************************************Denial covers the pain of the past * A blanket over the world * Lift a corner * Don't be afraid * Your life awaits you*************************************

Monday, December 9, 2013

Unreal

Please go away please go away please just go the fuck away. It’s too  painful. It's not about you. No. Not you. I just...
I don’t know. Please. Please. I just need to be alone.
The words sit inside me—searing, stifling molten copper. I try to hear him, try to bring the right response from the smoky depths. A shrug, a nod, a single, hollow word—each an echo in the barrenness.
Goddamit! 
I’ve done everything right. All the things I was supposed to do. Years of therapy. Medication. Reams of journaling. Meditation. . Revelations and grief. Restlessness and rage. Over and over and over and over. Pulling myself out, All those times I came so close 
So close
—and pulled myself from the brink.
Dropping the bag of pills
Steadying the steering wheel
Gripping my phone as if that slender connection to the world could save me
But always, unable to make a call...
“Sorry. What did you say?”
He cuts another a bite of cold, leftover pork chop while swallowing the bite already in his mouth. “I said tomorrow’s that dinner meeting.”
Meeting. Dinner. Work. Not me.
“They’re talking about moving it from that place we always go. It’s getting more and more expensive and the service isn’t that great. So we’re meeting at…”
So close… so many times I've come within a breath of oblivion. And then, somehow, stepped right back into my life. So glad I didn’t go through with it. So glad I managed to survive, once again. So astonished at how close I came—at how that storm can build and grow and take over everything.
           Even now.
           After all the work I’ve done. With all the tools I hold. All the forgiveness I’ve managed. All the letting go and exquisite release. Even now, it can rise up and threaten to swallow me whole. The desperation. The excruciating hopelessness. The cold, dense fog that spreads over everything, drowning perception, blighting reason....
“…so, it’s good the baby’s coming now—”
“Baby?”
For a moment, he sees me.
Really sees me. 
“You okay?”
“Yeah. Fine. I just missed what you said.”
“My partner’s wife is in labor." He watches me for another moment, a bite sitting unchewed in his mouth, his knife poised to make another cut. "I’ve been talking about it for a while.”
“Sorry. I heard you talking about the call schedule, and the person in ICU but I missed the mention of the baby. Isn’t this early?”
He chews. Swallows. Cuts another bite. “Yes. The baby was supposed to come around Christmas, but this is going to make it easier. He’ll take some time off, but at least it won’t screw up the Christmas call schedule.”
The call schedule. That's what's important here. 
“Yeah. That’s good.”
I push a few grains of cold fried rice around with my fork. Force another mouthful. Wash down the salty blandness with tepid water. It’s almost tolerable.
Almost.
I carry the bowl to the sink. Run the rest down the drain. Give my thoughts a sharp slap.
Jesus. He comes home for lunch and all I do is grit my teeth and wish he'd go?
And another.
What the fuck is wrong with me? Jesus-fucking-christ what’s the point? What’s the  fucking point of any of this? Is this good for him? I’m not even here. I’m not real at all. Have I ever been real?
No one sees me... 
No one hears me...
and I hear no one....
He heads back to work.
I cancel the appointment with my therapist. Hold my isolation close. Count the hours until I have to pretend again. I write. Worthless words on a virtual page. Silently, I read them over. Backspace. Rewrite. Insignificant thoughts expressed to no one. I turn them over, immerse myself in their intricate beauty, and then discard them line by line because I know—
I know
—there is something I could be doing—
SHOULD be doing
—but I choose poorly. The wrong thoughts. The wrong words. The wrong actions. Over and over. Line by line. Pointless, useless, worthless, wrong. I stare at the words until I can’t anymore and then head into the orange glow of dwindling daylight. My footprints strike a line across the heavily frosted ground while the white vapor of my breath billows and dissipates. Tiny clouds. Fragile and fleeting, but proof, none-the-less.   I am real. I am here. For this moment, for what it's worth, I exist. 




Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Silent War



Gary’s feet ached, and his legs were stiff. Sweating, in full combat gear, he watched the line of men and women in front of him. He couldn’t turn his head, but he knew many more lines of soldiers stood waiting and marching to his left and right.
As one, they all marched forward at a pace so slow it was painful. A din in the distance followed each step. Then, there was a silent pause before they all took another step forward.
At six-foot-four, Gary towered over most of the others. The line in front of him seemed to stretch forever, but Gary knew this protective wall of humanity wouldn’t last forever. The stillness of his body belied his racing heart and cycling thoughts.
An image from a story he’d once seen on the news flashed through his mind. The story was about a captive tiger and the image showed the beast inside a cage so small it would have been hard for it to even turn around. The story portrayed the animal as a man-eating monster, but Gary had felt bad for the poor, trapped beast, which only followed its nature.
Within the cage of his own body, Gary knew exactly how that caged tiger felt. As the lines of soldiers moved up another pace, Gary ran through every unlikely scenario he could imagine.
Maybe the Chip in his head would malfunction and he’d be able to move at will. He would dash between the lines, running until he found safety. Certainly there were holdouts here in this vast African Desert. Surely he could find a remote village, a local commune where people lived simply, without a Chip to guide them.
Even if that happened, Gary knew that the ranks of men and women around him would not be left to let him go. Another soldier would be signaled to catch him as he tried to dart past.
They all took another step forward.
Maybe the Gover-Nets would fail and suddenly, like a fresh breeze, they would all be free. The young men and women surrounding him would become his new compatriots and they would create their own commune. 
And then what? Even if this extremely unlikely circumstance came to be, life would be unbearable. Sure he’d be safe, and God knows right at that moment safety was far removed from reality, but could he really live like that? Live life alone? Gary had never known life without the Chip and the idea terrified him almost as much as the steady march.
They took another step forward.
How long has it been?
Almost before he asked himself the question, the Chip responded.
Four hours and forty-two minutes.
The line in front of him still seemed to stretch on forever. He pretended there was hope. Maybe the war would end before he reached the front. He could go back to his life and everything would be as it had been before. He imagined the Chip waking him in his own bed… connecting to a multi-player game while he brushed his teeth… putting on a pot of coffee while he listened to the news.
An immense sadness swept over him. That life seemed perfect from this perspective. Longing brought tears to his eyes. He’d never really known what he had.
They took another step forward.
Now, it was too late. He’d never get that back. The Gover-Nets wouldn’t back down. No agreement could be reached between his own Gover-Net system and that of the enemy. In the arid heat of the desert, a chill spread through Gary's body, raising goosebumps on his sun-burnt flesh. Would the Silent War continue until there was no one left to fight? Gary screamed,  “I shouldn't be here! I didn’t cause this! Damn you! Let me go!” 
The woman in front of him yelled, "Shut up!" He watched the back of her helmet and the long black hair that hung down from under it as the Chip sent a pep talk directly to the language center in his brain.
Come on soldier. You have a duty to perform! Your country needs you! Straighten up and make it easy on yourself.           
Right, he thought. It’s a Silent War.
His feet moved him forward another step, and this time he could identify the din in the distance. He heard a rush of gunshots followed by the cries of men and women. Rage washed over him again, coloring everything red.
Silent War? Silent fucking war?
He set his jaw with determination. For the first time in his life, he tried to fight the Chip. He concentrated on holding his feet to the ground. He willed them not to move. When the signal came, he grunted with the effort to hold his position, but his right foot lifted up and forward and his left came up to meet it.
For the next dozen steps he struggled for control of his legs, but it was no use. The caged tiger popped into his head again.
 “Fuck!”
“Shut up.”
“Don’t you see what’s happening here? They’re going to kill us all!”
“Shut the fuck up!”
Come on soldier. You have a duty to perform! Your country needs you! Straighten up and make it easy on yourself.
They took another step forward.
Adrenaline and rage continued to course through him, building up like trapped steam. Unlikely was all he had, and when that was gone he moved on to ridiculous. Gritting his teeth, he focused the fury in his heart on the Chip in his brain. As the natural fight or flight chemicals flooded his brain he thought, maybe I can use this. He put all his energy into using the momentum of his steps to fall forward. The frantic, absurd reasoning here was that if he fell they might bring him back for more training. It could buy him some time. Maybe it would be enough. Maybe the Gover-Nets would come to their senses and the war would end….
It didn’t work. No matter what he did, his feet moved forward one terrible pace at a time. Tears streamed down his face as he searched for another answer. And another. There had to be something! Some way to break free!
“God Damn it! Let me go!” he screamed as he struggled to will the evil thing from his head.
“Shut the fuck up,” a man called out from behind him.
Come on soldier. You have a duty to perform! Your country needs you! Straighten up and make it easy on yourself.
Insanity was upon him. He didn’t care. It couldn’t be any worse than reality. Maniacal laughter bubbled from his mouth, but even then he knew his body would move forward, step by step, despite any psychoses he could muster.
He closed his eyes against the blinding heat and searing reality and found himself reliving the last free moments of his life. 

*****

A friend paged him almost as soon as he woke up, trying to entice him with a game of Battle-Builder. He responded in the negative, and then turned on the shower while he recorded an away message.
Standing under the steamy spray, he mentally signaled the kitchen to start the coffee and toast an onion bagel.
Dudley, his Golden Retriever, pushed into the partly-open bathroom door. He nosed the shower door, tail wagging.
Gary sent a signal to the dog’s Chip, telling him to go out and do his business. He signaled the front door to open and mentally watched the dog as he ran down the back stairs to the small plot of grass in the yard. Gary scrubbed as he told the kitchen to feed the dog.
Dudley was done. Gary signaled the dog’s Chip, calling him back home. Briefly, Dudley thought of going for a run, but the Chip prevented him from doing anything except return to the apartment.
Gary toweled himself off and shaved quickly, but closely. The interview wouldn’t bring him the job of his dreams, but it was a step in the right direction. He needed to make a good impression. Eyeing his reflection, he wondered if he should have gotten a haircut. A shorter cut might have made him look older.
He posed, setting his jaw in an attempt to add years to his twenty-year-old appearance. It just made him look pretentious. He’d worked hard to graduate early. Surely that counted for something.
He headed for the business attire he’d set aside the night before.
Ten minutes later, he wiped his mouth to remove any remaining cream cheese, and then filled his travel cup with hot, sweet coffee.

*****

Gary took another step forward and landed on a rock. His ankle twisted a little on the uneven ground but he was helpless to move it until the next signal came. He licked his parched lips, still dreaming of that coffee.
Despite the gravity of the situation, a ridiculous amount of his attention was turning towards his overfull bladder. The stink of urine, old and new, didn’t help matters. Like many around him, the woman with the long black hair had given up and peed right through her clothes only moments before. On his next step, he’d clomped right into her puddle.
Blocking out the wretchedness around him, he closed his eyes again.

*****

The throng of people waiting for the Bullet was a little overwhelming, but if he got the job, it would be worth the chaotic morning commute. Waiting was tedious without the Chip and its continual connection. Gary fought the constant urge to plug in, reminded himself that this day was too important to risk getting lost in a game or a movie.
He looked at the faces around him, checking to see if anyone else was disconnected. Some were having animated conversations with the air around them. A few showed signs of excitement or distress depending on the probable outcome of whatever game they were playing. Most had blank expressions. They all appeared to be lost in their own inner worlds.
It had only been three minutes, but his mind kept looping back to the Chip. He wondered what messages he’d missed. He panicked for a moment, thinking there might be a Battle-Builder tournament that afternoon. If he wasn’t on the queue, he’d never get in.

His stomach rumbled him back to reality. The hearty breakfast they’d all been fed that morning was not enough to hold up through the afternoon. And damn his full bladder. He’d piss right there if he could reach down and open his fly.
Six hours and five minutes.
The lines moved in a rhythm he’d come to anticipate. According to his Chip, the time between each step was twelve-point-two seconds. It seemed as familiar to him now as his own heartbeat.
He looked over the heads of those in front of him, glad for his height. Being stuck behind someone taller than him would have made this even more oppressive. It seemed like he could see a space up ahead.
Ohmygod
There it was, visible in the distance.
Middle Ground.
He took a step forward.

*****
When the Bullet arrived, he stepped into the silver tube and grabbed one of the straps hanging from the ceiling. He didn’t really need to hold on. The straps were there more for mental security than physical need. The Bullet quickly dropped below street level, but the floor under Gary’s feet never shifted more than a degree off horizontal. Even when they reached two-hundred miles an hour, the pressurized inner compartment was stable enough to easily remain standing without swaying.
Suddenly, several people gasped and a man right behind Gary whispered, “Oh my God.” There was something chilling in the quiet utterance of that phrase. Gary looked around, confused. A buzz arose as conversations sprung up all around him. The Bullet continued to speed along towards the city.
He tuned in to his Chip. An over-cast was in progress. He hadn’t heard an over-cast since the day the president was shot six years earlier.  
The emotionless computer voice drone, “…negotiations ended in a stalemate. Our enemies will not agree to the terms of our treaty. To protect our lives and way of living, the Silent War, as proposed by the world security confederacy, will commence immediately. The President assures us that our lives will not be affected. There will be no innocent victims. Resume your day. This message will repeat in its entirety.”
Because he’d tuned in late, the shock hit Gary a few seconds after everyone else. By the time he uttered his own, “Oh my God,” most of the faces around him had already tuned into something else. A few people were having conversations with loved ones, discussing the Silent War, but as the president said, there would be no innocent victims. There didn’t seem to be any real danger.

*****

His bladder was really getting to be an issue, but it was still easier to ignore than other discomforts. Hunger was calling but thirst was screaming. The left side of his face was blazing hot from sunburn. Now the sun was working hard on the right.
Eight hours and two minutes.
The gunfire and screams were louder now. Gary had become used to the pattern.
Step.
Roar.
Silence.
Step.
As they all stepped forward again, Middle Ground came fully into view. For the first time he could see the actual ground and it appeared to be carpeted in crimson.

*****

The bullet was coming to a stop and the prize was right in front of him. He sipped the last of his coffee, and stepped through the sliding doors. He took two steps towards his appointment – and then he turned around and walked away.
What the hell?
As his feet moved of their own volition, Gary listened to the calm voice with the alarming news.
“Gary Wellright, you have been called into active duty, effective immediately. You don’t need to do anything. Your Chip will direct you to training. Everything will be taken care of.”
Confusion. Anger. When the voice told him he had two minutes to put up an away message for his family, panic set in.
Two minutes.
What can I say in two minutes?
His feet moved him towards a destination he’d been told but had already forgotten. The clock was ticking. He opened the recorder and said, “Mom… Dad… I’ve been called to duty.”
What else could he say? That he was terrified? That he was furious? That he was supposed to be at a job interview in three minutes and instead his entire life was turned upside-down?    
“I don’t get it. Isn’t there some law protecting me from this?
“I don’t know how long I’ll be gone, but I’ll contact you as soon as I can. I’m heading to training now. They are going to cut my easy access in like a minute… I… I love you….”

*****

He took another step towards the soaked, red Middle Ground. He was so thirsty he couldn’t swallow the sandy grit in his throat. His mouth felt like it was lined with felt. Nine slow and sickening hours, and still he marched forward, one unavoidable step at a time. The barrage of bullets after each step was now deafening. Shrieks sang out and died away quickly. A blister on Gary’s left little toe chimed in, pulsing its own searing beat to the death march.
The lines moved up another pace. He peered over the heads of those in front of him, counting. There were thirty soldiers between him and his inevitable destiny. He wanted to turn around and see how far the line stretched behind him. Had more soldiers joined the ranks, or was there an end?
He imagined a message coming through.
We have enough. You can go home now.
He mentally flogged himself for clinging to hope. He had no tears left, but his eyes burned with grief. His life, so many lives, maybe every single life… how far did the lines extend behind him? Had anyone escaped?
Gary knew there were people who’d refused the Chips. They lived in communes and it was said they kidnapped infants and removed their Chips. He remembered the chants and the celebration they’d had on Signing Day. All those people signing the papers, giving up all rights to insurance, healthcare, legal support and financial assistance the government had to offer by refusing the Chip and they celebrated as if it was a good thing.
Of course, Gary’s implant had been done at birth. It was hard for him to imagine life without the Chip. As a little child, his parents had been amazed with how fast he could learn with the Chip in place. His infant brain had grown with the Chip, forming neural pathways that drew directly from the vast universal knowledge of the Gover-Net. There was no need to learn counting or the alphabet. The ability to understand any text and comprehend calculus was within the Chip. A question never went unanswered. Problems were solved in an instant. All he needed to do was plug in, and he could do that with a thought.
He remembered how he’d looked forward to turning twelve – the age of consent for an upgrade. It had been a simple procedure, popping out the old Chip and putting in a new one. He’d gone back for replacements whenever he was eligible and each new Chip was more marvelous than the last.
In that moment, Gary realized with sudden ferocity how much he hated the Chip. If he could move his arms, he’d dig the thing from his brain right then and there.
Only twenty people remained in the line ahead of him.  
Twelve-point-two seconds times twenty…  
Aproximately four minutes, the Chip responded immediately.
He took another step forward.          
He’d avoided acknowledging the reality; now he felt drawn to face it. His turn was coming.  He watched the front, catching glimpses of commotion in the Middle Ground between the lines of waiting soldiers. People scrambled in the cacophony of blasts and roars of pain, and then dropped below his line of sight. Others appeared. Dressed in red and white, they rushed in from the sides, bent down, then backed away.
They took another step.
Twelve-point-two seconds.
Apparently, that was how long it took for the shots to be fired and the bodies to be pulled from blood-soaked Middle Ground. Like puppets without strings, the seemingly endless lines of men and women stepped forward to meet the enemy.
The enemy. He’d heard stories, and he’d heard the Gover-Net’s line. He’d assumed the reality was somewhere in between but now one thing was obvious. The enemy was not in the endless lines of condemned men and women who faced him. No. He’d been embracing the enemy his entire life.
The enemy was inside him.
The enemy was the Chip.
No one near him had spoken for at least an hour. Gary had become quiet himself when he’d gotten his first glimpse of the front of the line. Lost in his thoughts, he jumped inwardly when the woman behind him spoke. In the lull between the steps and shots, she said, “Just let them hit you.”
Her words came to him loud and clear but the meaning escaped him. He knew there was no way to avoid being shot, but why would he not even try?
“Are you nuts?” He asked.
“A kill shot is best. Let them hit you.”
The black haired woman shouted, “Shut up!” Her pants appeared to be dry. The desert was brutally arid. Maybe he should have just let go hours earlier but his last shred of humanness seemed to depend on containing his bladder.
“Believe me, I know,” the woman behind Gary went on.
They took another step forward. The noise from Middle Ground prevented any further conversation for a few seconds.  As soon as it was silent again, Gary asked, “Why? Why would a kill shot be better?”
The voice behind him said, “Believe me, I know.”
Gary’s mind raced as he tried to understand what the woman was implying.
Three more minutes.
The lines moved forward. Shots and screams commenced again. In the silence that followed, Gary yelled, “How would you know?”
Shouts of “shut up” rang out all around them, but were quickly drowned out by the explosions and screams which were now so unbearably close.
Gary wished he could turn around and see the face of the woman behind him. It suddenly occurred to him that this was the person who would witness his moment of truth. She would see him race forward, blasting his gun, and she would watch him fall. She would be privy to a moment Gary almost certainly would not as the medics dragged his bloodied body from Middle Ground.
No!
His mind screamed at him to stop visualizing this certainty. Until the bullets pierced his flesh, he had hope.
But what the fuck did she mean?
“If you know something, tell me!” Gary screamed.
The lines moved forward.
He studied the back of the head of the dark-haired woman in front of him. He wondered about her family. Did she have a lover waiting somewhere? Or maybe standing in the lines nearby...
The woman behind finally answered his question. “I know because this is my third time in line.”
Third?
Gary’s heart pounded wildly as hope soared. She made it through the line twice and survived!   
They moved forward again. This close, the bangs and shouts blurred together. The silence echoed the dead.
“If you make it across Middle Ground they let you live?” Gary asked.
Gary thought he was already at the far end of emotion, but the laughter behind him brought his anger and fear to a new level. Finally the woman got hold of herself enough to speak. “Nobody makes it across!”
They took another step forward. The silence that followed was less complete at this distance. The scuffle of feet rushing forward, the dragging of the bodies across the sand…
The dark-haired woman called out, “If no one makes it across, then how can you be here for the third time?”
From behind, Gary heard, “They drag your battered body away, patch you up, and send you right back out.”
They moved forward again.
“Some must make it out,” Gary called out.
“Think about it,” the faceless voice behind him continued. “They can’t send you back home and let you plug in. You’d tell everyone what’s really happening here.”
Gary shivered despite the heat. He fought a wave of nausea as he sought for some flaw in this logic.
“I don’t believe you,” a male voice from somewhere to his left called out.
“Shut up!”
A voice from further back said, “It’s true. No one goes home.”
“Shut the fuck up!”    
Abandon hope all ye who enter here.
Gary was tempted to say the words aloud, just to hear them. If he could give up hope he might be able to push the panic away. He began to clutch at the seconds he had left.
The line moved forward.
Only seven people were in front of him, now. The man at the head of the line was quite tall, but all the people in between were shorter than Gary. In a few seconds, his view of Middle Ground would be completely open.
The tall man charged. Deafening shots rolled like thunder down the lines. Almost instantly, the frontrunner dropped to the blood-soaked ground.
So fast.
The medics rushed onto the scene. They grabbed the fallen by the armpits and dragged them backwards, out of sight.
They all took another step.
It took him a moment to identify the pattering sound to his left. The tang of urine hit his nostrils. Gary clenched the muscles in his groin, gritting his teeth to keep control as he listened to the drops hit the ground at an ever slowing pace.
They all moved forward again. This time, it was a woman who ran forward. She made it almost half-way across, dodging left and right, before she fell.
In the distance, just before they all stepped forward again, Gary saw the enemy - unwavering lines of soldiers, a hundred yards ahead. The ambiguous forms were dressed in brown instead of green. They stood still and waited in their own despair.
Maybe they could wipe our memories clean, Gary fantasized, still searching for a way to believe he might be sent back to the life he once knew.
He could hear the sobs of those next in line. Some blubbered unabashedly. Others wept softly, sniffling, exhaling in long wavering sighs even as the first signal came. Their arms moved to pull their guns up and point them forward.
Gary screamed, “Fuck!” and topped it off with, “God Damn you!”
Come on soldier. You have a duty to perform! Your country needs you! Straighten up and make it easy on yourself.
He studied the lines ahead, looking for a chink in the armor. He counted the soldiers in the line facing his, finding the one he was meant to shoot. He found himself trying to find a way across, but the enemy facing him stood shoulder to shoulder.
He closed his eyes, wishing he could close his ears. In the ringing that pounded in his ears, it was hard to tell when the actual noise had stopped. There was so little time. If he was truly in his last moments of life, he wanted to spend them thinking about something other than blood, piss, and his own death.
He thought of his parents, again. He remembered how they looked the last time he saw them. His body stepped forward on command, but still he kept his eyes shut and focused on the past.

*****

“Gary, listen to me,” his father said. “The world isn’t what you think it is.” His father put down the box he was carrying. He raked a hand through his graying hair as he pleaded for Gary to change his mind. “That damn thing in your head has you convinced that your mother and I are the enemy.”        
Gary walked to the window and looked at his parents’ patchy grass. They were talking about moving to one of the communes, about removing their Chips.
“I’ve got a job interview next week, Dad.”
His mother took his hand. “We just want what’s best for you. Please, Gary. Have we ever hurt you?”
“No, Mom. You know that isn’t it.” His parents had always been there for him. He loved them dearly, but he was twenty years old. He knew how to take care of himself. They just didn’t get it. There was no way he was going to some commune doctor and getting his Chip removed. The idea of not having that constant connection, the aloneness of it – he couldn’t understand how his parents could stand it.
“You can always come back if you don’t like it,” his mother had coaxed.
“Mom….”
“You still have free will… for the moment,” his father said, looking him in the eye. “But this thing their talking about—it’s going to change everything. If you don’t get that damn thing out of your head before the next upgrade, who knows what will happen?”  
“Don’t believe everything you read, Dad” Gary said, laughing.

*****

With his eyes still closed, he tried to imagine the line in front of him as it had been when he first stepped into it that morning.
Never-ending.
It was no use. He knew how close he was to the ultimate truth. A moan escaped him as he opened his eyes to face the reality. The dark-haired woman was now at the head of the line. She was shuddering and sobbing and her boots were sinking in to the red-soaked ground.
The feet of the dead and dying bumped along the ground as they were pulled away. The medics were quickly disappearing.
Gary felt his feet move forward.
“Ahhh!” the woman shouted as she charged. Two steps later, her gun firing off rounds at a pace too rapid to count, she collapsed to the ground. Her own crimson life flowed with the rest as she slapped face-first to the ground.
Here in the front of the line, a gentle breeze stirred the iron-tainted air. Medics ran forward, scooping up the bodies. For a moment, Gary made eye contact with the man who came for the dark-haired woman. His once white coverall was now mostly red.
The man looked away, quickly.
He’ll be coming for me, next.
Gary’s bladder released sending a searing stream down his legs.
Across from him, the tear-streaked face of a boy not more than sixteen stared back.
Gary had meant to count the seconds. How many were left?
Five, his Chip informed him.
Four… three… two… one… Gary raised his gun as his feet raced forward.


*****

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Waking

I've been playing with that video software again... this one is inspired by the Conscious Evolution intensive I've been doing for the last four months, and it's a little more creative. I used a combination of drawn images reworked in photoshop and free images (found online,) and added free sound effects (also found online).

I call it    WAKING
           (click the link)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Seeds

I want to become
Who I’m meant to be
But the seed knows not the flower
So I must be open
To new understandings
To all possible notions
And even what I can’t imagine
Without hesitation
Uncertainty
Or distrust

I want to become
All I’m meant to be
But the seed knows not the flower
So I must be willing
To let go of everything
Every truth I think I know
Everything I think I own
Illusions of scarcity
Security
And control

I want to become
The ultimate me
But the seed knows not the flower
So I must be ready
To break free of this tiny shell
To push through life’s heavy burdens
Trusting that beyond their darkness
A life-giving light
With everything I need
Awaits

Friday, October 18, 2013

Have you ever tried to make a movie?

