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It was like a faery tale, one that her mother used to read her right before bedtime.  These things just didn’t happen in real life, right? Was this just a really long, really bizarre dream?

 

Evelyn was walking home from school one day when she saw her ex coming out of a fast food place right up ahead. Not only was he going to be face to face with her in seconds, but his latest squeeze was right in front of him, holding the door for him and laughing.  Her stomach fluttered—she had gym last period and looked like a mess—and without even thinking about it, she spun on her heels and turned down the alleyway to her left.  She was a senior in high school, a straight “A” student, inquisitive and not stupid. She knew young girls shouldn’t walk down alleyways by themselves, but it was broad daylight and she did *not* want to decide whether she had to talk to them or if she should pretend like she never saw them. His new girlfriend was a freshman in college, like he was, from one of his classes, and she was too pretty for Evelyn to deal with just right now. So the alley it was.

 

Simon wasn’t a terrible city to live in, so there wasn’t an immediate thought of being mugged or worse. Even still, she kept anxiously looking all around her.  It wasn’t very scary with the sun shining down brightly, but then she saw a homeless man sitting by a dark doorway, and her heart fluttered a little. Evelyn clutched her backpack with her hand, put her head down, and just went for it.

 

Apparently even with her eyes glued to the pathway in front of her, she was still prone to klutziness.  The tip of her shoe hit something, and she tripped and skidded to a stop a few steps away, trying to keep herself upright.

 

“Take it,” the homeless man slurred at her.

 

“Excuse me?” she gasped, whirling around to stare at him, wide-eyed. She took a step back, but he hadn’t moved an inch. He was clutching a bottle of alcohol, mostly drank. After staring at him for a few beats, Evelyn began to wonder if he was actually homeless. His clothes were a little dirty, like he had slept outside in them, but they weren’t bad, and his face only had a few days’ worth of growth on it. But everything about him screamed that he was drunk and hard on some kind of luck at the moment.

 

“Thassss,” he slurred, swinging his hand out to point at the ground in front of her. The bottle’s contents sloshed against the side. “Take it. Please.”  When Evelyn continued to stare at him, half horrified and half confused, he began to shout in desperate tones. “Take it! Take it!! For the love of God, please take it!”

 

“Okay, okay! Oh my God!” Evelyn bent down and snatched up the object that had almost caused her to fall and was turning this man to hysterics. “Fine. Wait…” Evelyn frowned at the book she now held. It was black, whether from the material it was bound in or from dirt and age, she wasn’t sure, but it was crumbling at the spine and the pages looked warped and yellowed.  “You want me to take this book?” she murmured, trailing off at the end. She thought, I need to get out of here.

 

“Take it! You have to get it away from me!”

 

“Okay, buddy, whatever you say!” Evelyn spun and took off once again, hurrying even faster this time. She was hoping no one heard him yelling and thought she was doing something to him. “Crazy man,” she muttered. “Who freaks out over a book?” But she reminded herself that he was drunk in the middle of the day and he probably had some kind of a mental disease. His demeanor was just off.

 

She was home in minutes after that, bursting through the door and bounding upstairs to her room before anyone could say anything to her. She just wanted to be alone for a bit, to think about Jeremy and that whore he left her for. Evelyn sighed. It wasn’t fair to call her that. Maybe she was a nice person. But that didn’t mean she had to like her or the situation.

 

She could feel herself start to tear up a bit—he had only called her to break it all off a week ago—so Evelyn threw herself on her bed and dropped the bookbag off the side, letting it thunk on the floor. That left her with her thoughts and the book, and so Evelyn opened the book to see what it was.

 

Nothing. The pages were mysteriously blank.

 

Frowning, she flipped through the whole book to no avail. All she found was, after starting over at the beginning again, two small numbers and a symbol printed at the bottom of the back of the first page.  37.

 

“What, no copyright date? I can’t believe that, with no title or words in general,” she muttered sarcastically to herself. Evelyn sighed and threw herself onto her back, letting the bed gently bounce her up and down for a moment. Figures. She almost ran into her ex, only to have a crazy possibly homeless man yell at her over an old, blank diary.

 

Her mother soon called her for dinner. They ate mostly in silence. Her father was working late again, and her mother didn’t have much to say. Then it was back up to her room for homework.

 

Math. It was the bane of her existence, she swore. Frustrated with the problems, Evelyn flipped open the blank book and scribbled,

 

“Dear diary, what is the answer to number 4 of my stupid math homework?”

 

Then she started doodling cats and clouds and trees on the bottom. Then she realized there was something on the page that she hadn’t put there.

