The Day I Didn’t Want to Die

 

I could say that I just knew, but that’s cliché. I didn’t know, but on my way to work that morning, there were signs.

I kissed my wife and two kids before leaving the house. “Goodbye”, I said, not knowing the weight behind the words. When I walked outside, the grey looming clouds weighed on my mood. Suddenly, I froze in my tracks. A sly black cat purred between my red Mustang and me. It looked at me through slits of fluorescent yellow eyes. I stared back and it seemed to read my mind. A second before I could say “shoo”, it bared its teeth and scurried down the street. I shook my head, and  checked my watch. I shook it again.

I threw my leather computer bag onto the passenger seat. The initials J.S stitched onto the flap courtesy of my loving wife. I placed my tea in the cup holder and shut the door. The second it shut, the skies opened up. Buckets of rain splattered across my windshield and blurred my vision like a sheet of ice. The wipers moved it away momentarily, but it was quickly replaced. Clapton’s Tears In Heaven filled the air with a beautiful sadness. I remember thinking, ‘it seems a fitting song for the weather.’ When I went to change the station, I could’ve sworn my eyes were playing tricks on me. The audio system, tuned to 99.9, seemed to flash 66.6. I blinked hard, reopening to a solid 99.9. It was time for a change. AM sports. All this before I even left my driveway!

I turned onto one of the major roads near my house and headed north to school. It was awfully hard to see, but I only had a 10-minute drive ahead of me. Of course I hit the first red light, which gave me time to look at myself in the rearview mirror. I was troubled as my own blue eyes stared back, empty. I was used to seeing them lit up in the morning with avid focus. When I looked up to the traffic lights, they appeared to be flashing red. A honk shook me out of the daydream. Green means go!

At the next intersection, my body began to tremble. A wave of anxiety crashed against my nervous system, drowning it in fear. I couldn’t figure out why this was happening, which made the wave grow larger. My sweat glands opened up like the skies, forehead reflecting off the rearview mirror. I couldn’t hear the radio anymore so I pressed the power button with my shaky finger. Silence. All I could hear was the sound of rain drops hitting the glass, spreading on impact. I looked out my window and my focus shifted directly to the corner of the intersection. A ring of flowers had been nailed to the rickety wooden fence. There were other bouquets surrounding it. “We love you, Jason” was branded across the top. Terror grabbed my heart as I turned my head back into the car. The “J.S” on my workbag looked bolder than ever.

“How have I not noticed that memorial before?” I said out loud. Another honk. My foot pressed on the gas, harder this time. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew that seeing my name on that memorial was a bad omen. I felt like I had to get away. Get away first, think later.

I could hear my tires treading down the slick road as I flew down the left lane. They made a squishy sound beneath me. Getting stopped at another red light felt out of the question. The very thought of sitting still with my thoughts was enough to cloud my judgment. The light before me turned yellow, and my foot pressed the metal. I drifted through the intersection two seconds after the light had turned red, but I was coming in too hot, approaching the top of a hill. The Mustang took off, leaping high through the air, the hot tea following suit.

You always see it in the movies, people’s lives flashing before them as something horrible happens. I never thought it to be true, until then.

Everything from my first kiss to holding my first child scanned my mind like the most vivid roll of film I had ever seen. The ironic thing is that it’s supposed to “flash right before your eyes”, but it doesn’t happen like that. It passed through my mind and yes, I could “picture” it, but I couldn’t actually see it. All I saw was the dark clouds, the road in front of me, and an old cemetery off to the right side. The endless rows of stones spanned for miles like a medieval army. I wasn’t one to give up easily, but I had lost all hope. The signs were too much for me to bear. I pictured my wife and children sitting at the dinner table, next to an empty place setting. It brought tears to my eyes a top the horror beneath. This isn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want to become one of those stories people talk about. “Hey, did you hear about Jason?” I wanted to see my children grow up into adults. I wanted to grow old with my wife. I didn’t want to die.

—–

Dave Maze is an author, teacher, musician, and avid fan of rainsticks (mmm…tranquility). To read more about him visit www.mazetheauthor.com

Festival de Beer

My love of beer is on par with my love of Toronto, and I was for some reason gifted with free BeerFest passes, so I thought I’d check it out. Details..right now! The media entrance was hilarious (and empty), and the vendors were out in full force offering beer and things-that-go-with-said, like cab rides and pulled pork (in just about every way you could imagine pulled pork, short of an impaled pig and a cheese grater). We showed up at 2:00, and ran to the beer ticket booth, or rather to the line. It turns out that a bunch of people drinking in the afternoon and hanging out in the sun does not for a quick line make. However, after about fifteen minutes of standing still, a BeerFest rep showed up to the middle of the line (us) and proffered an exchange of tickets for cash, and we were happily on our way.

It was more fun than this, I swear!

The overall festival was decently set up. Many breweries I really liked rolled in with beer that one cannot yet purchase at the LCBO, and it was a real treat to see these beauties being poured in your cup for a dollar. I got to try some astounding IPAs from Flying Monkeys, Nickel Brook, Hop City, and others that I hadn’t heard of before. I also got some delightful session and wheat beers from The 3 Brewers and Aflfligem. The crowd only got in one fight that I could see, the bathroom lines were atrocious, and the music was pretty decent. I missed Matt Good (wrong day pass) but I had a supremely enjoyable time drinking beer and playing beanbag toss. I wish there was less in the way of Budweiser and Coors with enormous tents and sound systems, but it works a decent bit of segregation and keeps the lines down for the beer that matters. All in all it was what I expected, and I was happy to attend. Consider looking it up if you want a party in the afternoon summer sun, but beware: get away from sober as fast as you can, cuz you in the jungle, baby.

—–

~Sam Scrimger

A Conversation with the Unconscious Mind

It can be argued

But nothing

Is truly identical

There’s two sides of the brain

Choices that are opposing

Fighting

 

I met myself

Just to get to the point

Wasn’t a twin either

Twins

What a thought

But she was me

I was her

The way I reacted to seeing her

Me

Was very strange

It was like looking at your reflection on drugs, in the out limits 

She smiled at me

I looked in shock

Why did she accept me so freely

‘I’m going to tell you a secret’

That is what she told me

‘Sit down, the soles of our feels are going to start feeling like pins and needles. ‘

She sat on my bed

I sat at my computer chair

‘Come closer’

She looked down

‘You want to’

What is the secret?’ I came closer

‘Just listen

I’m going to try to answer the question that gives you the most anxiety

An explanation about your existence

Our existence.’

 

Stop asking question s

You are a product of the unknown

Everything that you prove

Will be disproven

All of your dreams

Could be your nightmares

But you’ll never know

Until that moment

And what? She asked me

 

‘Only this moment exists’ I said

 

Exactly

I won’t say all the things you want will come to you

But there is no harm in asking

I won’t say don’t waste your time crying

But when you do, do it with sincerity

As you should with everything

Do it with passion

As you should with everything

 

Do not blame yourself

Do not blame others

As the wind blows

It changes everything in its path

 

Know things won’t always be one way

Know that death is near

Know that this is meant to be an experience

Not one of joy or sorrow

Just

An experience

 

Also know that what I say will not change you

But when you look back into yourself

And you see me

Accept me, and all you are

With no regrets

With no question

Because your universe

Your answer

Is within you

It cannot be found anywhere else

 

Don’t dull yourself with distractions

Don’t scream at your pleading thoughts

Keep things a secret, make people assume

So your truth isn’t flawed by theirs

We are all different

Every single one of us

But we are all in an experience unknown

Together

 

I can go on with a list of advice

Just know that something always started from nothing

You’ll never get all your answers

It’s okay

Enjoy the roller coaster while it is here

It has an ending

 

My eyes started to water

‘Please don’t cry?’ she asked

 

‘I’m so overwhelmed’ I screamed

‘Those are not answers

I’ll always freak out

I’ll always be afraid.’

 

She smirked

‘And what’s wrong with that?’

 

‘Are you serious?’ What a question

 

‘What do you want to feel? Joy all the fucking time, do you not want to question things, come up with your own ideas, your own reality, you want me to tell you the truth? What would that change? Would the questions ever end? Answer your own questions, enjoy your experience, and could you stop wishing for death? You’re not going to get it!’

When you die

It will be like your birth

The very moment you are brought into this world

The moment you are taken out

You are not aware that you are alive or dead

It just happens

There will always be a blur between one world and the next

 

‘Why are you telling me all of this?’ My face burning up

 

‘Because I am not happy inside of you, you’re asking all the wrong questions, doubting and wasting my time, my dreams, our potential.’

 

I looked at her in shock

 

Come back to the center

Your core

Do the things you are capable of doing

Do not question if it is possible

Look around you

Does it look like there is much that is impossible?

 

Listen to others and help where you can

Give back

And take what is offered

Give others the answer you’ve been give

Feel with sincerity and passion

 

‘And most of all get your head out of your ass, I’m here for you.

I will never leave you.

Give me a hug

I love you’

 

I went to give her a hug and it was the warmest hug, the best puzzle piece, it was melting me

 

She pulled me back

‘See you on the inside’ She smirked

                A jail reference

 

Then she burst into dust

I spent the rest of the night breathing her in

—–

Donné is a graduate from the University of Waterloo. Currently she paints, writes and conducts therapeutic art sessions in Toronto. http://alythia48.weebly.com/writing

Impact – The Fire In Your Eyes

 

Life happens so fast. We seldom stop to think about how our actions affect other people. We don’t realize that doing or saying something that’s minor to us has the ability to change someone’s life forever. One should always think about the impact that can be made on this world and the people in it and not be afraid to leave their mark, even in unexpected places.

————————————————————————————————————

It’s Halloween. A bone chilling wind howls through the air. Little Danny’s arms are beginning to hurt from a full tote bag of candy. There’s just one more house on the block to go to before heading home.

Danny walks eagerly up the brick stone steps as his father watches under the orange glow of the street lamp behind. He raises his small, pale hand. His knock is timid. The door swings open.

“Trick or treat!”

“Well, look at you.” The muscular man smiled. “Looks like that firefighter helmet’s a bit big.”

Danny adjusted it, revealing the front of his fire red hair. Innocent blue eyes stared straight through the man, to the silver candy filled bowl behind him.

“There, now I can see you.” The man chuckled. “Do you want to be a fireman when you grow up?”

“Well, I did, but…but…”

“But what?”

“But the kids at school were all making fun of me. They said I look stupid in my coat. That I could never put out a fire because my hair would just set it off again.”

The man motioned Danny’s father over.

“Well, that’s not true at all. Look at me.” Watery eyes stared up as the man pointed to his buzzed orange hair. I’ve put out hundreds of fires and saved hundreds of lives. If you want to be a firefighter, you can be the best one there ever was. “

“You’re a firefighter?” Danny’s eyes opened wide like the sky. The man nodded.

“Rick.” Danny’s father extended his hand.

“John,” the man shook strong.

“It looks like your son has enough candy to last him a long time. I’ve got something better.”

“What could be better than candy?” Danny said with sincere curiosity.

“You’ll see. Here, come in from the cold for a moment.” He ushered them to the warm foyer. “I’ll be right back.” He ran up the spiral staircase.

Rick shrugged at Danny and helped unzip his rubber yellow coat. Seconds later, John came rushing down the stairs like a kid headed for the tree on Christmas morning. “Here.” He bent to hand Danny a picture.

“What’s this?” Danny asked.

“You see that woman holding her baby?” Danny looked down at the glossy image. He could see a woman hugging her baby, who was covered in soot. John was in the background, dressed in full gear, smiling. “This is my favourite picture,” he said. “I saved that baby from a burning apartment and returned her to her mom.”

“Wow!” Danny’s innocent blue eyes lit up like sparking sapphires. “Wait, but if I take it, you won’t have it anymore.”

“Your son is quite a gentleman. How old are you, Danny?”

“Eight.”

“Well, Ocho Dan.” The boy furrowed his brow. Rick smirked. “I have plenty of copies. Whenever I’m unsure of myself, or question why I do the job I do, I look at this picture. That’s all I need to know that I’m doing the right thing.”

“Cool.” His helmet almost fell, sitting crooked on his head. “Can you sign it?”

“I’d love to.” He pulled a red sharpie from his pant pocket like a magician would a nickel. “I wasn’t planning on it, though.” He winked at Rick.

“Thank you so much!” Danny said as he took the freshly autographed picture back.

“You’re very welcome.”

Rick checked his watch. “We should get going now.”

“Thanks again!” Danny’s grin spread from cheek to cheek. John waved.

When they got home, Rick gave Danny a frame. He put the picture on a nightstand next to his bed.

————————————————————————————————————

The towers were hit. As Clouds of smoking chaos filled the air above, swarms of terrified people scrambled on the streets below. He had never seen anything like it. Nobody had.

Beads of sweat lifted the dirt from his cheeks as they trickled down to the ashy floor. He scanned from left to right and heard it again.

“Help!” the piercing shriek echoed down the corridor of the 75th floor. He bolted down the hall as if his heavy suit were made of feathers.

“Hello?” he yelled. A horrifying scream stung his ears. There were no words behind the terror. He found her lying under a fallen desk, leg crushed beneath. Without a moment’s hesitation, he summoned his inner Hulk and moved the heavy wooden desk just enough to free her shattered limb.

“I’m going to pick you up.” His assuring voice slowed her tears. “Ready? Three, two, one.” She recoiled in pain as he placed her upon sturdy shoulders. As he ran down the hall he motioned to three petrified adults huddled in a corner. “Let’s go!” They all headed for the stairs.

Every step posed a new challenge, but instinct motivated him to push on. By the time he stepped to ground level, the other building had fallen to the ground like a sand castle, dusty and destroyed by the tide. It took mere minutes to locate a vacant ambulance. When he did, the woman couldn’t stop thanking him. He nodded and turned around. Dark blue eyes stared up at the burning anarchy before him, reflecting the fire. He took a deep breath and moved forward.

“Wait!” a concerned voice reached out to him. “You dropped this.”

The man turned around to see the picture of a mother and her baby in her hands.

“Thanks,” he said.

“I never got your name…”

“Danny.” He stared at the picture for a moment, put it back in his jacket, and vanished back into the carnage.

—–

Dave Maze is an author, teacher, musician, and avid fan of rainsticks (mmm…tranquility). To read more about him visit www.mazetheauthor.com

Cormac’s Meridian

I’m a huge fan of Cormac McCarthy.. in that I went from never having heard of him to reading two of his in four days. The guy can really write, and his style is gripping, to say the least. I have yet to see No Country for Old Men so I didn’t know what to expect from the author, but my good friend Will lent me Blood Meridian and I couldn’t put it down.

Pretty much.

Firstly, I will say, this book is not for everyone. It’s got Tarantino-esque levels of violence and gore, tons of racism, and hilarious dialogue. It follows a troubled boy fighting his way across America into Mexico in the late 1800’s with a band of marauders, killing and scalping just about everything that can be either killed or scalped. Nothing is sacred, and if you think you’re immune to the rule of “kill-n-scalp”, you don’t know Glanton (the gang’s leader). They also happen to be travelling with the devil, who is a total badass and about seven feet tall. His course is slowly but surely dragging each man into the pit of their own sins, and my does he do it well. Things take a turn for the less refined. As I said, this book is not for the faint of heart. However, stylistically it is a beautiful creation. Mr. McCarthy really knows how to tell a story, and the voice of the narrative (while it does verge on the poetic) is so strong and convincing that, whether you want it or not, you’re drawn right into the horrific scenes. You are forced to follow this doomed brigade through the decay of the American dream. It’s astounding and beautiful, and I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a well-written, incredibly violent adventure story.

—–

~Sam Scrimger