Beyond the Divide: Part 17

Mark sat at his kitchen table with the binder closed in front of him. His phone was beside it to the right. The screen was dark.

He ran a hand over the cover of the binder. It was shiny and smooth where it hadn’t been doodled on. It smelled of plastic like those little dolls that Liz used to play with. Mark let out a deep breath and pulled the zipper along the edges. The spine creaked when he drew the cover open.

It was filled with lined paper that had yellowed at the edges. Mark flipped through but it was all from when Liz was a kid, mostly quick sketches and notes about boys she liked. Some girls too, he noticed for the first time. At the back was a plastic folder with three pockets. In one was a woven bracelet and three pennies. The second was empty. The third had been coloured over with pencil crayon. It bulged in the middle. Mark lifted the flap and fished around inside. He took out a flash drive and held it in the flat of his hand.

Mark watched it for a moment, unsure what to do. He looked across the room, closed his fingers around it, then stood and walked to the living room.

Mark sat down on the couch. With his free hand he lifted his laptop from the side table and set it down on his knees. He pushed the lid open and stuck the flash drive into one of the USB ports. When the computer woke up and the window opened, he slid his finger along the track pad and clicked on the only file folder. Mark scrolled through and opened each file and picture. With the audio files he only listened to the first few seconds. He was not sure what they meant but got the feeling it wasn’t good. After he had opened all of the files, Mark closed the lid of his laptop and stared at the wall.

 

***

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

Beyond the Divide: Part 16

Liz stood with her hands at her side. She wanted the comfort of sticking them in her pockets, but they were sewed shut. “If I had known I was going to be stuck in these pants forever I would have worn something more reasonable.” Liz said.

Evie looked up to Liz. “Pardon?”

Liz shook her head and held her hands in front of her. “Nothing.”

Evie nodded and looked back to the apartment building in front of them. “Are you ready?”

“I think so. I’m not sure which is hers though.”

“Close your eyes.”

“What? Why?”

“Go on.”

Liz frowned and looked sidelong at Evie, then she faced forward and closed her eyes.

“Anything?” Evie said.

“I don’t know what I’m waiting for.”

“Say her name.”

Liz adjusted her stance and made a face like she was uncomfortable. “Gloria.”

“Her whole name.”

“Gloria Dworetsky.”

The darkness behind Liz’s eyelids changed and a pinpoint of light hovered up and to her right. She opened her eyes. “Third floor. One in from the corner.”

“Excellent.” Evie held out a hand. “Lead the way.”

Liz nodded her head and the light changed.

Liz and Evie stood facing a plain wooden door with tarnished brass numbers and two deadbolts. A strip of police tape was hanging from the door frame. The wall paper surrounding the door was plain and beige. The carpet was anything but. The multicolour pattern was so intricate that it hurt Liz’s eyes to look at.

“Should we knock?” Liz said.

Evie scrunched her face and pondered for a moment. “Why?”

“I don’t know. Maybe there’s rules I don’t know about. Plus, something feels… wrong.”

Evie nodded. “When you enter, you need to be careful.”

“What do you mean?”

“Protect yourself. You don’t want anything following you when you go.”

“How do I do that?”

“Imagine yourself in a giant bubble. Take three deep breaths and spin around seven times.” Evie tilted her head. “Oh, and don’t forget to say the magic words.”

“Really?”

Evie smiled. “No. Not really. Keep it all at arm’s length. You will feel it.”

Liz nodded. She gave Evie one last glance, then walked through the door.

The room was smaller than Liz had expected. It may have seemed small because it was full of antique furniture and had huge abstract canvases on every wall. The carpet was a light colour but had a large, blotchy stain in the middle of the living room. Liz scanned the room and settled her focus on the back corner of the main room. A woman was crouched down behind the large swiss-cheese leaves of a tropical plant in a wide, blue ceramic pot. She wore ivory, silk pyjamas and her hair was up in a bun. Her feet were flat on the ground but she was tucked in on herself, with her arms wrapped around her legs and her face down on her knees.

Liz stepped forward. “Gloria?”

The woman twitched but did not respond.

“Gloria. It’s me, Liz.”

The woman rocked forward on the balls of her feet and looked up just enough to see who was standing in front of her.

“Gloria, it’s okay, you can come out.”

Gloria lowered her eyes and spoke in a hushed voice. “No.”

Liz knelt down. “I promise.”

“No,” Gloria said, louder this time. “The dog will come back to get me.”

“He won’t, Gloria. I’m here… I’m here to protect you.”

Gloria made a small, whimpering sound.

“You mentioned the dog. Does that mean you remember? Do you remember what happened?”

Gloria talked into her knees. “He said I knew something, but I didn’t. I really didn’t.”

“Who’s ‘he’, Gloria? Was it Christopher?”

“I didn’t know anything, but he said I did, and he sent the dog.”

“I know, I’m sorry.”

Gloria lifted her head. Her eyes were hard and tight. “This is your fault.”

Liz shook her head. “No, they blamed it on me, but I swear I had nothing to do with it. Just like you.”

Gloria unwrapped her hands and set them on the floor. Her neck was cut across her larynx. Blood soaked down the front of her shirt, it glistened in the dim light. “This is your fault!”

Liz felt pressure pushing against her and trying to wrap itself around her. She closed her eyes and pushed back.

Gloria screamed. “This is your fault!”

Liz opened her eyes to see Gloria crawling toward her. Her head had almost been severed. It was at an odd angle and resting off to one side. Liz stood and jumped back. “Jesus!”

Gloria screamed again, a piercing shriek that shook the walls. “This is your fault!”

Liz balled up her fists. Warmth built until it was almost unbearable. She looked down and they were glowing. She shouted and held them out toward Gloria. Pure light filled the room. When it faded, Gloria was back behind the leaves, glaring.

Liz took two steps back and then looked to the door from the corner of her eye. When she looked ahead, Gloria was gone.

 

***

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

 

 

Beyond the Divide: Part 15

Mark sat with his hands on his lap. He looked around the bright apartment. It was like something out of a design magazine. Clean and modern, with the right amount of kitsch.

Poppy came into the room, set a mug down in front of Mark, and another at her own spot at the table. She sat down and wrapped her hands around the mug. “She really didn’t talk about us?”

“Maybe, I mean, she didn’t come right out and say anything. Or I didn’t pay attention.” Mark sat up straight. “Not that she would have been trying to hide anything, I’m sure. I hope it wasn’t because she thought I would have a problem with it. She was just Liz, you know? Things were the way they were. It wasn’t something to make a big deal of.”

Poppy smiled and her chin quivered. “Yeah, you’re right.”

“Plus, as sad as it is to say, we haven’t talked a lot lately. I’ve been busy with work, and…”

Poppy reached out and set her hand over Mark’s. “Don’t you dare blame yourself for the distance. She could have done better too.”

“Yeah, well, we both could have I guess.”

“You’re not alone. Everyone struggles with it.”

“Does that make it better?”

Poppy shrugged. “No, but sometimes it’s easier when you know you’re not alone.”

“I suppose so.” Mark took a sip from the mug. The coffee was strong but had just the right amount of sweetness. “Things were, I don’t know, good with you guys?”

Poppy smiled. “They couldn’t have been better. She really was amazing. We had even talked about getting married. One day, anyway.”

“Wow, I had no idea things were that serious. I mean…”

Poppy held a hand up. “It’s okay, Mark, really.”

Mark frowned and watched his hands. “That kind of connection, it’s special. I’m sorry things turned out the way they have.”

Poppy wiped away a tear at the corner of her eye. “Me too.”

“This is a stupid question, but you knew her better than me, I guess. What they’re saying, about the money, and the…”

“It’s not true. None of it. The Liz I knew could never be capable of the things they’re saying,” Poppy said.

“Good. I mean, me neither. It’s just that I see the things they’re saying on the news, and I get confused.”

Poppy nodded.

“Sorry, we don’t need to talk about it.”

“It’s okay.”

They sat in silence for a time, staring at the table and sipping their coffees.    

“Listen,” Mark said. “I know this is a weird question, but did Liz have an old binder with a bunch of flowers and doodles on it? She had it since we were kids. I… I thought about it the other day. I’m not sure why.”

Poppy twisted her lips and looked up at the ceiling. “Yeah, I think it’s upstairs. Did you want to see it?”

Mark stammered at first. “Yeah. If I could, that would be great.”

 

***

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

 

 

Beyond the Divide: Part 14

“Should I hide or something?”

“It knows you’re here. As long as you keep your distance, things will be fine. It has other things to focus on.”

Liz half-lifted a hand and pointed at Mark. “What… what is it doing?”

Evie frowned. “Nothing good.”

Liz blinked and Evie was gone. She turned back toward Mark. The shadow’s form twisted over him, like smoke and ash swirling over a burning building. When it settled, Liz stepped back and reached out for the nearest tree.

The eyes were depthless orbs, large and menacing. It rested forward on its knuckles, with its muscular arms set on either side of Mark. They were as thick as he was, and almost as tall. The lower half of its body tapered to short but powerful legs. Wide shoulders flowed to a broad head and elongated snout. Its lips curled and Liz was certain that if she had been closer she would have heard it snarling.

Liz blinked again and Evie was standing near the shadow. She had a foul look on her young face as she raised her open hands toward it. The dog took a step back but went no further. Liz felt there was a conversation happening, or an argument, but she was not privy to a word of it. Evie widened her stance and set her hands down low. Her fingertips started to glow but soon she was enveloped in blue, flickering light up to her elbows.

Mark, Christopher, and her mother talked inches away as if nothing was wrong. Liz saw Christopher hand something to Mark and walk away. The monster hesitated, then turned to follow him.  It looked back to Evie for a split second before breaking apart and dissipating.

“Who was that man?”

Liz flinched. She looked beside her to Evie. “He was my boss.”

“The darkness, it’s attached to him.”

“What do you mean?”

“He called it. It does his bidding, to an extent.”

“Does that mean…”

“The darkness knows you. I think it is the reason you are here.”

Liz’s lips pinched tight.

“You don’t remember how it happened, do you?”

Liz shook her head. “Not all of it.”

Evie looked down the hill. “There was another.”

“What do you mean, another?”

“Yours was not the only life taken.”

Liz turned her eyes away. “Gloria.”

 

***

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

 

 

Beyond the Divide: Part 13

Mark sighed and put his hands in his pockets. He thought they were done, that they could get out of the sun, but then a man in a tailored suit walked around in front of them.

The man reached out and took Mark’s mother by her hand and shook it gently. “Mrs. Odera, I’m so sorry for your loss. Everyone at the office is heartbroken.”

Mark’s mother hesitated. Her mouth opened, and then closed. “You worked with Liz?”

“Oh, yes. Very closely.”

The man turned to Mark and reached out. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

Mark took the man’s hand. He looked into the man’s neutral eyes and was overcome with a sense of weight, of sadness. “Thank you,” Mark said.

“Such a terrible situation,” the man said and raised an eyebrow. “It’s a shame that none of us saw it coming.”

Mark nodded and pulled his hand back. “Yeah.”

“If there’s anything I can do, anything at all, please reach out.” The man put his hand in his coat pocket and pulled out a business card. He held it out to Mark.

Mark looked down at the card. He took it and held it out in front of him. In large letters on the front it showed Christopher Marston, Executive Director. “Thank you. We will.”

The man gave a thin smile, nodded to both Mark and his mother, and then walked away.

Mark blinked and then looked around him. His breath was short and shallow. He held a hand out and rested it on his mother’s shoulder. “I, uh… I need to go sit down. I’ll meet you at the car, okay?”

 

***

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

 

 

Beyond the Divide: Part 12

Liz crossed her arms low on her body. Evie looked up at her. “What’s the matter?”

“I don’t know. I expected more. I don’t recognize half of the people down there.”

“You have people that care enough about you to come out into the world to show it. That is not a small thing.”

“I know. I’m not sure why it’s a big deal.”

“None of us really know what our impact was in life, not really. I wouldn’t be disappointed.”

“Maybe.” Liz stayed silent as the ceremony came to an end and the reception line moved through.

She clenched her right hand and rested the knuckle of her pointer finger against her lips. She smiled but her eyes were sad. “Oh, Poppy.” Liz looked down to Evie. “She’s so comfortable with people. So caring. Maybe that’s why we got along so well. She has qualities in abundance that I lack.”

“That’s important, finding someone to balance you.”

Liz lowered her head. “Yeah.” She sniffed and wiped at her nose. When she looked at her hand, it was dry. “Old habits die hard I guess?”

Evie nodded. “That is true.”

Liz brushed her hair back behind her ears. She looked down at her mother and brother. They stood staring straight ahead as Poppy walked away.

A man came out from the trees behind them. He walked to stand in front and reached his hand out toward Liz’s mother. Liz saw the hint of a smile on the man’s face. “What the hell…”

A shadow moved behind the trio. Liz was about to pose a new question, but Evie moved in front of her and held an arm out. “Stay back.”

“What? Why?”

“I mentioned before about how when some people stay that the human parts get forgotten?”

Liz nodded.

“That right there, has not an ounce of humanity left.”

 

***

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

 

 

Beyond the Divide: Part 11

Mark stood beside his mother. He smiled through turned down lips and shook the hands of relatives he hadn’t seen since he was a child. The turn-out wasn’t what he had expected, but then, rumours of a murderer and thief in the family have a way of helping people decide they would rather stay home.

The last person in line dabbed at her eyes with a silk handkerchief and stopped in front of Mark’s mother. Her wavy, dark hair was pushed back in a loose braid. She wore a simple, knee length black dress, but it was the type of simple that came with a big price tag. She held the kerchief in one hand and a small, plain clutch in the other. They hugged and exchanged a few words.

Mark was caught off guard when the woman moved in front of him and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Oh, Mark, I’m so sorry. Everything about this is so terrible.”

Mark brought one hand up and set it on her back. Her hair was soft on his cheek. She smelled like lemongrass. When she pulled back, Mark fixated on her soft, brown eyes.

“Who…”

“Oh.” The woman’s eyes went wide. “I’m sorry, it’s been a while since I’ve seen you.” She fanned her fingers out with the kerchief tucked by her thumb. “Poppy. I’m… I mean, I was Liz’s…”

“Roommate?” Mark said.

Poppy’s eyes moved to Mark’s mother.

“Mark, this is Liz’s girlfriend,” his mother said.

Words caught in Mark’s throat. His face flushed with colour.

Poppy sniffled and shrugged. “It’s okay. I mean…”

Mark held a hand up and shook his head. “No, no. I’m sorry. I… I should have known.”

“It’s okay, really.”

“No, I’m an idiot.”

Poppy reached out and held Mark’s hand between hers. “Mark, I promise, it’s okay.”

Mark let out a long breath. His lips pinched together, and he closed his eyes. “Sorry.”

When he opened them again, Poppy gave a short laugh, and wiped at another tear. “Liz talked about you all the time. I guess I feel like I know you so well already.”

“I wish I could say the same,” Mark said. “How long were you guys…”

“About three years.”

Mark lowered his head. “Oh, wow.”

“We’ve lived together for the last six months or so.”

Mark nodded, and he tilted his head. He looked up to Poppy and forced a smile. “Do you think we could, I don’t know, get together for a coffee or something? I could come over, when you’re ready of course. It would mean a lot to catch up.”

Poppy returned his sad smile. “That would mean a lot to me if you did.”

Mark nodded. “Thank you.” He reached into the inner pocket of his jacket and took out a small ring-bound notepad and pen. He flipped to a clean page and started writing. When he was done, he ripped the page free and held it out for Poppy.

Poppy took the piece of paper and tucked it into her clutch. “I’ll talk to you soon, Mark.”

They gave each other an awkward smile, and then Poppy walked away. She moved along the row of headstones and turned down a gravel pathway. Mark looked across the path to a group of trees on a low rise. He thought he caught movement, maybe a flash of light. When he focused on it, he did not see anything out of the ordinary.

 

***

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

Choose Well: Part 4

“Speaking of being greedy, asking for more wishes, that’s a classic. It doesn’t happen as often as you’d think these days. Usually it comes from the old, because they know the fairy tales, or from the young, because they’re very good at finding ways to get what they want. It should be easy, right? Just ask for more.  A hundred maybe, or a hundred thousand, or the largest number you can think of. Who wouldn’t want to have so many second chances? If the first wish doesn’t work out, you can try and fix it. I’ve always wondered though, would anything ever get done? If you had so many opportunities to make things perfect, would there be anything else? All your time would be spent adjusting, going back to a single moment over and over again. There would be nothing else but the act of trying to make life the way you want it to be, but at the same time it’s slipping through your fingers. Experiencing the good and the bad is what life is all about. You know, life is the journey, not the destination.” The man took another drag from his cigarette. “Anyway, back to my point. People ask, but in this case they don’t get. The universe is generous, but only to a point, no matter what people believe. One opportunity to change the course of history is a gift that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Sometimes you only get one chance, you’d better make it count.”

 

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This and That but Mostly the Other is a collection of moments, from the briefest glimpse to those more complex. It’s about introductions and endings. It is a reminder of what was, and a glimpse of things to come. Available in print and e-book February 2019.

Follow here, on Twitter,  Instagram, or subscribe at pencilonpaper.ca to stay up to date.

 

Choose Well: Part 3

“Let’s say, just for a moment, that you are wrong. Given the chance, what would you wish for?”

“I’m not sure. What do people normally wish for in these types of situations? You know, given the chance.”

“Well,” the genie said, crossing his arms and leaning back, “that is a very good question. For the most part they are the same. Love, or hate, or greed. The most basic of instincts I suppose. A lot of people ask for money. The problem with that is, once you get some, you generally want more. Perhaps that goes for most things though.  Answer me this. Why are there billionaires? Who could ever need that much? I’ll tell you, it comes down to power over others. Why else would it be necessary? One person could eliminate most of the world’s poverty, but does it happen? Of course not.” The man shook his head. “All that money, just sitting around. When they die it goes to their children, or their lawyers, and the cycle will repeat. How does that make any sense?”

“So is that why people ask for it? Just to be rich?”

“Some think it will give them freedom. From what? That is different each time. I never understood it, truth be told. Trust me, true freedom isn’t something you would enjoy. We all need things to attach ourselves to. Not physical things mind you, but people, or ideals. These help define who you are. Anyway, most are just greedy, I suppose.”

 

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This and That but Mostly the Other is a collection of moments, from the briefest glimpse to those more complex. It’s about introductions and endings. It is a reminder of what was, and a glimpse of things to come. Available in print and e-book TODAY!!!

Follow here, on Twitter,  Instagram, or subscribe at pencilonpaper.ca to stay up to date.

 

Loss

I’m standing with my hands out against the shower wall. Hot water is flowing over my head and down my face. It’s mixing with the tears and washing them away.

Our existence is linear and there is only one destination. People get old or they get sick, and then they die. It will happen to all of us one day, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept.

Near the end, the questions of should I or shouldn’t I become more urgent. I think about how it might have been if I was more present. I can’t escape the missed opportunities where I left things unsaid or undone, and how unfair it is that sometimes there are no second chances. The guilt of it all sweeps through my body and it makes me weak.

I wonder why it takes a loss for us to remember what is important. Why it’s so hard to find a happy medium between living for today and not forgetting our responsibilities. Why we continue to do things every day that bring us no joy as the end inches ever closer.

I’m standing with my hands out against the shower wall. I’m waiting for the answers to come, for life to make some sort of sense. Or maybe, I’m just waiting for the tears to stop.

 

***

 

For Grandpa Joe

 

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Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash