Explained: A character or thing must be lost.
- The entity or object in question does not want to be found.
- The object or entity in question is lost due to a theft.
- The object or entity is of great significance to a person/group with no hope of being found.
- The entity or object in question is found.
- The object or entity didn’t seem important until it was gone.
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Components required for casual entries: 1
I could hear my friends calling my name, looking for me. Good. I don’t want them to find me now, or ever. Glimpses of figures came in to view from where I kneeled, but no one was smart enough to look where I was. No one was ever smart enough to look where I was. It was routine to me now. These woods were my home, and they always have been. Only someone like me, someone who lived here most of their life and grew up here, could possibly find me. There was no one like that. Just me. The group consisted of three people. Two guys, and their respective girlfriends. I never bothered to remember their names, and they never thought to get mine. This is what has kept me safe all of these years. With no names to remember, there is no guilt weighing me down.
Four-hundred and Fifty one. That’s how many times I’ve played this trick on ignorant tourists. Of course, give or take a few. Counting the people I’ve brought in here hadn’t come to my mind until I was at a hundred an something. Their so called guide. How could they let their eyes leave me, even for a moment? Were they not supposed to be following me? Questions that would probably get answered in a few weeks, if they survived. If they were smart enough to realize that it was a lost cause. To survive, they cannot be spending their precious time looking for someone who doesn’t wish to be found. A fact that I would think was obvious since I haven’t returned to them.
The rain has started. Wait, no. Not rain, hail. Internally, I cringe at the thought. At least I was safe from the ice misses here. In my home. There was no doubt about it. Judging by their screams, they would be bruised, if not worse, if they couldn’t find shelter soon. Perhaps they already were? The tourists ran right passed me shouting something about finding the cabin. A soft chuckle escaped my lips. They wouldn’t get there soon enough.
One of them, it was the smarter one if I remembered correctly, shouted, “This tree blocks it pretty well. Let’s wait it out.” Yes, he would be the one to keep them alive, if only they could listen.
“Are you crazy? This could last for hours, and I’m hungry!” The dumber one shouted. Each girl just stood beside their mate (Was that what humans called it?) as if they were right. A small thought entered my mind, and it made me sick. To kill the dumber one to give the rest of them a chance. I had done it before, but it was a lose-lose situation. No matter what, someone would die, and it would be my fault.
They should be left alone to find their way themselves. Even the news warned tourists away from this place. Tales of this mysterious demon travelled quickly. No one wanted believe that the person to cause so much pain was a human, just like them. Exaggeration was something that came normal to these people, only because it made them seem less weak. To tell them the truth, that it had happened because you had chosen a native, a girl, as a guide, would be to appear weak. I never will understand these humans.
The smarter one stayed where he was standing, with no response. A stare-off had begun between him and the dumber one. They were testing each other. Who would give out first? The answer was clear to me. Dumby had a short temper, and that would cause him to look away first. Maybe that would save his life. No.
“Damn it!” Dumby yelped when a particularly large piece of ice landed on his head. That seemed to convince him, because he ran under the shelter of the large oak that Smarty had found. His mate was already there. Leaving his side during the stare-off had been a great decision for her. He would never question it.
A few hours had past, and the hail had stopped. Dumby immediately stood shouting, “Finally! We are going to find that blasted woman if it’s the last thing we do!”
Smarty shook his head, “No doubt she’s long gone by now. She probably took shelter from the hail.”
Smarty’s mate looked hopeful, “Maybe she’ll come back for us? We should stand here.”
With another shake of his head, Smarty dismissed that idea immediately. “We were looking for her for at least half an hour before the hail. She probably left us.” Smarty seemed to have a good sense of time out here. It was proof that his wilderness survival training had actually been good for him, and the group. That is what originally made me think of him as the smartest of the group.
“Then, what will we do?” Smarty’s mate asked. She may not have bee the sharpest one, but she wasn’t stupid either. They had to do something immediately to survive.
A small light bulb appeared over Smarty’s head as he pulled something out of his pocket, “ I forgot I had this with me. It says here that they had hired some rangers that could decipher smoke signals because of the lost tourists over the years.”
“So that’s why you spent all that money on the wilderness training!” His mate giggled. As if he were the smartest person in the world for doing that. It wasn’t a stupid decision, but I had a feeling she’d act the same way if he said that he just took a dump in the bushes.
Smarty seemed to soak in the glory that his mate was unabashedly pouring onto him, “Okay, we need to find some wet wood. That’ll release a lot of smoke. Lucky for up, it just hailed. We have a lot to choose from. I’ll be readying a place for us to start the fire. Did any one bring matches?” Smarty looked at Dumby, but I couldn’t remember why. Then it hit me. Dumby had pulled out a box of matches to light a cigarette earlier. An act that nearly scared me off. Without a word, Dumby pulled out said box and tossed it to him.
Their mates had already left for wood, and Dumby left to do the same thing. Smarty cleared a place and began creating one of those weird circles that I always saw people making fires in. It hadn’t taken long before the others came back with wood. After organizing the wood, Smarty started the fire and removed his jacket. This got interesting. I always wanted to know how humans make smoke signals. With practiced hands, Smarty put his jacket over the flame to block the smoke and released it. After several times, I saw a pattern. That’s what smoke signals were? Patterns in smoke? I figured that must have been right when I heard someone running towards the scene.
A ranger came out huffing for breath a smiled. “Thank the Lord. I thought that it was someone dying out here or something.”
