“When you reach the stars, boy, yes, and live there forever, all the fears will go, and Death himself will die.”~ Ray Bradbury
I grabbed this quote last week in honor of Halloween. However, it is one that I find holds a lot of truth. This isn’t really surprising because Ray Bradbury is full of insight. I think this one spoke to me because my parents always told me to reach for the stars. In fact, I just told them that my workaholic nature is their fault. They always told me to reach for the stars and that’s a hard task.
What speaks to me is the idea of living forever. When I have periods where I want to give up on my dreams, I become depressed. Even when I’m not thinking about the dreams I’ve given up, my attitude remains bleak. I am happiest when I am pursuing my dreams…a lot more tired, but happy. I feel as if I can live forever. “Death” himself dies away. I am truly whole.
I think we should all strive for something. Otherwise, we are merely existing on this planet, but not truly living.
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And now, the conclusion:
A few emotions traveled through Madison’s body when she saw him. Fear was first. It threatened her legs, wanting to send her fleeing outside. Familiarity was second. It had been five years, but he looked exactly the same: same black attire, same slicked-back hair, same foreign eyes pretending to be human. That brought so many faces back, faces she had tried to forget. People screaming, people scheming. Aiden, Wesley, and the others. Were they turned into Nightmares by now? Or had they escaped like her? Although, she still wasn’t sure how she had escaped. The final feeling was relief. She hadn’t thought this would work. Why would he come for her? Why would he remember her? Surely he had moved on.
The fact that he hadn’t was somewhat unnerving. If he hadn’t forgotten about her, then she was still in danger. That was the point of today, after all. And now they had answers: No, she was not safely forgotten. And yes, she still had to watch for signs of his return.
Madison crammed every emotion back into her gut and straightened. She had a job to do after all. “Didn’t expect to see you again,” she managed to say.
His eyes twinkled like a cat who had found a mouse to play with. “You must have missed me.”
“Didn’t think of you for a single day,” she said, hoping her eyes didn’t give her away.
He studied her, easing further into the room. He circled her, examining every inch. Madison tensed. She could feel his gaze crawling upon her skin, prickling against her. She had forgotten how tiny his presence made her feel. “You’re still denying it, I see.”
Madison glared at him. “Denying what?”
The fact he used the same words on her should be comforting. She knew this playbook. She had defeated it once before. Yet, she was not comforted. It ate at her. “Five years and that same line is the best you can do?”
The Lord of Nightmares shrugged. “You’re getting married in a non-church in the middle of sin city on Halloween.” He stopped in front of her and clasped his hands in front of him. “You are a Nightmare, my love. You should have just completed the picture and married me.”
Madison shuddered. “I’d rather spend eternity burning in Hell.”
Just like that flames burst around her, circling her. They licked at her skin, blocking any path of escape. Madison jumped. It’s not real, she told herself. But the heat that burned her legs begged to differ. A flame leapt at her and the smell of scorched hair hovered in her breath. Madison wanted to jump out of the fire. She wanted to flee. What was she doing? She could never truly defeat him.
She was one second from bolting when she finally caught hold of her nerves. She closed her eyes from the blaze and steadied her breath. In and out. In and out. With each breath, she chanted, this is not real. After a moment the blaze ended and all she could feel was his breath on her skin.
When she opened her eyes, his nose was almost touching hers. “You are one of us,” he insisted. “Genetic technicalities are the only difference. Forget this wedding nonsense and let me take you back with me.”
“What would be the pleasure in me giving up?” Madison asked. His breath smelled foul, rotting fruit and dying animals. It also had a metallic undertone which conjured up one image…blood.
“Don’t you see it? You crave the game.”
Madison shook her head. “I did not call you. You are the one who came. Bored with your silly games? Want to give up?”
Fire flashed in his eyes. “David or Jasper…you will kill the weaker men who follow you.”
Madison’s hand moved without her thinking. She curled her fingers as her hand slapped across his face. Skin grated beneath her fingers. Besides that, it was like slapping a rock. She felt bones shift in her fingers as she finished the strike. She cringed against the pain, but did not back down.
The Lord of Nightmares stood there for a moment. Then his hand was against her throat. Blood pounded against her skull as her lungs screamed for air. She didn’t touch him though. She couldn’t. She felt the world spin and blackness form at the corners of her vision before he finally let her go.
The ground pounded against her, but she was too busy choking on air to notice the pain. He pointed a finger at her. “You’ll do well to remember who I am and your place.”
In an instant his presence was gone. Madison fought the tears that formed in her eyes as she gathered her breath. Then she rose, walked to the side of the room, and picked up a small nail stick. She scraped the skin and blood gathered under her nails and carefully placed it in a glass vial. “Genetic technicalities separate us. So let’s see if that helps me defeat you.”
The door creaked and Madison turned to find Jasper entering in a black 3-piece suit. He rushed to her side, his eye tracing her neck where no doubt bruises formed. “I shouldn’t have let you…”
Madison smiled at him, taking his hand in hers. “Never mind that. We came here for another reason, too.”
Jasper frowned. “I was hoping he wouldn’t come.”
“The fact we predicted he would is a good thing. We can defeat him if he comes after us again. But, for now,” she neared him, placing a hand on his cheek, “let’s forget about him.”
Jasper smiled. “You sure you want to marry me?”
Madison didn’t hesitate her nod. She grabbed his hand, leading him toward the door. “Besides,” she said over her shoulder, “we get a half off coupon for divorces.”
Follow Madison and Jasper in The Lord of Nightmares.
In honor of Halloween, I thought I’d write a short update on the darkest character I’ve written: The Lord of Nightmares. And, before you get your hopes up, there are no plans for a sequel. So, enjoy this two part update:
The city of sin. The city of lights. It goes by many names, but in the Nightmare community it’s simply called city of pawns. Most bottom dwelling Nightmares just turned will travel to Las Vegas for an easy mark. I rarely travel here. It reeks of desperation. I’m better than this city. Someone of my skill needs more of a challenge. Taking somebody on their last hope, somebody plagued with their own demons I did not create…. It’s like a hunter going after a sick deer. There’s just no sport in that capture.
But I heard she was here. And she is not desperate. Or, at least I certainly hope not. I did not let her go so she can ruin her own life. If that’s the case, I might need to kill her. She’d be wasted talent. I can’t stand wasted talent. Sure it’d be against the rules. But I’m the Lord of the Nightmares. What are they going to do to me?
Cars bolted past me, exhaust rotting the air. People scurried past; some in khakis with cameras hanging from their necks, some clutching business briefs, most holding onto the last hope that this was the day their luck would change. I can hardly smell here, it all floods me, calls to me: desperation, love lost, soul on the brink of breaking, and all in one place. Like a buffet of candy bars and pie and everything sweet. It’s overload.
But, I close my eyes. Time to focus. I don’t want them. I want her. I take in a breath. Slow and steady. Separate the pathetic. Separate the easy target. It takes three breaths. In and out. Rhythmic. Methodical. Then a flavor touches me. It stirs inside my core. Something familiar. Something that grabs me in a way none other can: the smell of a walking Nightmare. She’s always had that smell. Familiar to my kind, and yet human. She will never admit it. But she is already mine.
I traveled the street. Pawns passed me unnoticed, as it should be. But she. She was different. She saw me when I was invisible to everyone else. It’s been five years and yet I still wait for another to meet my gaze. I test them. Look into their vacant eyes. But they are all pawns. They are all useless. They are all dull. Smells drift past me: the rot of burdens, the vinegar of jealousy, the sulfur of hate. Sure, today they cover it in costumes and make up. They try to pretend to be dead or princesses or whatever idols they currently worshiped. But it doesn’t mask their scent. It doesn’t change who they are.
As much as I hate how easy it would be, they call to me. They ask me to enter their lives, to take what is mine, to tally their names with all my other victories. Humans are a selfish species, but they most eagerly want to try to outwit me. They most eagerly want to defeat me. It is in their nature. And that nature is what makes me thrive.
I reach a small building down a side street. She’s not on the main strip of blaring lights and sounds. That’s good. Maybe this isn’t as bad as I thought. Maybe she hasn’t disappointed me after all. Then the smell stops on one small building with a steeple. A small, crooked sign is spiked into the ground right in front of the building. Pink letters on a white, flaking painted background: The Small Chapel of Love. A makeshift paper sign was stapled to the bottom. “Today only, get married and a coupon for a half-priced divorce.” I didn’t understand the need of an exclamation point at the end of that, but I often don’t understand human behaviors that are of no use to me.
Lights gleamed at me as I stepped foot past the threshold. Nothing tingled my skin. Nothing burned my soul. That should say something about this building. But, then again, I am the strongest of the Nightmares. I can take on any force. If I kept walking, two thin doors greeted me. Pink and white lights drifted through the cracks. I could hear men talking. Sounded like contract language. Not important.
I followed her scent until I came to a small wooden door to the side of the building. I revealed my presence as I pushed the door open with a creak. She stood in a white, lacey dress. It followed her curves, stopping just before her knees. She was clipping the last strand of brown hair away from her face. It was a silver clip with lots of sparkles that glittered against hair flowing past her shoulders.
She felt my presence immediately. Her shoulders tensed and she straightened. When she turned her green eyes met my gaze without falter. She did not cower. She showed no fear. But she never had. She was a true competitor. It could be wishful thinking, but I believe I caught a twinkle in her eye.
I pulled tight on my lips forming what they call a smile. Social obligations, I suppose. “Hello Madison.”
To be continued on Friday.
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“Some old wounds never truly heal, and bleed again at the slightest word.”~ George R.R. Martin
I think I can relate to this quote because it speaks to my past. School can be a cruel place, and I believe that girls can be the worst. Most who know me know that I experienced a “defining moment’ in my childhood. It marked me and shaped who I am today. If I were to sit down with a psychiatrist, they probably would attribute many insecurities and defenses to this one event. It took me years and years not to “bleed” at the slightest word.
I’m not sure what eventually got me past the event. It still defines me, but I no longer cry over it. In fact, I have even forgiven those involved and truly wish them the best in life. I began on this path of survival through a loving family who talked this issue through every time it resurfaced. But, I didn’t truly find peace until I solidified my faith.
What I have learned is that life can be super hard. It can haunt us and bring us to the breaking point. But, as a human race, we are survivors. We can overcome any obstacle. For me, I could not have done so without my family and God. But, no matter what gets us through the dark times, we have to hold on to the hope that it will get better. We will not bleed forever. Positive thinking is the key.
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