Saturday, June 30, 2012

Eulogy for a Newborn Bird

*A somber luc bat poem for a young bird fallen from its nest...and yet, the writer who penned this poem points out that even though the bird's life was cut short, it was not in vain...*

The child sat, clinging
To a voice once singing, but death
Had silenced its warm breath,
The fate of all MacBeths, a bird
Newly born, its first word
A proud cry to be heard, spilling
Down from the tree, trilling,
But no feathers filling its wings
Not knowing Death’s sharp stings,
No knowledge of such things, no blue
Sky to reach, hold on to,
Just black earth welcomes you, small one,
To be found by a son
Small as well, made to run and play
But now he sits and prays
That there is still a way: Awake!
This must be a mistake,
Are we born just to break, fall, die,
And anger fills his eye
But his mother says, “My young boy,
Don’t let anger take joy, be sad,
Yes, but do not be mad
That this small creature had the chance
To have Life’s fleeting glance,
And for one moment, danced with song
Knowing good, never wrong
He had life, which some long for, yet
Never have, never get.”
And the boy, still upset but now
Understanding just how
Precious time is, he bowed down low
Into the ground he sewed
The bird, never to grow, but died
Never walked, never flied
But felt the joy inside, the depth
That makes worth every breath.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

At the End of the Ouroboros

*What follows are the only exisiting pages of the journal of a man determined to collect all the world's mythological creatures. Of course, such foolishness leads him into untold dangers...whether or not he survives the proceeding account, we may never know...*

“This is the end of Jormungand’s tail, as we know it,” Hymir said gruffly.

Anyone could have told me that making this journey was a bad idea. Who would ever advise someone to go to the ends of the world to find the place where the Midgard Serpent’s mouth met its tail, poison-drenched teeth locked on its impenetrable coils, in an attempt to capture it? Well, as a collector of the unusual, the ethereal, the monstrous, and the extraordinary, I had advised myself to start pursuing the most exotic wild animals for what would be my Master Menagerie, the Grandest, Greatest, Singularly Most Incredible Cryptozoological Institution in the World.

Hymir the giant (although not quite as formidable as he once was centuries ago), kept a firm grip on the oars of our rowboat. It was not the first time he had made this trip, but I knew he would have rather not made it ever again. “Have you done all the sight-seeing you’ve wanted, or do you want to linger and see if the monster will devour us?”

I confess, Jormungand was a soul-taking, bone-chilling presence. It was almost too colossal to even comprehend that this was an actual creature, a serpentine sentience that could inhale the heavens and swallow the seas with a single sip. Its titanic tail could slice the world in half—and who was to say what extent of the universe could be burnt into papery ash with its foul breath.

“Can we get a little closer?” I asked.

Hymir grimaced, and blanched slightly. “It would be foolish to tempt Fate and risk startling the beast. It would be wiser to yank on Fenrir’s tail.”

I know he said this in jest, but once I had Fenrir in my possession as well, he would be as docile as a pup.

“I thank you for your services, but I believe I can go on from here. If you need to return to shore, you may do so. Here is your payment.” I produced a sack of gold coins from my satchel and plopped it into the giant’s hands. The bag looked like a leather morsel in Hymir’s expansive palm, but it was suitable enough payment for a boat ride.

Hymir blinked in perplexity at me. “What do you mean, ‘go on from here’? How do you expect to go anywhere without my boat?”

I grinned coolly, and extracted a roll of pink ribbon from my pocket. I started unfurling the ribbon, and after a moment it snapped like a whip into life, snaking up and out into the air, curling and weaving into something like a rope ladder towards the lidless red eye of the serpent. Once the ribbon was finished unfurling, I began my ascent upwards.

“You’re mad!” cried Hymir. “Crazier than Thor! At least he came with rod, hook and hammer. What are you planning to do if that monster awakens?”

I didn’t bother to call back, as the churning of the sea below would have drowned out my answer. I fingered the hat pin that I was holding, a slender golden needle about six inches long, with a glimmering green crystal on one end. It was astonishing to think how such a small device would work in ensnaring the leviathan that encompassed the world, but pebbles have been known to defeat Colossuses, so the stories tell us.

As I reached the top of the ladder, Jormungand’s eye, a deep crimson that would put blood, wine and fire to shame, shifted just a fraction, just enough for me to know he was wide awake, and his gaze was on me.

A sudden, frostbite fear seeped into my bones, and it crossed my mind that maybe I had given myself some very bad advice…

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The God of Stories and the Mech-Oracle

*I have had the pleasure of meeting with the God of Stories, which in the following narrative he divulged to me, he explained how he obtained his deity status...but unlike most of his stories, which pertain to the past or present, his gift has allowed him to see tales that are yet to be woven, and allowed him to form bonds with people he has yet to meet...*

The God of Stories clutched his wool robes around himself in a futile attempt to ward off the whipping winds. He remembered back when a winter such as this meant busy streets full of slush from cars mowing over the fresh layers of snow. The neighbors would grumble as the shoveled the several inches of powdered ice off their front walkways, while the kids next door would invite him to snowball wars and sledding nearby the lake.
How many centuries has it been since those days? He wondered to himself.
His time away from Earth was hard to determine. He had lived decades on Vludahayv, but it seemed centuries had passed on Earth—most remnants of the human race had been devoured by nature and time. The God of Stories could only weave himself a tale of warm sunlight, and cozy fireplaces, and steaming mugs of coffee to battle the frostbite and numbness in his old legs.
He was glad that he still had those memories from his childhood, even after all his time in Vludahayv. When he was thirteen years old, living in a small Midwestern town, he had been an aspiring writer with little self esteem. He would scribe stories on scraps of notebook paper and the backsides of school assignments, only to shake his head and throw them away. On one such occasion—after writing a lovely poem about the unfortunate condition of being an awkward teenage male on a quest for true love—he crumpled up his composition and chucked it into what he thought was a sophisticated-looking garbage can in a back alley. That can was, in fact, a Vludahayvan scouting vessel that had been waiting for nightfall before initiating a “jump” back to its home planet. The quail-sized Vludahayvans inside were captivated by the strange markings on this crinkly alien material. After a quick translation by their ship’s computer and rereading the foreign prose, the scouts felt something within them that they had never experienced before; it was a thrilling yet horrible sensation, a warm tingle that was also an electric sting. What was this indecipherable impression that this linguistic puzzle was having on them? Whatever it was, clearly it had been delivered to them for a reason—clearly it had been gifted to them by a god.
So before you could say “prepubescent divinity,” the boy was encased in a transport bubble, sucked into a manually-torn worm hole, and plucked off the face of the earth and set gently down on the hazy magenta-and-turquoise world of Vludahayv.

A Victorian Queen Anne mansion was eminent in the distance—although it was more like a castle of icy-silver chrome. A forest encircled the castle, but these were not the trees of the god’s childhood memories. These were cold lifeless structures of iron, the leaves made from flattened gold, bronze and copper. A garden of twisted metallic shapes, contortion of cogs and gears and springs and wires, cluttered the grounds to create an exotic menagerie.
The God of Stories approached the front doors of the mansion. He raised his hand to knock, when a tiny creature popped out from a panel in one of the doors. It was a wind-up doll with a kingfisher’s head.
“No men of flesh welcome,” the bird-doll chimed.
The God of Stories smirked. “I am the God of Stories, from the world of Vludahayv. I would like to speak with your Mistress. I believe she has a small blue disk, and I would like to negotiate its price.”
The bird-doll vanished back into the panel. The doors lethargically swung inwards with a long, yawning creak. The God of Stories trudged inside, shaking the snow from his drenched robes and soggy boots. He was greeted by a sterile hallway, leading towards a steel archway that framed a dark parlor.
He walked down the hall and through the archway, squinting to see through the dark. An orange-tinted light abruptly dismissed the darkness, accompanied by a searing buzz that took a few seconds to dissipate. The god took in the room, an abstract concoction of industrial anatomy, and it smelled heavily of oil and things burnt. He thought of the Dali painting of melting watches—perhaps because there was a surreal beauty to this place that made the cold, metal surroundings appear organic, as if beneath all these parts could be soft, warm flesh.
He stopped short when he noticed the face looking at him.
There was a figure, seated upright, its slender hands folded on its lap. An hourglass-shaped torso supported a mannequin-type head, which was framed by a headdress decorated with cobalt blue glass and silver leafing. The eyes were solid gray, like the thickest smoke trapped within two glass orbs. The rest, however, was so natural, aside from the glossy porcelain sheen of the paper-white skin, that it made the God of Stories’ heart cringe to think that this woman had once been a human being.
“Thank you for agreeing to see me,” the God said, bowing as far as his aching back allowed. “Am I in the presence of the Mech-Oracle?”
The figure said nothing.
“May I sit down? I was teleported down at a rather inconvenient location, and I’ve just walked quite a distance to get here.” He spotted an iron-wrought chair, so he sat down on it with a contented sigh. “Now, down to business. You are in possession of a disk, I believe. Small, blue, quite valuable?”
The Mech-Oracle remained still, and he wondered if, perhaps, she had broken down or was not even turned on. He took in a deep breath as he momentarily visualized her story, just to make sure that she had not arrived at the end of her tale and was deceased. But no, her story was still in process. She was just being stubborn.
“Miss Constance, it’s not nice to ignore your guests,” the God playfully chided.
Her eyelids tightened around her soulless eyes in a narrow glare.
“Ah, good. You’re listening. You don’t like your old name, do you?” He smirked, and shifted in his seat. “I know all about your story, my dear. I know everybody’s story. It was a talent I picked up on Vludahayv. I developed a keen ear for all the life stories going on around me, and even the ones streaming to me from Earth. But then they all came to a sudden stop…the Earth stories. Seven billion lives, just stopped. Like a book slammed shut on the entire world.” He closed his eyes and shivered as he remembered that moment about thirty Vludahayvan years ago, that jarring pang as all the beautiful stories of men, women, and children were cut short, and then nothing but blank pages stretching on and on. “You know why that happened, don’t you?
The Mech-Oracle’s lips parted into a slit as she whispered, “The Crash.”
“Yes, the Crash.” The most that the God of Stories knew, based on the Earth stories up until then, was that all the world’s governments had convinced the people that it was necessary for everyone to download themselves—that is, their minds, personalities, whatever could be considered one’s “essence”—into a computerized mega-system in order to preserve the human race from some global crisis, something their physical bodies would not be able to survive. Each government had come up with something different; there was an incurable virus that was wiping out humanity, there was a solar flare heading towards the Earth that would incinerate it; there was a water shortage that would be all used up within fifteen years, and so on. Somehow they had convinced, or forced, all the people to download themselves into a special Haven Mainframe…only shortly thereafter, there was a “little bug” in the system. Before any of the overseeing scientists could catch it, the Crash occurred. Seven billion people’s data, their consciousnesses, were lost. The stories that had remained—the scientists, the politicians, the puppetmasters, the ones that allowed the end of humanity to happen—the God of Stories was too disgusted with them to continue listening. By now, their stories had ended as well.
His face hardened at the memory of the terrible tale. “I thought all the stories ended there. I thought there was no reason to ever come back to Earth. But there was one story left that had not ended. Yours.”
The Oracle’s fingers twitched.
“I’ve read your story. It’s very sad. But I don’t need to tell you. You’ve lived it.” The God stood up, cracking his back. “But the part of your story I’m interested in is the one where you, in secret, managed to create a back-up copy of the Haven Mainframe, a restoration disk of humanity’s collective consciousness. May I see it?”
The Oracle cocked her head in a worn-down, jerking motion. “Why?”
“It isn’t just data in that disk. Those are souls. Those are innocent people’s essences stuck in limbo as long as that disk remains. They have no bodies to return to. But they cannot stay imprisoned.” The God lowered his head, crossing his arms. “Their stories must come to an end. They must be released.”
“They will be,” the Oracle replied.
“Oh? That is a chapter not yet written. When were you planning to do that?”
 “As soon as I finish building the vessels,” she replied coolly.
The God raised his eyebrows at her.
“I will select the best of the human minds from the Haven Mainframe,” the Oracle continued. “Ones of pure logic, integrity, and reason, that will take minimal effort to separate the emotion from the intelligence. After I have discarded the emotional aspects, I will upload the selected minds into the vessels I am creating. Then we can begin to rebuild what was lost.”
“I see. And what will you do with all the souls that you will not upload?”
The God knotted his eyebrows. “How many do you intend to save, then?”
“Seven thousand, two hundred and nineteen.”
“That few are worthy of your special favor, eh?” The god shook his head, sadly. “It’s not your privilege to judge who should be part of your new world. Nor is it your place to decide who should be denied existence, whether it is here or in the afterlife.”
“Is it yours?” the Oracle said, her voice remaining monotone. “You are blinded by your false status. You are considered a god on Vludahayv, but you are a man on Earth. You will die, as they all have. I have lasted centuries. I have seen humanity in all its harshness, selfishness, and ignorance. Surely you have seen this as well, through your psychic gift of story?”
The god nodded.
“Then what makes you think you know better than I what to do with this data?”
The God of Stories slowly paced the room. “I have seen those stories,” he admitted. “The cruelty, the prejudice, the hate. It may be the reason I stayed on Vludahayv for so long. Maybe I didn’t want to come home to all that…awfulness. But do you also remember compassion? Brotherhood? Love?”
“Foolishness,” the Oracle replied.
“Sometimes.” He smiled gently at her. “You didn’t always think so.”
“I have discarded my imperfect human emotions. I am pure logic now.”
“Ah. And if I can prove you wrong? Say, a trade…proof of your still-existent emotions in exchange for that disk?”
The Oracle’s expression was blank. “You will fail,” she said.
The god shrugged. He reached forward to place a hand on her shoulder, but instantly her body buzzed with a surge of electricity, a warning to stay away. He retracted his hand. “You were one of the scientists who designed the mainframe. Tell me, were you told to make a back-up of the Haven?”
“Then why did you?”
 “It was logical.”
“Did you know that there was a possibility that the system would crash?”
The Oracle paused. “Not a possibility. An inevitability.”
“It was inevitable?”
“It was the plan.”
The God sucked in his breath. “The Crash was intended?”
“The only people who were intended to remain functional were the ones not downloaded into the Haven. It was a program meant to delete those who were not necessary for the next stages to redesign a universal world order.”
“Seven billion people…were not necessary…” Even though the God of Stories had picked up on these facts a while ago, from the stories of the people that had survived the ordeal, it didn’t dull the anger he felt in his heart.
“It was the most efficient method in which to execute the plan on a grand scale, without bloodshed or rebellion.” The Oracle paused again. “This causes you pain.”
The god lowered his gaze. “If you knew of this plan, then why did you make a back-up copy? Wouldn’t that be going against your orders?”
“I was foolhardy and sentimental. I couldn’t bare the thought of all those civilians lost. Yet making a back-up copy did not change the course of events. There was no way to upload the data back into the original bodies. Flesh is not like machine. Once the data is extracted, it is permanent…something the civilians were not told, of course.”
“Would you have done differently now, being purely logical?”
“I would have only made back-up files for the seven thousand, two hundred and nineteen I intend to use in my new vessels.”
“But you still would have saved some of them?”
“It’s not because of compassion that I do it. It is logical.”
“For what? To have a world populated with people like you? Made in your image?” The God of Stories was raising his voice now, and swept his arm around in a grand gesture. “I am the God of Stories because a race of people saw good in the stories I told them. I didn’t choose to be a ‘god,’ nor did I ask anyone to conform to my beliefs or views. They could take or leave the morality tales I gave them. But you, you choose who to save, who to make into your little wind-up dolls, who to serve your agenda. You call me blinded by my station. You, Miss Constance, are arrogant and self-serving. You are no different from the people who wiped out humanity to begin with!”
A long steel rod extended from the Oracle’s forearm, and at the end was a syringe full of some type of chemical. “You are unnecessary,” she said, and jutted the rod towards the god’s face. The needle stopped short only an inch from his nose.
The God of Stories stared back at her, patiently.
The Oracle was still. The rod retracted into her arm.
The God of Stories smiled.
“I gain nothing by deleting you,” the Oracle said.
“Perfectly logical,” the God replied.
“That did not feel good,” she whispered.
“I’m sorry I exploited your anger. I know you’ve carried it for a long time.”
The Oracle slowly sat back down. She was motionless for a few minutes. Eventually she tapped a small button on her wrist, from which a small blue disk popped from a tiny slot. She held it up to the God of Stories. “The data contained here must be what still ties me to those emotions. It is a liability for me to keep it until I can complete removing the emotional factors from my system.”
The God gently took the disk from the Oracle. “I know you’ll try. But isn’t it better to feel the bad things than not feeling anything?”
The Oracle was silent.
The God placed the disk in one of his robe pockets. “I believe that there is a way on Vludahayv for me to release these souls, without risk of deleting them. I suppose if it does not work, then I will return them to you.” He bowed again, and turned to go.
“You will return, whether or not your plan works?” the Oracle asked, in a completely different tone of voice that stopped the God short.
He turned back, transfixed by her new voice. “Would you like me to?”
The Oracle’s head was lowered, as if she was running low on power, but she managed to raise her head to him. He could swear her eyes did not seem as clouded over as before. “Are our stories meant to intertwine? Are you meant to come back?”
“I listen to the stories as they happen. I don’t write the endings.”
“Then…yes. I would like you to come back.”
He nodded, and smiled.
The Oracle, for the first time in a long, long time, grinned beneath her metallic fa├žade. Even though he couldn’t see it, the God of Stories knew the smile was there.
He liked it when chapters ended with a smile.

