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Fame

Prompt: Be inspired/Tell the Story behind your favourite song
Song: Hotel California – Eagles

After a long week at work, it was wonderful just to relax by taking a long solo drive.  Living in the desert, late night drives were the most ideal; a welcome relief to the scorching heat.  So right after work, I just took off without dinner or anything; a decision I would regret later.

Some evenings, when I drove out there, I would pull over on a dark desert highway, get out of my car, and standing barefoot, feeling the fading warmth.  Some evenings I would sit along the side of the highway, waiting for the stars to come out.  On the rare evening, I could even feel the cool wind in my hair and the lingering warm smell of colitas rising up through the air.

Driving allowed me to relax in ways that knitting or reading relaxed other people, but this evening I let my mind wander a little more than I should’ve, ending up farther than I usually went at that time.  It was getting pretty late and being as exhausted as I was, driving back was no longer an option.  I was in the middle of nowhere and ready to resign myself to pulling over and sleeping in my car when, up ahead in the distance I saw a shimmering light.  My  head grew heavy and my sight grew dim.  Though I knew I was tired when I got off work, I didn’t realize how destructive combination of lack of sleep and of food was on me.  I had no choice; I had to stop for the night.  I stared again at the light flickering on the horizon, blinking a couple times and rubbing my eyes to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.  Nope, the light was still there.

That gave me some hope, but a nagging part of me asked, “What if it’s a psychopath living there waiting to chop you up?”  I quickly shook the thought out of my head.  I was hungry, I was tired and that place was starting to look pretty damn good.  I didn’t care who it was in there.  If I was lucky I was just overreacting, as usual.

I pressed on ahead towards the property.  As I got closer, it dawned on me that it was not a house, but a beautiful limestone building that had been converted into a hotel.  I was a sucker for beautiful historical buildings and pulled into the first available parking stall, noting a shadowy figure standing in the doorway.  Exiting my vehicle, I approached the entrance and there she stood in the doorway.  From somewhere within, I heard the mission bell and I was thinking to myself, “this could be heaven or this could be Hell.”

Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way down a long, well lit hallway to the reception.  There were voices in the corridor.  I thought I heard them say, “Welcome to the Hotel California, such a lovely place, such a lovely face.  Plenty of room at the Hotel California. Any time of year,  you can find it here.”  I passed off what I heard as a hallucination from exhaustion and hunger, but as I walked into the reception area, the desk clerk greeted me with the words I thought I had heard earlier, “Welcome to the Hotel California.  We have plenty of room at the Hotel California.  Any time of year, you can find it here.”

I was handed a room key and escorted to my room by another staff member.  I looked around for the woman who brought me to the reception, but she appeared to have vanished.  Her face, so beautiful, forever burned into my memory.

I slept quite well that night, but each time I woke I could hear the murmurs of life around me.  It was as though this was the hotel that never slept.  Even on the fifth floor, I could hear the desk clerk welcome people to the Hotel, regardless of time.

The next morning I went down to the main dining room for breakfast and saw the woman from the evening before already in her bathing suit, splashing in the pool.

“She’s pretty cute, ain’t she?”
“Oh-”
“Relax.  You’re not the first to think that.”
“Oh?”
“Yeah, but you couldn’t afford her.  Not for long anyways.”
“What do you mean?”
Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes bends.
“I’m sorry?”
The stranger smiled, “And ever notice she got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, she calls friends?”
“What she does is her business.”
“I agree, but when it happens at Hotel California, it’s everyone’s business.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look how they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat…” said the stranger, changing the subject, “Some dance to remember, some dance to forget.
Before I could ask he what he meant, he got up and disappeared.

It was the weekend so I thought I’d stick around for a little bit longer.  Besides, I never took vacations, this was my chance.  A weekend became a week and a week became a month and before I knew it, I had been so immersed in Hotel California’s culture I didn’t want to leave.  Why would I?  I had everything I wanted here.  It was always warm and beautiful.  And there were so many interesting people around.

I was timid at the start, but that quickly changed.  Days spent by the pool left me hungering for a drink,  so I called up the Captain.

