An Empty Room

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My new place

As human beings, we fear the unknown. Why? Because we’re hard wired to do so. What’s beyond the reaches of the fire? We don’t know, but we do know that predators lurk somewhere beyond its borders.

I closed on my new home two days ago. At closing, the seller broke down and cried due to the memories she was leaving behind. Hell, she was selling the place her kids grew up in for the most part. I felt like a real asshole for some reason. I know that I shouldn’t have, but at the same time it was hard not to.

It’s hard leaving a place that you’ve lived for years and heading to something new and unknown. When you first walk in your new place, a myriad of empty rooms are there to greet you. Rooms you have to fill with furniture, belongings, but most importantly memories. Truth be told, it’s a little sad moving out of the one bedroom apartment that I’ve only lived in for two years because memories are there, as well. Moving out of my first real place after college is a little scary even knowing I’m going to someplace better.

It’s easy to look back at places and think they’re the Genesis of all of the memories you had while you were there—but in reality the most important part of change is not the what, where, or why—it’s the who. Who goes with you? What parts of you move forward and what’s left behind?  Who are you inviting in? Who are you kicking out?

Hopefully, this change will be for the better for both me and the family vacating my new home. Her tears were understandable.  That being said, she has her entire family moving with her, so I don’t think there’s much change for her to accept. Like I said—it’s the ‘who’ that matters.

Now if you don’t mind me, it’s time to move.

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Flash Fiction Thursday–Roll of the Dice.

Just what I was afraid of when I decided to do these weekly Flash Fiction challenges–1,000 words isn’t enough! I’ll write a real ending for this at some point, but for the purpose of this challenge, I’ve maxed out the word count.

This is Chuck Wendig’s weekly Flash fiction challenge on terribleminds.com:

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/06/21/flash-fiction-challenge-another-roll-of-the-dice/

My random ‘roll of the dice’ flash fiction challenge consisted of:

Haunted house–Occult Detective genre mash-up. Featuring an ancient book, and a mysterious stranger.

It was tough, but this is what I managed. Enjoy!

Octavia’s Book

Along the path, I saw a man sitting on a log. He was a strange old man with a worn, weathered face. His white locks frayed off his scalp like torn cotton. His clothes were old but charming in a way. He looked like a man who stepped out of the 1950s into the present day.

“Excuse me. Do you know where I can find Delmar road?” I asked.

His slow acknowledgment of my question forced me to believe he was either deaf or didn’t care to speak with strangers. Based on the cold look he gave me as he turned his head, I would have put money on the latter.

His eyes shifted from a gold color to blue, all at once. It must have been the foggy night combined with how the light hit them.

The deepening of the crow’s feet near the corners of his eyes told me he was giving expressing an honest smile. As a detective, I’m well versed to determining whether or not there’s honesty in a man’s face.

“You’re telling me you want to go to Octavia’s.” I saw him glance at the the pistols resting in my shoulder holsters. “You’re crazy man, but I like your style.”

“Octavia?”

“Yes, Octavia. The witch…on Delmar. The only person on Delmar, in fact. Well, I guess person isn’t wholly accurate.” He cackled a few feet from my face, but I still got an awful whiff of his horrendous breath. It smelled like a mix-between dead fish and coffee grounds.

Great. The only man I meet in a dark and foggy stretch of the forest is bat-shit crazy, I thought.

“Huh? You lost me at witch. What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Without thinking about it, I took a step back from the strange man.

“What part of witch don’t you understand? ‘I’ll get you my pretty!’ That kind—what else is there?” The man cackled once more at this. His eyes remained kind, but his tone of voice suggested otherwise.

“Look, man. Do you know where I can find the house or not? Reports from a few children from just outside the city say one of their friends went in a house and didn’t come out. Can you help me find this kid?”

His voice changed to match his caring eyes. “I wish you would have led with that, Mr…”

“Whitlock. Detective Whitlock.”

