Just Maybe for Everything, There Is a Reason

“Where have all the living people disappeared to?” Sally asks and I’m not quite sure whether she’s addressing the question to me or merely ruminating out loud as she is sometimes known to do. “I mean the real-life people, not the walking dead with their heads buried in electronics that fight to live in overcrowded cities only to isolate themselves in public and form fake surface relationships on the internet.”

I make the assumption she is talking to me and I’m about to reply, but either I’m wrong in thinking the conversation included me or I took too long to speak up, because she continues, “I am so tired of dealing with avatars,” this is the name Sally applies to all sentient lifeforms capable of effectively communicating with her who ignore her for text messages and Instagram videos. “There must have been some shift in the social axis that I wasn’t made aware of that suddenly made every avatar I encounter uber unfriendly, discourteous and unkind. It’s like I’ve suddenly become a stranger to my neighbors, the city—hell, the whole goddamned societal globe. How is a person supposed to exist today without someone, anyone, offering up a bit of emotional support or maybe even just a helping hand? Am I the insane one here?”

I don’t answer, chiefly because my truth and her truth are rarely in alignment and I have no desire to hurt her feelings or open up a can of worms. I decide it’s a safer bet all around to allow her to vent her frustrations.

“And now everyone tosses the term friend around so haphazardly,” Sally gestures broadly into the open air as if delivering a sermon to an unseen congregation. “Slapping it onto a multitude of undeserving random strangers so that the original meaning of being someone that shares trust, confidence, and support, despite the odds and no matter the situation. And if an expert were to examine current day friendships, they would find that the relationships only last as long the favors derived from the friendship continue to exist.”

“Well, I’m your friend,” I finally chime in. “And none of that applies to me.”

“I’m not talking about you, of course.”

“You’re not talking to me, either. This is the verbal equivalent of a thread rant and I’m not saying that I don’t understand how you feel and agree with what you’re saying in part but I’d like to address this topic in a broader sense, if I may?”

Sally is visibly put-off by my interruption but gestures, “By all means, fill your boots.”

And I explain to her that one of my pet peeves with social media profiles and posts is the rampant negativity that prevails. After touting how happy, friendly, down to earth they are, individuals will proceed to run off a list of don’ts and other things that they absolutely positively will not stand for.

“But why not simply concentrate on the positive? And that includes you,” I pause to gauge her reaction. Her face is expressionless, perhaps I should stop but to be honest I want her to hear what I have to say, so I press on.

“As overused as the Gandhi quote is, why not try to Be the change you want to see in the world? Which means, perhaps instead of expecting people to immediately conform to your desired way of being—”

“Desired?”

“Yes, desired. Are you really being the type of person to the avatars that you want them to be to you? Why not pay it forward and set the example by walking the walk in addition to talking the talk? You want people to wave Hi to you on the street? Try waving first.”

“So, the responsibility rests solely on my shoulders?”

“Do I even have to answer that, Sally? If you want the people within your sphere of influence to treat you differently, who better than you to take on the responsibility?” 

Sally opens her mouth, closes it, then opens it again but says nothing, obviously attempting to formulate her response. In the silence, I continue.

“What if all the avatars you pass every day, the ones who somehow seem familiar for no apparent reason, the ones who brush past you without so much as an Excuse me, were all meant to cross your path for a reason?

“What if a soulmate—yes, I believe you can have more than onesomeone who held a message for your life and possible insights into your future, was lost because you were too deeply into your righteous indignation to catch their gaze?

“Or better yet, what if every bump was meant to be a chance for an avatar to share something they know that might help you on your path, or maybe even better still, you happen to be one of those people holding onto a piece of their life that needs to be let go or needs to be passed on like a story you need to share?

“Think about it, haven’t you ever come across people in your life you think will be there forever, and then they just fade away? Moving onto their own journeys, their own paths only to find them in your life again, stronger and more beautiful?

“And speaking of beautiful, this is a crazy, beautiful world, but you only get to see how wonderful it all is if you take chances. Don’t let opportunities pass you by. You do you, live your life and stay angry and vigilant if you’re comfortable with that but pay attention to the signs that maybe there are messages out there for you. Maybe there are people you need to meet, souls that can add to your journey through life. Souls to help you grow, souls to make you cry. Adding strength to your life and your soul. Just maybe for everything, there is a reason.”

“And you accused me of going on a rant? What the hell was that and where did it come from? That’s the most you’ve said to me in the two years I’ve known you,” Sally says, raising one eyebrow, then lowered them both suspiciously. “Wait a minute. You mean you, don’t you? You think you’re the person that’s meant to be my soulmate?”

I can feel the blush rising from my collar, up my neck and enveloping my face and I am powerless to stop it.

“Is that such a crazy idea?” I ask in a voice that cracks like I’ve regressed to puberty.

“I-I don’t know,” Sally shakes her head like she’s trying to shift the idea into place. “This is all so left field. Maybe we can discuss it over a cup of coffee?”

I pull my phone out of my belt clip, unlock it and begin scrolling, “Um, okay, friend, but just let me check my messages to see if I missed an important text or something.”

Sally’s face flushes with anger but before she can rage at me, I throw my hands up in surrender.

“Just kidding! It’s a joke! I’m joking!” I smile as I put my phone away.

Sally whacks me on the arm hard enough to sting, but she’s smiling, too, so maybe, just maybe, things might work out for the both of us.

Text and Audio ©2017 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

When You Know What You Want, Contact Me

We hated each other from the moment we met. No logical reason, just something at our mitochondrial levels, some cellular vibration or preternatural instinct caused a repulsion between us instead of attraction.

But a cool current ran beneath our fiery surface feud, a sameness we hadn’t discovered until we accidentally had a civil conversation and I realized just how interesting she was. She must have felt something similar because during the conversation she made me promise that I would not sleep with her under any condition. The request caught me off guard coming out of left field like that but, to be honest, the thought had not crossed my mind, so I agreed without a second thought.

The following day we were back to normal but every once in a while we shared a pleasant conversational moment. When the holiday season finally rolled around, a bizarre set of circumstances led us to being alone in her home. She had been drinking but was far from drunk and I supposed it allowed her to feel a little more at ease with me so we talked and talked and talked and talked. It had been a long time since I held a woman’s company in conversation alone until the break of dawn.

She mentioned she was getting tired and I took that as my cue to leave… when she stopped me. Producing a crochet blanket from behind her leather couch, she told me how comfortable it was and how she had fallen asleep on it many times. Then she laid down on the couch to demonstrate and invited me to come see for myself.

So I did.

I slid behind her, the big spoon to her little one, with the scent of her perfume, shampoo and even the liquor mixing in my nose and making my heart race. I held her and we talked, soft, slow and sweet. The opportunity was there and if I said I was not tempted in the least, I would be bald-faced lying. But to this woman who was in so many ways out of my league, this woman who whispered “I love that way your mind works,” I had given my word and I kept it and I have kicked myself every day since.

I refuse to admit I love her. Chiefly because I don’t, or at least not in a way I’d like to. Not in a healthy way. I am infatuated with her, but it is different from any infatuation I’ve ever felt to date. I see her everywhere and in nearly anyone who comes close to her hair coloring and body type. To be clear, I do not fantasize about her nor can I picture a future in which we share a life, but I cannot get her out of my mind. I know exactly where she is but I will not contact her. On the rare occasions that she contacts me, I sometimes do not respond. I do not know why I do this.

Her last text message read:

Are you ghosting me? Something I said? Whatever the deal is, when you know what you want, contact me.

I will never tell her what I truly want because she cannot give it to me. I do not desire her, but I do miss her. No, not really. Not in that way. I want her attention and possibly her affection but not all the time. I guess all I really want is the ability to travel back in time and relive that special one-of-a-kind night when all the pieces fell into place…

and break my promise.

Text and Audio ©2009 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Qomal

The following is an excerpt from a police interview with Imogen Debenham conducted by Detective Sergeant Ellis Oxley on 14 March 2019:

DS Oxley: Do you have any idea why you’re here?

Debenham: Your sniffer dogs…

DS Oxley: Cadaver dogs.

Debenham: Made sure to get that little detail in, didn’t you? All right, your cadaver dogs found something in my rose garden.

DS Oxley: The investigators unearthed a box…

Debenham: Made of four-inch thick cedar planks. It measured 1.143 meters long by .381 meters wide.

DS Oxley: How do you know the precise measurements of the box, Miss Debenham?

Debenham: Call me Imogen, and I know the measurements because I built the box, as you call it, with my own hands.

DS Oxley: And what would you call the box, Imogen?

Debenham: We both know what it is, don’t we? It’s a coffin that I buried just shy of 23 years ago, which makes me wonder why now? What sort of tip could you have received 23 years after the fact and from which of my neighbors?

DS Oxley: That isn’t relevant at the moment, Imogen…

Debenham: Then what is relevant?

DS Oxley: We found remains inside the coffin, which included bones.

Debenham: It’s interesting the details you leave out.

DS Oxley: What do you mean?

Debenham: What type of bones did you find? Animal? Human?

DS Oxley: I’m not at liberty…

Debenham: Detective Sergeant, I intend to cooperate fully with your investigation. I have agreed to this interview without a solicitor, and will answer any question put to me truthfully, provided that there exists a level playing field of honesty between us.

DS Oxley: A quid pro quo situation?

Debenham: Always been a fan of the Thomas Harris novels, I have. So, let’s look at the facts, shall we? You’ve found remains on my property, and although you suspect foul play, I have not been formally charged. So, what type of remains have you found?

DS Oxley: (clears throat) Our forensic team have determined that the bones are not quite human, but they bear certain similarities.

Debenham: Here is where we run into a bit of difficulty.

DS Oxley: How so?

Debenham: I can tell you exactly what they are, the remains, but you won’t believe me.

DS Oxley: You have no idea what I’d believe. I’ve come across things in my line of work that would make a madman’s head spin. So, let’s have it, then.

Debenham: You wouldn’t think to look at me now, but when I was younger, I caught the eye of every man I came across, and I enjoyed the fruits of my beauty and pursued all manner of pleasure with reckless abandon.

DS Oxley: What does this have to do with anything?

Debenham: I was careless. I became pregnant. No idea who the father was, and out of all the men who claimed to love me, who’d do anything for me, only one stepped up to take responsibility. He was a kind man, not the sort I was usually attracted to, but he was attentive and saw me through the pregnancy…

DS Oxley: Imogen…

Debenham: It was a stillbirth.

DS Oxley: I’m…sorry for your loss.

Debenham: The funny thing was I hadn’t planned on keeping the baby. After it was born, I was going to put it up for adoption, and let the kind gentleman and myself off the hook, because I wanted to return to my lifestyle, only a little bit wiser as not to repeat this mistake. But, as soon as I saw the lifeless body of my newborn, I became inconsolable.

DS Oxley: The remains we found were not consistent with that of a newborn child.

Debenham: Of course not. My biological son, it was a boy, in case I hadn’t mentioned, was offered to a family who excelled in the care and raising of dead children, and in exchange, I was given Qomal.

DS Oxley: I need to stop you there, Imogen. Are you saying this family raised your son from the dead?

Debenham: Don’t be absurd. The family was from a race of the embalmed dead, who would embalm my boy and care for him as only they could. They were in a similar situation with a living being on their hands, with no means to care for it.

DS Oxley: So you swapped a dead baby for a living one?

Debenham: I swapped my son for Qomal. So much like a child. All it ever needed was a cup of milk with a few drops of my blood in it every morning, some toys to play with, and sweets and biscuits to eat. To keep the contract intact, all that was required was lighting a black candle every night, burn some incense, and recite a mantra.

DS Oxley: What sort of contract?

Debenham: A Qomal isn’t forever. They’re meant to help you through the grieving process for the loss of a child. It’s like a toddler, you see, except its skin has a greenish hue, its eyes are red and clouded, its ears are pointed, and it has rows of sharp teeth. But while it was alive, I saw none of this, because I was its mother and only viewed my Qomal through the eyes of love.

DS Oxley: And when the contract expires…?

Debenham: You mean when my grief was manageable? The Qomal grows weak, calcifies and dies.

DS Oxley: How did you know to do all this? Making the exchange, observing the terms of a contract?

Debenham: I didn’t. It was my kind gentleman who introduced this world to me.

DS Oxley: What is his name?

Debenham: That I will not tell you. I made him a promise and I intend to honor it.

DS Oxley: Are you two still together?

Debenham: No, we parted ways when Qomal died.

DS Oxley: Why?

Debenham: I was meant to cremate Qomal, place the ashes in an urn and bury it beneath a flower bed, but I couldn’t bring myself to burn something I loved, something that helped ease my pain and nurse me back to sanity. The gentleman said there would be consequences, and I have waited 23 years for them to arrive.

At this point in the interview, loud scratching noises can be heard on the recording, as well as the sound of footsteps and a door being opened, followed by the guttural snarls of an unspecified animal.

DS Oxley: Holy Mother of Jesus!

Debenham: My baby?

The recording concludes with the sounds of screaming amidst a great commotion.

The current whereabouts of Detective Sergeant Ellis Oxley and Imogen Debenham have yet to be determined.

Text and Audio ©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

The Armistice

There is an idiom, “lost in thought” that means thinking about or concentrating on something to the point where a person is not paying attention to the current issue at hand or being mentally absent from a particular situation. In Abigail’s case, she must remain ever mindful not to literally lose her way in the serpentine labyrinth of her mind, for she has Dissociative Dimensional Disorder (DDD).

Her mental disorder is characterized by the maintenance of at least two distinct and relatively enduring alternate dimensional states. Normally, DDD is associated with overwhelming past lives regression traumas, triggered by abuse during childhood, while other cases are linked to experiences of time travel war, or botched medical cerebral implant procedures during puberty. Abigail, however, is the first known case in which genetic and biological factors are believed to play a role.

Her mother, Samantha Villarreal, was a Gunnery Sergeant of the Prime Preservers Phalanx group of the Interstellar Marine Corps, who kept her pregnancy a secret during the Operation Brimstone Offensive in which she was temporarily trapped within the vortex of the invading alien’s dimensional gateway. As a result, Abigail’s brain now hosts two separate dimensions which are in a constant struggle for dominance.

In the reality in which this story is being written, Abigail is currently on a date with a young man she is desperately trying to impress. They are in a movie theater but she is not aware of what is happening on the screen. Instead, she is lost in thought, standing on the ornate bridge in her mind that connects the two warring dimensions, talking with the other dimension version of herself.

“Things are kind of complicated with me right now, so maybe it’s not a good thing to, you know, be in my life,” Abigail says.

“Are you trying to get rid of me?” asks Other Abigail.

“No, you’ll always be a part of my life…”

“As what? If I can’t be your equal, and someday your better, more dominant side, what else is there?”

“I don’t know what, not right at this moment.”

“But you’re telling me you need space?”

“Yeah, a little bit.”

“Then you’re definitely ditching me.”

“Who said anything like that? I just met this really cool guy and I’m sort of, I don’t know, into him, and stuff. I just need to sort my life out and I can’t do that with you standing smack dab in the middle of it.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“It means I have a limited capacity for coping with stress and all the baggage you bring with you, your problems, your life, it’s, well, it’s draining my reserves.”

“Oh.”

“I know how that sounds and it didn’t come out right…”

“No, it’s fine. I get it.”

“I didn’t mean…”

“I’m just gonna go, okay?”

“No, not like this.”

“How am I supposed to go? You come to me with that box in your hand…what’s in the box, by the way?” Other Abigail asks.

“Remember that baggage I mentioned before?”

“You packed my stuff when I wasn’t around?”

“Please don’t make this weird,” Abigail says, handing over the box. “I didn’t know you were going to be here, so I was just going to leave it on your side of the bridge.”

“Wow, you’re a piece of work,” Other Abigail says, opening the box and rifling through its contents. “You sure this is all mine?”

“Pretty sure. I couldn’t remember who had that crazy fantasy about all those boy bands in the Jell-O pool…”

“The one with the tea party unicorns?”

“Yeah.”

“That was you.”

“Oh, well, in that case, you can have it. Consider it my gift to you. It’s still pretty steamy, so enjoy it…and maybe think of me.”

“Um, thanks?”

Abigail laughs, “Stop it. You know what I mean.”

“I do,” Other Abigail admits. “You do realize that I don’t have to go, right? That I can take advantage of this situation at any time and totally overrun you while you’re swapping spit with Mr. Kissyface?”

“Please don’t.”

“I won’t. I just wanted to let you know that I could, if I wanted to.”

“I know, and thank you.”

“Well, I’ve got a boy band Jell-O pool party fantasy to get stuck into, so I’ll be on my way,” Other Abigail closes the box and begins making her way back to her side of the bridge. “I’ll be back with a vengeance once the puppy love phase is over.”

“And I’ll be waiting for you,” Abigail smiles.

Over her shoulder, Other Abigail shouts, “And take a copious amount of notes. I want details on this guy who was important enough to call an armistice for.”

Text and Audio ©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Please Read My Lonely Talk (Part 3): Blind Man’s Bluff

“Lonely Talk” Part 1 here…

“Lonely Talk” Part 2 here…

The elegance palace in which I work is huge, larger than most I have seen in the city, with at least two thousand working girls at an average age of twenty-five, which is fairly decent for a bordello.

In the center of the Hostess Center, there is a big stage, where a live band sets the mood of the palace. Why a live band at a sex shop? To help break the ice. Most of the clients are intimidated when they first walk in, which means it is the hostess’s job to make them relax via a series of activities.

One such activity is the Single Mingle, where I must dance with a client if they ask me. Refusing a client a dance means I am forced to pay a penalty. To date there was only one time I was ever tempted to face being fined. It was with a client who looked old enough to have great, great, great, great grandchildren.

He kept pulling me in close by the waist and I could feel his erection poking my thigh. Hard enough to sex four women at once. But that was the only solid thing about him. His grip around my waist was feeble and he had a body tremor that he desperately tried to suppress. My guess is that he was rounding the corner on eighty and found a pill that gave him an eighteen-year-old’s erection. Problem was if I kissed him hard enough he’d have a heart attack, so instead, I danced him around until his hard-on caught up with his age and sent him on his way. I considered that my senior citizen service for the month.

Not all of my clients are one-offs, though. I have a regular, a blind man, and if it is possible for a woman in my line of work to have a favorite, then he is mine. A hassle-free man that I do not have to dress up in silly costumes for or pretend to be someone else. Our sessions are almost always the same. Short, but sincere small talk, followed by kissing and heavy petting, then a massage followed by a leg hump in cowgirl position until he ejaculated. The very first time I put his erection between my lubricated thighs and moved up and down for several minutes, he exploded easily.

When it was over, he asked, “Did you use a rubber?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Why not?”

It caught me off guard, the way he asked. If I am being honest, I felt a little insulted that he thought I was so filthy that he could contract a disease from me from a simple leg hump. I wanted to tell him what I pack is far worse than any STD he could ever imagine.

“Is it really all right with you?” he asked.

Then I understood. He thought he was inside me. I chuckled and explained who I was, what I was capable of and what I actually did.

“Taking advantage of a blind man, eh?” If he was hurt, I could not detect it.

“That is not it at all. You did not know who I was. You did not come here looking to beat the odds or for an easy way to die. You did not judge me based on my appearance. I was not a spectacle. So, what I gave you was pleasure and allowed you to keep your life.”

He reached out for my hand and I took his. “I’m not sure how happy I am being deceived like that, but it felt real. The best I’ve ever had.”

And the damnedest thing happened. Despite the fact that I sell sex and death for money and I hate my job, this blind man paid me a compliment that made me feel good about myself. Pathetic, I know, but you have to take the good bits as they come.

And for the record, for all you that might think a leg hump is lazy, let me tell you that it is more work and harder to make a man ejaculate than either manual or oral stimulation.

Now, I hear you asking, “If you can do all this then why do you kill so many men?”

Human men die because human men are stupid! I offer them options but they always want what is worst for them. Who wants any other orifice when they have access to a taboo killer vagina?

Did I mention how stupid human men are?

To be continued…

Text and Audio ©2014 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

The Crush

Lolsy never believed in infatuation at first sight. To her, attraction had always been a mental process. Physical beauty was a temporary thing, a pretty wrapping that often disguised an ugly package. Then she met Marleton, a new hire at work, who, at first glance, awakened an inner poet she never knew existed.

To her, this man was that magical type of handsome that seeped into the marrow of her bones, that drew her into the depth of his eyes, which would have been beautiful in any shade, with the siren song of his gentle voice. When he spoke her name, her mask slipped, the one she wore to keep the world at bay, her heartbeat quickened, and she became lost in lurid fantasies of how she would please his body all over the conference room, on the floor, the chairs, on top off the table, all while her coworkers watched with envy.

She caught herself locking eyes with him constantly, where he would smile and patiently wait for her to initiate conversation, but her vapor-locked brain turned her mute, forcing her to turn away in embarrassment. At night, she pondered how she could have fallen head over heels for an absolute stranger who was eight years her junior? She had never been interested in younger men before and sincerely doubted they would have had anything in common, so she made it her business to avoid him, but the office was too small for that to work effectively, and all it took was for him to laugh at her weak attempts at humor to be sucked into fantasies about having him on the copier machine, in the break room, in the elevator, and in the parking lot, on top of the cars, again, so all her coworkers could bubble over with jealousy.

And she knew the sex would be spectacular because she was an Aries and he was a Sagittarius, and everyone knew that Aries was ruled by Mars, that red hot passion planet, and Sagittarius was ruled by Jupiter, the planet of philosophy and luck. Their signs tended to look at the world in the same way, and his Sagittarius liked to take risks under Jupiter’s indulgent influence, and her Mars was all about initiative, and taking aggressive action. So, why then was she stalling? If she simply took what belonged to her, she knew he would be ready and willing to go along for the ride.

And that was all it took. Lolsy made her mind up to pop the latches on her restraint, as she damned the torpedoes, and went full steam ahead. The following day at work, she marched up to Marleton and told, not asked, but told him that they were going out on a date, and as she suspected, he offered absolutely no resistance with anything she planned for their night together.

When they met at the restaurant, Marleton arrived in casual wear, while Lolsy dressed up sexier than sexy, because she wanted to make her intentions clear. You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. This man was going to have to step up his game. She was going to burst onto the scene like a crossfire hurricane, and run him through his paces, and make him feel the way he made her feel from the very start.

All that changed the moment he greeted her and pulled out her chair at the table. Her bravado evaporated, making way for sweet happiness, as they talked and flirted their way through the meal. The chemistry between them was undeniable, and they effortlessly progressed from laughter to kisses, to sweet whispered exchanges, to an Uber ride back to his apartment.

The time for pretense had long passed, so they went straight from the front door to the bedroom. In his presence, in this place, all Lolsy’s foolish notions of being in control melted away. The nearness of Marleton, filled her nose with a scent that let her know instantly that he was her drug. His arms wrapped around her back and in one gentle pull, their lips touched and his tongue probed her mouth and she was intoxicated in an instant.

“Whatever you want, you can have,” Lolsy said, trying her damnedest to focus on getting the words out clearly through the heady trance he put her under. “There isn’t a thing I can do to stop you, and I don’t want to stop you.”

With a laugh, Marleton lifted Lolsy off her feet, carried her to the bed, and set her down gently onto the mattress. He stripped her expertly, gingerly, before disrobing himself, and climbing in the bed beside her. His fingers combed through the softness of her hair, before moving along her cheek, down to her neck, and every inch of skin he brushed, his lips blessed that area with a kiss that sent electricity through her body. He went down one side, and came up the other, and when they were face to face, they locked eyes. He silently asked for consent and she granted it gladly with a nod. Then he was all business, moving atop her, slotting their bodies together as if they were missing pieces of a puzzle that had finally become whole.

They engaged in amorous congress for hours that seemed like days that seemed like years. When all was finally said and done, a weak and breathless Lolsy smiled and said, “I knew it would be like this.”

“You did?”

Lolsy nodded, “Of course. You’re a Sagittarius.”

“Far more than that, I’m afraid,” Marleton chuckled. “I’m also an incubus.”

Off her confused expression, Marleton explained that he was a demon, of sorts, who engaged in sexual activity with women in order to prolong his life. If she understood, or objected, he could not be sure, for Lolsy was too feeble by this point to effectively communicate, but although a demon, he was not a monster. He made her as comfortable as he could manage, as he drained her of every iota of her life force.

Text and Audio ©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Beyond Words

Shinichi Mochizuki’s solution to the ABC Conjecture

One of the major downsides to tech advancement on Earth, after our biggest brains finally made faster than light interstellar space travel a reality and we opened our planetary borders to all friendly offworld visitors, was that the human dating pool became oh so very shallow.

Bored with the same old same old, curious and adventurous single and married people began dipping their toes in alien waters, some for the experience, others for committed relationships, and the rest simply for bragging rights. It had gotten so bad that finding a partner interested in a same species relationship became near impossible. And those not willing to get it on with an extraterrestrial, chose to marry their farm animals, automobiles, cartoon characters and even holograms, rather than share intimacy with another human being.

I tried to fight the good fight and preserve the human race, but there’s only so much rejection a man can face before throwing in the towel. I resigned myself to a fate of hermitry, and searched for hobbies to occupy my mind until the day my card was punched for the final time.

But the universe wasn’t done tormenting me yet. On my birthday, I received an anonymous gift in the mail: an all expenses paid trip to an orbital platform that was hosting a speed dating event. My first reaction was to chuck the invite in the trash and return to my 40,000 piece jigsaw puzzle of the notorious math problem, “The ABC Conjecture.” What stopped me was the 7 course meal and open bar, guaranteed, whether you successfully found a match or not.

Shinichi Mochizuki’s mathematical solution could take the back seat for a night, while I stuffed my face in space and got absolutely pie-eyed.

I made a half-hearted attempt at looking decent, no sense in getting turned away at the space jitney depot for improper attire, and got a jumpstart on the festivities by knocking back as many complimentary cocktails on the flight up to the orbital platform as I could manage.

The plan was to make a beeline for the food and bar, and when I had my fill, catch the next available jitney home. The catch was that I had to complete at least one round of speed dating before having access to food and drink. The second disappointment was absolutely my fault for not reading the invite carefully. I was one of ten humans in attendance, all of them male, because this was an interspecies speed dating event. How in the world did I overlook that detail?

For four minutes at a pop, I went through the motions of engaging in conversation with an Onzuid, a Thraikket, a Brelgut, a Mellad, a Thaeqen, and a Raphoth, and a majority of those dates were spent struggling to communicate in broken english, which I had to give them credit for. They knew more of my language than I knew of theirs.

My final obstacle was a Neita, who spoke no english at all. She, the assumed pronoun because she wasn’t able to convey one herself, spoke an melodies while her bioluminescent skin shifted through the color spectrum with each note. I had no idea what she was saying but I had to admit, it was beautiful to watch.

When it was my turn to talk, I decided to sing about my upbringing, not knowing whether she would be impressed by my effort, or take offense, thinking she was being mocked, but I was only here for the food and drink, so what the hell.

I sang about being born in The Bronx, in a neighborhood that history marked as one of the most dangerous places to live in New York at the time, but on my block, everyone spoke like they knew you. We played on the concrete year ’round because there was no local park, ate free bologna and butter sandwich lunches at the public school during the summer and filled our days playing handball, riding bikes, competing in games like Steal The Bacon, Hot Peas And Butter, Ringolivio, Freeze Tag, Skelzies, and when we got a little older, Run-Catch-Kiss. Water fights consisted of anything you could fill from the open fire hydrant (pots, pans, cups, buckets, or whatever). And if you didn’t go home dirty, you weren’t having a good time. We ate whatever we wanted because no one knew a thing about food allergies (and fried chicken and red Kool-Aid was as important as the air we breathed). We fought with our hands and made up the next day like nothing happened. And if you showed disrespect to your elders, or looked in their mouth while they were talking to grown folks you would get put in your place immediately. And the universal rule was, once the street lights came on, that was our curfew. Anything left undone would have to wait until tomorrow.

When I was done, she smiled (at least I took it to be a smile) and glowed a calming shade of yellow. The bell rung and I nodded goodbye and made my way to the dinner table. To my surprise, she joined me, and we sang to each other for the rest of the night.

When the event was over (yes, I stayed to the end) and before we went our separate ways, I gave her my phone number. I wasn’t sure if she understood the gesture, if she would call me, or even how we would manage to meet up if she did call. All I knew was that love would find a way.

Text and Audio ©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Eulogy For Gurgi

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A man died today, a man whose name I never knew. We were given codenames, you see, and they became our identities. I was Eilonwy, named after the princess in my favorite book at the time, The Book of Three from The Chronicles of Prydain. And he was called Gurgi. I was a little girl when we met and the things I first remembered about him were that he always opened doors for me and he always carried a gun.

I never touched a door when Gurgi was around. He opened them when I approached and also as I exited. He spent a great deal of his time with me standing by doors or shooing me away from windows. I was too young to understand at the time that he was saving the life of a hot-tempered, stubborn and resolute little girl who happened to have royal blood coursing through her veins.

A fit man, ramrod straight back, dressed in a neatly pressed grey suit that he wore like a uniform, Gurgi was always polite even when I tested his patience demanding to play with his guns. He had so many of them. Mostly revolvers, with the occasional pump shotgun or automatic rifle. His belts were decorated with bullets and small pouches, compartments that held first aid kits, anti-venom and antidotes for most known poisons.

Gurgi would talk with me after the room had been secured and measures put into place so that my safety was insured. He told me of his many professions before finding employment with my father. A physician on his homeworld, he was unable to secure a medical license on Earth and forced to find work as an electrician, a skill taught to him by his father. A skill that introduced him to my father.

After being properly vetted, Gurgi was hired to rewire our home and during that time, the house came under attack and I was separated from my family. Men came to me, to hurt me, to abduct me, to possibly even kill me. Thankfully I never had the opportunity to discover which, as Gurgi happened upon the men who happened upon me and dispatched them. He took a gun off one of my attackers and shot them all until they no longer moved. A skill taught to him by his mother. A skill that impressed my mother.

On the rare occasion, he spoke about the life he left behind. His wife, whose name I sadly couldn’t remember, was famous in their colony for the roast she prepared for the Feast of Xoncha, a planetwide day of life appreciation. She roasted bamen but never relied on shop-bought, insisting instead on raising her own from pups that were well fed, cared for and loved just shy of becoming pets. Gurgi’s role in the process included rendering the bamen incapacitated, exsanguination, scalding and dehairing, evisceration and dividing the carcass in half longitudinally. The last one weighed five hundred and sixty kilos and was simply too large for his wife to handle alone.

I asked him if his wife served the bamen with its head.

“Of course!” Gurgi replied. “The tongue, cheeks, and ears were served as the appetizer with dipping sauces made from blood and innards.” I crinkled my nose and he burst into raucous laughter. It was the only time he both laughed and saddened when he reminisced about his life before me. It would be years before I understood that only love and nostalgia had the power to make you feel both happiness and sorrow at the same time.

He took breaks between the tellings to smoke. Out of necessity, not habit. In order to exist in our atmosphere, his lungs required an intake of a combination of elements that could only be found in the smoky by-product of a chemical reaction. He always made sure another man stood guard as he left the area to light his pipe, even though I told him I was quite capable of taking care of myself.

One recent evening when Gurgi stepped out into the garden to prolong his life, a number of people disguised as guards cut power to the house, slipped through father’s security systems and attempted to kidnap me. Gurgi hadn’t finished tamping down the compound in his pipe before he whirled to the sound of my muffled cries.

Glass exploded as two shots ripped through the sliding patio door and tore jagged wounds into two of the faux guards, one in the neck, the other in the eye. Gurgi crashed through the door in a shower of broken glass and before he could react, a baton from his blindside whipped down hard on his forearm and his gun went spinning across the floor.

He flung his arm back brutally as he spun, a wild swing — and a lucky one. His elbow smashed the nose of the attacker behind him who dropped like a stone. A heel to the Adam’s apple made sure the intruder stayed down.

Gurgi turned and locked eyes with the woman who held me by the throat and used me as a shield. He assessed but didn’t move. His stance was wide, his hands flexed.

My captor wrapped my hair around her hand, balled it into a fist, yanked my head back, and placed the muzzle of her pistol on my exposed neck. Gurgi dove, tackling us both to the ground. A shot went off before the gun skittered out of the woman’s grip.

The woman was agile, nimble. She spun away from Gurgi, and they both scrambled to their feet and faced each other, circling. The woman drew a knife from her belt and with cat-like reflexes leapt forward. The blade caught the light as it arced down and sliced into Gurgi’s arm.

I scurried to a corner of the room and grabbed a gun and aimed it in the direction of the two circling shapes in the dark, unable to get a clear shot and not wanting to shoot Gurgi by mistake.

“Run!” Gurgi yelled through a tight throat. He hadn’t smoked his compound so every breath he took now was slowly killing him. “Go!”

I hesitated, my heart pounding painfully, worried that I’d make the wrong choice. Too afraid to pull the trigger, and resisting the urge to turn and run.

The moment Gurgi shot me a sideward glance, the woman feinted to the side, then spun around, using her canted balance to put weight behind her thrust as she lunged. Gurgi grabbed her knife hand but the momentum of her pivot crashed her into him. They slammed into the wall with teeth-rattling violence, furiously grappling. The woman drove a knee into Gurgi’s midsection. He exhaled a grunt and nearly fainted.

She struck him with her free hand, a backhanded fist to the temple and followed with another knee to his stomach. Gurgi’s legs crumpled beneath him. The woman pounced on top of Gurgi, straddling him. He blocked her fatal knife thrust, but the blade bore down directly over Gurgi’s throat.

The pair were locked in a death embrace, but the woman had the advantage. She pressed her body on the blade and Gurgi struggled beneath her. Slowly, inexorably, the blade inched down until the tip pierced his skin and drew blood.

With the last of his strength, Gurgi bucked and threw the woman off balance. I panicked and slid the gun to him. The woman recovered quickly and brought the knife down on him again. A shot rang out. The back of the woman’s head exploded outward. She blinked once in disbelief, tugged weakly on Gurgi, then dropped to the floor.

I ran to Gurgi, who shivered and convulsed, as he fought every instinct to draw a breath. I fumbled through the compartment on his belt where he kept his pipe. It was empty. The garden! I raced outside and scoured the grass until I found where he had dropped the pipe. When I returned with it, it was too late. He was dead.

He will be sorely missed—both by his family and by his many friends, like me, whom he helped and inspired. But as he rests from his life’s long labor, this great bodyguard and friend should know that he made this princess proud. The world was most definitely a better place because of a man I only knew as Gurgi.

Text and Audio ©2011 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

About Eulogy For Gurgi: This started as a very vague idea ten years ago, after reading a novel in which the heroine was forced to undergo a transformation after the loss of her protector. I wondered what would make someone of royal blood want to become a bodyguard? It was such an unusual status/occupation that the idea stayed with me for years.

The idea simmered in my unconscious mind as I read piles of crime novels. It toyed with me as I watched the myriad twists on the crime procedural genre play out on television. It teased me mercilessly until I decided I wanted to take one of the twenty story snippets I had laying around and finish it. The princess bodyguard idea emerged from the pile and demanded a fairy tale happy ending suitable for a princess.

I wrote fast and ended up with a first draft with a gaping plot problem. It took me a month to figure out how to fix it. I was sitting in a meeting at work when the solution suddenly popped into my head. I scribbled the idea in the margin of my meeting notes and re-wrote the first chapter that night.

It will be a novel someday.

This is the teaser I wrote to get my juices flowing.

The Loss of Breadcrumbs

What caused me to speak to the man, I cannot rightly say, for I do not make it my business to chat with homeless people. They are ten a penny in the city in which I live and work and if I regularly engaged with them, I would never make an appointment on time. But there was something about this man with the sun-faded, barely legible cardboard sign, something in the deep well of his eyes that beckoned me to him.

His name was Horace, or so he claimed, and I patted my pockets to add validation to my claim that I had no money to drop into his dingy paper coffee cup, a statement I made before he even asked. In truth, he never asked. I simply went into automatic defensive mode, not wanting to seem heartless, but not offering any charity, either.

“We all drop breadcrumbs in life,” Horace said.

“Do we?” I asked, struggling to mark his intention.

Horace nodded. “Even the most carefree among us, and we do this because normalcy comes well-equipped with comfort zones. You may take exception to the word normalcy but it has nothing to do with the definition society places on the word normal. Here it applies to the recurrent patterns in your life, the things you’ve grown accustomed to.”

“I don’t follow you.”

“The breadcrumbs are used to lead us back to the path of familiarity, when the detours we take spiral beyond our ability to control and/or accept.  I stray from the path constantly chiefly because my path is an uneventful one, which many people would kill for, but I find boring. I ought to be a baker with the amount of breadcrumbs I’ve dropped over the years.”

“Um, I’d love to chat, but I really must be on my way.”

“Since I’ve always been able to find my way home I never had a problem tearing my life apart,” Horace continued, as if he hadn’t heard me. “Going on concrete jungle pilgrimages, and returning to my path at some later date to rebuild things from scratch. But this time is different. This time the demolition wasn’t of my choosing and there’s something about the way events have been playing out over the past six months that have clued me in on the fact I am near the end of the race.”

“You’re dying?”

“Homeless yet again, despite my best efforts to avoid it, I have this sinking feeling deep in my marrow that this will be the final time. There’s no way out and no way back. All the breadcrumbs I dropped to lead me back to the main road of rebuilding my life are gone. Most likely eaten by the crows of a fate long overdue. I guess you can only hit the reset button so many times in life.

“And I can’t honestly say I didn’t see it coming. Life stopped making sense about three years ago, though not all at once. Little by little, all the rules I had ever learned, all the tricks I added to my arsenal, no longer applied. Now, life, the daily routine that the majority of the population manages to perform without a second thought or breaking a sweat, is a game I no longer know how to play. Existence no longer makes sense to me.

“Needless to say, it doesn’t help matters that I have always possessed a nihilistic bug in the back of my brain that constantly questions the logic of struggling to achieve anything when all roads lead to death.

“As you can probably work out, I do not believe in the afterlife. So that we’re clear, this is not an invitation for proselytizers to dust off their soapboxes. I am an aspiritual entity and I’ve made my peace with the fact that I shall not receive salvation. If religion works for you, good on you, I wish you nothing but the best.”

I stood there in silence, wanting to walk away, but also wanting to make sense of this interaction. As if reading my mind, Horace said,

“The purpose of my stopping you from your workaday events, and rambling on about things which bear no significance to you, is to pass on as many of my thoughts and impressions before I lose my sanity to the streets and become one of the wandering bagmen screaming at invisible antagonists.”

And it finally dawned on me. “You want to be remembered,” I said.

“Who among us doesn’t want to be remembered?”

“You wouldn’t happen to be hungry, would you?” I asked.

“It was not my intention to solicit charity from you, sir, at least not of the monetary kind.”

“I didn’t say anything about giving you money. I need to put something in my stomach before I go on the search.”

“What are you searching for?”

“Breadcrumbs,” I answered. “You said you’ve been dropping them all your life. I’m sure there are enough lingering around somewhere to get you safely back on your path.”

Text and Audio ©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Some Assembly Required

In the midst of a tantrum burst of emotions, Robson stomped into his room and slammed the door shut so hard the picture on the wall to the right came free of its hook and crashed to the floor. It was one of his favorites, a print of a painting depicting a young boy and girl building a snowman with the caption “Snowmen fall from heaven…unassembled” across the bottom. The glass and the frame were cracked and now it was ruined just like everything else in his life! He kicked over his wastebasket, the plastic one with Captain America and all the other Marvel Avengers on it and discarded candy wrappers and other bits of broken junk he no longer had a use for skittered across the floor which only made him angrier.

He threw his head back and screamed, “Why can’t you give me what I want? Why can’t I eat what I want to eat and watch what I want to watch on tv? I’m sick of this stupid house and I hate you both! I can’t wait until I get older and leave here forever!”

And the rage kept spilling out until he had expelled all the air from his lungs and the rant became a coughing fit, but he didn’t care. He pulled in a deep breath of new air and let out a frustrated and sustained, guttural bellow so loud it vibrated his eyeballs.

When the red mist of fury lifted from his vision and he was left with nothing more than the fatigue of ages pressing down upon him, he heard a soft rap on his door. He had no desire to respond, so he didn’t but the door handle turned slowly and his father pushed his head inside.

“Got it all out of your system?” his father asked with no trace of anything being out of the ordinary.

Robson didn’t answer, he couldn’t answer, the fatigue wouldn’t allow it. But as his father entered the room and surveyed the damage, the young boy stood firm, and let his breath out through his nostrils in a defiant hiss.

His father picked up the cracked picture frame and examined it as he walked past Robson to sit on the bed. He patted the full-size mattress, indicating for his son to have a seat but the boy didn’t move. “Come on, it’s not going to kill you to sit next to me. I just need you to listen to what I have to say and then I’ll leave you alone to continue being mad at us.”

Reluctantly, Robson dragged his feet as if the gravity in the room had suddenly increased and plopped onto the bed as far away from his father as he could manage.

“A shame about this picture,” his father said. “Your mother and I bought this for you because it was the first thing you actually asked for. You pleaded with us and made your case so succinctly that we had no choice. At the time, we didn’t have the funds to spare but sometimes the happiness of the people you love is worth more than money.

“The reason I’m bringing this up is to talk to you about sacrifices. You’re too young to fully understand this but everybody in the world has to make them, no matter how young or old they are. And you may think the things we ask or tell you to do are unfair but that’s only because you don’t see the bigger picture and there’s no real reason you should at your age. Our job as your parents is to take care of the big important stuff so that you can live the easiest life we can manage to give you. But it’s also our duty to prepare you for what’s to come and we planned to wait until you were a little older but since you’re so eager to grow up, let me tell you what life holds in store for you.

“As you get older, you’re going to learn that even the people who were never supposed to let you down probably will and someone who has the same opinion about you…you will let them down, as well. That includes the three of us, champ. We’re eventually going to let each other down.

“You’re going to fall in love one day and your heart will get broken and it will probably happen more than once and it will get harder to love with each passing break. And most likely you’ll break a few hearts yourself even if you remember how it felt when yours was broken and try to avoid doing it to someone else, it’s going to happen.

“Despite your best intentions, you’ll fight with your best friends, blame a new love for things an old one did, complain because time is passing too fast, wish you had your childhood to do over again to get things right, and you’ll eventually lose someone you love which includes me and your mother.”

Robson sat motionless, staring at the cracked glass and broken frame, unable to meet his father’s gaze because he felt the sting of tears in his own eyes. “What do I do?” he said in a small voice.

“What do you mean?”

“To stop all the bad things from happening. What do I do?”

“Well, you can start by not taking the good things and times for granted but do take too many pictures, laugh too much, and love like you’ve never been hurt…because every sixty seconds you spend upset is a minute of happiness you’ll never get back. But before any of that, you should go apologize to your mother, she was really upset by some of the things you said.”

Robson hopped off the bed, turned his back to his father and wiped the tears from his eyes with his shirt sleeve. He walked to the door with a purpose but stopped at the door jamb and said over his shoulder, “I don’t really hate you, you know.”

“I know, kiddo,” his father smiled. “Now, go give your mother a great big hug and kiss and drag your butt back in here so we can straighten this room up.”

The little boy took off like a shot out of the room yelling, “Mommy! Mommy! I’m sorry!”

His father stood up, righted the wastebasket and carefully tilted the broken glass into the little plastic bucket. He caught sight of the caption on the picture and thought, Snowmen aren’t the only things that require assembly, sometimes family bonds do too.

Text and Audio ©2019 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys