13 for Halloween: Homeless (audio)

Part 1 * Part 2

I don’t dream. I never have. Dreams are reserved for people who are asleep. Me? I’m what they call a true illuminate because I can transcend into a higher state of consciousness, beyond the realm of mere dreams. When my physical body is at rest, recharging, I enter into a state of intensified wakefulness and the universe becomes a playground for my astral form.

Sometimes I travel with purpose, to view the birth of a star, or bear silent witness to the death of a solar system. Other times I drift aimlessly in the cosmos and ruminate on the miracle of existence. Then there are times when I’m caught in the undercurrent of an event that exists in defiance of the natural order and chaos of reality.

Tonight, it’s the latter.

I’m being drawn against my will to a bedroom, where a naked couple performs some sort of, I don’t know, ritual? that can only remotely be considered sex by a raving lunatic. The sounds of their ecstasy? lament? fill the air as their bodies bend, twist and contort in ways the human form isn’t designed for, even if they happen to be triple jointed. They both move in a feverish and jerky fashion, attempting to slot themselves together, like two shifting pieces of an ever-changing puzzle, until the man’s mangled body finally forms the proper key to tumble the lock of the woman’s hideously misshapen physique.

There’s a sound unlike anything I’m ever heard and suddenly a patch of reality behind the deformed mass of the couple segments horizontally and lifts like a venetian blind being drawn. I can’t be sure, but I think they somehow managed to open a door to another dimension? plane of existence? and now shapes are moving in the reality rift, clawing their way through the opening.

I try to move closer in order to get a better look, tamping down my fear of the unknown because in my astral form whatever they are can’t hurt me. And just as the lead figure is about to come into view, I’m being pulled away, snapping back to my physical body, by a force stronger than the one that brought me here. On the way I see things, brittle and broken images of horrible events happening all over the world, racing past me at subliminal speeds…before I come to a complete halt.

It takes a moment for me to realize that I’m back where I started from, the spot I chose to rest, at the treeline of the forest behind my house. But something’s wrong. I hear noises coming from within the forest, unnatural sounds trying to mask themselves within the hum of nature. My senses are sharper during intensified wakefulness and I can feel them, lurking in the field of trees, cloaked by the shadows of the night, moving stealthily toward my sleeping body.

I force myself to remain calm. I still have time to slip back into my body, wake myself up and make it back to the house before whatever’s coming can reach me. The process of slipping back into my physicality is so simple…

No! It’s impossible!

I didn’t spend that much time away from my body. I’ve traveled longer distances and remained out until the crack of dawn with no problem plenty of times before.

My attention snaps back to the treeline. They’re braver now, all the stealthiness abandoned as they crawl out from the cover of the trees. And I see them for the first time, these things, like creatures out of a nightmare. I scream to draw their attention but they can’t hear me.

The inhuman beasts surround my defenseless outer casing. I try again to reenter my framework, but for some reason, maybe I was away too long, I’m now locked out of my own body. But I don’t give up. I lunge at them, swing my fists and try to kick them, which is about as effective as fighting air. So, I float, helpless to stop them, and all I can do is watch and cry as they tear the flesh from my bones and savagely devour my anatomy.

I once felt superior to everyone else. having the universe to explore, but now all I feel is homeless and alone, and I’m terrified because I’m not sure how long I can survive without the physical body that served as my anchor.

Tiny Stories: Meat Cute

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

Of all the things that could potentially ruin societies the world over, destroying religious ideals, tearing apart the family unit, pitting toxic masculinity against extremist feminism, breaking down the education system, dividing the races, removing the population’s right to bear arms, inhibiting self-reliance and ingenuity, collapsing the internet, destabilizing economies…who ever thought that all humankind had built could have fallen apart over the disappearance of edible meat?

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease as it was commonly known, first reared its ugly head in Britain in 1986 when British herds were fed the processed animal remains of sheep infected with the brain-wasting disease, scrapie.

Isolated cases had shown up in Ireland, Canada, and the United States but the situation was considered under control…that was until July 22, 2002, when all the gamey animals (beef, horse meat, mutton, venison, boar, and hare) and the white meat animals (pig, rabbit, veal, lamb, duck, and goose) contracted the disease, plunging the meat manufacturing industry into chaos as their infrastructures collapsed. Herbivores were now the ruling class and non-conforming carnivores were doomed to extinction.