I reached out to shake the stranger’s cold and cracked right hand.

“Eugene.”

“Nice to meet you, Eugene.”

“I’ll walk you over to Octavia’s house. I don’t know if I’ll be able to follow you inside, though.”

He looked worried. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought he was going to lead me to my imminent doom.

We walked along the dark and foggy path. Of course, I procrastinated until 5:30 to leave the city for this godforsaken part of town. Dallas rush hour held me up in traffic—one thing leads to another—and now I’m walking through the woods in the dark with a recent escapee of the asylum.

We turned the corner when we reached a rotted wood sign that read, No Outlet, written in red spray paint that looked suspiciously like blood. Call me a coward, but this place spooked me a little.

“This is it?” I asked.

I tried to portray a tone of disappointment, but Eugene didn’t seem to notice.

“Yep—Octavia’s humble abode. Getting a little nervous?”

As if on cue, I heard shutter doors slam on the side of the black decrepit house. I shivered despite the warm and muggy night.

“Na—nah. I don’t believe in witches, man. I think I’ll take it from here.”

I started to walk away but felt a firm—strong, even—jerk of my right arm causing me to turn around and meet Eugene face to face, once more.

His eyes bulged and shined with the cat-like gold color once more. “Don’t forget the book. She feeds.”

I tried to jerk my arm away, but couldn’t manage to get free.

“Huh?”

“Spells. Her power.”

“Look man,” I said while jerking my arm back again. This time Eugene let go, and his eyes turned blue again.

I backed away in a slow and deliberate motion, then turned back to the house.

Before my fist could connect with the black, splintered door, it creaked open. I turned around to wave to Eugene, but he was no longer standing in front of the house.

Perfect, I thought.

Cold sweat streamed down my forehead when I walked into the dark corridor. I flicked on my flashlight and drew my gun.

An eerie cackling by what sounded like an older lady made the hair on my arms stand up. Out of instinct, I returned my gun to its holster and grabbed the taser instead. For whatever reason, I thought it’d be more effective.

“Hello—who’s there?”

No answer.

I walked across the creaky boards towards the only lit room in the house. The loud cackling returned, that time it sounded like it was directly behind me.

I wheeled around and saw orange eyes staring into mine. I pulled the trigger on the taser, releasing thousands of volts into the direction of the eyes. I could tell it hit its desired target by the sound of the thing that hit the floor.

I dropped the weapon, then drew my gun and ran into the lit room.

There were signs written in the kitchen in red paint—or was it blood—they all said ‘get out’, with pictures of arrows pointed at the front door.

My heart played its drum solo a few inches under my sternum. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw what looked like an ancient book.

Spell Book? I wondered.

Without thinking further, I grabbed the book and ran to the door. On my way out, cold hands latched on to my right foot and jerked me down.

The orange eyes crept closer to me.

Physical Goals Do More Than Make You Look Better

Well, I’ve been writing a ton. So in an attempt to avoid turning into a large mound of fat, I’ve taken on the challenge of running a half marathon. Why half? Because I think I might die should I attempt a full one. I’ve always been in pretty good shape–but geez–26.2 miles, no thank you. This is the ‘year of the new year’s resolution’ for me, and I’m tackling several right now:

  • Writing a book
  • Buying a home
  • Reading 40 books
  • Running a half marathon.

Why do this to myself–because I can, I suppose.

The book is already done–just waiting to get final editing and what not. So I guess it’s not done, but it’s well on its way. I feel pretty good about that, but I’ll feel better when it’s finally available for purchase.

Closing on my first home purchase on the 28th (yay me!) so that goal should be completed soon barring unforeseen circumstances.

Totally low-balled the reading goal. I’m pretty sure I’m already over thirty books, and the year isn’t half over yet.

I think the half marathon will be the hardest by far. Here’s my latest workout progress courtesy of my awesome new Garmin watch:

Run(I made it to 7 miles after a short break but who’s counting)

You might be asking, “So what’s with the title of your post, bro? Nobody cares about running–how does it help?”

