“The Shadow” – Part 2 – Ride or Die

The next few days were hazy to say the least. I had never been able to get a full night’s sleep before, constantly tossing and turning, waking up at random intervals with some odd excitement that resulted from being half-asleep. I felt as if my brain had never been able to fully turn off.. to fully go into sleep mode, cleansing itself of all the beta proteins it’s cells had made for waste that day. And as a result, I always felt groggy and half-alive. Or was this how everyone felt?

The fascinating thing about our minds is that, for each one of us, our individual realities define us. Our minds use themselves to understand themselves and our surroundings, but how do we know if and when our minds are lying to us? I feel they lie to us every day and that there is no reality like that which we perceive through our own eyes, but rather some sort of average reality, resulting from the billions of other individual realities. All I knew is that I wanted to feel truly awake and alive.

On some of my routes for work, I struggled with my mind trying to force microsleep on me. Battling myself for my own consciousness, I found myself drooping my head and closing my eyes in the middle of a long, uneventful drive only to be awoken by the sound of a rumble strip or the feeling of a tire dropping into the soft shoulder of the road. I’d never had any accidents and I certainly had never told my bosses that I thought I suffered from some sort of sleep condition, since that would result in me losing my DOT license and I’d be back to square one with finding another full-time job to keep the bills paid.

But since my first encounter with the shadow my entire life has gotten worse. Getting the proper amount of sleep is unmeasurably important for a successful life. Hell, all I wanted was to be able to perform my work duties without inadvertently looking for a place to curl up and go to sleep.

There would be times where I’d be going along a road which never saw much traffic and could swear I could see the shadow lurking behind a tree, or anticipated seeing him right around the bend. But for a week, he was never there.

You see, what terrified me most of the shadow was not it’s terrifying presence or it’s seeming ability to be anywhere it pleases without effort… it was both in his unpredictability. The fact that you never actually saw him move made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck as well. Though he himself had not inflicted physical harm on me, there was no mistaking that he was a menace with nothing but ill intentions.

The shadow consumed my thoughts. 5 days passed before I realized that I hadn’t even thought of staying in touch with the few friends and family I had. My free time, if you could call it that, was sitting in my desk chair, leaned back staring at the ceiling, lost deep in thought wondering about the origins, intentions and validity of the shadow. The more I tried to tell myself he was simply a trick of my eyes, the more I remembered certain details that made this accusation completely unrealistic. Though…. it was ENTIRELY “realistic”. The shadow was certainly not something which could be scientifically explained.

A week had gone by without so much as a trace of the shadow, besides a heavy feeling in the very bottom of my gut, eating away at my insides and refusing sustenance as I forced down small bits of food to keep myself from passing out, only to be vomited up later while I (tried to) sleep at night.

My second encounter with the shadow was a bit more… complex.

One Wednesday after a late southern run, I stopped to grab a water and a snack to force down my throat at a convenience store. I had finished all of my stops and was headed home for the last 90 mile leg of my journey and it was about 6PM on a February night.

The place was called “Baker’s” and it was a really run down place with a flickering light in the middle of nowhere. Out front were old-fashioned, rusty gas pumps that I assumed had not seen a drop of gasoline in at least 20 years, as the sign for gas prices (or what you could make from it’s fading and missing numbers) were stating gasoline was not even one dollar per gallon. There was a crude outhouse around the back of the store that would be too skechy for me to use even when the sun was high in the sky.

The sun was almost completely set down under the horizon in the west when I rolled my cube van to the far side of the lot. I preferred not to get in anyone’s way and I like not having to make a 5 point turn whenever backing out of a spot… The choice was all mine, as there was not another vehicle in sight, at least on the front lot.

As I’m getting out, a guy on a Harley parked next to me. He was a few inches taller than me and significantly heftier. He had a leather jacket on with the words, “Ride or Die” embroidered on the back. The basic bitch of the Harley world, essentially. I didn’t get a good feeling about him, probably originating from the fact that when he parked he looked over at me and told me I was in a motorcycle spot.

“Yeah sorry about that, not much choice for a vehicle my size, you know? I’ll be out in a few.” I respectfully stated as I made my way into the store. He said nothing, but proceeded toward the skechy outhouse.

10 minutes later I walk out of the store with a few snacks, bottle of water in hand. I’m making my way to the truck when I notice something doesn’t look right about it. Even through the darkness, it didn’t take me long to realize that someone messed with my cube van. I looked over to my right to see a cloud of smoke as the Harley from earlier raced by.

Accelerating my pace toward the truck, I began to smell something awful. Something like… shit. Once I got right up to my truck, the smell was overwhelmingly unpleasant. One side of the vehicle read “ASSHOLE” smeared in what I made out to be human feces.

Anger coursed through my veins as my mind digested what I was seeing. There was only one culprit.. there was no denying that it was the guy who was pissed that I parked in a motorcycle space. “That mother FUCKER” I thought, rampaging back into the vehicle. I threw my snacks and water onto the passenger seat and noticed something else sitting there as well.

It was the shadow.

I’m not entirely sure if it was the sheer amount of anger I had in my heart for that biker, or some sort of weird insensitivity from the countless hours of expecting to see him… but I wasn’t particularly phased, to my astonishment.

I got in my truck like normal, still rampaging because of the biker. I started up my engine and before I moved the shifter into drive, I looked over at him.

Still hardly tangible, he had that same unmoving presence about him that exuded terror. This time though, I embraced that feeling and I looked at the shadow in a fly-on-the-wall sort of way, for the first time. He was powerful. He was evil. Just being so close to him commanded my full attention. Not realizing what I was doing, allowing that feeling to penetrate through to my core, I realized I had been slowly leaning towards the shadow.. quite possibly trying to get a better understanding of him.

That was when I made a new discovery.

For the first time, I saw his eyes. His eyes were like a snake’s, but with a feeling of omniscience. Looking into his eyes gave me the feeling that he knew what was, what is, and what will be.

And that…. gave me comfort.

The realization of this shook me to my very soul. I broke eye contact and felt myself convulsing with.. excitement? Anticipation? I couldn’t tell you.

“Richard”

My eyes moved as quick as humanly possible back on the shadow. He had spoken to me. He had said MY NAME.

“Richard.”

His eyes glowing brighter and more hypnotic by the millisecond.

“Richard. Kill”

I was off. I threw the cube van into reverse and slammed on the gas pedal until it could not go down anymore. The back of the cube van smashed into one of the rusty gas pumps, obliterating it. I didn’t have a chance to see if anyone came storming out of the store, but I imagine someone did.. but without skipping a beat, I put the old clunker into drive and spun out of the lot.

“Baker’s” The neon sign flickered off and on, becoming increasingly difficult to read as I sped to my target.

All common sense left me. My conscience left me. I felt nothing but anger, hate and revenge for the piece of shit I was looking for.. pushing the work truck to RPM’s it had not seen before. I think a few warning lights went off but I did not care in the slightest.

I was going to find the biker. And I was going to end his life with my own two hands.

The shadow stayed in the passenger seat while I searched the otherwise quiet route with my screaming engine, for the biker.

After what seemed like an hour, I caught up with the fat piece of shit. I recognized him by his embroidered jacket, flapping in the wind. If he noticed my fast approach, he didn’t care because he kept on going at the same 55MPH pace, even as my headlights were less than 2 feet from the back of his hog.

When it happened, time slowed down.. and it reminded me of my first kiss. I was in the 3rd grade and I had a huge crush on a classmate. Her name was Charlotte and I thought she was the most beautiful girl in the entire world. She was the type of girl that always had her hand up in the air, waving around frantically to answer the teacher’s question, front row. I adored that fact about her. It was rare to see someone match their outward beauty with so much intelligence.

One day after school, a bunch of us got together at a friend’s house to play Spin the Bottle. We always played games at Sam’s house, since his parents were never around. There were 3 boys and 3 girls, including me and Charlotte. My deepest desire whenever we played this or “Truth or Dare” would be for me to somehow be able to get close to Charlotte. Her presence comforted me and made me feel fantastic.

It was Charlotte’s turn to spin the bottle, and everyone could tell she was hoping to have it stop on Michael, the boy that all the girls wanted to be around. She pointed it right on him, giggled, and gave it a spin.

I watched the bottle spin round and round, like the tires on my work truck at that very moment, stopping the wheels of the Harley from circling ever again. Slower and slower the bottle spun until it landed on me. I looked up at Charlotte and could see nothing but disappointment in her eyes. I smiled weakly as we both leaned over the bottle and kissed.

Yells of agony shook me from my recollection and I realized I was behind the wheel of my work truck. Was that a microsleep? I wondered. It didn’t take long to realize that the vehicle was no longer moving, and was leaned over quite intensely. I was honestly surprised that it didn’t flip. Lucky I guess.

“Ohhh”

I remembered what I was there for. I remembered what I wanted to do. What I had to do. I smiled… with much more strength and confidence than that third grade boy about to get his first kiss. I looked at the shadow who looked right back at me. I knew what he expected to be done.

I didn’t think. I grabbed a two foot long, industrial zip tie that we used to securely tie up shredding bags and shut the driver’s side door.

At this sound, the biker was even more distraught and screamed “HELP. SOMEBODY HELP ME!!” desperately trying to reach anyone that could hear. But this was a very less-traveled road. And in his agony and through his screams, the biker was beginning to wonder why he had taken it.

I slowly walked toward the screams in the darkness, and almost tripped over a large piece of the Harley. “Such a shame” I thought, as I took a big step over the twisted frame.

Finding the biker wasn’t a hard task, as his screams were continuous and unrelenting. The force of the truck hitting his bike catapulted him a good 700 feet from the scene; I was impressed by that fact.

