Swifting is a short story I wrote about hopping between parallel universes. Always remember: Nothing is impossible in the Realm of Possibility! Enjoy!
“How do I tell her? How can I tell her? There’s no way she’d believe me. Hell, sometimes I don’t even believe me. How can this be real? It can’t be real. Can it?” His knuckles whitened under his grip on the bathroom sink. But he was completely immersed in his thoughts and didn’t notice. Nor did he notice the intense half-insane face staring back at him in the mirror. To be honest, he didn’t know who he was anymore. Every time he looked in the mirror lately, he felt like he was staring at someone else—a different version of himself who was always something of a stranger.
“Forget it. I can’t do it. I can’t tell her,” he announced to his reflection. Then thought better of it. “What am I saying? You don’t fuckin’ care. You’re somewhere else right now. Every version of yourself is simultaneously shifting into a different place. You’re probably shitting yourself right along with me. Well it’s good to know that I’m not going crazy alone.” He laughed softly at his own joke and brushed his teeth. He couldn’t tell her, but he had to tell someone. He was going out.
“You can’t tell her shit man. You got that? You can’t utter a fucking word of this crazy shit to her. She’ll see you for the nutjob you are. Don’t. Say. A goddam word. You hear me?”
He had to hand it to Darren. He had a way of being himself no matter where he was. He admired that about him and it was largely the reason he was his best friend. He was a constant. When a person can’t keep their consciousness stable, constants help them cope. Constants offer grounding in a world that changes more than it stays the same. Darren was who he was. Short. Bristly. Built like a tank. Cursed like a sailor. He made no qualms about who he was or what he thought. He could always be trusted to speak truth, no matter what that truth may be. And most importantly, that never changed about him.
“Dude, you don’t understand,” he told Darren, “Shit is getting bad between us. Bad. All our fights end now with her telling me to go find someone else. I’m dying over here. And don’t get me started on our Bella…Fuck, man. I don’t even know which version of her I’m gonna get. Is this a place where we’re together? Or are we at each other’s throats again? It wears on a guy, ya know?”
Sometimes Darren regretted buying into Kurt’s story when he sold him drugs the first time. Time travel or universe hopping or other shit he was sure came straight from science fiction novels was what the guy talked about. Darren didn’t know for sure, he just thought the guy was kooky and amusing. He was pretty convinced that the drugs were only making whatever the fuck was wrong with Kurt worse. He almost felt bad for the guy. He really did. But his money was good. And the story was good at least. Better than most of the junkie insanity he listened to on a daily basis. But really, he put up with Kurt because he bought the drinks. And a person that did that was a friend, as far as Darren was concerned.
“Then fucking leave her already, man. Shit. It’s always coming back to that woman poppin’ off or doing some stupid shit. Man, that’s prolly why you’re going crazy. She’s driving you straight off a cliff. I read an article that talked about how women nagging their men all the time actually kills them quicker. It’s true. Science and shit. But not you, man. You’re over here all, ‘but I think I might possibly love her sometimes when I don’t hate her fucking guts’. It’s bullshit man. Fucking bullshit. And you need to man up and opt out before you end up in a damn nuthouse or worse.”
“Yeah I hear that,” he said morosely. But he wasn’t really paying attention. He’d heard all this before. He knew this narrative by heart because it was whata he should be doing. But he couldn’t. He could never bring himself to ‘opt out’ as Darren put it. So he changed the subject. “Lately, I’ve been getting this visions. These mental flashes of these other versions of me offing themselves one by one. In all these different and weird ways. It’s like it’s moving down the line and I’m trying to keep ahead of it.”
“Oh man. You’re back to that freaky multiple universes shit? So tell me this: what happens when one of these other you’s puts one in his skull? Why don’t all of you die then?”
“It’s not how it works. We are connected to our other selves, but they are each an independent clone born of the choices we didn’t make. I think that movie ‘What the Bleep Do We Know’ explains it best.”
“What the Bleep Do We Know.”
“Never heard of it.”
“Huh. Probably not a movie here, then,” Kurt said to himself.
