The Parlor

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Fantasy Realm

A short story.. I don't want to explain more for it breaks my heart to.

Submitted: April 18, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: April 18, 2018



The Parlor By Karsten Ma A. Opening “To keep my setting broad, I would say I lived in the place that many call: The Land of the Free, The Home of the Brave, the 50 States, and as some call it, America. And while I was in no way brave, free, or happy, I can truthfully state that the world of America was truly not that horrible. And when I look back at it, I see that it wasn’t that the country was not brave, free, or happy, it was that I was a coward, chained to my own conscious. But to get to the point, I lived in a small town called Misery, not far from the great town of Indianapolis in the central-eastern regions of the country. It was a rather quiet place, a city of no more than 10,000 people so that when a news happened or a celebrity arrived, not one would miss it. The town was divided into three sections, the first being the North, the second, South, and the third, West. I do not understand why there is no East, but that is also besides the point. I lived in the North in a small much too cold and dry apartment whose only ventilation was the breeze of the lakes of the north which only came at sparing times. My ceiling was made of that dry, annoying, and crusty concoction of popcorn cement, and my room held the stench of laundry being left out for months without wash. There was little I could do to support myself further considering I couldn’t shower or wash my hands without going to the nearby store. Even then, I still considered myself a poor soul, desolate of all good things, and basically lived in a mouse sized hotel room. The nights were cold, the day was hot with the blistering heat of those summer days when others would laugh and rejoice at the beach whilst I worked tirelessly to pay off the pages of debt I owed. I couldn’t see how things could worsen when my floor boards started cracking and the woman below, she was an elderly lady who wore a pink speckled dress with a studio styled black hat, began complaining about how bad I was at fixing my floorboards like I was supposed to annually. At nights I would often lay still gazing outside through my cracked, slightly yellow tinted single paneled window. It morphed the colors outside to match my inner décor. There were no stars in the sky, ever. The far-off cities in the east spewed potent gases so that none could see the heavens in their glory. And for the longest time, I dared not believe there were such beauties as those violet shaded specks, or those brilliant diamond crossed lights that echoed in the distance. Nor did I understand the similarities between the glum, shadowy sky to my own heart which pounded away in a fury that I did not even understand. 1. Part I (The Parlor) It came to me, on the second to last night of summer in 1962, that I had lost all my banking interest. More specifically, I had lost my banking accounts. The shadow of this feeling was not a new emotion that swept my days thought, but it indeed stoked me of yet further distraught. Following these tragic incidents, I do not exactly recall how my landlord explained with passive ferocity that I was out of rent, and that I could no longer sleep there unless I payed off my debt in due time. I just know that the phone rang, and my heart had disappeared completely into the shadows of my thin, dry body by the end of it. The next day, the telemarketers did not even come for me with their usual morning ads. I had no landline either. By the day’s end I had had my final bath and meal in the once homely apartment. The air was not so bright, and the broken-down brick and plaster walls showed a pale green of pathetic slime. There was a gargantuan of sadness in the air. Whether others around my dismal complex could feel it I do not know. When I finally came across Blunderman lane I did not expect anything much less than a few drunk men to be encamped around a small trash can. They did not wave or even say the usual, “Hello Mr. Ligens.” In their quirky indescribable accent, they surveyed each bottle for even the slightest drop of hunger relief. They searched in agony and with nothing in their eyes. It was a cold sadness indeed. I could not reprehend them, for nearly did I also feel their discomfort and somewhat-secular grief. As the day grew late, I found myself a small outlet amid two small buildings and wedged my nil thin body between the slat walls. I could not sleep, but my eyes closed anyway. As the dark of the dusk faded and my dreams ended mid-thought, I awoke to the sound of the lively town of Misery abroad. From my crack in the brick and mortar walls, I saw a great many children walking toward the building I was wedged beneath. As I attempted to take a peak as to what frivolous activities they were all so somehow joyously partaking in, I was caught by the quick eye of one of the school persons. The young man went inside and within the time of one minute, he arrived back outside with another teacher who looked at me queerly and with a grave expression. He barked a few forgettable words and I was hoisted up from my position and told to get away from the building lest the man called the police a few streets to the south. Seeing no problem with leaving the presence of this foul teacher, I journeyed back down my original path through Blunderman lane. The lane was a small gap in the main central street and it was lined with many posters, reports, trashcans, and ‘criminals’. As I rounded the end of the hidden lane, my own eye noticed something very quite peculiar. If you have ever smelled that scent of a new shop, you would immediately know how I was sensing this new place in Blunderman Lane. Looking left I saw that indeed, there was a new store in the alley just as I had mentally predicted. Seeing there was nothing else to do, I strode toward it briskly with a new purpose. As I approached the new and seemingly miniscule building, it was easy to spot its name hanging on a large and outspokenly brassy orange paint that was recently coated only hours before: The Parlor, the last living remnant shop of the gallant Mr. Lived. And as a halting side note to this narration, I would point out some very interesting words like: lived. For example, if you reverse lived, it says devil, and if you get rid of the d in devil it says evil, and if you yet again switch the order of letters in evil, you get; live. A very peculiar word indeed. But anyway, I will continue with my story. As the novelty of this swiftly put up store dawned on me, I welcomed myself up through the front door and was rewarded by the beauty of a modern lounge filled with the softest of couches, and a homely looking food bar and island. The room swelled into and immediate happiness for my inwardly dismal self and I could not have been more joyful then an elephant finding his lifelong stash of peanuts or a horse finding to many sugar cubes. The couches were felted leather that was new to my akin taste, and the ceiling and floors harmonized wonderfully with a wood-sleek design that lit up much of the darker walls with modernistic and pleasing pictures for the traveler’s enjoyment. After a while of awestricken gazing at the décor of the shop, I noticed a movement from behind the main counter in the back of the room and was for a moment, startled. I began my walk to the desk to further observe the thing sitting behind it and was surprised and again startled to see a stubby little man poking his head from behind the desk. At first, I thought he was Santa, but upon further inspection of the curious person, I could see he was less gay and stouter and upright in his smile. Having found the manager of the store, I concluded in asking him his name and what type of store this was. His secretly contorted reply was: ‘O yes, I am the Stubby Clerk.’. I paused unsure of how to reply to that. Seeing my trouble, he continued: ‘I am the fourth Mr. Lived.’. This fact did not strike me at the time, but Mr. Lived’s name says ‘lived’ as in the past tense, not the present. So, I often wonder what life he has now. There was nothing more cheerful than being in that room on that cold, wind driven day. It was in contrast very warm and inviting whist the chill of the frosty outside ebbed against the inward hearth that drew near to me. Inside the Parlor, as it was so named, I could not tell the time or the season upon which the world was in. Everything passed like vapor in the wind and all the surrounding shops faltered in that parlor’s presence. It was a very mysterious place that I yearned to be in. By the end of my time in the building, I had visibly aged by a generation’s year. However, thinking that my time for that age was long a-way, I indulged in the life of the friendly parlor. My heart was filled with the passions and energy of ‘fun’ for once. Now that I think about my time in the parlor, I’d guess that it was rather clever of the stubby clerk, that is Mr. Lived, to not install any clocks or calendars in the homely place. He in fact seemed to have an unusual dislike for any time keeping device. Often, poor, and distraught men like myself entered the parlor with a fancy golden watch as their last possession of their life once lived. Following their entrance, they would always be led to the back by the manager and his crafty assistance and would never be seen again spare a handful of incidents where the customers didn’t end up having watches, just compasses. In my perpetual ignorance that still clouds me to this day, I expected this watch taking business to be a rule or standard to the shop, not a way of killing the customers’ life or freedom. But despite that, I was too late in discovering the wrong of the shop. Time passed, and the once empty Parlor lounge grew more populated and filled with people of all types. The most sophisticated among the peoples of Misery often trotted in, but the lesser and poor more so walked idly by the forsaken place of comfort. As winter covers the eyes of green, the shop did of the outside world. As the room filled and became somewhat claustrophobic, the windows were more often shut, and the breathing and living space seemed to strangle the life out of the most drunken cheerful being. Within hours became the days of agony, and those days turned to the rot of unliving. Many of our group soon resorted to uncanny means to escape the place but to no avail. They’d always get caught by Mr. Lived who would treat them to a 75% off some temporarily interesting item. The plot worked every time for that man Mr. Lived. At some degree of time, I noticed my bodily descent. I grew older and frailer from the intake of unnatural foods, and my brain grew cloudy and misted with unnatural thoughts of people and places. There were more people entering every day, and it became nearly impossible to exit. The parlor did actual have an exit. It was a short line that led to the open door. The only misleading problem with it was that you’d have to wait for the incoming line to enter before you could exit. And as probably predicted, one could never exit since people were always entering. Thus, was the rule of the parlor for many. The only who left were the helpers of the Parlor who went out and advertised for more to come in. They returned with a host of drunk or problematic men and women whom I chose not to associate with. There was an abundance of new victims, and I could not ever see daylight after what seemed like ten years. The windows, now fully shaded voided us from all connection to the world. Thus, it seemed that I should never see the outside again. It seemed it was all lost, that is; until I picked up my courage, ran through the entering line, bolted for the door with haste, and was then clubbed unconscious by a purely frustrated manager. The short and cruel man then threw me back into the furthest part of the parlor. When I awoke, I could not understand the world around me for a time. I cannot explain what that exactly means, but that is probably since I couldn’t understand or remember much that happened then. It was not until the next few weeks (?!) that I recalled my experience in the apprehending and now unbearably foul and secular lounge. For whatever reason I call this place a lounge, I do not know. For it is anything but a lounge. I think that my continued days there went by slower than before, and my ache for the outside world caused me to enter the drowsy state of drunkenness. Well, either I was so drowsy that I acted drunk, or I was so drunk that I acted drowsy. But beside that, I was in some not-so-sober form of living from that point until who knows when. The knowledge of the room entered my shriveled mind and I soaked up the bits and information of the outside galaxies like a sponge only to be squeezed dry by the loathsome filth of living. Soon, I did not have memory of the simple things, that is truth and morals, and every good thing I could remember. Very little remained with me, and the Parlor grew smaller as the people grew larger. And to make matters worse to this indeed horrid nightmare, they even tempted us with a sign that showed an expansion was coming! And as some of us ill people of the back said: ‘There is a coming soon on the sign! But there is no sign of anything coming soon.’ That was how we said many things. In backwards slang, in words that weren’t words, and in a roaring madness you couldn’t even see. I don’t think the sign was ever taken down. Even now, I do believe it is still up. It waits, tricking all those who gaze into the quicksand belief of newness and freedom. A tantalizing trick to the eye and mind which men, women, and all who see are encroached by in their minds. Life before my eyes ceased, and my ears were clogged with words so putrid that I do not know their names. The room was a misty black wing of death that shadowed all about us. None knew the chair from the table, nor the table from the person beside it. Indescribably despicable was the place, some enjoying, some with my discontentment with a want for more. The black darkened, darker than I thought night could be. When all this was so, I would grapple in the dark. I would reach in the dark. I would struggle in it terribly. I would then find myself holding a dimly lit, yet indeed lit glow that hummed inaudibly. It made no spoken sound, nor present or fast movement, but light it was. Light in all the over-casted room. 2. Part II (Our Visitor) I heard the dimming bell toil in cacophony as the next stream of victims flowed into the parlor. Only they weren’t victims since they had chosen this place under their own accord. As each man flowed in, I would stand my stunted body on top of a bar chair that was up from the back corner. From my little and quite lame crows nest, I could see all who enter. The room’s haze made it harder to see each person, but I could make simple and unimportant distinctions between a many of the numerous people. One person, a mercenary so to say, was a tall and stocky man with no shoes. He strode about and knocked over many people. He carried a long sword and a dagger in his lower right-hand pocket upon which he endlessly flipped with his index finger whilst his left hand remained one his hilt. He wore a trench coat with a knitted muffling mask. None dare reprehend or condemn him for all the things he had committed in his life. However, too much of our enjoyment, another outstanding visitor came along who also seemed a mercenary. Only this man was a past Sailor. The captain of a great fleet as he said every evening. He too had a sword, only this one in the form of a short and spiraling gun. He did have a dagger, but he did not as much so dangerously play with it. He wore nothing splendid, but he was indeed a precarious man to be with. And so, it came the inevitable fight between a drunk sailor and a drunk mercenary. The two had argued over a pointless issue over ships, and a fight that soon was cheered on by all soon broke out. Despite this attention, the duel lasted only a few moments with the sound of the sailor’s pistol ending it all. That was one of the few ‘fun and enlightening’ things I can recall from my time in the parlor. And as entertaining as that time was, it too passed just like the novelty of the parlor where II for so long dwelt. I lived longer, and I drank and did unruly things ever often. My eyes grew thin from the lack of sleep and light, and the dark enveloped me every perpetual night. The sun was not in the sky, it never rose or set. Even the faint moon did not dare join our club. It seemed as thought light was a gone thing of the past. Gone of the past, that is until I sat atop my perch in my chair and saw a light enter the room. As I watched this man enter and filter through the ranks upon areas in the parlor, I identified some details about him: He was short, not much taller than five and a half feet. He wore very old and broken-down clothes unlike the many other who entered. He was a poor man, one of the few poor who entered the parlor. And for my waking eye, I saw something that I do not how to explain. For this man was very different to the likes of all the else who entered. He was no drunkard, no gambler, no swine. He was no murderer, thief, or even a ‘bad’ man for all that matter. And when I came to think of it in the following days in that clouded room, I contemplated upon how similar he was to me when I first arrived myself! longed to meet him. I read a quote from a book in my young age. I do not even remember if I read it, or my dear mother told it to me as a babe. But I can say that I recall a very good quote, it was: “All get what they want, they do not always like it”. Recalling the name of the book or the author is much to0 hard, but the quote indeed I can remember. I waited a time for this interesting man. He came along on a noon(?) in the summer(?), for it was a glowing red color outside. He looked paler then before, yet he was brighter in attitude then I had ever been in the parlor. It was here that I understood that the quote I had read was not always correct; for I did indeed like and enjoy meeting this man. He had dark hair, (well everyone had dark hair in the parlor), yet he had no look of despair or of being desperate. He said little words, and the words he said were very quiet so only I could here them when he spoke. We chatted and smiled feebly, something I had not done in a while. Life in the parlor changed. Everything in all aspects changed. And the more I think about it, I can say that one thing about this visitor, was that he was a good person and friend. He was kind in the rude, silent in the loud, and loyal in the tricks of the place. I did not know anyone else but him. We laughed, but not a laugh of drunkenness, but of true joy and friendship. I had not remembered this feeling, but truly did I enjoy every bit of fun and dialogue we had. The room was hazy and foggy, but my heart for the time was white with the light of this man’s presence. As we endured the struggle of the parlor, I came to know of a place that the visitor called the Ballroom. We spoke about it in secret, and he smiled with a curling grin every time he said it. The word was somewhat warming, and it made me feel alive. I did not understand much about this ballroom but that it was a far greater place then the parlor. It was the most splendid and beautifully indescribable place in the whole world, and it made me yearn for it. As our friendship continued, I learned more about this place in secret, and the ballroom was surely a great place amongst beauties. It came to pass one day that I awoke to something that caused my eyes to burn in the fury of devils but the sadness of angels fallen. I looked down from my perch of sleep to the horrifying sight of my friend, the visitor dead! His eyes were closed, and his mouth yet not open. He had come silently and gone the same. I had no way of mourning, for my loss was so great as to friendship. My anger could not even amount to my despair, and I contemplated many horrible things against myself and the wretched room. His body was taken away, and I could not watch. For it was no proper burial. I will not describe what happened to his body. I fell deeper into my own sorrow, and darkness reigned again. My heart died and no amount of alcohol or guilty pleasure could help me. I was at a loss. 3. Part III (The Ballroom) Sorrow could not explain how I felt. The weariness of the bitter place stabbed my racketing bones, and my body was void of soul. My heart had no spirit in it, and there was no true heart to my spirit. It took me (again) an uncountable length of time to recuperate from my extra loss. I sat and thought of many things that were pointless or futile. When I tried to conjure new and unblemished ideas in my mind, they were often abruptly distracted by some absurdity of my mind. This phantom in my head lived there for a longer time, and he grew used to my empty brain which was previously filled with the real delight of my good friend the visitor who was so dramatically gone. I was once again an empty husk of lifelessness not much differing from the many around me. However, unlike the visitor, I did not know these people. They spoke to themselves, or to imaginary people. For everyone hated the Parlor. At some point, I had a long and disgusting inner quarrel with myself. I had many rambling thoughts, but this was the worst of them. It lasted for what was disguised as days in the weeks that it took. Longer did my life waste away until I had the great epiphany of thinking upon and remembering my time with my beloved visitor and friend whom I spoke to often. And so, it was after that day that I understood the madness of those around me who inquired to and spoke about to themselves. I would face a wall, a person, or the air. The drunkards didn’t seem to notice, and the secular people didn’t seem to care about my discussion either. As I exchanged dialogue with myself, I recalled a great thought upon which I had truly spoken to the visitor so long ago. He had mentioned something great about what he called the ‘ballroom’. For so long did I stay in this conundrum or madness that I forgot about his words of the greater place of which he told! My eyes were unmasked, and the fog in my confused mind lifted. I was released to the floodgates of understanding at last. My mind opened like a student does as he at last understands a concept. Though my outward appearance stayed the same, my brain was engulfed with the flow of knowing and remembering good and important things that had been not lost but hidden from myself since the beginning. And though I cannot explain what exactly it is that made me reach this paradigm shift, I can describe its tremendous impact. All this was because I had finally, at long time and end, had understood the words of the visitor. I cherished those moments long. And when they fleeted away in the wind, I held onto their meaning with my clenched fist. I did not let go ever of these memories which I know were very dear. The room was no longer foggy or overcast, but bright and scented with a glimmering orange that I had not seen for years on end. The world was bright with the graciousness of all that life had to give for my time. The more I thought about these things, the more the ideas turned from merely things of the past to present truths. Those present truths in turn governed my life from that point on. I cannot fully explain those pleasant truths, but beautiful I was when I applied them to all life. They become engraved to my mind and heart which no longer sat with the rotting life of the dead. My eyes were sunken, but my soul had lifted and none could bring me down from my perch upon which I rested. All the people around me awed, for they knew no attitude as such mine to exist in the parlor. For several happy weeks(?), months (?), I lived in this bliss of true joy in the most dismal of places. And I could not see the end to it. This was a new feeling and ideal. For most of my life, a joy of passion could only suffice until it had been over, but this was different. All could see the change in me for I was no longer a curled elder who lay distraught under the couch bed, but I was a person no one could ever know in the foolishness I once was held captive to. That foolishness came from my very own self. And for so long I had clung to that evil and devilish foolishness, yet I was unbound from it now. And so, for that time I lived happily, but not ever after. It had happened one morning(?) of which I had been whistling a tune my friend had made up when the stubby clerk approached our homely table. He had that happy expression he always had, yet I knew that he was not happy. He spoke with some of the men around the table, and then proceeded to offer me his hand. I took it unknowing of what he was doing. Then, with that cruel and hideous smile he motioned me to follow him. As we walked down the seemingly endless room, he yanked me to the side. Some side, someplace. I do not know where. He then looked at me with his furled eyes, pulled something out of his pocket, and I was found to be dead moments later by his servants upon which had a cheeky grin which all knew to be a disguise of cunning devilry. Obviously, I do not remember anything that happened to me following that dramatic event. I drifted in this endless void of black. It enveloped me, and I was sheltered only by my own thought and singing of joyful hymns. The darkness once again (as it had done so many times before) took me and I fled my dreams to awake in a place with no shadow. A place with no lamps, nor candles, nor any light giving thing. It was a room, and there was no light in this room, for it was like a closet. I found my way in the walk in to the door and blindly clawed for it’s handle. Finding it at last, I grasped it and opened my eyes to see my friend. It was in that moment that I cried more than I had ever had in my lifetime. No paper could quench the river that flowed from me. The life of my soul had settled and I was rejoicing. He put his hand on my shoulder, then motioned like Mr. Lived had done to me before my death. I did not hesitate. I walked in silence and awe beside my friend, and he spoke softly as he did before. We were traversing a long corridor with only a gentle glow coming from a door in the far corner of the aisle. No sound came from it, only a golden light that the sun would give on only a perfect day. It was a beautiful light, a warm light. As we neared it, the cold of my skin vanished and my chills of uncertainty were gone. Turning to my side, the visitor gently smiled. He nodded his head nearly unnoticeably, and without the slightest of doubt or question, he reached for the golden knobbed door. He pulled out a key, one shaped like a diamond with etched jewels in it. He looked at me with an affirming look until I nodded slowly back to him. He smiled and raised his hand to the key hole. The door creaked open to his touch, and the bright lights of the ballroom drenched out the dry darkness hiding in me. 4. Epilogue Then, in a brilliant light, all these things illuminated my mind, and I found myself stirring into a deep sleep. Deeper than anything I had imagined. I struggled to escape this convicting pull, but there was nothing to do but let it take me. As sleep enveloped me, I awoke to a sound I had not heard in my time of years. The sound of the sky. The sound of life. Looking around I noticed the heart of my apartment focus back into view, my rusted appliances, and slimy windows. The wind blew dryly onto me, and the bells in the distance echoed in the curling wind. The ballroom was gone. My friend was gone. Yet I knew it was not a dream that I had lived my adventures in. As I stepped outside, I looked down over Blunderman’s lane. Indeed, there stood the Parlor, with it’s large brassy sign. I searched for the ballroom, but I could not find it anywhere in the city.” I think my good friend had taken me back to my apartment, for a little while longer to live.

© Copyright 2018 K.M.M. All rights reserved.

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