The Revival Operation

*Note from the author: This story was written in 2014. It was partly inspired by the innumerable hospital stays, operations, procedures, and treatments my son experienced after his brain cancer diagnosis. This story was in no way inspired by or relative to the current COVID pandemic. Any comparability is completely coincidental.


Patient 14527 

My case is the only one – the only one – that’s been successful. There were so many unsuccessful attempts, so many abominable screw-ups. Not that the victims were even aware of their predicament. They didn’t know the experiments to which they were subjected. I do. I didn’t in the beginning. But later.

Weeks, months, and years are erased from my memory. They weren’t erased. That’s incorrect. The memories were never there. They never existed because my brain was not retaining information. It functioned at only the most primal level.

I don’t want to remember those days. The Delphic Days they were called. A title bestowed upon that era by the then living poets before so many perished, or rather became exanimate. Survivors tell me it went on for years, decades even. Still, some remnants linger about-rancid, fetid corpses moving around in their rancid, fetid corpse way. 

I was fresh. Only the freshest were taken into captivity for experimentation. Some claim that experiments were even conducted on humans who were alive and in good health. Those test subjects were supposed to have been converted, on purpose, in desperate endeavors conducted by multiple countries’ government health agencies worldwide.

 It wasn’t any country’s government health agency that discovered a cure. That task was accomplished by a team of medical doctors, epidemiologists, biologists, chemists, and a myriad of other specialists working for a non-profit organization. The Revival Operation, almost solely funded by celebrities and other sorts of rich folks who still had money to spend and who didn’t want to morph into putrefying boogie men.

I’d like to specify that I use the term cure loosely. Sure, I am alive, in that I am not dead. It took years for me to reach any kind of semi-healthy state. Life support machines worked my organs, an external device helped regulate my body temperature. My lungs were replaced with lab grown versions. I have a pacemaker. My trachea was invaded by a tube, as was my stomach-for nutrition supplementation. Much of my colon was removed because of necrosis. I suppose consuming human flesh, some of it rotting, isn’t advisable for human digestive health. I’m just regaining my ability to walk without assistance. I’m subjected to ten hours of therapies each week. I’ve had fourteen brain surgeries. I’m partially blind. 

Speech therapy is my least favorite. I struggle to grasp language again, and the therapist spends hours force feeding me all sorts of healthy fare. I’d never lost my ability to chew or swallow, but I’d lost my taste for typical human cuisine. I don’t favor the flavored sprays, or lollipops, or even popsicles-too cold. Meat, that’s what I crave. Raw. Bloody, so fresh I could smell the copper scented hemoglobin as it squeezes through my teeth.  

They won’t give me any. I noticed the therapists are extra careful near my mouth. I’d only bitten once. It was reflexive, totally. Before our session, the therapist had hamburger for lunch. The primal part of my brain detected the scent. Like a captive reptile that  instinctively bites its handler if it smells the scent of its prey on their hands, I sunk my teeth into her soft, well-moisturized flesh. 

    I don’t remember attacking her. I just remember the euphoric taste of hot blood rushing across my wanting tongue, down my lustful throat. The feel of sinuous tendons and muscle tearing under the pressure of my jaws sent me into a frenzy. She screamed. There was chaos. Large orderlies subdued me while a doctor-or nurse or someone, I don’t remember-injected a needle into my thigh. Serenity followed.

All therapies were suspended for a while after the incident. I was moved out of the commons and into isolation. I understand. Research suggests the likelihood of relapse is ninety percent. 

After some time in isolation, I was cleared to resume therapies. My new therapist wears a chainmail glove, and a protective mask that includes a leather neck covering. Despite these necessary, and understandable, precautions the team’s tenacious in their efforts to make me well again. Everyone still living knows what we ghouls are capable of doing. I wouldn’t have blamed them if they’d decided to put a bullet in my brain after that incident. 

    Too much money is involved in my recovery, though. Too much is riding on my being human again. If I could provide proof that a remedy existed . . . it would be an unprecedented success for the Revivalists. And what a goal? To save the species from extinction. The possibility of regaining lost loved ones, giving parents back their children, and giving children their parents back. Spouses could be reunited. Friends, relatives, lovers could all be together again. 

    Our critics say we’re giving people false hope. However, hadn’t my treatment worked? I am irrefutable proof; even with my innumerable medical complexities, I am alive. I am human again. I’m handled with the utmost care because I was the Revivalists’ only surviving specimen. I’m given almost anything to make me happy, almost. They even afford me limited freedom, as far as safety allows. 

Other patients, many battling their own scars-both physical and psychological-caused by my kind are less than amiable. Animosity, name calling. Monster. I can’t argue with them.

*****

    “You belong on a leash,” spits Mrs. Humphrets, a withered, elderly white woman with long white hair and yellowed teeth and skin.  At all times an unlit cigarette rests between her lips. Even with my auditory deficit, I hear the COPD rattling her aged lungs. “Look, this thing is out again.” She points at me with a crooked, pale finger.

    “Put a muzzle on that thing,” says Jeffrey, a middle-aged dark haired man. He still wears his wedding ring even though he’s many years widowed. 

    “You should be euthanized, like a dog.” Mrs. Humphrets again. She’s standing nearer to me. Her lungs rattling in their bony cage with each breath.

    “Please,” I say, demure. “I understand. I do. Please, don’t be afraid of me.” I reach my hand out, but she slaps it away. 

    “Eat it, Bitch!”

    “Don’t tell her that, she just might,” laughs Jeffery. “How’d my wife taste, Mongrel? Was she good?”

    “Jeffrey, I am sorry about your wife. And your family. I had nothing to do with them . . .” 

    “How dare you mention my family,” he sneers, closing in on me. 

    I look around for the orderlies. They aren’t supposed to be far away. They’re supposed to be close by when I’m out. 

    “Why are you here, anyway?” asks another patient. I think his name is Frank or Fred. “You belong in prison for what you’ve done.”

    “I haven’t done anything.” Out of the glass double doors I see the orderlies smoking, far into the parking lot. Too far away from me.

    “Oh, you haven’t?” asks Mrs. Humphrets. “Liar. You’re a murderer!” She reaches out and shoves me with her feeble arms. Had I been my former self, her slight assault wouldn’t have affected me. In my own infirm condition, however, it’s enough to knock me backwards against the wall. 

    Rage churns inside my chest. My extremities become numb as adrenaline fills my veins. “You will not shove me!” I growl and lunge forward. Jeffrey or Frank or Fred takes me about the waist and hoists me into the air, slamming me down hard onto the floor. My head strikes the tile with so much force my nose starts to bleed. I hear shouts, maybe the orderlies. Someone’s hand is in my face, another one around my neck. 

I do the only thing I think to do; I bite. The hand near my face pulls back, blood drips from it. Its flesh is mangled, muscle exposed. Something hits me hard in the head again. I feel a strange deja vu sensation, but I don’t lose consciousness. My eyes fight against my brain’s instinct to shut down. I look at my attackers’ faces.. I look over their shoulders at the staff. A security officer struggles with a man. A nurse screams into a phone. I gnash my teeth again, but this time I don’t make contact. My defensive act is interrupted by a tremendous pain in my back, left side. My shaking hands reach around to feel the wound, warm fluid flows over my fingers. An object is in my body. I pull it out. My brain gives into unconsciousness.

*****

Termination Report: In reference to  Patient 14527 “Jane Doe” compiled by Dr. Theodore Zurich, former Revival Operation Specialist

The efforts of The Revival Operation, although initially successful, proved fruitless. Due to the dangers involved in the research, The Revival Operation was served a cease and desist order signed by the sitting POTUS. The threat of patient relapse is too great. Upon the expiration of the above mentioned patient, she returned to her former feral, cannibalistic state and was terminated via separation of the brainstem and cerebellum from the temporal lobe.

The Revival Operation has been disbanded, and all future experimentation will be conducted by the U.S. Government Sector Z, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as per H.R. Bill Z 001 passed by the 116th Congress of the United States of America.

A Cherub, Queen, Regrets, and My Obsession with Good Omens

good omens tadfield advertiser

Where do I start?

I suppose with the cherub(s). The plural will explain itself later.

Unfortunately, because of Hurricane Katrina, I only have a few pictures left of Jennifer Elaine. No photos left  from our childhood, when she truly resembled a creation of Raphael himself. The artist that is, not the archangel.

