When James first awoke he honestly had no idea what to think. He seemed to have been blinded, although he noted that he could just barely make out some kind of reflection, so it was more likely that his face was covered than there was something wrong with his eyes. For his body, however, he had no explanation at all. He was sore, as though he’d been beaten up, and he felt like he was wrapped in something snug and puffy. Strangest of all, he felt almost as if he was floating, and as he began to move that odd suspicion was confirmed. He had, effectively, full range of motion, but his entire body seemed to be suspended in mid-air, touching nothing.
Up until this point James had been a little woozy, a little disjointed, unable to really put together any coherent thoughts about what was happening. But now his head was beginning to clear. He flailed wildly, his aching limbs searching for something, anything, to touch. Slowly but surely his heart began to rise in his throat as he started to recall fuzzy snippets of a bar brawn that had involved the dishonoring of another guy’s girl.
Eventually James managed to find the release for the visor on his helmet and lifted it up to a view of thousands upon thousands of dots of starlight. The vastness of space spread out around him in every direction without even a single planet within the reach of his eyesight.
(Oops…I had this post scheduled for the wrong day…better late than never, right? Enjoy!)
The work camp housed approximately five thousand people at maximum capacity, accounting for an average of one thousand commissioning technicians, twenty-five hundred construction workers, one thousand employees of the site owner company, and five hundred camp personnel.
Due to the nature of the camp, those five thousand people were almost always in very close proximity to one another. The walls were paper-thin, the air was circulated from room to room to avoid drawing in the dust-laden air from outside, and every two bedrooms shared a single toilet and shower.
Hygiene was not always kept to the highest standards. Rooms were only cleaned twice per week, with towels and washcloths being changed out on the same schedule. Bed sheets were cleaned or changed once every ten days. Food was served via a cafeteria-style system that encouraged dozens of residents at a time to lean and reach over, rummage through, and generally manhandle the dietary options.
Morale also tended to be quite low. Residents worked between a ten- and twelve-hour shift, traveling half an hour each way on overcrowded buses. Neighboring residents often had conflicting shifts, leading to arguments concerning noise complaints and shower usage timing. Washing machines, vending machines, and cellphone coverage regularly broke down. Unreasonably strict rules frustrated the majority of the residents, while the minority broke simple-to-follow rules and created unnecessary backlash for everyone.
It was a miserable place, full of angry, tired, frustrated people who had been eating poorly and getting more and more lapsed in basic hygiene practices with each passing day.
It was the perfect place for the outbreak to begin.
Have you ever stopped to consider where many of our mythological creatures originally came from? I mean, okay, I’m not talking about the Sasquatch, who obviously came about when a frightened hiker saw a grizzly-bear in the woods and exaggerated it to save face, but what series of events would lead to someone coming up with something like a unicorn? What could someone have possibly misinterpreted to come up with the chupacabra? What kind of lizard would lead someone to imagine winged, fire-breathing monsters?
I’ve often wondered about the births of such creatures in human myth. You see, I have this theory that the human mind is incapable of creating such images from scratch. I believe that anything that has ever been conceived by the human brain must have some basis in truth…these things must have come from actual visual contact with something. In other words, in order for someone to come up with something as fantastical as a dragon, they must have actually seen something frightening that flew and spit flames.
I’ve believed my entire life, and I’ve traveled for a long time and a large distance in order to prove my theory to the world. I’ve been laughed at on every continent, but I’ve always known that if I searched long enough, worked hard enough, someday I would prove that mythological creatures – in one form or another – truly exist.
And as I lay here, my feet and wrists bound with vines as I stare into the fire that is meant to roast me up for dinner, all I can think is, Damn…it turns out Sasquatch is actually the real one after all.
**Note: I’m currently SUPER-busy cleaning, preparing for visitors, filming videos, getting a bunch of affairs in order, doing my taxes, etc etc etc, so for today you get a drabble, one of the cuter ones I think I’ve written in the past. Enjoy!**
Why does Godzilla always attack Japan?
As a young monster growing up I idolized Godzilla. He always seemed like the biggest and baddest of all the monsters. Even when he lost the battle he was still the coolest because he always came back.
But I did always wonder what exactly he had against the Japanese. I mean, with so many other countries just ripe for the picking, some of them even very close by, why constantly torment the same poor nation over and over again?
I’m all grown up now, a fully grown monster, and I’m going to attack Canada.
Marie stood in her driveway in pajama pants and a t-shirt, a bag of flyers and advertisements clutched firmly in her hand, her jaw hanging slack in surprise. She stared at the boy pushing a gas-powered mower across the patch of land in front of his house, the house next door to Marie’s. She stared at him with eyes wide, heart pounding, hands trembling.
It can’t be…can it?
She found herself walking toward him, one step at a time, her slippers picking up clumps of freshly-mowed grass. “Excuse me,” she heard her voice say, although she couldn’t remember having opened her mouth. “Excuse me, young man?”
At first the boy didn’t seem to have heard her, but when his head turned along with the mower’s path his gaze caught hers and he let go of the mower’s dead-switch. “Sorry, were you talking to me?” he asked. His voice was still fresh, young. He was probably about twelve… Precisely the right age…
Marie thought she smiled, but she wasn’t quite sure. “Your family just moved in, right?” she began, conscious of the strange shakiness of her voice. When the boy nodded she added, “I’m Marie, from next door. What’s your name?”
The boy opened his mouth to answer, but another voice did it for him. “James!” called a blond-haired woman from the house. “Supper’s ready!”
Marie glanced at the woman, waved and smiled as best she could, and then looked back at the boy. No resemblance at all, she thought. He could very well be adopted…
“Sorry,” the boy said as he walked, abandoning the mower in the middle of the lawn. “She hates letting supper get cold. Maybe we’ll come over later to meet you!” And with that he was up the two steps on the front of the house and in through the door, gone.
Marie stared after him, her ears echoing with the sound of his voice, her eyes blinking back tears as she mentally compared the hair, the eyes, the cheekbones.
There was no doubt about it, she told herself. No doubt at all in her mind.
I don’t mean a real monster, of course, but rather the imaginary perils that children love to create from piles of dirty laundry and tree-branch shadows on nighttime walls. The kinds of monsters that never cross their mind during the day when they’re playing with their toys in the afternoon sun, but spring out of nowhere come bedtime when mommy and daddy just want you to lay down and at least pretend to fall asleep.
I wasn’t the kind of kid who cowered under the blankets and shrieked for mommy if that evil tree-branch tapped my bedroom window. No, I wanted the monsters to be real. I dared them to come out and face me. I would wait until my parents had sneaked away to their own room, and then I’d wiggle out from under the covers, plastic sword from the Dollar Store in my hand, and challenge the monsters. Every night I’d taunt them, call them names – whatever I could think of to make them slither out from their hiding places and fight me. I had this dream, you see, that I’d slay a monster and become a hero: the first grade-schooler to ever kill the monster from their closet.
Of course, eventually I grew out of such things. I stopped threatening the imaginary creatures in my room and went on to real life. But every now and then, when I was having a rough day or felt like the world was being unnecessarily cruel to me, I’d sit in the middle of my bed, pretending to have that cheap plastic sword in my hand, and yell at the monsters again, daring them to challenge me, urging them give me the opportunity to be a hero.
Yesterday, I lost my job, my girlfriend broke up with me, and the woman in the apartment above mine flooded my kitchen again by letting her tub fill too high. So I flopped onto my bed, screamed into my pillow, and since I was the only one in the apartment now, I grabbed my imaginary sword.
“Come get me, already!” I screamed, pouring my frustrations into the fantasy. “I’m ripe for the picking! Just come get me!”
If I live to be a hundred years old I’ll never forget the way the closet door creaked open in that exact moment.
There’s nothing quite like being a teenager, Mother thought as she watched Daughter walk into the school dance, trying her very best to make her hips wiggle back and forth just the right way.
Mother remembered it very well, and she was intelligent enough to know that things never really change all that much when it comes to the thought process of highschoolers.
She remembered the overwhelming anxiety in the face of social interaction, how you never really knew if anyone genuinely liked you or was just out further their own popularity. She remembered how every tiny misstep would feel like stepping on a land mine – would anyone notice what you’d done wrong and call you out on it? What if you wore the wrong thing, or liked the wrong thing, or said the wrong thing? She remembered the overwhelming pressure to do everything exactly right, to impress everyone and hold tight to any minuscule semblance of acceptance. She remembered that it seemed like every time you let your guard down and allowed yourself to have some fun, something horrible would happen and it would feel like the absolute end of the world. You would never be able to go on. You may as well just end it all right now.
And the thing was, from this side of the mirror Mother knew for certain that it all got better. Eventually such childish things were pushed to the back of your mind. Eventually you stopped caring so much about what everyone thought of you and began to reserve your concern for the actual important people in your life. Eventually high school began to feel like a faded memory, recalled as something much better than it had ever been.
But in the time, in the moment…oh, there was nothing quite like being a teenager and truly, truly believing that your entire existence hinged on the whims of your pimply-faced peers.
“Keep your head up, hon,” Mother whispered to herself as Daughter hip-wiggled her way through the school gym’s doors. “It only feels like the end of the world for a little while.”
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma,” in which we are asked to “Tell us something most people probably don’t know about you.” Despite the fact that I’ve been putting myself out there on the internet for several years now, I could probably spend all day listing things that most […]
I don’t like to sound like the cranky old person who says things like, “Back in my day…”, but the truth is that when I was a kid there were fewer high-tech distractions for children. We had television and video games of course, but we didn’t have cell-phones or tablets; we didn’t even really have computers until I was 8 or so. And so we tended to spend a heck of a lot more time outside than the current generation. Summers in particular were filled with days of bike riding, hiking, swimming, and of course, playing on whichever playground equipment was available.
There were several playgrounds near enough for me to walk to from my parents or grandparents’ houses. I had a swing set with a see-saw in my own backyard, and the elementary school – which was right down the road from my grandparents’ house – had a set of monkey bars and later a bigger playground with slides and lots of things to climb. When I got a little older the town erected a larger public playground down next to the ball field; it was the kind of huge structure that dozens of kids could be playing on at once, with rope bridges and bars to swing on, and lots of climbing areas that would give you a little thrill of feeling like you could fall to your doom at any moment.
My favorites were always the bars for swinging on. I was never the most terribly graceful person, but I loved to jump up on top of the bars and swing around them, hang upside-down from them, and act like I was some amazingly-talented gymnast. I always had a ton of fun if there were bars to swing around, and I’d often come home with hands polished raw from all the twisting and flipping.
My daughter, on the other hand, seems to have a strong propensity for all things playground. She loves the swings, the slides, the rock walls, the rope ladders…pretty much anything is game to her. Last summer she was ecstatic when some neighbors who were moving offered to leave their swing set with us. It was an old set that had been passed along from two or three different families over the years, but she didn’t see the age, only the fun. She got tons of use out of the swing itself, and was super-proud to climb the little ladders by herself. She practically beamed with pride when her father taught her how to climb to the top of the rope ladder without any help.
This summer, with her kindergarten “graduation” as an excuse, I decided that I wanted to replace the old swing set, which had definitely served its purpose but was getting old and starting to split in several places. To say that I went overboard is a bit of an understatement, but my daughter loves playing outside so much that I couldn’t quite help myself…I ended up getting a swing/playhouse/slide set. The one I picked up was deeply discounted because it was a discontinued model, so I felt I was getting a great deal. But my husband and I soon found out why this particular model was discontinued.
Two parents have scarcely worked so diligently, with so much biting frustration, to construct something for their child, I swear. The front page of the instructions claimed that it would take between 10 and 14 hours for two people to build the playground. Being tradespeople, both, I figured we could easily fall within that estimate, but I didn’t count on road blocks at every turn. My husband and I are the kinds of people who are perfectly capable of following instructions to completion, but the instructions for this kit mocked us from the very first step. The kit came in three boxes stuffed with cuts of wood, and while the instructions showed pictures with labels and measurements for each piece, none of the pieces of wood themselves were actually labeled. Aside from a very few pieces that had some kind of manufacturing number stamped on them, the only way to find the pieces needed for each step was to actually take out a measuring tape and painstakingly move through the pile until you found the piece with the proper dimensions. That was frustrating enough on its own, but when we came to actually bolting the first two pieces of wood together we came across the second problem. The instructions called for two “H8” bolts, but in the bag marked “H8” there was only one bolt. We searched through the mountainous pile of marked bags of screws, nuts, bolts, and washers, but couldn’t find another bolt of that particular size. So before even being able to complete the first step, I had to run to the store for parts.
This trend continued over the course of the next two days. A couple of steps later I was screwing two pieces of wood together and flabbergasted by the fact that the screws were going right through the other side of the wood. It was then that we discovered that many of the bags of screws and bolts were labeled wrong, so we had to actually start measuring everything to confirm which ones to use. Later we were certain that there were pieces of wood missing, but it turned out that the pieces in question were slightly longer than what the instructions claimed. Another scream-worthy moment came when we ran out of a certain length of bolt and found out that neither of the nearby stores carried a bolt that size, so we had to use ones that were almost an inch too long. By the time we found that one of the rungs of the ladder had only been machined on one side, we almost just had to laugh.
It was a painful ordeal that spiked our tempers more than once, but what really spurred us on was when the little missy finally realized what we were building. We hadn’t told her, but around the time that we were screwing the floorboards into the little playhouse area, she happened to pick up the instructions and flipped to the picture on the front page. She came running over to us then, with a cry of, “Mommy! Make it look like this!”
In the end, we spent about 18 hours (a few of them in the rain) trying to build this monstrosity. We weren’t able to complete the ladder, since the lumber store in town didn’t have the proper machine to fix that one rung, and we ended up having to purchase a couple of pieces of 2×4 to create a stable base for the swing set side, which kept wanting to sink into our mossy backyard. It was frustrating, and cost more than it should have, and technically it’s still not quite done, but in the end it was worth it because my little missy loves it to pieces, and watching her and her cousin play on it was like looking back into the past, to another little girl who used to love to climb and jump and slide and swing.
What was your favorite piece of playground equipment?
Scent memory is something that genuinely amazes me. Normally, on a day-to-day basis, I have a pretty terrible memory, but sometimes when I catch a whiff of a particular scent I’ll recall the past as though I’d somehow returned to it. There are lots of examples I could give, but the first one that comes to mind is the smell of gasoline. That may seem like an odd, not-all-that-pleasant choice, but hear me out.
Back in late elementary school I was always writing. I carried a notebook around with me all the time so I’d always be able to write. And even though it wasn’t always easy – or legible – I often wrote in the car while my parents and I were driving somewhere. The best time to scribble quickly was, of course, while we were stopped for any reason, and often that reason was to fill up the tank.
It may seem like strange, convoluted writer logic, but I’m being totally serious here. Because of my habit of writing in the car, to this day the smell of gasoline makes me remember being curled up in the back seat of my parents’ car, feverishly scribbling in a Gilroy notebook with a blue Bic pen. And the thought makes me smile and long for the days when I had endless time to just write and write and write.
How about you? What scents transport you to another place and time?