The Multiverse: Proof In the Time of Politics

 

LPTrendsShortScaryFiction. Proof. By Tracy Saville

Escaping our reality might be a good thing about now. Here a short fiction story post-Halloween & Sandy to give you pause, to remind you that you live in a world where it is quite possible that what you think is real, isn’t. The Multiverse. Your reality could be but one of many.

We’ll get back to elevated ideas and people next week – enjoy this award-winning short by Tracy Saville. Published originally in the GNU Journal.

What if we lived in universal bubbles and ours collided with the bad guys?

Proof

By Tracy Saville, 2009.

Rachel, my wife, the only one who can make me want to punch her in the throat and take her clothes off in the same moment, and sometimes at the same time, was giving me that look, the one that says I’m drunk and incapable of admitting it.

The look was followed by a flick of her tongue against her upper lip that only I could notice, a promise – if I left now, I might get a little something later on. I could tell by their bleary faces, my brothers wouldn’t protest an early night. I was about to get my girl and go home. And that’s when it happened.

Up until then Rachel had been in the back, playing Nine Ball with Carter, my oldest bro – their game, not mine, and the mood was vibing, good as in everybody was employed; nobody was fighting or had shit storms brewing in their lives. My other bros, Lars and Kyle, were drowning their sorrows in Peron shots and looked about as pathetic as you can get.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved my brothers. Since our parents died, we were all each other had. We were quads, not identical, but close. We had different colored hair and eyes, and spoke with different slants to our southern accents. Most of the time, we got in each other’s food bowls about the damndest things. We couldn’t spend five minutes in the company of each other without somebody getting a black eye.

But that night, we were feeling happy to be hanging. I recall only telling Kyle to go fuck himself one time, and that was a record.

I was getting ready to roll off the barstool stuck to my ass, when I must have stood up too fast. I guess I teetered when I stepped back because I knocked my PeterBuilt hat on the ground and it rolled under my stool. I bent down; picked it up, hit the crown across my thigh to dust the vermin off the brim.

Now I know I didn’t hit my head and I know I didn’t black out. It was only a few seconds. Yet everything had changed. I felt a cold spike drive into my spine, and there was a certainty to the icy tingling that quickly spread to my extremities.

There was badness in the air.

We were in Frank’s, but we weren’t, which I can’t explain. You know how in a dream you’re aware you’re dreaming, but everything feels real. Different but same.

Same Formica table tops, same burl wood bar, same peanut shells on the same crappy linoleum floor I have personally puked on more times than I care to account for, and the same mustard yellow walls covered with velvet Elvis pictures hanging cockeyed next to black and white pictures of James Dean and Jane Mansfield.

Pitching my eyes around I spied the same pool tables, the same front door, and the same red crapper signs with the girl and boy stick figures hanging on stained doors, pointing in opposite directions.

Same, same, but all changed.

I knew it because the margarita machine was churning Jagermeister, a small detail that under normal circumstances wouldn’t have fazed me given my inebriated condition. Yet I was suddenly more sober than I’d been in my entire life, and I knew there was no way in hell the goo in that machine could turn from green, from Margaritas, to purple in three seconds.

I looked down at the only thing I felt I might be able to control, the few inches squarely in front of me. I counted eight shot glasses stacked in my usual pyramid, so yeah, I was officially tanked. But then I looked over at Kyle and Lars and knew the tequila couldn’t work this kind of mojo. These boys were my brothers, but they weren’t.

Kyle, whose long, black stringy hair was a kind of trademark, was sporting a red Marine buzz cut. Carter’s fake left leg, the one that replaced the one he lost in Iraq last year was missing, and I could tell because he was sitting in a chair with his pants hiked up past his boots and I could see the tattoo on the inside of his missing calf, the same tattoo I had, the same tattoo Kyle and Lars had. We got those tats in 2007 just before he deployed.

All of this was raising hair all over my body, but it was Lars who sent me from generously worried to scared right down to my worn Chuck Taylors.

When we were little, Lars was in the car with our parents when it went over the turnpike wall. His entire right cheek had been torn away and it took years of plastic surgery to craft a nice mottled quilt of scar tissue where his face ought to be. The guy who was wearing Lars’ face had perfect skin, forehead to chin, ear to ear. And the birthmark that used to be on his right neck, just below his ear, was now on the left.

When behind him I noticed the bar sign, which should have told me this was Frank’s joint, and it clearly read “Ruby’s”, I began to seriously question my sanity.

Then came the cluster fuck of oh shit. It was my wife Rachel, the mother of my two sons, the only woman I’ve ever slept with, the love of my fricking life. The same song that had been playing on the juke box before the world turned upside down was still playing, “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” by Pat Benatar, because she liked the oldies, and my stunning wife was still grinding to the song, only she was about-ready-to-pop pregnant, smoking a cigarette, giving Carter a lap dance, and sucking on a beer.

My wife Rachel had her tubes tied four years ago after Sam was born, and she doesn’t smoke, or know how to lap dance.

In the time it took for the panic I was feeling in my legs to reach my throat and shut it down, Rachel turned my direction and gave me a look I not only didn’t recognize, but I will never forget. She looked right at me, and then through me. She had no idea who the hell I was.

The floor underneath my feet softened and every rational thought I may have had left inside my tequila-addled brain collapsed inside my head like a long string of dominos pieces sliding to a perfect, accordion finish. I thought of my sons at home with the babysitter. Were they still my sons? Were they even there?

I needed to get the hell out of that bar to find out. I needed to grab my wife and shake her until I woke up and it all went away. I needed to get a grip, but that didn’t happen.

Four goons waltzed in carrying guns that looked like Star Trek special editions. The center of each gun was pulsating, but not in a color or a kind of light I’d ever seen. And then they started shooting, not rounds, but lasers that exploded on contact, showering Frank’s/Ruby’s with burning, hot sparks. I dove behind the bar and climbed into the storage cabinet by the sink. On instinct I guess, which is weird because I should have run to Rachel.

Over the din of the space-like battle that had overtaken our little sanctuary something told me home would do no good and my Rachel wasn’t Rachel anymore.

At this point the smell of burning flesh and the screams from patrons faded away as I watched Sal the bartender disappear over the bar out into the battle and God knows what; at least he still looked like Sal, and that’s when the real carnage began.

It lasted two minutes; the longest two minutes of my life. All I could think about was the sound of Rachel’s screams and that I’d never see my boys again. She was dying out there and I was going to die hiding behind an inch of maple, in a ginned up nightmare that no one would ever believe.

There I waited, balled up, scared beyond reason when I heard the front windows shatter, my wife screaming for her life, and small explosions as our unexpected visitors lit their weapons into the water heater and lighting fixtures. Then I heard nothing. Not a whimper, not even a crunch of foot on broken glass.

Peering around the corner, I wiped the sweat from my eyes and tried to focus on the images before me. My labored breathing seemed to fill the room with desperation, but I was thankful for the noise. I realized I was the only one left standing.

Lars and the girl he’d been hitting on were gutted. Something had scooped out their stomachs, and their small and large intestines poured out on the ground like over-sized worms. Kyle was laid out in the corner. His right arm was missing. It didn’t occur to me look around for it, but then my eyes wandered to the back and I saw it, hanging off the edge of the juke box, dangling over Carter’s bloody body laid out like a recently carved lamb chop. Parts were torn from other parts and laying next to each other. His hands were grasping the dead body of a baby the perpetrators must have pulled from my wife’s belly. My Rachel was there, but her head was missing, and I fucking lost it.

The last thing I remember before coming to, here in my cell, was tasting linoleum, and seeing four sets of legs rush past me on their way out the door. After that, the lights went out. I swear I didn’t see their faces. I don’t know what happened. None of this makes any sense.

***

“Is that it?”

I reached behind my neck and gave it a squeeze for the tenth time in ten minutes. My brothers and my wife had been massacred, and all Mr. Bad Cop could do was grill me like I was the one who pulled the trigger.

“Tell me about the four foot soldiers. Why did you send them? Why not handle it yourself? I hear you like your carnage up front and personal.”

This guy was getting not just getting under my skin, but into my DNA.

“I told you, I don’t now who the killers were. They wore masks, hard ski masks, like Mike Myers. You know, like in Halloween.”

“Halloween? Is that some kind of weird cult?”

I considered this remark almost blasphemous; everyone knew Halloween films, and it was October so the reference should have resonated.

My new best friend, Detective Randall Smythe of the Twenty-First Precinct, chuckled, a guttural laugh, the kind narcissistic psychopaths offer to their next victims.

“Hallow’s Eve?” I asked, hearing my own voice drop into a kind of beseeching tone. “You know, everyone dresses up like ghouls and goes trick or treating?”

He threw a handful of photos across the desk in front of me in response, not impressed with what I took to be an assumption I was trying to delay the inevitable. I wanted to scream in his face this was the wrong world, the wrong day, the wrong nightmare and I wanted to go home.

