Akiak

image.jpegThe dogs could not continue. Their boots were riddled with holes and every attempt to encourage them was disheartening. The lonesome crags to the east were foreboding while the sky to the west served as a warning. A frothing blizzard gathered in the distance. I had one hour, maybe two, before we would be lost in the snow and ice.

 
I leapt off of the sled and untethered the dogs. Taking their abandoned leads, I began to pull. The ice coated ground maintained an impressive grip on the skids. As I gained traction, the sled inched forward. I sighed and continued to haul the sled. My celebration was short-lived; the air temperature was rapidly plummeting. I brought the sledge towards a snow drift and began to dig out a cavern.

 
The dogs circled the sled as if to form a protective barrier. As I carved out our crude shelter, ice clung to my mittens and slowed my progress. I threw them aside and continued. The snow resting on top of the ice began to vibrate as the fast approaching storm unleashed its fury. The huskies began to whimper, but Akiak lovingly peered in on the contents of sled’s animal skin covering. I had no such pleasure. I had no time to spare. I pawed away at the layers of snow and ice until the front of the storm was a hundred yards out.

 
I peeked into the sled covering and saw my wife fast asleep. Her vibrant face was overpowered by the red of her fever. Her hands rested on her belly, always protecting our child. I shoved the sled into the cavern while Akiak led the anxious team into the shelter. I scooped snow around the opening so that we would be as enclosed as possible. I shimmied out of my seal-skin coat and placed it over the hole so that none of the storm’s hells could persecute us.

 

 

I curled up against Akiak’s warm fur and took the sewing kit from the provisions sack that dangled between the sled’s handles. I set to work patching the dogs’ boots by taking material from the ankles of my pants. We had to make it to Nome once the storm had passed and the sun started it ascent.

 

Alaskan Blizzard Photograph

Metal Loopholes

The metal sheet was abnormally hot and had been vibrating ever since I entered the city. Neither water nor electricity had an effect on the card’s warmth and movement. When the card was thrust into my hands three years ago, my only guidance was to find the symbols. Now, I could only hope that the abrupt changes meant that an end to my quest was fast approaching.

 
imageI glanced up and saw an image forming in the sky. I hurriedly wove through people on the bustling sidewalks and dashed through crosswalks to reach it. I stopped at the base of the Willis Tower and craned my neck to see that the symbol was directly above the antennas. I burst through the doors and pounded up the seemingly endless flights of stairs. I stepped out onto the roof to see that someone was already there.

 
She shot me a cold, concerned glare and anxiously beckoned me forward. We stood shoulder to shoulder and she flashed me her metal card. The brilliant sunlight glinted off of our cards as we cautiously examined each other’s. As we exchanged engravings, the cloud above us was torn apart and I blacked out.

 
I found myself gasping for air on a dock. I had returned to that fateful night, except that I was the old, dying man thrusting the mysterious metal into the unwilling hands of another.image

 

Willis Tower Photograph

Dock in Fog Photograph

Goin’ On Up to the Asylum in the Sky

A light flickered on and off above my head. My arms and legs would not move. I could send impulses to my muscles and they would contract, but every fiber of my being was cemented in place. I attempted to swing my body forward and break the invisible chains. I continued to throw myself in every direction and gradually regained motion. Starting with my pinkie, I progressively transferred the mobility to the rest of my body. Once all of me was free, I tried to locate a door. I stumbled through a space that was defined by alternating periods of absolute darkness and dim light, but I couldn’t find a structure of any kind.

 
I panicked and began to sprint. I didn’t worry about crashing into a wall, I had to get out. With each stride I took, I hoped that I would collide with something. The timing of my footsteps’ echoes changed and I prayed that it signified I was close. Close became too close and I was laying on the ground cradling my head with my hands.

 
I staggered to my feet and headed forward in search of the object I had rammed into. I extended my arms and was quickly greeted by a cold barrier. I frisked the surface of the wall for any unordinary features. My search revealed nothing and I rested my head on the rough material. When I opened my eyes I saw my house just beyond the now translucent retainer. It was surrounded by strangers. I withdrew from the wall and was alone in the pitch black arena. Gasping, I placed my face back on the facade and watched an unfamiliar family play in the yard.

 
I pounded my fists on the surface. I kicked and thrashed about. Nothing I did had an effect on the barrier. I collapsed and found cruel comfort on the floor. I stared into the floor and saw dark clouds obscure the earth far below.

Phoenix of the Seas

The boat took on too much water. Several small fish scurried about in the disappearing hull. Then my pitiful sail boat rocked to port and my only water bladder rapidly descended into the depths. With a final lurch, the boat vanished under the waves.
I swept my arms though the water to collect my provisions before they joined the water pouch or drifted away in the swift currents. I fished a life preserver from the ocean and placed the sinkable goods on it while lashing the buoyant items with the buckle straps. I would not allow the dark Pacific waters to steal anything else from me.
I treaded water with my forearm snagged in the preserver’s mesh. I was able to delay the inevitable, but I could not prevent it. My legs began to tire and my head barely bobbled above the surface. A few gulps of salt water found their way into my mouth and I violently sputtered them out. My nose kept falling below the surface and each upward thrust was becoming decreasingly powerful. I could not continue. My stores of strength and will had been expended. I cast my measly cache of goods into the waters and donned the life jacket.
My vision had been reduced by the salty water that rushed into my eyes. The crisp, blinding sun that had been overhead was only a blurry, radiating semicircle on the horizon. Stress, salt, and exhaustion weighed on my eyelids until I couldn’t hold them up anymore.
I was startled awake by a swell rising from below. The bubbling uprising brought my water bladder within an arm’s reach and I grasped at the straps until it was mine. I unscrewed the lid and gave my dehydrated body some relief. As I finished drinking, a broken mast gracefully pierced the surface and pointed to the moon. The crushed hull followed minutes later.

 

Bewildered, I sat on the mangled deck. The skiff continued to rise as the swell quickened. Waves radiated out from under the boat. The water morphed into a magnificent geyser as a guttural groan emanated from below.
I watched, in horror and exhilaration, as shoots of rock grew from the salty expanse. The segmented tendrils curved inward until they joined each other. The platform lifted my destroyed craft completely out of the churning waters. The rumbling continued for hours and I dared not leave my skiff until it stopped. When the growls finally ceased, I sat fifty feet above the violent waves. I gingerly took my foot from the torn deck and placed it on the rock.

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Hands From the Ocean Photograph

Anything…

“Anything. Anything. Anything. Anything.” I chanted in an attempt to ward off my anxiety. The needle was in and the drugs would soon follow. I silently watched as gravity brought the blue fluids into my arm. All feelings of unpreparedness and tension rapidly faded into a soothing warmth. Anything would be possible. Anything…

 
I felt a ripping, searing sensation course through my veins. I tried to release an agonized scream, but nothing escaped my lips. The lava continued to flow within me and I remained paralyzed. Nothing was under my control. I was left to endure the pain.

 
AuraSuddenly, an aura of colors exploded before me and the pain ceased to torment me. I slowly relaxed and began to look around. My land of anything was, in fact, nothing. I was surrounded by nothingness. My lungs took in no air and my eyes found no sights to gaze upon. I couldn’t fully perceive myself among the vast emptiness.

 
I could sense some surface under my feet, but its cold, blackness was unfamiliar. I threw myself onto it as grief racked my body with relentless sobs. There was nothing I could do. My tears formed a puddle; my sorrow allowed me to create something in the land of nothing.

 
I laid there, in my creation, and waited for something in nothingness. Time was irrelevant and incomprehensible; I couldn’t measure it. I could only hope that the medications would wear off soon.

 
Although the need for air was suspended in this purgatory, pain was not. The surface that I had sprawled out on was unforgiving. My shoulders and hips ached and the inconceivable cold left me in shivering fits . I yearned for a bed with warmed sheets and fluffy blankets. I would have to suffice without. Fortunately, the bitter cold and my rhythmic shivers lulled me into a light sleep.

 
While my slumber had made me oblivious to my condition, my state had not improved. The infinite darkness still surrounded me. I peered out into the nothingness and hoped that I would catch a glimpse of something, anything. Then, I felt a radiating warmth on my back. I turned to see a room, my room, with a bed in the center. It was just as I had imagined it.

 
BeachThe warmth became overpowering and it reminded me of a day in Haiti when the breeze didn’t blow. My mind wandered to memories of that mission trip and resting on the beach after our work had been done. In an instant the sun was glowing over my head and my toes squished into wet sand. A gentle wave rolled over my feet. I looked out over the water and only saw an expanse of ocean. A few palm trees swayed in the wind a couple yards behind me.

 
But the beach had not vanquished the nothingness. My room was beyond the palm trees with a strip of nothingness separating the two existences. I had two pieces of anything, but the nothingness began where anything stopped. I stared at the ocean and then at the nothingness behind me.

 
Where would I start and when would I end? Nothing but lost time would tell.

 

Aura Wallpaper

Haitian Beach Photograph

Terminal Relationship

 

Indianapolis IAHer perfume had strong fruity notes, yet it wasn’t overpoweringly sweet. The soft thud of high heels echoed in the concourse as she took a seat a few rows away. She tossed her bag into a chair and began to search through its contents. She gave up after a few rounds of rummaging and sent a cascade of pens, change, and keys plummeting into the chair. She continued to jostle with the pile of items until she found her prize.


I heard the click of a lock screen and a blitzkrieg of messages flew from her fingers. While the pads of her fingers thumped the screen, her nails produced a horrendous clacking. After a bombardment of sent message whooshes, she returned to her dispelled belongings and whisked them into the bag.


Soon, she received a phone call. She released an exasperated sigh and stormed past me to answer it. She swiftly paced about the rows of chairs while the ringtone continued to blare. With another nail clack, she began her dreaded conversation. The phone call promptly evolved into a screaming match. The caller was an irate mom: there is no other human noise that is more distinguished than that of a seething mother.


“I don’t care Mom,” a youthful voice hissed.


“Shana! You’ve been gone for a week!” The mother ranted.


The woman walked further away and her voice faded to whispers of rage.


“No. I’m not coming home and that’s final!” Shana vented before releasing a squeal and ending the call.


Her high heeled trot was accompanied by sniffling. Shana’s approaching footsteps revealed that she was too close to my line of chairs. I had left my bag slightly jutted out so that it would be easier to grab. But it was evident that the enraged woman was not attempting to avoid the obstruction. I quickly leaned over and reached for my duffel. I was able to catch the shoulder strap, but I was too late to prevent her from stumbling.


She tripped on the bag and tumbled into my lap. I grabbed her arm and began to help her up. She violently shook me off and pushed me down into the chair. The force was enough to send her to the ground.


“Geez man,” she scoffed. “If you wanted a dance that much, you should have just gone to the bar.”


She slowly got up and started tapping a foot. I bet her nostrils were flaring while she heavily puffed.


“Well?” She demanded.


I began to formulate a defense when my thoughts were interrupted.


“Flight 1901, we are now boarding. All passengers with disabilities and families with young children may come up to the kiosk to board the plane. Thank you,” a flight attendant’s muffled voice informed the passengers.


“Excuse me,” I politely answered. I pulled my cane out from my jacket sleeve, adjusted my sunglasses, and began to feel around for the duffel bag.

 

Indianapolis International Airport Photograph