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Michael & Gina Sit On The Roof

technologiesMichael had been up here so many times in his life, watching the stars or waiting for fireworks with a good view. This roof had become as familiar to him as his own house had, except he’d spent so much more time here, at Lucy’s, that it almost felt more like home than his own home had. He glanced over his shoulder at the sound of someone coming onto the roof behind him, only to see his friend Gina crawling up to sit beside him, handing him a coffee mug and holding one for herself. Michael took the mug and took a long sip as Gina settled herself beside him on the roof.

“I think I’ve spent more time on this roof than I have inside the house, oddly enough,” Michael said, and Gina smirked.

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” she said, “This roof has seen so much more action than anywhere I’ve ever lived. You remember Lillian Burk? That girl I was in band with in high school, the sort of gothy one?”

“Yeah, I remember her,” Michael said.

“I brought her up here on New Years and kissed her,” Gina said, smiling as she looked down at the coffee she was swirling in her mug, “She ended up not being into it in the end, but it’s a very vivid, happy memory for me. This roof is where I had my first kiss.”

“Did you ever tell Lucy that?” Michael asked and Gina laughed.

“God, no, never. No, Lucy and I weren’t the sort of secret sharing best friends everyone seems to be in love with concept wise. No, we were more like the ‘let’s go to college together and be eachothers bridesmaids’ sort of best friends.”

“I remember when Kyle Lowman fell off this roof,” Michael said, taking another long sip from his mug, “Remember that?”

“I do remember that!” Gina said loudly, pointing at him, “I remember he was getting angry at Tally Spimoni for something, and he lost his footing and slid off the roof into the bushes below! He wasn’t even hurt, but he acted like he was, and of course that made Tally be all apologetic and shit. God, those two belonged together.”

A long pause came over them, as the cool summer air picked up, wafting past them, turning the weather vane on the roof a bit, the both of them watching.

“Everyone’s gone now,” Gina said, “Some are dead, some just moved and lost touch with, the only one we had left really was Lucy, and her roof. I don’t want to lose the roof. I’ve already lost my best friend.”

“They’re going to sell the house, you know that,” Michael said.

“I don’t see why we don’t just pool our money and-”

“Yeah, I can barely afford my rent, let alone half a house,” Michael said, interrupting her before she got too attached to the idea like she usually did, “No, I mean, I’m right there with you, this roof has been a major part of my life for so long, I don’t want to lose it either, but…but we’re going to, and we just need to accept that. You know, I lost my virginity up here.”

“What?!”

“Yeah,” Michael said, chuckling, “Yeah, to Carmen Tortona, from Saint Marys, remember her?”

“You lost it to a girl from a catholic school? Wow, that’s impressive,” Gina said.

“She wasn’t very catholic as it turned out,” Michael said, “But it was like, sometime in the fall, early October, and we were over here hanging out and we were seniors, I remember that, and I think we were here pet sitting cause Lucy had to go visit her grandma or something, and her parents asked me to watch the dog, so obviously I invited a girl over to a house I had all to myself a week.”

“What a casanova,” Gina said, grinning.

“Well,” Michael replied, “I do what I can for the ladies. But we were up here, and it was like one in the morning or something, and we were talking about graduation and stuff and, I don’t know, it just sort of came up that we were both still virgins, and that we liked one another enough and that we both could’ve ended up having our first time with worse people so why not do it with eachother, right?…it was nice.”

Another long pause, as Gina looked at her nails.

“Did you see Lucy after she got sick?”

“A few times,” Michael said, “Did you?”

“I couldn’t,” Gina said, “I feel awful about it, but she told me it was fine if I couldn’t stomach it. The worst part is when she told me she was going to die, I was sad but the first thing that ran through my head was ‘oh no, we’re going to lose her house’. Am I a bad person?”

“Buildings are important to people,” Michael said, shrugging, “I mean, I don’t get it but it’s true. A lot of times, when people recount memories, what they don’t realize is that the memory isn’t so much about when or how it happened or with whom it happened, but where it happened. That’s what actually helps you remember, is the setting. That’s why you were scared of losing the house when she told you she was sick, because this is where so many formative moments in your life occurred, right here, on this goddamned roof. You don’t want to lose that, nobody would.”

Another pause, and then Michael laughed and looked at Gina.

“Let’s take a shingle, each,” he said, “That way, we’ll always have some of the roof with us. Often times these homes when they get sold end up getting redone anyway, so why not? Nobody’s going to miss a few lousy shingles.”

“That’s a good idea,” Gina said, as the two of them got onto their knees and started prying some of the looser shingles free from the roof. They then picked the ones they liked best, and each took one. As they sat there, staring at their respective shingles, Michael sighed.

“Don’t worry,” he said, finishing his coffee, “There will always be other roofs, and there will always be other Lucy’s, cruel as it may sound, but there will never be another Lucy’s roof.”

Gina smiled, stood up and held her hand out. Michael took it, as she helped him up, and the two of them headed down from the roof, through the house, locking it up and out to their cars. Standing there, in the driveway, Gina looked at Michael.

“I’m hungry, you want to go get something to eat?”

“I could eat, yeah,” he replied, “You pick and I’ll just follow you.”

“Okay.”

The two got into their cars and drove away. As they left, Michael couldn’t help but glance at his rearview mirror, back at Lucy’s roof one final time, and smiled. He didn’t mean by his statement that Lucy wasn’t special or unique or that she could be easily replaced. Everyone was special and unique and couldn’t be easily replaced. He just meant that there would never be another roof like Lucy’s. One that held so much history of their youth, of their time spent together, their friendship. Other roofs would hold other history, the start of their own families, their own holiday traditions, their eventual children’s youths, but there would never be another like this roof. Yes, there will always be other roofs, other Lucy’s.

But there would never be another Lucy’s roof.

Hey, I’m Maggie. You like this thing I made? Then you might like other things I make, like my depressing webcomic “In Space, No One Can Hear You Cry”, or my writing over at Medium. You can also donate at the PayPal or follow/support my work on Patreon! Anything given will go to paying my rent and groceries, and be greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading!

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Jessica Throws Herself Down A Well

technologiesJessica Thrush stretched her arm out over its pitch black opening, only barely lit by the dim flashlight she had shaking in her other hand, and opened her clenched fist to allow the pebbles to fall into the well.

After a few minutes, she heard them hit the ground, faintly, and smiled to herself. She put the flashlight on the edge of the well, and took her brown leather jacket off, tossing it on the ground. She then began to pace back and forth as she started to put her hair up in a ponytail, mumbling to herself. She finally stopped, looked at the well and approached it again, leaning over, looking back down the hole. She walked farther away, flashlight in hand, and then beamed it back at the dilapidated house, the shingles sliding off the roof, the paint peeling, the windows somewhat broken. She felt herself get choked up, and quickly shut it down. Jessica started to head towards the house, and pushed on the door, but it wouldn’t budge. She put all her strength into her right shoulder and pushed her way through, realizing that some boards from the second floor had fallen down and wedged themselves between the floor and the door, causing it to be stuck.

As Jessica looked around at the house that used to be hers, recognizing that nobody else had been here in years. She let her flashlights faded beam dance across the rotting wallpaper, landing on the fireplace mantel, where it finally settled on a box sitting on the mantel. Jessica walked over to it and cautiously removed it from the mantel, then made her way to the middle of the living room, sitting down in the middle of the floor, cross legged, and put the end of the flashlight in her mouth. She slowly opened the old box, and inside was a twirling ballerina. The old music she’d left here was still here, and still functional. She wiped the tears from her eyes, her mascara rubbing off on the sides of her hand, and stood up, heading upstairs now.

This was where it’d all been. The only good memories she’d had of her life. Not because of the people she was with here, but because of the place itself. Because of how good the place had made her feel. In the open fields at night, looking at the stars, and in the open fields in the day, looking for birds. Sitting in the upstairs bedroom with her sister, reading or doing puzzles. Sitting with their parents at the breakfast table, laughing and happy. But that was then, and this was now, and now the house was gone, her family was gone, and her will was gone.

When she opened the door to her old bedroom, she half expected to see her sister sitting inside, still reading magazines or listening to records on their grandpas old record player, but no. It was just as empty and run down as every other part of the house. On the old desk they’d left behind, she ran her fingertips across a phrase they’d etched into the wood the night before they left. “Home again, home again, jiggity jig.” She let a smirk skip across her lips as she read it, and then looked at where their old bed was. The place they sat, discussing their first kisses, her sisters first time, and were read stories by their mom at night. But once again, it wasn’t so much the people involved, as much as it was the bed itself. The room. This place had once held so much light, and now it was black as the depths of space itself. After a few moments of running her palm across the decaying wallpaper with the carousel horses on it, she finally let herself head back downstairs.

As Jessica exited the house, she put the music box on the edge of the well and took a long, deep breath. Why wouldn’t she be buried with her family? Why wouldn’t she want to be with them, if she’d loved them so much? Because Jessica wanted to be here. She wanted her final resting place to be the place she’d been happiest. This, to her, was where her life had began, and where she wanted it to end. Jessica walked back to the well, looked into the hole again and sighed. Home isn’t just a place, it’s a feeling, and no place had given her that feeling like this one had. This was her home. This was her casket. Besides, if you believed in the afterlife, she didn’t have to be buried with her family anyway, she’d see them no matter where her physical body landed.

“Home again, home again, jiggity jig,” she muttered under her breath as she shut her eyes, clenched her fists and let herself lean forward, falling headfirst into the well to her death.

This is the first piece in a series I’m doing called “Irrational Attachment To Places”, mostly inspired by this Medium article I wrote recently. These will continue sporadically here and on Medium. If you liked this, you could also check out my webcomic, “In Space, No One Can Hear You Cry”, or my communal site “Sad Party”, where I encourage others to share their sadness so others don’t feel alone.

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So She Made Planets

She can create planets on a whim.

She’s had this ability for as long as she can remember. She can recall the first time she made a star, while playing outside one soft summer afternoon, at her daycare, waiting for her mother to come and pick her up. Everyone acts like it’s something special, but it isn’t, not once you’ve done a hundred thousand times, it becomes just as mundane as any other talent or skill. She can remember sitting with some other kids during lunchtime in elementary school, wowing them with her abilities to be able to create meteors from thin air. She became a magic trick; something kids asked for at their birthday parties, something adults used when out of town family members dropped in and wanted an experience. But she didn’t mind, she liked the attention, and she liked showing off her abilities.

There’s no life on her planets. They’re barren and cold, desolate, uninhabitable. All of these things are small, no bigger than a softball, but still, they’re hers, and she loves them. She spent a lot of her teenage girls in her bedroom, record player on repeat, laying on her back on the floor, just reaching up into the air above her face and creating entire galaxies. A black hole here, a milky way there, a star system, an asteroid field, you name it and she’d make it. She could entertain herself for hours with this. As with all novelties though, it faded with time. Life overtakes hobbies. The things that make you happiest fall by the wayside, even if they’re magical and not mundane in the slightest. She had to study. She had to date. She had to graduate, get into college and get a job. Not because she wanted any of this, but because everyone told her to.

“Making stars isn’t going to guarantee you a future,” they’d tell her, “People want real work skills.”

Resume after resume, essay after essay, lecture after lecture…spending countless, sleepless nights in the school library, trying to finish that paper due the following morning and instead finding herself blipping whole new worlds into creation in the palm of her hand, with the flip of her wrist. It got to the point where it didn’t bring her happiness, because it wasn’t what was “supposed” to bring her happiness. Marriage. A family. A career. Those were what happiness was to be reserved for. Not making stars. Not making planets. After a while, she’d spend all day long at work, come home and go to sleep. Go out with friends. Go out on dates. Soon she never made stars at all.

And then one day, she found she just didn’t want to, and this upset her even more. How could something so special, something so many people had, at one point in time, fawned over her for and told her was unique, was a gift, become so…so boring and unwanted? Even to the person who controlled said gift? Nothing lasted. People came and went. Jobs began and ended. Now she just sits on her bedside, in the dark, in her pajamas, repeatedly making planets and stars and meteors for the sake of doing something, anything at all, and not feeling totally and completely useless.

And then one night, she made a planet, and it was inhabited. This had never happened before. The people on it, they appreciated their existence, they thanked her graciously, they’d needed her to be. She was useful. Important. They enjoyed what she’d given them. They enjoyed her. She was loved. She created another and another and another, filling her bedroom over the following weeks with tiny, inhabited planets, and finally accepting this was who she was. She wasn’t like all the other people. She could do things they couldn’t do. She could make planets.

So she made planets.

And she was fine with that.

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Nice Girls Don’t Burn Ants

I remember sitting at the kitchen table, listening to my parents tell me why what I was doing was wrong. How it was scaring the other children. How I needed to stop doing it. I thought to myself, ‘Well, what about the boy who wants to poke people with scissors or the girl who pulls other girls hair?’ but the thing is, it didn’t matter. I’d been singled out, solely for making the decision at age 8 that I wanted to burn ants with a magnifying glass at lunchtime instead of playing with the other kids.

I remember being forced to see the school psychiatrist; a smarmy, smug woman with shoulder pads and an eighties hairdo with large wire rimmed glasses, who asked me why I did what I did. What made me want to kill ants? I just shrugged. I didn’t have an answer. I was 8. I told her, “Why not?” because really, why not? She asked me why I didn’t prefer playing with the other children, as if social interaction is all that matters in this world. I told her I didn’t like them. She asked if I wanted to burn them too, and I was horrified. Who would want to burn other people?!

I remember being told by my older sister, “You’ll never get a boyfriend if you continue to burn ants,” to which I thought to myself ‘good’. I’d rather burn ants than care what some stupid boy thinks. I remember kids signing my elementary school yearbook when I graduated 6th grade, ‘Have a nice summer, pyro!’ and wondering what pyro even meant, then upon the discovery of its definition, why they chose to associate it with me simply for burning insignificant insects. I remember being in middle school and having people walk by and ask how many ants I’d burned today, even though I didn’t do it anymore.

I remember getting an ant farm in my freshman year of highschool. I ordered it from the back of a science magazine I’d begged my parents to subscribe to. It was 11.95, and it arrived in less than a week. I set the ant farm on my desk, and every night when I did my homework, I’d do it in front of the ants. I drank my first beer in front of the ants. I had my first kiss in front of the ants. I lost my virginity in front of the ants. When I went away to college, I took the ant farm with me. I still have an ant farm. It’s been 30 years since I’ve burned ants for a few weeks in elementary school. Some of the other students I knew ended up in prison, ended up dead, or ended up never graduating. I burned ants, and they made it a huge deal.

I’m well adjusted, I have a nice job, I’m married and make a decent living. I’m happy, but I did learn something from this. It taught me that curiosity is deemed ‘dangerous’ if it’s something that isn’t within the norm. I encourage my children to be weird. I encourage them to explore and discover, to be who they want to be and I’ll never ask them why. Asking them why puts doubt in their mind. “Am I really that different? Am I…wrong?” I don’t want to do to them what everyone did to me.

Be weird. Be creative. Burn some ants every now and then.

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You Left Us Little Choice

Derek Fisher and Sandy Price were cruising through a parking lot, attempting to find a space to park so they could go inside and eat dinner. They’d been dying to try out this new place, ‘Spoonfed’, for weeks now. They finally had saved up some cash to do so, and had made am 8:00 P.M. reservation for that evening. Derek checked the time on his car dashboard again as Sandy circled around once more. It was now 7:47 P.M. and Derek sighed, leaning his elbow against the door and rubbing his forehead.

“Don’t worry, it’s gonna be fine,” Sandy said.

“This is the highlight of our week. Do you realize that? Do you realize that this is…this is our…our night out? And…and you can’t even, like, it’s fucking frustrating. We don’t get weekends off work because we need the money, so this is what we have to do. Scrimp and save. Daydream about eating a fucking restaurant. THAT’S high class for us.”

“Derek, don’t do this,” Sandy said, sounding exasperated, “I know it’s annoying, I know, but we’ll find a spot. It’s a parking lot. Granted, it’s a public, free lot but still. There may be some competition but we’ll find a place. It’s not a thing to get worked up over.”

“I just, I don’t…I don’t think you see what I’m getting at here.”

“I see exactly what you’re getting at here,” Sandy said, “And I agree. This is sad. This is our fun. We don’t get glitz and glamour and champagne and we don’t get to even go to a country club once a month or something.”

“Like you’d ever be caught dead at a country club.”

“My point is, you’re right. But it still isn’t something to get upset over, especially when in a few minutes, we’ll be sitting down to a table and enjoying dinner,” Sandy said.

“I guess you’re right,” Derek said, “I’m sorry.”

Sandy pulled around again, and this time they spotted a spot. They both perked up immediately. Sandy started to push a little bit more on the gas and as they were halfway to it, another car pulled in. They stopped, sitting in the idling car, and Derek could barely breath. They watched a well dressed older couple get out of the car, which was a fancy Lexus, and Derek balled his fists up.

“Are you. fucking. KIDDING ME,” he snarled, getting out as Sandy grabbed at the back of his shirt to keep him in the car, but to no avail. He leaned on his door and looked at the older couple. He whistled and that got their attention; they both turned and noticed him.

“Excuse me,” he said, “We’ve been driving for…god, a half hour I guess now, trying to find a spot and we found this one and we were about to park when you swooped in and took it from under us.”

“Oh, well, we’re sorry, we didn’t know,” the older man said, looking back from his car to Derek.

“Well, is there any way we could get you to give it up? This is our one time out in a long time, we both work all the time, we just want to have a nice dinner. We…we don’t have the money to pay for a garage spot or we would. We’d be so grateful if you could-”

“We’ll be late for our reservation,” the older man said, helping his wife into her coat.

“But you can just go down the block and get a garage spot. You can pay to do that. We can’t but you can.”

“Just because I can pay for it doesn’t mean I should. This is free, public parking. I’d like to take advantage of that.”

“But you don’t HAVE TO!” Derek shouted, “Do you not see the…the problem here? The problem isn’t that you took a space we were about to take, the problem is that you CAN pay for parking, but you just WON’T. We can’t even do that. We could BARELY afford this dinner! Why not spend the extra bit of cash if you can afford to?”

“Because I don’t want to,” the older man said.

“What’s your name, sir?” Derek asked.

“Peter,” he said.

“Peter, hi, I’m Derek. Listen, you work. I work. You make money. I make money. The difference is that you came from a generation when work actually allowed you to survive. I don’t. See, people my age, we don’t have that luxury. We barely have any luxuries to be honest with you, but when we do, it’s like the end of the fucking world for us. It’s like your team winning the goddamn Superbowl. You know what I mean? Did you ever have a time in your life when you had to save for something? Maybe like, when you were young parents and your kid needed braces, but you weren’t making enough yet and so you had to save every last penny?”

“Yeah, it’s something we’ve all been through,” Peter said as his wife applied some lipstick, clearly annoyed at having to wait out this conversation.

“Okay, well, take that and multiply it by ‘forever’. That’s our reality. We don’t have the whole ‘work your way up’ thing at jobs anymore, alright? That…that doesn’t exist. We live our lives in perpetual saving mode. That’s just how things are for us. And you can’t say it’s because we don’t apply ourselves. God knows we try.”

“Nobody’s saying you don’t, but what I am saying is this; you will get there. Be patient.”

“No, no, see, Peter, we WON’T. We won’t because the middle class doesn’t exist anymore. That isn’t a thing. It’s a piece of the past,” Derek said. They heard a car door shut and Derek looked back to see Sandy getting out on her side.

“Derek, come on, let’s just go,” she said, “I’m hungry.”

“I’m-I’m in the middle of something here,” he said.

“Derek?” Peter asked, “Can we go now? We really do have to catch a reservation.”

“Peter wait,” Derek said, chasing after them, “I just want you, if nothing else, to at least recognize that you can pay for the parking. At least admit that to me. Because see, when you say you don’t ‘want’ to, that’s different. You guys, you have choices. You grew up with the options. We don’t have choices or options. That’s why if we had the money, we’d spend it, because we don’t really know a life with money, and all we know is how life is without it. That’s why money makes no real difference to us, not in the abstract.”

“Money doesn’t make a difference?”

“No, ugh, how do I explain this,” Derek said, shaking his head.

“I think what he means is that…it’s like when you live your life in poverty, ok? You don’t know what it feels like to NOT live in poverty, so therefore without the concept of spending money, you feel like spending money isn’t really that bad a thing. It’s like being a kid and saying, ‘I can’t wait to grow up so I can stay up all night like mom and dad!’. Get it? That sorta thing,” Sandy said.

“Yes,” Derek said, snapping his fingers, pointing from Sandy to Peter and his wife, “Yeah, no, that’s a great analogy Sandy, thank you. This is what I’ve been trying to get through to you.”

“We’re leaving now, Derek,” Peter said, taking his wifes hand and leading her through the parking lot.

“Poverty isn’t preferred, Peter!” Derek shouted after them, “Your generation used up everything, hiked up the cost of living and holds those under it to the same standards! It isn’t fair! Fuck you Peter! Fuck you and fuck your fancy car and your fancy clothes and your wife! Fuck your mcmansion!”

Sandy sighed and shook her head.

“NOW can we go?” she asked.

“I don’t get it, how can they NOT care? About the problems their own children, or people their childrens age, are facing?”

“Because they’re not facing them themselves, Derek,” Sandy said, “They got a free ride, and they don’t see anything as being hard because it wasn’t for them. Simple as that. Now can we go? Inequality isn’t part of a full dinner.”

“Yeah. Alright.”

As they got back into their car, a homeless man showed up at Dereks window and knocked on the glass. Derek rolled his window down.

“Can you spare a dollar?” he asked, and Derek reached into his pocket, pulled out a dollar and shoved it into the homeless mans hand before they drove off. Sandy grinned.

“You didn’t have to do that,” she said, “I wouldn’t have called you a hypocrite.”

“I know,” Derek said, “But it’s still the right thing to do.”

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Edit Depressive Settings? Y/N?

At some point in the future, they will be able to edit your brain.

It will become a standard procedure, almost as common as botox injections or breast implants or even dental surgery. Cosmetic, but on the inside. Surgery to make you more mentally appealing, more mentally stimulating, more mentally capable. They will give you a paper with a list of things you can check off that you’d like to have removed. Each one will have varying prices, depending on the severity of the problem and the problem itself. Severe clinical depression, for example, would cost around $1200, but a more minor depressive state may only cost half that.

Imagine being able to walk into a hospital with a mental illness or a way of thinking and walk out completely different; now able to assimilate yourself into whatever group you’d like with no qualms. It could be covered by insurance. It could be done on a routine basis. Imagine being a new person anytime you wanted. This, along with general cosmetic surgery, it’d soon be hard to distinguish who anyone really is and what they really believe. It’s a slippery slope, as is any editing of the human condition. All at once full of promise and hope and yet tinged with danger and fraught with worry. I know I for one would take advantage of it. If I could walk into a medical facility today, say “here’s $300, please lower the anxiety level in my brain by a good percentage”, and walk out finally capable of dealing with social situations of any kind in a normal way…why wouldn’t I go for that?

They say that’s how you lose yourself. They say that depression, anxiety, any way your brain functions is what makes up who you are but what if you’re unhappy with who you are? Change is difficult. Change via medical routes is much, much easier, if one can afford such a delicacy. Perhaps, like many things, it will only be available to the rich. Or perhaps there will be a fractured group; some of the more ‘interesting’ mental health issues will only be available to be edited by the rich. The possibilities are endless, and thus, terrifying. Editing ones brain could become the ‘1%’ thing to do. And while it could have its benefits as well as its drawbacks, there will always be those opposed to anything that makes us ‘less human’. The naturalists. The ones who are against 3D printed attachments and prosthetic limbs.

People with violent tendencies could have those edited out if they wished. People with abhorrent sexual fantasies could have those wiped away if they so desired. People with homophobia, racism or sexism could have those things taken right out. Homogenized, at what the conservatives would surely call ‘a liberal brainwashing at its finest, most literal form’.

Yes, at some point in the future, they will be able to edit your brain.

What a grand future we’ll live in.