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Note:  This is the Point of View of the antagonist, Jackson.

 

 

Old man Ross couldn’t have taken longer inside the store.  I tried my best to keep my distance as I followed him.  My fingers tugged at the loose strings of my sweater, tattered and torn, just like my insides felt.  I cursed myself for wearing such heavy clothing during 95º heat, yet I didn’t have much of a choice.

I waited patiently beside my van as the object of my rage and hatred walked toward his car.  He didn’t deserve that Impala.  It should have gone to me, not to my dad’s war buddy.

I could feel adrenaline coursing through my veins like nitroglycerin as I pulled the gun out, which I had successfully concealed beneath the waistband of my jeans. 

“Stop right there,” I tried to project my voice and sound stern and strong, yet I feared I sounded weak.  The voices inside my head continued to taunt me and say that I was a failure, and that I couldn’t do it.  My dad’s voice was the loudest, and no matter how hard I tried, I could never ignore it.

He called me son and protested; yet his so-called term of endearment only fueled my anger.  “It’s too late for that, old man,” I spat.  “Get in your car, and listen to my directions.  Or else you’ll never make it to that party.”

I had anticipated more of a fight from the old man, yet received none.  I knew his son Ed well, and worked with him often down at the funeral home.  His son was a doctor, and I was simply an assistant.  Ed had mentioned his son Abel’s birthday party, and I knew instantly that it was the perfect time to track down Ross and confront him.

He drove too slowly for my taste, yet I remained patient as we made it to my dad’s house in Buckridge.  I ushered him out of the car with some force.  He needed to know that I meant business.  I rolled my eyes as he stumbled and I pressed my gun against his back.  “Come on, come on, get inside.”

He made some insignificant talk about cutting him some slack, yet I wasn’t having it.  I kicked the back of his leg, which sent him into the dirt.  It was befitting, for he was just as significant as dirt, if not less.

After getting him inside, I struggled to pull the zip tie around his wrists.  I knew he was old, yet he still looked like he held onto at least some of his former strength.  I let him know that I was going to the shed, since my dad’s tools were there.

I was going to make him feel the same pain as I felt when the soldiers in uniform walked up to my front door and told my mom and I that my father had been killed in action.  I was going to rip his heart from him, just like he had done to me.

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Note:  This is the Point of View of the protagonist, Ross.

 

 

I couldn’t wait to get home for my grandson’s birthday party.

He was going to be turning six, and I promised my son and daughter-in-law that I would be there.  It was a sweltering day in one of Georgia’s most unforgivable summers.  I hit the grocery store on my way to the party for some last-minute items.

I went through each aisle to gather soda, chips, and also picked up a card that I thought Abel would like.  After checking out, I made my way to my Impala that I, regrettably, parked far away.  I was getting old and staying in shape wasn’t that easy for me.  So making small changes like walking farther to my car made a difference, or so I liked to think.

“Stop right there,” a voice said, and it took me a moment to decipher whether or not I was the one being addressed.

I looked around and saw that I was the only car parked in the area.  Damn, I thought.  I turned around slowly with my bags still in my hands and faced a man wearing a camouflage sweater and a hat pulled down far to shield his face.  His hand was extended, trembling slightly while trying to point his gun at me.  “Son, this ain’t a good choice that you’re makin’,” I began, yet he laughed nervously.

“It’s too late for that, old man,” he said.  “Get in your car, and listen to my directions.  Or else you’ll never make it to that party.”

I did my best to maintain my composure.  Fear that he knew my family and my plans gripped me tightly, yet I did as he said.  I followed his clear directions while on the road and ended up at a small ranch-style house in the middle of nowhere.  The closest landmark I had picked out was Clearwater Springs, a nice place to call home, or so the sign said.

The young man ushered me out of the car and I ended up stumbling due to my weak knee.  I muttered a curse under my breath as he jammed the barrel of the gun against my lower back.  “Come on, come on, get inside.”

“I ain’t as young and nimble as you are, junior.  A little respect for your elders would be nice right about now.”

He kicked the back of my bad knee and I fell forward onto the ground, dirt and dust spiraling around me.  I bit my tongue as I had been taught as a kid, knowing all too well that my tongue could be my downfall.  After all, that was often the cause of death in my family.  I sensed the man’s strength as he pushed me along, and decided the smart decision would be to not fight my way out of this—at least not physically.

I mulled over things as we walked into the house.  It smelled of wet dog and rotting chicken.  There were many pictures up of a man in uniform, who seemed to have fought for The Union back in the Civil War.  Other pictures were newer, and didn’t hold as much character.  I didn’t know who the people in the frames were, and still hadn’t seen the young man’s face to make any sort of comparison.

He shoved me down into a chair and pulled my hands behind the back of it before enclosing my wrists with a zip tie.  He checked the tightness of it and muttered under his breath as he got back onto his feet.  “Alright, I have to go get a few things from the shed before I get to work here.”

As he walked away, I turned around as best I could in the chair and caught a glimpse of his face as he removed his hat.  He wiped the sweat off of his forehead as he walked out.  He looked vaguely familiar, if my declining memory served right.  I spun around some more, my gaze landing on a jacket with a nametag on the front.  It read, “Rogers.”

Jackson Rogers, I thought with a grin.  “Well I’ll be damned.”

I deeply regretted faking an injury during gym class in school, because now, I could barely breathe while I was running down the sidewalk.  My lungs, and not to mention every muscle in my body, were on fire.  It felt like nitroglycerin was being pumped into my veins and into my muscular tissue.

Everyone on the street stared at me like I was a lunatic, and perhaps I was.  Three abnormally large dogs, all of which looked like mutant Dobermans, were currently chasing me.  They were barking and growling, and I resisted the urge to look back.

“Watch it, lady!” Someone shouted.

“Excuse me, sorry!”  I shouted at a stranger after I physically pushed them out of my way in order to run down an alley.  There had to be somewhere to hide.  A dumpster, maybe?

I looked around as I sprinted down the alley, yet no dumpsters were available for my hiding purposes.  I did, however, find an old iron ladder attached to the side of a brick wall, leading to the rooftop of the building.  I looked behind me and saw the dogs, their eyes red and wild, and screamed as they launched toward me at full speed.  I jumped up to catch onto the ladder’s rail-like steps.

I hurried upward until I heard a screeching sound and felt the ladder sink back down a few inches.

“No, no, no!  Come on, I’m not that heavy!”  I screamed, to no one in particular, as the lightweight frame resisted supporting me.

The dogs below jumped up and violently gnashed their teeth, all of them barking so loudly that it began to hurt my ears.  The ladder continued to wiggle and weaken with my weight, and I prepared for it to give way completely. 

Boom!  Boom!  Boom!

I heard gunshots within a few feet of me, followed by the dogs yipping and howling.  They ran off down the alley until disappearing into thin air.  I looked around, feeling slightly disillusioned.

“Just what the hell do you think you’re doing, running from Hell Hounds?”

I looked up to see a man leaning over the edge of the rooftop above me, blinking a few times.  “What?”

He rolled his eyes.  “Hell Hounds, you dunce.  Those things that were just chasing you and about to drag you to Hell.”

I laughed and carefully descended back down to the ground.  “Right, okay Mr. Crazy.  Those were just dogs.  Albeit abnormally large, they were just normal dogs, nonetheless.”  I brushed my dirty palms against my jeans and looked up again, yet the guy was no longer there.

“Right, because normal dogs usually have red eyes,” a voice whispered behind me, causing me to jump.

I spun around and met a pair of narrowed gray eyes, which not only seemed to study me, but also seemed to be criticizing me.  “Blame rabies.”

“Normal dogs don’t run away that easily after being shot.”  He held up a large rifle in one hand, the other messing with his shaggy mop of light brown hair.  “Come on, Ellie, this detour has made us late,” he grabbed my wrist and yanked me forward, my head accidentally bumping into his shoulder.

I screamed and pulled away from him and tried to pry his fingers off of my arm.  “What?  No!  Let go of me!  Stop!”

He groaned and tightened his grasp.  “You have the strength of a newborn kitten compared to me.  Stop shouting, you’ll look crazy.”

I continued to fight and shout at the top of my lungs.  “No, people will see that I’m being whisked away by some strange guy with a gun!  Help, somebody!  Let go of me!”

“People will see?”  He threw his head back and laughed as he dragged me toward the dead end of the alley.  “Nobody but you can see me.  That’s why nobody helped you out with the Hell Hounds; they just thought you were some college kid tripping on LSD.”

“LET GO!”  I kicked the back of his leg behind his knee, which startled him and made him loosen his grip enough in order for me to wiggle free.  I ran away from him toward the street, my heart beating rapidly.  I looked back to see how close he was to catching me, yet I ran straight into someone’s chest.

His hands grabbed me tightly by the shoulders.  “We could have done this the easy way, Ellie.  But you’re like your mother; completely stubborn.”  He placed his fingertips against my forehead, and I slowly felt myself fade into unconsciousness. 

It was just one of those nights.

It was one of those nights where nothing felt right.

It was one of those nights where there was a silent ache inside of my heart, and I felt empty.  I felt alone, no matter how hard I tried to feel otherwise.  I longed for happiness, even though I couldn’t remember what it was like to be truly happy.  Every fiber of my being screamed for me to cry, and was in pain from holding everything in.

But I couldn’t.  I held on to the pain, for it was all I knew anymore.

 

She was everything I had wanted to be, and more.  Her eyes shone with some sort of inner light and happiness.  The light she gave off was beautiful, for lack of a better word.  She was a captivating soul, and her gaze continued to hold me prisoner.  I did not mind, though.  And although I have credited myself with a wild imagination and a gift of exaggeration, I promise that all of these words are simply understatements.

Her name didn’t matter, nor did mine.

For the evening, we were simply two beings meshed into one with the sound of waves softly kissing the shore.  She didn’t say much, and rarely talked about herself, yet I still felt as if I understood her.

“It’s strange, isn’t it?”  She suggested as she lay back on the sand.

I could only nod as I struggled not to stare.

She seemed to know me well, though, and sensed that I wasn’t paying attention.  “Liar,” she mused and nudged my hip with her red-painted toes.

I smiled sheepishly.  “I’m sorry.  I find that I get easily caught up in the sound of your voice and I forget to pay attention to your words.”

“I guess that qualifies as a compliment.”

I shoved my hands into the pockets of my flannel hoodie, my mind fumbling for words while my fingertips tugged at loose thread.  “I would hope so; it was meant as one.”

“Aren’t you just a charmer?”  She flashed a knee-weakening smile, and I felt grateful to have been sitting down.  I shrugged and thought of lying down next to her, but my insecurities sank into my body and my mind like cement, which kept me still.

She’s a gorgeous creature, you dunce cap.  You hardly deserve to be in her presence.  Don’t be an idiot and try anything.  Just try to sound at least somewhat intelligent.

“So, your name is—“

“Look!”  She sat up and grabbed my upper arm as she pointed away from us with her free hand.

I looked around, trying to see what she saw.  “What is it?”

She scooted closer to me, our hips and shoulders touching.  I tried hard to ignore the shivers crawling up my spine, and told myself that I was just being extra sensitive, and that her body next to mine didn’t cause fireworks, or gastrointestinal butterflies like romantic films claim.

“Crabs are crawling out of the sand all over the place!  Look at them!”  She squealed, and a huge smile found its place on my lips.  “Aw, they are so cute!”

She was the cute one, in my humble opinion, not the crustaceans that inhabited the beach.  Regardless, I nodded in agreement.  “Yes, I suppose they are.”

“They look like they’re trying to find each other.  To reunite as friends, or lovers, or something.”  She sighed, and I could sense a feeling of longing radiate from her.  “What do you think?”

She looked up at me with her mesmerizing, doe-like hazel eyes, and I lost all ability to formulate coherent thoughts.  However, I made an attempt to not sound like an idiotic fool.

“You’re pretty,” I blurted out.

Damn it, you’re a lost cause.  Just go home and sink into your bed.  Yep, the one with the sheets that have the periodic table of elements on them.  Grab your towel and leave her alone.  Forget about your dignity; it’s too far buried beneath the sand to be retrieved.

Her giggling only helped to mortify me even more.  “You’re adorkable,” she whispered before brushing her lips against my cheek.

Her statement baffled me.  Not only because I wasn’t entirely sure what “adorkable” meant, but I also wasn’t sure whether or not it was a good thing.  “I’m sorry, what?”

“Adorkable.  You know, you’re an adorable dork.”

Not as bad as being told you’re a loser with impossible hopes of capturing her attention, I thought.

I chuckled nervously, my nails digging into the fabric of my pockets.  “Oh.  Well, thanks.”  I tried to play it off, and to be cool about it, although I was the polar opposite of cool at that point.  My heart felt as if it had been stung by an electric eel, and I could no longer deny the existence of butterflies in my stomach.

“You like me,” she said, and I froze.

“I-I’m sorry, what?”

She giggled again, and I could feel blood rushing to my cheeks.  “You like me.  It’s okay, and it’s not a bad thing.”  Before I could dispute her claim, she carried on.  “You’re a science buff, a math man, and probably a left-brainer.  I’m the opposite.  I’m a right-brained, artistic, free-flowing person that runs on emotion.  You’ve probably felt like kissing me this entire time, but haven’t because you’re stuck in your head and over-analyzing everything.”

I was baffled by this girl beside me.  She was open, raw, and rare.  While I, on the other hand, was reserved, skeptical, and critical.

“That’s highly presumptuous of you, don’t you think?”  I tried to sound confident, but my voice was weak and shook terribly.

She shook her head and turned to face me.  Her tiny hands took mine and held them gently.  “Look me in the eye, Logan, and tell me that you feel nothing.  Tell me, honestly, that you don’t have the urge to kiss me.”

My gaze dipped to her lips and lingered there for a few moments.  Her lips were full and rosy, and looked incredibly soft.  “I… I don’t,” I whispered as her hands reached to touch my cheeks.

“Liar,” she whispered back.  She moved her lips and began to speak, but I captured her words with my mouth, and all of my thoughts vanished.  I had kissed a handful of girls before her, yet the kisses lacked emotion and were completely robotic.

I wrapped my arms around her frame and my hands proceeded to get lost in her hair.  Rational thought and reason flew out the window as our lips moved together.  All I knew was that I was perfectly content with thought of spending the rest of my night kissing this intriguing and tempting girl named Faith.  In a way that no made sense, I no longer felt the weight of the world and its many puzzling questions tugging on my shoulders.

Faith had a way of making me feel free.

     “These memories keep haunting me,” she whispered, her arms wrapped tightly around her knees.  “I can go a long time without thinking about it once, but when something triggers me strongly enough, it’s all over.”

     He nodded as he took thoughtful notes on his legal pad.  “Tell me about this trigger you had, Samantha.”

     “There was an old guy, with a beard,” she rubbed her eyes as they began to fill with tears.  “He had on a USMC hat, and a flannel jacket.  It looked just like him, Dr. Schorr.  I could’ve sworn…  Some part of me thought it was him, and I wanted it to be.  I’m always hoping he’ll be there in his chair, drinking coffee, and watching Nascar when I come home, but he’s never there.”

     “Samantha, your dad died a year ago.  He isn’t coming back, and it’s best that you realize this and move forward with the grieving process.”

     She shook her head.  “I can’t!  I can’t grieve him or mourn him; that isn’t what he wanted!  I can’t feel sad, and I’m told that I should just be happy that he was here for 18 years when some people don’t even have a dad for one, but I can’t help it!  It’s like, seriously, I’m sorry that you never had a dad that was around for whatever reason, but I did, and just because you didn’t have one doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed to miss mine!”  She stood up and pushed over the coffee table that was between their chairs.  “I’m losing my mind!  I feel like he just died yesterday, that he is still alive today, and that he never even existed all at once!  I have this raw ache in my chest that I can’t fill back up.  I don’t care about the whole God thing and Him supposedly being the only thing that can fill this hole in my chest, because it doesn’t work!

     I don’t want God, I don’t want a fucking psychiatrist and mom up my ass 24/7, and I don’t want people saying ‘I’m sorry,’!  I know you’re fucking sorry, but guess what, sorry doesn’t do anything!  Do you know what I do want, doctor?  I want my dad back.  I want my dad, I want my damn father back, alive, well, happy, healthy, and I want him here to hug me and make us pancakes and bacon on Sunday morning, and I just want him back!  I-I need him, I can’t keep living without my daddy…”

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     It all began with Bruce Coville.

     God bless that wonderful man. Bruce Coville, the fantastic author of The Unicorn Chronicles and many others, was the one who got the ball rolling, in my case. I originally read The Unicorn Chronicles when I was in 6th grade, yet that book stayed with me through the pain (and disbelief) of my dad being diagnosed with cancer for the first time when I was in 7th grade. I remember posting on his guestbook on his website (which I dug through earlier and found, and I’m horrified at my grammar and writing, dear heavens…), and also writing him a letter. Now, of course, I didn’t expect a response from this man. He, after all, was this incredible author and creator of amazing and wonderful worlds and characters, and I was just a girl in middle school with dreams of being an author. But, he did respond, and it wasn’t one of those automated responses that lacked personality or care. He was sincere in his response and in his answers to my questions (and there were several of them). The main thing I remember from his letter is that no matter what, I need to keep writing. I’m going to order The Unicorn Chronicles online today and re-read them all. I posted on his guestbook this morning (I really hope he doesn’t believe I’m some crazy stalker), and I’m hoping for another response. There are certain moments in life that can never be erased, both good and bad. Most of these moments either hold you back, or propel you forward. In this case, Bruce Coville’s wonderful works of fiction, and his caring replies to his fans, were the canon that launched me into the passion I now have for both reading and writing. I swear, and mark my words, please, if I ever become a published author, his name is going in the dedication section. I can see it now:

 

To Bruce Coville, the man who began my love of reading, which then transferred to writing. A man who took the time to respond to me when I was a mere 12 year-old dreamer, and told me that no matter what, I mustn’t stop writing.