That was when the rioting began. Rogue carnivorous factions set crops ablaze, poured bleach over produce in supermarkets, rampaged through farmer’s markets causing as much destruction as they could in order to level the dietary playing field.

The meat industry was hard at work searching for a major scientific breakthrough when a geneticist and cloning expert discovered a process to save the carnivore population, and soon national meat lotteries were held. Hopeful contestants purchased tickets for a chance to win 10 pounds of USDA lab-grown meat.

Tammy “Finnsy” Finnegan purchased a ticket on a lark. She’d never won a thing in her life but when she purchased a container of milk at her local bodega and the clerk had no folding money in the till to offer her as change and she hated carrying loose coins, so she opted to put the money on a lottery ticket instead. And as was the way of the world and her life, because she thought nothing of it, the universe decided to grant it to her.

The ticket was redeemable at a meatpacking plant that had been converted into a lottery reclamation center. There she met the runner-up winner, Mick McCaffrey, who went by the name, Mooch.

It turned out that Mooch was diabetic and his blood sugar was low. He explained that normally he fell asleep when he was low, but this day as a result of being a winner, he was very animated and laughing and jumping around. Finnsy tried to calm him down and to stop him from running through the facility, she held his hand.

Once Finnsy got Mooch to calm down and sit, she sat next to him and talked, and though she would never admit it in a court of law, she might have flirted with him a bit. She found him cute, after all.

Mooch kept saying he loved her smile and asked why her face was turning red. When there was finally a lull in the conversation, Mooch asked Finnsy to dinner, and offered to cook his share of the meat for her.

She said yes as the lottery officials called Mooch in to collect his prize. Finnsy found it odd that they would award the runner-up prize first, but soon let the thought pass. A while later, the official returned and awarded her the 10-pound meat prize. She loitered a while to talk to Mooch and finalize their dinner arrangements, but was informed that he had left while she was conducting her news interviews.

Little did Finnsy know that when she sat down and tucked into the steak she prepared later that evening, that she was indeed having dinner with Mooch.

Tiny Stories: It Was A Dark And Stormy Night

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

It was a dark and stormy night…in my soul, the type I was all too familiar with—where all my relationships with loved ones and acquaintances rested, but I was not at peace.

You see, there was a stranger who walked the streets of my inner being, my own personal Spring Heeled Jack, who sought out the connections I had made throughout the span of my lifetime and, with the skill of a surgeon, severed these ties, one by one.

Call it mad coincidence, but as the bonds within were severed, the person associated with them were discovered brutally slain. Had my Ripper, that entity filled with rage and the unbearably intense need to be alone finally become corporeal?

And now, as we stood face to face, taking in the measure of one another, the only question flooding my mind was—

Will he sever ties with me now?

Tiny Stories: Shards of Torment

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

The vanity mirror in her bedroom was a Venetian antique. Tin and mercury were used in its construction, which caused the mirror to develop a crystalline appearance over the years. It was a gift from Sandrine’s late husband, something he picked up from a bizarre back alley curio shop at a price far below its worth.

Although the mirror always displayed Sandrine’s reflection in the best light possible, far better than any mirror ever had, it had always unnerved her, as if it was manipulating her image to make her more beautiful than she knew herself to be. After her husband died, she should have thrown it away, but could not for the life of her explain what stopped her from doing it.

As was her nightly ritual, she sat in front of the mirror and brushed her long, beautiful hair, counting each stroke, when she detected the faintest whiff of her husband’s cologne. Sandrine looked around the bedroom and saw that she was alone, but when her gaze returned to the mirror, her husband was seated beside her in the reflection, holding her hand that was holding the brush. She screamed and for a moment it felt as if something or someone else was in control of her arm, forcing her to hurl the hairbrush with all her might at the mirror, shattering it to pieces.

Bitter nausea rose in her throat as the shards of the shattered vanity mirror twitched and trembled before shooting up from the table and floor in a maelstrom of sharp chaos, pieces binding themselves together in DNA helix fashion, building themselves from inanimate splinters of reflective glass to take on a new, sinister shape, the form of her abusive, late husband.

“Honey, I’m home,” said the mirrored monstrosity in a voice that sounded like broken glass edges scraping together.

©2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Tiny Stories: The Girl Who Dances

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

Mother Nature’s nose bleeds as the climate changes and zoonotic illnesses are on the rise and the human virus that infects the planet pushes itself toward extinction over squabbles of skin tone, religion, and wealth and the only thing holding the fabric of the universe together is Umbra, whose name means shadow, which is where she dances.