Dumby shouted, “Not dying. Some dumb bitch just decided to bring us out here, and we lost her.”
That was my cue to leave. I silently stood up and walked in the opposite direction than the park ranger would take them. It would ruin the fun if I got found now.
I had never experienced such a feeling as this in my life. With every sharp, uneven breath I took, I was filled with a searing pain in my chest; it was nearly as if my ribcage had spontaneously fractured and pierced my lungs in the process. Tears mixed with agony and betrayal as I poured through my aching thoughts, trying ever so desperately to piece together why, of all things I'd lost, this had hurt so badly.
It wasn't because I'd fooled myself into thinking he'd loved me, I made the same mistake with my father before he left. It wasn't because I'd lost my closest friends. Growing up, I'd had the misfortune of experiencing this several times over. My peace if mind had been slowly slipping for a while now. Perhaps, it was the combination of so many things which made it so devastating. Perhaps, it was the fact that he has made losing all these things seem alright.
But now they had vanished, just as he had, with my strength and security in tow. He wasn't so much a thief as a tradesman. For everything he took, he left something in return: weakness, self-loathing, paranoia, hurt and lessons-learned. He even offered memories for what he didn't fully suceed in taking. For what must have been the tenth time that week, thus memory unraveled itself in my head as I clenched my eyes shut in a desperate attempt to cast this reel of memory out, but the hurt that was plaguing my head was demanding my body follow suit. In a matter if moments, I knew it would. The emotions were too strong and the wounds too fresh.
Because as intelligent as he was, he had never learned the meaning of the word "no.".
My body gave into my mind. It took control. I cried for help but my tongue was dumb with shock and pain and desperation were all that translated. My cry was transformed into the plea of a wounded animal, and I hoped the walls around me were thick enough to silence my resonating screams.
My body and mind were soon to tire and I was left gazing at a closet full of memories and purple I used to be. This limbo of childhood aspirations hidden in dust and a yellow ambience felt foreign, alien even.
I was not always this girl, I recalled as I thumbed through bags and cases of tangible memories which I had failed to treasure back when they were alive. But now that this childish bliss was gone, I was only able to cherish how wonderful it used to be.
Casting away tears, I left behind sad smiles and nostalgic apparitions. I retreated to the inviting warmth of my bed and concealed myself within her clothes. She was kind, even when the night-terrors weren't. I knew who I used to be, and her comforting manner reminded me of who I wanted to be. I didn't know how rough the journey would be, but I had an idea of how I could get there. But first, I would need to find what was true and what were well-crafted lies.
I had been lost for a while with no safety net. In my shame, I had unintentionally pushed any and all saviors away and it became apparent that I had transformed into a silent one-man army, waging wars against myself. I needed to find where I'd crash-landed, what path I remained stuck on.
Despite my doubts that I would ever be the same, that I would ever get back to where I once was, I knew I could grow. I night even change into something better. It could prove challenging, but I would take it one step at a time; and the first step to no longer being a lost girl was making the decision to move on, knowing that someday soon, I'd find my path.
I’ve been lost before. This time it was different. The gremlin stole me away in the middle of the night. Its cold slimy hands wrapped around me, the claws punched through my worn hide and abducted me from my warm and cozy spot under the bed. It was the perfect spot. I could whisper sweet dreams to little Joey as he slept. The gremlin didn’t like it when I whispered the good dreams. That’s why it took me.
I was stuffed through the mouse hole in the corner and dragged down between the walls. Nails reached out from the boards to rip at my fur and claim what they could keep of my stuffing as their prize. Not that it bothered me… much. I’ve been treated worse.
Joey did all sorts of terrifying things to me, but I loved him anyway. And I know he loved me too. We played war games mostly, I was Soldier Bear. I’ve been blown up, ran over, shot, mortally wounded, stabbed… on and on within the limitations of a small boys’ imagination. During the process of play warfare I have been ripped and torn… I was even decapitated once! I couldn’t count how many times I’ve been hurled from his second story window with a make-shift parachute made from old sheets which failed more often than not. Once, a limb caught the parachute and wouldn’t let go. I spent an entire summer stuck up in the live oak out in the back yard. Joey took shots at me with his BB gun, but the limb still held on. I still have some of the metal shot inside of me from when his aim was true.
The wind didn’t blow me down until well into winter when the limb had shed it leaves. The squirrels pointed and laughed at me, while I dangled there helpless. How humiliating. When I had finally become free, I spent three weeks captive by their Labrador, Duke, as his chew-toy. I was finally found, slobber soaked and filthy, and haphazardly tossed into the torture device named the washing machine. I pity their garments, drowned, tossed back and forth… and that dreaded spin cycle, oh the horrors! Once was enough for me.
My first owner, Joey’s elder sister Mary, was kind and gentle unlike that rambunctious child Joey. When I was with Mary, I had lots of friends and a warm place to sleep, I was Cuddly Bear then. There were tea parties and wonderful afternoons filled with make-believe time. There were unicorns and heroes (which I got to be sometimes!). Dragons and damsels, oh how I miss those days. If I had tear ducts, I would shed a tear in remembrance of those majestic magic filled days.
But here I am now, between the walls. Down those cruel claws dragged me. Down ever deeper into the darkness I go into the unknown where only the creepy crawlies reside. Tugging and pulling, unseen snags ripping at what little fur I have left, leaving a tuft here and there like the tattletale trail of breadcrumbs that Hansel and Gretel left. Only there is no one to find my trail of breadcrumbs. Will no hero come to save me? To what fate have I been left to? Is there no one come to my rescue? No, I don’t believe anyone will.
