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Elliot King and The Midway Mile

Kyle Schreiber 

The following story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Part I – Fear and Loathing at Seattle-Tacoma International 

I was still drunk when Pat woke me up. It was sometime just before 8 AM on the west coast, and the city of Seattle was already starting to hustle for the day. Last night, to close out my visit, Pat and I got hammered drunk off a combination of local beer and dreaded shots of whiskey down in Ballard and somehow, someway, climbed the winding road back up to his apartment in Fremont. This morning, groggy with a high BAC, I had to be at the airport for a 10:30am flight.

With the remnants of the local breweries’ top sellers on my breath and my vision still mildly blurred, I slapped myself in the face a few times, packed up, and got into the car. Pat turned the key. The quiet Subaru engine hummed on without fault; we were off. 

“Do we have time to stop at a dispensary?” I wondered aloud.

“Oh shit. We never got to one yesterday, did we? I think there’s a few on the way, hang on, let me check.”

We sat idle at a residential stop sign for a few moments. The intersection was quiet. A few runners jogged by in nifty clothing of the finest trends giving us puzzled looks as we sat. Pat searched his phone intently. The handsome redhead I had met in college by chance one night had become a dear friend; one always down for adventures and reason to explore. 

“Ah ha!” Pat shouted, “There is one five miles away. We can do this!”


“What are you going to get?”

“Those mints. They do the trick.”

“How many come in a package?”

“Twenty? I’m going to hide them in my bag.”

“You’re a madman! I’ll just send you some.”


We pulled into the dispensary – oddly placed in a strip mall. Inside there were two clerks working behind a large glass counter with all sorts of pipes and bowls, sodas, and candy sitting below them all injected with mass amounts of potent THC. I walked up, found the mints, paid one hundred dollars in cash for four containers, and was back in the car in less than ten minutes. Pat got on the highway and headed for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

I figured I might as well take a few mints right now. That way, I’ll breeze through security, get a coffee, and by the time I arrive at the gate I’d already be sailing away, no stress needed. My drunken stupor was slowly concluding, soon to be over. Stepping out of Pat’s car before entering the sliding glass doors of Seattle-Tacoma Airport, I reached into my bag and opened up one of the four containers, fishing out two mints. The mints were delicious to a degree, but you knew that there was weed in there; the taste was hardly concealed [In 15 to 20 minutes, after my salvia has soaked the mint up into my system, the effects will kick-in]. I waltzed into the airport expecting a small line of travelers heading home after America’s birthday. I was dead wrong. There must have been a thousand people waiting to go through security! Cue the paranoia.

“Woah.” I muttered under my breath. 

It was packed tight. A litter of people from all over surrounded me as I sauntered into line trying my hardest to not look conspicuous. A group of European tourists were ahead of me – socks and sandals, cameras around their necks, very naturally beautiful people; Directly in front of me was a young woman, probably in her early twenties, holding onto a hand on the other side of the belt barrier. Behind me was a family – mom and dad, older teenage son, younger daughter, and a toddler, a boy. The father sounded southern. I’d guess Texas, maybe close to Dallas with his forthright speech inflections. I started to zone out for a second, fantasizing about driving across Texan pastures in a pickup truck chasing the sun. If I couldn’t reach the sun I’d stop into a small town bar where there is no such thing as a credit or debit card. Towns not even on the map living by their own rules, oblivious to the rest of the country and to the laws of our land; secluded from the corruption of marketing and advertisement and greedy politicians. 

First, I needed to get through this line. I had some time, but at the rate it was moving, I was going to be stoned by the time I walked through the TSA’s security threshold. The line inched up slowly. I started to really focus on the father’s accent, it was starting to bother me; I knew I had heard it somewhere before, but where? Ahead of me, the young couple continued holding hands. When the line made a turn, the man would let go and run to the next turn, the closest he could get to her without jumping over the invisible security line displayed by a wall belt. Sooner or later,he was going to have to let go for good. 

My anxiety started revving from within. I could feel the panic start to leak into my already corrupted thoughts seeping all the way down my spine. I shouldn’t have bought this many containers! 

The overly affectionate couple ahead of me finally let go of each other. The moment was sad for everyone. The entire congregation of people flying this morning watched these two hold on as long as they could until the next time they saw each other. Someone started clapping. A few more joined in. I did too. The little things in life, the small moments most tend to overlook, that is what makes living so special. To experience as much as you can and find true happiness within yourself while watching others along the way. The woman stopped, the line halted behind her. She walked over to her significant other and passionately kissed him. The crowd erupted with cheers.

Of all the times to fly out of Seattle, and of all the times to get looped up on pot mints, the security line doesn’t fail to entertain. Small orchestras of claps followed, and then, back to business. Keep the line moving. 

It was then that my bag started feeling heavier. I placed my belongings on the belt with my heart thudding louder and louder. I walked through the security threshold, no problem. I stepped to the end of the conveyor eagerly waiting for my bag. The belt stopped.

“I GOT SOMETHING!” An agent yelled from behind the X-ray monitor.


This was it. My life was over. 

They’ll probably make an example out of me. Death by lethal injection, I’m sure of it. Maybe not here in Washington, the higher powers might just beat the shit out of me in the holding center and send me on my way with low bail. Hopefully Pat would come to my rescue. But back home, in New York, where everything is illegal, they’ll be waiting to take me away. All of them, every single branch and division – like I was a national fugitive; Sheriffs, FBI, DEA, National Guard, all waiting at the airport ready to make the arrest in front of the news cameras giving the people of the Queen City something to masturbate to for a few days until another mass shooting or sex scandal steals the show. I’d be granted my one phone call of course…

“Hello? Mother? Father? I’ve been arrested at the airport for attempting to sneak edibles across the country. They’re going to kill me, lethal injection; the judge is signing the order now..”

And then, they’d shackle me up in leg restraints and tighten my handcuffs. Two officers will take me down a poorly lit hallway and some big bastard will be standing in front of a heavy door with a small window at the top. With every swing of his billy club the overflowing and unchecked rage from high school that propelled him in becoming a corrections officer in the first place will intensify until the two escort officers leave me at his feet, begging for mercy.

The TSA agent spoke, jolting me away from intrusive thoughts of my soon to be  demise. 

“Sir, is this your bag?”

I gulped a large swallow.

“Yes…” I sighed.

“Do you mind taking it? We like to keep the conveyer clear at all times!”

I was shocked. My jaw dropped open coming to a rest six feet down on the shiny tiled airport floors.

“…Oh! Of course! Of course. I wasn’t sure if you wanted to search it.”

There was a pause. I could see two of the three agents glance at each other suspiciously.

“Do you want us to search your bag sir?”

“No! God no! I’m heading home from vacation! The only things in there are dirty clothes stained with bad decisions and the scent of a one-night stand with a lawyer named Hillary.”

The surrounding TSA agents fought their hardest hold back laughter. My mind was racing at warp speed with no connection to the central processor. I had absolutely no idea what I was saying.

“Have a good flight sir.” The closest agent said.

The bag they were ”after” belonged to the southern fella behind me. Maybe he was stowing away one hundred dollars worth of marijuana mints and was easily discovered. I never knew what happened to that man and his family, maybe they’re back home in their southern dwelling (wherever that could be), or up North at the son’s baseball game. Hell, the father might be in jail; or the whole thing could have been worked out. And the couple from before, the romance that I’ve desired for so long playing out in front of me, who knows if they’ll ever see each other again? 

For a moment, Kathleen crossed my mind. I quickly ran away from the thought.

I grabbed my bag and headed toward the gate.

PART II – Elliot King

My seat was 10B – the middle seat; riding bitch for three and half hours to Chicago. I prayed that my seatmates weren’t lunatics. At the window in 10A was a fatter man with a kind smile dressed in a light blue business shirt and tight khakis; even sitting down, his belt was ready to explode. 

My face was flush, my brow sweaty. I turned the air on. The man in 10A turned to me.

“You look nervous. Is this your first time flying?”

“No, no. I fly all the time. I..I made a stop before heading to the airport.” 

I gave him a look – the look. Anyone that dabbles in smoking pot knows the look. This man had no idea what the look meant. The silence scared him; his eyes showed it. He forced a grin. 

“I think I know what you mean, buddy. Say no more.” He started carefully looking over his shoulder.

The man started fumbling in his carry-on. 

“Hey. What are you doing?!” I quietly snapped.

“Don’t worry. I didn’t think I’d make it through security either.” 

Laying on his lap was a full sub. A WHOLE GODDAMN SUB! Smuggling food onto an airplane! The flight was only three and half hours, maybe four with a delay, couldn’t he wait? This was amatuer on his part.

The mints were really starting to work their magic. I had gone from one state of inebriation to another with little to no sobering period in between. 

The sandwich man was named Seth – he was a nice guy, a business accountant from Kirkland heading to his sister’s wedding in Mount Pleasant, Illinois. I felt bad about getting upset at his smuggled sub, but still, a whole goddamn sub; I’ll never forget that. I was about to move from the middle seat over to the aisle when out of nowhere a bulky purse came flying at me.

“Take Cover!” I hollered.

Seth didn’t flinch. His mouth was agape as if he was going to eat the purse.

The thrower of the purse appeared. The woman was dressed in blue jean shorts and a large white sweater with one side sagging below her shoulder. Her chestnut colored hair was fastened up into a sloppy bun; sunglasses dangled out of her mouth.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I wanted to get rid of my purse before putting my carry-on above.”

“No problem at all. I’ve had worse things thrown at me than a purse.”

She smiled, partially amused. I moved back to my seat and within a minute or two the flight attendants began their safety procedure. We taxied out to the runway. As the flight attendants continued their spiel the purse thrower turned to me.

“Do they really expect us to calmly head for the exits if there ever was an emergency?”

“That’s one of the reasons I don’t sit in the emergency exit rows – too much responsibility. With my arms, I could barely open the door!”

She smiled again, but this time much wider.

“At least you’re honest about it. I can’t even open my suitcase half the time, I couldn’t work that door either!”

We shared a small chuckle. Seth made some strange noises as he finished half of his sub. To his credit, the thing did look delicious. Layers on layers of chicken and lettuce with green peppers and some kind of orange sauce, probably spicy cheese and spinach, all placed on a seeded wheat roll. 

The flight attendants took their seats. The turbines screamed loud. Our jumbo jet bound for Chicago raced down the runway at speeds I only dream of driving. The wheels lifted, we were in the air.

As the atmosphere on the plane started to adjust for the next three and a half hours of flying, I had completely checked out of this galaxy. Internally, my body slowed down and began to process everything that had happened in the last thirty minutes. I was completely gone, in a good way.

“You’re not going to be sick, are you?” The purse thrower asked.

“What? No. No. I had a hell of time getting on the plane and……….well I just had a hell of a time.”

The purse thrower looked confused.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m great! I’m just…stoned, frankly.”

I peaked over the seats looking around anxiously. 

“I’m from Buffalo, and weed isn’t legal, not yet at least. So I bought some mints from the dispensary and took some when I got to the airport. There was a hiccup in security which made me think I was caught, and now I’m here processing.”

The woman with chestnut colored hair and brown eyes looked down and back up, containing her laughter.

“Do you have any more?” She asked curiously.

“Of course!”

“Do you mind if I join you, and have one?”

“Well, I have this…policy. I don’t like to share with people if I don’t know their name. I’m Reid, by the way.” 

I extended my hand out for a desired shake. Instantly her hand met mine.

“Nice to meet you, Reid. I’m Elliot.”


“I know, I know, it’s a very masculine name, but I promise I’m not a tough person.”

This time Elliot’s teeth started to show in her smile. 

“I wasn’t even thinking of masculinity. I don’t think I’ve ever met an Elliot before.”

“I’ve never met a Reid.”


An uninvited hand from the window seat jumped into our greeting. Seth the sandwich man wanted to say hi. Quickly he shook hands and he went back to licking his fingers and starting on the second half of his sub.

“I’ve gotta finish this before the drinks and peanuts come! That’ll be my palate cleanser!” 

Elliot King grew up in Seattle with two younger brothers and a dog named Shepard. Two years ago she graduated from the University of Washington and began pursuing her career as an artist. Elliot’s mother works as a news producer and her father is a local anchor; I’m sure you can imagine how the two met. Her youngest brother just graduated from the police academy and was on his way to becoming one of the many newest editions to the Seattle Police Department. Her other brother, the middle child of the bunch, was a sophomore in college at the University of Washington. We exchanged stories about the differences growing up on opposite sides of the country; where we would travel with our families for vacation or an embarrassing story. Our initial small chatter turned into bigger conversation. Hobbies, cars, believable conspiracy theories; Former bosses, recent travel, dream jobs – a lot of information was exchanged in row 10.  Our flow of words glided down a smooth stream of conversation passing the time faster and faster cancelling out the rest of the plane.

Elliot reached for her purse. Concealed in the large buckled bag that nearly wounded me earlier was a Moleskine sketchbook full of drawings I couldn’t believe were real. The colors were extraordinaire and vibrant; these drawings looked like photographs with lines stenciled over the image. Elliot removed a smaller Moleskine case. She opened up the rectangular case showing colored pencils sharpened down to a fine point. 

“These pencils are my everything!”

They looked pristine. Each side of the case had ten pencils tucked behind two leather straps ensuring no movement or risk of tips breaking. 

“You were worried about your mints…these could be considered deadly weapons! Especially this.”

Elliot removed the strange looking tool conveniently tucked away in the side of the case. The sharpening tool was something I’d never seen before. It looked like a knife, but didn’t have a large blade. There was a handle with a red stone imprinted on the top (possibly a ruby) connected to a narrow silver blade. The tool looked ancient. 

She let me hold the sacred-looking carving tool. How was I supposed to hold it? I didn’t want to look foolish, but I also didn’t know how to properly hold a vital tool to someone’s creations. 

Every artist has something they hold true to their hearts. For some it’s an easel and certain type of paint. For others it’s a significant typewriter passed down from family member to family member. For me, it was my manifesto. Other than the editors Hunter Diana, James Broadway, Ruth Clinton and on occasion Nelson Liebler, when he isn’t off being a financial genius, no one can see, know, or hear about my work until completion. I’m anal about perfection and the manifesto holds all of the edits to each story by said editors, whether they’re published or not. The manifesto contains all. Elliot was the same way, but with her pencils and sketchbook; they were her tools to success. I placed the small case and sharpening tool face open on my tray table and shifted back to conversation for the remaining time we had in the air. 

The saddest part about all of this was that the conversation would eventually have to end and at this rate, it was sooner rather than later. I had no idea where we were in the sky but I knew Chicago wasn’t far off. Elliot would continue on and fly to Charleston for her vacation. I have to connect to Buffalo and go back to work. The content was there, the timing was off. Sadly, there is no stopping this intangible non-linear measurement that constantly rules our lives.

The flight could have been from Seattle to London direct and that still wouldn’t have scraped the surface of the iceberg known as Elliot King. I wanted to know more. I wanted to keep talking. I had no interest in returning home and unpacking only to answer the same follow-up questions from my circle of friends asking jealously about my trip and then commenting, “must be nice” in their passive aggressive whiny tones. All my life people were jealous of my travels as if I was an unmarked rich man gallivanting around the world for no reason other than to rub my adventures in others faces. The masses would get upset when I would reply and instruct them to “open your laptop, pick an airline, pick a city, type in your credit card, pack your bag.” They never liked this explanation. The people back home were always angry about something it seemed. They wanted the process to be more complex so they’d have an excuse when it didn’t work in their favor. Laziness and insecurity were the two known culprits of a lot of misplaced talent on the eastern shores of Lake Erie. 

From the cockpit the pilot informed us, we were beginning the descent into Chicago. The smooth river of conversation previously mentioned was about to branch off back to our respected reservoirs. Elliot and I were running out of time with what seemed like years of conversation left to finish.

A flight attendant came by and reminded me to put up my tray table as we were about to land. 

The tray table went up; The tool and pencil case slid into the seat pocket.

The pilots touched down on the runway with incredible force. Collectively everyone lunged forward in his or her seats; the flaps went up, and the pilot began to break. We all lunged again. Seth didn’t move an inch. His sheer mass anchored him securely into the seat. 

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the pilot began “Welcome to Chicago, Midway Airport. The local time is…”

I looked at my watch, Where had the time gone? It feels like we just took off. I had thirty minutes to get to gate B23. Our plane taxied in while everyone collected his or her immediate belongings. Elliot gathered her drawings from the bigger Moleskine and placed them back into her purse. She began to fidget around. 

“Reid! My pencils!”

Short-term memory loss chimed in at the worst possible time. I tried and tried to remember where I placed the goddamn pencils, but couldn’t. That was it; there goes my chance, if I ever had one, with this beautiful purse-throwing artist. 

In a matter of seconds I ruined everything. I went to open my seat pocket to check for trash. THE PENCILS!

“WAIT! I’ve got them!” I screamed. 

The entire plane fell silent. I could feel the look of curious eyes from all directions staring at our three seats in row ten. 

“Oh my god! Thank you!”

Elliot was relieved. She opened the case glancing quickly at the pencils and went to close it when the man behind her bumped her seat standing up. The case fell to the ground. Quickly, she scrambled her hands on the floor grabbing the case.

“That was close!” She said, “I don’t think anything came out.”

The masses in front and behind arose and wrestled their luggage out from above. I offered to get Elliot’s bag for her but she kindly declined my offer. 

“Well, I’ve got to catch that flight to Charleston. It was really nice to meet you Reid.”

“Absolutely, Elliot. It was great talking with you.”

“Believe me, we could have flown around the world and that still wouldn’t have been enough time to talk! Good luck with your writing, I’ll look your page up!”

“I’m available next week. Good luck with the art shows.”

Elliot and I shared one last smile and said goodbye. The man that bumped her seat let her merge into the aisle, but then quickly blocked Seth and I as he went to grab his luggage from above. What a jerk. 

“Some people man.” Seth said quietly under his breath. 

The man shot us a look. He took his bag out slowly and then dramatically started ambling toward the door. 

“Sir, do you mind? I have to make a connection flight.” I said.

“Pfft” he scoffed “I heard you yapping the whole flight, you need to take a break.”

What an asshole. What an aggressive man. Since when is chatting on an airplane with a stranger a crime of annoyance? People are too serious nowadays, no one is comfortable and everyone has to hear about it, what a bunch of bullshit. 

I looked down at the floor to divert my energy elsewhere instead of telling this guy to fuck off with an audience of twenty-five rows behind me. 

What the hell is that?

I reached down and grabbed the object. Elliot’s ancient-looking sharpening tool had fallen out of the case! 

Now, I held a lethal weapon in one hand and a cache marijuana mints in my bag. I was starting to look more like a national fugitive now.  I tucked the tool the best that I could into my pocket while trying not to pierce my thigh. When I saw an opening I merged. Looking back, I saw Seth smiling and waving.

“Good flight, man!” 

“Take it easy, Seth.”

I had twenty-two minutes to catch my flight. But first, I needed to find Elliot and  deliver her the sharpening tool. The whole colored pencil setup was more important to her than the Baltimore Ravens were to me, without this, she had no quarterback; at least that’s how I rationalized it.

Thanking the crew as I hurried by I took a quick whiff of Chicago air between the airplane and arm. Ah, the windy city and its distinct “capital of the midwest” smell.

Part III – The Midway Mile

Midway Airport is the busiest mile in all of Illinois – including Chicago, or so they say. I needed to navigate through this sea of travelers and find the flight monitors to try and catch Elliot’s connection to Charleston. All these faces, confined to one area. Some are dressed to the nines looking like a poor attempt at glamour and fame. Others are dressed in sweatpants and other baggy clothes to help ensure comfort over the upcoming hours of flight. Airports are a lot like grocery stores in the sense that no one moves! Travelers from all over the country and world are slowed to a crawl looking at all the coffee mugs and keychains that say Chicago. Their eyes become fixated on the merchandise for the major sports teams and the giant bean for tourism. All of these people forget that they need to connect flights and instead get sucked into buying overpriced trinkets for unappreciative people back home. 

Finally, I found the wall of monitors. My flight arrived at Gate A6; the connection for Elliot was gate A18- the complete opposite way of my gate, B23. Time was ticking, there was no room for bitching about the current circumstances, and I needed to act. Swiftly and strategically I began dodging around the slow- moving travelers in Midway airport. There was urgency in my steps, but not full- blown panic, at least not yet. 

Where are all these people going?

The ascending numbers associated with the “A” gates continued to climb. Some of the destinations were interesting; Jacksonville, Florida; Richmond, Virginia; Bangor, Maine; Tulsa, Oklahoma. I always liked looking at the different flight destinations and wondering what it would be like to travel there one day and witness the daily routines of the citizens in their tight communities – like driving in Texas, racing after the sun.

A13, A14, A15, I glanced down at my watch, less than twenty minutes now and I was on the other end of Midway. At last, gate A18. Scanning the area with my head held higher than normal, I didn’t see Elliot anywhere.


And then, I found her. She was sitting at one of the seats facing outward looking out onto the airfield. I ran up to her, out of breath. 



“Elliot, you…”

“Reid, did you decide to come to Charleston? I was only kidding about sleeping in the bathtub, I’m sure you can afford your own room.” She grinned.

“I didn’t…I didn’t know the offer stood. But, you forgot this. It must have fallen out when you dropped the case.”

I held out the odd looking sharpening tool. Elliot’s brown eyes lit up with glee. 

“Thank you so much! I would have been devastated if I’d lost this!” she said, “And you chased me down to give it to me?” 

Elliot fluttered her eyes. She lunged at me with open arms and  hugged me tight. For a brief moment the airport foot traffic and the roaring Rolls Royce turbine engines of scattered airplanes fell mute. She looked down gently biting the corner of her bottom lip. Our eyes locked, the noise came back. She stepped back.

“Thank you, Reid. You’re a kind person for doing that.”

“Well, I mean, I’d ask you out for a drink but, we’re going to two different places.”

“Are you going to be back in Seattle soon?”

“I live by the seam of my pants when it comes to traveling.”

Elliot reached into her purse and pulled out a small business card and a green pen. 

“When you’re out in Seattle again, you can buy me that drink. And I’ll buy you dinner.”

“I’ll make that deal.” I confidently agreed.

“For now though, you better catch your flight!”

“My flight….MY FLIGHT!”

The doors were closing in eight minutes! Elliot handed me her business card.

“Call me, Reid.”

We looked at each other fantasizing of what could be if life hadn’t gotten in the way and timing didn’t shit on our parade. We smiled and turned away. I looked down at my watch, seven minutes. I tightened the shoulder strap of my blue bag and was off to the races.

“Enjoy the Atlantic!” I hollered, galloping off into the herd of travelers once again.

Comparable to OJ Simpson in that one commercial from years past, I started leaping over luggage and dodging small children. Just like the supermarket and bathroom lines at Ralph Wilson Stadium (it will always be Ralph Wilson – and I’m not even a Bills fan) no one moves! Everyone stands in the line of traffic like a statue waiting to be toppled by an angry mob. On occasion you’ll get a few dancers – you know the ones, people coming at you, rarely also in a hurry, and you both hop to the same side to avoid each other but end up dancing back and forth for a few seconds until one has to stop their momentum completely and allow the other to pass. I never stop the momentum; I’ll dance all day if I have to. But no, not this time. I wasn’t looking for a partner; I was looking to get to my goddamn flight. Spinning and turning, dipping around and at one point straight sprinting across the airport rushing past faces I’ll never see again and don’t care to look at anyway with the only goal in mind, make the flight! 

Anyone that lets a child roam freely in an airport is an asshole. Keep an eye on your children at all times. Otherwise, a one hundred fifty pound twenty five-year-old might come steaming by at what feels like fifty miles an hour on his feet, and he might bump your kid to the ground unintentionally. I helped him up. He didn’t cry, everything was okay. Back to the gallop. 

I’ve never missed a flight. Sure, a few have been cancelled out of my control, but I’ve never allowed myself the misfortune of missing a flight. At all costs I’ll get to that damn gate and sit in that goddamn seat if it’s the last thing I do. I refuse to let the people of Illinois laugh and snicker at my helpless cries to the airline staff pleading to let me on board minutes after they’ve shut the door. I won’t allow it. My body was screaming through the stress of the day as my overall energy was starting to slow down. I hadn’t eaten much on top of waking up drunk and then transitioning to weed, and changing time zones. I pushed harder, ran faster. At one point I held my bag like a football and envisioned myself running a historic 99-yard touchdown for the win. For airport staff and other travelers, I probably looked like an escaped con, alluding the authorities through the airport destined to flea arrest once again. I saw the gate. My legs started to wobble all rodeo-like, it felt like my knee was about to blow out. 

I barely made it. Literal seconds left to spare. No one back home is going to believe this tale, but I didn’t care about that right now. I made my flight! And I had done it in record time – the fastest time. On the brink of exhaustion, I plopped down into my window seat, 12C. 

The plane to Buffalo was much smaller than the first bird I boarded earlier today. There were only fifteen rows or so with two seats to a side. I let out a sigh of relief thanking the man upstairs for not making me sit bitch again for the next hour and ten minutes. 

The captain spoke.

“Ladies and Gentleman, welcome aboard and thank you for flying with us this evening. We are all set to push back here and get you on your way to Buffalo, but we just heard some flights are running late so we’re going to hold for a few minutes to make sure we’ve got everyone onboard.”

Son of a bitch.

An excerpt from an upcoming book by Josh Klafter

Day 82

June 1, 2020

America has made a collective decision, one that seemingly unifies the vicious divide of the party line. COVID-19 safety is a thing of the past. It’s over, done, finished. 

Initially, this was out of pure, unfiltered selfishness and stupidity. That’s the only realization I could come up with, when, upon pulling up to a restaurant for pickup, I see 30 or so individuals, many unmasked, standing not even two feet apart, let alone six, from each other. 

But now, it seems that, to many young Americans, COVID-19 is the least of our worries. We are at the precipice of the anarchic entropy of the systems formerly foundational to our country, and not without just cause. This resentment has been building and building since as far back as the birth of our nation, more prominently since the illusion of victory at the close of the 1960s civil rights movement. It took a slew of murders from textbook-swine police over the past few weeks to incite revolution, and the revolution is underway, my friends. 

The endless bombardment of raw video evidence and textual anecdotes has awoken me to the horrors of this war coming from both sides of the battle. Police brutality is at an all-time high as we find ourselves slipping closer and closer toward a martial-law society. It’s as if they see the justified anger and enragement brewing from the American people as one big “oh yeah?” opportunity. It riles them up to the point that they shoot at journalists and beat the shit out of peaceful protestors.

This is not to say we haven’t seen a fair share of savagery from individuals claiming to be a part of the revolution as well. So many businesses, small and large, have been turned into ruins, their owners beaten, and sometimes even slaughtered, for simply trying to defend the property they hold so dear. 

There are also cops who have resisted the temptation of savagery too, standing together with the revolters in solidarity, understanding, and willingness to meet their demands for strong, systemic reformation.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is the following. The greater revolution is more than justifiable. Hell, I would even consider myself a part of it; though I won’t dare give myself much credit when brave soldiers are going out there in the depths of the pandemic to fight for what’s right and I’m sitting at home typing on my keyboard. However, the hypocritical savagery coming from some of the protestors themselves undermines the very mission of the revolution in the first place. 

It’ll be very interesting, unnerving, sickening, but ever so important to see how history unfolds in the coming days, weeks, months, years… decades? It’s all a domino effect, after all. For now, I will try my best to keep you readers updated as frequently as I can muster.

Day 88

June 7, 2020

There is no going back at this point, at least no justifiable regression from the way I see it. The United States police force is no longer protecting and serving. It has morphed into a fascist organization hell-bent on the brutalization and subjugation of its subjects, these subjects being the very people they swore to protect. 

I may have said this before, but somehow these monsters saw peaceful protests against police brutality as their opportunity to become more brutal than ever! This has moved so far along from just the already terrible matter of stray racist cops killing innocent black people. Now they’re sending their forces out by the thousands, enacting savage brutality on innocents regardless of race, gender, or even press status.

When an institution meant to keep the peace and enforce justice has devolved into an institution composed of thousands of militarized sadists committing literal war crimes against thousands of their own, innocent people, there is no going back. 

At this point, the only solution must be the demilitarization and defunding of the police to the point of necessary restructure. The institution must be completely reshaped into something unrecognizable in our modern view. Only then, with a fresh new system, can we rebuild. The police entity, as we know it, must be stopped. They must stand down. 

Until that day, we must keep fighting. Acceptance and complacency because of the conviction of the officers involved in just one murder simply isn’t enough. The police have shown their true colors as an institution that isn’t compatible with the fundamental nature of the United States.

All I’m trying to say here is that we must keep protesting peacefully, keep fighting, until we have a protection system in place that doesn’t turn against its own people.

Remember: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”- Edmund Burke.

Black Dog, White Jacket, and Raquel

Black Dog, White Jacket, and Raquel

Vern called me a few days before Christmas asking for a favor.

“I’m taking Renée down to Grove City to do some last minute shopping with my parents. Would you mind letting Tucker out?”

“How many times should I stop by? I was going to head into West Seneca tonight to shoot pool.”

“I’d say once tonight, and once tomorrow morning would be good. So if you wanted to stop by there before you go out, that would work. Or, if you wanted to even sleep on the couch, you’re more than welcome.”

“Sounds good, Verno.”

“Thanks man. I appreciate it. If I don’t talk to you, Merry Christmas.”

“Thank you, Vernon. Merry Christmas.”

We hung up. I went back to writing, taking a glance at the clock. The time read 3:49pm. My plan was to finish writing a chapter or two, shower, and then head down to Boston (New York) to let Tucker out and then get to the pool hall by ten. I owed it to Vern to help him out. Not only was he my attorney from a legal standpoint, but he and I have also developed a beautiful friendship over the years, and that is something I respect. 

A few arduous hours later I stepped away from my unfinished chapter. Writer’s Block always seems to creep up on me. There have been days when I would crank out full thirty-page short stories like a bread factory. And, there were days where if I completed one sentence then I drank a bottle of champagne to celebrate. This day was somewhere in between, leaning toward the former but not quite reaching the finish line. I saved the file and headed to the shower. 

Like most people, I do my best thinking in the shower. To combat the Writer’s Block, I usually start thinking of funny movie quotes in my head and then slowly transition to connecting them with my past experiences. This process triggers the creative workshop of my mind slowly pushing out the fog that impairs my thoughts. There are other techniques, but for me this has always been the most effective. During my zoning out time the amount of soap and shampoo around the drain had built up significantly. I stepped forward and slipped. Falling in the shower is one of the scariest experiences – what do you grab on to?! What can you grab on to!? I thought I was going to break my neck. Luckily, I quickly caught myself on the handle of the sliding doors. 

“Shit!” A gasp of relief escaped my mouth, only to be evaporated with the plumes of steam funneling from the shower floor to the space above. I cautiously finished my routine and stepped out to dry off. 

Raquel was beautiful; she will always be one of my true loves. We had been together for the last 130,000 miles of my life. Those miles include many trips up through Franklin and Essex Counties, mostly camping and some overnight backpacking trips in the high peaks. When we were exploring northern New York State we spent dozens of hours on storm chasing ventures, sometimes with and sometimes without Vern, from the Pennsylvania border out to Batavia. She carried hundreds of passengers, some romantic – girlfriends, lovers, plastic people filled with falsities; some against my will- unwanted riders, friends of friends, girlfriends of friends, bosses, coworkers, to name a few. Regardless, an endless supply of memories to tell for years to come happened inside that truck. I towed boats, transported furniture, moved myself in and out of a college dorm and two apartments, drove fast, blew my eardrums out, and saw many things that not many people set out on early weekend adventures to see. From haunted asylums, abandoned farmhouses, state parks, back roads of New York S, the tolls from Lackawanna to Amsterdam, Raquel and I had been through it all thick and thin. 

She was slick white with a touch of pearl in the paint job. Her bumpers were a thick black color with a thinner and duller black guard beneath the front side. Under the doors and from the front wheels to the back wheels was a connecting black stripe. The bed was marked up and gouged from the previous owner, the guy who only put 93,000 miles on this small pickup. I bought a liner for her, black of course, covering the damaged bed. Those that know me well are aware of the story how Raquel was named. Those that don’t know me or the story, perhaps i’ll recite this tale to you in the early hours of a summer morning in a dive bar on Allen Street.

Raquel only had two doors and three seats- if you include riding bitch – which as the operator, I do not prefer. On several anxiety- riddled occasions I’ve transported as many as six people (not including myself). All were crammed into the tiny spaces behind the seats on top of toolboxes and hiking gear and mushed tightly across the front. Raquel handled that trip wellas she always did. Otherwise there weren’t too many issues. Sure, there were maintenance problems every now and then, it was an automobile, what do you expect? Sometimes a wheel bearing would go, or on occasion the rear differential needed some gear oil, mostly minor repairs. I took care of Raquel. Not only was this Ford Ranger pickup truck my means of transportation to and from work and the daily woes of life, but she was a symbol of my freedom. The rawest and most true feelings I’ve felt came behind the wheel of that truck. Cruising in the left hand lane, ninety miles an hour on the interstate, the sun  setting in the distance and you’re driving like hell with the hopes that you’ll catch it. Despite the glory days and warm memories, on this cold evening when I turned the ignition, the old gal hesitated to start. I tried again. At 215,000 miles and with a newly hung wreath off the front grill (in an attempt to celebrate the holiday spirit), the reliable truck I had come to adore over the last seven years turned over on the second attempt, letting her signature roar echo out into the cold December night.

Vern had a house in Boston, about fifteen minutes away. The route was simple; navigate through the tiny village until you meet Route 391 and you’re golden until you reach “The Hill” as we’ve come to call it. A series of streets run up and down the hills of Boston, and of course, Vern lived on the steepest. The trick to ascending the mammoth hill, with its slick and windy road, is to floor-it on the approach. After turning off the route, you have maybe twenty-five houses on each side before the base of The Hill. The speed limit here is suggested at 35 miles per hour, but everyone ends up pushing 65 or 70 by the time they reach the bottom. In an instant the grade change is so significant that your seventy miles per hour drops dramatically to forty-five, and then quickly down to thirty-five. As your RPMs climb higher and higher and your engine whines more and more you reach the sharp turn into Vernon’s two driveways about three quarters of the way up. Standing tall at the end is a large house, which was hand-built by the attorney himself. The kitchen light was on. 

Tucker was as excited to see me as I was to see him. His big bushy tail wagged fiercely back and forth with anticipation. His thick black fur and large head made him look like a domesticated wolf of some sort, except that his ears were floppy and playful. I opened the sliding glass door, he leaped into action, slipping and sliding across the wooden kitchen floor only to maintain his balance and gallop into the darkness of the beautiful hillside property. His food and water dishes were running low so I filled them up and added a biscuit simply because he needed to know that he was, in fact, a good boy. When he pranced back in the house covered in snow, he shook himself off spraying the tan colored walls of Vern’s kitchen with the powder. Tuck and I played for a bit and I let him out once more before I left. He slobbered me with wet kisses as I gave him one last goodbye pet. I left the garage door unlocked for my return tomorrow and got back into my truck. I proceeded to start the engine with no issues – she fired right up. I locked the door, she had manual locks and windows (don’t knock it, appreciate Raquel because she was one of a kind), and headed out the long driveway for my descent down what my friend James Hallman likes to call “Kramer’s Notch”. 

As there is a trick going up The Hill, there is also a trick going down this deadly strip of road. After you turn yourself around and pull out of Vern’s driveway, or, if you’re a lunatic and you’re driving down backwards from the tip-top, throw the vehicle in neutral and hold your foot over the brake. You’ll probably be amazed at how quickly gravity grabs a hold of your car on a downward angle nearly hitting you with g force. The speedometer will easily surpass sixty, seventy, even eighty. One time on the way down in my old car, a ‘91 Mustang convertible, the speedometer maxed out at 85 miles per hours. My friend and I thought we were going to be launched into the stratosphere before we could attempt to slow down. I’ve always wondered what the residents think of that hill. Maybe they have neighborhood meetings about it. Cursing at it, peeing on its cracked asphalt, wishing it never existed and that they could all live happily and quietly in rural Western New York. Or maybe they too race up and down it like a bunch of lunatics in search of a mid-winter rush. 

I took the same route back but this time I hopped on the 219 Northbound and headed toward the city. Outside the air grew colder. In Boston the temperature was a steady 36 degrees Fahrenheit. By the time I had gotten to Orchard Park, the roadside flasher read:

 “22 degrees – 

Possible icy conditions – 

Drive with care” 

I abided by the sign. Normally I’d be screaming up and down the 219, like everyone else, but I don’t mess around driving in the rain or snow. Dry pavement all day everyday for living fast and driving crazy. With inclement weather added in, drive responsibly. That is the only sensible logic they refuse to teach you in driver education classes. The common idea that “every other driver that isn’t you sucks at driving” is also not a part of this curriculum. Sometimes you learn these things outside of the classroom, where the real world lies and where your instructor does not protect you. 

Raquel was coasting in the left-hand lane doing 60 miles per hour. On the radio Stevie Nicks began to sing “Edge of Seventeen” as the traffic behind me was light- only two small cars, an SUV, and a semi-truck were in the right lane. Her tires crossed over from the blacktop of the highway to the concrete overpass above Milestrip Road and began to slide. Before I could react it was too late.

Raquel swerved violently across traffic into the next lane causing the traveling caravan to all react within split seconds. At 60 miles an hour she slammed into the guardrail. BANG! A deafening explosion sounding like a gunshot resonated through the small cabin. SMACK. The airbag deployed, whipping my head back and deep into the seat. I gripped the wheel tightly. We were in a full, 360-degree death spin. I heard a loud undeniable horn. HOOONNNNKK!!!! The gust of air coming from the quickly passing semi-truck rattled the frame of my truck. SMASH. My front end knocked into the SUVs side, we both spun dramatically toward the off-ramp at Milestrip Road. Raquel finally came to a halt halfway on and halfway off of the ramp with her nose pointed down into a bowl-sized ditch with a steep decline down about thirty feet into a flattened area. 

I sat there idly staring at the deflated airbag that was smeared with my bright red blood. Everything was quiet. I couldn’t hear anything around me. My breathing was weak and labored. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a small light blue bubble resting on the edge of my passenger seat. On the roadway I could see sets of headlights passing by. I focused on the emerging orb next to me and it began to grow. At first it was the size of a dime, now it looked the size of a half dollar coin. It kept growing into the size of a hockey puck, then a softball, and then it quickly flashed away out of the window. UGGHHHHHH! With a gasp louder than the one I made in the shower,my breath returned along with the sound of the cars passing by. The locked driver door flung open.

A beautiful woman in a sleek white coat stood before me. She had on black snow pants and light blue boots.

“My god! Are you okay?!”

Her eyes were soft and kind, her face familiar and known. I knew this woman.

“I know you.”

She looked at me.

“I saw everything, are you okay?!” She asked again. This time there was more urgency in her voice.

“I definitely know you. We went to high school together.” I said calmly.

“You whacked your head pretty good. But I’m glad to see your seatbelt is on.”

“We’ve met before.”

“Listen, sweetie, do me a favor. Stay right here. Okay? I’m going to check on the other car. The police and ambulances should be here any second. Can you do that for me?”


“You poor thing. You look awful!”

She looked at me with concerned eyes. Her face was so familiar. And that voice, a voice I had heard countless times before, but from whom? The stranger in white reached into the jacket and removed a light blue cloth. She dabbed the cloth with the small remnants of water from a bottle. The damp cloth wiped gently back and forth across my face. I closed my eyes for a moment. When I opened them, the final wipe was in motion across my forehead. The blonde haired, green-eyed stranger looked at me and smiled.

 “There we go. You look as handsome as ever. I’m going to check on the other driver. I’ll be right back.”

She didn’t shut my door. Instead she gently pushed the door to latch it, but not fully close it. Raquel had no power. Her lights were out, the front end was crunched up like an accordion, and I started to think that at any second she would roll into the giant bowl below and send us both into oblivion.  Panic set in I had to get out of the driver’s seat. I unbuckled myself and noticed more bloodstains all the way down my jacket onto the thighs of my jeans. My nose was definitely broken. Endless blood continued to empty out onto my face and drip down my body. I pushed the door open and fell to the ground. My head was fuzzy. I scrambled to my feet and made my way across the ramp towards the SUV. 

“Hey, are you okay?” I shouted.

A young woman got out and approached me.

“Oh my god! Are you okay?”

“You were in the way of that semi. If you weren’t there I would have died.”

“Dear lord! Are you okay? You really don’t look good.”

I could only imagine what this young woman and the white jacketed stranger were seeing when they looked at me. They probably saw an ashen face with dark circles around my hollowed-out brown eyes that were in a thousand-mile stare. My face covered in blood both fresh and old. The crusted layers building up more and more, my jacket and clothes collecting droplets along the way. 

“How’s your car?” I asked. My vision started to grow cloudy.

“It’s fine. I’m fine, really. It was an accident!”

“Did she come and see you?”


“The other young woman in the white jacket?”

“I’m not sure who you are talking about, you’re the first person I’ve spoken to.”

Blackness poisoned my eyes. I fell to the ground and passed out. 

* * * * * * * *

A few hours later I woke up in a hospital bed. I had the room to myself, which made things a little more comforting but also drew some unnecessary and immediate worry. Quickly I wiggled my toes and moved my legs. I made sure my penis was still attached, thrusting my waist from side to side. My fingers worked, my wrists worked like normal, so did my elbows and arms. On my face, my nose was bandaged up. Around my forehead I had lines of wrapped gauze. A bunch of monitors bleeped and pinged at me. I tried to turn on the TV but the clicker was broken.

A young doctor eventually came in. He looked like he was twelve years old wearing his father’s running shoes and puke-green scrubs. Nonetheless he knew his stuff. He told me that I had a concussion, broken nose, and some bruised ribs from the impact. I asked him how Raquel was. He gave me a puzzled look in return. They kept me overnight and scanned my brain again in the morning to make sure they hadn’t missed anything. 

My father picked me up around 10am and took me back to our house. I had planned on spending Christmas with my parents anyway; an additional few days wouldn’t be too bad. I started to think about the blue orb and what it meant. I wondered if that was my soul trying to escape my body and someone from beyond the plain of existence had grabbed it and pushed it back into me before it got away, signifying it wasn’t my time to die. And then, I thought about that blonde haired woman in the white jacket, with the black pants and the blue boots. How did she open my door if it was locked? Her voice, her face, her eyes, her touch, her smell, it was all so familiar. 

The worst part of it all came on Christmas Eve. My insurance agent called me. Raquel was pronounced dead on arrival when the tow truck finally arrived at the scene. My chariot with 215,000 miles -falling short of our goal of a quarter of a million on the odometer – my companion through every woe and memory a growing man could ask for, was no longer. I thought we had been through it all. Heartbreaks outside of Syracuse, gunshots in the heart of Albany, sunsets alongside Lake Erie, and any small remembrance in-between felt so important right now. The memories and our  bond were gone in a matter of seconds and ended by something out of our control, slick roads from stormy weather. Raquel’s final action was keeping me safe despite the uncontrollable circumstances. I never saw her again; the damage was too much to salvage any parts or pieces. The last thing she did was check to make sure I was okay before vanishing into the winter night while the sirens and rescue lights rushed toward us. That sleek white coat, those black snow pants, and that lively tinge of blue, it all made sense. I never forgot that face, she was as beautiful as she has always been, even if it was the last time we saw each other.


Kyle Schreiber

Lights Out

One evening in late August, a power outage struck across the entire city of Buffalo. Now this probably wouldn’t bother most people, however, I am terrified of the dark. This fear is recent; I never seemed to be troubled in childhood by this phobia, but something happened a while back, and since then, I haven’t been able to handle the dark. The sun had begun to set about ten minutes prior to the blackout, making matters a bit more interesting. I was on the roof of my apartment building having a glass of rum–the good kind from South America, Guyana, to be specific–taking a break from my computer after struggling with an extended bout of writer’s block. Looking out onto the business district with the few tall buildings touching the sky, only to see the lights go out suddenly and swiftly, was a peculiar sight. A strange quilt of confusion and anxiety fell onto the city. Three floors down at street level, the chaos began.

Waves of horns and puncturing profanities from driver to driver echoed up and down Elmwood Avenue. The already narrow street was getting thinner by the second, with traffic continuing to fill the gaps and create a jam in every direction. For some reason, the city seemed to rapidly fall into a chaotic state. Usually people are calm for awhile when the power goes out, right? Until the darkness comes. 

Furious tempers continued to rise as traffic stood jammed between Lafayette and Allen. From the safety of my rooftop, I took another swig of rum. 

I hoped the lights would pop back on any moment–like most power outages–but when this thought crossed my mind, the idea traveled with the companion of dread. Dark thoughts immediately ensued. Something was amiss. It felt as if all the close calls I had encountered in life up until this point were novice at best. Whatever was coming to me in these strange sensations was something I could not control. I felt like I was about to be in danger.

To be honest, I shouldn’t even be drinking. My doctor prescribed me antidepressants a few months ago, and I was specifically instructed “Do not mix with alcohol.” Oops.. Maybe the new darkness that covered the city was a metaphor for the coming end of my life. Maybe I had been away from my computer for too long, liberally drinking my rum with hopes it would clear my foggy mind.

I grabbed the bottle and headed downstairs to my apartment. In the stairwell, the shouting and arguing from the street fell mute. 

The tan colored walls of my apartment now looked grey from lack of light. The vibrant blue area rug from Ellen in Seattle lay black on the floor. The sunset was nearly complete, leaving everything without light. I walked across the room and opened the window. The noise below echoed throughout the eerie apartment. I took my shoes off at the door and began curling my toes on the aforementioned rug to relieve stress. 

The studio apartment I called home was set up rather simply. To the right of the door was a small “hallway” leading to the bathroom. Nothing special, but people always ask where the bathroom is, so there you go. Beside my bed was a nightstand with my light and alarm clock both blackened from the outage. At the foot of my bed, sitting in the opposite corner of the room looking out onto the street, was my desk. On top of the wooden sanctuary lay dozens of unfinished stories scattered around an uncharged computer. I used to have my window blocked by my nightstand, but you never know when you’re going to need another way out if the shit hits the fan.

I reached into the large third drawer of my cluttered desk and started feeling around for the hidden skinny white candles. Most of them were still in the box; they came in at the bottom of the deep drawer. A few had come out, somehow, resting in the back corner. 

I took the candles out and placed them into their stands throughout my apartment. I placed one in the bathroom on the back of the toilet, three on the countertop in the kitchen, one on my desk, and the last on the nightstand. Two were left over as extras. Their dim glow attempted to illuminate my apartment, but produced only enough light to barely navigate around without stubbing your toe. 

Headlights cut through the growing darkness. Horns repeated and shouts continued. I stepped away from the window and sat down at my messy desk. For a moment, I was relieved to be away from the madness below. To my advantage, I was surrounded with unfinished stories and finally had the time to complete them. I eagerly picked up my pen and thumbed through a stack of papers. After arriving at a page from a distant story of yesteryear, I began to re-read what was written when there was a faint knock at my door.

There’s something eerie about knocks at your door when the lights are out. I was buzzed from the rum and felt more annoyed than afraid.

“Who is it?” 


A sigh of irritation released into the darkened apartment. Sheepishly, I went over to the door and looked through the peephole.

“Who’d you say it was?”

“Mandy! Your neighbor from across the hall. Amanda Nye.” 

“Mandy, I’m terribly sorry, I seemed to have lost power and cannot find the door. I was looking for a flashlight when you knocked.”

“Everyone lost power. Can you please let me in? I’m frightened of the dark.”

“I’m frightened too. I lit some candles, but I’ve decided to sleep instead. Do you have any candles?” I asked. 

“No. I have a flashlight, but the batteries are weak. What if someone breaks into the building to rob us?!” She replied.

“I don’t have much to steal. Plus, wouldn’t you want to try and protect your things?”

“Just open the door, Reid! I have some of that rum you like.”

Mandy was smart, she knew how to get my attention. But I wanted to write. I didn’t want to drink more and entertain my neighbor of two years with stories she’s already heard. Still, what was I to do? Locks clicked open and the doorknob was turned. Standing in the shadow was Mandy with a dimly lit flashlight pointing at her shoes. She smiled and sauntered across the threshold. 

“I like what you’ve done with the place,” she said. 

“New lighting.”

An obnoxiously forced laugh escaped her mouth in an attempt to divert my direct sarcasm. She propped herself up on the countertop, her back leaning against the cabinet. I shut the door and headed back over to my desk. The thought occurred to me as I sat down; I needed more candles. These would probably burn out by midnight, and who knows how long the power could potentially be out. 

“Do you think the corner store is still open?” I asked.

“What do you need?”

“Well, we could get you some new batteries, and I could see if they have candles.”

“They don’t have candles at a convenience store. Unless you want birthday candles,” she joked. 

A moment passed before Mandy spoke up again.

“I haven’t seen Lyz around lately. Where’s she been?”

“Lyz and I broke up. She went back to Albany,” I said. 

Silence. A spasm of nerves suddenly circulated my body from head to toe. I had felt uneasy earlier, but this was different. Physically speaking Amanda stood silently, propped up by the cabinet, but mentally she never left her apartment to cross the threshold into mine.

Enough light was produced from the candles on the island countertop to show the pale complexion of my neighbor’s face. Maybe she was afraid of the dark, I thought. It looked like she had been crying. Her face was flush, mascara soaked into her cheeks; her strawberry hair unkempt and tangled.

“Are you okay, Amanda?”

“Why?!” she snapped. “Do I not look okay?!”

Her response was violently intimidating. Aside from the power mysteriously shutting off, my widowed neighbor began to frighten me in my own safe place. These walls were my barracks; my shield from the world, but now an edgy young woman shared my space due to my choice of letting her in. I had to let her in; I owed it to her. Mandy had been through a tremendous amount of emotional destruction this past year.

A year prior to today’s unexplained outage, in  August of 2018, Amanda Nye’s fiancé Martin was killed in a motorcycle accident on the back roads of Niagara County. According to the Deputies that were on the scene: 

“Sometime after midnight, Martin Nye was riding Westbound from the town of Wilson back to Buffalo on his ‘95 BMW Cruiser when a drunk driver heading in the other direction swerved into the opposite lane. Authorities speculate that he attempted to avoid the collision, but didn’t react fast enough and was hit head-on. He was launched over the vehicle as his bike fell beneath the tires. The force of the collision sent him flying  nearly 45 feet from the crash. First responders declared him dead on the scene.” 

The police notified Amanda early that morning, and as I was told, the wails of sobs

could be heard for hours on end throughout our building.

You see, Martin and Amanda met by chance, as many lovers do, but their passion for each other was immeasurable. Having heard the story a few times in the last two years of residency in our comfortable building, I was a particular fan of how the quiet Martin and the spastic Amanda came to fall in love with each other.

The tale began a few years ago, during the end of the first years of Barack Obama’s administration. Both Amanda and Martin were walking out on Allen Street with no knowledge of the others existence. Amanda was with her boyfriend at the time, Jacob, and his friends. Martin, who had just moved into the Elmwood apartment building, was out celebrating his 23rd birthday with a few friends. Coincidentally, the two ended up at the Allen Street Jailhouse (ASJ) on the corner of Allen, across from the newly-built theater. There they sat on opposite ends of the bar, too preoccupied with their own worlds. Fate soon intervened, bringing the two young lovers together. 

Martin walked up to the bar and ordered five shots of tequila for his friends. At that same moment, Amanda and Jacob were heading toward the door, arguing loudly. Jacob began pulling on her arm. Amanda hollered in pain, but Jacob kept pulling her through the crowd. Onlookers began to notice, but didn’t react. That is, until they reached where Martin was. Martin confronted Jacob, noticing the fear and pain in Amanda’s lively blue eyes. Initially Jacob told him to “piss off,” and attempted to push through the crowd. Martin stepped away from the bar standing tall as he blocked the door. Jacob hollered “Move you son of a bitch! Or I’ll make you.” As Martin saw the right hook coming, the bar slowed down. In some reiterations of the tale, Martin claimed he could hear the flies buzzing around, drinking up as many spill opportunities as possible. He amazingly dodged the right hook by leaning back into the door and reacted with a left jab combo into a gut-busting stomach punch. Jacob fell limp to the ground. Amanda was free of his grasp. For a brief moment, “as the flies buzzed,” Martin and Amanda looked into each other’s eyes and that was it; love at first sight. When the bouncers came over to intervene, Amanda smirked, now standing beside Martin, telling the bouncers “he was pulling me, this guy told him to stop, he swung and missed, this guy knocked him on his ass!” In every retelling of the tale, the bouncers laugh, Amanda and Martin laugh, and even Jacob laughs, but in reality, the bouncers actually picked him up and threw him out the front door. After he hit the ground, the larger bouncer scolded him “didn’t your mother teach you anything?!” The rest is history, I guess.

All of that doesn’t matter right now. Well, it doesn’t. The pressing matter at hand was that the widowed neighbor from across the hall had schemed her way into my apartment while the city was experiencing a random blackout and now teetering on the brink of what seems to be a mental breakdown.

“What time is it?” I spoke up breaking the familiar silence.

“Why does that matter?”

“Don’t you care about the time?”

“What good will knowing the time do? Time hasn’t moved since Martin died.”

“….Uh, well, with all this darkness I’m sure we could both use some sleep. Not together. Obviously. In our respected quarters, ya know? Might as well catch up.” I tried to divert from her heavy comment, but my attempt was weak.

The bright blue light of her phone illuminated her face quickly as she read the time before shoving the phone into her back pocket.

“It’s 12:24”

“That’s pretty late. We may have to call it an evening here, Amanda. If I had extra candles I’d give you some, but I’m sure the power will be back on by morning. “

She laughed. But it wasn’t her usual cackle that I’ve heard so many times over the last few years. This laugh was almost manic. It was as if she was physically transforming before my eyes without twitching a muscle, but the sound escaping became an ominous laugh. 

We stood at a standstill for another hour or so. Just as I had initially predicted, the candles were starting to shrink to an alarmingly small size. Still, Amanda remained silent in my apartment. I wanted to get rid of her, but I was hesitant on how to approach the situation. I leaned myself up next to the open window. The rage from earlier had fallen quiet. There was noise, but the sounds were too far off to make full sense of. 

Time continued to pass. Now it must have been just after 1 am. My candles were nearly out. The last bits of light started dwindling to a flicker from what remained of the wicks. No explanation ever came about what happened or when the lights may come back on, and there was still a few hours before sunrise.

Amanda spoke up randomly after sitting in unabridged silence for the last hour.

“Do you know what happened to my Martin?”

I cleared my throat. I was beginning to get nervous. Her tone had shifted completely. I figured she wanted to talk about it, so I lied about knowing the details.

“ No. I do not.”

“Ha. That’s funny. You of all people should know. Do you know what today is?”

“Amanda, I think you should go back to your apartment and get some rest. We’ve been up all night.”   

“The police had no problem telling me. At the time I never thought to ask, but as the months dragged by I began to wonder about some details. Like the fact that you were unaccounted for when Martin died, and didn’t show up until a few days later. And when you finally showed up, you looked nervous and pale if I’m not mistaken, like you had seen a ghost.”

Ice formed in my veins sending a chilling breeze down my back. A temporary paralysis overcame my body and I froze in place. Amanda slowly started to creep around the apartment to each candle. I forced myself to blink, but all I could see was the creature in the desert. The monster I had encountered exactly one year ago on Highway 160. Yee Nal dooshi; the skinwalker. 

That night on the highway, one year ago, is the sole reason why I’m afraid of the dark. I fell deep into drinking and smoking pot to block out the terror I felt after. Now, all at once, the fear was seeping back into my memories.

“What’s the matter, Reid? Are the memories starting to come back?”

Sweet Jesus! How could she know about that damn monster? I had never spoken of it to anyone other than my counselor Janine, and not even aloud to myself on a drunken afternoon. Or when I would be sitting with a blank page mocking me until words were written between its margins.  I fought hard to form words. My jaw was clenched tightly shut. I forced my mouth open.

“A…Amanda. You…you should go back to your apartment. Please.”

“Why’s that, Reid?” she asked, approaching the candle on the counter. 

Sticking her index finger and thumb in her mouth, she slowly pressed the flame out. Now there were only six left burning: the bathroom, two on the island, one on the coffee table, two on the shelves, and one next to me, on my desk.

“What are you doing? Get out of here!” I shrieked. 


Amanda pressed her fingers on the island candles, pinching them out of flames. My familiar apartment was becoming consumed by darkness. The mood had catapulted in the worst possible direction. Dread filled the air, coupled with a dash of insanity. Tssssssssst. The bathroom candle was gone. My vision was adjusting, when I heard, in a very deranged and violent voice, “A black Ford F One-Fifty killed Martin! Who drives a Ford F150, Reid? You!”

Tssssssssssssst. The first shelf candle was no longer burning.

“What?” I asked rubbing my eyes, fighting the tiredness. The uneasy feeling in my stomach was still lingering. Perhaps it was just the prolonged lack of electricity; a feat I hadn’t faced since my early teens, but this was worrisome. Every time I glanced over to Mandy, a jolt of dread electrified my body. I shouldn’t have let her in. Something was wrong. The tension had built up throughout the night where light from the candles could not reach. Amanda knew my answer – she trolled for my response. 

I cleared my throat and took a final drink of my favorite South American rum.

Mandy’s tone shifted back toward violence and anger. She began slowly inching toward me. 

“The city losing power is nothing. I’ve been living in darkness for three hundred and sixty-five days, Reid. Ever since Martin was taken from me! All of my lights of joy and happiness dimmed down to non-existence! I know you didn’t want to let me in when I knocked earlier. I know you don’t care for me! That’s too bad, I liked you, Reid.”

As she neared, I arose from my desk and edged toward the window. The flickering candlelight displayed a deranged look on her face. Her eyes were wide with aggression, face stone cold and determined with menace I didn’t want to inquire about. I glanced down and saw that she was tightly gripping a knife. Amanda crept closer.

“You said you were terrified of the dark, Reid. Why?…it’s not…that…BAD! AHHH!”

She released a hellish scream and lunged toward me. The fury in her eyes, she was hell bent on stabbing me to death in a fit of rage only resulted from misinformation and complete coincidence. I had no other choice; I jumped out of the window, three floors down, into the darkness.

Highway 160

      Highway 160 westbound on the outskirts of Tuba City, Arizona was dark and desolate. Tucked away in the Navajo Indian Reservation, the only light came from the scattered stars high above the cooling desert sand. My truck, a custom built black 1991 Ford F150 complete with red suede interior, floodlights, and a Rhino off-road back rack, coasted at a steady seventy miles per hour as I passed the exit for Tuba City.

     Earlier that day I had driven up to The Four Corners Monument to do the “touristy thing” and take a picture for Instagram. My limbs stretched to four different states at the same time. After crossing off my accomplishment I decided to hang around the monument until sunset and then head back to my hotel in Flagstaff for the evening. The drive from Flagstaff to The Four Corners Monument was about four hours each way, and eight hours of driving in one day to complete a task on my list was a reasonable trade-off in my mind.

     As I got closer to Flagstaff, a strange sensation came over me. At first I shrugged it off to misplaced adrenaline, or maybe a short burst of anxiety, but this felt different. It was almost as if I was being watched from the darkness. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I figured it would pass soon enough, especially at seventy miles per hour.

     A few miles down the road, my bladder began to alert me to pull off. I hadn’t seen any signs for a rest stop coming up and I knew I wouldn’t make it back to Flagstaff without stopping to relieve myself. I hadn’t seen another car for the last hour of driving- so I figured I could just leave my truck running, pee on the side of the road, and be on my way. I got out, unzipped and began urinating.

     My truck idles loudly with a low hum from the engine that seemed to echo throughout the peaceful desert. A light breeze picked up and softened the roar of my engine; I zipped up and walked around to the front of my truck. Opening the door that same sensation came back, only it was much stronger and apparent; this wasn’t extra adrenaline wearing off or anxiety, this was dread. A wave of overwhelming terror nearly knocked me off my feet. I took a deep breath and collected myself trying to get a grip and rid the unknown manifesting fear.

     Looking out at the road and landscape in front of me I saw nothing. I reached in the truck and flipped the control switch on my dashboard turning my exterior lights from low to high. Four round flood lights atop of my truck glowed brightly cutting through the darkness ahead. The high beams added more illumination to the road, and yet, I still saw nothing. I quickly flipped the second switch, my back rack lights came on, and that’s when I saw it.

     Thirty feet behind the tailgate of my truck, on the edge of my lights reach, the figure of a coyote stood on the side of the road. I jolted back and fell into my door. I wiped my face and began to laugh at myself and then looked again. Something was different about this, something wasn’t right. I had never been in close proximity of these animals, but I know enough what they look like and what sounds they make.

     Standing on all fours, this one was pale white with black wire-like hairs that covered its spine. The rest of its body was bare to the point where I could see the outline of bones. The neck was elongated and thin and its pale skin gave off a mild shine as if it were glowing. Its tongue dangled out of its mouth as it panted in place slowly grunting between breaths; The eyes were off color with a tint of yellow and its abnormal ears were flapped down. Large claws tapped the pavement anticipating an attack. I expected to see a tail wagging but this coyote didn’t have a tail.

     My initial thought was that it was infected with some disease that made its eyes turn yellow and cause half of its hair to fall out. I only had a hunting knife in my truck and wasn’t ready to tango with a coyote in the shadows of a moonlit highway and potentially catch whatever it feral disease it was carrying. I turned to step into my truck when I decided to take one last look.

     The coyote propped up on its hind legs like a human and let out an ungodly ear piercing shriek. It started charging at me! I leaped into my truck and immediately floored it. I hadn’t even shut my door fully as I raced away. My RPM’s eclipsed 5,000, in the red, almost maxing out as I sped over 50 miles per hour in less than five seconds.  A trail of dust and burning rubber evaporated into the night sky. My heart nearly came out of my chest, I couldn’t bear to look in my mirrors. I was doused with sweat as my hands tightly gripped the wheel. My window was still down and even at speeds nearing 70 mph I heard another blood curdling howl from the darkness. I pushed my foot further to the floor accelerating as fast as I could; this thing was still chasing me!

     Suddenly, blue and red lights flashed in my rearview mirror. A siren blared and the approaching vehicle sped up nearly kissing my back bumper; I couldn’t stop, I was too frightened. The siren blared again and again, as the lights seemed to flash faster and faster. I gave up my acceleration, slowed down, and eventually and pulled over to the shoulder of the road.

     An alarmed voice called out: “Driver! Place your hands on the outside of your vehicle where I can see them!”

Despite the buckets of sweat rolling off my body my hands stuck to the steering wheel so tightly that when I pulled them off, small specks of leather from the steering wheel cover were embedded into my palms. I placed my hands on the outside of my truck and watched the police officer slowly approach me with his right hand hesitantly hovering over his pistol. His flashlight blinded me for a moment when he arrived at my window. When he saw my translucent face and wide-eyed stare, his tone changed at once.

“Sir. Are you alright?”

“I, I don’t know. I just -.”

“Where are you coming from?”

“I, I went up to the four corners monument for the day.”

“And where are you heading this evening?”

“Heading back to Flagstaff. I have a room there, I’m staying at The Flagstaff Inn, Room 112.” I said nervously

“May I please have your license and registration? Be slow about it. Keep your hands where I can see them.”

I fumbled for my wallet on the passenger seat sitting atop my day bag. Slowly sliding my ID from the leather pocket and then in a sloth-like fashion inching toward my glove box for the registration.

He wasn’t a police officer, he was a Coconino County sheriff’s deputy. He was a tall Native American with soft brown eyes and a round face. His vibe was intimidating but professional. He loosened his shoulders calming his nerves as he silently looked over my information.

“Well, Mr. Long, can I ask you what you think you’re doing speeding around out here on my highway at nearly 100 miles per hour?”

“Officer, I will gladly provide any field sobriety tests or samples of blood you may need to prove that I am not on any substance, but I need to get off this highway now!”

He stepped back about a half-foot and studied my concerned and frightened face.

“And what’s the rush? I don’t know how they do it in New York, but around here we have speed limits. Just because it’s the desert and you’re not from here doesn’t give you credence to speed around like the Wiley coyote. I’m writing you a ticket.”

My heart sank. The word ‘coyote’ set me into a tailspin. My mind began to spiral remembering the image of that goddamn thing I had just seen. My eyes began to water and I trembled with fear.

“What’s the issue, Mr. Long? Crying won’t get you out of a ticket, I hope you understand that.”

He removed his notepad and pencil from his breast pocket and began scribbling down my information. A knot formed in my throat. I tried and tried to push it out but nothing came of it. I took a deep breath.

“Officer, I…I saw something. I saw something back there that scared the absolute shit out of me and I had to speed away.”

“Ha. I’m sure you did. That’s what they all say when I get them for speeding. It’s always something.”

He continued writing.

“Officer! You have to believe me! I stopped on the side of the road to take a piss, if you want to write me a ticket for that I’ll gladly accept it. But when I was getting back into my truck I saw this coyote on the side of the road.”

“They don’t have coyotes in New York?”

“Officer! Please! This thing was pale! It had scattered black hair, yellow eyes…I could see its bones! It was almost glowing in the dark. It stood up on its hind legs and made this god-awful scream and started charging at me!”

The pencil broke. His head snapped up. I could hear the vertebrae in his neck crack into alignment. His face drained of color mirroring my paled look. Very slowly he turned his head toward the pitch-black highway behind his patrol car.

“Are you screwing with me?!”


His eyes widened and the expression that was on his face disappeared into a stare of panic.

“yee naaldlooshii.” He whispered under his breath.

“Wh-Where did you see this!?” He continued.

I couldn’t remember, I had driven so fast and kept looking forward I wasn’t paying attention to any mile markers.

“I’m…I’m not sure, 8 to 10 miles back, maybe?”

“Son of a bitch. Get out of here! Right now! Get back to Flagstaff; do not stop for anything! Get out of here! Now!”

He tore up his notes and threw my ID and registration at me as he sprinted back to his vehicle. I went to open my glove box and return my registration when he laid on the horn multiple times.


I hastily threw my ID and registration toward my passenger seat, turned my truck on and sped off. He followed me closely for the next 25 miles and then turned off at the junction for Route 89 South and Highway 545.

I pulled into the parking lot of the Flagstaff Inn still frightened and confused. My brain was moving a hundred miles a minute trying to make sense of what actually happened, and what I saw. A chilling voice in my head kept repeating “yee naaldlooshii” over and over.

After parking in front of my room, I got out and walked around to the passenger side door. My ID and registration had fallen onto the floor during the chaos of my ordered evacuation from the desert. I opened up my glovebox, threw my registration in and returned the ID to my wallet. My day bag was sitting on the seat; I threw the strap over my shoulder and locked the door.

     Stepping away from the truck I noticed four distinct claw marks on the backside of my bumper just below the tail light. The marks were long and thin, not too deep, but noticeable in the moonlight. The bumper wasn’t completely punctured, but it looked like a cluster of sharp branches scratched along the back end of my truck.

   I stumbled into the room. My back was stiff and my legs were locked up from sitting for the past four hours. I grabbed the remote, flipped on ESPN, and plopped down on the end of the bed to collect myself.

“Yee Naaldlooshii” continued to repeat in my mind. A terrifying broken record continuously looping on repeat reminding me of the unearthly monster I had encountered in the desert. I pulled out my phone and searched the phrase. My spelling was off; I had searched “Ye Naldoolshe” but it was soon corrected to the proper spelling on Google. My chest tightened and my mouth fell open. I sat in a trance of horror staring at the results as baseball highlights replayed from earlier that day.

Yee Naaldlooshii is the Navajo term for “Skinwalker.”

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus you own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.