Although I didn't "copy and paste", I did leave a few lies on my friend's pages. Here are a few of my stream-of-conscious fictions.
It was summer, one of those long hot ones where even if you get naked, you still sweat. I was in my flat, late at night, the air conditioner was on the fritz and I couldn't think. It was just too hot. I tossed and turned in my bed, the sheets soaked with the acrid smell of the vodka I drank all day seeping out of my pores and onto the bed. In a haze of heat and frustration, I heaved myself out of bed and put on a linen cabana shirt I found on the floor, the one that didn't smell like regret, pulled on a pair of shorts and lurched for the door, not having a clue where I was going to go or what would happen.
I found myself on the Jitney, traveling across the island, the wisps of hot air blowing through the windows over my head doing nothing to cool me off. I was still drunk, I could feel my head spinning with every bump of that little bus as it trundled down Pacific Avenue. Before I realized what I was doing, I yanked the cord and the bus pulled over to the corner and I got off. I staggered down the darkened street, past the usual Atlantic City denizens, the groups of young urban toughs with the low-slung jeans acting with the bravado of youth and the downtrodden homeless men, looking away as you pass by with a hand meekly held out in hopes of you giving them a coin or two.
There it was, the goal I didn't know I had, the little strip bar that used to be a gay bar that used to be a speakeasy. If you lived in this town as long as I have, you learn the history, the lore and every building or empty lot represents, it's so much more than what you see now, so much more than what is now gone. I walked up to the little window, the doorman knew me right away and buzzed me in and before I could make it to the bar, they had my drink waiting, as if they knew I was coming at that exact moment. There's Kenny, buying me a shot of..what?...Jack...I don't drink Jack...but I do it anyway, to dull the pain, the torment that has been my life for so long. The bar became a watery haze, blurred visions passed before my eyes and I looked over, in the middle of the room where the runway was and there I saw her. A goddess. A siren. A whore. A lover. Madonna, mother of God and everyday tramp all rolled into one. There she was like a light at the end of my now tunnel vision. The one I had been looking for, who would save me. There was Lady Day, spinning on a stripper pole.
The cold winds blew through me, I clutched at my thin jacket, pulling it closer to me even though I knew it was no use to block out the icy fingers of Jack Frost. The boardwalk was empty. The holiday season was coming and no one gambles, saving their meagre coins for Christmas gifts to put under the tree. I stumbled, slipping on a small patch of ice and clutched the railing to steady myself. I was sick with fever and I had nothing, I was destitute, and could not pay for medication, let alone see an actual doctor. I pulled myself together and began shuffling again down the boardwalk and a fit of coughing took me. I couldn't stop, my throat was raw and sore and the phlegm and spittle coming out of my mouth was mixed with flecks of blood. I pulled my sleeve across my face, wiping the mess away and staggered on. I knew I looked like hell but what could I do? I was in hell. One I made for myself.
The choices we make set our path and my path led to wrath and ruin.
I'll never forget that night, fifteen years before when I made the selfish decision that brought me to this point. The folly of youth, the arrogance, the sheer stupidity of those wasted days seemed to run doubly in my blood. I wanted more, I wanted it faster. I wanted it now! As the old adage says, be careful what you wish for, you may get it.
I got everything I wanted once I made that deal. I was rich. I was famous. I performed on every stage and had the accolades of my peers and the adoration of legions of fans. My youthful features never faded and I had lovers, male and female, fawning at my feet. I gorged on all of this like the glutton I was, reveling in my fame. My fortune. My all.
I never saw it coming, although I knew it would. Suddenly, in a matter of months, everything began to change. My countenance began to age when I gazed in the mirror. Slowly, at first but then the wrinkles began to show faster and faster. I broke all the mirrors in my home, my dressing room. I allowed no photographs.
Then I lost my fame. When you refuse to perform, no one wants to see you anymore. You get a "reputation" as difficult and a "diva" and they turn on you.
My fortunes left next, without my adoring fans, I had no income to fill my coffers and I spent what I had trying to retard the ravages of age attacking my body, my beautiful face.
My lovers left my hideous form, seeking younger, beautiful companions and I was left alone.
Now I am here. The bargin was not worth it, I realize that now and I can see the end ahead. I turned and walked down the stairway to the beach, slipping on the last two icy steps and landing in a heap at the bottom. I pushed myself up from the wet, gritty sand, trying to brush it off of my face, the last shred of my vanity showing through with this one futile gesture. I walked towards the sea, the roar of the ocean drowning out all sound, the waves crashing around my feet, the bitter cold surf biting my toes, my ankles through the threadbare shoes I wore.
The darkness ahead got darker, blacker. First a small point and then it grew, directly in front of me. Then, in the middle a point of light which also grew, quickly, developing into the visage of a woman. Taking shape ahead of me, she beckoned with her right hand, her left holding the contract for my soul. This beautiful dark angel stood there smiling as I walked up to her, striding deeper into the raging sea. She put her arm around me and whispered in my ear. I could hear her sweet voice over the pounding waves.
"I've been waiting for you. We have glorious plans for your soul, Mortimer".
And that's how I met the one you know as Hope Curran-Orkin.
The noise was deafening!
I clutched at my ears and curled up in a ball, screaming at the dreadful sound around me.
Again. And again. The shelling wouldn't stop! I huddled next to the broken wall of cinderblock and cracked mortar, dirt and rocks flying in the air and pelting me, pinging off my helmet and clogging my breath.
I looked around in a panic. I see Wilson ten feet away. Dead. He must have been taken out with shrapnel, I can see the holes in his chest, oozing blood and bits of his lungs. I know I have to move, I need to gain a better position if I'm going to survive. I'm a sitting duck and I'll get blown to bits like Wilson if I stay here much longer. I checked my ammo, still some left. Good. Time to move. We have to take out this mofo before we all die. I look around for the rest of the team. There's Schafer by the burning Humvee, looking at me, waiting. There's Einhorn crouched by the fountain in the middle of the square. I can't see him but I know he's there. I can see the smoke from his cigarette wafting over the low wall, although the fountain is spewing water everywhere. It had been hit in the last volley. Damn fool will get himself killed one of these days. I get Schafer's attention, motioning him silently to move to the end of the street. We need to get in that building on the corner and get to the top floor and take out this prick shelling us over and over.
We move, somehow Einhorn knew our plans and began running towards us, full on. Not crouching. Not sticking to the bits of cover along the way. Schafer and I make it to the corner. Both of us out of breath with both the effort and fear. Einhorn slams into the wall next to us and we are safe for the moment.
A mortar shell blasted the spot I had just been hiding behind to bits.
Another hit the shop across the way and quickly started a fire. We steeled ourselves to finish our mission.
We make our way in, following our training. Each covering part of the room we are entering, making sure there are no surprises. Here in Iraq, a surprise WILL kill you.
Most of this room had been burned out, not much left and not many places for anyone to be hiding. I motioned for them to take the stairs, and I held rear-guard, keeping our flank protected. Up the steps we went, stepping over something I think was a body. I can't worry about that now. The second floor was also blackened with soot and the next landing was covered in rubble. Part of the third floor must have caved in with the air strikes earlier in the day. We secured the second level and made our way to the third, keeping a sharp eye out.
My pulse was pounding in my head. And then, the unmistakeable whilsting of incoming!!! We all crouched together as the shell hit right outside.
Sand and brick shot in the windows to our left, clouding our vision for a few seconds. That was close!
We made sure everyone was good and then made our way up the final stairway. Slowly. Watching.
That's when I realized the shelling stopped. It had been incessant since we were dropped into this little hellhole. What was going on.
I turned and saw Evelyn standing there, helmet cocked back, cigar sticking out of her mouth and the end of her sniper rifle trailing a small bit of smoke. She smiled and strung the gun over her shoulder.
"Took him out, sargent. Where to next?"
And that's how I met Evelyn Kolaitis-Seifert.