Cherub
Cherub (detail from Sistine Madonna), Raffaello Sanzio Raphael 1512

Three of us made up “the girls” of our block. We were the only kids who lived on the block the longest. There were others who came briefly and went. Some of whom I am still friends with in adulthood. But the three of us were “the girls.” Sort of like a more homogenous and smaller version of “the them.”

Donnell (myself), Jenny and Amanda. They are twins, fraternal but still very much identical to the human eye. We were the scourge of the 500 block of Community St. in Old Arabi – just blocks away from New Orleans’s Lower 9th Ward neighborhood and minutes away from the French Quarter (where much of our teen years were spent). For all intents and purposes, that was our neighborhood. We decided who joined our band of merry miscreants and who didn’t. There were kids from other blocks who later became part of our friend group as teens, but as kids it was just us.  We frequently had trouble with a group of boys from the next street over, and I will confidently say we always defended our territory with little effort.

The area from Community Park to the Lebeau Mansion (no longer standing) was ours. We owned it proudly. We rode our bikes to the Mississippi River levee and gazed upon our land. Even if there were other groups of kids who did the same, to us the dominion was ours.

In the early 1990s, we watched filming of Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire* from that same levee. Our levee.

(*Sidenote: Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles are my longest running literary obsession. Those novels and The Phantom of the Opera.)

lebeau mansion
The Lebeau Mansion as it was when we were kids. It had a long history, but was sadly burned down in 2014 by amateur ghost hunters. (Source:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LeBeau_Plantation)

All things pass with time, which I imagine is the natural order of things – if there were a natural order. As we became teenagers, our paths became a great deal disjointed. But we lived across the street from each other. Right across the street. We were still the girls, even if we weren’t always together causing mischief and causing Mr. Otis, the old man who walked his cat on a leash, bouts of agita. 

Jenny & Donnell at Burmasters
Many eons ago, Jenny and I in our regular local watering-hole, where things just seemed right. Long before smart phones and instant pictures, hence the quality of this photo. I’m the one in glasses.

By now you’re wondering where this rambling stream of consciousness goes next. Now I will address the next topic and major intermixture that will help make sense of the finale -my current Good Omens obsession. A novel that somehow I hadn’t discovered until 2019 when it was released as a Prime original series. And which since discovering have fangirled the hardest over in several years.

Queen

The three of us, the girls – myself, Jenny and Amanda – discovered Queen at quite a young age. Part of that was probably because of my parents’ vinyl collection from which I acquired several albums. One of them being the original Jazz album with the iconic Bicycle Race photo on the inner part of the sleeve, sadly yet another victim of Hurricane Katrina.

Did every cassette we had turn into Queen’s Greatest Hits? Well, there wasn’t a car to be had as we were children, but my bedroom oddly seemed to work the same magic. There were albums to be listened to and cassettes to be played and CDs didn’t exist yet. This was the Before Times, people. The 1980s.

We even had a mascot, Freddie Flamingo, which was a plush flamingo I’d caught at a Mardi Gras parade and was rather good at singing Don’t Stop Me Now.

jennyandamanda
“The Girls” as they were known around the neighborhood. Or sometimes “The Twins” aka Jenny and Amanda. Also known as my non-biological sisters.

Queen was a big part of our lives then, and still. Mine and Amanda’s anyway. . .

On November 18, 2003 my cherub, Jennifer Elaine, went to sleep for the last time. She and her twin both suffered epilepsy. She had a seizure in her sleep and it was her final seizure. Death does come like a thief in the night.

Jenny Obit
Screenshot from http://files.usgwarchives.net/la/orleans/obits/1/l-05.txt

Our Song

As kids we were all three inseparable, but I would be lying to say I hadn’t shared something with Jenny that was different than what I shared with Amanda. Neither of those being the lesser or greater. Just different. Love for them both, and I wish I could say unconditional because this is where the regret part begins.

But first, I will get to our song. It will clear up a lot to anyone familiar with the Good Omens Prime series, which is very close to the book but has new elements that I connected with on levels much differently.

One of my fondest memories from our childhood was of myself and Jenny, playing without Amanda this day for some reason. She would get mad at us because we tended to gang up on her unnecessarily sometimes. (Sorry, Amanda!) Probably she had had enough of our shit and went home to play Nintendo.

Jenny and I were running around like the little 10 year old maniacs we were in my backyard, around a table my grandparents had under a patio, listening to what I imagine would be considered an “antique” cassette player. I lived in a double. New Orleans people are familiar with the term if others might not be. My parents and I lived in one side, and my grandparents lived in the other side. Basically a duplex, but in New Orleans everything is different than the rest of America. And our housing conforms to our way of life.  

We were listening to my Queen’s Greatest Hits cassette, if you can even imagine it, and the song You’re My Best Friend was playing. (This was the Greatest Hits with the purple [or red?] cover that came before the Greatest Hits II with the dark navy cover that included more songs from Queen’s later albums.)

RedGreatestHitsQuennalbumcover

Jenny stopped running, looked straight at me with all the sincerity a person could have, and said to me “Donnell, you’re my best friend.” I don’t recall my response verbatim, but I imagine I said to her that she was my best friend, too. 

I only started being able to listen to that song again in the last five or so years. Since Jenny’s passing in 2003, I had skipped over it whenever it came up on my playlist because I couldn’t bear to hear it. That was our song.

Regrets

As I stated earlier in this piece, once we reached our teens, we grew apart a bit. Boys that weren’t worth it got in the way and stuff got really complicated. My two best friends had always gone to a different school than me, so we obviously had friends from school that were not part of our Community St. gang.

Jennifer was always such a fan of mine. Jenny and Amanda both always had the utmost confidence in me, and Amanda still does. I don’t know why. But before I started writing this, I prayed to Jennifer and asked her for some of that confidence now. This is the hard part. A lot of things happened, memories that I will keep in the sacred tabernacle of my mind. My cherub was tempted down a terrible path. And not by me.

Everyone pretty much accepted I was the evil one. It was known. Jenny was influenced easily, and I was normally the one who did the influencing. But at a point, I distanced myself and someone else came and took my place. Someone truly wicked, not just slightly evil in a cheeky, devilish way. Not someone who’d just sauntered vaguely downward. In our youth, I might have taken advantage of the fact that I could get Jenny to do certain naughty things. If I dared her to do a thing, she did it. She trusted me.

I failed her.

Bad.

Soon things were cascading out of control, and I didn’t know what to do. None of us really did. But by God, I should have done more. I do hold myself accountable in so many ways. We weren’t angels in our late teens/early-20s. I was a fool. I should have been more assertive with her. Aggressive even. But I felt betrayed for reasons, and we parted ways for a while.

Just days before she passed, I saw her and talked to her for the first time in a long time. I asked her to come over – from my front porch. Her grandmother was ill, and she said she couldn’t at the time but maybe soon. I said OK and went on with life. All I had to do was walk across the street. I could have easily gone over to her house, if she’d have let me. I was foolish and stupid.
That same week she died.

jennyandholly
Jennifer with her niece Holly, who is now an adult woman living her own life.

“Love of my life, don’t leave me…”

My Obsession with Good Omens

Let me first start with explaining that I am very prone to fangirling. Already mentioned: The Vampire Chronicles (When we first saw Interview With a Vampire as young teens, we decided I was Lestat and Jenny was Louis, because as I’ve stated, everyone knew I was the more tarnished one.) and The Phantom of the Opera.

Not yet mentioned, Supernatural.

Most recently, obviously, Good Omens.  It doesn’t take much of a stretch to imagine that when I saw this trailer I was instantly interested (also a friend of mine who knows I love Queen brought it to my attention):

Did I read the novel twice in the last month? Yeah. I did.

Have I watched the series thrice in the last two months? Yep.

You know what an almost forty year old woman who still fangirls over things like a teenager discovered? Good Omens animatics on YouTube. I didn’t even know that was a thing. It is. I’ve watched many of them.

I know if she was still here, we’d be all over this. Even as adults. And every time I watch a scene with Crowley and Aziraphale, I think of her.

I think of how we’d both read the novel together, and maybe watch the series together. Although at this point in life, we would both be grown with our own families. I can romanticize my imaginary scenarios. They are only imaginary after all.

Because in the series, Crowley tells disincorporated Aziraphale that he lost his best friend, but **SPOILER ALERT** his best friend returns.

Image result for good omens i lost my best friend
Mine won’t.

There is no magical happy ending in real life. Real life is raw and uncut. There are no edits. Things we lose are gone. Only to live on in our hearts and memories.

So make it count.

(This blog entry is dedicated to Jennifer Elaine Lapara April 2,1979  –  November 18, 2003)

 

Achievment Attained: Zombie

New Orleans City Park the day prior to the Zombie Run 5K New Orleans City Park the day prior to the Zombie Run 5K

As those of you who’ve been with me longest know, my interests lean toward the macabre. I’ve been interested in horror films, books, and culture for as long as I can remember. My mother even tells stories of my napping in my toy box as a kid and pretending it was my coffin (because I was a vampire, of course). It probably goes without saying that many of my friends share my interests. Like most nerds belonging to any genre, we would have lengthy discussions about certain things in movies and what not, and one of those things we’d discuss in-depth was the matter of zombie-ism. These were days long before the zombie culture was accepted in the mainstream-or maybe it’s just that more of us have crawled from our crypts to claim our rightful place among everyone else. During these discussions, I’d always declare that in the case of a zombie invasion (this was before the term “zombie apocalypse” was even widely used or even coined, possibly), I would want to be a zombie. I’d rather be one than be eaten by one, you see. Because zombies scare THE EVER LIVING SHIT OUT OF ME! I won’t lie. If I watch a zombie movie, I WILL without doubt have nightmares. I’ve had many detailed nightmares about zombies, and I will probably have nightmares tonight just writing about zombies right now. I love to watch zombie/horror movies and read scary stories (and write them!), but in real life, I am a big old ‘fraidy cat once the sun goes down. I was, until very recently, terrified of the dark. When I used to work dayshift, and I had to leave early in the morning while everything was quiet and everyone was still asleep, I would get into my car with a quickness as I would terrify myself with the thought of a Dawn of the Dead scenario. The problem with zombies is that they’re like cockroaches. If you see one, you know there are more.

zombie_sign

For some reason which I can’t pinpoint, over the last several years zombie culture has become quite popular. Not only with horror fans, but with people who wouldn’t normally be into “that kind of thing.” I don’t know why this happened, but as you can all imagine after having read my first paragraph that my brain constantly being bombarded with zombie related information caused me some unease. It did in the beginning, then like most things, I became immune to the constant bombardment, and the nightmares stopped-mostly. I would like to note that in my nightmares, I have always been the victor. There hasn’t been one yet in which I was the victim of a zombie bite, although in one my husband was bitten, and it ended with us shutting out the zombie hoards and my looking at him with the knowledge that I would have to kill him. I mean. It’s the only way. Also, I was once a zombie crime scene investigator who had to eat the remains of the victims of crimes in order to discover their means of death and catch their killers. Or maybe I was just hungry. I dunno. Analyze that, okay.

La moi La moi

When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in late 2012, and after battling pediatric brain cancer alongside my son for nearly ten months, I was almost totally unable to do more than move around a little and then lie back down again. I was fatigued beyond explanation, and I was in pain. Lots of it. I decided it was time to get serious about my health. I knew I wouldn’t be able to care for my son otherwise. My body was in a very bad state then, physically, mentally, emotionally. My rheumatologist prescribed me medicine to help control the fibro. I started doing yoga again. I started eating well again. Eventually, and slowly with time, I was able to do more than yoga (and am doing much better with my yoga poses now). I’ve lost a significant amount of weight.

Somewhere in last few months information came across my Facebook feed about a 5K zombie run. I’d never done a 5k, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to really run a 5K (not yet, anyway). Even though I am getting into much better shape, I have to be realistic about my limitations. I decided, though, there was no better opportunity for me to be a zombie and set a goal for myself. After all, folks with fibromyalgia feel like their stricken with rigor mortis most of the time, anyway. I know I do. I am fortunate in that although I do suffer from fibromyalgia, I don’t suffer from some other-and far more detrimental-ailments that people with fibromyalgia can have. Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are just two of those. I do have osteoarthritis, early onset of osteoporosis, and mild scoliosis. But, they’re not going to be crippling in the way rheumatoid arthritis or other forms of rheumatic diseases are. Fibromyalgia, for what it’s worth, doesn’t get worse over time. This keeps me positive that I can give myself a better quality of life by taking care of myself-eating right, exercising, sleeping. I stopped drinking (sad face), but it really is for the best, and as the bottle of Amaretto in my pantry whispers my name, I remind it that not only have I stopped drinking but I’ve also given up eating or drinking anything with a lot of carbs after a certain time in the day. (Bad Amaretto! Bad! Bad!) I digress.

Pre-zombie. We had to arrive at 5am for our transformation, so I had to leave home at 3:30am. Yes, I did this willingly. Pre-zombie. We had to arrive at 5am for our transformation, so I had to leave home at 3:30am. Yes, I did this willingly.

I wanted to register for the zombie run because it seemed like fun and I got to set a goal for myself and I got to be a zombie. Win. Win. Win. During the months leading up to the Zombie Run, I trained hard. I knew if I didn’t work hard that I wouldn’t even be able to endure the heat and running after the, well, runners. (Honestly, I let a lot of them go because really, they were in great shape. I told one guy, “I’m not out-running you. Go ahead.” He had like 2% body fat and looked like he ran everywhere just for fun. Free pass from this zombie.) And although I sprained my ankle during that time, I noticed that it became easier for me to lift my son and that I was in less pain after moving him and his equipment around. My fatigue has all but diminished, and I really only sleep in the day when I don’t get enough sleep the night before. (The CPAP machine helps a lot, although it’s left a bald spot on my baldness. In other words, the strap that goes across the top of my head has rubbed some of the hair completely away. I sleep with a handkerchief between it and my scalp now, but it might be too late for that one spot.)

My bald is bald. It's not too bad, but it is noticeable and I can feel the difference when I touch my head. It's like a big divot. On my head. My bald is bald. It’s not too bad, but it is noticeable, and I can feel the difference when I touch my head. It’s like a big divot. On my head.

Zombie Run day came, and I was up with the vampires at 3am since we had to arrive at City Park at 5am. I live a good ninety minutes away. I drank a protein shake with some yogurt and did some yoga and went on my way. My friend, with whom I’d have the zombie discussions years ago, and her stepson joined me for the race. We didn’t really know what all to expect, but we knew some stuff. Like we got professional zombie make-overs from some of the best make-up artists in the area.

makeup Me getting airbrushed
I gave the artist complete creative freedom. I told her she could do something on my head. She was all about it. I gave the artist complete creative freedom. I told her she could do something on my head. She was all about it.
Look out for those fat zombies. They really like a lot of braaaaaaiiiinnnnsss. Look out for those fat zombies. They really like a lot of braaaaaaiiiinnnnsss.
xie&masonzombies Xie & Mason zombies

The artist who did my make-up works at the 13th Gate, a haunted house attraction located in Baton Rouge.

She did a pretty awesome job, I'd say! She did a pretty awesome job, I’d say!
zombieface2 Post-race. My shirt was white. As you can see, it’s a little bloody.

There were also members from the House of Shock involved in our zombie training and blood spattering. When I was up to be spattered, they said no one wanted to roll around in the blood on the big blue tarp that was catching the burgundy puddles. So, of course, I said I would. Then my friend’s stepson did it, too. Because we’re cool like that. It was fun, but I had fake blood squishing in places that were bordering on unsanitary. Still totally worth it.

Blood spattering station Blood spattering station

While we knew we wouldn’t be running the entire 5K behind the runners, we didn’t know where we’d be or that we’d be set in a cordoned off area and not allowed to leave our assigned zombie stations. We got onto a bus and were sent to a part of the park that is just an open field, and it made for some really good chases. I did a lot more running and with not as much effort as I thought I would. I survived the heat and the physical activity, although after a few hours we’d transformed from Dawn of the Dead super-bath salts-zombies to straggling, moaning, slow-moving zombies. All in all, I was very proud of myself for being able to actually chase and keep up with some people. I felt bad going for the kids, so I just hung back and some people were visibly exhausted so I told them to hide behind a tree because I might be an undead brain eating abomination, but I’m still sympathetic.

walkingzombie2walkingzombieIt’s suffice to say we had a great time. We were too tired and hungry to stay around for the after race activities, so we went out to eat where we freaked out no more than everyone. (One lady thought we’d been in a bad accident. I guess she feels the Golden Corral’s breakfast buffet is just that good, and it’s on the way to the hospital anyways?) It was my first time doing anything that physical, at least since I was a kid when I ran around for the hell of it all the time just because, and I was famished beyond words. I was glad the breakfast buffet had two types of bacon (yes TWO types). I was a good girl, though, and my second plate consisted mainly of fruit, even though I was eyeing that chocolate fountain pretty hard.

