belong

jungle_dreaming_1600x1200-Wallpaper

The night settles in, wrapping the forest in a loving embrace, warm and familiar. Vines tangle and tighten as they close their ranks for the dark hours. Trees sway gently in an evening breeze that brushes away the triumphs of the day. Water drips from outstretched leaves to fall noiselessly into the soft ground. The moon and stars flare over the canopy and tendrils slip through to twist and dance in the gloom below.

Padded feet carry the hunters secretively down worn paths. Beacon eyes, green and split by pools of chaos, blaze despite the lack of light and sway in rhythm to the unheard movements. Those lethal orbs are the only evidence of the beasts’ passing and those who share the jungle hope and pray they never pause and take notice when journeys of survival cross.

Only the foolish and the mad venture away from the villages at night, when all else agree the thirsty eyes hold dominion. The occasional fool thinks it will be an act of bravery to prove their worth and defy the odds, even though the screams of previous fools must still echo in their memory. There is no accounting for the mad, who perhaps have simply lost the will to wake and struggle.

So, why, it might be asked, was I among the trees and stars that night all those moons ago, lost and not lost while the hours continued to slip further away from daylight? I wasn’t one to boast, to beat my chest and demand attention. I wasn’t so sure of my strength, speed, and cunning to pit my mortal body against the hunters of the night. I was not one of the foolish, which means I must have been mad.

I was mad.

And the beasts felt it when they found me, held me within their green stares of death, sniffed out my worth to them, and released me unharmed. My particular brand of madness was nothing they wanted to waste their time on. There was better prey, healthier for their souls, to track and devour. Though the eyes haunt me always, even during the bright days of long summer, they blinked out that night and left me alone with my thoughts and frailties.

I waited for morning, frozen equally from the cold, the terror, the joy, and the madness, before stumbling through the grasping vines and branches back to the safety of the village. There I was met by friends and family wielding spears. They turned me back into the forest for only the son of a devil, a witch, or a demon could survive a night isolated among the ravages of the forest’s heart. They wanted nothing to do with any of the possibilities, cursed me for mad, and exiled me.

I found a home among the beasts, not as an equal, and not as a threat or ally. I just existed. After a time, life grew easy again. Things were simpler. Truths were clearer. I began to enjoy the wild life under the canopy with the dance of the moon and stars. Perhaps that is fitting…

The madness remained.

flip the switch, part 2

(For catching up / clarification purposes: part 1.)

…..

The sound was right on top of him, a snarl of hunger and anger, with a hint of desperation.  But he didn’t have time to consider any of that.

His arms pushed aside the branches, and fat wet leaves of the jungle, protecting his face as his legs pumped furiously to stay out of reach of the creature behind him.  The bird he had seen earlier called again but he didn’t hear it over the beating of his heart and his ragged breathing.  He ran faster than he ever had run before in his short life, sprinting blindly through the darkness towards where the door had been.

Up, on.  Down, off.  But there was no off switch for his current predicament.  His hope as he dashed through the midnight jungle terrain was that the door remained where it had been whether he could see it or not.

Hot breath gusted against the back of his neck.  Up, on.  Down, off.  No.  No, there was no off switch for his predator either.  His legs, as it had turned out did have an on switch: the growl of the beast set them into motion just fine.  He desperately hoped they didn’t have an off switch he wasn’t yet aware of that could be triggered just easily as the on switch had been.

Absently, while still pushing through the tangle of leaves and vines, his left hand began to seek out the wall.  His wrist flicked up and down so that the light switch would be flipped as he flew past it, if he did in fact ever fly past it.  Up, on.  Down, off.  It didn’t matter to him at that moment which it turned out to be, either was bound to produce the magic that could pull himself safely back into his home and away from the jungle that would surely spell his doom.

Behind him, the beast drew in a breath of victory.  He could feel the inhale snagging at the hairs on the back of his neck.  His arms turned to goose-flesh, his legs lost their purpose and started to falter.  All was lost.  Up, on.  Down, off.  The beast shrieked in victory, a high-pitched roar as it prepared to pounce.

The child threw himself forward, he put everything he had into one last forward lunge, and propelled his body forward into the black reaches of space ahead of him.  Well, he gave his legs everything except what little energy it took to flip his left hand up and down as it groped feverishly for a wall and the switch that had to be, just had to be, on that wall.

Up, on.  Down, off.

Something caught his right shoe.  He could feel hot breath, and the warming drench of saliva began to engulf his foot.  The finest points of searing pressure and pain sprang forth as the beasts maw bit through the rubber.  And then…

Up, on.  Down, off.  His left hand smacked into the wall and his wrist caught the light switch throwing it up and sending him from blinding darkness into blinding light.  His body crashed through the door frame at angle, with his right foot banging noisily and painfully against the edge as he tumbled through and into the hallway beyond.

He didn’t dare turn and look into the his room.  He didn’t want to see the death that was surely still springing upon him.  Instead he curled up in ball and sobbed hysterically until his mom and dad came to see what all the ruckus was about.

He told them the story, eventually, once he had calmed down.  Once he had gotten his emotions back in control and had managed to peer sheepishly over his mother’s shoulder to see his matching desk and bed and dresser.  To see the brilliant white light cascading down on his room, safe, secure, exactly as it was supposed to be.  Up, on.  Down, off.  They blamed the whole incident on his over active imagination and scolded him for running and playing so roughly in the house.  He could have broken something.

It was curious, though, that they never found his right shoe, which had somehow gone missing from the time he had entered the room until his flying exit.

Up, on.  Down, off.

……….
……….

I want to say thanks again to Rara for her ForThePromptless series.  While this isn’t a direct contribution to that endeavor, it is the sequel to the short piece of fiction I did write for it.  And, thanks to all you, faithful and wonderful readers, who encouraged me to write the next piece to the story.  I too wanted to see how it all turned out.

flip the switch

There was a switch on the wall of his bedroom.  His parents called it a light switch because if it was flipped up the light would turn on and if it was flipped down the light would turn off.  Up, on.  Down, off.  Up, on.  Down, off.

The idea had been drilled into him from an early age.  First it had been a lesson on how things work in the world.  Up, on.  Down, off.  And then it had also become a lesson in energy conservation.  When you leave the room, turn the light off!  Up, on.  Down, off.

His hands new the drill, the routine, the simple gesture one way or the other so completely that it had become second nature, not only in his own bedroom, but in every other room of the house.  Up, on.  Down, off.  But, the switch in his bedroom didn’t always work in such simplicities.

On three occasions, when he entered his room and flipped the switch the light didn’t come on.

It wasn’t a blown bulb, or bad wiring.  It wasn’t any mechanical failings in the switch.  The circuit was turned over, the electricity was allowed to course through the wires buried in the wall and reach the light bulb, and the filament in the light bulb was ready and willing to course into brilliant burning life just like normal.  But in those rare instances when the light didn’t turn on it was because the switch was doing so much more than just turning on a light.

The first time it happened, he freaked out, cried out in alarm and stepped backwards out of the room.  His hand automatically flipped the light switch off.  It was ingrained, it was what his body knew to do when he left the room, and the cry caught in his throat as the world swimming in front of his eyes returned to the semi-darkened bedroom he had thought he was about to enter the moment before.  Up, on.  Down, off.

He hadn’t returned to his room again that night until his mom had gone in to check his bookshelf for a missing library book.  When he saw her switch on the light, and saw his room exactly as it was supposed to be, he dashed in behind her.  And there he stayed the rest of the evening.  He intentionally fell asleep with the light still on, and when he woke the next morning the light was off.  One of his parents must have turned it off for him after he had entered the realm of sleep.

The second time it happened, with the knowledge that all he had to do was step backwards and flip the switch off he didn’t cry out with alarm, he didn’t immediately step backwards, he didn’t turn off the world in front of his eyes.  But, he didn’t step any further into the room either.

He stood mesmerized by the vibrant colors of the forest floor and canopy.  The lush greens.  The brilliant oranges and purples.  The harsh browns of the tree trunks pushing up against the tangle of limbs and leaves above.  It was beautiful and he felt silly for having been afraid the first time he had seen his room transformed into the jungle.  Then the brackish caw of a bird calling out and the thumping of wings beating at the air for purchase startled him out of his revelry and he stepped backward.  Up, on.  Down, off.  The vision vanished, and the grayscale template of his room appeared again.

He cursed himself for a fool for having scared so easily and stepped forward and flipped the switch again.  The white light from the bulb overhead purred into life and illuminated the bed, desk, bookshelf, and dresser (a matching oak set) of his room.  Up, on.  Down, off.  Up, on.  Down, off.  Up, on.  Down, off.  He repeated the process until he heard the call of his dad from the living room to knock it off or he’d be sorry.

The third time his magnificent jungle sprang into view he boldly stepped forward.  The soft carpet of his room was replaced by the even softer soil of the forest floor.  He could feel the instant temperature change as he stepped out of the air controlled climate of his house and into the humidity.  A quick glance over his shoulder ensured that the door, the wall, and the switch remained intact.  He took another step forward, and then another, and then another…

The bird he had heard before called out again and this time he did more than hear it flying through the trees, he saws its reds and yellows and greens blur overhead as it swooped across his vision.  His mouth formed in an O of delight but no sound escaped his lips.  It was all too much, all too unbelievable.  He didn’t want to disturb this new world in any way and make it disappear.

