She spent her mornings exploring behind the Blue Lotus Cafe. The small coffee shop on the edge of town was the gateway to the lost world. You fueled up on overpriced coffee and stepped out the back door into another world. The owner had explained that the door had been installed improperly causing a disturbance in its universal reality matrix and a bunch of other technobabble, but June had just smiled and nodded her way thru the conversation. She’d skip through the back door and leave the known world behind. Today she was greeted by a 3 foot tall baby chick. It ignored her and hunted the grass for tiny antelopes. They fled through the fields in terror but the chick still caught three of them, swallowing them whole. She sipped her cappuccino and kept walking. When her cup was empty, she turned to head back. She was shocked to find the door was locked. She jiggled the handle and pounded on the door. A sign appeared on the door, “Please tip your barista.” June patted her pockets but had no cash. She yelled at the door, “Do you Venmo??!!”
To walk the wild treasure hunt I must carry my life in a knapsack. It’s hard to distill life down to what will fit inside a knapsack but it is possible. I add the first journal I ever completed, its adolescent ramblings remind me of where I came from. I carefully place my children’s discarded teeth in a tin with a photo of each of them. A small jar of lake water reminds me of carefree summers paddling around in the small mountain lake. A dried purple and white rose reminds me of the day I bound my life to my love. I weaved the collars of every dog I’ve loved and lost into a length of rope to use as an anchor in the storms. I leave space for the memories yet to be made and I set off. I follow the trail of the monarch butterfly. Maybe I should’ve packed food instead of memories.
“If you are going to invite a centaur over for a tea party be sure to use your tibet style teacups. I hear they are highly recommended because of the sturdier handles. My friend Ray loves tea parties. And by tea parties I mean tequila in a teacup. She’s a hilarious mare and a blast to hang with. We prefer to have our tequila…err…tea parties out by the pond. It usually leads to one of us getting dunked. Ok. Ok. The one of us is me. You ever try to push a centaur somewhere they don’t wanna go? Not happening. You should join us next Tuesday! Be prepared for TMI though. After 3 or 4 tequila teacups, Ray will start to talk filthy about her favorite stallion, Starbirth. Evidently he was a derby contender and she loves to watch him run. Anyways. How’s the kids? Do they learn much at Troll Academy or is it your basic bridge riddle stuff? What? What do you mean that’s offensive? I know trolls do more than eat goats and spit riddles! Where are you going?”
Pilot walked away from the crash site. She knew she shouldn’t have gotten out of bed this morning. The lure of flying when the thirteenth moon was at its biggest beautiful self was just too great. The lunar reflection was nearly as bright as daytime. She reached the top of the ridge. No other lights twinkled on the horizon, just miles of empty prairie. A small rodent began to rub its face on her shoe and then sniffed around behind her where she had disturbed the grass. It caught the smell of the broken grass and it squeaked off in fear. Pilot looked around to find what had spooked the critter but she saw nothing. There was something in the distance to the east, so Pilot started walking. The hours crawled by. Several times she thought of stopping to wait for daylight and death but she kept marching while cursing her epic stupidity of forgetting her phone at home. The soft noises of the night disappeared and she stopped, turning slowly. A shambling creature stood behind her. It roared and leapt at her. Pilot was ready. She reached for one of the five points of power she always carried. On contact with her skin, the creature began to wither. She drank his life force until he collapsed like an empty capri sun. He tasted stringy and old, but vampires can’t be choosy when they are stranded. With renewed vigor, Pilot started running towards the distant structure. Only a few hours to dawn and death.
The snowman barreled down the road, he was after the thief who took his favorite comic book ‘Maiden, Monsters, & Madmen’. The thief sped up and the snowman screamed in frustration. That comic was one of his favorite discoveries. He had spent many an evening out in the gazebo, carefully reading its pages while avoiding the heat from his lantern. The thief slid on a sheet of ice and hit the ground like a box of bricks. The snowman caught up to her before she could regain her footing. He snatched the book back. “How dare you steal from me!”
The thief smirked at him. “It wasn’t the book I stole, it was you.” The snowman was suddenly aware of the crowd of people around him and he was forced into a white van. He spent the next decade of his life as ‘The Dazzling Delight – a man built of Ice’. The crowds were always too loud, the rooms too warm, and the food was never cold enough. By the end of the decade he was a skeleton built of icicles. His captors laughed until they made the mistake of moving him during a Minnesota blizzard and crashed. Once the van stopped rolling, the ice man snapped off a rib and the real screaming began.
The jazz club was called ‘Wings of Love.’ Jennie watched the taxi drive away and wondered what she had gotten herself into. So far she had done a shitty job of navigating life and her brother had promised that the fortune teller at this club would help her adult more efficiently. A jazz club seemed like a strange place to get life advice but she had nothing to lose. The velociraptors caged on the stage made beautiful music as they smashed the instrument they were caged with. A harpsichord died beautifully inside the cage of a raptor missing one eye. Jennie made her way to the bar. “I’m here to see Karen.” The bartender pointed to the hall the bathrooms were in. The women’s sign had been replaced with a handwritten note, ‘Life Advice: 20$’. Jennie took out her last twenty and went in. The door had been removed from a stall and Karen was perched on the back of the toilet. Karen was a parrot. Jennie waited for her turn. After dropping her 20 in the hat on the floor – Karen spoke. “Rawk. Move to Nebraska. Rawk. Wear the red dress.” Jennie smiled and headed home to pack up her life.
The gold ghost drifted through the forest. The sun danced in her ectoplasm and cast rainbows on the trees around her. Always moving. Always wailing. The forest life fled the sounds of her screams. The birds stopped singing and the foxes fled. It was the sound of a sociopath. The gold ghost smiled as the animals fled. No matter how far she roamed she couldn’t get away from the stench of life. She wandered the western plains and was disappointed to find life everywhere. The far reaches of the north were almost quiet but flightless birds and other creatures disturbed her rest. She had no desire to haunt dance halls or old theaters. She was a modern ghost and baby, she just wanted to be alone. Night fell and she glanced at the stars. Her weak thought patterns remembered a science lesson about the vacuum above her. Maybe this was her last hope. She let go of gravity and drifted into the void above.
Even Picasso painting an impossible dream could not have fathomed this. On the vintage dance floor under the abstract beauty of a chandelier built from fairy lights and spinning bicycle tires – the fire man danced. Flame dripped from his body as he moved to the music. The pipe organ music almost overwhelmed the electric violin and tuba player – but somehow, it worked. 3 people played bongoes in the corner and everyone swayed to the beat. The unlikely orchestra switched to a jitterbug and the dance floor filled up like a clogged sink and overflowed into the rest of the bar. There was a circle around the fire man – no one wanted to risk his flames. The water baby was late to the party but she waded right in, as at home in the crush of people as she was in the sea. Everyone sighed as she passed and her mist cooled their skin. She reached the fire man and smiled. He grabbed her hand and spun her wildly until dawn.
The two koi circled in the small pond. Pisces and Juno watched from their watery dungeon as people leaned over their puddle of a home and threw shiny round bits of metal at them. Juno watched in horror one day as a small human tried to grab Pisces. She splashed at the tiny human and was relieved when it left. Pisces spent several days in hiding after that. The humming light overhead turned on and off with a regularity that was a mystery to the two fish. Many years went by and their worldly view never changed. Humans came and went. One nice human came by occasionally and took all of the shiny rounds out of their water hole. They sighed in relief at the loss of the metallic tang in the water flow. Within a few on and offs of the light the humans would again toss the shiny rounds at them. One cycle of light Pisces was dismayed to find Juno floating unmoving. He prodded her and wished he had a shiny round to trade for one more day with her.
I want a confection shaped like my cold dead heart. The chocolate must be darker than my soul. The glittering frosting should reflect that troublesome twinkle in my eyes that betrays me every time I dream up mischief. I want twenty seven tattoos decorating the flesh asylum I am locked within. But above all, I wish to love myself as much as your eyes love me. I wish to be kind to myself the way your heart is gentle with mine. I wish I could hug my worries away the way you so valiantly do. But for now. My prison of skin loves yours with madness and mischief. Thank you for giving me everything and loving me fearlessly.