“Lucky Break” by Hyten Davidson
There’s different kinds of opportunity in the world, or so I hear: some knock sweetly on your door, some slam into a pole. I listen for the first, but dream of the latter. Either way, I am always welcoming to whatever type of opportunity my mother loved to remind me was “out there.”
In my dreams I run from a man that looks like Agent Smith from The Matrix, but at the last second— when I’m trapped in the basement and he’s almost got me— something else happens. I suddenly find a trap door, or miraculously the house sets on fire and I escape in the smoke and confusion. It’s too perfect to recognize as being a random opportunity perfectly presenting itself, but you don’t realize that until you’ve already woken up from the nightmare and are back where you fell asleep against the cool vinyl kitchen tiles.
I haul myself up and move toward the window in the family room where the old Christmas tree is hunched to turn off its lights. Out the window, the empty street waits for me like that tree in that forest who wonders if it still makes a sound when there is no one around to hear it fall. I bear witness to the night.
After I wake up from a nightmare I always like to take a dead-of-night walk through my neighborhood to relax, loose and free in my kimono and slippers, even on a mid-February night.
My neighborhood is quiet, which means it’s full of secrets. Bright streetlights but dark houses. I’ve lived in my split-level home for thirty four years now, even after my parents died off, and yet I have no idea who lives in all these rows of houses. But at least they don’t know me either.
I really do need to “get out more” like my mother constantly nagged, but rather if only to stir more rumors and legends about myself. It’s a fantasy to think of the neighborhood kids pointing at my parents’ house and crying “The crazy witch lives there!” Maybe even get the neighborhood moms to whisper about me being a “New Age Spinster.” But then again, no one wants to be alone and forgotten all the time. Even witches and spinsters want a love connection.
One person I did know in my neighborhood was a classmate of mine in elementary school— Jason P. Jason got a D.U.I while on a thirteen hour trucking job and had to move back into town with his parents a few years ago. He was tall and lanky, with chipped teeth and a droopy eyes.
Tonight he looks different I think to myself as I watch him stumble out of his dark blue Volvo, the front of which is wrapped around a streetlight. I watch him teeter into the street, spitting and sputtering to himself. He grabs chunks of his salt-and-pepper hair in panic once he looks back at the mess he’s made. Same as our 4th grade teacher when Jason choked in class from shoving too many marshmallows down his little gullet I muse to myself, Oh Jason what have you done??
This might have been the perfect meet-cute— I rescuing Jason, bringing him home to tend to his wounds, promising to keep our little secret of what happened to his car.
Instead, I retreat behind a bush. Jason flicks his head up and down the street to see if anyone is around. Don’t worry, Jason. Everyone’s inside their cozy homes committing their own dark deeds. No one saw you.
Jason stumbles away and jogs past my bush then off around the corner back to Mommy and Daddy’s house. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.
I emerge from behind the bush back onto the empty street. I look over at the car, a Volvo 240 DL; it’s right back turn signal still flashing. The engine in my own brain starts to kick and the wheels start turning.
BLINK-ER. BLINK-ER. BLINK-ER.
My heart beats in tandem with the car’s mesmerizing blinker. It’s giving me the green light.
I approach the vehicle slowly…as to not scare or disrupt the precious moment. The driver’s side door is still open. Don’t mind if I do.
I sit down in the driver’s seat, still warm. The dashboard is lit up like a small Christmas tree, its little glimmering lights glowing through the fabric of the air bag. I lay my cheek down against it. It’s surprisingly soft. I poise the rest of my body accordingly— right foot on the brake, left slipper thrown off, hands draped down in my lap. I throw my glasses onto the dashboard…then take them back. That doesn’t seem right. Gently, I put the lens in my mouth between my teeth and crunch down hard. Now broken, I frame them back on my face then lay back down on the bag. Then I wait.
And start to dream. In my dream, I’m waltzing down the streets of my neighborhood in a flapper dress and little heels. The street lights are chandeliers. The road is black velvet carpet. In my embrace is a handsome gentleman — like Jason but taller, more stoic…maybe more-so like Agent Smith. Someone my mother would approve of. I see myself in the reflection of his early 2000s sunglasses, a jolly, smiling lady with not a single scratch mark on her face.
Agent Smith’s voice is like a low siren.
“Ma’am?” He asks in a two-tone pitch, “Ma’am, can you hear me?”
Then….the dream is gone. Always gone, like a nasty one-night stand. But the sight in front of me was nearly better…a sweet-faced boy with chunks of freckles on his cheeks is caressing the back of my hair.
I glance up at him, flapping my eyelashes like big butterfly wings, as he grabs the radio attached to his shirt pocket. “Say something. Be friendly.” My dead mother’s voice rings in my ears.
“Yes, she’s responsive.” To me, “Ma’am have you been drinking tonight?”
“No, but I’m down if you’re free after this?”
The look on his face informs me this was far too strong a come-on. Two young women appear behind the boy, with a stretcher.
“Can she be moved?’
“She’s conscious, so I think we’re clear.” My mystery man states.
His brute strength seizes me by the shoulders— I might argue a bigger come-on than my comment but that’s fine— and hoists me out of Jason’s car and onto the stretcher, facing up to the night sky.
“What’s your name?”
“Where do you live?”
“Where did you come from tonight?”
It’s like Friday night at a bar, surrounded by flirty singles desperate to get to know me more.
“Who me?” I flirt back.
See, Mother? I can go out and meet people.
Hyten Davidson is an emerging writer currently based in Chicago. Her stories have been published in New Reader Magazine, The Maine Review, and Cat on a Leash Literary Review. She’s also a screenwriter, having won the Scaffolding Magazine Best Short Screenplay Award at The Shortcut 100 International Film Festival, the Best Screenplay Award at The South Shore Film Festival, The Indie Horror Film Festival Best Short Script Award, among other accolades. For more, visit www.hytendavidson.com.
Some Bewitching Line Drawing by Jennifer Weigel
This month we are going to explore more fun marker art from Jennifer Weigel, starting with black and white line drawing. Jennifer is getting ready for her big Life Is Brilliant solo show in March and has snuck in a few spookier themes, so she wanted to share them with you here.
The magic is strong in this Witch Way line drawing with its fun witchy head-topper, complete with striped hat band and star dangle. No self-respecting wizard’s ensemble would be complete without it.
And now the adorable Kitty Witch will don the Witch Way hat and cast a spell of cuteness on you. You gotta wonder just how the hat stays on but best not to question these things. We all know it’s magic…
The devil is in the details in this Not Today Satan line drawing, and boy is he pissed!
This She Devil is just plain goofy. Maybe she’s coyly playing innocent; it’s not a look most devils can pull off, seeing as how innocence really isn’t their schtick…
This little spider came down to your tuffet to remind you to Hang in There. She is very well-intentioned and is only looking out for you. I guess maybe she’s not so little though, she is an Argiope after all…
LTD Tripped Out Motivational Posters
Tripped out… in case you just couldn’t get enough of Everything Everywhere All at Once and the return of the infinite bagel with EVERYTHING on it…
Artwork description: kaleidoscopic image of pink hairy horror (This is actually a fink fuzzy frond plant not unlike a Cockscomb but with longer thinner flowering feelers rather than the fuller protuberances you see on a full-bodied Cockscomb plant. I have no idea what it was, but it was very odd so I had to snap a photo.)
Image text reads: Mixing Magic Mushrooms & Peyote Just remember: once you open that Pandora’s box, you’re never going to get the pink hairy tarantulas back in it…
Artwork description: kaleidoscopic sunflower backlit by the sun with text and rainbow eye overlay
Image text reads: Eye See You Eye See All (in circle text so you can start and end reading wherever). In an ideal context this would be printed in the bottom of your tea mug or on a record that can slowly spin.
For more crazy tripped out fun, check out Weird Al’s post on Craig’s List…
The Elves Reunion, a short story by Jennifer Weigel
I had heard tale that The Elves dwell in these woods. Many underestimate The Elves; they have a fondness of heart for Tolkienesque Middle Earth fantasy stories and tales where Elves are the most highly civilized, virtuous and intelligent. They forget that those are just myths, save for The Elves being cunning. Remember that the Pied Piper was an Elf, and the children he took were not destined for such a glorious fate.