I’m going to tailor these answers to writers, because well, this is my writer’s blog, and that’s who my audience is (so far). If you don’t like it, tell me in the comments–I’m all about conflict! Not really…so don’t.

Moving right along.  Like I said before, physical activity keeps your from turning into a big heap of blubber with fingers. If your body is your temple, you can’t treat your temple like [insert your own unique combination of expletives] and expect to keep your creative mind going. Your body needs sleep, activity and healthy food (for the most part) in order to function to full capacity. Why would your mind be any different? **disclaimer: I’m in no way a doctor. Perhaps that last sentence was crap, but I think it’s true nonetheless**

I don’t know about you, but I get pretty good ideas when I’m not busy trying to think of them. Reading the book The Art and Science of Light Bulb Moments by Tom Evans, I learned that you often have exceptional ideas during physical exercise. True? Yes, I’ve experienced it, but maybe it was because I thought it would happen, more than anything else. Either way, if it works, it works.

What about setting?

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Doing a few laps around my favorite running hot-spots gives me descriptive ideas for setting. How could I use this lake in my writing? Romantic picnic; swimming challenge gone wrong; place to dump a body *looks around*–the possibilities are endless.  Getting out and seeing nature (or man-made structure) definitely helps with ideas for setting.

Also, guess what you can listen to when you’re getting your miles in? Books. I have a healthy stable of audio books I can listen to when going for a run. They always say that a sure fire way to learn how to write better is to read books. Yes, listening isn’t exactly reading; but it’s somebody telling a story, right?

The point to this post (yes there is one, believe it or not) is that going out and getting in shape does more than just make you look good in a swimsuit. The mind and body both need physical activity in order operate at full potential. If you’re not wanting to be the best you possible, then I don’t know what the hell you’re trying to do. Challenging yourself is cool (says a guy that still uses the word cool).  It always feels great when you accomplish new year’s resolutions because it’s soooo easy to say F it and quit in February.

Flash Fiction Thursday–Bad Dads

On Father’s day, Chuck Wendig posted this flash fiction challenge on the terrible minds website:

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/06/16/19188/

I’ve been wanting to try short stories/flash fiction, but have been hesitant because I’m not too confident I can tell an interesting story with only 1,000 words. Here’s my first attempt–enjoy.

Out in the Cold

Protected from a blanket of falling snow, Dylon’s absent grasp at the wedding ring long gone, perpetuated the loneliness beneath the underpass. Six long years on the road swam through his empty, drug riddled mind. Well, eight years of lonely travel, but six since his last loved one finally wrote him off with firm regret.

Snowfall in the Mile High City covers cars, trees and roads; more importantly waste, pollution and garbage. The blanket white washes the bad, sending new hope for renewal.

“Sir. Excuse me, sir,” Dylon said to the young man passing by.

Without thinking about it, he reached into his right pocket to confirm the absence of money. He didn’t have to feel the left; he already lost many dimes through the one inch hole in the left pocket of his tattered denim.

“Sir, can you spare any change? I’m trying to make it back to Colorado Springs to get home for Thanksgiving.”

He reached down and picked up the empty gas-can to fuel the illusion.

The passerby surveyed Dylon with one dismissive look.  Yes, the gas can seemed believable enough. But the burn holes through the formerly white hoodie, the unkept beard, and the ratty afro gave away the rest of the story.

“Nah, man. I don’t carry any cash. Wish I could help you out.”

“I’m a Veteran, man. You can’t spare anything?”

The passerby snorted. He tried to stifle the fit of laughter that followed to no avail. “Veteran of what? That shit’s tired. If you ain’t a veteran, how you gonna disrespect our troops like that—but if you are—it’s a damn shame you ended up here.”

Dylon’s shoulders slumped, his eyes turned downcast towards the gas can.

“Either way I got nothing for ya.”

Dylon watched the man walk away. Thoughts of his son rushed to his mind. The odds were the passerby was just another stranger; but he took a longer look at men that reminded him of Chris nonetheless. Dylon had to imagine what Chris would have become had he stayed around long enough to watch the promising student-athlete grow to maturity.

Every rejection singed his heart, but complete dismissals from what could be his sons avatar on Thanksgiving eve, made the blow that much harder.

Persistence is key, he thought as he watched the next man in a suit walking his direction.

“Excuse me sir. Little gas money so I can get to my family in Colorado Springs?” His eyes remained steady and engaged on the stranger’s; his upper body still but not shaking. Every drug that’s ever sped through his bloodstream tried to force his hands to shake, but he controlled all instincts. Years on the street developed his already proficient lying ability.

The man looked up into Dylon’s sad and pleading eyes. One look told him he was looking at truth.

He wavered when his eyes met back up with Dylon’s, after fetching his wallet from his back pocket.

Was that a smile? Was that brightness shining from the homeless man’s aura? He shook his head, to clense his mind of the thoughts.

“You know, I do have a little bit,” the man said.

“Thank you, sir. My family thanks you from the Springs.”

The man reached out his hand to Dylon, who grabbed the money without breaking the all-important grateful eye contact.

“God bless you,” he added for good measure.

While shaking hands, he noticed the stranger’s eyes dim. They didn’t drop or falter, but they dimmed. It was as if the life force rushed out of the man all at once. Dylon knew it when he saw it. It was pity; one thing more disheartening than all out rejection. Dylon studied the man’s back as he disappeared into the foggy snowy haze.

When he finally looked down at the denomination of dead president resting in his hand, his heart sped up. It wasn’t a president at all. Benjamin Franklin met his gaze. The light shining off of the bill reflected in Dylon’s eyes, turning them into a hue of brownish green.

During his journey to Colfax and Quebec, his mind returned to his son.

What’s become of Chris? Will he be home for Thanksgiving? Will he forgive my addiction? It’s a ten dollar cab ride from here to Five Points—would he wanna see me?

The thoughts jumbled his brain; perhaps even more than the twice-cut cocaine that he consumed to avoid withdrawal.

Withdrawal, he thought, with a sudden terror speeding up his heart once more. He remembered his destination.

He arrived at the corner, and walked up to the scary man wearing red from head to toe.

“How you doing brother?” Dylon asked.

“What’s good with you pops? What can I do for you?”

Thoughts of Chris rushed back into his mind.

Don’t do this. Go see your family. Leave now.

He heard a distant, muffled voice mutter something, but his mind continued to race.

What the fuck are you waiting on? Get out of here, Dylon. It’s not worth it.

“Yo pops! What the hell is wrong with you? Get something or get on. Thirty a gram.”

The man in red didn’t think Dylon would answer; he didn’t even think Dylon was there—at least not mentally.

Dylon’s thousand yard stare looked through the man in front of him. He snapped out of the vocal paralysis when one word made it into his thought process.

Withdrawal.

“Three please.”

After the transaction, Dylon trudged through the snow once more, withdrawing from the protective awning the dealer stood under.

The thick white blanket continued to fall on the garbage that plagued The Mile High City.

Twelve [good] Ways Cartoons Brainwashed Me as a Child

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Images courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Cartoons, and children’s T.V. in general, strive to provide positive lessons children can learn from. This probably isn’t the most conventional list of those lessons, but here are twelve good ways cartoons brainwashed me as a child that maybe weren’t so obvious when you initially watched them.

1. Wile E. Coyote taught me:

Don’t look down.

Classic Scene—Wile E. Coyote is chasing the road runner when all of the sudden, he stops over a large drop off a cliff. But somehow he’s okay—until he looks down of course—until he starts to doubt himself.  Bad stuff happens when you start to doubt yourself. Learn from Wile E. Coyote’s failings and don’t look down.

