Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Retrospective: Rearview, dashboard, headlights, and everything in between

2011 has been a good year. Wait, did I say good? Strike that. What I meant to say was 2011 has been an excellent year. I remember very clearly how it began. I had just gotten home from work, New Year's Eve 2010. I was not at all sad to see that old year go... truth be told, it had been an utter bitch. Quite possibly the worst 12 month span of my entire life. But that's neither here nor there. At any rate... I trudged up the stairs after making the two plus mile hike home from work, as after the second car accident in as many months, I was once again without a vehicle. I was cold. Neigh, freezing. It was frigid out, snowing in fact. As usual, I wasn't wearing anything more substantial than a hoodie (A purple one with a lovely zombie on the back of it, if you must know). I slung my laptop bag from my shoulder, flounced down on the couch and watched my cat chasing big fluffy snowflakes from her window perch. Where was I going? What direction should I head in? Did I even know what I wanted out of life? I felt spent. Aimless. I sighed and got up. I was hungry, so I should probably make some dinner, or at the very least feed the cat. I went to the kitchen and hung the new Whole Foods calendar I'd gotten from work that day up on the side of the fridge, flipping through the pages and wondering what the new year would bring. Could I really make it here all on my own? Here it was, New Year's Eve and I was all by my lonesome, cold and tired and truth be told, a little scared. So much of what lie just around the corner was unfathomable to me at that point. I had yet to attempt my first zombie makeup. I hadn't written a single word in ages. I hadn't really done much of anything other than buy a plane ticket on impulse on Expedia's Black Friday sale. I chewed my lower lip, pausing over the sink while rinsing out the empty cat food can before tossing it in with the rest of the recycling. I probably should've been paying more attention to what I was doing. I was startled out of my reverie by a jolt of pain. I had cut my finger on the lip of the Fancy Feast® and the cut was actually pretty deep. It might even need stitches. I swallowed, hard, and ran my hand under the cold water running from the tap, watching as the reddish orangey swirls of my blood danced down the drain. I didn't really know anyone here. My landlords were still on vacation. I didn't have a car, let alone know where the nearest hospital was. I pulled my finger out of the flow of the faucet and stuck it in my mouth, tears running down my cheeks. What the hell was I thinking? I couldn't do this. How could I survive with no one? No friends, no family, just me and a vaguely evil cat against a world that seemed cold and dark and cruel, full of ghosts and regret. All at once it just built to a crescendo and I yanked my bleeding finger free of my mouth and slammed my fist into the cabinet over the sink, splattering a big arc of bright blood, which dripped and dropped its way back down into the metal basin. I wailed, knowing no one was around to hear me, and sobbed my loneliness and frustration and bitter despair into the dim light of my darkening kitchen. My hand hurt. The bleeding hadn't stopped or even slowed. What if I was anemic again? What if it wouldn't stop all on its own? I stood there, crying and bleeding and wishing things could be different... and then I picked my head up. I was being ridiculous. Selfish and stupid and ineffectual at best. If I wanted a life, friends, someone to come home to who didn't walk on all fours and steal all my lip balm, it was up to ME to make it happen. I may have lost almost everything, but I had gained something as well, something I'd never really had before - My freedom. The freedom to do what I wanted, say what I wanted, BE what I wanted. There was nothing there to stop me from reaching for my dreams, becoming someone I could be proud of, making my life into whatever I wanted it to be. So I calmed the fuck down, smeared some aquaphor on my cut and wrapped it in an old pink dishtowel and set to work deciding exactly what it was I wanted for myself. I ordered some chinese (rangoons are one of my weaknesses) and began to plot out a course for my destiny. The fortune contained in the cookie that came along with my meal read "All the water in the world cannot sink a ship unless it gets inside." I liked that. I found it appropriate. I saved that fortune and it sits on the upper edge of my keyboard at work to this very day. That night, sitting in my living room, hand all wrapped up like a pretty pink mummy, I made one of the most positive, impactful decisions I've ever made - I decided to live my life for me, no more compromising, no more settling, no more doing what I thought other people wanted me to do, I was in it for myself. I curled up on the brown rug with my chinese food and had a good long talk with myself. I was yet weeks away from *thunder* *lightening* THE WORST AFTERNOON EVER! *glass breaking* *baby crying* , yet another formative event in the Year Of The Zombie, but I was off to a good start. I finally had my feet underneath me, my head on straight, and my eyes opened wide. I was ready to greet whatever was going to come my way in 2011 with open arms... and perhaps concealed weapons, if the case warranted. But whatever I was to face, I wasn't going to do it passively. I was going to fight. I was going to claw, tooth, and nail, and by gosh and by golly, I was going to win.

2011 brought so much into my life. In January I used that plane ticket I mentioned earlier and took a trip to Seattle, my first ever solo vacation. In early February there was that afore mentioned WORST AFTERNOON EVER, an afternoon that found me locked out of both my apartment and my car, digging my car out of almost a foot of snow coated in a half inch layer of ice like an evil insectoid exoskeleton, and finally getting so cold, frustrated, and frostbitten that I sat my ass down right there on the driveway and signed up for Twitter on my new Droid Smart Phone just so I could have someone to rant to... That Twitter account (Which is quite possibly how you yourself stumbled onto this very blogpost, dear reader) ended up being an incredibly positive thing for me. I made many new friends via twitter. I learned a lot about the world around me and the people that populated it. I tweeted pictures of my food, my many injuries, and eventually my zombie make up, sharing them with the world. Also in February, I decided to get back into the dating world, though it would be six months of bad dates, horror stories, and awkward conversations before I'd find someone fantastic. In March I did my first ever zombie make up, which you can see pictures of on my flickr. 
In April I met Chris Hardwick at his Boston show, and as a result met several awesome new friends including Kristin and Heather (We are the Three Musketeers, but with nerdiness and boobs). In May I participated in my first ever zombie walk and had a blast, lurching and staggering down Boston's Newbury Street with thousands of other undead. In June I began to write again in earnest and, in fact, I started this blog. In July I met some of my idols, my very favorite authors, Brian Keene and JF Gonzalez among them. In August I met my boyfriend, who not only makes me ridiculously happy, but he also edits, proof reads, and critiques my work, which is invaluable, really. In September I received my very first acceptance letter, as well as meeting Ken Foree and Tom Monteleone at Horrorfind Weekend (during which I also got to hang out with some of my awesome PA Friends and get complimented on my costumes by none other than Bill Freaking Mosely). In October I turned 28, the absolute hands down best birthday I have ever had. In November I got another acceptance letter. In December I held copies of my very first printed work in my hands and celebrated my first Christmas with my boyfriend. So, yes, it has been a busy, awesome, crazy, fantastic, wonderful year. As many fantastic and awesome people as I met, the most important one I got to know was myself, and I do kind of rock, if I may say so myself. I am looking forward to 2012, eager to see what it will bring, what surprises, smiles, challenges, triumphs, goals, and accomplishments it has in store. What did 2011 bring you?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas 2011 - Ornamentation

Jim Holiday sat in a shabby brown recliner in his living room. His sweat (and otherwise) stained wife beater clung to his sallow skin like a lizard’s exodus, peeling away from the flabby flesh underneath like a scab. The garment had seen better days, much like Jim himself. Also like its wearer, the garment was tired, worn out, and disused. It had grown too small to hold Jim’s burgeoning frame within its cotton cage, so much like a prison, and odd protuberances of hairy lard poked out of wear worn holes at random intervals. Jim opened his mouth and let out a low groan, drool which reeked of morning breath, nicotine, and old liquor ran over his lip and down his chin like a filthy river. It meandered through the mangy forest that was his 3, perhaps even 4 week old beard growth. Although in all honesty, it was far too scraggly and sparse to be referred to as a “beard” and yet too wild and overgrown to be considered stubble.

Jim sat up, adjusting his position as one of his feet had fallen asleep sometime during the previous night. Beer bottles and empty fifths of Jack and Johnnie clattered to the floor in a derelict melody before rolling under the chair and across the carpet in the direction of the Christmas tree.

Jim’s eyes shifted as he yawned, yellowed teeth like uneven tombstones pushing up through the pink, fleshy graveyard of his gums. The tree stood about ten feet away from where he sat, an ancient monument to a preexisting version of the grotesquery he had become. It had been up for a year, or somewhere thereabouts. He couldn’t be sure exactly what day it was, or really what month, though judging by the Christmas music filtering through the walls from the next apartment over, he supposed that it was probably sometime in December. Either that, or they were just plain mad.

The tree had long since gone brown, dried up and desiccated.  It had lost the greater majority of its needles, needles which lay undisturbed where they had landed like an ashy brown halo around the weary old symbol of Christmas past and the unopened presents beneath it. Ornaments sparkled from its branches through a thin haze of dust and dirt and spider webs, which had been woven throughout the limbs like intricate little garlands. They had become sort of a decoration themselves. Atop the skeletal remains of last year’s happiness perched a little golden angel like a silent specter. Her tiny blue eyes beat down on Jim as if in accusation or contempt.

Jim barely regarded the tree any longer. It had become just another shadow in what remained of his pitiful life. He hadn’t been out of his recliner in days. He was beginning to worry that perhaps he couldn’t move if he tried. He struggled to sit up, placing both of his hands with their bloated sausage fingers on the arms of the chair and pulling himself forward, the massive hulk of his gut obstructing his view of the ratty brown carpet in front of him. One of his feet, clothed in what remained of a grimy red slipper slid to the left, knocking over a beer bottle he had been using as a urine receptacle. The foul yellow liquid splashed onto his leg, running down the grungy mat of hair and spilling into that unfortunate slipper.

“Ahhhh.” Jim creaked, the crackley, course tone of his voice sounding alien to his own ears. How long had it been since he’d last spoken? Weeks? Months maybe? When had he last heard another human voice, he wondered? He couldn’t recall.  Jim’s annoyance at the wet mess on his leg, slipper, chair and floor fueled him into action. He stood up abruptly, grabbing the bottle and throwing it against the wall beside the doorway where it shattered into a plethora of sparkling shards. They rained onto the carpet as the remnants of the bottle’s liquid contents dripped down the wall. The shape the mess made was almost festive. It could’ve been a Christmas tree in the right light, with enough imagination. Jim was turning towards the kitchen when a sharp, melodious voice stopped him in his tracks.

“Jim”, it sing songed, “Jim Darling, won’t you be a dear and bring me something to eat?” Jim stood stock still for a moment, unsure of what to do. It was the voice of the Angel alright, but he hadn’t heard it in, well, nearly a year. He thought perhaps he was imagining things in his deep seated loneliness, in his longing, but the voice continued.

“I’m so very hungry, my darling. So very, very hungry.” Jim swallowed. He had missed that voice. Missed his angel lo these long months, but now that she was back, he wasn’t sure he wanted her. He didn’t know what to do, and so he remained stone still for a few lingering minutes, listening to her pleas. He remembered her hunger, remembered feeding her, watching her eat. He remembered the touch of her skin with a shudder that was so close to revulsion and yet so close to elation at the same time.

Jim faltered for a moment before racing down the hall and opening the door to his bedroom, a door he hadn’t opened in almost a year. The air inside smelled ancient, reticent with mildew, dust and decay. Cobwebs clung to everything. The petals of the rose in the little glass bud vase on the night table had long since fallen. That rose had been fresh and dewy when he’d last seen it, and as pink as a newborn’s bottom. Pink had been her favorite color, after all.

Jim opened the white accordion doors that lead to his closet. He knelt on the floor, dust and dirt clinging to the sores on the sides of his legs, sores caused by his lack of motion and his near permanent position seated in his old brown recliner.

There she was, folded in the back of the tiny space, still wearing her costume. Her white gown had been discolored by time, as well as by mold and rot, but in Jim’s eyes, she was still beautiful. The sequins lining the gown had long since lost their luster, but that was OK.

“Why’d you have to leave me, Baby?” he whined, voice cracking with disuse, “Why’d you have to go and do a thing like that on Christmas?” Jim straightened out the tinsel halo that still clung to the pale blonde wig she had worn that day. The wig had fallen over her face sometime during the 12 months she had been inside the closet. Beneath it, her dried up flesh had pulled her once full, pink lips into a gruesome smile.

“Merry Christmas, Angie.”  He said in a whisper as he leaned forward and kissed her.