THREE: A Trilogy of Obsession

A tale of psychological horror that’ll make you think twice. No, make that three times!

Hello my wonderful readers!

As you know, The Flash Fiction Ponder is all about great storytelling. I’ve never been an author who confines himself to just one genre. As a reader, watcher, listener, the core element I always look for in a tale is substance. Drama, Horror, SciFi, Western, etc. The setting is the least of my concerns. Just give me a great story and I’m happy!

(Besides, confining oneself to just one genre can be quite boring, don’t you think?)

So yeah, I take the same approach when it comes to writing. And so what do I have for you guys this time around?

A Psychological Horror trilogy, starting with Part 1!

Let the counting begin…!

THREE COVER

By

Rico Lamoureux

All Rights Reserved.

2017

 

Sam lay on the floor snug as a bug in a rug, in deep concentration thinking about the happiest place on earth. From the sweet smells of Main Street to the rocket ships of Tomorrowland. The wood-soaked Pirates of the Carribean to the spinning tea cups of Alice’s Wonderland. A pleasant childhood memory of him and his family exploring Disneyland for the first time.

No three-headed monsters, no scary sharp numbers to stab at his brain.

Just Mickey, Goofy and the rest of the gang.

All there to distract, to enthral, to keep him sane.

Yeah, he didn’t even mind the rhyming that crept up every now and then, just happy to be happy at the happiest place on earth.

But he couldn’t manipulate memory, it wouldn’t let him. What had happened was set in stone, could not be erased, he and his family coming upon the two little kids running around staring down at the ground.

“I think I see one…”

“No, that’s just a sewer drain.”

“Nah-uh, look, it really is a hidden Mickey. There’s his head, and there’s his ears…”

Sam couldn’t help but look down for himself. From the round sewer drain that served as the head, he looked up in search of the ears, and sure enough there they were, two smaller circles. He then let his perspective fall back to indeed see the outline of Mickey Mouse.

Three circles.

Sam tore his gaze away from the hidden Mickey, only to find the real one now staring down at him. That big wide smile from ear to ear, telling him he should have known better to think that he could escape, those three huge circles imposing their will upon him.

Sam turned and ran as fast as he could, through families, Disney characters, food stands, all in three’s, all penetrating, sinking their triggers deep into his chaotic mind. He could hear the three voices at his back: Aunt Olivia, Dad, little brother Kenny, all three of them yelling out for him to stop. But he knew he couldn’t. Knew he had to find two more Mickey characters before he could stop, so as to match the number three, so as to prevent him and his family from dying in a plane crash on the way back home.

His searching eyes fell on a body of water, bringing to mind the image of a creek, which took him back to Cross Creek…

Where Sam’s eyes burst open, back to the present, back to the cushioned room he now lay in, back to the tightness of the straitjacket, with its three buckles. He could feel each one pressing against him. One, two, three

All that was needed to set him off.

And so the dark images came…

The first was Harry, the kind old man that was a couple of halls down. He couldn’t hurt a fly, but needed the meds, the protection, the structure of this place in order to live out the rest of his days in peace after suffering a breakdown from losing his dear wife.

Unfortunately, peace would not be a state in which Harry would die tonight, the flies he could not even harm on their way in a swarm, through the vents and into his room, to attack with a vengeance every crevice of the poor old man. Unless Sam could somehow, someway unbuckle those three straps within the next thirty seconds.

Impossible…

And so the horde of insects invaded, each crawling with their six legs into Harry, making the multitude of tickling steps the most unique of death marches.

Then came the most unpleasant part, the flies using their complex mouths to first lubricate Harry’s brain, throat, stomach, and all other insides before moving on to the piercing and sucking, his screams reduced to a muddled plea, until finally, after several torturous minutes that felt like an eternity his body gave out and embraced death.

Oh, why didn’t they listen to me…

The next image to pop into Sam’s head was the nurses station, only three working at this time of night. The pretty middle-aged Asian with almond eyes, the stocky bitch-of-a-woman who enjoyed abusing her patients in her own little sadistic way, and the intern, always on edge, afraid one of the lunatics would snap at the wrong time; while in his company.

Indeed, the intern had chosen the wrong night to work.

Sam strained to hear any of their voices. Three words were all he needed to prevent their deaths. Just three words that he could make out through the pillow-soft door.

But he knew it was useless, the room not only built to keep a patient from hurting himself, but to keep his disturbing screams to himself as well.

And so the horrific images came, so vivid it was like a movie. Make that a 3D movie, as up close and personal as you can get as the intern’s overheated cellphone charger sent a surge of deadly energy to the oxygen tank it was touching, the result being an instantaneous explosion which sent flames engulfing the three nurses in one fell swoop.

Those beautiful almond eyes lit up and melting like marshmallows on an open fire…

The bitch-of-a-woman frying up like pork skin…

The cautious intern who would always so carelessly leave his cellphone charging in the most dangerous of places, as Sam had witnessed several times before, now grabbing at his face as it disintegrated into his hands…

As mayhem reined throughout the corridors of this rat’s nest Sam’s attention now went beyond it all, out the asylum and in search of Dr. Russell, who would be at home asleep at this hour, cuddled up close to his wife, his two darling children all cozy in the next room. Of course Sam had never been to Russell’s house, but with images of the doc’s family having been imprinted in his mind from the photographs atop the desk in his office, such facial recollection was all that was needed to turn thought into deed.

But Sam only had one target in mind, or so he hoped. The doctor himself, not the three innocent lives that made up his loved ones. But there it was again: three

Focus, focus, focus!

You need the doctor if you’re gonna put an end to all this…

And so with as much concentration as he could muster Sam tried picturing only Dr. Russell, counting ‘One, two, three. One, Two, three…” in repeated succession. But no matter how much he tried the two little kids kept popping up.