Where am I now? It‘s dark, and cold, I’m scared. Click… The sound came from above me. The gremlin dangled from a pull string that turned on the light. Swinging from the suspended light, the evil gremlin laughed as shadows cast by the dim solitary light bulb swirled around me. The creature’s laugh – much like a maniacal villain would in a bad movie, had nothing but evil intentions. It dropped down to stand before me, its slimy snot covered skin glistening in the swirling light. Drool oozed out of its mouth and dripped down from between his jagged teeth to puddle on the floor at my feet. With malicious glee the gremlin stabbed its razor sharp claws into my belly and ripped me open. My fluffy white insides exposed, the monster began to pull out my stuffing by the handfuls. He threw my fluff up into the air still laughing that low rumbling heinous laugh as it fell like snow.
I’m hollow now and alone. The cold concrete floor is littered with the remnants of my soft cuddly guts all around me. This is the end. It has to be, what worse could happen to me? I can feel the dark stillness of death starting to wrap its fingers around me and take its hold.
BAM… The gremlin returns. He slammed a metal bucket down next to my head. The creature examines the contents of the bucket lovingly. What’s in there? It examines me with black vile eyes. Defenseless, open, empty and supine I’m helpless before it. The gremlin plunges headfirst with both of its arms down into the bucket as deep as they will go. From the bucket, it pulls out armfuls of filthy detritus. All manner of foulness collected within the gremlins embrace. It drops the putrid mixture into me. Writing insects with venomous pincers, vermin droppings, rusty nails laced with tetanus, poisonous spiders, disease infested excrement, corroded jagged razorblades and heaven knows what else are stuffed inside the cavity of my body. The gremlin continues to cram me full of the putrid mixture until I’m ready to burst. It stops its incessant giggles for a moment to clear it throat of phlegm and then spews it inside of me, just for good measure. With a dull needle and spider webbing it sews me shut.
I can feel the evil inside of me growing. The creepy crawlies that replaced my insides writhed with cruel intent. The metal bits felt eager to draw blood. I wonder what blood tastes like. What am I thinking? What’s happening to me? Oh please, no… not this.
The gremlin has finished sewing me shut now. It dances around me, kicking at what remained of my fluffy insides scattered about the floor. Did I really have that soft crap inside of me? How pathetic. Roaches and worms, that was the good stuff, they brought life to me. Rotten and vile, but it was life.
Stand up. I tell my legs and they obey. Before I had to be manipulated by that spoiled brat Joey, I hate that kid. I can move on my own now. I will my arms to move. Where are you claws? I flex my paw, rusty nails and jagged bits of metal protrude. My claws, I have claws! Now I feel like a real bear, Nightmare Bear! My creator motions for me to follow him into the vent shaft. I follow. I like the darkness. Climbing, turning, and climbing more vent shafts he leads me to my old home. From behind a vent cover I look down between the grates to see a peaceful sleeping boy lying in bed, Joey. My master nods and smiles at me, showing those jagged fangs between its thin slimy lips. I know what to do, time to go to work.
He lifts the vent grates and I jump down onto Joey’s bed. A couple of stitches pop when I land on the bed and some of the creepy crawlies escape and wriggle away between Joey’s sheets. Slowly, softly I creep up to face him. I don’t want to wake him… not yet. I draw close to his ear and begin to whisper my first nightmare to him.
It seemed to get darker as the time went by. There wasn't much daylight left in the forgotten forest. Janice just couldn't help the fact that her eyes were glistening up with large tears as she silently whispered, "Mom."
How was she to survive another night by herself? The snow had already begun to set in and her fingers felt too cold to move them. The fog in the air became dense and heavy as she continued to walk on an unknown path.
The more she walked, the more she thought about the mistake she made by leaving home. Where was she to go? Who was going to come find her?
"Oh, my poor parents. How they must be worried. They wouldn't think to find me here."
She should have listened to her mom. Her mother was right, and she was wrong. Now Janice feels that she to blame for her mother's worries. Her selfishness got in the way and running away wasn't the answer.
"She loves me, and I didn't want to listen. I should have listened."
She didn't want to go on any longer. It's been three days. Three long days. How long could she go on? How long would she go on?
"It won't be much longer." She kept thinking to herself.
Her feet shuffled forward underneath her without commands. The snow crunched underneath and soon it became too slippery to freely walk. Each step she took either brought her closer or farther away from home.
She was in unfamiliar territory. The cold was aching in her bones. It wouldn't take long to die out here in the wilderness. "What reason did I have for coming out here? There was none. Just my arrogance and my selfishness."
"I could see it now. Mom crying for days thinking it was all her fault. Dad drinking his life away on the bottle because he lost his little princess. And of course Tommy, growing up without a sister. My family meant everything to me, and here I am throwing it all away."
Tears came rolling down her pink rosy cheeks. Tonight would be the worst for her, especially with the drop in temperature. Life has too much meaning for her to give up now. She has keep going and she mustn't give up.
Treading through the snow and climbing up the hill took so much energy that she didn't have. Every breath took felt as if sharp needles were poking the depths of her lungs.
The hill got ever steeper during the ascent. "Why hadn't I thought of this in the first place?" The top of the hill would provide a great view. She just had to keep thinking positive. The top of the hill was getting closer.
The night had already set in, and the full moon was shining in between the trees. What little light was there helped her on the journey home.
