Beginnings 1.

birthmark
This Gary Larson cartoon was my cell phone wallpaper…

 

I keep wondering which day is or was the first day of the rest of my life. I cannot believe today was this morning at 4:30 a.m. when my cat, Henri put his butt (aka the “one-eyed wink”) in my face and sat down on my nose. I awoke quickly and sat up. Henri jumped off the bed, knowing he had pissed me off. The little dog, Luke, was still snoring in his slumber and making those little body jerks as though he was chasing a rabbit.

I looked around my dark and silent bedroom, wondering what time and what day it was. It was Sunday morning of Valentine’s Day. Did it bother me that I didn’t have a love in my life, or for that matter a love life? Not at the moment, as I had too many other things on my plate to be bothered with romance.

First and foremost was that I got laid off of my job on February 4th. I knew it was coming, in fact I knew back in August of last year that something was going down. I can’t say too much about it because I haven’t made a decision as to what I need to do going forward. First of all, there was this big dress code farce that I was to adhere to and no one else needed to. Then there was the “meeting” where instead of explaining things, I was told I was being contentious. That meeting happened three days before I turned 65 on October 15th. At the end of October, I was assaulted by a coworker because she didn’t want me to be standing next to her for a company picture.

I reported it to the police and because I did that, I got written up for something I had done a month prior that I didn’t even know was wrong. The coworker? She wandered the halls with a smirk on her face as though she was Queen Poo on Poop Island.  Doesn’t she realize what it meant for her to be Queen Poo? She was the biggest piece of them all. But I am getting riled up here.

I took a one-month medical leave because of all the doctor’s appointments as a result her assault and the resulting injury to my back. I came back on January 3rd, 2016 and had maybe two days of peace before things began to happen again. I knew I had a target on my back and it was a matter of time and I would be let go.

Later that afternoon of February 4th, I was pulled into the conference room and told my job had ended as there wasn’t enough work. I suspect they had the police and medical staff on high alert thinking I was going to go hysterical on them and they would need to haul me away in a strait jacket. When I didn’t go berserk, I was asked if I had any questions. I asked if I could get unemployment. They said yes. I was given my last pay check and was told they had a little severance package for me, but to read it later when I got home. I said, “good, because I am broke.” My stuff was packed up and I was whisked out of the office.

I think that because I was on heightened alert, I noticed things that I probably wouldn’t have at other more “sane” times. First, the vice president walked out of the office behind me, got into his car and backed into an adjacent parking lot so he could watch my goings on. Normally I wouldn’t have paid much attention and would have assumed he was going somewhere when he started up his car. Instead he waited until I was in my car and driving out of the parking lot. It was then that I realized he was monitoring my final movements.  So what did he think I was going to do that he was so concerned that he had to monitor me? But you had to know the HR person to understand how she could convince others to believe her crazy ideas.

The second thing I noticed was when I ran back upstairs because I thought that in my haste I had left the severance letter and check on the desk. I hadn’t left it; I had just stuffed it in a box. As I turned to leave, who do you think was leaving the human resources office with a laugh and big smile on her face? Yep! Queen Poopalicious.

The third thing which happen in the ‘meeting’, was that I had said in the meeting that I had figured that I was going to be laid off. They were genuinely surprised. Why? Did they think I was stupid? Did they think they were being so clever and are they that stupid? Did they not realize how transparent they were?

I went to the bank and deposited my final check, then sat in the parking lot to read the severance letter they had given me. Quite frankly, it stated that I had 21 days to respond and sign to get the severance. I was confused. The letter was filled with legalese, but basically it was a gag order, that I could not go after anyone or anything and could not accuse them of age discrimination. I couldn’t write about it or go to the media.

I looked at the amount that they were offering for my complete silence.  A total was offered of a little more than $2,300.00, which didn’t even cover the amount I lost as a result of the medical leave or the remaining vacation days that I hadn’t taken.

So basically, it was a gag order, that I could not go after anyone or anything and could not accuse them of age discrimination. I couldn’t write about it or go to the media.

Those were the thoughts mulling around in my sleepy brain that Valentine’s Day morning. So was the day I turned 65 the first day of the rest of my life, or was this day the first day? I know every day can be, but there are those days that seem to have greater potency or portent.

To be continued…

To work, to work, to work, to work!

Every morning I go to work. Yes.  Lately something has been telling me there is a correlation between “to work” and something else.  It’s been bugging me, but I finally figured it out. If you say “to work” three or four times really fast, it starts to sound like “twerk, twerk, twerk.”

Really when you think about it, there are way too many similarities.  I feel better knowing, I think.

The Standoff

So I am trying to get my self out of bed this morning. I have already hit the snooze alarm too many times. 

