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 thoughts on war, and the struggle within and without…

War. It’s all some people seem to think about. 

The taking from the weak, and giving to the rich. Only an idiot would think there are no winners in war. Sure, it’s a racket, but it keeps the rich, wealthy and the poor, impoverished.

All things considered, it’s a pretty crappy way to keep your wealth. Some people love presiding over the events which lead our nation to war, others love to rail against the political talking points. We blame everyone for the war but ourselves. 

In truth, it’s our fault. These elected idiots didn’t get there because no one else didn’t run against them. They are there because we put them there.

I sit at my desk and look down the drive. Rain appears to be on the plate today, dark clouds gather to the west. It looks like my writing will have to wait. My thoughts are consumed with the issues currently tearing my country apart.

Freaking politicians, corporations, instigators, and racists.

The ripping out of the soul of this country continues. Cities burn, people are hurt, our history disfigured, and some of our fellow citizens stand ready to cause more harm in the name of “social justice.’ 

What a crock of crap.

People have lost their minds. Of course, the experts walk among us. Just tune in to your favorite news channel. They parade them across the screens; as they opine about crap they could never understand. 

Then to make matters worse, I have seen people post on social media claiming that if you can’t say, “black lives matter,” you aren’t a Christian. Seeing this in print, hit me like a ton of bricks. Why can’t we all matter? After all, God made each one of us in His own image. If we are going to use this insane model of logic, how can you claim to be a Christian and support the looting, burning and open assault on innocent people? Does that not violate the instructions found in the Bible?

The Bible that I’ve read states that we should love one another. At no point does it say that any race has precedence over any other. We are all God’s children, and it’s high time we begin to act like it.

War. It’s all some people seem to think about. 

Silke Waters…A short story…for now.

In the humid swamps of Fredericksburg lies an untold secret. Among the moss covered cedars, hidden in the black water filled with alligators and water moccasins, Silke Waters waits for a sign.

Covered from head to toe in camouflage, Silke watches the birds flutter among the branches. Squirrels leap from limb to limb, while gators slip out of the water and sunbathe on the banks of the marsh.

Still, Silke doesn’t move. One spastic twitch would send the wildlife running for cover, the whole point of the training exercise is to see while being unseen. Silke’s toes begin to cramp, her hands damp from the humidity, begs to be wiped. She doesn’t move.

Silke is of singular mind and purpose. After four years of training, she is almost done with this phase, all she has to do is be still. Slowly the sun descends into the western horizon, the sky is painted orange by the hands of God, and still Silke doesn’t move. 

Darkness falls. Silke closes her eyes to allow her eyes to adjust to the darkness. She cracks her eyes open and slips out of her spot. She moves silently through the marsh, slipping through the black water to her next objective. In the distance, a light cuts through the night, hushed whispers break the solemn night air.

“Where is she?”

The exercise is terminated if she is caught by her trainers, otherwise, it’s a three-day exercise. Silke creeps behind a fallen tree and watches the pair look around her destination. Each person carries a sidearm loaded with simulation ammunition. If Silke is discovered, she is to escape and evade capture. From her hidden position, Silke waits. Her blond hair, dampened by the humidity, falls into her eyes. She doesn’t move. One of her trainers looks at the tree. Slowly, he moves the beam toward the tree and Silke sinks into the black water. 

“Come on, she ain’t here. Let’s get out of here.”

“Yeah, we have a few other places to check out before we get a chance to rack out.”

The lights click off and Silke watches the two men leave. Silke waits in the water until she is convinced that she is alone. Silently, Silke emerges from the water. Leeches cover her torso, with her knife she removes the parasites. The next two days pass without incident and Silke begins her journey from the marsh.

Halfway to the base camp, she happens upon a Hummer. Her blue eyes scan the distance for threats. A young man walks from behind the vehicle. 

“Hiya, Silke.”

“Hey, Josh. What are you doing out here?”

“I’m waiting on you. The Commandant sent me out here to pick you up. You ready to head back?”

“Yeah, I could use a shower and hot meal.”

“Sure, sure. Yeah, I gotcha. Come on, let’s hit the road.”

 Josh and Silke travel the dirt road in silence. Josh Harrington has completed his training, he now is the errand boy of the Commandant. Silke watches the trees zip by as Josh keeps his eyes on the road, finally Silke breaks the silence.

“How did I do, Josh?”

Without removing his eyes from the road, Josh ponders her question. Finally, as they turn onto the goat trail that leads to the camp, he answers her. 

“No one found you, so that is good. They came back and said you were a ghost. No one has ever beaten every test posed to them. You’re something special.”

Josh pulls into a parking spot and gives the key a turn. Silke and Josh disembark and make their way to the lone building standing among the cedars. 

The doorman, Herman Wainwright, stands ready to help Silke if she should need it, but she waves him off. 

“How you doing, sir?”

“Ms. Silke, you don’t got to call me sir. I’m just the door man.”

She grins wearily and nods her head. 

“Okay.”

“Mr. Thunder asked you come straight way to him before anything else. He is in the library.”

The house is dusty, benches and chairs line the hallways. Dark stained glass conceals the purpose of these training grounds. Silke makes her way to the library, most of the house has corners but the library is a perfect 360 degree circle. Stairs lead up to the higher levels, the shelves are lined with rare and first edition books. Mr. Thunder, the commandant, waits on the third floor.

Silke climbs the stairs and walks to where Mr. Thunder sits. She stands at attention until he recognizes her presence.

“Have a seat, Silke.”

Mr. Thunder is bald, his horn-rimmed glasses sit precariously upon his hawkish nose. A scar runs from his left jaw line to the middle of his chin, his black eyes appear to be dead. His skin tone is darkened by the sun, the only paleness is the scar which marks his face.

Silke takes a seat across from the commandant, she can feel his dead eyes follow her every movement.

“Congratulations are in order. You have passed every test we have given you. You’ve been trained in Kenpo and various tactics to disable your opponents. You’re a superb marksman. You’ve been trained in the art of surveillance and counter-surveillance. Your trainers came in the first day and said you are a ghost. Both men are trackers and they couldn’t find any sign of where you had been.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Do you know what we do here?”

“We train our body and spirit to be ready should our nation need us.”

Thunder smiles, “that is the textbook answer, Silke. Give me your answer. Why do we train?”

“We train to kill our enemies.”

“Yes, our enemies may not be the same as our country’s. Never forget this fact. If they’re trying to harm you or this organization, they deserve nothing more than death. Understood?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good, then here is your first assignment. Study it, the assignment must be completed Friday night. You have four days to prep. Get some rest and make sure you’re prepared. Welcome to the Assassins Guild.”

Alligator tears….A short story.

The screen door screeches as it is ripped open, and my niece Angela stomps across the living room. Tearfully, she throws herself on the couch and crosses her arms.

“I hate him! I hate him so much!”

I walk to my recliner, one hand carries my coffee, the other hand carries my laptop. Easing down, I put my coffee in the cup holder.

“Okay.”

“Don’t you want to know what I am crying for?”

“Um, I guess. Although, I have a pretty good idea why you’re crying.”

“You know Tony, yeah? Tall, dark, handsome, he is the guy every girl dreams about. I’ve carried a torch for him for five years.”

I sip my coffee and try to pull my thoughts together. “Uh-huh.”

Angela doesn’t even notice my broken concentration, she continues, “Ever since we had that one class, back in seventh grade, I’ve loved him. Today, I found out he has a girlfriend in another town, and he just messes with me because I live here in town. I’m never going to get what I want!”

Angela sobs and I look up from my computer. “Poor girl, she is in shambles. Say something nice and encouraging.”

You ever watch Farscape, Angela?”

“No,” she wails, “what is it?”

“It’s a show about an astronaut who went into space to test a theory. He hit a wormhole and was shot to the far side of space. When he came to, he was lost in uncharted territory. He met these alien life forms and a living ship. In the end, he falls in love with a woman and gets her pregnant. She leaves him. One of the characters chide him for being a torn up sissy about his broken heart. I’m paraphrasing but his speech went like this: If the person you love is always busy or leaving, or hiding things from you, take a hint. You’re feelings don’t match.”

“God, you’re horrible at comforting people!”

“Okay. Then go get you a hamburger and a drink. That way there is something in your mouth, because I don’t want to hear it.”

“No wonder you’re single. You are a butt.”

“Yeah, but I’m not the one sitting on my couch wailing like a banshee.”

“Maybe, I haven’t tried hard enough. I will show him, I’m the one he needs.”

“You go, girl.”

“Thanks for listening.”

“Anytime.”

“You’re still a butt.”

“And you’re still an idiot.”

Dark Thoughts…AWID

The quiet in my house is the opposite of my mind. I can’t shut off my brain. “You hardly use your brain, it should be a simple thing to shut it off.”

It isn’t.

Ever since my return home, I feel alone. The ghosts from war torn lands sometimes seem to be my only friends. That’s pathetic. I sound like a loser when I allow these thoughts to run through my mind.

It’s after five in the evening, and I am sitting in the recliner. I turn the lights off, except for my corner lamp. The A/C hums and Rambo: Last Blood plays on my television.

The longer I am home, the more I wonder about my return from the sand pits of Iraq. I’m home, I should be grateful to be alive and whole in body. I am. Many of my friends never returned, I sure do miss them.

My struggles with my thoughts and the chaos within seem to play throughout the latest Rambo movie. However, it barely scratches the surface of the pain that plagues so many veterans. 

It is of small comfort that I am not alone in this struggle.

This pandemic has drained me. We all are shut-in. Sometimes, it feels as if I am being smothered by the memories of a life I left long ago. As if someone is holding a pillow over my mouth and nose. 

Now, there is more trouble. Racist cops kill an unarmed black man. Or should I say, one racist cop killed him? Either way, a man lies dead because of the hatred in another man’s heart.

As I watch the world implode around me, I have to wonder what my friends would think if they’d survived. Would they be happy with the way things turned out? Would they wonder if their sacrifice was in vain? 

I survived and I would rather have my friends back.

There are many reasons why people are protesting the murder of an innocent man. I can understand their anger, their frustration with the justice system is not wrong or invalid.

Burning down communities, destroying the life’s work of people who had nothing to do with the murder is wrong. Yes, I can separate the two. Many innocent people have been hurt by their rage. Yes, their rage is justified. No one, regardless of race, should ever be murdered because of their skin pigmentation.

We are all God’s children. 

My brothers, those who never returned, would not approve of the actions of this police officer. They would not agree with the wholesale destruction by the rioters and looters. It is possible to stand against injustice without robbing, looting, and being a public nuisance.

My friends would stand in the trenches and fight injustice, at home and abroad. All I can do is fight to keep their memories alive and hope for a better tomorrow.

The madness….A short, short musing….

“This is egregious! It reeks of conspiracy! You know what conspiracy smells like dontcha? It smells like rotten cheese and dirty socks.” 

Maddening.

I am in a locked room with a swirl of incoherent thoughts. Black, white, anger red, my thoughts are not my own. Sing song, upside down, there must be some rhyme or reason to this insanity.

Imagine a world where people live normal lives. What a horribly boring place that must be. Down the tunnel of madness we go, just as Alice did in her Wonderland.

Well, I haven’t seen the cat yet, but still…

Madness, what a wonderful feeling. The plush back of my chair is the perfect perch to watch the world burn. “Lookit, they’re nuts too!”

The whine of bullets, the roar of explosives, this horrendous ritual to bring the dead back to life, it’s all in vain. No one here has resurrection power. 

I don’t think they care, but what do I know? I’m succumbed in the madness.

Madness is sticky, and a wee bit chilly. My perch with a birds eye view of the unchecked chaos doesn’t serve me well. Sure, I watch the world burn, but what I really want is to fly away.

Fly, fly, fly. I want to flap my wings and leave the madness.

Far from the insanity which has overtaken the world. To a place where people don’t burn down their neighborhoods, or destroy property. Where a human life, born or unborn, has value.

I can’t.

The madness weighs on my feet and I’m stuck on my perch. All I can do is watch the world burn.

At least I have a front row seat.

We’re all God’s children…a few thoughts….

“We’re all God’s children. It doesn’t matter if someone likes it or not.” So begins another post for my blog. I have been researching the societal attitudes which shape our perceptions. Each group is different, but it boils down to one thing. How we perceive the world impacts multiple generations.

How hard do you think it is for the Jewish people to trust any government after the Holocaust? I don’t think it would be easy for black folk to trust anyone after slavery. It seems to me after much reading and thinking today, that mistrust spans generations.

Take the murder of George Floyd for example. Unfortunately, this case is one of hatred. Mr. Floyd was handcuffed lying face down on the pavement, and a white police officer knelt on his neck until he quit breathing. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what occurred prior to the video. All I know is one of God’s children lies dead at the hands of another of God’s children.

It is Cain and Abel all over again.

We all know the story of Cain and Abel. Jealousy seeped into Cain’s heart after God accepted Abel’s offering but spurned Cain’s. God spoke to Cain and said, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.” Cain killed Abel and it has been a staple of humankind ever since. 

One of the Ten Commandments given to Moses after his meeting with God was, “thou shalt not kill.” This is translated as “thou shalt not murder.” Either way, one should note the imperative tone of the Commandment. It’s not a request, it’s an order.

Tonight, Mr. Floyd’s family grieves over his loss. The police have been shamed by one of their own. People burn down buildings, loot stores, and kill others, because of some misguided perception that it’s okay for them to do it, if the police do it.

Not every cop is a racist, nor is every black person a thug. Not every white person is a Klan member, nor every Hispanic an illegal. It is time we show forth the love of God to this lost generation.

I will close with this, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”