#BlackFriday #ShortStory “Just Lucky … I Guess.” #RRBC #IARTG

BLACK FRIDAY BANNER JUST LUCKY I GUESS

I do hope you enjoy my contribution to your Black Friday reading enjoyment.

 

Black Friday short story.

“Just Lucky, I Guess.”

Gabriel Christopher had always been considered lucky, both by his many friends and even those not disposed to like him at all. A few folks had commented and even gasped in amazement each time he pulled yet another rabbit from the bottom of his seemingly bottomless hat.

It had been that way since he was born

His devoted mother unhesitant in telling anyone within listening distance that the odds against her son Gabriel surviving his traumatic early arrival on earth were astronomical.

Another child too ill to play the lead in the school play? Too bad. Guess who was the understudy? Yup … that was Gabriel.

His friends clung to him at every social occasion, for it was always Gabriel that found a cab on those nights after a game or a concert when no cabs were to be had. Rain or shine, if they were with good old Gabriel, they knew they would always find a way to get home.

His looks alone would have drawn the women to him. His ability to provide them with Sir Galahad style safety was just another fringe benefit.

It was always Gabriel who somehow managed to get the great seats when the venues for major sporting events or a farewell performance for a world famous entertainer were meant to be sold-out.

Want a seat in a restaurant that’s booked solid for months in advance? Gabriel was your go to guy.

Gabriel had never acknowledged the ‘damn but you’re lucky’ thing, at least not publicly.

He preferred to think of himself as merely observant of everything important to him. Those observations prompted all of his actions.

He’d never needed to strive to be the best he could be, for that lucky star people said he’d been born under kept right on shining down on him throughout his life. Why work yourself to death for something, when not making any effort at all garnered you the same results?

He’d stopped thinking about it much at all in the past couple of years. Life had settled itself into a comfortable pattern. He was content.

Therein lay the heart of his problem. That craved for contentment had nudged him into a world both predictable and unrelentingly boring.

It was April now. Spring had arrived and reawakened what little spirit he still possessed.

He needed a change.

He mulled it over for a few days, weighing his options. Gabriel decided that quitting his job would be stupid, and he was far from stupid … not by his reckoning. He checked in with his boss, and as luck would have it, he had ample leave time accrued to take a long overdue vacation.

He rarely found anything that he wanted or needed enough to warrant him spending his savings. It had been years since he’d purchased his home. He had only his mother to be concerned about while he was traveling, and she was newly remarried and no longer appeared to be in such need of his undivided attention.

Gabriel knew he could easily afford another overseas trip. He’d traveled throughout Europe and even to Australia in those years when spring breaks really meant something.

***

He opened the laptop and began looking for a close location that wouldn’t need days of traveling to reach the destination.

He smiled with anticipation as he made his choice.

A short road trip would take him to Orlando Florida, where he could easily make the direct flight to San Juan in Puerto Rico. He used his phone app and found some great deals on both flights and accommodation. He wasn’t surprised.

Gabriel had traveled widely. But not usually this close to home. Now was the time.

The direct flight to San Juan would take only two and a half hours.

He confirmed his flight times and departure details; handed in his leave application at work, which was immediately approved, and counted down the days.

It was now Monday, and his excitement was building. He would fly out on Friday.

He made the road trip the day before, and spent the night of April 12th, in the Orlando Holliday Inn.

He happily drank the contents of the mini-bar and rang through to room service, ordering a bottle of his favorite scotch, and a meal of Lobster and salad.

He deemed the expense worthwhile and fell into bed late, both well sated and alcohol saturated.

***

Gabriel awoke the next morning and took long minutes to remember where he was and what he was doing there.

“Oh, shit!” He glanced at his phone. “Shit, shit, shit!” He’d been too drunk to set his alarm.

He scrambled from the bed and crossed to the window. The rain came in blinding sheets and the palm trees outside were blown about wildly in the ferocity of the wind.

His flight was due to leave in a less than an hour, and he knew security would be a nightmare to get through. “Damn it!” He haphazardly threw on some clothes, not giving a damn about fashion. He tried to book a cab. The response to his call when he’d finally been connected was that in this storm the cabs were all taken, with bookings piling up ahead of him.

He checked in with the airline, the weather was abating and the flight paths were clearing. The flight had been delayed but only for an estimated thirty minutes.

“Damn it to hell.” Gabriel grabbed his backpack and headed downstairs. He may just be lucky enough to flag down a cab. Anything was better than sitting around.

It had taken him twenty minutes, until in frustration he had walked out in the middle of the busy road and stopped the first cab he spotted.

The driver had the off-duty sign flipped up. He was clearly unavailable and unimpressed by the drenched guy with the backpack now standing in front of his cab and blocking his path.  Until Gabriel Christopher pulled out the Benjamin Franklin. “It’s yours. Just get me to the airport.” That hundred bucks sure changed the attitude.

“Anything you say, buddy.” said the driver, smiling at the man now sitting restlessly and drenching his back seat.

“You need to hurry!”

“No sweat, buddy. It’s only six miles. I’ll have you there in no time.”

“Yeah, well, no time is about all I have left. Step on it would you.”

The driver smiled again. “Sure thing.”

The cab made it to around a mile out from the Airport, before the traffic snarl forced it to come to an infinitely slow-moving crawl. The crawl finally ended in a traffic jam that stopped them and everyone else cold.

“I’ll get out here!” Gabriel exited the cab and was almost run down by a motorbike weaving its way through the traffic.

“Jesus!” The cab driver called out from the window. “Be careful, man. You almost wore that bike!”

“Yeah! But I didn’t.”

Gabriel started running. If the flight had been delayed by just a few minutes he could still make it.

He ran into the terminal. He had eight minutes to get through security and hand in his boarding pass.

Security was working at full speed, trying to clear the backlog of people without jeopardizing safety.

Gabriel was cleared quickly, he could see the departure gate not far ahead. His focus was fixed totally on that point.

He didn’t see the toddler stagger across his path sturdily pushing some wheeled toy … until he tripped over the small body and came crashing down in a heap on the floor.

Gabriel’s head bounced with a sickening smack on the tiles, and the parents of the little boy were frantically checking on their son’s wellbeing. The stranger lay at their feet, out cold and unmoving.

Other passengers came hurrying over to assist.

Gabriel came around and looked up into the face of the paramedic that gazed down with concern into his pale face.

“Take it easy.  You gave your head a damned good crack. Can you tell me your name?”

Gabriel was a little groggy, and he could feel the beginning of a headache making its presence felt.

