Having Heaven 7 – The Return

It was an instinct really, the reaching out to touch her mother’s face as she had done so many times as a child and Mayra had not expected to make physical contact but hoped she could feel something, a vibration perhaps or a tingle of static electricity, anything to confirm that her mother was actually standing in front of her. Unexpected was the resistance her palm encountered upon making contact with her mother’s intangible cheek, only for an instant, before it passed through and the café went dark.

When Mayra awoke, or rather, when she was finally able to piece herself back together to the extent she realized she had eyes to open, she found herself curled into a fetal ball, shivering within the enormous palm of God. No one told her the hand belonged to God, she simply knew it to be so. With no effort at all, for her body seemed to have no discernable weight, she lifted herself first to her knees then to her feet where she was able to perfectly balance herself on the tips of her toes like a ballerina en pointe in a ballet performed in zero gravity.

Beyond the palm, all of existence was a white devoid of heat in every direction she cast a glance. She opened her quivering mouth to speak, to question, to beg for clarity, understanding but her voice issued forth like song. Not lyrics but actual music and each of her emotions were represented by a different instrument, rising to a crescendo, filling the vast whiteness, crowding it with vibrations until…her voice cracked.

The music ceased instantly. She clutched her throat and forced herself to make a sound that would not come. Gravity returned and she crumpled onto the palm creating an impact crater that sent hairline fractures spiderwebbing out from the palm that ran up along each of the fingers. The hand shook under the force of a great tremor and began to segment and divide and fall away like so much debris. She hopped from the bits that fell away onto safer purchase until there was nowhere else to go. The hand disintegrated and Mayra, no longer weightless, began falling into the white void and she was covered by a slimy coldness that slowly took over her entire body, a bitter frost that shot straight through to her marrow and filled her mind with an image of being buried in the cold damp ground in a coffin-less grave as her body slowly succumbed to lifelessness.

Then she was no longer falling and eventually the glacial pearl environment dissipated in cloudlike swirls revealing the café beneath like an underpainting brushed onto canvas by an expert hand. At first, the interior and the people who surrounded Mayra were merely shapes, two-dimensional. Then details were added and the shapes took on definition and depth of field separated near from far but her perception was off. She realized she must have fallen to the floor because the shape she was now able to make out as Bethany hovered over her, mouth opening and closing rapidly. Her best friend was talking to her, obviously trying to revive her, but the words sounded odd and the café itself no longer smelled right.

Adina’s ghostly face registered a look of concern. She reached down to help her daughter up but Mayra shied away from her touch. As much as she loved her mother, if coming into contact with her brought about this feeling, she promised herself she would never do it again.

“Bethy, get me out of here, please,” Mayra said, teeth chattering.

“Are you sure you’re all—”

“Please!” Mayra demanded.

“All right,” Bethany said, helping her friend to her feet and wrapping her own coat over Mayra’s in an effort to warm her.

At the café door, Mayra turned, saw her mother’s confused expression and said, “Sorry, Mom. I just can’t,” before exiting the café.

Outside, the spirits of the dead were everywhere, crowding, overcrowding, the streets. They had come in their thousands and moved past scared witless pedestrians in lock-step like a multi-headed beast or a shoal of fish to some unknown destination. The only sounds to be heard were the shoes on pavement as people scrambled to get out of the dead’s way and the distance screech of car tires.

“I can’t tell you how much I don’t like this,” Bethany said, trying to mask the fear in her voice as they made their way quickly to the nearest subway station.

“There are more dead people wandering around than the living,” Mayra said, carefully avoiding coming into contact with any of the spirits.

“Makes perfect sense if you think about. Heaven is real, was real, which means reincarnation is a load of bullshit, so all the righteous livers spend the rest of eternity in paradise and now that paradise has gone poof on us, where else would those souls go except the place they originated from?”

Apparently, word of mouth spread not to get too close to the dead because on the subway, people were doing their level best to avoid touching the spirits who were taking up seats and pole spaces, which meant the living had to squash together to make enough space for them all. The air in the train car was filled nervous tension but that had not stopped people from pulling out their smartphones and filming the ghosts but the dead were not bothered one bit. They seemed like they were going through the motions of trying to live the life they’d had before they died.

Mayra wasn’t ready to go home to deal with Gavin so Bethany suggested they go to her apartment. Fortunately, there were no spirits wandering around in her place.

