The Proud and Grateful Pan Knight (On his Tenth Birthday)

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My tenth birthday was a full sixty years before my final birthday. 

I somersaulted over the gate and landed in an ankle deep excrement pie. There was no time to clean my boots so I quickly abandoned them on the porch before sprinting into my cabin. 

“Morning mother,” I said. 

My mother nodded. 

I was up long before the sun to feed the chickens early so my mother could not scold me for not taking care of the coups and the stocks before breakfast. So I was free to sit by the big unmarked box in the living room, near the fireplace.

Mother cleaned and brewed Ginger Coffee while grandfather sucked on a pipe. 

“Can I open it now?” I asked

“Have a seat?” My mother ordered.

I nodded and took my seat quietly at the kitchen counter. 

“You need your srength,” Mother said. 

“Grandpa says understanding self is as important as building strength,” I said. 

Mother placed a steaming bowl of fish porridge before me and started wiping the counter. “Your grandfather will never be drafted.” 

“I can still scrap,” Grandfather coughed. 

Mother stared at Grandfather. “If he’s not strong enough to wield the armor…” 

“Then he’ll get lighter armor,” Grandfather answered. 

My mother slammed her rag on the counter. “And less protection.” 

“He won’t grow much bigger than he is.” 

“Yes he will, father…” 

“Let the boy discover what is best for him,” Grandpa lowered his pipe. “What’s best may not be a heavy suit of armor. ” 

“What’s best won’t matter if he’s dead, father.” 

Silence. 

“I will check on the chickens,” Mother said before leaving. 

I fed them already

“And some more tobacco, please dear,” Grandpa said. 

“You have legs,” Mother shot back. 

The poultries and meats were reserved for the Shining Knight brigade. Nothing more important than to support God’s mandate to expand the Potentate’s vast kingdom. We had mud-salmon for protein. 

Mother’s seasoning masked the bitter taste. 

I was happy to support the war effort. 

“Did you thank the Gods?” Grandfather asked. 

I nodded. “And the empire.” 

“Then, open your gift,” Grandfather said. 

I looked over my shoulder. 

I was far from finished with my breakfast and I didn’t want to incur mother’s wrath. 

“I’ll deal with your mother,” I said. 

“Thank you!” I leaped off my stool. 

Grandfather grabbed my shoulder. 

“Patience,” Grandfather said. 

I slowly approached the box. 

The box seemed even bigger than when grandpa brought it into the house a week earlier. 

I took a breath. I removed the ribbon. I removed the lid. I reached in. I pulled out what looked like…

“A pan?” I said. 

I reached in again. Pan lids strung together with chains and leather. 

“Your new armor,” Grandfather said. 

I wiped away a tear. “I love it…” 

I loved it because it was mine. I didn’t care how it was made. I didn’t care how inexpensive it was. I planned to train in it to make it an extension of me. 

“Thank you, grandfather,” I said. 

Fleeting Tale Vol. 4

He stood in the hallway, fogging the glass as he peered into his office.

There were thick files waiting for him on his desk. There were mounts of paper about to tip over like dominos into each other.

He thought of his career. He thought of how many trees were destroyed to create those mountains. He thought of skipping lunch so he could escape an hour early. He thought of how much he missed his dog, and how much they both loved to spend their -unemployed-days taking terrible selfies and rescuing spiders from his wife. He thought of how much he missed his wife, and how lucky she was to work from home. And how lucky he was to work.

I miss you buddy…

He shut the door. He slung his backpack over his chair and powered his computer.

He was beginning to think they were right about him doing too much.

He was a writer. A DJ. A filmmaker. A part time sous-chef and a crime fighter dubbed by the social media as The Master Chef. He was also well known liar– to himself and his peers.

He digressed.

He grabbed a stack of paper and loaded it onto the outdated scanner. He pressed the on button.

Beep… Beep.

The scanner was jammed.

He sighed. “Brick by brick…”

He reclined his chair.

Its going to be a long day.

Bulk Trash

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I miss you, Tre.

I place the last of his belongings in the alley.

His leash. His stuffed squirrel. His squeak toy. The citronella collar we sometimes used to keep him quiet. And lastly his bed. 

He adored his bed. 

The truck. Droning closer. At the top of the alley. Crushing discarded memories house by house. 

My stomach turned. 

The truck will swallow all I have left of him. The truck will cement the empty, circular space where my sweet pup used to reside. The space will become a bottomless well, filled to the brim with tears for my furry son.  

I return home.  

Pots vs. The Glittering Knight

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“Reliance on my advantages was my greatest disadvantage…”

I stifle my laughter just long enough to draw my Great-sword. 

My opponent has a rice pot for a helmet and small frying pan lids for shin, and elbow guards while my armor glitters as it was forged in the sun’s corona using minerals from the far side of the moon– armor I received from my uncle at my recent birthday. My opponent looks more like the town beggar than an actual warrior. 

We were yards from the rogue village. I can see into the empty town from the empty road– our battleground. I can almost see their eyes peeking from the cracks in their window shutters. 

They will watch me break their champion. Slaughtering their village was unnecessary because defeating their champion will break their spirits. They’ll beg to be folded back into the kingdom. They’ll have the privilege to bow to us once again. 

I turn my attention back to the opponent before me. 

He was wheezing heavily. My opponent’s mouth is buried beneath his coal and ash peppered beard. He is diminutive and frail and has yet to show he can lift his spear. 

I am amused, but also disrespected by the champion the village sent forward to face me. Of all This will be easy. 

“Surrender,” I command. 

The broken old man lifts his spear. 

“Is there nobody else?!” I call towards the village. 

The old man grunts. 

I lift my sword. “Alright then.” 

His crudely made armor will shatter easily, but not on first impact. His armor was made of old pots, but they were metal nonetheless. They’ll require one or two strikes before I’m able to cleave through his bones. His neck was unprotected, so I figure two strikes and I will have his head. 

I lower my helmet and and take small steps towards my opponent.

I want to punish the feeble old man for wasting my time and tricking me into donning my new armor. 

My opponent backs way from me. 

I pause.  “You won’t outrun me.” 

My opponent raises their spear and pauses. 

I’ll easily overwhelm him. I’m stronger. Faster. Younger. 

I raise my sword. “Goodbye, sir..” 

I rush my opponent and bring my sword down on his head. 

My sword strikes dirt. 

My opponent’s spear pierces the side of the knee, beneath the hinge. He withdrew just out of my reach before I could counterstrike with a slash of my sword. 

I’m bleeding through my armor. My armor is stained in blood red and dirt brown. 

I’m furious. 

I stalk my opponent and follow him off-road and into the dirt. 

My opponent circles back towards the road but remains within striking range. His spear is raised but he’s leaving his whole right side open. 

I swing at his right side. 

He parries and throws his body into my chest, knocking me off balance. 

I slash again but fail to connect because my opponent has already retreated to outside of my range. 

Clonk!


I am blind for a moment. I’m rattled. 

Frustrated. Perplexed. 

I couldn’t see the hit coming. 

I shake it off and start applying more pressure to my opponent. 

I’m faster but none of my attacks are connecting. The harder I push the more I’m fumbling over myself. 

The old man is moving blindingly swift in his armor made of rusted pots and pans. 

I’m moving like cement in my celestial armor. 

I attack with all my might. All my speed.  

I’m hoping to tire him out but I’m taking brain rattling hits to the head and stabs to the tender spots in my armor. 

I’m striking where he’s standing and either meeting resistance or empty air. 

It’s not as if he’s moving very fast either. The old man just seems to know where to be like a magician. Like he has precognition.  

I’m crumbling. 

“Enough,” I say as I fall to my knees from exhaustion and all the blows I took to my helmet. “You win.” 

The old man staggers towards me and steps on my sword. 

My sword is too heavy to lift, especially from beneath my opponents tattered boots. 

“Nice armor.” The old man removes my helmet with the blunt end of his spear. “Is it yours.” 

I don’t answer.

“How did I beat you?:” He asked. 

“You tired me out,” I say. 


“You tired yourself out,” He replies. 

My head was pounding and I was starting to feel pain in all of my joints from stab wounds, and from small punctures and incisions from the old man’s spear. 

He takes a seat besides me and lights a pipe. 