Ten miles away, Dr. Russell woke to a blood-soaked pillow. He immediately flipped on his bedside light and searched his face. It was coming from his nose.

Three seconds later, his two children ran into the room, both bleeding from the nose as well.

Russell couldn’t believe what was happening, even though he had been warned that very afternoon by his patient who was suffering from extreme OCD. Warned that if he continued to ignore Sam’s pleas for help there would be dire consequences, that the power in Sam’s mind was indeed real.

But he had rejected Sam’s claims, going so far as to discontinue the medicine that helped keep those inner demons at bay, and choosing to get even tougher when the patient’s imploring turned in to what he perceived as threats.

“Please, Dr. Russell, Don’t take away the meds. It’s all that’s keeping me from losing control of everything. Don’t you see?! I’m not gonna be able to stop it if you do this! Everyone is going to be at risk! Everyone here, everyone I’ve ever known, ever seen. Even your own family!”

A strike to the ego the doctor could not accept, ordering that the patient he strapped up and confined to a padded cell.

“It will start with the nose, doctor…!” Sam had yelled while being dragged away. “Bleeding from the nose…”

And now here Russell was, not dreaming but wide awake, heart pounding so hard in his chest at the sight of such a ludicrous claim now being proven correct, his precious offspring now falling victim.

Jumping up out of bed with the panic of any sacred parent, the doctor checked their pupils, heart rate, then yanked the pillow cases off the remaining two pillows on his bed and pressed them up against his children’s noses.

“It’s gonna be alright kids, tilt your head back and apply pressure.”

“What the hell’s going on?!” his wife demanded.

“Sweetie, I need you to get the kids to the hospital right now. I’ll explain later. I have to get to Cross Creek.”

“But… You’re bleeding too, what’s going on?!”

He grabbed her by the arms and spoke as clearly and calmly as he could…

“Everything will be explained later. I need you to focus now. Get the kids to the hospital and have them checked, now.”

And with that he grabbed his keys, jumped into his car, and sped off to work.

 

To Be Continued…

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From Trees He Came

Welcome back, my wonderful readers!

If you’ve ever appreciated a tree– climbed one, sat under one, ate a fruit borne by one– you’ll probably appreciate today’s story of substance.

May our minds continue to grow like the beautiful trees of the world…:)

Cover - From Trees He Came

By

Rico Lamoureux

All Rights Reserved.

2017

 

Yarom couldn’t understand it, refused to accept it. His kind had covered the earth for over 370 million years, far far beyond the time humans came into being. And yet they were the ones to decide the future for all? To pollute, to spoil, to slay for their own gain, while all other species were meant to passively accept such an unjust fate?

“They wipe out more than half of us since they’ve been here, and we’re just supposed to stand by and continue to serve, serve, serve?!” Yarom said with such disgust. “To keep sacrificing ourselves for their air, their homes, their lives?!”

All the elders in his patch of the woods were silent in shame, unable to respond to the outrage each new generation would show when learning of a tree’s destined existence, until the youth too had no choice but to accept.

“And so it has been since man chose ego over coexistence,” Albion, the oldest and supposedly wisest among them finally said. “A tree’s purpose is to do just that, serve, alongside the rest of nature, the all-knowing Mother Earth being the one and only who decides the circumstance of those who inhabit her.”

“No… There has to be more to it,” Yarom insisted. “The humans, they believe in taking charge of one’s destiny. Well, some of them anyway. Why can’t we?”

“You’ve been listening to those owls too much, Yarom,” his little sister Eleni said. “I hear you at night, when everyone else is sleeping. Buzz, buzz, buzz. Like Xanthe over there with all his bees!”

They all laughed.

“They know what they speak of,” big brother defended. “The stories they have… The knowledge they have on the humans. You all would be better served if you thought outside the norm every now and then. There’s a higher level of understanding out there.”

“Is that where your attention is?” one of the trees in the distance asked. “When the rest of us are preserving soil, conserving water, supporting wildlife, improving the air, you spend your energy dreaming up in the clouds? Wishing you could fly with your owls friends to far off fanciful places? Only to be left covered in their waste when you wake every morning?”

The laughter was now so shared that all the shaking leaves created a gentle breeze.

“Time to grow up, Yarom. Leave the fairytales for Eleni. Time to grow into that bark and take on your role as a server.”

Let them bask in their ignorance. I’ll show ‘em one day. I’ll show ‘em all. While they’re standing by idly waiting to be chopped down I’ll be fighting for our future. They’ll see!

 

Books: That’s the only good thing humans ever used trees for, Yarom thought as he waited for midnight to arrive. It was his favorite time of the 24-hour cycle, the other half of nature’s world coming to life as his kind slept. And although it was true that he really enjoyed the company of the owls and their infinite wisdom, what the others did not know, including his little nosey sister, was the conversations he’d have with moon. These discussions where unlike the ones they had down here on earth. They didn’t involve words, but feelings instead. Waves of energy being shared between he and the great white circle in the night’s sky. An unexplainable connection he had first discovered when he had first began to question a tree’s purpose. That was before he even reached adolescence, and now that he was entering adulthood he and the moon had had many years to get to know each other.

Through their sharing of energy moon knew, and understood the thoughts, dreams, aspirations of Yarom, and like a father figure he was always there to listen to the young tree, to console, believe, be there when no one else took the time to truly listen.

Moon had told Yarom that he would have something special for him on his first night of adulthood, and that it would involve the special purpose he had always known he had. The young tree had patiently waited with such hidden excitement for this night to come, and now that it had finally arrived it was all he could do to keep the secret to himself. A secret he himself had no clue of. But he did have a feeling that the owls knew something about it, for they didn’t fly in to perch atop his branches like they had done every night before.

When midnight finally rolled in Yarom was already reaching up high above with all his energy to connect with moon, ­­­­only this time the strength of the spirit that grabbed hold of him was so much stronger.

With a gravity that took hold every inch of his being, Yarom felt as though he was being uprooted, only from all directions, the force growing so strong he was afraid he would be ripped into oblivion.

But amid this all-encompassing pressure moon assured the young tree that all would be alright, and as his bark began to constrict to the point of some of it breaking apart and falling away his great friend high above began to reveal to Yarom his new purpose. That in order to beat them he must walk among them, appear to be one of them.

Yarom now understood what this meant, a small part of him saddened that he would no longer be such a vital extension to the earth. No longer would he feel the peace of being one of her many vessels in sustaining life. But yes, by now it was merely a matter of keeping things alive, not flourishing, the days of proliferating with both beauty and thriving sustenance long gone.

Yes… Take me… Transform me… I will serve best as one of them… Yarom thought as he submitted to the metamorphosis, his leaves joining some of his outer bark in falling away, the rest of his husky skin thinning out while his inner bark, cambium, and other layers became veins, tendons, muscles.

It was quite euphoric actually, the combining process that would leave him as both man and tree, the outer portion being a perfect specimen of one of them, his inner core, his heart, his soul, still remaining perennial.

And then it was done. Yarom felt significantly smaller, much more condensed, yet in a way freer. He looked down at his new form. Stretched his fingers, flexed his muscles, caressed his face.

Felt his Mother Earth at his feet. So distant he now was from her, no longer connected by roots, yet strangely enough he still felt a part of her, taking his first steps on these things called legs, these limbs that would allow him to be mobile, to take this new body and go out into the world and explore.

To seduce, to conquer, to begin to take back the earth.

 

Eleni was the first to awake, the birds tickling her branches as they sung their morning melodies. Like every morning she stretched, yawned, and felt her place among her kind, the sense of completion that went along with being attached to Mother Earth.

But then she felt it: something missing, an emptiness she didn’t really understand. That is until she looked over to her right, for the first time in her young life not seeing her big brother their at her side. Her gaze fell, scared that she would find nothing but a stump, the horrifying thought that man had come in and chopped her dear brother down.

But just as logic told her that such a thing would have been impossible to happen without her hearing it her gaze did not find the remains of Yarom, but rather a deep hole where he once stood.

Another first for Eleni, she was unable to say a single word, the others who surrounded her waking to display the same reaction.

Collectively they both mourned and lauded for their beloved Yarom, knowing deep down inside that he had somehow, someway indeed found his purpose.

~

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Dear Baby: Your Sac Is beautiful!

Hello Wonderful Readers!

Now that Baby is officially on the way I’ll not only be posting the short stories of substance this blog is known for, but also entries highlighting my Baby’s journey to entering this world:) After all, he or she will be a big part of The Flash Fiction Ponder later on, as I will be raising him or her to be a storyteller like daddy. (If they choose to go another route once they are about to go to college, I’ll be supportive. But to build a very solid foundation for their future, as well as teaching them about passion, I’ll be putting everything into making sure they grow up to be one of the greatest storytellers the world has ever known! And yes, this includes the initial stages of reading to mommy’s tummy!)

The first picture below is when we found out that Baby is on the way, the day before, amazingly Father’s Day, a home test telling us we were indeed going to be parents!

And then the next stage…!

 

Baby

2017-07-06-804.jpg

The Experience

Hello Wonderful Readers!

Today’s story of substance was meant to be posted over a week ago, on Father’s Day, but I got sidetracked, in a wonderful kind of way…

On that very day I found out I’m going to be a daddy!!!!!

So yeah, without further ado, here’s the Father’s Day tale.

Enjoy…:)

addtext_com_MDgxNTE1MjkwNg

By

Rico Lamoureux

All Rights Reserved.

2017

 

With the urging of their mother, my kids asked me what I wanted for Father’s Day this year. I gave them the same wise-cracking answer that I always do when they hit me up for gift ideas for myself; ‘humble pie for everyone, with a scoop of goodwill.’

After their ‘come on dad, we’re serious,’ this is usually followed up by, ‘I don’t know, maybe some Old Spice? A tie? Whatever you kids want.’ And so comes more after shave for the bathroom cabinet or strips of corporate life for the tie rack.

Usually. But this year was a bit different. My precious ones were at a crucial age, the two boys being seventeen and fifteen, my little girl not so little anymore, having reached the age that will bring any father to his knees with fear: thirteen.

Hate to sound like the ol’ cliché, ‘back when I was your age,’ but as of late I’ve been finding myself using the line on my kids more often than I’d like to admit, cringing every time it slips out. It’s those damn cellphones that have me sounding like an ol’ fart, their faces buried in ‘em every friggin’ waking hour of every day.

So this year I decided to follow up the humble pie and goodwill with a request that I really wanted. To see my kids being free from being slaves of tech. To actually spend some quality time with them, where their eyes are experiencing life through the senses, not a screen.

“You guys like music, right?”

“Who doesn’t, dad?”

“And you like concerts?”

“Of course.”

“That’s what I want for Father’s Day. For the four of us to go to a concert. I’ll take care of the tickets, you guys just worry about taking the evening off.”

My daughter and fifteen-year-old got excited, but the eldest, having reached the age of cynicism, wasn’t so quick to jump on the bandwagon. “Wait a minute, you want us to go see one of your ol’ school bands, huh?”

The enthusiasm of the two younger ones dropped like a cell to the ground.

“Now kids, whose day is it supposed to be? Don’t be selfish,” their mother chimed in.

“Ok, dad, who we gonna see? That pitty guy?”

“Pitty? You’re tellin’ me Brad Pitty has a band?!”

They were used to my cheesy sense of humor, now just waiting to find out which ol’ fogy I was going to drag them to see.

“No, not Tom Petty, although that would be friggin’ awesome. No, we can choose someone you’re all into. My only condition is, no cellphones.”

And just like that they instantly regretted asking me what I wanted, wishing they could just go back in time and get me the Old Spice and ties. Hell, they would have even chosen Petty over given up their cells. But my card had already been played, so they were stuck with doing what dad wanted for a change.

They moped around all Sunday, their faces so low they might as well have been dragging them along with their shoes, nearly coming to tears by evening when they had to hand over the devices in exchange for lighters.

“What are we supposed to do with these?” the fifteen-year-old asked.

“He wants us to get high like hippies before the show,” the older one snarked. “You know, since we’re gonna be the only ones there without cellphones.”

“Ah, busting out a lil’ cheese whiz like your ol’ pop, huh?” I countered. “Nah, the only high we’re gonna be getting tonight is natural. Stuff these bad boys in your pocket, we’ll be makin’ use of ‘em later.”

And with that we were out the door, kissing mom goodbye and leaving her with all electronics.

Felt good to be king for a day.

 

The band the kids had chosen to see weren’t half bad, as I had heard some of their tracks being played here and there. I had gotten us front row seats, and as the venue filled up I imparted a little ol’ fart wisdom on my bored offspring, whether they wanted to hear it or not.

“Back when I was your age we’d go to concerts to feel the artists, as they would us. Nowadays it’s all so plastic, distant, like going to a zoo and gawking. No real interaction. I don’t know how they do it. How they can force themselves to perform with excitement when they’re just staring out at a sea of pocket cameras.”

“It’s called evolution, dad,” my know-it-all seventeen-year-old replied. “Every generation goes through it.”

“Yeah, but yours took something that was supposed to advance us and hurled us back to the stone age. We were better off drawing stick figures on a cave wall. Pretty soon humankind will be a bunch of introverts, living nothing but a digital life through a lens in their eye.”

The lights in the arena went down, a drum beat now giving rise, the crowd going wild.

With a hometown greeting from the lead singer the audience got even more excited, and when the stage lights lit up the band the reaction was nearly deafening.

My kids transformation from sulking to totally enthralled happened quicker than I had expected, getting sucked into the performance before the first go-round of the chorus, no filter, no cellphone to act as a barrier.

By the second delivery of the chorus the band had spotted us, the lead singer and his two flanking guitar mates making their way over.

Not even a foot away, it was like we were getting our own private show, my boys looking back at me with such elation, my little girl, so captivated she was frozen in place.

It must have been like 3D, no, make that 4D to them, so close we could see the beads of sweat beginning to form on the faces. Hell, so close we could even see the fillings in the lead singer’s mouth as he bent over to serenade us.

They made it a point to come back over to us for at least a few bars of every song that followed, and when they got to their soft ballad I had the kids pull out their lighters, guiding them to strike that flame and hold it up high.

Like a beacon we had once again drew the band in, these young artists eager to give all they had to the only four souls among thousands who were there to connect on a personal level, not through a screen.

By the time the band got to their last track, their biggest hit, they had security lead us up to the stage to be part of the show. The boys were even encouraged to play a few notes on the guitars, while my little princess and I sang a few verses with the lead singer.

This was more than a facebook post, a youtube clip, it was an experience that would stay with us for the rest of our lives.

And yes, with all those cells pointing at us we ended up indeed going viral, even making it onto the news and getting interviewed on a couple of morning talk shows.

Going viral. Ironic to reach such a modern aspiration when all I was trying to do was have us experience a feeling of yesterday. Back when I was growing up they’d call this a full circle moment.

As for my family, we call it The Experience.

~

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Hope (Sequel)

Welcome back, my wonderful readers!

For those of you who have been waiting for the conclusion of Hope, the time has come! For those of you who haven’t had a chance to read it yet, just scroll on down to the previous post:)

But be forewarned, this might be a tear-jerker;)

 

Hope

Hope

(Sequel)

By

Rico Lamoureux

All Rights Reserved.

2017

 

From an all-encompassing bright light came a sign of life in the form of tree branches stretching far and wide, so thick with leaves that one could only wonder of nature’s community which lived inside.

Throughout the canopy hung round balls of delight, for within these husks lived the deliciously versatile walnut.

Beneath this massive display of Mother Nature’s beauty stood a thick trunk, holding it all up with such dignified strength.

“Mom, where are we?”

“I don’t know, Hope.”

All of a sudden, with what seemed like the same amount of force as the impact which had brought them here, the razor-sharp blade of a whizzing axe on the downswing came slicing through the trunk’s bark, imbedding about a half foot into it.

The shock from such a violet action shook Hope to her core, but what core? As she felt the imposing energy reverberate she wondered if they were indeed dead.

The only thing she did know for sure was the pain she felt for the beautiful walnut tree, the wondrous structure losing its majestic towering presence with every swing of the axe.

Or was such a feeling just empathy?

The more she thought about it, felt about it, the clearer a new perspective began to emerge. Despite being chopped down it still seemed to have a purpose, perhaps a new purpose. A sense that would prove true within a moment of the grand tree timbering over and hitting the ground at their feet.

The ripple of energy echoing throughout their beings held the ability to transport the two ahead in time, to a montage of sorts, the massive trunk being stripped of its bark, cut into sections and reassembled in a way that began to form a rectangular box.

The more the new purpose of this splendid tree took on its new shape the more familiar it became to both mother and daughter, and by the time the details were being put into place­—the motif, the etchings, the pearls—such intricacies were accompanied by the sound of innocence, the purest form of humankind…

The cry of a newborn baby.

Both Hope and Denise stood from their positions of observation as a father guided his wife and their precious newborn in her arms towards the chest. The chest of Hope and Denise’s family history, its origins beginning here with this young couple.

Then returned the ripples of time, through its montage of story aging the parents as the child grew into a young woman, a few siblings now by her side.

She was soon joined by a partner, a baby of their own coming into being not long thereafter.

With another generation came the passing of the first, still there in spirit, there to bear witness, along with Denise and Hope, as the chest was passed down to each first daughter, the leaves and branches of this family tree growing ever so much more as surroundings changed, as time passed.

Time that brought about inevitable change, descendants experiencing both great triumphs and great sorrows throughout the ages, all centered around this heirloom, this chest.

From poverty to riches, peace to wars, the hope chest withstanding all, although at times coming very close to being destroyed.

Barely escaping house fires…

Being buried among rubble as air raids come thundering down from above…

Nearly being sold as it came into the dire times of the destitute…

Barely slipping away from the massive grasps of mighty ocean waves as the family weathered the journey to the New World…

Through Ellis Island and under the torch of Lady Liberty the chest entered New York to start its next hundred years, Great Mama the first to inherit it on American soil. To see her at such a tender age, to watch her grow, to enter womanhood like those who had come before her, with the hope chest at the foot of her bed, was special indeed for Hope and Denise, the two now holding hands.

Then came Hope’s grandmother, Denise with such a serene look on her face at the sight of her young nursing mother, before she too grew up to find someone to keep the family going.

Especially touching was when it was Denise’s turn to come into being, Hope looking over at her mother every now and then with a smile as they watched her go through the stages of childhood and adolescence.

By the time they reached the moment on the bridge, the meeting that would lead to the companionship of bringing Hope into existence, mother and daughter were shaking. Other than pictures, it was the first time Hope had ever seen her father, and as for Denise, the vision of once again seeing her dearly departed nearly sent her falling over to her knees. But the two held each other up in their arms, watching with such longing, wishing they could just step out into that past and make it their present.

They had never been so close, so united in emotion.

Watching her father work on the chest, tears began to well up in Hope’s eyes. It was all she could do not to turn away, for she knew what must be coming next.

Or at least she thought she did…

But instead of the tragedy of 9/11 the storyline, the timeline, was now showcasing a mother’s pregnant belly, her hands holding another pair of hands as the arms embraced her from the back.

Like a powerful movie moment the montage tilted up to the mother’s face, to reveal her to be a future Hope, her love, the father of her baby lowering his head down to the side of hers to where they were now cheek-to-cheek, both looking down at baby-to-be.

It wasn’t the kid who hadn’t had her back back at his house, the one she had nearly given her innocence to. No, this was a real man. One whose face expressed sincerity and loyalty.

Hope looked to her mother, now understanding all, but Denise had changed, now as transparent as the ancestors at their back.

Hope looked out to them all, the number having grown overwhelmingly since she last noticed them. Thousands, maybe tens of thousands, all having lived as a result of that first couple.

Why was she still solid but her mother as translucent as the others…?

Just as it occurred to her the welled up tears in her eyes burst out, looking back at her mother with such fear…

“No mom, please, don’t leave me.

“I’m so sorry.

“I didn’t understand…”

Although now unable to wipe away her daughter’s tears, it didn’t stop Denise from trying. “My precious baby, don’t blame yourself. Please, whatever you do, don’t blame yourself. I’ll be with daddy now. I’ll be with those who have come before us.

“It’s up to you now, to keep it going, to make sure the chest continues to have purpose. It needs your strength, we all need your strength. We’re all within it.

“Live, experience, create. Pass what you learn on to the next.”

Through the tears Hope lunged forward to embrace her mother, to hold her one last time, but just when she should have made contact the all-encompassing bright light once again engulfed…

Hope waking to find herself in a hospital bed, her eyes struggling to find focus before beginning to make out a figure at the foot of the bed.

The clearer her vision became the more she could see him…

An ER resident, his face unmistakable.

That expression of true sincerity. The man of her future, the father of the child who would inherit the chest.

Another story to add to its rich history, another display of the human condition.

~

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Hope

Hello my wonderful readers:)

Today we explore the human condition of being hurt by a loved one, and how it is so much more painful than experiencing it from a stranger.

Hope

All Rights Reserved

2017

It was a chest that brought about instant curiosity, over two hundred years of history, holding the innermost personal stories of nine generations of women. Many of its features symbolized the innocence it stood for, including its color of purity white and its two vertical rows of pearls on either side of its front. Some even saw chaste in its motif, certain perspectives seeing the image of a nun, her arms outstretched to her sides, the keyhole, the window to her soul, her veil spreading out as the design leading to those precious, priceless pearls.

The chest had seen better days, better generations for that matter. For the past sixteen years it had sat in a basement, the struggles and tribulations of a single mother and her daughter pouring down through the wooden floorboards over the years and coating it in dust.

In truth, Denise couldn’t stand the sight of the old chest, although it had not always been that way. She had been the last inheritor of it, receiving the heirloom on her sixteenth birthday in a special ceremony that involved her mother and grandmother. A tradition that had been passed down for two centuries, with origins going all the way back to the family’s motherland of Italy.

Like those who had come before her, Denise cherished the chest that would help her prepare for her future, the three generations of women filling it with things she would need once she started her own family. At the foot of her bed was where the keepsake sat, loyally waiting while Denise went out into the world to find herself and her future husband.

As if written in the stars it didn’t take long for her dream to come to fruition, the man she saw herself spending the rest of her life with finding her on a cool fall day atop Central Park’s famous Bow Bridge.

Before long the couple were expecting, and how delighted Denise was when she learned that she would be having a girl. So overjoyed in fact that the child would not only receive the chest, but its name as well.

And so Hope was born.

From the moment Hope entered the world both mother and father were head-over-heels in love, Daddy setting out right away to fulfil his job as restorer of the chest. You see, the mothers and daughters in this timeless ritual weren’t the only ones who had a role, the fathers expected to take it upon themselves to learn enough carpentry basics to restore the chest before it was to be bequeathed to their daughter.

Hope’s father had taken it quite a bit further, signing up for woodwork classes at a local community college and taking a whole semester to immerse himself in the craft. Such dedication took a toll on his schedule, as he would commute to the city via subway to his job at The World Trade Center, then divide his evenings between his family and wood classes. Taking everything into consideration, he had decided he needed a change, preferring life with his wife and daughter over the nine-to-five skyscraper hustle and bustle. He would trade in suits and briefcases for diapers and baby bottles, high-rise meetings for becoming an artist of wood.

His last day at the office would be on September 11, 2001.

The same day that the world would change forever, the life he envisioned as a stay-at-home daddy dissipating along with the twin towers of the iconic New York skyline.

And just like that Denise had lost her husband, her best friend, her soul mate, left alone to care for a newborn. Well, not totally alone, for there were family from both sides, there with their unconditional helping hands. But despite the love showered upon her, the many shoulders to cry on, she still felt abandoned and lost. And as far as that chest, just thinking about it sent her bursting into tears, not daring to actually lay eyes on it. It was the first thing Denise had requested when taking the family up on their offer to help in any way. To get the chest out, away, her poor hubby’s work never to be completed.

As the years passed life became a little easier for Denise to cope with, the growing of her dear daughter Hope keeping her strong enough to face each day as it came along. But life as a single parent is hardly ever easy, constantly performing the juggling act of breadwinning and child-rearing.

What helped was the saying her and husband used to use when facing any obstacle: us against the world, the us now being her and Hope.

What didn’t help was the dark side of Hope that began to show itself at the tender age of seven. At times it was like the little girl would change entirely, becoming very hurtful when not getting what she wanted. Denise would try to rationalize the situation, attributing it to the absence of a father figure, but she had friends who were single mothers, and none of their children acted out as Hope did.

The more time passed, the more it felt like ‘me against the world.’

By thirteen Hope was sneaking out of the house to meet with friends, Denise finding it impossible to keep an eye on her while at the same time providing for the two of them. She tried to create a good environment, attempting to steer Hope in the direction of good kids, of those who actually respected their parents and understood boundaries, but such efforts would always end in the same result: Hope quickly losing interest and finding her way back to the bad influencers.

Denise would imagine the worst when not being able to contact Hope, tormenting thoughts of her daughter out there doing who knows what with who knows who, with discussions on daytime TV talk shows of how the new up and coming generation was becoming more sexually advanced than those who had ever came before them sending her to her wits end.

What if Hope had already given up her innocence? Carelessly throwing away the one thing she could never get back?

Then the thought of the chest would come up, the pain of the past colliding with the pain of the present, making it so overwhelming that at times Denise just wanted to end it all. But was it her husband’s spirit that would embrace during these most darkest of hours, there to let her know that all would be alright if she just persevered?

Whatever the reassuring energy was it would get Denise back to the place of hope, of the possibility that her and Hope still had a chance to have a real mother/daughter relationship. With such aspiration came the realization that she would have to face her sorrowful past if she were to move on to a better future. And so she began to tell Hope about her father.

The new revelations appeared to have some effect on the teen, at least to begin with, Hope even insisting that the two go down to the basement to have a look at the chest. Until then the young one hadn’t really understood anything about her mother, but when she saw what became of the woman who raised her when standing before that chest, her perspective shifted a bit, a seed of empathy being planted as her mother broke down in tears and shared her story, shared their story.

It was the closest the two had been since Hope was a little girl, holding each other in tears, us against the world once again becoming a possibility.

“I haven’t done anything yet, mom.”

“What?”

“My innocence… I still have it.”

Such relief, such happiness, with promises of taking over for daddy to prepare for Hope’s sweet sixteen. After all, it was just over two years away, and what better project for the two to reconnect?

But then came reality. The reality of any relationship. Parent/child, brother/sister, husband/wife. That sooner or later one would let the other down.

In Hope’s case, it came about a lot sooner than Denise would have liked, the barrier that had appeared to have been broken down between the two reappearing within a week, and growing taller, stronger, wider the more time passed.

Before she knew it Denise was looking into the matured face of her dear daughter, Hope just days away from celebrating her sweet sixteen.

“I’m not asking you to do anything for me. If not for yourself, if not for your grandmother, do it for Great Mama. You know how old she’s getting. This could very well be her last year.”

Even Hope couldn’t deny this. Her great grandmother had lived a very full life. Daughter to those who had brought the family over to America, she had witnessed the world change many times over, the old woman nearly at total peace with the fact that she would be closing her eyes for the last time very soon. Nearly, the only thing left to be anxious about being the inheritance of the chest, making it a point to call at least a few times a week to inquire on the matter.

How sweet Grand Mama had always been to Hope, never visiting without a present to give, always offering a mint or piece of gum from her purse. These fond memories is what finally got the problem child to show a little focus for the upcoming ceremony, at least enough to sit down and listen a bit more about their history, along with going dress shopping for the occasion.

All seemed set for the sweet sixteen, the uncles having lugged the old chest up from the basement, the fine linen having been laid out, mother and daughter having negotiated the schedule for the special day. Hope would have the whole afternoon to hang out with her friends, needing to be home by 5:00 to prepare for the rite.

Despite Hope having promised just that, Denise was apprehensive all day, checking the time every few minutes while her mom and grandmother talked about the good ol’ days.

By 4:30 she had begun to send text messages.

Ur on ur way home, right? Rmbr, u nd to b here at *5*, not being on ur way at 5.       

5 mins til. Why aren’t u replying?!

Dammit Hope, u knw how important ths s to ur grandparents! Wher r u?!

30 mins past. I swear Hope, f u don’t walk thru that door n next 5 mins…!   

With all her messages being ignored, Denise did something she swore she would never do. She marched upstairs, burst into her daughter’s room, and began looking through things.

Under the mattress was a pamphlet on birth control pills. Her heart sank…

From the bedroom to her laptop Denise logged on to their cellular provider’s website, quickly striking in her password and changing the settings on their account, to where she could bring up the phone log and text messages of her daughter’s number.

From a sinking heart to one pounding throughout her whole body, Denise read the latest dozen or so texts to have been sent and received. Her baby girl had been planning the ultimate betrayal, promising her new boyfriend the sweetness to her sweet sixteen.

He would be finished with football practice at 5:00, home by 6:00, where the two would meet up and have the place to themselves for three hours, until his parents got home from work.

Denise was now wiping away tears as she quickly dialled Hope’s best friend.

“Alexis, it’s Denise, Hope’s mom. Do you know where she is?

‘So she left your house at five?

“Where did she go?

“Alexis, I know about Jeff. I know they’re planning to meet. You wanna know how I know? Just about every cell company has the option to not only track all numbers linked to the main account, but to read text messages too. What do you think will happen when I tell your parents about this feature, and how you helped Hope lie to her mother?!

“You need to tell me where this boy lives, now!”

As if Mother Nature could feel the fury emanating from Denise, a thunderstorm began to take shape just as she rushed for the front door.

“Everything alright?” Denise’s mother asked.

Be right back. Going to get Hope.”

5:50. Fifteen minutes away from Maple Drive. Despite the rain coming down harder, Denise stepped on the gas.

She got there at 6:00 sharp, but there was already a car in the drive way and a light on upstairs. She rang the doorbell…

No answer.

Dialed Hope’s cell…

No answer…

The front door was locked.

Denise could see a shadow behind the curtain upstairs, her motherly instinct telling her they were both up there, looking down in silence and waiting for her to go away.

She looked under the flower pots…

No spare key.

Picturing what her baby girl was about to do, the panic caused her to pick up one of the flower pots and send it crashing through the living room window.

Although she could only see the very bottom of the stairs, Denise could now hear commotion charging down, planting her feet firmly into place now that she had their undivided attention.

Jeff was shirtless, speechless for a moment as he processed the damage, then found the words to speak up.

“What the hell, lady?!”

Hope was right behind him, pulling down her blouse before looking up at her mom through the shattered window.

“Get your ass in the car, now!” Denise demanded.

Hope just stood there, refusing to move.

“My parents are gonna kill me…” was all Jeff could say now.

Denise picked up another flower pot, raised it up…

“Get in the car, Hope, or I’ll bust out every damn window in this house!”

Jeff didn’t wait a second longer, grabbing Hope and pushing her her mother’s way. “You gotta get out of here, now!”

Hope was shocked at such a betrayal from her boyfriend, Denise seeing it written all over her face.

“And you were going to give it away to this guy…” Denise said as her daughter headed for the front door.

It was now pouring rain, hurtful words being thrown in full force as soon as the car doors were slammed shut.

“How could you? He’s never gonna talk to me again. And what about school?! They’re all gonna be talking about this! You’ve ruined my life!”

Denise tried to calm herself as she pulled away from Jeff’s house and into the storm, above all, thankful that she had got to her daughter in time. “In time… In time, you’ll understand.”

“Understand what?! What a crazy bitch I have for a mother?! That’s what they’re gonna be calling you, you know! The whole school! The whole town!”

Calm. Stay calm. We’ll deal with everything when we get home.

“I hate you!” Hope shouted.

Why me? Have I not suffered enough? I give her everything, absolutely everything…

“I’ve never been able to understand why you can’t stop yourself from doing the wrong thing,” Denise said, doing her best to keep her composure, “while hardly ever being able to do the right thing.”

“Maybe because I was raised by the wrong parent!” Hope yelled back. “You should have died instead of dad! You’ve always been an awful mother! Why do you think I didn’t show up tonight? I could care less about your stupid chest!”

Denise fought to see through her tears, the pounding rain, the oncoming headlights…

Oncoming headlights-

No time to swerve, to hit the brakes, her only reaction, her natural reaction, to shoot an arm out in front of her daughter, to try and shield her before…

~

Don’t miss the sequel to this powerful story,

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 The Flash Fiction Ponder:)

Movie Night

Is love stronger than pride…?

Welcome back my wonderful readers!

Today we visit the human condition of betrayal, and how it can affect someone. When reading this story of substance you might identify with it on some level. If not, consider yourself very fortunate!

Movie Night Cover

By

Rico Lamoureux

All Rights Reserved

2017

It was as much of a part of who they were as a couple as sleeping in the same bed or sharing a bite to eat. At least a few times a week, turn off the phones, turn down the lights, cuddle up cozy and take in a movie. Some were powerful and became instant favorites, while most were average and pretty much good for just one viewing.

They must have watched thousands over their many years together, one of the most special to them being What Dreams May Come. Not only because it was a moving story of substance, but also due to the fact that they shared the same names as the two main characters in the film. Neither Chris nor Annie ever forgot that night when they saw the trailer on TV during that fall of ’99. Their relationship barely six months new, they had just finished showering together (and a little more) and were starting to prepare dinner when the preview caught their eye.

A supernatural drama about soul mates, it indeed compelled. But it was when those two names came up, their names, when they dropped everything and got dressed to head out to the local theatre.

Two months later, it became the theme to their wedding, and every year thereafter, the way in which they ended celebrating their anniversary. Later this year would mark their nineteenth, but Chris felt like revisiting their cinematic treasure tonight, Annie having no idea until she had sat down next to him with a bowl of popcorn.

Normally she would cozy up right beside him, but as of late, for the past two months to be precise, she would sit near but not close, he having to coax her to close the distance. It was little subtle signs like this that he had missed at the beginning, really thinking nothing of it when she had decided she wanted to start working part time at her friend’s new flower shop. After all, he had always thought of himself as a supportive husband, so if she felt she could use a few hours out of the house, why not, late afternoons not really interrupting their dinner and movie time.

But a couple of weeks in and the signs had indeed began to show, whether he had noticed them or not. Looking back, he realized he had, but only on an instinctual level. When once their affection was pretty much fifty-fifty, he now found himself having to initiate their intimacy, both physically and emotionally.

Why so much time on the cellphone now? She had never been one to let such devices consume her, but now she was a screen queen, swiping every chance she got. And why the password? The two lived alone, having no need for such security measures.

“Sometimes at work I leave my cell on a counter or in a drawer. Never know when someone’s gonna pick it up.”

Like me…?

That’s when instinct had finally slapped Chris across the face, suspicion leading him to do something he had never done before, never even thought of doing before. He began to look through her messages. She still had her cell locked, but her facebook remained open on their shared laptop.

An oversight that would change everything.

Scrolling down messages from friends and family, he came upon one from a member with no photo, and as soon as he began to read, his heart not only fell, but plummeted down into his stomach, acid eating away at it…

Where are you babe? Miss you…

I miss you too, babe. Only been cpl dys, but seems lot longer.

The last two in a thread of deceit, betrayal, devastation…

Chris never felt so hurt in his life.

The next week or so was pure anguish. How many days and nights? He wasn’t quite sure, as they were all merging into one long state of torturous hell. Should he confront her, and risk her storming out only to never return? How about going out and trying to even the score? He just couldn’t stop thinking about it, shock never really settling in to become acceptance. How could she be so nonchalant, going about life as if nothing was going on?

“You had to work late again?”

“Yeah, we’re getting a lot of inventory now that it’s spring.”

How could she be so cold-blooded? And lie so blatantly to his face?!

It was at these times, when such pain began to boil into desired self-defense, that he would rack his brain with the thought of finding another. He had no idea how serious the affair was, and the thought of losing her, after devoting himself to her for nearly two decades, was killing him. He had never been one to have suicidal thoughts, but now this dangerous mindset was part of this black plague that had befallen him. At times, ending it all seemed like the only way to end the pain, but then the thought of finding someone to take her place would creep in…

If she could do it, why can’t I? I’ve got looks. Why should I stay in a one-sided relationship? There are plenty of women out there who would appreciate a guy like me.

That’s what he missed most. The intimacy, the willful affection he no longer received. And so he began to scroll the dating sites, contemplating the two famous sayings…

Once a cheater, always a cheater.

The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else.

Were they true? If so, didn’t it make perfect sense to find someone new?

Even with such logic he struggled with the thought of placing his own ad. What if they turned out to be liars too? What if it didn’t work out and he lost Annie forever? It was during these bouts of mental anguish when Chris hated being on these sites, wanting nothing more to do with such desperate searches. He already loved a woman, and had only ever thought of her when envisioning growing old with someone.

Oh Annie, why?! I’ve given you nothing but my everything. Why was I not enough?

Then the sickening thought would reappear. Of her and him, of them, together.

Chris and Annie… What happened to them being soul mates, like in the movie? They were supposed to be exclusive, as any married couple was expected to be, knowing each other on an intimate level like no one else. Advanced lovers that would do anything for the other’s pleasure.

The thought of her taking him inside of her disgusted Chris. He had helped coach her in developing the talent of taking him all the way down her throat, and once there to suckle until bliss exploded into euphoria, and how he loved how she would remain there until consuming every last drop, making him feel beyond special.

To take such a carnal bond that represented such a long commitment and so casually do it with another?!

Yes, it was not only the physical giving that hurt Chris so badly, but the emotional as well. Maybe even more so.

Annie was quite surprised when the movie started, not expecting it to be their movie, but she put on a pretty good poker face, choosing to cuddle up a little closer, like back when things were pure between them.

How would Chris tell her he knew? Of the facebook messages, the texts and late night calls, the secret meetings between him and her…

Fuck facebook! He hated it. Knew many would say it was like hating guns, when in reality people kill people, not guns. But Chris wasn’t so sure. The asshole who had come between he and his love had been from her past, and unlike the ‘ol days, when it wasn’t so easy to find/reconnect with someone from one’s past, nowadays a few clicks could end up destroying a marriage. Yeah, facebook could kill!

How would he tell her he knew about it all, yet had still decided to fight for her? How, like in the movie, he would battle the sorrows of hell for her, that he had been battling the sorrows of hell! How he felt she was still his precious Annie, and he her Chris, just like those movie characters, only real. How he had even secretly already started saving for a trip of a lifetime, months ago, for them to take for their big twenty-year wedding anniversary next year. They would jet off to Switzerland, the place where their movie characters had met, and have the time of their lives.

A trip that he now saw as part of their new beginning.

Would she be on board? Would she regret her recent actions and take the necessary steps to right her wrong?

How would he tell her he knew…?   

By now Annie’s head was lying on his lap, and Chris got his answer when a tear fell down from his eye and onto her cheek…

~

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