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Monday, March 31, 2014

Passageways & Portals: Rebirth, Part 6

Ronald’s side of the room was much more orderly. Most of his “precious” belongings seemed to be confined to a couple shelves that hung above his Rolling Stone’s poster where a younger James probably couldn’t get to them without bringing the entire shelving units down. On the side wall, the man could see that there were quite a few comics kept in pristine condition still in their plastic covers with cardboard backs. A couple of hard cover books, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, Detective, stood on either side of the comics to keep them from falling over. Over the head of the bed, there was a .22 rifle with boxes of ammunition and air cartridges.
The entire room was almost perfectly split down the middle. Each boy had his own dresser that stood on the wall opposite the heads of the beds. In between the dressers there did stand a small table on which stood a transistor radio. Besides a few of James’ toys this was the only thing that stood in the neutral space of the room. 
Above the table with the radio there was a window that stood slightly open. The man could feel a slight breeze coming in from the outside and he closed his eyes as he took in the smell of freshly mown lawn and summer. He walked up to it and peered outside. A family on bicycles was riding past the house, and across the street a man was mowing his lawn; he waved to the bikers as they passed. It was a beautiful neighborhood: a place that he knew, or where he could say he belonged.
He turned away from the window and walked out of the room. Right next to the door leading into James and Ronnie’s room led another door, so he decided to see what was in there. He peered his head into that room and saw a bathroom and mild chaos. Immediately by the door stood a sink covered in washcloths and toothpaste. In between the sink and the mirror just above it, there was a metal tray screwed into the wall holding a nearly disintegrated bar of soap. 
In the middle of the bathroom floor sat a couple disheveled and still moderately wet towels. Next to the sink, right in front of the towels stood the toilet, the lid was closed and it looked to be fairly clean. At least they’re not complete savages, the man thought to himself with a chuckle.
Across the room was the bathtub, a porcelain tub on four metal feet. The brim of the tub was littered with GI Joe action figures and various other toys. He thought to himself that these were most likely the toys of James, if Ronald ever played with them it was most likely in private and he would never admit it in public. The thought of George or Dorothy walking in on him as he played with children’s toys made the man laugh as he pictured Ronald quickly tossing the toys with a horrified look. Teenage boys were above those sorts of games.
He walked out of the bathroom and across the hall to the next door. As he entered the door he knew he was in George and Dorothy’s room. To his right there was a king sized bed. The bed was perfectly made with an ornate maroon colored bed spread complete with elaborate designs in gold. Above the bed was a window with drapes matching the bedspread. As he stared at the bed he realized how tired he was and wanted to fall into it and curl up in the sheets. He figured that move would be imprudent though, he didn’t know how long he had before the family came home.
Where were they anyway? he asked himself. And why am I here? The answer to that last question didn’t come to him as readily as he had expected. Every so often the reason he was here seemed to be on the tip of his tongue, a feeling of déjà vu flittered around in the back of his mind, but it always seemed to go away like an apparition seen from the corner of the eye. 

He stood in the doorway of the room and closed his eyes. In his mind he could picture the exact layout of the room. He could picture the matching mahogany stands on either side of the bed down to the designs carved in the wood. He could see the wrought iron lamps that stood on either stand that matched those in the living room on the end tables. The old-fashioned chest that sat at the foot of the bed with the logo of the defunct British East India Trading Company branded into its lid was clear in his mind, as was the dresser that stood on the opposite wall. There on the other side of the dresser was the door leading to the adjoining bathroom, and across the room was the door leading to the walk in closet.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Passageways & Portals: Rebirth, Part 5

As he walked up the stairs he saw more pictures of the children he saw in the picture frame on the hutch in frames of bronze lining the walls. Most of the pictures were staged in a studio depicting the kids at different ages as they grew up. A few other shots that lined the walls showed the kids at play in a yard or by a creak. Here there was a picture of one of the boys learning to ride a bicycle as the father held on to the back of the seat. There a picture hung showing the older kid posing in a middle school football uniform. 
The young man felt as though he should be able to recall the boys’ names, but nothing was coming to mind. A sense of nostalgia creeped over him as he walked through the house, but he couldn’t figure out where the sense came from. Everything seemed just where it should be as if he would have put it here if he lived here. Had he lived there?
He looked around the second floor of the house. Off to the left near the stairs and before the first bedroom stood a small cabinet with a couple of drawers. The young man walked up to the cabinet and opened up the top drawer. Inside he found various cards that celebrated various holidays and birthdays for the family members.
One of the cards read, “George, Dorothy, Ronny, and Jimmy, We hope you have a very merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years! Love Andrew and Wendy” From this card he determined that the patriarch of the family must be George, and his wife was Dorothy, the mother of the children who were Ronny and Jimmy. As he dug through the cards and looked at a few more his suspicions were confirmed with a few anniversary cards written from George to Dorothy and from Dorothy to George. Out of curiosity, he pulled all of the anniversary cards out of the drawer and made two stacks: one stack comprised solely of the cards addressed to George and another of the ones solely addressed to Dorothy. After he was sure he had all of the anniversary cards, he counted each stack. When he was done, each stack had fifteen cards in them, so he felt confident in saying that the couple had been married for fifteen years.
He pulled out the birthday cards for Ronny and Jimmy, some of which were addressed to Ronald and James, and isolated the ones that were signed, “Love Mom and Dad.” For their number of birthday cards he came up with nine for Ronny and two for Jimmy. He went through the drawer again, but realized that they probably didn’t get cards for the kids until they were old enough to appreciate them. Especially considering they both looked a bit older than nine and two.
He took all of the cards and placed them back in the drawer. For a moment, he thought about going further down the hall but he didn’t know exactly how long he had here so he decided to explore the upstairs a little more. 
Looking over the layout of the upstairs there were four doors leading to rooms, two on either wall to his left or right, and across the hall was a window that stood partially propped open. He came to the first door on his right and looked in. This was obviously the boys’ room.  Hanging from middle of the ceiling was a complete replica of the solar system. On the far wall just above the bed was a poster of the band The Beatles, and hanging over the bed closest to the door was a poster of the band The Rolling Stones. Above the head of each bed were the names of each boy carved in stained wood. James slept in the far bed while Ronald slept in the bed closest to the door.

From the look of the room, the young man assumed that James was the younger of the two. James’ side of the room was littered with toys that an older boy most likely wouldn’t be interested in from a Major Matt Mason doll and matching Jane Apollo to assorted GI Joes and the Batman and Robin who assisted them with their matchbox cars. The man questioned if the parents would scold young James when they saw the shape of his side of the room. The thought made the young man laugh a little to himself.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Passageways & Portals: Rebirth, Part 4

Everything was only black for a second. When the young man came to, he was no longer in the crater. The old man was no longer standing next to him. Instead he now sat in a plush leather recliner in the living room of a house that seemed vaguely familiar to him. Why, though, he wasn’t sure.
The living room seemed fairly big. He looked around; next to his recliner was a matching plush leather sofa and love seat on the other side of that. On either side of the sofa stood end tables with coasters and lamps with wrought iron bases standing on them. A coffee table with tinted glass for its surface took up the center of the room. Across the room sat a large television with a wood paneled exterior. The TV sat in the middle of a bookshelf that seemed to double as an entertainment center. The bookshelf was expansive and filled with many leather bound books. The young man wondered if the owner could have actually read all of the books on the shelf. The floors were all dark hardwood. 
He went to stand up and found that his equilibrium was off balance again. He fell back into the chair feeling a little dizzy. Slowly he sat up placing his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. The spinning of the room around him started to slow as a dull ache started to form in the center of his brain. As the spinning subsided, he tried to stand up once again while holding on to the arm of the recliner. The room wobbled but began to come back to a halt as he released his grip on the recliner.
For a moment he stood in a crouched position after releasing the recliner letting the room balance out. As the room evened out he walked over to the bookshelf and viewed some of the titles that sat there. Early editions and leather-bound copies of various types of literature sat on the shelves. He identified authors from JRR Tolkien to CS Lewis to Mark Twain and more. 
Just to the right of the bookshelf there was a hutch built into the wall of the living room. Behind glass doors on shelves at the top of the hutch stood various keepsakes and figurines, most likely the possessions of the lady of the house he considered. Just underneath these cabinets there were mirrors set into the wall leading down to a counter where family pictures stood. The pictures each portrayed an older couple, a man and a woman, and two boys. One of the boys appeared to be in his early teens and the other was around five or six. He picked up one of the pictures and stared at it for a moment; the picture sat in a wooden frame and showed the family sitting in an empty field. I think I know these people, he thought, but how?
He set the picture back down and looked up the stairs that ascended to the second floor of the house that stood to the right of the hutch. There was also another doorway that led to a dining room and a kitchen beyond that off to the right. The young man considered which route to take, even considering the possibility of walking out. The last option was quickly tossed from his mind. There had to be some reason why he was here and he was determined to figure it out.

