The Self, Reversed

Mannaz.  The Self.  Reversed.

Of course it would be reversed.  The world had been upended; how could he remain unaffected?  The rune indicated that the enemy he had identified without was merely a pale reflection of the enemy inside.  Change was required to move forward.  To grow.

But to grow what?  Mannaz was just a reminder of a question for which he had never found an answer: Who was he?  How to even respond?  A name, even one he chose, only identified him.  His skills?  Many others had similar abilities, at least until recently.  His actions?  Were those what he wanted to define who he was?  If so, he would be unable to like himself.

What else was there, however?  His ideals?  If his actions did not reflect those principles, then how could they truly be his ideals?  And yet, he wanted to believe – needed to believe – that he was more than what he had done.

Were those actions, and whatever principles they reflected, the enemy within?  If so, what was left that was him, that was not the enemy?  There must be something more.  But what could it be?

Maybe it was enough for now to recognize the enemy he had let in.  Changing that – opposing it – was a tremendous task.  There would be time after to determine who he was.  At least, he hoped there would be time.  For now, there was work to be done, both inside and out.  The question of who he was would have to wait.  But not forever.

World Without Sleep

The snow came late.  Hours after it had been predicted, it finally arrived.  At the beginning, it was barely noticeable, easily mistaken for drops of water taking their time falling to earth.  Another degree colder and giant white flakes became more obvious as they began to collect on the barely dormant grass.

The forecast had been for six inches, but the paucity of flakes made it obvious that was exaggerated.  No more than an inch could be expected from such a meager event, and it had not even begun to stick to the sidewalk.  Winter had arrived, but not with any conviction.

Winter is a time of withdrawal, preparation for the renewal of spring.  Winter brings peace and introspection.  Without the sleep of winter, the world cannot restore itself.  Lack of sleep makes the next day a difficult endeavor at best.  This was the third year in a row that winter began with whimper.  The world was running on fumes.  If sleep did not come soon, it would be too late.

And yet, no one seemed to notice or to care.  The rhythm of the seasons, of the world, was off.  The lack of rejuvenation tugged at us.  But we did not notice.  The warnings of the few were easily dismissed and ignored.  We all know what happens when you go too long without sleep.  But what does it matter if winter does not come?

Denizens: Maurice

The phone rang.

“Hello.  This is Maurice.”

“Did you call the plumber?”

“Hi, dear.  Nice to hear from you.”

“Ha, ha.  Did you?”

“No, not yet.”

“You have to call him.  I can’t live like this.”

“We have another bathroom.”

“I need mine.  Call him!”

The line went dead, and Maurice hung up the receiver.  Another day, another complaint.  His wife was going to leave him, that much was obvious.  He wondered if she even knew it yet.  She hadn’t said a kind word to him in months, and lately he had given up trying to make her happy.  Now they just shared a house.  The only question was how much longer that would last.

He looked up and saw Denise and Amanda talking.  It did not look like it was going well, so he hurried over to break it up.

“Ladies!  Enough.  Denise, come with me.  Amanda, cool it.”  He walked away with Denise following him.

“‘Reese, I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have reacted to her baiting me.”

“Do you want me to kick her out?”

“No!  I mean, sure I’m upset with her, but let her stay.  I just need to keep my distance.”

“What about him?  No good reason to let him keep coming in.”

He could tell she was chewing the inside of her lip as she thought about it.

“Just say the word, and I’ll toss the guy.”

She shook her head.  “No.  It’s fine.  Thanks, ‘Reese.  I appreciate you looking out for me, but it’s okay.”

“Alright.  If you change your mind…”

“Thanks.”  She left to go back to her tables.

Maybe it was this place that drove his wife away.  One of the reasons Maurice loved owning a bar was the people he got to know, the way the regulars start to feel like family.  But she never liked it.  Never wanted to get to know these people or even hear him talk about them.  He thought she’d get along with Pete and Denise and Rob.  But she didn’t even try.

In the end, he had chosen to run a bar, and she didn’t like it.  That wedge created a gap between them that now felt too wide to bridge.  She didn’t try, and now he didn’t either.

The thought wasn’t a new one.  But each time he considered it, he didn’t know what to do with it.  She wouldn’t be happy unless he quit, and he wouldn’t be happy if he did.  And now, he wasn’t sure that it would even be enough to change things.  Hell, she had probably already found someone else.

Maybe that’s why wanted to kick Jim out.  Misplaced anger at his wife.  But Denise stopped him every time he tried.  He hoped Rob would finally talk him into leaving.

“Hey, barkeep.  Can I get a beer?”

There was a man sitting at the bar in front of him that hadn’t been there before.  He looked disheveled, but also familiar.  He had come in a few times, but not enough for Maurice to get to know his name.

“Oh sure.  Sorry.  Lost in thought for a moment.  Pale ale, right?”  He placed a mug on the bar.

The man picked it up.  “Correct.  You have a good memory.”

“For drinks.  Not so much for names.”

“Heh.  Mike.  Also, could I borrow the phone?”

“Yeah.”  He handed Mike the phone.  “Not too many people need this these days.”

“I bet.  Mine was stolen.”  Mike dialed, three quick presses.  “Yes.  I need to report a robbery.”

Tom’s Revenge

The bedroom was dark and quiet, which made the noise all the more startling.  He tapped his wife’s shoulder.

“Did you hear that?”

“It sounded like the wind knocked over some of the Christmas decorations.  I told you it was too early to put them up.”

He frowned.  “It’s November.  Never too early for Christmas.  Besides, there’s no wind tonight.”

She sat up.  “Then what do you think it was?”

“I don’t know.”

“Go check!”  There was a little panic in her voice.

“Okay, okay.”  He grabbed his robe on his way out of the bedroom.

The rest of the house was quiet, and nothing seemed out of place.  Both doors were still locked.  There was no evidence of what had caused the sound that had disturbed his sleep.

Just as he had given up and was returning to bed, there was a sound from above like something  had landed on the roof.  A loud crash followed almost immediately, and he ran outside.

The lighted Santa Claus that had been sitting on top of the house was now lying broken in the driveway.  But that was only the beginning.  All his decorations were in shambles.  The tree was knocked over, the inflatable snowman had been popped, and the lights…  The lights were torn down and strewn all over the lawn.

Except for one strand.  It was wrapped around one of the wild turkeys in the neighborhood as he and several others quickly shuffled down the street away from the house.  What he couldn’t figure out was why they were still lit.

“What happened?”  His wife was standing in the front doorway.

He looked once more at the lighted turkey escaping from the scene.  “I think maybe you were right.  Maybe it was too early to decorate.”