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Your Stories / The Fata of Everything
« on: 08:17:28 PM 09/04/18 »
I used to be able to make the Fata go away.

If nobody here knows what that means, good, that’s normal. I just wanted to get your attention. I’ve got a story to share, and a favor to ask.

I remember everything about the first day I was followed. Even the little stuff, like how the wind kept tickling the back of my neck. After rubbing at my neck repeatedly, I raked my nails across it. The pain drowned out the itch.

That wasn’t smart. But I had other things on my mind.

It was the third time that week my mom had forgotten to pick me up from middle school, and didn’t answer when I called. Luckily, our neighborhood was within walking distance of the middle school. It was a familiar walk.

That’s why it was a shock to be met with a chorus of howls and barks. The neighborhood dogs, who’d long ignored me as I passed, suddenly couldn’t tolerate my presence. Chain link fences thankfully held them back.

I wanted to just run home right away, but I felt like all my neighbors could be staring at me. A strange self-consciousness gripped me, but didn’t stop me from walking quickly. The street was long and my house was near the end, so I had a ways to go.

I’d almost made it when a large St. Bernard came barreling out of the open garage to my left. I’d known Cavall all her life, she was the sweetest dog I knew, and her family rightly trusted her off the leash. Knowing this didn’t make me any less terrified of her teeth as she growled at me louder than I’d ever heard her bark.

Instead of charging, she stood her ground a few feet away, ceaselessly growling. Wary of provoking her further, I backed away steadily. Every step I took, she took one as well, and Cavall viciously escorted me out of her territory.

Once I was past the property line, visible in the difference between lawns, she stopped following me. From this distance, I could finally see it. She wasn’t growling at me.

On the section of sidewalk cast in my shadow, there was a small, circular blur.  It didn’t go away when I blinked. When I took a few more steps back, it disappeared as sunlight re-claimed that square of sidewalk. I watched as the blur moved back into my shadow. I finally screamed and sprinted home.

It kept following me everywhere. Mom couldn’t see it when she woke up to make dinner. I didn’t tell her, because I didn’t know what to call it, and she yelled at me whenever I took too long to think of a word. No one at school could see it either. Animals didn’t like me anymore though, and that somehow upset me most of all.

For weeks, I couldn’t think of anything but how to get rid of it. Just knowing it was always there scared me. Finally, one Saturday, I was curled up on my bedroom floor when inspiration struck. Suddenly sure of what to do, I eagerly gathered everything I needed.

I carried it all to our rarely used basement: a blanket, a wooden stirring spoon, and the largest pot in our house. I set the pot face down and covered myself with the blanket, letting it drape over my head and shoulders like a cloak. Taking a deep breath and closing my eyes, I struck out rhymically with the spoon. It wasn’t a song, but a perfect alignment between myself and everything else.

That’s the best way I can think to describe it. I just suddenly knew what to do. Nothing had felt more right in my life until that moment, and nothing has felt as certain since.

When I opened my eyes again, I was dizzy enough to collapse with a painful smack to the cement floor. But I was no longer being followed.

Unfortunately, the Fata didn’t stay away. It was never more than one at a time, but they always came back. They were still returning routinely throughout the rest of middle school and the most of high school.

Each time, I got rid of them myself. The specifics of what I needed to grab would change, and the rhythm never really sounded the same, but I had the power.

And it was exhausting. By this year, my senior year, I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed to get help.

There was a girl in my grade that I suspected might know something. We’d had a few classes together, and whenever I was around her I felt a strange sensation. I’d dismissed it as a crush, but I was desperate to reconsider anything that might be a clue.

I approached her in the library after lunch. She was reading in the corner, but gave me her attention right away. Once I sat down, I took an embarrassing amount of time to explain what I wanted to know. She finally interrupted me, gave me two sets of names and addresses of people who could help, and told me not to talk to her about this again.

The first address belonged to a guy called Owen. It was a decently long bike ride away, on the outskirts of the nearest town from mine. As soon as I was off my bike, Owen was right there shaking my hand and leading me into a barn to meet his other clients. They all looked like freaks in their own way, but I wasn’t in a place to judge.

I asked if Owen could make it so I was never followed again. He said he’d had clients that never had to come back, and others that been coming for years. There was no guarantee. I biked home disappointed.

The second address turned out to be a regular house like mine. It was only a little harder to bike there, in the opposite direction of the first one. My mom wouldn’t have liked me biking this far, but I wasn’t open to considering alternatives.

Mel and Megan, the couple who lived there, looked concerned as I struggled to catch my breath. They brought me inside, brought me water and snacks, and we sat on opposite couches. I explained everything.

It was these two who told me the blurs were called Fata. I’d called them all kinds of things in my head, but I’d never known their name. It made me feel like I was already making progress.

After asking every question I didn’t really care about, I asked if they could make the Fata go away forever. They said yes. I’d have to meet with them weekly for several months, and every time we met it would be harder, but it would be worth it. Mel and Megan promised that at the end, the Fata would never return. I believed them.

The next part is difficult for me to think about. Our meetings never cost money, which was good, because I barely had any. Instead, they asked me to do errands. After each one, we’d do a session together, and no Fata followed me the whole time.

The errands started out as normal stuff, like picking up a package or sweeping their sidewalk. It only gradually got sketchy. When they asked me to steal from their neighbors’ yards, I obviously hesitated, but I did it. I even tripped a few strangers and broke some windows. When they asked me to hurt a kid, I never went back.

Within the week, a Fata was following me again. I went through the usual routine, and it didn’t work. I couldn’t connect with the universe like before. After sitting in the dark for hours each day, trying to hit the pan correctly, I knew I had to risk asking for help again.

Owen said he couldn’t help me anymore. Something had changed too much inside of me for his methods to work. He looked like he was going to cry as he closed the door. I did cry, especially after the girl at school refused to even talk to me. I thought I was alone before, but it turned out things could get worse.

And it keeps getting worse. The Fata no longer wait their turn. More and more are appearing each day. Any time I’m in darkness, even a shadow, it feels like I’m suffocating.

If you’ve read this far, I hope I can trust you. I don’t know if this will work, but there’s a glimmer of something still inside of me that knows it will.

Grab what feels right: something to cover yourself, something to strike, and something to strike with.

Head to the darkest room in your house and wrap what you grabbed around you.

Close your eyes, and play the rhythm that comes to you until it feels complete.

Please help me make the Fata go away.

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Your Stories / That Damn Cat
« on: 06:57:34 PM 06/04/18 »
Salutations my fellow Cat Coveters, Feline Fanciers, and Pussy Protectors. As you can see, I'm a longtime lurker, first-time poster. This is the board for judgment-free venting, right? Great. Because I've just gotta say it.

My cat is pissing me off.

I know, I know. Mind your whiskers and, more importantly, the rules. And maybe, if you're still reading, hear me out.

Cat's name is Renegade Sam. Never met a neutered cat that was so horny. My first cat Ripley is way into it. Beautiful couple, should post pics soon.

The Gader wasn't originally mine. Bought him as a kitten for my Grandpa Chip after grandma died. Grandpa wasn't old enough for a Home yet and we all know what great company cats are.

Now, 10 years later, they've both moved in with me. Got them all set up in the finished part of the basement. Grandpa's mostly fine, still drove himself to his appointments this morning, but the dude's still got to have to have his privacy right? Right.

And a month ago he handed me the Pooper Scooper and said Sam is my cat now. His food and litter box are still in the basement, but sure, alright.

Rener's usually cool though. No sweat. But not this morning.

He was on me the moment I opened the bedroom door. Purring, nudging my leg, tripping me up. I'm just trying to make some fucking coffee.

Samthony would not let up. Definitely wasn't for affection. If it was, he'd have draped over my lap when I sat down on the couch. Or started rubbing on my neck from the back of the couch. He does that too.

Nah, he definitely wanted food. Had plenty of water, we keep that in the kitchen and I checked. He just, did that cat thing, you know? Every time I walked by the basement steps he'd finally leave me alone, walk down a few steps, and look at me like I'm the jackass.

But CoolestCatastrophe, you heartless bastard. Why didn't you just feed the poor kitty?

Because I fed him last night, that's why. I know that cat's stomach, and there is no way the dish is even half empty. And if it is, he should just eat from Ripley's bowl. She won't give a shit. She's better than that.

More than that, it's like. Resentment, I guess? Same kind of knee-jerk reaction from when someone tells you to do something you were about to do anyway. If he'd just leave me alone I'd humor him and check anyway. This is my house, not his.

Even as I'm typing this, there he is, trying to nudge me to stand up and purring incessantly. I guess I should just be glad old Sammy Slammy isn't full-on humping my leg.

Not looking for sympathy or advice, just need to know I'm not alone on this. When has your cat pissed you off by not leaving you alone?

Edit: Just checked the basement. Please keep my grandfather in your thoughts and prayers.

3
Story Critique / Katie’s Path to Culthood (Part 1)
« on: 06:55:53 PM 06/04/18 »
You could say I was part of a cult in high school. It wasn’t all punch bowls and hooded cloaks, though I’m savvy enough on the subject to know that’s not how it usually goes. But high school isn’t something I enjoy thinking about, much less discussing with strangers. You’re all lucky though. Now that it’s on my mind I pretty much have to share it here, otherwise it’s going to spill out all over my next date after a few too many glasses. We can’t have that. What if she’s actually cute?

2012 was a year of shake-ups for my family. Lured in by business positions with more potential advancements for my parents, and a better school district for the rest of us, we moved to a small Midwest suburb of a midsize city. Somewhere in there, I stopped being my mom’s favorite daughter and became something else for her and my dad to frantically manage. Once all of our stuff had been moved in over the summer, her infamously detailed “Katie’s Path to College” poster never re-appeared in the new kitchen. That was probably a relief for my two siblings. For me, it left a bigger absence than our smaller refrigerator and dining table.

Mom and Dad started commuting to their respective companies right away, leaving us to fend for ourselves until school started in the fall. That went well enough. The town was just on the edge of the countryside. Beyond our few blocks of near identical houses were large swathes of corn fields and forest groves that just dared a couple of city kids to explore them. My older sister Jun and my younger brother Dave would bike for hours together as we familiarized ourselves with our new home and communed with the locals. I would much prefer to dwell upon this part of my life but it has little relevance.

As my freshman year commenced, I did not settle in well. My sister found a boyfriend, a very nice boy with eyes that lit up whenever he saw her, and I think that’s when I stopped being her favorite sister again. We had both been growing out our hair for several years, and had been planning to get it cut short together. She abruptly backed out of our plans and lectured me on the need to take better care of how I’m seen by others. I did grow closer with Dave, and he began to tell me everything, even things I would rather not hear. In hindsight, I wish I had done the same.

The friends I made over the summer also felt different when they were with others. Jenny had told me my thick glasses looked cute when we were sitting together by a watering hole near our neighborhood, both of our necks reddened by the sun above our tank tops. I thought about daring to take her hand. On the second day of school, as I was walking near her lunch table, she loudly told two of her friends how ugly my glasses were. To punctuate her warning that things were not to be the same, Jenny called me a word I’d last heard screamed at my dad by a bearded man who could not stop stumbling all over the sidewalk. I sat alone during lunch for a long time.

I began to notice a particular girl often looking at me in our classes. Her name was Mikayla and she had striking red hair and green eyes that even now I still find myself thinking about. While I spent most of class reading fantasy novels, she spent most of class drawing in her many notebooks. Sometimes I would only pretend to read, and instead spend most of class daydreaming about approaching her to ask about one of those drawings. I never did.

She took the initiative herself. I noticed Mikayla right away, especially since our lockers and classes were very spaced out in school and she had no reason to be there after lunch period. Feeling my chest seize up, I pretended to be very invested in tidying up my already organized locker, my bent head half-buried inside while doing so. That must have looked ridiculous, but she still approached once the two other students in the hallway drifted away. I could feel her behind me before she spoke.

“Did you lose something Katie?” she asked. There was amusement in her voice, but it was gentle enough to reassure me that I wasn’t being made fun of.

“No… not really.” I replied, still awkwardly brushing hair out of my face after turning around. It’s a well-known law of the universe that the only days that pretty girls talk to you are the days where you forget something important, like a scrunchie.

“Oh, good,” she said. She was smiling but seemed uncertain how to continue.

“You wanted to talk to me about something?” I was smiling more, emboldened that she was nervous too.

“You eat alone right? I uh, wanted to invite you to eat with us in the library. If you want to.”

From there began my new daily routine. Not just Mikayla, but the rest of her group, welcomed me in a way I hadn’t felt since the summer. School stopped being a challenge to face but became a means to be with my friends. Once the awkwardness of getting to know each other passed, our daily conversations over lunch and in passing mainly focused on our classes and the books we were reading. Kiera somehow loved Anne McCaffrey novels even more than me, though Jordan and Jenny loved horror and would bring it up at every opportunity. I learned Mikayla almost always drew fairies in her notebook and was creating a comic that featured all of us as characters. I was content. I was happy.

The only notable bit of weirdness was Mikayla’s fixation on a certain senior guy. After getting her lunch from her locker, she would interrupt any conversation we were having to talk about him. She used words to describe him that would have gotten us in trouble if the librarian had overheard, but she was across the room and unaware. Mikalya deeply hated this senior. Even after hearing about him on a near daily for a semester, I’m still not sure why.

She would outline his behavior for the day, which to me sounded harmless, and use very colorful language to inform us how disgusting she thought he was. His ugly glasses, his terrible smell, his disgusting complexion. Her insults would get very personal. It made me uncomfortable in many ways, but I didn’t want to risk driving away my new friends by speaking up. Only Kiera, who was never good at hiding the way she felt, displayed the same discomfort I was feeling. But she never said anything either.

After a couple months, Mikayla invited me over for my first sleepover. Just us, none of our friends. I spent way too long choosing which sleepwear to bring, finally deciding on my tank top and pajama pants with long traditional dragons wrapped around the legs. My parents were out of town, but after a few requests Jun drove me over to her house so that I wouldn’t have to change out my sleepwear. It was two blocks away and looked nearly identical to our house, just a different shade of gray. Like a dutiful sister, Jun walked me to the door, and appeared wary to leave me upon learning Mikayla’s parents were out of town as well. Her concern was not enough to make her willing to crush my clear excitement at learning the same fact, and she let me stay.

Mikayla’s smile when she looked over my pajamas made every second of decision worth it. In contrast, she was wearing a floral house robe that was two sizes too big for her, that I now suspect she borrowed from her mother. At the time I was only impressed at how mature I thought it looked. Once inside, we hurried off to her room to snack on bowls of popcorn and watch a movie that actually managed to frighten me. I think it was The Craft, but that movie has never scared me since then, so I can’t be sure.

As the credits rolled for the movie and we sat together in darkness lit only by the television, Mikayla took a deep breathe and sat still for just a bit longer than was comfortable to watch. Ignoring my shy inquiries, she began to move around the room with all the flair of a stage production. She had planned this, and I was her very willing audience. From beneath her bed, my friend produced two long white candlesticks, a shiny gold lighter, and two notebooks with covers I had never seen before. Her stunning green eyes now locked with mine, she lit the candles, flipped off the tv, and took both of my hands in hers. I thought I was going to die of embarrassment.

“I have something to tell you Katie,” she said. I was caught up in the moment, but her voice still came across as unusually monotone.

“Yeah?” I managed. Too many thoughts were in my head for my mouth to move correctly.

“I can see spirits. And people’s auras. I’ve been so excited to tell you.” The wave of the candles’ flames made her green eyes flicker. Once I processed what she said, I felt like I had been drowning in them, and had finally broken through for air.

“Wait. What? Ghosts? Dead people?” As I was trying to re-gather my thoughts, I reflexively tried to pull away my hands, but her grip kept them there. It must have meant a lot to her tell me this.

She grew more excited when I said that. Her grip on my hands tightened even more, but it still didn’t hurt.  “Yes! Dead people!” she exclaimed. “They come to me at night. Here, especially in my bedroom. Sometimes they’re standing above me in the morning. Sometimes they yell in my ear until I wake up and help them.”

I tried to look around the room at this, but a sudden tug on my hands told me to keep my gaze locked with hers. The only remaining sliver of my former infatuation with the possibilities of this night was being stirred by the feeling of her warm, excited breathe wafting over to my lips.

I didn’t believe in ghosts, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that. Only later, when I was thinking clearly, would I able be to even try to think about whether or not she was lying, or truly believed this nonsense. Instead, I indulged my curiosity. “Spirits. Okay. What do they look like?” I asked.

Her gleeful expression told me this was the right question. I’d never heard her speak so quickly. “Gray! And if they died, they look the way they did right afterward. Nearly severed heads, stab wounds, a lot of the time they’re even bleeding. It’s just that they’re gray all over and  almost see-through. It’s actually terrifying!” she exclaimed. She didn’t sound very scared.

I let myself smile again. It felt like talking about a story she was writing, which was back inside my comfort zone. “Oh wow… I bet. I can only imagine waking up to that! And what was that about auras?” I asked.
“It’s how I found you! I’ve always seen… colors, and sometimes symbols, just. Around people. Some people are orange, and some people are purple. You were gray, the most gray I’ve ever seen. I could tell you were going to give up soon.” she said. Her excitement dimmed as she explained this, and her grip on my hands became softer and more comforting.

“Oh.” I said. That was a bit too true to dwell upon. “And what color is it now? Did it change?”

“Oh yes!” Mikayla replied. “It’s bright blue now. It suits you much better.” Her smile distracted me a bit more again after she said that.

I had to think harder before replying. “So why are you telling me all this? Because you helped me?” I asked.

She shook her head, her gaze still never leaving mine. I could tell she was getting excited again. “Not just that. Because you’re special Katie. I told you some people have symbols with their auras, and all of us do. Me, Kiera, Jordan, Jenny. And now you!” Mikayala was leaning close again and it was clouding my judgment and ability to speak properly.

“And…. n-now me. What symbol?” I asked. That wasn’t the question I meant to ask, but it was still on my mind.

She shook her head vigorously. “I’m not allowed to tell you. I can only tell you that you’re meant for something greater. And…” She paused dramatically, breathing in deeply and letting it out. “Tonight will be your first step. Will you do it? Please? Just do what I tell you.”

Mikayla pulled me over to one of the notebooks. For once it wasn’t filled with colorful fairies. Instead, it had pages and pages of text I couldn’t recognize. Some pages were even written in languages I knew, like English and Traditional Chinese, but her frenzied movements barely let me grasp a few words before the page was turned. She finally stopped at a page with four signatures and a fifth empty line below them. Mikayla’s was first, and the most recent was Kiera’s.

For a frightening moment I glanced around for a knife, but then she thrust a pen into my hands. “Sign. Please. For the sake of the future.” Her eyes returned to mine and her expression was so urgent.

I didn’t think I believed any of this. It could even be dangerous. But I couldn’t imagine being with my friends after rejecting something like this. I signed the page.

After a gloriously tight hug, more snacks, and another movie I found myself lying on an air mattress next to her bed and finally able to feel the full force of my regret. What would my parents think? We weren’t exactly practicing Buddhists but this had to violate something we weren’t supposed to be doing. I surprised myself though. After all the pressure and amid this lingering guilt, I was content. I was happy.

I was not happy when I awoke to the man standing above me. His eyes were as wild as a newly caged animal, and he screamed at me incoherently from a nearly detached jaw. If the blood hadn’t been as gray and immaterial as his body, it would have been pouring over my prone body. I gripped the mattress with my fingers as I lost all sense of time, consumed in his wail. Somehow, I had the faintest fantasy of the dragons on my pajamas coming to life to defend me. And then it was over, the world was quieter than it had ever been. I think I fell asleep again.

She would tell me in the morning it was just a nightmare. Maybe it was. But that was the first night I joined a cult.

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