I just look like I still have zombie make-up on because I was awake for like 20 hours. I just look like I still have zombie make-up on because I was awake for like 20 hours.

I definitely plan to attend next year if there is another Zombie Run. As a zombie, of course. I’m also pretty interested in another 5K that is taking place just two days before my birthday, and it looks pretty intense. The Nola Zombi  run is set-up with a military style obstacle course. I haven’t registered, yet. Yet. According to their website, I still have 84 days 1 hour 58 minutes and 51 seconds.

allthreezombies Zombies do to where sunglasses. A lady tried to steal mine. After I left them in the grass on accident after someone took our photo, my friend spotted them on the lady’s head. She was a real life zombie it seemed, because she was zoned out on something. I got the sunglasses back though. Because they were $4, and zombie don’t play that.

Cursive Curse

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Today I was speaking to someone about her son’s switching schools. She was explaining that she and her husband moved him from a public school to a private one. Apparently, the new school requires all of its students to write their classwork and homework in cursive. We discussed the necessity of learning cursive, or rather the significance of it.

As a person who loves writing, it’s difficult for me to admit that I really don’t see the significance in learning cursive. It’s a good skill to know, to be well-rounded and all. But is it really necessary to force students to use only cursive and to give them bad marks or refuse their work if they don’t? I had difficulty learning it, and frankly, my penmanship is deplorable (as illustrated in my last blog post ). Do you know anyone who writes in perfect cursive?

I do. This chick is a beast when it comes to cursive writing. She also happens to read this blog. I don’t think she’s human; she’s more like some otherworldly goddess of script. Her penmanship is so perfect, I’m pretty sure she went through some kind of writing boot camp. I can’t even describe it. Every letter is the same height and width. Each word isn’t just between the lines but actually on the line. It’s unreal. Maybe she’s a robot.

Barring this otherworldly goddess of script robot friend of mine, I haven’t known anyone whose cursive writing is even legible. Most people’s penmanship looks like a serial killer’s confession letter.

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And then there’s typing. I don’t agree with relying on technology or machines without learning to be self-sufficient in certain areas. But since the advent of the typewriter, our need to learn perfect penmanship has become increasingly antiquated.

I love writing, and I can’t over-emphasize the importance of learning to write. However, in this writer’s humble opinion, learning to print efficiently would be much more effective. At least then we would all be able to actually read what others have written.

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Images:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“It Finally Happened!”

I don’t remember a lot from the past. In the last couple of years I’ve developed this frustrating memory problem that’s hindered my recognition. But there are some things which I can recall in vivid detail.

One of those things is sitting in my childhood friends’ living room and watching this video, as mere adolescents emulating the silliness our favorite band’s members were exhibiting. Yes, we were Queen fans even then. This single was released in March 1991. I was eleven.

It was no wonder why it appealed to us then, what with Freddie Mercury’s Mad Hatter attire, John Deacon’s jester’s hat, Roger Taylor with a functioning tea kettle on his head, and Brian May’s enormous beak and penguinesque tuxedo. And, don’t forget the actual penguins.

The making of “I’m Going Slightly Mad” video-Queen

For sure at the time it was funny and cute to us, and we were enthralled by the song as much as the video.

But Freddie passed away later that same year, and it wasn’t until some years later that I was able to understand and appreciate an undertone in this video of which I was before unaware. Freddie’s heavy makeup and the video’s being shot in black in white concealed how ill he really was. As I got older and my appreciation for these artists grew, I learned that Innuendo, off which this song was released as a single, was Queen’s last studio album during Freddie’s life, having been released only ten months prior to his death.

Now back to the video, a little back story about myself, and why this seemingly silly nonsense is so important to me. As I’ve mentioned, I recall seeing this video with the two best friends I had growing up. We lived across the street, and we knew each other as far back as we can remember. They are twins, and I was a single child. But I didn’t long for companionship because we were always together. Except when we were in school and those annoying times when our parents forced us to go inside for sleep.

The Girls

We played outside until it got dark, and sometimes even after that as long as we were in the front or back yard. I had a turntable and a bunch of my parents’ old records and I’d record them to a tape (Shh! Don’t tell. We didn’t know it was piracy back then.) I had a portable cassette player, and we’d listen to music and run around outside until our parents felt we were calm enough to re-enter the house.

Anyway, we listened to a lot of classic rock (still do), and Queen was on the playlist a lot. We had a plush toy named Freddie Flamingo, and he loved to dance to “Don’t Stop Me Now.” I even had the original vinyl Jazz album with all the naked ladies on the inside jacket, most of whom were not fat bottomed, by the way.

One memory I have is of me and my friend, my very dear friend, running amok in my back yard and listening to “You’re My Best Friend.” My friend stopped running-we were literally running-and said, “Donnell, you’re my best friend.” I thanked her and said she was mine, too, and we got back to the business at hand. There’s a reason whenever I listen to A Night at the Opera I skip this song. Even though I still cry all the way through “’39.”

In our early twenties, my dear friend, my best friend, passed away. Her life had gone in a different direction than mine, and I’d watched her become someone I didn’t know. But she’d rediscovered herself, and we were finally getting reacquainted. I spoke to her on either a Sunday or Monday. As I’ve said, my memory is not what it once was. I was visiting my mom, and I asked her to come over. She declined because she didn’t want to leave her grandmother, who was ill. Later that week, my friend went to sleep and suffered a grand mal seizure. If ever death was a thief in the night, it was that night.

“Whenever this world is cruel to me/I got you to help me forgive.” – “You’re My Best Friend” John Deacon, Queen

I want to show you all more photos of my friends, of us together, but in 2005 Hurricane Katrina obliterated my home town. She took my home and with it all the photos and memories I had of my dear friend. The only ones I have now were sent to me by others who were able to salvage their own photos.

The aforementioned is only one part of why this video and Queen’s music in general is so special to me. A big part. But only a part.

I wrote about Innuendo being released only months before Freddie’s passing, and this video being made when he was quite ill. His health was declining, yet he continued to work and create amazing music alongside his band mates.

What I like most, though, is how happy Freddie looks in this video. He looks like he’s having a lot of fun. I find it such an inspiring attribute, being so joyous and knowing he was terminal. It’s something I hang on to in this time of my life, facing the worst challenge ever and knowing it very well might end tragically. I find inspiration in Freddie’s ability to laugh during that time of his life, the months leading up to the end of his life.

However, “I’m Going Slightly Mad” isn’t the only song on Innuendo I find uplifting. There are several, but one that I find more so than others is the song “Don’t Try So Hard.” This song is profound to me-thinking of Freddie writing it at the end of his life, and knowing it. I find comfort in the lyrics, almost the kind you feel receiving guidance from an elder. Someone who’s been down a road on which you hope to embark, artistically I mean. Except that I’m no musician. The song is one I go to when I feel like I’m running on a treadmill of rejection and literary atrophy. It also helps me focus on what is important, even when I feel
overwhelmed. I’d like to share the lyrics now.

“Don’t Try So Hard” Written by Freddie Mercury and Queen from the Innuendo album released in 1991. Lyrics c/o Sing365.com

Of course reading it is not the same as hearing it, which you can do this way QueenOnline.com or by visiting iTunes or any other place, like an actual record store-if they actually exist anymore. I wouldn’t know because the internet enables me to foster my borderline agoraphobia.

Speaking of using the internet, why not take a click on over to The Mercury Phoenix Trust where you can purchase cool merchandise or donate to help the fight against AIDS worldwide. I’m thinking of our next Freddie for a Day activity. This was last year’s.

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Doodles

If I Could Save a Time Machine In a Bottle

Photo credit: Victor Habbick via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Time travel. The concept has titillated the minds of scientists and science fiction novelists for centuries. Assuming time travel were possible (some claim so) and that there would be no effect on the present or future from outside interference (time space continuum and all that), what would I do if there were a time machine at my disposal?

Firstly, I’m not sure I’d enjoy time travel. I hate to fly, and I have vertigo. Traveling through time is probably similar to traveling into space, a lot of weightlessness and that disgusting feeling you get when your insides are floating around inside of you. It probably involves lots of swirling colored lights and maybe feels like riding Space Mountain on LSD.

