Friday, April 18, 2014

East Cedar Grove... West Cedar Grove

Hello All:
Outside of a new short story for you, I don't have anything exciting to share in the introduction.
Oh, I suppose I could mention the trouble that the bunnies are in at my house. You see, all winter long we've been putting food outside for the birds, rabbits and squirrels. Every week I was sure to fill the bird feeder with seed. Any stale bread or hamburger buns were cut up into small cubes and dumped on the ground near one of the trees. The ends of vegetables, old lettuce or apples that were turning soft; these were cut up and placed near one of the trees. We also purchased some corn to lay out every week.
All winter long we could see the animals getting fatter and fatter. It was so brutal and cold out there. I couldn't let them starve and possibly die.
But then on the first nice weekend of the spring, my wife and were raking up the yard--reclaiming the outdoors now that the snow was gone. It was then that one of the neighbors approached my wife; didn't even say "Hello." or "How have you been?" Instead she immediately complained, "Look what the bunnies have been doing to my bushes! Isn't this horrible?" And with that, she walked away.
"Happy Spring!" my wife called out.
But the wish wasn't returned. Apparently our neighbors are angry with us for senselessly feeding the wildlife.
The following morning I looked out the window and could see that the bark on the lower portion of our plum tree had been torn away. Those blasted bunnies are damaging our trees! So for now, the bunnies are in trouble. I feed them all winter long, and that's the thanks I get? I’m afraid I won’t be feeding them anymore.
Today is Good Friday, the start of a holiday weekend. Happy Easter to you and your family. May the Easter Bunny be more generous to you than to simply destroy your landscaping like the bunnies do at our house!
East Cedar Grove... West Cedar Grove
If traveling either north or south along Route 122, the road briefly changes its name to Town Line Road which spans—exactly—5.32 miles before resuming the name of Route 122. At precisely 2.66 miles onto the section of Town Line Road—the very center of those 5.32 miles—is a dissecting road called Main Street. Main Street cuts through the very center of both the towns of West Cedar Grove and East Cedar Grove.
This is where people begin to suspect something very peculiar about West Cedar Grove and East Cedar Grove. You see, as naturally assumed, the boundaries of both towns are separated by Town Line Road. Both towns have Main Street that runs through the very center until it ends onto some other road outside of town.
But Get This! If traveling into West Cedar Grove; you pass Ash Street, Birch Street, Crisscross Lane, Daffodil Court, and so on. And if traveling into East Cedar Grove, you will also pass Ash Street, Birch Street, Crisscross Lane, Daffodil Court, and so on.
But it's more than just a charming phenomenon of duplicate street names shared by both towns. It would appear that when both towns were being developed, plans were made for the two to be perfect reflections of one another. Houses are duplicates of one another with the exact same floor plans. And they sit on what would be considered the mirrored geographic locations from one another. The business districts of both towns have duplicate buildings with floor plans that are exactly the same. Every street sign, stop sign, traffic light and fire hydrant is positioned, precisely, so that it is the mirrored reflection of the neighboring town.
Now there was a time when this reflecting charm was forgotten. This is evidenced with a small portion of both towns somewhere in the middle that take on a certain individuality. Subdivisions and homes were constructed by different builders who built houses that were unlike the ones in the other town. Parks and playgrounds were placed in random places that didn't share an opposite. And to this day there are a few shops and storefronts that are not shared by the other town as well.
Then it would appear that at some point there was a new effort to continue with the reflecting charm of both towns from many decades ago. After passing the areas of individuality in both towns; there are newer roads, subdivisions and shopping centers that are perfect reflections of the other town.
Martin has a girlfriend, Betty, who—if all goes well—will soon be Martin's fiancée. She currently lives in West Cedar Grove— a town about twenty minutes from where Martin lives in Robin Creek.
Martin drove the network of roads and highways on a bright and beautiful Saturday morning and eventually turned onto Route 122. Within minutes the road changed the name to Town Line Road where he was soon greeted by the intersecting Main Street.
Oops! Martin better not have made the mistake of turning east! (At least not now!) If he did that, he would be traveling through the town of East Cedar Grove which can be a confusing duplicate of West Cedar Grove. Betty, after all, lives in West Cedar Grove, where her house is located on Jackson Street. Not the other Jackson Street in East Cedar Grove where... Well, Martin better not think about that right now.
Martin turned west like he was supposed to and followed Main Street all the way through the old section of town... the business district... the small section that is quite different from East Cedar Grove... and, finally, the newer section which resumed itself to be a perfect reflection of East Cedar Grove where Betty lived on Jackson Street... The Jackson Street in West Cedar Grove, not East Cedar Grove where... Well, let's not talk about that right now!
Martin and Betty planned a nice day together which began with Martin tapping the horn upon pulling into Betty's driveway.
Immediately, Betty emerged from the house in a conservative, ankle-length dress that was not a very flattering choice for a Saturday day out with Martin. It was dull in color and it covered Betty's entire chest, all the way up to the neck so that her large breasts could not be appreciated. Martin knew that Betty possessed large breasts and speculated that they were absolutely gorgeous. You see, Martin had never seen Betty naked.
To add to her conservative appearance, Betty wore a button-down sweater which covered up most of her arms. She had this need to protect her young and beautiful skin from the eyes of anyone—even from Martin who loved her so.
Martin stepped out of his car to greet Betty, "Good morning!"
"Good morning!" answered Betty in return.
Then they briefly hugged while exchanging a simple kiss to one another's lips. But nothing too fancy! You see; Betty is a conservative girl who doesn't believe in taking affection to a sensual level. This means that she will not engage in steamy make-out sessions with a lover. A kiss is to be perfect and simple, an affectionate greeting—nothing more.
Martin was sure to walk Betty to the passenger side of his car, and then open the door. Once she was inside he closed it. But Martin secretly wished there were a custom in which the man puts on the woman's seat belt. This might provide a way to sneak an "oops-feel" of one of her breasts.
They had breakfast at the West Cedar Grove Cafe which—as you know—is a perfect reflection in both location and building layout of the East Cedar Grove Cafe. But Martin would never take Betty to the cafe in East Cedar Grove! What if someone saw him with his sweet, perfect and conservative Betty?
She sat there at the table, across from Martin, taking a brief sip of her tea while eating her poached eggs on toast. "I thought we would browse some of the antiques at the West Cedar Grove Antique Shop. What do you think?" asked Betty.
"That's sounds like a great idea! The matinee won't be until 11:30. We have time."
Then Betty suggested something frightening. "Maybe if we have time we can drive over to the East Cedar Grove Antique Shop and see if they have anything different. I know it's supposed to be the same store, but..."
Martin interrupted, "That's a bad idea!"
"What?" asked Betty. "Why?"
"Well... Don't get me wrong. I don't have anything against East Cedar Grove. What I mean to say is that by the time we make it out there and back, again, we might miss the start of the movie."
"Oh..." said Betty before having another bite of her poached eggs on toast. For a second it almost sounded like Martin had a dreadful phobia of East Cedar Grove.
It was midmorning as Martin and Betty strolled through the musty aisles of the antique shop. Betty even allowed Martin to hold her hand! How Martin would have loved to have put his arm around her shoulders. But that might have been too much affection in a public place for Betty. For now, Martin simply enjoyed the moment of holding her hand.  
They admired the antique furniture and centerpieces. They found entertainment with the clothes and dresses from many decades ago. And then, once again, Betty made the unwelcomed suggestion of venturing into East Cedar Grove. "We still have a little bit of time. Why don't we run over to the Antique shop in East Cedar Grove?"
"Nah... I don't want to be late for the matinee." answered Martin. What do you say, instead, that we go to Starbuck's before the show?"
"Sure!" agreed Betty. Then she came up with a not-so- great idea. "Hey, you know how each of the Cedar Groves have their own, unique sections?—no businesses the same? Well there's a coffee shop in East Cedar Grove that supposed to be excellent. Do you want to sneak over there instead of Starbuck's?
"No!" snapped Martin. "Let's just go to Starbuck's!"
That's when Betty began to suspect that Martin had something against venturing into East Cedar Grove. "Martin?" she began. "If I didn't know any better, I would think that you have something against East Cedar Grove. What's the deal?"
"It's not that." reassured Martin. "It's just... just..."
"What?" pushed Betty. "What is it? Why don't you want to go to the other town?"
Martin tried to be humorous. "Well... you know what they say about the east side, right? It's supposed to be not as nice as the west side? I guess I have a phobia of going east."
