Monday, December 27, 2010

Grimmer Fairy Tales-- Part the Seventh

The soft leather spines of the innumerable books in the library gleamed in the candlelight. Catalena's guilty conscience plagued her since Lady Heleni's parents collected their daughter, her mangled foot beyond repair. Lady Vivian remained in seclusion in her bedroom, leaving Catalena to wander silent corridors alone. She barely settled into the massive wing chair with a familiar tome when a rustling behind her disturbed her flight into the safer realm of the literature on her lap. A stooped woman emerged from the gloom, rag in hand as she lovingly cared for one of the few rooms in the castle she was allowed to maintain. Catalena couldn't help but notice while the wrinkles in the old woman's face indicated a lifetime's worth of happiness and troubles, there remained an irrepressible twinkle in her hazel eyes. "My apologies. I had no desire to disturb you," Catalena spoke, sitting up straighter in her chair. "It is I who should be apologizing, my dear. It has been so long since we had guests. I go about my routine as if there is no one here but the ghosts. What troubles you so, my child?" "Why do you assume I am troubled?" Catalena responded. "I am getting on in years, and my eyes are not as sharp as they once were, but I know a sad spirit when I encounter it." Catalena did not answer, not knowing what to say. "You are mourning the lady's accident, are you not?" "It was my fault. My curiosity placed us all in danger." The old woman tucked the polishing cloth into her belt for safe keeping as she approached with a comforting click of her tongue. "Nonsense. He loosed the wolf in the dungeon on purpose. You are merely a pawn in an elaborate game the prince is playing. Do you see that chess board there?" the old woman asked, directing Catalena's attention to the well loved ivory and ebony standing at attention on a small round table. "I remember when the young prince would sit on his mother's lap as she and his father taught him to play. I remember his tiny fingers barely dexterous enough to move the pieces across the board. The set has not been touched since the king and queen died. Instead, his heart has grown cold, his spirit callous, and the games more dangerous." "Why would he do this? We have done nothing to him," Catalena responded, grasping for understanding. "By royal decree, each prince must attempt to find a suitable princess by their twenty-fifth birthday. He has a month to do that which he does not want to do. These games are to prove you all unsuitable so the law will be fulfilled and he will be left alone." Catalena crossed her arms over her chest in stoic irritation. She knew quite a bit about the games of boys. "It is not right. The game is only fair if the opponents are allowed to face each other." The old woman smiled, pointing a gnarled finger behind her towards the tapestry depicting a knight slaying a dragon. "It has been some time since our prince had a worthy opponent, my dear. Perhaps he has forgotten how to play." The old woman exited while Catalena immediately investigated the tapestry. She silently opened the door hidden behind, stone steps spiraling upwards towards the tower room where a shaft of golden light snuck under the door at the top, alerting her she indeed found the prince's secret retreat. She scribbled a note on a spare scrap of parchment and carefully gathered the chess set before mounting the stairs. Catalena ensured every last rook and knight was in its proper place before leaving her note and the game. Prince Dragos heard the scuffling and waited for the door at the bottom of the stairs to close before he disturbed his melancholic refuge. The candles illuminated the landing where the chess board sat, one piece out of place as Catalena moved an ivory pawn two spaces forward towards his ebony line. For the first time in longer than he could remember, he grinned as he caught sight of her feminine scrawl on the paper lying in the middle of the board. Your move. -Catalena.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Grimmer Fairy Tales-- Part the Sixth

An unexpected gust of wind whistled through the stale prison. The candles guttered and died, plunging them into unforgiving blackness. Catalena heard one of her companions whimper in terror, but her mind was focused on escape. They could not return the way they came, but surely there was another path out of this dreadful place. "Stay close to me. There must be another exit." Catalena's hushed command was heeded by her companions as the two other women held hands, staying as near to Catalena as they were able. She ran her hands along the stone walls to get her bearings, her eyes adjusting to the gloom. The breeze must have come from somewhere, she reasoned. Even in the pitiless dark there were faint slivers of alabaster rays in the distance. If light could escape then perhaps they could too. They were not six feet from their goal when the same chilling howl reverberated down the corridor behind them. It was closer this time...much closer. In a sheer flight of panic, Lady Heleni broke away, scurrying towards the oasis of light. Catalena warned her to stop, but the warning came too late. The young woman's screams nearly drowned out the metallic clang as the jaws of a rusty device snapped shut around her leg. Catalena knelt next to the device, straining for a better glimpse. "Heleni, stop struggling. You will only do further damage," Catalena advised. "What is this monstrous machine?" Lady Vivian queried as she made herself useful by consoling Lady Heleni as best she could. "An old animal trap. I have seen them used by hunters before," Catalena answered as she lightly ran her hand over the bloody metal. Her dexterous fingers finally found the metal toggle on the bottom of the center plate. She pushed the toggle down, yanking back on one side of the trap's jaws with all her might. The trap opened inch by painful inch. As soon as Lady Heleni's injured appendage was safely away, Catalena let the trap snap shut again. So focused on her task, it was only then did she hear the canine panting. Warm breath on the back of her neck sent a shiver down her spine. Still in a crouch, she carefully turned to face the horrid thing. A hulking wolf with forest green fur and thickly braided tail stood mere inches from her face. Dull maroon eyes glared an evil warning as the beast sized up its prey. "Vivian, help Heleni. Head towards the light. Go quickly," Catalena whispered. The women hobbled for what they could only hope was safety. Attracted to the flurry of motion, the wolf lunged, but Catalena grasped the heavy chain attached to the trap and swung the device with every ounce of strength. It struck the animal square across the chest, sending it reeling. The wolf recovered quickly, staring down its adversary standing between it and easier victims. Catalena fearlessly held her gaze on the predator's dead eyes. Her damnable curiosity placed them all in this position. She would rather die than let this wolf harm the others. "Catalena, the door was unlocked. Hurry," Vivian's frightened soprano squeaked in terror. Catalena swing the hefty trap at the beast again, distracting him with the motion while she sprinted for the door. The wolf snarled, razor teeth grazing against Catalena's back as she shoved herself and the others through the opening, kicking the metal door shut with an enormous clang. The wolf slammed against it, but the integrity of the door held. The animal snarled in frustration from the opposite side of the wall as the horrified women tumbled out from behind a dusty tapestry into the safety of a deserted hallway.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Grimmer Fairy Tales-- Part the Fifth

