The Illusion of Control

Control

I was watching something on television the other day. I don’t remember the name of the program, which tells you how memorable it was, but there was one segment that briefly caught my attention. Its premise concerned what we can do to exert more control in our lives, which implied that people have more control over their lives than they think.

What a crock of shit!

Seriously, what can we control? I mean, really control, as in wanting things to fall a certain way and being able to engineer the outcome we want, whenever we want.

We can’t control how other people act, what they do, or what they think of us. We can’t control events that impact our lives. We can’t control our health (I’ll explain later).  Many people have careers that choose them rather than the other way around.

I’m sure I could add to this list if I spent more time thinking about it, but my belief is the theory that we are masters of our destiny is an illusion. As I read these words I find myself asking “when have you become so cynical? That isn’t you.” My response is that I’m not being cynical, just realistic.

First of all, don’t confuse control with influence. We can certainly influence, or try to influence, all of the previously mentioned items, and sometimes we get lucky. But to consistently exert influence on events to such an extent that they turn out the way we desire? I think not.

The only thing we control in our jobs is whether to accept a job offer, and when it is time to quit and move on. We can certainly try to make ourselves indispensable by excelling at things like showing up on time, getting along with your peers, and the quality of our output.  But we can’t control layoffs, our customers, or the economy that influences many corporate decisions. We also can’t control the decisions made by the folks higher in the corporate food chain that make our work lives easier or harder.

Controlling people? Good luck with that! Hell, we can’t even control our kids. Maybe when they are younger and worship (or fear) us, but they eventually stand their ground, tune us out, and want to make decisions on their own, regardless of whether we think they are good/smart or bad/dumb. They blaze their own path, and if we are lucky, they will seek our counsel and actually consider what we have to say.

You can’t control what people think about you, or whether they like you. I’ve met people that I didn’t care for, and it wasn’t because of something they did or how they treated me. We simply didn’t mesh, through no fault of theirs. And even though I consider myself an extremely likable guy, it would be naïve to think everyone I come into contact with feels the same.

And bosses? Well, I had one boss in particular that treated me like shit for reasons unknown, and it didn’t matter how well or poorly I performed or what my immediate supervisor thought. He just took a dislike to me, and took pleasure in putting me under his thumb and tightening the screws whenever he could. I couldn’t get out of that place fast enough, but it took three years of hell before that happened. I’m sure everyone has a story or two like that.

Our health? Well, we can control what we put into our bodies, and how much sleep and exercise we get. That might give us better odds at staying healthy, but that’s about it. Look at me, for example. I’ve eaten well, never abused my body or had any addictions, have been in good shape and exercised regularly for a good part of my life. So why did I get MS, especially when there isn’t any family history?

To further illustrate, I’ve known people who didn’t smoke or drink and did all the right things, but still developed cancer or heart disease. Conversely I’ve known people who smoked like a chimney and lived to a ripe old age.

And as far as controlling the progression of my MS is concerned? Well, I’m taking all the recommended meds, vitamins and all the prescribed treatments, but is any of that really making a difference? K believes it has helped confine the progression and slow its pace, and maybe she’s correct. But the fact is that in ten short years I’ve gone from an active, able bodied guy to someone who has a hard time walking or staying upright. What are the next ten years going to look like? Is any of that going to prevent a date with the wheelchair at some point in time? I think not.

We certainly can’t control our elected representatives. The illusion of control through the ballot box exists, but in most cases the incumbent, supported by their lobbyists and sycophants, prevail. In my mind, these aren’t elections. They’re auctions.

What we do have control over is very simple. How we treat friends, family and people in general is at the top of a short list. So is deciding if we conduct our lives with honesty and integrity. We control whether we treat everyone in our orbit with kindness, empathy and genuineness. We control whether the decisions we make are based on what we believe is right, or if we take the easy, expedient path. We control whether we approach life with a glass half-full or half-empty point of view.

We all have regrets in life, but if we are true to ourselves, judgement and remorse won’t accompany them. Ultimately, the one thing we control from our attitudes and actions is how we feel about ourselves, the lives we have lived, and the people we have touched.

And isn’t that what really matters?

 

 

Fatigue

fatigue

I get monthly treatments for my MS: apheresis (plasma transfer) every month, IV steroids most months, and Ocrevus twice a year.

Yesterday was the day I made my monthly visit to the apheresis clinic where I have the procedure done. I’ve thought of the whole plasma transfer thing as kind of a macabre, modern-day date with a vampire, the major exceptions being that it doesn’t involve my neck, and what is removed is replaced. For those of you who have followed this space for a while, you may remember me describing the process a long time ago. For those of you who haven’t, or may have forgotten and are curious, you can refresh your memory here.

The reason I bring this up is because one of the lovely symptoms MS can bring to the table is fatigue, and I’m not talking about the feeling tired and run down variety. No, the kind I am talking about is the bone crushing, soul-sucking, quasi-paralyzing kind.  I’ve read about how this can affect people through various articles and blog posts, but never experienced it for myself. Until yesterday, that is.

Now, it is not unusual for me to feel tired and a little run down after the procedure, particularly once I get home. In fact, this is something I feel all the time, but it is manageable. I might feel like I’m walking in molasses, or that my head feels like it is full of cotton, but it’s no worse than having a bad night’s sleep. But for some reason, yesterday was different.

It didn’t start out that way. I drove to the building site of our new home once my procedure was done to help K remove some of the slush that had settled onto the floors. The roof is up but the structure is not yet fully enclosed (more on that in a future post) and we have had a really strange winter so far (more on that too!) where most of the storms have involved a little snow, followed by sleet, then freezing rain and/or rain. Such was the case Wednesday night, but that was followed by sunny skies and fifty degree temps in the afternoon, and we wanted to remove what melted or plopped onto the floors before it re-froze.

K had done most of the work by the time I got there, but I started to push and scrape what I could find out of the structure when it hit.

The first sensation was a wave of fatigue so strong that I became a little nauseous, so I slowed the pace down. As we left the site ten minutes later, it felt like my feet were stuck to the floor, and I felt very woozy. The normal cotton in my head was replaced by thick sludge. I never said a word to K because she would not have wanted me to get into my car and drive home, but it was less than a five minute drive, and it never felt like I was going to pass out.

Once we arrived home, I struggled to get my muck-boots off, then proceeded to the rocker-recliner. Once settled, I leaned back, closed my eyes, sunk into the soft leather, and my body felt like it weighed 1,000 pounds.  It felt as if I was literally glued onto the chair. I wouldn’t lift or move my head, could barely move my arms or legs, not that I wanted to, and even moving my fingers felt like a overwhelming chore.

Although my eyes were closed, I couldn’t sleep. I heard everything going on around me, but it felt as if I was in more of a trance-like state: part of me was present but another part of me was in never-land. The experience was more weird than alarming. I stayed like that until it was time for dinner, when I peeled myself off the recliner, and trudged over to the kitchen table. I was suddenly ravenous once I saw the plate of pasta, shredded cheese and vegetables, inhaled it in less than five minutes, had seconds, and began feeling a little better.

Afterwards, I did a couple of chores, but the fatigue started setting in again. So I announced to the room that I was done for the evening, dragged my sorry ass up those fourteen stairs, took a shower, and shuffled into the bedroom. Once comfortable, I turned on the television, queued up something on the DVR, pulled out my vape stick with the MMJ, and took two long pulls off it instead of the normal one. Hey, I figured feeling supremely stoned would be a lot better than what I was currently feeling, and I was right. Consumed by what I was watching, I forgot all about the other stuff. A few hours later, I was ready for sleep, closed my eyes, and had a long, uninterrupted, dreamless sleep. The fog hasn’t completely lifted as I write this, but it’s a pin-prick compared to yesterday’s sledgehammer.

I don’t know if this was an anomaly or if it will become the norm. The one thing I did not do before the procedure was eat much. Other than coffee, I didn’t have any breakfast and had a can of soup for lunch, which I thought would be enough. I’m guessing that yesterday’s experience may become a once in a while thing, and we’d test that theory under normal circumstances next month. But March is one of the months where I get the Ocrevus in addition to the apheresis, which brings a completely different host of symptoms, so we’ll have to wait for the time after that to see if this almost-paralyzing fatigue occurs, assuming I remember what it felt like.

Today is a new day, one in which the steroids-induced hiccups have arrived and will plague me throughout the day and night, becoming worse and more frequent as the day gets longer. If I’m unlucky, they will make it hard to fall asleep or wake me up throughout the night. I hate those little bastards. But we do what we have to do to avoid a date with the dreaded wheelchair.

Besides, I can always double or triple up on the vape stick if it becomes intolerable. That always seems to settle things down.

 

 

 

The Beauty of Shitty First Drafts

1st draft

When I began writing the manuscript for my novel, I didn’t know how to go about it. I had a concept and knew what the opening scene would be, but that was all. So I tried to take a common-sense approach.

You obviously need characters for any story, so I created a list of names and their relationship to the main character. You also need a plot, so I roughed out an outline that consisted of chapter numbers and the general theme of each chapter. This step took awhile because if this outline was going to be my roadmap, I actually had to think the story through.

Writing the opening prologue was a piece of cake because, big surprise, the main character has MS, and the prologue is a dramatization of the day MS first introduced itself to me. But then the process came to a screeching halt. Like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming tractor trailer, I stared back and forth between the computer screen, the keyboard, and the outline. I didn’t know how or where to tell the story that was in my head. Fortunately, I remembered something K told me about a piece of advice she attributed to an article she read about the novelist Ann Lamott.

To paraphrase Lamott, the key to writing a story is to complete a shitty first draft (our words), one where you don’t worry about the words, how it flows, if it is free of spelling or grammatical errors, or anything like that. Just get the words down first, and worry about that other stuff later.

That little nugget freed me from my insecurity and saved time, the end result of which was a complete manuscript that exceeded 140,000 words. What I found intriguing and ironic about the process is that many chapters I assumed would be the most difficult to write were often very easy, and those I assumed would just flow were the most difficult.

The most important thing was to write without a conscience. I followed Lamott’s advice to a T, and would recommend that anyone who gets stuck on a project to do the same. Just be prepared for what you’ll see when that shitty first draft is done

What I saw was god-awful: spelling and grammar mistakes galore, sentences, and sometimes complete paragraphs, that didn’t make any sense. Going back and editing this swill was painstaking, frustrating, laborious, and I wound up doing it more times than I care to remember before sharing it with my editor. It was a humbling experience.

What didn’t change, however, was the core of the story, and when you have that, you have everything. Anybody can make the words sing, but there is no music unless you create the notes. In my case, the core didn’t change much from the first writing to what was probably the twentieth. I lost count after a while.

Why so many re-writes? First of all, it took forever to catch everything that needed fixing. After every re-edit, I re-read the manuscript and always found stuff I missed the previous time. Once I got to the point where I thought it was good enough to share with my editor, it came back with a lot of red ink and recommended changes. Each time I completed the edits I agreed with, it would come back again with more suggestions. On and on it went like that until we were both happy with the manuscript.

The most difficult challenge was to pare the text down to less than 100,000 words, because my editor believed any author’s inaugural work should be 100,000 words or less. Who was I to argue? And I must admit, there was a lot of fluff. The final product was much cleaner and tighter than what I started with.

Ultimately, the manuscript was done, and I compared the process to what I thought being pregnant must feel like. In the beginning, you are excited, thrilled and enthusiastic beyond belief,  but nine months later,  you’re uncomfortable, sick and tired of lugging the weight around, and just want it to be over and done.

I whole-heartedly embrace the shitty first draft philosophy. It’s a practice I have since followed with everything I write, including this blog. I encourage anyone to stop being critical and get the idea out first because if you self edit while writing or stop in mid-stream to look at what you’ve written, you can lose your train of thought, not to mention getting frustrated as hell.

Better to save your frustration for later after everything is done. That way, you at least have a complete text to mold and shape.

 

 

 

 

Shit Happens

happens

A short post today as I got off to a late start this week and won’t have much time over the weekend to write.

I was talking with a friend yesterday and learned of an event that just occurred in their life that could have long term implications, most of which aren’t great, and it got me to thinking.

We get inundated by the marketing apparatus in this world that portray images of health, wealth, fun and carefree, easy lifestyles. Depictions of hardships, struggles and sadness are in the minority. After all, that stuff is a downer and doesn’t sell. It’s easy to get sucked into the delusion that we are either doing something wrong if our realities don’t match up with what these ads show us, or give us the impression that what they show us is attainable if we only tried harder.

If it were all that easy.

The truth is life isn’t that simple, and shit does happen. Some of us either need bigger shovels or use the one we have more than others, which isn’t fair, but life isn’t fair, and everyone needs hip boots. These issues can become potholes on life’s super freeway, and it’s how we deal with these events that define us.

Take me, for instance. I’m an optimist by nature, a glass-half-full kind of guy. I think  I have had it infinitely easier than most in my life. For instance, I have never had to deal with the loss of a child, a life-threatening illness, or had to struggle financially. I’ve always been well fed, had a roof over my house, a loving family and support system, had an excellent education and a successful career.

Having said that, it hasn’t been all peaches and cream. Not even close. MS is the most obvious because I write about it, and is near the top of my shit happens list, but it is not at the top of that list.  There have been a host of other situations and scenarios that I have had to deal with, and continue to deal with, that are not fun. Some of these events have put a tremendous emotional strain on my family. Their fallout remains, and probably always will.

I would have easily traded getting MS instead of having to endure certain events in my life, but we never get to make those choices.

Nobody escapes this world unscathed. Just because an individual or a family has appeared to be blessed with good luck and have never had to struggle, don’t buy it. All it means is they hide it better than others. Not everyone wants to talk about their personal travails, preferring to instead to share the good in their lives, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Do any of you truly know anyone whose lives have been constant sunshine?

Experience has taught me that life is like being on a life raft in a vast ocean. Sometimes the seas are calm, or you have a fun ride on a wave that is pushing your forward into a good situation. Sometimes you are caught in an storm with relentless giant swales that come crashing down upon you, threatening to submerge you and everyone on board. All you can do is hang on for dear life, try not to drown, and hope the storm passes soon. With practice, maybe you learn how to navigate the swells better.

You also hope that the rogue waves, the monsters that come out of nowhere, catch you completely off guard and are the most dangerous and toughest to negotiate, rarely occur.

If you know someone who is going through a tough time, reach out to them. The simplest thing, like letting them know you are thinking about them and rooting for them can make all the difference in the world.

 

 

 

Mortality

mortality

My aunt suffered a stroke a little over a week ago, a bad one.  I didn’t get a chance to speak with her before Christmas. Strike that. I had every chance in the world, but did not make it a priority. I was busy, and rationalized (in hindsight, of course) that I’d call when things settled down after my trip to Florida. So I felt compelled to actually see her to say goodbye, tell her how much I love her, and thank her for being a wonderful Aunt.

I wasn’t looking forward to the trip because my cousin warned me about her condition. I knew she would be conscious and uncommunicative, but it was worse than that. I have no idea if she knew who was there or what was being said. She looked at me, but it was more like she looked through me, staring blankly into space. I just happened to be in her line of sight.

She showed the obvious signs of a stroke, kept picking at her blankets, the institutional garment she wore, mumbled constantly and looked much older than her 90 years. A  vibrant, engaging, funny and lovely woman was sadly reduced to this. Part of me felt like a voyeur, and all of me felt guilty for being there because I am sure she would not want people to see her in that condition.

Unless it is by our own hands, we never get to choose how we exit this life. Our final scene can often be so undignified, and that is was bothered me the most about seeing her that way. It would have been better if she was unconscious. She would have looked like she was resting comfortably, at peace, and more like the woman I knew and loved.

I drove away from that visit thinking about aging and our mortality. You’d have thought these musings would have occurred when my parents passed away within five months of one another in 2015, but that wasn’t the case.

Both had lived good, long and healthy lives. Dad was 96 and Mom 92. They were both mentally sharp as tacks through the end and both passed quickly. Dad had a massive stroke and was placed in hospice care. We kept a constant vigil around his bed for three full days. On the fourth day everyone who had taken turns watching over him spent the night at their houses, which is when he slipped away. I am sure it was because he never wanted people to fuss over him, so he waited until every was gone.

Mom had a cerebral hemorrhage and died within hours. She was living in an assisted living facility at the time, and K and her Mom had just spent the afternoon with her. She notified friends she was having dinner with that she felt funny and was seeing double, and they had someone escort her to the nurse when it happened. I’m told she slumped in her chair in front of the nurse, completely unconscious.

The assisted living facility called while I was out having dinner with Nidan. It didn’t sound ominous, but then a call from the ER doctor at the hospital she was taken to came, and that changed everything. We ended dinner immediately and I drove Nidan home, then rushed to the hospital, not really knowing what to expect. When I saw her in the emergency room, I instantly knew she was gone, even though she was still breathing. It was a shock and broke my heart, but after a spasm of heavy sobbing, I made some calls.

Unlike Dad,  she didn’t want to be alone when she slipped to the other side. It took a little over ninety minutes for K, Nidan, my brother and his wife, and a few others to gather in her room, and shortly after we were all there it looked like she might not be breathing. She wasn’t.

I was and still am grateful that my parents fears of a painful, lingering demise where they were an emotional and financial burden to their kids never materialized. I should be so lucky.

I grieved for the loss of my parents loss but was not devastated. After all, who wouldn’t sign up for the life they had and the way their lives ended?  But I was so busy with making funeral preparations for Dad, helping Mom move then watching after her in the interim, then handling her sudden and unexpected death, that the idea of aging and dying never occurred to me.

I think the reason it has now is because my Dad came from a large family of nine. I was really close to most of his brothers and sisters, having hung out at their houses as a kid in addition to summer vacations at the beach. Those times were so fun, carefree and innocent, and the memories are wonderful.

When my Aunt passes, which should be fairly soon considering she is on morphine and was placed at a hospice level of care, only one Aunt will remain. She is the baby of the family at 88, and is not in the greatest of health either. The end of the line is very near in terms of my Dad’s siblings. Once that occurs, the book will close on a significant chapter of my life, and my childhood will officially die with it.

I thought I felt that way in 2015, but the truth is I felt more like an orphan when my parents passed. It was weird knowing that the people who nurtured me, taught me, loved me unconditionally and shepherded me into successful adulthood were gone. The void was unimaginable, and the loss hurt. But I didn’t think about the stuff I am thinking about now, and think that’s because when my Aunts pass, the last remaining vestiges of those carefree years will be gone. I will become the adult for the generations to come, and one day, the roles will be reversed. I will be the one saying sayonara, and my nieces and nephews will be mourning me. Perhaps some of them will feel what I am feeling now.

I’m not fearful or morose, but have become introspective. How will my end of life scenario unfold, not only in terms of the how but the when? I’m turning 60 in a couple of months, which is not ancient by any means. But I have been on the downhill side of life expectancy for a while now, and have no idea how or if MS will hasten that fateful day or prolong the process. I certainly hope not because, perhaps not so ironically, I have the same fear my parents had about becoming an emotional and financial burden on my surviving family.

Mom and Dad were blessed with longevity, independence, and good physical/mental health. Is it too much ask that this not skip a generation? And while I’m at it, can the end be quick and painless, as it was for them? Hopefully the genes I’ve inherited will help make that happen.

I hope this hasn’t been too morbid, but don’t all of us think of these things at one time or another? I certainly plan on being around a while, and would love to able to celebrate my 100th birthday. I’m looking forward to my retirement years, playing with grandchildren and spoiling them rotten. I’m looking forward to an empty nest that I can enjoy with my lovely bride of thirty one years, and hope we can both thrive during the sunsets of our lives. We’ve earned that.

For now, however, another somber funeral is probably days away. The family will close ranks and all the cousins I grew up and hung out with as a kid will assemble with their families. Afterwards, we’ll laugh and rehash good memories, lament for the umpteenth time that it’s a shame we only get together for these types of occasions, and vow to change that. Who knows? Maybe this time it will actually happen.

Then we will return to our respective lives, and time will march on. The musings I’ve shared will also fade, but perhaps not completely vanish, and I don’t think that would be a bad thing. Maybe it will help me appreciate life more than being afflicted with MS has, and help me embrace every remaining day I have without sweating the small stuff I am still prone to do on occasion.

After all, I’m not a spring chicken anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Final Hunt – Part 8

alien

Superman has tagged me for something different today, which is a good thing because I didn’t have a clue concerning a subject to write about. Instead, my mission is to  add to a story originally started by Teresa, the Haunted Wordsmith; it’s like a kind of blogging relay race apparently. This is the story so far……

Teresa’s Part:

Anne and Gladys waved as the men left for their hunt. When they were out of sight, they both laughed knowing full well that none would have the heart to really shoot anything. They liked a boy’s day out as much as they liked a girl’s day in.

“So,” Fred said as they passed the gate into his family’s hunting grounds. “What do you think the girls are up to today?”

Alec laughed. “Talking about us, what else?”

Sam nodded. “Yep.”

As they walked through the fields into the tree line, the dogs’ ears’ picked up. Boy whimpered and cowered close to Fred’s legs. Toby’s fur stood on edge as he stared into the woods and growled.

“Easy there,” Alec said, trying to calm him.

Sam kneeled and unzipped his gun as quietly as possible. Suddenly, both dogs were on alert as a …

Morpethroad wrote:

small, bespectacled man stepped through the bushes. The dogs were going berserk by now straining at their leashes. It was clear the dogs sensed a danger the men did not see.

The man walking towards them was squinting as he approached as he had the sun in his eyes.

“Good afternoon,” he said as he drew near, “your dogs won’t bite will they? I do have a fear of them.”

Sam stood with his gun in his hands unsure of what he was seeing and hearing. The place they were in was a piece of rugged bushland, no one lived there because it was the family’s hunting grounds and it was considered unsafe to even camp on the land for any reason at all.

Fred was trying his best to hold onto his dog, and Alec held firm on Toby’s collar. Once the small man came within a few feet of the hunting party, they could see…

Pensitivity101 continues:

he was holding something in a plastic bag.

Fred lost his grip and Boy lunged at the man who dropped the bag on the ground and threw his arms up to protect his face.

Fred was afraid they would have to shoot the dog but Boy wasn’t interested in the man at all, just the bag, which he snatched up and obediently brought back to his master.

The little man was shaking with fear as Sam reached out his hand to help him up.

“You realise you’re trespassing don’t you?” he said.

The man straightened his glasses and collected himself.

“I’m sorry about that, but we’d received a repor….”

“We? Who is we? And what are you doing here? You could have been shot!”

Fred had taken the bag out of Boy’s mouth and stared at the contents in disbelief.

“Guys? I think you need to look at this.”

Sadje’s contribution:

Sam and Alec stepped forward to take a look at what was in the bag. Fred’s hand, clutching the bag, was trembling. The bag contained a severed hand, the digits were shaped like a claw. But it was like no human hand they had ever seen. It was like it belonged to someone very big and skinny.

“Whe…, Ahm….Where did you find this?” Alec uttered the question through vocal cords which were refusing to cooperate. Sam and Fred were looking askance at the stranger. The whole situation had taken on a nightmarish quality.

The man, again made an attempt to introduce himself. “I am Bennett, from The Agency of Alien Detection, TAAD. We received the alien activity signals from this area and a party has been investigating the situation. This is part of the remains we were able to recover. Do you have any information regarding this?”

The three men stared at him with gapping mouth and glazed looks. Who in their right mind would believe this man. But the evidence was in their hands.

Sam took the bag from Fred and was going to examine it closely when…

Cheryl added:

…when the bag’s contents started moving. The claw-like severed hand was scratching at the plastic bag. Sam dropped it like a hot potato! The boys started to freak out and started to whimper. The spectacled man even stepped back. “Oh my,” Bennett stuttered, “I thought it was, uh, uh, dead!”

Sam kept his gun at the ready. There was no way this “thing” was going to hurt the boys. Bennett fumbled nervously in his pocket to retrieve what looked like a cell phone, but was actually a communicator to the rest of the landing crew. His face seemed to change shape a bit and he started to adjust his hair. Sam looked at the little man with more than just curiosity. Who was this guy, really?

This was Fandango’s contribution

“Do not touch that bag!” Bennett, who was no longer a small, bespectacled, unimposing man, shouted. He had suddenly grown taller. His skin took on a shiny, reddish tone and his hands took on the same claw-like shape of the severed hand in the bag. The three men stepped back and even the two dogs stopped barking and cowered.

“What are you?” Alec asked. “you definitely are not human.”

“No,” Bennett admitted, “I am not. My companion and I were sent here from our home planet to explore your planet. Our mission was peaceful. Our intent was merely to collect air and mineral samples. We intended no harm. But then we encountered a hostile group of creatures who jumped my companion. I’m ashamed to say that I ran for cover, while these creatures devoured my companion. All that was left of him was the hand that I put in the bag. But he is apparently beginning the regeneration process.”

“Creatures? What kind of creatures?” Sam asked.

“Similar to those,” Bennett said, pointing to the two dogs, “but larger and much more viscous.”

“Wolves,” Fred said.

Sam raised his rifle and aimed it at the alien. “Sam, what are you doing?” Alec shouted.

Suddenly…

Now over to me:

There was a noise overhead and both Alec and Sam turned sharply to try and identify it’s source; necks craning upwards they searched the sky but there was nothing other than a dense cloud bank.

“Looks like there’s a storm coming” said Alec “Perhaps it was thunder we heard”

He turned to look at Sam who had resumed his position; stock still with his gun aimed at Bennett’s head

“That wasn’t thunder, was it Mr Bennett?” Sam said quietly

“Sam! Please put down your gun, there’s no need for threats, Mr Bennett has explained that he has no beef with us, he’s just doing some research”

Alec was surprised at his friend’s behaviour especially as Boy and Toby were no longer agitated but laying peacefully at their feet. In his experience dogs were far better attuned to sense danger than any human.

“And you believe him do you?” Sam was absolutely rigid and he spoke from the corner of his mouth through clenched teeth as though in mortal terror or suppressed anger, Alec couldn’t be sure which.

“Yes I believe him Sam now put the gun down for God’s sake before some gets hurt”

Alec was becoming genuinely concerned, they were both hunters but he knew from long experience that Sam was not a violent man. He stepped forward to try to placate his friend and persuade him to drop his weapon.= but just then the sky darkened and………..

Superman’s (Billy Mac) contribution:

They were slammed to the ground by a sudden, swirling and violent thrust of downward pressure. The trees bent outwards in futile surrender as they were pelted by leaves and underbrush. The noise was deafening. The dogs, unable to stand, yelped as they crawled towards the outskirts of the clearing. Sam, having lost his tenuous grip on the shotgun, helplessly watched as it was flung beyond his sight. He found himself being tossed around on the forest floor as he tried to find something to hold onto. He cried out to Alec who was frantically hugging the base of a tree at least 20 feet away.

“Alec! What the ever loving f&*k is going on?!” He shouted. As the words left his mouth he knew that the cacophony around him had drowned him out.

Alec, instead of futilely trying to shout over the deafening noise waved his right arm, his left clinging to the tree base, caught Sam’s attention and frantically pointed upwards, jabbing at the forest ceiling.

Suddenly branches and debris began raining down upon them and both men cowered under the onslaught. Sam forced himself to look up. Squinting and covering his eyes with one hand he could see a large object slowly lowering itself into the clearing, effortlessly forcing aside the trees that dared block its descent.

The heat was overwhelming, Sam could only presume it was exhaust.

But from what?

He scrambled to escape the clearing. Alec, with a sudden burst of brevity let go of the tree and did a military crawl to join his friend. Once he reached Sam they locked arms and watched what they could only presume was Bennett’s ride home finish it’s descent.

My two cents:

Ending its descent before touching down, the craft hovered several feet above the ground. The cacophony of sound, which was deafening as the alien ship forced its way into the clearing, was gone. The woods was eerily silent, as if aware of a malignant presence that it did not want to disturb. The symphony of birds, insects, and the other creatures that inhabited the grounds had vanished. Even the sound of water cascading down the brooks and streams that crisscrossed their route could not be detected. If not for the sound of their heavy breathing, Sam and Alec might have thought they were struck deaf.

The air was calm and still, but somehow felt alive, pulsating with a vibration and energy that was palpable. Sam wiped what he thought was perspiration beading the side of his face, and was alarmed when he saw blood on his hands. Turning to his partner, his eyes widened as he witnessed blood seeping from Alec’s ears and nose. Gently elbowing his friend’s bicep to get his attention, Sam pointed to Alec’s face and then his own. As Alec rubbed the space between his nose and upper lip, Sam heard Alec moan “What the hell?”, but Alec’s lips did not move. Confused, Sam hoped this was a nightmare he would soon wake from when he heard Alec respond “This is no nightmare, Sam. Can you hear my thoughts? I sure as hell can hear yours.”

Sam nodded. He didn’t question their sudden telepathic capabilities, instinctively knowing the alien presence somehow enabled it. Perhaps it was best under the circumstances that they could communicate in this manner, and not draw attention to themselves by making noise with their voices.

“We have to get out of here,” Sam heard Alec think, pointing to Sam’s face. The drops of  blood from Sam’s ears and nose had developed into a trickle. Sam saw Alec grimace when he felt his own eyes suddenly tear, and knew it wasn’t tears emerging from his eyes.

The men resumed their military crawl to get as far away from this place as they could without being detected. Moving backwards in this fashion so they would not lose sight of what was in front of them, the air around them suddenly became heavy. Their bodies became immobile, seemingly tethered to the leaf covered terrain, as if an invisible lead blanket enveloped them.

“Christ!” Alec heard Sam think, and was about to reply when a sound that was similar to the opening of an enormous vault pierced the silence. As a sliver of blinding light emerged from the ship, Sam reflexively turned his eyes away from it, and saw leaves, wooden debris and a several mice, chipmunks and a handful of other small rodents get sucked towards the ship, as if caught in a vortex of gravity.

The men felt their bodies become caught in that vortex and become involuntarily drawn towards the ship. Fortunately two large oaks were in their path, and stopped their momentum. They shielded their eyes from the light that was no longer an emerging sliver, but a floodlight of sun-like intensity that enveloped the entire scene.

Bennett, who had transformed into his natural form, approached the ship and appeared to be communicating with something neither Sam or Alec could see. Their blood turned cold when Bennett raised his arm, turned his body and extended a long, bony finger from his claw-like hand and pointed in their direction.

“Oh shit!” both men thought in unison.

 

I pass the baton Susan @ Stories From The Edge of Blindness take it to from here. Susan, I know this may not be in your wheelhouse, but I’d love do see with what you can do with it.

This is what you need to do next:

1. Copy the story as you receive it.
2. Add to the story in some fashion.
3. Either tag another person to contribute to the story or finish the story yourself.
4. Please use FTS as a tag so Teresa can find it or link back to part 1.
5. Have Fun!

Revisiting My 2018 Resolutions

2018 resolutions

One of my last posts of 2017 was a declaration of resolutions for the upcoming new year. Now that 2018 is in the books, I thought it would be interesting to see what those resolutions were (there was only one that I remembered) and how I did. What I discovered was a mixed bag: some complete successes and utter failures. Here are the results:

Get my book published:  The book isn’t published, but it is in the process of being submitted to various publishers. This campaign started later in the year than I anticipated, but at least the word is out and folks are taking a look at it. Hopefully 2019 will be the year.

Break ground on a new house or be in the process of remodeling an existing one: If you follow this blog, you know that ground has been broken and the foundation is in. Unless something catastrophic occurs, we should be moved in by summer. We nailed this one!

Be ten pounds lighter: Um……not even close. I can say that I did get to that point at one time during the year, but got tired of the struggle of dieting and said the hell with it. My motivation now is to not count every single morsel I put in my mouth, and try not to exceed a certain weight. It has worked so far, but, in all honesty, I am not going to get near a scale until after Ground Hog’s Day.

My MS symptoms will remain confined to one limb: Put this one in the success column. I can’t say I had a lot to do with this. Maybe I can thank my neurologist, or chalk it up to sheer luck. Either way, I’m not complaining.

Post every week to this blog: I had reservations about this one, but I managed not only to accomplish this task, but posted more than once a week on a handful of occasions. There were a couple of times where I had writer’s block, and thought this might be the week I falter, but it never happened. Another success!

Finish the manuscript of Novel #2: Not only did I not finish it, I barely wrote anything at all. I did noodle around with it in the beginning of the year, but I was more focused on doing everything I needed to do on the social media front to help support the novel I did write, in addition to posting to this blog. Those are lame excuses, however, because if I want to do something and am motivated to do it, it gets done. I get a big, fat F on this one.

Drink less: I was never a heavy drinker, but listed this because it would help with my weight, and because I didn’t think it was good for my MS. I never consciously thought about it during the year, but did reduce my alcohol consumption. In all candor, I think part of the reason I was able to do this was because of my new MS medicine, which has suppressed the desire for alcohol. After all, why ruin a good buzz? I’m not sure if this is cheating, but I’ll call this one a success.

Use the word “fuck” less: Didn’t happen. Enough said. It’s such a versatile word, and rolls off the tongue so effortlessly. This one was probably doomed from the beginning.

Eat Better: I wasn’t eating all that badly to start. I thought I would eliminate a few fats from my diet, keeping my weight loss goal in mind, but that fell by the wayside when I said to hell with dieting. So I’m not eating “better”, but I’m not eating any worse either, so call this one is a wash.

Get more sleep: That didn’t come close to happening. Old habits are hard to break, I’m afraid. A definite failure.

So out of these ten resolutions, four were achieved in their totality, four were colossal failures, one was partial failure and one was a wash. I guess that’s par for the course.