The Shadow of a World

 

I’ve been querying agents the past week.

I feel pretty good that I measured up to their guidelines and specifications. I worked hard to do so. Now it’s the waiting game to see if my manuscript measures up as well.

So, I’m back to writing short stories. One month to go, and the day job begins.

The biggest obstacle I face as a writer isn’t writer’s block. Or distractions like social media. Or even insecurity and fear. It’s the feeling of indulgence.

Just sitting around writing while the world burns. Or melts. And toxifies. Beautiful, lovely, diverse species are going extinct by the minute, and I’m here printing out reams of paper in the same minute.

I try to write stories with a message; horror in which the natural world has agency; can fight back against people.  Such as Anne R. Allen and Ruth Harris bring up in their “Rogue Characters” blog post from yesterday.

But they’re just stories. Do they change anything?

I try to tell myself that I’m doing everything I can to minimize the space I take up on the planet, like recycling (Well, recycling properly now, anyway, thanks to this tweet.)

I’ve been vegetarian since 1992. I’m trying (or, continuing to fail at) becoming vegan. But I have plenty of replacement options, courtesy of PETA’s vegan kit, as well as blog posts like this.

But it still haunts me. So many animals and plants and everything else giving way to humans on this planet. And, while I’m staring at my blank piece of paper that a tree gave up its life for so that I can write another story, my mind wanders into some dark places.

How is that we humans have practically zero restrictions on reproduction? People out there even having twenty or more kids in one family unit. But the alternative is just as terrible and unconscionable, as history has shown us: extermination,  concentration camps, forced sterilization, tracts on/beliefs in eugenics. But, still, over seven billion people on the planet? When is enough going to be enough? And there’s people out there debating a women’s right to choose? Seriously? I chose. I chose not to bring children into the world. Chose not to add to the human population. But every day; at work, running errands, I get asked “Do you have kids?” and it’s like the end of the world, the end of my existence and worth when I say no. Which is completely illogical, because the world is, maybe not ending, but is certainly being destroyed at a speed-of-light pace.

I was thinking how strange it was that humans have free will to reproduce as much as they want, but, in addition to the number of species going extinct (I found it interesting, and appropriately chilling, how Joseph Nebus incorporated the subject into his blog post, today.), animals we consider as our live-in companions–pets, essentially–face euthanasia in shelters because of overpopulation. And that’s the humane alternative because people can’t be bothered to spay or neuter their pets, or want some mythical perfect breed pet created in a puppy mill instead of adopting a shelter animal awaiting its forever home. And let’s not talk about that when they get sick of having that trendy animal around and dump it either on the street or to that same shelter environment. It beats being neglected, abandoned, starved to death, abused and a million other ways humans treat our domesticated animal companions.

I know what goes on in shelters. I’ve worked in them for years, and as an animal rescue volunteer. I’ve been on cases involving hoarders. Seen a dog kept on a tiny apartment porch crammed with trash and nothing but a plastic tub filled with slimy green water to drink. Gone into the shelter to take the animals to the adoption site while your heart breaks when nobody wants the sweetest dog, cat, rabbit, etc. times six million that ever lived. But that’s nothing to how it feels when you go into the shelter and that animal you’ve tried so hard to get adopted lost its last chance at a forever home just the day before.

And I’m not criticizing the animal shelters out there, by any means. They are just trying to make the best of a no-win situation brought about by the large numbers of irresponsible and thoughtless pet owners.

A fellow horror writer I follow on Twitter had this to say: https://twitter.com/DoomGoat666/status/1145082969712996352.

I’m gutted. It’s personal for me. I’ve been there, on the animal rescue front. But, sometimes it doesn’t always end badly. Like the day I was walking into the shelter and saw someone dump a cardboard box at the end of the sidewalk. I tend to be curious, so I went over to the box. It was all taped up. And then a tiny cat paw stuck out of one of the holes I now noticed were punched into the side of the box. Florida, in July, and those kittens wouldn’t have lasted very long out there in the hot sun. But they survived because I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Which is why I’m so, so glad there’s still people out there like Ben Fitts that are trying to make a difference. Working for organizations like the ASPCA.

It makes the real world a little less horrific.

 

Black CATastrophy Writing Prompt: Puppy Love

 Gone

 

                                                              Puppy Love

They found the bike propped up against the wall, but Allison was gone.
“Dammit, I knew I should have never got her that bike.”
“Dad, it’s not the city anymore. She’ll be okay.”
“I know, it’s just…”
“Yeah, I miss Mom, too.”
Samuel gave his son a side hug. “I love you, Marius.”
“C’mon, Dad. Let’s find her before she stumbles across a backwoods meth lab.”
“Ha, ha.” He watched his son load the bike into the back of the SUV. Hard to believe he’s already a senior.
“We’ll hit all the stores on Main Street before they close. Then head over to the dog park, then—”
“Then we’ll swing by the trailer, then the community pool, then out to the farmhouses on the outskirts. Can I drive?” Marius asked.
“When you get your own car.”
None of the store owners had seen Allison.
“Next stop, the diner,” Samuel said. His son was too busy texting to answer.
“Hey, Rhonda, seen Allison today?” Samuel asked his boss.
“No, hun, not since you all were here for Sunday brunch. She missing again?” Rhonda inched closer. “You just need a good woman to look after you all.”
He could smell peppermint Schnapps on her breath. “We’re doing okay.”
“C’mon, Dad, it’s going to be dark soon.”
“You all just let me know if you need something.” Rhonda patted Marius on the head.
Samuel hustled Marius out the door.
“Seriously, Dad, a head pat? Please tell me you don’t like her.”
“Why not? She’s a good woman.”
“Now I know you’re full of shit.”
“Watch your mouth, son.”
Their laughter stopped when they got to the trailer and saw Allison on the steps.
“Oh, no, she’s got Mrs. Wilson’s dog.” Samuel said.
“Daddy, look. I have puppy friend.” Allison stood, the dog struggling to get free.
“Dad, what’s all over her dress?” Marius said.
“Hopefully just mud.”
“It’s all in her hair, too.”
“Sweetie, that puppy is Mrs. Wilson’s.”
“No, daddy. Is mine.” Allison held the dog even tighter.
“Allison, we’re going to get hamburgers at Charley’s. Mrs. Wilson is going to watch the puppy while we eat. Okay?”
Allison smiled crookedly. “Okay, Daddy. Then we go get puppy, if I’m good?”
“I promise.” Samuel gently took the dog from her. “Now, go with Marius. He’s going to get you all cleaned up.”
Samuel carried the dog over to Mrs. Wilson’s trailer and knocked. The tin door squeaked open.
“That girl of yours stole my dog again?” Mrs. Wilson flicked her cigarette into a bush.
“Yes, ma’am. I’m very sorry. Allison doesn’t understand when she does something wrong. And she just loves dogs.” Samuel said, as the dog ran inside.
“So you keep sayin’. Next time, I’m gonna call the police.” Mrs. Wilson slammed the door.

********

Later that evening, Samuel made sure the childproof locks were set on the front door. At least she couldn’t wander outside at night.
“But what if there’s a fire,” his wife said to him, in his head.
“I tried my best, Janine,” he whispered, as he poured himself some Scotch. After a couple of sips, he took the glass to the desk in his room. He pulled out a glossy pamphlet from the drawer. “I’m so sorry, Allison.” Salty tears mixed in with the whiskey taste in his mouth.
The next morning, Samuel dropped his son off at school.
“Allison not coming to school today?” Marius asked.
“Nope, we’re taking the day off. After yesterday, I’d better keep an eye on her. Figured we’d go get pancakes. Can you get a ride home after band practice?”
“Sure, Jessica’s mom can drop me off.”
“Pancakes?” Allison said from the back seat. “Chocolate chip?”
“You betcha. All the chocolate chips you want.”
After Allison had her fill of pancakes, Samuel drove her to the state psychiatric hospital that Allison’s doctor had recommended.
“Daddy, where are we?”
Samuel unloaded her suitcase. “Sweetie, you’re going to go on a vacation.”
“Are there puppies inside?” Allison asked.
“Let’s go see, shall we?” He held her hand tightly while he led her up to the white building.

********

He got home well ahead of Marius. There was a dog sitting on the front steps of the trailer porch. At least it’s not Mrs. Wilson’s dog.
“Shoo,” he said, and the dog took off. The trailer was so quiet. He turned on the TV and then took a new bottle of Scotch and a glass from the cabinet. The house was still too quiet. He turned up the TV volume. Some old action movie.
He poured one drink, then another. Then a third. His hands hadn’t stopped shaking, but at least he wasn’t crying anymore. Have to be strong for Marius.
Five o’clock, and the winter darkness started to close in. Someone started yelling in the movie. Then a cacophony of barking dogs erupted from the television. I don’t remember dogs in the movie. How much Scotch did I drink? He shook the bottle. Almost empty.
He squinted at the TV, but the picture was blurry. He turned it off. The yelling stopped but the barking persisted. No, it was more like howling, now. He fumbled with the childproof locks and opened the door. Animals streaked from the small porch into the shadows.
“What the—” He took the flashlight from the shelf by the door and shone it into the darkness. Dogs. Hundreds of dogs. Some even looked like wolves. And they had stopped howling. Instead, they were growling. Growling and snapping as they sprinted forward. Samuel stumbled backwards and fell, dropping the flashlight.
“I’m so sorry, Allison,” he cried as the dogs closed in.

*********

“Hi, Marius.” Allison hugged her brother. “Are we going to go get pancakes?”
“Yes, Allison, pancakes with chocolate chips.”
“Then home?”
“Yes, home. But only after we get you a puppy from the shelter.”
“Puppy.” Allison clapped her hands. “I love puppies.” Her smile was no longer crooked.

 

–Willow Croft

Writing Prompt Link: https://blackcatastrophy.com/2017/12/03/black-catastrophy-writing-prompt-16-gone/.

 

Surreal (Slow, Sleepy, Sad, Sullen) Sunday

Today is Food Stamps day, so I have go shopping. I dread shopping. Even though I have my list handy (that I work on in the weeks in-between food stamp days), I always seem to forget something. Food Stamp Day has fallen on a weird day. It’s come after the Saturday Farmers’ Market, so I can’t get all my shopping done in one fell swoop. Poor me, right? *wry laugh* Imagine if I was a gatherer in a hunter/gatherer community. “Oh dear, I forgot to get some wild garlic. Now, I’ll have to go back out and get some.” And then I would get eaten by some fierce nocturnal animal because the garlic spot was miles away and I didn’t make it back before dark. Not that the stew wouldn’t have been burned by then, anyway.

I had a weird dream I had moved into a new apartment, but I was forgetting something (a hint of the grocery shopping day looming?) in the move. The apartment was in a European city, maybe in Germany, and I was embroiled in this undefined mystery. Plus, I was trying to get settled into my apartment community, and I kept forgetting to take stuff to my new apartment from the place I live in now. Like one of my cats. Like a bed, which I brought anyway, and then realised there was a bed already in the apartment. I was trying to get everything sorted so that I could begin my new life, but I kept screwing it up. I never did get things fixed, because I heard one of the feral cats outside and it woke me up.

I miss having a indoor cat companion so much. Although, I realise I’ve been really lucky (or smart) in the cats I picked. For the most part, they were such good kitties. They were also older cats by the time I adopted them. Everybody seems to want kittens, but I can’t imagine why. Older cats are fantastic…sweet, calm, mellow, patient, loving. Kittens can be that, too, eventually, but somebody I know just took in a kitten that showed up at their house. But they get into everything. Running all over like a demon, jumping all over you, attacking you in play nonstop. This little sucker even managed to tear off the sofa cover in about a few minutes’ time. Better them than me, seriously, as cute as the little monster is.

I am officially a fan of older, more sedate cats–the ones that so often get overlooked in shelters. Even senior cats rock! It’s so nice to have them just curl up on your lap for hours, or curl up with you at night. They embody meditation and stillness and just radiate peace and contentment. Comfort in a little purr-body.

Find your old-kitty gem at a shelter today. Or an older dog. #AdoptDontShop https://www.petfinder.com/

I mean, look at these sweet loves. How can you resist?

https://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/39403911

https://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/39403908