“Small miracles, eh?” Bethany said after checking the entire apartment. “Now let’s see if we can get something into you to warm you up.”

“That would be nice, thanks,” Mayra followed her friend into the kitchen and took the seat nearest the radiator.

“So, your mom…that was weird, right?” Bethany said, rummaging through the cupboards. “What was the like, I mean, if you’re okay talking about it? You nearly scared me half to death, passing out like that.”

Mayra exhaled slowly and tried to explain as much as she could, avoiding the dream or delusion or whatever it was. It, along with the initial dream seemed personal, private, something meant for her alone.

Mayra took the tablet from her bag and over hot bowls of soup and coffee that still couldn’t chase the cold from her bones, they several live streaming news broadcasts. Unlike the news reporting delay of The Knowing, the dead returning made the headlines instantly.

Reporters were made of questions, but none of the hastily gathered experts had answers. They discussed what they believed had happened, which coincided with the assumption Bethany came up with. When a psychic was brought into one station to try to communicate with a spirit roaming the news studio and concocted some phony message about the dead returning to restore peace but who ran away in sheer terror the moment the spirit attempted to touch her, the tablet was turned off.

They sat there digesting the events of the day in silence for a while the way people who have known each other for a long while can be in each other’s company without the need to fill the air with random babbling, when Mayra broke the silence:

“Oh my God, I am the shittiest friend in the world!”

“What are you on about?”

“I never considered what you must be feeling, being an atheist and all.”

“First, not an atheist,” Bethany clarified. “Or an agnostic. I know religion is a touchy subject for you, which is why we don’t do spiritual talk. Unlike people who need to label themselves as a nonbeliever and pass judgment on people’s religious beliefs, I’m cool with you believing in what you believe in as long as it leads you to do no harm.”

“Bethy, I don’t want you to think I judge you for not having a—”

“Belief system? I do have one. I believe we aren’t smart enough to know our origins and this includes Big Bang and evolution, but we’re arrogant enough to assume we do with authority. Sometimes I wish I could just conform and go along with the flow. You’d figure it wouldn’t be that difficult. You know how super religious my family is, forcing me to go to church every Sunday when I was small. Sometimes we’d spend the entire day worshipping if our church visited another church for evening services and I’d be furious that one of my two-day freedom from the drudgery of school had be wasted this way. I tried to believe, tried really hard to feel the holy spirit but it just wasn’t in the cards for me. Then I hit my teens and made a bold stand to stop going to church by pretending to be sick, too sleepy, or what have you, which was initially ignored but eventually I wore my folks down and they allowed me to skip church. The trade-off? I was given a host of choirs that needed to be completed before I could go outside to play. They meant it to be a punishment, they wanted to break me, make me relent, but to me it was the ultimate get out of church free card. I even tried to lessen the blow by telling them I was a practicing Deist who accepted the existence of a creator on the basis of reason but rejected belief in a supernatural deity who interacts with humankind. And they tested me on it by making me write several essays describing my belief system and worship methods. But I still hadn’t felt a connection to a higher power so I tried agnosticism on for size and eventually gave up trying to force myself to believe in something just because everyone else does. Turns out I’m not a joiner.”

“But you’ve acknowledged that Heaven is gone so you must feel something,” Mayra realized her words came out stronger than she meant and hoped her friend had not felt attacked.

If Bethany was bothered, it did not show. She answered, “Sure, I feel something just not what you think. I don’t automatically assume that heaven not existing is the cause of what I’m feeling because it’s a place that doesn’t exist for me. It didn’t exist before all this and it still doesn’t now. What I feel is that something is different, the same way you feel when you move to a new neighborhood or start a new job or enter into a relationship with someone new. You suddenly become aware of space within your existence and that space is new and because it’s new, it’s a void. Picture the space as an empty glass and everything you do in the new job, neighborhood or relationship adds something to the glass, knowledge, familiarity, routines, skillsets, whatever. Each day, a drop gets added to the glass. It ceases to be empty the moment the first drop lands but it isn’t by any stretch of the imagination full, either. I’m not explaining it right because I still haven’t figured it out myself, so I know it doesn’t make sense to you, but that’s how I feel. I discovered an empty glass and it’s slowly, very slowly, filling up with something new.”

“I sort of understand but I don’t understand,” Mayra said. “Does that make any sense?”

“Completely,” Bethany smiled. “Now, why don’t we talk about what’s eating you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve got your own life, I’ve got mine. When we catch-up, we usually do it by text or phone but you needed to see me in person, which indicates something serious, and not at your place or at mine, which means you’re trying to avoid getting emotional, so what is it?”Wow, Mayra wondered, Am I really that obvious? “Bethy, you’re going to hate because there is something I want to tell you…but I think I owe it to Gavin to speak to him first.”

To Be Continued…

©2017-2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

When Death Offers Hope

I awoke to a stranger standing at the foot of my bed but far more unsettling was the fact that he was dead. I was certain of this because I could see the chest of drawers behind him through his ephemeral body.

“Do not be alarmed,” the man said in soft tone that registered just above a whisper but was perfectly clear in the surrounding silence of the bedroom which had never known this level of quiet before. “I realize my sudden appearance in your home has come as a surprise to you due to the fact that you and I have never met and that I am a ghost.”

Of the million questions buzzing in my hypnagogic brain, the one that bubbled to the surface was, “What do you want from us?” and my voice cracked in a manner that made me sound considerably less brave than planned.

I tried to will my wife awake, hoping that she might collect the children and get them safely out of the house while I somehow distracted this spirit. I even slid my hand beneath the duvet, slowly as not to draw attention, in order to nudge or pinch her awake to no avail.

“Please know that I have no intention of haunting you or bringing any harm to you or your loved ones,” the ghost said.

“Then why are you here?” I replied loud enough to wake my wife but not the children because I couldn’t risk them coming into the bedroom to see what all the commotion was about.

The transparent man smiled, “You may speak as loudly as you please. I have spread a calming essence over your wife and children so that they might rest soundly as you and I converse.”

While I must confess I knew nothing of ghostly lore or a sleep-inducing essence, I sensed the apparition what speaking truthfully. I asked, “What could we possibly have to say to one another?”

“As I explain my situation, I ask that you refrain from pitying me and my circumstances for life is not a gift we keep but one we borrow and must one day return. Death is inevitable as you will one day learn.”

“Pity you? I don’t even know you!”

“Of course, where are my manners? The things one forgets once the embers of life have been snuffed. My name is Hamid Tahan and I am–pardon me, I was an Emirati merchant in Dubai.

“In the latter part of my short existence I had been diagnosed with prostate and esophageal cancer. Sadly, it was discovered in its very late stage due to my laxity in caring for my health. My illness defied all forms of medicine and treatments and according to my physicians I had only a few months to live.

” I am ashamed to admit that I had not lived a particularly good life. I never really cared for anyone, not even myself. All that mattered was my business. Though I was very rich, I was never generous and I tended to be hostile to those around me.

“But when it was far too late, I regretted it all. I discovered that there was more to life than the mere acquisition of money and I knew in my soul that if universe in its infinite wisdom bestowed upon my a second chance I would live my life a different, far better manner.

“As my mortal time drew to a close, I willed most of my properties and assets to my immediate and extended family members, as well as a few loyal friends and schools in the United Arab Emirates. I gave alms to charity organizations across the globe, as I wanted this to be one of the last good deeds I did on earth.

“And I almost accomplished the task in its entirety but my health had deteriorated more rapidly than was originally estimated and I lost my battle with cancer before I could close out my final account. This is my reason for contacting you.”

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“I have studied you from the great beyond. I see that you are a good man, a kind and generous man even though you are struggling to keep your lovely wife and beautiful children comfortable in the face of the impending bankruptcy of your company. I can help you with this.”

“Help me? How?”

“I could reveal the location of my final, secret account to you, provide you with the codes and information to transfer the funds into your account. Trust me when I say it is more than enough money to pay off all your debt, provide for your children’s futures and allow your family to live comfortably for many years to come. The only thing I ask in exchange for this life-changing abundance…”

“Ah, the catch,” I sighed. “There is always a catch.”

“…is your life,” Hamid Tahan continued.

“My what?”

“I have come to an arrangement with The Powers That Be that I can be reborn if I performed a random act of kindness on a complete and utter stranger and of all the several billion candidates on the planet, I chose you.

“The only drawback for you is that this gift requires a sacrifice. Now you must ask yourself if you love your family enough to die for them? I have seen what lies in store for you and your family and I could not in all conscience live with myself, perdon my turn of phrase, if I did not try to help prevent it.