I found him trying to crawl into the woods with bloodied hands, dragging behind him two unmoving legs, broken with a femur protruding from the right limb.

I slammed my foot down hard on the back of the bikers neck and heard a crunch. For a moment, I thought he was dead and grew incredibly disappointed. But I heard him gasping and trying to scream even though no sound could find it’s way out of his throat. Excitement flooded through me again at this note.

Still pressing all of my weight against the back of his neck, I took the zip tie and made quick work of it around his neck. In his broken state, he put up a very small defense. I had to work the first few clicks of the zip tie through the chamber, which was always the most annoying part of dealing with those things. Soon enough though, I was able to give it a firm tug.

*ZZZZZZZIP* *clickclick click….click………click*

It was as tight around the biker’s neck as it possibly could be and I held it there, watching him squirm what little he could. When he stopped moving, I held it for another 5 minutes or so, savoring my victory. Relishing my feelings, the likes of which had never gone through me before.

As I let the zip tie go, I looked down at my trophy. A mass free of any movement laying on the ground. Broken and bruised. Bleeding and lifeless.

I was about to head back to the truck, when I remembered the jacket. Though corny and basic, it looked nice, so I carefully removed it from the biker and put it on.

A little big and remarkably untouched by the last 10 minutes of activity, this would work.

I straightened my collar, and walked back toward the truck.. toward Shadow… with these three words echoing out to the night sky

“Ride or Die”

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“The Shadow” – Part 1

I spent the majority of last night and this morning on Reddit’s r/nosleep, reading through all the best short stories of 2014. It inspired me to write one of my own and when it is done, I will be posting it there. For now, I will be posting it piece by piece as I progress with it, for anyone interested.


The Shadow (Title in Works) – Part 1


Recounting this memory to you will be no easy task. I am not entirely sure if what I remember seeing properly correlates to what I actually saw, for the mind tends to play tricks on itself when a massive dose of irrationality hits it like a freight train.

My name is Richard and I am about as much of a low-key, average, forgetful man as any. I’m the guy that you hold the door for at convenience store entrances, we nod at each other, and move on with our lives. Completely unmemorable. There’s been times where I wanted to do much more with my life but I’ve never been one to stay away from the temptations of instant gratification and entertainment to ever work hard for anything in my life.

I work for a delivery company that transports medical files and encrypted hard drives of confidential information from assorted businesses across the state. The job is not difficult, and has a decent rate of pay where I usually clock in anywhere between 45 and 50 hours per week. I’m certianly not challenging myself mentally (or physically, for that matter) but it’s a simple job for a simple man like me.

This particular night that it happened (I dare not speak of it more than I need to for an accurate retelling of this story), I was running late heading back to base. It had been a particularly long day, with many delivery stops several hundred miles away from each other. Why the higher-ups have not optimized the routes, maybe even hired more drivers, is beyond me. But I’m a simple delivery guy, these questions are not for me to ask.

I pulled in to base around 8PM, the latest I have ever taken to get back. Pulling off the highway and onto the back roads of my rural town, the sights of headlights, street lights, and general civilization became less and less. My base is located just outside of town, where you veer off from the main route onto a long, winding dirt road, eventually hooking a right down another dirt road.

Naturally, it was raining, and my wipers were going back and forth full blast, doing nothing but smearing the droplets of water around and obstructing my view. Don’t get me started about how cheap the higher-ups were, they would not replace the windshield wipers until authorities pulled us drivers over and wrote formal warnings to be handed to “whoever is in charge”. The whole thing is bullshit if you ask me. Money apparently means more than the safety of your employees out there.

So I’m pulling into base and everyone is already gone, as I had expected. Normally, everyone leaves around 5, so no one had been around for hours. The only source of light I had besides my dimly glowing headlights to my dying cube van came from the main entrance to the base, illuminating the one vehicle in the parking lot; Mine.

There was a constant crunch of gravel as the weight of my cube van rolled into the lot. I do a quick post-trip inspection, gather my things, lock the doors and head toward the bright light of the main entrance to drop off the keys in the drop box.

That’s when I first saw it.. let’s simply call him, “the shadow”. I dropped my keys in the box hanging just outside the main door, which had been locked for hours now, when I turned to head back down the three steps and across the dirt lot towards my car. As soon as I spun on my heel to head down the first step, I caught something out of the corner of my eye.

He.. IT.. was on the very edge of the light, which originated right behind me. Chills shot up and down my body at this sight even more so than the howling, cold wind and rain. At the far end of the lot, I’d say about 500 feet away, was where we parked the cube vans at the end of the day. Directly across from me, and right next to the cube van I just exited moments before, was a dark figure.

Of course, at the time, I had no way of telling what this thing was. My first logical mental reaction was in rationalizing what I was seeing. It wasn’t just a dark blob, it was incredibly human-like. I could see the outline of a tall, thin, heavily shrouded being just standing completely still. I knew that this wasn’t a trick of the light, as the feeling of being watched was overwhelming.