With that logic he decided to move up the stairs instead of to the kitchen. He didn’t think he could learn anything from the kitchen, at least not as much as he could learn from the second floor of this massive house.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Passageways & Portals: Rebirth, Part 3

“What kind of place is this?” The young man didn’t expect a lucid response, but he also didn’t want to be surrounded by silence and alone at the moment.
“This is a wonderful and terrible place,” the old man said. “Here we are everywhere and we are nowhere, all at the same time. We are nothing, yet we are everything. This is a truly splendid place indeed, son.”
The young man shivered at the words. There was something uncanny in the way the old man spoke that at first he could not shake, but he pushed the unsettling thoughts from his mind. “Have you climbed the wall of this crater?”
“No, no, no, that is not my lot my good man,” the old man said with a laugh. “I do not want to know what’s beyond the wall, I enjoy it fine down here, thank you very much.”
“Suit yourself. I’m gonna make my way up there though, I can’t spend my life dawdling down here.” The young man began to pull and hoist himself up the rock wall.
“May wings ever find you in the midst of your climb, son! Let me know what’s on the other side when you get there!” the old man called out.
As the young man reached out looking for crevices in the rock wall, he wondered if this was something he had ever done before. It felt like a foreign venture to him. That didn’t mean that he hadn’t done it before though, maybe it had been much time since his last time as a climber. Maybe there was a time when he used to do this for fun, or maybe he had to do it as a job of some sort.
He slowly pulled himself up, pushing with his legs when he could find good footholds. He tried not to look up or down, he felt that if he knew his progress it would either give him false hope or discourage him. The moment he was in was the most important part of the climb. 
With each movement upward he felt a little more exhausted and aches spread through his body. His mouth became drier as well and he felt hungrier. The pace of his adventure was catching up to him. How much longer could he keep up? He risked a look up toward the top of the wall. It loomed high above him, as if he hadn’t moved at all. 
The time had felt as though it had been dragging, he felt as though he had been climbing that wall for hours. He tried hoisting himself up further, but felt almost as though a weight was pushing against him. It wasn’t just gravity, something else was working against him to keep him from moving any further up the wall. 
“Are you having trouble up there?” the old man called out.
“I can’t seem to get any higher,” the young man called back.
“Look down,” the old man said.
The young man dared to look down for a moment. He was disheartened by what he saw. At that moment he realized that he hadn’t really made any progress. He didn’t even think he made it as high as the old man was sitting when they met. Some great weight was bearing down on him, keeping him from moving up the wall any further. Should he continue trying to scale the wall, or should he just stop and find another attack point?
He leaned his head against the wall frustrated. Sure, he could continue to try to make his way up the wall, but if there was something preventing him from making it any higher what was the point? There had to be some way out of the crater, he just had to regroup and figure it out. 

He began to climb back down the wall, but his footing was unsure. He slid a little down the face of the wall; his hands kept him from falling any further. Trying to regain his footing, though, his hands began to slip. Sounds of the old man starting to climb up the wall to his aid reached his ears just as his fingers slipped from the rock he was holding onto. Almost as if in slow motion he watched the top of the wall move further away. He watched the old man pass him. Then everything went black.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Passageways & Portals: Rebirth, Part 2

“Why hello there!” a voice called out. 
            “What the…” The sound of another voice in this deserted place startled the young man as he tried to catch his breath, and he fell to the ground as he turned to look up. What he saw was a balding old man. Around the crown of his head along the back and sides grew long white hair, and he had a beard that trailed midway down his chest. His wrinkly face was twisted up in a huge grin, and the young man could see a couple teeth on an otherwise toothless gum line.
The old man made his way down the rock wall of the crater edge to meet the young man on the ground. He moved nimbly for his advanced age to the surprise of the young man. He was also naked. For the first time the young man looked down and realized that he too was naked, and he realized that he felt no shame. He also didn’t feel compelled to turn away from the old man’s nakedness. For some reason this felt odd to him, but he didn’t understand why.
“Good day to you, son,” the old man said as he landed on the ground, “how ye be?”
“I don’t know,” the young man replied as he stood back up, “I don’t know who or where I am.”
“Does it matter?”
“I think so… I guess I don’t know.”
“Well, then maybe it don’t matter all that much. I believe what I say and I say what I believe and I believe you are who you think you are and that’s all that matters.”
“I don’t know what to think though.”
“Think whatever you want to think, man, this is a free world! No one ought to tell you what to think or who you are, you should just be.”
“Be what? What’s your name old man?”
“Name? What’s in a name, my good man? I am who I say that I am and that’s all that I am unless you want to tell me different.”
“But I want to know my name! Maybe it’ll help me understand who I am.”
“I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.”
“What does that mean? I feel as though I’ve heard that before.”
“As well you should have.”
“Why should I have heard it before?”
“You tell me.”
“If I knew I would have already told you! Are you mad?”
“I don’t feel mad, do you think me mad?”
“I believe I do.” The young man was beginning to feel the pulse of a headache. He didn’t understand the riddles this man spoke in and he was beginning to feel wary of his company. As no one else was around, though, he didn’t beg him off. “How long have you been here?” the young man asked looking up the rock and sand face of the crater edge.
“Either a moment or an eternity, one can never tell in a place such as this.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Passageways & Portals: Rebirth, Part 1

He opens his eyes.
            The bright sky of the foreign world surrounding him momentarily blinds him as he tries to wake up from his haze. The ground beneath him is hard and dusty. The world spins around as he shuts his eyes tightly until he finds his bearings. His eyes adjust to the daylight around him and his equilibrium evens out after his case of vertigo.
            He realizes that he’s lying on his side in the fetal position. A spasm runs through his lungs and he begins to cough; a whooping cough, signaling his return to the world of oxygen, that forces him onto his back. As the spasms subside, he looks at the sky.
            No clouds dot the sky. No sun shines. Yet the sky is bright and blue. He does not notice the lack of celestial beings, though; he just basks in the realization that it appears to be a beautiful day. He sits up and looks at the world around him. Nothing but desert surrounds him. He’s surprised at the coolness of the air caressing his skin.
            As he looks around, he realizes that he’s in something of a desert valley, rocks jut up to the sky in every which way he turns to look. The more he observes, though, he realizes he’s in the midst of a crater. In the very center of it. Looking this way and that he sees that in every direction the wall of dirt, sand, and boulders that surrounds him is evenly spaced from him in all directions. Directly to his left he sees a mountain climbing up into the sky. Where it ends he doesn’t know for it climbs beyond the sight of his eyes. The length, width, and circumference of the crater surrounding him escape his perception. At this moment, he’s curious as to how he came to be here.
            He stands up and looks around him. How does one come to be in a place like this? he asks himself. He tries to think of how he got there. Then he tries to think of how he could have gotten anywhere. Where was he before this? Where was he before that? Who was he?
            The questions swirl around in his mind and make him dizzy. He plops back down on the dusty ground. He looks to the sky. How can I be if I feel like I am not? he asks himself. He can’t even remember his name. While his name might not clue him in to who he is he feels that a little more knowledge into his past might.
            Maybe it’s just a temporary lapse of memory, he thinks to himself. Perhaps if I just go for a little walk I’ll begin to remember. He stands up and begins to walk aimlessly toward the edge of the crater. He strains to remember something of where he came from and how he came to be here.
            Eventually his mind forgets what he’s trying to remember and turns to the beautiful weather and what a great day it appears to be for a stroll. He looks up into the sky and notices the lack of clouds, but feels there’s still something else missing. His eyes turn to the edge of the crater and he questions what’s out there beyond it. Could he possibly scale the steep grade and make his way out of the crater?
He begins to think that his situation may be more dire than he had imagined at first. What if he can’t make it out of the crater? Would someone eventually find him there? He realizes just how much he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know where he is. He doesn’t know when he is. He doesn’t know who he is. If someone doesn’t find him, or if he can’t crawl out of the crater, then he could die there of hunger or thirst. What would happen to him at night? He doesn’t know how the weather is at night, maybe it will become so cold at night that exposure will kill him. He doesn’t know where but he recalls something about how desert areas become extremely cold at night, and this does seem to be a desert like place.
            He begins to pick up his pace with each question until he finds himself sprinting for the edge of the crater. No thought is given to the physical exertion it causes him, nor does he think about the length of time it takes him to get to the end of the crater.
            When he reaches the edge of the crater he collapses against a boulder while he tries to catch his breath. His mouth feels parched and he realizes that he’s going to need water soon. He curses himself for his overexertion. After all, he still needs to scale the wall of the crater to get out. A pang of hunger hits him and a slight panic washes over him. He tries to calm himself. He knows he’ll never make it out of there if he begins to panic.
            At first he didn’t even notice the old man sitting on the boulder just above the spot where he rested.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Story Behind "Empty"

“Empty” was another song I wrote in the metal band with the local Green Bay DJ. I was a little more proud of my lyrics for this one than I was for “Rest in Peace”. As evidenced by this song and “Love Knife” I liked playing with the verse bleeding into the chorus, although this played with it a little more. Like “Love Knife” this song didn’t repeat the words of the chorus even though it might have retained the musical pattern of verse-chorus-verse-chorus. This also marks the first time I opted to curse in my lyrics. I don’t recall why, it just fit the way I felt at the time of writing the song. Unfortunately, at this point, I don’t recall what occurred at the time to inspire the content of this song; although, I’m sure it was a mix of the rise of reality TV and watching lots of The Soup to remind me of the popularity of mindless empty entertainment.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Empty

Empty appeals to no one.
Life is much harder
from the inside, you know
death creeps in
only in your mind
so just find your way

home and leave me alone.
I don’t need your therapy,
just place your blame
where you think it ought to be.
I can’t take much more
of your psychobabble bullshit.
Heave your stones at your parents,
not the audience, just let go.

Beauty pageants
are crowning the dead;
making insecure
the confident.
How can this practice
not offend?
Just make your way

home and leave me alone
I don’t need your scrutiny.
Hollywood has taken the best of me
I can’t take much more
of your mindless celebrity.
Stick thin models with no personality.

Just let go.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Story Behind "Rest in Peace"

After things kind of fell apart with my writing partner from the song “Drifter” (nothing happened, the project just kind of ended), a DJ from a local hard rock/metal station reached out to me to sing lead vocals in a band he was working on. He told me that he didn’t really care much for Social Fallout’s music as he found it to be derivative, but he thoroughly enjoyed my vocals.

It took me awhile to decide to join the band. After a few years in a metal band I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue on that route. I opted to give it another try, and I kind of enjoyed it for a little bit. It was a good group of guys, very talented and a lot of fun to hang out with. Part of me wishes I would have stuck with it, but I ended up leaving the band after a few months. For one thing, they were very progressive and my style had always been very straight forward. Coming up with melodies and profound lyrics to fit those melodies became increasingly difficult.