Mesmerized, unable to move any further, he stood still for a long time, drinking in the jungle.  He ponder the magic of it.  He felt his chest swell with pride that he had such an amazing room, an amazing light switch.  The bird called out again and he swiveled his head to track its progress through the tangle of limbs.  Then he heard his mother’s voice as if from a great distance, quiet, strained, and turned to look towards the door again.

She stood framed in the doorway, backlit by the lights on in the house behind her.  He heard her say something about that kid always living lights on and knew she couldn’t be talking about him because he knew up, on and down, off better than anyone else in the house.  A moment’s panic seized him when he saw her reach for the switch and he tried to call out for her to stop, but he was too late.  Up, on.  Down, off.

The ground and trees and bird vanished as the world crashed into darkness around him.  He knew he was still in the jungle though, he could feel it on his skin, he could smell.  And, most terrifying, he could hear it.

The soft padding of feet near him, and the scraping of a large body through the underbrush startled him out of his silence with a whelp.  A low growl was received in response.  He found the strength and determination to move again and went scrambling through the darkness.

The sound followed…

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Thank you Rara for providing the idea for this with your ForThePromptless series:

prompts for the promptless, forthepromptless, rarasaur

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The 11th Possibility is the idea that, regardless of data to the contrary, something unexpected and outside the realm of ordinary thought is always potentially around the corner.

“A coin is flipped 10 times, and in each instance lands on either heads or tails.  But even after the normalcy displayed by the first 10 flips, the result of the next flip is still unknown.  The coin could turn into a bird and fly away.  The coin could land perfectly on its ridged edge.  The coin could dissolve upon landing.  It could defy gravity and remain stuck in the air.  This is the 11th Possibility.”

a witch hunt

To my faithful readers – this post is going to be a bit longer than my normal posts and a bit “heavier” as well.

…..

The Sunday edition of the Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2013, ran an article on the front page regarding raves and cities using them as revenue generating streams despite the drug overdose and death risks associated with such music festivals.  The article continued beyond the front page and ended up sprawling across nearly two other full pages inside the main section of the paper.

Just the word “rave” stirs up emotions in people, doesn’t it?  “Do you know where your kids are?  Tonight could be the night the venture into the potentially deadly world of ‘the rave.’”  Can’t you just picture all those innocent under age kids having illegal drugs slipped into their water unbeknownst to them, going crazy, and engaging in all sorts of other illegal activities?  Better lock up your kids, the raves are coming to town.

I was a raver.  I was a dancer, a PLUR (peace, love, unity, respect) enthusiast, a member of a good vibes crew making sure people at the parties were having a good time and being taken care of, a music aficionado, and eventually a DJ.  I was at the party near “the edge of the Mojave” 11 years ago where five people died of overdoses and drug-related car crashes.  I saw the paramedics using paddles to try and save one of those lives.

It was a tragic and unnerving scene, something I will never forget.

However, while the article in The Times does spout off numbers related to deaths at raves in the past couple years, the main point they are trying to drive home isn’t necessarily that raves are dangerous and cities should refuse to host them.  The authors framed it as a witch hunt – calling out the promoters of these parties (who they believe should be responsible for the welfare of all attendees rather than holding the partiers responsible for their own actions) and calling out the cities who continue to host these deadly events because they want the revenue they generate through hotel bookings, location rentals, clean-up fees, licensing, etc…  The authors are trying to argue that these local governmental bodies care more about a few dollars coming in the door than they do about the lives of the “kids” at these parties. 

The last rave I attended I was 25… I’d hardly say I was a kid.  I have friends who still go to raves who are into their 30’s.  I’d hardly say they are kids.  I won’t disagree that there are some children at these parties but once someone is 18 and legally considered an adult there isn’t much we can do about that, is there?  Society has deemed them old enough to start making decisions on their own and so they must be held accountable for their own actions.

But Matticus, you ask, what about all the free flowing drugs at these parties?  What if these kids are being drugged without consent or even knowledge of what’s being given to them?

Really?  Do you really think that is going on?  They are called drug dealers for a reason.  They have that gritty image you seen on all those cop shows for a reason.  They are in it for a profit – they aren’t going to just give them away.  Plus, they don’t do their dealing out in the open where the cops and security employees can see them, confiscate their wares and send them to jail in handcuffs.  If you want drugs, you have to seek out these individuals and pay them.  It’s not just a choice, but a choice that takes effort.  If you are on drugs at a rave it’s because you want to be.

But Matticus, you ask, shouldn’t the promoters be held responsible for allowing the drug dealers into the parties in the first place?  Shouldn’t they try to stop that behavior from happening?

Every party I ever attended from the largest “massive” of over 100,000 people to the smallest underground rave in a hole the wall in downtown Los Angeles where there were 10 people in attendance, I walked through a metal detector and was patted down.  All my belongings were sifted through.  Sometimes I was forced to take my shoes off.  Basically, security was as good at these raves as it is at most airports across the country.  Once inside, uniformed police officers and security guards walked through the crowd, and plain clothed narcs patrolled for illegal activity.  So, what more can we expect the promoters to do?  Where there is a will, there is a way.

Are you saying that no illegal drug activity goes on at Phish concerts?  At Willie Nelson concerts?  At Elton John concerts?  At a friend’s house who lives across town when their parents are away and you think they are getting together to study?  At school between classes or during lunch breaks?  On college campuses on a random Tuesday night when nothing else is going on?

The people who want to use, will use.  Some of those will OD.  Some will not.  In the meantime there are many hundreds of thousands of people who want to attend these parties across the country who are there for the music and the community.  Do we take away their enjoyment, their outlet to dance and learn and live and grow, just because a few people don’t know how to act responsibly?  Do we keep cities who are struggling to make ends meet from hosting these events and reaping the financial rewards?  Do we sue and jail the promoters of the parties who are cutting into their own revenue to provide security and other safety measures when the people in attendance should be responsible for their own actions?

Loss of life is a very serious thing.  I agree completely, and I am saddened when I hear about a single loss for any reason.  But, in most of the cases, if not all, when it comes to raves the person who passed away brought it on themselves through the choices they made.

“The all-night party of electronic dance music was among the big raves to emerge from an Ecstasy-fueled underground of urban warehouses.”  I won’t argue that there isn’t ecstasy, pot, mushrooms, acid and pretty much every other drug being used at raves – but I’m pretty sure it’s the music that fuels them.  The people are there for the music.  If they were just in it for the drugs there are much easier ways to go about it.

“Since 2006, at least 14 people who attended concerts … have died from overdoses or in other drug-related incidents, a Times investigation has found.”  That’s 14 deaths across 9 states in 7 years where drugs taken during a rave were the major contributing factor to someone passing away.  In November of last year the LA Times published an article that stated “prescription overdoses kill more people than heroin and cocaine.”  Per the CDC, there were 27,658 unintentional drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2007 alone.

“Despite warnings of drug risks from law enforcement and health officials, the raves have received the blessing of local governments hungry for the revenue they deliver.”  Should hospitals and prescription drug manufacturers be put to the sword too for wanting to make a profit on drugs that people are abusing and over dosing on?

“’The city should have zero tolerance for any activity where drugs are an integral part,” Penman [San Bernadino city attorney] said. ‘A rave without drugs is like a rodeo without horses. They don’t happen.’”  We better shut down all the psychiatric centers where drugs are an integral part in the care being provided.  We better shut down all the hospitals.  I know I’m taking that quote a bit out of context, but you have to admit that the statement is a bit absurd.  Should we also shut down bars – drugs are integral in their revenue?

“’They don’t happen.’”  Really?  What a bold statement.  I guess all those parties I threw after college where my friends and I hosted (planned, promoted, dj’ed, ran security, etc…) must not have been raves.  I mean, the music was the same.  The people were the same.  The atmosphere was the same, but I guess we were throwing something other than a rave.  A rave without music wouldn’t happen.  Raves without drugs can and do happen all the time.

Obviously, the Rong-Gong Lin II, Paul Pringle and Andrew Blankstein article struck a chord with me.  Perhaps it’s something that had building within me for awhile and since this story hit close enough to home it finally prompted me to write something of my own.  But, I’m tired of the blame game.  I’m tired of people refusing to take responsibility for their own actions, and I’m tired of the actions of a few ruining something for everyone else.

Raves are popular, the music is popular, the community is popular, and any city that harnesses that popularity and allows a legal event to be held at one of their venues is going to reap the monetary benefits.  Should the responsible partiers, the tax payers, the organizers, be held responsible for the illegal actions of a few people?   They over dosed, they passed away, they were too young, yes, it is sad and it shouldn’t have happened.  But they made their choices and they suffered the consequences.  Is that harsh of me?  Probably.  Is it the truth?  Absolutely.  So, why do need to do these witch hunts?  Why do we need to find someone else to blame when we already know who is at fault?

…..

If you made it this far, thank you for sticking with me through my rant.  I’m sure I may have struck chords in some of you as well, so please feel free to leave your comments, responses, questions, retorts, arguments, etc…  I would love to know what you have to say in response.  Keep it civil if you can.  If you can’t, I’ll understand.