Hello world!

I’ve been living with voices in my head since writing my first short story at the age of eight.  The character that came into my mind that day lived in an underground tunnel used by my classmates and me to avoid crossing a wide, heavily trafficked street in order to get to church. Every day the nuns would march us, two abreast, across town and through the tunnel to Mass before lunch. The concrete lined, graffiti decorated tunnel never seemed menacing until my best friend’s mother tired of our silliness one rainy afternoon.

“Be quiet you two!” she snapped in desperation. “Here’s some paper and pencils. Sit down and write something.”

That’s the day the monster in the tunnel came to life. He lived in a cave behind a sealed door we passed on our daily trek to mass. Some of the boys tried to open it from time to time. The lock always held fast despite their best efforts.

“What’s in there?” we wondered.  “Why is it locked ? Who has the key?”  It was probably nothing more than a utility closet holding spare bulbs for the overhead lights that didn’t quite dispel the gloom along with the brooms and dust pans the maintenance man used to sweep up the sticky wrappers we’d drop after a visit to the candy store on our way home.

In my story, the monster in the tunnel was a patient creature, sometimes waiting for days or weeks for just the right straggler to pass his way. Then, quick as a wink, he’d reach his hairy arm out through a secret hatch in the door and grab some poor kid who’d be reported truant when he didn’t return to school after lunch.  Horrors!

When the rain stopped, my friend’s mother wasted no time in getting us out of the house to play.  Later, much to my embarrassment, she told us she’d read our stories.

“This is good,” she said, holding the smudged pages out to me.  “Really good. You should write some more.”

I did. And I’m still writing. I don’t recall how that first story ended but I do recall the abject fear I felt every time I had to go through that tunnel again.  I’d scared myself silly.   

The monster in the tunnel is still alive.  He no longer frightens me. He’s become the ancient retainer who opens the door to my muse, inviting the characters that live in my head to come forward and speak to me.  I welcome them all, as I welcome you, the writer, the reader, the editor, agent or publisher to stop by and share your love of the art and craft of writing. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. They’re a friendly bunch… most of them.

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One Response to “Hello world!”

  1. Nicole Goodwin Says:

    By: L.S. Goldwyn
    (Also Known As Nicole Goodwin)

    “The world is mostly divided between madmen who remember and madmen who forget…”-From James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room

    The carousel’s rusty wheels grind against each other as if they were corroded teeth trapped in the mouth of a cantankerous old man. Under the symphony of gritty gears a shadowed figure chuckles with amusement and blackened mirth. As figure encroaches out of the darkness the sound of his feet dragging against the barren ground sends a cold, wet shiver down the boy’s backbone. The figure stands adjacent to a metal barrel, lifts his white gloved hand and with snap his fingers a fire ignites. But it does not end there. Soon other metal barrels are alight; each exploding aperture filled with yellow flames like air filling despairing lungs. The all of the flames beat in unison surging with murderous desire the seeds of madness flowing around the desolate carnival. The boy’s brown skin is illuminated by the flickering fires. The thin black hairs growing along his eight year old body stand erect mortified by his loneliness and his dread. He waits haplessly anticipating what fate will become of him curling his knees sternly into the bottom of his face just to keep himself from screaming.
    His mind races trying to recall images—any images of himself before his arrival “there.” Could this have been a happy place? A place where the sun met many rainbows, a place so heavenly that it even made God slightly jealous? Yes. But in life there are storms, storms that trample. Storms that destroy. This storm was one unlike any other. It devoured everything. It sucked the soul from the merriment, a malicious spider extracting the lifeblood of a fly. The winds cut through the tents, and the trees like merciless daggers. Lightening shattered the fragile blue sky its beauty fractured broken into obsidian splinters. The horrid screams of powerless echoed into the innocent air, crashing to the ground as dead birds shot out from the sky. The joyous life that once was “there” was now no more. None could exist amongst the noxious fog and the blood-thirsty hunger of the ravenous flames; none except for the figure, the tormentor, the Ringmaster.
    The boy could hear nothing else except the famished voice of the flames. Their whispers called to him like laughing hyenas. Each soft murmur mischievously tried to coax him out into the open. He resisted them trying to focus; feeling the memories forming in his head, as though they were a friend sneaking up behind him, tapping him playfully on the shoulder only to disappear when he turns to greet them. He shut his eyes forcing all his fears, all his hate, all his love to fuse into one hollowed reed. His parents! Yes he wanted to save his parents from the Ringmaster but he was so small—and the boy he was not “Strong enough,” his voice wavered sheepishly as his knees rattled the truth chilling his blood. The noise of the carousel grew ever louder feeding off of his shame, transporting nourishing malevolence to throughout the entire carnival gobbling up the boy’s resolution.
    He could see what the Ringmaster had done to his parents. They hung from the roof of the carousel so their carcasses could be displayed and gnawed upon as a lesson to all of those who “trespassed.” There bodies were meaty husks, limp pendulums that swinging in the dead air too broken by the beatings to cry out any longer. He could see how deep the wide gashes cut into their chests, their arms, their legs as if they were hacked apart, sown and then numerous chopped up until they could barely survive. There was no comfort for them. Only the charred remains of plastic steeds with their mocking smiles peered into the fearful faces of the parents. Their blackened eyes and twisted lips emulated the grotesque evil of the place. The steady rise of the boasting flames stilled the boy; the menacing sight of his tortured parents crippling him. Yet he could neither shut his eyes to such malice nor could he turn away from it.
    Eventually, his found the will to advert his eyes. They ventured towards the Ringmaster’s shadow. It danced majestically against the battered walls, towering over the morphed ambiance that of the ashen carnival. As much as the boy wanted to remember the past before the storm he no longer could endeavor his mind to retreat from the ugliness it had brought. His life of fun in this once special place was no more.
    And with this revelation the voices returned in droves and waves vulture eclipsing the sunlight.
    “Ask no more questions boy, seek no more things. Dream no more dreams, when the last memory still remains.”
    His body wanted to shake with fear, but he was careful not to move. He calmed himself as best he could, taking slow breaths like a drown man savers his last breath. “You wish to be stronger? You wish for power beyond fear, or intimidation? If so the choice be yours.”
    Before the boy could even question this reply he discovered the vial. It wasn’t too far from his reach, maybe about the distance of his leg. But in such a small space, it would be risky. Too risky. “Drink.” The Ringmaster bellowed his voice as filled with the bass of the rumbling earth was surrounded by the harmonious chorus of the flames.
    The boy neither understood nor wanted to. The boy slid his legs from his chest allowing his hands to touch the freezing surface of the rotting ground slowly pushing himself farther and farther from his little safe haven. His body slithered, moving ever closer to the corner of barrels where the concoction sat. He gripped it in his clawed hands noticing the thick, dark brown liquid that oozed within. He opened the corked reluctantly inhaling the mixture. Its fumes burned against his nostrils smelling fouler then sulfur. “Drink it, drink it, drink it!” The voices began to shout vehemently against his virgin ears. He fought the need to gasp for air, slowly swallowing the pungent brew. As it slithered down his throat he could feel his mind floating away into the blackness around him. Tears fell from his brown eyes as they watched his mother and father being plagued by the evil figure from the darkness. But even their faces were soon engulfed as everything into the nothingness. And with his silence, in its omnipotent blackness of the Ringmaster’s will shrouded everything gleefully as the boy was tossed over into the unknown.
    The boy didn’t quite remember when his mother’s cries started. But he awoke to the sound of them with a somber shrug. His back sat erect in his rocking chair, as his brown eyes canvassed his bedroom in awe. There was nothing different that he could notice, but he could not remember why he felt things should be different. A slow alien calm engulfed his body, the ejection spreading hot and fast from his head to his toes. He didn’t have to remember, so he chose to forget. His mother’s cries flooded into his ears again but this time they could not reach him.
    “He’s only eight years old and I see… changes.” the boy heard his mother lament.
    “Really? And I suppose these changes are my fault? Well, if you think that I’m gonna take this sh—”
    The boy’s father out of by way of some strange intuition glanced at the head of the stairs. The boy peered down upon the pitiful sight of his parents, as if he were a god. “Hey there kiddo, come give daddy a big hug! I missed you sport! I missed you a lot!” The boy slowly walked downstairs staring into their eyes with the vigilance of a wild dog. He could see something in his mother’s eyes, but he could not place it. Was it fear? He was not sure and he did not care to know.
    “No more questions.” A voice from both within and beyond himself bellowed.
    His father put him in the back seat of the car carefully sliding the smooth texture of the seat belt across his fragile innocent frame then closed the door remaining outside for a bit longer. From the side window the boy could see parents, trying desperately to hide their hatred for each other while they spoke. The boy lips curved in the imitation of a smile, when his mother looked at him. Then she turned her back to the car heading back to the house. The boy did not have to see her face; he knew the expression it wore when she melancholy and fearful. These same emotions were born in his father’s eyes as each time he glanced at his son careful to avoid a gaze that bore in too hard or peered too deeply. The boy’s father believed himself to be a master of wrangling himself out of awkward situations deterring the curiosity that wanted badly to witness fully the emotions his son’s face may or may not show. Finally he made his way into the front seat of the van, adjusting the mirror and seat belt before turning on the ignition. The cars engine roared, the sound compelling the boy to grit his teeth as he imagined the gears grinding against each other producing a hunger, ravenous flame.
    “We better hurry kiddo, storms coming.”

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