Tag Archives: short story

Alex and the Ants

Alex is watching the ants. So tiny, like three periods put together. Dot dot dot. He learned about periods in school, it’s when you were supposed to breath when reading. “Patch sniffed the turtle.” (Gasp) Mrs. Craig’s told him he should just read normally and didn’t have to make such a ruckus about it. Acting normal while thinking about trying to act normal confused Alex, he doesn’t like periods. He follows the ants erratic movements as they traverse the desert of sand, a breeze pushing them back a days journey. Where are they going? They were all following some unmarked path. He lays on his stomach and puts his head down to take in their perspective, his hair gently caresses the surface and an ant or two make a detour up his locks. He gets on his knees and blows on them, they dance in a wild frenzy before settling back in their predestined path. The affect of this simple act fascinates Alex, a breath of air can create such disorder. He varies his exhalation, sometimes emitting such a gust that a few unfortunate ants go flying, but realizes that even the faintest breath still causes scattered scurrying. Alex’s mom is calling him. He stands up, attempting to crush several ants underfoot, but their tiny bodies sink easily into the sand to escape their demise. Alex is unsatisfied with his inability to destroy and stomps more vigorously in the sand. The ants disperse and he is unable to discern crushed bodies from granules of sand. His mother calls again. With annoyance Alex kicks an arch of sand in the air. He walks in a circumference around the spot where he lay, in an attempt to locate the mouth of their origin. He feels a tickle on his leg, he sees an ant that confused his smooth skin for the sandy terrain, the vertical being no hindrance, he crushes the ant between his fingers creating a black smudge. Alex finds the hole beside the tree roots, the ants pouring out on their path of purpose. He sees a twig laying by a bush and proceeds to ravenously plunge it into the  opening, black bodies being melded unceremoniously. The third call. Alex goes running, displacing a society in his wake.

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Losing Faith

I was plunged into the luke-warm water, trying to remain in the sarcophagus position I was advised to hold. Awkwardly cradled in the ex-Nazi fighter pilots arms, I was exhumed from the watery grave with a ceremonial ring of water arching from my body.

“Do you accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal savior?”

“Yes,” came my mousy reply.

The music started, the same song always played for baptisms, just as there was a song for funerals and matrimony, this way the elderly members of the church had a clue for their required response.

I dragged myself out of the tepid waters, weighed down by the needlessly baggy clothing I had been provided with, even when they clung to you, they left a mystery in all the folds. I don’t know whose clothes they were, they weren’t mine, they must have resided at the church solely for emergency baptisms, or fools like me who only came equipped with a swimsuit.

The next in line for emersion was waiting patiently with a stoic look on his face. This one had even prepared a speech; savior’s pet. The only active part I took in my baptism was choosing who would perform it for me, a family friend who I felt most comfortable with. Otherwise, this whole endeavor was my mother’s doing.

There was much hinting in the weeks before the ceremony. These were disguised as part of the announcement, “we will be having a baptism coming up, if anyone else feels inclined to participate in a symbolic rebirth through Jesus, please inquire with your nearest elder.” My mom took this as a direct message aimed at me. I was the last of my age group that hadn’t yet partaken in this watery ritual. But, most likely, this was just their attempt to get the most out of a tank full of water. Even pensioners blessed with spiritual bounty only have so much material wealth to spare. It’s easy to look back on this occasion and put the blame entirely on my mother, although she is completely to blame for the ridiculous haircut I was sporting at the time, which repeatedly had me mistaken for a boy. I undoubtedly had some motives of my own. I felt the unworthiness as the tray of wine and bread bypassed me during the morning communion, the shame of my unadorned head when I was surrounded by lace. All of my friends had already been baptized by the time they were 6, some even claimed to have done so several times, and here I was 12, one birth short of the rest. What was most likely my main hindrance in perusing the matter could be attributed to my crippling shyness; the whole process of approaching the elders and having to undergo the mandatory Q&A, to ensure that no pagan was trying to sneak a dip.

As I made my way stage left upon leaving the tank I was handed a towel and given some hugs and pats accompanied by remarks of well-wishing. An added perk of any occasion in the church when you were young were the gifts. Most of them ended up being dunces, objects with feel good spiritual scriptures scrawled all over them, obvious re-gifts, but sometimes there was the odd gem, namely edible goods. I didn’t even mind the books. If anything, they helped my sleep better at night. They would become part of my nightly ritual. I had a fear of evil spirits, stemming from bible camp demon stories, and thought if I read some sort of spiritual text before going to bed it would create an invisible shield around me. But, as it turned out, I was only able to sleep more peacefully after I had given up the holy ghost. A standard gift for a baptism, for a girl anyways, was a head covering. I unfortunately had mine made for me by Florence. She was a sweet lady, she perhaps came a little too close to your face and held your arm a bit too tight when speaking to you, but she desired to reside in that grandmotherly role among us youth. Little did she understand that the young are cruel, especially when it comes to the elderly, and sweets are the only surefire guarantee of loyalty.

As I wore the elongated doily she had handcrafted for me, I enviously looked at my friend’s quaint lacy accessories. It looked even odder perched atop my big curly hair. Like a delicately fashioned landing strip for Jesus to find his way home into my soul.

Years later when we changed to a more liberal church, I was no longer obligated to wear a head covering. I was more than happy to retire my doily. Some still set in their ways held on to the custom a little longer, but soon assimilated to the hair liberation. Women were also allowed to speak and participate in the service here. Baptism’s still occurred, but it was no longer to prove to the church you were devout, but as part of a personal, spiritual journey.

The warm and welcoming environment with feel good sermons was a nice change from the fire and brimstone scare tactics I had grown accustomed to. But at this point it was already too late. I had seen the dark side of religion and the anger was already brewing.

My previous church couldn’t exactly be labeled a cult, but it did share some the qualities. This included kicking out members whose ways of life they didn’t agree with; a single father who started dating another Christian woman, a mentally ill man who’s mumbling during communion was determined as too distracting and disrespectful to god, and our youth pastor, who was a Calvinist (believed in the pre-ordained). The final straw came when one of the elders was asked to leave after he had become personally bankrupt. What resulted was a Kafkaesque show trail, and the splitting of the already dwindling church.

I try to pinpoint when exactly I came to the realization of the farce I was being subjected to. There were moments of doubt and questioning, a sense that something was holding me back from giving myself up completely to the faith. It wasn’t until an intervention was held by an atheist boyfriend, who gathered my friends and presented a thoughtfully organized binder full of facts that would make any doubting Thomas quiver, that I finally confronted my beliefs. It didn’t help that my best friend Michael, who is gay, was present. He is not the confrontational type, and would never be offended by anyone’s beliefs, but when I was asked if I believed he was going to hell because he’s a homosexual, as the scripture says, he did seem a tad offended.

The scripture I was choking on was damning, and not in the way it would for a sinner seeking redemption, but as a hypocrite having a mirror held up to their lives. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t realized it before. Making sure to set an alarm after my drug, booze and sex filled night in order not be late for the Sunday school class I was teaching. I wasn’t about to compromise on the pleasures of life for a God who didn’t even make me feel safe from psychos after watching Scream 3.

What I lost along with my religion were a group of people who I had considered my close friends, but once it became clear that I was becoming wayward, they didn’t have much time for me. What I gained, and which may bear some semblance to what those turning to religion say, was peace of mind. I was finally able to rid myself of all the superstitions surrounding religion, I no longer had to feel guilty for a lifestyle which I enjoyed and gave me more satisfaction than sitting around discussing what god really meant when he said, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God,” or playing board games and getting a sugar rush off hot cocoa. I was also finally was able to reconcile my logical thinking with my beliefs. Sure, science still needs a level of faith, but the results are a lot easier to attest to the patterned behavior of quarks than the whims of the omniscient.

I can see my religious friends shaking their heads and saying that I wasn’t able to stand firm against the pressures of the world, that I fell too easily into temptation, some may even still be praying for me, I’m sure my mother is, that I will once again find the one true path.I was once one of them, and I can understand how it is to perceive the world through the eyes of the redeemed, adorned with a WWJD bracelet.

Ultimately, religion became an explanation for our existence that was full of holes, these were filled with faith in an all-knowing, all-powerful god. Any belief, even scienists or athiests can fall into the same trap, feeling a necessity to explain away everything. In the end, I was much more comfortable accepting the mystery, I would prefer not to label myself as an atheist or an agnostic, at the moment I’m happy being free from any doctrine and am satisfied that there is no fool-proof answer out there that explains life, the universe and everything, except of course 42, which seems perfectly reasonable.

If I were to rediscover my headcovering a few years back, while I was still dealing with my anger towards religion and drunkenly arguing everyone I encountered on the topic, my first inclination would have been to burn it. But now I see that it should be kept as a relic, as I was part of a dying breed, and religion was all part of forming who I’ve become. If anything I should be grateful for my biblical upbringing, at least it provided me with an easy go-to essay topic in English class.

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Never Never Land

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Remember platform sneakers and blue lipstick, playing Girl Talk with your girls, in a room adorned with posters of Jonathan Taylor Thomas and The Hansons, Much Dance 2000 playing in the background. Or munching on Cool Ranch Doritos and slurping back Orbit while watching  Jem or Darkwin Duck or TGIF. Maybe you recall painful waiting on dail-up internet or when cell phones where the size of your head.

I’ve barely completed the first quarter of my life (perhaps that’s wishful thinking, let’s say third) and I’m already being perpetually invited to walk down memory lane. I understand feeling nostalgia for your childhood; the carefree summer days, the creative possibilities that were viewed in every found object, slumber parties and first crushes, and the constant giddiness that was so easily stirred up, before cynicism crept into our bones. As we are making our transition to adulthood, much slower and reluctantly than previous generations, we say good-bye to our youth, make a clean break and move on to spawn youth of our own. Now, with Facebook and websites, such as Buzzfeed, I’m stagnating in nostalgia as I’m constantly reminded of every significant emblem or moment commonly shared by others of my generation. It can be fun to reminisce at times, but it’s also slightly disturbing. Should I be experiencing such bittersweet feelings recalling my past when it is just barely behind me. Not only is technology ruining certain moments I used to savor, such as the satisfaction when you finally remembering, ‘what’s-his-name, from that movie, you know…’ after it’s been bugging you (and as a result everyone around you) for hours, or running into an old classmate you haven’t seen in years, and instead of catching up on where your lives have taken you seen you last met, there’s no need, since you’ve been constantly updated on Facebook. But now the internet is messing with my memories; this has gone too far. Forty years from now I want to be walking with my child/grandchild/godchild (we’ll see what happens) and tell them how candy used to be 5 cents, we used to write with pen and paper, and didn’t have chips embedded in our brains that thought for us. Now, I stumble home from the bar with my friends and stopping at the corner store recall how 5 cents candies didn’t used to have taxes on them, how we should go home and youtube Strawberry Shortcake, oh my god, remember trolls, we could totally buy one off ebay.

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A US Cutsom

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Recently, while watching a movie that took place in the 1970’s which involved numerous interactions at the airport; it was about a terrorist organization, I felt a little envious at the ease in which they were able to travel in those days. Characters weren’t harassed in customs, walked freely even after displaying suspicious behavior, holding copies of fake passports was considered not enough cause to be held, and they were able to puff a continuous stream of smoke from their mouths throughout.

Every time I’m ushered through US Customs I feel as if I’m interrogated. It doesn’t help that I get nervous when faced with authority. Anyone who has the power to make things very unpleasant for me if they so wish and I feel the pressure of  undergoing a test I’m bound to fail. The unsmiling, doubting faces make me question if I am indeed who I proclaim to be. ‘I’m sure I was born in Victoria, at least that’s what my parents told me, and…and, I’ve seen the birth certificate, it certainly didn’t look as if it’d been tampered with.’ Filling out my declaration form, I’m calm, I’m a world traveller, I know the routine, I’m cool and savvy when it comes to airports. The line is moving quickly, look how easily those citizens of the world are cakewalking through, all ages, races, modes of dress. Then it’s my turn, my heart starts to race as I make my way to the counter. What if they don’t believe me; is my story drill-proof. I don’t have a job right now, but I can’t tell them that, they’ll think I’m going to jump ship instead of catching my connecting flight and find work at the next farm I pass. I’m an English Teacher, I can hold that story up, I was an English Teacher not too long ago and can remember most of the facts about my job. They’ll ask me how much money I have on me, which, including the $20 stored in my wallet for a snack and a magazine, amounts to a little over $100. Am I even allowed to land on US soil with so little money to my name? I’m sure I’ll pop up on their computer as suspicious. Maybe after that time a friend and I were searched.  We didn’t completely fit the hippie vagabond look worn by so many heading to California on a Greyhound, but were backpack toting and guitar strapped nonetheless. After recounting a story that didn’t quite hold, ‘So, you don’t know the name and addresses of who you’re going to stay with in California?’ Stuttering my reply, ‘I was going to figure it out when I got there.’ I was given a mild talking to about working illegally in the states. Come on, I was thinking, out of work, youngsters, who’s bag are filled with beat classics don’t come to kick it in Cali with an itinerary, plus I really did have family in Sacramento. My slight annoyance at being disbelieved and stereotyped was overshadowed by the fact that I was indeed coming down to work illegally, on a weed farm nonetheless, and I should be happy that I made it through at all.  Or maybe they made a slight note when I was ‘randomly’ selected to have my dirty laundry sifted through on a return flight from Cuba. If anything, my Arab sounding last name would be a sure sign of compatriotism with a terrorist organization.

I manage to stumble my way through questioning, slightly flushed and gulping a few to many times, I vow not to make any detours on my way to my next flight, that no mysterious man in sunglasses handed me an unmarked package, and, a personal promise to myself, that I will avoid any more stopovers in the land of the free if at all possible. Now if only I were able to have that cigarette.

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Heartbreak in a Hovel

He was humiliated. He sat on the bed, room 203, wearing his coat, hands in the pockets, cheap Chinatown luggage packed and ready at the door.

That was 60 bucks he could not spare.

Goddamn bitch, Marie or Maria, whatever it was, didn’t matter now, she had spurned him. Bet she did it all the time, flirt with guests, get them all revved up, what a fucking tease. And here he was 60 bucks short, 60 bucks… goddamn it.

He was sure there had been signs, signs of interest. When he walked in that first day and she was still cleaning the room, she was so nervous, helpless looking, like God had caught a nun in the middle of a lascivious act. It was all calculated, he saw now. He wanted to comfort her, make her feel safe, he insisted she take a seat, he’d make her a cup of tea. She was so shy and anxious, he had to ardently persist. They didn’t talk much, but he could sense the energy in the room, their bodies were being electrified with the sexual tension, she was probably unfamiliar with the sensation, she couldn’t bear to look at him, she had a constant grin on her face, as she stared at the, admittedly still quite filthy, floor or into her stained mug. She finished her tea at a tremendous speed considering the temperature of the water. She made a hasty exit, poor thing, she must been all heated up and didn’t know what to make of it, he just wanted to hold her, like a trembling bird that had fallen out of its nest, and teach her how to fly.

The next day he left her a $20 tip, seeing as that was equal to the cost of the room, and the level of cleanliness in the room, he concluded that his intentions must be quite clear. He would play it cool today, he would make sure he was absent, but he left out a Forbes business magazine, he had found it in the lobby, and some holiday pics he happened to have on him, since he was in town visiting a friend. Hopefully she would determine that he was affluent but economic, that he could sacrifice comfort for temporary necessities, such as accommodation, in order to spend his money on more important things, such as leisure activities, the real juice of life.

He spent the day wandering around town. He had already fallen out with his friend since he had rather ungracefully asked him for a loan, rather, he insisted that he was owed this money for a past transgression his friend had committed. It had involved a woman who had inappropriately decided that the best way to break up with him was to sleep with his friend. An argument ensued about who really was at fault, it is surely easy enough to imagine how it transpired. Now he was left to aimlessly and frugally pass his time, since that $20 had been a large part of his daily allowance.

The next day he made sure he would return in time in order to catch her again, but after she discovered the tip, so as she wouldn’t be embarrassed. Their encounter played out similarly to the previous one, but she was more open and willing to engage in conversation, although it was still a staggered one. She continued to timidly avoid eye contact; he knew that he would have to be the one to make the move, to comfort this shaking little Chihuahua. He put his hand on her knee, “you’re really a pretty little thing, you know that?” She flinched; she must have felt the same surge of electricity that was rushing through his body. She managed to gurgle out that her supervisor would be annoyed if she didn’t finish the rooms in time and hurriedly escaped the room. That girl, she was begging for it, she only needed to be in tune with her own body’s desire. She must be so frightened and confused; he would guide her, like a duckling taking its first dip.

The next day he left her the usual tip, he was hoping that it wouldn’t have taken this long, he really couldn’t bear another day of cheap Chinese food, it gave him terrible indigestion, and loitering at the bookstore; he was already halfway through the latest Dean Koontz. This time he had enclosed the bill in a note:

My timid little mouse,

I must see you tonight,

meet me here at 7 pm,

El Lobo.

He was sure that she could not resist, even if she was scared, her bodily cravings would guide her to his door. With his last few dollars he bought some wine, she probably never drank, so would be unaware of the quality, and some other necessities, in hopes of the night going in the direction he was sure it must.

She did not show up, as no doubt could have been ascertained. No need to go into the anger and despair of the night prior, only that it resulted in there being a slight dent in the wall, only slight, and it was merely a recent addition to its already tarnished physique, the wine being drained, with the bottle disposed of in the street, luckily at such an hour that there was no risk of victims, and a racked up bill, that he would be unable to pay for, on some indiscreet channels.

He had resigned to the results of his latest misadventure, and got up to leave, with another sigh. It wasn’t easy always being the victim, but the universe would reward him eventually, isn’t that how it worked? As he opened the door a piece of paper fluttered down that had been jammed in the doorway. He nearly continued on, as was the dejected state he was in, but stopped, as a little butterfly of hope was roused in his chest when he happened to look down:

room 211

I’m waiting,

Le Tigre.

Impossible. Could it be? Shit like this never happened to him. He nearly raced there that instant in his excitement. Then reconsidered his state, he hadn’t paid much attention to his hygiene in the embittered mood he had been in that morning. He prepared himself; he luckily had a leftover cologne sample at his disposal. He didn’t expect he would feel so nervous; she had pulled the reins out of his hands, that sneaky little minx. He knocked at 211, then slowly opened the door. He was greeted with confusion and a scream, a woman in her mid-40’s had a moment ago been seductively positioned on the bed facing the door, naked, but now had shrouded herself in the blanket covering the bed.

“Who the fuck are you?”

“Sorry, I uh, got a note, sorry, I uh, misunderstanding, I’ll uh go….sorry.”

“Get the fuck out of here.”

He reached for the door in a daze.

“Wait, what room are you in?”

He continued to face the door, “203.”

“What the fuck, Mark told me he’d be here, room 203, Paul’s Motor Inn, I have it right here in his text. Jesus fucking Christ, I can’t believe he did this to me again, you’d think I’d learn my fucking lesson. That’s what you get for being the other women, let me tell you, you feel sorry for the wife, but she’s the one that’s in ignorant bliss, while I’m here getting stood up all the time, not good enough for him to leave that sorry sad sack for, instead I have to double as a marriage counselor, listening to him fucking complain about her all the time. Want my advice…

“Look, I uh, I have to go, sorry, you know… sorry.”

“Ya, ya, I’m used to it, if I had a dollar for every man who walked out on me, let me tell you.”

He stood immobile.

“Listen, you might as well join me for a drink, seeing as you’re here.”

He slowly turned; perhaps the universe was starting to pay back its dues.

Felipa knocked on the door of room 205, she poked her head in, “housekeeping.” She was always having to switch floors with poor Maria. She normally would have envied her, since she was jealous by nature, and Maria’s beauty far surpassed that of all the cleaning ladies there, but she was constantly being tormented by these creeps, such were their clientele. She knew the type of men that came to this hotel. There were those who would come for a night, or an hour more like, with certain type of woman, and then there were those who actually stayed in the hotel. Those who could not afford those certain type of woman, but were still horny as hell, and imagined a maid like Maria could be easily seduced. She spied $15 on the table, next to a crude portrait some desperate individual had done of Maria. If she had those looks she would be raking in the money, Maria needed to learn how to work her God given gift. Instead of working like a mule she could be living like a pampered cat. Felipa studied the room; it looked as if it had been through a torrent night of despicable undertakings. This place used to sicken her, but this turned into sadness, it wasn’t the job so much as the sorry soul’s she would encounter, or more often the results of their fraught affairs. She was now numb, she no longer had the energy to pity these people who didn’t have the dignity to even recognize the pathetic state they were in. She now spent her time feeling sorry for herself. She would probably have to work here an extra five years since her husband just died; lung cancer. She was determined that she could make him quit when they married, but it came with him, and she had to learn to accept that, now he was dead and she was here, another heartbreak. She pocketed the 15 bucks, another couple rooms like this and she could get that leopard print jacket she had been eyeing at the shop down the street. There was still Antony, the widower down the hall, he had always been friendly towards her, and she suspected he had a fairly good pension from his time at the factory, if they pooled their resources… That silly girl, Maria, doesn’t know how lucky she is, if I were her… She replaced the towels with some slightly less stained ones. Maybe I’ll convince her to switch floors more often, I could do with the extra cash…  silly little… A muted shrill scream reached Felipa’s weak ears. Holy mother of Christ, she crossed herself. What was it now? She hoped she wouldn’t have to miss her lunch break cleaning up some mess. She approached the door with dread, running a cloth along the dresser on the way. A man was running down the hall, pulling up his pants along the way, he was being screamed at by a woman wrapped in a holiday inn bathrobe, “You fucking pervert, what do you think I am, some whore, you’re a fucking disgusting pig, I’m going to report you, what did I do to deserve this huh?” She spotted Felipa, “quick, call the police, that weirdo exposed himself to me.”

Felipa turned and reentered 205, shaking her head. Anyone staying in this hole deserves what’s coming to them.

Maybe she’d make a nice chicken stew tonight, bring it over to Antony. He was always commenting how good the hall smelled from her cooking. She’d bring along that neglected bottle of wine she had found in room 114. She may not have Maria’s looks, but she still had the power of seduction.

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A Romance

Jeremy lay immobile in his bed. He was tired. He blinked his eyes in the muted light that was filtering in through the smeared window, he made no effort to keep them open and they drooped back down. He had nowhere to be, no one to meet, no urgency in his day, so he slept longer. Why are they always screaming, kids, why do parents let them scream, do they just give up, or don’t care, probably some nimrod that thinks it’s letting the kid express itself. He reluctantly admitted that it was time he got up, he felt a sense of guilt, but from where or for what he was unsure, but it made him get up, plus that infuriating kid that wouldn’t shut up.

Jeremy made it to the metro after an unnecessarily drawn out morning routine. He supposed he’d go to the market, the only place he enjoyed in the city; it didn’t need the preparation of a proper outing, but still felt like sufficient activity to while away a day. Also he needed socks.

Angela sprinted towards the train, she squeezed through the doors, just as they were closing. Made it. She scanned the compartment, spotted Jeremy. Jeremy was staring blankly out the window, then focused his gaze at the floor. Angela studied his movements, but they ended there. She became intrigued by his look, his unkempt attire, crumpled and stained, his stubble and sparse hair sticking whither to out of his toque. He appeared detached, disinterested in this earth, as if he had long ago transcended material things. Angela knew it was fate that they should encounter each other, she had barely made this train, and out of all the compartments they both ended up on this one. She was sure he would agree. He was probably into Buddhism or some other eastern religion, or spiritual on a level that was beyond labels such as religion. He no longer cared about earthly appearances, he was aware of a superior purpose for our bodies then as mere portrayers of shallow fashions. Although he did have potential, with a bit of a scrub and maybe a proper diet he could be quite handsome. She noticed a square shaped bulge in his jacket, he must be an avid reader, most likely he’s off to buy the latest edition of some scientific journal he’s following, or maybe an obscure title has been discovered at the second hand shop that has long been overlooked, only he having the patience and insight to appreciate its worth.  In his humble dwelling he’s sure to have shelves stacked with tomes on every subject, he could have an intelligent conversation on any topic, but needs to be coaxed, because he is modest and uncomfortable that his knowledge far surpasses those around him. Or perhaps it’s a notebook, he’s working on a novel about the human struggle and is constantly drawing from real life experiences he’s witness to, seeing the depth and beauty in the everyday occurrences of life. Or maybe it’s a sketchpad. He sits in cafés and produce perfect renderings of the waitresses. The homely looking one, long forgotten, treated as a servant to do the biddings of her customers, never receiving any signs of appreciation. On leaving he would place it under his mug to be discovered as she clears away his dishes, she’d keep it secretly in her brassiere as a reminder of the value of her existence that someone took time to acknowledge.

At the next stop a seat cleared next to him, she shoved her way in front of an elderly woman who was ambling towards that direction; no one was messing with her destiny. She sat next to him, she held her breath, then exhaled slowly, she regulated her breathing, she needed to appear natural, coy even. He emitted a heavy odor of smoke. She was aware that many intellectuals were prone to smoking, it helped them with the creative process. She of course would convince him to quit. She wouldn’t do it in a forceful manner, or give him the impression that she wanted him to change. She’d just make him realize that it was for his own good, and because she cared about his well-being.  She tried to appear mysterious, but was unsure how to exactly convey mysteriousness, she glanced to the side and up, as if deep in mysterious thought and to escape the off putting smell. Jeremy continued to stare at the floor. She uncrossed her leg and gently pressed her right knee into him, she became flushed at the contact. He’ll need a muse, inspiration when he goes through slump periods, someone to inspire him to carry on when the weight of the world lies heavy on his soul.

Her stop was coming up, it would be a sign if he got off at the same stop, there had already been the initial sign of their first encounter, one more was all she needed for guaranteed proof of their shared fate. She turned to look at him, he as yet failed to notice her, deep in thought most likely, or maybe he has noticed her but is too shy to speak. She’d make it easier for him.

“What does it all mean, back and forth, back and forth on this train, where is everyone going, does it even matter?” She spoke softly in his general direction.

Jeremy made no sign of acknowledgment. Perhaps he’s deep in thought. She waited. Maybe he didn’t hear. She waited another minute, just to ensure that he wasn’t being particularly pensive on his response.

She nudged him gently, to make sure he noticed this time, the look he gave her appeared rather annoyed. She hadn’t expected this hostility.

“Uh, where is everyone going… ?”

“ I’m not sure I follow.”

“You know, like, what’s the point of this journey, back and forth, back and forth all the time, does it matter?”

He shook his head and returned his gaze to the floor. You always meet nutters on the train, he considered moving, but there weren’t any other seats and he didn’t feel like standing.

Maybe she had been too vague in her attempt at profundity.  Her stop was approaching; he made no sign of movement. Maybe he didn’t realize this was his stop. Jeremy glanced up at the sign, then back down at the floor. Angela was uncertain at how to best fulfill  the star’s biddings, she promised to meet her sister and was already late. Her sister was already pissed off at her for bailing that last time, but she had been waiting for a phone call she was sure she was supposed to receive. If we’re supposed to be together fate will find a way, but she was beginning to grow weary of how long fate was taking to arrange things for her, maybe it needed a little assistance. She rummaged through her bag, everything personal was on her phone, she’d need a bit more assurance of its return before using it as a prop in destiny. She flipped through the cards in her wallet, she wished she worked somewhere where business cards were necessary, maybe she should look into getting personal ones, does that come off as desperate? SIN card? Could be a problem if it landed in the wrong hands. Library card? No one would bother to return that.  Care Card? She could do without that for a few days, there’s not much someone can do with that, she didn’t think anyways, has my full name, he will probably take it upon himself to return it personally. The doors opened, she dropped it on the floor right in front of where he was staring and squeezed out just before the doors shut. Peter came over to occupy the seat Angela had vacated, before doing so he picked up the card he had noticed laying in front of Jeremy.

“This yours mate?

Jeremy glanced over, “No.”

Peter took another look at the card and chuckled to himself, “Guess not eh, not unless your name is Angela.”

Jeremy partially turned his head towards Peter then back out the window.

“You see who dropped it?”

Jeremy shook his head and grunted.

“Well I bet she’ll be needing this, hopefully later rather than sooner,” Peter snorted, unsure whether that expression could be used in reverse like that, “I’ll drop it off at the ticket counter at my next stop.” Noticing that his audience had lost interest he tucked the card in his pocket. He forgot to hand it in to the ticket counter, and only remembered a couple days later when he wore that particular jacket again and noticed the foreign object in his pocket.

Jeremy got off a couple stations later, glad for his personal space after sitting next to too many fellow commuters unaware that bodily boundaries should continue to apply, even when in confined spaces. Jeremy wandered around the market for a couple hours, bought some things he didn’t need, not urgently anyways, ate too much cheap stall food, it’s convenience being too tempting, then felt annoyed at having spoiled his appetite for a proper meal once dinner time came. He sat in a coffee shop for an hour, picked through a magazine that was sitting there, Interior Design of Sweden, and searched the internet on his phone. He decided that he had spent sufficient time out of the house and he could now return home for an hour or so before going out again to get pissed. Maybe he’d get drunk enough tonight that he’d have an excuse to lay in bed all day tomorrow recovering.

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New Dawn

“Now, I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but the world is going to end soon.”

Mr. Philips wore his customary camel tweed suit, today paired with an amber silk shirt and mustard yellow tie with forest green triangles, it had been a gift, but he had long forgotten from whom. The combination was off putting at first, but those around him soon recognized it as an outward visualization of the warmth he projected. He sat in the usual position he took when delivering news of this kind, legs an appropriate width apart, hand gently clasped in his lap, this was accompanied with a stern expression, to make sure the information was delivered in full seriousness, yet without an overbearing sensation of fear.

“For some of you this may not come as a shock, we’ve been witness to this earth’s slow decline, although some may say rapid decline as of late, society has long ago lost its moral compass, our economic structure is failing, our environment is in despair and so on. But this isn’t a cynical severe reading of scientific hypothesis I’m referring to, nor are we doomsday prophets. We are not, what we are is brutally aware, it’s really not that extreme if you think about it, the problem is that most people don’t do just that, think… about…it…”

Andrew shifted uncomfortably in his chair, the pants he was wearing were too tight around the waist, he was aware that his belly had been expanding gradually for some time, but as of yet didn’t feel compelled to take action. He was waiting for the moment when his pants no longer fit, and he would be forced to confront the issue or concede to his new body profile and buy new pants. He felt further discomfort because he was hungry, yet he didn’t know exactly where this food would be stored. ‘I’m hungry, what should I eat, meatball sub, I had that yesterday and the day before, what’s something more healthy, ham, is ham ok, tuna’s pretty healthy isn’t it, but then there’s all that mayo, I really feel like a meatball sub.’ He wished this moron would stop talking so he could take a shit, that always made him feel better, that he cleared some room in his belly before filling it again. ‘I’ll have it on whole wheat, that’s healthy, and no pop, but I need to drink something, should I just drink diet, no that’s gross, ok, no chips and whole wheat, Jesus, won’t this guy stop talking already, nobody cares. I’m hungry.’

“Take a moment right now, before I tell you anything else, and you’ll see that the concept of the world coming to an end isn’t even that far out. It’s fairly easy to imagine before even being provided with a firm support. Just stop and think about the bigger picture, never mind your routine little lives, think about the entire earth and all the disasters, famines, massacres, all going on while we live our comfortable lives, our major concerns are what to have for dinner, what cd to buy next, should we save our money to go to the Bahamas or send our kids to school, without any realization of what a messed up world we live in.”

Marie shifted her legs to cross them the other way, she rested her chin in her palm, then she noticed that Dave, sitting across from her was sitting in the same position. ‘He probably didn’t notice, but maybe he’s subconsciously aware.’ She readjusted, put her hands in her lap, bounced her heels impatiently. She glanced at Dave again, he was staring at the wall past her. ‘Fuck, he probably noticed me looking at him, again,’ she was trying hard not to look at him, but her head was rebelling, resisting only made it worse. ‘I don’t even like him anyways, he isn’t even that clever or interesting to talk to, he’s always responding in clichés, making lame jokes, but there something kinda sexy about him, he’s so sure of himself, cocky even, I would do him at least, fuck, he’s tapping his heels too, maybe he’s subconsciously imitating me, that means he’s interested, but maybe he’s just not aware of it.’ She sat still and stared at the floor.

“Now you may be wondering about the details, we always want proof. Oh, there’s proof, proof beyond a shadow of a doubt my friends. Trust me, I deem myself an educated man. I have read hundreds of books, have tried numerous religions and ways of life. None have provided me with an answer, all fell short in one way or another, all broke down when faced with stringent questioning. I’m a logical man, I’m a rational man, and only New Dawn has been able to withstand my rigorous scrutiny, once you explore it you will feel like a fool to have not realized it all earlier, the answers are right in front of us, we face them every day, but choose to look the other way and continue with our shallow, meaningless lives. New Dawn not only provides answers for our existence and how we should live our lives to the upmost, but they also offer hope and reassurance when facing the end times. ”

‘The world is going to end? Could this guy be for real?’ Justin looked around the room; the rest of the group had their heads down or were staring blankly in the distance. ‘I does kinda make sense, doesn’t it? There’s just so many fucked up things going on in the world, and it’s not like he’s one of those twenty twelve guys, he doesn’t sound like a nut job or anything.’ Justin looked attentively on, as Mr. Philips continued to speak. ‘I mean, everyone makes fun of him all the time, but everyone here’s an idiot. They’re just the type that would laugh at Noah, and then be sorry and beg for help when the flood came. Maybe I’ll talk to him after, but when no one’s around, ‘cause maybe he is crazy, you never know with people like him. What if he tries something weird? Maybe I’ll talk to him in the morning, that way if he gets weird at least I’ll know someone’ll show up soon. What would I do if it’s true? Move to Brazil or something, party it up till the end, wouldn’t have to worry about anything, mom would leave me alone, ‘cause it wouldn’t matter anymore. I’d try and make a move on Christie first, see if anything’s there, maybe she’ll join me, I bet she’d be fun Brazil, otherwise fuck her.’

“You may ask, how are we supposed to face a world when we have been provided with such knowledge? You expect us to continue our daily routine’s when we are aware that everything we know and that provides stability for our lives will come to a halt in our lifetimes? The answer is yes, and you must. The idea of death and destruction that comes with end times may depress you at first, but New Dawn’s message is optimistic, so that you can live your lives joyfully, how many of you can honestly say that you are living joyful lives right now? ”

‘Jamie saying I have a fucking temper, fuck her,’ Dave stared angrily down at the floor, supporting his head in his hand. ‘She doesn’t know how good she has it, constantly having to put up with her crap, complaining all the time, she never appreciates it when I do do stuff for her, like seeing that lame ass girl movie, she bitched and moaned so much, I can’t believe I wasted two hours and twenty bucks on that piece of shit movie. I’m so sick of it, maybe I shouldn’t even show up at her place tonight, make her realize she’s treading on thin ice. She’d come begging on her knees for me back. Marie keeps on checking me out, maybe I should just go for it, fuck Jamie. But Jamie’s way hotter, if only she could keep her fucking mouth shut. But that ass, fuck, maybe I should go over there tonight. Maybe I’ll just get her flowers or some shit, then she’ll shut up for a while, plus she’ll give me a good fuck. Wine too, then she’ll be rearing to go. Fuck, I’m getting horny,’ Dave started bouncing his feet up and down, in an effort to dispel some of his pent up energy. ‘Why does that freak keep on staring at me?’

“I’m not proposing that you should feel obligated to spread this message, you may desire to inform the ones you love, I only share this knowledge as I’m compelled by my love for mankind.”

‘What the fuck is this guy on about, is this place a cover up for some cult?’ Jodie stared in disbelief at the ridiculously dressed man. ‘Man, why am I even here? I have a fucking education, that’s more to say then the rest of this sorry bunch.’ She glared in contempt at everyone in the room. ‘Fucking Kate and her rich parents, funding her for a year to ‘discover herself,’ I could save her the time, you’re a spoilt princess Kate, who thinks you’re creating ‘meaningful statement pieces,’ you don’t fool me, trying so hard to be shocking and original, trying so hard to be original that you’re ending up like everyone else.’ Jodie relaxed her jaw, she had unwittingly been clenching her teeth, she relaxed her face out of the screwed up expression. ‘They better not pay me in post-apocalyptic redemption. Maybe I’ll just join them, it’s not like I have anything going for me right now anyways, that would show mom, forcing me to degrade myself by coming here. Fucking Kate, she should try working an honest day in her life, then she’d know what suffering is.’

“I know this is a lot of information to process, all I ask is that you spend some time just thinking about it. I’m not asking you to commit to anything or sway you to join, just think about it, and I hope that in doing so you’ll come to realize that some things don’t add up and start to question what exactly it is that is going on around us. I am always available to talk and have plenty of reading material if you wish to be one of the enlightened. Now, as for other matters, we will be issuing a new uniform next week, you can tell Linda your preferred size. There will be a health inspector stopping by sometime this month, it’ll be a surprise visit, now I know all of you approach your work with high quality standards, so just continue like this and there should be no problem. Justin, Andrew, there’s a box of pastrami waiting to be sliced, Marie, could you start training Jodie on sandwich making, we’ll need her on the front counter soon. Don’t let today’s meeting weigh too heavy on you, you are all valued employees of Tony’s and even if you don’t wish to wisely use the knowledge I have provided you, I look forward to continuing working with you in the foreseeable future, you’re dismissed.

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A Room

Daniel entered a room. He entered a room that Edward had exited two hours before. Edward left no trace in the room except for a faint smell of medicinal topical cream. Edward had applied this cream with his shoes and jacket on, as he’d just remembered his new daily chore as he was on the cusp of departure. Daniel circled the room, lazily dragging his hand across the wall. The walls were black, odd choice of colour, yet it didn’t create an oppressive atmosphere, rather one of haste, the manner the paint job had evidently been done in. “Alright Geoff, I’m here.” Daniel perched himself on the edge of the bed and slapped his knees in anticipation. Daniel waited for two hours. The fist 15 minutes he remained in his perched position, the next he paced the room and stared idly out the window  at the parking lot, too many vans, he sat back down, then lay down, he remained like this for 20 minutes. He got up again, brushed his hand along the TV, reconsidered, it would be inappropriate, “God damn it Geoff.” Drawer, Koran, interesting choice. “Bet he forgot again.” What time was it? Daniel didn’t wear a watch, he was impractical like that. Too risky to call? Too risky. Daniel might have thought Geoff was trying to send him a message, phase him out, if it had been Geoff’s style, but it wasn’t, so he didn’t. He stared blankly at the blank TV. Geoff stood up to leave, didn’t move, he felt uncomfortable, he was told to be here. He sat back down for 23 minutes, then he stood up and left, leaving behind his clip and save coupon book.

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The Switch

Michelle and Amanda are sitting in Amanda’s room. Amanda is on her bed, pillow in her arms, Michelle is in a swivel chair next to the desk.

A: I can’t even remember the last time I flicked the switch.

M: No, me neither.

A: I’m kinda nervous to now.

M: Ya I know, me too.

A: It’s not like it makes that big a difference, really.

M: No, I didn’t notice it for the first little while.

A: Ya, it feels pretty much the same, just sometimes, there’s something missing, like it’s good when something crappy’s happening, but when it’s something good, like when I got my test back, you know my math test that I was afraid I’d bomb, and I ended up doing alright, well it felt kinda the same as when I did bomb that last test, it was just like, whatever.

M: Ya.

A: But, now, you know, my mom died and all, and I haven’t even cried, it’s just not right.

M: Ya man, that’s kinda weird.

A: It’s not like I want to feel sad and all, but she’s my mom, it’s just not normal to feel nothing.

M: Ya, it’s like when me and Josh broke up, I just didn’t care, even though we had been going out for like ever and he was my first kiss or whatever. I thought about flicking the switch, but I was too scared, breakups suck right.

A: Ya, I mean that’s kinda what the switch is for right, for that crappy stuff we don’t want to deal with, just makes life so much easier.

M: Ya, I guess.

A: Then there’s Mr. Webber and his, ‘It’s a government ploy to control people.’

M: What a weirdo.

A: Ya, I know, no wonder his wife left him.

M: What? His wife left him? Bet he wish he had a switch then.

A: Ya, right.

M: So like should I get some tissues and chocolate and shit.

A: What? No… I mean, maybe, fuck, I don’t even know what it feels like to be really upset anymore.

M: I know….

A: Do you think you’re going to keep your switch forever.

M: I don’t know… you?

A: I don’t know, I mean, I guess it makes life easier, but it just feels like I’m missing out on something sometimes. I mean people managed before, it’s not like everyone was out killing themselves.

M: But now there’s like no suicides.

A: Ya, but then they keep on saying how music and tv and stuff isn’t as good as it used to be.

M: I don’t know, I don’t mind it.

A: I guess. Hey, do you think you could do it with me.

M: What, flick the switch.

A: Ya, I don’t want to do it alone.

M: I don’t know, shouldn’t I stay like this to take care of you, in case you have a breakdown or some shit.

A: But it’s not like anything will happen to you really, I’m the one who’s mom died, what do you have to be upset about.

M: I liked you mom too.

A: Seriously, come on, just do it.

M: Fine, but you first.

A: Ok, oh man I’m nervous, ok, ready.

M: Ya, just do it already.

A: Ok… did it….

M: Really, how do you feel.

A: I don’t know, normal.

M: Well you have to think of something sad… like you’re mom

A: I’m trying.

M: K, remember how she used to make you cookies.

A: Mmm, she wasn’t big on baking.

M: Ok, well what did you guys do together that was fun?

A: Well, she used to pick me up from skating and sometimes we’d got to mcdonalds and get ice-cream, even though I hadn’t eaten dinner yet. We acted like it was this big secret and we couldn’t let dad know or he’d get really mad. We’d even hide our wrappers in the neighbour’s garbage can so he couldn’t find out.

M: That’s pretty funny.

A: Ya, I know, she could be pretty funny sometimes, but sometimes she’d get really pissy too.

M: Even with the switch?

A: She always used to switch it off, she never really like it.

M: Oh.

A: I feel like something hard’s in my throat.

M: Ya, and your eyes are all watery.

A: I always used to talk to her when I had fights with my friends, and that time Mr. Gaven said I was stupid in front of the whole class, remember that? She went to school and yelled at him.

M: Ya, I remember

A: She was a really good mom, you know.

M: Ya, I know, she was always really nice to me, used to give me cookies when I came over.

A: They were from the store.

M: That’s ok.

A: And now I’ll never see her again, it’s not fair, everyone else at school still has their moms. She won’t be there when I graduate, when I get married, have kids.

M: It sucks… Mark doesn’t have a mom either.

A: Ya, and look how weird he is.

M: Ya.

A: Hey, you didn’t flip your switch.

M: Oh ya, sorry, I forgot…. there.

A: I guess it doesn’t really matter now anyways.

M: Do you still feel sad?

A: Ya.

M: You can always flip it back, be normal again.

A: No, that’s ok, I kinda want to be sad for a little while.

M: You’re weird.

A: Maybe, I just think I’ll feel better about it afterwards.

M: I don’t really feel anything.

A: Well you have to think of something first… Josh?

M: No, that was a long time ago… though now that I think about it, he was a real jerk.

A: He was ok, until the end, do you think he liked Amy before you guys broke up.

M: Ya, I bet he did, the fucker, they started dating like as soon as we broke up, fuck, I’m so angry, what’s Amy got that I don’t?

A: Don’t worry about, he was a loser anyways, don’t you like Jared now anyways.

M: Ya, he’s alright… anyways, nevermind about Josh, you’re mom’s more important.

A: That’s ok, I don’t want to force myself to be sad, it just kinda comes in waves.

M: Ya.

A: I think I have some ice cream in the fridge, want some?

M: Ok.

A: We can see if there’s a movie on TV.

M: Ya, let’s do it.

A: Are you going to flip your switch back.

M: No, not yet, you?

A: No.

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An Unwelcome Guest

I will defeat you, I am a big girl now and I will win. Just like the last one, I had amazed myself with my resolution, only minor hesitation, which is understandable, but I was ultimately triumphant. Was this a sign, an ushering into adulthood. Would I now also be able to confront bodily fluids spewed by children and animals without adding my own contribution to the mess, would I start sending thank you notes of my own volition and speak in new social situations without inhibition. The truth of the matter, I had no mother or boyfriend to run to, hands clutching my face, emitting a whimper, and this creature would not be permitted to roam free. I came towards you with my tools of capture poised, and then you moved, oh, how grotesquely you move. So swift and unexpectedly for your girth, and that awful clicking noise as you scuttle along, your twig like legs rustling. My body chooses flight over fight as I leap off the bed. My face contorts in an expression of repulsion and terror as a sound between a scream and a moan pours out of my mouth. How is it possible, how can you evoke such feelings of panic and paralysis. We have built these structures in which you roam, glasses to trap you, doors to keep you out, toxins to inflict mass genocide and yet you persist.  That is your legacy, you are unconquerable. You have invaded our constructs, designed to bring us out of nature, to remind us of nature’s resoluteness, unavoidability. When we see your dark mass scurry across the floor, the wall, the ceiling, gravity is no obstacle for you, we recoil with revulsion and hatred. Out, out, you’re not welcome here, how dare you appear unannounced, show me where you came in, did you bring any cohorts? Don’t you realize this is not how we behave in our society? I would like to teach you some of our social norms, but I’m afraid your presence disgusts me so. I’m sure there are far filthier places than mine you can reside, unnoticed and unconfronted. Perhaps a monestary is your safest option. But I’m sorry to say, we can’t coexist, I have no interest in an antennied metamorphosis. As I make my second, third attempt, my heart pounding, I want to break down, I can’t do it, but I must. I chase you about, your senses premeditate my movements. I trap you in a corner, it’ll soon be over. Oh shit, you can fly, a secret weapon in your arsenal. But wait, I have one too. As I spray you with poison I expect to hear screams. The victory is mine, let me hang you drawn and quartered, a warning to all. Yet, as I tuck in to sleep, the scuttles still haunt me of your twiggy little feet.

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