Luke is snuggled up next to me on my left side. Kitty jumps up on the bed on my right saying good morning and wanting me to scratch her around the face. I move a bit and hear the “squeak squeak” of a little toy mouse that’s rolling around on top of the covers.
 
I throw it up in the air, where kitty catches it and bats it around. I repeat that a few times until Luke is finally awake enough to pay attention. Next thing, they are both standing, one eye on the mouse the other on each other, wondering who will pounce first. It was a stand-off.
 
Staring wide-eyed, kitty watches as Luke pounces, grabs the mouse and curls back up next to my left side. I could see the shock on her face.
 
I laugh; actually and finally awake, myself. I am now sitting up, smiling and thinking about how wonderful it is to wake up like this. I had just witnessed a sweet interplay. I thought too that God was watching the interplay between all three of us. I believe he laughed and smiled at the morning too.

When Walls Do Talk

“If walls could talk,” they say. I don’t remember the rest of the quote, but really, what would they tell us about what they hear? Good stuff from friends; bad shit from enemies. Now that’s what we’re really thinking of. The dirt, the inside scoop, the secret plans that our asshole bosses are making, because they have low self-esteem, are insensitive and narcissistic. What if it’s not that cut and dried? What if the walls chatter all the time about inane and nonsensical stuff?

My walls do talk and before you quit reading because you think I am full of shit, let me tell you what happened. I was making some fish stock from some giant carp I was given at a food shelf. (I had responded to an ad through the workforce center about free fish). As I simmered the fish, including head and bones, the steam rose up and unstuck the 3M tape I had used to tack my Depression glass plates to the soffits in my ancient basement galley kitchen apartment. Well, when the tape let loose, the one of the plates fell down, hitting the ladle in the soup pot. As it connected with the ladle handle, the force of the contact flipped the ladle out of the pot and onto the floor. Fortunately the plate landed in the stock pot and did not break.

I had been in the other room when I heard the clatter, got up and went into the kitchen to see what had happened. There was fish broth on the counter and on the floor, but the floor was quickly cleaned up by my one of my little dogs. I climbed up on the counter to see what had caused the hook to give way. It was condensation from the cooking process. I then decided to pull the 3M hooks off the soffit entirely and come up with a different way to hang my treasures.

Because of the age of the building, the surface of the soffit had many layers of paint that had over time fused together as a thick layer resembling skin or hide. As I attempted to pull the hook off the soffit, the paint pulled away like taffy, but did not release. As I continued to pulled, the paint reached the end of its tensile value and the hook let loose, taking some of the paint with it and leaving a small hole in the paint layer. At the moment that the hook and the stuck paint were freed from the soffit, I heard a hiss coming from the hole in the paint. It reminded me of someone’s sharp intake of breath.

“Creepy.” I thought, and forgot about it, my mind trying to find a different way of remounting the plate and the other treasures attached by the same method.

That night, I awoke to the sound of breathing. It was soft and rhythmic and it wasn’t coming from my cat or the two shiatsus sleeping peacefully on my bed. My windows were closed, no sirens sounded and my dogs did not seem to notice anything. I went back to sleep.

Over the next couple of weeks, the sound of breathing continued. Sometimes it came as panting, gasping and the languidness of sleep. I started a tape so when I was away from the apartment, I could listen to it to see if what I heard was really happening. I could still hear it and also had a friend listen, to which she confirmed that she could hear it too.

I don’t know why I wasn’t frightened. The animals didn’t sense any menace. Maybe that was why. It was intriguing and I thought it could be some vent that allowed sound to travel from another apartment. Some of my peace was shaken when the breathing began to change and sound like words being mouthed. Okay, I admit I was getting really creeped out, by the moaning and hissing sounds.

One evening as I sat at my computer to write, drinking wine and actually playing solitaire instead, I lost my patience with the noise and by the niggling fear.

“Will you just stop with the loud breathing? It’s getting annoying.” The room went totally silent, and then soft breathing began again. The thing is that it didn’t matter what room I was in, the sound and the presence was the same. I had looked for vents and microphones, but there was just nothing there, except “the presence.”

The presence now felt sad and…what else…frustration? Yes, sadness and frustration. I quit pretending to write. I remembered when this whole thing had started, when the hole in the soffit hissed when I pulled the hook off. I walked away from the computer and put my hand on the wall.

“Hello Wall.” The breathing became quicker and the wall under my hand quivered. “Are you alive? Are you trying to speak?” Again the breathing picked up and the wall paint quivered under my hand. We worked out the beginning communication, as I began with the same questions.

“Are you alive? Breathe and quiver.

“Are you in the wall?” Breathe and quiver.

“Can you talk?” Silence.

“Do you understand what I am saying?” Breathe and quiver.

“Do you think you could talk?” Breathe and quiver.

“Should I be afraid of you?” Silence.

