Archive for June, 2009

New chapter

Posted in Uncategorized on June 5, 2009 by jeremiah james strawhand

Break

When I finally stop to catch my breath, I find myself on an overgrown and forgotten dirt road.  The first beams of light shine through the thick forest as my pace quickens again and before I know it I see a glimpse of something yellow through the trees.  Pushing through the branches I realize that it is not just a glimpse of yellow that I have found but rather a sea of it.  A sea of yellow and black, with spatterings of red and broken glass bringing to my eyes what can only be described as a school bus graveyard.

This must be where school busses go to die.

For a moment, in my exhaustion, I imagine these abandoned hulks of steel and glass ferrying their passengers towards their schools for dead children who laugh and play and chew gum and throw paper airplanes through the shattered windows.

What does a dead child study?

Shake off the useless thoughts and find a place to rest.  Hunger is setting in again, and I can’t keep up this pace.  Any is as good as another I suppose, and so I pick a bus from the crowd and open the rusted door.  Most of the seats are ripped and torn, and a tree’s root has grown through the floor.  Funny how nature has a way of reclaiming even the mightiest of man’s works when left to its own devices.

A seat near the back looks relatively comfortable so I shamble over and sit down.  I just need to rest for a few minutes…and then I’ll be on my way.  The sun begins to shine through the windows and so I close my eyes to the light.  I’ll just rest my eyes for a few minutes…

Awakened to a great rumbling, like my poor bus is about to be tipped over.  The light has faded again into dusk and I wonder if I could just sleep forever.  Dogs are barking and the beams from flashlights dance over my yellow graveyard.  People are shouting and I can pick out ‘Over here’ and ‘We’ve got him now’ among them.  Yet, I feel nothing.  I don’t have the energy or the desire to panic.  I don’t have the endurance to think of an escape plan or the willingness to enact one.

So, I just wait.  I wait, and soon, a man pushes into my bus by the door and shines his blinding light in my eyes.  “Stay right there’, he says ‘we’re taking you home.’

A flash of pain and I find myself back in my beautiful padded cell.  Had someone hit me on the head? I feel along the back of my skull and find no evidence that I was knocked unconscious.  I glance out the window and see that this is not my old cell at all.  The view outside my room is like a view into heaven, or into hell.  A cloud floats by, and I realize that from this new prison there is no escape.  I sit, wondering how I had not heard of this floating prison before, when the door bursts open and someone grips me from behind shaking me.  I turn to see a giant man, with his hands on my shoulders, shaking me and, with a child’s voice, saying, ‘Are you ok mister?  Mister?  Mister are you ok?  It’s dangerous here, you know.  Mister?’

For a second, I feel as if I have two sets of eyelids and my open eyes open, revealing another world which had previously been veiled, and I am seeing the true world for the first time.

The giant turns into a child…a little girl, and she is shaking me by the shoulders.  “My momma says it’s dangerous to be here alone.” she says, “Are you ok, mister?”

Ok?  Am I ok?  I’m realizing that I am beginning to have a difficult time separating fiction and reality.  Maybe the doctors were right.  Maybe I am just a nutcase after all.

Judging by the light, I have only been here maybe an hour or two, not that I’m any sort of expert on such things.  What was this girl doing here?  How did she find me?

I sit up saying, ‘Yeah, I’m fine…thanks…where am I?”

“Where are you?  What kind of a question is that?  You’re on your way to school of course!” says the little girl, giggling.  “Hope you did your homework!”

School…what a distant memory.  I was an innocent little boy once.  Whatever became of that version of me?  What twist of fate brought me to this place?  If I could go back and change any one thing, would my path be any different?  Can we hope to avoid the destiny that has been chosen for us?

Of one thing I am certain…there is no more little boy in me, I think, as I push past the little girl.  “Thanks for your concern, girl, but I’m late for my..uhhh…dentist appointment.  See you around.”

The little girl seems a bit disappointed to have lost her playmate and she follows me out of the bus saying, ‘Hey, you’re going the wrong way.  Town is that way.’ as she points her finger the opposite way I had been going.  “I don’t know if you wanna go there though.  Momma’s sick, and the doctor’s out of town.”

“I think I’ll be alright.  Thanks for your concern.  This way, right?”  I said as I glanced back towards the little girl.

“Yeah, that’s the way.  Just follow the path there and you’ll end up on 31st avenue.”

A graveyard to me, and a playground to her.  Weird how a different perspective can change something so much.  I wonder if my perspective is so far detached as the doctors have told me, and if so, if my reality is even remotely similar to that of a ‘normal’ person.  My journey so far outside of the asylum seems so far-fetched that I wonder if it is possible that my fragmented and damaged brain has just created it to hide my mundane existence.  Self-medication without medicine.  Self-deception without any sense of deceit.

I am suddenly reminded of the friendly lobster-ghost in the asylum, and I begin to wonder how much different I am from him.  Maybe soon I’ll start seeing myself as the reincarnation of some ancient king destined to rule the world, or maybe I’ll become convinced that I am just a slug, leaving a slimy trail in my wake.

Better to not think about such things and cross said burning bridges when I reach them.

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Raw version1.0

Posted in Uncategorized on June 5, 2009 by jeremiah james strawhand

This is pre-edited, and I realize there may be spelling/grammatical issues.  One I know for sure is that some tenses don’t make sense.  Sorry for the gay blogging website, but it seemed a fitting medium.  Anyways, here it is.

My feet are peeling.  I’m not sure why, but my feet are peeling.

There’s a bruise on my knee, and the laundry didn’t get done.

I’m out of toothpaste, and I couldn’t find anything to eat except a stale box of cereal. Luckily, cardboard tastes the same stale or otherwise.

I heard a story the other day about someone who fell from something and lost their sense of taste and smell.  Between the laundry and the diet, I find myself slightly jealous of his ‘loss.’.

