Purple's Platitudes

nothing but words …

after the darkness

31 March 2014

 

 

I was forbidden to speak. I could almost accept that, but the Old One had also forbidden anyone to speak to me, which was much harder to accept.  I am now known as She Who Returned, never spoken directly to, but I’ve grown accustomed to being spoken of, usually when I am actually within earshot, or worse, directly among those who are talking about me as if I wasn’t even there.

 

The Old One was counting marks on his staff, standing apart, yet always watching it seemed. I already knew tonight would be the ritual of the Three Trees. This was my first year to bleed and all of us who did, knew when the ritual would be. No one ever spoke of it though, at least not that I ever remembered hearing. Somehow, everyone just knew when it would be, and those of age would gather and wait for the Old One. The younger all knew they were not allowed and seemed to embrace the Wandering, most without grumbling or complaining, although some needed extra coaxing sometimes.

 

The Old One eyed me, scowling I thought, but he merely made some noise and quickly averted his gaze. I knew during the ritual everyone would become more enlightened to those around them. The light from the Three Trees would show us things we had never even imagined. Like the Old One’s silver gray hair which hung long and straight, almost down to his waist, or the almost terrifying knowledge of seeing faces and expressions in that powerful glowing light from the Three Trees burning.

 

I listened to whispers, busy hands, shuffling feet, and other noises. It was so frustrating, so sad for me to keep silent. I had returned! I knew something more than they had ever imagined or experienced and yet, I was not allowed to speak. Sometimes I was not afraid of the Wandering, even though we all knew someone who had wandered and never come back again. It was different for me. I didn’t go into the Wandering and come back, I went beyond, some place real. Not real like in the Wandering sometimes, but real, I don’t know how to explain it or even describe it. It was like here, only it wasn’t always like here. It was like the Three Trees, only more often, not just during the bleeding. I don’t know, I have no words.

 

The Old One took me aside, when I first returned, listened as I told him everything I could, asked questions, and then forbade me of ever speaking of it again with anyone. Then, he marched me back to everyone and changed my name and pronounced the judgment and prohibition – no one was to ever speak to me again. No one ever disobeyed the Old One. I don’t know if anyone ever even thought of the possibility. But I had, since I had returned. Tonight, during the burning of the Three Trees, I would break my silence, not knowing what might happen to me if I did. I knew after the darkness, I simply could not remain silent any longer.

 

 

 

 

31 March, 2014 Posted by | Fiction | , | Leave a comment

she was there

08 March 2014

 

 

“Is that it?” Susanne asked incredulously and I nodded silently. From the safety of the car it looked innocent enough, a dilapidated, long since forgotten old house.

 

The yard, if you could call it that, was still peppered with more small boulders and rocky outcroppings than grass. Fallen branches littered the ground, the broken bones of two large trees flanking the house to the front and side. They were dead years ago, bare, leafless, and yet somehow still possessing that sinisterness they always had before.

 

Surprisingly, what grass was still there was green, but not over grown. It had never seemed to grow, even back then.

 

“Do you want to get out and look around?” Susanne asked tentatively, knowing all that I had shared with her about this house, the memories and nightmares I had never escaped from, even after twenty years. This time, I sat silently and didn’t answer her. She touched my arm gently, tenderly, and I shrugged. It was the only answer I could muster at the moment.

 

Everything about the house seemed the same, although time had taken its toll on it. The roof was curling upwards in places, the outside was pockmarked, pieces hanging off or simply missing. The cement front steps leading up to the porch were eroding, while a scattered few potted plants were thriving on both the porch and the balcony directly above it.

 

Most of the windows were still intact, even curtained, all except that one.

 

It had been my room.

 

Susanne opened her door quickly.

 

“What are you doing?” I demanded, more abruptly than I intended.

 

“I want to see if it’s open is all, just to peek inside.”

 

I knew telling her no was pointless, she was far too strong-willed, so reluctantly, I started to follow her.

 

“You sure honey?” she asked without any hint of teasing or challenge. “You don’t have to go with me you know.”

 

Again, words would not come out and I shrugged and nodded simultaneously, probably trying to convince myself more than her.

 

At first, when I initially shared with her my memories of those final days in that house, she playfully chided me, teasing mercilessly. But in time, when the nightmares became something I shared more intimately with her, she became understanding, supportive, even though she remained a skeptic at heart. There were too many unexplained happenings to dismiss, occurrences which she witnessed – it’s always difficult to argue with personal experience.

 

Standing on the front porch she glanced at my face, waited for some sign, permission to proceed perhaps. I gave none, but she reached for the front door and …

 

“That’s all I really remember,” I said, my voice trailing off. The officers looked at one another, then me. I kept expecting the guys in the white coats to come through the door of the interrogation room.

 

“Tell us one more time about the little girl you saw in the window upstairs,” one of them demanded, his voice hardly disguising his suspicious disbelief.

 

I suddenly remembered. Everything happened so fast, but I ran, terrified, back to the car, jumped in, locked the doors, started the car, threw it into reverse, and floored it.

 

She was there, peering out my bedroom window, the eyes that stared at me, that face that haunted my troubled sleep, that smile, usually the last detail I remembered before I woke up screaming. She was there! Maybe I am going crazy, maybe I have always been slightly mad, but I know one indisputable fact. She was there and now Susanne is not.

 

 

(written for Kellie Elmore’s FWF)

 

 

8 March, 2014 Posted by | Fiction | , , | Leave a comment

leading me on

01 March 2014

 

 

“What the …” I muttered, not finishing the thought out loud.

 

It was night, but the fuzzy glow of a few streetlights revealed enough for me to tell I had no idea where I was. A sidewalk, on an unknown street, in a neighborhood I did not recognize.

 

I shivered slightly. It was snowing, softly, in big fluffy flakes that fell on my face and hands. I heard footsteps, behind me, casually walking away.

 

“Hey, excuse me,” I shouted, just loud enough for the stranger to hear.

 

He stopped and turned, but neither spoke, nor moved.

 

“I was just wondering sir, if you could possibly help me. I seem to be lost.”

 

I heard him shuffle back towards me, accompanied by an all too familiar sound. You see, even though I could not make any sense of where I was, or how I got here, I knew that back and forth tap tapping sound as intimately as he probably did. It was then I laughed, realizing he and I were both blind, the blind leading the blind.

 

(written for Kellie Elmore’s FWF prompt)

 

 

1 March, 2014 Posted by | Fiction | , | Leave a comment

The Color of Surrender

22 September 2013

The Color of Surrender

 

I was almost eighteen, well I would have been in fourteen more months. My older brother was eighteen and once I got used to answering to Marshall instead of Michael, pretending to be him wasn’t all that crazy. It got me into the Marines.

If I had thought about it, I might have realized that lying about my age, just to get into the Marines, to run off and fight and try to be a hero was never really going to impress Cheryl Anne like I hoped, but, like many things in life, we find things out too late.

It wasn’t one of my brightest ideas.

Vietnam was a never-ending nightmare, a moment by moment ordeal. The horrors I witnessed were so surreal, unimaginable, perhaps even indescribable, at least if you wanted it to sound believable to someone who had never lived through it.

I was smaller than most of the other guys in my outfit. Unfortunately, that landed me the assignment of tunnel rat. I was the one that got lowered down into those dank, dark, death traps after we had dropped a couple of grenades down the hole. My job was to go in with just my sidearm and seek out and kill anyone still alive.

Some tunnels were nothing more than a tight crawl space. Others, a man could stand up in and walk through. Sometimes there were caches, storage rooms, or living quarters. I even found oddly abandoned command centers, their oil lamps still burning.

I learned quickly how clever and resourceful the enemy could be. They seemed to invent new ways to inflict pain and death on anyone whose judgment could be momentarily colored by distraction. You learned to always pay attention, to never let your guard down. Down there, your life depended on it.

There were Booby traps everywhere, bomb triggers, water traps, and landslides that could be set off by crawling into a certain tunnel, or past a specific point. You just never knew. These were only some of the goodies I ran into and learned to recognize, even in near total darkness.

She was only a girl, I thought, maybe ten years old at the most. Straight, long dark hair and dark eyes, sitting in that room, all alone, in the dark.

I found and shot one VietCong. I heard him breathing ahead of me as I inched forward down a freshly dug side tunnel. I emptied a full 15-shot clip into the darkness and hit him twice in the back.

Above ground, a mortar shell hit and caused the tunnel to collapse behind me, blocking my route back to the main tunnel. The tunnel was only dug out to allow one person to crawl through it, so I had to dismember the dead soldier in order to crawl past him and continue on. I guess I panicked a little, but I did what I had to do. I was a Marine after all. We did whatever had to be done.

The room was a surprise. An earthen door in the tunnel wall collapsed inward and I fell into darkness. I tumbled head-first onto the floor, and landed hard enough to knock the wind out of me. I knew better than to start firing randomly into the darkness, but I was terrified, trying to hold my breath, slow my pulse, and listen for anything sound besides the rapid beating of my heart. I heard nothing, no telltale noise, no movement in the darkness.

"Please don’t hurt me," a child’s voice whimpered.

My instincts failed me at the sound of her voice. I should have fired first and asked questions later as they say. But, I didn’t. My ears told me where she was even though I could not see her.

"Are you alone?" I growled, trying to sound as threatening as possible.

"Yes."

I reached into my front shirt pocket and flicked my lighter on. In the orangish glow I saw her sitting there, in an ankle-length, clean white dress, oddly out of place. I saw nothing else in the room and relaxed a little. She was only about three feet in front of where I had landed.

The light flickered across her face, illuminating her eyes, a solemn little girl’s face. So innocent, so young, oh so young.

Suddenly, I focused in on her hands and I saw what she held in each. I watched in horror as she pulled the pins on the two grenades and whispered, "I surrender." Her smile was the last thing I ever saw.

22 September, 2013 Posted by | Fiction | , | Leave a comment