“You don’t recognize your own brothers?”

I scanned the photographs.

“See here? There’s Danny, and there’s Blake. We like him. I think he’s the handsome one, don’t you? And there’s Lane. I suppose the fourth is a cousin. You have, what, fifty of those in town, or maybe it’s your new lover. Flavor of the month?”

What? I was a gay gangster?

“I’m telling you my name is Gavin Elders. I’m from Fargo, North Dakota and I live in Barkley. We got a little place out there last year. I have two kids, and I work for Thomson’s Bricks out on Route 40.”

The detective pushed back from the table and propped his elbows on his thighs. He hung his doughy head between his legs and looked up at me over and down his nose, as if I were the lunatic in the room.

“Mr. Six, you are not now, nor have you ever been married. You do not live in Barkley. You do not work as a bricklayer, and you do not now, nor have you ever been a father to anyone that we’re aware of. You were fixed in 2086. And you are, as everyone in the universe knows, a very gay man, who has never once tasted pussy – that we know of.”

I let this sink in.

Every bit of me was still back on the images of my murdered brothers and wife. But the word “universe” tugged at my receptors and pulled my focus there. I didn’t like the way he was looking at me or throwing gay insults my direction, but he said “universe” like it was it was a charted place. Most people would have said “everybody in town”, or “everybody in organized crime”. Not “universe”.

“If I were you,” said my new worst enemy, “I’d seriously consider cooperating this time.”

2086. 2086. Did he say I’d been neutered since 2086? I grabbed my balls. Felt the same.

“I told you, my name is Gavin Elder. I need to make a call to see if my children are alright.”

I could hear the panic in my voice overtake the grip I was trying to hold on to. But the cop was cool, like he was enjoying this. That’s when a new detective walked in. He sat down like he was the boss of the other one. They exchanged smiles. Great.

The new cop ran his fingers through hair that looked like it hadn’t been washed in six weeks. Not that I typically notice such things, but he had a smell about him, and I had to wonder if it was his dirty hair. It was abnormally dirty. And come to think about it, both of these guys were seriously grungy. Everything around me had a grey, washed out appeal. There was a rank smell to the air, too, and it wasn’t just in here in the interrogation room. It smelled like this outside and in the hallways when they dragged me in for booking. It smelled like old socks left in the dead carcass juice of a deer in the back of a truck.

His badge, Detective Ross it said, was worn, and smudged with some substance I didn’t need to verify. He had a bad comb-over and a half-chewed cigar stuffed in his mouth. Bits of it gathered in the corners. It was like meeting the cliché detective in one of my son’s graphic novels.

New Cop moved the cigar around in his mouth as he opened a file and shoved a mound of papers at me. I glanced down and saw a list of crimes, from armed robbery to assault to drug and human trafficking, off world. Off world?

Some of the pictures were of me and the other three guys I met in the other photographs that were my alleged real brothers. Ross completed the file for me by pulling a driver’s license out of his front breast pocket and throwing it at me like he’d pulled that maneuver a time or twelve. He followed that up with a hand mirror, which at first I thought was weird. But then, it all began to fit.

He said, “I’ll let you go home to your boys, but first you need to explain this.” And by ‘this’ I figured out he meant the reality of what was inside the file and that he wanted me to look in the mirror. I picked it up and slowly brought it to my face. It was me, but not me; my hair was Hollywood long with blond streaks. Five earrings, all huge diamond studs, ran along the cartilage of my right ear, and one in my right eyebrow. The real me had mousy black hair that stuck to my head. Staring back at me was the image of a playboy, a player, a handsome guy with a weathered sneer that looked like he might fuck with your grandmother for a ten-dollar bill. I was not that guy. I was plain Joe, normal Bob, and everyday Earl.

I always thought I had too many scars from picking my acne when I was a kid and dim eyes. I knew I was good looking in a sort of irregular, make-you-feel comfortable kind of way, but I wasn’t drop dead handsome like the guy glaring at me in the mirror. I almost puked.

Inside the file I found more joy. It was everything I could do to train my focus on those pages as the air around me began to seep from the room.

My crimes were legion. In real life, my life, the only crime I ever committed was getting popped for a DUI eight years ago, but that was wiped from my record. Here it said I was public enemy number one. I picked up my license. I was born in August, not September. And the last time I looked, it was 2012. The top sheet in the rap file had a date stamp. It said it was October 14, 2096.

The unchangeable nature and trueness of my predicament hit me in the chest like I imagine the heart attack my old man had did. It wasn’t good. I fell right over the edge into madness that all men must feel when they come face to face with the reality that absolutely nothing is as it should be, like the rules had changed and somebody forgot to send the memo.

It was enough that my wife was dead and my brothers were still in pieces on the floor of a bar in a town I used to know; this would have sent most men past the edge and into the abyss, but I’d just seen the enemy, and he was me.

I wondered if the stars fell out of the sky outside, because gravity had lost its place in line as a fundamental law of nature.

“This is not right.” I said, pointing at the ‘not me’ in the license and mug shot photo. I held up the mirror to my face again and pointed it at. “This, this is definitely not me. I don’t know what’s going on here. I don’t. I swear.”

Detective Ross didn’t blink. “You’re not going to cry are you?”

I wanted to punch him.

His minion leaned over and whispered in his ear. “Can I have a word?”

Ross didn’t seem happy, but the two excused themselves. I heard their voices over the intercom. Was it a trick, or a mistake? Let him go, I heard Ross say, he’ll lead us to the others. Maybe there’s something going on here we don’t see.

When they came back in Ross was on me. He crawled across the table and took my neck in his hands and started squeezing, shutting down my air supply. It was almost a relief not to smell the vile odor in that room, but it was short-lived. He loosened his grip, but stayed in my face.

“Listen, Six, your weak ass games won’t fly here. But we’re gonna do something I still can’t believe. I’m doing you a solid. I’m letting you go.” He pulled himself closer still, so close I could see the blackheads in his pores. “But I’ll be riding so far up your ass; we’ll have to get married before this is over.”

He paused, his face now an inch from my own. I wanted to gag his breath was so foul.

“And I think you should know those three guys in the bar and that girl you called your wife? They weren’t your brothers, or your wife.” He pulled out a piece of paper and shoved it down my shirt. “Wrong DNA, asshole.”

Ross let go like I was a mistake and shoved me back. I lost my footing and tipped backward, end over chair. I tried to stand up to shout at Ross he was insane, but he was on me again. He had me pinned back down arms to floor, face to mine, like he practiced the maneuver a million times.

“I don’t know what kind of game we’re playing now, but when I figure it out, I’m coming for you. I will bring you down, Six. I will or die trying.”

The he released me and tossed my license at my chest. “Have a nice day, Mr. Elder. Don’t forget your greatest hits.”

He tossed the file at my head. Paper scattered all around. And then he was gone.

***

Moments after processing out of the scariest fucking place I had ever been, I found the street, Harvard Street, outside the station doors, which is where the station used to be, from my – what – my world?

Up and down this street there were familiar signs of the street and town I’d known since I was a kid, but none of it made sense. I started walking. And the longer I walked, the deeper I felt the fissure of my reality widen until I could barely catch my breath. I turned a corner and found the bread store, but it wasn’t a bread store anymore. It was a gizmo shop for some kind of telephone system I didn’t understand.

I guess you stand in front of a laser and it passes over your pupils. It recognizes you and makes the call, because it can read your mind.

Another corner, a few miles away, and I found the school where my kids went to elementary. Only it isn’t a school for kids, it’s a training ground for soldiers, or some kind of security force, shooting and practicing kicking the shit out of each other behind glass, as a local spectacle I guess. Talk about your deterrents.

How long I walked after that I don’t know, but it started to rain. I headed north, toward the river, and I knew I was getting closer because I could smell the rotten eggs. Some things hadn’t changed.

Faster and harder I walked as it came down harder still, until it was coming down in buckets and the temperature dropped fifteen degrees. The temperature gauge on my keys was still working, which was odd, considering these keys went to things I couldn’t begin to imagine. The key ring said W instead of G – the details in this life compared to my last one were mind-boggling.

Overhead flashes of lightning sprang to life and the lightening began to intensify, the kind that bubbled up from nowhere in movies where the hero dies suddenly. The air mixed with golf ball size water drops and began to crackle all around. And I could feel a slight electrical charge as the water hit my skin. I was as good as cooked if I didn’t find someplace to get dry.

As if it could read my mind, a long, white limousine appeared out of nowhere. The back window rolled down and a woman wearing a white, fur-lined jacket with the hood propped back on her head, appeared. She was uncomfortably beautiful and stood out in the grey and black day like a beacon. I swear her skin was almost glowing.

I wondered why and took a step closer to see it better. Her skin was translucent and shimmering. I could see her veins underneath. She handed me her card.

“Lost, Mr. Elder?”

Recognition and hope shot through me. I guess I must have looked like it because she smiled and opened the door. I looked down at her card. It had an official looking gold seal, but it wasn’t a U.S. government seal. It was written in symbols.

“Get in. Too much time in this rain and your skin will burn.”

I didn’t need to hear that twice.

The door swung open and I sidled in. Everything in the car was black but her. She told the driver to find some address I didn’t recognize, but then again this mattered little. I didn’t recognize a fucking thing.

“You’ve already met my colleagues.” She motioned across the seat, and there were the four goons from the bar – my weird reality brothers. And my, what – cousin or lover? I was about to ask for clarification about that guy when glow girl interrupted my thoughts. I guessed because she could.

“Of course, you have questions.” She said and smiled a placating grin like she was bothered to be there, like the whole thing was beneath her. I didn’t know what these things were that bothered her, but I was going to find out.

“Your brothers here in this universe work for me, and they’re doing double duty for you. A bit disloyal, as you can imagine. I told them they were on a short leash. Should I kill them for you?”

“What the fuck is going on and where is my family!” I demanded. The words tumbled from my lips in hysterical dribble.

The stunningly, cold, beautiful woman smiled again. “I have your answers, but first, I need to know something.” The goons smirked like they had a secret. She began to move toward me. “Pull down your pants.” She said, like she was giving me directions to the bus stop.

I, of course, appreciated my pants right where they were. She sighed like she was bored and sat back, folding her arms like a spoiled child.

“I need to check your number.”

Number?

“I need to see if you’re the right one.”

The right one?

I must have said this out loud because the car stopped abruptly and she turned on me, a blaze of frustration behind her cold eyes. I could see she was pissed, but trying to maintain.

“Try to keep up, Mr. Elder. The year is 2096. You have been dead for forty-eight years. However, here on this Earth, in this multi-verse, you are a crime lord of the Ninth Seal, a very bad man who jumps bubbles and games the universes. We, the Interplanetary Peacekeepers, have been tracking you, the “you” that is William Six, aka baddest badass in a thousand multi-verses, for ten years. We learned when Six jumped into your world, he caused a rift and that rift is not just in your universe, but several actually, and today this rift deepened and stole your 2012 soul.”

She began to pull her gloves off, finger-by-finger, exposing elegant fingers, like a bird, with long luminous nails. They glistened like diamonds. It occurred to me they were and I hoped they were insured.

“So you see, Mr. Elder, you are you, on the inside, but you occupy the body of William Six, from this multi-verse. And these gentlemen were coming to rescue you so we could put you back, make things right before you figured out what was going on. It seems they were a little clumsy in their rescue attempt. I am sorry for the inconvenience.”

It didn’t take me a second to see where this was going.

“So, Six’s soul is in my body back in 2012?”

The gorgeous woman laughed.

“Yes, and five others of you are having this same conversation, or had this same conversation, in five other multi-verses. We actually have been tracking all five of you here, in this bubble, for the last twenty-four hours to get a fix on the other multiples. The Mr. Elder you would know, here in Multi-verse Nine Billion, is running around with Six inside him. Each of you has a number on your left buttock cheek. The real Mr. Elder in all five multi-verses, in every replicated scenario we know of, AKA William Six, will have a string of numbers in the five sequence, beginning with one.”

It occurred to me I hadn’t looked at my ass since the world went crazy.

“What if it’s not me?” This seemed like a reasonable question, considering the unreasonableness of the fact I was sitting in a limousine talking to a glowing girl in the ninth billion replica of my Earth, next to my multi-verse bros who fucked up my rescue attempt. My brothers always screwed things up.

She cocked her head like I was an idiot.

“Why Mr. Elder, you die, of course.”

No more funny.

I was beginning to feel like I was better off in the acid rain or in the hands of Detective Ross.

But apparently there wasn’t time to contemplate the choices I should have made because the glowing girl shoved a syringe in my neck. I could feel the cool leather of the seat against my cheek and see between my captor’s legs, which were now sitting open directly across from me. Lo and behold, glow girl wore no underwear. Her pubic hair was pink. This made me smile; a glowing girl, pink pubic hair, dead wife: the day was really winding down in a bad direction.

Then I passed out. I saw or felt nothing. My last last thought before the dark swallowed me whole was I hoped my number wasn’t up.

***

They say, and I forget who they were, but they say psychotic schizophrenics’’ minds break when they try too hard to protect the body from a memory or incident so bad, it can’t be entertained. When I awoke, I wondered if perhaps that was it; I’d had a psychotic break, and maybe I was in the hospital.

My arms were tethered to the bed with those leather straps you see in movies they use on crazy dudes that can’t be trusted, and I had three different lines running into my arms; two on the left and one in my right hand. But then I saw my blood moving through a series of interconnected tubes, which fed into the line in my right arm, and that the lines in my right hand and left were shooting a light blue liquid into me. I noticed where my blood went in it was red and when it came out it was blue. My heartbeat a steady beat on the monitor and across the room the glowing girl was there, now joined by a man I presume was my doctor. He seemed to be the boss, what with his white lab coat, and stern expression. He was glowing, too. I wondered if everyone did, or just the special space crazies.

The doctor turned away from his monitors and smiled like he had a secret. What was it with these people and their deadpan smiles?

“Ah, Mr. Elder. You’re awake. Yes, we all glow, because of the air. Our atmosphere here in this bubble is a slightly different mixture than the one you’re used to. This is why we’re sprucing up your blood as we speak. Can’t have your skin falling off, now can we?”

He spoke with a British accent. This was weird, but not as weird as the visual as my skin sliding off my bones and slithering to the floor, or the fact he could read minds. But then again, everyone here could but me.

I cut straight to the chase. “I guess I was the right one.”

“Indeed! And we’re very pleased. Central is very, very pleased.”

Everyone was very, very pleased, but me.

I began tugging at the intravenous lines attached to my hands and trying to grasp the clips of my leather restraints. But I didn’t get far; glow girl cold-cocked me. She was good at that.

“Mr. Elder if you leave now, you’ll die and you’ll never find your way home. If that doesn’t happen, if we don’t get you back to your 2012 body and bring William Six back here, your sons will never have been born in any universe and you will cease to have ever existed at all.”

She was a serious buzz kill.

I relaxed back into my pillows and the good doctor shot me up with something that made me feel like I was wearing warm chocolate pudding. This was a good thing because I was shaking and breaking down fast. I was trapped in the body of a man wanted by everyone in multiple universes, and the “me” – back home – had the soul of a murderer. He was probably diddling my Rachel right now.

My kids back home were fine, but here they’d never been born. My blood was being exchanged for some other kind of blood so I wouldn’t combust, and I was as close to hyperventilating as I’d ever been. It was then glow girl and the doctor, I never did get his name, began to tell me what my fate would be if I didn’t go along to get along. They added what mine had to do with theirs.

As the good doctor removed my restraints and began to disconnect all my feeding tubes, he told me a story. It was a story out of a Ray Bradbury novel.

My dumb fucking luck.

As I got dressed and followed my new friends to what they called a “launch chair”, I rolled my new reality over and over again in my mind.

The entire known universes were actually limitless universes contained inside bubbles, which occasionally bumped into each other and opened portals, creating wormholes. Generally this space bump changed everything from the atmosphere of universes altering global temperature to the outcomes of civilizations. These changes, or openings, were normal, all things considered.

When bubbles bumped, shit happened.

Climate change acceleration on Earth caused by human over-consumption of carbon was a product of a bubble bump. The simplicity of this truth was almost funny.

It freaked me out to learn that the number and kind of sentient beings were infinite, and presently being mapped by the highest level intellects among all the beings in the known charted multi-verses. Aliens were real, the kind that had spindly legs and huge eyes and no mouths.

The Interplanetary Peacekeepers were really intergalactic or multi-verse cops with knowledge and brainpower that would make the smartest smart guys on my Earth look like fourth graders. That’s why they glowed; lots of neurons.

William Six the First had mucked up the travel gateways they used to move between multi-verses to set up criminal enterprises, otherwise the smart cops never would have found out his game. That sounded like good news for me, that they were diligent in their jobs.

The leaders here were trying to keep the truth that there was a rift causing the intermingling of souls and bodies on the down low until they could find and document proof that is was happening.

Proof.

I guess they needed to prove they could fix the rift and switch back my soul and Six’s before they could get approval for the expansion funding. Bureaucratic mumbo jumbo was universal. Glow girl said it was election season.

I asked how long we had. They said one million Earth years.

My first thought was our last Presidential election season had lasted eighteen months and I thought that was a forever kind of Hell. My second thought was Rachel and the kids would be gone by then, a whole different level of a new kind of Hell.

We talked for more than an hour I guessed, and then we moved into a room where the “launch chair” was. It looked to me like a normal dentist’s chair.

“Please, make yourself comfortable.” Glow girl was so hospitable.

