MRI Music

Laying inside that claustrophobic white tunnel unable to move for an hour I realized how musical an MRI machine is. Most would call it noise but if you listen really closely you can hear the rhythm, the beat, even words sometimes. As a linguist I have a tendency to assign words to almost anything audible; when I walk my dog in the morning I hear the birds sing actual words, sometimes in English, sometimes in other languages. So, it is no surprise that I also hear words in the seemingly unintelligible clanking of the MRI magnets.

So what does the MRI say? No, not ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding like the fox. More like doc doc doc doctor and blah blah blah blah. At one point I could have sworn it said, espera aí espera aí espera aí, which means wait there in Portuguese. Now put all that to music and you got a song.

In fact, I am not the only one that thought it was musical. As I was browsing the internet looking for samples of the MRI sounds to attach to this blog, I found a YouTube gem; someone called Zoido has actually been inspired to write a dub step piece using the sounds of an MRI. See? There is beauty and silver linings in everything. Even in the horrible sounds of a magnetic resonance imaging machine. Enjoy the music.

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Sir Lancelot and the Big Heist

I started writing this as a response to one of Chuck Wendig’s challenges; a genre mash-up. I rolled a “caper” and “Arthurian legend”. I had fun with this piece until I got stuck with the ending. I think I finally came up with a reasonably acceptable ending (can you tell I am still not 100% happy with it?). Here it is with all its flaws. A just-for-fun piece of flash fiction. I hope you enjoy it at least a little bit.

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Sir Lancelot was livid. How could such worthy Knights of the Round Table be so dumb? Glancing over the line of disheveled men in various stages of dishabille, Lancelot dropped his arms alongside his body and sighed deeply. Then, he closed his eyes as if he had a headache and remained quiet for a few seconds longer.

The Knights shifted their weight from one leg to another in anxiety as they exchanged worried looks. “Does anyone care to explain to me what the hell went wrong?” Lancelot’s fine modulated voice was heard. The Knights all stood at attention trying to avoid the famous Knight’s eyes.

Sir Erec stepped forward hesitantly. “Well, we did what you asked us to do…” A couple of the other men were waving their heads in warning.

Lancelot closed the distance between them in a wink of a eye and with his face right next to Sir Erec’s face yelled, “What I told you to do? Really??? I don’t remember telling you to botch the whole mission.”

“Things just went seriously wrong, Sir Lancelot” the other knight whimpered. “It wasn’t our fault.”

“Now, you are going to whine like a little baby and blame your failure on something else?” Lancelot yelled, spittle flying from his mouth. “What kind of knight are you?”

Palamedes’ dark figure stepped forward. “Sir Knight, there is a perfectly good explanation for what happened, I assure you.”

Eyes like daggers, Lancelot turned his attention to the tall Saracen. “I can’t wait to hear it,” he growled. “Tell me!”

There was no getting around the fact that things had gone terribly wrong. It had started with a silly idea and gone downhill from there. Sir Lancelot had dreamed that the magic sword, Excalibur, had been brought back from the depths of the lake to him. Arthur himself had appeared to him in this dream and told him he was destined to follow in his footsteps and be the one saving Camelot from total ruin. That’s when he decided to send his fellow knights to retrieve the fabled sword. In retrospect, it had been a bad idea from the get-go. What had made any of them think stealing Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake was a good idea?

Several of the Knights of the Round Table gathered by Sir Lancelot’s house in armor and carrying their most trusted swords that very day. The famous group of valiant warriors left at a gallop leaving a trail of dust behind them. Their banners flapped in the wind and their beautiful regal horses seemed to fly rather than trot through the forest that stood between them and their destination. They hadn’t been on a quest in a long while. In fact, after King Arthur passed their adventures had dwindled to practically nothing and they missed the rush of the battle and the pins-and-needles of the unknown. This new quest was a heaven-sent. Or so they thought in the beginning.

Once they arrived to the bank of the lake, one thing became immediately apparent; how in heaven’s name were they to accomplish their mission? The sword was well-guarded under the waters. Protected by magic, Excalibur would not be easy to retrieve even under the best conditions. Underwater even worse.

“One of us has to dive in,” Palamedes suggested glancing at his companions. “I can’t swim.”

The only knight who could at least stay afloat was Erec. In spite of his reluctance, he was therefore voted to be the one diving head-first into the murky waters of the magic lake. Unfortunately, neither the knight in question nor the others thought the action through and Erec jumped in the lake fully armored. Chaos ensued as the poor knight, heavy with metal, started immediately to sink. Sir Palamedes realizing that if nothing was done, his companion would perish under those waters, stripped all his metal wear and jumped in to help the unfortunate warrior struggling to keep his nose out of the water.

“Hey, I thought you said you couldn’t swim!” One knight exclaimed in surprise.

“I just didn’t want to go into this freezing water,” Sir  Palamedes confessed paddling himself closed to the troubled knight and grabbing hold of his breastplate, pulled him as hard as he could toward the bank. The two knights cold and out of breath pulled themselves into solid ground and laid there exhausted.

What could they do now? They realized they had no real plan and thus, they must come up with something on the fly. One knight suggested to fill the lake with stones until it was so full, the sword would most likely surface. This idea was quickly discarded. Another knight thought that maybe they should call to the Lady of the Lake and when she surfaced, grab the sword and run. Someone else pointed out that considering the Lady was a powerful magical being, this may not be the wisest thing to do.

They stood by the lake for a few hours mostly scratching their heads and trying to make sense of a situation that seemed hopeless. Until one of them exclaimed, “Merlin!”

They all stared at the knight who had uttered those words and silence descended upon them for a few moments. Then, Sir Percival threw his arms up in the air and exclaimed, “That is pure genius! Of course, why didn’t we think of this before? Merlin is all-powerful. He can easily get Excalibur for us.”

The whole forest was abuzz with excitement. They would call for Merlin, the powerful wizard who had been the King’s friend and advisor all those years ago. He would certainly see the value of Lancelot’s vision (because surely that dream was not a mere fancy of the sleeping mind) and help them retrieve the magic sword.

Two of the knights left shortly after to seek the mage while the others put up camp close to the lake and prepared to stay the night. They waited for a whole week and then another. The knights never returned. Despondent and desperate, the knights decided to do the unthinkable; call for the Lady and demand she give them the sword.

The awesome Lady of the Lake surfaced with a great splash of waters, creating waves and rivulets. She looked around her with eyes full of annoyance and found the disgruntled band of knights. “How dare you, lowly knaves to disturb my winter nap?” she boomed.

Shaken by her sudden and no-so-happy appearance, the knights stood shaking in their armor not quite sure of what to do next. Sir Erec took a step forward and said, “Forgive us O great Lady of the Lake. We came to besiege you to hand us Excalibur to take to Sir Lancelot.”

The magic woman had no reaction at first but a few moments later she roared with laughter. “Give you Excalibur? Why would I ever do that?”

“Sir Lancelot had a vision, milady,” the Saracen ventured in turn, “King Arthur spoke to him and told him to take the sword and put Camelot together again.”

The laughter ceased but the look on her face spoke volumes of her obvious amusement. “Vision you say? Or wishful dream?” she said in a dangerously low voice. “King Arthur is dead and dead men do not speak. He entrusted me with Excalibur and no-one will take it from me.”

“But…” Sir Erec began but never finished. The Lady waved her hand above her head and produced a huge wave that swiftly rolled toward the knights’ like a bowling bowl toward the pins.

“Begone!” she yelled in a booming voice before diving into the deep waters of the lake and right before the wave exploded above the knights’ heads leaving them soaked and shivering.

Thus, the bedraggled knights in not-so-shinning armor returned to their master to deliver the news of their doomed mission. A low rumbling laughter echoed through the air reaching and following the disgraced knights all the way home, their dreams of glory crushed and their egos humiliated.

Now, faced with an enraged and disappointed master they felt their shame burrow into their chests like a sharp dagger. Heads hanging down, hands clumsily clutched behind their backs, feet shifting nervously under the weight of their rusted armor the knight weathered the noble knight’s rage and flying spittle. A prolonged silence embolden them enough for a quick peek; Sir Lancelot’s anger seemed to be finally sated as he stood before them. “Why are you looking so distressed?” he asked them. “Nothing happened that won’t be fixed by a night of drinking and wenching. So what are you waiting for men? Let’s go!”

With those words, Sir Lancelot’s prophetic vision joined ranks with all of the other misconstrued dreams of the world’s great men and was forever forgotten both by the great knight himself and the rest of humanity.

The Artist (Flash Fiction)

The ceiling plaster peeled like it had been sunburned and great gaping holes appeared to spread along the surface as mold on old cheese. Rusted chairs collapsed on their sides and the once magnificent figures in the murals along the bottom of the stage were marred beyond recognition by the merciless passing of time. The curtains on the rotting wooden stage, threadbare and frayed, were faded to a non-descript hue and looked like they would vanish in a big poof of dust should anyone touch them.

The artist, standing in the back of the theater, didn’t see the ugliness that others saw. As his eyes roamed toward the ceilings, the frescoes of gods and goddesses of old mythology looked back at him with the haughty stance of the immortal. Exquisite chandeliers hung from the ceilings, a glorious shower of crystal, gold leaf, and glittering silver over opulent scarlet velvet seats standing straight and tall like royal members of the audience.

The artist’s eyes saw murals of vibrant color and unpaired beauty adorning the low wall along the stage and shiny hard wood flooring, rich and warm in color, sleek to the touch of the tiny ballerina feet that had once graced it with their pointes. The curtain fell toward the stage floor in a grand cascade of ruby red velvet, an artificial but enchanting night sky studded with sparkling man-made stars.

He walked slowly across the theater of his dreams, his work of art, his masterpiece. Hands brushing the backs of the chairs in a gentle caress, the artist reveled in the familiarity and intimacy of that touch, the memories it stirred, the feelings it inspired. Slowly as in a trance, the artist climbed the stage steps and came to rest center stage, staring blindly into the ghost audience of bygone days. There he stood for a few minutes, motionless and silent as if channeling the spirits of the past.

Like a wisp of smoke, he suddenly slumped to the floor and curling himself into a ball, the artist wept. Life had gone by so fast, he had barely had time to live, shoved from one day to another by a torrent of events he could not control any more that he could control the earth’s movements. He was not afraid of dying but terror filled his heart at the thought of leaving this world without having made his mark; something left behind to remind the world of his existence however brief, a memoir of his talents however fleeting. His then young skillful hands had painted those walls and adorned the arched ceilings with loving attention and infinite patience; innocently believing it would outlast him and others after him. Believing it would give him immortality.

But here he was now, old and pathetic, fingers deformed by arthritis, spirit broken by the knowledge he was to be forgotten as soon as his heart stopped beating. Nothing left to remind the world he had once sat in that theater amongst his own works of beauty, passion galloping through his veins, dreams of immortality dancing in his head. Now he writhed on that rotted and splintered floor, sobbing amongst eternity lost. Life was gone, snuffed away like a candle, remorseless and cruel. No one would ever remember his name.

Camp NaNoWriMo Blues

After a great experience with National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo as it is affectionately called by most participants) I decided to participate in the April’s Camp NaNoWriMo. Because I am still going through the hell of editing my November novel, I decided to pick up a novel I had already written and spend April re-writing it. Sounded awesome in my head and in theory it should have been a great idea. Yet, I am not enjoying it at all.

This is a novel I wrote some years ago. One that I love and have always hoped to pick up and revisit. First problem; this was written before I used a computer at home. In other words, I handwrote it. It’s completely written on hardcopy which means I cannot just revise it and edit it, I have to TYPE IT first! Boring, seriously boring. I found out I write faster if it’s coming straight off my head instead of words copied from a paper.  It is painfully slow and, in case you are still wondering, boring.

Second problem: because I am typing it (AKA copying it into electronic format), I am too tired to actually revise it (even though half the time I am doing it my head). I may never do it at this rate.

Third problem: it is skull numbing boring. Or did I already mention that?

Solutions? Good question. I may go back to the beginning (I haven’t got that far) and start revising in earnest. Forget about typing it, forget word count and goals, and do it with the revisions already built in. Or I could just write it all from scratch. There are things that need to be updated since I wrote it quite a few years ago and the world has changed considerably. But there is also a lot of good stuff that I don’t want to lose in the rewrite.

What to do, what to do, that is the question.I am open to suggestions if you care to comment. Or some cheer leading may help. I am hating it and I don’t like it when that word is uttered in the same breath as writing. Help!

Confession- Flash Fiction

How could he? How could he ever have done what he did and live to talk about it? Or not talk about it as it was the case. He had never meant to hurt her in any way. Hell, he didn’t even know of her existence when it all went down. Maybe it would be better to leave things the way they were. Ignorance is bliss people say; maybe he should just keep on not-talking about it. She would never know and he- well, he would feel remorse eating him from the inside out for the rest of his life every time he looked at her beautiful trusting face. He did not want to mar that innocence, break that fragile veneer of trust she carried in her heart. On the other hand, what kind of man would he be allowing her to love someone whom she most likely would hate if truth be known? He had a list of things he needed to do. The very first thing was always “confess”. Every day it went unchecked. He just couldn’t make himself do it.

Most of the items in the list had been checked quickly. Establish a fund for the child, checked! Quit drinking, checked! Get a solid job, checked! But confess? That was by far the hardest. Quitting his drinking habit hadn’t been so tough. He was not really an alcoholic. Not yet anyway. He did not depend on the drug and didn’t even crave it.  Some people ate comfort food or indulged on ice cream to make themselves feel better. He drank. But he didn’t miss it enough to drive him crazy. Alcohol had got him into this mess and he sure wasn’t going to allow a substance to mess with his life again. The job was a little harder considering his criminal record. Even a misdemeanor was frown upon by most employers and having a master’s degree did not hold a candle to the fact he had spent a few months in the clink. It didn’t matter he was innocent –well, mostly. Eventually he did get a good job, a job that against all odds not only paid well but one he thoroughly enjoyed. The child fund had been easy to set up once he was actually making money. A good chunk of his wages went straight to the fund. No questions asked.

Confessing was so much more complicated. He didn’t expect her to be this amazing; a creature of beauty inside and out. A heart of gold, generous to a fault, Layla was so much better than him. If humans were sorted by value, he would be on the very bottom with the grubs while she would be up with the angels. Best of all, and for reasons he himself couldn’t explain, she loved him. And he loved her for it. He loved her with a passion and a depth he didn’t know he was capable of. Everything that was him belonged to her now. Not because she asked but because he couldn’t help himself. Body and soul, he belonged to her and just like the air he breathed, he needed her. Layla made him a better man, one he could actually respect… but the secret lurked around every smile, every moment of tenderness. He knew he had to confess but didn’t know how.

How would he tell her without snuffing that brilliant light shining from within her? The darkness in his heart was for him to carry alone. And yet, he must share some of his demons with her if he was to confess. No matter what path he took, she would be hurt one way or another… and so would he. His heart bled just thinking of it, a deep seethed throbbing pain that grew in intensity every time she was near. Every time he thought of telling her about that night. The night he had unwittingly played a major role in the death of her fiancée.

He had been drunk. Stupid drunk. Joe was our designated driver for the night. He had volunteered because he had an early morning appointment with the priest who was going to marry him and his childhood sweetheart, Layla. They hadn’t been friends very long. Having moved to the area recently, he had been more than happy to accept Joe as a friend, something he quite lacked those days. Their mutual interests pulled them together and even though they had known each other for such a short time, their friendship had quickly flourished. Joe often talked about his girl, the love of his life as he always referred to her.

If truth be told, he was so drunk he had only a very sketchy memory of what had happened that night. When it was time to go home, Joe had tried to get behind the wheel but he had, in the way the very sloshed often do, insisted on driving himself. It did not end well. By morning, he had woken up in the ER, bleeding and bruised after being rescued from something that no longer resembled a car. “You were lucky you survived,” the staff at the hospital told him. He did not feel lucky. He felt stupid. And soon he would feel something that defied explanation; the pain and the remorse you feel when you find out you have been the cause of someone else’s death.

He had never understood why the police had not charged him with involuntary manslaughter that day. He had got away with just a DUI charge that landed him in prison for a few days and off the roads for over a year. Yet, he convicted himself of murder and he was to spend the next couple years trying to make up for it with little success. People at the hospital, not knowing he had been the one behind the wheel had described Joe as barely alive on arrival. “He was so badly hurt,” a nurse had told him, “it was hard to recognize him as a human being.” Joe had never made it to his wedding appointment and his pregnant fiancée was to be a widow before she was a wife. Worst of all, he was the one responsible.

Now, he had to tell Layla her gentle love had been wasted on a monster for the past few months. That the man who had so many times professed his love for her had been the one responsible for the death of her child’s father. That his irresponsible move that night had irreversibly changed the course of her life. He could already see in his mind the expression on her lovely face and eyes quickly changing to red hot hate; her hand swatting him angrily across the face, despise pouring out with each hateful word, betrayal reflected in her tearful eyes. He hated himself but today was the day he checked that item off his list. It was time.

That morning, after they had their usual cup of coffee in a local coffee shop, he told her; the whole sordid story. His eyes did not have the courage he had somehow found in his heart to do this and they cowardly hid beneath half-closed lids. Eventually he had to look at her, to check for her dreaded reaction, to be able to say I’m sorry and goodbye, to accept whatever she threw his way because he deserved it. He deserved every bit of anger, every bit of hate she would undoubtedly shower him with. To his utter surprise his eyes met not an angry face but a compassionate one. Even in her anger, she was merciful.

“I’m so sorry,” he said feebly, feeling the apology was totally inadequate to cover for all he had done. But what other words were there? “I am so, so sorry Layla. I will understand if you never forgive me.”

She smiled, a gentle sad little smile. “I forgive you for waiting this long to tell me,” she admitted. “But I can’t forgive you for something you really didn’t do.”

His mouth slackened at her statement. “I killed your fiancée. What do you mean?”

“You didn’t kill him,” she said, reaching for his hand across the table. “He was not in the car with you when you crashed.”

“Of course he was!” he protested, confused by her. “People told me he had died that morning from his injuries. I saw his mom and dad crying in the waiting room.”

Her thumb caressed his hand absentmindedly. “Yes, he died that morning,” she agreed. “But he was not with you. You drove away alone that night. Joe was hit by a truck that morning crossing the road from the parking lot to the church where he was meeting me.”

The shock of this revelation hit him so hard he was having trouble catching his breath. “What? Joe was not with me in the car? He died in an unrelated accident?” he exclaimed, surprise, relief, shock all tangled up inside his chest. It all made sense now; he had never been charged for his death because he had had nothing to do with it. He had hurt no-one but himself that night. Relief washed over him like a wave of fresh water. The breath he has unconsciously been holding for the last minutes rushed out and tears –of happiness or pain, he was not certain – rolled freely down his face.

Layla stood up and came to sit next to him. “My sweet silly love,” she cooed, holding him in her arms, “You have been holding this painful secret all this time? I can’t imagine the weight of all that guilt. You should have told me sooner.”

“I was afraid you would hate me, not that I would blame you,” he confessed, lifting his face from her shoulder to look into her eyes. “But I couldn’t bear just thinking about it. I love you so much.”

“I love you, too,” she whispered before kissing him.

Before they left the coffee house, his hand dug inside his pocket and pulled a ratty, half-torn piece of paper. “There is something I need to do,” he said, unfolding it. The paper held his list of things to do. Everything had been checked except the first item. He reached for the pen on top of the table and without delay proceeded to check it. Then, he rolled the paper into a ball and threw it across the room into the waste basket. “Now, my life begins.”

Art credits: Guilt by Mark Nickels

http://www.marknickels.com/large-single-view/More…../176148-8-14585/Painting/Oil.html