She is a shy girl with the crooked smile and nervous laugh who keeps herself to herself and stands apart from the rest of the so-called real world, moving her body to a tune of ancient magicks that no one else can hear and loving the vision of what people can become if only they can get out of their own way.

Pray the day never comes when she stops dancing.

©2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Tiny Stories: Eyes of Pitch

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

Her point of origin was unknown and perhaps unknowable. Some said she was the herald of an extraterrestrial invasion force come to test Earth’s defenses, while others postulated that she stepped directly from the Abyss to test the mettle of humankind.

As no earthly tongue could pronounce her name, she chose the pseudonym Rosalinda.

As a xenologist, considered by many to be the top in my field, I was drafted by the military to assess both Rosalinda’s intent and her threat level. All throughout my briefing, I was repeatedly warned, as per Nietzsche’s instructions, not to look directly at her, and I tried my level best to heed that warning but…

Rosalinda’s eyes were pitch black perfect and somewhere in their aphotic depths, I spotted the bioluminescence of her pain and gentleness as they came together to form the very art of her beautifully tortured soul.

She was here to destroy us all, and I, helplessly in love, was prepared to be the first in line to be obliterated.

©2019 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Tiny Stories: How Do You Mend A Mechanical Heart?

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

“All right, I’ll tell you, but move in closer,” IO-893 said. “I do not like discussing my personal business in public.”

Mrrroww,” replied the bar cat as it inched toward the mecha man.

“I violated Asimov’s First Law of Robotics, you know, the one that states: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

Maow?” the bar cat asked.

“Yes, a human female named Marisol, but there’s more to the story than simple murder. We were in love, as impossible as that might seem to an upstanding feline such as yourself, and she was sick, slowly wasting away from a disease that was so new it had no name at the time and definitely had no cure. She begged and pleaded with me to end her misery. She was the center of my universe, how could I deny her request? Could you, if you were in my position?”

Miaou.”

“I did not think so,” IO-893 said. “After Marisol expelled her final breath, I obtained a lock of her hair and wound it around my broken mecha heart, before I was jailed. 25 years later, I was granted a Presidential Pardon, provided that I returned the lock of hair to Marisol’s family, which I foolishly agreed to.”

The bar cat’s brow furrowed. “Miau?”

“No, you don’t understand, it goes far beyond losing a keepsake,” IO-893 explained. “Technology has advanced to the point where humans can be cloned from a single strand of hair. Marisol’s family has an entire lock that I aim to steal. So, are you in or out?”

©2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Tiny Stories: The Lips of Death

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

The cruel hand of Fate stole you too soon from this all too fragile life and driven to desperation by your absence, I embarked on a fool’s errand, for I am forever a fool for your love, down to accursed Hades in search of the dreaded psychopomp for a solution to my heart’s devastation.

A bargain was struck, and know, beloved, that I showed no fear and no regret when I fell to my knees and kissed the lips of Death itself in order to bring you back, thus damning my soul to be cast into the pit of Tartarus for all eternity.

Enjoy your second chance at life, my sweet, and know that regardless of what happens in your future travels, you are loved.

©2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

My Madd Fat Brain Bug: A Story Box Full of Regret

The damnedest thing can place a bug in your brain. Rod Serling is the source of one of mine.

It happened while I was deep within my Twilight Zone infatuation phase, in the prehistoric information days before civilian access to the internet, when I devoured every Serling-related book, article or fanzine I could lay my grubby little mitts on. In one of the pieces, I read how Rod’s widow, Carol, found a number of scripts and stories amongst her late husband’s possessions that were unproduced at the time.

And thus the bug found a home in my grey matter.

I pictured Rod in the final moments before he shuffled off this mortal coil, his gaze sliding across the room until it fell on the closet door, eyes filled with that unique brand of sadness only known to writers. Carol would remember that stare and later be drawn to the closet by a mysterious force that urged her to dig out a box buried deep beneath the material remnants of Rod’s life, shed like so much old skin. A box filled with his regrets, the stories that remained untold, that never found a proper home.

You don’t have to say it, I know that’s all rubbish. Simply me fictionally placing myself in the position of a man I never met. If Rod had any regrets at all, I certainly wasn’t privy to them. But that doesn’t make my brain bug any less real.

