Category Archives: Short Story

Lisa and Tom, a short story

by   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara

The healer’s hut appeared at the edge of the woods where it had stood since she built it when still a young woman. She had walked steadfast with her guides, despite seeing her mother beaten, dragged away in chains, condemned to burn at the stake by the vicar and the entire congregation. She had never forgotten both, the terror and horror of those times when a new priest had been appointed, a “witch hunter” who declared open warfare on all the women whom he fancied were opposing him whenever they performed any kind of healing on a member of his congregation. Lisa spent much time then in the wooden jail that had no heat, one small hole to look out of, a slot under a door that was always nailed shut, to pass sustenance if and when those in charge of the “house” remembered, or cared. Thanks to superstition, Lisa was never molested by the men who periodically broke down the door of the dungeon and dragged her out for more “questioning” and serious threats. Thinking that her life was forfeit in any case, Lisa did not respond to the questioning, the intimidation and the whippings. All they heard were moans and sometimes cries.

Then, it all changed. There was a King again and the rebels were defeated and mostly slaughtered. The vicar was publicly hanged when it was discovered he did not hold a proper license. All the healers were set free to fend for themselves at that time. So Lisa went back where she had been raised. Her mother’s house had been ransacked, then burned down. With the help of a neighbour who limped badly from a war injury and needed her services, she built herself a comfortable hut. When it was done to her satisfaction, just before she moved anything in from the near-by tent the neighbour had loaned her, she knelt reverently and remembered her mother’s love an dedication in a long prayer of thanksgiving. Then, in the presence of her guides and the friendly neighbour as her sole human witness, she vowed to give her life to service of the village, yes, the same people who ten years earlier had tortured her mother to death and kept her in a dungeon for close to ten years.

Lisa’s method to deal with the past was to plant lavender around the hut and the path leading to the meadow.

Old Cruickshanks, the friendly neighbour was long dead now. The old white-haired man walking so steadily and deliberately towards Lisa’s hut was none other than his eldest son, Tom. Tom had always “had a feeling” for Lisa, not surprisingly for in her youth she was a lovely girl, something that aroused even more jealousy among the females of the village. But of course, Tom’s love was not just for her beauty; he loved her. He knew, of course, of her vow, and had talked much about it at the beginning of her new life at the edge of the woods. Many a time he’d had opportunity after he drove her via the farm’s surrey, into the village, now more of a town, so she could minister in whatever capacity.

Youth is callous, and demanding. Tom did not want to be, but he had needs. Lisa was well acquainted with those needs even though she remained steadfastly a virgin.

“We could be married, Lisa, there is nothing in God’s law or the King’s law that prevails against it, only your choice. Is that not so?”

She would pull away from him a bit then, bringing her hands demurely to her lap, picking at a button on her light blue coat. “I’m sorry to hurt you Tom. You are a kind, decent, caring man which any woman would be honoured to have, but you see, marriage is not for me. I am truly sorry, but I cannot, ever, break my vow. My gift is dependent upon the vow of chastity, you must understand. I’m not being difficult, and I am very aware that I owe you so much for all that you have done for me over the years, but I can only reciprocate with as much care and kindness as I know how. I have no such love for you, Tom as you have for me. When I made my vow, lo those many years past, the desire for connubial bliss and a family of my own was taken from me. When you look upon me as a woman, you are looking at nothing more than a shell. Do not be distracted by this…” and she pointed to herself as they trotted along. Tom hid his tears as best he could, not wanting to add more injury to a pain-filled episode.

So it went through the years. Tom stopped importuning Lisa and made a vow of his own: he too would never marry. The farm would go to his nephew with a legal stipulation that his brother and his wife could live out their days on the farm, if they so chose. Tom was surprised how his choice gradually made his heart so much lighter. The years passed by fast then. He and Lisa grew older and white haired, and anyone not familiar with their story would have naturally assumed they were brother and sister, so much alike they were in being soft spoken and kind to all.

“I am getting older, Tom, and my young days were not easy. This body is hampered greatly by what was done to it. Then there’s the dampness too. But mostly, mostly, my friend, I am very tired these days. There is a powerful pull in my heart, whether from God or some other beings whom I once called my guides, but I am being called home, Tom. I needed to tell you so you would not be devastated when it happens.”

She had stopped talking that day and had turned to look over the small meadow to the north. Then she had turned her face to the cloudy skies and he saw there the deep grey distant look in her eyes. He knew she was seeing something he could never see. Something that was hers alone. Then she had started crying. That was such a rare event in Lisa’s life he was taken completely unawares, not knowing what to do. He did not want to violate any boundary between them by touching her or holding her, but he wanted her to know he was trying to share her sorrow. Then suddenly he just knew. “I understand” was all he said, or needed to say, and the tears stopped as suddenly as they had come. Lisa smiled.

As he neared the hut, now a bit more of a cottage, he smelled the crushed lavender. He stopped at the door, waited a couple of minutes, then turned around back to the farm for the wagon and a shovel.

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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 Difference Between Men and Women


[thoughts from    ~burning woman~    by Sha’Tara]

Finally, the answer to one of the most vexing questions of all time is here.  What is the real difference between men and women?

To answer that, I need to illustrate with a micro short story that goes like this:

It’s a sultry afternoon in the City.  The bar is air-conditioned cool, the lights are low and it being only 3:30 of a Friday afternoon, very few patrons are within.  In fact there are only a half dozen or so taking up some 4 tables.

At the bar, all by herself, sits a young and very pretty woman sipping on a martini.  She seems to be putting all of her energy in tasting and enjoying her drink.  She smiles, absorbed in her own world.

The street door opens and a middle aged man in suit and tie, of average height, slighly balding and packing just a bit of a paunch, walks in, slows down and looks over the situation.  Looking at the man I’d say he’s an insurance salesman, or a lawyer who has decided to quit work for the day and get an early start on the weekend.  It’s Labour Day weekend after all and he probably wondered all day why he bothered to go to work at all.

Predictably he sees the short-skirted, long haired brunette at the bar and predictably he walks up to her and sits on the adjacent stool.  Just as predictably, he says, “That martini looks done.  Can I buy you a drink?”

The girl slowly turns her head to him and presents him with an enigmatic smile, taking plenty of time to reply,  “Thank you, no.  I buy my own drinks.”

Now before we get into what sort of comeback he’d have to that, let’s stop the action here and consider the drama in the making.  What is happening here?  An age-old situation, that’s what:  man accosting woman.   Woman responding.

This is where we realize the difference between men and women.  The man approaches the woman and makes his overtures.  He has no idea what the woman is thinking, or what she wants.  Would it matter to him?  Not in the least.  What matters is what he wants, and what he is thinking and in a properly working universe, she’d be acquiescing.  Doesn’t the length of her skirt prove it?

But we don’t live in a properly working universe.  Men and women prove that.  The youngish woman, though seemingly innocent, knows from the moment the man walks towards her, what he wants, and what he is thinking.  And now it becomes a game in which, barring superior force and violence, she is the master player because of this difference: a woman knows what a man wants; a man has no idea what a woman wants so must assume, and conclude, that she wants what he wants.  Apart from lacking any imagination, it’s really a dumb assumption; a worse conclusion.

And that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is why we have misogyny on this planet and why the mental gap between the sexes can never be closed.

Oh, History! My Life and my Bane!

         [a short story from   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]
    Leo thought himself well read and educated.  He’d mastered history, myths and legends of Earth and at twenty three he was pondering his future.  After so many years at the University however, becoming a professor didn’t have the appeal it once had.  Travel he could afford but everything went too fast.  Here today, there tomorrow and nothing in-between.
His doorbell rang.  He ignored it and it continued until he was forced to answer.
“Yes?  Who is it?” he called through the speaker phone.
“An old friend passing through.  Have time for me?”
“Hm, and who would be this old friend, if I may ask?  I don’t open my door to strangers, especially those who claim old acquaintance.”
“I am Thero.  You know me from your lucid dreams, and visions, yes?”
Leo rubbed his forehead, then tapped his left hand on the door to ensure he was awake.
“This isn’t possible.  Thero is a figment of my imagination…”
“More than that, Leo, much more.  Will you let me in?”
Leo waited a few seconds and opened the door.  What he saw shocked him to put it mildly: it was Thero, the very same character he’d come to know in some dreams and vision, the one he credited for giving him direction on his historical research.
“Come in… um, Thero; please come in.  I apologize for my reluctance but I still can’t believe it can possibly be you.  You… you’re a dream character!”
“Yes well, you got the “character” part right anyhow.  Shake?”  He proffered his hand and Leo shook it.
“OK, fine.  I’ll allow for the moment that you look and sound like the Thero I imagined.  Do you drink?  I mean, alcohol?”
“Oh yes!  I could use a glass of Chardonnay.”
“You also knew that’s my favourite wine and I always have some in the house, right?”
“But of course.” answered Thero while Leo got the wine from the fridge and dusted two tall glasses never used since he’d moved to the tiny house which his uncle Doug rented him after Doug’s wife took him to the cleaners and left to marry her masseur.  Leo poured and filled both glasses, handing one to Thero.
“Now some serious talk.  First, how did you know about my imaginary “teacher” Thero, and what he looked like?”
“Because I am he,” said Thero matter-of-factly, and smiled broadly.
“Oh cut the crap, and cut to the chase.  I know you’re an impostor, so what do you want with me?”
“Look Leo, if you’re absolutely certain I’m an impostor, shouldn’t you be doing something like calling the police, or at the very least, throwing me out?”
“Granted, I’m ambivalent about it.  Since I see no harm in playing this game, what is it you want?”
“As Thero you accept me as a Teacher, so let’s just say I’m here to further your education on the history of your people and your planet.  Can you spare me some time to do that?”
“You know I could never resist a challenge when it comes to history…”
“Stop.  You said, and I quote: ‘You know’ implying that you believe and accept I am your ‘imaginary’ Teacher Thero, is that not so?”
Leo stopped to ponder the question for a stretched moment then shrugged.  “I’ll concede that you are Thero so we can carry on with this conversation.  Is the wine to your satisfaction, Teacher?”
“That it is.  A very good light wine.  Now then, since this isn’t being done in a dream, may I suggest you equip yourself with some sort of recording device?  Can your cell phone record our conversation?”
“I’ve got it on now.  I’m ready.”
“Good.  If you allow me leeway and don’t interrupt too much this should not take more than a few hours.  I would prefer the dream method but I wanted this on the record, so to speak.  Now then, let’s start with some remarks about the general social condition of your people.
There are things you do, as a species, that belie your claim to humanity; further, that put in question your claim to be an intelligent species.  Some, like your exploitation and wars are obvious.  Others, like your insistence on wearing clothes when they are not needed, expensive, cumbersome, ridiculous, sweaty and stinky, harbouring diseases, among other things, say much about you as a society.  Already from these few comments you should detect distrust, greed, fear, judgment and a massive dose of control over others.
“The need to control is a form of psychopathy that leads to misogyny and racism, which in turn leads to violence of the absolute worse kind.  Bottom line, despite all your glowing mission statements which you dub constitutions, you remain pathetically fearful and hate-filled and prone to commit mass murder over any imagined slight.  You exploit from raw greed and oppress in order to gain power over others.  You want to be rulers.  You want to be gods in your own right and if you cannot do it as individuals then you come together in, or form, groups which you use to force your ways upon others.  These power collectives are as old as your particular species.  They began as families, then tribes, then collections of tribes which became nations and collections of nations which became empires.
“The goal of any empire is simple enough: to have absolute control over its sphere of influence, usually the known world.  If your species was to be allowed space travel it would continue this pattern, spreading out to establish even more expansive, oppressive, war-mongering empires.  Woe to any other sentient species that found itself in the way of expanding Earthian hegemony.  Forced conquest would be endless.  Entire worlds would be destroyed.  All life encountered would automatically be deemed less than human and subject to exploitation, enslavement and/or destruction to make way for new Earthian civilizations.  Only an already established, violent and war-mongering civilization on par or militarily superior to Earthian conquerors could hope to stop the onslaught.  This would result in bringing the conflict to the Earthians’ home planet, resulting in its enslavement or complete destruction through the inevitable use of nuclear arms.
“That is how it is.  We of the galactic races know this pattern having encountered it many times and having had to either destroy them in their advances, subdue them, or civilize them and make them a part of the greater galactic family of sentients.  This is history for another time.  I don’t want to wander too far from the point of this teaching.
“My dear Leo, despite your many degrees in historical and associated knowledge, much of which is due to our subtle input, you remain abysmally ignorant about what makes your particular species act the way it does.  When you know more about us you will be able to compare and see how much of what you call your civilization is comparable to an insane asylum crammed with billions of crazies desperately feeding upon whatever the asylum is made of and on each other.  You will see that the more sociopathic of your species are those generally entrusted to rule the asylum.  Better to have a crazy ruler than none at all is how you put it and since you’re all more or less certifiable, why would you think otherwise?  You fear and hate because you distrust one-another.  You can never have true peace and safety for the same reasons.  Earth, Leo, is hell.  Now to explain.
“It isn’t just you, as a species, that makes this world a hell.  It is the forces that inhabit and control it.  One of your most “cherished” beliefs, apart from believing in your fairy-tale gods, is that your world keeps itself in balance due to an “evolved” concept called predation, or natural selection: the survival of the fittest.  You can’t even begin to imagine a world where such an insane psychopathic system could not exist.  You accept the horror and terror you observe in your “nature” to justify your own sick need to express violence against your world and the physically, militarily or financially weaker members of your own society.  You “hunt” and “fish” for pleasure; for something to brag about when it’s nothing but abysmal shame on your claim to being human and humane beings.  You go to war, commit genocide, enslave your own children, rape your own women, while comparing yourselves to the ruling members of a pride or pack of predators.  Do you not, in your killing games and violent sports extol and emulate the qualities of your greatest predators?
“Have I made a point, so far, Leo?”
“Yes Teacher, you have.  When you put it that way, it makes me feel pretty small and hopeless.”
“That was my intent.  The first thing is to crush the ego; the pride.  Now to continue.  ‘Must we’ I hear you thinking.  Yes we must.  You need to understand the why of things or you can never, ever, hope to change any of it, including and especially, yourself.
“Mythical fact: your world is a “re-manufactured” entity.  It has changed hands many times and gone through several transformations.  The biblical book of Genesis points to at least two of those transformations.  I’ll let you figure those out for yourself.  Earth’s owners, the ones you’ve called “gods,” “divinities,” “God” or “alien visitors,” have come and gone from here over the eons, most of that barely suspected even by your most astute observers.  They knew that “something happened here” but they could never know what because they lacked the broader perspective of time and space.   Currently some of your observers and more spiritual people sense that nothing is as advertised; that “something is going on here” and speculations on what that is run wild on your Internet; in your books, magazines, movies or news and entertainment media.  It’s always been that way: some always suspect but no one ever knows for a fact.  Your religious leaders and many of your scientists hate being without facts so they’ve been manufacturing their own “facts” to suit their various theories, or to establish themselves within the status quo.  This also is suspected and talked about, but again: no facts.
“How does one maintain absolute power?  By dissembling.  This is the basis for all successful political movements.  Think of this: “As below, so above.”  We use it this way to explain how to understand the political aspects of the universe.  If you observe “it” on earth, it is safe to project “it” throughout the entire universe.  It could not work “here” if it wasn’t the modus operandi every known universal “where” you can imagine.  Earth may be a hell hole but it isn’t the only one.  There are even worse ones “out there” if you can imagine.  By the same token, the good you can observe on earth, percentage-wise, is the good you could observe in the whole universe… percentage-wise.  This to force you to think universally now.  Project your mind to the ends of the universe, Leo.  Time for some serious lateral thinking.
“What I’ve been trying to point out to you is that the concept of “facts” was invented to force reasoning creatures into strict vertical thinking patterns so they would increasingly squeeze their minds into tighter and tighter areas to the point where they could no longer go out on a limb in their thinking.  They would always need data, or facts, to justify their line of inquiry.  They would learn to never trust their intuition or imagination.
“Nothing could be more deadly to the historian.  History is not based on facts but on imagination and speculation.  Ultimately what constitutes your current history is what the consensus has declared to be the truth. That consensual agreement is then taught to children trapped in “universal” education.  Call it what it is: brainwash.  The whole point is to have an entire reasoning species conditioned to accept “things as they are” and not feel the need to question it.
“Earth is one of trillions of worlds under the domination of certain forces in control of the universe.  These forces came here long before this solar system existed.  They systematically conquered and established control over most of the universe.  Wars of conquest, wins and losses, go on to this day.  Every part of the universe, every conquered galaxy exists in endless conflict.  Not all of it is military, in fact very little is.  The wars are fought in what we call the spirit realm, which extends down into the minds of sentients and their sentient worlds.  If “evil” wins then the world, or galaxy (or parts thereof) become subject to the rules of such evil.  The conquering, ruling forces are pathocratic and their subject servants (basically all of your rulers, whether you like to hear it or not) are sociopathic by conditioning.
“Now do you understand what you are up against when you study your history?  You’re up against millennia of lies and fabrications.  You’re up against endless “false flag” operations that have lead to horrors uncounted; to wars, enslavement and genocide.  The whole point isn’t to gain control of this or that part of a world: of a nation or a people.  The point is to foment violence.  Any method is good but the one that creates the most pain and horror is always the best.  I can assert that in your pre-historical (or pre-hysterical) past your world knew nothing of predation.  In those times it was ruled by a benevolent, subsequently demonized, female entity called “Lucifer” – she who rebelled against the evil of those “Lords” who conquered her worlds and enslaved her and her people.  The one who was “cast to the earth” along with a third of the contingent of “angels” or servants of the “Lords” who had learned from her and fallen in love with her people.  Of course the story of Lucifer had to be recast to make the “god” look good and her the demonic rebel.  So it was, so it is, so it will be, Leo, until some greater force can destroy the hegemony of those who call themselves the “Time Lords.”
“I’ve heard you speak of these “Time Lords” before but my mind refuses to accept that such a system exists; that such evil entities conquered and control most of the universe.  It makes no sense to me.  Why, if they are so powerful, do they hide themselves in the so-called spirit realm?  Why can’t they be seen?”
“You’ve studied the myths, yet you ask such childish questions, Leo?  Really!  Think laterally, I tell you.  Free your mind, Leo.  Imagine encountering an actual Time Lord or a close minion while you are in the flesh.  Imagine looking one in the eyes.  Do you see what would happen?”
“Thinking freely here… I would go blind.  My flesh would burn up and my body shrivel and become ash.”
“Exactly.  ‘No one can see God and live’ remember that?  The Bible is more than myth.  It isn’t fact but it is history.”
“What must I do now then?  Go teach lies to make a living?  Quit all of it and… what?”
“It’s all lies Leo.  You can only teach lies.  You can only know lies.  There are good lies and bad lies.  Go teach the good ones and continue to search for “the truth” and eventually it will begin to reveal itself to you like a lover unveiling and disrobing herself for you.  When that happens though, you will no longer be able to teach but you won’t care, you’ll have a treasure of greater value than anything the earth or its history can give you.”
“Is “the truth” then that greater power that can defeat the Time Lords, Teacher?”
Thero smiled and replied:  “I sense that I haven’t wasted my time with you Leo.  Keep thinking.  Keep imagining.  Keep living.”  Thero got up and turned towards the exit.  Leo, seeing his time was up, got up from his chair also and escorted the Teacher to the door.
“See you again, Thero?”
The Teacher turned,  smiled broadly and replied enigmayically: “Perhaps.”  Then he was gone.
Leo woke up with a start when the door bell rang.  As he got up to answer he noticed his phone was set to “Record.”


“For our struggle isn’t against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  (Ephesians 6:12, the Bible, New Testament)

 

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

Benny

[a short story, by Sha’Tara]

Benny sat by the river that flowed past the house, just beyond the back yard.  He was tossing small twigs in the water, watching them float away and he was trying to remember so he’d know who he was.  

His memories were all a jumble in his head and they usually frightened him.  He thought he remembered a couple, a man and a woman who were very loud and made him scream.  He remembered hurting and feeling guilty for that.  Then the woman would hurt him more but he never understood why.  He remembered being cold, dirty and hungry.

One day when he was alone in the yard and crying, hurting and hungry, a nice smelling woman came to him and picked him up.  She took him away from the bad people and he never saw them again.  Then an old man came to see him where he played with other children.  The old man took him away from there to a house that had trees around it, green grass, and at the back of the house, water flowed.  The old man would hold his hand and let him lean over the water.  Leaves and twigs floated on the water and down below the rocks shimmered and danced, changing colours.

Benny liked it with the old man.  He grew up and the old man said he was his maternal grandfather.  He explained about his daughter, who was Benny’s mother, how she was addicted to drugs and drank and how she liked running around with bad men.  One of those men was his father.  He explained that it was that man who had hurt him and that he was in prison.  Benny tried to understand all that when he got older but he liked the water better.

The old man, his grandfather whom he learned to call “granpa” taught him about the water.  “It’s called a river” he’d say, “it is very pretty but it is also very dangerous.  Even for a good swimmer, it’s a fast running stream and a person can easily drown in it, do you understand that?”

Benny had learned when only a baby to agree, no matter what was asked; to do what he was told or there would be consequences.  “I understand granpa,” he dutifully replied. 

But the water was more alive than anything else had ever been for Benny.  It would sing to him in a language he could understand.  It didn’t scare him like people did, or make terrible noises like street traffic.  It never hurt him and it was even more gentle than granpa.  If he felt thirsty, there was a log that dropped down into the water.  He could carefully walk down to the water, then scoop the cold water into his mouth.  It was so easy and simple, he’d laugh whenever he did this.

There were very large trees that grew by the river’s banks that bent their heavy, luxuriant tops over the water and swayed in the wind.  During the warm seasons the leaves would come, then slowly at first, when still green, they would fall in the water and speed away.  Benny liked looking up into the green canopies waiting for a leaf to get tired of hanging on to its branch, let go, and flutter down to the water to be swept away.  Later, as the leaves changed from green to brown, yellow or even red and green, more and more of them would fall away from the branches and float down to the water to also be swept away.  If a strong wind came up there would be cascades of leaves falling, covering the ground and the top of the water.  That thrilled Benny as he stood under the falling leaves with outstretched hands. 

Some days when he was really happy, Benny imagined himself a leaf floating down to the water and being swept away.  He knew granpa meant well to warn him about the water but if the leaves weren’t afraid, why should he?  He though of asking granpa, but that would be like disobeying and Benny remembered what that meant.  He felt the deep fear of the pain he had been given when disobeying the man and woman who were his parents.  If he questioned granpa, he knew he would be beaten and locked up and made to go cold and hungry.  I mustn’t say anything, but if I float away then no one will hurt me.

A leaf fluttered down noisily, landing for a moment at Benny’s foot then sliding down into the water to spin away.  Benny followed the leaf and the river took him away.