Saturday, June 30, 2012

New York by Car

Alright, I finally got my graphics-computer with the dying drive operational *just enough* (temporary window of working.  Maybe it's just a blown fan...) to mess with some of the photographs I took in mid-May of New York City out of the passgener-windows of my car! 


The lovely New York Skyline from window of a Toyota Matrix. 

Bob, his adult nephew Matt and I drove up to New Hampshire from our area (just outside of Philly) to celebrate the college graduation of another nephew.  As a graduation gift, Bob and I gave him a skull.  Yes, I mean that, too.  The graduate was a biology-major/is a biologist and I'd found the mostly-clean skull of a whitetail doe and bleached it up for him so he could have an addition to his type-collection.  For the record, he loved it.  He also showed me his collection, which I was jealous of.  So many cool art/painting possibilities! And just plain cool animals! I really want a domestic pig-skull now...

Anyway, our drive entailed going through New York state, and since I'd never been there, we took a detour through New York City.  Unfortunately, since we had neither the time nor the money, we couldn't stop and walk around or do anything touristy, so I just did what I could with my digital camera outside the passenger windows.

This is probably the best shot I have - Times Square. 

Actually, most of what I got shots of was in this area and Broadway.  My camera ran out of room and I had to use Bob's - and I haven't gotten anything off of Bob's chip yet.  I tried to get shots of the new WTC/that area, but as soon as I'd lined up a shot, we had to make a turn.  I couldn't get any shots of the glorious bridges, either - I thought the bridges were really neat, just huge, amazing things that tell you that you're entering the city to end all cities. 

Lookit all the shows we do not have the time or money to go to!  There's a lot of neat advertising in New York - big signs, lighted things, and those giant wrap-skins on buildings...

Makes you want a Coke, don't it?  The thing that struck me about the city was how *vertical* it was.  You see, I grew up in the middle of the desert in nowhere-land Arizona.  For most of my life, my world was horizontal - flat, vast country, low-slung purple and blue mountains on horizons... some hills and rocks to climb.  Of course, things get vertical whenever you go into canyon-country - Oh, Salt River Canyon, how I remember almost dying driving the U-Haul through you due to us being mis-directed by Google Maps on our way out to Pensie.... I should have listened to my parents' directions, but nooo... I had to listen to a computer and go through the scary narrow-road canon with the broken cars dumped down the sides.  New York is kind of like that, except with glass and the fact that you're on the bottom of the "canyon" trying to avoid the yellow cabs. 

On our way out of New York City, we spotted a bumper sticker that read "Visualize world peace? Try visualizing using a turn signal!" - Very appropriate for the city, we thought.

I forget where we were here - just a shot of towering buildings and cars on the road.

All, in all, I found New York to be a chatoic, cacophanous canyon-quagmire.  In the words of Matt, sitting next to me "It makes Philly look sane!"  A nice place to visit and I'd like to go back there someday when I have money and can maybe see one of the Broadway shows, but I'm glad I don't live there.  Some people love the frentic energy of cities... I'm definitely a country-girl. 

(I was actually offered a train-trip to go into the city and walk for a day for my upcoming birthday.  My answer: "I don't think we have enough money to do what I'd want to do, we can't afford to take the friends I'd like to take, so I'd rather we go finally get me this year's fishing licence and spend a day at one of the local lakes."   My other answer was a " -_-  The city is full of...people..." ).  Yep, country-girl. 

I finally saw it. Now I need to go to Tokyo and London and see those places, maybe Paris and Mt. Rushmore... a few other landmarks... (I saw the Grand Canyon when I was 9, would like to go back)... then I can die! Yay!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Long Walks in the Graveyard at Night

Long Walks in the Graveyard at Night

Here’s where I confess to something that may have you thinking I’m a Goth or something of that nature, or, at least weird – (but you already knew that, right)? 

I live across the street from a cemetery – an old but continuous cemetery, as in, it is still in use – fresh plots are dug there and there are many modern memorial markers (ranging from, in my opinion, the tasteful to the g-awful.  Who invented the idea of colorizing headstones)? There’s this one poor girl who died young (sixteen, seventeen, I think), whose parents decided to put every hoo-haw known to man on her grave, including a big, plaster Uncle Sam. 

If you do that to me, I am coming back to haunt you.  I don’t care if it turns out that the people who don’t believe in life after death turn out to be right, I will *find a way.*

Then again, I don’t think my family’s too keen on my “Dig up my skeleton and make art out of my bones!” idea. (I know they’d rather Uncle Sam me… Urg).

There are some graves there for the Civil War days, though… faded/worn out limestone where names are barely visible if at all.  They make me very sad because with such long-ago dates, I know that the people who knew those people, buried them and probably used to visit are dead now, too.  If anyone comes to these graves anymore, they’re historians and people making genealogy records – no one who actually knew the people buried there – their smile, their eyes, their voice, their scent… And now even their names are faded on forgotten stones. 

Anyway, there is no gate on this cemetery.  My area is a nice little town and doesn’t have vandalism problems.  Even if it had gates on the road-entrances, the “wall” is a hedge. And, no, not a hedge made of ninjas for you fellow fans of “The Tick” comics.  I’ve been walking in it at night. I even got a surprise when I once saw a cop car rolling through during the twilight hour, but I wasn’t stopped from walking, which surprised me.  The other night, I was on the paths and saw this incredible moon – a hairline sliver that was red… pinkish actually, but this creepy red moon… It’s pretty neat to walk in a cemetery on a summer night with the fireflies flitting about and a creepy moon.  It’s quiet, peaceful, and at my cemetery, there are lots of very pretty lights people put on the graves – solar-powered lights that charge during the day to hold a little vigil at night.  At least one of the graves has an actual candle that someone continually lights and replenishes. 

It’s sobering to think that this is where we all end up.  I mean, I got to thinking that the other night, under the sliver-moon about how these were people of all kinds of different persuasions and beliefs here (it’s an eclectic cemetery – a walk in the daytime reveals all kinds of symbols, poetry and languages)… and like it or not, whether we believe there is anything “after” or not (or like me, hope there’s something “after” but suspect that there might be a “your mind makes it real” thing that goes on in its final throes )… we all end up headed toward the same essential destination. 

I mean, I think of it this way – If there is something after, you’re going to be different than who and what you are now.  I can’t imagine that anything is in a static-state.  Wherever you wind up, the life you live in the now is the only chance you have to live that life, because if there is another side, things are going to be different there. This is why it’s tragic when people who are selfish and cruel do not change in life (because even if they get some kind of awakening or comeuppance in the hereafter, it’s too late for the now).  I don’t even know if I’m making any sense.  In any case, I think a graveyard should be especially humbling for anyone who doesn’t think in “cosmic” terms, because, in the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re better, harder, faster, stronger, or smarter than anyone else – the genius and the idiot, the strong, brave person and the weakling all find their “reward” in rot.  Are you really “better?”  You cannot control what people think of you after you’re gone, after all.  Today’s heroes may be tomorrow’s villains, or just… forgotten. 

Run the race, but the finish line is just about the same when it comes down to it. You don’t get first place if everyone’s participation ribbons are the same thing as the first place ribbon. Sometimes, I think the meaning of life is death just because with the same finish line, we have to think about how we’re running the race.  In the end, don’t get too proud.  “Winning” at life is an illusion.   

About a year or two ago was when I first ventured into to the graveyard at night. Upon coming home from places and driving past the lot to get home, my man Bob and I grew curious about the weird lights we saw there.  I went outside in the dark, looking over my shoulder for cops and nosy neighbors, and stole into the cemetery to find, that, yes, indeed, people were leaving solar lights on some of the graves.  I told an online AIM friend I had about it, a friend who was atheist-leaning agnostic and she thought I was brave for that and wouldn’t do it alone like I did because “graveyards are spooky.”  I was all “Huh?  Okay, you’re a rational skeptic. You don’t think there’s anything in a cemetery but stones and bodies buried deep. What would you have to be afraid of?  I’M the slightly-superstitious person / person who has some religious beliefs / believes in the possibility of a spirit world and, though I don’t think there’s anything in that cemetery but stones and bodies, either, the remote possibility of getting haunted for disturbing the dead does actually register with me –  and I’m not scared at all!”

(Maybe it’s because I disturb the bones of found dead wild animals for art all the time I haven’t felt any curses…) Unless…said curse is my life 

I just thought that was funny.  I’m out of touch with said friend – she had some computer problems long ago and failed to get back to me. It’s been about a year… I’m worried she might have grown apart from me as some friends of mine do.  I was putting a lot of my psychodrama on her unfairly.  In a way, I think I may have experienced death a few times without actually dying, because I know what it is to have friends “grow out of me” and forget me, and I know what it’s like to lose touch with family.  It is change, is all…

I remember one night last year or sometime before that, I decided to show Bob the grave-lights and we would up traipsing around the graveyard at night, making discoveries (like the over-decorated Uncle Sam grave in the back).  Bob had been playing “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” out of sheer unemployed-at-the-time boredom and he Zelda-ized our little tromp.  “We’re hunting Poes!” he exclaimed. I laughed so hard. 

(For those not familiar with the Legend of Zelda games, Poes are malevolent ghosts found on the fields and in the graveyards at night and are, in most games, shown holding lanterns.  In “Ocarina of Time,” you can catch them in a bottle and drink the things to boost (or sometimes harm) your health!!! In “Twilight Princess,” they’re demonic entities that stole pieces of a man’s soul and you have to, in your alternate wolf-form, attack and literally rip the soul out of them to help the cursed man in exchange for rewards). 

In any case, if you visit me and stays on a summer evening, I might just walk you across the street and take you “Poe-hunting” beneath a spooky moon.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Open Question...

An open question for readers of my blog…

If I post a novel here, would any of you read it? 

After years of rejection letters, not having any family or friends in the publishing business, seeing the faltering of Print, hoping to entice prospective readers, having a desire to control things I know I would not likely be able to control if I had to deal with professionals (cover design and illustrations and so forth)… I am thinking of posting one of my currently completed and recently re-edited novels on this blog. 

It would be a weekly thing, “Free Novel Friday” or something.  I am thinking of posting one of two works. 

I’d really like to post “Malarkey and Belinda” because it’s been in the works/on the back-burner/edited and re-edited for years.  It’s a story about a genetically-engineered gryphon raised by a lady-slave on a planet with creatures of fantasy as part of its ecology and human life built upon the remains of lost technology.  What may put a damper on posting this is my “bestiary.” I did illustrations in the form of a bestiary of creatures and the scanned, sized complete versions with informative text are apparently all on my main graphics computer, which is having problems (dying hard drive, we think).  I looked through my backup disks and flash drives and have the text chapters of the novel okay, but none of my illustrations.  I’d re-scan my basic paintings and spiff them up *again,* but the scanner is also attached to that same graphics-computer.  If I get this computer fixed anytime soon and get my illustrations back, this is the novel I’d like to post – it would be a nice, long, read, too – Twenty chapters with once a week posting is twenty-weeks of blog-content. 

I might decide to post a twelve-chapter piece of mine over twelve weeks:  “A World of Rusted Dreams.”  A more recent novel of mine with themes I feel are “more important,” I’m still a little shy about it, thinking it may need yet another read-through / re-edit.  It’s the story of two young people traveling to a great city in a post-apocalyptic world (but a century after the depopulation event, it’s a largely-recovered world).  The protagonists were raised in a place that believes in personal guardian creatures appointed to people from “the Heavens” and said creatures are things that only people who believe in them can see and feel.  The city they and their personal guardians travel to is one where belief in such things is rare.  All my text and illustrations files were backed up and are intact on disks/drives I can currently access. 

A friend suggested that I just post sample chapters and go e-book.  I’m not sure on going e-book yet.  All my experience in posting sample-chapters while trying to get published and advertising said sample-chapters has never turned out favorably.  I’m thinking of just going ahead and posting a whole book here just to make it *exist* in some public form. 

So… votes? Opinions? 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

It Gets Worse

Alright, I have a nasty head-cold, which is probably why I'm too beaten-down to get suicidally upset at the moment (close to it, though)... I honestly worry about tomorrow and the next day, however, as whenever I get bad news, sometimes the initial shock wears off, I start getting a little calm or distracting myself, then when I sit and mull about it later, it hits me like a brick...

I just lost my job.  If you saw the rant about Disability below, you know it wasn't a particularly well-paying job, but I loved it.  I feel in my element taking care of animals.  I was apparently good enough at shoveling poo to keep the job for two and a half years. 

Last week, I quite probably saved a horse's life because I noticed signs of colic in him and alerted others to help.  I was thanked profusely for that. 

A couple of days ago, the horse colicked again and people noticed his water buckets were empty.  I don't know if it was the one day that they were in all night because of a storm or what - I either had overlooked his buckets when it came time to fill them up (and I'm really OCD about checking the buckets in the stalls, for just that reason) or, quite possibly, being a living creature and having stomach distress, he drank them down by morning but all my boss' husband noticed or cared about were "Buckets are empty! Bitch gotta go!"

Faithful service for two and a half years. Doesn't matter.  Saving the life of said horse during an earlier crisis. Doesn't matter.  I very well could have made one stupid mistake.  I may have become a victim of a thirsty animal being an animal - in which case my bosses really need to put extra buckets in the stalls like they do for some of their known to be particularly thirsty animals.  (I have come in when that horse has been in all day to find that he'd drained the water he'd gotten that morning by the time my evening shift arrived).

My job coach (the person who originally got me the job) came by with severance-pay (appreciated) and flowery words about how this is all "opportunity" or something (it took all my self control not to tell her to shove her words back up her anus).  Apparently, my actual boss bears me no ill will, it's just that her husband, who holds the purse strings in all this, cannot be reasoned with/just does not care.

I'm just sort of... I'm not sure I'm competent to work at all. I feel like my life is a series of failures and of it being pounded into me "worthless! worthless! worthless!" as soon I start thinking I'm "okay" in any way, or even "close to human." 

What's worse is that I feel bad for accidently almost killing a horse (unless this was just a misunderstanding and he did drink his buckets down, without a mistake of mine), and I'm worried about the horses there in general.  When they're in at night, they need more water. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Real Folk Blues

Title is from a song used in the anime "Cowboy Bebop" just because I don't really know what to title this.  I don't even know if I should be posting this here as it might drive away my fiction readers and potentials... but, argh... I need to rant somewhere or I'm going to explode. 

In late March, I won my case for Disability coverage.  This is due to the shameful condition that I have - bipolar disorder with a high propensity toward anxiety.  I do actually work, but I cannot maintain more than a very low-stress (and unusual) part-time job that gives me little contact with people.  Give me a list of things to do, things to clean up, leave me alone to do it and I do it, that's really all I can handle.  The normal "boss tells you what to do and supervises you doing it" is too anxiety-riddled and occasionally anger-confrontation triggering with me.   You can say that this is why if I ever got a "real career" (outside of cleaning a horse stable for minimum wage), writing would be perfect for me.  I write, I send... I'm actually very good with taking constructive criticism in written form, it's just flesh/face-to-face stuff that causes problems.  Artists can be neurotic as all get-out and still produce good things, right? 

I was told that it takes usually a month to start seeing Disability checks and/or your back-award (I have a substantial one coming, covering years.  I am hoping to invest it in something I've never had before: a savings account of some sort so that maybe, just maybe, when I'm sixty-years old I don't have to eat dog food to survive).  I've heard it could take longer, but most people get it within a month or two...

It's been two months, and aside from a letter stating that I did, indeed, receive judgement of award, I've not seen or heard hide nor hair of it.  At a meeting with my social-caseworker, we called the local office and, I kid you not, got a response of "Good luck." from the person on the other end.  (A wish for good luck, not sarcasm, but it shows that whomever is on the other line probably gets a tragic number of these kind of calls).   On the literature I received, it said that some cases take up to five months.  I hope it's not that long. I mean... I'm already having fantasies about finding my way down to the local offices with a wheelbarrow full of manure and just throwing it at people.  

I did mention that I'm crazy, right? 

And right now... is not good.  Due to some unexpected expenses that just blindsided us out of nowhere, my guy and I are having trouble paying our basic bills.  Since I got paid my (minimum wage!) check tonight, he was able to buy for us some bread, eggs and milk, which we have been lacking over the last week.  Seriously, bread, eggs and milk are luxuries right now.  Also, if I disappear from online for a while, it's because that bill is due. 

I mean, if I don't even get my full back-award right away and just start getting the monthly, it's going to help us out a lot, but you see, life likes to play a game called "Yank Shadsie's chain."  At this point, since the news from the local offices is "It's supposed to take sixty days, you should be seeing it oh about this week" and not seeing anything actually show up, I'm wondering if something got mixed up in the files and they're sending my money to the wrong person, or if I didn't *really* get awarded squat and the letter of award was a lie, or the lawyer on my case is being douchey about things somehow... (haven't heard from him lately, either).  This is just me being paranoid, I guess.... another part of my condition. 

I just want to scream WHERE'S MY FUGGIN' MONEY?!!!!

I'm sick of living on a knife's edge.  My guy and I have done it a lot... that's what being working poor IS.  You have things alright for a while, just enough to get you calm, then - WHAM! Some stupid bill or situation or asshole comes out of nowhere and you teeter, wonder if you're going to be able to afford to drive, or to pay your rent, or to eat, or having to trade off one for the other, and it takes a LONG time to recover to that place of quiet calm (which, by the way, is a "calm" that still has bill collectors from past knife-edges and/or student loans or that hospital-bill from a work accident that your boss was supposed to have paid two years ago coming up on you). 

I'm just... sad... and pissed off.... really pissed off right now.  It's one thing to just be poor, but to actually expect someone out there to HELP you, who said they were going to do it, only to YANK your damn chain until you feel like hanging yourself is just...

I don't know if "life is suffering," but it certainly is AGGRAVATING.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sola's City

A strange little random short story about a young woman wandering around in an inexplicably empty city.  I had the idea for this piece for a long while, but I think it's kind of interesting that I did the first hand-writing on it while on a road trip just after exiting the claustrophobic chaos that is New York City.  (Glad I finally saw the place, don't want to live there).  This is one of my "mind screw" pieces.  Enjoy. Or don't. In any case, it's here.

Sola’s City

S.E. Nordwall

Sola wandered the silent city alone.  The area was not truly silent, just much quieter than it had been before.  Birds chirped and wind whistled through the streets, but the only sounds from a human source anymore were the words of Sola, who was talking to herself. 

“The lights are still on,” she muttered to herself.  “I wouldn’t have expected them to last this long.  Maybe it’s just the city that’s all empty like this – maybe the plants are still running.” 

Sola was in her home city, Freeton.  She’d arrived there after a long drive to find it deserted.  Sola did not know if what had happened to the city had happened to the entire world, but she had her suspicions.  She’d driven around the suburbs and outlying boroughs to find them devoid of human life.  She remembered seeing a bright flash of light while on the highway at night almost a week ago.  Sola had kept driving in bewilderment as the highway was void of vehicles.  That was it- there were no cars left in the city and no people.  It couldn’t have been a bomb of any sort – that bright flash of light – since she had survived it and little was disturbed. 

This was unreality.

Sola had been wandering around in it for several days.  She passed by the Great Gear Clock in the town center.  Its minute hand clicked forward, marking illusion.  The young woman wondered if she’d somehow jumped outside of time or to a parallel universe. 

That clock had been designed by some artist she’d forgotten the name of.  It was installed only about seven years ago – a funky, chunky thing cast in a golden-toned polished bronze.  Other cities had their landmarks – Philadelphia had its Bell, New York had its buildings, bridges and Broadway, both had drivers who did not know the meaning of turn-signals… Sola’s city had that big, stupid clock. 

“The sky is like a sapphire,” she said to herself, looking beyond the grand timepiece.  “Maybe I should stop.  I’m talking to myself.  Crazy people talk to themselves.”

Sola supposed that she could pray, but she really didn’t know whom to and, according to her mother, that was just as bad, if not worse, than one’s talking to oneself.  Sola’s mother had taught her to pray when she was a small child, but in the course of life had lost her faith in a way that led her to condemn it and all related subjects as forms of insanity.  The aging woman had come into her latest view with the exuberance of a new convert and a zeal and certainty more appropriate, Sola thought, to a member of her own generation.    Unlike her mother – or that uncle of hers whose views had gone in the opposite direction with a particularly conformist church that she found creepy, Sola wasn’t sure about anything. 

She was even less sure of anything in this bizarre, empty world. 

“Ha!” she laughed, “I suppose I can talk to myself all I want to!  Mom and Uncle Jimmy aren’t around to tell me not to, are they?” 

It was three days after that when Sola found the kitten.

The city had seemed to be devoid of animals as well as humans, save for the wild types.  Songbirds chattered from power lines and she’d caught sight of three deer wandering down
Main Street
– a whitetail buck and two does. 

Still perplexed at the continued hum of electricity and other conveniences, Sola got herself out of bed in the bright glare of an early summer Saturday morning.  She filled up some plastic bottles with water (the plumbing in her apartment was still working as smoothly as ever) and loaded them into a small backpack.  The television was static and, while her computers (both the tower unit and the laptop) still worked, the Internet had been down ever since the “emptiness” had begun.  The landline telephone gave her nothing but a repeated computerized message about any numbers she called being out of service and her cell phone lately seemed to think that everywhere was a dead-zone. If there was an outside world anymore, there seemed to be no way of connecting to it. 

As she stepped down the stairs outside, she heard a strange squeak.  A little white shape came bounding out from behind a bush.  It had bright pale-blue eyes and skinny limbs supporting a fat little body, round in way that kittens often were from baby-fat and bellies full of mother’s milk.  It sniffed Sola’s feet.

“Well, hello there, little one…” she said, noting the soft gray markings on the animal’s ears, nose and tail.  The kitten was clearly of Siamese descent, though of the rare “tabby-point” kind.  The animal’s forehead bore gray stripes and the tail was trimmed in circlets. 

“Do you belong to anyone?” Sola said as she cautiously picked the kitten up.  She wasn’t talking about a human master.  Her eyes scanned the area to see if there was a mother cat around.  The kitten purred and squirmed.  It appeared to be at a just-weaned age and was definitively a male.  Sola set the kitten down, not really knowing what to do with it.  She expected it to scamper off.  As she walked down the street of her empty neighborhood, she found it following her.

“Alright, alright,” she laughed, “I’ll see if I can find you some canned cat-food while in town.”  She paused and picked the tiny fuzzball up again.  She held him close to her chest, listening to his thunderous purr.  “I guess…” she said tentatively, “if you have no one to take care of you, I’ll have to do it.  I think I’ll call you ‘Ring,’ since you have rings on your tail.” 

The young woman looked to the sky and sighed.  “This beats talking to myself, I guess, though I’m sure you don’t understand a word I’m saying.” 

Sola wondered briefly why it was considered crazy for people to talk to themselves, but not to an animal.  Even people who had a problem with others talking to God didn’t usually have a problem with them having one-sided conversations with Dog.  Animals for-sure existed as much as the self did, but animals didn’t know what people were saying, for the most part.  Sola had known dogs that could decipher the word “walkies” enough to get excited about it as well as a cat belonging to an aunt that knew what “sushi” was.  Said aunt was the type to share small amounts of takeout with pets.  Sometimes, that cat would just jump up on the kitchen table with people seated at it, too.

Ring followed Sola to a shoe store.  Sola felt lucky to find the front door open, though she found the chiming of the little bell mounted on the door’s corner eerie.  The soles of her old runners were getting thin.  She tried on a pair of dark leather work-boots, though she removed the straps.  She sat on one of the chairs in the store’s front dangling a bootstrap in front of Ring, smiling at the kitten’s frantic antics. 

“You know, Ring?” she said, “I once had the thought to gather a whole bunch of these – bootstraps, I mean – and weave them into a noose to hang myself with.  People all over the place tell you to ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps,’ you know?  It was going to be my answer to that.” 

Sola laughed aloud as the kitten jumped and danced, and got one of its hind legs tangled.  “I think you and I will get along real well,” she said with a pleased sigh. 

In her strapless boots, Sola hit the street again and walked to a grocery store she knew to procure some cans of cat food and a few other necessities.  One could never have too much toilet paper.  The doors opened for her just as they had in the time of people.  While it was bizarre and worrisome that everything meant to serve mankind was still working without a hitch, Sola was getting used to it. 

“Maybe we’re a couple of bugs in some kind of alien’s jar,” she mused, talking to the tiny cat at her feet.  Ring had taken to following her as faithfully as any puppy, a far more common trait in kittens than was widely known. 

“What I like about this,” Sola said, popping a can of “Mariner’s Catch” into a canvas “Save-the-Earth” bag she’d taken off the side of a register up at the front of the store, “is that everything is gratis.  I didn’t have to work hard to get any of this, nor am I having it denied to me because I worked hard, but was unlucky enough to not have the work pay well enough to feed myself, let alone kitty-cats.  When I came home to the empty city, I’d been driving home from looking for a job… I had to go far out of my way to put in my bid with a bureau that’s supposed to find jobs for people who have trouble getting hired by conventional means…” 

She picked a bag of dry cat food off the shelf, figuring her new kitty might like that, too.  “To tell you the truth, Ring, I’ve long had a little fantasy about wandering around in an emptied world.  Living the dream – woo hoo.  I always figured it wouldn’t be what I wanted when I got it, though… that I’d be lonely or have a hard time surviving.  Characters in post-apocalyptic stories always have a hard time surviving. 

Sola picked up the little kitten.  He squirmed in her hands.  “This isn’t so bad, though,” she asserted, “… not really.  I suppose I never knew until now how little I’d miss people.  The city is quiet now and I don’t have to worry about what anyone thinks of me… at least, as long as I take care of you, hmm?”

The young woman held the cat close to her and shouldered the canvas bag filled with the things she wanted to take back to her home, including a small bag of clay cat litter that proved to be quite heavy.  The sun had set when she stepped out into the vacant parking lot and made her way out into the streets.  Something unusual caught Sola’s eye.  She set her bag down and gently released Ring.  Ever since she’d seen the mysterious light, the only car she’d glimpsed in Freeton was her own. 

She saw a car and it was her own – just off the main thoroughfare into town, its front end wrapped around a tree.  Sola picked up her feet.  Broken windshield-glass was everywhere.  Shadow figures appeared around her and she heard the garbled noise of police speaking into communicators.  Red and blue lights flashed round-about her.  Sola could not make anything distinct out of any of it.  Everything was made of shadows and static. 

She stood suddenly still, like a confused animal in the center of a highway.  She found herself paralyzed like a mouse captured by a cat.  Her every muscle locked.  There was a body in the driver’s seat of the car – or what was left of it.  Sola couldn’t get a good look at the face, but the long black hair and the clothing that it wore reminded Sola of her own long hair and what she’d been wearing several nights ago. 

In the flashing lights, she picked up her feet to avoid nuggets of glass and spatters of blood.  Just as quickly as it had appeared, the vision dissipated, leaving behind nothing more than a scarred oak.  Ring came padding up to Sola.  Aside from his tiny squeaking and the wind through the leaves, all was silence. 

The young woman did not sleep that night.  She sat up on her apartment’s small balcony as the sun rose; her knees were curled to her chest as she sat on the bare concrete, her tailbone hurting.  Ring slept upon a folded-up towel, curled into a fuzzy little kitten-ball. 

“I don’t think the world ended, Ring,” she said, talking to the feline although he was snoozing.  “I think I ended.  The world melted away for me, but really, it was only me that melted away.” 

She petted the kitten with two fingers and awakened it.  Ring purred and rubbed his face against her thumb. 

“I don’t know where I am now.  I suppose I can’t go back.  I don’t want to, though.” 


Sola smiled, positioned herself to sit cross-legged and brought Ring into her lap.  “The more I think of it,” she sighed, “If I had the chance to go back, I wouldn’t.  Alone, but not lonely… I suppose it’s a rare achievement.” 

The sun glared over the empty streets below.  Sola could see the Great Gear Clock without the foot and car traffic in the way, as it had always been in past days.  She stroked her purring kitten. 

“This is my city,” she sighed happily, “and here I am free.”