I could smother him where he sat. My armor would be too heavy for him to push me off. I could finish this-

“Relying too much on your advantages was your greatest disadvantage,” He says.  

I release my blade. “I don’t understand.” 

“If you’re lucky, you’ll live to be a broken old man like me,” He exhaled a smoke ring. “Then what will be without your speed, strength, and youth?” 

I recognize the sweet scent of smoke. It was the sweet scent of Jane flower. It was often used by peasants as an opiate to calm the body or suppress pain. His hand trembled as he extended the pipe to me. 

I take a quick pull of the old man’s pipe.

The pain quickly disappears and all my regret and disappointment is replaced with a blissful emptiness and clarity. 

“Know your weaknesses better than anyone,” The old man stands and returns to the road. “You understand?” 

I stand and nod.  

Schwoop! Schoop!

Two arrows strike the old man in the back. 

I look over my shoulder. 

An Imperial archer aiming another arrow at the old man. 

I stagger towards the bleeding old man and turn him on his side. “I didn’t order this.” 

The old man laughs and gags on his own blood. “I guess my weakness is mercy.” 

The old man’s head rolls back and so does his eyes. 

An imperial army materializes behind the archer. 

The Creator’s Block

I. Had. Nothing.

I changed brush sizes. Stepped to the side to view my unfinished painting from another angle, praying to myself for inspiration.

Still. Nothing.

It had been a millennia since I was motivated to create something. Still not motivated. A millennia since I’d had the confidence to continue my work. Confidence, missing.

I took a breath.

Those seven days of creativity swelled my belly with painful nostalgia. And with regret.

Those seven days were something special.

I’d spent eternities trying to recapture that fire. That confidence to saturate that empty canvas with life. But all I’ve ever received was dry brimstone. Inspiration which presented themselves in the flesh, but crumbled through my fingers like ash in my arms each time I reached to embrace them.

“Day eight,” I whispered to myself. “On the eighth day, I resumed.”

I had intended to complete my work. To fill each part of the cosmic canvas with life and color. From corner to corner, the infinite blank space was to be overflowing with vibrant, abstract, unpredictable existence.

I drew my brush from the easel and stopped short of adding another stroke to the blank canvas. The incomprehensible void.

The first part of the creation took her a whole seven days. The story is after seven days I rested. Nothing could be further from the truth. The real story was more like…. On the seventh day… She got suffered a block On the seventh day she got frustrated and snapped her paintbrush in two.

The four dimensional paint I was to use to expand my universe was drying.

There was a can of oblivion-black can of paint in the corner.

I woke up at dawn, of the new millennia with so many fresh ideas. So many ways to enhance what I had already accomplished in those seven powerful, ambitious, creative, flowing days. What I thought was another bang, an explosion of inspiration, was no more than an aftershock of the original. It was false hope. My mind playing tricks on me.

I took a step back to view my incomplete painting in its infinite totality.

Was it imperfection? Was it truly unfinished, or was I just eternally dissatisfied with my work? Will I ever be satisfied?

I added a brush stroke along the empty corner of the canvas.

I added color to the empty space, but it only expanded the void within me.

“Ugh”, I threw my brush to the ground.

I was a failure. There was nothing to improve. The problem wasn’t the painting. It was me, the creator. The incomplete creation was a result of me, the incomplete creator.

Genesis was a fluke.

I picked up the can of oblivion-black paint, opened the lid, and aimed it at the canvas.

It was time to start over. To stop wasting any more time on that creation. It’s always easier to start over.

I tossed oblivion black paint on the canvas and ended my creation once and for all.

Heads Up Display

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“I think we’re making progress… don’t you?”

 

He blinked rapidly trying to rid his irritated left eye of the rapidly expanding red meter. 

His therapist didn’t believe him. Nobody ever does. He regretted even making the appointment.

His therapist sat there, tapping her cleft chin with her designer pen.

He wanted to stand up right there and leave the room. The display in his eyes- something akin to a power meter in a role playing game- in the corner of his eyes was blinking fast. The word warning started to appear in bold white letters whilst the room was starting to light up like a Soviet submarine.

“You see things…” His therapist inquired.

“Yes,” He replied.

“You see a meter that reads your stress levels.”

“Something like that.”

“Right now?”

“Unfortunately.”