Judging by the beleaguered faces around the hushed breakfast table, Catalena's eerie visitations had not been a unique experience. One young woman heeded the spirit's warning, fleeing into the night, leaving three to eat their tepid porridge, all three too exhausted to complain about trifles like cold food. Thick soled shoes clomped down the hall towards the dining area. Catalena secretly hoped it was Prince Dragos so she could relate her annoyance and disapproval with regards to his hosting duties and accommodations, but it was the Vizier not the prince who appeared. He exchanged no pleasantries, not even a glimmer of a smile disturbed the harsh lines of his weather-beaten face as he spoke. "You ladies may amuse yourselves as you see fit today provided you remain in this wing of the castle. You are not to leave or wander off into other sections. To disregard my warning is to do so at your own peril." The Vizier turned to depart, but the mousy voice of one of the women halted him. "When are we to see the prince?" she inquired. "The prince desires to see none of you at present, Lady Heleni," the Vizier's answer as abrupt as his exit. Catalena left her chair as he left the room, half her porridge uneaten. "Where are you going, " Lady Vivian queried her dining companion. "The Vizier said we could explore the castle. That is just what I am going to do." Catalena snatched the candelabra from a table as her companions trailed behind. Even during the day, the palace was dark as midnight, heavy curtains restraining the playful sun. They went from room to room, each more deserted and ramshackle than the last except the library which seemed cozy and well-utilized. At the end of the hallway they came to a massive wooden door with a thick iron lock. Catalena was about to open it when Lady Heleni grasped her arm. "Remember what the Vizier told us, Catalena. We are not to leave this part of the palace." "I want to see what lies beyond. If you do not wish to come, you are under no obligation to follow," Catalena responded. The latch clicked as she opened the door and pulled it ajar with all her strength. Spiral stone steps wound down towards a black abyss, disappearing into silent nothingness. Flame cast bizarre shadows along the damp walls as Catalena carefully descended, her frightened companions timidly at her heels. Reaching the bottom, she held the light aloft, examining her surroundings. Rusty shackles hung from walls and metal bars laid into the rock demarcated cells devoid of prisoners. "I do not like this, Catalena. I want to leave," Lady Vivian whispered. Before Catalena could respond, a thunderous bang ricocheted down the stairs as the door slammed and locked. The two women behind her whimpered, but that was not what made Catalena grasp tighter to the candelabra, her heart thundering under her ribs. A deep, throaty snarl echoed from the gloom like the growl of a demonic wolf. They were trapped in the dungeon... and they were not alone.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Grimmer Fairy Tales-- Part the Fourth

Catalena and the other three young women were escorted through the unkempt palace to their rooms by one of the palace guards. She examined her dusty, dark, and damp bedroom, her heart sinking as the guard turned the key in the lock, trapping her inside. The once regal bedding was torn as if some animal used it for a nest. At least she had a place to sleep. A chill swept through the room, freezing her to the bone as the bitter wind crept through every crack and crevice. If she was to survive the night, she must have something to stave off the cold since the guard had seen fit to leave her without even a simple candle. Dust billowed, rising like great plumes of smoke, as she tore down the heavy velvet curtains. Catalena wrapped the musty drapery snugly around her in the creaky bed, favoring preventing frostbite over cleanliness. Shadows danced eerily about the cavernous room, pale moonlight unable to penetrate the crushing darkness. She softly hummed her mother's lullaby, tricking her apprehensive mind into rest even as the odd noises of the castle roared in her ears. "Catalena," a hushed, raspy voice whispered. She jerked up in bed, searching the gloom for the source of the disembodied sound. "Who's there?" she demanded of the darkness. Instead of an answer, a spine tingling cackle slicked through the night, mocking her determination. "Run, Catalena. Leave tonight if you value your life," the rasping ghost warned. In spite of her coverings, Catalena shivered. She summoned all her courage and made a thorough search of the room, finally returning to the bed. She drew up her legs against her chest under the makeshift blankets, protecting herself against the cold and fear. There was no one else in the room with her and she had no idea where the continued groans and unnerving noises emanated from. "Stop it this instant. I am not leaving and I will not allow you to scare me, ghost or no ghost. Go away." Her firm directive was steady in spite of her dread. The ghostly noises did not obey. The shrieks, knocks, and raspy taunts continued ceaselessly until dawn. Catalena spent a sleepless first night in the castle, her sole companions the resident phantoms and her pounding heart.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Grimmer Fairy Tales-- Part the Third

Catalena set off before dawn, riding at full gallop to be at the castle by the noon hour. A pewter sky hung over the palace as frayed flags slapped in the breeze. She left her faithful horse in the care of the stable boy, entering the great hall with the other young women. The offer of instant riches had not been enough to quell the fear of many; only fifty eligible women gathered to seek the prince's approval. While she had chosen her best and most respectable dress, Catalena still looked afright. Her hair was windblown from the ride and the hem of her clothing mud splattered. The regrets of her wardrobe instantly vanished from her psyche as the porter called the women to silence, announcing the arrival of Prince Dragos. Like everyone else, she bowed her head low, as was common courtesy in the presence of royalty. Before she averted her gaze Catalena snuck a look at the prince as he appeared at the top of the stone stairs. He had wavy raven hair and a pleasant form most would consider handsome, but his skin was eerily pale as if he rarely saw the light of day. Prince Dragos made his way through the sea of gathered young ladies, sizing each up with cold precision. Catalena kept her eyes on the floor and noticed the prominent singe marks at the hem of her dress where she'd stepped too close to the fire last Christmas. However, her notice of the imperfection came too late as two well polished black boots entered her field of vision. The prince spoke not a word, but the disapproving noise he made at the sight of her was less than subtle. Catalena felt her pulse instantly race at the insult. She did not consider her actions, only her wounded pride, as she jerked her head up to face the source of such scorn. Twin eyes, like chunks of unlit coal, stared back at her from an unreadable face marred by a thick scar which cut across his brow and eye, ending on his right upper cheek. It was a miracle he had an eye left after such an injury, was the first thought in her head, but that was chased out swiftly as she remembered her station. She cast her eyes down once more, and the prince carried on until he finished examining all who had come. He whispered to his Vizier, his chief counselor and only friend, before he disappeared again into the castle's depths. The Vizier announced any young lady who was not chosen could collect her gold pieces and depart immediately. However, it was when he announced the names of the four women who were invited to remain, to continue on in the hopes of being queen, that Catalena was left speechless. He named her as one of the four. Whether she liked it or not, she would be spending tonight in the castle as a guest of the prince.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Grimmer Fairy Tales-- Part the Second

All families with eligible daughters considered the offer, enticed by the fifteen gold pieces each young woman would earn simply by coming to the castle on the appointed day. The idea of their daughter one day being queen intrigued all from the loftiest duke to the lowliest peasant, however, the wisest parents were cautious. Even with the promise of title and power, what kind of life would their child have married to a man whose heart turned to stone? One such cautious father was the blacksmith of the small village near the kingdom's eastern border. The death of his wife years prior left him to raise their only child, Catalena, as best he could. Now seventeen and the apple of her loving father's eye, she proved headstrong and quick-witted. The local mothers merely shook their heads in dismay as she ran wild through the forests, hunting and fishing with the boys. It simply would not do to have a daughter who could forge and wield a sword, but could not throw a proper stitch or tend the home. The day the proclamation was made, Catalena determined to set off to the castle, much to her father's dismay. She was plain in face and form and awkward in formal situations unlike the other girls she knew in her village. The prince would never give the gawky blacksmith's daughter a second glance which suited her fine. She had no desire to marry the prince, but her father could desperately use the fifteen gold pieces. For her adoring father she would do anything.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Grimmer Fairy Tales

Once upon a time in a land far, far away (since that's the way all good legends start) in a castle on the tallest hill, there lived an angry prince. Those who remembered the prince's parents, the goodly king and queen, rarely spoke of them and the happy days of the kingdom, now a distant memory. They merely sighed sadly when the palace came into view. They remembered the joyful little boy the prince had been, but after the tragic death of his parents he'd grown callous and cruel. He locked himself in his castle, letting no one in but the servants and royal guard. A candle could be seen gleaming from the tower room at all hours of the day and night, the prince distancing himself from the world for he could no longer bear to see a smiling face or hear the sound of laughter. And so his subjects went about their lives in the gloomy kingdom where the sun no longer shined, leaving the prince to grow into a young man behind the silent stones of the palace. Then, one day, four riders emerged from the creaking, rusty drawbridge, setting off in the four directions of the kingdom's confines. The villagers eagerly gathered for the proclamation, the first to leave the palace in longer than anyone could remember. Once they heard it, their eagerness turned to worry and dread. The angry prince whom they assumed would live and die alone in his crumbling castle was lonely and searching for a bride.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tell me what you see...

I think it's funny our justice system still relies on things like witness identification. If there's one thing I've learned in this profession, it's that everything is in the eye of the beholder. Line three people up and let them observe a scene. You will get three different responses when you ask them what they saw. Our memories, biases, and way of thinking all affect how we process information. None of us see things "normally" since there is no definition of normal, just a general consensus of acceptable deviation from a standard. To the most disturbed among us, the world is a Rorschach. Their reality is so distorted, they can almost distort the reality of others and most certainly project powerfully. Today I saw a homeless, psychotic woman dressed in dirty clothes and a hospital gown randomly go up to some guy on the street and hug him as if they knew each other. He had no idea who this woman was, and extracted himself from the situation rapidly, but he sort of played along with her delusion. Whatever terrifying and fantastic world she's living in has one bright point. In that world there are friends she didn't even know she had. Everyone has a different take on the Rorschach of life, a little ingrained madness as it were, and sometimes that's the most interesting thing they've got.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

No evil angel but love

Maybe it's the holidays rapidly approaching, but the subject of relationships has been popping up with incredibly frequency. One of the best questions at the book reading (again, my humble and fervent thanks to everyone who came out and made it a success) was about relationships, both good and bad, in the novel. None of us exist in a vacuum. We must navigate interactions with others in every facet of our lives. Yet, most relationships from mere acquaintance to friendship to romantic can be classified as rocky at best. What at first glance appears to be truth is often an illusion. Things we assume to be stable alter dramatically seemingly without warning. Worst of all, what we think we want and what we truly need rarely coincide. So much trouble for modest gain. Maybe that's why I love writing about the most convoluted messed up relationships imaginable. I am finally comfortable with the idea that all relationships are screwed up messes. Even with the opportunity to live forever, good luck figuring them out.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Memento Mori

Nothing says Halloween more than a cemetery so packed with ghosts it barely leaves room for the living. Batchelors Grove is just such a cemetery. Nestled in the Rubio Woods forest preserve outside Chicago, it lies abandoned and forgotten behind a rusted, broken down chain link fence. But just as the fence doesn't keep curious visitors out, it no longer keeps the ghosts in. Mysterious occurrences are the norm in this scenic cemetery including random equipment malfunctions, eerie cold spots , and creepy noises which come from nowhere. A phantom farmer and his plow horse who both drowned in a nearby lake have been seen plowing fields which no longer exist. A woman in white roams the grounds, her dead infant in her arms. A quaint farmhouse appears along the trail leading to the cemetery itself, vanishing without a trace as hikers approach. Phantom cars have been seen tailing drivers along the stretch of road, disappearing like the mist. What makes this cemetery so active? There are as many theories as there are spine-chilling anecdotes, but one thing is certain. The bulk of the haunting didn't begin until the cemetery was vandalized and desecrated. No matter what awaits us beyond the ebony veil, no one wants or deserves to have their peace disturbed. Perhaps we are granted a brief glimpse into what awaits after death through ghosts in order to remember that, in the end, such is the fate of us all.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Echos of the Eastland

Perhaps one of the most terrible tragedies to hit the Windy City short of the Chicago Fire was the Eastland disaster. On a sunny July day in 1915, nearly 3200 passengers boarded the Eastland steamer moored on the Chicago River. Bound for a company picnic, eager men, women and children crowded the boat, excited for the lovely day they had planned. No one's sure what happened next, but when the Eastland pulled away from the dock, the boat capsized sending people sailing from the top decks into the river and trapping many other poor souls inside. What had been laughter moments before turned into terrified screams as onlookers from the nearby bridge and boats did their best to save as many as they could. Sadly, what began as a rescue mission swiftly turned into a recovery mission as rescue workers including police divers and local volunteers hauled corpses out of the river. In the end, 840 people including 22 entire families were among the dead in the makeshift morgues set up in hospitals, warehouses and even the 2nd Regiment Armory. The victims of the Eastland may be gone, but they ensure they aren't forgotten. On occasion, those passing over the bridge where the boat sank have heard terrible screams rising from the otherwise calm river. At the old Armory, now Harpo Studios, ghostly footsteps, sobs, and childish laughter have all been heard and an eerie woman in gray has appeared not only to employees but on security camera footage as well. Echos to remind us that even the seemingly happiest of days don't necessarily have a happy ending.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Seaweed Charlie

If you find yourself desiring a drive on a balmy Chicago eve, follow Lake Shore Drive north to Sheridan Road. This street lazily winds its way along Lake Michigan, past humble row houses and prestigious universities alike. However, pay attention as the pavement snakes around a sharp bend between the lake and Calvary Cemetery. Those who don't keep their eyes on the road have nearly collided with the spectral form of Seaweed Charlie. In the 1950's, during World War II, it was common to see pilots from the Glenview Naval Air Station practicing maneuvers over the calm, azure waters of Lake Michigan. Most of these training flights were uneventful until the day a plane lost radio contact, never to be heard from again. Two days after the plane fell off radar, the body of the unfortunate pilot washed up on the rocks along Sheridan Road directly adjacent to the cemetery. To this day, unlucky motorists continue to see a dark, drenched figure in an aviators jacket drag itself out of the lake and across the road. The horrifying wraith disappears inside Calvary Cemetery, leaving only the stunned drivers and a slimy trail of water in his wake.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Bride of Mount Carmel

"Because I could not stop for Death, he kindly stopped for me..."

