Hi, all. It's been suggested to me that placing this in the poetry forum was probably not the right choice, and that this belongs here. It's part of the first chapter (1st draft!) of a story I'm working on. (Please be kind!) If anyone cares to comment, I'd love to hear what you think. Boring? Good? Stinky? Thanks! I'm looking forward to hanging out here! -Lorelei the Siren Chapter One Gargoyles My children are playing in their room. It is dirty. They are dirty. I am staring at the ceiling of my basement apartment, behind in my rent and feeling squalid and without hope. There are no windows in this room. That’s good. Today at least, I do not want windows. Today I am one of the innumerable downtrodden who pace and wait for death; life is a bus stop for some of us. Hurry up and be over with, life. Me and my children are cold, it is raining. We are hungry. We have no money. We want to get aboard the nice, warm bus, and sit down. Close our eyes and just enjoy the ride. Lay down now. Go to your unmade bed, lay down and close your eyes. There will be nothing when you open them. Just dirty dishes, fruit flies, the same stack of unpaid “Final Notices”, the dents in the car. The despair, the dust. And the Knowing. The Knowing. The most painful of afflictions. The Knowing consists of the buried corpses of failure. Those things we leave out of our everyday minds, set aside to rot. Deny to Death. Bury and plant over with our lovely gardens. There. That’s better. The sunshine, the flowers, the grass, this is all real. Those decaying Things in the ground....what things? I don’t remember those Things. I choose not to remember them. The Knowing attacks the sleeping. The content. I am standing at the bowling alley, working on my fourth strike, a pleasant light-headedness guiding my steady hand, and instead the Knowing strikes. Perhaps with an image, or a phrase. A thought...innocuos. Unexpected. “You’re going to get evicted, Lorelei. Then, you’ll have nowhere to go and they’ll take away your kids.” The evil corpse continues gleefully, relishing the outcome of this particular nights prediction. “You’re going to end up sleeping under a bridge with no one left to give a S--T about you”. Suddenly, the bowling alley is too bright, the light-headedness turns to panic, my eyes are dry – my mouth full of glass. I’ll likely throw a gutter. I’ll sit quietly, acknowledging to no one around me that one of my zombies has just risen at the most inopportune of times – to wreck a 200 game . Engaged in the battle to shut the evil b---h up, rip her face off, kick her back into the f-----g ground, I seem quiet to those around me. A little spaced out even. But I’ll win. I always win. She’ll die for a while and I’ll be able to get on with things... But the Knowing always comes back. To remind me of my shortcomings during my triumphs, to taunt me with my worries when I’m laughing, to cackle my miseries in my ear when I’m at my desk. “You’ll be FIRED again Lorelei. You’ll be FIRED for staying home with your kids too much. THEN YOU’LL HAVE TO TELL YOURSELF IT WASN’T YOUR FAULT. BUT WE KNOW THE TRUTH, DON’T WE?” The only thing keeping the thread of reality from snapping, is keeping the Knowing with her razor-sharp scissors at bay. Convincing myself that I am not a list of failures is my only defense. I look forward to the night. The sweet deliverance of sleep - bliss. Sheer bliss to be asleep and warm. It is for this that I, and those like me, continue to strive. The luxury of the bed I sleep in, unmade though it may be. The luxury of a bedroom for the children. Dirty as it may be. The heaven that is oblivion. You cannot be oblivious if you hungry, or cold, or without a bed. Oblivion is the finest luxury I am afforded. And I can’t help but look forward to when the bus will pull finally pull up, and I can get on – get oblivious, and enjoy the ride. I dream of those things that most people take for granted. Cleanliness. Job security. Someone to share my bed. Nice clothes. I look at other women sometimes. Even fat, unattractive women. But, she may have a fat, attractive ring on her finger. Fat, unattractive children dressed in smart outfits with clean faces. Her hair is neat. Impossibly neat by my standards. Her clothes are pressed, she pushes a stroller that does not appear to be stained with juice and baby food. How does she manage these things? I long to be her. The fat, homely stranger whose home I imagine to be immaculate. She probably has a late model car, RRSPs, and a husband who still sees her as beautiful. She is beautiful. And I am ugly. I am a dirty, despicable creature dressed up as a human being who can forget this basic fact most of the time. Sometimes, passably good-looking. Well, at least I used to get away with it a lot more than I do now. I used to be able to convince people that I was the same as them....sitting with them at a coffee shop, dressed in probably the only clean clothes to emerge for the mountain of laundry strewn about my floor, I might pass as one of Them. At these times, I am sure to try to make my hair neat. Conceal the imagined blemishes on my face that I’ve nonetheless picked into scabs. Put on some lipstick. Managed to tidy up my car. Then, I’ll laugh, chat, and pretend – just for a while – that I’m one of them. Drink a cup of coffee and lament about the huge dinner I’m planning to make. Yes, all that work just to throw away the leftovers! Complain about the laundry I have to do when I get home. The payments I must be sure to make. Oh the trials of life. All the while, the Knowing is a gargoyle squatting on my shoulder, invisible to all but me. Laughing hysterically at this charade. Gut wrenching riffs of humiliating laughter in my ear. Chiding me silently while I sit among my “Friends”. “You are a JOKE and an IMPOSTER Lorelei! You know full well there’s laundry in that pile from last SUMMER, you know GODD--N well that you’re having MACARONI for dinner and THEN ONLY IF YOU CAN MANAGE TO WASH A COUPLE OF F-----G DISHES FOR YOUR POOR CHILDREN YOU STUPID B---H! WHITE TRASH! TRAILER-PARK SCUMBAG! YOU DON’T THINK THEY KNOW??? YOU DON’T THINK THEY SEE ME SITTING HERE????” And I know they see it. See it in my sagging smile. My wrinkled clothes. My bitten fingernails and crooked teeth. It was so much easier when I was convinced that they couldn’t see. I could still smile, secure in my fantasies. So secure, in fact, so well convinced that I truly believed I was one of them. Prideful and full of hope – I remained steadfast and determined to see pile of bills to the bottom. Look nice in public...lose fifteen pounds. Marry the man who could see just how Wonderful I am. It has grown so difficult to conjure these images. To project myself as normal. To convince myself that I haven’t caught the spark of incredulity in their eyes....to be convinced that I haven’t sensed their well-disguised pity. “You sure are, one of us, Lorelei. You are great.” Life was simpler when I believed that the Knowing was a fiend who accompanied everyone in their day-to-day lives. Engaged in an imagined commradery with my peers, I imagined that they, too, had gargoyles on their shoulders. I supposed that they, too, wore conjured faces to conceal their despair. I was right sometimes. Right about the ones whose facades bore cracks. Whose trappings were transparent. Whose efforts laughable, pain and panic swimming like black fish beneath clear ice... visible. Revolting. I found myself proud of my ability to hide the swarming black creatures that swam nervously below my surface. I thought myself superior to the underlings, their ineptitudes casting them instantly as outcasts. But... For those whose facades were smooth, whose eyes remained steady and clear, whose voices remained a serene, flat line no matter what, I found myself enchanted. Beguiled by their incredible ability to hide their truths. To muffle their gargoyles. Baffled by their talents, I observed, trying to learn their impossible craft. I emulated. Simulated. Carrying them around like coaches in my minds: the calm, self-controlled role-models who served as my inspiration (mundane individuals by anyone else’s standards, I’m sure). Yet, they possessed what I most coveted: Their souls seemed staked to the ground; their eyes trained on an invisible lighthouse that kept them oriented and guided. I frantically searched for this beacon, so visible to them, and so lost to me. I wondered how it was that their gargoyles, their Knowings, did not cause them to lose their course. All this time, baffled and in awe of these people, I remained utterly ignorant to their “Secret”. Dumbfounded by the obvious, and devestated when it finally dawned on me: They had no Knowings. They had no Gargoyles. Not everybody does as it turns out. This knowledge, simple as it was, singlehandedly planted in me the first desire I ever had to die. For how else does one escape their Knowing?