Monthly Archives: October 2015

As I Crossed Over: Caoilte’s Experience

It was winter cold, the morning I returned to her. The night was cresting a wave of a darker sea, brightening slowly with patches glimmering brighter than any sun. The light filled every span of sky, until I felt it filter through skin, it was, and was not mine. Boundaries seemed to dissolve, around me, around all I could see from where I was. With quiet curiosity I felt separation fall away, while keeping whole the one I knew as I.

***

The murmur of the surrounding voices, growing sharp with concern, began to fade into a song whose melody I once could follow, but to whose chords I could no longer belong. Why did they weep, my fiercest friends, when I was still here, tinged fair against the depth of sky, shining out all I had ever been? Could they not see me, holding out my hands to them, set free from the bindings of age? For a moment, uncertain, I remained, bewildered, torn, unsure which way to turn.

Then, in fully fledged joy, I leapt between silences, having glimpsed the threshold of a door, and then I knew: the cause of their keening, the body huddled on the floor that once answered to my name. I tried, but could not shout to make known I was there, the same. For a moment I wondered if I might remain alone, if I would wander the in between of worlds as I had done in other ways the whole of my life.

And then, suddenly you were there, grasping my outstretched hands in yours, as strong as I tried to remember you. This time we would not let go.

I forgot if there were other things I knew, lost as I was in the light-song of you. Joyful tears sparkled in your eyes, eyes like the bright moon, eyes of my love, I dreamed, mere dreams, to see again. Laughing then, you pulled me into your arms, effortlessly carried me, though between us you’d been so much the smaller of the two.

I did not know how to speak in such a new form, but love never needed words. Together at last, we crossed the bridge of light woven with a thousand stars. I’m here, you’re here, and the felt thoughts blend, both of ours.

For there is now no moment to separate us in time, no sequence of nights and days, no leaving behind. No veil, only mist, that parts to the keen eye, with the colors of belonging, an eternal tide, a dance we’re wandering, life into life, and ending in beginning, we do not die.

There is no death, only change. Playful time might rearrange as we let go of what was never ours to own and emerge, as if from the cocoon of a denser, more solid world, into the vibrant song of being, which we have always known. In joyous abandon, we leap into the arms of those who wait for us, united once more, finally come home. We cross the bridge of becoming, Brilliant and bold, and dance the patterns of the light. In us, there is life.

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Friday FREAKY Flash with Éilis Niamh, Helen Jones and Geoff le Pard

I’ve been featured on Ali’s Friday Freaky Flash, along with two other wonderful and talented people. Have a read of the spooky tales here and then go check out more of Ali’s awesome blog.

aliisaacstoryteller

Friday Freaky Flash – http://www.aliisaacstoryteller.com

I set you a monstrous challenge for last week’s Friday Freaky Flash, and some of you almost snapped my hand off as you reached for the gauntlet;

Demons. Witches. Vampires. Werewolves. Tell me your most monstrous story.

But first, a late entry for the previous week’s dreams challenge from the wonderfully talented poet, singer-songwriter, blogger and philosopher, Éilis Niamh

Four PM, the night of the blood moon, saw me picking my way carefully across gnarled tree roots and jagged cracks as I entered the park alone. The day’s warmth seemed to be fading more rapidly than the sunlight, but both cast a collective shadow, an impending foreboding that silently trailed behind me. My friends tried to warn me earlier. People were being advised to stay indoors after five, they said. But I already had plans.

I noticed an absence of birdsong as I ducked…

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The Collective: A Short Story _ Part 2

After a few moments, I realized I was holding my breath. Stomp, stomp, stomp. The mysterious thudding in the basement continued to reverberate up through the floor. “Let’s get out of here,” I commanded. “Where’s the other brother?”

We found him in his usual location, still stuck in his book, as if nothing was out of the ordinary. The brother who was recently playing the game snatched the book from the other’s hands, and placed it on the coffee table.

“What?” asked the brother who was recently reading.

“We got to get out of here! Let’s go, all of you.” Mom dragged the brother to his feet and began ushering us toward the back door, but not before I had time to glance at the book title. The Collective. Had that always been the title? I couldn’t be sure.

Astonishingly, mom pried open the door. My mouth fell open as, just for a moment, I glimpsed a bit of the outside. All my instincts told me to run and never look back, but we were missing a person. “Wait,” I exclaimed. “Where’s dad?”

In answer we heard footsteps on the basement stairs. We turned from the door, never to remember it was there again. Around us, the air began to thicken. Almost passed the edge of my awareness, I thought I saw condensation begin to form and slide down the nearby wall.

“What’s going on?” Dad asked. I noted that the stomping in the basement had stopped.

“I don’t know,” mom said, dazed, and rubbed her eyes.

“I heard the noise in the basement and went down there to look. Nothing is there.”

“That’s nice,” mom yawned. “What noise?”

Dad shook his head. “I…”

His words were interrupted by a large crash way above our heads. In horror, we all looked up toward the origin of the sound. Silence. I was breathing a sigh of relief when I heard a brother give a shout.

“Mom!” his voice a mixture of fear and anguish

We all turned. Mom was gone. One moment she had been there, and the next, no sign of her remained. Frantically, we searched the room for her. We even began to search the rest of the house, though it hardly made sense to do so. What could have happened?

Finally one of the brothers suggested that we go down to the basement and try stomping on the floor. After all, he explained in response to our bewildered faces, that’s what was said to be helpful in the game. What else did we have to go by to try to get mom back?

So that’s what we did. For hours, and hours, and … we yelled and stompped ourselves silly , having convinced ourselves there was no other solution. In truth, we could not remember whether there was any other solution.

Finally, dehydrated, malnourished and exhausted, we collapsed on the floor, and fell silent. But the room would not be silent for long. At first, I could not determine the location of the many voices. Men, women, and children of all ages spoke at once together, in perfect unison. Chills ran down my spine.

For a moment, I thought I could pick out my mother’s voice from among the many. How? I wondered whether I could be sure. After a moment I decided I couldn’t be. I had already forgotten what she sounded like.

I tried to warn my brother to not go looking for the source of the sound, but he was practically compelled. Upon discovering it I heard him exclaim, “They’re communicating through the vents!” Then I lost track of him.

I had to focus instead on not listening to the voices. Somehow I knew that if I paid too much attention to them, I would bring attention to myself. But inevitably, I tuned in. “The people who previously stayed here ran away before we had the chance to welcome them face to face,” toned the united chorus. “How rude of them, really. For years, there was nothing here for us but to wait. Our number grew malnourished and weak. But the waiting was worth it, for you came. We have greatly appreciated your memories. We were hungry. You belong to us, now. We are the collective.”

I heard, and a cauldron of defiant anger began to bubble up inside me. It threatened to overflow, and for once I did not check my emotions. Belong to them? Who on earth did they think I was? Certainly no one who would ever put up with being in someone else’s control.

I jumped to my feet, which I noticed was oddly an effort. “Get up!” I hollered in frustration at my remaining family, who sat as if hypnotized on the floor staring in the direction from which the chorus of voices had come. “Move! Shout! Don’t stop. You have to throw yourself into your actions, those can’t be taken from you. Insist on your life as your own. At least we can put up a fight!”

I continued yelling phrases like this and staying in motion, although I did not know how I came by the words, although the air was getting thicker, although my body protested every attempt at moving and it took all I had to not slow down. I kept going like this accompanied by four strong other moving bodies and voices … then three … then two … then …

Slowly the silence grew louder and louder, until I was hushed still by the deafening recognition of absence. I was alone. Where was I? With growing terror, I opened my eyes which I did not remember closing.

I had never seen the room before. I tried, but couldn’t place it. The solid four walls mocked me. No escape. No way out. I screamed, and my voice was muffled, even to my own ears. It was as if this entire space was sealed shut. Who would hear me? In desperation I screamed one more time, before panic robbed me of the ability to speak.

Around the time I realized that no one would ever find me, even if they went looking, I began to feel like I was being watched. I blinked. Something was odd about the grey shapeless patterns on the walls. Were those eyes? At my thought of the eyes, they turned simultaneously, and fixed me with a calculating, heart-wrenching stare. I froze. And then it, they, came for me. I had put up a valiant fight. Now I would have to accept defeat.

***

The next thing I knew, I was lying in a bed. A woman sat beside me, talking to me quietly, gently wiping sweat and tears away from my face with a wet cloth. My first instinct was to panic, and I began to scream again. But over time, her calm voice and assuring presence dissolved my fears.

“It’s okay,” she soothed, “I’m your neighbor from next door.

“What happened?” my voice came out a shaky croak.

“I heard a racket at your house and came to see what was the matter. I kept hearing the scream, and your back door was open, so I went inside. I found you lying wet and cold on the basement floor, barely breathing. It was very odd. I continued to hear the scream, but it was certainly not coming from you. I could not pinpoint the origin. You smelled like plaster and ancient mold, though the basement was spotless and well ventilated. I hurried you over here as fast as I could. It’s all right, you’re safe now.”

“Mom, dad, the brothers?” I inquired with dread in my heart.

“I found no one else, just you. I’m so sorry. Can you tell me anything that happened which could help us find them?”

“I can’t remember.” I answered miserably.

My neighbor looked worried. “I’m very concerned about you, can I ask you some questions?”

“Sure,” I gave a weak nod. I felt suddenly exhausted.

“Can you tell me your name?” she asked, and the long silent response was somehow louder than screams could ever be.

“What’s your name! Emily, tell me your name!” she demanded, unable to hide the alarm in her voice.

“I don’t know,” I said at last, saddened to not be able to give her the answer she wanted. “Who’s Emily?”

***

It took many, many years for me to regain my memory. But once I had, there were times I wished I’d continued in my ignorance. I miss my family the most: their voices, their love. Since my escape, the house has been demolished. The bodies of my family were never found, and eventually all investigations ceased.

But I know better than to think it is over. Sometimes, late at night in my dreams, I find myself again alone in that dark forsaken room, with no windows or doors. I look around. The grey wallpaper is punctuated at intervals by sets of staring, hungry, haunted eyes. Slowly what looks like the wallpaper begins to peel away, sliding silently, until a disembodied mass surrounds me with single-minded purpose. In unison eager hands reach for me, but I am transfixed by the eyes, which seem to be the only remnants of individuality allowed to remain, nameless now. They watch me intently with an aching longing, pleading with me to give them back what they lost, what they barely remember had once belonged to them. But I cannot. And then I wake, full of an intense gratitude that I am free to be my own person.

But the collective is still out there, seeking to assimilate any it can make its own. It lurks in the shadows of the forgotten, just waiting, biding its time. Remember not to be next.

You can read Part 1 here:
The Collective Part 1

The Collective: A Short story _ Part 1

I can’t recall the day we moved into the three story house. It was the first house I lived in which had a basement and an attic, not to mention more stories than one. I do remember the basement being quite friendly. The previous owners built it up into almost another floor, with real walls and carpeting, and even a tiny bathroom. My brothers and I used it as a general playroom and often hid down there from our parents.

The rest of the house was standard enough. We settled into the three bedrooms upstairs, my brothers sharing a room to themselves, and I, being the oldest and only girl, taking a room to myself. On the middle floor above the family room, mom set up a warm and welcoming kitchen area, and at first, I would sit at the table, talking to her while she made our meals. My brother, Billy, seemed to have an almost permanent claim on the desk in the dining room, where he played computer games with his new expensive surround sound speakers. Carl, my other brother, was far more quiet and serious. I remember that sometimes I would find him reading on the couch, a distant look in his eyes.

At first, nothing was odd or out of the ordinary except for the story of the people who lived there before us. Apparently none of the neighbors ever saw them out and about, and then one day, the place was abandoned. The woman next door walked home one night to find the doors wide open, the family car feebly idling in the front yard, and a lone child sized flipflop forlornly lying on the cement, apparently not important enough to come back to retrieve. Concerned, the neighbor cautiously peered inside, turning on a light.

“It was the strangest thing,” she explained to us on the day before we moved in. “The place looked as if it were in the middle of being lived in. A book on the coffee table, all furniture in the usual places, an untouched casserole sat on the counter, a day past its prime. The TV chattered away in the living room with no one to watch it. The only thing missing from that house were the people who lived there. They just… disappeared… and took nothing with them but the clothes on their backs.”

After the house remained abandoned for several months with no sign or communication from the family, the landlord went in there to clean it up: sold what he could, took quite a bit else to the dump. Then he went up into the attic, shocked to discover what appeared to be an entire family’s belongings, the kind of items someone would have owned 70 or 80 years ago. Much of it was rotten and molding, to the point that it would be dangerous to breathe the air up there. So he sealed it up with plaster, and that was that. We didn’t mind. This house was bigger than any we had lived in before, and we didn’t need the extra storage room.

For two weeks after we moved in, dad went to his new job, mom ran errands and cooked meals, and we went to school. But each morning when we’d wake to start the day, it became harder and harder to leave. The closer we got to the door, the thicker the air around us became, until it was hard to think, or move. For a while we pushed doggedly ahead, ignoring the lethargy and our increasing lack of motivation and focus.

Thus began the great forgetting. At first we forgot our lunches, our backpacks, our keys. Then, gradually, my parents for got to go to work. They forgot to get the mail, buy groceries, pay the bills. After that, my brothers nd I could barely recall our school. Its recollection seemed to dissolve at the first touch of thought, like a footprint in sand washed by a wave.

Life became disjointed, unintelligible, without rhyme or reason. Occasionally I would come to with a start, with the feeling that something was very, very wrong, and we needed to leave. I would try to rally everyone else, but it was like attempting to teach sleep walkers to surf, and I gave up shortly after any feeble attempt, due to a pervasive exhaustion which would inevitably come over me.

One day I woke to find my brother Billy on the computer game, and Carl reading his book… the same book he’d been reading for … with a start, I realized I could not remember how long we lived here. I could not remember where we lived before this. Perhaps we lived here all our lives, and never lived anywhere else? I tried, but could not picture anything that could possibly exist beyond our four walls. The idea that there was a thing called somewhere else felt absurd. This was all there was. There was no outside. As I felt my feet turn from the path to the door back into the hallway, I shook my head in bewilderment at my ridiculous musings.

Slowly, as the memories of the outside world slipped away, so did the memories of who we were. At first, we forgot our ages, but soon afterward, we forgot what we liked and didn’t like to do. We forgot our goals and dreams, we forgot our extended family and our friends, even our earliest childhood friends. Recalling past experiences became more and more arduous, exhausting, and futile. And then, at some point, we could not remember our names.

And then we ran out of food. Our hunger seemed to jolt us back into some semblance of linear time, as if suddenly waking from a dream.

Mom ran into the living room. “How many days have you been playing that computer game!!” she shouted. I looked up, interested. Days? I hadn’t heard that word in so long, I had to rack my brain for what the word meant. I turned to look at my brother. He was thin and had black circles under his eyes. He was filthy. His hair tangled and matted on his head, and his clothes looked like they hadn’t been washed in … days, indeed. Maybe weeks had passed while he endlessly played his game.

“What’s so interesting about it?” I asked, eager to break more of the silence which I now noticed had been slowly crowding out conversation from our house. I could not remember the last time we spoke to one another.

“It’s about a family who moved into a three story house. I’ve almost reached the last level of the game. The family is slowly dying, but can’t remember how to leave.”

“That’s a strange game,” I admitted uneasily. “Why can’t they leave?”

“I’m not sure. But the reason has to do with the attic.”

The thought began nagging at me that this was not your typical sort of game. “What does the house look like?” I asked, not sure I wanted the answer.

My brother furrowed his brow. “Strange enough, a lot like ours. But that’s purely a coincidence. It’s not about our family. I mean the characters in the game have … names … like Billy and Carl.”

“Oh,” I replied, suddenly yawning and feeling rather listless and bored. What’s the game called?” .

“The collective,” he replied absently. Then a moment later his mood brightened. “I’ve reached the level where I can win the game,” he announced excitedly.

“Well then, how do you win the game?”

“You have to go down to the basement and make a lot of noise,” he said, as he expertly scrolled the mouse around the screen.

With growing trepidation, I listened to the surround sound speakers as they broadcast the tap of his character’s footsteps down the basement stairs, the hurried feet of the other children running down behind him, and the stomp, stomp, stomp of their feet on the basement floor.

“You need to get up and do something else!” scolded mom, who was standing a few feet from me.

Somehow, my brother obeyed. I heard the sound of the computer shutting down the game and the speakers. But the stomping continued, several floors below.

Circle Poem

Change moves silently through this place
Embrace it if you dare
Where is the future you wish to shape
Escape the illusion of control
Whole worlds could go by without you knowing
Glowing with mysteries all their own
Wind-blown, and shimmering in the soft-spun light
Delighting in possibility, no fear
Here where moments are born
Torn from the fabric of unkempt time
Sublime, unnerving, beautiful, strange
Change moves silently through this place

In Memory of Carmen Santaella

Why had she come to this aching,
Keening world
The many crying
For the freedom to feel

She tried to share a brilliance
A song all her own
Lit up the dark sleeping world
For a moment burned clear

It seems so limited now
Her life’s past, unfurled
Why this flesh and bone
To segment out a single thread

Around her, familiar people
Wander, their faces haunted
By the souls shining within them
Forbidden to fully live

Hearts yearning to break open
Stay firmly shut and sealed
Hardened in the resin
Defenses of sorrow

Tonight, once again,
It is all too much to take in
She shares the world beyond the pain
And the high rise beckons

She stands for a moment, the shape of a star
vibrant with living the wisdom of the dead
Longing sends her leaping
Stills her breathing

A sigh slips silently
From among the broken bones
No light in the eyes
When the body is found

But over the hushed hill
A fresh laid mound
With the wind gone still
A song briefly lingers

Then beyond the blue-green earth
AS dense as stone
Woven again
Into her quiet conscious light

Caught free falling
By the ones always waiting
She soars on and on
No longer alone