Poetry: Changes

Everything changes so fast so slowly.
Just yesterday we were a rocket,
dog faced, wind flapping jowls at 150 Km/h.

Remember that? Flash in the pan that was.

Temporary high, that was.
That was.
That was
everything to me, and you know it.

Ripped from “this is nice” to “holy shit” to “holy shit” to “nevermind, I guess.”
This is fine, I guess.
Feeling fine is fine, I guess. Enough for me.
Better than to die, I guess.

I guess this will be fine.

 

Advertisements

Carla Crowe: Home

On the third floor of the building, behind a heavy, scuffed, Masonite mahogany door, Carla Crowe removed her coat and threw it over the armrest of the love seat near the double hung windows in the living room. She could hear Alex cooking in the kitchen, smell the over-cook on the fore-rib, smell the mixture of sweat and perfume softly emanating from Alex’s  scarf, cast aside on the back of a dining chair.

“Carla, is that you?”

“No, it’s a burglar come to kidnap you and force you to work in my salt-mine.”

“Good, because the beef’s hard again, and I’d very much like it if you could rid me the responsibility of consuming this garbage.”

Carla heard the click of the stove-knobs, the flutter of a gas fire quelled, and began salivating in spite of herself. Suppression of such primal responses had been a necessary adaptation for years, but the familiarity of home made her drop her guard. Alex entered the room, two plates in hand, and a glass of wine in the other.

“Go get your cutlery and a wine for yourself, you look like you’ve had a hell of a day.”

Carla did as she was told.

“What did you cook with?”

“Cabernet.”

“I’ll bring the bottle.”

Carla scanned the kitchen. Nothing was out-of-place but for the few utensils and spices that Alex had used to prepare their dinner. When she re-entered the dining room, Alex had already begun eating, fork and knife scratching against the surface of the cheap ceramic tableware they’d inherited from the previous tenant and hadn’t gotten around to replacing.

“Sit down and eat. You look terrible.” She said through mouthfuls of rice and beef.

“Long day. I saw Ish at the pub.”

“Imperial? He’s always there. What were you doing at Imperial? It’s been ages since we’ve gone together. Did he tell you about Isan and Danielle? Damn it, I’m talking to much.” Alex shovelled another spoonful into her mouth and looked up at Carla, who still hadn’t taken a seat.

“Just killing time. We’re out of pinot, by the way.”

“Sit down and eat. Overcooked is one thing, but overcooked and cold would just be a waste of my efforts.”

Carla sat, pulled her plate over and poured a glass for herself.

“Is our guest still resting?” asked Alex, with manufactured disinterest.

“He woke up for a while, answered a few questions, then went right back to sleep. Found him passed out in the Jungle alleys. Oh, before I forget, Simon’s dropping by for breakfast tomorrow.”

“The more the merrier. I don’t expect that you’ll be there, though.”

“Gotta get up early, but Simon’s sure to be a right prince in the morning.”

“He always is. Anyways, our guest, is he here on official matters or personal?”

“Nothing that will affect you or your lifestyle, if that’s what you mean.”

“And what about you and yours? If this is a Mansion job then you should move him as soon as possible, but I very much doubt it is, given his continued lodging downstairs.”

“Don’t worry, Alex, he is nobody of importance. It’s business as usual, and, if you don’t mind, I’d like to keep my business to my self until I’ve got more of it figured out.”

“Alright, well don’t over sharpen your blade. You still need somewhere to hold onto.”

They finished the rest of their meal in silence, Carla ignoring the vibrations from her phone which Alex made a poor effort at pretending not to hear. They had few rules for each other in the house; if one cooks, the other cleans; no talk about family unless it’s an emergency; and don’t tell anyone anything about each other. They loved each other, and that’s all anyone else needed to know.

Alex finished her dish and brought it to the sink before pouring herself another glass of wine and settling at her desk which was covered in papers, half-marked and overdue. Carla chewed her beef until her jaw grew sore, watched her partner as she flipped through the stacks making ticks and notes on each page, her wine sitting where she’d left it, untouched.

“You’ve finished eating?” Alex asked without turning around, still marking the papers robotically.

“Yes, I suppose I’ve had my fill.”

“And our guest?”

“He’s not hungry.” Said Carla, picking up her dishes and heading past the swinging door to the kitchen.

The door to the dishwasher was still open, an old and broken Bosch turned drying rack after years of disuse. Carla piled her dishes into the sink, put on the pink latex gloves that hung over the edge, and began to scrub. In her pocket, she could still feel the harsh vibrations of incoming messages, busy for such an unimportant night, but those summons could wait. There was never anything more important than the task at hand, and at that particular moment that task was cutlery. It would only take a few minutes. All she needed was a few minutes.

 

Carla Crowe: Goddard

I met Goddard on a sidestreet near the old folks home on Clairmont. I hadn’t seen him in some time, and he looked dishevelled. I don’t mean dishevelled in a dramatic, Dickensian sense. He didn’t have a beard or a patched up trench coat, or even the smell of a man who’d been on the streets for the past year. It was his posture, the bags under his eyes, the way his voice scratched like a nail on concrete that made clear to me his inability, no, his lack of desire to remain the polished young man I once met at The Mansion. He had a scar down the side of his face, but even that seemed tame in contrast to the menacing focus behind those pomegranate eyes. He held the brown envelope between his sweaty palms, rippled his fingers down its exterior, slid it back in his pocket, and matched my stride to the main road. I don’t suppose I expected a hand shake, but it would’ve been nice to see even the slightest hint of recognition from him. We had been close, once.

“I got it.” He grunted, breathing heavily through the fog. “It took a shit long time, too. Don’t fuck this up.” I used to like him. He was a horse. He was exactly what I needed. I don’t investment in people if they can’t make a return. He did, but in the process he became a deer, a piece of meat. He’d been put through the course and didn’t know how to get out. Always moving. Always running.

“I’ve got this, Goddard. Remember who you’re talking to. I own you. You are nothing. Nobody knows you exist. Nobody wants you to exist. Nobody remembers you exist except me.” I spit when I speak, and I could see the beads on his jacket. He flinched with every syllable and it made me despise him all the more. The roughness, the growls and shabby dress, the seriousness was all for show. A defence mechanism. But that fire, that focus in his eyes was real and unmistakable, and until it disappeared I would continue to find a use for him.

“You owe me, Crowe.” He said, his words bounced off the gravel in his throat.

“Your purse is at the drop, but walk with me a bit.” I said. “You see that car on the opposite corner of that intersection? It’s been tailing me since I left The Mansion. I suspect they’ve been on you as well.” It was a grey civic, low to the ground with thick tint on the driver’s side. A student driving home from class, or a parent on their way home from work. I couldn’t be sure.

“Nobody follows me, Crowe. I need you as much as you need me, and fortunately, They still need you. I’ll leave this at the third drop. Pick it up at your leisure.” Once we cleared a small outgrowth of bushes, he turned down Clairmont and disappeared into the swarm. I watched him through the crowd, just another face in the crowd of shoppers, businesswomen, fathers, children, students, and the like. None of them took notice of him, none knew the weapon they were walking past, and knowing this kept me clear.

My cell was buzzing. I’d been ignoring it for the past ten minutes. I’m sure Goddard noticed.

“God damn you, Pinchre. I told you to wait until I was clear.” I said.

“Don’t hiss at me, I did. You must be a popular girl tonight. Anyways, he’s on Rosewood. Should I tail him?”

“I don’t remember telling you otherwise. Report back in the AM.”

“Janakan gave me some legwork in the morning. I’ll tail him home and wire you a report tonight.”

“No wires, Mr. Pinchre. 9 AM at Drop Four.”

“Got it, Ms. Crowe.” He clicked off.

Pinchre was one of Them. Our agencies, not so different from each other, have rarely worked together in the past. Now, for a reason much too high above my pay-grade to know, I have Pinchre under my command. More than that, they’ve requested I activate assets I haven’t used in nearly a decade.

I’ve never quite understood Them. They are, at most, glorified sleuths, taking vows and latching on with an almost cultish obsession to what they consider moral and just. They are vigilantes, at the least, and had Oscar not ordered specifically for his involvement in this particular assignment, I don’t suppose I would trust him to hold my handbag. Professional as he seems, Pinchre is just another vigilante, and it’s hard to trust a vigilante. Morals and justice are too cloudy for me. At the mansion, our commands come from Oscar. We don’t ask why, only how.

A Poem: The Guts

I used to drink gin every night.
It wasn’t for the taste, or the drunk, or the ability to say I did so.
It was just gin every night.
It was just gin every night, and every night was just another one,
and every other one was a nothing night, nothing more than dark walks down quiet streets,
quiet because GP got shot by the 244 on the corner of Weston and Eglinton
and nobody cried except his mom. Phone calls were made, breaths were taken in sharply.
I remember saying “Oh my god” then getting a 90 on my Biology exam and going to the beach to smoke cigarettes and drink coolers and have fun.
They had the funeral at Scott just north of Ray, two names we never hear
unless someone was about to get buried.

It was just gin every night, and every night was just another one,
and every other one was another night falling asleep to the high pitched lullaby
of sirens passing, often for no reason other than to beat a red light,
but Ken got arrested last week and I don’t know why. He used to give us Pokemon cards
and he taught me how to do a hook shot,
showed me where the best places to hide were, and me and my friends hung out in the trees
on the edge of The Flats, talking about our favourite Ruff Ryders for the summer before high school.
Ken was dating Rosa before he went away, and he never actually came back.

Most people who left never came back.
Rosa never came back.

Dave, whose father would come home, drink, and play Bob Marley records for us if he didnt kick us out;
David, who Dave kicked in the face because he could;
Simon and Savas, who take pictures with NBA stars and stunt and flex but were my closest friends before heading out;
John, who was in the paper for selling Hondas on the East side of the city;
Brandon and Blake, who were the best thieves of the block in spite of the fact that their dad was 5-0;
me. I never went back.

I used to drink gin every night.
Now every night is just another night, quiet because it’s quiet here, because everyone’s asleep, because we like it this way, because here is not there,
there where memories get better with age,
there where bitter memories sweeten every year,
where we leave and never go back. It was better back then.

An unsurprising failure

I recently picked up a copy of Angela Duckworth’s book, Grit. I’m sure you’ve read about (or likely read) multiple times since it’s release, and it has really put into perspective how little of it I have. This isn’t a point of shame for me, as it’s something that I’ve known for a while now, but with things like writing 30 stories in 30 days, I don’t think myself gritty enough to keep up with such an arbitrary deadline set for such an arbitrary reason. I’ve been writing, sure, but it’s hard to stay motivated to complete such a task when, ultimately, it wasn’t something I was ever even really interested in doing. More than anything I was just trying to come up with a reason to keep writing beyond writing itself. Focus will now go back to completing this fucking novel that I’ve really had no real success with, though I’m determined to finish. In the meantime. Here’s a poem I wrote 12 sleepless hours into a 14 hr flight:

 

 

Strapped up

Each step along the aisle whips me upright,
sensory alarm wringing in early mornings past, reminder of loss, of absence.

“absence of what, exactly?” he might ask when I tell him the story in
the small alleyway between the two churches which, really, are the same church,
buzzed out on the edge of Pidgeon Park, or wandering, ghostlikes, around the Waverly
on a cold winter afternoon.

An absence of her! Dummy.
What else could it be? What other scent can waft through this world,
twist time around itself, make seconds make love to hours, and birth emptiness in its wake?

“So many.” He responds.

“The smell of baking cookies reminds me of my dad, drunk, yelling at the television about some radical political dick suck intern while my mom hangs around the kitchen pretending not to notice.

“The smell of summer, thick in the humidity so sorely missed and despised in the winter and summer respectively, reminding old men of walking through heaps of snow and punishing heat in the winter and summer respectively.”

But where the hell are you gonna find the smell
of baking cookies on an airplane? Dummy.

Perfume, man.

The bottle, man.

That little waft of Ferragamo like a direct line to memories of
fuck on the couch in spring to rainfall on the thinly woven insect screen just outside the window, stuck slightly ajar,
of fuck after interrupting a very important session of euchre with some old friends from college around to drink whiskeys and reminisce on collegiate explorations of Bacchanalia.

She!

30 stories, 30 days Entry #8: July 11th 2017

Photoshoot

Ellery left on the third of August in 2015, her backpack over her shoulders, new runners over old socks, and her passport in hand. There was nothing picturesque about the way she left, nothing one might expect to see in the movies. There was no last look over the shoulder, or flick of the hair, or wave that might have cemented itself in my memory. Just a simple hug, a light kiss on the cheek, and she was gone.

It’s easy to lose track of friends once they leave. The internet helps us stay connected, but it’s merely a tool; without regular maintenance, the connection degrades on its own. We sent short texts here and there, called whenever the opportunity arose, but ultimately, after a year, we lost track of each other. She was in Berlin, I was still in Seoul, and other than the random Instagram update, I had no reason to believe I would ever see her again.

Then came the winter.

It doesn’t snow much in Seoul during the winter months. It gets cold, bitingly so, and the wind can put a chill through your bones, but snowfall comes few and far between. So, when the first snowfall of the year arrived in early January, I loaded up my DSLR and footed it to the sequoia-lined path at World Cup Park. The walk over from my small apartment near Hapjeong station was pleasant, as should have been expected. Seoul feels much calmer whenever it snows. Luckily, I’d gotten up early enough to leave fresh prints along the sidewalk, a small joy I took for granted back when I was back home.

I always enjoy walking through World Cup Park. It’s a nice escape from the hustle of the city. They say that New York never sleeps, and my experiences with New York have proven that true, but Seoul never stops working. There’s always something to do in New York, there’s always work to do in Seoul. There’s always something more important to get done, except for when I’m here. This man-made eco-zone born on top of what was once a trash dump is where I can be at ease.

Seoul is more futuresque than picturesque, but today that couldn’t be more false. The ground crunches with every footfall, the cold air chills my lungs, but the snow lays dormant. White. For a while, I’m the only one on the path. Nobody in front, nobody behind, and only the sounds of distant birds calling through the trees interrupted my solitude. I took pictures of everything, of nothing, adjusting the white balance, shutter speed, ISO, playing with my options on the fly in hopes that something would turn out perfect.

When I’m out shooting, I try not to check the pictures I take until I’ve finished. My professor in college always told me it’s good practice, it saves time, and even the mistakes can turn out interesting. So, after feeling satisfied with my output, I hit the play button on my camera and started scrolling through my work.

A few of them were a little too overexposed for my liking, but I seemed to hit my stride after the first fifteen or so. There were great shots of the park, solemnly resting under a flat blanket of white. The tree path, their branches covered in snow, thinly frosted tendrils breaking away from the bark, I found to be very beautiful. Having taken similar shots the previous year, I zipped past those. At the end of the run, were the pictures I took of a small wooden bridge, also adorned by the snow.

As I scrolled through the shots with speed, hoping to head home soon and start cooking breakfast, I passed a particular photo that made me backtrack. Amidst the uniformly white scroll was one picture that was only white towards the outsides, one which was dark all through the middle. With the glare of the sun, I could barely make out anything beyond the silhouette, so I continued scrolling. Again and again it appeared, but with each appearance it grew smaller until the circle grew a neck, a body, legs.

I looked around, but for all the time I’d spent on this trip, I’d been the only person around. I took another shot directly in front of me and quickly checked the viewer. No figure. Then another. Nothing. I took several pictures, facing random directions each time, but it appeared as if the figure was gone.

I turned back down the path, picked up speed, and left the park at what was nearly a sprint. I got back home in half the time it took me to get to the park, helped by the still empty sidewalks, and threw my sd card into the computer. Once I’d downloaded the questionable photos, I opened them in photo-shop and started playing around. Contrast, shadows, colours, sliding them back and forth until finally, a face. It was a girl. It was her. It was Ellery.

I picked up my phone and scrolled through the list, found her name and dialled. A Korean woman picked up and was very confused by my questions. Who is Ellery? she asked, as should have been expected. I had never actually got Elle’s Berlin number. I opened Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and all other forms of social media through which I might be able to contact her, but all of my searches came up empty. Many people have been going offline in recent months, and unfortunately it Ellery appeared to have followed suit.

In a last-ditch effort, I tried to call the other friends she’d had while she was here, but I hadn’t connected with them in just as long and they couldn’t help me either.

I printed the pictures and put them on my fridge, and now she watches me whenever I’m around. I have no idea what happened that day, or why, or even how, but one day I’ll get in touch with her, and hopefully she’ll be able to figure it out.

30 stories, 30 days, Entry #7: July 3rd 2017

Sea-side Cafe

I never used to go to cafés. I never thought I would like them. My sister was the big coffee drinker in the family, she could actually tell the difference between Tim Hortons and a hand-dripped coffee made from dark-roasted beans grown in Guatemala, or wherever it is they grow good coffee beans. Whether it’s the caffeine, the bitterness, or some intangible quality that kept me away, coffee has only ever been something to drink on dates to make myself seem normal, or a flavour element in one of those cocktails my girls and I would pound back in high-school. Tea wasn’t an attractive option, either. My parents’ green tea, sent monthly from family back in Korea, had put me off it for years. It’s odd, then, that I find myself so regularly in the shop at the end of the boardwalk of our small tourist town.

In spite of my general disinterest in café fare, I’ve always regarded the atmosphere with a certain romance. One of my students once told me that her dream was to meet some indie rock foreigner in a small café up in Seoul, strike up a conversation, get along swimmingly, then marry and leave this country forever. As a mentor, I told her not to expect a man to save her, or to expect marriage to save her, or to expect anything to save her at all. Deep down, in the most honest place in my heart, I understood her desire. There is something ethereal about sitting alone in a café with a cup of coffee and a book, something publicly intimate, a declaration of one’s own independence: this is my coffee, my book, my choice to be alone on my time. If there were another person as open-hearted as I in the opposite corner sipping a coffee on his own time, reading his own book, willing to connect, I would welcome such a person into my life. These fantasies, however, are best left as that.

The sea is rarely calm this time of year, and earlier today the news reported an oncoming typhoon. I open the window and listen to the rain as it splashes against the waves. In that old Thomas Wyatt poem, about the lover and the ship tossed in perilous storm, the man, a personification of reason, reports his distress at the overly emotional state of his lover. It’s his duty, he says, to steer their relationship from rock to rock in search of calm, but is buffeted by his lover’s ignorance, disdain, and tears. This woman, whom I assume he loves, sounds like a real pain in the ass. But what if Wyatt has it all wrong? What if he’s painted his ship in such an immaculate light that anything that may chip the paint job sets him into a frenzy. What if the lover, himself, is the problem, is the one so full of ignorance and forced sighs, so ready to tear the sail apace? Does the lover deserve compassion from the woman he claims to love but cannot see? The rain hits heavier against the sea and I’m torn away from that pathetic lover, torn from the maelstrom of his perpetually distressed heart, torn away from the woman he loves not beyond the words that fall so elegantly from his serpent tongue.

My thoughts turn towards the Andromeda, whose life was sacrificed by her father to the sea-monster Cetus in return for respite from the monster’s attacks. A woman sacrificed for a man’s kingdom. A classic damsel in distress, bartered from one man to a serpent, and saved by another man. What was her role in this ordeal? To be used by her father? To be saved by Perseus? It was, of course, her mother’s fault that she had to be traded, for she was the one who threw her vanity to the wind and struck the ego of the sea gods. She was the one who, so proud of her daughter’s beauty, made the mistake of calling her more beautiful than the daughters of men more powerful than her. It was entirely reasonable to punish such vanity with death and chaos. It was entirely necessary for a man to save her from the monster. Such a long standing tradition we have as women, causing suffering to men, forcing their hand, and paying the price for our womanhood only until a man can come and save us from ourselves. What are we as women but an eternal burden to men? No. This is a foolish tradition writ into our world by foolish men. Such men were no less emotional than the women they wrote to be as such. How could they be yet still write them?

Is it wrong to feel this way? Is it hypocritical to criticize these men who have written women as emotional beings only to guide my perception by the very emotions they condemn? I find no answers in the rain. I find no answers in this coffee, which I stir quietly in this dimly lit coffee shop in hopes that something somewhere will give me some answers. But such an occurrence would not happen here. No. Here, there is no lover, no perilous storm, no sea-monster, no king, no princess, no hero, no ship, no romance. Right now, there is only rain.

30 stories, 30 days, Entry #6: July 1, 2017

Bars

 

“Your opus a collection of those flows that I can’t cope with//

Even if you ate the coke, you couldn’t create dope shit.

The crowd went nuts; my boys, standing behind me on the edge of the crowd, turned around and pumped their arms in support; the host, Batz, did a spit take for the camera; even MZA’s hypeman choked on his drink. I let the beat ride, looked around as the crowd cheered, hollered, and chirped. Moments like these never seem real once I’ve left the stage. The lines were temporary, but in my heart, this success will be eternal.

MZA, feeling the blow, readjusted his hat. It was one of his moves that, to the casual viewer, may seem as a sign of weakness, but, having cyphered with this man for years, told me that something heavy was coming. Even the crowd quieted down, many making note of the minor costume adjustment.

“I’m the dough, make the money, make the cake, you’re a crouton//

two eyes screwed, look like Mulan//

You see me goin down to a chink? You’re a dreamer//

I’mma nuke your crew like we did…”

I don’t even need to finish that bar, because you already know what he said. The crowd, so recently jumping in joy for my rhymes, turned on me immediately. MZA had taken my verse and made it old. I had to flip this somehow. The crowd quieted down and I jumped on it.

“Mulan is Chinese, Hiroshima was Japan,//

I’m a dreamer? You probably slept through Geography class.”

Good bars are good, but flips are even better. A solid flip can absolutely devastate your opponent, turning the past verse to rubble while showcasing your own quick wit. This bar, while less impactful than I’d hoped, elicited a couple oohs and aahs, but nothing compared to what came next.

“We studied at the same schools, both got the same degree//

Fuck geography, all you yellow rappers look the same to me.”

And with that, I lost the battle. Batz waved his hands to cut the beat and the battle was over. Above me the neon lights flashed in all caps: BODIED. Just like last time, I wanted to throw a tantrum. I can spit whatever bars I want, or be as clever as possible, but none of that matters when all my opponent has to do is make a joke about my skin colour. My boys were pissed, and although I appreciated it, I made my best effort to calm them down.

MZA caught up with me after the battle and handed me a beer and a half-smoked joint.

“Good shit, B,” he said, holding the smoke in his lungs as tightly as possible. “I thought you had me with that dope shit line.”

“Yeah man, but you won fair and square,” I said, taking a hit and suppressing my bitterness.

“Yeah, I know, but don’t get salty about the Asian shit. You could make fun of my shit as much as you want. Still don’t know why you never do it.”

“I don’t know. I just feel like it’s insensitive to a whole race of people by making fun of shit they can’t control.”

“You get no points for honour in this shit, fam. The AACP aint gon’ knock your door down for calling me black, either.” I passed the joint back to him.

He was right, of course. In the circle, everything is fair game. You play to the crowd, and if the crowd likes race jokes, you throw out race jokes.

“What would you have said if you weren’t so fuckin up tight about this shit?” He said.

“I got no bars for that.”

“Ideas then. Fuck that holier than thou attitude and make fun of my blackness. What is some shit that you could’ve said?”

“I don’t know. Give me an idea.”

“Fine, you could’ve said some shit about me being blacker than the berry,”

“seedy as a cherry.”

“Ye, some shit like that. What else?”

“I don’t know, that shit is easy, though. Maybe something like, your family was slaves for a living, now you’re a slave to a pigeon.”

“My girl would be pissed about that. Not bad doe.”

“I’d prolly say that you’re darker than under the bed.”

He laughed. I’m happy he laughed. I’m not comfortable with these kinds of jokes.

“That’s way better. Look, you right. Race jokes are easy. Race bars are easy. People don’t know you like I do, so I just made fun of that weak-shit. Nobody knows shit about things I could’ve did you dirty on, but everybody can see that you’re Asian. Why climb to the top of the tree if there’s an apple right in front of you?”

“You know that’s superficial as fuck though.”

“Ye, but it’s not about whether something’s deep or superficial, it’s about whether or not you can get the crowd on your team. Slave jokes aren’t funny, b. Making a crowd of two hundred drunk people laugh at slavery is hard, and that’s out job. To be affecting in an entertaining way.”

“I know, but I want to do that through bars. I want the rhythm and rhyme to back up the cleverness and shit.”

“This isn’t fucking lit class, doe. This is battle rap. Let me stress, two-hundred drunk people. Nobody’s out here analyzing your rhyme schemes and shit. Nobody wants Chaucer, they just want the most basic level of entertainment you can provide.”

“I’ll think about it,” I said.

“Do it. You finna stick around for the rest of the battles?”

“Nah, catch me later though. My sister said there’s a jam out in Chinatown.”

“Ait, lemme know if it’s lit.”

30 stories, 30 days. Entry #5: June 27, 2017.

Cargo

The cannons!

 

I watched my friends die as the pirates opened fire at the ship’s hull, the sound of metal melting, ripping, collapsing upon itself. I watched through a small window in the airlock-door as these honourable men were dismembered, torn to shreds, and sucked into the vacuum of space. I could see the looks of horror on their faces, these hardened soldiers turned children in the face of death, and though I couldn’t hear their screams, I felt them in the very core of my being. There is nothing more terrifying than death. I would murder my own kin to escape it.

 

“All ensigns, gear up and head to the air-lock bays. Cavalry, to your posts! This is not a drill! I repeat! This is not a drill!”

 

The announcement had been blaring for what felt like an eternity. Had I followed orders, I, too, would be amongst the chunks of human meat floating, forever lost to the universe. Fragments of my body, frozen in their entirety, would float freely among the cosmos, no heat to turn my tissue to dust. I would be infinite, forever dead, no rebirth as organic tissue, no ashes to be strewn, no body to be buried.

 

This was supposed to be a simple extraction. In and out, they said, then a short escort to the jump-gate, then a straight shot to some R&R back with Kima Colony. Of all military actions underway, this was supposed to be the surest bet. What we’re escorting is not information disseminated down the ranks, but such missions had grown routine, and there was no reason to think otherwise.

 

Another explosion in front of me, another pot shot lights the up room and pushes me back from the door. I hit the floor in a heap. Immediately, I feel numbness in my knee that is sure to bruise, but it quickly snaps out of my trance. There is surviving to be done, and it’s clear that this is not the place to do it.

 

The hallways are full, like ants filing into their hill, ready to be lit up simultaneously with a single match. I duck back around the bunks, grab my Mod, and jetted down the nearest empty hallway. With everyone heading for the barracks and the docking bay, the way to the escape pods was empty. Still, it would be prudent to remove my shoes. The hollow clanking of each step would quickly give away my position to anyone in the quadrant.

 

Other than the padded shuffling of my feet, I hear nothing as I fly down the corridors. In spite of having lived on this ship for almost three earth-years, it would be very easy to get lost in the refugee sector. There never has been any reason to be down here, and I’m not even sure that anybody has wandered out here since we started the mission. It’s a surprise, then, that as I near what should be the escape pods I hear a hushed, but urgent conversation. From what I can tell, as I creep closer, they aren’t speaking common. In fact, it’s difficult to discern if they’re speaking or not. There is no break, which one would expect, at the ends of words, sentences, paragraphs. Whether this is a conversation or an individual talking, I do not know.

The closer I get to the pods, the louder I can hear them. The sound vibrates, it fills the air, wraps around my head like a blanket. I collapse, hard to the floor like a brick. My blood feels like cement. I’m not moving, but the sound gets louder, louder, louder still, until it’s the only thing I know. My brain, my body, they vibrate along with the sound, become a part of the wavelength, and I float. I float, and I flood. I flood the hallways, back from where I came, and I wrap around the other ensigns, and they float. We flood the docking bay, hold tight to the pilots and they float.

 

Soon, the cannons stop, the pirates come for us, but we aren’t there. Just bodies. They strip our ship, and we watch. They burn our bodies, and we watch. They load their cargo, they leave, and we watch. Why tread, when we can just float?

30 stories, 30 days. Changing the title because I fell behind: Entry #4, June 25th

The dog

Black tail, four long and thing legs, gold coat, and horrible breath, that was how I described him. We got him from the pound in 2006, back when we thought stability meant sharing a bed and enjoying the same movie genres. The decision was quick, easier than picking a restaurant, but not as difficult as finding a parking spot once we got there. With little knowledge of how to take care of ourselves, we jumped at the idea of taking care of another living thing. Looking back, I think the decision had less to do with giving a needy dog a home, and more to do with making ours feel more like one. His friends were busy getting married, mine were having kids, and to cope with our inadequacy, we got a dog.

We named him Jetson, after the 60’s cartoon that foresaw a future with flying cars and no black people. He liked it because he came up with it. I liked it because I couldn’t think of a better name. Neither of us was very particular about it. It wasn’t about Jet, anyways.

His time in our home started as does every new pet from the pound. He sniffed everything, urinated in a few places along the wall, and found a place he could feel comfortable before quietly laying his head down to sleep. We pet him when he would let us, and tried to understand when he got too protective of his food, or his bed, or of anything he thought of as his. We loved him, or at least we loved the novelty of him, and we took care of him because of it.

I tend to think of that time as our peak. We were both distracted by responsibility, enough to feel like everything was fine, preoccupied enough to cope with any issue that arose for the sake of keeping our dog calm. Jet seemed happy, too, to have a home. It was stressful time, but we held onto the notion that it would one day pay off.

This lasted for a few months. We would train him, walk him, feed him, love him. He would play, and eat, and shit, and sleep as all dogs do. There was nothing strange about any of it. But when we took trip up to a friend’s cottage the Kawarthas, things started to unravel. To blame it on myself, or on Mark, would be unfair. We’d been looking after Jet rather diligently up until that point. Beyond that, we were on a sparsely populated island in the edge of Crystal lake, the closest neighbour was over a ten minute drive away, and the forest was thick enough that we never expected Jet to venture too far into it. So, with him by our side all night, we drank, told stories, fished, and fell asleep on the dock, too trunk to be bothered by the swarms of mosquitos biting at every exposed piece of skin they could find.

It was still very early when we awoke, the sun still barely risen over the still tops of the forest. I called out to jet, as had become habit over our time with him. Back home, he would be waiting nearby, ready to answer my morning summon with a lick to my fingers as I hung them over the side of the bed. Today: nothing. I called him again, listened close for the patter of his feet on the wooden walk-way behind me, but still nothing. I pushed Mark’s arm off my chest and sat up as he rolled to the other side of his sleeping bag. Craning my neck, stiff from a night spent with neither a pillow nor a mattress, I looked around. Our dog was nowhere to be found.

Once we’d woken everyone up, Mark, our friends, and I began searching for our missing dog. It was frantic, disorganized, but expansive. Our friends called the neighbours, we searched the woods for hours, and as a last resort, we laid a trail of his toys along the road back to the house. By nightfall we’d given up hope, and when we couldn’t find him the next day, Mark and I decided it would be best to just head home and come back after work the following Friday.

We packed up all of our belongings, left a few things we would need the next week, and hopped into the cab of Mark’s truck. We sat as usual, myself in the passenger seat and Mark behind the wheel, but it was impossible not to feel the space where Jet would sit, to my left and Mark’s right, where we could both touch him, and stroke him, and nurture him together. To close the void, I slid over, but Mark asked that I keep towards the door to keep lookout, just in case Jet was somewhere on the side of the road.

We drove for two and a half hours, back to our studio apartment in the heart of Toronto, and found no sign of him. Mark told me to hold out, to hope that we’d get a call from one of the neighbours saying that they found him sniffing around their garbage can, or at the very worst that they found his mauled corpse somewhere nearby. It would be better to know that he was taken and killed by a bear, than to think he wandered back to the main road and got hit as a result of our own negligence. Still, I hoped he would come back. Mark seemed less worried, and less distracted by Jet’s absence. Maybe he didn’t know how to show it, or maybe he just never cared as much about Jet as I did, I didn’t know. But as the week went on, he seemed to have completely forgotten Jet had ever existed. Our relationship grew strained. By Friday, he had decided that it would be pointless to go back up to the cottage to look for Jet. He was right, though I had to find that out on my own.

Jet, who so united us from the moment we’d adopted him, was now becoming a rift in our relationship. His absence bothered me wholly, but what bothered me more was Mark’s seeming lack of care about it. I soon decided not to bring it up anymore, to cut our losses and simply let Jet’s disappearance be a lesson to us both. Maybe it was time to let it go. If we couldn’t even take care of a dog, how could we expect to take care of each other, a baby, a lifetime together?

This was all I thought about until two months later, when I’d just arrived home from work and had poured myself a glass of bourbon before I heard a light scratching from my door. Though he’d only been ours for a few months, I knew the sound of Jet’s scratches by heart. I knew their cadence, the way that they would dig into the thick wooden door when he could hear us walking up the staircase. I jumped up from my seat, threw open the latch, and swung the door open as fast as I could. There he was! Dirty, weather-beaten, but alive. I hugged him as tightly as I could, picked him up, and carried him to the bathtub. After washing the dirt out of his fur, drying him, and filling his food bowl, I ran straight to the phone to call Mark.

The phone rang a few times before hitting the dial tone. I hung up and called again, but I was met with the dead ring. It was odd for him not to pick up, but not entirely inexplicable. He may have been working late, or he may have left his phone somewhere difficult to reach from the drivers seat. I sat back and relaxed, anticipating his return, imagining the look on his face when he found out our dog had returned. Only thing is, he never came home that night. He didn’t come home for days. I reported him missing, called the neighbours to keep an eye out, but nothing seemed to work. His workplace said he’d left at the normal time; there was video footage of him leaving the parking garage, and then nothing.

I did all I could to find him, but it was all for naught. The police arrived at my door a week after he’d disappeared, asked me to identify a body they’d found in a sunken car by the Scarborough Bluffs, and showed me a picture of Mark. They said they’d retrieved the black box dash-cam from his truck and could confirm it wasn’t a suicide. Rather, Mark had swerved off the road and into the water after a dog ran into the street. Once the car stated taking water, his seatbelt failed to detach, and he drowned in the cabin without ever having had a chance to escape. I asked them to describe the dog. They told me it had a black tail, four thin and long legs, and a gold coat.

 

 

[Meta]

This is one of those ones that I’ll have to revisit. I’ve run out of time to finish this story, and although I wish I could say I had a good ending planned, I didn’t.