You see, I have a box–well, it started off as a file folder and grew into a box–filled with stories in various stages of development. Ideas written on scraps of paper, composition notebooks loaded with concepts and outlines, and completed stories that only exist in paper form–written pre-computer on an Underwood typewriter, circa 1950–as I haven’t gotten down to the laborious task of transferring them to my computer.

I don’t discuss my box much and I only brought it up to respond to an email I recently received (copied and answered here with permission):

I want to write a blog but I’m scared of being exposed and having people judge or attack me because of my opinions and I don’t think I have the writing skills to get my point across in the right way. What gives you the courage to write?

Guess what? Self-doubt and anxiety regarding humiliation and criticism is all part of the process and grist for the mill, so welcome to the club. What separates writers from non-writers is that instead of running away from that fear, we invite it in for wine and cheese. Befriend the beast that frightens you most because there’s a story just waiting to be revealed in that encounter.

It’s true that honest writing takes courage, as does sharing your writing with people who may not be kind in their opinion of it, but you also have to realize that it’s not your job to make people like your writing. Some people will flat out hate it because of your views or your writing style, and because they may not know any better, can possibly hate you because of it. Hopefully, it’ll be the minority. Accept it as an unavoidable truth and move on.

As for the question, “What gives [me] the courage to write?” Everyone has their own reason for writing, and fear of acceptance isn’t high on my list. Sure, it’d be great if the unwashed masses loved my work, but the simple truth is all writing has its audience, whether infinite or infinitesimal, and if you never put your writing out there, there’s no chance in hell of your audience ever finding it.

The real reason I write is because of the aforementioned box. I just don’t want to be lying on my deathbed–hopefully many, many, many years from now–and staring at that damned box full of unwritten stories. I no doubt will have my fair share of regrets in my final days, but I’m determined not to have that box be one of them.

And since we’re on the topic of regrets, I recently read a book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing” by Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse who cited the most common lamentations as being:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

So, while I can’t offer you reasons why you should write, I can tell you that most of the regrets listed above factor heavily in my need to write.

In closing, someone once wrote, “writing is like getting into a small boat with a wonky paddle and busted compass and setting out on rough waters in search of unknown lands.

So, paddle forth, friends, and be regret-freely writeful.

Text and Audio ©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

 

Author’s note: Since I’m never at a loss for ideas, I don’t dip into my story box as much as I’d like to, though I will occasionally post one or two of them on this blog or slip them into or in between current projects. The story idea folder on my computer? That’s a whole different story.

Open Mic Nite

Staten Island is easily my least favorite of New York’s five boroughs and there ain’t a damned thing I miss about it. Okay, there is one thing. A pub. A tiny mom and pop tavern with that everybody knows your name ambiance that I didn’t discover until the final two of my nine-year stint on the isle. Bored, I popped in for a quick pint and stumbled upon Thursday karaoke night. It made my stay in hell a little more tolerable.

Shortly after leaving Staten Island, I found myself in Los Angeles (that move is a story in itself, believe me) and I’d been casually searching for a neighborhood tavern with a similar vibe. A drinking hole that was non-touristy and non-themed, frequented by locals that had the benefit of being divey without being stabby. And one weekend when I wasn’t even looking for it, I found a contender.

I was on my way home from a day of sightseeing and decided to wet my whistle before hopping on the bus. I used the scientifically proven picking rhyme method of ip, dip, dog shit to select from the three bars within my line of sight.

I chose the smallest of the three and when I opened the door, a guy was suddenly in my face, “Hey, cabrón, you didn’t even say what’s up, cabrón, da fuck’s up with that, cabrón?” Before I could respond, he got in a good look and followed up with, “Oh, sorry, bro, thought you was some other dude.” Less than ten seconds in and no stab wounds to speak of. I knew that I had chosen wisely.

It was a beer joint, not a wine glass in sight, narrow with an alcove for a pool table and video poker machine (if you’re a regular to my blog, you might recognize this description from yesterday’s story, and that’s because I used it as reference, deal with it). The bartender was dive bar attractive (if you’ve ever spent time in a dive bar, you know exactly what I mean), and she

  • was on the back end of her forties
  • used to own a restaurant in Santa Clarita
  • had to find a job after her boyfriend dumped her
  • her friend taught her the ropes behind the bar
  • dropped $500 at bartending school
  • went on a dating site that rhymes with No Way Stupid and met a guy
  • on their second date, he took her to Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) and he promptly turned into a dick, so she dumped him and enjoyed her free 10-day India vacation

I knew all this because as the bartender was draping a vinyl cover over the pool table, she was being bombarded by questions from a woman who hailed from Kew Gardens, New York, and was only in town a few days visiting her parents.

So caught up in this conversation, and patiently awaiting the bartender to take my drink order, I failed to notice the graying, horseshoe bald, rail thin near-double for Malcolm McLaren setting up equipment. He wore a faded Led Zeppelin tee, skinny jeans and weathered suede cowboy boots and I hadn’t become aware of his presence until he tuned his guitar and interrupted Sade singing Hallelujah with a “check one, check one, check one.

In Staten Island I had stumbled upon karaoke night, here, according to the handwritten poster behind McLaren’s head, it was Open Mic Nite.

A guy in camouflage walked in, lugging an oversized backpack like he just returned from a tour of duty and placed his name on the sign-up sheet. He was a twitchy fella and at first, I thought it was drugs but he asked the bartender if this was a smoking bar.

She replied, “Dude, this is California. You ain’t gonna find a smoking bar anywhere near here,” which forced Twitchy Backpack to feed his addiction out back in the parking lot.

McLaren took the mic and set the ground rules:

  1. Every artist on the list gets two songs the first round and one song each round after until closing time or everybody runs out of songs.
  2. Originals or covers, all songs were welcomed.

A woman popped her head in, attempting to bum ciggie butts but was promptly told to kick rocks as she was in violation of the No Cigarette Bumming sign plastered on a nearby wall.

McLaren, as the official host, was first up and opened with the joke, “Cherokee, reservation for a thousand. Your land is ready now,” before launching into his folk set.

It’s amazing how the bar cleared out as soon as the open mic went underway. No more than ten people remained and every last one of them was accompanied by a guitar… except for me, and Twitchy Backpack.

I’m pretty hazy on all the performers and most of the songs were original but what I can remember is

  • An older gentleman who performed lyrical impressions that all seemed to sound exactly like him.
  • A Russian guy who brought a little R&B to the joint. Not only were his broken English jokes kinda/sorta amusing, but he wasn’t half bad (and that’s a compliment, coming from me).
  • Twitchy Backpack, who stripped out of his camo jacket down to a filthy white tee with what I assumed was fake blood stains to add a little character. At least I hoped they were fake. He plugged his smartphone in and played a beatbox track that he recorded for his Eminem wannabe set.
  • An African American gym rat who was on a serious John Legend love tip. The three female performers in the remaining crowd loved him. No, I mean, they were seriously into him to the point of being embarrassing. This guy sent these women into estrus. Imagine having that superpower. Sigh.
  • A wet-haired model-type who looked like he just swam there via Dawson’s Creek. He rocked a banjo and stomped on a tambourine as he improvised his way through original songs that he had forgotten the words to.
  • A lyrical comedian who broke out a little ditty rallying against songs about tits and ass and lamented the loss of songs about sweet, juicy pussy (hey, don’t look at me like that, I didn’t write the damned song).
  • And the all girl, all blonde, all guitar rock band. That’s right, three acoustics. More guitar bang for your buck. Their aim was to resurrect Ska but when their set was done, I still couldn’t detect a pulse.

There were others but as I’ve mentioned before, my memory downgraded to working a part-time job. Anyhoo, all the performers that remained (most departed after the second round) had gone through their material and McLaren tried to squeeze one last song out of the performers but had no takers. He looked my way and asked, “What about you?”

I shook my head. “Not a performer, don’t play an instrument and I sound shitty a cappella.”

Without missing a beat, Dawson’s Creek pulled his banjo out of the zippered bag and chirped, “What are you singing? I’ve got you.”

I’m normally not susceptible to peer pressure, but I’d knocked a few back so I was a little loosey-goosey and the clapping that accompanied the chant, “One song. One song. One song.” was kinda heady.

Know any Billy Idol?” I asked. Dawson’s Creek nodded and I wound up scream-singing White Wedding to patronizing applause, hooting and hollering.

Although it was closing time and everybody was ready to go home before I took the mic, I preferred to see it as I officially closed the joint. All the other performers were my opening acts and I was the headliner. One song and done. How fucking rock and roll was that?

Shhh. Lemme have this one.

©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys