Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In the Late Morning

I said there'd be at least one more short story this month, and I was right.  Though this isn't the one I planned on.  This one just sort of came out over coffee this morning.

Be sure to check out all of the stories on the site by clicking on the complete list.  I'm still waiting on final approval to post my Chain Story as well. 

Be sure to check out my recent collections available on the Kindle. 

            She smiled and added a deep love and care to her voice, "I love you."
            I smiled back and laughed.  "I love you, too."
            "What's so funny?"
            "I'm not laughing because of anything funny."
            "What then?"
            "It's just been a while, is all."
            I ran my hand across her cheek and down her neck, pulling the sheet down to her waist and pressing her bare chest up against mine.  Then, I kissed her quickly, trying to catch her before she clenched her lips together in an effort to keep her morning breath in.
            She shooed me away.  "I haven't brushed my teeth yet."
            "I don't care.  Love isn't just blind, it doesn't have a sense of smell or taste, either.  Doubly so before it's gotten out of bed."
            She giggled and covered her face over with the sheet.  "Don't look at me.  I'm not cute in the mornings."
            "Says who?"
            "Says me.  I'm not showered, I'm exhausted, I've got bags under my eyes, I'm just...ugh."
            "You are a beautiful, shimmering angel."
            "You're really laying it on thick today, aren't you?"
            "Isn't it my right as a doting boyfriend?"
            She smiled again, this time unconsciously flashing her teeth and brightening her almond colored eyes with love.
            "I love how smiley you are this morning."
            "Aren't I always this full of sunshine?"
            "Only when we sleep in."
            "Ha."  She laughed. "Maybe."
            The cool gray of a clouded morning slowly gave way to the orange and yellow of the sun peeking out from the clouds, bright and fresh as though the clouds had let the sun sleep in, too.
            We both laid there, considering each other deeply.  I wondered what this morning would have been like without her at my side and decided I didn't like any of the options my imagination came up with.
            "What did you mean before?"
            "What did I mean before about what?"
            "About it being a while. What was that supposed to mean?"
            "Oh, I don't know.  Nothing?"
            "Don't do that."
            "I don't know..."  I knew.  I just didn't have the right words.  As people often do, I knew exactly what I meant and how I felt, but felt too embarrassed and foolish to say it out loud.  Somehow, the feeling had crystallized in my brain and it was beyond words, and now that I tried forming words to describe it, I was failing miserable.  It's virtually impossible to describe a feeling that complex.  Maybe things would be easier if we could just touch each other and share the exact sentiment we're trying to get across.  Maybe one day humans will find it necessary for survival, but I didn't have that luxury. 
            "Well, you know.  Things haven't been rainbows and lollypops all the time.  And we've both been working ourselves stupid.  And...  you know...  I can be an insensitive, insufferable son of a bitch..."
            "I know.  You've been better lately, though."
            "It's because for a while it didn't feel like you meant it when you said, 'I love you.'"
            "I wouldn't say it if I didn't mean it."
            "Deep down I suppose I knew you meant it, but it was like the scattered embers of a once raging fire."
            "Were you writing bad poetry in your dreams?"
            I forced a smile and carried on.  "I felt like I was losing you.  And I've been trying.  I've been trying to be sweeter, to make less of a big deal of things, trying to recapture that newness of our love.  I'm trying to fix, at least in small ways, the things I know bug you the most."
            She grew serious, laying there, watching me talk with a measure of solemnity carefully added to her features.
            "When you said it this morning, you had that warmth, that fire back in your voice.  I could feel it, in my heart, as a thrill up my spine, and it all shook out as a smile on my face.  It felt like the first time in a long time that you meant it like you used to, and it was the best thing I could ask for."
            She took a moment to think over what she was going to say, then she leaned in close, whispering into my ear, adding to those excited chills of love, "Of course I love you.  And sure, things were rough, but I love and care deeply about you.  And I'm not going anywhere."
            My excitement turned elsewhere.  She noticed and bit her lip coyly.
            "You are so effing adorable."
            She cocked an eyebrow and grinned crookedly, "You better believe it."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

GUEST STORY: The Man in the Box

We have another Guest Story from my brother, Jason Young.   These are excerpts from his second novel that read as short stories.  Be sure to check out all of the stories on the site, including Jason's by clicking on the complete list.  I'm still waiting on final approval to post my Chain Story as well.  I'll have another story this month also, to make up for last month.

Be sure to check out my recent collections available on the Kindle.  You can check out Jason's Kindle offerings here.

     I had a dream of a stone prison…
     I didn’t know where I was, because I could see the world outside myself. There was a transport that traveled an endless desert. It rolled across the golden sand with its deep iron tread. It lifted the sand and dropped it back onto itself like a water wheel. It would move as long as there was sand in the desert. I tried to point my focus to the burning sky, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t comprehend its dimensions. There was a pilot steering the craft in a straight line. I couldn’t be sure if the pilot was also the architect of the craft. All I know is that the pilot appeared the same as the distorted sky, and I couldn’t tell if it was a he or a she. I couldn’t even see if it was a human being, but my imagination told me that that was the only thing that it could be.
     The transport carried two heavy stone slabs, moored to the back with gilded chains. The stones were the shape of a box and they were held tightly together so that not even a single ray of light could pass through their divide.
     The transport moved on and on, and everything was the same so that there was no reason to differentiate one moment from the next. Every aspect of the world was a constant and because of its consistency it felt like death. After a long time, what felt like an eternity, the transport came to a stop.    
     The golden chains that were bored through the stone began to fall into the sand. As the chains fell, the stones were pulled apart, slowly grating across the transports metal surface. The sound was so loud, that the whole world began to shake and I couldn’t see anything clearly until the chains sat in piles in the sand and the stones came to a halt. I looked into the gap between the stones where there were shapes etched out of both sides in the exact dimensions of a man. In the recess of the stone was a man, finally liberated from the box. Though he was free from his prison, he was still held to the stone with a leather strap around his throat. He remained still and silent, but I could see his chest moving in and out and I wondered how he had survived inside the box for so long.
     I imagined what it would feel like to be trapped inside the box myself, the darkness, the isolation, the fear. the stones pressed so tight that I couldn’t fill my lungs with air. I imagined the torture of being buried alive, but this was somehow worse. I lost the will to live. I imagined an eternity of suffering, and wishing I could die. Praying for the release that is an iron maiden. No sight, no sound, the darkness. I wanted to call out to the man and tell him to break free. I could think of no better pleasure than to see the man stretch out his ancient arms, and hear the crack of his idle bones.
     But he didn’t move, and the chains pulled themselves back into the stone. And the stones came together. And the man was entombed in the stone again. And the transport went on until the desert ran out of sand. And I was the man. And I would do anything to die, anything to not exist, but I couldn’t, and the desert was endless.

Aegis’ Dream

     I dreamt of eternal night. I was trapped but I didn’t know where. I couldn’t hear a sound, and though I understood that I had a body, I had no control over it. The only part of me that was at liberty was my mind, which I used to put the fathoms of darkness behind me.
     The day came that I heard a sound, chains cutting into stone. And then there was light. Only then could I see that I was entombed between two great stones that were sitting upon a mechanized transport. I could feel my body for the first time, and the heat of the sun. I suddenly felt the fear of the stone prison. A fear that wasn’t possible until I understood the horror that I was forced to endure. I got off the transport and saw only scorched ground in every direction. A wind blew over the barren landscape and lifted the last of the deserts sand from the cracks in the surface. I went to the driver’s compartment, but there was no one to be found, and no sign that there ever was a driver. The unit was completely robotic. It had no steering wheel or pedals, just a vial lying on its side filled with a murky liquid. I took the vial in my hand, and I can’t explain how, but it told me that I would have to go on a journey. It told me that I would have to walk the desert until I grew old, the direction didn’t matter. I stepped away from the vehicle that had no driver, and I looked to the sky that had no clouds. I could see so far that the sky was ripped in half. On one side there were the nights dark stars. And on the other side, the night's adversary, the burning sun. When I started walking I was a young man and once I started I couldn’t stop, but I kept walking until I was old and approaching dark death. My feet were worn and calloused. My back was spindly and bent. I had a grey beard that reached the Earth, and my eyes were buried beneath my wrinkled skin. I held the vial still; my hand was swollen around it. I arrived at my destination. It was nowhere in particular, just the place my feet wouldn’t carry me beyond. I bend my weary back to the ground, and I poured the contents of the vial into a scar in the surface. The scar was bottomless, as if the entire universe lied directly beneath. By the time I lifted myself back up, I could see that all around me the land was covered with green life. The ground was soft, and it took the pain from my crooked toes, giving me the life to walk a little further. I walked into the forest until I came to a throne, and I knew that it was mine because I was the father of the forest. I sat down for the first time since my journey began, and the years melted from my face. I thought my youth was being returned to me. Through the trees I could see the sun reverse direction, and like a curtain it pulled the sky behind it. I was already a young man, but the stars kept passing over my head going the wrong direction. The sun dropped until it was dawn, and the stars dwindled until there was none left. I lied in my throne an infant, but the sky kept pulling itself back until it was a white nothing, and the throne was empty because the infant was never born, but the throne remained. And though I was a nothing, I could see the white light. And I would do anything to be born again.
     I would do anything to live.

Monday, September 06, 2010

My Cross To Bear

This is but a sample of this story.  The complete version is available in my print collection Man Against the Future.  From there, you can order signed copies, or buy it for the Kindle or the Nook.

            Things had been bad for a long time for everyone, not just me.  Everybody's got their own problems but I've got my own unique crosses to bear.  I don't like talking about them, though, because that's always liable to cause more trouble than it's worth and it pretty much always ends up with me and my girl getting run out of town.  Mostly though, we keep to ourselves.  We've got a room in the hotel right about the town saloon.  That's where we spend our time and take our meals.
            We don't talk much to strangers and other folk.  I work hard enough for the both of us to keep us out of trouble.  It's a rough life and plenty of hard work, but it's worth it because I love her so damned much, no matter what anybody says about people like her.
            Problems always start when folks get nosy, and nosy is how things got that warm night that started with a dusty twilight.
            "Welcome back, Mr. Remington," the saloonkeeper greeted me the same way every night.  It didn't vary to the point where I felt like it was part of the routine.
            "Howdy," I'd respond like a pre-programmed robot, and I'd just head up the stairs to my room to be with my Sylvia.
            But it was then, on this blistering hot, fateful night, that the saloonkeeper stopped me, offering me a drink he'd already poured.  "On the house, just hang about and chat with me for a few."
            "Hang about and chat?"
            "Well, you're always runnin' up to your room, barely sayin' hello-goodbye.  You're a guest here and I feel like the better I know you, the more I can make you feel at home while you're stayin' here."
            "That's awful nice of you," I accepted the drink, a dry rye whiskey, "but we're just quiet folk who like to keep to themselves.  Being able to do that makes it home enough."
            "Well, you know it's a small place and people get to talking."
            "I'm not one for much talking, Mr. Witwer."
            "I can see that.  Two months here and we've spoken more tonight than in that whole stretch of time."
            "I work hard and in the sun.  Most days I don't rightly feel like talkin' afterwards."
            "I hear that.  Most times I get home after a long night here and I just button up tight and don't want to say word one to nobody."
            "Mm-hmm."  I swigged my drink and was just about to head upstairs to my beloved Sylvia when he said the one thing that could turn my head back to him and his damn fool conversation.
            "Well, people been talking about your girl.  They been wondering if she's all right in the head.  It's mighty peculiar, not seein' her out of her room at all."
            I stopped and stared, unsure of what to say.  Invariably, it was this line of questioning that was the beginning of the end of my and Sylvia's time in a town, and as many times as I'd lived through it, I'd never come up with a right response.  "Is that what they say?"
            "People like to talk."
            "I suppose they do, don't they?  But nothing's wrong with her, thank you very much."
            "Well, I'm right sure there isn't anything wrong with her.  If'n you say so, I'm on your side."
            "Thank you for that, Mr. Witwer."
            "But if you want the talk to stop, you might want to bring her down to the social tonight."
            "The social?"  Everything in my gut was telling me that this would be an extraordinarily bad idea.
            "Every once in a while, maybe every three or four months or so, the town council declares an evenin' holiday and we throw a social here in the saloon.  Anybody who's anybody'll be here and I'd be right honored if you and your lady attended.  When they see how fine and pretty she is, all that talk'll dry up like the creek in August."
            "That's a mighty generous invitation, but I'll have to talk to her about it."  It would be suicide and I knew it, at least as far as our time in this place was concerned.  Aside from that, I really just didn't have the energy to move on from this place just yet.  It was always really hard to pack up and escape in the middle of the night, then find a new place, try to settle in and find a new job.  It was hard to pick up any work that wasn't manual labor in a situation like that, and I'm not sure how much more of it my body could take.  I was constantly aching with a dull pain in all of my joints.
            "If she's agreeable, we'll be down here dancin', hootin' and hollerin' all night."
            "Much obliged for your invitation."
            And with that, I tipped my hat politely and walked slowly up the staircase, wondering if I'd even tell Sylvia of the gracious but impossible invitation.

The complete version is available in my print collection Man Against the Future.  From there, you can order signed copies, or buy it for the Kindle or the Nook.