2. Hey Arnold taught me:

Even girls that ‘love’ you try to ruin your life.

The heading is self-explanatory. Helga loves the man, but with a straight face, tries to make his life a living hell. That’s pretty much the only consistent thing about the opposite sex. They’re not a violent bunch, but they’ll kill you with words, ten times out of ten.

This wasn’t as much a positive lesson as it was a warning I suppose. 

3. Dora the Explorer taught me:

You should keep an eye on your kids.

I’ve never watched an episode, but from what I understand, her best friend is a monkey and she talks to her backpack. Sounds like drugs or insanity to me.

Maybe if her parents paid more attention, she wouldn’t be a drug addicted psychopath—but hey, what do I know.

Perhaps I’m being a little hard on Dora. Oh well. Take care of your kids and things will usually work out for them.

4. Bevis and Butthead taught me:

Get an education.

Unless, of course, you want to sit on your couch all day and criticize music videos. Then again, that doesn’t sound half bad.

Ehhh, my argument still stands. If the producers, in any way, tried to convince me this wasn’t the way to go—it worked.

5. Captain Planet taught me:

Be a tree hugging hippie.

Okay, let’s not get ahead of ourselves—I’m not much of a hippie, but this cartoon did convince me that littering was bad and can be harmful to our environment. It encourages kids to get their families to recycle. That seems like a good message to me.

Let’s face it, though. This cartoon was probably the biggest brainwash of them all. Think I’m lying? Check it out yourself (you can watch the entire first episode on youtube). It’s a little ridiculous if you go back and watch it today. Fox News would throw a fit if it still aired on national television.

On a side note: Heart is the dumbest power you could come up with. Really? Who would want to be ‘heart’? Give me fire every time…please and thank you.

6. Doug taught me:

Don’t get caught in the friend zone.

It’s an inescapable black hole. Avoid at all costs. I’m not sure if that was the main message from this cartoon, but it’s pretty much all I got out of it.

Well, that, and there’s always a token black guy in every group of friends—even if they’re green. Shame on Nickelodeon for making Skeeter green.

7. Blue’s clues taught me:

It’s never too obvious to point something out.

Let’s face it, some people don’t always get the obvious right off the bat. No matter how obvious something is at work, it’s important to point it out because a lot of the time, the obvious gets missed. We all know what they say happens when you assume something.

8. Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus taught me:

“Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

In our day and age, this gets translated as YOLO, but it effectively means the same thing. Mistakes are mistakes. We’re all going to make them. Some big, some small. You’re going to make a mess of things when you take chances, but if you don’t—what’s the point of living?

I think we all owe Ms. Frizzle a big thank you for letting our generation know it’s okay to screw up every once in a while.

9. Popeye taught me:

Eat your veggies and you’ll become a superhero.

Okay, so maybe the last part of that isn’t true. It does promote healthy eating, though.

But…

10. The Cookie Monster taught me:

Cookies are delicious.

There’s nothing more to this ‘lesson’. Maybe this isn’t the best example, but dammit, we need to treat ourselves every once in a while.

And yes, I’m aware he’s not a cartoon.

11. Boondocks taught me:

Never take yourself too seriously.

Some aren’t familiar with this cartoon. In a nutshell, it’s the ‘black’ version of South Park. They make fun of every race, culture and religion prevalent in modern American society—and you know what—it’s f’n hilarious.

If you can’t laugh at yourself, everyone else will.

12. Pinky and the Brain taught me:

Never give up on your goals—there’s always another way.

Every episode they try a new idea of how to take over the world, and every episode they fail. Low and behold, the sun comes up the next day, and they try again. Nothing stops them—they’re relentless. That’s what you have to be in order to be successful. Relentless!

…oh, and it’s pretty hard to take over the world; it’s a borderline waste of time.

As you can tell by this list, I was a Nickelodeon child for sure. Feel free to comment with any I may have overlooked.