Everyone who knew Julia knew she was going to be a beautiful bride, and on her wedding day she did not disappoint. Much beloved by family and friends, she led a happy existence until her life was tragically cut short at the tender age of 20, dying in childbirth. In their grief, the family erected a life size statue of Julia in her wedding dress to mark her tomb. For whatever reason, Julia didn't go quietly into the afterlife. After her daughter's death, her mother had dreams of Julia calling to her, pleading for help. For 6 years, her mother endured these nightly visitations until she could stand it no longer. Julia's casket was exhumed and much to everyone's shock when it was opened, beautiful Julia was laying there, her body in pristine condition as if she wasn't dead, merely sleeping. Julia has since been returned to her resting place, but she does not rest easy. She can frequently be seen roaming the grounds of Mount Carmel Cemetery at night, a vision in her white wedding dress. In death, as in life, ever the blushing bride.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Shades of Darkness

"As I was going up the stairs, I met a man who wasn't there. He wasn't there again today. Oh, how I wish he'd go away."

I love a good ghost story. As the leaves start to turn colors and the breeze is crisp and cool, nothing makes me happier than curling up under a blanket with a scary book. It's the accounts of real hauntings which strike my fancy. As a kid, I used to read all the ghost books I could find in any spare minute I had which made me stand out as the dork at recess, but helped to mold me into the creative juggernaut I am today. This picture has been stuck in my head since 5th grade. It's reportedly of the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall. Her sad tale began after her marriage to a man with a cold heart and fiery temper. In order to escape her loveless marriage, she had an affair with local beau. When her jealous husband discovered this, he locked his wife in their estate house, isolating her inside, forbidding her from leaving even to see her own children. She eventually died of old age, neglected and forgotten, but it was rumored she never truly left. For over two centuries, she has been sighted by both kings and commoners alike, a wretched wraith in a brown silk dress, wandering the grounds in death as she did in life. Unable to escape her lovely prison where she is doomed to roam eternity alone.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dark side of the moon

I am fascinated by violence. How the human mind can go totally awry and lash out against itself and others. Case in point (fitting for a Monday): Brenda Ann Spencer. On a fine Monday morning in 1979 at the tender age of 16, she fired thirty plus rounds of ammo at the elementary school across from her home killing the principal and a custodian. Eventually, she surrendered to police after a lengthy stand-off. The explanation she offered for such a senseless act? "I don't like Mondays. This livens up the day." Mark Twain said, "Everyone is a moon with a dark side he never shows to anybody." Perhaps it's better that way when we are reminded how horrific that dark side can be.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dog days of summer

In taking inventory of my summer now the season is mercifully transitioning into fall, I am realizing everything I learned was due to my dogs. The following comes from their unspoken canine wit and wisdom: 1. Everyone is susceptible to seasonal allergies and they are universally no fun. 2. If you're scared, growling is an acceptable response (try this sometime at work it's a trip). 3. No matter how cute you are, you still have to follow the rules. 4. A firm "no" and standing your ground stops nearly anything in its tracks. 5. Even the worst of days are improved by peanut butter and belly rubs. 6. If you protect and provide for your pack, it will protect and provide for you. 7. You don't have to be friends with everyone just because that's expected of you. 8. There are days it's not worth leaving the crate.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lamentations of the women

All I ever wanted was to be ordinary. I guess no one can really be normal since normalcy itself is a moving target. Everyone has their little quirks, but mine get in the way more often than not. And after what happened recently, there's no way I am ever going to attain the uncomplicated life. I suppose it was inevitable. You can't escape who you are no matter how hard you try. As much as I wanted to keep everyone and everything from my long and unusual past out of my present, in the end, I couldn't. It's like everyone knows how hard you work to make everything copacetic and that makes it more fun for them to send it all crashing to the ground. Sorry about that. I have a bad habit of telling stories backwards. Maybe I should start at the beginning. My name is Narcissa, Cissa to pretty much everyone. I am a vampire.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What is a zombie's fascination with brains?

Anyone else out there preparing for the 2012 zombie apocalypse? I am on the fence about it overall, but Mom always said hope for the best and prepare for the worst. A part of me thinks this will be like the Y2K furor and a complete non-event. However, I've watched enough History Channel to wonder if the Mayans might be up to something. I've concluded I need to learn proper use of firearms and how to ride a motorcycle since my vision of the apocalypse is seriously colored by the likes of Mad Max. I have general doctor skills which hopefully will come in handy in a pinch, but I need to know how to defend myself in multiple ways. Sure, this could all be a waste, but at least I'll have picked up some neat talents. And if it isn't, then I know precisely where I am hunkering down with my family and my dogs. All I can say for the rest of you is I hope you're training up on survival skills. Laugh all you want, but when the zombies come a knocking it'll be too late.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Time off for (mostly) good behavior

I need a vacation. Time off from work. I keep recommending this to others and am realizing it's precisely what I need myself. Usually I spend my vacations quietly writing, cooking and taking long walks so I can think. I cram my creativity into any spare moment I can find, molding it to fit the life I've chosen. Every once in a while it rebels. It wants more freedom than I allow it. When it becomes truly intrusive, that's how I know it's time to let it off the leash. The other day I had a conversation with a coworker and was distracted by a vivid story sequence which randomly chose that moment to play itself out in my head. I think she was still talking to me, but I have no memory of the last part of the discussion. I have perfect memory of what I know I need to get down on paper sooner rather than later, however. I need a vacation.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lacromia's Test

