In this episode we have two stories for you. A Higher Calling by Kathy Highcove and We are free: A Love Story by Evan Mielke.
A Higher Calling
by Kathy Highcove
read by Jason Warden
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Big John watched the flood waters swirl underneath his attic window. Lawn chairs and trash cans bobbed on the current. He stared back down at his BlackBerry. No messages. What the hell happened? he wondered. Where’s everybody? I ALWAYS have messages, or appointments to remember. Good thing this gadget is still under warranty. But…feel like… I need to get going…somewhere.
“I figgered you’d be sittin’ up here, Big John,” cried a female voice.
He whirled around and recognized his tenant, Angelique, an elderly Creole with her wiry grey hair tucked into a red bandanna.
“You startled me, woman! But…I’m actually glad to see you. How’d I get up here, Angelique? One moment I’m down there swimming in my business suit, and then I’m suddenly up here, looking out this here window. In dry clothes. No messages on my BlackBerry! What happened? Do you know?”
“You be daid, Big John, and so’s I,” Angelique replied with a low chuckle. “See your sorry body o’er there? You had y’self a heart attack and drowned daid. I’m the Messenger – sent to fetch y’all.”
“WHAT? You’re … right. I see myself floating face down. Hand and legs all splayed out like a dead crab. And I’m bloated all out of my clothes, suit jacket blowing up like a grey sail on a kid’s raft. Lost my best shoes and silk socks, and my head’s jammed into the crotch of a magnolia tree. EW! There’s soggy junk food wrappers stuck all over my face. Horrible. Like a disgusting video on YouTube. You’d think I’d remember taking my last breath. Help me remember …Messenger.”
“‘Member comin’ out here this mornin’ to evict your renters? Tried to raise the rents, you greedy old pole-cat! You and me and lotsa folks was arguin’ on this front porch when the levee busted.”
“Then… are you daid – I mean dead, too?” asked Big John. “I didn’t kill you, did I? I think you riled me.”
“Hah, you nevah teched me. The flood water swept us all off the porch. I slammed into a lamppost. Drowned daid.”
“What now? The moon is rising and this town is… spooky. I feel like I’m in Limbo.”
“Not ‘zactly. You got a new job. Look yonder. There’s our krewe. The parade is formin’.”
“Parade? Not time for Mardi Gras yet, Angelique,” replied Big John with a smirk. Then he peered closer in the direction where his visitor pointed – toward the dark horizon, where night’s smooth edges met the turgid dark floodwater. Something long writhed and lifted into the air like a disjointed snake…
Big John’s eyes widened as he watched a line of specters slowly dance toward him, over the dark water. “OH WHEN THE SAINTS, GO MARCHIN’ IN…” The tune drifted through the humid night air.
“What kind of parade is that?” Big John asked his companion. “I knew some of those folks. There’s Papa Rolando. He died last week of pneumonia. And isn’t that drummer the guy we used to see in the La Vida Loca Club? He was shot by his girlfriend’s husband. Our krewe is a bunch of ghosts?!“
“C’mon, Big John. Look who’s talkin’. We gotta join ’em right now, or else we’ll be haints in this old house. Oh…nearly forgot. I’m s’posed to give you this here saxophone. Learn to blow with soul. Yew got forevuh to learn how!” She guffawed at his baffled expression.
“Where’re we going?” Big John asked as the duo wafted through the window. They sailed gracefully over to their krewe and settled next to a toddler shaking a tambourine and an old man tooting a bugle. Angelique pulled a kazoo from her skirt pocket.
“Not sure. Mebbe we’re goin’ to find a black hole, jump in, an’ spin around with star dust…an’…mebbe we’ll all come back to life here- like my Mama once tole me.”
The reveler’s line rose slowly, writhing across an inky sky. Angelique pointed at Big John, “Blow your horn, Brother. Let’s hear your soul music.”
Big John blew a low note then looked down one last time at the flooded house.
“Okay, Angelique. You win. I’ll try to keep up with our krewe, but… sure wish I could take my BlackBerry with me.
We Are Free: A Love Story
by Evan Mielke
read by Jason Warden
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It all started here; from the ivy drenched walls of his childhood home, to the jagged asphalt of the road that would lead him so far astray. Sixteen years had lead up to his revelation. It had crystallized in his pores, clogging his rationale. As he stepped out into the mid-morning sun, he blinked, coughed, and without so much as a wince walked onto the shattered concrete.
He was barefoot. To wear shoes would have been an abomination. An aberration of the truth. Fucking Nikes. Adidas. Reeboks. Another way to be tethered to the ground. To become what he wanted, total detachment was needed. No fucking distractions. No fucking mistakes. Broken glass crunched softly under his feet. He felt the shards pierce deeply into his fleshy heel. Hot blood splashed to the pavement. He smiled as we walked north into the city.
Fragmented words and unapproachable thoughts, patches of withered dreams and illusions hemmed on their clothes. Faces stoic like the ancient gods, eyes fixed firmly ahead, willing the world around them to bear its lush fruit with no exertion. He smirked as he passed them, weaving his way delicately through the amorphous mass, knowing that he, and he alone had a purpose. These lost souls, these ships with no helmsman, idly meandering through the frigid and frozen wasteland of the American city. Back home to their dogs, their wives, and their fucking 1.5 children; their bodies slowly and inexorably rotting, impregnated with the seeds of false fulfillment.
Nobody noticed his soles, raw and ragged from the cruel sidewalk, leaving blotchy spots of blood behind like a morbid Hansel and Gretel. It was just as well; these drones would have caused a stir. A whitewashed world with order and cleanliness is rarely placid when interrupted. This city would crumble effortlessly. The true givers, the tangible revolutionaries of this place were the ones that removed themselves wholly and utterly from the petty musings that encompassed them; however, when confronted they would strike, decimating the brittle attempts of resistance. His attainment was inevitable. Like Che Guevara, except not a weakling.
Slate monuments, testaments to their puny egos, towered above him, reflective wells of light sliding slowly down their steep faces, revealing the transparency of their construction. Steel and glass, flesh and bone, tinny pillars of pathetic human ingenuity. How they stopped, how they marveled at these teetering and swaying nightmares. Like dominos in a row, ready to tumble, begging gravity to silence their cold metal hearts.
He stood at the intersection for quite some time, face to the heavens, arms aloft, palms spread wide, as if channeling some ancient and guiding power. They waddled around him like geese, brushing shoulders, casually rubbing their polluted faces against his. With each contact he grimaced, the revolting nature of their touch a physical and mental affront. He withstood, a mighty oak defying a storm, roots gripping soil and rock in a pulverizing embrace. He would not be shook; he would not be pushed aside in their sweeping plow. A challenging shout, a shrill and blasting horn blossoming from his lips, parting the smoke and din and fog that gathered above his head. “WE ARE FREE!”
It rippled outwards. Fifty pounds of plastic explosives, lovingly cared for, each crafted from the finest materials, their detonator a singular and exquisite work of engineering. It was a thing of beauty, a pinpoint of searing light slowly building into a resounding crescendo. Waves of stone and gravel undulated spasmodically, tossing its riders effortlessly into the sky. Disjointed pieces of an unworthy world scattered into the blinding sun. At the epicenter of the blast a grinning child stood, no older than five, his belief in a new day as bright as the explosion that encircled him.