Un disconnected

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Margery was a paranoid neurotic.

Often times this was her undoing. If she had taken the time to learn to be more flexible, more receptive, she might not have had such a difficult time.

She was terrified of visitors, mistrustful of the phone company, and on many occasions she developed conspiratory ideas about her bill collectors and service people in general. Though she had become accustomed to using technology in her job, she had a growing dislike for more technological advances and assumed malfunctions in equipment were somehow a personal vendetta against her.  If the phone rang and no one was at the other end she assumed it was a prankster or malicious caller rather than a robo-call or a miss-dial. She was impatient and hated answering machines, voicemail, and virtual technology, if she got a service that asked you to dial 1 for English, she simply hung up the phone. At times this made it difficult for her to accomplish business by phone, and the fact that more companies utilized these types of services to handle their business made it increasingly difficult for Margery.

She had lived in the building for the past 30 years, all of her adult life, and she didn’t see any reason to change that. She was superstitious about many things and mistrustful of others. It was not likely, at fifty that she was going to change and the prospect of life moving on to something different at this point was slim.

She had a housekeeper who came twice a week. It had taken her 5 years to find her.  She was difficult and this often made it hard for her to find help. Her quirks along with her limited patience made it impossible for others to comfortably work for her. She spoke to them as if they were incompetent, constantly giving instructions and criticizing every detail of the task. It didn’t seem that she could just be happy that she didn’t have to do it herself, or that others might be capable of accomplishing a task without her expert supervision. After a few weeks of her brand of condescension, most people refused to come back. Her current housekeeper mostly went about her tasks ignoring her, if the job she did wasn’t good enough to her after all this time she could spend another 5 years looking for all she cared. She could complain all she wanted as long as she continued to pay her.

She had grown accustomed to the buildings quirks, even though she was oftentimes frightened by the sudden changes of atmosphere. She had never understood why some days it seemed calm and others it was a Mecca of activity.  She found it uncomfortable and occasionally disturbing.

She was a Librarian for 25 years and had just recently retired.  Money wasn’t a difficulty because she did not have an extravagant existence and had saved most of what she had earned.  But she did not know what she would do with her time now that she did not have to go in to a job every day. It, for Margery was a confusing dilemma to have.

She mostly kept to herself and did not know many of her neighbors. Her friend Lillian lived on the second floor near the stairwell and she lived close to the elevators. She felt right away that this was a testament to their differences and might have avoided the friendship altogether had Lillian not been so friendly and insistent. She was both active and enthusiastic; characteristics that Margery thought were suspicious most of the time. But she was not the type of person who would let you say no to friendship if she liked you. She was always full of interesting talk and had a multitude of interests.

Margery, on the other hand, felt like making friends was a chore.  She didn’t know what she liked to do. She had not taken interest in many things due to her extensive fears. She loathed exercise, hated the outdoors, and she didn’t care for cultural activities She thought she was creative though she had not found any medium in which she liked to work, and art supplies she thought too expensive to waste on experimentation, what if she didn’t like the activity, then she would have wasted her money.

She found the theater boring, wasn’t interested in museums, was too particular to enjoy restaurants, and though she liked music she found the combination of people and music together overwhelming.

But when she was with Lillian, none of these things were allowed to matter. Lillian dragged her from activity to activity, making her participate all the while she complained. In the end, she was proficient in several types of painting, could work a mean stitch or two in knitting, enjoyed music in the park, and had tried a few new kinds of food.

But this didn’t change how she was when she was at home. She was difficult at times when it wasn’t necessary. Contrary even, looking for things to say and do just to be irritable. She meddled with things, refolded or re-positioned things that had been cleaned and put away. Instructed others how to complete simple tasks, like vacuuming, and even complained about clutter when there was none.   She could have been the poster child for paranoia.

Then one day when she and Lillian had plans, she sat and waited and waited. Lillian did not show up. She went through every emotion in the gambit as to what could have happened or what she could have done to make her fried not want to spend time with her.

She got angry and accused her friend of being inconsiderate, she fussed and fumed and sad the least she could have done would have been to call and leave her a message. But the phone had not rang all day. She accused her of having gone without her and she pouted and petted herself attempting to soothe.

But then she thought about all the wonderful things Lillian had forced her to learn to do. She wouldn’t have gone off to leave her like that. She had been a good friend and it would have been hard for her to just toss her to the side.

Then a thought occurred to her that she had not ever had about anyone. What if something had happened to her, what if she would never see her again? She grew afraid and began to cry.

After several moments of this she pulled herself together, called herself a list of names and picked up the phone. When she did not get an answer she called down to the doorman to see if she had actually gone alone after all. The doorman said Lillian had fallen down the stairs and been taken to the hospital. She had tried to call but the paramedics wouldn’t give her time. He assured her that he had every intention of calling her but things were very hectic and in his busy day he had not had an opportunity to do so.

The doorman fully expected to get a tongue lashing, he was well aware of Margery’s usual behavior. To his surprise she smiled through the phone and said, “Well since she’s okay, I’m going to go and take a nap, it has been a stressful morning and I will need my rest to see her at the hospital, can you tell me where she has gone?”

Shocked and relieved the doorman took a deep breath and gave her the information. When she came down to have a taxi called he was shocked. She almost looked like a young woman. Her hair was down and curled, she wore a pretty flowered dress and wonderfully feminine hat that flattered her face.

“OH my,” he said, “What has happened to you?”

Margery just laughed and said, “I have turned over a new leaf and look what was hiding underneath.”

UN Disconected, © DJuna Blackmon 2015, All Rights Reserved

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The Collector

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I was in the middle of a bad break up and a friend of mine invited me to store my things in the basement of the building in which she lived. She had offered for me to stay with her but I declined. More friendships had been dissolved or destroyed by moving in other people’s spaces. I had lost my man; I certainly didn’t want to lose one of my best friends. But I was happy for the space to store my things until I could find a place of my own.

The building had no basement to speak of; that is unless you considered a collection of storage cubicles and cages warehoused in an area that looked like a closed off concrete garage, a basement. There were a total of fourteen sections of cages, one for each floor of the building, and six additional cubicles with three sides made of concrete and gates for the closure. I didn’t give it a second thought as I pulled my car into the gated area marked with my friend’s apartment number to unload the bulk of my belongings. I didn’t plan on being here long. Despite being well lit and fairly open, the space was casually creepy: almost as if it had been intentionally designed that way.

I had other things to tend to. I did not have time to spend agonizing about the feelings elicited from my intended storage space, but something piqued my curiosity.  This was not the time to suddenly be experiencing symptoms of the Sci-Fi investigation gene; for one thing I had seen how on multiple occasions it led to unhappy endings in both sci-fi movies and horror films.

But as I stood looking at the space parallel to mine I saw an old roadster, what would have been considered a sports car in its day. It was clean as if it had been washed and polished recently. The remaining contents of the cage, however, were covered with dust so thick you could germinate seeds. If that wasn’t enough to raise some questions, the fact that the floor seemed to be free of dust and dirt as well, more than bothered me.

Beyond curiosity now I wanted to see what the other cages held. In the cubicle next to me, there were no boxes or containers, but it held a large ebony wood carriage, like the kind that drove the wealthy before cars were invented. It must have been the pride of whoever owned it. It had neither scratch nor scar. It would have been valuable and though obviously quite old it was as clean as if it had never been used. Even the wheels looked as if they had never touched ground. The space around it had neither dirt nor dust, the same as the floor where the roadster was held.

