Archive for simple death

Goodbye ..

Posted in Drum Roll with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 10/19/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

I don’t wake up crying in our old apartment anymore.

I don’t see our cats stalking across the living room toward me, tails up and eyes wide, wondering why my eyes are doing funny things like leaking water.

I can’t see the front door the apartment we used to share. I’ve forgotten what color it is.

I’ve been able to recall less and less of our neighborhood walks. My old haunts are still fresh in my mind, but they don’t include the memory of your presence. I don’t feel you near me anymore when I walk in my favorite park. You’re not whispering in my ear when I stare at the ducks at my favorite pond. I no longer think of the touch of your skin when I imagine the smooth caress of a duckling’s feathers.

The tightness in my chest when I think about your absence has faded.

I can’t bring myself to compare the women I meet to you anymore. Their curves no longer remind me of yours. Their eyes don’t sparkle with the same blues.  I am taken by individual personalities. I no longer detest the idea that my newest acquaintances carry similar personality quirks to yours. I evaluate on a case by case basis again.

I don’t remember what television shows we used to watch together.

How did we discover Tai Iced Tea together, or that the word “Pho” didn’t mean “enemy” in Vietnamese restaurants?

It’s time for me to move on.

I’ve stopped reading our letters to the phantoms of one another that neither of us could ever hope to be. I’ve stopped crucifying myself for not being the man I’ll never be.

I’ve stopped wondering what you wear to work. I don’t do your laundry anymore. I don’t wash your dishes. I no longer pick up your crap.

I don’t remember what your hair smells like anymore.

But make no mistake. I will always care.

Just as you were my deepest wound, you were my greatest love.

I’m still recovering my ability to trust. I am still learning the lessons of the heart that you tried to teach me, whether you know it or not.

We’ll always have the Space Needle and White Chocolate Mochas. We’ll always have the first time we made love.

I’ll always know your tender heart as you once knew mine. I’ll always see it in your photographs of roses. I’ll always feel it in the way you care for others. I’ll always remember it in your kiss.

I will always love you.


Laundry Day and the Written Word.

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life, The Writing Process (How do I Come up These Beats?) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 06/25/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

Howdy!  I wrote this while getting the laundry done, and I found the videos MUCH later.  That’s the kind of day I’ve had today.  Enjoy!!


Laundry day.

Normal (for the most part).  ‘Cept it’s raining. I don’t want to go do it.

I don’t want to stand there folding clothes in a humid room when it’s already stifling outside. I don’t want to watch other people’s kids hang off the machines like monkeys,  tripping on other people’s carts.  I could do without the surly Dominican guy with the greasy  skin and the bloodshot eyes  glaring at me as though I’m going to steal the last drier in the place away from his “more deserving hands.” Guys like him really make me wish I’d kept up with kung fu.

But mostly, I could live without having to bring the laundry back home and put it away for everyone else only to find another giant pile waiting in the wings.  It makes me feel a bit like Sisyphos.  How many times do I have to roll that fucking boulder up the hill?

Yet I have to take advantage of opportunities, don’t I? Sure Bob.

One of my biggest pet peeves is using the words “pet peeves” as though I’m some porn starlet with a massive pout, a ton of cleavage, and nothing better to do than to talk about bikini waxes and guys with little cocks.

Okay fine! I digressed.

But  my second “peeve”  is when someone wastes my bloody time.

Time is precious to me, especially as it is such a limited commodity these days.  I go out, but that’s mostly to run errands and do the family laundry. Recently, I added work to that list of things to do when I leave the house, and that has already had an effect on the way I need to manage my time.

I have to get up earlier, and get more things done. Again, my inner samurai must come out.  I want an economy of motion. I need to preserve my precious energy. Morning coffee and breakfast becomes more important than ever.

In my particular home situation, I find myself having to set an alarm every other morning just to beat some member of my family to the bathroom. If I don’t, I am left in my room for what feels like an hour doing the “I have to pee” shuffle. It looks a lot like the Curley shuffle, but I’m grinding my teeth and cursing like a motherfucking sailor as I do it.

This morning, for instance, I had to shave my head, brush my teeth, shower, make the family coffee, and get ready to do the family laundry. Even now, I’m typing this the blog post in a word program at home as I wait for the wash to be ready at the laundromat just blocks away. I have to multitask. And I’m plenty sure that I’m not the only one in this boat.

The kind of thing that will get under my skin the fastest is when I’m in a hurry and someone has to stop me and say something dumb like “how about this heat?” when it’s a fucking Turkish bath outside.  Street- walking pawn shop owners can go fuck themselves.  Mothers with their babies in strollers or strapped into the backseats of cars get my sympathy .. until they get in my fucking way because they’re too busy using their cell phones to notice that I was trying to get across the street without becoming a hit and run victim. Whoops, out comes another “peeve!”

But at least there’s something interesting coming out of all the aikido I’m doing with Father Time. It’s definitely seeped into my writing.

There are probably two of you out there who may have noticed it. My writing of late seems to come in clipped sentences. I write fast. I get to the point. I waste no words.

I don’t like adverbs the way I used to.

I despise commas.

Any run on sentences that I write try my patience.

It can read like sporadic machinegun fire if I’m not careful. But is this really so bad when you’re trying to write an action scene? Is it unwanted in horror?

I don’t think it is.

A fighting scene can become complicated when one describes martial arts or superpowers. I noticed that most of the run-on sentences in my first book started with quick action but used an “and” or an “as” to link two actions together. In my mind, it read as quick and dirty. But to another reader, that might not be so.

But if, for example, you’re writing about a man who is experiencing the animal side of his werewolf persona, quick, clipped sentences may portray the animal instinct better than you think.

Still don’t see where I’m going with this?  Okay.  Let’s try a series of sentences written from three different kinds of classic horror characters, all of them from the dreaded FIRST PERSON perspective.  (OOoOOO…that’s scary already!)

Chew on this group of sentences written by a verbose serial killer..from outer space: (And out comes my Inner Michael Bay).

“I was born the son of a sharecropper on the north side of the moon. The “East-siders” and the “West-siders” were the ones who fought each other for control of the resources we North-siders produced. I didn’t always think that was fair, but that was the story of my life.

At least, that was how my father told the story every day of my nineteen year life.

That was before I took a led pipe to his head and watched, fascinated as his blood and brain matter spattered both the kitchen walls and my clothes. ”

Now.  Let’s take this same group of sentences, but we’ll give my made up character lycanthropy just for yucks.

“I was born. It didn’t matter what side I was on. Sharecropping sucked.  I let East and West side people kill  each other.  Then, I could crunch their bones. I used knuckles for toothpicks.

I didn’t know what fair was.  I just knew my father was annoying. He told me my fate every day.  But then I became this hairy monster with big teeth.  I ate my father to shut him up.

I liked the taste of blood.  I liked the stretch of sinew.  Chomping through his bones was worth hearing my fate for two decades. Feeling his blood squirt through my fangs made me dizzy with joy.”

I want to take the first sentences again and try for a zombie audition ..

” Born somewhere.  East brains.  West brains. Wet brains? Brains!”

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Y’all think I’m going to end up wanting to eat the brains of upper west side folks in New York City, don’t you? Well FUCK YOU!

Just kidding, folks!   I just find it interesting that the feeling of not having enough time brings a sense of urgency to my writing. Perhaps the lesson here is that life can always bring a writer some useful techniques.  It’s easier to write a character with a sense of urgency if you’ve felt it.  Focus comes out in your narrative’s characters if you’ve been forced to focus. The inner writing samurai chooses his next words with fluid grace.

Horror comes with more ease to those who have been scared shitless.

But does that mean we can tell what a writer is by what they write? It would be erroneous to say that Stephen King is a serial killer, a deranged prison guard, a gunslinger, or anything of the sort. But he has written these characters arguably well enough that a reader can stop and take stock.  An audience can wonder and debate how his mind works.

Perhaps now I finally understand why I have a psych degree from a Liberal Arts college. Perhaps I finally get me.

The question now is will anyone else?

Or will I eat the brains of my audience?..

Too Many Goodbyes …

Posted in Please...., The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 06/22/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

We have to wonder about where life takes us.

Those of us who have had dreams shut down or otherwise denied in our lives will know the pain of losing a part of our souls.

But the question I have to pose to all of you in internet land is this: Is this loss permanent?

Does the loss of our dreams need to leave permanent scars on our hearts?  All these scars can do is scab over.  Some fester if they are repeatedly opened.  Most of us understand how emotional scars can be revisited in the presence of certain people.

I just want to know at what point I will hold myself sacred.  I desire to treat myself the way I would want to be treated.

I know what I’ve been posting lately has had a very personal nature. But that’s the path that my writing always takes.  If anyone were to ask me what inspires my blog posts, I don’t know that I could give a simple answer.  Life sort of does. The pains and pleasures of living can lend themselves to some of my most powerful and heartfelt words. But whether or not I wish to accept it, blogging is writing.

I am writing right now. That does lend me some measure of happiness.

While it’s true that my dream is to write, the bigger picture for me is that I want to live my life well.  I want to be able to recognize opportunities when they strike.

My goal in life is to view the world from within a state of grace.

Life has presented me with yet another challenge today. I will need to meet this goal faster than I ever intended.  I will need the force shield of my grace to help me fathom what I just heard and saw.

It is said that alcoholism is a disease.  It is said that people are the victims of alcoholism.  The DSM IV offers this array of symptoms as a way means of diagnosis:

maladaptive alcohol use with clinically significant impairment as manifested by at least three of the following within any one-year period: tolerance; withdrawal; taken in greater amounts or over longer time course than intended; desire or unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control use; great deal of time spent obtaining, using, or recovering from use; social, occupational, or recreational activities given up or reduced; continued use despite knowledge of physical or psychological sequelae.

But as a mental health worker, I’ve worked with alcoholics.  As an adult, I have had to watch several people I know succumb to “the disease.” I cannot sit here and pretend that I don’t know what alcoholism does to families, to friends, to loved ones.

Someone very close to me is an alcoholic.

The painful part of this discovery is that it’s taken me nearly two decades to fathom what this has meant for my own family; to understand what the effects of this disease have been.  It has rippled into the hearts and souls of everyone around this person.  She has alienated me and everyone that has ever been close to her as a result.

She is slowly destroying her marriage.  She has abused people in more ways than I care to admit. She continues to wreck her own life and blame it on the rest of the world.

I will not lie.  I feel a great swell of pity for the woman, but I cannot love a ghost. She has chosen to remove herself from this world and to live in a reality induced by the head-spinning, caleidoscopic effects of her drinking.

Did you read what I just wrote?  It’s my ultimate understanding of this so called disease. Somewhere in the pathology of this disease, there is always a fucking choice involved.

I’ve learned that there are moments of clarity that shine through for most alcoholics. It is in these moments that some claim that the light of god may shine through the clouds, or the spark of pain may shoot through their hearts. I really do understand the nature of addiction. I quit smoking years back, only to take it up again two years ago when I broke up with my ex. That kind of thing happens. People fall off the wagon.

But I don’t recall beating a child into near unconsciousness because of cigarettes.

And I don’t recollect any time when I decided to alienate my lovers because they would not wake in the dead of night to purchase a pack of smokes for me. If it was really a concern for me, I would have simply smoked less per day to stretch the cigs.

College living taught me that much.

I don’t even know where I’m going with this post anymore, so I’ll leave you all with this.

I hate having to say goodbye to this person over and over again, so I don’t think I’m going to waste my breath.  I’m going to try to live the rest of my life.  That’s all that’s left for me to do in this case.  I don’t have it in me to be a rescuer, especially for someone who does not seek to be rescued.

I have learned a harsh lesson tonight.  Life is replete with those.  Fortunately, I have started work within the last three days.  It distracts me from all this, and like my writing, it is a step in the right direction.

Things can only look up from here.

Goodnight everyone.

Reviewing the Writing of Others…

Posted in The Writing Process (How do I Come up These Beats?) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 05/25/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

As some of you already know by now, I have rediscovered my love of writing.  I really didn’t begin to write horror stories until sometime within the last few months, but I can tell you right now that the journey has already been replete with excitement and challenges.  The honing of one’s skill within their own craft, no matter what it may be, is always going to be this way.


Even when one absolutely adores what they do, they may still be faced with the choice of expanding the influence that their work has on this world; a chance to leave a mark on the fabric of the universe.  Never let anyone tell you that it’s easy to show someone else your artwork, your writing, martial arts, or anything else that you can do.  Shows like American Idol and “The X factor” seem to make light of the fact that people have to swallow back a lot of nervous energy to show off their skills to the rest of the world.  Does anyone really believe that Kelli Clarkson, Phillip Phillips, or any other vocalist hasn’t had a bout with stage fright?


And should we really believe that it’s okay to make fun of William Hung and countless other wannabe singers because nobody had the balls to tell them that they’re just not good enough to elicit more than the ridicule of their audiences?




The same thing happens within the realm of writing.  When I first joined, I had virtually no interest in showing my work to anyone.  Part of that was fear, pure and simple.  I hadn’t written anything for almost a decade, and I was not certain that my skills would hold up.  That’s changed, in part, because I took a leap of faith and began to enter a certain horror writing contest called the Daily Slice.  For anyone who wants a taste of what it’s like to write horror in a thousand words or less and to have it scrutinized by me or by any of the other capable writers and judges of such a contest, I recommend trying it once.  It will open your eyes to one universal truth.


Putting yourself out there is kind of like walking naked down the street.  You don’t want people to see all your flaws, but if you’re like me, you don’t mind the possibility that SOMEONE might find SOMETHING beautiful about you.


So what happens when you begin to do reviews for the written work of others?


As someone who writes almost every day, I have to tell you that one of the greatest of learning experiences for me has been the reading and the reviewing of other people’s work.  The reason why I say this is very simple.  No matter what anyone tells you about style, finesse, technique, etc, the power of the written word is that it can be taken and utilized in so many different ways to elicit so many different kinds of emotions, that it’s potential is virtually limitless.  The judges of Horror Inc. (the group that I joined after a few months on all read, write, and explore the inner workings of horror among other things.  But no two of us will ever be said to write the same subject in the same way.  All the work that I have read and reviewed has been different.  No two writers have ever written something identically, even when they write about the exact same topic.  The varying styles and techniques have made me aware of the quirks and stylistic elements that I bring to my own writing, and in that way, I’ve begun to understand the individuality of my own voice.  I’ve been reviewed as well, and not always with the favor that I would like for my work.  But I believe that I’ve grown in terms of being able handle such criticisms, to pick and chose which ones seem valid, and to move forward, learning from my mistakes as well as my triumphs.  Nobody is perfect.  J.K. Rowling has made millions with her work, but I can’t see her telling me that she always KNEW she would be a rousing success.


The power of reviewing such works as a writer can only really manifest, however, with pure and simple honesty.  There is nothing more annoying to me as a writer than receiving a review that reads like this:


“Wow.  You’re good.  I want to read more!”


I don’t dislike the compliment, but I want to know WHY you think I’m good, just like I would want to know WHAT about my work disappointed, confused, or otherwise did not please you in some way.  If I’m going to be an exhibitionist with my writing, I’m going to want to know how I can possibly improve my work.  It isn’t enough now for someone to say “awesome writing.”  Nobody is perfect.  I’ll be the first to say that I am not.  But I am always willing to work hard and improve my technique.  It is, I believe, the difference between one who masters a craft, like martial arts, and one who simply practices the moves that they love over and over again because they KNOW they can do it already.  How does one grow as a human being without going outside their comfort zones?


A review that I am likely to give someone who’s asked me for some feedback will read a little something like this one that I wrote for a contest entrant not too long ago:


‘Hola! Thank you for entering the Daily Slice!

I will start by saying that I can tell that you have a vivid imagination, and this is one of the foundations of writing a solid short story for horror. I was anticipating what the nature of this deal was for this character. I was intrigued at the fact that you started your piece with invisible creatures with paws that wander past the character into a strange cabin. This makes for the potential setup for a great story.

But I would be remiss as both a reviewer and a judge if I did not tell you what did not work for me in this piece.

The first thing that didn’t work for me was a visual formatting issue. On this website, authors do their audiences a huge favor when they separate paragraphs as they are writing or editing their work. When I first started to write for WDC, I had to learn that formatting differences definitely existed between MS Word on my computer and the way the text would appear on the WDC site. Please remember to separate paragraphs and quoted statements from one another in the future as this will give your narrative a smoother and easier visual flow, and your audience will appreciate it very much.

The second place where your piece gets a little confusing for me has to do with an area of your story where you switch the tense of your writing. You start your writing off in present tense, taking the audience with you as though events are unfolding this very second. But as I read the following, I could hear the screaming of car tires (and then I remembered I live in the middle of New York City):

Are they out there?” Her hair is wet, and her clothes are covered in dirt. “I don’t know… I can’t see them.” I take my jacket off and put it on her shoulders. “Of course not. Their hellhounds. No one can see them!” She starts crying then. I swallow hard, just to think that could have been me if I had finished the deal. “Did you try to make a…deal?” I asked her.
“Yes! I didn’t think that they would come for me! I mean I thought I had longer. But once they chase you there’s no way to escape them.”
“Then how come they haven’t gotten into the cabin yet?”
“I don’t know!” A howl wrenched through the stillness of the basement. The walls shook as they threw themselves against the walls.

I was with you up until the part that’s bold in this passage. It was confusing to me that you went from the present tense to the past tense, and then switched back to the present tense with the following sentences:

We start walking, then I notice that there following us. Side by side. I pretend like I don’t see and continue. The car comes into view, I don’t know what’s going to happen but I have a feeling that there not going to let us escape. So close….

If I was confused, it is very likely that your audience will be as well. Switching tenses alters the time frame in which a set of actions can take place. Sticking with one tense allows a reader to read through a narrative without having to stop and redraw the action map that they started in their brains.

The third factor that takes away from the potential of your piece has to do with my sense that it is incomplete, which ultimately depletes its scare factor. I would love to know, for instance, how the main character seems to know that she is dealing with hell hounds. You’ve established that she has somehow made a deal with a malevolent force or spirit, but this alone does not lend itself to the notion that she has “dealt with” hell hounds or any other denizens of hell before now. Just as importantly, revealing what the creatures are with a sentence sort of takes away from their frightening mystery, and that can be a setback for your fright factor as well.

To complete the effect of a short story like this one, a writer needs to show their audience what they are afraid of rather than simply tell us. The better horror stories, in my opinion, are those that evoke emotion with the use of the five senses. There are a couple of sentences that you’ve written here that could be expanded upon with this idea in mind :

We start walking, then I notice that there following us. Side by side. I pretend like I don’t see and continue. The car comes into view, I don’t know what’s going to happen but I have a feeling that there not going to let us escape. So close….

Leaving aside a few minor grammatical errors, the more important problem with this set of sentences to ME is that they are ultimately telling us rather than showing us the meaning of fear. When “I notice that they’re following us,” that might not seem as frightening to an audience as something like “The snarls and growls of unseen creatures pursued us as we ran pell-mell through the snags and tangles of the woods, the jagged bark of branches lashing into us as we ran for our lives.” I only wrote that last part as just one example of a myriad of ways that your first sentence could have expanded into an actual part of a vignette. That vignette should lead your audience on a sensory journey that will potentially give them goose flesh. That is part of the essence of writing good horror.

The car comes into view, I don’t know what’s going to happen but I have a feeling that there not going to let us escape. So close…. can be rewritten like this:

The car came into view just a short distance away. As invisible claws slashed at our bodies and unseen, ferocious jaws snapped at our feet, my hope for escape threatened to hurl itself out through my open mouth with one final scream. The source of our escape loomed so close. Yet the distance between us and the vehicle seemed to elongate. Our final moments closed in upon us like the creatures that surrounded us and sought to rend the flesh from our bones with jagged teeth.

I will not sit here and say that these are the only words that could have been chosen, but using YOUR own words, you should seek to have your audience essentially take the horrifying ride with your characters. Grab your reader by his or her hand and have them run with you as you make a mad dash for freedom, surrounded by invisible creatures that seek to destroy you, knowing that any moment in time could be your last. With a snap of the fingers, one of you could be dead! Your potential to live and be a part of this world is snuffed out in the blink of an eye. THAT is another part of the essence of true horror, especially with a piece that is written from a first-person perspective such as yours.

It is difficult for me to read a piece like yours, knowing the potential that existed with the set up and not offer some helpful hints as to what could turn an okay piece into a potentially magnificent work of horror fiction. A thousand words really isn’t much to work with, but in this case, you’ve got much more wiggle room to bring your piece to a satisfying sense of completion. Consistency with the tense of your sentences will also smooth out your narrative, which will ultimately make the journey that much more enjoyable. Be careful of grammatical errors, and make sure your formatting does not make your readers go cross-eyed. The bottom line is audiences want to enjoy your work. We’re cheering for every author we read in this contest because we want to be scared. Don’t be afraid to go for the gusto when you write for us at Horror Inc. I, for one, feel that you can do much better. So show us. I dare you!’


I’m not going to sit here and say that I know all the answers.  But reviews such as these are painful to write (some can take as much as four hours to come up with), and yet the writers on all seem to covet them.  I don’t hold back when I review someone’s work, and I would hope to goodness that someone who looked at my work didn’t hold back with me.  True improvement can only come with the honesty that someone like me would offer a potential author.


Reviews as a judge for a horror writing contest kill me sometimes.  I have watched several of the writers that I’ve repeatedly reviewed on grow and change.  They’ve honed their craft so well that they have won the contest I judge.  That is truly gratifying to me. Other times, I’ve hit the same author five times running with the same advice and critiques.  I’ve held their hands and even rewritten portions of their story for them in order to demonstrate what I mean by something like “SHOW US THE SCARY, DON’T TELL US WHAT TO BE AFRAID OF,” and other such advice.


But more than one of my fellow judges has told me that I have the potential to be a “dream killer.” I say, “fine.”


The dream for the other writer only dies if they let my critiques and opinions kill it.  I am not going to start pulling my punches and shortening my own strides in order to pretend that someone is better than they are.  Aikido has taught me that much.  The idea behind Aikido as a martial art is to essentially “honor the direction that someone else is taking in their lives.”  If their momentum is leading them somewhere, I may simply be assisting them on that journey.  A life path can be viewed in the same way, and so can the effort that one puts into their own writing.  If I don’t tell you as a writer what I think is wrong with your piece, than I have not honored your life direction.  If I am asked to respect someone’s wish to become an author, I will not dishonor that person’s efforts by blowing sunshine up their ass.  And I would expect the same courtesy.


So if you’re a friend of mine and you’re asking for me to review your work, be warned.  I won’t be softening my critiques just to appease what our friendship offers me.  In fact, if you truly respect me as a writer, a reviewer and as your friend, you will at least take my advice into consideration.  I am no guru, but I’m not going to piss on your leg and tell you it’s raining.




I’m Grateful to Horror…

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life, The Writing Process (How do I Come up These Beats?) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 04/28/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

I stood in my shower this morning, letting the cold air hit my naked body for a full three minutes before I could muster the energy to turn my water on.  I’d been up since six AM, and sleep didn’t seem likely to return.   The sandman’s visit, much like my patience with myself these days, was all too short.


I didn’t even know what to do with my body when the water started to make the pipes in the walls rumble dangerously.   A high pitched “screeaaal” signaled the eminent burst of water through the shower head.  That first explosion is always cold water.  I know better than to just stand in front of the shower head at this point.  This morning, though, I just couldn’t bring my tired hand up to block the cold dagger that slashed at my cheeks.  I started though, shifting my feet under me while the wet porcelain squeaked beneath.  I let the water warm up as it simply flowed over my tired, shaking body.


I was in no mood to be awake.  In truth, I could have turned off the water, gotten out, thrown my clothes back on and jumped back into bed.  But sleep felt like a lost cause.  So here I was, getting ready for day, for a world that I didn’t think had any business asking anything of me for the next fucking week.  I looked down as streams of water cascaded off my thighs and my shoulders, and I laughed like a 4 year old who’d just noticed that “water go down the hoooooole.”


I wondered what aspects of my being were also going down the drain other than the dirt from under my bare feet and a couple of million dead skin cells.   I pictured my sense of self, my notions of justice, my ability to love and my tolerance for the rest of the world as lithe beings of white light that coagulated at the drain before the small whirlpool sucked them all down, their tiny hands reaching for the sky, their bodies quivering in a desperate bid for survival.


I cried at that moment.  A funerary dirge played in my head as my body shook with silent grief.  It sounded a lot like the theme song I once heard from from the movie Platoon.  Samuel Barber was a fucking genius, but I wanted to kick him for it.   My brain chugged into gear at that moment like an old Ford truck having “one of them fuckin’ days.”  I began to ponder what else was going to go down that drain before this shower even began in earnest.


Steam started to come up around my feet before I realized I wasn’t even standing under the shower head anymore.  I took a deep breath and counted backwards from ten.  It was a practice I’d started in High school whenever my little brother would wake up and have a temper tantrum outside my bathroom door as I got ready for the day.  If I couldn’t get to the number “one” and think of something that would make me smile or look forward to my day, than I would keep counting until something sprang to mind.


On some of those mornings I must have counted for a good ten or twenty minutes before anything came to mind.


My right eye socket started to throb before I took a deep, shaky breath.  A tiny taiko drummer was inside my head, beating my skull exuberantly.  I wanted to flay him.


And then it suddenly hit me.  My tears had washed down the drain as well.  Anger, sadness, loneliness, and the sense that I’m not good enough all had shot through me and released themselves through the acid burn of my eyes.  Salty heralds of my pain had had their chance to go unchecked, and yet they too were sucked down by the great equalizer that was my bathtub’s metal circle of death.  The Titanic might has well have struck an iceberg in my fucking bathtub for all it mattered.  I didn’t have the strength to rescue anyone.  But then I pictured all the passengers as nameless representations of some of the many things that have weighed me down of late.  I realized then that I didn’t want to find a life preserver for anyone other than myself.


What other passengers could I picture on this sinking ship of insanity?


What other passengers would you all picture on such a ship?



The horror writer in me simply laughed at the hapless passengers on my own version of the Titanic as they sank into the watery depths below.  That sense of the macabre, believe it or not, brought me back from true despair.  If I could bottle that and sell it to some of the people who have entered the horror-writing contest over which I’ve presided as judge, I would fucking do it in a heartbeat.


A crowd gathered then in my bathroom.  A werewolf chewing on the hilt of a sword, a tragically deranged mountain man with a leather mask, succubi in training for their next fatal seduction, the things that live in the cellar, vampires, zombies, and even a boy with glasses giving a certain movie “three thumbs up” all pulled back my shower curtains curtains and gawked at me.  The mountain man cocked his head to the side as he stared.  Two naked succubi looked me up and down lasciviously.  The little boy’s glasses glittered after he gave me the finger..


And I guffawed stupidly before coughing up the water that I’d suddenly inhaled.


Now I sit here in silent thanks for the existence of horror as a form of entertainment.  It may be a weird thing to be grateful for, but I’ll toast to it all the same.  Besides, I know that a certain someone who keeps showing up and laughing behind my back as I type this doesn’t drink…wine.


My Viewpoint on Death

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 04/01/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

A good friend of mine named E. posted on his blog not too long ago and he asked a very poignant question regarding people’s thoughts on death.  I thought it was worth answering as I am a thirty-something year old man who has thought a lot about life and the crazy directions that it can take.  I won’t gush over something like this. Death is something that so few of us really talk about in an open and honest way, even when someone we know or love passes on.


I thought you all might like to read my answer to his question.  I didn’t realize how strong my feelings were on the subject until I wrote them.  It’s funny how that can happen…


E. –


This is actually a really good question.  I’ve thought about it a lot more as I’ve become a thirty something, looked back over my life for the last decade or so and realized that I want to change it into something totally different.


When I was a kid, I used to think of death as a step in a “choose your own adventure” novella. I was brought up Catholic, and the idea of death that was presented to me was very simple. Death was simply the moment where God would judge what you had done with your life. If he deemed that you were good enough, you would be allowed into a place that offered eternal paradise and peace. If he deemed you evil, than you would be cursed to an eternity of fire and brimstone. You COULD end up somewhere in the middle (Purgatory), but the priests at my local church didn’t recommend that either.


But I had issues with a God that allowed rape, murder. and DEATH to some people who were so young and so good and didn’t deserve those things. I also took issue with a God who allowed bad people to live into their eighties and nineties without so much as a howdy do!


And I was an angry kid when it came to my autistic brother. I just didn’t understand why GOD would curse someone like that, and then inflict him upon an already turbulent family.


I lost my faith before I hit puberty. Prayer didn’t help, and I felt alone all the time even when I was surrounded by people.


Skip ahead to my college years. I was in my twenties, I was dating, I was reaping the benefits of a higher education thanks to the standardized testing that once again set me apart from everyone else. But college was different. I finally got to meet people who were inquisitive and intelligent like I am. But I was also away from home, and the rules were my own to make or to break as I saw fit. I felt invincible, really. By my senior year, I was convinced that death was simply a state of mind. I watched friends of mine get so stoned all the time that they essentially killed the spark of life that used to be in their eyes. No longer were they the intelligent, active, creative people that I had gotten to know. To me, THAT was death.


These days, I believe that to somehow forget to live while you’re still on this earth is Hell, but it isn’t death


Now in my thirties, I have forced myself to prioritize what my life goals really are. I have learned some painful lessons along the way about life, love, and the bonds of family. I watched a ten year relationship of mine finally fall apart because the two of us could no longer be in love with the IDEA of each other. I watched family ties get broken and then rebuilt in those ten or so years. I am home now, and I am still struggling with the notion that blood could ever be thicker than water. I am also in the process of fulfilling my ultimate dream to be a writer, something that I virtually eliminated from my life for the ten years I was with my ex.


When someone asks me what death means to me now, I tell them that death is simply an equalizer. Everyone fucking dies.


There’s a famous movie quote that I often paraphrase in my head that pretty much declares that the only two things that one must deal with in this world are death and taxes. The person to whom this is uttered is a gangster that says,”I don’t pay taxes.”


Death simply reminds me that there are still “miles to go before I sleep,” and I want to make those miles the most beautiful part of my life. My end goal, really, is to leave this world better place than it was when I first entered it.  But I want to do it my way.  I want to bring my own creativity into the mix, to entertain people and give them a means by which to escape the mundane, the terrifying or the overwhelming aspects of their own lives. I want to allow people to delve into a fictional world of my own creation (if only for a little while). And I am not without ego. I want to be known for my ability to do it. If I can make a decent living doing it, so much the better. Maybe I want to know what it’s like to live in an actual house someday by the beach, listening to the waves crash against the shore as I come up with my next insane piece of writing.


But most of all, I want to reclaim the love that was stripped from me as a youth. I want to rise from the ashes as a powerful Phoenix and soar unto the heavens, graceful, beautiful, and proud. And I want to share that with people that I actually give a damn about rather than pretending that certain people in my life have done more for me than they actually have. Death strips you of all those concerns, and maybe it is, as some would claim, the ultimate liberation. But I’m not about to suicide to get rid of the pain that still remains in my heart. There’s still too much to do, too much to live for. There are still streets in my own city that I have not fully explored. I still have people to reach out to. I have finally begun to allow love to melt the ice that occasionally threatens to reform around my heart. I will put down my sword and pick up a pen, a laptop, or a special someone’s hand….


I still have too many stories to tell the world.


-Mr. Drummer


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