Calvin Ring: The Sound of Darkness Chapter 3

3

 

I woke the next day in complete confusion with the girl sitting on my bed and looking down on me. The last memory I had was leaving the fortune teller’s shop and sending Amy on her way. I was sure thankful that she visited me during the day. I remembered the words of the fortune teller though. I was a mess for sure, a jumble of thoughts in my head.

“Hey, you okay?” Amy questioned. “Some run last night huh?”

“Sorry,” I said, “I don’t remember last night.”

“Is that how your magic works, you forget the next day. I know you have magic. I have magic too, just not that kind. By the way, the fortune teller is my mom. She called me and told me to watch out for you. Of course that’s what I have been doing anyway, watching out for you. She knew you would come and see her. Isn’t that strange?”

“You’ve been watching me?”

She nodded, pleased with herself, not knowing that she had just crushed me. “I guess I should have known.”

“Well,” she said, “I’m a seeress like my mother. It was her who began to see all the ripples, and she tracked them to you. After that she sent me here to watch over you, while your magic did whatever it was going to do. She didn’t know if it would be good or bad, so she wanted to be prepared for the worst if necessary. When I had not seen you for a few days I decided to drop by. I was worried about you.”

“Yeah, wouldn’t want me to die on your watch,” I said testily. “I should have known something was up, otherwise why would you be interested in someone like me.”

“What do you mean someone like you?” she asked.

“A nobody, a loser. I have zero friends, so I should have guessed.”

“Well maybe you have one friend now. You’re blowing it a bit out of proportion Calvin. My mother sent me to watch over you, that’s true. She is magically strong in her own way, but if something bad was going to happen, the Gypsy community she serves needed to know, needed to be able to plan. I enjoyed yesterday Calvin, I really did. I was happy to finally meet you. I’ve seen what you’ve been doing at night, in my own way. I don’t have a lot of friends either. We sort of keep to ourselves.”

“Yeah sure,” I said as I lay back down. I turned my back on her, and being the good seer that she was, she decided it was time to leave.

“I’ll be back later,” she suggested. “But think about it, I was honest with you about being sent to watch you, so why would I lie about the rest. It’s not good to keep secrets to yourself, to be alone and isolated. I feel for you and I would like to be your friend. It’s up to you though. I can help you understand what’s going on. I am sure it’s quite a shock. A lot of it I don’t understand myself.”

“Yeah,” I said, “I will think about it.”

 

I did think about it, a lot. I loved this girl, felt so close to her soul to soul and now I was learning that it was not what it seemed. Part of me shouted that nothing was ever what it seemed, so I should deal with it, move forward and welcome her into my life as a friend I desperately needed. I was bitter though and I spent the next week pouting about the injustice of it all. I should have known though because nothing good ever happens to me. Amy comes by every day, and I admit I am less than hospitable. I don’t trust her or any Gypsies. Why did any Gypsy have to be in my life anyway, including the ghost or spirit of my dead mother?  I was not going to do anything to any of them. I was harmless as I had always been. I did not understand what the big deal really was. Amy has tried explaining multiple times, but there really isn’t anything to explain. She was told to be my friend, to watch over me, as if I were a child. On top of everything I was being hunted. Every night since, I have gone out and every night there are demons around to some degree or another. They watch me, and I am sure are learning all about me, what I can do and what I can’t. They follow in my wake every night. Defiantly I sometimes challenge them and they go screaming into the night only to come back. They don’t seem to have any agenda, or maybe I just don’t understand.  Like Amy they watch, waiting for some hidden command and I don’t know what to do about them, but at least they don’t lie to me and pretend to be my friends.  Amy asks about them, asks about my safety. I no longer know though what safety means. Every night there are things for me to do, and lately every night seems to bring more death and chaos. I have been surrounded by it. I rescued people from a burning building only to find more that I could not get to in time. I wish I knew what was happening to me. I wish I didn’t have that ominous feeling that was only worse at night when I was so perceptive of things around me, that something was coming for me.

Death seems to come in many guises. When you live in the city, you just get used to it; crime, poverty, and disease just seem to take their merry toll. For the most part, normal people live their normal lives and just ignore the death around them. People learn to not frequent bad parts of town, and unless death touches them directly are ignorant of its dark passage through time, its weave and intercourse through the people around it. Yet, if you are not fearful of it, are willing to see it for what it is, death is just another thing. It is neither cruel nor sympathetic. Death is not good or bad. Occasionally death is just, but just as often it is random and takes the good over the bad with striking regularity. I have come to know death quite well and one could say that we are intimate strangers. Occasionally death uses me; uses me to mete out a little cruelty of my own. The difference is that I am anything but random, anything but nice and the good have little to fear from me. I am there on the horizon, coming when least expected but always at night, always sudden, a fleeting shadow, the sharp blade of a knife.

It seemed so odd at times for me, knowing that up until a few weeks before I was completely normal.  Well maybe not normal as I am quite unremarkable, unusually so, magically so.  Just a few months previous I had worried that I would never have any friends, and now I worry about someone who says she wants to be my friend.  While I had never had any friends before, I had grown accustomed to being alone in everything that I did. I now had watchers and one of them claimed to be my friend. I had gone from the guy that others pushed around to the guy that was a menacing presence that others had to watch out for. At least the chicks still laughed at me, at least the ones that saw me in the day. The ones who saw me at night, usually screamed loudest of all. I did know that everything I had thought I knew about my mother was all gone and I didn’t quite know what to think about it, or what she had done to me. I was kidding myself though and I knew it. I was one screwed up person, confused and feeling like I had nowhere to turn. The worst part was that it had been my silly idea to go see the Gypsies, only now I even wondered at that. Everyone seemed to have magic. I seemed to be in some sort of vortex, not of my own making, being controlled by the whims of others. I was getting tired of this lack of control and I needed for it to change, for me to get control of things. I just didn’t know how. Like most things of late in my life, I was beginning to believe that it would be my magic that would give me clarity, enable me to understand and control the world around me. This thought inspired me, and frightened me at the same time.

I wonder what exactly is my blessing, this magic of mine?  I wished that I knew. Amy’s mother, the fortune teller, had told me that my mother had enhanced my magic with her own to protect me. Yet, the logic of that was strange, as most of the things I had done in the last few weeks were not for my own protection but for the protection of others. I had thought about it a lot. Sometimes it seemed as if the nights were training me for something more dangerous in the future, perhaps to deal with those who hunted me, whoever they were. Again, there was that feeling that something was coming, and coming for me. There was my Grandfather and apparently there was at least one other, one who had sent a demon army to hound me. I was told they wanted to capture me, but demons didn’t seem geared much for capture. They were quite equipped for damaging me. My magic responds to need, the need of others and the need of myself at times. There is nothing I can do to prevent the change and certainly nothing that I can predict other than the pain and the confusion, although for the past few nights I have just sat on my balcony and watched the night. Every night I came out the putrid stench was there, communicating to me the needs of others, a sweet stench like spoiled garbage that compels me to act. Now, there were many and the smell permeates the night around me. I can hone in and follow a single strand never really knowing where it will lead. It’s so random though seemingly without any purpose. It made no sense if the magic was created for my protection.  I have learned to never anticipate what skills I might have at my disposal. Sometimes I am lightning fast, other times spectral in nature, or strong. I usually have incredible mind skills but every time I have anticipated having a certain skill set I am humbled by the nature of the gift, usually painfully. Was this my mother’s idea of protecting me, or some sort of cruel joke? It would figure though that magic used for good purpose on me, would go awry. All of that aside, I didn’t even know what had triggered the whole thing in the first place. Maybe, I never would. Could it be that my magic was enhanced to train me? It seemed it was, giving me more and more to work out every night, humbling me when I lost focus. I didn’t know anything about magic or anyone I trusted to tell me. I mean seriously, a few weeks ago I would have laughed at anyone who suggested that magic was real, so again it was not exactly like I could look in the yellow pages and find a sorcerer I could learn from. So maybe my magic was recognizing my own need that I needed guidance and learning of a craft in a world where there was no one to teach me. It was an intriguing thought, but who had time for intriguing thoughts.

I am in a different world at night, a world of shadow and much closer to the death that others just choose to ignore. I am intimate with the night, its caress like that of a lover at least what I imagine that would be like, having no experience. There are things in the dark, things that others don’t or can’t see. Some of these things are beyond your wildest imagination and others beyond your most frightening nightmare. Some of these things are beautiful and others comical, but most are best not thought about. There are almost always demons of various size and shape skulking about.  More than a few of these generally take a special interest in me, which only makes the change that comes over me more difficult; more curse than blessing. I know eventually I am going to have to do something about it or they will, but at least of late the demons have chosen to leave me alone. I also see my long dead mother at night, wandering in my periphery, a beautiful garishly dressed Gypsy woman, always smiling and always with me. I don’t know for sure, but she seems proud of me, which is good enough for me, but I would still have answers from her if I could. Again, that feeling that a showdown was coming at me, coming at me from multiple directions, or maybe that’s how it feels before the bottom really falls out of things. Maybe I was going mad.

As I said my basic skill set does not change. I have heightened senses, sight, sound, smell and touch. I also have incredible healing powers surviving everything thrown at me including gunshots which of course are still quite painful. When the sun comes up though, I am stuck with whatever residual wounds are left and unhealed. I have spent the day writhing and bleeding in bed, praying for the night. I also don’t remember the night before. It always works that way, never the night before but I can remember two nights previous. Because of this I jot down notes before dawn comes or tell Amy because she won’t leave me alone until I do. I need to do something about Amy, but just the thought of her makes me sad and confused. During the night I hear and see everything including things that happened years ago. I thrive off the resonance left behind from centuries of violence. It nurtures me like manna. These are the things I have learned but it sure doesn’t seem like a whole hell of a lot.

I seem to be particularly sensitive to sound. Have you ever had someone shout directly in your ear? Someone can shout a mile away and that’s the way it is for me. I have learned to filter some of this which has helped but sometimes it’s a beating. One night a woman screamed in such a way that surely I thought she must have been attacked. I sprinted miles to reach her only to find her standing on a chair screaming at a spider. I dispatched the spider and if she had a little floor damage as a result then that was the price to pay for the damage she inflicted on my ears. A car honking can make my whole body spasm at times. As I said though, filtering was something I had learned, something I was still trying to get better at. The results thus far were mixed but encouraging that it was possible. I sighed as I thought that it would be nice to have a guide book, or a set of instructions. If my own magic was training me, then it was leaving some important gaps I thought.

Several days had passed since the demons had nearly caught me at the bridge. I was out in the night, where the confusion was less and the danger more. I was walking about directionless when to my sudden discomfort I found my ears assaulted by the most brilliant of screeching. There was no way for me to even catch my breath as this wall of sound attacked my bearings. If you could magnify the sound of fingernails on a chalk board to ten or even a hundred times normal it still would be far short of what assailed me that night. I made it to my knees and put my hand to my ears. Now, so you might grasp how my senses work, merely putting cotton in my ears does not come close to filtering sound. It helps but not nearly as much as in my normal state.  I had some cotton wadded up in my coat pocket and I quickly stuffed it into my ears and I was able to filter some more through will alone. It was still excruciating, and a distraction. I stumbled about and leaned in a doorway. I wondered if I might be under some sort of attack, something new. I was so suspicious and paranoid of whatever was hunting me that naturally that was my first thought. I knew so little though of what had happened to me though and I knew that what I didn’t know could kill me.

The sheer noise of the screeching was disorienting. I recognized that it was not safe for me to be out and that I was going to be vulnerable. The shadows that were always about, flitting on my periphery were still there. Yet I could also see that something had them disturbed as well, and it seemed likely to me that it was the screeching they heard on the wind. It was the first bit of information that I was able to discern. Whatever the screeching was, it did not appear to be psychic in nature or directed just at me, but what did I know.  The second thought was I had no idea who was hunting me or what they would send. Acting cocky was not going to change that.  Yet for some reason it was encouraging knowing that the demons were so disturbed. Maybe they would be a lot less concerned with little old me, after all my nemesis was all teeth and claws, two things I hated more than anything else. I might have chosen to just go back to my apartment but Amy was back there and dealing with her was the last thing I needed. It was better to face the demons, the night and the awful screeching.

Amy had been my dream girl. Before the change, she was the highlight of my day, the girl I thought about constantly, the only girl to ever really notice me. She was that bright spot but I only ever saw her at the mailbox, where she would always wave to me. I never spoke with her, never wanted to destroy the illusion that she really liked me, I could think that she waved to me because she was interested and I was just too stupid to take advantage of it, but things like that never happened to me. Now that was all changed. It was hard for me to believe what she said since she had been placed there by sympathetic Gypsies, mostly her mom concerned with my well being or to ensure I didn’t destroy the world or something. Since learning this I have realized that she is just like all of the other girls, completely unconcerned with the likes of me. She makes the pain I go through nightly seem miniscule as nothing compares to how my dreams have been shattered. Since discovering this though, Amy has been there in my apartment most nights when I change and even occasionally when I get home. She is the worst kind of distraction, the worst kind of pain. I would rather be gunshot than see her daily, knowing I will never have her; knowing how much I love her. She is I think the coolest of all cools, the neatest chick going. I didn’t know anything though.

Now it was all I could do to concentrate on my surroundings. It was not too hard to concentrate and smell that clean scent that was Amy. I had caught myself before focusing more on her than what was going on in front of me, or around me. There were demons hunting me, and I was much more focused on Amy than anything with teeth and claws. Maybe that was my gift’s way of telling me that Amy was more dangerous. I felt let down by Amy and let down by myself for letting myself feel the way I did about her. Was I in love with Amy? Well how should I know? I have not even been on a date, ever. Not even ugly girls noticed me, and trust me even an ugly girl would be better than the loneliness I feel. You have no idea what it’s like to spend all of your life without a friend and if it wasn’t for my dad, I doubt I would have had any conversation at all growing up. So I wasn’t exactly out looking for rings, if that’s what you mean, but I also could not get her out of my thoughts, could not erase the feelings I had when she told me that she was a Gypsy. What kind of Gypsy named their daughter Amy Moonflower? And for that matter, what kind of Gypsy was a hippy anyway? So I turned on her, turned on her sometimes viciously. She never even attempted to explain herself, explain how she really felt about me, which only reinforced that I was just one more chore for her. I was a chore which no doubt kept her awake at night, waiting for me. She could not do the things that I could at night, but she understood a lot about what I was seeing. She was more mystic than witch or seeress, but seeress was what she called herself. I didn’t really know what to feel about her. I wanted to feel nothing, but so far that was not working out too well.

Meanwhile I had this horrible screeching which I could feel down to my feet. It was coursing through me, setting all of my nerve endings on fire, and I kid you not when I say that at that moment I would have preferred to have been shot in the head rather than hear that horrible screeching. It was my own nightmare. I searched for the source, sniffing the breeze and not getting a single clue. I struck out at a run, moving through blocks like a wraith, eating up chunks of ground with every step, but I was moving blindly. I was oblivious to anything around me, running, running trying to escape that screech or find its source and at that moment it did not matter which one it was. Then suddenly the screeching stopped, and I stood hunched over panting heavily. As usual, there was laughter around me, laughter directed at me. I was near the pier, the touristy section of San Francisco. I started walking, the laughter like daggers at my back but soon I was forgotten, and then the screeching started again. I had my bearings though and it seemed as if the source was near downtown, so I headed off. It was not easy to focus, between the screeching, the resulting disorientation and whispering thoughts of Amy it was all I could do to move in the right direction, but I was persistent if I was anything.

Downtown San Francisco was usually busy at night and it was no different that night. Sometimes at night I have difficulty determining what’s in the normal world and what’s in the shadow world that I also see within. There are for lack of a better word, ghosts or other worldly things. They are unlike my mother who appears much more real. Instead they are like wisps of smoke floating around. I have tried to touch them but they are so ephemeral, like a presence felt but not seen, like touching the night. They are oblivious to me though and it makes me wonder just what really happens to me after the change. Am I mad, trapped in some sort of false reality? No one else could see them, and these people walked around now unaware of the screeching that was driving me crazy. I feel like I am living sometimes in someone else’s stream of consciousness. I must have appeared near mad to the people walking about, holding my head and muttering to myself. I was too well dressed to be homeless so I had to be something else. Someone was bound to call the police on me.

When I saw her I was not quite sure. In fact I must have looked at her three or four times before I noticed something amiss. There was no special aura, or any coming into and out of focus. It was something different. She also did not appear to be the screaming shrew I thought I would find so it was easy to discount her. When I first saw her I saw a beautiful girl, the kind that would never notice me at all.  The second glance I gave her though indicated that she was a very old woman. Now time sometimes moves differently in my world, but it doesn’t move quite that strangely. So I suspected something was wrong so I made my way towards her, daring her to look at me. When she made eye contact it gave me a chill. Her gaze was direct and before my eyes she shimmered from young to old. Her eyes though were like dark coals, burrowing into me. Yet my eyes bore into her as well triggering my own need. She was the source of the screech and something about her triggered a memory of something I had read. She was a banshee or in my case a screaming banshee. I didn’t know how she had made it to the city. Her wail was for someone about to die and in a city that meant many possible candidates. I knew that with so much death around her that she must have been bewildered, and why her wail was so constant.  I willed her quiet. I have no way else to describe what I did like so many of my skills and occurrences at night. I just willed her to be quiet, to shut up and to give me some relief. I sat down tension draining from my body. I put my arm around her, and she laid her head on my shoulder. For a moment I could imagine what it felt like to have a girl friend but even I realized that a girl friend who is beautiful one moment and an old hag the next and sings about death all the time is just no good, not even for me. I mean I was desperate but she was half mad and not human so the relationship really had no future at all, as much as I thought it might.  After all, what would we talk about? So after sitting there for several moments comforting her, soothing the pain, I sent her on her way. It was strange for me, as I didn’t even know where she came from, and she couldn’t tell me. I communicated with her through my mind, calming her but telling her to go back and she did, wherever that was. I watched her walk into the darkness until that darkness grew misty and she became less visible finally disappearing altogether. It had been a strange night. As usual, I didn’t understand what had happened, or how I had accomplished what I had. I thought not for the first time that it was just one more reason to wake up unable to remember anything of the night before. Maybe it was my mind’s way of recovering. My ears needed recovery that was for sure. They echoed with pain, causing spasms in my head, like some strange seizure. I could almost feel myself twitching. I wasn’t even sure if this was something I could heal from, and so far I had healed from every wound imaginable.

I stood up and stretched and began walking the long way to my house. I could have gone hunting for something evil but I was exhausted. The screeching had worn me down and I was so relieved at it being gone that I decided a leisurely walk was in order. The bad guys could wait. So I walked and naturally my thoughts drifted to Amy. It was hard for me to not be disappointed. It was why I had never talked to her in the first place, because I did not want to be disappointed. I had just decided that talking to Amy would be a good thing, an opportunity to put all of my feelings right in front of her. Rejection could not be worse than what I was feeling at the moment. That’s when I noticed that I was not walking alone. The screeching had stopped but it had left me frazzled and unable to really focus which is naturally why I was thinking about Amy in the first place. The screeching was no longer bothering the demons either. There were not a lot and I was thankful that the screeching must have caused more than a few of them to go to ground, or wherever demons went when they were distressed. Maybe they had all gone to some demon bar. Still, there were enough of them and I was far enough away from home that getting away was not going to be easy. They were also really close. Losing a demon is not really that hard. They are not the brightest bulbs in the lamp and most of them were a few loads shy if you catch my meaning. Still though, these were close enough that I wasn’t going to be able to ditch them. I thought about trying to catch a cab but I was not even sure if a cabbie would see me, or if I could even find a cab. So I kept walking, searching for an answer. I was tired. You try walking around with a screaming banshee in your ear and see if it doesn’t make you tired.

They were not exactly herding me. They didn’t have to because even their dim witted minds could figure out that I was not going to get away. I tried to discern where I actually was, and was wondering how close to water I was. It seemed a very good idea to keep moving and they were quite content to let me, which only reinforced to me that whatever was about to happen, wasn’t going to be a warm fuzzy positive experience that I could reflect on later, and maybe get a laugh out of.  This was bad. Yet they seemed to be waiting on something, keeping close, surrounding me. Occasionally one would venture close enough and reach out and touch me, like they were counting coup. I was thinking that someone or something was about to lose a finger or two.  It didn’t matter what I did though, they were not really concerned with me getting away. I was in the bag, but they were still waiting for something.

I soon found out what they were waiting on. As I rounded a corner, there he was; the meanest ugliest demon of them all. He was my nemesis or at least that’s what I had named him, how I described him to Amy. I had nightmares, or daymares or whatever you would call bad dreams during the day about him. I had named him TC to myself, for teeth and claws. I had read somewhere that naming your fear was half the battle. It had not worked to date though. He was all teeth and claws though so the name at least seemed appropriate. He had more than the usual complement of arms, but how many I could not say because they constantly changed morphing here, and disappearing there. So while I could not tell how many arms he had, I did know that there were some really sharp claws on the end of them. He only had one mouth though, never changing, with long fangs and at least two rows of sharp little teeth.

I honestly could not tell you what came over me. Maybe it was the fact I was so exhausted from the screaming banshee, or maybe my obsession with Amy caused me to have a serious lapse in judgment. In hindsight it was probably due to the inescapable fact that once TC showed up the other demons began making their circle tighter and tighter, but whatever it was I decided it was a good time and place to make a stand. I have read accounts that Custer came to the same conclusion at Little Big Horn, trying to reach high ground, not knowing that the Indians were there too. I doubted that it would have mattered to Custer and whatever he was thinking; his plan had not worked out too well. Those boys down at the Alamo in Texas also didn’t fare too well. Naturally as soon as I stopped walking all those thoughts came crashing down on me.  The demons that were shadowing me just circled me which only made me think more about Custer. The circle broke and TC entered, clearly their champion. If demons were inclined to clap and cheer this would have been their moment. This was not going to be pretty but at the same time I wondered what my blessing might have in store for me and my nemesis. I needed something, and I felt it fire somewhere deep inside of me as if coiling itself for combat. I faced him squarely and began stepping to the side, looking for an opening, but he was big, I don’t say that lightly, as small as I am, big is still big.  Anything with that many teeth and claws was not going to be defensive so I guessed it was not going to give me long to think about it. Sometimes I hate it when I am right.

If anyone ever tells you that demons are slow hulking creatures, or you see them represented in movies that way, then send them my way and I will set them straight. TC closed so quickly that all I had a chance to do was raise my arm in some sort of half hearted defense. Naturally the arm gave his teeth a nice target and he grabbed me like a pit bull and slung me around a bit. After shaking me like a ragdoll he slung me into the nearest wall, hard enough that bricks fell on my head from somewhere. Demons weren’t too bright, who the hell had told me that? That circle of demons sure didn’t mind getting out of the way to let me hit that wall. They seemed plenty bright to me. Oh, this was not going well. I was barely to my feet when he was coming at me again and I decided that it would be best to not give him my arm again which was already dripping blood. I dodged his second charge, my gift coming to my rescue as it was no normal matador movement, but something quicker. I laughed when the demon hit the same brick wall head first that I had struck moments before. It was comical watching him stumble. I was hoping I could use that trick again but he turned and took a swipe at me with at least two of his many arms. One of them raked my face and the other my waist and I growled in response, something deep and primeval, surprising me with the violence behind it. He closed on me slowly taking swipes and I took a few at him too connecting with one. He was solid and whatever demons are made up of, something soft is not one of the ingredients. It was a losing battle for me. I couldn’t counter anything, couldn’t block enough because he just had too many arms. It would have been better had he punched me but he didn’t. Everything he did was a rake of claws and every one of them drew blood. I stood there shaking my hand as he came at me again and thought that I had probably broken it at sometime.  We exchanged a few more blows, but I have to tell you that claws against skin do a bit more damage than fists again demon hide. There was a lot of blood on the ground and I was strongly suspicious that it was mine. I thought long and hard for something that might work but he was not giving me a lot of time and the next thing I knew I was in some sort of demon bear hug, only his claws were sticking in my chest and I was pretty sure coming out through my back. I was briefly scared, not sure what would happen if a claw managed to pierce my heart. I had never had such a wound, although I had been shot in the chest with a shotgun before. I remembered the fortune teller telling me that the demons probably only wanted to capture me and take me back to their master, but this appeared very much like a killing to me, my own killing. Since he was squeezing the life out of me, I decided that it was not an opportune time to worry about such mundane matters. I kept feeling that need flare up, getting hotter and hotter, more intense, my adrenalin seeming to feed it. Yet it didn’t come to my rescue as if it were waiting on something, some sign from me. I was losing this fight and I just didn’t really have any ideas. The more I thought, the more it all slipped away from me.

In defense I reached up to that snout of his and began prying his jaws apart. He kept his grip on me though and I exerted a bit more pressure. He was in bad need of a serious breath mint but I could not let that deter me. So I kept prying his jaw apart further and further, his teeth glistening and sharp. I was almost thankful that it was his claws in me and not those teeth. My arm was still throbbing and dripping blood. In fact, I was pretty sure I was a bloody mess, and my clothes in tatters. Something had to give though. It was going to be the gift enhanced strength of my arms or his jaw and it was his jaw which finally lost. It snapped with a pop that sounded like the fourth of July. Okay, it wasn’t that loud but his scream when it popped rivaled the banshee and that was for sure. He let go and stumbled backwards reaching to his jaw with at least two of his arms. Then my gift took over. I was thinking how nice it would be to have a nice demon strength rope when one just appeared, right from my eyes. It was golden as it sailed through the air and I began waving my arms in direction twirling them like a lariat. He screamed louder when the golden threads hit him and his body steamed in response and I just kept it up, twirling and spinning wrapping him like yarn around and around. I didn’t stop until he resembled a large ball of twine and then I squeezed and squeezed, compacting him smaller and smaller with my mind until he was the size of a tennis ball. I laughed and bounced him on the ground. It was a dead bounce and I decided that I would have to do better next time. The other demons were howling looking for their friend, their champion and my nemesis. My need though was red hot and it was giving me a magic that is difficult to explain. I stood there a moment, panting, blood dripping from hundreds of punctures and deep tears. I looked as if I had been thrown through a plate glass window, or maybe worse. I stared hard at the circle of demons focusing on the four or five directly in my line of sight. I was unconcerned with what was going on behind me. Whatever TC’s defeat had done to them included mass confusion and lots of howling. My attention remained directly to my front staring down the demons as I walked towards them. They gave way, slowly, whimpering like defeated dogs, more afraid of me than anything. One was slow in moving and I turned on him, my eyes gazing as if they could burn a hole right through him. He whelped with pain and took off running, four or five others moving with him. I took the opportunity to escape, running for my life. I had no doubt that my nemesis had been the toughest the demons had that night but I doubted my ability to whip ten or twelve of them despite how powerful I felt. So I ran and I ran oblivious of my surroundings. Sometime later as I crossed the bay, I took the opportunity to throw my bouncing ball of twine as far into the ocean that I could. I thought that if he could get out of that, as much as demons hated water then more power to him.

I didn’t want to walk into my apartment through the front. I had no idea what time it was or who might be lurking about. The last thing I needed was to show up in tattered and ripped clothes dripping blood all over the carpets. Demon wounds must heal slower than normal wounds like gunshots, broken bones and bruises from the various bashings I have received but I could tell that the blood was flowing less freely, the pain more dull. I wondered for a moment if that meant that I was out of blood, and if that might explain why suddenly I didn’t have as much pain as before. Regardless, I was pretty sure that it was going to be a bad, pain filled day in which I spent the majority of it waiting for nightfall and hoping I didn’t die. It was times like these that I wished I trusted Amy a little better. Some tender loving care from the woman of your dreams was not a bad thing to wish for. I mean, really, when was something great going to happen to me? How much bad luck could one shrimpy Caucasian have? I approached my apartment from the back and was relieved to see all the lights were off, meaning that Amy was not there. I was relieved about this and also strangely disappointed. I ran up the wall and grabbed hold of the railing and swung myself over. I landed heavily and actually dropped to a knee. Oh, it was not going to be a fun day. I stumbled to the sliding door and opened it with difficulty. As I walked inside the cool breeze of the ceiling fan hit me and the coolness was a comfort for a brief moment until the chills hit. I slid to the floor leaving a smear of blood on the glass of the sliding door. It felt nice to be sitting, inside and marginally safe.

She was sitting in the dark. I had not noticed her. I laughed semi-hysterically, thinking that I should have known that she would be there.

“Tough night Gypsy Boy?” she asked.

“Well, there’s one fewer demon,” I said as I lost consciousness.

The Music Blog: Heeeeey Kool-Aid

From a purely writing perspective I am actually pretty organized. My first two writing projects were novels and that took a lot of organization and structure. You might not think that about me as in so many ways I am so unorganized. Most things I write are all organized in my head. I spend a lot of time working it out in my head and then when I think or believe I have the right of it I let it fly, take wing and give it freedom to evolve like a child in some ways. I don’t know if other writers do things this way but I do.
So this blog posting will start with a brief, if you can say that about me, historical timeline that some of you might know, and for some it might be new information. Most of this is just coming from my memory of things and I may have a few dates criss crossed a bit but mostly this is correct.

Between 1960 through 1962 Timothy Leary ran a well known study of the effects of psychedelic drugs on the mind. Now I don’t need to dive deeply into this study and get into what he was or was not trying to accomplish or hoping to find. This is only important because one of his test subjects in California was Ken Kesey.

Now you may or may not know who Ken Kesey was. He did a lot of things but let’s begin that after exploring creative writing Kesey wrote the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest which was published in 1962 giving him both wealth and some name recognition.

By this time Kesey was a big believer in the positive effects of LSD and in marijuana. He bought a large isolated ranch in the hills and began to attract a following of people who journeyed there to experience LSD which was not illegal and be turned on. Many of these followers became the core group for the Merry Pranksters a group of hippies who maybe formed the first hippie commune and went on to participate in the organization of everything counter culture including Woodstock.

In 1964 the Pranksters and Kesey decided to take their act on the road and hold parties across the country. Kesey bought an old International Harvester school bus which was painted psychedelic and named Further. Along with a few select Pranksters took off on a cross country tour of the USA in the hopes of turning the entire country on to LSD. The driver of the bus was legendary beatnik/hippie Neal Cassady who did not actually take LSD but was a speed freak. They never actually made it across the country they ran out of acid first and went back to California where they had a new idea.

In 1964 the Pranksters began renting large concert halls and coliseums to hold acid tests. Essentially an acid test was a giant LSD party. There were usually two trashcans full of kool-aid one with acid thus making it electric and the other with none although occasionally they laced both of them. The Pranksters would ensure that bad trips were dealt with kindly and provided music to enhance the experience. The first band they used was Country Joe and the Fish although the Pranksters said that one night collectively the crowd froze the band in mid song and that was it and they were replaced with a band called the Warlocks.

In 1968 journalist Tom Wolfe published an account of this famous cross country trip, the acid tests, the pranksters and the 1965 arrest of Kesey on Marijuana charges.

In 1981 a young voracious reader entered the University of Texas at Arlington and fell in love with 5 floors of books and used his access freely and somewhere in 1983 or 1984 discovered Tom Wolfe’s book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

The warlocks who participated and provided the music for those tests went on to change their name to the Grateful Dead. Now as far as I know there are only two bands that have gone from bands I despise to bands I love; the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Grateful Dead. Nowadays I would never evaluate a band the way I did the Dead. First there was the name and I guess part of my disapproving parents came through but I was seriously concerned with the name of their band. I know it’s laughable but there you have it. Before you think my parents were some sort of prudes they were not, they just didn’t understand or like the same music I did and they were concerned about the effects this music might have on me, you know parental stuff. Now my other reason for hating the Dead was a little more practical, I knew one song. Casey Jones was the only Grateful Dead song I ever heard and I absolutely to this day seriously dislike this song. That song though did two things it reinforced my belief that they were just a drug band and that their music would be some sort of shock rock.

I gave the Grateful Dead a chance after Tom Wolfe’s book. It wasn’t run to the store and buy every album or even any album. I found someone who liked the band and had music and I listened with a few beers and a lot of laughter and a funny thing happened. Well Cold Rain and Snow happened and to this day it’s one of my five most favorite Grateful Dead songs. Then Morning Dew, and New Minglewood Blues all from the first album. My goodness what music I had been missing and it was so far from what I expected. I just sat there in wonder, and maybe slight drunkenness like any good Samurai. I was in love and this time it wasn’t with the girl although she was pretty awesome. There were other songs too Scarlet Begonias and China Cat Sunflower and on and on. There was no doubt though which Grateful Dead albums I would start with though. About a week after this I bought the two back to back masterpieces of American Beauty and Working Man’s Dead. So even though these two albums brought me the two worst Dead songs ever the aforementioned Casey Jones and Truckin’ they also brought me Box of Rain, Friend of the Devil, Till the Morning Comes, Cumberland Blues, Uncle John’s band my very favorite Dead song and Dire Wolf. Just like that they were a band I loved. I had gotten it all so wrong. They were wonderful musicians with wonderful melodies and songs. They were not a heavy band not a shock rock band and while some of their songs had wonderful psychedelic titles the songs themselves were oh so good. Of all the bands I listen to, have ever listened to I cannot name another band that I feel so lucky to have found. Garcia loved acoustic instrumentation and loved the sounds of Americana namely Bluegrass. He was a great banjo player and all of this love is incorporated throughout his music and that of the Dead.
So if there is a lesson to be learned and it would actually take me just a few more years and one more amazing band to learn that lesson is that you have to be a little careful judging bands or artists based on their name or a small sample of songs. Unless its Zappa let me save you the trouble you can listen to his entire catalogue of music and he will still suck.

Mike out

The Music Blog: Viva Zapata

Soulmates

Kindred spirits

There are many who believe that there is one soul meant for yours, one soulmate. There are others that scoff at the notion of a soulmate at all. There are others still who believe that a person will meet many soulmates in a lifetime, people they are just strongly connected to sometimes for no particular reason at all. Is it possible though to have a soulmate one you believe in with all your heart who you never even met, who you knew nothing about for their entire life? The poet deep inside of me that I deny believes that all things are possible when it comes to the soul.
Before I really begin you are going to read this and say this is fanaticism which after all is where the word fan comes from. That drunken samurai is just a fan, a big fan maybe a little weird on this one but a fan just the same. I will say maybe that’s true. My job is not to argue with you. It’s my blog after all and these are my thoughts, my feelings, my deepest emotions and my memories. They are my stories and my truths.

The Gits formed in a small liberal arts college in Ohio. It was an odd birthplace for a punk band and a punk band they were. They didn’t necessarily look the part, but that’s the thing about punk bands there is no real look it’s about the music and its most certainly about the attitude. There were other things about this unusual punk band. They were pretty musical, they could really play but perhaps the most unusual thing about them was their singer. She was attractive, quiet and incredibly awkward. Quirky would be a good description of her. Her name was Mia Zapata.

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One thing became clear to the band as their music began to develop, the small Ohio college town simply was not big enough for their ambitions so they decided to embark to Seattle, Washington. Your first thought may be that they were attracted by the burgeoning grunge sound, but Seattle is so much more diverse than just a single style. Kurt Cobain had always been drawn to the punk side of Seattle music and so too were the Gits and they moved there near the punk scene into a house that soon became like punk central. They lived there, rehearsed there and allowed other bands to play as well. When a group of girls came to them wanting to play they taught them, loaned their instruments and an ear and never once offered a harsh word when 7 Year Bitch received a record contract first. The Gits slaved away led by the vocal power and lyrics of Mia Zapata and there is no doubt that the cauldron of music that was Seattle honed them, made them better. Mia could have sang any style of music, from Billie Holiday to Judy Garland but she liked the rawness of punk and her lyrics were raw as well from that deep place that only someone else who has written can maybe understand. She remained awkward on stage even though she was quite comfortable, her bandmates comparing her to a dancing chicken. Everyone loved Mia. She was the best friend anyone ever had, a sweet soul. The Gits recorded an album locally and then slowly drew interest from the big boys. The labels though wanted to do more than just record the Gits, they wanted Mia. They wanted her to do some solo work which she was already doing a bit of just her and a guitar.

It was around 2 am on July 7, 1993. Mia had a lot to be excited about. The band had recorded their first big label album and things were looking up after a lot of really hard work. She was a little down that night having recently gone through a break up and the new album and the new expectations were a lot to deal with, for anyone to deal with but mostly she was excited. She said goodbye to a friend and began walking home. It was familiar turf and everyone knew her. She had headphones on and was listening to music. She was taken by a beast of a person barely human, an ugly beast who did terrible things and took her life, took her away before she had barely begun. This horrible beast would go unpunished for years. It would be ten years before he was caught, tried and convicted, ten years of friendships, 10 years of laughter, 10 years of really bad horribly delivered jokes because Mia was terrible at telling jokes, 10 years of music that might have been of awkward chicken dancing. Ten fucking years without her being on the planet.

Gone

When the investigation of Mia’s murder began to grow cold a benefit concert was held in Seattle to raise money to hire a private investigator. Joan Jett took the project on and even toured with the surviving members of the Gits as Evil Stig (Gits Live backward). Kurt Cobain too performed, one of his last before his death. Punk music meant a lot to him and he loved The Gits

Mia left music behind, which is forever there for people to love, to listen to and new people can find her the way they do. Yet her star was not huge no matter how bright it was and like so many artists like Material Issue, Nick Drake where we have lost people way too young I fear that she will be forgotten by all but those who were close to her, friends, family and bandmates. I know of a few fans who adore her and the band but unlike some stars who have left way too soon the Gits do not have a huge following now. Most of the people who remember Mia do so as some symbolic figure a heroine against rape and brutality. I am sure she would have wanted people to remember her music, who she was. I doubt many reading this will know the Gits at all and let’s face it if you don’t like punk music you would struggle with it anyway. I would like to think though that she left me to remember her. I don’t even know what led me to listening to the band for the first time, why I bought Frenching the Bully the band’s first album. Mia had already been dead 15 years when I found it. How many people are there like me. I do know that every song I heard every video clip, and the documentary about the band, every single thing I watched and listened to left my soul aching and spoke to me more than anything and I have tried, really tried to know her, one soul to another.

I know one thing, one true thing. My tortured soul and her gentle soul would have been friends. The first thing you think about when you hear someone say soulmates is oh yea he wished he could have slept with her or they would have been like some famous romantic couple but that’s not what I mean at all. Mia’s father tells a story about attending a memorial in Seattle after her death. Everyone was so heartbroken and he got desperately lost and could not find the memorial location. The flyer had asked everyone to bring a yellow rose to the memorial because it was Mia’s favorite and just like that her father saw a group walking carrying yellow roses and soon there were more and more people carrying yellow roses and he realized how many people Mia had touched how many called her a friend. It’s odd that yellow roses are my favorite flower or maybe it isn’t. I love them.

You are probably sitting there saying how stupid I am for believing a bunch of poppycock, that I am just a fan no more no less. I don’t know. Maybe all that is true. People find mocking others so satisfactory, makes them feel good. They find that hitting out at someone’s dreams or beliefs somehow fulfilling. Mostly I just think people are horribly mean to each other. I don’t care if you mock me or even make fun of me or joke at my expense. People have done this all my life. I will shrug my shoulders oh well and move on thinking a little less of you. I know what I believe I know what I feel I know my tortured ravaged soul better than you could ever know it. I remember Mia because I feel I have to. I remember her because I cannot do anything else. I remember…

I know that she is free. I know that she is flying probably still awkward like a dancing chicken, I know that she is loved. I know that I am one who loves her.

Viva Zapata

Mia Zapata August 25, 1965-July 7-1993

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Calvin Ring: The Sound of Darkness Chapter 2

Weeks after that first change and I awoke one morning with the certain knowledge and a self recognition that my life had changed irrevocably. You might be thinking, what took me so long, but understand my experience with the world was minimal and admittedly whatever was going on was actually a little fun. I had spent all of my life friendless and getting shoved around and for once I was getting to do the shoving. I was resolved to it and tried to do the best I could, although my purpose was still shrouded. I felt strongly that I should use what I had been given to help others. I was not quite the super hero type and I certainly was not about to go running through the night in some tights with a cape. Mostly, nights went well for me and I even made a few bucks to keep me from starving. I had to make a living after all and most of my encounters were with criminals. If they lost a few bucks and I gained, who was going to care?

I had also begun to reach a point where I finally had a little balance. I had significantly improved on filtering all the senses even in times of chaos. I had even managed to stay in on some nights without that feeling that I was needed. It was a relief to know that I had some control, although at times it remained the most overwhelming of experiences. Still, it was easy to approach it in a simple manner; to not take it for granted. There seemed to be something more out there on the horizon, there just had to be. I had lived twenty four years with nothing of consequence besides death happening to me, and now this. There just had to be a reason this was happening, didn’t there?

Some nights it does not pay to be a superhero though. I should have known, I should have stayed in, but I guess at the end of the day I would have found out sooner or later. Just when I think I have it all figured out again, life throws me a curve ball. I can’t hit a fastball, much less a curve ball, and this one had curves upon curves. It’s all good though, I am used to striking out.

I had made it a habit before the change every day to spend some time watching the news. For the past few weeks, this had become my nightly routine. I learned a lot from the news, things I had done, things being said about me, myths, rumors, half-truths and the occasional lead. Surprisingly, things remained relatively quiet and any opinion of me was of the tabloid type.  Things had settled down for me a bit now that I have a bit more control over things. Occasionally something so horrific is on the news that I spend the night investigating and serving out a little justice. It’s not so much that I believe in being a vigilante, but if I go out and I smell that putrid wafting, I seemed compelled to follow and once the evil act is in front of me, then I solve the problem, whatever that problem is, and whatever the problem requires to solve. If this makes me a vigilante, well then it is what it is and no more than that. I wish there were more and I honestly wish that if I had to spend the rest of my life this way, then maybe something would come along to give me purpose. Somehow the thought of me being this way at the age of eighty was not comforting.  I spend my days searching and reading in the library and on the internet about curses, about magic, but most of what I read is of the ridiculous. Yet, I have found a few morsels of truth hidden among the rubbish.  Of course, I realize that whatever I have must seem pretty outrageous and ridiculous. It’s all too real for me though when night comes and all I feel is pain in every pore of my skin. I would have hoped that this would diminish with time, but just the opposite has occurred. The change takes approximately five minutes or so as near as I can tell. For all my hope that the pain would ease, it has worsened. It is another of the many mysteries that I don’t understand. Maybe it’s because I just have more skills, or maybe it means that it is slowly killing me. I face dusk with trepidation and in a cold sweat and at the same time look forward to the feeling of power that it gives me.  So far, the pain’s arrival never disappoints me.

Anyway, on the evening news there was a story about a young child abducted from her front yard. I was thinking of checking it out. After all what’s the point of being a superhero if you can’t actually help someone now and again. It was at least the sort of thing that had some meaning because most of the time I never really knew what I was accomplishing. This was the kind of story that strikes fear in everyone, so if there was some justice that needed meting out, I was justice’s guy.  The night was a maze of color and shapes of all sizes and variation. I had learned to really love the night.  I loved the shadows and what they contained, like stepping into a different world. I loved seeing the strange creatures on the other side of the veil. I secretly wished that I could explore that world. When I thought about it too much I could feel that flare deep inside of me which seemed to indicate that I could explore it if I really wanted. Yet I didn’t know how. I understood my new skills more and more but at the same time they changed nightly and it seemed that I never really knew what I would have at my disposal. Half the time I wondered if anything I was going through was real at all. It was scary sometimes, so when I looked into that world I both knew and didn’t know that I could access it.  I knew it was real, it had to be, because if it were not real, then what was I?  I had seen too much, encountered things best not thought of and certainly not described.  When I hit the streets a sickly sweet smell made my nostrils flare, and my blood began to race. Maybe that blood carried with it knowledge to my super sensibilities.  I don’t know the source of the smell, but to me it just means that bad things are happening, it’s a smell of desperate need and tonight there was a touch of sorrow to it that boded ill. The smell permeated the night and it was bad. My stomach turned at the scent and it was indeed the kind of smell that might make you retch, but my blood was coursing through my veins, something beyond my control, something exhilarating and beyond mere adrenalin.  I started to follow the scent and I knew where it would take me; to the house where the young girl had been abducted. It was bad, and I knew it before I got there. The scent seemed to communicate something beyond need, something of pain, and loss.  The cops were all over the scene still, not a lot of them but a couple of squad cars. I could see the mom sobbing into her husband’s shirt; saw it right through the walls of the house. A poor detective stood nearby helpless. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know that they had found the little girl and it was not good news they were telling her mom and dad. I already knew the tale; the scent had communicated it to me in the wind. It made me sick inside and then nothing, just that need in the air and cold dread. I was actually happy that my gifts didn’t really allow me to get too emotional about things. My life had seemingly prepared me for it all.  It’s hard to understand pain and heartbreak when you were detached from the world around you and those who walked in that world. The loss of memory the next day seemed also to insulate me from the things I saw and also from the things I did. Maybe it was my own way of keeping that distance because if I thought about things too long I became disgusted with the things I had done. I had killed people, about seven in just a few weeks. I knew it was not normal although I could rationalize that those killed had deserved it, or that I had acted in self-defense, or the defense of others more helpless.

I followed the trail, taking my time, letting my anger and sense of justice build. I knew from the scent that I would have time. The killer had done this sort of thing before. He was sure that he had gotten away with it again. I was equally sure that he had not. I walked right between the two cops cruisers. Two policemen were talking. They sensed something but didn’t see me, or maybe they just saw a glimmer, a shadow. I sometimes wished that I could see myself in the way others did, just so that I could know. My reflection though in mirrors and windows indicated I looked as I had always looked, completely unremarkable.

Despite my outward calm I began to walk faster and faster after the scent. Something was changing, whether it was the killer realizing that he was hunted or maybe just his thought that he had worn out his welcome in San Francisco, I knew that he was thinking about moving on. I of course could not let that happen. Sometimes I wondered when I was going after someone that they could sense that I was coming, an ominous feeling of dread in the pit of their stomach. I had found people before waiting for me, as if frozen to the spot. I sensed her as well, my mother running nearby, barefooted as always, and just a shadow of her former self. For some strange reason she wore chimes on her fingers that night and every once in a while they would ring like a bell. Every time a chime would ring, my heart would race a little more, the scent growing stronger along with my speed. I seemed to pick up even more speed and my overcoat was like a cape behind me as I hurried through the night.

I found him as I expected I would, at an old diner that was remarkably full. I mentally added it to my list of places I might want to check out. If it was this crowded the food must be good or at least worth a try. He was not a big man, just average but he didn’t have much look of a predator until you looked into his eyes. If you looked closely enough it was there, the look of something sinister and evil. Maybe it was just me though. I knew what he was. He was sitting in a booth eating fish and chips, with a silly grin on his face when I walked through the door. His hand froze in midair, french fries hanging from his fingers dripping ketchup and stared at me. He glanced at the door, but I slowly shook my head at him. Maybe he sensed that the last guy who had done that to me had his heart pulled out of his chest through his back, or maybe he just saw something like they all did when they met me at night.  I don’t know what he saw, I never do, but there was terror written on his face. I walked towards him slowly and slid into the booth across from him. I thought about eating a piece of his fish just to intimidate him like the movies but the knowledge of what he had done so repulsed me that I wanted nothing that he might have touched. He looked at the door again, judging his chances. Like all monsters who prey on children he was basically a coward.

“Uh uh,” I said casually, “you won’t make it.”

“What do you want?” he mumbled. “Who are you? Ain’t no cop.”

“No I am no cop,” I answered, “call me a friend of justice. You know justice don’t you? Sure you do.”

“Whatever you think I did you can’t prove,” he said angrily.

I laughed at him loudly and drew some nervous stares. It was as if time had stopped. It was as if a menacing presence had entered the room and everyone was afraid to move or speak. Everyone was desperately trying to not look in our direction, yet desperately aware, like watching a car crash. Unfortunately it was me they thought that was menacing and not the creep across from me. Such is my lot.

“See that’s your problem, you think too simply. You think in terms of what can be proved and what can’t, of me being a cop or not a cop and whatever silly things go through that head of yours. Some things have to be proved, but that’s not my way. My way is what I know, what I don’t know. That’s how my particular skill works. Example, your first victim was a six year old boy in Spokane, Washington. I hear it’s a beautiful state. You were twenty and you tortured that poor kid. You were messy though. So you left and you have been on the move since then, killing children everywhere you go.”

He looked in a right panic at that moment hearing his worst secrets laid out in front of him. “That’s a lie,” he said, frightened.

“Really,” I answered. “I know what that boy felt. I can feel it in the air. Want to know?”

I actually did not really care if he wanted to or not. I just let him have a taste and he screamed with the pain. “Hmm, not good,” I said, “not promising for you at all. That was just a small sample. I can do better.”

I never really know what will happen, what skills I will have and how justice will make itself known. It has something to do with that curse or blessing, something inside of me, something in my blood. I fed him every feeling of fear and emotion the little boy had felt years before, and then I fed him more from every child whose life he had ended. I fed him every microsecond of pain and then turned it up a notch as I got to what the little girl had gone through just hours before. I kept him alive not wanting him to die before he felt every ounce of pain and fear his victims had gone through. She had not been his first victim but I was going to make sure it was his last. Everyone else watched in dumbfounded silence as he screamed, and writhed on the floor but I guess some poor misguided soul called the police and they showed up as I finished what I had started. I still left him a writhing mass of nerve, screaming, near death. I really didn’t care if he lived or died, but I did want that little girl’s parents to know that he had been caught. It wasn’t much, I admit. For them though, maybe not tonight, I hoped it might bring a feeling of closure.

I leaned over him and there was fear and madness as well as pain in his eyes. “Confess your crimes if you live. If you don’t, I can walk through any wall I want. I can find you in solitary confinement and you will die. Tonight though you’re going to tell these nice policemen everything you have ever done, and I mean everything.”

The policemen looked stunned by what they were seeing and I told them honestly what that monster had done and then walked out. They didn’t follow. Sometimes that’s how this curse of mine works. It does things, unpredictable things, some just and some a bit over the top. I never knew how it would manifest itself just that if I let it run its course I would walk away safe. Anytime I had ever tried to predict or control it, I paid a price. So I was learning to let it ride, let it move of its own volition. So I walked out of the joint without a backwards glance and the policemen let me. I was angry that I had not been able to do more, but the truth was a slap in the face. He had killed that poor child before sunset and he had killed a lot more over the years. I said my version of a little Gypsy prayer to guard her soul. I was saddened that was all I could do.

I walked along quietly, thinking about a lot of things. In the past few weeks I had seen my fair share of misery, not to mention my own pathetic life  or at least the twenty four years to date,  so I feel like I have gotten to a place where things just don’t bother me like they would someone else. Still, I see things that no one else sees. I see the aftermath of violence, can feel a dying soul’s last gasp, that struggle to hang on for a variety of reasons, mostly of some unfinished business. I feel that desire to see a husband, wife, mother, father, daughter and son to tell them one last time they were loved. I feel the regret of every soul that ever died on some lousy street corner. I had never thought about such suffering before, but now it was a nightly experience and I could admit that it was taking its toll. I have felt so overwhelmed, such a profound loneliness. It does not make it any better that I am so incredibly alone, the greatest curse of all; being so desperate for companionship yet being so alone that a single girl’s wave at the mailbox made my day brighter. As I walked along, and alone, I had never felt this so intensely before. I wept as I walked, as much for myself as that little girl. Where was my comfort? Was I doomed to forever feel this way?  I had spent all of my life lonely, longing for friendship or even conversation. I had longed to be bigger and stronger, able to push back when pushed upon. Now that I had been given this power, limited by darkness, all I saw around me was loneliness and despair, the last thoughts of the dying and the dead. We all die alone was the one thing that had been hammered into my head. There was a pain there that was not physical and it was frightening in its simplicity.

It was while walking home in this semi-daze that I noticed that I was being followed. My gift would not completely allow me to focus inward, even if I slept or was focused elsewhere, it acted as a kind of radar and it was giving me alarm signals that made me realize where I was, and what I was doing. It seemed that it would not allow me to feel sorry for myself.  I peered through the gloom trying to discern just what was interested in me.  I knew somewhere deep that it was not going to be human. I sniffed the air like a wild dog and caught a scent of something, something foreign. In the few weeks since the change had started I had been seen multiple times, handed children to firemen during the worst of fires, pulled a cop from the line of fire, but no one ever recognized me or could describe me. The fact that something was following me, made me feel uneasy. I began to hurry along, and noticed that whatever was following me was not doing much to be quiet.  I picked up my pace, silently leaping onto a fire escape and gained some height. I waited for what seemed like an eternity, quietly watching, barely breathing. Suddenly it was there. I don’t really know what else to call the thing except a demon. As many bad shadowy shapes that I had seen in the night, I had seen nothing to prepare me for this. It didn’t exactly walk but shambled along, in a half loping fashion, all claws and teeth. It was impossible to tell how many limbs the thing had, for it continually changed shape with everything morphing into something different with the exception of all those claws and teeth. Yes, you guessed it, I was acutely aware of all those claws and teeth. They never really changed except maybe to increase. It sniffed at the air but did not appear to smell anything other than that which was foreign to me, or perhaps what I smelled was magic. While I could not be sure it was hunting me, a feeling deep inside told me that it was indeed searching for little old me, and that the claws and teeth were not for show. I let it pass and decided that it might be best if I went home by rooftop. I didn’t like doing that, no matter how many comic books always portray the superhero as some rooftop jumping athlete, I never felt quite that graceful and I had fallen before. There was nothing like the freedom of jumping from rooftop to rooftop, right up until you fell on your face. Even as fast as I heal, a broken jaw really hurts. Still I made it home before three and settled in for the rest of the night, thinking seriously about why some demon might be searching for me.

For the first time since I had started this crazy ride, I seriously thought about seeking help. Well, that is not exactly true as I thought about it all the time. That is not exactly something you search for in the yellow pages or on some website. Still if I could not exactly find a therapist for the troubled superhero, or an exorcist for the demon hounded superhero, I thought I might be able to find some assistance somewhere else. What I needed, was Gypsy help, since I was quite sure, my gift, or blessing, or curse was Gypsy related, and Gypsy inspired. After all, my mother was a Gypsy witch and right or wrong, it appeared that her spirit or ghost was following me about at night pleased with her handiwork. It was not a huge leap of logic to figure that she had something to do with my current predicament and why my life had been turned upside down.

Of course, looking up Gypsy assistance in the yellow pages was not exactly a likely course of action. So instead I searched for the next best thing, a Gypsy Fortune Teller. Now, this was no picnic either. You can find pretty much anything you want in the yellow pages, spiritualists, tarot card readers and your fair share of psychics. I was looking for something special, but I am not sure I could tell you exactly what it was I wanted. I expected that some part of me would know what was right, but at the same time, I doubted that searching out the Gypsies would solve all of my troubles. It was a Gypsy, even if she was my mother who had gotten me into this mess in the first place. I saw my mother practically every night, and far from being distressed at what she had done to me, she looked quite amused. One small ad finally caught my attention. There was nothing special about it, but I kept coming back to it.

 

Fortune Telling, the Gypsy way. Tarot Cards;

Crystal Ball Readings

 

There was a number and an address in Oakland. I wrote it down and then realized I would not remember anything of the night until the day after tomorrow. I decided to use the last bit of time I had before sunrise to write myself a note. I had used this little trick once before, when I got into a jam with some police officers and was worried they might come looking for me. I then took myself to bed which always helped a bit with the confusion that came with morning. I had made a point to always try and get into bed before I changed back into unremarkable Calvin. I did this most nights, even though occasionally I woke up with bloody sheets and seeping wounds. I went through a lot of laundry detergent and of course a lot of sheets.

I didn’t get much sleep that day I must admit. I tossed and turned wondering if there was anyone out there that could and would help me. No one had ever helped me before including my own father, so I was less than hopeful. It’s always the way too that about the time you drift away into slumber something wakes you up. A strange noise disturbed me and I jolted upright in the bed, trying to get my bearings and wondering what it was that had awakened me. I looked at the clock and it was about nine in the morning. As I wondered what was going on, it came again, that strange noise; a knock upon my door.  This only made the confusion of waking up not a superhero worse than usual. After all, no one knocked on my door or telephoned me or wrote me letters. I had that sinking feeling that something bad had happened the night before. I stumbled to the door and looked through the peephole. If Ed McMahon had been there with a million dollar check I could not have been more surprised. I opened the door with a rush. It was her, not just any her, but her.

“Hi,” she said smiling. “I was worried about you. I haven’t seen you at the mailboxes in a while. I thought maybe you had moved but the landlord said he didn’t think you had. He didn’t really know your name though either. I had to give him the apartment number so he could look you up.” She stood there smiling for a moment, while I stared at her. What a mope I was.

“Hi,” she said again. “Speaka de English. Habla Pig Latin or whatever. Sprechen do you understand a single thing I am saying?” She offered her hand and I reached out and shook it staring at her dumbfounded. “Amy, my name is Amy.”

“Calvin,” I finally managed to say. “Hi”

“Nice to meet you Calvin, can I come in? Do you have a reason why you’re letting me stand here? Dead body maybe?”

“No come on in, please.” I was in a complete state of shock. I really didn’t know what to say. People did not have conversations with me, much less attractive girls my age or any age. And it was her, the girl, the one girl I most wanted to talk to. I just didn’t know what to say. Maybe, I thought, I didn’t really have anything to say. Up until this moment, I did not want her to really know me, because maybe there really was a reason why everyone hated me or just ignored me. If I spoke with her, it would not take her but a second to realize this. I was terrified.

Finally I managed, “I was just about to make some coffee, would you like some?”

She seemed unsurprised that I had just awakened, and just nodded, looking around my small apartment, seeing the pictures on the wall. I went to my kitchen and put a pot of coffee on. I watched her, helplessly. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a lot of anything else to offer her. It was really the wrong time to realize you needed to go shopping. She took sugar and cream in her coffee and folded herself on my couch like she belonged. All I could do was stare at her.  We sat there, drinking coffee, like normal people. I mean, sure she was normal, but I was anything but the kind of guy that girls like her talked to. I was telling her what I did for a living, the computer stuff not the superhero stuff when I saw the note to myself. I read it quickly and then stupidly asked if she wanted to go with me to Oakland. Surprisingly she said yes. I ran to take a shower and managed to make a complete idiot of myself trying to scream out conversation with her while showering, shaving and dressing. Through it all though, she seemed amused. I had never met anyone so completely relaxed and comfortable with themselves. Her eyes were a marvel, brown flecked with gold. They were magical eyes, and everything about her for me was completely magical. It was my last naïve thought.

As we drove to Oakland, Amy kept up a steady stream of conversation and all I had to do was listen and say the occasional, yeah, uh huh and go on. As it turns out, Amy is a true child of San Francisco, Haight Asbury Hippies. Her middle name was Moonflower but she made me swear never to call her that. She worked as an art teacher, didn’t care for her job so much, but hey it was a living so who was she to complain. She of course wanted to paint, wanted to be a famous artist. She seemed completely at ease, which only confirmed for me just how cool she really was. To top it all off, when we drove up to the address she was totally cool with the place. It was an old part of Oakland, near downtown in a rundown strip mall full of old second hand shops, some of them boarded up. I had pictured a small place with beaded curtains and weird music. The place was a second hand store that just happened to do fortune telling on the side. There was a man standing outside the door, swarthy like a Gypsy should be, but not wearing any garish costume. His shirt though was still a bit loud but he hardly even glanced my way when I walked to the door. He looked Amy up and down, nodding in a knowing way. My anger just flared to life, jealous of someone who thought like everyone else thought that I was insignificant. If he only knew that I could hunt him down and kill him he would not have been so smug. I am sure he had seen his share of crazy young people wanting to get their fortunes told as some sort of kick. For that matter Amy thought the same thing and even asked me if I thought it was real. We walked into the shop and Amy started looking at some shelf full of trinkets, excited like some little kid in a candy store. Before I reached the counter a woman stepped out of the back room and smiled at me.

“I’ve been expecting you,” she said with a smile and twinkle in her eye.

I cannot lie. She looked every bit the part of a Gypsy woman, a lot like my mother, only wearing jeans and a simple blouse. She motioned me forward and I followed her into the back but not before she smiled at Amy and said that we would be back. Amy only nodded and kept looking at the trinkets. I can’t say that magic was done, or that Amy wouldn’t have been fascinated with the trinkets but something was weird. She led me to a table with two chairs and brought us both a coke from a small refrigerator.

“You’re what I expected,” she said. “I’m surprised, that rarely happens.”

I looked at her with narrowed eyes, all suspicion, “Sure I am,” I said. I was now quite sure that it was all bogus, except she seemed so sincere, smiling, her eyes bright and twinkling as if she were amused.

She laughed. “So like your mother Calvin.”

I was taken by surprise admittedly. “You knew my mother? What is it that you know about? How did you know my name?”

“Of course I knew your mother. We come from the same place, although we did not grow up together. I know a lot about you too Calvin. I’ve had my eye on you, watching you, and yes I can help you. I am surprised you have not made your way to me before. Of course there are other Gypsies, some would have helped you; others might have hurt you, or tried at least. There is still a lot of fear for someone like you and people of course fear what they don’t know or understand.”

“Well this is closer to the cryptic answers I was expecting,” I said smugly.

She laughed. “Cryptic? Is that what I was being? It’s going to help us a lot Calvin if you stop thinking about crystal balls and tarot cards. You just have to trust, some of this is ability and some just knowledge. We’re alike, magically, and yet not alike.”

She walked around the room, moving so like my mother, or what I thought was my mother in the shadows of the night. I didn’t know what to say. What could I say? For all I knew it was some sort of Gypsy trick like she suspected I thought already. The smile she gave me, so full of mirth only made me more suspicious. Regardless, she knew something about me and I wanted to know how she knew and what she knew. Then she started talking.

“Your mother was powerful, very powerful, more powerful than even your Grandfather. He wanted to use that, to get more for himself. She was different though. She didn’t like using her magic in that manner, and she wanted more than what her father was offering her. She wanted to use her magic to create beautiful nice things. She was very spirited, oddly so. Everyone thought so. She went where she pleased, without a care, because magically she was so strong. There was something about her, something unusual that made you not want to harm her. Describing her as a witch was well done, because there was that about her that was fey and wild. She was bewitching. Your Grandfather collected things, things of very old magic, things he hoped he could use to control her. Some of those things he collected were beyond even his ability to manage though. It was power that he sought and to gain more he spent it wildly. Eventually, she just got tired of it and left, one day without fanfare or goodbye. She just left.”

“Yeah,” I said, “right to my drunk of a father. Some wild spirit she was.”

“Don’t judge your parents,” she answered sternly, “you don’t know the half of who your parents were. Your father was strong and bold and unafraid of magic, even though he was challenged by it multiple times. He stood up to what she was afraid of and she gave him a purpose. She tried to teach him what she could through stories and songs, things to protect the both of you when she was gone. Do not mock them, or judge them.”

“And then she died and left us both to struggle on without her. If she was so worried for our protection and was so powerful, then why would she do that?” I asked.

“There are all sorts of powers out there Calvin and she used much to escape in the first place and to keep you all hidden. Your father did not want to hide, so unafraid was he but your mother knew and when she got pregnant she really knew. She used her magic as best she could to hide and she used what other resources from friends she could.”

“Gypsies?” I asked.

She nodded. “Gypsies yes, and other resources. She knew that when you were born that safety would be tenuous. You were going to be powerful and you as an infant would have been like a beacon to many. She would not have been able to stop them for long, especially as you got older.”

“I don’t understand. They were safe, why would that be tenuous because I was born.”

“The nature of your magic, the nature of your family magic is to be stronger than that of the parent. You were going to be stronger than your mother, much stronger than your Grandfather.  You were going to be a target, probably still are.”

“What did she do?” I asked, concerned and not a little afraid.

“She used her magic to change yours.” She said it so matter of fact that I did not know what to say, and instead just stared at her.

It was beyond what I had expected and I sat there for a moment letting the shock of it all wash over me. It was a blessing, or sort of a blessing. It had certainly done me no favors. I had spent my life as a nobody and now I had all of this to deal with. It was all quite beyond me.

“What would my magic have been like without this extra stuff?” I asked.

“Who knows, magic is like that. Your mother did not know what adding her magic to yours would do. She just wanted to protect you. I sense though what it is about you, what was done. Her magic was used in great need, a desperate need. She could protect herself, and your father would always be there to try, but there was no way she could really feel confident that you would be safe. It was desperate need, and that is what drives your magic. It responds to need. She masked it well and like a fire tamped it down so it would burn slowly responding when it was really needed.”

“Why isn’t it there in the daytime?” I demanded.

“Perhaps one day it will be. There is much about you I can see, magically you are still evolving changing. It might even turn ugly. Magic naturally evolved is still unpredictable but yours was altered, added to and who knows how it will change you, how it will affect the world around you. Perhaps it was her desire to make it burn slow and be hidden that it only sparks when it is dark, nighttime. I did not create what you are, so I have no idea what your mother intended. I cannot answer that question. Even if I had been there and seen what she did, it would not explain everything. Magic like hers, like yours is unpredictable at best. There are consequences beyond the ones you just think about, there are others that don’t come to mind. Tricky, isn’t it?”

I laughed at all of this but she didn’t seem to be joking so I stopped and stared at her. She told me that despite what I thought, I had indeed inherited more than just my mother’s eyes. There was power inside of me; power now manifested but changed in the blessing she had bestowed upon me, that had enhanced what was already there. My Grandfather was hunting me, but the demon was not his. It had been sent though to hunt me down and there were now others.  Not all of these demons had just teeth and claws, some had other weapons. She also told me that there would always be Gypsies ready to help me, good people who still loved my mother, and hated my grandfather. Some had helped me quietly through the years, all without any notice from me. The final straw was that my father had known all of this.

“Of course he knew. Do you think your mother would have kept this from him? She knew that giving you her magic would likely destroy her. Your father had to know what was out there, and what she did to you.”

“He should have told me,” I shouted.

“Perhaps.” She agreed, “It was his choice. I suppose he wanted you to have something of a normal life for as long as possible.”

“My life has been anything but normal. Do you know what it’s like to never have a friend, to be ignored and ridiculed?”

“I did not say that it was right,” she said quietly.

“Why now?”

“I suspect that something magical has triggered this, something that has caused it to respond to your need for protection. It is quite likely that you have just grown strong enough that you are now noticed and now things hunt you. In many cases magic has to come of age. Maybe yours has done this, and maybe it will keep evolving. Who’s to say.”

“I have never felt powerful,” I said, but at the same time I wondered what had been hidden beyond the eyes of so many that I saw when they looked at me.

“But what?” she asked smiling, as if she already knew. So I told her my suspicions that I had kept like fantasies, something to keep me going all these years. She only nodded.

Now, this was not exactly the news I was wanting and I started to pace in the small room while she watched. She seemed to enjoy letting me struggle before throwing me the lifeline. As it turns out, demons had some weaknesses. While they were ruthless hunters, they were not so bright. In fact, even though relentless and without mercy, they were not very good trackers. They had to see their quarry. They hated water, and while it would not kill them, it would seriously disturb them. She could not tell from whatever source of knowing she had whether they wanted to kill me or just bring me back to their master. She suspected the latter as I was a power that many would want to harness and hone for themselves. She also could not tell me what other things might be hunting but suggested they could be worse than the demons.

“But you’re a bright young man,” she said. “I am sure you will figure it all out in time, if you don’t die or do something stupid.

She led me back to the storefront where Amy continued to look at trinkets. She pointed at Amy and patted me on the back.

“She’s good for you Calvin,” she said, her eyes warm and knowing.

I asked her if I might come back. She said that I might if I had need but that she suspected they would soon pack up and go north to Seattle.

“Besides,” she answered. “You’re hunted. I don’t really want the attention. You have what you need anyway, and there are still others that would help you. My gifts are not such to withstand what you are going to attract.”

“Great,” I said.

“There will always be Gypsies around Calvin,” she said, “and most of them want to help you. They will want you to succeed. Some though may want to use you for their own purposes.”

I nodded and then went to Amy. She seemed quite pleased to see me, but as we walked outside I realized something bad. However long I had thought I had spoken to the fortune teller, it was longer than I thought and it was nearly night fall. I handed Amy my keys and told her that I needed to run an errand for the fortune teller. I apologized and Amy seemed to take it in stride. She walked to my car and hopped in. I suppose I could have just asked her to drive saying I didn’t feel well and then when the pain struck me she would think me ill, but she might actually take me to the hospital. I was going to have to walk back home, but at least I had all night, and I might as well get some work done.

I headed for the Bay Bridge. The change felt good tonight, at least after the five minutes of unbearable pain. I felt strong, and I felt fast. After spending my entire life being the worst athlete, the worst everything it felt good this power, this blessing. It was a night in which I was moving so fluidly, quickly like a shadow like smoke in the wind. Somewhere I heard the unmistakable sound of chimes ringing on the breeze. I felt as light as air, as if I could fly. I had felt close to this before, right up until the moment I jumped off a twelve story building sure that I could fly, only to fall flailing to the ground. Broken bones heal faster on me, but they still hurt. So I knew better than to try and take to the air. Still it was times like this that I so enjoyed, a power I had certainly never felt as my normal unremarkable self.

In typical fashion whenever I began to feel good about my superhero self, it was inevitable that something else would bring me crashing to ground, usually painfully. I was not sure but suspected that it was this silly blessing’s way of keeping me focused. On this night though, it was the sudden realization that I was being herded. Shadows flitted about me, and they were thick. I was pretty sure from the dread feeling that a lot of those shadows had some nasty teeth and claws. I was being herded to the very destination I had wanted to go in the first place. The Bay Bridge was now ominously close. Long, multi-layered it had gained fame in its collapse during the last really big earthquake during the Bay World Series. I wondered how it would fare against hundreds of nasty little demons. Alright, that’s not true, I was actually wondering how I was going to fare. All the not so bright demons had to do was keep me busy until dawn and then I was toast. The only consolation was that I had been told by a Gypsy fortune teller that they weren’t very bright, so would they know that about me. Of course, she wasn’t the one facing all the teeth and claws. I did wonder though why the cars zooming by didn’t seem to see either them or me. I needed them to, so where was that silly magic.

I picked up my pace flying through the air, my feet barely touching the ground. It was real speed, without illusion and I was not sure that I had been faster at any time. It was need that drove me, and I thought a lot about it later in the safety of my own little dingy apartment, thought about the words of that Gypsy fortune teller. I didn’t have a lot of options, there was only one way across, and then all of those shadows slowed. It only took me a minute to understand why. I could see across the bridge and there were even more there waiting for me. So I moved down, running through a chain length fence to run under the bridge. There was a howling behind me somewhere as the demons following lost sight of me. They might not have been bright but they knew I was not on that bridge. That only made the ones across the bridge angrier. The howls had more menace to them, that’s how I could tell. As I made it finally to the water’s edge I wondered what I was going to do. I thought that I might have been a little premature to send Amy on with the car. The emergency room or even just seeing Amy’s expression at what I really was would not be near as bad as this doomed feeling that I had.

That was when I heard it. A single chime came ringing through the air, from the water itself. I had heard that chime all evening. My mother had been wearing those chimes and now she was somewhere out on the water. Easy for her, she was dead after all.  The howls though indicated that the demons seemed to sense it, seemed to know that she was out there. It made them angrier. What came next surprised me even more. At first, I thought something had churned up some sea algae, like you could sometimes see when the really big ships passed. This was smaller, a trail leading from the water’s edge out across into the darkness, into the water. I smiled. The demons were not going to come near the water. I took a step out onto that luminescent green trail, gingerly and then with more confidence. I was walking on the water. I didn’t get cocky, too many past experiences taught me better, but I did start to move a little more quickly. I was running out of time. Now that feeling of lightness returned and I fairly glided across that water leaving the smallest of wakes behind me. If I had not been so afraid, I would have laughed with glee.

As I neared the other side I looked up and around searching for any sign of that demon army. They were still there, up on the bridge and plenty agitated. I didn’t slow as I got to the shore, keeping out of sight as much as I could. Even as I moved away from the bridge I never slowed, never even looked back. I finally paused as I neared my apartment building. I made it to the back of my building, hesitating before entering. There was no sound of pursuit; in fact hardly any little shadows flitted about at all. I entered like a wraith and made it up to my apartment. I closed the door behind me and leaned against it. Dawn was only minutes away. Somehow it had seemed like minutes, but it had taken me all night to get home.

“Have a nice run?” Amy said from the dark.

I could see she was sitting on the couch. I started to say something, but did not know what I could say that would explain what I was.

“It’s ok,” she said, “I’m a Gypsy too.”

I don’t know whether I fainted or just woke up confused. I did know that everything I thought was so chaotically right about my life was now turned upside down.

 

 

The Music Blog: What? Him Again Sheesh

Art

Is music art? Do you consider music a visceral experience, something artistic that enriches you? Do you listen to it the way you look at someone’s painting? When a friend asks you to read something, a poem or a story are you respectful of the courage that it took to write it, to hand something so precious to another human being, some part of you that is now in your hands to crush or nurture? When you look at a painting do you see the hands that made it come to life, the eyes which held such vision?

 

I think about these things, lately I think about them a lot. I have written a lot of things and submitted them to be published, received those dreaded rejection letters. Sometimes I have received my manuscript back just a few days after I mailed it. Sometimes I never heard anything.

 

I guess this seems an odd beginning for a music blog. Truth to tell, I was not going to write a blog on Genesis since the last blog was on Peter Gabriel. So I am going to write a bit about Genesis and also write about music as art. I thought about this a lot yesterday which has led us to this point, writing about a band that in some ways I already covered but in other ways I have barely scratched the surface. In my Peter Gabriel blog I wrote that I had two favorite Genesis albums, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway which is the last album with Peter Gabriel and Duke which of course features Phil Collins. They are not back to back albums they just are my favorites from this band. You could not get two more opposite singers than Gabriel and Collins and that is the heart of this blog entry.

 

I believe there are some big differences between English rock bands and American rock bands and that includes solo artists and of course I mean more than the bloody accents. With English acts I really believe that everything from album covers to live performances are all part of one work of art, one experience. Each performance is a manifestation of that art. I read Peter Hook’s books on Joy Division and New Order and its surprising how much time and energy he spent talking about sleeve art for everything from singles to special editions to album art work. It clearly was part of the experience. When you look at some American rock band covers what you get mostly is a result of a photo op. They merely pick the best picture. The music is the art. Stage shows are the same thing. Go see most American rock acts and what you get is a simple stage with lights, sometimes laser lights but mostly its room for the bands to play. There are exceptions of course. Alice Cooper invented shock rock and his performances were about shocking the audience as much as they music they played. Marilyn Manson is a continuation of that. Kiss of course is all about the live act, explosions fire everywhere. Motley Crue very similar with roller coaster tracks so that Tommy Lee can play the drums upside down. You pay and expect to see these things. Then there is one Frank Zappa (mission accomplished Tammy) whose sole purpose was to write and perform music that was so bad that people would like it and buy it anyway thinking there had to be something there. Jokes on you. Bands like those are in the minority especially bands like Zappa. In the early 70’s David Bowie became Ziggy Stardust, it was an entire performance. The Who had Townasend with smashing guitars, Moon destroying his drum kit and Daltry spinning his microphone. It was part of the show. Almost every English band was more than the music they played but the show they performed. When you bought a ticket to a David Bowie concert you were not going to see David Bowie. You were going to see Ziggy Stardust. When you bought a ticket to a Genesis concert, you were not paying to see a band play music you were going to see Peter Gabriel.

 

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Mention Genesis to most people and they don’t know that Gabriel was a founding member and the original lead singer. These same people think that Genesis is Invisble Touch, and We Can’t Dance and all the big hits with Collins on vocals. Phil Collins is a great vocalist too. He is a wonderful performer and had he never sang a note he would still be one of the greatest drummers who banged a drum. But he isn’t Peter Gabriel. They are two vastly different performers and because of that two vastly different bands. It isn’t the music, it’s the singer. My first Genesis album was Duke which came out my senior year of high school. I loved that album, love it more now. Turn it On Again is one of my all-time favorite songs. I love that song, and I mean I really love that song. But before there was Collins singing there was Peter Gabriel and he was the show. Now I was into my 40’s before I went and gathered that early Genesis music. One thing about Genesis is that they can really play. Wonderful songs and regardless of who is singing great vocals. You never knew what Gabriel was going to wear or do onstage. It was all pomp and glam and costume and makeup and it was amazing. Go ahead look early Genesis up on youtube and watch. That show was all part of the experience, like going to see Ziggy Stardust you went to see the show, you went to see Peter Gabriel.

Your friends would ask, “Hey what songs did they play?”

“Hell I don’t know but Gabriel wore a Jesters outfit. What a great show.”

And it was the way art is meant to be viewed, an experience, taking you to another place, one filled with imagination and wonder.

Mike out.

The Music Blog: Poker, Boom Boxes, Apollo 13 and the Art of Being Kind

I used to have this theory that always made a lot of sense to me. It was a theory of why some relationships work and even thrive, while others just fall apart. In fact most relationships will ultimately fail and when I say relationship I mean intimate not friendship but I suppose its true of any relationship. I compared them to a poker game specifically Texas Hold Em. You see that game doesn’t get exciting until one person goes all in and when 2 people go all in it can be edge of the seat stuff. Relationships are the same way the only way they work is if two people go all in nothing held back. Most people just are not willing to do that so they hold a few chips in their back pocket. I used to tell people this and they would nod sort of roll their eyes and move on. Maybe it is too simplistic.

Genesis is one of my favorite rock bands of all time. I have two favorite albums, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway the last album with Peter Gabriel and Duke which features Phil Collins on vocals. I love Peter Gabriel and for a lot of people my age it was like he was alternative before there was even such a thing maybe the Father of Alternative Music. After breaking with Genesis Gabriel recorded 4 untitled albums. Technically they are all titled Peter Gabriel. Some people call them 1, 2, 3, 4. Other people refer to them as Car, Scratch, Melt and Security for the album cover art. There is something special about the cover art for English artists and bands. The cover art is almost as important as the music itself. Anyway, whatever you want to call Peter Gabriel’s first four albums, I just call them wonderful.

In 1986 Gabriel released his 5th studio album, So. I bought this album on cassette, hey at least it wasn’t 8 track. I bought the album for the song Red Rain. I love that song. There was a second hit on that album, and actually it may have been the first released song Sledgehammer that I don’t like near as well. But it was the last song on that album that would go supersonic and be as loved today as it was then but it took three years for that to happen. Regardless it was not the big song on So. No doubt though it was a beautiful song.

In 1989 film maker and music lover Cameron Crowe released the movie Say Anything starring John Cusack and Ione Skye. Now Cusack to me is like an American version of Hugh Grant. Every character he plays is pretty much the same but we love his movies because well they make us happy. They have happy endings and we have enough reality in our lives that enjoying movies with happy endings is just a bonus. Remember that song, that last song on the album by Peter Gabriel So? Well the title of that song was In Your Eyes and it featured prominently in that movie. You might even say that one single moment in that film was Cusack’s best moment in any film ever and it most certainly defined that movie. It’s the first thing you think about when someone asks remember the film Say Anything?. It was memorable and it was epic. Heartbroken over his break up Cusack (Lloyd) goes to a park and plays that song and when the chorus plays he holds the boom box over his head and you can even see the desperation in Cusack’s eyes. It is a gut wrenching moment and Cusack must have drawn on something we all understand. There are clichés about heartbreak. You would be willing to crawl over broken glass if she would just take you back, you would get down on your knees and it’s a hundred times worse if you have gone all in. I have gone all in twice, both one sided affairs. It is the worst feeling in the world that loss and only something like losing a child can come close if you are all in. Many times it involves cruelty from one person to another compounding the misery. The evil that people do to each other always amazes me. That Say Anything moment ruined every girl and every guy who ever saw it. From that point on every girl wanted a guy who would do that but you want to know what would have happened if they had. “You couldn’t think of anything original?” Every guy from that moment knew he would have to step up his game, flowers just weren’t going to cut it anymore. It was now expected to play some love song over a boom box. Nah, that stuff doesn’t work for a couple of reasons. One it’s been done on the big screen so now you would be a copy cat. Secondly, you have to have two people all in to really make such a moment work and without that you just have rejection. Trust me I understand rejection. For someone like me born to lose I could spend all night holding up boom boxes and not get a single thing. That moment was pivotal. I remember in the early 90’s I was out on this first date with a girl I hardly knew. That’s the point of dating right? I was asked out of the blue if we broke up what song would you play in a boom box outside of my window. Now seriously I was concerned about getting a second date or even wondering if I wanted a second date. We had not even ordered yet. I don’t have many moments with the opposite sex. I am aware of all my faults and usually as soon as I start talking they start to drift off to sleep but I responded with Sanitarium by Metallica. She threw her napkin down and walked out of the restaurant. I ate alone at least not wondering if I was going to get a second date or not.

Movies are not reality, even the ones which are supposed to be. Remember Apollo 13, the movie. Ron Howard made this popular movie and one of the premises was that the astronauts persevered despite having an inferior astronaut aboard despite not getting along and despite their genius astronaut being on the ground. None of it was true. Mattingly got scrubbed from the mission for medical reasons and then he had nothing to do with the rescue of those astronauts. The amazing engineers in mission control did. Jack Swigert was not inferior. There Is no such thing as an inferior astronaut. He was a gifted pilot who came and did his job. In fact it was Swigert who notified Mission Control they had a major problem. The astronauts never argued never resented Swigert, they worked together because that’s what NASA trained them to do. Why that story was not good enough only Opie knows but he harmed two men’s reputations who were already dead, Swigert and Haise when he made that movie.

Now we truly have slipped off the deep end. Peter Gabriel has been a vibrant performer since his days with Genesis and the wonder of him is that he stays so relevant to my generation and really to younger people as well, and that voice. I think he is a terrific vocalist. Name a great vocalist and Gabriel is just as wonderful. I have a really good friendship with someone who just adores Van Morrison and why not, he is terrific. Gabriel remains for me that guy that edgy performer but singers have to sing and boy can he sing. If you don’t know much about Gabriel’s music that’s ok. We are about to journey into the depths of his music and not long after we will dive into some Genesis too. For now…………

Play your boom boxes loud.

Let her know how you feel.

Don’t play Zappa.

Sanitarium by Metallica is also not a good choice unless it’s her song then it’s an excellent choice. Not really pick another song.

Throw all your chips in, yes even that one in your back pocket and that one in your hat too.

Let it rip.

Whatever happens remember be kind to her, more than any song you might play her, be kind.

And girls you might not believe it or think so but some of us guys are really fragile so being kind that goes for you too. You may not like the guy with the boom box, maybe he is a bit of a loser, and maybe he picked the wrong song but you know what hug his neck and when you reject him be kind.

Bah Mike out.

Calvin Ring: The Sound of Darkness Chapter 1

My mother was a Gypsy woman, that’s what I am told. She died when I was young, about two years old. I don’t remember her much, only the stories that my father told me. I have pictures of her, beautiful dark hair, and beautiful eyes, the deepest of brown. My memories of her are so clouded, by the stories my father told me, and my vague recollections of her, barely memories at all, more like wisps of smoke that come and go. It’s frustrating, really, wanting to know someone so important to your life and not being able to. If she left family behind, then she never let my father know, or maybe he just never really told me. I would like to know her, but there are a lot of things that I would like. The only relative that I ever heard about was my Grandfather, and of him I know even less than my mother. Still, I sometimes wake in the middle of the night and can almost hear her voice; that quiet voice, or the sound of her laughter. Dreams really, all I have of her are dreams. Sometimes I know things about her that I shouldn’t, but that’s a recent thing. It’s weird and hard to explain, and I will get to it later in this tale.

My father, when he was sober, which wasn’t often, used to tell me she was a witch woman. Great news for me, right, a Gypsy witch? I mean, that’s not something you tell your classmates in show and tell, and I never got called on for show and tell anyway, even if I brought something to show. Of course, my classmates never really cared for me anyway. I guess in hindsight, knowing she was a Gypsy witch would not have given me more enemies, or made me any friends, so there would have been no difference. Still I heard stories about her, and stories about my wild Grandfather who they were always running from. She was a true Gypsy woman, and could speak many dialects, but English was her worst language. My old dad used to laugh saying that half the time he could never understand a word she said. She had but little formal education, but he insisted she was the smartest person he had ever known. My father was always proud of the fact that he had stolen her away. He spoke of her with reverence, with true love and never an ounce of fear of actually meeting my Grandfather, who I had never met. When he spoke of either her or my Grandfather it was almost as if he wanted me to know something but never could tell me what that was. Mostly he would just drink. I used to think there were things that I could see in his eyes, knowledge and I have thought that about others. It was like everyone knew something about me that I didn’t know myself.  I used to think that this was just me trying to understand the very cruel world around me, trying to have power over anything, because I was so powerless in everything I did.

My father was not one of those mean drunks, so I didn’t grow up in some abusive household. He was a big man, and strong. When he hugged me, which was rare, it felt like hugging a tree, hard and full of rough edges. He stood a little over six feet and was a solid two hundred pounds all of his life. He never seemed to gain weight or lose weight, and I never knew him to work out with weights. He was just a bull strong man, who liked to drink a little too much. Mostly he was pathetic, drinking his whiskey, singing old songs, some of them Gypsy songs my mother must have taught him, any way it sounded like Gypsy to me, but I don’t speak Gypsy. He was always full of stories, all sorts of stories. He loved a good ghost tale, but the stories he told no one else knew and they were always menacing, not usually the stories you told to children. It was usually late at night when the drink was flowing that he would tell tales of my mother. Some of those stories were frightening as well when I was young. To my father, my mother was very multi-dimensional.

My father worked as an aircraft mechanic for a large airline, I guess in hindsight, knowing how much he drank, the airline should count itself lucky that he never made a catastrophic mistake. He had few friends and seemed always wary of a stranger. This would easily slip into hysteria and paranoia sometimes when he was drunk. When I was younger I used to hide in my room, not because I was afraid of him, but that whatever he was afraid of might actually be real. Due to his size alone I felt there were few things that could make him afraid. He blamed himself for my mother’s death, but I never really understood why.  While he was proud of her, and loved her, he also seemed to know that taking her from the life she was meant for was wrong although he never once told me that she complained about her life. What I knew of her always led me to believe that she was happy with him, and happy with me, but I have never really known love so what else would I think in my dreams of her. My Dad used to tell me before he passed out, that some women were not born to raise kids and be wives; some women could not be caged. He would start crying then, crying himself to sleep. Maybe that’s why I can’t get a girlfriend, because the ones that are naturally attracted to me cannot be caged. Well, it’s a nice thought.  Anyway my father died a drunk in my second year of college. I remember the numbness I felt at his funeral, realizing that I had no one left. Standing at his gravesite, with just a few of his co-workers and a preacher the funeral home located was depressing, and even now going to the cemetery brings about a deep sadness that is difficult for me to shake.  Despite how pathetic he was, I miss him. I doubt I have had more than a dozen real conversations since he died. No one talks to me. I guess I loved my father for all his faults.

My name is Calvin, Calvin Ring, a totally unremarkable name for a totally unremarkable person. It’s true; I don’t have a single memorable feature. I am not handsome and I suppose I am not ugly. Most people who meet me, most people who have ever worked with me, quickly ignore me, or never seem to see me at all. It’s not really on purpose, just that I am so unremarkable; like my own form of pathetic existence. If they don’t ignore me they ridicule me, find ways to embarrass me and generally make my life a living hell. Men like pushing me around because I am not the biggest guy in the room, but like my father, sometimes I see things in their eyes that seem not quite right.  I am five feet five inches on a tall day and if I am soaking wet I might manage to weigh a hundred and thirty pounds. Sometimes I wonder what makes me so threatening, but I guess it’s just the way of the world to push the smaller guy around. I have dark hair like my mother, but pale almost translucent skin. What happened to the Gypsy blood, I don’t know. I have dark eyes like my Gypsy mother. My father used to tell me I looked like her, only not pretty. I never took that as a compliment, but hell maybe I should have. I don’t get a lot of compliments, or greetings, or gifts, or happy birthdays or any other such platitudes.  I don’t guess I have to wonder why I can’t get a date. Most women are taller than me, and most women want someone who at least is remarkable or can take them more places than just lunch.  I supposed at the end of the day, being ignored is a step up from the endless ridicule that was high school and college. I was beaten almost every day, sometimes for no other reason than for being alive. My father didn’t seem to care and by the time I got to college it was a part of my normal routine. I wondered if it would ever stop. In the working world I have escaped it. No one wants to get fired and I work in the land of cubicles where it’s easy to disappear.  I have been called everything from runt, to shorty to midget and yes I have even been called late for dinner. The only redemption for this, is that I had no fun, no one to have fun with, so I graduated college in just three years, I am still paying those damn loans off though. Maybe one day I will find a girl who likes me, but right about now I would settle for one who would just talk to me. You probably have no idea what this was like or think I am exaggerating, because everyone has someone, someone to at least be their friend. I have no one, and not many prospects. I am twenty-four years old, out of college for three years now. Twenty four years without an ounce of companionship and I seriously doubt I will be able to stand going another twenty four years. My life is not sad, it’s unexplainable.

Up until about six months ago I worked for a local computer company as a software designer. I was in the security department, creating solutions for companies which were suffering from security breaches. It sounds more glamorous than it actually is and mostly I look at things behind the scenes, looking for footprints so to speak. I am so low on the food chain though that even if I find something I can’t do anything with it but report it to my team lead, who has no problem ignoring what I have done and taking the credit for himself. It’s a nice arrangement, if you’re him. It was not my dream job, but then middle linebacker for the 49’ers was taken, so I settled. I have always seemed to understand computers, and I am a problem solver. It’s an alright place to work too, sitting in my cube, an invisible man in an invisible world, easily forgotten. Yet it, like all other aspects of my life serve as reminders to me of how unremarkable I really am. You see, in every office there is a lot of socialization. My particular office likes to have the occasional get together, the usual stuff, barbecues, happy hours and whatever else. They put out fliers announcing all the activities, except I never seem to get any fliers. There are also the usual office liaisons, or at least I guess they are usual. They certainly don’t ever involve me. Mostly I remain hidden, as invisible and unremarkable as I have always been. I guess it’s a different kind of beating that I endure now.

I moved into a pretty swank apartment, on the third floor of a brand new complex downtown. Okay, I lied, it’s a run down apartment complex but the rent is affordable and yes you guessed it, the neighbors leave me alone, but it is the third floor. All in all though, the neighborhood is not so bad. I live on the edge of the Mission, close enough to hear the buzz of life there. On Saturday night, if the breeze is just right I can sit out on my balcony and hear the mariachi music. Some mornings I can get up and watch the fog roll slowly in, enveloping everything. It’s so quiet then, like being in another world, or being dead. I once had that thought and actually spent a couple of days working through all the different angles; the thought that I was dead. It perfectly explained why people ignored me, and perfectly explained why sometimes I thought I saw the hint of fear in those bullies’ eyes as they were about to punch me. It makes perfect sense, except that I didn’t die, everyone else did.  I digress though. Six months ago I quit my job. I sort of had to, and that’s where my story begins. You see six months ago something happened, and I still don’t know if it was a blessing or a curse, or if my life is any better. I do know, life could not have gotten much worse.

 

It was a normal day or at least normal for me. I went to work, did my job, which was actually sort of cool that day. I was given an assignment to find out how a large company’s computer had been hacked. It seemed their IT department could not figure it out, so they went to the software company that provided their security and the company assigned it to me. My Team Lead was clueless as usual as to where to start looking so he handed it off to me. I make my boss look good and I always thought one day that this might pay off, although three years after taking the job I had not received a single raise, not even a silly merit increase.  Anyway, I got the job. It was a tough nut, one that unfortunately I would not ever see to its conclusion. Ominous sounding, but I had no idea how much my life was about to change. Those days seems so far away even though only months have passed.

I spent the day getting familiar with the breach, looking at the detail. I ate my tuna sandwich at my desk, where I always ate and surfed the internet seeing how all the popular people lived. I left at my normal time, which was actually after the main group left. I found I had fewer bruises when I did this and drove my dad’s old Honda Civic home.

As I entered my apartment complex I drove to the mailboxes. I always looked forward to this part of my day. This was the reason for my being, the reason I left exactly at five fifty-five every day, because a minute later was too late, and a minute earlier made me feel like a creep. I always saw her, the most unusual girl in the world. I didn’t even know her name, and did not dare ask. I am not even sure the rest of the male world would have considered her beautiful at all, attractive yes, beautiful no. She was tall and thin, dishwater blonde hair and a quirky smile, altogether unusual but not because of her looks, but because she always waved to me. No one waved to me, especially tall girls, or any girl for that matter. So it was a thrill, probably the highlight of my day. Lately, it was this brief and impersonal contact that kept me from going completely insane. Sad, but then that’s how it is for me so don’t feel sorry for me. Live my life for a minute and you’ll learn things are what they are, and no more than that. So I saw her at the mailbox and she waved, and I smiled and felt better. I suppose I could have asked her out, a suave guy would have done that. Even an essentially normal guy would have at least asked her name, but I just couldn’t. This is me we are talking about, so I just watched her walk by and waved my totally retarded wave. I liked the illusion that someone out there liked me and one does not destroy illusions by finding out the truth. I think I might have died if she ever spoke to me, and despite my recent musings about whether I was dead, I was not sure I was quite down to the dying option just yet.

I remember walking into my dingy one bedroom apartment. It was about as plain as you could get, but I had tried to brighten the place up. I did a lot of shopping at second hand stores and had found some cool pictures to put on the wall, pictures of exotic places and of interesting looking people. I sort of liked it and sometimes it made me feel a little more connected. I turned on the television. I grabbed a frozen pizza from the freezer and popped it in the oven and then changed into some jeans. I was later glad that I did this, as there are many nights I grab an old pair of shorts and a t-shirt. Tonight though, it was jeans, running shoes and a t-shirt, as I was thinking about walking over to the old bookstore later. When you don’t have much of a life, reading becomes a favorite pastime. I remember eating the pizza and watching the news and then stepping out onto my balcony for some night air. Up until that moment, the night was a perfectly normal one, unremarkable like me.

I hit the ground like a ton of bricks and all I could do was gasp. If you have ever had every inch of your bowel clinch up you still wouldn’t know the pain that raced through every pore, corpuscle and nerve ending in my body. It hurt so bad I could not even scream. At first I thought I had been shot and I was so stricken with pain that I could not even move my hands to find where I was wounded. All I could do was roll around on the ground. Naturally none of my neighbors came to check on me. Of course in my neighborhood this was not really that unusual.  I don’t know how long it lasted and every time since it’s been the same. There were waves of pain striking at me, waves rolling over me like a hurricane, battering me. It was pain like opening me up with a scalpel without benefit of anesthesia, over my entire body. I felt like my skin was being turned inside out. There is nothing like a little pain to let you know you’re still alive. Then there was nothing, just the peaceful sound of my own heart beating fast and my breath coming in ragged deep gasps. I had tiny spasms of phantom pains that felt like my nerve endings were re-inventing themselves, like the aftershocks from an earthquake. I laid there for a few minutes before I made it to my feet. It felt good to stand, shaky as I was and then I sat in an old lawn chair I had on my balcony.

That’s when I noticed something different, in fact everything was different.  My vision had changed, my sense of touch had changed and my sense of smell had changed. I could smell everything that anyone in my entire complex was cooking at that moment, every cigarette, every joint and every drug. I could feel the individual grains of sand in the glass of my balcony door. I could feel the nails, drywall everything else that it had taken to construct the apartments so many years previous. I could actually smell the sweat of the workers who had put the building up. And I could, see, oh how I could see. I could see vividly every blade of grass, despite the darkness. I could see into walls. I could see everything and with a twist of my mind I could make things far seem like they were right in front of me, like some sort of telescopic sight.  The Transamerica building was beautiful in telescopic sight, I can tell you. On top of everything there was this sense of overwhelming need inside of me, but what that need was, what it entailed, I had no idea. Yet it was there, burning, setting fire to something inside of me and with that need came something I had longed for so long; a sense of power. I felt strong, felt the muscles in my body to their very core, coiled like a tight spring. I suddenly felt so good, like I had been waiting on this moment for all of my life.

I thought for a moment, as you must be thinking that maybe I had a stroke or some other medical problem. I guess a few of you are thinking that I was merely hallucinating like some Schizophrenic. I must admit all of those thoughts and more ran through my brain. As exciting as it had suddenly become, I was also deathly afraid.  I even considered the mushrooms on the pizza might have been tainted. Yet I knew who I was, what day it was, where I was and sadly every memory was still intact. If it were a dream, it was unlike any dream I had ever dreamed.  I walked to the closest mirror and sure enough, I was the same shrimpy Caucasian with the Gypsy eyes I had been before. It felt like some sort of surreal moment, surreal, yet so vivid with a wash of color that was dazzling. Something had changed, somewhere deep inside of me so I grabbed my jacket and decided that a walk to the bookstore might be therapeutic.

Things were no better outside than in I soon discovered. Now I could feel every pebble, shard of glass, and a whole new set of smells invaded me. I saw everything before me, things not previously visible. Let’s just say that things were moving in my periphery, things I can’t describe and you don’t want to know about. Those things I had previously thought the wild imaginations of small children at bedtime. It was a different world, one with both more and less color, and more shades of each. It was a shadow world. Had it been there all along? I reached out to what looked to be normal people walking, but they were like mists of smoke. I shook my head and started walking, and was concerned anew that I was becoming Schizophrenic. I had read somewhere that people my age had psychotic breaks. It scared me.  As I walked a strange smell began wafting in and out of reach. It was both putrid and compelling to me, and I felt that need deep inside of me fire up anew.  I inhaled it like manna from the gods and began to follow it blindly. I was compelled and I realized that once I began traveling after it I could no more stray from that path than I could stop breathing. It led me out of my complex to places that in my right mind I would not have driven through at one hundred miles an hour with my doors locked and a loaded shotgun. Now realize, it does not take a long walk for me to get to the other side of the tracks so to speak. I don’t exactly live in Sausalito.

Part of me remained frightened, thinking it must be a dream still, or that I really was insane. Insanity certainly made sense as I was going to a place that no sane person would go even though it was still early evening. San Francisco was not a hot bed of criminal activity, or at least I thought so on that day, although I have learned better since.  Still, like any large city there were places one didn’t go and there were places that shrimpy Caucasians guys had best avoid even in their dreams. Yet here I was floating through the jetsam. I suppose I should have recognized that people didn’t seem to notice me much; not like my ordinary life, but as if they really could not see me at all. Some appeared to look around as if they knew someone was there watching, but then would go on with whatever they were doing, as if I were a momentary distraction only. I was used to it, but recognized that something had changed, something basic to me. So I walked through the crowd drawn by that horribly beautiful smell, deeper into that hell hole. To see all that I saw that night, all that I felt beneath my feet was an overload that was painful. I saw and smelled death in those streets. On one such corner I knew that a hooker had died, brutally, and that her death had been nearly twenty years before. I could see the trail that the murderer took in his escape, could follow that trail as easily as a blood hound. For a moment I wanted to follow that trail and provide justice for that hooker, but as I walked away that smell curled around my face like a shroud pulling me away. So I turned back, knowing that I was needed elsewhere, and I did view it as a need, urging me on, no faster or slower than before, just a constant pull. I followed further, deeper still to the very worst of the worst part of that city.

I saw two men about my own age, wearing what looked like army surplus field jackets. They had hardened looks of men much older, although I doubt that either of them was out of their twenties. They had an easy manner joking with each other, smoking their cigarettes. They were standing on one of those corners, you know what I am talking about; those corners in every bad drug dealing movie you have ever seen. Only, this corner was real and I was there. They were obviously that type of man generated by the streets, tough, street smart, cynical of the world around them, the type that I would have avoided like the plague, so I wondered why I was here, and what I could do to make it stop.  Opportunity was what you took not what you made.  I watched them some time, being no longer drawn elsewhere. After feeling that constant pull, the lack of any compulsion to do something else was like a shock to my system. I thought that whatever hallucination I was having must be over, and naturally my luck had held bringing me to a part of the city I had no chance of escaping. Yet, all my senses remained heightened. Shadows still flitted about and in my very periphery there she was, a Gypsy woman. When I turned though, she was gone, like a wisp of smoke. A noise brought me back around to the two men, now plying their trade with a man and woman in a car. I knew something was wrong immediately and by the time I started towards them the man and woman had been pulled from the vehicle and the two men were laying into them with a couple of baseball bats.

It took me but a single step to be there, or so it seemed.  I don’t know how I moved so fast, only that I did, and it was like smoke you haven’t seen yet, but know it’s there. I felt like I was gliding on warm air. The two men looked at me, and I knew I was in trouble. They didn’t say a word, just moved towards me like I was the biggest bully they had ever seen. I took the first blow in the head and dropped like the wimp I was. Yet when I hit the ground I felt no pain, shook the blow off and was back on my feet. I was back on my feet, not rolling and pushing myself up and not standing up. I was just back on my feet, like something spectral, as if I willed myself to be, and then the other guy laid into me, swinging fast and hard with a strange sense of fear written upon his face.  He was nothing but an annoyance really, a fly for me to swat, so I swatted him. I merely grabbed the bat from his hand and did to him what he was trying to do to me. I struck fast too, the bat a blur like you might see in some Saturday morning cartoon. Only it wasn’t funny, and it wasn’t pretty, and the bat seemed to have a lot more effect on him than it previously had on me. I left his head a bloody pulp and I knew he was dead, I could see his heart, and it was not beating. His buddy was not a coward, but he should have been. The two thugs were not expecting to meet someone like me, whatever I was or had become. The second man pulled his gun and shot, once, twice and then a third time, but I was not where he shot. I moved like liquid light until I pulled the gun from his hand and wadded it into a ball like paper. I tossed it lightly at his head and watched it bounce off. He decided at that moment that he needed to run, a bit late I must admit. He didn’t make it a step before I threw my hand through his body and snatched his heart out. If you ever have an urge to do something like this, then be forewarned, it’s bloody messy to do that. I dropped the heart next to the man. The man and woman being beaten seconds before were driving off. It would have been nice to get a thank you, but I suppose I understood. I searched the two thugs and pulled a couple of rolls of cash off of them. I decided that they didn’t need the money anymore so I kept it and walked away.  I considered it payment for services rendered.

A small crowd of people were gathering, and more than a few pointed in my direction. No one rushed to stop me. I suppose seeing a small shrimpy Caucasian pull a beating heart from a tough drug dealer made them shy. I was thankful as I didn’t want to hurt anyone else. It was hard walking away, when what I wanted to do was sprint to safety. I felt as if my legs should have been trembling, but I walked purposefully, without a care in the world. All my life I had wanted to be able to strike out at someone, to be able to fight for my own safety and actually win, but I had actually done something that was beyond comprehension. I was not the smartest guy in the room by any stretch of the imagination, but one does not crumple a real pistol into a ball like paper and one does not casually pull out someone’s heart as they are running away from their back. These things are not possible. I spent the rest of the night walking in a daze, trying to discern what could have possibly happened to me. For me the night became one of painful introspection, confusion and wonder. Through that flood of emotion though came another which rode the crest of my being; fear. I was definitely afraid of whatever had happened to me. It was even less normal than the rest of my life.

 

I awoke to the sounds of traffic, and people laughing. Naturally, they were laughing at me. I was laying about two hundred yards from the entrance to my apartment complex, lying in the street up against the curb. I was cold, very sore like a walking bruise and confused as hell. I could not remember a thing about why I was lying in the street or what had happened the night before. My last memory was pepperoni and mushroom. I made it to my feet and stumbled into the complex, my mind a whirl of confusion and disorientation. When I got to the safety of my own apartment I checked out the damage. It looked as if I had been in a train wreck. I was cut and bruised all about my face. My knees felt scraped up. Oddly everything looked two or three days old. There was a bruise on my forehead which was already turning that sickly color of jaundice. I wondered what day it was, but the papers confirmed it was the right day.

As you might guess, I spent the day trying to figure out what had happened. I telephoned my boss and reported out ill, something I had never done before. I was not even sure he knew who I was, or where I sat until I reminded him about the project I was working on. For the life of me I could not figure out what had happened. My bed was made and clearly I had not been sleep-walking. I remembered that I had intended to walk to the old bookstore and thought that maybe I had been mugged. My body was a mass of bruises and my head hurt something fierce. Yet, no matter how I tried to kid myself I had twenty five hundred dollars in rolled up bills that I had found in my jeans, and no mugger would have left that much cash lying around, nor did I know how it got there. No one owed me money, and would not have paid me back if they did. I didn’t have any friends.  There was no dream, no hallucination or story that could account for that wad of cash. I had put it away, unsure of what I wanted to do. As the day wore on I brooded, my ribs feeling like they were rubbing together. At one point I spit up some blood in a coughing spasm and I began to feel queasy and dizzy. I thought more than once to head to the emergency room but I feared the trip for I did not know what story I could tell that anyone would believe. I am sure there is nothing worse than that lost feeling, of amnesia or what ever disease I had that could account for everything. As the day moved to evening, I grew steadily more afraid, and tense, but I had no understanding or clue as to why. There was certainly something ominous about the coming evening and something deep inside of me was responding.

As the sun crept beyond the horizon the first spasms hit me, as they had the night before. After that intense wave of burning pain, I found my senses once again heightened, and the pain of my ribs gone. I pulled my shirt up and found the bruising gone, and I tapped at my ribs experimentally and found no pain. With the night, my memory of the evening before returned and I again wondered at what was happening with me. I just knew that I had to find out, and the only way seemed to be to get out in the world and see. It was a cool San Francisco night so I grabbed my overcoat. As I reached the street, that strange smell was compelling me on, as it had the night before. Yet it took me in a whole new direction and for a long time I seemed to wander about aimlessly, seeing how other happier people led their lives. It was really no different than the daytime, seeing people of all shapes and sizes bound together in companionship. I longed for it, and wondered what made all these people so different, so blessed that they had this in their lives. I wondered if they took it for granted.

I tried desperately to move as I remembered the night before, but I walked about normally. I was not in a poor area of the city, but rather that ordinary part where we spend so much of our ordinary lives. I felt little different than any other day, people walking by me without notice. I walked through a crowd exiting a movie theater and was jostled without a single excuse me. I received those hard glares from bigger men that said in a glance that I was beneath them. For the first time though I glared back, daring them to do something and I could clearly see them change, cringe before that glare, and I recognized what I had seen in their eyes all along. They were afraid of me.

The all permeating putrid smell of whatever I was following remained, no stronger than before, drawing me towards something. Always on the edge of my periphery were the shadow shapes of things, some hideous and some beautiful. They sensed me, saw me and watched me carefully. Yet I could not touch them. It was like looking into some parallel world you read about in some science fiction novel. Only this was real and it was not science fiction.

Around midnight I began to seriously consider going home and even realized that I could fight the compulsion at that time if I really wanted, and then the smell grew stronger, gripping me like a giant hand and pulling me towards something. Moments later I found myself walking into a convenience store. I knew before I walked through the doors that it was being robbed by two men. I could feel the store clerk’s fear and her need as soon as I saw the store. I knew that she was young, and I knew she had nothing in her background that had prepared her for this moment. What I didn’t know was how I knew all of this and more. I could smell her perfume, smell the marijuana on one of the two gunmen, knew instantly that it was good California grass although I had never ever smoked marijuana before. If I focused I could see the men who had grown it, and it was knowledge like this that frightened me so, and wonder if it was even real. I sensed the fear like sweat dripping off of the other man. As I entered the store I was met by a shotgun pointed to my chest.

“Hey I just came for some pixie stix,” I said brazenly.

“Wrong place wrong time,” the man with the shotgun answered.

“Now that’s just not nice,” I answered back, already knowing I could dodge any bullet.  My experience from the night before had prepared me.

That’s when I realized as I was flying back through the door that getting shot in the chest with a shotgun hurts a bit. I picked myself up off the pavement, a bloody mess, my chest afire and wondered where my dodging skill of the night before had sailed off to. A deeper wonder was how I was still alive. I had been struck square in the chest and it should have killed me outright but had not, although it felt as if the blast had totally shredded me. My shirt and coat were in tatters.  I had no idea a shotgun could do that much damage. Naturally the shooter had turned away from me, and had his weapon pointed at a hysterical counter girl that really knew how to scream. The second guy was standing behind his shotgun wielding buddy looking nervous. I didn’t want the counter girl shot and I thought for my heightened hearing’s state that getting her to shut up was not unreasonable so I charged the gunman. I hit him hard and just carried him out the back wall of the store. I guess I didn’t know my own strength because I also carried him through the adjoining store in the strip mall, some sort of clothing store and actually into the pizzeria next to it. I left the shooter a broken mess of bones barely alive and knowing that medical attention would not get there soon enough. I didn’t feel any sympathy for him. He had ruined a good overcoat and as I said before getting shot with a shotgun is no fun at all. I walked through the destroyed walls the way I had come and apologized to the counter girl. She babbled something about which way the other guy had gone but I already knew. I could see his trail.  I followed that trail as if he had left tracks in the snow.  I found him two blocks away. His adrenalin rush had started to fade and he was beginning to think he had escaped. I don’t really think he had wanted to be there in the first place, but he had been and it was just too bad for him. He turned and there I was, and he turned pale white. I don’t know what he saw, as I was still that same shrimpy Caucasian guy. Whatever it was, that part of your mind that keeps us attached to what’s real melted from him and I left him a babbling idiot. Fair justice I thought for the terror he had inflicted on the poor counter girl, and for my ears which had to endure her screaming.

I turned to make my way back home, with a seeping chest wound, and saw her again on my periphery; a barefoot Gypsy woman. When I turned this time she remained and she smiled as I nodded my recognition. She was beautiful like I remembered and small, like me with delicate features and intense Gypsy eyes.  If I had moved closer I knew she would disappear, so I just watched her. Eventually she walked away, never looking back. I stood there crying for a moment, wishing I knew more of her, wishing I knew why she had suddenly come back into my life or if she had ever really left. I wondered if her presence meant that somewhere back in time she had done this to me. I remembered what had been said about her, that she was a witch. A witch could do these things to me, I was quite sure.

The bleeding had nearly stopped by the time I got home, well before dawn. When I awoke it would be nearly gone, just an irritation but my ribs were healed. I couldn’t remember the night before, but I could remember the two drug dealers. Weird, I know, but that’s the way it’s been for me. I can remember two nights previous but never the night before. I read about what I figured, and correctly so, was myself. I watched things on the evening news that I knew I was responsible for making happen. Strange that in the glaring light of the store the counter girl could not describe me, and the second guy was a babbling mess of straight jacket. I knew it was me that had done it and wondered again at my sanity.

I had to call in sick for a second time the next morning. My boss was irritated and advised me he was pulling the project from me which was just as well since I was beginning to suspect that working a normal job was not going to be possible. After watching the evening news I again began having those jumpy feelings, anticipating that change, only at least now I knew what was going to happen and why I felt such trepidation. It was still so unsuspecting when it happened, enough pain to last a lifetime, lasting long enough to make me wish for death, ending at exactly the moment when I didn’t think I could manage a minute more, leaving those small spasms of pain to slowly drift away. It certainly made me appreciate my less than exciting days. Yet the sensations that followed seemed to dwarf whatever pain there had been. Everything was so vivid, even sound.

I decided that I would test the waters of this phenomenon by not going out at all. I sat on my balcony looking out on my neighborhood, content. I started to work hard at filtering the things I heard and saw. I didn’t need to know my neighbors were having sex, or that the man three apartments down was shooting up heroin. I didn’t need to see or hear any of it. I found that by concentrating I could indeed filter a lot of things so I began to practice, working my way through the senses. It was not easy, especially when I began to try and filter more than one sensation. I spent some time doing these things before it really hit me; that sickly sweet smell wafting in and out. I began to tremble as I resisted the urge to jump down and chase it. I suspected that it was how an addict must feel fighting that urge to use. It became no easier as it seemed to hover over my balcony, so I went inside, where it followed until I could not stand it anymore, and I leaped into the darkness chasing it. I awoke the next morning in my bed, seemingly no worse for wear wondering what I had done the night before.

 

Two weeks after that first night when the change came over me and nothing has changed. Regardless of what I want the change happens every night, and every night there is that putrescent smell that leads me somewhere. It seems to be training me, because as the first week moved into the second there was more than one strand. I finally quit my job when I realized that the change was going to continue, and I had only made it in a few days, and most them were bruise filled and uncomfortable. The only consolation was that not one cared or bothered with me anyway. I just decided that it was impractical to be working a regular job. I know only a little more than I did on that first night. Every night I get the pain, and every morning the confusion. The change, and that is what I call it, occurs regardless of weather, no matter what I am doing, no matter if I am inside or outside. There is nothing I can do about it, nothing to prevent it happening. I am learning how to deal with things, learning to live off the street and getting better at filtering the chaos that having heightened sensation causes. My victims sometimes pay me for the service I render, at least that’s how I rationalize it.  My wounds seem to heal at night, and what doesn’t heal waits until the following night. I hope I never get shot in the head close to morning, as I fear I won’t make it home. I don’t know what has caused this and if it’s a blessing it hasn’t made my life any better. I am still this ordinary, small person that no one cares about. Every night I become something different, with heightened senses and an array of powers that are never the same from night to night. I am led by that putrid stench I love so much and each night gets a little more complicated. It’s now up to me to discern which way I go, the stench is everywhere. I take the most desperate strand and follow it through. I never know where it will take me or what I will find. Sometimes it’s something innocent, a pattern or reason not easily discerned by the events I find. I once found myself at the home of a couple in the midst of a domestic dispute. I arrived on the cusp of violence, yet instead of being the hero I became the victim and then treated on the scene by paramedics. I gave a false name and drifted off into the night, never knowing what I had accomplished.  There never seems to be a witness who can describe me, or there are several with multiple descriptions, none of which are close to what I actually look like. This should make me feel safe but it does not. My life has been one walking failure and I cannot imagine that this will end in any way but bad for me. I am afraid of what I might become, afraid of what I am.

I have decided to open my own software consultant business, something I can do to while away the hours. I can fix the odd computer that people bring me and even build a cheap unit to sell. I wonder if this will one day end as unusual as it began, without notice but it does not appear to be fading or lessening. It does seem that I am gaining more and more control over the use of these powers, these skills. I traveled back to that corner where a young hooker had died almost twenty years ago. She had been young, attractive and desperate. I don’t know how I knew this but I knew, and I could sense the violence of a man who had been fighting his urges for way too long. Sadly she had been the result of him losing the battle. I could follow the trail though as if her spirit wanted to guide me.  He was still there, a strange man, failed businessman who sometimes when he could not control those urges took the life of some innocent woman. All these years he had managed to survive and I found him in a dilapidated apartment building. I didn’t kill him but he was waiting for me in a cold sweat and when we were done talking he turned himself in and confessed. I hope that her soul is at peace now.