Tuesday, November 29, 2011

That's Right, I Said It

I don’t write to be symbolic and I cringe whenever I hear someone else say they do.  I feel pretentious just hearing such shit.  Why write a story if all it is is a way to show off the author’s high brow ideals and fancy philosophizing?  God invented blogs (taste the irony there) and book reports for such masturbatory purposes.  That said, none of that means that I believe symbolism and philosophy should not be a part of fiction.  No, I don’t advocate vapid idiocy in written word anymore than I do in any other medium.  Rather, what I believe is that a work of fiction should be a story first and a symbolic experience second.  Tell me a fascinating tale with strong symbolic undercurrents and I’ll lap up every word.  Phrase your politics and religion in such a way as to pass it off as a work of fiction and I’ll take my leave.

Write a story with the first draft.  Write the shit out of that story.  Tell the tale that you’ve been dying to hear, but no one’s telling.  Pen that electric moment of inspiration that your muse just shoved through your skull.  Make up an entire world because reality is a truly boring place to live.  Write that story and then step back.  Figure out what it is that story is trying to say.  Is your tale of zombie apocalypse really a nihilistic reporting of how humanity doesn’t need to devoured to the point of extinction to be a barren waste?  Run with that.  Play that up a bit in the next drafts, all the while remembering how much you love that this is still a zombie story.  Write a story about a serial killer only to re-read it and wonder why you suddenly feel like the world is so much dirtier than it seems?  Maybe that story is expressing your deep distaste for the delusions people cling so dearly to.  And finally a story that isn’t a shameless plug, how many people have read William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”, show of hands?  How many people have heard that Faulkner himself just wrote it as a ghost story of sorts?  Story came first, symbolism second.

I get it, who the fuck am I to tell you how to write your stories or how to enjoy your symbolism?  I’m nobody, just some disembodied voice on the internet that maybe four people actually pay attention to.  Well, this is my blog and these are my thoughts.  Read the header, you were fairly warned.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Live and Learn

So, I'm standing on the edge of a bridge looking all poised to take a leap when a well-meaning woman approaches me and says “Excuse me, but what do you think you're doing?”

Seeing her obvious concern I assured her I was not suicidal.  “I'm going to fly.”

At this, her distress grew greater still.  “But people can't fly...”

I gave her a pitying sidelong look.  “No disrespect, ma’am but I'm not a sheep.  Just because everyone else believes that people can’t fly doesn’t mean I’m just going to sit back and take their word for it.  Wasn’t so long ago that everyone knew the Earth was flat or that God created the world in six days.  Way I see it, why can’t people be wrong about flight.”

This speech widened the woman’s eyes and struck her nearly silent.  In place of attempting to pacify me with words, she stepped over the railing to stand beside me.  She stared and cleared her throat and tried again.  “Son, you can’t fly.  If you jump off this bridge, you will die.”

I shrugged.  “I’ve yet to see with my own two eyes that a human being is incapable of flight and I’m the kind of person who thinks seeing is—”

My thought was cut short when the well-meaning woman lost her footing and tumbled off the edge of the bridge.  Something about the way she hit the water suggested to me that maybe people really were incapable of flight.

“Well shit.”

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Fountain

The fountain was not running today.  The gushing, arching centerpiece of the little man-made pond was now a concrete slab supporting an ugly metal claw that more closely resembled a spider dead on its back than anything that could ever be beautiful.

Grunting, David pushed himself up off the grate.  No point in staring at the pond without the fountain running; and his continued gaze, no matter how intent, would not bring it to life.  Maintenance?  Cutbacks on water usage?  He worried briefly that the fountain might not be back on for some time.  He came out to the little pond for lunch every day.  Off to one side of campus, it was hardly a crowded area and those few that did stumble upon him ended up sprawled off on their own, not bothering him past the initial concern of invasion.  They just became part of the background.

David zipped his lunchbox back up and set off to the Arts and Sciences building.  Once again he mused on the oddity of a mathematics class held in the Arts and Sciences building and wondered who had thought to arrange the class that way.

It was during these more homework-intensive evenings that David was glad his roommate had moved out a couple weeks earlier.  Not that David felt any animosity toward his former roommate, in-fact he had been quite fond of the guy, David was just grateful for the quiet concentration afforded him by his empty dorm room.  The rest of the floor was also quiet enough to garner few complaints.  Whenever the noise level grew intrusive or spilled into the hall, he had talked to the troublesome party and resolved the issue with a pleasant ease.  David was baffled as to how anyone could be as courteous as his dorm.  


Once again, lunch was a peanut butter sandwich (a childhood meal David had never grown weary of) and once again he had found the fountain dry.  David ate through a frown, scarcely tasting his sandwich and not bothering to unpack his bag of potato chips.  He was suddenly resentful of everyone else in the area.  It was their fault that the fountain was not working, this he knew with absolute certainty.



Wednesday came and the fountain remained inert.  Lifeless.  None of the pond’s other regulars seemed to notice.  Unconscious cretins, never bothering with the finer points in life, always looking for their next meal ticket; always taking, never giving.  Locusts, all of them.

David sighed, wishing the fountain would start up and take his thoughts somewhere happier.  As it stood, he would have to do the heavy lifting, himself.  He closed his eyes and imposed a measure of will over himself.  He pushed the stench of corrupted humanity from his nose, barred the desolate silence from his ears, and steadied his breathing.  His fractured mind coalesced.

David opened his eyes, balancing act intact.

Classes after lunch had been a labored blur.  Each moment melded into the next and none of them held any distinctiveness, they all weighed heavily on his mind with thoughts of the fountain.  After class he could not manage to stomach a bowl of Ramen noodles, so great was his distress.  He buried himself in homework, driving all unassociated thoughts from his mind, but was less than his usually-pleasant self when speaking with a noisy hall mate that evening.

David needed a shower after his outburst.  A long shower.  Hot water hitting him in steady steam to wash away all of the unpleasantness.  Maybe he would even fill the room with steam, really indulge. 


David nearly sobbed when he found the fountain to be inert the next day.

He stumbled halfway to his usual seat before falling into the short stretch of rocks that separated sidewalk from murky shallows.  Harsh, stinging tears sheathed his eyes.  His hands unclenched and his palms dug into his face, hoping to stem the tide.  His lunchbox and hatchet fell to the ground at his feet.

David choked on tears, purposeless and alone, his delicate delusions shattered.

For half an hour he cried before a groan that was not his reached his ears.  Few of the rotting creatures shambled near the pond, the stench of lifeless flesh did not suggest a good meal.  Still, the creatures were not blindingly intelligent and some would wander over despite the slim pickings advertised.

David stood up, hatchet in hand, walked unsteadily toward the damned soul and put it out of its misery—an act of pure empathy if David had ever known one.  The lifeless husk’s stench would add to the already formidable veil of death draped over the area, an emphatic “nothing to see here” sign.  David considered how much longer such protection would be necessary and if the disease was transmitted only by bite or if it was an airborne pathogen activated by death, bite or not.  He wondered if he would retain some shred of sentience.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Shadow In the Woods

The shade had been following me for hours.

It wound through the woods next to me, twisting and contorting its form around the trunks of trees.  It darted ahead of me, and then fell back, ahead again, and then it sank deeper in the woods, no pattern discernible in its movements.  Then it moved from the woods, following me step for step, my shadow gone mad.  It slithered between my legs and danced across the road ahead of me.  It twisted itself into inhuman shapes, some horrible avatars of woe, some I did not recognize but for the sense of dread they inspired in me.  I had yet to acknowledge the creature, feeling that it would only savor my suffering all the more if it knew the extent of my fear.  Not that I believed that I could hide my torment from the creature, but if all acts of defiance are taken away then what is there left to buoy hope?