Not knowing what to do, I called out at the shadow, having no idea what to expect. What if it talks back? If I’m expecting an answer, would that be better or worse?
“Hello? Can I help you?” I clumsily blurted out.
Nothing.
I walked cautiously down the steps, fully aware of every muscle in my body and every creak of the old, wooden steps long overdue for replacement.

When I reached the bottom I thought that maybe from a new perspective, I would realize that this being was a mere falacy; A result of a tired mind and body after an unexpectedly long day.

But no. There it stood, brooding in the darkness. An aura of terror emanating from it’s being. Making no movement.
Making no sound.
Just standing there, watching me.

I couldn’t necessarily see it’s eyes, but the outline of the figure made it unmistakable that his body and intentions were pointed directly at my person. Never taking my eyes off the figure, I slowly made the trek to my car.

Normally, this was a 10 second process which required no effort, but that night… and I know it’s cheesy to say, but it’s completely accurate…it felt like an eternity.

By the time I finally got to my car door, the shadow was still there.. but to my concerned surprise, it was not any more clear. It was still just barely there, with only enough detail to make out the fact that yes, this was indeed a real presence of a spiritual nature.

I shakily reached down to my pocket to grab my car keys. Finding them, I pulled them out frantically, causing them to fall onto the ground.

And that’s when things took a turn for the worse.

In my surprise and out of pure instinct, I took my gaze off the shadow and directed it towards my keys, resting on the cold, damp gravel. By the time I picked them up and went to unlock my door, I suddenly remembered where my eyes were supposed to be set, and looked up in a panic.

For the love of God, maybe looking back so quickly was a bad idea. Maybe if I hadn’t looked back at all, I would not have been in my current predicament. I dont know.. It’s just hard to rationalize what happened next.

I frantically looked up and the shadow was not in the same spot next to my cube van. Instead it was on the other side of my car, yet again directly across from me, still brooding without motion or sound and still just barely visible as a human form.

I inhaled sharply and was paralyzed with shock. After a few moments, I unlocked my car, got in, started it up, and put that baby in reverse faster than anyone could have thought humanly possible. All without taking my gaze off the figure, that was still staring at where I had been seconds before.

I switched my car into drive and booked it out of the lot, gravel flying. There obviously came a point where I could not keep the shadow in my sight, but by God, you best believe I was craning my neck in a way you would only see at a freak show, just to make sure I was as far away from it as I could be before putting my eyes back on the dirt road.

Down both dirt roads I went, flying by, jumping the car at small raises in the road, and taking turns far too quickly for anyone who HADN’T just seen something as terrifying as I had. Still trying to figure out what it was that I saw, I soon caught myself trying to logically come up with the best possibility. It HAD to be all in my mind.. maybe a trick of my sight? After all, I never heard it, or physically felt it.. only saw it. Yeah, that’s what it was. All in my head. So I slowed back down to a normal, non life-threatening speed.

It wasn’t until I pulled back onto the main road that I realized I had been wrong. Now that I was back in civilization, there were a few cars going by here and there, and the lights of the city came into view. Just as I began to turn onto my road, I noticed, again, something in the corner of my eye.

I deperately did not want to look… But it would take a stronger person than I not to give in to the temptation of curiosity.. and you know what they say, “Curiosity killed the cat” Only this time, I had a very strange sense that it wanted nothing to do with a cat and everything to do with me.

So I looked into my rearview mirror.

As the street lights came and went, so did the shadow, sitting casually in my back seat, diagonal from the driver’s position. I almost lost control of my vehicle as I slammed on my brakes to avoid a collision with an oil tanker. I looked back to the shadow and I had no idea what to do, other than to take another swing at attempting to communicate with it.

“What do you want from me?”
The words stumbled out of me in a stupor. I hardly recognized my own voice. Looking deep into the shadow through the mirror I heard a very faint, hollow word in a deep, gravely voice.

“Kill”

Except, I didn’t “hear” it in the physical sense, it was in my own head. It’s hard to explain, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but the shadow communicated to me exactly how it existed… on a spiritual plane, not a physical one.

I stared at the road in front of me for several minutes, trying to fully digest what I thought I had heard. At this point, I was beginning to feel the slightest bit accustomed to the shadow, though he still evoked immense terror.

What does he mean, “Kill” if that is what he said, IF he said ANYTHING?
Does he want to kill me? Surely he would have done it right there in the parking lot back at base if that was his intention. Perhaps his lack of physicality and his disconnect between the spiritual realm and the physical world caused him to lack the ability to harm me? After all, he had never touched me.

That was when another thought grazed over my mind. “Does he want ME to kill?” If so, who? Surely I cannot kill another human being. I am not a killer, I’m just a simple man who gets up, goes to work, and goes home to do menial activities until the sun comes up and everything starts over. I’m nothing special.

“And what exactly do you…” Before I could finish my question, I looked into my rearview yet again, but the shadow had vanished. Though I was a bit disappointed, a wave of relief rushed through me upon noticing his disappearance.

I hardly remember the rest of my drive home. I don’t specifically remember pulling into my small driveway to my apartment, stepping inside and laying in bed.. but I must have been laying there sleepless for awhile because the next thing I remember, the rising sun’s piercing rays shot me out of my stupor.

Noir Fiction in the Works

Today, as I drove about 300 miles round-trip for my weekly Canadian border run, I found myself with a LOT of time to conceptualize a novel.

What started as a thought where a good soul tries to talk a man down from jumping off from a bridge, turned into the skeletal form of what has the chance to be a detective thriller/noir! The last book I read was Stephen King’s “Mr. Mercedes” and I feel like a lot of the inspiration that went into the building of my plot was derived from that story, as I found it perfectly dark with a touch of comedy. Like Donnie Darko without the drugs.

So I ended up with about 15 minutes of recorded audio on my phone of me talking out and conceptualizing this idea that, quite frankly, I am very excited about. I had previously been forming a dark comedy but for now that gets put on the back burner until I have some more ideas.

One thing I am beginning to notice, is that using a voice recorder (Androids have one pre-loaded) is INCREDIBLY helpful when you don’t want to forget a thought. It’s so nice to be able to go to my phone and listen to myself as I was coming up with these character progressions, main plot and side plots. I had been told as a child that I needed to start using one because of my forgetfulness, but I always turned the idea down, as I thought it was impractical and would only get in my way. Now that it’s on an app in my phone, there is no excuse!

As I was picking up files from the Calais hospital, I caught myself listening in to people’s conversations and trying to use the information as inspiration for new minor characters. This turned out to be quite effective. Who would have thought that drawing inspiration from every day events could be so easy? And with the plethora of people I am in contact with daily for work, there is an endless number of character possibilities.

The absolute BEST tool to expand upon an idea is to ask yourself questions. For instance, when I came up with the idea of a man trying to help a potential victim of suicide, I asked myself “What could go wrong? What are the consequences of these actions? Why would this person make this decision?” Questioning your own ideas is the easiest and more effective way to develop your very own plot.

I’m still quite hesitant with actually starting to write the book, as I feel as if I need more scene ideas and a better feel for what I want the readers to get out of the story before I type away. Until then, I will be observing my surroundings and exploring the caverns of my imagination for ideas. My phone is sure to be blown up with at least 200 audio recordings before I’m ready to put “pen to paper” (I’m totally going to type it, there’s no way I bought this mechanical keyboard so I could do this old school)

So I’m really pumped for this! And yes, I plan to still post with my progress and with any more poems or anecdotes that come to mind that I would like to share, so this will still be active for sure. The blogging community is a useful tool for inspiration, and I won’t give that up again.

I can tell you this:

This novel is going to be dark.
It’s going to be grizzly.
It’s going to make you question my sanity and stability.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way

Fate or Coincidence?

As I was sitting here tonight, reading through articles for inspiration, I kept stumbling across information regarding the  formulation and outlining of a novel. Clearly I was intrigued, as it may come to no surprise to you if you read my last post about my dream career as a novelist.

So I’m sitting here, minding my own business, when I come across what I can only describe as the single-most important internet page any fiction writer could come across.

It’s called “The Periodic Table of Storytelling” and let me tell you, it just may have been the first domino, because it got the ol’ gears turning and as I’m writing this as quickly as I can, I have more and more thoughts of what I would like to see from my first novel.

You see, one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) problems I have faced in my life is my disorganization. In fact, it is very likely that my disorganization is the bane to my creativity. How does one expect to write great things if his desk is cluttered (for lack of a much more serious word) with Powerade bottles, pens, and fast food rubbish? I know, I am very untidy. I would like to take this moment to say that, at this particular time, my desk has only 2 bottles on it. That’s like, the cleanest it’s ever going to be. I’m pretty sure that the biggest creative geniuses in the world had problems with disorganization too, so I would love to attribute my little problem with that, if I could!

Did you check out that link? Well do it, because even if you are not into writing, it’s interesting to look at and learn about.

After perusing this periodic table for about thirty minutes, I began researching ways to organize my thoughts into an outline, as that is clearly important for a flowing novel with a consistent feel. Fortunately with blogging, outlining is not required and if you do outline your blog posts, you’re probably trying way too hard…or you’re just a Type A personality.

Anyway, I came across this great link from the Writer’s Digest, “How to Organize and Develop Ideas For Your Novel” and after reading it through, I grabbed the closest notebook, of which I own at least 6 kicking around in random areas of this room, and began jotting down some ideas.

The article revolved heavily around the usage of note cards, which I quickly realized I needed, as our minds do not think linearly when we are trying to channel our inner author.

So it’s 9:40 at this point, I throw on some pants and drive to the closest store for some note cards. Wouldn’t you know it, I made it 10 minutes before they closed and I grabbed the absolute last pack of cards. Was this a sign from fate validating and urging me to continue on with my ideas? Or is it simply coincidence?

I don’t believe in coincidences.

Catch you guys later, I’ve got ideas that are begging to come to life.

Thoughts on My Dream Career

I want to be an author. I want to be one of those people who makes a living by storytelling.

This has been my ultimate dream for a very long time, quite honestly from as far back as I can remember.

I started out by crudely stapling 10 pieces of office paper together and coming up with Detective stories starring my brother and I. We would come up with very basic stories about murders or missing animals, and we would very horribly attempt to illustrate these literary masterpieces. My gift is my writing, not my drawing! That went on for quite some time…I only wish that they had been saved so I could show them all to you. We really had fun with it.

In 3rd grade, I discovered my love of acting as well. I learned that playing a role was an extension of writing. It was taking words that you did not write and expressing them with your own spin. There was a lot of fun to be had in that.
I was cast as Alex, the main character for our play “Alex in DinoLand”. I only remember two scenes:
The opening scene was supposed to be me simply coming out from side stage, sitting down on the edge and starting my monologue. I remember thinking that it was way too simple and deserved something a bit more imaginative. So what I did was, I came out from side stage and acted like I was using a machete to cut back thick overgrowth. I zigged and zagged for 30 seconds or so, then saw a “nice spot”, sat down, and pretended to fish. And while I was reeling, I started my monologue.
The second scene I distinctly remember is one where I completely forgot my lines the first run of the show. The play was obviously an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, and this scene was when I was talking to the caterpillar (who was some sort of dinosaur. All I remember is James’ aunt had made him a really cool looking outfit and I was jealous.) and there was dead silence as I realized I had no idea what I had to say next. My teacher ended up coming to the front of the stage and read me the first few words, then I handled it from there.

Overall, it was a great experience that I wish I had pursued throughout my education. Instead, I took college level classes, went home, maybe did my homework, and played video games to take up every last second of my free time. I did absolutely nothing extracurricularly to better myself or to find my passion.

4th – 6th grade, I remember being very excited about writing prompts. I knew I excelled at writing, but would never write in my free time. There were just too many video games to play. I’d write short stories that would blow my teachers minds out of the water. I watched as my English and writing scores blew through the roof until I was writing at a high school level.  But I did nothing with that skill.

Nothing.

This isn’t meant to bring me down, and I am certainly not unhappy with myself now. I’m just glad that I’ve finally found the sense to start making something of my gifts and actively pursuing my own betterment through this medium and community. The amount of bloggers I see on this site is astounding, and I love to see so many others who share my passion. It can take a lot to open yourself up to the world, and I have nothing but the utmost respect to those who do.

My next step is to keep posting on this blog every day, as much as I can. I was reading an article earlier saying how writing is a muscle, and that we as bloggers and writers and authors must use that muscle every day to get better at what we do. Something else that really stuck out to me was when he wrote that even if it’s crap, write EVERY day. Not every piece of work can be a masterpiece, I need to realize that. Utilizing this as a tool for the betterment of me as a writer is what I need to be thinking of.

This blog may begin to look a bit more random and personal than my original focus was set to. But you know? That’s okay.

Once I get enough skill, though I know that is completely relative, and in my mind I will probably never have enough, I will begin a book that I WILL finish. I want to see that money come in and see my phone explode with movie deals and book signings.

That’s my dream career right there.

Influential Motivators: Muhammad Ali

This evening will mark the beginning of a new segment I would like to begin: Influential Motivators. These are going to be men and women who have influenced me to become the person I am today, in one way or another.

The first person I would like to recognize as a major influence on my life has been none other than the Champ himself, Mr. Cassius Clay, Pretty Boy, Muhammad Ali.


Origins of Influence


I was in 6th grade when I first read about Muhammad Ali and immediately was drawn to his confidence. Seeing video clips of Ali, I could see the type of man I wanted to be: Strong, Charismatic, Confident… a Champion. You could say he was the first celebrity influence of mine that would commonly be referred to as “arrogant” or even “narcissistic” by society.

So there’s 12 year old Jake, learning about Muhammad Ali for (what I think was) Black History Month. My friend Jim chose Malcolm X, another chose Martin Luther King Jr, but I chose a different type of activist. Reading through the, what I can only imagine to be, skimpy material I had before me, I DO remember one quote jumping right out to me

“Float like a Butterfly, Sting like a Bee”

I didn’t know it at the time, but that quote, along with his “Never Give Up” mentality would end up being a major part of reshaping my entire outlook on life

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Circa 199…9? I was just a few years younger than the 12 year old Ali fan discussed.

Growing up, I was a very passive and talkative kid with a Master’s in confrontation-aversion. I went through my entire education without a single fist fight, or anyone even wanting to get into it with me. Unfortunately, I was never able to practice floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee, though at that point in time, I could have been blown over by the wind.


In Between the Influence


Fast forward to Fall 2014.

I’m freshly 24, in a new town with new people, a new job in a field and management style I was unfamiliar with, and jumping residences a handful of times within 3 months.

While I was glad that I took a leap of faith by accepting a full-time job opportunity in logistics as a stepping stone in my path of financial freedom, it was a burden to my mind.

While it was taxing me physically, I could handle the drastic difference in routine. I’d wake up at 5AM, go to work, come “home” at 6 or 7PM, just to drive around in my car to de-stress and have time to myself.

When I first moved to Bangor, I slept in the basement of a relatives place in Old Town. I was very grateful to have a place to sleep, but I knew I needed to find a new place to stay.

Conflict arose with my family as miscommunication  and expectations went out of control. Things are weird with my biological father’s side of the family now, and for the first time I was not invited to Thanksgiving or Christmas.

This is a two-way street, and I am in no way saying that I am not to blame, but sometimes changes happen for the better, no?

The bottom line is that I sank into a mental darkness. In an earlier post I said it was more of a pseudo-depression, but I don’t feel as if I had lost control of my life. I knew very well I was still in control, but became dark, moody and took on a negative outlook and destructive persona.

I’d start speeding in my car just to see how fast I could go without losing control. I’d get these urges to do other illogical things and I acted on those more often than I’d admit,

I felt like happiness was ignorance and people were selfish and weak.

But then things got better. I moved from a small house with 3 strangers in Hampden to a nicer place in Bangor with 3 others, 2 whom I knew well, and from one of those bedrooms is where I am writing this.

I was less stressed out, but still had gloom hanging over me that just would not go away.

I took on a second job in retail to make more money, and for the first time in my life, I am happy to say that money is not an issue. Paying bills involved no anxiety, and splurging a bit on the finer things was a-ok.

I was still not happy…..


Present Day Influence


I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw this old video of Muhammad Ali in a classroom

This brought me back to when I was fascinated with Ali.. and when I saw the amazement and joy in the children, something inside me lifted that hadn’t in quite some time… and I began to feel powerful again.

I read into Muhammad Ali’s story a bit more than my 12 year old self, and loved the pure passion, charisma, skill, strength, and showmanship Ali exuded. His take on “being the best” brought me this realization:


Inside every one of us, is a champion


After that moment, I was back in the game, and stronger than I ever had been before.

I’ve developed my own spin on Ali’s outlook on success, and while I cannot show it physically, like through boxing… I got back into the writing game which has always been my 80’s training montage to personal success and excellence.

Ali was ahead of his time with the philosophy of betterment and he used his faith to catapult him into greatness. He is a man deserving of great respect and admiration.  And I certainly thank him from the bottom of my heart for, though unknowingly, pulling me out of that destructive funk I was in refreshed and with a new perspective on life.

In an interview, Ali once said, “When I get out of boxing, I’m going to do all I can to help people… I’m being called to help people. God is watching me. God isn’t praising me for (my feats)… He wants to know, “How do we treat each other?” “How do we help each other?” I’m going to dedicate my life to helping charities, uniting people. We need to make peace… so when I die, if there’s a heaven, I want to see it”

He is the Champion

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3 Ways To Fail At Tinder

By now, everyone who uses the internet should at least have heard about the “dating” app Tinder. And if you’ve used it, you know exactly why I put dating in quotations.


Fail #1
Backstory And Approach


One night I was feeling significantly down and out about living the single life, and while browsing the internet I came across a review for Tinder. Either it was the only good review, or I only skimmed the words for pictures of it’s, admittedly, amazing interface and concept.. because I decided to go against my pride and download the application.

The idea was quite genius to me, and the premise was simple enough: Take a look at a few pictures of a girl, read a short biography, and decide if you’re attracted. “What could go wrong?” I thought, as I very carefully sifted through hundreds of singles within 100 miles of my hometown, trying to find that diamond in the rough.

Tinder has gotten so popular now, that certain gender-based stereotypes have gotten attached to it such as the male stereotype of swiping right on literally every girl, and the female stereotype of taking their time with each person, and swiping left on the majority of guys. I personally went against the grain, and fell under the female stereotype.

Call me picky, call me stuck-up, but I’m just being real here. If there is no physical attraction (at least with a few pictures), or what little bit of a mental attraction you can pick up with a bio, I was swiping left all day. Yes, I’m looking at you, girls with a single Marilyn Monroe quote.

Gag me with a spoon
Gag me with a spoon

The simplicity of the app and the excitement of getting a match was addicting, and I found myself swiping left and right whenever I had a spare minute, until there were absolutely no more women on the app within 100 miles of me.

The first fail was my approach. I was looking to make conversation with women I would potentially go on dates with, and with Tinder, much of the guesswork was taken out, as it was clear both parties were mutually attracted to each other, at least superficially. The problem was, either women were using this as a vanity app to see how many matches they could get, or they were using it more for casual sex, as, let’s face it, 99% of guys were using it for.


Fail #2
Flirting with Matches


I got a decent number of matches… more than I honestly thought I would get, especially being as selective as I was.
“Fantastic!” I thought “This app is genius”.

I’m scrolling through my matches, sorting them through, looking for my top picks. When I find the Crème de la crème, I anxiously typed in “Hey!” and erased it. No, that’s lame “What’s up girl?” Nah. Too bro-like. I believe I started most with something along the lines of, “Hey, how are you?”. I felt as if that was casual enough and was a decent conversation starter.

So I have a few conversations going, talking about basic aspects of our lives and whatnot, but the conversation would always drop fast, as either I or (presumably) my match would lose interest and go on to the next person.  I got a few numbers, and kept the conversation flowing through texting, but they would all end abruptly.

A major problem is that the pickings were so plentiful, that it was easy to move on to another conversation and forget a previous conversation all together. Perhaps I was weird because I wasn’t asking for tit pics from the get-go? I’ll never know.

Smooth
Smooth. Clearly if he used the right form of “your” it would be okay

Fail #3
Being Psychotic


Believe it or not, this one is actually not a fail on my end. Let me tell you this story.

One of my first matches was with a 20 year old girl from Boston. She was pretty, but what attracted me the most was her intellect and her interests. She seemed like the type of girl that I would want to meet.

We actually talked back and forth on the app for a few weeks, and we arranged to meet during her school break when she would be returning to Maine for a short time.

After awhile I kind of sensed that, while she was highly intelligent, something seemed off. She would say little things here and there that made me scratch my head, or things that made me uncomfortable. I pushed it aside and thought, hey, maybe I seem weird to her.

About a month into my Tinder experience, and before we met in person, I decided that I didn’t want to use Tinder anymore. I realized that it wasn’t exactly the type of service I was looking for, as most were using it as a tool for casual sex. So I deleted the app without even saying anything to her or my other conversations (In hindsight, giving her the courtesy of an explanation would have been more appropriate, but I’ve never been a sentimental man).

A week goes by, and I get a friend request on my Facebook account… and I bet you know exactly who it was.
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I added her, even though I found it sort of awkward. But, then the psychotic part hit:

She actually messaged me these exact words….

“You didn’t think you could get rid of me THAT easily, did you?”

Suddenly I wasn’t attracted to her anymore and soon after, I deleted her. I’m really hoping she didn’t write down any personal information about me. The last thing I want to see is a horse’s freshly chopped off head in my bed.

I have been tempted to redownload Tinder, but then I remember that particular girl, shudder, and put the phone down.


So, there’s my embarrassingly horrific experience with Tinder…

Can you top that? What are some of your experiences with Tinder, or any other dating app?

The Day The World Turned Grey

It was a regular day in a regular world.
Birds were flying, wind was blowing, and people were moving.
An average day in the life of an average guy.
Apathy and complacency were written all over my face as I got in my car to head to work.

“Am I running late?”
“How much money do I have?”
“Can I get everything done today?”

Red light. Stop.
Green light. Go.
Hurry up already.

The wipers are moving full blast, back and forth, left and right.
A man stopped at a crosswalk and looked both ways.
Not today, guy.  I have places to be.

I made it with a minute to spare.
Let’s get down to work.
Nothing matters right now besides completing the task at hand.

Except.

I noticed something out of place
Looking up, I peer out the window to see what may have caught my attention.
A woman dancing to the beat of a street performer.

“I have things to do. Stop wasting time”
I began my work.
Methodically filling out paperwork one by one.

I gaze out the window again, on habit.
She was still there.
Moving elegantly to the rhythm of an acoustic guitar.

The music came alive through her.
Her, that woman, the medium.
Channeling each note like a serpent from a basket.

I looked back down to work.
Something was, again, different.
The color was fading.

The fresh black ink from my pen dried grey.
The blindingly white paper was grey.
Looking back at me, my reflection on my monitor showed a man grey as a ghost.

I began to panic internally
Maintaining my cool as the entire office turned grey.
Did no one else see?

I excused myself for a smoke break and stepped outside.
My lighter radiated grey as it flickered to life.
Hands shakily lighting my now dull cigarette.

Before the first puff, I look up to the performer
He was still there. The dancer was still there.
The music changed, as did her dance.

Except.

She wasn’t grey.
The guitar was grey, and the man was grey.
But she wasn’t grey.

Her color was almost blinding
Her quick movements flashing light
Flickering much brighter than the ghostly glow of my lighter.

I was as entranced with her as she was with the music.
I snuffed out the unused lit cigarette with my heel
And I made my way to the dancer.

Closer than ever before, she was even more beautiful
Her eyes glowing blue as the softest seas
Her hair falling perfectly across her shoulders

Before I could ask what she had done, she grabbed my hand
In that instant, the world came back to life, but different from before.
Colors were more vibrant..
Smells pungent, Sights sharper.
I looked to her again…
And time
Stopped.

But we remained.

Dancing to the rhythm of a new song.
And everything was the same as before

Except.

Brighter.