Skip navigation

Apologies. Apologies because this is short, and for the title, but you can’t blame me for at least referencing it once, right? Very tired tonight. Back tomorrow.

The rational mind, that is to say my rational mind, kept trying to categorize it, carve the scene down so it would fit into my stable, boring worldview. The worldview that had carried me through hopscotch and tetherball, through ABCs and cursive writing, through bag lunches and midterms and car loans and mortgage payments and insurance.

I think the little guy was doing the Charleston. But I’m no expert.

It would be so much easier to laugh it off as a dream. But I can’t.

I wanted to get away from it all, take a break from my em-to-eff nine-to-five. Backpacking, sleeping under the stars, smelling the pine-fresh air. Oh, I got that alright.

I think it was the music that woke me. And the singing, if that’s what you can call it. Beastly grunts and groans, paws thumping time against the underbrush, the occassional ribbet. The fire had died down, only coals softly glowing. And the noise.

I unzipped the nylon that cocooned me and rose to my 50% cotton/50% polyester covered feet. To the west of me, a clearing was highlighted in the silver glow of Earth’s moon. Men of Science had walked on that moon. Or so I believed. Until I had seen the racoon dance.

I crawled closer, trying to avoid the attentions of the creatures that played audience to the strange, jitterbugging rodent. A wolf, a bear, a fox. And where had the crocodile come from? I was in Montana, for God’s sake! What twist of reason had brought me to this place?

What was more disturbing? Hard to say. The pink tongue the masked furball showed as he obviously was lost in concentration? No. The oppossum’s friendly smile? No. The bear, slapping his paws in applause? No.

The most disturbing moment was when I joined in.

It was fun.

“A warm mid-summer night in the Emerald City and we’re off to see the wizard,” Raul said.

“I’ve never understood why Seattle got that nickname and not Portland,” Terrence said. “Or which one was the Rose City first: Portland or Pasadena.”

“City nicknames are clearly unregulated,” Raul agreed.

The two men were approaching a square, cinder block building in Seattle, within view of the Space Needle, under sodium amber streetlights. The building, or at least the wall facing the sidewalk on which they stood, was painted with a large green crocodile but otherwise doorless and windowless.

Milling, listless people roamed only generally in the direction of around the far corner. Some of the crowd were smoking, some were holding a drink, some were talking to each other, a few doing all those. It wasn’t a tight-knit crowd Raul and Terrence approached. They were bored, apathetic, cool. They didn’t shout or speak forcefully, their hand gestures were lazy and slow. And they were mostly young, though not all.

Raul, on the other hand, was energetic and smiling, moving quickly enough that his friend had to push to keep up. “Is this the right night? I can’t believe these folks are here to see the same band we are,” he said.

“It’s probably a bigger deal for you because we drove 4 hours to get here,” Terrence said. “And this is the last night they’re playing, in, like, ever.”

“Don’t remind me! I’m just glad I get to see them one last time before they end it all.”

Terrence laughed. “They’re not committing suicide. When did you see them last?”

“Can’t believe you’d ask me that,” Raul said.

“…Oh. Was it…?”

“With… yeah.”

They’d arrived near the door, where a nebulous line of people hovered, some facing the doorman, others talking amongst themselves. Raul craned his neck then looked at his friend, helplessly.

“Excuse me, is this the line to get in?” Terrence asked some random woman.

She blew smoke from one side of her mouth. “Yeah, I guess.”

“Do you know if the main act has gone on yet?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. There was music before.”

Raul rolled his eyes.

The men handed their tickets, printed at home a week ago, to the bouncer, who scanned it and waved them inside. Raul rushed past into a hallway that sharply bent right, right past a man sitting on a tall barstool next to a podium, holding out a rubber stamp, shouting. Terrence, right behind him, tried to get his friend’s attention in the noisy venue interior, but the pre-show music drowned him out.

The stage was back in the corner to their left, the bar against the far wall to their right. The whole room was maybe 40 or 50 feet square, bathed in dim red light. There were two or three booths and tables along the closest wall, but other than that no tables at all; the floor in front of the stage was open and filled with more, milling, mumbling people, the crowd thickening in the direction of the bar.

Raul gasped. His body tensed. The ambient noise seemed to fade away.

20 feet away, among the throng near the bar, but facing half towards the stage: red hair, a few inches shorter than him, the woman had a distinct profile, hooded sultry eyes, a specific demeanor, a tense but expectant attitude.

“They need to stamp your hand!” Terrence bellowed directly into Raul’s ear, breaking his trance.

“What the fuck?”

“Don’t get us kicked out!” Terrence grabbed the other man’s shoulders and pointed him back towards the man on the stool.

“Fine, fine, OK.”

It was Terrence’s turn to scan the crowd, although his attention was on the farthest corner and the sound equipment, and the stage. When Raul returned to him, he said, “This seems like a bad room for acoustics.”

People were on the stage, moving things into position. The crowd noise muted slightly, an anticipation suddenly taking hold. “What do you want to drink?”

“Terrence. I saw someone, just now. I…”

“Drink, motherfucker. Do you want one?” Terrence pointed towards the bar. “I’m buying.”

“Beer me. I’ll be there, closer to the stage.”

Raul moved through the crowd, ill at ease and shaken. He tried not to look at every face, every woman’s face, he passed by.

The band they’d all been waiting to see bounced up onto the stage. Raul was surprised at how tall the lead singer was, how curly his hair was for a white guy, how confident he looked. The rest of the band seemed composed and controlled, practiced, smooth.

“Looks like we got here just in time! Anymore traffic and we’d have missed the opening song!” Terrence once again made his friend jump by shouting into Raul’s ear. Handed him a bottle. “Sorry, that’s all they had. Cheers! We made it!”

“Did we?” But Raul’s voice didn’t carry farther than his own head, as the lead singer suddenly shouted greetings and thanks over the speakers, and the crowd, all at once, was energized in unison. The band laid into the frenetic opening riffs of a deep cut from their second album and the people bounced and shimmied in time.

The first several songs were hard and fast, the lyrics were clever and convoluted, the tone ironic and sincere at the same time. The band were on their A game, and they controlled the crowd with panache. The energy in the room filled the fans up with the power of song.

Alone in the crowd, Raul kept looking around, half present, half wondering. Was she here? Did he imagine her? They’d been on and off again for so long, and had been out of touch for months now, after the final breakup, the one that left the deepest scars.

As the band moved from song to song, they reached a point where they wanted to slow things down. They pulled out a song a bit more contemplative, less driving and more brooding, and as before, the crowd reacted, swaying instead of bouncing or dancing, their upturned faces now lit by the brighter white light picking out the tall, curly haired lead singer, who crooned into the microphone.

And in the light spilling off the band, casting a silver one-sided glow on those watching, near the stage, Raul saw her, again.

She was facing the stage, arms wrapped around her as if in a hug, but somehow seeming separate from the crowd, as Raul felt. She was swaying. She was in quarter profile, oddly, instead of facing directly toward the band, considering she was almost directly in line from Raul to the lead singer.

She had a soft smile on her face, a dream-like cast to her eyes.

Raul stepped forward.

The crowd suddenly resisted his advance, closing like a curtain between her and him.

And just like that, the song was over.

“Hang tight, boys and girls! Just give us a minute to get a drink. We shall return for another set!” The singer shouted, drenched in effort. The spot light shut off; the room went dim red again, then suddenly the house lights went up. The spell broken, the crowd became restless again.

“Wow, that was incredible! Such a great set!” Terrence was laughing, powered up by the music. “You OK?”

“Seeing them was our first date,” Raul said.

“Dude, we’ve been friends forever but I’m not putting out tonight,” Terrence laughed.

“No. No! I mean…” He scanned the crowd. Had he imagined her? “Nevermind.” He clinked his bottle with his friends’, chugged the remaining drink. “Let’s get another beer.”

Hello! Thank you for visiting my blog. I’ve made it to the 2 week mark, 14 stories in 14 days, and I don’t plan on stopping. In fact, just as I’d hoped, forcing myself to write something daily has helped me unlock my creativity and I’ve got story ideas coming out of my ears.

If you enjoy what I’ve been doing here, there’s a lot of ways you can help out, as a matter of fact. Just visiting here helps, of course! And I’m happy you’re reading my words. In addition, in increasing levels of encouragement and assistance, you could:

  • Follow the blog on WordPress.com
  • Follow the blog via RSS
  • Follow the blog’s Twitter accountmy own personal Twitter account or the blog’s Facebook page.
  • Share links to the blog or any posts you particularly like on any social network you use and love.
  • Comment! Comment on my posts. Tell me you love me (you do love me, right?) or give me pointers or criticism of my posts or whatever you’d like to say. I have the spam filter fairly loose and the commenting policy at this point is “Yes, please!” so if you have anything to say, you can say it here.
  • This might seem like an odd thing, but you can refer me, or even hire me! I’m freelancing, and that means I am always looking for topics for stories, and clients who need things written. Drop me a line by clicking the “Leave me feedback” button or clicking this link. I would love to hear from you!
  • And lastly, if you really like what I’m doing here, and you’d like to encourage me to continue doing it in the nicest and most awesome way possible, there are ways you can contribute to my rent-and-eating fund. I’m freelancing, so any little bit would help. See the button at the bottom of this post, or on my About page, to send a donation of any amount through PayPal.

Regardless, thank you very much for visiting my site, and I hope you stick around! I’ve got far more stories to tell!


PayPal Donate Button

I made it to two weeks! Huzzah! How do you like me so far?

Tonight’s story brought to you via the TV Tropes Story Generator. See if you can guess which ones.

Lael Winterberg liked to hit the gym in the early afternoon. She avoided the lunch rush and the post-work rush. Things were nice and quiet. Not too many people around, plenty of machines available. Treadmill, stairclimber, bicycles, weights, you name it.

The gym wasn’t huge but it was very convenient; just a few blocks from her apartment. She had few excuses not to go, and she wanted to get her money’s worth if she was paying for it.

A little brick building that used to be real estate offices or something, across the street from one of the neighborhood’s ubiquitous antique stores. She arrived, already mostly dressed for the workout, carrying a bag with a towel and her running shoes, and pulled the door.

Which was locked, strangely. Was something wrong? The lights were on inside but Lael couldn’t see anyone inside.

She found her gym keycard in the bottom of the bag and swiped it on the sensor; a click from the door told her it worked. She went inside. No one behind the reception desk but that wasn’t unusual. This place was nearly automated, but there was usually someone around for questions or assistance or even cleaning up.

“Hello?”

No one in the workout area, no one in the yoga room. No one in the women’s locker room. She was half-tempted to knock on the door of the men’s locker room just for that sense of completion, but… “Now you’re just being silly. And apparently talking to yourself.”

She got out of her hoody and put on her running shoes, stashing the unused clothes in the bag, grabbed a towel and went up to the treadmill. A few quick button presses and she started off at a nice easy pace. But she couldn’t get a rhythm going; she kept looking around, expecting someone to jump out at her or at least startle her.

Aha! Music! She paused the treadmill and put in her earbuds, slipped her phone into the armband and put it on, got some good fast pop songs going, then started again, easy pace, one two one two one two one two.

And jumped when, in the pause between songs, she thought she’d heard someone else’s voice say “Keep going.” She stumbled but managed to keep upright, not falling down and being flung off the treadmill. Since the machine faced the plate glass window, she could use it as a mirror now that the clouds were rolling in outside and it got a bit darker outside than in.

There was no one with her in that room that she could see.

She pushed the treadmill speed up.

Clearly she needed a distraction. Wear herself out. Outrun her stress and concerns.

She caught a rhythm now that she was pushing harder. One song blended into the next and her arms and legs and heart and lungs all worked together. She felt… human. A human animal, a biological machine tuned for exactly this. Biomechanically, tall or short, thin or wide, nearly all humans were the end result of hundreds of thousands of years of refinement of precisely these sets of motions. Bred to run, at least until the last couple thousand years or so. Something derailed your species, you became distracted from your goal, learning about agriculture and staying in one place too long, getting fat on grains instead of tracking down roots and preying on game.

What the…? YOUR species? Lael wondered where that had come from. Shaking her head to clear it, she ran.

As she did, it became meditative. She imagined running on the beach, on the hard packed sand right along where the waves came in, feet digging in and sliding just a bit, causing her calves and thighs to work just that much harder, but more satisfying for it.

She imagined running along a dirt road in the country, trees and fields and rusty barbed wire fences and lazy stinky cows and old barns. But no cars or trucks, no other people, no farmers or pedestrians, no one but her.

She imagined running along a trail up in the hills, lungs heaving and legs and feet straining but still she runs, up and over tree roots and under branches and along streams, solitary but not lonely. Run, Lael, run.

She imagined running in crunchy snow, the flakes melting instantly on her warm face, her breath visible in the chill but her movement making more than enough warmth to keep her going. Keep her running.

And as she imagined it, she kept running.

She may never stop. It’s important she doesn’t stop.

I’m thinking of doing a weekly reading of my (or yours? via a poll?) favorite Daily Story Project post.

Would you like that?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 119 other followers