Oriental Tranquility

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Apparition Taxi

 

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Music crooning softly, Samuel Walters continued his journey west. The truck headlights slicing through the darkness of the cool, summer night. His left arm hung out the window. Right thumb tapping the steering wheel in time with the old rock ‘n’ roll.

He drove this road every night on his way home from work. And he enjoyed every second of it. Typically, he was the only driver at this time.

The beat up work truck rose and fell with the road as it moved with the uneven land.

One particular dip took him through a blanket of fog. His hand outstretched to feel as much of the cooler air as possible. He smiled. Once the truck emerged out the other side, he checked the rear view mirror. Glanced over his shoulder. “Did we pick up any hitchhikers?”

Nothing answered him save for the tires crunching on the worn asphalt.

This had gone on for a year and continued for another month. Windows down, arm slung out, music playing, enjoying life. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then he drove through the dip filled with fog. Checked the rear view mirror again and looked over his shoulder at the bed of the pick-up. “Did we pick up any hitchhikers?”

“Yeah.”

Samuel glanced at the passenger seat. Staring down the ghostly barrel of a 1930s Tommy Gun. He couldn’t help but smile.

The apparition tried pressing the gun at the driver. Frowned when it phased through him. “I need ya to take me somewhere.”

His foot came off the pedal so he wouldn’t miss any possible turns. “Anywhere you like.”

“Gang’s held up at the Thompson Cemetery. They’re supposed to be puttin’ holes in a guy who crossed us. Take me there, and I’ll let ya walk another day.”

“Sure thing, Boss.” Samuel made a left at the next intersection. Wove through the country roads with the ghost riding shotgun. Dropped the passenger off at the cemetery. Shook his head when the ethereal gangster phased through the mausoleum.

The next few nights proved uneventful. Then he picked up the ghost of an 1800s woman who wanted to visit the orchard. The following night was the ghost of a lady from the 1950s who babbled about window shopping. The next night found him hauling the spirits of a family in the bed of his pick-up, taking them back to their farm. Then the spook of a fisherman who demanded to be driven to the lake.

On and on, it went. Every single night.

Even when the weather didn’t allow for natural fog, there would always be a cloud of it at the bottom of the seventh–and deepest–dip on his way home. Many of the apparitions returned for pleasant chatter, recalling how they died. Some, he helped to their final resting place.

But the ever-present one was the mobster named Charlie. Charlie never had a lot to say, and he always wanted to be taken to the Thompson Cemetery.

It had been six months since Samuel Walters first picked up Charlie. And when Charlie entered the truck tonight, Samuel came to a stop in the middle of the road.

The ghost turned to him, his form flickering. “Why ain’t you takin’ me to the cemetery?”

Samuel sighed. “None of the other phantoms repeat the same request over and over. Yet, you do. That mausoleum isn’t your final resting place, is it? And don’t go on about that gang of yours, because I know they’ve already passed on.”

Charlie remained quiet for some time. “Why weren’t you scared of me when I first appeared to you?”

He shrugged. “I’m an easy-going kinda guy. But you’re not evading this. Tell me what’s going on, so I can help you find peace.”

The apparition flickered some more, going in and out of focus. “The gang isn’t held up there. It’s someone else. My girl, Loraine. Her spirit left a long time ago, but I still like to visit her.”

Samuel softened. “Then why don’t you be with her?”

“I can’t. My body is at the bottom of the lake. They thought I stole some money, so they tied a bag of bricks on me. Let me sink to the bottom. I never took any money.”

He put the truck back in drive. Headed to his house. “Then let’s get you back. So you can be with Loraine.”

Once at his home, he went into action, hitching up his boat and grabbing the materials required. The night was still young, and he had more than enough time to exhume a body. It was the only time he was thankful he lived alone. That way, he wouldn’t disturb anyone in the middle of the night.

The old pick-up was driven like it hadn’t been driven in years. The john boat in tow. But he made it to the lake in record time. Once the boat was in the water, Charlie guided the still-living to the part where his body was dumped all those years ago.

It didn’t take long for Samuel to bag the remains and haul them into the boat. Nor to hitch it back up. The trash bag of soaked bones rattled around in the truck bed as the pair traveled to Thompson Cemetery in silence.

And it was actually Samuel who placed the remains in an available space next to Loraine’s coffin, while Charlie remained in the truck. When the living man returned, the ghost hovered. “It’s done?”

“Go be with your girl, Boss.”

The ethereal mobster flickered for a few moments. Nodded his thanks and phased through the mausoleum.

Samuel Walters couldn’t help but smile. He knew it was the last time he’d see Charlie. But he was pleased the spirit finally found rest. His trusty pick-up carried him home. With music playing low and windows rolled down. Waiting until the next night when he could escort another ghost around town.


A Spider in My Garden

There was a spider in my garden
And I’m terrified of spiders
As everyone typically knows
So I did what anyone would do
I tried drowning it with the hose

Now this spider in my garden
It must’ve been a special kind
It absolutely refused to drown
You see, it clung for dear life
Not letting me put it down

The spider that was in my garden
Made me wonder about some things
Humans also cling dearly to life
Not so different from the spider
Holding on even during strife

We are the spider in my garden
We are a persistent species
Building legacies and homes
Not taking our last breath
Until that designated time comes

There’s still a spider in my garden
Even though I don’t like it
As long as it leaves me be
I’ll leave it to survive
Because living is the key


Lamb’s Ear Detail


Lanes

Time to take another break from fiction for today. On my way home from work, I saw a sign that read, “If everything is coming your way, you’re probably in the wrong lane.” The more I thought about it, the more  I realized the depth behind it, as it’s a rather multi-faceted saying. It can apply to both the good and the bad in life.

When most people read or hear the above quote, they most likely think it’s referring to the good things of life. Now, don’t get me wrong. Blessings are wonderful things. And I don’t think many of us would still be here if our lives were only negative, all the time. Positives, I do believe, are a must. But what happens when only positive things come our way?

There’s that saying of “too much of a good thing can be bad.” I believe it. Because, if there’s only good, what do we learn? Most life lessons come from experiencing the bad circumstances. In my opinion, how we face and overcome the negative helps shape who we are and will ultimately become. We learn nothing when only good happens to us.

Another bad thing to only receiving the positive side of life is the false sense of security that comes with it. Unfortunately, we are creatures of habit. We fall into routines. Again, blessings are not bad things, but if we never face trials, we never expect them. If I only have good things come my way, why would I think that anything bad could happen to me? Which also leads us to viewing the world through rose-tinted glasses, and we forget that evil exists.

But then comes the flip side of the above quote. The bad things in life. While the ideal world is a perfect world, I think bad things are a necessary evil at this point. We do reap what we sow. And more often than not, we need that harvest to keep ourselves in check. So what does happen when only negative things come our way?

Well, I think this one is a bit more self-explanatory than the positive side. For the most part, I think the negative experiences are crucial teaching tools. Yet, we’ll never remember what we learn if we’re not given time to rest and reflect. Constantly being berated by life wears us out more than anything. If we lose the mental capacity to live, much less think over situations, we still aren’t going to learn anything.

Another negative to the the negative–it often leads to depression. Whether or not people want to admit it. If there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, why would we continue? Again, creatures of habit. We get stuck. Lost in ruts. To the point where it’s not worth even looking for a way out. It is extremely taxing on the psyche. If I’m only receiving negatives, I’m not going to expect positives, and I’m going to stay where I am. We give up.

Regardless of how we view the above quote, I think it comes down to a few questions. What are we doing that’s keeping us in one lane? Or, what choices are we making that’s keeping us in one lane? What are we choosing that’s keeping us strictly in the positive lane? What are we choosing that’s keeping us strictly in the negative lane? Everything comes down to a choice.

And it’s okay. It’s okay to experience the negative, even if all you’ve known is positive. It’s okay to experience the positive, even if all you’ve known is negative. Sadly, our world is not perfect. But balance can be achieved. Good and bad go hand-in-hand. We just have to choose to find the balance, to stay in the middle of the two lanes.


The Fall

The water thundered over the side of the cliff, tumbling down below. The mist roiled skyward. But such was the ways of waterfalls. A peaceful yet violent force of nature.

She stood atop the falls, surveying the land below. It had taken her three hours to climb to the precipice, and it had been worth every second. The serene atmosphere gave her plenty of time to reflect. And nothing in her mind had changed.

Recently, it had occurred to her what life really meant. How futile human existence was. Their purpose was to make the world a better place. And how miserable they failed. That’s why their lives were less than a hundred years. Why would they live longer lives? They were only selfish beings who honestly deserved less.

It was why she climbed to the falls. Her life had been nothing but a selfish disaster. A selfish disappointment. She would make the world a better place by returning her body to fertilize the earth. It had been something that filled her with fear, but no more. It was something she came to terms with. Something she wanted.

Her eyes closed as the waterfall breeze mingled the spray with hair. It was time. Holding out her arms, she leaned forward. Felt the rush of the wind against her face. Tingling every nerve.

Ten.

She had no regrets.

Nine.

No fear.

Eight.

No more reason to live.

Seven.

This was her wish.

Six.

Her peace.

Five.

Her freedom.

Four.

She smiled.

Three.

No one would ever see her again.

Two.

Her body hit the water.

One….


Goodbye, Alice

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Alice woke to the pleasant humming sound of her alarm. Rubbing her eyes, she looked to her white robot plugged into its charging station on the other side of the room. “Thank you, R.B.B.T.”

The robot’s white, glowing eyes flickered to life as the sound ceased. Ethereal voice sounding. “Good morning, Alice.”

She watched it rise with the grace and fluidity clearly not based off human movement. The exotic android was sleek, built for speed. As per the alien race that inspired its design. Why it was her household robot, she wasn’t sure. But she had it ever since she could remember.

“Morning request, ma’am?”

“The usual.” She performed her morning ritual of stretches as the tint of her windows changed from black to almost clear, letting in the simulated sun. Then she moved to her bathroom. The door slid open in response.

R.B.B.T. entered the bedroom. “Breakfast is ready.”

Alice braided her light hair in a ponytail. Paused. Studied the mirror. Tilting her head, she ran her fingers down her neck. Her brows furrowed at the faint bump and discoloration that traversed around the middle of her neck. Something she never paid attention to before.

The android shifted. “Breakfast is ready, ma’am.”

She leaned closer to the mirror. “I know, but how did I get this? I don’t remember doing anything that could cause this. It’s like a scar.”

The robot’s eyes turned red as it sent a beacon to its true master.

There was a flash of light in the front room of the virtual house. The feminine voice of the home echoed. “General Cooper has arrived.”

Alice poked her head out of the bathroom, running to the front room. “Dad!” She threw her arms around him. Then frowned at his stern face. “What’s wrong?”

He sat her down. “R.B.B.T. has notified me you discovered the scar around your neck.”

One of her brows lifted. “Yes? What is this all about?”

Sighing, he sat across from her. Put a hand on her knee. “Do you remember you’re an agent for me and the government?”

“Yes…I just went on a mission not too long ago…”

“Well, last rotation, you were assigned to a highly sensitive mission. One I didn’t even know all the details for. Our greatest enemy traveled back in time to rewrite the future to her design. You were sent after her, you being our top agent. With its impressive shifting abilities, R.B.B.T. was sent along with you.”

Alice glanced at the exotic robot.

General Cooper continued. “Our enemy had been there long enough, she killed the king and placed herself as queen. We didn’t know at the time. We sent you straight in to explain a pre-scripted situation to the king. She had you beheaded on the spot. Thankfully, R.B.B.T. is equipped with the most advanced in medical science. It killed the queen and saved you simultaneously. It was able to fuse your head back on. Our damages team handled the rest.”

She sat in silence, blinking. Not given enough time to process the information. “This doesn’t make any sense…why don’t I remember any of this?”

“The queen, the enemy, was your mother.”

Her eyes lifted, realizing why her memory had been wiped. “How many times have we had this conversation?”

His expression stiffened. “About three times a week. There is so much we keep you from remembering. It’s why we keep you in constant surveillance at this facility. Your world that you think exists no longer does. You loved those Wonderland myths so much, your mother wanted to emulate them. In a way, I think she succeeded.”

“Why are you telling me this now?”

“Because your memory will be wiped once more. Goodbye, Alice. I’ll see you the next time this happens.”

“What? That’s it? You incredulously deceiving person!” She rose from her chair. Only to be forced back down by R.B.B.T. She screamed and kicked, but nothing set her free.

General Cooper transported out of the virtual house to monitor the rest from a station in the corner of the simulation room.

The last thing she experienced before she would forget was seeing the android’s white eyes blending into one piercing light, blinding her vision. And its mellifluous voice growing more distant as consciousness faded.

“Goodbye, Alice.”


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