Monday, June 25, 2012

To the Troll Who Keeps Stealing All of my Keys!

This is not funny. I need those keys for work.
First it was my bathroom key from the bookstore,
Now my office keys from my second job.
And I know you are taking them.
I am meticulous and precise about where
I leave my keys,
They are always in the same places.
I don’t care if you like them
Because they’re shiny, or pretty,
Or you think they’re made of silver and gold,
You’re being a pain in my neck,
So I expect
You to put them back where you found them,
Or else I’m getting out the meat mallet
To play Whack-a-Troll.
(and don’t bother trying to steal that either,
Otherwise I’ll just opt for the cleaver.)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"It's Never Just 'Meeting' "

* Another observation lost among the endless entries of the Archives...we pass by so many people every day, people that we only look at for a moment and then never see again, but we do not know how even a tenth of a second of eye contact, a brush against the arm, or a simple "hello" with a stranger can create a permanent connection...*

If I meet you, you’ll end up taking
Some little part of me,
I probably wouldn’t miss it,
And you won’t even know you have it,
But it’ll be a loose thread, a residue,
That for the rest of your life clings to you.
And I’ll probably be stuck with some granule
Of you too, wedged beneath my nails
Like sand, or peanut butter.
And even if I pick at it, you’ll still be there,
Snaking under my skin,
And I may forget you’re there after a while
But eventually I’ll recognize
That the part of me you took
Was replaced by that smidgen of you,
And I would feel infected and robbed
And really quite squeamish,
And neither of us will have even said a word
To one another
And yet, we’d linger on each other like
Some sticky, icky, slicky, tricky lichen
Growing, flowing, sewing itself all over
Until we’re consumed by one another
And have been permanently changed forever.

