Category Archives: Personal

Holiday Story Hop

12316547_1082152235149168_1254456753972741155_nThe Grotesque’s Favorite Season

by JMD Reid

The grotesque enjoyed winter. It was his favorite season. He perched atop the Gothic cathedral, forever frozen in stone, gazing down at the square before the church. His eyes never closed. For centuries he had watched.

The grotesque didn’t mind forever watching over his church. He was proud to perch, carved from Oise limestone, giving him that cream-gray warmth weathered dark in the crevasses by his centuries of watching. His face was shaped into a fierce beast, his mouth open and bristling with jagged teeth, his hands ending in sharp claws, and his wings half-open as if he were at any moment about to spring down and defend his cathedral.

It was his duty.

The grotesque embrace his duty. He was no gargoyle, which he was often mistaken for in these days. He was a guardian, not a fanciful drain spout jetting from the side of the cathedral. His job was not to protect the stone but the soul of the building.

He was one of dozens forever frozen on the cathedral. He was right over the entrance, crouching on a ledge on the mighty steeple.

From here, the city itself was laid out to him. He could see it all. He had watched the buildings come and go, rising and falling as the humans forever changed and reshaped their world, erasing the past for the future.

But the grotesque remained.

He watched the ebb and flow of humanity coming and going, the fashion slowly changing year by year. He witnessed great festivities, terrible plagues, wars, funerals, weddings, christenings, revolutions, surrenders, and more. Every facet of humanity had at one time passed beneath him.

The seasons ebbed with the year, bringing cold rains, blustering winds, beating warmth, and fluffy snow. It was too cold for the drenching rains that every year ate away at his form, blunting his sharp edges and wearing away at his flesh. He hated the rain.

But he loved the snow.

The snow transformed and made everything beautiful. It hid all the ugly vagaries of the world beneath blankets of undulating whites.

As the year drew to its end, the snow became more common. The attitude changed. The holiday seasons had arrived. The gargoyle enjoyed watching the pageantry and spectacles. The mood seemed somehow lighter despite the cold gripping the city. Children played and romped while indulgent parents watched. Revelers sang in the night.

He could never partake of the celebrations. But he could watch.

Vicariously, he enjoyed the fellowship, brotherhood, and companionship the holidays brought. Gifts were exchanged, families reunited, hope burgeoning for the coming new year. The grotesque hoped they all appreciated what they had.

Freedom. Family. Joy. Hope.

All things he would never know. He was a grotesque. A statue carved by men dead almost a millennium. A soulless thing content with his purpose.

Winter was his favorite season, even if the snow sometimes built up on his head and robbed him of his ferocity.

Check out Tim Hemlin’s Story for links of other short, Christmas tales.

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Halloween Story Hop

The Halloween Story Hop

halloween-storyhop

Helpless

Thanks to Lynette Creswell for allowing me to participate. When you’re down with my story, click here to head on over to her blog and check out the thirteen other Halloween shorts!

The door opened.

I came awake as the malevolent gaze swept over me. I was in bed, lying on my side. I could see the doorway and the Shadow standing within it. The thing was darker than black, a pool of emptiness in vaguely the shape of a man.

Red eyes burned as they looked at me. I was a bug to the Shadow. I was a little insect for him to squish. Terror seized me. I tried to move, to flee before the gaze. But my body wouldn’t obey. I was paralyzed by his gaze.

A great weight settled on my chest. My heart screamed. I struggled to move my mouth and cry out. I tried to force words out anyways. I could breath, but I couldn’t make my vocal cords work. The air rushed out as panic claimed me.

And the Shadow watched.

Why? Why does he come for me? Why does he stand there with those burning eyes? Those eyes glowed with red hatred. The Shadow despised me. He wanted to consume me. He just had to enter the room, walk two steps, and he would be at my bed.

Move. Why won’t you move?

My body refused to obey. Every part of me felt weighted with lead. I fought as those eyes burned into my soul. I struggled to kick off my blanket. I didn’t want to be helpless. I wanted to drive the Shadow away.

Stop haunting me, demon.

Shadow didn’t care. I could struggle all I wanted to. I was at his mercy. He could swallow my soul at his leisure.

My jaw moved. With a herculean effort, I formed a word and cried out, “Go…away…”

My words came out strangled. It was such a tiny amount of defiance against the Shadow, but it gave me hope. If one part of me could move, then so could more of me. My limbs moved an inch. My blankets surged. I clawed at the lead weighting me down. I ripped them free from my limbs.

In an explosion of movement, my jerked up and threw off my blankets.

The Shadow was gone. My bedroom door was still closed.

The sleep paralysis attack was over and the nightmare fled. I could move again. My heart raced. Sweat drenched my body.

Wasn’t real,” I muttered to myself. It was the same thing I told myself after every attack. “It’s just a natural phenomenon. My body messed up when I woke up. The part of my brain that was supposed to tell my body it was okay to move had messed up. The Shadow was just a dream. A nightmare. It wasn’t real.”

Right?

The Shadow couldn’t have really been there staring at me with such hatred.

Scientist claimed sleep paralysis, while not fully understood, was a natural phenomenon. And that it was only a coincidence that most people who suffer from it claim to see dark figures during their episodes. Some even think that sleep paralysis attacks were responsible for legends of demons and, in more recent times, alien abductions.

I could believe that theory. There was a part of me that wondered if the Shadow was a demon. I tried to fight that part of me with my rational mind. But ration did not exist during the attacks. When in the grips of sleep paralysis, I was beyond such logical thoughts. They were not a bulwark against the Shadow.

Sleep eluded me. I was afraid that the Shadow would turn. That I would again be helpless while he stared at me. I gave up. I started my day, the fear worming through my belly. I had no one I could talk to. It would only sound crazy.

The Shadow wasn’t real. He couldn’t do anything to me. My rational side of my mind offered argument after argument my other half rejected.

The next night, I couldn’t sleep. Fear gripped me. What if he came again? What if I had another attack? I was scared of sleep. If I didn’t fall into my dreams, the Shadow couldn’t open the door and afflict another episode of sleep paralysis.

It was so stupid. There was no Shadow. He was just a dream. I kept telling myself that. I wasn’t haunted by a demon. I wasn’t. Exhaustion finally claimed me. I fell into sleep.

The Shadow did not come.

The next night, the fear was still there but dwindling. And on the third night, complacency slipped in. I never had attacks that often. There were often months between them. I didn’t need to worry so soon. I could forget my fear. I didn’t have to worry about being helpless for a while.

I fell into sleep. Dreams passed, merging from one half-remembered melange of images to another.

The door opened.

My eyes opened. I was on my back. The Shadow was above me. He hovered in the air, his eyes burning with hatred. Fear seized me. The Shadow had never entered my bedroom. He had never passed beyond the door. He never profaned my room with his presence.

What changed?

The Shadow reached down for me.

My body was covered in lead. I was encased in it. Every inch of me was weighed down. I struggled to breath as I fought to move. I could only stare helpless as he reached for my soul. I tried to throw up bulwarks of rationality before me. The Shadow wasn’t real. He wasn’t reaching for my soul. There was nothing there that could hurt me.

The Shadow didn’t care about such logic. He ripped rational thought to shreds.

Those inky fingers drew nearer. I fought against my body. I screamed impotent rage in my mind. I just needed to break free. If I could get one part of me to move, I could escape. I concentrated on my legs, urging them to move. I tried to flex my toes.

Nothing obeyed me.

It’s just a dream. It’s not real. Please, God, it’s not real.

The fingers were only an inch above my face.

You’re not real. You’re just a figment of my imagination.

The Shadow seemed to laugh, But what if I am real?

The fingers touched my soul.

Thanks again to Lynette Creswell and Valerie Hemlin for inviting me! Click here to head on over to her blog and check out the thirteen other Halloween shorts! It’s a great collection of Indie authors!

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Story Hop Blogtour

The Frustration of Bureaucracy

By J.M.D. Reid

TheStoryHopLogothumbnailI used to have a job as a paratransit operator for Pierce Transit’s SHUTTLE program. And yes every letter of SHUTTLE has to be capitalized. I have no idea why, but it does.

Now I didn’t work directly for Pierce Transit but for a private company that had a contract to drive the SHUTTLE. Pierce Transit contracted the work out because of Federal money. According to the ADA (Americans with Disability Act) a public transit agency had to provide alternates means of transportation for those who cannot walk to the nearest bus stop within a mile. So we drove these small buses around, picking up people. It’s expensive to operate. A person riding the SHUTTLE pays the same disabled fare as the regular bus ($.75 per trip) and we often often ran with only one or two passengers at a time. We even would deadhead (drive empty) across the entire county to pick up a passenger. Because of the expense, the Federal government sends grant money. But this money comes with strings requiring a percentage of the work has be performed by private companies.

1024px-Pierce_Transit_Shuttle
One of the SHUTTLEs I used to drive. 5097 (pictured above) once broke down on me in University Place.

So I answered an want ad I found on Worksource’s website and found myself a job driving around senior citizens, people in wheelchairs, those suffering from various mental and physical disabilities, and patients using dialysis. It was a rewarding, stressful, long, tiring job. Some of the riders were pleasant, thankful for the SHUTTLE allowing them to have lives outside of their homes, no longer prisoners of the afflictions of their bodies. Other passengers were bitter, blaming the world for the pain and suffering they had gone through.

And then there were the mentally handicapped. Many were adults, but they often had a zest for life, going to church or to the endless activities that community centers were always offering. But sometimes their handicap could make them…difficult.

I only ever had one major injury on the job. It was my day off, of course. I normally worked an afternoon/evening route starting between 1 and 3 PM and getting off between 9 and 11 PM. The thing with the SHUTTLE is routes had to be filled. If someone was sick, if someone was on vacation, or just due to the attrition of the job (we lost 4 drivers a month) those routes still had to be filled. So you could be mandatoried on your day off. For evening drivers, that often meant working a morning route on your day off. That day, I had to start at 6 AM. I was tired. I pulled up at this apartment complex to pick up a rider suffering from some form of autism. I stepped out of my bus.

Right onto a drain. It was lower down than I expected. Stepping out of the driver door of the SHUTTLE was already a long step. My ankle rolled, pain exploded, and I collapsed in a heap on the ground. I tried to stand, but my ankle wouldn’t support my weight. The day before, we had Nextel radios for communication, but Pierce Transit had just phased them out in favor of the CAD system. I had a radio phone in my SHUTTLE and I had to crawl back into my vehicle to radio for help.

While I was lying in pain on the ground, my passenger had boarded the SHUTTLE. He didn’t seem to understand that I had seriously hurt my foot. I couldn’t drive my SHUTTLE if I wanted to and he’s demanding I take him to work, growing more and more agitated, yelling at me as I’m trying not to erupt and yell at him.

Dispatch followed procedure and, despite my protests, called 911 for an ambulance. I wasn’t that injured. I just needed a supervisor to drive me to an urgent care unit. Well, the fire department arrived while my passenger continued to complain and shout at me. I just wanted to throttle him. It wasn’t his fault, he had a condition and he couldn’t understand why he wasn’t going to work. He had a schedule to keep. When the fire department arrived, they stared at my foot for about thirty seconds, demanded to know why dispatch called 911 for a non-emergency, berated me for wasting their time, and left.

My supervisor arrived with a relief driver a few minutes later. I was then berated for letting 911 leave without checking me out. Apparently, dispatched expected 911 to drive me to the emergency room on a badly sprained ankle.

My boss wasn’t happy that I had been injured. We were allowed three minor accidents accidents in the SHUTTLE per year. Little fender benders, minor damage to the shuttle, backing into a mailbox. My boss decided to count my physical injury as one of these accidents. Only a month early I had minor accident on the SHUTTLE. Now I couldn’t afford another accident for almost a year.

It was such a great day. This is one of the many reasons I don’t do this job anymore.

Oh, and of course this was government work, so I had fill out an incident report so that it was all documented before I was taken to the doctors. I spent a month on time-loss before my ankle had recovered enough for me to go back to work, my boss demanding that I get back to work as fast as possible.

One of my worst days on the job.

TheStoryHopLogothumbnailIf you want to read more stories, check out the other amazing authors that are participating in The Story Hop blog tour, part of the 2015 Author Cyber Convention

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Favorite Screen Characters Blog Hop

Susan Kicklighter invited me to participate in the Favorite Screen Characters blog hop. It’s a simple, fun hop. Name your ten favorite TV or Movie characters, then nominate ten friends to do the same!

So here’s mine. I’ll have to admit, this wasn’t easy. Lots of great movies. Lot’s of great TV shows. I jotted down my favorites, attempted to rank them, and here we go:

  1. Londo Mollari, Babylon 5
    Londo’s character arc is one of the most complex you’ll ever see in a TV show. He starts out as a buffoon, rises to power, realizes the depth of his crimes, finds redemption, and ends as a tragic hero. His relationship with G’Kar is one of the most powerful you’ll ever see.
  2. Madmartigan, Willow
    Madmartigan is simply fun. Brash, wild, the classic mercenary with a heart of gold. I loved Willow as a child, and the movie still holds up. There are plenty of characters like Madmartigan, but there are none I’d rather watch more.
  3. Vic Mackey, The Shield
    A complex character in a complex cop drama. Watching Vic Mackey lead his Strike Team proves the old adage, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. What starts out as a shortcut to get the bad guys off the streets ends up destroying the lives of Vic and his Strike Team. Vic is such a charismatic guy, you can almost forget what a bastard he is.
  4. Samwise Gamgee, Lord of the Rings
    Lord of the Rings is the reason I write fantasy. Without Tokien’s work, I’m not sure I ever would have fallen in love with the genre as a boy. There are a lot of great characters, but Sam rises above the rest. Solid and practical, and loyal to a fault. He walks into a literal Hell with his friend, and when Frodo can’t keep trekking, Sam carries his friend up Mount Doom.  And while the Peter Jackson adaptation weakned Sam’s character slightly (the brutal character assassination on the steps of Cirith Ungol), Sean Astin captured the essence of Sam and brought him to life.
  5. John Locke, LOST
    I am a big LOST fan. Unlike many, I wasn’t incensed by the ending. There are a lot of great characters. I could have built the list with characters just from LOST, but my favorite is John Locke. At the beginning, he’s this engimatic, and even a little creepy, individual. And then episode four comes around. Walkabout is one of my favorite episodes of LOST, and the depth of passion John Locke possess is astounding.
  6. Buffy Summers, Buff the Vampire Slayer TV
    Buffy is my favorite Joss Whedon character. She smart, sexy, and strong, throwing one liners while fighting the big bad. There’s also a great deal of depth to the character. The show puts her through the crucible, and she bears every last emotional wound over the course of the series.
  7. Walter Bishop, Fringe
    Walter Bishop is an amazing character. He’s the quintessential mad scientist. In his past, he performed some pretty unethical experiments in his drive for knowledge. Now, he’s an old man suffering from mild dementia, fearfully retreating from the horrors he caused and forced to confront them over the course of the show.
  8. Valeria, Conan the Barbarian
    The first Conan movie (the Arnold one, not that terrible remake they did a few years back) is the best sword and sorcery. And it has one of the best, kick ass women in movie history. Valeria is so badass she comes back as a Valkyrie to save Conan’s rear a second time in the movie’s climax. She’s as capable a fighter as Conan, fighting at his side as an equal.
  9. John McClain, Die Hard
    Of course the hero of the best action film of all time made my list. John McClain gets beat up and still keeps going. He didn’t ask to be the hero. He just wanted to try and patch up his relationship with his wife. The everyman hero is a great character, and John McClain is one of the best examples of this archetype.
  10. Ellen Ripley, Aliens
    Ripley is an amazing character. She is tough. She survives one of the most terrifying horror movies. And in Aliens, she’s forced to confront it all over again. And she steps up. Her confrontation with the Alien Queen to rescue Newt, her surogate daughter, forever cements Ripley as the best female action heroines of movie history!

Well, that’s my top ten. It was hard to choose them all, but some runners up are: Ben Linus (LOST), Hurley (LOST), Dean Winchester (Supernatural), G’Kar (Babylon 5), Abed (Community), Dwight K. Schrute (The Office), Betelgeuse (Beetlejuice), Hermione Granger (Harry Potter), Snape (Harry Potter), and Claudette Wyms (The Shield).

Check out Susan’s post to read hers and others!

Now, I’m tagging these great people! I can’t wait to hear yours!

Jane Bled, janebled.wordpress.com

Q.S. Khan, qs-khan.com

Jess Alter, indieimprint.com

Tim Hemlin, timhemlin.com

Tamara Ferguson, sbpra.com/tamaraferguson

Mindy Ogg, mindyogg.com

B.B. Blaque, www.bbblaque.com

BSM Stoneking, www.bsmstoneking.com

Leslie Moon, moondustwriter.com

M.I. Jean, www.mijean.com

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Seven Lovely Things

The very kind Paige Randall tagged me in the seven lovely things blog tour! Thanks! You can read her very interesting and entertaining post at her blog! I learned that Sciurophobia was a thing.