“Can I help you, sir?”
Please bring me my wine.
He said, “We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969.”
“Oh…well…what do you have?”
“I meant-we do have wine.  What would you like?”
“But you said-”
“Never mind that.  How about the 2011 Screaming Eagle, Second Flight?”
“A Merlot…?”
“Yes, sir.”
“A glass would be fine.”
“Excellent choice, sir.”

Those months just came and went.  A total blur.  One day I was wondering what day it was and soon I forgot to wonder at all.  The days never got colder, the sun never stop shining. Everything began to blend together.  And still those voices are calling from far away. It would wake you up in the middle of the night just to hear them say “Welcome to the Hotel California.  Such a lovely place, such a lovely face.  They livin’ it up at the Hotel California, what a nice surprise bring your alibis.”

My reality had become lies.  Everything I did was layers upon layers of hiding who I was.  Soon I learned that a tragic past and a beautiful face were all I ever needed here.  There would always be someone ready to listen to your story, but not for the reasons you might think.  Fake sympathy, fake friends.  A masquerade.  All of us, building up the ammunition, hoarding it, just to bring you down.  I had to protect myself.  So I became like everybody else because you never knew what and when it would come in handy.

Sometimes, late at night, when I thought no one was listen, when I was truly alone.  I’d stare up at the ceiling, at the mirrors on the ceiling and think to myself, “Who am I?  What have I become?”

I used to think those mirrors were for admiring myself, but as time went on, I realized it showed me who I really was underneath all those lies.  And with each lie I told, a very real part me died.  That mirror became a record of the ugliness I had become.  That mirror was my portrait of Dorian Gray.

When the night is still with the faint call of the desk clerk in the distance like crickets and I am unable to fall asleep, I remember that day I was with her, sipping pink champagne on ice, staring off into the distance as we talked about our lives and she said, “We are all just prisoners here, of our own device.”  Just the words and the way she said it struck me very oddly.

She was right, of course.  We were all here for a reason.  We were here of our own will and we could leave if we wanted.  Or at least that’s what we kept telling ourselves.  Many had tried.

There were whispers of a room for those trying to escape.  They would go upstairs and in the master’s chambers.  They gathered for the feast, and they stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast.

They could not kill the beast for it was a part of them.  They had fed their devils lies and stifled their angel.  The beast grew stronger as the hero grew weaker until the hero was no more than a mere memory.

It was then I knew I had to leave.  To go, while I still could.  With the adrenaline pumping, I went for it. The last thing I remember, I was running for the door. I had to find the passage back to the place I was before.

The night man saw me and greeted me with a smile, but in my panic to get away, I couldn’t return that smile.
“Relax,” said the night man,  “We are programmed to receive.  You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!”
I looked at him in horror, “What do you mean?”
“Well, I’d say give it a try, but you’ll be right back here tomorrow.”
“I still don’t understand.”
“You say you hate all this.  That you want to go back to the life you had before.  To be the man, the woman you were before you came to paradise, but it just doesn’t work that way.  Once you’ve tasted freedom, you can’t go back.”
“How can you possibly believe this is freedom?”
“You’re free to come and go as you please, but I’ve been the night man here for over 65 years and I can tell you, everyone who has tried to defeat the beast has failed.  Even those who think they are better than the rest have failed, so what makes you think that you can succeed?”
I was stunned by his words.  I had no answer to his question.  If he had seen people as confident as I was that I was going to get away, fail and come back, he was right.  How was I ever going to succeed?

***

I look over the best years of my life and I still regret those stupid decisions I made in my youth.  They say that you will regret 100% of the things you don’t do, but as true as they may be, I look back and regret the decisions I did make.  At the time they were, what I thought to be great choices.  How wrong I had been.  I had destroyed my own life with so much luxury.  Partied way too hard.  Indulged myself one too many times.  Experimented with God knows how many combinations of drugs and sampled practically every alcoholic beverage known.