Something was bothering me.

“Am I the only soul breach?” Not that I cared, not really.

Glow girl grinned and pointed upward toward the ceiling. The tiles began to lift off and float away into the corner of the room, exposing a vast dark, glittering space. Every second or two an explosion, like the ones I’d seen on Discovery Channel when a star is born or dies, went off out there.

“The explosions happen every time a soul switch occurs. Repeating the rift moment, the precise millisecond in time when Six screwed you out of your life, is the only way to prove its possible to save at least half of the known universes in the multi-verse, or your soul. If we make the switch successfully and close the hole, no more breaches.”

Maybe I looked like I was struggling with this truth, because she screwed up her nose and planted both hands on her hips. “Let me put this in terms you can understand, Mr. Elder. If we fail, we can all kiss our galactic asses goodbye.”

She pulled a remote out of her white leather Matrix coat. She really was very cool.

“Comfy?”

The chair I sat in, the launch point to put me back, in the bar, where it all happened, was in fact very comfortable, cozy even.

“Mr. Elder, you see, it happened, but it didn’t, because it hadn’t happened yet, but it had, and it will again, and again and again. Make sense?”

I was about to say not so much when my two new glow friends dissipated into the ether as the chair wrapped its arms around me and I could feel my body losing particles. I closed my eyes, and wondered if the third time was a charm.

I only had two more to go.

***

Rachel, my wife, the only one who can make me want to punch her in the throat and take her clothes off in the same moment, and sometimes at the same time, was giving me that look, the one that says I’m drunk and….

-end

 

2012. Tracy Saville. All Rights Reserved.

For more from this writer visit her here. Tracy Saville.

Ape Girl – Birth Order, Baseball and Pornography?

LPTrendsBody - Ape Girl – Sex, evolution and birth order

Author Catherine Salmon, Ph.D. writes the Ape Girl blog for Psychology Today, in which she shares her research – on birth order and the family, reproductive suppression and dieting behavior, and female sexuality – and what it means to our everyday lives. In her recent post What Do Baseball and Pornography Have in Common?, Dr. Salmon reveals how both baseball statistics and pornography can illuminate our understanding of human nature. Other posts explore evolutionary psychology, the relationship between birth order and allergies, and do grandparents have favorites? We think Dr. Salmon’s astute insights are unique and quite relevant to today’s conversations about women’s rights and family values.

This series curated by Lori Anderson, part of our new (and soon to be unveiled) elevated LPNetwork.

Going Pro

Jackie Dotson, LCSW. Therapist. Writer. Disruptive Presence.

LPTrendsCareer: Going Pro. A really relevant and unique riff on the emerging, clarified definition of what it means to be professional. By Jackie Dotson, LCSW. Therapist. Writer. Disruptive Presence. You go girl.

In recent months, a lot has been written about the concept of “going professional,” and it’s about time. This past decade has not only shown us the importance of taking ownership of your life and career, it has also shown us an exponentially increasing amount of noise from the media, both old media and the new “social” media.  It is increasingly harder to filter out the fluff from the good stuff.

Although we have always been in charge of our own lives and careers, in the past, we had more structures in place to make us feel as if we were not in charge but merely following directions. Most workers stayed with the same company for their entire careers, where daily tasks, habits and job descriptions were driven by the needs of management. It was easy to not feel the need to take responsibility for yourself when you knew you would be taken care of by one employer for your entire working life.

Today, lives and careers are more fluid. Most people change jobs every few years either by choice or by layoff. The number of people going into business for themselves is also increasing, by both choice and default. The transient nature of today’s work has necessitated that workers take a more active role in branding themselves and crafting the trajectory of their careers.

Whether we work for ourselves or someone else, we are all called upon to be more creative in our work. This is why the concept of “going professional” is essential to making it the world. Going professional seems grand and complex, but is really just a change in your mindset, maturing from being an amateur. Author Steven Pressfield, who writes extensively about turning pro in his books The War of Art and Turning Pro, says it is “nothing grander than growing up.”

Jackie hosts this photo at her site – a glittering world of professionalism…

Our culture encourages and reinforces being an amateur and engaging in amateur-like behavior. Pressfield notes in his books that the “addiction of distraction” is one of the top behaviors of the amateur.  Distraction really is the enemy of the professional. Making a lot of noise has come to be seen as the same thing as doing the work. But professionals know that making noise is just that, making noise. Texting, Tweeting, Facebooking, Pinning are all terrific tools that are used more to generate busy-ness and distraction, than they are to actually move work forward.

American culture rewards looking busy. Those who spend the most hours doing a project are seen as dedicated heroes, regardless of outcome. Two of our most prestigious professions, law and medicine, reward their practitioners, not for the quality of their work or the value it adds, but for the quantity of “billable hours” and “billable procedures” they generate.

Rewarding a culture for looking busy and making a lot of noise creates other problems as well. Noisy behavior becomes glorified and monetized. We create and perpetuate stereotypes of the “starving artist” who struggles from paycheck to paycheck. Yet we do not stop to examine how much effort this person is putting into making the art versus making a show out of making nothing. We give our limited attention to celebrities on television and in magazines, who are no longer making art, and just making drama and headlines.

But work does get done, somewhere, somehow by some people. With all of this noise, how is the work getting done?

Let’s look at the late Charles Schulz, cartoonist and creator of the Peanuts comic strip. He knew a thing or two about going professional. Schulz produced nearly 18,000 comic strips in his 50-year career that ended with his death in 2000. He stated in interviews that every day he had a donut and then sat down to write the strip, adding that once he had the idea, it took about an hour to draw the daily and three hours to draw the Sunday strip.

Charles Schulz was a quiet and unassuming man. He knew instinctively that it is hard to be a true professional when you are making a lot of noise. He showed up every day and did what he wanted and needed to do to make a successful comic strip.

Steven Pressfield notes in his books that this is an absolute requirement for anyone thinking of turning professional. He says, professionals are humble, quiet about what they do, show up every day, committed to the long haul, they know how to turn off the distractions. Pros show up prepared and ready to work and they do not put other people on pedestals.

Now more than ever it is imperative for us to make a commitment to our art and making the world better. We cannot elevate the level of conversation and create great work without making the commitment to turning professional. Where in your life are you continuing to act like an amateur? What do you need to do to turn pro? Everyone has what it takes to turn professional, so long as you are willing to grow up and do it.

Jackie Dotson is a regular contributor to LP Magazine. If you liked this, you might also like:

Resistance: Can This Badass Be Conquered? 

Find Jackie:

http://www.jackiedotson.com

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/powderkegofawesome

Phone: 916-572-6797

 

Make It Happen

LPTrends99U – Insights on making ideas happen.

Taking its name from Thomas Edison’s famous quote that “Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration,” the 99U includes a Webby award-winning web magazine and the best-selling book Making Ideas Happen.

Through articles, tips, videos, and events, 99U educates creative professionals on best practices for moving beyond idea generation into idea execution. We think 99u is the embodiment of positivity and productivity on steroids. The site offers creative spark, genius execution strategy, and anything else you’ll need to turn your vision into reality.

What are you doing to make it happen? Tell us by submitting your story this week! Here: Share Your Story With The Possibility Place!.

This series curated by Lori Anderson, part of our new (and soon to be unveiled) elevated LPNetwork.

Where The Girls Are

LPTrendsStorytellers: Parie Wood and Autumn Sky. New music storytellers worth getting to know.

Parie Wood. Photo courtesy of Tim Saville.

Recently we had the pleasure of going to a concert promoted by DIG Music, and we met Parie Wood and Autumn Sky.

Two new indie female recording artists who are emerging from a local scene to become potentially global influences in the world of artistic storytelling through music.

At 17 (Parie Wood) and 20-something (Autumn Sky) respectively, these are two creative forces you won’t want to miss.

Autumn Sky. Photo courtesy of Tim Saville.

Check them out.

Tell us what you think.

When music is elevated to a perspective-shifting experience, we think it’s worth talking about.

What new emerging artist are you listening t for their storytelling words?

Bo Knows Open Skies & Presencing

LPTrendsMindGoo: Leo Babauta, a sharer of all things Zen, yesterday reminded me of Bo Jackson, the iconic athlete, who Mark Alexander of Wiles Magazine called the “Greatest Multi-Athlete of All Time.”

And Leo reminded me of presencing, plus the ability to judge less, accept more; let go of goals, and recognize automatic self-defense mechanisms; to be like the sky-be empty, and willing to accept things as they are, wide open, not attached to your fears, not attached to control, hands open. Bo Jackson understood open hands, being present, and letting go better than anyone.

Photo by: ccsabathia52.com and http://wilesmag.com/2012/g-o-a-t-the-greatest-multi-sport-athlete-of-all-time.

Bo Jackson, former baseball and football player, the infamous Heisman Trophy winner (1985) who played running back for the Los Angeles Raiders and in baseball played left field and designated hitter for the Kansa City Royals, the Chicago White Sox, and the California Angels. Bo knew something the rest of mostly did not.

Bo knew what it truly meant to be like the sky—what it is to be open to the possibilities that everything in sports was potentially possible. His career attitude led others to believe in that potential as well, like how lava flows over land, consuming everything in its path, the energy of openness quite literally creating a tsunami of possibility. Famous for igniting the Nike brand campaign “Bo Knows,” he was also famously injured in 1990 after unbelievable records of performance in baseball and football, ending his football career and threatening his baseball career. He reportedly popped his hip back in place while on the field, followed up by a discovery he had avascular necrosis and he had to have his hip replaced.Most believed he would never return to baseball, although his first return to bat was a homerun. Throughout his career his “firsts” and records were legendary proof that in being open, and not closed off to self-induced self-defense mechanisms–the stories we hold on to that keep us from seeing and experiencing so much–a person could achieve anything they wanted.

And this brought me to presencing.

I know, right?

The Many Colors of Being Open To Possibility

What the deuce is that?

Presencing refers to the ability to sense and bring into present one’s highest future potential. Along with it Theory U suggests that as we attend to a problem or situation, so will it unfold, giving us a new framework for practicing and ultimately creating the future we want.

Presencing (or the act of being present for you bottom line people) allows for co-initiating, co-sensing, co-inspiring, co-creating, and co-evolving and is one of those areas of work at the Presencing Institute “that seeks to facilitate profound innovation and change.” PI was founded in 2006 by a group representing all sectors of society—business, government, and civil society— who believe that the crises of our time require developing and advancing awareness-based social technologies – fancy talk for more of us being present more of the time.

Why do you care? 

Firstly, you care because it’s all about how do you experience life the way Bo Jackson did? How we are able to come to know what we know, practice what we want, develop abilities that evolve us into super-athletes or just more masterful people working in the world to do better every day–this is a byproduct of mashing up advanced ideas with very relevant, right now practicals. Finding the amazing right under our noses.

So, there you go. Mashed ideas. Bo Jackson, Zen openness, and unbelievably courageous people taking on what once seemed like out there ideals, with the cajones to call it presencing and the genius to get away with it because it seems to be working.

How cool is that.

Article by Tracy Saville

For more on all of the above visit:

The Presencing Institute

Bo Jackson at the College Football Hall of Fame

Bo Jackson at the Heisman Trophy

Monday Night Football recap for November 30, 1987

Bo Jackson at the Internet Movie Database

 

 

 

 

When People Don’t Get Us

LPTrendsIdeas: When People Don’t Get Us.

Who gets you? Painting by Justin D.

Rejection. Dismissal. Abject denial. Fathers sometime don’t want their kids and they leave too early. Mothers sometimes don’t get their children, and they miss the most valuable aspects of their inner souls. Friends and co-workers often miss the most salient bits of substance in each other as they toddle to and fro from their daily grind, lost in the minutia of what’s not really even important. And all too often we are misunderstood by those we love the most, and by those from whom we seek acceptance from in deepest measure.

We would like to be islands, but we’re really not built that way. We need others to get us; we need to be affirmed.

And while attachment to the outcomes of other people’s behaviors is a kind of illness that has the capacity to shut down entire civilizations – (Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it did burn down pretty quickly at the tail end of a long fight between peoples who simply didn’t get each other) – it’s nearly impossible to detach ourselves from needing another’s acceptance.

The big idea of the week? It’s really a question, in honor of the Romney’s and Obama’s of the day and having to eat what we don’t “get”:

Who have you not gotten lately, someone who by your actions or inactions you have shut down, closed off, denied, or in some way dismissed that set another’s course in a terrible direction? 

Knowing you cannot possibly be responsible for how another person sees themselves or whether or not you accept them, might the compassion to care enough to at least try and get each other serve you and the other to better ends? Effort at least says, you notice. And that’s something.

I don’t have to get you to love and respect you. I just have to be listening and paying attention, and want to try.

GIve us your best “I don’t get…..” story!

 

 

Chris Frost (Almost) Finishes in Prime Time

LPTrendsBody: Chris Frost (Almost) Finishes Prime Time. The 3rd Installment of my extreme boxing adventure. by Christopher Karne Frost.

First before you watch the latest video here – check out the before and afters, and read the latest below.

Um, the great before pic 1

Yeah baby! Week 8 – that’s right….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before…..

8 weeks AFTER!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now to the good stuff…the tale end.

It’s hard to breathe… forcefully pulling the air in through a mouth guard isn’t easy, but you carry on. Spitting out the mouthpiece isn’t an option unless losing teeth is. Spittle flips from your lips as you exhale, the air intake firing up your nose as you drink of it deeply, feeding your lungs. I step left catching a jab, cupping it in my glove as I throw it back with an inner smirk of satisfaction. And just as I think twist left to return my own shot I take a thudding blow from the right just beyond my peripheral vision, the dull sound of a leather wrapped left hook resounds through my head.

“Shit” is all I can think, and just as quickly I get on my toes and bob and weave, throwing my own left and right as I do so, avoiding further damage as I move around my opponent seeking an opening that I may return some airmail their way and right the balance of our sparring session.

It feels like this: The world is in front of you, and it is all about the here and now, the moment; it has never been so poignantly crisp as this. For everything you know, everything you see, is encased in headgear and gloves with a snarling visage coming at you no different as you are at them. Our worlds entwined in the here and now, our existence this moment – and I’ve never felt more alive.

The new me.

Having been an adrenaline junkie for the better part of my life has given me interest in seeking many ways of obtaining “the high” of the moment, with skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking (once doing over 50 mph down a fire road at Jensen Lake, hanging on for dear life with a smile wrapped round my head the whole way), to jumping out of a perfectly good airplane at 13,000 feet and diving with the fishes at -100 feet below sea level.

Yeah, done all of these things, and enjoyed each immensely, but none of them compared to my first moment in the ring; throwing punches, dodging and taking shots, and always thinking, always seeking an angle too land my own blows and take the fight to my opposition.

Your world becomes a thing surreal in that there is no one else, just you and your opponent, and they seem a thing unreal, too, a thing bent on your destruction, not really a person.

There are so many comparisons to life and its daily struggles that played out to me in that first morning of sparring when I began this boxing journey it is difficult to replay them now, for it is something you need to experience yourself.

Your mind becomes so singularly focused on only that which is in front of you, for there is nothing else; your eyes locked onto your opponent, and there is no one else; your goal is their dismantling. Simple and straight forward, your fight or flee button is non-existent for there is nowhere to go – and nowhere you would rather be.

This is the second to my last story of my twelve-week journey – and this video – the 3rd and final cut – was shot 8 weeks in with only 4 weeks to go. We have been working more on technique and defense, which certainly can’t hurt, right? I have come full circle with our regiment of training, giving me an entirely new skill set and physique to continue my journey into this life of mine.

I lost another 6 pounds this past 4 weeks, bringing my total weight loss to 16 pounds (23 at the end) – not bad at all.

And with one frustrating realization, which Angelo made abundantly clear to me, in my night -time snack consumption. It was the “fruit” I told him. Angelo looked at me and just shook his head and I knew “shit.” Had I blown it?

You see I was knocking back the watermelon and cantaloupe as my evening snacks for nearly 3 weeks, not realizing the sugar count was completely counter-productive to my goals. I was still living in the mindset that fruits are good, eat all you want, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. But due to hard work and consistently making it to the gym, the damage was minimalized and thus weight came off.

Angelo and Cary, my guides at Prime Time Boxing, have been an endless source of motivation and resources (both dietary and boxing for the ring), and I have no doubt that had I set out on this journey on my own without their guidance and advice, I would never have met the successes I have thus far. Thank you so much Cary and Angelo, your knowledge, willingness to listen, share and offer advice have been priceless.

Chris Frost – product of great training and expert guidance at Prime Time Boxing!

Tyler, another priceless guide, worked our sparring session that morning, and with many a word of advice he too helped me keep my head on its shoulders where it belonged. And getting the opportunity to spar with Yoshi and Justin is something I will always remember and be ever thankful for the experience.

Just as we have preached so much about getting up and doing it, in this place of possibility, getting up and living, in this life we call our own, the many great memories and new experiences I have lived through Prime Time Boxing, Inc. have been both a rush, and a joy, creating lifelong memories for me and new behaviors of success.

Thanks Prime Time for the all-natural-high. I have 4 weeks to go with you and plan to make it count. I am nearly finished, at this leg of the journey anyway!

For more about Prime Time Boxing go to:

http://www.primetimeboxing.com/

For the first installments of Chris’s journey:

Chris Frost Goes Prime Time 1

Chris Frost Goes Prime Time 2

By The Light of The Moon

LPTrends Short Fiction: By The Light of The Moon.

by Kathryn Mattingly

I remember lookin’ at Tom sittin’ there lickin’ his paws contentedly and thought about when the monstrous black cat first graced me with his presence. He wasn’t really my pet. Tom wasn’t anybody’s pet. He simply became a fixture in the corners of your life as it suited him, before moving on. I knew this about Tom because one day he just showed up. I opened the squeaky screen door on a muggy July morning to retrieve a fat Sunday paper with the colored comics stickin’ out in a tempting anticipatory manner, and there he was, sprawled across my porch swing meowing crankily.

I asked him who he thought he was, layin’ there on my porch swing like that, but he only pushed his nose up into the thickly humid Illinois air and squinted his big yellow eyes at me. Tom was purring in a most flirtatious manner and was quite receptive to my sensual stroking of his sleek black fur. As if knowing I was a young widow without a soul to care for, he took full advantage of my pampering services.


I didn’t have to say here kitty twice when laying a dish of cream at his feet. After he’d licked the blue china bowl clean, he claimed the porch as his own for the morning. I felt obliged to give him left over catfish from Friday night dinner at noontime, with some more of the cream.

That was the last of it and there was none for my evening coffee, so I mozzied on over to the market later that afternoon where I picked up a few cans of cat food too, just in case Mr. Tom was still around when I returned.

He was. I all but charged him rent on the front porch after that. My flowery pillows on the white painted slats of the porch swing became covered in short black fur. Tom hollowed out a nest in the foliage by the railing, where sometimes he curled up in a ball and hid from the bothersome busyness of the day. Only in the dead of winter did he come inside to claim my rag rug in front of the toasty fire for long cozy naps. Weather permitting, when shadows of night fell to the ground like heavy dew, Tom was gone. Not to be seen again until well past dawn. As long as crickets were chirping in the thick grass out back, or a frog was heard ribbitting down by the river over yonder toward Lilac Lane, he was nowhere near.

One day a woman from Scarlet Drive came by selling raffle tickets door to door for her church. “Where’d you get that cat?” she’d asked.

“I didn’t get him. He got me. Just showed up one day and decided to stay for awhile,” I replied.

“I had me a Tom like that one.” She nodded toward the swing where Tom was perched like a king on the flowered pillows watching her. He did have a knowing look in his glowing gold eyes, and was switching and twitching his tail, which was not at all his usual bored demeanor for my guests.

“He went and run off on me one night after a full blown harvest moon so big and yellow you could sort your socks by it. Truth be known he ran off on me every night, but this time he didn’t come back,” she added, staring at him all the while.

“Tom’s been here going on a year now. When’d you lose your cat?” I asked, hoping the time didn’t match at all.

“Oh, it’s been about that long,” she offered up. “How’d you know his name was Tom?”

“Well, I didn’t. But he looks like any typical ole’ tomcat to me, so it fit.”

“Ain’t nothin typical about that cat,” she scolded. “Look at him, lying there like he owns the place. That’s one pristine pampered animal for an alley runner. Don’t look like he’s ever met his match in a feline scrape.”

“Yep, he’s a big healthy one for sure,” I agreed. “Did you get your Tom as a kitten?” I asked, wondering if my Tommy had ever been a kitten, he seemed so ageless.

“Nope. My Tom showed up looking for a free meal all growed and sassy, and took over my tiny fenced yard as if he ruled it, sleeping in the petunia beds whenever he wished.”

I sighed with relief when she left, and hadn’t bought a raffle ticket, hoping she wouldn’t come back. I’d grown rather fond of Tom and didn’t want to lose him to Scarlet Drive, whether he’d wandered over here from there or not. I decided that my Tommy most likely had a whole slew of homes he’d borrowed until boredom or more pressing feline matters summoned him.

I realized one day he would no longer grace my porch either, lickin’ cream off his chin with a long scratchy pink tongue, or batting flies after a good days napping, just prior to his running off to romp down by the river, slinking between thick reeds along the bank, catchin’ any number of interesting critters for amusement.

I heard once about cats dancin’ by the light of the moon. My Auntie Jane told me the story when I was just a child. She said as a little girl she followed her calico kitty one day down to the river. The harvest moon was full and bright, and she knew those riverbanks like the back of her hand, so she wasn’t scared at all. When she got to the clearing around the furthest bend it nearly took her breath away, all the cats there meowing long and low to the moon, rolling around in the grass like they was playin’.

And then my Auntie Jane says she must have fallen asleep, ‘cause she remembers hearing fiddle music all of a sudden. Coming from nowhere really, but so loud and sweet it made your soul ache. And before she knew it those silly cats were twisting and turning into lords and ladies, looking so fine in their silky gowns and satiny tuxes, tall and slender, every one of them pretty as a picture. They were elegant and all in tune, partnered up and swirling about.

Auntie Jane says she must have been dreamin’ there in the dewy grass, exhausted from chasing down her calico pet, ‘cause several of those handsome people were young adults she knew to be deader than doornails. One was Carly Canton, who had drowned that summer at sweet sixteen. Carly’d been a bit of a wild one, with long freckled legs and wavy red hair. As red as Calico’s brightest patches of fur, Auntie Jane had observed, which might have contributed to the dreamin’ and all, she admitted.

Poor Carly was caught by an undertow and everyone believed it was shameful what with her having been drinkin’ that cold frothy beer at her tender age. No excuse just ‘cause it were hotter than blazes, all the adults had said. Never, never drink and swim!

Auntie Jane especially remembered that summer when Carly died, ‘cause the calico cat appeared not two days later. She’d cheered everyone up a little, playing with the dozens and dozens of butterflies flitting about in the fields. Auntie Jane had begged please mama let me keep her until finally her mama had said alright then Jane, just quit a pesterin’ me!

“Billy Mosier was one of them lads in the stylish black tuxes, out there dancin’ like a jitterbug on a tree stump,” Auntie Jane had said. “He’d wrecked his suped up sports car at not quite nineteen that very same summer. Wrapped it clear around a big oak tree just outside of town. Billy was a looker, and all the girls mourned his death for quite a while. He had a way about him, what with that dark silky hair fallin’ over thick lashed eyes,” Auntie Jane admitted to me with a sigh. “He always dressed in black, from his wrangler jeans to his shiny leather jackets and polished boots. ‘Cept in summer. Then he drove the girls wild with his sleeveless T’s, showing all them muscles on his big strong arms.” Auntie Jane laughed when she told me that.

Can you imagine such a dream where all the young people, whose lives were cut short by an untimely death, turn into finicky felines and frolic about under the harvest moon? To think they became human again for one night of romping good fun down by the river! My Auntie Jane was a wonder with her tales of such silliness. She never lacked for imagination, and yet I believed she had her wits about her more so than those that would say otherwise.

Tom came crawlin’ back after the last harvest moon plum tuckered out enough to have been dancin’ all night for sure. Lookin like something the cat dragged in, I told him, but he only closed them bright yellow eyes to my smart-alecky tone. If I didn’t know any better, I’d believe the entire tale Auntie Jane told me, ‘cause that tomcat barely woke up long enough to eat for nearly a week. No more roamin’ the hot Indian summer nights after that either, just rolling on his back in the dewy grass out front, and batting an occasional firefly.

This particular summer my niece Lillian Landis graced Tom and me with her presence. Her mama done had it with Lillian, and I thought a cooling off period might not be such a bad thing. I offered to take the rebellious teen into my home for a spell. My sister, Rosie, was grateful to send her to me so she could make it through a day without tears and trauma. Sis knew I couldn’t keep that child from her evening escapades with all the other teens in town, but I did promise to make the lovely Lillian compromise between cautious conduct and careless carousing.

She was a lovely sight, that girl. Missy Lil had attributes to match her name, being a delicate child with smooth lilywhite skin, and a fragile sweetness about her despite the rebelliousness of late. One night I prepared to follow Lil out the door and down to the river, where I’d heard them naughty young folk were skinny-dipping and laughin’ up a storm on these hot muggy nights we’d had of late. The river backed up into one big pond by the cliffs and it was there I could see them all clearly in the light of the near full moon. They were lyin’ about real snuggly like and kissin’ between drinkin’ and smokin’, and jumpin’ into the water to cool off their sweaty skin. Probably more overheated from all that kissin’ than the suffocatin’ weather.

I decided right then and there that my niece would not be returning to the banks of the river where sin was runnin’ near amuck amongst our wild and willful youth. The only thing keeping me from draggin’ her sorry self home right then was the mere fact of rapid waters between us flowin’ steady and strong along the banks of my field and the cliffs of her rompin’ grounds. By the time I would forge my way to the other side, she would surely already be headin’ home.

Oh how I longed to see her lilywhite face by midnight, which was our agreed upon curfew, but she didn’t appear at that hour, or the next. Finally I called Rosie and the police. They showed up at dawn with Tom, who was dismayed to come home from his prowling about only to find a parcel of strangers on his coveted porch. At noon Rosie and I sat on the swing exhausted from worry. Tom was curled up tight nestled in the foliage beside the porch rail. Nothing was stirring but the bees on the honeysuckle.