Curious I called my friend.

“Who owns all these antiques that are down here?” I asked when she answered the phone.

“I don’t know. I have never stored anything down there. The space is mine but I don’t have a vehicle and I don’t have many belongings to need extra storage facilities. I was offered the space if I needed it in the future, but I have never used it. In fact I have only been down there once and I never paid any attention to what else was there. The place made me feel uneasy.” She replied

I knew what she meant, but now I wanted to see each cubicle from the beginning. Some sections had small closet like cages only large enough for personal belongings. But in each I noticed some antique item that had been preserved immaculately, despite being surrounded by dust-covered crates, containers, and boxes. Every floor surface was cleaned and polished.

I wondered how they managed to keep the floor, the cars, and other items so clean while the rest of the cage was covered with dust.

The fourteenth floor’s cages, where my friend’s storage space was housed, were closer to the entry gate and seemed to be cleaner and contain more recent treasures. Elaborate sport or luxury cars, art work, motorcycles,   and even jewelry.

I supposed the items were safe enough. Nobody seemed to come in or out at the time I was there. I imaged, like my friend, that nobody even knew or paid attention to what was down there.

I was startled when a handsome older gentleman approached me. He was casually but expensively dressed.

“You seem very interested in my collection,” he said, “might I show you around?”

“How nice of you to offer, do you live in the building?” I asked.

“No, I own the building, and though I have never lived here, I have had many friends who have. Each of these spaces contains a treasure or memento left to me by my friends.” He said and looked nostalgic.

I didn’t feel radars going off so I accepted his offer to tour the facility. In his conversation I learned that he had bought the building as a youth and that money, very old money, from family long ago had allowed him to collect and preserve some of the most interesting things. He seemed to favor cars and such, but admired art and jewelry as well.

He spoke as if he had known the owners of each cage or cubicle personally, and seemed to cherish the memory of each meeting. His list of friends read like a who’s who throughout the centuries, and I was beginning to get the feeling that there was more to him than just a wealthy landlord.

From the twelfth floor cages he showed me a race car owned by a famous driver from the very first Indie 500, from the sixth floor we saw the jewelry of a famous movie star, he had manuscripts and parchments from ancient authors from the third floor, and in the first floor cages he showed me his pride and joy; A golden chariot and sarcophagus, and a selection of gold artifacts.

I was stunned and amazed. In this room there was not a speck of dust or dirt despite all of its surroundings.

“Who are you?” I asked, “It’s is impossible to have known all of these people from living in this building.”

“You are correct. Many did not live here, some lived before the building even existed, but I have collected and stored their things here just the same.  I have sorted and packed the things that had meaning to them, and displayed for my own pleasure the things that were most valuable to me.  As to who I am, well let’s say I walked among the pharaohs and were counted worthy among those who lived back then. Those things are counted the most precious of my belongings.  When the building is too old to house them any longer, my collection and I will move on.

“But how can you outlive the building? That’s impossible!” I said.

“On the contrary, I have already outlived several structures, and some I have simply outgrown. I have had many wives and children, friends and family, all whose treasures I maintain. Though I do not open often those who have no personal connection to me, always I display their most valuable treasure. I have lived many lives of men, and I shall live many more.”

I was not afraid, but suddenly I began to feel as if I did not belong here.

“Will I be doing your collection a disservice to leave my things here?  I have no place to put them presently, and I am not certain how long it will be before they have a home of their own.”

“No, you may leave them here as long as you need. The residents seldom use this space for very long; many move on after a few years, some have left their things behind and never returned for them.”

“Is that why some of the cages are so dusty?”

“Yes, even for them I display their most valuable treasure, but I do not disturb their belongings.  Like the roadster, which belonged to a young aristocrat, he left one day and never came back, no one knew what happened to him. I have managed his belongings for a century but he never returned. His car seemed to be his most favorite belonging. I have preserved it as it was when he purchased it.”

“That seems like such a sad life to have forever, maintaining things from the pasts of others.” I said.

“No, I have had a life of tears and joys, loves and losses. It is my lot. If you wish I will share it with you. A woman like you seems like a valuable asset. You seem like a life of treasure would suit you. You will never want for anything, and in the end though I will lose you, I will maintain the memory of you forever.”

I was flattered. Here was a man who did not know me, offering to care for me and cherish my memory forever, without knowing a thing about me.  I had never known a person like him.

After a year of getting to know him, I removed my car from the storage and gave it to my friend. As he had said, she too got married and moved away. My belongings stayed in the storage which belonged to her apartment, but I no longer needed many of the things I had stored there.  He had begun to fill my life with replacement treasures and only the things given to me by my loved ones mattered anymore. I had a garage sale and sold most of what was stored there, packed the remaining items in strong wooden crates, and pushed them over to the wall. I did not value cars or jewelry, and though I loved art, it was not likely that I would ever own any that was worth anything. I wondered when I was gone, what would be the thing that was of value that he would display.  It would take my lifetime to know.

The Collector, © DJuna Blackmon 2015, All Rights Reserved

Death by Mushrooms Galore

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I haven’t been a nice person for a really long time. I’ve come to accept this too late of course, as is the case with many who come to the end of their lives before they have the opportunity to learn what life is about or how to enjoy it. Being youngish, you seldom have the opportunity to realize that every moment is precious and that what you do and how you treat people accounts a lot for how life progresses.

It had been a very busy morning, and as usual, I was hustling and bustling from one area of activity to another oblivious of how I was interacting with the world around me. If I bumped into someone or invaded their personal space, I was not accustomed to apologizing or for that matter even acknowledging that I had committed such an offense at all.

On this particular morning however I made the mistake of bumping into an Asian girl, I was not certain of what nationality, as with most other ethnicities I had not taken the time to learn the differences and fell into stereotyping that all Asians were the same. Furthermore, I generalized that they were rude as a culture and that me being concerned with her discomfort was a waste of effort.

She sneered at me and asked, “Aren’t you even going to excuse yourself.”

“For what?” I asked. “Didn’t you see me standing there? You could just have easily gone around or for that matter waited until I had passed by. That’s how you do most of the time.”

“For your information, I was carrying all this stuff and did not see you coming. Are you going to apologize or not?”

“Mostly not ,” I said nastily.

The girl picked up her upset parcels and went about her day.

If this had been an isolated incident, others watching that had seen me before might have chalked it up to a bad day, or one where the bed had moved and I had gotten up on the wrong side of it.  But this was my usual demeanor.  Some people shook their heads, others cursed under their breaths, and some just ignored it, especially those as stupid as me. What did they care if I was nasty to others so long as I checked myself when I interacted with them?

Don’t get me wrong, I could be syrupy sweet when I wanted something, or I thought there was a situation that might benefit me in some way, but mostly I was just rude and obnoxious unnecessarily.

That evening, after a day of bruising the hearts and egos of others all day, I felt especially inclined to pamper myself. A guy I had grown especially fond of invited me out to eat and I thought it might be gratifying to patronize one of the new restaurants that had popped up in my neighborhood. He was game and itemized my choices. We chose a Thai restaurant and walked the short distance from my apartment to a block of brand new shops and restaurants that had not yet been investigated by me.

Our waitress came over and handed us the menu. While flirting with my friend who ordered some spicy dish I couldn’t pronounce let alone handle the heat of, I ordered a noodle dish, some type of spring roll, and an inviting dish called mushrooms galore.

