Tuesday, June 25, 2013

J M Blackman Week 53: The Rabbit Hole--Part 4: Condensing Memories

WEEK 53! This is the first week of our 2nd year of DAILY PICSPIRATIONS! Thank you to all the contributing authors that have made this possible, both current and past. Here's to another year of Daily Picspirations!!


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J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: The Rabbit Hole--Part 4: Condensing Memories

It’s a ten minute walk to my apartment from the rock-that-we-shall-no-longer-name. That meant we were sitting at about 18 minutes until the time rip. Sam had not elaborated any further on what that would mean, but he kept a brisk pace, nearly jogging, and I kept up. After all, if the ground was going to split and all hell and time and space was going to spew forth, I was going to need him close by. Within clinging range.

When we finally got to my apartment, I wasted another five minutes or so desperately grabbing everything I thought I might need. Medicine, jackets, scarves...I had a vision of the end of the world being very cold, but once I grabbed my bottle of Pepto and a second scarf, Sam stopped me.

“You’re going to need clean...undergarments. Several pairs of socks. Running shoes. All the jeans you have. A few shirts. One jacket.” He walked into my bedroom like he’d been there before and I stumbled after him, figuring, he probably had been. But for what? And how long? Had I made my bed?

I was relieved to see I had made my bed, but that relief shot out the door when he wrenched open my closet.

“Sam,” I shrieked.

He held his hand up, leaning in and rummaging around. He came back out with my backpack, throwing it at me. “This will do quite nicely.” He grabbed my stack of jeans from the top of the closet and tossed them onto the bed. “ Roll your jeans up. Tight. Like this.” He demonstrated and then left the neat ball of jean to head straight for my dresser. And my underwear drawer.

I have no qualms about the underwear I wear. It’s sensible and clean: my only two requirements. I have more than one, however, with a kinda-stranger going through them. I nearly tackled Sam into the wall, adjusting his crumpled jacket as I pulled him back to a steady stance. “I can do that drawer, thank you.”

He laughed, but he held his hands up, backing away slowly. “You can’t blame a guy...”

“I can blame you quite a bit, really. Why don’t you see if I have any more aspirin in the kitchen, since you’re so familiar with my apartment?”

He was already turned to go and walking away when he said, “Not a bad idea.”

I grabbed a handful of panties and laid them out, rolling each as tightly as I could to stuff into the backpack, followed by socks, shirts and the jeans I had to finish. I grabbed my deodorant, wished that it was brand new and then stopped and stared at myself in my dresser’s mirror. My eyes were wide in my face, and as pale as a black girl can look, I did. My pupils were tiny. I leaned forward. Did I look crazy? Was I? Because I was packing a survival backpack, with a strange man rummaging in my kitchen and...a picture caught my eye. One of my college roomate Kris. It didn’t even have her face in it. It was really more of a picture of our room. Kris was lying on my bed, staring up at the covered wall behind it. I didn’t even recognize half the things I’d stuck on that wall. I don’t remember taking the picture.

It was just one of many lining the mirror, stuck haphazardly like crooked teeth along the wooden frame. None of them were really important, but thinking about leaving them, thinking about never seeing them again, never sleeping in my bed again...was that what was going to happen?

“You did have more aspirin,” Sam said as he came in, stuffing it into the backpack. I didn’t answer him, because I thought I might cry. He leaned to the side to get a look at my face. I know he saw the feeble trembling of unshed tears, and I refused to blink to let them free. He gently pried that exact picture--the one of Kris--from the mirror and placed it in my hand. “This isn’t for forever. And I swear to explain as much as I can when we have time. I’ll answer any questions you have. And I swear I’ll bring you back home as soon as possible.”

“Then, why?” I blubbered, holding up the picture. I didn’t quite finish the question, but I refused to cry-talk.

“Because there’s nothing wrong with taking a few mementos. If it’ll make you feel better, and you can fit it, take it. If you’re wavering on the edge and all you can think about is everything you left, it’ll be hard to move forward. Every second counts when you’re moving through time. Timing counts, period. I need you in the moment, not in your apartment.” He let go of my hand to grab another picture from the mirror. “I like this one.” He handed it to me and walked out of the room. It was a picture of me, with my sisters on either side, all of us squinting into the sun with pained smiles.

I let the tears roll, let them make the itchy paths across my cheeks. I tried to stare through the blurry lines at the pictures. How to choose what memories to take? I grabbed my parents. A dog we once had. My sisters. An ex that should have stayed in the mirror. As I reached for a picture of my aunt, I felt the air shiver. I’d never felt anything like it. Not like the pop of pressure in an airplane, like your ears popping. It was as if every cell in my body trembled, and the air shook with it.

I clutched at my chest, my heart thumping. And Sam leaned into my bedroom doorway, confirming my fears. “It’s time to go. Now.”

I grabbed my backpack, glanced at the mirror and then turned away from it, taking his outstretched hand. I’d barely had enough time to choose the memories to take.


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J.M. Blackman is a Language Arts teacheri and a feminist. She endeavors to review nearly everything she reads and is a happy wife. She's a SFF enthusiast, loves dark humor, and has an unhealthy need to protect the image of Batman.



  1. You really have it rolling now, don't you? I love the way your characters have developed & your prose flows so well...
    Our mothers were right... it really does all come down to clean underwear, doesn't it? Great stuff, Jalisa.

  2. I'm starting to feel a rhythm now, yeah. :) Thank you, Jeff. Your comments are always fuel for the fire. And yes. Our mothers were definitely right. <3