Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Room 7: The Dreamer

The reoccurring dream had ended the same way for the last two weeks. A long darkened hallway with a lambent doorway beckoned to me, calling me with its brilliance, mingling my sleeping senses with its ambiguous nature. I woke in the bed, sweat pouring from my forehead, my skin hot to the touch and wrapped in my comforter like a rat being squeezed by a python. The details of the dream lost to me, with the exception of the end. My body drained, like I had ran a marathon in my sleep, I only wanted sleep. By the end of the following week, I was beginning to dread sleeping. The dream had intensified, it seemed, the longer I slept. One thing remained a constant, every time I woke I could only recall standing at the doorway, staring into the blinding light exploding from the end of the long dark hallway.

The hours felt like slow purposed pin pricks across my body throughout the day. Each one a nervous reminder of what likely awaited me that night, when the lights went out and no one was around to witness what would be revealed to me, as I woke the following morning, as nothing more than images locked away in my deep subconscious mind. Suddenly, my dull uneventful life was a lot more meaningful in the light of day. My dead-end job as a waitress, serving perverse old drunkards who only wants to shove their beer soiled dollars into my uniform top, held new weight as a public servant who provided a connection between the customer and their needs no matter how insignificant.

With the punch of my timecard, my internal clock began to tick down the seconds leading to the next installment of my dream, and I could not have been more anxious to stay awake than I was now. On the drive home, I decided to stop at a little coffee shop. A kindly old waitress poured me a coffee, smiling to me in the same way my mother once had whenever I came home from college after mid-terms.
     "I know just how you feel deary." She said.
I only smiled back at her as I knew her intent behind her words, after all, I had said them many times myself to customers who probably looked a lot like I did at that moment.
     "Can you leave the pot?" I asked, "I will be here for a little while."
She sat the kettle on the table and turned away without saying another word to me.
An hour in, the coffee shop began to settle in with its "regular" customer base and the occasional group of teens trying to come down from their night of partying and engaging in drug use, their clothing still reeking of weed mixed with heavy nicotine, hoping the burnt coffee would assist them in sobering up enough to return home. My eyelids were beginning to feel heavy on my face and the coffee pot was long remiss of caffeine, when the waitress approached my booth and sat down opposite me.
     "In my profession-" she began replacing the coffee pot with another steaming kettle full of fuel for my bloodshot eyes, "we begin to take on a whole other role unrelated to public service. Mental evaluation becomes a learned skill, especially for seasoned veterans like myself, and I can tell there is something on your mind sweetie. Do you want to talk about it maybe?"
It was already after 1AM and my mind was swimming. The coffee was no longer affecting me as I had hoped it would, so conversation would certainly help stimulate me. Perhaps even make sense of this newfound fear in me with falling asleep.
     "There is this dream I keep having, where I wake up and only remember the last thing I saw. The dream never changes and I have had this dream nightly for nearly a month now. I wake up in a cold sweat, wrapped in my sheets and blanket, leading me to believe whatever I was dreaming must have been frightful and violent to wake in such a manner."
To my surprise, the woman seemed authentically interested in what I was saying. She reached into her smock and pulled from it her notepad and pen she used to take orders, and began to write.
     "Are you walking at or away from the light?"
Her words might as well have been physical objects thrown in my direction. I snapped back into my seat and eyed her suspiciously. "How do you know about the light?"

It was how her demeanor remained unchanged in her answering me that captivated my attention the most. She  stopped writing, sat down her pen and raised her head looking me straight in the eyes and said, "There's always a light, sweetie." She then picked up her pen and continued writing. Afterward, she took the notepad and tore the page, she had written on, folding it into a square and slid it across the table to me.
     "It's nearly closing time, deary. Even this old lady needs her beauty rest," she said getting up from the booth. "If you ever need to talk, you can find me there. Fear is such a crippling emotion and is truly the crutch of humanity. In all of my years on this Earth, I have never found answers to things which I did not pursue further beyond my own limitations. Perhaps you should embrace the unknown as well." She smiled and turned for the door behind me. I never even heard the door close, lost in my struggle to stay awake, which diminished with every breath I took. I could no longer fight the exhaustion and fatigue overwhelming my senses. I threw some tips onto the table and stumbled sleepily out the door.

Home was about a ten minute drive from the coffee shop, provided I did not catch every red-light along the way. Somehow, I managed to make it to the car, start the engine and back out from the parking lot without hitting another car or some foolish kid. It must have been after three in the morning or close to it. The streets were void of traffic, aside from the occasional drunk driver weaving in and out of the lanes ahead of me. I had drifted myself, several times, along the way, feeling my head roll back onto my shoulders. If I did not stop the car then, someone was going to get hurt or worse. The steering wheel turned towards a partially empty Motel lot, parking in front of the lobby, where the neon lights shone onto the hood, providing me enough security to feel safe enough to pass out. The car had just barely managed to stop inside the white outlined square and the shifter slide into park, when my eyes closed on me.

The light exploded in my eyes, the searing heat burning straight into my brain, penetrating the deepest darkest recesses of my unconscious self. I could only stand in awe, like a deer caught in the oncoming headlights of a car, trying to see through the hot heat in hopes that I could make out something on the other end, and finding only intense pain that course through my body from my head down into my feet. I woke, fighting the constricting sheets, kicking and screaming as I rolled out from bed and ricocheting off one wall after another towards the bathroom, my hands scanning the walls for the light-switch, hovering over the sink and dry-heaving into it. It was the worse pain I had ever felt. The nausea alone was enough, but the pounding in my brain was like reverb from a giant kick drum. Instinctively, I turned on the tap and splashed cold water in my face. The dream was the same; but, this time, something had changed. I had never woken so violently before and now an image stuck in my head, behind my eyelids, like the afterimage of an object that I was no longer looking at.

A doorway of light flooding the silhouette of a girl or a woman, was this me? The image was firmly imprinted on both my conscious and subconscious mind, unable to escape it now even in the waking world. Every blink, every momentary pause to collect my thoughts, the image was there. When I emerged from the bathroom, I was tearful and somber. I felt haunted by something I did not understand and burdened by something bigger than me. This feeling of hopeless and fear was further inflamed the moment a knock came to the door. When I opened it, the body of the old waitress reached for me, her face replaced by the same intense light from my dream. I stumbled back and felt myself fall over the edge of the bed.

I woke up in the car, outside the motel, to someone knocking on the driver-side window. The older gentleman, who introduced himself to me as the front desk clerk, asked if I was all right and offered the continental breakfast to me free of charge.
     "Maybe I can grab a coffee to go?" I said opening the door.
Inside the lobby, I poured a hot cup of coffee and sipped from it. My dream had advanced, and even incorporated the waitress from the coffee shop. The chill bumps on my forearms intensified as my fingertips felt the square paper note in my pocket. I took the note from pocket, unfolding it carefully, and read from it.

The Son of Man will send forth His angels,
and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks,
and those who commit lawlessness

The note bred anger within me and further infuriated the unknown. I crumpled up the note, tossing it into the trash, and returned to the car. The woman knew something and I had grown tired of puzzles weeks ago. When I arrived at the coffee shop, I was already nose to nose with the manager, demanding to speak to the waitress from the night before, when I realized the coffee shop looked nothing like the one I was in last night. The manager looked at me, terrified that I might soon ask for the money in the cash registered, and informed me the only person working last night was himself. 
     "Bullshit! I sat over there, at that booth in front of the door, and she served me coffee." 
     "Look, miss, I am telling you the truth. You are mistaken!" 
Embarrassed, I ran out from the coffee shop and jumped into my car, balling my eyes out at the wheel. I had been having trouble sleeping for over a month, perhaps everything had taken its toll on me and I was losing my mind? Maybe I had already lost it some time ago. 

