Category Archives: Creative Somethings

Creative Something #9

As the sun faded beyond the horizon, Olivia made her way back to the mercenary tents. The camp was becoming a bit more relaxed and jovial as soldiers gathered around fires, bards sang inspirational songs, and full bellies generally made everyone forget their day’s woes. Torches lined the walk ways, which were less cluttered, and a slight breeze had picked up. If this evening were to be her last, it would be a good one.

When they’d first set camp, she’d been a little annoyed with Jackson’s insistence on keeping their tent as far as possible from all the camp fires. For one, it meant more walking – uphill – after long and tiring days; another thing that bothered her was that people had assumed they must have an attitude about themselves. It’s never good to set yourself apart when bloodthirst, fear, and hormones are running high. However, now that they’d settled in with their comrades, she was thankful for the quiet and isolation it provided them. The walk was worth the privacy, since the other mercenaries could get quite rowdy around the fire. So up the hill she went.

Jackson had already turned in for the night when she reached the tent. This wasn’t too much of a surprise. After working off her boots and the trimmings she could spare, Olivia laid upon her mat as if it were the most exquisite feather mattress money could buy. She continued to be amazed at how she could amble around just fine, then the minute she relax into a bed the fatigue would seep into her veins from her muscles. It was as if someone had finally given her body permission to express its exhaustion.

Sleep did not come as quickly as one might expect, but this gave her time to drink in the calm of the evening. Then, just as her mind was blending the sounds of laughter and the crackle of wood fire into a dreamland, he spoke.

‘What did the Captain have to say?’ Jackson asked.

Olivia pried open one eye to glare at him, the other was buried in her pillow. He looked just the same as he had when she’d walked in – flat on his back with his eyes closed. She said, ‘I thought you were asleep.’

Jackson remained silent. He’d asked her a question, she had yet to respond. Her statement was irrelevant. If he had said something in response, it would probably be something akin to, ‘Of course. That’s what I wanted you to think.’ At least she was spared this gem. She sighed. ‘I don’t see what business it is of yours.’

‘I don’t trust him.’

At this, Olivia raised her head a little. Was he being protective? He barely noticed people’s relationships – how had he picked up on her and Jameson? No. Certainly there was something more logical to this…

‘If you’re trying to get at the Captain’s battle strategy, he hasn’t told me anything,’ was her retort; silence followed.

Just when she’d given up on him indicating whether or not this was the information he was after, he spoke again, ‘No. I imagine you’d be the last person he’d share his tactics with.’ He paused a moment before saying, ‘Goodnight.’

Olivia turned over to put her back to Jackson. As she’d thought – he thought he could turn the strategic sides of battle himself. But something bothered her about what he’d said. It could be left open to interpretation… and would be uncharacteristically insulting, given her rank, if he had actually implied the Captain wouldn’t share any of his strategy with her. Before she could think about it too much though, sleep overcame her. Jackson was gone before she even woke the next morning.

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Creative Something #7

We drove down the dark highway. Stars twinkled in the sky above, far from the light pollution of the city. The occasional lit-up billboard slowly approached, advertised the adult XXX warehouse at the next exit (in 200 m.), then passed in an instant. The neon blue and red lights of the dashboard illuminated our faces in the silence of the car. The only sound was the wind rushing by our windows. Peaceful, comfortable quiet.

In a few miles, we’d reach our destination. Our stomachs were hungrier than we could wait, so we stopped at a roadside Denny’s. I ordered pancakes. I love pancakes. They’re the perfect breakfast food. Someone told me they don’t really have them in Europe, that they eat meat and cheese there for breakfast – sometimes yogurt. I resolved never to visit Europe. Who doesn’t eat pancakes?

We both finished with a cup of coffee and I marveled at the stereotypical diner mugs it was served in. They’re always quite thick and a bit squat, ranging from grayish-beige to 70’s-brown in color. The quintessential coffee mug, I think. I should find some for my next apartment.

She paid, we left. Just a few more miles to go. I try not to think about it.

We wound our way through a residential neighborhood. I enjoy looking into people’s’ homes at night, so that’s what I did. Lights on, curtains open revealed varying styles of decor and family scenes. Most people were watching TV together. One family sat at a dinner table, with the mother (I presumed) bringing out a steaming casserole dish from the kitchen – she was even wearing an apron. How 1950’s.

