Happy Friday, Friends!
I’ve got a rather long Friday read for you, if you get bored, need a break from work, or want to read something new, creepy, and unique.
This is a sample of a few select chapters I have for She, most of which you may have already seen on this blog. I have so many ideas, but I need some solid feedback on what’s here now if you don’t mind sharing your thoughts!
When she passed the bathroom upon waking up that morning to start a pot of coffee she realized very suddenly and very frightfully that all was not right in her home.
She saw briefly, at first, out of the corner of her eye, the figure of herself, within the bathroom, within the mirror, applying lipstick, and glancing at her real form standing in the hallway.
It was so shocking to her that she froze, she stood in terror in front of the bathroom and called for her dog. She had hoped that the legends about dogs sensing spirits were somewhat right and that he would come and bark or growl it away or, more hopefully, do nothing at all and prove that she was seeing things.
The dog didn’t come and she didn’t move, yet she was moving, she was getting ready and she was looking rather annoyed at herself standing there staring. They both sighed and one continued applying the lipstick, the other continued to the coffee pot.
Her worst attribute was that she had this permanent unceasing sense of doom, as if the world had let her in on its little secret, it’s big expiration date, and forgot to tell everyone around her.
It terrified her, this perma-doom. It was almost as if she was scared of the scariest thing, but not much else. Which was great, and horrible, all at once.
She often thought about it, and really, what would you do, given the information that the world was going to end, or at least begin to end, in a small number of days?
It’s not as if you can go out and do everything you’ve wanted to do in life. You can’t create a family in that amount of time. You can’t enjoy a long marriage, even if you did decide to go get married to your sweetheart or stranger you’ve grabbed off the street.
Most importantly, you can’t convince the people around you that you are even remotely sane or right on the subject of sed days remaining, so there really and truly isn’t a whole hell of a lot you can actually do.
She had quit her job long before, she felt that the simple fact that nobody else was concerned about the fact that half of our adult lives are supposed to be spent in an office, away from your loved ones, was really outrageous. ‘Hippie’ was a term thrown at her a few too many times, especially when it came to quitting her job.
It’s not as if she didn’t care about other things, it’s just, she grew infatuated.
She knew it was never glorious becoming infatuated with something. Well, it was never glorious becoming infatuated with something negative. She, overall, however, became infatuated with practically everything she encountered: food, (flipside working out), boys (flipside girls), drugs (flipside addiction help groups), loved ones (flipside hated ones).
Most recently, and most obviously, she was infatuated with death (no flipside).
Before, however, she was infatuated with love. Infatuated with infatuation, you could say.
She was loved by many and loved many as well, in a very short period of time. She fell in love the most when she was 24, and she never really looked back and thought of any other love.
She oftentimes felt love sad. You know, when you are deeply in love and you can make mountain sized problems out of molehills. Her relationship was fine, but she was constantly not fine with something about her relationship. She wanted more. She wanted less. She needed him. She needed him to change. She needed to change. You’ve felt this way, right? No? Well have you been in love? Because it’s really important before you go on reading this book that you’ve been in love, otherwise you really won’t care about the rest. (But no, this really isn’t exactly a love story.)
2. She Sleeps
‘We don’t have problems here, in this time, today. Don’t you see all the random …stuff we have, all the amenities provided to us to help become the laziest and most pampered era of people this earth has yet to see? We in many ways deserve what is coming to us, though so many of the young do not.’
Those were the words the man was saying, but his lips weren’t moving. It was always this way with this man.
It eventually got to the point where she would look up, in a mocking fashion, and yell ‘c’mon man, learn a new trick, I get it.’
Only, this time when she yelled he stopped speaking and stared right at her. His lips moved, but now he wasn’t saying anything.
A scream was heard from somewhere, from everywhere, and she quickly raised her hands to her ears to try and block it out.
‘These people that surround you are awful. They are vain, hateful, and selfish. You will see.’
She woke up again in a cold sweat, soaked in her sheets with a highly unsteady heart.
This was how she slept now.
3.1 She Waits
She was constantly waiting.
Waiting for a bomb to drop, waiting for the chaos to begin, waiting for the moment when waiting ultimately never mattered and, as one, the earth ceased to breath, ever particle of matter just waiting all the while.
More relatably, she waited for her boyfriend to propose to her for 4 impatient years. She waited for her ovaries to decide to work and start her family for 6 excruciating years. And, above all, she waited for her family to understand and act upon her ‘very real’ fears for 10 terrifying years.
She got stuck in a rut like this once before, a time in which she was waiting, and it didn’t end well. She waited as a child for something she once had become obsessed with. Death. She became overwhelmingly clingy, anxious, and physically ill with thoughts and misunderstandings of our mortality, something most kids probably do go through at one point or another, on one scale or another.
Her problem with waiting all the time, besides undeniable and very clear impatience, was the fact that she always had this unbelievably strong urge to assume the worst in people and situations. She was literally waiting, if not willing, for something bad to happen each and every day.
It didn’t help, of course, that, as you can know see, she was right.
One day, after many, many years of waiting, it all came crashing down around her. She was done waiting, finally, and it wasn’t a relief at all. Ending the waiting was the farthest thing from relief, or even slightly-okay-feelings, that she could have possibly imagined. Ending the wait was hell.
4. S[he] Dies
What they didn’t tell you about the fallout is that not only is it terribly dangerous to be moving around above ground in any way, it’s just as dangerous to be sitting underground waiting also, the panic attacks inevitably coming in stronger and stronger waves, crushing your life force just as quickly as breathing in the toxic (maybe, they didn’t even really clarify that) air would.
It was odd, she had waited her whole life for this to happen, in a way, and now that it was happening she really had no idea what to do with herself. After all that thinking, panicking, planning, and fantasizing about this, she couldn’t think of her next move for the life of her (that phrase should be done away with when the world isn’t expecting life after 72 hours).
She was probably more prepared than it seemed, though, her brain was just trying to catch up with her environment. She had this bunker that she had obviously survived in, she had an emergency cell phone sort of thing that would allow her to contact help and/or family, and she had a year’s worth of food and water.
She did not have her fiance. She did not have their ‘forever’ life comfortably tucked under her grip. She did not have her sanity. Therefore, she had to leave, she just wasn’t prepared yet.
She also wasn’t prepared for the sounds, the constant screeching, booming, and crying that would follow such an attack.
Have you ever had an experience where you heard a sound so memorable that it almost sticks to your skin, it makes you shudder for weeks afterward because it’s still on you, the vibrations of the sound refusing to melt away, even in your most sweaty effort?
That’s what it was like walking around now, above and below, it was like you were living in a slaughterhouse that caught on fire; you have to live with the unnatural screams of the animals all day and all night long.
She glanced at her emergency ‘phone’, truly a bulkier version of a walkie talkie that allowed her to contact 3 previously programmed numbers of the same phone type, as well as tune into any possible radio frequencies.
She remembered asking her fiance if they should buy one after hearing her father ramble about his, his conspiracy theorist showing in her particularly well that day. He laughed at her at first, then upon seeing she was actually considering it he scrunched up his face in the way that always made her laugh and said ‘if it makes you feel comfortable, do it, just use your own money, this time, crazy girl’.
Yeah, she was the crazy one, and yet she was here, alive, and he was…where was he? He had gone to work like normal today, she had called him and told him she was heading here after the sirens, and he said he was on his way. It was that simple, that quick. Where could he possibly be now, after it happened?
Her mind literally refused to go to the obvious option, death, immediate particle destruction upon impact while driving here. Instead she thought; ‘buying ice cream to calm me down’, ‘waiting outside to see how long it takes me to get mad and come look’, ‘helping a hot girl along the way’ because damned if her jealous brain still didn’t latch on to comfortable irrational thoughts even in the midst of this worldwide shitstorm.
So she was crazy.
A whole hell of a lot that mattered anymore, anyway. The urge she had built up inside to scream, and to cry out of anger at whoever the hell gave her such a great love in her life and then took him away again, literally blew him out of her world like he was nothing, was so strong she choked on it.
She used to think that when this happened it would be so unfair to all the children, all the little newborn babies with peach fuzz blooming like late summer wildflowers on their heads, all the 4 year olds who never learned to ride their bikes because it had rained too much that week, all the 12 year olds who never had a first kiss, even though they dreamed of it being magical and passionate and not at all sloppy, and yet here she was, positive that she had the most unfair situation of them all.
She and he had planned, for so long, their family, their house goals, their …forever together.
And now he was fucking gone, he was destroyed, and she was too destroyed to move.
5. She Moves
Everything got so crazy toward the end that she wasn’t even sure …well, she wasn’t really very sure of much at all.
She wasn’t sure what caused that first serious spark of nuclear ignition, she wasn’t sure if whatever it was could be blamed on politics or just humanity in general, and most importantly, to her at least, she wasn’t sure if there would be any long-term survivors after it was all said and done.
What she was sure of was that she had to try to be happy every single day she was still alive, regardless of what her brain was telling her and what the world around her was crumbling into.
She hated not feeling in control, though, as twenty-something-year-olds did, making it that much more difficult to be positive in the most negative of situations. She hated it even more so now that she couldn’t even control the old basics, like her diet regimen or pre-work prep goals if she wanted to. She hated not knowing what was going to come next, and she really hated not knowing who was still around from her past.
She hated that she couldn’t talk to anyone about it, also. She hated being alone. Death and loneliness, her two greatest fears, right here at her very feet. She really, really hated that.
However, what she hated the most was that urgent feeling like she was forgetting something. Not the feeling like she needed to be somewhere, or that she had something to do (what did she really have to do during a nuclear war?), but literally like she was forgetting something. The feeling was comparable to a distant memory barely grasping onto your mind, one that you have flashes of burning into your head and are terrified to lose, even if they are just nostalgic snapshots of someone else’s life.
Like that fading glimpse she had of the rustic auburn red and orange fall leaves, crackling quickly down the blacktop street when the wind picked them up high in front of a grey sky, and she felt amazing because she knew there would be a cup of hot cocoa and warm family conversations tucked cozily away in her home, with a front row seat view of the leaves from the window.
That was a memory that she was afraid to lose in all of this underground chaos, even though she couldn’t particularly place if that specific event had actually happened to her. The feeling it produced certainly did. It was like a missed connection, only with nostalgia and your own consciousness. It made her think of home, both the place and the person.
Knowing that she was on the verge of a well overthought mental breakdown, she stood up slowly and decided to try to eat something, what she assumed would be the hardest task since she got down here.
Walking over to the pantry door she glanced at her first month’s options: salted pork, canned tomatoes from her and her mother’s garden, a seemingly infinite amount of saltine crackers, and perhaps way too many containers of peanut butter and Oreos. She had the tools to make coffee, to boil water, to try and grow her envelopes of seeds, and to hunt down meat, though she wasn’t sure if either the water or the meat would be wise to eat even after being cooked, she hadn’t been properly taught the after effects of radiation on the environment in her lifetime, ironically.
She had much more toward the back of the closet-like space, like Vienna sausages and Spam, cartons of pre-made eggs, and even a few fresh loaves of bread and yeast to make more. She even had bags of rice as a staple , and bags of potatoes she was willing to try to replant, eating around the sprouts in the meantime. She had only packed the potatoes on a whim of her fiance, the boy from Idaho who needed his potatoes.
What in the hell was she going to do with all that? She really wished her fiance would have helped with the food prep, instead now she looked as though she turned to Little House on the Prarie era pantry packing (finding salted pork and a burlap sack of rice wasn’t actually that easy, thanks, Laura Ingalls).
She remembered one lovely non-ashen day in which her fiance cooked her steaks and baked potatoes and poured drinks of whiskey while she was in her evening class before they knew they loved each other and before they officially lived together.
Then there was that night where they stood next to each other by the warm stove and made homemade alfredo pasta, only to drink too many bottles of wine and in turn, lose the pasta, in anniversary celebration afterward.
One of her favorites, one of the most simple food moments, was when he brought her a homemade sandwich and cookie for lunch while she was at work at the office, she could have quit her job and melted into his arms it made her so happy.
The feeling she got just thinking about him made her feel sicker than before, so sick she ran to the makeshift bathroom, instead of the food pantry.
There was no way she was going to be eating anything without him, she had enough mental strength to get her outside and on the hunt for him, she didn’t need physical strength anymore.
She glanced up at the small rectangle of glass she found to make the bunker a shade more normal, a makeshift mirror to figure out whether or not she was pretty enough to go outside and try not to get blown to pieces, searching for some sign of strength in her face that led her to believe she was ready.
What she saw, unfortunately, was herself, yet again, looking blindly to the side and adjusting her hair in the back, paying no mind to the real her waiting for a matching response. She, herself, continued to stare at the girl in the mirror fixing up her ratty tangled hair, losing patience quickly and clearing her throat.
‘Are we ready here? Do you think maybe you can look me in the eyes and we can go do this thing?’
The girl in the mirror stopped what she was doing and smiled delightfully, ‘I thought you’d never ask’.
6. She Reflects
There are two specific ways to look at oneself:
1).Visually. Physically. Through one’s eyes.
2).Mentally. Emotionally. Through one’s reflection.
She herself preferred the later, though she seemed to get the two mixed up too often to explain why.
You see, reflections, whether mental or physical, come in several different shapes and sizes. You can reflect by a pond, or in a pond. You can reflect on your past, or look at it in the mirror, the stress fractures and worry wrinkles physically visible. There are so many different mediums of reflection today, that you can basically do it however and whenever you want to.
We, as a society, deal with several different mediums for physical and mental reflection today. Instead of thriving through a swirling world of face to face interaction, we are graduating from institutions of screens, mirrors reflecting our true selves, social media reflecting our lives and choices in regards to how we look at the time.
We put into our profiles and pages our whole life, our experiences, and our events. We use these screens as electronic journals, typing away our thoughts and plans, hoping that other people care about them just as much as we do. Our free time is now spent checking up on other people’s reflections in their free time, which is most likely something similar to what we’re doing on our own screens.
If you aren’t reflecting on a handheld screen then there is a good chance you are reflecting in a mirror, her least favorite place to deal with reflections of any sort.
She first noticed her problem when she was eleven. She was just getting into that stage where she was worried about boys looking at her, and worried about girls whose bodies had blossomed long before hers. Eleven was a vicious age if you can remember it, full of bursting social mishaps, awkward body changes, and path deciding friendship choices.
You couldn’t not reflect on yourself at that time.
So she spent a lot of time in her father’s tiny 2 bedroom rental house bathroom, a large full-length mirror placed on the back of the door so you could see yourself when it was shut. She used to march into the bathroom, shake her hair out, pinch her cheeks, and suck in her baby fat, just to see if her reflection showed any signs of change from reality.
Oddly enough, one day, it did.
Going through her normal cheek pinching routine, trying on different shades of natural rouge and willing her chipmunk cheeks away, she noticed out of the corner of her eye something moving in the window behind her.
Only, she noticed it out of the corner of her other eye, the one reflecting in the mirror. She herself had not moved her eye away from her reflecting face, but her reflection darted one eye to the side to the window.
At first, it wasn’t a big deal to her, she was eleven and she was convinced she had stared at herself for too long, willing her mind to see something that wasn’t really there.
It was a big deal to her, however, the second time, when in a desperate attempt to stuff her bra with as much toilet paper she could in hopes of grabbing some lucky 6th grader’s attention she saw her reflection laughing, hard.
She started. She let go of her sports bra. She froze and watched herself clutch her side she was laughing so much. She didn’t quite know what to do, who to get, what to say.
She watched for a moment, as the reflection took out the toilet paper and started pinching her cheeks again, her true form standing stark-still, wearing no rouge as she should have been, only a few fearful dried up tears.
She stood in the bathroom that day for 43 minutes, willing herself to stand still and watch.
Across the mirror, across the screen of reflection, she also stood and watched, the only difference being the occasional crooked smile she was certain she didn’t know how to make, and the lack of tears or deep breathing from the mirror she herself had to deal with.
When she finally worked up enough courage to move her left foot (right foot reflected), slowly enough to trace its path in the mirror, her reflection stopped all movement entirely and looked enraged.
‘Don’t leave me here’ was all she growled, both in the mirror and in real life.
7. She Watches
Getting trapped inside was her worst experience thus far, even worse than her current experience of not having her fiance there with her while the world crumbled around her (she still wouldn’t think that he was dead, that seemed silly and unreasonable).
It was a normal day, a rather nice day, really, when it happened to her.
For a bit of background, this was the time in her life where she was single and had just graduated, her time spent enjoying her small home and her small life to herself, for the most part.
This particular day she woke up to her dog pawing his way up the edge of her bed, his awkwardly long body too big for anything subtle, a clear sign she had slept too long and that he needed to be taken out immediately. She stretched herself into an upright position and watched as the excited dog’s tail made several conductor circles in the air, a not so gentle push for her to hurry up.
She slipped on some pants and ran her fingers through her hair quickly, rubbed the corner of her eyes and stretched out her back, beginning her day with a rather positive pep in her step as she walked from her comfortably carpeted bedroom to the cold hardwood floors of her living room.
Cold hardwood meant cold mornings, which meant a new season was making itself announced in her house this morning.
The windows were all open, and she smelled immediately the intrusion of Fall in the room, the curtains lightly blowing around and the smell of leaves and pumpkin patches and oversized sweaters holding oversized coffee mugs in the air. She curled her toes in pleasure before continuing to the door, a quick motion sending the dog outside and to his post for the morning.
She herself went back inside for a moment to start some coffee and to grab a cigarette from the back of her hidden pack above the stove. She wasn’t quite sure why she hid them, it was only herself in the house and it’s not like she didn’t know she was smoking them.
She used to smoke quite a bit, during the time when she began college and was trying hard to be less stressed and more social. Now she only smoked every now and then, in specific situations that called for it such as after a great meal, a great book, or a great, well, you know.
But Fall coming into her home was a celebration all in itself as well, one that deserved a big cup of coffee and a big puff off of a cigarette, like a special tradition of welcoming one’s old friend into your home, with smiles and refreshments.
Instead of taking her coffee black, as usual, she dressed it up for her guest with some hazelnut, as well as some pumpkin spice and cinnamon sprinkles, filling her cup and her morning with all the happiness she could possibly need.
Positive mornings like this were rare for her, she really wasn’t an early bird and she typically thought anything that happened before 9 am was probably entirely unnecessary and idiotic.
Fall, though, Fall was so different. She felt the same about rainy days as well, as well as still, snow fallen mornings.
When she finally forced herself to go inside and start her day, to leave her guest to continue on his way, she glanced at the clock and realized that she was about 45 minutes behind her normal routine, and that she would have to skip the shower and work in what she was already wearing, an excellent perk of working from home. Sometimes she didn’t even bother with pants, she just rolled out of bed and over to her computer desk, clocking in and working through the day without another glance at herself or her attire (or lack thereof).
More recently she liked at least going through with the routine of getting ready for a busy work day at ‘the office’, though, it made her schedule seem more regular and she liked regular more and more as time went on, she noticed.
So to keep the routine going she went to the bathroom, washed her face, brushed her teeth, and started to put on her basic makeup routine: eyeliner, mascara, lipstick.
When she was halfway through her awkward squinty eyed mascara application she heard such a loud boom from the next room that she couldn’t help but make a small scream, clasping her mouth in shock and dropping her mascara.
Her dog was barking, out of protection or out of fear she did not know yet, and her heart was racing so fast, her face glowing red with embarrassment at how scared she got so quickly.
I mean, it wasn’t even a scary time of the day, you know like say, 1:23 am when any bump in the night is unarguably a ghost or a demon or an intruder ready to kill you. No, it was 8:55 am, her windows and doors were all wide open, and she could still see outside where the leaves were falling and a group of giggling children was slowly walking to their bus stop at the end of the road.
She looked around and noticed that the boom had caused a picture frame to fall from her bathroom wall, and the mirror in front of her to crack only in the slightest, at the very corner of the furthest section from her.
She slowly peaked her head out of the room and to the room directly behind the bathroom, her very well-lit and open office that she should not have been scared to enter at all.
Of course, she saw nothing once she was in there, and no signs of anything disturbed or knocked over. Her window panes were all open, but the screen storm windows were all still latched shut, her dog was steady at her heels, and her back door was still dead bolt locked.
So she could only think of her front door, where she quickly glanced, her house small enough to see it from almost any room in the house.
Again, nothing out of the ordinary.
She considered calling her father, only for a quick chat to calm her nerves as there was clearly nothing wrong with her house and she very well may be crazy, but decided against it with a quick glance at the unforgiving clock again.
She went back to the bathroom and fixed herself in the mirror again, quickly trying to apply her lipstick without getting it on her teeth in her rush.
Again, louder, closer, more mirror cracking.
Even more unsettling, however, was the fact that there was no dog barking.
She looked around the bathroom quickly, out the door to the bright front door, tried to calm herself down again.
Something was different, though.
The crack on the mirror was on the opposite side, larger than before, and though she had sworn she was done with her lipstick before the second boom, as she looked up into the mirror her face was blank again, unmarked at all, just as it was when she first woke up.
Her body was shaking she was so incredibly disturbed. She was not necessarily scared, being scared was a different feeling entirely. She was unsettled, her stomach hurt, she felt like she was going to puke, but not like she was in danger or was going to die.
As she turned around to leave the room and find her dog and take him outside where it was bright and there were people, she ran into a wall where the door should be, hard.
Only she didn’t see a wall, she saw outside, to her living room, just as you should in a doorway.
Again she tried to walk where it clearly looked like she could walk, and bam, she was stopped. It physically felt like she was walking into a wall, her nose smashing against something hard, and something invisible. She felt the blood rush to her face.
Her stomach was doing somersaults now.
She tried the opposite direction, the bathtub, the window above the shower head.
Wall. Yet, nothing.
She started trying both directions over and over again, eventually going so quickly and getting so frustrated that she was just banging herself against the walls, her arms bruising and her knuckles pounding as she went.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, unsettlingly silent and still hours, she stopped.
She stood in front of the mirror, huffing, and puffing, and she stared.
Her dog was there then, she noticed as she calmed down, only he was across the mirror, not by her side. He was sitting in the doorway of the bathroom, where the wall was. He was whimpering and crying, not like he was hurt, like he was alone. She tried to reach down for him, but she hit her fist against the wall again.
When she did this, however, he looked up at her expectantly, in the mirror, of course.
She looked forward at the reflection and studied the living room from the mirror, seeing that it was all as it was before, only situated on the opposite side of the room as she remembered.
She suddenly got very calm, stopped her heart from racing so much, and got such a sense of understanding that even her dog stopped whimpering, seemingly sensing the newly found calm in the room.
She was in the mirror.