The dream had morphed into a constant nightmare that assaulted my conscious for another two weeks afterward, until, one day, I decided to take the day off work to consider how to cure myself from this nightly hell. I recalled something the old waitress had said to me on that long evening "In all of my years on this Earth, I have never found answers to things which I did not pursue further beyond my own limitations." How could I pursue further beyond that threshold of waking at the exact same point, I wondered. That is when the risky choice to purse my dream revealed itself to me. A quick trip to my local physician whose need to medicate the world in turn for kickbacks, provoked a prescription for Klonopin to help treat the night terrors. One was the dosage, but three should promise results beyond expectations, so I quickly swallowed down one after the other with a glass of water; before heading to the bedroom. It did not take long for the drugs to work. 

The hallway stretched on forever, dark and intangible to my senses, with only a tiny spark in the distance. I felt cold and naked, knowing I had fallen asleep fully clothed on the bed outside the covers in case the drugs had a negative reaction on me. I could feel the prickly end of something tickle my arms and legs, feeling like feathers blowing against the exposed skin. My feet were also bare, stepping onto something soft and moist in the darkness. The spark rapidly began to expand far beyond me. The darkness in front fading away into obscurity as a hot heat rushed against the chilled skin of my face. One cautious step, and then another towards the light at the end of the hallway brought me closer to the magnificent presence before me. This was the moment I would wake in a frenzy, fighting with the sheets and trying to make sense of things. I waited for several long moments before realizing I had finally crossed over the threshold into the next phase of my long journey.

I stood inches from the light, the pain I had felt before had not come to mind. I had never before heard the sound of radiance, but now I could distinctly hear it in my ears. It was the sound of everything and nothing at all, like the vacuum of space removing the impact of a massive comet hurling through the cosmos more silent than the feet of the most skilled assassin. It was deafening in tone and I felt, for a moment, as though the frailty of my human existence would collapse under the great weight of the light cascading through the open doorway. I reached for the light and was surprised to find a hand extend from the doorway and greet me, taking me by the hand and gently holding it. It began to rain feathers, soft light appendages of an unseen wing, tickling every corner of my person, reaching up with my free hand to snatch the other piercing through the light for me. I then felt the heat upon my shoulders, the sensation of bone cracking in places and protruding out from my skin. I continued to feel now pain. A force tugged at my arms, trying to pull me inside the doorway. I held firm and tugged back in hopes that I could drag the unseen from its ethereal hiding place. What was a tug, at first, was now a forceful pull that quickly began to overpower me. The weight shifted from me to the unseen presence, and I felt the touch of the light against my face, incredibly soothing while terribly discombobulating at the same time. Soon, the darkness was gone and I along with it.

Flashes of a thousand years of war, demons and monstrosities overwhelmed my senses, followed by the infinite peace of a billion years of wisdom touching my shoulders and blessing my spirit with the freedom of choice and the power of knowledge. Gifts from our God, a voice whispered to me. That was the moment I felt as though I were in a free fall, racing down through clouds of silver and gold, reaching with my arms for solid ground. "Not with your arms." A voice said to me. "Reach with your wings, and fly."
The wind caught beneath the span of my wings and my body lifted with its embrace. The world below was an ocean of possibility and a sea of tragedy bent with the flawed and often plagued human condition. And then I knew my purpose, as well as the meaning of the old woman's words, "In all of my years on this Earth, I have never found answers to things which I did not pursue further beyond my own limitations." Words spoken by an Angel, my guardian angel.

The next morning I woke, feeling refreshed and energized. I had not slept this well in months, perhaps even forever; but, looked forward to more nights like it to come.

The door to the Motel lobby opened and in stepped an elderly woman from the rain. Her shoes were dry, as well as her clothes and she did not appear to carry any umbrella. She stepped up to the front desk and rung the little bell. The man behind the desk, turned his gaze from the small television set and looked at her without emotion to his crinkled old face.
     "My key, if you please."
     "The help is not suppose to leave the premises."
     "Oh, come now. I did not stray too far. Besides, it was worth it."
     "We'll see." He said sliding the key out to her.
     "Thank you, Wolfie!"
     "Call me that again Muse and see what comes your way!"
She giggled and disappeared down the hallway to her room.
The man angrily reached beneath the desk and switched on the sign outside. "NO-VACANCY" and slowly the Motel faded into the backdrop of life, until nothing more remained but an empty rain drenched lot.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Room 19 A and 84 B: The Reunion

A brilliant twin moon hung over a futuristic city of lights matching the glow of its moons in both luminosity and beauty. Wedged on an island continent, surrounded by a vast silver colored ocean that reflected the celestial images with perfect clarity, was The Seal. A broken obelisk shaped building, built in a solid material exclusive to the planet's star system, balanced nervously on a point atop an equally impressive built pyramid below, towered high above the city, higher than any other structure flanking it, which did not reflect like its shiny foundation would suggest; but, absorbed the light from the outside, pulling in the energy of all things it encompassed. Inside The Seal, the energy flowed freely throughout the building, down inside the connecting pyramid, venting out into the city, spreading through its streets and down inside the burrows that were the lifeline for its people and institutions living inside the interconnected tunnels and passages. Eventually, the energy would slowly phase out begin to break down at the molecular level, but not before being absorbed by the pull of the atmosphere that charges the energy and feeds it back to the obelisk. The flowing life force and the energy it provided is constant, like the nearby quasar that threatened the planet's destruction with its potential to pull the planet from its current orbit around the sun. It was here, within this beautiful chaos of power and creation, a choice was made. A choice that was the beginning to what some might refer as the afterlife.

Within the blinding light, bouncing off the metallic walls inside the Seal and gaining in both momentum and instability, a hand reached through the numbing static and gently touched the shoulder of another. The body was without form and gender, but the spirit that embodied the flesh was one of feminine characteristics, kind and loving without fail, warm and gentle without judgement, beautiful even in its marred imperfections. A second hand reached around the woman and lifted her from her current fetal position on the smooth surface into the arms of a stranger that, at first, frightened her. Her whimper was silenced by a voice long lost to her lips, but familiar and longed for in memory.
     "There you are...my love! I have found you. Everything will be as it were now that I have found you."

The voice propelled her back to a time when the twin moons where one in the same. A time when their world had begun to come apart at the seams, during unrest and war among their own kind that split the race down the middle; the Believers on one side and the Separatist on the other. The guilt had eaten at him, biting the heels of regret, for a hundred years, while he perfected the machine; the technology that drove the machine's ultimate power to sustain him long enough to make amends for all that he had done, and to find the one who meant the most to him because of his mistake.

     "You...came for me."
     "Of course. I have pursued you in both life and death and across the infinite space of time to find you, my love."

The entity that was once perfection attempted to stand alone, finding that its legs were without muscle, relying on the strong willed conscious of Doctor Krull to keep her fading into the light engulfing them both.

     "Where am I?"
     "Within a borrowed vessel, safely tucked away, deep inside its subconscious being where you have been since we last saw one another."

It were theses words that jarred to mind that moment in which she left his grip so long ago. The sun, the moon and the stars had begun to collapse in on the obelisk tower. The energy had rushed against a wall of gravity that netted it, storing it inside a ball of unstable mass that grew bigger with the passing of seconds. The war had turned in favor of the Separatist, lead by the man she so loved with all of her heart and soul, but could not bring herself to turn her back against her maker- the reason they even existed in the first place. The war had spilled out from their home-world, spreading across the galaxy like an unstoppable plague, infecting new worlds and races and forcing them to choose sides in a war that did not concern them.

     "But, how, why? I was cast into the shadows."
     "Death is not permanent, just a holding room for the next phase of your life my love. As your spirit left your body, it was transported into another as punishment for having to question the universal truth of our existence. We are energy, just as the Seal a conduit for our eternal being. He did not expect us to discover the Science. But we- I did! The secrets, His secrets were nothing more than systematic equations and their root causes for why the universe is. Why we are here and what our roles are in it, which are just as important as his own part. We are all not as one, as you were mislead into believing. We are each uniquely constructed by the matter of the universe, the very ocean in which our home sailed across. Onward into the infinite unknown, gaining momentum with every new dawning day. He knew I only had one weakness in which he could utilize and force my hand, but he did not consider the machine."

The entity wrapped its fading arms around Victor Krull and placed its head onto his shoulder. Had she been able, her tears was have thawed the iciness of his being. The shell, as is were, had long begun to decay. All things in life were made up of matter and once that is destroyed, all things that it protects also dies with it. A snag in Doctor Krull's otherwise insatiable planning to create life from death. A final thought struck her. The Machine, at the time, Victor, had called it the infinity divider. A device that captured time and space into a single area, altering its fabric to allow travel in and out of parallel universes much like a similar obstruction of mass proportion- the Quasar that loomed billions of light years away from their home world. But his mechanical demon had failed to satisfy, always coming up just a little bit short in the ever expanding battle for the star cluster known as HVN777.

     "How did you perfect the machine?"

The spirit of Doctor Krull appeared to smile confidently, with a hint of heartfelt regret.

     "By fusing it with Him."

It all started to make sense now. The infinite divider could only bend that which was acceptable within its range of understanding. It was the one thing her Maker had that none of them could ever possess, the knowledge of time and space and how the two came to be.

     "Victor, you didn't-"
     "I did what had to be done to find you. Winning the war for HVN777 was never my intention. He forced me to watch your body die and your spirit wither away into the void, an eternity trapped within the conscious of another being and not even one of your own make...it was...unforgivable. The machine allowed my penance to become vengeance, and the power of a contained Quasar gave me the ability to contain him, draining his spirit, sapping from him the knowledge contained within his DNA. Where I found the answer I needed. The gift to bring life to that which had only death. And, now that I have this knowledge, I will resurrect you, my love, so that you may return home with me to rule HVN777 as Alpha and Omega."

It was then that Doctor Krull felt...different. It was a foreign feeling, one that he had never come across in all the years he had ghosted the minds of others. He then felt instant hurt and grief as the entity he held in his arms was now nearly an outline of its former self.
     "Wait! what is this? Why are you leaving?"

Doctor Krull hoisted the flimsy specter over his shoulder and raced along the corridors of Charlie Harley's deep subconscious mind. The walls moved in on him, growing closer and more shut off to the effects of the machine. As he rounded the recesses of Charlie's mind, he could sense the lack of positive and negative energy. The data string felt cold and quiet as though...No, it could kill us both!

On the outside of the machine, Spurt was working fervently at the console's controls. The screen spewed line after line of data that was being received far quicker than even he could keep up with. He stepped down off the console and ran over to the capsule. On one side, beyond the frosted glass canopy was the physical body of Doctor Krull, wired to the machine with a network of fiber optics running from him to the machine. Spurt checked the panel on the side, reading the charts and comparing the information with that of the console. He then turned to the levitating host just in front, the first three had started to show signs of life, reanimating from their state of stasis but the last one, the one named Charlie Harley was motionless. His chest did not rise and fall as the others did. "Oh no! I went to deep."

Spurt raced back over to the console and hammered away at the keys, trying one method and another and then on to some riskier commands that would slightly alter the timing mechanism, which would give him a little more time to escape the conscious of Charlie Harley. But even with this extension, the data was clearly showing time, for a change, was not in his favor. Spurt breathed deeply considering the options left, of which there was only one. He stepped up to the opposite side of the capsule and wiped away the fog gripping the glass canopy, looking inside to the old man resting peacefully, draped in white and wearing a slight smile not recalled before this moment. He was the only way back. "Checkmate." He said sliding the panel aside.

The consciousness of Doctor Krull stood helpless at the doorway leading out from Charlie Harley's mind, closed and sealed by the extinguished flame of life he had so irresponsibly disregarded, trusting his faith in the machine instead of the knowledge of insight. He knew, as much as he would deny, the consequences. Risking his own life in order to save her, managing a fading spirit that barely clung to life by gouging his energy. It was to be expected. 
     "You came for me." She whispered in his ear. 
     "I have been with you the whole time, my love."
     "Why didn't you just come with me then?" He asked. His eyes now heavy with burden and sorrow. 
     "He had a plan for us, for all of us. Why didn't you just believe?" 

He could only watch as the last thread of her existence melted away, once more a figment of another being's imagination, and now he too clung on to the last remnants of his own existence, trapped in a mind's minefield of hopelessness brought on by his own thirst for vengeance, fueled by anger and regret and above all his distrust of faith. 

     "Hello Victor." the voice called out from all around him.

The voice thundered inside Doctor Krull's head, as though it had been shoved inside a bass drum kicked by the foot of a titan. The decaying consciousness, cold and dry, was now warm and lively again. Thousands of tiny electrical nodes raced around and over him, flooding the darkened tunnel his fading conscious occupied, sparking the most effulgent display of light at the end of the tunnel he had ever seen. The light cast a flattened silhouette before him that took the shape of a man then lifted from the moist floor and formed a solid being of shadow. Two saddened dots of pure white light, more concentrated and brighter than the light in which the being was birthed to mind formed the eyes that burned right through Doctor Krull's icy reception. 

     "Impossible! Your inside...the machine." 

But that wasn't so, was it? Spurt was created as a failsafe in case something were to go awry inside the machine, which apparently were the case. a hundred and seventy years of work and dedication to the process, to the machine and to the plan had all come down to one small cog- humility. Specifically, his own megalomania that was always present in each of his achievements. From the moment he discovered the machine, to the discovery of technology and the power it held over lesser refined teachings, such as those his maker preached. The power of faith in the one supreme being, who he had once known intimately, but lost over time with his obsessions and thirst for the knowledge had once again bested his greatest technological advancements. And Doctor Victor Krull was once again defeated. 

Doctor Krull snickered. "Looks like good triumphed over evil again, isn't that right, Lazarus?"

The shadow being reached out and placed a kind and gentle hand upon his shoulder. "Even He can be wrong, Victor." 

On the outside of the machine, Spurt was powerless in stopping the chain reaction of his decision. The capsule shook violently to the point the glass canopies on either side shattered into fragments of shrapnel that exploded outwards, slowing exponentially as the vacuum of the time space continuum opened up above the machine. The light was no longer present and the darkness dwindled away, along with everything inside it, including the capsule, the machine, and the entire room of 19A. Spurt attempted to flee from the pull of the vacuum, reaching for the levitating bodies just outside the event horizon. He could feel the unrelenting grip of the vacuum at his back, and then his skin that felt as though it were separating from the bone. He struggled for a moment more and then broke down into nothing more than a molecular shower, sucked into the eye of the gravitational storm.

The morning sun rose the next day, spreading across the motel parking lot. Only a few cars remained as most of the guest had already checked out and returned back to the highway in both directions. In one particular section of the left wing, a door opened on the far end and a man stepped out. He looked disheveled and stricken by a phantom pain in his left hand, wiggling his fingers to work the tingling numbness from them. He then reached inside the doorway for his suitcase and closed the door behind him saying nothing as he wondered if he might have slept wrong the night before to cause such a strange feeling of detachment from his hand.

Only four doors down, a woman emerged from her room. She stood perfectly still, reaching for the wall and wearing a look of dread about her. A cleaning lady stepped out from the adjacent room and noticed the look she wore, asking if she was all right. After a moment, the woman smiled back to her, choking back tears, explaining that everything was fine...Just fine. She then walked out from the room, with suitcase in tow, hopping from one foot to the other and giggling down the hallway that finally brought a loud burst of laughter as she rounded the corner.

In the second to last room, an Asian man woke from a long silent sleep that brought him up from the sheets and on to the floor, as though he had been dreaming a terrible nightmare that caused him to rouse and stir and scout out the room, expecting someone else aside from him to be there. He acted on an impulse that was natural to any other person, yet completely new to him. He tilted his head from one side to another...listening. He listened to everything and did so more joyfully than anyone might listen to say, a clock ticking on the wall or a noisy air-conditioner switching on in the room. Sounds that might normally agitate someone had the most peculiar effect on his ears, pleasant and accepted as the most wonderful sounds he had ever heard. He smiled as he dressed, listening to every little sound in the process, and soon after this stood outside the room ready for his journey to continue. A thought came to mind. He pursed his lips together and blew making a whoosh sound, which he found funny, and quickly realized how the slightest movement of his tongue seemed to change the pitch. He tried again and on this attempt produced a lovely whistle from his lips, which he carried with him out the door and throughout the remainder of the day.

Inside the honeymoon suite, on the top floor of building B, something was happening inside room 84 that could not be explained in words as well as it might in pictures, which is exactly what would eventually unfold back in Toledo, when the last guest woke. Tiny petite feet rolled out from the king sized bed onto plush carpeting that tickled the toes that dug into the soft fabric. The feet stepped towards the bathroom, the cold marble tile removed the itch and replaced it with a chill that ran up the slender legs, further up along the equally slender back and over the bare shoulders of Charlie Harley. A soft skinned arm reached inside the shower and turned on the tap, adjusting the temperature accordingly. Steam quickly filled the shower, spilling over the top into the bathroom fogging the long mirror that reflected an image that the face on the opposite side seemed to question. A hand grasped at a nearby hand towel and wiped away the condensation from the mirror. The face leaned in close to the mirror, observing the rosy cheeks, the rounded chin, the cute little nose and the most amazing blue eyes that captivated and held the attention long enough, for the sleeping consciousness to catch up to the information being relayed to the brain. hands pushed back the long golden locks of hair that hugged the neck and exposed the breast. The woman continued to admire the angelic being looking back from the mirror as the consciousness inside fought to understand how it could be and not be at the same time. It did not take long for the submissive subconscious of Charlie Harley to make a wise choice to let go and allow his faith to carry it wherever it was meant to be.

The new Charlie Harley returned home and was immediately inspired, grabbing the nearest easel and brush and began to work on a blank canvas throughout the remainder of the day and into much of the following night. When the piece was finished, Charlie took it and hung it on the biggest wall inside the warehouse as the main centerpiece. A wise choice as it was an instant smash in the art world that brought with it a plethora of opportunities, which Charlie happily embraced each one with vigor and newfound joy in the craft she had always seen through the eyes of another. Now the art had her own touch, and that brought her great peace within herself, but never forgot about the one who paved the way for a second chance at life.
In his sacrifice, I have returned home.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Room 19 A and 84 B: Depth Perception

The light in the room was not the same light Charlie akin to that of a florescent bulb, or even the intensity of a full moon's glow. It was a dark white light that contradicted the fundamental understanding of what light actually was.  This light, projecting from the capsule moved like fog, dense and slow, moving against the wind from the powerful turbines pushing moist hot air throughout the room. The light also contained within it enough of a charge that the air appeared to crackle with tiny sparks as it moved around Charlie and the others tied to their chairs. It did not hurt, and felt as though their tongues were tied to the end of a 9-volt battery. Doctor Krull approached the man on the end, furthest from Charlie, and leaned down close so that the man was now eye level with him. He took the man by the arm and ran his spidery fingers along the man's forearm down to his hand, which was not a hand at all but a clubbed fist of flesh wrapped in clean bandages. Had the man lost his hand or was it something more nefarious at the hands of Doctor Krull?

Doctor Krull leaned in, next to the man's ear, whispering something to him that seemed to alleviate the man's fear. His words sedated his anxiety to the point that he now looked more relaxed in his binds, his eyes a wash of disbelief mixed with hope. Whatever the man felt before was now replaced with a single emotion driving him- enthusiasm. He then stepped over to the shriveling female who looked to be of Spanish decent. Her demeanor had been calm and collected since the moment Charlie woke tied to the chair, and the moment he saw Doctor Krull reach for the long white cane, Spurt handed to him, he began to understand why. Again, Doctor Krull leaned close and spoke into her ear softly, and, again, she too relaxed in her chair.

The man next to Charlie had been still, but obviously fearful for his life. Sweat had run down his face like water dripping from an unseen tap over his head, yet he was quite focused on his meditation, eyes closed and refusing to observe the slightest change in sound around him, even as Doctor Krull cupped the third man's chin in the palm of his long thin hand. He worked his thumb around the chin and slid it up around the man's mouth, his talon sliced between his thin pink lips and pried his mouth gently open. He then lifted the man's head to get a good look inside his mouth, and then leaned next to him. This time he was close enough to be heard, "In return for your assistance, I shall grant you the freedom of your tongue once more, so that you may verbally thank me afterwards." Just as the others had done, he too lost the look of consternation about him.

Doctor Krull then turned his attention to Charlie, standing silently in front of him, his face veiled by his dark oily colored locks, and it seemed to Charlie that each time he attempted to look beyond his natural cover, Doctor Krull took a step backwards into the enveloping light. His deep gaze pierced through the murky light like two distant lighthouses guiding lost ships at sea, observing Charlie, turning away from his guest joining Spurt at the console of the machine. The two made adjustments to the bluish glow beaming against both of their faces, while they discussed time displacement, algorithms, stasis recognition and something called, morph fusing. None of it made any sense to Charlie, but his interest on what was happening had taken an uncomfortable acceptance and keen awareness that even his artistic eye found some common ground with. I am willingly becoming a lab rat inside this Mad Scientist's crazed high school Science project? he thought.

Spurt hopped down from the console and approached Charlie. Once in front of him, he took Charlie by the hand, the one with the device attached to his thumb, and palmed the device. Charlie's hand felt as though it had been wrapped in ice, cold enough that his fingers instantly went numb. His arm was hot and rived with pain. It was though Spurt had set some kind of chemical fire to his arm that did not project flames, burning hotter than anything he had ever felt prior. He clinched his teeth hard, noshing them spitefully to Spurt, watching as the device slipped effortlessly off his thumb. The little oddly shaped assistant scuttled back to the console and placed the device inside a slot on the console.

     "I was beginning to wonder when they would take your picture." the man on the end said.
     "Excuse me?"
     "The device on your thumb? It's called a Data Node Apparatus ring. Collects samples of your DNA, which is then placed in the machine to check for signatures." he said turning to Charlie and smiling.
     "My DNA? How...how do you know this?"
     "He mentioned it a time or two during his talks with his Spurt." The woman answered.
     "I did not hear anything about that?"
     "That would be due to your not being here at the time."
     "Yes," said the woman. "We did not learn much in our first days."
     "My god, you have been here-"
     "A month for myself," said the man. "She came along about a week after me, and the quiet chink about three days after my blind cohort." He added with a laugh.
     "An appropriate comment, I assure you. If only I could shake the hand of such a comedian."

Their talk was silenced by the sudden reemergence of Doctor Krull

The world around Charlie was an oyster of sound. The sound was of relaxed breathing flooding his ears, paced and at times peaceful and rhythmic like the waves from an ocean running ashore. He attempted to open his eyes, doing so with ease, blinded by the greatest blue light he had ever seen. An intensity that burned his cornea like the sun and forced his eyes closed immediately after they had opened. The humming rang once again in Charlie's ears and, at the risk of being burned again, his eyes fluttered open. What he witnessed no amount of paint could ever describe. He would need the worlds largest canvas to grasp the nature of the phenomena happening several feet from where he sat. In a word, Charlie saw God.

Doctor Krull stood in front of a giant orb of light, hands raised and spread out as though he were testifying the success of his machine, basking in a light that was not that of the moon or sun, too intense to be one and too close to the gaping hole behind the machine to be the other; standing in front of a vastly blue sky with wisp of white clouds that stretched on forever. Charlie Harley and the others were now weightless, freed from their binds and floating easily above the stage, arms and legs held together by a force unseen to them. Charlie knew by their startled reactions, this part was new even to them. The scene reminded him of a digital painting by Slawek Wojtowicz that asked, once more, if he was really just dreaming all this. When he watched Doctor Krull walk past him, noticing his feet not touching the ground as he did, to the man on the end, place his hand onto his forehead, break down into the same metallic liquid Spurt had previously, and then absorb into the man's head via his ear, nose and mouth; he wanted nothing more than to wake up then and there.

Charlie Harley was helplessly immobile. He could only look on as Doctor Krull oozed from the openings of the man's head onto the floor, pool at the seat of the woman, reanimate into a being and begin the process all over again. It was only when the pool of mercury-like material pooled below him that he finally shouted words of consternation. "What do you want from me!" they echoed the great room, but were lost to the humming that reverberated inside his head. The frozen touch of Doctor Krull chilled Charlie Harley's cheeks, the sensation spreading across his face like spilled ice water atop a crooked table, resisting futilely as his conscious mind was suddenly invaded by another presence. Another life form that was alien, while unexpectedly familiar to Charlie Harley, like a very old friend whose face and voice been lost to the decay of time. The presence that was Doctor Krull moved swiftly in and out of Charlie's conscious and subconscious. He could feel an invasive grip on his memories, plucking them from his memory bank, rummaging through them like old photos in a torn and tattered shoe box under his bed. The alien spirit was looking for something of great value and importance, without caring about the fragility of the mind breaking that he had taken over against the will of the body. 

It took images, snapshots of Charlie's past. There were paintings, many paintings he had thought forgotten but still remained deep inside his memory depository. Deeper, the alien voice said. And deeper he and his parasitic guest ventured into Charlie Harley's mind. Photographs of his childhood, like tiny window panes flying by his minds eye. The storm of recollection roared on. You are here somewhere. Different than the others, grounded to the technology presented to you. Where are you? the voiced asked.Far beyond the point of no return, where secrets are kept inside never to be seen or heard from, after that initial capture of the host eyes that translate the information to the brain, a place that more often than not kills the body and, eventually, the mind. It must be there! The voice of Doctor Krull shouted in frustrated anger. 

The humming had become deafening. The pain unbearable to the point Charlie Harley lost all feeling in his limbs. The darkness was infinite around him. It was just Charlie floating in a sea of eternal space, adrift in a chaotic spin down the spiral of his deep subconscious mind. As the presence reached the doorway of no return, it considered for a very brief moment if it were wrong; but, the machine was never wrong. The machine was what made it all possible, to exist in a plain not common to it. A method of travel that no other species could fathom. The machine was perfection. The alien spirit of Doctor Krull opened the door inside Charlie Harley and, by doing so, instantly killed the flesh on the outside. Charlie Harley took a deep sudden breath in the darkness and exhaled for the last time. 

...There you are, Doctor Krull said with exasperated breath. My love...



Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Room 19 A and 84 B: The Time Share

I lost her once, but I will not lose her again. I only need time to develop a way to pursue her spirit and chase her soul in the afterlife.

Charlie Harley is a man of simplicity. He wakes up in the morning, showers, eats the same breakfast (one piece of toast with butter and two cups of coffee black and one sugar), replenishes the food and water for his dog, Sam and shuffles out the door to work. For Charlie, work consist of a number of paintings, stored inside a warehouse across town, a few sculptures and a mural blueprint for an art project the city of Toledo has asked him to do at one of their restoration projects in downtown Toledo. His job pays well, when he actually sells a piece, but mostly finds his talent waning from his interest. Charlie wants more from his life than some abstract take on a bowl of fruit that some high faluten aristocrat finds to be the bees knees of art and simply has to have. Unfortunately, Charlie had an exemplary record in failing at everything but art, and so he persevered day in and day out to maintain his sanity. This routine, in recent months, was turning into a daily struggle that pleaded within for action and adventure, which was something being a painter and sculptor simply could not provide him. To Charlie, there was nothing adventurous about an easel and a palette of pigments, aside from the obvious pleasures painting provides its creator with, and sculpting only provided so much action before his hands began to blister or ache. There was one other thing he enjoyed almost as much as painting.

There was his love of reading; specifically, Science Fiction and Fantasy. Escaping into alien worlds, interacting with races of all creed and even those made up by minds of dreamers were his favorite past-times. So, when he sat at his desk and clicked on his email inbox, seeing an email from an unknown source with the subject header of "Science Fiction Comes To Life", he simply had to open the email at the risk of possibly infecting his computer. His eyes scanned the content excitedly, and within a few minutes he had already made up his mind to attend. The instructions at the bottom read,

If interested in joining us for this once in a lifetime event, reply to this email and a follow up email with directions, date and time, and place of venue will be sent back to you. 


Doctor Victor Krull. 

He smiled, as he thoughtfully replied to the email, looking forward to the response. 

A week later, Charlie Harley was four hours in with his trip. The city of Toledo was well out of scope of the rear-view mirror, and already he had started to feel better, less confined to his art and more free on the open road. Three rest stops and two Big Gulps later, the little compact hybrid pulled into the sparsely filled motel lot around six in the evening. The air was cool and dry with only a few clouds rolling across the face of the full moon above. The older man behind the bullet proof glass briefly turned away from his small television, asked how long Charlie would be staying, and then took the credit card already placed in the small tray built into the center of the window. 
     "Here for the time share?"
     "I'm sorry?"
     "The meeting in 19A. We have a vacancy in the same building, so I will assign you a room in that section and make it easier for you to find your way."
     "Oh. Um, thank you." Charlie replied taking back his card and feeling a quick jolt from the man's fingers.
     "Apologies, sir. I must have build of some static charge as I came in through the door."
     "No, I have been shocking people all night. I think it might be from that damn generator they are using for the time share."
     "Really?" Charlie said authentically surprised. "They must have something real special planned for their event."

The clerk ignored this and focused back on his television. Charlie, feeling a bit awkward about this, turned for the door.

When Charlie pulled into the parking space outside his room, he noticed a strange violet colored light emitting from a window on the second floor. Assuming it were just the light from a television inside, Charlie grabbed his bag and walked inside the building. Once inside his room, he sat his bag down and took in a deep relaxing breath. There was a loud hum in the room, steady and controlled in its vibration. The whole room felt like it was moving, confirmed by the sound of a glass, somewhere in the room, chattering against a solid surface. Charlie noticed that the hairs on his forearm were standing on end, pulled by the energy all around him. When he turned to investigate the rattling glass, he caught a glimpse of himself in a nearby wall mirror. His image was distorted and murky in the polished glass, like his face had been removed and tossed into the wash of abstractedness, churned back into reality as a marred blemished portrait rather than the smooth sharp chiseled cut face he was used to.

His excitement stood in the way of reason, and logic was not to be expected at a meeting of like minded people who considered unexplained phenomena as part of the attraction and nothing to consider a threat. He reached for the mirror with a finger, wondering if it was just some clever trick done with concave and convexing of the mirror itself. There was an unexpected knock at the door. He stopped just before his finger touched the surface of the mirror and turned for the door, opening it.
     "Mister Harley is it?"
     "Um, yes. Who is asking?"
     "Names, Spurt. Doctor Krull's assistant. I've come to give you your package."
Charlie stood silent for a moment, and then realized what the little man meant. The email he received back stated that, upon his arrival, he would get free gift, supplied by Doctor Krull and required to open prior to the start of the meeting.
     "Oh, right. Thank you." He said taking the small wooden tinder box from Spurt.
     "We are glad you made it and hope you will enjoy the experience as much as we."
Spurt stood quiet then. Charlie had expected the little man to turn and leave, uncertain what to do now that he had not done so.
     "Is there something else that you need?" 
     "That will do." 

Instinct forced his hand to close the door rudely in the face of Spurt, but there was not much else to do then. Charlie eyed the tinder box. It appeared to be made of mahogany and polished to a shine that needed very little light to sparkle. As he started for the desk to open the box, Charlie noticed a strange substance pool around the end of the door. When he opened the door, at his feet, there was only a puddle of liquid that looked a lot like the same substance Charlie equated to thermometers. Spurt was no longer in plain sight and the puddle did not trial off in any direction. He was now perplexed and his excitement was beginning to leave him. He shut the door, locking it, and proceeded over to the desk. The metallic substance pulled back from beneath the door and drained into the surface outside as though a hole had suddenly opened up and consumed the liquid, leaving no trace of it afterwards. 

Charlie sat in the chair looking at the tinder box. The humming and the mirror were beginning to rattle him like a kid about to enter his first haunted house. He was scared, but could not wait to round the next dark corner with delighted anticipation. He placed his hands on the side of the box and shifted it lightly from side to side. Nothing rattled on the inside. He carefully opened the lid, removing the little gold latch from its catch, and peered inside. Inside the box was a small metallic device, oval in shape, pinned to a cushion. The device was very smooth and shaped, he noticed, like a ring, fashioned backwards so that the band of the device ended up on the bottom side of his finger. A note was scrawled on the bottom of the lid that read, "A token of appreciation." 

Charlie took the ring-like device from the box and turned it over in the palm of his and. Doctor Krull had gone through great lengths to keep his audience entertained, and this new element of intrigue was far more mysterious than the trick mirror and the constant hum. He smiled and shook his head, slipping the ring onto his thumb. His reaction was immediate. Charlie closed his fingers around his thumb, knowing that if he were to pull it from his thumb it might do more severe damage, and sprung up from the chair. The pain was not intense, quick and easy like a needle prick, but the suddenness startled him into a panicked frenzy. He ran into the bathroom and instinctively ran cold water over his thumb and the device. His hand had began to shake and his thoughts raged inside his head. What had he just gotten himself into? Why didn't he just leave the moment he gazed into that damn mirror? 

Then he settled down as quickly as he had roused himself up moments before. He felt light-headed and his body felt cold as though ice were traveling through his veins. Had he been drugged? The notion was very real and, although he knew this could not end well, he did not worry much about this. He sat on the toilet and looked into the mirror. Again, the image looking back at him was an abstract one. He felt a smile work across his face, and a chuckle rose up from his throat as he turned towards the door. The metallic liquid gushed up from the floor and pooled a few feet in front of him. Charlie Harley then felt very relaxed. His eyes started to droop and his muscles relaxed to such a state that he felt himself slump forward, caught by arms that reached up from the puddle and snatched him as he fell to the ground.

When his lazy eyes fought to open, it had all felt like a weird dream that was now fading as the light from the room forced its way inside his brain. He was strangely rested and if not for the pulsing in the end of his thumb, he might have thought it were all just that- a dream. He then shook the sleep from his tired eyes and noticed the large empty room in front of him. In the center of the room was a door, lit just enough to make out the number. Room 19A. He then noticed that he was not alone in the room. Beside him were four other people, male and female, from various walks of life. Like him, they too were bound to a chair, their hands and feet tied and their mouths gagged. He was abnormally calm about everything. Perhaps he had gone into shock or maybe he was not going to waste his energy on fighting with his restraints. But, there was something else that trumped all other feelings and emotions that should have been dominating his actions.

From behind him a voice began to speak. It was deep and throaty and scratchy and hurried in its words and thoughts, as though the speaker fought with his own tongue for control of his brain. It began with an apology for having to being them to the beginning phase of the meeting in such an inhumane way, but assured them of its necessity, for had it been more traditional and voluntary they might have never come. The hum returned to Charlie's ears, drowning out the voice behind him. He felt his chair raise and turn in the direction of the voice. Here, Charlie saw the machine that had to have housed the generator the clerk had mentioned upon his check-in.

An eerily old and thin man stood before them, dressed in a black tuxedo with the flap down the back making him look like some gravely ill music conductor. His hair was jet black in color and flowed just below chin level  fixed to his head as though it were drawn on in crude oil. His face was bony and pale with a thin line of pink beneath his nose for lips that held a curious shape, wavy and lifeless, that was difficult to see due to the hang of his slick bangs that covered much of his face in a veil of shadow. He stood like a tiny figurine in front of the giant metal capsule that should have been much bigger than any room the motel offered. Wires ran from all around the capsule into the walls behind it that disappeared from plain view. Off to the side was a console that the wires eventually connected with. At the controls was Spurt, hammering away commands that Doctor Krull periodically stated in-between words to his guests. Charlie focused hard on the words spoken, drowning out the noise of the hum as best he could.

     "Welcome, welcome. I am sure you are all excited to know why you are here and what role you will all be playing in all this. I assure you that your lives are in no immediate danger, and by the time we are finished with this demonstration, each and every one of you will be glad you made the choice to accept our multilateral time communication blast. Your universe is indeed most curious-Spurt, equation for the sub-dimensional space located at the M3 quadrant of hyper barrier-and your people offer a great deal of pleasures that my own kind have yet to indulge in-No, no, no. Like this."

Doctor Krull walked over to a large chalk board next to the console and jotted down his command. The chalkboard faced Charlie and the others, but made no sense to them.

X \prod_{i=1}^m (\pi_i)^{k_i}

"If we are going to journey into their bodies then we need to make sure we have the precise calculations so that they do not end up like you did, a pooling mess of molecular instability."
Charlie recalled the pool of liquid at his room door. Now, Charlie Harley was authentically afraid for his life and now fully understood the meaning of the phrase, Curiosity that killed the cat.

To be continued...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Room 407: Till Death Do Us Part

I am nothing without you and tortured by your presence and your love. 

It had been raining most of the night. Thick heavy raindrops whistled as they plummeted from the rainclouds high above the long desolate highway, caught in the flood from the headlights of Sharon's SUV with the empty deluxe car seat in the back, a pile of her clothes to the side, nearly a dozen pairs of shoes in the floor boards and a cardboard box filled with memories in the front seat. The flaps of the box were still soiled and smelled of booze. A thin 30-something mother of two and decade long faithful working wife, but times were tough now for her, especially in recent months. Marriage for her had always been rocky with the blame shifting equally on both sides, but after having their first child, a boy, Alex their lives quickly spiraled down.

Somehow they continued to carry on, mostly because each one found new ways to bury their true feelings deep inside their heart, in places normally reserved for trauma or unexpected life events that would ultimately define them. Because of this, Sharon changed and eventually lost herself inside motherhood. Life was suddenly charming to her once more, and with the addition of her son she felt like things between her and her husband might finally spike for the better. Day in and day out, she tended to her son, while juggling a job from home, finagling the two for the first year. It was trying, that much she accepted, but determination not to become that fragmented version of her own mother helped her through the toughest of times until, one day, she figured out the secret of a working mother. What she failed to realize, even now not fully understanding, was the bond she thought she had with her husband was a mere line drawn in the sand that washed easily away with the changing tides.

On one side was a woman who committed herself to do the right thing, no matter the cost, and on the other side a shadow that begged for substance, so that it no longer felt insignificant to the world. As she turned the SUV into the drive of the motel, a beautiful purple bolt of lightning danced along the skyline, zig-zagging downwards, disappearing behind the silhouetted treetops in the distance. She pulled into a parking space and sat still, her hands were trembling on the wheel and her face welted now with tears. "You're fucking worthless." His words bounced around inside her head like the crackle of lighting she witnessed moments before. Words that only meant something to the mouth that formed them, designed as tiny verbal knives that filleted her heart and drained her of any confidence she had belt up for herself in the months leading up to that moment they were spoken to her with such crisp and precise aim. He knew how to hurt her. He knew how to strip her of any love she had for either him or for herself.

From the shadows a pair of evil eyes watched as a visibly shaken woman got out from her SUV. The thunder drove the woman inside faster than she had anticipated to escape the potential of being struck by ravenous strikes of lightening, oblivious to the real danger lurking nearby waiting for the right moment to introduce itself.

     "That will be 115.95. Cash or credit sweetie?" the older gentleman at the front desk asked. He looked to be in his sixties and smelled of cheap cigarettes. Judging by the yellow tips of his fingers he was a seasoned smoker who long ago stopped caring about a brand of anything, as long as it provided a nicotine fix.

Sharon handed the man her card. "Credit please." she said turning to a small television on the counter next to him.

     "They say the rain is going to last throughout the night. Good thing you decided to stop. It's very dangerous to drive at night without a constant drip from the Lord's nose." he stated with a chortle.

She beckoned a smile to him and took back her card.

She returned to her car more comfortable in the elements knowing the rain would wash away her tears. She opened the driver side door and tucked the box under her arm, closing the door with her foot and proceeded back inside the lobby.

     "Here you are Missy, room 407. Just hit the stairs right outside the door, up one flight and on the corner to your right." he said handing her the flat gold key. The head of the key had a small tattered piece of paper with the number 407 written in black ink pen that was beginning to smear between her wet fingers. "If its any help, we are not worth the tears."

Sharon wasn't sure if she should be offended or smile, so she compromised a slighted smirk turning for the door.  The clerk shook his head regretfully, turning his attention back to the small television. Had he paused for a second more, he might have seen the shadow that chased the young woman up the stairs just after she left his company.

Sharon found her room and stood at the door, fumbling the key in her hand as she tried to jiggle it into the lock. The key hesitated and with a bit of frustration, popped out from the lock and onto the deck. She attempted to hold the box while bending for the key when a hand sprung out from around the corner and snatched up the key. The sudden emergence of a dark colored man frightened her, causing her to nearly drop her things, catching the box with her free hand just as its contents threatened to spill out onto the deck.

     "I'm sorry." the man said. "I did not not intend to scare you. I saw you struggling with the box there and thought I would assist you when I noticed you had dropped your key."

She felt a bit silly and a tad embarrassed, thanking the man for his help. He handed her a key and a kind smile and then walked past her, disappearing around the same corner in which he came. She slipped the key into the lock and turned it. The door opened and not a moment too soon, feeling her eyes swell up again. What she needed was a nice hot shower.

Nearby a man stalked the motel, up one flight of stairs, blending in when witnesses emerged from their rooms unexpectedly, and down the stairs on the opposite end of the deck. He did this because he needed to know how aware those around him were. What did they hear or more precisely, what kinds of sights sounds peeked their curiosity the most. That's what made motels so attractive to people like him- there guests lack of concern for others. They only wanted a soft pillow and warm blanket to reset their traveling spirits and regain that appeal of conquest and thirst for adventure. He stood in front of room 407, looking down to the SUV. It was time to learn more about his victim. 

Hope, that was something Sharon had long determined a cute name given to children. She leaned into the steaming shower. The stinging water ran down her body, washing away the odor of her long travel, the humility she felt inside and the makeup on her face. But she could not rid herself of all the ambivalent emotions running through her extremities, assuming control of her mind long enough to reach for the cold water tap and consider shutting it off. Her life had taken such a drastic turn for the ware that part of her wondered if she felt anything at all or could ever feel something again. Then her thoughts turned on her second child. Her name would have been Destiny.

Like hope, Destiny was supposed to bring her and her husband closer together. Life was going to retreat back into the recesses of the shadows and turn over a new leaf for her; a new beginning for the family she had given up everything in trying to build.
10 weeks into the pregnancy, she woke up late one evening with the most pain she had ever felt in her stomach. Wrenching and writhing, she woke her husband and cried that there was something wrong with the baby. This nightmare verified once he pulled back the sheets to help her from the bed. If there ever had been a moment in their life together that was completely out of their control, yet meant everything to the stability of the marriage it was that crimson moment that would forever leave them both marred by imperfection and guilt that festered inside them.

After her shower, she put on the housecoat provided by the motel and walked over to the box, removing one item after another, glancing at the pictures of her, her husband and son enjoying a moment at the park one summer day. Another photo was much older, wrinkled with time with its ink fading, this one of the day she married. It was a joyous occasion, she recalled. Finding the bottle with her fingers, she pulled the whiskey from the box and stared at it. It was clearly not the answer, she knew this; but, drinking to numb herself seemed the more likely thing to do. He had clearly expressed his discontent for her earlier that day. She was worthless to him. She could not earn enough of a living that he wanted from her, while caring for his child. She could not do the simple things he believed all women should be able to do; cook, clean, wash up, laundry, keep the house clean and tidy at all times, be there for him sexually when he needed her to be and not when she was emotionally prepared for him. All these things thrown up in her face daily, added up to this drunken shell of a woman someone, somewhere, would have appreciated more than the inflamed ego at home.

There wasn't even a need for popping the lock, some people never learned. This was his lucky day or so it appeared that way. The SUV was in a state of panic. Hurried packing, the lingering smell of alcohol, the child safety seat and...a letter in the visor on the driver's side. The stranger opened the letter and leaned back in the back of the SUV. The light from the flashing sign outside the lobby was just enough that he could make out the scribble. 

Sharon stood motionless, eying the contents spread out on the small table before her. She considered phoning home to hear her son's sweet voice call her Daddy over and over again. Daddy was the preferred word for both her and her husband, although, when asked to find mommy he would always turn to her and point and then laugh as though it was a game played among them. However, she knew if a call was made it would only drag her back inside an endless loop that her heart and her health could not defend itself against any longer. She grabbed the ice bucket and set out in search of the ice machine.

The rain was still pouring as she stepped out into the chill, looking for a directional sign for the vending, heading up the stairs to the third floor where the ice and vending machines were located. Her head was filled with despair, confusion, doubt, remorse, regret and a number of emotions that broke against her will like flood waters bracing against paper levies. She had long lost herself the moment she loaded the car and slammed the door shut. Her shadow was now behind the wheel and without a face or identity to embrace it moved through life like a ghost, haunted by things it did not understand. The Ice machine sat between a nook in the wall, behind the vending machines and out of the way enough that no one could see in passing along the hallway.

She reached for the small metal scoop attached to a wimpy string on the top of the machine and stabbed at the ice. She then felt wet cold gloved hands grip around her throat from behind. Instinctively, she dropped the scoop full of ice and reached for the powerful hands at her throat, constricting tighter as she fought for air. Ice spilled onto the floor, crushing beneath her bare feet that fought for leverage, slipping on the cold ice chips that only provided more of a hold from her attacker. She was surprised at the power of her unseen assailant, the quickness of his emergence and grip around her that stole away the air from her lungs. She was further surprised by how little her limbs fought back. The quiet sickness that was an ambivalent monster at her body's helm, steering her with a certain level of satisfaction, convincing her depression that everything was happening according to plan; although, not exactly how first conceived.

She closed her eyes and a hot intense white light enveloped her senses. He stood before her, smiling lovingly and taking her by the hand. Vows echoed in her head and then the words faded, replaced by the rage spoken to her in recent months. The uncaring nature backing them that said no matter what the outcome, no forgiveness or apology would follow. Not this time. Not ever again. Nothing would ever be good enough, as long as the effort was coming from her. It was then she heard a voice unfamiliar to her whisper in her ear.
 "I am actually doing you a favor." the voice said.

She had consciously attempted to free herself from the strangers grip, digging her claws into his gloved hands and pulling to the point one of her fingernails had snapped off. Incredibly, she had achieved becoming numb, either by the lack of air flow to her lungs or her mind had finally given in along with her will. Her life flashed in front of her eyes and her soul decided then that enough was enough. The stranger worked an arm around her stomach, squeezing the last remaining breath from her, tossing her against the side of a Coke Machine. Her head smashed the corner of the machine hard, as her body was released by the boa-like grip of the stranger, falling onto the floor her blood mixing with the melting ice cubes at her feet.

The stranger opened the door and stepped inside the room. There was a dampness in the air, along with the scent of jasmine emitting from the bathroom. On the table were photos of a beautiful family all with smiling faces, mementos from better times. the stranger's footsteps brought him over to the bed, the sheets still tucked into the corners of the mattress. He reached down and pulled back one corner, pressing into the pillow with a fist, and then reached into his jacket taking from it the letter he had found in the SUV. He then took the whiskey and uncapped it, splashing some across the bed, onto the floor at the table, along the table top and sat the bottle on the  pillow on its side next to the letter. 
He then listened very carefully at the raindrops slapping against the window, rapping on the glass lightly in a sonnet that only he could hear. Ironically, it made him feel something other than numbness.  Pleased with the arrangement of things, he backed out from the room and quickly blended into the darkness. 

A hundred and forty miles from the motel a phone rang in the early morning hours. 

A tired groggy hand reached through the morning sunbeam shining through a partially opened window, fingers teased the cordless phone on the table next to the bed, finding a solid grip around one end. A disoriented man's voice uttered, "Hello." as an equally lazy ear listened to the voice on the other end of the line tell it that something dreadful has happened and wished to speak to the husband of one Sharon Keller.  At this point, eyes sprung open more awake than they had ever been. Almost immediately after they began to water, and soon after cry freely in an uncontrollable frenzy. There was shock and disbelief. So much so, the man who was Mr. Keller could not will his body from the bed. His mind was now drowning in guilt, shame, sorrow and complete disarray.
    "Oh god. This...this is some kind of joke right? Please god, tell me this is some kind of cruel goddamn joke!" he sobbed.

There was nothing more he could do. Nothing more he could say that would somehow turn back time and allow him the chance to say what his heart really felt than what his mouth preferred to say. He finally rose from the bed, clutching the phone and rocking back and forth. His mind searching for something it could use to make heads or tails out of what the detective was saying on the other end of the phone.

From the room down the hallway, a tiny voice stirred over the monitor. "Daddy?" the boy called out as he had done numerous nights and mornings, expecting "Daddy" to come. This morning things would be different.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Room 1403: The Day the Rock Died.

I am Rock and Roll. The reaper of Soul. The Black Mamba of Funk and the Heart of a song backed by the thunderous booms of a kick drum. I bleed music notes and clot only when I can play no more. My fingers have become rods of blistered flesh, cracked and peeling, and aching to the beat of my drum. I am a rock star and you Envy me and my charmed life. 

The morning sun looked like cooling lava pouring in through the cracked window of the hotel room, flooding the trashed accommodation in warm light that peeled back the darkness to unveil an all too familiar start in the day and life of a traveling rockstar. Clothes lay spread out along the room, across the lampshades, on the bedside tables, a small 26’ television, paused on some graphic porno from the night before and in heaps outside the bathroom. A small desk table sat at the foot of the bed, the top laden with trace amounts of cocaine and heroin, with an 8ball of “Incentive” up against a half brick of “Black Gold”, the finest products road money could buy.

By noon, the numerous empty beer cans had heated in the sun enough that the room now smelled of urine, sweat, mold, and cheap hops. Mixing with the musk of a night filled with a lot of sex, too many drugs and not nearly enough rock and roll. Everyone, whoever they might have been, had left by this time with the exception of the lump of covers on the bed that consisted of the band's semi-famous drummer for hire and his prostitute.

Somewhere inside the bed, a cell phone rang, buzzing like a pocket rocket running low on batteries. Eventually, a partially woken hang snared the phone and began the journey through the covers and beneath the sleeping prostitute’s limbs to a ringing ear.

“Need you downstairs in ten, or you can find your own fucking way back home!” a voice shouted, “Wade. Wade?”

A deep grungy voice belonging to Wade muttered inaudible words that only further infuriated the voice on the other end.

“Ten minutes Wade! You fucking junkie, I swear to god I will leave you in this forsaken town and never look back. Get your ass up and be ready in ten…eight minutes motherfucker!”

The covers now stirred. An aged body tested by the throws of road life and pounded relentlessly by a nightly drug binge that would cause Jim Morrison to turn over in his grave, ached and spasms with the slightest movement only calmed by the mornings first round of anti-inflammatory meds, two 7.5 vicodin and a shot of Old Turkey. It was during his stretch that Wade realized the hooker had not yet moved and, as far as he could tell, still had his cock in her mouth.

Wade reached down and felt her head. It was cold, too cold for anything living. Realizing this, panic immediately settled in. He rose up from the bed tossing the covers off him and the naked prostitute, whose mouth was stiff and dry and noshing enough on his penis that he needed to wedge his fingers inside her mouth and pry him loose. There was a loud crack as the dead hookers jaw broke.

Upon hearing this, Wade rolled off the bed onto the floor, hysterical and sweating profusely, hoping this was all part of some kind of bad trip that he had not been able to shake from in his sleep. It was true in that he was still coming down from his high from the night before, but he was sober enough to know that what he saw was the real thing. Sober enough to know that no matter how you played it, this was not going to end well for him. What the fuck happened? He wondered as he looked around the room for his clothes. Last night was a total blur, the people, his guest, fans, groupies that traveled with the band…Who could identify him from a lineup?

Jesus, what the fuck am I thinking? I need…I need to…Where the fuck are my things? Wade turned and found himself looking back in a mirror fixed to the closet, opening it and nearly pissing himself in fear as a second body fell out onto the floor. This time it was a young man, still dead drunk and passed out, but breathing. Here, Wade had something of an epiphany. In dire need of something to calm his nerves, he returned to the bedside, pushing aside the corpse, sitting down reaching for the Black Gold, rolling a joint. He sat, smoking and trying to calm his foot from rapidly jumping, eyeing the dead hooker, the passed out man slumped halfway out from the closet and the clock. Four minutes- time that felt like an eternity.

There, sitting just inside the bottom of the television cabinet was his wallet. His head had ceased spinning and the effects of the drugs quickly returned to him a state of calm, which he would need a lot of if he were to pull off what he felt was his only option. He grabbed the hooker by her legs, shifting her in the bed so that she now lay normally with her head resting at the headboard. He then took a pillow and placed it over her infinite gaze, her shattered mouth was now more of an elongated oval that would surely haunt him for the rest of his days. As he turned for the young man, he noticed the end of a black strap beneath a red bedazzled dress, he assumed, belonged to the hooker, pulling it to find a purse on the end. Inside he found her High School ID card, drivers permit and a signed CD of Dangerous Musings latest release. Jesus, she was only seventeen! It was all he could do not to vomit, stumbling his way over to the closet. He hooked his arms under the sleeping man and drugged him over to the bed, pulling off his pants and shirt, checking the clock once more.

There was a knock at the door.

A voice said, “Room service.”

Wade froze. He gave the room a quick glance as the housekeeper swiped her keycard through the reader. The little light changed from red to green and the door opened.

“Room service.”

Upon seeing the carnage and disregard for other people’s things, the woman just shook her head, pulling her car just inside the door. It was not unusual to find such rooms in a state of disarray; especially, when longhaired el ojete’s stayed the night. When she reached for the covers and pulled them back, she was startled to see the two naked people lying in the bed. One appeared to be sleeping while the other…

The door to the tour bus was just about to close when an arm shot through. The rest of the band watched as their drummer climbed aboard, sweat dripping from his face and shaking to the point of collapse, which they assumed was just a side effect to the drugs he was likely taking. A short fat Italian man emerged from the back of the bus, his face riddled with disgust, holding a cell phone in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other.

“You smell like a dead hooker. If you did not play the fucking drums like nobody’s business, I would fire you and have Max throw your pathetic ass off the bus. Tomorrow night we play the Forum and I expect you to be sober by then!” he said pushing his way past.

Wade climbed into his bunk and said nothing to the other band mates, nor would he for the rest of the day. His thoughts were on the young man he had purposely left behind to take the blame for something he felt no one was responsible for, but he felt that his hands were tied. They were tied, weren’t they?