This afternoon I decided to find out what a limited-tech-savvy woman in her fifties could do on her own with only a phone and a laptop. Obviously, I am not a professional videographer! I am also not a professional musician - but the music in the background is my own - a song I'm still working on. I recorded myself playing it (not perfectly - but you get the idea) just by putting my laptop next to the piano. So - simply made, but all mine! It's three minutes long - the song - which I've entitled Ragdoll's Dance - plays through twice.

Here's the link:  Fall in Illinois

Fall in Illinois

Have you ever tried to make a movie?

This afternoon I decided to find out what a limited-tech-savvy woman in her fifties could do on her own with only a phone and a laptop. Obviously, I am not a professional videographer! I am also not a professional musician - but the music in the background is my own - a song I'm still working on. I recorded myself playing it (not perfectly - but you get the idea) just by putting my laptop next to the piano. So - simply made, but all mine! It's three minutes long - the song - which I've entitled Ragdoll's Dance - plays through twice.

Here's the link:  Fall in Illinois
Have you ever tried to make a movie?

This afternoon I decided to find out what a limited-tech-savvy woman in her fifties could do on her own with only a phone and a laptop. Obviously, I am not a professional videographer! I am also not a professional musician - but the music in the background is my own - a song I'm still working on. I recorded myself playing it (not perfectly - but you get the idea) just by putting my laptop next to the piano. So - simply made, but all mine! It's three minutes long - the song - which I've entitled Ragdoll's Dance - plays through twice.

Here's the link:  Fall in Illinois

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Leaves of a Day


First light is winter-empty and bare.
Yawn
Roll over
Look at the clock
Yesterday’s reruns spatter life’s branches.
Stretch
Rise

Morning’s sleepy reflection is older than expected.
An accidental dose of startling honesty
Quick
Pull the veil back in place
Race into another day
Before the first swallow of morning brew—hot, strong, sweet—cover reality in a thousand sprouts of springtime green, soft as a baby’s cheek.
Buds pop
Leaves open
Windswept branches sway

Mid-day is covered with dense, verdant foliage.
A short shopping list
An overdue phone call
A silly Facebook game
Move
Faster
Faster still, if only to hold the madness away. Ignore the tick-tock and the belly’s clench. An intolerable lull could reveal a sting in your eyes or a small, involuntary gasp.
Just
Get
Through
Focus on a fantasy-future as daylight slips by unnoticed.

Russet leaves disguise evening’s passion.  
Connection hides beneath distraction
Sincerity under sarcasm
Authenticity behind repression’s mask
The caress of a warm, damp cloth can’t wipe it clean but still
Softly
Slowly
Lifts intensity from another day.

Night’s branches rustle under a black-satin gown.
Leaves dry
Curl
Drop
Sweep them from the pillow and pull the covers high against night’s chill.
Eyes closed
Breath deep
But the mind holds fast to one last luminous twinkling.
Wasn’t there something?
Yes
Something more
A meant-to-be knowing missed in the flurry. A door hangs ajar, a choice stirring in a restless mind. Turn towards it?
Step in?
Allow that small, innermost child to walk helpless
Vulnerable
Alone
Through grief’s blaze?
Or give in to sleep’s sweet escape as the day’s final leaf falls.  




Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ripples in a Pond

I heard a splash. Moving closer, pushing aside the tall autumn grasses, I quietly watched the pond. There were ripples where something had disturbed the peaceful, glassy surface but I couldn’t imagine what had made caused them.
And then, there it was. About five inches long, slender and silver, a fish jumped up, wiggled in the air, and then dropped back out of sight.
I have walked this path countless times. I’d first discovered this small protected woods when I was still in my twenties. Having moved to a new town just a few weeks after my first child was born, I was on the look-out for new places to explore. With my daughter in a snuggly—the front-carrier most popular at that time—we’d wander the local parks, walk the malls, or trek along the riverfront. Together we’d take long drives into town or through the corn fields that bordered our neighborhood. She was born in the spring, so we watched the corn grow tall together that whole first summer.
It was a warm autumn day when I came across the little woods. I parked my car and stepped onto the paved path that led around the edge of the trees. Soon the pond, so full of life, appeared on my right behind the cattails. Unseen ducks called out nearby. An egret stood on the far edge of the pond, staring down into the water. I savored the idyllic scene, etching it into memory and revisiting it over and over, often without ever leaving my house.
All four of my children have come to know this place. They’ve gathered leaves and twigs, bits of cottonwood and walnut shells and created collages that hung in the kitchen or were given as gifts to a grandmother or aunt. And as they grew, our passages through the woods became less frequent and much quieter. In the last few years, I’ve been coming alone, more often than not.
Then came last year’s drought. Summer began a month ahead of schedule and lasted longer than ever before. We had less rain than at any other time since they’ve been keeping track of such things. When the heat finally broke, in mid-October, the pond was gone. Completely gone. Tall brown grass covered the low area where the pond should have been. I actually cried. I felt as if a part of me was gone.
The weather channel proclaimed that it would take ten years of above-average rain to bring the water tables back to normal. For all I know, they’re right. Maybe the water is still lower than it was. However, this year, a cold snowy spring gave way to a cool rainy summer. Despite the weather, I could have walked in the woods on many occasions, but I avoided it. The image of that first time—the egret standing at water’s edge—was so much more comforting that the thought of the barren, dry landscape I’d last seen.  
Today, pleasant air was highlighted by sunshine and soft breezes. The only portent of oncoming winter—the date on the calendar—pushed me past my avoidance. I just couldn’t go a whole year without seeing the little woods.
As I drove, two images fought for position in my mind—a pond full of life and a dead, dry divot. I turned onto the narrow road leading into the woods and parked my car. Birds harmonized with the remaining rustling leaves and the soft sound of my footsteps on a path strewn with color.
I was watching the ground, avoiding the hard remnants of nutshells cast aside by squirrels and chipmunks, when I heard the splash. Looking up, I caught sight of a shiny surface between the tall grasses and cattails and my heart pounded with expectation. I pushed the grasses aside and gratitude surged inside me. The pond looked to be as big as ever.
And then, from the ripples, that shiny silver sliver jumped.
How could that be?
How could this place that was dry as death a year ago now be full of life again?
I sat on a bench and watched through a familiar clearing that had returned with the rest of the view, and I fell into a daydream as I tried to imagine how fish had found their way into the new waters. In my fantasy, I imagined a fish carrying fertile eggs. I saw them growing inside her but just before she could move the new life from her body, a bird swooped down and plucked up the fish swallowing her whole. The next day, the bird flew over an empty, lifeless pond and dropped the eggs—still viable—in with her waste.
A silly fantasy. I shook my head as I rose from the bench and headed into the shady woods for the rest of my walk. More likely, I told myself, an underground stream fed the pond and the fish made their way back as the waters rose. Still, within that fantasy I found a bit of significance.
We are all moving through our lives as if we are in control, and as if the surprising and sometimes catastrophic things that occur are random, arbitrary events.
A meal for the bird.
A tragedy for the fish.
New life for the little pond.