“You might be thinking to yourself that this is some sort of hoax or a scam but if you reflect on it a minute your will feel the certainty of my offer because it has been classified as a Universal Truth. These truths cannot be forged. They are constructed of unconditional honesty.”

I most certainly believed it to be some form of treachery but true to his word, I felt an overwhelming assurance that he his claim was sincere. I opened and closed my mouth trying to form words but none were forthcoming.

“You need not give your answer at this moment,” he said. “But I would advise you to decide before the week has concluded. The money will be of little use to your family beyond that point.”

“Wait! What’s going to happen to my family? If you know, you have to tell me!” I wanted to leap from the bed and take hold of the ghost and shake the answers from him, which was an irrational thought but it didn’t matter because I was unable to move from my spot.

“I apologize that I am forbidden to reveal any more to you. Please think deeply on my offer and despite your decision, know that you and your family are in my prayers. May the universe be with you, sir,” the phantasmal being who was once Hamid Tahan said as he evaporated into the dark shadows of the room.

And as I watched the gentle rise and fall of my sleeping wife’s chest I was left to ponder, if I valued my own life over the financial security of my family.”

©2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

The Randomness of 16

Kymmie Blanchette, now Kymberly Marshall had a life plan instilled in her by her parents which she followed to a T. She was a good kid, did well in school, had a core group of parent-approved friends, enjoyed spending time with her parents even as a teenager. She grew to be an outstanding adult, a high functioning, informed citizen who contributed positively to society and her parents’ careful planning led her down the predictable path of a solid career and a faithful marriage. She was a devoted mother to two children who also grew up to be successful in their respective fields.

But as her body became tender to the touch and the constant pain once relegated to the background pain stepped to the forefront and her body cooled and the pattern of her breathing began changing frequently and spontaneously—a delirium clouded her mind and she slipped down the corridor of her youth, back to her only bout of rebelliousness, back to the randomness of being 16.

A few days after her birthday, Kymmie made a friend all on her own, secret from her parents and other friends, secret from everyone. Insomnia—birth name Ines—was everything Kymmie never had the courage or confidence to be. She was what her grandfather would have called a spitfire, who always spoke her mind to teachers, her parents, everyone. She constantly went toe to toe with the abusive jocks and snarky queen bees without ever flinching or backing down and couldn’t care less about people’s opinions of her.

Why they became such close friends was anybody’s guess but they first met when Kymmie caught Insomnia secretly watching hentai in AV Club. Somni—her nickname of choice—cool as a cucumber said, “You got me dead to rights. Ball’s in your court so what’s it gonna be? Narc me out or become otaku?” Kymmie had no idea what otaku meant and she really wasn’t into animated tentacle pornography but this raven-haired edgy girl had given her something no one else had up to this point: a choice.

Kymmie became Somni’s sidekick, her partner in crime and together they tried all the challenges—the cinnamon challenge, the choking challenge, the salt and ice cube challenge, the fire challenge—they even hotwired a very large Oldsmobile in a Walmart parking lot and took it for a joyride with nary a driver’s license between the pair of them. And down by the abandoned factory they took turns surfing on the hood, roof and bumper of the car while the other drove. Kymmie did more driving than surfing but Somni gave her props for making an attempt.

One day they even raided Somni’s parents’ medicine cabinet for unused prescription pills, created a drug cocktail and washed it down with cooking wine and cough medicine in basement.

When they were properly buzzed, they began to talk, about themselves, about their feelings, about how lonely life can be sometimes, how hard it was to bridge gaps between the people you liked most in the world. People who weren’t blood related but were closer than family. And Somni, usually tight-lipped when it came to expressing emotions, opened up a little and shared her secret wish to be a vampire so she could exchange blood with another being and become one with that person.

Was it the drugs or the cooking wine that made Kymmie brush the hair away from her neck as she told Insomnia, “Ball’s in your court so what’s it gonna be? Whine about your loneliness or become one with me?”

“You’ve got no clue what you’re doing,” Somni said.

“Neither do you, which is why you had to get high in order to tell me how you feel about me.”

“Who said this is about you?”

“It’s not about me? Then why are we in your basement, Ines?”

“Don’t call me that!” Innsomnia snapped.

“Why not, it’s your name, isn’t it?”

“It’s my mother’s name!”

“No it’s not, your mom’s name is Brenda.”

“That’s my stepmother, bitch! My mother left to be with some asshat and his family because we weren’t enough! Because I wasn’t enough!”