Would I ever have a family? Who would cook? I’m a terrible cook. I also don’t really want children. This world is a scary place. There’s a lot of good in it, don’t get me wrong, but I see too much of its horrible side to feel confident about introducing new innocence to the scene. No, I decided. These picture-window snapshots I was admiring were never going to be my life. I wasn’t sure if that made me feel relieved or melancholy.

She took a left out of the subdivision and followed the main road for a while. The shops were all closed, giving the town the feeling of being asleep from its very bricks up. Street lights illuminated the tired eyes of store fronts. Everything slept soundly, which was such a comforting feeling.

Right onto Bethel.

Pass three streets on the left, arrive at the stop sign. Turn left.

I noted that the Cummingses needed to mow their lawn, but Mrs. Henshaw’s rose bushes looked spectacular. Aleisha must be out of town – her mailbox had been full for three days now. I’ll check it for her in the morning and put it in the basket by her door. No need for people to make her a target.

Fourth driveway on the right. That’s me.

She pulled in and let the car idle. I slung my bag over my shoulder, thanked her for the ride, and went in to wash the blood off my hands.

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The Traveller

There’s no point in trying to remember when this all started, or how. What matters is that it’s happening now.

My life isn’t a continuous series of events running from birth to death. I’ve been all over the globe and seen history, as I was taught it, in the making. I’ve met people I’ve never seen before who know me by name, and I’ve encountered people that I know who don’t recognize me at all. My time just isn’t the same as everyone else’s time. At some point I came into this world, the same old-fashioned way everyone else has: from between my mother’s legs. The difference is that I’ve lived before that time, and I’ve lived long after I should be dead. I’ve even encountered some people I’m fairly certain were present when I died, though the didn’t tell me so.

I’m not telling you all this because I’m afraid of death. Comes to us all sooner or later and I’ve got no qualms with that. I’m concerned with what happens in between. That’s the important part – the stuff that matters. You only get one shot at that and I aim to get it right. The only problem is that I have very little control over that because for some reason, I slip through time.

Time, space… whatever. I could be anywhere in the world at anytime in the world, but as far as I can tell it’s all the same planet. And spoiler alert – there is life on other planets.

Where I go and when are completely out of my control – it just happens. Sometimes it’s as abrupt as turning a corner on Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee 1972 and winding up on Koenigstrasse, Stuttgart, Germany in 2031. Other times it happens gradually, like I’m walking through what’s left of the English countryside on a morning in 3075 and the terrain gradually becomes a little more sparse, the temperature slowly drops, and by late afternoon I’m trudging through a snowy countryside in what will someday be Russia. (I do a lot of walking.) Every time I’m about to make the switch, though, I feel nauseous. It feels like the world is spinning too fast. That could start a couple of days before the slip or a couple hours. And that’s it – the only warning.

For a while, I figured this at least keeps things interesting. I didn’t have anyone to miss, no one to miss me. I could just wander. Everywhere I’d wind up, it seemed like someone could use my help and that’s rewarding. Most of the time I can keep a full belly and good enough company to last the stay. It’s rare that I see anyone more than once, but it’s happened. And I suppose that because it’s happened is why I want to stop it now.

You see, there’s a time in the world when things really go south… and when I say that, I mean they really go bad. I’ve saved a lot of people and lost a lot of people during those times, but whatever it is I’m doing I get to finish it before I make the slip. Except for once.

I’d met this girl a couple of times, but she was never the one I was helping. Then I met her a third time. Figured something important in the universe must be happening around her – whoever or whatever has any control over the travelling thing, they want me to be there – at that place, during that time. So I did what needed done. Only things got a little overrun and we had to make a break for it. We ran. We ran for a good long while and she managed to keep up – not everybody did. The streets of Seattle are an unforgiving place during that time. We finally made it to a safe point, someplace where we could climb high enough that the things chasing us couldn’t reach. I boosted a few guys up, then climbed up myself to help the others. She stayed on the ground, doing what she could to fight off those things. Everyone was up and the others were starting to climb down the other side now. I called out to her, laid flat on my belly, and reached my hand out. She came runnin’. She jumped up and reached her arm out – her hand was going to fall perfectly into mine. I was so focused on it. I decided in that moment that if no one else made it that day, she was going to be the one I’d save. She had to make it. I felt the contact of skin, clamped my hand down on hers and hoisted her up. All 130lbs of 2nd Lieutenant Berry, of the Talon Brigade in what used to be Glasgow, Scotland.

I’d slipped.

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Creative Something #6 pt. 3

The world looked exactly the same as it had yesterday morning, even though I knew it was different.

We’d made it to Topher’s parents’ house. When his mom had remarried, he had apparently taken over the old garage instead of continuing to live in the house. Apparently his step-dad fit the stereotype I’d seen played out over and over in friends’ homes throughout my childhood. My parents weren’t perfect, but at least they didn’t hate me; or blame me for their problems. Instead of going to college to learn, Topher had gone to escape. Still, he wanted to allow his family one more night of peaceful rest so we avoided entering the house. In the moment, I was just thankful for our seclusion.  We’d dimmed the lights coming down the dirt road that lead to the house. It was darker than I’d expected, but there were wide open fields all around us and nothing appeared to be coming. I found myself thinking how lucky it was that I’d gotten pegged for that beer run. Our other friends at the party…

Topher got out and opened the garage door. Once inside he put on the car lights so we could see to close and secure both doors. I locked the side door (and pushed a cart full of tools in front of it for good measure) while he took care of the garage door. There weren’t any windows to worry about, thankfully, so we agreed it would be okay to leave the desk lamp on for a while. It wasn’t much, but it was better than the complete darkness we would have been left in after turning off the headlamps.

Then there was silence.

And awkwardness.

The garage consisted of the car, a couch that presumably folded into a bed, a desk adorned with a lamp, some shelves, and the cart of tools that was now bolstering the door. We must have realized the complication in sleeping arrangements at the same time since we both looked at the floor and fidgeted our hands. We had left one of our friends behind for the slaughter without a second thought, another we’d seen (heard?) viciously and fatally attacked. We’d stolen gas and left a city behind for the ruin. How could sharing a bed still be an issue? I guess we let things go slowly.

He started with, “Ah.. I’ll sleep in the-”

“I don’t want to sleep alone.” I interrupted.

I realized immediately after saying the words that it put him in a difficult situation. What if the idea repulsed him? What if he needed time alone to process what had happened? I didn’t want him to feel stuck with me. I wanted him to want to be there, which was fucked up given the circumstances… but still. I didn’t want there to be pressure or presumption. Thankfully, he looked relieved.

He said, “Me either.” And I’m pretty sure that smile could melt butter.

We made up the bed, turned out the light and awkwardly shed the clothing we were willing to part with for the night. My mind raced with a thousand adrenaline and hormone-infused thoughts as I crawled under the sheets. Most of all, I wondered what he was thinking. What did it matter? My mind argued with itself. Then I realized I was afraid I might push my luck, like Angela, and wind up left behind. In fact, I was terrified. I laid petrified in the bed, not wanting to move a muscle for fear that the movement would get misinterpreted. What was he thinking?

Then out of the darkness came, “I swear… I did not plan all of this just to get you into bed.”

We both laughed; heartily but as quietly as possible. It felt good to laugh. Then, despite the heat, we found sleep wrapped in one another’s arms. It felt more natural than anything I’d ever felt before.

In those moments just before sleep, the ones when you get all your best ideas but are too exhausted to write anything down, I prayed that we just wouldn’t wake up.

There are some days I wish that prayer had been answered.

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Creative Something #6 (con’t)

We drove for what seemed like hours.

I emptied the tequila and other contents of my stomach a couple of times by leaning out the window. We found an old gas station, one of those that didn’t have the pay-at-the-pump feature, a few miles outside town. Topher pulled up to the entrance but didn’t pull in. He dimmed the lights and we watched for signs of life. He laid out two plans of action: one, we go inside and find people (actual people) and pay for all the gas we can carry; two, we go in and don’t find people (or worse), in which case he would locate the switch to turn on the pumps and I would grab as many of those plastic canisters as I could carry – quietly. In both scenarios we went in together, came out together, and one person filled containers while the other kept watch and helped load them into the back. Don’t shut our car doors, but don’t leave them open enough for something to crawl inside. It was a solid plan.

We didn’t find people.

But we didn’t find anything else, either. The TV was on – it was the only sound in the store. Topher went around the counter cautiously – I grabbed gas cans. I was able to fit three in one hand, but could only quietly grab two with my second hand. How far did we need to go? Topher joined my side and held out a piece of paper while touching his finger to his lips. “Pumps are on. Take what you need. God Bless.” The attendant must have seen the news and left; physically or metaphorically, I never knew. Topher grabbed a couple of gas cans too.

He filled the car up, I kept watch. I filled the cans, he kept watch. We loaded them into the back seat together, then off we went. No incident.

It was quiet for a while, but once we couldn’t see the glow of the gas station in the mirrors any longer, Topher ventured a wide smiled, “We did it.” I smiled back and he said it again, more confidently. We did. We survived.

I asked where we were headed.

“Home,” was his answer. “My parents live out on 267. It’s pretty far from anything, so it should be safe for the night. You’re from Houston, right?”

I felt myself blush. Even in the worst of circumstances, it seems I could still feel the girlish thrill that the boy I liked knew something about me. He had noticed me.

“It’s probably-” He paused, thinking better of evaluating how awful the situation must be in such a big city. We’d first heard about what was happening when it hit the east coast. We had laughed, joked about the “Wall of Guns” the south was calling itself. It was never going to reach us. But if it had already reached as far west as we were, it had most definitely already hit Houston.

I didn’t want him to feel bad or let things get awkward, so I said, “We can wait and see what the radio says in the morning.”

“Good plan.” He smiled. We sat in a comfortable silence for a while. I wondered if the world would look different when the sun rose.

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Creative Something #6

When we’re teenagers, we can barely see into our first year of college… let alone the rest of our future. Adults tell us to make plans, act responsibly, and do as they say not as they set the example. But it’s rare that we take the advice of the people we see failing. Even if it’s good advice. If I had listened to all the good advice I’d ever heard and planned accordingly, I still don’t think my current predicament would be any different. What’s that saying? The best intentions pave the road to hell? Well, like I said, we can’t see the future. And if I’d seen this coming, I sure would have run in the opposite direction.

Everyone’s got a different story about where they were when it all started. My mom always told me she could remember exactly where she was when she’d heard President Kennedy had been assassinated and I guess this is kind of like that. She was sitting in her dad’s blue Cadillac with the leather seats, waiting for him to come out of the grocery story that used to be where the CVS is now. She’d had a dentist’s appointment that day and had gotten out of school early. She could tell people in the store were gathering around something near the front, by the registers. At first she thought it was a baseball game on the radio, but then she watched the people’s faces as they left and said it was like the air was suddenly heavy and tense. She said she’d never seen that look on her father’s face before, nor since. It was all surreal. I, on the other hand, was drunk.

Like I said, we don’t take it even if it’s good advice. So when I say drunk, I mean I’d crawled half way into a tequila bottle. But I still remember every detail…

My friends and I had gone on a beer run. (B double-E double-R U N, beer run…) Topher was driving and Angela was sitting in the front passenger’s seat. I was in the back with James, brooding over the fact that cute Angela got to sit up front with cute Topher and I was stuck with drunk James, who was obviously trying to get somewhere with me, which I was having none of. James was one of those guys who went from being super shy and kind of cute to super awkwardly outgoing in all the wrong ways when drunk; then remembered nothing. If he would ever have had just one drink, he probably would have been the hit of the party. Anyway, we piled out of the car and into the gas station and I remember thinking it was odd there weren’t more people there. It was prime time for Thirsty Thursday runs, yet it was dead. Angela flirted some with Topher then ducked into restroom. I pondered Bud Light Lime and Miller’s Light. I had just decided on the Bud (it was on sale) and reached for a crate when I suddenly (though I remember feeling someone approach) felt the warmth of a person immediately behind me.

Topher craned his wiry arm around me and grabbed the case of Bud, his chest practically pressed against my back. I felt a wave of heat flash through my body and hoped I wasn’t blushing too badly. He turned his head and whispered into my ear, “I’m going to need you to call shot-gun for the ride home.”

I smiled while my back was still to him, giddy that maybe Angela had come on too strong and unwittingly given me a shot. James must have seen this as he was immediately nearby and offering to “get that” for Topher. He already had a pack of Coors under one arm… I was annoyed. It seemed like he was trying to show of some strength by carrying beer. Who cared? I scoffed.

The three of us made our way to the counter, but no attendant was there to greet us. Topher called out in search of someone to ring us up. James tried the little bell at the counter, then griped about professionalism. I didn’t want to look at the television. Something was wrong with it and I knew that if I looked at it, nothing about this situation would ever be right again. I wanted to leave. Time seemed like it slowed down at this point. Topher started asking if I was okay – I have no idea how I must have looked, probably like I was going to be sick. James had moved on to knocking things around on the shelves to make noise, which knocked a can of Frito Lay cheese dip onto the floor. It rolled… and rolled.. and rolled… and all three of us stopped to watch it. The air was heavy and tense, but there was a wet slurping sound. How had we not noticed that before? It seemed so loud. The can rolled, turned, then tipped onto its flat side into a puddle of thick red liquid that seeped out from under the door labeled, ‘Manager’.

I guess he was trying to be brave when he rushed for the door… maybe it was the alcohol in his system. Maybe he hadn’t seen what was on the television. Maybe he hadn’t remembered that it was an “end of the world” party we were making the run for. Whatever the reason, he dashed for the door like some super hero. He looked so handsome in that moment.

I don’t remember seeing it, but I remember everything else. The slurping sound, the sudden feeling of needing to puke, the feeling of Topher’s hot palm on my forearm, the cool dampness of the night air, the buzz of the flickering Quick-E-Mart sign… the screaming. And that was it.

That was when the world changed. And what did I do?

I left Angela. We left Angela.

We never talked about it.

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Creative Something #5

When Ada’s mother passed, some of the other villagers had offered to take her in – poor thing was only a consequence of her parents’ actions, it wasn’t her fault. Her mother had betrayed them by taking in that traitor of a fisherman, not her. There was still hope for the girl. Ada refused, though. At fifteen, she’d rather have died than have been brain washed by the people her mother used to belong with. Giving in to their ideas would be like forgetting her father entirely and her memories were only few as it was. She preferred to keep them. Her days were a bit lonely, but company wasn’t necessary for survival. Ada never questioned why she kept going, why she didn’t just give up… that’s just how it was. Maybe it was to prove something to the villagers, or because somehow she knew there was more to this life that this little island, or maybe simply because she loved the smell of the ocean and the sun’s reflection on the waves. Whatever the reason, she survived on her own – taking each day as it came and filling her time as she saw fit.

Over time, the villagers forgot why they disliked her. They began to make up excuses – she wore her hair like a man, not short in the women’s style. She fished and climbed trees. She was always grumpy. When she fished, she used nets and slept on the ocean in a small boat for days; sometimes she used spears. Everyone knew that was dangerous but she managed to come back whole every time. She could weave like the other women because she made a basket she carried on her back when she climbed the trees – placing the fruit she collected there rather than tossing them to the ground. She rarely spoke, but she did occasionally trade with the village. Somehow, she found all the clams with pearls inside. Some say she’d made a pact with the sea serpent that controlled the waves to do this. Ada, on the other hand, just knew how to tell the age of things in the sea. A young clam, after all, hasn’t had the time to make a big beautiful pearl.

Most of what she did that the villagers considered foolish, dangerous, or suspicious, Ada simply considered common sense. She didn’t rely on anyone else, so she had to do things differently. While this began by her own choice, it began to feel more like a necessity the more the villagers would look at her with weary eyes. The only one she could talk to was Mamra, one of the oldest women in the village. Mamra had known Ada’s mother when she was a child. She always said Ada was as stubborn as her mother and as wild as her father. They didn’t talk much about her parents, even though Ada sometimes wished they did. Mamra wasn’t going to live forever, though. Whenever Mamra’s time came, Ada knew that would be the last time she’d go to the village. Then she would be entirely on her own.

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