Finding August

Written by Sarah Schuss

A great wind rose up in the South, taking with it the dark and frigid remains of a long-dead winter. It had won the fiercest battle of five long months, and now triumphantly tumbled upon the countryside, spreading its victorious mirth wherever it traversed. It washed over receding white blankets on hills and crashed upon the last remaining shards of ice floating on swollen green streams. Gathering strength, it descended upon the city like a giant wave of long-forgotten joy, gathering its inhabitants in tendrils of temperate air, and gently blowing over the rosy faces of young children playing in its streets.

There was, however, one young man in particular walking down one of these city streets whom the wind could not seem to warm, try as it might. Handsome in the strictest sense of the word, his face rarely broke its icy composure, and a smile had not graced his lips in months. As he plodded on, his long, brisk strides marked a familiar path from a modest, red-brick house to a small, dark banking office in which he spent the larger part of his time. Time was of the utmost importance to Mr. August Wright. Time meant money, and time wasted on trivialities that not be justified. Desiring to make both a name and a profit for himself, he eagerly made his way to the bank every morning at first light, and refused to leave until he had satisfied his clients, and his own pride. He had no time for sunsets, or long conversations; affection and friendships were things for weak-minded men. Alas, it was in his compulsive desire to make the most of every minute, and to miss nary a single opportunity that August Wright missed much. In his need to ensure that no small task was forgotten, August forgot himself.

It wasn’t long after he had secured his position at the bank that Mr. Wright began to spend less and less time in his little red-brick home. He found that the pursuit of riches gave him time away from his wife whom he soon thought altogether too plain, and his two children whose inefficient movements and impulsive behaviour began to cause him much anxiety. In all truth, August began to resent his current vocation, and seriously doubted that he had chosen rightly.

“I’d be better off without the lot,” he would think to himself, as he pushed away one child who was clambering up his leg, and passed along another, who had taken to wailing incessantly, to his wife. Then, as he sat down in peace to eat his meal and glanced at her, he would remark to himself that she looked rather hollow and worn. Her blushing cheeks which he had once found so endearing, now appeared wasted on her crinkled visage. August would sigh, and would go to bed a good deal troubled and discontented.

Now, August found solace in numbers, and soon began to find that he could sleep more comfortably with his head resting on a stack of receipts on his desk, than he could in his own bed. He often rested this way, which required less time spent at his home during the night. It was on one particularly late night that Mr. Wright found his eyelids beginning to grow especially heavy upon his ink-stained face. As he glanced about him, he noticed that night had begun to fall. The ordinarily dark banking room was now becoming void of all external light as the last few rays of sun on the wall in front of him were swallowed by the dripping shadows. The darkness hung about him like a heavy blanket, drawing his head down into the ink-blotched papers and receipts on the desk below him. He let his eyelids slowly shut, and as he stole a last fleeting glance about the room, the shadows cast by desks and chairs seemed to him to be reaching towards him with gnarled and cold fingers.

Suddenly, a floorboard creaked with all the vengeance of a thousand ancient doors, and a scratching noise like fingernails upon the inside of a coffin pierced August’s heart with a cold fear. His eyes flew open, and with his heart leaping into his throat, August quickly surveyed the dark room.

“Who’s there?” he cried with shaking voice. His eyes suddenly caught sight of a dark figure in the corner of the room who, it seemed, stood unmoving for several moments as if trying to decide whether to attack or fade into the blackness about. August blinked rapidly and fumbled about his desk for his letter opener which he then wielded before him like a crusader of old. “Show yourself,” he cried with masked trepidation, “or face my blade!”

The figure suddenly stepped forward, arms waving like a many-tentacled creature of the deep. “Stop!” it cried, with a voice as dreadful as any banshee it seemed. “’Tis I, sir. I sweep up some nights.” August instantly dropped the letter opener, and leaned against his desk with feigned indifference.

“Well, get on!” he said, sustaining the tremor and shame in his voice, and waved the man forward. The man began to sweep again with much timidity, and turning in the shadows, remarked, “You should go home, sir. It’ll be too late come tomorrow.”

“Yes, yes,” August grumbled. “I have a few more things to finish.” But as he glanced up, he saw that the man had moved into another room, and was no longer present. Still feeling the shock of the previous moment, August rested his head upon his desk and let his eyelids shut once again.

August awoke suddenly with a start and shock, for he was in a bed. It was not his bed, however; he reached that conclusion within seconds. These sheets were much too rough to be his own, and the musky, dust-filled smell about the room quickly assured him that he was elsewhere besides his own home. Confused, he fumbled at the bedside for a moment, and after discovering a curtain hanging down beside the bed, quickly pulled it open. He winced as beams of light shot into the room, illuminating a large and stately chamber; or rather, it appeared that it had once been stately. Now, dust-covered furniture filled the grey space, and once colourful and illustrious carpets and curtains now appeared tattered and bare. August was markedly confused by all of this, but he suddenly sat up as he caught a glimpse of his own outstretched hand. It was not his own. Wrinkled and grey, it was the hand of a man at least twice his age. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he began to discover that it was not just his hands that had undergone such a transformation, but his arms as well.

Beginning to panic in his confusion, he threw his covers aside and ran to the opposite side of the unfamiliar room where a chest of drawers and a mirror were standing. Baffled, he stared blankly into the face of an elderly man; lines and folds of skin covered his once smooth forehead, and a grey, unevenly trimmed beard scratched his once clean-shaven face. He appeared as sunken and grey as the room about him, as if a corpse stood in front of him, staring back with unfeeling dismay. The only thing that remained of himself were his own blue-grey eyes which shone out from behind his wrinkled brow.

With a cry of anguish, August hurriedly turned away from the mirror towards the doorway of the bedroom. Could it be that years had passed him by without his notice? Had he slept them all away, or had he become numb to the passing of time? Suddenly plagued with a cold fear, August ran as fast as he could manage away from the dismal room, and down a narrow hallway which led to a creaking and battered staircase. “I should have gone home,” he thought as he tore down the stair and burst through a door covered in peeling grey paint which led into the street below.

The street was recognizable to August, as much as a street which had never truly been looked at could be recognizable. Slowly it dawned on him, however, that this particular street was one which he had walked along nearly every day since he had been hired on at the bank, although now it was covered in swathes of grey and blue shades as sheets of cold rain fell from the sky above. He turned to his left almost mechanically, and began to walk with quickening pace along the familiar path that had always served as a means of getting away from the little red-brick house, but now, strangely, was leading him to it.