Betty laughed. "Don't be silly! Let's go to the coffee shop in East Cedar Grove. I heard it's nice. And it's not too far from the movie theater here in West Cedar Grove."
Martin sighed. "Well, okay. But we have to be quick about it."
And with that, Martin and Betty drove off from the antique store; down Main Street and across Town Line Road into East Cedar Grove. They passed Ash Street, Birch Street, Crisscross Lane, Daffodil Court, and so on. They drove through the business district. Then they drove past the Walmart which made Martin secretly nervous. For you see, it was at Walmart where Martin first met her. West Cedar Grove doesn't have a Walmart, and Martin really needed to pick up some items. So he stopped one evening at the Walmart in East Cedar Grove on the way home from Betty's house. Once inside, he couldn't believe what he saw.
A drive past the parking lot on this Saturday afternoon with Betty, Martin could see that her car was in the lot—probably working. At least there wasn't a chance of the two women encountering one another. But what about other people? What if someone recognized Martin with his sweet, beautiful and conservative Betty?
Just as Betty promised, the coffee shop was way better than Starbuck's. It smelled like a coffee lover's heaven, inside, and the beverages were made to perfection. And no one recognized Martin with his sweet, beautiful and conservative Betty. It looked like luck was in his favor for today.
They went to the matinee. They went to the park and took a nap by the pond. And by late afternoon, the two returned to Betty's house to make dinner—lasagna with grilled eggplant. As for wine; Betty prefers not to drink alcoholic beverages. Instead, they had freshly squeezed lemonade.
After dinner, Martin and Betty sat side-by-side on the swing, outside, and watched the beautiful sunset. In this alone time, together, Martin was permitted to put his arm around Betty. He even managed to sneak a few kisses in. But nothing too fancy! Betty doesn't like sensual kisses.
Now you might question Martin, and wonder why he stays with Betty—even considers proposing to her in the near future. Really, Betty is a great girl! She's beautiful, intelligent and so reserved. And think of the fun the two had together throughout the day. Who wouldn't want a girl like Betty?
Ah, but there's that little matter of intimacy and deeper romance. That's what's killing you, isn't it. But, really, Martin doesn't mind.
It was about 9:00 in the evening when Martin announced that it was time for him to start heading home. He and Betty hugged and briefly kissed before Martin drove off. And in the rearview mirror, he could see Betty waving and smiling. She loved him so much.
Martin drove Main Street all the way to Town Line Road. And what was this? Rather than turn in the direction towards his own town, Martin crossed Town Line Road into East Cedar Grove! He passed Ash Street, Birch Street, Crisscross Lane, Daffodil Court, and so on. He drove through the business district. He passed Walmart and noticed that her car wasn't there. He continued until reaching Jackson Street. But this time, he turned the opposite direction. For you see; the house where she lives is the perfect reflection of Betty's house—just opposite directions.
It's such a perfect reflection, in fact, that the woman who lives there looks—exactly—like Betty in West Cedar Grove. That's why Martin was so dumbfounded the first time he saw her at Walmart. It was as-if he had found Betty's double or Doppelganger.
And get this! Betty's double who lives in East Cedar Grove in the house that is a perfect reflection in style and location, shares the same name with Betty! Her name is Betty, too! Secretly, Martin refers to the Betty in East Cedar Grove as "Naughty Betty"; for you see, Naughty Betty does all those naughty things that the good Betty in West Cedar Grove will not.
As soon as Martin pulled into the drive way, she ran out in a pair of tight shorts and athletic bra. Martin could have eaten her luscious thighs right there! Or maybe he would skip to her enormous breasts that were strapped into the athletic bra. And the best part; she looked just like his wholesome Betty in West Cedar Grove! Martin had been drooling over her all day.
"What took you so long?" asked Naughty Betty?
"Sorry..." answered Martin. "A little hold-up."
"Well get your ass in there! I've been waiting for you all evening!"
As soon as the two entered her house, a duplicate floor plan of Betty's in West Cedar Grove—just opposite, their lips locked and in a hot and steamy session of making out with plenty of tongue action. Martin ripped off Naughty Betty's athletic bra and then squeezed her enormous breasts.
"I have wine." announced Naughty Betty. "Don't you want some wine to get started?"
"I'll take mine like this!" answered Martin. And with that; he reached for the bottle of wine and dumped some all over Naughty Betty's naked breasts. He licked and drank up every drop.
See how naughty Naughty Betty can be? Just one problem: Martin was going to have to propose to her as well.
The End!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cool Air--short story by HP Lovecraft

Hello All:
Maybe in your part of America you've been disappointed by unusual snowfall in April. This is what we had in the Chicago land area, overnight. About a foot of snow dusted the grounds. Many people have complained about this; have even gone so far as to declare Mother Nature as being a cruel bitch. But in my opinion, it's not so bad.
You see, in recent years I've made the forest my second home; and thoroughly enjoy the woods in winter. But this winter I was unable to get into the woods. My last visit would have been mid-December when I nearly found myself stuck in a bank of ice and snow off the highway. My car almost couldn't get out.
"I'll have to wait until some of this snow melts before returning."
But that never happened!--not in our most recent winter that was accompanied
by the wicked polar vortex.
This morning I looked out the window and could see gentle dusting of snow on the ground. I decided, then, that I would pretend that it was February and pay a visit to the forest to finally experience what I had missed all winter long.
These photos were taken in a small section of forest off the main trail. I didn't have much time. I couldn't find areas that were wide open with dramatic ravines or flowing creeks. But I did manage to catch possibly the last time in several months that forest will be covered in a beautiful dusting of snow.
You have to admit; it's pretty, isn't it? In some of these images, I chose angles that yielded the rising sun glowing and reflecting off the snow. It wasn't too cold. In fact, I could have worn my spring jacket. There were song birds making their
usual calls of spring, and there was a feeling of new life and rebirthing in the air.
Take a good look. Although winter was really bad this year throughout many parts of America, we might not even see snow this coming winter. This is being forecasted in observation of weather patterns near the Gulf of Mexico that generally affect our weather in coming months. We’ll see if the weatherman is correct in his predictions.

I'm glad I at least paid a visit this morning to enjoy quite possibly the last moment of winter for the year.
I believe everyone is familiar with Edgar Allan Poe and his works. But I’m surprised as to how many people have never heard of HP Lovecraft. Born in
1890, he’s recognized (to those who know of him) as a writer of weird fiction; in particular his Cthulhu Mythos series of writings. Modern author, Stephen King, developed his novel, Tommyknockers, off Lovecraft’s story, The Colour out of Space.
Supposedly, Lovecraft was a peculiar individual. Not only did he have night terrors, but (from what I’ve read) he suffered fainting spells and what might have been, if living in modern times, anxiety attacks. I mention this because of the narrator’s circumstance that brought him to finally meeting Dr. Muñoz.
The narrator, who I assumed to be Lovecraft himself, rented an apartment and immediately took notice of the sound of a machine that constantly ran in the apartment above him. In addition, there was an evening when ammonia began to
drip from the ceiling. He brought this to the attention of the landlady; who informed him that the tenant, Dr. Muñoz, was a sick man who needed all sorts of strange chemicals and a chilled environment. She then saw to it that Dr. Muñoz corrected the ammonia leak.
Then one morning, the narrator was seized by a sudden heart attack. And this is what struck me as really odd. Instead of grasping his chest and calling 911, he ascended the stairs to the 4th level and sought the attention of this Dr. Muñoz. This act led me to believe that the narrator interpreted an anxiety attack as a heart attack. And I wonder if Lovecraft, himself, would be seized by these terrifying moments of anxiety in which he believed he would die.
Dr. Muñoz immediately cured the narrator with his blend of strange chemicals.
But while reading the story and in this person’s apartment, do take notice of the strange surroundings—in particular, the motorized pumps that require ammonia to keep the area refrigerator-cold. The story was written in 1926, and I’m fascinated with this machinery. Is this how shops and businesses created chilled environments in those days?
I do have a slight bone of contention with Lovecraft. I know of a couple of his writings in which he discloses the moment of horror with a phrase such as, “I dare not tell you what I saw.” Couldn’t he at least give us a hint? Then again, maybe he’s doing the black & white horror effect of showing only the shadow of that monster. I suppose the imagination can make the moment all the more frightening.
Just like many of Lovecraft’s other stories, Cool Air is a splendid piece of work. I couldn’t think of giving it anything less than 5 stars. I’m a little uneasy with providing the entire story below. Technically, it should now be public domain. But there’s some debate out there as to who actually owns the copyright. I’ll just throw caution to the wind and let you read it here.
Cool Air – short story by HP Lovecraft
You ask me to explain why I am afraid of a draught of cool air; why I shiver more than others upon entering a cold room, and seem nauseated and repelled when the chill of evening creeps through the heat of a mild autumn day. There are those who say I respond to cold as others do to a bad odour, and I am the last to deny the impression. What I will do is to relate the most horrible circumstance I ever encountered, and leave it to you to judge whether or not this forms a suitable explanation of my peculiarity.
It is a mistake to fancy that horror is associated inextricably with darkness, silence, and solitude. I found it in the glare of mid-afternoon, in the clangour of a metropolis, and in the teeming midst of a shabby and commonplace rooming-house with a prosaic landlady and two stalwart men by my side. In the spring of 1923 I had secured some dreary and unprofitable magazine work in the city of New York; and being unable to pay any substantial rent, began drifting from one cheap boarding establishment to another in search of a room which might combine the qualities of decent cleanliness, endurable furnishings, and very reasonable price. It soon developed that I had only a choice between different evils, but after a time I came upon a house in West Fourteenth Street which disgusted me much less than the others I had sampled.
The place was a four-story mansion of brownstone, dating apparently from the late forties, and fitted with woodwork and marble whose stained and sullied splendour argued a descent from high levels of tasteful opulence. In the rooms, large and lofty, and decorated with impossible paper and ridiculously ornate stucco cornices, there lingered a depressing mustiness and hint of obscure cookery; but the floors were clean, the linen tolerably regular, and the hot water not too often cold or turned off, so that I came to regard it as at least a bearable place to hibernate till one might really live again. The landlady, a slatternly, almost bearded Spanish woman named Herrero, did not annoy me with gossip or with criticisms of the late-burning electric light in my third-floor front hall room; and my fellow-lodgers were as quiet and uncommunicative as one might desire, being mostly Spaniards a little above the coarsest and crudest grade. Only the din of street cars in the thoroughfare below proved a serious annoyance.
I had been there about three weeks when the first odd incident occurred. One evening at about eight I heard a spattering on the floor and became suddenly aware that I had been smelling the pungent odour of ammonia for some time. Looking about, I saw that the ceiling was wet and dripping; the soaking apparently proceeding from a corner on the side toward the street. Anxious to stop the matter at its source, I hastened to the basement to tell the landlady; and was assured by her that the trouble would quickly be set right.
“Doctair Muñoz,” she cried as she rushed upstairs ahead of me, “he have speel hees chemicals. He ees too seeck for doctair heemself—seecker and seecker all the time—but he weel not have no othair for help. He ees vairy queer in hees seeckness—all day he take funnee-smelling baths, and he cannot get excite or warm. All hees own housework he do—hees leetle room are full of bottles and machines, and he do not work as doctair. But he was great once—my fathair in Barcelona have hear of heem—and only joost now he feex a arm of the plumber that get hurt of sudden. He nevair go out, only on roof, and my boy Esteban he breeng heem hees food and laundry and mediceens and chemicals. My Gawd, the sal-ammoniac that man use for keep heem cool!”
Mrs. Herrero disappeared up the staircase to the fourth floor, and I returned to my room. The ammonia ceased to drip, and as I cleaned up what had spilled and opened the window for air, I heard the landlady’s heavy footsteps above me. Dr. Muñoz I had never heard, save for certain sounds as of some gasoline-driven mechanism; since his step was soft and gentle. I wondered for a moment what the strange affliction of this man might be, and whether his obstinate refusal of outside aid were not the result of a rather baseless eccentricity. There is, I reflected tritely, an infinite deal of pathos in the state of an eminent person who has come down in the world.
I might never have known Dr. Muñoz had it not been for the heart attack that suddenly seized me one forenoon as I sat writing in my room. Physicians had told me of the danger of those spells, and I knew there was no time to be lost; so remembering what the landlady had said about the invalid’s help of the injured workman, I dragged myself upstairs and knocked feebly at the door above mine. My knock was answered in good English by a curious voice some distance to the right, asking my name and business; and these things being stated, there came an opening of the door next to the one I had sought.
A rush of cool air greeted me; and though the day was one of the hottest of late June, I shivered as I crossed the threshold into a large apartment whose rich and tasteful decoration surprised me in this nest of squalor and seediness. A folding couch now filled its diurnal role of sofa, and the mahogany furniture, sumptuous hangings, old paintings, and mellow bookshelves all bespoke a gentleman’s study rather than a boarding-house bedroom. I now saw that the hall room above mine—the “leetle room” of bottles and machines which Mrs. Herrero had mentioned—was merely the laboratory of the doctor; and that his main living quarters lay in the spacious adjoining room whose convenient alcoves and large contiguous bathroom permitted him to hide all dressers and obtrusive utilitarian devices. Dr. Muñoz, most certainly, was a man of birth, cultivation, and discrimination.
The figure before me was short but exquisitely proportioned, and clad in somewhat formal dress of perfect cut and fit. A high-bred face of masterful though not arrogant expression was adorned by a short iron-grey full beard, and an old-fashioned pince-nez shielded the full, dark eyes and surmounted an aquiline nose which gave a Moorish touch to a physiognomy otherwise dominantly Celtiberian. Thick, well-trimmed hair that argued the punctual calls of a barber was parted gracefully above a high forehead; and the whole picture was one of striking intelligence and superior blood and breeding.
Nevertheless, as I saw Dr. Muñoz in that blast of cool air, I felt a repugnance which nothing in his aspect could justify. Only his lividly inclined complexion and coldness of touch could have afforded a physical basis for this feeling, and even these things should have been excusable considering the man’s known invalidism. It might, too, have been the singular cold that alienated me; for such chilliness was abnormal on so hot a day, and the abnormal always excites aversion, distrust, and fear.
But repugnance was soon forgotten in admiration, for the strange physician’s extreme skill at once became manifest despite the ice-coldness and shakiness of his bloodless-looking hands. He clearly understood my needs at a glance, and ministered to them with a master’s deftness; the while reassuring me in a finely modulated though oddly hollow and timbreless voice that he was the bitterest of sworn enemies to death, and had sunk his fortune and lost all his friends in a lifetime of bizarre experiment devoted to its bafflement and extirpation. Something of the benevolent fanatic seemed to reside in him, and he rambled on almost garrulously as he sounded my chest and mixed a suitable draught of drugs fetched from the smaller laboratory room. Evidently he found the society of a well-born man a rare novelty in this dingy environment, and was moved to unaccustomed speech as memories of better days surged over him.
His voice, if queer, was at least soothing; and I could not even perceive that he breathed as the fluent sentences rolled urbanely out. He sought to distract my mind from my own seizure by speaking of his theories and experiments; and I remember his tactfully consoling me about my weak heart by insisting that will and consciousness are stronger than organic life itself, so that if a bodily frame be but originally healthy and carefully preserved, it may through a scientific enhancement of these qualities retain a kind of nervous animation despite the most serious impairments, defects, or even absences in the battery of specific organs. He might, he half jestingly said, some day teach me to live—or at least to possess some kind of conscious existence—without any heart at all! For his part, he was afflicted with a complication of maladies requiring a very exact regimen which included constant cold. Any marked rise in temperature might, if prolonged, affect him fatally; and the frigidity of his habitation—some 55 or 56 degrees Fahrenheit—was maintained by an absorption system of ammonia cooling, the gasoline engine of whose pumps I had often heard in my own room below.
Relieved of my seizure in a marvellously short while, I left the shivery place a disciple and devotee of the gifted recluse. After that I paid him frequent overcoated calls; listening while he told of secret researches and almost ghastly results, and trembling a bit when I examined the unconventional and astonishingly ancient volumes on his shelves. I was eventually, I may add, almost cured of my disease for all time by his skilful ministrations. It seems that he did not scorn the incantations of the mediaevalists, since he believed these cryptic formulae to contain rare psychological stimuli which might conceivably have singular effects on the substance of a nervous system from which organic pulsations had fled. I was touched by his account of the aged Dr. Torres of Valencia, who had shared his earlier experiments with him through the great illness of eighteen years before, whence his present disorders proceeded. No sooner had the venerable practitioner saved his colleague than he himself succumbed to the grim enemy he had fought. Perhaps the strain had been too great; for Dr. Muñoz made it whisperingly clear—though not in detail—that the methods of healing had been most extraordinary, involving scenes and processes not welcomed by elderly and conservative Galens.
As the weeks passed, I observed with regret that my new friend was indeed slowly but unmistakably losing ground physically, as Mrs. Herrero had suggested. The livid aspect of his countenance was intensified, his voice became more hollow and indistinct, his muscular motions were less perfectly coördinated, and his mind and will displayed less resilience and initiative. Of this sad change he seemed by no means unaware, and little by little his expression and conversation both took on a gruesome irony which restored in me something of the subtle repulsion I had originally felt.
He developed strange caprices, acquiring a fondness for exotic spices and Egyptian incense till his room smelled like the vault of a sepulchred Pharaoh in the Valley of Kings. At the same time his demands for cold air increased, and with my aid he amplified the ammonia piping of his room and modified the pumps and feed of his refrigerating machine till he could keep the temperature as low as 34° or 40° and finally even 28°; the bathroom and laboratory, of course, being less chilled, in order that water might not freeze, and that chemical processes might not be impeded. The tenant adjoining him complained of the icy air from around the connecting door, so I helped him fit heavy hangings to obviate the difficulty. A kind of growing horror, of outré and morbid cast, seemed to possess him. He talked of death incessantly, but laughed hollowly when such things as burial or funeral arrangements were gently suggested.
All in all, he became a disconcerting and even gruesome companion; yet in my gratitude for his healing I could not well abandon him to the strangers around him, and was careful to dust his room and attend to his needs each day, muffled in a heavy ulster which I bought especially for the purpose. I likewise did much of his shopping, and gasped in bafflement at some of the chemicals he ordered from druggists and laboratory supply houses.
An increasing and unexplained atmosphere of panic seemed to rise around his apartment. The whole house, as I have said, had a musty odour; but the smell in his room was worse—and in spite of all the spices and incense, and the pungent chemicals of the now incessant baths which he insisted on taking unaided. I perceived that it must be connected with his ailment, and shuddered when I reflected on what that ailment might be. Mrs. Herrero crossed herself when she looked at him, and gave him up unreservedly to me; not even letting her son Esteban continue to run errands for him. When I suggested other physicians, the sufferer would fly into as much of a rage as he seemed to dare to entertain. He evidently feared the physical effect of violent emotion, yet his will and driving force waxed rather than waned, and he refused to be confined to his bed. The lassitude of his earlier ill days gave place to a return of his fiery purpose, so that he seemed about to hurl defiance at the death-daemon even as that ancient enemy seized him. The pretence of eating, always curiously like a formality with him, he virtually abandoned; and mental power alone appeared to keep him from total collapse.
He acquired a habit of writing long documents of some sort, which he carefully sealed and filled with injunctions that I transmit them after his death to certain persons whom he named—for the most part lettered East Indians, but including a once celebrated French physician now generally thought dead, and about whom the most inconceivable things had been whispered. As it happened, I burned all these papers undelivered and unopened. His aspect and voice became utterly frightful, and his presence almost unbearable. One September day an unexpected glimpse of him induced an epileptic fit in a man who had come to repair his electric desk lamp; a fit for which he prescribed effectively whilst keeping himself well out of sight. That man, oddly enough, had been through the terrors of the Great War without having incurred any fright so thorough.
Then, in the middle of October, the horror of horrors came with stupefying suddenness. One night about eleven the pump of the refrigerating machine broke down, so that within three hours the process of ammonia cooling became impossible. Dr. Muñoz summoned me by thumping on the floor, and I worked desperately to repair the injury while my host cursed in a tone whose lifeless, rattling hollowness surpassed description. My amateur efforts, however, proved of no use; and when I had brought in a mechanic from a neighbouring all-night garage we learned that nothing could be done till morning, when a new piston would have to be obtained. The moribund hermit’s rage and fear, swelling to grotesque proportions, seemed likely to shatter what remained of his failing physique; and once a spasm caused him to clap his hands to his eyes and rush into the bathroom. He groped his way out with face tightly bandaged, and I never saw his eyes again.
The frigidity of the apartment was now sensibly diminishing, and at about 5 a.m. the doctor retired to the bathroom, commanding me to keep him supplied with all the ice I could obtain at all-night drug stores and cafeterias. As I would return from my sometimes discouraging trips and lay my spoils before the closed bathroom door, I could hear a restless splashing within, and a thick voice croaking out the order for “More—more!” At length a warm day broke, and the shops opened one by one. I asked Esteban either to help with the ice-fetching whilst I obtained the pump piston, or to order the piston while I continued with the ice; but instructed by his mother, he absolutely refused.
Finally I hired a seedy-looking loafer whom I encountered on the corner of Eighth Avenue to keep the patient supplied with ice from a little shop where I introduced him, and applied myself diligently to the task of finding a pump piston and engaging workmen competent to install it. The task seemed interminable, and I raged almost as violently as the hermit when I saw the hours slipping by in a breathless, foodless round of vain telephoning, and a hectic quest from place to place, hither and thither by subway and surface car. About noon I encountered a suitable supply house far downtown, and at approximately 1:30 p.m. arrived at my boarding-place with the necessary paraphernalia and two sturdy and intelligent mechanics. I had done all I could, and hoped I was in time.
Black terror, however, had preceded me. The house was in utter turmoil, and above the chatter of awed voices I heard a man praying in a deep basso. Fiendish things were in the air, and lodgers told over the beads of their rosaries as they caught the odour from beneath the doctor’s closed door. The lounger I had hired, it seems, had fled screaming and mad-eyed not long after his second delivery of ice; perhaps as a result of excessive curiosity. He could not, of course, have locked the door behind him; yet it was now fastened, presumably from the inside. There was no sound within save a nameless sort of slow, thick dripping.
Briefly consulting with Mrs. Herrero and the workmen despite a fear that gnawed my inmost soul, I advised the breaking down of the door; but the landlady found a way to turn the key from the outside with some wire device. We had previously opened the doors of all the other rooms on that hall, and flung all the windows to the very top. Now, noses protected by handkerchiefs, we tremblingly invaded the accursed south room which blazed with the warm sun of early afternoon.
A kind of dark, slimy trail led from the open bathroom door to the hall door, and thence to the desk, where a terrible little pool had accumulated. Something was scrawled there in pencil in an awful, blind hand on a piece of paper hideously smeared as though by the very claws that traced the hurried last words. Then the trail led to the couch and ended unutterably.
What was, or had been, on the couch I cannot and dare not say here. But this is what I shiveringly puzzled out on the stickily smeared paper before I drew a match and burned it to a crisp; what I puzzled out in terror as the landlady and two mechanics rushed frantically from that hellish place to babble their incoherent stories at the nearest police station. The nauseous words seemed well-nigh incredible in that yellow sunlight, with the clatter of cars and motor trucks ascending clamorously from crowded Fourteenth Street, yet I confess that I believed them then. Whether I believe them now I honestly do not know. There are things about which it is better not to speculate, and all that I can say is that I hate the smell of ammonia, and grow faint at a draught of unusually cool air.
“The end,” ran that noisome scrawl, “is here. No more ice—the man looked and ran away. Warmer every minute, and the tissues can’t last. I fancy you know—what I said about the will and the nerves and the preserved body after the organs ceased to work. It was good theory, but couldn’t keep up indefinitely. There was a gradual deterioration I had not foreseen. Dr. Torres knew, but the shock killed him. He couldn’t stand what he had to do—he had to get me in a strange, dark place when he minded my letter and nursed me back. And the organs never would work again. It had to be done my way—artificial preservation—for you see I died that time eighteen years ago.”

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Lover from Sirius

Hello All:
I recall as a boy in the 1970s watching a weekly television series with my mother called, The Man from Atlantis. It starred Patrick Duffy as the actual "man from Atlantis" who was found wondering in a state of amnesia. With his webbed hands, super-human strength and an ability to breathe underwater; it was quickly theorized that this person was a remaining survivor from the sunken ancient continent of Atlantis.
It was somewhat of a deep concept for a young boy to grasp. Fortunately, I had my mother beside me who explained everything--who the Atlanteans were, what happened to them, and how they existed. While watching the show I naturally concluded that all the people from Atlantis had an ability to breathe under water.
I once sat in the bathtub with my toy boats and such, and soon speculated that perhaps I could breathe underwater like the Man from Atlantis. I suppose this could be considered the first time, ever, testing some belief that maybe I had incarnated abilities from a past life. I stuck my face in the water, opened my mouth and slowly breathed in.
"COUGH! COUGH! GASP! GASP!" The experiment didn't go so well!
Upon hearing her son choking in the bathtub, my mother rushed into the bathroom. "Are you alright?"
"yeah..." I whispered while still choking up water.
"What happened?"
I forced the words out with a whisper. "I tried breathing underwater like The Man from Atlantis."
I recall my Mother saying something to the extent that she hoped I had more sense that to try something unreal that could only take place on television.
Little did I know as a small boy while watching the short-lived TV show, The Man from Atlantis, that I was actually being introduced to who the Atlanteans were, and would later learn in life that some of them had romances with cetacean beings who came from oceanic worlds in the Sirius star system. You see, not all people from Atlantis had an ability to breathe under water. These special people were offspring of those interstellar romances between humans and the "mermaid people" from Sirius.
It sounds like a wonderful thing. But these beings from Sirius had a bad habit of stealing Earthly lovers away. They have an irresistible power over an Earthly lover. Romances with the Sirians were described as offering some of the most blissful feelings of love that are unparallel to anything felt. How could an Earth person resist and not leave his or her current lover?
Today's featured writing is a brand new Cableman story that addresses this concept. Someone is about experience heart ache from an incarnated "mermaid person" from Sirius.

Have a great weekend! Keep your lover close and don't lose them to a Sirian!
A Lover from Sirius
It was in the middle of the night as the Cableman laid sleeping in bed, and having the most peculiar dream. In it the Cableman stood in his darkened room, near one of the walls. He was aware of the fact that Jenny Robin was sleeping in some place that was on the opposite side. Eventually he could see her through the wall, and—of course—she looked so beautiful.
If only the Cableman could touch Jenny Robin as she slept—gently comb his fingers through her long, brown, pretty hair... stroke her beautiful face... cup his hand over her breast and lightly squeeze. But don't let these desires of the Cableman alarm you. You see, the Cableman is a space brother—going through his Earthly transformation to merge with our fellow brothers and sisters who reside in other star systems throughout the universe. Historically, the males of these alien races have had a fascination with Earth women who possess darker, Mediterranean features. And they can't help but materialize themselves into such a woman's bedroom as she sleeps to fulfill the erotic desires of a sleeping fetish. It was perfectly normal for the Cableman to wish to do this.
"You need to open a portal." said Melissa in the dream. She was standing beside the Cableman and continued to instruct him in the technique of opening a portal on the wall. "You need to extend your hand and continuously create ever-widening circles while imagining your prana [life-force, ki, or  chi] radiating from your hand."
The Cableman did as Melissa instructed.
"That's right... Good... Now feel Jenny Robin's bedroom. Feel yourself coming closer and closer until you can finally touch her."
The Cableman continued to do this until the dream shifted so that he stood at the side of sleeping Jenny Robin. He touched her; played with her pretty hair, stroked her cheek and then cupped his hand over one of her soft and supple breasts. Then he carefully pulled back the covers and touched her warm, bare thighs. Could the Cableman work his way up to Jenny Robin's most secret place?
Enjoying every second of gliding up her bare thighs, the Cableman slowly inched his way up while sensing the most intense energy radiating from the front of Jenny Robin’s panties. This would be the place where the Cableman would provoke sweet sensations and erotic dreams for Jenny Robin.
But then the Cableman must have gotten overexcited, for he woke up from the dream. His heart was racing, and his penis was erect. Perhaps he was about to have a wet dream!
The following morning, the Cableman gave his cosmic friend, Melissa, a call to relay the peculiar details about his erotic dream—in particular, Melissa's instructions in using prana to open a portal on the wall. The Cableman wondered if the dream had any important significance with their recent interstellar mission.
Just to give you a brief update on the Cableman and Melissa; they had a nasty fight a few weeks ago and haven't, exactly, been romantic in recent times. They'll call and text each other a couple times a week which mostly turns into a quarrel. The Cableman hoped that this time he had a more "business" topic which could ease the conversation and help them work towards making up. The Cableman really missed Melissa.
"Hello?" Melissa's voice answered on the phone.
"Hi!" greeted the Cableman.
"Hey... What's up?" But Melissa didn't sound thrilled to hear from the Cableman.
"I had an interesting dream last night."
"You did?" asked Melissa, sounding uninterested.
"Yup! You were showing me how to use prana to open a portal on the wall. On the other side was Jenny Robin's bedroom. She was sleeping in bed. But then the dream turned erotic and I woke up."
There were several seconds of awkward silence and then Melissa sighed. "Well, I don't know what to tell you about your dream. Maybe you need to finally man-up and take Jenny Robin." Melissa sighed again. "I'm sorry, but I suppose I should use this as an opportunity to tell you something. I've met someone and it's gotten serious."
"What???" exclaimed the Cableman. "What about us? We get into a fight, things get a little rocky for a couple weeks, and you go find someone else?"
"Well that's what I'm trying to tell you, Cableman. We need to break up. It's over. I know we had some good times together, and our mission with the Alpha Centaurian extra terrestrials was awesome. But beyond that and the good sex we had, I don't think we have much in common. You've got some issues you need to work out—mainly in coming to terms with who you truly are as a starseed."
The Cableman interrupted. "Melissa, are you listening to yourself??? You are actually breaking up with me because I'm not as serious with this whole cosmic awakening/starseed thing like you are?"
"That's the problem!" snapped Melissa. "That's actually a big problem for me! You see, I went on the starseed dating website and hooked up with Tito. He's a good-looking Puerto Rican who is also an incarnate from one of the planets in the Sirius star system. See; unlike you, he knows who he is. He knows where he is from and can speak his star language. And if you know anything about the people from Sirius, they are semi-aquatic. The worlds in the Sirius star system are mostly oceans. This means that he has the ability to telepathically communicate with the creatures of the sea."
"Unbelievable!" snapped the Cableman. "Okay, so in other words, you hooked up with some Puerto Rican dude who claims he's from another planet and says he can talk to fish! That's great Melissa! And now you are breaking up with me? Well, after all we've been through... I guess have a nice life!"
And with that, the Cableman ended the call.
It was on Saturday as the Cableman drove to an early-morning install. He volunteered to cover four hours that day for another installer who had called in sick. It wasn't like he had much going on in his personal life. Melissa, after all, recently broke up with him.
The Cableman looked at the work order while at a red light. Maybe the customer was woman who was experiencing heart break like the Cableman. "Tito Cordero..." the Cableman read out loud. "No, I don't think that's a woman. Maybe the next job..."
Now I know what you, the reader, is thinking. The customer's first name is Tito, and maybe that's the same Tito that Melissa is involved with. And why didn't the Cableman recognize the name and wonder the same? But the Cableman wasn't paying attention to the details of his last call with Melissa. At the time he was in shock from the sudden bad news.
Minutes later, the Cableman pulled into an apartment complex; parked his van and strapped on his tool belt. Before going to the entrance and ringing the bell, he quickly opened the cable utility box and connected apartment 3W—the same unit occupied by Tito Cordero.
After being let in the apartment building and ascending the stairs to the third level, the Cableman was greeted by a Puerto Rican dude who stood at the entrance of an apartment. He wore nothing more than a pair of tight jeans. No love handles or flab to hang over the waist; he possessed a tight six-pack abdomen to match his throbbing pectorals, well-defined biceps and chiseled chest.
"Hi, are you with the cable company? Are you here to install my cable?" asked Tito.
"Yes I am." answered the Cableman.
"Well come in." motioned Tito. There was something arrogant in his attitude that left the Cableman feeling that he should believe himself to be inferior to Tito. He escorted the Cableman over to the TV in the family room. "This is where my main outlet is. I have one in the bedroom, but this is my only TV."
"Okay sir!" answered the Cableman. We'll have you hooked up in a few minutes."
And then the Cableman was startled to see Melissa enter the room, dressed in nothing more than a sleeveless halter top and a pair of panties. Apparently she spent the night, and was surely naked with Tito. She wore her navel piercing that included a chain of various amethyst, rose and quartz crystals that hung below the navel. Her tattoo of the Pleiades star cluster on the upper thigh and close to her crotch could partially be seen.
"Oh geez! Gosh!" exclaimed Melissa as she raised her hand to her forehead in embarrassment. "I somehow knew this was going to happen."
"What? What is it?" asked Tito. "Is this him? Is this your boyfriend?"
"No, I broke up with him earlier this week. It's just ironic that he's here to install your cable."
Tito smiled with such pride and arrogance. "It looks like life is full of irony. Alright Mr. Cableman; I'll let you do your work so you can get out of there." And with that, Tito and Melissa left the room.
Fortunately the connections from outside to the TV were intact. There was no need to run new cable. But Tito did have an outdated TV from—perhaps—the early 1980s that was in need of a converter box. This made it necessary for the Cableman to step out to the van for a converter, and then ring the bell to be let back in.
"What's that?" asked Tito once the Cableman returned.
"It's a converter box. Your TV is older and can't directly receive our digital signal"
"Older? You're saying my TV is older, like outdated, and can't pick up the signal? How come at the place I moved from, it wasn't necessary for the cable company to give me a converter box? Maybe your system is just outdated. So now I have live with your converter box on my TV?"
"I'm afraid so..." answered the Cableman.
Tito sighed and walked away.
As the Cableman made the connections to the back of the TV, he glanced down the hallway and could see in one of the bedrooms that Tito was standing in front of a full-length mirror and admiring himself—pecs, biceps, six-pack abdomen and all. Melissa stood directly behind him, still wearing nothing more than panties and a sleeveless halter top. She embraced him with one hand on Tito's shoulder, and the other hand lightly tickling his pectorals while admiring the reflection of the two of them in the mirror.
Melissa was crazy in love with Tito! She finally found him; her long, lost lover from Sirius that she knew in a past life. The people from Sirius live in oceanic worlds which means that they are partially cetaceans—belonging to the dolphin and whale kingdom. Sirians are often referred to as the "mermaid people" who exist in cities below the oceans of Sirian planets. They visited Earth many eons ago and initiated powerful romances with the inhabitants of Atlantis of Lemuria. The males and females from Sirius had an irresistible power over their Earthly lovers, sometimes killing beautiful romances between two Earth people as one partner would leave the other for one of the "mermaid people" from the stars. It's been theorized that our modern-day knowledge of mermaids actually originated from the ancient interactions between the Atlanteans and the Sirians. And of course these interstellar romances resulted in Earth-born children who possessed amazing cetacean abilities and intelligence.
Tito definitely had an irresistible power over Melissa! She was so fascinated with his starseed heritage, and could literally see the fins at the bottom of his feet. No, they weren't physically there; just a remaining, invisible footprint as evidence from his past life on Sirius. Tito could dive and swim to the depths of the ocean where he could play and communicate with the dolphins and whales. Melissa couldn't wait for Tito to take her with him; take her to his beautiful home in the ocean.
All weekend and through Monday morning, the poor Cableman burned in jealousy and heart break over the loss of Melissa. No one appreciates the reality of someone better who comes along and steals a lover.
By 11:00am on Monday, the Cableman finally decided to drown his sorrows in a lunchtime feast at Naugles. That's right; Naugles: a modern resurrection of the 1980s Mexican restaurant sensation; well known for their red burritos with chewy, radioactive cheese and toxic grease that actually decomposed the wrapper. If one wasn't strong enough, a meal at Naugles usually resulted in explosive diarrhea shortly thereafter!
The Cableman parked his van in the lot and clicked his steel-toed work boots up to the front door of Naugles and into the restaurant. But what was this? Halfway to the counter, the Cableman could see Tito working as the cook in the kitchen.
"Hey Mr. Cableman!" loudly greeted Tito. "Welcome to my place!" Then he looked over to the Mexican cutie cashier who possessed striking Mayan features. "Whatever he wants, it's on the house. Okay?"
"Okay!" answered the cashier. Then she mumbled under her breath, "Whatever..." followed by informing the Cableman, "This isn't really his place. He's just the cook. I can't give you a free lunch. I'll get in trouble—probably fired."
"No problem..." answered the Cableman.”I'll pay... Give me two red burritos, macho-green burrito, and a diet coke."
As money was exchanged, Tito shouted from the kitchen, "Hey, I said let it be on the house."
"I can't!" argued the cashier.
Tito flew out from the kitchen and flashed his arms in the air while shouting something in Spanish at the cashier.
The Cableman just walked away with his change. Was this really the right place to eat lunch?
Several minutes later as the Cableman sat at the table in the dining room with his plastic number, Tito approached with the tray of food. "Okay, Mr. Cableman; I have two red burritos, a macho-green burrito, and a diet coke." He set the tray on the table. "Enjoy!"
Just as the Cableman proceeded to open the wrapper of a red burrito, Tito turned around and quietly spoke to the Cableman. "Listen; I hope I'm not wrong in doing this, but I want to use this opportunity to hopefully eliminate any hard feelings between us. I'm really sorry how things turned out between you and Melissa. But sometimes things just aren't meant to be. I understand that you have some issues, and don’t know who you are or where you are from. Perhaps you should use this as an opportunity to meditate and find yourself.
As for Melissa and me; we are really in love. I'm taking her to Atlantis Island Resort where we are going to do some snorkeling..."
"Well apparently being the cook at Naugles pays well." interrupted the Cableman
Tito continued, "I majored in marine biology in college which means that I'm a diver. Melissa's always wanted to explore the ocean, and I'm just the guy to take her—especially since I'm one of the mermaid people from Sirius."
The Cableman ate his red burrito in silence while thinking to himself, "Translation: Tito might have tried majoring in marine biology in college. At most he probably took a couple of snorkeling classes along with underwater basket weaving."
Not only was Tito full of himself, but he was totally full of shit!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Hello All:
Are you plagued with regularly being forced to engage in lengthy, unwanted conversation with that annoying neighbor, coworker or stranger who you encounter on a daily basis? They never seem to get the hint that you are not interested in whatever stupid things they have to tell you.
Take for example: Sure, last night's game on TV was nice, and it's not so bad to talk about a few highlights. But you don't want to discuss, ad nauseum, on all the players' stats, or the various technicalities that could have earned a few extra points for the team if the coach called this or play or that play.
Fortunately for you there comes a free app that can be downloaded to your Android device called Fake Call & SMS. You can actually program, in advance, a fake call that will come through. Simply gauge when you might encounter this person, and set the timer to send the call through.
Now when your annoying coworker or neighbor bores the crap out of you with, "... and I don't know what the coach was thinking when he saw that play..."
"RING RING!" The phone rings!
"Oops! Sorry; I've got to get this!" Pretend to answer and simply walk away. It's that simple!
But I'm afraid there isn't an app to help the main character in today's featured writing. This is a collection of excerpts from the Mapleview Novel, The Tree Goddess. Sara is plagued with mysterious phone calls, and doesn't know who could be making them.


On a brisk, Saturday morning in October, Sara walked a lonely nature path in the heavily wooded area of Sillmac. It just so happened to be the same path that she and Brian once shared. Just over two years since the tragic ending of a beautiful love, poor Sara experienced more than heartache. In those two years following the tragedy, Sara lived her life and operated the business both on automatic copilot as she struggled to cope with the loss of her fiancé. She had gotten much better. Through counseling, gradual healing and a will to live on, the Mapleview Coffeehouse continued to thrive. And once unimaginable, Sara began dating; more of a casual relationship.
She certainly hadn't forgotten Brian, she never would! And Sara would always love him. Many who have been touched by a special person remain altered for years and decades beyond a departing; whether it is a sad breakup, or in Sara's case, a tragic death.
Just then, Sara's cell phone rang. It was an unrecognizable number. "Hello?"
No one replied, but there was a static in the background accompanied by buzzing and a few pulses. Concluding it to be a misdial or crossed connection, the "End" button was pressed and the nature walk resumed.
Just as every year, autumn typically arrives around September 21st. But for all practical purposes, it still feels like the edge of summer in many places. The region that Mapleview and Sillmac belong to, however, feel autumn air somewhere around early September. Fall had already placed its grip in these woods as brilliant, October, colored leaves scattered throughout the nature path and forest. And the contrast of temperatures was most peculiar; cold, crisp air mixed with the hot sun that beat down in the clear, morning sky. The weather forecast predicted temperatures to reach nearly 60 degrees on the day of that Saturday morning walk. But the overnight temperatures were cold.
Halloween was soon to arrive. Considering herself to be an adult, the holiday, in Sara’s mind, was meant for kids. But to be festive, her coffeehouse brewed the pumpkin spice blend throughout October and November. Mark, her new boyfriend, often stopped by and nearly expected a fresh chamber to be made for him.
The path made a curve as it hugged the small pond. The walk was, once again, interrupted with another unrecognized caller on her cell.
She answered, "Hello?"
Just as before, all Sara could hear was static in the background. But the pulsed buzzes gave hint to possible speech, maybe someone saying her name, perhaps someone asking, "Can you hear me?"