Maybe we’re all ripples in a pond. Maybe each one of us and everything we do is part of an exquisite panorama of life—a picture so enormous and so intricate we can’t even fathom its existence. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

How to handle a broken phone

Like most of us, I’m stuck in a contract-relationship with my phone company. Mostly, it doesn’t make much difference in my life, but there are times when I feel very frustrated with the lack of choice or options. Since they know they own me, they make all the rules and all I can do is follow along.

I got a new phone just over two weeks ago, and I really like it. For a not-so-young and only moderately tech-savvy woman, I’m learning how to use it pretty well. I can do all the things I bought it for and more.

I’m extremely cautious with this very slender electronic wonder covered in glass. I handle it carefully and never put it in my pocket. I haven’t dropped it or set anything down on it. So, imagine my surprise when I lifted it off the end table two nights ago, pressed the button on the bottom-center, and heard a pop. The accompanying crack quickly spread. From the spider-web configuration by the button, two fissures grew—one diagonally and the other all the way up the length of the phone.

What the fuck? Yes, I believe that was my not-so-eloquent response. But, the phone was only two weeks old that day. Certainly the company would take responsibility for this manufacturing flaw.
Hah! You are probably saying right now that I am very naive. Well, as it turns out, I did get a mostly-free replacement phone, but it has been an ordeal and in case you need to follow in my footsteps, here’s what you do.

First, you go to the store where you bought it. You have to go there even though they will not want to talk to you and will tell you they can’t help you. What they will do is give you a piece of paper that looks unimportant. It has a lot of fairly useless information on it, but also contains the addresses of “local” AT&T repair shops.

Next, you drive to another location which is almost certainly much further away. Ours was about thirty-five minutes further.

Then you wait in line to talk to a kid wearing a pin-on tie with a five-o’clock shadow that is probably five days old. When you get to the front of the line, you tell him the same thing you’ve just explained to the pimple-faced kid and then the manager (who was only about a year older than the kid) of the first store. Then you hand him your phone. If you’re at all attached to it, say goodbye first because you will never see it again.

He will hold your phone in two fingers as if it is a nasty piece of refuse and ask if you went to the store where you bought it. 

"Yes. They said they couldn't do anything."

"Did they give you a work order?"

"Um... they gave me a piece of paper with your address on it, but they didn't write anything on it."

"Do you have it?"

Fish the folded form-letter out and hand it over. 

"Okay. Here are your options." The word “options” is used, but the reality is there is only one option. You must now pay for a new phone.

“How much will that cost?”

“$125.00”

Gasp. “But I just bought it two weeks ago! I haven’t done anything to it. It obviously had a manufacturing flaw.”

“We can’t take back a broken phone and give you a new one.”

“But… you can sell me a phone that only lasts two weeks and then I have to come in and buy a new one?”

“Well, a new one would cost $400.00 because you're not eligible for an upgrade.”

“Of course I'm not. I just bought this two weeks ago!"

"Right."

"So, I have to give you another hundred and a quarter because two weeks ago you sold me a phone that wasn’t made right.”

“I can’t take back a broken phone and give you a new one.” 

Stare him down for a few moments at this point, waiting for him to give you something more. He will finally say, “You can call AT&T and complain if you want.”

“What if this one breaks in two weeks? Do I have to pay you again?”

“I can’t take a broken phone and give you a new one.”

The woman next-in-line looks on impatiently.

 “How much would it cost if I’d bought the insurance?”

“Then it would cost you $199.00.”

“Huh?”

“There’s a fee to carry your insurance over to the new phone.”

“So you’re saying if I’d bought the insurance it would have cost me more.

Unblinking, he says, “Yes.”

