Short Story

“The Bridge”

There exists a bridge not more than a mile down the road. I’ve crossed it almost every day of my life, traveling from my home to the wide and hostile world that I’ve learned to mistrust. It has become my portal to the world; a portal which has been breached for many years now, its magical protection siphoned by the very malicious forces which it had for so long stood vigil against. Now it is little more than a shell of it’s old self. No feeling of mystic wonder touches my cold soul as I cross it, not anymore at least.
I remember as a child how magical that bridge was. I would sit for hours watching the fish below me swim through the clear waters of the creek the bridge did daily defy. Trees in bloom would hold their branches across the expanse of water, attempting each successive year to finally reach out and touch their brethren, hoping for that moment when finally, their branches would become intwined and form physically a manifestation of that inseparable bond which all living things share.
God, how I wish I could join in that embrace. How I wish that my own soul could bond with the world… to be alone no more, but rather to be part of the whole collection. Part of the throbbing world source… is it possible though? Is it possible that I might somehow be able to connect with the world? How can I? How can anyone? We have formed a barrier between ourselves and the world; a barrier so formidable that even the question itself now looms: Is man natural?
Pushing myself out and away from my usual chair, I engaged that burdensome vessel in which I’ve felt so very trapped within lately, as I slowly made my way through the house that I alone occupied. It was originally my Father’s house, one which I had inherited in his absence. He had built it himself many years ago, when I myself was still awaiting this life. Two stories tall, with carved beams fitted together and pegged in the traditional way, it was my final front; the bastion from which I had kept the world at bay.
Grasping the well-worn railing, I let my hand slide down it’s aged wood as I made my way into the foyer. My body ached with each jarring step. It had become intolerable, this decaying mound of flesh which contained me; this marionette with which I toyed daily. Slowly I gained in my descent.
My Father always did like grand entrances, and this entrance harbored no exemptions from his taste. Panels of wainscoting rimmed in finely worked trim ringed the walls, accented with a rich green french floral paper; its fine hues somewhat faded from several dusty, neglectful years. “What a mess…” I said to myself as I searched the clutter topping my hall secretary looking for my pack of cigarettes. Papers fell as I rummaged, littering the once-fine, but now splintered, wooden floor.
As I continued my search, I drew open one of the smaller drawers. At it’s release from the confines of the desk, a hint of gold flashed at me; revealing the location of my Mother’s locket, its worn surface silently beckoning to me. Slowly, I picked it up, my hands aching from their arthritis as I tried to hold it.
“We will always be here for you Edgar; always.” That’s what she had told me when it had been given to me. Her photo still sat smiling across at my Fathers when you opened it, their faces joined now as I thumbed the once-intricate carving on the casing. Gold, like flesh, is soft, and want to lose its warmth as quickly as it had been gained.                      Within weeks of my receiving the accursed thing, she had caught a sickness. Her sickness came with a cold embrace, the origin of it’s touch a mystery. It acted with a vigor that, before I knew it, had left my Father and I alone, bitter, and lost. Now my Father has gone too.
I tossed the locket back into it’s drawer. Continuing my search, I found the cigarettes nestled in yet another drawer next to my checkbook, a cheap Bic lighter tucked into the pack. “All set.” I said to the air. Grabbing my hat and coat, I made my way through the entranceway.
It was a miserable day. Overcast and wet, with a cold breeze; my favorite. Lighting my cigarette, I tucked the pack back into one of my coat’s many pockets, the coarse wool feeling good against my cold and wrinkled skin. Taking a deep draw, I exhaled the deadly plume to the world, a testament of my faith in a man’s ability and right to waste his body in front of his neighbors, god, and all of nature. Decidedly, death tastes best in the AM.
Looking about myself with a general air of satisfaction I saw that none of my neighbors had dared to face this miserable day. “Good.” Thought I. Taking my time, I drew again, and again from that glowing death-stick, exhaling each time brought a simple pleasure that very little else could. It’s as if, each death-defying breath somehow highlighted that fact that I was alive, if only for the moment. Finishing my smoking, I tugged on my woolen cap, and began my daily walk to the bridge.
“It’s good to have a routine.” Someone told me once during a late-night bar session concerning depression and old age. So now, a “routine”, I have. It hasn’t helped; rather, it has served as a ridiculous highlight on the absurdity that was now, and had been for a while, my life. During yet another session at the bar, some other person told me that I should “take it easy, and enjoy retirement”, or at the very least, “not be so serious”. How easily can this life be taken when each meal is a waste, and every breath an offense to the natural world?