An armored soldier passed me on horseback offering a pleasant nod.  I returned it, wishing I could remain in the glow of his torch.  I debated asking him for assistance, but thought better of it.  The man was not a holy warrior and surely had little in the way of training to combat the supernatural.  The last two soldiers I had passed had offered what they could quite earnestly, but had been utterly unsuccessful and afterward the creature had hounded me with a frenzied zeal, punishing me for making it retreat, however briefly.  More worrisome was my own ignorance of the creature’s ability to interact with the corporeal world.  Some shades were unable to do anything but exist, others left mangled bodies in their wake.  If this monster became too irritated with me, I could not imagine it sparing my innocent would-be guardian. 

Lost in thought, I had not noticed the soldier dismount and approach me until his hand grasped my shoulder.  I was grateful that his hands were bare, for the weight of a gauntlet clasping my shoulder would surely have toppled me. 

“Sir, is everything well?”

The strange, almost hesitant intonation on the word “well” made me shiver.  The world was silent but for the warm crackling of his torch and our breathing, his steadier than mine and almost inaudible.  No branches broke, no birds chirped, and no crickets sang.  Animals had a measure of survival instinct that humanity had left behind years ago.  When the unnatural was about, they fled for safety. 

Realizing an answer was still expected of me I coughed, the dryness of my throat a sudden burden.  I touched my hip flask to my lips and let enough water trickle down to allow speech.

“Well as it may be travelling at this hour.”

He paused at this.  Considering his options, I assumed.  “Where are you off to?”

A shiver raced down my spine as I started speaking and I had to begin again, conscious of the shade’s presence somewhere near.  “Newton.  My wife is ill and I could not think of stopping for the night when Newton is but hours away.”

This answer brought an expression of open worry to the soldier’s face.  My impatience was obviously outweighing my common sense and would end this conversation before the man could gracefully reach his point.  He stated it plainly instead.  “You are aware that you are being stalked.”

I could not hide my knowledge, but nor did I wish to involve this Good Samaritan in my own peril.  “I am afraid I have no time to worry over such possibilities.”  I repeated my urgency lamely.  “My wife is ill.”

The soldier’s face tightened not unsympathetically.  “Your haste does you no favors and a dead man cannot tend to an ailing woman.”  His hand came away from his sword’s hilt, only then did I notice it was there in the first place, and from his neck and took a medal, offering it to me.  His insistence was touching.  I would have his assistance one way or another.

I held my palm underneath his outstretched hand and let him pour the length of gold chain into my hand before letting the medal fall atop the pile.  It was warm to the touch.  The medal showed a robed monk standing amongst a forest watching a traveler make his way along a path.  The reverse side held an inscription, Not all who wander are lost

I turned my head to thank the soldier and found him throwing his leg over his horse’s saddle, his back to me.  I lifted the chain over my head and attempted to verbalize my deepest gratitude, a woefully ineffective gesture in my current state I am sure.  His shadow flickered in the torch-light and I felt sure he had crossed himself for my sake. 

I was no more than a dozen paces down the road when the shade returned to my side.  I did not lay eyes on it, but an icy hissing filled my ears and nearly drained my remaining courage.  The creature was somehow more terrifying for its remaining out of sight.  By all established patterns it should have been cavorting and capering madly in front of me, desperately searching for my direct attention.  Instead naught but the hideous hissing announced its presence.   I was losing feeling in my fingers and toes, a chill had crept up on me so rapidly that I feared frostbite in autumn.  My fingers felt for the medal, fishing it clumsily out from under my vest where it had nestled itself.  The medal itself was unconcerned with the sudden chill, deliciously warm in my numb fingers.  The warmth was a contagion, spreading itself into my fingers and up my arms, settling the goosebumps across my body.  I quickly pulled the length of chain out from under my collar and let it rest against my bare neck, desperate for its warmth.  The hissing receded.  Still the only sound in the night, it no longer rolled around inside my mind.  I clutched the medal tighter, letting the thin edges press into the flesh of my hand, relishing the sensation. 

All sense left me when liquid fingers brushed softly against the back of my collar.  Cold, ethereal, the fingers plucked at my collar more firmly.  I am unaware of what to address as mutinous when neither mind nor body obeys the ingrained imperative to flee for survival’s sake, but I suspect that all sense of reasonability dissipates upon the arrival of malicious supernatural fright. 

A lock of my hair was curled around one of the fingers and a sob escaped my lips.  The fingers went rigid at the sound of my acknowledgement and I knew I would not see my wife again.  Still toying with my hair, a shadowed hand reached over my shoulder and stroked my face, a lover’s caress.  Intimate.  Revolting. 

The sensation vanished.  The hands lifted.  The cold abated.  I ran.

I ran through down the road and would have shrieked like a thing possessed had my throat been released from its paralysis.  Urine soaked my leg, tears stained my face.  I ran until my muscles gave up and I pitched forward onto the ground.

The sun rose to find me barely strong enough to curl up into a ball.  Footsteps approached and I prayed that I would not be robbed or beaten after the torment of the night.  Instead a warm, soft hand stroked my hair kindly.  I allowed myself to gaze upon the creature sitting cross-legged at my side.  Ethereal as the shade, he was a pleasantly round man in a monk’s robe.  The hem of the robe flowed airily, disappearing into the air around it so naturally that I barely noticed the phenomenon.  His voice was firm and loving.

“Stand up.  Your wife has need of you.”

The spirit disappeared into the breeze as easily as the hem of his robe.  I pushed myself from the ground and heard a man dismount from his horse.  The soldier approached me and sank down on his haunches, occupying the space the monk had not a minute earlier.  He offered me his hand.

“Sir, is everything well?”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


They came in peace.  There’s the answer to the question so many people were asking, “Is there intelligent life somewhere else in the universe?”  Yes there is, and they came in peace.  No one even knows, though, if they came intentionally.  I don’t assume so.  Coming to our planet voluntarily precludes the descriptor “intelligent”.  Who the fuck wants to visit Earth?


The area was quarantined and the media blackout was in effect within hours.  Word was out, though the word of hysterical idiots was terribly unreliable.  Neither the government nor the people knew what was going on worth a damn.  News reports came flying off the press, hurdling from the well worn lips of television journalists, and blogged about by every deluded sap that thought his opinions relevant.  All was just as quickly redacted.  Newspapers issued reprints with unheard of efficiency.  Reporters apologized for their hasty and ill-conceived suppositions.  Big-time bloggers deleted posts with little to no explanations.  No one really cared what Joe Everyman had to say about the matter.  I figured they were allowed to keep their posts up for comic relief; no one paid them any real attention anyway. 

I don’t much care for all the cover-up, hush-hush shit, regardless of the arrogant, egocentric reasons behind it.  People are afraid of the unknown; it’s a well documented deal.  The less people know the more they tend toward hysteria.  I hate hysteria.  It’s pointless.  It enables stupidity.  Why think or act with any modicum of rationality when you can panic and scream and place blame and beg people to “think of the children!”  That short period between landing and colonizing was the most infuriating time of my life.  No one knew the first thing about what had landed in the playground during an otherwise uneventful Tuesday evening.  No one knew, but everyone was an expert in the coming apocalypse that was sure to follow.  For a short time people forgot all about the man-made fallacy that had occupied the minds of superstitious simpletons everywhere.  Many people howled that 2012 was never to come to light, the damned space invaders would see to that. 

The government released periodic information care packages out to the people through the newspapers to keep them well-fed. 

“…The Visitors appear to have arrived upon our planet peacefully.  They do not communicate with us in any verbal manner, but we have deduced a means of communicating simple messages back and forth between parties…”


“…The Visitors’ bio-technological craft has been brought into a government facility today.  We are hoping to begin studying their technology in full by week’s end…”

One of the last care packages received by the people was not an officially sanctioned release.  It was off-the-books and quietly circulated at first.  The quiet entrance let the news get spread around a bit before the government locked down on it.  The slow spread let people know about the lab accident in the government facility. 

“The Visitors are insect-like creatures and the ship, a Hive of sorts.  The Visitors had shown no signs of hostility but have not acted with overpowering friendliness, they seem almost indifferent.  They seemed anxious only to leave.  The most interest they have shown in the planet is their slight difficulty interacting with our oxygen-rich atmosphere, a problem we had been attempting to alleviate.  Recently, the Visitors shed a chitinous outer shell.  The shell was collected and studied, but before it could be fully examined, the shell began to break down.  The broken down shell released a gas into the facility that killed the researchers.  Within days the building was uninhabitable.  All attempts to enter the building again were met with failure.  Personal protection suits were insufficient to keep out the gaseous contagion.  The team that entered the facility was instructed to give constant reports of what they saw.  What little they were able to report back painted a grim picture. The building was overgrown.  Vines, moss, and squat plant life that were unidentifiable but appeared to be leaking the same contagion as the decomposing chitin shells, had taken hold within and the atmosphere had become so humid as to leave a constant layer of fog over their protection suit visors.  All further reports were unintelligible and the men are believed to have suffocated shortly after.  No further attempts were made to breach the facility and the building has been sealed indefinitely until a time when studies can safely be preformed.”

People now had a reason to panic and no one needed to be told twice.  No amount of government high-handedness could stem the tide at this point.  There was now a mortality rate associated with the aliens (they were no longer Visitors, they were aliens).  Everyone was demanding that the aliens be forced to leave before they spread their death across the nation.  God only knows what was going to happen in the other nations they had landed in.  Maybe the same fate was awaiting the men and women in Russia, Spain, Turkey, and any other nation that had the misfortune of playing host to these otherworldly fleece-coated wolves.  While it was not human nature to look after the interests of people hundreds and thousands of miles away, the prospect of other countries being assaulted in such a manner was enough to bring intense goodwill to the forefront of human thought.  It also offered more reasons for panic.  What most people would not think of until later was what would become of the gaseous discharge within the facility?  What was it doing inside the building?  Would it eventually breakdown?  Would it spread?  What no one thought about was the ship.

The ship was partially organic and gave off the same gas as the aliens did and in proportional amounts which is to say, in dangerously high doses.  If the gas from the discarded shells wasn’t enough to end the world and the facility was a potentially isolated incident, that ship certainly put things over the top.  The original invasion site (people were too ignorant and arrogant to believe the aliens had no real interest in taking over our planet, they simply didn’t get along well with the climate) continued to give off the gas, even after winds had pushed through the area thoroughly enough to clear out the original contagion.  The organic growth within the building was enough to sustain its surrounding environment sufficiently for alien habitation and the gases produced by the ship and the carapaces were blown out from ground zero and began the same process anew.   New infection sites cropped up across America just as similar processes were occurring across the globe.

Humanity’s loss of Earth would have been a fight if we understood anything about the contagion or had any means of defending ourselves against it, but for all our touted military might, scientific progress, and resolve to survive we were faced with something of which we had no comprehension.  Fear quickly took hold as people across the board began to realize that no one could defend themselves.  It was beyond the United States, no one was able to muster the slightest bit of resistance.  Terror took hold as people were forced into Evacuation Zones (no one really knew why the term evacuation was used, maybe we thought we could evacuate the aliens back into space) where we believed it would take the contagion more time to reach, geographically remote and as well-fortified as anyone could muster in such a short time.  It was a futile gesture of course; we were simply trying to comfort ourselves with the thought of resistance.  People were flooding into these makeshift vaults that may or may not offer any protection.  We huddled up and pretended shared bodily warmth was a means of self-defense.  Maybe someday these mass graves would be analyzed like the elephant graves across the African Savannah.

