Five six sixteen

Guy on the street corner wearing an army helmet. He nods at traffic. When I arrived 3 hours ago, he was there. He’s still there as I am leaving. He has long grey hair and a grey beard and he reminds me of my father, had he lived long enough to grey completely. He doesn’t rave, he isn’t angry. He simply nods at every car that passes him. It’s a 3 lane street at rush hour. He makes eye contact if he can. He doesn’t with me because I look away. Everyone looks away. And I’m struck with the thought that he’s broken, just not in a way that conforms to the way everyone else is.

Before I know it, I’m crying. I don’t know if it’s the familiarity that does it or the fact that “the world breaks everyone” and if you feel too deeply, it leaves deeper wounds. I carry them and you carry them. We swallow our dreams. We postpone and we ache. We are told we can be anything and so we open our hearts wide. Our eyes brimming with possibility. Our minds whirling with the how and the when. And we wait. Not idly. We save and create, we work and we learn. We drag our bodies through time bent toward that absolution. Clarity. The moment when it’ll all have meaning. Make sense.

Slowly, we are told we aren’t the right shape, that our minds are warped, that we love differently, that we are crazy or damned or both. But we wake and we ignore the ache in our spine, we sleep little or not at all, we survive on stimulants. We scatter our hopes at the bottom of lakes, at the feet of the unworthy.

We mold ourselves into what we think will be good enough, we lock ourselves in kilns. 1,900 degrees and we start to melt and we blame ourselves. The daily take. Love and the little losses of breaking our bones to find homes in the hearts of those who’d discard us. The subtle thief of years. The little lines at the corners of our eyes beckon. Days and weeks and months and years. Decades blending together in an array of blue and black. Bruised, limping toward oblivion, smiling warily at strangers. Speaking softly so as not to disturb. Demure and full of apologies. Lies weave their own language and meaning.

Sometimes we recognize the atoms in other beings knowing the same star forged us. We have been a millennia together, screaming silently. We kill our kindness or it is murdered by treachery. Lost in a sea of could have been. Never was. always will be.

No one said one word to him.
Not one meaningful glance.
No one to say it’s alright
Life in its terrible beauty can save you.

No one made him feel the laughter within each shadow, the way the light plays with the corners of buildings, the million year old particle/waves that illuminate everything

No one to pour out like water the fine art that lives in each shattered remnant of who we are.

The rain menaces him rather than bless.

All of the pain all in one moment, all of it a finely honed blade at my neck.

Kill me now for looking away. It is one of my greater sins. I just couldn’t bear it. We are all just one crack away from nodding at apathetic traffic in the dark.

Ladies of Horror – November

Jack’s Regret
by Michelle Joy Gallagher

“Jack hadn’t slept since he drowned Elise. He hadn’t set out to hurt her. She’d just said so many things that wounded him in short order, leaving him no time to recover. The passion and fire in her that first drew his eye quickly left him burned. It left no working patience in him. They had been walking along the shore when she’d brought up Beatrice. Beatrice. Why had he ever given her the time of day?”

Read the rest here

Café Macabre II

I received my copies of Café Macabre II today and they’re gorgeous! This is an anthology of short horror stories and art by women, curated by author and editor Leah McNaughton Lederman. It includes my short story “The River” which is about the terror of death and the horror we face in life. Beautifully illustrated by Keyla Valerio.


If you’d like to purchase a copy, please visit the following links:

https://www.nihtgengapress.com/product/cafe-macabre-ii

https://leahmcnaughtonlederman.com

Arbor

Tree removal is a violent act, even when done by a skilled arborist. There’s something hardwired into me that knows we shouldn’t destroy something that provides for life on so many levels. When I was a child, I would cry and obsess over the sight. Imagining the tree in pain, and the animals being hewn down along with it.

I especially worried about the birds that’d made nests in the tree, imagining them cowering as the machines whirred, watching the blades get closer and closer. I couldn’t conceive of the fact that the noise and the movement and the vibrations triggered an innate avoidance of danger in them, and they flew away.

I listened to chainsaws every day and tried to survive them by being very quiet and sitting very still.

Ladies of Horror – August

Brenda woke in a cold sweat. The gap in her heavy bedroom drapes let a blade of sunshine through the window that fell across her body, bisecting her. She watched the motes of dust floating in the light for a long time, wanting to delay the inevitable reacquaintance with reality. She could hardly remember the past week. Grief sharpened her memories of her father and dulled almost everything else. She kept thinking of when she was a little girl, feeling invincible, running around the park under her father’s watchful eye, wishing she could go back again.

She’d had an incredibly vivid recurring dream the night before and mulled it over, sitting up and gathering the strength to pour herself out of bed. She could remember a darkness, then a whisper. One that questioned her softly but had an edge to it. A hint of barely contained impatience.

“What would you give?” it asked her. She didn’t know how to reply.