Life is cold, detached, and Lonely. Coming up on the first fork, I turned left. The gravel grated with each step against the rubber soles of my shoes. Despite the weather, the grass seemed especially perky and green today, I noticed as I walked. The trees also seemed special today, especially the perky dogwoods, and even the “soul sucking” pines, as my younger cousin had once described them. Sure, they may seem to be somewhat “soul sucking”, but only because they want so badly to connect with you; to draw you in an embrace and hold you forever. Truer love never existed beyond the groves of pine trees.
“Soul sucking…” I muttered quietly to myself… Such is the attitude of people anymore. People profess to want love: to want a connection. They search their whole lives for that connection, sometimes never even coming close, but if they encounter anything or anyone who truly desires them; that is who they detest the most. I myself had searched throughout the entirety of my own life, yet never found purchase on any person whom I had ever had the ill-fortune to have met. “I suppose they love to hate.” I said halfheartedly to myself.
Coming upon the second fork, this time I turned right. The bridge was close now. As perky as the vegetation was, I couldn’t raise my own spirit. It had burrowed deeply into my chest many years ago seeking the warmth of a heart that had slowly grown colder and colder. I shouldered my coat against the wind as I walked. Here and there I noticed the sun trying to peek through the clouds. It fought them, struggled to surface. Too bad there was no room. It’s as if the sun, in all its power and glory, was burdened by its relative position; unable to reach through and touch those whom it nurtured due to its natural and essential distance. While it was always present, it could merely watch its children shiver as they mourned the loss of its bathing warmth due to the whimsical presence of a few thin sheets of cloud.
The bridge appeared like a specter as I turned the final corner, its cold concrete and metal railing greeting me distantly. As I neared it, I felt strange; as if I were watching myself walk. Watching myself as I crossed its gravelly surface, as I passed over its rusted joints.
Presently, I found myself staring across the expanse it crossed, gazing deeply into the green waters it spanned. The reflection of the trees shown dimly through the mirrored sheen of the water, my own reflection merely a dark blot on its surface. As I watched, the highest branches waved in the wind. I felt compelled. Perhaps all was not lost; perhaps I could rejoin those lost souls and become one with the earth on my own terms yet.
My mind raced and them calmed as the gently undulating surface beckoned me. Careful not to drop anything, I took off my jacket, folding it neatly so as to begin a stack on the railing. Next, I took off my shirt, followed by my shoes and socks. Let he or she, or whatever shall come passing by next have them; they cannot serve me any longer; cannot confine me in their stylistic and stifling embrace.
The wind bit at my bare skin, as I stood there in my natural glory, raising at once both sections of my wrinkled and taut skin in little goosebumps. Directly beneath me lay the remnants of the old bridge, washed away many years ago in a flood caused by the building of a dam downstream. The one I stood on was much higher: Hopefully high enough.
Stacking the last of my clothing on the railing, I took a deep breath. The air was cold now. So very cold. It burned as I breathed it, granting life ever as it punished. I reciprocated, heating the air with my very being, before exhaling it into a cold and demanding world. Shivering, I climbed the railing. My fragile body completely exposed to that biting wind, I thought about the absence of warmth in my life and grimaced. Mother… Father… everyone… simply gone. “My turn.” I thought, as I managed to stand on the cold metal railing.
Slowly, I raised my hands to the air and waited for that final push from mother nature, which quickly manifested in a quick burst of air from behind. The water changed as I fell. The branches swirled, the water heaved, and the deep green grew black as I rushed to embrace it. It was as if the water itself reached up towards me and gripped me with an iron fist… I lost my breath, and felt the world slip away… everything went black, and I felt nothing…
Suddenly, I felt hands holding me, lifting me from the warmth that surrounded me; heard voices calling out to one another. I felt my body being dragged onto a beach of sorts, then being let down. I felt my hands against my torso; they felt smooth, smoother than they had ever felt before. Slowly I touched them together. The wrinkled skin which I had felt for so many years was gone, replaced by younger, stronger hands.
With great effort, I opened my eyes. It was as if I had opened them for the first time ever. Bright light blinded me. Quickly I closed them, tried to seek the accustomed darkness, but it was gone from my sight, replaced with a fleshy red hue. I felt myself being rolled onto my side, felt a hand slapping my back. Violently I felt my body convulse, then expand. I felt the first breath I had ever held as it entered my new lungs. For the first time, I felt alive.

Short Story

“A Rather Motley Assortment”

As I sit, typing these very words to which you are audience, overhead there looms in the not-too far distance a cloud of imperceptible emotions. A mass of condensed disgust, self-loathing, fear and hate enshrining all the joys and dreams of what may have been in an impenetrable, indecisive tomb. Such is the fate of all artists, or so I am told, although it seems more so everyday that I am simply void of the virtue of appreciation.

Somewhere, far beyond this mass of loathing, contained there within, but allowed a stroll in the yard of the cosmos from time to time, is a dream… but more than a simple fantasy confined to mere mortal vices, more even than words can contain. It is Life itself, or perhaps the will to live, and, as on nights such as these, is the covert savior for what is to come on this plane of existence.

So, as I sit, these words come to me by way of an intent to live, on pain of a slippage into the void to which we are daily subject, and owe the appreciation of all which we are inclined to know and enjoy.
The sun is nearly impossible to see through the heavy clouds, but light pervades the air so that you can almost taste it, like dew in the early morning of a warm summers day. I walk a path, to where I know not yet, but walk I do, into the unknown depths of the forest, and as I walk, a shadow flickers in the corner of my eye, my right eye; always my right. It follows me through glen and dale, beneath the willows branches, across the merry stream.

Follow it does, but it does not menace, so I fret it not, although it does wait, silently in the corners, watching always my movements, waiting. for what purpose it exists, or the nature of its intent I am not privy, however I can guess, and do, to some extent: at least on braver nights.

It is my shepherd, my school master. It beckons me to bravery, and reprimands me my stupidity. It is my two-edged sword, on which I know I shall suffer my last breath. Let us call it Death, for it rides always my right shoulder.

The trees are pristine, like something from an almost-famous painting that lacked the appeal of happier pictures, and was sentenced to a gloomy existence in the attic of some well-to-do nobody, adding only more so to that air of true, unappreciated beauty. They seem to have silver linings, although that could be simply an illusion do entirely to an incurable case of nearsightedness. They seem almost to blur past me as I walk, each glance at one a master’s finest portrait, gone instantly through the movements of time and space, never to reappear again.

I savor these gloomy pictures, and thoughts, and soon find myself quite alone in the midst of a gathering of very unusual characters: To my right, as always, is Death, but to the left… well, let us say simply that it was a motley crew of more or less undesirables. As names are unimportant excluding the purpose of story telling, let us assign them each a name based solely on impression.

First there was Gimpy; an older fellow, riddled with arthritis, quite the singer in his day, but it’s not his day anymore, at least that is what Death whispers to me. “In fact,” says he, “his next day is not but a fortnight away.”

Second there was Ginger, A bright fellow, with a dull look about him: Strong in his youth, weak in his mind. He didn’t seem to have much to say, although he jaw did seem a bit unhinged.

Third there was Nobody, and he was decidedly my favorite. He stood apart, but was easily the central figure of this motley assortment. He seemed bright, and strong in both body and mind, but something about him seemed off… Leaning to my right I whisper, “what is it about this Nobody that makes him such to me?”

Death chuckles, “He has but one issue, a damnable lack of ambition.” I suppose that is enough to ruin a man of talent.

Lastly in the crowd there was Leader, almost invisible from the rear of the crew, for he was half as tall and twice as thin as either Ginger or Nobody, but his voice was easily heard over the other three. “I do not like him,” said I to my right. “His mind is as his body: small and fragile, and yet his mouth comprises most of his face.”

Death, serious now, whispered back, “Like him or not, he will lead until others step forward, and the one willing to take another’s life into his hand is not the one worthy to care for it.”

As we stood, we watched this motley assortment in the forest as they made their merry dinner. Gimpy ate roots, while Ginger and Leader shared the freshly skinned rabbit stew. Nobody waited happily sucking grass until Leader and Ginger had eaten their fill, then merrily gathered the bones for their marrow. I imagine he said something along the lines of, “Good Din.” to Gimpy, who shrugged carelessly. I say imagined because I lacked the perceptive ear required to hear poor nobodies voice over Leaders loud tone.

This loud tone I am mentioning, was very busy giving commands. not necessarily the necessary sort either. Rather they were very silly in nature, mostly directed at Ginger. It seems as though they were given solely for the purpose of giving.

As we watch quietly, Ginger is busy pulling the roots of the weeds in the clearing and arranging the weeds in groups according to sizes of stems and the positioning of leaves. Nobody watches carefully what Ginger is doing, while Gimpy, who by this time has found himself a comfortable log, sits staring at the pair of them blankly.

What an odd sort, I think to myself. “I wonder,” say I to the nearest shadow, “which would I most likely be was I to be included in that motley assortment? Would I be silent old Gimpy: watching others as I wait for my next meal or conversation? or perhaps strong, stupid Ginger: working tirelessly to an end I neither know or care to question? I am quite sure I could never be Nobody, and as for Leader, I would never want to lord over another being.”

“There are always those who would rather do than think,” says Death, “those who would rather talk than feel, and those who would prefer others to do for them that which they must do for themselves. Whichever you would be, each is as poor a life as the other.”

I take these words to heart and, looking up, notice the sun has taken its leave, and the moon has claimed the sky once more. Followed by Death, and led by the moon’s luminescence I take my own leave of this motley assortment, and walking once more, find a crook in a nearby stream where a gnarly old willow tree has taken root.

Nestling myself in its rooted embrace, listening to the caressing sounds of a soft wind through the drooped branches mingling with the turbulent waters of a moderate sized stream, I find sleep, as the snakes slowly drop from the branches into the water.

(This is a short story that I wrote several years ago at about 1am, following a nightmare. I hope that you found it to be enjoyable. It is the oldest work of my own fiction that I have found any record of. Comment your thoughts!)

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More to come!

I cannot begin to express how very excited I am to be able to post a blog on my very own website, dedicated entirely to my own works of fiction! as a treat, my next post will be a short story which I wrote in 2012 following a nightmare! spooky huh?

Not really. While it is true that I woke from a nightmare and wrote the story detailing that dream, it wasn’t really scary in the traditional sense.

What made the dream into a nightmare was that it touched on my own feelings of doubt and my fear of failure at the time. It was a very visceral experience which I am proud to say I managed to capture.

So, be sure to check out my next blog post featuring one of my earlier short stories!

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Insight into “Because It Was Raining”

“Because It Was Raining” was inspired by real-life events which I had either participated in or witnessed. When I was writing it, I had to find a balance between reality and fiction, and that was not an easy balance to find…

On one side, I felt absolutely compelled to write what really happened: The drugs, the depression, the anger, and the violence. Many people have experienced loss due to these issues, and I felt that it was important for me to address them in order to accurately portray the feelings of a young person struggling with grief and feelings of abandonment.

On the other side, I knew that family members would read this story, and I knew that the people involved deserved anonymity due to their portrayal being completely fictionalized. I had to find a way to included all of the people and their impacts on the main character, and that required condensing them quite extensively. I hated to have to do that. Every character in this story has a compelling back story, as almost everyone does, however, I felt justified in their portrayal as they were perceived by the main character.

The balance was one of truth and artistic portrayal, of memoir and fictitious narrative, and I think that I managed it perfectly. I hope that everyone who reads this story will feel the same, and can find in it some meaning that can help them with some of the same issues that I myself have had to address.