authors

Views, Reads & Fans

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clark-young-160446-unsplash

Just a brief introduction so you know where I am coming from.

1. I am a self-published author of a small book based on little known characters from the Bible. This was published through Amazon Createspace a little over a year ago. While it has gotten some traction, it is not anywhere near where I would like it to be. Of course, like any author, it would be nice to see it on a Best Seller List. One day, maybe that will come for something I write.

2. I was told about Medium in the Spring of 2018. I looked at it a few times, decided it might be a little too difficult or time-consuming to deal with, and kept shoving it to a back burner of my writing stove.

3. I have owned and designed my own websites in the past, and have been blogging for over 12 years. At one point, one of the sites I owned was regularly seeing about 3–4,000 unique visitors a day which some days seeing surges in excess of 8–10,000 unique visitors.

4. However, like many writers, it is easy to get discouraged. I got tired of trying to find more contributors and editors who would be willing to share the same passion that I did for the blogs. There are still a couple of people who have written recently on at least one of my blogs and I am very thankful for their contributions. So, the blog posts grew less and so did the readership.

That brings me to July 2018 where all four of these points come together.

I took a chance that somebody would be interested in reading my blogs, my stories, my poems, my Haiku, or my whatever I wanted to share. Much of what I wrote at the beginning was simply a response to Writing Prompts with a Facebook group called Warrior Writers (sadly, no longer in existence).

Then, I was reminded about something that I had forgotten about.

MEDIUM!

$5.00 a month? Are you kidding me? That is nothing. I spend more than that on each trip to the local coffee shop to get a raspberry white chocolate frappe. Why not?

Not one to start off with freebies, I decided to take the plunge and buy into the Medium Partnership Program. My ONLY goal was twofold. 1) To see if somebody liked my writing. 2) To eventually make enough money to pay for my monthly subscription of $5.00.

Here is what has happened.

July — 1 story

123 views

71 reads

24 fans

Earned: (Drum roll, please — — $0.00)

Not one to quit easily, I thought, well, I will give it another month or two.

August — 6 stories

432 views

265 reads

105 fans

Earned for August: (Another drum roll, please — — $0.19)

Part of the problem was that I had not figured out how to put stories behind the paywall. I was frustrated to say the least. However, I figured it out the first of September and things began to change.

September — 4 stories

488 views

347 reads

58 fans

Earned for September: $4.66

I will admit that I did a little jig. Told a couple of friends. Bragged about it to my family and signed my wife, Violet, up to write and make money. Barely enough to pay off my subscription, but I had done it.

I was on Cloud 9 and thought to myself, “Wow, only 4 stories and made over my goal!” However, another side of my brain said, “Don’t count chickens before they hatch!”

So, I set a lofty goal of making at least $10.00 in one month.

October — 12 stories

601 views

419 reads

118 fans

Earned for October: $12.39

Amazing! I have no doubt that Mark CAN make money off of what he writes. On to the next month.

November — 15 stories

1195 views

791 reads

232 fans

Earned for November: $9.88

When I received the total, I was disappointed, but still pleased that I was over the $5 subscription amount. So, on to writing in December and thinking that maybe I could take this a little more seriously.

December — 17 stories

4071 views

3103 reads

451 fans

Earned for December: $52.51

What??!! I made enough to take out the family for a celebratory meal. Ok, maybe it was just Denny’s, but this was huge to me. My 12-year-old girls ask my wife and I, as well as my son, Trenton, who has also started writing, how much we make EVERY Wednesday. They are excited and help to keep us encouraged.

For January 2019, I decided that I needed to step up my game and see what difference it makes. My goal is to write at least one story or article for every single day. I am ahead of my goals as I have seen four stories published as of today, January 4th, and I have three stories ready to go for the next few days.

Each month I read the newsletter that comes out and read that only about 9.1% of all writers make more than $100. I determined in November (and told my family) that my goal is to be one of those in the 9.1%. That means that approximately only 1 in 10 will earn enough to pay for a nice meal. This will be me soon, maybe even in January.

All of this to say that if I can write and make money, then you can do so as well! Write about what you love and what excites you. Pay for the Medium Partner Program. Ask to join and write for publications you like.

Celebrate your successes! I look forward to seeing where I am at in 6 months and then as we close out 2019.

Join me!

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A Cry to Liberty

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cry

Politicians of this world
Rarely give sage advice
The only goal is themselves
While forsaking all that’s nice.

Forsaking all that’s nice
What is nice you may ask
Remembering who they represent
Is their sole elected task.

Sole elected task is to rule aright
Forgotten in the power strife
The people cared not for
Each party part of same sharp knife.

Same sharp knife that cuts to quick
Both sides equal in their acts
People mourn and grow weary of
Government no longer based on facts.

When no longer based on facts
History doomed now to repeat
Who will care when it is gone
Freedom’s call – forgotten feat.

Forgotten feat of days gone by
When soldiers gave their alls
Liberty the goal and sweet dream
Gave way to political calls.

Political calls the masses sway
Apart from the brave and bold
Those who rule must give account
E’er freedom’s blood grows cold.

Should freedom’s blood grow cold
Cared not by demands of most
‘Give what I am due’ they cry
Lady Liberty but a memory’s ghost.

Antonius Marcellus Pollio

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This is a brief character introduction to the main character from my work in progress entitled, “For the Love of Rome.”

tribuneA Roman of Romans, Antonius stands tall, but sometimes for all the wrong reasons. This is especially true in the early years of his life. The young man with the black, tightly curled hair is rather impetuous as he stands toe-to-toe with his father, Marcellus, who is a Roman Tribune.

Marcellus wants to raise his son in a manner that is befitting to someone born with rank, but Antonius is determined to live life in a way that pleases himself.

From a very early age, Antonius faces challenges that have the ability to make or break him into a good citizen of Rome. While he weathers each storm, sadly, there are underlying waves that seek to crash across the bow of his life. The biggest storm is yet to come and it will ultimately rock Antonius and his family to the core.

Antonius is the main character and the story set in Roman times features sections of the life of a young boy destined for greatness. The period of Roman history centers around the end of the last century before the first coming of Jesus Christ. If you think of the movie or the book entitled “The Robe,” you will have a good idea of historical settings involved.

Fight scenes and family struggles will bring thoughts of Ben-Hur to mind, but Antonius is a Roman. Even the gods would be proud of what the boy becomes as he learns to be a man in a world that is cruel for far too many reasons. The problem though is that Antonius has a problem with the path the gods seemed to have created for him.

My book is entitled “For the Love of Rome” and has been a work in progress since approximately 2003. It has gone through many changes as I have written and reworked this through the years. This full length novel stands currently at about 125,000 words.

Written for Warrior Writers Prompt #36

Overheard in the Coffee Shop

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oldman“Pssst, son.”

“Hey, son!”

“Son, are you going to keep ignoring me?”

“Dad, all I want to do is read the morning paper in peace.”

“Son, do you mind if I get another drink?”

“No, you don’t need another one. Besides you have not finished the one you have.”

“I don’t like this one.”

“Dad, you tell me the same thing no matter which drink you buy.”

“If you don’t believe me, try it.”

“No, I have my own. I don’t want yours. Now, please let me finish reading.”

“Pssst, son.”

“What Dad?”

“Can we go somewhere and do something fun?”

“Not today. I have to go to work soon.”

“Hey son, can we go tomorrow?”

“Dad, I told you that I was going to be busy this week, and that…”

“But son, you are always busy and I just want to spend time with you.”

“Dad, listen. The work I do is not easy and it takes a lot of time. When I am at home, I still have a lot of projects that I need to finish. Maybe we can do something fun next week or the week after.”

“Ok, son. I love you.”

“Yeah, me too, Dad. Now, can I just finish reading the newspaper?”

“Daddy, daddy?”

“Yes, Johnny, what do you want?”

“Why is Papa crying?”

“Johnny, it’s hard to understand right now, but let’s talk about it later.”

“But Daddy, I love Papa and he seems so sad. Can we go do something fun?

“Johnny, don’t worry about it. Right now, I just want to finish my newspaper and drink my coffee.

“But Daddy…”

“Johnny, we will leave in a few minutes.. We will try to have fun another day.”

“Hey Daddy.”

“What do you want now, Johnny?”

“Daddy, don’t be upset. I just wanted to say that I will be glad when I am grown up.”

“And why is that, Johnny?”

“Because when you are living in a nursing home like Papa, I will try to always remember to have fun with you. I will be quiet now til you finish your paper.”

Writing Prompt #33 for Warrior Writers – Story using dialogue only.

4 Illegal Border Crossings in One Day

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Unless otherwise indicated, all names have NOT been changed in order to protect the guilty or the innocent. However, should Interpol come calling, then all stated names and places were a made up story just for the purpose of spreading goodwill throughout the Kingdom of Medium.

Without further ado –

Once upon a time in a kingdom far, far, FAHR away (must be read in your best Shrek or Donkey voice), there lived a brother and a sister. This particular fiefdom was so far away that it required travel by boat, yellow submarine, or airplane to get to. In order to protect my two much younger siblings (um, I mean two of the characters in this story), I will not tell you that the country lies to the east of Holland and France, nor will I tell you that it was a country that up until a couple of years before this event took place was actually two different countries.

For those who have a very poor grasp of geography and a lack of knowledge of world events, I will give you one small hint with the initials of the country W.est G.ermany, but don’t ask for any more hints because I vill not giff you eny more, Mein Fraulein und Mein Herr.

Across the waves far to the west there lived a couple, rather youngish at the time, who decided that it was time to visit sundry and sorted (not sordid) relatives living in this beautiful country. Before you could say Wienerschnitzel (bless you too), they climbed aboard a plane (faster than yellow submarines)and headed for a long trip to the old country.

Shortly after their arrival, it was determined by the youngish couple that this would be a great time to leave the kinder-noodles (roughly translates as offspring) with und grand-spoil-em-rotten-peoplen (equivalent to grandparents) and embark on a grand tour. The Black Forest in Bavaria was calling with all of its beauty, its luscious landscapes, and incredible fairy-tale like castles. By the way, it was rather disappointing to find out that Black Forest Gateaux does not come from Bavaria, but we saw lots of chateauxs.

Getting up early, we gave an extra helping of Wheaties to the 4 squirrels that resided under the hood of the French rental car. NEVER get a French rental car. They are slow as snails, even the ones that are getting ready to be eaten.

Four hours later, we arrived at our first destination of Neuschwanstein Castle and enjoyed an incredible tour of the castle that Walt Disney modeled his fairy-tale castle in all the stories with happy endings.

castle

Feeling rather adventurous and only being about 30–40 minutes from the Austrian border, we decided that we would do a quick trip into Austria, have a late lunch while trying to determine if the hills really were alive with the sound of music. A quick confab between youngish couple and my two unnamed siblings (Sharon and Michael), we determined that as we had ALL brought our passports, that it would be an easy enough trip.

To be fair to one of my siblings, I will add that I actually am a dual citizen. I always carry two passports (one US and one British).

A quick car ride from the castle (but not as quick as it would have been in say a BMW or even a Volkswagen, we arrived at the border of the country we were visiting and Austria. Pulling up to the border guards who looked very menacing with their peashooters strapped to their shoulders, I greeted them in my best Deutsch accent.

“Hi, ya’ll!”

With deepening scowls and obviously unimpressed with my ability to speak his language fluently, the soldier asked me in English to produce my passports. In the interest of good cross-border relationships, I responded in English as well.

Handing him BOTH of my passports, my wife’s passport, and my youngest brother’s passport, I reached back to get my youngest sister’s passport. She whispers back that she does NOT have her passport after all, but she does have something like a military ID that she used to get on base for work. I whispered back for her to hand that to me and we would see if that would allow us to cross the border as we really just wanted a quick visit with the Von Trapp family. I had confidence in confidence alone as I reached back through the window to hand the guard her ID.

Imagine my surprise when he would not do more than a cursory glance at her ID, the four passports, and waved us into Austria. Ah, the hills truly were alive. The sun was out and we could even hear the Mother Superior singing to us something about climb every mountain. We were ready.

An incredible lunch followed, but slightly disappointing as neither Rolf nor Liesl were available for the day. I think my brother and sister were hoping to make their acquaintances as well, but sadly, they were also disappointed.

By this time, we were only about an hour away from the Brenner Pass. This long tunnel goes under the Alps and is one of the entrances into the land of ravioli, spaghetti, and Bolognese sauce. Taking the tunnel is actually much easier than calling up Hannibal to hire an elephant.

Why not? With shouts of encouragement to the tired squirrels under the hood, we drove to the border of Italy. Using the same routine, because for some reason it didn’t make any sense for the driver to just hang on to the passports, we arrived at the border crossing. These soldiers looked even meaner and despite my repeated attempts to speak English with much hand and arm waving, they still not appear to understand what I was saying.

Finally, a border guard that spoke English asked for our passports. I handed him my TWO passports and my wife’s passport. My youngest brother who has a good Italian name similar to Michelangelo, but without the angel part (trust me on that one) handed me his passport. My sister still could not find hers, but dutifully handed me her military ID.

I handed her ID to the guard and was going to explain that we wanted to try the fine food, maybe ride in a Fiat down the canals of Venice, and maybe see about an Italian Job. Instead, he pushed the four passports through the window, waved us on through the military checkpoint, and went back inside his booth.

Driving from the beautiful colors of Austria, we entered the tunnel. Out the Italian side, the beautiful colored houses were drab brown, everything was dingy, and soldiers or police with sub-machine guns seemed to be standing on every corner. A couple of hours into the Italian countryside, a French car with four Americans were happily snapping pictures like good tourists.

Coming upon what looked like a decrepit and abandoned castle, we jumped out of the car and began taking pictures in the darkening gloom of evening. All of a sudden, searchlights began to click on. Scanning the darkness, they moved their way down the hillsides and were obviously getting ready to converge on the lone travelers.

A few feet away, I finally noticed a sign warning all tourists that this was a military installation and photography was NOT permitted. Now, why didn’t my brother or sister mention that to me previously? I don’t think I will ever know the answer.

Hissing through the darkness, I called to my fellow spies (um, I mean family) to get back in the car now. Just as one of the searchlights crossed and then recrossed the top of our car, I jammed the transmission into first gear and made a quick getaway that would have been the envy of James Bond.

My navigator wife was tasked with the responsibility of finding a viable escape route back to the Austrian border. After almost two hours of racing through mountain roads at breakneck speeds, I put the car through more curves than a German pretzel. It was during this time that we realized the gravity of our situation. We had now crossed not just one, but two international borders with passports good for three people — not four!

My sister was obviously concerned, even though we told her that should we get in trouble that we would appeal to the Pope to get her released, or at least send care packages through the Red Cross. For some reason, she was not amused, but I did remind her that she was actually the ONLY illegal in the car at that time.

Fortunately the massive troop buildup being orchestrated to find us was taking too long, and we pulled up safely to the Italian/Austrian border. Offering a quick prayer, we made a determination that if we managed to get back across two international borders using false pretenses that we would be forever thankful and that we would never ever criticize bad quality spaghetti noodles that don’t actually come from the town of Spah-getti in northern Italy.

Being way out in the middle of nowhere, these guards spoke no English — at all! With more fear than I ever had on top secret missions that I conducted while in Her Majesty’s Secret Service (different story for a different day), I handed FOUR passports to the guard.

It was now dark and I made sure that my sister was seated at the back of the car on the far side. Looking at each passport, the border guard came out with a flashlight and began looking at each passenger while holding the passports. Stepping back into his little hut, he picked up the phone and made a quick call with our passports in hand.

By now, my sister was sweating, but we tried to console her that Italian is not a hard language to learn and that she had always loved noodles.

Opening the window, the guard handed me the passports and said something in Italian. Unfortunately, my sister had not been spending much time on her foreign language study and could not translate, so we just sat there.

Opening the window again, he pointed several times at the car, said something in Italian, and shut the window while still speaking on the phone.

On the third time, he opened the window, yelled something in Italian, pointed at the Austrian border, and then yelled, “Go, DRIVE!”

So, we drove while he went back to ordered his nightly pizza from the local Little Caesar’s restaurant. I really hope they gave him extra cheese and anchovies because he was a real stinker.

Driving back through Austria late at night, we determined that we better not stop for the night until we were back in Germany. Sorry, for security purposes, the name of the country had to be redacted.

Arriving at the Austrian/German border, we felt coerced to use the same manipulation tactics. It was imperative that we remained calm so as not to cause any incident that might require a new nuclear proliferation treaty to be re-signed by Reagan and Gorbachev in Iceland which incidentally has no borders you can drive across thus making it a safer country to visit.

The Austrian border held no issues though and the border guard barely even looked at the FOUR passports that I handed him. From my understanding, he was later reassigned to watch over foreign visitors to the Gulags of far eastern Siberia. Thankfully, he had already enjoyed a frappe and a strudel that would have brought a smile to the face of even the Baroness Von Schrader.

Waving us through the final checkpoint, we broke into a rousing rendition of “Deutschland Uber Alles.” Despite the fact, that only my youngest brother spoke fluent German, plenty of deep guttural throat-clearings made it sound quite impressive. It would have probably brought tears to the eyes of the best choir in Berlin or Munich.

And that concludes the true, honest-to-goodness, non-fabricated, and definitely non-embellished account of how my two passports saved the day for my sister after she illegally crossed FOUR different borders on the same day. Thankfully, she still talks to me and doesn’t even have a German or Italian accent, which is kind of what I expected. After all, research does say that…oh never mind.

Auf wiedersehen and ciao!

My Cabin in the Woods

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HT – Cabin in Bavaria, Germany

Mine!

All mine!

The path led straight to the door of the cabin that I had built with my own hands. Years in the making, the outside of the cabin was smooth while the interior was elaborate. Yet, the smoothness of the exterior hid the truth of how much work had gone into making it what it was today.

Each log was meticulous, but it had not always been that way. For that matter, neither had the interior. With not much effort, I could remember the day that I started building.

The day was dreary and snow lay all around me on the ground. My fingers numb from the cold, my heart though was warm and content. However, the feeling changed the moment I started down my path for the day. Every step became a burden on what should have been a sun-drenched journey.

The path was ordinary and plain. Each stone looked as though they had been worn smooth by those who had walked before me. Yet, as I admired the trees and flowers that graced each side of the path, I could not help but wish for a smoother walk. The look of the stones was deceiving for they were hard against the feet. If the truth were told, the stones were painful and I longed for a place to rest.

That first journey on the path was not without its dangers, but I could not see anything that would have required hesitancy on my part. Onward I walked toward my destination. I was but a few steps into the woods, when I realized that I could not return the way I had come. Vines had grown up behind me and pressed me forward. Reluctantly, I took my next steps toward the unknown.

The further I walked, the more I longed for respite. One day, the pain became unbearable and I stepped off the path into a clearing that seemed to miraculously appear. It was the right size and instinctively, I understood that it belonged to me. I am not sure how I knew that, but the growing darkness that threatened to swallow me alive forced me to make a decision. In some ways, it was made quickly, but it had actually been a long time in the making.

Grabbing my tools, I cut my first tree. My inexperience in building created an almost instant dilemma. The logs I tried to fashion were worthless. The wood was too soft and it had not been treated correctly. Every attempt to notch the logs and build a wall only frustrated me. The cold wind blew and my logs blew over with little effort. They would never serve to offer protection or warmth on the cold nights of the winter that lay ahead of me.

I would eventually learn the right way to build my cabin. In the beginning, I did not see the need to spend time building it for occasionally the sun would come up. I soaked up its warmth like a sponge in water, but the days became darker and longer and I knew I must hurry.

Before long, my building progressed at an amazing pace and the results were astounding. Regularly, I would look at my hands and ponder what they had created. My long-term goal was not to live permanently in my cabin. Yet, the more that I completed, the more I longed to remain at the end of each day.

Finally learning which trees were of the right building material, I hand-crafted every log. As each piece was moved into place, I began to consider how I should design the interior. What furniture should I construct? Should there be pictures on the walls and trinkets on the bookshelves?

Just as another winter storm began to pummel my cabin, I placed the finishing touches on the last wall. Just in time, I mused as I sat content in what my hands had built. Anybody looking from the outside would not have thought the cabin was a masterpiece, but it was to me.

Strange as it may seem, I had but two windows to look out. From my vantage point, I could watch the path in both directions. My clearing was big enough to even observe the skies for coming storms. Those who walked the path might find my cabin, but I had taken this into consideration. From a distance, you could not see my new home. Truthfully, if you were on the path that ran just outside my cabin, you would still not see it. The only way to know that it existed would be to take time to observe and examine the oddities of my clearing.

Should a person walk past, they might have noticed the light in my windows. Only by looking inside would they have even noticed where I lived. It was not a thing of beauty to anyone but me, and I loved it.

The storms raged day after day, week after week, but I remained secure and warm. Each day I would start a new fire with the kindling and logs that I had cut and stored meticulously. Looking from my windows, I began to realize that the storm would never end. Darkness descended and I was startled to the reality that I had forgotten to build a door. Or, had I?

Inside my cabin for the long winter, I could not remember each phase of my building going up. How could I have forgotten a door? The walls were firmly in place, and every day I spent that winter was spent arranging all of my belongings to the point where the cabin was comfortable.

Looking out at a nearby path, I tried to remember the walks in the sun and the warmth on my back. My memories struggled though to recall the wonder of Spring and I thought that I would never enjoy life with those who walked by me. They seemed uninterested in building their own cabins, and rarely did I see anyone that might have been interested in visiting me. Nobody seemed to want to get close to my clearing, much less my cabin, so in my cabin I remained.

As winter progressed, I still looked out my windows, but I did not care for what I saw. All that I needed was in my cabin. Sadly, I never noticed that the lights I had built were growing dim with each passing day. The fires I built no longer produced the warmth that my body needed. I grew colder and I knew my days were numbered.

My cabin had long become what I thought was a safe retreat, but I longed for more. My tools lay dull in the corner and I could no longer remember how to use my hands to build otherwise I would have tried to build a new door. I wanted somebody to come visit, but nobody would. My cabin was well-hidden, built as a way to escape the hard, rocky paths.

Lying on my bed, the storms raged around me. Closing my eyes, I slept through the night never realizing that the fire and the lights in my house had gone out. There was no fuel left for in my time spent looking out the windows, I had not seen my supplies dwindle to nothing.

When I awoke, maybe I could invite somebody over for dinner. It would not be easy for them to look through my windows for time had already brought dirt to their surfaces. If a person had walked by, they would have seen the lights flicker beckoning for somebody to come by and visit.

The long night beckoned and I accepted the call. It was not what I wanted, but I no longer had a choice. There was no escape for what I had built for the doors of opportunity had long been sealed over.

As the night grew longer, I felt sleep coming to my eyes and body. For too long, I had struggled to stay awake, but tonight would not be that night.

*****

“Mr. & Mrs. Jones, I am afraid I have some bad news. Your son has been racked with depression for years. The authorities found a number of medicine bottles scattered throughout his home. We found a note though that you may read when you are ready.”

Harold finally spoke up, “Officer, do you know how he passed?”

“Mr. Jones, the medical examiner concluded that he seemed to give up on life. The depression that he battled simply destroyed him and he died of a broken heart.”

That night, together, the older couple sobbed as they read Joshua’s final words.

Dear Dad & Mom,

My path began like any other person. You cared for me and protected me, yet I recall the day that I was called to step out by myself. From my first day at school, I was the smallest. I was never popular no matter how hard I tried. None of the other children probably meant to be cruel, but they were. The rides on the bus were agony, and the playground was a place of torture. At first, it was not every day, but it soon became a problem. The teachers never stopped them and I was too afraid to tell you.

Each day that passed required an incredible effort to wake up and take the walk again. I longed to return to the beginning, but the clock on the wall does not permit backward movement.

One day, I found a place that I could escape. Nobody ever bothered me, and the longer I stayed in my retreat, it became easier to build the walls that now surround me. There no longer remains a door to escape, and if there is, my eyes cannot see it.

Now that I am an adult, the bullying and the depression remain. I thought that high school and college would be different, but the windows to my soul simply clouded over as each storm battered my life. It seems that there is no escape but to the cabin I built in my heart and mind.

Soon I will sleep and I will no longer fear the storms. The storms will be behind me forever. I know that this knowledge will devastate both of you, but know that this is not a personal attack on you. I just wanted somebody to find me, to hold me, to love me back to the reality that is the world around me. There is so much that I could have seen, but all I desire is to sleep.

The fire is growing dim and the lights in my windows no longer light the path to my door. If you are reading this, you will know it has been forever extinguished.

Goodbye with all my love,

Joshua

****

Written to those who battle depression and the pain of bullying every day. You are not forgotten. Don’t give up. Allow others to see the real you in your eyes which are the windows to the soul. Welcome change and help others to see the beauty of the life cabin you have built.

Originally for Writing Prompt #23 at Warrior Writers on Medium.Com

The Music of the Night

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violin

Music never ceases.

Music never really dies.

If it did, the story of our life would have to end with it. Problems come when life seems to demand it always be played in a major chord.

Uplifting to the soul, music also has the ability to crush the heart. For those who are wise, music will be allowed to play its song no matter how it sounds. For those who fail, it will be the listener who dies.

For the love of all the music in the world, Meg knew the point of no return was in front of her. All that she had worked for was for nothing if she refused to seek the path that led past the curtain and the broken mirror.

Her hand caressed the velvet, but it was only fleeting as she made her choice. Meg’s feet had followed her heart and there was nothing her mother could have done to stop her. In the midst of the music being played, the angelic strains of the voice thrilled her beyond imagination.

The voices rose and fell in hollow shrieks as her followers failed to comprehend how she could have just disappeared. Stroking the item in her hand, she moved farther into the dark shadows of the night.

Was it really night, though?

Meg vaguely remembered leaving the light of day before transcending into the depths of the abyss. Here, along the haunted paths, Father Time no longer seemed to matter. All that mattered was the truth of what lay ahead.

Would it matter?

The beautiful girl with the golden curls cared for nothing but to embrace the darkness and make light out of the discordant strains of music that stung with its sharp embrace.

How long had she known?

The answer might trouble her on occasion, but neither the question nor the answer would ever be spoken aloud. Ever. Stumbling along with her delicate hand sliding across the fabled wall, the dampness called to her again as she strained to follow the wisp of light that bobbed up and down far ahead of her. At times, the light seemed to disappear, but Meg knew that it would be waiting.

Her followers had long ago given up, but the one she followed knew that she was coming. The voice grated through the darkness, but it was not meant for her.

“Why have you brought me here?”

Sobs punctuated each word and tore at her heart, but the time had not yet come. The music continued to play its somber tunes as both the followed and the follower danced to what was playing in their heart and head.

Meg stopped momentarily. Realizing the light had grown in its intensity, her mind failed to comprehend that the sight of the torch meant that she must face the music of her own choosing.

The outstretched arm of the one she followed was wrapped in black and her eyes struggled to adjust to the smoky gloom.

A whisper caressed the dank air and this time it was to Meg that the voice came, “Why do you follow me?”

No thread of fear tinged her reply, “I came for you!”

Bitterness threatened to envelop both speakers as she stared at him. “Do you like what you see, Meg? Does it not bring fear to your heart?”

The thought of any struggles that the future would bring were distant as she pondered the best response. He was already broken, but she was all he had left. Whether he could or would recognize what she was offering him would depend on his choice to die or to enjoy the music no opera had ever written.

The dark figure hissed his displeasure, but did not recoil as she touched his arm. “I have come to bring you what is yours.”

Lifting her hand, Meg held out the item she had carried for the last few hours. “The music you have sung may have been meant for another, but it is my heart that was captured many years ago.”

Bowing her head, Meg’s eyes filled with tears. There was no condemnation in her voice, only the regret of life’s minor chords that had been played for far too long.

“I have come for you. It is you alone that has filled my heart with the music of the night.”

Jerking his arm away from her, the man took a few steps down the long passageway. Turning back to face her, he quickly lifted his arm so the light would fall full upon his hideousness. In so doing, he knew that it was not just his scars that he was baring before the young woman. Every part of his heart was crushed beyond any recognition, yet she still faced him with wonder and care.

“I knew you were there when she said goodbye. You watched her leave with my heart. Why have you come? You know what I am.”

As the music of the night swelled to a new crescendo, Meg wrapped her arms carefully around his waist. Placing her head on his chest, she was certain that the music she heard beating would grow and become a glorious symphony.

Holding the flickering torch away from both of them, his free arm encircled her waist in return. Love’s melody would bring light to their darkened world.

Sobs broke from his parched throat again and he tried to speak. But a soft finger placed itself against his lips to keep him from speaking.

Meg whispered into his chest, “There is nothing that will keep me from loving you. You are my angel of music. In time, all I ask of you is that you learn to do the same with me.”

It would be impossible to tell how much time passed in that hallowed tunnel, but the light soon disappeared. With the dimming light fading into darkness, two tortured souls made their way to where day would never shine. Walking arm in arm, Meg dropped the long revered item into a watery grave.

She spoke again with clarity. “With me by your side, you will have no fear. You will never have need of this again.”

It may have been but a few days later, a month, or maybe years had passed. From beneath the ground, the water brought the item to the surface. Picked up by a young lad on his way back into the city, the boy paused to consider why a phantom mask would be found in such a place.

Placing the mask on an unmarked tombstone in a nearby cemetery, the boy paused. For a moment, he thought his mind must be playing tricks on him. From beneath his feet, he was certain that he could hear beautiful music. The music rose and fell in its beauty and upon the wind, a voice echoed through the gloom of the coming night.

“Meg, my angel of music, I will always love you!”

(With apologies to Andrew Lloyd Webber)