Sunday, March 25, 2012

Nightmare on Sesame Street

   The Count's eyes closed and the door to his nightmare opened. His pointed collar glowed like a black star beneath the streetlights. His fuzzy purple fingers pointed to the sign above Leela's Laundromat. A grimace creased his face, highlighting his fangs.
    Two bodies dangled from the sign. He recognized his friends Abby Cadabby and Telly. Abby's wand protruded from her chest and out between her wings. Telly's magenta coat was slick from blood as hundreds of cardboard triangles slashed his fur.
     The Count gasped. His friends, dead. His two friends...dead. "Two...bodies, ah ah ah. Two bodies...ah, ah, ah" he said, his voice cracking.
    Then there was an echoing crash followed by a gruff cry. The Count ran to the noise and stopped mid stride at Oscar the Grouch's trashcan. Loud clamoring erupted from within; screams of help screeched from beneath the dented lid. Words formed on the Count's lips but before he could scream out a thunderous boom roared deep in the Grouch's home...then Oscar's broken body climbed out of the can.
     The Grouch spotted the Count. Scraggly green fur bounced as Oscar's mouth moved; words choked as blood drowned his friend. The Count patted his hand, gripped it, and leaned close.
    Oscar's lips parted and he said ""
    Then the Grouch slumped against the can and died. Grief ballooned in the Count's chest. What was happening? Why...had three of his friends been murdered?
    "Three...dead...friends, ah...ah...ah." He said, the last word trailing off into the night.
     Then the streetlights went dark. A soft whisper of children's voices filled his ears. A lonely xylophone played and the Count smiled. He knew this song. He loved this song.
     "...can you show me how to get, how to get..." He sang but then swallowed back his words.
    The voices turned shrill. The xylophone broke rhythm; became a melancholic dirge. Shadow figures of children glowed down the alleys and streets, lit by an unholy light. Then their haunting voices sang out.
   "One, two, he's coming for you..."
   "No," the Count said.
   "Three, four better lock your door..."
    "No, stop." The Count said, his voice cracking.
    "Five, six, grab a crucifix..."
    Another sound joined the singing, distant, like a chorus but high pitched.
    "...nine, ten...he is back again."
    The sound intensified until the Count recognized it. It
   was laughter; high pitched maniacal laughter. He backed away, begged to wake up, but the sound grew louder.
        Suddenly he heard "Elmo wants to play. Do you want to play with Elmo?"
    The voice came from everywhere and nowhere. The Count fell to his knees. He glanced up and saw his tormentor. Red fur singed with patches of black. A leather fedora covered most of the face but patches of burnt fuzz glowed like embers in the dark. A sweater of green and red stripes dotted with holes covered most of the body but the hands...leathery gloves with sharpened knives on fingerpoints.
    The thing laughed. "Welcome to Elmo's world" it said.
    The Count shook his head. Mumbles spilled from his mouth. It wasn't possible. Not like this. He whimpered a prayer to Jim Henson; begged to awaken.
    Then in a blur of motion the nightmare moved. It danced around him, laughing, and singing. Finally it stopped and grinned before sliding the fingerblades through the Count's chest. 
    Blood poured from his body. Darkness blanketed his eyes. Purple fingers grabbed his chest. Fuzzy hands grew sticky from blood. Six holes in his chest...six...ah...ah...ah.
Then the Count's eyes closed as his life oozed to the street.

The world would wake up to a darker reality as beloved characters were found slaughtered. Nobody knew the cause or culprit but everybody knew there would be no more rest...for now there was a Nightmare on Sesame Street.

(The End)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Field

They called it Mast Park; we called it the Field.

By day people littered the manicured grass, played on its courts and in its playground; strolled along the exercise trail of wooden beams and searing steel. But by night, as the gate closed, as the last picnicker and jogger left, its orange lights and abandoned benches twisted into an ethereal and sinister Elysium. The gaping maw of its bathrooms twisted in like a maze to a black hole. Lights cast a halo of gold onto jagged steps and fluttering swings. The tarred path led to a twisted haunted wood where lights bounced in the deep trees and beasts howled in the thick darkness.

When the gate closed Mast Park ceased to be and the Field awoke.

The Field bled into the subconscious of those who lived next to it. During the daylight sanctum we played, ran, and walked the paths along with everyone else. But at night, when lights danced in the deepening woods and bestial shrieks sang into moonless skies...we watched from shuttered windows and prayed; we prayed that a chain link fence would keep the Field at bay.
    It was a mystical place where one could easily imagine dryads and pixies astride stray dogs as fairies fluttered like moths among the golden lights. Their chirping wings beat like a hummingbird's heart; their laughs twinkled like wind chimes in a summer wind. It was a place of old life, dark mysticism; where humans were intruders.
The Field played into my dreams night to night. Legs of curiosity, guided by a dreamers passion, carried me from a peaceful slumber into the Field.

The sky was aglow from a blocked moon; red-gray clouds painted in broad strokes across the horizon. Shadowed things on midnight wings glided above as my legs trudged on. Like rusty spires, the roofs of the apartment, of our homes, stood sentinel like a gate to reason. I could turn back, but yet, I wouldn't.

I followed a sense of wonder to the fence, a thick ivy wrapped gilded wire that served as protection and border. Then I stepped beyond it and across the threshold to wonder.

The thin maple and oaks by day were gone, replaced by wooden behemoths with dangling branches. Leaves of gold, silver, bronze and copper adorned every branch like jewelry. An ivory bridge of golden rails crossed over a stream where once an asphalt path led to darkness. Birds chirped as fairies giggled and over the southern sky the bright glow of dawn cast a glimmer upon every blade and every gossamer wing.

But it was to the east and north the night stayed. Red eyes of primal hunger watched my dreamer's steps from darkened pines. Whistling winds rustled my hair as voices gossiped in my ears about wicked deeds.

I strode to the woods on shaking legs as bats bristled on conifer tree tops. Wolf born howls served as a dirge to my passing. With each step my flesh prickled from chilled dew and cool dread. Through the branches like a window to sanity I saw the condos of gray and bleak; sister homes to those of the rusty spires. I'd traveled far, yet a voice urged to press onward.

Steps of hours or years led me to a clearing. The condos of gray encircled a temple of marble, with broken columns and inhuman statues. Beasts howled behind me, urging me up the steps; my reason begged me to awaken.

I took the step. Then another. Sweat beaded along my brow. I stepped again, and again, until finally I stood on a dais of polished obsidian. Its blackness reflected back at me, showing the dreamer, the traveler, and moved like rippling water beneath my feet.

I gazed upon the dais and witnessed movement on the far end. My eyes fell upon the ebony throne made of charred bones and stretched human flesh. My eyes begged to look away as my mind turned cloudy from it all.

But the movement again.

A rustling of cloth on bones as something ancient strode from the throne's shadow. Yellowed eyes in a sunken skull, wisps of white hair billowing like webs from Methuselahs web, and it came to me.

Its clawed finger pointed to me and a single ancient word croaked from dead lips, and my heart ceased. Shuffled steps approached my dying body. Wolves howled as the winds screeched in my ears.

But as my body fell like a dead leaf, my heart thumped a single beat. Eyes of desperate need fluttered open and as the onyx floor flew to my face I awoke.

The sun shone through a torn curtain. My chest ached. Sweat saturated pillows and sheets tossed aside. It wasn't real. It was not real. Downstairs my brother laughed. Outside a car roared by. I closed my eyes and thanked the other me, the traveler of dreams, that the dream ended. The memory faded. I held my head, breathed deep, and stood.

I winced as I brushed aside the curtain. My eyes sought sanity from the madness of night's journey. But the chain link fence stood, thin as before. Joggers raced over the asphalt trail. Toddlers swung in the swings as parents pushed. The park was as it ever was.

Yet I was changed. I would be forever altered by the dreams of the Field. The traveler of dreams would always wonder: was it real or had I been visited by madness? Time would tell...

Mast Park still exists, so too does the Field. And so too does the magic. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dreams of the Traveler.

I rarely sleep deep and rarely dream honest. Yet, when I do dream, it's horrifying. As a child I dreamt of ghosts stalking my home. Vampires and werewolves would tear me asunder, feed on me, and kill me night after night. As a teenager it became nuclear Holocaust. The dreams woke me after the bitter taste of ash, the refuse of burned flesh coated my hair and clothes, then I woke but carried the dream in waking hours like a bag of grief. As an adult it was haunting images of helplessness: unable to save my mother as she reached to me and asked me to help her as she lay dying; zombies chasing me from one end of the dream to the bloody helpless finale where I was forced to watch them eat those I couldn't save. I woke screaming, terror swollen in my throat, mind replaying the dream over and over until I fell asleep again. Rarely do I dream, and when I do, it's never pleasant.

Throughout my life I've had one ongoing dream. It began as a child and occurs rarely as an adult but I witness it occasionally. I sleep, and I wake, but I know I am dreaming for there is no world like the one I witness. There are shadowed peaks in the distance and at my feet is a lake of ebony water. A boat awaits with a shrouded figure by the oars and a lantern hanging over its head. I know to get on; that for now all is safe. I step onto the boat and ride across the lake. Stars glint above as a cobalt hue paints a swath above the mountain ridges; light from an unknown dawn. Ahead are more boats like mine. Some are empty. Others carry the cargo of other travelers like me. We eventually come to the opposite shore where a stone path leads into a cave. Glowing blue stones light the path as others begin the trek. I follow, a light step carries me higher. Finally I enter the cave and find a torchlit hall, carved with fantastical images of alien beings, beasts of no earthly origin, and finally of man. Each step deeper into the cave tells a different story. Man's birth. Civilizations crumbling. Man marching through time until the last carving which depicts tall, thin entities guarding a gate of black and ushering humans into it. It was this last image that follows me into the waking world. Who are the potentates and are we master, servant, or simply coming home at last? I trudge beyond the etchings to a stone platform which opens out into a wide cavern. Bright blue orbs light every stalagmite as thousands of men, women, and children march to the far end of the cavern. There, standing like a cyclopean shadow, was a gate of black night. Tall, gaunt creatures stood guard on each side as people stepped through. To me they seemed statues, rigid and gray, stone markers like gargoyles of a different race. I followed the throng of humanity to the gates until I stood before it. Like a starless night it stood, swallowing those who entered its maw. A cold detachment befell me. I knew once I stepped into that gate I would never return; that I would stop being a traveler and instead be forever stolen from life. I wanted to step forward. A base need urged me to take that last step into oblivion and a life beyond. I stood, trembling, staring from gate to towering guardian and could not move forward. It was not yet time. I stood and watched, felt moved by the scope and mystery of it all. Then, I woke, feeling as if I had been witness to a cosmic, perhaps divine, secret that I was not yet ready to grasp. I long to know what's beyond the gate. It frightens and compels me. One day I'll step forward; one day when I am done waking up.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


                 William Knox

Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud? Like a swift-fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud, A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave, He passes from life to his rest in the grave.

The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade, Be scattered around, and together be laid; And the young and the old, the low and the high, Shall molder to dust, and together shall lie.

The infant a mother attended and loved; The mother that infant's affection who proved; The husband, that mother and infant who blessed; Each, all, are away to their dwelling of rest.

The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye, Shone beauty and pleasure - her triumphs are by; And the memory of those who loved her and praised, Are alike from the minds of the living erased.

The hand of the king that the sceptre hath borne, The brow of the priest that the mitre hath worn, The eye of the sage, and the heart of the brave, Are hidden and lost in the depths of the grave.

The peasant, whose lot was to sow and to reap, The herdsman, who climbed with his goats up the steep, The beggar, who wandered in search of his bread, Have faded away like the grass that we tread.

The saint, who enjoyed the communion of Heaven, The sinner, who dared to remain unforgiven, The wise and the foolish, the guilty and just, Have quietly mingled their bones in the dust.

So the multitude goes - like the flower or the weed That withers away to let others succeed; So the multitude comes - even those we behold, To repeat every tale that has often been told.

For we are the same that our fathers have been; We see the same sights that our fathers have seen; We drink the same stream, we feel the same sun, And run the same course that our fathers have run.

The thoughts we are thinking, our fathers would think; From the death we are shrinking, our fathers would shrink; To the life we are clinging, they also would cling -But it speeds from us all like a bird on the wing.

They loved - but the story we cannot unfold; They scorned - but the heart of the haughty is cold; They grieved - but no wail from their slumber will come; They joyed - but the tongue of their gladness is dumb.

They died - aye, they died - we things that are now, That walk on the turf that lies over their brow, And make in their dwellings a transient abode, Meet the things that they met on their pilgrimage road.

Yea, hope and despondency, pleasure and pain, Are mingled together in sunshine and rain; And the smile and the tear, the song and the dirge, Still follow each other, like surge upon surge.

'Tis the wink of an eye - 'tis the draught of a breath -From the blossom of health to the paleness of death, From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?

William Knox

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dante's Inferno and Me

"In the midst of life's journey I found myself in a dark wood, for the right path was lost."-Dante's "Inferno".

Thus begins one man's journey through Hell. For those not familiar with the tale, Dante travels through Hell to save the soul of his beloved Beatrice while guided by the mentor soul of the Roman poet Virgil. As Dante stands at the gates to Hell he reads the words transcribed over the threshold, "Abandon all hope ye who enter." Much of our depictions of Hell come from Dante's imagery of demons, sins, and the condemned souls within each of the Nine Circles. It's a fascinating allegory for even a nonbeliever such as myself.

Now Dante did believe, as did most Medieval minds, that there was a Hell full of demons and Heaven full of angels. But he took that belief and crafted an epic allegorical poem about redemption, sacrifice, and love. Like reading Shakespeare, John Milton, or even a more contemporary author such as H.P. Lovecraft...the language can be daunting but well worth the journey.

Why wax poetic about Dante's Inferno on Facebook? Simple, it's what's on my mind. Demons and angels have always fascinated me. I don't believe in them any more than I believe in Valkyries or Harpies(though I've known a few women to make me wonder about the latter). Yet, I'm drawn to the mythology of them. I know, you can't call Catholic or Christian teaching as mythology but let's be honest, nothing in modern religion is any less mythological than what the Greeks, Egyptians, or even Norse believed. Men and monsters winged like birds and bats...but I digress.

Most of my writing has a touch of the demonic and celestial in that what each side promises is the duality of man. We are tempted by our demons and saved by our angels but in truth the Devil and God reside in our hearts as us. I write a lot about madness. Part of that is influenced by Poe and Lovecraft but it also stems from a deep fear of madness and slipping slowly into it. Exorcisms were performed on the insane who were believed to be possessed. They had their demons of the mind; we all do. What troubles me most about studying both angels and demons is how often they are one and the same. It was Lucifer who was cast down to Hell as Satan(which in Judaism, where the word originated, is simply a title like Darth or Pope) while many fellow angels were cast down to be demons. It gets even blurrier than that however. In many ancient texts angels were more feared than demons. They came from a bitter, petty, dominant God who cast them to earth for brutal judgments. If you saw an angel in Old Testament times, bad things were coming. Whether it was Gabriel, Michael,  Metatron(which sometimes is an angel, other times it's a title given to an angel such as Michael. To me it sounds like a Transformer), or any unnamed angel...misery followed. It wasn't until the New Testament that angels became guardians and the Devil's brood of demons were the only enemy. Thus began the war for Earth.

See why this fascinates me? There is a lot of rich background in these tales. Then when you stumble upon a gem such as Dante's Inferno, it piques the curiosity while making you ponder your own life.

In closing I will say this: Dante's journey begins in a shadowed woods for he got lost. We have all been lost. At times we all feel alone. Some turn to the Heavens. Others turn to sin. Yet how many would battle through the Nine Circles of Hell for love? There is hope even in the hopeless; there is redemption for those who have fallen the furthest. There is beauty and humanity in literature whether it be secular or faith based. There are angels and demons within each of us. Such is the dual nature of mankind.  We are poet and Pope, believer and atheist, reader and writer.

We are a beautiful allegory in the flesh.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Leaves in our Lives

One day you wake and realize they're gone. Mentally you've known; emotionally it never felt real. You hoped they would come back. Maybe you prayed. Maybe you begged God or the Devil himself to bring them back or...even wake you from this nightmare called life. Or maybe, just maybe, you wanted nothing more than to die.

People float in and out of our lives like autumn leaves on the wind. Sometimes we desperately reach to catch them before they fall...anything to keep them in our lives a second longer. But sometimes leaves fall; and sometimes people leave. There isn't always rhyme or reason. There isn't always fault or folly. People drift away.

Holding memories as reality is a curse. How things used to be is never how it is going to be. Friendships may rise from the grave of broken affection but like anything borne from the Pet Cemetery, it is only a twisted reflection of what it once was. Replaying the movies in  your mind's theater of old loves doesn't again cast you in the leading role. And closing your eyes, begging for death, or sleep, won't bring you closer to one who died. Memories and photographs are all that remains of a life. Those fade until all that remains is a phantom of a feeling. You love and hurt over someone you struggle to remember. People drift away, they leave, they die...but it is simply one act in the drama we call Life.

We all hurt. We all love. It is in those feelings we find ourselves. It is in those feelings we find the power to change. Every life that touches ours impacts us. Those we love, those we hurt and who hurt us in return, they all shape us. We shape them. It's a symbiotic, parasitic, and erratic relationship with our fellow human that defines us. We are all touching another's life as they touch ours. We are many lives coming together. We are Legion for we are many.

Lastly, we need each other. We need love. We need bonds of affection that cut across romantic, familial, humanistic, and friendship love. But we also need to know when to let go of that love. The emotion is like energy; it never goes away, it simply changes. So let go of a memory, a friendship, a romance, or the ghost of a loved one and say goodbye. Then turn around to your future and say hello.

One day you wake up and will be ok after all.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


   She had hair as dark as midnight, eyes that swallowed you like quicksand, and Mediterranean skin hot as a Sicilian summer. Vines of ink climbed from spine to collar; trails of roses and barb wire lacerated her arms. The soft half moon of naked flesh rose from the sheets; the words "Veritas" in languid black letters glinted like angel script in the dim candlelight.
     He stared as the supple flesh rose and fell in sleep. An impotent cigarette rested between his fingers as the dying trail of smoke drifted higher. Who was she? The name, the face, none of it matched what his guts told him. She lied with her voice. But her body, the way she danced beneath the sheets, told him the truth.

     He would have to kill her.

     The cigarette blazed in the dark as he inhaled. Her body shifted, forcing the sheets to whisper like a sinning priest, before she settled. How to do it? His eyes stuck to the half moon and inked words. "Veritas".
     He exhaled. Then he knew.
     This angel would fly.