And this is why I don’t work in customer service.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Stream of Consciousness from a Paper Brain

*It is human nature to question warnings and conventional wisdom, in order to truly discover yourself, as this anonymous person--or perhaps not quite a person--did...*

Don’t drink the water, they tell you.

And you wonder, do they tell me that because there’s something poisonous in it, or, like those apples in the Garden, will consumption of it reveal some shadow of truth? Yes, it may doom me forever, but at least I wouldn’t be ignorant anymore.

Maybe I can withstand the poison. What a novel new sensation that would be. To feel something contorting you and snaking acid through you from the inside out. And, before you ask, yes, I am into self abuse. Not any of the conventional stuff, mind you—no cutting, no bone-breaking, no flesh-burning—usually the stuff that wears me thin. I like being paper. Paper can change into so many things, like origami. I still can’t get the creases right to be a swan, though. I make a decent frog.

Sometimes I try to commune with the elements, hoping one of them points me in the right direction…I ask the water itself why I shouldn’t drink it. It doesn’t answer me, not very clearly anyway. It’s pretty murky down there, with the silt and the rocks and bones. Lots of bones. Maybe that’s why I shouldn’t drink the water. 

Or maybe it’s because I’m paper. Paper crumbles under water. That would be a novel sensation too.
What do I do then? I ask the water.
And the water gurgles: Do what paper does.
At first, I don’t get it. Just lie here? Fold myself up? Wait for an author to come along so they can write their life story on me? Or just tear myself up?
I drink the water, mostly because I’m mad at it. It tastes like ink.
And then, I realize, I don’t need an author to write their story on me. And suddenly the water is clear.
Go write yourself.

Monday, June 18, 2012


*Sphallolalia is defined as flirtaceous talk that does not go anywhere or lead to something more amorous. While this may seem like fun in theory, sometimes you don't know what you are truly missing...*

There is a place where many dreamers go,
Where the colors blaze bright and the music blares,
A city so pretty with a florescent neon glow,
Sphallolalia, where words have an intoxicating flare.

There the people love to sing lovely lyrics,
Whisper sweet nothings and spout seductive snares.
In Sphallolalia, everyone flirts and flounces
And dresses so flashy (or trashy) to exhibit their wares

And then one day, someone quite plain,
No ruffles, no satins, no makeup or lace,
Strode in Sphallolalia, bewildered by its beauty,
And obviously, she was quite out of place.

She looked around, as the Sphallolalians gawked
(and secretly scoffed at her dull blouse and skirt)
Who was she, thinking she could enchant anyone
Looking like that; could she even flirt?

And so they asked her why she was there,
And she said, “It is Love that I am looking for.”
And the Sphallolalians all stared, silent, confused,
As they had never known of that concept before.

For in Sphallolalia, all is just looks and words,
Toying with feelings, and dancing with temptation.
But no one knew what it meant to have more,
As it was all a game, with no true sense of elation.

So the traveler left, quite disappointed,
But determined to find Love, and she knew she would.
While in Sphallolalia, the people in their gaudy guises
Suddenly ached for Love, and feared if they could.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Psycho Babbles: Part Four (Conclusion)

*As we come to the finale of our odd little tale...*

“We sure blew this one, didn’t we?”
Stan gazed out the window, down at the streets where pure Hell had broken loose. Anyone with any sense had locked themselves indoors, since the whole city was now infested with babbles of every shape and size, all with unbridled, unstoppable insanity. Off in the distance, Stan could still see the smoke from where the Piece of Mind Clinic was still engulfed in flames, which it had been since yesterday. No doubt the babbles were still roasting stolen hot dogs, garbage and house pets on sticks while dancing around the smoldering ruins.
“Stan, it’s your turn.” Tabby pointed at his spot next to the Scrabble board, where she and Skritch were sitting on the floor. Fortunately, the babbles had not broken into the apartment yet—maybe because they knew that Stan, Tabby and Skritch were their unwitting liberators, and had agreed to leave them alone. Or they were just having too much fun elsewhere.
Stan sighed. “I always wanted to change the world. Now I frackin' destroyed it.”
Skritch chewed on a Scrabble piece before spitting it out. “Relax, man. It may take a few months to blow over, but they’ll probably move on and then all you humans can come outside again.” He paused. “Unless the babbles get to a nuclear reactor. Or eat everybody. Or find a way to extract babbles from everyone, causing all human brains to disintegrate and turn you all into drooling veggies.”
Attic, no longer masked by the hat, rolled her eyes. “Great, stuck playing board games like it’s only a rainy day rather than the Apocalypse. I want to go make havoc! Everyone is blaming the clinic for all this madness anyway. I say that lets us off the hook to do whatever we want!”
“SWAT teams or the national guard might get called in,” Tabby retorted. “I’d rather not be outside when they start shooting up the town.”
“It’s our fault they all got out,” Stan said.
“Okay, so my plan wasn’t so hot,” Skritch admitted. “But I came from your brain, after all. Do we have any pizza poppers?” He got up and scurried over to the fridge, crawled up the side like a gecko and rummaged through the freezer.
Stan hung his head. “You know, with Skritch outside my brain, my mind’ll start fracturing. What’ll you do if I go mental?”
“Don’t freak, Stan,” Tabby said. “The clinic might’ve been lying about that ‘mind-decay’ stuff to make sure people came back for re-assimilation. And Skritch’s right, this all has to blow over eventually. Until then, Skritch can sneak around outside and get us food and stuff, we’ll see how long the electricity and water last, and we can just…hang out, I guess.”
“Hang out?” Stan raised his head to look at her, and he gulped. “Uh, Tabby…since I might go mental or die pretty soon…”
“No, Stan, I will not date you,” Tabby said.
“Come on! This might be my last chance!”
“You’d rather die a virgin, believe me,” Attic chuckled. “She’s not that good.”
“I will ram you against the wall until my head cracks open and I can pull you out myself!” Tabby hissed.
Stan shook his head. “Figures. Only by unleashing a race of manifestations of people’s most psychotic brain-spawn on the world, I finally got some guys to hang with.”
Tabby smirked. “Wanna know what else ‘figures’? Now that babbles are running everywhere, you and me are the ‘normal’ ones by comparison. Me with four eyes, and you with an ink-bug doppelganger. That’s the norm now.”
Stan grinned. “I think I’m cool with that.”

Monday, June 11, 2012

Psycho Babbles: Part Three

*Descending deeper into our bizarre adventure...*

Stan awoke that night to something opening his apartment door…from the inside. He heard a soft scuffling of feet over his entryway carpet before the click of his lock, and the door whining momentarily as someone murmured something in a low voice.
If Stan had been in a fully functioning frame of mind, he might have thought it odd that the intruder had been inside his apartment before unlocking the door, since the only other way in would have been through the window that had no fire escape or any means of reaching it from outside, and he was on the third floor. But, as he was still half-asleep and therefore not in a condition to analyze, he went straight for his bedside lamp and quietly slunk out of his bedroom and peaked around the corner at the end of the hall.
What he discovered were two things that had never been in his apartment before: a three-foot tall monster, stained pitch black from the tops of its tentacle-like antennae to its lizard-esque tail, and a woman.
The monster—more like a living cartoon—turned its head towards Stan, blinking narrow, pupil-less white eyes. The only other parts of it that were not solid black were the red spiral on its white belly, and the row of perfectly triangle piranha teeth protruding over its bottom lip. The woman, on the other hand, appeared fairly normal: long, straight dark hair, a pale complexion that begged for sunlight, and a small, sharp nose. She wore a leather soft cap on her head that was a size too large, so the brim shrouded the upper half of her face. Yet when she looked up at Stan with her deep brown eyes, Stan’s heart suddenly squeeze tight in a way that he couldn’t decipher was fear, or…that other thing he had heard so much about.
“That him?” the woman asked the inky-black thing.
The monster grinned, its overbite of serrated teeth making it look more goofy than threatening. “Yep, that’s my man, Stan! See, told you he wouldn’t mind us bunking here. Hey, Stan, you got anything to eat, or should we call for takeout?”
Stan took a step into the room, staring with speechless bafflement at his guests. “Uh…what?”
“An eloquent one,” the woman muttered. “Look, I’d kill for some coffee right now, if you got some.”
“She would, you know,” said a mystery voice that sounded like it came from the woman, but the woman’s lips had not moved when it spoke. “She’s a psychopath. Actually, it’s me who’s a psychopath, but since we’re—“
The woman stuck a finger in her right ear, and the mystery voice was smothered.
Stan put the lamp down on the floor. “Okay, this is either the weirdest dream I’ve ever had, or someone is pulling a really good prank.”
“This isn’t the weirdest dream you’ve ever had,” said the monster. “The weirdest dream you’ve had was probably that one where you were wearing a diaper while trying to wrestle the shark in the yellow bikini that was spitting muffins at you—“
 “Hey!” Stan snapped. “What the heck are you, anyway?”
“Come on, you don’t know me?” The creature’s grin rotted into a prickly grimace. “You put me in almost every notebook margin while you were taking calculus. You had me bite the head off of a doodle of Mr. Simmons, remember?”
Stan’s eyes widened as the familiarity of this sketchy monstrosity registered. “Holy…Skritch? You’re…you’re real?”
“Surprise! This is Tabby,” Skritch explained. “She’s escaped from the clinic too. And that thing in her head calls itself Attic, I think. Don’t mind it, it likes to insult people. It’s a whole Jekyll and Hyde thing.”
Stan raised his hands in a gesture for everything to slow down. “Okay, hold it. How can one of my drawings be standing here in front of me? Who are you—” he pointed to Tabby—“and why are you all IN MY APARTMENT??”
“You were at the Piece of Mind Clinic, right?” Tabby asked.
Stan was about to reply, but he was caught by her gaze again, and found he could only look at the floor and nod.
“Well, Skritch is what they pulled out of you,” Tabby said. “And this is what they tried to pull out of me, but it only came halfway out. I hate to add one more level of bizarreness to your day, but you were bound to notice it sooner or later.” She removed the cap from her head, revealing the extra pair of green eyes planted in her forehead.
Stan’s jaw hung open to his chest.
The green eyes narrowed wickedly on him as Attic spoke out of Tabby’s ear. “Ooooh, fresh meat. I like the geeky ones.”
Tabby’s face flushed as she forcefully shoved her hat back on.
“You suck,” Attic spat.
“That place, the clinic, is no good,” Skritch continued. “They got all these babbles locked up in containers, pumping us full of chemicals. But they didn’t know that I can make myself two-dimensional.” He demonstrated by pressing himself down into the floor until he was as flat as shadow. “So I slipped out of storage, and did a little reconnaissance. I found Tabby and Attic locked in a room, so I let them out. We gave the doctors the slip out the back, and the only place I could think to go was here so I squeezed under your door and let us in. Answer your questions?”
“And I can’t go back home right now,” Tabby said. “They’ve probably already found out I’m gone, and they have all my info so they’ll come after me. They may know Skritch got out too, and when they do, they’ll come looking for you, so we better find someplace to hide out for now until we sort this all out. You got any place we could go?”
“Wait, wait, wait.” Stan’s head was beginning to hurt from all the information being thrown at him. “Why do we have to run from the clinic? I mean, how do you know it’s ‘bad’? And if we don’t want them ‘curing’ us, why should they care if we changed our minds? They wouldn’t really send cops or something after us, right?”
“Not cops,” Tabby said. “But something.”
“Stan, you’ve read the forums. You’ve read the ‘rumors.’ Buddy…” Skritch’s face scrunched into sour detestation. “They—are—killing—us.”
“K…Killing? The babbles? But…I thought the babbles needed to be reinserted into our brains, so our minds don’t fall apart. People said that they’ve seen their cured babbles at re-assimilation.”
“Not their babbles. A babble, but not theirs.”
“Whose, then?”
“We think the clinic manufactures artificial ones,” Tabby said. “Ones that are designed to…influence people.”
“Like, brainwashing?”
“More permanent. Irreversible. Why, we don’t know. Could be some kind of government-funded conspiracy, or maybe underground anarchists.”
 “Just like the forums say,” Skritch said. “When you were reading them, I was reading them too.”
Stan wiped his hands over his hair, taking deep breaths. “Okay…so, say the clinic is messing with people’s minds, for whatever reason. What are we supposed to do about it? It’s not like the police will believe us, even if we show them Skritch…which probably would not be a great idea. And I’ve never been a mastermind about anything. I’m just…me.”
“Hey, set yourself on ‘chill’ mode,” Skritch replied. “I’ve got a plan.”
* * *