“Or you coulda just dreamed it up in that nutty head of yours.”
Darren checked the time on his smart phone. “Well as much as I love our little chat, I’ve got other business.”
Kurt had another beer, musing about his next move when he noticed the woman sitting at the bar. He hadn’t seen her before, he’d been too engrossed in venting to his friend. But damn if she wasn’t staring at him without staring at him; trying to act nonchalant and failing miserably. He normally wasn’t a brazen man—never could find the courage to talk to an attractive woman—and this stranger was definitely attractive. Brunette hair failing over her shoulders and halfway down her shapely back with a face of a movie star and body to match. But this wasn’t a pick up. She was watching him. Had been watching him and he wanted to know why.
He got up and made his way to the restroom where he splashed cold water on his face while trying to muster some grit. Whenever he emerged from the bathroom, she was still there stirring ice in an empty glass. He wasted no time in approaching her lest his grit fizzle out, and said in his best imitation of a macho voice, “Hey there.”
She looked him up and down, making no effort to hide the fact she was studying him before replying, “I need another drink.”
“I don’t work here. You better tell the bartender.”
“I know that,” she snapped smoothly. “I’m asking you to buy me a drink.”
“O.K…Wow. That was really forward.”
“You gonna buy the drink or what?”
“Yeah. Sure. Why not?” Kurt signaled for another round and sat down next to the intriguing brunette. “So what’s your name?”
“No? Your name is No? Man your parents were mean.”
She laughed and it sounded like a thousand crystals tinkling together. “I meant, no you can’t get in my pants. You’re with someone.”
“How d’you know that?”
“You’ve got a total dad bod going on. Vain enough to know you should look good but too lazy to give a shit.”
“Oh that’s hilarious,” the sour tone in Kurt’s voice was unmistakable.
The Brunette smiled disarmingly. “Look I get it. Depression can do that to people.”
“So now I’m depressed?”
“Definitely. You failed as a photographer. You failed as a—what was it you called it?—Oh yeah. Free lance journalist. You’ve failed as a partner to your wife. You’ve failed as a father. And most importantly, you’ve failed to remain rooted in one place for years now. Ever since your ‘accident’ with the train.”
The color fled Kurt’s face and he stumbled out of his chair. The barstool clattered to the floor as he backed away. “Who…who are you?”
“I’m a friend.” Her disarming smile seemed infinitely less so, taking on the qualities of a sinister leer instead.
He backed quickly toward the door. “Who the fuck ARE you? How do you know about me? About my Swifting?” The first few weeks after he realized his universe hopping, Kurt did an internet search and found an online forum dedicated to this very phenomenon, which they called “Swifting”. The forum was a safe, anonymous place full of people like him where stories were shared, theories discussed, lost loves and lives lamented, but most importantly, it offered camaraderie. It didn’t take very long before the forum became a constant and those on it like real friends. Lately though, it had been quiet and Kurt couldn’t help but wonder why.
“Kurt! Don’t you dare split without paying,” growled the bartender. A burly vet Kurt had no intention of pissing off.
“Hey yeah. About that, I’m gonna leave it right here.” He threw a wad of cash on the table nearest him and bolted out the door.
“What the hell was that about?” the bartender asked the Brunette.
“I don’t know. Threatened by beauty, perhaps?”
The bartender grunted and shuffled over to collect the money from the table, “Damn nut jobs. City’s full of em.”
SWIFT_K: Any1 on right now?
GRL_BLU: Hey. What’s up K?
SWIFT_K: Just had some crazy shit go down.
SWIFT_K: This girl at the bar started talking to me like she knew about me. About my Swifting.
INCOMING PM FROM GRL_BLU
GRL_BLU: I think you should run.
SWIFT_K: WTF?? Y???
GRL_BLU: Look. I don’t know NEthing for sure. OK?
GRL_BLU: I was chatting with Kid_Kode the other day. Said he met some1 at Mal Mart. Some bald guy, I think. Said dude knew a lot about him.
SWIFT_K: WTF??? Where is Kode? He on?
GRL_BLU: No. Hasn’t been on in 3 days.
SWIFT_K: Shit. Shit. Shit! We should def not be logging on here anymore.
GRL_BLU: I know. But this place is a constant.
SWIFT_K: Not anymore.
GRL_BLU: I guess… Good luck, K. I’ll email you my info if you ever need to get in touch.
GRL_BLU: Be careful OK?
SWIFT_K: You know me. 😀
Kurt shut down the computer and immediately started stuffing clothes into a duffel bag.
“Kurt, what are you doing?” Esme, his wife, stood in the doorway holding their daughter.
“Baby, we gotta go. Get you and Bella packed. Quickly!”
“Where are we going?” she had known Kurt for what seemed like lifetimes. She knew every quirk, every trigger for mood swings. At least she thought she did. Lately, he hadn’t been the same. Almost as if he were a new person every few days. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Baby, we don’t have a lot of time. We aren’t safe…I don’t think…”
“Stop it, Kurt. You’re scaring me.” The baby agreed and started crying, sensing the tense and uncertain energy around her parents.
He briefly explained his encounter at the bar, leaving out the Swifting details.
“So you think this woman is after you to kill you? Why?”
Kurt searched his imagination for a plausible lie to go along with his fantastic truth. “I, uh, have been on these online forums. Umm…grassroots activist type stuff. And people started disappearing off the forums lately. Word is, they got approached by someone with a lot of information about them before they disappear.”
“We gotta call the police!”
“No!” Kurt exploded and then wrangled his control back. “That’s not—I don’t think they can—or will—help us. Please just pack your shit and go to your mother’s.”
“My mother lives in Arizona. You know that.”
“Yeah. Perfect. Get there. Fast. I’ll drop you guys off at the airport. Catch the next flight you can.”
“What’re you gonna do?”
“I’ve got to figure this out. I’ll catch up to you when things have calmed down.”
She stared at him, boring into his soul, trying to decide if he was serious or lying to get her out of town so he could fuck around with whatever little bitch he’d been screwing. Kurt had been acting weird lately, and she automatically attributed his odd behavior to cheating. She was convinced that was the reason for the deterioration of their relationship. It had to be. Nothing else made sense.
He shifted uncomfortably beneath her gaze. “Esme, please. I’m serious about this. It’s not safe. Please. If not for me then for Bella. Go to your mother’s!”
“O.K.” she finally conceded. “For Bella. I have two weeks I can take. Will you have your government-wants-to-kill-me shit figured out by then?”
“For sure. I’ll see you there in a week. Tops. Now please, pack and let’s go already!”
Hello blogoverse! I’ve been away for a while working on my new collection of short stories, Twisted Yarns! I am pleased and more than a little excited to announce that it is now available for sale on the publisher’s site! That’s right. Now is your opportunity to delve into the warped and whimsical worlds that bounce around my imagination. And while you’re there, check out some of my other titles. Amazon and other retailer availability is coming soon. Cover design credit goes to the ever-talented Chris Deichman.
So what are you waiting for? Open a door to your imagination and get lost in Twisted Yarns!
An old fragment, like a glimpse into another world I never got to explore. Enjoy!!
Whispered mumbling…almost ominous.
Followed by the clank of metal on metal.
The dreamscape pulls out to reveal two shadowed figures in cloaks. They are dimly lit by an eerie orange glow from behind. The impression of cobblestone under my feet becomes a reality. I don’t know how I manage to take all this down, my hands are shaking so bad. I’m not sure who they are—these cloaked figures. I’m not sure what they are doing, but the dread, the terror begins to sink its claws into my skull. And look, now I’m staring at black on white again. Words just tumbling onto this nonexistent paper like so many delicate drops of blood falling from an oblique hand—drip…drip…drip–with a methodical pitter-patter onto bone white parchment. Equally as nonexistent, but a lot more real than these invisible binary codes that follow my every sentence.
“There is a dark side to this. This violent dance of self important monkeys, this perpetual staccato razor blade rhythm, this coveted but mistrusted gift. I am not the evil that has come to destroy you, but the darkness that has come to liberate you.”
This is the manifesto that is pounded like a desperate symphony onto the screaming keys of an ancient typewriter. In the background is a large room fashioned from roughly cut stones, like something in a castle. A roaring fire lights the room as it warms. Medieval almost. And then the fingers once again begin their bleak concerto.
“I am staring off to my left. There is nothing. Just…nothing. I feel that at any moment my whole world could just topple over into this infinite space. Sometimes I feel the tremors of chaos rumbling beneath my flimsy plane of reality. They warn me, they are the harbingers of truth that reassure me that when it is all over, the world will be a much better place. A much purer one. But that small reassurance still won’t stop the nightmares.
I am the child of a lost generation. A generation discarded and scorned because we are the final prophets of a dying race. The last hope and the last great failure. We don’t need anyone’s prayers. We are the product of answered prayers. This is God’s plea to us all. His final proclamation before the universe corrects itself. We are fighters, we are healers we are the purest scapegoats a tainted world has to offer for sacrifice. This makes us cry. This makes us bleed. This makes us willing to ensure our martyrdom is for a reason…a higher purpose. We will not heed the ignorant demands of those who would discard us silently, stealthy and with dark and selfish intention. You want details. You want a story, I can tell. You want something you can wrap your brain around. Something to relate to. Well, shining inside the depths of every single word is a story. How can I tell them all? They really tell themselves.”
Honestly, I think the gentlemen is simply rambling at this point. I think he is masking something. The truth behind the veil.
It occurred to me that I don’t have any favorite Joel Olsteen moments. So on with the story!
He dozed off during the next day’s staff meeting. He hated being verbally reprimanded, especially by his principal. The principal, Joseph Eubank, was a handsome bachelor around 45. All the female teachers, married or otherwise, fawned over Eubank, especially Claire Cosca the English teacher.
Dick had harbored an unrequited love for Claire for five years. He’d never had the guts to ask her out. All he could muster was covertly riffling through her things, his rat nose twitching, searching for any sign of her scent. So far, he’d collected an empty perfume bottle, a battered blurry pic of her and some other guy (Dick cut out the other guy’s likeness out and replaced it with his own) and a Kleenex she staunched a bloody nose with which he’d dug out of the trashcan. These treasures he adored and lovingly doted on nightly in his own twisted ritual of zealous devotion. Dick swore he’d have Claire, even if it killed him.
Mr. Eubank did have the balls to ask Claire out and she joyously accepted, thus beginning an ongoing love affair. Richard had watched from afar, the little seed of jealousy growing into a full-fledged hate tree. Dick hated Eubank, more than he hated any other person, living or dead, beside his father.
That night, he dragged his cot downstairs and put it near the front door next to the big window. He decided to drink his beer before he went to bed, hoping to spend the night in alcohol soaked unconsciousness. He almost succeeded. He’d just plopped down on his cot when an audible voice said,
“Richard. Are you there?”
Dick bolted upright. “Who is it? Who’s there?” His face twitched nervously as he listened. He heard the skittering of tiny feet on tile. The roaches! He grabbed a can of spray and sprayed a barrier around the perimeter of his cot. He checked his box to make sure Claire’s things were safe. Satisfied he fell back onto his pillow and closed his eyes.
It was his own screams that woke him. Roaches had breached his poison barrier and were crawling up his arm. He shook them off as he jumped to his feet. The roaches retreated quickly into the room’s darkest corner. There they joined a mass of roaches shaped vaguely human.
“Richard,” said the form in a distinctly masculine voice.
“God damn, son. You’re a disappointing sight.”
“You should talk. You’re crawling with roaches.”
“I’m dead. And a lot better off than you from the looks of it. What does your mother say?”
“She still loves me more than you ever did. I’m still her favorite.”
“He’s on the East Coast. Doing alright.”
“So what are you doing here, Richard? What do you want?”
“I’m going to sell the place,” said Dick defiantly.
“No! Never! Don’t you see? There are things more precious than money. Idiot!”
“Oh yeah? What kinds of things?”
The roach-ridden spirit refused to answer. “Look, fix the place up. Live here if you must. But never, ever sell the house! And for godsakes, quit flirting with the goddamn ghost!” The mass of roaches dissipated by degrees until only shadows remained.
Dick spent the rest of the night in his beat up Toyota pickup.
He took off the next day and drove to the foothills. He hiked for miles, lost in his own thoughts. He hadn’t been especially close to his father. Adam Tortellini was a brutal and distant man. Any doting to be had was had by his older brother Charlie. As a result, Dick had always been a momma’s boy. He was never good enough in his father’s eyes. And as a final insult to Dick, his father had left him nothing but half the house in his will. Charlie had become the executor of the estate and managed the family’s substantial finances. Dick had always wanted to dig his father’s corpse up and kill him all over again for that facetious blow. And now it seemed that Adam’s ghost had come back to haunt him. But that didn’t sit well with him. Dick had never believed in ghosts and didn’t see any reason he should start.
He rationalized that his encounter must have been the result of exhaustion mixed with alcohol. Nothing more. Being alone in the sunlit wilderness restored his energy and whatever gumption he possessed. With his rodent’s features twitching, Dick returned home. And this time, he intended to do damage. He stopped for some heavy-duty roach bombs and spray and prepared for his assault. He figured the best place to start was where the wall was hollow in the hallway. Using a sledgehammer, he knocked holes into the wall, his flimsy muscles quivering from the effort.
Decades-old sheetrock crumbled around him revealing a hidden stairway into a sizeable room furnished with only a desk and chair. In the center of the room was a white circle made of salt and in the center of the circle lay a book. The floor was carpeted with roaches that advanced on Richard with purpose. But he wasn’t unprepared. He lobbed two roach bombs into the room and raced downstairs. He imagined he could hear their collective scream as they choked and died. And he wasn’t disappointed.
The hidden room’s floor was a mass grave of roaches. Their bodies crunched beneath his feet as he descended the stairs. The desk was littered with papers scribbled with strange symbols and formulas. Most of it was gibberish to his untrained eye, written in a language apparently dreamt up by a psychotic. A search of the desk drawers revealed a jeweled dagger and sheath, a stone mortar and pestle, a branch of white oak about 13 inches long, and a hooded robe. Touching these items made Dick uneasy, so he put them back and turned to the book.
“Step lightly. Don’t disturb my circle,” whispered the book.
Though confused about the source of the ethereal voice, Dick did as he was asked and picked up the heavy tome. It was bound in human flesh bleached white. On its cover was a pair of deep red lips with a keyhole in their center.
“The key goes here, Dick,” said the lips and puckered.
Dick squealed and dropped the book. He raced frantically from the room and out the front door.
He returned the next day, against his better judgment, face twitching spastically. It took every ounce of courage he had to descend into the room. As he did, he could feel a negative force trying to stop him.
“It’s not going to work you mean old bastard!” he called aloud.
The presence thickened so much as he entered the secret room he could’ve cut it with a knife. Dick’s face was twitching uncontrollably, messing up his vision, but he pressed onward. He crossed into the circle and the presence ceased.
“Now what are you going to do?” Dick challenged.
In response, roaches poured from the cracks in the wall.
“Take me, Dick,” pleaded the book, “Take me now!”
He snatched the book and bolted from the room.
This is an excerpt from a short story. If ya’ll like it, I’ll post the rest of it. If not, I can always post my favorite Joel Olsteen moments. Enjoy!
Richard “Dick” Tortellini moved into the house in early August. It was his family home, left to him and his brother, Charlie, by their late father. It was in a prime location in Albuquerque and Charlie had been renting the place out since their father’s death fifteen years ago. But Richard’s time had finally come. He’d gotten a phone call from his mother in May. She said that she wanted him to move back into the family house and fix the place up. “I just don’t think your father would appreciate what’s happening to his house,” she explained. Now Richard’s mother was quite old and not a little senile. But Richard saw the wisdom in this. He could live there rent free, fix the place up and talk Charlie into selling it for a fat profit. He made a modest living as a high school biology teacher and could really use the money to help jumpstart his life. So Dick evicted the tenants and moved in his stuff in one fell swoop.
The house was in shambles and damn near falling down around his head. Fifteen years of renters and a lax landlord had severely depreciated the house’s value. Since his last place was furnished, Dick didn’t have much in the way of furniture. An old table, a chair, a recliner and a cot was all he had to fill a three bedroom, two story house. But Dick was used to this. A lifetime of social ineptitude forced him to spend most of his time away from people. He felt most comfortable camping. In fact, he spent the majority of his summers deep in the woods of northern New Mexico with no one but the old gods to keep him company.
Dick put his cot in the master bedroom upstairs. The carpet was shot, the walls were yellow and the whole room stank like mold from a botched carpet shampooing job.
“Everything has to be redone,” thought Dick angrily, his rodent like nose twitching with disgust. Using a case of beer as a nightstand, he lay down to sleep and was immediately beset by dreams. He dreamt he was in the master bedroom on his cot. A raven-haired woman in a white dress walked toward him, her feet never touching the ground. She stroked Dick with an ethereal hand. He shuddered from the touch, though he was dreaming.
“Richard,” she whispered and ran her ghostly fingers down his chest.
Dick moaned in ecstasy and leaned back. Just as the woman mounted him, a shadow darkened the doorway.
The woman sprang back fearfully. “No! No!” She shook her head vehemently and backed toward the wall. “It’s still not your time!”
The shadow that stepped into the room was very familiar to Dick. “Dad?” he said quizzically and was jolted from his sleep by something tickling his upper lip. It was a cockroach, trying frantically to get the last half of its body into Dick’s nose.
A squeal, more rodent than human, pealed through the air and Dick yanked the intruder from his nostril. He smashed the roach in his fist and stumbled downstairs to the kitchen. The refrigerator held two things: condiments and beer. Dick snatched a beer and guzzled it. He followed it with another and a third for good measure. Hoping to keep the roaches at bay, he spent the rest of the night at the kitchen table with the lights on and the TV. blaring the news in the background.
“In other news, Officials at Jemez National Forest received two more reports of campers being attacked and robbed by what one victim described as, ‘wild-eyed mountain men’. Campers and day-trippers headed to the Jemez Mountains are being advised to stay only in designated campgrounds and to avoid camping alone in the forest. We go to Lisa Landry for the report…”
He awoke stiff and poorly rested from sleeping at the table. It was an uncomfortably long day at work and Dick stayed late to grade papers (but really he was avoiding the house. He wasn’t comfortable in the place.) His brain tried to wrap itself around his supernatural experiences. Who was the woman and why was his father haunting the place? Dick shook the thought away as soon as it crossed his mind. Absurd. He was practically a man of science. Preposterous notions had no place in his worldview. There was no such thing as the supernatural. His real problem lay with the roaches infesting the house. He picked up a can of bugspray on the way home. He used the entire can spraying the perimeter of the room from floor to ceiling. He sat on his cot drinking beer and keeping diligent watch for invading insects. Soon, tiredness and alcohol got the better of him and he drifted into sleep.
Once more he was in the master bedroom. The ghostly woman strode gracefully into the room. “Richard? Are you there?”
“Who are you?” he stammered.
She didn’t answer, only extended her hand. Dick took it and followed the woman out of the room and into the hallway. She walked down the hall and disappeared into the wall next to the stairway.
Dick reached out his shaking hand and it went through the wall. He was just about to step through when the roaches appeared. They swarmed the wall in such great numbers it was obscured beneath their writhing mass. Dick’s screams woke him up.
He was sitting in front of the wall, now devoid of roaches. Closer inspection revealed a hole at the bottom. Intrigued, Dick knock on the wall. It was hollow. He was tempted to tear it down right there, but the skittering sound of countless roaches on the other side deterred him. Instead, he slouched downstairs and spent another night at the table.