Humanity and Hemoglobin

Blood dribbled across my lips and down my chin. The metallic tinge in the liquid rolled across my tongue, and I wondered at its ability to sustain life. However, I was very careful to not let too much of it fall into my throat, spilling most of it over my front. I didn’t like the taste. Never had. But right now, it was a necessity, because that’s what vampires drank, and that’s what I needed to be.

I tried not to look at Bill’s body as it hung in the vampire’s secret kitchen, draining of blood and lifeless. Only hours before, he had been doing cannon balls into the house’s pool and splashing the girls in the hot tub. Like the rest of us, he had been overjoyed at receiving the invitation to join the new reality TV show One Big House, hoping it would rocket him to stardom. Now we would be lucky to leave alive, let alone be famous.

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I’d had the good fortune of a warning when I saw the “producer” lady make the first attack on one of the other house guests in what we had thought was an interview room. However, I didn’t have much time after that before the screaming began. The only person I’d come across to warn was Karen, and she’d laughed off my story like I was a drunken lunatic. I knew my luck would run out sooner or later, and they would find me no matter how stealthily I crept around the house.

Sneaking back from the secret kitchen behind the hidden door in the pantry, I poked my head out for a split second to take in my surroundings. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Well, nothing but the dead silence. Only two steps out, and a hand appeared from nowhere, grabbing my shirt and slamming me against the refrigerator. When my vision cleared, I saw what I had thought was the cameraman baring his fangs at me.

“A little mouse, squeaking around to find a way out of the trap, huh?” 

Now was the time to see if my bluff would work. I put a hand on his chest to hold him back as much as I could. “Do I look like a mouse to you?” I indicated the blood around my mouth and down my front.

His thick, brown eyebrows wiggled in confusion, and he sniffed me. “You smell like a human.”

I scoffed and gently pressed on his hand that held me. He reluctantly released me as I explained. “Of course, I smell human. I’m soaked in human blood, and I’ve been cozying up to them for days.”

He shrugged. “I guess that makes sense. I didn’t know we were gonna have anyone on the inside.” He leaned back against the island countertop.

“It’s a good way to ask them about their background; figure out which might have people come looking for them,” I said, thankful that this monster had basically handed me my cover story.

The cameraman chuckled. “Then I guess we have nothing to worry about since Mistress Georgia gave the order to take them.”

“I guess not,” I agreed, though I wanted to ask more when his words struck me, hinting that the others might not all be dead. But asking more might give away that I wasn’t actually one of them. “Is this the only one we are allowed to snack on?” I pointed back toward the pantry and Bill’s body, trying not to gag as I remembered the buckets that were collecting his blood.

“For now,” the cameraman confirmed. “We’ve got the rest in the basement, screaming and whining. It’s pathetic. One even tried threatening us, saying that her father will come and get the lot of us thrown in jail.” He laughed as he turned to walk away. “I don’t think she realizes what we are, or that you were making sure nobody would look for them.” I was sure he was talking about Karen. “Come on. The Mistress has called a meeting, and you know how she gets if someone is late.”

If I went to that meeting, I would be found out the moment the producer, who was apparently their leader, Mistress Georgia, saw me. “Alright,” I said, as I grabbed a wooden spoon from the kitchen counter and followed. I prayed that some of the lore about vampires was true. As quick as I could, I snapped one end of the spoon handle to give it a point and jammed it into the monster’s back, hoping it hit the heart. 

He spun around with a snarl that cut off in a faint whimper. As he fell to his knees, his skin turned an ashy grey with red cracks growing through it. Before I knew it, he was just a smoldering pile of dust and clothing.

My heart, which had decided to pump into overdrive, began to slow, and I calmed myself by doing something normal, like sweeping up a pile of dust and folding clothing. I hid the clothes and retrieved my weaponized spoon, but it was obvious that I would need more. Unfortunately, it seemed like the vampires had done a decent job of avoiding using wood in their mansion of a house. After a few minutes of searching and sharpening, I only had my original spoon stake, a couple more broken off a cutting board, a longer one from one of the cupboard doors, and a kitchen knife.