“Uh … yes, Yes … my name is Gabriel Christopher.”

“How’s your vision, buddy?” The light was shone into Gabriel’s protesting eyes.

“It’s … okay. Yeah, yeah … I’m okay. Thanks.”

“We’re gonna need to take you to the hospital. You were out cold for a couple of minutes. An x-ray will show if you have any damage that needs treating.”

“What time is it?”

The paramedic checked his watch. “It’s gone three.”

“Fuck! I missed my flight.”

The paramedic was more concerned about assisting his patient onto a gurney. “Can’t help back luck, buddy.”

Gabriel Christopher was stunned at this crazy turn that his luck had taken. This type of thing just didn’t happen to him.

***

He was finally released from the hospital hours later once the test results had come back satisfactorily. He had a mild concussion and would have a headache for a day or two. He listened to the instructions and gave his word that he’d return immediately if any other symptoms should arise.

He managed to get another room back at the Holiday Inn.

Too weary now to be bothered with making fresh plans, he poured himself a stiff drink, threw on some boxer shorts and lay back on the king sized bed to watch the large screen television.

He flicked through the channels until the ‘breaking news’ headline came up.

He sat uncomprehending the significance of the news flash for a brief moment.

The attractive newsreader looked appropriately sad “Flight 1313 from Orlando to San Juan had disappeared from radar over the area known as ‘The Bermuda Triangle’ Air and sea searches are underway. No wreckage has yet been sighted.”

Gabriel Christopher’s phone began buzzing.

He took the call from his mother. She was hysterical with relief as she registered the sound of his voice. “Oh my God, my Gabriel. It’s Friday the thirteenth! Are you safe? I’m so glad you decided to take another flight, son.”

The enormity of the situation hit him hard as he listened to the sound of worry in her voice begin to diminish.

“Momma! I was meant to be on that plane. I missed it.”

“Of course you did, Gabriel. You have been blessed since birth.”

“Blessed, Momma? Maybe so … maybe so … Or I could be just lucky, I guess.”

He spent a further ten minutes reassuring her that he would stay indoors until after midnight.

He lay back and attempted to close his eyes, but dark thoughts of what the folks on that plane must have felt when it went down made his efforts at sleeping futile.

He thought about the strange incidents that had combined forces and caused him to miss that flight. He shivered.

The space around him felt wrong, it was suddenly crowded with the sounds of screaming helpless people.

He scrambled from the bed, hurriedly dressed,and headed downstairs and outside. Sucking in deep breaths of the spring air to help calm him. Gabriel began walking without checking direction … his usual keen sense of observation and acute awareness of his surroundings now gone, his feet moved with a purpose of their own that he appeared to have no control over.

He flicked a look at his watch. It was eleven forty-five pm. He shuddered as he acknowledged that this dreadful day was not yet over.

A building in the next block drew his eyes to the radiant glow of light emanating from within it.

He walked towards it without knowing why he did so.

He climbed the stairs and made his way into the warmth of the interior.

The light welcomed and encompassed him.

He moved slowly towards the statue of Christ.

A voice deep and rich permeated his senses. He was vibrating to the sound and the sensations as they echoed through his brain and pierced his soul.

“It is time, Gabriel. Welcome home.”

The church bells rang out the hour of midnight.

*

 

 

 

 

#NewContest “What is the Gender of this Author?” Submit a #ShortStory of 500 hundred words or less … in ANY genre.

BLOG POST WHAT IS THE GENDER OF THIS AUTHOR.jpg

You all know by now just how much pleasure I get from supporting my fellow authors.

It’s been quite a while since I came up with a contest here, and I do hope this one proves to be both challenging and entertaining.

I think it will be interesting for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is discovering just how diversely readers interpret what they read.

Just how perceptive are you?

So … what is this contest about?

The contest works in two parts.

 PART 1. I need authors to contribute a previously unpublished short story of 500 words or less in any genre of their choice.  Please include the title … and for my information and judging purposes only your name and indentifying gender.

Your short story will only be identified to the readers by a number allocated by myself. Your gender will not be revealed until after all votes have been counted.

In the subject line please write, “Submission for What is the Gender of this Author?”

SUBMISSIONS To be sent to me at suzieb4burke@hotmail.com

The author who has the least number of people correctly guessing their gender will have a featured article here on my blog, of any work of their choosing, the week immediately after the votes are calculated.

I only need three submissions each week to make the vote viable.

PART 2. Join in the voting process! If you haven’t contributed a story that week, please join in the fun and the challenge of identifying the gender that his author identifies as.

I will conduct a POLL to make voting easily accessible.

Those of you who wish to caste a vote will have a full week to read the entries and vote after the submissions go live.
 

I look forward to hearing your thoughts, folks!

Book Review Feb 2018. “The Hat” by C.S.Boyack. @Virgilante #Paranormal #Speculative Fiction #RRBC

BOOK REVIEW COVER THE HAT By C S BOYACK

BOOK Review “The Hat” By C.S. Boyack.

Meet the author.

BOOK REVIEW BIO PICTURE OF C S BOYACK

I was born in a town called Elko, Nevada. I like to tell everyone I was born in a small town in the 1940s. I’m not quite that old, but Elko has always been a little behind the times. This gives me a unique perspective of earlier times, and other ways of getting by. Some of this bleeds through into my fiction.

I moved to Idaho right after the turn of the century, and never looked back. My writing career was born here, with access to other writers and critique groups I jumped in with both feet.

I like to write about things that have something unusual. My works are in the realm of science fiction, paranormal, and fantasy. The goal is to entertain you for a few hours. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Craig

BOOK REVIEW COVER THE HAT By C S BOYACK

BLURB

Lizzie St. Laurent is dealing with many of the struggles of young life. She lost her grandmother, and her living arrangements. Her new roommate abandoned her, and she’s working multiple jobs just to keep her head above water.

She inherits an old hat from her grandmother’s estate, but it belonged to her grandfather. This is no ordinary hat, but a being from an alternate dimension. One with special powers.

Lizzie and the hat don’t exactly hit it off right away, but when her best friend’s newborn is kidnapped by a ring of baby traffickers, Lizzie turns to the hat for help. This leads her deep into her family history and a world she’s never known.

Lizzie gives up everything to rescue the babies. She loses her jobs, and may wind up in jail before it’s over. Along the way, she and the hat may have a new way of making ends meet.

Humorous and fun, The Hat is novella length. Wonderful escapism for an afternoon.

MY REVIEW … 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 A Captivating way to spend your reading time.

