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The Coop

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  1. If you want to, feel free. A remix or two from an anime won't hurt.
  2. First PM was sent out to everyone early this morning. Time to start (gently) cracking the proverbial whip.
  3. It's sequenced. I used Sonar Music Creator 2005 (I love its Amiga-like staff view), and the piano virtual instrument I've been using for what feels like forever. I wrote it (like all of my piano stuff these days) on two tracks; one for the left hand, and one for the right (keeps the whole "third hand" thing away most of the time 😆). I played with the velocity and the tempo a lot in the program, trying to capture what I was picturing in my head as I listened to what I'd written as I went along; giving it tempo changes in areas where I believed they would feel good/natural. I've also tinkered with the EQing for the piano over the years, to try and make it sound a bit nicer to my ears (it's harsh sounding without the EQing), So yeah, it's not me performing it. It's just me trying my best to make it feel performed. And thanks for the compliments, djp. Scary to think it's been nineteen and a half years since my Darius remix was posted, huh?
  4. We could, but someone else would have to set it up and host it. I've got my hands full between the artwork, making a mix, and putting everything together (that final day or two crunch is a bitch 🤣).
  5. That was hosted by Cyril the Wolf some five and a half years ago (AOCC v.XI). Basically, the majority of the listeners were people who were on the album, so it wasn't exactly a smashing success... which is likely why we didn't do it again. A lot of work for a handful of listeners. So right now, no, there are no plans for a listening party,
  6. It's July 13th. It's Summer. It's hot, it's sticky and none of it is in a good way. But here's something that is good. Yep, it's time to start recruiting for the next An OverClocked Christmas album! We've got over five months before the due date, so let's see how many people are interested in taking part for the seventeenth entry in this (usually) happy, seasonal project. As per the norm, this project is open to any and all OCR members, regardless of whether you're a posted remixer or not. You want info? I got your info right here... When's The Project Deadline?- December 20th, 2023 at 11:59 P.M. EST. This is now a REALLY hard, non-negotiable deadline, since it's very close to Christmas. We've had lots of last-minute entries and updates over the years and, to be perfectly honest, it shouldn't be that way. With months of time, having to hold off as long as possible for people made things pretty hectic for myself and Dyne in the past. Treating this project like a college paper that doesn't get worked on until the last minute got annoying rather quickly when it kept adding up to lots of hurrying year after year, with last second updates to artwork and retagging/reuploading things. As such, you have until one minute before midnight EST on December 20th to get me the final WAV or MP3 of your song. After that, you're shit outta luck until next year. I need time to do everything, including possibly making a little website to host this project if Dyne isn't online for one reason or another. So this deadline's set in stone... PERIOD. What Information Does The Coop Need?- When you send me your final versions, I'll need what name you want to use (real or remixer handle) and the name of your remix. Please, come up with something when you send me links to the file, rather than just giving me a file called "ff6-owa-v3f.mp3" and nothing else. You don't have to tell me what song you're remixing, but I do need a name. Plus, if you have a website you'd like to pimp, supply that as well and I can add it to the MP3 tags. What Can Be Remixed?- Any song, really. Traditional Christmas carols, video game music, published music by a signed artist, music from TV/cartoons/anime... whatever gets your heart racing and into that Christmas spirit. This isn't an official OCR album, so you can draw from more sources than just VGM. Plus, you can take a non-Christmas tune, like the Main Theme from Space Harrier, Stage 6 Mission 2 from Metal Head, or I Defend STM from Truxton II, and turn it into a Christmasy one. So know that it's not limited only to songs that are Christmas-like to begin with. All that said, do keep in mind that if you want to submit your song to OCR later, you'll need to keep this site's guidelines in the back of your mind. But for this album, you can take it in just about any direction you want and get as crazy as you'd like (but please, no "Silver Bells" done in farts or something). How Long Can My Song Be?- As long as you want it to be. There are no restrictions on this, so whether it's 1:30, or 9:51 with a five minute guitar solo ala Metallica, it's all good. But again, if you want to submit your song to OCR later, keep their guidelines in mind. What Genres Can I Remix In?- Again, the door's wide open here. Rap, Metal, Pop, Piano-solo, Orchestral, Jazz, 8/16-bit, Barber Shop Quartet, A capella, Death Polka... it's up to you where you want to take it. What Format Should I Submit My Song In?- WAV or an MP3 of at least 192KB/s quality. I'll be tagging the MP3s and making MP3s from any submitted wavs, so you don't have to worry about that. But, if you'd like your website to be in the MP3 comments section, be sure to give it to me when you submit your song. How About A Little Music To Get Us In The Mood?- To help everyone along, here's a YouTube list of Christmasy tunes made by Ocre a number of years ago... https://ocremix.org/community/topic/32727-an-overclocked-christmas-~-now-recruiting/?tab=comments#comment-676914 What's The Website's Address Again?- It's got a new home at... http://williammichael.info/aocc/ This album will still be downloaded there as well, as Dyne will continue to host the albums on his site. How Do We Contact This The Coop Person?- If you've got questions, comments, concerns, want feedback, or your track is done and ready to be sent to me, you can PM me here on OCR, or send me an E-mail at thecoopscorner@gmail.com. Just be sure you remember to include a link to your remix, or attach it to your message. So yeah, there you go. You've got over five months to get something done for the lovely people of OverClocked Remix and the billions of listeners around the world who've become followers of our project. Good luck, have fun and make everyone some Nice Work™! Artists involved thus far... The Coop (director, cover artist and remixer) colorado weeks (remixer) Souperion (remixer) Wassup Thunder (remixer) Troyificus (remixer) TSori (remixer) The Vodoú Queen (remixer) Lampje4life (remixer)
  7. I just tested it and it downloaded and unzipped fine. I used 7zip to do this. What did you use, Bundeslang?
  8. And here we are yet again. Another year has passed and the latest AOCC is done and ready for consuming. For the moment, it's a link to my Dropbox. But once Dyne gets the site ready, I'll change it go there. From all of us who took part in the overclocking of Christmas this year, we all hope you enjoy the music https://williammichael.info/aocc/
  9. And thus ends the submission window. I'll be getting it all put together and sent to Dyne within the hour. Thanks to everyone who submitted a remix
  10. Another year's gone by, and it's time once again for the yearly Twas poem. This one's a bit long (as usual), but it's ready for reading. So grab yourselves something to drink, use the bathroom if you need to, and let's jump right in, shall we? 'Twas XXI: Gone With The Wind by The Coop Twas two weeks before Christmas, and in the town hall, one Nick Fern listened as each man there spoke of all that had happened in their lives over the last two weeks since the last time they had all gathered there to talk of the trials that came with their struggle to stay on the wagon and keep their addiction at bay. Pam was the councilor for each session they'd hold, and her group was made up of just five men, all told. And though the room was warmer than the air outside, they left their coats on, rather than put them aside. Nick was the newest member of Pam's AA group. Matt, Todd, Brad and Joel, made up the rest of the troop. They sat in a circle, each on a folding chair. Six people were present, but seven chairs were there. The four other men spoke of how long it had been since the last time they'd touched some beer, whiskey or gin. They spoke of bad moments that tested their resolve. Of avoiding events that would surely involve everyone around them drinking or getting drunk. Of how the struggle, at times, left them in a funk. Of the yearnings and such that made some days so rough when problems arose that made sobriety tough. With the group being small, Nick's turn soon came about. He stood up from his seat and let a small sigh out. “My name is Nick Fern, and it's been over a year since the last time I drank any whiskey or beer.” After some light applause from the rest of the group, “However,” Nick added, “my will power did droop “a bit a few days ago, when I was alone scrolling through Facebook while I was on my iPhone.” “What happened?” asked Pam with some concern on her face. Nick said, “A memory I wish I could erase “came back at me when I wasn't expecting it. My mood really tanked and it made me feel like shit.” “Is that memory really that bad?” Pam asked him. Nick nodded a bit with, “Yeah, it's pretty damn grim.” Pam then asked, “Is it something you feel you can share?” “No,” Nick replied. “It's not something I want to air.” Pam could see that Nick seemed like he felt out of place. “That's fine, Nick,” Pam said with a small smile on her face. “If it's something that hard for you to go into, then I think moving along is what we will do.” She looked about at all of the other men there, who looked curious over what Nick wouldn't share. “So... now that we're fnished with our meeting,” Pam said, “rather than going home, let's have some fun instead.” A few seconds later, into the room strode a man dressed in attire for the nearing holiday. From the red coat and pants lined with furry white trim, to the thick black boots and white hair and beard on him, the heavy-set man gave off a very jolly air as he smiled warmly at the people who were there. As he approached, he gave his large belly a pat and let out a “Ho ho ho!” on top off all that. In one hand, the man held a full, big and red sack that he'd slung over his shoulder onto his back. He looked the part as he came up to the men, who looked as if they didn't know what to think or do. Some groaned a little, while others looked on, confused. And others still seemed to be a little amused as the Santa-looking man sat down with a grunt, removed his fuzzy red cap and rubbed his forehead's front. He brought the sack around and put it at his feet, then looked out at the men that he'd been brought to meet. “Gentlemen,” Santa smiled. “Greetings to all of you.” He looked to Pam with, “And Pam, hello to you too. “I've come here tonight to wish you all some good cheer, and to congratulate you for still being here. “For fighting your demons and trying your best to overcome your addiction and just make it through “each day, one at a time as you rebuild your lives... not just for yourselves, but your children and or wives. “You've all struggled and fought, and tonight, I'm here to give a very special gift to each one of you.” Santa then leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, then opened the sack before his toes. “So tell me,” Santa said as he looked to his right. “What present is it that you'd like to get tonight?” The man who sat there gave a bit of a laugh as he held up a hand with, “Thanks, but I think I'll pass.” “Oh come now,” Santa scoffed. “There must be some thing that you lost in your battle with your addiction, Matt.” Matt looked to Santa with suspicion in his eyes, and said, “Telling you that wouldn't be very wise.” “Why is that?” Santa asked, to which Matt then replied, “Because I'm the reason that someone I loved died.” When the man stayed silent, Santa patted his knee. “It's alright, son,” he said. “Go ahead and tell me.” It took a few seconds, but Matt let out a sigh with, “My old calico cat, who I caused to die. “I came home drunk one night and pulled up to my place. I went in to my bedroom and planted my face “on my bed and passed out until later that day. When I woke up, I called my cat to come and play. “She always did before. It was kind of her thing. But this time, Casey didn't seem to be coming. “I got up and checked ev'rywhere for my old cat, but just couldn't find where Casey was hiding at. “I started to worry and got dressed to go see if somehow she'd gotten outside because of me. “But when I went outside, I got to the drive way and saw something that I can't forget to this day. “Casey was pinned under the front tire of my truck. She'd died because of me being a dumb, drunk fuck.” Santa could see the pain strongly in the man's stare; a stare that was getting glassy as he sat there. “Bringing back the dead is well beyond my control,” Santa said in a tone that was meant to console. “But I think I might have something that you can take home with you that might help a bit with your heartache.” Santa reached into his sack and dug for a bit, then pulled something out that made Matt gasp, “Holy shit!” In Santa's hand was a small stuffed animal that looked very much like a chubby calico cat. “This is yours,” Santa said as he held out the toy. Matt just stared at it with both sadness and some joy. He looked at the way the white, orange and black fur was patterned on the toy, and said, “It looks like her.” “This is my gift to you,” Santa smiled as Matt took the toy from Santa's hand with a bewildered look. Matt's had fully teared up as he smiled at the toy. “Thanks,” he croaked out. Santa said, “You're welcome, my boy.” From there, Santa looked to each of the men and asked if they would tell him of what they'd lost in their past thanks to the addiction they continued to fight. And one by one, each man there answered him that night. Todd lost a coin that was a gift from his dead dad. He'd pawned it because it was all the cash he had and needed to go get his next alcohol hit. He didn't pay them back and they got to keep it. Brad lost a pocket watch he'd gotten from his son. It was lost in a drinking game he hadn't won. Joel sold his wedding ring to get booze, and his wife found out, divorced him, and then walked out of his life. As each man got their turn, Nick listened to their tales of how their addiction led to the biggest fails of their lives and how it cost them all something dear, and gave them the regrets they'd endured ev'ry year. And once each man was done, Santa reached in his sack and pulled out something that made each man's face go slack. A coin that looked just like the one that had been pawned, the sight of which left Todd unable to respond. A ring that was sold and cost Joel his lovely wife, which he viewed as the biggest mistake of his life. And a watch that was gambled away on a game; an act that left Brad filled with great remorse and shame. With that, Santa said, “I know these gifts won't undo all the feelings of regret that still trouble you. “But keep them close as a way to spur yourself on and focus on the future and less on what's gone. “You can't change your pasts, but you can make each step count as you go forward in life and work to surmount “the choices and moments that came from your mistakes. And I believe you will. You've all got what it takes.” Santa then looked to Nick, who seemed filled with unease. “Now it's your turn, Nick,” Santa said. “If you would, please, “give me some insight on what you lost on your way to ending up here with all of us on this day?” Nick was quiet at first, but then spoke with a quick, “My drinking didn't cost me anything, St. Nick.” “Are you sure?” Santa asked. “Nothing was lost with you?” “The thing I lost,” Nick replied, “had nothing to do “with me getting too drunk and screwing up my life. I'm just here to stay clean and prevent any strife “before booze gets a chance to screw up my life too. So just skip me, please, if it's all the same to you.” With that, Nick left the room as each person still there looked a bit uneasy as they stayed in their chair. “I... guess that's it,” Pam said, in a caught off-guard tone as she looked at the time that was shown on her phone. “Our last meeting of this year has come to a close. And with that, you're all free to head home, I suppose. “Just remember that our next meeting's on the fourth.” To Santa, “Thanks for coming down here from up north.” “You're welcome,” Santa said with a smile as he stood from his seat, and added, “I hope I did some good.” “By the way they acted, I'd say you did just that,” Pam said as she gave Santa's shoulder a firm pat. “Thank you for coming, and have a great holiday.” “You too,” Santa said, and then started on his way out of the room he'd given presents to the men. But as he went through the door, he found Nick again. Santa stopped where he was and looked over at Nick, who cast him a sideways glance that was very quick. “You alright, son?” Santa asked. “I will be,” Nick said, to which Santa replied with, “I'm about to head “back home for the night and take some time to unwind. I'm still willing to listen, if you're so inclined, “to share what it is that pushed you to end up here. If you want to, I promise, I'll lend you my ear.” Nick said nothing for a bit, as he closed his eyes. “The dead can't come back, no matter how someone tries.” “Who died?” Santa asked. Nick said, “Someone that I can't picture in my damn mind. So, unless you can grant “the dead some kind of way to visit with someone, I think this conversation is pretty much done.” With that, Nick walked away as Santa watched him go out the building's doors and into the falling snow. Nick got to his car and drove back to his home, where he got changed and sat down in his reclining chair. With a mumbled swear word, he got back to his feet. “I just want to sit down,” he grumbled. “I'm so beat.” He got a fire going to help warm up the place, then got back in his chair with some ire on his face. He rested his head back and let out a small sigh. Within a few minutes, he looked ready to cry. The ire had faded and was replaced with sorrow, until tears broke free and reflected the fire's glow. “I hate this,” he muttered. “This whole damn time of year. Ev'ryone else is happy and I'm sitting here “trying not to cry over who I can't recall even a little of what they looked like at all.” The minutes ticked by as Nick sat there quietly and a few more of his tears silently broke free. But in time, Nick dozed off and left the waking world for the one his mind's eye cruelly went and unfurled. The roar grew louder as ev'ry second ticked by, so much so that he could barely hear himself cry, “Mommy, what's happening?!” in a child's voice that held great amounts of panic in the words that were yelled. He looked all around at ev'rything in his sight, with his eye level at a six year old boy's height. This made the noisy house that was all around him seem much scarier as daylight began to dim. The world grew darker; like the sun was blotted out. And a panic filled, “MOMMYYYY?!” was what Nick did shout. The air was filled with a sound, not unlike a train, and the wind whistled through ev'ry closed window pane. His ears began to hurt as the air pressure grew within the home until the roof of the house flew up into the air in chucks that were big and small. Then came a woman's voice; one with a southern drawl. The house began to shake, the cacophony swelled, and he could barely make out what that woman yelled. “MOVE IT, NOW!” she shouted, and the next thing he knew, he was pulled down a hallway and hurried into the bathroom where she shouted, “GET IN THE TUB, NOW!” over what sounded like something'd begun to plow through the entire house as the sound of breaking wood and things that were shattering did all that they could to drown out the world with the loud racket they made. And as this went on, the light continued to fade. But for a moment, he saw the shape of someone, with their face and body blurred as ev'rything spun wildly out of control through the air behind them. And as the bathroom became chaotic mayhem, that same woman's voice came as daylight faded out. “I LOVE YOU, NICK!” were her words as she tried to shout and be heard over all of what was going on. Nick let out a scream... and then ev'rything was gone. All of the loud noises could no longer be heard. The wind, the woman's voice, and not a single bird made even the slightest little bit of a sound. It was as if there was nothing alive around. The silence was a shock as Nick found himself in the middle of what had at one point in time been the house where he grew up. But now it was no more. There was no ceiling or walls. Not even a floor. Instead, ev'rything he'd known, was now just debris that seemed to stretch out as far as his eyes could see. But unlike before, ev'rything was seen from a grownup's height while his thoughts went into disarray as he saw the rubble where his home used to be. And in panic, Nick let out a pain-filled, “MOMMYYYY!” But the voice that rang out wasn't that of a child. Instead, the voice was that of a grown man whose wild and panicked eyes scanned over the debris that lay on the ground around him as he relived the day where all that he had known was taken away by a violent wind storm that came down from the sky. “Mom?” he called in a voice that was filled with dismay. “Where are you?! Answer me! “Tell me that you're OK!” When all that he got back was a silent reply, he looked to the storm clouds and simply muttered, “Why?” as tears built up fast in his sorrow-laden eyes. But sorrow was soon joined abruptly by surprise as Nick heard a man say, “I can see why you had reluctance to bring up a memory this bad.” Nick looked around with, “Who the hell's out here with me?” as his eyes looked about at the scattered debris. “It's just me,” came the voice, and Nick turned back around. He looked utterly confused and what he then found. Where once no one had stood, there now was a man who was dressed like Santa, and who seemed familiar too. “Aren't you the guy from the AA meeting last night?” Nick asked, to which Santa replied, “That's me, alright.” With ire, Nick demanded, “Why the hell are you here?” Santa looked to Nick and saw both anger and fear in Nick's eyes as he stood on what had at one time been a house, but was now rubble covered in grime. “What happened?” Santa asked, his voice filled with dismay. “Get out of my head!” Nick strained. “Go the fuck away!” “Please, talk to me, Nick,” Santa said as he drew near to where Nick stood on some rubble. “What happened here?” “What the hell do you think?!” Nick shouted at the man before he turned around and continued to scan what had once been a house before the storm moved through. “I have to find my mom. I'm done talking to you.” “You're mother was here?” Santa asked as he followed a bit behind Nick, who walked toward the nearby road. “Of course she was!” Nick snapped as he pointed to where the old bathtub still stood. “She was standing right there. “She grabbed me and put me into the tub before ev'rything was ripped apart from ceiling to floor.” Once he had reached the road, Nick looked up and down it. He saw no one about, and uttered a hard, “Shit! “Why's nobody coming?! I need help to find my mom and get her to safety, or else she might die!” Santa watched as Nick returned and began to dig through the many chunks of his home; both small and big. He pushed rubble aside. Lifted up partial walls. He dug through broken furniture and let out calls to his mother in hopes of getting a reply. At times, he looked mad. At others, like he could cry. Santa could do little as he watched the man pour over all the debris as he kept calling for his mother to say something so he could find where she was trapped and be able to free her from there. But the minutes ticked by as the light of day waned, and Nick's calls to his mother grew more and more strained. Santa heard how the heartache in the man's voice grew with each patch of rubble he finished going through. “Mom, please answer me!” Nick yelled as his voice cracked while he moved over to the next mangled debris pile. As Nick did so, Santa looked about at the scene and took in what little around him could be seen. Besides the rubble of what had once been Nick's home, the world seemed to be encased inside of a dome that was made up of a thick gray fog that blocked out ev'rything fifty feet away, or just about. What had to have once been the back and the front yard, were coated with debris and so utterly marred by the wind and rain from the twister that came through. And what grass still remained, was all torn apart too. At the front yard's end, the sidewalk was quite tattered. The street fared no better, as it too was battered. Chunks of concrete and asphalt had been thrown around, and holes in both the street and sidewalk were abound. Yet it all faded away into that thick fog. Meanwhile, Nick dug through debris like a panicked dog. “Nick,” Santa called out. And when he got no reply, Santa turned and saw how Nick continued to try to find the one who he desperately searched for. “Nick!” Santa then shouted. “She's not here anymore!” “Bullshit!” Nick yelled back. “I know my mom's here somewhere. So help me or fuck off! Which you choose, I don't care!” Santa stood there and watched for a few moments more, as Nick called out to the one he was looking for. Santa then went over to where Nick stood and dug. And without a word, Santa gave Nick a large hug. “LET ME GO!” Nick shouted as he tried to get free. “I HAVE TO FIND HER! GET YOUR FUCKING HANDS OFF ME!” “She's gone, son,” Santa said, his voice soft and somber. Nick replied with a frantic, “I HAVE TO FIND HER!” Santa kept hold of Nick until the man grew still and at last had a chance to let his anguish spill out of him in a sob that was filled with sorrow. And when Nick's crying had stopped, Santa let him go. Nick did his best to get his emotions pushed down. He looked embarrassed and kept his tear-filled eyes down. “I... I'm sorry,” Nick said with both remorse and shame. “I didn't mean to shout at you and act so lame.” “It's fine,” Santa said, his words filled with empathy. “I'd be in tears too if it had happened to me.” Nick was silent as he awkwardly looked around at the rubble of his home that was on the ground. “Will you tell me what happened?” Santa asked gently. “Back when I asked what you'd lost, you had said to me “that you couldn't remember how someone did look. I'm guessing they're the one that violent storm took?” Nick took a moment, but soon nodded in silence. Santa said, “The pain from that must have been immense.” “Yeah, it was,” Nick replied and then remained quiet as he seemed to gather up his thoughts for a bit. Before long, he looked to Santa with a pained stare. “My mom and I lived in the middle of nowhere. “Some dull, little town called Forrestville or some shit, which made no sense since there were no trees around it. “But that's where we were living until I turned six, and then Mother Nature played the meanest of tricks. “It was after my birthday that a storm came through. I'd only been six for a measly day or two “before ev'rything got turned onto its head by a strong tornado that dropped right out of the sky. “The thunderstorm didn't seem all that bad at first. But that changed pretty quick when the tornado burst “out of that damn storm and initially touched down maybe a half mile or so just outside of town. “The thing quickly became a really bad F3. When the sirens went off, my mom came and got me “from where I'd been watching it out on the front lawn. And barely a minute later, my mom was gone.” “That fast?” Santa asked, his voice filled with great dismay. “Yeah, that fast,” Nick nodded. “It took my mom away. “I remember her yelling my name as I stood scared shitless as the storm tore up my neighborhood. “I can still hear her voice and how panicked she was. But I stood in place like I was frozen because “of ev'rything I was seeing all around me. Our house was being torn apart, literally. “Chunks of roof were pulled off and the house shook like hell. But on top of all the noise, I heard my mom yell, “'Get in the bath tub!' as she put me in that thing. The next thing I remember, I just heard nothing. “No wind, nothing breaking, no yelling from my mom. When I got out of the tub, it looked like a bomb “had gone off where our home had been standing before. But thanks to that tornado, our home was no more. “I called out for my mom, but I got no answer. So I dug through the rubble to try and find her. “I called and called for her, but she never replied. I refused to believe that my mother had died. “An hour later, some people showed up to help me, and they got me over to an emergency “shelter so that I could be checked for injuries. The whole time I was there I just begged them to please “find my mom and to make sure that she was OK. For nearly a week, I had no choice but to stay “at the shelter 'till the police came and told me that they couldn't even find my mother's body. “They all searched for days and several miles around. But despite all of that, no trace of her was found. “Ev'rything in our home was completely destroyed. And from that moment on, my life became devoid “of people who truly tried to take care of me. I just bounced from one nameless foster family “to another for years until I turned eighteen. By that time, I'd become a drunk prick who was mean “and pretty much hammered twenty four hours a day. And for the next twenty years, that how it would stay. “I was angry and hurt. I had not one thing to remind me of my mom as I tried to work through “all the shit that had happened to me on that day. But instead of getting help, I kept folks at bay. “I shoved ev'ryone off, being the prick I was. I mean, I was ten when I got my first booze buzz,” Nick said with a small laugh and a shake of his head. “I'm honestly surprised I didn't end up dead “before I had become a legally grown man. And now, here I am, doing the best that I can “to keep my life from taking another nose dive. Taking it day by day and just staying alive.” At first, Santa didn't seem to know what to say. He stood there in silence with a look of dismay. “You don't have anything?” Santa finally said. “Nothing,” Nick replied. “All I've got's what's in my head. “A nightmare where I just never seem to see her. And in my other memories, she's just a blur, “like she's out of focus or something. It's damn weird.” Santa let his gaze lower as he stroked his beard. “At least I can remember her voice,” added Nick. “But what my mother looked like just refused to stick. “I tried therapy when I wanted to get clean. I told my shrink about this, asked, 'What does it mean?', “and he said that maybe what I saw scarred my mind. The trauma of the storm and how they couldn't find “my mother got mixed up inside of my own head.” With sadness in his eyes, he sorrowfully said, “But I really wish that I could see her again, and not just this blur that I've had ever since then. “To hear her talk to me without having to yell over ev'rything around us going to hell.” “I wish I could help, Nick,” Santa said with regret. “If I could, I'd do something to help you forget “what happened to you and your mom on that bad day. But I'm no magician who can just wave away “a bad memory or bring back those who've passed on.” “I know,” Nick replied. “I just wish she wasn't gone.” “I do too,” someone said in the same woman's voice he'd heard in his nightmare. “And if I had the choice, “I'd be right there with you to ease your mind and heart. But the world had other plans to keep us apart.” Nick began to look all around bewilderedly. “What the-?” he uttered. “Yes, Nick,” the voice said. “It's me.” “But... how?” he asked, puzzled at what he had just heard. That was when a shape appeared that was very blurred. So much so, that it looked like some odd-colored cloud that resembled who he'd seen when the F3 plowed into their home and he'd been gotten to safety. “Mom?” he asked as he watched the cloud. “Is it really-” “I don't have a lot of time,” the woman's voice said. “So please, don't ask questions. Just let me speak instead. “I know you lost me when you were just a young boy. That you suffered a lot and found so little joy “as you tried to grow up without me at your side. That you felt so alone as you grieved and you cried. “But I've always been near you when you needed me. I just had no voice to hear, or body to see.” “I don't even have a place to mourn you,” Nick plead. “No pictures, no trinkets... I got nothing, instead.” “I know,” the woman's voice came. “I'm here to fix that. It's the best I can do with our brief time to chat. “When you wake up, my boy, go to the place you'll see. Once you get there, I promise that you will find me.” It was then that the sound of sirens began to fade in from the distance as they made their way through the fog that surrounded where Santa and Nick stood among all of the pieces of metal and wood. “Help's on the way,” Santa said as he looked to where the road vanished into the dense fog that was there. As the siren's grew louder, the woman's voice said, “I'll be at that place, Nick. You'll find me in my bed.” “Bed?” Nick replied as he watched the cloud start to fade. Then with urgency, “Mom, you can't leave!” he forbade. Within a few seconds, Nick was snapped wide awake. He sat up in his chair, gave his head a small shake, then mumbled, “What the hell?” as he rubbed his forehead just before a mumbled “I gotta piss,” was said. Inside the bathroom, as he took himself that piss, a mental image surfaced from his mind's abyss. He stood in place and mulled over what he had seen; of a place familiar with a lake so serene, the water had no ripples. It was smooth as glass. The lake was surrounded by a huge field of grass, in which a single tree rose up above it all. “I know that place,” Nick gasped. “I have to make a call!” Within a couple of hours, Nick had called in sick to work and gotten himself a plane ticket, quick. By early afternoon, he was on his way to the place he'd seen that he was certain he knew. Once on the ground, Nick got a rental and went down to the cop station of what was once his home town. He told the police chief about what had gone down with his dream and the lake some ten miles from the town. And once Nick was finished describing ev'rything, he was insistent with his request that they bring anything that might be needed to search the lake. The chief was hesitant and thought Nick's tale was fake, but Nick swore that it was all true and not a lie. At six the next morning, the search team was parked by that lake as they began to sift through the water and the lake's slimy bottom as they searched for her. Nick paced back and forth as he stood near the shore line. Hours passed by, until it was about half past nine when someone yelled they'd found something in the lake's bed. At that moment, Nick knew, they'd found his mom's deathbed. In the days that followed, DNA tests were run. The remains where Nick's mother's, which meant that her son could give her a proper grave for her final rest. And doing so took a huge weight off of Nick's chest. He paid the extra cash to get it done so she could have her place of rest given to her quickly. And on Christmas Eve, Nick paid his first visit to his mother's resting place in plot three-twenty two. On that night, for the first time in what had to seem like an entire lifetime, Nick did not have that dream. Instead, he slept soundly and began Christmas Day with a smile as he got up and then washed away the “sleepy seeds” from his eyes in the bathroom sink and used the cup in there to get water to drink. He left the bathroom as his eyes stung from the soap. And that was when he saw the small white envelope on the coffee table. “That wasn't there before,” he mumbled to himself, then looked to the front door. He could see that the door still remained chained and locked. The sight of that brought him to look a little shocked. He went over and picked the envelope up and took out the letter within it with his right hand. He tossed the empty envelope onto the floor. And soon, his sleep-riddled eyes had begun to pour over what was written in the letter he held. But just a few lines in, “What the hell?” he expelled. “Nick,” the letter began. “I want to talk with you a little about the nightmare that you went through. “What I saw in your mind was something horrific. A brutal tragedy like that would surely stick “with someone who'd gone through it for their entire life and undoubtedly cause untold amounts of strife. “It's easy to see why you had turned to the drink. To endure such a thing would cause most hearts to sink “to a bad place that many would not want to see. And such events can cause lives to shift drastic'ly. “You lost all that you knew in one minute's passing. Your home, your mom and the life you knew... ev'rything. “Those are things I can't return to those who would ask. To make it all come back, is just too big a task. “Your mother gave her life so that you might live on. She did that out of love. And although she's been gone “for quite a few years, it still stings you to this day. But please, don't fear that pain or push it all away. “It's there to remind you how she loved you so much, that your mom was willing to endure death's cold touch “and make sure you saw the life that she wanted for the one who came from her. The one she did adore. “That bad day took her from you in more ways than one. And though that event's something that can't be undone, “I hope what you saw last night will give you some peace. That the nightmares and hard nights will finally cease “to burden you now that you'll get to see her too. And that, my dear boy, is my Christmas gift to you.” “See her?” Nick remarked with confusion on his face. “It was just that odd cloud in my dream of that place.” It was a moment before a bright flash appeared that filled the air with light before it disappeared. Nick looked down a bit as he blinked his eyes quickly a few times to both recover and let him see that the light had come from the envelope that he had opened, which continued to still glow dimly. “What the hell?” Nick uttered, confusion in his stare that was locked on the envelope as he stood there. It took a few seconds, but he soon reached down for the envelope where it still rested on the floor. When he picked it up, he felt something inside. “This was empty before,” he said, then chose to slide his fingers into it. And what he found inside, made his jaw go slack as his eyes opened quite wide. He pulled out an old photo that was stained by mud. And when he saw it, memories began to flood his mind as he looked at the scene the photo held, which brought tears to his eyes as his emotions swelled. In the photo was a boy who was about six. He wore a shirt with the logo of the band Styx going across its front as he smiled with such glee in the midst of what looked like a birthday party. There were balloons behind him and a small cake that was adorned with six burning candles where it sat. Behind all those balloons was a banner that read, “Happy Birthday, Nick!” in blue, green, yellow and red letters that were tilted and lined up so askew, that it looked like it was drawn by a child of two. “That's me,” Nick said as a small smile came to his face. “I remember that shirt that I won in some race “at school, where we had to spin around where we stood, before we all had to run as best as we could “to the finish line without falling to the floor. I came in second, and that shirt was my big score.” But his train of thought then vanished when his eyes came to rest on who else was there in the cam'ra's frame. There was a woman next to his six year old self. She was leaning over and looked beside herself as she smiled with her arms around his far shoulder. She looked at most thirty, and not a year older. Her round face and warm smile were filled with so much joy as she gave a side hug to that six year old boy. Her cheek was pressed to his as they looked at the one who had been taking the picture of all the fun. Nick said nothing as his eyes grew glassier still, until from their corners, his tears began to spill. They made their way slowly down his left and right cheek as he let out a sad, “Mom,” that was strained and weak. He looked at the picture for just a moment more, until his emotions at last began to pour out of him as he started to quietly cry. He did this for a minute until he did try to regain his composure just enough to say, “Hi, Mom,” as he fought hard to keep his tears at bay. He set the envelope on the coffee table, then went to get tissues so that he was able to look over what was in the photo and not damage the photo more with falling tears and snot. Once he'd left the room, the envelope was taken away in a bright flash of light that was gone when Nick returned to the room and had himself a seat on his sofa before he brought up both his feet and rested them on the coffee table before him so he could look over the photo some more. For the first time in quite a large number of years, he saw his mother through both sad and happy tears. In a violent moment, nature took away ev'rything he knew just after his sixth birthday. The horror of it left him without even one thing or mental picture of the loving woman who brought him into the world, 40 years ago. But now he could see her and how she loved him so. The short stretch of time she was with him as he grew, come flooding back to him as if it was all new. He now had a face to put to her, which meant he felt more attachment to each precious memory. And though they were few, they brought him a new found joy as he looked at the one he lost as a young boy. Sometimes the world can take what is dear to someone and cause deep scars on those left behind when it's done. They can be on the body, or the mind and heart. And the latter two scars can still tear lives apart. But once in a while, even unseen scars can be healed so that the one inflicted, can be pain free. And so, as Nick basked in that moment's healing light, Merry Christmas to all. And too all, a good night.
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