When the dishes began to arrive I tucked in. The food was great and I had nothing to complain about. But near the middle of the meal a steaming plate was brought to the table. It was piled high with all colors of bell pepper, jalapeno, and mounds and mounds of mushrooms. There must have been at least 20 or more varieties on the plate. There were lots of different ones I had never seen and I joked to my friend, “Some of these must be poison for them to be able to serve a dish with such a variety,” and I laughed.

My friend joined the joke, “If that were the case, a person would have to know exactly who they were serving, good thing you don’t have any enemies.” He continued to laugh.

I laughed too, that is until I suddenly felt like I had indigestion and burped. I covered my mouth and glanced over at the waitress serving a family with their all too obnoxious children and I wondered how their parents could tolerate the behavior of such offspring. As I looked at her face, a feeling of familiarity crept over me.  It didn’t register right away, in fact it didn’t until the second burp occurred, and with it I began to feel light-headed.

The next was accompanied by a feeling of euphoria, and I knew at that point that something was definitely wrong. I looked over as the waitress stooped to pick up a spoon one of the children had dropped and realized just where I had seen her. My heart was racing and I wasn’t certain whether it was the circumstances or the food.

“So I guess it might have been a good idea to apologize. Look, I get it, but it’s too late to take it back.” I said looking at her.

“Yes, I suppose that is true, but it is never too late to acknowledge that we are wrong and to be sorry. We all live in this life with one life and how we interact with others may often add or take away from their existence. As difficult as life can be it is always best to try to affect others in a way that brings them some small measure of comfort or joy. If we cannot do this, maybe we are better off dead.” The girl answered and smiled.

I understood what she meant. Like my earlier mistake it was too late for her to take back what I had already eaten.   “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

“It’s best to cherish every moment we have in life,” she added and smiled again.

I figured if I was going to die I should at least enjoy it. I whispered obscene invitations in the ear of my friend thinking to give him the best night of his life, then looked up at the waitress again.

“In that case,” I responded as we rose to leave, “I‘d like my mushrooms galore to go.”

 

Death by Mushrooms Galore  © DJuna Blackmon 2015, All Rights Reserved

 

Just Add Water

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Lester Finch hated his Mother in Law. To him she was a mean ole bitter divorced hag who had driven her husband away years ago and made up for it by taking it out on every living man in the world she met. Not only was she mean but spiteful as well, and she took great pleasure in making them feel inadequate or insecure.

Not that she was successful in making Lester feel that way, but he felt sorry for the poor schmucks she had punished this way in the past, including her own son who he had watched her drive to drink and nearly destroy.

Now that wasn’t why Lester hated her, he didn’t like the impact that she had on his wife. She was not really controlling, but had an intense emotional hold that often made his lovely Claire a bit unstable.

When they first met and had decided to start dating, she had taken him home to meet her mother. He was polite and courteous, but she had only sneered and made rude comments about his clothes, his hair, his way of speaking, and any other external characteristic she could find to criticize, Lester had smiled and dismissed her comments. He would have laughed, but that might have been considered rude and then she would have given him an even harder time when he wanted to see Claire.

Lester’s Parents had loved Claire from the moment they met her and had done everything they could to make her feel welcomed in their home and lives. Not having had her own father around growing up Claire grew very attached to Lester’s father who doted on her as if she were his own daughter.

When they went away to college, he gave them both a fabulous send off to which they had invited Claire’s mother. She attended, but the entire time she whisper negative comments to Claire about how Lester’s mother allowed his father too much freedom, and how she was trapped in the house. Though she had only been to the house a few times she knew that Lester’s mother worked as a caterer and that she had chosen that as a profession so that she could stay at home and raise her four children. In their early years this was difficult, but as her children grew up she was able to run her own business and eventually had a large clientele which earned her a nice salary yearly.

“Not exactly a trap,” thought Claire, but she had learned over the years not to voice her thoughts to her mother. However on this particular occasion Claire’s mother could see the obvious admiration she held for Lester’s mother. Though she didn’t get loud or make a scene, she somehow managed to have a kitchen knife end up lodged in the meat of her palm and had to leave for the hospital. Claire spent the remainder of the evening fretting and fussing over her, and was stressed out and running around in a panic the following day trying to pack to leave for school.

That wasn’t the first or last time something odd like that had occurred to ruin an outing or event, and it always left Claire in an agitated unpredictable state. Lester had thought this would happen less once she was no longer at home, but now that Claire was on her own the incidences seemed to increase.

The year Claire’s brother was hospitalized to help with his addiction to alcohol, their mother nearly sent him on a bender, yelling, ‘I can’t believe I pushed a weakling like you out of my loins, don’t you think it’s time for you to grow up and stop this nonsense!”

“Mother, are you out of you mind?” Claire shouted, “We are supposed to be here to support him, You can’t possibly think that this is helping him.”

It was too late to take it back. “I knew you’d take his side, that’s how you are, stuck on these men, unable to think for yourself. That’s why you’ve got a loser like that Lester always hanging around. He’s going to leave you just like your father left me.”

Of all the negative things that her mother had to say to her often, this was the one thing that drew her up into a ball inside and made it impossible for her to function. Of course she wasn’t to blame for her father leaving, but her mother put a spin on it that made her feel guilty about it even when she knew the truth.

The year they got married, Lester had taken every precaution to avoid incidences and injuries; short ceremony, plastic ware, background checks, EMS on standby, he was determined not to have anything upsetting his bride. The table was round and everyone was seated together and the seats were chosen by lottery so no one could complain about who got a better seat.

Claire’s mother had said Lester would get cold feat and not show up on the wedding day but he greeted her at the door and escorted her to her seat. He gave her her own wait staff, all female, and made certain that though she could see her she could not talk to Claire. He wanted no negative whispering in her ear on that day.

The wedding went off without a hitch, but during the reception after a few too many glasses of champagne, Claire’s mother whispered to the girl next to her that Claire would be stuck as a house wife and unable to finish college now that she was married to “that Tyrant”.

The girl turned out to be Lester’s first cousin and knew Claire well and answered, “If she doesn’t finish school it won’t be due to her marriage to Lester, but from the emotional meddling of her mother.”

Claire’s mother was shocked but could not reply. She did not know who the girl was, or how she knew Claire.

“How are you acquainted with the bride?” she asked.

“I’m a classmate at her college.” his cousin replied in truth, “and you?”

Claire’s mother was too ashamed to tell her the truth though the girl was aware. “I’m a member of the brides family,” she said and tried to smile.

Though Claire did not hear of it on that day, some weeks later the rumor of it reached her at school. It was the week of exams and she was already a wreck. The last thing she needed was drama from her mama. So After her exams she went by to visit her brother. He was still staying in the program but he was better by leaps and bounds as long as his mother didn’t come by.

“She gets worse as she gets older. Are you sure she doesn’t have some type of mental condition?” he asked.

Claire laughed, but lately she was beginning to wonder the same thing. She was even starting to wonder if it was hereditary.

Lester had long since tired of her follies, but he too had begun to think there was some codependency. It took Claire many days to recover from her drama, and when he would not allow her mother to visit she became maudlin and sullen, withdrawn. He compromised by encouraging long phone conversations. She was still able to manipulate but Claire seemed in greater control and could end things when she liked.