I have read and reviewed other works by author C.S Boyack and knew from experience to expect an enjoyable read. The Hat didn’t disappoint me! This author has a boundless energy and imagination which he shares quite beautifully in the pages of this novella. We humans all appear to be genetically predisposed to hunger for some small connection to our past. The central (Human) Character of Lizzie finds herself needing to have a memento of her connection to the family when she finds herself adrift from her familiar surroundings.

Denied the chance to take something she’d value she grabs an old box and runs with it.

What the box contains is ‘The Hat.’ And from then on the story takes you on a frantically paced and well thought out roller-coaster ride. The dialogue between Lizzie and her new companion is classic one-liners delivered with superb comedic timing. That timing doesn’t falter for the duration of this enjoyable read.

Attributing a personality to a supposedly inanimate object takes skill, as did the sketches included so beautifully within this paranormal framework. Author C S Boyack has a marvelous creativity that enhances the reading experience.

I will never look at a fashion accessory in quite the same way again.

A Must read.

Find Craig on TWITTER

Purchase THE HAT on Amazon.com

C.S. Boyack Amazon Author Page

Craig Boyack’s Website.

Cover Reveal & Book Excerpt #RRBC Writers’ Conference & Book Expo 2017. Suzanne Burke AUTHOR BOOTH. “MIND-SHAFT” #Paranormal #Anthology #RRBC #IARTG #IAN1 #KU #RRBC_ORG

 

RRBC WRITERS CONFERENCE BLOG PROMO DAILYHello and welcome! I’m both excited and delighted today! The Rave Reviews Book Club Writers’ Conference & Book Expo is finally here!  It promises to be an exciting time.Thanks for stopping by.  I can also be found here and at my Author Booth on the WC & BE site Author Booth RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB WRITERS’ CONFERENCE & BOOK EXPO as I reveal the cover of the newly edited edition of MIND-SHAFT. My Paranormal Anthology.

Mind – Shaft is an eclectic Anthology of Paranormal short stories in the paranormal sub genres of #Thriller #Suspense #Romance #Supernatural & #Horror.

MEET THE AUTHOR:

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Suzanne Burke resides with her daughter and grandson in a small country town located hundreds of miles to the west of her previous home in Sydney Australia.

Suzanne had long wanted to write, life interrupted and she didn’t begin her journey into the world of writing until she was in her early fifties.

Suzanne has written her memoirs under the author name of Stacey Danson, both her non-fiction books have ranked in the top 100 paid in Kindle on Amazon. “Empty Chairs” and “Faint Echoes of Laughter” continue to earn wonderful reviews.

Suzanne writes her powerful Thrillers “Acts Beyond Redemption” and “Acts of Betrayal” and her new Paranormal anthology “Mind-Shaft” as S. Burke.


 I’m delighted to share my latest book as I present my first adventure into the world of the Paranormal. I have included below a Complete short story from the Anthology for your reading pleasure.

Here we go! COVER REVEAL! I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

My thanks to Cover Creator Eeva Lancaster: EEVA LANCASTER on TWITTER

Mind-Shaft Kindle Cover HIGH DEFINITION

BLURB:

An Anthology of Paranormal short stories. An eclectic and exciting mix of Thriller, Romance, Supernatural, Horror and terrifying Suspense.

Sisterly Love. … Paranormal Horror. After the tragic murder/suicide of her parents, Pippa, at just Nineteen-years of age, finds herself taking on the full responsibility for raising her fifteen-year-old sister, Emma. Emma is … more than just a little different. The body count is increasing. Nothing and no one is as they seem.

Halloween Homecoming …Paranormal Supernatural. A Halloween party is the perfect venue for serving justice on the menu. Leighton Caulfield and his Lawyer are about to get their just desserts. In a way that nobody is prepared for.

A Place So Cold …Paranormal Suspense. Children are missing! Time is running out. Can the stranger from Australia lead the rescuers to them in time?

Spin … Paranormal Thriller Doctor Cameron Christopher is concerned that his patient Holly Daniels is caught in a downward spiral into complex Dissociative Disorder. Using Hypnotherapy he takes her back to explore when the nightmares began. Nothing in his experience as a Psychiatrist prepared him for what lay dormant … and waiting.

The Director’s Cut …  Paranormal Romance beyond time. Award-winning Director, Christopher Manning is searching for far more than a location for his next blockbuster. The emptiness that has permeated his entire life is crying out for resolution. Join him as he seeks the answers.

Mind-Shaft … Paranormal Supernatural Victoria Denton served revenge swiftly and without mercy. Her future happiness seems assured. If only the past would remain where it should.

To celebrate my cover release this eBook is available FREE from today (October 22nd) until OCTOBER 26th inclusive. Simply click the Amazon Link at the end of this post!

I have included a Complete short story from the Anthology for your reading pleasure.

The Paranormal Thriller short.

SPIN

By

Suzanne Burke.

 From “MIND-SHAFT” A Paranormal Anthology.    

Jenny Rivers looked over with concern at the woman sitting hunched in the corner of the waiting room. Her worry increased as Holly Daniels began rocking to and fro with her arms wrapped tightly around her slim body. Holly had been muttering something unintelligible to herself for a while now, and Jenny wanted to offer her some form of comfort.

“Holly. Doctor Christopher won’t be long, now. You arrived a little early for your session today. Can I get you a glass of water, or perhaps a magazine to read?”

Jenny wasn’t certain if the agitated woman had even heard her, as the muttering continued, now higher in pitch. It was a disconcerting sound. Jenny had worked here a very long time and was accustomed to witnessing unusual behavior. But, Holly had been deteriorating steadily over the past few weeks, enough to have Doctor Christopher reschedule his appointment times to fit her in again this morning.

Jenny was relieved when her boss completed his current session, she smiled up at Dan Jefferson as he left the Doctor’s room and busied herself setting his next appointment time.

She knew it wouldn’t be long before the Doctor buzzed and asked her to send in his next patient. She could count on the man being on time, he never allowed his sessions to go beyond their allocated hour.

Her intercom lit up, and the doctor’s deep voice requested that she send in the next patient.

“Holly, Doctor Christopher will see you now.” She spoke loud enough to be heard above the ranting.

The woman didn’t respond.

Jenny hesitated before leaving her desk, she wasn’t meant to interact with the clients apart from a greeting and making further appointments.

But the woman in the corner was clearly unable to hear her. Jenny approached her and coughed loudly to gain her attention.

The look in Holly Daniels eyes caused her to take a step back. She was unaccustomed to this patient being anything less than cooperative. “Holly? Holly?”

The woman shook her head as if in denial, then responded … “Holly? Yes … Yes, I’m Holly. I’m Holly … aren’t I?”

“Yes, you’re Holly, dear. The Doctor will see you now.”

The painfully slim woman stood then, and keeping her arms wrapped tightly around herself she walked unsteadily across the room and into the Psychiatrist’s office.

Jennifer resumed her seat, and in a moment unusual in her recent experience, she checked that the silent alarm indicating that security was immediately required was clearly switched on. She hoped fervently that there would be no need to use it. Something about Holly’s behavior had made her usual, calm and unruffled self, feel more than a little jumpy this morning.

Doctor Cameron Christopher checked his watch as his patient entered the room, automatically setting the timer to buzz discretely when her session came to an end.

He masked his shock at her appearance, but not his concern. It had only been five days since they’d last spoken and his patient appeared to have aged years in that short time frame.

Forty-three-year-old, Holly Daniels had been experiencing night terrors and this continued deterioration was very concerning. He’d consulted several colleagues, and after lengthy discussions had made the decision to use hypnotherapy to attempt to get to the crux of the problem that was making this woman so visibly ill. His concern was that it may not work at all, each client responded differently to hypnotherapy and it was quite possible that his patient may not be receptive.

He hesitated to increase her medication, it hadn’t assisted her so far, and increasing the dosages would only continue to mask the rapidly escalating signs of complex dissociative disorder.

“Come on in, Holly.” He indicated the high backed chair next to his desk.  Sit down, please, Holly, please, be comfortable, I’ll be with you in a moment.

“Comfortable? Yes, I can do that. Is it safe here?”

“Yes, Holly it is a safe, my dear. You have nothing to be concerned about I assure you.”

The woman shook her head as if only just becoming aware of where she was now sitting. “Doc? I’m in trouble here. I don’t understand what’s happening to me. I’m afraid all the time. Can you stop it?” She looked carefully around the room. “Do you want me to lie down on the couch?”

“No, Holly, we don’t work that way, do we? Unless you’d feel more relaxed that way, my dear. You must do what makes you feel the most at ease. Hypnotism is nothing to be afraid of. Do you recall we discussed the process last week when you were here? Let me just check my notes. These nightmares of yours have been recurring for several weeks now. They appear to have increased in frequency. What we’ll do together is take you slowly back to when they first began, to see if we can’t isolate an incident in your recent past that may have caused your subconscious to respond in this way. They are occurring how often now?

“They are happening every night now … I can’t sleep, I’m so afraid that I’ll have it again”. Her voice was shaking.

“Is it always the identical dream, Holly? With each one being exactly the same, or does it vary?”

“It’s getting worse. Maybe, ‘cause I’m so damned tired, Doc. I feel cold all the time and when I wake up, I’m freezing. Hell, Doc … it’s summer … I just shouldn’t feel so achingly cold.”

“Your physician can find no identifiable ailment causing those chills, Holly. Let’s assume for now that these dreams are the cause, and get them under control for you, shall we, hmm?”

His patient didn’t respond.

Doctor Christopher noted her appearance; she had paled visibly in the few minutes since she’d entered his office. He decided to press on. “Do you recognize anything or anyone in the dream, Holly?”

“Well … sort of … it kind of looks like a fairground with lights and Ferris wheels that my folks used to take me to when I was a kid. But, Doc, the colors are all blurred together, like a painting that got wet as it was starting to dry. Do you understand? All the colors are running together.”

“How do you feel talking about it?”

“I’m afraid. I’m cold; I’m always cold. It doesn’t make any difference if I sit in front of a heater, my hands are icy and my breathing seems to freeze in the air. And the screaming, the screaming is terrifying. I can hear it no matter whether I’m awake or trying to sleep! I put music on to distract me and leave my lights burning all night long, but it just keeps on … I need you to make it stop, Doc! Please … make it stop. I can’t do anything, I’m so tired all the time, and I keep hearing the same voice over and over again. I don’t know where it’s coming from, but I know it’s not my voice. Over and over again. I hear it even when I’m awake now. It’s frightening me, I don’t seem to be able to make it stop. Maybe I’m going mad, Doc! Am I crazy?”

“No, don’t think of it that way, my dear … it’s simply a nightmare, something in your subconscious may be triggering it … that’s what we will attempt to discover. Are you certain you understand the process, Holly?”

“Yeah … I guess. Like you said last time, you hypnotize me and we find out what these nightmares are all about. Can we just do this please Doc? I want this shit to stop.”

Cameron Christopher pushed a form across the desk to his patient, “Sign the consent form then, Holly, and we’ll get started. “

Holly grabbed the form and the pen, “Where … here?”

“Yes, just where I’ve indicated with a cross, dear” He pointed, “Yes, that’s right.”

The woman signed it and pushed it across the desk. “So, do you dangle a watch or something that I have to look at?”

“No, no, my dear, nothing like that. You just relax and listen to the sound of my voice.

“The sound of my voice will make your body grow heavy, your arms will grow heavier … heavier; you hear nothing else, only the sound of my voice … nothing else, just my voice. Yes, Holly … yes, that’s good, you are so tired. Your arms and legs are growing heavy now. You are completely safe, Holly, just safe and relaxed and comfortable.”

He watched his patient begin to slump in the chair. “Yes, that’s it. Good, Holly, now you can feel your heartbeat slowing. You feel totally relaxed. Totally safe. Heavier …heavier, you are in a state of deep relaxation now. You can hear the sound of my voice, gently now … calm. That’s it, Holly, …yes. That’s it.”

“Where are you now, Holly, can you see?”

“Holly can’t play. She’s been bad.” The doctor flinched and then leaned forward, the voice was not Holly’s, it was a male voice and appeared to be quite young. Cameron Christopher took a deep breath trying to stem his excitement, and then slowly continued the questioning.

“Bad? What did you do, Holly, that was bad?”

“Holly can’t play. She’s been very bad.

“Where is Holly?”

“She’s in the bad place. She didn’t play right, she was bad. Bad, Holly.”

“Where is the bad place?”

“Everybody knows the bad place. You know the bad place. We all know the bad place.”

“What is your name?”

“Names don’t matter! Unless you are bad. Holly was bad.”

“What did Holly do that was bad?”

“You don’t know? You belong with Holly … in the bad place.”

“Tell me about the bad place.”

“Nothing breathes in the bad place. There’s no air. No air… no care … all gone.”

“Are you in the bad place?”

“Stupid, Holly. Stupid, bad, Holly. No air … no care … all gone.”

“Can Holly leave the bad place?”

“Nobody can leave. Nobody can. It’s bad. I’m sad … all gone.”

“You left the bad place … didn’t you?”

“Nobody can! Stupid man! Stupid, bad, man.”

“Why am I bad? What did I do?”

“You made Holly bad. You made Holly try to leave. Stupid man”

“Tell me about the bad place … can you see it from where you are?”

“Everbody can see it. Spinning wheels and candy floss. Lights and noise … and, them.”

“Them?”

“No air. Them. No care…them. All gone …………… Them.”

“What do they look like?”

“Musn’t look! Must not, lookedy-look! Noise and lights and spinning wheels. Bad Holly, to look. Now she stays.”

“What did Holly see? Did she see them?’

Holly… don’t look! Holly don’t! Holllyeeeee. Holly … All gone.”

“Gone where? Where did she go? Can you see?” The Doctor’s once calm voice began to tremble.

“Round and round, round and round … lights and noise … round and round.”

“Is Holly on the spinning thing … going round and round?”

“Holly is spinning! … Spinning away! Spinning with them.”

“Can she come back?”

“Nobody can. Spinning up … round and round. She looked! She lookedy-looked. Bad, Holly!”

“Can she see you?”

“Me?”

“Yes … yes, can she see you?”

“I … I don’t kn … can you see me, Holly? Holllyeeee can you see meeeeee?”

“Did she answer?”

“She’s been bad. Sad. All gone.”

“Can you see her?”

“Mustn’t look. It’s bad, to lookedy-look.”

“Don’t you want to see her?”

“NO! No air… no care … all gone.”

“She needs to come back, now.

“All gone.”

“Holly needs to come back to the safe place, now.”

No … all gone Alllllll gone! Lookedy-look … all gone.”

“She can’t be gone. I’ll help her. I’ll help you too.”

“Help, me?  Too late … all gone.”

“No, no, it’s not too late. The bad place is gone. You can look. See the bad place is gone now.”

“No … it’s here.”

Cameron Christopher took several deep breaths, attempting to calm himself. He needed to regain control. When he spoke again the edge of desperation was more muted.

“Holly …? Holly! Listen to the sound of my voice, dear. You are coming up through the levels of deep relaxation. Listen to my voice as you emerge feeling refreshed and safe. Nice and slow … nice and easy. Listen to the sound of my voice; only my voice. … That’s it. Good, Holly. … Slowly now, you will awaken feeling refreshed and safe on the count of three. One … two … three.”

“Ahh…back with us.” His relief was palpable. He whispered, “Thank God” then continued, “Good, Holly, very good. How do you feel now?”

“Feel?”

The doctor was shattered to still hear the young male voice. Something was wrong here. Something was terribly wrong. “I need you to feel safe now, Holly. It’s time to come back from that memory.”

“Holly dear, are you feeling relaxed?” The doctor’s voice held a last vestige of hope.

“No more Holly; Holly was bad. No air… no care… Holly all gone.”

“Oh, Sweet Jesus … Holly! Holly? Holly?”

***

Jenny Rivers looked at her watch. The next patient was waiting, the current session should have ended by now. She listened intently for a moment, caught unprepared by the agonized screams shattering the silence. She remained rooted to the spot, rendered paralyzed by the sound.

The silent alarm began flashing …

She froze as she entered the room, the stench was unfamiliar and overwhelming, making her gag. It was desperately cold in the room. The screams so loud, she covered her ears to protect them from the sound. She tried to take a deep breath but there was no air, her lungs became depleted.

The doctor’s chair and the chair the patient should have been sitting in were spinning so fast that the motion was blurred … a flash of blue-green light momentarily pulsed and encompassed the entire room. The screaming became strangled and distant.  Jenny watched on, gasping for air. Shaking her head in desperate disbelief as the spinning gradually slowed. Both chairs were empty. How could that be? The only exit from Doctor Christopher’s office was the one that would have brought them straight past her desk.

The police were baffled. The videotaped session consisted of spiraling lights on fast forward, and the audiotape gave them answers of sorts, none of which were acceptable by any laws familiar to them.

The secretary had been briefly questioned, but the woman was hysterical, beyond any help they could render.  The paramedics immediately transported her to hospital with sirens blaring, she was in deep shock and her core body temperature had dropped alarmingly. Her oxygen saturation levels were desperately low.

Another patient waiting for his now overdue appointment relayed quite a story. The shaken man spoke of lights flashing and a man and child screaming, he confirmed that he’d seen no one leave Doctor Christopher’s office.

No one at all.

***

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“Pulse!” A short story from my upcoming Anthology: “Front-Line Heroes.” #RRBC #IARTG.

HEROES LOGO

My latest work in progress is an anthology of stories dedicated to the bravery of men and woman worldwide. ALL those that silently and without fanfare hold down the Front Lines. ALL the front lines. On the streets of any town, anywhere, you’ll find them, The Policeman, Paramedics, Firefighters, Nurses and Doctors and all their support personnel. Those on the battle-fronts in foreign lands, and those on the battle-fronts of streets peopled with others that have slipped through the cracks and crevices of the world we now live in. The many brave souls that endure the lasting, life changing flashbacks, and battle each and every day with the nightmare that is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

These are their stories.

 

Front-Line Heroes … An Anthology of short stories.

PULSE.

By

Suzanne Burke 2017.

Chad moved gingerly, his bruised ego competing with his other more visible bruises for distinction.

He’d once believed he could hold his liquor better than most guys his age, but his heaving stomach rapidly turned that hopeful little daydream into a blatant lie.

He made his way to the bathroom, pleased with himself for a moment as he looked around his small apartment, and found contentment by the order he found there.

He avoided the mirror this morning. His hands were too shaky to risk a shave.

The shower revived him to a reasonable degree. Orange juice and strong coffee took care of the rest.

He flicked a look at his phone,  checked a couple of missed calls, but nothing urgent needed his attention for now.

Today was already planned, based on an assumption that the few drinks with the guys and girls from his future work place couldn’t possibly result in feeling less than the six-feet-four, well-muscled and lean persona that belonged utterly to Chad Williams. Ego is such an inconvenient thing. The thought made him smile for a moment.

He shook his head to clear it a little: he’d need to get moving if he wanted to see and map out the sections of the city that would most likely need his attention two nights from now.

