Festival Parking

The Gang's All Here
In Which The Blood/Plot Thickens

When Veronica found me at the hospital, I think I was still in a state of shock. Not that I wouldn’t like to pretend that I respond to death with unflappable equanimity, but the sight of the hanged ghost in the hospital really brought it home. With a vengeance. One’s own death is a shock; being constantly reminded of the deaths of others is swiftly becoming a way of life, intentionally or not. Veronica hinted that it would get easier, and I already feel a mental callous forming. It’s hard to feel empathy to these bitter, screaming echoes of human beings.

Lessons learned — (1) Ghosts don’t always remember what they want/need to leave this world (woman at the beach, man in the bar). (2) Ghosts are doomed to enact their living lives (man in the bar tried to accept my drink). Kind of unnerving to be dragged to the Landmark by Red Arrow Woman, but it was strangely comforting to meet the yuppie and that hopelessly optimistic girl-child. Not that I’d be seen dead (heh heh, very funny) with them otherwise, but…

At least I know that having been dead doesn’t make talking to cops any more (or less) difficult. Nothing makes your morning brighter than peering through the slit of the door and seeing a plainclothes officer, flanked by a Magical Floating Ghost Lady (on a perpetual ridealong?) He asked me a few questions about the White Man and left me alone, but not before his ghostly companion scrawled he knows in red lipstick over my mirror. What he knows is a mystery, but it’s nice to know that they can interact with the physical world. That’s the third thing I learned about ghosts.

Sin-eater is the preferred nomenclature, apparently. The sailor creep gave us a “Great-Lakes-Krewe-for-Dummies” spiel, a lot of metaphoric bullshit about moving on to the Other Side. Sometimes a lake is just a lake. He did suggest that we help a ghost pass on to the other side of said Mystic Fucking Lake. For the sake of my bathroom mirror, I suggested LeMain’s ghost. Although given the lengths that I went to attempting to get her police records, maybe this was a bad idea.

Kaya Sparrowhawk

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Heaven and Earth
The Bargain

The Apostle Islands are not the kind of place I would have expected for a business retreat, but there we were. A starkly beautiful place, though, where the water meets the rocks and the heavens meet them both. Location aside, the retreat was going largely as expected: driving home the importance of initiative, ambition, leadership, and most importantly, team-building. On the second day, as the afternoon was waning, we found ourselves participating in a scavenger hunt, breaking into teams of two to teach us how best to take initiative as an individual while working within a team (or something along those lines).

My team broke up briefly to tackle multiple objects at once, and I went out in search of a ship’s lantern. Sure enough, I found it at the bottom of a small cave. Not too big, perhaps ten feet deep at the most. I thought I might be able to grab a hold of a rock near the lip and lower myself down, putting my toes through the ring at the top of the lantern.

In retrospect, this may have been one of the exercises designed to emphasize working as a team.

Before long, I felt the rock start to come loose, and my attempt to scramble back to the top likely made matters worse. The earth was freed, and came crashing down on top of me as I landed next to the lantern. I felt my breath escape my body before everything turned black. And yet, the blackness gave way to light. Not a warm, welcoming light, but a much colder light than I expected, and bathed in this light was a terrible figure. Skeletal, with space between his floating bones, and his body wrapped in black feathery wings. He asked me why I believed I had been put on this earth.

“To serve the Lord. And honor my family.”

He seemed unsatisfied with my answer, or disdainful, or something like that. I remember his name was Samael, but I don’t remember him saying it. I do remember him telling me that my time had not yet come, and offered to take me back to the world of the living.

What choice did I have? Caught between Heaven and Earth, and seeing that Heaven looked starkly unfamiliar, I chose Earth, although I can’t shake the feeling that I’m not the only once making that choice.

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Johnathan Michaels - Sin Eater

I am now a “sin-eater”.

What is a sin-eater? I, myself, am still not so sure, what I do know is that the world around me is very different.

I can see people, a large number of people, people who I had never seen around before. I see suffering, I see regret, and I see pain. I see that I was given a second chance when many had their first taken away from them in the most tragic of ways.

Mr. Somebody he calls himself, or maybe I call him that, I’m not sure. He seems to be learned in the ways of this new world I have been tossed into. He seems to be its mediator, taking me across the River of Styx into a world of dark oblivion, and yet at the same time I feel like he is a part of me, and has been for some time.

There are also others that I have met, three so far, that appear to have came under these same circumstances across that River into this World of Darkness. One of them I had worked with before during certain seminars, the other two also highly educated persons who I am less familiar with, but happened to meet during a slight moment of spontaneity which was my first bar visit in my adult life, with the exception of the time I visited a tavern for a boss’s birthday which, to my misfortune, would have led to me to one of the large layoffs for that year had I decided not to attend. Kyra, a liberal-minded native-American, and [Shawn’s Character’s Name], who is educated as well, though to me seemingly naive. From what I can gather we have not met on coincidence, I feel like we have some kind of connection, a connection that cannot be explained, not even by those learned in sin-eater ways.

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Johnathan Michaels - Adventure Log 1

I saw the same truck twice.

I set my cruise control to 54mph, 1mph under the 55 limit. That way I could keep my foot on the break in case I had to break on the highway. I drove in the right lane so that people could pass me if they wanted to go faster. I had planned out a time of exactly 28 minutes until I was to arrive at my parents’ house in Elm Grove for dinner, just before 6:25pm, the time when I wanted to arrive for 7 o’clock dinner.

Upon cruising down I-94, I noticed a large, white, unmarked semi-truck pulled off into the exit suddenly appear in my peripheral vision. I was quick enough to spot the stalled truck and maneuver my way around it, keeping my composure as I regained my constant speed of 54mph – the perfect freeway speed. I had a cup of coffee before hitting the road like I always do, just to make sure I’m alert enough to be operating a motor vehicle.

Dinner was nice. My parents had prepared tortellini with ricotta filling along with a side of grilled garden vegetables from the local farmer’s market. I had a glass of coconut milk on the side, since most of my family is lactose intolerant. We conversed about our respective weeks, talked about the weather, and the news. My father mentioned briefly about how he was glad to see less union protesters than in recent months. I agreed. We planned a movie for next week during the evening, allowing enough time for me to drive back to my condominium and get adequate sleep for my work in the morning. Eventually we said our good-byes, and left with intentions to see the new Captain America movie. My mother said one of our family friends Joe might come, “I would be happy if he could come along,” I said.

I turned left on Bluemound Avenue and started to head eastward. It was getting darker, and the lack of street lights part of the way made visibility a bit of a chore. When the speed limit increased, I briefly pressed my foot on the acceleration pedal before going into absolute panic, shooting my foot diagonally and slamming it down on the brakes. I barely had a chance to react before facing a head on collision with the same large, white, unmarked semi-truck that I had seen earlier. My airbag deployed, but my seat belt, which I meticulously make sure I fasten every time before I start the engine, wrapped around my neck until I could no longer see, feel, or hear anything around me.

I awoke to find the EMTs astounded that I had survived the crash. I was unscathed. I was… alive.

It was in that short, life changing moment I met Mr. Somebody. The moment that made me realize that, well, nobody ever has complete control.

Even though I now have a second life, I feel like the glass walls of my world have come crashing down.

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The Morning News Reports a Survivor

I had been volunteering at the Literacy Services of Wisconsin that day. It was pretty normal until I noticed that Maria hadn’t shown up. She was always so great, one of those people who, despite what had happened in the past, knew her mistakes and wanted to make amends.

I think everyone wants to make amends to their transgressions in the past, they just don’t know how or where to start. Maria chose to get her GED.

I decided that I should visit her home. Several other students told me that her son had come back from prison. They wouldn’t tell me what for, but I was sure it wasn’t anything too terrible. Maria was a great person, and there was no doubt in my mind that she raised a fine son. How could someone mean be raised by someone so sweet? I was sure that he had just lost his way and made some mistake. Maybe I can help him too I thought to myself.

As I got to Maria’s house I noticed the door was slightly ajar. I couldn’t tell if anyone was home. There was very little light coming from the top of the steps, and the shadows could have held anything. I called up to Maria “Hello?” but there was no response. I went there to check on Maria and there was no way I was going to just leave, especially with the door ajar inviting anyone inside.

I began to walk inside, still calling out to her from the shadowed staircase. The staircase creaked like in those old horror films. You know the ones, where they show each foot in a close up shot, following each step backed with a long drawn out creak.

As I got to the top of the stairs I could see the door at the top of the stairs, just a small crack with a dimmed white light beaming through the small opening. I opened the door and found the most horrific sight my eyes had ever seen (many futures sights have now made this seem mundane). Maria was slumped over in her chair.

When I first saw her I didn’t understand. An inkling told me what was wrong, but I was determined to talk to her and I refused to allow such inklings to be true.

You have to ignore some of the bad stuff otherwise it overwhelms the good in the world. Plus the good is always worth more than the bad, so it’s okay.

I approached Maria giving her a slight nudge to wake her and see if everything was okay. She spilled over her chair and blood ran. There had been some blood hidden by the arm of the chair, but as I nudged her I must have knocked something loose, or her loose from something, and the blood spilled down the chair. I will never forget the color of her blood, a dark morbid scarlet illuminated by a lowly television. The smell began to overwhelm me as well. I would have gagged if I had a chance, but I had heard something that made me whirl around in freight.

Large footsteps trampled towards me, pounding against the floor like thunder. I turned and threw my hands in front of me but it was too late. Knife in hand he made one swift motion and sliced my throat open. I gagged for a few seconds before falling to the ground. Some people would describe it like a sack of potatoes hitting the ground. I would describe it like a person hitting the ground. A well mannered woman who spends her time volunteering to better the world around her hitting the ground.