 

42

 

Frowning, Evelyn stared at it for a long minute. It was right underneath what she had written. There was no way she hadn’t seen it before, was there? And what on Earth was with just random numbers in this book. Except…

 

Feeling a little giddy, Evelyn pulled her math book closer to her and stared at tricky number four.  “It can’t be,” she whispered. She grabbed the phone off of her night stand and called her best friend.

 

“Hey, girl, I can’t really talk right now…”

 

“No, wait, I just have a homework question really quick.”

 

“For real? Because that excuse doesn’t work anymore on my parents.”

 

“No, for real. Did you do math yet?”

 

“I’m almost done with it.”

 

“Did you get 42 for question 4?”

 

“Yeah. Why?”

 

“No, just double checking. Hey, what did you get for number 5?”

 

“113. I’m not giving you anymore answers,” she warned.

 

“No, no, just double checking. Again. Thanks! Seeyoutomorrowbye.”

 

Evelyn couldn’t hang up the phone faster.  Her eyes were locked on the book.  She snatched it and flipped to the next page.

 

“What is the answer to number 5 of my math homework?”

 

  1. Heart pounding, Evelyn started thinking she was losing it. But then, after a few seconds, ink appeared on the page. It started out very light and then filled in, as if it was bleeding through the page from underneath.

 

Call Chelsea and ask her

 

“Fucking shit,” Evelyn whispered. She thought she was going to faint.

 

“Evelyn!” Pounding on the door.

 

Evelyn jumped and gasped, almost falling off of the bed. “What?” she screamed.

 

Her mother paused and then opened the door. “What is wrong with you?” she snapped.

 

“Sorry. Sorry, mom. You just really scared me. I was…um…I was…really concentrating. It’s hard. The math. It’s hard.”

 

Her mother frowned at her for a while, but when she saw there was indeed books lying open on the bed, she shrugged and took the story in stride. “I have to go for a bit. Your father just called. He’s having trouble with the car again.”

 

Having caught her breath, Evelyn focused on her mother’s words. “Again? He really needs a new one. It breaks every other day.”

 

“Yeah, I know. Hopefully his bonus will come through without a hitch in a month or so.” Her mother sighed and closed the door, yelling behind her. “Call me or your aunt if you need anything.”

 

“Yep.”  Evelyn cast a sideglance at the book.  “Or maybe I will just ask the book.”

 

She thought deeply for a long time.

 

“Why did Jeremy leave me?”

 

The same amount of heart beats between her question and the answer.

 

You would not have sex with him

 

“Figures,” she muttered. But then she felt butterflies in her stomach. What was this thing?  She could ask. No, wait! Even better—

 

“What am I going to get on my test tomorrow?”

 

She looked at her watch this time. Exactly 33 seconds.

 

92 percent

 

“I can deal with that.” Because she was not going to study now.

 

“Are my mom and dad going to get a divorce?”

 

No

 

“Why not?”

 

Because they will need each other for the years to come

 

“Wow!” Evelyn stared at the book, her eyebrows arched into her hairline.  “Very deep, book.”

 

And so the rest of the night was spent with Evelyn scribbling in the book, into the wee hours of the night, until she fell asleep right beside it.  She had completely forgotten to ask it where it was from.

 

School dragged. She had tried to convince her parents to let her stay home, but they were fighting as usual and were too angry with each other to listen to her. After a five minute internal debate, she left the book tucked away in her bedside drawer. She barely talked to anyone, absorbed in her whirling thoughts and almost nauseating drowsiness.

 

When she got home, her mother was slamming drawers and stomping back and forth.  “What’s wrong?”

 

“It’s your father. Again. That piece of junk won’t start. Jesus Christ! It just never stops around here.”

 

“It’s okay, mom.”  She wondered if the book was sure they weren’t getting a divorce. “How about I go set my stuff upstairs and I will go with you this time.”

 

Her mother stopped and looked over in surprise at her daughter. “Okay, “she said, sounding less angry.  “Thanks, that would be nice.”

 

“Okay. Good,” Evelyn said with a smile.  She took the stairs by two, threw her stuff down, and she was ready to rush back out. Except…

 

With what she could only call a knot of dread in her stomach, Evelyn stared at the drawer. She ripped it open, grabbed the book and the pen she had been using last night, and then she rushed back down.

 

“Is that your homework? You’ve been doing so well in school this year,” her mother commented as they started down the road, sounding a little strained. Evelyn took that as her trying to sound nice and gave her a polite response, lying about the book.

 

Then a song came on that her mother loved, and she turned up the radio.

 

Evelyn’s mind churned. There were so many things she wanted to know.

 

“How many stars are in the sky?”

 

The answer wouldn’t fit in the book.  ‘Fuck,’ she mouthed.  Um….

 

“Will the sun explode before I die?”

 

 

“Will I ever see World War 3?”

 

 

Do Magic 8 balls really work?

 

 

Are ghosts real?

 

 

Evelyn took a deep breath. She would never have to sit awake at night and worry over not knowing ever again. She would never tell anyone about the book, of course. They would think she was crazy.

 

She looked down, ready to write something else. But there were words there before she could move the pen.

 

Are there not any real questions you have? Questions that are very important? Questions…that no one has the answer to?

 

Evelyn’s heart pounded. She forgot where she even was for a minute.

 

A question…perhaps…that has haunted you for a long time?

 

 

I can show you the answer. But you have to wish for it, first.

 

Was that what she was doing? Wishing for answers? She hoped she didn’t have only so many. But if she did…she should ask it. Now.

 

Hand shaking, Evelyn wrote, “Is there an afterlife?”

 

5 seconds…8 seconds…13 seconds…18 seconds…

 

Her mother gasped. “Evel—“

 

With the gasp, Evelyn’s head snapped up. The semi ran the red light and was coming 55 miles per hour right at her.

 

 

 

-AV

Evil Angel

Sleep used to be his only solace, and now he had nothing. Little Tommy stood outside, scraping a twig he had found into some wet dirt by the house. He didn’t know how to write anything yet, not even his name. He was supposed to start school in three months, and his father sneeringly said they would never take him if he was that stupid. Tommy tried to learn, but his mother was just too scattered to really teach him that well. So he scraped his twig back and forth, pretending that he was writing not just his name, but whole sentences that would tell the world exactly what he was feeling. They would be amazing sentences, full of big words and so intelligent even his horrible father wouldn’t understand. And then everyone would laugh at him for being stupid, and Tommy would laugh along.

The day was already hot and humid, and Tommy was feeling drowsy. His mother would be calling him soon, telling him to eat some lunch—leftovers—and then to take a nap. But he didn’t want a nap today. He hadn’t wanted one for at least a week now, because he was having dreams…and they weren’t the good kind.

“They’re called nightmares, little baby,” his mother had whispered to him one morning when he tearfully told her he had been scared in his dream. “Everyone gets them now and again, but I bet you won’t have anymore.” Tommy had opened his mouth to tell her more, but then there were heavy footsteps on the stairs. “Now shush, child, your daddy won’t want to hear none of this nonsense.” And that was the end of that.

But when it was finally bedtime again, he had no choice. He was exhausted from the day, and staying up late with his parents was never an option, especially not when his father started popping open more and more of those awful smelling cans, and so Tommy trudged upstairs. He took his time in the bathroom, for once finally paying a lot of careful attention to his teeth, taking a full five minutes to brush and rinse. He even started sticking that weird string between his teeth like he had seen his mommy doing sometimes, but he had to stop when blood filled his mouth. He hated that taste. He spat and rinsed with water, used the potty, and changed into his bed clothes as slowly as possible. But then it was time. The little boy stared at his bed distrustfully and then climbed in. His mother crept up, having heard the toilet flush and figuring he was ready to be tucked in.

“Quiet, now,” she whispered. She said the same thing every night. He barely even listened anymore. Her voice was like a little mouse, there but too quiet to really even notice. “Your daddy won’t like it if I’m up here too long, but let’s tuck you in nice and tight.” She tucked the sheets in under his body and made sure the tops were up to his chin. He didn’t have the heart to tell her that he loosened them the second she left. “You sleep good, little baby boy.”

He wouldn’t.

He didn’t.

The setting was his house. No one was home except Tommy…and something else. Tommy sat up in his bed, holding his breath. He couldn’t hear a thing, but he could feel it. It was just like when you were walking down the street and some stranger decided to stare you down for no reason. That weird twisting in your stomach that made you wonder if something bad was going to happen. Tommy flipped off his sheets, swung his legs over the side, and dropped to the floor. He marched down the stairs, no longer wondering what was awaiting him. He paused in the kitchen and stared up at the top cabinet above the old stovetop. Then he shuffled into the living room, his sleeping body tensing in anticipation. In his father’s rocking chair, ripped with age and stained with anger, something sat waiting for him. Tommy came around the corner and walked over to fully look it in the eyes. Dark hair that came in and out of existence. Black eyes with no whites around them. Pale, pale skin that reminded him of his grandpa when he died and laid in that long brown box. And red all around its eyes, red like the lipstick that his mother sometimes wore, red like the blood he had spit from his mouth when he dug the string stuff too far down, red like his father drew when he wanted to hurt someone, anyone. It looked sticky and dripped down from the bottoms of his eyes, smearing across his thin cheeks.

The first time, dream Tommy had screamed. He didn’t scream anymore when he saw it, because he somehow remembered that it got worse. The thing stared at him, silent. Then in one swift motion, the thing leaned forward, lifted a sword that was never there until that moment, and stabbed him right through the shoulder. And then the boy screamed, howling in pain as everything turned very, very bright.

Tommy didn’t feel like scraping fake sentences into the mud today. He hadn’t gone back to sleep after the dream last night, and he was more tired than usual. Today he just stood over the mud pit, blinking slowly and wondering if the world was really duller today or if he was falling asleep. Would that thing come to get him?

“Tommy, baby, come in here and eat something!” his mother called. Angela only spoke in normal tones during the day, when her baby daddy was away.

Tommy dragged his feet the whole way, feeling more queasy than hungry. Last he checked there was barely anything in the house, so he wondered what she had managed to throw together for a lunch for them. Probably not much; yesterday he heard his father comment how fat his mommy was getting.

As predicted, Angela had laid out two small plates, each with a modest salad of mostly lettuce and a few pieces of carrots and a bite or two of cheese. “It’s not much, baby, but we need to start cutting back a little,” she said with a sigh.

Tommy pushed around the lettuce, wondering if she had just gone out and picked rotting grass. It was clearly days old. “What’s the matter, honey? You seem so glum anymore.”

“’Member I told you…’bout those dreams?” Tommy murmured hesitantly. His mother frowned for a moment, thought, and then stared at him blankly.

“Uh, sure, hun… Are you having bad dreams?”

Tommy nodded his head, his eyes still glued downward to the plate. “Yeah…”

“Well, it will be okay, baby boy. They will go away. Everyone—“

“No.” Tommy shook his head, trying to fight back tears. “They keep comin’. The same one. Over and over ‘gain. I want it to go ‘way.”

“Oh, baby. What is it about?” Tommy stuttered his way through his dream, describing the thing as best as he could. Angela sighed and scooted her chair closer to her son’s. Putting her arm around his shoulders, she leaned in closely and whispered, “Listen, hun, I know this life isn’t the best. I know it’s not how a little boy should be raised.” She began to fight back tears of her own. “Sometimes it’s just hard, you know? Sometimes…well, sometimes, when things are bad or scary and I don’t know how much longer I can take it, well…I just close my eyes and say, this isn’t real. This isn’t real. This isn’t real. Do you think you can try that? You just tell yourself it isn’t real, and then it won’t be. Not right then, anyways.”

Tommy wasn’t sure about that, but he nodded his head and tried to take a bite to eat. He would try anything at this point.

Evening-time was bad. There were too many opened cans, and it all started too early. Tommy brushed his teeth and tried not to think about anything, especially tried to not think about why he had felt like he just had to tell his daddy about the thing they were watching on TV.

-No kidding, stupid! I’m sitting here watchin’ it, too!

Why hadn’t he stopped talking? Tommy splashed his face to hide the fact that he was crying, and he was extra gentle around the black skin.

As usual, after about an hour of lying awake and trying to tell himself that he could stay awake all night if he had to, Tommy fell asleep.

He woke up in his bed. The presence was there, but it really was just routine at this point. He threw his blankets off, slide off of his bed, and padded down the stairs. After all of this time, he didn’t even try to be quiet. He knew nothing else would happen other than what was to happen.

But maybe he could stop it this time.

He paused in the kitchen and stared at the cupboard and then continued his nightly trek into the living room. Around to face the chair…and there was the thing. The red blood-paint was darker this time and looked thicker. Tommy was ready. He stared right into its flat, dead eyes, and he closed his eyes and said,

“This isn’t real. This isn’t real. This isn’t real.”

Even though he wasn’t watching, the pain came, just like always. Tommy started howling…

The next morning, he could barely pick up his feet. His shoulder, in sympathy of his dream shoulder, had ached and felt funny all night. Tommy turned around to throw his blankets up around the pillows in some semblance of a made bed. And that’s when he saw it.

A tiny red circle right below his pillow on the dirty mattress. Tommy stared at it for a long time, swallowed, and hurried into the bathroom. A quick examination of his shoulder in the mirror didn’t reveal anything, though. The pain stayed with him all day, dull and throbbing.

Tommy huddled outside all day, too numb and tired to do anything. And then his father was home early. Too early. There were slamming doors and shouting. He tried to stay out of it, but his father didn’t need any encouragement tonight. Both he and his mommy were shoved around and slapped. It didn’t take long for mommy to stop yelling, There are no other jobs ‘round here!

Tommy decided going to sleep early was better than dealing with this any longer. At least the dream left after a while. Bitterly, Tommy wondered why his father couldn’t go away, too. His mommy could take care of him all on her own. Glaring into the bathroom mirror as he scrubbed his teeth, Tommy felt more anger than sadness for the first time.

Sleep overcame him quickly, soothing his pain. Dream swooped down afterward, unlocking Tommy’s future with a twisted, ancient key. Tommy awoke and sat up. He flipped his blankets off and slid off of his bed before hurrying down the stairs. This time, he stared at the cupboards for a long time. All was quiet. Then, the pattern churned. No thinking… Tommy slid a chair over against the old stovetop so he could climb up on top of it. His little hand found the cold metal that he vaguely remembered seeing there.

It was almost too heavy, but he knew this wasn’t real. Tommy dragged it into the living room where he rounded the corner and came face to face with the thing. It stared at him, no emotion, just void, horrid eyes. Tommy managed to raise the gun. Remembering his mommy doing it once, one time when she said she was all done with this damn shit, he pulled the piece back at the top until it clicked. Then it was easy to pull the trigger.

This isn’t real; this isn’t real; this isn’t real.

Bang!

Tommy’s eyes shot open. His back hurt; his head hurt…everything hurt this time. Immediately his mommy was standing over him, her face a little blurry but he could see the worry.

“It’s okay, hunny. It will be okay, I promise,” she whispered frantically. She sounded tearful.

Sirens started screaming in the distance.

This is more of a short FYI than a blog or even a review, but one of my good friends recently brought it to my attention that there is a free podcast that you can listen to or download from iTunes called “History of the English Language.” It is by a guy named Kevin Stroud, and from what all I’ve listened to so far, it is pretty awesome. There are 43 segments currently, ranging from around 20 minutes to over an hour, with the topics ranging from the early Indo-European tribes to Germanic mythology to history of the alphabet and lots of other things in the range of the early English language. Go give it a try…it’s free, so you have nothing to lose! :)

-AV

It seems like lately I have trouble finding time to read a long novel, so I’ve started branching out into an area I used to think that I hated: short stories. I used the idea of them, from reading them to writing them. But I decided to give them a try, what with the time issues and everything, and not only have I enjoyed writing short stories, but I have come across some really awesome anthologies. My latest find is called “The New Lovecraft Circle” edited by Robert M. Price with a preface by Ramsey Campbell.

The title pretty much tells you what kind of stories are inside: these are writers inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. I believe there are 25 short stories in all, all written in the same genre and style as Lovecraft. I have read several so far and have not been disappointed by any yet. I thoroughly enjoy Lovecraft’s stories, the psychological thriller/horror aspect, the magical realism/fantasy aspect, and the way he incorporates monsters or aliens in a way that doesn’t seem clichéd or lame. As I have mentioned in other blogs, I enjoy suspense and horror, but gore and blood are not particularly my thing, and so far none of these stories have any gore or blood in them. If you have never read Lovecraft, I would compare it to the macabre line that Edgar Allan Poe falls into. There is a twistedness to it, but nothing over the top.

So if you’re looking for some great, quick reads, check out this book. Some titles to look forward to are:
“The Plain of Sound” by Ramsey Campbell
“Demoniacal” by David Sutton
“The Last Supper” by Donald R. Burleson
“The Kiss of Bugg-Shash” by Brian Lumley
“The Keeper of the Flame” by Gary Myers
“The Horror on the Beach” by Alan Dean Foster

-AV

The beautiful woman hummed to herself as she took a walk through the peaceful suburban landscape that she called home. The day was warm and sunny with just a slight breeze now and again, just how she liked it—and just how it always was.

Kelli waved to one of her friendly neighbors. She just couldn’t ask for more. She was in her prime, physically fit and attractive, married to a loving husband, financially well-off, and mother to two wonderful children. Of course she had one boy and one girl. That was always how she thought it should be.

I love you, Kelli. I just miss you so much. Why can’t you come back to me?

Well…there was one thing she would change about her seemingly flawless life: The Voice. The Voice came to her sometimes. It was always a man’s voice. At first she thought it was her husband’s voice, reverberating from the depths of her being to make her feel less lonely and less afraid, but the blurry, far-away quality made it just enough different that she was at times doubtful that was in fact whose it was. She couldn’t quite remember when it was that The Voice started. It seemed like it had always been there, like a repeated dream that hovered on the borders of her consciousness.

No one knew about The Voice. It was Kelli’s one tiny little secret. If she told anyone, they would think she was insane, and in Kelli’s perfect world, there just wasn’t an option to be insane. And what would they ask first? “Well, what does it say?”

What it said was at times sweet, at times churning confusion. There was always the reassurance of love. But hauntingly, it also told her of another world, one she didn’t know but sounded frighteningly familiar, a moment of hazy déjà vu and jamais vu.

Joseph, Andrew, and Elliot have been really busy, but they promised to come and see you soon. I told them that they must…well, let’s not talk about that now, huh? *a sound that was half sigh, half laugh* Not that it matters, though, right? That’s what they tell me, anyways. How are you doing?

She was doing just perfectly, thank you. She couldn’t wait to get back home; her Lily wanted to go dress shopping before dinner. How she loved to go dress shopping! When she was younger, Kelli would set up a store for her little dolls and pretend she was clothes shopping with her daughters; now she was able to go real shopping with her little girl.

As Kelli stepped into the door, her beaming husband greeted her with a kiss. “You girls enjoy your time; don’t worry about us. I will get dinner for me and ….”

Kelli frowned. Did he say their son’s name? Had her ears just given out at the last second? She had heard it, right?

“Honey, are you all right?” Her husband frowned in gentle concern at the confused look on her face.

“Oh, yes, thank you.” Kelli carefully smoothed out the wrinkles on her face. “We won’t be late, I promise!” she said.

“Please, take your time. I know how hard it is to make time to spend with Drew.”

Her handsome husband smiled lovingly at her, but Kelli felt sick to her stomach. She had heard him incorrectly, was all. She was letting The Voice twist into her husband’s words. There was no reason to panic.

Kelli braced herself and forced the anxiety away. She was through with anxiety. In her younger years, all through her schooling, she had been a mess. Overweight, shy, anxious, depressed. She had dated this one guy, who had loved her so much that she just couldn’t say no when he asked her to marry him… No, wait, that wasn’t right. Slight beads of perspiration broke out on Kelli’s forehead and temples. She did say no, because she knew what would happen if she said yes. She had dreamed it, and she just knew it was true. They would have a small house that was cold and worn; they would try for the little girl she wanted, but they would always end up with boys, boys who were rough and dirty and had no time for their mother (unlike … unlike Sonny. That was his name, right?), and he would always have a slightly-higher-than-minimum-wage job that kept the bills paid but forced her to pick up part time jobs here and there. That wasn’t what she wanted. She *had* said no, and now she had the life she dreamed of for so long.

Kelli wiped the back of hand across her forehead and forced a smile. Then she pushed away all of the negative thoughts to the back of her mind and went to find Lily.

“Oh, honey, before you go, here’s the key.”

“The…key?”

“Yeah. You know…the key to the door.” Her husband stretched out his hand, holding out a key to her. It looked like an old key, silver that was tarnished with brittle teeth that looked like actual teeth. The top was loops and swirls, very ornate. As she stared at it, it started to look like a clock of some sorts.

“But…whatever is it for?” she whispered, refusing to take it even as he came closer and closer.

“The door, silly.” His smile never wavered, but the room seemed darker.

“I have a key to the front door, darling,” she said, clearing her throat lightly and trying to smile.

“Not that door.” His head tilted to indicate something to her left. Kelli’s eyes followed his nod. There was a door there, very out of place compared to the rest of her carefully planned out and decorated house. It was off-centered in the wall that divided the kitchen from the dining area. Like the key, it appeared old; unlike the key, it didn’t seem like it had ever been used.

“Aren’t you going to open it?” her husband asked, putting the key right in front of her face.

“No,” Kelli whispered, but then she said it more loudly as she quickly backed away. “No, no, you keep it. I don’t want it.” Then she turned and ran to Lily’s room.

A week went by, and The Voice was getting more and more frequent, and more and more disconcerting. She did not care about The Voice’s problems, but she was helpless to completely block the words from her mind. How did no one else hear it? Or did they, but they were all silenced by their fear of being condemned as insane?

The boys are all here, honey. I wish you could just open your eyes and say hello. One last time? Please? *muffled sobs*

Frustrated, Kelli threw down the dish-towel and cried, “I don’t care; I don’t care; I don’t care!”

Two days passed before The Voice said something very different from the things it had said before.

I just don’t know what to do. No, that’s a lie. I do know what to do. I just don’t know if I have the strength to carry through with it. Would you forgive me? Your mother said I would be setting you free. I hope she’s correct. You know, she’s become a devout Christian since it happened. She tells me how you will dance in Heaven.

She didn’t know this other mother, but her mother was always a devout Christian. She never drank or smoked or swore. She taught her daughter how to be a real lady, even if it took years for her to reach the level of perfection she reveled in now. Her mother was only ten minutes away, the perfect distance to not be suffocating but to be helpful as a baby-sitter when needed. Kelli tried to focus on the date she and…her husband were going on later. They were going to her favorite restaurant, and she had a brand new dress to wear. Afterward, they were going to dance to her favorite record and drink some expensive wine. Perfect.

It was only another day before The Voice brought everything crashing down. Kelli was eating dinner with her beautiful family when she heard it. At first, she pushed the sound away by forcing herself to listen to her Lily go on about her school day. But soon the words coming out her mouth made no sense. Kelli bit her lip, and her concentration was broken long enough to allow The Voice access.

I pray for you every day, and I will never stop praying for you. I love you so, so much Melly.

Kelli’s stomach tightened into a knot. Her name was Melanie. How did she forget that?

I will take care of the boys. You don’t have to worry.

To her horror, Lily’s face began to drip before Kelli’s gaze. Drip, drip, dripping down until it was unrecognizable.

I’m so sorry. I hope I will see you again someday. My love, my life. What will I do without you?

Heart pounding, Kelli’s lungs expanded and contracted in double time to keep up with her ragged breaths. Her husband’s smile turned malicious. Her golden son picked up his knife to cut his meat, but suddenly he gripped it in a threatening manner. The tip pointed toward her throat.

The doctors say it is time. I didn’t know if I should stay or go, but I promised you once that I would be there until the end. I won’t let you down. Here, I will hold your hand even though I know you can’t feel it. They tell me you can’t hear me or feel me, and for a while I refused to believe it. Now it’s time to stop lying to myself. Goodbye, Melly… Oh, my God, goodbye.

Kelli’s eyes filled with tears. Oh, no. She remembered now.

Raw, unadulterated terror slammed into her. No, no, no! No, she remembered! Melanie made to leap from her seat, but her dissolving family crowded around her and held her down. She couldn’t feel her limbs, couldn’t move anything. Even her breaths were taken away, made not her own. No! She tried to scream, tried to cry, tried to yell, but she could not make a sound.

No—

******************

{Here is the origins of this short story:

Inspired by a video on youtube that went through 10 theories about why we may not exist, which I posted on facebook and which sparked a few discussions with friends. I combined the idea of ‘what if this is all a dream or a simulation that we’re living? How could we tell the difference because our only reality is what we experience through the five senses and how our brains interpret it’ with the idea/theory that right before we die, we relive our lives or live out the rest of our lives. In this case, Melanie (or Kelli) is in a coma for an unknown reason. What if her mind was still alive enough to carry out her near-death life she always dreamed of?}

I could hear the shouting again. A man’s voice and a woman’s voice, one shrill, one deeper, both loud and angry. Furious. Demanding. It made me sick to my stomach.

I slowly walked over to my window and leaned my head against the frame. It was a large window, one with a seat attached to it so I could sit and read, but I was only kneeling on it right now. I stared across the small yard that separated the house I lived in and the neighbor’s. Their name was McKey. The daughter was looking out of her window and right at me.

We both listened to the screaming, so loud it transcended all of the walls and ceilings and grass that separated us. She was pretty. I wondered if she thought I was handsome. I wondered what she thought of all of that yelling and cursing. As if she read my thoughts, she said something. I couldn’t hear her, because she wasn’t as loud as the shouting was, and the windows were closed.

“What?” I said, hoping she could hear me or else read my lips.

She mouthed the words again, but I couldn’t read them. I could never read lips. Suddenly the yelling stopped, and she turned and walked away. A woman appeared in front of her window and with one look at me, abruptly pulled the shades closed.

I wondered if she was able to sleep at night.

It was a week before the fighting started anew. Perhaps my friend is back, I thought as I hurried to my window. And there she was, radiant and gleaming in the sunlight. We stared at each other, and before I could decide if I should try to talk to her again, she mouthed more words that I couldn’t hear or read. But this time, I thought more quickly and I grabbed some printer paper and a pen. As big and dark as I could, I wrote, “What are you saying?”

There was a pause, and then I could see her also pick up a piece of printer paper and a pen like mine, and the words appeared on the paper: I will be a bird someday and fly away.

Wouldn’t that be nice? I mused. No more screaming. No more cursing. No more anger that maybe had something to do with you or maybe didn’t, but either way it was a part of you in a way that you would never forget.

Only two days passed before I could hear it again. Why did it have to be so loud now? Before it had been stony silences that had been so noticeable because of the awkward aura around both participants. Now the word “divorce” was being whispered in the wind, but I ignored it. Nothing I could do about it, was there? Just close my eyes and forget it.

But she wouldn’t leave it alone. She was across from me again, staring into my window and into my eyes. She mouthed the words, and this time, since I knew what they were, I could read them plain as day: I will be a bird someday and fly away.

I decided to mouth some words back. I needed to be rescued. “I can’t deal with this anymore,” I whispered, knowing she would know the words. She opened her window slowly, so slowly that I could see every movement, could predict the next movement.

I took the key out of my pocket that my grandmother had given me. My grandfather had built this window, and it had a strange lock on it. My mother didn’t think a window so low to the ground should be able to be opened like a normal window, in case someone slipped in unnoticed. So he built in a lock so it was more like a door than a window. I possessed the only key, and so I slipped it in and turned it until I heard the click.

When I looked back up, she was closer than I expected. Her hair glistened black, so black it was almost iridescent. Her eyes… As she drew ever closer, I became a bit frightened. Her eyes were almost coal black, but shiny and full of intelligence. Come here, come here…

Her hair was wrong. What was wrong with me?

And then my door swung open. I hadn’t noticed that the screaming had stopped, because I would have been prepared otherwise. Once the words stop, one storms off and the other feels like they should check on me. But all that happens is that they shift awkwardly from foot to foot until I quietly ask if they could leave. But now the door was open and my mother stood there, mouth agape.

“Charles!” she screamed for my father. Taken aback by the surprise and fear in her voice, this time my father came barreling toward her.

“Is that a raven?” he sputtered. “How did you get it in here?”

She was heavy, her talons digging into my flesh until beads of blood welted up. She was free, at least. Perhaps someday I would fly away, too.

I know the feeling: you’re watching a really awesome movie with someone, but this someone just can’t let anything go. This doesn’t make sense; they can’t do that in real life; there’s no way they could have made that jump; on and on and on. My parents are like that sometimes, and it does get annoying. While I sometimes find myself in the mood to rip apart the more imaginative parts of a movie, there is one thing that I just cannot “suspend my disbelief” for at all–movies that rely on time travel and time travel paradoxes to further their plot. I don’t necessarily mean movies that have universes where time travel is possible or where a character just goes back and forth in time, necessarily. I mean that ones that need that as a focal point for the plot to even exist. If you still don’t know what I mean, think back to or go and watch the original 1984 (I believe) “The Terminator” movie with good old Arnold.

I watched it for the first time last night. My husband insisted that I needed to see it. Overall, it really didn’t do much for me, but that’s only because I really like character development and character interaction and the psychological aspects of it, whereas this movie was more of a gun people down and blow things up kind of movie. Which is fine. It was good in that aspect. And I did like the overall idea of the plot. However, these time paradoxes they create never make sense when I start thinking about them. This is when whoever I’m talking to in person shouts, “It’s a movie! Stop thinking about it!” But really…in most movies, most things make sense. Other than, you know, in horror movies how people decide to check out eerie noises in the basement by themselves. That doesn’t make sense. But for the most part…the characters work and react in a logical semblance of a world similar to ours.

In case you haven’t guessed, there will be many spoilers for this movie so I can demonstrate my point. Don’t read more if you don’t want to know.

So I figured out way before Sarah and Kyle slept together that Kyle was going to end up being John’s father. It wasn’t that subtle, I don’t think. So I started thinking about this way before it was even an issue in the movie. John said his father died before the war. Kyle ends up dying before the war so he can save Sarah. Fine. However, if Kyle is John’s father…well, how does John end up befriending Kyle in order to send Kyle back to save Sarah? In the first line of events, no Terminator was after Sarah, so clearly Kyle wasn’t the original father. However, John apparently hears these recordings that Sarah makes so he knows who to send back to save Sarah (Kyle states that he volunteered, but it sounds like John pretty much prepped him for it along the way). So…how does that work? For Kyle to be the original dad, he has to exist in Sarah’s timeline without being put there. But if he’s part of the original timeline, he can’t die and then be born later so John can befriend him. So…huh?

Also, my husband explained to me the other movies, thinking he was going to work it out. So we apparently find out later that Skynet was invented from the chip that someone took from the Terminator’s head in the first movie. So, wait, what? So…how was it invented in the first timeline? If it was invented another way, then it being invented in the second timeline from the Terminator chip changes everything. Nothing would happen the way it did in the first timeline. At the very least, the timing would be different from here on out than from what they explained was the timing in the first one. So confusing.

But do you see the inevitable time paradox loop that emerges? In order for everything to stay the same: Skynet has to be invented from the chip, which means that the Terminator has to sent back in time, which means that Kyle has to be born after the war so he can go back in time so that the Terminator will be killed the same way, which means that Kyle was killed and then reborn, which just keeps looping and looping and looping up and around itself until you get irritated because no sense was had from any of this!

Which is why I hate and cannot watch time paradox/time travel movies. I’m a very imaginative person, but I’m also fairly logical, and this idea just doesn’t not mesh into my logical brain. The only way time travel in that aspect works is if everything happens, someone gets sent back in time to fix something or whatever, they change or do what they need to do, but then time “rehappens” in a different way. The storyline would make sense to me (and maybe it says something like this in a later movie and my husband didn’t mention it?) if there is no loop. Skynet turns out differently; Kyle is never present in the future; John looks different because his father changed; ect. Maybe it does. But the idea of the recordings make it sound like it doesn’t happen that way. Leave the loops alone.

-AV

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