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

IMG_4745

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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Scene Interrupted by Cherie Ann Turpin #3 (Thirty Stories in Thirty Days)

Scene Interrupted

by Cherie Ann Turpin

#3 (Thirty Stories in Thirty Days)

Flogger_02
In DC, you see many neighborhoods becoming “refreshed,” or what some people call gentrification, an ongoing series of activities designed to bring in more affluent residents while moving less affluent residents outside of the city.  There are some residents who remain rooted deep in the dirt of this town, unwilling or unable to leave so quickly or quietly, and with the upheaval of rotted wood and dirt to replace the old with the new many old spirits have been being awakened, inadvertently.  One could imagine an old soul somewhat confused at the sight of a home dungeon space, especially a few spirits who remember a less than pleasurable experience with regard to floggers and rope.

So without a doubt, it was an accidental drawing of blood that fell to the newly installed marble tile patterned across the basement floor that served as a summoning, a loosening of the veil between the living and the dead in the midst of what was originally a play session between Marcus aka slave and Karen aka Mistress.  Perhaps Marcus and Karen, who were now the new owners of the redesigned and upgraded townhouse on Market Street were unwise to build a private sex dungeon in the basement without considering the possibility of meeting two of the previous residents who now appeared in grayish, out-dated uniforms with hollow faces that seemed both shadow and flesh against the flickering beams of the overhead lighting.   Marcus suddenly felt nauseous, as another specters began to reveal themselves, reddish eyes and a solemn-looking faces poking through. Both were youngish-looking men of European descent, and both seemed perplexed at the sight of Marcus and Karen’s leather costumes, especially Karen’s skin-tight cage design that exposed her nipples and buttocks.  Marcus looked at Karen, who looked back at him and began to quickly unravel the rope that bound his wrists and ankles.  The ghosts began to fade from flesh to shadow again.

As they shimmered out, Karen could have sworn she saw a leer forming on one of the specter’s faces.  She felt an unease climb up her spine, a sense that the next appearance could be a less-than-friendly encounter between the living and the dead.

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Squatter #19 by Cherie Ann Turpin (30 Stories in 30 Days) #30Days

Squatter #19

by Cherie Ann Turpin

(30 Stories in 30 Days)

#30Days

You are breaking the rules.
squatter
You find this squalid space while crawling your way through the remains of the old city not yet submerged into the seawater, desperate to escape the floating shantytown that surrounds the shiny new city like a rusty, filthy ring stuck on a finger too fat to let it slide off.  It’s a fair analogy:  the people who live in this shantytown come via ferry to work as cooks, servants, cleaners, and low-level office workers in New Manhattan, only to float by to makeshift squats, large floating structures made with scraps of metal, styrofoam, and melted plastic.

You are already aware that this building, formerly a factory turned into condos, has been condemned as a harbor for unsavory elements not seen by most humans.  The empty rooms of one of the corner units are mostly empty, save for a mattress crusty with blood and other dried fluids, a chair, a set of drawers, and a beautiful Persian rug that seemed out-of-place.  You find yourself wondering who would leave such a beautiful rug to rot away like that.

You hear whispering in one of the back rooms, telling you that you are not alone, and that if you want to squat here for more than just a night, you need to clean house.  You begin the ritual, a series of chants, smudging, then silent sitting within a circle to draw out and carefully banish each unholy spirit.  You have been told by the beggar-witch who sold you the ritual kit that under no circumstances are you to allow yourself to fall asleep while performing the Zari-koozhari banishing ritual.   The one ritual you have been carefully instructed to follow to the letter in order to fully rid your squat of wretched haunts, spirits, demons, and listener-familiars loyal to the Phorzhicoa is the very same one that you are now breaking as you nod off to sleep in front of the makeshift altar space you just drew.

Your impatience and unwillingness to wait through the night till morning has borne foul fruit.  The candles flicker as your sleeping body is surrounded by a merry band of evil-doers who see you as a gift of sorts, a gift of “food.”  And like so many predators who come upon a tasty meal only to find their competitors there at the same time, these merry entities soon turn on each other, prepared to tear each other apart.  You keep your eyes shut, waiting for the winner to emerge, waiting to banish the one strong enough to destroy the others, but not strong enough to defeat the Word.

You know by morning you are not meant to survive by following the rules.  You start cleaning up the remains of the destroyed, and begin settling into your new home.

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”Hank” #17 by Cherie Ann Turpin (30 Stories in 30 Days) #30Days

“Hank” #17

by Cherie Ann Turpin

(30 Stories in 30 Days)

#30Days
nightlight

 

 

 

“There’s a ghost in your bedroom.”

“I know.”

“Well, if you know, what have you done about it?”

“Done?”

“You have a spirit in your house.  Have you done something to get rid of it?”

“Should I?”

“Are you serious?  I could hear things moving on your bookshelves last night.”

“Did you get enough sleep last night?  Did anyone bother you while you slept?”

“No.  Well, no.  It just felt….it felt like someone was watching me sleep.  It felt creepy.”

“Creepy how?”

“I don’t know, you don’t seem to be too worried about it.”

“Why should I be worried?”

“Who is it?”

“Hank.”

“Who’s Hank?”

“He used to live here back in the 60s and 70s.  He died in this very apartment sometime ago.  He started showing up about six months ago after I had the apartment renovated.”

“You’ve seen him?”

“Yeah.  He comes around to listen to my jazz music, watch t.v.  He watches the apartment while I’m on travel.”

“Why is he watching me sleep?”

“Maybe you need watching.  Have noticed that your back and neck pain are gone?”

“How’d you know about that?”

“He told me after he chased off that bad spirit following you around.  Hank’s good for that too.”

“Does he hang out in your bedroom when you bring your boyfriend here?”

“Hank’s a bit of a voyeur.  And by the way, your vibrator was a bit loud last night.”

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Haunted Hair #16 by Cherie Ann Turpin (30 Stories in 30 Days) #30days

Haunted Hair #16

by Cherie Ann Turpin

(30 Stories in 30 Days)

#30days

I probably shouldn’t have switched from my usual brand just to save some money.
hair
Three weeks ago I bought a few packets of hair for my redo of my weave from a sale bin at a hair and beauty discount shop I found near Prince George’s Plaza.  The other hair shop in the same area, my usual stop, was closed, plus I really needed to pinch some coins this month.  I spent half of what I would usually have to pay for real hair, and when I looked at the tracks, they seemed almost lifelike.  Quality product, I thought.  I wondered why it ended up in the sale bin.

The next morning I showed up to the hair salon and handed the hair packets to Carol, my hair stylist, who raised an eyebrow when I told her I found a cheaper product.  She pulled out the long, spiraled tracks and laid them flat on the work counter.  I thought I saw something move beneath the strands.  Must be the wind, I thought.  I sat down in the chair and closed my eyes as Carol began to detangle and comb my hair before washing it and braiding it into cornrows for the weave sew-in.  Three hours later, I walked out of Carol’s Salon with long, wavy hair that seemed to have a life of its own.  Driving on I-495 with the windows down, I let my hair dance around my head with the howling wind flowing all around my head.

Except for the black shadow that keeps showing up in my mirrors and all of my photographs, I think my new hair style is fabulous.

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“Real Love” by Cherie Ann Turpin (30 Stories in 30 Days) #30days

“Real Love” rose

 

Maybe the imminent and overwhelming arrival of the lunar eclipse accorded some responsibility into Nina’s bitter mood. She knew how to explain herself, her position, her sense of self as a writer, when she spoke before her readers. Her audience usually sat mesmerized or at least soothed 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 dullness of city life and suburbia. Burlington, Vermont was a haven for those young enough to transform isolation from New England cynicism into active and optimistic sociopolitical coalitions determined to see permanent social change; for those too embittered to still believe in or hope for much of anything, Burlington served as a sort of thin shield, like fish scales, from the hostilities to which no place in America could be immune.

 

Nina found that she could easily move through the pauses and silences that cut short her creative desires by cutting to the quick what most people found beneficial to their egos. Nina could not cut, however, through the thick partition that separated herself from her desires, the wall of silence that froze her tongue as if in fear 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. Nina, as if intuitively, felt him withdraw from her presence, and silently wished him quickly gone, but not for the reasons he divined.

 

Nina was, in brief, a woman who yearned to touch and to be touched in ways that could not be easily explained in pop psychology terms, or for that manner, Freudian terms. She spent the better part of her twenties searching for some semblance of the surge that charged her nerves at the turn of a certain phrase, look, or push through the male bodies that crash-landed on her bed. As they departed bearing the same expression of sheepish satisfaction mixed with confusion, she would look on with a visible expression of impatience and a not so visible feeling of rage and bitterness at the presence of emptiness, at the dryness she felt in her mouth and between her legs.

 

With a notable exception, her sexual experiences in her thirties was a far less frenzied version of the previous decade, as she settled on a twenty-seven year old attorney who initially saw her as an exotic, if not tasty experiment with the racial and class other. He had not touched the otherness that surely separated them in ways that his cock could not and would not bridge. She correctly feared his disgust of her, his fear of what he labeled as “edgy,” an “edge” that would loom in ragged and crumbly pieces over a dark, heated pit.

 

And so they parted, with him feeling failed as a lover, as a man, and perhaps as a conqueror of the dark other, for so clearly failing to move her to either ecstasy or tears. Some men are like that, foolishly staking their egos, their perceptions of themselves as conquerors, ignoring the moments that could unveil a more delicious opportunity and savoring the more shallow moments, when the public eye is more apt to appear, where desire is less likely to expose itself to public derision. Nina had found many of these fools in all shades and colors, but the now familiar disappointment never ceased to bring the bile to the surface of her tongue.

 

So it was with this overwhelming desire, combined with an awareness of an ache that would not be staved off with the strongest vibrator, that she wrote her latest poem. 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 closed her eyes, and after a few uncomfortable moments of silence, began reciting from memory the first stanza from her latest poem, a series of images written about a man she’d often imagined to exist in the real. When Nina’s mind began to generate the sexual fury 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 her frame. Her low, gravely voice trembled as she, eyes closed, softly swaying, spoke to complete strangers of her fantasy tryst with the man who would remain nameless, of the desire she could only refer to in Spanish when she titled it “Quiero”:

 

 

circling the cup

pressing inside soft walls

like fresh clay on a wheel

lifting layers to the top

spinning

muscle squeezing

gripping dense pottery

hardening in the cold air

an interminable movement

wrapped

in fleshy ribbons of moans

like a jack-in-a-box exploding

staining

hot grainy oily cement

in harvest heat.”

 

When Nina opened her eyes the first thing she saw was a man in the back of the room with a curious but intent stare. Then, as the audience began to field her with questions and suggestions, she lost focus on the man and continued her discussion. Later, during the communal vegetarian dinner feast, Nina 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 a stool across from 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 Nina that she was walking through a cave.

 

In fact, Nina was so occupied with this appearance of what seemed to be physical manifestation of what she assumed to exist only in the shadowy corners of the dream world that she did not pay attention to the subtle signs of changes to the immediate environment as she sat down. Her heart stopped for five full seconds as she discovered she was no longer sitting in Atomic Cafe. She was home, and sitting on her couch. Freezing momentarily, she let out a brief shout of fright, as she believed, momentarily, that she had passed out and was dreaming yet again. It sounded less like a scream, and more like a loud “huh-a” ending with deflating tone at the tail end of her breath. Nina stumbled to her feet and looked outside through the living room window. The clear night illuminated the white snow on the front porch and the low steps of the ancient yellow house on Chittenden Street. He hovered over her, silently, watching her as she blinked in the shadowy room lit only by the street light and moonlight outside. Regaining her composure, she remembered that she had a guest in her home. She was still deep in thought as she stepped into the foray and flipped the light switch.

 

Drawing in the waves emanating from the light, he shimmered and swirled like a light mist before finally manifesting before her with what seemed to be a wry smile.

 

“Do you usually unveil yourself so completely in your work?” he asked in a low but clear volume, his rich, melodic voice carefully articulating each word as if he were speaking into a tape recorder.

 

“I could ask the same of you,” whispered Nina, as she looked around the room that seemed to lose its hold on her as the waking world of the real. “I no longer know which world is flesh, and which world is dream? What have you done with reality?”

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In the Cards – Story #7 (30 stories in 30 days)

In the Cards – Story #7 (30 stories in 30 days)

by Cherie Ann Turpin

The tarot deck sat in the left corner of Cassie’s lingerie drawer for seven months untouched.  It was a used Crowley deck found at a tag sale in one of the many bins spread out on a now-defunct movie drive-in.  She bought the bright-colored cards and after staring at them for 20 minutes on her kitchen table, started shuffling them and laying out a Celtic Cross pattern on the polished wood.  The afternoon sun was still shining through the kitchen window, and brought ultraviolet rays into the room.  Two Trump cards, The Chariot and The Sun, seemed to become animated upon contact with sunshine.

Suddenly, Cassie’s cell phone began to vibrate, and she scooped it out of her purse and began talking to her mother.  Chatting about shopping, she walked into her bedroom and forgot about the Celtic layout.  As the sun retreated to the west, the small apartment grew still in the darkness.  Cassie was still talking to her mother two hours later.  She flipped on the lamp next to her bed and used her feet to throw off her flip-flops before reclining on the bed next to her laptop to play Solitaire while gossiping about a former neighbor’s new wife.

Twenty minutes later Cassie finally hung up the cell phone after her mother received a call from her sister asking about the family recipe for Japanese fruitcake.  As if prompted by the mention of cake, Cassie walked into the kitchen to grab a snack and turned on the overhead lights.  The tarot cards were still on the table, waiting for her hands to touch them again.  Instead of seeing the initial ten cards in the Celtic Cross layout, Cassie saw fifteen cards in the Thoth layout, a pattern of which she’d never tried or seen used.  When she touched The Sun card it was warm, almost hot to her fingers.

The previous owner apparently preferred the Thoth layout.renneschateau04_06

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