LORI R. LOPEZ: An Appreciation
Poems, Thoughts, & A Story
from the Macabre Mistress
from the Macabre Mistress
Formatted by Anthony Servante and Lori R. Lopez
A Tip of the Hat to the Readers
The Servante of Darkness Blog would love to show its appreciation to longtime contributor and participant in the blog's history, Lori R. Lopez. She has had her books reviewed here, her poems have shrouded the poetry column, and she has been interviewed for both the Cybernocturnalism and Zombies, Ghouls, and Gods series. I count on her for help with the blog when I need it, and I count her as one of my friends in cyber-space and anyplace. Please welcome the talented wordsmith, author, artist, and Renaissance Woman, Lori R. Lopez.
1. Can you tell us about Lori the mom and parent, past and present?
I have two grown sons, Noél and Rafael. They’ve been my inspiration as well as gravity for more than two decades, keeping me going and my feet on the ground. Otherwise I’m sure I would be floating off in the clouds somewhere, lost in my dreams and make-believe worlds. Thanks to them I have the courage to do what I’m doing. And I have tried my best to be as supportive of them and their interests, their dreams, as possible.
Since I was small I had many creative interests. As an adult I worked on songs and other writing projects, then wrote and illustrated two children’s books when my kids were little. I also worked on drafts for novels, but primarily for many years I focused my time and energy on homeschooling them from Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade. I cheered them on and helped with their performing as Mexican folk dancers on stages and a few television shows (I went so far as to join one of the groups they started in for a while). I rooted for them on soccer teams, practiced with them, even coached a couple. I rehearsed with them for acting auditions and encouraged them to aim high with science fair projects. We practiced music now and then, wanting to form a band, but there wasn’t time.
Once they were grown, we formed a creative company together to pursue our mutual interests. I began self-publishing a number of books and stories with their assistance on technical aspects and photos. My son Rafael has published a book and stories, which I edited. Noél composed music for a book trailer and author readings. We plan to do some films and music together. We’re a team, helping each other, backing each other up.
2. I find your activist work fascinating. Can you share with the readers the causes you support and what this work entails?
Activism is a way of life, a mindset to change the world. As an author I incorporate meaningful statements and messages into what I write. That, I feel, is a lasting contribution. I cannot give much financially yet, although I have tried to where and when possible. I also sign petitions and attempt to spread the word about important issues. There are a number of causes I believe in. Animal rights, for one. I’ve been a vegetarian since age fifteen. My sons decided several years ago to be vegetarian as well, then Noél turned vegan. Rafael and I are headed in that direction. We care about animals and do what we can for them in our personal lives and professionally. We’re conservationists and members of Greenpeace. There are other causes I hold dear. The rights of children, for example. When I first got involved on Facebook, I spent a year listening and giving advice to fellow victims of abuse. That was a very enriching and healing time, and I met some wonderful people. Then I started meeting other indie authors. I volunteered my services free as an editor to some over a few years. My family and I donated books to causes such as Greenpeace, Authors Supporting The Troops (started by author Armand Rosamilia), and the Saiya Community Library in Kenya (thanks to an invitation from Moses Akwiri Okoth, who has a number of projects to benefit the youth and women of his community, including a shelter for abused females of all ages).
My sons and I are doing our best to set a positive example. I feel I haven’t done nearly enough and that sometimes I fall short despite good intentions due to lack of time and income. I have the utmost respect for those who are doing so much more. Robin Williams is a true inspiration. I wish I could be as generous and giving as he was. He had an amazing spirit and a humongous heart. Princess Diana is another inspiration.
Here's the link for a recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video we did at the beach. I provide some helpful information regarding health and illnesses, alternatives that do not involve animal testing:
The Ice Bucket Challenge
3. Can you talk about the Renaissance Woman whose art swings from word to picture and everything in between?
Well, I’ve had this list ever since childhood of the things I wanted to do in life. My sons are the same. We share a variety of talents. I love being able to combine writing with art. Otherwise I push art aside. I used to paint and draw and write songs in addition to prose and poetry. I used to read a lot. Now there’s never enough time and it’s mainly about the prose.
Art is a tool that I have, like editing. My burning passion is writing. I have other passions: music and acting. I pushed them aside long ago with a heavy heart, but I’m going to be able to realize those dreams thanks to my sons. Rafael’s favorites are acting and filmmaking. Noél’s favorites are composing, playing music and singing. Our company, Fairy Fly Entertainment, has three departments: Literature, Film, and Music. It all works out.
4. Can you share some of your art and poetry with our readers?
Certainly. I started my “Poetic Reflections” column five years ago, in May of 2009, so that I would take the time from working on short stories and novels to write some verse. Also in an effort to make more people fans of poetry. I’ve loved verse since I was a tot hearing Mother Goose and Doctor Seuss. I especially love rhymes. They may be less popular now, but I prefer them and enjoy that they present more of a challenge.
The first poem I remember writing was in Third Grade, inspired by Otis Redding’s song SITTIN’ ON THE DOCK OF THE BAY. In 2010 I used my first thirteen columns as a framework for chapters in a volume of verse, POETIC REFLECTIONS: KEEP THE HEART OF A CHILD. I then added the lyrics from many of the songs I had been writing since the early Eighties. I wrote additional poems for the book following the themes of the chapters. This year I started putting together the next three volumes for that book series, writing new poems for each chapter. The print editions will contain original artwork.
I was going to write about this year’s blood moon for my column, but decided to do it as a sonnet piece for my third volume of verse, which will be titled POETIC REFLECTIONS: BLOOD ON THE MOON. The poem is actually a series of seven sonnets in varying styles ranging from Shakespearean/English to Miltonic, Dante’s Terza Rima, and Spenserian. There are a few variations, including an English one with my own rhyming scheme, but I largely followed tradition.
I do write poems in classic formats on occasion yet prefer to do my own thing most of the time, especially in the case of line length. Whether poetry or prose, I care a great deal about the flow.
blood on the moon
by Lori R. Lopez
Four moons, four eclipses half-years apart,
Arose in the wake of the last doom threat;
From a calendar’s end that spelled the start,
Nostradamus’s curse would soon be met.
With a fever’s pitch, a naysayer mood,
Each urgent plea fell on deaf-stricken ears;
“The apocalypse looms!” was like fast food,
Lapped up for pleasure and the taste of fear.
With malicious glee, not the least bit sad,
Would alarmist cries advertise no hope;
Merciless in tone did they herald bad
In a world where only the vicious cope
And carry sharp stones to cast at brothers,
As if gleaning joy from pain of others.
The first full orb of a blood-red quatrain
Was destined to unveil one springtime eve,
Yet the age of Man would fail to believe —
A cynical slant infected their brain;
Most perceived this warning purely mundane.
They had little time as such to bereave,
All far too busy to tremble and grieve
When skewed reflections drove the moon insane.
With an undercurrent of wait-and-see,
A planet peeked behind itself goosenecked
As the smaller globe met obscurity
And delivered a mal’volent aspect.
Nothing of consequence would that dusk be,
The moon’s countenance mere special effect.
An October moon of unhallowed birth
Would glint from shadow like a gore-drenched eye.
No revelry of harvest games and mirth
Might ignore the grim reaper in their sky,
And yet the world shrugged off its lurid gaze,
Preoccupied by woes none could deny.
A ghastly image from the end of days,
Bloodshot and leering with an ominous gleam,
Blatantly morbid, a mad frowning craze
Like the scrutiny of a killer’s dream,
The mayhem-draped vision did chill their bones,
But was dismissed as a lunatic scheme.
In this wicked month of ungodly moans,
A devil’s moon was eclipsed by the heat.
As sins boiled over, a bloodbath of fear
Turned the moon a garish and fiery hue —
The sanguine shade of a dead woman’s tear,
The third sign a darkening crimson blue
Hung like a lantern in plain bulbous view;
A brooding grimace of reckless despair,
For the disastrous nightmares coming true.
Hell’s fire and atrocities claimed a lion’s share
Of attention from the latest bloodmoon scare.
Calamities ruled dark and light without pause
Under the all-seeing eye of her glare;
That hovering demon had sunk her claws!
Coincidence? Or was the havoc related?
Every headline of news resonated.
Now the final red loon beamed down in turn
On an expectant Earth to mortify
The human race with a case of Pinkeye.
Beneath her scowl of reprehensive burn
Would the billions of anxious moongazers
Emit a unified gasp and discern
She had blood-smeared lips as if from a bite!
Whether orb or visage, her features stern,
The glowering moonbeast drew ever nigh.
How to break her dreadful spell, who would try?
Both a stare and a smirk, a witch nocturne,
The vivid specter had an appetite.
Spattered by carnage, stained by a blood-yearn,
An eyeball with a face; a face then eye . . .
A lamp of misfortune, torch of dismay,
Rapt with a ruby’s ethereal breath,
The lofty menace lingered, seizing Day.
Incisors bared, a grinning mask of death,
Radiant with a self-important sheen,
The goddess of legend had slain Macbeth.
Now Hecate would remind who is Night’s queen
And pulls the strings while we Danse Macabre;
Howling, rabid, a bloodwitch stole the scene.
Puffy and livid, the demented knob
Directed a maelstrom of fuss and flap,
A pandemonium in one dire sob.
Her fit of wrath, like a venomous mob,
Caused the land, sea and firmament to throb.
Umbral fury, this blood on the moon,
Would pour devastation over Mankind;
No zombies or plague, yet none were immune
To the ludicrous storm of a lost mind.
For Hecate appeared triple times to boast
Of her sovereign might and right to reign.
Now the lowly fools who spurned her must roast
From their own misdeeds, to wither like grain.
Such careless maintenance of the garden
On the fourth eclipse of an angry moon
Served as grounds for treason without pardon
In Hecate’s trial by fire and typhoon.
Only the grace of a goddess’s pride
Could halt the floodwaters and twist Fate’s tide.
This is another sonnet in English/Shakespearean form but without rhymes, and I varied the length of the final line to twelve instead of ten syllables. It will be published in my second volume of verse, POETIC REFLECTIONS: THE QUEEN OF HATS.
ILLUSTRATED PRINT EDITION:
ILLUSTRATED PRINT EDITION:
by Lori R. Lopez
Without ideas my head would be blank,
An endless void beneath my hat, a hunk
Of universe between my ears as vast,
Intensely hollow and forlorn as Space.
It would be like I’m floating, cartwheeling
Through the cosmos trapped inside my own skull.
Just imagine an absolute nothing,
A state of abandon very profound,
The sum of zero times infinity;
Minus your imagination, of course.
That is where I would be without my art,
Unmindful of the magic in my thoughts.
But it doesn’t take an epiphany
To realize that being me is also mad.
Here’s a poem written for THE QUEEN OF HATS that doesn’t rhyme:
by Lori R. Lopez
It descends in a continuous roar
With tinnish stray patter that pings
Echoing as if on a metal roof
Scaring off cats
Too sharp for my eardrums
Tapping helmet and armor
Slicing one-cent thoughts to ribbons
Like tear-shaped knifeblades
As I wince from the drops
That bleed out of the sky
From a monster’s eye, a wounded angel
Something amiss in the clouds
For the rain pours down a garnet hue
As if a celestial heart has burst
Or a giant’s napkin wrung after a meal
Of Englishmen and Jacks
I hunker neath the lazy leaves
Of an elephant-ear forest in my mind
Where I war with myself about afterthoughts
Inklings, reveries, fugues of ambition
The meaningful drivel, mute assertions
And over-the-top under-my-breath whispers
That frequently expel
In the blink of a starry eye
When imagination battles peace of mind
And urges action contrary
To an inward disposition
My second thoughts and just-in-cases
Shy inhibitions of a cautionary soul
The happy-go-lucky nature
Of a childlike wistful spirit
Who would rather read than write
Unlike the creative taskmaster
The whiplashing adamant slavedriver
Of an author-slash-artist
Forcing me to work without days off
To labor exhaustively for little or no pay
Under the rule of my own thumb
Who once had time to spare
On frivolities and games
Idle daydreams and fantasies
As if staring at nothing
Or just hearing the drops
Of tin rain on the roof.
Here’s a poem from the book (and one of my columns) that does rhyme:
A demon stalking down the road
Complained he had a cumbrous load
I piggybacked him for a while
But couldn’t walk a single mile
A second demon came along
Convincing me I wasn’t strong
Then rode my shoulders for a time
I dropped him to pick up a dime
The third one screeched to help him please
I dragged him clinging to my knees
The fourth was friendly, wicked too
And stole my breath till I was blue
Another demon took my hand
But won’t return it on demand
The next I lent an ear to heed
His sorrows yet began to bleed
He swallowed it and now it’s gone
I’m feeling like I’m just a pawn
Three snarling demons ripped my flesh
The skin looks like a coat of mesh
A brood of them slipped up my nose
Sometimes they tingle in my toes
A pack of them has congregated
Tried to run but should have waited
A colossal waste of energy
I curse my blasted sympathy
You can’t escape the touch of dark
Once you become its evil mark
It’s everywhere you turn to dash
And flows behind without a splash
Conspiring to embrace your fears
Licking up your languished tears
Thought I was doomed to be Hell-sent
My inner demons don’t pay rent
I’ll need an exorcism soon
To cast off every ghoulish goon
Attached to me by perfidy
If only they would let me be!
I’m robbed of faith and out of hope
They’re frazzling my final rope
The outer demons gnash and claw
I’m flayed and feeling awfully raw
It won’t be over till they leave
They’re part of me, I now believe
To sever them I would be cut
And so they chortle, how they strut
While sacrificing someone’s daughter!
I need a cross, some holy water
Or else I must adjust to quaking
With a scourge of my own making
If nothing can be done for me
If there’s no way to set me free
Oh me, oh my, I’m demon-saddled
Half driven nuts, the rest is addled
A sorry plight, I have to glout
Wish I could chase my demons out
There’s really nothing more to say
This is a dark narrative poem that rhymes:
by Lori R. Lopez
A black wind shrilled past rows of townhouses;
Somber brick facades glowered at the pair of louses
In capes, short tophats, yet uncouth who stumbled
Cursing and grunting; these surly men grumbled,
Furtively hauling a length of bundle between.
Cocooned in fabric, a rough shape could be seen
Of a body; still fresh, the flesh scarce had been cold,
Untouched by the grave, its life bought and sold,
Then delivered with discretion to an iron rear gate . . .
Where the cutthroats would not have much time to wait.
Their reward a pouch of silver coins tossed to divide,
Whilst their burden was swiftly rolled away inside.
This duo of ne’er-do-wells swaggered off to the pub,
Their task fulfilled, Conscience whittled to a nub,
To drink the profits as was their wretched habit —
When opportunity beckoned, to not hesitate and grab it.
Such louts would soon forget the murderous plot
And dire consequences that would lead their souls to rot.
The cadaver, wheeled to a dim studio and unwrapped
Like meat from a butcher shop, had itself been trapped
In a snare of lurid desire, a web of immoral madness,
By subtle attention, a mingle of fascination and sadness
On a stage lit by gaslamps, of murky clandestine stalking
At the wings and peripheries, a few steps behind walking,
Since anything these days could be obtained for a price,
Even a particular corpse availed, a human sacrifice —
Procured through underground channels, the grittiest of means,
From the dregs of society, in the harshest of scenes.
For supply and demand, no court of law existed,
No restrictions were applied and no impulse resisted.
He selected her as if culled out of a domestic herd,
For she captivated his interest without a spoken word,
Encountered by chance, a glance that stole his breath,
Her skin as white in life as it would be in death.
He had watched and drawn her from afar; in his dreams;
From memory; from every angle, on paper in reams.
Observing, self-serving, he sculpted her with his gaze,
Eyes burning as heated as a brimstone-lit haze.
Darker than coals, his need smoldered and flamed;
Passionately rapt, he cared not what she was named.
She was purely an ideal, framed intensely for art,
Though she smiled a bit crooked, at the base of his heart
Her lips held no flaw, she was a goddess in his view,
Despite laughing too loud, a tooth slightly askew,
The width of her shoulders, the size of her feet,
When she moved, talked or sighed — it defied the conceit
And ruined his image, spoiling the illusion,
A notion of perfection that could only be delusion —
Carved on a pedestal, frozen in place,
Forced to be a statue with angelic poise and grace.
The reality was inferior, so she had to be killed;
To immortalize her grandeur, the vision must be chilled,
For her life held no value when compared to the peak
Of such envious virtue, the acme of physique.
She had to die for the sake of an artist’s perspective,
Preserved forever free of taint, wholly undefective,
Although he was no thug, but a gentleman and saint;
The blood on his hands would wash off like paint.
There were men always willing to perform any crime,
Whatever the dark deed, at whichever the time.
The sole purpose she served was to shine without crease,
And briefly embody his life’s masterpiece,
The model of more than she represented in life:
Immaculate, innocent, neither harlot nor wife,
Like a flower cut exactly at the height of its glory;
Unblemished, unscarred, too precise to be gory.
The girl saved by death would be spared and unchanged;
He insisted no bloodshed, however deranged —
No wound could mar the curves of her comely skin,
Nor the slightest hint of violence stain the drab tarpaulin,
Her shroud but a blanket for a blissful long sleep,
So they smothered the lady into night’s arcane deep.
Removing the cloth, the artist saw what he wanted,
Indifferent to the ghost in a corner now haunted,
Eyes hollow, flesh smoky, the wisp of a vapor
Who fluttered the wick-fire on a dissolving taper.
With reverence he traced a finger brow to chest
And lingered in the valley of a bosom at rest,
Then noticed her fingers hooked rigid as claws.
The sight of her visage would next give him pause:
Complexion purplish yet appalled; sunken orbs wide
With smudges, red veins; her muscles taut as hide.
No! What had they done, committing this outrage?
Gone the image he coveted, half-captured on the page!
Twisted and mangled, her lines horribly shifted,
The seraph in repose had corruptly been grifted,
Transformed to a wraith of wither and necrosis —
Where had she gone, to what manner of gnosis?
Possessed by decay, by the evils of matter,
The object of his fancy lay reduced to mere tatter.
Wrung by sobs, wrenched by grief, he lowered his face
To rest on the paragon he could never replace.
Beauty was ephemeral, such a transitory state.
Gone! He cursed the men, rued the heavens in a spate
Of anguish and abjection over losing what he treasured,
Worth more than any amount a scale had ever measured.
How vain to conceive that death might seal her as regarded,
Without marring the qualities he wished to keep safeguarded.
In his eyes she was a pose, a specific moment of expression,
Not who she was in life or death, a singular impression.
Enraged he threw an easel, flinging brushes and paint tubes;
Palettes, files and chisels, while ranting about the rubes,
Who had taken his jewel, the precious symbol of perfection.
His mind’s eye failed to hang on to the fragile reflection
Etched in every fold and cell of his brain, on a mental plate,
His skill inadequate to portray the contours of each trait;
Something always missed, an indefinable quality,
The spark, and so he mourned — what she would never be.
A consummate still-life, the most exquisite work of art;
Each stroke of genius echoed in the chambers of his heart.
What he had sought to epitomize, the essence so revered,
Could not be found again; it could never be, he feared.
Thus destroying every version, countless renderings done
In chalk and pencil, watercolor, down to the last one —
All of her, in every medium, with varying detail,
Unable to achieve the level of finesse that must prevail
To match the mold of her that seethed inside his skull,
Whether plaster, wood or stone — the luster too dull.
Now the example was destroyed; he set his studio ablaze,
Disenchanted and obsessed, wrecking canvases and clays,
Smashing any semblance of her less than superlative
In his fury and distress; a perfectionist could not forgive
The defects and deficiencies of the model or the artisan.
He cradled her waning form, both melting like oilskin
Amidst a broken collection of inadequate refrains —
An inferno of regret, until ash the only remains.
5. What are you currently working on that we can look forward to?
I just published a Halloween story, SAMHAIN, and a dark fairytale called BEAUTY. A third new story is named SPIDER SOUP.
Along with releasing at least two of my next poetry collections this year, I will be launching my subsequent horror collection, ODDS AND ENDS. After that I’ll be wrapping up artwork for an illustrated print edition of my horror tale JAR BABY and both print and E-book versions for a story I co-wrote with Blaze McRob, TIDES OF CHAOS. There are some other stories I need to get done as well.
6. Can you tell us about your webpages?
You can learn more about me, my work, and my family by visiting our website: http://www.fairyflyentertainment.com
Be sure to sign up for the newsletter if you want to be notified of recent releases and events.
My available titles and the anthologies I am in with other authors are listed at Amazon:
7. Perhaps you can give us a bibliography of your works with links?
CHOCOLATE-COVERED EYES: A SAMPLER OF HORROR
POETIC REFLECTIONS: KEEP THE HEART OF A CHILD
THE MACABRE MIND OF LORI R. LOPEZ: THIRTEEN TORMENTOUS TALES
AN ILL WIND BLOWS
THE FAIRY FLY
CEREAL BOX SURPRISE
BEYOND THE STUMP
THE FRUIT OF THY WOMB
SLEEP OF FOOLS
DANCE OF THE CHUPACABRAS
THE MUDPUPPY (Children’s Book)
THE FOX TROT (Children’s Book)
by Lori R. Lopez
Its surface is weathered and plain, the graying texture battered by too many knocks, and more than a few kicks. A lot like me. The thought almost inspires a smirk, if not for the fact my life could depend upon the outcome of turning that cool impersonal knob. Old-fashioned, with most of the white paint worn off, it strangely beckons. I reach to touch the metal, not even worried about germs, mulling instead the hands before mine that gripped its round contours. What did they find on the other side?
That is the puzzle, you see, for I have no idea. It could be anything, and my imagination is running away. Too bad my feet refuse to follow. The foot, after all, is hardly renowned for intelligence and two are no better than one when it comes to that. My imagination is accustomed to cowardly action or inaction; it’s the same imagination that keeps me awake at night afraid to close my eyes. I tend to overthink the unknown, and there is nothing more unknown than darkness. Even the shadows within a familiar room can hold all manner of mysteries. I don’t think I have slept soundly in decades, evident from the crevices beneath my eyes. I’m a wreck, in truth, and this door is doing a number on my state of mind. How can a single object, a slab of wood, incorporate such an extent of dread, at the same time wonder? Its possibilities gnaw my limbs to stumps as I stand inert, contemplating, deteriorating before its facade, rapt with fascination, a despicable curiosity, while seized with loathing and a numb wish to flee.
You would never believe how I got into this predicament. All right, I will give you a hint. Believe it or not, I was picking berries in the forest. A wave of nostalgia for the innocence of childhood compelled me toward this path of No Return, the road I shouldn’t have taken because only a fool would go down it. I am that fool, and here I am.
The door has been waiting patiently for me to find it, I feel, through a lifetime of detours. And every other hapless victim who wandered as if by chance into its magnetic attraction. This is the Venus Flytrap of doors, yet there is something far more sinister and contriving about its silent nonchalant allure. I sense, a matter of intuition, that I am in peril and opening the door will seal my fate; that I am, in essence, doomed. I can only relay my perspective, the emotions coursing through me as I ponder what may well be my final act.
If you consider these thoughts melodramatic, give the spectator a prize! I didn’t say I was brave. I made clear that I am not, and I shall wallow in my fear with the utmost enthusiasm, thanking you to tolerate my terrors. You were summoned by the intensity of the situation to bear witness, I suppose. Whether a psychic connection or some other peculiar presence, I care not. What counts is that you are here too. That helps, for even a loner doesn’t want to be alone at a time like this. I appreciate that you are with me to figuratively hold my hand, whether genuine or a sham. The brain does not distinguish, it merely seeks a ray of solace in the face of danger, to ease the depth of despair.
And now, let us get on with it. No point prolonging the misery. I have become convinced this will not end pleasantly. You might wish to avert your gaze. I am fully aware I must do this myself and shouldn’t have dragged you into it. Forgive me, my faceless invisible friend. At least you will not be sprayed if this thing goes horribly wrong.
Breaths echo like thunder in my ears. A firm grip and a twist, muscles braced, eyelids lowered by instinct. Molars clench to the brink of cracking as pain dissolves the surreal fabric of the moment. This is it, and . . .
The crescendo of anticipation fizzles. I am left blinking stupidly, lips contorted, wincing. The door appears to be locked. Okay. I wasn’t expecting that.
I was so sure of my theory, there was no room for doubt. My footfalls through the timber had been unwavering, though tripping a bit as a desperate abandon seized my heart. I was drawn to this location panting, crunching foliage, hastening to escape the angular corners of shade lurking amidst leaves. Darkness has sharp edges. An undercurrent of anxiety rippled. I stumbled to the door then swayed with relief, apprehension slow to sink in. Balling a fist, I rapped knuckles against wood. Did I actually think there would be an answer? Did I actually want one? I stared at it, unaware that we both waited.
At my back is the unknown I have known all along, the pressure of arcane yearnings in the pitch of gloom. I sought this door as a refuge, yet glean that a plank of wood is the real threat. Am I mad? Did a simple walk through the forest drive me insane? I can only hope, for I would much prefer the comfort of four padded walls to this ominous looming structure that seems to have no purpose. Who built it? Or did it somehow fabricate itself? An arm stretches forth, tentative. My fingers brush the roughness. Could it be an illusion?
The door smugly mocks, yielding no clues. And, Heaven help me, I am powerless to turn away.
Fraught with the conviction that what lies on the other side is profoundly worse than what menaced in the trees, I grasp the knob for a second try. This time it unlatches. There is the telltale creak of hinges, groaning as the humble board swings inward, enough to glimpse a patch of darkness oh so deeper than any I have encountered. It is completely opposite my will to proceed further. I reject such folly with a strangled cry in my throat, the burning of fever behind orbs that search in vain for a sign of — something. Anything.
It could have been anything, you see. Instead it appears to be . . . nothing. Is that its true torment, the betrayal of hope? Shadows close in, creeping toward my chilled spine. I shake my head. I had discarded hope. “You’ll have to do better,” I mumble.
Feet scuffing, I step inside to explore the emptiness, unwilling to accept my eyes. It can’t be. I’ve come all this way, my entire life leading to the anti-climactic void I now confront. “This is it?” I challenge. “Come on. There has to be more.”
Behind I can discern snarls, coarse huffing, an intense clawing surge of vehemence, and shudder at the violence in a beautiful world. I am hounded from the chaos of existence into a nullity without definition. “Why?” It’s a logical question. My skull brims with things I suddenly need to know, after tepidly embracing the status quo, huddled dormant in a self-absorbed shell of indifference. I’m overwhelmed by a piercing hindsight that I wasted something precious. Why? I should be asking this of myself. Why did I fail to live? What stopped me? What tethers or barriers prevented joy, fulfillment, love? There seems to be no lucid explanation.
Air transforms to a vacuum. Eyes and veins bulge. My flesh writhes, constricting, contorting. The tension increases, straining limbs. I’m going to explode. Fear rises, taking hideous shape, spikes and tentacles, black horns and scales, the stuff of nightmares combined, clutching me for a last waltz.
The portal moans shut with a sigh, then a resonant bang. I hear it lock, and yet the sounds scarcely register. Too late, the thought occurred to me that indeed “this is it”.
by Lori R. Lopez
by Anthony Servante
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