This worked well all through the first eights years of their marriage. It helped them manage graduation, the birth of their first child, a girl thank goodness, and Lester’s first job promotion. But at the end of the that year Claire’s mother suddenly got sick and passed away without any warning. They hadn’t any money for large proceedings so Claire and her brother had her cremated and stored the ashes in a big beautiful urn.

Months had passed since then but Claire had not returned to her radiant self and Lester was beginning to worry. She had seen doctors, therapists, and even tried some holistic treatments, but she did not seem to be coming out of her depressed state. Lester was ready to try anything.

A man at his job approached him with a card held out in his hand. “Hey this may sound strange, but there’s this mage who has a wife that does potions. They might be able to help you.”

“A what, we don’t need a magician?”

“His name is Harlo, he’s a mage, not a magician. They do real magic, trust me. You don’t have to go if you don’t want to, but believe me it’s better than just letting your wife slip away.”

Lester pocketed the card. After seeing his wife’s state that evening he decided to pay them a visit. It wasn’t as crazy as it sounded. Harlo had a clinic, nicely set up with a waiting room, a lab, and an office. His wife was a spiritualist who dabbled in the arts and she was good at potions.

After describing his wife’s state the beautiful young spiritualist went into her lab and after twenty minutes came back with a tear-shaped bottle capped with a dropper.

“This only works for twelve hour at a time. This bottle holds about two ounces and should last a long time if used correctly.”

“What does it do?” Lester asked.

“You put one drop in the ashes of the deceased and a spirit of that individual will manifest for twelve hour. She will be able to talk to her and see her, though she will not be able to interact with her physically, but this may help her adjust and after a time maybe she will not need it as much.”

“You mean a Ghost?”

“No, it is actually a reconstituted spirit, a part of the essence of the remains, unable to be destroyed by the fire. A ghost would be the entire spirit of the person, this spirit water will not call up the entire spirit, only a passing glance. No matter how much you use, you will never get more than a small piece. remember that and use it sparingly.”

Lester couldn’t wait to tell his wife and try it to see if it really worked. He hated Claire’s mother, but if having her around in spirit form from time to time was going to help his wife he would endure her negativity for twelve hours at a time.

When he got home he explained the process and the instructions and warnings to his wife.

“Remember 1 drop only, this is all you’ll ever have.”

Lester sat the opened urn on the sofa and added just one drop to the ashes. In moments the spectral form of Claire’s mother sat with the urn placed as if it were in her lap.

“Well just don’t sit there,” she scowled, “Get this damn box out of my lap.”

“Mother must you always give Lester a hard time?” Claire asked immediately as if she had just awaken out of a deep reverie rather than having been deeply depressed for months. She talked with her mother as if nothing had happened and it was completely natural to have conversations with a spirit.

This went on for several months before her mother began suggesting that she increase the drops so that she might have more substance.

“That’s not how it works Mother, you will never have more ‘substance’ you’re dead don’t you remember?” Claire responded. Claire might have said that substance wasn’t something she had when she was alive, but she thought that might have been a joke in bad taste.

But her mother didn’t dissuade easily and finally Claire agreed the next time to put in two drops instead of one but reminded her that it would lessen the time she would be able to see her and that once it was gone she would never have the opportunity to see her again.

“That’s what that bird brain told you isn’t it? It’s a wonder he made it through college.” her mother replied. “I bet that’s just what he said because he’s afraid I might come back permanently.”

It was true that she seemed more visible when two drops were added, but even after two drops promptly at twelve hours she faded from existence. Claire was disappointed though not surprised.

Just as Lester had thought she was slowly growing use to the idea that one day her mother would be gone permanently, until then she talked and laughed and ignored her rude comments just as she had when her mother had lived.

By the end of six months the bottle had reached the half empty point. Claire’s mother had on several occasions convinced her to add a few more drops to “give her a little more life’, but no matter how many drops she added twelve hours was all she had. Claire had also begun to notice that the ashes in the urn seemed fewer as if each drop of the spirit water melted away a portion of the remains. Her mother’s insistence on being a little more had made what was left of her a little less. Eventually even if Claire had spirit water left nothing would remain of her mother’s remains, she would truly be gone.

On a night eight months after her passing, Claire’s mother’s spirit stormed around the house in an alarming manner, shouting about how unfair they had been to keep her around but not allow her to return to true flesh and blood. Claire tried to assure her that that was not an option.

“Out of fairness mother, it has given me the opportunity to have you around just a little while longer, but I am not God that I could bring you back. It may be selfish to be unable to let you go, but I do not have the ability to keep you permanently.” Claire insisted.

“Nonsense, just empty the whole bottle in at once.” answered her mother.

Unable to make her mother listen to reason, Claire promised the next time to empty the remaining water into the urn. She waited several months before actually doing so, hoping to experience what she would feel like after her mother was gone for good. She was sad but no longer depressed.

She emptied all except a drop hoping to have enough to see her one more time. Upon emptying the bulk of the water into the urn, a steam or smoke billowed up, Claire could not tell which, but when it cleared a nearly opaque vision of her mother stood before her and the urn stood empty.

Claire gasped in panic. There was not even enough ashes left to use the drop she had saved.

“We now have only twelve hours left. She announced,”If there is anything you would like to say to me beyond all the negative you managed to fill my youth with, or the cutting remarks you’ve had for me regarding my husband, you should say them. I have listened to your advice, followed your requests, and fallen for your dramatic schemes nearly always to find that they suited only you. But this time you have robbed us both. After today, we will truly never see each other again” she cried.

For the first time in Claire’s life, her mother didn’t have anything to say. She looked over at Lester without her usual sneer and asked,”Why did you do this?”

“It could be that I wanted Claire to be able to delay losing you, to help her adjust to being unable to talk to you, or just selfishly wanting for her to get back to normal and cope in the world she is forced to live in without you. As usual all you could see was what you wanted. But no matter what my reason, the benefit to Claire was always the same, I love her and wanted her to be stable, and happy despite how much I always hated you.” Lester answered.

Claire had not expected this revelation, though she knew exactly how her husband felt, she had never expected him to reveal the truth, he had never done so in life.

“I’m sorry.” her mother responded,”It was already too late to change the direction things had taken. Like many I gave up the opportunity to say and do the things that might have been done and said trying to manipulate and maneuver things in a direction that suited me. I died never thinking I’d ever regret any of the things I’ve missed. Tell your brother I’m sorry.” she said and reach to touch her cheek. “I forgot, I can’t touch anything. My one regret, I should have given you affection, I’ll never know now what that was like.”

Claire smiled, “No, I suppose not, but it’s nice to know you wanted to give it.”

They talked and laughed and exchanged secrets. Ten minute to the hour before her last departure she glanced at Lester and said, “Look in the bottom of the box in my right dresser drawer. There’s an envelope with a bunch of things you may need to address. I love you Claire”

That was the last thing they ever heard her say.

All of her mothers things had been sitting in storage for nearly a year while Claire languished. Now she thought she would be ready to tackle the task of sorting and deciding what was to be done with everything. When they finally found the box in the bottom right drawer they discovered along with a last will and testament, assorted pieces of jewelry, a beautiful old fashioned handkerchief, and an envelope marked for my son-in-law.

Lester opened it.

It read,

Son,

I know that you hate me and I have probably given you every reason to do so, but despite what I have always said to you, know that I have always been grateful for the way you have treated my daughter. If I had married a man like you maybe I would have been a better mother to my daughter, and a less bitter person to everyone else. Though I know this won’t make up for how I’ve treated you, I hope it will make it easier for you to continue to be good to my daughter.

Mother

Lester had tears in his eyes as he stared in disbelief at a insurance policy to which he was beneficiary. The other papers had a policy which covered Claire’s mother’s debts and other family members, but what she had left for Lester was intended just for him. It wasn’t a vast fortune, but it was more than he had ever expected from someone who had treated him so terribly.

In the end Lester realized that she had never really hated him, just had been too bitter to see that things could have been different between them.

Cherish people when you have them, love like so many things cannot be reconstituted once they have departed this world, no matter how often we just add water (tears).

Just Add Water © DJuna Blackmon 2015, All Rights Reserved

The Mirage

midlife-crisis-ahead

I turned 50 last year. I’m not afraid of the fact that this year I will be fifty-one, you see I had an out-of-body experience that put the rest of my life and my reality in true perspective. It was an epiphany, a metamorphosis, a change that occurred in a way that I can neither forget nor believe, but occurred nevertheless.

You see, I had been telling myself I was turning fifty for weeks. I had practiced saying it aloud to my friends, and even begun preparing my wardrobe for my golden celebration. But I had not really been prepared for the shock the true reality would be, you see I discover at the very moment I stood in the mirror on the morning of my fiftieth birthday, that what I had been looking at for the last thirty years of my life had not really been there.

It began shortly after I turned twenty. I was a bombshell, a brick shit house, a live in surround sound diva with a trail of men, romance, seduction, and adventure that oftentimes felt like something out of one of those tasteless novels written for women filled with undercover pornographic references and a loosely orchestrated story-lines that felt a lot like the fairy tales young girls are often fond of, without the sex of course. I wielded my seductive prowess like a thick miasma, an overpowering erotic smoke. Men fell like flies, into my trap, and I reveled in the sheer perfection of my power, the only goal being their adoration and attention.

In that time, ten years passed.

At thirty, I was a confident, successful business women. Seduction was no longer a toy, but a tool to use to encourage men to do the things I needed or wanted to have done. I climbed the corporate ladder on the backs of unsuspecting victims, and paraded their conquests through the halls of financial wizardry. I played them like a deck of marked cards and peeled away their resources leaving them bare to the exposure of others who would later either redeem or destroy them.

But midway between the next decade, I realized something that I had not thought of in the beginning; I would one day want a mate or companion of my own. I didn’t need to have children if it didn’t happen, but I didn’t want to be alone for the rest of my life and I certainly didn’t want anything like the men I had taken advantage of in the past. I redirected my focus to find someone I thought was worthy of my time, someone who would be willing and able to deal with all the nuances of my personality and still be capable of meeting my needs. In short order I discovered the imaginary beast was not to be found.

By the time I hit forty I had dated and had relationships with a variety of men. I was still single, by choice, but looking. I eventually met a decent man, though I had ceased to be searching for the ideal mate, and we were married. We had decided against children, and I did not feel this was a difficulty at first. He had assured me that it was not something he needed to have, but since when did anyone need children.

By the time he got the seven-year itch, we had been married five years, and suddenly he wanted to have a baby. I guess he was feeling his mortality. Whatever.

“Are you out of your mind?” I asked, in complete disbelief.”Do you know how hard it is to have a baby at my age? Aside from having to take time out from my job, wreck my body, and be totally responsible for the needs of another person, there are also some possible health dangers.”

He looked at me and shrugged and answered,”It was just a thought.”

He left it at that, or at least he appeared to leave it. Several months later I discovered he had not left it at all, simply taken it somewhere else more receptive. I was furious, but not really in a position to complain, especially since he had asked and I had flat-out denied him the opportunity.

The little girl was born a few weeks before I turned forty-seven. Our divorce was final before she turned one, and the second child was on its way. When he remarried I was forty-nine. Now I know they say it’s hard for a woman to find a man after the age of forty, but it’s not impossible. I still had options.

But on the morning of my fiftieth birthday I looked into a full length mirror and suddenly all that I had thought I had been flashed in front of me. The bombshell who had thought men were toys, was simply a quick and easy lay, a way for the men in the fast lane to get their rocks off without the inconvenience of a commitment. The ball busting corporate siren was simply a gold digger earning privileges on her back rather than really riding the backs of the successes of the men she thought she was using. The high-classed, self-assured, open-minded professional stood before me next, but when I saw the way too superficial, judgmental, prude who thought she was too good to marry an ordinary man and watched her turn into the painfully bitter, newly divorced, middle-aged harpy, I nearly burst into tears.

But suddenly I looked into the mirror and what I saw shocked and surprised me. There was nothing there but a fifty year old woman. Smart, industrious, and a survivor of a mirage she had been living in for thirty years. When it disappeared, all she had left was the rest of her life, and all she could do was live and enjoy it for what it was.

If you spend all of your life trying to take advantage of what others have, you may wake one day to discover that of all you had, there was nothing left of your own to enjoy.

I will be fifty-one this year, and I look forward to discovering what new things life has to offer.

The Mirage © DJuna Blackmon 2015, All Rights Reserved

Applied Science – On a clear day…

I had heard it said that on a clear day you could see forever.

Well forever is a mighty long fucking time, and living in the negative times we lived in, it was hard enough to have to see as far as next week and if forever looked as bad as it looked now, why would anyone want to see it.

Sure enough that would be a reason for considering suicide.

But just for the hell of it I waited to see if it was true. I looked from the window of our sparsely furnished apt, and waited for a day that was clear. I had stopped going outside months ago. It didn’t seem productive. The air was polluted, the possibility of being exposed to some bacteria or virus that could kill you was great, and on top of that, it was just plain dangerous.

The year was 2055, and I had suffered many illnesses, lost two thirds of my friends and family, and now lived in a small two bedroom apartment. We had discovered the building some years ago. My brother had received an envelope with a description of the building and a package with the keys, combinations, and instructions for getting to and in the building. I had thought that it had come from a nut.

Then my brother was a scientist at a research company and he got lots of weird stuff from people in the mail. But he did not seem to think it was a nut or a joke and guarded the envelope like it was the key to some treasure.

When the difficulties had begun, he did not seem at all surprised and began looking for the building right away. It had two armored entry doors, it was smooth and uneasily scaled, with high sealed windows, and it looked as if it had been built to discourage access. In the times in which we currently lived I could see why, but it was hard to image why someone would have built something like this back in the 1970’s.

My brothers scavenged for food, and my sister and I tried to keep things tidy and sanitary,. which was hard in the filth the city had become. But survival depended on keeping things as clean as we could get them. The cabinets and closets had been filled to the brim with cleaners and disinfectants when we first arrived. I though it odd and assumed the person who had lived here must have been a real germiphobe. But my brother being the scientist had replied, “I doubt that, then they would have used them and the bottles would be empty. These were left here for us.”

I looked at him strangely, but shrugged and accepted his analogy, but how could anyone have known we would need them and why so much. Many days after, I began to appreciate the store of cleaners, especially when they began to get low and we had to find them outside. We boiled the water and collected cleaning supplies when we could find them. Occasionally running across a buried store of supplies in one of the used to be superstores that cluttered the metropolitan areas in the early part of the millennium. We found lots of things there. Dead things, half living things, and even valuable things. We’d bag up what we could find and take it home for sorting. Since I no longer left the house often this became my job. I would keep what we could use and then my brother’s would take what we didn’t need or couldn’t use and trade it with people who could.

On the day that dawned clear, I was cleaning a window high up in the building we called home. I watched as a large ball of flame swallowed up everything, and stood riveted as a storm covered the surface of the land as far as I could see. The last vision was an armada of ships, space ships. I covered my eyes and cowered as if they could see me.

Overcome with fear and despair, I was suddenly filled with the urge to throw myself from the window. Unfortunately at this height in this high-rise building the windows did not open. I slid down and remained sitting in that same spot until my sister returned. When she could not elicit a response from me she grew concerned, and when I finally did speak what I told her made her even more concerned.

“We are all going to die!”

“Yes one day we are all going to die, but not today. What the hell has gotten into you?”

“They said that on a clear day you could see forever so I looked.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about but you’re going to lie down until the boys get back. I won’t have you falling apart now. We have too much to accomplish.”

When my brothers arrived I told them what I saw. My other brother, an ex-soldier, thought I was losing my grip or succumbing to some illness, but my older brother, scientist that he was knelt beside me and asked me to explain to him what I had seen. It was dark outside and I couldn’t show him and I didn’t know when there would be another clear day so I attempted to explain what I had seen.

He looked pensive and stood to look out of the window.

“On the next clear day you must show me where you were looking.” he said.

The other’s looked at him amazed.

“What it is?” my other brother asked, “Is there something to what she saw?”

“I don’t know yet, but I need to see to be certain.” My older brother replied.

It only took two days for it to be clear and sunny again. Which was odd since it had been many months since such atmosphere had existed. My younger brother and sister went out to handle the scavenging and my older brother stayed behind to stare into forever with me. We stood at the recently cleaned window, which I had wiped again to be certain I had created the exact same conditions as before. I pointed in the direction of the clear empty sky. For a moment we saw nothing and I began to doubt my sanity, but my brother stood stark still and waited. He was not disappointed, though what he saw was different than what I had seen two days prior. Today the fireball seemed closer, the super-storms had passed and the Armada seemed to be search for something.

My brother watched a good deal longer than I had been able and when he was done he was calm but pensive again. He took out his computer, which he reserved for emergencies. It ran on stored solar energy from panels we had collected from the roof of buildings no longer in use. He ran a series of calculations on it’s fancy scientific programs. The space into which we were peering was apparently some temporal time gap, moving in several phases, though none the immediate present. After a short time he looked up at me and said, “We have to prepare to leave soon. If we are going to be gone when that fireball hits we will need to be gone in two weeks tops, and far enough away not to be caught in the fallout. The storms are four or five months away.” he said.

He did not talk about the Armada.

In the weeks in which we prepared to depart, I stumbled upon a small cabinet we had never opened. Inside there were a variety of things which I took and put in a back pack. Several vacuum sealed candy bars, a fire arm with the shells, syringes, a list with suggested items to collect among which was antibiotics, first aid supplies, and an envelope with maps and coordinates. I gave the backpack to my other brother. He would most likely know what was to be done with it, and would be able to inspect and verify the safety of the firearm. It was sometimes a good thing to have around when you had someone familiar with how to use one. For others it was dangerous especially if accosted by someone with a desire to take it away. But being a sharp shoot had been one of the benefits of having military training. But hopefully we wouldn’t need it.

Were readied ourselves to leave. Our electric paneled truck had been outfitted to recharge with solar panels, as long as there was sun during the day we’d have power to drive at night. There was no way to be certain of the roads or what we would run into, but my brother seemed confident we would reach our destination no matter what difficulties we might face on the way.

If my brother’s calculations were correct, even if we missed the fire ball we would arrive in Kentucky just in time to find shelter before the storms. Even if we were lucky enough to survive the trip across county, and the coming super cells, my brother said we might still not be among those chosen to leave when the last of mankind were selected to be rescued from our dying planet. I was shock at his revelation.

Apparently the building had been a temporal window for several of the inhabitants of our apartment. The lucky few to understand and heed what they had seen would be there to assist us if and when we arrived. The others were now too old but had followed their directives to make certain the things we needed were in the places we were destined to find them. I shuddered to think now that I realized the gun had been left there intentionally. The person who left it had to be privy to some circumstance that mandated it’s necessity. They must also have known there would be someone who could use it. Because of my fragility, the candies had been included to help control my glucose levels. Though I was not diabetic, my energy was often too low to endure too many activities that required stamina. With maps to guide us and our path laid out for us, we looked upon the place we had called home. It was the last time we would see it.

It was a shame the building would not last the fireball, but it had, my brother believed, served it’s purpose. He never said how he knew this, or explained fully what it was he saw, but one thing was certain, we would arrive at our intended destination. Maybe worse for the wear, but we would live to see a future.

A clear day might have given a vision of what to look forward to, but it did not tell us how to survive to arrive there safely. My brother did not have all the answers, nor were they provided by those who had seen the visions before us. But if he applied all he had learned, and we used our brains as well as our technology, then maybe we would have a fighting chance to be among those who would be the remnant of our world.

What was the point of science if it could not be applied to survival?

Applied Science © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights Reserved

Charley Miller’s Bar

CMB

Charley Miller’s Bar was an exercise in contradictions. It combined a variety of old world looks and new world technology to create an atmosphere that had become the talk of the town. The floor in the center of the bar was nearly always covered with ice which kept it cool even when the weather was hottest, and no one ever seemed to question why the ice never melted.

It was a custom whenever a patron made a toast, cheered an event, congratulated a constituent, or consoled a friend for the entire bar to throw their emptied ice filled mugs to the floor in the center of the bar. The broken ones were disposed of and the whole ones recovered and washed for reuse. In addition to this practice, the bar boasted several menu items that had been favorites of the town for nearly a century.

It had been opened near the water in a small Port near St. George for more than seventy years. At least that was as far as records could count or locals could recollect. Aunk Miller’s family had owned it since they had traveled from Cairo in the early 1700’s. Mystery and intrigue had come with them to the states as well as a great deal of British wealth, and industry. As the town grew so did the notoriety of the iterations of the bar.

It had been Miller’s Saloon in 1712, and was run by Bahman, the 29 year old son of Charley’s great great grandfather. It was renamed The Watering Hole in 1755 and passed in ownership to Aunk’s father Frederick, it then became Aunk’s and was renamed The Egyptian Tavern since 1912, and now in 2012 it was known as Charley Miller’s Bar.

Its current fame was due to a reality TV show known as Bar Fight, a food station show where local bar establishments squared off to determine which had the best fare, drinks, and ambiance. The Bar had been featured as number one for several weeks, and tourists as well as locals poured in to partake of the bars offerings.

Aunk was a very old man now, it was his grandson, Charles Miller who had taken over and renamed the bar. The twenty seven year old owner had been in and out of the bar most of his life and knew well many of the patrons and also the history of the bar and its owner, though he did not share much information about his family.

What was well known was that Aunk was the owner with the greatest longevity, and that the Egyptian Tavern had been a widely recognized and respected establishment long before Charley was old enough to have learned to walk. Aunk Miller had been the owner for more than 75 years at least that’s what had been recorded. But that wasn’t his real name, and no one knew what his real name was or why his family had given him that nickname. They had been calling him that since he was a little boy. There was one tattooed elaborately on his left shoulder. His grandma had told him the left was the sinister hand and Aunk had just laughed and said to his grandma, “Don’t worry grandma, I can handle the sinister one.”

It was said that Charley’s great great grandmother had married a man from Egypt. No matter what the social implications may have been of her marrying a foreigner, no one ever outwardly displayed anything but respect for her husband or his family. He lived a long time and was almost one hundred years old when the bar was given to Aunk’s grandfather Fredrick and renamed. Fred had been twenty six at the time.

Charley wanted the bar to be known worldwide, and that meant exposure. Aunk had no objections to that kind of notoriety. There were other reasons why people would want to come to the bar. Notoriety was a useful thing when it was certain you needed to be found.

Midway through the bars Battle of Onion Rings, as the show’s current episode was called, the phone rang. Charley was in the middle of an explanation of how his great great grandmother’s hand ground Egyptian spices and daily made batter created an onion ring that was a delicacy, when one of his barmaids pulled on his apron and he had to excuse himself. When he returned his face was pale.

Eunice Baker, a local woman had been crying on the other end of the phone. She sounded delirious, and it took several minutes for Charley to calm her down so he could ask her what was wrong. All he could get out of her was that she was looking for Aunk, that she was in trouble and didn’t know what to do. Charley promised to call his grandfather as soon as they finished the show, but he was shaken and it took several minutes before he could get back into the swing of his earlier enthusiasm. After another few hours of filming, chicken strips and shrimp dishes, the film crew packed up and Charley called his dad to locate his grandfather.

Charley’s father was an importer, and brought Egyptian goods to the States. He sometimes also arranged tours for people interested in travel to Egypt. He did not seem alarmed. He attempted to calm Charley and promised to contact Eunice Baker soon.

***

Eunice Baker was married to a man named Tom. Tom Baker had been what you might call a tempered man since he was a young adult. He had not been good in situations of adversity. In addition to this he seemed to lack a tolerance to alcohol. His coworkers liked on occasions to bate him to drink in order to be entertained by his bad behavior. It had sometimes ended in charges for destruction of property, and occasional assault charges, but Tom had never seriously hurt anyone.

Eunice worked for a local fishery, and many of the people she worked with knew and liked her husband, at least when he was sober and happy. But their current financial state had been cause for Tom to spend more frequent nights hanging at the bar with his coworkers. Several rounds had found their way to the floor in sympathy for his current distress mirrored by his friends. The barmaid had signaled closing and turned off the tap. Tom had gotten angry but his friends grabbed him by the arm and ushered him home.

Since he had not been allowed to let off his steam at the barmaid, he took his anger out on Eunice. At first she had tried to be understanding but he took this as being patronizing, then she tried to comfort him but he did not want to be pacified.

“You’re hopeless,” She had said and stood to walk away. But Tom grabbed her arm and swung her around. The slap that grazed her cheek stung but did not have its intended impact due to the momentum of her spin. She did not stop, but continued to spin until she was facing the other direction and could run away. She headed for the kitchen, and grabbed the first thing she could get her hands on. She did not intend to hit him as hard as she had, but he came up unexpectedly fast behind her and the large crescent wrench which had until recently been the means by which she shut off her water, hit him across the temple. As his body fell to the floor she held in a scream. Blood oozed from a deep gash and Eunice stood frozen in shock, gasping and staring in horror.

It’s possible that she fainted. When she revived she was sitting slumped near her husband’s body. She didn’t know what to do so she put his body in a large sheet and used a wheel barrel to dump him in the compost bin on the side of the building. Next to it were several blocks of baled hay, and chopped fire wood. She went back into the house. She wasn’t certain what to do and she was still quite shaken.

She picked up the phone and called Charley Miller’s Bar. When Charley didn’t answer she broke into tears and the barmaid asked her to hold on. When Charley came to the phone she burst into tears again and began shrieking.

“I don’t know what came over me, I’m in trouble and I need to speak with your grandfather.” she said breathlessly.

“I don’t know where he is….” was all he could get out before she trailed off into another series of unintelligible babbling.

“Calm down, don’t worry I’ll find him, what happened?”

“I can’t explain over the phone, just please have your grandfather call me as soon as possible.” she answered and cradled the phone.

Now all she could do was wait.

When Aunk arrived he was driving a garbage bin, a truck with a long rectangular vessel at the back. It was used to collect tree trimmings, compost able items, and large recyclable items. Aunk stepped from the truck and approached the house. When he got to the door Eunice came to the screen with her finger to her mouth.

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of everything,” he said.

Eunice nodded as if she understood. “If you need anything there’s plenty of stuff in the compost heap.” she said.

“Fine then, why don’t you run your errands and when you come back this evening I’ll have everything taken care of.”

Eunice gathered her things and left the house. When she was gone Aunk first cleaned the blood stained kitchen. He used clean gauze linens he had brought with him, which he placed in a bag, he would need them later. He waited until it had gotten dark and then he went to retrieve Tom from the compost. He placed him in the back of his truck on a bed of hay and placed the bag with the bloody rags beneath his head.

He knew that Tom had not done well in his life, but like many men he might not have deserved to die.

When Eunice returned, her house was restored to normal. She put down her bags and walked into the kitchen. The faucet had been repaired and the wrench had been removed from the counter. Everything was clean. She was sad but she was still feeling a little overwhelmed. She could not bear to look into the compost container; she would save that for the early morning light. So she sat in her kitchen chair and had a glass of tea then she went to bed.

In the middle of the night she thought she faintly heard the whistle of a train and the sounds of a locomotive steam engine, but there had not been such a train in this area for years. She had returned to sleep peacefully, but when she woke she rose with trepidation and went to look into the compost container. When she got outside she was stunned to find what seemed to be a large copper and gold toned sarcophagus. Though it looked like it had been combined with the parts of some steam type machine, it could only have been that. It was not locked or sealed and the top opened with ease. Eunice opened the lid and was startled to find inside a newly wrapped mummy. She released the hood and backed up. She didn’t understand what was happening.

Inside the sarcophagus was the newly wrapped body of her husband Tom. From the looks he had been covered with wrappings that had been covered with his own blood. Eunice was horrified and paced the floor trying to think of what to do. She had just about decided to go to the police and make up some crazy story, when the bell rang. When she answered the door, Tom stood there alive and fully healed.

“The least you could do is let me in out of the morning air, or am I to catch my death of cold into the bargain. You’d think after last night that I had been through quite enough.” he said. “One day I shall have to endure the ‘til death do us part, but let’s not do it again this way shall we.”

Eunice did not know what to say, so she opened the door and let him in. She followed him to the bathroom and ran him a steaming tub of water.

“Not too hot, I don’t think I’ll want a bath that warm ever again. Seems I can remember feeling the steam surging through my blood. But maybe that was all a dream.”

“You ain’t mad at me are you, Tom?” Eunice asked as she cooled the water in the tub.

“I don’t think I could be even if I wanted to. All night all I could think of was how wrong I had been to hit you and what I could have done for things to go differently. What happened was my own fault.”

Eunice looked at him. Something was definitely different. He looked like himself, but it was not the Tom she knew.

In the dark of night Aunk had taken him to the chilly caverns below the bar and laid his body on a table etched with hieroglyphs, and as he dealt with the preparation of Tom’s body he laughed and talked to himself.

“Grandma was afraid of the devil, but he ain’t got nothing on the power of Osiris.” He laughed again. He wrapped the body in oils using the blood stained gauze he had used in Tom’s own home. He filled the sarcophagus with items gathered from Tom house and lined the bottom with straw collected from the side of his house. Inside he placed a drop of Tom’s blood, and laid the body in the nest of things gathered there. He poured a mug of beer and set it at Tom’s feet. When all was done he would return to Eunice.

***

Aunk had been the caretaker of this artifact for more than two centuries, though none knew and any time death would approach he would lie in the sarcophagus and Osiris would spirit death away and leave its essence in the caverns below the bar. The stone walls themselves were as cold as death and no mortal could stand to linger there for any duration. Aunk, once reviving himself, would take a new wife, have a son, and train a new custodian for the family business. The bar must always exist for the caverns to go unnoticed. His family was large and prosperous, and his sons and his son’s sons offered redemption to mankind.

In the beginning, they had not known the power or the purpose of the sarcophagus. They had attempted to bring back lost loved ones but had discovered that good people who had lived well and were loved no matter how short had no reason to return and usually ended up ill tempered, or evil in nature. After this discovery they only brought back those who needed to change their Karma, redeem themselves, or improve their lives and the relationships with the people in their lives.

Aunk had been the caretaker of the Sarcophagus of Osiris, as it had been named, though the body of Osiris had never lain inside, since 1810 after the death of his great grandfather who had held caretaker-ship for more than a century himself. Though he could have easily continued, he had begun to feel the weight of the evil and inconsistency of mankind. His son, though he had thought immortality a fine trait, had decided that to protect the aged container and it’ caretaker was just as noble a calling. His great grandfather had enjoyed more than 115 years of living well, and he had helped thousands of individuals change their lives for the better. He sat and tried to remember what the old man who had given him the caretaker-ship had said.

On his 30th birthday, Aunk and his great grandfather had gone for a walk. There was no need for him to explain where they were going or what they were going to do. Aunk knew it was time and he was prepared. He hugged his great grandfather and thanked him for being good to his family. They sat in the bar and made a toast together, tossing their ice filled glasses to the floor in respect for the dead. He knew it was the last time he would see him alive. He sat and recollected the story of how the sarcophagus had come into their lives.

***

Bahman, his grandfather, had been a boy of twelve in 1695, at the time of its discovery and he had been the thirty-seven year old foreman of the dig. It had been discovered by a team of European archaeologists and in the beginning no one had ever explained why it had been given that name.

When it had first been found all the crew was buzzing hoping to find riches and the mummy of some ancient king. The sarcophagus looked more like a steam operated machine fashioned to look like a replica of an ancient burial container rather than an authentic artifact. They were disappointed to discover it was empty.

On the first night after they dug into the chamber, an old man approached him and bid him wrap his aged body in blood covered linen wraps and place his body into the sarcophagus. At first he thought him mad and struggled with the old man as he attempted to bleed himself. In the process he was stabbed and lay dying near the old man, who asked him as he lay bleeding, “If you will take my place, you will live the lives of many men, but take care, besides the caretaker only those seeking redemption may be entered into the box.”

He did not understand. A proud and educated man, he did not want to die and leave his son to live alone. So he agreed to take the old man’s place. The old man stabbed him again and collected his blood in a gold and copper vessel at the base of the tablet upon which the sarcophagus was placed. He soaked the wraps and bid the terrified lad who had been with him to assist him with wrapping his father’s body. Despite his fear he did as the old man said. As they wrapped him the old man explained many things.

“A drop of their own blood will bring them back as they are but better, a drop of a youth’s blood will take away their age but the formula for how far is not known though always an adult, a drop of the caretaker’s blood will pass the responsibility on to the next. It must be a deliberate act to activate the transfer. It will not occur from a cut or an injury, but must intentionally be place into the container by the individual to whom it belongs.”

When his father had taken his last breath, Bahman and the old man lifted him and placed him into the sarcophagus. The old man dripped his own blood into the container and placed at the base of his feet a chalice of wine. “In celebration of life, from now until the end.” he said and closed the lid.

He sat with the boy in silence for a time. When several hours had past, he bid the boy help him up.

“I do not have long. I shall not see the morning. Bid your father bathe, drink the wine, and thank Osiris for the second chance. Be he a better father to you, and live a life that helps mankind and he shall pass on unto your family the opportunity to offer the same to others. Do not forget the things I have told you.”

“Are you the devil?” young Bahman had asked.

“No sir, nor will your father nor any caretaker ever be. And they need not fear him. The only evil that any need be concerned about is that within mankind itself.

Bahman struggled to hear the old man. His voice was getting raspy and week. “Let the good pass on.” he kept repeating but Bahman did not understand.

He had walked with the old man the entire night and left him near a tavern. He would not see him again. He returned to the dig site before sunrise. When he went inside his father sat at the edge of the basin of water. Bahman relayed the old man’s instructions and information and after his father had followed them to the letter, he apologized to his son and promised until it was his time to pass on the caretaker-ship he would not leave him again.

He sold everything he owned in Egypt, married the daughter of a wealthy archaeologist, and moved to the New World. Convinced the sarcophagus was a fraud his father-in-law gave it to Bahman’s father as a wedding present. When they reached what would later be the port of St George, Bahman’s Father began construction of their home as well as laid the foundation for their business. Everyone thought he was crazy to build on top of the stone shelf. They delved with dynamite for weeks and built the structure right on top of the stone itself. No one knew the caverns directly below would become home to the sarcophagus.

As time passed and his family prospered, his father bought all the land surrounding the business, including the beach property, the dock, and the land on which the shelf rested. It was secure and people did not approach. It had grown eerie and dangerous looking.

Bahman’s Father had been a member of the community for thirty years before he had cause to venture to use the ‘box’ as they lovingly called it. A young girl had fallen from one of the cliffs and drowned. Her mother was in anguish, and his wife bade him help if he could. She knew little of the box, but knew that Bahman’s father had helped others.

The girl was a rebellious youth, troubled and unruly but her mother loved her. Aunk’s father put her in the wagon and took her away. The girl showed up on her mother’s doorstep, the next morning. She was tired, pale, and ever so sorry to have caused her mother to worry. She assured her she had only passed out, that her breathing was shallow but she had not died. She was able to convince her mother, and no one else knew.

***

Eunice sat in sheer disbelief. She had assumed that Aunk would dispose of Tom’s body, not resurrect him. This was certainly better but how was it possible. When Tom was done with his bath, he collected the ice cold mug of beer and made a toast, “In celebration of life from now until the end, and thank you Osiris for giving me a second chance.” He then downed the entire mug of beer.

He looked at Eunice earnestly then said, “We are never to speak of this. Aside from being considered as having lost our minds, it would be a disservice to Aunk and his family. He must have risked a great deal to be able to accomplish this. We must be certain we are never the reason that he comes to any harm. ”

“But what we do about the sarcophagus?” asked Eunice.

The two sat in silence and thought for a moment. The morning was passing rapidly and it wouldn’t be long before people were out and about and someone was sure to notice an ancient sarcophagus sitting on the side of their house.

Tom threw on a robe, and Eunice followed him outside. When they got to the side of the house they were surprised to find the sarcophagus had been removed. Tom shrugged his shoulders and looked at his wife.

“I guess they thought of everything.” Tom said and escorted Eunice into the house.

From then on Tom was a model citizen, a devoted husband, and a credit to mankind. Most of his coworkers and friends found it remarkable that he was no longer affected by alcohol. When they sat in Charlie’s and made a toast, Tom would raise his glass, smile and nod his respect to Charlie and turn his mug upon his napkin. He no longer drank iced drinks, and when he had finished his toast he would stand and bid his comrades good evening and go home to Eunice.

Charley Miller’s Bar © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights