Friday, July 12, 2019

Alone

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are: pointy, circle, board game, projector, jeans

They were submitted by: https://www.bookwormkitchen.com/

Obviously I was in my feels. 
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Lilith sat arm’s length away from the fairy circle in her backyard waiting on the witching hour. She wasn’t sure how close was too close to it or how far was too far. She didn’t know anything really. This was all new to her; it wasn't a lifestyle or hobby or belief system. She wanted…she didn’t know what she wanted either, though, if she were honest with herself. It seemed silly now that she was out in the dew-wet grass wondering if she was going to get bitten by ants or worse and surrounded by candles, crudely drawn runes on index cards, and the grimoire.

The grimoire was what started this whole thing actually. If she had’t seen the damn thing in Another Man’s Treasure, the thrift shop downtown, she wouldn’t have gotten any ideas about summoning a demon. It had been sitting there amongst the discarded board games, ancient screen projectors, kids' books, and old VHS tapes. The “entertainment” section it had been labeled. Entertainment. What a laugh.

She’d thought maybe it was some kind of leather journal when she first glanced at it, but, for whatever it’s worth now, it called to her. There’s no denying it. And the memory of the way she couldn’t resist reaching out for it and how she lost time standing there looking at it until an employee came over to check on her gave her chills. It wasn’t *just* a book by any means even if she couldn’t read a fucking word inside it at first. She thought, in the beginning, it must have been written in some other language, but extensive google searches were never fruitful. The pages were filled with pointy lettering of some kind that looked maybe a little like English, possibly runes as well, though who knew? (She’d gotten the runes she used for her circle spell from Reddit of all places.) And there were pictures--illustrations, she hoped, that sort of told you what would happen.

The page she kept staring at in Another Man’s Treasure and had continued being drawn to at home had what looked like a telephone, a circle, and a devil face inside it. So, yeah, she knew she wasn’t dealing with some kind of ancient language that couldn’t be decoded or anything, and after having found nothing on google, went with the theory that it was someone’s shitty chickenscratch handwriting meant to look all witchy, and she was just going to have to do the best she could. She figured if she came out of this alive, she was going to make some kind of very strongly worded PSA about writing plainly and neatly instead of being an edgy goth princess if you were just going to end up donating your grimoire to goddamn charity and secondhand shops. Really.

So there she was. Jeans soaked with dew, candles burning down, and no idea what she was doing but tired, so tired, and desperate. Her alarm on her cell phone let her know it was time, midnight, with her Letterkenny “Figure It Out” ringtone. She guessed she *would* figure it out.

Once the alarm was over, she stood up with the grimoire in hand and started reciting the words as well as she could hoping for the best. She almost considered saying a little prayer first, but A) she wasn’t religious and B) it was kind of fucked up to pray to god to save you from shit you were knowingly doing wrong. Right? Anyway, she read the text: I summon thee foul beast Agnoroth from ye black depths to do my bidding during this night’s witching hour. From the bound circle unless agreed otherwise, ye shall grant my requests by 3 and return home. No harm shall come to either of us this night, and ye shall not visit again unless summoned.

It sounded good and like all her bases were covered, but her many free kindle reads of unknown urban fantasies suggested demons could be quite tricky. She supposed even the most solid sounding agreements came with loopholes, but what was there to lose? Okay, well, yeah, her life, but she hadn’t really been too attached to that in a few years now, so no harm no foul? Maybe?

She was lost in her own head--a conversation between she and herself as always--when she heard a faint rumbling that grew into a thundering growl, vibrating the mushrooms but stopping short of making any of them topple. “WHO DARES DISTURB MY QUIET NIGHT AT HOME?!”

She cringed even while she could relate as a form began to materialize within the circle. She wasn’t sure if she should answer? Like what would she even say? “My name is Lilith. Hi?” like some demon is going to know who the fuck she is? Haha. Yeah okay. What kind of absurd question would it be if it weren’t rhetorical?

Her eyes widened as she found herself staring up at a behemoth of a creature covered in silky looking black hair, muscled like a Mr. Universe contestant…actually, he looked quite like a werewolf but with his hands on his hips wearing a lavender-colored gingham print half-apron with apple appliqu├ęs on the very generous pockets. She was considerably jealous of it actually. It was definitely something she would pick out for herself and tell absolutely no one about.

It took 0.2 seconds for him to realize that sounding like something straight from her worst nightmares and wearing that apron were, in fact, mutually exclusive. He looked down at himself when he saw her staring, mouth agape, looked back up and shrugged before making it disappear with a snap of his fingers, fingers whose pads were obviously not covered in fur. Or hair. Whatever.

In a very human-sounding voice, he asked again, “who dares disturb my, uh, torturing of souls in this witching hour??”

“oh. I thought that was kind of a rhetorical question?”

“Well, don’t you think I need to know whose bidding am I supposed to do?”

“uh…I guess? My name is Lilith.”

“Familiar and family name?” he asked as he arched a silvery tuft of hair that resembled both a caterpillar and the eyebrow of an extra senior in the nursing home scene of any show or movie. Fuzzy. Way too long. Unkempt. Pretty fucking adorable.

She thought on this for a second then shook her head. “Pretty sure I read in a book that if you have my full name and exactly how it’s said, you can summon me or, I don’t know, do something not so nice, so I’m just going to stick with ‘Lilith’ for now.”

“Is everything you read in books true then?”

“To be faiiiir, I definitely would have said no yesterday when I didn’t believe demons and witchcraft were real and only read about them in books, but here I am talking to you, so I’m not taking any chances.”

“Outstanding. Pitter patter.”

She furrowed her eyebrows and kind of cocked her head to the side the way dogs always did hearing something new in youtube videos. “Did you….What the fuck is going on? What kind of demon gets a Letterkenny reference and answers back with one?!”

“The super soft kind that wears a purple gingham and apple print apron?” he offered with a laugh.

This was weirder than anything she could have dreamed of or read in a book. She supposed this gave new meaning to that old phrase “the truth is stranger than fiction.”

He really took a good look at her then. Fraggle Rock tshirt, wet jeans, Super Mario bros bedroom slippers… “you don’t look like the kind of person who I usually find standing before me when I’ve been summoned. What gives?”

“Well, you see, I found this grimoire at a secondhand shop…”

Before she could finish, he barked. That’s the best way to describe the sound that emanated from his lips. Jowls. Whatever. “What kind of fucking asshole donates their spellbook to a damned thrift store?”

She was absolutely vindicated in that moment and hollered. “RIGHT?!?!?! And look at this thing!”

She stepped closer to the circle and held up the book for him to get a better look. He snapped a pair of large, round Harry Potter style spectacles into existence on his face and leaned as close as he could before bumping against the invisible shield that held him in. “Now that writing looks exactly how I would imagine a person summoning me should be dressed. Like King of the Skids, amirite?” Both of them died laughing simultaneously. She lost her breath and tried to get it under control, but every time she’d slow down, he’d start again, and it just kept going until both of them were sitting on the ground, panting and streaming tears.

“Satan, I needed that,” he managed to get out between breaths. She nodded agreement and both of them sat contentedly for a moment trying to gather their wits. She couldn’t take any chances with this demon even if he seemed pretty rad, and she imagined he was trying to get control of himself to look for any advantage to hold over her. She didn’t dare pause for long, though, or the reality of their situation was really going to fuck with her head.

“ok, so, listen…” she started, but she didn’t know how to continue.

“Go on. When you’re ready. But do keep in mind, I leave automatically once the witching hour is done.”

She checked her phone. 12: 17. She needed to get moving.

“Alright. I don’t know how this works, so if this isn’t possible, don’t laugh.”

He started to speak, but she interrupted. “WAIT!!! Can I make my first request that you be entirely honest for the rest of this hour regarding any risk, problem, danger, fact, question, detail, and terms of any agreement that we discuss tonight.”

“Smart move, Lilith. Yes, you can, and consider your first request granted.”

“Can demons actually possess humans? And what is the risk involved?”

He nodded thoughtfully, “yes, we can. The risk is more or less determined by the intent of the possession. If I possess you so that you may kill an enemy in the most Hellish ways possible, for example, your body still leaves physical identifiers as usual. You can still be imprisoned for your crime. I would help the method and nothing more, you see?”

She ran a hand through her hair and paced a little. “So, essentially, you need the details before you can assess the risk, yeah?”

“Correct.”

“If I make my second request that you help construct my possession contract to limit my harm and yours and without undo toll on my soul, will it truly work?”

“On the surface, the answer is yes. But again, the ask determines the accuracy of my answer. There may not be a solution we can agree on as to what is acceptable harm to either of us. Some harm may have to occur. But in the event that is your second request, yes, I do have to honor my end of it to the best of my ability.”

“It is.”

“Thy will be done, then.” She noticed that he was taking all of this far more seriously than he had in the beginning, and she didn’t know if that was to her benefit or downfall.

“My ask is simple but not. See, I have a chronic illness. I don’t look sick from the outside. Everyone around me sees, for the most part, what they have always seen, but everything is different for me. The exhaustion, the mental issues, the pain, the mental anguish from no longer being the person I was…it’s a fucking nightmare.” She paused holding back tears, took a deep breath, and went on. “It’s bad enough to feel this way. I have no escape from it. My good days now are like my worst sick days before. But the worst thing is feeling so alone. No one gets how I feel, no one I know intimately at least. No one I can talk to face to face. It’s isolating. Alienating. Then there’s the recommendations. I KNOW what’s wrong with me, but since on the outside nothing LOOKS wrong with me, people tell me to get more sleep, to eat better, to exercise, to do yoga, essential oils, go vegan, get on depression medication…you get the picture. It makes me feel absolutely crazy and, on my bad days, like maybe it IS all in my head, you know? I just want—no, I NEED--for someone to get it. To look me in the face after feeling what I feel and how I feel and tell me it’s fucking horrible, and they wouldn’t wish this on their worst enemy.”

He looked incredulous. She didn’t know how else to describe it. How does a werewolf demon look incredulous? She didn’t know, but he was definitely looking it either way.

“I…” He started and stopped looking rather thoughtful really and started again. “People are so bad at getting that you have an illness that they have semi-convinced you that it’s not that serious, and instead of rightfully and righteously torturing them in the name of Satan, you want to be possessed by a literal demon so you can get some feedback. In a nutshell.”

The tears fell this time. There was no holding them back. “Yes.”

“That is seriously fucked up.”

Her mouth fell open in shock.

“No, no, no…wait. Not the ask. It’s fucked up that you have such people in your life. I’ve heard way more fucked up requests than that from being summoned. The last possession wanted me to help them fill some chick’s bathtub with acid because she wouldn’t sleep with him.”

Her mouth never really closed good before it was hanging open yet again. “what in the…. Did you do it?”

He smirked and raised one of those grandpa brows, “all I can say is he should have negotiated better, and no harm was wrought on the woman in question.”

“wicked!”

“I try.”

He paced around the circle for a moment in thought while she dried her face and tried to fix whatever makeup might remain. She checked her phone. 12:28. No time to waste. She was about to ask what he thought when he stopped suddenly and clasped his heads in front of him in a gesture that was both endearing and a little scary.

“I think I’ve got it. The ask is absolutely benign and only involving you, and as I am bound to do no harm to you this night, you have no risk at all. Okay, well, *that*, perhaps, is an understatement. Demon possession always comes with a little tarnish. Your soul isn’t corrupted entirely by it especially with our time being so limited, but it will definitely have a little smudge. And, it will certainly feel weird, but you have pure intentions, so the possession, by the nature of the ask, will not be painful. I’ve never done such a possession, but I hear it feels like added pressure, maybe like your whole body is bloated. Are we good and clear so far?”

“Yes, that’s fine for me.”

He continued, “as for me, I suspect if you are right about how you feel, this will not be what I might call a fun experience, but we are actually limited by time, so by the nature of the summoning itself, my harm is limited. We have approximately 30 minutes before I will be whisked back home. You want me to feel what you feel but also discuss it, correct?”

“Yes, exactly. That’s what I want.”

“So 15 minutes for possession and 15 minutes to discuss it. Are those terms we can agree on?”

“Do you have to go back into the circle when you come out or can we talk face to face for real?”

“That is up to you entirely. It is always recommended that you keep a demon bound to a circle, though.”

“But you cannot harm me?”

“Not with the summons and details we have arranged.”

“Then I ask for 15 minutes possession for you to feel what it’s like to be me and 15 minutes for us to discuss it with you out of the fairy circle.”

She felt immense pressure for a moment like she was being inflated, like Violet Beauregarde when she turned into a blueberry, but it faded into the background behind all her regular dull aches and shooting pains, the splitting migraine she had been fighting all week, the GI cramps, the nausea…she’d really picked one of her worst of the worst days to do this. On purpose. She could feel him still, an oily shadow in her brain instead of the whispy fog she fought through every day of her life. Heavier but navigable.

She sat in the grass watching the minutes pass, anxious. Her tachycardia was in full swing along with the dizziness that always accompanied it. She dissociated like she tended to do when she felt this bad only being pulled back when she felt the pressure mount again. She stood as it began to subside completely leaving her alone with the pain and everything that came with it while she watched him materialize again in front of her. They stayed face to face like that for a moment or few before he finally spoke up.

“how? How did you even manage to get me here? How are you even standing?”

Everything in his stance and his face was absolutely sincere, so when he pulled her in for a hug, she didn’t resist.

She spent the rest of her negotiated time in that embrace crying tears of relief.
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Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado https://www.bakinginatornado.com/2019/07/firetrucks-and-football-use-your-words.html

Wandering Web Designer https://wanderingwebdesigner.com/blog

Spatulas on Parade https://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com/2019/07/rideem-and-ropeem-uyw-july-2019.html

The Bergham Chronicles https://berghamchronicles.blogspot.com/

On the Border https://dlt-lifeontheranch.blogspot.com/2019/07/job-expedition.html

Bookworm in the Kitchen https://www.bookwormkitchen.com/

Part-time Working Hockey Mom https://thethreegerbers.blogspot.com/2019/07/use-your-words-burst-beer-cans-and.html

Friday, July 5, 2019

One Thing

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 7 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

My “Secret Subject” is:

What is one thing you could start doing today to improve the quality of your life?

It was submitted by: https://thethreegerbers.blogspot.ch/

Probably not what anyone would think of as appropriate for 4th of July week but it's honest. 
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The one thing I could do to improve my quality of life immediately is to move out of the United States.

I’m not exaggerating.

I have a chronic illness and no access to adequate or affordable insurance. I don’t have access to doctors who take my issues seriously undermining them both because I am a woman and because I am chubby. Women in this country experience so many issues in the healthcare system even when they do have a thin figure, insurance, and enough money to pay their copays. We have a higher rate of being underdiagnosed, misdiagnosed, and with harassment from healthcare workers. All of it adds up to me not at all being able to get adequate care. I need a fair healthcare system, one that isn’t rife with misogyny. I need universal healthcare. I need doctors who are actually educated on my disorder and who take the issues I face seriously. I need doctors who are educated on the new research involving weight, how weight is often out of people’s control and not remotely tied to every single health issue a woman might face. I’ve gone to the doctor for colds, literally, and had them blamed on me needing to lose weight. How is that at all the kind of healthcare system that works for people?

The United States doesn’t even rank in the top 20 when it comes to women’s equality. Pay rates, healthcare, programs… we are seriously lacking in every regard when it comes to women having an even playing field with men while our government remains dominated by men and often by women who pander to the male demographic by denying the issues that social sciences prove to exist.

Capitalism relies on extreme poverty and homelessness to function. Economic theorists have found this to be a certainty. Without people to show how terrible it can be when you don’t “work hard” people refuse to take the lowest pay for the hardest work. That's the way capitalism works. We lack the social programs that prevent these issues that other countries have. It’s not even about socialism. We can look to the Scandinavian countries to see that if the United States is hellbent on having capitalism (which I don’t think works not as it is here and perhaps not at all), it can do so with a heavy foundation of social programs that put its most vulnerable populations on better footing. I’m disabled. I cannot work with the illness I have without risking being bedridden or worse for the rest of my life. I’m barely hanging on to not being completely homebound. I need a cane to get around my house because I insisted on working when I was initially sick and have gotten worse in the 3 years since this started. Being in this country is fucking terrifying. There are no safety nets for people like me. The amount of money I would have to pay and years I would have to wait to still be denied disability is outrageous, and our disability programs are constantly being threatened. People are cut off at random. And it’s never enough for people to actually get by. If I somehow found the money to make the kind of appointments and do the testing needed to prove I qualify for disability and keep it going for the years it takes (more than 3 on average) to finally get it approved, it would take years and years of disability to finally recoup the money I shelled out for specialists and testing and scans… And in my current situation, sure it would help but it surely wouldn’t alleviate my poverty. Not here. People literally die waiting on their disability. My dad did when he was diagnosed with cancer.

Being queer in this country is equally as terrifying right now. Sure, you’ll roll your eyes and say that we can get married. What else do we want? How about protections against being fired for being gay? Those don’t exist in many states and federal protections were rolled back under Trump. How about not being denied housing because we’re gay? Not being turned away from healthcare? Not being killed LEGALLY because of gay panic defense? Being able to adopt? Being able to shop without discrimination being disguised as “religious freedom?” Not being forced into conversion therapy by bigoted parents? Or kicked out of the house and put on the streets where the country doesn’t have any sort of programs to help out? The United States doesn’t even rank in the top 15 friendliest countries for the LGBTQIA+ population, and it’s no wonder. Violence continues with hate crimes against the community especially trans women of color. Murders, attacks, fear… what kind of life is that? We can’t even hold hands in public without fearing our safety much less live our lives out and happy. It’s absolutely a MOMENT when you see a gay couple living out and loud and not looking over their shoulder or minimizing their affection. It makes you feel so hopeful and so less alone, but it’s so fucking rare that it’s only ever really okay at pride and even then we encounter protestors who would like nothing more than to eradicate us from the world. We may have come a long way from where we were in the past several decades, but we already had so much more to go before this administration, and it’s not going to get any better any time soon.

At least 5% of America identifies openly as LGBTQIA+. As many as 1 in 5 have a disability with 1 in 10 actually having a severe disability. Half the fucking country almost is female. So while this may be a harsh critique of a country you love, for some of us, it’s a matter of the life, liberty, and happiness others already get without worry. If that’s you, great. But there is so much work left to do. We’ve been browbeaten with this idea that America is the greatest country in the world without fault and without complaint, but that’s hardly true. It may feel good to think in the moment when you’re a few drinks in, fireworks exploding in the background on Independence Day, but the rest of us are exhausted. The rest of us get nauseated when we see those displays of patriotism without criticism. We were founded on questioning what’s right and moral, but that stopped a long fucking time ago, and there are a lot of times I wish I could afford to be done with it all as it was made very clear to me that even though Guthrie sang about this country belonging to us all, there are far too many red-blooded Americans who want the population to look, act, and believe a certain way or we aren’t welcome here.

I’m tired of living where I’m not wanted and couldn’t get help if I was.

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Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado https://www.bakinginatornado.com/2019/07/sobriquetless-secret-subject-swap.html