“Well, I guess I don’t really have any choice.”

“So, you want me to replace the phone?”

“You’ve only given me one possible option and now you’re asking me if I want to take it.”

“If you like, you can browse the AT&T store while you wait.”

Swallow all the rest of what you’d like to explain to this kid. It isn’t his fault, you tell yourself. You walk off to wait, but you refuse to look at anything else in this store. You really want to warn the prospective buyers who are talking to salesmen on the floor. You fantasize for about fifteen minutes. It takes time to bring your photos and other information over to the new phone.

Then, you hand over your credit card and pay—about $135.00 with tax.

Then you head home where you can spike your data usage while you “update” your new phone for the second time in two weeks. Then you put in all your passwords again, re-download programs you use, and lament informative or funny conversations you’ve lost on your instant-message log. Finally, you decide you will call AT&T, just for a laugh.

You wait on hold for about forty minutes. You explain for the fourth time what happened to your phone. The tech on the other end of the line replies sympathetically in a strong accent. He doesn’t offer any other options but you persist. He leaves you on hold several times to speak to a manager. Finally, after another half-an-hour, good news! Because you are a valued customer, they’re going to credit your next bill 125 dollars! You get everything back… except the tax… and the lost information from your first phone… and an entire Saturday.



Thursday, August 29, 2013

Common Voice - Expressing the Global Awakening Heart

Do you feel the blowing winds of change?

Have you felt as if there is more going on than what you see in your everyday life?

Have you wondered if we could resolve a potentially cataclysmic event without the help (or interference) of any government, organized religion, or corporation? 

I have. 

For as long as I can remember I’ve sensed an imminent shift. To me, it’s felt as if humanity was on the verge of an enormous impending change and I’ve longed to find others who felt it, too.
Coming across the concept of Conscious Evolution I felt as if I’d found the X on the treasure map. As I dug deeper, I found a global community who believe we are ready, as a species, to evolve to the next level. Not only do they have a vision of a viable future for humanity, but they have an idea of how to get there. These people are committed to evolving themselves and connecting with each other in order to create the world they envision.

In Barbara Marx Hubbard’s book, “52 Codes for Conscious Self Evolution,” she offers a path to follow through this personal progression. The subtext explains that this is “A Process of Metamorphosis to Realize Our Full Potential Self.” The codes are Ms. Hubbard’s personal insights channeled from her own highest level of consciousness.

What I’ve realized is that the hidden treasure I’ve been searching for is inside me. Developing my highest potential self is the key. Connection with others who are called to this path will open the door to our future as a viable species. This is why Barbara Marx Hubbard refers to us as Generation One. We are the first generation of a new kind of human and I believe we have far more potential than we ever imagined. 


Common Voice has set a purpose to re-write the language of conscious evolution—including the 52 codes—in more accessible and understandable language. We will post the codes one at a time—first in Barbara Marx Hubbard’s words as they appear in her book, and then as we understand them. It’s important to understand that we are posting the codes as written by Ms. Hubbard with her permission, but that our explanations or translations are simply that—our words. We hope you’ll come to your own understandings. We welcome your comments, value your perspective, and hope our interpretations lead to an open dialog and a deeper understanding for us all. 


If you'd like to join the conversation, feel free to like the Common Voice page on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Home


I created this image today from a drawing I did last night, which I reworked in photoshop. I call it "Home."
For six years I've been working towards integration. An odd thing was happening, and I was somewhat aware of it but also somehow oblivious.

The pieces I've integrated that were eight years old or younger joined one aspect of me--an aspect I've been calling "the eight-year-old."
The piece I've integrated that were older have all joined another aspect of me--the one I simply think of as "me."

I say simply... but it is anything but.

These two remaining aspects of me have been battling recently--vying for the rights to all of me. I have really struggled recently, dissociating frequently when there has been almost no dissociation in my life for the last two years. I have felt a constant swarm of emotions and feel close to tears a good deal of the time.

I am responsible for myself. I am responsible for my happiness. If I'm unhappy than I am the one who needs to do something about it.

But who the hell am I??
One side blamed the other. Every bit of anxiety was proof that the other side was wrong. It's been approaching the ugliness and brutality of a presidential election...

Last night I finally gave in. When I say that, I mean both sides of me--all of me. I gave in to the fact that I have done all the right things to survive, and that without every part of who I've been I wouldn't have made it this far. The image above came into my mind. I closed my eyes and held up my hand--from both sides--and I felt the energy of the other
both sides of me felt the energy of the other.

I am moving towards that very uncomfortable part of integration in which I will feel two separate sets of emotions at the same time, in which I will think two separate stands of thoughts at once, in which the very confusing double motives and desires, likes and dislikes, will pull me in two ways at once. I've done it before. Both sides of me have lived through it before.

This time I think is the last. Accepting each other now is the final thing I have to do to become whole. I'm scared. I'm still fighting it just a little. From both sides, I feel a strong need to be in control. But... I don't really see any other way to move on with my life. We've shared this body all this time, so I guess it's time to share our mind, too. For a time I think it will be co-consciousness rather than true integration. Maybe it will always be that way. I can't really know from this side of the bridge what I'll find on the other side... but whatever happens, whatever this is... it feels like coming home.

Co Creation

Co Creation
We create the life we live

Love your inner child...

...for she holds the key...

...to your personal power.
A lesson is woven into each day.
Together they make up the tapestries of our lives.
~Shen