LOVE’S LOCKET

Time slows in the unraveling of a fractured world that finally falls – no longer sustainable. Private corporations develop commercial space travel and other habitable zones are discovered. In a move to protect their interests and save lives, they leave the dying planet to colonize another world, they call Keplar. The exodus begins quietly and builds gradually until the last lottery ticket is drawn and those who could afford the tickets have already gone. Anger and resentment are all that remain.

For those left behind, a retreat to the underground and cavernous rubble is a desperate adaptation to survive. Gangs clash with other gangs and self-proclaimed peacekeepers. Now, as before, is a struggle over territory and resources, right to the end.

When years pass in darkness under a sleeping sun, monsters emerge to hunt those that remain. For some, the compulsion for meat is primal, considered dark acts among the shamans. Then even as the zealots come asking for repentance, trades are made. Eventually, only one may remain to carry the burden of all, they say.

On the other side of an unrecognizable world, one man runs day in and day out without ever leaving. He searches for a code held within the locket he knows can transcend him from this place. He is still alive because of it, even in this moment, he is lifted from the present surroundings, and drawn through some sort of memory jack. This locket is like a portal, but he can’t figure out how or who could make such a contraption… or why. But then, he is gone from this space, this patch of dirt always shifting beneath his feet, running to stay hidden from dark eyes and roving cannibals that hunt the hunted; bound to stretch resources and take protein. No, with the locket, there are times he is invisible to that reality, as now, seen by her eyes only, wandering lush gardens for hours on end, and days talking and laughing… loving in the moment, cast in each other’s heart stone. But it never lasts more than one hour of time in the dark world where long days feel like weeks in the garden.

He doesn’t remember where he found the locket or how long he’d had it – it just was; more than costume jewelry or a carnival trinket…, it is an artifact with a heavy feel, a peculiar ornamental that possesses something more – it is a very animated-inanimate work of art, but there is frustration. He doesn’t know how the locket works. In this incredibly special circumstance, there is a code that binds the two halves of each locket into one and can transcend the locket bearer permanently to the world he imagines. All he wants is to leave this dead place and remain in the sanctity of her garden.

Malnutrition sinks his energy and fatigue weighs his spirit. He waits, turning the silver body over in his palm. The chain drapes over his thumb; he tries to remember what he was doing when he traveled the last time to see her. He puts it around his neck, still turning it, studying it for some worn inscription that maybe he missed before, or the secret spot that he accidentally rubbed exactly right. Eventually, he nods to sleep tucked under the arms of the great ferns in the forest.

A long ways from anywhere, he is awakened.

“I can smell him. He is close.”

“Kara likes the hands and feet!”

“What will we do when there are none left?”

“That’s why we have Kara, moron! Ours is the last tribe and will taste the last of our kind. Then man will be reborn in our image.”

“What is that?” The young hunter asks. They peer up into the trees and cannot make anything out other than a large swath of black space above.

“I don’t know.” The older hunter replies with a gaping stare. Just then, a long tongue darts out from the canopy and slurps around his neck and plucks him from his leather loafers.

“What?” And just like that, the hunters became the hunted.

The locket does not take him. Carnage is smeared across the path below. Luckily, the frog monster only attacks where there is a threat and now bounds away through the trees away from where he hides. A putrid smell hangs in the air. If the monsters or the hunters don’t kill him, the environment will. He knows he must find the place where technology did not replace the great writers. There is a library that sits in the inner part of the Last City. He heard there were clerics there devoted to protecting the ancient texts. This was one place he knew carried some hope to unlock the secrets of the locket. Carefully, he unties his rigging and drops from the ferns.

The forest floor is dank and overrun with danger. He peers the path ahead and as he sets off on a trek toward the Last City, he becomes woozy and realizes the left side of his body is vanishing, leaving him caught somewhere between dimensions. This is something new and he tries not to panic as his body is pulled through a wormhole that he has no control over. In moments, he wakes from the chaos of teleportation and is no longer in the forest but standing among great pillars of stone.

The Last City remains a relic of human achievement with once high-rise scrapers that pawed at the horizon now half crumbled in ruin. At the center, the Great Halls of Discourse and the Chamber of Illumination are still intact. Various races and gods of races and other forms are drawn to assemble and consider arguments for the fate of humankind. Some are transported through holographic energy while others materialize in true form.

Remnants of human government, articles of evidence, are brought forth and arguments ensue. Aradian, the Nna, Trel, and even ancient representatives, once human, gather. Eni, a leader of the Nna and Circle of Truth, comes forth, and speaks to the Tribunal.

“Welcome worthy interests and friends of truth through our allegiance to the Gaya. We are here to examine the fate of this planet and the last of humankind. I know your tongue and its reference to ‘Maker’ but there is nothing to fear. I have a subject I think is suitable for this examination.”

The Chamber erupts in a fit of skeptical gasps with gestures of discontent lobbed back and forth.

“You, Eni, are responsible!”

“The human makers should be tried!”

“The Nna must be held to account!”

“Nna! Nna! Nna!” the crowd chants grow, focused on Eni; condemning him to pay for the destruction that his kind brought on the sacred planet.

“Wait!” Eni strikes the thick marble floors with a bolt of energy and time stops leaving all hushed in a quiet stare. “We have the one, behold.” He waves his arm, and the grand doors swing wide at the other end of the hall. A brilliant bead of energy fizzles into the shape of a human – a man who stands, visibly shaken, and confused. “Come forth!” Eni commands.

A long stretch appears before him, leading to a gigantic room. No longer are ferns overhead and darkness is replaced by shadows that dance among pillars of gold inviting him to follow.

“Come! Explain to this assembly why you should live. Share your story and convince us!”

The man starts to step back but cannot move. He is drawn forward.

“Come. Your time is now, and you must speak for all humanity. It is your duty!” Eni is insistent.

The man finds himself standing at the center of a giant chamber filled with beings he could only have once dreamed about. They are super-natural auras, and reptilian beasts, and sentient beings that peer down at him from all sides.

“Speak your truth, Michael.” Eni is gentle as a grandfather with a soothing tone.

“I…I am the last of the humans to be hunted on this planet. It was once lush with life but now wasted and shriveled up…dying.”

The chamber erupts once more accusing the man of making an admission for his crimes.

“Let him speak!” Eni waves and a hush again falls across the chamber.

“My name is Michael Love. I am imperfect but deserve to be spared for a second chance.”

“Why?! How many chances do you think you deserve?”

“Your people have destroyed everything!”

“You squandered the sacred land.”

Many are shouting over each other, and Michael feels claustrophobic and small under their attack. They are right, he knows, and wants to run away from there but still cannot move. He is fixed, legs bound.

Then, Eni whispers in his mind, “tell them about the locket. You are still learning, but they know, and will set you free to find the knowledge you seek.” Michael is taken back, bewildered.

“Shout it, Michael! Let it be known with no doubt!” Eni commands.

“I have the locket!” Michael shouts at the top of his lungs and the room comes to a sudden gasp. There is a stillness as time just stopped.

“I have the locket and have traveled with it to other realms. It is the only reason I am alive. It is a lock to another dimension – a place of peace and beauty – a place where my other half awaits me.”

Eni speaks, “He has the locket! The prophecy is true – he has the locket and has been to the Gaya.” The crowded chamber begins murmuring and buzzing and clamoring over the news.

“PROVE IT!”

Michael reaches inside his tunic and pulls out the silver locket, shaped like a tear drop, or half heart. It is brilliant with an energy that comes to life and grows throughout the hall. He has never seen it react this way. Just then, an armored reptilian materializes within ten feet of him drawing power.

“No, Tork!” Eni is swinging his staff and is instantly at Michael’s side with a shield of energy to block the assailant. The Cura steps back and then lunges for the locket. Eni catches him on the snout with a burst of energy and latches onto his throat.

“ENOUGH!” Eni releases Tork who stumbles back cowering before the ancient master. “We must not be petty but remain steadfast.”

Michael has the locket clutched as it pulsates. A blue mist grows around him, enveloping. He forces all his energy, concentrating his will to become one with the locket and disappear.

An overwhelming feeling of love makes him weep. He knows he is to be in her presence and hopes it will last this time. No more monsters or debating alien beings deciding to kill him or not – he will remain in the garden with her this time. He floats in a timeless state untouchable. No more will he hide in the ruins of the past.

Abruptly, the images of the garden are gone, and he is standing in the Chamber of Illumination. Eni is there, along with Tork, kneeling before him. All the beings are in a state of reverence, meditative, as if waiting. Michael doesn’t understand. He should not be here. The locket let him down again. He needs answers. Eni told him that sharing the locket would free him with knowledge to the secrets he sought. He is running out of time. The locket continues to glow as he studies it, trying to understand what happened. Why is he still in this place?

“It is ok, Michael Love.” The voice instantly calms his mind, and he is lulled into the spirit of the woman that he had come to know. But where is the garden? Why is she here?

“Please, take my hand. It is time.” He turns to see her standing there with an outstretched hand. His legs are no longer bound, and he is adrift.

“They can see you – why are you here?”

“We must learn to love, come.”

Ucking-Fay Ant-Ray

2020 was bad.

Good in some ways, but generally bad.

For the first time, I learned that character doesn’t matter.

Doesn’t matter? Character doesn’t matter?

Never mind the pandemic, people die all the time. We overcome.

Shit you can get unemployment and coast for a bit, hit the bank, suck it up.

Armed people threaten because they can’t speak

Our education system failed them and us

Let’s lie and cheat and steal and cheat and lie

Don’t believe ANYTHING

Don’t believe ANYTHING

I can’t trust my eye

Even your boy attracts flies

how’s that formaldehyde?

no matter your side.

Sit down

stop acting like a clown

or the bleach you tried to teach

tell me

what is the purpose of a willful ignorant?

voices hide in the American dream

tongues come and go

while fingers stream

clashing moral waves

hiding in digital caves

months feed fodder for prose

empty brain thinks it knows

flounder cult lies

failing legal ties

majority gets the prize

but you don’t count that high

in darkness thou shalt find darkness

where character doesn’t matter.

Doesn’t matter?  

Is this what you wanted when you strove for high places?

Is this what was intended when you took the seat?

How can you justify your double-speak?

I am sick and tired of your lunacy

I am sick and tired of how you find truth through blasphemy

Go back to your grand hovel

Here let me help you with the shovel

There ain’t no room to grovel

Take your cult foul mouthed sermon

And fade in the disgrace of your dominion

There is no time left for your opinion

We will move past you now.

Poetry Prompt Prose: Reflection

The iron bench never warmed my bum. It was the fifth of October and I was hanging with my chum chatting coincidental circumstance of meeting where the children play.

I am confined in the memory of the spring when I tried to fly with a broken wing, she said.

My dog died and got buried next to the bone from last summer. Aye.

The innocent find light in the darkness and remind the wretched wrestling with wrongs where to repent. The presence of preference preside with prejudice over people of purpose.

Tis true too many tumble through tumultuous times, this time, certainly, is true.

Yes, you muse. What do you think the spring will bring?

Endless paces along brick laid places pondering peace potential. Aye.

Yes, it has been a time to settle dreams and take a pass.

In her weary tear I see a reflection of me;
hope is the child that comes to rest on her knee.

White Room

The room is sterile. A small bed and a table and chair are there with only an intercom on the wall for decoration. He does not expect to hear the door lock from the outside when Ruby leaves. He checks the knob, and it’s locked. They can do almost anything to him in here. He wonders at the three vents in the ceiling and what they might be used for in such a small space. This is hardly the accommodation he was expecting. He wonders at how much this cost. He sits on the edge of the bed light-headed. He can barely feel the steel bar digging into the back of his thigh as his legs go numb. He is restless and tries to think about the trance that this whack-job doctor put him under. This is his first time, that he recalls, of being admitted for an evaluation but only because his wife, Mary, had given him an ultimatum: Get help or get out! He spends the next several minutes searching his memory and keeps going back to the other night when he fell off the wagon.  

Fits of drunken tirades and delusions of grandeur are unbearable for Mary, an ambitious woman driven for her own success, her own ego. The lack of follow through drove her insane.  Jack is deflated along with his place in life. He is inadequate, lost in a spiral of booze and mental illness. He is the last person anyone would suspect as being anything more than a drunk. For Jack, schizophrenia and depression were on his calling card, too. If not for the mysterious trust account, he would be alone.  

It is one of his walks down among the night crawlers of Seed City, when he stumbles into his own self-loathing, a place that festers from within, arguing in endless circles. He is tightly wound on a philosophical wheel of his demise and spins out of control suffering from trying to understand the meaning of his life.

I’m better off alone.
She hates me.
I love her and need to get home.
…She hates me. I don’t care.
She is weak without me. She hates me for that.
…This is not my life.
I can’t live without her.

He wonders at what others must think as he fumbles with the need to feed his addiction. Up ahead, just across Revolution Boulevard and old neon signs, an old man is lying on sheets of cardboard in a dark cutout to the entrance of a boarded-up storefront. Across the way, a young couple trip on the edge of a streetlamp and disappear into the night air. Shadows climb the walls in the alley avoiding the sporadic streetlights that flicker. He imagines tumbleweed rolling up a warm midnight walkway with wooden rails and dirt.

What is his purpose if not to please his wife? How does he connect when his efforts are met with scorn? He is empty as if carved out from his insides, scraping at the walls of his soul, hollowing him out. He can leave but thinks he loves her. She just doesn’t see it – or doesn’t care. It eats at him constantly and he struggles to reconcile her seeming indifference. But then, maybe he is the one that can’t see past his own needs?

He walks up to a man on the corner, known as ‘Billy Baggs’, and passes through a seamless transaction and midstride into an underworld where the protesters are and the homeless drug addicts and failed accountants. He studies the clear baggy that had just materialized in the palm of his hand, turning it over to measure its contents, a small blue sticker has the word: CLARITY.

He is the epitome of crap at a time when society is cracking under the weight of its greed, eating itself. It is so ironic, he thinks. The needle of society piercing where nerves no longer feel. Too many bruises have brought him to heel. The same question cycles through his thoughts, over and over: how did he get here? Everywhere, shadows slink just out of sight, but he can hear the dark whispers hiss in his head, coaxing him to awaken, but to what? How can people not see the cracks widening beneath their feet? Seeds of discontent are sown, and clear sight is lost from the true nature of our purpose. We want more and more and more, so caught up with a lust for power, we turned a blind eye to the chaos that had come into our lives. Jack just wanted to feel normal and get high.

A side street leads away from the shuttered storefronts and the few street people waiting for ‘last call’ to bum a smoke. CLARITY. His mind is trapped in a loop where he has been down this road before. Mary will do a crossword puzzle and watch her evening shows. A couple of drinks serve as a periscope into a better life. Perhaps, they are not that different, yet he is the one locked behind this door.

 Wrestling with iron grips of addiction, he relishes the uncertainty of his dysfunction like a crapshoot tumbling across the green. Slowly, chaos is devouring the spirit of the human species and he sees it – is part of it; people are losing their minds. Something is in the air that does not feel right. His thoughts are on the very edge of holding it together, struggling between the lightness of his true being and the dark essence that sits in this place, locked up with him.

He hears footsteps outside the door and goes motionless. After seconds, there is only silence. He begins to pace, counting steps: 1, 2, 3, 4… The room is about 12 x 8 paces. A cold chill runs up his spine. The shakes are not too far off now.

Pacing, he thinks back to the other day, before CLARITY set in. He is standing in front of Saviors, a fancy high-tech store over on Powell, watching their mega-media screen. The breaking news from the Web is that the United Soviet Empire have declared martial law in 7 sectors and have locked down all borders. Heavy military units are seizing the cities and rounding people up under a declaration of civil cleansing. Human rights activists are calling for a tribunal to intervene. Meanwhile, religious fanatics call the actions prophetic and say it is but a matter of time before the West will be forced to submit. Some have offered themselves like lemmings to be neutralized from the pains of humanity and join their gods in the night sky through rapture.

As he listens, he takes a deep sip from his day flask, mesmerized by the footage. Others gather like ghosts come to witness the reality of what had been warned… He recalls hearing about similar events happening in parts of major US cities but those are passed off as rumors or fake news. There, that is where it started; that was the first drink that day.

Jack then remembers shooting stick over at the Pelican and maybe a couple more shots there but isn’t sure whether that was before or after CLARITY. His mind flashes back to the side street off Revolution Blvd where it all began. He isn’t sure how much he had to drink by then, but he fit right in like an anonymous specter that belonged; no one ever suspected him of being anything more than just another drunk, which he isn’t. Jack just prefers a soiled landscape where he can rummage with fewer pressures. He is a man that walks without a name – a man who has forgotten who he is. An outstretched hand reaches from a hidden door casting a shadow across an alley of broken glass and brick where burn barrels warm shaking hands and calloused minds from shattered dreams. Chaos is in his nature having latched onto him from the moment he came to be and even the good part of him savored its unequivocal judgment.

Still, there is that nervous twitch beneath his skin. “Is everything ok, sir? Your neurological readings are irregular.” Nursebot enters as he sits recounting the events that brought him there in the first place.