Unsure as to why, the second call was a bit eerie for Sara which resulted in a phone call to her mother. It was difficult for Sara not to obsess over a possible attempt to reach her. Was it important? Was there an emergency?
"Hi Mom, were you just trying to call me...? I got a couple calls from a number I didn't recognize and all I could hear was static... I don't know; whoever it was tried calling twice, but I couldn’t hear... Just wanted to make sure you weren't trying to reach me... Yeah, I was going to try that next. I'm going to let you go and give him a call... Okay, bye."
Everyone has received a call on a cell phone from an unrecognizable number. Sometimes that person hangs up upon realizing the wrong number was reached. And sometimes all that can be heard in the background is dead silence or maybe some choppy words buried in noise before losing the call. It’s a combination of a wrong number and bad reception. Often this phenomenon takes place at 2:00 in the morning as we explain that someone was looking for drugs or other illegal activity and dialed the wrong number. Only 7:30 on a Saturday morning, these explanations could certainly hold true. But Sara wasn't going to give in to those explanations. There was a near urgency in solving the mystery caller, and it was necessary to ensure that none of her loved ones were attempting contact.
Sara called her boyfriend, "Mark? Hey, were you trying to call me...? I don't know; someone tried calling a couple of times and there was just static... No, I didn't recognize the number... What? No!"
Mark playfully accused Sara of handing out her number to other men at the bars. He played this game many times and although annoying, Sara speculated it was his way of showing he cared. He often asked, "Who are you texting, your other boyfriend?” Or sometimes he would comment, “Going on Facebook to find some old boyfriends from high school?" Although cute and funny, once or twice, Sara was growing rather tired of it.
Unfortunately, Sara now found it necessary to explain herself to Mark as to what she was doing alone on the nature path. "I'm going for a walk over at the bike path... It's not bad outside..."
Oh, but it was bad outside! Mark would see that she understood this. No one in his or her right mind would ever consider hiking in frigid temperatures. And to make matters worse, Sara was woman, alone in the woods at 7:30 in the morning. Reminded that it wasn't quite 50 degrees, she was next asked if mace or a taser was carried.
"Mark, I'm fine! I've been doing this for years... Well, I'm going to let you go so you can get back to sleep... Okay, bye."
Brian wouldn't have thought that it was too cold outside. The woods were beautiful, especially in autumn. This was the same path that they shared together; walking, jogging or biking at least twice a month.  And although Sara was alone, Brian’s voice spoke as-if walking next to her. It was a welcome fantasy that often filled the gap of his sorely, missed presence.
His imagined voice declared, "Yep, fall is here. Pretty soon we won't be able to walk. We'll have to get the snowmobiles out." And of course he would throw in some silly joke, a jab that made fun of insurance agent stereotypes. "Do you have insurance, Sara?"
Uh-oh! Not again! Smiling at the joke of someone who was not there, Sara deliberately replaced it with the gentle reminder that Brian was truly gone. Then she reminded herself of the need not to relapse into those overpowering fantasies.
People mourn in different ways, and Sara had an unusual way of coping with the loss of the man she loved with all her heart shortly after the tragedy. She heard of people who maintained relationships in the "astral world" with the use of directed dreams and fantasies. Strangers sometimes connect this way; why not people who were close in life with a desire to maintain a loving bond? Sara may have lost Brian's love in this world, but she knew he was someplace else, continuing to love her. She simply needed to focus on that realm and continue the bond with the man she felt was her soul mate. Hugging her pillow at night while hoping to have another vivid dream of Brian, or having strong daydreams of him at day; his sorely missed presence was still with Sara to the point that it was very real. It was almost too real.
For months, Sara lived in this fantasy realm while talking to her deceased soul mate. He was with her while she drove; he was with her at work; and he was with her during breakfast, having detailed conversations. Eventually, Sara realized this to be unhealthy and had considered that perhaps she was having temporal lobe hallucinations. Counseling was soon followed.
There are healthier ways to mourn the loss of a loved one. And it's true; we can resume a relationship with someone who has passed into the next world through prayer, feeling that person watching over us and maintaining certain traditions followed when he or she was alive. But we must accept the fact that a loved one is gone. Having strong, overpowering fantasies that a deceased love one is still with us, in person, can be detrimental. During her therapy, Sara followed the suggested homework, visited Brian's grave and spoke out to him that she needed to move on. And after weeks of taking it one day at a time, she pulled out of the overpowering fantasies and moved on.
Still, on that Saturday morning in October, Sara felt that a much-deserved, fleeting fantasy wasn't a bad thing. Besides that, Brian probably was with her on that nature path.
She softly replied to Brian’s suggestion of riding snowmobiles, "Well Brian, I don't think snowmobiles are allowed out here, not in this town; you know Sillmac."
After the morning walk, she stopped at the bakery where she and Brian often visited. Since the bakery offered a dining area, she sat down and enjoyed her fresh bagel and orange juice. "So how are things up there, Brian? Sorry I couldn't order your cinnamon bun and coffee; you understand."
Being that Sara offered a mini-bakery at her own coffeehouse, Brian often playfully reminded her of supporting the competition. He did so at that moment as well. "How do you like that? The owner of the Mapleview Coffeehouse is sitting down at another bakery, drinking their coffee. It's not as good as yours, right?"
She had to be careful not to smile too much. Only crazy people smile and laugh to themselves. And then she thanked him for the time spent on that Saturday morning while throwing away the wrapper and empty orange juice bottle. He was gone and it was time to come back to reality.
A short drive back to Mapleview, Sara quick showered and then paid her Saturday, morning visit to the coffeehouse where employees had greeted their boss. All was in working order and her small bakery was nearly depleted. That's okay; having too much waste at the end of the day was not a good thing. The coffeehouse closed at 5:00 on weekends. Since midmorning was nearly over, people wouldn't be looking to eat donuts and pastries in the afternoon.
Sara offered, "Do you girls want to go on break while I'm here?"
Jessica and Lynn had been working since 6am and handled the Saturday morning rush. Now slow, Sara could man the counter with maybe only one or two customers; customers like Daren who now entered and greeted Sara.
He was a regular customer, most friendly and a very, good looking man. He spoke while approaching the counter, "Hey there; how's things?"
The need for Daren to make deliberate small talk was so obvious. Sara often wondered if he came in just to see her.
She exchanged the greeting, "Good morning!"
Ah, but despite his good looks, wonderful charm and money; the man had one turnoff that prevented Sara from having any interest. Daren was married, as evidenced by the wedding band that held the massive wad of cash—20s and 10s rolled up and counted with his right.
Daren made his request, "I'll have a medium pumpkin spice coffee."
Did he really need to count the ridiculous amount of money to verify there was enough for the beverage? Sara responded, "Sure, coming right up."
Sara was an incredible woman to drool at, and Daren painfully yearned for her. Mary was well endowed, herself; but Sara probably had the biggest pair of breasts in all of Mapleview. Mary had a robust body frame, but certainly not rubenesque like the woman who owned the Mapleview Coffeehouse. Daren liked women of all sizes, shapes and colors. There were so many that he was literally in love with. And there was something so intriguing, so sexy about a chunky lady. As far as Daren was concerned, a little "muffin top" gave the appearance of being healthy, cute and very cuddly on a cold, winter night.
Sara filled the medium sized cup with the popular blend for the season. Suddenly, her cell phone rang. Not a big fan of answering calls in front of customers, she merely checked the number with the intention of calling back. But it was the unrecognizable number that had called twice while on the walking path earlier that morning.
She looked up at Daren in apology, "Excuse me." And then she answered her phone, "Hello?"
This time there was definitely a voice as it called out, "Sara?" The voice rang through the static and produced a flood of memories, bringing Sara nearly to tears. It was the voice of Brian—impossible! And he continued to call out, "Sara, can you hear me?"
The memories and near tears were quickly replaced by distress and confusion as she quickly snapped the phone shut and focused on the customer. The lid was placed on the cup and brought over to the counter.
Even Daren in his selfish quests took notice of the disturbed look on Sara's face. "Is everything okay? You look like you've seen a ghost."
"No, I'm fine, just a wrong number. That'll be $1.89".
He flipped through the ridiculously, oversized roll of money and pulled out a ten. It's funny; only moments ago, Sara resisted any possible hints of flirtations from the good-looking, married customer who often entered. Now she savored every moment in giving him the change back. Being that Daren was the only customer in the store, Sara would soon be alone in the case of another baffling and frightening call.