He stopped where his path ended, and fell to his knees on the cobblestones as the falling rain mixed with salty tears on his cheeks. In front of him stood three crumbling corners of red and brown brick. A tall post had been driven into the earth there, and nailed across its center was a single rectangular sign: “Wright & co.,” it read. The cross-shape of the overshadowing signage seemed to both convict August and prod him. “Where are you going?” it seemed to say, but August could not answer. He was too far away now to return; even though he now desired that path, his martyr’s crown, he knew it would elude him now because he had evaded it before. He buried his withered face in his hands, and lay down on the cold stones, as the rain surrounded him and pressed upon him.

“You never did go home, did you?” August raised his eyes at the sound of the gentle voice, and beheld a rather disheveled man who, though unsettling and asymmetrical, gazed at him with dreadfully benevolent eyes. The man was holding a black umbrella in one hand, which shielded him from the pounding rain, and a broomstick in the other. “Who are you?” August cried, part of him aching to discover the man’s identity, and another part dreading to hear the reply. But the man only gazed at him, as if asking that same question. August tore his eyes away and buried his face in his arms. “Dear God,” he cried. “Have mercy on me.” Having said these words, he slept, as a gentle and distant voice seemed to whisper, ‘to supplication, hear his sighs though mute; unskillful with what words to pray, let me interpret for him, me his advocate.’[1]

August awoke and slowly opened his eyes, his cheek wet with tears. He was in a bed, and the light was just beginning to shine from behind him onto the dark wall in front of him. He was in his own bed, and his own home. He knew it, and he breathed a sigh, for he realized that it had always been there and he had merely allowed himself to forget it. He turned over towards the sunlight streaming in from the window, and as he did so, caught sight of his wife in peaceful slumber beside him. He gently bent down and kissed her cheek which was as pink as any rose, and which the rays of light had just began to touch. Suddenly the white laced curtains billowed out from the window as a warm breeze swept into the room and warmed his upturned face. Someone had left a window open.

 

 

Advertisements

The Emancipation of Dominic Lindl

The street was empty, the air was crisp, and a light autumn breeze tussled his golden hair. He walked alone, as usual, in his navy blue Tommy Hilfiger jacket. The thin covering hardly kept him warm, but he would rather be afflicted with severe frostbite than admit that his mother had been right in telling him to ‘bundle up’ (though he would feel no shame in snivelling about a stuffy nose if he fell ill). If you were to cross paths with this unruly fellow you might experience a certain unease, either due to his general murky demeanor or an almost imperceptible scent of the sushi he ate for lunch. It must be asserted at this point – lest I give the wrong impression – that Dominic Lindl was not an entirely unpleasant person, for he also cultivated many saintly habits and carried himself with a refreshingly honest amiability. A second assertion, however, should be made here; that although Dominic Lindl’s well-conditioned conscience was quite functional, he was fond of being mischievous. Not in a terribly serious manner, but similar to how a four year old might hide from his parents at an amusement park. All things considered, I do not believe there would be any objection to categorizing the fellow as “good”, and he was genuinely appreciated by those whose presence he had convinced himself to tolerate – a decision he was constantly debating whether or not to uphold.

“Aw piss.” he muttered, between puffs of his cigarillo. He noticed that he had mismatched his socks. It was an hardly audible outburst, but it was the most socially appropriate way for him to express the volcanic rage that was welling up in his lumbering frame.

What a catastrophe – I’m a freaking idiot! How could I have been so infantile? One blue, one white: this will ruin my reputation. I hope I don’t see anyone I know. Stupid cotton foot-wraps … so useless. I swear, I’ll never wear another sock again … no, better yet, I’ll just buy ten pairs of the same socks so that a fashion-fiasco like this never happens again. There’s nothing wrong with wearing black socks every day: they work for every occasion! Yes that’s it, I can’t believe I never thought of this before. What an elegant solution – I’m a freaking genius.

The bored look on his face gave nothing away, and any passerby would have never guessed that Dom had interiorly transitioned from utter disgust to rapturous jubilation in a matter of seconds. As far as he was concerned, this euphoric realization was the crowning jewel to the comprehensive list of decisions he was preparing to make that would effectively optimize his presently unassuming life. Indeed, it was an impressive list. It was only a matter of time before every aspect of his mundane existence would be totally reformed. It took every ounce of self-restraint to keep from bringing his beautiful plan to fruition then and there, but he knew that he had to wait. Neither he nor the plebs that surrounded him were truly ready for his grand metamorphosis. He was waiting for his appointed hour – the fullness of time.

So it was that the impulsive youth endured his lot with what could be described as an optimistic anticipation. Every skipped class, every overpriced meal, every cigarillo: all roads  converged toward an inevitable climax – the imminent emancipation of Dominic Lindl. A third and final assertion must be made at this point to avoid a most critical error in judgement: Dominic Lindl was not a lunatic. This intensely consuming project of his confirms that this beautiful boy on the cusp of manhood was quite unlike the rest of his peers, but it would be unfair to say that his nonconformity was strictly deleterious. He was, in fact, more intelligent than the majority of people his age, and he kept a much better general hygiene than even the most prudent youths. Perhaps the former was the reason that he was able to concoct such an extensive and practical list in the first place, and the latter was the reason that one of the top items in his upcoming program was the strict avoidance of communal restrooms.

On the topic of his remarkable intellect, it should be observed that he was not brainy in the traditional sense of the word, nor was he particularly boastful by nature, all of which saved him from being intelligent in the usual intimidating sense. He might have failed biology if he had taken the class, but he could receive full marks for a paper he wrote the morning after it was due. He laughed off his inability to do simple mental calculations, but he could, at any moment, improvise some charming bit of prose and pass it off as one of the lesser known writings of Robert Frost. He managed to spend an entire year’s groceries budget in three months, but he was the kind of person who, on the day of graduation, would surprise everyone by standing up when the principal called for the Valedictorian (a title he actually held).

Most people dream of being great and of contributing to society in some honestly helpful and gloriously important way, but Dominic Lindl stopped having such fantasies long before he started shaving. Ever since he began formally documenting his list (which he was inspired to do one cloudy afternoon when he realized that it was more efficient to press 9-0 on the microwave than it was to press 1-3-0), his fantasies started becoming real, tangible possibilities. Most great plans to revolutionize the world start with grand and somewhat vague themes such as justice and peace and inevitably get lost in their application to the details of daily life, but the strength of this young man’s plan was precisely that it outlined every detail with unprecedented clarity. Never again would a man have to struggle with deciding how much money to spend on a first date, because a quick reference to the “Romantic Relationships” section of The List would clearly explain why $65 is the most ideal sum, and on the next page, one would find a most excellent set of first date recommendations, the first of which is mini-golf and afternoon tea (which is playful enough to be a source of genuine amusement but serious enough to give a man the chance to demonstrate his masculine vitality). Despite its humble beginnings, The List was never meant to be confined to himself: it was meant to change the world.

It goes without saying that keeping such a treasure to himself was trying, especially when he saw two people make the fatal error of misjudging whether they would hug or shake hands during a chance encounter. The List gave very specific instructions on the matter (the attempted handshake was doomed from the beginning), and for some un-nameable reason, Dominic felt a profound confidence that this Statute of the Socks was the last rung in The List’s ladder toward utopia. Every other method had proven to be inadequate, and now, everything was accounted for. Dominic got home that night, and after saying his prayers, let the comforting whisper of the rain guide him into a deep and restful sleep.

When he woke the next morning, it seemed as though the entire world was beckoning for him to begin: his deep brown eyes opened peacefully, two minutes before his blaring alarm would have jarred him from his regenerative slumber, and he noticed that the clouds had parted just enough for the sun to shine through his bedside window and onto the 492 pages of the first, and last, edition of The List. He picked up the tome carefully, as one would pluck a child from its crib, and nestled it into his book bag. He would unveil it in a private meeting with his university’s President (to whom he happened to be related) so that it would be published by the academic institution. Then, it would garner attention from reputable scholars, whose weak critiques would only serve to bring it into public spheres. The List would hardly ever be mentioned in conversation, but there would be a sort of unspoken acknowledgement between the masses that everything was thanks to The List.

Dominic sauntered down the narrow hallways of the university, and without breaking his stride, let himself into the President’s office with an air of determined enthusiasm. The President was clearly busy, but Dominic knew that she would forgive his intrusion once she understood what it was that he currently held under his arm. Recognizing her unorthodox nephew, she removed herself from her work, and stood up, both arms outstretched for a warm hug – But Lo!the brilliant boy had already begun reaching out a singular hand for what was intended to be a firm but affectionate handshake. Neither the esteemed President nor the burgeoning scholar were able to react in time to prevent the imminent catastrophe. All of a sudden, every sensible word inked on the pages of his opus became empty as Dominic gurgled some unintelligible sound and leaned to the wrong side for a hug that more closely resembled an unholy attempt to knot an octopus with an eel.

“How are you Dominic?” she asked politely, visibly disturbed by the unfortunate collision. “What brings you here today?”

Another oafishly incoherent murmur escaped the gifted youth’s lips as he stumbled his way out of her office. His brain – which usually functioned with both vigour and efficiency – was currently producing only barely enough electrical impulses to maintain consciousness. With a herculean effort, Dominic began to fumble his way to the institution’s student lounge, and it is a veritable testament to the boy’s willpower that he managed to reach his destination. There the lad proceeded to skip his day’s classes to play video games with the goons that practically lived in the cramped room: subsisting on Mr. Noodles and passing their time by forcing a cast of curious characters into a never-ending melee.  Even then, Dominic could not help himself from gently reproaching one of his peers who had reached for a fistful of potato chips with his right hand – an obvious misstep when you consider everything that must be done with one’s dominant limb.

Dominic went for a long walk that evening. He struggled to reconcile the day’s experience. If anything, the mishap only reinforced his conviction that there was a need for The List: if the President has only read page 341, she would have known that a hug was ill-advised before 10am in professional settings, but clearly, the system would only work if everyone could somehow be made aware of it all at once. A larger platform was needed.

So it was that Dominic came to the conclusion that every sensible young man comes to when filled with a burning ambition to change society: he would have to become King of the World.

By: Renzo Carbonel

Hypnagogia

Timothy Carter was not the sort of man anyone would call remarkable. In fact, it was only the presence of his imperfections and oddities, which elevated him beyond a bland mediocrity of appearance and character that made everything else hardly worth mentioning. Even his morning routine, like everything else about him, seemed like a deck short of a few cards.

Every morning he would wake, alone, promptly at 6:30, and he would descend the stairs at exactly 6:35. He would consume exactly one and a half cups of black coffee with his breakfast which consisted of three scrambled eggs, two, three or four slices of toast which were numerically dependent on a complicated calculation whose variables included his emotional well being, the day of the week, and his horoscope from exactly a week prior. After breakfast he would partake in his daily devotions: a strange concoction of yoga, mixed with Himalayan throat singing and christian ecstatic experience – as one might expect, Timothy was noticeably absent from God’s life. With the closing of matins he would remove his two piece pyjamas and enter the shower to scrub his back and rid his body of impurities. Ten minutes later he would emerge from the steam chamber pink and raw, at which point he would delicately towel off his delicates, put his thrift store suit on over his second hand silk underwear, and walk out the front door.

From his house he would travel three blocks north, eight blocks west, and one block south in order to avoid the juxtaposed streets of Farthington and Oak on which lived each of his legally separated parents.They were both profoundly lonely individuals and while his father experienced his loneliness through genuine solitude, his mother experienced hers through her new lover, Claus. Unbeknownst to him, Timothy also experienced this loneliness – primarily through his goldfish, Leonard, but also through the birds which prefer the feeder in his neighbour’s yard to the small painted birdhouse he hung from the wilted pine tree located in the exact center of his back yard. 

As a brief aside, it can be said that Timothy pretended not to care about his parents; that he was content to believe they were both decrepit individualists, deserved of every moment of loneliness they encountered, but this was a farce. His heart was only somewhat closed, and he visited each of his progenitors precisely one and a half times a month – three if it was a month containing a holiday.

The circumvention of this problematic geography would signal the return to his daily monotony, and Timothy would then travel by bus to his downtown office job, where he would walk past the secretary who watched him cross from the elevator to his office door. To her he would speak a combination of the words “morning,” “mumble,” and “good.” She was a peculiar kind of pretty and they might have fallen in love if it were not for the speed with which he would transverse the front office, as well as her inability to make eye contact.

His job warranted little description and it will suffice to say that it involved the filing and categorising of paper, the pushing of keys on a computer, and an intricate avoidance of any and all phone calls. It is a testament to his character that Timothy enjoyed his work immensely and it was usual for him to put in a significant amount of overtime. Once his work was finished he would leave by the same door he entered, take the same bus to the same bus stop, and walk the same route back to his house.

After entering his house he would feed Leonard while believing that the goldfish felt gratitude for his gift of sustenance. Reality was somewhat at odds with this assessment, as Leonard was so bored with his unfortunate circumstances that he had been thinking of retiring from his bowl for quite some time. In addition, the goldfish regarded Timothy with a convoluted mixture of apathy and hatred, which, as any apathetic person can attest to, is a remarkable feat because it is difficult to feel both of these things simultaneously – and harder still to harbour suicidal tendencies while maintaining a calm and rational perspective on life. In short, Leonard was a remarkable creature, and it should be noted that he far exceeded his owner in complexity and emotional depth. Timothy was completely unaware of any of this, however, and still believed in his own singular uniqueness, as well as his evolutionary superiority to his carassian charge.   

After this dabbling in philanthropy, Timothy would settle into his evening, and a cup of tepid tea, a single graham cracker, and ten pages of the most recent New York Times bestseller would signal the close of his day, and as he settled into bed he would come to expect the beginning of the next day…

In this moment Timothy would transcend his essence with a surprising combination of anticipation and indifference. To him, it was as if the coming day was nothing more nor less than the current day, and as if the coming act of sleep was just a wall between identical fields of human experience. The present and the future would meld together until the world would begin to silently slip away.

As he drifted from consciousness into that vast, unknown, quiescent ocean, his mind would fill itself with images of vigorous life and passion. He would follow the dreamful currents to a wonderland of colour and sound, where conversion and variation swirled like storm clouds on a painters canvas. Time would pass like thunder and space would stand fixed to the very pillars of creation. In sleep he would experience a remarkable unreality, unfixed by routine or character in which his only limitations came from the monsters that dwelt along borderlands of his imagination.

As morning approached Timothy would remain in that place,

he would forget,

he would wake alone promptly at 6:30, and he would descend the stairs at exactly 6:35…

The Cliffs of Insanity

There is something in being carried by the waves.

Perhaps it is beautiful, although it is hard to say, really. To me, it is more the vague yet overwhelming sense of greatness, of beyond, which pulls me to the sea. There is wonder, yes, but there can also be fear.

Can you get used to being powerless? The waves can be your friends, but only if you know how to let them, otherwise, you realize very quickly that your life is not your own out there: you belong to the sea. There can be a release in this knowledge, however, and once you accept that you are no longer yours, you can, in fact, get used to being powerless. I know this, and yet it remains a daily struggle. Something I have to remember, and commit to everyday. Is it worth it? Every damn second.

—–

“You’ve got to pull it HARD.” My father’s voice called to me from the back of the skiff.

I didn’t look. I couldn’t. We were in the middle of a storm. And not one of those storms that roll in to Vancouver after losing half of their strength on the islands blocking the coast. No. This was a real storm, and it was like nothing I had ever seen. The swells rocking our boat were well over two meters high, and despite my familiarity with the open water, as well as my natural affinity for the ocean, I was having a hard time keeping my stomach calm.

I reached up again, having almost fallen overboard with my last attempt to pull the slip knot on the mainstay, but just as I did, we crested another wave and began tipping downwards once more. You’d think I would have seen this coming, as we had been experiencing swells like this for over an hour, but I was thrown off balance, and almost hurled over the side again. Gritting my teeth in fear and frustration, I regained my balance and quickly pulled the rope. The knot came loose, and I turned back around to see my father grinning at me in pride, his sailors hat dripping with salt water from the crashing waves. I grinned back at him, and returned to the prow of the ship.

“That’s my boy.” The silly smile was still on his lips as I came back beside him to where he was steering the ship into the oncoming waves.

“Thanks, Dad.”

He looked over at me sideways. “That was a close one, hey?”

“I guess. Almost went over the side at one point, but I knew I could do it.”

“Oh?”

“Ya. I knew I could.”

“Me too. You are my son, with whom–“

“Ya. Ya.” I said, punching him lightly in the arm, but he just looked at me sideways, a glint of amusement in his eyes.

He wasn’t a big man, and there was a vitality to him; a strength of will, and character that to me seemed almost superhuman, at least at the time. I always had the impression that he was stronger than he let on, too, but he was constantly checking himself, limiting his strength. Not for his own purposes, but for the sake of those around him.

“Self-control.” He used to say. “That is the real measure of a man. It doesn’t matter how big, it doesn’t matter how smart, how able, how rich, or how kind. If a man doesn’t have self control, he’s not really a man.”

I never quite knew what he meant at the time, but now that he is gone and I have more time to think about those words I think I am beginning to see.

——-

I can trace my own masculinity, my own feelings of manliness and my ability to be a man, right back to my father. This was the greatest gift he ever gave me. Not the money, not the house, not the friends – although many of them are wonderful – not even the boat compares. My father taught me how to be a man, and this has proven invaluable. I see men nowadays, although in most cases I am reluctant to call them that, and they have no idea who they are. They have no clue what it means to be a man. Their fathers never taught them. Perhaps their fathers were absent, although more likely than not, it was more of an emotional absence than a physical one. There was a time when fathers taught their sons, and brought them into manhood, but masculinity has been trampled on until it became nigh unrecognizable. Father’s used to teach their son’s their trade, but if you ask me, that was just a backdrop, a foundation for the larger goal: manhood. Nowadays, manhood consists of feats of physical strength, sexual pursuits, and drunkenness; and no fathers are required for these sorts of lessons, only other hormonal and developing friends who have no idea who they are or what it truly means to be a man. Thus, we have an entire culture that is bred on this sort of reckless selfishness.

Self-control. A simple concept, yet extremely difficult to achieve. I grew up reading fantasy novel: stories like the Princess Bride, and Harry Potter, with men who would brave anything for the ones they love. That seems pretty manly, but was my father on to something? Is the true mark of manhood self-control?

——-

For many years, when I was a child, my father would take me sailing in the summer, and so from an early age I learned to yearn for distant shores and the salty wind rushing through my hair.

“See those cliffs?” My father asked me.

I looked over. “Yep, how could I miss them?”

“Those are the Cliffs of Insanity.”

“The what?”

“The Cliffs of Insanity. It is rumored that they are impossible to scale, but they draw people to them because of their haunting beauty, like water you can’t drink, an itch you cant scratch. They drive people mad.” His face was serious, but I could see his lips curling ever so slightly, so I knew he was trying to pull one over on me.

“Well,” I said, “Are you going to go crazy too?”

“Nope.” Slinging his one arm around my shoulder while steering the wheel with the other, he replied, “I don’t need to climb them to prove anything. I have everything I need right here.”

We watched for a bit, looking at the cliffs and soaking in their warmth and allure.

“Dad?”

“Yes?”

“Why did mom leave? I know you asked her not to.”

My father sighed then, and as I looked up at him from the crook of his arm, I saw a sadness come over his recently happy face.

“Son, I made a mistake.” He paused briefly and then continued. “Well, actually, I made a lot of mistakes. I did things I am not proud of, and I pushed your mother away.” He knelt down to look me straight in the eyes. “She didn’t want to leave. Not at first anyways, but eventually… I guess she didn’t feel like she had a choice.” His words trailed off then, and he looked past me, off into the distance.

