Month: March 2014

Jack’s Dream–an excerpt from a work-in-progress

I’m working on a dream sequence tonight for another rough draft, and it got me thinking about this dream sequence for the novel I just finished. This one is obviously very rough still (the novel it’s come from I’m about to begin rewriting), but something which I enjoyed. I hope you enjoy.

 

The smell of autumn lingered in the air: chaff and rubble burning in farmers’ fields, crumbling, desiccated aspen leaves–the bittersweet smell of rot as life leaves the earth for a season. A Chinook wind sent the leaves dancing over the time-worn stones around him. It was as if the ruins of the castle had sighed—letting loose long-held breath, one of anxiety and worry. He watched the leaves rise upon a rushing gust. They gamboled over the stones and the bodies scattered across the forest floor. The gust died and they stopped dancing and dropped. One settled like a patch over the open eye of the young woman they lay at his feet, more blanketed a great bear slouched under an immense ash tree. Still others came down over the bodies and the earth, a patchwork blanket tucking in the dead.

Weary and worn, he took the crown from his head and set it on the stone steps. He sheathed his sword and laid it down on the steps as well. All of this running and hiding and fighting and he couldn’t remember why. So many died. He looked back at the ruined castle, its walls long ago having tumbled to the ground, the stone floor once carpeted by rugs now by wildflowers. All that remained of its former power and glory was the throne, in which sat the old woman. He had dreamt of her before, but she was always swaddled in darkness, laughing. He always imagined that she was sitting in a rocker, but now he could see that she sat upon a throne cackling and staring at him. A tree rose up behind her, towering over her, its branches a sheltering bower. Cawing in the branches were ravens. A murder of ravens, he thought. . . no, an unkindness of ravens. An unkindness of ravens sat brooding over the old woman, ruffling restlessly in the Chinook breeze, cawing lowly to each other, as if they were waiting for something—a signal from the old woman, perhaps.

He walked down the steps to the young woman. Her hair was black as the feathers of the ravens. Her brown eyes twinkled, even in death. He ran his thumb over her lips, to wipe away the crust of blood and dirt, and cradled her freckled cheek. Who was she, he couldn’t remember, but he knew that her death pained him. He rested her head back on the earth and walked through the gloaming studying the bodies. So many friends, their bodies shattered and hacked and pierced. He stopped in front of the bear slumped under the aspen. At the feet of the bear, limbs akimbo more ragdoll than man, was Gary. Arrows pierced his chest and throat—the shaft of the arrow lodged in his throated parted his beard. The golden bower of aspen leaves tinkled like windchimes, underscoring the old woman’s laughter so that she almost sounded heavenly.

He looked around one more time and knew what he had to do. He made his way back to the ruins of the castle. Picking up the sword and crown, he went up the stairs and strode across the ruined courtyard towards the old woman.

The wildflowers rippled as he passed, but not from the breeze. From the shadows on either side of him, figures rose. He could feel them on either side. He daren’t look at them, he knew better; instead, he kept his eyes straight ahead on the old woman. She returned his gaze. He could felt the figures on either side of him watching him as well, and the ravens in the tree.

His path ended in front of her. Her laughter ended, and now she sat smirking. Without waiting, without a word or signal, he placed the crown into her lap. Immediately a sense of relief and regret washed over him. And fear, for the ravens in above him began cawing loudly as they began to move about on the branches of the tree. The old woman made no movements to accept or reject the crown, but continued to smirk at Jack, and he began to almost suspect that she was made of wax or plastic, or that she was dead.

Before he had a chance to learn what she was, he felt a gust rush up his back. A blast like an arctic wind, but drier and colder, and reeking of abandoned basements and attics and older, fouler things, swept over him and drove away the comforting warmth of the Chinook air, souring the smells of autumn. He drew his sword, casting aside the scabbard and spinning around, his blade extended before him. The scabbard scattered fallen leaves as it slid across the crumbling cobblestones of the courtyard, while the blade bit through bone, causing its victim’s head to pop from its body like a champagne cork.