Sometimes it’s hard to look at the positive side of a situation.  You don’t have a fairly average fall, lose two of your senses, and count yourself lucky.

There’s nothing on tv except static and infomercials.  Oh, and the food network.  Maybe if I watch hard enough I can pretend I’m eating a delicious steak.

I’ve spent about 15 hours in bed today, and only 3 of them sleeping.

A knocking on the door. As of someone gently rapping.

I open the door and a policeman stands on the porch, surrounded by the small flying insects that the light is attracting.  I need to get a bug zapper.

He began to say something about an accident and I cut him off saying, ‘Nevermore.’  Officer Tedious or Boring or Old-Hat or whatever his name was waited for a second, to be sure that I was done, and continued his untineresting drawl about chemical tankers, my mother, my sister, my aunt, my neighbor, my dog, my shoehorn, my beercan.

I don’t really know what he was saying to be honest, I just couldn’t seem to pay the poor man any attention.  I could still hear the man on the tv convincing a member of the studio audience that his new all-in-one kitchen gadget would make all of her  old can-openers, magnets, paring knives, peelers, pizza cutters, and apple-corers obsolete.

In case she wasn’t convinced by mere words, she was about to try it herself.

“EAN2975?”

Officer Who-Gives-A-Shit was holding a pen and paper in his hand and looking at my quizically.  Clearly he expected a response to this most cryptic of questions.

Eee ayy enn two nine seven five.  What could it mean?

Obviously this was something I should know the answer to.  He hadn’t even given me any time to think.  What kind of game was this?

“Look,” I said “if you’re not gonna press any charges, then just get the hell off my porch.”  I had seen it in a movie and it worked wonders.

I waved a dismissive hand and started to turn away, but the officer didn’t budge.

Feigning confusion, Officer Getting-On-My-Nerves stared blankly for a second before asking me if I had any idea what was going on.  He was saying that shock is very common in situations like this.  He was asking me if I needed an ambulance.  Was I light headed?

Shock?  Yeah, I -am- shocked.  Shocked that you’re still here.  If it was a confession he wanted, I was saying, then he was barking up the wrong tree.  I hadn’t done anything.  I had been sleeping all day, and watching a bit of TV.

The officer fidgeted nervously and his expression changed from concern to annoyance.  I was clearly winning this battle.

“If you’ll excuse me a moment.” he said, and wandered over to his police car.

I slammed the door behind him, for the added effect, and then went to peek through the blinds.

I imagined he was calling for backup.  This man is dangerous, he’d be saying.  A danger to himself and others.  A new-age leper, infecting those around him.  No bandages could cover these wounds, as they oozed and bled into the water supply.

An incredible value at only 3 easy payments of $29.95.    If I acted now, Id receive two for the price of one!  What a steal!

Have your Mastercard ready.

Just as I was picking up the phone to make the most important call of my culinary career, I heard a siren approaching.

I went over to the window and saw Officer Dipshit standing by his car, as an ambulance rounded the corner.  He was pointing at my house.

I opened the door,  and pretending that I had just woken up, I stretched and yawned.  “Something I can do for you officer?”  I said.

Two large men got out of the ambulance and approached me.  They were saying that I had to come with them.  They said that they could help.  They said I was in a bad way.

“Just a moment.” I said, and proceded to tell them that I had been just about to make an important phone call.  One that might change my life as I knew that.  One that would make every day from this point on a shining star in a black sea of sky.  Revolutionary, I called it.  The most important investment of my life, I called it.

Crazy, they called me.  They said that they could help.

I knew I shouldn’t have gotten out of bed today.

Asylum

Was it something I had said?  What it something I had done?

I ran that night’s events over and over in my head.

After I got to the hospital, they ran the usual battery of tests, and then the unusual battery of tests, too.  I was interviewed by every shrink in the county.  While they had first assumed that I was in shock, the conclusion was that I was a raving lunatic.

I’m not sure how this happened.  Was it something I had said?

So, I’ve accepted my fate for now.  I don’t get it though…for someone like me…I never stop thinking, and my mind wanders.  It gets me into trouble.  So…they take me and put me in a place where I have nothing else to do except think, and then they tell me I need to quit thinking so much.

They inject me full of drugs to stop me from thinking.  They strap me to the bed to stop me from hurting myself.  They strap me to the chair to stop me from hurting other, more useful members of society.

No matter how full of drugs I am, no matter if I can’t feel my face, or my feet, the wheels in my head do not stop turning.

EAN2975.  I had decided that this was the pivotal moment.  This was my one chance to escape this horrible fate and I blew it.  Maybe if I could break the code now, everything would make sense.  I obsessed over it.  I scratched it into the walls with my broken fingernails.  I smeared it in blood on my mattress.  I smeared it in feces on the floor.

The doctors kept asking me what it was about, what was I trying to prove?   I kept telling them that I didn’t know, for Christ’s sake, if I knew then I’d fucking tell them.

I wrote it backwards and upside down.  I wrote it so it could only be read properly through a mirror.  Not that they gave me a mirror.  I can only imagine what I must look like.  I used to be a fairly attractive guy.

I carved it into my skin.  I thought the blood might tell me what I wanted to know.  I thought the pain might bring me to the realization that eluded me so completely.

I broke down the letters into words.

Eggs Are Nutritious.  Too mundane.

Elephants And Nuts.  Aren’t elephants afraid of peanuts?

Everything And Nothing.  Surely, what this had become.

Easter Ant Nitrogen.  …what?

Ecstatic And Nanocephalus.  Yes, I’ve been reading the dictionary.

Empyreal Angel Nobility.   Grasping at straws here.

Enigmatic And Nocturnal.  Nocturnal, yes.  Like a rat.

I wrote it on the ceiling so I could study it while I was lying awake in bed.

I wrote down these silly combinations of words in every possible shape and form.   Their order, I had decided, must somehow be relevant.

Now, what about the number?  What was it?  A date? A time? An amount?  An address?  Some part of a social security number, or a license plate?  Or was it something less obvious.  The number of paces to the ‘X’, or the number of rotations to unlock the secret door.

Why had I, of all people, been burdened with this information?  Why me, and why couldn’t I find the answer?

I’m not crazy, you know…I’m just something of a perfectionist, and I believe in the scientific method.  There was an order in this chaos.  There was a plan.  I systematically approached the problem exhausting one possibility after another.

Exhausted…yes that’s what I am.  I had come to welcome sleep as the only time I could escape my own mind.  I didn’t like the drugs because they gave me horrible nightmares.  Visions of death and visions of the life I no longer had.  Visions of the skies and the oceans that I would never see again.  Of mountains and fields.  Of beautiful girls in dresses.  Of cataclysmic earthquakes and global power outtages.  Of famine and strife and plague.

Visions of the apocalypse.

For all I knew, these might have been just that: visions, less than they were dreams.  We weren’t told anything about the outside world.  Hell, I was barely allowed out of my room, let alone a glimpse through a window to be sure that the outside world was still there.  Maybe we were floating on an island in the sky, surrounded by a dome to protect us from the radiation.

How long had I been here?  How long -would- I be here?  How long before someone realized that I wasn’t crazy?  I didn’t deserve to be in here with these lunatics, howling at the moon and ranting about secret societies.

I tried to explain my case rationally.  “Look,” I said, “Officer Dipshit told me about this, and he expected me to know the answer.  Maybe if I could get some help…you know?  A fresh set of eyes, we can crack this thing and I can go home.”

But I didn’t go home.  Did I even have a home anymore?  My house and my car and my dog…what would happen to them with no one to care for them?

No one to care for them…no one to…and *bam* just like that, it hit me.  There was no one to look after my things.  The officer had said something about an accident.  He had said something about no one surviving.  He had said something about him understanding my feelings.  He said he was there to help, if I needed it.  Did I need an ambulance?

God…no wonder they think I’ve lost it.  Where was my head?  Where the fuck has my head been for the past…how long have I been here again?

“I’ve been acting like a lunatic,” began my plea to the doctor, “I get it now.  Look, I know that all this smearing blood and shit on the walls is a little out there.  I remembered about the accident…I think I’m finally snapping out of this.”

What I didn’t tell him was that my opinions had not changed.  What I didn’t tell him was that I am exactly the same person now as I was before the accident.  What I didn’t tell him was that the accident didn’t have anything to do with my behaviour, it just gave someone a reason to notice.

In the end, it didn’t matter what I chose to or not to tell him, because he wasn’t convinced.  I was staying, he said, for a few more tests.

Can I?

One little piggy went to the market.  One little piggy went to the farm.

One little piggy went to the doctor.  One little piggy went to the barn.

One little piggy ate all the feathers.  One little piggy answered the phone.

I had given up on the mystery of mysteries and decided I would focus my energy into writing nursery rhymes.  I realize I haven’t quite mastered the craft yet, but I  feel that by studying the classics, I can gain a more rapid understanding.  Emulation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a log.  Humpty Dumpty broke his leg.

Stitches don’t work on an egg, they said.

There was this matter of my neighbor.  The man or woman or child in the room next to me had begin incessantly howling, grunting, and generally carrying on at all hours of the day.

I can deal with me disturbing my own peace, but it annoys the piss out of me when someone else is doing it.

I’d be on a roll.

I’d be thinking, ‘Yeah, I’ve finally got this nursery rhyme bit under wraps” when from my neighbor would come a blood-curdling scream or an ear-piercing howl that rattled the windows even though the rooms were padded.

One day as I sat in my illustrious quarters pondering the meaning of this madness,  I overheard the orderlies talking about the woman (apparently, it was a woman after all) in the next room.

She was some sort of immigrant, a German or a Russian maybe, who had met an American man and come over here to get married and raise a family or whatever.  Live the American Dream.

Everything was going fine and well and they were both exceedingly happy, and then they began having children.  The first two were perfectly healthy boys, and they were brought into the world with all the love and care that a normal family has to give.

A year or two down the line the money began to get tight.  It was alright though, they could work through it, and everything would be grand.   The lovely Mrs. was pregnant again, and this time, it was with twins.

6 months later, on a dark and rainy night (hey, this is how the orderlies described it, I’m not too good at the whole ‘dramatic effect’ thing) the twins were born, only they weren’t at the hospital.  You see, Mr. Charming had gone through some tough times, and his company had decided that his job wasn’t very important anymore; economic crisis and all.  So here we are, a dark and stormy night, in the Charming’s house, delivering a baby in the bathtub.  Neither Mister or Misses Charming had any experience delivering a baby, or any medical experience at all.

The room is lit by candlelight, and there is soft music playing in the background.  Now, here’s where it gets weird:  the twins were born,  perfectly healthy, two strong heartbeats, four beautiful blue eyes, fourty fingers and fourty toes, -except- they were joined along the spine, from top to bottom.

Now, it’s anybody’s guess what these two were thinking at this point in time.  Maybe they were stricken by grief, maybe they both had a temporary lapse of sanity, maybe they genuinely believed that the operation would be a success.  To make a long story short, Mr. Charming went out to the garage and fetched his Sawzall.  While his lovely bride held the twins still, he attempted to forcibly seperate them…naturally he ended up with a bathroom full of bone and flesh and two bloody newborn corpses.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

couldn’t sew the babies together again.

Since there was no record of the birth, they decided it would be

best to stuff the bodies down a drainage pipe in the basement.

A few weeks later, after the oldest child, Richard, hadn’t show up for day care, child services was called and summoned to the house to investigate.  What they found was an apparently happy family with only one healthy, normal boy, the middle child, Peter.