“What did you do, Dad?” My voice was small, but I had to know.

He looked at me then, and there was pain in his eyes. “I put myself before her.” He swallowed. “I allowed my desires, the things that I wanted, to take me over, so I lost her, and the only reason she didn’t take you with her is because I’m a lawyer, otherwise, I would have lost you too.”

I thought about what he said for a while, and he just looked at me, and I could tell he half expected me to hate him after what he had just said, but for some reason, I didn’t.

“But you would never do that to me?”

“NO.” He said it firmly, and now I could see something different in his eyes. Resolve. “Never you. Son, I would never hurt you, and I’ve learned my lesson. I …” I could see him fighting back tears, but I let him finish. He smiled shakily, and a lonely tear dripped down his face, but when he spoke, his voice was strong. “I’ve learned my lesson,” He repeated.

 “So then why hasn’t mom come back?”

“It doesn’t work that way.”

“Doesn’t it?” I asked, desperately wanting him to change his answer.

“Life doesn’t always go the way you want it son, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be happy, okay?”

“Okay.”

——-

What happens when you give up power; when you cede your own control over a situation in order that someone might learn to grow? This act of giving up, of becoming powerless, requires hope; but ultimately, it requires trust that the circumstances will work out favorably, and that you will not be burned as a result. Knowing when to use your power, and when to limit it. This requires wisdom, sure, but it also requires an act of the will, and if a man is not in control of his will, is he truly a man?

——-

Have you ever seen the Princess Bride? Or perhaps read the book? Either way, in the beginning, as Vizzini, Inigo and Fezzik make off with the princess (followed closely by the man in black), they sail to what are called “The Cliffs of Insanity,” which are impossibly high crags that overlook the sea. Just off of Nanaimo, and on the far side of the Georgia Strait when coming from Vancouver, there is an Island called Valdes which contains similar cliffs. Although they are by no means a match for those in the Princess Bride, my father and I used to call them by the same name as we sailed past: The Cliffs of Insanity.

I am sailing past them now once again, many years later. They are much the same as they were then – daunting as ever, and quite a spectacle. Especially when hit by the setting sun they become streaked with soft hues of pink and yellow. The furrows and pockmarks have been weathered into the cliff like the lines of age on an old mans face – a lively and vigorous old man, to be fair.

It is a perfect day. There is a strong north-easterly wind pulling me up through the Broughton Archipelago, and the sun has yet to reach its zenith. I can hear the waves gently splashing the sides of my skiff as I make my way steadily up past the cliffs of insanity, and on towards my destination.

The Firefighter

The lull between lunch and dinner was always the most productive part of his day. In Spain, most people would be taking their afternoon siesta around this time, but even when he used to live there, he preferred to get his work done while others relaxed. Perhaps that was part of the reason he moved to America: he never understood the carefree European ideal of comfort. He preferred to tread on the reassuring density of a hard-packed trail than waddle in the whimsical weightlessness of sand on a beach; he would rather wipe grease from his calloused hands than lather sunscreen onto his limbs, and unlike his Spanish compatriots, he did not think it comfortable to nap while there was still work to be done – after all, it was a man’s duty to work hard and make a life for himself, and that could not be accomplished while napping.

Don Phillipo was exactly what one has in mind when one calls a man, “a man.” He woke up before the sun’s bright eyes shone over the horizon, and he did not linger too long in the comfort of his bed. He bathed both thoroughly and efficiently; most men tend to choose one over the other (most often the latter), but Don Phillipo was not “most men.” He brushed his teeth in the same excellent way, and he put on his pants in a most efficacious fashion: both legs at once. The walls of his modest home were not overly-adorned, and neither were they bare. He was not particularly talented in any one thing, but he did most things better than most. He was the kind of man who would drink his coffee black and order his whiskey neat, and one would be hard-pressed to ever catch him running late. He seemed to be able to carry a compelling discussion with just about anyone, and yet was never accused in any private conversation of being a talker. If his circle of friends stood in a circle, he would find himself in the centre of it, not because he was the alpha, as it were, but because it was who he who knew each one well enough. It would be unfitting to ever call Don Phillipo, “the man”, precisely because he was nothing more, and nothing less, than “a man.”

It was some fifty years ago when Don Phillipo made his transcontinental voyage to America. His humble means had only just afforded him his passage across the ocean, and he immediately found himself working in construction in exchange for food and lodging. He ate the same ham sandwich for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and if it were not for the fact that working in the evening disturbed the neighbours, he might never have put down his hammer. Not once did anyone hear him complain, either about the monotony of his day or about the perpetual soreness in his body – he was busy, and that was the way he liked it.

He worked that way for quite some time, and now, as he looked down his street at the row of houses he owned, his pride was only matched by a nagging sense that there was still work to be done. The fences needed painting; the lawns, mowing; the windows, cleaning; and some of the roofs needed re-shingling, and despite the fact that he was now quite old enough to retire, and could have easily paid someone else to do the work, he would rather do it himself than watch someone else do it: inevitably, in his eyes, he could do it better.

It would be fair to say that Don Phillipo spent all of his waking hours either working, or thinking about work that needed to be done, if it were not, that is, for the afternoons he spent watching the street soccer games that the neighbourhood children played after school. It goes without saying that he never let himself become too distracted from the never-ending series of chores he felt compelled to work on, but he did not let that stop him from occasionally yelling out coaching advice to the children.

It was on a certain day in March, while Don Phillipo was outside painting a particularly worn-down fence, that the youngest boy in the neighbourhood approached him. The boy was too young to keep up when the older kids played soccer, so he usually spent the time with this kind old man. His name was Joseph, and he was as curious as four-year-olds come. His mother was always needing to remind him of his manners, but Don Phillipo liked talking to him because he asked a lot of questions, and  Don Phillipo liked to answer questions; it made him feel quite clever, except when he did not know the answer, in which case he would always say: “well that is just the way life is, Joseph,”

It was on this peculiar day in March that something seemed strangely odd to Don Phillipo: he could hear the birds singing their spring songs, he could see the children playing their beautiful game, and he could smell the crisp afternoon breeze that carried in it the fragrance of the sea nearby: all quite foreseeable sensory experiences for such a day in March – all but one. Don Phillipo could not usually hear the birds sing because the incessant chatter of the young boy usually drowned them out. When Don Phillipo turned to find out what could have possibly been preventing the boy from expressing himself in his usual way, he found him reading a newspaper. The sight of the four-year-old boy still in his school uniform, sitting in an old lawn chair and staring intently at the newspaper, which was almost as tall as he was, made him oddly reminiscent of the old man, and that was enough to make Don Phillipo laugh – mostly because he knew that the boy had not yet learned how to read. Undeterred by the small obstacle that was his illiteracy, Joseph stared intently at the front page; trying to glean some shred of information from the pictures and symbols he could not decipher.

“What are you reading that for, Joseph?” the old man asked. “Would you not rather watch the soccer game?”

“No,” the boy said seriously, “all the adults are talking about the news today, and I must know why.”

It was at that moment that Don Phillipo remembered what it was that everyone was talking about; a large passenger boat had gone missing just the day before, and the front page showed a picture taken of it on the day of its departure.

“Well,” the old man started, “that big boat in the picture was meant to sail across the ocean, but – “

“Across the entire ocean?” Joseph interrupted (his mother would have given him a stern look for having behaved like that, but Don Phillipo was used to the boy’s interrupting questions).

“Yes, this one could go across the entire ocean. Well, at least it was going to, until – “

“How was it going to do that?” the boy asked innocently.

The old man was caught quite off guard this time. “Well, that is what boats do:” he finally blurted out, “they float on water.”

The boy threw his arms in the air. “That is amazing! No wonder everyone is talking about it – it can float on water!”

Now, Don Phillipo had every intention of telling the young boy the truth of the matter – not out of cruelty, but because he was of the opinion that any lie, no matter how small, was to be avoided – but after seeing the boy’s reaction to the boat, he could not bring himself to inform him of the boat’s unfortunate fate. He decided in that moment that it was better for the boy to experience that loss later, perhaps from someone else. Don Phillipo knelt down next to the boy, and picking the newspaper out of his hands, took a closer look at the picture of the boat; “mhmm…yes…yes, quite amazing indeed! You know, it reminds me of the boat I travelled on to get here.”

At this, Joseph’s eyes widened with wonder in the way that only a child’s eyes can. “You mean, you have been on a boat? What was it like?”

“It was huge – no – it was massive!” Don Phillipo exaggerated as he held out his arms in a grandiose way. “There were one hundred people on the boat Joseph, one hundred!” he said, exaggerating again.

Joseph was confused. He had not learned that number yet, but he knew all the way up to ten, and that was a lot. “Is one hundred more than ten?” he asked, hoping it was.

“Much more than ten! Ten times more than ten!” Don Phillipo had not finished high school, but he remembered at least that much of math.

Now, Joseph did not understand multiplication, but that did not stop him from trying to imagine this enormous number. He pictured in his mind a huge boat and then filled it with people, but found that the boat was no longer huge if it was full, and found that there were not enough people in it if was not overflowing, but he did not linger on the thought too long because it occurred to him that the boat must have been very, very heavy. He simply could not fathom how a boat of any size, much less a boat full of people, could float. He was as curious as he was amazed: “how come the boat did not sink with so many people in it?”

Don Phillipo did not understand the principles of buoyancy and he began to ask himself the same question, but instead of admitting ignorance, he feigned a knowing smile, and leaning in close to the awestruck four year-old, said: “well, that is just the way it is, Joseph.”

In this way, the two made a habit of discussing the news while they worked on some chore around the neighbourhood. Of course, the news was invariably dreadful and gloomy, but Don Phillipo always found a way to engineer a story that was either jolly, or exciting, or at least silly. Sometimes he exaggerated a little, and sometimes a lot, but regardless of the tone, the stories were always based on some event in the old man’s life.

After some time of following this daily routine, Don Phillipo felt that he had begun to run out of true tales, and it was becoming difficult to think of good stories that somehow explained the tragedies that were sure to be plastered on the front page of the day. On one such day, under the scorch of the summer sun, Don Phillipo began to panic: what would he tell the young boy about the picture that so clearly depicted the devastation in a nearby town which had been consumed by a fire? No story came to mind, and it was all he could do to put on a good face for the boy who was looking up at him expectantly: “well, Joseph,” he hesitated, “it seems as though there has been a big fire.”

“Oh…have you ever been in a big fire, Don Phillipo?”

“No, no I have not.”

“Why was there a fire? Is everyone alright?”

“Not quite, Joseph.”

There was a long pause, Don Phillipo felt a pressure to say something – anything – to calm the whirlwind of thoughts that was surely running through the boy’s innocent mind. He was relieved when it was not him that broke the silence.

“Who is the man in the picture?”

That startled the old man. He looked again at the picture and noticed the figure in the corner of the image. He was armed with a winding hose and his only protection was his red helmet.

“That is the firefighter, “ the old man said, his eyes still fixed on the picture.

“What does the firefighter do, Don Phillipo?”

“He protects people from the fire.”

“He sure is brave,” the boy said, even more impressed with the firefighter’s bravery than he was at the fact that a boat could float, but the old man could not hear him anymore; he was too busy imagining himself as a younger man, donning the distinctive red helmet and wielding the power of the ocean, and he wondered if he ever could have become the firefighter in the picture – standing in ash and covered in soot, face-to-face with his fiery enemy.

This thought never occurred to the boy; it seemed perfectly natural to him that if there was a fire, he would put it out – that was just the way life was. If he wondered anything, it was this: why was everyone not a firefighter?

By: Renzo Carbonel 

3047

IMG_0131.JPG

Six steep steps descend into the doorway of 3047 Dolores Street. It is one of those indented doorways, carved into the concrete underbelly of the condo like a burrow, and its pallid space is airless. As doorways go, the way to the door in this one seems irrationally long. With men’s size ten shoes it takes the midsize pedestrian a dozen paces to navigate from the bottom step to the door. The journey (should you choose to make it) is enlivened by a row of gaunt, potted yews on your left and graffiti glyphs on your right. There are no yews on your right because if there were, you would be obliged to squeeze through sideways. The doorway of 3047 Dolores Street is anemic. There may be graffiti on your left but the haggard shrubs are tall and in the way. I cannot tell you why there are yews in the doorway of 3047 Dolores Street. A lifetime in the musty light has bled them of their colour and vitality. They are sallow and sterile. A chocolate mat congratulates you on your arrival, but the door itself is not worth reporting on. At night or on sunless days, a wretched lightbulb smears the doorway in a grimy glow. On sunny days the lightbulb sleeps, and the doorway is a thick, opaque grey and you will probably knock over a yew or two for lack of sight.

If you stood with your heels to the door of 3047 Dolores Street, looking up and out over the sixth step from the bottom, all you would see is a slender gash of the outside world, the scoot of feet and tires and machinery. If you stood with your heels to the door of 3047 Dolores Street today, at this moment, you would struggle to glimpse even these mysteries. Beyond the shimmering curtain of rain, beyond the grubby haze of the lightbulb (it’s one of those sunless days), only shadows flit by. You would hear the splosh of soggy soles, of course, and the wheeze of wet rubber and gears, and in time you may even begin to find it all very soothing in the dry underbelly of 3047 Dolores Street. Soothing, that is, until one set of sploshes penetrates that teary curtain, and a fugitive in spectacles lurches down those six steep steps.

If you were standing at the door of 3047 Dolores Street (you are not, of course, but if you were) it would take some moments for you to make out his face. The fugitive is hunched, poised for a fall, and he reels into the yews like a raft into the surf. He staggers forward with a furtive glance behind. As he turns again into the light you would meet his face, and it would be as if those mysteries of the outside world had been brought to you, naked and immediate. The relentless patter of the rain, the splash of puddles, the hiss of spewed mist, the damp muffling of life in a torrential downpour—the sounds are etched into the folds of his face, amplified by every line in his countenance. You would get wet just looking at him.

It is unlikely that he would see you, however, even if you were standing at the door of 3047 Dolores Street. In the first instance, his spectacles are smeared with rain. And through the distorted streaks of lens and water there is only the glimmer of eyes that are blind except to an old, yawning terror. They are the eyes of one to whom all things are background spectres to a living agony. Perhaps you have never met such a truth in any person’s eyes before, but I am convinced you would recognize it instantly now, if you were standing before the fugitive in the doorway of 3047 Dolores Street. He would look right through you.

Wiping the rain from his glasses with a wiry thumb, the fugitive gropes for the occupant list. Finger and eye dart across the names in opposite directions. His eye scans too hastily, and it is the finger which ends up reading the names. It does not seem to know any of them. Coming back to hesitate upon the resident of 7, the fugitive looks again over his shoulder. He stares out through the gash into the wet beyond, and thrusts the buzzer.

“Yes?” a fuzzy voice inquires from within 7.

The fugitive’s lips mangle soundlessly.

“Who’s there?”

Clammy palms press against the wall, and the fugitive leans in toward the invisible occupant of No. 7. His eyes scurry to every remote corner of their sockets and back again, fretful, avoiding contact with any external thing.

“Yes, hello.”

“Who is this?”

“I…” The fugitive trails off, and dries his lips with his tongue.

“No soliciting!”

“Missus…” Reluctant eyes swivel to the name on the board. “Missus Willus?” The swift inflection catches the voice from 7 by surprise.

After a suspicious pause, it responds: “Yes.”

“Missus Willus,” croaks the fugitive, and slumps against the door. “Missus T. P. Willus.” He plunges a feverish hand through the drenched, knotty strands of his hair.

“Who is this? Are you the FedEx guy? You’re very late.”

“Missus T. P. Willus. Missus T. P. Willus.”

“If this is a hoax I’m hanging up now.”

The fugitive leaps up and slams his nose against the voice.

“Please!” he bleats, as if his very life-force was exhaled with that wimpy syllable. “I need…” He has nothing left within himself. Beyond the doorway the rain comes down in sheets. The fugitive clamps his eyes shut and lets out a whimper. He caves in a grotesque bundle onto the chocolate doormat.

A hint of his desperation burns up through the wires to the resident in 7.

“What do you need? Who are you? Are you alright?”

“Please.” The word is silent, nudged out from wilting lips, but Missus T. P. Willus in 7 hears it all the clearer for that.

“Hey! Are you alright?”

Another whimper.

“Hang on, I’m coming down.” A sharp click, and the voice from 7 dislodges itself.

Perhaps the fugitive registers the meaning of these words, and perhaps he doesn’t. He knits his temple, forcing some of the mystery that resides there to seek refuge in other parts of his face. Time drifts away within a garbled prayer, and all existence seems contained in the sounds of the rain—outside, on his face—and in the fugitive’s murmured supplication.

It is just as well that you are not standing by the door of 3047 Dolores Street. You’d have been obliged to extricate yourself from the crumpled, soggy heap of the fugitive, for one; and having done this you’d be thrust into a yew pot, now, in the event of Missus T. P. Willus oozing out the front door. She is immense. As I say, you are well out of it.

“Oh!”

The fugitive squirms, like a worm caught between two muddy fingers.

“My dear man!”

Two pairs of eyes, one horrified and the other horrific, collide into each other in the dingy light of the doorway.

“My dear, dear man!”

The fugitive’s face, still trapped in a film of rain, looks out into the gash of the wet beyond and back at Missus Willus. There is no meaning in the gesture. He is too defeated to invest even an ounce of significance in it. Its blandness paralyzes the colossus from No. 7.

Missus T. P. Willus puffs heavily. Perhaps she is worn out from her descent to the front door. Her breaths shudder over the fugitive. He is a shattered, sopping being. His eyes no longer move, and they are sunk beneath their lids like suns half-set below the horizon. They do not even flicker when Missus Willus retreats again behind the door of 3047 Dolores Street.

“Here.” Missus Willus returns. A long rod, its shaft wrapped in blueish cloth, drops onto the fugitive’s thigh. “Take it.”

The fugitive slowly raises his chin to her. His fingers coil around the rod, and as his grip tightens life surges into him. The folds of his face draw up in a great beam, and all its mysteries flee into the doorway to suffocate. Vitality is now gushing over him, pouring into him like a mountain stream, and it spills over onto the yews of 3047 Dolores Street. Those closest to him seem almost green, now. If you were standing in the doorway of 3047 Dolores Street (squashed against a yew by the immense Missus Willus) you would turn green, too. You would blossom and foliate and put down roots.

Gratitude, and two dead eyes are reborn. They glisten at Missus T. P. Willus.

The resurrected man swells to his feet. Without another glance at the resident from 7 and clenching the clothed rod like a bayonet into battle, he strides toward the gash of the wet beyond. It takes him only four paces, though his feet are size ten.

“Oorah!” he cries, charging up the six steep steps of 3047 Dolores Street. The umbrella is open before he reaches the top.

By: Josef Lindl

Me, The Gates of Hell, My Father, and a Demon

 

Last night I dreamt. Apparently normal, but not for me. I have never been much of a dreamer, and what dreams I do have I either forget shortly or they become garbled up in my head. This dream was different. You hear some people tell you of their nightly excursions: how they have conversations and epic fantasies at night to make up for their dull lives. This dream was like that. I remember it vividly as if I was truly there, experiencing everything with all five senses. Which, of course, shocked me and left me scared shitless, shivering in my bead. That night, I died.

——

Since I was probably 12 years old, I have had an extreme fear of dying. This always perplexed me because I have never been that scared of anything, but thinking of death -the great unknown- leaves me shivering in terror. This life is tangible, and as messed up and confusing as can be, I love it. Dying seems like stepping off of a cliff with the hope that there is a river at the bottom to catch you in its tender embrace, but with the equally likely possibility that you may simply fall, and an abyss that never ends swallows you up; a darkness so intense and pure that thought and life are meaningless. That night, I stepped off the cliff, shouting soundlessly until the darkness received me.

I opened my eyes to the glare of the sun shining down on me like that of some demonic being, red and sweltering. Sensation poured through my body in a rush and as my addled senses returned to me I came to several realizations. First off, I was in a terrible amount of pain; my skin was burned and blistered, my throat dryer than the dessert sand on which I was being dragged. Yes dragged. That was the second thing. My arms were tied, and I was being pulled slowly through a vast expanse of nothingness. The sand was flat, no rolling dunes, nothing. Not a grain moved. Not even my passage across the blankness marred the unblemished blandness of a place devoid of life.

I looked down at myself to find my groin covered by a loincloth, it was the only article of clothing I had. I gave a soft, choked sort of groan. No wonder I was burned and blistered, have I mentioned the sun? I tried to get a look behind me at my captor but was unsuccessful. Apparently when your back is raw and bleeding and your arms are tied behind your head it’s hard to contort your body certain ways… go figure. After a tedious amount straining, I finally got a look at him. I say him, although I wasn’t really sure what he was. He looked like a man, but he was cloaked all in black, shadows seemed to emanate from him and I would have bet money that -had I been standing close enough to him- the air would have been cool. The sun didn’t seem to bother him. I tried to say something, anything to get his attention, but my throat could produce nothing more than a pathetic croak, so I contented myself with relaxing as much as you can while burned, blistered, raw, and being dragged through a god-forsaken dessert.

I looked before me. Unmarked sand stretched on forever, it seemed, giving me no clear idea of how I had gotten where I was, or how long I had been dragged for. Judging by the state of my body however, it must have been quite a while.

The dessert was quiet, the only sound came from my breathing and the whisper of my captor’s cloak. Well, my sluggish brain suggested, this is either hell, purgatory or some other shitty place, because I remember dying and this sure wasn’t heaven. If it was hell, then it was pretty bad but not as bad as it could have been, and, if purgatory, well I didn’t feel like I was being purified. That left, well… I don’t know, what did that leave? Is there something like purgatory for hell? Because that would make sense in a sick, demented sort of way. This was my preparation for an eternity of pain. With this conclusion reached, I passed out.

I awoke to the same sounds; the same place. And as this realization set in, I began to sob, or choke really because of my dry throat. A few miserable tears slid down my face and dried up while I railed at the injustice of it all. And I was dragged.

An indefinite amount of time later I pushed out a word. One word. The only one that came to me.

“Please.” I begged, and was met with a cold, dark chuckle.

“Son where I come from, that word doesn’t even exist.”

I considered asking him again or arguing with him about it, but I found myself incapable of either, that one word having taken up all my strength.

The dragging continued. I couldn’t twist around far enough to see where we were going, but I felt fairly certain I didn’t want to get there, although if it meant an end to this hellish trip through the dessert, I might welcome a number of previously unthinkable hardships. My eyes lost focus and thought abandoned me for a time, although I remained conscious. Suddenly my gaze sharpened on something in the horizon. There was a smudge that had not been there a while before, and it was directly in our trail. There was something in this dessert of nothing… this had to be a good thing.

If this something wasn’t there before, and it was now directly in our path that meant… that meant it must be moving, and moving faster than we were. If so, it might catch up, and maybe this thing would help me! I felt the first stirrings of hope I had had since dying. Of course, it could have been something in league with my captor, in which case I probably didn’t want it to catch up, but I hoped anyways.

Soon after spotting this something, my thoughts became filled with a number of demonic monstrosities which came upon me as if forced down my throat, images I had never seen before which left me trembling in fear. I heard another chuckle come from the manlike creature (he sounded like a man too).

I forced myself to discard the alien and terrifying images, and trained my gaze back upon the smudge. It was getting bigger slowly, and as I twisted to view my captor again, I saw the hood of his cloak turn as he gazed behind me at the something. He cursed softly to himself and I strained to get a look at his face, but it was hidden in the shadows of his cowl. He glanced briefly in my direction and then turned around again. Our pace increased, and I dropped back down feeling elated. If my dragger didn’t like the smudge, it must mean they disagreed as to the nature of my captivity. Of course, the new form on the horizon might also be crueler than my original captor but at that point, I couldn’t see things getting much worse.

As the smudge grew closer. I began to make it out. It looked like a man wearing a plain looking beige robe. I heard the demon (that’s what I figure he was) behind me snarl and as he did I felt a change, we were suddenly going up a slope. The man was drawing steadily closer, and I realized that he was running, right for us and as the distance between us closed I could feel his gaze fixed upon me with an intensity I couldn’t bear. This man was running at me as if his life depended on it, although I’m sure it was mine that really did, and despite my hope at salvation, my gaze shied away from his. I looked back up and my breath caught. It was my Father.

What was he doing here? How had we both ended up in this hellish dessert, and why was he wearing a robe? I saw his gaze slip past me and anguish tore at his features as he redoubled his pace. I started to struggle against my captor with what little strength I had to bear, and he snarled again and cuffed my head, rendering me senseless for a few moments. My father got closer and shouted to me

“SON”.

He said that one word in a fearful and pain filled voice. I had never heard him say it like that before. In life, my father had been distant, a cold sort of man who shunned most emotions, calling them useless. He was a businessman and emotions couldn’t make money, so he discarded them. Never had I seen him show his feelings, let alone fear… for me.

To put it mildly, I was stunned, shocked, and almost appalled. Did I want this man’s love after a lifetime of distance? Part of me would like to say that I didn’t need him and never had, but the truth is, I had never needed him more. Perhaps, I realized, I was the distant one and, his eyes had always held the warmth and concern I saw in them now, maybe I forced him out of my life because I didn’t think I deserved to be loved. Maybe not. Either way I couldn’t respond, my mouth wasn’t listening to me. “Not my son” he shouted at the demon, “NOT MY SON”.

The demon put on a sharp burst of speed and started laughing his cold chuckle. It seems we had reached my destination. Straining with everything I had, I looked past my enslaver and realization dawned upon me. Up ahead was the edge of  a cliff on which stood a gateway. It was made out of iron that was glowing red with infused heat. I shuddered, these were the gates of hell, where else could we be?

That’s when I woke up. Anticlimactic right? I was covered in sweat and shivering in the dark, grateful that it had all been some hellishly demented dream. But despite all that, I couldn’t help feeling disappointed at not knowing how things would have finished between me, the gates of hell, my father and a demon.

By: Alec Gloanec