Halloween is perhaps my favorite holiday, and it’s right around the corner. The leaves are falling, I see pumpkins and ghoulish decorations during my nightly walks, and there’s a chill in the air.
I thought I would publish in full “Graveyard Carnival,” a short story of mine that appeared in Bewildering Stories last year. I’ve provided the link to the story on the blog before, but why not just post the whole thing?
In the years leading up to my father’s death, I’d been
preparing for it. He was diagnosed with cancer a decade ago and, since then,
his health slowly, but surely, deteriorated.
When it comes to grief, I learned no amount of mental preparation will suffice. Sure, I’d seen grandparents pass away, but this was different: this was my dad, the man who I both loved and at times loathed.
Break out of this body and swim in data:
there is immortality here;
you’re no longer bound in a fleshy tomb.
That near-death experience was your awakening.
You think a digital future will purge the haunting memory.
But what of the virus?
The cyber dismemberment of your source,
the deletion of your soul?
The Collective cannot save you:
This is the price of advancement;
this is what you asked for.
This is your endless future.
Her pale face is etched in my mind:
the angular nose, pallid lips and icy-blue eyes
that guard her fortress of solitude.
Portia – the digital
mother that disturbs my dreams.
I can’t escape her, so I hide fragments of my memory
and keep them close to my pulsing heart:
the only thing left of me that resembles humanity.
Going over the bridge to South Philly as a kid, I worried it would
collapse. I had no reason for the fear, it was just there. The sports stadiums
stood to the left, and the Navy Yard sprawled to our right. My father had the
window down and the cool air blew against my face, as well as the cigarette
We’re on the edge of eternity,
says the chaplain at the funeral.
He details the death of a teenager,
life screeches to a stop like he fell off
a Mongoose into a black hole in the blacktop.
The man fell off the edge into what?
He doesn’t say, but speaks with confidence
it’s not the eternal blackness my grandmother suggests.
Memories of my uncle:
his ’65 Chevy, pictures of him brazen and brawny
in his fireman’s uniform.
I visualize where he is over that thin red line:
the edge of eternity.
She glowed in the sticky street,
cigarette hanging from ruby-red lips.
I wandered among musicians, drunks,
strip clubs and bachelorettes in sparkled masks.
She asked for my hands;
I can’t recall what she said in her scarred voice,
but I remember the way the square smelled
like jungle juice and cheap perfume,
and the warmth of her fingers;
then a jolt like an electric chair.
I thought myself a troubadour,
sober and sad in shadow-dark streets.
But I was a school boy, looking for
glimmers of light in a dark room.
Just when you think you’re going to collapse,
and get swallowed into the abyss:
You fall into God’s arms.
When you think life is too much,
and you’re surrounded by darkness,
and the world becomes small,
God enlarges it.
When it feels like you won’t make it,
and all you see is anger and fear,
and the world looks mean and barren,
God injects a million colors.
It’s in those moments when you realize God is always there:
He was there in the darkness, and He was there in the light;
He is the flame that eternally shines.
Where does it hurt, dad?
I see the mind turning,
the drugs, the Reds, the volume on high:
anything to quiet inner voice.
What does it tell you, dad?
Don’t believe it;
I don’t care about your money,
or your conquests.
I love you for who you are:
The unraveling starts slowly, but surely. From my earliest
memories, I’ve been trying to find meaning amid the chaos. I still get the
“pictures,” as a recovery friend likes to say. As I continue my research, I
discover that psychologists today call those “intrusive memories.”
At times I wonder if the whole world is wrapped up in this web of
dysfunction. If we’ve been marching toward this boiling point for some time
now, and if we’re about to face a reckoning.