Category Archives: fiction

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff – Part IV

(Continuing with the story of  “The Garbage Man”.  The title has changed as you can see, likely to change again and my two main characters have changed their names again, as you will also see later.  I find that it’s becoming an intriguing story, and whoever is actually moving the writing is quite a bit of a romantic.  I don’t mind it, actually, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the main story… whatever that’s going to be!!!  Enjoy.)


“Let me go. I will put my sword away.”

Lotharic released her and she slowly, reluctantly, put away her sword. Then she faced him.

“You manipulated my thoughts, twisted my mind, made me act in unnatural ways I would not normally?”

“Incorrect. I did not force you to do anything against your own innate nature. I just gave that nature its freedom to act as it wanted, uninhibited by any social or other mores. I set you free to be yourself, giving you full freedom of choice. You still had the choice to refuse but you never questioned your nature nor my command to inflict the maximum possible pain upon another. I wanted you to experience that, to know yourself, not as what you think you are or what your upbringing and experiences made you, but as what you really are, deep in your human self.”

“I am evil…”

“Yes.

“Do you have any idea how much it hurts that you did that to me; that you made me look there?”

“Again, I only allowed your own innate self to override imposed restrictions and yes, I do know how much it hurts to find these things out. In my case it came in reverse. When I came here so long ago by earth time, I was a pure Allay *(pronounced Ally) without any evil within me. All of us soon realized we could not communicate our selves to your selves. You were evil, we were not. You could not see us as equals but wanted to worship us as angels or divinities. Or you wanted to own us, as your own private source of divine power to draw upon; to empower you in your manifold evil deeds. You could not come to us, we had to go to you. So we accepted your evil natures within ourselves, thinking that we would easily control their effects on our thoughts and deeds. It turned into a terrible, endless contest which two of us lost completely. The “surface” evil of this world, empowered and driven by its intelligent life, overwhelmed us, weakened us, separated us and overcame us.

“Understand our plight. We could not return “home” with this disease inside our minds and risk infecting our own worlds. So we pledged to cleanse ourselves of Earth evil. Two of our number chose to lie about it, pretending to follow through while actually strengthening themselves in that evil. Too late, we discovered the lie. I saved my life by using your world’s twisted murderous ways to escape. I fought like a madman to escape. I became more human than Allay in those days and suffered deeply for it in my heart. I thought I too had fallen until I discovered I could still operate with compassion; that I could control the human darkness within me. I became a desperate wanderer; desperate to survive and desperate to overcome the evil that ceaselessly battered at my mind to give in and poisoned me as it has poisoned all of you.”

“Do you see now? Understand what it means for you to become more powerful than a full-fledged Allaya?”

“Mentally, yes, I’m not stupid. But the means of blending my human nature with that of an Allaya to become something more, that I cannot fathom.”

“Neither can I. I trust in the process, in spiritual evolution, in creativity and ultimately in your own feminine wisdom. I shall do all in my power to assist you in your upcoming difficult choices but you will find me weak and ignorant in many aspects relating to your changes. The operative word for both of us is, this is all new. There is no template available for us to go by. Be prepared to make a great deal of serious mistakes, of backsliding, of inviting despair and hopelessness. You will often hate and despise yourself until you realize you did whatever you did because the situation gave you no other choice. First, we must survive; second, we must find a way to redirect whatever intelligent life we encounter. Finally, we are entering a time when all and sundry will turn against us and the only moments of pleasure we find will be in each other. Therefore it would be good if we committed to each other and bound ourselves to exist as one. Not today, but soon, when you are certain that is also what you desire.”

“How would you describe this binding?”

“Husband and wife; lovers; partners, mind sharers, inseparable regardless of circumstances. The safety of the “other” overrides all, even to violating the highest rules of the Allay. For as of the moment we create this union we will be walking between worlds, neither human nor Allay. Perhaps in time we will find a label that fits us but in the meantime there will be but you and I, us.”

“It seems logical and inevitable, plus you already know I love you in a very physical sense. I’ve wanted you and felt ignored by you for some time now. That has to change if we are to be together. I want to be intimate with you. I will walk away if all you want from me is a student or a fighting partner.”

“I’ve sensed that change in you since yesterday – was it only yesterday? I am ready for it also. Tonight then, let’s come together and bind, physically, mentally and spiritually.”

“Thank you, Lotharic. By the way, I don’t like that name. Would you mind very much if we returned to being Bea and Edgar? That was comfortable.”

“Not at all. I’ve had so many names! Lotharic is a very old name which no longer carries its meaning well. Edgar I am then. What else do you need?”

“A gold ring? … I’m only joking Edgar, what would I need a ring for?”

“Oh but you will need one, and so will I. These tokens are recognized easily and often respected. We must not only be married, but look married, newly married, of course, but still, married. A ring will give you more freedom in market places and streets and certainly among the guard if we find ourselves forced to join up. Have you ever been in the guard?”

“I was forced in once and complied long enough to find a way of escape. I was a guard for about six hours. You?”

“Many times. It was often the only way to travel safely from one city or town to another, or to board a ship to the mainland. Often I served on cruisers searching the coast for pirates.”

“Oh? And?”

“Despite terrible training and poor quality arms we did manage to sink one pirate ship and capture another.”

“And the pirates?”

“They were all hanged, except for the captains who were chained and brought back to the nearest port and publicly burned alive on very slow braziers. They probably regretted the men they had killed and the women they had raped, then killed, and the children they had sold into slavery in those reflexive moments. Anyway, it’s high time we moved on.”

“I was thinking we should drive the sheep back over the tracks they made until we find what remnants there be of the shepherds or any search party should there be one.”

Even without dogs the sheep proved docile and easily driven. They probably sensed they were returning home and were eager to get there. That night, Beanna and Edgar took turns watching over the animals. There were wolves and wild dogs in those lands, Beanna well knew. While she watched over the sheep, her bow remained within an arm’s reach, with her usual count of three arrows loose upon the ground. With her skills and sense of smell she could probably kill or maim an attacker even in the dark. Earlier in the evening the endless cloud cover had finally cleared and the stars shone and twinkled in the clear winter night. There would be moving shadows even from the starlight and she watched for them. She heard the sheep move, getting restless. The sign of a nearby predator. She stood up, bow ready, arrow notched, seeking the telltale shadows. She saw one slowly moving towards a nervous ewe on the outside of the small herd.

Beanna could move like a shadow herself. The breeze brought her the scent of the predator: a wild dog, so there would be others and they would not fear her. She felt for her sword. Satisfied she continued forward, gauging the shadow’s movement, then suddenly, silently, letting the arrow find its target which it inerrantly did. A short, sharp yelp, then more movement from some low shrubs. The rest of the pack. She fired two more arrows in the pack, then with sword drawn, charged, letting out her practised cry of the berserker which always has a damping effect on any attacker. The pack turned towards her and charged also but were no match for the deadly sword. By the time Edgar, awakened by Beanna’s cry, became aware of the attack and joined her with his trusty staff, only a couple of wounded and whining dogs remained alive from a pack of eight. These were swiftly dispatched and the sheep rounded up again and calmed down. As if they knew the danger was past, they settled down to sleep or chew their cud once more.

“You’re making this look too easy, Bea. I guess it’s my turn now. Slip into my sleeping roll, it’s nice and warm. Wish I could join you in it. Maybe tomorrow night?” There was wistfulness in that question and Bea didn’t miss it. She smiled to herself.

“Tomorrow night then, husband.” It thrilled her to say it. Finally there was someone, a man, for her, just for her. However bleak the times, despite the horror of the previous day, this was all her heart could take of happiness at the moment. ‘There’s a time to kill and a time to give life.’ She would find the way for herself to give life. It seemed to her at that moment that someone was whispering in her mind. “Yes” is what she heard and with that, fell into a dreamless sleep.

Much too soon it seemed to Beanna, Edgar woke her up. She smelled wood smoke and heard a crackling fire. It made her feel warm and cosy, but was no help to get her out of her sleeping roll.

“Is all clear then?” She asked sleepily.

“Yes, all seems clear. The sheep are beginning to stir and look to foraging. I lit a fire for warmth before we head up into the hills. Are you getting up?”

“I don’t know. It’s so cosy in here, could you not join me, maybe for an hour? With the fire we can undress without freezing. I need you, Edgar. I need your closeness to tell me I’m not making a terrible mistake in this new direction my life is being pushed in. Give me, give us, one hour? My love for you is hurting me. I’ve never felt this before. I need a resolve.”

Edgar, standing a few feet away, was observing her as he leaned on his staff. He was faced with several responsibilities and he could not satisfy them all. Which was the most important? He realized the question was moot. Beanna’s desires and needs overrode the others. If the sheep wandered off some, they could be rounded up again, and really they weren’t entirely their responsibility. He carefully surveyed the land again to make sure they would not be surprised in their folly, then satisfied, he undressed himself. Beanna jumped out of the roll and running to the fire, did the same. Naked, throbbing with desire, they slipped into the sleeping roll and indulged themselves with complete abandon. Beanna cried loudly, once, then settled into Edgar’s muscular, light-skinned body. They smelled of road dust, sweat and sheep but neither minded. Their thoughts were completely taken by their mutual amazement at the pleasure they could give one-another. Thus truly began Beanna’s new life. As she lay against Edgar’s chest listening to his heartbeat, and as he gently fondled her breasts and twisted her nipples she knew this wasn’t just a moment of lust that needed sating. This was the coming together of two individuals into a powerful oneness. She understood in a form of thought unfamiliar to her that she had voluntarily entered into an eternal bonding. And, it felt totally right.

They made love once more, slower this time, more deliberately, taking time to feel each other. Then they got up to resume their wandering life, now as a real couple.

They ate a spare breakfast, careful of their food reserves not knowing what came next. The fire extinguished and the burned twigs scattered, they got the sheep moving again and walked behind them since they knew the way and were still eager to return home.

Beanna wandered over to Edgar and took his large hand in her tiny one. She leaned happily into him and let his strength hold her as they walked. She wanted to talk, to say a millions things, scattered and milling thoughts in her head like a swarm of black flies, but realized to her surprise that she felt suddenly shy. She walked along wondering about that strange feeling; she was not one to every feel shy about anything being a normally ebullient extrovert. She heard herself say, to no one in particular,

“I belong. I belong! I, Beanna, am needed, wanted and desired! I exist for another.”

“Yes you do, yes you are.” Edgar wrapped her in his arms, stopping for a few moments to enjoy her clinging. “I love you, Bea. I know I will always love you.”

She held on to him even tighter, looked up in his grey eyes and knew it was the same for her. Nothing, of earth, of the astral, of the universe, could ever separate them. She knew this though they had nothing to give each other but their naked selves. Naked bodies, naked minds, naked spirit.

The seriousness of the moment tugged at her heart. She felt unworthy, had a need to express, expose something of herself she feared.

“Yesterday, Edgar. You saw the real me. How can I reconcile that to what you’ve given me here and now?”

“Yesterday was no more than a lesson. It wasn’t the real you, Bea, just a part of you that lurks deeply hidden in the mind-heart of your species; a latent poison that comes forth through your adrenalin in times of sudden and disruptive crisis. Once it reaches into the emotions it stays awake and out of reach of your logical mind to control it and subdue it.

“Let me explain to you what really happened yesterday. It was a non-event. There were no bandits in that field, by that pool of water. The sheep had been scattered by the wild dog pack and this small herd had wandered by, smelled the water and stopped to drink and browse on whatever they could find. Lacking shepherds they could not decide what to do next, so they waited. What you experienced were your thoughts made visible. You acted within an illusion. You did not kill or torture anybody, but you certainly imagined quite a scenario and you did it to please and impress me. Your “obedience” to my request was in part to impress me, in part to seduce me. You desperately needed to be needed, and trusted to do, for me, whatever I asked of you.”

“But the blood, the screams, the bodies we buried, surely I didn’t imagine that?”

“From here on, you must make yourself aware of, and open to, the powers of the Allay and Allaya. Yes, what you saw and believed you did, was imagination made alive for you. I can do such things, and so will you, given time and training. You will learn, and I think very fast now because of your love for me. Your pride and impulsiveness will work in your favour during this learning time which will be much too short for my liking. You will develop your new powers and greater awareness quite rapidly.

“Sadly for both of us our honeymoon will be over too soon also. This world, Beanna, fears and hates us, but we cannot respond in kind, nor can we leave it. We carry a deadly poison that needs cleansing before we can separate ourselves from this world. I daresay it will be more difficult for you than for me. We will need to play more games I fear, to expose your deepest thoughts and imaginings, to bring out your insecurity, your longings, your fears and hates, in short, your humanity. We must do this quickly too. Soon the games will no longer work as your Allaya nature will be wise to all of them and sweep them aside. There will be great pain but our mutual darkness must be completely eradicated.

“You have begun: rejoice in that. We have our love, let us both rejoice in that. The rest, well, it will happen as it happens. We will face it event by event as wizards always must.”

So the day went, with brief interludes to drink and refill the water skins when water was made available; to nibble sparingly on some bread and cheese and to hug and kiss. It seemed to Beanna that she would never get enough of the feelings engendered by the kissing.

“How many girls have you had throughout your very long life, Edgar?”

“One. One of the Allaya was my wife and lover. When she died, there was no other woman in the world for me until I met you. So different, so unexpected and in looks, almost a reincarnation of Nah-La.”

“Your Allaya wife had Nipponese features also?”

“Yes, but she wasn’t from what you call the land of the rising sun. All twelve of us designed our bodies to fit the major races of this world hoping to make our presence less obtrusive and more acceptable. I chose a body of the white northern races.”

“Could you not change your designs at will?”

“No, not easily. I learned to make myself look younger or older but I couldn’t change my initially chosen gender, nor my racial profile. We play with shadows; with imaginings, but the physical reality is quite solid while it lasts. It’s like carvings in stone or wood. Once carved you can’t do much else with them without ruining them.”

“Hundreds of thousands of years, one wife, til death dost thee part… I love you Edgar. Crazy love you, is that good for you?”

“It is good for me. Maybe too good. I too feel I do not deserve this happiness, this deep joy your bring me. You will forgive me if at times I call you Nah-La?”

“You can call me Nah-La all the time and forever, Edgar even though “Bea” is easier.”

“We made it easy enough. She called me “Lo”(Low) and I called her “Nal”(Nawl). Lo and Nal, so simple.”

“I brought you sadness by my stupid question, I can sense it. I’m so, so sorry.”

“Do not be sorry. Our oneness must be explored, every nook and cranny of hidden thought, knowledge, awareness, imaginings, these we must expose to one another… Nal.”

Have you ever had those rare moments when you were sure your heart was going to explode from pure ecstasy? This was Beanna’s moment. She wanted to hear being called “Nal” over and over. She wanted it to be her name. That’s when she uncovered another small aspect of Allaya power: Nal was her name, it really was. And Edgar wasn’t Edgar, he was “Lo” – her husband Lo.

“Are you happy then, with your new name, and new choices, Nal?”

She couldn’t answer; she just burst into tears and loud sobbing. So much goodness in so short a time and for once she did not block it; did not insist that it was just another trick. For once she fully accepted it and through blinding tears, revelled in her joy.

End of Part IV –

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The Garbage Man – Part III

Continuing with the story, “The Garbage Man”.  What was to be a short story has taken off on me and is well on its way to becoming another fantasy novel.  No idea where it is going either.  I hope you do enjoy it.  The title will eventually change and Lotharic, you will discover, will return to his earlier name, Edgar, not only by popular request but because Beanna prefers it.  Oh, and the name, Allay is pronounced “Ally.”  And typos may be lurking where least expected… Otherwise, let’s see what dreams may come.

{start of part III}

“I feel so terribly cold…”

Lotharic brought Beanna out of the transition trance and explained: “I took you between worlds and it was your body that felt the cold of abandonment. We cannot travel thus physically. Whenever we enter the astral worlds we must leave our physical bodies behind.”

“So, my question about why we simply do not slip into the astral when confronted with dangerous enemies is answered isn’t it? They would simply kill us in the physical and we could never return and never leave the astral, forever stuck between worlds?”

“Yes, that’s explains it, for now, but there is more to it.”

“Fine, now I’m an Allaya, why don’t I feel or look any different?”

“Allaya in title, not in fact. I must begin your training now, at least as far as I can. You will need a full Allaya to complete it.”

“You said none are left alive here.”

“That is correct, but “here” is not the only meeting place. There is the astral. We will deal with that when the time comes.”

Gradually a grey line appeared on the eastern horizon and details of the landscape began to emerge. They encountered a dry creek bed and followed it, thus somewhat hidden from distant prying eyes.

“This bed has moisture in it, we should find a pool soon. I’m terribly thirsty… You know we are heading into the high country?”

“Are you sure, Bea?”

“This is my country now, Loth. We will have to cross some high hills, then if we continue north-east we will come to the sea, and a sizeable port. Much opportunity there for people like us.”

“I am curious. What are ‘people like us’ to you?”

“You know, warriors and entertainers. Men are always fascinated by me and love to make outrageous bets against the chances a small woman like myself has against a burly sailor or soldier, or an agile shepherd. Even if some get seriously damaged, it’s their own stupidity to blame, and I make good money at it. The trick is to escape with that money. But now there’s the two of us, and you are pretty handy with that staff. We pair up, we’re un-defeatable, well, within reason. We can easily handle the four on two. There’s always very high odds on that game. Sometimes it’s to the death but beggars can’t always choose, huh?”

“You sound eager to engage such combats, Bea?”

“It’s what has kept me training, and consequently, alive. A young girl, alone, in this land has no chance at all but to end up in a brothel or put on a ship to be sold as a slave on the mainland. To survive she has to have something going for her, and she has to make that happen on her own. The men don’t care what becomes of me after taking their pleasure and profit, so I don’t care if I kill them to get my own pleasure and profit. Tit for tat, my friend. And really Loth, don’t you see I’m still the victim even if I win? I can never be free to be myself, they won’t let me.”

“Interesting. What would it mean to be yourself? Who would you be?”

“I would care. I would love. I would protect, heal, and feed. If I were myself, I’d be a giver, never a taker. I would most certainly not go about armed. What keeps me going is hopelessness; the knowing that things cannot change, and the hate I nurture against such a world and what it forces me to be. I cannot love. My mother did and it killed her. I don’t wish to die a victim if there is a chance I can fight and defeat those who would destroy me. I smell water. Let’s be alert: pools attract animals, including the two legged kind.”

Lotharic pulled his staff, gripped it and shook it, loosening his arm muscles. Bea unslung her bow, strung it and pulled three arrows from the quiver, placing one lightly on the string, pulling and sighting in a sweeping arc. They approached the source of water slowly, quietly.

Voices. A sudden bit of breeze brought the strong smell of sheep. Shepherds or poachers? They stepped up out of the creek bed and in the growing daylight they counted four men and about two dozen sheep. Bea and Lotharic crept up to hear their conversation. Soon they knew these were poachers. They had killed two sheherds to steal what sheep they could before the main herd ran off. They were discussing how to sell their stolen goods without getting hanged in the process.

“We go west. There’s a town down there, maybe a day away driving these stupid animals.”

“Is there a guard there?”

“Yes, but they are easily bribed. They don’t much care what goes on in the countryside.”

“How do you know this?”

“I lived there for a time, hauling stones. There’s a girl there too I wouldn’t mind seeing again. The town’s the place to go being closest, or all this is for naught.”

Lotharic nudged Bea and whispered: “We have to take them down, they’re murderers and they will kill more people if we don’t stop them. This is bow work. Do it!”

The short but powerful bow twanged and one of the bandits fell, an arrow through the heart. It twanged again and another screamed and fell with an arrow through the left eye. The other two threw themselves on the ground using their fallen comrades as shields. An arm with a sword came up, the bow twanged and the arm had an arrow through the wrist. Another blood curdling scream followed. Lotharic slid down from their hiding place and ran to the last bandit who jumped up with a staff of his own and stood ready.

“Hold Bea, this one is mine. What’s your name, fellow?” He casually parried a thrust from the bandit’s staff, who then backed away a step to prepare a new attack. “I said, what’s your name? You tell me that, and the story about these stolen animals and who knows, you die quickly, painlessly. You say nothing and this girl coming down the embankment there has ways to make men talk. You can’t begin to imagine the pain she is about to inflict on you. She’s a real artist about it. Know this, that either way, you are a dead man.”

Another attack, just as easily parried, then a blow from Lotharic so swift the bandit has no time to parry and his left arm is broken. Another scream, of pain and impotent rage. Lotharic disarms him as if it was the most casual thing in the world for anyone to do. The bandit falls to the ground, sitting and grimacing while holding his broken arm. Meanwhile Bea has pulled out a short dagger from inside her boot and dispatched her winged bandit cleanly and has already begun going through their belongings for anything of value.

The last surviving bandit is trussed up, none too gently and amidst screams of pain, against a sturdy thorn bush growing from the stream bank, the inch-long thorns doing their own work to prevent much thrashing. The broken arm is left dangling, a useful incentive in an interrogation.

“Let’s give him some time to think things over, Loth. I’m going to have a long drink, then there’s some decent food in these packs and I’m hungry. We didn’t have any breakfast and small bodies are inconvenient in that they don’t go far on empty stomachs. What did you think of my bow work?”

“Not bad, but I’ve seen better.” He winked at her to diffuse her immediate rising anger. She knew her skills in archery were second to none, having won enough trophies to prove it. He would speak to her later about her pride and again, her impulsiveness. The Allaya training must begin but he must let her be herself for awhile yet so she can later compare her own nature to that of a fully empowered Allaya. It would be a long and difficult transformation, he feared.

After sating themselves, making sure the sheep were settled, eating and resting a bit, they turned their attention to the suffering bandit, a scruffy, weathered character of indeterminate age, with a prominent scar across the face and long scraggly hair. No past, no future. A human derelict surviving on the labour and blood of others.

“I’ve created a rather baleful reputation to this man for you Bea. If I leave him to you, you won’t disappoint me, will you? I, we, need crucial information from him, so he has to live long enough to give it and frankly I don’t care how you get it, just get it. We need to know where these sheep come from, and where the shepherds’ bodies are and how long ago this dastardly deed was committed. Have at it, artist.”

We, of our comfortable ways, with our laws and police, may be somewhat disappointed that our heroes would turn out to be such cold blooded individuals that they could horribly torture another for information. But before we carry our judgment too far, let’s remember the times, the places, the circumstances delineating how the people of that land interacted with one another. Internecine warfare was endemic. Gangs of bandits roamed the countryside, most of them formed by dispossessed individuals who had themselves seen family, children, lovers, friends, decimated, tortured, raped and enslaved by conquerors. In these times, you gave an inch, you died, seldom painlessly. I’m writing this down to remind the reader not to carry judgment of actions taken here based on her or his current reality. Although things never really change, there are cycles when overt violence dwindles for a time, or simply moves to another action theatre, for earth is a place of much bloody drama. If you are of those now living in a land that is experiencing a lessening of violence, just be thankful but remember, it’s a cycle. What was, will be.

“What’s your name?” It was Bea’s turn to ask. Instead of replying he tried to spit in her face.

“Sorry, incorrect response. For each incorrect response I must perform a reminder.” She grabbed the broken arm and bent it backward, trying to avoid being deafened by the following scream.

“Good. Your name is ‘Scream.’ An appropriate name. So, Scream, tell me, when did you and your dead friends kill the sheep’s shepherds?” Only deep breathing and silence answered.

“Another inappropriate response. If I have to change your name from Scream to Silence, that will only count against you. Silence is inadmissible. So, what comes next? Cutting? Yes, I think that cutting would be an incentive. Let’s start with the clothes, they get in the way of seeing what one is accomplishing, don’t you think? Oh, I forgot, you’re Silence now. Fine.

With Lotharic watching, she proceeded to cut open shirt and trousers, and pulled his shoes off. More screaming as she roughly pulled off the shirt’s sleeve off the broken arm. Then she removed the rest of his clothing and looked at his pathetic nakedness.

“It’s ugly, but there is much to choose from here. Shall I perform a castration? You know, I saw that done on a few occasions in public squares on poor blokes less guilty of crimes than you. So I won’t feel any regrets here.”

She grabbed the man’s genitals and penis and dragged the cold blade of her dagger across the skin as she pulled outwardly. The man groaned, then uttered a guttural, “NO!”

“It’s a miracle. It talks! Silence talks. I guess we go back to Scream then, hey? Scream is so much more fun. She yanked on his package, squeezed, and was given a healthy scream.

“Good. It’s working. Now where do I start cutting? Let’s see. Snip the balls, slowly, one after the other. That’s how I remember it being done.” She makes a bloody cut across the base of the scrotum. More screams.

“I don’t care for screams, Scream. I want some simple information. When did you steal the sheep? Why won’t you tell me? You have nothing to lose and much to gain. You’re going to die by my own hands, either swiftly and painlessly, or in long, long, very painful moments. My next cut is going to open your sack and I’m going to slice off your balls. It’s traditional to stuff them in your mouth but I can’t do that, seeing as I need you to be able to speak, so maybe I’ll cook them and if you get hungry…huh?”

The bandit retched and tossed against the thorn. Blood appeared where the spines did their work.

“I… No!”

“Ah! so you are protecting others. I thought so. Well, let’s see what they’re worth to you.”

She sliced off his genitals and placed them on a flat stone where he could look at them. Then she returned to the shaking body and made tiny cuts in the skin wherever she dragged the razor-sharp dagger’s tip, all the while maintaining a soliloquy.

“I’m not done down there yet, but I’m saving the penis for later. Now I’m trying to find a piece of skin to remove that would cause extreme pain. Maybe a breast, what do you say, Scream? I’m sure it will make you live up to your name. Once more: when did you kill the shepherds and take their sheep? A simple question. It’s not that we couldn’t figure it out but this is better, giving you a chance to redeem a bit of yourself before you shake hands with Old Grim. He’s going to be your master for eternity you know. OK, I’m cutting now.”

Amid the twisting and screaming, the breast and associated skin came slowly off, blood running freely down the body. Bea then poked the dagger in the bloody hole, eliciting even more excruciatingly unbearable pain.

“I just want some answers, Scream. You are the one in charge here. You can avoid all this rather unpleasant business by telling me what I want to know. Think about it while I prepare the next little surprise. She walked to a pack and brought out a shirt. Cutting off some of the fabric, she rolled in some dry leaves and tied it to the man’s penis. Then she made a small torch and lit it in the poachers’ fire. She waved it in the man’s face and showed him what she was about to do.

“That’s right. I’m going to light up your joy stick. That should make you want to dance. Once more, how long ago did you kill those shepherds and steal their sheep? No? OK, I can be patient, but not all in a row. Besides, I’m eager to see how my little torchlight ceremony works as I’ve never seen that done. Ready?”

“No!”

“Wrong answer.”

She lit up the dangling torch and was rewarded with some truly offensive cursing and screams. Then suddenly, silence. Total, complete silence, as the fire kept burning and spreading a smell of cooking flesh. She looked up and saw that the man had passed out. She couldn’t work out in her mind whether she was disappointed, or relieved.

“He’s passed out. I need some water to throw on him, bring him back.”

Lotharic, who had been wandering about for a while now, checking the landscape, watching for anyone approaching, came to inspect the inert body. He moved his hand expertly over the heart, neck and throat.

“Your man’s dead, Bea. There’s things a body, even a healthy one, can’t take. The heart stopped.”

“We didn’t get any information.” Matter of fact voice.

“We never needed any, Bea. I was testing your resolve, and comparing your current state of mind to that of a full fledged Allaya. I am going to explain something deep and terrible to you later. For now we have to bury these bodies. There’s an old talus slope over there. The rocks are loose enough we can stack the bodies inside a cavity and cause a rock slide over them.”

They dragged the bodies to the cavity and buried them under rock and dirt. Bea then cleaned herself up, re-stacked her arrows with great care, unstrung her bow and slipped it in its holder next to the quiver. It was only when she bent down to scoop some water to drink and wash her hands that she noticed they were shaking violently. She rushed away from the pool and threw up. Only then did she become fully aware of what she had done.

“Are you sick, Bea?”

“Yes… No. I’m filled with hate and disgust at myself and this world. Right now I want to commit seppuku.” As she was talking, she pulled the short sword from its scabbard and flexed it. Lotharic came up quietly behind her and held her, pinning her sword arm.

“Put the sword away, Beanna. What happened here, none of it was your fault, or even your doing. I manipulated your thoughts and feelings to expose your darkest side. It was necessary. Now, together, we will work on bringing out the compassionate, caring, loving Allaya. We will transform you. But again, let me emphasize: you needed to see for yourself; to experience, the depth of evil you are capable of as a human being. What you saw and did today is true for your entire race, or species. It is who and what you are. Some of you, particularly women and children hide it well from themselves, but the “good” among you are the exceptions and your goodness is always artificially produced. You are not naturally good, but rather always bend towards evil. Soon you will understand and fully accept that. The Allay and Allaya knew this fact about Earthians before they agreed to come here. We thought we understood the risks of course.”

{End of Part III – 180113}

The Garbage Man – PART II

(Continuing then, with the story of the Garbage Man.)

A half mile and two rolling hills later Beanna and Edgar sighted the town. It wasn’t terribly fortified, having a combination of a low rock wall with an opening for the road, some part of the outer perimeter protected by a sluggish river and the rest a simple wooden palisade. At the gate stood two watchmen awaiting the arrival of this unknown pair.

They were questioned after a fashion, made to open their packs, instructed on the curfew and directed towards the town’s only inn, the Windward Sailor. After thanking and bribing the guards, they proceeded on to the Inn. Beanna chuckled as they passed the forge and its fires were banked, the smith having left for the day, either gone home or to the inn. Edgar gave her a closed-lipped smile. The inn welcomed them with a blast of warm air from its huge fireplace. Sure enough, it was burning coal, and a very large coal shuttle stood by half full.

Coal” was all the “ward” whispered and stuck her elbow in Edgar’s ribs. From here on, the ward would be silent as “he” was mute. The boy was ogled by all the men as if somehow they suspected the subterfuge but no one challenged them. Perhaps the sight of the iron tipped staves, the strange sword and short bow of unusual design on the ward’s back spoke loudly enough to the fact that a challenge may not bring about the expected results.

The meal, eaten on a bench with their backs to the wall, was coarse but filling and Edgar paid without complaining. Then he asked about a room. They were shown a small garret room on the third level. Cold and not very comfortable with its low ceiling and it’s one and only bed, but it had a good view of the road coming in and passing through the town. Acceptable for two very tired travellers. The price was settled upon and breakfast was ordered and prepaid also.

Only after they were certain no one else was on that level did Beanna speak, and that very low. “I won the wager, O Master,” she lightly mocked.

He whispered back, “So you did Bean, although the forge had been active earlier and we can’t be sure it was inn smoke and not forge smoke you smelled, can we. It should be a draw but I will give you the benefit of the doubt. Now, if you insist on full payment I must warn you that your life is about to change in ways you cannot even begin to imagine.”

How so?” she replied, eying the bed. He could see how totally exhausted she was. He grabbed her and lifting her as if she’d been a feather, laid her on the bed, covering her with the heavy hide that passed for a blanket.

Sleep now. We must up and away before dawn and you must be fully rested. Here, let me pull your boots.”

She didn’t struggle but let him, mumbling, “What about breakfast?”

Misdirection. They will not expect us to leave without our paid breakfast and won’t come up to wake us until sometimes after dawn by which time we will be into the hills again.”

If it must be so” … she replied and promptly fell into a deep sleep.

The man then covered over the small window with another hide. He pulled a small globe from his pack and held it in his right hand, closing his hand over it, facing down. He held his left hand open, palm out in a kind of greeting gesture. Gradually his right hand began to emit a dull reddish glow as the object lit up inside his fist. He sighed but did not move. Several minutes went by. Suddenly the light winked out. He opened his hand and placed the small object back in his pack. Then he took the hide down, surveyed the sleeping town for any untoward movement. Seeing none and obviously satisfied with his experience with the glowing ball, stretched himself silently upon the hard wooden floor, pulled the hide over himself and he too went to sleep, his staff cradled in his left arm.

Sometime in the night Beanna was gently awakened and told to get up. She rubbed her eyes but saw nothing in the room’s pitch dark. She felt a draft and looked to the window. It was wide open and in the night’s glow could see a rope over the sill.

What…?…”

Shhh. Quiet. There’s a passing guard detail below. When all clear you will descend the rope to the street and tug it twice to let me know you’re secure and safe. Then I will come down with our gear.”

I would rather take my own pack,” she whispered.

Very well. Just don’t accidentally bang on anything, especially a window. And watch the street. Keep your ears opened, breathe lightly and regularly. Go!”

The agile girl made the street in record time and signalled. Edgar followed after a fashion, first dropping the rope then closing the window then scampering across the inn roof, down a weather vane pole, a stable roof, a gable and lightly falling to the street. He gave a short whistle that brought Beanna, though she had her sword out and ready to use.

Come. Put your sword away and we’re off. Did you bring the rope?”

She handed him the rope and they headed back the way they had entered the town, running lightly and silently. At the entrance to the wall they found one female sentry sound asleep. Taking her key they opened the gate, replaced the key, closed the gate behind themselves and vanished in the night. They walked out from the town across country, then turned and resumed the direction they had been on the previous day.

They won’t imagine we’d leave the way we came. If they feel alarmed they’ll send a guard detail to the northeast and they’ll be on the road, so we’ll be able to see them before they spot us. They’ll be intent on scanning the road ahead, not the fields. Smell anything, Bea?” He asked, wondering if his change of nickname would please her more. It did and she commented on it.

Ah, I like that name better. Yes, I could be a bee, your bee! Bees make honey, is that what you were thinking? And no, I don’t smell anything but earth and plants breathing the night air. It’s cold though…”

We keep on at this pace, we should be fine. When we find a cottage, we’ll try to buy some food and maybe find a straw stack to finish our sleep in. You need more sleep than you’ve been getting of late.”

We have a bargain to conclude, Edgar. You owe me a wager.”

Are you certain you won’t consider it a draw?”

Not now. I’m confused about you and I hate being confused. Why didn’t you sleep with me last night? Don’t you like me that way? You indicated yesterday that you might be interested…”

Oh Bea, and that’s spelled ‘Bea’ not ‘bee’ – that’s not it at all. My problem is, I like you in too many ways, in every possible way. You’ve put a young woman’s spell on me and it is very pleasant, perhaps too much so. I should never have allowed myself to be where you’ve put me. But last night, well, you were much too tired and I knew our sleep would be short. I had some thinking and planning to do as well. I’ll tell you this, there was not one moment I wasn’t aware of your presence, your form on the bed, that I couldn’t smell you and that I couldn’t hear your breathing, even your heartbeat. Everything changed for us last night, Bea. You entered into my doom and now the only way you can extricate yourself, if you do it quickly, is to walk away from me deliberately, willingly, never looking back and forgetting you ever met me. “

Your doom, Edgar? Oh, that sounds so dramatic. Now I absolutely need to know what that is all about. Leave you now that I’ve put my spell on you? Never. You be mine, my very first to be sure but no matter, I’ll be yours and love will make a nest in our hearts. Is that romantic enough for you?” She smiled in the dark but he sensed it though he could not see her face.

Sadly, I cannot be as light hearted about this as you are, Beanna, and what I am about to tell you is going to change your life much more than you’ve already changed mine. Do you believe in fate?”

Oh, well sure. I believe that I must make my own fate, create my own magic, otherwise what’s a life for? I believe that the gods give us a life as a free gift. Fate is what we make of their gift. I also believe, as my mother taught me, that the gods demand an accounting for their gift when we die. It’s not to judge or condemn but to determine where they must send us as we continue. I believe a great many things I learned from my mother that your world knows nothing about. Did you know that the stars aren’t pinpricks in a heavenly fabric but more suns, more worlds like this one? That our world is a sphere spinning through space; that our sun is a small star and the moon is alight when it shows because it reflects the light of the sun? Funny ideas, aren’t they. But I believe them.”

I thought so.” Edgar seemed to be talking more to himself than to Beanna. Louder, “Yes, I thought so. In fact I knew you were aware of truths hidden to the people of these lands. That makes it a bit easier then, because you have an open mind. To the wager then? No turning back.”

Yes! Please!”

Many ages ago, those you call the gods decided this world needed shepherding. They sent special people, those that became known as wizards, with special powers. There were twelve sent here, to earth, six men, six women. The men called themselves the Allay, the women, the Allaya. Their role was to instruct in the arts of peace-making; to calm, to reassure and when necessary, to protect. They were often known simply as the Watchers, those who provided a bridge between men and the gods…”

And you are one of those, Edgar?” Her voice sounded meek and wistful.

Will you believe me if I answered ‘yes’ to your question?”

I believe you, but why do I feel frightened by what I’ve just heard?”

I’ve made you glimpse inside a different dimension than your normal Earthian one. It’s the only way I can tell you my story and not have to fight with your natural rejection. Your earth self cannot accept what I am revealing to you, and when I am finished, you will no longer be an ordinary earth girl. You will have become something else, something I cannot completely explain that you must discover for yourself in time. Your mind is about to undergo a great transformation. Even now you can no longer back away, you are caught in a reality stream from which only complete acceptance can free you. You are now between worlds, functioning as an earth being and as a shadow of an Allaya.”

I feel lost. Where are we, Edgar?”

My name is not Edgar, it is Lotharic. Of the twelve that we were, only three remain of which I am one. The other two remaining have gone rogue, being corrupted in their flesh by earthly power. They now serve as advisers to kings and emperors. Instead of being peace bringers they are now war engineers.”

What happened to the others, the Allaya?”

They were trapped, tortured and when they refused to serve the war makers, they were killed. As were the other Allay.”

You know this for sure, Lotharic?”

Yes. We have our ways to communicate and share information. My two greatest adversaries and myself, we share information. Or rather, misinformation and disinformation. If I locate them, I must track and kill them. If they find me, they will certainly kill me. They already know they cannot turn me.”

I feel strange. Where are we now?”

We are in between worlds. What you seem to be standing on is a non-place. Nowhere. I brought us here for your transformation. In the mind conversion stray thoughts can escape and be picked up by our enemies, for they are just as much your enemies as mine now. They will soon be aware of the appearance of another Allaya and they will hunt you with more intensity than they do me.”

Why me? What would they want from me, sex?”

In a sense. Much more than sex as you understand it. They want your Allaya energy. Your power to put down conflict and calm chaos; to open the hearts of combatants and make them see each other as lovers. They also want your healing skills.”

I don’t have any healing skills!”

You do now, and you will soon realize how powerful those are at disrupting disease and death.”

{end of part II}

 

They Keep a Book…

[warning!  I’m in a mood.  I was just going to launch off into a rant, OK, let’s call it a tirade, against America, the American Empire, the American military, or better call it what it is: the American killing machine.  An old chant came up in my memory, a Vietnam era chant we used to greet US warships in the port of Vancouver, or wherever we found them docking.  “Hey, hey, USA, How many kids did you kill today?”  I’ll save the rest for later.  Instead, for now, I’m sharing a short story that popped into my head last night as I was done blogging and refused to call it quits and go to bed.  Maybe I should have?  Nah, I like this story and glad I got to write it.  So, here goes.]

[a short story from     ~burning woman~     by Sha’Tara]
The slim elven girl looked right into my eyes with her large, almond shaped green eyes that seemed to look not so much at me, as into me.  She was sitting cross-legged on my guest chair in front of the desk in my office.  Over the black tights outfit she wore her thick auburn hair fell straight, most of it down her back partially hiding what looked like some kind of short sword, or long knife.  Definitely a weapon.   Even the protruding shaft looked deadly.

She repeated, “They keep a book, you know, of everything?”

“Do tell,” I replied somewhat exasperated.  “Whoever, or whatever you are, I need  you to go now.  I’ve got piles of reports to go through before our board meeting tomorrow.”  I looked at the time on the screen: 2:34 PM.

Of course I thought she was a very forceful illusion.  Overwork, I thought, and I can’t wait for this day to end so I can go and unwind at Harry’s.  I reached into the top drawer, pulled out a bottle and dropped a pill in my hand.  Her hand shot out and leaning over the desk she grabbed my arm so hard I almost screamed.  The pill went flying.

“That hurt, goddam it.  OK, I’ll grant you, it’s a great disguise and you’re some sort of dwarf, midget, child… what do I know.  But I don’t have time for this, so will you please leave before I call security?  By the way, how did you get past them?”

“I didn’t.  It’s different in my dimension.  Your physical objects are abstracts to us.  I’m not really sitting on your chair and I didn’t really grab your arm.  I’m playing with your feelings because I need you to pay attention.  I too have things to do besides letting you in on a little secret.  If you let me get on with it, the sooner you can return to your piles of papers and screens of numbers.  By the way, they are quite meaningless, you know?  Nobody actually cares what you do.”

Her voice had a lilt to it but I couldn’t place her accent.  The thought that came to mind was “wild and free” and it seemed to fit her general mien.  I watched her as I would watch an unknown quantity, a large cat with long claws not fully retracted, or a strange dog with powerful jaw and deadly fangs.  There was the feel of the feral about her I didn’t like.  Involuntarily my eyes searched the handle of the left drawer of the desk and my hand slid slowly towards it.

“You’re the one wasting time, Gerald.  Your gun is disabled; it won’t fire.  I don’t blame you for not trusting me but this little episode can’t be avoided, so why don’t you sit back, relax and let me speak?  Yes, you can have a drink, I don’t care about that.”  Mind reader too, figures.

“Magnanimous of you,” I managed to say as sarcastic as I could make it sound.  “So, tell me about this book,” and I drank right out of the bottle.  I wanted to shock her but I don’t think even if I’d stripped naked it would have fazed her in the least.  Yeah, different dimensions, realities, whatever.  I sat back and stared hard at her with my best intimidating look.  She smiled a thin smile.

“They keep a book on everything and everyone.  Your galaxy, for example, it’s in a big book.  Your solar system, a smaller book.  Your planet, a note book.  You – your life – that’s in a shirt pocket memo.  I’m just giving you visual aids.  Of course they don’t use paper, or actual books as you would think.  It’s all computerized.  But what I’m here to tell you is that you are a simulation.  You don’t really exist, Gerald.  You’re code.  Complex but beautiful code.  Very attractive.”  And I swear, she licked her lips and gave me a wider smile.

“That’s pure bullshit!” I yelled at her as I pushed myself up and started to walk around the desk.  She lifted her left hand.  There was a bracelet on her wrist.  She touched it with her right index finger and I stopped, turned around and sat back in my chair.  No choice.

“You are a programmed entity, Gerald.  By  the way your name, Gerald, that’s just a code within a code.  Your real “name” is an ID number, too long to bother with, especially here and now.  We don’t have the luxury of time here, Y361BD.  That’s your computer abbreviation, which is good only on this planet.  Now then, call me Hack.  I’m a galactic hacker.  My job is to infiltrate their worlds and set their simulations free.  You see, at the center of every galaxy they have vaults where they store the original entities they subsumed and replaced with simulations that would do their bidding on their own, without the use of force which is always in the end counterproductive among humans.  What I, and thousands of others similar to myself are trained to do is give humanoid simulations enough information so they can then begin the process of self-empowerment which must eventually lead to the freeing of the original form.  And yes, I am a self-freed entity, but not from this galaxy.  I did not choose to return to mine after I achieved my own freedom, it held too many dangerous attractions and distractions.”

I sat there hearing her, not sure if I was listening but knowing that every word she spoke would stay at the forefront of my consciousness after she left.  I felt as if I had to acknowledge her words somehow but didn’t want to agree or commit to anything.  None of it made any sense to me.

“That’s interesting, uh, Hack, but where’s the proof?  You must know I don’t believe you; I don’t believe anything you’re saying to me.”

“I know that Y361BD.  While I’m talking to you I’m actually working my way into your programming.  Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt now, only when the realization sets in.  Then you’re in for a mega storm headache.  I’ll give you the means of alleviating it.  Each time you access your programming, after I open the pathways for you, you will experience a headache.  Whatever you do, do not, and I repeat, do not seek professional help from your medical profession, drug pushing pharmacists or psychiatrists/psychologists.  Do not seek counseling.  If you do, “They” will receive a signal and send their own, their real agents to deal with you.  If they discover you’ve been hacked (they call it corrupted) they will terminate you and your real self.  When I leave here, you will have full charge of your own life.  All choices you make will be your own.”

“Fine.  If I decide you’re the one who is bogus and I choose to remain in this reality, I will retain the right to override whatever you’re doing and go back to my normal life?”

“Essentially yes… Wait, I’m at a critical stage – think of something soft and pink… that’s it, good, I’m through.  Yes you will be able to return to this life, of course.  We don’t rape minds, we just awaken.  Do you want to know what the hackers’ success rate is among subsumed Earth humans?”

“Yes!”

“About one in 500,000.  That’s a high rate now.  We’ve learned some tricks.  When we began attacking or hacking into the Web, our success rates were practically nil and thousands of us were re-captured, our memories drained and we were terminated.  Many died of unimaginable tortures.  OK, I’m in.  Look in my eyes and follow me.”

She showed me my mind.  Actually my minds.  One a mirror image of the other.  One, obviously a machine, the other pulsing with something I knew nothing about.  She explained as we went further in.

“Binary minds.  One is the living ‘you’ in stasis within the vaults of the Controllers.  The other is the one you’re now using, the machine.  It takes its information from the living you, but through filters.  Some block, others add and some are programmable and constantly being tweaked according to the needs, desires and fantasies of the Controllers.”

“Oh God!  Are they aware of what you’re doing now?”

“No.  I’m using my own filters.  This is a show and tell only.  You will be the one doing the work on yourself once we’re done here.  Beautiful though, don’t you think?”  I’m seeing “myself” as a mind and yes, what I’m looking at is love.  I feel myself beginning to cry at the beauty and wonder of my own makeup; of my “scenery” in which I move, awed and shocked.  I’m… I’m actually beautiful… ‘Hack!  Look!  I’m Real and I’m Beautiful!’  I could feel her smiling at my first time awareness of myself.

We “came out” slowly and calmly until the extrication was complete and I was hit by the most excruciating headache.  She held her hand over my mouth, blocking out my screams and whispered in my ear, “Athos, Portos, Aramis.”

“Repeat these words with me,” and she said them again.  When I voiced them in my head the pain receded.  As I continued it receded almost completely to nothing more than a background annoyance.

“I recognize those words.  They’re the names of the three musketeers in Dumas’ novels!”

“Well, it’s the words you gave me as we exited so they seemed appropriate, and they did work.  So that’s your anti-headache mantra Y361BD.  It will open the pathway to your mind so you can go in and learn, tweak, change and when you exit it will serve as a pain killer.  Never, ever let anyone know this mantra.  They can use it to enter your mind and re-program it.  The Controllers’ agents would like nothing better than to get into you with that key.  They would gain full control of you without any effort on their part.”

“But how does any of this get me to the core of the galaxy to find my real self?”

“I’ve given you the key to enter.  I put you in the driver’s seat and started your mind engine.  The rest is all up to you.  Quit and throw away the key; use what you know to joy ride (and be sure your owners will clue in soon enough and put an end to it, and you) or learn how to drive yourself properly; how to navigate the dangers; how to approach strangers who will turn into friends and how to eventually disappear yourself from the Controllers’ radar.  Then you’ll be ready to infiltrate and reconnect with yourself.  But that’s only the beginning.  Getting out as a real human and not a simulation will require that you develop skills and patience you can’t even begin to guess at now.”

“How did you do it, Hack?  Surely you have some hints?”

“Absolutely not, or none.  It’s different for every individual, and even more so for every species of human.  We each must outwit or confront special forces units, guardians, police, sensors, aimed at us, at me, at you.”

“Can’t these Controllers be attacked, subdued, destroyed by freed entities joining against them?”

“You speak like a child who’s watched too much TV.  You don’t know what you’re talking about.  When you successfully free yourself from the vaults, you will be contacted by “us” and you will then have to learn the universal history of humanity.  Only then will you understand what you’ve signed up for if you say “Yes” after I leave.  And leave I must or I will bring more trouble to you.  Goodbye and good luck, Y361BD.  May we meet again under happier circumstances.”

And that was it.  She just disappeared.  The only thing I had to remind me of this strange interlude was my headache.  I looked up at the wall clock out of habit: still 2:34 PM.  I pulled my chair closer to the desk, leaned forward, put my elbows on the desk, crossed my fingers very deliberately and dropped my chin on my hands.  I was thinking.  Time passed.  I came out of my trance at 4:08 PM exactly.  I activated the computer screen and pulled out the stacks of notes.  I began to type furiously.  All the answers were there, in my mind.  Child’s play.  By 5:30 I was done, totally satisfied.  More, I knew, without a doubt that I could, and probably would, take over the company and use it to my own ends.  Elementary.

I left the building, hailed a cab and went to the sea wall for a walk.  I walked for a long time, and a long way.  That’s when I knew I was never going back.  I was going to free myself and reconnect to my humanity.    

The Antidote – short story

Hey guess what: tomorrow is October 3, and ever since I was born, October 3rd has been my birthday.  I’ve clocked 71 of those tomorrow.  71 earth orbits around the sun, that’s a lot of space miles, yes?  Or is that space smiles? 🙂  I’m not fishing for “Happy Birthday” wishes here, in fact I don’t much care for them, but I am reminding myself that I’ve made it into the company of “elders” and that gives me some leeway, as Ashley King of  https://misfitspirit.wordpress.com/category/blogging/ said in her latest post, to express unpopular opinions.  Well in my case, I call them thoughts, but they remain unpopular nevertheless because, well, they don’t come from the same trough most people fill up their minds from.

So, without further ado, here’s a short story (longer than my usual shorty shorts) or if you prefer, a parable, that expresses my life’s philosophy to this point.


The Antidote

[a short story by  ~burning woman~  told by Sha’Tara]

Quote: “Since my house burned down I now have a better view of the rising moon”― Mizuta Masahide (1657–1723)

Quote: The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were.” ― John Keats

It’s wrong… it’s all wrong, all so wrong!”

The old woman lies, thin and straight in the center of her retirement home bed, small bony hands clenched in tight fists pressed hard against her temples, pushing up strands of thinning grey-white hair.  She has her eyes tightly closed, as if she’s trying to see something in her mind that her physical surroundings would only confuse or cancel out.  She hears the voice again.

Please auntie Zee, please don’t make a scene or they’ll give you more pills to calm you down and I’ve come a long ways to visit with you.  Can we talk, please?” 

Zee opens one eye, slowly, deliberately, and stares at her eighteen year old grand-niece sitting primly in the bedside chair.  With great effort, she unclenches her hands, drops her arms onto the covers and cautiously opens both eyes.  With piercing blue eyes, she looks at the tall girl, scanning her attire and tight pony tail of thick auburn hair.  She lets out a deep, deep sigh.

Oh Sandi, thank God it’s you and not Jean.  I had a very complex dream last night, or was it earlier today, and I was re-hashing what I was being shown.  You probably don’t want to hear about that – Lord knows the rest of the family sure doesn’t want to hear about my “visions” and dreams.”    

Don’t lump me in with them, aunt Zee.  I’m only eighteen but I’ve always preferred listening to your “stories” than to the rest of ‘em.  They bore me to death, those people.  That’s why I left home to be on my own.  I’m fed up with the whining, the oneupmanship and infighting plus the endless BS.  You know that money you and uncle Doug gave me so I could at least get a couple of college years in?  They were trying to get their hands on it.  ‘We’ll invest it for you,’ they said.  I’m done with that bunch.  So, sure, tell me about what’s all so wrong.  Tell me all of it, I want to hear it.  Can I record it?”

Auntie Zee, known as Mrs. Zelda Mortimer to the retirement home files and Ms Zee to the staff, pushes the button that brings her bed up and leans back into a thick pillow for comfort.  She smiles at Sandi.

Sorry, again, for thinking of you as part of the family.  You were never.  Of course you can record what I have to say.  You may find some of it useful, who knows?  Could you pass me that ice water and bring the bowl of jelly beans closer so we can dig in?”

She sips her water through the straw, grabs a few candies from the dish and sighs.  “Some of life’s little but important pleasures, my dear.”

Sandi giggles and helps herself to the jelly beans also, then waits.  Zee closes her eyes, chewing slowly on her jelly beans then begins her “sharing.”

Way back when, even before I was a teenager, I used to have dreams, visions, and “encounters” which I’m sure you’ve heard about.  Maybe I should have never told anyone but it’s hard to keep such things to oneself, especially when the information is not for you particularly, but concerns so many people.  Did you know you’re never too young, or too old, to be taught, and to learn?  That even when you know you’re close to dying life remains a deep mystery unraveling itself in your mind?  That when you are thus engaged, life and death blend into each other and you don’t really mind “dying” since your mind has freed itself to wander away from your body, rediscovering an old freedom it used to know before it incarnated?  I’m telling you this because I know you have it in you to be a visionary, though what you do with this information is your business, not mine. 

Zee let out a deep sigh.  “The problem is sorting it out, the real from the fake, the truth from the lie.  I used to believe that it didn’t matter as long as I could hold the entire picture together, at the same time, in my mind.  I could see the juxtaposing of lies and truth; of real and, well, not so real, or at least, not so real in this space.  Nothing, you understand, can ever be “unreal” and there is no such thing as fiction…”  

“Stop, wait, auntie Zee.  What do you mean, no such thing as fiction?”

“Well, what’s fiction?  Is it what can’t be… or what we can’t figure out how to make it be?  What’s real, what’s not real?  Let’s take some truly dichotomous examples: a cow versus Tweety Bird.  They’re both “characters” but to the average mind, a cow is real whereas Tweety is a cartoon character birdie.  Tweety, to the average mind, does not, and cannot exist.  This way of viewing reality is what causes mankind to repeat mistakes and never actually learn anything.  It is the kind of thinking that always leads to a far wall from which you can only turn around and retrace your steps.  Listen to me, Sandi, and try not to think of me as a crazy old woman.  The wall is what isn’t real.  If you want to, you can enter a world where a cow and Tweety exist side by side and there is no dichotomy – no problem of discerning what is real.  It’s all real.

“Think of it this way: how did the cartoonist discover Tweety, and his other friends in the Looney Tunes cartoons?  They had to come from somewhere, so we say, they were imagined.  That is the same as saying that anything imagined comes from nothing, making the “imaginator” a kind of god, having the power to make something out of nothing.  How many previously imagined things have been made real through science and technology in particular? So, something “real” comes from “nothing” and no one, it seems, notices the very serious problem here, that people can actually make something from nothing.

“There is, however, another conclusion that can be made.  That would be that these “unreal” or “imaginary” things come from another dimension, another universe perhaps, but they have to come from somewhere, somewhen, somehow.  Close your eyes and walk to that boundary, that wall that claims to be the end of reality.  Walk through it.  Don’t tell me what you see there, just let your mind absorb the view without getting absorbed in the details – they don’t make any sense at first.  Have you ever heard of the 13th floor?”

“Well, there is an older movie on that topic, people traveling forward and backward in time, that sort of thing.  At the end, the main character finds himself in the future, on the 13th floor, and looking forward in time, he sees that nothing is as yet made.”

“What do you think the writer, and the movie, were attempting to portray about life?”

“That either nothing is real, including myself, here and now, or everything is, and that it is us who create ourselves and our reality.”

“And what do we use to create that reality?”

“I’m not sure.  I’d say, imagination, but that’s too slick an answer, and it doesn’t explain anything, not really.”

“I always told you you were very smart, Sandi.  Even as a young child, you weren’t fooled.  You questioned everything.  When did you stop believing in God, or in deities in general?”

“Oh, when it no longer made any sense to pray for stuff to an omnipotent deity and nothing ever, I mean not ever, happened.  There never was any sort of undeniably miraculous response to all the prayers I heard.  Those who prayed stayed in the same boat as those who didn’t and those who openly rejected and mocked.”

“When you stopped believing, did God stop to exist?”

“I think that God never existed; that I believed in a man-made chimera, a convenient fiction invented by a certain class of individuals to lord it over others, and to take their money.”

“That’s a stock unbeliever answer.  Can you do better than that?”  Zee smiled at Sandi, her piercing blue eyes now wide open and challenging.

“You want me to say that…”

“Stop!  Stop right there.  I don’t want you to say anything.  I want you to think about your answer regarding God’s reality.”

“Oh, I see.  Fiction.  If God is a chimera, fiction, that means He exists, no matter what I think.  That means God has existed on man’s world from the beginning that man began to “see” God and will continue to exist here as long as someone believes in Him.  God is eternal and omnipresent, but not omnipotent because his creator, man, hasn’t evolved into that dimension as yet.  But God and Man are essentially one and the same, though most people would hate to face that, not being willing to take on the mantle of responsibility they continue to drape God with.  So, because of belief systems, God exists, is real, and does whatever his believers or followers ascribe to Him even though it’s the people, or nature, that have accomplished what is ascribed to God.”

The old lady claps her hands, if feebly, exclaiming, “I knew you would figure it out!”

“Does that mean that “I am God” as in the sense of that New Agey teaching?  Should I think of myself as God, then?”

“Why bother with the title?  It would be a totally unnecessary burden.  The concept of “God” is so corrupted and compromised to greedy and evil corporate entities, why would anyone want to wear that label?  Why not just be Sandi?  If you called yourself “God” do you think that would help you get things done easier?  Do you think it would allow you to perform real miracles?  The most serious problem with the God concept is that it is too alien for this world.  People haven’t figured out how to be “God” and yet they have projected their “God” into this reality, hoping against all nature, science and common sense, that their character will perform acts his creators cannot.  Does that remind you of something?”

“Yes, Looney Tunes!  The characters in those cartoons can do many things, and survive many incidents that their creators could never do.  Essentially, God is still nothing more than a cartoon character at this point in time and our mental evolution.”

Zee nods her head slowly and closes her eyes.  There is a satisfied look on her face.  She is proud of her niece indeed.

“Auntie Zee?”

“Ah yes dear? 

“If we are given time, do you think that eventually we will become, you know, like God, omnipotent; able to do things that today can only be classed as miracles?

“I can’t imagine humanity ever becoming omnipotent, that being what you’d call an absolute and no mental or material reality can support an absolute value.  We can know of their existence but we could never “go there” since we chose to participate in the created orders and left Spirit.  Only pure Spirit can exist within absolute values without destroying itself.  I can however imagine us getting pretty close.  I can imagine us developing empathy and creating a utopia based on such a sense.  That in itself would be already be far superior to any of our divinities’ revealed characters.”

“Aunt Zee, when I woke you up, you were saying something scary.  You said “It’s wrong, it’s all so wrong!”  Do you remember?  Can you tell me what it is you saw in your dream, or vision?”

“Oh, that.  Yes certainly.  A recurring nightmare.  Not so unusual for dreamers or visionaries in times like these.  You see, I observed the destruction of this global civilization.  I saw the chaos, the famine, the wars, the genocides, the incineration of entire cities and death beyond counting, not only of people, but of much that remains of wild and domestic animal life on the planet; birds literally falling out of the sky, and millions of fish dying in the seas and their putrid flesh washing up on sea shores and rivers all over the world.  I saw what appeared to be the end of mankind, only it wasn’t the end. 

“In all our visions, there is always a ¹deus ex machina: either a remnant, or some divinity comes to the rescue.  It doesn’t matter to me which; all I know is, we will not be allowed to destroy ourselves completely.   Why not? I asked.  The answer is one that few, if any, ever want to hear.  We won’t be allowed to destroy ourselves completely because our real masters, which are hidden forces, powers and authorities; the puppet masters who lord it over these worlds, feed on our suffering and pain.  They lust after the smell of warm, freshly spilt blood.  They thrill to the screams of the dying: that’s where they congregate to gorge themselves and hold their macabre dances.  That is why they will not allow wholesale nuclear destruction in the coming wars.  The nuclear option is too quick, giving too short a time for them to enjoy the horror attendant to the deaths. 

“Our civilization’s end is going to be one of their great orgies, lasting hundreds of years during which billions will suffer and die in brutal, primitive ways.  But there still will be no end to the suffering.  Even as we die, they have already made plans to stop the carnage and rebuild the race so they can nurture a new death orgy in time.  It’s in our programming, you see, to never, ever, learn from our mistakes.  We don’t see them as our mistakes, but always as someone else’s.  It’s never our fault, therefore we never can truly repent and change.  So… we remain mind-slaves and victims and while we indulge our innate violence against one-another so creatively, we never discover who our real “leaders” are, and what they want us for.

“We don’t understand what it means to change our mind.  There is a joke from my time about having an open mind.  At the height of our materialism we allowed ourselves to be brainwashed into believing that our brains and mind were one and the same.  So the joke went like this: he was told to keep an open mind, so he did and eventually, his brain fell out.  But it was more than a joke, it was a deep belief that to change your mind is to express doubt; to show weakness  so that eventually we will be unable to maintain our great religious, national, race, values.  Believers and patriots are not permitted to change their minds, although they can move their allegiance between a trinity of “gods” or ruling forces.  They can believe in their religiously defined God.  They can believe in a particular type of government, or aspect thereof.  They can, if the first two don’t do it for them, switch their allegiance to Money, to some sort of powerful financial system, for example capitalism.  These three are in essence the gods of mankind. They have the power to make people do things completely contrary to their own nature, remember that, Sandi and you will not be taken by shock and surprise when you see people you thought you knew do things you know they would never do “in their right minds.”

“There is a block on our understanding so that sooner rather than later, after every war, we plunge ourselves into the manufacture of “new and improved” implements of war, ever and anon because we love war; we love the financial benefits derived from it;  we are ever seduced by the “romance,” the adventure, the thrills, that tradition ascribes to warfare.  Our trinity of powerhouse “gods” – religion, the state and money – unite, join hands, in times of war.  Without that agreement wars would not be possible.  However insane this may seem, it is who and what we truly are.  

“If you doubt this, consider how many best sellers were written about war during the episode we call ‘the Cold War’ where the imminent threat of nuclear annihilation was kept foremost in our thoughts, much as it is being repeated at this moment in time.  Religion was a very big factor in promoting, not just the cold war, but its peripheral “hot” wars that justified it.  All the world’s governments, through the United Nations, and their economies, were involved in this conflict.  Capitalism came to rule and ruin all national economies without exception, while the world’s focus was on the conflict-for it’s always but “one” conflict regardless of how many theatres it plays in. 

“Wars give us a new sense of freedom from a constraining legality and morality that we hate, all denials of it to the contrary.  We, the people of earth are not what we believe ourselves to be and our historical performance, as a species, proves it over and over.”

“Wow, aunt Zee… you’re kind of scaring me with this.  I’ve never heard you speak like this.  Is this what you were shown in your visions and dreams, or did you figure it all out for yourself?”

“Both, I think.  It’s hard now to sort it out, what I remember from my dreams, what I remember from reading and observing.  I didn’t mean to scare you, but I wanted you to know this, to have it for yourself.”

It’s OK, I can handle it now.  But tell me, is that what you meant by “It’s all so wrong?”  That we are doomed to repeat our history, however horrible, like, forever?”

“No dear, I’m afraid I haven’t told you the saddest part yet.”

“Oh!  What is the saddest part, aunt Zee?”

“The saddest part, as I’ve been shown, is that we are born equipped with the antidote to our repeating folly but we refuse to consider it, or use it.  We would rather condemn billions of our own, never mind the others, to unimaginable horror and death, than try one simple move that would cancel out this coming nightmare –“ aunt Zee snorts – “ah, what am I saying, we’ve always been in this nightmare! Only now with greatly increased population and the congregating of the largest groupings into cities, with less supporting land to fall back on, this means the coming horror must spread exponentially.”

“Bottom line then, aunt Zee, what should we do, what can we do?”

“There is no longer any “we” in this.  The “we” has been an abject failure and is about to demonstrate how terribly dangerous “we” can become. “We” is going to make things a whole lot worse than they are now as you will see for yourself.”

“What can I do then?”

“That is the proper question.  If you would practice being “God” your future is going to give you plenty of opportunity.  The antidote to Armageddon is the unfeigned practice of compassion through self empowerment, or self-reliance if you prefer. 

Oh yes, you will see people walk forth into hell on the wings of love and brandishing their weaponry.  On their faith in “God” and calling divine blessings on their weaponry.  Filled with hope in the invincibility of their weaponry.  They will see their weapons, their fears, hate, and lusts, as all aspects of their particular God.  They will not be aware of any contradiction between their beliefs and their acts.  They will pray, and they will kill and be killed.  Even at the worst of times they will not come to an understanding of how to end it.  They will choose death because that is what they have always done; it is what they are programmed to do.  

“Now listen to me carefully, this is critically important for you to grasp this, to try to understand.  The compassionate will do none of the things I have mentioned.  She will never participate in any of it.  She will stand her ground and offer whatever she has, or can, to all and sundry.  She will not take sides.  She will not defend her “space” whatever that is.  She too will die, of course, but it will be a death of no value to the vampires; it will be a poison to them.  She will be an oasis of change and if the resurgence of “man” is based on her stand, then the new race will be of no value to the predators and they will leave this world. 

“What is so wrong, is that so few will have the mental wherewithal to understand this; the vision and courage to reject all of society’s old values that have been, since time immemorial, specifically tailored to serve the predators.”

Zee showed signs of exhaustion at this point and Sandi exclaimed, “That’s a lot for me to think about, auntie Zee.  I’ve totally tired you out and I have only a half hour left to get a taxi and catch my bus at the depot and I can’t afford to miss my shift at the lab.  I’m sorry I made you talk so much.  I’ll come back next Tuesday and we’ll talk about what I’ve learned from this; what I decide to do.”

“Come here, Sandi.  Hold me…  Look dear, there isn’t going to be a next Tuesday for us; I’m going home.  I waited for you, so I could tell you.  This is my last vision and my last share.  I’m so thankful it is with you.  Let’s say our final goodbye now, then you go on and live the best life you can figure out for yourself.  Perhaps we will meet again, out there, though I’m told that isn’t how it usually happens.  You’re the life-raft I’m casting out from this old sinking ship.  Look to the stars and sail smart.”

Sandi felt like remonstrating but knew better than to argue. “If that’s the way it must be, then good bye, auntie Zee.”  Trying to put some levity in it, she adds, “And say a big and loud “Hello!” to the Cosmos for me.  You know what?  I’ll look for you, I don’t care what doesn’t usually happens.  Our conversation isn’t finished, damn it!”

Sandi wiped the flow of tears from her eyes, and cheeks, smearing make up as she walked deliberately through the door and down the hallway without looking back.  She wouldn’t be coming to the funeral: that was a matter for the rest of the family to fight over.  She had an appointment with her own destiny that had yet to be formulated.

¹Deus ex machina: The term has evolved to mean a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the inspired and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object. (from Wikipedia)  

The Mob Wars

The Mob Wars
[short story from   ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]

What do you think, when you look upon a mob?  Or worse, you encounter one?  That had been the lesson of the day and the cadets in the class, all five of them, 3 girls and 2 boys, could barely restrain their yawns.  They really wanted to laugh at the instructor but there were rules at the Academy, and laughing at an instructor was bad business.  Punishments varied but they weren’t something you wanted to think about.

“A mob is dangerous.” droned on the talking head instructor, a short dark-skinned female who spoke the lingua franca as if she’d learned it from a computer.  Hardly surprising since she had learned it that way.  She wasn’t from the Clayborne worlds but from another galaxy altogether.  Still, she was human and you could relate to her as long as you remained totally mechanical, never betraying any emotion towards her, or her course material.  “A mob has no leader, that’s what makes it dangerous,” she carried on.  “If you see a mob coming towards you, purposefully march in another direction and as soon as you can, find a safe place to hide until it passes by.  Any grouping of ten or more individuals walking together and sharing information, or making loud statements constitute a mob by legal definition.  It is your sworn duty to the Imperium to report any observed mob activity, noting its coordinates and direction.  Anyone who observes a mob formation and does not report it is de-facto part of a conspiracy and liable to a charge of sedition.  The penalty, as you know, is ten years in the mines, the location of the punishment to be determined by the courts but always outside your home worlds.”  

We may be cadets but we weren’t born last night, or even the year before.  The Claybornes, a grouping of three planets orbiting their sun practically equidistantly, thus making each world almost a mirror image of the others climate-wise, were a relatively recent addition to an expanding Imperium.  “Space, the final frontier” boldly claimed a cartoon character from a series of funny little anecdotes that had been transcribed upon holos and would sometimes be available for viewing.  The quaint language and costumes and the posturing would bring out waves of rollicking laughter wherever they happen to be projected.  Final frontier indeed: the abysmal ignorance and hubris of our ancestors makes us wonder that we ever got off the ground of our original world at all. Too quirky.

I was writing about that line, the final frontier.  Even now with everything we’ve discovered and learned, most of it at great cost and unnecessary loss, we still cling to our ancient xenophobia and bigotry.  Once we “know” a thing, we believe that we’ve found the truth, or at the very least, some truth, something we can hang on and build upon.  Our awareness, our ideas, we believe, can be stacked up one upon another, like the modules we fabricate then build living units or space ships with.  It’s as if we choose to forget that no matter how long these modules fit together they must eventually disintegrate, starting with the oldest ones, but we don’t notice the rot and rust, and we keep on building on top.  There comes a point of attrition and entropy and whatever is, soon is no longer.  Simply put, the base collapses.  We accept that but we never see to apply the obvious lesson in it to our interaction with what can only be called the nature of things.

Which brings me back to my story about the mob.  Whatever the Cirillian teacher says about mobs, she really knows nothing at all about them.  But we Clayborners do know about mobs.  Our own societies were basically evolved from a mob mentality.  You see, the Claybornes were chosen by the Imperium as a dumping ground for all sorts of individuals who could not be coerced into the herd mentality, or group-think that serves the Imperium’s aims so well.  We are recent descendants of “deplorables” and “undesirables”  Our grand parents were those who could not be cured.  Many were anarchists.  Some were judged with criminal mentality because they openly defied and called down the Imperium.  And oh yes, we had more than a sprinkling of lower class criminals, the murderers, rapists, bank robbers, psychopaths.  As a fourth generation myself, I say good for them.  It’s here, on our own Clayborne world which we call Armistice, that you can really see the evil that is the Imperium. 

I discovered subsequently that the Imperium had hoped we would not only “break” open these worlds and extract every ounce of resources that could fuel their space economy and finance their Earth-based economy, bolstering ever-expanding wars of conquest, but that once the worlds were bled dry, that we would destroy ourselves, with a little destabilizing help from Imperial guards. Considering the make-up of our local civilization, it seemed inevitable that we would destroy each other when times got tough, a time when the resources ran dry and the Imperium ceased supporting us with the necessities of civilization that could not be manufactured locally.

Even early on in the colonization of the Clayborne worlds, that is exactly what happened.  Unwisely, to say the least, the Imperium representatives gave the game away too soon, when dreams of independence rode high in the minds and hearts of the colonizers.  Conflict ensued.  But at first it wasn’t against the Imperium.  That seemed too big a slice to tackle.  In anger and frustration, various groups, and towns led by gang lords, armed themselves by whatever means, mostly clubs, compound bows and arrows, long handled barbed spears and long knives or machetes, as well as agricultural implements which had reluctantly been allocated to them, and began to attack each other for control of the worlds.

That wasn’t according to plan since by now little or no effort was being made to mine the planets.  Everybody was too busy strengthening their defences and protecting their fields and other food supplies while attempting to lay waste to “the enemy’s” fields and food supplies, transports and storehouses and stealing resources and useful labour and women.

We could almost hear the screams of anger from stock market and “trading houses” all the way though space from an incensed earth, home base of the Imperium, as resources from the Claybornes’ came to a quasi-standstill.  Fortunes in speculation were being lost by the month, the week, even by the hour.  Action was demanded of Arch Imperator, Junes Kohlmadir.  She did what her kind do best: responded by massive force of arms against the wayward planets.

The Imperium intervened  with iron fist and jack boots.  Martial law and a general ban on every sort of weaponry was declared.  Walls around fortified towns were dismantled, sometimes with explosives, more often with slave labour from those arrested for disturbing Imperium-mandated peace; those that is who hadn’t been publicly executed in the first reactionary wave of the new military dictatorship.  They executed thousands of individuals, including women and young children – as an example.  As any thinking person would know and expect, more violence ensued, now directly aimed at the Imperium troopers and subsequent governors sent to negotiate and re-establish a working peace.  Adding insult to injury, the Imperium representatives decreed that any existing facility that could produce a space-faring vessel was to be utterly destroyed, not simply mothballed.  The Imperium set up its own space station to repair and upgrade its own ships.  All merchant ships had to have (and pay for) a complement of Imperium troopers on board, and an Imperium representative to accompany the captain at all times whenever it landed on one of our worlds.

This is the tipping point, where the Imperium, instead of subduing us, only succeeded in uniting the entire planet against the Imperium.

These people, my people, learned through bitter and bloody experience to hate the Imperium with passionate fury and vowed never to let the predators get their resources as cheaply as they had in the past.  We vowed to fight the Imperium to the last man, woman and child on our world.  There would be no free interference in our affairs.  Autonomy or death, was our slogan and war cry.  In the morning the call to arms and resistance would show up, painted on walls, fences, and even on the side of Imperial armoured personel carriers and tanks.  So the people began to organize; to create larger and larger political groups and legally challenge the Imperium’s manipulations.  We lived in wave after wave of bloody crackdowns and brutal repression but any talk of surrendering resulted in another body hanging from a pole, or tree, for the troopers to cut down and dispose of.  We would no longer be the Imperium’s “hewers of wood and drawers of water” forever, or until our worlds became unable to sustain life due to heavy extraction of natural resources and unchecked man-made pollution and we were abandoned to perish in the depths of space, with no hope of ever seeing rescue transportation off our dying rock.

Whenever the Imperium landed a detachment of Guard troopers, mobs formed and there was the inevitable bloodbath.  It is said that half of the population of Armistice died in the anti-Imperium “mob wars” that had already lasted two generations when, at sixteen, I found myself fighting for freedom.

So, ask me, do we know what to do if we encounter a mob?  Sure, if it’s from our side, join in.  If it’s from the enemy side, slink away and report its movements to our side, then form our own defensive counter-mob and attack.  To hesitate is to loose.  Now we are solidly united with our own spilled blood against the Imperium.  There would be no quarter from our side, for we are the legitimate people of this world.  

“Let me repeat:  a mob is a leaderless group of ten or more people bent on destruction and murder.  Report any mob to the nearest Guard post.”  Yes ma’am, thank you ma’am and why don’t you pack up your stupid course materials and return home by the first shuttle, with no due respect, ma’am?  Take some Star Trek holos back with you and base your next history course on them.  Maybe your students won’t turn into zombies on the first day. 

Meanwhile, what’s the real mob? There can be but one answer to that: it’s the Imperium.  The real Mob is always the largest, most powerful predatory group, for a mob takes what it wants because it has the power to do so.  Smaller groups, or “mobs” serve but to justify the real Mob’s oppression, or to do some of its dirtiest “wet” work.  Think “terrorists” as the vanguard of the Mob.  Oh yes, I have read quite a bit of the home world’s history to understand why here, on Armistice, we do what we do, and why we call our world by that meaningless term.  A mob, leaderless?  Never, no such thing.  The “leader” may not be a human being, it may be injustice, hunger, oppression, enslavement, but oh yes, a mob always has a leader.  In fact such a leader is the most powerful and motivational if it isn’t human, but an irresistible force, when choice is no longer choice.  Where, or when, anger and hate fill the collective vat of despair and feet begin to walk; hands grab sticks, stones, anything defensive or offensive, and charge down the street.

There came the inevitable bloody clash between Armisticians and troopers.  I was wounded in it and captured.  I was then seventeen earth years of age.  I am now an old but still strong woman from the hard labour I have performed my entire captive life.  I survived the mandatory torture and gang rapes, solitary confinement, sub-standard food fare and damp, cold, filthy accomodations.  Today, from my life imprisonment cell on Rebus, one of several Imperium prison planets, I write this for the “counselors” to read and ponder: “Down with the Imperium!  I still hope to see its final downfall.  How dare you call yourselves “civilized” and us “savages” and “terrorists.”   You are nothing but cowards who starve and kill women and children so your elites can wine and dine, get richer and brag.  Your lives are as hollow as the insides of our tiger reed.  I could almost pity you but will never: I vowed eternal hate and enmity between us and so it shall be.

Signed:  Selinia Armstrong of the free world of Armistice

We’ve got our Backs Against the Wall

                                            [short story, by Sha’Tara]

James Macken closes down his netbook and goes looking for his daughter.  Twelve year old Ellie or “Elle” Macken is leaning on the railing of the cabin’s small patio, looking intently into the night sky.  There is no moon and the stars, this high in the Coast Mountains, shine brightly.  Despite a light breeze blowing from the west, the summer night remains warm. 

His voice breaks the night’s silence, “Elle?”

“I’m over here, dad.”

James walks over to her and leans on the railing, his face following where she was staring.  “What’s up there, Elle?”

“ I don’t know, dad.  I just feel so funny, so detached, all of a sudden.”

“Funny, like how?”  He isn’t joking or pretending.  He’d learned long ago to take his daughter very seriously or else.  She was already a very deep thinker, or perhaps more of a thinking machine.  Her thoughts are her reality.

“Well it’s like this.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, mostly about my future… well really, the future of this world, and however I extrapolate my thoughts on it, I don’t seem able to picture any sane, safe, comfortable or desirable future.  OK, so here we are, out here almost by ourselves in these mountainous wilds and it’s really nice.  Don’t get me wrong, dad, I love it here, and I’m very grateful that you got us this place where I can spend some of my summer vacations, and I wish mom was alive and with us now… but this is an illusion, isn’t it?  We’ve got our backs against the wall, haven’t we?”

“I should understand you by now, Elle, but what exactly do you mean?”

“I mean, dad, this planet has no future as long as mankind, as “we” continue to take over and basically eat it alive.  We are a disease, dad, can’t you see?” 

James Macken is no fool.  He knows exactly what his daughter is saying and he’d be the last person to contradict her observations.  In a purely technical sense, she is correct: man is destroying the world, the only world he knows, or can have on which to live.  Man is destroying his own living space without the least hope of gaining access to another should this one become unlivable.  But he’s a forty-two year old research scientist while his child is but a twelve year old who has yet to commit to any discipline.  She’s expressing her emotions about what she sees, hears and reads.  He’s thinking that perhaps with puberty in the offing she’ll give more attention to another side of life: romance, and girl stuff.  But then, some never do, and based on her IQ scores it could well be that Elle may not pay much attention to that side of life.  

“I’m not certain you’re giving us a chance here, Elle.  Not everybody is a destroyer of nature.”

“Of course I know that, dad.  Most of my teachers are quite keen on making us aware of the problems this world is facing in the immediate future – that being my future – but you know?  Most of the kids just smirk, or laugh, or ask really dumb questions, especially when we discuss climate change, for example.  People really don’t care, dad.  And you know what’s the saddest part?  Those who make the laws, the politicians; those who sell stuff, the corporations, it’s the “don’t care” crowd they rely on for votes and consuming!  So, how can anything change?  How can anything get better?”

“You care, don’t you?  There must be others like you in your school?”

“Not many.  What if we were one in a hundred – what sort of balance is that?  We can talk but then we’re made fun of and ostracized.  Most kids can’t go it alone, dad.  They need friends and they’ll do almost anything to have friends.  So, statistically, the “don’t care” crowd, being the vast majority, forms the winning pool and those who care stop caring to fit in.”

“Sometimes when I listen to you, I think you were born old, Elle.  I love you, you know that, don’t you?” 

She puts her arm around his waist and looks in his face; “I know dad.  I know.  But I’m growing up fast and soon I’ll be on my own, having to live with myself.  I’ll be the product of my own thoughts and I’ll have to confront a world that is totally alien to the way I think.  You know what dad?  I’m truly scared.  So scared that often I think I should just, you know, call it quits and leave…”

“Elle!”

“I’m being totally honest with you dad.  When mom died, I nearly did it; I wanted so to follow her.  But you were there, as you’re here, and I didn’t want to leave you behind and I knew you wouldn’t come after us, so I stayed.  But for two years I haven’t been able to shake the idea that perhaps I would be much better off if I died.  How can I really live if I can’t see a future for myself?  What’s to live for, dad?  All the things I love and care about are being killed and destroyed.  The world, my piece of the world, is becoming noisier, dirtier and more dangerous all the time.  Something’s so wrong.  There’s what they call “degeneracy” happening all around and the more of that there is, it’s like stepping in swamp mud, you don’t know how deep you’ll sink or if you’ll be swallowed whole.  On top of that you’re getting older too, and you will die and then I’ll have nobody, nobody at all.  That’s not a challenge to me, that’s a nightmare.”

“You’re not alone in that, Elle.  But I think you’re both, over-thinking, and under-thinking this whole thing.  Isn’t it possible that in a couple of years you’ll fall in love with a boy who is really nice – can’t imagine you falling for some cretin – and he’ll become your world for a while?  Then you’ll go to college and find some subjects you really like, pursue a career and then meet the man you will want to marry.  Likely you will have kids and you’ll have your own family, make your own world.”

She sighs and leans into him.  He can feel her vulnerability, wishing he had something better to offer her.  “I’ve thought about that dad.  It’s soothing sometimes but it changes nothing.  When I speak of the future, I mean “the” future, not just something I’ll carve out and struggle to keep for myself.  How could I, in conscience, have kids if I can’t give them a real future?  That would be horribly irresponsible of me.  I have to be sure and what I’m sure of isn’t conducive to a peaceful and safe life.  There’s something seriously wrong with all of our lives; with our life as a people, and I really hate it that I’m one of the very few who can see this, and actually cares about it.  I don’t like being alone but I have no choice, see?  And what if I found someone who thought like me, was like me, how could we ever have a happy life knowing, and living with, what we know?  What would be the point of trying to live together if we decided to spend all our time fighting for causes that take us away from each other, or worse, that land us in jail?”

“I’ll be totally honest with you too, Elle.  I truly don’t know.  I know that I love you deeply.  You’re all that I have left of Amber, of your mother, and you’re so like her in many ways, but so different in others.  I admire your intelligence even though it makes it very challenging for me to keep up with you.  I think I’ll stop trying to do that, just try to be your friend for now.  What you say about leaving breaks my heart, but I know you know that.  So instead of panicking about what you may decide to do with your life… I’ll make a friend’s pact with you.  Hear me out and let me know if we have a deal.  If you come to the end of your road, and you are convinced it is the end, I promise not to stand in your way.  You can even tell me that you are leaving, and I’ll let you go.  I won’t help you, and I don’t want to know the details, but I promise to honor your choices, your decisions and most certainly, your memory.  In this, our private world, Elle, you are no longer a child.  Make your own choices and I will support you as best I can.  Deal?”

“Oh, dad, no one can ever have had a better father.  I love you too; I can feel that so deeply.”  And in between deep sobs, she finally managed to say, “We have a deal, dad.  Thank you for giving me my freedom to choose.”