April 1, 2011 – Air Pockets Beneath My Wings

Vivian sat for a long time staring in the direction the cat ran. She was afraid to blink for fear of missing its return. Her eyes began to get very dry from being held open by force for so long. Her corneas became brittle and tiny fissures were snaking their way across the breadth of her eyeballs.

The skies opened up a torrent of rain clouds propelling a sticky adhesive everywhere. It took a Herculean effort from deep inside Vivian’s soul to get up from her familiar guarding post and move. She had to get out of there quickly or she would end up being literally glued to that spot.

The searing pain she experienced as she involuntarily allowed herself to blink again nearly knocked her back down. It was like rubbing course grade sandpaper over a blackened roasted marshmallow, in both directions. She could feel the burnt layer peel forward as her lid closed and then rip back upon itself as her eyes opened again. And even though the entire action was complete within a millisecond, her brain waves slowed the transfer of the electrical signal for pain down to where it felt as though the scalping of her eyes had lasted for hours.

The second time was still excruciating, as well as the third but less so with each blink. Her legs were carrying her faster and faster without benefit of knowing where they were going. Vivian simply ran for cover from the gooey rain. Before she could decide on whether to duck under a stack of partially crushed Pontiacs or inside a cave carved out of the center of James’ rotted peach pit, the ground gave way and Vivian slipped beneath the surface.

The free fall to somewhere other than there was exhilarating. The air coolly rushed around her limbs and smelled of honeysuckle on a damp Sunday morning. The world above faded into a weak buzzing she could barely hear anymore. The action of falling cleared away any debris remaining on her body and clothing.

Vivian stretched out her arms in front of her, put her head down and aimed for the pin light.

March 31, 2011 – Middle Earth

When Vivian opened her eyes, it took more than a moment of concentrated focus to figure out what was right in front of her. The sky appeared to be a deep glowing hazel green color with tiny specs of gold dust. It was as if she was looking into the eye of a giant tabby cat.

And she was.

Sitting up, Vivian could see that it wasn’t the sky her lenses couldn’t adjust to, it was an up-close-staring-contest with the biggest cat she’d ever seen. Oddly, Vivian did not feel fear. The echo of the enormous voice box sending out waves of gentle purring calmed Vivian’s heart rate and soothed her achingly tensed muscles. She was completely cradled in the grasp of this tremendous tabby and she felt completely safe.

All around them there were brambles piercing balloons, mysterious shadows filled with moon dust and solar flares, and grandfather clocks chiming at a frequency so high it was almost imperceptible to anyone but Vivian. There was a definite murmur of rushing water on the brink of overtaking everything. Flying above it all were countless striped hornets with wings of woven lead and toxic stingers filled with a syrupy venom.

The cat continued to cuddle Vivian providing protection and warmth, however Vivian could sense it was about time for the cat to move on. Its eyes were fixed on something shiny among the tall blades of grass covering the meadow before them. She could tell it wanted to run and chase down whatever culprit had garnered its attention. In her selfishness, Vivian began to cling tighter to the soft fur enveloping her body. She did not want to loosen her grip. She did not want to face the rest of the journey without something familiar.

The cat turned its face back to hers and looked longingly in her eyes. The gaze spoke with an unconditional crest of compassion and solidarity. It reminded her that if she were to make it through to the other side of this universe she had tripped her way into, she needed to let her cat play and trust it would be there for her when she needed it.

She let go.

And the giant cat quickly disappeared in the distance.

March 30, 2011 – Burnt Ochre Barricades and Leaky Cauldrons

There once was a girl hidden far from view
before mine eyes yet easy to pass through
Trading on sharp pickles
she spit acid nickles
And chased purple meltdown drops with brain flop stew.

Wandering deliberately through the valley of limits and fuse-less bottle rockets, Vivian feasted on empty pomegranate arils and crackled brown bark. She smelled fudge somewhere way in the distance but could not find a path in that direction that wasn’t laden with briers or cockroaches or both. Instead she chose to tenderly pick her way through the acres of memory chips still sparking from their improper device removal procedures. Several had burst into soft blue flames creating an eerie luminous field resembling the fireflies of Vivian’s youth on that first warm summer’s night. It took painstaking caution not to stamp one out. And even more will power.

She had found herself lost in this wilderness before and knew it was surrounded by an endless oasis in all dimensions. It was a place where everything was the same and nothing was familiar. Where toy guns equaled marshmallow pie and the skies were definitely cloudy all day. It rained dry tears that exploded radioactive maggots on impact. The trees gobbled up the oxygen only to convert it into malignant malfeasance. The only color the flowers could generate was absence.

Vivian needed to rest. She had been fighting her way through for long enough today.

A pocket of peace appeared and plopped down at her feet. She stretched out next to it and closed her eyes, hoping sleep would overtake her for a good long while.

It did for a while at least.

January 27, 2011 – 364 days and counting

On Friday, it will be a year since my Nana died.

Even though I had not gotten to see her much in the last few years of her life, it was still an involuntary thought to have her on the planet. When that shifted to her Spirit being with me instead knowing I could drive down to Waco at any time and see her smiling face, it was a blow I was not expecting. Doesn’t matter that she was nearly 97 – the grief was, and continues to be, a strange bird within me. Its feathers are piercing and its eyes are weeping. Its wingspan envelops me in both a cold, hard embrace and a rush of instantaneously glorious memories. Its timing resembles the flight of the Albatross – take off and landing are quite ungracefully bumpy while the mid-air flight seems to soar forever.

I wrote about this grief a few months ago. Seems appropriate to share it now.

Peace.

—————————

My Grandmother Died

“My Grandmother died. She was almost 97 and the most remarkable woman I ever knew. She knew how she wanted to live her life and she did it. Her way. I miss her,” Vivian said to the woman with blank eyes. “She has been gone more than six months and I still cannot fathom the Earth being able to rotate on its axis without her on the planet.”

The woman with blank eyes did not respond.

“Everyone tries to console me by reminding me what a full life she must have lived being 96 and healthy until the end. I know they were trying their best, but really, the longer she lived, the easier it was for me to believe she’d be here forever. A constant. Like the moon. Sometimes a little closer to my corner of the universe, sometimes a little farther away but always there to light up the night and make it easier to find my way.”

The woman with blank eyes did not respond.

“If her faith ever wavered, she did not let on. She survived the death of two of her children – one only a few weeks old, the other as an adult whose life was stolen by a ferocious cancer. Even in her grief when my grandfather died over thirty years ago, I could see my grandmother’s strength. She couldn’t hide it if she wanted to – it flowed from her in times of great joy and extreme sorrow. It flowed from her to everyone she touched, everyone she loved and who loved her. And, let me tell you, the nation of people who loved my grandmother was vast.” Vivian smiled at the thought of generations past and those to come who loved her grandmother, the woman who did not comprehend the word stranger.

The woman with blank eyes did not respond.

“Are you listening to me?” Vivian asked the woman. “Have you nothing to say? No empathy to offer me in my time of grief?”

The woman with blank eyes did not respond.

Vivian slammed her hand on the counter and stared straight into the woman’s unwavering gaze. Instantly, Vivian’s eyes teemed with the wildness of a tiger trying to escape a snare-trap. She began yelling, “Won’t you acknowledge these things I am telling you? Can you not simply find a trifle of compassion, a touch of sympathy or an infinitesimal morsel of solace behind that stone-faced wall?”

The woman with blank eyes did not respond.

Vivian shrieked in anger and punched her fist into the mirror between them. It shattered and Vivian’s hand pulsed crimson tears after the assault. Still, the woman did not move only to enrage Vivian beyond any semblance of humanity. She began spreading her blood all over the bathroom as she ripped down the shower curtain, threw the vanity stand over the woman’s head sending make-up products everywhere as if an Avon-bomb had exploded. Vivian tore at the edge of lose wallpaper, tearing apart half a room of delicate yellow flowers with green leaves.

As she grabbed the hot curling iron intending to set the room ablaze by igniting the wallpaper shreds, her eyes once again met up with the blank eyes of the woman in the mirror. Only this time due to the hundreds of shards of reflective glass, there seemed to be thousands of eyes staring back at her devastation – unblinking, unmoving.

For a moment, a portion of second perhaps, Vivian thought she saw one of those eyes release a tear. A single glorious, glistening tear. She searched the multitude of brown orbs glaring silently at her havoc desperately trying to find it, ripping down each broken piece of glass that was not right. Time folded into itself as she worked her way across the length of the mirror and tiny pink wads of flesh began to litter the floor as her hands became pulverized down to the bones.

Vivian was now standing on the bathroom counter, only the upper right corner of the dismembered mirror remained. Her hope of finding communion with someone, something to counter effect the banality of her exterior world slipping away with the removal of each pair of eyes. Her breath was weak and shallow. Her body leaned into the connecting wall to keep her upright and her head slumped against the corner. One arm had gone numb and she had only the lesser-trained left to continue the work.

She almost missed it. Her bloody hand grasped the tiny fragment and had pulled it away before she realized this was the piece. This one held the eye that could weep.

She clutched the piece to her chest and collapsed down on the counter. One foot fell off the edge and the other into the sink basin. Her own eyes began to brim with a salty flood, her lids tightly clasped shut to keep the waters at bay until she was sure. Vivian raised her hand and uncurled her bony fingers to reveal what she believed to be her only chance at freedom from the pain consuming her. She took as deep a breath as she could manage; stealing as much strength to withstand the truth she was about to see.

Vivian opened her eyes and focused on her reflected terror. The eyes she witnessed were indeed wet with tears, the entire face sobbing in grief. Vivian’s emotional torrent crested over her steadfast dam and years of raging waves broke free, crumbling the poorly built structure around her soul.

Vivian wept uncontrollably. Unabashedly. Unforgivingly.

An immeasurable amount of time passed before calm soothed the cataclysm of Vivian’s heart and she began breathing normally. Her grief settled about her like gentle puddles after a rainstorm. She thought about the room she had destroyed to get here and looked down upon the deconstruction. Those thousands of eyes from the wall were on the floor staring back up at her.

All at once – they blinked.

And, again the woman with blank eyes did not respond.

 

August 29, 2010
© Kathleen Vaught

Another Vivian: Stand By

Vivian stood her ground.

“Times are different now,” she said. “I am different.”

She looked out over the unlimited landscape that sprawled before her – dense green forest with lingering fog, mountains beyond the sky concealing deep fertile valleys begging lonely discovery. A tornadic world of life swirled around her, gently folding her long, sturdy garment about her pillared frame.

“Then go,” the voice said. “Go now.”

The door closed behind her. She waited fearfully for the sound of the latch locking her out.

Nothing.

Vivian concentrated on the horizon, breathed in the soft mist and felt her feet start to rise from the ground. She reached down and grabbed a hold of her leather satchel stuffed with books and papers and dreams. The weight of it did not pull her down yet lifted her higher off the ground. “If am to go, I’d better go,” she thought with hopeful confidence. Her hand went instinctively to her heart and grasped the locket hanging by the long gold chain. Vivian’s eyes closed and the images rushed in front of her, encircling her in love and protection. She began to elevate from the earthen porch leaving only footprints from her long wait to takeoff.

The snake appeared without a sound and was firmly wrapped around her leg, pulling her back to the ground before Vivian heard the first hiss. Its scales were cold and rough against her skin, forcing her muscles to contract in immediate distress. The hand of a black cloud covered her mouth, smothering her screams before they had a chance to fully form. An invisible weight pushed her whole body into the dirt, trapping her satchel underneath her as vines of poison ivy began to wind their way around her arms pulling in opposite directions.

Vivian wanted to fight. She wanted to struggle against the fury that so simply snatched her out of her intended flight. She wished for strength to kick off the snake, begged with muffled cries for courage to bite the hand that kept her down and held her breath trying to evaporate against the punishing weight. She pleaded for relief from the burning itch searing through her from the angry poison-formed welts streaking across her skin.

Yet, she did nothing.

She allowed the snake to crush her legs ever tighter in its attempts to engulf her. She clenched her mouth giving in to the cloud that was growing denser by the second. She was beginning to implode under the pressure of the force, bruising her heart and lungs with each moment she let pass. She refused to permit tears to escape for fear of creating a shallow pool of mud in which she would then drown.

Vivian needed to act. She needed to do something but had no idea where to begin the battle. It was all too much, there were too many familiar forces at work and she didn’t believe she stood a chance against the lot of them. Her life’s power was fading away and she was not stopping its retreat.

A hand, not unlike her own, reached out from the abyss and gently touched her at the top of her spinal column. An electrifying jolt exploded throughout her body and a small gaping wound began growing at its touch point.

Vivian involuntarily went limp. The flesh around the wound started to gently rip apart revealing her bare muscle and vertebrae. The hands so much like hers assisted the tear with a loving caress widening the crevice of her human casing. It took only moments before Vivian was split completely open from the base of her skull to the tip of her tailbone.

She was alive and yet felt no pain. She felt like she could finally move more freely. Vivian’s interior form began to separate itself out of the flesh so stricken with the sudden afflictions. She pulled her chin and face down to her chest forever severing her eyes from their eyelids, her jaw from its lips and her hair from its crown. With a necessarily violent cleaving, Vivian curled her legs and arms up into a fetal position. She lay there for a moment, bloody and sinewy, cradling herself in the comfort of her old skin. Vivian knew once she emerged from it, she could never successfully replace it around her frame. Yet, it was difficult to imagine being anywhere else.

The beautiful hands helping her reached in around Vivian’s huddled form and embraced the nearly gelatinous mass. No longer able to have closed eyes, Vivian saw her rescuer. She raised her crimson hand up and touched a cheek parallel to her own. The woman smiled upon on Vivian with love and acceptance, and then brought her frail body out of the remnants of the lifeless carcass.

The face Vivian saw, the eyes that mirrored back and the smile the radiated peace were all her own.

“How can this be?” Vivian rasped softly from shredded vocal cords.

“How could it not?” was the reply. “There has always been more to you than snakes and dark clouds.”

The woman’s firm and gentle hold on Vivian began to fuse with her exposed flesh, healing the bareness, protecting her inner organs and reforming the outer layers of her body. Vivian was becoming whole again and together with this mysterious woman from her eternal self, they were creating the transformation.

As they reformed themselves, their feet once again began to lift off the ground. Vivian reached down for her satchel and was halted by her new arms.

“Leave it. We’ll make new,” her voice echoed.

Vivian chose not to look back at her empty shell being devoured by the demons she helped manifest. It would have to lie there and rot into nothing while Vivian flew the skies in peace.

Overdue post – Sudden Fiction entry

A while back, I wrote about a sudden fiction story I wrote that was well received by A Room of Her Own Foundation.

Well, here it is.

I like this format.

Peace.


Manifesting the Invisible

As she sat at her desk, surrounded by blue pushpin fabric and tiny windows whose only view was of interior walls, munching on pink M&Ms intended for Valentine’s Day, Vivian wondered how she’d let it happen again. She thought she’d been extremely careful in her choices over the last few years, made those major life changes all of the self-help gurus prattle on about and yet, here she sat convincing herself that not one thing had changed in her life and she was destined to fade away like an old water stain eventually does on decent leather – slowly, but surely.

Then something unexpected happened. As Vivian reached out have a sip of her soda, it was as if her hand – ever so briefly – disappeared. She almost didn’t see it as she was concentrating on her computer monitor with the usual blinding monotony that kept her seated there nearly forty hours every week. But, as she glanced down to make sure she actually grasped it instead of knock it over like she had been known to do – her hand was as clear the plastic bottle containing her afternoon caffeine fix. She made a tiny, yet audible yelp which in turn made her co-worker in the neighboring cube react.

“What was that?”

“Um,” stuttered Vivian. “Nothing. Almost spilled my coke is all.”

“Not again?”

“It’s okay,” Vivian replied quickly. “False alarm.”

“Humph,” the neighbor responded minus concern.

Vivian settled her hand onto her mouse as if clinging to the crossbar of a speeding rollercoaster. She had always been eccentric with a bit of the fanciful, but she had never, ever physically hallucinated before. IF that’s what this was –a hallucination. As she maintained her much too expected composure and clenched her every muscle into paralyzing submission, she allowed her eyes to slowly drift over toward the clock. It was time to go home.

“Thank goodness,” she thought. “It’s been a long day, probably nothing.” She hadn’t had a break as the office was short-staffed and she’d had to cover the phones most of the day. Vivian finished what she was working on, cleared off her desk and grabbed her purse. She stepped out of her cube to say goodnight but there was no one left. She quietly left by the back stairwell. As she walked to her car, she checked her hands every few steps to make sure they were still there. They were.

As Vivian approached her beat up old car, the thought again crossed her mind that nothing had changed for her. She originally loved her red station wagon with the turbo engine, but it had fallen into disrepair. She kept meaning to get that dent fixed, but never got around to it and now the dents had begun reproducing like rabbits. She climbed in, tuned into her favorite talk-radio station and began her short drive home in her typical mental brown-out.

Vivian liked to listen to sports talk-radio even though she didn’t really follow most sports. She liked the banter between the hosts and occasionally would talk back to them as if she were part of the show. The argument tonight was one she was becoming extremely tired of – steroid use by extremely well paid baseball players.

“What do you mean – no one cares?! What about the fans?!” Vivian yelled at no one in particular in response to the side of the debate which claimed that if everyone was using, the playing field was then level. She reached down to turn the volume up and it happened again.

Her hand was gone. And this time it wasn’t brief or for just a flash of a second. It was gone.

She could still feel it, feel her fingers but she could not see them. She clutched the steering wheel and immediately saw that her other hand was gone, too.

“Aagh!” Vivian screamed and hurriedly pulled off to the side of the road. As other cars passed, she could see drivers yelling and even flipping her off. She didn’t care. Couldn’t they see she was in distress? She sat there trying to comprehend the fact that although she could sense them, she could not see her hands at all. “What the hell is happening to me?!”

She stretched her fingers, balled her fists and even clapped – there was joint crackling, nails digging into her palms, and slapping sounds. But no hands.

Vivian had no idea how long she sat there on the roadside staring at the empty space that was expanding on the end of her arms. A car honked loudly enough to get through her haze and she instinctively found her winter gloves tucked into the side door pocket and put them on. She waived off the honker who was long gone and decided it was best to get home. She sped off down the road so fast, her car squealed but left no tire marks.

It was dark by the time she arrived. The porch light was not on, so she had to fumble with the lock and key mumbling to herself how it drove her nuts that no one ever remembered to leave the light on for her. She could hear the kids arguing in their rooms with their Dad about taking a shower or finishing up homework and headed straight to her room.

While in the bathroom preparing to take off her gloves, praying her hands had magically reappeared, her husband knocked on the door.

“Hey, babe, you in there?” he asked. Then, without waiting for a reply, he said “Going for a bike ride. See ya.” Vivian soon heard the back door swing shut.

She chose to leave the gloves on, she was cold anyway. She put on her nightshirt and climbed into bed without saying a word to anyone. Tears of confusion dampened her pillow, as she fell into a deep slumber.

Not even the dog asleep at her feet noticed as the lump under the covers slowly, but surely faded away.

—–

Kathleen Vaught
© February 11, 2009
All Rights Reserved.