Another bit of that story.

I’ve been writing for weeks now on it.  Bits and pieces.  And here’s one I think that I can share.  I don’t know if this will turn into a story or not.  But I hope it will.

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The view from the bluff was breath-taking. You could see the flat desert spread out before you for miles and miles in the dark. Lights from homes in the city twinkled in the faint, but the persistent fog of December.

Marsha took a deep breath and stared down at the city of Midpoint, California. The sight reminded her of strings of Christmas bulbs carelessly dropped upon the floor. But it was so much more than that. Each light marked where life existed in spite of the night that tried to swallow it all whole.

She leaned against her 1968 Crown Toyota, just breathing. Not thinking. Not feeling. Just pulling the air in and out of her lungs.

She was hurt, she knew it. Deep, deep in her soul.

There are things that can never really be healed. Parts of the soul, once surrendered, that are lost forever. And loss so great that you can’t even cry. So instead, Marsha focused on breathing. And it felt like she was breathing in the entirety of the night. All of it flowing into her as she tried, almost without thinking, to transmute each particle into strength. And Will. And … whatever she needed to go on. And to, God willing, find some way to defeat the monsters.

She was alive. And that was still … something. She knew it was, at least in part, because Stephen intended her to be so. But also, she knew, that he wanted to break her. Smash all the parts of her that mattered into shards of glass and dust that would eventually be blown away by the stiff, desert winds. He thought he had succeeded. But she was still here, hiding in the shadows of her mind. And she knew that he was completely oblivious.

Marsha knew that this was a victory of some sort. She wasn’t sure yet what kind. But it seemed so incredible to her that she couldn’t believe that it was her own, small, mortal victory. No. There had to be something more to it, something Higher. Perhaps if the Evil she’d seen, this hideously intense, brutal Evil could exist in the world, then Good, too, must also be real. If evil planned, and plotted, and pulled people into its web as cat’s paws, certainly Good must do the same?

During the day, it was hard to believe that. But here, surrounded by the night, looking down into the Valley where the little lights burned, she could almost believe. Almost have faith.

The lights persisted. They filled her eyes, almost seeming to promise that this Night would fade into Dawn. And that sunrise … someday, would feel clean. And be something that mattered. And not just a dingy, soiled light that pretended to have defeated the Dark.

Somewhere out there, she knew, lives were being extinguished. Not always released into death, but molded into those who served the monsters.

As Stephen thought she had been.

He was partly right.

The monsters were so damnable good at breaking and recreating personalities. Part of her had become exactly what Stephen wanted, a laughably bright and cheery, human-monster. But by some miracle, a tiny part of her persisted. It held on to who she was. It existed separate from the rest, watching from the shadows of her mind, and only coming out when she was completely alone.

And it wanted to be free. It wanted the monsters dead.

The lights of the Valley twinkled in the night, and Marsha pondered that victory. She couldn’t even imagine how it happened. It didn’t feel like something she’d done. She saw others like herself every day. None had any light at all in their eyes beyond the parts they now played. She wondered, breathing deep, had something intervened?

Now that, Marsha thought, shuddering, was almost too terrifying to contemplate. If something had, then there was a reason, right? But nothing had told her what that was. The night, with its lights, and it’s canopy of darkness, remained silent.

Maybe it was nothing more than allowing her to keep her soul. To be aware. To understand what was going on around her on a Moral Level. And that was not a gift.

One day, Marsha knew she’d pay a high price either way. For the things she had done. And for the things that she would still do. Win or lose.

And she prayed. Out there in the dark. To Whoever listened. For hope, for strength, and for aid, and for answers. Prayed hard in that quiet intensity of the night.

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Cienna is Ticked

All day today Cienna has been nipping us.  Not hard, but consistently.  Because today we are evil humans.  So evil and untrustworthy, that we are not allowed to pet or hold her.   And after some consideration, we think that we know the reason why…

Historical Video Below:

About two years ago, we caught Cienna in “The Contraption”.  Since then it has been stored in the garage, dusty and closed, with boxes on top.  Cienna has seen it every time she goes in there to play, and it has never been a problem … closed and dusty and empty.

But you see, we have this problem.  One of the ferals we feed is a lady-cat, and she keeps going into season and having a kitten.  Only one, I suspect, because she’s kinda tiny.  But she’s been having them consistently.  And it needs to stop.

