Lori R. Lopez is an offbeat hat-wearing speculative author, illustrator, poet, and songwriter residing in Southern California. Her prose and verse have been published in a number of anthologies and magazines including California Screamin’ (the Foreword Poem), The Horror Zine, Weirdbook, The Sirens Call, Spectral Realms, Space & Time, Impspired, Illumen, Altered Realities, Bewildering Stories, and several H.W.A. Poetry Showcases. Book titles include The Dark Mister Snark, Leery Lane, An Ill Wind Blows, The Fairy Fly, and Darkverse: The Shadow Hours (nominated for an Elgin Award). Four of her poems have been nominated for Rhysling Awards. Lori co-owns Fairy Fly Entertainment with two talented sons. They’ve formed a Folk Band called The Fairyflies to release original music.
I Still-lifes. Muted landscapes. Hushed portraits hung in subdued galleries, Reverent like a church. A lone penitent, Morose, head bowed, stationed on a bench — The kind lacking support for an aching spine. His presence quiet. Unobtrusive as much as Unobservant. A sightless spectator, Focused inward. Scarcely conscious that Walls fenced him, adorned by windows In which the view never transformed. Edmund Fritz an expired driver’s license read. Fritzy to co-workers and friends. Eddie to his siblings . . . gone now, every single one. Two sisters. Eight brothers. A close-knit band, They looked out for each other to the end. But he was the eldest and it was hard losing them. Not a day went by that he failed to Shed a tear of grief. Mourning . . . missing . . . Believing in his heart it should have been Him. Cast away, hollow, a stray artifact, He had exceeded his usefulness, Become a piece of junk instead of An antique. II He was alone a wistful moment. An interval of sedate reflection, private from The commotion on city streets. Traffic. Construction. Chatter. Throbbing nerve-jarring Music, annoying video-game noises, Everywhere he turned. Or the opposite — An eerie Terra-Cotta army staring down at screens, Holding devices plugged into them by cords. If he didn’t venture out: bursts of Disruptive clamor. Small kids playing, Quarreling, racing and squealing through his Grand-niece’s apartment — where he ran aground, Stranded. Inflexible. Set in his ways. Refusing to compromise or update. Unnecessary as a piece of flotsam, beached By a lengthier tide, a stronger wave. Independence, solitude, career Washed to sea. His cherished freedom curtailed. What else could he do when The firm bellied-up with nary a warning? Zero pension. Not even a gold watch. What else was left except charity? Moving in with relatives like some kind of Invalid. As if he were no longer valid. III The craziest part, he relished going to work. Having a routine, a purpose helped navigate the Difficult straits. He couldn’t simply recline In the sun on the shore and bake Like a loaf of bread. He had skipped vacations. Now it was all he did. Brain-numbing leisure. Sighing, his aspect Tightened. An automatic glance at A modest timepiece. Habit. The hours on its face had little meaning anymore. Footsteps echoed. Patrons treading by The entrance to his sanctum. A frigid surge — Drowning, drawing him back. In the same boat As many peers, who never learned to Paddle or sail or swim. Cramming a life-raft With no destination. He felt adrift. His anchor and mooring-line cut loose, Floating on a boundless current of change. He deplored transition. It meant that something would be Different. IV His office had been stable, calm. Edmund rearranged his feet, then frowned at The narrow painting before him. A ship of fools according to its nameplate. “Just where I belong.” His grumble loud in a somber atmosphere. The resultant silence massive, encompassing. Features gloomy, the man gazed unblinking. Lost. His world had shifted gears, its pace so rapid. He wanted the mad shuffle to pause, The globe’s Express Lanes to slow down again. Like this place, this museum of relics. A vault of iconic history. A window to the past. Not his era. Far removed from the present. The modern age arriving in a rush, A towering Tsunami. Yet here was safe, protected, beyond The colossal crashing tumult. A sheltered cove; a soothing retreat. A secluded Harbor where a person could be at home. V Orbs regained clarity. Elbows braced upon thighs. A gray dome angled forward, bobbing, brooding . . . Edmund wished he could stay. Roam its halls, These solemn chambers, day and night. Would they catch him? There were probably cameras. And guards. Doubtful he could evade them, A thick fuddy-duddy with bad knees! Clasping veined, wrinkled, spotted hands, He debated whether he would miss the books and Pulp Magazines fondly stacked in his room. The solo matinees. He already missed weekly Chess matches with cronies — shadow figures, Faded memories. He was a fish leaping at the Moon, Grasping for distant images, faint impressions From Yesteryear in the contours of its visage. Only to fall and lie flopping At the bottom of a dinghy. Forced to Confront his life’s crevices and faults, The chips and imperfections. VI Conscious how deeply sad he had been Under the surface — never entirely mended After his fiancée jilted him to wed another. At least He had loved. And been loved. That was enough. Why couldn’t he be satisfied? Perhaps he feared embracing a new family Might dim the recollections of Siblings, parents, aunts and uncles; war buddies, Colleagues, chums. Perhaps he was afraid No space would be left in a brimming heart or mind. A thin voice captured his attention. The fellow tilted an ear toward a panel of paint. “Eddie!” A man in a red tunic waved. Squinting, it almost looked like his brother Garland. Is that Jerome? Leaning to see better, He toppled off his bench. Splashing. Chilled. Feet kicking. Metamorphosed to a beggar, Swimming . . . Impossible! He had never learned, Never had the inclination. VII Hauled aboard, dripping and bare, Edmund gasped and gulped — fish-like — As they swaddled him in a blanket. “We’ve been waiting for you, Eddie!” The words made him weep. But it wasn’t his time. He needed to get back. His niece would worry. “This is a mistake.” A Sister with a nun’s habit smiled. Edith patted His shoulder. “Nonsense, there’s room for One more fool. And you’re an old one.” The second Sister bade, “Relax. You were always too practical.” Eddie nodded. Too practical for Daydreams and illusions. The brushstrokes Had vanished. The vessel was real. It seemed crowded. Not much of a ship. Nearer to a dory. The plank jutting from its rim Served for a table. This can’t be happening . . . Edmund fumbled to pinch himself, Curled on his side in the prow. VIII Garrett gripped an oar. Emmett and Jared Perched in trees at center and stern along with An owl. He forgot to notice how absurd it appeared. Elliot, Jeffrey and George shared a drink, While Jemma strummed her lute. Ignoring paupers in the water, a jolly crew of Kinfolk lilted, terribly out of tune And not caring: “We are merry fools afloat, in a leaky wooden boat! A ship of idiots and clowns, abandoning our towns, To steer an idle course, and sing till we get hoarse! Until we sink or swim, let us chase a feather’s whim!” They clapped and cheered, a wine jug drained. Back in the fold, back where he belonged, Eddie grinned and felt younger, More alive. Wasn’t it odd? Well, it might have been; he didn’t have time To ponder, speculate, ruminate. Far too busy romping and reveling, Rollicking and frolicking. Acting festive And yes, very foolish.
Road To Nowhere
Its branches creak in the wildest of grims. Bleak shadows whisper neath monster limbs — pawing with ire toward any who dare tiptoe down the road to Nowhere. Few chests that pound would be eager to brave the snarly twists of a dismal enclave, a fernful Nocturne that would lead to no Dawn: one lane too insane for treading upon! Through a canopy fogged by bedeviled clouds, gloominescence may settle in revenant shrouds, this trail bleed from Thistles with dire intent, aramble with Bramble dense as cement . . . Where a step will falter for a wobble of knee, ’long fanciful meadows, an arboreal sea of Witchgrass and Bane, Wolf Berries and Bracken; a wooded outlandish forest of Kraken . . Where Dragons roost on the sturdiest boughs, while nefarious nap between thens and nows. I live on that lane at Number Thirteen. The Mail’s slower than Snails and rarely seen — As if sent at the bitter end of February, in Leap Year on a day that seems arbitrary. My entire lifestory may be illusion, the work of Faeries; a nest of confusion. Which is probably why I sleep during Day; at Night to write in black and gray, existing beyond normal dots on most maps, where highways are drawn by Thunderclaps. A bed of gnarled Briars pokes me awake, and the yard’s too unruly with knots to rake. In case there were cause to worry about neighbors, they would not make it home from urban labors. A clandestine location appeals to my needs, being off the Grid, bent on furtive deeds! Skirt well the passage appearing by Moon, when the silv’ry light will ignite a loon. There is scant good to come on a magical eve, in the middle of time, up the Reaper’s sleeve. Should you venture along that miserable path, I cannot guarantee a benign aftermath. Wisely heed the display of No Trespassing Signs. Reaching my cabin there will be fines . . . a trapdoor on my porch; a prison cellar below. Fair warning to all. My advice is to go! Better still I urge, choose a safer ambit — lest the hike be undone by a sinister gambit ’mongst the mists of a jungle in search of its tail, like a Panther cavorting; a sylvan betrayal. A wily switcheroo in a tanglesome weald, the ground ahead overtly concealed. Destination out of sight; a malicious loop, returning to Start in a wicked swoop. Or faintly unfolding while lit from above to a thicket of thorns, Poison Ivy and Foxglove. Your heart may flutter and miss a beat, the journey disrupted, your trek incomplete. No stranger to perils nor a calm aimless jaunt, should your feet find this way it would certainly haunt; any hope of recovery suspended by a thread on the nowhere route toward a feeling of dread. If lucky to stumble from its endless track with each of your limbs, the skin on your back, there is no assurance you would ever forget the wilds and recluse you might’ve met.
WELCOME TO RUIN
When you can no longer tell whether booms and rumbles are the sounds of thunder and rain, the electric crackle of a storm’s approach or distant cannons, the impending machines and devices of combat on the horizon . . . you are living too close to a city called Ruin. I should know because I was born there. If you ever decide to visit, be sure to wear a Havoc Suit with armor and a gleaming helmet or thick hat. Life here is no walk at the beach . . . It’s more like teetering on the rim of a bitter brooding Volcano. We don’t get many Tourists or Sightseers. If it was really a Volcano we probably would. People love a good thrill, the possibility of peril. Then again, they could get that here. Instead of raised, the land is flat and the architecture — what’s left of it — isn’t much to talk about. There are no fancy effects like Flying Buttresses, just hollow sockets without doors and windows, ragged at the edges. We pick through the rubble of buildings deconstructed, scavenge the iron skeletons of towers where construction is halted, abandoned, surrendered to anonymous heavy-metal armies of Cyborgs and Bots who rage and wage battles like Chess Matches without rules around us, over us, in spite of us, following (we assume) a chaotic clash of principles and masterplans, or arbitrary whims, maniacal impulsive mayhem, while our lungs inhale and exhale smoke, our lips swallow ashes, and we go on about our days believing there will be a Tomorrow, although the odds are definitely against it. If you pass a fried war-torn bulletholed WELCOME TO RUIN Sign, you will know you have come to the wrong place.