The last ditch research centers fared no better than the Evacuation Zones.  Unsurprising though, futile efforts based on our own individual and overwhelming superiority was a specialty of the human race.  The contagion spread and humanity’s grasp on Earth fell.  There were no alien extermination squads, the planet wasn’t turned to glass from space by super-advanced energy weapons, and I doubt the Visitors cared much for our departure one way or another.  They were simply trying to make themselves at home.  They came in peace and I firmly believe they came by accident.  The mind works much more efficiently after it’s been separated from the sluggish meat-sack that it must carry around with it in life and I’ve spent quite a bit of time since then thinking over the circumstances of humanity’s eradication.  I don’t know if my theories are correct, but they do hold an amusing ring of truth.  I’ve always seen life as a bit of a cosmic joke and the heightened clarity of thought that comes with death has done nothing to dull the funny side of life. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Blue Boy

Oskar first saw the little blue boy sitting on a bench down the path from where Oskar was flicking small bits of bread out to a hungry flock of ducks. (Or maybe they were simply gluttonous. With the vast numbers of bread-toting children that frequented the park on weekends, Oskar could scarcely fathom these animals remaining hungry for long.)  The boy looked a few years younger than Oskar.  His face was round and luminously pale and topped by a fine black field of cowlicks.  He was wrapped in a puffy winter coat that strained against him, clearly a size too small.  His legs were draped in a pair of sweatpants that could have fit both his legs in one side.  The cuff of the pants brushed the ground, but his feet swung freely above it. 

Pitying the little pauper, Oskar hobbled over to say hi and share some of his bread with the boy when the first smell of rot crept up on him.  It was a damp smell that grew exponentially as Oskar closed the space between himself and the blue boy.  By the time Oskar was within three feet of the boy, the smell had grown strong enough to develop its own taste and texture.  The air had the spongy, pulsating feel of water-rotted wood filled with squirming insect larva.  The smell was a physical force.  It filled Oskar’s mind and made it difficult to think or even to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Oskar suddenly wanted nothing more than to stay as far away from the little blue boy as possible.  He had no idea how people could stand being within a hundred feet of the boy, much less to run and skate and play.  Oskar was a voracious learner of the highest degree, reading most anything he could get a hold of.  He could recall tearing through stories of certain phenomenon that only children could observe, but the adults here were not alone in their unawareness.  Two children side-armed a Frisbee back and forth not more than ten feet behind the boy’s bench. 

The rotting, fetid smell doubled in intensity and Oskar staggered a step backwards and caught his foot on a broken branch.  He pin wheeled his arms wildly and had to spin around to keep from falling over.  It was still a very near thing.  He scowled childishly at the dead branch that had nearly tripped him.  Some dumb high school kid had probably thrown it on the path trying to trip a biker.  When Oskar turned back to the little blue boy, he found himself looking directly into the little boy’s pale green eyes.  Caught staring, the blue boy’s eyes widened slightly and he started fidgeting, pulling at his fingers and licking his lips.  A long moment passed before the boy was satisfied that his curiosity was not going to earn him Oskar’s ire.  He tilted his head slightly, his curious gaze intensified and a tattered triangular strip of his scalp peeled away from his skull and hung limply between his left eye and ear. 

The wound was bloodless and tinged a painful purple-blue color that was deeper than the shallow blue hue that touched the entirety of the boy’s exposed skin.  The boy shifted his head back upright and the wound attempted to swing back against his scalp again, but could not defy gravity and continued to bob loosely.  It was this final gesture that suddenly and completely broke Oskar’s will.  He spun clumsily on his heel, narrowly avoiding falling flat once more, and sprinted in raw, breathless terror away from the park, away from the bench, away from the little blue boy with the torn head.  Oskar ran home at full-tilt for nearly ten minutes before having to slow down and trot the rest of the way.  By the time he got back to his house he was utterly out of breath, his legs felt numb and watery, and his mind was a howling void that could not piece together what he had seen only minutes before.  All he could see was the bobbing flap of dead flesh. 


Nearly twenty years passed before Oskar gave another moment’s waking thought to the little blue boy sitting on the park bench.  Within ten minutes of arriving home all those years ago, his mind had started up a rather standard procedure.  It had slowly clouded over the events that it had no classification for nor understanding of. 

It took Oskar a bit longer to notice the smell this time and far longer to actually lay eyes on what logic demanded be an apparition or hallucination. 

He was walking through Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  It was the weekend and he and Alice needed a new toaster.  Their current one now belched thin tendrils of ugly black smoke whenever it heated up.  This was a fairly significant problem, considering the job of a toaster.  Oskar, dutiful as always, had wandered off to find a sales agent in hopes of discovering which toaster would die the least painful death after the longest lifespan.  Amidst innumerable throw pillows, loofahs, and blenders Oskar strode through the aisles in search of assistance. 

Slightly taller than average with a thin frame, bleary green eyes, and mousy brown hair that was starting to thin ever so slightly, Oskar fit the mold of a young man looking to settle into his life perfectly.  He was relatively unremarkable looking, with only the sharp bend in his poorly healed nose standing out.  He had broken it when he was younger after falling out of a tree in the playground during recess one day and the school nurse had set it with a rather distinctive crook. 

Upon finally grabbing the attention of a nearby employee, Oskar led her back to his wife and filled her in on the tragic demise of their toaster.  Petite, brunette, and eye-catching enough to hurt any marriage, the saleswoman was more than happy to point out the varying brands and models of toasters that they carried and dutifully read all the different features off the information cards attached beneath the displays.  Oskar was the first man she had helped in the past two weeks who had not watched with unwavering attentiveness as she bubbled on about this product and that.  In fact, Oskar had not so much as glanced in either her or the toasters’ direction since he had met up with his wife again.  His entire focus was narrowed to the little blue boy perched lightly atop a display stand.

Oskar’s ears rang, his eyes watered, and his whole body tingled uncomfortably as panic bent his every sense to its jarring whims.  Oskar felt himself drowning, weightless.  He could not obey even the simple laws of gravity, he felt himself floating along numbly, unsure if his thoughts were wafting away or if his body had really lost anchor.  The world rocked to and fro, seemingly at random, and the colors around him waxed and waned with it. 

Oskar closed his eyes tightly and clamped his teeth down.  He told himself it was a panic attack, he had been having optical and auditory hallucinations with the attacks since he was a child and this was no more than that.  He had learned a number of tricks to help bring himself under control.  He also kept a small bottle of Klonopin with him wherever he went.  Keeping his eyes closed, he opened the bottle with practiced ease and dry swallowed a couple of the small, circular pills.  Giving the drugs time to take effect, he counted, stretched, and breathed as subtly as possible and wondered why Alice had not looked over and noticed his clear distress.

After exhausting his small bag of tricks, Oskar cautiously opened his eyes.  The world had stopped swaying, the colors remained solid, and the weightlessness gave way to gravity.  The little blue boy was still there, staring at Oskar with round, curious eyes.  The flap of skin at his hairline had dislodged itself once more and the boy looked on the verge of tears.

Oskar screamed.


Oskar awoke those nine years ago with little to no recollection of what had caused his panic attack and had asked only to be taken home.  He apologized profusely to his wife, to the employee, and to those patrons of Bed, Bath, and Beyond whom he had disturbed (all parties were quick to wave aside his apologies) and then passed the car keys over to Alice.  The rest of the day had been an uneventful mix of Oskar resting and Alice worrying and by the next day neither party gave the attack another thought. 

Oskar himself did not give the little blue boy another thought until Sam drowned.

Sam was seven years old, the pride and joy of his parents, Oskar and Alice.  They had done everything to make sure his life was a good one.  They gave him a sweet, simple name they both preferred to their own rather stiff first names.  They allowed him the adventures, innocence, and free spirited joy of childhood, even at the expense of their own sanity.  They taught him to find out for himself what was right and wrong and forgave him the exuberant mistakes of youth.

The police ruled Oskar’s suicide a clear case of guilt over the death of a son.  No one had ever been told that Oskar had seen his young son’s dead body twice before the police came to his door and asked him to make an identification.  Oskar knew what had happened before seeing the body.  When the police officer explained that Sam and his friends had gone to the local pool when no lifeguards had been present, Oskar understood.  The boy had been running around the edge of the pool, he had lost his balance rounding a corner and had fallen.  His head smashed against the concrete lip of the pool and had torn open along his hairline.  Unconscious and bleeding, the boy had drowned while his panicked friends called 911 and cried.  Oskar knew all this before the officer was halfway through his story and long before the sheet was pulled back on Sam.