Maybe you travel at ten times the speed of light through a tunnel made of LED lights, lightening, and atomic particles. You probably feel like you’ve  been on an airplane for fifty-two thousand hours. Who knows? Scientists probably. But I’m not one.   

So what would I do if I did have the luxury of such said machine, anyway?

First off, I’d like to see a dinosaur in real life. I’ve been to Universal Studios and all, but I want to know what it’s like for real. I realize the danger in this venture. I don’t want to become food for a hungry predator or stomped on by a lumbering brachiosaurus or suffocated in a pile of triceratops poop.

 The trip would take careful planning, and I would probably require a crew of at least ten or so. If science fiction has taught me anything it’s that many of them won’t survive the first journey, and I’d like to have a few left for my next excursion.

After the dinosaurs, I’d probably take a swing through Egypt circa 2630 – 2250 B.C. I’d set up a beach chair in the sand and watch pyramid construction for a while. Next I’d go a bit further in time to take a photo with the Sphinx before its nose wore off.

I would then skip ahead a few years and tell Socrates not to drink the Kool Aid. I’d visit Leonardo and tell him keep up the good work. And I’d like to give Michelangelo a high-five. Maybe we can share a cannoli. Maybe I’d pay a visit to the Bard. But I would pass on the plague. I’d also like to see some real life pirates, even though I’m sure they aren’t as hot or as cool as movie pirates. I’d like to see the debut of Don Giovanni and hear Fur Elise played live for the first time.

I’d then skip ahead a bunch to the beginning of the 1970’s, at the end of which I was born. I’d spend a ton of time in that decade, going to concerts, hanging backstage with my favorite bands. I’d follow Monty Python’s Flying Circus for a while.

I’d probably pop in on myself as a kid a few times. “I’m you from the future!” I’d say. Then the kid me would be like, “Whatever, freak.” But it would be true. So sadly true.

My last adventure as a time traveler would be to convince my parents that I’m a distant relative so that I could whisk the seven/eight year old me to Wembley circa July 1985 & July 1986 to experience two of the greatest shows in rock history.



What would you do if you had a time machine at your disposal?

Ways Not to Impress Your New Boss

Decent work is scarce in today’s world. When upgrading from a not so great job to a better one, there are things that will not make a favorable impression on your new boss(es).

Broadcast your upcoming employment at your current job, to the person who will be your next boss.  This is not helping your image.  If you work in retail, food service, or any job in which you meet the public, there is a level of professionalism that should be maintained. I’ve always thought so, anyway (and yes I’ve worked in both fields). So if you are still working at your current job but have been accepted by a new employer, it’s probably best to refrain from announcing to all present that you will be leaving your current place of employment for greener pastures. Especially not in the presence of the person who will be your next boss. Just like the slogan says, first impressions do indeed last a lifetime.

Put your feet up and don’t pay attention. Supervisors, managers, office managers, and trainers don’t like to waste precious oxygen talking to someone who isn’t paying attention. While in training, it is in a new employee’s best interest to exhibit some sort of interest in the procedures and protocol of his or her new job. Sit up straight and pay attention, or at least pretend to. 

Kick off your shoes. This isn’t the Beverly Hillbillies. Please remain fully clothed, including your shoes, at all times when walking around the office. At your cubicle is one thing, but in the head manager’s office is quite another. I don’t know where this trend started, but I’ve observed it in more than one of my coworkers, current and past, and also while I was still in college. Also going to class in pajamas. Never got that one either.

Be the loudest and most obnoxious person in the room. This one is annoying to not only your boss but to everyone around you. Your new coworkers want a chance to get to know you. Cut back on the energy drinks and take a breath. 

Pull rank. Your dad/mom/uncle/aunt/grandfather/grandmother is your boss’ boss’ best friend. That’s great and probably how you got your job, but keep it to yourself. It isn’t impressing anyone, and announcing it makes you seem like a jackass. If you pay attention and learn your job and do it well, you won’t even need their recommendations.

The Haunting of Dr. Peter Keller

“There’s something I’ve never told anyone, but I’m going to tell you now. It’s kind of bizarre, but you’re my best friend, and since I’m about to die anyway . . .”

“Don’t talk like that, Andrew,” I implored.

“But it’s true, isn’t it? I’ve been in this damn bed for months. I can hardly stay conscious anymore.”

“Okay, Andy. What is it?” I patted his pallid forehead with the washcloth.

“Peter, you’ve got to promise that you’ll try your best to carry out my wishes.”

Andy was seriously doped up; I knew this. The cancer in his brain was way out of control. If it wasn’t the tumor causing hallucinations and delusions, it was the morphine. My time as a doctor has taught me many things, and one thing I’ve learned is to comfort those near death.

“What is it, Andy?”

“This sounds very insane, but I want you to know that I’m completely lucid right now.”

“All right, just tell me.”

“After I die, I’m donating my body to your university for study. When it arrives, I want you to collect my corpse. I want you to re-animate it.”

“Jesus, Andrew!” I exclaimed without meaning to. I knew he was ill, but this was ludicrous. “I can’t promise that. There’s no way. It isn’t possible.”

“But, you’ve attempted it. I know you have. And, you’ve had some promising results.”

“How do you know that?” I asked. I thought I’d done my best to keep my work under wraps.

“I have my resources. Use my body, Peter.”

“No, Andrew. No way in hell.”

“Why? Are you afraid you might succeed?” asked Andrew in a condescending tone.

“A little,” I admitted.

A quiet beat passed.

“You need to rest now,” I said. I’ll be back later this evening.”

“If you don’t do this, I swear I will haunt you forever,” he said as I stood from my chair.

“Andy. . . please sleep. I will see you later.”

I walked out of his room, anxious. How did he know about my private studies? Was there a leak? No one knew of my experiments but me. I thought no one else knew. If someone did know enough to inform Andrew, who was it?

As I entered my office, I quietly shut and locked the door. I went to my desk drawers. The lock was tampered with, and the drawers opened with ease. Marveling, I retrieved my notes from them. Whoever had broken into my locked desk drawers could have told Andy. I still couldn’t think of anyone who would know to search there. Maybe my desk burglar had been searching for something else. For what, I don’t know.

It was a part of my career of which I was not proud, and a part that I was willing to forget. The paper shredder was in my closet. I removed it. I fed the machine page by page of my insane notes. Out of sight, out of mind – I hoped. No one else would be releasing information detrimental to my career, my status as a trusted physician, and detrimental to my freedom from a mental facility. If any medical societies – or the government – discovered my findings. . . I put it out of my mind.

“Dr. Keller,” my secretary’s voice rang out from the intercom and startled me.

“Yes, Eloise?”

“Your friend Andrew Franklin . . .”

‘What about him!”

“He’s passed away in his sleep,” she answered, her voice carried a morose tone.

****

I raced across the street to the hospital, down the sterile, freezing corridors to Andy’s room. The coroner and two other men were exiting.

“I’m so sorry, Peter,” the coroner, John, said and placed a gentle hand on my shoulder.

“But, I’ve only left him an hour ago!” I wailed. “I only left him an hour ago!” I repeated as I collapsed to my knees. “It isn’t possible,” I whispered, tears warming my cheeks.

The coroner’s two assistants helped me to my feet.

“Peter, go get some rest. There’s nothing more that you can do.” I don’t know where this voice came from. I was swooning. Everything around me began to swirl. I closed my eyes tight, then opened them again. Still, the swirling did not cease, and then everything went black.

I was awakened by the warm afternoon sunlight on my face. According to my watch, I’d been asleep for four hours. I was lying on a couch in my office. There was a hard knock on my door, and I started.

“Come in…?” I responded, still in half sleep.

“Peter,” it was Jack, my assistant from the university. “I’m so sorry to bother you right now, and especially with this, but you have to sign for Andy’s body. It’s just arrived at the university’s laboratories.”

“Why do I have to sign for it!”

“You’re the head of that department, Peter,” said Jack, concern in his voice. “Just sign here, and we won’t have to bother you anymore today. You’re very pale. Has anyone had a look at you yet? I suggest you go home, have a drink of whiskey or two, and get some proper sleep.”

“Sure. Thanks, Jack,” I said as I apathetically signed his papers.

“Cancel your engagements, if you have any. Just get some sleep.”

I remained silent as Jack gathered his papers and prepared to leave the room.

“Don’t blame yourself, Peter. Doctors can only do so much. You aren’t God, you know.”

“If I were, I wouldn’t take the life of such an intelligent and young man as Andrew. He was only thirty-five, Jack.”

“Death is not restricted to the old and weak, Peter. You’ve seen enough to know . . .”

“So what! I’ve seen many things. You’ve seen many things. What if the things we’ve seen could have been prevented?” I said.

“That is the reason Andrew has donated his body to research, so that perhaps in the future more people won’t have to suffer as he had. Peter, Andy was my friend, too. I know you’re angry, but don’t take it out on those of us who are still here to help you grieve.”

“There’s a way to beat death, Jack, and I know it. I’ve seen it.” I felt madness creeping into my head.

“You have not.”

“Yes, I have.”

“Prove it, then!”

But I couldn’t prove it. I couldn’t because my notes were reduced to confetti, because I’d gotten a pang of guilt over trying to undo God’s mistakes.

“Death is a part of life that we cannot escape, Peter,” said Jack. “God does not make mistakes.”

“My ass,” I thought, but I didn’t verbalize it to Jack.

I did takeJack’s advice. I eventually made my way home, took two diazepam, and lay in bed. Although I lay wrapped in the coziness of the anti-anxiety medication, something was still haunting my mind. What if I could re-animate dead tissue? Of course, Andrew’s brain would not function. Even if I blasted it with all the electrical impulses in the universe, he would only regain the most basic involuntary actions. Replacing his mind with another’s was out of the question. That would not work either. Any brain that has died would not regain enough function for anything other than involuntary performance. When Andrew referred to my near success, he was referring to one subject whose heart and lungs I’d actually been able to stimulate. I was so disgusted that I abandoned the experiments altogether. I was already risking my entire career and the possibility of being charged with abominable crimes.

With this on my mind, and under the influence of a third dose of diazepam, I fell asleep. My sleep was interrupted by terrible dreams, and I awoke every so often, shivering and sweating. It seemed someone stood at the foot of my bed, pointing at me. I shot up and gazed madly about for this anonymous visitor at my bed.

“Is someone in here?” I asked aloud, but I didn’t see anyone. “Who’s there?”

I still saw no one, but my curtains whipped about madly; the hanging lamp above my bed swung back and forth as if caught in a gale. I felt a sudden chill and shivered. Then, very suddenly, everything stopped. The new motionlessness of everything and silence felt maddening. I realized I couldn’t hold out on Andrew any longer. If there were a way, I’d be the man to discover it.

I should have weighed the consequences, but I didn’t. That isn’t the way these kinds of tales go, you see. Men like me never weigh out consequences; we merely act. We act, and then we cringe and cower from our revelations. But I get ahead of myself.

The streets were empty as I drove to the university’s research laboratory. It felt as if some ethereal being accompanied me. You know that bizarre feeling of being watched, even though you seem to be alone? The hair on my arms stood rigid, and my head began to feel as if someone were crushing it, as if a great vice were gripping my skull. Again, I swooned, and I hurriedly pulled my car to the side. I leapt out like a madman. A passing police vehicle stopped behind my car, and the officer got out.

“Are you all right, man?” asked he.

“Yes, I’m fine. I’m fine,” I answered, my hands shaking out of control.

“Have you been drinking tonight, sir?” The officer asked as he shone his flashlight in my face.

I shielded my eyes and turned away, “No, I haven’t been. My name is Dr. Peter Keller, and I have an emergency at the university. I have to get there right away.”

“Something wrong with your car then?”

“Um . . . Yes, something is wrong with my car. It sputtered and died on me. Thankfully, I was able to pull out of the road in time,” I lied.

“You need a ride to the hospital or whatever, then?”

“Yes, yes that would be great, the university hospital. Thank you.”

“What about your car? Want me to call a tow truck?”

“Sure, yes. Call a tow truck. Have it towed to this address,” I said as I scribbled down my house number and street on a slip of paper.

“Gee, you doctors don’t practice penmanship, do you?” commented the officer as I handed him the paper.

“No, we don’t. Can we go now?”

“Yeah, get in the car.”

The cop dropped me off behind the building, as I’d instructed. When he was out of sight, I removed my keys from my pocket. My shaking hands struggled to get the key into the lock. No one entered the building this way anymore, no one but me. The door slowly creaked open. I was afraid to enter the absolute darkness which lay inside. From my bag, I removed a large flashlight. The spears of light illuminated my path as I rushed to my secret lab. This portion of the hospital had remained unused for years. No one ever came down this way. It was the morgue before they added on ten years ago. Some space was used for storage, but not much. I did not want to be alone in this building, and I truly did not want to be alone in this building with Andrew’s corpse before me on a slab. But, I could not disappoint my deceased friend. Though I was at first skeptical about life after death and any spirit’s ability to haunt anyone, I’d changed my mind.

The place was cold as the arctic. I flicked on the lights. Each fluorescent cylinder fluttered to life on by one, and I set up my workstation. The hum of the machines was deafening. I wished I had brought a radio to drown out the sound.

To retrieve the body, I would have to enter the inhabited section of the hospital. I needed some sort of strategy. There was no way to explain my bringing a corpse down here. I could not rouse suspicion. If anyone find me out, my entire endeavor would  be over.

I walked through the corridors, as casual as always. I nodded to the nurses, interns and students working in various departments of the hospital. I did not notice someone jogging0 behind me to catch up, however.

“Peter, where are you going? Why aren’t you home asleep?”

“Jack! Hello!” My hands were trembling still, and I put them in my pockets. “I . . . I decided to get this over with. I’d really much rather do these dissections now then have to wait.”

“I don’t think you’re well enough, Peter. You’re shaking like crazy. Did you drive over here like this?”

“No, I caught a ride over. I’m fine, Jack, really. I just don’t think I could do it any other time.”

“Then let me come assist you. I don’t think you should be handling any sharp tools right now. You’re liable to chop off your own hand!” said he with concern.

“Please!” I hollered without meaning to. “I’m sorry, Jack. Just let me do this, all right?”

“I think we should find someone else altogether to do this, Peter. How can they expect you to do it? Andrew was your best friend. The director . . .”

“They director has seen so much suffering that he is immune to it by now! I am the head doctor, and I shall perform the procedures!”

Jack stood back and stared at me in wonderment. There were no words, and I really didn’t feel like speaking to him at this moment. For a few very long moments we stood silently glaring at one another. I finally dropped my head and brushed past him, but the stubborn fool followed me.

“Peter, stop! Stop for God’s sake!”

And, I did stop. I stopped and doubled over in a hysterical fit of laughter. Jack stopped some feet away from me; he was afraid of me at that moment. This realization caused me to laugh even more.

“You’re insane with grief, Peter! I’m calling down a psychiatrist from upstairs for you.”

I stopped laughing abruptly and caught his arms in my fists. His face twisted into an ugly grimace, and I put my face close to his. “Don’t you dare,” I growled.

“Peter! Stop this! Let me go!”

We struggled together, finally ending up on the floor. I removed my hands from his wrists and wrapped them perilously around his throat.

“No, now you have to come with me, Jack,” I whispered. “I can’t have you upsetting my plans with your silly suspicions, now can I?”

“What plans? You’re insane!” choked he.

“Come help me get the body. I’ll explain downstairs,” I said rising off of him.

“Downstairs? What in the hell is downstairs, Peter! I won’t move from this spot until you explain this craziness!”

I reached out and grasped his jacket. With a tremendous yank, I pulled him toward me. He cried out. “I said I will explain downstairs,” I growled. Jack’s eyes grew wide and then closed in resignation. I freed him from my grasp, and he stumbled backward. “Now, come on. Be quiet about it, too,” I said. “It’s bad enough I have you tagging along,” said I, straightening my jacket. “Don’t try anything funny, either,” I added.

Jack and I wheeled the gurney to the elevators in silence. His eyes never left me, and I felt like an insect under a magnifying glass. No one paid much attention to us, which made me very glad. My previous fears melted away. I realized that most of them probably had no idea whose body was even under the dull white sheet, nor did they care. It may seem odd that we’d be handling this at three in the morning, but I’m a busy man. There are plenty of nights that I stay at the hospital to catch up on my work. I think the fact that Jack was with me helped, though I didn’t really want him there. I had no worries about him reporting me, however, since I’d already explained that if he decided to do so, I would simply name him as my accomplice.

As we entered my secret lab, in the practically abandoned portion of the hospital, Jack stopped still and stared about.

“Come on, lock the door behind you, Jack,” I ordered.

“What kind of things are you doing down here, Peter?”

I sighed, “I said I would explain, so I will. Some years ago I began to think that as such highly evolved beings, we should be able to conquer simple natural occurrences.”

“Such as death?” asked he in a frightened tone.

“Exactly, Jack. Such as death.”

“You’re talking about the re-animation of dead tissue. You’re talking about playing God, Peter!”

“Perhaps if God does not want us to perform these experiments, He can stop us now, eh?” I said sarcastically.

“I wish He would,” responded he.

“Well, let’s see what He’ll do, then. Help me move the body to the slab, will you? I don’t have much time. Andrew’s already been dead for too long.”

“You realize this is an impossible task.”

“No, apparently I do not realize that, Jack,” I said as I backed him against the wall.

“Put the scalpel down, Peter. You’ll have a hard time disposing of my body.”

“Good point, old man. Good point! Don’t make my task any more difficult than it already is, OK?”

“OK, Peter, all right. Let’s just get this nightmare over with, please, before I vomit.”

Andrew’s body was rigid with rigor mortis; his abdomen was bloated with trapped gases, and his blue lips lay open. As I opened his skull with my saw, his leg gave an involuntary kick. Jack screamed like a scared little girl, and I wanted to turn on him with my instrument.

“There’s still energy in his muscles. That’s good,” I said.

“This is sick, Peter.”

“You’ve seen plenty of corpses kick, Jack. You’ve even had them sit up on you before.”

“I know, and I hate it more every time.”

I attached the wires directly to different sections of the brain. With some blood I’d acquired from upstairs, I set up an IV to replenish the dead tissue. As I was placing the oxygen mask over his face, Andrew’s corpse jerked and spat a great stream of dead blood. Jack turned away, gagging. I rolled my eyes at him and cleaned Andrew’s face.

“It’s merely the release of air, Jack. Don’t be a fool. I haven’t even totally powered up the machines, yet.”

Once everything was in place, and I was sure we were set to begin, I went to each machine one by one. I began with the electrical stimulators attached to the brain, then the oxygen, and so forth. If first results proved promising, I would turn on the life support to sustain Andrew while I finished working.

“Jack, get the defibrillator ready. I think we may need to give him a jump start, if you will.”

Jack solemnly did as I ordered. He handed me the paddles and returned to his spot in the corner, far away from me.

“Clear!” I shouted madly – ZAP.

Andrew’s body jumped a good foot from the slab. I could hear Jack sobbing in the corner, and again I wanted to harm him badly.

“Clear!” I shouted again and shocked Andrew’s body.

It gave another short jolt then flopped down.

“Come on, man! Do something!” I screamed and slammed my fists into Andrew’s chest.

Another great pool of blood spurted from his dead mouth. It covered the inside of the oxygen mask in a dripping crimson stain. I slammed my fists into his chest again, another spurt of blood. I repeated this over and over until finally Jack tore me away.

“Stop it, damn you! Stop it! He’s dead! Why can’t you realize this?”

I tore and growled like a wild animal until Jack subdued me to the floor.

“He’s not dead, Jack. He isn’t! He isn’t!”

“Yes, he is, Peter. Stop this . . .”

Jack’s words were interrupted by a thunderous wail. Both of us jumped to our feet. It was coming from Andrew.

“Oh, Jesus, what have you done, Peter? What have you done?” sobbed Jack.

I raced over to the body. It was definitely wailing in agony. I pulled the oxygen mask away from his face. His body shook as if in hypothermia, and I covered him with several sheets.

“I told you, Jack! I told you!” I shouted with delight as I rushed about removing wires. “Come on, before he goes into shock, we must anesthetize him!” I hurriedly hung up a morphine drip and inserted the IV into Andrew’s vein, which took me a few seconds.

A few seconds could mean life or death. Immediately, I replaced the oxygen mask over his face and instructed Jack to turn up the heat. I would have to replace the cranial cap soon, and I would not be able to as long as the body was nearly convulsing.

“How shall we explain Andrew’s recovery, Peter?”

“Don’t you understand? If we’ve succeeded, we’ll be hailed as heroes! Experimenters only face trouble if they fail. We have not harmed anyone, Jack! We have discovered the key to eternal life.”

“We have sentenced ourselves to eternal damnation, more like!”

“Don’t be an asshole, Jack! Look! Andrew is no longer dead. Come on, help me replace his head.”

“Oh God, what have we done? Forgive me, I never wanted to be a part of this,” Jack said to himself.

Still, Jack helped me replace the skull and hooked up the life support to Andrew’s body.

A long ear-piercing shriek rang out from the heart monitor, indicating that Andrew’s heart had ceased beating. For a moment, the alarm left me dumbfounded.

“No!” I wailed. “No! No! No, no, no!” I again grabbed up the paddles and began shocking life into Andrew’s body, which shook but showed no other responses.

“Peter, you’re going to fry him! Stop it! Stop it!” Jack exclaimed, tearing the paddles out of my hands.

“This is your fault, Jack!” I said, pointing my finger accusingly at him. “This is your fault.”

Behind me were the instruments, and I took up the bone saw without his notice.

“This is not my fault, Peter. This is no one’s fault. Please, let me get you someone to talk to or something. Please, Peter . . .” his voice trailed off as his eyes fell on the tool in my hand. “You don’t want to do this, Peter. Peter! Peter, stop.”

“But I do want to do this, Jack. I was so close, so close . . . and you ruined it!” I screamed so loudly that my throat felt sore. “Jack, listen to me,” I was suddenly calm. “Don’t be afraid.”

“Put down the saw,” said Jack, slowly nearing the door.

“Oh,” I said absent-mindedly, looking down at the saw in my hand. “Oh!” I threw it down. “Jack, Andrew is . . .” I looked about and lowered my voice, “Andrew is haunting me.”

Jack gasped, taking my wrists in his hands, “Peter, you need to talk to someone. Andrew is not haunting you, do you understand me? Why would he want you to desecrate his body in this way?”

“Jack, he asked me to before he died, and I told him he was insane. And, I told him to sleep. And, I left. I left him, and the last thing I said was that he was ludicrous and insane and that I would not do it. I left him and went to my office. I went to my office and I was destroying all of my old notes on . . .” I could not continue the sentence. “He died while I was doing that, Jack. Andrew told me that if I did not try, that he would haunt me forever. And, he has been haunting me, Jack. Tonight, just tonight, he was haunting me in my bed. Then, then he was in my car.”

“I thought you said you caught a ride, Peter?”

“I did catch a ride, from a police officer, after I had to pull over my car. I lied and said something was the matter with it. I lied, but I wasn’t going to tell him that my dead friend’s spirit was trying to murder me in my car while I was driving. Oh no, I wasn’t going to say that. He would have thought me mad!”

“You are mad!”

“I most certainly am not! You think that I am mad, but you haven’t seen what I have seen, my friend. Oh no! I saw Andrew’s spirit looming over me as I was trying to sleep, and he was pointing his wretched accusing finger at me! He was pointing at me as if to say, ‘You have let me down, Peter, and I trusted you! I have trusted you with my life, and you left me and let me die. I have trusted you with my body to give me life, and you have not even tried!’ Then next time, he will say, ‘You are a failure, Peter. You are a failure, and I was a fool to trust you!’”

“Peter, sit down,” said Jack. “Sit down here and wait for me to come back.”

“Where are you going? You’re not going to get the police, are you? Because I am not mad, Jack! I am not!”

“No, Peter. I am not going to get the police. I am going to get my things, and I’m going to bring you home.”

I gasped and grabbed at his jacket, “Don’t leave me alone there, Jack! He’s going to come back!”

“I won’t leave you alone, Pete. I’m going to bring you home. I’ll stay with you, all right? You’ll be fine.”

“Thank you, Jack.”

“Can I trust you not to leave this spot until I return with my things? I can’t have you running around the hospital like this.”

Jack was right, too. I couldn’t be seen like this. My hair was mussed; my coat was covered in Andrew’s blood. I’m sure my eyes were bloodshot, and I probably did look like a true madman right at that moment.

“I won’t go anywhere, OK? I’ll be right here, Jack. Please just hurry,” I said as I glanced at Andrew’s body. “I don’t want to be left alone with it, Jack. It scares me,” I whispered.

“I will hurry. Be still, Peter. It can’t do you anything.”

Jack left me alone with the corpse, and I could already feel the hair on my neck standing. I moved as far away as I could from the body, but it still tortured me. It seemed to be twitching, and I assumed this was the release of the great energy with which I’d filled it. But, it was not only twitching. With a more attentive look, I realize it had turned its head to me. The eyes shot open suddenly. I wanted to scream, but I was frozen in sheer terror. My limbs felt numb, and my adrenaline began flowing rapidly. It seemed my heart would pound right out of my chest. Instantly, my head became very light, and a great nauseous feeling arose in my stomach.

“Peter,” whispered some disembodied voice.

I screamed in horror and shrank against the wall, “Leave me alone! Leave me alone!”

“Peter we’re here to help you, don’t be afraid,” said the voice.

Confused, I opened my eyes. Jack stood before me with a team of psychiatrists.

“You lied to me, Jack,” I said.

“For your own good, Peter,” answered he.

I glanced at the corpse, and it seemed to shudder with silent laughter. I became incensed.

“Look at it!” I shouted, pointing. “Look! It’s laughing at me. Laughing at my failure! How dare you!”

I leapt up before anyone could stop me and raced toward the laughing dead body. Climbing atop it, I grabbed at it and shook it.

“Stop laughing at me! Stop it! Stop it!”

Jack and the four other men tore me away from the body. I kicked and fought, but there was no way I could escape them. There were too many of them and not enough of me.

“You’re all against me! Leave me alone! Stop laughing!”

The entire room filled with raucous laughter, and I wanted to make it stop. How dare they laugh at me!

“Jack, I trusted you! Now, you are laughing at me! Stop laughing!”

“Peter, no one is laughing. Calm down; stop fighting.”

“I think we may have to sedate him,” said someone.

“I’m afraid so,” sighed Jack.

I was not going to allow that! I knew they were planning to do something terrible once I was unconscious, and I would not have it. It was a terrible struggle, but I finally kicked them off of me and got away. I ran out of the open door and down the dark corridor, but I stopped when I ran head on into something. I put my hands out and felt something cold and pliable. With realization, I screamed as loud as I could. It was Andrew’s corpse! I turned and ran in the other direction, but Jack and the other doctors stopped me.

“He’s there! Look that way! Shine a light! He’s not dead; he’s down there, and he has come to haunt me! Let me go! Please!” I cried out and fought as they brought me down and injected me with some sort of medication. “Please,” I sobbed as they worked me into the straight jacket. “I’m not mad. Why don’t you believe me?”

It was futile to fight at that point. I didn’t resist as they walked me down the hallway and into an elevator. In the elevator stood the police officer that gave me a ride to the hospital.

“Where did you come from?” I asked.

“You just ran into me back there,” said he.

“But, I saw you drive away.”

“I only pulled around to the front of the building. I figured you were up to no good. I figured it was something serious, the way you were acting,” he said

“Are you arresting me now?”

“No.”

“Jack, you knew the whole time?” I whispered. “I’m going to the loony ward, aren’t I?”

“Peter,” Jack put his hand on my back, “how many times do I have to tell you not to call it that?”

I grinned to myself. How fitting that I was on my way there. Jack was always warning me of the vengeful powers of karma, or some sort of other omnipotent presence.

The next few months passed in a blur of psychotic medications. I do recall a few things, however. After two or three weeks at the hospital, I was transferred to a private facility. I was deemed incompetent, and Jack was given power of attorney over me, since there was no one else. I believe there was some sore of court proceedings, but I don’t remember everything. My license to practice medicine was revoked after I was discovered. That much I remember. I remember the great disappointment in the eyes of my staff. I also remember the whispers that went on behind my back.

I never did discover who told Andrew about my experiments. I don’t believe it was anyone. Before Andrew was ill, he could have broken into my private desk drawers and obtained any information that he wanted. He was my best friend, and I was disheartened to think that he would pry into my private affairs, but there was simply no other explanation. Everyone was so shocked and astounded when I was finally found out; I don’t believe they could have known.

Jack visited often, and he always brought some news from the university. He was offered my position, but he declined, stating that he was ready to move into a different area of medicine. I believe he said he was returning to school to study Pediatrics – or something like that. He said he’d seen enough cadavers for one lifetime, and I imagine he had.

Crescent

Wrought-iron sentinels
stand side by side,
connected throughout
but for a yawning divide.

Ancient oaks flourish,
their roots grown through cleaves.
The electric rails’ current
moves ‘neath a quilt of leaves.

The archaic and modern
with one another stand
on this soggy crescent-
a sacred and debauched land.

Personal Revelations

I think reading the Good Omens script book is helping me realize things about my own writing and how I’ve been sabotaging myself.

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Yes, it’s already taped in places. I really have no explanation for myself as to why that is.

Of course, I understand, reading any and all books are helpful for writers in their own writing. But honestly, I recently realized that I’ve been taking myself too seriously. Not that I shouldn’t work hard. I need to buckle down and work more, write more, read more. What I mean is until about the last year or so, I’ve been imprisoning myself in a cage where my fiction has had to be one way because that’s the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a long time, I’ve considered trying to publish humorous essays in the style of David Sedaris. His writing taught me that embarrassing personal experiences can make for hilariously good writing. My life is steeped in embarrassing personal experiences.

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The first David Sedaris book I ever read. I bought it on a whim because of the title, telling my husband this book was for me because I was actually engulfed in flames once. (More like struck with a flying ball of flame, but still burned nonetheless.)

In the sort of “personal essays” I  write for my blog, I use humor freely. My obstacle in my fiction writing is that I have been stuck in a mindset that I can’t be too silly. And to those who know me best, Donnell being not silly, is like “What the fuck?” Because the Donnell everyone knows is silly as fuck. There have been two things I’ve been told for a long time: That I’m funny and that I am good at story telling/manipulating language in a way that makes people want to read/hear my stories. It’s just that I’ve been too stuck the last several years on different editors’ submission requirements, and trying to shape my writing to fit particular magazines’/journals’ expected styles. However, reading Neil Gaiman using a phrase like “glares glarefully” and reading in his intro where he explains he added jokes into the scene descriptions that didn’t exactly amuse the TV production folks, made me realize I’ve been going about this all wrong for too long. I have been thinking this about my writing method for months, but reading the Good Omens script book has really opened my eyes about it. Of course, as always, there’s a Queen song that goes along with my story. (Because, in case I forgot to mention it a million times, I’ve been obsessed with Queen since I was a kid.)

“Oh, don’t try so hard. Oh, don’t take it all to heart.
It’s only fools. They make these rules. Don’t try so hard.”

On the album Innuendo, recorded from March 1989 to November 1990 and released in February 1991, there is a song titled Don’t Try So Hard. Written by Freddie Mercury, when he knew he was at the end of his life. It’s an amazing song. For years I’ve listened to it and related to it in different ways depending on my current life situations. It’s been stuck in my head a lot lately. It’s been in my head on and off over the last 7 years during AJ’s illnesses and disabilities, thinking it was maybe telling me that I’m overworking myself in that arena- the role of primary caretaker. So many people tell me all the time how well AJ is doing and has done, and that it’s because of me. But, they also make sure to tell me to take care of myself, too.

In the last month or so, though, I’ve really finally opened my eyes to the idea that I’m hurting my writing by trying too hard. Don’t Try So Hard is a song written by a man who knew his life was ending, and who had one of the most prolific careers in entertainment ever. So what is the song telling me? Or more accurately, what is my unconscious telling me via Freddie’s voice right now at this point in my life? I really believe it’s that I have to relieve myself of the chains in which I’ve bound myself regarding my writing. I have to let my mind do its thing- be silly and tell stories. Not that I can’t or won’t write serious material anymore. It’s just that I’m not a dramatist. That’s not me. Comedy gets little recognition in entertainment, except from the audiences. I’m not writing for editors who want “literally fiction”, “speculative fiction”, and whichever of the other hundreds of preferred types containing some kind of deep meaningful societal dialogue; I’m writing for the audience. For you, the readers.

Monty Python has taught me that comedy can still make people think about deep shit.


You can laugh and contemplate the universe at the same time. Douglas Adams taught me that, too. And most recently, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens (because somehow I hadn’t learned of it until 2019, which I’m frankly embarrassed to admit).

Still there are times you just have to go in for the laugh, and that’s great, too. Laughing is fun. I love making people laugh. It’s probably my favorite thing to do while interacting with others.

I’ve realized I’ve been trying too hard, holding my own head under water trying to fit a model that I’m not. It’s time to remedy that.