The clearing at the peak was in her grasp, and her eyes began to shimmer with hope she didn't have. The numbness was getting closer to the center of her body. "Just a few more steps," she hoarsely breathe out.
Just a few more steps.
Where do you travel when you’ve lost everything that means anything?
Although I can see the sleepy lights from my city on this hilltop, there is no home there. It was stripped of happiness long ago; only leaving humanity to be a hollow cave of morose memories. Citizens of such a place can’t help but feel the moon gaping down at on them in disdain for their ghastly actions upon one another. We’ve lost our sense of humanity and no one seems to realize that it’s gone. What could have made beautiful confliction lock itself tightly away inside ourselves?
Our economy was shattered, the government fell, and the world became lost. It’s been a few years since the Downfall, and seems that there’s no want to find the world again. I’m not exactly sure what unlocked the need inside me, but it’s smothered by sin. It’s writhing and screaming for supremacy in my darkened heart. This very notion is what plagues me from sleep on most nights and then coldly abandons me in the when I wake. My heart quickly hides my sense of humanity when I show my face to the sun for fear or seeming weak among the sharks. Here under the night sky, my stomach lurches at the remembrance of what our country has fallen to. Our men rape women on the streets, children ingest rotten foods from trash in the alleys, and our elders die with diseased and bloated stomachs; that is what we’ve become. I take a moment to scowl at my dirty fingers that I’ve laced together in my lap. My mother taught me to be thankful that I was male so that I would never have to know what it was like to be taken against my will.
Before the Downfall, my mother was a beautiful woman. Her curves were soft and her jawline was strong. She lived in fear of being taken against her will on the street, and vocalized this to me often. I try to remember her without the soot and grime of our new world, but all I can remember is how she looked before the day she died. Men had become her worst fear and she would shudder when I entered her presence. I was surprised how easily I knew what had happened to her, but yet I never said it aloud.
“Andy, I need your help…”
She groaned softly and padded towards me as she held her long, slender fingers tightly to her side. I looked into her face, but it seemed she wasn’t present in her body anymore. My mother was now hollow, her last bit of fire drained from her. It was obvious someone had taken her from me with the very act that she feared most of all. My heart stopped in my chest and I pulled her hands away from her shirt. Beneath the hem, blood clotted angrily in rough scrapes painting a blatant symbolism of how corrupt our world had become. Seeing my own mother be that way ruined me and made my heart become stone.
Thinking back on the situation, I know I should have screamed at the world, and shook my grimy fists to the sky in anguish. My mother had been a sweet woman and she had never looked at me or any other man the same after that day. She took her own life beside the trash cans in the alley outside our home. I know it’s blunt but that’s what happened; I found her curled into a ball, cold and rank from resting in rat feces. I suppose this is why I am on this hill pondering where the love has gone and why my heart has suddenly unlocked this urge to make everyone’s morals high again. Children were once loved and cherished, and women were high respected for the lives they were born to bear. The guilt of my mother’s lost life punched at me and began rolling my emotions around. This continued until I fell upon a solution I felt would be enough payment for myself. I’ll fight for what my mother never could and I will make up for what I didn’t do for her.
Rising from my haunches, I glanced around the area. I knew that leaving the city limits made me significantly more vulnerable, but it was peaceful out here when I needed to be alone in my thoughts. My newfound fire roared inside me, and nothing was to stop my mission. I would kill to keep the women and children protected. They would once again know what it was like to have full bellies and warm beds to dream in. I owed it to my mother to do this for the weak and it fueled me beyond words. I would find others like me; tired of being broken and starved and beaten. We will all rise and make this world safe for the innocent! We will--
A gunshot from nearby struck my ears and I paused. I felt a warm liquid travel its way down my chest and my tongue caught in my throat. A wound was drooling life from me and it seemed my body realized what was happening before I did. I ducked down and pulled my shirt off in haste. I began to apply pressure to the shot as I fought my shaking fingers. I knew I was losing too much blood when my organs groaned in protest of death. My earlier determinations became that of a scared boy once again, and I knew that this is how I would die. As if on cue, a shadow came upon my vulnerable figure and chuckled quietly. I felt the figure place their foot on my head and push me onto my back in the brush. I tried to protest the movement, but pain was the only answer for me. How ironic is it that this is what I get for trying to find humanity again? I felt warm fingers poke my jugular and then the presence was gone soon gone.
I guess they knew that life was over for me at this point, and that it was as meaningless as the wallet they took from my pocket. The brush around me seemed to curl up and surround me, as I tried to make out what my last image of life would be. I gave up and gazed at the night sky and tried to catch my breath.
Funny. The moon is laughing at me.
It was such a bizarre accident. Not something you would ever think to protect yourself against even with all the continual reminders of workplace safety plastered over every available surface in the warehouse where I worked. One moment I was walking down one of the wide aisles and six weeks later I woke up in a nursing home. I don’t remember the moments that led up to the accident, those are surely lost forever. I have seen the surveillance tapes that clearly show me at least 25 feet from the forklift taking a heavy pallet from a top rack. It turned too sharply and caught one of the roofing struts causing the ceiling to collapse and burying me beneath a mountain of debris. I am lucky to be alive.
I don’t know when I became aware that my mind was damaged. Those first few weeks the physical pain swamped every bit of my awareness and I spent much of it in a haze of narcotics. As my body healed though, I became aware that I often didn’t know what people were talking about. My kids knew that I had suffered from a brain injury, but it was a long time before I really understood. My whole life during that time felt like a huge million piece puzzle and I was only had a few incomplete sections.
