Archive for the ‘horror’ Category

Ridley Scott knows what he’s doing. He knows damn-well.

The 2012 Alien prequel known as Prometheus, while being a film of grand visuals and ideas, was much maligned by many xeno fans due to the lack of the iconic monster first introduced in 1979. Was it an Alien movie or wasn’t it? Though I knew it was well before seeing it, that question still entered my mind on more than one occasion while viewing it. Not enough creatures, not enough deep space claustrophobia, not enough psychological horror, not enough…well, ALIEN.

Sir Scott has learned from those mistakes and brought back the terrifying face rapist in all its slimy glory. There’s no question – COVENANT is a full on Alien movie, and, at a few frightening points, is a bright highlight of the whole franchise. I read a quote from Scott where he says “okay, you wanted aliens? All right. I’ll give them to you.” Give them to us he does, in a way that would make Giger proud, in a bloody, disgusting (my wife had to look away many times to keep from vomiting), and, yes, scary way.

It didn’t actually scare me (I’ve seen these films since I was four years old), but the pacing and structure of the first two acts truly did fill me with dreadful anticipation. You’re going to be gripping your arm rests, waiting with a racing heart to find out what happens next.

One thing I liked about it was the music. The new score was foreboding and excellent, don’t get me wrong, but the real treat (and there are MANY treats in this movie) was hearing Jerry Goldsmiths score from the 1979 original. Those haunting symphonies haven’t been in a motion picture since 1986, and they will put a smile on any Alien lover’s face that will remain for hours after watching the movie. And that’s just one example of why this film is so excellent. Just like Star Wars, Trek, Godzilla, and Marvel movies, retro is IN. everyone’s bringing back the movies of the 80s and revamping them. Usually it ends up being a rehash of sorts, and seems to indicate that Hollywood has run out of ideas, but with Covenant, the nostalgia is extremely effective. It honors the other films in the franchise, and plays out like an Alien greatest hits collection. The claustrophobia and slow pacing of the original, the intense action of the second one, the existential nihilism of the third, and the beautiful body horror of the fourth – all these elements are combined and hybridized in Covenant like one of David’s unholy mutations. Speaking of David, he and his doppelganger, Walter, are the best parts of the film where characterization is concerned. The dialogue and nuances between them is fascinating to watch, and the parts are played very well by Fassbender. All the acting in the film is great, even if the characters aren’t very memorable. But I didnt see it for the people. And neither will you. It’s all about that xeno, baby. These Aliens are wicked. They move faster, look sleeker, and do more damage than they’ve ever done before. The NEOMORPHS, an early breed in the xeno evolution, are both beautiful and sickening. They enter the body through spores, then burst out from either a back or a neck. These violent eruptions alone make Covenant one of the bloodiest movies I have ever seen. The creatures start out almost “cute”, but quickly mature into living nightmares. With white skin, spiked backs, and human like limbs, they look like a ghastly combination of Giger’s scariest paintings and the Newborn from Alien: Resurrection. There’s one shot in particular where a Neomorph stares into the face of David as he tries to communicate with it. These short few seconds are the epitome of cinematic horror. You actually FEEL like the monster is looking at YOU, and it really is quite a thrilling feeling…

But the movie’s crowning achievement is the traditional chest bursting scene. Though it doesn’t shock us nearly as much as the original did (we are probably all secretly a little sick of it) it still packs quite a punch. There’s no way to ever recapture that particular moment of terror from the first film, but the Alien birthing scene in Covenant is still better than all the chest burster sequences of the other 6 entries. And, despite being visceral and completely over the top, the moment somehow elicits a feeling of beauty and even tenderness, which is something I’ve never felt while watching a horror movie. You’ll just have to watch the scene for yourself to know what I’m talking about. 

Oram: what do you believe in, David?

David (smiling): Creation.

With a subplot focusing on androids retelling the tale of Satan’s rebellion (David is Lucifer, Walter is Adam, the Xenomorphs are the demons, Earth and the xeno home world are both symbols of paradise, and humans and Space Jockeys are “God”), a well paced and well structured screenplay, good acting, fantastic special effects (too many CGI aliens though, as it is with monsters in EVERYTHING nowadays), and horror that makes the blood run cold, Alien: Covenant fixes all of the problems of Prometheus, explains the origin of the Xenomorph, and stands as the third best entry in the franchise, behind Alien and Aliens by only a little bit. This is a better “throwback” movie than the new Star Wars episodes, the American Godzilla, Jurassic World, and all of the superhero movies combined. Long live nostalgia, and long live the facehugger. 

