Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Catherine felt like cold sludge was pounding through her veins. Not the most comfortable of sensations to say the least.
“In a completely unexpected turn of events, we are witnessing what appears to be a complete cessation of hostilities. ISIL forces have pulled back to their bases in Tikrit, while Iraqi forces are bringing in aid to civilians throughout the region.”
Indulging in such human practices was something she didn’t often do. Needless to say, Catherine was drunk. Perks of working as a bartender.
It was supremely difficult for her to fulfill her duties while drunk. But it had been a long night.
It had been a very long night.
After copious amounts of alcohol, Catherine slept for a long time, and dreamt for most of that time. She had wandered through the haze of time, moving between the veils of past, present, and future.
The future presented itself to her like the strained tones of an old flute drifting throughout the recesses of her mind. A host of voices calling from somewhere far away: “The blind given sight. The beggar given wealth. She will drag her feeble frame towards the light of a distant land.”
Not exactly comforting.
The past wove itself into her nightmares like a friend on the brink of death, refusing to give up or let themselves be beaten. Scenes that brought images to the forefront of her mind. A little girl lying in a pool of her parents blood, a man kneeling over her grinned: “Need a hand?”
The girl trembled, but the women inside called out, “Why help me? You’re the one that put me here in the first place!”
Her insides roiled. But still her sleep persisted. Too much liquor always set Catherine on edge.
“Look. I just want to go home and you coming in here and making me push you out a window is not good for my image.”
His image? He’s fucking Satan! What image?
“Interfering with you pointless little plan is not why I came here. Call me Ripley cause believe it or not, not everything I do is because of you. I don’t wake up and think ‘Oh. How am I gonna piss off Catherine today?’ I have my own life and I’m just trying to live it. If there are actually people dying outside of your Plan well then, sister, you’ve got a much bigger problem to worry about than me.”
You have your own life? What irony, Catherine thought. Death and Satan, sitting around chatting about life.
And yet, he was remarkably good at bringing up valid points.
If the disturbances in The Plan weren’t his fault, whose were they?
What did he mean?
What did it all mean?
When the veils of sleep at last were lifted, the blanket of existentialism and self doubt remained. The beautiful light of dawn only served to further increase her confusion as the concept of a hangover made itself fully known to her.
Sunday, March 8, 2015
Hazel was supremely confused about where she was and why she was there. She appeared to have wandered into the smoky, dimly lit bar.
“Check the paper.” Catherine strode in through the swinging door that led in from the kitchen.
Hazel made her way to the bar counter, where lay a newspaper. “Why this,” she asked.
Catherine rolled up her sleeves and set to work polishing the fine mahogany countertop. “It’s tomorrows paper. Read the obits. I promise! It’ll get interesting.”
Hazel eyed the other woman suspiciously as she flipped from the front page to the obituary section, deep in the inky heart of the paper. She began to rapidly scan column after column, wary of the steady, relaxed motions of the room’s other occupant.
“A local employee at a children’s home fell to her death death today after stumbling on a toy and plummeting down the stairs. She was rushed to the hospital and declared dead after several hours in an apparent coma."
Her heart seemed to freeze in her chest as her eyes lit upon that all too familiar shape. “That’s my name! Why is my name here?! Wha-? What’s going on?!?”
“Relax! Your name isn’t going to stay there. Keep reading, and do try to calm down a bit.”
Far from calm, Hazel tore through her own obituary. She only paused for a thousandth of a second to consider the story of her long tumble down the steps and the orphanage. “What does it all mean?!”
“Well child, by all rights you should be dead and gone right now. The Plan, however, has been experiencing a lot of flux recently. And I have decided that you have a lot more work left to do.”
“You know,” Catherine continued. “I too am a child of the system. I grew up in an orphanage after my parents, or her parents really, were taken.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because in the end, you choose what system to be a part of. You spent a long while doing great things in South America, only to throw yourself back into a place that you never really left. A place that you clearly never made your peace with. Isn’t it high time to make your peace? Hazel, you bring many gifts to the table, but staying in the orphanage forever is holding you back. In the end, it is your choice to stay or go. But it must be that: it must be your choice. Not the choice of some random toy truck that you would happen to stumble on on the way downstairs.”
Hazel absorbed all of this with trepidation. “Why are you telling me this?! Where are we?”
“Hazel, in a short while you will wake up in a hospital bed and all of this will be naught but a lingering memory. The only thing that will remain will be that question will be are you willing to let go?”
Hazel remained silent. The poor girl was still very confused and unsettled.
“I’m sorry for the inconvenience. Try and sleep now, and soon you will be back.”
Hazel wondered how on earth she was supposed to sleep. At least until The woman at the bar handed her a glass of some clear liquid.
Hazel drank deeply.
The slow, methodical movements Catherine’s cleaning lured her deeper and deeper into a trancelike state. She closed her eyes for the briefest of moments.
A glaring white light, accompanied by the cacophony of beeps and whirrs awaited her on the other side.
The friendly face of Brian leaned over her, smiling as always.
“Welcome back, Hazel.”
“Our earlier report of the death of the local children’s home employee seems to have been rather preemptive Janice! In a stunning turn of events doctors managed to bring her back from the brink of death!”
But this was just the beginning of what would prove to be one of Catherine’s longest days yet.
The face of the brutish man haunted Catherine wherever she went: “Fix this, wench!” For for the past several weeks, Catherine had been striving to do just that. Countless hours of planning and reflection had left her absolutely nowhere.
Catherine was becoming desperate.
And desperate times call for desperate measures.
As the darkness of the apartment and the darkness of her mind finally overwhelmed her, Catherine let her anger guide her hand to the smooth hilt of the knife. Letting her caution take flight, she left her dark sanctuary, creeping out into the hallway and steadily towards apartment 43.
As she approached the doorway, Catherine could feel his presence, his pull guiding her towards her destination.
The feeble deadbolt was no match for her fury. The door practically opened itself before her wrath.
“Welcome Catherine. I’ve been anticipating this moment for some time now.”
Catherine did not respond. She crept forward, carried by darkness, fluid as a dancer.
“I am here. In the kitchen. Come join me at the table.”
His form was silhouetted against the dull light of the single light bulb that illuminated the space. He sat at the table, the seat farthest to the right from the head.
“This is where Judas sat. Arguably my biggest success, he was. Here he sat and schemed up the death of Christ. Come. Sit and eat with me.”
The light seemed to bend for a moment before a feast appeared before them on the table.
“Join me in the flesh and blood of Christ.” His wicked grin flashed through the dim lighting.
Catherine did not move.
“Stupid bitch, I’m offering you a way out!”
“I’m Death! There is no way out of Death! Death is inescapable!”
“Then try it bitch! Do what you have come to do! You think yourself free from your own Plan? Haha! You thought I was an idiot.”
“Do it Catherine! I’m sure He will reward you!”
“Eternal glory bitch! It’ll be you-”
And Catherine snapped.
It wasn’t what he said, but rather the way his words slithered from his mouth that moved her to action.
She threw the table across the room, smashing furniture and leaving deep gouges in the walls. Plates shattered and wine spilled. Catherine lunged, plunging the knife towards the serpent's heart.
For one glorious moment, she could taste victory.
Then Clive laughed. His laughter boomed and rang throughout the room, barraging her ears.
Catherine found herself suspended millimeters from Clive, completely immobilized.
“You see Catherine, The Plan transcends any of us, and most of all you. You are bound to your own works.”
Catherine was speechless.
Clive reached out and wrapped his fingers around her neck, dragging her through the wreckage of the room. He took her to a window and pressed her face up against the glass.
“Look at the stars Catherine. A testimony to God’s far reaching touch. God doesn’t want you. God doesn’t love you. One day you will see this and know real truth.”
Catherine, immobile and weak in his arms, said nothing.
“You wanted to dance, Catherine. You wanted to play. Well here I am. Come back when you’ve figured stuff out bitch.”
And with that Clive smashed Catherine through the window, glass and blood flying off into the night sky. Her body arched against the starlit sky before beginning its descent towards the earth below.
As she left the confines of the apartment, she was freed from her immobilization. Her body never reached the ground. Even as she fell the darkness engulfed her one last time, carrying her through the night time shadows and back to the lonely sanctuary of her apartment.
Monday, February 16, 2015
“Who are you?” The kid practically shouted at her, his words laced with desperation and panic.
“My name is Catherine.”
"Why are you here?”
“Because this is the end. And no one is alone in the end. You are joining the true majority.”
“But why? I'm not even 18 yet!”
“My child, you are a part of something so much larger than yourself. You are a part of the plan. You are a part of something that transcends the limits of human comprehension. Death is but another stage in the long journey of life. No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. A wise man once said, ‘Death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.’ Take comfort in these words.”
“At least 20 people were brutally killed in an attack on a Shia mosque in Peshawar, Pakistan today. Women and children are openly grieving in the streets as officials help to remove the bodies.”
“Goddam.” Catherine needed a drink. Children, especially the ones who were old enough to know what was coming, were always the hardest to deal with.
“Lenny will can my ass for this,” she muttered as she walked into the stuffy common room of O’Harley’s bar, conscious that she was currently skipping her own shift at Joe's.
Brand loyalty is a dying art.
Catherine strategically positioned herself two stools over from the only other man at the bar. Of course Death knew him on sight, but Catherine was more inclined to acknowledge the man's good looks and calming smile and less inclined to think about The Plan and the gruesome end this man would day meet.
“Warmer weather is headed our way folks! Looks like things will begin to thaw out a bit as the high climbs into the low fifties!”
“Hey let me get that for you.” The human part of Catherine felt as buoyant as a leaf upon the wind as the man offered to buy her drink for her. “Not too many women come in here and order three fingers of straight gin. That stuff can kill.”
Catherine did her best to embody the charismatic man with the white horse as she flashed her biggest smile: “Believe me, I know. And I am definitely not ‘most girls.’”
“Believe me, I can see that.” The man flashed a grin right back. “Name’s Maxwell.”
“In a stunning turn of events, authorities managed to rescue all of the miners trapped in South Carolina after the mine collapsed last Thursday.”
Catherine felt sorry for dragging Maxwell away from his evening, but duty calls. Catherine felt the call of The Plan.
Catherine felt sorry for dragging Maxwell away from his evening, but duty calls. Catherine felt the call of The Plan.
It was unusual for Catherine to share such an intimate moment with another human being: that intimate moment when a life floats away from its earthly confines. The shadows masked the weight of the world upon her face as she bode farewell to the man in blue taking flight in the evening sky.
Catherine reflected on the whole experience on her way back into her apartment.
“Hey lady! You hear about the guy who jumped off the asylum?”
A moment of annoyance. Of course I heard about it. I was there.
“Some freaky shit! You know, you look a lot better than the last time I saw you. You want to grab some coffee sometime?”
“Or not," she muttered.
“What was that?”
Nothing at all.
A break from the drama.
So to speak.
Friday, February 6, 2015
Death was always naught but a concept before her. A powerful, omnipotent concept, but a concept none-the-less. Death came into being when the very first rift in God’s Plan occurred. A simple bite of an apple was all it took to shift the balance and give wings to this darkness. It wasn’t until the first deviation from Death’s own Plan that the thin red line between the pulsating energy of life and the all encompassing totality of death that Death could cross over, relinquishing its hold on the loneliness and despair of nothingness to bring a shadow into the light. When he, the one with the forked tongue, came to that house and painted the walls of the family’s living room the color of the setting sun, Death robbed him of his final victory.
A little girl.
The little girl.
Death welcomed her into its gentle embrace.
Death brought her across that thin red line that had so long kept Death from joining humanity.
And then Death took her soul and purged it in the fires of Asphodel and the waters of the Styx.
And thus, Death conquered Death itself.
Death had entered the fires and waters.
And Catherine crossed back into the light.
The Plan would continue.
It always has.
It always will.
But even Death seeks comfort and reassurance in the presence of old acquaintances.
Catherine rode her pale mare across the the backdrop of meadows, tranquil and ordinary but for the three men on horseback cantering towards her. The magnificent beasts leaving great rends in the ground, crushing any flower and clover that dared to stand in their way.
She stood on a rise, surveying the scene with a strange mixture of the peace brought by the late evening oranges and reds and the apprehension of knowing what she had to do next.
Spurring her own mount, Catherine moved forward to meet the men: the charismatic man astride his noble white steed, beautiful blonde hair flowing in the evening breeze. The scarred, brutish man in uniform, muscles stretching the coarse fabric across his broad chest and shoulders, sitting astride his mount as red as blood. The gaunt, thin faced man, looking for all the world like a man in need of a good meal, astride his mount as black as the coming night.
The first man, the one who could conquer the hearts of mortals with a wink and a smile, hailed Catherine as she approached.
“Good sister, why have you summoned us here?”
The brutish man in the uniform grunted his agreement.
“I have business elsewhere. Get on with it.”
The third man, the man with lifeless eyes and skin stretched tight over bones, simply stared.
Catherine addressed them:
“I don’t know how I may appear to the world, but as for myself I seem to have been only like a girl playing on the seashore and diverting myself now and then in finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than the ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. For some time of I have walking against humanity, going through the motions of dead and living alike. For my part I have found this to be gratifying, almost thrilling. Like a child, face plastered to the window of their favorite candy store, dreaming of the joy and delight that await within. This living Death has given me the chance to play, the chance to laugh, the chance to play at love and emotion. A little girl died for me, and a little girl has lived for me. But now, this man has...interrupted my grace period. This beast has reminded me of the harsh reality all of us in this immortal life face. This man threatens The Plan, an institution that transcends any one of us, that may even transcend Him. I seek your council. I seek the wisdom you carry.”
The man with the winning smile and wavy hair fixed her gaze upon her.
“Death. Or Catherine if you prefer. For some time now, the divine have been… watching you. You have become very involved with these humans. Some argue that you have been neglecting your duties. The three of us are all that remain. The last three to stand by you.
You have a duty. Your distractions have caused you to lose sight of your place in the The Plan. He has made significant ground. We have done our best to curb Satan's efforts while you have decided to play pretend.”
The brutish man with the mean face pointed at her.
“Fix this, wench.”
The three men turned their steeds around and rode off, leaving Catherine alone on her hilltop. The wind caressed her hair as the profound loneliness of her hilltop drifted down upon her shoulders like a fresh blanket of snow upon the Earth.
Her pale horse snorted as she turned it around and slowly trotted towards the setting sun.
Sunday, February 1, 2015
Catherine was frustrated. The man at the nursing home had decided to die early. How rude. He wasn’t supposed to leave for at least two more years. This was not going the way Catherine intended. The Plan does not work that way. The Plan always works.
“Several killed today in a blast at a maternity hospital in downtown Mexico City. Many are mourning the loss of children and women alike.”
At least something was going according to The Plan.
Catherine casually flicked off the television suspended in the corner of the bar and returned to the pleasant tedium of wiping down used glasses. Cognizant of how devoid of life the room was, Catherine sighed. And Lenny chose that moment to come barging in.
“Hey Cat! You seen all these fires around town? Weird ain’t it!”
Catherine stepped into the still night air to see these fires for herself. That night she was being called to the children’s home. “Memento mori,” she would whisper as the child slipped away. Another peaceful journey, just as hard as any other.
A woman, dancing in and out of the shadows that danced in the light of the fire. Catherine paused to examine the soft face of a mother untouched by age.
Catherine couldn't stay long. She had a feeling, which was never a good sign.
“You will find her.” Catherine reached out a hand to the woman, offering peace. She smiled, offering warmth. “I hope to see you again.”
“Thank you Joanne. Now let’s send it over Joe for the today’s forecast.” “Thank you. We have a huge front moving into today folks. I’m talking record low temperatures for this time of the year. High winds, snow overnight, it’s going to be crazy!”
The last time The Plan deviated, it had been his doing. If history repeats itself, he had decided to stop playing by the rules again.
Her anger brought a stillness and a blanket of cold upon the town, muffling the noises of life.
Time for an intervention.
The man was walking down a sidewalk. As he passed by an alleyway, Catherine chose that moment to emancipate herself from the shadows holding both her and her anger back.
“Hello Clive. Hello… Lucifer. I see you have decided to stop playing nice.”
“Hey babe, take it ea-”
The darkness seemed to arc from Catherine, almost as if it had a life of it’s own, as Catherine slammed the feeble body and its unwitting passenger into the wall of the alley. Tendrils of shadow engulfing them both.
“First off. I am not your babe. No one talks to me like that. Secondly, the minute you start taking lives, the minute you begin to interfere with The Plan, I will speed up Clive’s chapter. I will take him from you so quickly-”
"God you're sexy when you're angery."
"Did you not hear me?"
"God you're sexy when you're angery."
"Did you not hear me?"
Clive sneered: “Ha! You think that will stop me? There is always another Catherine. Or should I call you Mrityu? Śmierć? Malach HaMavet? Dea-”
“Death is all too present for the families of the protesters who clashed with police yesterday. Protesters turned violent after the local authorities refused to meet any of their demands for change.”
Catherine’s hand closed around his throat and the air seemed to be laced with ice. There was a palpable drop in temperature, even as the nearby fires surged and danced in their braziers.
We are done here. You have been warned.”
She melted back into the shadows so quickly, one might wonder if she had ever been there at all.
Her voice hung in the air even after she was gone. “Do not threaten me tempter. I will end you. Or our mutual friend will.”
“Reports are coming in that the second Japanese hostage was beheaded early this morning. With have yet to confirm the authenticity of the claim.”
Emperor, your sword won’t help you out
Sceptre and crown are worthless here
I’ve taken you by the hand
For you must come to my dance.