When the family was unable to explain what had happened to Richard the police searched the premises and finding an awful smell in the basement, discovered the corpses of the other three children.  Apparently, after the demise of the twins, the Charming’s had decided that Richard didn’t meet their expectations and thought it best to give him a nose job, reciprocating saw style.  Needless to say, he didn’t make it.

Mr. Charming was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences, without the possiblity of parole, and the lovely Misses got off easy and ended up in the room next to mine.  It’s like a fucking hotel here, I swear it.

And they lived happily ever after.

ESCAPE

Prodded and poked and needled.

Blood out, drugs in.

Asked the same questions a thousand times.

Your clipboard can’t tell you what you want to know, no matter how much you scribble down.

I don’t blame you.  You think that this is science.  You think you can find the answers.  You think you can see inside my head?  How can you see what I don’t want to show you.  You think you can determine a pattern?  Make a prediction?  I’ll intentionally mislead you, as I’ve done before.  I’ll take you down a long winding path and you won’t even realize that we are back exactly where we started until I want you to.  There will be no patterns.

Boring.

The whole lot of you bore me to death.  Why are you so interested in me, I wonder?  I’m just a man, like any other.  I had a job, a family, a dog.  I owned a house and a car.  Just a consumer, like any other.  Why are you so interested in me?

Am I danger to myself?  Am I danger to others?  Will my infection spread?  Will there be a million people talking and thinking and acting like me if you let me out of my cage?  Guess what, there already are.  You just haven’t found them yet.

What are you trying to cure me of?  Individuality?  Self-awareness?

Why do you dull my mind with oppressive drugs?  Why is normalcy defined by how vegetative someone is?

What do I have to give up to regain my quasi-freedom?  What do I have to tell you to convince you that I am ok?

Turning ,turning ,turning.

…and the wheels keep turning.

Does anyone really know how awful this place is?  It’s clean and white.  The walls, the sheets.  The uniforms you all wear.  The floors, the ceilings.  The pillows, the plates.  Even the bars that cover the windows and the gates in the hall.  Everything is pure and white, yet there is no purity to be found here.  Decay and sickness are evident in every facet of this ‘institution.’

Who is the illusion intended to fool?  The staff aren’t fooled…they know what this place is.  Maybe it makes them feel a little better about their miserable lives.  The patients are too busy drooling on themselves or smearing shit on the walls or mindlessly staring at whatever mental anasthetic happens to be on the television at the moment.  They don’t let us watch anything except cartoons and talk shows.

So I lie in bed.  I lie in bed and I wait for the next orderly to come in and stick the next needle in my arm and hand me the next tray of food which invariably looks and tastes like baby food mixed with vomit.  Or maybe it’s regurgitated baby food.

I lie in bed and I wait for the day to pass.  I lie in bed and I wait for the next day to come, or alternately, pray that it doesn’t.  I lie in bed and wait for the sun to fall from the sky or the rocket to split the earth.  I lie in bed and I wait for the days to pass.

I lie in bed and I wait…and I wait…and I wait…and I wait.  Until one day, I realize I’m tired of waiting.  What am I even waiting for?  Waiting to be released from this prison for madmen?  Never going to happen.  Waiting to die in this room for the socially unacceptable?  A more likely scenario.

The other day I was sitting in the social room, and I was talking to a man, just an ordinary man, who was absolutely convinced that he was half lobster, and half ghost.  Half lobster, and half ghost.  That’s what he kept telling me.  This is the kind of place they’ve put me in.

If you’re a ghost, I said, why don’t you just float out of here?  He said his claws get stuck in the bars when he tries.  He then explained that he wasn’t something ordinary like the ghost of some dead lobster, but rather that his head, torso and arms were that of a lobster and his waist and legs were that of a ghost.

He was annoyed that I was unaware of his condition.  He was confused that I couldn’t understand.  He thought -I- was out of my mind.  This is the weird thing about crazy people:  they think that their behaviour is normal.

He told me he was born this way.  It wasn’t some kind of transformation, or accident.  It had been like this for as long as he could remember.

“So, what,” I asked him, “is there some ghost that goes around fucking lobsters?  Are you the result of some misguided attempt at love?”

He didn’t know how to answer, although he was visibly irritated.  I had better watch out, he might chop my head off with his lobster man claws!  I pressed the issue.

“So, did you come out of an egg?  Or, like, some kind of ghost-spawn…Ether or something?   Do you think lobsters are sexy?  It’s alright if you do…I do, it’s ok.  I think lobsters are awesome.  This isn’t a come-on by the way.”

Either lobster boy hadn’t thought this through very well, or he just didn’t like answering what I considered to be very relevant questions concerning his most out-of-the-ordinary condition.

“So…how do you…uh…you know…use the bathroom?  Is there some kind of special ghostly toilet paper?

Lobster man had had enough and he took a swing at me, but the orderlies were on top of us before we could say ‘molting season.’

50 cc’s of something-or-other later and I was back in la-la land, staring at the ceiling, drooling over myself, in my bed.

First, numbness, then blackness…

Awake now…the world comes back into focus.  Shake off the cobwebs…a glance around the room and…on your feet.  No sound.  The room is the same as it ever is…white walls, white floor, white sheets…and a light…shining through the crack in the door.

Not under the door.  The door is cracked.  Left open.

On your feet.

Stumble to the door and push it open…the keys are still in the lock?  No mystery here.  No supreme being helping me find my way.  No…just a forgetful orderly and a stroke of luck.

Find myself in the hallway, deserted.  No way to tell which key is which, but there is a name.  R. Patterson.  No help to me.  Which way is out?  Which way is in?  Which way is safe and which way will find me back in my cell?  I know where the common room is.  I know where the cafeteria is.  Will anyone see me?

I take a left down the hall and stick to the shadows as much as possible.  Silence.  No footsteps, no jingling of keys or whistling.  Nothing.

I follow my gut and end up at a gate, like the 100 others in this place…plain and white.  I try a few keys and on the third try, I find one that fits.  Slide the gate open and move through.   Lock the gate behind me.  Shuffle down the halls until I hear voices.  A television, that’s all, but it isn’t a cartoon…it isn’t a talk show.

Peer around the corner to see a security guard asleep at his desk.  The all-too-distant memory of the doors that brought me to this place seen for the first time from the inside.

Quickly now, but as quiet as a mouse.  Don’t fumble the keys.  No noise, and I’ll be home free.  Infinity passes in the few minutes it takes me to find the right key…the clock slowed down to a crawl.  Sweat beading on my neck and my hands are shaking.

Push the door open and…sunlight.  Blinding and vibrant and new.  The grass is greener and the cement is whiter.  No grand escape plan brought me here.  It didn’t take months or years of careful planning.  The middle of a glorious day and, just like that, I walk out of my prison.

Fortuneteller

The asylum was built up on a hill in a part of town where no one lived, and no one visited.  There was a single road that winded its way down the mountain back towards civilization.

Home…I think your average person’s first instinct in this situation would be to go home.  How long has it been?  How much has everything changed?  I’m certain that the only homecoming I would recieve would be a shiny pair of silver bracelets and maybe a straight-jacket.

Maybe my house was a Wal-Mart now, who knows?

Against my better judgement, I still can’t seem to shake the curiosity.  I can’t shake the desire for familiarity.  Maybe another time, when they’ve given up looking for me.  For now, I need to go far away, where no one will find me.

Walking down a deserted country road, the dead leaves rustle at my feet and there is a chill in the air.  I’m hungry and tired…I’m used to neither walking, nor starving.  I’m still wearing my invalid’s clothes and anyone that spotted me would know I ran from a hospital without a second glance.   I need to get off the road.

The distant hum of an engine tells me a car is approaching.  I should just bolt into the underbrush on the side of the road, but I see a house:  the first house I’ve seen in three hours of walking.  I should just hide in the bushes, or behind a tree, I know this, but I find myself, maybe out of hunger, or maybe out of desperation, knocking on the door.

The house is old, and in need of repair, a typical isolated country home.  The paint is peeling and there are windchimes of various shapes and sizes attached to the overhang on the porch.

I knock again, this time a bit louder and more urgently.  The rumble of the motor grows louder and more distinct.

A shuffling inside the house, and the door swings open, revealing a withered old woman in a nightgown which is not so different from my own fashionable hospital attire.

I draw a blank…why hadn’t I thought about what to say?  She doesn’t say anything either.  She’s just standing there, looking at me.  Her eyes are the color of smoke and her hair is the color of ash.

I try to open my mouth to say something, anything to dispel this awkward silence I’ve brought to us, but as soon as I begin to speak she beats me to it saying in a voice that sounds like what death ought to sound like, “Well I suppose you’d better come in then”, and she steps aside, allowing me to move past her.

My first step into the house, and it becomes apparent that I’ve made a mistake.  The disrepair that was evident outside is magnified by a thousand inside.  The smell of rot is so thick that it is almost visible.  I cover my mouth and nose with the sleeve of my gown to stop my lunch from becoming public knowledge.  I glance back at my generous host to remind myself what sort of beast has invited me to its lair.

The wisp of a woman that stands behind me is hump backed with age and her willowy hair seems to have a mind of its own as it waves and moves in the stagnant air.  As she turns around, I notice that her face could belong to that of a corpse, and no one would begin to think that she might still be breathing.  I have a sneaking suspicion that if she were to die right now, no one would attend her funeral.

She offers a weak attempt at a smile, and I can see a few crooked yellow teeth glued to her maw.  “That was a close one,” she croaks, and gasps as if it uses all of her energy to do so, “you’re lucky you found me.”

I’m standing here, and I must look utterly lost…hopeless, although I am pretty sure luck is pretty much the exact opposite of what brought me here.  She shuffles past me through a doorway which is covered in those strips of heavy plastic that you’d find in the entrance to a walk-in freezer.

It’s impossible to see where she has gone, or what lies in the next room, but I -am- utterly lost and hopeless, so I shrug, take a deep breath of the noxious air and follow her.

I push through the flaps and the stench hits me like a sack of bricks.  I dry heave a few times before managing to regain my composure.

The room is lined with shelves and a small table sits in its center.  A fireplace stuffed with old magazines which looks like it hasn’t been lit in a century graces one wall and the only light comes from the few remaining flicker-bulbs in the decrepit chandelier.

A closer inspection of the shelves reveals that they are stocked with jars full of god-knows-what.  Wicked shadows dance along the walls making everything look more sinister.

The old crone is in the corner of the room rummaging through a chest of some sort and I, having no idea what else to do, have a seat at the table.

The table itself is of the heavy wooden variety and bears numerous scars and burns and gouges and stains.

I’m sure the stains are from the blood of some previous victim.

The chairs are large and oaken with no padding.  The epitome of comfort, this abode I have chosen to find myself in.

At that moment, the hag turns around and, with surprising speed, plops (and I say ‘plop’ because that is the sound it makes) a bag of something on the table.   Guts, I think.  Guts are what make that sound.  Guts and flesh.

She starts to empty the contents of the bag and I fully expect to see a severed human head, or a cow’s stomach, or some other shockingly revolting article, but out comes a loaf of bread.

The crone disappears for a few minutes and comes back with a glass of what looks like water.

“Eat.” she says, “You look like you’re ready to fall over.” as she hobbles back over to the corner and continues rummaging through the chest there.

So I eat.  It seems standard enough, no mould.  No maggots.  A little stale, but bread is bread and I’m starving.

About halfway through my delicious repast, the woman finds what she’s looking for and carries it back over to the table:  another mysterious object in another nonchalant looking sack, which she plops down on the table in front of her(I say ‘plops’, because that is the sound it makes) and then takes a seat at the opposing chair.

I’m still greedily munching on the stale, yet somehow satisfying bread, when she begins breathing heavily, as if gathering her energy for something.  “I know where you’ve come from.” she creaks, “…and I know why you’re here.”

I tell her it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know where I’ve come from, but if she could just fill me in as to why I’m here, I’d be entirely in her debt, cause I don’t have a fucking clue.

Ignoring me, she continues,”Anything and everything is not only possible, but probable…even unavoidable.”  She wants to continue, but she wheezes heavily a few times before she can.  I offer her a drink of my water.  “Time has no beginning, and no end…The universe is the same…have you ever thought that nature might run out of ideas?”

I ask her what makes her think I’m interested in any of this philosophical bullshit but she raises a palsied hand and I feel compelled to be quiet.

“If there is infinite ground to cover and infinite time to cover it…how can everything not exist?  How can the world be an empty place?”  She looks at me and smiles a mischeivous smile.  “You’ve heard the phrase ‘history repeats itself.’  What makes you think life does not also?  Can the same cycles of life repeat themselves over and over, and if so, what happens when two identical lives intersect on the same timeline?”

I’m about to ask her what her point is, but she reaches towards the bag on the table and overturns it, revealing some (hopefully) animal intestines and bones.  I expect to feel aversion or disgust, but I feel nothing.  I can’t explain it but I’m not afraid.  Maybe the asylum simply desensitized  me so much that nothing is shocking anymore.

If anything, I’m interested in what happens now.

I call her a witch, and she says simply, “I’m not kind enough to be a witch.  I’m a seer.”

She spreads the guts across the table in a pattern that I can’t discern, and as she does so the lights fade to almost nothing.  For a brief second, her eyes glint like an animal’s do the dark.  The temperature drops 10 degrees in an instant and a breeze comes from nowhere.  There are no windows.

She picks up the bones in both hands and scatters them across the table intently observing where they have landed.  I again can’t tell what she’s looking for but her eyes grow distant and her lips tremble.  The air grows calm again, and the lights flicker back to their normal (dim) state.

I just sit here and calmly accept everything that’s happening.  I guess you could call me a skeptic, and it’s not like this kind of shit happens to me every day or anything, but I don’t really know how to react, so I don’t react at all.  I got good at concealing my thoughts and suppressing my reactions during my stay at the asylum.  Which reminds me:

“What year is it?”  I ask, half-forgetting what had been happening for the past ten minutes.

The awful woman in front of me says nothing.

She stays silent for a good five minutes, which seems interminably long, considering the circumstances, at which point she bolts upright, and pushes her hair out of her face, despite the blood on her hands.

She looks me over carefully and, saying nothing, leaves me alone in the room.  I take this opportunity to get a closer look at the jars that line the walls, either out of curiosity or simply for lack of a better way to occupy myself.  Disappointingly, they mostly contained things labeled ‘jam’ and ‘pickles’ and other totally boring and typical jarred items.  Here I was hoping for eye of newt and wing of bat.

As I’m standing there hoping to find a grotesquely disfigured foetus or something in one of the jars, I hear the old hag’s voice behind me.  Don’t know how she managed to sneak up on me but I spin around to see her standing directly behind me, not a foot away.

In her hands are a pair of moth-eaten ragged-looking jeans and a flannel shirt.  The pinnacle of fashion in this part of town, I’m sure.

Anyways, she’s saying something about a bus ticket and money and pushing me out the door, before I can even comprehend what’s going on.  She’s saying something about my luck, and the stars and the spirits and all I can think about is cake.  I wish I had a piece of cake and maybe a glass of lemonade.

I see her mouth moving but can’t really make any sense of what she’s saying and then the door is slamming in my face.

For some reason I feel like I’ve been here before.

Greyhound  part 1 (tentative)

*Slam*

Now I’m standing on this porch, the sun’s gone down, and it’s cold.  I throw the gown into the bushes on the side of the witch’s house and put on the clothes she gave me.  I look like a proper redneck, but that’s alright…I’ll have less explaining to do when I run into someone.

I check the pockets and find a Greyhound ticket and about fifteen bucks.  So, I start walking.

This is the kind of road where there are no streetlights, and no cars.  No people and no distractions.  The type of road where I am stuck again with my thoughts, and I’m beginning to wonder if running from the asylum was such a good idea.  Resist change.  Embrace familiarity.  This is the glue that holds most people together, and maybe I am no different.

When you find yourself totally alone in an unfamiliar place…when you find yourself walking down a deserted road in the dead of night, with no idea where you’re going and only a passing recollection of where you’ve been…it’s hard not to be afraid.  It’s hard to not clutch onto anything that links you to a time when you at least knew where you stood.

I know, with absolute certainty, that the asylum was the hands-down worst experience of my life, but I find myself missing the comfort it offered.  There is no one here to tell me what to do.  No one to tell me when to go to bed, no one to feed me three meals a day, and no one to care why I’ve done the things I’ve done.

I am not the center of attention.  No one even cares about me at all.  How could I expect them to?  Anyone who might have genuinely cared has long since forgotten that I existed and the people at the hospital only cared to satisfy their own twisted curiosity, or to guarantee a pay check.

They’re probably looking for me, sure.  I wonder if they think I’m dangerous?  I wonder if they think I’ll go on a killing spree, or if I’ll go rape some old lady.   I wonder if they think I’ll rob a convenience store and force the clerk to eat raw meat at knifepoint.

I know they think I’m nuttier than a can of Planters, but I wonder just how messed up they think I am.  How messed up -am- I?

Headlights…a car approaches.  Maybe they’re friendly.  Maybe they’ll take me for a night on the town and then home to a warm bed where I can await my bus in the morning.  Maybe they’re a psycho-murderer and will be undaunted by the fact that I’m entirely unsure of whether or not I’m a psycho-murderer too.

Maybe I came out of the asylum way more fucked up than when I went in.  Maybe that’s the point.  Maybe they aren’t trying to cure you, but, rather, keep you out of the public eye, where mothers don’t have to cross the street with their children as they see you approach.

Maybe there is nothing for me in this world other than the inside of a padded room.   Maybe I threw away my chance at freedom when I told that cop that I didn’t want what he was selling.  Was I ‘free’ before that?  -Who- am I?

Disillusionment…despair…fear…abandon.  Why now do I choose to embrace these things when I’ve made it this far?  Why can’t I just work with what I’ve got, and make the best of it?  Things -could- be worse right? I mean, at least they didn’t saw my legs off and give me a labotomy.  At least I have this wonderful gift of thinking.  They used to take this away from ‘crazies’ entirely.

My thoughts turn back to the witch.  What was she afraid of?  What did she see?  Was she just some crazy old loon?  Why did she help me?

Man did that place smell awful.

Funny…she pulled my dinner from the same place that she pulled that bag of blood and guts, and I just now thought of…oh shit!

I wasn’t paying attention and there’s no way I can escape the car’s headlights now.  They’ve seen me, for sure.  Panic.  Run into the field.  Panic.  Roll into the ditch and hope it doesn’t see you.  Panic….STOP.

Take a deep breath, and think.

Ok, I’ve got it.  Not the most original idea, but it just might work.  Hopefully they haven’t been broadcasting all over the tv and radio that I escaped.

I start waving my arms around to be sure that the driver sees me, and he does, and pulls over to the side of the road.

I sprint over to the car and, in my most convincing voice, say “Hey, I’m so glad you stopped, my car broke down up the road, and I’m on my way to town to try and find a place to sleep for the night until I can call a tow truck in the morning, think you can give me a lift?”

I blurt all this it in one long sentence and all I can think is that it must have sounded rehearsed.  It sounded like a lie.

The man in the truck leans out of the window and I get a good look at him for the first time.  He is middle-aged and wears wire-rim glasses perched on the end of his thin nose and a concerned look, but I can’t decide if he is concerned for himself or for me.

“Ma’ brother owns a tow truck.  I kin take ya there.  Hop in.”  says Mr. not-what-I-wanted-to-hear.

I can’t refuse.  It will look too suspicious…maybe I’ll think of another way out on our way to the tow truck.  For now, I’ll catch a ride with this guy, and hope for the best.

I get in the truck, and the first thing I notice (it would be hard not to notice) is that the entire cab is filled with trash.  Cigarette packs, soda cans, redbull cans, half-eaten hamburgers and bags from various fast food restaurants, mostly empy bags of chips, etc.  I actually have to clear a spot on the seat and put my feet on piles of garbage.  There could be a small child buried in there and I’d have no idea.

“Thank ya kindly, sir, I was ‘fraid I’d be walkin’ all night.” I say, trying to emulate the man’s accent.  It probably sounded insulting.

“Ahh, don’ worry ’bout it.” the man said, as he turned the truck around and headed back towards (what I hoped was) town.  “S’only a few minutes out the way.”

“So where ya from Mister?” comes a voice from the backseat, and I twist around to see that there is, in fact, a small child buried in the garbage.  His bright blue eyes are surrounded by the dirtiest face and hair I’ve ever seen.  He is sitting in a space he cleared out between two piles of trash in the small backseat, hands neatly folded on his lap.

“Here and there.” I find myself saying, although I realize after the fact that I would have sounded more convincing if I came up with the name of a city.  Any city.  So I follow it up with, “My pa was in the service.  We dint stay in one place fer long.”

I have to stop talking, I thought.  They’re going to see through my disguise.

I turn back to the man and try to keep it short, “Kin ya jus take me ta’ town?  I’m real tired and don’t wanna be any trouble this time a’ night.”

The man lights a cigarette and nods, saying nothing.  Well, that was easier than I expected, and so I sigh a sigh of relief and sink into the garbage filled cabin of my would-be savior.

Greyhound part2 AKA homerun

DREAMDERAMDREAMDREAMDREAMDRAMDERAMDREAM***********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

…where am I? Bathed in sunlight, too bright to see anything except silhouettes. Dark figures moving in front of me performing some arcane ritual, dancing in a bloodsoaked frenzy.

Where am I? Shake off the dream. The truck…the driver and his…

A tiny “Hello.” comes from behind me, washed out by the intense unnatural light. Not the sun, a spotlight. A million candles burning with one flame. The roar of some machine churning and chugging away.

“Hi.” I said, “Where are we?”

“Pa said he was takin’ ya home. Said ya was sick. Ya dun look sick ta’ me.”

“Home? Oh god help me.”

How long had I been sleeping? How long would it be before the men in white coats came for me? I dig through the trash, looking for a weapon. I need to escape. I can’t go back there, or I might lose it for good. How had I been identified?

“Do you like to play baseball, boy? Got a ball or a bat with you?” I ask, still digging my hands through the trash and hoping to find something solid.

“Yeah I got ma bat…no ball…”

“Ahh, can I see it? I used to play in school, I like to take a few swings now and then.”

The boy rummages around for a minute and pulls out a chipped wooden baseball bat, handing it to me.

The two men in front of me appear to be in conversation, luckily for me, not paying a lot of attention. Dangerous, I’m sure I’d been called, and I was about to make it true. God help me. Desperation has a funny way of turning men into monsters.

“I’m gonna go ask your dad if we can play for a few minutes. Stay in the car ok?”

I open the door slowly, but the noise of the machine drowns out everything else. I grasp the bat and creep over behind the men. I’m sorry, I can’t go back there.

The men are saying something about my accent, about my clothes. I’m pretty sure it’s him, one of them is saying.

It’s now or never.

I hit the bigger of the men in the back of the skull, and a loud *CRACK* fills the air for a brief second. The other man, my driver, turns around just in time to take one to the jaw. Blood sprays everywhere and, horrified, I drop the broken bat on the ground. Dangerous they’d be saying. I don’t stop to see if I’m a murderer.

I walk back to the truck and get in the driver’s seat. “Do you know where we are? We need to go call an ambulance.” I ask the little boy, as I start the ignition.

Greyhound part 3

In a daze, I pull up to a random house on a random street with the not-so-random little boy wimpering in the back seat. I’ve let him live, I say, because I want him to get the chance to save his father’s life. I tell him I’ll come back and be sure that they are all dead if he mentions me. I let him live to tell them it was an accident. Tell them it was a bear, I don’t care. Just don’t mention me, or you’re a corpse. I hope fear will compel him to listen. I hope his innocence will bend to my will. Monstrous. I just need to buy some time.

For a brief second, I make eye contact with the boy. For a brief second I can see into the boy’s head. I can see inside the boy’s heart.

“You have a look in your eyes that says you feel like you’ve seen the absolute worst. Trust me when I say you’re too young to have seen the worst. Now get out.”

I can feel a division in my head. Two distinct seperate parts. A rift, a split. Will I ever be whole again? Who am I? Will my body split in two? Total lack of grounding. Looking from behind a frosted glass. A waking dream. A living nightmare. Grit my teeth, pound my skull. Pull myself together.

The boy has disappeared…off to inform the authorities, and before long they’ll be looking for me twice as hard as before, with dogs and helicopters and search parties with their flashlights like a million fireflies twinkling in the night.

Hiding wasn’t an option. They would leave no stone unturned. The hounds of hell were on my tail, and I had no choice but to flee for my life.

Shift the truck into gear, and start rolling forward. The boy had said the bus station was right up the road. Take a right on Main. About a half mile up the road, just past the thrift store. Why do I feel so…displaced. Why do I feel like I’m half here, and half there?

I pass an old man on the street who offers a wave as I pass. Where I come from you don’t wave at strangers. Fuck, you barely wave at people you know.

There it is. No cops. No sirens. No lights.

No busses.

Park the truck out of sight and head into the station. Hand the man the ticket. The bus leaves in 45 minutes. Where am I going? Away from here. It doesn’t matter where.

Far away from here, I hope.

Walk over to the thrift store, get out of these clothes. A hat, some dark sunglasses, a pair of jeans. A worn t-shirt. A pair of scissors. Seventeen dollars. The dirty, obese woman at the counter is easily coerced into settling for fifteen.

I change my clothes and give myself a haircut in the dingy thrift store bathroom as quickly as possible. A weak disguise is better than no disguise at all.

The bus pulls up just as I get back to the station and I board without hesitation, taking a seat at the back of the bus. I don’t even stop to glance at the destination. I don’t even really want to know. The less I know the less I can tell. The less I stand out the less people will remember.

A few other people board the bus. A mother and her child. Two young girls with thick british accents take the seat in front of me. A man in a worn business suit. A boy in dirty coveralls. All of them seem innocuous enough; nothing to worry about.

After a half hour or so, the bus lurches to life and our journey to parts unknown begins. I find the tug of exhaustion becoming irresistible and decide this is a safe enough place to grab a few hours of sleep…

…awakened by a scream. Nothing shocking anymore. A scream accompanied by a spray of blood. The bus is careening wildly over the median and the brakes are squealing. Luggage is falling from the overhead compartments and dirty underwear and porno and bottles of aspirin and toothbrushes and shoes are flying everywhere.

There are about twenty passengers now, and I didn’t see any of them board except the first few. How long had I been completely oblivious?

The rest of the passengers have started to scream and scuttle towards the driver, who is stricken by panic. They wanted out, and so did he, and they formed a moving wall of flesh and bone, all jammed into too small a space.

A girl’s head rolled down the isle towards the front of the bus and I recognized it as one of the accented girls who had boarded shortly after me. Based on careful and ingenious deduction, I supposed that that must have been the source of the blood and commotion.

As I sat calmly assessing the situation, someone in the flesh wall pointed at me and screamed, “IT WAS HIM!”, and it dawned on me that somehow no one had seen this display of gore take place, and that my apparent lack of concern made me an obvious target. Chances are, the person pointing me out was the real culprit, not knowing that he couldn’t have asked for a better scapegoat, but it didn’t matter.

I was now a mass-murderer, with twenty some odd witnesses to say so. I couldn’t scare this mob into being quiet.

This wasn’t self defense, it was brutal and calculated. It wasn’t a crime of passion. There were no extenuating circumstances in my favor.

The bus screeched to a halt, and the poor girl’s head rolled into the crowd, and I watched an all-too-eager foot kick it back towards me, as I was still seated in the back.

Someone vomited.

Is this another bad dream? Too real. Too vivid. This is my life. Somewhere along the line my path had changed from one of mind-numbing mediocrity to one of fear-gripping white-knuckled intensity.

A man began to charge towards me as I kicked open the window and slithered out into what remained of the most terrifying night of my life thus far.

I ran off into the woods and kept running even though it was obvious none of the passengers would be brave enough to chase me. Leave it to the authorities, they’d be saying, as they tried to piece together exactly what had happened.

For a brief moment I almost believed I was a killer. The adrenaline pumped through my veins and I realized that this was why I had done what I had done. What else could bring this feeling?

Absolute terror merged with absolute satisfaction.

I felt more alive than I have ever felt before and then, all too quickly, the feeling faded, and all that remained was a dull ache where it used to be.

All that remains is plain old boring me.

About this

Posted in Uncategorized on June 5, 2009 by jeremiah james strawhand

I have been writing a story for a while now in a episodic fashion which I once had on my myspace. I am going to edit the original material and continue it on here.