New skin, new skin
I pledge allegiance to my new skin, new skin
I wanna feel the wind in my hair again
Never feel what it’s like to be scared again
Smallpox on my bed again
Throwing out the sheets and my old friends
Old sores, run the bath again
You can barely feel where the new skin begins
I wanna live in a tailing pond
Soak it in ’till my bones rot off
Shave my nose and bleed out the heritage
Bathe in the sludge of plastic needle sedative
Inject the drug, blue eyes burn through
I’ve got tumors in my veins, allergic to the used
Breathe in the carbon, eat hydrothermal vents
Five-eyed fish, Fukushima accidents
I wanna live in a tailing pond
Soak in the heat ’till old skin boils off
Test the model, see if silicon floats
Blink the lenses of my brand-new eye note
Originality, they’ll never let you in
Pledge Allegiance to the new skin, new skin.
To pre-empt this, I read a Facebook meme/post based off the popular Tumblr stories of “The Soulmate Countdown“. Which served as an inspiration for this story, which ironically was inspired by an indy rom-com called “Timer“. So, although I can’t take credit for the concept, it shook me enough to form my own version. Think of it as a singular story in a greater shared universe. And enjoy.
To Write Love on Your Arms
It wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, not really. It didn’t change much, society, didn’t turn upside down like you’d think. I mean, unless you’re a teenage girl. Those teens nowadays, adding glitter, jewelry… “blinging” out their “Love Watches”. They view it as an Altar, social hierarchy in schools now comes down to who has the least amount of time on their hands… ironic.
Online Dating became a thing of the past. Like, if random stranger is halfway across the world… does the watch consider time change? The young ones rush around with their time bombs, clinging on to the one they see when the clock runs down. But even then, when’s the last time you took note of the exact second on your timepiece? There’s a lot of “half-hour” leeways going on. Seriously, say you’re sitting with your friend and the cutest chick sits down. Are you gonna sit and wait until the clock runs out? What if some dumpy chick walks in with two seconds to spare? Hey, don’t get mad at ME, there’s still a whole bunch of judgmental people out there. And true love is open to interpretation…apparently.
That’s why I’m glad mine was blank, has been since I was born. There’s a lot of us out there too, you’d be surprised. We usually gravitate to each other, the broken souls sticking together. Or we get jobs with lots of people around. Delivery driver, arena staff, door-to-door salesman… that kind of stuff. Hey, it’s Math, right? Just wait around until someone’s time runs out and
“HEY, would you look at that? Mine just ran out too!”
No-one checks the watch AFTER the time runs out…
So, we got married. Me and another broken soul. It happens. You know what you’re getting into. It’s a different love, I think. Not… a “true love”. Every girl wants to be a princess, no matter what they say. So, imagine the realization when the world tells you that your knight in shining armour is never coming. The divorce rate is high.
We had a decent time, two kids. Twenty years. I should’ve figured something out when she started wear long sleeves, when the “headaches” wouldn’t go away. Left me for her fucking Personal Trainer. What a goddamn cliché.
If you think dating is hard in your Twenties, by god, give dating in your Forties a try. These lonely, aging beauties. I call them Clock Watchers. It’s heart-breaking, it really is. You barely chat, barely eat. No movies, no making out. Walk in, they check their watch. Sit down to eat a fancy restaurant, check watch. The newest Rom-com with Hugh whoever? Popcorn and light up that watch. One girl even slammed a door on me, told me to come back in 23 days… yeah, I think I’ll pass on that, ever so inviting prospect.
So, I’ve settled into old age, I think. As far as I know. A nice affordable apartment, the kids are off the college so old the tap to the “unlimited flow of cash” is being cut off. My son found a nice girl in the campus library when his time ran out. And my daughter went off on a “soulmate-finder” vacation. Last I heard she’s dating some soccer player in Peru, with “plenty of time to spare” as she put it, the last time we Skyped. My timepiece looks like old and worn, like a leather belt that’s seen better days. I’ve started a great tan-line though. I think I’ll work for a couple more years, settle into retirement and play some golf.