“What would you give, to turn back the clock?”

Read the rest at https://spreadingthewritersword.com/tag/michelle-joy-gallagher/

Relic

The stars are a fragile constant. Their permanence only an illusion. A trick performed by size and scale and time. Ghosts in the sky.

Our sun is in main sequence. Main sequence means our star is of average size and luminosity. A flickering candle, glimmering in a cathedral at midnight. It’ll take billions of years for it to decay to the point that, when swollen, it absorbs us.

Our minds aren’t made to contemplate time on that scale. Our lifespan, laughably short, stunts our comprehension of it. It becomes an abstract. Knowable but unknowable. Unreachable epochs looming in the deep. Shadows and cinder forever on the periphery.

Light takes one hundred thousand years to reach the surface of the sun from the core. The density inside of our “average” star slows the progress. From the surface it only takes eight minutes to reach us. Standing outside on a sunny day, you are the recipient of something ancient, your skin bathed in relics.

You are also created with them. Calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, carbon, hydrogen, billions of years in the making. The ruins of a long dead star with breath and pulse and synapse and neuron. A cataclysm that laughs.

Oh.

So, I’m reading about the potential end to theoretical particle physics. One quote struck me about the discovery of the Higgs Boson:

“According to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, the Higgs Field should either have a value of zero which would not give particles mass, or it should have an extremely great value which is likely to give particles too much mass.

But this is where physicists are confused.

Instead of viewing a value of either extremely high or non-existent, experts have noticed that the Higgs field is just slightly on”, which is not as low or high as it should be.

Mr Cliff said: “It’s not zero, but it’s ten-thousand-trillion times weaker than it’s fully on value — a bit like a light switch that got stuck just before the ‘off’ position.”

Oh.

The article went on to mention dark energy predictions and potentially proving the multiverse theory to account for such wide variations, other universes having either too much mass or none at all, never coalescing or collapsing under their own weight.

Oh.

How many times
Have you fucking felt
Like a light switch that
Got stuck just before the off position?

Just slightly on

Ten thousand trillion times weaker than your fully on value

And you still manage to hold it all together.

Arcturus

Arcturus by EPOD of USRA

When you stare at the stars long enough they start to do this silly little swim. For a moment, maybe a millisecond, you believe what you’re seeing is true. Your heart jumps and you rub your eyes and you try to refocus them. What did I see? Why? Between one star and another, you see that there has been no change in distance or location. You breathe deep. You may be still, but you are always making micro movements. Your heartbeat, inhale and exhale of your lungs. Your body is a chorus of stirring. Stillness is just another state of movement. Logically you know this. But your mind keeps being dragged back to that initial feeling of belief. because it exhilarates you. Because you want to make a home in the feeling. Fires in a Black Sea swirling just for you.

Of course you want more. You always want more. so you are drawn to believe what your eyes have told your mind they see. You wait and you stare and you speak softly to yourself: “this is Arcturus.” It is fixed. A landmark. You’ve aimed telescopes and your heart toward it for years. For ages before you, there have been legends, poems, splendid things inspired by the light it gives. Eons before human existence, unseen, unloved, it never ceased it’s shimmering. 37 light years. 11 parsecs separate you. But it dances and you’re dizzy in your foolishness and love and it suddenly feels within reach. A living thing. It breathes. Maybe you’ve dipped your longing in and stirred the sky. What hubris. Van Gogh knew what I mean.

You can suddenly perceive the spinning, the roll of the earth along the path it has carved in spacetime, Falling toward the sun. And how we sail blindly. All of it. Ever expanding outward. How it has started to decay. Moving ever toward entropy, half as luminous as it was 2 billion years ago. Lights slowly going out one by one. A carnival at closing time. Your minuscule life laughably short. An iota. A grain of time.

And what if it has already collapsed in on itself? Arcturus. The guardian. The last gasps still hurdling toward us, 370,000 years late. Corpse light in a haunted sky.

Nothing lasts. Rather than being dismal, this is heartening. It elicits bravery.

I will love in full measure.

I will love in full measure when it is returned and even when none is given me.

Eppur si muove.

A Dirge for the Barely There

You were more than
A trail of blood,
More than the fires
That forged the iron in it.
Weak gravity
And heavy elements.
Eons in the æther
Before you came to me.
You were more than
These filaments,
Proton and electron
And the atoms they knit,
And in that great
Undying place,
Where we will not
Be created nor destroyed,
May we one day collide
And know we knew
And shared
The same space,
Though you were barely there
And I only just.

-MJG 2021

The Sound and the Shape

I spent a whole evening with your names. I know almost all of them by heart. Names are a sacred thing. The sound and the shape of them. I’m honored and I’m glad to know them, to be able to arrange them, to give them a place in a very important part of my life that you helped make a reality. The manuscript for Last Road is in the hands of the printer. Vodka and cranberry to celebrate. Another to toast you.