Two Short Poems

As anticipated, I was not able to write a short story this week.  I did manage to get some work done with the RPG script, but not much else.  I hope all of you had a satisfactory Thanksgiving and weren’t trampled the day after.  Because people seemed to like my last poem “Termites” (it got more ‘likes’ than any of my stories, which I find interesting because I don’t think I’m good at poetry), I’m going to post two more shorties. The first one was published in my college’s literary magazine, and the second I made for a class. I’m going to post brief explanations afterwards.  I dislike needing to explain them, but I’ve had multiple appeals asking me to explain my poems after the fact, so I’ll put them down should anybody want to know.  Enjoy, God bless, and rock on.

“The Light That Guides Me Home”

To the blinding, burning light
Drink me up
Reduce this mortal coil to dust

In one instance I find you
A blast brighter than no other
A callous
manufactured
masquerade of God

No mercy for me
nor child
Nor the widow soon to be
Our curtain slowly closes

I pray your light never reach them
Your words never deafen
Their innocence and peace

Please forgive me, holy terror
But I hate you so much
Damnable synthetic device

Too simple, you fulfill your design
Pull in your pin
cooked in a palm
Thrown with no aim at all

What am I doing here
with your grace open before me
Opening your jaws
of shrapnel and white?

No matter
of little consequence now
Envelope my soul, I ask
nurse my body to death
And call me into that final goodbye.

“The Red Thread of Fate”

Spun upon my finger small
Chanced by fate’s design
Finger-hook
to the cheek
Gently, gently tugging along

Oh, curse you, red thread of fate
For evacuating my apartment
Dragging me into winter’s hymn
Sacrificing my marrows
to Mother’s song

How she catches my eye again
That delicate soul
with her glissade and spin. Dancing
on snow-touched lakebed.
A dwelling for the child in her soul
so sweet and I
can only fawn.

Calling me out here, hm, red thread of fate?
With what to say? 
I fret to stay and linger
Tear you from me
If only I could
and not let my heart flutter ‘til dawn

Moonlight blessing touch this heart
Give this thumb-twiddling man
Words to weave
in spite of himself. With
confidence tempered, nice and strong

Red thread of fate, I am so afraid
But already she has seen me
there is no retreat.
I join her on lonely white sea

She takes my hand
a gesture sudden and unexpected
but hardly upsetting
We begin our own ballad
to which we slowly ascend
I voice my heart like a trumpeter swan

Spun upon my finger small
That red thread of fate holds tight
Welcomed to wrap my heart
And gently, gently tug along.

In sum: The Light That Guides Me Home is from the perspective of a soldier who’s watching the blast of a grenade in front of him, certain to take his life.  The Red Thread of Fate is a mild love poem based on lore from some Eastern Asian countries such as Japan and China. You can read more about it here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_thread_of_fate

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Daughter of the Rain (Short Story)

A short story that takes up a more traditional fantasy mantle.  This one is shorter than my previous stories, sitting at only 834 words.  I’ve got a story I’m working on for next week that I find particularly interesting, so look forward to that.  I might be giving an update later this week about the RPG game me and one of my friends are making. In the meantime, smell the flowers, make a friend, count the stars, listen for colors, and enjoy. 🙂

Daughter of the Rain – 10/31/13

A chord of aching compassion sifted behind Ira’s chest.  He unfurled one hand slowly, reaching out towards the lonely creature under the wagon.  With a pout and limp, it fell back over itself.  Ira drew his arms to his core for warmth and sighed.

“How long have you been here?” He cast a half-attended glance to his side, maybe looking for somebody.  An owner possibly, or someone that might be able to help.  They were alone, so he returned his attention to the young beast.  It was longer than his arm and slender as the Crystal River, smooth tufts of hair gathering where scales were absent.  Ira stirred.  Between its dainty paws and the mercury glow of its eyes, the fledgling creature gathered old thoughts of a pet hound from his youth.

But this was hardly a hound or even a mutt.  Something in its build reminded Ira of a gargoyle, or one of those spirits from his father’s library.

It whimpered something low and rolling, scratching its broken claws into wet earth.  Ira pursed his lips and settled his knees into the mud.  Whatever it might be, it was hurt and made the distinct cry of having been betrayed.  It was something shared by men and beast alike.

Fumbling in his coat pocket, Ira broke off a chunk of stale butter-bread.  The rain reached down and made it soft.  He extended the supplement until the whole of his arm was beneath the wagon, his cheek against its hardwood carapace.  For a long minute there was nothing, but soon after, something nuzzled his fingers and lapped the food out of his hand.  It tickled. Ira dipped his head under the carriage to watch his new friend lick up the last of the bread.  “I don’t want to leave you here,” Ira fell back on his haunches and cast his head low, “But I don’t know where to take you.”

Curious silver rings peered back at him, now suddenly interested but resilient in wariness.

“I would never hurt you,” Ira said. He did all he could to keep his tone soft and distinctly motherly. “But words are fickle, aren’t they?  Like water.”

To his surprise, the young creature moved closer, one leg damaged enough that it could only drag.  Ira eased back into the rain, providing a space for it to join him.  The gargoyle’s eyelids flittered as the rain came against them.  Several deep lacerations crept along its sides, staining the surrounding fur in a blood darker than oil.  A swell above one eye seemed to just be healing, but that was the best of it.

Reciting the importance of caution to himself, Ira made clear to the beast that he was a friend, and then reached out until they were touching.  It purred meagerly and let him run fingers along the scales of its crown.  “I’m sorry.”

The gargoyle rustled its jaw and came closer.

“I’m so sorry.  Please forgive us.  I forget how cruel we can be.”

If the creature acknowledged or understood any of Ira’s words– which it may, he couldn’t be sure that it didn’t– then it would be a hideous deed of him to abandon or send it away.  Ira was dirty and unwanted even among his own kin.  What could he offer?  If it came with him, it would die before the week closed.  There was no home with warm hearth-fire to greet them.  No quiet place that was safe from the rain.

Perhaps sensing his own conflict, the gargoyle slid its head onto Ira’s lap and closed its eyes.  Ira heaved a single dry sob and clenched both fists before laying his head atop the beast’s own.  “What is your name, I wonder?”  A rhythmic, throaty tremble came from the beast.  A noise and feeling like a great cat’s purr.  The rain bid forth with greater fury, crushing the wagon’s steeple.  The collapse startled them both, and the creature looked back to Ira with a gaze of mixed pity and comfort.  An idle wind tossed the rain slantways.

“I think I have something,” Ira grinned with a trace smile like honey, “Ysuna.  Hmm?  A Southern word.  I think it’s religious.  ‘Daughter of the rain’.  How does that sound?”

As woefully inadequate as Ira felt most of his decisions were, this one seemed right.  Seemed strong and pure.  The creature must have agreed, because it licked its frothy pink tongue against the flat of his arm.

Gathering the injured creature into a cradle, Ira made a point to avoid hurting Ysuna any more than she already had been.  “Come on, let’s get out of the rain.”  Ira laid Ysuna on her better side, back against the inside of the wagon’s wheel.  There was just enough room for him to crawl underneath the carriage and rest beside her.  “We will rest here, and when the rain stops we will find someone who can help.”  Ira stroked the beast’s brow, “Hold on until then, okay?”

The Beasts of Autumn – Short Story

This will be the last of my Fall themed short stories. I’m going to start leaning towards the genre that I prefer to write, which is fantasy fiction.  Thank you all of my new followers for your support.  Enjoy. 1,058 words.

The Beasts of Autumn – 10/09/13

                The term, as I’ve heard it used, is cut-flower.  Having been separated from your source of life.  In a patient state of un-living.  Receiving alms from friends with concern as the currency.  It’s a gentle and good thing they do, and I’m thankful.  Sometimes I forget the intent of their charity and focus only on how I haven’t yet found a magical potion to help forget my old unforgivens.  Jeremy hoots about that word and suggests that I look no further than alcohol for my elixir.  Alcohol is contemptible, especially this time of year.  Especially now, in the mid-morning hours, staring down the beasts of Autumn.

                But Jeremy is not a fool.  Only half that, and a splash of genuine friend for flavor.  He consoles me when I wrestle with the annual thoughts of her, that inamorata I once rightfully and proudly called my wife.  Now that I’ve struck the seven-year bell, I wonder if I may still call her that.  My wife.  Once upon a time, so the fairy tale reflects.  When they say happily ever after, they’re not speaking a full truth.  Even at its best, even in a make-believe world, sometime one of the two lovers will have to pass away.  I want to hear that part of the story, told from the voice left behind.

                In this season I have allergies.  Something in the fallen leaves sets me off, but it’s never so bad as to ruin a day.  When the first snow comes, I conveniently become allergic to driving.  A fair trade, since about that time everyone else conveniently forgets how to drive.  I make a fanciful display of pumpkins for my home, assorted on stair-step patterned shelves, directly beneath family photos from nine-some years ago.  The cinnamon candles I brandish year around suddenly make sense for a couple months, until winter decides to anathemize them again.  Nami says I should adapt my candles to the seasons and that it would help me appreciate cinnamon next year when the leaves start splitting off.  I would like to point her to any number of mental health manuals which suggest that hers is a bad idea.  Something about conditioning and associations.  Cinnamon smells like my wife, like my long lost heart.  I can hardly notice the scent anymore, but if I sent it away and in several months it suddenly returned, I imagine my reaction would be worse than frightful.

                It rains a lot during the fall months, to which I tip my hat and beg welcome.  There is nothing quite so stirring as a good long rain.  To be enameled by mother and her gentle nature.  The beasts of Autumn hush down a little bit more when the rain is here, and vanish completely at the first snowfall.  Only during this season of my life do I reflect so piercingly, and at such great sacrifice.  My world suffers without her.  Friends ask for my company and I decline, both to their displeasure and my own.  I think more about the children we never had, and whether they would like the rain or not.  Would their favorite color be yellow, like their mother?  Sickness makes Heaven seem cruel, and it steals away regardless of whether the new absence would be good for the world or not.  Maybe it’s best we had no progeny.  I would suffer to think about their lives if they’d inherited her pain.

                Things seem to get away from me, foremost of which is time.  I could have sworn the leaves were orange no more than two months ago.  To think that it has already been a year.  What even happened in the meantime?  I got laid off work.  I picked up something new, thanks be to Jeremy.  I went on one date and was soul-sick enough that my stomach caught the memo and helped me vomit once the evening was over.  I picked up a pet frog from Nami’s nephew.  Named it Jack Sparrow for absolutely no reason at all.  I think I went on vacation, but that might have been a couple years ago.  Really, I don’t like to track back too far.  The territory becomes unsteady.  Memories start returning, and they drag other things behind them.  I find it’s not worth it.  It isn’t worth the price of remembering.

                I read that in a book once.  The price of remembering.  When you’ve lost somebody, you begin to notice such snippets.  You incubate them in your chest and rehearse them in your sleep.  I know that price, because I barter every August.  I barter and pray the cost will drop, and that the year will be a little less lonely than the last.  Just another beast of Autumn that makes a parade of my life.  In the rare moments that I am transparent with others –and I assure you they are few – such notions make me feel overwhelmingly melodramatic.  I am a child, complaining about child-like things.  My wife died to a common, albeit crippling sickness.  So what if she passed away?  My neighbor recently lost her daughter to the sort of actions that result from overwhelming intoxication, fraternity parties and the occasional, homicidal boyfriend.  A killing stroke like that is a million miles more devastating than whatever plagues me.  But I can’t find it in myself to care.  I don’t truly feel for her loss.  Not from my gut.  Because the worst of my grief has manifested into the image of my greatest hatred.  A writhing contradiction best known as apathy.  Apathy is cold like a stone and sweet like the rain.  It makes me sick, and weary of trying to forgive myself again.  Apathy is a beast worse than hatred.

                But I let the apathy stay, because I’d rather it remained than pay the price of remembering.  I wonder what she’d think of my selfishness?  I shouldn’t dwell on it now.  That is a paper-thin question better left to steal my midnight hours.  I’m going to be awake anyways, what with the rain and my cinnamon candles and my cut-flower spirit.  I will remain that way as long as I can.  Until finally winter might come and the beasts of Autumn will rest in hibernation, resting dutifully and gaining strength for their return.  They are my tourniquet and I expect they always will be.  At least they’re consistent.

               

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Sooner or Later

Here is a short story that I wrote four years ago.  While I feel I’ve become much better as a writer, I refrained from modifying it at all so as to maintain its original integrity.  In respect for your time, I also want to inform you that it’s 3,079 words in length, or eight single-spaced word pages.  Enjoy.

“Sooner or Later”

I was next in line… I didn’t know what I was in line for; I just knew that my turn was coming and that I didn’t have a choice in leaving or not.  Only feet ahead of me was a door, it was rustic and droll, boring beyond all imagination, but the strangest feeling flowed from beyond it.  Something unbelievably massive was on the other side and I wasn’t sure I wanted to find out what.  With a quick glance over my shoulder I saw a line of people that stretched further back than my eyes could make out.  We were waiting, but I don’t believe that any of us knew what we were waiting for. I looked into some of their eyes, but they didn’t seem to notice me, their attention too strongly fixated on the door that they had no choice but to pass through.

A being robed in glowing vibrant colors of blue and white stood to my side; he too, made no eye contact, nor would he answer any questions that I posed to him.

He simply opened the door…

With a grace beyond understanding, the ethereal being slid its hand around the door handle and turned it slowly.  It walked past me, opening the door as it moved.  An elegant curtsey and he ushered me inside.

My throat caught as I took several reluctant steps through the mouth of the passage into a void of darkness.  The pace of my heart quickened as the door closed behind me, but out of shock and fear I didn’t move, stationary in an ocean of blindness.

After a moment, I saw a sliver of flickering in the distance; a minute sparkle that rapidly exploded into an expanse of light.  The darkness had nowhere to retreat to and was dispelled before this magnificent brilliance.

I slammed my eyes shut; they burned as if I had stared for hours upon the sun’s majesty.  Only a moment later did my eyes force themselves open, and they burned no more.  But where was once a span of formless light now stood three entities.  Two, similar to the being that had ushered me in, were found kneeling beside a third, much more fantastic figure.

Between them, and directly in front of me, facing me, was majesty countless echelons greater than any sun or star.  He shone with a unique luminosity, a face seemingly of gold and garments of a white so pure that one would think the threads were light itself.  And His eyes…they were the deepest, richest blue I had ever seen.  I was positive that in no imagination was there anybody or anything as beautiful as Him.

He towered over both I and those that kneeled beside Him, but something told me that He was far larger than this; restricting himself only for the sake of my comprehension.

His arms rested to His sides and grasped in one hand was an immense red book, the words ‘Book of Knowledge’ laced on the cover with golden thread.

He opened his mouth to speak and a scent of sweet fragrance washed over me.  I breathed it in, my heart and mind seeming to open up and my chest feeling light.  But I knew not what He would do or what He would say…and that frightened me.

He called my name.

A voice that angels would envy flowed from his lips, so gentle but full of authority; it kissed my flesh with its elegance.

“Do you know who I am?”  He asked me.

His voice made me shake.  I nodded hastily, a solid affirmation of who spoke to me.  There was no doubt by now, this was, and could only be, the God of Everything.

“Do you truly?  Why then do you tremble at my voice?”

My heart skipped a beat and I could feel my legs weaken, but I knew…I knew I had to speak, to say something, “I- I am just…I’ve never experienced anything with such grandeur.  Your Presence is overwhelming.”

He paused for a moment, as if examining my words; but he showed no sign of confusion or puzzlement.  “My child, do you know why you are here?”

My child? The words felt good, a splash of water in my face, it felt wonderful.  But unfortunately, I did not like my answer, “I do not, Lord.”

“This is the passing of one stage of life to another, an eternal life.  This is the Judgment.  Do you now know why you are here?”  Unlike everyone I’ve met thus far, not only did he lock eye-contact with me, but it was unrelenting.  I could go nowhere to escape his soul-penetrating gaze.

My tongue felt numb and heavy, a clump of useless led in my mouth.  I felt like I should be confident, but before a presence so phenomenal and perfect in essence I could do nothing but feel as I was, what I was…inferior.

“To be judged.”  It didn’t come out like a question; it came out like acid; the words spilling out of my mouth as I began to lose my stability and focus.

His response was no more than a subtle nod.  He raised the crimson book closer to his golden face and cracked open its pages with a slide of hand.  Cupping it in His open palm, words made their way between his lips as He read its contents…

“Do you confirm or deny that you are guilty of sin?”  He asked with a firm but smooth tone of voice.

I hesitated for a breath before answering, “Of course I have, I am just a man, we all-,”

“Do you confess that you have not believed in me and my power?”  This question carried more force and command.  “Do you confess?”

Weight fell upon my shoulders and my knees quaked.  I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t pull myself away from His eyes.  They were a reflection of emotions, they flooded me and I couldn’t think.  All that I was began to shrink as His eyes and mine burrowed into one another.  They were full of pain, suffering, and even deeper…a great sadness.

What have I done?

In that moment I felt a brace cuff my wrist.  My eyes cut down towards it.  It was connected by many chain links that led to nowhere.  With a dry mouth I uttered sloppily, “Yes, I-,”

Only now did I notice that on all sides stood beings like the first, clothed in robes of splendor and light.  These were the Heavenly Hosts.

An audience…

Suddenly my heart wavered and I felt the chills overcoming me as countless eyes bore into my core.  “Please, stop…”

“Do you confess yourself to be a liar and thief?”

The question caught be off guard, “N-No! Well, I don’t know…maybe there was this one time…”

“How about a murderer, a taker of lives?”

I felt exposed, naked before the onslaught of questions.

“My Lord, I…” My heart began to falter and tears slowly began to well as all of my life rushed through my mind, flashes of instances where I did what I knew was not right.

Another cuff snatched me up by my other wrist and by an unseen force, the chains pulled tight, pulling my arms above my head and to the sides, spread-eagle.  It did not hurt, but it definitely was not comfortable.

The light pooled around my legs like a mist.  A soft brush against my bare feet sent a relaxing sensation through me.  I have hurt Him.  I was hurting Him even when I didn’t know…

“Upon this moment do you confess that you brought down your fellow man and did not raise him up?”  The Lord asked of me.

I swallowed as the recollections of me walking past a homeless man, paying his need no mind, made its way through my head.  Also did I see fellow students at my school, which, through cruel injustice and isolation, sat alone at lunch…ignored. Alienated. Unimportant.

I paid them no mind, because I was no better than the next person to pass them by.  Where was my heart back then?  Why did I let it get so far from me?

“I could have helped them…talked to them,” I cried softly, “Anything…”

“Do you confess that you have been ignorant of those around you, folded into yourself and cold-hearted?”  His voice fell, still beautiful, but sorrowful.  I looked up to His face; His eyes were upon the text of the ‘Book of Knowledge’.

Then it crossed my mind…did it have everything about me in that book?  The realization made me shake more.  “I am guilty.” I pleaded.

There was silence before He spoke again, “Do you confess that you have envied your neighbors household?  Or do you deny the jealousy you’ve had towards many people throughout your life, being ill-content with what I’d blessed you with?”  I knew that He didn’t like saying the words any more than I liked hearing them.  Not only was my heart breaking, but so was His.

“I…am.”  I bobbed my head in shame, “Please forgive me.”

“Do you confess of having a sharp tongue and being swift to anger?  Do you confess that in your wrath you judged and demeaned those in your life, and that you sowed seeds of bitterness between you and they?”

Many memories came to mind, but I shook them off, not wanting to reflect on the foolishness of my actions.  Ignoring the half-hearted revelation towards my twenty-twenty hindsight, I simply bobbed my head slowly.

And so it continued for a time seemingly eternal… My actions and thoughts were being brought to the surface in the presence of all these magnificent hosts.  My gluttony, my shame, my hatred, how I slandered his name and had cursed that of the world, and with each one that passed, a new chain would vice me, exposing me for who I was and placing me under the bondage of my choices.  My heart was distraught and my soul was clouded with disgrace…

…but He still hadn’t mentioned those which I feared the most…

“And my child,” He slowed down, waiting for me to look at Him, something could be seen deeper in His eyes, something troubling, “do you confess that you have disrespected and lusted after those that I trusted you not to?  And do you confess that your host of prides have often blinded you to the reality of what was around you?”  He seemed to choke on the words as he read them and my heart slowly tore as the countless thoughts burned through my mind and soul.

I had nothing that I could say, too ashamed to even face Him any longer…

One final white-hot chain slammed into my back and twisted itself into my spine.  A blinding pain screamed through my body, but not even the slightest utterance left my mouth.  I was too deserving to even complain or deny that this pain belonged to me.

My body went limp, all remaining strength eluded me.  I now faced my fate.  Not only had I received this punishment, but I knew in my heart that at times throughout my life, I had asked for it.  I was guilty of all He had said, every last word of it…

I cried before the Lord, my tears landing in the beautiful light beneath my feet.  I didn’t deserve to be here, I desecrated this place, this wonderful, beautiful kingdom with my humanity.  I didn’t deserve any of this, I didn’t-

…And warmth flooded my heart as I felt a pair of gentle arms slowly wrap themselves around me, the chains immediately melting into nothingness.  My weak body fell into the embrace of whoever it was that held me as I caught a glance of God smiling back at me, tears also flowing from His eyes.  A strong outpouring of love and safety settled over me as the arms pulled me tight, “Don’t worry,” I heard a soft voice speak, “I’ve got you.”

I turned my head to see the Son’s face, and more hot tears poured down my face as I looked into eyes of true love.  He too, was the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen, and he was right here…with me now…when I needed Him the most, He didn’t abandon me.

Time was irrelevant as I rested in His arms, before He finally released me and stepped forward towards the Father, the God of Everything.  “Father,” He spoke.

Jesus turned and looked me in the eye, unwavering.  “Though your child may have done all that you have said, they did much more than has been spoken as well.”  Jesus smiled a large, cheerful smile.  “Eager to be humble, reaching out a hand to those who needed help, giving up what was theirs for something bigger than themselves…

“Your child, my friend, tried their very hardest to make you proud and do what they knew would make you happy.  They were a teacher to those that you put in their life, they resisted temptation the best they could and when they failed they turned to me and asked for help and forgiveness.”

I began to smile and weep more as Jesus, my best friend, continued, “Pushing themselves to develop the gifts that you had blessed them with, being thankful for everything in their life and holding fast to keep your commands are all things that are very precious in their heart.  They loved and cared about everybody.  Even those that hurt them they loved.”

“And ultimately, they knew of what it was that I had done for them, and from the depths of their heart they asked me to forgive their sins and for my help in dedicating everything they had to give to you for the rest of their lives.”

Jesus came over and rested his hand on my shoulder, “And as it is, every time they felt overwhelmed or their heart was burdened, they turned to me out of love and asked for my help, as I promised I would give them.”  He kissed my forehead.  “This among other reasons, Father, is why I ask you now to celebrate and receive your child into our kingdom.”

I buried my head into His chest and wept tears of joy…

this was love and kindness.  “Thank you.”  I breathed.

“It is okay, I love you so much…I would do it all again if I had to,”  He pulled me in tight again, “But thankfully, my friend, that won’t be necessary.”

“My child,”  I heard God speak to me.  Slowly I turned from Son to the Father and saw the smile on His face as He tore a page from the large Book of Knowledge and threw it into an endless blank whiteness behind him.

“What did He just do?”  I asked Jesus.

“He threw it into the Sea of Forgetfulness.  Your sins are forgotten.”

Those words were so enlightening that I felt like I could fly if I tried…and for some reason, I felt like in a little while I was going to get the chance.  I sheepishly smiled at the thought…

“Come to me.”

And I did so.  He bent down to me and with a soft tap on my head, an incandescent glowing cloud of diamond dust appeared.

“Your crown,” He declared with the pride of a father.

I was literally bouncing with vibrant joy, my smile surely from ear to ear with all the happiness and love in my soul.

A gate formed behind him where the Sea of Forgetfulness once was, a gate of such astounding grandeur that I could hardly contemplate its size.  It opened to a brilliant majestic new world beyond the most vivid of wonderful dreams.

“Enter the Kingdom of God.”  Jesus gestured me inside and I went with glee.  A small dove flew through the door and landed on my shoulder.  “May the Spirit guide you.”

The dove nuzzled my neck and flew a few paces ahead of me, beckoning me into the Kingdom.  I turned to God and Jesus, wondering…

“No worries,” Jesus answered before I asked, “we are always with you, you will see us again soon.”

I simply nodded and ran through the gates, which began to close behind me.  I caught a brief glimpse of another person walking through the first door that I had come through, a look of confusion just as I had not long ago.

What will their fate be?

The Spirit led me past a beautiful creek of lightly rushing water, small children splashing about in its peaceful tranquility.  It lead me past breath-taking green hills and exuberantly colorful gardens with both people and angels tending to them, obviously enjoying themselves with the large pearly whites that were always at full spread.  In fact, I didn’t pass a single person that didn’t seem to have anything but joy on their features.   People waved to me as I passed by, I even met some new people that I had a feeling I would get to know very well with my time here.  It then occurred to me that they were worshipping God!  They were thankful and happy with what they were given, this wonderful paradise.  In all that you say and do, you can worship the Lord.

After passing much more, the Spirit lead me to a large house in a magnificent kingdom…

And I was greeted by all of the friends and relatives that left before me.  I ran up and gave them all great big hugs.  “We’re so glad to see you!”  They declared as I embraced each one of them.  “We promised we’d wait for you outside of the home that you’d be living.”

“M-my home?”  I asked only to know that I was right.

The Spirit landed on my shoulder again, and I felt its love flow through my body.

This is where I belonged, this was my home.  Here with everybody I loved, with the Spirit, with God…

And I couldn’t be more thankful to the man who gave it all so that I may be where I am right now because sooner or later you have to think about where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.  I opened the door to my humble abode and stepped into a new life, joyful and eternal, excited to see and experience everything that God had readied for us.  His children whom He loves.

Her Name Was Clementine

I recently had the opportunity to acquaint myself with a wonderful little girl named Clementine.  We didn’t have much time together, but what little we did share was a blessing.  Clem is only eight years old and spent her entire life growing up in rural Georgia.  Both smart and reliable, she thought school was a cinch.  Instead of doing what other children do nowadays like play with dolls or watch television, Clem instead chose to act out fantastic make-believe stories from her tree-house.  She had a pet hamster that she told me on one occasion got out of its cage and ate half a box of cookies by the time she found it the next morning.  Clementine is earnest, considerate, playful, and she’s sincerely loved by both of her parents.

When I met her she was wearing a baseball cap given to her by her father as a birthday present.  This seemed to be the most important thing in the world to her.  I wish I could tell you every small detail about Clem, but I will save you the time and afford you the opportunity to find out for yourself.  You see, Clementine isn’t real.  Clem is a character from Telltale Studio’s “The Walking Dead”.  Not the television series that appears on AMC, mind you, though both crop up from the same graphic novel series.  What’s more, this adaptation of The Walking Dead is a videogame.

That last statement would be a turnoff to some, but I plead that you stay and listen a while.  Since starting college four years ago, I haven’t really had much time for videogames, but I do still play a little bit.  Until college, that was just about my only hobby, so I have had my share of experience with the activity.  But here I am, one week after having completed this ‘game’ called The Walking Dead, and I feel almost obligated to share something.  The following four days after completing the game, nearly 80 percent of my thoughts had been held captive by this little girl, and her relationship with a man named Lee Everett, who acts as her guardian.  This has never happened before.  Never have I been so emotionally enraptured by characters from any story, let alone a videogame.  One might consider this obscene, perhaps a little ridiculous, but I am in a position where I am inclined to share about this.  I feel responsible to do so.

IF YOU HAVE ANY FUTURE INTEREST IN PLAYING THIS GAME, PLEASE STOP NOW AS THERE WILL BE SPOILERS

I must lead by saying that no words I share with you will be able to do any sort of justice to the authentic and sympathetic nature of this game.  In TWD, you play as the aforementioned ‘Lee Everett’, a man convicted of murdering a state senator who held an affair with his wife.  Lee (or, rather, you) was on his way to prison when things went haywire.  To save on the details, shortly after this, you become injured and find yourself in the care of a little girl that was hiding in the upstairs of her house, alone.  This is Clementine.

From there you begin to bond with her.  People come, people go, and the sort of grim adversity you would expect to find in a realistic zombie story sets a dark and melancholic tone for your world.  All the while, you are trying to help Clem find her parents, who were out of town when the Walkers cropped up.  The story forces you to make stressful psychological decisions, usually on only a couple seconds of notice.  There’s one dilemma I remember well.  Your party is short on food, and it’s on your shoulders which three of the eight or nine people in your group get to eat that day.  You know how hard it is to choose people over one another, knowing that everybody is observing and will change their opinion of you accordingly?  Even with unreal characters?  It’s quite tough.

What’s more, Clementine is always watching, always looking to you as a model for behavior.  Clem sees whenever you choose to spare a life or take it, she modifies her language depending on the words you say, to an extent she adopts your mindset, and so much more.  On top of this, she remembers it.  When the party wants to take food from an abandoned vehicle, she demonstrates that she feels it is wrong and that somebody might still come back for it.  You then have to choose whether you care about what she has to say or not, and because I couldn’t bear to do wrong before her or convince her that we weren’t stealing, I stood off to the side with her, holding her hand while everybody else scavenged the vehicle.

I am empathetic by nature.  For many years I have also aspired to be a father, and have entertained many dreams where that has come to pass.  Looking at Lee and Clementine in this world, I became deeply absorbed into their relationship.  As Lee, I’m a man that has murdered and deserve very little sympathy, despite the underlying causes of my actions.  My reasons do not matter.  I did this.  When my route to the prison was diverted and I was left alone, without family or friends, I found a bundle of innocence worth protecting.  She was not my daughter, and I was not her father, yet somehow we cared for each other in such a way.  I could not lie to her, I could not hurt her.  And in the end, I never had to tell her that I loved her, because I’d spent our entire time together showing her.

Clementine is a child, with childish naivety, (like when curiosity drove her to lick a cow’s salt-lick), but she’s not a fool.  Clem is not snobby, she is patient, she’s not oblivious, she is intelligent.  She knows that most consider me a bad man and that I’ve hurt people before, but she does not hold that against me.  Clem tries to understand me, and ultimately trusts me.  How could I undermine that by being anything other than the best I can be in a world that doesn’t expect you to be merciful or kind?

The final scene of the game is so powerful and emotionally connected on a personal level that I’m not even going to try and speak of it here.  But the implications of it were enough to jostle me awake in the morning and keep me up at night for days after.

If even just a little bit, Clem and Lee changed my life.  I can love a little better, now.  I owe it to them to be inspired by their boldness and compassion.  This might seem kind of unfair, but should I ever have a daughter (Lord willing), I would be a terribly blessed soul if she was half as wonderful as Clementine.  My heart has been further tempered to share a father’s love, and to not withdraw it from others just because they might not be my natural-born family.  When things are that bad for somebody, things like genealogies and biology don’t matter, just sharing yourself and doing all that you can to protect them are what matter.  Maybe a tired notion, but only if we let it be so.  I still believe in the strength of humanity and our potential to add up to something greater than ourselves.  So, Telltale, thank you for sharing with me the lives of these characters and letting me take part in their story.  I recommend that any inspiring father play this game, or anybody that enjoys an immersing, compelling story.  Thanks for listening.

I’m going to miss you, Clementine.

21 Days Without Food

When I started this blog, I had intended to be more consistent with my posts.  Now that summer is here, I hope I can stick to that with a little more certainty.  I’ve been planning and preparing a couple of upcoming posts, such as an analysis of storytelling mediums, who I believe to be some of the greatest fictional psychopaths (because I’m weird that way), and a few more ideas.

But because I want to put something out there right now, and because I told myself I couldn’t go to bed unless I followed through on that goal, I am going to outline my thoughts regarding a 21 day fast that I completed recently.

As far as technical details are concerned, I was allowed any liquid, though i steered away from broth and things with high fructose corn syrup.  In hindsight, milk consistently gave me stomach aches, but I needed more diversity than water and fruit drinks.  This was my first serious fast and was very rewarding.

The goal of this time was certainly not to lose weight, though much had been lost, nor was it for any other vanity purpose.  I wanted to have a reason that demanded greater reliance on the Lord.  With all of my extra time (and money saved on groceries, as an added bonus) I was not only able to give more time to prayer and reading my Bible, but felt somewhat inclined to do so.  Much to my surprise, this alternated from being an authentic activity to feeling like a mandatory practice more than I’d expected it would.  Nevertheless, in many ways the fast helped me to refine my spiritual disciplines and my ability to tell myself ‘no’.

While it was bothersome functioning at about 70% of maximum power all of the time, I did feel more of a connection to God and a willingness to consistently and spontaneously pray to Him, whenever I wanted to or needed to.  I was waiting for some huge revelation to come in the course of my fasting, but nothing showed face.  I was not disappointed by this, because I had my fill of many smaller perks, all of which would take too much time to unwrap here.  Often when people set out to fast, they have a specific goal in mind.  I did not have that.  My goal was simply to be more Christ-like. 

Ultimately, I intend to fast more regularly now.  I’m thinking of repeating this same fast, but only with 7 days of abstinence, once every couple months.  My reasoning for that is everything I gained from the 3 weeks of fasting was gained in that first week.  The first week was the most challenging, the most fulfilling, and the most developing for my person and my spirit.  Everything after that felt sort of unnecessary in comparison and was actually much easier.  The greatest benefit of going the entire 3 week span is that now, when I’m tempted by unnecessary cravings or things that I know I could go without, I can just stop and tell my self “I went THREE FREAKING WEEKS without food.  I ate dinner three hours ago, I can wait until I wake up tomorrow for more.”  That helps to shut up my longings.

I would recommend that everybody fast something.  It is a practice that we are called to follow as disciples of Christ, and that is demonstrated for us by many Biblical figures throughout the course of history.  At the end of this post will be a link that shares dozens of passages regarding fasting throughout the Bible.

I suppose that’s everything.  Thank you for reading and hopefully I will be able to make the gap between this post and the next shorter than the last gap.  I am tired now and, having writ the final words, may have passage to slumber.  Goodnight.

http://christianteens.about.com/od/christianliving/a/VersesOnFasting.htm