My back. My goddamn back. Slipped a disc at work, and here I am laying in a hospital bed with some old nurse taking care of me. It wouldn’t have happened to a younger man… and I’m not a young man. God, this is stupid but would you believe sitting there all I thought about was this watch? This stupid shitty watch. This stupid shitty life and all these goddamn maybes.
Maybe I should’ve lied about love like my friends in our twenty’s.
Maybe I should’ve spent more time looking for love, than shunning it, ignoring it.
Maybe she wouldn’t have left me, if I knew how to love her back.
If this ticking watch would’ve…
Ticking. Holy SH–
“Gimme some freakin’ space will ya!” I shout, immediately regretting it. This damn nurse.
She gives me a look, a ‘listen asshole, I’ve been doing this too long to put up with your shit’ look.
“Sir,” she says, “I know this is a difficult time for you. You were in a pretty serious accident so your bodies going to need time to repair.”
No stethoscope, she checks my pulse at the wrist. Her hand is warm, it’s… it’s the first time in a while that some-ones been this close. Actually, up close she looks about my age. She stumbles. She gives me a look…I can’t figure it out.
She sighs. I can smell this fragrance. I can’t figure out the brand. I used to be so good at figuring people out, but now… I’m blanking. There’s this weird glow about her and the only thing I can do to keep focused is maintain eye-contact, must be the drugs they’re giving me… I’m trying to capture what’s she’s saying but it drips in and out.
“Alright,” she’s looking at me, she’s studying me… I think. God, I wish I could figure out what’s going on in her head. “It looks like you’re going to be spending a lot of time with me. The hernia is going to leave you bed-ridden and hospitalized quite a while.”
“How much time?” I splurt out, God what is going on with me. I’m sweating. “Am I going to be spending with you… I mean, in the bed”
She speaks in soft tones now, her eyes are this unexplainable shade of greenish blue. Like a whirlpool, and shit, I’m sinking.
“About a month for the hernia…” she says, holding up my hand. Her hand. Our hands, side by side. The show’s over, credits are rolling.
We take the jobs with lots of people around. A clumsy aging delivery driver…arena staff, door-to-door salesman… or a Nurse. No more blank, would you look at that? No more empty space waiting to be filled.
There’s a heart on mine.
A matching one on yours.
You said something after that, something cute I’m sure. Something beautiful and perfect and something so uniquely you. But I wasn’t listening. I was too busy staring into your eyes.
…And we’ll see how it goes from there.
Are you ready for how I thought I loved you?
How I placed your face and my face in my dreams,
But they never came true.
Enchanted by the day I met you.
It was so warm that my cold self,
Drifted toward you.
How time slowed down,
When you were around,
And you never knew.
Could you feel my long, sweaty palms
just trying to hold you?
I was shy, you were bold.
I never felt so old.
Than the times I stared,
At your ruby red hair,
Like a fire in my brain;
I’ve never felt the same,
I never could cling to.
Remember that time you handed me the letter you wrote?
I joked and I hoped,
Saying, “Is that for me?”
Well my heart broke just a little bit that day.
I gave to my friend, he read.
Did she say anything about me?
I just went home and,
I cried my fucking eyes out.
Then you moved away.
Oh how could I stray?
But it wasn’t the same.
When you left you gave me that old picture.
Because I’d glad you’d gone,
You could be the girl who’d run,
And I’d be the hero of my own story.
But time passed and anger fades,
So I tore up your picture.
Now here I am, it’s 2 am,
Just trying to forget you.
I want to forget you.
I was shy, you were bold.
I’ve never been so old.
I want to open my heart again.
I want to open my heart again,
Let somebody else in.
Writing my poems again,
Writing my poems again.
Prologue: This was inspired by Neutral Milk Hotel’s “Holland, 1945”, so a) please nobody sue me & b) maybe give that a listen to understand the rhyme scheme and tempo I was going for?