It was clear that my children were very concerned about how little I remembered, but I can honestly tell you that it was probably the kindest thing that could have happened for my recovery. My life was lived entirely in the present, each step of the rehabilitation process the primary focus of my days without any memories of past experiences to color the excruciatingly slow and painful process.
It wasn’t until the time to go home was rapidly approaching that I found myself panicking about how little I actually remembered of my life. How can I explain how I felt about my children? I had only snatches of memories for each of my son and two daughters, but they were not exactly strangers. While I could recall only a few of those millions of experiences that made up our lives together, I did have a sense of who they were and sometimes when they sat and talked to me they would say something that would bring up feelings I knew were associated with memories I no longer owned. It was very disconnected, rushes of emotion that were no longer tied to the experiences that created them.
In preparation for my return home my kids brought in every family photograph they could get their hands on and would sit for hours explaining the contents of each picture. As time progressed I did realize that many of the memories were right there within my grasp and recoverable with very little effort, especially when they were clustered around certain periods of time, but some events and people were totally lost to me.
My father was a lovely man with dark black hair and piercing green eyes always accompanied by a slightly wicked little smile. I know this because I have seen many photographs of him. I took care of him every day for three years before his death while he was bed ridden. We were very close, but I have absolutely no memory of him. On the other hand, I have many memories of my mother who died when I was twelve. It makes no sense, but it is my reality. I know I loved him, and he was an important part of my life, but he is gone as surely as if he never existed.
My father was not the only man I lost. As we thumbed through photographs I saw many of me and a man. At first he was simply identified as Brian, but eventually they told me that he had been my fiancé and that he had died very suddenly about a year before my accident. While my kids were usually quick to point out every little detail of every photograph and every story attached to each in hopes of triggering a memory, the pictures of Brian brought only the slightest details and I sensed a reticence that confused me.
I’m not sure why of all those photographs, one of Brian caught in a moment of pure silliness, wearing a too small stocking cap, with crazy eyes and an every crazier smile, stuck in my mind. I thought of it often and wondered who was this person? What made him special?
I framed several of his pictures and sat them by my bed when I went home. My kids were not pleased. My youngest daughter finally admitted that the aftermath of Brian’s death had been so difficult and my depression so deep that she didn’t want me to even try to remember for fear that those painful emotions would set back my recovery. She is a very sweet young lady but even then I could not explain to her why I could not let it go.
I will admit that I became a bit obsessed with those pictures of Brian as the months passed. Some days I would sit for hours staring at them willing any little memory to surface, and only ended up with blinding headaches, but every so often some random little thing would happen and I would suddenly be so filled with love or grief I would certainly burst and fly away into a million little pieces. I called them phantom emotions, those feelings attached to memories that no longer existed, just like those phantom pains so many amputees suffer. They haunted me, those moments, the sense of loss so overwhelming I sometimes wasn’t sure I should have survived.
My son asked me one day why the loss of Brian was so much harder for me to accept than the loss of my own father. I don’t know the answer to that. I can only guess that those years of caring for my father at the end of his life must have prepared me for his loss in a way that I never had with Brian. Whatever the reason, I grieved deeply, for someone I might as well have never known.
Loss is a fact of life, and I’ve lost a lot. I’ve accepted every loss because really, what other choice did I have. I’ve gone on to rebuild those parts of my life that have been irrevocably changed into something resembling a whole person again, but sometimes in life there is that one final thing that breaks you. For me that loss was Brian.
Two weeks ago, on the one year anniversary of the accident I put away the pictures of Brian. I knew that I somehow had to find a way past this seemingly insurmountable hurdle. I loved Brian, and there will certainly always be those moments when those empty spots in my life, those holes in my memories, ache with an intensity I will never find the words to express, but I had to move on.
Last night I lay in bed and sobbed out the pain and loss onto my pillow, the T.V. drowning out the sounds so my kids wouldn’t know. As I drifted finally into a stuffy headed doze I heard something that echoed through my brain, magnifying with each echo. It was simple really, something I’m sure we’ve all heard at some time in our lives, the flip of the lid of one of those Zippo lighters, the inhaled lighting of a cigarette and then the snap as the lid closes…and in that moment doors flew open all along the corridors of my mind. Memories of Brian flowed like a raging river, filling every little empty part of me to overflowing. That simple little sound like a key turned in some hidden lock.
I loved Brian. He was funny and kind and brash. He could be uncouth but he could also be unbelievably tender. He loved nature and cartoons. He made me laugh every day. He was my opposite in so many important ways and yet we fit together perfectly. He loved me, ugly parts and all. He was and is and will always be simply unforgettable.
Eah is what they call me
E then Ah
Not like I have much history
Or a general idea-
Of who I am
What I do
Whether I give a damn
And wonder if you do to
My identity maybe a mystery
But its one I’m not compelled to find
As far I can see
Those who seem to know are blind
They rattle on about dreams they’re unsure of
Goals, wishes, and the like
That they are driven by love
But me; I fight
My enemy is unknown
It crawls and lingers towards my chest
Towards the heart I seemingly own
I can’t helped but feel stressed
But because I own nothing
I have something to acquire
Because I am something
I have something to desire
Whether I come across a memory of bygone days
Doesn’t really matter
Life is just a phase
That can easily shatter
From this moment on
I have no need for what isn’t needed
An identity isn’t something that can be spawned
It is seeded
I need no name or identification for others to address me
My life isn’t worth wasting over a lost id.