So many times I tried to stop, but somehow that lifestyle just kept dragging me back in.  I basked in all the attention I got because of the people I got to know, the secrets I had learned.  But how fulfilling were those relationships?  It is nothing to brag about now.  I was a fool then.  To think that this was all life amounted to.

If I could go back and tell myself one thing, it would be to never have experimented with the limelight.  All the attention, all the drugs, alcohol, men, women, and money.  I wanted it all, but could and would never get it.  It was a vicious cycle that would repeat indefinitely, that defied all rules of nature.  It was unnatural, yet it had once been my ideal, my paradise.  I understand now…too late.

 

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Life

Prompt: haiku! (5-7-5 syllables)

A river flows in
Me.  My life force ebbs and flows
With the changed seasons

 

 

Guilt Indebted

Prompt: “I got the last ticket.”

She carefully wrapped it in gold and silver paper.  All her savings had gone into it.  It was the very last one.

The next day, she went to school as usual, waiting until the end of the day to approach her best friend, Edna.

“I got you something as an early present.”

“Really?  What’d you get me?!”

Edna was the type of girl who had everything.  It was hard to surprise her with anything, so Lily really hoped that this would do it.

“Why don’t you open it, silly!”

Edna laughed, “Alright then.”

As Edna peeled back the gold and silver wrapping, her eyes grew wide, the smile vanishing, replaced with shock.

“How?” breathed Edna.

“I got the last ticket.”

Edna threw her arms around her friend, “Oh Lily!  This is the best thing in the world!  You’re amazing!  Did you know my family tried to buy tickets, but there were only three left from the place they were buying from?  I’m so glad I get to go with them!”

April 10, 1912

Lily went to the pier with hundreds of other spectators to see their friends and family off.  She waved and screamed with thousands of other even though she knew that Edna couldn’t see her.  She was so happy that she had been able to afford the chance to give her best friend such a momentous opportunity.

Inside, she was envious of Edna, but she knew she would never fit in with the rich folk.  That’s why she had been so surprised when Edna wanted to be her friend.  But their friendship blossomed over the years and they became inseparable.

Edna had a kind heart and gentle soul.  She never wanted Lily to go without nor did she want Lily to miss out on all the fun that her fellow classmates could afford.  You see, Lily was from the poorest of the poor.  Her parents could barely feed and clothe her, let alone send her to school.  Lily had met Edna in first grade and by third grade, they were up to all kinds of mischief.  That’s when the money ran out.  Lily’s parents wanted to pull her out of school, force her to get a job to support the family, but Edna stepped in.  Edna told Lily’s parents that she could not stand by and watch as their family suffered.  Edna promised that from that day on they would never have to worry about food on the table, or whether they could afford to purchase new clothes to survive the coming winter, or to send Lily to school.  Edna vowed that she would take care of them, not out of pity, but out of the belief that everyone deserved this basic kindness.

All this time, Lily had saved up, hoping one day she could repay her friend with a gift worthy of everything she had done for her.

Lily smiled.  This had been Edna’s dream ever since it had been announced to the public and Lily was happy she had been able to give something back to the best friend who had given her everything.

Then came the news.  April 15, 1912.  The whole neighbourhood was abuzz.  How could the unsinkable sink?

And all Lily could think was that she sent her only friend to her death.  How could fate be so cruel?

So Lily lived on, never knowing whether her friend had lived or died at sea.  Only in Heaven did she finally learn the truth.

 

Beauty of the Change

Prompt: autumn inspiration

Caught between two worlds
Between waking and death
Her ice cold touch
His warm fiery breath

Each sharp inhale
Slices through flesh and bone
Each chill
Reverberates like sound through water

Then another symphony rises
Of reds, yellows, and oranges
Swirling
And lifting

The crisp cool air
Bringing back the memories
Of academia
And the bright cold sun
Burning in our minds

Another time
Another change
Each symphony greater than her last
Until silence
Nothing Gold Can Stay*

*Name of one of my favourite poems that describes the change of the seasons best

Meet the Family

Prompt: Since you’ve been going out for quite some time, your boyfriend/girlfriend arranges for you to meet his/her parents. When you get to his/her house and enter the front door, you hear him/her say “I’m sorry” as the door closes behind you.

You turn to face him, but he seems to have vanished.  Before you, you see an old living room with furniture dating back to the Victorian era or earlier.  There are an assortment of people sitting on the sofas and armchairs, as if frozen in time.  It was as if you have stepped into Madame Tussaud’s , to a moment forever preserved, like page from a Jane Austen novel.  You swallow, the blood slowing in your veins, turning cold as your heart beats faster.  Your breathing has become so shallow, you’re not even sure how your cells are getting enough oxygen.
“What is this?” you wonder to yourself.
Then the room springs to life.
“So you’re the new girl.”
“Pretty young thing, isn’t she?”
“Almost too young for our Thomas.”
“But he chose her.”
“Did he now?”
“She looks just like-”
“Don’t.”
“But doesn’t she?”
“Don’t say that.  Thomas won’t like it.”
“Oh, we mustn’t be rude.  Come in, come in child, welcome to our home.  Please, sit!”
You are immediately swarmed by six or seven women, ushering you towards the sofa.  As you sit, Thomas reappears with a tray of tea.
“Sorry about that…” he said sheepishly.
“Don’t ever do that to me again!”
“I didn’t mean to…well, when I mentioned that we had been dating and…well they all wanted to meet you.  I din’t know what to do but to bring you by…so this is my family…all of them.”
“You really scared me, you know, vanishing like that.”
“I’m sorry…”
You sigh, taking the final cup of tea from Thomas, as he joins you on the sofa.  One by one, he introduces you to each of his family members.  There are aunts and great aunts, cousins and second cousins, his mother, his sisters, and grandmother, but something is odd.  There are no men, no fathers, brother, uncles…
“This is your whole family?”
He nods.
You bite your tongue.  It might be rude to ask.  Whenever he had talked about his family, he had only mentioned his female relatives, but only now did it really sink in how strange that really was.  Maybe a few would make sense, but could all of them be unmarried, divorced, or widowed?  That seemed too much of a coincidence.
“Something troubling you, my dear?”
“No…I’m sorry.  I can be a little spacey at times.”
His mother smiled and the rest smiled in sync.
“Are you hungry, dear?  Thomas, why don’t you fetch the cakes?”
“Yes, mother.”
“Let me come with you,” you say, quickly following him to the kitchen.
“You didn’t have to.”
“I know, but I wanted to ask…”
“Why there are no men?”
You look away awkwardly, giving him the answer he needed.
“I’m the first male born in this family  in over four centuries…my family is…special.”
“But how…?”
“It cannot be explained by science or any manner of natural law.”
“Yes, but-”
“How are we making out in here?”
“Excellently, mother. ”
“Everything’s alright?”
“Yes, Elsie’s just a curious soul, that’s all.”
His mother smiles at you again, “Dear, what is it you want to know?  We have no secrets between us here.”
“I…just didn’t want to be rude.”
“Nonsense.”
“Why-How can there be no males in the family, with the exception of Thomas?”
Each of his mother’s smiles grew more and more unsettling.
“Come, sit, and enjoy Thomas’ cakes.  We’ll tell you the story of our family.”
Reluctantly, you follow his mother back to the living room, with Thomas bringing up the rear.
“Elsie, do you love Thomas?”
“Yes.”
“Enough to be with him forever?”
“Well…I-I would, if he’d have me.”
“I think he would.  Isn’t that so, Thomas?”
“Yes, Aunt Beryl.”
“Shall we tell her?  What you think, Grandma Edith?”
“Do you think she’ll react as badly as the last one?”
“What do you mean the last one?”
“Thomas’ previous girlfriend.”
“What happened?”
“Are you sure you want to know?”
“Yes.”
“Alright then, but we must warn you, once you go forward, you cannot go back.”
“Logically, yes, that would be true…”
“Very well.  But before we proceed, we must know, how important it is for you to have a man in your life.”
You stare at them blankly, trying to understand what this has to do with anything.  On the one hand, this is a family consisting of only women…could that have something to do with everything?
“I…It’s not absolutely necessary, I suppose.  It’d be nice to be in a relationship with one before I have his child, but…there are other ways to have children.”
“True.  And what do you think about the roles men and women play in society, generally?”
“Well, I believe that a man and woman can be equal in skill and ability, if afforded the same opportunities.  There are, of course, physiological adaptations that have made men stronger than women, so in that instance, they would be better suited for the task.  So roles should be assigned based on what each individual can do best rather than by gender.”
“Well, I like you more than I liked his ex already.”
You laugh nervously, unsure what to expect next.
“We are the women of all time.  From past, present, and future.”
“What does that even mean?”
“We are not born, but created.”
“I still don’t understand.”
“It means, out of all the women in history, we were chosen, melded together into one family through interweaving our DNA with one another.”
“And Thomas?”
“An anomaly.”
“You see, Thomas didn’t fit into his role in life as a “man” in his time.  The first of many.  Thomas could have been any one of them, but the choosing is always random.”
“So…were each of you…conceived?”
“We were once and we are in the sense that we are born from a womb again into this life, but we are, as Grandma Edith said, created, not born.”
“So…your purpose is?”
“To show the world that these gender norms are outdated and need to change…but we’ve never been able to change the outside world…we are confined here.”
“Why?”
“Because we cannot step foot into a world that isn’t ours…we must be invited to.”
“Is that why I’m here?”
“Well…sort of.”
“What do you mean sort of?  Am I or am I not?”
“You’re here because Thomas loves you and wanted to introduce you to us.  He said you were strong and opinionated.  A breath of fresh air out in the stifled world.  That you would, if you could, bring about change.  And he thought maybe we could help each other.”
“What do you mean?
“You’re young and there are consequences to your actions.  How it will reflect on you, your family, and anyone affiliated with you, is something you constantly worry about.  Well, we thought, perhaps, together, we could come up with a safe platform and location to initiate change.  You are not the only one in the world who believes what they believe.  We want to help.”
You look at them hopefully.  For the first time, you see your dreams coming true.  Everything you worked so hard for coming to life.  You nod and smile.
Today is the beginning of everything.

Of the Small Things

Prompt: How did you end up with that much?

She looked over at him.  Just a glance at first, but something made her do a double take.
“Wait a minute!”
“Hmm?”
He looked up, his mouth full of ramen noodles.
“How did you end up with that much?!”
“Of what?” he said, continuing to shove noodles in his mouth.
“That,” she said pointed to the noodles.
He looked at his bowl and then at hers and back at his and shrugged.  Her pouted and started inching closer to his bowl with her chopsticks.  A smiled tugged at the edges of him lips as he tried to conceal what he was about to do next.  Slowly, he began to inch his bowl away from her.
“Stop it!”
“Stop what?”
“Moving away from me!”
“I’m not!”
“You so are!”
With a swift motion, she drove her chopsticks into his bowl.  With his, he clamped down on hers, effectively preventing any movement.
She let out the most irritating whining screech that annoyed the hell out of everyone except for him; he found it endearing.  He laughed as she pouted again.
“Oh, come on babe.  I’m kidding, you can absolutely have some.”
“YAY!” she squealed at a pitch that was only audible to dogs.
He smiled again wrapping his arm around her waist.
And he thought he was the luckiest guy in the world.

Suspended Dew

Prompt: the fog!

It came like the night
First slowly
Then all enveloping

The street lights grew dimmer
The buildings grew fainter
Until all that remained were
Floating orbs
In suspended dew

Here in the shadows
Obscured from sight
A madman does his business

By day
He is a Dr. Jekyll
By night
A Mr. Hyde

He is a villain
A monster
A demon of the night

The goes by many names
Yet
He remains nameless
Faceless
Elusive

You and I know him to be
Jack the Ripper
But to someone else he is
A father
A brother
A mother
A sister
A husband
A wife

A villain
A hero
Always one
Always the other

It just depends
Who’s telling the story

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