How do you tell a stranger to stay for company, much less explain an impossible phenomenon? There is no way to ask a stranger of this. Daren took the change and brought the cup of java to the cream and sugar table where a quick pour and stir happened all too quickly. The bell sounded as the door opened. Sara was now alone. Hopefully the girls would soon return from their cigarette break or whatever they were doing outside. Maybe they were having a quick and sensible breakfast at one of the fast food restaurants nearby.
Steve Coldsworth was up late the previous evening, touching up parts of his masterpiece painting, the Tree Goddess. He could have slept in later, but Steve accepted an offer for some Saturday, afternoon overtime at the sawmill and lumber distribution warehouse. Much in need of a serious java jolt before work, he stopped at the Mapleview Coffeehouse for his regular cup of Joe with a shot of espresso.
Sara nearly appeared relieved to have seen him enter. Steve recognized her from the numerous times previous of visiting the coffeehouse. But this was the first time Steve had taken notice of Sara’s enormous breasts with cleavage that she proudly displayed in her low, cut blouse. If that weren't enough, nipples protruded through her bra and blouse, and it wasn't easy for Steve to keep his eyes off them. They were the perfect breasts for the Tree Goddess!
"Hi, can I help you?"
Steve peeled his eyes away from Sara's breasts and gazed up at her face. "Yeah, give me a medium coffee and throw in a shot of espresso."
Sara wasn't unfamiliar with requests like this. Many people came in asking for two or three shots of espresso in a cup with ice. There's been an age-old argument of whether or not espresso contains more caffeine than regular coffee. Some experts claim there is less while others claim there is more. Still, the Mapleview Coffeehouse seemed to be gaining a reputation as a legal pharmacy for liquid crack. Sara didn't mind. Shots of espresso added to the charge so that an ordinary cup of coffee could be double, even triple in price.
She gladly announced, "One hammerhead coming right up!" A coffee expert certainly boasts her knowledge of the various beverages made.
While preparing the customer’s beverage, Sara’s cell phone rang. Why would she do the unthinkable? Why would she answer to the unrecognizable number that had spooked her moments ago? Maybe it was curiosity. Maybe it was a need to prove to herself that Brian's voice was only imagined through the harsh static. She looked up at the customer and apologized before answering.
The voice spoke through loud and clear, "Sara, it’s Brian!"
Such cruelty! Such a mean joke! Sara darted into the backroom, barely withholding her tears. The phone was no longer at her ear, but she could see the call was still active. And Brian’s deceased voice yelled through the receiver, "Sara!"
The phone was snapped shut and the battery removed. Who was doing this? The voice was so perfect. It couldn't have been her imagination that time. Was Brian's family so cruel as to play a wicked joke?
Nervously pressed for time, Steve watched as Sara emerged from the back room with eyes that had been crying. She sniffed while speaking nasal, "That'll be $3.78"
Years ago, when originally conceiving of owning a coffeehouse in Mapleview, Sara planned to remain closed on Sundays. I'm sure many of the business owners in downtown Mapleview thought the same. And perhaps some of these small shops and outlets do observe the old fashioned rule. But when it comes to coffee, do lovers of this drink refrain from their daily java jolt on Sunday? The fact is Sunday brings in many weekend shoppers, tourists and simple residents who can't get enough of the Mapleview Coffeehouse blend. Guess what! Sundays became regular days of operation for the Mapleview Coffeehouse!
People could wait until 8am, of course. Throughout the workweek and Saturday, Sara's business opened the door at 6am. But when first starting years ago, Sara was the sole operator and needed at least one day to sleep in. And the same can be said of the girls who now open the shop on Sundays. They should be able to get some rest after a Saturday night, out, perhaps even join the family for church.
And it's a good thing that her business had grown to the point that there were shift supervisors who handled the business opening on weekends. On the Sunday morning that followed the Saturday of terrifying phone calls, Sara needed to make a trip to the cemetery where Brian was buried. It was about an hour drive from Mapleview. Maybe that fleeting fantasy during Saturday morning’s hike made it necessary for a gentle reminder that Brian was gone.
Sara hadn't been to Brian's grave in over a year-and-a-half, much less seen his family members since the funeral. It wasn't that she felt awkward visiting her deceased fiancé’s grave as much as she feared encountering his family. Recall that at the funeral, Brian's mother had spoken the damaging words, "Maybe if you weren't such a backseat driver, my son would still be alive!" But no one rushed in to hold back the woman from speaking further. No one did so much as to apologize for the mother’s frazzled emotions. It was as-if Brian's family truly did believe that Sara's backseat driving resulted in the tragic death.
Sara pulled into the mortuary and memorial gardens that Sunday morning and drove her car to the area closest to Brian's grave. It was a large, old cemetery. Her fiancé was buried some distance from the road which required a small hike through fresh, cut grass mixed with small and barely noticeable remains of autumn leaves mulched from the tractor.
This lonely walk through headstones was a symbolic confrontation of that which tormented her the previous day. Perhaps this is why she willingly answered the ring of the cell phone that displayed the dreaded, unrecognized number.
"Sara, it's Brian; don't hang up! This is really important!"
The sound of his deceased voice returned Sara to distress. Whoever it was could emulate Brian's voice so perfectly. Outraged, Sara shouted, "Damn you! It's not funny! Leave me alone and stop calling me!" 
Tears ran down Sara's face as she ended the call and threw the phone in her purse. What was wrong with that person? Maybe it was someone in Brian's family finally getting revenge. It was a cruel, sick joke indeed!
Sara reached Brian's grave while close to sobbing. "It's been a while. I haven't been to see you lately. I bet you wonder what brings me here. Well someone keeps calling me and pretending to be you!"
She stopped her words short upon noticing something smashed into the ground near the headstone. Apparently a supposed tractor tire had rolled over the mysterious object and wedged it into the ground. It was a sight that would lead one to ask, "Do cemetery groundskeepers roll tractors over the graves?"
Whatever the thing was, it didn't belong there. Graves do not include these unusual items. Sara bent down and used her fingers to dislodge a sun-faded, water-damaged cell phone from the ground. The LED display was cracked and the buttons were caked with dirt. It surely belonged to a member of the living at one time, but it was now part of Brian's grave.
Although damaged and certainly beyond repair, Sara lived in a world where anything was possible. The coincidence of receiving calls from an unfamiliar number with Brian's voice, only to discover a cell phone near his grave, yielded quite an ironic overtone. She laid the old cell next to his grave and then pulled out her own while selecting the call option for the unfamiliar number.     
This time, Brian answered. "Hello?"
"Brian, it's me! I'm sorry; I didn't know."
Waves of static overshadowed his distant, choppy voice until the message of "Lost Call" displayed on her own screen.
Realizing how nearly impossible it was to reach the dead, Sara persisted by calling the number again. But the callout tone would only ring and ring. For some reason, Brian did not answer.
How long could she stand over his grave while calling and calling? What if someone recognized her? What if she encountered a member of Brian's family? There had to be a way to hide the phone near his grave so she could continue until he finally answered. But digging a small hole near his grave would damage the sod and alert family members or groundskeepers to something buried. There had to be an alternative.
Brian often commented on the strength of Sara's legs. Although nearly impossible to do, Sara pushed and grunted with all her might, ignoring her lack of knowledge of monumental masonry. Could a headstone break? Was the base heavy enough to damage the marker that displayed Brian’s name? Cemetery desecration is a serious crime and toppling over a headstone, possibly damaging it, could be met with harsh penalties.
Soon her deceased fiancé’s headstone lay on its side as the bare ground that was underneath the marker only seconds ago lay exposed to the sun. With her fingers, Sara dug a hole into the dirt. The soil of her lover's grave caked under her fingernails. The phone equally as dead as Brian and found near his grave was dropped in the hole and then covered up with soil.
But poor Sara learned that lifting the headstone back upright was twice as challenging as the near impossible task of toppling it over. She lifted and lifted with all her might, but efforts were in vain.
And then Brian spoke out as he had always done since leaving this world, suggestions to help his struggling Sara. "Come on! Use those powerful legs of yours! You can't lift that thing yourself! Push it upright; don’t lift it!"
Sara called out, "I'm trying! Come on, Brian! You have to help me! This is not easy, this whole thing! Look at me; I'm a crazy woman who is playing with a grave!"
Brian could only offer suggestions as he was dead. But he was correct to suggest that she used her legs. A few grunting-pushes landed the base and headstone back into place. Any possible evidence of molesting, Sara hoped, would be washed away in the next rain.
As for Brian, he wasn't going anywhere. Brian was in that ground forever and would answer the phone eventually.