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Little Red in the Hood"Lay another one on me, Goosie," she said, flicking the ashes from her cigarette across the bar into the ash tray next to the cash register. The scratched mirror over the bar reflected a perfect little girl with curly hair and wearing a red velvet dress. Most of the usual crowd was missing, no doubt resting up for the evening ahead. It was Saturday, one of the busiest nights of the week.
"You really oughta slow down--" the bartender said. She pushed her wire frame glasses up on her nose and poured two fingers of vodka into Red's glass.
"Easy to say when it ain't you that's gotta go skipping through the same dark woods day after day only to end up in a wolf's belly," she said.
"Hey, kid," the wolf croaked from a small table in the corner where he was nursing a bottle of rum. "I've eaten better before I got stuck with this gig. At least you don't have to go through a c-section every night."
"Yeah, so am I supposed to feel better about getting dragged out of you?" She threw the cold, clear liquid to the back of her throat and shuddered. Smooth warmth filled her for a brief moment before the dusty, dank air of the bar cut back through her body.
"The Three Pigs tell me that we might get our hours cut back now that the Power Rangers are taking over," the wolf said.
"Yeah-yeah, I heard that same talk back when that purple people eater was the in thing, but nothing changed," she said. "I'm not holding my breath waiting for those pastel freaks to change things."
"Things did slow down when Big Bird was topping the charts," Old MacDonald said two seats to her right.
"Those were good days," she said softly, taking a drag on her cigarette. "We had time to hang out with Dorothy in the Green City, live a little. Now --"
A screeching siren filled the air. A red light in the ceiling pulsed brightly. The siren stopped when two hulks dressed in green fatigues walked in. One of the them jerked his finger at the girl and tossed her a bright, red hooded cape. The other one gave the wolf the thumbs up. The wolf stood and limped towards the door.
"We've got a reading alert, bedtime stories starting on Grant Street. Let's go and no trouble this time, girlie," the first one said.
"Come, my hairy one," she said, draping the cape over her shoulders and letting the wolf lean on her as they walked out the door. "Time to live happily ever after."
Dust to DustMy remains have been rudely thrust into the ground without a coffin. There is something unfinished about the whole thing. I wish I could remember dying.
Gases created in my intestines churn through useless blood vessels and dead tissue inflating what was a thin body into something large and misshapen. My body fluids leak from every opening into the surrounding earth. There is life in me still, if I count the maggots feasting inside of me. I must smell and look horrible.
I now know where the soul lives. The enduring bones. Through my bones I'm connected to the earth around me. I hear the murmuring of others, their bones, talking, praying, calling out. The earth answers us, singing warmth and security.
There are distant voices of pain, crying in deep sadness. There is some horror there, I fear. Are they in Hell? It's hard to imagine the earth that has been my comfort giving pain. The screams of those tortured souls is receding into the background.
I have no way to measure time other than the changes in the soft mass surrounding my bones. Gas-filled organs are rupturing and leaking from under skin slippery with large blisters. Escaping fluid purges my maggot guests and allows the earth to move closer. I can't wait until these soft parts rot away so I can have all of my bones touched by earth. Here and there my skeleton is exposed. Grains of dirt caress parts of my skull and fingers free of skin and tissue. The feeling of joy and peace flowing to me is like no feeling I can remember before I died.
There is a randomness to my memory of the other side. The memories are fleeting, filled with the needs of the breathing, soft body that covered my bones when I was alive. Moments of happiness and pain tangle together making the memories all but meaningless to try to capture. Nothing like the tranquility the earth gives me. The song of earth's souls surrounding me is more beautiful than anything I've ever experienced. I could spend an eternity with this song.
All of the rotting meat is gone. Finally my bones are touched by the earth. I am complete. The only thing better would be when my bones crumble and mix with the earth.
There is a subtle change in the song around me. It's becoming distant. A white light is covering my bones. The light is coming towards me. There are others in the light. They -- they are screaming! I'm being pulled into the light, back to the other side. I'm going to lose all of this. I don't want to become smothered in organs, muscles and skin again. I don't want to become deaf to the songs, to become a single, lonely body again.
I start to scream...