He glanced across at the uniform and jacket that hung on the hook outside his wardrobe. The jacket, large and in screaming yellow with Paramedic emblazoned across it to identify him to anyone that needed to know why he was wherever they ended up.

He’d not so long ago worn a different uniform in a very different theater of combat.

“Old habits die hard, that’s how it goes down. I need to take the pulse of my new terrain, do you get that?”

He’d spoken those words to the paramedic he’d be riding with in just a few short days.

“Yeah … Oh yeah, I get it.” Katrina Georgiou gave him a brief smile. “But …” She stopped to better form the question, “I’m gonna be ridin’ with you, Chad. I need to know what you’re bringin’ with you from your past, into my current equation. Do you get that?”

“So … why did I choose to leave? Is that what you need to know?” He asked, with a mask rapidly descending over a face once young, but rapidly ageing.

“Yeah … that’ll about cover it.” she’d said.

Chad had considered his response for a few long moments. His face reflected sadness accompanied by a firm resolve. “When you do your job … you do it for strangers, and the chances of you being called to attend someone you know and care deeply about are minuscule at best. Would that be an accurate assessment?”

She nodded her head, “If you mean family, I’ve only ever heard about that happening, maybe twice or three-times in my twenty-three-years on the job. But, I guess there are many different layers of caring … aren’t there?” She questioned gently and then continued, “Go on.”

“The people that I saw, the dead and the dying, the ones I could help and the ones it was too late to offer anything but  a prayer for, … a thankful prayer that death had been mercifully fast to take them. They weren’t nameless strangers. I ate with those men and women; I played cards and shot the breeze about baseball, and basketball and whatever other damned sport you care to name. I laughed with them and occasionally at them … and then far too often … I watched them bleed.

“So, here I am. These folks we’ll try and help, these folks will be strangers. Strangers I can tend to, to the best of my ability, and when they have been handed over to the hospital I can walk away without the need to hear the ones that care, the ones remaining, cry out their despair.” He looked into her face and saw the beginnings of understanding reflecting back at him from her kind eyes.

She touched his arm, “You’ll do me just fine.” She stood then and offered her hand, “Welcome to your new battle station, Chad.”

He shook the hand that she offered and left her.

He had uncharted terrain to explore. He’d grown up in this city, but he knew her pulse had changed.

He was almost done … only a couple of the dockyard places remained to  be looked at more fully.

The pulse of the city had slowly revealed itself to him,   making itself known to his hyper-alert senses.  He recognized the heartbeat of this city he’d been born in … and over the course of three long days and nights he began to recognize the areas that could explode with testosterone-fueled rage, or the rage of futility … for he knew too well, that rage had its own unique pulse.

Fear signaled a different beat again, the fear pulse came with a residual echo, as if hopelessness had its own sounding chamber.

The visual images of fear burned themselves into his core memory … .

He would save them for later.

Partly satisfied that his recon had given him at least some parameters to work with, he crawled into bed and finally slept. The sunrise heralded the beginning of his new tomorrow.

He watched it rise, and spent the day quietly; his shift began at 2100 hrs … 9.00 pm he corrected inside his military trained head … . He wanted to be, needed to be … must be, on premium, optimal, alert.

He was a little tense on the drive in, and pulled over and breathed through it before he continued.

Katrina  Georgiou,  acknowledged him briefly “We already have a call out, Chad. I’ll fill you in once we get underway.”

Chad climbed up into the ambulance and seated himself in the shotgun position beside her.

“Ready to rock n’ roll?” She asked.

“Let’s do it.”

She nodded and drove out.

She pulled expertly into the heavy traffic of a Friday night in this city, and hit the siren. She grunted in satisfaction as cars began to pull over to let the ambulance through.

“Okay, Chad, here’s where we’re at. We have a Police officer down.  Multiple shots fired, officers responding report  that our patient is on the pavement at the entrance to the old art-gallery off George and Park. No movement detected.”

“We first in?”

“Looks that way.”

“Understood” … “ETA?”

“Four minutes.”

Katrina pulled the ambulance expertly into the boundary already set up by the responding officers.  It was bordered shoulder-to-shoulder with a blue breathing wall of police.

The officer on the sidewalk was around fifteen-yards from the edge of the police presence.

Katrina spoke up, “We need to get to the casualty.”

The officer in charge nodded his head. “I understand that. He’s my man, but we still have a shooter somewhere in that alley. The rear access is covered, so our shooter could be more than a little desperate right around now.”

The body on the sidewalk moved slightly, an arm suddenly extended to drape itself across the side of the man currently facing them.

Chad looked at the blood rapidly pooling on the sidewalk.

“Oh fuck … he’s gut shot.” he said half to himself. “We don’t have time for this, guys. He  could bleed out pretty quickly.” He looked at Katrina and she gave him the yes nod he’d hoped for.

The cop in charge looked at them hard for just a moment “God bless you both.” He turned to his men. “Let’s do this … Jesus … okay, move … on my signal” He gave it, and put both he and another two officers in the direct line-of-fire to escort the paramedics the short distance to the fallen man in blue.

No shots came at them,  and Katrina and Chad set to work.

They were both on autopilot now … focused only on what they needed to do to give this one the very best chance of surviving.

“We’ll need the gurney to move him.” Katrina spoke softly.

“It’ll take too long, Katrina. I’ll carry him, if you go ahead of me and hold the drip feed lines. Yeah?”

She agreed and they prepared him hurriedly for the necessary dash to the ambulance. Both of them focused only on what was ahead and not what could well be waiting to kill them all from behind.

The cops closed ranks and provided them a brief shield, falling back into line with a rapid but pleased glance from the others still waiting to be ordered to move in.

Katrina climbed in to the driver’s seat once they had their patient secured, and Chad sat alongside the unconscious man and willed him to hold on.

The sound of a second shot startled them both, and not waiting to hear more, Katrina revved the vehicle, set the sirens screaming …  and got them all the hell out of Dodge.

The casualty made it the hospital and was still alive when he was handed across to the ready and prepared E.R staff.

***

Chad joined Katrina outside and was grateful when she offered him one of her cigarettes.

“That was quite a christening.” Katrina said as she lit up his Marlboro.

He looked down at his hands, relieved and a little surprised to find that they were steady.

“It was the same, wasn’t it … that Pulse beat you were talking about?” She asked suddenly.

He was surprised … then felt suddenly guilty at feeling that way. “Uh-huh … yeah, yeah …  it was.”

She reached for his arm and gave it a gentle squeeze.

“You do know that those boys in blue will be buying you beers for a long while to come … If you let them that is. Will you let them in close enough to allow that, will you let them be grateful, Chad?”

Chad checked his pulse rate, and then gave her a weary smile.

“I have no choice. Do I? Can we check on him before end of shift?”

“Welcome back to the land of the still living, Chad.”

Chad just nodded his head.

Ready or not … He had finally come home.

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Watch RWISA Write: Month-long-blog-tour: Featured author Stephanie Collins #RRBC #RRBC_RWISA

RWISA STEPHANIE TOUR

Rave Writers – International Society Of Authors (RWISA)

August is Watch RWISA Write month. We will showcase a different author each day. Today, we celebrate author Stephanie Collins.

Let’s learn a little more about Stephanie,

The Author’s Story – @w_angels_wings

I am a busy mom of four, a loving wife, and an unsuspecting author. “WITH ANGEL’S WINGS” is my story. Aside from that, I found my inner jock when I set out to lose four pregnancies worth of baby weight, a few years back. Apparently, I’m a runner (who knew!) and a Zumba addict. Otherwise, I read every minute I can.

 

Guilt, Shame & Fear

By Stephanie Collins

“I can’t stand the feeling of being out of control, so I’ve never had any interest in trying drugs or alcohol,” I mused.

“You sure seemed to have an interest when you were younger,” Dad informed me. He responded to my perplexed look before I had a chance to deny his claim. “What? You don’t remember trying pot? Let’s see. It was about 1975. That would have made you five, right? I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a summer afternoon. I walked into the living room and found you with a bong in one hand and a beer in the other. You just looked up at me, glassy-eyed, with a smile on your face and said, ‘Hi, Dad.’ You don’t remember that?”

“Uh…no!”

“Ha! Do you remember the massive headache you had the next day? You hated life that day! I told you not ever to do it again…and you never did,” he reminisced in a tone laced with humor and pride.

It was after that conversation when I really began to question my apparent lack of childhood memories. I have next to no memory of life before the divorce of my parents (when I was eight) and precious few afterward.

My parental split also marks the onset of memories of the “secret playtime” I shared with Dad. I remember realizing that what was happening to me was wrong (to a certain extent, anyway), but Dad really missed Mom. I felt proud to be there for him in his time of grief and loneliness. I had many roles as the oldest daughter. I got my toddler sister to bed on time, scolded her when I found her drinking a beer (that one I do have a vague memory of), and I cleaned the house. Those “more intimate interactions” with Dad were just another in my list of responsibilities as I saw it.

But if Dad remembered the timeline correctly, Mom and Dad were still together when I was five. Where was Mom when her Kindergartener daughter was experimenting with drugs? Could this mean I should add neglect as a descriptor of my “chaotic” upbringing? Could it mean the molestation began earlier than I have any memory of? Does it even matter at this point?

For a time, I was skeptical if someone told me s/he didn’t have sexual abuse in their background. It seemed it was everywhere. I ran a support group in a junior high school when getting my psychology degree. It was for eighth-grade girls, and the only qualifier for an invitation to the group was poor school attendance. After a few weeks of meetings, I opened a session with – innocently enough – “So, how was everyone’s weekend?” One girl immediately began to cry. She explained she had confronted her parents over the weekend with the news that her brother had sexually abused her for years. She had come forward out of fear for the niece her brother’s girlfriend had just given birth to. That student’s admission led to the revelation that six of the seven of us in our circle that day had a history of sexual abuse.

My best friend in college was gang-raped in high school. My college boyfriend was [brutally] raped by a neighbor as a child. Maybe the most disturbing situation I heard about was when I was a senior in high school. I had befriended a freshman. She came to me one day, inconsolable. She was petrified, as she was positive she was pregnant. I tried to calm her with reassuring words, then asked, “Have you told [your boyfriend] yet?” She burst into a fresh bout of tears. When she was finally able to speak again, she confessed in an agonized whisper, “I can’t! It’s not his. It’s…it’s my uncle’s, or my father’s.”

I don’t know how I thought sexual abuse was rampant all around me but had somehow left the rest of my family untouched. Soon after my first daughter was born, I learned that Dad had attempted to molest my younger sister when I was about 12 (my sister would have been 7 or 8 then). As it turns out, I disrupted the attempt when I went to inform them I had just finished making breakfast. I learned of that incident because our [even younger] step sister had just pressed charges against Dad for her sexual abuse from years earlier. He served four years.

Incidentally, that family drama enlightened me to the fact that my grandmother had been abused by a neighbor. My aunt had been abused by her uncle. I wonder if Dad had been sexually abused, too (in addition to the daily, brutal physical abuse I know he suffered at the hands of my grandfather).

As with most survivors of abuse from a family member, I am full of ambiguity and conflict. I am glad Dad was educated to the error of his ways. I’m satisfied he paid for his crimes. I’m relieved the truth came out. I hate that the truth came out. I mourn for the shell of a man who returned from prison. I weep for a family that was blown apart by the scandal. I am heartbroken for my grandmother, who was devastated by the whole ordeal. I am thankful I live 3000 miles away from my family, so I don’t have to face the daily small-town shame they all do, now that Dad is a registered sex offender. I am proud of my step sister for speaking up. I am woefully ashamed for not having the courage to do it myself, which possibly would have prevented the abuse of others after me. I love my father. I am thankful for the [many] great things he has done for me over the years. I hate the effect his molestation had on me, including the role it likely played in my high school rape by another student, and my first [abusive, dysfunctional] marriage.

As I’ve clearly demonstrated, my story is far from unique. Heck, it’s not even remotely severe or traumatic when compared to what others have survived. Still, here I am – 40 years after my first memories of molestation – and I’m still suffering the consequences. Along with my disgrace for allowing others to be abused after me, I carry incredible shame for my involvement in the acts (regardless of the decades of therapy that advise me I had no real power or choice in the matter). I carry unbelievable guilt for the strain my history places on my relationship with my husband. He’s an amazing, wonderful, loving man, who deserves nothing less than a robust, vigorous, fulfilling sex life, but gets – to the best of my ability – a [hopefully] somewhat satisfying one. I carry secret embarrassment over the only real sexual fantasy I have – that of reliving my rape and [this time] taking great pleasure in castrating the bastard in the slowest, most brutally savage way imaginable.

Heaviest of all, I carry fear. There’s nothing I can do to change my past. All I can do is work toward preventing the continued cycle of abuse. I may have a warped view of personal boundaries, I may struggle with my sexuality, and I may be somewhat unfamiliar with healthy family dynamics, but I can do all in my power to ensure my kids fare far better than me. I fear failure.

My eldest daughter has mild to moderate developmental delay. While statistics for sexual abuse in the general population is scary enough, the likelihood of abuse when a cognitive disability is involved is all but a certainty. My second daughter is non-verbal, non-ambulatory, and severely mentally delayed. She’s a prime candidate for abuse. What if my efforts to protect them fall short?

My [teenaged] son and my youngest [“tween”] daughter both have ADHD. Impulse control is a constant struggle for them both. What if the education, counseling, advice, and coaching I offer them about healthy relationships, sexuality, safety and personal responsibility aren’t enough?

I try to counteract these lingering after effects of abuse by remaining ever thankful for the love, good fortune, and beautiful life I share with my husband and children today, but my guilt, shame, and fear cling to me with tenacious persistence.

I am just finishing “It Begins And Ends With Family” by Jo Ann Wentzel. I highly recommend the read. The subject is foster care, but no conversation about foster children is complete without a discussion of child abuse and neglect. While we can debate the best course of action in helping abused children, the top priority must be to work toward a goal of prevention; to break the cycle of abuse. I am hopeful that – as a society – we can work together to empathize, educate, support, counsel, and care enough to stop the cycle of all abuse. If sharing my truth will help toward that goal, well…Here I am. This is my truth.

***

Contact Via:

Email:  WithAngelsWings@gmail.com

Twitter:  W_Angels_Wings

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/withangelswings/

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephanie-collins-72a9a444

Google+:  https://plus.google.com/u/0/+StephanieCollinsAuthor/about

Blog/Website:

Blog:  http://withangelswingsepilogue.blogspot.com/

Website:  http://www.withangelswings.net/

Titles:

“WITH ANGEL’S WINGS”

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

“My Name is Flic.” A short story by Suzanne Burke. From my upcoming anthology. “Front-Line Heroes” @pursoot

FIRST RESPONDERS BEST LARGE

What follows is one selection from an Anthology I’m working on.

The books title: “Front-Line Heroes.”

I want to pay tribute to ALL the Front-Line Heroes. The Soldiers, Paramedics, Police Officers, Firefighters, Doctors, Nurses, Drug Enforcement Agents, Teachers, Foster-Parents, Counsellors and Carers.

The selfless angels that work the streets every night from all the marvelous charitable organisations. They are the Front-Line Heroes … every precious one of them.

I hope my stories assist in further understanding their utter devotion, and undeniable humanity, and how they may need to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

These are all works of fiction. However I hope that each reader will recognize these people, and give thanks that they exist.

***

My Name is Flic.

A Short Story.

By Suzanne Burke

Some people grow into the name they were given at birth by a mother caught up in hormone driven, wishful thinking. I wasn’t one of them. She named me Felicity. Now, I’ll grant you there is nothing wrong with the name. But, you know, sometimes people have a visual image pre-ordained in their heads that have all the Felicity’s as golden-haired, blue-eyed and sunny-natured, shining examples of goodness.

So, everyone that knows me understands that I prefer to be called Flic.

It had always been strange coming into this office. Trepidation was my constant companion on those days. The smell of the furniture polish never changes, nor does the light penetrating the squeaky-clean glass of the double glass doors.

It’s lonely here gazing down at the quadrangle, knowing I can see so clearly, without being observed.

I feel like an intruder in other people’s guarded moments, yet I need the comfort that observation will grant me right now. I needed to know what’s waiting down there in the quadrangle. I need to prepare.

The new intake of girls stand segregated for now, whilst the teachers act upon predetermined decisions on who to pair them up with. Each newbie will be partnered with an older, more experienced member of this community of discarded young people. A mentor to help ease them in to the difficult period of adjustment that lay waiting.

I watch the body language of the group, I need to identify them for my own satisfaction … I’ll know better how to move among them that way.

Four of the young people are quietly standing, eyes downcast, shoulders slumped. They have long believed themselves unworthy of being loved. It would take time, and patience before that could change … if it ever did.

Three of the new intake are afraid. They have been suddenly taken from their comfort zones, their sanctuary. No matter how bad it had been, it was familiar, and something they had lived with all of their lives … until now.

Now the courts had made the choice to remove them from that environment. To place them into the care of people trained to help them redefine who they were.

Definitions were difficult in those early weeks and months as both teachers and students struggled to be accepted. I knew that.

I recognized two of the girls standing to the rear of the assembly. These girls were not new. I know them. They had been placed in foster homes and returned when they had proven too difficult to keep. The haunted look in their eyes battled with the sadness, as they accepted finally that the only home they would ever know … was this one. Until and unless they found the courage it would take to make it alone. My memory was rippled with the scattered bodies of these kids.

I knew their anger seethed just below a surface they created to expel any thought of comfort or human contact. They had long ago witnessed just how their skin could be stripped from their bones with words used like weapons on their fragile defenses.

I knew that anger. I also knew that it could and would explode into violence, unleashed by any one of a thousand trigger situations they could suddenly find themselves in …utterly unprepared.

The other girls stood out clearly, they didn’t walk to assembly, they strutted. Tossing long hair and smiling as if they held a secret that only they could ever see. These broken babies flirted with everyone, irrespective of gender or position in the pecking order. You were human and breathing and that was enough to force them to offer you themselves in return for whispered lies of love. Learning to stop equating sex with being loved was a lifetime of counseling away.

I knew too that the teachers burned out fast here. Some managed to survive all the pain they witnessed daily; but it was the support network they had outside these walls, that offered them their only tangible comfort.

Those that tried to absorb all that they witnessed in the vain hope they wouldn’t get flamed into nothingness by it … they crumpled like singed tissue paper and burned to a cinder. Many of them would never be able to teach again.

I looked on as a few of the youngest students started to cry. I watched them comforted by the others that had enough heart still left in them to offer it.

It all came down to the look in the eyes of both students and teachers. There was a hunted and haunted look that ate into your soul and remained there … indelible, immovable, and endlessly sad.

The door opened and Margot the school secretary caused me to turn away from the window.

She glanced at her wristwatch and gave me what passed for a reassuring smile, “It’s time, Flic.”

I nodded and answered, “Be right there.”

She smiled in acknowledgement and left the door ajar.

I gathered my scattered thoughts and wrapped them around me as I walked downstairs, and caught brief smiles of recognition from a few of those assembled.

I stepped up to the microphone. “Good morning, everyone.”

And sixty voices echoed back at me, “Good Morning Principal Flic.”

I had traveled full circle. I had come home.

 

 

 

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