Author Archives: Hernan J Monzon

About Hernan J Monzon

Indie Author. Reach me at: hmonzon0629@gmail.com

The Dark Beyond The Parking Lot

I grew up here.
All this time the dark has been watching me,
waiting until I could understand it.

Now, it was calling me out.
It was time to collect.
And that’s why I was back.

I was walking to my car
across the lot behind the apartment building when,
“Hey!” Came a slippery voice
from beyond the trees.

“Hey!” I said back.
After a moment’s pause it said, “you used to live here.”

I stopped. “How’d you know that?”
Instinctively, I opened my car door.

“Remember Jinny? She used to knock on your door
after the streetlights came on.
Your parents did not approve.”
A slight rustle through the trees sounded like quiet laughter as I thought, for the first time in ages, of what happened to Jinny. I thought that whatever was out there knew that and was using it, taunting me.

“Is that so?” I went to the center console. Found the old zippo lighter my father had given to me long ago. It still worked. Like very few things in life, it always worked.
“This is a special lighter, Son. Use it sparingly.”
“How will I know when, Dad?”
“You’ll know.”

That was one of the last times I ever saw him. That day, in the garage, when the afternoon light after the rain dressed the sky in an otherworldly hue.

“Remember the first day you moved in here when you were ten?” The voice moved to the other side of the lot now, just behind the thicket –a coaxing, melodic string of words. “Teddy and Carol wanted to be friends. Not with you though, with your older brother. You were in your new bedroom unpacking your Star Wars toys.”

“Yup, I was there.” I put the zippo in my pocket and closed the door. Teddy didn’t last too long after that, maybe a couple of years. Carol too. Nobody had seemed to make it out of here. Nobody except for me.

“And little Timmy. Oh, what a beautiful bastard! Made you wash his bike. Want to know what he’s doing now?” The voice actually did laugh this time, like it was a little inside joke between us. Timmy had probably long rotted away in the back out there somewhere beneath the gravel and thistle.

I stepped to the edge of the parking lot. “Why don’t you show yourself and we can talk?”

Everything stopped then: the buzzing of the caged light, the night birds, the insects, cars on the streets, my breath.

And then the dark beyond the parking lot groaned, shifted –even seemed to sway.

I could see the darkness stretch…
I could hear the darkness yawn…
I could feel the darkness move air and night and nightmares with its being,
as it awakened…
as it was now getting ready to finally swallow me too.

“Do you really…” The voice came out differently now that it knew we weren’t going to be friends. It was Carol’s.

“…think that…” Timmy’s voice now.
The lights flickered.
The air grew colder and the cracks
in the pavement widened.

“…that lighter is going to help you…” Now Teddy’s, ending his sentence with a laugh just like always.

“…out here?” All of them now – whispers falling into whispers surrounding me, invading me invisibly.

I held out the zippo to the wall of blackness and flicked the flame alive. The landscape before me could be heard more than seen, but could be seen enough to know that it was moving in different places as though it were one living, breathing entity.

“This is all I need. This is all I ever needed,” I said.

And with that
I stepped down the embankment from the lot
into the trees and
into the darkness,

if only because I was so tired of hiding away from it
and from myself.

Now it wants to know what I’m going to do about it…

and so do I.

Dream Phone

“I know it’s been a couple years since lockdown…but I heard and I’m so sorry about Beth, Man. I really am.”
“Yeah, so am I.”
“You still think about her?”
“Every single minute, Martin. Things like that don’t just go away.”
“Fuck cancer.”
“Yeah, fuck cancer,” I said without conviction, staring down at the table. Still the same Martin then. I never quite understood how someone as empathetic could be so socially tone-deaf. And why was I here? What did he want?

But really, what was I doing other than sitting in a room with the drapes drawn staring at a television that wasn’t turned on?

Someone at the other end of the coffee shop coughed. I looked over to see an old man in a checkered shirt frowning at me.
“Oh, check this out.” Martin reached inside his jacket. “Got this phone on Amazon. It lets you take pictures of your dreams.”
“Bullshit.”
“No, seriously. All you have to do is make a clicking motion with your finger –like this, and it’ll take a photo of what you’re doing right inside your dream. But you have to remember while you’re dreaming to do this. Harder than it sounds. Took me a while to get the hang of it.”

I drummed my fingers on the table.
“Bullshit,” I said again. I mean, believe this guy?

Martin laughed, “Okay, I get it. But tech these days? And this phone? I got it a week ago and you should see some of the shit that it can do. Unreal. I don’t know who made it, and I even looked.” Martin then leaned forward and whispered as though what he was telling me was a grave secret: “Listen, this is so much more than just a phone. It’s like a line to the other side of the universe; a bridge to beyond and back. Something happened soon after I got it…so…I had to show you it.”

“Okay, Martin,” I clasped my hands together and looked over at the old man again. He was still frowning at me. “First off, what the fuck? Why me? And what do you mean ‘other side?’” This was when I started to feel something begin to crawl around the inside of my stomach, something cold and unfriendly.

“Alright, alright…” Martin smiled. He has always been a decent enough guy, but this conversation made a quick right turn and went a little too far down the yellow brick road. Maybe Martin was a few gumdrops short of a gingerbread house. Who knows? Either way, I didn’t like where this was going.

“Don’t freak out. Okay? Promise?” Martin didn’t wait for an answer. He slid the phone over and I found myself staring at a pic.

It was me and Martin leaning back against a beach bar with Chinese lanterns filling the sky behind us. Somewhere tropical. Sailboats and gulls. Even though I was never there, it did look like an actual photo. But the only thing that I really saw was Beth, my dearly beloved and departed, standing on the other side of me in a white flowing dress with her arm around my waist.

“What?” Was all I could muster to say, and I could hear my own voice begin to choke. I didn’t know what I was looking at, at first. But it hit me, hard. My vision began to blur. I wasn’t expecting to see her today. It changed things. Memories came flooding back: watching her live, watching her die.

“You fucking photoshop this?” My hand started to shake, so did the phone. I felt tears begin. Fuck, I thought that I was getting better for a while, but obviously I wasn’t.

“Whoa, Man.” Martin looked around. “Let’s just chill for a sec. You’re not seeing the whole picture.”

I actually began to laugh, “I’m not…whew!” I wiped my eyes with my sleeve and looked at the pic again; brought it closer to my face.

Martin shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “You need to listen to me, I…”

“You Sick Fuck, you think this is funny?” I said it softly, my voice quivering. I could barely make out Martin sitting across from me. My face felt hot. Holding the phone anymore was no good so I lay it down on the table, gently.

Martin’s eyes widened. “Easy, Man, just give me one second to explain.” He seemed just as unnerved as I was. Maybe he wasn’t a complete asshole, just hopelessly misguided. But by now he had certainly realized that this was a mistake.

That’s when the phone lit up with an incoming call and I stared at it in disbelief.

Back in college, when we were starting off, Beth and I had made a pact. We made it because deep down inside we knew that we were meant to be together. We would always be in love; there was no question. And we would always find each other no matter what. That was the pact. There was a song that was part of that pact. It was playing when we made it. It was forever, just like us. We adopted it. Sang it to each other. Stupid shit. It was a silly, young romantic gesture. One that I had almost forgotten until now.

It was a collection of flat eight-bit tones, but the ringtone the phone was playing –it was mine and Beth’s song.

Nobody else knew that. When the song then began to play over the radio in the coffee shop it felt like somebody had just tapped me on the back in an empty, locked room. It brought back the nights I lay alone in our bed after she was gone, having conversations with her in my head, wishing to God that I could have went as well and not be left here, like this, grown-ass man crying in the dark like a lost little child. What I would have gave to speak to her again, if only for a minute.

What I would have gave.

Martin put both his hands up like he was under arrest –only to show me that he was non-threatening. He then slowly reached over and answered the phone.

“Hey. Yeah. Thank you. Here he is.” Martin handed it over across the table. As though in slow motion and like in a dream itself, I slowly reached out, grabbed the phone, and brought it to my ear.

“Hello?” I said.

Can You See Them Yet?

Sometimes I hear people
right behind me,
and I don’t know who they are.
All that I know is that
they’re not really there.

It all started with Alice.
That wasn’t her name.
It was what she was after…or who.
She wouldn’t shut up about it.

I take long walks, you see.
One day her voice caught up to me
and out of thin air came:
“Alice wasn’t home today.
I want to show you where she lives but
I follow you. You don’t follow me.
You can’t. That’s not the way it works.”

“What? Hello?” I turned around and saw no one.
“Is anybody there?”

“Don’t be a lunkhead. I was fucking telling you about Alice.”

From there it didn’t stop.
Next came James,
“Alice always wears green, but don’t tell her I told you that.”
Then Marcy,
“Alice isn’t as nice as she comes across. Her kindness is a charade.”
And Sean,
“Alice pretends that she doesn’t want me. But that’s all it is, pretend.”

I don’t know what they look like
because I can’t see them
but they are right there
and nowhere at the same time.

I started walking faster, but it didn’t help
because the voices were always
just behind me:

“Alice is being a real bitch.”
“Oooh, I just love your skin.”

It wasn’t just one place, one walk, one road.
It was at the mall, at the bank, the bakery,
on the street or in my shitty apartment
as I sat on the recliner watching TV.

“What’s he doing?”
“He’s just sitting there staring at that talking screen.”
“Does Alice know?”

I don’t know who they are
(who the fuck is Alice?)
or what they are or where or
how they can see me or if they only see me
or a million other things.

The only thing scarier than this being all in my head and that
I was going batshit crazy
was the possibility that this wasn’t
-that this was real and
what that implied.

Two weeks later I got my answer
from once again, the unlikeliest of places
because our expectations of life
and all that it entails
are meant to be smashed, obliterated,
run over and then set on fire
every single step of the way.

So, there I was on a Monday
at the shop when
Marcus (the mechanic)
nodded me over, wrench in hand.

He wasn’t working on my vehicle just yet
and I didn’t really know him so
I approached with caution
because humans were dangerous.

As Marcus went back to changing a tire he said,
“Alice’s friends have been telling me about you…”
in a happy, sing-song voice.

“Alice?” That sounded so familiar that it was painful.
It still took me a second to process because,
“you mean the voices in my head?”

I wanted to grab Marcus and shake him
and scream and cackle madly
but I just stood there staring at him…stunned,
because none of this seemed real.
I could smell the oil, the exhaust, the lubricants, the cold air outside.
The lighting was harsh and glaring as usual. Nothing was out of the ordinary.
But yet, everything had changed forever
in one casual conversation.

Marcus shook his head and laughed.
He slowly turned to me,
set his wrench down on the cart
and with excited eyes said,

“Can you see them yet?”

The Dealer’s Apartment

The text read: 122 Hamilton Street. Apt 42. Bring a flashlight. Get the stash and go home. Easy.

I arrived at a six-story apartment building that was completely dark. All windows were black squares. No lights in the parking lot. No cars.

Was this place completely empty?
It looked like a utilitarian tomb, but that was under closer scrutiny than I would have given any apartment building on any of these streets. Hidden in plain sight, there was something definitely wrong here. I could smell it.

Bring a flashlight. So, the dealer knew about this. Of course he did.

I opened the front door to silence. No dogs barking. No babies crying. No life. I pulled the flashlight app on in my phone and held it in front of me as I went up the stairwell to the fourth floor. All was still. Eerie. A night museum.

I shone my light upon each door until I came to the right one and knocked.

“Get your light off my door.” I heard someone say from behind it.
“What?”
“Put your fucking light down. Do you understand English?” The voice sounded gruff, tired, angry.

“Okay.” I complied. The door opened to an apartment I couldn’t see as it was pitch black except for the echoes of light my phone reflected off the linoleum floor.
“Keep your light down. Don’t shine it in my face, so help me God.”
“No problem.” My hand was shaking slightly, causing the light to bounce around. I steadied it, but everything about this situation made me extremely nervous.

“Wait here,” he went into the bedroom and slammed the door behind him.
I heard the distinct sound of somebody sucking up a rail of cocaine (or whatever) up their nose. I heard a female’s voice.
“Shut the fuck up,” he said, almost at a shout. “Nobody fucking asked you.”

The man came back out and put something on the table. I shone my light on it. Pills in a Ziploc bag. I could see his stained white shirt momentarily before pulling my phone back down. I thought that he was going to berate me for shining my light on the table but, “go on, take it.”

I stepped forward and shoved the bag into my inside pocket.

“Get the fuck out. Keep your light down. Don’t shine it on anyone. You’ll be sorry that you did. You Shitbags never fucking learn. Scram.”

I gladly got out. In the hallway, from the opposite end towards where I was going, I heard a door close and footsteps start to come my way –heavy, awkward ones. I did what my immediate instincts told me to, shut the light off and plastered myself back against the wall until they passed.

Once I was outside, I could really feel the cold in the air. I punched in an Uber and waited, thinking that my problem –my whole new fucking situation– might have been a little understated.

And I wasn’t sure about these pills anymore.

Billy’s Laura

Raining hard at the
mouth of the trail
where Shane was
waiting for his ex-wife
umbrella in hand.

“Nice day out. Isn’t it, Laura?”

Laura smiled, “Yes it is, Hon.”

She was already drunk
as usual.

Shane held out his umbrella
and walked holding it over her
letting himself get wet
until they reached Billy’s house.

No lights.
Billy wasn’t up yet.

“I’m sure Billy will be up soon.” He said.

Sometimes it was hours
before Billy got up
and Shane would hold his umbrella
over her as she lay her head in
his lap and slept.

“You still love me, Shane.”
She would say,
“You wouldn’t do this
if you didn’t love me.”

And when it was cold
Shane would put his warm jacket
over her
with nothing for himself
as they both waited until…

“Light’s on, Laura, Billy’s up.”

Billy would open the front door
without looking out and just
leave it open but
only when he had a fix ready for her.

Once Laura was inside
Shane would then go on
down the road to
Tim’s house to
drink himself to sleep.

Tim would see Shane
all wet and cold
and will give him shit
for the same old shit.

They used to be the
toughest around
in town back when it mattered
until there came along
fights that couldn’t be won
like plants shutting down
unpaid debts
miscarriages
divorce
and then there came the bottle
and other things that were worse.

“She’s Billy’s Laura now, Shane, Billy’s Laura!”

“You don’t understand, Tim.”

“I understand that you can’t let go.
That you’re killing yourself
just like she is and
I just can’t
watch it anymore.”

“Come on now, Tim.”

“It wasn’t your fault, Shane. It really wasn’t…”
Tim’s eyes were red, wet and he
slammed the door.

Shane grabbed his coat and
umbrella and headed back.

Maybe Tim finally had the
last of this
but for Shane it was
just another day to get through.

Just another day.

NEIGHBOUR’S MULLET

Untamable.
A bristling peacock
wild on the street.

Steal your girl.

It is primed
and ready to go.

It’s a cobra
ready to strike.

It has drama.
It has anger.
It has danger
and no mercy.

It goes up
and comes down
and will drive you
to uncertainty.

It will ruin your
finances
and divide your
family.

My neighbour’s mullet
is its own
theater.

I talk about it
everyday
because that’s
where
my life is

and I just had
Deja-vu.

The Intervention

Mother stood up first.

“I know the divorce and your father’s passing has been difficult for you and you have your ways to cope…but we feel that we are losing you. You’re the only son I have and I pray everyday that you stop hurting yourself and that you find Jesus.”

She sat down.

Yeah, I found Jesus, Mother. He was hiding underneath my fucking bed right beside the crack pipe.

My uncle stood up next.

“This is all up to you, Peter. If you say (like you said before) that you are done then we’re all behind you. But you have to really be done this time. You have to. Nobody else can do it for you.”

Whatever, put down the doughnut.

After a couple more verbal lashings from the family, Cousin Timmy got up last. This ought to be good.

“You’re a fucking asshole.” He said. There were tears in his eyes.

He sat back down.

As adept as always in handling these kind of situations, Timmy, as adept as always.

I looked around the Tim Horton’s. Everyone was looking at me. I thought I was just coming here for a fucking coffee and a wrap.

That was Monday.

Friday back at it again. The beast needed feeding.

Dan rolled up in his Benz. He held up a bag of pills.

“Wanna get high with me and my girl?” Tina looked over. Smiled.

We made out last time. Felt her up. So hot.

Dan doesn’t know or he knows and doesn’t give a fuck.

“Hell yeah I do.” I got in the car.

CANADA DAY 2020

Is the day that
neighbours like to
terrorize
veterans and pets alike
by unleashing a
seemingly endless arsenal
of loud sky magic.

Restrained to their yards
because everything is canceled
forever
fireworks (and plenty)
help air out the grievances.

Two lots over
a dazzling array
of starbursts
mostly white
(racists)
with a nice jazzy finish.

There’s a mosquito in my wine.
Fuck.
Whatever. Flick it out.
Cover the glass
with my cigarette pack.
All good.
Better than good.
Fucking best ever.

Somewhere down the street
shots of colour coming up
to explode into intersecting
streams of sparkling light
accentuated with a
thunderous bass.
Definitely more baritone.
Definitely more
Beethoven than Mozart.

There’s something swimming
in my wine glass
again.
It’s a moth.
How in Satan’s secrets
did it get in there?
This is truly a magical night.

It’s quite the avid swimmer.
It looks wasted and happy
but it’s actually dying
wondering what the fuck
happened to it
and i imagine
that’s probably how I’ll go too.

There were fireworks
up the hill from the large houses
unworthy of mention
(fuck your money)
some here and there
with little forethought
in execution
judging by the random
long pauses
and haphazard order.

i look at my wine glass.
there is nothing in it.
not even wine.

I go inside.
the cat looks like it’s
on its first bad acid trip.

I’m surprised
I didn’t find it
in my wine glass.

I go back outside
light a ciggie
momentarily feel
happy and sane and relaxed
and contemplative
when the neighbourhood
blows up as
two streets behind me
they light off mortar shells.

Single shots
ruptured the sky
enough to obtain
a decent understanding
of how fast
the speed of sound is
by observing the echoes
of the explosions
tear across the landscape.

They didn’t even sound legal.

It’s almost midnight.
Assholes.
Some people have to have
the last word.

I had sparklers
but i ate them.

Good night.

HER LOVE IS WAR

Her love is a
crowbar into
the stomach.

It’s a gun fight
in a closet.

It’s a black hole
in a paper cup.

Her love is a
grenade in a
gumball machine.

An electric chair
in a summer dress.

It’s a Third Reich parade.

Now i drive fast
with my eyes closed.

Scream into bottles
of Chardonnay.

Pick fights with
ghosts in long ago
basements

while looking
for reasons
in a cereal box
and empty parking lots.

THE PROBLEM WITH US

The problem is that
people have to have more
and more
in order to fill in the holes
in themselves
in each other
in the hours
in the empty spaces.

And so we dig
and gouge
and scrape
and burn until
there is nothing left
with no regard
or respect.

We don’t want to know
how things work
as long as it
works for us.

We don’t understand
how to appreciate
a world
that we do not
live in fear of.

We have made
things far too
easy
for and on
ourselves.

We have forgotten
the lion
the bayonet
the plague
the hunger
the fire the scars
the blood dripping from
a thousand crosses
the terrors the deaths
the darkness
at the end of every street.

But these things
don’t just
go away they are
still there
so far back and
just around the corner
sharpening their
knives
their teeth
their resolve
they are honing in and
approaching like a
thick blanket
a moonless night
a killer in a crowd.

They’re coming
-it’s coming.
-It’s here.

And it’s about time.