Saturday Shorts: Country Roads

Country Roads

Even with the heater going full blast, Susan could barely feel her fingers for the cold. Her thick mittens did little to take the bone deep chill of the truck cabin away. The snow fell thickly outside, reflecting the headlights of the truck in odd ways, making the road more treacherous than it already was, the wipers working furiously. The snow danced like ghosts across the stretch of abandoned back road.

Susan hated early mornings, when the sun was still hours away from rising, and absolutely loathed the cold. Despite these certainties, she loved the snow, as it was beautiful in its own way. It was part of the reason she had stayed in North Dakota, despite her hatred of winter. The other reason she had stayed for so many years was why she was up at such an ungodly hour in the first place, driving when it was likely that every weather and news station in the county was advising against even going out your front door.

The trailer she was towing behind the truck pulled along, following in the ruts created by the full ton trucks winter tires. For all Susan knew, she wasn’t even driving on the actual road, since the only markers that made the stretch a road in this weather was her ingrained memory from having come this way countless times before. Hell, she almost missed the turn off indicator as she came up to it, though in reality it was not an official demarcation of destination, just an old oak tree, branches now heavy with snow, the indicated she had reached her turn. With a hard jerk on the wheel, she managed to make the cut, the chains on her tires gripping the snow and the gravel below it to keep her from sliding; the trailer bounces along behind. In this storm, the tree was her only indication that she was at the pasture. The snow was so uniformly white and even that it was all muscle memory and reflex at this point, keeping her calm and steady behind the wheel.

Another five minutes of steady travel into the pasture, and she was actually beginning to be able to feel her fingers, though it could just as easily been the beginnings of frostbite, as she had had a brush or two with that in the past. It would have been glorious to be able to sit in the cabin of the truck, as the warmth began to slowly leach away the battering cold, but she was at her destination and there was no time to dawdle. She was not the only thing that was likely feeling cold, as it was  ‘ not fit for man nor beast out there’, as her dad had been want to say when he was alive.

With a deft twist, Susan cut the lights on the truck, and shifted to neutral, letting the truck and trailer roll forward to a slow and steady stop. Reaching up, she made sure her knit cap was pulled down tight over her ears, meeting the edge of the heavy scarf she had wound round and round her neck. Quickly, as if she were removing a band-aid, she threw the truck door open and jumped down, trudging through the near knee-high snow towards the back of the trailer. From inside, these was the distinctive sound of hooves on metal, and puffs of steam rose from the small ventilation windows. The bleating of a handful or tired and upset sheep echoed off the bare trailer walls, as the flock made its protest known. The smell of wet wool and lanolin was just strong enough to cut over the cold and crisp air of the storm, which numbed the nose almost to the point of being useless.

Susan could hardly blame the sheep for being disagreeable, their foul mood was something she could relate to, given the circumstances. Being pulled from warm stocks at herded into a semi warm trailer at 3;00 AM would have that effect on anyone, though some would be able to protest in much more horrendous fashions. Susan lowered her scarf ever so slightly and let loose two short, shrill whistles that cut over the wind, and the sheep settled somewhat in the trailer, letting out a few soft baa’s as back talk.

Despite the thickness of her gloves, the little bit of warmth she had begun to feel was already bleeding away, so Susan made quick work of removing the dual lock and pins that held the back ramp in place. The ramp sank down into the snow, not resting fully level, but angling enough that it would be a short transition of trailer to ground for her charges. The latch that held the rolling door secure was a little bit more tricky, especially as the snow continued to fall and quickly cover every surface it could, but years of repetition made quick work of the obstacle. As the door rolled up the sheep, who had been huddled together near the back of the trailer, began moving forward toward the ramp, more out of habit than from any command, given that this was not their first time being transported. Susan moved away from the back of the trailer, the sheep descending the ramp into the snow one after the other in some bizarre game of follow the leader. Once the last of the flock, seven in total, had founds its way down the ramp and did not look like it would be retreating back into the trailer, Susan made quick work of closing the rolling door and locking the ramp back up, before she slowly worked her way back to the open door of the cabin, making sure none of the sheep tried to follow her. They stayed where the were, huddling together in the snow-covered field, their wool blending in with the snow while their black faces stood in stark contrast, even in the relative darkness.

