet up, reading a Better Homes and Garden magazine. This thing is absolutely terrible. How do women read this stuff? All these ugly flower arrangements and gross salads? And since when did making salads become as complicated as making a normal entree? I throw the magazine across the couch, missing the table on purpose.
"Dee, for the love of God..."
My head turns and my eyes peer over the top of my sunglasses. Not a lot of people can visibly see me, let alone call me by name, but The Duke is one of those exceptions. I give him a smile. "What's up, Gramps?" I pick up another magazine.
"I know you're some unearthly being and whatnot, but can you at least behave yourself? Some of the nurses get spooked."
"'s a slow afternoon. They need something to do."
"No, that's what my job is for, and right now, you're making it harder."
The Duke, aka Vincent Jacobs, was one of the hospital janitors. He was tall, African American, in his late 60's and was diagnosed with a terminal illness several years ago. That doesn't stop him--he works his normal hours amidst others who work half ass--and has comes to terms with his illness and death, hence being able to see me. He's not afraid of me, and I admire that. When I get his call, it'll be a bittersweet day. I never call him by his name. He reminds me so much of Marion himself when I met with him in California, that I had to bestow that upon Vincent. He doesn't believe me most days, but he goes along with it. I abide to his request, and go pick up the magazine. "How you doing today?"
"Well, I'm not dead yet."
"Me and you...we're gonna have fun when you're ready."
"You gonna take me on a hot date?"
"You better believe it, buddy."
He laughs under his breath as he empties a trash can near me. I watch him closely. He has a couple of more wrinkles now than he did a few weeks ago. He sweats more easily. I can smell his blood...he's been indulging in desserts lately which has risen his glucose but keeps him happy. He senses me inspecting him. "You keep your vulture eyes off me, Reaper. I'm not your lunch." I ignore the insult.
"Fine, just lay off those snack cakes. You've packed on a couple." I hit my stomach for emphasis and he lightly smacks my arm with a rag. "Hang in there, Duke. It's going to be a good day, at least for you."
"You may want to stay away from the cancer ward, then."
I let out a load moan. "Don't even tell me. Jones?"
"In all his splendor."
"Fuck." I straighten the sunglasses on my face, and jump over the corner seat, slipping The Duke a high five on the way out.
By then, it was lunch time. I can smell the nurses' lunches heating up in the microwave and another pot of coffee brewing in the nearby waiting room. It's still raining but I could sense the sun wanting to peek out through the cloudy barriers. Somewhere nearby, a visitor has opened a window in a room and I can smell the Pacific air. I'm pretty sure a homeless guy has just pissed in the street below as well. I have headphones tightly in my ears and walk towards surgery. Surely someone wouldn't survive there. I hear the bustle of someone coming down the hall on a gurney. Just from looking at her as she passes by, I can tell what's wrong. I can hear broken bones grinding against each other, a collapsed lung struggling to breathe. I can smell the iron taste of O negative on my tongue. She's trying to say something, but clots of blood just form at the back of her throat. The nurses are rushing while I trail behind casually. I have 4 minutes until I help her depart, according to the call. They finally reach the operating room, and pull away the sheet. The girl's abdomen is ripped open, glass shards speckling the site like sprinkles on a cake. I suddenly feel really nauseated. I cover my mouth. "Seriously?!"
I retch in the hazardous waste disposal bin in the corner. Like, really barf beyond belief. I see traces of yesterday's red velvet cupcake amongst used needles and bloody surgical gloves. Awesome. I wipe my mouth and look over at the table again. Suck it up, Dee.
I glance at the clock. The girl is beginning to flat line, and while the surgeon is trying his best to put Humpty back together, the others are trying to resuscitate. I still have two minutes, but this shit needs to be over with. I walk over, take a deep breath, and grasp the girl's hand. The memories flash, then the darkness. The flat line continues until the surgeon calls it. I could get in trouble, but I honestly don't give a shit. That girl didn't have an angel hovering over me, telling me to back off, and that thing was just too vile to deal with for a prolonged period. I did the girl a favor. I walk out of the surgery room feeling like I need an inhaler. My glasses, hanging crooked on my head, slip off and fall to the floor. I go to grab them, but my fingers are met by another's. "Dee, fancy seeing you here."
Ugh, his voice is like nails on a chalkboard. He's a seemingly attractive, okay gorgeous, male. Tall, blond, muscular, the whole bit. My host's body longs for him, which is sickening. This girl needs better taste. He wears a casual linen suit, like some sort of lost Beatles member, and he's glowing with that smile that I want to cut off his face. "I'm here every day, dickhead."
He tsks-tsks me. "Woke up on the wrong side of the ethereal space?" He stuffs his hands in his pockets and casually follows me. Why must he always do this? He's like that little dog that nips at your heels when you're just innocently trying to check the mail, and you want to secretly see him get crushed by the garbage truck. Twice.
"I've only had two passings today. I'm just a little aggravated."
"Hmm, I guess life has taken its fair share today. I've had 6 savings."
I mocked his braggart statement. "Then you have plenty of other people to bother."
"I like to check on friends from time to time."
I stop in my tracks, my shoes letting out a loud squeak on the tile. I face him, angrily, and I can feel the smoke of every underworld rise in my chest. "Listen, Jones. I am not your friend. As much as I appreciate your contribution to this world, I'd much rather appreciate you from faaaaar away. Got it?"
He smiles and bows his head as if he was in a yoga class. "I shall leave you be, innocent Reaper." I grab his linen suit. My fingers clutching the material cause it to start burning it immediately to ash. At that moment, despite my tall stature, I feel myself grow up to his height, then towering over him. I can feel flakes of ash chipping off of my face.
"That's an insult, Miracle. If you can't appreciate another by their true form, then you have no business being on this plane of existence. I am Death. My reapers do my bidding, but I am here on my own behalf. Don't forget that." I let go of his jacket arm and watch the material return back to its smooth, untouched state.
"I meant no degradation, Dee. I sincerely apologize." While his face and slight smile reeked of sarcasm, his eyes were genuine. Mine were filled with fire. I really did detest this guy.
"Get out of my face, Jones. You know where to find me if you need me." I shrink back to my original form, and turn my back to him.
"Dee," he called before I could completely walk off. "I really would like for us to be friends. We've had countless centuries to fight...we are in the same cause despite the manner in which it happens, can't we at least agree on that?"
"Jones," I pause to think. Yes, we've known each other since...well...the beginning of time, but the fact that he was so....perfect made me absolutely sick. And yes, we were in the same cause--to relieve those of pain. But little did he know that while he thought he was practically a god, I had the real power. I let people leave this forsaken place for their utopia. Or hell, sometimes. That's all in their head, though. I just give them the ticket to ride. Everything else was karma, baby. I wipe my sunglasses on my shirt and place them back on my face. I smile and give him a casual military salute. "I'd rather suck a nut."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Father's Eyes

Soundtrack: Walk, Foo Fighters/Awake My Soul, Mumford & Sons

Alexia pulled up two houses away from his home and put the car in park. Her breath was shaky, and she gripped the steering wheel until her knuckles turned white and the leather began peeling off into her palms. A bead of sweat appeared on her hairline, but she kept her steady and looked to the house.

It was different now. The weeds had overcome more of the plants outside; the combination of lackadaisical keeping and the harsh summer sun. The house itself was the same: a fresh coat of mint green paint on the outside perhaps, newer gates by the porch door, different bed sheets hanging on the line by the garage, but still in the same corner where he always liked to hang them. There was a child's tricycle by the front door, faded in color with rusty pedals. On the corner of the roof's gutter, hung a glass wind chime in the shape of small frogs and butterflies. In the back, stood a homemade wooden pen where a few chickens clucked softly. The mailbox was now rusted with weather residue. The numbers had begun peeling off long time ago, and had just recently started to fade away.

A lot of things were fading away.

She bit the skin around her thumbnail excessively until she tasted blood in her mouth, but it was all she could do to stop the shaking. She debated with herself for minutes upon minutes, wrestling with the confrontation in her mind. It had been so long, and she didn't want to mess it up. She had so many questions for him.

Him. She couldn't even say his name. Not in her mind, not in her breath or her voice. Her bruised soul pushed it in the bottom of her heart long time ago.

The wind picked up and she heard the familiar squeak of the tricycle handle bars as they turned with the gust. She returned to that sound a mere 20 years ago, when she sat softly on the seat and looked up into his eyes. Those familiar hazel eyes that she wished she had, but she had gotten her mother's. She reached her hand out to his face, and he pretended to eat up her fingers. She squealed in delight as he then picked her up, tricycle and all, and put her on the driveway, determined to see her fly. She let out another loud squeal, and felt her hands on the back of the bike as he started pushing her lightly down the little hill and onto the sidewalk, never letting go. Not even for a moment. She closed her eyes, trying to force the memory into the back of her mind but only opening a Pandora's box of others.

Nights in the hammock cuddled up to his side.
Watching him in her grandfather's shop, sanding a long piece of wood, the smell of cedar and oak enveloping her senses.
Him giving her a juice box out of the truck before he left for his job.
Her calling out to him from her grandmother's green house as he left again.
And again.
And again.
Her mother crying and throwing a ring across the room.
Herself crying in the corner with a bear that she scribbled his name on, clutching it tightly to her chest as the batteries in its heart died.
The evident smell of cigarettes and alcohol on his breath and clothes.
The palm of his hand blocking her presence from his.
Meeting her "brother" for the first time.
Doors slamming with every possible tone until she could play them in her mind like a piano.
Coming back every other year to see him, feeling the discomfort grow as much as their distance.

Until he eventually forgot, though she never did.

She gripped the door handle, and gave every strength she had to open it. She put on her sunglasses and pushed her way out. The wind caught her hair like a false hope, and as she closed the car door, she heard the squeal. The squeal of a girl laughing uproariously from the joy of being free. She felt the patter in her heart, and for a moment she felt like her memories were projecting out to the horizon. A small girl, no older than four, running with her arms outstretched as if flying. She tripped in the grass, and for a second as she looked up, she caught Alexia's gaze. Alexia felt her soul leave her body as she saw her face. And His eyes, looking right into her. The girl smiled as she pulled a blade of grass out from the earth, and her gaze broke as someone else ran out to get her. Him.

He looked different too. Time had strained him. As did the weather and the drinks. But his voice had that same tone of promise and haphazard honesty. He picked her up and swung her around until she held onto his neck. They walked back towards the yard and in that quick moment, it was all over. Alexia pictured it so differently. She would storm up to his door, pound until the walls shook and the glass cracked, and begged for an explanation.

Why he left.
Why he chose the bottle, his friends, anything over her.
Why in all those years, he just didn't want to try.
Why he didn't want to care.
Why he cared so much for any other child except for her.
Why he couldn't find her. Couldn't recognize her. Couldn't notice her...even on an empty street with nothing but quiet houses, a bright red car, and a tall, grown up woman standing outside watching as her heart broke for the hundredth time.
Why he....couldn't love her.

And she would sob into his arms, knowing that he would not know what to do but to just hold her head on his shoulder and wait for it to pass so he could get on with this better life.

The picture dissipated. Alexia knew it couldn't and wouldn't happen that way, as much as she wished it. She felt a small, throbbing pain in her abdomen and looked down at her protruding belly. She rubbed it softly, smiling between the tears falling on either side of her face. Another hand met hers, and she looked up to see him. The man she fell in love with and loved her in return; who loved the life inside her even more. He wiped her tears, and put her head on his shoulder as she felt the summer wind die went down to a whisper. As the sun moved down, he led her back into the car and drove past the house for the final time.

She didn't look back. She looked towards the horizon and waved her arm outside of the window, catching the last of the wind like a wave. She put the other hand on her belly, and with the steadiest breath she had that afternoon, she wished for the baby to have her eyes.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Set Fire To The Rain

Soundtrack--"Set Fire To the Rain"/"Turning Tables" by Adele

A tall, young woman with light, brown hair and graceful eyes sat with impatience. Her fingers tapped on the cedar wood of the bar table. The lanterns glowed a soft gold on her face, and she pursed her lips in anticipation. She looked out the window and saw the gray clouds rolling in. Several visitors walked in the door. She stretched her neck, but her visitor had yet to arrive. Her name was Selene, and while she waited, she let others wait.

A young man, with dark hair and dark circles under his eyes, loosened his tie as he walked in the door. He sat on the piano bench and lightly touched the keys as he searched for something to play. He heard the rain begin to splash lightly on the window across from him. He remembered back to their first year and recalled when he embraced her on a park bridge while the autumn leaves fell. His name was Nathan, and he while he waited, he dreamed.

Selene glanced at her watch. Time went by, but the storm prevailed.
Nathan pulled out his phone to make a call.
Selene's phone began to ring. She glanced at his photo as it buzzed loudly on the table, interrupting her reverie. She glanced around her as if in guilt.
Nathan doesn't leave a message.

A lean, blond man, wearing a black coat and headphones in his ears, walked briskly across the cobblestone street, heading towards the bar. He hummed softly, with a smile seeping from his mouth. He was two blocks away when a raven-haired woman brushed his arm and gave him a smile. They began speaking in hushed tones and cheap laughter. His name was Alex, and while he dreamed, he let others wait.

Selene glanced at the time again, and swallowed her second drink. She rubbed her arm from the cold wafting in. She thought about their first meeting and how his blond hair and smile spoke to her immediately. They kissed by the end of the night. The next night, a storm of sheets and stolen promises.

Nathan thought of seeing her for the first time. Glowing in the light of his friend's bonfire, he made her laugh hysterically. He also made her spill her drink. He kissed her two days later. He made love to her a month after that. And as priceless pictures and overnight bags became abundant, she came with boxes and he gave her a ring.

Selene wells up with tears at the bar as she glances at her phone again. She ignores the missed call, and glances at the time. He was very late.

Alex softly tucked the woman's hair behind her ear, and as he pulled back, she placed a wrinkled paper note in his palm. His smile is contagious and she walks away enamored. As the rain began to fall, he folded his coat across his chest as she ran off in one direction, and he, his own.

The storm broke and the rain began to pour. Selene walked out and began running from the bar back to her home. She shaded her eyes from the incoming pelts.
Nathan began playing the piano again. There was a wedding photo on the mantle. The thunder boomed and lightning struck with a power of an orchestra.

Alex ran to the bar door and walked in the warmth of the crowd. He looked over the heads of people, but couldn't find her.

Selene felt the cold of the rain down her neck, as the sheets of rain came down like fire in front of her. The water on her face and tears were indistinguishable. She longed for the comfort of a man and his piano. The lightning struck, lighting up the sky like the beginning of the world. She stopped blind, unaware of her solitary location. Another flash abrupted, softer and quicker, this time from behind her.

Car lights.
The sounds of squealing tires, cracking glass, and several thuds atop metal and pavement.
Silence among ruin.
The puddles of rain begin forming in the interior of Selene's jacket amongst mangled, feminine limbs.

Alex leaves the bar; the collar of the jacket turned up from the bitterness, clutching the wrinkled piece of paper in his hand.

Nathan turned the cover on the piano, finishing his song in silence, with nothing but thunder beckoning for an encore. He tried her phone again.

Selene's phone began buzzing on the pavement, inches from her fingertips, glowing with Alex's smile, but slowly drowned from the rain and fused out like a whisper.