Lost

What we lost is not something that can be replaced. We have friends and family who love us and care for us. We have a home and comfort and food.

What we lost is not something that can be found again. We know that not everyone understands that; we know that when they say “your time will come, move on, you’ll be fine”, they mean well. We know they would never hurt us.

Regardless of everything we have in life, we will never get back what was taken. We will never get to see or feel what could’ve been.

I will never forget the feeling I had after being told you were gone. I will never forget the day I realised within myself that you wouldn’t make it. I will absolutely never forget the look on his face when I said I couldn’t feel you anymore… That look shattered my heart completely.

We will be alright, we know that. But we will never forget you and what you meant to us.

We will always love you.

Always.

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We Will Remember Them.

Millions of lives. Millions of people taken from their families, girlfriends, boyfriends, loved ones; Millions of paths that will not be walked, millions of kisses that will not be felt, millions of goodbyes that will not be spoken.

Today is a day of remembrance in Australia, and I always feel a pang of sorrow listening to the letters written by soldiers and hearing of how many voices were silenced as a result of war. During the first and second World Wars, over one-hundred million lives were lost. This is something not many people can comprehend… One-hundred million individuals, each with their own story and with their own family, silenced forever. For some, this meant they left orphans behind who would grow up remembering their legacy. For others, this meant they never got the chance to even find love, let alone have children. For a great many, this meant they would not even live to be twenty years of age.

I think of the youth of today when I read these statistics, and I cannot imagine seeing them ripped from the world they know and thrown in to combat, forced to kill or be killed. I do not mean this in a derogatory way, I only mean it simply as a comparison; that is exactly what happened to the youths during those horrific wars. They were told to stand up straight, and fight for their country, and march with pride to the front-lines. I assume many of those young souls didn’t have even the slightest idea of what they would be up against, or that they would never return home alive.

The wars I write of did not just impact humanity with an unimaginable death-toll, though. There were repercussions for those who fought and returned home. Often, they returned physically injured and would never be able to walk or use their hands again. Those who returned home were also psychologically injured – they suffered from post traumatic stress and harrowing guilt. Those who fought would never hear a car backfire without flinching, they would never hear a door slam without their heart skipping a beat, they would never  hear a plane fly over without dropping to the ground for fear of being annihilated. A lot of the time, they would be told to stop being silly or to pull themselves together. These remarks and disregards would come from people who still believed war to be a fantastical and all around great occurrence. One cannot begin to understand how these soldiers felt being told they were silly after returning home from scenes of dead bodies decaying before their eyes, and fellow soldiers who were often good friends being slaughtered right beside them.

Often forgotten as well is the plight of the animals who fought loyally alongside their human counterparts during these wars. Horses, dogs, camels, mules, carrier pigeons, even cats were a part of these wars. These animals lent their strength and brevity to their human comrades in their own unique ways. Horses, of course, would assist in riding in to battle and carrying loads too heavy for a human to bare. Dogs would dart across mine-fields, mapping paths for their comrades to follow. Carrier pigeons were often the only possible means of communication.

For some soldiers, their animal comrades were the only friendship they had during the war. If they were not killed, they had no choice but to abandon the animals who fought so fiercely – the risk of disease was too great to bring them home by their sides. They were forced to do the animals the mercy of a quick death, or leave them behind to be used for labour if they were able. If you have an animal friend, whether they are a horse or a dog or a bird, I am sure you would never want to be the one who takes their life with your own hands.

Some of you may have read this and felt nothing. Our world is so desensitised, it is not surprising that some are unaffected by this day of remembrance. Some of you, though, will dwell on the sheer horror of what happened during the wars, and you may even feel pain at remembering the fallen.

Do not feel guilty if you are not emotionally affected – I cannot blame you for this. I only ask you to remember, and respect. I may not be sitting here writing these words if it wasn’t for the sacrifices of those who fought in wars to protect our freedom.

We remember them, now and always.

A Life In Your Hands

In January this year, I saw and heard some more distressing things than some people see or hear their whole lives. I cannot go in to detail about those things, so I’ve been working on something a little different.

I’ve had the lives of numerous people in my hands, and I’ve never felt anything even close to the weight of that ever before.

What follows is a piece that I hope gives a small insight to the weight of that feeling:

Some would think it a powerful feeling to know that a person’s life may hang on the passing of their judgement. I can tell you with absolute positivity, it is not a powerful feeling. It is not a feeling one wishes to experience at all, in my experience. Knowing you could be the reason an innocent person spends their life in purgatory; or that you could be letting a horrid excuse for a human being roam free – that is certainly unsettling, to say the least.

