Snippet Saturday #19: Kshatriya (Poem)

Kshatriya–
the warrior caste–
is a suit of armor
that has never quite fit
until now when my heart
is blazing with a fire
that doesn’t suit
a pacifist
and I find myself thinking
that even if the alternative
is being hurt, I don’t want to
hide in the shadows with
my heart tightly locked
in a box
it might be a risk,
but warriors are courageous
and nothing screams courage
more than the audacity
to wear my heart on my sleeve.

Snippet Saturday #17 Reverie (Part 12)

My throat is dry. My voice barely comes out. The Nightwalkers keep coming toward me, as if I’m not saying anything at all. I shoot them with the gun but all it does is create a little steam. I turn the gun and spray it into my mouth. It soothes my swollen and parched throat.

“You are a nightmare!” I yell. “So are you!”

A birdsong trill outside the window. It must be Dovie! I keep yelling, my voice strained as I hoist Jude up by the armpits and drag him to the window, leaping outside with my arms tight around his chest. His limp legs kick at a Nightwalker trying to clamor inside.

We land on Dovie’s back. This time I’m behind him, securing him against Dovie’s feathers. The Nightwalkers above try to grab at us, but the dove flies out of their reach.I know I’ll have to come back and deal with them all, but the first step is to get rid of these pills.

Dovie takes us down the cliff that leads to the house I shared with Graham. Jude wakes with a groan, and I help him off the dove’s back.

I take the bottle of pills out of my pocket and shake it. This is different than my own pill bottle earlier tonight with only one pill in there. This one is filled to the brim.

Jude must sense my reluctance because he says, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

Once again, I stand on my tiptoes and kiss him, but more forcefully this time. My arms encircle his neck to draw in his real–not dream–warmth. His arms are around my waist. He bends forward slightly so I no longer have to reach up to meet his lips.

We break away, and I hold his gaze, taking a deep breath before nodding. “I’m sure.”

I take my lonely pill out of my pocket and lay it on my left palm. Jude undoes the lid of the pill bottle and holds onto it. I empty the pills into my hand, feeling their comforting weight. For years now, I’ve relied on these pills and their promise to protect me. I’m afraid to let them go. But then I look at Jude, who smiles reassuringly.

After shuffling them around a bit, I hold my hand over the water and top my palm to the side, watching them trickle in like white rain and be swallowed up.

“Can I ask why you decided to believe me?” Jude tugs at his sleeve, suddenly shy.

“He said I can have Graham back,” I say, looking up at the singing stars. I realize I’m not sure if stars are supposed to sing or if that’s just part of the dream. “A real person can’t come back after death.”

Jude puts his arm around my waist and pulls me so I’m pressed against his side. He kisses the top of my head. He doesn’t say anything, but he doesn’t have to.

I don’t know how I ever thought Graham could be real. Our relationship was too flawless to be real. But I think about what Jude said about it being okay to hold onto my memories of Graham, real or not. I decide to do just that. No matter what it turns out to be, those memories are precious to me.

I lean toward Jude and rest my head against his chest. We keep watching the frothy waves where we last saw the pills, even as the jellyfish moon swims away and the sun begins to rise.

The ocean never sleeps, but if it could, what would it dream?

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12

Snippet Saturday is my chance to share bits and pieces of my writing.

Snippet Saturday #16 Reverie (Part 11)

He plucks them out of the air with one hand.

“No! Piper!” Jude’s violet eyes are darkened by betrayal.

“You made the right choice,” the Somnologist says gravely, pulling the trigger with the gun still aimed at Jude’s back.

I keep my eyes open but force myself to dream as the Somnologist pulls the trigger. I feel like I can’t keep my heart in my chest–but a stream of water harmlessly hits Jude’s back. At the same time as the Somnologist looks at his gun in shock, Jude spins around and disarms him, wrenching the gun from his grip so forcefully that the gun hits him in the forehead.

The Nightwalkers are in the doorway. I swallow and try to stay strong. I made a split-second decision, and I’m regretting it. I shouldn’t have thrown him those pills.

“Piper,” Jude says, a thread of blood coming out of his hairline. I swear he’s said my name more tonight than any one person has said it in my entire life. “Piper, we have to get out of here.”

“I know,” I say, bending to wrestle the pills out of the Somnologist’s grip. The Somnologist lets them go without much of a fight. His attention is fixated on the Nightwalkers.

“No, please,” he moans.

“Come this way, doctor.” I wave at the Somnologist to join Jude and me by the window.

“Are you crazy?” he says, glancing over at us.

The glance costs him dearly–it gives the Nightwalkers a second to snap his head to the side. His body crumples to the ground, his head at an unnatural angle. A Nightwalker leaps onto the desk, surprisingly nimble.

“You aren’t real,” I tell it, my voice tiny. “You. Are. A. Figment. Of. My. Nightmares.

It extends its hand toward me but stops as the bones shrink and shrivel, disintegrating right in front of us.

“That was incredible!” Jude says. “I could kiss you!”

I hope he will, but we aren’t out of danger yet. More Nightwalkers are coming in, filling the room. Some are climbing up the outside of the window behind us.

“Am I supposed to say that to every single one?” I start to ask, but I see the answer even before I finish asking the question. There’s a fake plant in the office. I hope a fake leaf works as well as a real one. “I need to call Dovie.”

“I’ll try to hold them off,” he says, holding up the gun.

I reach for a leaf, and Jude sprays a Nightwalker that comes toward me. The bones hisses but it manages to wrap its hand around my wrist. I pluck the leaf, trying to ignore the smell of my flesh burning.Pain shoots up my arm as I bring the leaf to my mouth and bend it, blowing with all my might. A shrill whistle fills the air. The leaf falls from my fingers, and I try to tug out of the Nightwalker’s grasp. My vision is starting to darken with the explosive pain. Sparks dance in the air before me.

“You…aren’t…real,” I gasp. “You came from my nightmares.”

I close my eyes and feel the grip on my skin turn to dust. I push myself back against the wall, breathing heavily. The heat of the Nightwalker’s grip remains, seeping into my veins like poison. I wonder if I’m dying. If I die, will I be able to see Graham again or does he not exist after death? Will I exist after death?

Jude steps in front of me, holding the gun out and spraying at any Nightwalkers who try to get close. I wonder if he realizes the futility of his actions. It doesn’t seem like Dovie heard my call. And it seems like I’m dying.

“The Nightwalkers aren’t real,” Jude says.

“I know that now,” I try to tell him indignantly. I’m the one who’s been getting rid of them, aren’t I?

“Then why do you have a burn on your arm?” he asks, brushing away the blood on his head.

I look down at the burn. The Nightwalkers aren’t real. Something that doesn’t exist can’t burn me. That means this burn can’t be real either. As I think that, the bracelet-like burn fades away, and my mind clears.

Rising to my feet, I face the Nightwalkers and yell at them that they’re just nightmares until my voice is hoarse. One at a time, they vanish like something in a magician’s act.

Jude collapses beside me. I turn so fast I nearly lose my balance. Nightwalkers are climbing in through the window. One of them must have gotten him over the head. I shove him up against the wall while still yelling at the Nightwalkers. Staying crouched beside him, I take the gun from his limp grip and spray the Nightwalkers as I yell at them. I already lost Graham tonight. I’m not about to lose Jude too.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12

Snippet Saturday is my chance to share bits and pieces of my writing.

Snippet Saturday #15 Reverie (Part 10)

We freeze as the Somnologist walks in, a gun aimed at Jude. Jude raises his arms in the air, still facing the cabinet.

“Don’t shoot him!” My desire for Jude to live is stronger than my self-preservation.

The Somnologist doesn’t lower his gun but looks at me pityingly through his round glasses.

“I never thought he’d actually manage to reel someone in with his tomfoolery,” he says.

“It isn’t tomfoolery,” I say, tightening my grip around the pills. “He’s right. Reality and dreams are starting to mix together. Don’t you see it happening?”

“My dear girl,” the Somnologist says, “what makes you think this isn’t reality?”

“Because I’m starting to remember,” I say.

The Somnologist nods as if accepting my point. “And when did you suddenly start to remember? When you met Jude, right? How do you know he didn’t just plan those memories in your head? How do you know they’re real?”

“Because–because–” I break off because I really don’t have any way of knowing. I turn to Jude, who still stands with his hands up. Could he really have done that?

“Piper,” Jude says, moving only his eyes over to me.

I remember us being children. I remember him saying my name in that beseeching way when we were younger. How can that possibly not be real? But Graham and everything about him feels real too–the way it felt when he touched me, the smell of his skin.

“You came here to destroy the pills, didn’t you, Piper?” the Somnologist says. “Did Jude ever tell you who he is or why there’s a shortage?” I don’t say anything, which seems to be all the encouragement the Somnologist needs to keep going. “Jude invented the sleeping pills. He was an intern for me. As an intern, the credit for any of his inventions went to the Somnology Institute and to me.”

“Piper,” Jude says again.

“He’s angry about not getting credit for the pills so he wants to destroy them now. You see, there is no shortage of ingredients. The truth is, he stole the formula he wrote for us so we can’t make any more. Now he’s going to destroy these because he’d rather see the world burn than have somebody else get credit for his creations.”

I stare at Jude. Why didn’t he tell me he was the one who invented the pills?

There’s a crash downstairs, followed by the stench of sulfur and acid. The Nightwalkers are inside the building.

“Piper,” Jude says a third time. There’s desperation to his tone now. I know as well as he does that we need to get out right away, but I don’t know what to believe anymore.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I ask him.

He closes his eyes, seeming not to have an answer for that. It surprises me when he speaks. “I didn’t want you to think less of me because I created something with such disastrous consequences.”

“But when you say it like that–”

“I don’t care about credit,” Jude bursts. “I don’t even want it. I’m ashamed  that I ever invented them. I thought I was doing the right thing, I swear. I never knew they would turn out like this.”

“He’s a liar, Piper,” the Somnologist says. “Think about this. There’s Jude, who didn’t even tell you who he is, Then there’s me. I’ve been honest to everyone from the beginning. I shared these pills and cured the Insomnia epidemic. I told everyone when I figured out that these pills provide protection against the Nightwalkers.”

I hear the Nightwalkers’ footsteps. The stench is getting stronger and harder to bear.

“I remember Graham,” the Somnologist says quickly. He shoots a nervous glance at the door behind him. “I know Ryan too. If we get the pill formula back from Jude, you can have Graham back.”

I flater, staring down at the pills in my hands. I can have Graham back. Graham, who I’ve loved most of everyone I’ve ever met.

“Okay,” I say and throw the pills to the Somnologist, hoping I’m doing the right thing.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12

Snippet Saturday is my chance to share bits and pieces of my writing.

Snippet Saturday #14 Reverie (Part 9)

Jude knows exactly where in the Somnology Institute we can find the sleeping pills. They’re locked away, but he thinks we can use the fractured reality to our advantage right now and walk entirely in dreams.

We get to the Somnology Institute and sneak to the back, away from the growing line of people waiting for a pill. Jude glances back over my shoulder, his eyes darkening. I twist me head around and se Nightwalkers. It isn’t just three or four or five now. There are hundreds and hundreds. They’re coming out of a foreboding mist so I can see their glowing eyes before I see the outline of their bodies.

The thought of all the pill-less people in front of the Somnology Institute makes my heart constrict. I try to remind myself that they aren’t real but it’s hard when there are so many of them, and they’re all moving toward us. I remember the way their bones burned my skin and how solid they felt when I kicked out. How can they not be real?

Jude drags me along the edges of the institute, muttering to himself as he does so. I’m reminded, suddenly, of how crazy he looked when I first me him earlier tonight–was it really just tonight? Then he stops so suddenly that I collide with his back and presses his free hand to a window of the Somnology Institute.

“It’s water,” he whispers.

I do the same thing, keeping my hand against the cool glass and trying to convince myself it’s actually water. My eyes snap open as it feels wet against my palm. Jude smiles at me and steps through the window, pulling me along.

We’ve landed right in the Somnologist’s office. I realize with surprise that this is on the second floor. How’d we end up here? Things don’t have to make sense in dreams, though. In my case, I don’t have time to dwell on this right now.

“Come on,” he says. “They have to be in here somewhere.”

Fireflies bump drunkenly onto the sides of frosted bottles that levitate above our heads. They provide the only light in the room. We throw open all the desk drawers and cabinets that we can, bu the three of them are locked.

“So,” I say, “how do we dream open something that’s locked?”

“You tell me.” He smiles. “Come on. Use your creativity.”

I raise my eyebrows slightly and then close my eyes, envisioning a skeleton key is on top of the desk. I hear him let out a little laugh. I wonder what he would have done–dreamt the doors away, maybe? When I open my eyes, there it is, right where I dreamt it. I grab it and open the top drawer of the desk. The pills aren’t there.

I toss the key to Jude, who unlocks one of the cabinet and then the other. There they are. He grabs the pill bottle and tosses it to me, when–

“Stop right there!”

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12

Snippet Saturday is my chance to share bits and pieces of my writing.

Snippet Saturday #13 Reverie (Part 8)

“Piper!”

I whirl around, bringing my fists up. It’s only Jude.

“What are you doing here?” I say.

“I hd to make sure you didn’t go off and do something crazy,” he says.

I see the genuine concern with his violet eyes, which brings another memory–leaving my parents’ house to go to school. A boy waits for me by the mailbox as he does everyday. A patch of violets the same color as his eyes grows around the mailbox. I tell him, “Your eyes are like a dream.” He tells me, “I’m going to marry you someday.”

“I remember you now,” I say to the grown-up Jude. How did I every forget someone with violet eyes? “And Graham…did he ever exist?”

“I don’t know,” Jude says, the relief blatant on his face. There’s already a bruise from Graham’s punch. “Even I’m starting to lose my grip with reality and having trouble determining what’s real and what’s part of the dream.”

“And it’s all because of the pills?” I say. It’s easier to trust him now that I remember him.

He nods, watching me cautiously.

“Then we have to get rid of them,” I say, sounding surer than I feel.

His relief very obviously deepens. “We do. Lucky for us, I know exactly what to do.”

“It seems like you’ve been planning this for a long time,” I say, unable to stop myself from reaching out to touch him.

He feels so solid and real–but so did Graham and so do the Nightwalkers.

“I have,” he says with another nod. “You need to understand something, though. Things are going to get worse before they get better. Once we get rid of the pills, there will be chaos–for awhile, at least.”

“I’m not afraid,” I say, although my heart is pounding.

I’ve already lost Graham–I’m starting to doubt he never exist–and now I know the Nightwalkers aren’t real.

A blue and black butterfly lands on the back of my hand, tickling my skin. I bring it up to my face and watch it before holding it out to Jude. He cups it in his hand and then lets it go, reaching his hand out to me. I take it.

As if he can read my thoughts, he says softly to me, “I know I’m the one who’s been telling you to differentiate between reality and dreams, but maybe you can hold onto Graham. You don’t have to think too hard about whether or not he really existed. It’s okay to remember him fondly and hold him close to your heart.”

And because I have no doubts that Jude is real, I stand on my tiptoes and brush my lips to his as lightly as the butterfly’s wings brushed against my skin.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12

Snippet Saturday is my chance to share bits and pieces of my writing.

Snippet Saturday #12 Reverie (Part 7)

Clutching the pill in my hand, I walk. Maybe the Nightwalkers sense that I’m not in the mood to be messed with because I don’t see any. All I want is to get into bed and cry and cry and cry until I drown in my own tears or choke on them. Either one seems acceptable.

I turn the corner and collide with someone.

“I’m so sorry,” he says, reaching out a hand to help me up.

I consider not taking it but decide I don’t want some poor stranger to think I’m mad at him for accidentally running into me when it’s actually Jude and the Nightwalkers and the pill shortage I’m angry at. So, I let him help me up.

“Thank–” Before I can finish, I’m struck dumb by the sight of his face. “Graham?”

I throw my arms around his neck and bury my face in his chest. But then I immediately realize that he smells different and minty. I step back and look up at him, bewildered.

“I’m sorry,” he says uncomfortably. “I don’t know who Graham is. My name is Ryan, and I’m really sorry for knocking you over.”

With a nod, he walks past me. A blue goldfish swims by, causing the air to ripple.

I stand there, and the memory of meeting Graham returns to me. The day after I was diagnosed with Insomnia. Standing in line in front of the Somnology Institute. Seeing a guy in front of me in line. Meeting the guy’s eyes. He smiles at me, and I hope he’ll come back to talk to me. But after that, the memory diverges into two versions.

In one, he comes back after getting his pills and talks to me, showing me how his pill bottle is full to the brim. He tells me that he can give me some of his pills if I want. I tell him that I’m going to get pills of my own, so why would I need his? He winks at me and says he thought he would share. The thought excites me because sharing pills is a big deal. In this case, it’s a confession. We get ice cream together after I pick up my pills.

In the other version, I watch as he goes inside and wait and wait and wait for him to come back and talk to me. By the time I’m at the front of the line, I have to accept that he isn’t coming back. He might have smiled at me, but there was no real interest there or he would have made some effort. In this memory, the thought doesn’t bother me terribly–I don’t even know this guy.

And then comes another memory, completely unrelated. In this one, I’m on vacation with my parents. It’s boiling hot. I’m wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, so I can feel the sun scorching my skin. I whine and complain because I don’t want to be here. I just want to go home. I trudge along behind my parents, and they tell me something, but I’m too busy pitying myself to listen. With a start, I tumble headfirst into a hole in the ground, landing heavily on my ankle. I realize immediately that this must be one of the archaeological sites and start wailing in frustration and pain for my parents to get me out.

But then I notice something is in the hol with me–blackened bones, folded together in a pile. I stop crying and stare at them, slowly backing away. They’re just bones but I feel as if they can be animated and come after me.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12

Snippet Saturday is my chance to share bits and pieces of my writing.