Friday, June 26, 2015

The Great Escape

     "I NEED OUT NOW! I have an appointment," he shouts as he bangs on the door with his fist one last time. He hears nothing in return from the halls. He slides his back down the large white door that separates him from the silence in the hallway. He traces his finger over the outline of his name on his facility issued pants. He mouths the words as his fingers sweep across: "Graeme," he says under his breath. It's been a really long time since he has considered himself an individual, he considers. He punches the door one last time in defiance behind his head and hears only the echo of his wailing.

     Graeme was sent to the Beacon Institute two summers ago when he drove his car off of a ferry headed from New Jersey to New York. He had always feared tunnels and bridges, so the ferry was his commute to and from work. This day in his history, he felt "somewhat strange" waking up. He got on the ferry to Jersey, sat on the 67th floor of the financial building, and ate a cheese sandwich he had purchased from the truck out front. He typed feverishly into his computer. He had this strange habit of faking suicide threats on unrelated internet forums and chat threads.

     "I think I'm ready to go through with it," he said on a video game review thread of the latest Call of Arms installment. He continues, "I'm going to jump off the top of this building. No words are going to make me chicken out this time." Later after lunch, he posts onto the social media page representing the cereal maker advertising a "Blend of happiness, with a touch of fire." He writes, "This blade feels hot under my chin, I think about the Joker and his permanent grin."

     He left work and headed for the ferry at 4:00 PM sharp. By 4:47 PM, he was rocking back and forth from the waves dancing with the boat underneath his car. He didn't know why he did it, but he turned the key and pushed the peddle, smashing through two railings and into the water. He left his car and swam for shore. Police were waiting when he finally arrived.

     Lying under Graeme's bed are the skeletal remains of rats and various bugs he has trapped in his cell and eaten over the course of the last 15 days, give or take. He is tired of being neglected and has made his decision to break out. He stands and moves to his bed frame and begins tearing it to pieces. He takes and uses the pieces as pry bars for the door, but never budging the door a bit. He begins beating the door with an aluminum bar that formerly served as a leg of his bed. He beats the door until his hands bleed, continuing to shout curses at the silence that lurks on the other side. No reply.

    After a few hours of work, he gives up his anger and motivation and drops the aluminum onto the ground. The metal makes a sound that produces an echo from the outside of the door. "Emptiness leaves echoes," Graeme thinks. He takes a look at his hand as it reaches for the doorknob slowly. He takes hold and feels how very cold it is from his side of the door...the loud side. He pivots his wrist and to his surprise, the knob turns and the door creaks open. He shakes his head and chuckles once, then shakes his head again.

     Graeme Clay steps out into the hallway and attempts to look around. The lights appear to be out. He walks left to the door that opens up the block to the mess hall. It should be locked, but it isn't. The lights are out in the mess hall as well. He finds his way to the office suites, then to the visitors waiting room...all doors that should have been locked. He reaches the back visitor entrance to the building. There is no guard, no receptionist, and no visitors. He pushed the little iron bar in and the door swings open and gets caught by the wind which blasts it open too quickly and gets away from him. He squints as the sun beams through the door. He has wanted to see the sun for the better part of two weeks, but for now, he wishes it were dark so he could see.

     After several moments of adjustment, wondering why it was so windy and imagining stepping back into his old life, he takes his first step into the sun. He sees no one around. There is a parking lot full of vehicles, semi-trucks, and people standing all around very still. He hadn't seen or heard anyone in the building, but then again, it was too dark to see much of anything. Graeme walks over to a woman who is holding her son's hand while walking toward the visitor entrance. Neither of them are moving and she is off balance, but not falling over. He looks her into her eyes, which look dead to him. "Ma'am? Hello?" He waves his hand in front of her face and then in front of her son's. There is no response from either. He walks a hundred feet and repeats his greeting to the man who appears to be painting new lines on the parking lot. He isn't moving either. No response at all.

     "What is this?," he asks himself. Then as if he were awakened by the sound of someone saying his own name, Graeme thinks, "Emptiness leaves echoes." The sky immediately changes from one color pattern to another and he quickly realized that it is him that is controlling the changes. He looks at the tree in front of him and bends it down from the top with his mind, then releases it, sending a truckload of apples into the sky. They go straight up and do not return to the earth. Graeme laughs and begins running at a pace faster than sound. As he runs, letters starts falling from the sky to the ground and bouncing in front of him. He sees the name of his mother and father drop, then his own name. He stops suddenly. Something feels different inside of him. The sky clears of all color, then the ground. Everything turns an eggshell white in front of him. This was a feeling he had never before had in his life. This was freedom.

     At this very moment, in another dimension, a man with a large white beard sitting in a creaky wooden chair, drops his hands to his side and keels forward, bouncing his head off of a type writer. His chest neither rises nor falls. The rhythm in his chest goes silent, and all of the characters in his head are freed.



Thanks for reading...Z

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Last One Left- Part 2

...Control connected
...recon systems online

"Houston? You there? Over,"  says Captain Joseph.


Joe- "Houston? Anyone? Over."


Joe- "I just woke up from hypersleep Houston. I'm a little confused, over."

Joe- "Systems are good, but they tell me it's 2185? Is this true? Over."


Joe- "OK. I accept that. I'm a really old man in a really young body. I'd love to know what ha- ha-. I'd like to know what happened to my family. Over."

Joe- "Where is William, my brother? What happened to Andy? Where are my kids? I'm alone up here. Everyone I tried to wake continues to sleep. They aren't breathing."


Joe- "Any news from Captain Steadway?" "He was scheduled to come home 50 years before I was to wake up."


Joe- "I need to know he is awake and safe. We went to college together...we shared a dorm. I wanted so badly to be in his place so I could see my kids as grown-ups. Live or die, I will never see my kids again. I held my daughter once when she was very young. I let her little wet lips touch mine. She tried to swallow me. I guess that's what babies do. Her little fingers were wrapped so tight around my index finger. I knew when I signed up that I would never see her again. This was the plan. I never wanted to be a father...but when my skin touched hers, she seemed to look so deeply inside of me. All of the sudden I wanted everything she was. It was too late to turn back. Steadway was supposed to come home in 50 years and I would follow in 100. Captain Brian will follow in 150. She has to be gone.


Joe- "Houston, tell me I've just woken up early and she is still alive. I've looked on the video messages feed and she is absent. Did she grow up hating me or did the world end before she could respond? The last few nights I have had bad dreams. I think I'm awake, but my thoughts travel. My eyes close and re-open to fear and panic. I want to go home. I'm sorry I left in the first place. When I was a kid I had surgery on a gland. The doctor told me I would wake up and get to see my mom. That stuck inside of me. I woke up several hours early and ended up trashing the place looking for my mom. I hope to God that this is what is happening. Why are the rest still sleeping?"


Joe- "They're dead. I tried to wake them. I checked the computers and logs. They were all wake for a few years. They couldn't figure out what went wrong with my sleep pod. They tried to come home, but no one answered their beacons. They spoke to static as I do now. They starved to death."

Joe- "I wonder why they didn't use my food supply? Why would they let me be fed in a lost cause on a lost corpse? I don't think I'll ever know. I guess I'll die as they did. Alone. I guess they all felt alone too. It's hard not to when you are in a ship lightyears from the very spot you were born. I'm not upset really. I'm just sad that I didn't choose to live. By choosing this ship, I was committing suicide in a way. I left a little girl."


Joe- "I was the last to go to sleep. They all just went like it meant nothing. All singles without kids. I acted like I was going in, but I didn't press that button. I sat there for several days and watched the stars fly by. I thought of her and dreaded pressing the button. I wanted to see her, but I knew it was too late. If I pressed that button, I wouldn't awake until she was dead. The thought of her in school with the smell of pencil sharpenings and the image of her in a wedding dress without me haunted me. This ship wouldn't land on earth until her grandkids were my age. It made me so profoundly sad that I wanted to kill myself. Instead, I pressed the button and went to sleep. It felt like actually dying this falling asleep. It really was the same thing as suicide."


Joe- "I'm gonna press a button again. This one charts a course back to earth. I know it's been longer than expected. I am at least 100 years older than expected, but I have to go home to die. Houston, I don't believe anymore that you are a place, but if your and there are people there, tell my great-grandkids I'm coming home."


...chart course



Thanks for reading...Z

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Whatever You Wanted

     You want to be what you saw that you would be as a child. There aren't obstacles when you are a kid. If you want it, you will get it. People haven't failed you yet. You haven't failed you yet. You just see it the way it should be. I wanted to see space with my own eyes. You can see that in my short stories; as I write a lot about space and being somewhere other than here. A kid understands himself more than the adult. As a child, we eliminate excuses. We don't even understand how something could stop us from our future. As an adult, we make excuses to why we disappoint ourselves. Childhood may be unrealistic, but they aren't wrong entirely. We give up on ourselves way too easily.

     I've done a lot of giving up on myself over the past five or six years. It's utterly exhausting really...thinking so much about my foolishness. Even though I have anchors in Will and Joe's mom and my wife, who both bring me back to who I actually am..I spend altogether too much time thinking about who I am becoming. The real truth is that I don't know who I am becoming or if it is even a bad thing. Maybe the thing that has always held me back was this naive thought that life could be held on to and mastered. That faith in God could be known at all. Maybe it can't. Maybe I have to learn to deal with not having control and not expecting God to shield my eyes from terror like I had imagined He would.

     With my own kids, when something happens that is scary, I try to protect them by downplaying it or even lying to them to keep them safe from fear. It's an instinct that I think most parents have. We don't want our most precious children to have to see the real evil that lives in this world. We know they eventually will see it, but as a kid, they should play baseball and jump rope. But that doesn't stop kids their age from killing themselves or finding a way to heroine. My kids have to see it and have to learn new ways to deal with it. This is a new world we live in. One that hurts and hurts until the children break.

     Life may not be about protection from our God or protection for our kids. It may be about showing whatever light and love we have to people that may not have it. I've been a lot of things in my life, but one thing I haven't been was a person that doesn't feel things. Lately, I haven't been feeling much for people outside of my family and friends. This has alarmed me and I don't like it because it offends the very base of who I have always been and what I've always know to be true.

     It's not God that is's me. I'm tired of being disappointed in myself. I'm tired of people hurting people around me. I'm tired of cancer. I'm tired of suicide. I'm tired of abuse of all kinds. I'm tired of people being hurt because they are different. I'm tired of little innocent kids being punched in the face for no reason because some parents raise terrible kids. Somehow, there has to be a difference maker. We can't control how people raise their kids. We cannot control how well raised kids control themselves. We can't control how any person controls themselves...but we can control ourselves. We can weep and pray for those that get hurt. We can volunteer and share love with each other. We can do the best we can do. Maybe that is the only answer to all of this hatred.


Thanks for reading...Z

Saturday, June 6, 2015


One of the hardest things in life is to forgive without an apology.