Vision2 Missing Pieces!

For those of you who didn’t know, a long time ago, in a land far, far away I wrote a book. I thought I was being cute and named it Vision2 (i.e. Vision Squared); however, most computer programs and websites do not like to put it up correctly.  Doh!  Anyway, when I put the book out I cut some of the prologue sections (per my wonderful editor, Matt) because they dealt more with the relationship story and didn’t add to the pace of the adventure that was the main focus of the book…Or some such nonsense 😛

I decided to put up the missing pieces on here just for shits and giggles!  Enjoy!

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4-28-1991

Roger laughed, his head tilted to the sun.  There were about six of them at JP’s pond.  It was surrounded by a cluster of tall oak trees that provided shade even in the dead heat of the Oklahoma summer, making the pond stay a cool 70 degrees during the glaring months of July and August.

The pond itself was fifteen feet across at its widest point, but it was at least ten feet deep at its center.  This kind of depth combined with the dense tree growth made it the perfect place for a rope swing.  The point was to try and hit the water dead in the center where the pond was at its deepest.  Because the pond wasn’t very wide, this made it even more difficult, and if you missed the center by too much then you could land on the rocks and bust yourself up pretty good.

They had been doing this for three years now, and so far, only one person had ever been hurt.  And that had been a girl, so they just chalked it up to female error and swore never to let any other girls use their rope swing.  Not even the strong ones.

Roger held the rope in his hand and looked towards Mary Beth.  He almost got a hard on just looking at her long, dark legs and shoulder length chestnut brown hair, and she was sitting less than five feet away watching him.  She had told him earlier that if he let her swing out across the lake she would owe him one.  And having a girl like Mary Beth owe him one was way more important than his damn macho pride any day.

As he was looking at her she winked beneath her sunglasses and blew him a kiss.  The movement was so slight that no one else saw.  Hell, he almost didn’t believe it.  Roger tilted his can of Budweiser up as high as he could, draining it.  The last few sips always tasted like he imagined warm piss might taste, but that didn’t seem to stop or change his growing fondness of it.

He tossed the lifeless red and white can off to the side, hearing the empty clink as it hit the ground.  But his mind was not on the environment, he was too busy thinking about the possibility that he might be getting laid for the first time tonight.  And wouldn’t it be something if he lost his virginity to the likes of Mary Beth Palson?

Roger again glanced over at Mary Beth and attempted to flash her a helluva winning smile before grabbing onto the rope as tight as he could.  He ran backwards, heels digging into the loose dirt, and when he reached the top of the small hill he pulled up his feet and flew through the air.  His life was now connected to a thin rope tied to an old tree branch, and he loved it.

He loved the way the wind rushed past his face, the way that the world didn’t matter out here at JP’s, and perhaps more importantly, he loved the consuming thrill that took over as his hands left the slim, frayed security line.

Seconds before he let go, Roger looked down at the sun-rippled water.  Everything looked normal, but it wasn’t.  There had only been one other time Roger had ever remembered feeling so strange about something so normal, and now he couldn’t even remember what it had been.

It was the mirror.

That’s right.  It had been a mirror, but he could no more remember what happened than he could tell you why the surface of the water looked funny.  He let go of the rope just as realization struck.  The water he was falling towards was a deep, moldy green instead of its usual rusted color.

And there were things moving under the water, green microbes swimming through a world of algae.  Seconds before he broke the reflective surface his head filled with the horrified screams of a man that followed him underwater.

The mirror man’s screams.

Except that wasn’t quite right either, and as Roger fell through the layers of sun-warmed water, something important teetered on the edge of his memory.  Then, his left leg caught on a large rock that none of them had ever noticed before, spilling what seemed like tons of warm blood into the chilly cocoon.  He tried to kick his legs out, to push himself up to the surface, but he couldn’t make his legs move right.  Nothing in his body was working as it should.

Just as the panic started to fill his mind and numbness raced through him, he felt her strong hands latch together under his armpits and pull.  He didn’t have to turn around to know it was Mary Beth, and if it wasn’t and this was all some elaborate delusion, he didn’t want to know.  Before long he found himself kicking his way back to the surface with his right leg, his left one trailing uselessly behind.

The memories that teetered on the edge of his consciousness remained lost at the bottom of JP’s pond.  

4-7-1997

The raindrops fell in big splattering drops that dotted the windshield with their pregnant weight before running together to form a river and flowing down the glass.  Mary Beth sat tensely in the seat beside him, staring down at what remained of her shredded fingernail stubs.  There had been too many long and sleepless nights between them.  They had gone to the movies to get away, but in the end they just found themselves right back with each other.

When I run from myself, how fast do I have to go?

Roger hadn’t been the same since his mother’s death.  At first he hadn’t seemed any different than before, but the changes came in subtle waves that eventually rushed up and buried the Roger she loved.  Now there was something different in its place, something colder and harder.  She had mentioned this to him before in the dark confines of their room as their sweat-entangled bodies lay open, welcoming the night.  His eyes, deep black-green pools, stared at the spackled ceiling as he neither denied nor accepted anything.

It felt safer that way, confronting her problems in the dark after good sex.  But even in the confrontation, he’d told her it was all in her imagination.  Nothing was different, he claimed.  But he didn’t hold her as often as he used to or entice her into bed with roving fingertips that tickled her pale flesh, and then made it blush.  Hell, he didn’t even talk to her anymore, just at her.  Sex was the only tenuous connection they still had, and she could never put all her faith in sex because anyone could potentially be a good fuck.

After the movie, Mary Beth had told Roger that she wanted to drive and talk.  He had only nodded and driven out of town and onto the country roads, taking one long dirt road that eventually wound its way into another.  She had lived her whole life here and believed that she knew every road by heart, but now she wasn’t sure where they were.  And she was even less sure that it mattered.

“Roger, I don’t think we’re the same anymore.”

“You don’t?”  He looked at her, his eyebrow cocked in that mocking way he had.

“No.”  She was flustered.  “Look, what I mean is, we can’t keep doing this.  We spend hours trying to get away, but we just keep running back into ourselves.”

How fast…How fast do I have to run?

“Who else would we run into, Mary Beth?”

“Stop trying to mock me!”  Her voice rose until it was almost shrill and her eyes were rimmed with tears.  Roger felt the shame he tried to keep at bay well up.  “I just don’t think that we should be together anymore.  We’re different people now, and I don’t think those people like each other very much.”

“What do you mean?  I love you,” Roger said as passionately as he could, trying to convince her and, more importantly, himself.

“No, you don’t.  You only think you still love me because it’s easier that way.  You can keep living in your pretend world where your feelings and emotions are right where you want them to be.”

She turned to face him, and he saw her for the first time in God only knows how many months, saw the pain that was deeply etched into her perfect features.

And who put it there Roger?  Who?

In that moment he knew the truth, he had to let her go.

He had pushed her and reality away, but that time of delusion had passed. Without uttering another word, Roger pulled the gearshift into drive and flipped on the windshield wipers.  He drove recklessly down the slippery roads and flinched when he saw her grip her seatbelt a little tighter and scrunch down in her seat.

He wasn’t mad at her, he was mad at himself.  He wanted nothing more than to tell her this, but the words had been wedged somewhere between his gut and his throat.  If the truth did happen to find a way out of him it would inevitably be followed by tears, and he wasn’t about to plague her with guilt as well.

He swung the car out along the narrow road and slid into her parents drive.  When he turned to her he made it a point to look though her, not at her.  He wasn’t going to let himself back out of this, she deserved far better than what he was giving her.

She deserved happiness and someone to share it with.

“You can come over tomorrow and move your stuff out of the house while I’m at work.  I promise I won’t bother anything of yours.”

Her soft sobs mimicked the rhythm of the rain, the muffled sound beating its way through the car on moth wings.  “I…I never meant for it to happen this way.  I still love you.”  She looked at him one last time, her eyes pleading with him, begging him to say something to stop her.

He didn’t move.

She took his ring off and left it on the dashboard before opening the door and disappearing into the rain.  He wanted to run after her, to stop her and let her know exactly what he felt.  But he couldn’t.  He knew what would happen if he did.  He knew how badly everything would end because she was right, he hadn’t really been with her for a long time.  She had turned into a warm body he could come home to.

When she was gone Roger turned the car around on a skid and sped away from her parents’ house so fast that one of the neighbors was drawn to the living room window by the roar of exhaust pipes just as the car streaked by under an umbrella of rain.  She would later swear to her friends in a hushed voice over their weekly domino game that the car had been driven by a demon.  And by the look on her face, her friends could almost believe her.

Roger continued down the poorly lit streets, tires racing through puddles causing water and mud to fly up and over the car with such force that it would later take Roger three car washes to clean off the ingrained dirt.  When he finally did pull into his driveway he was shocked.  He hadn’t thought he would make it home again.

Part of him hadn’t wanted to.

It was there in front of his house that Roger cried for the first time since losing his mother.  He shut off the car and slumped over the steering wheel, letting the tears he had held back for so long leak out of his eyes.  After a few minutes, he wiped at his eyes with the back of his hand and hiccupped back the remaining sobs.

When he had shut off the car, he had forgotten to turn off the headlights, and they now shone through the dark night like beacons.  The dirt and rain continued to run down the windshield, blurring the world outside until it looked like a Tim Burton cartoon nightmare.

As the water trickled down the window, gathering the mud and causing it to slip down in chunks, a face appeared.  It was like seeing a shape in the clouds, only this seemed more solid, more real than all the times he had ever looked at the clouds.  He absentmindedly reached out to touch the windshield, but a deeply buried memory of his seven year old self perched on the bathroom counter suddenly made him stop.

It hurts.

Roger waited for the mirage to shiver and disappear, but it didn’t.  Instead it grew stronger, taking on more definition.  It was becoming something.  He didn’t know what was going on, and he found that he didn’t want to know.  There were things that lingered in the back of his mind, things that he could barely touch before they floated away, but he knew their truths were cold and harsh.

Run. 

And he did.

Roger grabbed for the door handle and threw his body out of the car before it could all come rushing back.

Thirty minutes later Roger sat on the couch, a cold bottle of Budweiser resting against his thigh.  He looked out at the car.  It was now just a harmless shape in the rain-filled night and he could barely remember what all the panic had been about.

Outsider: A Tribute to Lovecraft

Evelyn leaned against the gate, her honeyed hair shining in the pale embrace of the moonlight. Although I tried to keep myself from staring her beauty did not allow me any resistance. I knew her face well from the newspaper articles on her family. I also knew she waited for her lover; for their midnight rendezvous. As I gazed upon the outlined beauty of Evelyn I saw she was looking to my window. My shame-filled face looked away from the intimate moment I had been stealing.

I sat down to read my book, but I couldn’t keep my mind on it. I kept glancing around and criticizing my surroundings. Even in the lamp’s glow I could see the bare and dingy apartment and wondered if this was my destiny, if somehow my entire life would be like this.

Sighing, I decided to resign to my bed for the night, cursing my boring existence.

It wasn’t long before I awoke to someone knocking on my door. I rolled out of bed, unable to think of anyone who would be at my house at this hour. I quickly pulled on some pants and stumbled for the door, silver strings of moonlight filtered into the room, providing me with enough light to see where I was. Just then, my foot stubbed the door frame; jamming my toe back with such force it brought tears to my eyes.

The rapping increased in both frequency and volume as my fingers fumbled on the latch. When the knob turned and the door opened I was in shock to find the blonde Evelyn on the other side. I realized who she was about ten seconds before she collapsed on the floor. For a moment I could not move even to breath, but then I looked up and down the narrow hallway, worried that someone had seen the wealthy heiress collapse at my door.  I may have been poor, but I was not a simpleton, and I knew such circumstances would not look well upon my character.  When I was certain we were alone I hefted her into my arms and carried her to the bed.  Once she was safely secured I scoured the apartment and managed to come up with twelve candles that I placed around the bed so that I could have enough light to check her over.

Once the candlelight streamed across her face I found myself staring at the beauty which I had always watched with careful gazes, dreamed about with silenced lips: her ivory skin, the delicate curve of her cheekbone, the satin curls of her hair, and the eternal blue of her eyes were only enhanced by the amber glow that now filled the room.

I placed my hand against her chest and could barely feel the thump of her heart against her ribs, and her breathing was slow, shallow, and almost nonexistent. Pulling on my coat, I headed for the door intending to get help. Then the same fear that had caused me to search the hall ground my footsteps to a halt.  I was nothing but a workman, and she was a high-class princess. I was trapped, bound where I stood by the knowledge of my own condemnation.

Unable to do anything else, I sat with her and prayed violently for her safety.  I spent most of that night draping a cool rag across her brow and listening to the murmuring of her sweet voice as it told the tale of her feverish nightmares: goblins chasing her through the park, vampires biting her tender flesh, and sorcerers in dark hoods enchanting her skin.  It never occurred to me to actually check her skin to see if her nightmares were real.  Nothing she described could have been possible.

But, nevertheless, the intensity of her fear and panic was so vivid I could almost picture them as she spoke.  I felt the chills sweep across my back and spread like wildfire as the hair on the back of my neck bristled to life.

Her face was contorted with pain. When she finally settled down I began to relax, and soon enough I too was carried into that violent world of nighttime demons.

I awoke sometime after dawn; choked out of a nightmare so realistic my mouth was full of the bittersweet taste of my own blood.  I looked around the color soaked room for signs the demon fog had followed me into reality. Reassuring myself that it was only a dream I remembered Evelyn’s late night visit and looked to the bed, it was empty.  The resting place was surrounded by nothing more than clumps of molten wax.

Had that been a dream too?  The candles an act of a delusional mind?

I paced the floors with worry.  I would be locked up for sure if they found out about this, only this time they’d been leading me away in a straightjacket.  After a while I began to calm down, time’s easing hands healing the raw wounds of my insecurity as it did most everything else.  It felt as if I were still dreaming as I climbed into my work clothes.

It wouldn’t matter to the bill collectors if I was crazy or not, they would still want their money.

That night I was two blocks away from the apartment building when I saw the police trolley.  The dingy-gray night did nothing to help the scene.  On an instinctual move I sought refuge deep in the alley shadows as I approached my building.

I stifled a cry of surprise as I stepped next to a trash bin and rats scuttled over and around my feet.

I crept up and listened to the officers.  Bits and pieces of their conversation floated up to me like poison:

“Last person saw her alive said she went in this building…..one room we can’t get into…..name was Evelyn Riley…..light brown hair…..blue eyes…..can you help us….open your doors, we’re looking for a murderer….break down the one place where no one’s home.”

Dying, I was slowly dying in that alley.  I had lived and worked my entire life to die here with the vermin.  They were breaking into my apartment, the vivid, dreamlike encounter had been real and now I had to wonder if there any traces of her had been left there.  My blood ran cold and my breathing stilled, one solitary trace of her and I was a convicted man.  They wouldn’t have any pity on me; my word was nothing and could be tossed away as easily as dust laid to the wind.

Even though my heart counted out the passing moments as constant thuds in my ears, it felt like an eternity passed as I waited for the officers to report back on what they had found. My knees were weak from fear, and even the sound of my pounding heart seemed as if it were causing too much noise.

Finally, they returned. Their faces grim masks of horror and I knew they had found something hideous behind my walls of solitude. I clenched my chattering teeth together and pressed even closer to the dirt and brick filth that had become my fate. Again I waited for pieces of their conversation to drift to my already tired ears. I did not have to wait long before the scared and timid voices rose and carried in the brittle night:

“I think you should see this for yourself…..not natural…..must be inhuman………no explanation for what we saw…….will make you sick.”

They talked in jumbled sentences with their eyes as large as tea saucers, and skin that had turned stark white against the ebony evening.

My entire body went limp, my legs falling out from under me as I curled in on myself. I was not sure of what they might have found that would have been so horrible, but I did know one thing: my life as I had known it was over. I was now a wanted man: a murderer.  Even the thieves would reject me.

I waited through the night, sleeping and waking in fits as I lay curled against the gutter walls with the trash and rodents, now a citizen of the dark and unseen civilization within the city.

It was still well before sunrise when I was able to make my move from that place.  The police had not yet left but I felt a need to see what they had found in my room.  Clutching the walls, I turned back down the alley and felt my way even farther into the consuming blackness. There were stairs that led to the top of the building next to mine and I climbed them without my shoes, for fear of any small sound that might give me away.  I crawled my way across the roof until I was able to lean over and peer into my bedroom window.  I was only able to see the area around the bed, but what I did gave me nightmares.

Stretched out on my white sheets was Evelyn’s corpse, even in its terrible shape there was no denying who it was.  She had apparently lost a great deal more than her life. Her skin was thin and brittle, clinging to her bones, but this was because all of the vital sustenance that had filled her body was now gone.

Everything.

They had removed her blood, and even some of her organs, but I could see no visible cuts on her, nor any huge puddles that would allow for such a loss.  Her eye-sockets had become two penetrating abysses that peered out from her skull.  Her skin was drawn so close to her bones that it gave her the appearance of a mummy from ancient Egypt.

The fact that this was impossible did not escape me, but the meaning behind the way her body was dressed and treated eluded and disturbed me.

Cold sweat covered my body, chilling me to the bone, but it was not entirely due to the state of her corpse.  Beside the bed lay four clear jars, and placed in each of them there was an organ, sucked clean of its blood. They too looked as brittle as dust, and as old as time, but there was no mistaking them for what they were.

It was then that I gasped, loud and uncontrollable it burst forth from my lips before I had time to choke it back. At the foot of the bed there was another jar, and this one held her eyes. Their crystal blue clarity stared through the glass protectors and into me, not at me mind you, but into me with such pain and knowledge that I could almost not force myself to look away.

I stayed there on that rooftop until my knees stopped shaking long enough so I could sneak away unnoticed by the patrolmen that kept their vigil by my apartment door.  Even hours later as I pulled myself into an old sewage drain to hide from the approaching dawn, those blue eyes followed me into the dream-filled depths of my exhaustion.

I opened my eyes sometime after the cloak of darkness had surrounded me.  My legs were stiff and tingling when I stepped out into the night.  My stomach had become as tight as a knot and my lips were thin and cracked from the lack of water.

I was so preoccupied with my condition that I didn’t notice them surrounding me until I had completely emerged from my hiding spot.  The images that stood in front of me immediately reminded me of Evelyn’s rantings on the night she had lain in my bed.  There were five tall figures cloaked in long dark robes that trailed the ground.  In front of them stood three goblin-like creatures with shimmering blue skin that seemed to glow in the night. Their eyes were red, and each of them had mouths that were covered in foamy blood and drool that hung from their chins in thick stands.  But it was the six people that stood together in a horseshoe shape at the end of the drain that intrigued me the most and made me immediately forget my hunger pains.

Their faces were pale and slacken, void of any coloring except for the gleaming darkness of their eyes.  I knew there was no way this group were policemen, but they scared me far more than any jail ever could.  I stepped into the center of their watchful stare and suddenly found myself being led away with them.  I could not tell you how long we walked or where we went, I can only remember watching as my dusty feet moved in time with theirs.  The men who stood in the back were chanting some soft and lulling song, almost like a hymn.  I kept thinking about the haunting look that consumed their faces.

I eventually found myself in a room although I did not remember going into any house. They encircled me and began chanting, their voices holding me captive. Then I saw her.

Evelyn had moved into the center of the circle with me, her blue eyes now the same hungry black as the others. Their voices rose to a level of noise that hurt my ears and clamored together inside my head. Evelyn motioned to me and I found myself moving towards her, drawn by lust.

I can still see her mouth opening to reveal the brilliant points that had been carved into each of her teeth, making her a beautiful grinning, piranha. For one pristine second the fog that had filled my head cleared.  I have no knowledge of how I got out of that place, only that I was running under the open night sky as their footsteps pounded against the ground behind me. I cut across alleyways and abandoned warehouses in an irrational attempt to disillusion them to my whereabouts.

I have found a deserted building and a room without any windows and a lock on the door. Too weary to go on, I have locked myself in.

I can hear their voices outside the door, and I know they are aware of my presence here.  They have recently begun chanting again and the fog has started to creep back through my brain, caressing all the sore spots. I am certain these creatures will overtake my resistance soon, for I now find myself embracing a part of me which begs to have Evelyn close her mouth around mine and mingle my blood with hers.

I…I think that I have to go now.  I see that.  There is no life for me without Evelyn, there never was.  And all I have now is the chanting; those sweet voices that linger in every thought and urge me toward sweet oblivion.

Cataloging Creation

This is an older story that was originally published in Nonzine in 2006.  However, since I have nothing new at the moment I wanted to share it with you!  Enjoy!

Cataloging Creation

She moved towards him, carefully pacing herself so her anger didn’t get away from her.  Auburn ringlets framed her heart-shaped face and enhanced her large spring green almond eyes.  As with all gods, her beauty was so perfect and so visceral that it hypnotized any mortal who happened to look directly on her.  Right now, however, it was her son that was the focus of all her attention.  She slid her hand under his chin and pulled his face to hers.

His face looked like little more than a dollop of lumpy clay with two dark and deeply set eyes, a small hump for a nose, and a crude slash for a mouth.  It had not refined its features yet, had not decided exactly how it would turn out.  At this point in a young god’s life, their personality would be the final say in what kind of beauty they would end up with.  Though, if she had to say right now, Riza was afraid that Nokth’s face would end up being perhaps the most horrible of all those to ever grace the upper realm.

Snot bubbles moved out from the holes where his nose was supposed to be and around his thin mouth, briefly mingling with his tears before being wiped off his knobby cheeks with the back of a grubby hand.  She shuddered with mild repulsion before she could get a hold of herself.  Her son was not supposed to act this way.  He had been sculpted from the very beginnings of all gods, the clay of creation on the banks of the high river by her loving hands and using her own hair to bind him together and her own blood to give him life.  No matter how many times she reminded herself of that fact it didn’t alter the behavior he’d displayed since his resurrection yesterday.  By now most god children were halfway to learning how to blend and mold the wonders of the universe for their subject’s enjoyment.  But Nokth couldn’t even seem to learn the simplest part of their work: watching.

Riza was the guardian of all creations.  What other gods created from either carelessness or as by-products of their own frivolity she guarded as precious celebrations of life.  It was her job to tend to the unwanted, but even so her patience was being sorely tested.

“Calm down and remember what I told you about the carelessness of a god’s tears.  You wouldn’t want to cause life or death somewhere when you weren’t paying attention, would you?”  She asked, her voice while crystal clear and flawlessly human sounding still made everyone who heard it remember the most perfect day in their lives.  Right now, however, she was using all her energy to reign in her emotions and convince herself that this limbo was only temporary and that by tomorrow, everything should be stabilized.

Nokth looked at her for a moment, his near black eyes clouding with confusion before stubbornly shaking his head back and forth.

“Good, then quit crying and explain your problem.”

He opened his mouth and then clamped it shut as if he were a fish struggling for air.  She let go of his chin and looked at him from her full height, her hands on her hips as she waited.  While Riza’s voice was a soft and beautiful perfection and brought to mind the same clear spring day that was reflected in her eyes, his voice sounded like broken shards of glass scratching against metal, and again, Riza winced.

“I not want to watch.  Watching is silly.  I want to make things.”

“You can’t make anything because we’re not makers.  You have to learn what I do so that in the future you can help keep track of everything.  I know it’s not a glorious job, but it’s our duty as guardians to keep all of the information in order and catalog everything in the universe.  It’s a hard job, and that’s why I created you, so you could help me.”

Nokth put his head down once again and said nothing.  Believing that the foolishness was through, Riza turned back to her clipboard, walking ahead of him to begin the next round of cataloging.  She would never understand why the creators kept on churning out more and more creations every day when they knew that she would never be able to keep up with all of the items in the universe as it was now.

Looking ahead of her, Riza noticed palate after palate of cushioned items.  Some were nothing more than blades of a new type of grass or tiny replicas of a new species of animal.  But every now and then she would come across an orb no bigger than a marble that had been set on a pedestal and put aside for her to carefully examine.  An entire new world to put in her lists before she plucked it from its resting place and set it somewhere among the other stars and creations.  These were her favorite things to do, even though it meant more work, because these small, new worlds were always full of real, live interacting beings that hurt, cried, loved, and laughed.

In truth, a part of her could understand Nokth’s desire to create.  She had also wanted to be a creator, to see new flowers and grasses as they grew up under your feet as you walked or more involved beings when they first came from your eyes as you slept.  What a joy it would be to wake up in the morning and find a small animal that you had dreamed up and created resting on your pillow next to you, your imagination now a gateway to reality.  But over time she had come to realize that her job was almost as good as theirs because she at least got to study and observe what they had created, while for them the process of actually giving birth to new life forms was somewhat tedious and not often an altogether pleasant experience, if she understood correctly.  She hoped that Nokth would see things that way to.

Looking over her shoulder, she realized that she could no longer see him and she took a few steps back to see where he’d gone.  It didn’t take her long to spot him.  In fact, there were not many places you could go in the warehouse behind her, for whenever she finished cataloguing a new item, she placed it where it belonged, and the pedestal it had been on vanished, leaving only those items in front of her.

Nokth was standing over a small glass pedestal that held an orb even smaller than a marble and was surrounded by a special glass that allowed Riza to see everything on that tiny surface and even some stuff below.  It was the smallest world ever created, and even though she had cataloged most of the things from its planet, she had not placed it where it belonged yet.  This was partly because she couldn’t seem to find the perfect atmosphere for it and partly because she was so enamored with it.  In her opinion, it was possibly the greatest item ever created.  And that wasn’t just because it was small, either, but also because everything living within that sphere went together in complete harmony.  There had not been a single conflict between inhabitants the entire time she’d been cataloging it, which was an incredible first for her.

“What are you looking at?”  She asked gently as she leaned down behind him, happy to take the opportunity to support any faint trace he had of learning her trade.  It had taken a lot for her to convince the other gods that she was ready to create a god child to train and work with, and so far she had been worried that at his week review the other gods would smugly assure her that she had not created a higher being and force her to unmake him.

“It’s so pretty.  So perfect.”  The edge was removed from his rough voice by pure awe as he watched the inhabitants of the planet move around without even being aware of his presence.  Without stopping to think about what he was doing, Nokth reached up with an extended forefinger as if he were going to try and push the tiny ball around on its cushioned setting.

Riza quickly snatched his arm back and looked at him sharply, her beautiful face flush with anger and impatience.  “Do not try to touch that, you could unmake everything for them.”  She said, barely able to keep her voice below a scream.

Nokth turned and looked at her, his crude face turned into a scowl.  “But I want, I want, I want….” He said as he tried to pull free of her and began stomping his feet and throwing a holy temper tantrum.  Riza had never seen a superior being behave this way and was unsure of what to do.  So she immediately let go of his arm, afraid that any struggle would harm a number of creations around them, but she wasn’t soon enough.

As she was loosening her grip, he was pulling back with such force that his arm continued to move through the air until it struck the glass pedestal and caused it to sway erratically on its base before completely falling over and shattering.  The world went with it, tumbling end over end until it fell to the floor and smashed into a thousand glittering pieces.

Riza clamped her hands to her ears as the horrified screams of the entire population poured through her head.  She heard that cry every time a species went extinct, and it was ten times worse now with the death of a whole planet.  The only other time she’d ever felt anything comparable was when some careless god had thrown a pebble and it had landed on that planet full of giant lizards, but that had been nothing compared to this.  The death of the only perfect society rang through her head until she was unable to control her tears anymore.  She removed her hands from her ears and held them under her eyes, careful to catch every drop so that no other careless incidents occurred.

When her eyes dried up after they had cried ten drops each, she looked to Nokth, holding her pain in front of her in liquid pools of glimmering fire.  He had matured into a young man and his face had finally taken shape.  It’s rough edges, meticulously carved prominent cheekbones, brooding eyes, and black hair were so different from her own features that she immediately knew what he was going to be—one of the mysterious outsiders.  Guardianship had passed him by and the title of destructor had been handed down instead.  Even though he was no longer technically in her care, she felt it her responsibility to teach him one final lesson.

Transferring the tears to one hand she reached out and tilted his chin back again.  “This is so you never forget what goes with a god’s carelessness.”  She reached above his head with the tears and let them fall into his muddy, chocolate eyes.  As the tears entered his exposed lenses they soaked into the iris, changing them from a dark brown to a beautiful yet violent shade of red, not quite dark enough to be maroon but not light enough to be crimson.  He called out in pain, but it did no good.  His eyes had already been filled up with only ten tears each.

He shook his head and looked at her through eyes of infinite sadness.  Nothing would remove the haze of pain and loneliness that covered everything.  None of the creations held the beauty and importance they had only moments before, and every sound he heard was tinged with the echoes of a million voices reaching out to him in pain.  He started to say something, to beg her to take it all back, but a door appeared beside him.  The carving on its massive walnut surface showed a great man, handsome but dangerous, walking down a solitary road holding only an axe.

“That’s your door.”  She said as it opened and pulled him through before disappearing again.  Riza then picked up her clipboard and returned to her tasks.  There were a million more creations to be put into the register, and she did not have time for useless good-byes.  He had chosen his path, and she had given him her pain so that he would only view the universe through images of pain and sadness, and so that he could never take comfort or joy in the job of destruction, never take anything from it but guilt.  She looked up at the unending warehouse in front of her and the emptiness behind her, sighed, and walked over to the nearest specimen.  It was an elegant purple flower with drooping petals ringed in gold.  It would have been so much nicer if she’d just had someone else to share it with, and she wondered how long it would be before the other gods let her try her hand at building another helper.  This time she would try to make it a daughter.

Running Through

She was running.  She was always running, but this time it was different, this time there was a void, three days of darkness, and a promise.

The promise had not been hers to make, but it had been hers to keep.  And in this topsy-turvy world with no relevant regulations, she thought it wise to comply with the outline of the bargain.

Three days, that’s how long the clock had been ticking, that’s how long she’d been running in the black, that’s how long an eternity could last when stretched around someone like a blanket.  Up until then, she’d been a normal albeit hormone-ridden, teenager.  A knock on the door that should have been her Saturday night date had been a promissory note on her mother’s longstanding debts.

The guy who’d been on the other side of that knock was short and squatty.  His wool suit had been worn down to a few threadbare patches that seemed to be strung together by sheer force of will.  She leaned out of the door to ask him what he needed, and was quickly greeted by the smell of tobacco and mothballs that rolled from the dirty bowler hat that was perched on a meaty roll of his head.

At first she’d thought that she might actually laugh out loud in the man’s face, but her manners had held out.  After all, this man must be in a great deal of distress or need to go wandering from door to door in those clothes.  She’d thought that he would ask for food or money or maybe he would want to fill them full of stories from the good book.

But after a moment of silence in which she’d felt the intensity of his stare marking her pale flesh, he’d asked for her mother, and she’d obliged, wondering if this man was someone from her mother’s past, someone who could fill in the blanks on a life her mother refused to discuss.

Hiding behind the doorway, she’d learned of the promise that had been made, of the sacrifice that was now needed.

It was only a week.

Those had been his words, his guarantee to her that she would be allowed to continue on with her life when the debt was fulfilled.

Her mother had not seemed to care this way or that about the arrangements, only that she herself would be free of this burden and that it would be I who made the payment in full.

“It’s only running, and you do that all the time anyway.” Had been her flippant response.

And although the carelessness with which it was tossed into the air had stung, it had been the truth; she did run a lot.  When she ran she liked the way that the earth seemed to tilt around her, pouring through her body until it came through changed and she knew for once that she had affected something.

This type of running was different

This time there was nothing.  She was running through a void, and she could feel it pressing in on her, and everyday it changed her a little more; the darkness creeping in like a stain.  She wanted to stop, to take a breath and let the tightening in her muscles ease for a moment, but she knew that it wouldn’t be possible.

The man had said one week:  7 days, 168 hours, 10,080 minutes, and 604,800 seconds.

If you sewed this much time together, they could easily form an infinity of unchanging years in the abyss.

Time bends.  Time does not exist.

She’d been running for three days, the man in the bowler hat had whispered it to her earlier.  And even though she had been unable to see him, she had not missed his scent as he exhaled on her neck, as she felt the inside of his thoughts turn against her.

Earlier—

Earlier it had been three days and counting.

In her mind she could she all of the movements in the heavens.  She could feel each star burning its brightest against her bare flesh.

Four days to go—

But she knew she would never reach the goal, knew the debt would go unpaid, and something else the man in the hat whispered to her makes her wonder how long her mother had owed this promise, how many daughters she had burning through in her half-hearted attempts to pay it back.  A stitch, previously sewn and embedded in her muscles reached up to squeeze its fiery grip around her longs.

96 hours—

She wonders what her mom got in the bargain—wonders if she will share her secrets, her bounty, when everything is done and quickly realizes it is a moot point.  It is unlike her mother to share that much of herself with a child, let along any rewards she may have reaped along the way.

Maybe she was on Olympus, this whole thing some cruel punishment handed out by the gods.  Maybe that is why she feels so close to the stars and so very far from reality.

5,760 minutes—

Why did they have to take her eyes?  Why leave her running through the dark?  Why leave her stranded where she cannot even shed a tear?

345,600 seconds—

Her lungs burn more with each breath, her feet leaking out small amounts of blood with each step.  She can feel the end pressing down on her with the same weight and stench as the man’s breath when he whispered her timeline into her ear.

For a moment she thinks about her mother and whether or not she will miss her, but she immediately decides not.  She cries out in her hopelessness and hears no echo to greet her.

And of course, she keeps running.