Don’t Panic!

I apologize for the unexpected silence, folks, and for missing last week’s chapter upload on my FNAFiction. It was unintentional, I assure you. As some of you may know, I went to Penned Con in St. Louis, where I thought I’d be able to freely access the interwebz via the hotel wifi, but I was wrong. I could not stay connected more than a few seconds and after struggling with it for a few hours, I gave up and resigned myself to a weekend without social media. Which I didn’t miss, to be honest. I also had to resign myself to missing my chapter upload for Serial Saturday, and THAT hit hard.

I suppose there’s nothing stopping me from uploading it now. Better late than never and all that, but the world isn’t going to end if I just give it a miss and pick it up again on schedule. As my sister Cris said, it’ll be good practice for when all my faithful readers have to wait for the fourth book to be finished. …yay.

I’ll have more for you all on Saturday, but I did want to tell everyone who may have been concerned that I’m okay! I was just at a hotel with terrible wifi (and brick-hard beds, but that’s another rant). Anyhoo, I’m back now and sorry if I scared anyone! All is well with me!

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Serial Saturday Update

Penned Con is a week away, which means I have seven days and six nights to flip my sleep schedule on its groggy head so that I’m awake during the days (shudder) and can do normal day-things with my fellow humans. And let me tell you, I am already counting the days until the Con is over and I can go back to staying up all night and sleeping all day, because this sucks. I mean, yah, you CAN eventually train a night-owl to function during the days, kind of like how you can train a left-handed person to use their right hand: It will never feel natural or look pretty, but no one cares if you’re happy as long as you conform.

I have been nocturnal as long as I can remember. Longer, even. My mother used to tell me that when she’d wake up in the middle of the night, she’d often find me quietly watching TV or flipping through a picture book when I was three or four. It got to the point that she’d just say goodnight and go back to bed. I clearly had no trouble getting in and out of my crib, and it pretty much guaranteed I’d go down for a nap in the afternoon when she wanted one, too. She was a morning person, like my dad, so I have no idea where I got it from. I was just comfortably nocturnal right up until I started school, when I became uncomfortably nocturnal and stayed that way for the next 13 years. Then I started working and…well, let’s just say the best part of being a writer is setting your own hours.

Anyway, I’m exhausted, so I’m going to upload early tonight, take some Zzzquil and go to bed at the ridiculous hour of 10 o’clock. Sheesh. On a normal day, I should be thinking about what to make for lunch right about now. But it is not a normal day and won’t be until October 2nd at the earliest, which is when I get home from Penned Con, so please head on over to ff.net or a03.org to enjoy the newest chapter of Everything Is All Right, Part Three: Children of Mammon and wish me a pleasant trip and pleasant dreams!

 

The morning meeting was already underway when Ana opened the door to Shelton Contractors and all heads turned when she walked in. To judge from appearances, Shelly had just finished telling them half of them were about to be downgraded to part-time labor, but he had obviously not gotten around to announcing her triumphant return. After a moment of silence in which the stares ran the gamut from incuriously surprised to slack-jawed horror (that was Wyborn, uncharacteristically sitting alone in his usual spot. Slater, who should have been slouched beside him, was nowhere to be seen), Big Paulie slammed his coffee cup down on the reception desk and swung on Shelly with a bellowing, “What in the blue blazes is she doing back here?”

“Office,” Shelly said coldly. “Now.”

Big Paulie bulled his way through a roomful of staring men and into the boss’s back room with Shelly right behind him. The door slammed, but the room was far from soundproofed. Everyone got a good earful, from the I-won’t-work-with-that-whore-dropped-piece-of-trash to the I-don’t-like-it-either-but-I-got-a-business-to-run to the I-gave-you-thirty-years-of-my-life to the I-paid-for-them-too-so-don’t-pull-that-crap-on-me-now.

Ana poured herself the last of the coffee and started a new pot brewing, waiting for the fireworks to fizzle out. She kept one eye on Wyborn as she drank it; he kept both eyes on her.

After a little more yelling back and forth, Big Paulie banged his way back out of the boss’s office and straight out the door, making sure to shoulder-check Ana on the way. Hot coffee sloshed onto her shirt, not only scalding her tits, but then sort of exposing them through the wet t-shirt. The urge to dash the rest of the coffee over Big Paulie’s bald head and then hit him with the empty mug was strong, much stronger than it would have been if she’d only had some sleep, but he was already gone.

“You all right?” Shelly asked as Ana dabbed at herself with a handful of paper towels.

She nodded, jaws clenched.

“Get yourself one of the company shirts in back. The rest of you, listen up. Hageman, think you can fill Paulie’s shoes for the day down at town hall?”