  1. When I was born, there was a tiny hole in my right ear. My mom was freaked out (so I’ve been told), but it’s apparently a defect from my dad’s side of the family. The hole has since grown to the outer edge of my ear, leaving only a notch on the rim.
  2. I am afraid to say that I have shoplifted twice in my life, both times as a teenager, and both times they were to steal books. Yep, out of all the things to shoplift I stole books. From the now long closed Waldenbooks I stole People of the Fire by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neil Gear. The other was Neandarthal and I can’t remember who wrote it or even what I did with the book (I feel like I traded it to a used bookstore). I stole that one from a 7-11 of all places.
  3. I didn’t go to my school’s prom. Instead, I went to a friends house and a bunch of us played Starcraft, Goldeneye, and Mario Kart 64 all night. I don’t regret this decision. I had a lot of fun with Ben, Dave, and Homechiken (or HC, don’t ask why we called him that) during high school.
  4. I have only ever loved one woman. It took me two days to work up the courage to tell her my feelings. Her answer: “That’s nice.” I didn’t make it out of the friend zone. The only picture I had of her (this was before cell phones with cameras, or even cell phones, were common) was lost in a move. I can still remember the blue of her eyes and her lovely smile.
  5. No one spells my last name right. It’s Reid, pronounced Read, and everyone assumes it’s spelled Reed. I don’t even have to think it any more. When someone asks for my last name I say, “Reid. Spelled R E I D.”
  6. I was born five minutes past midnight in Okinawa, Japan on April 30th. It was still April 29th in the States and my Grandmother still thinks my birthday is on April 29th. And then, four years later, my brother was born on May 2nd. Having to share a birthday party with your younger, bratty brother as a kid because our birthdays fell on the same weekend was annoying. I haven’t seen my brother in two years. I miss him. He’s a prosecutor out in Nebraska. The dolt married a Nebraskan girl at college and never came home.
  7. I have a weird dislike of having my picture taken. I always have hated it. You will only find one picture of me at my mom’s house and it’s from my brother’s wedding where I was in the wedding party and I set aside my dislike of having my picture taken. I’m really not sure why I hate having my picture taken, I just do. You may notice my twitter profile has my picture. I felt dirty taking it, but these are the sacrifices I make to promote my writing!

I hope you all find these random facts interesting.

Jane Bled: Jane is an author of disturbing, psychological horror and one of the nicest people you can know!

Tim Hemlin: Author of the Wastelanders and husband of the amazing Valerie!

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Sleep Paralysis

I am one of the thousands of people afflicted with sleep paralysis. Most nights my sleep is undisturbed. I lay down, dream, and wake up. Night after night. But sometimes when I wake up I can’t move. I dread those times.

It always happens the same way. My bedroom door opens in my dreams and a dark figure watches me from the doorway. The fear is so intense, and I can’t move. My limbs feel like they’re made of lead. I struggle, I fight, I try to cry out for help. My heart beats, rushing through me as I struggle to move. And that figure keeps staring at me, hating me.

imagesAnd then, like I had broken the cobwebs that bound me, I could move and spring up. My bedroom door will be closed, the dark figure will be gone, and the fear will bleed off me. But I can always feel it lurking. I can’t go right back to sleep or I’ll slip back into the paralysis.

I can never predict when it will strike, but I can often recognize the signs in my dreams when an attack, for lack of the proper word, comes upon me. My bedroom door opening. If that happens in my dreams, I wake up before my body paralyzes.

So if you’ve never heard of sleep paralysis, it is a little understood condition. While either falling or sleep or waking up, a person can get locked into complete muscle atonia and often have terrifying nightmares of intruders in their rooms accompanying their complete helplessness. Some attribute this to demonic activity, and after experiencing it, I can understand why. When I’m in the grip of the paralysis, and the dark figure is watching me, nothing has ever frightened me more.

The ‘intruder’ as the figure is called in medical literature, is thought to be caused by a hyper-vigilant reaction in the brain caused by finding yourself unable to move while you’re still not fully awake and causing your dreams to react accordingly. It is thought that sleep paralysis is responsible for tales of succubus, incubus, demons, UFO abduction, out-of-body experiences, and host of other, similar tales.

Science still doesn’t fully understand the causes of sleep paralysis and there are numerous theories explaining it. Luckily, it doesn’t threaten your physical health, just your sanity. Something I try and focus on when I’m in the grips of it as I lie they’re helpless. But it’s hard to remember that the figure isn’t really there.

Last year, after a particularly bad incident, I wrote a poem about it. All day the figure had haunted me and writing down my fears went a long way in shaking off the experience.

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