I am honored to have been included in the 2015 Shadows and Light Anthology. Once again I have a story that sits a long side other great writing talents. My story, a creepy little haunt, is entitled Start Over. It explores that very theme, the struggles and little triumphs of starting over and trying it all again differently. But as per usual, it’s not quite how you would expect, or whom you would expect.
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A small taste perhaps?:
I’ve been living here for two months and it’s hard to believe. My chaotic former life seems to loom around the corner as if I only took a quick cigarette break from it But I’ve been sober the entire time; no drink, no drugs, no people to lead me back into temptation. Which one do I blame the most? The substances or the people? Or myself?
All of the above. Each one was both a symptom and catalyst of the other. I just hung on to life by my fingernails while being as fucked up as possible. Fucked up on more than just the booze and drugs; pretty lights and driving music too. The feeling of being wanted, even though the entire time you know full well you aren’t, only used. Gerald was the master at that and I let him. It was too easy to just let him use and be used. Spending so much time like that does serious work on perceptions to your reality. I saw nothing wrong with my behavior or those around me. Rape, vandalism, and O.D.’s just came with the territory. We just thought it’s what happened. It didn’t affect us. Even months later, I close my eyes at night and I see flickering lights and taste the pills on my tongue.
Now I have a new job, new place to live, and I’m bored to death. Can’t afford cable, but I don’t really care. Just more pretty lights and driving music. A different drug with a different taste. Instead I read. But all those Sylvia Plath and Charles Bukowski books I used to consume don’t hold the same meaning now. I picked up a handful of random 25 cent paperbacks at a thrift store. So far I’ve read two cheesy romances, one Victorian ghost story, and one dry biography.
My neighbors are the real entertainment. That and this spooky ass building I’ve moved into. It’s old but not ancient. The linoleum tile floor is gritty with age and the walls are repainted with the same white and lime green every couple of decades or so. My apartment is small and plaster. The carpet is worn where past tenants walked.
I go to work and come home. Rarely do I venture out otherwise so I haven’t met too many people yet. But the walls are thin and the halls echo. I’ll have to start chronicling all the things I hear. I could base a soap opera on some of this stuff.
And whoever the hell paces past my door in the middle of the night needs to get a hobby! It’s getting old. Go walk outside if you are that restless!
So here is the report on the neighbors. I haven’t met them all, but I have come across the ones on this floor and the ones below. No sure what’s going on upstairs though. No one seems to know of anyone living on the floor above me. Somebody must because I will hear signs of life, usually in the middle of the night when I’m trying to sleep.
At the end of the hall, opposite of each other, are the Twins and Dan. Dan is this chubby quiet guy. He seems like a nice little introvert. I imagine he goes to the comic book shop and plays a lot of D&D. The Twins scare me a little. They aren’t really twins, but they might as well be. They are nothing more than cookie-cutter blondes who are obviously living on their own for the first time. To naïve to really party, but smart enough to get themselves in trouble. They have invited me out a couple times, but I can’t afford to slip back into bad habits. It would be too easy for me to be led into temptation.
Across from me is the Timid Terrorist. I call him that, but I don’t really think he is a terrorist. He seems nice, but he gets packages at all times of the day and the few peeks I have been able to get from his apartment, it’s full of clocks. He’s polite, but won’t directly address me.
The apartment by the stairs is the Hag. She’s a bitter and fat old woman whose main hobby is to yell at people through the door to stop clomping up the stairs. No matter how quiet I walk up the stairs, she always hears me and yells, “Young Lady! Stop clomping up those stairs!” None of us worry about break-ins because she knows all of us by how we walk up the stairs. I am ‘Young Lady’, Dan is ‘Boy’, Timid Terrorist is ‘In Our Country We Know How to Walk Quietly Up Stairs’. The Twins are simply ‘You Girls’. If she doesn’t’ recognize the stair-stomping she pokes her head out and lets loose a glare that could stop any potential robber in his tracks.
Downstairs we have a college student named David who hasn’t quite figured out this isn’t a dorm yet. We’ve all had to ask him to keep quiet. He comes off as polite and upstanding but he has a vibe about him that tells me he knows the proper applications of Rohypnol in bar situations. There is also a young mother with a cute little boy. He seems like a sweet kid, and that’s saying something because I usually hate kids.
Almost forgot the Super. She is a great example for me to have around. She’s probably in her forties, but looks sixty. The best way to describe her is used-up bar hag. She smokes in her apartment, despite the fact that it’s strictly prohibited in the building. Her apartment smells like an early-80’s honky-tonk. Her boyfriend looks like he was forcibly retired from a biker gang. A mean bastard though. Anytime she can’t be bothered to yell at someone or collect the rent, she sends him. Ernie is his name, I have no idea what her name is though. I just call her Bitch.
I’m not sure who it is walking the halls in the middle of the night. They stop in front of my door and just stand there for awhile before running off. It could be Dan, but he’s a little to shut-in for that. Timid Terrorist is out because I’d hear his door open and shut. Maybe David or Ernie? That is creepy because I don’t trust either one of them. I just wish they would stop.
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Remember kids: Stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down