Ana left them to reconfigure the chain of command and went into the supply room to find a shirt close to her size and change. When she reappeared, once more all heads turned. Ana tossed her wadded-up shirt in the trash—her Mordor fun-run shirt, one of her favorites—and picked up her coffee. She drank it, defiantly.

“And that brings us to outdoors maintenance,” Shelly said after a moment, turning to Morehead. “As of today, Stark here will be in charge of that department. I trust you to show her how it’s done. The two of you will also be responsible for general upkeep around here. Wyborn, Bisano, on Wednesdays and Fridays, you two will be helping out under Stark’s supervision. Questions?”

Bisano tossed off a shrug that said he’d be looking for another job anyway, Morehead seemed relieved more than anything, and Wyborn looked like Shelly had reached out and given his nuts a twist.

Ana said, “I could use Wyborn today too, if you don’t mind.”

“Peep,” said Wyborn, probably not deliberately.

Serial Saturday Update

Welp, it was a big, big day here at the Smomestead. In fact, it was State Fair Day. So we loaded ourselves up and trundled up the road to the fair.

This was not my first outing since surgery, but since the few others I’ve undertaken have been trips to the grocery store, it’s safe to say this qualified as a Herculean trial as far as I was concerned. I brought my wheelchair, but honestly (and perhaps stupidly), I hoped to use it pretty much as a walking aide and a place to stash heavy bottles of water. I actually thought I’d be able to walk pretty much everywhere.

We were at the fair for six hours. I spent easily half of that time sitting on my dizzy, exhausted ass while someone pushed me. Oh well.

Other than that, I had a great time! I petted a porcupine (not as prickly as you’d think) and a wallaby (so soft, like seriously guys, all the soft) and a bison! Also goats and sheep and cows and ponies and such. We spent at least an hour looking at the animals. The rabbits were especially awesome. I had fun pointing out all the breeds I used for the Freddyland animatronics from the Bunny Patch.

Alas, there were no purebred lapine lavender badasses present.

Suffice to say, we are all pleasantly exhausted, and I was looking forward to collapsing facedown on my bed, and probably on my cat, Waffles, since my bed is his third-favorite place to sleep (the second being on top of the stack of winter blankets in my closet and the first being behind my life-size inflatable Jack Skellington next to the bed….don’t judge me), when I was reminded that tonight is upload night.

Crap. I mean, Yay.

So if you are reading along on my Five Nights at Freddy’s fanfiction, Everything Is All Right, Part Three: Children of Mammon, head on over to fanfiction.net or archiveofourown.org and check out the latest chapter! If you still haven’t started reading, perhaps I can convince you to give fanfiction about animal-shaped robots haunting an abandoned pizza parlor with this enticing snippet! Probably not, given that none of my other snippets have apparently had any effect on you, but hey, what have I got to lose? And while you’re reading, I can finally go collapse.

Oh. Hello, Waffles.

So the time passed. Ana moved about, her work measured out by short spates of work-noise followed by long silences, then more noise in new places, and more silence. The quiet was never peaceful. Freddy came and went, somewhat less regularly than he’d been apt to in the past. At times, the two of them met in the hall, exchanging serious talk in a comfortable manner as two ships passing on a misty night, trading words of warning before sailing on.

Foxy sang songs and told stories. Between sets, he waited, propped up in the bow or pacing in his cabin or sitting on deck. It was just another day after all, and like all days, it ended.

A few minutes after nine, he gave all the little kiddies who were not here a final farewell and shut himself down. At ten, his eyes opened again. And at a quarter after two in the morning, he heard the door to the East Hall creak open.

Foxy, propped up on his elbows in the bow of his ship, swiveled his ears in that direction, but did not take his eyes from the tricky business of walking a doubloon across the bare bones of his fingers. Freddy had passed through not six minutes ago, so it was either Chica or Ana, and when the door shut without an invitation to come to the arcade, he knew which.

“Ahoy, lass,” he said in the flattest, least-ahoyingest tone he’d ever heard come out of his speaker. He hadn’t planned to or anything. It was just there, almost a taste in his mouth and the taste was bitter. “How’s the roof c-c-coming along?”

“What? Oh Jesus, you don’t even know. The roof is done,” Ana said, her boots tromping down the ramp toward him in a slow, noisy gait, heavier than she was. Tired. “Well, not done-done, but done enough. As done as I ever hoped it would be. Nothing left but the interior stuff and I’ll get to that in my own time, assuming I have any.”

“A d-d-difficult job done well.” Flip went the coin, fake gold color gleaming in the light of his eyes. It landed on his fore-knuckle, face-up. His own face. He couldn’t tell if it were grinning or snarling. He flipped it again without walking it, caught it and put it in his pocket. “Good on ye, and all that. Now why-why—WHY CAN’T PIRATES PLAY CARDS?—why don’t ye sound happier about that-t-t?”

“We had an incident Saturday night.”

“Oh aye?” he said, like he didn’t know. Because as far as she knew, he didn’t.

“Aye,” she sighed and by the sound of it, sat herself on the front row bench. “Some guys broke in. We got into it a little bit. I let them get away, so…”

Foxy dug his hook into the deck rail, gouging up splinters and flicking them idly over the side. “So?” he prompted.

“So what happens when you let the bad guy get away, Captain?”

“Makes for a b-b-better story, in me opinion.”

“Only if I’m alive to tell it.”

“And the likelihood o’ that be…?”

“I’m an optimist, so we’ll call it fifty-fifty.”

“Ye need Chica to t-t-tell ye what optimism means, luv. I don’t think ye has it quite right.” He worried his hook in as deep as it would go and broke out a chunk of wood almost the size of his finger. “Ye bring a b-b—BOTTLE OF RUM—with ye by any chance?”

“Sorry, it’s Sunday. Liquor stores aren’t open. I’ll pick some up tomorrow after work.”

“Yer working again?” he asked idly, scraping the new chasm clean before digging into it some more.

“Jeez, I really need to come here more often. Yeah, I’m working. Same place as before. We’ll see how it goes this time, but I hope to get a few month’s pay before I’m out on my ass again.”

“Telling ye, that ain’t optimism. Ye c-c-coming aboard?”

“No. I’m not staying.”

“Course not,” Foxy muttered, the words little more than a low hum through his speaker. Louder, he said, “Well, thanks for stopping in t’port, lass. FAIR WINDS AND A FOLLOWING SEA.”

A few seconds passed, silent. Then he heard her boots scrape as she stood up.

“Don’t go,” he said and then sat, staring at the hole he’d carved into the rail of the ship, wondering who’d said it, because he never would.

Serial Saturday Update

The internet here is inexplicably spotty tonight, in spite of the fact that we are paying out the hinder for top tier service. Our service provider (who shall remain nameless, but hint: their name is appropriately synonymous with a bag of dicks) insists it’s not on their end, which they can get away with because we are so far off the edge of nowhere that it’s either the Bag O’ Dicks or nothing. As a self-published author, I kind of need the internet, but as a raging introvert I kind of need to be far from humanity even more, so I compromise and pretend I’m not annoyed by the INCREDIBLY UNRELIABLE SERVICE! WHAT ARE WE PAYING YOU FOR, YOU BAG OF DICKS?!?

The upshot of this is that I need to hurry up and get this posted during the incredibly narrow window that the onramp to the information superhighway is open here at the Smomestead (damned if that word isn’t growing on me). So here is me telling you that my latest chapter of my Five Nights at Freddy’s fanfiction has been successfully uploaded over at fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org, so if you’re reading my FNAFic, Everything Is All Right, Part Three: Children of Mammon, head on over to one of those sites and check it out.

Progress on Part Four has been severely hampered by my surgery. I’m in very little pain, but man, is my brain not working yet. I’m so tired. I spend hours of each day ‘working,’ but I have to admit, most of those hours are me staring at my monitor wondering what I’m doing. Not in a ‘Where is this book going?’ way either, but just in a  “What is this light and what are all these buttons?” way. My father, who underwent a similar surgery just a few months ago, feels enormously vindicated by this; apparently, he did the same thing. He could write for weeks, he claims. This is terrifying to me. I don’t have much left of Part Three. I NEED to get Part Four done.

Work, damn you! Work!

 

All I can do is keep struggling and pray my brain reboots soon. But I’m telling you all right now…there may be a slight delay between Part Three and Four. I know, I know. I think it sucks too. And I’m still hoping I’m able to pull it out and finish in time, but I still need to edit and all that and, well, it just may not happen. Maybe, but…you know…maybe not.

Anyhoo, keeping positive and all that. I am still writing as much as I can (although not updating the widget daily, as I should be. I’ll work on that too), so we’ll just have to see what happens. In the meantime, Children of Mammon will continue uploading on schedule. Be sure to check out this week’s chapter and leave me some encouraging words. I know, I know, but it really helps right now.

The show went on, without an audience, without Freddy, without even a guitar. Bonnie watched Ana leave, listened to her footsteps recede and then return. She picked up her wallet and a few tools, opened and closed drawers on her toolchest, found her shoebox and fingered the money inside, then let it all lie and went away again. Bonnie heard the loading dock door rattle open and shut. His imaginary heart lurched and his fan revved, but then he heard her boots on the roof. A few seconds later, he heard metal feet running in the hall and Foxy shouldered through the plastic, sword drawn.

Bonnie’s ears slapped flat involuntarily and came jittering up again. Foxy glanced at him as he looked around the room and his own ears twitched, but he didn’t say anything. What was there to say anyway? At this point, even the thought of an apology made Bonnie want to punch the muzzle right off Foxy’s face, not that he’d ever hear one.

His temper flared and his vision dimmed, but Bonnie managed to fight it back for now. He had to stay calm, for Ana. He couldn’t go black tonight. She needed him.

More footsteps and here came Freddy. Bonnie’s vision dimmed again, darker. Freddy did not look at him but raised a hand in typically uncaring acknowledgement of Bonnie’s feelings while he finished inspecting the room. Ana’s upended table. Scattered splatters of blood. Her panties lying in the middle of the floor. Slowly, his arm lowered. Now he looked at the stage. “BONNIE. CHICA. WAKE UP. THAT’S AN ORDER. BONNIE. TALK. TO. ME. THAT’S AN ORDER.”

Red light flickered across the edges of Bonnie’s perceptions, registering the errors associated with breaking his routine too soon. For a moment, he thought he was going black after all, but his sight cleared and he came out of it, slower than Chica maybe, but still on his own. Holding his head—it felt weird, stuffy almost, not that he could possibly know what that felt like—Bonnie staggered to the nearest wall and leaned into it, stepping on pieces of his guitar on the way. “Where th-th-the hell were you?” he demanded, shivering.

“I’M. SORRY. BONNIE. SHE. OPENED. ME.”

There were no good excuses, but that was probably as good as they got. Bonnie, still tremoring, managed a nod and then turned his glare on Foxy. “I’m a jealous ass, huh? I t-t-tried to tell you, but-t-t I’m just a jealous ass and you ignored-d-d me. I needed you. The one fucking t-t-t—TIME TO ROCK—time in my life when I actually-ly-ly needed you.”

Foxy looked back at him, servos whining without visible movement. He said nothing. No apology, no excuse, nothing.

“I’M. SORRY,” Freddy said again. He looked at the panties and his eyes fluxed, blue and black.

“That’s nothing-ing-ing,” Bonnie muttered, rubbing his head like that could help clear it. “One of them had those in his pocket. He must-t-t have wanted to make sure he got a souvenir.”

“One of them?” Foxy echoed. “How many were there?”

Bonnie looked up at him.

The next thing he knew, red light snapped on in a broad stripe, blinding-bright. Bonnie recoiled, startled and confused, and hit the back of his head, both ears and one hand on something unyielding. At the impact, the red light flared brighter and no matter how he turned his head, it stayed right in front of him.

“What the hell is that-t-t?” he asked. The echoes were strange, too close. He started to ask Freddy what was going on, but Freddy’s eyes were gone. So were Foxy’s and Chica’s…and his own. The room was black, except for this annoying bar of red light shining in his face.

Wait, that wasn’t a light shining at him at all, that was an internal line of text. Error messages, so many that they formed an unreadable red bar across his vision.

He cleared his error log—that helped, at least enough that he could now tell he was looking at a dozen overlapping lines of text—and switched on his eyes.

What he saw made no immediate sense: A blotchy grey wall about ten feet away with a recessed light bulb in a wire cage set in the middle of it. Except that wasn’t a wall, he realized. It was a ceiling. It was the freezer’s ceiling. And he wasn’t standing, he was lying on his back. How had he not known that? Was his…? His equilibrium gauge was shut down. It took a hell of a hard knock to the head to do that.

Bonnie turned it on again and while it ran its start-up diagnostic, he went through the ever-expanding list of overrides. Yes, he knew he had 118 non-responsive pressure plates. Yes, he knew his overall structural integrity was at 77%. Yes, he knew his audio system needed maintenance. Everything about him needed fucking maintenance…

Serial Saturday Update

So first off, let me just say ten-thousand WOWs for all the well-wishing I’ve received since I got home from the hospital. I really appreciate it. I am still recovering, somewhat slower than I would like, but I’m sure much faster than is customary. Still, I figured I would post early tonight, seeing as sleep’s song is already a’calling. Seems like all I’ve done since I got back is sleep and for a chronic insomniac like me, that’s pretty awesome.

But when I’m not sleeping, I’m sort of on my feet. I went to the store and while I wasn’t able to walk, I could at least drive myself in the scootabout. Little victories.

I even made an attempt at painting. Behold the Bison in his native habitat: Morphine.

But it is going to be an early night, so even though it’s only nine o’clock on Friday, I have already uploaded the latest chapter of my FNAF fanfiction, Everything Is All Right, Part Three: Children of Mammon. If you’re reading along, you can find it over at fanfiction.net or archiveofourown.org. If I haven’t convinced you yet, or if you’re just waiting for the whole thing to be finished before you start, please enjoy yet another teaser and let’s see if I can’t weaken your resolve.

Step by silent step, Ana reached the end of the hall and stopped just on the other side of the plastic. Two pairs of animatronic eyes didn’t do much to light a room this size, but after the perfect blackness of the hall, they were as good as searchlights. Ana’s sugar-skull tee was a beacon; her sweaty skin all but glowed. If they were watching this doorway, there would be no way to avoid letting herself be seen when she came through, no matter how quietly she did it.

She moved to one side, hunkered low, found an edge along one of the hanging sheets and peeled it back just a crack. She studied the room beyond like it was new territory, a potential battlefield. The kitchen was just to her left, closed off by more plastic; a good ambush spot. In the back of the room, in the little hall that ran between the playground and the gym was another hiding place. Her bedroom under the curtained table, another one.

Those were the possibilities. As for the certainties, there were long shadows that shouldn’t be there on what she could see of the lobby floor and movement behind the dirty glass set in the West Hall door. So two at least. No, three. The gift shop door she’d left wide open was now almost closed and when Chica’s head turned that way, she could make out the pale blur of a watchful face, framed by scraggly hair and an unkempt trailer-trash beard. She knew him. What was his name? Trey? Trig. Trigger-Man. One of Mason’s distributers. So.

She could also see some familiar crates and her big toolchest over by the cashier’s station in the open end of the lobby. They hadn’t been able to fit all her stuff into whatever car they’d brought, so they’d had to prioritize, taking most of her big-ticket equipment, but leaving most of the tools. That was good. If she could get to them, she’d have a weapon, which was of course why they left it there, where the little light coming through the open lobby doors would have to shine on it even if Bonnie and Chica’s eyes were off. They were trying to draw her out.

Ana gave the Better Idea Fairy a full minute to show up, but the bitch must have gotten stuck in traffic, so she shifted onto the balls of her feet and took a deep breath.

“LET’S ROCK!” said Bonnie.

‘Yes, let’s,’ thought Ana and burst through the plastic at a run.

Back From the Hospital

So as some of you already know, on Sunday, I had some growing discomfort in my midsection that blossomed forth into a beautiful flower of pain by midnight. All through the night, I paced and contemplated what fresh hell this might be while I waited for it to get either better or worse. By the time my father woke up and I was still in pain (albeit no worse pain), I decided I’d better at least let him know what was going on just in case the situation developed further and a trip to the hospital became necessary. Then I attempted to go to bed, hoping to sleep it all off.

A few hours later, I gave up on sleep and staggered out to see that it was noon, which meant 12 hours of constant low-key pain, preceded by 12 more hours of discomfort, preceded by who knows how many hours of symptoms, since I have a number of other medical issues where other symptoms could hide undetected.

Off I went to the emergency room, then to admissions, then to surgery, and now I am home. The short version of anticipatory events is that now, all is well. The long version is too personal to share. However, as with so many things, there is a middle ground.

So here, for all my friends, family and readers who may be curious, is the shareable account of my time in the hospital, much of it written while I was tripping balls. I have elected to simply transcribe it here, weird formatting and all, and not edit for clarification, because I think it will be funnier that way. Enjoy!

First, I am sick

but I don’t notice

I have been sick a long time

some things are hard to see until something happens.

 

something happens

 

but I don’t notice

The pain is new and strange but not so bad

I can live with it

i’ve learned to live with worse

Somethings are hard to see until they get worse.

 

it gets worse

 

I shower, just in case.

I pack a night bag, just in case.

I stop drinking, even though I have been vomiting, just in case.

I am not afraid. I am prepared.

 

‘I will sleep,’ I think

sometimes that works

but the pain is more than I can hide from

and now I begin to understand

 

It did not start at dawn, when I could not sleep.

It did not start at midnight, when it began to hurt.

It did not start at noon yesterday, when I threw up the breakfast you made me

(i love the breakfasts you make me)

(and the dinners we always take together)

(our own time)

It might have begun days ago

or months

or years

 

I have been sick a long time

 

My father takes me to the hospital

the pain knows where we are and fights

as all things do

to stay where it feels safe

in me

 

An hour passes. I answer all the questions whenever I am asked.

And I try to be polite

I say no, ma’am, yes sir, please and thank you

‘Manners matter,’ as Mr. Faust would say.

(the book is not finished)

(who will finish my book?)

 

The pain is getting worse

I cannot hold still

I writhe and moan and am ashamed when I cannot stop

i am making a spectacle of myself

i am a hypochondriac looking for attention

i am an addict looking for a fix

i am just trying to look bad so i’ll see the doctor faster

and I know none of these things are true

and I know they don’t think so either

(but they do o i know they do)

 

My older sister comes to wait with us, my dad and me

Just Me & My Dad

It was a book he used to read to me when I was little

just a little critter

the best part was finding the grasshopper and spider on each page

Funny the things you remember when you don’t want to think about other things.

 

We talk about sandwiches and

how good it feels when someone you love

just brings you one

without asking

just because they thought you might be hungry

‘The male equivalent of this is to check the air pressure in your tires,’ I say

sexistly

 

We laugh. Laughter is good medicine.

My stomach hurts. I am so thirsty. I feel sick.

 

More hours pass

the doctor has come and gone

and the testing has begun.

(i know they think i’m faking this)

(i know they don’t think that at all)

 

Nurse says, ‘we need to put an IV line in.’

‘Good luck,’ I say

He’ll need it.

His name is Paco

like the song I once made up about Paco the Donkey

It was very sexual.

I want to tell him but I know I shouldn’t but it still makes me smile and I think that’s important

not much is funny now

Paco has a tattoo

(the nurse not the donkey)

I ask him what it means

that also seems important

‘This one is for my daughters, their birth signs.’

sagitarius and libra, drawn in the shape of a heart

my sisters are both sagitarius

i am libra

i knew it was important.

I tell him it is very beautiful

and sing the Paco the Donkey song to myself

silently

while he tries and tries and tries to raise a vein

 

My veins are tired.

So am I.

 

The needle is in. Good?

no good

The second needle is in. Yes?

no

Third time’s the charm.

for now

 

‘Let’s get you something for the pain,’ says the new nurse

I agree and wait and while I am waiting, expecting pills, she

puts something in my IV line

chest gets heavy

skull feels full

‘Something is happening,’ I say

‘It’s the morphine,’ she says

‘Oh, they gave you the good stuff,’ says my dad

I say, ‘Holy shit, that hit fast.’

 

I do not swear in front of my father.

 

How is the pain now?

what pain?

yeah.

 

I close my eyes just for a moment to stop my head spinning.

 

and Bison comes

 

His eyes are night, full of stars

His horns are banners, trailing sweet smoke behind him

His cap and ruff are black as good, rich earth

His legs are dark water, pouring down to fill the marks his hooves make on the clean hospital tiles

His sides are pale, clean as a movie screen

 

‘Why is this bison here?’ i ask

Everyone laughs

‘There is no bison in the hospital,’ my sister tells me

and of course i know she’s right.

as surely as i know i see Bison

when i close my eyes

i tell him he is in my head

‘Am I welcome?’ he asks and is and so, ‘That’s fine, then,’ he says

and comes close to stand beside the bed

where i am waiting

 

i look into his pale side and see

black hairs hidden there amid the creamy dun color of his pelt

waving

like wheat in the wind

pictures form

of the things he has to show me

faces places safer spaces

and water

rising water, overspilling fields, swallowing trees, engulfing mountains

until at last receding

leaving empty lifeless earth

 

‘First flood,’ says Bison and we are there

standing in muddy runnels where once oceans flowed

watching Last One sow Mankind with teeth taken from the dead

We grow like corn, reaching

We are earth-phoenices, born from death

We come free of the soil and dance, our muddy bodies full of life and our happy smiles full of teeth

 

Someone is calling my name.

i open my eyes

They have ordered a CT scan

okay

we wait

It has now been six hours since we arrived

and that is fine

Hospital things always happen in hospital time.

 

I think about Sunny and all the days I passed

holding her tiny hand to keep her from biting it

(because she hurt so much)

while i wrote

The Care and Feeding of Griffins

The Wizard in the Woods

The Roads of Taryn MacTavish

I can still see the day she died in the pages of The Army of Mab

 

I hope I can get some writing done if they admit me

i brought a notebook

just in case

I need to write out a thorough outline for Everything Is All Right

 

Writers have different priorities when it comes to facing their mortality.

 

They call my name

They are ready to take me to the CT scanner

 

there, i am made to lie flat and raise my arms over my head

both of these are painful acts

morphine is strong but pain is stronger

it finds its way in through a crack in my shoulder

soon it is

everywhere

everywhere                               everywhere

everywhere

Breathe in, says the Voice. Hold your breath

i obey

manners matter

but o it hurts

and i close my eyes

Bison comes

 

i do not see him yet, but i feel his breath on my cupped hand

as i hold still, so still, for the machine

His breath is hot and good/sour and wild

if i reached, i am sure i could touch his muzzle, velvet-damp

i do not reach

i will take no more than i am given

it is enough that i am not alone

‘You are never alone,’ he tells me.

Breathe in, says the Voice. Hold your breath

I do and we rise up, Bison and me, and leave the Voice with the machine

They know what they’re doing

They don’t need me

and i would rather be

here

sitting on the grass

safe and warm against Bison’s side

while he grazes, gazing into space at things my eyes don’t know how to see

so i watch him breathe instead

A woman appears from the dark hairs waving in the pale pelt

and sits, reflecting me in the mirror of Bison’s body

She shows me the story of the Medicine Shirts

it is one I know

i say, ‘but they all died, you know.’

‘they put on your shirts and danced and died.’

‘the bullets went right through them.’

She looks at me. Her eyes are kind

if a little exasperated

as a patient mother with a difficult child

‘Death is not an end,’ she says. ‘Open your eyes. Look up.’

i do and see

through the cracked ceiling tiles

to a sky filled with stars and fish and colors whose precise hues have no names

and need none.

‘Many of the suns you see have long died and yet

their light remains

indistinguishable

from those of living suns.

Even here, so far and so long distant from where their light began,

Men guide themselves by their light.

So it is with spirits.

Bullets may pierce bodies, but the spirit does not die.

Their light remains

indistinguishable

from living hearts and minds.

Even you, so far and so long distant from where their story began,

yet align yourself to their light.

Those people who shot my dancers,

what color were their shirts?’

 

Breathe in, says the Voice and I am in a bed in the CT scanner.

Hold your breath.

I think my shirt is grey. If I die today, no one will remember that.

Back to the room I go, where my father and my sister wait.

‘How is your pain?’ the nurse asks me.

I tell her it’s fine. I feel it, but my family is with me.

Pain shared is lessened.

 

Another hour goes by, according to the clock.

I am thirsty and tired and hurt and above all things

happy i am not alone

Bison is in my sister’s eyes as she watches my monitors

Bison is in my father’s face as he reads his book.

All is well with me.

 

Doctor comes.

We talk of surgery and associated risks.

i understand

Sign these.

i sign

I tell my sister and my father to finish my book.

They say they can’t, but I think they can.

And now we wait some more.

I wonder how my little sister is doing

She’s still at work and probably still worried about me.

At this rate, she may get home before Dad does.

I don’t want her to come home to an empty house.

she worries enough as it is

I say some of this out loud

 i think

My sister says she’ll go home so she’ll be there

and that’s good.

My sister leaves but comes back with a sandwich for my father before she goes again

He has been with me all day and she thought he might be hungry.

I cannot eat anything, but I share sandwiches in my own way.

I think again of all the quiet good that exists in the world

and especially of sandwiches.

 

They take me to a room

Bison is in the touch of my father’s hand as he

kisses my hair and tucks me in like

the child i’ll always be

to him

 

The new nurse gives me a new dose of medication in a new IV line

the last one blew out

sigh

it hits fast and hard

i’m starting to see why people do this shit for fun

at last I can sleep

I close my eyes and

Bison comes out of the clean white walls

We walk awhile in grassy plains made black with beasts

i smell them

feel the thundering of their hooves in the bones of the earth

Now there is a hospital where the herds of ten thousand thousands ran

‘And that’s fine,’ says Bison.

All things that live must die in time.

And hospitals are good medicine.

 

I sleep 12 hours.

Nurses come and go.

Each time they have to put something into me or take blood out, they have to set a new needle because the vein attached to the old one has given up.

I wake up with a headache.

Dad comes.

Older sister comes.

Younger sister has to work again.

Life is like that.

Bills have their own priorities.

I manage to stay awake two hours, then sleep just to get away from the terrible headache.

I wake just in time to learn my surgery is imminent.

awesome

no time to stress over it

My head is agony, but the anesthetic should handle it. I can tough it out.

i am so tough

 

Doctor comes with papers

Surgeon comes with papers

Anesthesiologist comes with papers

i sign everything

Nurses put me in my sexy gown and put me on a stretcher

here we go

We chat on the way to the OR, as one does.

I make the operating team laugh.

Laughter is good medicine.

They set a new needle on the third attempt and get the blood ready.

We are waiting for the surgeon to finish scrubbing.

and waiting and waiting

and waiting.

A phone rings.

He’s on his way, put her to sleep, he says.

They ask me if I’m ready.

ready ten minutes ago, folks

let’s do this

Mask goes on. Drugs go in.

bison

He is already there when I close my eyes.

He doesn’t speak, but he lies close and licks my headache away

so that’s good.

 

I wake

i think

there are faces

they tell me to stay awake

i’m going to throw up

i do

i’m sorry

They tell me it’s the anesthetic

Happens to everyone

am i going home now

We’ll see

No memory of the ride up to my room from the OR

Vague memory of my father’s beard

The nurses later tell me I said my little sisters name

tell her

tell her

Tell her what?

No idea

I sleep

with my hand wrapped

 around Bison’s smoky horn

and listen to his contented grumbles as he

chews the cud of memory

 

I wake

And I am well

There is a pain

When the nurses asks, I tell her I got a stitch in my side

(‘I got a stitch in my side,’ said Amber)

still funny

It is a good healing sort of pain and I know

it means me no harm

So I will take it home with me

and we’ll get better together.

 

Dad and older sister are here.

A wheelchair is waiting.

I have a balloon

awesome

I sit on the bed to wait for my discharge papers

I close my eyes

Bison does not come

still

He was there when it mattered and

is still with me in

pictures stories songs

 

Of all the things Bison taught me, I think I will remember one thing over all things

 

Morphine is a hell of a drug.

Serial Saturday Update

Welp, it’s going to be a short blog post tonight because I’m off to dinner, but there’s a good long chapter over at fanfiction.net and archiveofourown for those of you reading my FNAFic, Everything Is All Right, Part Three: Children of Mammon! Sorry to run out on you so suddenly, but I haven’t eaten in twelve hours and I’m just this side of starving. I’m thinking pizza. For some reason, I’ve really been craving it lately…

So it looked like the scrapping thing was a bust, which was fine with Riley, since the little he’d understood of the process sounded like a whole lot of work, but he was glad they’d come anyway, because this place was cool. He’d been in a few abandoned buildings before, back in his hometown, but only after they’d already made the transition to flophouse. Crawling under the rusted drop-link barricade and through the heavy doors to see that giant banjo-playing chicken had been like going through some kid-show magic door into a cartoony new world.

He wandered out of the lobby as the others argued over all the stuff that wasn’t there, pushing through sheets of thick, hanging plastic into a huge room where he guessed people used to eat. There was only one table left and no chairs at all, but there was a stage over on the inward wall, so he guessed this was where the animal-robots used to sing and stuff. As he got closer, he saw an old electric guitar still laying on the stage, one of the funny looking ones that was split at the bottom into two points instead of round. It was pretty beat-up and the strings were gone, but it was heavy, so maybe it still worked, which meant one of the other guys would want it. Riley held onto it for a while anyway, looking wistfully around as he tried in his limited way to imagine the show, but then he saw another plastic statue, this one of an alligator, and put the guitar down so he could get a better look.

It was sitting up on his hind legs like a dog begging at the table, holding a big old brown jug and wearing a plastic bandana molded to its neck. Its eyes were gone, giving it a black-socket stare over that cheerful toothy gator-grin. It stood in the corner of the room between a wide doorway covered in plastic and a window to the next room also covered in plastic. All the doors out of this place were covered in plastic, in fact, which gave even this big room a closed-in feeling; anything could be out there, just beyond that plastic, watching. It was all incredibly spooky in a fun way, but Riley kept his enjoyment to himself, intensely aware that he was the only one having a good time.

“I don’t get it,” Slater kept saying and at the moment, he was saying it as Trigger slammed him up against the wall. “I was here just last winter and this place was packed! It was shoulder high in that front room! It took me an hour to dig in and there was stuff here, I swear to God! Everything was still here! The stuff in the gift shop, the fucking cash register, everything!”

“Well, it’s gone now.” Bats came into the dining room too, sweeping his flashlight along the ceiling. There was a pretty big hole up there, like it had all fallen in, although there was nothing on the floor and no hole straight through to the sky. Riley quickly found himself a spot to stand against the wall next to the table where he was out of the way. “Christ, everything’s gone. There’s no lights, there’s no speakers, there’s no…Guys, look at this.”

Four more flashlight beams homed in on a hole in the wall next to the alligator, fairly large and almost perfectly square, that exposed some of the wood inside the walls and a little blue box with a plug-thingy in it.

“Oh what the fuck,” Trigger said in an angry, baffled way.

“That’s a stud,” Riley supplied, pleased that he’d remembered what Ana had called it.

“Not that, dumbass,” Bats said, and pointed at the plug-thingy. “There’s no wires. Someone’s already been here.”

“Wasted my fucking night,” Dentist muttered, walking over to the table and lifting the black cloth that covered it. “Or maybe not. Looks like someone’s living here.”

“No way,” said Bats and Slater together. They looked at each other and both stepped back. “Not in Freddy’s,” Bats said, by himself this time. “Nobody comes here, man.”

“We’re here,” replied Dentist, moving on to investigate whatever was behind the plastic sheets at the back of the room.

Slater’s friend, Wyborn, had still not come all the way out from the lobby. Now he raised his hand like a kid in school and said, “Guys, do you smell that?”

Everyone stopped what they were doing to sniff the air.

“That’s the quarry,” said Slater.

“That’s blood,” said Bats, grinning at Riley. “Freddy’s been hungry.”

Riley laughed obligingly, unintimidated. He’d been around Mason long enough to know what blood smelled like. The restaurant had all the usual derelict-building smells, enhancing its spooky atmosphere, but the strongest odors were not threatening ones.

“No, that’s fresh-cut lumber,” said Wyborn urgently. “Look!”

All of them aimed their flashlights at the floor. Although it was way cleaner than any abandoned building ought to be, it was far from spotless and the checkerboard tiles showed plenty of smudgy tracks, as well as stuff Riley had heard Ana call construction-dandruff: splatters of plaster and paint, sawdust and grit, some with bootprints stamped into them and a few that looked like the marks of bare feet.