Madness…A short story…AWID

I dream of snow. Wading across the painted desert landscape, my boots press into the soft powder. “Ugh, what a horrible smell. It smells like someone died here.” The crumbles of powder crack and fall from the faces of innocent women and children butchered in the name of tyranny. Gasping for air, I fall out of bed and land on my knees.

“It’s okay. You’re not there anymore.” My throat is clogged with the taste of blood, and I run into the bathroom. Leaning over the sink, I cough until chunks of bloody phlegm are dislodged from my larynx. “Regardless of how long I’m home, I can’t escape that horrible place.” Tears of pain dot my cheeks, and I wipe my eyes bitterly.

“I don’t know what’s killing me quicker, the alcohol or the burn pits.” Night after night, I struggle with dreams of sand, bullets, explosions and broken limbs. My mind is fractured. In some ways, I’m not sure if I remember it correctly or if somehow, I managed to get it all wrong. Whichever the case, it all seems real to me.

Angrily, I slam my hand down on the counter. “Well, come on with it already. If you’re going to take me, let’s get it over with. There’s no point in prolonging the inevitable.” The mirror tells the tale of a broken man. A man who went to war to set things right, only to lose himself in the process. It’s safe to say, I’m bitter about how things turned out. Turning the light off, I walk out of the bathroom and into the kitchen.

My one-bedroom apartment is sparingly decorated. The state flag of Mississippi hangs on the front door along with a sign informing intruders that I don’t call 911. A sofa bed, recliner, a 47” Vizio television, PS4 and laptop make up my earthly possessions. Jameson whiskey bottles litter the top of the fridge. “I’m living it up. There are no strings on me.”

The smell of lime poured on the bodies lingers in my mind. I can see the broken bodies, whether it’s a hallucination or dream, I can’t tell you. Children are gathered nearby, their eyes devoid of hope. Soldiers smirk, their only defense against the chaos, dark humor. The darkness encroaches ever closer.

I’m lost in the darkness.

In the dark, I can hear the footfalls of my enemies drawing near. The inky blackness smothers any hope I have of finding my way out of it. My depression and anxiety restricts my ability to formulate an escape plan. In the purest sense, I am sinking into the pit of misery. “God, help me. Where are you when I need you the most?” The maddening cackle of my tormentors ring out in the dark. My heart beats with the fury of a thousand waterfalls.

“Where do I run to? How do I get away?” These questions have no answers, they are as vacant of possibilities as the eyes of the dead-yet-living children, I saw that day in Iraq. In many ways, I wonder if my mind broke from seeing the thousands of bodies laid side-by-side, knowing the torture their lives held until their untimely deaths swept them from this plane of wretchedness. Either way, I’m sure it didn’t help.

From a distance, the lime scattered on the bodies to keep the smell of decomposing corpses down, looked like pure snow. It wasn’t until you drew close that you recognized the horror it hid. “The same could be said for my life. I’m devoid of hope, slowly decomposing into nothingness. All I want is to go home and forget about this crap.” Being at home hasn’t helped me, the war has followed me home.

“Mr. Freeman, how are you today?” I look up at my nurse as she brings in my medicine and a tiny cup of water. “Can you loosen the straps, so I can take my medication like a big boy?” She smiles. “No, just tilt your head back and swallow.” She shoves the medicine into my mouth, and I swallow the pills.

In my mind, I can hear the cackle of madness and it frightens me.

A few musings…

This short story I’ve started is growing by leaps and bounds. I hoped it would write it’s ending, but it continued to surprise me with the twists that developed. From a small idea to a two thousand word piece. Writing has never ceased to amaze me.

I am tired of this pandemic. It hasn’t disappeared like SARS, why won’t it go away?

I used to want to be Jack Bauer, but as I’ve aged I want to be like Jesse Stone.

Well, I’m done. See y’all tomorrow.

More rain….

It’s still raining. The morning has started off nice. I touched base with an old friend, I have spoken to a repairman to sort out my dryer. I’ve never watched 1917, but I have begun it.

I am proceeding with a story that has no title. 1345 words into it, I have no inkling where it will end. I just add to it. It seemed to just flow out of some dark avenue of my heart, so I suppose I will know when it is finished.

Y’all take care.

If I could go back in time…

In the quiet morning hours, I consider the life altering moments of my past. None have driven home the importance of living life to the maximum effect more so than the first headless body I saw in Iraq. 

They strung it up by the shoulders from an overpass. Like Dorthy from the Wizard of Oz, I soon discovered we “weren’t in Kansas anymore.” We were from Texas, but you don’t see many folks hanging decapitated from overpasses there. The gruesome nature of what I saw forced me to realize my mortality. “Crap. I should’ve lived my life to the maximum! I may not survive this ordeal.”

I survived. However, I fell right back into the trap of prioritizing my career above my family. It wasn’t long before I valued possessions over people. There is nothing wrong with being driven, ambitious or any combination in-between. Soon upon my return from the sandbox, I cluttered my life with needless things. 

What exactly are needless things? Anger, hate, and a lack of balance. I exercised no restraint upon my life. Events would occur and I over-reacted. How often did I overreact? All the time. There was no middle ground. 

If I could pass on a piece of advice to my younger self, it would be this: Live your life uncluttered. Surround yourself with good people, those who will encourage you, love you and stand by you through thick and thin. Let the frustrations of life pass you by. Don’t react to everything that occurs. Sometimes, you are better off not acknowledging that something has occurred. 

Now, it’s day two of the hostage situation, i.e. work. Let’s go get ‘em. Be safe out there.

Freeman

A Sick Twist of Fate…A short story…

Tim Williams looked out his library window and stared at his vehicle under the open carport. His mind is aflutter with unfinished thoughts. Facing east, he waits for the sun to rise. “It’s Saturday. I may get my allotted two hours with her today.”  Starry Wilkinson, a woman of exquisite strength and beauty, is the woman referenced by his thought. Her grayish mane, bluish-grey eyes, and natural beauty are second place to her wit, intelligence, and kindness. To boot, Starry is a journalist who worked as an anchor at the local television station. She spent her weekends volunteering at the hospital in the children’s wing. Tim is madly in love with Starry. “Can you believe it’s been eight years since I began pursuing this woman? That must be some kind of record!” As with all things, the beginning started off hot and heavy. It took Tim two weeks to pop the question. Yes, Tim is slow. Still, after one failed relationship after another, Tim knew he had met the woman of his dreams. His eagerness coupled with her suspicious nature had led to a more restrained approach to their friendship. “Days have turned into weeks, weeks into months, months into years and I am still holding on. Hope springs eternal. Is this friendship/relationship going to be as futile as the war I fought in? Will there be a payout at the end?” Tim mentally shrugs his shoulders and waters his cactus on the windowsill. “I guess we will find out.”

A shadow crossed the window, and Tim looked up. A red hawk, perched precariously upon his carport roof, gazed into the window. Tim watched the hawk. Annoyed by his appearance in the window or Tim’s sudden movement, the hawk flew off. “I don’t blame him. What I see in the mirror frightens me too.” Tim’s free hand wiped at his bald head and he looked at his watch. “Crap. I need to get started cleaning. I want Starry to enjoy her visit with me tonight. She will like what I’ve done with the library.”

Tim began in the kitchen. He tossed empty Gatorade containers into the 42-gallon trash bag. “It has taken me time to make peace with whom I was during war, but Starry never doubted me. She is a godsend. Still, after eight years and minimum change in my status, I am growing tired.” Frustration settled into Tim’s mind. “What am I doing? Am I wasting my time? What if there is no future where we end up together?”

Time has passed with the quickness of molasses dripped from an overturned quart jar. Instead of drawing closer, Starry and Tim saw less of each other. The void in Tim’s heart grew with each day without her. Starry became a social butterfly. Blessed to live in a small town, she became the director for every social event within the city limits. Slowly, the chasm between the two seemed insurmountable to Tim. “From sunup to sundown, Starry is busy. I would call, but I’m sure she is working, and I don’t want to be a bother.” Instead, Tim tried to find other things to do to occupy his time. Finally, he hit upon an idea while he stacked lumber in his shop. “We could do a day trip today. I could make a picnic basket, we could ride to the lake and watch the waves come in. It’s not expensive and a bit redneck-ish but it’d be fun.” Tim walked back into the house and packed a basket. Spiral ham, tomatoes, a loaf of homemade bread, mayo, mustard and a few other ingredients filled the basket. When he completed the preparations for lunch, he took the basket and a clean blanket out to his truck. He picked up his phone and punched in Starry’s number.

“Hello?”

“Hey,” Tim said. A goofy grin crossed his face. “What are you doing?”

“Sleeping. Do you need something?”

“No, I stacked lumber in my shop and thought I’d see if you felt up to a day trip to Lake Homer. I made a basket and packed everything in my truck. All that’s missing is you.”

“We can,” Starry answered grumpily. The grin faded from his face.

“No, it’s okay. Get some rest.”

“Tim, wait. I don’t want you to be mad. We can go, I worked late last night and have to go back tonight. Let me get dressed.”

“Starry, it’s okay. I knew you had to work. It’s no big thing, okay? Get some rest. We can do it some other time.”

“Are you sure? Please don’t be mad at me.”

“I’m not. Sweet dreams.” He quietly punched the red button and tossed the phone on his workbench. “I guess I will unload the truck.” Tim took the basket in hand and walked into his cabin. He placed the food into the fridge and walked back to the truck.

Tim took out the revolver in the center console and checked to make sure he had loaded it. He closed the door and leaned against the porch. “This loneliness is too much. War took so much from me. Some of my friends never returned home, the ones who returned came back with serious issues. I am alone. It’s just me and the darkness. He flipped the gun around and stared into the barrel. The black frame reminded him of the loneliness in his heart and a tear rolled down his cheek. “There is nothing left for me here. I don’t want to be alone anymore.” 

The revolver is cold against his temple. He thinks of his friends lost in combat action, of the innocents who died because of the war. He closed his eyes. Tim’s loneliness dissipated in the hammer’s sound hitting the firing pin and the smell of burned gunpowder.

Monday morning musings…

It’s another early morning here at my house. I’ve been up since 0230. There never seems to be enough time to accomplish the laundry list of things I hope to get done. “Work on AWID?” Check. “Clean the house and shop?” Check. “Make time for….” and then it’s to bed. 

I crashed early last night. I slept soundly until 0230, but life has a funny way of pushing us to our limits. I’m a firm believer in punctuality and discipline. My Monday is already filled with things to do, objectives that must be accomplished before I can rest again. 

I work harder now that I’ve retired than I ever did as a full-time employee. To ensure my week gets off to a good start, I’ve declined watching the news and limiting my interaction on social media. 

So far, my plan has worked. However, social media is as addictive as caffeine, alcohol, and drugs. My primary profile was banned for ‘noncompliance’ of ‘community standards.’ I’m not going to fight it, thankfully I had two profiles. I will say that my violation had nothing to do with anything violent or viscous, rather I posted a nice meme about the purpose of the 2nd Amendment. Someone obviously disagreed with the message and my viewpoint, so they disabled my account.

Which brings me to my thought this morning.

In a world which demands conformity, be an original. Believe in your views and yourself. Never back down from what you believe to be true. Do your own research, don’t follow the masses. If you follow the masses, remember sometimes the ‘M’ is silent. 

Y’all have a great Monday.

Freeman

A few thoughts…

It’s been an interesting evening and morning so far. Yesterday, I worked in my library. New shelves were placed into the room, books were moved from the outgoing shelf to their new homes. In the midst of my work, I was struck by a pang of ‘not belonging.’

I was struck by the notion out of the blue. Belonging has never been an objective of mine. My motto has always been, ‘I’m me. If others like it fine, if they don’t…fine.’ Why I felt like a fish out of water puzzled me.

Maybe it’s old age.

The dying light of day brought my work to an end, but the emotions never faded. Late into evening, I began a short story titled “A Sick Twist of Fate.” Emotions of past events spilled upon the page. The word count ticked higher and higher. I’m still not done.

Inspiration isn’t always pretty. Morning came and the emotion hasn’t subsided. Sometimes, I am amazed I still stand. The reckoning of my past at times is brutal. Choices I’ve made haunt me. Here’s the problem with choices: You’re free to make them, but you’re not free of the consequences.

Either way, a new day has dawned. This room, and story, isn’t going to finish itself. May your day be blessed with good fortune.

Freeman

More…

I sit in a red chair, my mind a muddled mess of thoughts, each one ramming into the other with wild abandon. The smell of death fills my sinus pathways, my past encroaches upon the edge of insanity. 

“Welcome to the Cliffs of Madness,” My mind yells in a carnival barker voice. “Step right over, you’re just a few thousand feet from the solution of all life’s problems!” As if the solution to my issues lies in falling to my death. I wipe the sweat off my brow and try to focus. “This post won’t write itself.” Outside, the gray sky appears bulletproof. I wish my mind would shut up. My hands are posed up the keyboard, they don’t even twitch.There is nothing to say. My television is a 47” blank screen. My mind is equally blank. “Come on, give me something to write about. One idea that’s all I need.” I’ve got nothing. Silence fills the room, the chaos of the world is simply to much for coherent thoughts to emerge. Finally, my hands begin to move.

“The world is a wondrous place filled with good and bad,” I begin. “People scramble through life, zipping from one objective to the other, in a maddening rush to acquire more possessions, to amass a fortune of untold wealth, greedily clutching their prize to their breast. The hunger for more is never quelled. More, more, more…” 

I watch as people rush to gain more power. To wield control over the masses, to bend the world to their whim. It’s futile. The craving for more creates a void which can never be filled. It’s a chasm of calamity.

Like rats in a maze, they rush to and fro. They never realize life is passing them by, they are blinded by their insatiable lust to conquer the next obstacle. To exercise their new found power. In the end, they are empty husks, their lives wasted in a insane dash to be better than their peers. 

It’s maddening.