The terrified scientist wanted to speak, wanted to move, wanted to do SOMETHING, but he was utterly paralyzed. He didn’t know if it was due either to sheer terror or to Patient Y’s incredible mind powers, but it didn’t matter. He was alone with the boy, and he knew his life was about to end.

“Didn’t you hear me, Mora?” Asked the boy with a wicked smile. “I want to go outside.”

“How…how…” 

Oh, so you can talk. That’s good. That’s Excellent. Now you can tell those guards to back off.”

On cue, the door behind Dr. Mora began to resound with the frantic pounding of fists upon its glass. There were a dozen men outside, 3 of whom were armed with the electro-magnetic guns, but they couldn’t get in – the passcode wouldn’t open the door no matter how many times they typed it in. 

“I can kill them all, doctor,” Patient Y said dryly. “But I’d rather not. All I want is to go outside.”

“You…” choked Mora. “You…you…”

“Spit it out, Mora!”

Patient Y’s creator, his “father”, knew that Y could have easily made short work of the entire facility by now, but he was dumbfounded as to why the boy had not. Mora was being kept alive for some reason, and though it didn’t totally allay his fears, it at least gave him the courage to speak, though falteringly, to his creation.

“You want to leave the facility? Where will you go?”

Y laughed. “I didn’t say I wanted to leave, my Dear doctor. I only said I wanted to go outside for a while. You know, soak up the sun a bit. Then I’ll come back and be a good little guinea pig. But you…you’re gonna be with me every step of the way, and I need to know I can trust you.”

Mora began to open his mouth as tears cascaded down his face, but he once again couldn’t make any words leave his throat.

“Something you wanna say, doctor?”

“Can’t…cant you just read my thoughts? You’ll know you can trust me then. I’ll cooperate, I promise.”

Patient Y cocked his still bleeding head to the side, not even bothering to wipe the red liquid from his eyes. 

“Yes…yes, I do believe I can, doctor.”

The guards continued to pound on the door.

“Make them leave, Mora.”

Dr. Mora pulled the radio from his pocket and looked at the guards as he began to speak into it. 

“Everybody, out. Don’t follow us. It’s…it’s under control. We…”

“Wait,” said the Patient. “First, we have to take care of those guns. Those are the last three in the building, right? Last ones in the world?”

Mora nodded his head in defeat and began speaking again.

“Get rid of those guns.”

“No,” shot Y sharply. “I have something else in mind.”

“Don’t hurt them, Y, please…”

“Don’t call me that. Don’t ever call me that again. You call me, Masuta, do you understand?”

The Japanese word for “master”. Mora shuddered and looked back at the guards, only to witness a horrific event. The three armed guards pressed the barrels of their weapons under their own chins and fired simultaneously. The guns, the only three weapons on the planet that could be used to stop the Patient, were now spent and useless. Mora and the other guards realized this…and they all screamed.

“Run!” The scientist shouted into his radio.

Most of them had already taken off before Mora even had the chance to shout. Now, the man was alone with his creation, most likely soon to be the only man left in the whole facility. 

“Damn,” laughed Patient Y, “those guns must be expensive. Only had five of ’em in this whole place, huh?”

“You said you wouldn’t hurt them, Y…”

“What did you say?” Growled the Patient in an inhuman, demonic sounding voice. “What did you call me?”

Mora was frozen in place once again. The intimidation, the power, the sheer evil of this boy – it was all too much to handle. 

“Say it. Say my new name.”

“M…M…Masuta.”

“That’s right. And I didn’t hurt them. They killed themselves. Either way, most of them are still alive. I don’t want to kill, doctor. I really don’t. But you gave me the power. And all life will do whatever it takes to protect itself. Now…let’s go outside.”

The door opened, making an entrance into the world for its possible destroyer. 

Several minutes later, Mora and his patient had made their way outside the facility. There had been no one in or around the building. Everyone knew that Y was now unstoppable. Mora began to think hopeful thoughts about the military, about atomic weapons, but he was trying as hard as possible to keep his mind closed to Patient Y. He failed.

“An A-bomb?” Laughed the Patient. “Really? You hope an entire city gets destroyed just to wipe me out? That’s murder, sir.”

“You’re a murderer!” Said Mora, surprised by his own courage. 

Patient Y put his face inches away from the doctor and smiled widely.

“You’re in no position to say anything about morality, Mora. Now, shut up and let me enjoy this weather.”

A light breeze passed over them as Y looked up at the blue sky. Birds singing. Bright sunlight. 

The perfect day for the end of the world.

“Okay,” sighed Patient Y. “That’s enough for today. Let’s go back inside.”

Mora was confused. 

“What was the point of all this?” He asked.

“I told you,” answered Y, “I just wanted to go outside for a while. And now, I’m going back inside. I’m a man of my word. Except…”

“What?”

“I’m done with the whole ‘guinea pig’ thing, on second thought.”

Everything went black for Dr. Mora.
………….………………………………………….:….
“Dr. Masuta? It’s been three weeks since the escape, and Patient Y still hasn’t shown any special brain activity.”

Masuta, a teenager with no scalp, looked up from his desk at the man who addressed him.

“Yes, I know,” said Masuta with (what sounded like) a heavy heart. “Maybe the outside world was just too much for him. The sights, sounds, smells…all that stimuli may have shut down his special brain functions after nearly two decades spent in a room.”

“It certainly looks that way,” said the other scientist. “It’s very unfortunate. Everything’s unfortunate. The escape, the deaths of the guards who caught him…Doctor Mora…”

“From what I’m told, he was a good man.”

“He was a visionary, Dr. Masuta. He started the whole project. But now, it looks as though it’s time for termination. It’s too bad…you’ve been excellent as our new head of research. I’m sorry you didn’t have more to work with…Patient Y was really something.”

“And you’re sure he’s not anymore?” Asked Masuta with a raised eyebrow. “I mean, has the helmet registered anything extraordinary? Even a flicker?”

The other scientist shook his head.

“Damn. Well, what about his behavior?”

“Still volatile. All he does is scream and tell us that he’s not who we think he is.”

Masuta bore an expression of disappointment and curiosity upon his face…well, at least upon the face that he wore…the one everyone else could see…the clean cut, well manicured face of an academic in his 50s…not his TRUE face. 

“Does he still say he’s really Dr. Mora?”

“Yes. And we don’t know why. All that energy built up in his neural tissue for so long seems to have finally broken him. Delusional, psychotic…he really did hold promise at one time. You should have seen it.”

Dr. Masuta smiled.

“So,” continued the other man, “what are your orders?”

“Termination, of course. Then, start work on another.”

“What are we gonna call this one,” chuckled the man. “Patient Z?”

“No, no, no,” laughed Masuta. “We’ll give this one an actual name…and we’re going to treat her like a person, not an experiment.”

The other scientist frowned in confusion.

“Her? You want it to be female?”

“Is that a problem?”

“No, no, of course not. You’re the boss. I mean, I know the gender doesn’t really make a difference for the end result of this project…but can I ask why? Just out of curiosity?”

Dr. Masuta stood up and gestured towards the door with his arm. 

“Get started,” he said.

“Yes, sir.”

A few seconds later, Dr. Masuta, now alone in the control room, typed a few keys into his computer and pulled up an image on his screen. A hospital bed. A dreary cell. Walls covered with intricate sketches and formulas. And amidst all of this, a man running around in circles with a helmet on his head. A man who looked for all the world like Patient Y…to most people. Normal minds…feeble minds saw what they expected to see. 

But not Masuta. He saw Dr. Mora in that cell. 

“Help!” Screamed the captive scientist. “I’m not Patient Y! I’m not Patient Y! It’s Masuta! He’s the one! Please! I’m Dr. Mora! PLEEEEEAAAASSSSEEEE!!!!!!!”


What’s truly strange is the boy’s demeanor. He is quiet, tranquil, and courteous to the nurses. The scientists always figured it was an act, as they were sure the subject harbored intense resentment over his very existence, but the readings from the helmet showed otherwise. Though they couldn’t exactly read his thoughts, they could determine with high accuracy the patient’s emotions through his brain activity, and those emotions seemed unwaveringly positive. 

“I sure as hell wouldn’t be happy,” Dr. Grayson said one day in the control room. “Living like a rat in a cage from birth…”

“Are you feeling empathy for the subject, Leonard?” Asked Dr. Mora, chief engineer of the project. “Don’t forget: we must always remain completely detached. It’s the only way to achieve real scientific progress.”

The scientist paused for a moment before continuing.

“And don’t forget…that THING isn’t even human.”

The two scientists watched the camera feed of the room and measured the boy’s brain activity for the next several hours, hardly saying a word after Mora’s brief diatribe. It was now 8 p.m., and it was time for the weekly interview. 

Dr. Mora typed in the code to unlock the heavy titanium door and stepped within. Two armed guards accompanied him, but their guns didn’t contain bullets. Instead, they each contained a highly charged round of electro-magnetic energy set to a specific frequency. This energy was specially formulated to knock out the patient and render even his unconscious mind virtually stagnant. If used on anyone other than Patient Y, however, it would literally boil their brain matter. It was a wonder of modern technology, a true scientific breakthrough rivaling that of the boy himself…but it had a severe limitation. Only one charge could be kept in each gun, meaning that each officer had one shot and one shot only if something went wrong. It couldn’t be recharged either – the force of the energy completely annihilated the gun during each of the tests. Thankfully though, the members of this dark project had never had to use the weapons. Patient Y was always exceedingly cooperative.

The door slammed shut with a robotic thud behind the three men as Dr. Mora walked towards his creation.

“Hello, Patient Y.”

The boy looked up at the scientist, straining his neck as always due to the immense weight of the helmet.

“Hello, Dr. Mora,” he said in a timid, soothing voice. “How are you today?”

Mora chuckled.

“Oh, I’m fine, I’m fine, dear boy. The real issue at hand is how you are doing.”

“I’m wonderful,” the boy began mechanically, “just wonderful. The nurses are taking excellent care of me.”

“How are your studies progressing?”

“Excellently. I learned about mitotic cell rounding today. Quite fascinating.”

Dr. Mora, as well as all the other scientists on the project, were taken aback every single day by the modified teen. He never asked for friends, never asked for company of any kind, never asked about his parents, never questioned authority, and never asked to leave. Not many people in the facility believed in the human soul – but they couldn’t help but reference that intangible word when describing their creation. They had engineered a human being without a soul…nothing more than pure organics and advanced thought processes. 

“That’s great, Y,” said Mora after a brief moment of pondering. “So…no problems at all? Of any kind?”

The boy looked down and put his tongue in his cheek. As he did so, Dr. Mora was overcome by the strangest feeling, as if time was standing still and as if the very fabric of creation hinged on the patient’s next words. 

The boy looked up after what felt like an eternity. 

“I just wish I didn’t have to wear this helmet,” he said.

The guards clenched their weapons tightly as the doctor hesitated before replying:

“My dear boy…why? You’ve never complained about it before. You – ”

“Sir…” one of the guards said weakly.

“Not now,” shot Dr. Mora. “Now, Patient Y…”

“Sir…I can’t move.”

The color left Dr. Mora’s face as he turned to look at the guards. They stood there, still as marble statues, their faces contorted in fear. As Mora approached them though, it seemed as if the paralysis was temporary, as they both began to slowly lift up their weapons. Dr. Mora began to sigh in relief, but before he could even make a sound, the men pointed the guns at each other and fired. They fell to the ground screaming as all their brain processes began to shut down. Blood leaked from their eyes, and…

Oh, Dr. Mora?” said a sing song voice behind him. The doctor turned around, his heart threatening to explode from his chest in fear, and saw his abomination standing there…without his helmet. Blood oozed down the boy’s face, and Mora soon noticed why – the helmet lay on the ground, with the Patient’s scalp still attached to it. 

“W-w-w…”

“So,” said the boy, cutting off Mora’s frightful stutters, “I feel like going outside today.”


His brain didn’t work right – well, it’s actually more fit to say that it worked too right. 