The figures that had flanked the path were now filing in around Jack, their bony fingers more like the barbed talons of an eagle than the fingers of the men. The opals and pearls in their crowns shone with more life than the dusty sockets beneath them. Their velvet and silk rags breathed with life as they billowed with the motion of their wearers. Twelve men, more dead than alive, pressed in upon Jack—they had numbered thirteen, but Jack had destroyed the one closest.

He watched as they continued to shamble closer to him, their skin shimmering like fish scales. Like an undead chorus, their mouths were moving in mock unity, but he could hear nothing. Their arms were outstretched as if to embrace him, and this made it feel almost like a family reunion, like they were a bunch of grandfathers and uncles and great-grandfathers and great-uncles excited to see him after so many years. In the place of death and desiccated flesh he almost expected to smell cheap cologne, cigars and bourbon.

Before they could get any closer, and before he had to behead any more, real talons dug into clothes, pinched at his hair and skin, and soon he was being lifted off the ground by the unkindness of ravens.

The kindness of ravens—for his feelings changed and couldn’t see why they shouldn’t be called a kindness—lifted him into the heavens and away from the clutching hands of the undead. He hung from their many talons like a marionette being picked up and put away. He watched as the castle ruins, the old woman and the squirming dead shriveled with distance till they were just insects scuttling across the ground. The earth spread out beneath him like a patchwork quilt being spread over a bed. The ruins he had just been plucked from swiftly passed away, swallowed by the sprawling forest. Ahead of him, a mountain range brushed against the stars.

He wondered what the ravens were doing with him—obviously they rescued him for a reason, but why, and where they were taking him was beyond him. He was tempted to ask the ravens what their plans were but he knew better—and what answer would they give him, besides their gruff squawks and caws. Instead, he watched the land pass beneath him.

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Tyger, Tyger

Just posting a link for a short story I had published in the online journal Réarrange. It’s about two mothers, a little girl, and a tiger. I stole the conversation from two mothers I overheard talking in the library, overlaying it with the zoo framework. It’s a fun and quirky little creature.

http://www.ppcc.edu/rearrange/articles/tyger-tyger/

Skatepark Shenanigans

This is an impressionistic little story/sketch I wrote that I’m planning on expanding into a novel. Some of you might recognize James and Katie from a serial I wrote in my zine BLAH! way, way back in the mid-90s. And some of you might remember the awesome skate park that was behind the Independent Records in downtown Colorado Springs, which is where I set this scene.

Enjoy!

 

fireflies swam around her as if she was their mother but they were only stars and she only a girl in love roosting goblinish in the rafters beneath the skylight. she liked to think of the stars as fireflies but it was their thought to think of her as their mother—in the vast chilly reaches born of dust and a restless churning breath they felt lost and alone and clung to silly notions childishly. Katie did too, clung childishly to her love, clutching it the way a mermaid clutched a dead sailor longing for him to live and love her and never understanding that it was her embrace that brought him to this end.  she clung to it now as she watched James his hair a-sweat and sticky with blood the blood swabbed under his eyes like warpaint and crusting his nose. dots speckled his white buttoned-up shirt and swam with the paisleys on his tie swam with him as he careened and careered drunkenly drowningly through the moshpit. the music picked up the bass line a primal call a howler monkey hooting and crooning wound up James more and sent him spinning a top a whirling dervish lost to religious ecstasy until he drove his face into an outstretched fist and stopped abruptly while blood spun from his nose again and he rocked back and forth on his feet more cartoon caricature than feeling flesh. she watched smiling, knowing that this was James full of impulse and abandon more Peter Pan than growing boy—they’d all grow up and he’d be there grinning, amused at the suits and ties they wore to their jobs whilst he wore his for amusement a black ritual in mockery of their sacred vestments. he teetered in eternity threatening to spill over the floor threatening to cease to exist and with him the world—“Banish James and banish the world” he would always joke and she knew it was true—and then just as it seemed he and the world would topple into chaos and ruin he sprang forward and skipped through the throng around him skipping and wiping his blood on his sleeves as if unaware of their existence lost to in adoration of the music the moshpit of life and all its idiosyncrasies.

they were at the skatepark. it was in the back of a Groovy Ghoulie’s Records and Tapes, a record store in a little warehouse in downtown Newbury.  on the weekends punk bands came and played always three or four bands for three bucks.  they came every weekend and sometimes Katie’s band, The Snack Traps, played here but tonite they weren’t and she could perch in the steel rafters above the crowd the moshpit the stage watching and listening and pining. sitting above them she felt like a puppeteer pulling strings on marionettes—pull this way and they’d stampede in circles pull this way and they’d cheer and stagedive let go and they’d crumble in a heap. she wished she had the strings to pull James up to her now but then he’d be her James and not his James—not Jim or James or Jamie but a puppet fawning over her whenever however she wanted. To have James meant to never have him—loving James was loving a protean creature, mercurial and capricious.

James climbed up on The Joop’s shoulders (“The Joop” called this because his real name was Jupiter and they all looked up to him as a father and because he was seven feet tall. he was wild and unbred brought up like she and James but sloughing it off like a snake and lived unabashedly free of the dictates of his family and society) and they ran around the moshpit an animated totem pole, James kicking his legs at everyone that came near making Katie think of the old arcade game “Joust” with James the rider and “The Joop” his ostrich mount for he did look something like an ostrich, gangly and pale and always with a look of hunger and madness in his eyes. he gave out a low guttural howl as they ran while James giggled one hand under The Joop’s chin to steady himself the other flailing in the air sometimes whacking the backs of heads or just spinning like a child’s pinwheel. They made three passes through the pit before James latched onto the steel rafters.

James leapt up and seized the beam under Katie pulling himself up to face her.  he swayed there an oversized apple bruised but not rotten, a Riesling grape just between sweet and rot, a state of perfection, he grinned at Katie and she tipped her baseball cap to him.

“evenin’, gov.”

“ a fine evenin’ to you, and what brings a lass as lovely as you to such a den of thieves—ruffians all and I the king of scapegraces.” he winked and then with fingers sweaty slipped from the steel beam fell to the floor the crowd parting so as not to get caught or crushed by his collapse. like Icarus falling from the heavens or a meteor skipping over the atmosphere finally bright and burning and bounding to earth gracelessly James crashed to the ground, a marionette with strings cut slumping in a heap. the crowd silenced and the band stopped playing, the music the voices vacuumed out of the stunned room by James’ booming collapse. Katie spun and glided from her perch down to James. The Joop loped over and scooped the ragdoll from the wooden floor. His eyes fluttered flirted with consciousness his lips mouthed a moan but no moan came no sound just a soft wheeze.

“Bring out your dead. Bring out your dead,” The Joop called in a pathetic attempt at an English accent carrying James out of the skatepark. Katie trailed behind caught up and stopped in front of The Joop. The Joop smiled, took off Katie’s cap and ruffled her hair, “He’ll be fine, just a concussion. I’ll carry him home.”

Katie watched them walk down the alleyway. The Joop only in a paintstained wifebeater tee and jeans his freckled back in the chilly air the sweat steam rising off him, James craning to peek and waved to Katie as if to say I’ll be okay. she smirked and shook her head and waved back to her DonQuijote her Popeye her angelheaded hipster.

In Any Case. . . The Moon

Once, I went for walks every night, and always for company I had the moon. Now, with a baby in my life, those nightly constitutionals have come to an end, and rarely do I see the moon. Its existence to me came to be much like the planets–I know they’re there, but never see them. Upon seeing the moon again, I jotted down this poem in my writing notebook.

The moon

which I haven’t seen in weeks

still rises

waxes wanes

still shines

over all of us

abed asleep

or in the street

stumbling drunkenly

or perhaps just lost

and looking for a home

that isn’t there anymore.

Just the moon

which I haven’t seen

in weeks.