He ran up hill to the smell of bacon. Mist swirled off a passing car and he ducked under the cloud as if hitting it might have stopped his progress. The call of breakfast hurried his pace but did nothing to quell the rumbling response in his stomach. His feet slapped against the pavement and beat out a cadence, a rhythm, that heralded the coming dawn and the day that lurked beyond. It was a song he knew well, a song he’d helped create every morning for nearly a year. And what a year it had been.
New car. New house. New wife. The smell of bacon was even coming from his kitchen. He couldn’t believe how lucky he had been recently, though he didn’t even really believe in luck. He worked hard for the changes he made in his life. Just as he had started running miles every morning before work, he had made positive decisions and choices for the rest of his life as well. Those choices had led, one by one, to the new car, the new house, the new girlfriend who quickly turned into the new wife. They were all tied together and all resulting from him choosing to live healthier, to be happier, to demand more of himself.
That didn’t mean that all days started with bacon, that all days were perfect from start to finish. All that “new” in his life required maintenance to keep them nice just as choosing to be happy and healthy required maintenance too. Waking up early to go for his run, to set the tone for his days, wasn’t always easy but he did it anyway. It was the right thing to do, not the easy thing to do. He regretted that it had taken him so long to realize the importance of that but was choosing not to let that regret shape his current outlook. He wasn’t going to dwell on the past. Each new day was a new chance for improvement.
He ran up the hill to the smell of bacon and looked forward to the adventures of the coming day while the song of his new life echoed up and down the quiet morning street.
I was close to fixing you
But then flash and sizzle
And something inside you died.
I thought I knew what to do
Until the smoke rose up
To elicit my sad cry.
I finished with heavy heart
Then learned the damage done
Meant our time had come untied.
I will make a final call
Before you are shut down
Just to remember you by.
I have high expectations
But don’t worry too much
For something inside me died.
The long stretches of night, when the rest of what remains of the the world is sleeping, are the worst. The minutes clunked dully on the clocks and nerves until all time keeping apparatuses were removed from the house in a moment of calculated fury. It was a decision that has yet to be regretted even though time continues slowly regardless of their presence.
Insomniac dreams come to life in the small hours as the darkness presses against the home and shadows launch long claws. The delusions and hallucinations are easy to spot after years of growing familiar with them, but they can still be unsettling at times. When foes real and imagined are hunting you, complacency is foolish.
I can only count on myself. All my friends and family gave me up for lost years ago, before I learned to spot the difference between waking nightmares and the true terrors of our present world. They said the lack of sleep would drive me mad and had, in fact, already done so, but they were too scared to see the truth of my situation. Cowards. All of them.
Dark times had come and I had to walk that fine line between insane and sane so I could see how best to do battle. I never gave myself to the madness, and I never will. But, I had to see it. I had to know what it felt like crawling under my skin to be aware enough, and open my eyes enough, to see the monsters laying siege to our way of life.
It was with sadness, I watched my friends and family walk away from me, succumbing to the ravages of the night. The same affliction in the darkness could never touch me because I refused to sleep. I stayed awake so I could see the beasts coming and fend them off. I tried to warn the world. I did. I tried. I failed.
But, I’m still here, and I’m still fighting.
I lit the candle and watched as tendrils of smoke drifted up from the burning wick. Fire had captivated me for so long I had forgotten my initial introduction and any of the reasons I had been drawn to it. My love for it didn’t need logic or a past, though. It was a truth that resonated within my core.
With a quick slice, I opened a cut on my forefinger and then staunched the flow of blood in the parchment I’d written the words to the spell on. It had to be blood magic. That was the only thing powerful enough to combat an emotion as powerful as love.
When the bleeding stopped I carefully folded the spell into a tiny box, clearly spoke the words I’d memorized, and then touched the paper to the glowing flame. It took a minute to catch, the corner blackened and smoking, but then the transfer of heat caused it to nearly erupt as the fire took hold. I continued to grasp the enchanted square until the fire tasted the calluses from prior spells scarred in my flesh.
As the small ball of flame dropped into the dish I’d placed next to the candle to see out the sputtering fire until all was ash, I felt relief wash over me. I had plenty of love in my life as it was. My supportive family, some close friends, magic, fire, music, and other odds and ends, were all enough for the moment. My heart wasn’t strong enough to love anyone else at the moment and the spell I had just cast would make sure I didn’t.
I’d fallen too hard and too fast for the last one. I didn’t want to do that again, and since there is nothing logical about love, and who we find ourselves afflicted with it, I’d turned to magic to ensure my heart and mind were unable to feel that way about anyone new until I had healed from the wounds that were still fresh in my soul and flesh.
I heard the whistling of the air, a high screaming sound of something small and fast careening towards my head, the instant before the rock struck with a dull thud. I’d flinched, frightened by the sudden rushing noise, but the instinctive movement hadn’t been enough to remove me from the missiles path.
A ringing echo thundered between my ears and I stayed hunched down, to avoid further attacks, as I turned to see who had thrown the rock at me. A sheepish grin and a raised apologetic hand alerted me to the assailant. “Sorry,” he said from halfway across the playground, “I wasn’t aiming for you.”
I mumbled “No worries,” and waved him off while rubbing at my skull as though the circular motion might somehow ease away the pain and keep the growing welt from forming. Sure he hadn’t meant to hit me. Sure he’d been just having a bit of fun. Sure his incessant “joking” at my expense wasn’t supposed to be harmful or damaging. It was all in good fun…
I was tired of that lie.
The school day ended and I sat in silence, ignoring the earnest imploring to share about my day, when my mom picked me up and drove me home. We’d had all the circular arguments about bullies before. The school had been notified. The prime offenders had been suspended, only to return after their sentence and resume their offenses. There was nothing more to be said. There was no solution that could be achieved through words.
There was, however, plenty that could be achieved through anger, and violence, and destruction, and the guns I’d be taught to care for and fire accurately from a young age. When the blood red haze of rage lifted and I was asked why I had done it, I wouldn’t lie. I aimed. I pulled the trigger. It was not in good fun.