For this prompt:

She learned to ignore them at an early age. Disregarded them when they flitted in at the corner of her eye, ignored the whispers at her ear, learned not to stiffen when the cool air hit the back of her neck. It was all training exercises, really. Filter out all of the things which made her hair stand on end, nervous electricity prickling on her soles, readying her to take off like a deer after hearing that faraway gunshot.

Self-medicating happened from ages fourteen through twenty. Alcohol, pot, coke, pills, sex. It took an embarrassingly long time to realize the drugs just made them appear more frequently and sometimes worse than when she was sober. Sex helped until she opened her eyes. There was no rehab, no hospital, she just stopped all of the above. The last thing she needed was to be locked away, any sort of constriction would be open season for them.

And so she took up running with headphones on, music blasting to stop the hissing. When she ran fast enough, she could disregard the dark blurs as she dashed past. Eventually, they learned how to force static in. They didn’t like being ignored.

Sometimes they leave scratches on her doors

She got a boyfriend, an understanding guy, who didn’t push her when she flinched under his hand and learned to not whisper around her. He suggested a therapist and when she refused, didn’t push. When she turned on all the lights in the apartment and watched the windows, he never called her crazy, just quietly suggested they go to bed or eat dinner and maybe in the morning, they could go see Doctor Morris. It was different, having someone who didn’t understand but was willing to try. When it was time, she found him hanging and of course the police would say suicide but it’s impossible to hang yourself with your arms broken, wasn’t it?

She ran from the apartment without calling 911, she was sure her wailing alerted their neighbors anyway. The streets were glistening from the rain, the water blurring her vision and making the traffic and car and street lights bounce and whirl and dance in her speeding vision. When she turned around the corner to toward the park, she stumbled as she stopped in her tracks, seeing them standing there, waiting, because it was her time.

They stood there, black shadows, their eyes, where their eyes would be, glowing, glowing, glowing red.

She didn’t feel terror, just dread, because this wasn’t going to be quick and when the shuddering gasp escaped her, they smiled, glowing…glowing…glowing…red.


For this prompt:

The walk home is a short one. A well-traveled one.

Get off the train, cross the street. Walk two blocks down, make a right. Cross the street, cross the park. Walk by the trees and beautifully-lit lake and stray dog. Emerge from the park back into the city. Walk down another block, turn left. Another block and there’s the apartment. Up two flights and there’s home.

She feels odd one day, her head hurts, her vision blurs. After a migraine hits, she excuses herself from her desk, decides to go home, would apologize the next day.

It’s dark out, she thought it had been light inside, and she walks to the train and makes the usual ride.

Get off the train, cross the street. Walk two blocks down, make a right. Cross the street, cross the park. Walk by the trees and beautifully-lit lake and there’s no stray dog. Emerge from the park back into the city. Walk down another block, turn left. Another block and get off the train.

Cross the street. Walk two blocks down, make a right. Cross the street, cross the park. Walk by the trees and beautifully-lit lake, no stray dog. Emerge from the park back into the city. Walk down another block, turn left and get off the train.

Walk two blocks down, make a left. Cross the street, cross the park. Walk by the trees and lake. Emerge from the park back into the city. Walk down another block and get off the train.

Walk four blocks down, make a left. Cross the street, cross the park. Walk by the lake. Emerge from the park back into the city where there’s no more people now. Walk down the street and there’s the train.

A slow, anxious panic begins to prickle at her, but she keeps walking. Eventually, she will make it home.

Cross the street, cross the long, dark park. Walk by the freezing lake. Emerge from the park back into the city where there’s no more people now. Walk down the street and there’s the train.

Cross the long, dark park. Walk by the freezing lake. Drop purse on the ground. Emerge from the park back into the city where there’s no more people now. Walk down the street and take off coat and there’s the train.

Walk by the freezing lake. Drop purse on the ground. Emerge from the park back into the city where there’s no more people now. Remove shoes. Walk down the street and take off coat and there’s the train.

Walk by the freezing lake. There’s the train.

Review: Dreams of a Life


Yesterday, I saw a documentary film called Dreams of a Life [watch the trailer here], starring a mesmerizing Zawe Ashton. Part documentary, part reenactment, it tells the story of Joyce Vincent, an English woman who died December 2003 surrounded by Christmas presents she was wrapping with the television on and whose body wasn’t discovered until 2006 when officials came to repossess the flat where she lay after the banking account automatically paying her bills finally ran out of money. Nothing was known about Joyce when she was discovered other than her name, not even a photo in the paper, and so the filmmaker sought out her friends and family through ads. Many began to call inquiring if it was “their Joyce” whom she was asking about.

The film examines “how did this happen?” through reenactments and interviews with Joyce’s friends, boyfriends and coworkers. Her family declined to be interviewed on camera, only giving a statement revealed in the behind the scenes documentary saying her estrangement was as much of a mystery to them as it was for the filmmaker (and my only real complaint being there were things in the behind the scenes documentary which should have been in the film).

Joyce Vincent was, through recollections, a popular, bubbly, poised woman whose beauty was noted by everyone interviewed. Any negativity is minimal, the worst being she tended to be lazy and didn’t like to clean. She was popular with men and women, with men wanting to date her and one friend saying she wanted to be her. For all intents and purposes, something like this should not have happened to someone like her.


Interviews with her friends prove to be baffling- they are quick to talk about her beauty and clothing and her love of singing and music, but they also admit to knowing very little of her life. As a friend states, “she had no past.” Joyce often didn’t want to talk of herself, which included doting sisters with whom she had become estranged, and she tended to become completely engrossed in her partners’ lives. Some knew of a violent relationship near the end of her life, and that she fled to a shelter, but nearly all seemed surprised to discover she had been living in a bedsit at the time of her death, as opposed to a middle class home. She lived in the present while hiding and lying about her private life, and growing more and more isolated as she entered her thirties. Even as her friends’ eyes shine bright with amusement and love when discussing her, the blankness and shock when the filmmaker talks about her private life is startling. Joyce Vincent, to even her friends, was an enigma.

The filmmaker makes the choice to only depict Joyce in reenactments, leaving photos to blurry glimpses. An all too brief audio file of her speaking jolts her friends when played, some becoming emotional, some laughing, some stunned, and one debating the authenticity of the file. The moment is an engrossing one, and along with the often laughing tales and affectionate smiles, show that Joyce was loved, which makes her end even more troubling.

Those expecting a resolution in the documentary are sure to be disappointed- the only conclusion is Joyce Vincent is gone, she continues to be a mystery, and her secrets and truth died with her. There are no answers, just more questions.

Dreams of a Life is a daunting, tragic document of the fragility of relationships, whether they be romantic, friendship or familial, self-isolation, the loneliness of illness and death, and how well do we really know and care for the people we love. The final shot in the film is haunting, and that, along with the film will likely stay with me for a while. It left me feeling different, and not in a good way. This is a film which will make you reexamine your connections with those you love and just how fragile life and our relationships can really be.

Dreams of a Life is available to rent on [Netflix] and to watch instantly on [Hulu Plus].

For this prompt:

Every day, the Raven visits the dove. She wiggles her finger at the dove, smiles at the dove, whistles her song to the dove. She even feeds the dove, opens a window for the dove, lets sunlight hit the dove.

The dove is her possession.

The dove used to walk on two limbs, now he walks on four. The dove wouldn’t stop trying to escape, so she made sure he needed four instead of two. He won’t escape again.

The dove used to be able to pace his cage, but he tried to escape. So he must crouch, his fingers trailing the ground.

The dove refused to eat the bread, so now he must settle for seeds.

The doveDaniel kept squawking and squawking, so the RavenRachel put something special in his water. And she removed his squawking box when he fell unconscious in his tiny cage.

DoveDaniel used to smile and laugh and mock and threaten and abuse. Now he cries when he remembers emotions.

Daniel pecked The Raven’s blood. So The RavenRachel had to peck back.

Rachel told Daniel not to peck her. And so now Rachel’s cage was Daniel’s.

For this prompt:

Okay, but let’s be clear. The tears weren’t the reason why Rosa sunk her teeth into her boyfriend’s neck, or why she bludgeoned him to death with an angel table statue. The blood red tears- actually, the blood, it was blood– didn’t cause anything. The virus did. The tears were a result of the virus, and the attack was a result of the virus.

Just to be clear.

The illness that had overtaken their Queens community was swift and sudden. People dropping like flies, parents rushing their children to the hospitals, body bags being rolled out of apartments one by one like on a conveyor belt.

Will had figured out before Rosa had that something was terribly wrong. He would, he was the doctor of the two. Rosa was ordered to call out from her hostess job at that restaurant that had just opened and that was a good job, she was sure her boss wouldn’t be pleased but she called out anyway.

Will asked her if she was okay going home and she had said yes. Sure, there were people being a bit hysterical and looking sickly but this was New York, everyone was a bit hysterical and always looking sickly. They paid out of their ass for this experience.

A homeless woman had grabbed her arm as she tried to get on the train after talking to Will, begging for help and Rosa had shoved a five at her, blinking as the woman hacked and coughed on her hand as she took the money. Rosa quickly applied the hand sanitizer and carried on since Will was so insistent she got home.

And so here she was. Alone.

She sat locked in the apartment, watching television and eating. She avoided the news channels because they bummed her out, so a marathon of cable shows it was. Some pot here, some liquor there, it was that boring. Will called every so often, sounding more and more flustered. Finally, he said he was on his way home, not to worry, it was all going to be okay.

Rosa coughed once, twice, sniffing hard and gasping as a sharp prickling went up her nose suddenly. She blinked rapidly, feeling her eyes tear up and why the fuck would she have allergies in the winter? She coughed again, tasting a copper on a tongue and blinking as red filled her vision, catching with a gasp the red drops that fell on her fingers. She breathed hard, trying to stop the prickling feeling, it was starting to hurt.

Will came home about two hours after his last call, talking about how horrible everything was, there were physical attacks happening now. He was so happy to see Rosa, and quickly pulled her to him in a tight hug of someone who was truly and utterly grateful to be home and safe.

She hugged him tight, stifling her breathing. He had thought the redness of her eyes was because she had been crying, the redness of her lips from the cherry bowl on the arm of the couch.

Rosa inhaled deeply, her ears ringing as he continued to murmur words of comfort in her ear. She was so, so hungry. It was making her angry. Her fingers curled into his shoulders, holding him tight against her. Then, she bared her teeth.

For this prompt:

The knocking started at the age of five. Natalie thought it was her mommy, then her dog Bucks being silly but it continued and one day, she suddenly realized that the knocking sound was coming from the mirror.

It was her, right down to her white shorts with the peanut butter stains and the messy ponytail of dark brown hair and the scar on her chin from when she fell as a toddler. Mirror Natalie had grinned when she looked and waved, so being five, she waved back, seeing another friend. Mirror Natalie became a playmate when she was left to her own devices as her mommy and daddy entertained business associates and friends every Friday and Saturday night. They had decided soon after her birth that children were too much work so Natalie had Bucks, her dolls and her reflection.

At ten, Bucks died. Fell right down and died and her mother dryly joked that the dog was so stupid, he must’ve become frightened by his own reflection. Natalie could’ve sworn she saw Bucks’ tale wagging behind Mirror Natalie’s bed a few days later.

Natalie suspected she might be going mad around the age of thirteen and Mirror Natalie still moved about in the mirror. She could never hear her but Mirror Natalie continued to speak at her. Sometimes the pantomiming worked, most of the time it didn’t. She chose not to tell anyone, she was sure her mother would send her to the mental ward her aunt Sonia was at.

At seventeen, Natalie got her first boyfriend and realized her Mirror was now able to travel, showing up in her boyfriend’s bedroom mirror after they’ve had sex for the first time. She was startled but even more so when Mirror Natalie’s head tilted slightly, never breaking her stare as she smiled at Natalie. Mirror Natalie wore a dark red lipstick she wasn’t, her eyes a near-black to her green.

Natalie stops staring at her reflection for long periods.

Her aunt Sonia sits at the Gladesdale Mental Ward, staring right ahead, her gaze blank. Her mother said Sonia died on her eighteenth birthday, they had found her on the floor of her bedroom, croaking hoarsely but never speaking again. Natalie begins to cover the mirrors.

On her eighteenth birthday, Natalie’s boyfriend takes her to the movies because there are no mirrors there. When she goes home, she keeps her head down as she brushes her teeth even as her reflection knocks and knocks. Her shriek when the mirror cracks echoes in the empty house.

The blanket over her full-length mirror blows as she changes, even though the window is closed. There is a sharp knock and she turns, screaming at the sight of her reflection, just an inch from her. She stumbles back as her reflection shoves her hard and instead of hitting the mirror, she goes right through it.

Natalie’s new home is cold and silent, too silent. Bucks barks at her but no sound comes out. She bangs on the mirror but no sound echoes, not as she screams for her mother as she walks into her old room and collects her hair straightener, not as she bangs when her reflection watches television with her old friends.

Natalie starts to think all hope is lost, that no one will never see her. That is, until her reflection meets her gaze while applying her lipstick, and to Natalie’s horror, she winks.

Every Saturday, he insists they go there. They go, she walking and he on the bike he’s still adjusting to. They go and wait, the two of them. They wait until the air gets too windy or too cold or it gets too dark or he gets too hungry to hold out.

For a year, they wait. She knows better but she waits for him, and she waits for him to realize the truth.

Their mother, mama, mommy, had kissed his forehead and her cheek one day and said she’d “be right back” and she had left them with a fridge full of food and drinks. That was a year ago.

And so they wait. She waits because he wants to wait and they wait for the red Dodge Neon to drive up the path to pick them up and cars pass, many of them red, but none stop for them. But he is still hopeful and he wants to wait like they did every Saturday when mother, mama, mommy would come from work.

One day, he turns to her as she puts her shoes on for the wait and says “let’s go to the park instead.”