My sister lost her firstborn to The Elves. She hadn’t noticed the Changeling until it was too late. Her baby had already long since been stolen away. She was so distraught she refused to eat or speak. She locked herself in her room. Or my family locked her into it as she succumbed to the madness. Such are the ways of the family, for all of our protection. We never question but follow as expected, as a means of self-preservation. It has kept us all alive.
But I couldn’t get the sinking feeling out of my stomach; the grief became too overwhelming. That is why I came here. I know I will not be able to rescue the child, nor my sister. But I seek to avenge their meaningless deaths. To ensure that it doesn’t happen again. My family will never act. I am tired of the Village Elders just shrugging these things off in hushed whispers and badly shrouded secrets. It happens time and again. We are all expendable. They never do anything.
So here I am, in the Elven wood. Alone. As soon as my family figures out that I’m here, they will disown me. They probably already have. Again, it is for our own protection. I’ll be just another casualty of The Elves. Everything is so structured, so regimented. Anyone who dares act in opposition to the rules vanishes. We are all so afraid.
I lay in wait. It’s just a matter of time before the portal appears. The Elves use the portals to travel across time and space. They appear where and when they wish. But this time, I will go through first. I know not what is on the other side, just that the portals allow only one to traverse in each direction. We will trade places, if only for a moment until another portal forms. Hopefully that will be enough time.
The trees shift and morph. Falling leaves drift slower and slower towards the ground. There is a stillness that I cannot fully express. My breath hangs heavy in the silent air. There is no sound, no smell, no taste. It is time. The hairs on the back of my neck and arms rise. I can sense the opening forming. There is an uncanny familiarity in this moment, as if I have been here before.
As soon as the portal opens, I dash through. But something isn’t right. No one came through from the other side. Or did they? I cannot tell. I am alone, in limbo between states of existence. The world spins around me. I can feel the drift. Is this what death feels like? Cold unbroken silence? I feel distant eyes upon me everywhere, all around me, in the trees, the clouds, pinpoints of light that shimmer through.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. Maybe this is all according to plan. But who was orchestrating the exchange? My idea was only half formed in those passing pensive moments I am able to think for myself, few and far between. My family, the Village Elders… no one allows time for freeform thought. I hadn’t considered what would happen after the portal exchange. I never really got past step one.
A voice greets me from the trees. It is hauntingly familiar but seems only a distant memory.
“I’ve been expecting you.”
The world slowly comes into focus. Clarity restored, the leaves circle me in an embrace. My sister emerges, her dark eyes smiling. She cradles the baby in her arms.
“You made it. You escaped,” she sings.
“I didn’t see anyone,” I retort, skeptical. I hadn’t recalled having seen any Elves, dark nightmarish fiends that they are, wild, unkempt, uncouth. Savage beasts like Pan or Krampus. Is this an illusion? My sister seems so lifelike, so much herself. She is the joyful young mother I had known her to be. Filled with love and laughter. Light dances about her, and she shimmers.
“Not in passing,” my sister clarifies. “You have been living among them your whole life. I had done so as well until the baby was stolen. My heart broke; I had to follow after. That was when I learned the Truth.”
“Why do you think we are so sheltered? Why are we forbidden to do anything? They do so to protect us from the Truth about who and what we are,” she continued. “We’ve spent our lives evading that which we truly know ourselves to be. We were the stolen ones, not the other way around…”
I notice that the portal I came through is still open, reinforcing my idea that no one had passed through the other way. It is as if the portal was opened specifically to call me through. My sister extends her hand, beckoning me to join her. There is a gleam in her eye I cannot pinpoint. She seems happy, but something still isn’t quite right. I’m still uncertain why I am here, in this time and place, as if destined to be present in this moment, in this decision.
The Village has fallen away to the woods. There are no breadcrumb trails to follow home. The idea of home itself seems distant like yet another illusion. Nothing makes sense anymore. I am unsure whether I am coming or going. Two paths lay open before me. Which shall I take?
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