The only man I’ve ever loved
Died with mortar shells in chest
Not to say I’m not impressed
By folded flags and formal dress
These shots just ring and pierce my ears
Left me alone with all my fears
You can’t replace, you can’t repairs
The chopped up pieces of my heart
The world just breaks and falls apart
The world just breaks and falls apart
I had a girl, when I was young
Lost her legs, 2001
To see her dance in Summer sun
The way she smiles through blood-stained teeth
Coughs up pain or pain relief
Left me alone with all my grief
You can’t replace, you can’t receive
The chopped up pieces of my heart
The world just breaks and falls apart
The world just breaks and falls apart
I was lounging around a couple days ago when the first stanza popped into my head and I was kind of mulling over the rhyme scheme. I wrote the rest pretty quickly, as you may tell, with a half jumbled kind-of rhyme in my head but wrote it down not rhyming. So I decided to post both versions as I like the rhyming, but I also like the disorganized feel that the original invokes. …Enjoy? (Sorry if you can’t read my writing)
I stood inside the mirror
Tracing lines that were my faults
When I saw her staring lovingly
At all the scars that I had wrought
And I swear she heard me whispering
That I loved her more than words
Because she pursed her lips and
Turned her hips and I knew that I had falled
So I went to grab her arms and look into her eyes
Where she looks that look she looks at me
And I know just what she means
But I didn’t, so she didn’t, and
I’m watching and I’m waiting and
Now I’m staring back at me
To gaze inside that mirror
And see the same thing that she sees.
Like two ships that pass,
Like hips to grab,
Like boats on stormy seas,
Like waves of undulating ocean water
Passing over me.
Winnie’s a smart girl. Smart and rambunctious. She’s shy sometimes sure, but she’s young and just started school so it’s understandable. She’s very imaginative too.
It’s funny because she has this “friend”, at least I call him a friend, even though they haven’t truly met. She calls him “The Hoagie Man”, she must see him every day.
Her school is located a bit downtown, you see. How the children learn anything over the hustle and bustle of the big city I’ll never know. I think he stops there regularly every day, there’s a big internet company across the street and the lunch rush must be quite large.
He owns a food truck, I don’t recall the name. I’ve seen him once or twice while I was dropping Winnie off when she misses the bus. The first time she was very excited to show off every detail of her new school. I met all her friends from Art class, she called it Heart class, and all her teachers. Before I left I spotted him out of the corner of my eye. She must have noticed because she hiccuped and exclaimed “That’s The Hoagie Man!” before rushing inside with the rest of her classmates. The second time I saw him was after.
Like I said my daughter is very imaginative. She kept on talking about The Hoagie Man, and how she saw him. He started coming home with her, at least that’s how she put it. She must have spotted his truck alongside the bus as they make their way home. Her imagination took off from there. Soon, The Hoagie Man was following her every time she was in a moving vehicle. It became like a game to her, where even going out to the lake for a long weekend she would would spot “The Hoagie Man”. And I’d be darned because there would be a truck selling hot dogs or tacos right on the sidewalk of the public beach!
More-so than just the truck, she started seeing the man too. She would go out and play in our half-acre backyard, collecting shiny stones or colorful flowers and come in with her sweet, shy smile and say she was out playing with Hoagie Man. He became the voice when she read her books, she called them “hooks”. He was sitting next to when she was doing homework, helping with answers. He was always there with her, had helped her make sense of the things she couldn’t comprehend.
One night, she had a nightmare. She told me that The Hoagie Man had promised her something, she wouldn’t tell me what, but it made her very anxious, I could tell. She had said he was acting different from before, less friendly. Demanding things. She cried and held me tight as she whispered in my ear that he had “floated up” and hovered there, staring at her.
Things were different after that, she stopped talking about The Hoagie Man. She had gotten sick soon thereafter, a fever that ran for almost a week. She didn’t sleep, I could hear her whining through my own bouts of insomnia. Our car games were over as we would both spot a “Hoagie Man” and she would turn away from the windows.
The next time I saw “The Hoagie Man”, the real one beside her school, it was outside my work. I came outside after a stressful board meeting to get some fresh air, and there he was. I could smell that aroma, a mix of grilled onions and propane. I was hungry so I figured, “why not”? He looked at me and smiled. We stood there for a bit, me staring and him smiling, then he excused himself and asked for my order… I don’t remember what I ordered. I don’t even really remember what he looked like, I just remember that moment of us looking at each other.. And his expression, this plain smile and behind it… nothingness.
I hope you find my Winnie, and I hope you find the son of bitch who took her, officer.
But you won’t.
She called books, “hooks”. She called books, “HOOKS”
Don’t you understand?
She wasn’t saying Hoagie Man.
She was saying Bogieman.
(The tap-tap-tapping of boot heels rap on the linoleum of an empty hallway. White robe shreds sweep over top snakeskin boots as the camera rises up, show Joshua Rapture strolling under ceremonial white robes in the hallway of his fitness center. It is eerily quiet, the only two sounds are the echoes of forward motion and a sort of whistling/humming that escapes Joshua Rapture’s throat. He stops at the awning of the hallway and the camera sweeps to showcase the gymnasium, it is completely empty. Joshua sighs and sets down something heavy, then slowly makes his way to a water cooler on the back wall. Joshua takes a paper Dixie cup from a stack next to the cooler and fills it, drinks it quickly, and fills it again. He kicks over the water cooler.)
Joshua Rapture: Nothing. I have been awarded with nothing. Sacrificing my body at Battlebowl. Nothing.
(Rapture walks over to some personal trainers’ desks, throwing personal computers and stacks of paper on the ground angry precision.)
Rapture: Dog Collar Match with Moonwater. Nothing.
(Rapture picks up a coffee cup off one of the desks and throws into at the back wall of the gym, shards exploding everywhere.)
Rapture: Canada Cup… Nothing! And now my final chance to be redeemed? Nothing.
(Rapture pauses on this thought and slowly makes his way to a boxing ring in the corner. In silence, he hops up onto the apron and makes his way into the ring. His fists start clenching uncontrollably, his anger no longer maintained, he paces back and forth as he addresses the camera directly.)
Rapture: I CHOSE to fight. I GIVE you everything. I get… NOTHING. I did it all for YOU, the people of NAPW.
(Rapture makes his way into a corner and sets his hands on the top turnbuckle, grasping, twisting and ripping it away at it.)
Rapture: Do I get applauded? Do get thanked? Do I get ANYTHING that I deserve?? No! I get get spat on and ignored! I don’t even get a fair chance at NAPW title! I’m told that I’m supposed “just follow along” and do everything “according to plan”. WHO’S Plan? God’s Plan?? Because it seems to me that HE (gesturing upwards) doesn’t want anything to do with me.
What about MY plans, huh? MY success, MY career, that title was MINE. It was MY birthright, and it was taken. That title BELONGS to ME. Even before that metal was forged and the leather tanned, it was MY destiny to be THEE WORLD CHAMPION!
(Rapture leaves the tattered turnbuckle and exit the ring, going back to hallway where he left something on the floor. It turns out to be a jerrycan full of gasoline. Rapture untwists the cap and throws it away, turns the can sideways and start to pour over the floor of his fitness center.)
Rapture: What about me, now? What about Joshua Rapture? Abbey Graves goes on to face some young punk kid, conveniently enough. But me? Well that’s the million dollar question isn’t it? “What to do with Joshua Rapture?” Face another punk kid, maybe that freak who thinks he’s a superhero? Gimme a break.
The only person who has peeked my interest is Jay Deschain. Because at least he STANDS for something. Unlike all the rest, who beg and plead for the fans’ acceptance, Jay gleefully rejects it. He has one goal, the NAPW title. And like me, will do anything to get it. Jay, I don’t know whether to shake your hand or punch you in the face but, if you ever stand in between me and the NAPW title again… I will end you.
And to everybody else? Anyone who thinks they can stop Joshua Rapture? Any AT ALL, whether your an old New Dawn member, hotshot wrestling upstart or an established star, who THINKS that Joshua Rapture is not the rightful heir to NAPW’s Championship. I want you all…
(Rapture, now at the exit doors, lights a match.)
Rapture: To Burn in Hell.
First, focus on the smile. Teeth straight and perfect, gleaming into a picture perfect smile. A practiced smile. See now, how the canines are sharper and the cheeks stretched, how this smile is forced. It is the smile that The Devil would wear. This is no daemon though, no. This is just a man.
See now how his nose veers to one side, where knuckles had one connected with cartilage. A nose that sniff the air of every room and only smells the waft of rotten garbage from a sewer. It is not only a painful reminder that one can not only fail, but be defeated and broken. The nose looks down at the world and knows that it is not so different from the everyday people. It is a constant reminder of mortality.
Eyes sparkle with reverence, with pestilence, pain and also… prostration. A man trapped between two worlds; the gleaming glittering world of stars that shine right behind the iris and the angry broken world that it sees all around. Because the eyes that stand on high see all of the world, and the world is cold.
This is Joshua Rapture.
Rapture: In the cold backroom of a location I wouldn’t dare mention I was given a choice. The choice, seemingly easy for my comrades, but for me plain torture. For all we are in this world is the choices that we continue to make. The choices that YOU make, Abbey Graves.
And for “The Nightmare Queen” Abbey Graves the choices have been quite simple. From Battlebowl, to Petrov, King and Deschain she has had two choices: Fight or Flight. And at every turn, she chooses Fight. That’s what makes her Champion, and makes the people love her. From shining lasers in monster’s eyes to taking on two of the toughest men in NAPW in one night. Abbey Graves chooses Fight. Every. Damn. Time.
What else would make a women like Abigail Graves, with her neon tops and punk rock hoodies become the World Champion, but sheer TENACITY? A tenacity to fight and win at every turn, because losing is not an option for her. Losing is not an option for the woman who took a ring announcing job and turned it into a successful job. Certainly, losing is not an option for the little girl that behinds her steely gaze. The one who promised that… no-one would ever hurt her again.
I’ve seen the horrors of this world Miss Graves. My followers told me all about the evil that men do. Wives with bruises instead of flowers, invalids being locked away in asylums to rot and men drowning sorrows in alcohol and drugs. I once read a story about a little girl who was locked away and fed like a dog and I wept. And you may think me as being just as horrible as these people, but I am better. I am good, I know this to be true and I tried to do good in this world. I still can.
The New Dawn has given me an opportunity to redeem myself after all the blood shed that I have caused and come back to The Light, even if I think the Light of God has left me forever. Who am I to squander such an opportunity? Who am I turn my back on all the good that could come from The New Dawn? And yet…
Yet there is this darkness inside of me, this lust that clutches my heart and aims my ambitions at the gold that sags on your waist. There is a dream of mine wherein I have my arm raised and I am standing over your unconscious body, the crowd revelrous and applauding ME. It would be a thing of nightmares to see this dream warped, by The New Dawn OR you Abbey Graves.
For I couldn’t bare the sight of an encounter where I wasn’t giving it my all. I couldn’t stand the sight if YOU won by MY own hands. So I’ll be damned, GOD DAMNED if I go down without a fight.
I sincerely hope that you are ready Abbey, because Christ didn’t die on a wooden cross but at the edge of a blade. You hold the Spear of Destiny, Abbey, I’m begging you to be ready to use it. One us will fall, one of us will stand triumphant, but we will both be changed by this. I hope you choose to Fight, Abbey, with all your heart.
Because before Abbey Graves, before Dark and Light, there was Chaos.
And his name was Joshua Rapture.
There is a dark room being lit by Chinese paper lanterns on each sides. The paper lanterns illuminate the white robes of twelve members of The New Dawn. The Twelve Members of The New Dawn aka. The Twelve sit in a circle facing each other like hands on a clock, or more appropriately, like signs of the Zodiac. The sound of a door slamming sends no reaction through The Twelve as a distraught Joshua Rapture stumbles into the center of the circle. White scrubs have replaced his tights, but his appearance has remained essentially unchanged since leaving NAPW’s “Mayday”, he crosses his arms in some semblance of chagrin. For he knows what this is, this is a trial.
The Twelve all speak in unison, an amalgam of voices with one purpose, though only one mouth seems to move at a time starting with the northern-most figure.
Aries: State your name and profession.
Rapture looks around but cannot determine which one is speaking. He tries to straighten himself up and brush imagined dirt from his arms, but it only make him look more unstable.
Rapture: Joshua Rapture, LEADER of The New Dawn.
The voices repeat.
Taurus: PROFESSION, Mr. Rapture.
Rapture (dejected): Professional Wrestler, Gym Owner and Community Organizer
Gemini: Is it true that you have stated previously that it is your destiny to WIN the New Albert Pro-Wrestling Championship?
Rapture: I- no! It WAS my destiny to win Battlebowl but I was thwarted by interference.
Cancer: Interference, Mr. Rapture?
Rapture: Yes. Interference on the astral plane by the souls and spirits floating in the nether. You must understand that NAPW is a convergence for lost souls and the NAPW championship, people like Abbey Graves shine like beacons!
Leo: Can you save these lost souls?
Rapture: I- I can’t. They reject my ways. They reject OUR community. It would be like giving an infant a book on physics and asking it to build a rocket ship. Simply impossible. So why bother?
Virgo: We BOTHER so that they become better. So that they learn The Light and accept it willingly, not have it forced upon them.
Rapture’s face crinkles in confusion, hands out pleadingly as if to ask if any of The Twelve actually believe what they are saying.
Rapture: That is very easy of THE TWELVE to say. Twelve Knights of the round table right? Doesn’t that make me your King? Perhaps it refers to my twelve most trusted apostles, except that would make you all Judas’s.
The voices boom angrily.
Libra: You DARE compare us to The Betrayer?! It is you that have turned your back to the Lord!
Rapture: NO! HE TURNED HIS BACK ON ME! I was lost as my world crumbled around me and I looked to the heavens and no-one answered! My prayers go answered once again and I am left ALONE, to stand trial in front of a jury that I created! What would you have me do? Hand out pamplets on a street corner again? Eat in the soup kitchens like I did when I was lost? I assure if that’s what must be done to stop this nonsense, then I will abide. Although I will NOT do it in the name of The Lord, but in the name of Joshua Rapture.
A long silence passes.
Scorpio: You are to battle with Abigail Graves for the NAPW Championship at the next event.
Joshua’s face becomes ecstatic at the news he starts hopping around the circle, yet before he can leave the voices stop him.
Sagittarius: You are to lose this match. This is your punishment.
Rapture…. sags. “Lose?” his eyes say, contorted and hurt.
Capricorn: We have determined that your obsession with the championship has become sinful. It must be put to an end if you wish to continue leading The New Dawn.
Rapture: I’m not sure… if I can meet your demands.
Aquarius: You MUST Joshua. The New Dawn is fringing, almost split apart by YOUR own doing. You must prove your devotion to the cause and STOP this inconsequential quest for riches. It’s a fool’s folly!
Rapture: Then I suppose.. I have been a fool all along! I must think on these things…
Rapture goes to leave, head down and sullen but is stopped once more. This time the voice is just one man, almost silently to Joshua a follower speaks. Horned-Rim Glasses shine out from under a white hood.
Pisces: Joshua, are you prepared to do what must be done?
Joshua gives the man a glance and chuckles, giving that old used-car salesman smile.