2015 was an interesting experiment in goal setting. It was more about focus and theme vs specific goals. However, I did have one specific mandate for my business and that was profit. Yes, part of my ‘theme’ for the year, but it was a very pointed and specific goal. I actually hired a business coach and stopped trying to just have my business partner and I try to figure things out. We also worked on brining in strategic partners and that made a difference as well.
It was a success. And I’m stupendously happy about that aspect.
Not that I want to put a damper on success, but certain personal troubles occurred specifically around automobiles. Some good. Some bad. Lost a car. Got a car. Lost a car. Got a car. Very odd and unexpected all scenarios.
But even more than that, I started hearing phrases that started rubbing me the wrong way. Why? Did they raise doubts in my own goals and convictions?
Yes, they did.
- “I would never want to be a millionaire.”
- “I wouldn’t want to have a company that big.”
- “All big companies are just greedy and taking advantage of the common Joe.”
The first thought that popped into my head has been, “WHY NOT?”
Why WOULDN’T you want to be a millionaire, have a big company, and are you sure that big companies are greedy? Or is it that you don’t understand business? Do you feel it’s better and more noble to serve people in a soup line and look them in the eyes or to be a business owner who has managed to make money enough to pay for hundreds of meals for those same people?
We bitch and moan about corporations like Walmart and others and still go shop there for the low prices. What a bunch of hypocrites! Now…those that complain and don’t shop, bravo!
The fact is we live in a capitalist Republic that runs on money. Play the game or get out. And while I agree it’s not the most just system, with a little effort you can make changes that work. Until we figure out a way to move to a resource based economy posited by The Venus Project, these are the rules we have to play within.
But I digress, as usual.
We give ribbons for participation these days. I say find ways to question, think differently, challenge the status quo, and learn from past successes and failures. In 1984, I was picked as one of top ten seniors who the faculty believed would go on to do great things. Have I?
As I hit level 50 in a few weeks, this is the question I keep coming back to. What have I done to make people’s lives better? What have I done to help others. How have I made a dent in the Universe?
So, my theme for this year when offered big opportunities is simply…
Play big or go home.
Can I sustain? I have no idea.
Can I help everyone I want to? Probably not.
But if I don’t try, I know I won’t.
Visiting Mayfield in the backwoods of Kentucky always brought pleasant memories to mind from my youth. My two sisters would spend hours in the library while my grandparents went about their daily activities. Ms. Cooper was always so helpful and knew just the perfect books for us to read where we could get lost for hours in endless adventures.
After our grandparents passed away, Mom and Dad always took us there each summer to visit our aunt Sarah. She was so cool. She had satellite TV before every home could get cable installed for $99.95 down and $29.95 per month. Speed Racer was my favorite. And there was Ultra Man to protect the world from huge monsters from outer space. Batman and Robin kept disaster from happening when the Joker, Riddler, Penguin or Catwoman plotted their devious plans with their inept henchmen. And, late at night, Aunt Sarah would stay up with me (the oldest) and watch old black and white horror movies… much to the dismay of my mom.
But, it was vacation. And even kids get to break the rules sometimes.
This trip to Mayfield was not as much fun. Maybe it was because we three kids were grown-ups now and taking a summer trip now meant working our asses off before we took vacation time and more when we returned. Plus, making sure the pets are boarded, house in order and enough cash in our pockets to travel, made the entire prospect of a vacation exhausting.
Or maybe it was the fact that this was the first time we’d seen Aunt Sarah in 10 years. Just shortly after our mom had passed away.
Dad came with us, and we brought three cars. Dad had to head back earlier than the rest of us, but wanted to be sure to visit and catch up on old times with family and friends. Mom’s death hadn’t been unexpected, and I suspected dad acted more composed for the rest of us. No doubt his trip home would be time to reflect and grieve properly.
Aunt Sarah was as beautiful as ever and still looked young. Her house was very cool with all sorts of nick nacks to look at, magazines to read and other things to distract someone from their normal lives – even as an adult.
We spent a few days hanging out and catching up. On the third day, the three of us kids went to the Library to visit the previous Ms. Cooper – now Mrs. Bennet. But when we arrived at the library, we found the entire thing being renovated. But, as we arrived, they opened the doors and told us where to find Mrs. Bennet. Mrs. Bennet was only 12 years older than me, but when you’re 12, that seems like 100 years. Now in my thirties, the age didn’t seem so vast. She toured us around and even showed us where one of my paintings was going to be hanging. I had completely forgotten I had sent one to the library after graduating from college. A painting of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn floating down the Mississippi on their raft.
The power flickered while construction was going on and we toured the building.
We invited Mrs. Bennet and her husband to come over, but she hemmed and hawed and got uncomfortable when mentioning Aunt Sarah. We let it go and said we’d stop by again before leaving town.
On leaving the library, the sky had grown dark and thunder rumbled in the distance.
When we arrived at Aunt Sarah’s, no one was around. Dad’s car was gone, so we figured they had gone to get food. While standing in the kitchen, drinking some wine, I noticed the backside of Aunt Sarah’s property for the first time. I remembered playing here, but didn’t remember the thicket of bushes before, I also didn’t remember what looked like a small building that now stood there.
I wandered out into the yard and pushed my way through the brambles and soon came upon a door. Shovels, rakes, and other gardening tools were propped up against it, but otherwise it was easy to push my way in. Inside was a room of considerable size for what had looked like a small shed. It was filled with six foot tall racks from which hung huge bulbous sacks about two to three feet across. A weird noise was filling the room. Like water running, but running over branches or rocks. The light switch didn’t work when I flicked it up and down, so I squinted and moved closer to one of the sacks. They appeared wet streaked with brown and white mesh material, and were undulating with the movement of something within them.
Like an idiot, I touched one. The skin of the sack was weak and I pushed right through it getting some sort of gelatinous goo on my hand. Then the whole sack started shifting and moving. Suddenly, small hairy legs started moving out through the hole I had created. Not just a few either. dozens. And then hundreds.
Hundreds of spiders.
Being completely terrified of spiders, I yelped and backed out of the room and the building. Those sacks held hundreds of spiders and there were dozens of sacks in the room.
I ran back to the house to get my sisters .
In a short time, we figured out a way to rid poor Aunt Sarah’s shed of these horribly scary pests.
We went back and used a couple of cans of starch and a lighter to ignite the sacks after cutting them down and letting them drop to the floor. My oldest sister and I did the hacking and burning. Our little sister would hit them with the fire extinguisher before it got too bad. We also had a rake and hoe to dispatch the other stragglers. Luckily the roof was high and there was a skylight we had opened to let out the smoke and fumes.
After an hour or two, we cleaned up to surprise our aunt.
Strangely, she was not pleased. She just stared at us blankly and unlike any way we’d seen her before and simply said… “You’ve killed my children.”
Totally confused, we realized Aunt Sarah was completely insane. The glassy look in her eyes revealed the old Aunt Sarah was gone. She walked over to a wall and turned the thermostat down, but instead of the air conditioner kicking on, a panel gave way to show a staircase.
“I’ll be right back.” She said as she walked down the stairs. Her voice echoed from the stairway as she approached the bottom, “You shouldn’t have killed my children.”
Panic set in. We were not in the right place at the right time. I told my sisters to grab their things. We were leaving right away. In moments, we had what we needed and didn’t care if we had forgotten anything. I stayed at the threshold of the door as Aunt Sarah reappeared.
“What’s going on? What are you doing? Where are you going? You’re not leaving yet are you? I wanted to show you something.” she said.
With that, I noticed the huge spiders crawling from over her back, onto her shoulders and down her arms. Plus, she was carrying two smaller version of the sacks I had found in the shed.
“What is that?” I asked as I began slowly backing out of the door.
“The only children I have left. They were hungry, you see.” That’s when I saw the small silhouette of a child inside the brown and white sack. I felt like throwing up.
“We have to go now, Aunt Sarah. I’m sorry about your…children. We thought we were helping.”
Aunt Sarah’s eyes flared. “Helping?!”
She brought the sack up in front of her, her mouth opened wide and razor sharp teeth exploded into view. A raspy guttural sound emanated from her throat and she ripped into the sack with sickening abandon as blood and visceral splattered all around.
I slowly stepped back out of the door, closed it and ran like hell to the car.
As I drove quickly away from Aunt Sarah’s, the only thing on my mind was, ‘What the hell was going on? What happened to Aunt Sarah?’
I told my sisters what had happened. We stop in at our favorite pancake house that we always eat at, but today, things were different.
We had just been in two days earlier, but now, everything seemed run down. Dirty. Empty. There was a strange odor in the air. The waitress came over to our table, but seemed out of place. Her stockings had fallen, uniform was wrinkled and dirty, and a huge bruise ran along her face from her temple, down her cheek and across her neck.
We placed our order wearily.
We all agreed it was time to get out of town. Thunder continued and rain started to fall. The power flickered. We all looked out the window and saw a bolt of lightning hit the library. Worried for Mrs. Bennett’s safety, we headed over to see if she was okay.
She wasn’t. And when we entered the Library, it had changed as well.
The new construction looked like it had been abandoned years ago. The walls blackened with mold and fungus. The books scattered and torn. We shouted for Mrs. Bennett.
Unlike most horror movies when things get weird, my siblings and I did NOT separate. We searched together and finally found Mrs. Bennette sitting in her office that was rotting around her. Blood ran down the right side of her face as if she had recently received a blow to it.
“Mrs. Bennett? Are you okay?” I asked.
She looked up from the book she was reading… her eyes white and dead. She smiled a rotten toothy smile.
Then the lights went out.
A hissing, guttural sound like Aunt Sarah made came from Mrs. Bennett’s location.
“SHIIIITTTT!” I grabbed my sisters arms and backed out of the room and slammed the door.
“WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON??!!!” My sisters shouted.
The handle turned on the door and we quickly moved away to the other side of the hall.
Mrs. Bennett stepped out looking perfectly fine. “What is WRONG with the three of you?” She asked.
We blinked and stared at each other for a moment. The power came back on and the hallway was perfectly fine.
I grabbed Mrs. Bennett and told her she needed to get out of here because of the storm.
My sisters in the back seat kept cutting their eyes back and forth to me, each other and Mrs. Bennett sitting in the front. Meanwhile, Mrs. Bennett rattled on about the rain and how her sons were probably a little scared since they were young. I tried to tell her about Aunt Sarah, but she acted like she never heard it. Or didn’t want to believe it.
We took her to her house and once inside, her two YOUNG sons were pointing guns at us and looked more like older teenagers. The math wasn’t making sense in my head, but nothing was at this point. Mrs. Bennett calmly put her purse down and patted her boys on the heads.
“What is going on?” my young sister asked. It was becoming a mantra.
“You killed my children, actually, all of our children,” a voice said from the other room, “and murders must be punished, or better – sacrificed.”
It was Aunt Sarah. She looked horrible. The spiders were gone, but her visage was grotesque. She tossed me a cell phone, wet with blood.
It was dads.
“Bobby, take my young neice below. I’ll be with you in a moment.”
I was tense. One gunshot and my life would be over. My sister was just as tense, but she just looked pissed off. Not scared at all.
“You don’t belong here,” Aunt Sarah said, running her mottled hand down my face. It left a burning sensation, “But while you are here, we’ll make good use of you.”
As she headed below and closed the door she mumbled to Mrs. Bennett and her son, “Wait until the screaming stops and then bring them down.”
My sister and I cut looks at each other. ‘Shit.’
I heard another door close below and a strange sound like in the shed started. Muffled. But the same.
Mrs. Bennett prattled on, her son kept a bead on me.
My sister fell to the ground and the son shifted the gun sights. I leaped for him. The gun came loose. My sister grabbed it aiming at Mrs. Bennet. Mrs. Bennet just stood there. I grabbed some rope and tied them both up. They didn’t morph into anything evil this time. Just looked at us smiling. It was damned creepy and very peculiar.
We took them outside after finding the door to the basement locked. The wind had picked up and tiles on the roof were being flung loose and had come off. Lawn chairs overturned and something was flapping in the wind nearby.
We made them sit down and tried to find another way down.
That’s when the screaming started. It was coming from below but also from someplace else outside.
I looked around and saw it. A small platform with a stained glass top. Sheets of rubber helped keep it sealed and had come loose, flapping in the wind. I looked at my sister who now was afraid for our little sis and she said, “go.”
I ran for the glass and with a leap crashed through it falling some fifteen feet below.
I shook off the pain raised my gun and let my eyes adjust to the light.
The squirming sound was joined by popping sounds as hundreds of spiders broke through their egg sack and poured into the room I was standing in. I was surrounded by screens that formed a small room, maybe ten foot by ten foot littered with debris and the corners filled with mesh. The spiders stopped before reaching the screen. Further away. behind a glass wall, I saw my sister strapped to a wall. Blood dripping from her wrists and something, some kind of creature attached to her neck and head. Aunt Sarah stepped away from her as well as four other people, three men and a woman. They look terrified. One man stepped through a door and just stared at the hole I had made on the top. He looked upset and the spiders did not bother him.
“Let her go! And get that THING off her.” I pointed the gun towards his face.
The terror left his face and he said, “She will be fine. As you will be. The Alpha and Beta will explain it all to you.” He glanced over my shoulder and a wave of terror swept over me.
I spun around. I wasn’t in a room. I was in a nest.
In the corner, unfolding itself was an impossible creature. It’s body twisted and changed until it stood in front of me a good foot taller and a good hundred pounds heavier. Six arms protruded and it’s head and face were a mix of a spider, human and dinosaur. And then something else moved from another corner. Smaller but more deadly looking.
I started firing.