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Monthly Archives: June 2017

Summer Says

Summer Says come out and play.

She’s so hot—how can you resist her?

Summer says take off your shirt, it’s that kind of day, and you’re a guy, what have you got to lose?

But Summer doesn’t recognize safe-words.

You can’t rely on her to stop just ‘cause you ask nice, and sometimes by the time you know you’re going to have a problem, the damage is already done.

You wanted a tan.

Summer likes a man with a tan, she’ll let him in on the action.

Turns out, you have a hard time tanning—Summer isn’t fond of too-light skin.

Is that it, then?

You’re not even gonna try?

Too chickenshit?

Just gonna stay at home in the dark and nurse your precious skin, leave Summer to flirt out there with every other guy?

No!

So you slather on the cream that’ll let you face her and feel safe.

You venture forth.

There she is, all hot and bothered, having fun.

Girls, boys, everybody gets a piece of Summer.

“Come play with me,” she says. “Be friends.”

They roll and writhe and touch and kiss in the sun, brandishing their bare skin like weapons of love, the most elegant swordfighting dances.

So why don’t you have your shirt off?

You know what she likes, you know what she’s like, you’ve taken steps this time to protect yourself.

“Come play with us,” Summer Says.

But you don’t trust your arms.

You don’t trust yourself to keep up, not to get hurt, so you let Summer happen.

She’s going to do what she does, with or without you, until she changes her mind, so are you just going to sit back and watch all the boys and the girls making out with Summer?

You could join them, or you could slink back into your cave and wait to fall.

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Good-Man and the Protagonist

You know him as Good-Man. He came to your city as a superhero, fighting crime primarily at night, beating up the bad-guy and saving the girl—he was nothing if not a traditionalist.

The problem was, he didn’t live in enough of a fantasy world to suit himself and soon, there was a warrant out for his arrest on the charge of vigilantism.

Do you remember how he turned himself in? Do you remember the heartfelt apology all over TV for six months? Of course you do—who could forget such sincerity? And do you remember how he served his time in jail and came back a broken man, disgraced?

Of course not, because that didn’t happen.

Because he was a white man, strong and powerful—superpowered! Their excuse was, they didn’t think they could build a prison that could hold him, and they’re probably right, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t deserve to go to prison.

In the course of his so-called crime-fighting, several bystanders were injured and some even killed, and even some of the alleged perpetrators turned out to be innocent people who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, making Good-Man guilty of not just brutality but of wrongful conviction.

And yet no civil suits were heard.

Instead, he not only patrols the streets, he does so in broad daylight—with a badge!—a one-man SWAT team striking fear in the hearts of anyone even vaguely aware of crime, and he is coddled by the system he supports.

But I do not support this system.

You know me as the Antagonist because that is how your Media presents me: an enemy to all that is good and just, a threat to middle-class white girls everywhere and the wealth they are set to inherit. Yes, I have done things that are illegal. I have robbed banks and crumbled investment companies—but what have I done with the money? Bought houses for the men and women ruined by unethical banking decisions. Helped invest in infrastructure not just in countries crippled by poorly executed foreign aid, but right here at home, too, in Detroit and greater Michigan. And I have bought medical debt only to turn around and forgive it. I have done nothing that wouldn’t rightly be ascribed to a modern-day Robin Hood.

And have I killed anyone? No one who wasn’t trying to kill me. Or someone I cared for. Or an innocent victim who deserved better.

But maybe they are right. Maybe I am an Antagonist. That certainly is how they see me, and they should. I am not one of them, which, by their own standards, makes me an Other. And there are only two kinds of Others: victims and threats.

I do not like them. Their way of life is demeaning and I will do everything in my power to break this system of injustice that they have put in place to oppress those who have nothing—but does that make me the Antagonist?

Is Good-Man the Protagonist, then? With his feats of arms, his monopoly on violence, how he protects the system that I know is corrupt? You know it, too. There is something deeply wrong with the way the world is made to work nowadays. Why is he cheered on and applauded, awarded, for keeping it that way?

But he can’t really be a protagonist, can he? Not anymore. He had his big change, his arc, when he threw himself on the mercy of public opinion and became their champion. That was it. That was the end of his story. He has reached his height—nothing he does now matters.

My ambitions are loftier than that. I don’t want a gold star on my chest or my face on any magazines—I want results. I want justice. I want mercy for the innocent and providence for the poor; and for rich nobodies who live off the backbreaking labors of those they consider less-than, I want nothing. I want humility—is that so much to ask? That you realize your parents’ money or the color of your skin does not entitle you to privileges not afforded to those you consider Others. I want you to share. I want you to realize that there is a problem and work towards a system that eliminates it. That is a goal. That is a change. Something to strive for.

But you don’t want to strive. You don’t want a vanguard forging into a brighter future, you want a bulwark against the floodtides of history. So you take away my trumpet in the hopes of protecting your Jericho’s walls.

What do you want? Security? For yourself, for your children? If that were so, that would be noble. I would applaud you. But security is not what you want. What you want is freedom. The freedom to take what you want. That freedom is a function of power and with power comes responsibility, so it is that you want freedom from: freedom from consequences.

You are the Antagonist. You are the great evil empire in the West and I am the Protagonist. I may not be the hero. I may not be that virtuous ideal. But I know what I want and what I want is peace and justice and mercy. So tell me again, remind me how what I am is the real threat, and not the man who beat me without due cause.


Amethyst Place

In the cul-de-sac at the end of Amethyst Place, there are six houses. These are the families who live there—you’re gonna love this, I swear.

First of all, there are the Larchman-Sheehans. They have seven children, three boys and four girls. The father, Steve Sheehan, is from out of town, but no one seems to know where—like, they can’t even all agree on a country, and his accent is unrecognizable. Both Steve Sheehan and Linda Larchman (his wife) are dwarves, as are all of their children—which is statistically really unlikely.

They are the most normal family in the Amethyst cul-de-sac.

Next, there are the Goodkinds. George and Mary Goodkind have seven daughters, including two sets of twins: Truth, Grace & Glory, Faith, Chastity & Charm and Joy. Told you you were going to love this. Hold on, it gets better: I’m pretty sure they’re all witches.

All right, I’m gonna do the Robbins family next, and then catch up to the Joneses. I’m actually not positive how many children Xander and Alicia Robbins have, everyone keeps giving me conflicting data, but if I had to guess, I’m thinking twenty-six. I say this because the ones I’ve met have names that go in alphabetical order and the youngest child is Zoë. But I can’t get an accurate count because some of the children, from what I can tell, never actually leave the house—which is huge, by the way, but doesn’t look to be anywhere near huge enough to hold twenty-six kids (though I am pretty sure some have left home already).

As for the Joneses, Kurt and Kayla Jones don’t seem to have had, or been able to have, any children of their own, but they have adopted and fostered about a dozen or so, from what I can tell, at least right now—but I understand that they might sort of cycle through some of them, they may come and go. As with the Robbinses, though, I suspect there are some of these Jones kids I’ve not seen yet.

Finally, there’s the Norman household. I haven’t been able to confirm this because the records are hard to get hold of, but it sounds like the Normans’ ancestors were slaves who killed their own masters and the end of the Civil War? And then moved into their house? That doesn’t really make any sense to me, I could go on and on, but that’s what I heard. There are three women living there, I think maybe early sixties? Sisters, and then one of them has a teenage daughter. At least, everybody says Pearl’s mother lives in the house, I don’t know, they can’t seem to agree, like everything else when it comes to that cul-de-sac.

One more thing, though: one of the houses is empty, the middle one, which is actually between the Joneses and Robbinses, almost abutting them both. It’s the house whose property directly leads into the mysterious forest that shouldn’t actually be there.

The other families that live on Amethyst Place are standard fare for this part of the world, more or less: a redneck trailmix of good ol’ boys’n’girls and decent folks, but however liberal they may admit to being around a city girl like me, every last one of them knows not to go into that cul-de-sac. I guess they might if they’re invited to the neighborhood cookouts they host (don’t wanna be rude, after all), but I can see where those could get awkward when guests come a-knocking.

Basically, they’re scared to death of those five families. Actually, I’m pretty sure the whole town is. I just can’t figure out why.


The Legend of NightShade

Before I left New York, there were rumors. There are always rumors, of course, in the Big City—alligators in the sewers and whatnot, but these were specific and they were consistent. A superhero, they called it. Not just some nutjob vigilante, but someone with actual powers. There are levels to believing a rumor. “it’s not powers,” my boyfriend, the “real” journalist, said. “If it’s happening at all, it’s a guy in a suit with elaborate gadgetry. If I were you—or if I believed it at all, which I don’t—I’d start looking into really rich orphans.”

But there was no mistaking it. “I’m talling you, mom,” said one thug in police questioning, “I could feel motherfucker’s hand on my threat even though he’s at the end of the motherfuckin’ alley. Motherfucker picked me up four feet off the motherfucking ground, threw me into the mutherfucking wall. I’m telling you, that motherfucker is real!”

So how should we account for this oedipal demigod?

He stood accused of Telekinesis, but of something else, too.

Before he came, there were whispers. Every windless (though admittedly some of them only when pressed) remarked that just before the “creature” appeared, they heard whispers that seemed to be coming from inside their own skull. “Who’s there?” they might say, or “The fuck is happening to me?” and in the case of violent crimes, usually this distracted them enough for their (intended) victims to get away.

Then NightShade would get to work.

That’s what they called him. He’d sweep in “like a shadow in the night”—all anyone ever saw was his silhouette against slightly-lighter backdrops. It was fitting because he did act like a poison for the people he attacked.

The problem was, not all of his victims were guilty.

I guess that’s really the issue with every vigilante, whether or not they have “superpowers”—there’s supposed to be due process, protections for the innocent, but this NightShade isn’t subject to any of that.

It wasn’t long before the NYPD came up with a task force to track down this vigilante, but of course that didn’t work—it couldn’t possibly. NightShade has superpowers, for crying out loud, and apparently knows very well how to use them. None of the cops were ever able to even get close to him. How can you exert authority over something you can’t destroy? Or even hurt? And so the reign of terror continues. Last week, apparently, a young father was flung around an alleyway and strung up by his ankles to dangle from a fire escape, apparently just for yelling at his kid for misbehaving. Even if that was a crime, what kind of punishment is that? I managed to pull some strings and get hold of the transcripts of the report. The young father was one of the few who said he could actually make out some of the whispers he heard beforehand. Words like “trafficking”, “kidnapping”, and finally words like “molest”. I’m not going to mention the guy’s name, out of privacy and such (though it’s remarkable how few news outlets are respecting that) now that he’s essentially been accused of child abduction.

Here’s what really bothers me, though—well, two things: first of all, of course, if he’s such a nutjob, how are we ever going to catch him or even negotiate with him? But perhaps more importantly, at least the one that really strikes me: these whispers. I mean, he’s obviously telepathic… how is he getting things wrong? How is he making any mistakes? I mean, clearly he’s out to clean up the streets… is it possible he knows something we don’t about these people who are supposedly innocent?

I’m not saying we should trust NightShade blindly and crown him king or anything weird like that—at the very least his methods are cruel and unusual.

But what if he’s right?


A Glass House

I walk the platform, pretending to be waiting for you.
What am I doing here?
I know you’re not expecting me
But I have places to be and I’d rather be here waiting for you.

There’s a rumbling in the ground,
a persistent thunder,
far away but getting closer.
Almost there.
In anticipation, I close my eyes.

I wake up in a room.
A simple room.
With simple walls and ceiling,
made of glass.
It’s night outside–this simple room feels cold and lonely.

But I am not alone.
I open my eyes to fields of stars ad infinitum,
So far away–why need they be so far away?

And then the doors open and you appear,
startled, coy. You smile.
The sun has risen and who needs those stars anyway.
Can I walk you the rest of the way?

Light fills up my little room,
revealing crannied nooks I’d never seen or suspected.
This tiny space seems so much bigger now, in the light,
seems to contain much more than darkness.

But with this revelation, an apocalypse.

Heat fills me up, bounces off the walls
even as they twinkle and gleam,
helpless to leave this place
and even after we get where you’re going and part ways
(not forever, there is room to recess)
the heat is comfortable enough
I do not need the stars.
Not really.

Time passes and with every glance
passed back and forth,
more heat glitters off my room.
It’s radiant. And I can’t get out.
I’m melting.
Even when you aren’t there, I can’t stand it.
Eating is a foreign language and sleep an enemy
and I can’t see the stars through the fog
in my sauna,
but only your brilliance shines through,
distorted by my pain.

I have to get out.
You have to release me.
There are stones at my feet. But what will they do to me?
They will break the glass, let the cool air
wash over me, release all this tension. But will that be enough?
Will it stop at that wall, or will the cracks in the glass
bring the house down around me?
Will I ever see you again?
Will we be able to talk,
as we have, as we do,
if I cast this first stone?

Let it fall, I scream, echoing off the glass walls.
Let it fall all around me
Let it fall on top of me
If the price of feeling the cool breezes again
Is being battered by falling glass,
Then let the shards of self-knowledge mar my hide
and winter take me
If I can only first speak my heart a while.


“Hurt”

Do you ever imagine what it would be like to live in a world without pain? I bet you have. In fact, at times when you aren’t in pain, I bet you have trouble even imagining it, just like how when you’re sick, it’s hard to remember or imagine a time when you didn’t feel heavy and drowsy, when your nose wasn’t stuffed up. You try to imagine future conversations with the guy (or girl, I guess) that you like and you can’t imagine actually feeling well.

Have you ever tried to imagine what it would be like to lose a limb? A pane of glass crashing through bone, shredding through flesh right there on your arm—do you imagine pain? I don’t. I can picture the sensation maybe like a papercut and I know, intellectually, damn that’s gotta hurt, and it creeps me out even to the point of wincing, but can I really conjure up the pain? It isn’t there. Not for me.

“Stop it,” Declan instructs his band-mate, the one he’s in love witht, the one with the girlfriend who’s bad for her, the one who’s sitting across from him picking at the flesh of her cuticles with a needle. “Hey,” he says.

She looks away, puts the needle carefully in the pen-case she brought to this session.

“Why do you do that?” Declan asks sincerely.

“I don’t know,” she answers honestly. Because she doesn’t. She doesn’t know. She had some idea, but ideas count for shit. You can’t even copyright them.

Some day, they’ll talk about this. Some day, she’ll tell him about her past and her relationship to pain and how, in the fucked-up way of abused minds, piercing her own skin makes her feel safe, like nailbiters taking control or anorexics taking ownership of their own bodies.

“It’s my pain,” she’ll tell him, “my choice.” But she’s not there yet.

Then there’s Lucy McDermott.

I haven’t talked a lot about Lucy. Trust me, I’ll get there. She gets lost in the shuffle a bit when it comes to middle school—the early years, at least. Between Kayle and Trevor and Isabella, Lucy wasn’t exactly at the top of my friends list, but I actually probably enjoyed her the most. Trevor was a boy and Isabella was a bitch and Kayla—I mean, I liked her, but she could be a bit of a downer. Lucy seemed fun, first and foremost.

Kinda makes you wonder.

One day, I had her over—I think Kayla was there, too, but not really there, at least not when I walked in on Lucy in our bathroom with a razorblade. Her cuts were shallow and entirely the wrong place to be killing herself, or even pretending to, so that’s a plus, but it still freaked me the fuck out. How had I not seen it coming?

“I’m sorry,” she said, dropping the razor-blade, mortified. “I thought I—“

What? That she’d locked the door? Because obviously that was a huge priority for me, right?

“Why do you do it?” It wasn’t until way later that I worked up the courage to ask her, and when I did, I can’t tell you how disappointed I was.

“I’m in love with your brother,” she confessed to me, and then spent the better part of five minutes expanding on that certain je ne sais quoi of Jasper Llywelyn. “But does he even see me?” she concluded with a mope. “I mean, does he even know who I am?”

There was nothing original about Lucy’s pain. It wasn’t fundamental or the stuff of great drama or tragedy. It was her pain, but it wasn’t unique.

Does that make it less painful? Does knowing other people have more pain make the pain go away?

“You’re all so…” She can’t even express it. Not in words. Not out loud. She’s jealous of our pain. She feels left out. She’s sensed all of our secrets for a while now and desperately wanted a secret of her own. Something that could bind her to us.

That is the true meaning of Angst. A sense that there isn’t enough pain in the world. You have to make some extra for yourself. It’s a phantom pain in limbs that are still there but feel like they shouldn’t be. Why can’t we get over it? Because there is nothing to get over.


Mummy

“Mummy,” the officer seems to say as he reaches up to her, “can I have some more?”

There is a hole where his mouth used to be. You think of the mouth as a hole, but a door is only a door until it’s ripped off its hinges, and then it’s a hole in the wall.

He doesn’t claw for her. He isn’t trying to snatch or to hurt—none of them are. They aren’t reaching to take, they’re reaching to be given. That’s how she knows they need her as a mother, not as a meal.

Not all of them raise their hands to her but perhaps that is only because not all of them have hands anymore. Or arms. Or even faces. And yet hundreds of them here in this tomb that was a tube station not twenty minutes ago, reach out for her, as a savior, as a mummy.

Until she tells them to stop.

Obedient, they turn away and she imagines them all as showing a sense of shame in the way they look off, like a young man honorable enough to realize his advances have been unwelcome, and to mercifully stop. But she knows better. She knows there is no emotion in any of these reanimated corpses. Their hearts no longer beat, the holes their heads no longer draw breath, their tearducts—those that have them still—have run dry. She is the only one here still feeling anything and the feelings she has, echoing through the chamber out the tunnels from longer ago than she cares to remember, are making her see things, are projecting onto these corpses like the toys of a child whose parents are fighting again.

Why is she doing this? What does she have to gain?

Soon they will come for her. They will find a way, and why shouldn’t they? She never wanted this to happen, either. She has wrought too much rot in this brave new world, so let the crows come to claim her. But now, in this one shining moment before she unravels, let her have this, let her feel this need from these creatures to whom she’s given life. Before they come for her and she loses this feeling again, let them reach for their mummy.