She was questioning him like he was crazy. Maybe he was crazy. But he paid her hourly to make him feel better about himself. Like a whole person. Not to judge him with her eyes.

He sat forward from his sofa with the intention to leave.

“You leaving?” She asked.

“No,” He fibbed.

“Please don’t leave.”

“Okay,” He laid back on the sofa.

His stress meter was full to capacity. The blinking lights ceased and steadied. The room was a steady red. His muscles felt like wet sandbags.

“Still see it?” His therapist asked.

He sank in his seat. “That’s correct.”

“And this is a result of a head injury,” His therapist asked.

“A concussion,” He added.

“And how did you get this concussion?”

“I tripped… Trying to fix a light bulb.”

I tried to hang myself and the rope snapped and I hit my head. 

His therapist wrote something in her notebook.

“What are you writing?” He asked.

His therapist lifted her head from her notebook. “How do you feel about these, visions?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know.”

His therapist stared at him in silence.

He asked. “You don’t believe me.”

“I believe you,” His therapist replied. “These visions could be a good thing.”

“Good?”

“The ability to see your negative feelings rise. Like, a pressure gauge on a steam pipe.”

Wow… She wasn’t judging him. He was just being paranoid as usual. Relief.

“Never thought of it that way,” He said.

The room faded to normal colors as his red gauge slowly declined. The bold warning letters disappeared and was replaced by a more subtle critical which rested at the bottom corner of his eye.

“This meter can be helpful to you,” His therapist reached over and touched his hand. “Feelings are harder to ignore when they’re visualized right in front of you.”

He smiled. “You’re right.”

His stress meter dropped to zero and within seconds, his one full blood red bar was now half-filled with a neon green.

“Thank you doc,” He said.

“We’re glad to help,” His therapist replied. “Take care.”

He grabbed his coat and opened the door.

A nagging thought prevented him from leaving. Her parting words…

“Yes?” His therapist asked.

“You said we’re glad…” He said. “Who is we?”

Glorious Transitions

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I hand my mopey traveling partner his detached jaw.

He was a sad sack. And quite the glutton for punishment. But I liked watching him fall to pieces– literal and fugurative pieces. What makes him funnier than most is no matter how many times I explain to him that only he can end his suffering– right this instance if he chooses– he decides every freaking time to keep kicking himself in the balls. What a guy. This realm nearly took his jaw. The last left him without kneecaps. The first left him without an ear. Yet, he keeps on… Thats what I call will power.

What will the next one take?

“How you feeling?” I slide his jaw into his face so he can speak.

Click… Click… He bites down to lock his mandibles in place.

“Thanks,” He slurs.

I wink. “Anytime, Jim.”

Jim is his name. Or at least the one I gave him since I am terrible with names. No point in remembering his real name since most people who take the journey end up as a pile of dust before they reach their destination. Or, eternally disappointed. I’d rather be a pile of dust than to be disappointed. Or a disappointment. Like I say… Have low to no expectations and you avoid all kinds of suffering. What was I talking about? Oh… This Jim is on his fifth realm and he’s still standing. I’ll refer to him as Jim infinity.

I hold in a laugh.

Jim looks like roadkill. He’s too exhausted to dream up some new clothes so he’s walking around in the ones he was buried in.

People come here after reading Dante’s Inferno or sitting through that incredibly confusing Robin Williams movie from the 90s and think traversing the afterlife in search of love is some simple stroll. Well its not. It can be. But its not.

“Hurry up,” Jim barks.

I slow my pace.

No pitiful, sorry excuse for a post-lifer, who is willing to torture himself like that over a speck of stardust, or whatever we’re made of, will tell me what to do.

“Okay… Jim,” I slap my traveling partner on the back.

Crrrk.

He groans.

It was a light hit, but I still knock his shoulder out of place.

“Fine huh?” I ask.

“Yeah…” Jim coughs up dust. “Fine.”

He doesn’t have long. Damn. I’m about to lose a bet. I though’t he’d make it.

I lean down to talk to him since he’s hunched over. “Sure you don’t wan-”

“No,” Jim interrupts.

Whatever… I was about to tell Jim about this beach resort realm where the illusionary seafood and wine was forever flowing. I was about to remind him, once again for the infinite time, that happiness was literally a choice in this place. There was no fire, brimstone, or red scaly beasts with tails raping you with pitchforks. Hell was a personal choice. The torture here is literally self-serve.

“Hmmmm…” I take a step towards the grassy landscape. “This is nice.”

It was nicer than the last place where I nearly caught a crossbow bolt to the face. Or the amusement park full of clowns that turn people into cotton candy.

“It’s what she’d like,” Jim replies.

“We should stay here a while,” He suggests. “Allow you to rest up a bit.”

“No time,” Jim says.

“There’s literally no time here,” I reply. “So no sense in rushing. She ain’t going anywhere.”

Crackle… Crackle…

“She’s close,” Jim says. “I feel her.”

“That’s your organs turning to Jam and oozing out your bum.”

“She’s close,” He says again.

“You said that already…” I reply.

“I’m sure this time…” Jim sticks his chest out. “She grew up on grassy acres… On a barn…”

“I don’t care!” I scream, unable to pretend any longer.

“You said you’d guide me,” Jim whines.

“Because I was bored,” I reply. “I’m even more bored now!”

“Fine… I’ll go on my own.”

“Why? And don’t say because you love her.”

“She’s my soulmate…”

“Fairy tales!”

The soulmate thing was made up by the Greeting Card industry.

Jim points his curved finger in my face. “The angel-”

I shove his hand away. “Winged lady was trolling you, pal.”

“Seven realms over.”

“Seven? Exactly Seven?”

“We’ve travelled five.”

“You most definitely look it, Jim.”

They always fall for the divine number nonsense. Why not eleven. Or twenty two?

“She wasn’t lying,” Jim says.

“How can you be sure?” I ask.

“Because… There’s no reason to.”

“Of course there is… You’re gullible.”

And gullible, love-sick, betas like Jim are a joy to screw with. And, since winged lady and I are cut from the same cosmic cloth, or so I surmise, I figure she gets a kick out of playing the after-life’s tour guide like I do. And about her wings… I figure that was her schtick… But I do wonder about those wings….I hear they stretch across a realm. How’d she get those? Probably some trick she learned since she’s quite old and has been here since the beginning or whatever. Or so I hear. Heck, I’ve heard she’s crossed more realms than any unbothered in all of the un-xistance. But I digress. I’ll find her one of these days and pick her brain. Or, maybe pluck a few of her wing feathers.

Jim taps me.

He probably wants to apologize for being a jerk.

“Yes?” I ask.

Jim shrugs. “Hey I-”

Vooosh!

A strong gust of wind topples Jim and nearly does the same to me.

Still on my feet. I recover.

I wave my middle finger into the distance.

“What?” Jim picks himself up from the ground.

I smirk at the landscape. “Is that emotion I sense?”

“Who are you talking to?” Jim asks.

“It… them… all of this.. .” I point in all directions. “I explained this to you two fucking realms ago!”

Jim shakes his head. “I-”

“Oh, never mind…” I throw my hands in the air. “Probably scramble your brain next jump and forget again.”

Jim walks off without me.

He was being sensitive again. And stupid.

“Where are you going?” I walk after him. “You have no idea who exists here…”

“I don’t care,” Jim answers.

He must be trying to get himself blipped. Jim knows Undecideds like him were far more dangerous and unpredictable than any of my kind. Depending on the kind of torture they endured in life, and brought with them to the after-life, they could be harboring demons -etheral carnivores birthed by torture, or weapons that could blip (temporary kill) them from Purgatory. Or, even worse, their volatile emotions or desires could go nuclear, and wipe out everything in the realm. And I mean EVERYTHING, Including us. And I can’t get blipped. Not now. I’d have to learn how not to give a shit all over again. What a pain…

I have to dismiss my worry.

I have to pause. I pause. I have to cover my ears, block out the noise, and remind myself. And chant… yes, chant. Nothing matters. Nothing matters. My after-life literally depends on nothing mattering. Which, is a bit ironic now that I think of it. If nothing matters, then I won’t care if I get blipped.

I tap my chin.

I can’t recall the last time I was blipped. I literally can’t remember… which is kind of the point I guess.

Jim was yards ahead of me.

I was so deep in though I didn’t notice.

“Stop…” I demand.

“What?” Jim pauses.

“You’re torturing yourself.”

Jim shakes his head and keeps walking.

“You wait just a goddam minute,” I demand. “You owe me.”

Travelling partner stopped. “I do?”

He doesn’t owe me squat. That line always get them to stop.

“You know why I cross freely?” I ask. “Because I’ve cut away feelings. And desires.”

Jim looks confused. But he’s listening.

“You travel with all that weight. That, gunk in your soul. That garbage eat you inside out with each crossing.” I added. “You get it?”

“Sure,” Jim dismissively answers.

“So what do you say, associate?” I offer my hand. “Snip away the feelings. Let’s visit some more colorful realms. Forget this love thing.”

Come to think of it… When’s the last time I visited my own realm?

Jim approaches me again.

That’s right… You’re making the…

“Thanks for everything,” Jim says before he ignores my hand, straightens his dislodged shoulders and staggers onwards towards the cabin in the distance.

“Catch up to you later?!” I call after Him.

Jim looks taller in the distance. He walks away without even a wave goodbye.

I shrug.

Jim’s not going far without me, so I decide to allow him some time to wander the realm while I converse with my stalker.

“He looks a mess, doesn’t he?” I lean down and pluck a blade of grass. “That wind thing you did was unbecoming of you, Unhinged.”

Always watching. Listening. Probing my thoughts. They were literally everywhere. And everything. And in or of all things. That gust of wind they hurled at me and my idiotic travel partner could have easily been a category five tornado. That’s if they wanted to really fuck shit up. Ha.

I crush the blade of grass in my palm. “No need to be jealous.”

The Untethered were not allowed to interfere,interact, or partake in any of the fun within purgatory. They are… How can I explain… Semi-sentient laws. Invisible referees. They are the living embodiment of the status quo in purgatory. They are slaves to comic duty. What a boring existence.

I dust the dirt off my favorite Lee Ving T-shirt. “You don’t intimidate us. Not anymore.”

A bed of thorns form around me. Overtaking my knees. Then my hands.

“Oh, don’t be such a bitch…” I say.

The Unhinged and their rules. The Undecided and their fucking baggage. Being an Unbothered was where it was at. I’ll never choose…. Ill stay forever.

Skrrrrr! The grassy landscape blinks into a gray void before returning. It lasts a nanosecond.

I laugh.

I’ve seen that gray void before. The world around me would disappear for a nanoseconds then reappear. And it’s more and more frequent on my visits to other realms…

“What’s the matter, Unhinged?” I ask. “Feeling powerless?”

“Stop… this,” The realm replies in a whisper.

I tear through the bed of thorns.

As I told the Unhinged the last time we had a row…

I do what I please here. Even if it means skull-fucking everything in Purgatory in the process.

The remaining thorns turn to ash and blow away in the breeze. I think I hear the grasslands moaning. Weeping.

Music to my ears.

“Hey, pal…” I call after my pitiful travelling Partner. “Wait up!”

I’ll help this idiot find his wife. But only because I know it will piss of the Untethered. And most important of all, I know for sure this will collapse this whole system. And its well past time the Transition, this glorious shit-hole, geta taken down a peg.

Poetry – My Love, My Adversary

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I don’t like Poetry.

So I reject her at every turn.

With every fiber of my exhausted being.

But she craves that sort of thing.

Stubborn Poetry. Blossoms in both sunlight and shade.

I detest how she makes me feel.

Or how she forces me to feel.

Or the ways she feels about me.

Or the places she makes me travel when we’re alone together.

Or that she makes others openly feel in my direction.

Or that she’s so unshackled. And raw. Nonsensical and free.

Unencumbered by filters or structure and gleefully vulnerable.

All things I’d rather not be in my fragile and fleeting existence.

“Please, leave me be….” I beg her to no avail.

It irritates me that she wallows, with a tropical drink and a smile, in my bubbling emotions like a jacuzzi. The very emotions in which I meditate and medicate to escape.

“You know exactly what you’re doing…” I cry to her.

She’s a grappling hook dragging me kicking and screaming into the dammed, watery abyss located miles behind my cheeky smirk and dry, unblinking eyes.