“I-I’m sorry, I had no idea,” Kymmie said. “But you not being enough…that’s just crazy thinking. I don’t know her but if she abandoned you like that then your mom is the real asshat here.”

“Shut up.”

“No, and you can’t make me.”

“Wanna bet?”

“What are you going to do…hit me…beat me up? Go ahead, if that’s what it takes to get it out of your system. I’m not afraid of you.”

“Really? Why are you shaking, then?”

“Because you terrify me, not because I think you’ll beat me up because I don’t think you will, at least I hope you won’t. You’ve terrified me from the moment I first saw you.”

“Hey, I’m straight.”

“So am I, I think, but does that mean I can’t be in love with you? I mean, something’s there and I know you feel it, too,” Kymmie said. “Even if this doesn’t end well, we have to air it out before one or the both of us hurts ourselves by keeping it in.”

“What part of I’m straight don’t you get?”

“This isn’t about about sexual preference. Somni, so stop freaking out about labels, I mean you of all people, you should know better than that.”

“I just don’t want you getting any wrong impressions. You’re cool to hang out with and all but, you know, as a friend.”

“Oh my god, why are you so guarded right now? A minute ago you were spilling your guts to me…”

“Yeah, well, a minute ago I wasn’t under a lesbian microscope.”

“I’m not calling you a lesbian, we’re not doing labels, okay? I just want you to admit you feel a certain way so that I don’t feel like an absolute loser for feeling the same way.”

“What way do you feel?” Somni asked.

“Really? Are we doing the whole ‘No, you go first’ thing?”

“You started this.”

“No, you got all vampiry and wanted to suck my blood so you could feel closer to me!”

“Okay, psycho.”

“I’m the psycho? How about the person who doesn’t like to be touched always being so affectionate with me? You let me lay my head in your lap and stroke my hair when I need a nap. You sit on my lap and whisper secrets in my ear.”

“That was one time.”

“Okay, but you still did it!”

“Why don’t you just woman up and tell me how you feel, you drunk lesbian.”

“I’m not a…okay, so maybe I’m a little drunk, can you get drunk off of cooking wine? or high off the pills, what did we take again? anyway, I don’t know what I am because i i haven’t been with anybody yet but I’m not attracted to girls. It’s just you. Whenever you’re around, I just want you to notice me.”

“Of course, I notice you, doofus, we hang out all the time.”

“I think you’re my soulmate.”

“Okay. That wasn’t awkward.”

“Can you be soulmates with a same sex person? Does being a soulmate mean you have to be a sexmate, too?”

“Okay, we need to sober you up because it’s time for you to leave and I can’t send you home like and risk you narcing on me.”

“I’d never narc you out.”

“Not intentionally, maybe.”

“And why aren’t you as fucked up as me?”

“Not my first time at the rodeo,” Insomnia draped an arm across her shoulder and helped Kymmie to her feet. “Coffee time. Let’s go.”

“No,” Kymmie resisted.

“No?”

“I’m not going anywhere until you kiss me.”

“What?”

“You heard me. On the mouth. Right now. Let’s go. Take the leap. I dare you. What are you, chicken? Bwak! Bwark! I double dog dare you!” Kymmie continued to squawk like a drunken chicken.

“Keep this up and I’ll street you and let you find your own way home.”

The taunts came to a halt and for a moment Kymmie seemed to sober up, “Please. Somni, please. I have to know. It hurts so much. Show me you care. Make me feel wanted.”

What went on in Insomnia’s mind, Kymmie would never know but her friend relented and the two girls. kissed. It lasted only a few seconds before Kymmie broke the wet kiss and wiped her mouth, saying, “Uh-uh. No, no.”

“That’s what I’m been trying to tell you, asshat!”

“I’m not an asshat, your mom’s an asshat!” and what could have been an uncomfortable and awkward moment was broken by the two girls bursting into a fit of uncontrollable, uproarious laughter that was only interrupted by Kymmie throwing up the entire contents of her stomach.

“You are such a fucking mess,” Insomnia said as she pulled Kymmie hair back and led her to a small rusted metal trash pail. “But I love you.” The words were said it in a soft voice that was hard to make out over the din of her own retching but Kymmie heard them clear as day.

They remained friends after that, never discussing the basement conversation again and continued doing stupid random teenage things that should have led to one or both of their deaths several times over but sometimes God watched over idiotic teenagers so they managed to pull through unscathed. Then, near the end of the year, Insomnia’s parents were forced to move because of the scarcity of job opportunities and the girls tried keeping in touch but long distance relationships required an attention that adult life seldomly permitted.

Kymberly chuckled at the memory which appeared more as a rasping cough to those sitting bedside and as the end approached, she whispered “Goodbye” and her family thought it was meant for them but she was actually saying farewell to her old friend.

©2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

My Name Be Entropy

I was never what anyone would have called creative by any stretch of the imagination but my parents, my loving mother and father taught me how to appreciate creativity when I encountered it especially when we gazed up at the night sky.

They schooled me on using my imagination, on connecting the dots to form pictures and manipulating those images in my mind to construct the most beautiful art imaginable. I was alive with a raw energy that I could not brush onto canvas or mold in clay. Nor was I able to express in song, speech or written word the joy I felt standing with those whom I loved most dearly beneath a canopy of loveliness brought to life by divine hands.

But that was then.

Now I serenaded the twilight every night, luring stars close enough to be plucked from the sky, one by one, and I saved their beauty in my clutch bag for the day my mother and father, who grew bored with me and succumbed to wanderlust, decided to finally return home.

“Why do you continue doing this thing, Enny?” my neighbor, the Spinster Wainwright, once asked in a tone that was more condemnation than curiosity.

“Because my mother once told me that stars used to inspire wishes,” I replied. “And I will continue to do this thing until my wish has been granted.”

To this, the old woman had no response. She simply stood at my side, watching the night sky grow darker as one by one the stars were plucked from the heavens and placed into my purse, causing galaxies to shudder.

Eventually, our star, our sun would join the others and this lonely existence would be eaten by the dark motes that share my name.

©2019 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

We Call It Love

They darken our doorstep, these weak men of authority do, issuing proclamations and threats in hopes of frightening us into submission. How poorly they know myself or my wife.

Were they more observant, able to peer beneath the surface of our supposed marital hatred, if one of these men, made strong only because of their sheer number, were truly bold enough to gaze into my betrothed’s eyes or even mine, they would perchance see into our souls and spot a chemistry that is more than mere butterflies churning in our bellies for our butterflies are bloodthirsty ravens forcing us into an entanglement, a battle for conquest, a contest of champions in which there can only be one victor but when the coupling is concluded, both emerge victorious.

But no, instead they bring their rules and laws, trying to persuade us into accepting that our way of thinking is not right, telling us our mating ritual will eventually end in disaster and in order to safeguard both my wife and myself, we must not only separate from one another but be sent into exile and walk the earth until we see the errors of our ways and are prepared to repent for our sins.

They think our ways foolish and perhaps I am the fool for thinking we could live among these strangers and benefit from sharing our respective cultures, acknowledging our common traits and if not embracing then at least accepting the rituals which divide us.

I state that no one will ever dictate how we live our lives for we are happy and even if their armed horde by some miracle manages to separate me from my wife, they will never succeed in tearing us apart because our hearts are knotted in the unbreakable bond of life union.

I explain that our marriage is built upon a foundation of fighting, for warrior blood courses through our veins and sometimes fighting is right. Necessary. Each dawn, as sunshine glints off our slashing blades in springtime, there exists between us a strange, violent harmony that we call love. But they are not one with understanding in this matter.

So, as they draw their weapons in an attempt to separate us, my wife smiles at me and we brace for battle, accepting their challenge.

©2019 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

A Tin of Snow

Tin of snow

Tins were a wonderful thing to me. They were a depository where the things a boy kept precious could be secreted away and tucked into the backs of closets or under loose floorboards. Mostly the contents of tins included stamps, coins, marbles, smooth and colorful stones and the bits of refuse that could viewed as treasure to the furtive imagination of a young mind.

I collected snow.

Not just any snow, mind you—-I wasn’t some type of frozen vapor hoarding lunatic—-I collected the flakes from the first snowfall and packed little rectangular bricks in the back of the freezer. Why? Because of Frosty the Snowman, who came to life after being imbued with the magical properties of first fall snow. But I wasn’t going to build some ratty old snowman, no sir, not me. My goals were slightly loftier than that.

I was going to build a griffin. Agrippa the Griffin.

I’d be the envy of my neighborhood when Agrippa and I went for a walk, and since I read somewhere how griffins have the ability to sense and dig gold up from the earth, I knew we’d be financially sorted for life. And we would totally rule the airways. That went without saying.

