Posted in Books & Stories

My Second 5 Star Review of “Innermost” by Realistic Poetry International

I’m proud to present you with my second book review from the team at Realistic Poetry International for my poetry book “Innermost” that is available in paperback, ebook and audiobook formats. Click here to read the original post on Realistic Poetry’s website or read the copied text below! Don’t forget to leave a comment as well!

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If there’s only two things I understand at a visceral level, those would be trauma and poetry.  Innermost by Jamila Mikhail encapsulates both with an astounding breadth, depth, and respect, displaying both the cause and effects of PTSD while somehow managing not to instantly set off my own post-traumatic triggers even once.  As a warning, if you do have PTSD, there’s an excellent chance that you will see at least one of your triggers in this book, and I strongly encourage any such reader to treat the foreword as a content warning for the entire volume.  Even so, I give this a 5-star rating, without any doubt or hesitation.

With each poem I read, I found fragments of myself throughout.  Even the first, “A Man Called Joachim”, reminded me of a man I had loved and lost, yet never had to begin with.  “Broken Glass” brought me back to my childhood, even though I’m fairly sure it was about domestic abuse, but that sort of behavior transcends a single scenario.  “Black Soul” perfectly records the self-delusions of depression and self-loathing, the relentless belief of one’s own worthlessness, even that one is an innate threat to others.  It quietly captures the occasional death wish, the urge to suffer, the need to make the pain stop, regardless of how.  Each poem is yet another window into the very nature of human suffering and the manifold ways in which it comes to linger as trauma and post-traumatic stress.

While it definitely shows a world of monsters and demons, Innermost never forgets its humanity or compassion, and I’d consider it a must-read for anyone trying to better understand their own past traumas.  Even if you don’t find answers, you’ll know you aren’t alone, that others have been where you are, and that death is not the only way out.

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Posted in Books & Stories

My First 5 Star Review of “Innermost” by Realistic Poetry International

I am very happy to present you all a recent five-star review for my poetry book “Innermost” that I received from Realistic Poetry International’s Honest Book Reviews team. You can read the original post on their website or read the copied text below. I hope that this might motivate you to get your own copy if you’ve been thinking about it!

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Author Jamila Mikhail’s book “Innermost” is an emotional and mental poetry documentary that captures some of the author’s darkest hours and coldest moments of her life as she strives to fight against the devastation of depression, rejection, disappointment and a broken heart.

This book reverberates with a passionate, yet lethargic voice of pain that isn’t afraid to confront their imperfect reality, despite the heartache and mental anguish it may cause. The idea of true love is noticeable throughout the book with romantic poems that embody sentiment, compassion, empathy, desire and fantasy- others show us merely the fragments leftover after all has been shattered to pieces… just like broken glass.

Poems such as “Broken Glass” remind us of a classic Lifetime movie drama, using the similia “broken glass” to represent the significant damage that has occurred between two hearts and lives due to the grueling effects of alcoholism.

In this poem, as with several others, Mikhail’s words are evocative and feel real, exposing some of her inner weaknesses and vulnerability to life, as she’s out on a thin limb clinging to the past and dear memories of when she once recalls her house truly being a home.

Emotional-based, the author’s style of writing is like prose poetry and uses the literary elements of symbolism, metaphors, and situational irony to compare and depict real-life circumstances to figurative scenarios; an example of this is the depiction and comparison of her own internal battle to the idea of being lost at sea.

Mikhail uses the figurative depiction “lost at sea,” (also the title of a poem) to embellish and emphasize the stormy rapture of turmoil and turbulence impacting her relationship with her partner, in which she is quickly plummeting saying, “…I’m drowning in the waters I know.” We take this moment to truly imagine the depths of the author’s fear, lost without compass in a world that has the potential and power to swallow anyone and anything in its way, such as the mighty sea! The feeling is nothing less than devastating. And the fact that the author makes a point to use such a dramatic and intense illustration tells us she is more than overwhelmed, isolated and dubious- she is going under. Will she survive?

Living miserably in the gloomy shadows of her own self-loathing and contempt, the narrator struggles greatly with finding inner-peace and finds it nearly impossible to gain any sense of contentment, severely discouraged by the tempestuous winds of adversity. She furthermore accentuates this unforgiving reality when she openly defines the color of her spirit as, “black.”

Behind this thought is a poem entitled “Black Soul” that shares the author’s honest viewpoint on how she connects and relates to the color black while figuratively defining its emotional impact and obscurities. The poem is written as an extended metaphor and possesses an intriguing, cryptic vibe and is no coincidence, emotionally, as black as a day with no sun.

We must add that from a technical perspective, Mikhail really shows off the usefulness of metaphors in this piece by means of multiple detailed comparisons that stem from her own personal pain, sadness and depression. Each depiction is intimate, and just like the color black, “lack hue and brightness,” ultimately drawing a shadowy portrait of her distressed spirit and consciousness. The poem takes an ironic turn towards the end when she says “Black makes me feel alive. Black is the color of my soul,” attaching herself and her very existence to the bleak and mysterious nature of the darkness.

Author Jamlila Mikhail’s poetry can speak to so many broken spirits and suffering hearts and I can definitely recommend this book to others. More than a presentation of conflict, adversity and pain, this book reads as a poetic testimony of perseverance, heart, love, courage and transition in which the author digs deep down into her soul and embraces her hearts innermost.

Posted in Books & Stories

Free Book Reviews For Fellow Indie Authors

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Hello fellow writers! This post is for the thousands upon thousands of other independent authors like me on there fighting their way through oceans of new books every day and wanting readers to get their hands on their unique quality material. I know that the biggest struggle is probably getting book reviews and paying for a review is often overpriced and you’re not guaranteed a good one either.

I won’t promise you a good one but I can give you an honest one from the perspective of a fellow writer, just like you. I’m happy to officially roll out my free indie book review service for fellow writers! Click here to get started!

This service is extremely new hence I don’t have a big audience at the moment but every book blogger has to start somewhere. Reviews will be posted on Amazon (USA & Canada only), Twitter, Goodreads, and my book blogs on LiveJournal and Quora respectively. Particularly good books might get more exposure at my discretion and get posted on other of my many social media pages.

Posted in Books & Stories

My Author Interview On AwesomeGang.com

Hello everyone! I’m happy to announce that my author interview on AwesomeGang.com has officially gone up for all of you to read! Just click on the blue link or read the full text below to find out the story behind what inspired Innermost and find out what I’m up to next!

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Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
My name is Jamila Mikhail, I’m 21 years old and I am currently the author of one published book. It was always my lifelong dream to write and publish a book because I’ve been writing in several languages ever since I was old enough to hold a pen. I’m brand new to the indie author scene and so far I’ve been absolutely loving living the dream even if I’m mostly unknown in the business!

What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My most recent book is called “Innermost” and it’s a compilation of emotional poetry that I’ve written over a span of nearly half a decade, but mostly around the time of my PTSD diagnosis. It was actually my therapist who suggested that I begin to write seriously, and not just as a hobby, but it’s not until recently that I could build a proper platform to accomplish my dream. Innermost is really about all of the emotions known to the human heart, the good ones and the bad ones and whatever falls in between.

Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Indeed I do! Ironically I can only write when I’m doing something else at the same time. I know, I know, multitasking is said to be unproductive, but personally I’ve never been able to do otherwise. If I just sit there and force my head to come up with words and sentences and whatnot it feels like writing is a chore and not an escape from life. Inspiration usually just strikes me out of nowhere when I’m doing something else, so it’s while keeping busy that I’m usually the best at being a writer.

What authors, or books have influenced you?
This is a very hard question to answer because I’ve read so many books that have impacted in so many ways over the years. I have quite an obsession with clean romance novels, and anything related to the 20th century. I can easily say that the book that had the greatest impact on me was “Death Dealer” by Rudolf Hoess though, after reading it I finally understood what Mikhail Bakunin meant when he said “Real humanity presents a mixture of all that is most sublime and beautiful with all that is vilest and most monstrous in the world.”

What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a youth novel called “Don’t Let Me Go” that is set to hit the marketplace on July 1st. It’s my way to tackle the epidemic of anxiety, depression and other mood disorders among teens and other young people. I’ve been there and reading something I could relate to was more often than not my escape. By writing and publishing this book it is my hope that I can pay it forward.

What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
Because I’m a poet I’ve found myself to be right at home on Realisticpoetry.com but I’ve also made great connections on Instagram. I’ve also done surprisingly well at doing good old fashioned promotion by hand with postcard-sized cards I had printed advertising my book. Even those who didn’t care for the actual book commented on how stunning the card was!

Do you have any advice for new authors?
Don’t get discouraged! There’s no one way to go about writing, publishing or marketing. Just because one method didn’t work for you it doesn’t mean that you are a failure. Other authors are so quick to tell you how it should be but the truth is that this industry is a trial and error process for success. It’s important to have a plan but ultimately you’ll have to craft your own that caters to your specific needs because no two books are the same!

What is the best advice you have ever heard?

“Don’t be afraid of what it might cost you.” This wasn’t so much about a financial cost, but more towards an emotional one. Battling PTSD has left me with a distorted self-image and I greatly lacked confidence in myself.

What are you reading now?
Unfortunately I can’t say that I’m reading much for leisure right now because I have about a dozen books about WWII and the Holocaust lined up for a university level correspondence class that I’m currently taking about the history of major global conflicts. I suppose that “The Psychology of Dictatorship” by G.M. Gilbert would still count in this case, no?

What’s next for you as a writer?

Next up I plan on entering my current published book and the upcoming one into several contests and once I have three or four books on the market I’d like to start doing festivals too. Hopefully along with that modest success will come next too!

If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?

I’d most likely bring books about spirituality and astronomy because they are really the only two topics that I know I can ponder endlessly and never reach a definite conclusion. Thinking about the past would drive me crazy because it would be out of my reach, and contemplating the future would be very painful knowing that I might never get there, but I can ponder the meaning of life and death, the afterlife and what’s hidden beyond the stars forever and each time it takes on a different form and I come to a different conclusion.

Posted in Everything Else, Personal & Opinion

Quora Top Writer 2018

Remember my Quora Year In Review post a few weeks ago? Well, I was recently one of the people awarded the title of Top Writer for the year 2018 and I could not be happier and more humbled by this! The best part was winning a one year subscription to the New York Times which is one of my favorite newspapers! 😀 I also now have this permanent neat badge on my Quora profile for my valuable contributions to the community.

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I was very surprised to see a message in my inbox from Johnathan Brill saying that I’d been awarded this because I’ve been a member of the community for less than a year, I have less than 200 answers posted and only 36 followers. I’m a total nobody, a complete unknown on there, but obviously I still caught the attention of the admins and they love what I have to write!

At first I actually thought it was spam since I disabled receiving messages from other users because I kept getting spam including flirty/dirty messages and even a marriage proposal but then I looked on my profile and sure enough my little badge was there! 🙂

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Once I can return to my regular quiet life I hope that I can continue to make valuable contributions to the Quora community and get a second Top Writer badge for 2019. Wish me luck!

Posted in Postcards & Correspondence

List of Expired Postcrossing Postcards in 2017

Everyone has a sad postcard graveyard unfortunately, and this is mine for the year that just ended. 😦 This list is merely for tracking purposes in my postcard hobby.

Posted in Books & Stories

The Distant Factory — All Parts

Visit my official website to download the free PDF version of this book as well as many others or scroll below to read the stories right here on WordPress. If you enjoy these free stories please consider supporting my writing career by buying one of my paid books. 😀

Three years after the murder of her brother by a corrupt politician, Anastasia Sims is hellbent on revenge no matter what the costs. She sets out on a rash of petty crimes by herself until she is recruited by a group of black market arms dealers for the purpose of money laundering. At a crossroads she must choose whether or not she’s going to turn the other cheek and redeem herself or do the unthinkable, but when she encounters Connor Patterson and Damian Welker it seems like the choice has already been made for her.

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Commentary

Although this story is a work of fiction, it highlights very real and very important social issues that plague our society. I will not write an essay about all of it because the lessons are there, we only need to pay attention. The first (and quite putrid) version of this story was originally written in 2011 on the advice of my therapist at the time to hopefully help me process my feelings about growing up in poverty, mostly on the streets of run down neighborhoods ridden with crime and other greatly unfavorable conditions. In 2014 I then decided to revive this project after actually being homeless for a few weeks, and living in a friend’s disarranged hunting trailer and it ended up more or less like this story you’ve just read, minus a few new edits.

Thankfully I never had to witness a murder, and much less committed one, but I’ve seen many things that left a scar on me to this day. By being the “bad guy” and having control over all events from behind my computer screen I could regain that control I never felt I had. Before, I was vulnerable but now I am victorious. If you enjoyed this story I kindly ask you to please consider supporting my writing career by purchasing one of my paid books.

Posted in Books & Stories

The Distant Factory — Chapter Twenty One

This afternoon there are new developments in the recent discovery of some gruesome crimes in recent weeks. Police have now released the names and pictures of four persons of interest. None of them are considered suspects just yet, but the police would like to question the following individuals regarding other crimes that may be linked to the murder of Washington Heights city councillor Dwayne Jackson and the now 52 identified teenage girls found in a mass grave last month. The first person of interest is a man known to police named Damian Welker, here is his mugshot onscreen right now, he is currently wanted for weapons trafficking and extortion. The second person of interest today is a man named Andrew Murdoch, the reason the police want to question him hasn’t been released to us but he has obviously been in trouble with the law before as we have a mugshot from 2002 on file. The two last persons of interest are nineteen-year-old Connor Peterson who is a known associate of Damian Welker and multiple area drug kingpins, and a teenage girl only known as Ana Sims seen on security footage breaking into stores with Peterson as well as dropping off a large sum of money on a doorstep in Croton-On-Hudson. The names of other persons of interest have been released during a press conference as well, however we have no photos of these people.

They had a very clear image of my face and what I was doing on Robin Crowley’s property. In the previous days I had also been wandering around town, somebody was going to track me down sooner or later, it was just a matter of time. The walls were closing in on me alone in my dark hotel room with nothing but the light from the TV screen illuminating the surroundings. I was running out of money to move around and hide in different places too. There was a part of me that so badly didn’t want to run anymore, but until I had found Damian and Connor, I had to keep looking and keep a low profile. The last I had heard of Byron, he had managed to contact his mother but he hadn’t told her who he was, so I imagined another reason why the authorities would be interested in me. Byron had lied for me and for all of us for so long and his time had come to tell the truth, there was no doubt in my mind that he was going to find a way to do just that without taking all of us down. But I was going down and I knew that very well. All I had do to was wait.

The following morning I got dressed in some new clothes that I had made Byron get for me. I put on some large sunglasses that were way too big for my face and covered my head with the hood of my new red hoodie. I only had a thousand bucks left in my pockets and no weapons, so unless somebody had been monitoring me, I was not Ana Sims and I had nothing to do with her. When I left the hotel room and made my way to Whitehaven, I had a pretty good idea that I would get caught because there was no doubt in my mind that the authorities were monitoring Damian Welker’s place and everybody that came and went. But I had to try anyway. My guys had skipped town and I never had the chance to give any of them a proper goodbye before the whole situation blew up. Damian was the only one left, but even before I set out part of me knew that he was already gone.

My entire life I had searched for things and people that were already gone. Part of me wondered if it wasn’t me that had always been gone. Nobody had any answers to my questions and none of them mattered anyway. I could only hold on to the faint hope that Damian was still somewhere out there and that I could get to him before anybody else did. On my way to Whitehaven I deliberately took the long way there so I could pass through Cobalt and get a glimpse of what was going on there. The police presence was huge, bigger than anything else I had ever seen in the history of living on the streets and seeing all sorts of things happen right in front of your eyes. News crews were reporting out of Cobalt day and night and finally the small town had been put on the map once and for all. I only prayed that my people had all gotten out of there.

The trip to Whitehaven had gone without a single hiccup. I got dropped off in the outskirts of the small community without incident. It didn’t seem like anyone had followed me but I’m sure somebody was watching somewhere. They had to be, the authorities weren’t complete idiots, they knew where Damian lived. It was just a matter of catching him in the act. The media presence in Whitehaven was enormous too. You could clearly see the factory off of Old Mill Road down by the river so of course if you had a shot of the crime scene in the background of your news report your ratings were much higher. It was just a ploy to get more viewers and make more money. Nothing in life was about the greater good of the people around you, and if it once was, it wasn’t anymore. There’s nothing good anymore when you’re on the run.

I walked over to Damian’s old moldy building and went up the stairs to his floor. As I went up I carefully examined every detail of the building out of paranoia that going over there would just sink the two of us. Nothing seemed to be different except that the place never got cleaner and new disgusting smells seem to come out of it every time I walked in there. As I neared the door of Damian’s apartment I became so increasingly nervous that I wanted to faint, throw up and die all at the same time. For a split second I almost turned around and when running back outside but I knew that I only had one chance so I decided to go ahead and take it. The worst thing that was going to happen was a police officer waiting to apprehend me inside. Whether it happened in the apartment building or somewhere down in the streets below, I was going to get caught one day or another. I had nothing to lose.

So I walked right up to the door and looked around me one last time before lifting up my hand to knock. It took me a few seconds but I did it. I knocked gently on the door to not make too much noise but nobody answered. I heard no footsteps coming to the door to open it. It was still just me in the hallway. Nothing had changed. So I knocked louder, knowing that Damian hated people pounding on his door. That would prompt him to open it, or at least that’s what I thought. Still nothing. I still stood alone in the hallway in front of a closed door. On a whim I tried the door handle just to see if it was unlocked by chance but I had no luck there either. It seemed like the man wasn’t home but I wanted him so badly to be home because I was in trouble and I needed some twisted sense of comfort and peace of mind that I knew he could give me so I pounded on his door with my fist like a person who had gone completely mad.

“Damian! Damian!” I shouted as I relentlessly pounded on the door, “Damian open the door, please!”

The neighbor that lived right across the hall came out of his apartment angrily when I simply wouldn’t stop making noise. He loudly let his door slam behind him as he looked at me menacingly.

“Damian obviously ain’t here kid! Did you know there’s a warrant for that guy’s arrest all over the news?” the bald man covered in piercings spoke to me apprehensively, seemingly very annoyed, “What do you want from a convict anyway? Why are you here?”
“Because I’m his daughter!” I choked up on a whim, not knowing what else to say and no longer being able to contain my panic.

The most horrified look I had ever seen with my own eyes swept across the man’s face. Behind him in the doorway a woman, probably his wife, holding a Siamese cat in her arms looked just as horrified as he did. I figured that it was common knowledge that he had buried his little girl and then having me show up at the door, resurrected from the grave, it was bound to raise questions somewhere. I ran off crying before the neighbors had the chance to do anything or say something else. I bolted out the door in the lobby faster than I had ever ran before. The worst part wasn’t that I was running from monsters, the Ku Klux Klan or Catholic nuns, the worst part was that I was running from myself and what I had done. There weren’t many places where I could go before the impending doom looming over my head caught up to me.

I ran a few miles to another small municipality by the side of the river and sat on one of their floating docks in the water. I took off my red hoodie and sat on it. I did all I could do, and that was wait for the police to come and get me. The people in the apartment across the hall from Damian’s were going to call the police, there was never any doubt about that, but once again it was a question of when. It was still early afternoon out in the land of the living but I felt as good as dead. I prayed that the authorities could just come and pick me up once and for all, but hours and hours went by and nobody came. Eventually the sun began to set in the distance and a cold wind started to blow. Nothing had happened. I was beginning to wonder if anybody was coming for me in the first place. I hadn’t dreamed of seeing myself on TV, wanted. So where was everyone? One thing I knew for sure, they weren’t here.

As the sunset was dissipating over the buildings, I heard a single set of footsteps coming from behind me. The pace wasn’t slow but it wasn’t in a hurry, it was casual, relaxed. I did not turn back to see who it was. It didn’t matter to me who it was. All the people I loved were already gone. I had nobody to look back for. The footsteps stopped just a few feet from me on the wooden dock but I still didn’t turn around for a single glance. All I could do was look at the waves of the water going back and forth. The person took another step towards me and stopped again, seemingly cautious, so I finally I tilted up my head and looked. The first thing I saw next to me was a dirty leather trench coat. I looked up at the man and saw that it was Damian!

“Oh my goodness!” I shouted as I literally jumped up, “How did you find me?”

I honestly couldn’t believe it. It was really him!

“Somebody told me that my daughter stopped by,” he spoke apprehensively, “I simply couldn’t ignore something like that.”

I broke down crying at the sight of him and in response he took me into his arms and held me tightly.

“I’m so sorry Damian,” I muttered, “but I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t give you a proper goodbye.”
“I know baby,” his voice softened up, “I know what unfinished emotional business is all about.”
“Everyone in my life is gone and it’s my own fault!”
“Well I’m still here ain’t I?”

Damian loosened his tight hold on me and stroked my cheek with his rough hand. The look in his eyes was gentle and he seemed to be on the verge of tears.

“There’s nothing under the moon that I wouldn’t do for you baby,” Damian’s voice was nothing but a whisper, “what’s going on with you?”
“I am so sorry Damian,” I had a hard time containing my emotions, “but it’s all over. It’s just a matter of time before they find us and I am so sorry that I got you into this mess because I was angry and impulsive. I just need you to know that.”
“I was in trouble long before you ever came alone, it just a matter of time before they caught me anyway. Don’t hold this one against yourself. You’ve suffered enough. I still have some of the money you gave me, thank you for that sweetheart, so you can still get out of here.”
“There’s no running anymore. I want all of this to be over more than anything Damian. I’m just sorry that I had to drag you down with me, and I want you to know that.”
“I know, I always have.”

Damian leaned over and kissed me on the cheek.

“I think about all the days of my life when I could’ve done something more,” I muttered, “and I think about all the days of my life when I should’ve done things differently.”
“It ain’t too late honey,” Damian’s voice was shaking, “we can still make it through this I promise you that.”
“It’s too late to not drink the vodka after you swallowed it. Our pictures are all over the media Damian, I can’t understand why they haven’t picked us up by now!”
“They’ve got some of the biggest cases in centuries on their hands right now, we’re not wanted for murder either. There’s still time.”
“I just want it all to end! I really screwed things up for myself and I don’t want this life anymore!”
“Then go to the police. They aren’t very far. Tell them everything, and tell them that I’ve done some truly horrific things to you and that I made you do other things. That way the judge will have compassion on you and he’ll want to help you instead of condemning you.”
“You have so much faith in such a perverted system.”
“It’ll at least buy you a chance. Otherwise you’ll never see the light of day again. You’re still so damn young.”
“And what about you and Connor? I didn’t come back here to sink the Titanic!”
“Connor skipped town. When he left I already never expected to see him again so that’s irrelevant now. Right now the pigs want to talk to me about guns that I’ve sold but once they dig up some more dirt, I’m going away for a very long time.”
“Well I guess it’s the two of us now.”
“At least take twenty thousand bucks and give skipping town a shot. All that money won’t be of much good to me in prison.”
“No way in hell Damian. I’m staying right here with you.”

I put my disguise back on and Damian and I rode back to Bronx in his car to his hideout by the waterfront in the area Byron and I had been a few weeks earlier.

“I had no idea that you were this close all this time,” I spoke mostly to myself as Damian parked the car near the alley Byron had parked his in.
“What do you mean?” he asked as he overheard.
“A kid named Byron and I came here just a few days ago while we waited to be caught.”
“Well we’re both here now.”

Damian’s hideout was a small office near an old converted industrial compound. There was one large living area containing the living room, dining room, kitchen, everything. At one end there was a single bedroom and next to it was the bathroom. Huge metal bars covered the windows and there was a big stash of guns laying on the pool table in a dirty corner. The man was loaded to say the least. His hideout was about just as bad as his apartment back in Whitehaven but at least it didn’t smell like mold and urine. It only smelled like smoke from years of smoking in there. The windows didn’t open so there was no getting that nasty smell out of there.

“Until they come,” Damian spoke softly as he turned the light on, “this will have to do.”
“It’s perfect,” I smiled softly at him, “do you have cable on that TV?”

He didn’t. The two of us spent at least half an hour trying to arrange the rabbit ears in order to get some half-decent reception for the late night news. By the time we got some good reception the newscast had long since ended. On the other hand, we had ended up covering the rabbit ears with aluminum foil and taping them to the wall afterwards in an area where we had the clearest reception. It was still snowy in his old TV but at least you could see and hear everything onscreen.

“Guess we’ll have to wait until tomorrow eh,” I spoke in a mixture of satisfaction and disappointment, “to see if we’re in some more hot water.”
“Come to bed and I’ll rub your back,” Damian proposed as he fixed up his bedroom, “I’ll do my best to make this place as comfortable as I can while we’re in here.”

The following morning, even after a goodnight’s sleep in Damian’s strong arms, I was completely cracking up. It had gotten to the point that I threw up everything I ate not matter how small or insignificant. I wanted to go running outside with my arms up in air shouting that I had killed Dwayne Jackson and that I wanted God to forgive me. It became increasingly hard for me to focus on the words of encouragement that Byron and Esteban had blessed me with. The only thing looming over my head was what I had done and the unknown; what would be the result of it. At noon Damian and I tuned into the newscast for any updates on the case in order to determine what we were going to do next or if we were just to stay put until further notice. It wasn’t long before the two of us knew our fate.

We have some breaking news this hour regarding the Dwayne Jackson murder case. Police have just released some security footage from inside City Hall clearly showing Anastasia Sims making multiple visits in the days and weeks before the councillor was murdered. On another video, footage from the back parking lot where staff keep their vehicles, the teen girl is seen loitering around seemingly waiting for someone. Towards the end of the clip you clearly see her going to retrieve some paper and writing something before depositing on a car offscreen and leaving the way she came. Authorities now believe that she was either hired by the killer to blackmail the city councillor or she has some sort of other information regarding the crime.

“Well that didn’t take long,” Damian spoke with no emotion in his voice.
“Bunch of idiots!” I snapped back angrily, “I killed the jerk! But then again, I had very little motive to do so compared to some other people it seems.”
“This might sound crazy honey, but a lot of people out there will hail you as a hero. Sure they won’t say that killing the guy was the right way to get rid of him, but if what you say he did is true, the friends and family of all those people he hurt won’t be able to hate you.”
“You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind.”
“Seriously, if the person who killed my little girl was to be killed tomorrow, I’d get down on my knees and worship the person who did it.”
“So what happens now? They know they want me and after today I don’t have much time.”
“What happens now is up to you. The minute we’ll leave here they’ll find us.”
“Do you think that we’ll go down in history for this? Centuries from now do you think they’ll still have our faces and our names in books and movies?”
“Is that what you want to happen?”
“Is there anything else that can happen? People won’t give a crap if I go out there, but something will happen if I bring a gun to City Hall.”
“You’re on your own for a suicide mission though.”
“I’ve been a nobody my entire life. I don’t want to go out like a nobody.”
“Make sure they remember your name!”

My faith had been short lived. Forgiveness wasn’t going to work. At least not in the moment. All that stuff could wait for a later time. For the moment the only thing I wanted was for everything to end.

“I’m not bringing a gun to City Hall,” I spoke in a very serious tone of voice, “but I will be paying the place a visit. There is a time to plant and a time to uproot.”

Damian and I put on some disguises just so we could make it the short distance to Washington Heights before somebody spotted us. I wore my same hoodie and sunglasses while Damian actually put on some clean clothes and a ball cap before we jumped into the car and took a short drive.

“What are you doing to do?” Damian asked me seemingly afraid of what I was plotting, “I don’t want the security personnel to shoot you in there.”
“If they shoot me they shoot me,” I replied apprehensively, “but I’ll just be creating a scare in the people at the memorial in there. When the dynamite starts to sweat it becomes very unstable.”
“Just don’t lose it in there. I’m not going to be able to handle losing you too.”
“I love you Damian. Whatever happens from this moment on, I just want to make sure that you know that.”
“I love you too Ana. Now make sure that no matter what happens, this all ends with a bang!”

I grinned at him and got out of the vehicle right in front of City Hall as Damian was going around the block to find a parking space. I walked passed the crowds of people and the media into the buildings where a huge makeshift memorial had been erected for the corrupt councillor. It was growing more and more every day. What all of those people didn’t know were the things the city councillor had done when nobody was looking. I walked through the crowd and climbed up onto a table and accidentally knocked down some picture frames and made them come crashing to the floor, attracting the attention of everyone who was in there. In that moment I ripped off my hood and ditched my sunglasses, letting everyone know in complete shock and horror who I was.

“My name is revenge and I’m here to make my claim!”

Only a fraction of a second passed before the security guards drew their guns on me and everyone got up against the walls.

“Put your hands behind your head and get down on the ground right now!” an officer shouted at me as I grinned at the expressions on everyone’s faces, “Don’t make it say it twice!”
“Take it easy popo,” I chuckled, “by the way Damian Welker is behind you.”

That sure sent everyone into a frenzy. One office tackled unarmed Damian to the ground and arrested him. Another officer tackled me from behind only a few seconds later as I was watching the scene unfold in front of my face with great delight. Fast forward less than a minute and I was being read my rights while City Hall was being evacuated. Damian and I locked looks for one last time as the two of us were being escorted out and put into the back of two separate police cars.

“You’ll all thank me once you find out what Dwayne Jackson did!” I shouted as a media frenzy swarmed Damian Welker and I.

Back at the police station I was booked and put into an interrogation room where one staff member came in and told me a bunch of useless and irrelevant crap and finished with telling me that I could make one phone call before two homicide detectives were going to relentlessly question me, but I was ready to talk. I was ready to tell them everything.

Posted in Books & Stories

The Distant Factory — Chapter Twenty

Byron took me by the hand and the two of us checked out of the hotel room. Down in the streets below life went on as usual. People walked passed us with big smiles on their faces and went about their business without a worry in the world. The same couldn’t be said for Byron and I. He was about to walk into his father’s congregation after five years of seemingly having evaporated off the face of the earth. I was about to blow my cover and go to prison for the rest of my days. I took a deep breath and followed Byron’s lead.

“I haven’t been here in an eternity,” he spoke as he racked his brain, “I might have to ask for directions.”
“Damian Welker has a hideout somewhere around here apparently,” I spoke as I looked around the buildings myself, “it seems like both our lives begin and end here.”
“We can worry about him later, for now if I don’t find my folks in the very near future I might as well back out.”
“It’s a little too late for that Byron. It’s me who’s by your side now, don’t forget that.”

Byron flashed me a smile as he squeezed my hand. After about half an hour of walking or so, Byron spotted the church. It was just a little brown building like any other in the decor of the street. It wasn’t some fancy street with stained glass windows and statues of Jesus on the cross made out of pure gold. It was just across the street from where we were yet it seemed to be a world away. Nothing had registered in my mind by that point. I was about to turn myself in yet my mind still felt like it was running away.

“I don’t have a clue how I’m going to explain any of this to my folks,” Byron’s voice was cracking up, “talking to the police is one thing but telling your mom and your dad that you killed somebody is something else.”

The cars honked angrily as Byron and I ran across the street pretty much in the middle of the place but as I did so I felt like a burden was lifted off my shoulders. There was a certain aspect of comfort involved in reaching the end of the road.

“I never thought I’d see this day!” Byron exclaimed with a mixture of joy and longing.
“I never thought that this would be my life,” I whispered to myself in response.

The two of us barged into the building about an hour before the service was about to begin. A man in his sixties immediately rushed over to us and happily greeted us. The look on Byron’s face indicated that his entire world was falling apart. That man was not his father. The pastor had no idea who either one of us were. It wasn’t him. I felt like I was about to faint because I was so sure that everything was going to end the moment we walked into that church. But both our suffering was prolonged. Byron looked like he was about to cry. He had been so sure and so ready to see his parents again but he had been disappointed. The man presented himself as Esteban Ravenshaw and invited us to have a seat in the very small church and talk for a while before he was to hold the regular Sunday morning meeting.

“I’m looking for a man named Andrew Davis-Harris,” Byron did his best to prevent his voice from cracking as he spoke, “he used to be the leader of this church.”
“Sorry son,” Esteban replied in a neutral tone, “Andrew hasn’t worked here in some four plus years. I can give him a call for you and leave your number with him to call you back however.”
“I was hoping to speak to him in person, but that’s fine, I’ll catch up with him another time.”
“Since he lost his oldest son the man has been having some hard time coping but there is no doubt in my mind that he’ll be happy to reconnect with you if he used to be your spiritual leader.”

The three of us sat down in the chairs arranged in a circle in the small room while Esteban spoke about how he found the Lord some thirty years ago. The room smelled like old mold but it was probably just the dirty carpeting. Crosses and decorations and picture frames with Bible verses adorned the dark paneling walls everywhere. I couldn’t sit still so I went and took a look around the place hoping to find a distraction. In the pastor’s office there was a picture on the wall of a young Byron with his parents and younger siblings. Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning was written underneath the frame. It was such a shame that Byron’s father hadn’t been there because he would have definitely rejoiced at seeing his son again, especially if he had thought that his son was dead for five years.

“My daughter, your face is troubled,” I hadn’t noticed Esteban beside me, “is there anything I can help you with?”
“I don’t know,” I muttered softly under my breath.

I was at a complete crossroads in my mind. That little church wasn’t the end of the road, and I no longer knew what to do.

“Let’s take a look at a verse in Matthew,” the man went on, “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
“Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul,” I muttered out a verse from Job that I’d learned from Byron, “to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the gave?”
“Job makes some very valid points my dear, but don’t forget that although your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.”
“Is there really hope for the hopeless?”
“Jesus said that even the hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows. Tell me what’s going on with you and I promise to do everything in my power to help you.”
“I’ve done something so terrible, and it haunts me.”
“Good news! There is nothing too terrible or atrocious for God’s love, mercy, grace and forgiveness. Confess to Him your sins and you will be washed clean. How about you and your friend stay for the meeting and then all of us can finish this conversation?”
“Sure.”
“What did you say your names were?”
“Ana and Byron.”

The man’s eyes lit up when he heard Byron’s name. It was unknown if he made the connection between Byron wanting to see Andrew Davis-Harris and that man having a missing, and presumed dead, son also named Byron. Either way, the man didn’t let that distract him from sharing the message Jesus shared to his people that morning.

“You seem to have impressed him with your Bible knowledge,” Byron tried to lighten the mood as the pastor was speaking with a group of other people.
“I think he was more impressed at meeting Andrew’s son than the few melancholic verses that I know,” I muttered in response, “so what are you going to do about this?”
“I don’t know. This wasn’t what I was expecting.”
“I think I’m going to get out of here because I simply can’t sit still anymore. I need some air.”

The two of us got up and left in a flash. We walked back to where we had parked the car the night before and we both sat in it without saying a single word for the longest time. Byron felt just as empty as I did and I didn’t have much more of a clue on what to do next any more than he did.

“Do you want to hide out in another hotel room until we figure out what to do next?” Byron asked me softly just to break the silence, “I’ll get us some more food for the rest of the day.”

I nodded my head but I didn’t speak.

“I’ll also make a point to get us a better room for tonight,” Byron joked as he started the car, “one with a TV at least. We should be prepared for whatever we’re going to see on the news tonight.”

What was going to be broadcasted on the news at six was exactly what I was afraid of. Were they onto me? What was the best thing to do? Run and hide or turn myself in? Both of those options had worked out awfully for me in the past. What about the people I cared about still out on the streets? What would happen to them if they caught me?

“I guess there is a time to tear and a time to mend,” I muttered to Byron, “but I don’t know what time it is now.”
“And a few verses after that,” Byron spoke gently, “God has made everything beautiful in its time. No one can fathom what he has done from beginning to end.”
“And you know Byron, that’s exactly what scares me. Some people are tempted to say that what you don’t know can’t hurt you but what you’re not prepared for is what can cut you the deepest.”
“In that case maybe the best thing to do at this point is to try and figure out what the authorities know and you can figure out your next move.”

Byron grabbed some drive-thru Wendy’s before checking into a much nicer hotel room. There were two large beds, a nice big couch, a microwave, a phone, a TV with some 500 channels, a small table with two chairs, room service available around the clock and a beautiful view of the city. I immediately dropped my bag next to the door when I came into the room and flopped down on one bed to tune into some local and national news channels. The navy blue bedsheets were soft and had a floral pattern with a vintage twist. The floorboards were made out of varnished natural wood and one wall made out of beautiful brown bricks. I felt like royalty for a moment even though the room was far from being the king’s palace. As I was laying on the bed next to the phone I contemplated prank calling somebody just for the hell of it but first I had to face what I was going to see on the news.

Just as I feared, the first thing I saw on the news was a special report about the gruesome discovery of a city councillor’s body on an abandoned factory lot in a little hick town called Cobalt. Byron and I were glued to the screen up to the very last second of that broadcast. The female reporter said that so far the authorities had no suspects but they were investigating the possible links to other recent crimes. The reporter did mention however that the city councillor had received a piece of blackmail telling him to bring a hundred thousand dollars to the factory in exchange for silence. What the TV didn’t tell Byron and I was that I was the one who had sent him that, but deep down, I knew that he knew. The broadcast finished with a showing of Damian Welker’s mugshot saying that he was wanted for weapon’s trafficking and that there might be a link between his weapons and the one used in the murder.

“I gave him ninety thousand dollars but it seems like I’ve only dug the trenches deeper down,” I muttered as that broadcast came to an end, “how long Byron?”
“A day or two,” his voice was broken, “somebody’s gonna talk and somebody’s gonna put you at the crime scene.”
“And if I kill myself am I going to hell?”
“Look, Ana, it’s not my place to tell you where you’ll go. All I can say is that if you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your savior, all of your sins are forgotten.”
“Seriously? Even murder in cold blood?”
“Isn’t that what the pastor said? Yes, even murder in cold blood. I don’t recommend suicide though. There’s still a life out there for you.”
“There is no life behind bars Byron. There’s nothing behind bars.”
“God has a way of making things work out for the better you know. Sure I’ve been out here for five years having to make bad choices in order to live another night and to protect the guys but God has given me so much to look forward to. And even when I go to prison, I know that God will use my life to make a difference.”

I didn’t speak.

“If you’re such a righteous man,” I began apprehensively after a long moment of silent contemplation on my behalf, “why the hell haven’t you turned us in? All of us?”
“Because my work here wasn’t done,” Byron spoke gently, “my life still hadn’t served its purpose. But now I have a feeling that my time out here is done.”
“Go home to your family Byron, I’ll figure out what to do in the few days before the cops find me. I shouldn’t be that hard to hunt down.”
“I’m staying with you until the very end Drifter! You should know that by now! You saved my life! I know that God put the two of us in that alley that night for a very special purpose.”

I took an extended bubble bath and ended up making the bubbles flood the bathroom when I turned on the jacuzzi feature in the tub but I had a good time and a good laugh. I ate more food than I should have all at once and I watched a variety of things on TV. When it was time for the evening news to come on I changed the channel to see what kind of new dirty, if any, the authorities had on me, my people or Damian Welker.

Tonight we have an update on a story that we brought to you this afternoon. The local police department has established a possible link between the murder of city councillor Dwayne Jackson and the mass grave of bodies discovered over a week ago. Authorities now say that they have a few persons of interest, however, they aren’t releasing their identities or their pictures just yet. Now let’s go to Jeanine Carling who is in Cobalt tonight reporting on the police’s newest findings. Jeanine, it is to my understanding that this crime was premeditated and that the culprit didn’t act alone is that right?

Once again Byron and I stared at the TV screen with the blankest of blank expressions on our faces right to the very last moment of the broadcast.

“It sure looks like you’ve uncovered something absolutely horrific,” Byron’s voice was almost filled with fear, “and maybe you’ve started a chain reaction of events of record proportions.”
“I didn’t know about any of those things,” I choked out with a dry throat, “I only wanted to avenge my brother.”
“Do you really think he killed those girls?”
“I don’t know. But I do feel like he had something to do with Richard Parker’s murder. Just the look on his face before I shot him…”
“He was guilty.”
“Oh yeah, caught red-handed. But what disturbs me even more is the fact that he totally hadn’t been expecting me. He was prepared for somebody else.”
“I guess we’ll never know the truth now. I don’t think it’s okay to kill people but it seems like you did this town a solid.”
“Monsters getting rid of other monsters. Why does humanity only bring out the worst in each other?”
“That’s why we need God, and oh Lord I’ve got one heck of a guilty conscience myself. The end looming over your heard just makes it so much worst too.”
“At least our guilt lets us experience God’s forgiveness. I had the corruption and control people do in the name of God though.”
“Me too, and I don’t blame those who want nothing to do with God or spirituality because of that, but I say just talk to God, seek God, and God will guide you. Forget about organized religion and this and that faith. God is mighty enough to guide you to the truth if you only open your heart.”
Byron smiled softly at me. God was really the only hope in such a screwed up situation. What about the rest of my people though? What was going to happen to them? I was guilty for my own actions and I fully understood that but the rest of my people out there had no part in my recent actions. All they had ever wanted was to survive and I did not want to take them down with me. But then again, I should have known better than to think that anything is fair in life. It isn’t.

“Do you think that he would have gotten away with this?” I asked Byron after some more contemplation on my behalf, “I mean, they don’t even think it’s me at this point.”
“This is bigger that either one of us at this point,” Byron’s voice was low and pensive, “some crimes never get solved but one of this magnitude probably won’t be unsolved for long.”
“What if they frame Damian Welker for this?!”
“That’s going to be his mess. He’s already wanted for so many other things.”
“But I can’t just let them blame him for something he didn’t do or even know about! That’s just not right!”
“And where do you get your morals all of a sudden?”
“From up my ass Byron! That man looked out for me when I was with him! I can’t just not look out for him and Connor when they looked out for me in the past. Aren’t you paying me back for looking out for you?”

Byron’s face fell. He knew that I was right.

“I need to find Damian Welker.”