Northern Gothic (part one) #30days #30days2018 by Cherie Ann Turpin

 

Willimantic is a small blip of a town between New York City and Boston. It used to be called Heroin Town.

Considering the fact that most of the textile factories and thread factories shut down in the 70s and moved down South (as in Central America, since even Southerners were insisting on union wages), and considering the larger fact that Connecticut was no longer home to the big insurance companies, you would not be surprised at the condition of Willimantic by the late 90s.

Once a sprawling, working class community with huge Victorian homes, ancient buildings and bustling businesses on Main Street, along with a steady influx of French Canadians, Puerto Ricans, and Irish-Americans, many houses now stood empty, became occupied by UConn students, or became drug havens for heroin junkies, and many of the businesses either went bust or else moved to the strip mall down on I-195. It was said that the mall, a venture put forward as a generator of new jobs during the recession in the late 80s, had actually killed what was left of downtown life. Here and there a few storefronts attempted to breathe life, and actually did survive, albeit piecemeal. Two restaurants actually maintained good business, drawing in the yuppies who lived on the outskirts of Willimantic or from Mansfield, near the state university set in the midst of cow pasture. But it was nothing like what it was. Such was the state of economics in Southern New England.

And what of the lost souls who wandered up and down the street, search for the last hit, the new high that would surely take them from the everyday misery of the memories lucking behind the empty theater across from cracked, crumbling Hooker hotel (actually J. C. Hooker, who never imagined himself being known as a swatter’s haven, a hooker’s hotel?)? Or the greasy spoon still serving cholesterol to truckers traveling through from Providence to Hartford, to New York, to beyond?

Nestled in the midst of this slow death was a fledgling cafe, once a fledgling bookstore specializing in feminist studies and other such subversive material. The ghosts of the bustling city lived in the alley between the cafe and Greenleaf lamp shop, and through their descendants who, not imagining any other place to live, continued to shop and eat on Main Street, continuing to take their children downtown, choosing the desolate scenery over the larger yet still desolate city of Hartford. Or the students from either Eastern State or Connect State looking for cheap rent and privacy from the desperation of campus life.

Such was the woman who stepped out of the back of the building where the vegetarian cafe was located. As she walked down the narrow pathway she tried not to notice the ever watching eyes behind the windows in the slum apartments to the left of her, the barely painted exterior of the back of the next building that did not look like an apartment building from the front, but just another office building. She had not been surprised at its decrepit sate when she was first shown the apartment in the building next door, nor was she particularly afraid of the young men who occasionally wandered out to fix their rusty cars.

She was cautious, silent, hoping that their stares were more of caution than of interest. Two years were gone, and yet no act of revenge, no smell of sulfur, no evidence of a hex. Yet.

For the last three years she was living with her head ready to turn at a second’s notice to look back, to the side, looking for the change in temperature, the spirit that she knew to be lurking somewhere, for the face of the man who drove the energy towards her, who she knew to be motivated only for one purpose: to drive her up to and beyond the limits of her sanity.

She looked around the parking lot to see if the red 1987 Subaru station was still sitting in the parking lot before unlocking her car and settling into her driver’s seat. Looking in the rearview mirror, she saw herself and grimaced at her already melting hair in the evening humidity of late summer heat.

The moon already lurked in the shadowy sky, but it would be late in the night before the cool night air would give relief from the July sun. She softly touched her face, noticing how her coffee brown skin seemed to glow in the rays of moonlight. Seemingly pleased with herself, she started the engine of her gray 1988 Chevy Nova and sauntered out the parking lot. The adjacent parking lot was nearly empty, save for a stray taxi, and two police cars which were each occupied with white male officers. They seemed engrossed in deep conversation. The road seemed to carry the gray Chevy towards the stop sign.

She watched a thin woman entering the small gym the right of the intersection, and felt a slight sensation of guilt. As in response, the thin woman flipped her hair and turned to look her. The gray car zoomed across the intersection and up the hill, rushing pass the overhanging trees and looming Victorian houses, threading through the narrow streets and parked cars. She kept her eyes on oncoming cars at several intersections, expecting some fool to ignore the stop signs she crossed, as if an accident was tomorrow’s promise. When she reached the Route 6 highway she began to relax, settling into the monotony of highways connecting to highways, connecting and collecting cities.

Her eyes never the left the road, but her mind swayed back and forth from the road to her apartment in Willimantic, to the bedroom where she knew her lover was waiting, her moment to raise energy she needed to do battle, to focus on the inner shrine she built in her belly, the womb where she wished to fill with more than sperm. All of this she would try to spill forth to her spirit guide in Glastonbury in an elaborate ritual that could help cast out for the good of many the enemy now pursuing her destruction.

“Will he cure you?” asked her lover, as they later lay entwined, their love juices still pouring from their bodies. “No,” she answered, “but he will help me break down the walls that protect him and allow him to continue to work against me unchallenged.”

And so soon she shot off onto I-384 to Glastonbury in her tony car, where her elf-like spirit guide sat waiting for her arrival.

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residuals #30days #30days2018 by Cherie Ann Turpin

Maybe the imminent and overwhelming arrival of the lunar eclipse accorded some responsibility into Kathy’s bitter mood following the breakup of yet another short term lovership. She knew how to explain herself, her position, her sense of self, easily, as a writer, when she spoke before her students in the four classes she taught at the local community college. There were no subjects too taboo to discuss with her audience, who usually sat mesmerized or at least shocked, such as when she “performed” as resident poet at The Atomic Cafe, a run-down coffee joint run almost entirely from donations from locals, students, and permanent exiles from the savagery of city life and suburban jungles.

Burlington, Vermont was a haven for those young enough to transform isolation from New England cynicism into active and optimistic socio-political coalitions determined to see permanent social change; for those too embittered to still believe in or hope for much of anything other than a swift, peaceful death, Burlington served as a sort of thin shield, like fish scales, from the hostilities to which no place in America could be immune.

Kathy could not cut, however, through the thick partition that separated herself from her desires, the wall of silence that froze her tongue when she touched her last lover, who broke off with her in apparent bewilderment at her seeming lack of interest in him, his attempts at conversation, and most disturbing, his sexual needs. Kathy, as if intuitively, felt him withdraw from her presence, and silently wished him quickly gone, but not for the reasons he assumed. When she stood amid the studded and pierced women and men she noticed on the left covered with photos of poets who, like her, began and ended their careers standing and reciting in front of audiences like this one. She also noticed a vaguely familiar face staring at her.

At this sight, she suppressed an impulse to bolt from the room. Instead, she closed her eyes, and after a few uncomfortable moments of silence, began reciting from memory the first stanza from her latest poem. When Kathy’s mind began to generate the energy she needed to recite her poem, she began to forget that her body was actually standing in a grimy, worn storefront that was already filled with other writers eager to draw from the sexual energy emanating from the short, buxom woman with short brown dreads. Her low, gravely voice trembled as she, eyes closed, softly swaying, spoke to complete strangers her most intimate poetry.

When Kathy opened her eyes the first thing she saw was a tall man with a smooth complexion made even more apparent with his black turtleneck and slacks, his long dreds pulled back and somewhat controlled into a single plait. She saw his full lips slight curl with amusement, his brown eyes focused on her own large, black eyes with a curious but intent stare. For a moment she thought he was laughing at her. Then, as the audience began to field her with questions and suggestions, she lost focus on the tall dark stranger in the back of the room and continued her discussion.

Later, during the communal vegetarian dinner feast, Kathy saw him again, grazing on a steaming pile of black beans over brown rice. She waited until he swallowed whatever he was chewing, then sauntered over to his chair near one of the gray, frosted panes of the storefront. The combined effects of the dimmed lights and the dark shadows cast by the rich, black panels and jagged masonry covering the walls, floor, and ceiling left an impression on Kathy that she was walking through a cave, or perhaps, a dungeon.

The man’s eyes narrowed briefly, then widened again with that same irreverent humor that had earlier unnerved her. She noticed the crinkles framing his eyes, nose, and mouth, how his age seemed both ancient and young at once. He was older than she last remembered, but not by much. She turned on her heel and walked over to a small but familiar group of locals who greeted her warmly. When she turned her head back towards the chair, he was gone. She felt both sad and triumphant, wondering what on Goddess’s green earth was he doing in Vermont, of all places? The man reappeared suddenly, and sat back into the yellow chair, reclining comfortably. No one seemed to notice but Kathy, who walked over and whispered to him.

“How the hell did y-y-”

“How did I learn to teleport? Come on, Kathy. Is that all you have to say to me? Don’t you even want to ask me WHY am I here? How long?” He folded his hands together to emphasize the lack of physical weapons, metal or otherwise. He seemed genuinely puzzled at her stance towards his very presence, if not hurt.

“You seem to have a short memory, Jacque,” replied Kathy, her voice slowly rising. It seemed to come from a deep, bitter well. “As I recall, ten years ago you trashed our apartment and tried to destroy my manuscript because you thought I was writing about another lover? You were determined to break me, to destroy me if necessary, to own me. You knew I was a novice, yet you pushed me to the edge, again and again–”

“–And so you settled for quiet Vermont, only now you pine away for the unobtainable, and suck the energy dry out of these poor, dumb hicks who couldn’t tell a butt plug from a pacifier.”

“How did you find me? And what DO you want?” Might as well get to the point. Kathy wasn’t sure she wanted to know the answer to the last question. Jacque’s face crinkled at last with a genuine smile, pleased at her seemingly more relaxed stance. His brown eyes glittered like a wolf eyeing a doe’s soft underbelly. She noticed, for the first time, that white strands were beginning to salt down the his long black dredlocks. She also noticed that he had released them from the band that pulled his hair back earlier in the evening.

“I was wrong to allow my jealousy to surface so easily, and I was wrong to make you feel unsafe in any way. I had forgotten how easy it was to cross the line magickally—and the alcohol didn’t help. Anyway, enough bullshit, you want to know why I am here. I want to invite you to join the project out in Seattle, to sharpen your craft, so to speak, on the cutting edge of magic as performance art–”

“And you don’t have access to people who can do that out there? Why me?” quipped Kathy, noticing but not caring that when she interrupted Jacque, his eyes glittered with not a little irritation.

“–and I want us to start the circle over again–”

“As what? Master and servant? Husband and helpmate? Adam and Eve? Eden is lost to us both, love, and I don’t intend to search for it. I told you, I don’t want any part of that anymore.”
Jacque was visibly struggling to remain focused. Kathy wondered if all of him was really in Vermont. She wondered if he was still in Seattle, but silently decided not to ask. He looked tired, suddenly, as he looked up at her and spoke.

“Look, I didn’t come to bury the hatchet in your head. I want it to be better. I want to be your lover, your companion. I want us to back to high ritual again.” As he spoke, a sadness washed over Kathy as she watched him plead his case. The irony of his words being the very thing she dreaded and craved grieved her.

It was a cruel, cruel joke played on her by the divine, she thought bitterly. She wanted to believe him, to give herself to his looming, roaring energy. But he did not convince her of his change from the raging, jealous sadist who could never be satisfied to the apparition now sitting in front of her. Still, she admired his gall in the wake of the destruction he waged in her life.

She was so immersed in her thoughts that she had not noticed that Jacque was no longer speaking. She had no adequate response that would convey the confusion, the anger, the desire in her heart. So she sat in silence, watching the snow gather in the dusty windowsill outside. A car pulled into the driveway across the street, and two men, both dressed in ski jackets and earmuffs ran towards the side entrance of the dark wooden storefront, leaving their breath in the wake. When the car drove away, Jacque focused on her face, and studied her eyes for a moment.

“I apologize for my intrusiveness in your life. I will move on,” he said slowly. Kathy watched him as he began to shimmer.

“I didn’t say no to everything, Jacque.”

“And, so now, what am I to take as your answer?” choked Jacque. “Do you know how hard this was, traveling across the country, knowing what an ass I was to you, to beg you back into my life? I saw your book, Winter Garden, in a store downtown about six months ago. Was it all pain to you, Kathy? Was I merely an experiment for you? Or do you remember how I held you?“

“I have a life here, cold and lonely it has been for a long time now. But it’s the one I know that works for me, “ Kathy whispered fiercely. She stood completely still, breathing evenly.

“I know you, Jacque, and you know me. So we don’t have to pretend with each other. You know what I want.”

He blinked twice and for the first time, seemed genuinely confused. Kathy leaned down towards his face and smiled grimly. “You took so much energy from me that last time. You owe me, big time. You can start by teaching me how to teleport to Seattle right now. Then we can talk.”

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Losing Time #30days #30days2018 by Cherie Ann Turpin

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My blanket was soaked with urine when I finally woke up on my couch.

The kitchen was filled with smoke from sausage I was boiling earlier; all the water had evaporated out the pan, and the meat was burnt black.

Both sides of my tongue felt like they had been stabbed with pins.  My legs and arms ached as if I had run a marathon.  I cancelled my classes and collapsed on my bed, still dizzy.

When I awoke again it was early evening, and my cell phone was out of power.  My limbs were still sore, my tongue was swollen, and my lower back felt oddly sore, as if I had been punctured in the same spot where I received a lumbar puncture ten years ago.  I had assumed I had a mild seizure from the new blood pressure medication, a sort of reset to get my body readjusted to a slower rhythm.  Now I was not so sure about that.  I was losing time again.

But that was twenty years ago when I had my first encounter with an extraterrestrial.  It was worse then, almost impossible to fathom:  I lost an entire week of time, and because we didn’t have cell phones, no one knew I was missing.  My cat did, and she never really recovered from encountering the visitors.  I was also several states away from my first and last encounter before that day.

I was losing time again, and I realized then that they had not only returned, but that they never really left.
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Starve (Phorzhicoa Story) #30days #30days2018 by Cherie Ann Turpin

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Last time I saw him he stared at me without blinking for 20 minutes straight.  I sat in a low leather chair sipping on an extra dirty martini pretending to not notice him as I read my phone messages.

Starved.

I’ve seen that before.  The last stage before converting to us, the Phorzhicoa.  He’s so far gone he wouldn’t have known the difference between the food and the feeders.  To most humans he is, in urban vernacular terms, “thirsty,” in need of something other than the usual attention given to men and women who are moderately attractive.

You’ve encountered the type before, the kind who were surrounded by sycophants and fans in their younger days, the popular set of folk who were sharply dressed, well-spoken, and of course never missing out on receiving some really delicious sexual heat from lovers and bedwarmers.  But eventually that sort of heat gets cold, and the thirst grows sharper with age.  The young, nubile, strong bodies of hopeful fans are replaced by earnest, desperate, and somewhat shrill voices of men and women who hope to taste a bit of an aging star who begins to realize with more than a bit of panic that she or he is no longer being fed and maintained but in fact is being sucked dry.

Starved.

The makeup is flawless, the haircut is perfect, but the soul is in great need.  The hollowed out eyes of one who is ravenous enough to not know that he is staring at a version of himself is unmistakable and indeed, quite irresistible.  Truth is I’ve kept myself off the radar of the Queen by refusing to feed for some years now, and it has kept me safe from some of the more aggressive types who look to compel us solitaries into joining families to hunt. And yes, he is desirable, but I do not give chase.  I prefer to be chased because the taste of his astonishment is so much more satisfying.  It’s a moment of mutual recognition, that we are more alike than different, that I am not prey but a sister hunter like him.  But he is still in pre-conversion, not quite Phorzhicoa yet.  He may give chase, but I saw him long before he even realized he saw me as a meal to consume.

This fledgling sitting across from me has been semi-stalking me for some months without speaking or even admitting to himself that he hungers, that his body and soul feels the crush and call of the Phorzhicoan way.  The sex itself is beyond words, but the energy that floods you is like a tidal wave of ecstasy that floods every cell of your body for what seems to be an eternity.  Time ceases as you are filled once again.  To be mutually fed by your own is to die and live again in a state of utter joy and relief.

But I don’t chase fledglings, especially not in my own starved state. I feel no motivation to move, much less speak.

Instead, I watch and wait for him to turn.

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Ideas from my dreams coming through #30days #30days2018

quick note: I just had the craziest dream I’ve GOT to get down in one of my stories or two actually: floating metal that’s weaponized to cling to you like glue or like you are a magnet with sudden motion;flying through the air with a rocket propelled gun battling these robot like sentinels who think I’m worth capturing for a rogue billionaire with plans for building a bigger army of invading robot soldiers; I even saw another Independence Day like alien invasion movie set in this dream. Guys—when I’m done writing about my feelings I’m going to get back to my fav topic—space aliens, kickass weaponry never seen on this planet before, and ships I think we might see if we can impeach that idiot trump and get back to scientific innovation. Nice bit of dream work in less than two hours!

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Empty #30days #30days2018 by Cherie Ann Turpin

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Today is May 2 and I have no reason to hope for seeing anyone else on this road, a quiet road in the middle of a forest occupied by no one but me.  It has been May 2 for many, many days and weeks.  I walk forward towards an opening that never emerges, only to find myself right back where I started.

No problem.  No other sound except for the slide and creep of my own shoes that echoes across the dark green forest floor.  No voices, and at this point, not even mine, as I have learned after countless days that no one else is here to hear me or respond.  A bird would be nice, even a fox or two.  I think I grew a bit suspicious many days/weeks ago after I noticed the absence of flies and ants, but that was after I noticed the most glaring absence: change in the daylight, as in there is no sunrise or sunset.

It’s almost as if I am standing in the middle of someone’s screen saver, or a picture frame on a desk in some nondescript office.  My own name no longer registers across my brain as I walk towards nothing.

Empty.

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Ghost Voices #30days #30days2018 by Cherie Ann Turpin

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About six months ago I noticed what I thought to be a faint hum in my work elevator riding down to the street level after staying late to work on an assessment report.  For about three nights I had the impression I was listening to a radio or echoes from another floor, or at least a malfunctioning elevator mic.  I wasn’t sure of the source, and I didn’t get confirmation of its source from security downstairs.  Slightly spooky, but not enough to really care one way or another.

One month ago, I had another assessment project to complete, and this time my late night work sessions lasted until well after evening traffic melted into the night.  This time I noticed two distinct voices engaged in what seemed to be a somewhat intense conversation, only I wasn’t the one speaking, and no one else was riding down 29 floors to the street.  I began to record this strange, disembodied exchange with my cell phone, not knowing if it would make more sense upon playback at home than with me standing there hearing it.

It occurred to me that I was actually not hearing people still walking the planet, but ghosts.  I do know that one sentence emerged from my computer when I uploaded the latest exchange, a distinctly male voice that seemed to carry a quiet sliver of pain as it crossed curtains of existence.  It was a question, actually:

“Are you angry at me?”

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