Do you believe in magic? Not just in any magic, but the magic in a young girl’s heart, how the music can free her, whenever it starts? . . . I hope you do, because what follows is a story about the magical power of music, memory, and love.
It’s a special Halloween treat from me and Cayman Thorn. (You probably remember Cayman from past volumes in our apocalypse series. If you do, you know exactly how crazy-cool and talented the dude is. The way he brings words to life is nothing short of magic. If you don’t remember, take a moment to read these two past volumes: “Vol. 16- The Day the World Went Away” and “Vol. 43- It’s the End of the World as We Know It.” While this piece can stand alone, it may be better appreciated after reading the previous volumes, hint hint.) This is a two-part treat: we drop in on our hero and heroine of past volumes who are trying to make their way back to each other during the zombie apocalypse. Today, I tell her story. In the days ahead, Cayman will tell his. It’s our way of keeping the Halloween magic alive. Enjoy!
“You should always be taking pictures, if not with a camera then with your mind. Memories you capture on purpose are always more vivid than the ones you pick up by accident.” ~Isaac Marion.
“Music? Music is life! It’s physical emotion – you can touch it! It’s neon ecto-energy sucked out of spirits and switched into sound waves for your ears to swallow. Are you telling me, what, that it’s boring? You don’t have time for it?” ~Isaac Marion.
This is a story of survival: how memory and music can sustain us, nourish us, and keep us alive; how undying love can light up the darkness. All you have to do is believe. Do you believe like I believe in magic? ~Christy
“Do You Believe in Magic” by The Lovin’ Spoonful
Just Another Day: Signs, Memories, and Bob Marleys
by Christy Anna Beguins (aka Christina’s Words)
I had a dream last night, the world was set on fire
and everywhere I ran, there wasn’t any water
the temperature increased, the sky was crimson red
the clouds turned into smoke, and everyone was dead
~ “Just Another Day” by Oingo Boingo
The world was on fire, and evil was spreading across the land in plumes of black volcanic ash blocking out the dimming sun. The whole world’s sitting on a ticking bomb and the sun may never rise again.
My husband Dave and I were fleeing . . . zooming down the highway in our dream car, a souped-up 1967 Mustang Shelby GT 500. Our chocolate Lab, Bob, was riding in between us. Dave was flooring it. The speedometer maxed out at 140, but we were knocking on 180, easy. Even with the windows rolled up, my long dark hair was flying madly about like a murder of crows, and Bob’s jowls rustled and threw dog slobber all over the windows—all over me too. AC/DC pumped through the bass-heavy speakers, “I’m on the highhhhhh way to hell!” We were tearing through the flames, and all around us the world was a lovely fire. Billboards lined the side of the road—sign after sign after sign. Our warp-speed transformed them into one scorched blur after another. The ones I could make out were church billboards: white quotes from God on a bleak black background.
“You think it’s hot here?” ~God.
“Don’t make me come down there.” ~God.
“You asked for a sign.” ~God.
“Life is one big road with lots of signs.” ~Bob Marley.
Bob Marley? What? The further we zoomed, the stranger the signs.
“When there’s no more room in hell the dead will walk the earth.”
“You’re all going to die down here.”
“They’re coming to get you, Sam.”
“Some day very soon, life’s little Twinkie gauge is gonna go… empty.”
The car began to shake and shudder and stutter, and I knew we were running out of fuel. AC/DC gave way to Jimi Hendrix, “Move over Rover, and let Jimi take over . . .” I looked over at Dave and Bob but it wasn’t Dave and Bob anymore, it was Woody Harrelson and Jimi Hendrix and Jimi was smoking a joint with his eyes closed and Woody was shouting at Jimi, “Oh, this Twinkie thing, it ain’t over yet!”
I start to ask, “What Twinkie thing?” but Woody is no longer Woody, he’s Bob Marley and Bob takes Jimi’s joint and says to me, “See, what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, that sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky?” Jimi Hendrix still has his eyes closed, but points at the window. I look out and see a sign. It reads:
“Wake up, Sam!” ~doG.
Stupid girl. Stupid stupid stupid girl. I know better than to fall asleep. Falling asleep in the open is stupid. Falling asleep will get you killed. One more minute and I would have been a tasty little snack cake to the very dead and very hungry zombie creeping along the back of the burnt-out Mustang I was resting in. Ha. I would have been a zombie Twinkie. Geez, what is it with Twinkies? I must be deliriously hungry. Or just deliriously sleep-deprived. Probably both. I haven’t eaten more than half a Powerbar in, what, three days? I’m rationing my food because it’s getting harder and harder to find.
Before the outbreak I was an aspiring Buddhist. Dave used to laugh at me whenever I would scoop up a cricket or a grasshopper to deliver it safely outside with a Namaste.
“You’re crazy,” Dave said, more times than once.
“Sure I’m crazy, crazy in love,” I’d say, and then kiss him on each eyebrow. “Besides, what if you died and came back as a bug? Would you want me to step on you?”
But now I’m hunger-crazed enough to actually eat bugs. The whole non-harming thing is quickly taking a backseat to matters of my own survival. I’m not sure if Pema Chödrön would think that zombies are sentient beings. Are they totally soulless? Is there any trace of consciousness left? I don’t know, I just try to avoid the dead. And the living too for that matter. We don’t bleed when we don’t fight.
The dead don’t really scare me. At least you know where you stand with them. They want one thing, and one thing only . . . to eat you like a Twinkie. The living? They’re the truly evil ones. The infected may turn physically, but the living turn on you in ways you never see coming. I’m in media relations for the government; I saw it every day at work. The dead? They’re about the only ones you can trust.
That’s why I left the last group I was traveling with. They wanted to stay at the military “tent city.” They believed they would be safe there. They believed the military could—and would—protect them. I had to keep moving, I had to find Dave. I knew they were doomed. Ignorance and naivety will get you killed or eaten, or worse. The days of surviving as ostriches and sheep are gone.
I haven’t had a good sleep though since I left the group. In my journal there’s a quote I jotted down long ago: Every time I go to sleep, I know I may never wake up. How could anyone expect to? You drop your tiny, helpless mind into a bottomless well, crossing your fingers and hoping when you pull it out on its flimsy fishing wire it hasn’t been gnawed to bones by nameless beasts below. It’s not like I have time for sleep anyway. That old saying, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”? Yeah, pretty much. Except if I don’t get some sleep soon, I will be dead. Or undead. No thank you. I haven’t survived walking mile after mile of hell on earth just to end up some zombie’s snack cake.
“I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more, just to be the girl who walked a 1,000 miles to fall down at your door . . .” My weapon of choice in a zombie apocalypse? My singing voice. Haha. Even the zombies won’t come near me. Mainly I sing to myself to stay awake. Music is life! I love music, almost as much as I love Dave. You should hear him sing. His voice is caramel, crushed velvet, and smoky jazz clubs all rolled up in Ray-Bans and ripped jeans.
I was on the plane out of Washington DC the last time I heard Dave’s voice. The line was full of static. “The photograph, Sam! Go to our photograph! Wait for me to come . . .” And then the line went dead. It’s okay, I knew right away where he meant. I finger the locket my mom gave me when I turned sixteen. I open it and smile, transfixed by happier days, times forever frozen still. Out of habit, I slip the necklace back under my shirt and it comes to a rest next to my heart.
I tried to get home to Dave in time. I knew it was getting bad out there, but I didn’t know how bad. My security clearance wasn’t high enough to know the full extent of the pandemic or what exactly brought it on. Let’s just say it was a deadly combo of Bird Flu and West Nile Virus complicated by a vaccine that brought on contagious Ebola symptoms after long periods of dormancy. Clear as mud, right?
The government rushed the vaccine and was then too slow and bureaucratic to get ahead of the outbreak in time. So they fed the public a diet of hope and lies. It worked, the herds of sheep ate it up and asked for more. People only see what they want to see. They didn’t know they were already dead. And now the herds feed on human flesh. Sigh. Anyway, obviously my plane didn’t make it to Atlanta. We touched down on a fiery freeway in Baltimore, and I’ve been making my way South ever since.
I’m exhausted, so I spend the next few hours prowling around a small subdivision—I feel like a Peeping Tom looking through windows for signs of life (or death)—and determining the best escape routes. “When in doubt, know your way out.” Hey, what can I say? I’m very methodical; I have a checklist and rules I follow for survival. Rule number one? “Listen to your intuition.” There are signs all around us and messages meant to guide us. Yeah, I’m one of those people. I wasn’t always. In my past life, I was a cynic. In this life? I’m a survivor.
Most Buddhists believe it takes 49 days to reincarnate, but I’ve learned in this lifetime you don’t always have to die to be reborn. And today when you die, you come back in like 49 seconds, not 49 days.
I see a house with a pot of marigolds on the porch. You ever feel the prickly things on the back of your neck? It’s like a sixth sense. I know this is the house because marigolds were my mother’s favorite flower. She’s been dead for years, but like I said, there are signs all around us. As I go through my list and note the exits, I see sunflowers growing in the backyard and can’t help smiling. Dave used to bring me sunflowers every Sunday morning, he said the sun rose in my hair.
I finish up my checklist and try the door. It’s locked, but I find the key under the pot of marigolds, and I walk in the front door.
I check the house and set up my door and window alarms. Then I sit on the hardwood floor of the living room beside the sofa and the 70s style turn-table. The home smells faintly of baked bread. It feels familiar; it feels like I’ve been here before.
I grew up in a similar home in the suburbs of Atlanta. It was small, we didn’t have much, but we never wanted for anything either. There was always something in the oven; my mom Carol loved to cook. She even ran a small bakery out of the kitchen, Carol’s Cookies. She never charged anyone money though, she just told them all to pay it forward. Our house held the permanent scent of cinnamon and vanilla, and there was always music playing on the stereo, usually with me acting as DJ. It was a very happy home, and I was a very happy child.
This house has a music collection much like the one I grew up with, the same one Dave and I would later build upon. I flip through the albums: Jimmy Cliff, Van Morrison, Marvin Gaye, CCR, Beth Hart, The Lovin’ Spoonful, hey, Jackson Browne’s Running on Sob…err, I mean, Running on Empty. Wow, déjà vu! Then I see Oingo Boingo’s album Dead Man’s Party and it dawns on me what today is: it’s Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. Just another day around here. The whole world is haunted now, and every day is Day of the Dead.
I remember the first Halloween Dave and I spent together. We dressed up as Uma Thurman and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction and went out dancing. I still remember every hand gesture, every twist of the hips, every shake of the foot. Somehow we ended up closing down a Filipino karaoke bar after serenading each other all night with songs from my namesake, Sam Cooke. Dave’s rendition of “Twistin’ the Night Away” had the whole place on its feet, and my version of “Summertime” had everyone in tears.
I like to deny that evening ever happened (Me? Karaoke? Never!), but in truth it’s one of my favorite memories. They all are. I’ve loved every single moment of our lives together. I’m not a sappy person, but that Tom Cruise line? “You. Complete. Me.”? Yeah, it’s kind of like that.
I even miss our arguments—there was one time we were at dinner and I was livid over something stupid and Dave just started laughing at me. Oh my god, I wanted to kill him! I threw the bread basket at him, and corn bread went down his shirt and crumbs got stuck in his bushy eyebrows. He just left them there and said, “Thanks, I can eat this later since I’ll be sleeping in the doghouse.”
I couldn’t help it, I started laughing too, so hard I had mascara running down my cheeks and Dave went silent, so I said, “What?!”
And he said, “You have never been more beautiful than you are right this very moment.” And we went home to bed—him with his breadcrumbs and me with my ruined mascara—and none of it mattered, because we were the only two people in the world.
Ah man, they have Bob Marley’s Survival. This was the second album we ever bought! I pull it out and start humming the first track to myself, “So much trouble in the world, so much trouble” . . . Oh, Bob, you have no idea . . .
Bob Marley was born February 6, 1945. He died May 11, 1981. He survived an assassination attempt only to be ravaged by cancer. Dave and I adored Bob Marley, we even named our dog after him.
Dave found a dog on the side of the road after it had been hit by a car and left for dead. The dog had no tags, so Dave rescued him and brought him home to me. One day shortly after he came home, I had the stereo on, and Bob Marley was singing, “I Know a Place.” When the song ended, the dog started whining and howling.
“What? You like that song?” I asked. When I put it back on, he stopped whining, cocked his head toward the speaker and closed his eyes. I swear he was smiling. “Ah, a Bob Marley fan, huh? Well you’ll fit right in around here.”
“I guess we know what we should name you.” Dave said.
And from that day on, we called him Bob.
Bob sure could light up the darkness. His eyes were like two candles—two gold flames caught in amber—brightening everything and everyone around him. We’re convinced he was a very old soul. He was gentle and kind and always happy, definitely a lover, not a fighter. And he smelled sweet, like cinnamon and vanilla mixed with patchouli.
Our Bob died on December 19. Almost two years ago. I miss him every day, and I dream of him nearly every night.
I’m in bed with Dave. Bob is curled up on a red and blue checkered quilt over in the corner by the stereo. Bob Marley is singing, “I know a place where we can carry on. . .” and Bob is smiling. The window is open and a light breeze ushers in the smell of sunshine and salt and sea-foam. Beside the window, a painting easel is set up: vibrant shades of blue and purple and burnt amber give life to a seaside sunrise—a lighthouse and the shadowy figures of two persons and a dog. From bed I can see the lighthouse through the window. Dave leans over me and I run my hand through his hair to pull him down into a kiss.
“No, sweetheart, wake up,” he says. “You’ve got promises to keep.”
But the bed is so warm, and the house feels full of family. I hear my grandparents laughing in the distance. The scent of bacon wafts under the bedroom door. My mom is calling to me from another room . . . “Wake up, my sweet Sam, time to get moving. Wake up and live.”
Bob is in the bed now, and he is licking my face. His tongue is soft and wet and cool and he is whining softly. He uses his nose to nudge the side of my face, and whispers in my ear, “What kind of person are you, Sam? Are you the kind that sees signs? Or is this just another day?” He licks me on the forehead.
“Stop,” I laugh, “that tickles!” But he doesn’t stop. “Okay okay, you win, I’ll get up.” And then I open my eyes.
Bob is still standing over me licking my face. When he sees my eyes open, he wags his tail and then his entire body begins to wiggle. He licks my face again and whines in glee. Somehow in the background I hear Bob Marley singing “Wake Up and Live,” the final track on the Survival album. But wait, I’m on a floor leaning against a sofa, not in the bedroom of my dream. And Bob is here. Wait. How is Bob here?
He lowers his head and leans into my chest, his head against my heart, just like my Bob used to. He has a white star on his chest just like my Bob did, and his left ear is crooked and bent just like my Bob. And his eyes—two lit candles in amber—look just like my Bob’s. But it’s not my Bob. This is a German Shepherd, not a chocolate Lab. And this dog is young, I’d guess no more than two. It has on a collar:
“Marley. Born February 6.”
I realize the significance, and I begin to cry.
February 6 is exactly 49 days after December 19. The day our Bob died.
I still don’t know where Marley came from. I checked every room methodically; he was not in the house. There wasn’t any sign that the family living here before even had a dog. He was just there when I opened my eyes. And I knew. I just knew.
I can’t explain it. You either believe me or you don’t. It all depends on what kind of person you are—the kind who sees signs, or the kind who thinks this was just another day.
I know what kind I am.
And I know exactly where to go.
I grab some food that had been left out, and I toss it in my backpack along with my journal and various belongings: medicines, knives, iodine, Powerbars, a whistle, matches, and my tattered copy of Siddhartha. Marley woofs.
“Oops, sorry,” I say. I toss in the Survival album too. “Better?” and Marley woofs again.
I leave my monarch butterfly bookmark on the counter in return for the food and album and say, “You ready, Marley?”
He woofs and smiles, as if to say, I know a place, I’ll take you there.
“Good!” I take another look at the photograph in my locket. “Okay then, Marley, once more into the fray! Let’s go find our Dave.”
I open the door, and we step through together, determined to make our pack whole again.
We have many rivers to cross, but the sun is rising. That’s a good sign. But then again, maybe it’s just another day.
Or maybe there is no such thing as “just another day.” Maybe there never was.
“Photograph” by Ed Sheeran
“Loving can heal, loving can mend your soul
And it’s the only thing that I know
I swear it will get easier, remember that with every piece of ya
And it’s the only thing we take with us when we die
We keep this love in a photograph, we made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing, our hearts were never broken
Times forever frozen still”
My gratitude to Jennie who first brought our heroine, Sam, to life – all I did was follow in her footsteps. I hope I did you proud; to Michelle for the much needed ego-boosting and chocolate in the final editing stages. I love you like the sun; and to Cayman, who is one hell of a fire-starter. Thank you for coaxing me out of the shadows and into the light; I love you all.
“The people who are trying to make the world worse are not taking a day off. How can I? Light up the darkness.” ~Bob Marley.
And yes. Of course there is a soundtrack! Each song and version was carefully selected for this piece.
Soundtrack/Playlist on YouTube:
So, what did you think? Did you find any of the Easter eggs I scattered around? Dig deeper, there’s probably a few you missed. What kind of person are you? Do you believe in magic?
Happy Halloween, everyone. Until next time, light up the darkness. ~Christy