A squad car pulled up and my heart near leapt into my throat as the officer approached us. Sure enough our Lillian had been found, her sweet little body all mangled like a crushed flower, fallen over the cliffs by the river. Lots of alcohol was found in her blood after tests determined she had stumbled to her death. Rosie was overtaken with grief and there was nothing I could do to help. My own sadness made me restless as a cat; pouncing on anyone who dared knock at my door for weeks after the funeral.

I had almost forgotten it was time for that bright harvest moon again, until it slowly began to rise one night, the sky all-aglow from its shimmering haze. Tom slinked off with a decidedly perky prance that evening, his sleek black fur nearly standing on end. For what I wondered? I thought about my Auntie Jane and her crazy story of the dancing cats turning into lords and ladies, takin’ on familiar faces of the young and foolish, whirling about in the light of that big yellow sphere, defying their tragic deaths. What nonsense it was, but still, it soothed my aching heart to think that just maybe my Miss Lil could be all footloose and fancy free like that for a full harvest moon, despite the fall that brought her future to a sudden halt.

I snuck down to the river that night, and was able to see every plump ripe blackberry on the bushes along the bank, that moon was so bright. It did take awhile to reach the shore, as I’d near forgotten what a hefty hike it was. Pantin’ up a storm I peeked through the reeds and wondered what them teens from town were doing on the other shore, by the pooled up water near the cliffs. I soon forgot about them entirely, as my eyes beheld a feline fantasy. Every cat imaginable was lying about, swishing their tales and licking their paws, as I lie in the cool grass and watch through my bed of reeds. Next I cannot be sure what happened. I suspect I fell asleep from weariness and dreamed the dreams of Auntie Jane long ago. For soon every cat began twisting and twitching about until their bodies slithered into fancy gowned gals and gussied up suitors.

I watched them dance eloquently and became mesmerized by soft melodies on a faraway fiddle. Shadows moved across a voluptuous harvest moon, and kept in motion with the haunting tunes. I dared to believe I saw our Miss Lillian, all titillating in green taffeta, her emerald eyes set off by the stunning gown. She danced with an alluring young stranger who could have been Billie Mosier, what with his dark tousled hair tumbling over thickly lashed eyes.

I awoke, at just past dawn, with the field before the flowing river clear and void of all movement, cat or ghost either one. Dazed, I stumbled home and slept til well past noon. When I slid open the squeaky screen door to glance about for Mr. Tom, he was nowhere to be seen, but I had to look twice upon the gently rocking swing, for its yellow flowered pillows held another feline now. A dainty white cat lay there all prettily perched upon her back haunches, whining a high-pitched meow at me. I near stared right through her glowing green eyes and then quickly went to fetch some cream.

A few weeks later Rosie came by, her first time out since dear Lillian’s death. She asked me who was playin’ queen, lookin’ all pampered there on the porch swing. I told my sister I had no idea where that Tom had run off to, or why the white tabby now fancied this her home. Rosie asked what was I gonna call the cat, for Tom would never do.

I came and stood beside my sis there at the door and gazed upon the sublime creature that had left her queenly swing every evening to carouse along the river.  I shrugged an indication of not having bothered with a name, and Rosie took it upon herself to call the fluffy feline Snowball. T’wasn’t a chance in hell the rebellious bundle of fur would allow for such a silly name. My choice was more fitting, although I was quite careful not to mention it around my dear sister, who packed up and moved to Florida in order to forget her pain.

My new feline friend and I have snuggled up every morning since then on the white slat swing, where I read the daily paper and my delicate Miss Lily drinks her cream. I’ve seen Tom on several occasions, hangin’ about when the shadows fall sideways and evening dew begins to gather. He sits off aways in the distance beyond the picket gate and waits for Lily to finish grooming her dainty little face with her sticky pink tongue. When finished, she bolts from the chair in a most graceful manner and is off with her tomcat, who has come a callin’ …to roam along the river in search of whatever it is that can only be seen by the light of the moon.

By The Light of The Moon has twice received recognition for excellence and is published in 2 different anthologies: WomanScapes by DLSIJ Press and Internationally Yours: Prize Winning Stories by Joyous Publishing. 

Other work by Kathryn Mattingly: The Stein Collection



the simple solution

Opening yourself up to getting past the fear.

LPTrendsPeople & Mind: The Fear of Life and the Simple Act of Inward Looking That Snuffs It Out. Seeker John Sherman has a way of describing how to get past fear, and I submit it here, according to his copyright use agreement, and give him complete credit for the clarity and knowing. Few have seen this clear path for people to finally find inner peace.

-MIchael Wilson

Michael Wilson

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This essay was first published online on March 31, 2011 and as an ebook on September 28, 2011. John Sherman can be found at: http://www.johnsherman.org/. This essay was revised and updated on May 19, 2012. His photo is also found at this site. All of the following is John Sherman’s wisdom.

The Origin of the Fear of Life

The fear of life rises up automatically in us, most likely when we are ejected from the womb at actual physical birth. Without warning, we are abruptly awakened into a wild, raging storm of what we will eventually come to call experience, feeling, sensation, emotion, and so forth. Consciousness of our existence is driven from its deep slumber in the womb into a startling eruption of violent and erratic movement, pain, pressure, noise, glaring light, and all the drama that attends our expulsion into the world. Fear and contraction inevitably ensue.

The Effects of the Fear of Life

As time passes and we see that we have managed to survive that first onslaught of raw experience, the drama and intensity of the fear of life begins to fade into the background. For some of us, most of the time, it recedes into a barely noticeable murmur of anxiety, worry, discontent and distrust of our own lives that hums along incessantly as the background of all experience. It’s the nagging sense that life itself is the problem with being human; that life itself lacks some essential quality needed for our well-being, or includes something very wrong. It’s the sense that life will never quite live up to its promise.

This murmur of anxiety and discontent becomes, for most of us, the fundamental, unexamined assumption that shapes our minds, and forms the actual point of view from which we perceive our lives. Limited by that point of view, and guided by that assumption, we learn to create understandings as to the state of our lives, and to take action based on those understandings.

Because of this, we have come to believe that the solution to the problem of being human can be found only by seeking out and destroying the things in our minds that are wrong and hurtful and threatening, and by seeking out and grasping the things in our minds that feel righteous and safe and satisfying.

We learn to resist automatically: we believe that life is inherently treacherous, and dangerous, and this belief creates a clear and present need to keep a watchful eye out, looking for threat and the means to defeat threat.

We learn to be protective, defensive, guarded and closed in our relationships with one another, lest we be tricked by them, or miss the chance of salvation by them.

We learn to believe the billowing, shifting coloration of the life force that forms the background of our minds to be existential and emotional states that belong to us. We believe those states to be the very nature of our lives, of ourselves really, and we lose hope.

Our Failed Attempts at Dealing with the Fear of Life

We have a long history of failure in seeking satisfaction by employing the strategies of understanding, grasping, destroying, and ignoring. Many have come to believe that it’s the existence of the understandings and reactions themselves that is the problem, and that often leads to practices and pursuits designed to produce mental silence and quiescence. Some have concluded that thought itself is the problem, and should be stopped. And there are even those who recommend the snuffing out of ego, which is the Latin word for “I,” and is nothing more than the name I call myself.

Now, all of these survival techniques and strategies — righteousness, resistance, clinging, indifference, murderous aggression, and so forth — have had good reason to appear and to be adopted by us in our own defense. We are mistaken in doing so, but with good cause. Life can seem profoundly untrustworthy and menacing, even as it beguiles us with false hope and promise.

For most of us, the default, tried, and true response to the dissatisfaction with life is steadfast, silent denial.

Trying to Cure the Disease by Treating Its Symptoms

We’ve been trying forever to fix our lives by reforming our minds; we try to make the mind sweet, loving, and open-hearted rather than closed and mean-spirited; intelligent rather than stupid; sane rather than insane; clear rather than confused. But the mind — its character, its strengths, its weaknesses, its assumptions, its point of view, its volatility, its emotions, its thoughts, its wrongness and its rightness — the mind is not the problem. The mind is nothing really but a cloud of effects, many of which are symptoms of the fear of life. Not seeing this, pretty much everything we have done seeking an end to the underlying discontent that spoils our lives, we have done trying to change the effects of the discontent, which is to say, trying to cure the disease by treating its symptoms.

And of course, nothing works. How could it? There is nothing inherently wrong with seeking relief from the symptoms, but treating the symptoms will not cure this disease.

I do think it’s useful to think of the fear of life as a disease. It’s an affliction that came upon us without warning at our birth. Its presence has nothing whatsoever to do with the nature of our being, the clarity of our consciousness, our righteousness, our willingness, our understandings and beliefs, our worthiness or worthlessness. We had nothing to say about it, and nothing could have been done to prevent its arising. Its effects radiate throughout the life — arising in the past, spoiling the present, and projecting itself into the future.

And despite all our best efforts to eradicate the disease by attacking its symptoms, despite the devotion and commitment of the saints, despite the brilliance and insight that are to be found in the wisdom teachings, despite the rise of capitalism and with it wealth, and education, and time enough to look into these matters for ourselves, we have failed even to do much in the way of alleviating the symptoms beyond the self-denying impulse to become numb to them by a variety of means. Truth is, the vast majority of us live and die in a state of low-level misery and neurotic alienation from our own lives, punctuated by moments of passion and despair, silenced only by death.

It’s not surprising that we’ve failed. We’ve been acting from an unseen and false belief all this time; the belief that human life itself is the problem with human life. It doesn’t take enlightenment to see that there is not much hope of finding a safe home in life when we are swimming in the river of pessimism and despair that flows from that belief.

We Can Do Something About the Fear of Life

There must be something we can do. Clearly, some of us — not many, but some — seem to have found peace and freedom in life. The Buddha comes to mind, for example, and many others can be found in different times and traditions, all of whom seem to have achieved a profound reconciliation and fulfillment in human life. And, although they have been very successful in evoking in us the feel of what they see, they have had little success in providing us with any truly useful advice on what to do that might allow us to see directly for ourselves what they saw.

I want to suggest something to you that you can do for yourself that works. I know that it works because it worked for me, and it worked for Carla, my wife, and it has worked for a growing number of people around the world now; people who have, maybe even despite their better judgment, actually tried to do what I ask.

I do have a theory as to why it works, but my certainty that it works comes from my own experience, rather than from a theoretical understanding, and the why of it is actually entirely beside the point. So here it is, the simple act of inward looking that snuffs out the fear of life.

If you will try, with your whole heart, to bring the beam of your attention into direct contact with the reality of your nature, you will snuff out the fear of life, which is the first cause of all human misery. I call this action looking at yourself. If you will just try to look at yourself with your mind’s eye, the fear disease will disappear, and with it the perception of your life as a problem to be solved, a threat to be destroyed, or the hiding place of some secret treasure that might bring you fulfillment and satisfaction at some future time. It’s that simple.

Step 1: Learn to Move the Beam of Your Attention at Will

To begin, just relax for a moment, and notice the obvious fact that you have the power to move your attention at will.

As you read this, move your attention away from the text for a moment, and direct it instead to the feel of your breathing. Notice the feel of your chest and belly expanding and contracting, and then bring it back here to this page. Do that a couple of times so that you become familiar with what I mean by “moving the beam of your attention at will.” That action of moving attention at will, as you just did, is all that’s needed to accomplish what I am asking you to do. The more you practice this simple act, the more you’ll become familiar with how it feels to do it. And the more familiar you become with the feel of it, the more skillful and direct you will be in the effort to move the beam of attention where it must go.

Step 2:Turn the Beam of Your Attention Inward

Use that skill to actually turn the beam of attention inward, trying to make direct, unmediated contact with the reality of your own nature, by which I mean you, just plain and simple you. You know what you are, and you will surely recognize yourself when you see yourself in this way. It really is that simple. Repeat this as often as it occurs to you to do so.

There is no step three.

A Few Tips About Where to Look

The act of inward looking may be simple, but the actual doing of it can seem anything but easy. But consider this: the feel of you is the only thing that is always here. All else — thought, belief, understanding, things seen and heard and felt, emotions, pain, pleasure — literally all else comes and goes. So, looking for you is looking only for what is always here. Anything that is newly arrived, no matter how wonderful it may be, cannot be you. Likewise, anything that has been here and left, even if it might return, cannot be you.

Furthermore, you are the plain and unmoving field in which all else comes and goes. You have nothing to give to you or take away from you and you are, therefore, profoundly uninteresting to the mind’s eye, which has no purpose other than to keep vigilant, to stay on the lookout for things to grasp, things to reject and destroy, and things that are safe to ignore in a forest of bright, shiny, ever-moving, fantastically fascinating parade of phenomena.

The fear of life is a kind of auto-immune disease. Its only function, insane as it may be, is to keep you safe from your own life, and this mission demands ceaseless attention to incoming phenomena. Because of this, its natural orientation is ever outward. You, on the other hand, are wholly and perfectly inward (more on that below).

Here are a few suggestions that some have found helpful in this endeavor:

Try to bring to mind a memory of a moment in your early childhood. It doesn’t need to be anything important: being in a room with adults, leaving a movie theater, looking out the window, any memory will do, so long as you can evoke a reasonably accurate memory of the feel of it. Now, just for a second, see if you can remember what it felt like to be you then. Not what the event felt like, but what it felt like to be you. You may get just a fleeting whiff of it and, if you do, you will almost certainly recognize that it is exactly the feel of you now;

Notice the fact that you are certain of your own existence, in a way that you are certain of nothing else in the world. Look there, at that certainty, because that certainty itself is just another name for you;

Look for what is always here, what never moves, or changes, or comes, or goes. Everything in the universe moves. Everything moves but you;

Look for the person-ness of you. Nothing in the universe feels like a person but you;

See that there is literally nothing inward but you. Many sensations and experiences are thought to be inward that are not. Emotions, thoughts, visions, dreams, desires, aversions, pains, pleasures, experiences of all kinds that appear in the interior of your mind are outward from you, and when you attend to them, you are looking outward — no matter how inward they may feel. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with looking outward, it might even be said that looking outward is the main occupation in human life.

It’s just that when you are seeking to look at yourself, outward is the one direction in which you cannot be seen. If you can understand this distinction, you might find your way home using outward phenomena to funnel your attention into the right orientation. When attention is turned truly inward, it is looking directly at you, and nothing else.

There are probably more tips like these to be garnered from those who have travelled this road, but they are all, as the saying goes, merely fingers pointing at the moon, and the moon they point to is only you. In the end, you must do this for yourself. It is, after all, you that you seek to touch with the beam of your attention, and no one can possibly know the feel of you but you.

Your Attitude and Expectations Are Irrelevant

Understand that it may be that you never get an actual, recognizable experience to confirm that you have succeeded; as I said, you are not very interesting to the mind’s eye, and the contact with the reality of your nature will be so fleeting — a tenth of a second or less — that you may never know that it happened. But here’s the good news: it doesn’t matter. It seems clear, from the common experience of many by now, that a sincere effort cannot fail, no matter how strong the feeling of failure might be. We are not, after all, trying to do this to find out who we are, or to understand what we are, or to dissolve into our true nature and become what we are, or any other such thing. We do this only to cure the disease of the fear of life with the medicine of inward looking.

This act requires only one thing: the intent to turn attention inward to try to get the direct experience of the reality of our nature. It doesn’t matter whether that intent arises and is met with distaste, or fear, or dismissal. If the intent arises, the looking will occur and, if the looking occurs, the end is certain.

One other interesting aspect of this effort is that neither your attitude nor your expectations seem to have any effect on the end result. The intent to look at yourself can be evoked for any reason at all. Maybe you decide to look at yourself because you want to be happy, or you want to save the world, or you want to be free of pain. Or you may think that you are not 100% committed to the looking and, therefore, you wonder if it will work. None of that matters at all. All that matters are the moments when you look. The looking does the work, regardless of what you think about it, or what you may expect to gain from it.

The act of inward looking is in no way an end in itself; it is only the means to be free of this disease. When its work is done, I predict that you will find yourself so fully engaged in life that you will have trouble remembering what all the fuss was about that brought you to the looking in the first place.

The Course of Recovery is Uncertain But Your Success Is Guaranteed

The course of recovery from the fear-of-life disease is unpredictable. For some, things clear up pretty easily, with little inner torment; for others, the course of recovery can be quite painful and prolonged. My own recovery was quite unpleasant. It took a year or so for me even to notice that the fever of discontent had broken. It was another five years before I began to notice how profoundly different and easy my relationship with life had already become, and more than twelve years before I could speak clearly about what I had found.

So, how long it will take, and how difficult it will seem to you is uncertain. But if you will just look, the end is certain. You will lose the sense that life is out to get you, and the sense that you are trapped here. You will lose the felt need to protect yourself from the thoughts, the emotions, the opinions, the sensations, and all else that comes and goes within you and makes up your actual, ever-changing life. You will come to see that the things that come and go within you are deeply interesting, in a way that you could not have imagined when your view was clouded by fear.

John Sherman

In the end, you will find yourself fully immersed in your life — as you have always been. But now, you will find yourself enthralled and interested, engaged in, enlivened, and fed by the way life actually unfolds. You will see clearly that your life is the fulfillment and satisfaction you have been seeking elsewhere. You will go sane.

Again, find John Sherman at http://www.johnsherman.org/. 

That’s my story. Michael Wilson.