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DeVASTation: a play on words

The first thing that stood out to me as I pondered the word “devastation” is “VAST.”

It made me think of the vastness of devastation. And I think that’s part of what defines the word, it’s the vastness of the damage or loss. Whether by natural catastrophe or spoils of war, it’s something that either effects a large number of people or effects a small number of people in a very crucial way. It’s true that a single person can be devastated, and in that case it is the vastness of suffering or loss within that one person.

The next thing I noticed was the word “station.” It’s a place or way of being. It makes me think “well, we’re stuck here.” Devastation changes where you are, and you are going to be there for a while. Whether the devastation is internal or external, it takes time to recover. Your station is changed, your station is now this mess you’re standing in. Perhaps even your station in the sense of societal role is changed, like Amy’s father in “Little Dorrit.”

So then my mind wandered a little, and this is more of a play on the sound of the word. I thought, “De-vest-ation,” humorously imagining people having to remove their vests. But then I thought about “divest” as the inverse of “invest,” and another component of the word revealed itself.

I’ve always thought of community as the antithesis of crime. When you love your home, or your community, you wouldn’t steal from it. You wouldn’t hurt the people there. You wouldn’t damage property. As far as human-caused devastation, I definitely think there is an aspect of divesting in your city, or your country, or your brothers and sisters of human kind. If people had a sense of investing in others, investing in their world, I feel there would be only building and solving problems, and no more destruction or violence. If leaders were busy investing in their people instead of reaping whatever benefits they can squeeze out of their position, there wouldn’t be corruption.

It’s more difficult to relate this play-on-sound to natural disasters, but there are ways in which we can invest in our world as to prevent them. Part of that is simply creating programs for predicting bad weather and taking precautions. We can certainly invest in the recovery process so that victims quickly and easily get back up on their feet. The other part is investing in our environment and the health of the planet. If the natural cycles of the world are “off balance,” than surely more natural disasters will occur.

And finally, I would like to move away from the seriousness of true devastation. There is real and terrible devastation in the world, and I don’t want to ignore that fact, but I do want to warn you I’m about to make a joke. Anyone can feel devastated whether it seems earned or not, whether they have lost anything at all, because it comes from being attached to certain things or people. You can feel devastated because you lost a DVD. You can feel devastated because you lost everything you own, or you can say, “Well, things are just things.”

So, not to undermine anyone’s suffering, but sometimes it is good to remember not to be a Diva.

That is all folks

-Becca

 

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A Real Wiccan

I randomly came across a book for the Wiccan collegiate. It described a fictional character, perhaps focusing a little too much on her attire, on her “coming out” day–the day she decided to “come out of the broom closet” as they say, wearing her pentagram necklace openly in public. (The pentagram represents the four elements–earth, air, fire, and water, with a fifth element–spirit–on top.) The character wore dark make-up and had black nail polish, along with dark attire, and was a little too cliche for me. At least the author didn’t say anything about “perfectly arched brows.” It made me think about real Wiccans–not to say the young, attractive, slightly goth Wiccan doesn’t exist or shouldn’t be represented (and celebrated!) But she gets all too much attention, and in the mean time, the many quiet, less out-going Wiccans go unnoticed. So here is my response, an introduction to a pretty typical Witch:

Genie looks out her dorm room window. It’s a Friday night, which means the noise of crowds and music waft through her window. She watches as students coalesce; some chatting casually, others laughing raucously, and all eventually dispersing and heading to respective parties. Many Greek houses have their front doors open with music and the reflections of flashing lights pouring out onto their front porch.

A warm breeze caresses her face, but Genie feels a strange chill around her shoulders, which is why she is wearing a cashmere sweater over her T-shirt. It’s out of place with her baggy jean shorts and sandals, but it’s warm and soft, and smells like her mother. Her short, blondish, light-brown hair sits in a shapeless blob on top of her round face. (She discovered, just recently, that her hair doesn’t cooperate well with a short, edgy cut.) Small earrings, which she made from shells found on a beach trip, dangle from her ears. Peering out onto the Campus lawn, she sips lavender tea.

The noises of a warm Campus weekend night are comforting and jarring at the same time. The old familiar conflict begins to bubble up in Genie’s head: to go out, or not to go out–that is the question. On one hand, she feels connected to all those people. Other than students she sees on a daily basis, just being at university together makes her feel a sense of belonging–as though they are all bound on the same journey. Even kids with whom she shares zero interests face similar struggles: classes, social drama, stress from family. But then, she also feels incredibly isolated. She could put on a face and go have a decently nice time at a party. Many kids could be inviting–the artsy kids especially respond well to Genie’s strange collection of clothing, obscure interests, and laid-back attitude. But there is some part of the Genie that has always longed to be embraced, one which she has kept hidden away. Watching the crowds thin as students are drawn indoors by the sound of music and promise of beer, she feels an old pang and deep loneliness. Suddenly, the camaraderie fades and everyone seems a million miles away–on a different planet, living a totally different life.

Genie isn’t the only pagan on campus, of course, and she had met and hung out with a few others. But there is still this disconnect between her and everyone else, even her family and childhood friends. She loves the Craft, and it has brought her not only joy, but a sense of self and peace of mind. It’s the reason she came this far–the thing that, in recent years, helped her navigate mixed messages from society, her family, her various desires and doubts, and the turmoil of teenage emotion. When she’s stressed about her schedule, she can meditate. If she’s worried about a certain decision, she can divine the future–at least to some extent. And when she really needs to make something happen, she does magic. Mainly this entails putting her intention into the Universe. It’s as though her intent creates a vortex in space and time that will lead her to the desired result. Sometimes it’s like climbing uphill, and other times everything falls so easily into place. This is done in lots of little ways, and is only grand or dramatic when the situation calls for it (which is very rare. In fact, there are only a couple times she can remember taking urgent magical measures with dramatic results.) The thing that kills Genie about hiding magic, though, is that magic is everywhere.

Even when she was sitting in the Administration office waiting to sign up for orientation, a task usually tedious and entirely boring, Genie saw magic in the codes, laws, and processes. Someone had created all this, she thought; a working system which keeps things running smoothly and perpetuates tradition. Because someone, or a group of people, decided something and put it to paper, they made it real. And even though she didn’t like sports, when dragged to a soccer game with her friend, she saw a microcosm representing a macrocosm: a small group of people playing a game representing the glory of battle and victories of nations. That was magic to her; a ritual in its own right.

All these things are awe-inspiring to Genie, but she can’t share them with anyone. Even the other pagans she has met–two, to be exact–call her optimistic (as an insult, though Genie doesn’t see it that way) and wishy-washy. She sighs, pushing negative thoughts out of her mind. Closing her eyes, she takes a long, slow sip of tea. She decides it’s time for some solitary magic–and something more caffeinated.

In just a few minutes, the kettle is whistling. Genie was able to get her own apartment on campus, for which she is very thankful. She has her own kitchenette, living room, and small bedroom. The limited counter space in the kitchenette has much standard bachelor fare: a small wooden stand holding stone-wear mugs, a note pad, and various small appliances. Less common is her stack of wooden boxes with hand-written labels, her porcelain tea pot, and jars of herbs. Despite the wooden boxes labelled things such as “psychic tea” and “bedtime tea” she opens the cupboard and pulls out a store-bought bag of jasmine.

Across from the kitchen area is a rather useless space, not quite large enough for a table, but awkwardly between the kitchen and living room. Here stands a narrow dresser, usually out of place in a kitchen. The drawers hold smaller containers with various supplies: candles, trinkets, silk cords, pieces of paper, among other things. Stooping slightly, she removes a long white cord, a white candle, and a little purple bag. She closes the door and, with tea and supplies in hand, moves into the living room.

Other than a small entertainment center, she has an antique coffee table, a cow-print rug (which was a miraculous thrift store find,) and a cerulean blue couch. She sets her supplies and tea on the table, figuring the gods will forgive her for bringing a drink to the ritual space–especially if she shares.

“Hmm.”

She gets up and goes back into the kitchen, retrieving some dried fruit and nuts, putting them on a saucer, and adding a tiny cup meant for espresso. After setting these things on the coffee table as well, she clears the area, cleaning up clutter, and pulls the table away from the couch. Sitting on the floor facing the table, she takes a moment to meditate. A calm focus descends upon her. It is quieter outside now, with only a few lingering souls, and the warm breeze continues to grace the room. The students, once again, all feel miles away, but this time in a comforting way. Genie has her own space–her magic space.

Moving slowly, she stands and walks around the table with the cord, creating a visible circle on the floor. She feels a shiver run down her spine–the circle is complete. She lights the candle and opens the bag. It carries seven stones of various color: blue, green, yellow, orange, black, purple, and clear. She makes a circle with these stones around the candle and once again sits back to meditate. She hums lightly–one long note, similar to “ohm” but in different pitches. Starting at a low pitch, she raises it a note every minute or so. These notes correlate with the chakras. When she is finished, she takes the espresso glass and dips it into her own tea, setting it on the saucer with the dried fruit. This is her offering.

“God and Goddess–” she starts. Genie doesn’t feel extremely connected to the idea of an actual God or Goddess. However, she imagines the feminine and masculine forces of the universe; the infinite vacuum of space, the blazing suns exploding inside of it, and how, together, they created life. Many rituals call for some acknowledgement of a deity, and Genie finds her own ways to accommodate this. Besides, something about offering food makes her feel grounded. There is something humbling about it, and for all she knows, there could be some conscious being who has helped her all along. Who is she to deny them? She does feel like she has some sort of guide or higher self. It gives her messages, helps her realize truths, and is a comforting presence.

“God and Goddess, I present this offering to you. Thank you for all of your blessings. To my spirit guide, thank you for your continued guidance.” The tone changes now, and she speaks as if talking to a friend; “Classes are going well, a little stressful, but I am coping. There is this guy in Chem who harasses me a little. He picks on me, I guess? But I’m concerned it’ll get worse and I don’t know how to react to him. Please give me patience and understanding.” After casually discussing her current concerns, she sits back to meditate. After 15 minutes, she feels her mind change. Her focus increases, her senses sharpen, and there is a sense like a dull hum in her mind. Several things suddenly occur to her, as if they had been obvious all along: Tyler (the guy from Chemistry) might have a little crush on her, he may not have been taught how to handle delicate feelings, he may have many conflicting emotions, and he may not have had the most loving or supportive parents. Genie opens her eyes and stares for a long moment.

“Holy shit,” she whispers.

She sets about gathering up her supplies, putting the stones back into the bag, and raveling the rope up into a neat bundle. The only thing left is the candle, still lit, and the food offering.

“The circle is closed. Thank you for joining me in ritual today. Merry meet, merry leave, and merry meet again!” She throws her hands in the air, taking deep breath, and then moves them in wide circles–more to stretch out her muscles and get her blood flowing than for any symbolic reason. After putting the supplies away, she grabs a leather-bound journal and starts recording every detail of the ritual, including any thoughts or emotions she encountered.

Genie thinks back to feeling antisocial just an hour ago. She doesn’t always feel confident in public–it comes and goes. But here, in her home, in her circle, with the candle still burning gently and the dried fruit a reminder of her magic, she is perfectly content in herself; truly confident. The rest of the world, perhaps, would not understand her if they knew everything she thought and did. But Genie knows herself, and that is all that matters.

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This time and the next time and the next

p_02

This is a tarot card. I have, in fact, received it in a reading recently, but even if I hadn’t, I would have chosen it to describe the last couple of weeks.

Every now and again, life takes a big turn, a curve. It’s not something I plan–rather it is part of my cycle. We all have cycles. We go in spirals, not straight lines. Everything in flux, “up in the air,” as they say, kind of like unstable atoms flying around, not yet deciding what chemicals they will form.

I am reinventing myself.

First, I visited my sister in California. She is going through a lot–health problems, emotional baggage, a change in living situation. We talked about something we almost never do–our past. It’s a shaky subject. But we discussed it peacefully, and worked out some of our disagreements. We talked about our childhood and our mother’s mistakes. The thing that disturbed me after all was said and done was how unhappy some of the people in our family are; how much growing and healing they still need to do. At heart, I am the caretaker. I just want everyone to be ok. I realized this about myself, and I realized it is flawed because everything will never be ok. Life keeps going, shit happens, the boat gets rocked again. We are all on this journey and we are never done fighting. So that’s part of what this card is about.

Then, just a couple of weeks later, I felt my own winds turning. I woke up and realized some things about myself–ways in which I was lying. I cut off some activities and behaviors that no longer serve me, and took on some new ones. In phases like this before, I have ended relationships and sometimes lost friends. I have moved to new locations and made new friends. So, this time, I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. Part of this card is keeping your balance amidst the chaos, amidst storms and changing waters, if you’ll excuse my excessive imagery.

Even the weather reflected my inner moods–big storms with strong winds blowing through night after night. We would walk outside and watch as the wind picked leaves up off the ground and carried them high into the sky. The clouds above were these weird, fluid bumps. My boyfriend said they were some word that basically meant “breasts.” I found it trite at first, but then amusingly appropriate. Those bumps are formed by turbulent winds up above. The feminine does include a certain inner unrest, a desire to explore and discover.

Like the figure in the card who balances on one foot, juggling this chaotic state, I believe I did keep my balance. There is a wonderful calm today after the storm. The sun was bursting through the clouds this morning, lining their deep grey with yellows and pinks, the sky behind them a vibrant teal.

Times, they are a-changin. Everything is in flux–forever. I am at peace now. At some point things will get shaken up again. Such is life. I hope you win your own balancing act, this time, and the next time, and the next.

Love,
Rivkah

Life

What it’s like to be a crazy person

It may seem like a typical morning for a semi-lazy, not-completely-useless adult human being in America. I slept in until 10:30, washed my hair, gave our 40 lb Border Collie, Argos, a shower because he has bad dandruff this winter, and worked on estimating my taxes. (Working on my taxes? Does that knock me out of the lazy category all together?)

But despite the semi-productive things I accomplished, if you look at my habits lately (waking up late, playing video games, only performing the most necessary of responsible tasks) compared to over the summer (waking up early, being very active, proactive, creative, etc,) you would notice a drop in motivation. You might throw me a bone, “Well, it’s cold, people tend to be less active in the winter.” But here in Alabama we have been enjoying clear skies and mid-day highs in the upper 60’s. So that’s no excuse, unfortunately.

Why am I concerned with the new behavior? Well, it tends to be a sign of other underlying problems. Let’s just say that when I went to Massage school in 2013, there was a question on the orientation form asking about my mental and emotional stability. I hovered over that check box. I have never been diagnosed with any psychological disorders, but that may only be due to my never having been to a psychiatrist. Since barely graduating high school, after a brief recovery period, I have ascended to the status of being functional in society. This is how I gauge my stability and wellness. Last summer I went through one of the worst depressions of my life, and I still managed to function, show up to work, keep up with my house and responsibilities, etc.

However, sometimes chemical imbalances and old childhood baggage pops up to halt your progress just when you thought you had it all worked out. When I notice the signs, I go, “Ok, where is this coming from?” I feel like this latest phase has been one of over-indulgence. It’s like I just want to check out (not in the drugs way; I have never done drugs) and be cognizant as little as possible. Hence: sleeping in late, playing video games for hours and hours, and taking ridiculously long hot showers. These might not seem like major problems, but they are all ways I can gauge my escapism. I usually despise waking up late, and enjoy an active morning where I read, play games or brain-storm. Long hot showers have been a classic way for me to escape things I don’t want to deal with. And, there’s nothing wrong with playing video games. When I am at my healthiest I usually enjoy an hour here or there. But when I play for 5 hours straight, and go about my day wondering when I will get a chance to get behind the controller again… um… I’m having an escapism issue.

There is a quote, I don’t know from where, that goes something like, “If you’re rich, you’re eccentric. If you’re poor, you’re crazy.” Wage-wise, I probably fall right above the poverty line, but I have more than enough crap and I certainly feel wealthy, so maybe I fall somewhere in between the two. I certainly have some eccentric behaviors. Being un-diagnosed and un-medicated, I find interesting methods to shake myself out of a hitch.

This is why, at 1:30pm today, being fed up with my lazy behavior, I was pacing the house, repeating aloud a phrase from one of my favorite childhood Jim Carrey movies: “Everything you do matters, and everything you don’t do.”

Say it out loud with me, people. We so often feel that we are insignificant, but each and every one of us matters.

“Everything you do matters, and everything you don’t do.”

That last part is important. It’s not just that what you do isn’t harmful, it’s whether you take action on things you believe in. It’s whether you fall silent when others are being mistreated, or when certain people or groups are causing harm in the world. No, we can’t dawn a red cape and go take out all the bad guys, but we can explore every option and take every possible action to create a safer, fairer world. We can speak up. We can vote. We can, at the very least, be conscious consumers and vote with our dollars.

Now, the speaker from Liar, Liar was referring to a father showing up to his kid’s birthday party, but I think this phrase has grander applications–like to life, and everything. So I feel pumped now. I am actually shivering. I’m not sure if it’s chilly, or if it’s the coffee, or because I have stirred up a new fervor, but I’m shakin! It’s time to get out of this rut.

So here is to the importance of our actions and decisions every day.

Here is to finding new motivation, not just to take care of necessary remedial duties, but to go above and beyond in being the best human beings we can be.

Cheers! *Raises coffee*

Life

Daydream

Today I ran through an open field.

Why? Because, why not?

The first step is to step outside. I wondered, where am I going? What should I bring? But there was a nudge at my back, a whisper in my brain. Just go.

Sunday morning was like a ghost town in my neighborhood. It was before the church down the street was filling with people, so everything was eerily quiet. There was even a soft, steady breeze whistling through the trees. It was cool for a summer morning and the empty streets were slightly overcast.

Walking down my street, I couldn’t help getting that post-apocalypse feeling. I decided to go somewhere different–some way I don’t usually go when I walk around. Approaching the campus area, I turned left toward the highway instead of right toward all the familiar campus buildings, the giant new Art gallery on 10th Ave. In front of me was a vacant lot with the familiar sign: “Permit Parking Only.” There was a hill next to it. I had passed this hill but never seen the other side, assuming it was another lot or some boring office building. Climbing the hill, I saw it was a large white hunk of cement with bold black letters that spelled “Epic School.”

“What seriously?” I asked no one–perhaps the wind. Was this some group or art installment affiliated with the college? Under the bold title was a smaller indented designation, something about perpetuating the imagination, and the name of the person who started the school. No, it was just an elementary school. This thing was one block from my house. How did I never see this? The building was all corrugated metal and weird, slanted rectangles for windows. It looked more like an abandoned science lab.

The parking lot exited onto a familiar road, the one that led past the sports fields and a couple of campus parking lots, eventually feeding onto a main road. I would usually be unconcerned with the sports fields, but on the other side of the fence were the first two humans I had seen this morning. They were dressed in uniform, obviously warming up for some exercise. Passing the opening to the fence, for some reason the thought occurred to me to run out into the field. I shook it off, but it had a strong hold. Well, I thought, seeing the water fountain right at the entrance, they won’t mind me stepping just inside to get a drink. My throat was a little dry.

So I took a sip, glanced to see that the two men hadn’t noticed me at all, and continued on my walk. But several feet down the road I stopped again.

Why the hell would I not run across that field? Sure, I would look weird, but who were those people? It wasn’t as though I would disturb them, they were obviously having some informal practice, and on the other side of the field. What would it hurt? Who would care?

Before I knew it, I was walking sternly back toward that opening. There were even stairs leading right into the grass–beckoning. My heart was pounding.

When is the last time you did something that made your heart pound in your chest?

And then, with a smile, I was climbing those stairs, and the wind was blowing past me, and my feet were beating into the grass, the ground hard and sturdy beneath me, and all that was in front of me was open field.

Glancing back before I left, breath catching, heart still pounding, I saw that the two men hadn’t noticed me at all.

The Foreigner

The Foreigner Ch.13: Reunited–extended

Update 5/28/15. Hey, apparently I am one of those writers who takes a 4 month hiatus. Sorry to anyone who has been keeping up, and thank you again for reading! There is a lot going on in life–building a career, possibly gearing up for a move, finding a home for an adorable stray cat–so Foreigner hit the back burner and stayed there for A WHILE. But things are calming down. I do still have a lot of new material to write, so I can’t make promises on how often I will post. However! I will see Foreigner through to the end (should I add something dramatic here? Such as mark my words! Or, So long as I live and breath!)

Nonetheless, here is an extended Chapter 13

*~*~*~*~*

Dark clouds zip along just above water, contrasted by the light grey overcast above. Thunder continues to boom from the distance, though there is no longer rain. Shivering, Benny wades back to the beach, where the news crews are standing scattered about. The videographers have shouldered their equipment while reporters chat–yelling at each other over the wind–their hands on their hips, the wind tugging at their coats. Then they see Benny emerging from the water. They look at him, dumbfounded. A few people ready their cameras. Soon they are all rushing toward him.

For a moment, there is a bizarre silence, as though he is watching them through a lens of his own. Then one reporter yells out,

“Mr. Taggart, what were you doing in the ocean?”

And, like the levee breaking, noise comes back to him, and he is bombarded.

“Do you admit it was a hoax?”

“Did you plan this from the beginning?”

“Where is the alien?”

He easily out-runs them, hopping in his vehicle, pools of seawater gathering in the leather seats. Kicking into drive, he heads back home, feeling dazed.

A confusing mix of images swarms in his brain: stars shining brilliantly, fish tanks, and the thrashing waves of the sea.

Benny wakes with a start. He is lying in an uncomfortable cot with ugly grey sheets, his hair matted around his face. The plain white walls glare at him.

*~*~*~*~*

“I know you are very anxious to see your creature, Mr. Taggart, but while the team is getting the cameras set up, I would like to do a little interview.”

He grumbles but nods.

Jessick pauses, eyeing him curiously. She taps her pen on the table.

“Actually, do you have any questions for me?”

He gives her a furtive glance, looking very out of place in his flannel long-sleeve shirt.

“Aye,” he grunts. “So ah… what is the goal here? Wha’ do they mean to do with the creature… I mean if it’s here and all?”

“Ben… sorry, Mr. Taggart… the creature is here. They found it in a fishing boat in Michigan.” She laughs, “And it… well it’s been on a long journey, just like you. But–” she pauses, searching for words. “To be perfectly candid, there isn’t a lot of money for research in the budget right now. Especially on some weird animal that people are claiming is… you know… an alien. So basically you are here…”

He scoffs and gives her a wry smile. “Fer sensationalism?”

Jessick gives a surprised, booming laugh, “Well, yes. But Benny, listen, I have ulterior motives to their ulterior motives. I…” she pauses, as though considering how much to divulge, “I have been obsessed with that picture since it was released twenty-two years ago. And suddenly I found myself here, at this facility, with that THING… and I honestly felt that you should be here, too.”

Benny rubs his forehead and runs a large hand through his thick grey hair.

“Miss Sanders…”

“Call me Jessick.”

“Miss Jessick, all this will be very endearing, ya know, if I can actually see the damn thing.”

She chuckles. “Ok, just a couple of things to get out of the way first. You know that you will be on camera–“

Aye.”

“–So we don’t want you to feel pressured to act any certain way or to try and dramatize your feelings. Just be natural. As much as possible, we want you to pretend we aren’t there.”

“Ok, so, I meet the Creature, and then wha’?”

She gives him a blank stare, her eyes wide. “Ah… we’ll just see what happens.”

Now Benny gives a loud, booming laugh. “Oh, yeh migh’ be disappointed, Miss ah… Jessick. The creature in there? It’s only ever done wha’ it’s doin’ right now. It floats. Shimmers a bi’.”

A smirk. “We’ll just see, Benny. In the mean time, if you want to stay here, and not make me look like a fool, just… pretend you know something the research people don’t. And we’ll figure the rest out later.” She gives him a wink.

They enter two large industrial double-doors. Benny looks around. The room is spacious–almost the size of his house–and alarmingly empty with a large tinted window on one side and the giant water tank on the other.

“Where are all the cameras?”

“The cameras are discreet–” she points to two small devices, mounted on either side of the window, “-and the crew is on the other side of the window. We want you to feel like you have a little privacy.”

“Righ’.”

Benny walks to the tank. The slightest whizzing noise cues that the cameras are following him, zooming in, adjusting. There it is; glimmering, floating, its many silvery tentacles billowing around it, chaos turning to form, form becoming chaos again.

“There you are,” he whispers. He puts his hand up to the glass.

“Looks the same,” he says, turning briefly to the dark glass, to the cameras.

“I didn’t know how much I missed it. It wrecked my life, you know, but I still missed it. It draws yeh in, this thing.” He taps the glass affectionately.

Jessick glances at the glass.

“What do you remember about it from before?” she asks tentatively.

He scoffs. Giving her a significant look, he says, “Oh, she’s got secrets.” Touching the glass again, he whispers, “she’s got secrets.”

“Can I touch ‘er?” he asks.

“Is it a her?”

He shrugs.

Someone is gesturing at Jessick. She hits her com.

Is that safe? Can he do that?”

She turns to Benny. “Have you done that before?”

He almost laughs. “Aye. An’ I promise it don’ bite or nothin. But–” he pauses, and is again looking right at Jessick, “we have a special connection.”

Jessick looks at the window again, and Benny hears chatter from her com. Finally, she nods.

The tank is up against the wall where it reaches above Benny’s head, but there is a bench alongside it. Once standing here, it only comes to his chest and he can easily reach inside.

“Eh,” he says, indicating the smooth lid with his hand. There is no apparent opening. Stepping up, Jessick presses a button on the top, a little door slides open on the lid. After a nod, she moves away, giving him space.

Benny takes a moment to regard the creature; his one true great discovery; the phenomenon which changed his life and tore his family apart.

“Alright, lass, here we go,” he says.

Slowly, pulling his sleeve back, he reaches in and, feeling the strange slick tentacles, finds the bulbous body and lays his fingers there. Ah yes, the stars…

“Whoa! Sir!” A man with the security uniform, whose nametag reeds “Ross,” points at the one way they have been able to moniter the thing–thermal imaging.

“That thing has been flat green since we got it.” Now, as they look, the blues, greens, and yellows fluctuate.

“Damn,” says a researcher, “We need to get some neuro-mapping on that thing.”

“Well, we can’t neuro-map the Creature, because we don’t know if it has a brain.” An man in his forties with dark hair and a slightly dark complexion is standing next to Gerard and has an air of authority about him.

“Thanks for the recap, David,” Gerard sneers.

He clears his throat loudly, “However, what I was getting at is that we can neuro-map Benjamin.”

 

 

The Foreigner

The Foreigner ch. 12: Lonely

Ben is sitting on a fairly comfortable chair. Its sturdy metal frame is softened by structured cushions, strung together with boring gray fabric. The vibrations of the bullet train rumble beneath him. He wears a pair of old slacks and a long-sleeve flannel shirt. As the train emerges from the tunnel, its mechanical deceleration tugging on his gut, Benny turns to look at the scenery passing by–endless fields with sparce trees. A flutter of anticipation bubbles up, such that he hasn’t felt in years. Is he really going to see the creature again? Although the thing wrecked his life, he feels strangely attached to it.

During the trip, the hours seem to extend, laying themselves out in great lengths along the tracks. But as the destination finally approaches, the old man feels suddenly nervous. Fidgeting, he wishes briefly that the ride was not over. It also occurs to him to hop off and jump right back on the next one going home. But, looking at the desert landscape beyond the station’s wide windows, Ben remembers that he is very, very far from home. After waiting to retrieve his luggage from the rear compartment, he walks to the QuikDrivr cars, loading his luggage into one and greeting the driver. Once settled in, he figets with his pocket to pull out a large wallet, and removes the invitation, stuffed alongside his train ticket.

He gives the driver the address, reading off the invitation. The drive is not a long one, winding through the desert, the landscape mostly flat with mountains distant on the horizon. A promising sunset is creeping across the Western sky, painting a thin red haze across the horizon. They can see the facility a mile out, an ugly tan block surrounded by holo-fences.

“S’reused,” the driver says.

“Pardon?” Benny asks, clearing his throat nervously.

“Used to be NASA or sommin.”

“Huh.” Benny diverts his eyes. He breathes a sigh of relief as the silence continues and the car finally approaches the building.

“Name and Business.”

“I’m here with uh… what’s your name?”

“Benny… Benjamin Taggart,” he replies gruffly.

“Benjamin Taggart.”

“We need to see his face.”

Benny leans forward, peering at the security screen from around the passenger seat.

“Step out of the car, please, and bring your face up to the monitor,” the man on the screen says.

The rear door opens, Benny eases out of his seat, kicking his legs a bit, stiff from travel. He puts his face up to the monitor. The man on the other side looks at him for a moment. There is a flash of light.

“Alright, Mr. Taggart. Thank you. You are both cleared to enter.”

The broad streams of light barring their way retract slowly into the sides of the gate. The grounds, aside from a few prickly pears, are barren and composed of sand.

“Well, friend, this is where I leave you.” And before Benny can reply, the car pulls away, leaving him standing there with his luggage and his uncertainty.

The doors, which tower over Benny, open mechanically.

A face appears on the other side.

“Sir. Are you coming in?” It is the security man from the camera.

“Oh… aye. Sorry. I wasn’t sure if I should let me-self in!” The man raises an eyebrow as all 6 feet and 5 inches of Benny shuffles through with three suitcases: one rolling, one carried, and a smaller duffle bag under his arm.

Inside is a painfully bare room with a security desk–behind which sits a man who is reclining comfortably–another door, and a couple of uncomfortable-looking plastic chairs.

“You can put your things down,” the man beind the desk says. He leans forward, retrieving something out of sight, and plops a clip board loaded with a small stack of paper onto the desk’s surface.

“Here bud, fill this out. Sanders will be here in just a few.”

Just as he is finishing his paperwork, Benny looks up to see a young woman enter the room. She is dressed professionally, modern yet modest, with short brunette hair swept to one side.

“Hello Mr. Taggart,”–He stands to greet her–“My name is Jessick Sanders. We spoke on the phone.”

“Yes… uh… yes ma’am.”

“I’m so glad you are here! But ah… Before I bore you with all my thanks, why don’t I show you to your room?” she says with a smile, glancing at his weary face and his excessive luggage.

On through the other door, around a corner and down a corridor, Benny’s shoes click on cement floors, and his eyes adjust painfully to the white plaster walls and flourescent lights.

“They weren’t really going for ambiance when they built this place,” she says with a wink.

“Do yeh work here?”

“Oh… no. I’m a journalist. I’m here to make a film about you and… the creature.”

“So it is here?” His heart skips a beat.

“Yes, sir, and you will see it first thing in the morning. We don’t mean to make you wait but… you know there is a procedure for everything around here.”

He says nothing, but the most miniscule scowl settles into his face as they turn another corner, pass several plain doors, and finally stop at one.

His room is simple but comfortable with a bed, a desk, and a monitor screen.

“We have a little cafeteria set up,” she says. “You can eat with the rest of us. There is also a snack room and a bar, and I have finagled a little food fund for you.” He looks at her awkwardly.

“Oh uh… thanks. Thank you. Sorry, I’m… very far from my comfort zone here.” He manages a nervous laugh.

“I know. I told you I wouldn’t bore you with thanks, but … really… it means a lot to me–and the team–that you are willing to come out here. Um… we can discuss all the specifics in the morning, but I want to make sure you’re ok with being on camera.” She has the grace to look a little sheepish.

He frowns, then nods.

“Yes, eh… I remember we discussed tha’ and all. I understand… Bu’ do I really need to be on camera in my room?”

“Oh!” Her eyebrows shoot up under her bangs.

“No, sir, that is a touch screen.” She scoots past him and points at the icons.

“See, that one calls the front desk. This is a map of the facility–the areas you have access too, anyway–handy if you need food or the restroom. This one orders food, but you won’t need it tonight. I’ve already done that. They should bring it to you soon. Actually I can stay and make sure it gets here.”

There is an awkward silence. Benny is staring at the floor.

“Well, I’ll go ahead and leave you alone. But I’ll check on the food. Um… please call if you need anything. Oh–” she pulls a card from her pocket.

“Here is my number, and you have a cell phone there.” There is plastic black square roughly the size of a dime on the side table. With another awkward good-bye, Jessick leaves. The silence in the room is suddenly very noticeable. It feels bare and cold and foreign.

Benny sighs and doesn’t budge until his food arrives a few minutes later.

The Foreigner

The Foreigner Ch. 11: Jessick’s Proposal

Hey Guys! I went on a little hiatus. I have been busy with work, studies, and starting another blog. I don’t want to give up on The Foreigner though! I am really excited about things to come in the story. This chapter is the first one I have written from scratch (the rest are from Nanowrimo ’13) but I think I needed a little refresher and some creative room to breath. Anyway, on vis ze story!

*~*~*~*~*

Jessick sits leaned back in her chair with one foot propped on the corner of the table. The other guys sit around the table in varying degrees of boredom. One of them is wearing a lab coat, another has the same coat draped over the back of his chair. One of the soldiers on security detail, Lankford, is wearing a casual uniform–a grey shirt with the facility’s emblem, black slacks, and black sneakers. Tails and a couple other people in relaxed business attire are there.

Standing across the room from Jessick is Ted Montgomery; impressively tall and broad-shouldered, with handsome chiseled features, hidden by a long, sparce mustache and a short beard. And next to Ted is Gerard.

“Well this project is going really well,” he says dryly, and suddenly slams his fist onto the table.

“We have no funding, absolutely no results from that creature, and we are not allowed to interact with it because of–” he adopts a mocking tone, “–animal rights activists!”

The room is silent.

“Does anyone have any suggestions?”

“I do,” Jessick says, taking her foot down and sitting up strait. Ted’s mustache twitches. Gerard looks nauseated and says, almost through gritted teeth,

“Yes, Miss Sanders?”

“We need to capture the public’s attention,” Jessick says, standing up.

“You’ve mentioned this before,” Gerard interrupts wearily.

“Yes, and, I have the perfect plan.” She pulls a shiny photograph out of her back pocket and hands it to Gerard.

“Have you seen that photo before?”

He looks at her incredulously. “No, it looks like a blury squid. What does this have to do with anything?”

“Well, that picture is so fuzzy because it was taken on a cell phone,” –several people snicker– “and that squid is your specimin.”

Suddenly everyone is interested in passing around the picture.

“Holy shit,” Tails says.

“Do you remember a story on the news a little over twenty years ago about some guy going crazy in Scotland?” Most people in the room shake their heads or look at her blankly. Lankford’s eyes widen, and he perks up.

“Yeah! The crazy guy with the…”

“The alien,” Jessick says with a smile. “This picture is from his living room. It’s the picture that started the whole catastrophe… everyone was blowing up over this alien discovery, and then he went crazy and everyone forgot about it.”

“What are you trying to say? That he deserves credit, or…”

“No, Gerard, I am saying we should reunite Benjamin Taggart with his findings.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

She shrugs.

“You want to sit around with no funding watching a squid that does nothing, or do you want to create the greatest story of our life time, capture the people’s interest, and get somewhere with this experiment?”

“Actually,” Ted perks up finally, “Your superiors gave us free reign with this project because they are also desperate to see something happen with this specimin. So if you really want to, you can try and argue, but–”

Gerard closes his eyes and pinches his nose.

“How do you intend to find this Benjamin character, and who is going to pay for him to stay here?” he asks without lifting his head.

Ted smiles at Jessick.

“You just let us take care of that. Funding will come from our end.”

Uncategorized

Sculpture Garden

I went on a little journey today. Here’s me: bored late twenty-something on her day off. The one thing on my agenda other than a few scattered chores is a trip tova local esteemed art gallery. It is a small gallery which I have only been to during openings, but according to the ad, they have normal viewing hours Monday thru Friday 1pm to 4pm, and today is the last chance I’ll have to see the latest installment, sculptures made of heavy material but shaped to look weightless. The example I saw online was one made of four heavy slides of metal, two base pieces that were vaguely pear-shaped and sandwiched together to accentuate their slim sides, each with another wavy piece floating gracefully into the air. The whole thing reminded me of a whale: huge but graceful.

Little did I know however, that my journey would lead me far, far from the art gallery. The first thing I did was almost hit a child. Prompted to cross by the stop guard, he put his arms out and ran across the street at top speed, and without pausing, turned and crossed the adjacent street, right in front of my car. I stopped well within time, but the people at the corner and the cross guard were giving me demeaning, disapproving looks. I stared at them in shock for several minutes before continuing inti the next road. What was wrong with me? Why did I attempt to turn when a child was crossing the road? Children are damn well unpredictable. I shouldn’t have moved in any direction until the child was completely clear of the intersection.

Trying not to let this distract me, I headed in the direction Google Maps suggested, which looked completely wrong. Pretty soon I was in the East side, boarded-up-windows territory. Large, handsome architecture, half-collapsed and falling into disrepair.

I tried not to gape like a damn tourist, but my eyes zipped around. There was an arcade shop and a furniture store. I passed a dinky little burger drive-through. Knowing this was obviously the wrong way, I asked myself how far I should venture before turning around. And then, across the street from what was clearly the projects, over the hill came rows of stones, a monument, a mosoleum. It was the biggest graveyard I had seen in town–and I had no idea it was there. Like the people in the projects, it was stuffed off to the side; forgotten.

I found myself in the right lane at a red light, right in front of the entrance. I turned in. As I drove, I looled around in wonder. Rutheby. Gillepsy. Carmichael. Our resting ground. Our final destination. For a moment I was crossed with the indignation at how much people had to pay for auh a privelege. Then, driving along the paved path, turning a corner, I gasped. The stones went on for acres, stretching much farther than I had originally realized. My breath was taken for a moment, but I resolved to leave, feeling like a trespasser. Pulling out of the Yard spit me right onto the street I needed to get home.

Iy was 3:40.

Passing a neighborhood of more large yet dilapedated houses, I finally saw the buildings of downtown. Giving up on Google, I realized I KNEW where the damn thing was–I had been there several times! Shaking my head, I headed North yet again and down toward the shops on 2nd North. Once in the area, I found a place to park. Only 50c for an hour! A nice man whose dogs were jumping on me directed me to the next block up. Reaching the next intersection, I found the familiar street lined with cafes and bars, but could not see the gallery. Turning the oyher direction, the mass of brick looked like more office buildings, but then, in the distance, I saw a paper taped to a window reading “art classes.” That’s it! I jogged across the street, past several blocked doors and window displays stuffed with student art, and finally reached the show room. The door was locked. It was probably just after 4. But through the window, I could aee the sculpture. The metal one with the fins. And I was fantastically dissatisfied with it.

Smiling, I headed toward the cafe I passed, contemplating my very profound experience in the sculpture garden across from the projects.

And here I sit. Finishing my sandwich.

The Foreigner

The Foreigner Ch.10: The Facility

Hello! Welcome to my page! The Foreigner continues in 2015! Woo!

*~*~*~*~*

A dark shoe emerges from the sliding metal-fiber door. Jessick takes a moment to look around, her dark hair swooping over one side of her forehead, curling back over her ear, cupping the occipital ridge and ending above her neck. Her eyes shine green in the vibrant yellow light blasting through the glass ceiling. The station is not terribly busy. A few people push past her as she takes in the sights… locals probably, busying themselves with retrieving luggage and heading home. But Jessick is not from here. The paneled windows above her extend from the train tunnel and curve down like an awning, open the New Mexican air where a wall of heat waits to assault new visitors.

The station is painfully well-polished, a brand-new installment as part of a government program to keep people from panicking over the transportation crisis. The railing is clean and shiny with no scratches. A nearby wall displays a TV air-screen flashing between news clips, train notices, and routes. A couple standing at the adjacent display selects a location from the menu, and Jessick watches as the screen zooms out to the train map, highlighting the route with bullet points on the side listing their exits and change-overs. With the press of another button, it prints out a receipt-like-paper mapping their route. As Jessick leaves the shelter of the curved window overhead, rolling luggage in tow, she heaves the dry western air.

“Just a dry heat…” she mutters, rolling her eyes. “Indeed.”

There is no parking lot, but a waiting area with picnic tables. Other travelers are walking next door to an attached building with snacks, bathroom, and information. A narrow road, looking more like a wide, smooth sidewalk, ends in a loop in front of the arrivals. Drivers are lined up in little smart cars behind a blue sign with white letters saying, “passenger pick-up.”

Climbing in one of the cars, she tells the driver the neighborhood she is looking for, assuring her that she will have a map pulled up by the time they get there. The woman rolls her eyes and off they go, whirring like a toy car. Cozy in the back seat, Jessick flips the switch on a tiny plastic-looking cap on her pinky finger. A square blue light flicks on and Jessick feels that familiar buzz in her head. On a petite band around her wrist is a small black box. With another click of a button, a transparent screen blinks itself into existence in front of her. As she stares at the screen, it changes a couple of times; a blank screen, a search bar, a map.

*~*~*~*~*

Coffee is a dangerous companion for Jessick. Its aromatic steam and rich flavor could talk her into doing just about anything. Traversing through abandoned buildings where nameless heinous crimes would probably be performed on her? “Eh,” she would say, latte in hand, “It’ll be an adventure.” Following a suspicious character with two teeth, a bald head, and overalls into a creepy old warehouse? “Whatever, as long as I get some coffee and a good story out of it.”

Now, holding a fresh cuppa joe, Jessick waits in a painfully sterile bare-bones lobby. A man in military uniform reclines behind the security desk, full with glass walls. The security guard’s blank stare is wearing her down just as a man comes bustling through a plane white door, closing and locking it behind him. A blocky head is propped atop a tall, round body. Scruffy blond hair frames kind blue eyes and a comically square nose.

“How the hell did you get here? Who let you in?” he says with a smirk.

“Turns out I’m really important,” she says, putting a hand on her hip. They laugh and shake hands.

“Good to see you, Tails.”

“Likewise. So this Ted person was supposed to get you clearance?”

Jessick raises an eyebrow, “I would assume… but maybe something is holding him up. Anyway, I was told to be here.”

The man shrugs. “Let me get Gerard. He’s the one heading the research.”

“Tails” disappears for several moments, and Jessick is once again left to stand awkwardly with the security guard.

A stuffy man who would look at home in a cravat, but wears a simple button-up shirt and slacks, walks into the room and looks around, down his nose and through his thick glasses. His balding head comes to a shiny point above watery eyes that hold a condescending glare. His small mouth is puckered with indignation.

“What’s this?” he demands, huffing importantly, coming up to Jessick’s shoulder, “Where is Mr. Montgomery?”

“He’ll be here in a few days, sir,” Jessick says calmly, extending her hand, “My name is Jessick Sanders, and I’m actually directing the film.”

If possible, he tilts his head back yet further, as if subconsciously wishing to distance himself.

You?”

No, the Pope. “Yes sir, I worked with Ted before, and he actually wants me to have the reigns in this project. He will be here in a few days to supervise and offer advice.”

The man blinks once. Twice. “So you are supposed to be the one documenting this whole experiment?”

“Actually, Gerard,” Jessick says, becoming impatient, “I am not just here to sit behind a camera. I’m here to give your story an angle.”

He shrugs, “What does it have to do with me? I will oversee my experiments, and you can film from all the angles you want.”

“I just want to make sure we have an understanding. Like I said, I don’t just want to film what’s going on. You see, you need to capture the people’s attention so that you can get more funding.”

Gerard’s eyes dart around the room, apparently searching for someone to share his incredulity.

“Let’s get you settled, Miss–ah–Sanders, and we can talk about details when Mr. Montgomery arrives,” he says finally, speaking too loudly, as if desperate to regain control of the conversation.

Considering it a moot point, Jessick agrees to be led to her room, unable to contain a little smirk on her face.