Electric Rather publishes The Rummager

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Check out this new magazine full of vibrant poems, pictures, and stories that may help you feel you’re better read. You may (on page 19 specifically) find a familiar writer (that’s me).

Porphyria’s Season

 

She was fine with the solstice but the equinox got her every time.

He told her she was just the same as everyone else.
She thought that was not true all the time.
Someday she’d be someone’s The One and not a stand-in For Now.

She was an expert at transition
But could not abide consistency.
She didn’t see a calm pond but saw a stagnant cesspool.

She’d sing to the songs the breeze carried
He’d try to pin her like a moth to a board
When she really wanted the flame carried on the wires.

Had she really been told she could do anything
Or was that a daydream like the others?
What a lie if true, what a story if not.

There were constraints binding her to the Now but not her mind which delved into Then and Again.

For every change she built a pattern
For every room she’d create a space
In her vision he glowed like starlight
In her ears she sang for herself alone.

He thought he knew her seasons but she surprised him just the same.

Breathing Deep on a High Wire

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She adjusted the strap of her bodysuit. The sequins were digging into her shoulder again. She glanced down at her cleavage, making sure everything was securely tucked away into the costume with just enough of the creamy swell rising above to be enticing but not indecent. Men would inevitably take notice but children of all ages would be mesmerized as she juggled flaming batons atop the high-wire.

As she sat in front of the mirror, she looked at her overly made-up face, resplendent with hues only found in nature on the tails of peacocks. She slicked on one more dab of lip gloss and smiled; teeth were all clear. She ran her fingers down her long, dark ponytail, thankful for the return of her natural color. He had always hated her dark hair so she had bleached it for years. Funny how the light hair made her world seem dark and her dark hair was comforting and made her feel light as a feather. That feeling helped when she had to concentrate on her balance on a thin wire over 100 feet above the ground.
She checked her smartphone for the dozenth time in less than an hour. No message yet. How much longer would she have to wait? The friend that worked for the lawyer was to let her know as soon as the sentencing was handed down. It should have been over long ago. She looked at herself in the mirror again carefully. The makeup covered the smudges under her eyes that betrayed her sleepless nights. As shaky as she felt though, once she climbed that ladder and lit the batons, her nerves were always steady. She woke with a purpose each day: to hear the gasps and claps that let her know her efforts were appreciated. It was something that gave her joy.

BUZZZZ! She jumped involuntarily and checked her phone. “Jury and judge coming back now,” she read.

She closed her eyes, tried to take a deep breath but it got stuck somewhere in her throat. Her mind took her against her will, much as he had done in that cabin, to dark places in the past. Why hadn’t she fought harder or tried to get away earlier? She mentally berated herself again for blaming the wrong person. HE was the bastard who had done this to several other women before her. He had pushed her into believing all sorts of lies including how she was nothing and could never escape. But she had.

Once she had gotten away, she realized she had acquired a set of balls that he seemed to have no use for; in her mind, only an impotent eunuch preys upon those he sees as weak. She sort of laughed to herself and thought, I took his balls as he wasn’t using them, the coward. She had shown bravery as she recounted to police all the details she could recall. She had gone back to the circus as soon as her body had healed, intuitively knowing it would also help heal her soul as well.
She stood and walked to a small flap in the tent. She peeked through and saw the man with the tigers, using a whip to guide them to their spots in the cage. Like a carefully choreographed dance, the powerful yet seemingly languid beasts circled the man and took their spots atop some stacked chairs. So much strength constrained by some bars of a cage! Hopefully soon he too would be held at bay in a cage.

She glanced into the stands and noticed a group of children. A school group, by the looks of the matching bright red shirts they all wore. They were laughing. She craned her neck and saw the object of their mirth: three clowns were chasing and tripping each other in the next ring. She looked back at the children. Their faces were almost glowing. She couldn’t remember feeling a joy that could and should be taken for granted. If not for her friends, she knew she wouldn’t even have the hope of finding that joy again. But as she shed her pain and shared her trials, she connected with others and found everyone had their own tales of woe.

One of the clowns’ wives died last year after a three-year battle with cancer. An animal trainer just found out last week that her husband was leaving her for a bank teller back home. A backup dancer who needs to have knee surgery is worried about insurance. The couple who get shot out of matching cannons together just suffered a miscarriage. So trite but true, friends sharing makes burdens lighter.

Buzzz… Buzzz… She had been daydreaming about her first job as a high-wire act for the circus when her phone buzzed and vibrated on the table.

“Guilty. 99 Years. No parole. Breathe!”

Whoooosh! She could finally release the breath she had been holding. She felt so light she thought maybe she’d float to the very top of the Big Top. Two Years. Over 2,000 miles. Lots of trips up the ladder. Lots of balancing on a thin high-wire.

Stay Hungry

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So hungry. She put her sunglasses on and adjusted her cap as she walked across the parking lot. She chose a large shopping cart and headed into the grocery store. She could still taste her last meal on her tongue… a little salty. Mmmm. Maybe something sweet would be nice now. Something small. A little morsel. She turned down the candy aisle. There was a little girl picking out a bag of lollipops. That looked good. She was young, tender. Her parents were nowhere in sight.

No! Not in the middle of the afternoon! She couldn’t do this again!

She took a bag of marshmallows, smiled at the girl and kept walking. She felt herself growing warm with anger, thankful to still feel something. That meant the change was not complete yet. Damn him! Here she was, stuck in this small town, lured by his charm. The few nights they spent together, the “love bites” she still word under her turtleneck, all were still fresh and where was he? What was he for that matter? She needed answers. Her afternoons at the library had not turned up much; just some fables and fairy tales involving the undead. But she felt so alive! How could she be dying? Colors were brighter, taste tangier; smells were sharper, sounds clearer, touch, more intense. Other than being cold all the time, she felt very much alive, in a heightened sense, like the time she tried smoking dope in college.

She took off her glasses and turned into the aisle with chips and pretzels. Maybe people would see her bloodshot eyes and just think she was stoned and not a zombie shopping for a snack.

Don’t look at me and judge my choices, she thought as she put several bags of chips in the cart on top of the cases of soda. We all have to survive. She hurried past the fish and poultry and honed in on the smell of blood. The butcher was grinding some meat behind the counter. She stood there a little too long, feeling the drool pooling in her mouth. God, that smells good, she thought. I’m so damn hungry!

Throwing some fresh meat in her cart, she walked past the pharmacy, bumping into an old man with a cane. So easy, she thought. He was slow, seemed confused. Ah, but he weighed nothing. Not very nourishing. No! Not here at the grocery store! But where? Where else could she shop for the food she most wanted? Where else could she go without people judging her choices?

She drove the car loaded with sugar and salty snacks and drove to the old trailer outside of town. Maybe he’d come back today. Maybe he could help her or at least explain what was happening to her. Yeah, and maybe she’d finally have a good hair day. Or maybe her mother would stop trying to set her up with friends’ single sons.

She was putting the last of the food away when he walked in the door, dragging a cooler on the ground. He was smiling and looking a little less grey than when she had last seen him. He smiled at her and said “Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas.” Then he opened the cooler, which she then noticed had a hospital logo printed on its side. Oooooh, God. The smell was even better than a Thanksgiving dinner.

Blood, marrow, brains… he had brought her the world. Better than diamonds.

Hidden on the Hard Drive

He awoke to what looked like orange rinds on the inside of his eyelids. Bright sunshine was trying to squeeze through. His eyes were still closed, but his slight headache assured him he was indeed awake. Where he was was another kettle of fish. He was almost afraid to open his eyes. Every time he awoke, the locale was so jarringly different. He somewhat enjoyed waking up on the pirate ship, a half-clad wench plastered up against him on the narrow bunk. The rolling of the boat was remarkably realistic. The sights and sounds were graphically excellent too. Almost as good as the crisp scenery of the Middle East war scene he found himself in one morning. Some of the worst visuals but the best sensations upon waking had to have been the porno. He wanted to wake up with two women servicing him every day. But that was not to be. He didn’t seem to have a choice. Not since he had fallen into his computer.

This story sounds absurd, I know, but I assure you every word is true. My boyfriend is lost to a computer, and not metaphorically like he spends too much time working or playing, but he actually physically disappeared. I know roughly where he is because somehow we are able to communicate via messaging. He sounds rather confused and not at all like himself anymore. I can’t say I blame him after living virtually for over a month.

The way this transpired is really beside the point. With much typing and figuring between us, the best we can guess is that whatever happened can be traced back to the freak electrical storm we had shortly after that asteroid came close to the earth’s atmosphere recently. (I know, such a cliché, but what can you do?)

Since that night when he never came to bed and I woke up alone, he has had some unsettling and interesting adventures! His first foray on our laptop was to find himself in the midst of a racing game. He woke up in an idling racecar, ready to go at the starting line. At the signal, the cars on either side of him took off. He sat a moment, decided it must be a dream, and hit the accelerator. With the first hard turn, his body slammed into the car’s side and he thought it odd to have any feeling in a dream. He somehow finished the race, somewhere in the second heat. Getting out of the car, he felt wetness on his cheek. He swiped and saw blood. Blood? And it hurt! He walked over to another driver, tried to formulate a clear question in his mind but really, what could he say? “Is this a dream?” sounded lame in his head. And even though what he could see and hear looked real, something was missing. Someone handed him a cloth to wipe his face. Someone else handed him a bottle of something to drink. He brought it to his nose to determine what it was. There was brown liquid with bubbles in the bottle but there was no smell. He gingerly took a sip. No taste.

Over the next couple of days he toggled back and forth from the races to the pirate ship. He found some way to communicate with me, which I still don’t understand. He messaged me that he had played a relaxing game of solitaire and a terrifying game of pinball (he said he felt like Indiana Jones running from giant metal balls in the game). We could not figure out how to predict where he would land next. He tried thinking of where he’d like to be and hope to wake up there in the morning. That did not work. I was afraid to mess with any of the laptop’s settings so I just kept it plugged in and let it go to sleep mode when I wasn’t sitting in front of it until my eyes were dry and my head hurt. Sometimes I could make him out in the game, sometimes not. I had an easier time picking him out when he was in a game I knew well. I got nervous with the racing game, as I didn’t know the different possible outcomes.

After a couple of weeks of standing by and feeling helpless, we decided I should start experimenting with the laptop. I started slowly, carefully, by waiting until he was in a game I knew well: the hidden object game. I selected him as my avatar and watched as he got through the first levels of the game. When it came to the first mini-game, I slowly moved and clicked the mouse. It worked. I had picked him up and moved him where I wanted. I clicked and rolled and maneuvered him through the rest of the game. I sat for hours, feeling closer to him than I had in a long time. I wondered at how he felt. Relieved? Angry? Hungry? Tired? Confused? What was next? I had to wait until he could get to wherever he went to message me.

That happened two days later. He was glad I could move him around because that meant there was some control but it was unsettling too for the same reason. He was not hurt or hungry. He said it still felt like a dream most of the time. Except for when we chatted. That was the only time he felt real. We were closer than we had ever been but we couldn’t touch or even really see each other.

He suggested I start trying to open specific programs to see if he would land in the ones I chose. So I decided to try solitaire, as that seemed harmless and he had been in that game already. He joked that I could just as well choose the porno. I tried to look at the bright side that he still maintained a good sense of humor.

So I opened solitaire. I clicked on settings. I looked at the card backing choices. There he was. I selected him and began to play. We got through the game, satisfied that we had a little more control. But how did he get from place to place on his own? The answer came to me when I was in the shower.

I was thinking of the order of the games he had turned up in from the beginning. I realized he was being placed in programs in the order that they had been downloaded by date. This was interesting, to be sure, but what was the next step? How did we get him home? Was he to be stuck in this Quantum Leap/Tron universe forever? Did he still want to come home? I had been angry and worried at his disappearance and now felt bewildered at our situation. It had been over a month, but with little sleep and not much food, and the stress of the unknown, I felt I was going to crack and soon. Something had to be done.

I had seen enough movies – Back to the Future, Peggy Sue Got Married, Star Trek, Wizard of Oz – to know that there were lots of possibilities we could try. But waiting for another freak electrical storm or some supernatural event was probably not the most practical approach. So I researched. Googled. Primarily virtual technology and electricity. Some of the information I found was beyond my understanding but I found many tidbits (bytes?) very interesting. To make a possibly long and boring story shorter and possibly nonsensical, after hitting up Google and Amazon and PayPal, I had at my fingertips several apparatuses (apparati?) that I could use to generate electrical pulses, record information, and copy and save the data. I can’t explain what actually occurred that night it all came together. You could picture a sort of Frankenstein’s laboratory, replete with sights and sounds that were impressive, but you’d be pretty far off. It was actually me in a tee shirt and underwear, sitting on the floor with a sort-of generator, laptop, black data recorder thingy and some other stuff that lit up and hummed. After much button pushing and pacing and waiting for downloads… somehow, honest to Pete, it worked. We were together again!

I found myself looking into his familiar warm eyes and we grabbed each other and kissed long and hard. It had worked! He spun me around in a hug and we laughed and kissed again. I could still hear a hum and I could see lights flashing. But something was missing. I stepped back from him for a moment. I looked around and realized I was not looking at our apartment. I quickly kissed him again. We realized at the same time what was missing: there was no taste to our kiss. As we looked around together, I asked him where we were. He sighed, smiled shakily and said that it looked like we were in a space ship. And we should buckle up. We were about to be called upon to shoot at some asteroids hurtling towards the Earth.