And with my new arsenal, I took a step into the hall only to realize that I didn’t know where I was headed. The obvious choice at this point would be to escape. The longer I stayed here, the more likely it would be that I would end up very, very dead. But the words of the now pile of dust echoed in my head. We’ve got the rest in the basement, screaming and whining. The conversation with myself went back and forth for too long.

What could I do for them anyway? I could go get help. How many would die while I was away? Maybe none. Maybe all. Why would I risk my life for them? I hardly know them. They are just random people I met here. I don’t even like some of them. So, who would care or blame me if I just escaped? They might. Their families might. Naturally, they would have at least some people that loved them, even if they had cut ties to one another. I had family and friends I didn’t talk too much, but I knew we loved each other. Each one of the people who had come here had completely different lives that had never touched my life until now. What made my life more valuable than theirs? It’s mine.

Then one question came to mind that I couldn’t ignore. What if your positions were switched? I would hope that anyone who could help would decide to do so. I would pray that anyone human would show up. Because at this point, all humans were in this together, to live. That common strive to live was what linked us, and the undead couldn’t share that.

I was halfway to the presumably locked front door when the guilt and sudden connection to my housemates turned me around. 

It didn’t take long to find the door to the basement. While I figured the meeting had occupied most of the vampire/TV crew, I assumed they weren’t dumb enough to leave the humans unguarded. I went over several scenarios of what I might encounter down there, along with how I would deal with it, but the uncertainty of the next few minutes made my hands shake as I concealed my improvised weapons about my person and stepped down the stairs.

Everything looked normal down in the basement, with the huge couches, ping-pong table, pool table, and stocked bar. However, the door in the back, which had always been locked, was now open to a shadowy room. I walked toward it, strolling as casually as possible, and stepped in. My eyes adjusted quickly enough to take in the cement floors and iron bars which penned the rest of the humans in the back half of the room. They all looked up at my entrance, as did the boom operator on my side of the cage door. She leaned against the wall, filing her nails.

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Scenario 3 it is, I thought.

“What the…?” the vampire started.

“You?” That screech came from the cage as Karen slammed her hands against the bars. “You’re one of them?”

Good, I thought. Help me play the part.

Tossing her anger aside with an annoyed huff wasn’t difficult to fake, and I turned to the guard. “They want one of them for the meeting. Can you open the cage?”

She looked at me for a second, clearly confused from remembering me as a guest at the house. But after a moment, she shrugged. “Sure. Can you save some for me?” she asked with a glance and the blood covering my face and shirt.

“I’ll do my best,” I assured as she pulled out a key and turned to the door in the iron bars.

The door swung inward and the humans huddled into the corners. I followed the guard inside and slipped one of my wooden stakes from my sleeve.

“Any volunteers?” she asked the group with a chuckle.

I lifted my arm to make the strike.

She, however, turned around very quickly, and I was too slow. She locked my arm in her hand, digging into it with her newly sharpened nails. I dropped the stake to the floor. 

“Looks like we have a little trickster trying to be a big hero,” she said with a hiss before pushing me to the ground and pinning my arms to the ground with her knees. “I’ve heard that bravery adds some good spice to the taste.” Her fangs elongated and she descended to drain me of life.

I closed my eyes, accepting my death, only to hear a grunt and gasp. I peeped out, seeing my attacker turn the same ashy color with red cracks. Before I could push her off, she crumbled and covered me in dust that tasted like moldy bread. Coughing and choking, I tried to get back to my feet.

More weight suddenly fell on top of me, and I felt a splintered point against my throat. When the dust cleared, I saw Gary grimacing above me.

“Get off, Gary,” I said, trying to push him off. 

He tilted to one side then righted himself on top of me, returning the point of my own weapon to my throat. “You’re covered in blood. You’re one of them.”

“The guard attacked him after he tried to kill her, Gary,” Pat whispered. “He’s one of us.”

The point lifted from my jugular and Gary frowned in thought. “Where’d the blood come from?”

I hesitated in answering, but when I did, I couldn’t meet anyone in the eye. “Bill. They drained him dry.” I heard a gasp and sob in the darkness.

Gary nodded, satisfied at my remorse, and helped me back up. I dusted off the dead vampire and looked at the group. 

Nine of us left. Nine of us together. Nine of us alive with hopes and futures outside of this house. I took a deep breath and promised myself that we would see those futures.

“Who’s ready to fight?” I asked, wondering who to give the spare stakes to as I pulled them out. I let Gary hold onto the one I had dropped, which he had used to save me. 

Karen was the first to step forward and I handed her a weapon. “This doesn’t mean I like you,” she sneered. I chuckled inside at the ridiculousness of the thought.

Once those with a fighting spirit had been armed, I looked at the group. “Apparently, they are in a meeting, so now’s our best chance to escape.” I flipped my stake in my hands. “Nobody gets left behind.”

With a few determined nods, those strangers I now considered closer than some family joined me in the fight to escape that house of death.

 

***

 

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be get onto one of those reality shows where a bunch of overdramatic people are put together in a house. I don’t think I would fit in very well in the sense that I would try to lessen the drama, which apparently doesn’t make for good television. Either way, I don’t think it would be fun to go on a fake one run by vampires looking for an easy meal.

The reason I chose to look more into this dream is because of something I’ve been contemplating lately, which is the incredible variety of people in the world and what connections we have with one another. 

For example, I was at work the other day, seeing stranger after stranger pass by. Normally (and I know this is a common attitude of many), people annoy me in general, so my thoughts only turn to them when it also involves me. I know this is a selfish attitude to have, and I try to fight it when I become aware of it, but it seems like an extension of the natural inclination toward self-preservation. I worry about myself first, and then others if I’m taken care of. However, on this certain day, my mind went to wondering what these strangers were thinking about. What kinds of experiences have they had in their lives to make them the people they were? What hardships have they endured? What are their priorities, and how do those affect how they act? And what brought them right there, at that time, to be in the same place as me? And should that mean something? Will I never have the chance to get to know this person ever again?

Many more similar kinds of questions pass through my mind, but in the end, it awakened an emotion that I usually reserve for other situations. I felt an outpouring of fraternal love for these people, almost as if they were my own family. I realized that each one of them were living their lives the best they could, just like me. They might have different worries and thought processes, but every one of them was striving for some kind of happiness or contentment, just like me. I know this is also a feeling shared by many, but I didn’t know what to do about it. It was slightly overwhelming. 

Now, whether that feeling of love was generated by an innate sense that we all share some kind of spiritual heritage or by the simple realization that every single human being is sharing the same struggle that we call life, I don’t think it matters. What matters to me is that I realized that everyone has their reason for doing things, and in the end, that reason is because we are all striving for happiness. Knowing that, and as long as I keep it in mind, I find it easier to try and understand others when they act in a way that seems wrong or absolutely stupid to me. For whatever reason, they think those actions will help them in their quest to complete or fill their lives. With this, communication then becomes the key for true understanding of one another, but that is a discussion for another time.

Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean that I like everyone. People can still rub me the wrong way and I might dislike being around certain people. But I try not to jump to conclusions and judge the person. They are sharing this struggle of life just like me. We are just on different paths, and I only see where our paths have crossed.

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So, in a situation where a bunch of strangers are thrown together in a house, I am proud that my dream-self decided to try and help the others that had been captured instead of just saving my own skin. I was able to see that we were all in the same situation, and not one of us were more valuable than the other when it really came down to it. Though I can only hope I would actually have that kind of courage in real life.

Vampires, on the other hand, are not human. Screw the undead.

Prisons and Parenting

I sat down in the prison visitation room, staring at the empty seat on the other side of the reinforced glass, waiting. It felt like I was doing way too much of that lately. I felt useless. And that feeling was exaggerated when I had to hand over my sidearm while in the prison.

None of this made any sense. I had been against him going to work for his father in the first place. I knew the elder Mr. Shaw was dirty. I’d seen it, but I had no evidence. And evidence is all that mattered to Bram, his father, and the courts. Within just a few months, Bram had been more difficult to talk to, and he was more secretive than he had ever been in college. Then he was charged with insider trading and sent here last week. Having been one of the most honest men I’d known in my life, that didn’t make sense. And in my first visit, Bram had confirmed as much with his pleas for help proving his innocence. 

Then I got reports yesterday about a drastic change in behavior from Bram. He’d been fighting, and not just other prisoners as might be expected, but guards, cooks, and anyone he could get his hands on. I had to see it for myself.

I didn’t have to wait too long.

Screaming and shouting reached my ears well before the doorway to the prison interior smashed open. It took three guards to secure Bram and get him into his seat, despite his having already been handcuffed.

His face turned to me with a feral snarl and bulging eyes. But for a moment, so fast I wasn’t sure it had happened, the expression slipped into a hint of surprise and dread. He was back to growling at me before I could be sure it had even happened.

“Oh. It’s you.”

“Hey, buddy,” I said with a small wave.

“What do you want, Harold? You shouldn’t be here,” he sneered.

“I hear that my peaceful best friend has started to punch almost everyone he sees. Where else should I be?” I held open palms to him, pleading that he be open with me.

“Maybe stabbing us in the back again, I don’t know.” He jerked toward the glass, but a guard’s shoulders held him down.

“What are you talking about?” I asked as my brow furrowed. I didn’t like where this was going.

“My dad told me what you did. It’s all your fault that I’m in here. That investigation you launched turned up planted evidence of crimes my father and I never committed.” His foot banged against the metal separating our feet.

I sighed. I hadn’t wanted to worry him about the investigation, so I had left him out of it. “Bram, I knew you might be angry that I started investigating your dad, I get that. But I didn’t plant any evidence. Your father is lying to you. I didn’t want you to go to jail. I know you are innocent.” I smiled, hoping that would clear some things up.

But Bram just gritted his teeth at me. “He said you would say that.”

“Come on, man,” I pleaded. “What can I tell you to convince you of the truth?”

“I already know it. So, you should just leave.”

“I have five more minutes.”

“You really should just get out of here, for your own good,” Bram said, and for a moment, I thought I saw pleading in his face. I could tell his legs were bouncing around; an old nervous habit of his.

“You might be satisfied with the crap your father has landed you in, but I’m not going to give up on you,” I growled. My anger at the situation had started to overcome my pity. “If you’d rather believe a greedy, lying scumbag like your father more than someone who wants to get you out of prison, that’s on you. I however am going to make sure the truth…”

Boom!

The explosion shook everyone to the ground, and an instant later, the door behind Bram blasted open to reveal a mangled hallway littered with debris, but with rays of sunlight streaming through the dust.

Before I could react, Bram was out of his seat, bashing the distracted guards’ heads with whatever he could find.

“Stop, Bram!” I shouted and banged on the glass. “This will only get worse!”

He didn’t look back as he disappeared down a path that I assumed led to what he thought was freedom.

I ran back through the visiting area, past panicking guards and visitors to the security check where I’d left my weapon. Nobody sat at the desk, but with a few pounds at the desk, I got someone’s attention.

“Just evacuate the building please. We’ll sort everything…” she tried to say in passing.

But I slammed my badge against the bars separating us. “I’m a cop. I can help, chase down some of the escaped inmates, but I need my weapon.”

The corrections officer looked around, wondering what to do for a moment. But she approached and held out her hand. 

“What’s your box number?”

I handed her the key. “Twelve.”

Shouts and alarms filled the air as I waited, tapping my toe on the ground. I had to stop Bram from making his situation worse. Looking back on the conversation, the way he was acting made me think he knew the explosion was going to happen. And I would feel safe putting money on his father being behind it all.

“There’s nothing there,” the officer said as she came back. “And I can’t really take time to sort this out right now. Sorry.” And with that, she was gone.

I didn’t have time to think about it either. I had to catch Bram before he got hurt or   committed an actual crime. Moving as fast as possible through the chaos, I ran out of the prison, flashing my badge whenever an officer stopped me. I saw some inmates back in handcuffs and under control, but a quick look told me that he hadn’t been rounded back up yet.

Several flashes of orange jumpsuit caught my eye in the distance, making for the tree-line. But one of them limped familiarly, as if from an old injury sustained in football tryouts in an attempt to impress a dispassionate father that couldn’t care less. I sighed in slight relief. Now that I knew where he was going, I could catch up with him pretty quickly.

I began jogging, trying not to draw too much attention. I had to bring Bram back alone, and without incident. It would be hard enough to try and prove his innocence without adding this breakout to the mix.

After a few minutes of tramping through the woods, I heard a rustle of leaves and a whisper. I slowed to a walk and moved in that direction. The sunlight streamed through thousands of breaks in the leaves, casting an odd mix of shadow and brilliant color over every surface that made things difficult to make out very well.

I thought I saw two people. However, just as I realized they weren’t wearing prison jumpsuits, pain exploded my head, and everything spun as I fell.

My back slamming against a tree jarred me back to consciousness. Two men held me in place by my arms as a third stood before me.

“It’s nice to see you again, detective,” Mr. Shaw greeted.

The reply I wanted to give was muffled by the gag that barely let me breathe.

“I know what you are probably thinking, and you’re right. I did organize the breakout to get my son out of prison, though you’ll never be able to prove it.”

I struggled against the arms that held me, but they wouldn’t budge. 

“You’ve probably been wondering why I would do such a thing after I went through so much trouble to get him in there.”

This was something I wanted to hear, since it had been confusing me.

Bram’s dad held up a gloved hand holding a pistol. My pistol. “I thought it would be a pretty poetic way to make your investigation into my activities go away, and get rid of my pathetic offspring at the same time.”

At that moment, I recognized a spot of orange off through the trees that wasn’t foliage.

Mr. Shaw must have seen my glance. “Yes. That’s him, waiting to meet me in that clearing so I can take him out of the country to live in a tropical paradise.” He lifted the gun and leveled it at his son. “It’s too bad you’re going to kill him.”

Desperation flooded my body with adrenaline and I head-butted one of my captors, releasing my arm to land a nose-breaking punch into the other. Muscles coiled and I lunged at the sociopathic criminal still aiming for Bram.

Bang!

 

***

 

This doesn’t follow the dream that I had precisely. I’d lost my sword instead of a gun, and I was running across rooftops, but the heart of the dream remains the same. It was about someone I cared for being manipulated by someone who feigned that caring.

Recently in my life, I have encountered others in similar situations, though not as deadly. Without going into too much detail, a friend of mine has an ex that has basically poisoned her son against her, all while presenting the front of a man who was the victim of a selfish and careless woman. While she tried to protect her son from getting involved in the messier parts of divorce by saying as little as possible to upset him, his dad set the standard with lies to gain pity. After that, whenever she tries to tell her son the truth of what happened, or how things are, all the dad has to do is deny it and say it’s a mistake or a lie. And since that is what the manipulated child heard first, he believes it. Because of this, he has gone from a child who could hardly be away from his mother without getting upset, and turned into a cold, secluded, backbiting, and generally unhappy child that believes so many lies about life that I fear a very rude awakening when his dad can no longer hide the world from him. It is painful to see him go through this, not to mention the pain he puts on his mother with his yelling and hateful comments.

I know that this situation is not at all unique. There are plenty of families that are in similar situations. I pray that not as many have to deal with the extremely self-centered actions of a sociopath like my friend has to endure. Even if a split family only has differences of methods of how to raise the shared children, that situation is difficult enough. Divorce alone is extremely confusing for a child.

But when one party purposefully manipulates the naïveté of their own child who adores them, what can you do?

In my dream, I could do nothing for Bram, who had been guided by his father’s lies into not trusting me, one who truly cared and had the power to help. We feel like there is nothing my friend can do with her son, who has been guided to thinking that anything his mom does to try to help teach him or improve his life and future is awful and wrong. I hope that I reached Mr. Shaw before he killed his own son. What can she do before a more realistic equivalent happens with her family?

I don’t have an answer to this question. I wish I did. All I can think of is to hope and pray for the truth to rain down on anyone being lied to before the lies they believe permanently harm their lives. If anyone else has thoughts about this, please let me know.

For now, I will encourage her to show her son all the love and care she has, no matter what happens. And in the end, I think that might be all that anyone can actively do for their friends and family. Eventually, if the naive go out into the world, they will discover the incongruities between what they have been told and the truths that become apparent. 

Again, this isn’t really much of an answer of what we can do in such situations, and I wish there was more, which is why this blog is shorter than most. But if any of my readers has any ideas on how to help these loved ones, please comment or email me your ideas.

Partitioning the Peacocks from the Paupers

Originally written in August, 2015.

I tugged on the collar of my shirt, trying to release a little of the heat building up underneath my tuxedo.

“Hey, Charlie!” I called to my manager and pointed to the wall panels. “Time.”

He nodded, and I sighed in relief as I walked to the first wall panel. Summer was just beginning, so the cool night air lingered until after the lunch rush. But now, in the midafternoon, the heat began to bake those still inside The Rainbow Feather. I bent to grab the handle on the wall and lifted it like a garage door as it slid into the ceiling. I raised wall after wall until the entire dining area could see out to the waves on the beach below and a gentle breeze cooled the sweat on my forehead. 

As the sun traveled toward the western horizon, I watched a trickle of patrons arrive and begin placing their orders with the waitresses, sitting wherever they preferred to look out over the water. They were polite guests that only added to the floral decor with their own bright colors in familiar hues of blue, green, and gold.

Mr. Peck and his wife, regulars that came in at least weekly, scratched their way up the hill the restaurant stood on, right toward me as the crowd was beginning to grow. I greeted them with a bow. “How are you two this evening?”

“Oh, fine,” he chirped, “just hungry of course. And getting out to enjoy beautiful this weather.”

“That is a great idea, sir,” I answered, careful not to step on any feathers as I continued my rounds, eyes open for any undesirables.

That was my job. I was basically a classy bouncer. This establishment was intended to serve a very specific clientele, which it did very well. So well, in fact, that others wanted in on the pleasures too. I made sure that the restaurant stayed exclusive, even if I had to carry out those that tried to sneak past my vigil by the neck.

The first try of the night I caught easily. She tried to hide behind some of the distracting ruffles of a legitimate customer, though I don’t know how she expected to get service anyway. I saw her drab white feathers easily and caught her eye before she was within ten feet of the building and she flapped off like the chicken she was.

A couple turkeys managed to get to a table before I saw what was going on. They had painted themselves up with the proper blue and green colors, even managed to put on some authentic highlights to sell the disguise. But a few of their dirty hues poked through and drew my attention. I walked up to the table as they were sitting.

“I think we will start with some water,” one coughed, helping his mate into her chair. “We will know what we want by the time you bring that.” He obviously wanted to interact with the staff as little as possible to keep up appearances.

“Oh, I’m not a waiter.” I smiled pleasantly.

They both looked up, seeing in my face that they had been caught.

“Please, sir,” she gobbled. “We have watched the peacocks come to this place for years. It always looked so fancy. We just wanted to try it out. We will just have appetizers, if you want. We can pay. Promise.” She was panicking.

I bent down and put my knuckles on the table. “I don’t make the rules. I just enforce them. And this rule cannot be bent for any reason while we are still in business. We serve peacocks. And we serve them peacock food. This isn’t a place for turkeys like you.”

“This is discrimination!” the male bird squealed. “I demand to be treated like an equal! I want service!”

This was out of hand. The other customers don’t come here for this. This was what they want to avoid. I had to end it quickly.

Before they knew what I was doing, I had the two birds by the necks, hauling them out of the restaurant. The female went limp, sadly accepting the rejection. But the male kicked and scratched with his claws. Luckily his beak couldn’t reach my arm.

As I threw them out toward the beach, their wings leveled them, but they still landed heavily in the soft sand. They sulked away after that, probably to their own restaurant just down the way.

I looked down at my jacket to clean myself off, but found a couple long rips in the side. Sighing, I took it off and went to drop it in my car. Hopefully the restaurant would pay for the repairs. And hopefully I wouldn’t have any more difficult encounters tonight. The claws on some of those bigger birds could do real damage. But those are the risks you take when you are a high-class bouncer for a bunch of fancy birds.

 

***

 

I have no clue if there are actually restaurants with bouncers or similar exclusivity. And if there are, I don’t think I would like to work for them. Even if they do only serve peacocks.

In my memory, there is only one restaurant I have been to that might have had some kind of dress code. It was the most expensive meal I have ever eaten. Granted, it included an appetizer, a dessert, and a side of lobster tail. I don’t think I want to remember the bill of my friends who were drinking alcohol that night. Even so, I don’t think they would be too upset if someone came in jeans and a t-shirt.

I am glad that I have never seen a place in the society I live in that would refuse service to anyone based on the circumstances of their birth. And I have only seen movies where they would do so because of a person’s social class, or apparent lack thereof. Golf clubs and stuff like that are that way, right? I’m not sure, I’ve never been.

Anyway, having said that, I don’t think it is bad to have places that are exclusive in one way or another. I think that most of these kinds of places will naturally draw a specific type of client because of the type of service they provide. For example, it's mostly kids and younger adults that go to laser tag places. Bingo games are usually for the elderly. Maternity stores are for women. Hooters caters mostly to men’s sensibilities. Super expensive anything is for the rich, just like Goodwill and places that sell used items are for people at a lower economic status. It isn’t that other people are banned from these places. They just might get some odd looks.

Specifically addressing places that are meant for the upper crust of society, some people might be upset that there are restaurants so expensive that you have to earn at least half a million a year to afford a meal there. It doesn’t bother me at all. Those people are paying outrageous amounts of money not only for the food, but for the atmosphere. They want to surround themselves by people like them and have things in common with those people. I say let them have it. I’ll keep my perfectly tasty meals that can be found all over for decent prices. That way I don’t have to deal with rich people whining about whatever they think they deserve but aren’t getting at their place.

As long as they aren’t kicking out a turkey whose money works just as well as a peacock's, and is dressed for the occasion, everything seems fine to me. Let all the birds eat together.

This is one of the rare occasions where a dream isn’t quite as good or entertaining as the real life I am living. Well, except for the fact that I could speak with talking animals.

Polar Bears and Comcast

Originally written in July 2015

Little waves splashed and broke against the rotting wooden panels of our little row boat, taking up the silence between us that we couldn't fill with conversation. Graham and I were on a mission. We knew what had to be done, and there was little point in talking about it anymore. My cousin, the older of the two of us, rowed as quickly and quietly as he could, though I didn't know what being quiet would do for us. The island was still a little way away, and the castle on the jagged rocks stood well above water line, well out of ear shot from the shore. Besides, we were already obvious to anyone looking out a window. It was night, of course, but our powered Tron suits lit us up better than the sun could have. The blue neon strips of light were indicative of the protection afforded by the clothing, but not much else could be more obvious. The witch knew we were coming. That didn't change the fact that we had to find her and dispose of her. We found a dock to tie off the boat. Graham started up the narrow winding path that undoubtedly led to the front gates.

I put a hand on his shoulder to stop him. "If we can't be super sneaky, we can at least try to be unpredictable." I pointed to a low window on the near side of the castle, illuminated from within by torchlight.

Rain began to spatter down on us as we climbed up the steep rocks and crags that supported the ancient edifice. The suits kept us from being covered in cuts and bruises by the strikingly sharp stones and continuous stumbles. When we reached the base of the wall, Graham, the stronger of us, boosted me up to grab the ledge of the window. I pulled myself in until I had a firm hold and reached down to grab his hand as he leaped for mine. 

We were in. Now we had to find her. The castle was huge, and she was clever. It wouldn't be so obvious as the cliché stories where the goal could be found at the top of the tallest tower, or down in the deepest dungeon. 

"We will search every room on each floor systematically until we find her," Graham explained. "Starting here, door by door."

And the hunt began. We took turns with one person opening the door from the behind the safety of the wall as the other stood back from the door with a wider view to the other side, and the ability to charge in at the target or dodge any traps that might be set off.

Nothing happened. Room after room, floor after floor, we could only find sitting rooms, ball rooms, living quarters, a kitchen, and all other kinds of places you would expect to find in a castle. But all were completely devoid of life. Despite the perfection of the decor and furnishings, I could feel that nothing truly lived there.

Eventually we came on a door, like many others. Heavy, polished wooden planks with a ring for a handle. As Graham positioned himself to open the door, I held back to see what he would expose. It was the kind of door that swung out into the hallway, so I guessed it was another closet.

He yanked on the door and watched for my reaction to tell him what to do next.

I was right. It was a large, walk-in, linen closet, with towels and sheets piled on the shelves that lined the walls.

However, my eyes widened almost as much as the eyes of the surprised polar bear that turned to face me.

I think it felt threatened too, as it stood on its hind legs, too tall for the confining closet.

"Close it!" I shouted, waving to emphasize the urgency as the beast released a deafening roar.

The door slammed and Graham clicked the handle closed as I slammed my shoulder against the wood to help keep the animal in if it tried to force its way out.

"What was that?" Graham asked, his breath coming almost as rapidly as mine.

"Polar bear."

"Protecting the witch?"

I shook my head as I slid down the unmoving door to sit on the floor and gather my composure. "Linen closet."

Graham laughed as he seated himself next to me. "She is probably having a good laugh." 

I chuckled weakly. "Not for long."

 

***

 

I was reminded of this dream as I looked in my closet the other day. No, there wasn't a bear in there. I am just often reminded of it. Especially when I see Tron, a polar bear, or even my cousin. It is the first dream I remember having, probably around 16 years ago or so. I know I dreamed before that, and probably remembered some of them for a time. But this one stuck with me. It was at that time that I realized how adventurous my sleeping life could be.

However, yesterday, as I stared at the clothes in my closet, remembering how exciting it was, hunting a witch in her castle, I realized that I had to brush those thoughts aside and choose what I was going to wear to the interview.

I have been unemployed for several months now, after leaving the military. Yet, despite having been job hunting for almost a year in preparation of entering civilian life again, this is the first interview I've had. And it isn't even for the kind of job I want. It is to be a customer service and sales agent at a Xfinity store. Yippee, right? That is a story I can tell my grandkids. If I ever have them, of course, but that is an issue to discuss another day.

I have a degree in creative writing. I was a copywriter for two years at an internet retail company. I held an intelligence job with the Army where I would have to write all sorts of things that equated to a technical writing job. And here I am, interviewing to get a job getting people internet and television in exchange for money.

Don't get me wrong, I did well in the interview, and am moving on to the next round of the hiring process. But the job isn't one of my dream jobs, like writing for a video game company or going on book signing tours for my novels. And it is certainly a far cry from going to do battle with an evil witch with a sense of humor. Despite all that, I am grateful for the interview. I'm even mildly excited about getting the job, and not just because it's a needed job. Getting out there to do something is something to look forward to. And it is providing people with entertainment and information. Even if I'm not the source of the entertainment, I'll accept helping provide it to people.   

Yet as I think about it, I am saddened. This is real life. This monotonous grind. This ridiculous system of employment for a society full of consumers and people who are paid to facilitate consumption. Yes, I realize that it is a necessity in how the world works today, and I don't mind being a cog in the economic wheel. And I know that many people truly enjoy doing this kind of stuff. But I envy and appreciate those who have managed to take their passion and make a profitable living out of it. And I'll get there, I'm sure of it.

Still, even when I can officially call myself a professional storyteller, my mouth will turn downward when I open a linen closet and don't find a surprised polar bear staring back at me. 

These are the kinds of things I will discuss in this blog. Comparing dreams and expectations to real life and actual results, I hope you enjoy.