Category Archives: Romance

Perhaps, why Romantic Love Fails

{a change of topic, though perhaps not so alien to my usual posts in meaning.  Think: self-empowerment… again or at least, serious choice.}

The title, then, is:  “Perhaps, why Romantic Love Fails”  and let’s be generous and add “most of the time, not always, not automatically.”  

Bracing myself here, this should, or could, bring “romantic love” experts out of the woodwork to offer their own experiences, or beliefs, to praise or castigate, and all of that is totally fine by me.

 “Oh love me, love me, love me, love me, love me, love me, love me, love me. I’ll be anybody you want me to be.” — Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters.

Imagine the amount of energy it takes to keep this up, to be “anything you want me to be” to someone, just for the fleeting sensual moment of feeling loved. Who then is really being loved when the ploy works? The pretender, the imitator, the parrot, the ghost: an elaborate illusion.  Not me, not the real me, just the character played by the actress. 

Any wonder romantic love so often fails?  

He isn’t loving me, he’s loving the pretence I serve him from morning ‘til night and the moment I can no longer sustain the illusion, he loses interest and perhaps rightfully, blames me for his disinterest.

“You’ve changed,” he’ll say. And right he is. Under the pressure of time and expectations, I gradually drop the illusion with which I ensnared him and I become myself, someone he’d never had a chance to get to know.

Perhaps if I hadn’t been so eager to “get him” and satisfy my longing by serving him with an illusion?

Perhaps if I had had the wisdom to look into the future to those times and event when I could see the illusion would be unsustainable; perhaps if I’d been courageous enough to show him who I really was, he may have loved me for myself, and we might have had something more than a staged performance…

Perhaps, and that’s the saddest realization of all, if he’d seen the real me he may have loved me for myself and never experienced disillusionment.  

Perhaps, like so many in my situation, I’ve been an idiot, turning myself out as a zip-lock bag of bait instead of the solid full meal deal I could have been; that I really was.

Perhaps, but perhaps is a lot like “if” and as Roger Whittaker sang, “No, I don’t believe in if anymore, if’s an illusion, if’s an illusion!”

So, I let the illusion go and live alone.  It’s not so bad once you get used to it and you have a few friends who don’t live in expectations of you pulling rabbits out of fancy hats.  Also, I must admit, love, however ephemeral, did have its compensations.  I had some really good times.  

I choose to remember the good loving times.  As to the separations, and I’ve known a few, the first was extremely bitter, then each one after that became easier, more natural, rather expected.  The thing about us is, we can get used to anything, even learning to enjoy experiences that at the outset appear unthinkable and disastrous.  

Looking back and thinking, if I were a few decades younger, would I fall in love again? Oh yes, definitely, for a great evening of being taken out to dinner, dancing, or the opera; for a night of pure heedless bliss with or without a full moon, and a sweet goodbye in the morning.  

Oh yes, I would fall in love… and fall in love… and fall in love… and make each fall redemptive.  In between, I would live alone in a world that is all mine. 

 

The Times After (conclusion)

   [Short story, by Sha’Tara]

For some time, Lon watched Reuben as he disappeared, then a cry from the orphanage made him turn and run to the ramshackle building.  Two of the adults were already there, calming the children and bending over one three year old lying on the ground, the little body thrashing, if feebly.  Sweet little Amri.

“What’s wrong with her, does anyone know?”

“Maybe something she ate.  The children are chewing on anything they can eat.  They’re all in terrible pain, Lon.

“I know, Maggie.  I agree, we need to move, no more delays.  We’ll get started right now, pack what we can, hide what we can’t carry and go.”

“Where?”

“Ruben said he’d go north if he was free to do so.  He walked west when he left, but you know Ruben – he’d do that automatically just to confuse anyone wanted to follow or track him.  I know he’d turn as soon as he was out of sight, but which way?  I wish now we’d gone with him.  We’ll have a quick meeting in about an hour and decide our direction, then we’ll just go.  We cannot stay here, there’s nothing left to eat, and the water is no longer safe to drink.”

Soon the miserable camp was stripped and obliterated of recent human habitation as much as was possible.  The children were lined up and given a rope to hang on to.  The meeting was short: they would go east; no reason why except a secret vote turned up a majority of two for an eastern direction. 

Lon was bitterly disappointed, he’d hoped they would try to follow Ruben, though he well knew that was impossible.  He left his message for Ruben and they began their danger-fraught quest for food and water.  Already Lon had violated one of Ruben’s warnings, to only travel at night.  Adults took turns carrying little Amri and the weaker children.  The rest of the children began to lose some of their listlessness as they noticed changes along the route.

Evening saw the group drop down into a small gully, to hide and for protection.  Kamal, one of the strongest adults, went off in search of water which against so many odds, he did find.  Everybody searched for edible plants and roots and some of the hunger was assuaged for a time.  Night came and the small fire was doused so it wouldn’t create a glow.  The people slept on the ground, in their old rags.  Dried grasses had been stacked to lay little Amri and two other sickly children upon and each had an adult companion to keep them cuddled and reassured.  The stars came out, harsh and bright, flickering like cold, unseeing eyes.  Unable to help himself, Lon who was one of the sentry detail, walked a short distance away from the fitful and fretting sleepers and looked into the sky, turning slowly as he did so. 

“Where are you Ana?” he thought to himself.  “You promised and you must know we are in dire straights now.  We need your help; I need you here.  Don’t let Ruben be right about this.  I’m desperately counting on you.  You know I’m a terrible leader and here I am, leader by default.  This is too much responsibility…”

Morning came early, gray and cold before the sun could rise.  The hungry troop stood up, drank some water, and took to the land again, walking in the general direction of the sunrise.  Everybody, even the children, walked slower, looking for plants and roots to eat.  Hopelessness more than sadness pervaded the group.  Who could blame them? 

Finally the sun was high enough to beam down some energy into their wasted bodies.  Laughter even erupted from some children as they noticed a butterfly.

“Follow it,” said one of the women, “it may lead us to some edible flowers, or even berries.”  There was a bit of a chase, but the children were cautioned not to interfere with the insect’s path.  Suddenly it rose up and they thought they’d lost it but it came down again to disappear behind a dip in the flat ground.  They came to the edge and looked down upon a miracle, a regular feast.  An entire embankment was covered in blackberries, more or less ripe. 

Lon cautioned his charges: “I know you are very hungry but these plants will hurt you terribly if you wander in them carelessly.  We have nothing to bind rips and tears in skin.  Please use extreme caution.  Do not be in any hurry, we will camp here.  There are many green things here, there must be water also.”

Kamal went out on water detail again, he seemed to have a knack for finding it, and he did find potable water – warm but quenching nevertheless.  The blackberries did not give up their bounty without bloodshed but they proved adequate to ease the group’s hunger.  That was a good ending to what had started as a very dismal day.

That night Lon had a dream.

It wasn’t Ana who came to him in the dream, but his older sister whom he had watched being gang-raped and die in one of the hunters’ camps.  She stood on the open ground, away from the camp.  He walked over to her. 

“Hello Lon, it’s nice to see you again.  I’ve missed you terribly.  I’m sorry I abandoned you in the camp but my body wouldn’t hold on any longer.  I knew you had survived and escaped.  How are you?” 

“I’m so glad to see you Nan, you have no idea.  I’m OK, but we’re in a very precarious situation here, the people I mean.  We need help.  The children are weakening; some are sick.”

“I know that, but things must take their course, Lon.  In a way it’s your own fault that things are this bad.”

“How can you say that, Nan?  How dare you!  I’ve done everything I could to help here…”

“From your point of view, yes, but did you listen to those who may have known more?  Did you listen to Ruben, or were you so worried about his wild streak, his atavism, that you refused to trust his better survivalist judgment?  Didn’t he counsel to take the group away several months ago when the drought started?  Didn’t you think he’d know where to take you all if you followed him?  Did you think that he was trying to gain control of the group and were jealous of him?  Weren’t you afraid he would break your rules when he deemed necessary to save lives?   I know you Lon.  You mean well, but you have never really mined those deeper aspects of your nature: the fearful, the coward and the user – those aspects of one’s personality that become the controller; which reside in your subconscious.  It’s those things that killed Ana, and have brought you to these straights.”

“What do you know of Ruben, or Ana?  How can you possibly know what’s in my subconscious?  How can you know anything if you accuse me of killing Ana?  I loved her!”

“Of course you did.  You never realized you loved her too much under the circumstances, and you strangled her.  She didn’t know because in her own way she loved you too, but you choked her those many times when you insisted she come away from her duties to be with you.  She was conflicted; didn’t know where to stand between your demands, and the needs of the people.  Oh yes, you killed her.  She was an empath, Lon.  If you had allowed her full freedom to live her nature she’d still be here, with all of you, and she’d be laughing with you tonight.”

“It’s a dream, just a dream,” said Lon in the dream, “isn’t it?”

“If you want, but it is much more than a dream.  I’m here to help, Lon, but you must do as I tell you – exactly as I tell you – when you wake up into your real world.  You will abandon any idea of leading this little group.  Someone much more suitable is going to appear during the coming day.  Your hopes for the group will be fulfilled, but not the way you hoped they would be.  When help arrives, this is what you must do: walk away north, into the wilderness, by yourself.  Do not turn back, do not come back.  Your own redemption or your death, await in the young re-grown northern forests.  You will meet some people there and they will teach you about real love which is compassion.  I will see you again, Lon.  Goodbye.”

He watched her fade in the pale moonlight and woke up drenched in sweat.  Immediately he began to shake violently.  He got up, stretched and went on a short run to warm up, all the while thinking about his dream.

“That’s not a dream, that’s a nightmare!”  he thought.  Then he saw the possibility that it had been a vision.  “Morning will tell, tomorrow will tell.  I’ll wait until help arrives, I’ll see.”

Strange times call for strange events.  By the middle of the next day, as most of the people were busy gathering berries, eating, hauling water or keeping the children in line, the very first event of Lon’s dream came to pass: Ruben returned from his quest.  He approved of the stopping place with a few nods.  Always somewhat taciturn, he was even quieter than usual.  Lon queried him.

“What brings you back so soon, and how did you find us?”  Ruben frowned, then started talking:

“A blind man could have tracked your group Lon.  Haven’t I taught you anything at all about being circumspect?  What’s all around you, any idea?  What lurks out there?  What’s watching?  What’s scenting the air?  What’s listening?  Anyway, I saw your sign, and read your message at the old camp.  Also, I smelled your smoke – it travels a long way in this light breeze.  But that’s no longer your concern.  I’m taking over guiding this little group, for however long it takes before we get the help we were promised.”

“Say that again?  The help we were promised?  What do you mean by that?”

“I had a vision.  Saw a woman who claimed she was your sister.  She said that Ana had sent her.  She explained about your, well, character defects.  I already knew that, it’s partly why I had to leave, see?  Anyway the vision woman asked me to return to the group and be the guide until Ana and her people are ready and able to rescue and relocate those of the group who want it.  She said they’d all been waiting for you but you wouldn’t see it, so they decided to violate a bit of “prime directive” by contacting me.

You know me Lon.  You know I would not make this up – I don’t believe in any of this.  Somehow though, that woman, your sister, was very convincing. 

“Now you have to go.  Sorry, but it’s got to be short goodbyes.  Take whatever you want, or think you might need and head north.  She said Ana will meet with you when you’ve been gone long enough.  North, Lon, north.  It’s all waiting for your there.   Once my stint here is done, I’ll be tracking up myself – I won’t be going with Ana’s people, even if they’re only relocating the people to another part of this earth.  This, this land, this continent, is my world.  I belong here.

“I still don’t believe this, but irrational as it all is, I understand.  It’s not about belief, it’s the flow, just as in the wild.  All anyone needs to do is walk in the great flow of things.  The only time we must struggle is in opposition to those who do not walk in the flow of life.  That’s what gives rise to endless conflict.  I sensed your need to impose change and values.  You can’t wish, desire or impose non-violence anymore than you can stop a meat grinder by sticking your fingers in it, Lon. 

“I know this is harsh for you at the moment; you’re hurt and angry, but  you’ll learn.  The loneliness and the wild will teach you; the north, with its cold and its pristine snows will cleanse you and change you.  If you’re worried about food or shelter, observe the animals and the birds and learn: they’re the best teachers in the wild.  I’ll see you again, in the spring.”    

     

Is it worth it?

[a short story by Sha’Tara]

          Lanky Andy, Andrew Larkin, walked into “The Odyssey” restaurant at exactly 1800 hours.  He allowed his transitioning photochromic lenses to clear enough so he could scan the seats.  Eddie, Edward Aberhart, was seated in a booth halfway down the window aisle, facing the entrance door.  He waved at Andy.

          “Jees… Jesus Eddie, you look like shit. What’s up?  What’s with the ‘I need to see you right away, like today!’ call?”

          “It’s like this Andy.  I’m at the end of my rope, OK?  I’ve been thinking about things for years now and it’s turned into a bloody nightmare.  I keep asking myself, ‘Is is worth it?  What am I doing here?  What’s the point of anything, anything at all.’ and nothing seems right, feels right, tastes right.”

          “What does Linda have to say about your, um, nightmare?”

          “Linda’s gone.  She packed up, went back to her family down south.  I haven’t spoken to her since she left, that’d be about two months ago.  Just packed up while I went uptown, loaded up the car, took Jessie with her and left me a note on the kitchen table: ‘I’m going to stay with mom for a bit until I can get a job at the hospital down there.  I know a doctor, I’ve got excellent references as an ER nurse, I’ll get a job.  Please, don’t call me, don’t call mom, just vanish from our lives.  If you follow, I’ll get an injunction based on emotional abuse.  I don’t care what you do Eddie, just disappear from my life; from our lives.  You’ve become creepy, sick, but not something I can do anything about.  I won’t let you drag us into your nightmare.  Goodbye Eddie.’ and that’s it.”

          “Well, nothing like a cheery get together to get things rolling.”

          A busty, dark “Greek” looking waitress came by, took their orders and said their drinks would be right up. 

          ‘I sure hope so’ thought Andy.  ‘I need a drink, the kind that helps you put your thoughts together, then wipes them out so you can enjoy life again, if only for a day.’  

          Although the place was three quarters full, it being Saturday evening after all, the drinks miraculously showed up within three minutes.  Eddie fingered the cold condensation on the outside of his glass.  He didn’t pick it up, didn’t drink, just stared as if he was reading a message.  Andy sipped on his, smacked his lips then swallowed the entire glass, waving at a waitress for a refill. 

          “All right, goddamn it Eddie, you got me here.  Don’t tell me you’re just going through another of your emotional bullshit phases.  I had enough of that shit with you in college.  Let’s cut to the chase, what’s eating you?”

          “I’m really sorry Andy but my life sucks.  I hate teaching and I don’t believe anything the curriculum makes me teach the kids so I can’t really motivate them.  Well, how could I?  I can’t motivate myself any longer.

          “You know I used to attend the ‘Life Force’ Pentecostal church, where I met Linda, right?  I thought I had some sort of relationship with God.  It felt good, right, proper and my life made sense.  I joined the Lions’ Club to be of service in the community and that reinforced my belief that life had purpose.  I married Linda and I was sure I really loved her.  Jessie’s birth, now that was some celebration after all the scare that she would be abnormal – nothing wrong with that kid.  I had it all and then it all went away.  I mean it, Andy: it just evaporated.  Like I fell in some big black bottomless hole.  That’s where I’m talking to you from: a black pit of despair, falling with nothing to hang on to.  Can you accept that?  I’m not asking you to understand, just accept this is how it is.”

          “Do you want me to lie to you?”

          “No.”

          “OK then, I can’t – no, let me put it more clearly for you: I won’t accept it.  I’m a rational person, Eddie.  If something fucks up upstairs, it’s up to me to go up there and straighten it up.  There’s no Chimera up there that’s going to take over and fuck up my life – not before now, not now, and not ever in the future.  I wouldn’t let it happen.  That’s my answer to your asking me to accept your current state of mind: I don’t because if I did, then I’d have to try to understand it next – and I’m simply not going there.  I don’t play mind games Eddie.  My own life is controlled; some people say I’m as hard as a rock, well fine, that to me is high praise.  That’s why you stuck with me through college too, you needed that hardness to put grit into your own mush, Eddie. 

          “What the fuck, man.  You are the one who got Linda, you whiny wimp of an excuse for a man.  She went for you because she felt sorry for you most of the time.  But I was the one who loved her Eddie.  How often I imagined what we could have done as a couple, as a team.  A doctor and a nurse, and I would have pushed her to get her medical degree too.  We would have been all over the world, helping people, I mean really helping.  A team on fire.  Fuck you Eddie, you miserable excuse for a human being.  I feel so sorry for you right now I want to punch in that baby face of yours.  Goddam it, I don’t believe this.”

          “Why have you never told me of your feelings for Linda until now?  I didn’t know, honest.”

          “Of course you didn’t know, you self-absorbed little shit.  All that’s ever really mattered to you was you and your precious feelings.  ‘I joined the Lions’ club to be of service to the community.’  Such a crock.  You joined to find support for your insecurities – tell me honestly that isn’t true.”

          “Ah hell Andy, I didn’t call you here for you to beat up on me.  I’m down, Andy.  I can’t take this.  Is this fun for you, crushing what’s left of a total loser?”

          “OK, OK, I’ll back off if you’ll level with me and tell me what’s really the problem.  What’s the cause of your black pit of despair, Eddie?  What’s this Gremlin you’ve got on your back that you can’t shake off this time?”

          “The honest truth, Andy: the world, and my life in it.  Have you followed the news lately?  With all the crap that’s going on and that keeps arising all over, is it really worth it?  Is there some point to it?  The world’s in a shambles, what am I supposed to do?  Ignore it?  Carry on like what’s her name, Pollyanna? 

          “I wake up in the middle of the night and I have visions, terrible visions, of things happening to thousands of people, horrible things.  And I feel guilty about it all, I can’t help myself, and the guilt won’t go away.  It’s like everything bad that happens is my fault.  I’m responsible somehow, as if I were a puppet and I was being played, forced to watch; forced to link my lifestyle to the problems of other people.  If I enjoy something, they go without.  If I eat, they starve.  If I have a house to live in, they are homeless.  If I have rights, they are enslaved.  If I’m free, they are in prison.  I’m cursed, Andy; I’m the other side of the coin.”

          As their food was being served, Andy didn’t answer.  He moved some plates around, ordered another drink, looked up at Eddie and said, “Ed, drink your fucking drink, right now.” 

          The waitress looked up, a shocked look on her face.  “Sorry, that’s between my friend and I here.  Please bring him another drink, he’s going to need it.”

          The waitress almost scampered away.  Andy started eating and felt ravenous.  He swallowed, then started to laugh.  Not so loud as to cause embarrassment but so Eddie would hear it and stare at him. 

          “You find something amusing, Andy?” Eddie put his empty glass down, looked into Andy’s eyes.

          “Yeah, you.”

          “My problems are amusing to you?  I thought doctors were supposed to be empathetic.”

          “Some are but it’s definitely not a trade requirement.  If it was most of us would be out of work tomorrow.  But this has nothing to do with me being a doctor, or you a high school teacher.  We’ve been dancing around a much more serious business called life.  You asked me, is it worth it?  Before I answer that, give me a rational alternative to what you call life.”

          “That’s a nuts question.  How can there be a rational alternative to life?”

          “Ah, got you there haven’t I?”

          “I don’t have any answer for you.  Are you talking about an alternative to life?  How can there be such a thing?”

          “Have you heard of NDE’s or near death experiences that some people claim to have had?”

          “Vaguely.  Here and there.  There’s no proof of such a thing actually happening. Just the brain reacting in a crisis when life is on the line.”

          “Exactly!”  Andy drank some more and it seemed his drinks were tasting better each time.  So did the food.  “Got to congratulate you, Eddie, this is one hell of a fine restaurant.  Not fancy, but you can’t beat this food, or the drinks either.  Don’t know when I’ve enjoyed myself more at a meal.  Go ahead, dig in, dig in.  This is fantastic!”

          “What do you mean, ‘Exactly’?”

          “Mmmm… what?”

          “I said there was no proof that NDE’s are real experiences and you said, ‘Exactly.'”

          “And I meant every word!”  Andy laughed at the puzzled expression in his friend’s face and noticed that outside, the world had gone dark except for street lights and the lampshades over the booths made new shadows.

          “Ease up on the drinks, Andy, you’re losing it.”

          “Actually I’m getting it, Eddie.”

          “Care to explain?”  He took a serious drink and suddenly felt himself unwind.  As if something good was going to happen.  Imagine that: nothing good had seemed to happen for ages.  He knew it wasn’t the drink, nor the food.  Anticipation. He actually felt it.

          “I never realized it until now,” said Andy.  “About you, I mean.  I always thought you were somewhat of a sissy, a wimp you know, going around feeling sorry for yourself, bringing people into your circle to empathize with you.  But that wasn’t it at all.  You were just confused, selling yourself short, unaware of your own nature, thus unable to take advantage of it.”  He seemed to look at Eddie with some sort of awe.  “I never knew; never suspected even.” 

          “Would you tell me what you’re going on about, Andy?  You’re confusing me and I think you’ve had too much to drink.”

          “Oh just wait.  I haven’t had half enough.  I’ve been a fool, Eddie, a complete idiot.  I’m the one who’s been totally self-centered and blind.  You know what you are, buddy?”

          “Hey, this is getting scary.  What am I?  Some sort of Reptilian alien?”  Eddie smiled, ate some, enjoyed it.  “You going to keep me in suspense?”

          “No.  I’ve got it.  You, my very dear friend and pain in the ass, are an empath.  A real, honest to God empath.  That’s what explains your angst, you visions, your despair; your deep questioning of the purpose of life. You feel it man, you feel it all and you have never learned how to deal with it.  You’re supposed the “channel” this stuff, not keep it bottled up.  It’s not about you, it’s about this world, and how life evolves or adapts itself within.  That life needs to communicate; to give itself messages and in human terms, those messages are carried by empaths. 

          “When I said, “exactly” I meant it: it’s all based on empathy.  There’s no need of proof once you pass a certain point, or reach a certain level of evolution – it just is.  I’m a surgeon and I know a bit about NDE’s.  I’ve had talks with quite a few patients who, after thanking me for saving their life, went on to describe their experiences under anaesthesia when they experienced clinical death.  I was interested but never convinced beyond what you said: brain reaction. 

          “But it wasn’t that, don’t you see?  These NDE people are empaths!  They crossed over and came back because their nature provided the bridge between the physical world of their body and the spirit, or mental, world inhabited by their consciousness.  I remember talking about this with Linda.  She didn’t make the connection between NDE’ers and empathy, but she accepted the experience as very real.  Goddam Eddie, she was right!  I just needed to see the connecting thread and you just showed it to me.  Your angst is your connection to others, Eddie.  You’re not cursed, you are blessed, old friend.” 

          “If that’s the case, shouldn’t it have made me selfless and compassionate instead of the loser wimp you see before you?”

          “No, I see it now, that’s not how it works.  You needed teachers and you didn’t get them – luck of the draw I suppose.  You needed to be taught self-empowerment and self-reliance.  That’s where the rubber hits the road I bet.  That’s where it comes together and changes you completely.  Think about it, Eddie.  Think about it long and seriously.  While you’re on top of that, teach yourself about channelling – pass it on, don’t keep it in.  You’re watching the movie, you’re not in the story being chased by those demons, though they are real.  You can sense them but they don’t know you exist.  That’s your key and your power.  You can exert influence upon the stories in your mind if you learn how to transmute the information then upload it in its changed form.  I read about this stuff; it’s amazing I never got it until now.  You: you’re the key.  You’re the Avatar.  You’re the one making it happen now, right now, while you’re outside of yourself.

          “Is that my alternative to life?”

          “Yes.  You see, there isn’t just one form of life, there are infinite types of life.  People like yourself, well, they can slip in and out of any form they choose.  You have the power to do that and that’s how you survive in worlds given over to violence like this one.  You don’t stay in the line of fire, you duck, you live to fight another day.  But you’re always on the front lines regardless of where you go in your mind.”

          “You missed your calling, you should have been a preacher.  I’m sold.  Just hoping it isn’t the drinks talking, or feeling.”

          “It isn’t the drinks.  This is like a revelation.  I’m sold too.  I’m no empath, I know that, but you know who else is?”

          “Linda!”

          “You bet, Linda.  And buddy, I’m going after her.  I love her; I’ve always loved her and I’m going to make it up to her for not pushing my way between the two of you.  Got that?”

          “Yes, I got that.  It’s how it’s got to be.”  He hesitated for a moment, then added,   “I know you’ll be good for her, and you’ll take good care of Jessie.  Let me know when you guys are married, or settled.  I’d like to visit.”

          “I’ll do that.  No, I mean we’ll do that.”

 

Meet Andrew Logan and Callie Brown

                                             [short story, by Sha’Tara]

Ever since his people had left him behind to observe human life on Earth he had wandered the city, learning the peoples’ ways, their mores, their languages, absorbing and analyzing.  Gradually, over a period of a month he had adapted his earth-human-clone body into a fully functional Earthian body complete with all the feelings and emotions attendant to a born Earthian.  He even gave himself a name, Andrew.  Andrew Logan.  Architect.  He liked the concept.  After all he was a scientist engineer and Earthian technology was at a very low level of development.  There was nothing in it he couldn’t understand and improve after a few minutes of study. 

What truly fascinated him however was the human body, its functions and those strangest of things: feelings and emotions.  He could make the tongue move and speak any language, making sounds was easy, mimicking any human or animal call, simple. He had quickly learned which foods to ingest to keep the body at peak performance and he could keep it awake indefinitely without any negative consequences.  But his feelings, that he did not understand.  Well, it was because he could not prevent them from manifesting; he could not think them gone or reason them away: they just happened and he was never ready for them.  The worst part however was that which followed the feelings; what the Earthians themselves called emotions. 

“I have never known hate,” he thought to himself, “it is a totally alien concept to me, but if I could hate, I’d say I hate these feelings, and more, these ridiculous emotions.  These things are completely unreasonable.  Surely they do not expect to ever develop a properly functioning civilization encumbered with such negative emanations from their brains and bodies?”

“Excuse me, sorry, I was texting.  Did you say something to me?”  The woman had stood beside him at the bus stop.  He was aware of her presence but he failed to realize he was speaking some thoughts aloud and could be overheard.  On his world people only listened when you were actually addressing them.  But here, they has an insatiable curiosity, from every sense.  They reached out to hear, to see, to taste, to smell.  They exuded sexual desire or conversely, revulsion.  Black and white they were.  No peaceful rest of mechanical neutrality.  No wonder they lived such short lives: they literally fried themselves in attempts to answer circular questions, and deal with circular emotions.   

She kept looking at him.  “I haven’t seen you around here” she continued, “Passing through?  Or moving to the neighbourhood?”  How to respond… oh yes, there is a standard appropriate response for everything: “I’m very sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt your activities.  Yes, I’m moving in actually.”  He added to appear totally normal: “I’m looking for an apartment.  Nothing fancy, just a bachelor suite.”  

“That’s wonderful, Mr. huh?” 

“I’m sorry, I meant to introduce myself properly.  My name is Andrew Logan.  I am an architect.”

“Callie Brown.  Real estate agent.  I just finished going through the vacancy list in that apartment building across the street.  There are two bachelor suites, one available now, one at the end of the month.  Would you like to see them?” 

To see them?  How strange that she would ask that.  If she showed him the apartments’ numbers, he could see them.  Surely there was no need to actually take an elevator and walk to the suite to verify that it was there; that what he saw was what existed at that number!  He put it down as another of their strange sayings that do not mean what they say: “Have a chair.”  “Take a seat.”  “Rain check.”  “Do lunch.”  “Night cap.” “Would you like fries with that?” as if he’d somehow forget to state exactly what he meant to order and needed a reminder.

“Sir?”  She had a pleasant voice, and by Earth standards was quite young (he estimated she’d be twenty-eight years, three months and four days old, born at four-thirty-eight of the morning, give or take a couple of minutes, he was quite certain he was “in the ball park” to use another of their nonsensical expressions.)  She was also very pretty, so his body kept insisting, and he felt embarrassingly attracted to her, wanting to get closer, to touch, to feel her.  Frighteningly powerful urges tugged at his brain. 

“Yes.  Do I address you as Miss, Ms., or Mrs.?”  She had a very attractive smile, again as his body eagerly told him. 

“You can just call me Callie; no need for any formalities.”

“Thank you Callie.  Yes, I certainly would like to see the apartments, thank you very much.”

As they rode up the elevator he felt her trying to expose herself to him.  He wondered again, as he had since the very first day he’d felt those attractions, if these people felt that way about each other, why did they hide themselves behind clothes?  Why did they offer so many things that were highly desired, or prized, yet never gave them away to those who wanted them?  He had concluded that there was something very wrong with this sentient life.  When he communicated his findings to the orbiting ship he’d been granted an extended tour of duty.  Of course: he was, after all, Doctor Los, senior analyst.  

Before the decision to actually land an observer on the planet he’d participated on several abductions.  His people had been trying to understand Earthians for many earth years in order to present information to the High Galactic Council as to whether these sentients, now on the verge of developing functional star drives, could safely be allowed to roam outside their solar system.  The problem with abducting the creatures and performing experiments on them is that it did not answer the critical questions.  Because of their primitive brain functions they went “off the charts” when discovering they were on a space ship.  Some got violent.  Some went into cardiac arrest or catatonic and most of the young females, those who didn’t “lose it” as they termed it, just wanted sex with “the gods” as they thought of them and experience “great” sexual orgasms.  All of them had to be time-wiped before being returned to their world. 

We need someone to interact with them as one of them, on their own world, in their own natural environment; on their own terms.  So as senior scientist of the Tholian crew he’d volunteered. 

And here he was.  In a residential apartment building, rising through several floors with Callie Brown to “look” at an apartment.  He wondered then what she’d think, or say, if he told her he already knew exactly, in every detail, what the apartment looked like from extracting the location number in her cell phone?  He let the thought pass, the elevator stopped and they exited to walk down a hallway to apartment 1823.

She pressed four keys on a keypad in the door, inserted a metal key and after two green lights began flashing, opened the door.  “Old fashioned, I know, but residents like this system, harder to break in.”  He stood inside the door, scanning the place.  “Go ahead, it’s OK, it’s vacant.  Wander through, have a good look.  It’s compact and practical.  Now for the terms, it’s $2100 a month plus utilities, or you can purchase a package that includes everything, furniture, utilities, maintenance, telephone, TV, Internet and comprehensive insurance for $2600 a month.  With current market conditions in the city that’s actually a really good deal.”

She had moved very close to him as she talked, now touching just slightly.  Their bodies pulled at each other like magnets.  He enjoyed the sensation.  He moved against her.  She turned to face him, looked up into his eyes, and urgently began to undress him.  He saw the bed in her mind, she lying on top, waiting for him.  He brought himself back to the moment and as she undressed him, he did the same for her.  Soon they were both naked and she walked to the bed, sitting on the side, then deftly lifting her legs and lying prone on it. 

“You’re not from around here, are you Andrew?”  She smiled more, slowly spreading her legs, inviting him.  “Who are you really?”

“We are Tholian analysts from a distant galaxy.  We analyze and grade sentient worlds for the Greater Galactic Council.  I’m performing an in-depth planetary consciousness analysis.”

“That’s like, an alien?  You’re an alien, Andrew?”  She didn’t feel to him as much shocked as excited.

“Yes.”   

“Oh God, my lucky day or what!”  She actually giggled like a young girl.

He stared at her nakedness, her vulnerability, and felt a powerful urge to go down on top of her and meld with her body.  He understood that without the clothes he was naked; that his body was male, and that she desired him to join with her in hormonal polarity.  He also realized that he felt a need in his body to join with her, a nascent but powerful “sexual” need.  By the thoughts in her mind, his erection was all she could think of at the moment.

“It’s how we reproduce” she said as she guided him inside her, “and it’s also the greatest source of pleasure we can ever experience.  But I want this one to blow all the others away!  Are you up for it?  Score: visitor 1, home team 1, we have a tied game?”  She laughed at her own joke then it began in earnest.

Still breathing hard, he said, “I sense that you want a child to come from this union.  Please assure me that I have the correct interpretation of your feelings?” 

“Oh yes, how I wish I could have your child, Andrew.  Unfortunately I can’t.  Something haywire with my reproductive system.”

“That’s not a problem.  These bodies are very simple.  I’ve by-passed its objection to the impregnation.  You will have a child.”

“Oh boy, now you’ve really scared me.  What will he look like?”   There was that shallow concern about visual effects again, as if how one “looks like” could possibly have any relevance to one’s life.

“Oh, he’ll have a perfectly normal body but with a slower physical growth rate and much higher IQ than you are used to on this world.  You see, we look exactly like you, we are not some strange looking green blob monstrosity of your quaint imaginings.  We are humans, just billions of years in your time future.  Now please excuse me for a moment, I need to contact my people on the ship.”  He watched her for a few moments as she settled down on the bed, fluffing her beautiful brown hair over the pillow and closing her eyes with a deep sigh of perfect contentment. She brought her right hand to cup her breast and ritually thumbed her nipple.  Such simple creatures, he thought.  If only they knew they were within a hair’s breath of qualifying as angels… if only they could see the truth of it for themselves and act accordingly.

“I’ve entered into a life-relationship with an earth woman and given her a child.  I’ll require another tour of duty extension as I’ll have to remain somewhat longer to see her through her short life and guide the child in our ways.  Please begin proceedings for clearance for her and the child when she is near her natural termination date, to locate both aboard ship.  She will require full body transplant, of course.  I will cover any energy costs.”

“Yes, Doctor Los, there will be no complications.  We can get all the energy we need from the planet’s sun and satellite.  Give us your coordinates when the time comes.  Have a pleasant stay.”

The years of bliss passed quickly for Callie Brown, years that were but mere days for Andrew Logan, or Doctor Los.  He continued his analysis of Earthian consciousness, and with so much more at stake now for himself.  Though it was such a short time, he learned to love “his Callie” as he called her.  Whatever she wanted, he would have given her, but she just wanted a small house in the country, with a garden.  Here she raised Andrew Junior who grew very slowly by Earthian standards.  She was happy with that.  “It makes it seem like I have so much more time this way.”  She also said to him one day, “It’s as if I never had any other life but this one.  I feel so undeservedly blessed, Los.”  (She began calling him Los so as not to create confusion between him and Andrew Junior.  She didn’t want her son to get used to being called “Junior.”)

Throughout that time, the greatest gift he could give her he withheld from telling her of, that she would be given the choice to enter eternal life, eternal youth, if she wanted it; if she chose to join with the Tholian crew and make Tholia  her new home world.  Andrew Junior, their son (such an atavistic concept) would also have to make a similar choice. 

“She loved simple things…  One morning she wasn’t feeling well.  The next day, she was gone.” (paraphrase from “Meet Joe Black”)

 

Dallas

 

[a short story – by Sha’Tara]

          Dallas was a week from her 15th birthday when she disappeared.   I am her older brother by almost 2 years. My name is Greg, or for some, Gregory, 3rd oldest of five siblings.   Home is Hope, a small town at the eastern end of the Fraser Valley, if you will. The house is in an older subdivision on the way to Kawkawa lake.     Not much ever happens in Hope and Dallas’ disappearance created quite a stir for the next year, until nothing was discovered or found and like so many, Dallas’ fate entered the missing persons’ growing police files.

          Needless to say, the family was not the same after that. Mom was disconsolate but adamant that Dallas was just “lost” as she put it, that nothing had happened to her. She managed to communicate this feeling to me and upon graduating from Hope Secondary, I decided to go in search of Dallas.

          There wasn’t much to go by, but I knew Dallas intimately – we were more than siblings, we were close friends, and I knew a lot of things about Dallas that obviously no one else knew. I knew that she was restless, not close to anyone and tired of being “mom’s girl” at home.   Dallas had grown wings prematurely and wanted to try them out. She had talked to me about leaving home many times but it was always something in the future, when she was “of age” so to speak. But youth is fed by impatience and Dallas added impetuosity to the volatile mix. Hope and home were much too constricting for someone like her. I could remember her flashing dark brown eyes and black pony tail swinging back and forth when she entered into an argument about something she felt deeply about, and Dallas felt deeply about everything.

          So, with only mom knowing my plans, and a little over 2 years since Dallas had gone missing; with some money from an uncle’s inheritance, I set out after her.  

          I naturally went west, towards Vancouver, and learned to do research on teens running away from home. I did a lot of work to create a working pattern. I rented cheap accommodations where I set up my wi-fi computer and cordless pocket printer. I transcribed my notes from the day’s search into computer files and printed pictures of Dallas to put on posts, bulletin boards or pass around. I got to know a few detectives in charge of missing kids and everyday was a new learning experience. I won’t bore you with the endless false leads, and the people trying to cash-in on leading me to Dallas. I learned to smell them out pretty quickly. And all the while, I discovered the City itself.

          I knew that anything was possible now. I interacted with prostitutes, pimps and massage parlours, any sort of place or business that might provide a haven for underage female runaways. I didn’t think Dallas would go that route but desperation narrows choices. On the other side, I frequented movie sets where a young girl’s ID might not be checked too closely when an extra was needed in a hurry. I checked the Internet for ads and agencies that placed babysitters or nannies.

          It was a strange time. The more I came up blank, the more convinced I became that I was on Dallas’ trail and would find her. I dreamt about her sometimes, and every dream showed me this: that she was not only all right, but had found herself and was happy with her new life. Sometimes I met her in a restaurant where she waitressed, or in a rich household where she worked as a nanny. There was always that mischievous look in her eyes, the twinkling that said, “I have a secret and I won’t tell you what it is until and unless you discover it for yourself.” Then she would laugh and the dream would end.

          I emailed mom fairly regularly, skipping many details but reassuring her that I was not only still looking, but increasingly sure that I would find Dallas and that she would be well. Often I would get a simple reply: “Thank you, Gregory, thank you. – Mom”

          It occurred to me, after over a year, and a third of my funds gone, to combine my search with some practical course on private investigating and journalism. Within a few months I felt confident that I had enough horse sense and street smarts to try working. I answered an ad from a family looking for their disappeared son. I visited the people and explained what I was doing in Vancouver and convinced them that I knew enough to be of value to them. We settled on a fee and I added 14 year old “William” to my search query, creating a new set of patterns. Not surprising (to me) I found William with a group of Lost Boys downtown, trying to earn some money washing windshields at intersections. Once I was sure of him, I waited for a chance and approached him as casually as I knew how, offering him a small amount of money if he would run an errand for me.   He was hungry and broke and completed the errand in record time. Before I paid him, I told him his name and asked him if he ever thought about returning home.

          “You a f…king cop?” he snarled and almost bolted from the outdoor table I had chosen for the exchange. I gently but firmly put my hand on his arm.

          “Oh, don’t be stupid, Will. A cop wouldn’t ask you to run an errand. I wanted you to have that to think about before I talked to you.”

          “So what’s the deal? Why do you care about me?”

          “Should be obvious – I’m a private investigator hired to find you, and I found you. I can have you home within the hour… if you’ll let me. Hey, it’s no skin off my nose if you run, I get paid regardless.   I report that I found you, the location, and that you took off. Doesn’t sound too smart to me, though. Whatever caused you to run in the first place couldn’t have been that serious, and it’s been 6 months. I think it’s time for you to go home, finish school, then think about leaving with your head high this time, with a job or a degree at least. You’re not a poor homeless kid, William. You’re a spoiled Yuppie brat who may just have learned a valuable lesson now. You can take advantage of that. You know what gets you the farthest in life? Self-discipline. You can do it to wash windshields, surely you can do it to a greater end than that.”

         So I returned a subdued William to his grateful parents. And I found other jobs; learned to collaborate with some of the undercover cops and my life slowly changed, but my purpose remained steadfastly the same: to find Dallas. Another year went by and most people would have given up by now. But something was inextricably linked in my mind: Dallas and the City. Dallas and I. All three of us were drawing together, I could sense this.  

          The City, as ugly and frightening as it had appeared at first, was definitely growing on me. I saw her gross sins and could forgive many of them. I interacted with her victims, the rich and the poor, and found out they didn’t mind being victims and I learned to accept that. And I wrote all of that down in my notes and began to feed some of my impressions to the borderline underground press that proliferated in the City. I deliberately used my real name to sign my articles and made sure it appeared frequently.   I made a couple of “appearances” on radio talk shows about my work on the street, and what I had learned in interaction with the “Wendy’s” and the “Lost Boys,” as I called the runaways; their pimps, employers, lovers, and mentors.

          And as I somehow knew it would, it happened: I found Dallas. She did investigating for a couple of Internet news blogs between other jobs, and she saw my name on an article, found the radio program on the Internet and contacted me by email. My heart soared as old Chief Dan George would have said. We chose to meet in a Starbucks, neutral grounds.   I was there early because I wanted to watch her walk in; wondering how much she’d changed; if I would recognize her.

          I had no trouble recognizing her face. Her hair was no longer in a pony tail but allowed to flow freely and thick over her shoulders. She appeared a bit taller, slimmer certainly, and much older.   She wore a brown fake leather jacket and a short blue skirt and knee-length high heeled black boots. But that dark brown-eyed twinkle was as bright as ever.

          “Dallas!” I couldn’t help calling as she looked over the crowd and line-ups. She saw me and smiled. It was still that special smile she used on me when we were “kids” it seemed so long ago.   She came over, hugged me and went to get an espresso. I watched her, the poise, the certainty, the assurance. I should not have been surprised, but I was regardless. I couldn’t help but remember that she had not yet turned 15 when she left home and Hope to find herself. And I though it uncanny how right both mom and I had been about her. Except that she was never lost: she had her own map, her own destination and her own destiny to fulfill. And as I watched that young woman interacting with the guy behind the counter, I realized what her mind had told her, those eventful years ago: “It’s time Dallas.   Leave – now, or forfeit your purpose.   They will take you, when you come of age; when you have graduated, or earned a degree, and they will file you, pigeon-hole you, and you will become the living dead, just like your parents, your teachers, the adults you see on TV and meet in the stores. They will make you fit in. You’ll get married, get a house and stuff, have kids, part-time brain dead job, and walk the treadmill until you die. Walk away now, Dallas. You can do it.”

          And, she had.

          We didn’t talk very long that morning. I was on a case and she had reports to file, so we decided to meet at my place. Hers she said, was a bit crowded; she lived with two other women, one of whom was her lover – for the time being – she added with that twinkle. “Neither one of us is ready to settle, and I don’t think I want a serious relationship, at least not for a long time.”  I was going to ask, “Define a long time” but I passed on that.

          She came to my place and having settled my case that afternoon and gotten paid, I got the goodies and wine and we talked, basically all through the night.   And although the question was burning on my tongue, I never asked her why she hadn’t contacted mom, nor whether she would now. It didn’t seem appropriate and besides, she was the one asking the questions.

          “OK, so I can see mom would try to put you up to this, but why did you come looking for me, Greg? Why didn’t you just let it go? Huh?   She got up abruptly from the chair, sending it flying ass over tea kettle, turned, grabbed it and threw it back on its feet. She turned her back to me and talked: “I’ll tell you why you came to find me. You didn’t believe, as mom does, that I was lost. I became an opportunity for you, didn’t I. An excuse to leave also. Romance, excitement, feelings, emotions, so many things that tend to get bottled up in a small town stuck against a mountain and a river, things that can be let loose and expressed in countless ways, good and bad, here in the metro. You wanted what I had discovered. And you wanted to find me to prove to yourself that you had found it too. You followed me, not to find me, though that was your intent, but to find yourself.   You were the one who was lost, Gregory.   You were never going to find yourself in Hope, or in whatever institution you ended up working for. You sensed it, and you found my map in your mind, where I left you a copy. So, have you found yourself, Greg?”

          She turned just as abruptly, leaned down with both hands flat on the small table and literally stared into my soul. She smiled thinly and sat down to sip some more wine. She waited for my answer.

          “You are right, Dallas. The commitment, the gallantry, the chivalry, call it whatever you will, that was the cover story. The underlying motive was romance. I would do something different, and I had you to light my way. And Dallas?”

          “Yes?”

          “What a light you turned out to be!” She smiled again, and her eyes were wet, as were mine. We finished the wine and I called a taxi to take her home. We hugged once more just before she got in the car. She picked up the dragging edge of the long trench coat she was wearing and I closed the door, watching her disappear in the early morning mist and smog.  

          And the City stood surrounding us, neither smiling nor frowning, withholding comment and judgment.

The Ice Queen

(micro fiction)

It was three PM when he finally spotted her, the first time he’d seen her since their brief, angry exchange in the park a week before.  She was standing inside a bus stop, across the two-lane street.  Today the ice queen had long dark brown hair that cascaded down over the broad collar of a light blue Fall coat that came down mid-thigh.  Even with the wig and the makeup she could never hide from him.  He was sure he could always recognize her and when a flutter of doubt crossed his mind he summarily dismissed it.  He wasn’t going to cross the street to be absolutely certain.  The way she held her left hand over her shoulder bag told him she was packing and ready for any sort of trouble.  He’d seen her in action too many times to doubt her speed and accuracy with the 45.  If she spotted him coming across the street, and she would, he wouldn’t make it halfway.

He was leaning on an oak tree, partially hidden, far enough to remain safe.  Though in the moment he utterly hated her, he couldn’t help admiring the tall, slim, straight-backed form and the long bare legs that set his heart pumping and managed to shatter his confidence.  

He was safe right where he was.  This was she, the ice queen; he could sense the aura of her.  She was danger, like a wave pulsing across the street, bouncing off the store front behind him; the worst kind of danger.  Danger by the feelings she engendered in all men.  Danger by association.  Danger by attraction.  Danger by profession.   

The bus arrived, finally.  He stared hard between gaps in traffic but didn’t see her get on board.  The bus left an empty stop.  She was gone, heading south, towards the port.  He tried to see in his mind who was waiting there for her.  He knew, of course, there was someone, but who?  If it was the colonel then she had taken the assignment.  From the marina a fast cruiser would take her around past the point and from there she’d scuba dive and swim to land, on the far side of the border.  If she got caught he’d never see her alive again.  Such a waste.  Such a stupid waste.  He hated himself for refusing to go on assignment with her but he was sick and tired.  He had lost his taste for the excitement of her cat and mouse games.  But not for her.  He was in double jeopardy: he both hated and loved her with equal passion, one never overcoming the other unless or until she died. 

She’d told him in the park, “If you’re not with me, you’re against me.”  When she looked at him, he’d shaken his head and he’d felt the icy hatred she spat in the one word:  “Coward!” and walked away.  That was the last word they had spoken.

 “I better make that call,” and he pulled out a cell phone, hit a button, spoke one word: “Elk” and casually threw the phone under the wheels of a passing truck. 

Then it hit him as hard as if he’d walked into an on-coming car:  Misdirection.  She never got on the bus.  But the message was sent, the phone was destroyed and a totally innocent girl would go to her death tonight because of him, because he didn’t cross the street; because he really was a coward, not because she tricked him. 

He threw up in the gutter.

 

Before the Owl Calls my Name

  [a poem by   ~burning woman~  ]

[Explaining the title: According to the Kwakiutl people of the British Columbia coast (Canada) if you hear an owl call your name, your death is imminent.]

The night fills me with its seductive darkness
A moon’s halo slides through thin clouds
All is silent, as silent as the deep of space
And I lie here in the back seat of your car,
Your big old Buick of romantic days gone by
But we are young yet, or almost young
And all that matters now is that you are here
Naked against my own throbbing nakedness
My heart beating in the moment’s madness
Orgasm and death blending so well together.

Hold me and press your maleness into me
But don’t just make love to me, I want more
possess me beyond my dreaming
Devour my longing, my hopeless desire
Eat my flesh
Leave nothing of what I once called me
But the lingering scent of your moaned pleasure
When my body turns itself inside out
To give you all my life in one thrust
Do this to me, do this for me
Before the owl calls my name
And tells me I will not see another sunrise.