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  • Mystic, thanks for stopping by!

    Mizfan, appreciate it man. i think that's the theme that runs across most of these.

    Here's something I've started. Some themes are Mercy vs. Strength and Testing oneself.

    Essence Keep

    Act I. Baddies and Goodies

    “Mercy…Mercy! What’s going on—” He thought, when awakening to red carpet rushing beneath him.

    Carpet? Underneath his feet?

    Yes. Carpet. For five years he observed only cement floors. Though here, cut and loop pile yarns formed dragons from wall to wall. In bewilderment after being spat out deep sleep’s mouth, he made out the fibers depicting the winged, fire breathing devils. That’s until from his head, loose locks draped over his face. Loose Locks?

    Long hair? On him?

    Yes. Black strands. They stretched from the bottom of his follicles, but these hairs belonged not to him. After maneuvering it with his head, he caught white boots hastening him toward golden doors with an image on them: another dragon. The doors automatically parted. What was going on around him? With him? He sensed big biceps in arms that extended from him.

    Muscular arms…?

    Yes. The guns his captors squeezed behind his back hulked like Samson’s. These guns belonged not to him, either. From the shock of this he formed no words. However, he breathed heavily, acquainted with none of the place, none of himself. Acquainted only with the cuffs’ pinch against his wrists.

    After moving through the doorway, in front of him stood a desk with nunchucks on it, an action figure on it, a clear tablet, only made visible by airwaves, on it, and a periwig on a head stand on it… The man behind it must be a child, must be a fighter; must be proficient with software and fashionable with the returning, stylish headpieces. The man behind the desk sat in his young age, maybe forty. His hairline receded back, revealing most his balding head.

    And the man introduced himself as Nelson Strong, and Nelson ordered the guards to remove the shackles. This, the prisoner considered a great act of compassion. From Nelson’s sanctioning, one of the two helmeted guards pressed a button on their wristband. This technology the prisoner knew too well. Insomuch, he felt grace as the torques on his hands released themselves. When that which bonded him clanked against the floor, joy nearly sprung up and wet his eyes.

    He’d have thanked Nelson, but felt to in wonderment of his own tanned, ripped arms. He perceived the muscles in his shirtless chest and abs through touch and the strings of his hair and their greasiness through clasping them. He observed on his ligaments black, baggy pants over tall, wine-red boots. “What have you done to me?” He said.

    “Nothing we can’t undo,” Nelson said, smiling. “But first, I would like to discuss your background and go over what we’re looking for at Essence Keep.”

    “Essence Keep? I’m not at the United Nations Penitentiary?”

    “That’s a complex question,” Nelson said, still smiling. “But I promise it will be solved. What’s your name?”

    The man answered, “Pastor Richard Spalding.”

    One of the two guards laughed under his helmet-mask. “Richard Spalding? Nelson, he’s got a dick and balls in his name!”

    Spalding threw his arms up in the guard’s direction. “Officer, your tongue!”

    Nelson admonished, “C’mon, Trevor, he said he’s a preacher. You have to respect people’s backgrounds.”

    “Please tell me what’s going on!” Pastor Spalding pleaded.

    Nelson replied, “You know it’s only been half a century since scientists accepted the facts of essence? You pastors were thousands of years ahead of the game.” He nearly leaned all the way over the desk in how remarkable he found that to be.

    Spalding nodded and said “Essence… My essence is here but my body—”

    “Back at the prison, waiting for that which you had within to return, so that they can inject you. Put your body and essence down together.” He sighed and said, “Not saying I agree with that.” After a reverent silence, he continued, “Who’d you kill, Pastor? You seem like too reasonable a guy to be whacking people.”

    With nothing to lose, Spalding blurted back, “I pleaded not guilty. Not guilty, I pleaded, for the murders of Deacon Darcy and his wife, Sister Joyce. Not guilty for the murder of that young man, Troy Sutton, who took to the alter that night. For Brother Hezekiah. Not guilty for any of the twelve! God bless them, for they believed in His provision until their last breaths! I’m only guilty of trusting my God during a virus pandemic and opening His doors for His children. And now, now my faith is under attack!”

    “So, you assembled your congregation during the snake flue of 2116, in spite of everything we’ve learned about viruses in the last one-hundred years?” Nelson said, swiping notes with his finger into his electronic force field Tablet.

    The Pastor observed this, hardly ever seeing anyone swipe letters in a world where documents are spoken into devices. And he also drew in the well-versed Nelson’s knowledge of history. Then, he replied, “I take it you’re somebody aware that in the previous world, our nation was one that had the freedom of worship.”

    Nelson nodded and said, “But doesn’t even the Bible say to honor your bodies? How do square that with risking everyone’s health?”

    Spalding scowled down and said, “Let’s skip the part where I school you on the Word, and how about you tell me why you brought me here. Why have you chosen me for your Essence Keep?”

    “I believe in second chances,” Nelson said. “We can give that to you here. I’m sure you’ve heard of us. What we do.”

    “I’m in some kind of simulation.”

    “That’s right. And you’re going to do battle with others like you. The upside is you stay here for however long the audience digs you!”

    “I haven’t been in a fight since I was a college boy. God help me, that was over four decades ago!”

    Nelson smiled and said, “You’ll have a trainer.”

    “If I say no, then what?”

    Nelson shook his head. “You’ll return to your body, and they’ll execute you. But that doesn’t have to happen. These opportunities don’t just come for no reason, Pastor.”

    Spalding dropped to one knee and bowed his head. “Yes, Lord,” he said, shivering. He stood up in glee, holding both hands above his head. “Yes, what a speedy answer and what a powerful, powerful link to heaven!” Now he gazed into Nelson’s eyes and smiled. “I will stay here, for it’s not you who’s torn down this path for me, but it’s… God! I don’t understand this yet, but I hear Him telling me, He’s not threw using me!”

    Nelson smiled back. “Great. Now, do me a favor and check out your avatar. There’s a mirror behind you across the room.”

    In tall wavy particles, the pastor’s reflection pushed his hair back and gazed at high cheek bones, thick eyebrows, and an Indian tan. Who? Who made this temple? Nelson Strong, the great artist and director? Well, he cut up every piece of this figure to define its strength. “Can you please give me a shirt to clothe this vessel with,” he said.

    “First, you must fold down the waistband on your pants,” Officer Trevor insisted.

    Upon folding it down, he revealed two distinct lines heading south.

    “Dick root!” Trevor yelled. “Dick… Root! Don’t say Nelson never gave you anything!” Trevor, under his mask, squealed in laughter, while Nelson failed to hold his own giggling back, causing his laughing to extend along with Trevor’s.

    “Pure vanity!” The pastor replied, perplexed at his mirror image.

    “Trevor, Shawna, show Pastor Richard his floor; and have him meet his trainer.”

    Following Trevor and Shawna down the hallway, the pastor ordered, “They’ll be no more speak of your favorite four-letter word, its root, or anything else to do with it in my presence. Are we clear?” The automatic doors closed behind them.

    “Trevor says what Trevor says,” Shawna replied. “I tried telling him to shut his hole a long time ago, and he just said, ‘which one.’ Keep up, Spalding! This isn’t a tour.”

    They came to several elevators with the dragon symbol on them. Shawna pressed a key on her wrist to part the center one’s doors. Down in B3, the pastor recognized the hard cement feel, as it felt like the penitentiary with bad lighting and no windows. Through a long tunnel were force fields with rooms behind them.

    “You know, maybe he’s a baddie,” Said Trevor to Shawna, while ahead of the pastor. “Self-righteous, ceremonious, preachy, annoying.”

    “That call’s above your pay grade,” Shawna replied.

    “What do you mean, ‘baddie?’” Spalding said.

    “Baddies are the despised, revered, hated by the audience.” Trevor said.

    “Goodies are the loved, admired, cheered.” Shawna added.

    “How can one be a, uhm baddie? From what Nelson said, survival is based on if we’re received by the crowd or not.”

    “Love and hate are two sides of the same animal,” Trevor said, coming to a stop. “All Nelson cares about is if you make them feel something. That’s what brings the civilians to the show.”

    The Pastor nodded his head. The hallway ended with only one room straight ahead; a blue, clear field stood in front of a round passageway.

    “This is where you get off. Just walk right up to the forcefield, and it will let you pass. We set up your face recognition, already.” Shawna said. “Trevor and I are the floor officers. We’re responsible for all the performers down here. Go meet your roommates, then, you will have a training session.”

    Roommates? The pastor etched forward, with this surprise whispering a thought in his mind. And the whispers raised to shouts. Hence, with each movement, his surprise became more and more a concern. He couldn’t help but think that—

    But while this thought processed, the blue current swallowed his feet and body. Still with cement under his boots, he saw two sets of bunkbeds and an enormous bed in the center of the room. He cringed at a demon tied up, sickly thin, showing all the bones in its ribs. Broken wings, large eyes, and horns completed this thing. At the table across from it, convened a tall bird man with human, facial features, including a wide nose enclosed by hard frown lines, over a scowling fat mouth. Feathers extended out his face and arms. A goat man, who shared the bird man’s exact mean mug stood over them with a shotgun revolver aimed at the tied-up demon. On top of one of the bunkbeds a long-bearded gnome babbled to himself bout some math problem.

    He evolved the thought, which crawled in his mind, from a caterpillar into a bat flying into all corners, making him anxious. All these avatars had the essence of murderers inside them. And here one had a gun directed at another. He’d dealt with this kind at the penitentiary, but that’s not an environment quite as free.

    The goat man frowned at him and said, “who is you?”

    “Pastor Spalding.”

    “You the new roommate?” The goat man said.

    “Yes, do you mind putting the gun down. Mercy! Lord!”

    “What if I want to shoot this here imp. Preachers don’t like imps, do they?”

    “There’s a person inside there! Mercy!”

    The bird man at the table laughed, “There’s a person in there.” He said and repeated, “A person in there.” He yelled out, “He just got here, and he’s telling us there’s a person in there!”

    The bound up imp kept strong, holding a face that almost looked as if he could laugh.

    The goat man waved the barrel in the Pastor’s face. This reflexed an instinct out the pastor, while a forgotten memory flashed. He saw himself in college, wearing spandex and headgear, flipping over his man. And without hesitance, the weight of the goat man went on his shoulders and onto the floor. And, the preacher had apprehended the gun with the force of his avatar’s hand.

    “Now, I got a question for you all,” the pastor said, while untying the scrawny demon. “I need to know who—who among you have repented for their sins?”

    The bird man, in his chair, and the goat man, who just leaped back to his feet, looked pissed.

    The gnome got louder and louder with his equations, going into a nervous fit.

    The now freed demon made eye contact and laughed.

    “None of you,” the pastor said, frowning.

    Spalding kept his grimace as he marched down the hallway towards the officers. But he heard someone behind him say, “Hey! Hey!” with a voice not brave enough to rise to a scream. He turned around and saw the thin demon hustling behind him. Then, he looked up with two eyes so large they took up half his face. Matter fact, he was only eyes, horns, broken wings, knees, and elbows when he said, “Thanks for the help in there. Nobody’s ever stuck up for me before.”

    The Pastor said, “sorry.” As he spoke, he noticed the demon laughing but also understood it to be some sort of involuntary tick, therefore, he continued saying, “May God have mercy on you, son. But I’m not rooming with baddies.”

    He left the demon behind, but upon turning around, he saw Shawna and Trevor were now only a couple steps ahead of him.

    “They are the goodies,” Shawna said.

    “You gotta be kidding me.” The pastor said, frowning.

    “I’m Imp Boy,” the demon said approaching him. “The goat is Azazel, the bird Aritya’l, they’re brothers and tag champions. The guy on the bed goes by ‘a Gnome Named Nichols.’ His gimmick sounds great when they introduce him. “But there’s one roomie you didn't meet, sleeps in the big bed and everybody fears him, ‘Frei the Ogre.’ Largest fighter here!”

    The pastor nodded at the well-meaning Imp and placed his attention back on the officers. “How are they good guys? None of them are repentant.”

    “This guy is going to drive me nuts.” Trevor said with his helmet looking toward Shawna’s. Then, he turned back at him and went off, “Azazel and Aritya’l are of the Nation of Islam, so I doubt they’ll get into your come to Jesus shtick. You know, what makes you think you have this all this figured out?”

    “Calm down, Trevor,” Shawna said.

    “But he’s over here, preaching and—”

    “Trevor, I think it’s time Spalding meets his trainer.”

    Trevor paused as he and Shawna looked at each other. Then he raised his thumb up.

    “Next door on the right.” Shawna said to the Pastor. The doorway also has your face recognized. We made you an appointment with the trainer. Going forward, you’ll be notified when it’s your turn to practice.”

    The Pastor left them behind and turned right. He felt nothing of the blue electrical shield he walked through but did feel himself sink into an abyss until his boots touched down on some karst. This cave, dimly lit by fire, held ahead a shadowy, hooded figure sitting on a pile of erosion.

    “Who are you?” The Pastor yelled.

    The figure lifted his hand and shot fire at Spalding.

    “Woah!” Spalding said, side stepping it about the time he realized it happened. “Let’s make this fair! Man on man. None of this funny business.” he said, squatting into his wrestling stance.

    A voice roared a whisper like the wind out the hooded head and said, “Employ your essence!”

    This the pastor understood not, but he waved the thing on and shouted over his fear. “Listen, you want to wrestle? Let’s go!”

    The creature shot at him faster than any human can, but the pastor managed to whip himself from being hit and catch the figure in a go behind position, as if to throw it. But in an instance, he lost his grip, as his body darted into the cave’s wall. He hit hard. With dirt and pebbles dropping on him, his vision blurred, his body lost feeling. In the blur the figure clapped to the right of its face, then the left, while staggering forward in a taunting motion. Then it shot forward.

    If he could regain control over his limbs, he’d run, because he knew he couldn’t lick it. But now the hood bent down, face to face with him. Gums and sharp teeth emerged from the top of the hood’s opening and the bottom. As it spoke, he felt the vacuuming of his Essence towards the sickles it had for teeth. Being sucked forward, he felt its salivation drizzling against his very soul. Then, the motion ceased. Then, the winds spoke out the throat of this beast, saying, “I am Essence Eater. Should you fail, I will devour you!”

    The sight of this thing blurred into the distance, as he elevated back up. Shawna lifted him up and propped him against the wall. His wits coming to him, he pushed her back. “Heavens! What?…was that?”

    “So, you met Essence Eater,” she said.

    “I demand in the name of my Lord to see Nelson!”

    “Buyer’s remorse?” she said.

    “My very essence is threatened by this creature, I’m bunking with unrepentant murderers, and putting up with potty mouths. Nelson discussed none of this!”

    “You’re used to being in control, aren’t you?” Shawna replied. “You lived in your own little parsonage, all those years, never having to be tested. Well, now you must live in the world, Spalding. You must put your will to practice in the way you taught your congregation to do. So, it’s like Trevor would say—if he could stand to be around you— do you have the spaldings, Spalding?”

    He slapped the wall. “No respect! I refer to you as officer, but you don’t call me by my professional title! Give me Nelson. He’s a trickster!”

    She folded her arms. “Your words were Nelson didn’t tear this path down for you, that God did. So, tell me, ‘Pastor,’ who tricked you?”
    Last edited by Benjamin Button; 04-09-2020, 10:02 AM.
    See the latest of my Ric Flair saga click here. View my story inspired by colorful wrestlers I've come across in my fandom.


    • Religion, wrestling, philosophy, scifi, smut, horror... all your best topics mixed together! This is actually one of my favorites that I've read from you. I'd love to read more.

      Reminds me a bit of a show on Netflix called Altered Carbon. Might be of interest to you!

      The '92 Rumble! The Brain's Finest Hour!


      • I just watched the first episode of that today. Was interesting and definitely saw similarities in the concepts in more ways than one.

        I have an outline for the rest of it. Has a lot of characters I have to create for this so in the process of doing that now including the baddies that appear in act II. Definitely more coming.

        Thanks again,
        See the latest of my Ric Flair saga click here. View my story inspired by colorful wrestlers I've come across in my fandom.


        • The Concealed/Shepherds'

          Oliver understood that allowing himself to dream, to reach a fevered passion somewhere between sleep and wake, might lead to another person dead, yet he found himself drifting toward delirious contemplation. Could he resist? Might he shut down his mind or, as Central suggested, control it? What was their saying, Don’t want to go insane? Dwell only on the mundane. Yet, as he writhed about in sheets now tangled around his body, Oliver knew he was in trouble when, as the mantra crossed his mind’s eye, he envisioned himself jumping across the top of each word, a bouncy effect underneath his feet, even as the words vanished like vapor after each leap.

          Such motion. And that’s what he missed in not dreaming: motion. There were days, back before the village transitioned, where even when the dreams of night were concealed by day, Oliver could still feel the motion of having dreamed the previous night fill his body, his day, his life.

          But aren’t those just the lies that the children of the night would tell? Isn’t the very fevered passion of night a fever? Isn’t it inherently deceptive, and wasn’t the evidence, as much as he wished to believe otherwise, felt still in the absence in the town, in the bedroom next to his?

          Oliver stiffened. He did what he had to do. He counted donkeys. He quoted marching orders from Central. And he drifted off, to what he hoped would be pure, mundane sleep.

          But such was his resistance to what might have otherwise come naturally that Oliver couldn’t hear the wheels of time working overtime to turn once more. Some twenty miles north a creaking cell swung open and an invitation burst forward with its man. On the wind, rumor circulated, and opportunity touched the four corners of the continent like a mighty spider unfurling its legs from its bodied center. And even though Oliver refused to stir, the night did so around him. The window he closed before bed opened. Light pierced darkness as shadow might cover day.

          “You can’t be here,” Oliver did or didn’t say.

          “And yet here I am.”

          “I refused to dream. I counted donkeys. I repeated the mantra.”

          “And still.”

          “It can’t come back to me if I’m not taking part.”

          “An excellent, if flawed, retort.”

          “I’m turning over on my face, even as I sleep.”

          “Better not to see what isn’t happening. Inspired really.”

          Oliver didn’t soon respond. He could feel his heat and a coolness that wasn’t his. He could feel the room full. He could feel wake, even as he claimed sleep. He could feel sleep, even as he seemed awake.

          “Ask your question,” returned Oliver. “I know you have one.”

          “I'll put it in a riddle.”

          “Of course you will.”

          “A young man stands at the juncture where two paths sprawl out before him. One he has traveled, once, with questions that linger and stones still unturned along it. The other path is new, so very new, a mighty puff of excitement and trepidation floating along it. The young man is equal parts reminiscent for what was before and, yet, hungry for what hasn’t been. Which path does he take?”

          Oliver turned circles in his sheets now, wrapping himself tighter to a bed and body he barely felt. “It’s a trick…question…it doesn’t account…”

          Before Oliver could finish, the light touched his lips, and he felt the conversation complete.

          A final voice followed, and he wasn’t sure if it was his or his visitor’s: “it’s not a question of philosophy, Oliver. It’s a question that you will answer with the next action that you take.”

          Oliver loosened himself in the sheets, just slightly feeling the breeze from a window that could only be closed. Oliver flipped his pillow to the cooler side and buried his head.

          He imagined himself quoting mantras from Central as he finally drifted off. What he was saying, however, again and again, was, “It’s a trick question because it doesn’t allow for a third option. Why does the young man have to take any path? Why can’t he stay where he is? Why can’t he just be neutral to it all?”


          • What I really envy about you and Benny is your ability to slip so naturally into these strange new worlds, to inhabit them instantly no matter how strange and make them recognizable at once by their felt sense. Really liked this snippet Mystic, would definitely read more.

            The '92 Rumble! The Brain's Finest Hour!


            • Thank you for reading, mizfan. It is one of my greatest joys when I can inhabit a different world, sadly it's also the first thing that gets knocked off the list when this world demands my energy and attention.


              • Down!

                Penny grinned above Skinny. Skinny prepared himself for his own rise, while his companion soaked up her time being higher than him.


                The ground freed Skinny’s sneakers: his legs weighed no more than the butterflies inside them. Penny used her larger stature to park, while Skinny, not liking his jeans rising above his ankles, said to the audience of her strawberry blonde roots, “Penny Price, I don’t want to stay up here too long, now. What if I fall off?”

                She laughed underneath those roots and the rest of that long hair, and replied, “life’s too short to be a scaredy-weirdy.”


                “It’s about time,” he said.


                As Mrs. Wall approached the seesaw, Skinny squinted. The ray obscured the teacher’s face between her dark curls and broad shoulders.

                “I’ve told you that you two need to play with other children,” Mrs. Wall insisted.

                Both five-year-old kids looked at the blue wood where they shared all their ups and downs. First Skinny did, then Penny.

                “I need you to get off of the seesaw.”


                They disembarked and stood next to each other. Skinny’s tears, under his short brown hair, blurred his vision. Still, as he gazed up at his only friend—the only one he ever wanted, his thin chest could not keep down his affection for her.

                “Don’t be a girl!” Penny said. “Besides, you can have this to remember me by.” She pulled out her pocketbook and removed a coin of her namesake. One copper Abraham Lincoln, she placed in his hand.

                He squeezed it, as tight as he did his eyes to hold back any more tears, and said, “thanks, Penny. I’m going to use it to buy your mom a doctor, so she’ll be happy and leave the house once and awhile.”

                “No! I want you to keep it, so when your old and bald, you don’t forget about me.”

                “But who says I won’t think about you on my own?”

                “Boys need things to remember things,” she said.

                Mrs. Wall, took Penny’s hand and said, "Skinner, I’ll be back for you.” After they took some paces away, Penny’s glance came over him, but he had his eyes on that currency in his hand. It shone better than the others he’d seen.

                But why? He thought. Why did Mrs. Wall have to take his friend?
                Last edited by Benjamin Button; 01-23-2021, 07:33 AM.
                See the latest of my Ric Flair saga click here. View my story inspired by colorful wrestlers I've come across in my fandom.


                • Part 2

                  Mrs. Wall came into sight, and she brought Dickey, who stomped along next to her waste. When they passed a small crowd playing eeny, miny, moe, he threw rabbit ears over a girl’s head, forcing Mrs. Wall to put a hand on her hip and a finger over his nose. Like Skinny’s stomach responded to gross mac and cheese, it felt sick by this clown. This dated back to a nap time when Mrs. Wall went out to gossip. Then and there, Dickey got a handful of Margarete George’s dress and flashed her underwear to the entire class. She paraded ducks on them. Ducks! Why would anyone need such fancy underpants? That day, Skinny thought about telling on Dickey or whipping him, himself, but resided to let justice handle it without his interference. Now, his negligence to act confronted him. Of all possible playmates, Mrs. Wall opened the gates of the underworld and presented this creature!

                  “No! Skinny’s the boringest dork ever! And he’s bony!” said Dickey. Dickey stood only an inch above Skinny, and his own thin frame and dork status registered to him about as much as the dirt ingrained in his neck’s creases or the skin peeking through a hole in his stripe t-shirt’s center.

                  “I told you, Richard, I’m separating you from Schroeder. You are to play with Skinner! And, Skinner, you let me know if he gets into mischief; because, I have a letter all written up to give his mother when I see her at church.”

                  After the teacher reached the kids playing eeny, miny, moe several feet away, Dickey said, “go get sat on by Humpy Dumpy, Mrs. Wall.”

                  Then, the aloneness of the two sunk in, and Skinny fidgeted his new coin and frowned at it. When Mrs. Wall punished the other kids by making them play with him, he wanted to lower his head into his green polo shirt like the class pet turtle. Or when she made the class feel sorry for him, he thought about sliding under the seesaw and pulling the wood over his head. Except, he didn’t do any of that, because people might laugh at him or ask him why he did it. Instead, he disappeared into the little piece of copper that stuck to his palm.

                  “Where did you get that?” Dickey said.

                  “A friend gave it to me.”

                  “Well, it’s stupid, and so is your friend, and so is your seesaw.”

                  But even after making those denouncements, Dickey stretched his neck back to get another glance at the penny. Then, he plodded ahead of Skinny to a ladder that led up to a wooden base and a yellow, winding slide. At the top stood the cleats of the tallest boy in the class, the pee wee legend, Schroeder Dice who’d been held back twice. He wore his team’s ballcap and offered Dickey some bubble gum tobacco strawberry, to which Dickey took the bag and started getting at it.

                  “What about him? Does he chew?”

                  Usually, Skinny kept his peace, but seeing Dickey play with Schroeder only minutes after Mrs. Wall specifically said not to, pushed him into survival mode. “Mrs. Wall’s going to beat us with her paddle! We have to go, Dickey. We have to!”

                  Schroeder stood in front of the ladder and Dickey the slide. They blocked Skinny from both directions.

                  “If you want to leave, it’s going to cost you!” Schroeder said.

                  “I don’t-don’t-don’t have much of nothing. Just a fruit roll up, but you can have it.”

                  “He’s lying.” Dickey said. “He’s got a lot of money in his pants.”

                  “Give us your money,” Schroeder said, “or I’m going to tell Mrs. Wall this was your idea to bring Dickey up here.”

                  Beneath them, her curls and broad shoulders had made their way to the students at the merry-go-round. He’d never been swapped by that paddle and kept his hands folded on his desk, all the time, to make sure he never would be. Maybe, she wouldn’t believe them, but he didn’t want the scene. With his head looking at the cleats, he removed the coin from his jean pocket, and with his sweaty, shaky hand, he held it out for Schroeder.

                  “Just a nickel,” Schroeder said, not knowing one kind of change from another. “Next time you come up here, I want a dollar.”

                  Finally, they let him down the ladder. Upon hurrying, he almost slipped. Then, when he reached the dirt, he kicked it. He kicked it, because the thing he had to remember his friend by, he let them bully from him. He kicked it because Penny was right...He was a scaredy-weirdy.

                  See the latest of my Ric Flair saga click here. View my story inspired by colorful wrestlers I've come across in my fandom.


                  • Poor Skinny. I understand him too well. The bullies on the playground, the rare friends, the desire not to be in the scene even if he's in the right. Even holding on to mementos from departed friends. Once again you've captured a particular flavor beautifully, and not even any of the ones you have before. Your writing continually impresses me.

                    The '92 Rumble! The Brain's Finest Hour!


                    • Thanks a million, man!
                      Last edited by Benjamin Button; 02-21-2021, 08:43 AM.
                      See the latest of my Ric Flair saga click here. View my story inspired by colorful wrestlers I've come across in my fandom.


                      • Title- Fingers to the Bone.

                        The body remained still, while the eyes blinked. Isaac retained his awareness. The blurry digits on his cell phone read six-thirty p.m. And at six thirty-five, he pushed his body from his side of the bed.

                        It took mental force to lift it from where it wanted to be, to send it into a world he cared nothing for. He brushed his teeth, turned the shower faucet, and got in. And he stepped out with enough time to slap in hair gel for a pretense of effort. However, his long strands could not be held back. Even if they could, the wrinkles under his eyes and the beard over his collar gave him away for being more beast than man.

                        He entered the dim dining area at six-fifty and sat at the long, dark brown table, surrounded by six empty chairs. His old friend, isolation, supped with him again.

                        It told him to quit his job, but he had a family. It told him to call in to work, but he was the supervisor. It told him, once they got their food, to dine a while longer, but being late was a poor example. “There must be a way out,” it whispered deep into his heart.

                        His toddler slapped him out of it. A solid pop to the knee for such a small hand. “Da da … Eat.”

                        “She said, ‘eat’,” he said with a sigh.

                        “I made tamales,” his wife said from the kitchen.

                        “Uh, tamales.”

                        Cell phone, wallet, work bag, work phone, laptop, they were all there. His wife discussed something about fringe Republicans getting kicked off congressional committees. Then, that void inside him where a soul should reside drifted into his phone: facebook, twitter, google, a few words from an article on depression Seven-thirty, the time read. That meant get in the car.

                        It was eight p.m. when he arrived for his night shift. His requirement to be in charge meant being there one hour early and staying one hour late. His existence centered around these ten hours. He read his emails. The Labels on the shipping boxes must be scannable! Not enough print in the barcode caused too many windows they manufactured to miss transactions and to be lost in the warehouse.

                        “When the warehouse team places these windows in the racks, they scan them one by one,” he said with a trembling smile to his line leader and the young, male labeler. With their steel toed shoes in a huddle over the cement floor, his voice continued, “this means the labels must be right side up, with all their print, so the warehouse personnel can scan them. Success is more than hitting our production goal. To succeed, we must make this quality improvement happen. And I know you can do that.”

                        “Can I ask something?” the labeler said.

                        “Go ahead.”

                        “When are you going to shave?”

                        He walked away to his desk.

                        “Isaac, come on. I was joking, man!”

                        A cold stare into his laptop. But he got at least one task done.

                        “He’s so serious all the time.”

                        It was best not punch down at their background noise. “When you feel like this, you have to celebrate the small achievements.” That’s what the mental health article said. And though he’d not placed a finger on the keyboard, since sitting, he did what was needed when it was needed.

                        He did it all while his family slept, and he slept while they lived. After his ten hours, he went home to the three-bedroom house with a pool. The fenced home on half an acre of land showed a modest living, but not a bad one for someone with no college education. Still, his lifesavings only paid for the down payment. He hoped his family liked it.

                        He hoped they did, because he made a living, dying every day. But he died for them, and if he spoke an ungrateful word out loud, they may lose it all. At least in his mind, they may. While he sat between two palm trees in his yard on his Saturday off, his clock read seven p.m., and the digits went up and up. His beard grew without his noticing, and his wife in her pajama pants and headband plopped down next to him and told him to shave.

                        “Ok, I will later.”

                        “You always say that. Go now, Isaac!”

                        “I will … Later. How about a movie?”

                        After an hour in front of the sixty-inch TV, his wife started to doze off. “I don’t get it,” she said.

                        She liked horror. This one was the sort with layers of meaning. This kind of cinema led right down his alley. However, truthfully, he didn’t get it either. He went on watching it to have something to google while she slept.

                        “I’ve got to hang the laundry.”

                        “I work all these hours and climbed up the ranks to where I’m at, and we can’t afford to use our dryer?”

                        Her face blushed. Between her loud laughs, she said, “how are you going to treat me like that?”

                        He didn’t fully crack a smile but imagined her big family across their table, with her laughing and sharing his joke with them.

                        When the two hours of the movie was up, only two empty plant pots on either side of the couch accompanied him. The palm tree plants he picked out died from his wife’s overwatering. The dead plants—the movie—In this film, souls moved from one era into the next, inhabiting new lifeforms. What was the meaning? Could the dead be reincarnated? Could someone who struggled their entire life to get by be born again into wealth and have it easier the next go around? Could someone who has fought depression since they could remember get a chance to be happy?

                        He didn’t want the clock to move. It’d moved so much, he barely remembered anything. Anything—

                        Except a phone conversation with his aging dad from ten months ago.

                        “Boy, your workin’ years are the best of your life.” His dad told him. "When you get old, you're at the doctor's all the time. It's about like a car, everything starts to go." While he enjoyed the view of his pool, he listened to his dad go on about how great the working years should be. The man worked two fulltime jobs for him and his three siblings. He even sent them to a private school. Isaac quit at sixteen and got a GED. That did not sit well with the old man back in those days.

                        “I worked my fingers to the bone—to the bone! And you’re just going to throw it away?”

                        “I’ll pay it all back to you when I can. But stop acting like you’ve given me so much. All you and mama ever did was fight.”

                        “Boy, don’t you talk about her. She gave birth to you!”

                        “I never asked to be born.”

                        “You lazy, sorry, ungrateful— That’s your problem, you’re spoiled and lazy! My dad made me quit, so I could work for him. Here, you is … Can’t even get out of the bed and put a comb in your hair. How do you think you can handle workin’?”

                        “You’ll see.” Isaac, with his first chin hairs, said. “I’ll work hard because I’ll get a paycheck every week. It’ll give me something to get out of bed for.”

                        It’s always been work or die, since he could remember. He never asked to be born into that dilemma. As a matter of fact, he never asked to be born, at all. His dad’s religion made life pointless for him. You live a short time and go to some eternity. Switching to atheism didn’t change how he felt, either. He’d trade any fleeting happiness to rid himself from constant suffering.

                        Every time he looked, it was an hour closer to morning, and his side of the bed called his name. He surrendered his tired eyes to it and slid under the pendulum of his workweek. Finally, he reached that point. He would awake and not have the strength to force himself to be a supervisor and to care for the factory, anymore. He’d fail again, like he did in school. His dad was right. Lazy! Sorry! Ungrateful! Unable!

                        “I—I hate this.” There. He said it out loud, the ill spoken words that could bring his entire family down.

                        That night, he drove right passed his job with no intention of going. He drove around until he knew his wife and child would be tucked in. At twelve a.m., he used his personal phone to check the time, because he didn’t want to see the missed calls on his work one. After pulling in his garage, he flicked on the light and looked at the rope his wife used to hang their clothes-- such a thrifty woman, whom he loved for that.

                        He tiptoed to the room and pushed her long hair from her shut eyes and kissed her cheek. She worked hard to keep the yard and to take care of food and laundry, and she did it with a two-year-old nagging her. That meant she slept hard enough for him to wet her face with his lips without waking her. The little insomniac in the crib, however, slept lightly like him. But there she slept, and he kissed the tips of his fingers and touched the angel’s forehead. “Da da?” he heard her say, as his hand reached the doorknob.

                        With tears in his eyes, he whispered “shh, honey. I’m…sorry.”

                        For thirteen years his life went on while the world slept, but that night he went back to the garage where the ropes stretched from one side to the other. And that night, when the digits turned to one a.m., he didn’t see it, and his emails in the windowless hell went unanswered. On that night, the manufacturer could lose the windows for all he cared.

                        What he was about to do was for himself, this one time, and he repurposed those ropes from their mundane task of drying out laundry by making a noose out of them. Finally, he would sleep at the same time everyone else did. And he knew while he died, unlike him, his family would find the strength to live. But just as he went to place his neck through, the door which he left ajar swung fully open.

                        “Da da?” No more than a three-foot frame with shoulder length, bed hair, she squinted at him.

                        He let the rope go. “How did you? How did you get out of your crib?”

                        “Da da!”

                        He knelt and held her, his shoulder hiding her from the tear running down his cheek and the empty noose in motion. “Da da will take you back to sleep now." He sucked a breath in and continued, "because he’s already late for work.”
                        Last edited by Benjamin Button; 02-24-2021, 09:43 AM.
                        See the latest of my Ric Flair saga click here. View my story inspired by colorful wrestlers I've come across in my fandom.


                        • That's some dark stuff, Benny. Felt very authentic. I've never been this depressed but there was a long period when my job was far more stressful than it had any right to be and I too stopped shaving. I didn't even recognize it at the time as a sign of depression but that's definitely what I was dealing with. I'm glad that noose stayed empty in the end, here's hoping the path leads away from it.

                          The '92 Rumble! The Brain's Finest Hour!


                          • Wellit’s not something I’m personally going through. Though I did put more of myself into this due wanting to get some writing going against a blockage.

                            It is fiction but it’s a picture of depression in its darkest point. And I’ve experienced depression before a I’m sure most have.

                            I posted it in a creative writing forum and had mostly positive reviews but it led to a heated debate on whether or not there should be a greater light at the end of the tunnel on the subject. But to me it’s a short story painting a picture of the worst moment of a time from someone with untreated clinical depression. ( I’ve experienced a level of that but not as bad as others who’ve I been friends of mine) And it’s about patriarchal responsibilities as well. Something I can write from experience with.

                            But I was glad to be able to write something to elicit passion from people on either side of the debate on it. But it’s funny the people who had really experienced dark depression seemed to appreciate it, knowing the day by day aspect of it. Also knowing those worst thoughts. While one person was offended on their behalf.
                            Last edited by Benjamin Button; 02-25-2021, 06:37 PM.
                            See the latest of my Ric Flair saga click here. View my story inspired by colorful wrestlers I've come across in my fandom.


                            • Herein Lies Xavier Teller


                              In a first meeting a man can be anything. The fact that he is not who you thought he was does not amaze me; it’s that he fooled every last one of you. You met a man. Across the table and under his red vest and beard, his eyes were lit. He threw his hands around when speaking, leaned in to listen, and even leaped at his own insightfulness.

                              You found hope in a bookstore. Hope— while its substance is unseen, it smells like Starbucks' coffee and Xavier’s cologne doesn’t it? Yes, it feels like the store’s heating on a winter day. They say passion is contagious. Has Xavier’s spirit which infected you gone on to heaven or hell? Or where is it that a psycho’s poor soul goes?

                              A letter was sent declaring his death and inviting you to his funeral. Upon arriving, the body looked different: longer hair, a longer beard, a necklace. You felt reverence but could not weep for a man you met once. Wait. Nobody was weeping. How curious a funeral without tears must be, my dear brother.

                              Upon speaking with them, not one of the funeral attendees met him more than once. You met a life coach, he a professor, she a preacher, she an astronaut, he a Christian, she a Muslim, and so on. To all of you, lied Xzavier Teller. Did he have no family? Did he have no one to cry for him?

                              The most embarrassing thing is what you told me. You met a man, and he talked you into believing. You, yourself, said you were hopeless and living in our parents’ basement. You sentenced yourself there. You were imprisoned, until he talked of faith and paraphrased words of Martin Luther King. The Dr. said something like, faith is taking the first step without seeing the end of the staircase.

                              Did he gather you all together to laugh at you from the other side? Is this where the staircase ends? Or have you advanced far enough to forget where the stairs began? Wherein your heart, does Xzavier Teller lie now?

                              Yours truly and waiting for your return,

                              See the latest of my Ric Flair saga click here. View my story inspired by colorful wrestlers I've come across in my fandom.


                              • Would that we all could know something like X. Teller!

                                The '92 Rumble! The Brain's Finest Hour!