“Back in ’88” By Robin Chappell

Photo by Stas Knop on Pexels.com

When we said that we’d come here, I didn’t think that she was really serious, but here we were standing five blocks down the street just to prove something to ourselves. Well, honestly for me to prove myself more than anything.

“Well, are you just going to stand there or are we really doing this?” Shannon chuckled at the hesitant look on my chubby perspiring face and looked as if she was already prepared to joke about me not being as brave as she was.

I took in a deep breath and didn’t say another word to her, boldly stepping forward into the darkness like I was Rambo and fully prepared for whatever came my way.

“You better be quick.” She urged playfully.

The things that we do to impress girls are the worst, but we were here now and there was no turning back. I stared up in awe at the Vincent family mansion, counting at least four floors. The pillars in the front hovered over our figures like they were the guards of this place. Darkness could be seen in the windows and it already felt like eyes were on us. They say no one even makes it to the third floor and that if you get to the second you’re practically insane by then.

My hands were sweating and I could hear my own breathing as I watched the puffs of smoke from the cold curtail from my dark shivering lips.

“You know Greg, this might not be for you. You already look like you’re having a heart attack.” Shannon giggled and continued to poke fun at me.

“I am fine, woman! This is…I can do this. No one’s scared. How can you be scared of a myth?” I shrugged my shoulders. “There’s not even any proof of the things they say about this place.” I didn’t sound very convincing and my voice had even gone up an octave.

Shannon stood there with her arms folded and a smirk on her face. She already knew what the case really was. How I was trying to convince myself that I was perfectly calm and would show her just what I meant.

She outstretched her slender arm, which was cloaked in a knitted fall sweater sewn with the color of bright fall leaves on a windy day. I stared into her beautiful face…it was the color of brand new shiny pennies my grandmother rolled in papers. I would take them apart when I was little and knew I’d be in trouble but I just had to touch one of those pennies and what I thought was the most beautiful color I’d ever seen…now here it was in front of me at the age of sixteen with curls around its face and a caramel apple sucker in its mouth. Close enough to touch and close enough to-

“GREG??!! Are you ok? I thought you were about to lead the way?”

She interrupted my thoughts with a pretty frown on her face. Her full lips in a pout. Eyeing me impatiently like I needed to come back down to earth while I took in the four interestingly placed beauty marks scattered across her skin.

I totally zoned out again.

That happens quite often around her, but I had to be in the moment. She could have been anywhere else…but here she was in the middle of the night…attempting to explore a historically haunted mansion with me. I huffed out my chest, put my right sneaker forward and ventured up the steps to the porch like I was ready for anything.

She scoffed but followed intently on the back of my heels.

Once we made it to the steps, we’d already jumped out of our skin just from the mere feel of spider webs on our faces and small field rats that were scurrying from beneath the leaves gathered around the large wrap around porch in the front of the house.

I took a deep breath and stepped forward towards the large door that seemed to leer at me for having the audacity to place myself in front of it. I shuddered.

I think they say you have to knock first.” She whispered from behind my solid frame.

Her voice sent tiny tingles down my spine.

And who the hell is supposed to answer?” I whispered back through gritted teeth. My chest began to tighten and I found myself still shaking my head and lifting my hand to knock three times in a row just to get this over with.

We both waited as if we knew someone was home and listened to the cold silence. The hairs on the back of my neck began to rise and I thought I could feel someone standing near…piercing our presence in the dark. Suddenly, I felt a strong breath down my neck and something squeezed my sides in one quick movement.

“BOO!!” Shannon shouted into my ear and nearly made me crawl back down the steps and into the front yard where we stood just moments ago contemplating this entire stupid thing.

She giggled and pointed at me hunched over on the lawn and attempting to catch my breath from being startled.

“The look…” She could hardly breathe from laughing so hard. “On your face!! OH MY GOD!” She squealed with laughter. Every muscle in her face could be seen from the kick she was getting out of it.

It wasn’t that damn funny.

I won’t lie I was a little pissed she got one over on me that quick.

“Alright, alright, it wasn’t that funny.” I finally stood up and regained my composure, dusting the dead leaves from my solid black N.W.A. hoodie.

I could still peep her little attitude with her arms folded in the dimness of the dark, the moonlight being our only guide. Her teased and curly hair cascaded around her face perfectly.

“Well obviously you were afraid the whole time and wouldn’t admit it anyway, Watson.” She stated with a neck and eye roll now that she’d called my bluff. She only playfully used my last name when she was trying to get a point across or trying to irritate me because she always said it with an English accent like she was Sherlock Holmes.

I shook my head. “Nothing is in there anyway. Your face is the scariest thing out here I guess.” I teased with a smirk.

Knowing damn well her face was PERFECT

Her mouth instantly dropped and she put her hand up, preparing to lay it on me heavy.

“Boy, shut up! I will-”

Just as she was about really get into her whole spill the door behind her froze her words…

The door swung open from the inside…slowly…and loudly creaking open, as if someone finally decided to answer my knocks.

Shannon froze in horror and the copper color in her face that looked like the pretty new pennies I loved so much suddenly turned the pale color of coffee with too much cream.

My mouth hung open in surprise and I saw a dark and extremely large figure silently standing in the doorway. The silence seemed to last for nearly minutes, when in reality it was only less than ten seconds of silence before a gigantic hand grabbed Shannon by her arm and violently tugged. I screamed when I spotted long dirty nails wrapped around her beautiful sweater….clawing at her and forcing her inside of the entrance.

…for five seconds Shannon screamed at the top of her lungs

…another long five seconds of her being dragged inside

Then merely three seconds for her to be forcefully pulled inside…

Five long trails where her nails desperately clung to the old wood of that porch

Chipping the shiny lavender color that adorned each finger…

Leaving their vibrant remains behind

“GREEEEEEEEEEEEEGGGGGG!!! HELP ME!!! HELP ME PLEASE!! GREEEEEEG!!!!

That was what really hit me in the softest part of my gut…

Finally in one tiny second, the door slammed and there was silence.

Just like that she was gone and I still stood there in that yard…stuck in the silence of not even hearing her shrill cries any longer after just seven seconds…only crickets.

She called out to me…and I did nothing about it because I didn’t even know who…or what exactly took her. I was so lost on what to do and whether I should even go inside or run and find help.

Oh shit…oh shit….oh shit…

Go in there after her man!

I’m not trying to die either.

I don’t even have a damn weapon! SMART!

Call the cops!

Before I knew it, my big ass feet made the decision for me and I raced home. I didn’t look back and I didn’t stop until I made it inside and rushed to a telephone.

I frantically told the police what I saw but that I never really got a good look at whomever pulled her inside of the house. So all that I could say that she was…taken. My hands were shaking and my dark skin was clammy as I went over every thought in my head. How we should have never gone in the first place and the worst thought I didn’t want to think….

is she DEAD?

My head was spinning in circles and I didn’t want to call my mother yet in all of the commotion. The only reason I was out in the first place was because I knew her job would have her working throughout the night and I planned to return before she even knew I ventured into something this dumb. And Shannon’s parents were barely ever home, it had been that way since childhood and it was practically like her grandmother raised her. See how that works out? The saying goes for everyone…

DO NOT GO INSIDE THE VINCENT FAMILY MANSION

There were stories…several stories about disappearances that obviously never scared us enough because we still decided to test our bravery. And that’s just the thing, I don’t know what happened.

Monday morning, I climbed out of bed feeling like a brick hit me in the face. I hadn’t slept a wink and out of everything that happened and Shannon still missing, my mother made me get up and prepare to go to school…to face everyone and everything like a man.

I dragged my body down the steps and to the kitchen table. My mother poured her coffee, shoulders tense and a tiredness in her eyes I knew coffee could never take away.

“Don’t look at me like that Greg. Nobody and I mean nobody told you to take ya ass down to that house.” She shook her head and sighed with a blueberry muffin in her hand.

I hung my head so low that I wished I could become a blob and sink into the kitchen floor.

She walked over to me and gently kissed the top of my head.

“That house has always been bad news baby, we can only pray that they find Shannon. The house is very old and she could have fallen through foundation or anything to where they have to search everywhere.”

“I haven’t even seen the police out here…searching for her…or even at the house trying to find her. Do you know…they can’t even get in touch with her parents because they’re in freaking Europe??!! EUROPE!? There’s nothing on the news! I mean what are they really doing??”

I slammed my fist on the table and broke down, finally releasing everything I’d held in the past 48 hours. The remainder of the weekend since Friday night’s tragedy was the longest I ever lived through and my dreams haunted me with the pure terror in her face each time I attempted to close my eyes and rest. I was exhausted and confused.

I felt nothing like a man. I sulked and slowly walked down the street to school, clutching my royal blue backpack. I didn’t go to school, and no matter how many times something in my conscience urged me to go back to that house to get her, just to see whether or not she was still inside, I instantly change my mind and told myself to allow the police to handle it. I wasn’t sure what their plan was at this point and everyone was being so nonchalant about it.

Even my mom…

she could be stuck inside of the foundation?

“it’s an old home?

No!! Nobody understood exactly what I saw. For the rest of my life, the vision of that hand and those dirty fingernails pulling her away from me would never exit the deepest folds of my mind.

“What’ll it be, love?”

I jerked my head towards a middle aged waitress with a name tag that said “Gloria” standing in front of me, I suddenly realized I had zoned out while walking and made the decision to venture into Fred’s Diner, practically everyone in town’s local eatery and “watering hole” where all of the town gossip could be heard. It was a comfortable safe space for me and I had nowhere else to go.

I sat alone in a corner and only the addition of an older man sat on the other side sipping a cup of coffee and writing inside of a notebook in deep concentration.

It was only around 8:30 a.m. and I’d obviously never skipped school to see Fred’s Diner this empty on a Monday morning.

“Uh…I’ll just take a sweet tea actually.”

My sweaty hands wrung together and I kept my eyes on the door.

She gently smiled, placing her pen and notepad into her apron.

“Well I’ll just let that one be on the house sweetie. You look like you’ve had a long day already and it’s barely started. Make yourself comfortable.” She shook her head and made her way to the back.

My leg anxiously shook and I watched local patrons and work trucks pass by the window outside without a care in the world. Happy and at peace, they were going about their lives and daily routine. Honestly, it was beginning to piss me off and I slammed my fists on the table.

You know what? Fuck this!

I immediately jumped up from the table, slinging my backpack over my shoulder.

“That’s it. I’m going in.” I stated to myself and to the house as if it could hear me. “I’m coming for you!”

Gloria quickly stepped from the back with a smile on her face, then eyed me in confusion.

“What about your sweet tea sweetie? Where are you rushing off to?”

She questioned me through lazy chews of gum and watched me walk to the EXIT.

“Thanks, but I changed my mind. I have somewhere I need to be.” I stated it confidently and as soon as I reached for the door my heart stopped in my chest.

Shannon in all of her glory walked right through the door, radiantly smiling, beaming, and alive as if nothing ever happened.

“What-w-…wait…what the hell??” I nearly fell back into the booth like I’d seen a ghost. Scrambling backwards from her presence.

The darkness in my face had drained and I was pale with fear and disbelief to see her standing in front of me with that goofy ass grin.

“Shannon…what? where? Oh my God! I didn’t know…”

I nearly broke into a sob and exhaled the longest breath of relief I ever had. She smiled and stared at me with her head cocked to side.

Her face, skin, everything was here in front of me. She had her hair up, showing her slender neck and glowing with excitement.

“Awww come on Watson, I know it hasn’t been that long since I’ve seen you. Man up! But I’m happy to see you too.”

She teased me and playfully punched me in my arm.

Our gaze locked for several moments.

She reached up and lovingly caressed my face with her right hand. I melted into it’s warmth.

“Oh Greg…I missed you.”

“What the hell…what happened to you?” I had so many questions and she was standing there like she was perfectly fine. Her nails were even intact and had changed to a deep blue. Not really her style but I guess it suited her.

“Shannon?” I stared into her face and made eye contact like I would get it to somehow click in her head if she looked at me long enough.

“Last time that I saw you…was at…you know…the Vincent Mansion. You disappeared and-“

She stopped and stared at me in awe and smiled.

“Oh my God, Greg…you know who I am? You remember now?”

I twisted my face into a sarcastic frown.

“The hell are you talking about Shannon? I’ve known you since we were little. What is going on?”

“Oh wow! Dr. Haynes, come quick!”

The man that had been sitting in the chair writing and drinking his coffee rose from the chair and strolled over to me with interest; removing his glasses and wiping the lenses with a handkerchief from his pocket.

He examined my face and looked into my eyes like I was some type of experiment.

I gently pushed him away.

“Do you mind?” I squared up and backed away.

He stared down at the notebook he’d been writing in.

“Hmmm…something could have triggered his long term memory or engaged some type of cognitive behavior. I mean it’s been years and the brain has many ways of slowly repairing itself. Things we can’t explain.” His voice drifted off and he removed a bright flashlight from the lapel of his jacket, flashing it back and forth in my eyes in front of the diner counter.

“Hello, Gregory. How’s everything going. Do you know who I am? Do you know what day it is?”

My anger was about to boil over. I was confused about the way Shannon was behaving and where she’d come from and now there’s this guy!

“Man it’s Monday! Will you please back out of my space. Shannon who is this?”

I looked back and forth between the both of them. I even looked at Gloria for some answers and she just lowered her head.

They looked at me with saddened expressions like I’d said something that made no sense.

“Someone better start answering me.” I stated through gritted teeth.

Silence.

“Forget this! I have to go to the cops and tell them you’ve been found Shannon! We’ve been looking for you everywhere!”

I grabbed her arm and led her towards the door and next thing I knew there was a sharp prick in the side of my neck and the entire diner instantly fell away like a mirage.

The tables disappeared and turned white. The diner booths turned into the the hard clinical chairs with uncomfortable cold metal. Everything became white and I discovered I was inside of an entirely white room with limited windows…with bars and now I was wearing white.

Gloria stood near and no longer wore a waitress apron, but a stark white nurse uniform, holding the very needle that was just pushed into my neck.

The other guy in the diner had on a white doctor’s coat and the only one with any color on was Shannon, standing in front of me adorning a blue dress and a saddened expression on her face.

What is going on??

She slowly stepped forward.

“Greg…do you remember anything?”

I shook my head and just wanted to get my thoughts together. Whatever “nurse” Gloria gave me made me feeling light headed and I squeezed my eyes shut trying to seriously remember how the hell I got here.

“I remember…I remember looking for you. They were supposed to look for you but…no one was doing anything about it.”

The doctor stepped forward with interest and spoke up.

Where were you going to look for her Gregory?”

I don’t really like this guy saying my entire name like that.

“The last place that I saw her. That damn mansion!” I answered irritably.

I turned away from him and fully turned my attention to Shannon.

“The last place that I saw you…was at that house…something…someone had pulled…you-“

“US…into that house.” She cut me off and replaced the word like it was me that actually was pulled into the house.

“Wait-what? No…no…no…it was YOU. You have been missing for two days and I was looking for you.”

Shannon crouched down in front of me. Her face suddenly looked different. Older.

“Greg, you don’t remember anything?”

“I just told you everything that I remember and now ya’ll got me in here like I did something wrong!” I shouted and jumped up from the table.

Shannon rushed in front of me and took my face into her hands. The look in her eyes stopped me dead in my tracks. It was pity and empathy.

“Greg…I’m found. I’m not missing anymore and neither are you.” She stated slowly then continued. “But your mom is gone…that night when you returned home…without me…you stabbed her to death….”

I doubled over in more pain. Tears streamed from my face and I shook my head, whimpering like a baby.”

This is impossible

“You did come back for me…days later…but at first…you just left me.”

Her eyes narrowed and I sensed a little resentment in them, like she was reminiscing about that night. I squeezed my eyes shut when I saw the disappointment flash in her face.

“You didn’t really look for me the way you’re saying until days later. I was never the same after…but obviously…neither were you. We never should have gone in that house.”

She rose to her feet and looked down on me in sadness.

“The house didn’t seem to like what you did very much…I was released, but you…you’ll never be free.”

I stared at her in disbelief.

I never even got a chance to get back to the house, when did I even go back?

“Wait, how could I-“

“Greg, look, it’s not even 1988 anymore, it’s 2020. And you’re not sixteen anymore, you’re 32. I’ve been visiting you this entire time…every week…up here at Pine Meadows Psychiatric Hospital. Today is the first day you’ve been this calm.

Hospital??

She showed me some thin black box she removed from her pocket with a glowing screen on it that displayed the time and date once she pressed a button on the side.

What the hell is that??

My body shook and my eyes shifted between them all. I backed away into a corner, whatever they gave me in that needle must have done this!

Shannon eased into my face with an expression of stone and we made direct eye contact.

“You better be quick.”

As soon as she said those words, just as quickly as I blinked, I was no longer in the room with them, but right back in that front of that house…in the yard, hoodie and all with Shannon standing in front of me, smirking once again in that same autumn colored sweater…head back in laughter at the fearful expression etched across my face…

My breathing intensified and I slowly backed away, darting from the scene once again only for it to bring me back each time in a never ending cycle of punishment and a merry-go-round of insanity…

“Trees” By Robin Chappell

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Did you ask the trees how they’re feeling today?

Don’t you think they need a hand?

Not because the heaviest storm winds are making them sway

Or because time puts them through rot and decay

There is unwanted hate and intervention on man’s land

Land where they happen to be planted each time they meet a Black man

Did you ask the trees how they’re feeling today?

Don’t you think that they need an ear?

To speak about centuries upon centuries of dark faces

All brought to them to welcome their ends

Expressions of unrequited grief and fear

Tragedies deeper than their roots could ever grow

Demonic words of pain and death many would never know…

Did you ask the trees how they’re feeling today?

Reaching for the sky doesn’t mean they aren’t low

Terror-stricken fates at the ends of their limbs

Each time more inhumane. Each time just another “her” or “him”

Did you ask the trees how they’re feeling today?

Don’t you think they’re sick of the ropes?

The ones hanging the “Strange Fruit” Ms. Nina sung about

Popular among trees everywhere, mainly the depths of the south

Did you ask the trees how they’re feeling today?

Next time I really believe you should

The flesh of broken spirits haunt their dreams every night

Spirits no longer considering to be “just wood”

Without question, they are our daily breath

The life, the food, and healing rest

No longer considered just a pointless display

Did you ask the trees how they’re feeling today?

“Remote (Cont’d): The Principle” By Robin Chappell

Sierra Lionne

I breathed in the cool air as I looked on towards the horizon. Fisherman with tight dark skin and strong muscular arms tossed their nets and pole lines into Yawri Bay and talked back and forth to each other in Krio. Their skin glistened beneath the bright sun and I sat not too far away in dark shades and a black wide brimmed hat, adorning a simple sundress like I was a tourist with no specific purpose or destination. My brown hair lay in soft natural curls that I often twirled through my fingers when thinking. At this moment a lot of things were on my mind. I admired the fisherman and their strong physiques, remembering I had not had sex in more than five years or less. Memories of Will flooded my mind and I could feel every emotion now that I was in a calm location and able to sit down and think about all that had transpired in just the last 48 hours.

I sat up and looked straight ahead when a random Black guy came and sat down on the bench facing the other direction. I could see him through my peripheral and that he was wearing a dark suit, dark shades and had jet black hair cut into a fade. He was out of place in this location and in this weather and I wondered how many buckets of sweat he’d created just walking over here. One thing was for certain, he smelled good as hell!

He cleared his throat and continued to look ahead.

“Should I call you Doctor Hartley or Justice Young? I’m sure it’s changed once again…”

I froze and never said a word, maintaining my composure as I let him continue in his low baritone voice.

“You are quite to hard find when no one is really looking for you…but for a billion dollars…I certainly found you…again.”

“Well that’s because you know me by now…and how much I love water.”

Vince Cray had to be the only guy that could track me down and always came with the bullshit as if I cared that I was wanted and my head was worth a fortune…alive. He didn’t know whether he wanted to turn me in or remain fascinated by my skill and talented ability to stay out of sight and out of range for years at a time, because the crazy part was that for some reason he was the world’s top assassin and he had not killed me yet, nor had he told anyone where I was for the reward.

“It wasn’t that easy this time, you know. You’re getting better at hiding your scent.”

“Is there something in particular that you wanted to talk to me about?” I asked through gritted teeth while still smiling like everything was all good. This is always the worst part about being on the run, never knowing just how long you could be at some type of peace before someone came and crashed the entire foundation down. The one that I ever think is strong enough to completely shut everyone out. There was too much technology, too many cameras, and nerdy ass experts bored enough (some even rich enough) to hunt me down.

Then there was this guy! I can’t even put a label on him and he’s just really an absolute pain in my ass.. I couldn’t just kill him in the open and blow my cover and he never came around to kill me. It’s was as if he honestly just shows up to let me know that he’s watching me and that he had the authority to do whatever he saw fit with the most wanted target on the planet. A big ass cat toying with a mouse someone pumped with steroids. I knew at this point, he adored our little game and it’s what he lived for! So, therefore…how could he ever live without me? So trust I was never afraid, just irritated.

“Aren’t you just going to do it this time?” I glared at him, turning my full attention toward his solid physique. I found myself licking my lips when my gaze moved down the glisten of his strong dark neck. I watched the vessels move in and out, up and down as he breathed slowly and contemplated his response to my statement. His heart rate was heightening sitting near me and I wondered if he knew that he often did the same to me.

“I could have killed you an hour ago.” He stated it with no emotion, continuing to look on toward the water beyond the horizon.

“And yet…HERE I AM!” I practically shouted loud enough for the fisherman to look up and avert their attention our way. This was on purpose and I could see the perplexed look in his face at the risk I’d just taken. Something in me was amused and I could feel the goosebumps on my skin from being so anxious about what he would do about it…

With a shake of his head and a chuckle he tossed an index card and small envelope my way, rose from the bench, and walked away in the opposite direction that he’d come without another word. I waited at least five minutes before picking it up from the bench beside me and unfolding it’s contents. My face twisted into fear and shock as I read the words and eyed the photos that dropped into my lap, but I kept my composure and folded all of the documents before pulling a lighter from my pocket, setting it all on fire, and dropping it into the waste bin nearby, I could barely catch my breath and hyperventilated as I took a brisk walk around the bay before boarding the nearby luxury cruise liner I’d been waiting for the entire time. I stumbled near the docks and clutched my chest in an attempt to steady my breathing and relax before boarding a ship to take a cruise for nearly two weeks.

The ship would take many tourist stops in other locations, but the only thing that concerned me was that it would make it’s final stop in Australia. That was my next destination and what was better than being “down under”? I figured that nobody could track me there but I was wrong before I could even know what being even a little right felt like. I boarded the ship with no luggage, no life, a fake I.D. and my dignity. My large shades hid my face, along with the scarf wrapped around my head like I’d stepped out of the 60’s. I awkwardly greeted everyone who came my way with a shy smile and head nod as I finally found my way to a spacious suite with a large balcony that overlooked the entire ocean.

I exhaled and thought out my next step to becoming invisible again, but one thing was certain…Vince was going to always be my problem until I found a way to fix it. I cringed as I thought about the photos of Will that Vince obviously retrieved by making his way into my home after The Survs got to him. It was disturbing how close he’d gotten to Will’s deadened facial expression and limp body. He was tied to the chair the same way I’d left him, except with his head blown open.

I suddenly rushed to the bathroom when I felt the chunks of vomit rise in my throat. I’endured seeing many things at this point, but seeing the man I love and nearly married mutilated like that was something no one could ever prepare themselves for. I was really planning to spend the rest of my life with him and now he was only a memory and had gotten caught up because of the pain he felt from me suddenly leaving him and attempting to help the wrong people find me.

I wiped my mouth in exhaustion and let my head rest on my arm over the toilet after flushing down my small lunch of mango and melon from earlier. What in the hell was I supposed to do now? It was as if so many pieces of my life were being exposed and eliminated all for this damn chip! I rinsed my mouth with the cool water cupped in my hands from the faucet. I wanted to cry when I looked at myself in the vanity mirror above the sink. I looked drained and like I lived the life of a person on the run from EVERYTHING. There was nothing relaxed about me and every move I made was frantic, frigid, unplanned, and life threatening at this point.

I was becoming sloppy and desperate to just be out of everyone’s way that I didn’t realize I was only putting myself in more harms way.

I needed a long hot bath, food. and sleep just to make it through the next thought in my head. I never even made it to the food I ordered and when I sat on the bed, before I knew it my body slumped over into a deep and unexpected sleep that went on through the whole night and late into the next day.

I outstretched my arms and let out a long yawn before opening my eyes and emerging from beneath the thick white comforter to invite the sun into my cabin and onto my freckled caramel face. I felt as if I’d gotten the best sleep ever with my curls all over my head like a lion. I smiled from ear to ear before turning over and shrieking in fright when I met the face of Vince sitting up in the recliner chair across the room. His hands were clasped and legs were folded like he’d made some observational notes about my sleep process like he was some type of physician.

“How long have you been sitting there??” I asked in astonishment. I brought the white sheets up to my chest and covered my breasts although I was wearing a bra.

“Long enough to know that your dreams are going to haunt you the rest of your life.” He never cracked a smile or took his gaze from mine and slowly rose from the chair. I scrambled backwards towards the headboard and eyed his every move as he slowly walked over to me.

His tailored gray suit never moved an inch and was ironed so crisply I wanted to inquire about his dry cleaning.

“Get out of my room.” I bravely stated before I knew it. He looked at me as if I’d lost my mind and before I knew what was happening I was grabbed up by my throat in one swift motion and thrown against the headboard like a rag doll. I winced in pain and heard a ringing in my ears, then I realized he was standing over me with my neck still in one large hand…slowly pressing down my airway bit by bit and staring into my eyes so deeply while taking large grunting breaths that I thought my soul might have been stolen by his. Desperation entered my eyes and the room began to fade. I began flailing my arms and legs in an attempt to fight for my life and I realized I had only seconds until unconsciousness. I didn’t come this far to lose my life now…on a cruise liner.

“You know, I do believe I am the only thing that is keeping you from living this relaxing runaway life you decided to live after becoming a terrorist and a traitor to your own country…sis. You’re wanted everywhere and there were SO MANY times I could have taken your life and gotten it over with, but if I didn’t have you to track down, what else would I do with my life?” He shrugged like I was the only thing keeping him from being bored with everything.

I was right.

My chest tightened and I could feel my oxygen being cut off as I thrashed and scratched at his arms, drawing small streaks of blood. He suddenly let go of my neck in one motion and pushed me on the bed. I rolled over and violently coughed, sucking in air and gaining my composure while he watched me in a strange way. I scrambled away from him until I was backed against the headboard holding my neck with both hands and fear in my eyes.

I saw concern for a brief moment before his face turned to stone again. Emotionless. Numb.

“Look I’m sorry. I just wanted you to know…”

My eyes widened at his sudden empathy and my face grew heated with anger. I felt as if my cheeks were crimson red and certainly knew my neck was.

“What the fuck?! Know what?” I practically screamed at the top of my lungs now that I could breathe normally again.

“You’re the only assignment I’ve never killed.”

I looked up at him in confusion and shook my head.

He stood at the end of the bed now, pacing back and forth.

“You’re psycho and you just almost did kill me. You need to leave.” I stated sternly in a low tone while pointing at the door.

“You’re a doctor, you know good and well the point you were about to lose consciousness and die. Low and behold…you’re still here.”

He straightened his suit jacket and grunted in sarcasm but he slowly made his way to the door before suddenly stopping.

He turned around in deep thought and walked to the bed like he had something else to say but never let a word escape his lips.

I looked at him as he slowly removed his jacket and eased up on me until he was only inches away from my face. He smells so damn good. He took in my hair and the features on my face like he was observing every details…taking mental photos of each freckle, mole, and blemish. My breathing grew hollow and more noticeable as my breasts rose up and down in a rhythmic motion that made him roughly grab one with his right hand then touch on my pussy with the other.

I didn’t fight back or tell him to go, my body grew weak and excited at the same time and a deep moan escaped my lips immediately. I came in less than two minutes when he brought his hand to my neck again, this time gently squeezing the sides…making my blood flow. He began caressing my clitoris in circles to the ultimate climax when he stared into my eyes and demanded me to come on his fingers and “let it all out”. I was getting so turned on I was ready! I gyrated on his hand and grabbed for his hard dick, which look promisingly thick and long through his pants;but as soon as I did, he strangely stopped everything out of nowhere, grabbed his jacket and rose from the bed.

I still sat back gasping and getting the sheets wet, leaking and wondering where the hell he was going. His dark eyes lowered when he looked at me and flicked the largest tongue I’d ever seen across my juices that were dripping from his fingers before walking out.

I nearly came again in that moment as I rushed to take a shower.

What the hell was that??

I was at a loss for words as I touched on my body and thought of his tongue wrapping around his large fingers. That devious “fuck look” he gave me made it no better.

This was new. This sexual game we started was unexpected and I was questioning the entire situation now. He could have planned it all along to throw me off and turn me in once he fucked me into exhaustion. I shook my head in the shower, scolding myself for being so naive.

“Get it together woman! We have a mission to complete.”

I then began trying to tame the tingles down my spine with a cold shower…

“O” By Robin Chappell

Photo by Athena on Pexels.com

Take out the knives so you can see me better

The whispers linger on our lips

That one spoken letter has taken us through greater odds

As dark as the depths of the days I spoke naive confessions of “I love you”

“Oh” became so unacceptable, like a deep black hole

To watch those soft folds of your lips form it

Every time I told you that I needed to go

It’s as simple as 1,2,3, as well as a complex science which disagrees

Transitioning into the “Oh”‘s you made me scream before each time you put me sleep

Sloppy “Oh”s enveloped in a dewy lips of a pink rose

To the “Oh”‘s on my chest where you loved to rest your nose

I have no regrets, though I often lie in repose with your “oh”‘s for safer keeping

I’d adorn them on a chain around my brain if I could

Overrated thoughts, I think

Like the final “oh” you spoke when you walked away and never even blinked

“Roses” by Robin Chappell

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

Clutching a beautiful red rose with thorns

I bleed into the Earth all that is lost on one side

Abundantly gained in joyous moments on the other

Two faces of passion and pain…

“Montgomery’s Black Face” By Robin Chappell

African-Americans currently populate 60% of Montgomery, Alabama, the heart of the civil rights movement. 28.5% own their own business and more than 85% are living in poverty…something is missing.”

Photo Credits: Robin Chappell (Downtown Montgomery)

When riding around through the city of Montgomery I would like you to notice something. Whether it’s dining, nightlife, or shopping, take a moment to look around and to reflect on how much Black culture that you see and hear of daily, maybe even weekly. The type you don’t have to search for, hear about from another Black person, or go on a specific Facebook page to find information surrounding it. How many businesses can you think of that are easily accessible and well known if you choose to shop at a Black owned business on a whim for something as simple as groceries? If we, as African-Americans chose to go on strike and shop ONLY BLACK in our city…how effective do you believe it would be? Keeping in mind that it would mean, protesting all that is not Black owned or created, which would mean transportation, food, attire, and even down to the importance of your cell phone. We would be homeless, without a car, and without many basic necessities we depend on, but are distributed only through White businesses.

I believe it to be a redundant contradiction that we choose to live in a city where change and the freedom to be great as an African-American should be the most embraced, but appears to be practically nonexistent. The culture and the determination should be loud and saturate the streets of Montgomery, not only for it’s citizens, but for those who visit a location known for it’s deep history in the Black culture. Instead we battle the uncontrollable plight of gentrification when it comes to housing and the placement of Black businesses in the region.

“Unforgettable”
Photo Credits: Robin Chappell, Downtown Montgomery

The impact of revenue generated when we “Buy Black” would not only help build a city that deserves to be truly recognized for Black culture and business, but one that possesses the majority of that culture. The answers have been in front of us for decades and continue to remain apparent when it comes to supporting our own, it just isn’t being done.

The worst observation I’ve come to notice since moving to Montgomery is the abundance of complaints, sabotage, and crime against one another pitted against the lack of knowledge, support and humility we have given each other to succeed as a team. I am ready to stop the constant jealousy and hate we have toward each other that has only ruined blessings and opportunities we need to create. When one of us achieves success in owning a steady flowing business, it’s always disappointing to ask that in individual how they created that path, what steps they took, and what they plan to do with those steps to create a foundation of anything. We rarely give the real answers which could help our people become equally or more successful than we are and instead have been selfishly basking in that information without spreading it to others. This will always be our downfall.

Poverty in Montgomery, AL By Race and Ethnicity (2017)
Photo Credits: https://datausa.io/profile/geo/montgomery-al/

There has been a constant struggle within us when it comes to providing genuine support. As an author, I have received questions surrounding discounts for my books and even receiving a book completely free…only from Black people…MY people. Being completely unaware of how much sweat, tears, and sleepless nights go into chasing your dreams is one thing; but to look one of your own people in the face in an attempt to low ball their ability to carryout that mission is an insult. It is what I would like to focus my attention on eliminating in 2020.

My vision is to highlight and promote each Black owned business, beginning with the city of Montgomery, and then journeying to other Civil Rights locations in Alabama; such as Selma, Tuskegee, and Huntsville. Reputable Black owned businesses have been serving our community for as many as 10-20 years, operating mainly under regular clientele and word of mouth. What if we could boost their reputations by not only spreading the word to those who may not have experienced their services before, but also ensure anyone who visits and tours the city of Montgomery has more access to them and their information?

The truth is that I discovered the longest running businesses are owned by those we would see as our grandparents, middle-aged aunts and uncles, and what I also call “social media apethists”. They have absolutely no interest in social media and barely know where to start when it comes to using it as a tool for promotion of their business to the masses. They sometimes simply don’t feel they need it, and most of the time they don’t; but what about those that do? Magazines such as Gump Town Magazine and In City Mag are great literary sources in Montgomery, AL that provide information on many Black owned business in the area, including those in Prattville, Wetumpa, and Millbrook. There are Facebook pages, websites, and flyers, but it’s 2020 and we deserve an app that truly celebrates us by highlighting the experience that was gained when visiting their establishment. Several years ago there were articles that ranked Montgomery, AL as number two for having the most Black owned businesses in the nation. If we still hold the title, why do things seem a little too silent around here?

http://www.blackmainstreet.net/montgomery-ranks-number-two-usa-black-businesses/

The apps surrounding Black owned businesses and accessing their information, including finding their locations have already been released and become successful in helping “Buy Black” but I find it to a certain extent. Once a business is logged into the app, it even incorporates GPS to assist in directing you to a Black owned business, as well as giving a notification when it’s nearby. Black owned businesses are at your fingertips and categorized by their fields and specialties on several free downloadable apps, such Official Black Wall Street, WeBuyBlack.com, and Afroworld.

So, I decided to give them a try and see just how many businesses would pop up in Montgomery, Alabama; since categories such as hair, MUA, lawn and maintenance, and restaurants are included. Each search result produced “NO RESULTS” for Montgomery and in order for Black owned businesses to be included, they would have to visit the website themselves and enter their information to be featured. There is a $50 one time fee to join and enter your business, which seems fair for the upkeep and cost to run the app while helping promote businesses. The website WeBuyBlack is actually for those who would like to earn revenue in selling Black owned products. For $30 it helps you set up a vendor account and earn commission with your own online store selling specific products where 10% is earned by WeBuyBlack and 90% is given to the seller. Not bad.

I’m all for sites promoting Black owned businesses, but this year what I would like to put my primary focus and energy into specifically is the promotion and awareness of Black owned business in the city of Montgomery and how we can become better in creating more revenue in our communities to help eliminate poverty and provide better support for our neighborhoods and our schools. Through my non-profit Harmonious Grace, Inc, I would like to start with creating a website and a book that is similar to a “Green Book”. A Green Book, also known as The Negro Motorist Green Book, like the movie, it was a written record of business that are Black owned or Black “friendly” during the time of Jim Crow laws and segregation. Although we are no longer battling segregation or Jim Crow, we still battle the silence of how amazing doing business with African-Americans can feel! I would like to create a website and eventually an app that provides information and locations about reputable Black owned business in Montgomery, the difference being that I will personally interview each business, enter their information and ensure that most if not all reputable Black owned businesses operating in Montgomery are featured. These businesses should be easily accessible and found on ANY website promoting Black owned business and revenue without having to do all of the work they are unaware they need to do in the first place.

We are a city who’s streets bear the struggle and the fight for us to be treated equal, vote, and even receive the right to sit and eat where we please as human beings. Black History Month is slowly approaching and I’m sure there will be the dozens of programs promoting positive Black history, parades, business expos, and future plans for African-Americans to have a better presence in Montgomery. I’d like to be one of those not only speaking of change, but making that change happen for the better. My journey will begin with touring the city of Montgomery during the next several months to interview Black owned businesses about their history, the reason they started, how long they’ve been in business and what their plans are for the future. This information will then be compiled to a website focusing on Montgomery and generating more revenue where it should be, in the Black Community. Following my project, I am will be working hard to ensure all businesses will be accessible through an app that is free to download and directs all tourist and residents to Black owned businesses throughout the city. There are entirely too many that are not included on websites or highlighted by social media.

If you know of any Black owned businesses that have provided great services or products to your life and deserve to be feature, please send them to my direct email at robic19@gmail.com or comment directly beneath this post. I plan to interview each business, no matter the location in Montgomery or the service! Thank you for your help and your continued support for all that I strive to do! It’s now time that we strive together.

Changing our momentum one crown at a time.”

“The Exception” By Robin Chappell

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The atonement of the tone created by you to constantly satisfy me

Is like the whispers of faith from an angel

The best kept secret that will set me free

Here I am looking high and low, searching every corner

Becoming incessantly anxious the more we continue to grow this

Something I delicately hold on to as if it’s damaged and seeping egg

Protecting it as if it were my life for which I would humbly beg

Anxiety exceeds this feeling I have never had the pleasure to know…real love

Worry keeps this heart beating when your hands push me to go

The unchanging strength of us is my shiniest diamond in the rough

Never needing to be polished and no feeling could abolish what we’ve built

No buckets of guilt as we communicate freely in the relief of believing…

This is actually working in the healthiest way there could ever exist

And no! Love is never something that should instill any fear or defeat

Forgive me if around the corner I think negativity is lurking

Sabotage is plotting to greet me…snatching all of the beauty of us from beneath me

Drama has been my karma for many many clocks

To see her walk away so calmly turns my stomach into year long knots

Won’t she be back more bold and loud?

Tell me I never deserved this? Air my dirty laundry out…

Make you change your mind so suddenly

Leaving me to only reminisce and grieve

Preparing for a goodbye you promise to never ever leave…

“Remote (cont’d): The Control of It All” By Robin Chappell

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The President of the United States stood there irritated and lost in thought as, Louis Thorington, the head of “The Survs” stood in the center of The Oval Office and reported back to him the news about Dr. Hartley that he did not expect. He stared out of the window and listened intently without response.

“She’s uh…she’s escaped and disappeared off the grid again sir. Last location was in Rome, Italy until she killed two of our officers and escaped through a hotel window. We are working hard to track her location and send more officers to bring her back…um Mr. President.” Thorington cleared his throat. He stood there in a gray expensive tailored suit, simply dressed with no watch or jewelry and appearing well put together; but his graying dirty blonde hair glistened with sweat and his pale manicured hands were moist as he hid them behind his back and firmly planted his feet. He held a mousy type of appearance that wasn’t as intimidating as it should be for the leader of a group called The Survs that hunt down potential terrorist threats, but his brawn wasn’t why he was chosen. Louis Thorington was one the main creators and programmers of The Surveill-Eye 3000, the reason this was all a success. Thorington had been a brain surgeon and heard the ideas thrown out about a small chip being inserted somewhere into the body in order to control the nation. It began as a mere idea and a dream, then changed into a reality the day Thorington walked into The White House to finally present The Surveill-Eye 3000 after tirelessly crafting it for ten years.

He stood in front of everyone at the White House during a televised press conference about his new invention and the plans to carry it out and complete everyone’s insertion that following year.

“Not only will The Surveill-Eye 3000 keep track of finances, income, and background information, but through the brain sensor, this chip will also possess the ability to detect emotions motivating rage! With this chip we will be able to better eliminate terrorist acts and school shootings by actually seeing the premeditated emotions leading to homicides. Crime rate will be practically non-existent when we involve a special team dedicated to tracking and detaining citizens with these types of issues.”

A Hispanic woman that happened to be a House Representative slowly raised her hand. Thorington pointed to her with a smirk after his statements, knowing that this would raise a lot of skepticism and even rejection, but he was fully prepared to back up and discuss all of his research.

“Isn’t this a little too far? Tapping into the emotions you assume one may have may not necessarily lead to murder or the shooting of an entire building. What if it’s…grief? Or just anger because of the loss of a job? This doesn’t always lead to greater issues and sometimes it has to do with the way someone is mentally able to handle their problem. Seems to me as if you’re saying anyone that gets too emotionally charged would be at risk of a team of strangers coming to their home and detaining them until…what? They calm down? Or a certain amount of assigned prison time? Time out?” She cocked her head as the audience around her chuckled.

Thorington grinned. “Great question, but I do believe you’re looking at it from the wrong point of view. This will allow us to be more safe and not look up at the news to see twenty or more people dead because of a deadly mass shooting. We will tackle the issues once we actually get to them and learn the extent of the emotion one is going through.”

She frowned her face in thought. “So how is that not an inconvenience? Or against someone’s natural rights? You’re not only invading someones brain, emotions, thoughts, and well being, but their entire life as they know it just because they became a little upset. What are we twelve? We’re being indefinitely for detained just for how we feel??”

The rest of the room began to chatter in agreement.

“Well, isn’t it better to be safe that sorry? Where has letting people have free thoughts and free range of living gotten us? Heartbroken…disappointed…devastated. You can barely even look at the news anymore without hearing about a tragedy. Aren’t we all tired of the unexpected? The unpredictable actions of these criminals are ruining lives. The first thing is that the individuals already possessing a criminal record and in the prison systems are the FIRST to get this chip with no argument about it. This will be not only their new form of probation that needs no physical officer keeping tabs, but their forced retention to never step out of line again. It’s all controlled so simply!” He raised his arms as if he’d made a grand statement.

The room’s chatter and discussions grew louder and more animated as more questions began to emerge. The head of the FBI rose to speak next.

“So this is basically eliminating jobs for those of us that had to do this type of work ourselves…isn’t that right Mr. Thorington?” He straightened his jacket in a huff.

“Not necessarily. You’ll still have a job for about three years until the switch is made and everything that you’ve already done the regular way is all controlled through a new high tech system that you will all be trained to operate once you’ve gained your new names as ‘The Survs’.” The room went up in an uproar that made Thorington walk out of the meeting with nothing more to say. Everything could not be answered in one sitting but the fact of the matter was that the president already confirmed and sealed the deal for the manufacturing and distribution of The Surveille-Eye 3000 as they spoke.

“The President shook Thorington’s hand vigorously with a smile. “This is some work you’ve done here Mr. Thorington, it’s absolutely PERFECT for my plan. America will TRULY be great again.”

Thorington beamed with pride next to his wife Nadia and two small children when he signed the 1 Billion dollar deal that changed his entire life and in less than two years the chip was inserted into citizens and running successfully in every obedient and proud American….then Dr. Hartley happened.

Louis Thorington back then was happy and carefree, feeling as if he’d done the greatest deed for his country, now he’d not slept in weeks since the manhunt for her began after she’d somehow figured out how to extract the chip without killing it’s host, freeing all Americans that now realized they no longer wanted to be controlled by the government’s heavy hand. After being known as the most smart and prestigious man in America, he now in the position of being the most hated man. He breathed deeply and faced his fate in The Oval Office as rain fell against the windows in streaks.

Finally turning to face him, the president’s face held an expression of anger as he walked toward his chair and sat down in deep thought before speaking.

“When we started this project for a greater America, I was told there would be no issues. That it is a fail safe plan and there is NO WAY it can be compromised or taken out without the person ending their own life or the lives of others and you’re telling me that this…this mere woman is outsmarting us all and removing it for money…unacceptable.” He stated through gritted teeth while bringing his tiny fist down on the desk with a thud.

Thorington cleared his throat again nervously. “With all due respect, Mr. President, she was known as one of the top surgeons in America…we can’t really underestimate her.”

He looked up in surprise, making Thorington regret his words.

“Is that right? Coming from the head of an intelligent team that I specifically picked to make this project an ultimate success?” He nodded his head in thought. Then a weird smirk came across his face.

“Alright, you’re dismissed.” He quickly stated with a wave of his hand.

Thorington shifted his weight between each leg.

“But um…I am promising you sir that we are going to find her. We will not let you down.”

He continued to write something on a pad without looking up nor responding to his words. Thorington slowly turned on his left toe anxiously and walked out of the door in silence. The president shook his head in disappointment then clicked the “TERMINATE” button on Thorington’s profile displayed on his screen. Within less than thirty seconds, a loud POP could be heard followed by shrill screaming and calls for someone to “Get help.”

With a slash of his pin he crossed out his note saying “Find replacement for position of ‘Head of Survs’ IMMEDIATELY.”

“Hearth” By Robin Chappell

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Do not ignite my fire only to let it burn out

Singe my heart with your truth

Enlighten me again on what your flame is about

I’ve extinguished every doubt and I’ve taken all the heat

You gently warm my heart with your beautiful smile

Comfort me with every fervent word you choose to speak

The sparks we created long ago burst into the brightness of a bonfire

Keeping a glow upon my face I never want to retire

So do not ignite my flame only to let it burn out

Engulf me until I feel it from the inside

Until you make my entire body shout

My passion will need to remain kindled

Tending to the embers in the hearth of our love

Fuel them before they begin to dwindle

Watching it die out like the stars burning from above

Do not ignite my flame only to let it burn out

Let the flicker remain the same reason that you came

Let it sting the world like fireballs from your mouth

Raining new light into the darkness of their brains

“Tiny Shiny Glass” By Robin Chappell

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Life was tragically shattered by a dream to be great

To be brilliant, upstanding, be more giving than demanding

Then came the inaudible crash ringing through my ears incessantly

So loud like a crystal chandelier beautifully falling to the fate of gravity

Miniscule shards of glass spread and glisten against my skin

I clamber around…I pick them up and I pick them out

Before anyone notices the deplorable mess I scramble to sweep them in

Feeling like inevitably I can just glue them back together again

Then everyone would see it’s transparency

Light breaks through the cracks creating glowing specks of a spectrum

Displaying a colorful rainbow of promise on the walls as I scream out

“I fixed it! Look at how I made it all new!”

Then comes the disintegration of the weak glue I attempted to use

Before the mass’ eyes fall upon it while it’s good, it completely crumbles again

Chipping away slowly at first, the sound of tiny sifted grains or like trickling rain

The smallest cracking like the December embers of the warmest fire

The weight and support can finally bare no more

I watch the bottom caving into the pressure I could never defend

Pulled from beneath me so quickly when I no longer had dividends

I desperately try to stick them back together with the thickness of the years

I gather the pieces into my arms frantically pasting them with tears

Hands and arms absolutely bloodied with no result but the potential

The possibility that my life exists, so the tiny shards of glass help me to reminisce

Once I bathe in it in pure bliss you may label me insane

But it would disappointingly be the principle you completely missed

This disaster before me holds a presence that is broken but vulnerably open

Beautifully hideous, deformed, and plagued

Honest and rebellious. It’s an infection and a plague

I can’t ever fix it after the hundreds of times I tried

And what it took was the acceptance of failure, the doing away of my pride

I no longer hide the guilt or the shame the comes with the sound of my name

There is truth and there is proof that everything is meant to start anew

So I proudly dust myself clean, roll my sleeves, beginning a new project with stronger glue

Doing away with the chips and remains of the past I desperately wanted to hold together

Knowing it was dangerously unstable, the fate of collapsing beneath the weight of a feather

Now it can withstand the storms, there is no more sweeping to do

There is no longer the disappointing sound of glass breaking beneath the soles of my shoes