Putting one foot back into the cabin and hoisting herself up with the door, Susan let loose another shrill series of whistles, which set the sheep into a nervous stomping. Taking a deep breath, the cold cutting her lungs like knives, she raised her voice over the storm, shouting into the darkness;

“Come out and get them, they’re all yours!”

With a quick pull and a dive across the seats, her  head down with her arms over it, Susan slammed the door behind her, just as the whoosh of something larger and heavier than a jet engine overtook the pasture, hidden by the snow. Susan did not dare look up, did not dare even breath, until there was nothing left but silence.

-Megan

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Last Thursday Review: Silence Fallen and Etched in Bone

So this month is a little special, in that I will be tackling two novels for review. Am I feeling a bit guilty for only reviewing a 40 page graphic novel last month, and trying to make up for that? Nope. I just happened to be lucky enough to have two novels  was waiting for come out on exactly the same day. It was like finding that health vile hidden in the corner of the room when you were just 1 HP away from “Game Over” when you saved the file for hours. So this month I will be presenting Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs, and Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop. Two sides of a similar coin when it comes to alternate modern world fiction.

As always, I will preface the review with a mild spoiler warning; I will do my very best to keep the juicy bits of the story under wraps, and I will try to avoid speaking too much about plot. If you are like me and enjoy jumping blindly into the rad and letting the twists and turns take you where they will, hopefully this will give you a sense of what you are in for without giving away anything much. If you want to be cautious and save absolutely everything but what you read on the book jacket for your own discovery, I won’t be hurt if you stop reading right this instant, just keep me in mind and come back after you’ve read the book (We could have a tete-a-tete about the finer points, I am absolutely certain.)

SILENCE FALLEN by PATRICIA BRIGGS (4.5 out of 5)

Silence Fallen is the 10th instalment in the Mercedes Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs, an epic bard of the urban fantasy genre. We have followed Mercedes, our Mercy, through thick and thin. From the military abductions and experimentation, to the vest uncertainty that is Underhill, she has led us on quite a journey. This time, we see Mercy further from home than we’ve ever seen her. Patricia’s delving into the actual past in this story, into the Old World of Europe and the even older things that inhabit it, reminds me a bit of the whimsy created by Kevin Hearne in The Iron Druid Chronicles, when Atticus ventures through Europe (thinking specifically the sort of romantic atmosphere he created when he spoke of the Polish Witch Coven).

Briggs’ approach to this novel is quite interesting; as always we read Mercy in her own voice, experience everything through her eyes. However, in order to tell the diverging stories, this time she also had to split her party. While we do not experience the story as Adam in the “I” voice, we still decidedly see what he experiences through his eyes, though somewhat less reliably than Mercy. This has to do with the of first person for Mercy, while staying with third person when speaking of Adam and his entourage.

Briggs had taken us through the gamut of the creatures in her world; we’ve been inside the wolf pack, as well as outside of it, with and against the Fae and the Grey Lords, and surrounded by Vampires (Who honestly play the longest game ever, no one ever really seems to be able to determine which side they will fall on, just that it had best benefit them). This time, after the events in Fire Touched, we finally see  a larger united front, a true ‘adventuring party’, where a little bit of everything comes together. The Fae are relegated to a less central role in this story. This could have either been a conscious choice, as the last novel focused so strongly on them, or a side effect of moving the story to Europe, which Briggs has established, since the beginning of the story, as a place that is virtually void of Fae, since the creation of Cold iron and the need to hide the magic.

As far as Silence Fallen goes, I feel that it delivers exactly what I have come to expect from a Mercy novel, with the same sort of addictive quality that makes Briggs’ books so difficult to put down once you start reading. She does this all while introducing us to a new host of characters. We meet some of Europe’s movers and shakers, people that Bran left behind when he came to the new world. Libor  and the Vltava Pack in Prague, Bonarata and the Vampires of Italy, and some very interesting ghosts, just to name a few. As always, Mercy manages to stumble into more trouble than initially would have come her way, all while mostly being able to take care of herself . We also see the return of one of my favourite small characters, Elizaveta, the Russian Witch. Honestly, I would absolutely love it if Briggs gave us a book just about the live and experiences of Elizaveta. She is a little bit grandmother like, but also steel and unforgiving power. If Briggs had not already brought us the Baba Yaga before, I would almost be strongly inclined to think Elizaveta was hiding something else.

There were a few points of minor confusion, either because I missed some tiny clue or a switch occurred that wasn’t entirely explained. After it happened it did make me look back over the previous passages to see if I could spot what it was, but I was still unable to put my finger on the reality of it. I won’t speak to much more on that point though, because I don’t want to venture too far into speaking of plot points.

So, overall, Silence Fallen earns a very strong 4.5 Stars from me. Maybe I am biased, in that I have read this series since the initial release, and wait on the edge of my seat for a new addition to the series (Sometimes with barely contained glee and excitement when the preview chapter goes up online). It’s release also came at a hard time, as the author unexpectedly lost her husband just weeks before the release. So it may be some time before we return to Mercy, the werewolves, and our other ‘friends who may or may not like to eat us’, but I will wait patiently for that day.

ETCHED IN BONE by ANNE BISHOP (3.5 out of 5)

Coming off the excitement that was Visions in Silver, Etched in Bone left me a little wanting for content. Where Visions in Silver felt like a massive leaping point for change, Etched in Bone felt  a bit lacking, a lull in an otherwise usually very exciting world. As the 5th book in the series, it may just be that the author is trying to tie up some ends, to give the reader bits and pieces more on things she had hinted at before.

As far as the story goes, it seems to drag a little bit in this book. There is some stagnation, and some contrived “thriller” elements that are somewhat predictable. I have really enjoyed this world before, and was excited to see where it was going, especially after the world remembered what threat was right outside their doors, that didn’t really need them to survive. Our larger world had shrunk down to basically just the courtyard and a few other areas. For a novel series that held a strong, wanting to be independent character at its centre, we actually spend fairly little time with Meg this time around, and even less time in the Liaison office. Was this sacrificed in order to create the tension between members of the human pack, so that the Others and the Elders could see small-scale power struggles instead of just large-scale events? Either way, there is a decided lack of threat and colour in this one. The baddie is exactly who you expect, and he does exactly what you expect. Bishop may even go slightly too far in order to paint him like a stereotypical baddie, lacking the subtlety that would have worked to help emphasise the ease with which a human can compromise the herd for the benefit of the self.

Meg and Simon are exactly as you would expect, and Bishop does not elevate the level of sexual tension between them, though there is a decided focus on their relationship (As there has been from the beginning); all in all, the characters are just as they have been, perhaps with a little bit more struggle on Meg’s part, and a little bit more confusion on Simon’s. Perhaps we even spent more time with the fully human element than ever before, as they try to deal with the lack of a face for the Humans First Movement, while still suffering and dealing with the consequences wrought back those actions. It is like they are walking a line, somewhere between cohabitation and beneficial relationships, and everything just falling apart, back to how it was before. We do see a decided return to the “Other” portion of the others, as they try to deal with things in ways that even they are unaccustomed to (Focused on a single target threat, rather than a whole score of adversaries).

In my opinion, the real moment of true build up also fell a little flat, or maybe, just a little too ‘human’? The anticipation and build up did not lead the expected impact, and it felt perhaps just a little rushed for what it was.

Possibly the greatest piece of growth in the whole story comes from Skippy, as he pushes to be part of the group despite his difficulties. In this, we also get a closer look at Ms Twyla, Crispin Montgomery’s mother, who turns out to seem much more wolf mother anything else, as she somehow seems to hold the fort and make the stands where others are unable to (At times, it even seems like she outranks Simon). Personally, I was moved by Skippy’s advancement as a character, maybe because his innocence reminds me of that innocence that was so integral in Sam, when Meg first worked him out of his shell.

As much as it pains me to say it, this may be the logical point to end the series, as I cannot see another crescendo to large action, and what follows might just be too close a resemblance to wish fulfilment and fan fiction, unless this was just a piece that was necessary to bridge one larger event to another, in which case it may have served just to tie some ends together for the readers before launching them towards something new in the world. The biggest threats within the human world have largely been dealt with (though Bishop keeps hinting at another larger threat coming to the Blood Prophets, there was only a very small build toward it in this instalment).

Over all, I would give Anne Bishop’s Etched in Bone a 3.5 out of 5. I can’t say that I enjoyed it as much as the first 4 novels in this series, and most certainly not as much as Silence Fallen, but I can’t deny the fact that I still had trouble putting it down, as I read it in hopes that something grand would happen. If this was not the end of the series, I hope that the next novel is a massively moving piece of fiction, willed with the tension and excitement that the series started out with. 

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Poetry Tuesday: Haiku Examination

A few years ago, when studying Japanese, my professor said something that stuck with me, and that I found profound. She said that the key to a good haiku was to use words to describe what you are talking about, without explicitly saying what it is you are writing about. Given that in high school creative writing, the whole exercise of Haiku took maybe 30 minutes, and you were graded well so long as you followed 5-7-5, this bit of information struck a chord with me. Instead of  “Winter is so very cold”, which seems a little simplistic, you can instead create a painting with the words “breath frosts before me”. Of course, this is a little bit more complicated when working in Japanese when you have just grasped the language, without grasping word play and idioms. In that respect, I’ve been trying to be a little less straight forward with this selection of five haiku.

 

(The Squirrel)

The watchful sentry,

Vigilantly does his task.

Waving his tail, he chatters.

 

(The Dandelion)

White crown grow en masse.

The winds come and dethrone them.

New kings soon will grow.

 

(Shooting Star)

Falling in darkness.

Glittering as a beacon,

Wishes come below.

 

(Harvest)

Wind rushes through blades,

They bow low to acknowledge

Golden fields await.

 

(Mountain Melt)

Trapped beneath the sun.

Running down the mountainside,

The buds awaken.

 

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Short Saturday: You Were Warned

You Were Warned

There was no way around it, Arthur admitted to himself. He was going to need a much bigger trash bag to deal with this.

It had been a spur of the moment decision, and act of passion and madness. Now, standing among all the carnage, surrounded by the destruction caused by his own hand and his hammer, there was no denying that he must have been insane to think he would ever be able to get away with it. Carefully, he peels his soaked work gloves from his hands, the material sticking and refusing to let go, Carefully he turned one glove inside out before using it to remove the second, hoping to avoid getting anything on his hands. With a sigh, he left his uncomfortable face mask in place, and did his best to look past the obscure and unnamable matter that speckled his protective goggles. He did not want to risk removing them at this point, as it would likely mean he would need to get more, and he had none left on hand. With his luck, he would drop them onto the floor and they would be unsalvageable for continued use. On top of it all, he knew that it would be stupid to create a reason to leave the room he was in, even for the most innocent reason. If he made an excuse where it caused him to have to leave the house, he knew, deep down in his gut, that it would only complicate matters. If he created a reason to leave the house, he knew he would leave a mess which would indicate to anyone what he had done, or that he would simply leave it all behind and never come back.

He knew that if he left everything as it was, if he didn’t clean up meticulously, he would be caught, and would have to face the full punishment for his actions. The kind of punishment that he was almost certain would completely alter his life, more so than he had altered it when he had taken the hammer in his hands in that moment of absolute certainty.

As calmly as he could, Arthur grabbed the still open bottle of water from the counter, and took a long sip. Even though it was warm, it proved to be refreshing after his exertion. It also gave him the chance to really look around and take in everything that he had done, and all the complications it had created.

He should have listened to his friends told him that remodeling a bathroom was a job best left to those who knew what they were doing, and not a good project to undertake while your wife was away for the weekend. Definitely not a project to start on a Sunday.

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Essay Wednesday: The Dichotomy of Order and Chaos in Ugestu and Double Suicide

Older Japanese movies are a bit of an interest for me. As much as I love current Japanese horror movies, there is always room in my heart for the classic movies, filled with substance. A few years ago, while completing my undergraduate studies, I had the immense pleasure of partaking in an Asian film class. Each week we would meet for our 3 hour class, and settle in to watch yet another amazing film. While not all of them were right up my alley, they all got me thinking about films and their connectedness to life. We had the benefit of having each film paired up with another, which were thematically relevant (Princess Mononoke and Pom Poko, environmental cautions linked with spiritual concerns; Pulse and Ringu, technology as a means to destruction, etc.). One of my favourite pairing was the classic Ugetsu (1953, Kenji Mizoguchi), and Double Suicide ( 1969,  Masahiro Shinoda).Here we saw how deviation from the right path, how favouring self over duty and responsibility, led to complete destruction.

Ugestu was based upon the Ugetsu Monogatari, a series of short stories written by Ueda Akinari written in 1776. Taking the tales, it created a period drama which reflected real concerns at the time, while twisting it with a sad and meaningful ghost story.  I don’t want to go into too much detail, as I do go into it more in the essay below. Needless to say, this is still one of my favourite movies, and I would recommend that you watch it if you have the chance. Similarly, Double Suicide is based on a much older work, The Lovers Suicide at Amijima, a play written by Monzaemon Chikamitsu in 1721.

 

Double Suicide 1969, M.  Shinoda

Ugetsu, 1953 K. Mizoguchi

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dichotomy of Order and Chaos in Ugetsu and Double Suicide

When a director chooses to adapt a literary or theatrical piece through the medium of film there can be no question that it is done with a specific purpose in mind. This is especially true for the film adaptations of period pieces done by Kenji Mizoguchi and Masahiro Shinoda. Both directors have made bold stylistic choice; they enhance and highlight the conflicting ideas of life and death, and the concerns related to Japanese concepts of the afterlife. By doing this, Shinoda and Mizoguchi emphasize the dichotomy between order and chaos, by utilizing the common concerns and issues of ninjo and giri in the life of the everyday person during times of conflict. Both films play on the idea of familial duty versus personal desire. While both are based on prior works, their respective directors make it clear that such struggles are not limited to the time in which they were originally addressed. Mizoguchi and Shinoda found the core themes of both works, and uniquely approached the common issues of order and chaos through a clever juxtaposition of death, the afterlife, and supernatural elements in order to make a strong impression on a contemporary audience.

The Kurogo, or puppeteers, guide the action

Double Suicide, or Shinju Ten no Amijima (1969), is an adaptation of a popular 18th century bunraku play. Shinoda uses a heavily stylistic approach in order to draw attention to the dichotomy between order and chaos, as well as life and death. There is no outright use of the supernatural in this case; instead, Shinoda has embraced an approach based heavily on Brechtian verfremdungseffekt,1 as well as puppet theory later studied and popularized by the likes of Western theatrical theorist Gordon Craig. In Craig’s opinion, the puppet is the most articulate performer, what he calls “an echo of some noble and beautiful art of a past civilization.”2 Craig proposes that the actor should be completely replaced by the puppet, as the puppet is capable of collapsing character and being into a single entity, and thus become the perfect artistic medium.3 Shinoda goes beyond this, and instead of collapsing the characters into the puppet completely, he superimposes the identity of a puppet onto his human actors; by doing this he plays on the universally understood idea of the puppet as a symbol of death, accentuating the Brechtian alienation by using a troupe of puppeteers, or kurogo,to guide the main characters through the story. Though the cast is human and able to move of their own accord, the kurogo control the main character’s major action and decisions throughout the course of the film according to Keiko McDonald, they are meant to be a personification of fate,4 marching the character towards their death and their duty. In all of these stylistic choices, the thin line between life and death is crossed repeatedly; when the main character acts according to giri (obligation or moral duty), chaos vanishes and the kurogo do not intercede. However, when ninjo (emotion or personal desire) reigns, the kurogo are in control, leading the characters from life to death, and blurring the line between the two. Shinoda draws on this most heavily in the final moments of his adaptation, depicting his ninjo controlled characters running across a series of bridges,meant to delineate life from death, and duty from pleasure.

Traditional Onna-men, Noh Mask

 

Lady Wakasa

 

 

 

 

 

 

In contrast, Ugestu Monogatari extensively utilizes the supernatural in order to establish how ninjo and giri affect the relationship between order and chaos in relation to death. Early death was common during the time period in which the original tales composing Ugetsu were recorded, when there was major spiritual and social concern in regards familial duty to the dead.5 As such, the dichotomy between order and chaos is heavily present in Mizoguchi’s use of the supernatural to frame these concerns. Death and the supernatural are once again linked with the idea of giri and ninjo; Lady Wakasa represents ninjo,6 and the concern of dieing before duty can be fulfilled. As such, she is the force for chaos in this film. Conversely, Miyagi is representative of giri,7 primarily concerned with fulfilling her duty and later honoured by her surviving family. This clearly shows that Miyagi is the force for order in this tale. Once again, Keiko McDonald provides a reading of the director’s implementation of the supernatural in order to create vivid contrasts between chaos and order. Mizoguchi utilizes strict aesthetics, reminiscent of Noh theatre, to delineate the supernatural from the mundane; in the case of Lady Wakasa, her movement style and facial expressions are what separate her from the living characters.8

By blurring the lines between life and death, and allowing the afterlife to linger in the physical world, Mizoguchi is making a commentary on the social role of the family, and how duty and giri must be followed in order for the world to reside separate from the yurei and ninjo which arise as a result of conflict and neglected responsibility. However, both order and chaos are represented by death and the supernatural. Instead of relying on the living and the dead to delineate order from chaos, the director has put the emphasis on the manner of death and the treatment in the afterlife, thus showing the audience that while life and death commonly believed as separate, they are actually inextricably linked. In turn, order cannot exist without chaos, or else it becomes meaningless; conflict arises when one chooses to amass wealth instead of caring for personal relationships and duties; Mizoguchi stresses that the line between duty and personal desire is easy to mistake, when desire is supported with faulty reason.

Both Shinoda and Mizoguchi strove to bring to light the common issues concerning the dichotomy of order and chaos; to do this they both adapted period pieces which addressed common social and spiritual issues, and sought to relay their meaning through the use of death, the afterlife, and the supernatural. Shinoda sought to look at the ideas of ninjo and giri in relation to death and the afterlife with his adaptable of Shunji Ten no Amijima; his work succeeded by relying on theatrical aesthetics, and his Brechtian approach in order to reinforce the idea of death as both the ultimate commitment to giri and also the complete victory of ninjo. Mizoguchi used the supernatural in Ugetsu Monogatari to pursue the idea of giri and ninjo, and how it is up to the living to ensure that they fulfill their duty as family in order to ensure that order is maintained in the afterlife; without the living pursuing the path of giri, the dead are forced to remain between worlds, unable to be released from their own desires.

Work Cited

Craig, Gordon. “The Actor and the Über-marionette.” Theatre Theory Theatre. Ed. Daniel Gerould. New York: Applause Theatre and Cinema Books, 2000. pp. 394-401.

McDonald, Keiko I. “Double Suicide: Domestic Tragedies, Classical and Modern.” Japanese Classical Theatre in Japanese Classical Theatre in Films. London and Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1994. pp. 208–223.

McDonald, Keiko I . “Ugetsu: Why Is It a Masterpiece?” Ugetsu: Kenji Mizoguchi, Director. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1993. pp. 3–16.

1Keiko L McDonald, “Double Suicide: Domestic Tragedies, Classical and Modern”in Japanese Classical Theatre in Japanese Classical Theatre in Films (London and Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1994), 214-215.

2Gordon Craig, “The Actor and the Über-marionette.”in Theatre Theory Theatre. Ed. Daniel Gerould (New York: Applause Theatre and Cinema Books, 2000), 396.

3Ibid., 394-396.

4Keiko I. McDonald, Double Suicide: Domestic Tragedies, Classical and Modern”in Japanese Classical Theatre in Japanese Classical Theatre in Films (London and Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1994 214-215.

5Keiko I McDonald, Ugetsu: Why Is It a Masterpiece?” in Ugetsu: Kenji Mizoguchi, Director (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1993), 9.

6Ibid., 9.

7Ibid., 8-9

8Ibid., 12-13.

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Poetry Tuesday: March 21st

As yet untitled. This is a variation on a theme, perhaps influences from reading a lot of paranormal fiction, and just maybe a touch of manga. The idea of the separation between life and death, between the known and the unknown, between normal and paranormal, natural and supernatural.

Untitled: Variation of Regret and Memory

Staggering the pyramid of broken promises,

Reshaping the dreams of previous lives,

like sand.

They slip between the sleeping and the waking realms,

Unsure if they even ever existed.

Dashed hopes cast off upon a mountain of regret,

Good intentions spoiled for the sake of one more moment,

Caught in that perfect imagining,

The fades as mist after dawn.

From the shore they watch the world,

Sorrow wailing, and they pine

For what they can no longer reach.

Curled fingers of desire and longing come up empty in their desperate bid,

To leech another moment of warmth from their remembered scenes of life.

Caught in a state between one moment and the next,

Skirting on the edge of memories of those still drawing breath.

Slowly, with each longing sigh,

They draw others from that shore to them,

Claiming them to repeat the past one more.

-Megan

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Saturday Shorts: The Doctor Is In

The Doctor Is In

With surgical precision, she peeled the skin back from the muscle. With practices and slow motions, she positioned the flaps of skin down on the mounting blocks, and pinned it in place, the latex of her gloves offering a sure grip, despite the blood which covered the fingers.

Now that the skin was taken care of, moved and held away from the forearm, she could begin her work. It had been hard going, but this was not her first try. It had helped immensely that the chosen patient was in optimal condition, with no other health complications or previous work to put her into more difficult territory.

Now, her gloves were slick with blood, having taken the time to carefully deal with the subject, she knew it could not have been avoided, only made minimal so as not to become a larger concern. The inside of the gloves were even more uncomfortable, coated now with sweat that caused the material to lose a bit of its purchase. She would have rather not had to use the clingy latex gloves, but they were a necessary precaution, and the only thing that had been in stock. That shortage was something she was going to have to see about in the future.

Setting her scalpel down, she picked up her small scissors and got down to the truly challenging work. With the forearm muscles exposed, Flexor Carpi Radialis and  Brachioradialis she reminded herself,  and in such fine condition, it made it very easy to determine where the tendons lay. There was o excess fat to get in the way. Very carefully, with great concentration to keep her hands from shaking even the most imperceptible micron, she snipped the tendons cleaning, watching the tension leave it like a snapped bowstring. Setting aside the scissors, and wiping her bloody hands on her scrub pants, she smile. Carefully, as if touching china, she reached in and took hold of the  tendons, using both hands to take two between her fingers on each hand.

With a triumphant exhalation, she manipulated the tendon as if she was dealing with a human puppet, carefully pulling back on and releasing the tension slowly in order to watch the fingers on the hand open and close. The fingers responded, less smoothly at first, but soon fluidly as she learned the correct amount of force to use, Eventually the fingers waved back in a macabre semblance jazz fingers.

“See,” the girl grinned broadly, glancing up the table at the man, gagged and restrained firmly to the table, eyes wide in fear and pain not fully dulled by the sleeping pill she had slipped him earlier in the evening when she had suggested their next activity, ” I told you it would be fun if we played doctor.”

-Megan

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Poetry Tuesday: Champion

Trying a little something different this week for Poetry Tuesday. This is a piece that i elaborated from a fragment that I found a few weeks ago when I was going through my old notebooks. As such, it does not totally fit the themes I have been going after, but I still kind of like what came out of the revisit the initial verse.

The Champion

 

“Come closer to my ear,”
The tortoise-shell cat grinned wide.
“I will tell you of things you cannot see,
Those that hide from plain sight.
In both the darkness and in light.”

His tail swept wide upon the floor,
To his nose he touched his brown boot paw.
“A mouse is what your fool eyes see,
All soft fur and sharp knowing teeth.”
His breath puffed out, he purrs beneath the hand.
“To me a mighty beast appears,
Strong tail lashing, bright scales clashing;
Fire brimming in its fearing eyes.
You see not as I.”

Imperiously he flares his tail,
Paws clasping at the carpet ground.
“And on a branch a bird you spy;
Look all fluff and feather.
But keener eyes than yours discern
The talons clutching desperately for flesh;
Its body twisting in a dive for food.
This mighty Griffen is my prey,
To keep my mistress safe.”

Mist green eyes follow all, his coat clean and smooth as silk.
“So call me beast when at your feet
I lay my hard-won conquest down.
But as Champion, forever at your call will my service be.”

-Megan

 

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Saturday Short: Just Like Granny Annie

Granny Annie’s apple pies!

Nothing like a heaping helping of delicious apple pie to chase away a busy day.

Try Granny Annie’s and you’ll be surprised at how the worries just melt away.

You haven’t had a pie until you’ve tried Granny Annie’s Granny Apple Pie!

The radio switched back to the afternoon’s smooth jazz, its sounds filling the small kitchen as Alice worked. Alice had always prided herself on her pie making ability, and her crusts were simply the flakiest in the neighbourhood. She  made apple pies that made judges cry, and she had the county and state faire ribbons to prove it. She had even been in the Great Northwest Exposition Finals, beaten only by the creations of Granny Annie herself. That was nothing to bat an eye at, since Granny Annie had been winning first place ribbons for her pie since before Alice had even been born.

Of course, now that Granny Annie had gone to meet the Almighty Pie Man in the sky, Alice saw nothing between her and complete victory in the upcoming Country and State Fair competition. She would even be so bold as to go beyond and say that there was no one left in the whole Midwest region who could come close to her skill with a crust. of course, she would only ever think that in the privacy of her own home kitchen; best to be humble and gracious in the public eye, don’t you know.

Alice had been practicing all winter, adding new twists to her crust, and tweaking the flavours just so. She had redoubled her efforts since the news had announced the passing of Annie, knowing that there would be housewives and gastronomy aficionados coming out of the woodwork to try to snatch up the accolades and sponsorships that had once belonged to the old women. A gap had been created at the very to of the massive pyramid of pie backers, and there would be stiff competition ahead. But Alice had something that none of the others had, something that she had ventured far afield to get, and secret back to her home.

Now, Alice had that ace of her proverbial dress sleeve, and a sprinkle of new magic on her apron. Delicately, she cut herself a piece from the pie she had just removed from the oven, letting the savoury scent cascade through the small room, curling her toes at the warmth of it. She hoped that it would taste as good as it smelled, this was her first savoury pie, and she could not afford to have it not be delicious down to the last bite. Alice smiled as she carefully pressed her fork through the golden crust, the gravy leaking out across the plate. With measured steps, she brought the fork up, being sure that no drops fell on her apron. Raising it in salute to the other side of her kitchen counter, she took a bite, closing her eyes to enjoy as the flavour slipped over her palate. She found it delicate, the texture not that much unlike chopped roast beef, but the flavour more mellow, like a slow roasted pork loin. She ate the bite and exhaled slowly before smiling, all in all, it could use more spice, but it was edible, and that was what Alice needed most

” Oh, Granny Annie, for all your prizes, your pies lack a little in the kick department. Still, you certainly make a very nice pie.”

Alice smiled again and winked at the skull set at the other end of the counter, over seeing the oven. It provided no comeback, no quip. Granny Annie had always been humble and very soft spoken.

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Poetry Tuesday: Bared Bones

Bared Bones

 

Grave bones dropping dust,

Crossed at the old master’s feet.

Creaking and bleating their lonely cries.

Left with unrest in their defeat.

 

Dry bone, marrow turned to stone,

Tossed at the blind king’s throne,

No One left at the hearth,

No Sons to take them home.

 

Cold bones, wrapped in parchment flesh,

Shuddering in the darkness, in suspense.

Not a memory of theirs remains.

Yet, still these ones draw breath.

 

Hot bones bathed in red,

Upon the soaked bloody ground, abandoned.

No tomb for them but where they fall,

In a field so far from home.

 

-Megan

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