So, I looked up this group in Port Angeles that arranges very low-cost spay/neuter services for feral cats: $20 for the ladies and $15 for the fellas, and they’ve agreed to help us.   But we have to catch her first.   And so, we have set up “The Contraption” again for the mummy and the wee kit.  It is now in the greenhouse where they tend to hang out, door open, and food and a blankie inside.  And Cienna saw it this morning.  And Cienna is @#$ed.

She came right in, yowling complaints, and refusing to let us touch her at all, pinching us with her teeth whenever we try.

It’s been going on now for hours.  And I suspect that she’s going to be even more ticked when we catch them and bring them inside.  Mum and Baby are not going to be happy about it.   And I suspect that it will be contagious.

Who says cats don’t remember things after 6 months.  Cienna remembers just fine.

fun fun fun

Damn it.  It is HARD being a responsible human sometimes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shadows

I sat in my room, in a brand new town, unopened, packing boxes scattered about and used as replacements for furniture. I stared at the blank canvas in front of me. It was old now, and a bit banged up, sitting on my easel, a symbol of hope. But nothing stirred inside of me. The creative light that had once enlivened my world, lay dead and still, lost in the dark.

I heard a noise behind me. And I knew what it was. It was My Monster.

He was courteous that way. If he’d wanted to, I’d have never known that he was there. But whenever he tracked me down, and these days it was always too soon, he’d announce himself by the scuffing of a shoe on the floor, or a quiet cough.

I turned to look at him. It was all so damn ordinary now, the horror. Here was the eater of my creativity, and my life. He smiled. I think he liked showing off his teeth. But, lately, my lack of response disappointed him.

“Hello Marsha”

I didn’t even bother to speak. He walked around the room, glancing at the packing boxes with aged tape, and coffee ring stains. Dusty spiderwebs decorated the cracked ceiling of the cheap apartment. Unadorned, smudged windows muffled the muted light of the night outside. “This is so dreary.” Stephen said, “You should come back to California. Back to your job at the factory.”

I narrowed my eyes. I felt the depth of the “Not Care” within me. “Stephen,” I finally said, “…stop playing with me and get it over with.”

The vampire lowered his eyes and softly chuckled. “Oh, dear, sweet Marsha. You really think that I’d kill you? Ho ho! Never.”

I flew off the chair, took two or three determined steps toward him in a brief flash of fury before that drained away into nothingness. Then there was despair, but even that found no foothold. Finally, quietly, I asked, simply, “why?”

He looked at me, a smile bubbling like dark, boiling oil in his eyes. “Because, You Know. And it amuses me.”

I flinched. Surprising myself that I had that much life left in me to react. And he began to walk about the room, examining the manifestation of my ruin.

“We live in a world, Marsha, where everyone has already decided how things work. Things that do not fit the script are relentlessly unseen.” He paused at the window, breathed upon the soiled glass, and drew a smiley face in the circle of fog. “My kind live among you. We take, we kill, and do such wonderful, deadly, powerful things. And nobody ever sees it. Do you know what that is like?”

He found my “kitchen”, opened the refrigerator door to reveal grape soda cans, HoHos, and American cheese, and nothing more. He frowned for a moment, then continued.

“Before you, for too many years, I have burned to tell someone my secrets. To let anyone know that death walks among you. And I … have been so bored. I have sprinkled hints here and there, taken chances, and still, nothing ever happens. Decades pass, half centuries, and I am alone in what I do.”

His circle of my apartment left him now, standing beside me, and he reached out a manicured hand and brushed my cheek. I held myself still. I’d long since given up hope of escape.

“And then you came to work at my factory. Perky, little Marsha. So efficient, so determined to anticipate needs … and then one day, you saw something. You almost pushed it out of your mind, but then you saw more bits. I could see the wheels turn. It was lovely. And suddenly, I knew that I was no longer alone with my secrets.”

He leaned his face in close to mine. “Yes, I could kill you. But I have so many others ready for my knife. But only one Marsha.”

I wanted to not tremble. I sought to be dead inside, empty. So I would give him nothing.

And he only smiled. Turning from me, he walked to the window. He opened it up, and slid outside, floating in the air.

“I’ll deposit another 10 thousand into your account tonight. Eat something. You’re getting too thin. Then feel free to run if you want to. I like finding you. But feel free to stay. And I’ll drop in from time to time and tell you about … my day.”

Then he was gone.

I sat a long time. Outside, the night surrendered to the morning. My bones ached. I was so tired, but I knew I could never sleep after a visit from Stephen.

It was just too much. Knowing he was out there. Knowing what he did. Knowing people were suffering and dying. And I could do nothing. I could tell no one. For who would believe me? Like Stephen, I was alone with his secrets.

The canvas behind me glowed a bit in the growing sunlight. It was almost as if life itself asked me to rise above this. To try, to live. But there was nothing in me to give.

Biggie is Sneaking Inside.

Yes.  He is.  We’ve caught him sneaking inside to steal cat treats now several times.  And again this morning.

I saw Jatina standing oddly in the hallway.  I asked if everything was okay.  And she said, “Biggie is inside again”.  And I peeked around her, and there was he was.  He kept eating for a moment, then hesitated, looked at us, and hobbled as quickly as his old legs could manage back outside through our door.

Cienna was sitting next to him, very socialably. 🙂

(P.S. I understand that socialably isn’t quite a word.  But for that sentence, “socially” doesn’t seem to fit.

Any suggestions?

We Are Being Invaded…

…By Cats…

Biggie has now decided that if the house is quiet enough, he sneaks inside and checks out what goodies we’ve put out for Cienna and Zeeta.  Which recently, has been various chicken livers from the whole bodies I’ve been smoking on my Weber Smokey Mountain (great, great smoker by the way.  Kicks Brinkman’s in the rear.)  And Biggie seems to love the chicken livers.

And Baby?  The last few days Baby has been following Cienna inside when they’re playing.  He/She doesn’t come all the way in but stops on the windowsill to stare forbiddingly at us before exiting.  And we have begun to suspect that Baby and Cienna have had a few Inside Playdays while we’ve been out shopping.  Because that look just seems ta scream, “why aren’t you GONE?”

Also?  Biggie loves the Weber Smoker.  I think whoever owned him before might’ve been a BBQer.  Because he wanders over to where I’m cooking, then keeps walking back and forth, and round and round, as if he’s saying, “Look!  Here I am!  BBQ Cat.  I love BBQ.  Don’t forget about me, the old, frail kitty, when you pull that yummy stuff off.”  And yes, I do throw him a bite when I pull it all off the grill.  Silly old guy.

And soon, yes.  We will have FOUR cats.

I am both happy and horrified.

 

 

 

Kitties…

It has been a little while since I made an update about our latest feral kitty, the tiny and very autistic kitty, Zeeta.  And that is because change is slow with Zeeta.  Zeeta is a kitty of routines, and you must never vary Zeeta’s routines.  Sameness is the glue that holds her world together.  “Change,” says little Zeeta, “is EVIL.”

I recently had a very fine reminder of this.

Because I have been sick, I have had a tendency to get up at least 5 times in the night.  And Zeeta had worked this behavior of mine into her “world view”.  We had a routine.  She would come into my room at night, hop up on my bed, get love and snuggles until a  sound or movement sent her fleeing into my closet.  And there she would stay until I got up for my drink of water, and returned.  At that point, Zeeta would come out and make her inquiring “mak” sound, asking if she could get on the bed.  And I was supposed to say, “hup, hup”, pat the bed, and she’d hop up, get love, and then settle until the next thing scared her.

Well, I’ve been doing better.  And one night, after she fled to the closet, I stayed asleep.  Fast asleep, until I was awakened by a very odd noise.

It was a noise that cannot be properly described in text.   It needs … an illustration, and it went something like this:

mak

Zeeta was walking back and forth next to my bed, occasionally doing circles, with hair practically on end.    She was so upset that it took her a minute to register that I was calling her.   When I finally got her to come up to the bed, she continued to “mak” at me, because of the horror, and it took a lot of loving to settle her down, because … Change.  I’d changed my routine and threw off Zeeta’s entire world.

In the morning, after the dust had fully settled, I did find it terribly amusing.  Because I am an evil, heartless, Cat-Mommy.   But the upside was that her experience actually lead to some improvement in Zeeta’s state.

The next few nights, when “the thing” scared her, she hesitated at the edge of my bed.  You could see the wheels moving, as she considered that if she got off the bed, maybe I wouldn’t wake up, and she’d be stuck on the floor, “mak’ing”.   The hesitation led to her sometimes deciding just to settle at the end of my bed looking uncertain.

Nights went by with her discovering that staying on the bed did not lead to carnage and bloodshed.

And last night?  There was no fleeing at all.  She stayed with me, either laying on me or by my side.  The little bugger was actually happy all night!

I don’t know what’ll happen next because I have noticed a definite, “One Step Forward, Two Back” thing with the Zeeta.  Still!  Change!  For Zeeta, that’s really something!

Of course, none of this alters how she is when I am NOT in bed.  I still can’t pet her or pick her up during the day.  Verticle, walking Humans are still quite scary.  In Zeeta’s mind, only being horizontal in my bed makes me safe.   And if we are outside the house, she reverts to completely feral.  Super-duper Feral.  Even the three feral cats we feed outside the house are more comfortable around us than she is when we’re walking.

For an example, Mr. Biggie, our very old, feral cat hangs around us in a mildly social way when we’re puttering about in the yard.  He keeps a buffer zone of at least 8 feet, but generally does not flee like Zeeta does when we, um, move.  And Mr. Biggie always gives her a look for it, as if to say, “Really?  You live in their house.  What the @#$ are you running for?”   I think he figures Zeeta has the good life, and is putting on “feral kitty aires”.

Poor old Mr. Biggie.  Jatina is hoping he will move in with us this Winter.  She worries a lot about him because he is such an old kitty.  I suspect he will.  I’ve caught him peeking inside the house lately when the door is open for a breeze.  I think it is just a matter of time.  He is already testing the waters.

And?  Cienna’s friend “Baby” has been doing much the same.

We’re going to become the Crazy Cat ladies, aren’t we?  That Destiny approaches, and it’s inevitable, isn’t it?

Ah well.  At least it keeps the rats away.

And I really do like having a kitty sleeping on my bed.   What’s one more?

 

 

The Universe is a Sneaky Bastard

I wake up in the morning, trembling in my body, and aching in my mind, remembering my dreams. The quiet sweetness of them. The scents of home, of family, the faces of friends and loved ones, ripped away by the sudden opening of my eyes into this … different world.

I sit up and swing my legs over the side of the bed and sit there for a while, eyes closed, because I need a moment of not thinking to prepare myself for the day.

The Universe is such a sneaky bastard.

I was raised on stories of Heaven and Hell. I was told that you lived your life, did your best, then died, and went on to whichever of the Big Two you earned by your actions and your words.

But this … this wasn’t supposed to happen. No one even hinted that I might, instead, wake up in some parallel world where I never died, and everything is just a wee bit different. My head now holds a new set of memories, which helps to explain this slightly different life I now live, and the friends who are … close, but no cigar.

I suspect… Hell, I am pretty damn sure that it wasn’t supposed to work that way. I don’t think that I am supposed to know.

That’s the kicker because I remember. God Help me, but I do. And at night, I dream of my old life. Watching like a ghost over those I still love who are trying to go on without me, and wake to strangers who know me so well.

And it’s driving me mad. I wish that there was someone I could call and complain to. “Dear Universe, We have a problem here that needs fixing. Can you send over a man?”

I open my eyes. It’s not an unpleasant room. Though I miss my wife. In this world, I never married her. I looked her up on the net, and she’s married with children somewhere in Chicago. I tell myself that I want to be happy for her, but I feel so cheated. And then I feel guilty because that Helen is NOT my Helen. MY Helen is grieving my death in our house in California. I never gave her any children. So like me, she is now all alone.

It hurts so much that sometimes I wish the Universe had gotten it right. That I had woken up here, mind filled with only this life and gone on, never knowing.

Then I think of my Helen. My sweet Helen grieving so badly, and so alone. In my dreams, I go back to that world. I ghost around her, following her through her days, wishing that I could help. And sometimes, when her friends have left for the day, and she is alone, she talks to me. And oh, how I wish that I could touch her. But at least, maybe, she senses that I can hear. And maybe that helps, if only a little. My poor Helen. How could I want to forget you?

I make myself stand up and go to the bath to shave and shower. I have friends here, I know only from these … new memories in my mind. Marty will pick me up in a half hour, and we will drive to work. He is not unpleasant.

Damn those two words. “Not Unpleasant.” They describe this whole world.

Nothing sparkles. I read once that every action creates a world where that action didn’t happen. Did this world exist before I died? If it didn’t, then I must ask, is it truly real? Or is this just a dream? Is it, perhaps, only my time in purgatory? If I killed myself here, where would I go? To Heaven? Hell? Or another one of these not quite right worlds?

I take several deep breaths, looking into the mirror. Then I finish dressing and go out to the curb to wait for Marty’s car. I see it as it comes around the corner and note that Marty seems to have slumped against the door. It comes roaring in my direction. I never have a chance to get out of the way.

My last thought is, “Maybe this time, I won’t remember.”