The abyss where I once drowned daily in my truths and choked hourly on my self-awareness.

“I don’t need you,” I tell myself.

I recall swimming with boulders on my ankles to the surface with sinking shores where  I built a foundation on an island of sand and ashes. And it was necessary and great.

It was paradise. She knew it was paradise.

But yet she digs trenches in me so deep that they scrape the center of my earth and leave scab marks, tall like mountains and deep like caverns on my inner core.

“Why poetry?” I ask. “Why ignite my flame?”

Can you answer that for me, Poetry?

There’s no extinguishing a torch which was never lit. You could’ve left me cold and blind. Where it was safe.

Why conduct symphonies with my heartstrings?

At first Poetry is silent. But then she replies to me with a wavy reflection. Every time. With a f***ing reflection. She shines that distorted reflection of me with a wormhole in my chest the size of a collapsing star.

“This is why I despise you, Poetry…”

Because I can’t help but love you. You leave me no choice but to love you. A love so strong that it bleeds into bitter indignation for you and for myself for loving you.

You’re meant for me. And I’m meant for you.

Tethered through desire and longing.

Like half-buried roses with razor sharp thorns.

Escaping you is escaping myself. Which is an impossibility.

“But you knew that, didn’t you… Poetry.”

Diamond’s Tuition

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The photographs looked nothing like her.

Snap!

The creeper photographer began snapping from lower angles.

She fixed her hair in one of several smudged mirrors surrounding the half-empty loft.

The photos looked nothing like her. Which was a good thing. She never gives photographers or agents her real name. To them, she’s Diamond. In case she ever ran for political office. In case she married a megachurch pastor. Everyone everywhere had a doppleganger somewhere in the world. Her’s was Diamond.

She straightened her back. “This good?”

The photographer lowered his camera towards her thighs.

“What now?” She asked.

“Nothing.” He Glared at her over the camera lens.

“Yes?” She snapped. “I’m getting tired.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, be faster please.”

The money he offered was going to pay off her tuition for the semester. And, though he was inches shorter than she was in flats, he was three times her size in girth. She needed to watch her tone.

The photographer approached her.

She forced a smile. “Done?”

“Yeah….” The photographer nodded. “Almost finished.”

The photographer’s wore an aromatic musk was something she expected from a tall, coco flavored Wall street hottie with muscles and a full head of hair. His aroma created conflict between her eyes and nose. A stout, balding man with a stretched out wife beater should smell the opposite.

The photographer reached for her vest.

She immediately pulled away. “Excuse me!”

“It’s classy…”

“You mean pornographic?”

“Nothing like that.”

Creep…

“These will all be tasteful shots.”

She left her stool. “Yeah… right.”

Slimeball.

“I didn’t mean to alarm you.” The photographer put his camera aside.

She scooped her clothes from the photographer’s unfolded futon and marched towards the door.

I’m an idiot.

She didn’t deserve a doctorate. Nobody in their right mind would agree to enter a strange man’s warehouse apartment to take semi-nude photographs for a blog she’d never heard of.

“Five thousand extra.” The photographer offered.

She turned to see two columns of dollar bills on his kitchenette counter

“Towards your college debt, Ms. Thompson.” The Photographer smiled.

The stack was tall. Thick. Greener than green.

“How many shots?” She asked.

“A dozen,” He replied.

“Too many.”

For too little…

“Only need three to publish.”

“The other nine?”

“I’ll delete.”

She returned to her stool.

“Panties remain.”  She opened her vest. “Hurry up.”

“Okay…” Photographer waved his hand. “Just need you to move your-”

She moved her arms to expose her breasts.

He snapped several photos. “That’s great.”

Doesn’t feel great. 

He lowered his camera.

She covered her chest. “What now?”

“One sec.” The photographer took off towards his room.

He could be back there gathering rope and electrical tape.

“I don’t have a sec,” She called.

The photographer returned. “Batteries died”

“Five minutes, I’m gone… I’m serious.”

“Got it.” He set his camera. “You ready?”

She exposed her breasts. “Yes, sir.”

“You’re doing wonderful.” Photographer inched closer.

She side-eyed the camera.

Wait… He called me Ms. Thompson… I never told him my name… 

The end