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Psycho Babbles: Part Two

*Continuing our story...*

“Why can’t I see it?”
Dr. Lancaster glanced at Stan over the rims of her glasses, seemingly annoyed that he would ask. “Mr. Plunkett, we store hundreds of extracted psychoses for processing in this facility, and yours has already been filed away. It is important for treatment that your psychosis is exposed to as little interference or outside stimuli as possible. When you return in two weeks for your re-assimilation, we will allow you to see your cured specimen before we reintroduce it to your mind.”
Stan rubbed his hands along his pant legs. “But…I want to see it now. I mean, my babble must be filed with my name and info, right? Can’t you just have it brought out here for a minute, or maybe someone could let me into storage?”
“The storage unit is restricted to clinic personnel only,” Dr. Lancaster replied. “And bringing it out, even for ‘a minute,’ would be immensely traumatizing to it, as they are not used to being outside a human brain. Don’t worry, Mr. Plunkett. Your extraction was a perfect success. Your babble… psychosis…will be taken care of with the utmost care. Now, you are due back on September 5th at 2:00. Check out at the front desk before you leave today.”
Stan sighed, and stood up. “Dr. Lancaster, you sure everything went fine? No… mishaps or anything?”
“Not during the extraction. Why? Do you feel all right?” The doctor stood up, pressing her fingertips on her desk. “It is common to experience slight headaches or disorientation after the process. I would recommend a mild pain reliever—”
“No, I’m all right. Thanks.” Stan shook the doctor’s hand and scuffled out of the room.
This was unfair. The whole point of his coming here to get his babble out was so that he could see it as it was, unchanged. Now he wasn’t being allowed to see it until after it would be cured. What was the big deal anyway?
If you had asked Stan a month ago, “What do you think about that weird therapy group that’s been all over the news lately? The ‘Piece of Mind Clinic.’ They say they take the craziness right out of your head and fix it, so you don’t have to take actual therapy or drugs or nothing,” Stan would have replied, “Can’t talk right now, gotta finish inking these last few pages.”
That was what Stan was doing on all his free time outside of his college courses, doodling and inking superhero, alien and monster comic books. He was more than an adequate artist, and even though he had been rejected by every graphic-novel publisher he had submitted his work to, constructing these illustrated landscapes of dream-fuel were as crucial to him as the inhabitants of his worlds—if one could believe those inhabitants existed in some parallel universe.
As one could easily surmise from his timid gawkiness and beaten-dog posture, Stan was a classic introvert, so while other students were careening to their dorms after epic keggers or taking weekend trips home so their mothers could wash their laundry, he was in his off-campus apartment inundating his sketchbook with pictorial novelties, and reading online forums about conspiracies, supernatural sightings, and tabloid-worthy “news.”
That was how he had found out about the Piece of Mind Clinic. He was scoping out a forum that he frequented often, and he had ignored that new thread the first couple of times, the one that read, “Brain Spawn Created in a Lab: Is this for real?” Most posts like that were trash, but the thread had gotten 247 replies in only an hour, and over 1000 people had viewed it. Figuring he shouldn’t be left out of the loop, Stan clicked on the post and read it over. These brain-children, or “babbles,” since these things would talk nonstop when first extracted, were literally pulled from your brain by some machine that the clinic had developed, and somehow manifested into a physical form (“Chupacabras or alien goblins or something,” one poster had rumored of the babbles’ appearances), so that the “problem” could be given direct treatment. No one seemed to know how that was done, but theories abounded, from lobotomies to electroshock to implanted microchips. Meanwhile, the patients could keep living their normal lives, without weeks or months of hit-or-miss therapy. Also, it was cheap—one didn’t even need medical insurance.
Stan mulled this over for a long while. His first reaction was that it was all fabricated, but there were testimonies from people who had gone there, claiming that the process really worked. They had not felt so at peace and well-balanced in their entire lives until after their babble had been cured and reinserted. Apparently, it was necessary to reinsert the treated babble rather than just terminate it, because a babble was a part of one’s brain, and for the brain to remain incomplete could cause some undesirable side events. Think of it as a chipped piece of glass from a vase (as one of the clinic specialists would elucidate); if one didn’t return that broken-off piece and weld it back into the whole, the vase would just get bigger and bigger cracks stemming from that original fracture until…well, it wouldn’t be much of a vase long after that.
It was not because Stan had any severe psychological problems, or any paranoia or emotional scarring that usually warranted a babble extraction (although on his paperwork, he had listed ‘extreme masochism” as his reason for attending the clinic, because—let’s face it—he had to have an addiction to pain to keep putting up with the crap that he went through on a daily basis). It had struck him as a rare opportunity to finally attain something that he had wanted his entire life: a friend who truly understood him. After all, a babble would come straight from his brain. If his babble wasn’t on the same wavelength as he was, who would be?
As desperate and silly as it may have sounded to most people, that was why Stan wanted to meet his babble so badly. He didn’t even want it to be “cured.” He wanted it exactly how it already was, as messed up as he was. To be told his babble was already locked away and out of reach had dealt Stan a mocking blow and reminded him that Fate was continuing to enjoy screwing him.
Stan’s raggedy sneakers plodded heavily down the front steps as he exited the building. He glanced back over his shoulder, entertaining a quick thought of breaking into the facility late at night, ninja-style, and stealing his babble out of there before anything could happen to it. A bolder, more rebellious version of Stan might have seriously contemplated the notion, but boldness and rebellion had never been strong suits of Stan’s, and he felt even less of those things now than he had before.
Maybe my babble has those now, he wondered. Maybe he’s a cooler guy than I am. Man, only I would end up sucking more than my own babble.
* * *

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Psycho Babbles: Part One

*We all search for a quick fix to our most challenging problems, particularly those we do not want to face ourselves. When someone offers such an instant solution, we might be tempted to grab it without weighing the consequences...and those consequences, as the people find out in this tale of the Mental becoming Material, can be far worse than the initial dilemma...*