The last sight that I saw was the television. I think the character’s name is Stan on that awful show South Park. He uttered “The last thing that you do before you die is…” and as he was cut off by a character pooping himself. Leave it to shows like South Park to make light of something so awful as death, and I know how awful it is, I’ve experienced it.

I awoke later and I saw the television once more. The television once more began to speak, but this time it was directly to me. I didn’t know it at first, but the television was trying to wake me. No, not trying, waking me. It pained me to move my head, but I managed to do so. I turned my head more so out of confusion than anything because I could have sworn I felt my life leave my body. I opened by eyes only slightly, like when you turn on the lights after being enveloped in the dark from a deep sleep, and began to make out the television once more.

The television was no longer a television, but had been anthropomorphically changed. It now had arms, legs, a torso, and wings. Yes, the arms, the legs, the torso, those were all strange, but the wings were truly amazing. They were wings of stained glass. Where they had been connected to the back of him there were large pieces of stained glass. As the sections of stained glass traversed closer to the outer edges, away from his back, they got smaller and smaller. It seemed as though these pieces never stopped, dividing themselves in half until they could no more, stretching into oblivion.

He spoke to me, calling out my name. He offered to revive me, to make me whole again, and reverse this tragic event. I think he mentioned something I must do but I don’t remember much of the conversation. I was confused, scared, and above all dead. Can one blame me for not remembering something from when I had been previously dead? I think not.

He talked and I remember asking questions, but still not truly remembering the any of the answers (even if I remembered anything from what I had asked I’m not sure I would trust my memory on any of it at this point).

The one thing I can remember quite vividly is asking about Maria. I asked him “Why me? Why not bring Maria back?” He answered quite astutely that he had no need for Maria. I had something to offer him, something that I could give him or perhaps help him with. What I could help him with, if he had even said so at all, I couldn’t remember for the longest time. It later became clear and I now know quite well what he wanted from me.

He brought me back to life, healing my wound that any doctor would have deemed a lost cause. I rose to my feet and checked myself. I was coated in blood, slowly starting to dry at this point.

That was the day I died and came back.

I looked at Maria and saw her glossed eyes. They were glazed and staring into the abyss. I hope that she was happy with how she had spent her days at the Literacy Services of Wisconsin, mending her life and aiming for a GED. I had fallen short with Maria, but I wouldn’t fall short again. Not if I could help it.

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The Red Feather

From a leather-bound notebook found in the apartment of Kaya Sparrowhawk, dated 1 August 2011.

Damned if I’m going to go quietly to the fucking spirit world.

One minute I’m doing my damn job, the next I’m … well. Alan J. Asshole over at Associated gives me an assignment, I follow up, I do it, and I’m bleeding out on the pavement with a bullet in my stomach. Teach me to keep my head down. Teach me to regurgitate their empty fucking code and blind myself to the stupidity of it all. Most of all, teach me to stop asking questions. Money laundering scheme? No problem, Kaya’s your girl. And if she’s not, gun her 5’2’’ ass down. Go ahead. Pick on the little Native girl.

Either they were already bugging my computer or Alan is more of an asshole than I thought, because as soon as I air my suspicions about this sketchy assignment, they crash my computer, leaving me with the Swiss bank account number and this creepy message: “Have you seen the man in white?” No, motherfucker. And while we’re in storyland, Morpheus, I’m not taking the red pill or the blue pill. Okay?

And just to get one thing straight. I’ve been hacking since I was sixteen, some of it pretty sensitive stuff, but I have never – I repeat, never – been traced back to my apartment. So when this creep asks me about the view from my window – standard thriller-movie bullshit – I get set to run. I don’t take stupid risks and I don’t fuck around with an enemy I know nothing about. But when this white-suit motherfucker shows up at my apartment? That’s when I panic. Maybe if I’d hid in the basement, he wouldn’t have found me. Maybe if I’d gone across the hall and hung out in Jamie’s place for a while, he would have left me alone. But right then, every instinct was screaming: run.

But I couldn’t run fast enough. He caught me before I even got to my bike, and gunned me down on the goddamn cement. You don’t realize how fucking dirty the cement is until your face is right up against it, smelling the thick nauseating tar smell as you bleed out, eye-to-eye with the ants that will crawl over your dead body as easily as they crawled over your live one. I hated, then – hated everything.

When the focus shifted, when the stars came out and I saw the Bear before the sun went down — that’s when I saw her, naked and gunshot and angry, red feathers channeling her lifeblood away, endlessly. We have both been wounded — she by men in white skin, me by some asshole in a white BMW exoskeleton. And when she offers to help me finish the business left undone, to put the fear of the Great Motherfucking Spirit in that jumped-up white-suit-wearing asshole, I accept gratefully and fiercely.

So I’m left with a Swiss bank account number, a powerful thirst for revenge, and a dead sister-in-arms riding me till I bring the fight to the asshole who did this to me. To us. To all of us.

“Have you seen the man in white?” Yeah, I’ve fucking seen him. And I’ll see him again, before I’m through. You can bet on that.

They won’t see this 5’2’’ Native girl coming.

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