Yup. I saw it all clear as day and my plan was foolproof. I traced pictures from books in the New York Public Library so I’d know how to sculpt Agrippa accurately, and knowing he’d be curious about his heritage, I constructed a fascinating family history that would have made any newly birthed mythological creature proud.

As I collected tins of first snow and carefully hid them in the freezer, I knew the world was finally mine and I was destined to live the most incredibly awesome life ever imagined, and nothing could have prevented it…

Until I discovered the hard way that refrigerators came equipped with a thaw feature. All my carefully stacked magically imbued briquettes had been reduced to not-so-magical freezer run-off that dripped impotently into a catch tray.

Needless to say, I have yet to bring Agrippa into existence. And life, well, it hasn’t quite reached that most incredibly awesome high watermark yet.

But where there’s hope…

©2016 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

The Wooden Cup

The last meal? Declined. Told that I might dine on whatever foodstuffs my heart desired, I found myself wanting nothing that would possibly remind me of the pleasures of this existence. Starvation would be the repast I took to my grave.

Prepared to meet my maker? Not by a long chalk. Religion was a thing that never quite managed to find purchase upon the coral reef of my soul. Mine was a spirit never moved by any diety, higher or lower, so the only salvation available for me once I came face to face with my final fate was to let oblivion enfold me within her inky embrace.

My jailors were informed that I would seek no holy counsel from a curate, as I hoped to spend my last hours in solitude but that request was ignored and a visitor was announced—a woman whose face was unfamiliar to me was escorted into my cell.

She said nothing, this woman, as she sat on the far corner on my bedding, cradling a cup hewn from wood in her delicate hands. Smiling, she offered the cup to me and made a motion suggesting that I drink.

For the life of me—a peculiar turn of phrase considering my position—I could not explain why I accepted the cup or why at her urging I touched its brim to my lips but in my grasp this simple cup was not unlike the holy grail.

It was filled with a liquid that after one sip I somehow knew to be her tears. Tears shed from happiness and from grief, yet when those collected salt drops greeted my lips the flavor was replete with the surprising splendor of the sweet serenity of a loving quiet purpose.

I drank and drank until there was no more and was momentarily reluctant to release the cup. When she left, still proffering that unnaturally kind smile, I realized what she had done. That simple and bizarre act of sharing her fluid with me sparked an ember of faith within I had no inkling existed and in that moment I knew sorrow and regret for what I had done and for the life that could have been and for the reward that existed beyond this life whose gates would never be opened for one such as I.

So it was to be oblivion after all.

©2019 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

This Simple Truth

It was a dark and stormy night, the type of night I had grown all too familiar with of late—when all my estranged family and distant friends slept but I couldn’t because all the regrets of my life raged in my mind with an unbearable intensity along with the enduring question—

Why am I alone?

Religion had given me assurances that I was never truly alone and family swore up and down that someone would always be there for me, yet despite all this, one dreary day I slipped on a patch of sadness and plunged into a depression so deep, so far out of human reach that not one single person, a collective of people, or even an all-powerful, all-knowing deity was able to catch my fall.

There was a saying along the lines of “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” which was true I suppose but it wasn’t always in a positive way. I adapted to my loneliness and was now quite capable of being alone in a crowded room. I could not find camaraderie or companionship with the people around me, and as a writer, not even with the people in my mind, the ones that I had breathed life into.

Even my own reflection couldn’t be bothered to be in my company. Instead, it turned its back on me, facing the mirror-image room behind itself and whispered, “You have been lonely your entire life and now you will be all alone until the day you eventually die.”

And with this simple truth, slick sheets of tears poured from the storm clouds of azure eyes, streaking black and violet lightning across the alabaster plain of the loneliest face on the planet.

©2016 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

One Last Thing, Before I Go

Photo by Robert Lawton

They gather at my wake, my family and friends do, and I am surprised to find they are not alone. For in the crowd of mournful faces I spy the many acquaintances I have made along the way, long lost playmates from my childhood, as well as the beautiful women who I recognize immediately as the pretty girls I loved in my youth, each with children not much younger than we were when we courted.

Each of the assembled grievers tell a story, most of which I remember fondly and some I have forgotten with age, stories that make me laugh at how foolish I had been when I was at my most serious and some touching enough to make the eye water at the perceived kindnesses I bestowed upon others without even being aware.

And when the time for remembrances both affectionate and painful has past, my loved ones—and yes, even the acquaintances are loved now—raise a parting glass to wish me safe passage on my unearthly travels to where I do not know and as I feel myself being gently pulled away from this realm, I swim against the current of my final destiny and pass through each body gathered in this place to leave a personalized vivid memory in an effort to ensure I am not forgotten.

©2019 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

The Web and the Too Close Crescent Moon

Sadder than any person I’ve ever seen, Madam Ostelinda greets me with a weak handshake before taking the seat across the table and begins to remove the cloth from her crystal ball.

“That won’t be necessary, “ I say. “Your sign out front says you’re a dream interpreter as well, is that right?”

“I am,” says the fortune teller and I’m surprised at how much her accent doesn’t match her garish Roma garb, as if she can’t be bothered putting on the full routine anymore. In fact, her office or workspace or inner sanctum or whatever you call the place a woman in her line of work plies their craft seems a bit underdone, like a cheap curio shop that isn’t ready to open for business because it’s not fully stocked.

“I’d like to tell you about this dream I’ve been having.”

“Whenever you’re ready,” she says, repositioning the deep velvet cloth over the glass orb and locking eyes but still not properly seeing me.

“Okay, so, I’m looking up at this crescent moon in a night sky filled with stars and it’s too big, the moon, like I can almost reach out and touch it, except my arms won’t move. Then I realize I can’t move my entire body because I’m tangled up in some sort of giant spiderweb which for some reason is at the mouth of a cave. And before I can make sense of it, I hear a noise, a scrabbling or scratching sound that’s getting closer and it’s clear that something is approaching behind me and because I’m immobilized I can’t see it but I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that it’s the thing that made this web.

“I try calling out for help but my lips and my teeth have these hooks and hollows that have been locked together like a flesh and bone zipper. All seems lost when out of the corner of my eye I spot a pair of scissors stuck to the web near my right hand and if I can only reach it I can cut myself free…but try as I might my fingers just aren’t long enough and the creature is right behind me, and just when I sense it’s about to strike…I wake up.”

I study Madam Ostelinda’s face, who is clearly preoccupied with other matters, and I do not rush her interpretation so we sit in her shabby mystic lair in silence for a long moment until the time the impatience I attempt to tamp down forces a biological urge to clear my throat.

The faux gypsy returns from her woolgathering and asks, “How many times have you had this dream?”

“There have been at least eleven instances in the past two weeks,” I reply. “Any idea what it all means?”

It is now Madam Ostelinda’s turn to clear her throat as she leans forward on the table, lacing her fingers in an academic professorial manner, and explains, “Well, a crescent moon indicates cyclic changes, renewal, and possibly progressing smoothly toward a new life path. The web could either suggest that you’re being held back from fully expressing yourself or you feel trapped and don’t know what to do or where to go. The scissors could denote a need to become decisive and take control in the real world, or you need to cut things or people out of your life.”

“I suppose I can agree with some of that,” I nod. “Not to change the subject but you seemed a little distracted after I finished telling you my dream. What were you thinking about?”

“You noticed that, huh? My apologies. It just seemed familiar to me, that’s all, like I’ve heard something similar to it before.”

“From your daughter, perhaps?”

And there is the look I have been waiting for, the dawning recognition.

“Amy?” she says my name and I am triggered, losing my footing in the present and falling back through the calendar of my life to the days when my younger self delighted in having my mother’s undivided attention.

“Hi, Mom,” I say, smiling despite myself.

This woman, who looks nothing like I remembered; who looks nothing like me because I take after my father, struggles to find words and when she eventually does, all she can muster is, “How did you find me?”

“A private investigator. Dad told me it was a waste of money and time but sometimes I’m like a dog with a bone, a trait he says I get from you. It took the private eye a while to find because you did one hell of a job changing your identity.”

And any satisfaction I thought I’d feel at finally confronting her is lost when ages-long regret strips away the gypsy mask to reveal the sad, small woman beneath.

“You must think I’m a horrible person,” she turns away as she says this as to hide the tears welling in her eyes.

“I did, for a long time,” I admit. “But now, all I want are answers.”

“You’re not going to understand.”

“Try me. And as for the scissors thing, I’m not trying to cut you out of my life,” I say and proceed to ask all the questions a parent who abandons their child dreads.

©2019 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys