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Jim Doran and Michelle Carras

Jim Doran
This Is It

Created using Michelle Carras’s story (below) as inspiration

Dissolve
By Michelle Carras

I found the Buddha in his room, sitting on his bed. If he was meditating, he wasn’t doing it in his traditional lotus position. He was staring straight ahead at the window, perfectly still. I hestitated at the door to the room, then knocked on the doorjamb.

The Buddha opened his eyes slowly and turned his head toward me, looking around me to either side. I guess we were not being watched, because he patted the bed next to him, so I went in.

“You know what I’ve told you before about you being the next Buddha.”

I nodded, my heart suddenly jumping again. If it jumped any more I’d need to get up and start exercising to keep up with it.

“Well, the time is near. We’ve done a lot of work on your mindfulness training, and you’ve learned what you’re capable of. I cannot let you become a part of the Project. We must prevent that at all costs.”

I was fine with that one. “But how are we going to do it? My parents have supposedly already consented. I told the doctor that I would get them to change their minds, but the truth is that over my whole lifetime they have never listened to me or let me make one decision for myself.”

“We have time,” the Buddha said. “We’ll see what presents itself. In the meantime, let’s continue your training.” He stood up and touched my arm; two touches in one day went a long way toward me feeling more normal. “Let’s go where we won’t attract attention–well, more attention,” he said with an ironic smile.

After the drifters got bored with our public meditation session, we continued in silence for some time. We had become used to talking very quietly, and spent the next half hour practicing a new technique–managing the interdependence of my body with other objects. It quickly became clear, once the Buddha explained, that the concept of interdependence could be used to physically intersperse myself with other things. So, instead of just dissolving, I dissolved through, like a ghost moving through walls. I was shocked enough to pop back out of dissolve mode the first time my hand, resting on my knee and touching the wall, went through the wall. For a moment, my hand was solidly through a thin piece of wall, stuck on the other side like a monkey with its hand in the cookie jar. The Buddha noticed my eyes wide open in panic and held out both hands, palms down, to remind me to calm down. I nodded and took a few more deep breaths. He helped out by guiding me into the body scan and I was quickly able to dissolve again and retrieve my hand.

After pulling it out, I stopped meditating to examine it. It looked perfectly normal, not in any way like a hand that had just been mixed in with a wall. I shook my head in disbelief before closing my eyes again and sinking into the state of concentration I had gotten so used to. This time I heard the Buddha’s voice clearly.

“As you travel through the wall, remember that you also are still here.” He paused; his voice was hypnotic, tranquilizing. “When you are finished, you can return to this iteration of yourself.” He paused again and I took the time to really feel myself as a part of the wall, the space behind the wall. When thoughts came in of what this could mean, what I could do with it, his voice would return to guide me. “Use your senses to experience the area behind the wall. What can you touch? What do you feel?”

I sent all of my awareness into the hand that was behind the wall. Right now, it was the relaxed fist I usually kept it in when meditating. I opened it and felt my fingers brush against wires, lengths of metal. I turned it this way and that to feel the wires as they traveled vertically and horizontally, the supports, the wood that held it all together.

“Can you feel anything detached in there? You can interact with that as well.”

I continued to feel around, moving my hand lower on the wall until I felt the floor. Running my hand along it, I came across a small, soft lump. I thought about what it might be, traced its outline with my fingers. With a heavy heart I latched my fingers around it and drew my hand out through the wall. The mouse was so tiny, probably a baby. His body was rigid, legs out in front, tail curled under.

“He has gone on,” said the Buddha.

“Can you do anything for him?” I stroked his fur with one finger.

“No, Leo. That is beyond my abilities. However, I want you to remember him, and remember how our awareness of the nature of existence allows us to transcend earthly considerations.” The Buddha reached out a hand, and I placed the mouse gently into it. He returned the hand to his lap, cradling the mouse gently, then covering it with his other hand. He closed his eyes for a moment, and I could feel something radiating from him, from his heart center, where he told me the lovingkindness meditation originated.

Then he opened his eyes and slowly uncovered the mouse. In his hand lay a tiny silver mouse charm with a tail curled in an S-shape just like the real mouse’s had been. I gasped and picked up the charm between two fingers. It was about as big as my thumbnail and had detailed strokes of fur, four tiny paws and two jeweled eyes.

I looked up at the Buddha, who smiled at me and closed my hand over the charm, just in time. He removed his hand quickly as I noticed a shadow on the wall. I gulped and slowly placed the mouse between my crossed legs, pushing him under one calf.

“Are you idiots still at it? You look so stupid. They should make it a rule that you can’t do that here.”

I sighed in relief and turned to face Adrian. “Hi Adrian, how’s the anger managment going?”

He shoved me with his toe. “Shut up, idiot. I know what you’re doing over here.”

I looked back at the Buddha, who shook his head imperceptibly. “Really? Do you want to join us? It can really help with controlling negative emotions.”

“Fuck you, man, I can control my own emotions. I don’t need this bullshit.” This time he looked over his shoulder, then aimed a harder kick at my kidney. I grunted and bent to cover that side, thinking I would probably have to curl into a ball–or maybe dissolve into the wall–but then he left.

Caleb came runing over at that point. “Man, I saw what happened–you OK?”

I stayed bent over a little bit, this time to make sure the mouse charm stayed well hidden. I didn’t know what Caleb would do but wasn’t sure I was ready to find out.

I didn’t have much of a choice, however; Caleb sat back down next to me and crossed his legs. “So, what are we doing?” he asked, looking between me and the Buddha.

The Buddha didn’t respond; instead, he nodded toward me. It was my time to take it. I thought about where I had come from in the last weeks–severely disturbed teenager who couldn’t keep himself from cleaning everything for hours, trying to convince people he could dissolve, to leader-in-training of a whole religion. For now, though, I was just Leo, Crazy Caleb’s friend, leading him in something that would help.

“Let’s do a body scan.” I tucked my hands into my lap, palming the mouse up and slipping him into my pants pocket, hoping no one would notice.

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Jim Doran_Carras I

Jim Doran
Inspiration piece provided to Michelle Carras

Untitled
By Michelle Carras

“Oh, nice.” Slick John picked up the cards that had been laid on the table and held them at arms’ length. You would think he wouldn’t need reading glasses anymore, but as he discovered, this was only one of the little quirks of the afterlife that no one had ever imagined. Another was his assignment: level sixteen collector.   Apparently he had pissed off someone somewhere and was now responsible for harvesting the souls of crime bosses and crooked billionaires until a suitable replacement could be found. But these cards might be his chance to move on. If he could only decipher the clues.

“Elias T. Esterhazy, I’m tired of screwing around with you. Come out, come out, wherever you are…” Slick John put down the cards and picked up the note from the felted surface of the gaming table. ” ‘The game is once again afoot,’ ” he read. “Cheesy. ‘We’ve met twice before, and each time I’ve won. Now I’ve found a way to hide from you forever.'”

Slick John settled his bones into one of the overstuffed wing chairs next to the fireplace. Maybe reading the note by firelight would bring out something he had been missing.

Use the cards. I’ve left them in just the right order for you, all you have to do is figure out their message and you’ll know where I am. Shouldn’t be too hard for an all-powerful being like you. Oh wait, I forgot; I did cheat you before. Well, perhaps I won’t be seeing you after all, then. Best of luck.

The first time Slick John came for Elias T. Esterhazy was at his son’s Little League game. Esterhazy was bent over double in the bleachers, hand on his chest, gasping for air when he arrived. Of course, Esterhazy was able to see Slick John, and in his vanity, his pride, attempted to hold him off with the hand not clutching his chest. At that moment, however, the nine-year-old pitcher’s ball went wild and slammed into the eight-year-old batter’s chest. The kid sunk to the ground, and Slick John zipped over. “I’ll be back!” he yelled as he disappeared with his new charge, but probably Esterhazy didn’t hear him over the sound of the ambulance.

The second time Slick came for him, a post-bypass Esterhazy was on the back nine with his regular golfing buddies. The winds were picking up, the sky was a lovely shade of gray-purple, and Larry was getting nervous again.

“Guys, you know I don’t like to be out when there’s a storm.”

“Jesus Christ, you pussy; you’ve already been struck by lightning. Man up and stop whining about it.” Esterhazy had his head down and a Macanudo in his teeth while he lined up his shot. Then again, as he had three years before, he clutched the front of his polo and crumpled. “Shit!” he managed to groan as he saw Slick John drift up again.

“We meet again. Ready this time?”

“Fuck no.” He pushed himself up with one hand and tried to crawl toward the forest.

“You can’t escape, you idiot. That was luck last time.” Slick John stalked slowly up to him, then kept pace while Esterhazy wriggled along. “I can’t tell you how much crap I got when I missed my chance with you, not just from the boss, but also from the level fifteen collectors, those bastards. It set me back probably hundreds of years. Just give it up now and stop whining, as you told your friend here.”

They both looked up to Larry, who was still cowering at the edge of the woods. Suddenly 300 million volts of electrical current came crashing through the woods and into the elm Larry stood under, splitting the ancient tree in two and sending a five-foot long chunk of wood directly into his heart.

“Shit,” said Slick John.

Esterhazy collapsed back onto the ground, tears of laughter and pain flowing. Slick John heard a wheezy goodbye as he drifted off with his newest soul.

But now it was definitely time. Not that he hadn’t said that before, but this time the boss was surely going to make good on his threat to send him off to Ethiopia to harvest the AIDS babies if he wasn’t able to deliver. And he’d surely be kicked out of the Twenty and Under Club if he messed up again. Being a level sixteen had a lot of expectations, and Slick John was known as a screw-up.

He spread the cards out on the table. The Four Horsemen–which one was him?  He stroked his skeletal jaw.  He’d be the tall one in the middle, he guessed.  So, maybe that card could mean Death in general. And the middle one…wait, now he remembered.  This was the Deck Dorandi, from 18th-century Romania. The middle one was the nursemaid suit, so the eight of nursemaids.  And the third was the ship, escape…and the number eternity…eternal escape.  Then a card face down that turned out to be blank.  So Esterhazy thought he could escape Slick John? With the help of…the eighth nursemaid?? And what was that blank card supposed to mean?

Firelight reflected in the silver photo frames over the mantle caught his eye, and he drifted over to have a look. Esterhazy some years ago with his third wife, their son perched on a horse between them. Later with wife number four, the current, the twins in a huge stroller pushed by the nanny, a black-haired, green-eyed beauty the tabloids said he had slept with as soon as she was hired. Slick John looked again. Trust Esterhazy to hook up with the only gypsy in Connecticut. If she was what he thought she was, he knew he’d have to move fast.

He tuned in and found her; she was in the eighth bedroom. There was blood everywhere, but he knew he was close to finding Esterhazy. “There’s a very good chance you’ll make it,” he told the little lovely.

She lay almost unconscious on the floor, blood dripping from the knife in her thigh. “If I tell you, will you get him instead? He used me…”

“I’d be only too happy to. Tell me quick.”

She was, as he expected, one of the few remaining who knew the Old Ways. The Deck Dorandi had been handed down to her from her grandmother, who taught her its powers and all the ways it could be used. Lovely’s eyes were closed when she finished, but she wasn’t gone quite yet.

Slick John flew back to the cards.  Just for show, he took the key from his wrist, the one that would let him access any hiding place a reluctant subject might find. “Could you be…here, Esterhazy?” he said, placing the key on top of a humidor. “Or here?” He put the key against a map of Hungary that hung above the fishtank. All the while, he tapped the cards against his jaw as if he were thinking. “No wait, I know…”

He splayed the cards down again on the table. “Only the nursemaid stands between death and eternal escape…into nowhere. I’ve got to think about this,” he said aloud, and casually placed his key atop the blank card. “Oh my,” he said when it began to glow yellow. “What could that be?”

“No!” came a tinny voice from the card. Shortly it was joined by a calaca version of Elias T. Esterhazy in a golfing outfit and sombrero.  “You can’t get me, I’m safe in here! For eternity!”

“That’s right, you’re safe in there for eternity. And in such a handy little form, too. In fact, you can ride in here,” said Slick John, pocketing the card inside his robe. “Silly little mortal. It doesn’t matter what form you’re in. As long as you’re riding with me, you’re not walking around on this particular plane of existence. It’s over.”

“Nooooo!” The voice trailed off under his robe, and Slick John was happy. Not only would the level fifteens most likely stop getting on his case, he had a little buddy to come with him to work. And maybe one day, Elias T. would be ready to take over. He certainly had the cajones for it.

——————————————————-
Note: All of the art, writing, and music on this site belongs to the person who created it. Copying or republishing anything you see here without express and written permission from the author or artist is strictly prohibited.

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One comment

  1. This is some excellent writing and art work. I find the narrator in the first story as well as Slick John quite compelling characters. I also like the colorful nature of the first drawing and the tarot cards excellent accompaniment. Thank you!



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