“Rest in Peace” was one of those situations. I did actually enjoyed how it sounded, although I wish I would have come up with a better title. I also wish I had come up with better lyrics. I think my toiling over lyrical content is what broke the camel’s back with this particular band. There are a couple lines I still enjoy; however, I feel the lyrics were a little too familiar overall. When I felt I couldn’t serve the band properly, I opted to drop out of the project.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Rest in Peace

Zombies trod
where angels once stood
as light fades away
in the dawn of the day
feeding on minds
to dumb down the flock
and soon we’ll all
be ready to fall

I see
the end is coming
Our innocence
fading away
Why can’t we
just think on our own
walking the line
our way

Break down all the walls
Influence is dead
Zombies walk the streets
Now the hammer falls

Trample the leaves
where flowers once stood
Intelligence dies
in the hands of consumers
The box in the room
has replaced our brain
Leaving remains
of the human within

Now our minds
are all lost
at the click
of a simple button
How did this happen
when we should answer to none

Free thinking is dead
when you can pay a dime
to be spoon-fed your thoughts

Sleep, rest in peace
in the mire you made for yourself
Rest in the thoughts
they gave you on your deathbed
Die in the thought
that you’ll never be free again
See in the end
your life is all just a lie

Is this what you wanted?
Is this what you believe?
Is there something inside you
that makes you deceived?


Friday, March 7, 2014

The Story Behind "Drifter"

After I left Social Fallout I started getting together with a guitarist friend of mine to work on an idea for a new band. Unfortunately it didn’t work out as planned, but this was one of the concepts that we had started working on.

At the time, I was obsessed with the concept of the rock opera. I had been listening to The Who’s Quadrophenia and Tommy as well as Green Day’s American Idiot on repeat and I wanted to do something of that nature. The concept that I was working out in my head had to do with the story of a drifter traveling from town to town on the back of trains. The main story had to do with this drifter caught up in, and accused of, a murder that was being investigated. The themes would have dealt with issues of perception versus reality.

This song would have been one of the opening pieces of that rock opera. I wanted to start off with an overture of sorts, a strictly musical piece with no vocals, and follow that with this song that gives a little background to the story. I don’t have music to post for this since we never got around to recording it, but the style for this song was more grunge inflected like Pearl Jam circa Ten. I wanted to play with various styles to fit the mood of the themes present in the various songs, and would have tried to take inspiration from the various forms of 90’s alternative rock.


Because this was envisioned for a specific project with the specific writing partner that I’m in very limited contact with, I don’t foresee returning to this original project. Since I feel that this story was specifically tailored to the rock opera format, I also don’t foresee returning to it in a short story or novel format. As time passes, though, I could consider an epic poem-like format to preserve some since of what I was originally going for.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Drifter

And she sleeps the day away
Into another uneventful day
And she knows there’s no going back
To find what it is she lacks
So she sits and she just waits
For a man to come back she prays
She knows the lack of news
Is her only sign of proof

That she’ll never see what this life could be
And the tie that binds is broken by her mind

Broken down by truth
She looks for something new
In a drifter far away
In some forsaken place
She sleeps but never dreams
And hopes for some kind of peace
No matter how she tries
She’ll never ease her mind.

But she’ll never see what this life could be

And the tie that binds is broken with the time

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Story Behind "Bryson Forrestor"

“Bryson Forrestor” is the revision of the prologue for The Black Ring. I sent the original draft of the story to a childhood friend who is an English professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and her responses largely influenced my direction in the second draft. The main idea I wanted to focus on for this draft was to play with time, so there’s the main arc that takes place in the stories “present” and then we flash back to what led Bryson to the present. This also allowed me to start with a more concrete scene, rather than the initial moving street scene the prologue started with. Since I’m not sure about whether I’m going to finish The Black Ring, I’m using this as a short story. As of right now I’m sure I’m not done with drafts for this piece.