“Yea, right,” I thought. “That was a stupid question. If it was evil, it wouldn’t show its hand, not that it had any hands that I knew of.”

“Do you have a name?” Silence.

“Would you like a name?” Breathe and quiver.

“How about just calling you Wall?” Breathe and quiver.

There was a peaceful silence that I understood as the wall getting a feel for its name. I got to thinking about the computer in the old movie 2001 Space Odyssey.

“How about Hal?” by now I didn’t need to keep my hand pressed to the wall to understand its pulse. First there was silence, and then there was a raucous vibration bouncing around the room.

“Are you laughing?” Breathe and quiver.
“So you understand where the name came from and you think it’s funny?” Breathe and quiver.

“Are you Hal?” Silence. Again, I thought “Yeah right.”
“Ok.” I continued. “I have a few more questions and then we can work on helping you to speak. Next question, do you live in the wall and crawl around from room to room?” Silence.

“Do you live in the ceiling?” Silence.

“So where do you live? Silence.

“Does your silence mean no or that you aren’t alive.” Silence.

“Does it mean you don’t know how to answer the question?” Breathe and quiver.

“One more question, when you are breathing and I can hear it, can the rest of the building hear you?” Silence.

“Are you sure?” Breathe and quiver.

“Ok, let me think a bit about how this could work.” I sat for a good twenty minutes before I came up with a solution.

“I got it.” I said. “I know you can control your breathing, and you can read, or however you understood the Hal thing.” Breathe and quiver.

“So let’s start with the letter ‘H’. That’s like breathing out, so if you breathe out, like ‘huh’. Try that.”

It did and eventually it learned to talk. The process was long and tedious and I don’t want to bore anyone with it. There was one issue that bears sharing that happened in the very beginning with the ‘H’ sound. We worked on Hi, ha ha, Hal and hello.

As Hal practiced, I was afraid that I had let loose a nightmare. He sounded more like a spook, saying “Ha ha ha and heh heh heh and Ha-l Ha-l Hal. Finally he-l l l l, hel l l l, hel l l l o o o o. It was just plain creepy.

Hal and I talked a lot about what it was like to be a non-human sentient being. What it was like to not be able to talk before, whether he knew of any other walls that could talk and how far he was able to be part of the building.

He said he had been aware of himself becoming awake when they began building this building; that he was only able to be part of this building, but that he could see his surroundings and the people within and around his building. If there were any other “Hals” he was unaware of them.

We’ve been getting along pretty good for the last couple of years. Because of Hal, I am quitting my day job, and retiring early as a writer. I will focus on my writing and maybe travel for pleasure a little. Today I came home, dropped my purse on the floor, flopped onto the couch, hugged my pets and said hello to Hal. This has become a daily routine.

“How was your day?” Hal begins. By the way Hal does not sound like Hal from the movie. Hal is not male or female. Hal sounds like an elf, with humor and a little mischief, and usually pretty happy.

“Okay,” I responded. “But you know the truth, it doesn’t matter how hard they try to be fair and humane, I don’t like working in the corporate world.”

“I know, and you don’t like the politics and greedy office games.”

“Oh that’s a good one, Hal,” I responded. “Greedy Office Games. I might have to use that.”

“Thank you.” Said Hal.

“Welcome,” I responded. “What about your day?”

“It was good.” Hal said. “You know Julie in Apt 202? Well she was curled up on her couch, when her cat chased a mouse up across her leg, up the back of the couch, up the wall and out through a crack in the window. The cat followed as far as it could go, scratching her Julie’s leg as it pursued the mouse. Julie freaked out, knocking her coke onto her magazine; hitting her head on the bookshelf and giving out a little squeak that sounded just like the mouse that started the whole thing. I laughed so hard I almost made her walls quiver.”

We had a comfortable friendship, but it wasn’t always this way. I keep coming back to that first year of adjustment. The damned wall never slept. It kept talking excitedly about things in the past. I could understand never having another being to talk to, to question, or to relate to, even though Hal had never known it wanted that. Hal had been perfectly content to be a wall, until I ripped open the paint and started the nightmare.

“Did I tell you about the people in 306? They were part of the mob!” This comment at two in the morning, after I repeatedly said I needed to sleep.

“Shut up!” I said.

“But it was really scary and exciting!”

“I don’t care. Shut up!” It was quiet for a while in the room and just as I was falling asleep, Hal started up again.

“Well that’s rude.” There was a pause. “Saying shut up.”
Another pause from Hal, “I would never say shut up to you. Why you might ask? It’s because I love you, Leanne. I really, really love you. You are a perfect friend, you gave me a voice. Now you don’t want me to use my voice? Well that hurts my feelings. There are years of memories that I want to share with you, my perfect friend.”

I bury my ears under the pillow to drown out another monologue and I actually fall asleep. This has been going on for months, so maybe I am becoming immune to it. I also know that I have to deal with the wall’s peevishness when I wake up.

“Good morning, my darling friend.”

“Good morning,” I mumble with toothpaste in my mouth.”

“I am glad you have the gift of sleep. Unlike me, who has to stay awake all night, watching over you and your beloved pets, while you slumber in your innocence. I listen to your snores and your farts, but do I complain? No, because I love you! You are so beautiful, to me.” Hal starts singing Joe Cocker’s rendition of the song with the same name.

I never knew I could get my morning routine done as quickly as I have learned to do. I am out in half an hour, but not before more of Hal.
“Are you leaving? Again? You just left yesterday. Why do you have to leave again today? Why do you have to leave me alone again? I’ve been alone for soooooooooo long.”
Hal starts to wail.

“Hal,” I say. “We’ve been through this so many times before. I have to work; I need to sleep at night. I am not wall, like you. This wailing isn’t going to help. You’re just trying to manipulate me. Now stop your psycho-blubbering and keep your voice down or someone will hear you in the halls.

Hal keeps on blubbering, softly now, as I lock the apartment go up the stairs and out the door, until I can’t hear it anymore. You see, I often taped Hal during the day, and as soon as I would walk out the door, Hal stops the fake crying, and sometimes actually laughs.

“Well, that didn’t work.” Hal says. “I need her attention! I need her to understand how upsetting it is to not have her here all the time. There must be a way. I must think!” Hal talks to the pets, which totally ignore it.

After a short silence, Hal says, “I do like the imagery of ‘psyco-blubbering’. Hal giggles.

Sometimes Hal tried the silent treatment, but that never lasted long. After never having a voice to having one and having someone who would listen and not run screaming out of the building, Hal couldn’t keep quiet for long.

One time Hal decided to try opening the conversation to someone else in the building. It came back to me laughing so hard, the entire apartment quivered. When it could finally talk without going into another fit of laugher, it explained what had happened.

“Well, I started out by saying hi Danny, my name is Hal, and I am your wall.”

I stopped what I was doing, trying to picture where this was going. “Which apartment? Is it the Danny that’s about forty, the security guard?” I asked. “Ok, so what happened?”

“Well, he sat there for a while looking around. I said hello again, and he asked me if it were God speaking. I told him no, that I was a sentient being that just learned to talk.”

“…and your name is Hal, like the 2001 Space Odyssey?”

I said, “Yes. That’s my name, but I am a wall, not a computer.” I started to tell him how I got my name and how I started talking, but he interrupted me by looking around and saying, this is bullshit and he jumped off the toilet and ran toward the door, but he tripped and fell because he hadn’t pulled up his pants. Then he ran out the door, making a funny little keening sound. If I could pee, I would have been laughing so hard I would have peed on my own doorstep.”

The walls were quivering again. “… and … and you know how he likes to go out dressed like a woman? … well when he tripped, he fell on his belly … and his wig fell off … and one of his pumps flew off and … and his skirt flipped up in the back and showed off his rather cute bum!”

I was silent, picturing Danny’s shock and predicament. The apartment was silent, and then Hal gave a great sigh of contentment. I shook my head and my smile broadened to a chuckle. Hal started to giggle and by the time we were both sated by laughter, I had tears in my eyes and Hal was quiet for the rest of the evening (with the exception of a giggle or two. It was the closest I can imagine to Hal sleeping).

There is one more incident that helped set the compatible existence that we enjoy now. It too was during that early tumultuous time. Hal, I think was afraid of being the silent being it had been since its beginning, and when I wasn’t there, I don’t think it was comfortable with solitude anymore.

Hal threatened to not let me leave the apartment. Now that made me afraid. He threatened to hurt my pets, and that made me mad.
Then he threatened to bar the doors and windows so I couldn’t get out, I didn’t know if he could actually do that. I think Hal could, but I would never tell him that. I told Hal that I would scream and scream until someone let me out. Hal said he would make the walls of my apartment so thick that no one could hear through them. I told him I would die from running out of food and that he would be all alone again. I would be dead and would rot and what good of a friend would I be then?

Hal was being stubborn and adamant that he wouldn’t let me leave. The moment of truth came when I chose to match its dare. I grabbed my pets and my bag and my laptop walked to the door. I was sweating and my hand was shaking. Hal was saying the door knob was hot and that he had connected it to a live electric wire. I grabbed the knob and turned. It opened just fine and we all walked out. The cat was yowling in my arms and definitely not happy to be in an upsetting situation. I could hear Hal say, “oops,” as I called its bluff.

Now I was really angry. I came back in, quietly closed the door, let the pets go, set my bags down and took a couple of deep breaths.

“Don’t you ever do that again!” I said. “If you ever start to threaten, you know what I am going to do? I am going to let the word spread that this place is haunted and eventually no one will ever want to live here again. You know what happens to buildings that are abandoned?”
Hal was crying and sniffing. “No, what happens?”

“They tear them down,” I said with as much drama as I could. “Then where would you be? Dead! Yes, that’s right, dead!”

Hal began to wail and I told him to keep it down or other people would know. I left to go down the street to the Spy House Coffee House on Nicollet Avenue. Before I left, I turned on the tape to see if this was another ruse. I had really scared Hal.

I sat there drinking my latte thinking about how weird all this was. I am leaving an apartment where the walls talk and going to the SPY house. I remembered a conversation I had had with this young man from Siberia, from which he had fled, telling about the new Russian spooks persecuting his people. He told us that his first day in south Minneapolis, while waiting at a bus stop, he hid as bullets were ricocheting around due to gang wars. He was already paranoid because of the culture from which he came, and then the bullets his first day.

Finally, my friend was telling a horrid story to him and me about something he had witnessed as a security guard. This young Siberian thought he was undercover CIA. I realized what was going on and tried to add a bit of humor, saying that this wasn’t the Spy House for nothing. Unless one understands a language like ones mother tongue, humor doesn’t transfer well between cultures and I made the situation worse. I still feel bad about that.

Anyway I sat there at the Spy House Coffee Shop thinking about the damned wall, Hal. I think I scared it enough, unless of course it was all bullshit in the first place. It was time to go home. Hal was contrite and didn’t talk all night.

I awoke sometime around 3:00 am listening to Hal cry softly. “Hal,” I said. “Why do you sniff your nose when you are crying?”

“Isn’t that what you do when you are crying?” Hal said.

“If you have a nose and it’s dripping.”

“Oh.”

“Are you okay, Hal?”

“I am okay and I am sorry.” He sniffed again. “Okay, I don’t have a nose, but it does feel good and right to make the sniff sound.”

“You can sniff all you want, Hal.”

“You’re not going to tell everyone that I am haunting this place?”

“No, as long as you don’t bully me or my pets, things will work out.” I replied.

“How do I know you aren’t trying to keep me to yourself? Maybe it would be better if the world new about me and you don’t want that? Maybe I am God or the Messiah but don’t know it? Maybe you are just messing with my mind?”

“Hal!” I said exasperated.

“Okay, Okay!” Hal said. “I’m just asking.”

“Hal,” I said comfortingly. “We will work this out. We will find a way to live together and both of us to be happy, okay?”

“Okay. Good Night.”

“Good Night, Hal.”

“Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do…” Hal began singing softly.

“Hal!” I couldn’t help laughing; knowing Hal was being its silly self.

Hal giggled and fell silent.

We did work it out, which is why I can write about this whole experience. We do our own thing, but we reserve a certain amount of time each day and let Hal talk. I write everything down and publish his stories. I publish under my name of course. I write about the events that have touched the lives of those that have lived in this apartment building. My writing is well acclaimed. I have paid off bills and student loans. I purchased an RV so I could be an old hippie, but instead of a Volkswagen bus, I travel in comfort, with my sweet pets.

Hal gets lonely. My friend Angie comes in and stays. I have also introduced Hal to a fledgling writer named Heather. Heather and I got to know each other at a book signing. She is my perfect replacement. She and Hal actually have a better relationship than Hal and I did, but Heather didn’t have to go through the hell either.

Tomorrow I am going to tell Hal that I am going to be leaving the apartment. I think it will be an easy transition because of Heather. I will come back and visit and I can never thank Hal enough for coming into my life. I will work on my half finished novels and am looking forward to the future, without another Hal in my life.

Leanne Lemire
2013

Nellie and Nanny – Chapter One

My name is Nellie and I am 50+ years old. I am one inch tall. I was created as a party favor to sit on top of a cake for a baby shower. I wonder if that makes me a party doll? I am called Nellie Baby.

I am created out of peach-colored plastic. I look like a baby. My arms are outstretched and my molded body has the imprint of a diaper. I wonder if this means I have been sitting in the same diaper all my life?

I wonder about a lot of things, like where Nanny’s brother is at this moment? He is brother number two of three, aka Brothers Grimm Number 2, aka BG2. I have nightmares about BG2. Did you know he destroyed an entire package of Nelly Babies? Also Nanny’s doll, Mary Ann, was found down in the bottom of a two-holer outhouse! But those are stories for a later time. This story is about how Nanny and I met.

Every weekday morning, from the age of four until she started kindergarten, Nanny would go to Catholic Mass with her grandmother Florida Gregoirre Lemire. She doesn’t remember much of it, except being bored and restless, with all the standing up, sitting down and kneeling. The hardest part was communion where she had to kneel the entire time. To entertain herself, she would see how close to the edge of the kneeling pads she could get and still be on it. Grandma Flora put the kibosh on that when one time she got too close to the edge, and with a lot of noise, she fell off right during the quietest time of the Mass.

“Now you behave yourself, now you kneel quietly, now stop that wiggling, now shame on you,” grandma yipped and niggled in, her French Canadian accent. Mon Dieu! After that, going to Mass was something Nanny laboriously endured.

That’s when I came into her life. I don’t know why I was lying on my back near a garbage can in a back alley. As usual, my arms are outstretched and my legs are in the air like I’m waiting for my diaper to be changed. I don’t remember how long I had been lying like that, with the endless Portland rain falling on me. It was cold, but good thing I’m just plastic, because I didn’t feel it and I didn’t melt.

Nanny said when she spied me in the dirt, she let go of her grandmother’s hand and dashed across the alley and picked me of. “Now don’t you go running off! Now what did you pick up? Now throw that dirty thing away!” But Nanny didn’t, she kept me tight in her hand, not even daring to take a look at her treasure.

After that day, Nanny was a quiet girl in Mass. She and her Nellie Baby (me) quietly walked every ledge Nanny could reach and that I could stand upright on, without having to be held. We two had such adventures and travelled many horizons. We were inseparable for many years, until BG2 found me and I don’t really know what happened after that.

I was found again, fifty years later. We have talked over old times and those we will share with you. Nanny said I was the reason she began collecting miniatures. I still wonder about things, like if my arms will ever relax at my sides or if BG2 will ever find out Nanny found me again or ….

Adeline – Chapter 1

Sarah’s startled heart made her jump at the crack of thunder. The wind picked up, insistent in its urgency to blow on to the next field. It sucked the curtains up against the bedroom window, as though it was saying that this was her appointed time. She looked at her husband’s back and wondered if she had the necessary courage to leave him. Her plans were all laid out, yet she could not move. Fear and pain shackled her to her bed. Another crack of thunder and the bonds snapped. Hawkins snorted and returned to his drunken slumber. It was time for Sarah to leave.

With bare feet, Sarah padded quietly out of the house, the wind nearly ripping the door out of her trembling fingers. The rain began with a dramatic outpouring, but ran harmlessly down her naked form. Down to the lakeshore, she ran toward an old wooden boat, which she tipped upright and pushed into the water. Underneath the boat had been stashed a large bundle with food and clothing. With trembling fingers, she tried to dress, but found it too difficult to put dry clothing on her wet body. Now her entire body was shaking with fear. She would have to go back into the house and slip on her night shift.

“Oh God! I’m going to get caught! I just know I’m going to get caught.” She steeled herself against the possibility. “Well there will be another time if I do, and if he asks me what I was doing out in the rain I’ll just say I forgot some clothes on the clothesline.”

While slipping on her night shift, she surveyed the room by the lightning flashes. There was nothing she wanted here, then she looked at her husband’s pants and her anger arose. She deftly slid her hand in the pocket and pulled out $50.00 and her mother’s locket he had taken from her, and then she slipped silently away again.

Back down at the lakeshore, she pushed off in the pelting rain. The oars creaked in their locks threatening to betray her escape. Sarah straightened the boat out and headed across to the mouth of the river. It wasn’t that far and she planned to hug the curve of the lake. It was a simple plan in the daylight. In the dark with the wind, the waves and the rain, it was frightening.

Even hugging the lakeshore, the wind and waves threatened to push her into shallow water or at worse capsize the entire craft. As she tried to steer toward the mouth of the river, she fought to keep the prow of the boat pointed toward the mouth of the river. She wasn’t going to make it; the storm was too violent. Another crack of thunder, this one nearer. Sarah gave out a started yelp and her resolve almost crumbled under her fear. The she reminded herself of the beatings and her unborn baby.

Grimly, she squared herself in the boat and plunged the oars deep and long, pulling with all her might. She repeated the process again and again, each time letting her anger fuel her will and strength. Plunge and pull, plunge and pull, and on and on, until she was panting. The storm howled around her, lashing her with stinging rain, but Sarah went on, until the weeds crowded around her, letting her know she was nearing the mouth of the river. Now her oars tangled in the thick weeds, forcing her to take shallower dips in the water. Even this began to fail as the weeds grew thicker. Then suddenly, one oar pulled out of its lock, making her fall backward into the boat. She righted herself and began poling instead of rowing; fighting now against the current of the river. As necessary, Sarah switched back and forth from rowing to poling, until she was a good distance up the river.

“Where is it?” she whispered through chattering teeth. She wiped her wet hair from her eyes and looked down at the ankle deep water in the boat. Frantically, she searched the riverbank to find the place she had chosen to pull the boat in. She would have to pull in soon before the boat became too heavy with water to row.

Another crash of lightening and Sarah caught a glimpse of the familiar spot. She twisted the oars to nose in as close to the edge as she could. She jumped out and her foot went down into the muck. It was hard to keep her footing and she took a few tumbles before she got the boat to the safety of the shore.

Sarah tucked the small boat behind the upturned roots of a fallen willow. It would not be noticeable from the river and in this wild country; she hoped it would rot before anyone ever found it. She paused for a moment looking back to the little farmhouse across the lake. Fear, shock and sadness swept over her as a sob broke from her breast.

The storm was easing up, as the young woman straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin. She let her hazel eyes face the invisible house that she and her husband had lived in, and with firmness and through clenched teeth she said, “You will never see this child, Hawkins!” That said, she picked up her bundle of food and clothing and walked into the darkness of the woods.

She didn’t bother changing into her clothing, what was the point anyway, but she did put socks and her father’s sturdy boots on. She was exhausted and was tempted to just sit down, but she knew she had to go so far enough away that Roger Hawkins would never find her.

A small trail followed the curve of the river. “A deer path,” she whispered the words and followed it until it cut north into the woods. She continued following the river until it connected to another small lake. She waded across the river, heading south toward a road that was to be her freedom. Sarah was heading south to Princeton, then to Minneapolis and east to New York. New York was her final destination.

It was quiet now, with the exception of the distant rumble of thunder and the rain dripping off the leaves. As exhausted as Sarah was, she knew she would not be able to sleep, so she figured she would keep going until light.

From Nowhere to Somewhere

Part1-From Somewhere to Nowhere
Chapter 1-From Somewhere

The car wound its way south from Heidelberg, Germany, under a lacy black wrought iron bridge. “Fittingly appropriate for the Black Forest,” Nora thought as she craned her neck to get a better look. The brilliant blue sky behind the bridge set it off in bold contrast. She searched for the exit and entrance ramps, but there didn’t seem to be any. “Maybe there is a footpath leading to and from it, but from where and to where?” She mused.

The bridge was distracting Nora’s attention away from the conversation she was having with Paula, her best friend. Actually, they were arguing and from the heat of it, you would not have thought they had been friends for 25 years.

“You have to make some decisions, Paula. You can’t keep having affairs. He’s going to find out again.” Nora pleaded with her friend.

“This time it’s different.” Paula insisted.

“You said that last time. If you’re that miserable with David, get out!” Nora paused for a moment. “Besides, it’s wrong, Paula, and I can’t keep covering for you.”

“And who are you to act so self-righteous. Every man you’ve dated lately has been married.” Paula shot back.
“Hey, I’m not the one who’s cheating on a spouse. If I start dating someone and then I find out they’re married. Well I’m not cheating, they are.”

Paula pulled the car swiftly to the side of the road and sat for a minute before she turned and looked at Nora. “It’s easy isn’t it….to justify your own actions, but you condemn mine?” She grabbed her purse and slammed the door behind her as she walked down a small path into the woods.

Nora sat in the car listening to the silence. “So, there is a path to the bridge, but I can’t imagine that’s the only one that leads up there.” She watched Paula’s retreating form and then peered up at the bridge, now almost above them. She sighed deeply. “This is not how I imagined this trip to be.”

Paula was right; she had been justifying her own behavior. Even though the man she had been dating lied about his wife, she should have ended the relationship as soon as she found out. Instead she stayed in the relationship far too long, only to realize he would never have left his wife. The truth was she wouldn’t have wanted to take him from her anyway.

“But I am tired of covering for you, Paula.” She whispered, taking her mind off her own problems. “You have to make some serious choices, and you can’t keep going from one man to the next.” The afternoon sun was heating up the inside of the car. Who was she lecturing? Paula or herself? She got out of the car and leaned on the passenger side, waiting for Paula’s return.

She looked at her watch, a half hour had passed. Annoyed she called after Paula, but heard nothing except the soft rustling of the long grass in the meadow. Another fifteen minutes went by and Nora called her friend again. This time she began to worry that something wasn’t quite right. Instead of lacy wrought iron quaintness, the bridge began to look foreboding, the scrollwork looking more like binding ivy. Paula wouldn’t have just walked away and not come back. Maybe something was wrong.

Nora waited another fifteen minutes, yelled a couple more times and made a decision to follow Paula’s path. She rolled up the car windows, locked the doors and was about to head out when at the last minute she decided to grab her small backpack and Paula’s too. These two little packs carried all their vital necessities in it, including their visa’s, their plane tickets, medications and a couple of cans of mace. She took her own can of mace and stuck it in her jeans pocket.

The path Nora followed ended in a small sandy area with tufts of grass populating the perimeter of a small field. She thought it might have been a watershed from the hill where the bridge rested. Paula’s foot prints led into the middle of the clearing, wandered around the perimeter and turned as though she had rested on a boulder. Puzzled by her disappearance, Nora once again called for her. She sat on the same boulder for a while and then the thought struck her that maybe this is exactly what Paula had done and maybe someone had grabbed her from behind.

She got up immediately and looked around, frightened. This time, she was hesitant to call out for fear of bringing trouble down onto herself. It was then that she saw Paula’s footprints go off down another small trail on the other side of the clearing. Sighing with relief that her first fears hadn’t been realized; she hesitantly followed Paula’s footsteps.

The path began an upward winding direction. “So it was leading to the bridge.” She mused as she climbed up the path. She reached the bridge with still no sight of her friend. Stopping to catch her breath, she looked out at the view that the bridge commanded. If she hadn’t already been out of breath, she would have said the view was breath taking. A sea of green, this view brooded darkly, with a slight breeze that felt exquisite after her exertions.

“I’m so out of shape.” She thought, aware of the silence around her. There was no sign of human existence. The highway and her car were still there, but she could not see any other vehicles, towns, signs or planes in the sky. Even the birds were silent up here, where below she had heard a number of different ones along with insects and bees. There was something eerily wrong and this time and Nora began yelling in earnest. Her arms prickled; Paula was in trouble and she knew it.

There was still no answer, so Nora went across to the other side of the bridge. She began calling again, her panic making her want to cry. This time she heard a response. It was faint, but it was Paula’s voice.

“Where are you?” she said, slightly irked, but mostly relieved. She quickly closed the distance to the other side of the bridge.

“I don’t know where I am. I can’t find my way back.” Nora could hear panic now from Paula.

“Are you alright?” Nora asked, breathing harder.

“I’m fine. This is just too weird. Once I started across the bridge, I couldn’t get back….it just disappeared.”
Nora looked back and saw nothing but gray fog where the bridge had been a moment ago. There had been no clouds or fog a moment ago, where had it come from? She began to tremble as a chill crept across her shoulders. “Stay where you are Paula, I’m just going to backtrack a little.”

“Nora, Don’t leave! Please”

“I won’t leave, let me just check something.” Nora began backtracking, but found herself in the midst of the fog. The guardrails across the bridge had disappeared into the mist. She couldn’t even feel the bridge. The mist was neither damp nor dry like smoke, but it was so thick she could not see anything. Nora kneeled down to feel the ground under her feet. There was no ground or bridge; she could actually feel the bottoms of her feet and knees. There was absolutely nothing, no bridge and no noise at all.

She turned back toward the place where she had heard Paula’s voice and with relief saw that it had not been covered by the fog. She crawled until she was on solid ground. Back on the bridge, Nora shook so badly, that it took a while before she could stand again. Nora walked a few more steps and there was Paula.
“Oh my God!” She choked as she gave Paula a hug. “What the hell is that!”

“I don’t know!” Paula said. “Thank you for coming to look for me. What I said to you was really mean.”

“It’s okay, I deserved it. This place is really creepy, Paula. Let’s get out of here.”

“I don’t think we can, but let’s not let go of each other, okay?” Together, arms linked, they turned to go down the east side of the bridge, with the intention of walking across the freeway to their car. They stopped in shock as the gray fog consumed this escape too.

“This is like some science fiction movie,” Paula whispered.

Nora nodded, “So what do we do?”

“I don’t know. Maybe we should just stay for a while, instead of rushing head on.”

After observing their surroundings in silence for a while, Nora said, “Well, it doesn’t look like our situation is changing.”

“So what do you think is happening?” Paula said quietly?

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Nora shrugged. “Maybe it’s the end of the world, or maybe the world’s governments really messed up and there’s been a nuclear holocaust.

“Yea, I’m just glad you’re here.” Paula shivered. “If I were alone, I would have thought I was stark raving mad.”

Nora hugged her a little closer. “You are stark raving mad, Paula, but so am I. So let’s just use whatever sanity we have left between us and figure this out.”

Paula squeezed her arm and gave her a little smile. “Well, it looks like there’s only one way to go.” The path off the bridge continued to follow an easterly direction.

“Yea, follow the yellow brick road?” Nora smirked back.

“Do you think we’ll find a wizard?” Paula gave a very slight smile. As one, they both looked back over their shoulder to check one more time to see if what wasn’t there really wasn’t there. It still wasn’t there.

“Shit, Paula, I’m really scared.” Nora said as they began to slowly move forward.

“Me too,” Paula replied through chattering teeth.

“Oh, I brought you your travel bag.”

“Now what made you do that?” Paula looked at her in surprise. They began moving forward, watching every movement and listening to every sound.

“I don’t know, just a feeling.”