Hacked Life

During his regular Wednesday afternoon 10-minute guided energy-cleansing meditation session, the following message flashed on the inside of Brydon’s eyelids:

YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN HACKED!

Thanks to a programming flaw in the neural chip implanted in your brain, we have hacked it and essentially your life and extracted the databases cataloging the entirety of your being.

How did this happen?

Our team of experts has found a backdoor vulnerability within your brain chip that we were able to exploit, allowing us to access your credentials and extract your entire database, the information of which has been moved to an offshore server.

What does this mean?

We will systematically go through the process of destroying your reputation. Secrets? You no longer have those. Your life has just become an open book. The portion of the database containing all the damaging skeletons hiding in your closet will be leaked or sold to the highest bidder to use as they see fit.

Next, if there are any salacious or negative thoughts or dreams about family, friends, or coworkers, they will be forwarded to all parties involved. Committed a crime that you thought you got away with? The local and perhaps even federal authorities will be notified.

And in case you’re not worried about this hack because you lead a good, honest and innocent life, you will want to take note of the fact that we will invent scandals that will turn your life into a living hell. You will be shunned by family and friends, fired from your place of employment, run out of town, face the possibility of imprisonment, and be forced to notify your neighbors that you are a registered sex offender.

How do you stop this?

We are willing to refrain from destroying your reputation for a small one-time cryptocurrency fee:

  • The amount: $30,000
  • The Address Part 1: Xliehhviwwmw1313qsgomrkfmvhperijmvwxlsywisrxlipijx
  • The Address Part 2: Mjcsyaiviefpixshigmtlivxlmwevir’xcsyxligpizivpmxxpigpsknywxxcti
  • The Address Part 3: “sverkitiipneddferh”mrxligsqqirxxspixqiorsacsygvegoihmx

In order to remit payment, you will need to manually copy + paste Part1, Part2, and Part3 in one string with no space between the parts that begin with “X” and end with “x” – This is the actual address where the money must be sent.

Once you have met our demands, we will automatically be informed of your payment. Please note: It is imperative that you issue payment within 72 hours of receipt of this message, or else the database leak WILL BEGIN IMMEDIATELY!

How do you purchase cryptocurrency?

You can easily buy cryptocoins via several websites or even offline from a Crytocoin-ATM.

What if you decide not to pay?

If you unwisely choose not to pay, we will begin the attack at the indicated date and uphold it until your payment is received. Please be advised that there are no countermeasures to this. You will only end up wasting more money trying to find a solution. We will completely destroy your reputation with people and oraginzations in your past, present, and even your future.

This is not a hoax! Do attempt to reason or negotiate with us! Payment in full is your only recourse! Upon receipt of your payment, we will discontinue our malicious act and you will never hear from us again!

Please note that crytocoin is anonymous and no one will find out that you have complied.

So, what are you waiting for? The clock is ticking!

Not. The. End.

At Last, The Destination

Although the sun sat high in the midday sky, the figure who approached me was draped in a shadow so complete as to let no light escape the boundaries of its form. Its frame was crisp but the features blurred and I knew in that instant that none who lived was allowed to view its terrifying countenance.

“You have come for me?” I asked, my voice betraying the courage I strove to display.

“Come?” the figure said in a voice neither male nor female but not wholly unpleasant. “No, my dear, I am always present.”

“But you surely do not deny that you are the Grim Reaper?”

“The Reaper I am, yet not so grim. And I pose no danger to you for Death is not to blame for death. If it offers you some measure of comfort, think of me as the ultimate destination of your lifelong journey.”

The Reaper spoke without guile. Its words, a wave of tranquility, washed over me and suddenly I found myself in the embrace of a satisfaction I had never known in all my days. This newfound contentment was accompanied by the realization that I had overcome insurmountable obstacles and completed a near-impossible task, and as I accepted the Reaper’s hand, warm and soft to the touch, I slowly exhaled all the limitations of the physical world and welcomed the painless transition into the final stage of existence.

The King of Wretches

I do not have a favorite season, per se, but whenever summer rolls around, my head swims with near-endless possibilities of how I can alter not only my reality but the reality of existence itself so that I am finally able to live a life in which my head falls on the pillow with no worries and I awaken in the same manner.

But at this moment any life other than my own would be an improvement. You must understand, when you live in the gutter, climbing up onto the pavement can feel like reaching Shamayim, the first heaven, but there is not much chance of climbing that high. My wings, or what is left of them, have not been able to bear my weight for quite some time now.

And I am not alone. I lie here amongst the other bodies that convulse on a human Richter scale that makes it impossible to pray and have those prayers heard. My lips, dry and cracked haven’t kissed another in a century of lifetimes, though I myself have been kissed by a fate who cruelly calls my name and announces my presence, the King of Wretches Among Wretches. This fate who comes down from on high feigns love for me, lifts my head slightly, and kisses me deeply and passionately before abandoning me without uttering a word.

So here I exist, an enemy of sleep as I am cursed to remain awake and endure, trying to mask my terror because I was instructed to know no fear but I feel my reserve crack and my secret dreads are beginning to seep through. Left for dead but not truly dead, I sometimes raise myself to my full height and threaten to leave but Those Who Know realize this is an empty threat. My soul is anchored to this spot and even though I can beseech the wind to lift away this all too fleshy carapace, what would I be without that which makes me unique? What sort of life would a soulless one be?

Alas, I am far too proud to beg, even for mercy. Accepting charity never seemed quite fitting to me, which means I stay in anger and at the dawn of each new day I let the carrion pick away at the bits of me that have gone necrotic from disuse. I curse the fact that when they take to the sky they never steal away the bits that made me the monster that led me to be in this predicament in the first place. It is as if the universe believes its very own balance is better with me assuming this role.

The sad truth is that not all dead are buried in the field with the flowers. Some lie rotting away to nothing, slowly dying from wounds that never heal. The minor injuries you suffer repeatedly every single day that rip the scabs off to bleed you anew. It is the slowest death imaginable. Where you die a little more on each anniversary.

And in time these injuries celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, and even holidays. And you cry outwardly until the tears no longer come, then you cry inwardly and when people cannot see you weep, they assume that you have moved on and think it is acceptable to pretend the bad thing never happened and things can return to normal, without realizing that there is no longer a normal to return to.

The parent of dead hopes and dreams never stops being a parent in their hearts. And you spend the rest of your life gathering the leftover pieces and remnants of a future life well past its sell-by date and inhume it in the backyard of years gone by in a specially constructed box of disappointment.

The Secret

The moment Lavelle stepped through the door, I realized something was wrong. He had just come home for winter recess, head shaved bald and immediately retreated into his room claiming to be exhausted from the trip. When he finally made an appearance at the dinner table, he asked if we could go shopping for some new clothes from the big and tall section. Lavelle, like the rest of my side of the family was thin and vertically challenged so when I questioned him he claimed “it’s the style now, you wouldn’t understand.” It was an obvious lie but I loved my son and went along with the deception.

While selecting stretch fabric shirts and elastic band pants that were several sizes too big for his wiry frame, Lavelle shyly asked if I could take him to see an animal therapist. I could have handled my initial response better but it was such a bizarre request that caught me out of left field. I began badgering him with questions and demanding answers until he broke down in tears and revealed that he had become a werewolf.

We did a joint counselling session with a therapist who took my son’s claim in stride. She gently suggested that Lavelle could only have true happiness if he found a way to be comfortable with his authentic self. Doing my part, I assured my son that I would continue to love and support him. I told the therapist that I was scared for him because I felt with all the torment he was experiencing by holding everything in and hiding the truth for so long, something would cause him to break and harm himself, the way some people do when they reach the final straw.

The odd thing about the whole situation was I was never afraid for my own life. I knew my son would never hurt me. And the only major adjustment I had to make was whenever he visited home during full moon periods, he tended to leave portions of his victims on my doorstep, the way house cats brought glory gifts to their owners when they killed mice, leaving me to dispose of the evidence and follow YouTube tutorials on “biohazard remediation,” but these were the things one does for love.

Dear Madd Fictional: Jacks With Ghosts

Even though it’s a brand new year and a year’s worth of possibility is out there just waiting to be discovered, times are still tough. Not just for me but for everyone these days and as such, I found I needed a side hustle to help make ends meet. I tried everything from Human Fracking to Milky Way Real Estate Developing to Kickstarting The Zombie Apocalypse and they all turned up snake eyes…until I stumbled upon my true calling: Starting An Online Advice Column.

To be clear, I’m not that well-known in the “advice community” yet but the types of questions put to me so far made my editor ask me to share the most memorable letter I received in my role as a Relationship Advisor:

Dear Madd Fictional,

By profession, I am a Paranormal Cleaner and if you’re not familiar with that term, I am the person that paranormal investigators call once they have established that a residence or business establishment is inhabited by entities that have moved on beyond the mortal plane of existence. It is my job to collect the spirits and physically remove them from the premises. In your head, you might be picturing the box trap gizmo from Ghostbusters right about now but the truth is a lot less complicated. The simplest way to capture a ghost is to either use a metal box that contains a layer of soil from hallowed ground (typically a church or cemetery) or a lit candle placed inside an open-lidded glass jar. Once captured, they are covered with a pinch of salt and buried in hallowed ground, which leads to my problem.

Each time I collect an Interactive Personality, Ectoplasm, Poltergeist, Orb, or Funnel Ghost, instead of burying them in hallowed ground, I take them home and release them in my bedroom. When certain urges arise, I strip down, anoint myself in equal parts cinnamon, calamus, cassia, and myrrh, in olive oil (except for my private area), and practice onanism as the spirits swarm around the room. Is this normal?—J.W.G., Pinellas Park, Florida

My response was simple:

Dear Jacks With Ghosts (I’m assuming that’s what J.W.G. stands for)

First, allow me to say that I do not actively participate in kink-shaming, you do you, let your freak flag fly, and all that good stuff, as long as it’s with consenting adults, consenting being the key word there. You haven’t specified in your letter whether the spirits have given you permission to be confined in your bedroom and made to watch you shake hands with the milkman. Also, out of curiosity, do you make them perform lewd acts on themselves and each other to aid in your banister polishing? And better still, do they physically interact with you (which I can only imagine and describe as nulling the void)?

As an answer to your question of it being normal, have you visited adult websites and conducted a search for what you’re doing? If you cannot find content that matches your act, I believe you know where you stand in the kinkiverse.

Happy New Year!

Hangover Comfort Food – Madd Fictional Style

Naturally, I want you to make the most of your holiday season, regardless of what you celebrate or how you choose to celebrate it, but, if you’re the sort who lets loose during the season to be jolly (hey, you do you, I do not party-shame) you might very well be nursing the mother of all hangovers and be in need of the perfect science fiction comfort food.

For you, you left of center, go against the grain, free-spirited individual you, I have a suggestion for a sandwich in three parts:

Part One – Eggs

Mix four Gro’ok eggs (the yellow-speckled ones that are currently in season, not the purple ones) and a quarter cup of low-fat Tomurian milk (from a contented Olkturian, preferably one that’s married with a happy home life). Scramble with a pinch of moon salt and Mercury pepper. Add your hot sauce of choice to taste (the higher the Scoville, the better, as far as I’m concerned).

Who am I, you ask? If you don’t know, you better ask somebody. I happen to be an actual chef who can flat-out burn each and every single TV cook who claims to be a masterful chef. Gordon who? Jamie what? Nigella how? While they putter around their studio set kitchens, I travel the interstellar byways slaying pretenders and tenderizing them like so much…

Meat – Part Two

Combine half pound Caitian snork torso (domesticated, wild is too gamey for the hangover palette), half-pound ground snork (your choice, the gaminess might actually work here), a third cup Aaamazzarite seasoned bread crumbs (still living, it’s the best way, trust me), one-half teaspoon each of hillbilly powder and gun powder, and a pinch of moon salt and Mercury pepper. Press into inch-thick patties; grill with a laser or cook in a photon skillet.

Being the type who naturally ruffles feathers, I’ve been the recipient of some negative feedback on social media. One so-called influencer called me “shanktastic” Is this meant to be an insult? Because it ends in “tastic” but it starts with “shank” and I gotta tell you my legs are good enough to eat right off the bone.

Part Three – Sandwich

Layer the portion of the egg over the meat portion over a slice of Choki cheese (make sure it’s properly dead and not just hibernating as that could lead to your unfortunate demise) on an Orion monkey poopy-seed bagel (I know what you’re thinking, but have you ever tried monkey poo? Don’t knock it…). Drizzle on Blazing Inferno Hellfire Sauce (wear protective gloving during the pouring process, naturally) and serve.

Serves four. One bite and your hangover will dissolve immediately (so might your tongue but “et comedens caveat” – “let the eater beware”). Oh, and make sure you clear a path to the restroom. No sense in ruining your furniture because you can’t control your party indulgences (still no party-shaming).

If you survive, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the meal.

A Tin For Tinder

Tinderbox 1

Houses live, despite being constructed with inanimate objects and once-living-now-dead materials, and only at night, when the humans who inhabit them quiet down and seek refuge within the secret fears and hidden desires of dreams, do they make their presence known. It comes in the throat clearing pipe rattles and the eerie creaks and moans as the domicile stretches from its support beams to the rafters before settling down upon the foundation once more. And somewhere in between these growing pain noises, I hear you through wooden slats, insulation, and drywall.

You are busy conducting your nocturnal activity of burning bridges. You do this when you think I am asleep, which I pretend to be for I do not know how to confront you on this matter. Although I have never caught you in the act, I discovered the place in which you secret your tinderbox, that rusty lozenge tin containing pieces of flint, firesteel, and the charcloth you use as tinder.

But it is not physical bridges you set fire to, it is connections. Human connections. At first, you severed ties with your coworkers. When that supply well ran dry, you turned your attention to the neighbors, both long-standing and new. My family was next, which should have been easy for you as you never considered my kin an extension of your own. To my surprise, yours followed shortly after. Now, it is only you and I, and I hear the striking of flint and I know without a doubt that I am next. I should get out of bed, should stop you, but I do not because I do not know how to process the reality that you no longer desire me in your life. I tell myself my love for you is strong enough to withstand your attempt to distance yourself from me, but the truth of the matter is, as I hear the charcloth catch fire, I can feel the grasp of my love for you beginning to weaken.

I had not realized until I felt the radiant heat as you approached with your flame, that our connection was a living bridge, a spiritual combination of the northeast Indian tribal root bridges, which are formed by training the roots of the banyan tree to grow across watercourses, and the Japanese Iya Valley bridges, constructed using wisteria vines woven together when they grew long enough to span the gap.

I am surprised at how very hot and very slow-moving the fire is. It creeps at its patient pace, causing destruction to the fruits of our happy memories, the flowers of our passion, and the buds of future events in the making. The fire chars through the vines’ bark to consume the cambium layer beneath, the thing that is essential for the growth of the vine’s vascular tissue; and without it, the vines die.

I shed tears, though I no longer know why, for when you return to the bedroom, smelling faintly of smoke and slip under the covers, I move away from your touch for I do not know you. All the memories created in this place are ghosts that have evaporated like dreams upon waking. In the morning I will leave of my own volition, never to return and the only thing I will carry with me is your precious tin for tinder. I am filled with the sudden need to divorce myself from all human contact.

The Man

slide1

In the beginning of what most believed in their heart of hearts to be the End of Days, there was The Distant Signal. It came in the form of a definitive and verified multi-language message broadcast to all the countries of Earth simultaneously.

What should have been a moment of joyous acknowledgment that we were not alone in the universe, was tainted by a subliminal signal that triggered an automatic flight response in all the various and sundry life forms on the planet.

Dubbed The Great Terror by the media, it opened the door to speculation about the global impact alien contact might have on world governments, organized religions, stock markets, and most importantly human existence.

Then came news of the one person on the planet unaffected by the subliminal signal.

His business card was made of carbon-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic. Laser etched in red on the back was his phone number, four digits, no area or country code, because it wasn’t needed. The number could be dialed from anywhere in the world, toll-free. The front of the card delivered the most accurate message any business card ever had. It told the bearer exactly who he was in two simple words:

The Man

Normally slang that referred to either the government, an authority in a position of power, or a drug dealer — which he had no issue with, as he had allegedly been all those things in his youth — it currently served as a term of respect and praise.

The Man had no official credit rating, never owned a bank account, and his fingers never knew the texture of cash. His currency was the Boon License, a service performed, payable by a service at his behest.

The Man never advertised his services, and thanks to a universal binary code, he wasn’t searchable on the internet. His legend was viral, spread word of mouth from those who benefited from his services. The downside of this Chinese whispers campaign were all the old wives’ tales that attached themselves to his accomplishments like gossip remoras:

  • He was incapable of telling the truth and he gained supernatural powers by winning a bet with the Devil in a liar’s competition.
  • He thrived on the broken hearts of virgins after he stole the purest form of love from them.
  • He was born without a soul.
  • He was a genetic engineering experiment using stem cell materials that haven’t been able to be duplicated.
  • He was born with one hundred percent brain capacity and as a result, has all the information stored on every computer and the internet in his brain.
  • He averted World War Three by winning the jackpot in a poker game with the world’s superpowers.

For a person who bartered in boons, how could he resist collecting favors from the entire planet? But when The Man accepted the offer, he scoured governments, both domestic and foreign, for help, with absolutely no success.

Once The Man signed the contract, he was elected to make first contact, and the world leaders resigned from their posts and contingency plans were underway to build underground shelters. He could not find a government, nation, country, or individual to stand by his side.

The final extraterrestrial message contained a set of coordinates for the rendezvous point. Although no one would stand by him, he was able to call in several favors to arrange transport to one of the remote volcanic islands in the south Atlantic Ocean, Tristan da Cunha.

The alien armada arrived like a meteor storm, ships of shifting geometrics burned through Earth’s mesosphere and parked themselves in the stratosphere around the entire planet so that they blotted out the sun.

Plunged into darkness, The Man stood his ground as a lone, illuminated craft, smaller than the other ships, descended to the rendezvous point and touched down on the soil light as a feather.

The ship altered its form and peeled itself away from its passenger and repurposed itself into a ramp. The alien glided forward. It existed on the outer fringes of humanoid description but The Man found its features and its form somehow alluring.

The alien handed him a card with strange markings and upon contact with his skin, the card pricked his thumb and took a DNA sample. The markings changed, cycling through alphabets until it hit his native earthbound English. When all the letters were in place, it simply read:

The Woman

The alien smiled.

The Ennui of This Moment

He really did try his damnedest to live his life in a productive manner, the only bit of advice he retained from his absentee father before he faded like the memory of a dream upon waking, but despite his efforts, it seemed as though he hadn’t made one definitive move in the right direction. There had been baby steps, to be sure, all down the vaunted paths less traveled, but for every baby step forward, life managed to push him two adult paces back, which racked up a ton of negative miles on his life odometer pushing his right direction destination so far forward it blinked out of existence on the horizon.

He heard that knowledge was power and he was very knowledgeable in the fact that life was what happened to you when you made other plans but of what use was that now? What was the answer? To grin and bear it? To roll with the punches? To play the hand he was dealt? Not exactly proactive, was it? And when he discovered knowledge did not necessarily mean answers, he was left with another riddle to heap upon the compost mound of riddles he accumulated over the course of his misbegotten life: When did the real answers come? Answers that counted for something?

Did they come in the middle of the night, when the pillow whispered his dreams back to him or was the house creaking an Aramaic Morse code about his destiny as it settled each night? Or was everything realized the moment he awoke from a nightmare, in that flash second when he didn’t know where he was or what was real from what was an illusion and the fear gripped him like a tangled, sweat-soaked bed sheet?

Then he began to suspect the answer didn’t exist within us, not singularly, anyway. What if each and every human being contained some small piece of a larger puzzle and all it took was the connection of communication to fit the pieces together? There was a saying acquired from a passing acquaintance that went, “You were never more than five minutes driving distance from an absolute stranger that had the ability to care for you, perhaps they could not offer love unconditionally, but they honestly cared about what happened to you.”

But he destroyed that somewhere along the way. He made strangers out of relatives and friends and instead of concentrating on what made people alike, he focused on what made them different. And there really wasn’t a great love for people who were different from the vision he had of himself.

He wasn’t what anyone would call a spiritual being, nor did he reside anywhere in that neighborhood, but he knew that there was tremendous energy that existed at this moment. Right here. Right now. He just couldn’t seem to tap into it. He was far too busy shrugging off the past and contemplating the future to focus on how he was feeling in the moment, or alarmed at the lack of what he was feeling at present. And perhaps that was the real issue. Perhaps he overthought his existence instead of simply existing.

But who wanted to merely exist? To live life on cruise control? He wanted to be consumed in a fiery passion of–of…well, therein lay the problem. He didn’t know what he should have been passionate about anymore. It was like someone or something blew out the pilot light of his passion so that even the things that used to fascinate him barely held his interest anymore. It was like he outgrew his old life and emerged into a void. Waves of ennui assaulted him daily and though he realized that he must accept thoughts, feelings, emotions, and sensations as they came (accept, surrender, observe, and then, let go)…this didn’t change the fact that this existence, in this incarnation, had grown tiresome.

The ennui of this moment was overwhelming. He had the urge to deaden his senses with the mindless distraction of television, but instead, sat silently and surrendered. He submitted to what was. He allowed himself to feel himself; to truly experience the exactness of this infinite moment without judgment or ridicule. The difficulty of this task reminded him of a college professor’s eloquent analogy of The Tao:

“The current in a river carries you. If you try to swim upstream, you break the flow, you struggle. If you see a rock and you attempt to hold tightly onto it, the water will shove, thrust, push against you until your arms weaken and your body aches. Work with the current and the current works with you; work against the current and the current works against you. The only way to avoid the struggle is to simply flow; allow the river to carry you, surrender to all that is, and your course – even when rough – will be tranquil.”

He needed to learn to give up the struggle. Or rather, he knew to give up the struggle, now he needed to practice doing so. Upset by what was, angered by what wasn’t, worried about what would be, and anxious about what strife may come, he couldn’t even see the now, let alone feel it, taste it, touch it and live in it.

He couldn’t just flow. He couldn’t stop swimming upstream or clutching to all that was inconsequential.

No matter how hard he tried.

A Scrapbook of Daydreams

1

That kind of relationship is doomed before it even begins,” her mother warned. “His type… they can’t be faithful, it isn’t in their genetic makeup.” But Alison paid no heed and fell headfirst in love with the living embodiment of a daydream.

She thought she’d made the right decision. What did her mother know? And in the beginning, Alison felt vindicated because he was always there for her, never once realizing that was the normal way daydreams functioned, recurring whenever the mind was idle.

The daydream held her in bed and distracted her with his essence so that she drifted off to sleep without the usual brain clutter that triggered her chronic insomnia, and made sure he was the first sight Alison saw when she woke up. He never slept. What use would a daydream have with sleep? He simply watched her and waited until she began her cute pattern of soft snoring, before taking a stroll through her mind.

He never spoke. He preferred instead to flash images in Alison’s mind. Naturally, he knew exactly what he was doing. Knew he owned the keys to her heart and soul and, as often was the case with the person in control in a relationship, he doled out his attention and affection in small doses. She tried, really tried her best not to be greedy and not to demand more, but that, like most things, was easier said than done.

Then one morning, after he laid her head on the pillow to rest the night before, as he had done numerous times, he was gone. No note that indicated where he was off to or when he would have returned.

Then began the dark times. Seconds, minutes, hours stretched into the forever period of withdrawal, where Alison was crushed beneath the pressure of constant craving when her heart sat within her chest like so much dead weight.

And after the craving stage had crept along at its snail’s pace, along came the self-examination stage to fill the void. What had she done wrong? Was she too needy? Smothering? And when she grew weary of guessing, of trying to rewrite the past as if that would have somehow altered the present so that he was still here with her, Alison tried to find a place for him in her past. A drawer or compartment where he could have remained tucked away until such time as she was stronger and more capable of dealing with the memory of him.

Forgetting him might have been much easier if not for the images he filled Alison’s head with, the stories weaved through pictures. They remained and were strongest when the dawn approached. That must have been when he left.

When her mother visited, she asked, “Why can’t you look me in the eye?

I don’t want to do the whole I told you so thing, Mom.” Alison replied.

When have I ever done that?

You don’t say the words, but I can see it in your eyes.

That’s a lie and we both know it,” her mother said. “The truth is you don’t respect me, maybe rightfully so.

Respect you? You’re a drunk, Mom. I’m sorry, there’s no other way to say it.” The words were out of Alison’s mouth before she could stop them.

I’m a recovering alcoholic…

Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. I mean, why would I take advice from a woman whose life is a shambles? Your drinking didn’t only wreck your marriage, it destroyed my family! So, how are you wiser than me when it comes to affairs of the heart?

Her mother exhaled slowly. “I understand more than you realize. You think you’re the only one who’s ever gone through what you’re going through, and that’s not necessarily your fault. When you’re young, you always feel that way.

But I’m here to tell you, kiddo, you’re not the first or only person to fall in love with a daydream. Not only did it happen to me, but I convinced him to marry me and we had you.

Dad?

Yeah. You think your father left because I drank, and that’s my fault because I should have explained it to you, but I didn’t know how. The truth is I started drinking when I felt him slipping away. I tried to hold on the best way I knew how but the inherent problem with a daydream, even a recurring one, is that they’re never meant to stay in one place for very long. They’re born to stray.

Oh. Mom… !” Alison hugged her mother as tightly as she could. She hoped somehow her mother could feel just how sorry she was about everything that happened between them over the years.

Realizing what a fool she had been, and instead of living in a past relationship and trying to hold her life together with spit and string, Alison chose to work on rebuilding the relationship with her mother, a woman who was stronger than she ever realized.

And every now and then, when there was that familiar twinge in Alison’s heart, a fast but powerful thought of her wild one, her mother helped her collect the stories in a scrapbook of daydreams. But Alison hadn’t done it for herself, she did it for the little one who would be arriving any day now.

Her daughter deserved to know about her father.