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Look — A Short Story

Blue Eye Macro

Once she stopped shaking, Sam looked at her phone.

Zero Hour being less than twenty minutes away now, her thoughts turned to the person responsible. Oh, Leah. You and your I-know-you’ll-do-the-right-thing smile. Smile at this. Sam’s boots, socks, pants, sweatshirt, T-shirt, bra, and underwear went into her bag, on the bench opposite the mirror.

Seeing is not believing. Her eyes traveling the length of the scar on each thigh, both longer than the one that ran down her forehead, Sam was reminded of that truth. “Mr. Mirror,” she tsked, “you are a liar.” Returning to her bag, she grabbed two pieces of clothing: A yellow bathrobe and matching slippers.

Locking the door behind her, Sam walked past the other unoccupied changing rooms and opened a door to the place where she would be breaking out of her comfort zone: the art room. Bright, with spotless white surfaces and the lingering scent of cleaning agents, it would not be out of place in a hospital.

Gazing out the windows whose shutters had yet to be lowered, she could see, by the sunlight shining through the overcast sky, the beginning of a snowfall. The sight of flakes made her shiver despite her robe and the heater she had asked be turned on before her arrival, her one request of the woman seated behind a desk with downcast eyes and red pen in hand. Sam approached her.

“Ready, Professor Abbott.”

Looking up from her work, her scowl became a smile. “Good,” she said, pointing to a chair set apart from the rest. “Feel free to take a seat while you wait. The door doesn’t open for…,” she glanced at the clock above the door, “…ten more minutes.”

Standing on the platform in the middle of the room as students, their seats arranged in a circle around her, took out their art pads and pencils, Sam focused on only one. Taking off her slippers, her hands gripping the sash of her robe, the look Leah gave her now was the same one she had seen while they were walking home in the raw after spending another Sunday morning at the lake.

“How different will it be?” said Leah, stepping over an exposed tree root in the middle of the dirt path. “You’ll never know for sure until you go for it.”

Rising above the falls in the distance, the sun had burned away last night’s fog, leaving a clear sky. Above their heads, the trees shed their leaves. And, in the silence of the forest, Sam found her voice. “What about you? You’re the artist.”

“And…” Leah said with a smile, stopping.

“‘And’ what?” said Sam, nervously twirling her hair.

Leah took Sam’s hands in her own.

“And: You are my muse.”

Aware that her robe was now on the floor, Sam struck her first pose, the expression on her face saying what was in her heart: I know you’ll do the right thing.

The End

Thank you to the woman whose photo I used in this post.

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Eureka — A Short Story

Around Eureka, people rise to leave.

Her head bowed in prayer, Eureka ignored them.

She heard the voices coming from the foyer begin to fade. She heard the priest close the foyer doors. She heard nothing from the priest as he returned to his changing room behind the altar. She saw the church’s lights shut off.

Rising, Eureka left the pew, walking to the foyer’s double doors. Opening the door on the right, she took a right across the foyer, to the bathroom. Seeing that the bathroom door was partially open, she opened it farther before slipping inside, turning on the light, and closing it behind her.

Eureka undressed. In her underwear, as she was folding her pants, she remembered the paper. Pausing to make sure the folded piece of sketchbook paper was still in her right pocket, she resumed folding her pants. Finishing undressing, her folded clothes in a pile in the middle of the floor, she went to the door.

Opening the door an inch in order to make sure that there was no one in the foyer, Eureka opened the door all the way once she saw that the coast was clear. Turning off the bathroom light before crossing the foyer once again, opening the door on the right once again, and entering the church once again.

Naked and alone, Eureka walked down the aisle.

Her bare feet on marble was the only sound.

Shaking as much from fear as from the cold, Eureka took slow, deep breaths in order to calm herself. She could just make out the painting, illuminated by candles, above the altar. A painting of the three aspects of God. Eureka imagined they were speaking to her.

Father: “How dare you!”

Mother: “Whore!”

Child: “Why?”

Not slowing, stopping, or turning around, Eureka made it to the pew closest to the altar. Gingerly easing herself into the pew in order to not touch a surface with her butt, Eureka knelt, putting her elbows on the low wooden wall that separated the altar from the congregation, bowing her head, and clasping her hands in prayer.

“God…” she whispered. “See me. Just. See me. I know you must not like this, but… I wanted to do this. I felt I needed to do this. Even if you hated me, I needed you to see me. And I… I needed to see you.”

***

Eureka sat in a booth, enjoying the bar food that was her father’s gift on her 21st birthday. Giving her a moment to think about it as she took a drink of her water, he asked a question.

“Are you ready for your last final?”

Eureka answered. “As ready as I can be. Now I feel like all I can do is roll the dice.”

Her father smiled. “You’ll do great. Your mother and I are proud of you.”

“Thanks. I’m glad for this opportunity — to be here. I’ve learned a lot about myself.”

“Like what?”

“Being an editor is hard. It’s nothing like I thought it would be.”

Her father took a drink of his beer, steeling himself for the question he dreaded. “You have a back-up plan?”

“I’m working on it.”

Putting his left hand on the table, Eureka grasped it.

She was looking him in the eye when he said: “Your mother and I are thankful you waited. I know it must not have been easy living at home while your brother finished school.”

Eureka shook her head, appalled. “No. I knew you and mom could only do so much. I didn’t want to put pressure on you. Plus, I needed time. I wasn’t ready to make the leap from high school to college yet.”

“Thank you for thinking of us.”

“Yeah. You’ve done so much for me, and I want to do what I can for you.”

“No matter what, Eureka, you’ll always be our miracle child.”

She withdrew her hand.

“Dad–”

“Really. The doctors told us you wouldn’t make it. For the longest time, we couldn’t decide on a name. But when the doctors found that you would make it, as the saying goes: ‘The rest is history.’”

“‘You’ve been given a second chance,’ you’d say when I was younger. And I want to be worthy of that second chance.”

Eureka’s father could see that his daughter still had a habit of absentmindedly rubbing the inside of her forearms.

“Eureka–”

“I know you and mom say I have nothing to prove. But I wouldn’t be much of a ‘miracle child’ if I disappointed you, would I?”

“Eureka… I have to ask: How do you think you did this semester?”

***

The first awake that day in her on-campus apartment, Eureka sat on the floor in her pajamas just outside her open bedroom door with her arms wrapped around her legs and her head against her knees….

***

Eureka sat at her desk in her bedroom, her eyes widening in shock when she realized that the letter she had received was from her academic adviser….

***

Not looking him in the eye, Eureka answered her father’s question.

“Not good.”

***

Eureka sat at the dinner table, frowning at her laptop.

On the laptop’s screen was the Employment page on the public library’s website. This summer, there were no positions currently available.

Next to Eureka stood her mother, reading a letter. A letter from Eureka’s college.

“Seven thousand dollars, Eureka! How do you expect to pay this? Because there’s only so much your father and I can do now.”

Despite a gesture at her laptop, Eureka refused to blame technology. “I’m doing everything I can! You know that!”

Not wanting to hear any more, with a shake of her head, Eureka’s mother walked away.

In shock at seeing her so upset, Eureka reached into her right pants pocket and pulled out her cell phone.

Scrolling through her contact list, Eureka abruptly stopped as she came to a name: Theo.

“…it must not have been easy living at home while your brother finished school.”

She resumed scrolling.

She called a number.

“Lyra? It’s Eureka.”

***

Eureka raised her bowed head, trying to see, through her tears, the painted faces of the Father, Mother, and Child.

“I want to know that I’m enough,” she whispered. “I want to know that I was worth it to you. That I was worth saving.”

Sniffling, Eureka unclasped her hands and looked at the scars on the inside of her forearms.

***

Nude, Eureka sat in a chair in the middle of Lyra’s living room.

Across from her, on the couch, clothed, sat Lyra. Drawing.

Tightening her grip on the chair armrests, Eureka fought the urge to flinch.

Eureka imagined that every time Lyra’s pencil made contact with paper, she was being cut with a knife. The knife exposing Eureka’s regret and fear as it lay her bare.

Glancing down at her front, Eureka imagined herself covered in bleeding cuts.

The blood turning her white skin red, Eureka remembered her father’s words to her.

“Miracle child.”

The blood running down her skin made Eureka think of worms. Worms crawling out of an open grave.

Eureka imagined worms crawling out of her cuts and, in horror, drew in her breath sharply.

“Eureka, please don’t move.”

“Sorry.”

Eureka re-focused on Lyra, who continued drawing.

***

Narrowing her eyes, putting the pencil’s eraser to her lips and holding her sketchbook in front of her at arm’s length, Lyra was silent as Eureka sat still.

A moment later, she lowered her pencil and sketchbook.

“All done,” Lyra said with a smile.

Eureka sighed with relief.

“Thank you.”

“Thank you for allowing me to draw you. My Best Friend. That’s what I’m calling it. I think it turned out good.”

“Can I see it?”

Lyra nodded.

***

Tears drying on her cheeks, Eureka stood, in order to try and see God’s faces more clearly.

Feeling exposed, she took a step backward and, with the wood of the pew against her skin, was comforted by the knowledge that there was something solid at her back.

Suddenly, Eureka felt lips close around her right nipple.

Looking down, Eureka saw a naked little girl standing on her tiptoes, nursing. The girl’s hands on her for balance.

Their eyes meeting, the girl pulled away. She burped and giggled.

Staring at the girl licking her lips, then at her wet breast, Eureka uttered the first word that came to mind: “What…?”

Bright eyes found Eureka’s blushing face once again.

“Go- goo- good,” the girl said.

Recoiling, Eureka pointed to herself. “M-me?”

Beaming, the girl nodded.

***

Eureka got up from the chair to come and see Lyra’s drawing of her.

“One look at you today and I thought I’ve found it! And now you can keep ‘it.’”

Bending over, Eureka looked at the drawing.

She was speechless.

The drawing’s face radiated an inner peace Eureka did not believe that she herself had. On the drawing’s face was an expression that said “This will all be over soon.”

“What do you think?”

“It’s me…. It’s just not my life.”

“What do you mean?” said Lyra, concerned.

Eureka tapped the paper and looked at her.

“I haven’t found what you saw.”

The End

Fiction Writing — “Clean” Nudity

When my story, Sprout, was deemed by a critic to be more appropriate for middle schoolers (MG) than high schoolers (YA), I was surprised. Being about a teenage girl’s vacation at a nudist resort, I thought that fact alone would make Sprout a young adult story.

Yes, there is no strong language. (Melody, the protagonist, wishes she knew how to swear at a friend of hers, who is deaf, after the two have an argument.) Yes, there is no drinking or drug use. (Her mother parties hard, so Melody has resolved, after witnessing more than one hangover, to stay away from such things.) Yes, there is no sex. (The resort being a place for women, no males beyond a certain age are allowed.) And, yes, “complex” and “dark” subject matter is hinted at, but never made explicit. (To quote H.P. Lovecraft: “Memories and possibilities are ever more hideous than realities.”) So I believe I understand why that critic said what they said. And am grateful for it. Surprised. But grateful.

That experience taught me that what I was trying to do was working.

To explain:

I had planned on Melody having romantic feelings for a girl that she meets. I dropped that subplot because, after giving it more thought, it seemed to be there just for the sake of being there; I couldn’t come up with a reason to make two characters lesbians beyond: “Because diversity.” And I want there to be more to my writing than that.

Plus, say these three words out loud: “Teenage lesbian nudists.” Sounds like something out of an 18+ story, and that is not what I was going for. At all.

Sprout was inspired by a woman’s experience from her childhood. So if innocent is one word that could describe my story, that’s because I was trying to convey a childlike sense of looking at the world — the same sense that made me think That would make a good story after my conversation with the woman ended.

One of my aims with Sprout was to, for lack of better words, make nudity wholesome again. To not treat nudity like something “dirty” or “shameful” or “adult,” but as what it is: One aspect of a person.

Grass
Thank you to the person who took this photo.

Figure Modeling: My First Time

Yesterday I woke up two hours after my alarm went off and found out that tonight, not next week, is when a local artist would be looking for models for their event.

The shock did more for me than coffee ever could.

Practicing poses like I’d never practiced before, by the time I learned I might not actually be needed that night, I was torn. On the one hand, I was as ready as I’d ever be, and praying that I’d finally be able to actually do what I had practiced. On the other hand, I was nervous, and secretly hoping that other models would take my place so that I wouldn’t risk letting others, and myself, down.

When it was clear that the other models wouldn’t be showing up, I couldn’t believe it.

After a minute of choosing 1) whether I’d sit or stand, and 2) which pose was the most “natural,” I sat on a couch in the studio with my hands in my lap, like I was watching TV, while 10 or so people drew me. I felt like I was in a dream; all I could focus on was a random section of the ceiling, trying to be as still as possible for 20 minutes.

On a side note: When it was time to begin, I put my jacket on an unoccupied couch. Only to later discover a dog sleeping on it.

Twice — when the class was told “Five minutes left,” and then “We’re getting close to the end” (must’ve been a minute left) — I had to resist the urge to say “OK” or “Thank you.” Those were the most difficult parts.

In the beginning, I blinked a lot. I don’t know if it was because of the lighting, or because I was nervous, but thankfully I eventually didn’t do it so much. And it felt weird just sitting there, not moving. My eyes were on the ceiling, so I wouldn’t distract a person, or become distracted by them. But still: I felt like I should be moving — doing something. I felt like I was at a party, and every guest had their eyes on me. Unnatural is the word I would use to describe it.

But, that feeling passed. When it was announced that there was five minutes left, I thought That went fast. It was surreal, seeing the drawings people had done of me, using crayons, pastels, and pencils. I felt self-conscious, but also proud. Proud that I’d finally done what I had wanted to do since late summer, and proud that I’d been able to give these artists a person to draw.

I felt a mixture of gratitude and disappointment as two artists volunteered to do the other two poses. Gratitude because I’d done what I set out to do, and disappointment because I wouldn’t be doing it to the extent that I had practiced — I wouldn’t be doing three 20-minutes poses, which is what I thought was asked of me.

But, I grabbed two spare pieces of paper and two pencils, and drew the two volunteers to the best of my ability. I hadn’t drawn in years, and it showed. But no one judged. We were all there to have a good time, and I’m glad that everyone seemed to. And I’m glad that, in my own little way, I could play a part in it. The “Thanks!” I received as I walked out the door was the cherry on top of the sundae of awesomeness.

I’m on the lookout now for more opportunities to model, and it has been an eye-opening experience. Pride is a vice I struggle with. I can have an ego the size of a planet. And I don’t want figure modeling to be, say, a means to satisfy a desire for attention.

Thankfully, I wouldn’t say that figure modeling has become that. I see modeling as a hobby; something to do in addition to my other pursuits.

For now, the next time I see myself modeling is in winter. In February, an artist will be looking for portrait models and nude models. I’m going to see about modeling nude.

Image result for art stock photo

The Undead Girl: Chapter 4

I hadn’t realized how desperate I’ve been for human contact, until now.

I don’t know if my parents talked to him, or if he’s doing it because he wants to, but I’ve been sharing my bed with my little brother. Each night, he’s here as I put down this pen and let my mind wander.

What’s left of my mind, at least…. Earlier today I discovered that, if I shake my head, I can hear a sloshing sound. Like water in a water bottle. And I noticed this grey liquid coming out of my ears. I don’t like to think about what that means, but I’m going to write it down, just so I can get it off my chest: My brain is rotting.

Back to happier thoughts!

Thanks to my brother’s new exercise routine, and a growth spurt, he’s bigger than me. But, no matter how big he gets, he’ll always be the little boy who wet his pants during my first sleepover.

In elementary school, I invited my best friend over, and that night we were watching a movie in my room. My brother, feeling left out, demanded that Mom let him watch, too.

The movie my best friend and I were watching was so funny, my little brother laughed so hard he wet his pants. When my friend saw that, she laughed so hard the warm milk she was drinking came out of her nose. Which made me laugh so hard I choked on my cupcake. The two of them saved my life. But they couldn’t save my rug — I threw up on it. Mom can always remove the stain with magic, but I like it just the way it is.

Listening to my brother breathe when he’s deep in sleep, feeling how warm and strong he is when he sleepily wraps his arms around me like I am his teddy bear, knowing someone has my back… it means more than I can say.

If my brother ever wants to tell me why he’s staying with me, I don’t want to hear it. Let it be a mystery. Some things are just too beautiful to know.

milk-650x380
Thank you to the person who took this photo.

Modeling: Why I’m Thankful For It

In two weeks, I will have the opportunity to be a figure model.

Now that I believe I can confidently step into an artist’s studio, I find myself feeling an emotion I didn’t think I would: Gratitude. This might sound weird, but I never thought I’d be grateful to be a model.

Up until recently, whenever I would think about modeling, Anxious would be the word I would use to describe my state of mind. I was worried that I was modeling for the wrong reason. I was worried that I was trying to be someone else. I was worried that I wasn’t being true to myself.

Now that that time is over, I find modeling to be something I’m looking forward to. At a time in my life where so much is up in the air, modeling reminds me that I have a lot to offer. Modeling reminds me to look inside myself, and see the good.

Stress
Thank you to the person who took this photo.

The Undead Girl: Chapter 3

Good news: My dad found a solution to my condition.

Bad news: It’s not a long-term solution.

As far as I know, Mom’s magic no longer works on me. But: It does still work on everyone and everything else. So, thanks to Dad’s research, Mom used her magic to change the environment in my room to one that will slow down my body’s decay. From what they told me, it was pretty morbid research; case after case of people being found who’d been dead for thousands of years, but you’d never know it to look at them. My room has gone from a figurative to a literal swamp.

Mom also used her magic to preserve my diary. Now, not even a nuke could destroy this thing. (But let’s not test it, OK?)

For the first time, I felt like there was hope. Hope for what? I don’t know. There was just hope. Hope that didn’t last…

I can live in a swamp. But, I can’t ask my family to sacrifice so much for me.

“That’s what family is for,” I imagine you, person reading this, saying. But… it’s like… instead of my mom, dad, little brother and I all being ships sailing on this big, beautiful ocean called Life, I’ve become an anchor that is preventing them from sailing as far or as fast as they otherwise would.

What I’m trying to say is: I feel like I’m holding my family back. And they deserve to not be tied down by me. They’ve already done so much for me. And when I see what else they’re prepared to do, I hate myself.

I’ve never felt so low that I seriously considered giving up, if you know what I mean. And now is no exception. But, at the same time: I can’t live with myself. I can stand becoming just bones. I can’t stand putting the people I love through hell.

That’s why I’m actually glad to be like this. Now I see what the people in my life mean to me.

Swamp

 

The Undead Girl: Chapter 2

Remember when I said, “I don’t see how things can get worse”?

Guess what? Things got worse.

Earlier this morning, when Mom came into my room to change my bandages and clean up the mess that my decaying body was making, she informed me that, in vampire circles, I am known as “The Abomination.” Since my hot, red blood is now more of a cold, black paste, I am the only being on Earth immune to a vampire’s bite.

You might think that having a mother who can do magic would be a dream come true. But I always saw magic the same way I saw math. Whenever Mom would start talking about it, I’d zone out; it was like she was speaking another language. I can’t do magic, I thought, so what’s the point of learning about it? And since my “accident,” none of her spells work on me anymore. All Mom can do is keep me in one piece.

Putting one foot on the floor made me not want to find out what would happen if I tried supporting my own weight, so I got back under my covers. I’ve been in bed for two days.

I’m not hungry anymore. Or thirsty. And sleeping is weird. I basically tell myself I’m going to sleep now, and suddenly it’s like I’m out of my body, just watching myself lie in bed until I decide to “come back.” When I’m that way, I can see the dark spirits circling my body like predators circling prey, waiting for my spirit to be gone for good so they can get back to their fun. That’s when I remind myself that all I’m going through isn’t for nothing.

I don’t care if I went to Paradise or Heaven or wherever — I wouldn’t be able to live with myself knowing that some dark spirit was using my body as a toy, causing others to suffer. I imagine my spirit-possessed body eating my little brother’s eyes like they’re candy and drinking blood from my parents’ skulls. That’s when I want to cry. And then I remember that I have no more tears.

Yesterday, Mom and Dad told me they took my little brother out of school. They don’t want anyone to know what happened to me, and expose the existence of magic users and vampires, so my family has been laying low.

It’s not all bad, though.

I don’t want to hold anything heavier than a pen, so when I’m not writing in this diary or “sleeping,” I’m watching shows and movies with my little brother. I’m glad he’s keeping me company. We don’t fight anymore.

The Undead Girl: Chapter 1

What you need to know is: My boyfriend killed me. He’s a vampire. And, despite his promises, he couldn’t resist his desire for blood.

Since my dad’s potion was flowing through my veins when it happened, all my former boyfriend’s bite did was kill me.

My mom, being a sorceress, brought “me” back using forbidden magic. I put me in quotes because it turns out that forbidden magic is forbidden for a reason. You see, a dark spirit reanimated my body and was treating it like a toy. Thanks, Mom…

Turns out there is a god. And before I could say “What the hell?” I found myself back in my body. That dark spirit couldn’t be allowed to have free rein.

Thanks to rot, I can now see my insides. My bones are as fragile as glass. And my hair is falling out. I am literally a walking corpse.

My life cannot be like it was, because my time has already come and gone. But, I’ve been sent back. To make things right.

On the bright side: I don’t see how things can get worse.

Bloody Hand
Thank you to the person who made this photo possible.