You might see someone and, based only on their appearance, you could assume a multitude of things about who they are. They may appear to be a hippie, who enjoys being outside and eating vegan food. They may appear to be an executive who earns upwards of six figures and keeps their style in check. They may appear to be a self-loathing teenager who only ever ventures outside of their bedroom to retrieve sustenance and tend to bodily functions.

Picture this: A middle-aged man, let’s say around sixty years old. He wears his hair slicked back every day with more gel than he needs for the thinning black twines. He is short, but not so short that it’s comical. He has a gut, no doubt formed from years of indulgence in beer and spirits, but it’s not massive; it’s enough to make him seem more than a little bit lazy. His skin is porous and greasy and his brows are unkempt, sprouting in all directions and joining at the top of his nose. His nose, in fact, looks almost as if a shrunken eggplant has been jammed between his eyes; it’s crooked and shiny, but it’s aged with dimples and cervices. He has thin lips, the kind that make you wonder how it would be possible for him to kiss someone with any degree of comfort. Under those downturned lips, his chin is pressed in as if he’s just eaten lemon-rind and despised the taste. His neck almost doesn’t exist, it seems to be a gathering of skin bundled up between his chin and his top shirt-button. The shape of his face is discomforting – it’s angular, but still rounded at the cheeks and temples, almost as if a love heart is resting on a bean-bag. His suit is ill-fitted, bagging at his ankles and sagging off his shoulders, made from a dull greyish brown fabric – his moccasins clash with the whole look. The shirt he has buttoned up so tightly is an off-white shade, and it is not clear whether this is intentional or if it just hasn’t been washed. His hands are plump, and his fingers are short and stumpy. The hairs protruding from his knuckles resemble the hairs on his head – stringy and greasy. These features, distracting as each or all of them may seem, pale in comparison to one thing, though… Behind the small, highly magnified lenses that sit atop his nose, are eyes so sinister, you cannot find any kindness in them, no matter how long you search. They are embedded deep underneath his brows, the darkest black-brown irises darting around, as if he is taking inventory of the people watching him, and when they hit you it feels like your soul freezes. You want to look away, but he has you locked in his gaze and the longer you stare, the heavier your heart feels. He projects his thoughts on to you, and you can’t stand it; you need to get away, as far away as you can, and never stop.

Now, imagine you had been told that this man is guilty of a crime so horrific it makes you physically repulsed. Imagine you had to decide for yourself whether this man deserved to spend possibly the rest of his life being tortured and beaten until he becomes less than a shadow of the man you see now.

You will probably admit to yourself that the above fellow may well be completely innocent of any evil. But you can’t help wondering what he could be capable of; you just can’t escape the feeling that he is filled with a depravity so unfathomable it has swallowed him whole and replaced the person who used to be an average human with this unthinkable tyrant.

Could you still make that decision, knowing you could be dead wrong?

Daily Prompt: Conundrum

Ironic, that the daily prompt word is conundrum – that is what I have been experiencing in the last two months. A conundrum. Not in life, but in creativity, I have been so lack-lustre, I find myself forcing words on to a page as opposed to letting them flow effortlessly. I can write well and write quickly, but I cannot always write successfully. Often times, I will spew a whole chapter, and decide it is utter nonsense; then I start over. A blessing and a downfall at the same time is my need to make everything grammatically sound before I publish it at all. I should just write until I finish, and put it away, and come back to it later. Mr. King himself practices this way, and I can only dream of publishing as much as he has.

This time of year is the most difficult for me as a writer – I don’t find time to sit and concentrate, and when I do I’m too exhausted to come up with anything remotely imaginative. So now I am forcing myself to write these thoughts down and hoping that once I have these words out of my head, the creative juices will flow. Only time will tell. I feel I have let many people down, not just myself, with my lack of posts recently. So many of you were telling me you couldn’t wait until the next excerpt went up, and I’m sorry I’ve let you down.

But never fear! Once December 25th has passed, I will have plenty of down-time to continue the story. A new year, a new book…? We’ll see.

 

xx – Sadie.

 

via Daily Prompt: Conundrum

A long while ago.

“You’re a smart kid, Pia, I just don’t understand how you get such low scores.” Pia’s mother was concerned, but it came across as angered. Pia couldn’t help feeling absolute guilt, which only made her less motivated.

“It’s not like I don’t do anything. I’m not out taking drugs or partying. I just… Can’t focus.” She tried to make her mother understand.

“Well, from now on I want you sitting in the kitchen every night and doing your work in front of me. No excuses. No xbox. No telly. And I have to read over everything you do.”

This terrified Pia. She had a hard enough time showing writing to her editor, let alone her mother. She knew it was only her mother’s way of showing support and making sure Pia didn’t fall behind; that didn’t make it any easier.

“Can I go to Jeremy’s house later?” Pia tried to pierce her Mother’s stern expression with some puppy dog eyes.

“Tell you what. You write a thousand words and you can go as soon as I’ve finished reading those words.”

“Make it seven hundred and fifty…”

“Nope. One thousand. And one. For trying to bargain.”

Pia sighed the word fine and let her lips blubber out the last bit of air as she exhaled.


She had to go back and re-read the first line so many times because it didn’t seem real. She prayed, and she didn’t have a religious bone in her body, that Jeremy wasn’t just playing a sick joke.

We are thrilled to inform you that your manuscript sample has been accepted. We kindly request that you send the work in it’s entirety to us at your nearest possible convenience.

“Jem!” she yelled, still not convinced of the legitimacy of the email.

“What?” he responded in a hollow voice – just as he always did when he slipped in to chef extraordinaire mode.

“Did you send me a very, very, very mean email as a prank…?”

“Huh? What are you on about? Ya peanut.” he always called her a peanut when she wasn’t making sense.

“Okay… So it wasn’t you. Come and read this, then.” She wanted to see his reaction first-hand to make extremely sure she was not dreaming. Jeremy waltzed in, wooden spoon in one hand and tea towel in the other. Pia turned the laptop screen and lifted it up for him to read. She waited.

“Wait, does this mean you’re finally getting published? Have you done it?” his whole face shifted into a beaming smile and his eyes widened, awaiting Pia’s confirmation.

“Yes…?” She managed a half-smile, her brows still furrowed with concern and disbelief.

Jeremy threw the spoon and towel on the ground and pushed the laptop aside, yanking Pia up from the couch. He wrapped his arms around her and lifted her, squeezing the breath out from her lungs.

“Babe, this is awesome, I’m so proud of you” he yelled, smacking her with excited kisses all over her face. She started to laugh and cry and shake, she couldn’t quite comprehend the way her body was reacting. Jeremy put her down, and wiped the tears away. “Why are you crying? Isn’t this what you wanted?” he was shocked to see her this upset over an email.

“I’m crying because I’m happy” was all Pia could say.

“You’re a weirdo” Jeremy sighed, and brushed his hand adoringly across her cheek.

Sparklers

Pia was flying; or floating… She couldn’t tell, and this was unsettling. After all the excruciation she had gone through, she felt almost too comfortable. She was still paralysed, unable to so much as lift a single finger or open her eyes. The only things she could sense were smell, temperature, and sound. This did not make it any less unsettling, as she had zero inkling where she was, or even how she was.

Since before Pia could remember, she had always been hyper-aware of the beings around her. Whether they were human, or not, she knew each being had a supremely individual story and each being took a different path. She knew not to pass judgement merely by a passing look, or an overheard sound. She knew not to assume that one might be a certain way based on only a few actions seen from afar, or as told by a spectator.

 People are like sparklers in the dark; small pulses of light drifting through life until the flame eventually fades. Each person leaves a trail in their wake and, like the sparklers, the trail is only visible for a vastly short moment. Once the trail is out of sight, though, it is not out of mind. The trail has an impact on those who witness it, or those who feel the heat emanating from it. The impact may only last a matter of seconds, but it is there and it can create anything from a slight breeze to a rampaging storm.

Pia could not feel the familiar heat of any sparklers in this place.

The desolation was immense. 

A Glimmer of Hope

Painting a picture with only letters and words is not so easy as it seems. Pia realised this now more than ever. The pressure of having a deadline only exacerbated the issue. Some days she sat, staring at her pen and paper or screen or typewriter; not even a single dot made it on to the page. She had invested in a typewriter when she came across it in a second-hand book store, the only regret being immense pain in her fingers after writing a few pages. She loved the slightly rusted machine, though, with its small circular keys. The letters were barely visible after years of fingers rubbing them away, but Pia knew a keyboard back to front and blindfolded. She had hoped the typewriter would inspire her with its old-worldly charm and the mystery of stories typed out with it in years gone by.

Some days, she could not stop writing, not even for snacks or essential breaks. Her spectrum of motivation did not have a middle – only nothing or everything all at once. She seemed to be falling on the blank end more and more often.

“Pia, you better not be staring at that paper. It’s been three hours” Jeremy caused Pia to jolt upright in her seat.
“I’m not” she lied.
“Uh-huh. So, if I come in there and find a blank page, I get to pour this spoon of sauce on your head instead of letting you taste it?” Not many people would know he was being entirely serious. Pia had suffered many onslaughts of the condiment variety. She quickly drew a sketch of a hand with the middle finger raised exceptionally straight.
“Very creative, Pia Janine” he mused, having reached her side with said spoon at the ready. He always enlisted the use of her middle name when she was procrastinating, whether it was her own fault or not. He held the spoon in front of her mouth, and pressed it up in to her nose as she attempted to taste some. “Oh, fabulous, tomato with a garnish of snot” she sighed. Jeremy smiled, then fed her what was left. She immediately noticed how famished she was, and how in love she was.


 

Three months later:

 

“Hey, what’re you doing out here, aren’t we supposed to-”
“We have to go” Pia cut Lyall off “gimme the keys to the van” she shoved her hand towards him and turned her head away.
“Uh, okay, but aren’t we gonna get in shit because we-”
“Just give me the keys, and I’ll handle Samantha. We need to get out of here right now” Pia was in the drivers seat with the van running before Lyall had a chance to process his bemusement. She didn’t know how, but whoever spoke to her inside that mansion had caused her such fear that she truly believed she was in danger. Her stomach was knotted so tightly, she could scarcely take a breath, and her hands would not steady themselves.
“Pia, are you okay? Did you see som-”
“I didn’t see anything. I’m fine, I just don’t feel well. We can come back when I don’t feel like vomming” she lied. She was a spectacular liar under pressure, which was both fantastic and horrible.
“You mean vomiting… You could at least let me finish one sentence. You’ve been weird with me ever since I started. Have I done something wrong?” Lyall did not make eye-contact, instead dismantling his camera and cleaning the already pristine lenses.
“Yes, vomiting. My brother says vomming.” she explained, feeling foolish. “It’s not you, I just feel sick. I haven’t eaten anything today” Pia felt that familiar rejection of her own words and tightened her grip on the wheel. Lyall was a perfectly good photographer, and easy to work with. She just never took to people being nice. Kindness wasn’t something she experienced a lot throughout her twenty-seven years.
“Okay, but that doesn’t explain why you’ve been so cold to me from the first day I started” Lyall sounded genuinely hurt. Had she really been that dismissive? She forced herself to reflect on her first meeting with Lyall. She vaguely remembered being amused by his eagerness and perhaps she had come off as condescending…
“I’m sorry. I just-” Pia slammed on the breaks. The van screeched, shuddered, and came to a halt.

She had glanced over at Lyall to show she was being truthful. He was gone. His equipment, clothes, and mobile were in a tangled mess on the seat. “Wh… Whe…” she had temporarily lost her ability to form words. Her heart was pounding so hard, she could feel the rapids of blood through her veins, culminating in drumming against her skull. She sat, completely still, her foot bonded to the break pedal and her eyes flicking from his clothes to the window, and back. Her mouth was open and she wanted to speak, but her mind could not comprehend this. As the shock waned, and allowed her to move, she slowly
pulled the hand-brake up and pushed the gear-stick in to park. She left the van running, and opened the door, eyes still on the space where Lyall had been. She forced herself to take deep, heavy breaths, as she rounded the front of the van. Each step took extreme focus, and she could hear every piece of gravel crunch under her shoes, above the symphony of pounding in her head. She kept herself steady, or tried to, by placing her hands one over another on the van as she went. Her heart was still beating so hard, she had to place one hand on her chest as she reached the passenger side in the hopes it would keep the muscle from bursting through her rib-cage.
There was no sign of anything that might give away Lyall’s whereabouts. This was not surprising, Pia reasoned, as he had vanished. Lyall had vanished. Where the fuck did Lyall go. This was not a dream, Pia could tell when she was dreaming. This was a living, breathing nightmare. She used all that was left of whatever courage she had to reach out and pull the handle on the door, hoping to make sense of this absolute lunacy. As her finger-tips neared the handle, she felt a freezing burst of wind rush past her hand. She whipped it back up to meet her other hand against her chest. It might be winter, but the weather was so completely still that Pia knew this was unnatural. She drew in as much breath as her lungs could hold, closed her eyes, and let the air escape slowly. “You’re only freaking out because he… Disappeared.” it sounded even more insane when she said it out loud. She quickly darted her hand forward, and grabbed the passenger handle to open the door.

Then the pain started – intense pain, and her vision ceased to function. She had been thrown backwards, landing flat on her back in what felt like a roadside ditch. She could not move, and she could not see, paralyzed by pain and darkness.
“I told you we shall make it exciting!” that regal voice from the mansion rang in her ears. Pia wanted to scream, and run, and hide. She still could not move, and she still could not see. She was trapped in her own body, and the last thought she had before she gave in was of that night Jeremy pushed sauce in to her nose. The thought only made her more terrified.