There was a strange force which drew her to the crude church at the end of the only true road in the town. The hem of the scratchy wool dress trailed mud across the oak floor as she made her way between the pews towards the altar. Flame from innumerable candles flickered, hurling cold shadows around the room, glimmering off the town’s prized possession the ornate gilded cross standing sentry on the altar. Chill seeped through her garment as she knelt on the floor, her head bent over her clasped hands. For the past two raids she enacted this same melodrama, begging a deity who refused to hear her for the strength to stop what she knew to be wrong.
“You are here at an inhospitable hour. What troubles you my child?”
Lacromia barely lifted her head, stringy chestnut hair mostly covering her face. The priest’s figure popped into view out of the corner of her eye as he drew closer. Dressed in head to toe black like all of his orthodox brethren, his long grey beard and hair could not hide the calm wisdom which radiated from his weather-beaten visage.
“I need help, father.”
“Help with what?” he asked gently as he took a seat beside her.
“I have done terrible things.”
“What terrible offense could someone so young have committed?”
“I cannot tell you. All I can say is they are horrible, monstrous crimes.”
“Why have you done these things?”
She lowered her head a bit, her hair further covering her expression. The same series of questions had been posed to each of the priests in the prior villages, searching for answers and absolution where there was none.
“My master wishes it. I am trapped, father. I cannot refuse him, but I do not want to do the things I have done.”
The priest placed a comforting arm around her and she rested her head gently on his shoulder taking what little reassurance she could in his well-meaning paternalism.
“You are being tested, my poor girl, placed in an impossible position. One in authority requires great evil of you, but it places your eternal soul in jeopardy.”
“I fear I do not have a soul left anymore. What should I do?”
“All of us are obligated to seek morality and justice wherever they may hide. There are no perfect people or solutions, but one must not do what they know to be wrong simply because they were ordered to do so. Even if it means death or persecution, one must stand and fight. Do you have the courage for this?”
The vampire threw her arms around the elderly priest, tiny sparks dancing across her skin as the coven swarmed into town. He hugged her, expecting tears, little knowing her ability to cry had disappeared many decades ago when he was still a young man.
“You are frigid, my child. How long have you been out in the cold?” he asked with concern, feeling the icy chill of the woman’s body as if she had been buried in snow for days.
“It seems like forever,” she whispered in response. “You are right, father. I cannot accept what is happening around me. I must fight this even if it means my death.”
Terrified screams began to filter through the walls, calling for help as the vampires battered the village. The priest attempted to pull away, sensing something was terribly amiss, but she clung to him, preventing his movement.
“Forgive me, father. I am being tested and tonight I will fail this trial. One day, I hope to redeem myself in your eyes.”

Monday, August 9, 2010

Nightfall of the psyche

Having fun writing short stories; enjoy the excerpt:

The blood was scalding as it spurted out of the torn artery, the vampire utilizing his fangs like twin blades as he ripped into the man's neck. He did not know what pity was, could barely remember any but the most basic driving forces. A soft gurgling was the only noise as the man choked on his own blood, his heart's drastic beating hastening his own destruction. There was no pity, no remorse, no escape. He had not wanted to die either, but no one had given him a choice. No one showed his wife and children an ounce of pity; they merely slaughtered them as they sobbed in terror. Mercy was a useless emotion. In the end, there was no peace.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Careful or you'll end up in my novel

Sometimes parts of my life intrude on the others defying my desire to compartmentalize. I walk around the hushed hospital at night and see monsters in shadows. I talk to people and engineer characters. In place of everyday life there are plot constructs. I think a certain amount of daydreaming is healthy. It allows me to fill stagnant hours and deal with stress, but occasionally my fantasy world can be distracting. Today I walked through the city orchestrating a nifty if not incredibly bloody chase scene complete with hefty body count. In place of urbanites, I see victims, heroes, demons, angels, predators and prey. I always wonder what's going through the minds of the people I pass. How many are doing the exact same thing, silently watching the world of imagination and reality collide.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Repairing cracks in the facade

I hear truly horrific things in my line of work. Maybe it's just my personality, but I seem to attract either genuinely sociopathic people or people with tragic histories the likes of which most wouldn't believe. Both are taxing to deal with. There are some people who no one can help. They will spend their lives using and abusing others, callously engineering their environment to their benefit. They usually come to see me through legal obligation or because they are trying to get something from me. In the end, there is no progess to be made and little anyone can do. The second group with the tragic histories I can and want to help, but sometimes I forget what it is to have to bear witness to the tragedy with them. Although I didn't live it, sometimes the emotion in the room is so raw it is possible to experience it with the other person. They want you to experience it, to get a glimpse of what they suffer. Through this you are able to take the pain away just a little bit and help them heal. It all takes its toll. I like my job and wouldn't change it, but it's a harsh look in the mirror on a daily basis. Not only must you contain others, you must contain yourself. Some days that's easier said than done. Many put up a good front, but few humans are truly stable.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Cassandra Complex

Of all the creatures I created for the literary world in which I play, by far the most tragic are the Amunites. For those of you who haven't read the first book in the series (Lost Devil's Throne, go get it. I am not above shameless self promotion.), the Amunites are human oracles, people who can see the future of anyone or anything they run across. How terrible must it be to know a tragedy is on the horizon, but powerless to do anything about it? To a lessor extent, this happens to all of us during our lives. If we're particularly observant, we can see the hurdles before our loved ones or ourselves smash into them. We may warn and advise and still be forced to witness a bad outcome. Just because you know there's a trap doesn't always mean you can avoid it. One of my favorite characters from Greek mythology had this problem. Cassandra knew what was coming, but was cursed so no one would listen to her warnings. No matter what she did, she understood she would inevitably bear witness to unspeakable carnage as the city she called home went up in flames. She's described as being crazy and, frankly, I don't blame her. In writing the Amunites I often wonder what keeps them from going nuts and they tread a very thin line with regards to their sanity. Insanity is, after all, a rational response to an insane world.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lesson for the week

I almost got hit by a bike yesterday. Not an unusual occurance in a big city during the summer, but this sequence of events stuck in my mind. I honestly didn't see the guy since I was looking for cars on a one way street. Since cars couldn't come from behind me and turn I wasn't looking behind me. Should I have looked anyway in retrospect? Probably. As I prepared to cross the street, he came from behind and turned to bike against traffic down the street. I wasn't expecting him and my hand grazed his tire at which point he cussed me out and shook his head in disdain like I was a stupid, petulant two year old. Not the first time something similar has happened and certainly won't be the last, but it reminded me of a recurring theme I've been noticing. No one takes responsiblity for themselves anymore. I am in a unique position to hear every excuse known to man. It's the rare person who looks at me and says "I was to blame, it's my fault." I do the same thing too from time to time. It's easier to blame others, but it doesn't solve the problem. The only way to fix problems is to control what we have direct control over and that means admitting we have control in the first place. Blame is easy, responsibility and work is hard. And always look because you never know what's coming up behind you. Thus endeth the lesson.

Friday, July 9, 2010


I get to work freakishly early. I am up anyway sans alarm at some ridiculous time which I attribute to the training we're required to have since medical school to function on as little sleep as possible. I like the world better either early in the morning or late at night. There's a peacefulness which simply can't be found during the day. Time to breathe, time to think. I get my best writing done during this time as if my imagination feels stifled by the crush of humanity and sunlight. I am comfortable being alone for extended periods of time. It works for me. Maybe it's because I interact with so many people for my work on such a personal level. During my down time I don't want to talk, I don't want to be in big crowds. I just want peace and quiet. I think that's why my husband and I get along so well. We both see the value in comfortable silence. Sometimes it's enough to be there for each other guarding the solitude of the soul.

Monday, June 28, 2010

He who fights with monsters...

I've had to make some career decisions lately which got me thinking. The older I get, the more my professional and personal interests intersect. For example, I enjoy working with monsters both fictional and real. I am fascinated by what makes them tick, drives them to do what they do. To say that I am not frightened by them would be foolish. They are frightening, they're supposed to be. We mythologize serial killers as a form of exposure therapy. By hearing the terrible things they've done, we hope the shock will wear off. It's why we tend to make our monsters in cinema and literature either feral or cuddly, but rarely anything in between. If they're feral, you load up the artillery and go hunting. Problem solved. If they're sexy and innocuous, they aren't a threat. It doesn't matter he has fangs and no pulse, you can still pick out china patterns and take him home to Mommy. I like my monsters to be monsters even though their complexity makes my job inevitably more difficult. Complexity is not a vice. We all will be called upon to fight monsters at some point in our lives. It never hurts to be prepared.

Monday, June 21, 2010

We'll always have Heaven on Seven

I joke and say being a doctor is my day job, but the reality of any residency is practically living at the hospital. There’s a special bond which develops between people thrown in this pressure cooker for years at a stretch. My program has a buddy system, tossing two residents together for a year and a half of grueling inpatient work and a call schedule that makes everyone want to cry. For those eighteen months, I was with my resident partner in crime more than I was with my husband. Being in the trenches with someone fosters a certain level of trust and a deep sense of camaraderie. There aren’t too many people I believe would truly have my back, in fact, I can count them on one hand. He’s one of them… and he’s leaving. With any luck he’ll read this and understand while I may be good at manipulating words, I am terrible when it comes to saying goodbye. I am not an easy person to get to know, but he put in the extra effort. This easy-going attitude and concern for others around him is what makes him good at both his job and life. I don’t think I ever said thanks. Gratias tibi ago, my friend.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


The spiders have invaded. In all fairness, I knew they were coming and yet I did nothing to repel their advance. So here I sit, barricaded in my citadel, hoping our stockpiles last their siege or the first frost in the fall wipes them out, whichever comes first. I swore to a friend of mine in college I would never live higher than the tenth floor of a building. Turns out my foresight is terrible and I currently reside on the thirty second floor. The view makes it worth it and since I am a mosquito magnet I was hoping to at least get a reprieve from the bugs. No such luck. The spiders popped up that first summer and have been a reoccurring theme ever since. Overall, I like spiders. I like watching them spin their intricate webs and crawl around the windows doing their aerial acrobatics. What I am not so fond of is them dive bombing into my hair while I am trying to get burgers off the grill. I am left with the choice of surrender through cohabitation or making my stand and reclaiming the patio which is rightfully mine. This means war.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness.

I have absolutely nothing witty to say today. There are going to be days like this. I stare at a blank piece of paper and no matter how hard I try, all the creativity I have been granted with is nowhere to be found. I had a patient once who told me they didn’t want to take their medications because it dulled their creativity. Colors didn’t seem as bright, the world moved on around them, but their mind didn’t make the leaps it usually did. The spark was simply gone. I empathized with this more than the patient may have believed at the time given my strong insistence they remain on their regimen. Preserving their life through the crisis period was more important, but I know the abject loneliness of having that creative side escape you even for a short time. For truly creative people it’s not just a hobby, it’s an ingrained piece of themselves. It is all pervasive and when it is gone it leaves a gaping blackhole in the soul.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Doctor, the werewolf in bed 4 wants to talk to you.

After careful assessment, I have concluded a certain patient is not the werewolf they claim to be. Clinical lycanthropy is a rare psychiatric problem, but a very cool one which I have yet to see (for those who assumed I was purely vampire obsessed, guess again). In a nutshell, it is a psychiatric disorder where the person's delusions have them convinced they are or can change into an animal. Lest you think this is limited to alpha creatures like wolves, there is a case report of a patient who thought they were a bumble bee (and the list of creatures just gets odder from there). While many in my profession rightly chalk this behavior up to the delusion, I take an extra minute to reflect. I have read enough medicine to know the rational explanation is usually correct, but enough history and mythology to know the world is a strange place. A part of me is on the lookout for the outlier, the patient who may be beyond the scope of medical science and in the realm of the paranormal. I will likely never encounter this. The brain is a fascinating and sometimes terrifying organ, creating chaos where none exists. I spend my days helping people heal a troubled mind knowing somewhere out there is a person haunted by demons which are not merely a distortion of the minds eye. Medicine and time does not heal all wounds.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Man's Inhumanity to Man

Ah, the Lalaurie mansion. Stately French Quarter masonry which 150 years ago hid a grim secret the echos of which can be felt to this day. We mark places rife with great suffering and torment, venerate them, vilify them. In truth, we are fascinated by such evil. What does it take for a doctor and a debutante, pinnacles of the community, to go so horribly wrong? Is it circumstance or an inborn defect to cause such a blackening of the soul? Would we be capable of such atrocities? It may sound nihilistic, but I believe except for select few pure souls, everyone has within them the propensity for good and evil. For most, even percieved altruism isn't what it appears. Often it is only undertaken if it profits the person more than selfish inaction. We exist in a world of gray, treading an incredibly thin line between order and chaos, most going through life blissfully unaware they are standing mere steps away from the abyss.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Majesty of Simplicity

The invention of the personal listening device has to be one of the greatest achievements of the last fifty years. Besides allowing me to translate my mood into notes and lyrics at the push of a button, it keeps me endlessly entertained no matter where I am. While I am never without a pen and notebook, there are times when even I don't want to read or write. This afternoon was one of them. Instead of lunch I sat on a bench under the shade of a tree, turned on the ipod, and watched the world. Humans are on the whole a lively bunch. For those of you expecting me to relate a bizarre or macabre happenstance, sorry to disappoint. It was a fairly average day with quirky behavior, odd fashion choices and even odder choices in traveling companions. Usually I maintain a stable pessimism, but days like this remind me to have a little faith in humanity as I observe life unfolding to the soundtrack of my choosing. Perfection in simplicity, beauty in chaos, and felicity in quiet moments on a busy afternoon.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gone But Not Forgotten

If you have never had a reason to hang around a hospital after hours, I highly recommend the experience, especially if there is an abandoned hospital wing. Wheelchairs and gurneys discarded haphazardly in shadowy hallways. Hospital debris scattered about as rooms which once housed the sick and wounded stand dormant, husks of their former selves. Paper-cluttered nursing stations stoically waiting for humans to return, yearning for usefulness. And above it all are the noises, creaks and echoes slicing the deafening silence broken by the oppressive subtle hum as if so many souls experiencing the greatest joy or desperate tragedy left remnants behind long after the last orderly turned out the lights. I tarry a few extra minutes before responding to my incessant pager. Like so many of the forlorn and forgotten, perhaps all these shades roaming these halls are waiting for is someone to take the time to listen.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Evidence of Things Not Seen

I make it a point never to engage in arguments with drunks or fools, but I got suckered in the other day in spite of my better judgment. I'll admit, sometimes my belief that there is things in this world I can't see, touch, or otherwise quantify seems a little out there to certain people. Then again, given the prevalence of paranormal themed TV shows, many of which are reality shows, indicates I am far from alone in my views. I have witnessed some things I simply cannot explain, but I never expect others to acknowledge these as reality. Sometimes senses fail and perception isn't always truth. Instead of arguing the metaphysical, let me do what I love and tell a story.

There was once a young man, Tony, who grew up idolizing his older brother, Louis. Louis was two years older, handsome, witty and charming. His freshman year of high school he made varsity track able to run sprints with such speed he left the school's next nearest record holder in the dust. To Tony's young eyes, his brother was superman. He would follow him around like an adoring shadow and unlike some older brothers, Louis would let Tony tag along with his friends letting him go with them past curfew, sneaking him into the newest R-rated horror movie. Life was ideal for the brothers until one day Louis started to develop a cough. It was easy to overlook, easy to ignore, but as the days went by the cough got worse. Louis stopped going out with his friends, could not longer run on the track team the way once could. He started to seem paler, listless until one night he collapsed after dinner. Fearing the worse, his parents rushed him to the hospital. Tony stayed home with an aunt who lived down the block assuming it was just a bad case of the flu. The next morning his parents returned home, their eyes bloodshot and faces tear-stained. There was no sign of Louis. Tony kept asking and finally his father summoned the courage to sit his remaining son down and tell him the terrible news. Louis was sicker than anyone knew. The doctors did what they could, but he died shortly after arriving at the hospital. Tony was grief stricken. He merely felt numb, going through the motions as the relatives came and went trying to comfort the family. Arrangements were quickly made and Louis was laid to rest two days later. The afternoon of the funeral was stormy, wind howling through the trees and lightning crackling across the sky. The family gathered at the aunt's home after visiting the cemetery when someone noticed they forgot an apple cobbler in the refrigerator at Tony's house. Wanting a few minutes of solitude, Tony offered to run home and get it. The house was dark and empty save for the occasional burst of lightning and rumble of thunder as he walked down the front hall towards the kitchen. As the thunder retreated he could faintly make out a sound just above him on the second floor hallway. At first he dismissed it as the patter of the rain, but the thumps steadily grew stronger and louder until he could no longer ignore it. Swallowing his fear he cautiously climbed the front staircase, more certain than ever what he was hearing. There was someone running up and down the second floor hallway. As he reached the top of the stairs, his eyes strained in the dark, trying to make out a figure to explain what he was hearing. He saw nothing, but the sounds continued as the phantom sprinted up and down the floorboards. Without warning, a cold blast of air rushed past him, the footsteps abruptly racing down the stairs and towards the front door. When they reached the door, the finally disappeared, leaving Tony dumbfounded. He didn't wait, racing out into the storm and back to his aunt's house. It was decades before he told anyone what he experienced. At first he wasn't sure how to describe it and, later, he worried about what people would think. Tony grew up to be a strong young man, playing on his high school football team and joining the army, serving his country with distinction. However he never forgot the night he heard Louis running sprints around the house one final time. He keeps a picture of his brother with him to this days. He never heard the footsteps again.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Madness takes its toll...please have exact change

In penning a crash course in world vampire myths, I was reminded of a glaring fact common to all these tales. Vampires are certifiably insane. As if being undead wasn't enough, they are also obsessive-compulsive, prone to fits of unpredictable violence, and from time to time psychotic. Like so many of our myths, I think much of this stems from our basic human desire to explain that which we do not understand. Madness is a unique condition. It can strike anytime, anywhere and anyone. Most illness we can see and otherwise wrap our heads around, but a previously stable and normal member of the village suddenly spouting gibberish necessitates a supernatural explanation. There is a reason one of the few universal truths to all legends regardless of where they originated is that a suicide can become a vampire. Likewise, most cultures believe if you scatter seeds, rice or other small objects around a vampire they are compelled to pick them all up one by one. The poor souls who suffered from mental illness at a time when such a thing was a totally foreign concept were labeled as monsters. Do I believe this explains away vampires and other monsters entirely? I do not. The world wouldn't be the same without a little mystery. There is no reason why science and the supernatural cannot coexist. And here my 5th grade teacher thought I was wasting my time with all those books on monsters. Turns out, on some level, doctor and vampire hunter are closer than you think.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Heart of Darkness

I am on a true crime kick. Besides watching an obnoxious amount of shows like Law and Order and Criminal Minds, I have picked up not but a few books on serial killers. Many of them have striking similarities and one bears an uncanny resemblance to a young man I evaluated in the ER one night. I have talked to many patients who have a history of or a potential for violence, but this guy was different. I have never felt so unsettled except I couldn't pinpoint precisely why he caused me to feel this way. His macabre desires and compulsions were in their fledgling stages, preventing anyone in our profession from keeping him for more than a week or two at the most, however, I will not be surprised if I see his face one day on the news under whatever titillating moniker the press is calling him as they unearth another victim. I wonder in reading these books what the family and friends of those discovered to be serial or spree killers think. How must it be to raise a child or sleep every night in the same bed with a spouse only to one day face the heinous things they'd done. More often than not it seems the killer wants the spotlight, reveling in the glory of their own sociopathic joy, but the family is thrust into the limelight as well and in their darkest hour become social pariahs. How could you not have known? Wasn't there something which tipped you off? Why didn't you stop them? Let's face it...when it comes to our nearest and dearest, there is much we forgive or ignore for the sake of love or civility. Why should these families be any different than the rest of us? If everyone from cops to doctors to teachers interacts with these predators among us and they raise no red flags in even those trained to spot deviant behavior, what hope do their families have? I wonder sometimes if my mind wasn't playing tricks on me. Maybe that patient I saw was more benign than I remember and it is my overactive imagination filling in the gaps. Or maybe this is what should be seen at rare moments of vulnerability early in their criminal career. What few witness and even fewer appreciate. As with so much, only time will tell. I, for one, would lock my doors and don't trust anyone who comes knocking. Evil is insidious and most effective in a pretty, unassuming veneer. With that comforting thought, I wish you all pleasant dreams.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Stranger stop and cast an eye

I've been going through old pictures (back before the digital age) scanning them in so they don't disintegrate before my very eyes. I miss having the time to stroll around cemeteries and photograph. Cemeteries are serene and the odds of meeting other people there are lower than in other public places. It is partially why I go on vacation to New England in the early winter. I think part of me never liked sharing and was not happy when ordered to share with younger siblings. When it comes to alone time, I want true solitude. Empty beaches, surf angrily crashing into the sand, wind howling like a banshee is a zen experience. Cemeteries, while technically densely populated areas, contain their inhabitants under a thick layer of dirt making them ideal places to gather ones thoughts. In perusing these pictures I decided some people have an odd way of commemorating the deceased. Some are simple, containing one or two words. Some have eerie statues, hooded figures or sobbing women, immortalizing the passing of a loved one by reminding the passerby mortality is self-limiting. And then there are a few truly bizarre ones like the tomb with only the words, "She is not dead...she is just away." One of my favorites is the pyramid with the angel and sphinx on either side of the door. I like the Egyptian imagery. I can't put into words precisely why this tomb in particular is so captivating, but like any good art it sneaks its claws into you without warning or explanation. There are others which I find endearing, but for now this will have to do.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Obessions, addictions and other ways to pass the time.

I have discovered an undeniable truth...I am addicted to writing. I pretend it is a hobby, but in reality it occupies more of my time than nearly anything else I do. I finished the fourth book, thrilled that at last I translated the story which took up residence in my brain since college into a tangible form. I closed my laptop, put away my flashdrive and celebrated with my husband. Not two days later, I found myself scribbling at work a short story about one of the characters during the days of ancient Rome. I know every detail, every facet of each of the characters' lives from the major protagonists to the most minor who are barely a blip on paper. I am privy to their more intimate thoughts, see through their eyes, feel what it is to walk in their skin. As much as I remind myself they do not exist, they feel real since they are now firmly ingrained as part of me. I remind myself this is what fiction does. Good fiction enthralls us, blurs the lines of reality and fantasy. Growing up, I distinctly remember falling in love with Sherlock Holmes. From the second I read "The Speckled Band," I knew this was the man I was going to marry. As I aged, I understood this character as a product only of Doyle's fervent imagination yet a part of me clung to the unattainable (and dare I say, unstable) man. The crush faded as most do, but enough of my desire for the ideal remained that my husband decided to usurp this character and found a creative and effective way to profess his intention, unwilling to be upstaged by a fictional detective in his beloved's affections. What is the point of this digression? Fiction lures us in and a truly captivating story becomes part of our reality, shaping our thoughts and the world around us. Right now, my reality remains in the world of monsters and men, but I hear the quiet murmurings of new stories, new characters. Like shimmering phantasms, they wait in the periphery, pulling energy and gaining momentum until they can one day be fully formed. And so I pick up my pen and once again lose myself to my own world. This is an addiction I hope to never be cured of. I enjoy this murky universe too much.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

No matter how close we are thrown together by circumstance, we are unknown to each other

I am oddly comfortable with solitude. I am discovering many are not. Lately, I have been spending a great deal of time counseling others to accept that in order to be comfortable in the world, one must know thyself. Notice I didn't say one had to be comfortable with themselves-- for most this is the impossible dream. I am not one of the pretty, shiny people and never will be so I will go from birth to death intensely uncomfortable in my own skin. However, at this point in my life I am quite comfortable in my own head murky as that square foot of real estate may be. I liked living alone in college and even when I had a roommate in medical school, my favorite nights were the ones where I had the place all to myself. People warned me marriage would ruin my desire for solitude, but my husband and I have a wonderful balance, respecting our mutual desire for companionship and reclusiveness and knowing when each is necessary. Plus the careers we have chosen ensure we spend more time with coworkers, patients and cold hospital corridors than we do with each other-- a blessing and a curse. For now, I bask in the joy of silence as I watch the dogs nap on the floor and let my mind wander, my imagination venturing forth in the quiet apartment able to run free unfettered by the fear of the harsh judgment of another. Maybe that is why I enjoy solitude. Like my mother and grandfather, I am a story teller. With all the characters running around in my brain it is impossible to ever be alone. How could I be lonely?

On a side note, yesterday it was beautiful, balmy, sunny and 65 degrees. Today I awake to fog and a nasty snow-rain mixture howling through the metropolis. I have lived in this city all my life and never will I understand it, but I do enjoy the unpredictable.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Rule #15: Know your way out

I have been a fan of horror movies since I was a teenager. When I was a kid, my mother had serious rules about what I could and couldn't watch; rules which were just begging to be broken by a precocious child. I remember an older cousin letting me stay up late one night while he watched It. Scared the bejesus out of me and I realized in order to provoke fear in others the trick is to play on the ordinary and innocent. Children, toys, bathrooms. Twist what people come in contact with on a daily basis into something dangerous and unpredictable. Voila: fear. The sensation intrigues me; the way the heart pounds, instantaneous clammy hands and dry mouth, the heightened senses straining for every potential abnormality in the world around you. It is never the movie itself which scares me, it is the aftermath, the way my mind conjures bloodthirsty monsters in every shadow and under every bed. My own refuge of home becoming unsafe due to demons of my own creation. I wonder if someday I will become immune to these effects just as the movie itself no longer scares me. If one day my imagination will not be as vivid, dulled by cruel time and the ceaseless barrage of life. I hope not. We are no longer chased across an open plain by a roaring lion yet the world remains ethereally dangerous. Since we cannot pinpoint a precise threat much of the time, fear is entertainment. I am frequently bored with the mundane and I long to be entertained.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Oh, the humanity

It has been an insane few months. Given my line of work, in retrospect, I should have been prepared, but there is not much I can do to reverse the fickle sands of time. The past few days have been foggy and not just your typical early morning dew. It is dragon's breath, slice it with a knife fog. Perfect writing weather. Finishing the fourth book has been a mission of mine for some time, but my day job keeps getting in the way. No longer. A few chapters shy of finishing, I need to shut myself in a room over the next few weeks any spare moment I find. Oddly enough, this is my preference. I spend my days smiling and nodding politely, listening empathically, all the while my mind turns to violence, characters drenched in blood. It is amazing how the mind can race off in two completely separate directions rooted in reality yet hovering somewhere in the netherworld of ghouls and ghosts. I live with angels but I dream of demons.