As soon as Tabby awoke, she knew something had gone terribly wrong.
She blinked, wincing at the sterile fluorescent lights above her. There was a searing vice engulfing her head, and when she reached up to touch it, she felt bandages. She slowly took in the surroundings, the walls and ceiling white and stark, with the only furniture in the room being the cot that she was currently lying upon.
This shouldn’t be happening. Didn’t the doctor say that the extraction process would not require any invasive surgery? Tabby shut her eyes again, disoriented by all the whiteness. She recalled what she had been told: Just lie on the scanning bed, let the extractor do its thing, and it would be done in three minutes. That was it—or should have been it. After that, she could just jump up, be on her way with a smile, and remember to report back to the clinic in two weeks for the re-assimilation follow-up.
Of course, knowing her history with doctors, she should have predicted that this would turn out to be another mess. Had she really been so desperate to fix her…what was it, psychosis?...that she actually had believed this rubbish that Piece of Mind had been proclaiming? That the psychosis itself could be extracted from the mind, chemically treated to be “cured,” and then stuck back in your brain?
It had been printed in bright, calligraphic lettering on the pamphlet sitting in her mailbox last week: “The most effective, safe, and direct solution to any and all mental illnesses. A medical revolution. No more years of therapy or potentially harmful medications. Be permanently cured of your mental anxieties in a mere two weeks.”
Tabby’s hope was that the Piece of Mind Clinic would be a quicker remedy than her current psychiatrist—number five, to be precise, and just as much a pain in the posterior as the previous four. Just one day in the clinic, the follow-up, and then feign to her new doctor over the next few weeks that she was getting better. A massive head bandage, however, would be difficult to explain. Tabby sat up, groaning.
“Took you long enough to wake up.”
Tabby snapped her head up. There was no one else in the room with her. She could only see two doors, one that led into a small bathroom, and the other she assumed led out into the hallway.
Wonderful, she thought. Whatever they did to me is making me hear voices. I’m suing all these jerk-offs.
Tabby swung her legs around to the side of the bed to stand up, but her legs were gelatin, so she sat for a minute for the feeling to return. The pang in her bladder gave her the incentive she needed, and she pushed herself off the cot, trudging wobbly over to the bathroom.
After she finished, Tabby leaned against the bathroom sink, staring with dark-rimmed eyes at the mirror above it. From the looks of it, her head injury couldn’t be all that bad. All of Tabby’s hair was there, from what she could see, so nothing had been shaved for surgery. She looked her whole body over, but the rest of her seemed fine.
“What’s the matter, Freakshow? Don’t like what you see?” asked the voice she had heard before.
Tabby noticed that, when the voice spoke, there was a small vibration in her right ear. She plugged up her ear with her finger. “Say something else.”
This time, the voice was muffled, but it sounded infuriated at being restrained.
Tabby took her finger out of her ear. “What the heck did those people do to me?”
“Do to us,” the voice corrected. “I was quite happy where I was, before you gave in to all those quacks and shrinks who made you think I was a problem. You’re spineless, Tabitha Forrest, a complete jellyfish. Now unwrap your head.”
Tabby paused, not sure if she liked this voice. “Who are you?”
The voice chuckled. “Only now you’re asking that? You know who I am. You just don’t want to admit it. You don’t want to admit that I’m a separate entity from you. Then you’d realize you were subjecting a living thing to scientific experiment—maybe even torture, I don’t know what those knife-happy hacks had planned. But I’d rather not find out, so get this bandage off and let’s make tracks.”
Tabby suddenly understood. “Y…you’re what the clinic was going to take out of me?”
“Ding, we have a winner.”
“But…no, they were removing my psychosis. That’s an intangible thing. It’s like a…thought, or a brain wave. You’re not alive.”
The voice seethed hot venom, causing Tabby’s ear to burn. “Look, I’d love to wax philosophical with you all day long—no I wouldn’t—but I don’t want those freaks shoving us back in that crazy machine to pull me the rest of the way out. So move your fat butt already!”
“What do you mean, ‘rest of the way out’?”
“Hey, I wasn’t being torn out without a fight. I got a little…stuck.”
Tabby’s hands frantically unwrapped the layers of bandages around her head, unspiraling the fabric with the speed of an excited child opening a Christmas present. As the length of gauze fell to the floor, Tabby stared at her image in the mirror, petrified at the eyes glaring back at her.
The eyes set in her forehead, right above her own normal eyes.
These new eyes were slightly smaller than her own, almond-shaped and emerald green, making Tabby’s brown eyes look dull and drab. They were strangely beautiful, yet harbored a glint of maliciousness.
“How disgusting,” the manifested brain-child said. “You look like something out of a zombie horror flick.”
Appropriately enough to that comment, Tabby screamed.
* * *

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Rooster and the Wolf

*Here is a simple observation about animal symbolism and how we associate certain things with one another, penned by an anonymous observer...*

It seems a bit odd, which animals
Announce when the day dies, and is born.
The wolf howl heralds the moon-cast night
The cock crow calls the sun-sliced morn

Because of the wolf’s eerie emanation,
We think of the night as predatory,
Something dark and quietly shadow-slinking,
The canine hunter as a midnight allegory

And because of the rooster’s eruptive bray
That shatters the dawn’s calm, it
Makes us associate the break of day
With the pressing desire: I really want an omelet.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Time Giver

*People can be blessed...or cursed...with gifts for reasons unknown. This story (names have been changed for anonymity's sake) was told to me by a lady who knows more than anyone about the value of time, and what to do with it...*

Standing under the bare outstretched arms of the magnolia tree in the front yard, Mimi Walker breathed in the aroma of her jasmine tea and the crisp winter-going-on-spring air. She thought about how she had evolved in her tastes, from being a zealot of sodas and alcohol to a devotee of teas.

I wonder, have my tastes changed because of how rapidly I’ve aged, or only because I look old? She wondered.

The truth was, Mimi looked sixty-five, but she was only thirty-one.

She didn’t mind living alone in her small rental home. She abstained from romances, and acquaintances were few and remote. That was why she was surprised to see a stranger coming up the walk that day. It was a young woman, in her twenties with cropped ink-black hair. She had big brown eyes, which plucked a string of memory in Mimi’s mind, but she couldn’t place it.

“Excuse me,” said the woman, “I’m sorry, I might have been given the wrong address. Does Mimi Walker live around here?”

Mimi paused, wary of why this woman was looking for her. Curiosity got the better of her. “Yes, Mimi rents out my guest room. She should be back shortly. Would you like to come in? I’ll brew some fresh tea.”

Mimi guided the woman inside, and sat her down on the couch. In the kitchen, she brewed a mint tea, and returned to her guest with the tea tray.

“What’s your name, honey?” Mimi asked.

“Molly,” the woman said shyly.

It was a good thing Mimi had set the tray down, otherwise she would have dropped the whole thing onto the floor. Memory engulfed her: the brown eyes hadn’t changed in the last fourteen years, but the short black hair had once been long golden braids. The scrawny body had been pudgier before, and the timid countenance had replaced a once spitfire brazenness. Mimi froze as she gawked at her now grown-up, and transformed, younger sister.

“Are you all right?” Molly asked.

Mimi regained composure. “I’m fine. You must be Mimi’s sister. She’s mentioned you, but she didn’t say you were coming to visit.”

Molly raised her eyebrows. “She’s mentioned me? That’s surprising. We haven’t spoken to each other in a long time. In fact, I’m not sure if she’ll want to see me.”

“I’m sure she will,” Mimi said.

Molly sighed. “I’m hoping I haven’t messed up. I mean, she didn’t change her name or anything, but maybe she doesn’t want me to find her.” Molly bit her lip. “Mom and Dad would kill me if they knew I’m looking for her.  They don’t want me to even think about her. They said, ‘if she wants to disown this family, then this family disowns her.’ I mean, don’t they even wonder why…” Molly stopped. “I’m sorry. It’s not your problem.”

Mimi patted Molly’s knee. “You were close to her?”

Molly shrugged. “I don’t know if she liked me, but she was always there for me. When she left, I just couldn’t…” Molly paused. “M’am, would you tell her I dropped by? I’ll leave the number to the hotel I’m staying at, if you’ll pass it along so she can call me, if she wants to talk.”

“Wait!” Mimi jumped up, startling Molly. “Wait,” Mimi repeated gently. “Please, stay. Look, Molly, there’s something I need to tell you, about Mimi.”

A look of panic flooded Molly’s face.

“Relax, she’s fine.” Mimi inhaled deeply. “Right after she left home, she found out she has a…gift. She can help people by giving them a little more…time. That is…how can I explain?” Mimi touched her finger to her lips. “She was working in a fast food place to make ends meet when a man suffered a heart attack in the restaurant. While Mimi waited with him for the ambulance, the man said that he wished he could’ve had more time to patch things up with his son. Mimi wished so much she could help him…then something happened. She felt this electrical twinge. The ambulance finally came, and Mimi thought she’d never see that man again. But a week later, he came back to the restaurant, in good health. He said that Mimi’s praying for him did something, so he wanted to thank her. They kept in touch as friends, until a year later, when the man passed away, painlessly.”

“That’s sad,” Molly said.

“Well, less sad than him dying in pain,” Mimi replied. “And he did make amends with his son. But Mimi had something to do with that. She could do the same for other people too. Her gift…She can give someone an additional year onto their lives, even if they’re on the brink of death. It’s just one year she can give to one person at a time, but that can be more than enough for them to make up for a lifetime of regret.”

Molly’s jaw hung open. “Huh?”

“The catch is…those years she gives away are years off of her own life.”

Molly was quiet. Her gaze meandered from Mimi to the wall, and back to Mimi. “Is this a joke?”

“Not at all.” Mimi took Molly’s hand. “Molly, it’ me. I’m Mimi.”

Once again, there was quiet. Molly let out a spurt of disbelieving laughter, but it quickly died. She leaned closer to Mimi, searching her eyes. She touched Mimi’s face, the wrinkles on her brow, the strands of silver hair. Molly turned Mimi’s head to the side, brushing back Mimi’s hair. Under Mimi’s right ear was a distinguishing feature, a tiny birthmark shaped like a butterfly. Molly dropped her hands into her lap, looking like her soul had vacated her being.

“I’m sorry I didn’t contact you,” Mimi said when her sister said nothing. “But you can see why, can’t you?”

Suddenly, Molly shot up onto her feet, her voice like a teapot screaming steam. “Mimi, did you even go to a doctor or anyone to ask what the heck this ‘thing’ is? I mean, maybe you have one of those rapid-aging diseases. Maybe it’s coincidence that those people lived a little longer than expected. But you didn’t even try to find me or let me know what was going on? You’re dying, literally dying, because you think you’re some kind of angel or something?”

“Molly, listen—“

“No! Mimi, even if I really believed you have this gift, or curse, or whatever…” She covered her face with her hands. “When I was little, I dreamed about being able to grow up along side of you. I thought one day we’d be like those little old ladies in those movies we watched, two sisters who seem crazy to everyone else but share their own perfect world. But how can we do that now? You wasted your life away, and for what? For strangers who were just going to die anyway?”

“Molly, sit,” Mimi ordered.

After a long moment frozen in time, Molly tentatively sat down.

“Look, I never believed in fate or God or anything that indicates we’re meant for some specific purpose,” Mimi said, “but I figure, we only have so much time on this planet, so we have to do what we think is right with the time we have. I could’ve never shared my gift, and kept all those years to myself. But nothing I would have done with them would have made me feel the same fulfillment, the same joy, I get out of giving someone a second chance to make things right. This is my purpose, Molly. This is why I have this ability. The only thing I regret about it was not letting you know sooner.”

Molly’s eyes were brimming with tears. “Does it…work both ways? Can you take a year from someone else and add it back onto your own?”

“I don’t think so.”

Molly took Mimi’s hands, squeezing them tightly. “Can you try?”

“Even if I could, I wouldn’t.” Mimi smiled, and stroked Molly’s hair. “I don’t think the point is about adding or subtracting years onto my life. I think it’s treasuring the time we have right now. Maybe that’s why I can only give one year away at a time. If I could give twenty years to someone, it wouldn’t be as valuable.”

Molly wiped her eyes. “What do we do now?”

“Well…” Mimi put an arm around Molly’s shoulders. “There’s a Mother-Daughter lunch special at the bistro down the street. Maybe we can get away with it. We look alike, you know.”

Molly couldn’t help but laugh. “You, my mom? That’s creepy.”

Mimi smiled. “Hey, I can really act like Mom, and tell you to color your hair back to normal and put some meat on those bones. You look like a vampire.”

Molly gave Mimi a tight hug. “I missed you, Mimi.”

“I missed you too.”

They remained like that for a good hour or so, but for the two sisters, time had stopped just for them, and it was the most precious gift either could have received.