What had I done with it?
I had searched high and low
Clawed deep into darkness
And yet it remained
It seemed to move away from me
Always moving just out of
As if it wanted to stay
And although I could see It
Kept my eyes trained
Unblinking and unwavering
I never seemed to touch it
It was within sight, within grasp,
And just when I thought
It would always be Lost
It came to me
It curled within my grasp
Warm and trusting
Soft and sweet
John, who’d just finished a nighttime bowl of off brand cereal, watched in abject horror as the shadow-thing moved about his kitchen.
He was standing in the threshold dressed in a robe, empty cereal bowl in hand, blood chilling and scalp prickling. The thing stopped it’s rummaging, noticing its human observer.
A wicked grin spread across its face, showcasing rows of needle like teeth, “Hello John. We’ve been waiting for you.” As the thing spoke there was a soft creaking as from every cupboard, cabinet and drawer emerged little shadowy heads with little pointed teeth that grinned at John with dark and gleeful malice.
His heart plummeted; he knew instantly what the things were here for. This was day he had long feared.
His past had found him at long last.
“Where is she?”
A hissing laugh came from all corners of the kitchen.
“Sssshee was oh so tasty John. She is your toll, reparation of your many sins.”
“NO!” John screamed. The cupboards all slammed shut as he scrabbled for a kitchen knife. His hand gripped the blade, the thing tried to squirm past, John slashed at it, cutting deeply into the shadow.
Stinking black ichor gushed across his hands and shirt as the thing collapsed upon him. The shadow thing leaned forward and breathed foul vapor into John’s face. He gagged at the stench, “Where is she? Where is my wife?” He gripped the being’s shoulders shaking it as it collapsed to the floor wheezing.
The creature looked at John, confusedly, as if it couldn’t comprehend that it was dying. It’s lips worked wordlessly as it’s legs twitched spastically like a cockroach.
Suddenly the smaller creatures in the cupboard burst out. They screeched and hopped, tearing at John, who dropped the larger shadow-thing as he fled the house, swinging the knife wildly to fend off the shrieking darkness.
The things chased him down the street for several terrifying minutes and then without warning scampered off, chattering excitedly.
John stumbled as he watched them flee, breathing heavily in the chilled January air.
His socks soaked in the snow and his feet rapidly went numb as he heard something large moving down the road. He dove into some nearby bushes.
Several large gelatinous shadows squirmed past him; they pulsated with a sulfurous red glow as they crept up to his house. Smaller shadows detached themselves from the carriers and slithered into his home.
John sat motionless as he could in the chill, watching the shadows move and tear up his home.
He seethed with rage as he thought about their reprehensible and slimy fingers touching his things. His sorrow deepened as he thought of his beautiful wife in the clutches of those things. His despair flowed freely as the tears upon his cheeks as he considered his options. Such futile rage welled within him.
Suddenly he was aware of the sound of something drawing ragged and uneven breaths; he turned slightly. There crouched in the bushes staring intently at him was one of the shadow-things.
It screeched as it leapt at him, grappling for a dominant hold.
Quickly John was overwhelmed as the shadows from the house flock to him, they dragged him and beat him until he lost consciousness.
John awoke in a strange room, a single lightbulb burning from the high ceiling, seated at a steel table. He felt the welts and bruises from the shadow things but the creatures themselves were nowhere to be seen.
The door at the end of the room open and a man with a shiny badge walked in. His face grim.
“D-did you find my wife, officer?”
He paused, giving John an inscrutable look.
“It’s detective. Detective Kraus.”
Kraus looked at the folder in his hand, sucking on his teeth before slapping the folder down upon the table.
“Ah-yup, found your wife John. Found the neighbors too.”
John began to smile.
“The atonement of my sins, detective.”
Kraus crossed his arms.
John tried to stand up, only to realize his arms were pinned to his body by a white jacket and he was strapped to the chair.
“Why’d you do it John?”
“It wasn’t me!” John expected his voice to be heavy with outrage and emotion; instead it was punctuated by gouts of laughter.
Detective Kraus looked disgusted as he turned away from the insane man in the strait jacket. He shut the door of the interrogation room, blocking out the babbling laughter.
He ran his hands through his hair, blowing air from his nose in a forceful sigh.
He looked over at his partner.
“Guy’s lost his marbles.”
Blue eyes glared at her from the tree. Kristen, better known as Kris to her friends, placed her hands on her hips and glared right back at the fluffy calico cat.
"That is my mother's necklace, not a cat toy, and you'd better give it back right now!"
Kris knew it was kind of silly to yell at a cat, they didn't speak English far as she knew, but she was pretty helpless to do anything else, wasn't she?
With a huff, she tossed her school bag on the floor and hopped back a couple steps. Letting out a war cry, she launched herself at the tree and scrabbled up, feeling her palms meet rough bark. "Ha-HA!" She yelled triumphantly as she gripped a large branch and maneuvered herself up into the tree. "Now, come here you litt-" Kris broke off as the freakin cat jumped past her, landing primly on the grassy lawn.
It looked back at her, smugly, the golden locket still in it's jaws. With a toss of it's head, it sauntered away, tail held straight up. Kris made a strangled noise as she all but fell out of the tree.
She landed hard on her ankle, rolling as she went, and came up with a wince. "Well, great. Just great!" Taking a step, she found it tender, but not all that painful so she took off after the cat, scooping up her bag as she went.
Devil cat, as it was now dubbed, seemed to know it was being chased and picked up the pace. Round the park fence, over the tar of a street and through the legs of other pedestrians, Devil led her on a wild chase. Kris began to limp soon and swore as the cat ducked down a residential street. "You get back here right now!" She yelled as she skidded round the corner- and right into someone else.
Sprawling on the pavement, Kris moaned and sat up, rubbing the elbow she'd knocked on the way down. "What the?"
A hand appeared in front of her and she followed it's arm up to a smiling face, one dimple winking out at her. "Hey there, firecracker. I don't know where the fire is, but you look like you could use a hand up." Kris' mouth dropped open and she took his hand without thinking. He hauled her up and turned away.
Immediately, her hands went up to fix her bright red hair and when he turned back, Kris' hands were behind her, and she was smiling sweetly.
The smile turned into a scowl when she saw he was holding Devil in his arms. A purring Devil. "Let me guess," he said with a laugh in his voice. "This is yours?" He held up her mother's golden, heart shaped locket. She nodded. "He took it right out of my pack!" Devil meowed, as if to argue with her, and she glared at the cat.
He laughed again. "Sorry. He's always getting into other people's things." He set the cat down on the floor and it rubbed up against his jeans. "Here, let me help you." He lifted the necklace and clasped it gently around her neck. Their eyes met and Kris' heart skipped a beat as the locket fell into place on her chest, right over her heart.
"I'm Kris." She said quietly.
"I'm Josh." He answered, seeming unable to take his eyes from hers.
Two years later, they sent out the wedding invitations with a photo on the front: Devil the cat with a shining diamon ring in his mouth and a knowing look in his blue eyes.
'Twas the fifth when he stole it away
Her innocence, taking it without consent
For she wouldn't fall under his sway
Thus, in a drunken fit, he made sure that her virtue was spent
'Twas the tenth when she realized her mistake
And she would bawl at her sorry state
For her womanhood, it now did ache
When he would maul and desecrate
'Twas a year 'fore she met her end
Cause of wounds that would not mend
And none would help, for she had lost
Her innocence, not knowing the true cost
"How was it?" the voice of a young man inquired.
Two men stood by the side of a brook. The cool, grey water filled the scene with a natural ambience as it flowed on through the woods. A mist clung in the air, hiding the distance and stripping the world of color; the air was cold.
"That's not my place to tell you," the second man said, "but for you to find out for yourself." His clothes were plain, jeans and a solid red shirt, which took on a greyish tint in the mist. He had brown eyes, sharp eyebrows, a slender jaw, and looked in his thirties. He turned to his friend, whom was dressed sharply in a business suit, with hair trimmed close to the scalp and a clean shaven face. Both men shared a characteristic, in that they both looked incredibly ordinary.
The man in the suit leaned against a nearby tree, and closed his eyes as his friend sat by the brook. His name was John, the man in the suit, and his friend with the red shirt was named Derek. John exhaled deeply as his mind wandered to distant thoughts. With closed eyes, he saw a road laden with ice, he saw a bottle of Jack in the passangers seat, his arm stretching out and his fingers wraping the bottle tightly. He remembered seeing the ravine through teared eyes, and he remembered his car sliding off the road. A picture of his wife, taped to the sun visor, was the last thing he saw.
"Was it suicide?" John asked, opening his eyes. His friend, Derek, sat with his back turned to him, and was running his hand through the water of the stream. The silence spoke volumes. John's shoulders sagged, and he exhaled deeply as he walked to his friend. John sat at his side, and allowed the sound of the flowing brook to prevail for a few moments longer before asking, "Is the same for you?"
"It's the same for all of us here," Derek replied.
Once more, John asked, "How long have you been here?"
Derek withdrew his hand from the stream. Where his skin should have been wet, it was dry. He could touch the water, but he could not feel it, and it ignored him as surley as if he did not exist.
"A very long time," Derek finally said before standing to his feet. "Come on, let's go," he added in conclusion as he began to follow the stream downhill. John, however, did not budge, but sat motionless in place. This gave Derek pause, who then turned to his friend, and thier eyes locked with one another.
"You know, I was happy. In a thousand different circumstances, I could still be alive," his eyes drifted back to the grey water of the brook. "I had a wife, and in a thousand lives I couldn't imagine living one without her. You know how I died? I followed my wife here."
"Where is she now?" Derek inquired.
"I don't know," John responded somberly. His head lowered slightly, and his eyes glazed over; he looked defeated.
Derek looked away from his friend for a moment, and glared at the ever present mist. The mist made it so one could only see what they were about to walk in to, and seeing beyond that was impossible. He forced a smile on his face, walked to his friend, and rested a hand on his shoulder, "We'll go find her, then we'll leave."
John looked up, his eyes still looking as if they belonged to a shattered soul. However, there was a spark. Of gratitude? Maybe, but more likely a spark of hope. The hope that this place, this punishment, wouldn't codemn him to the lonliness he feared. In this place, his friend was a godsend. John stood to his feet, gave his friend a small nod, and together they continued down the stream.
"You know," John began, "they always said when someone dies, the last thing they saw was a blinding light, but it wasn't like that. It was more like waking up from a sleep." John's voice trailed off as he concluded with, "do you really think we can leave?"
Derek shook his head, "Yes. We're going to find your wife, and then we'll all leave together."
"Do you really believe that?" John asked.
It took Derek a moment to reply, "I think even in here, we can still find the light. We just have to look for it."
You've been here before.
But you knew that already. This is the place that everyone says you lived as a child. This is where you lived when you went to elementary school, and then even high school. You lived here for a long time. Your entire childhood took place here. They said you should come back, that it might help you remember your past. You said "it's fine," and "I'm happy now," but they still insisted. So you came, here you are now. Maybe it'll bring something back, maybe it won't. You couldn't care less either way, you've got a good job and you're going back to school. You're planning on traveling the world with your fiance next year - you said you wanted to go on an adventure and he left and came back to you with plane tickets and a smile. But for some reason, everyone has this fixation on your past. They all want to know more about you. You show them the yearbooks when they ask, but that's all you still have. The only thing left to see was the house at the address you lived at while you were still in school. You don't care what happened there. You're happy now.
But for some reason, you're still curious... Why can't you remember?
The walls radiate a familiar scent as your fingertips slide quietly along the old, yellowed wallpaper. You can just barely sense it, but there is an inexplicable, excruciating pain that thickens in the air with each breath you take in. You move deeper into the room, away from the scarred wooden door, finding yourself just a breath away from the frosted glass of the room's only window. Your eyes scan over its small frame, slowly working through every inch of its surface. You can see every nick and cut that it has to offer, every memory etched into its surface with past deliberation. The appear before you like letters to the world. Letters to anyone that will read them. But why leave behind such strange messages? You grip your wrist tightly, a sudden tingling sensation seeming to answer the messages left behind on the glass. You scratch at it as it creeps up your arm as you sit on a bed that is shoved up against the neighboring wall.
It's only an itch.
It slowly turns into a burning sensation as you scratch more vigorously, defying your attempts to cast it off into oblivion. But some how... Somehow it feels familiar. After a moment, you give in. It can stay, you'll simply bear with it until it passes. It happens sometimes, nothing you can do about it. So you rest your hands on the dark brown stains of the mattress. They give a hard roughness to the sewn fabric. You passively feel across them as your eyes stare aimlessly at the opposing wall. It takes just one extra moment for you to notice the subtle difference, and you look down to see what it is. Your breath stops. Your eyes widen in shock. You remember why they are there. You remember what caused them.
You made them.
You created those stains.
Those stains are your fault.
It was your fault. It was always your fault. But you didn't ask for this! You never wanted these... These memories.
You never wanted them back.
“I’ve lost it.”
He fumbled blindly, impotently at his collar. He could only get to the hollow at the base of the neck- the armor was too tight. His fingers wouldn’t move anymore. The taste of blood was dusty in his mouth, coagulated with age and regret. The rain plinked sullenly into the dents and rust, drumming away his last few seconds in time to shallow breathing. His once thick hair and full beard were shorn down to a grey buzz. Stolen by the years and the blows that came with them, few of his teeth remained. There are no birds here anymore. The battle rages on, but a personal silence rings in the ears of the dying.
Watch. The hourglass has been shifted. The scales begin to turn.
The battered form rises from the mud, from its knees, shedding water and earth in rivulets. The streams glisten, flow, arc upwards towards the dusk. He takes a step backwards. Another. As he staggers in reverse, a discarded arrow reforms itself from splinters and jumps into the aged warrior’s palm. He stops solemnly to observe this first among the last deathblows he would be able to endure. As if by puppet strings, he winds his steely fingers ‘round and with a brutal jerk it’s lodged in his shoulder. More missiles follow their brother, peppering the body. The unearthly music of a war played backwards begins. Perhaps it simply resumes.
Steel rings before it can clash. Agonized screams build in crescendo, and cut abruptly as they catch up to the cuts which caused them. Men are cut down left and right, limbs flailing up from death into animation. Our soldier has long since forgotten to flinch. There is only the rain. Only water. Only blood.
Years grind by, grey and bloodstained and always the same. It’s been far too long. He retreats through time, sometimes walking, sometimes running, sometimes retreating, always marching through missed moments. The lines in his face soften and disappear. It matters little, for he is lost. His dead eyes have not changed. Skin like parchment is cut, broken, healed an innumerable amount of times- yet still he trudges backwards. He will not be absolved. His dead eyes have not changed. Calloused and weather beaten features regain a glint of their old strength, a touch of conviction. But it is no more than a touch. His dead eyes have changed. Perhaps they haven’t yet. He is soon to return. His loss is fresh, and he hasn’t forgotten yet.
At the top of the ridge, overlooking the earthly starlight of a conqueror’s campfires, he has placed it around his neck. Fumbling backwards, trembling through his past, he places his token on a chain around his neck. He finds his wedding ring, gold made silver, cool to the touch and heavy with memories. He has someone he wishes to protect. He’s almost satisfied.
Watch. The scales have been turned. The hourglass begins to flip.
It was a feast for crows. The few who remained skittered furtively among what remained. Greasy fingers combed through dirt stained crimson and washed into an artificial brown.
The body is found. Armor rattles. A living heartbeat quickens. The metal is rusted, maybe by a few months of rain. Useless. The sword is broken. Fine. The teeth are already too far gone. Shame. Thankfully there isn’t a stench anymore- but are there any valuables?
Calloused fingers dug through the mess, fumbled at the collar, punched through the bones. Then, a short gasp. A nervous glance over the shoulder, and a quiet little laugh. A gold ring glinted in dirty fingers. He murmured in pride.
“I’ve found it.”
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