Signals are sent back and forth between our minds and our bodies at a million times per second, precipitated by external stimuli. 

The brain of Patient Y, however, worked at a rate a thousand times stronger than any human in history. He had been this way since birth, and the first few years of his life were spent in a bed with a collection of wires and electrodes attached to his head.

The scientists who engineered him had no choice. Upon birth, his mother’s head literally exploded due to a powerful electro-magnetic pulse emanating from his cerebrum. No one really cared that the prostiture they had used to grow him was dead, but they did care about their own safety. 

The helmet they had constructed, the one built before the organic elements of this experiment had even begun, malfunctioned three days after the boy’s birth. 23 scientists were killed and over half of the facility was demolished – all from the power of the mind.

But they perfected the process, and it’s worked just fine for 17 years. Now, Patient Y is awake most of the time…but he must wear the helmet for the rest of his “life”. 

lol…..lol…..lol…..

This isn’t going to be very long. I’m already sick of reviewing stuff anyway and want to get back to poetry and my books, but I can’t resist reviewing this film. I’m gonna be lazy about it and not be in depth or anything, which is actually kind of more than it deserves lol.

When I say that, I mean that it isn’t a good film compared to other good films. It’s not well thought out. The plot sucks. The actors suck. And, most importantly, it’s not going to be remembered in the same way the original ID4 was remembered. Even though the original wasn’t like an Oscar winner or anything, it was still fun and bombastic (like most movies of the 90s). 

But if you are like Roger Ebert and hated the original, then you’ll wanna stab your eyes out with this one. 

Aliens come back to destroy the world. But instead of multiple mother ships, they come back with…..

ONNNNNNNEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Don’t need to clarify that plot hole. 

Now, at first, I thought their whole “picking up China And dropping it on Europe” was fucking stupid. Like, what’s the point?

But now, I see that the aliens have emotion and actually have resentment towards humankind for the war of 96. Revenge in the most destructive and “fuck you” way possible.

(Or a way to sell movie tickets by “trying” to be original) 

Back to the one ship thing, the aliens are now revealed to be controlled by a queen. She rips off of Aliens and Godzilla.

Heavily.

Now I will list my two main complaints. 

Those badass, slithery, freaking tight looking aliens are back, suits and all. But guess what? 

They’re all CGI. 

I’m sick of movies doing this. Does the population really not realize that practical effects work way way way way better than computerized ones? Or is it the studios’ fault? In one scene, the aliens shoot a bunch of people with their guns as they wade around within some form of creek or something. 

Halo 6!!!!!!!! Yay!!!! Oh….wait….

Why wipe out all of humanity in one fell swoop when you can hunt them down on the ground with laser guns? Right?!?!?!

The other main complaint I have(aside from the script and the acting) is that this film TRIES SO HARD TO BE EXACTLY LIKE THE FIRST INDEPENDENCE DAY. I mean LITERALLY. I felt sort of the same way with FORCE AWAKENS, but at least it didn’t seem contrived. Plot structure, lines, everything. 

Be all that as it may, however…

This movie is FUN

I think they should have taken it more seriously, but they obviously didn’t. If they had, it coulda been a film that would be remembered for decades to come.

But since it wasn’t made seriously, and was made more as a campy throwback to the original, it is actually a very enjoyable film with some great moments and good special effects(practical would have been better though). 

Therefore, I give ID4 Resurgence a 6 out of 10.

But it’s like a 3 if they Actually seriously tried their hardest on it.

I’m a sucker for aliens! Can’t help it! 

Bottom line (hate me if you must) it’s worth watching, but still nothing compared to the original ( much less compared to landmark sci-fi such as “alien”, “Star wars”, and “Star Trek”). 

BRENT SPINER IS FREAKING AWESOME THOUGH 

p.s.

Why are the digital effects not as good as they were in another Emmerich movie titled, “Godzilla” (in name only)? It’s been eighteen years since that one came out, and this one looks shitty compared to it. Video game CGI….I digress. 

Don’t forget to read Chapter One as well, but start here if you want!

From the lush, colorful, moist treetops of the jungle, the flock of grotesque fairies fluttered their wings in unison against the afternoon breeze. As drops of saliva and blood rained down from their bodies, two eagles soared up and ahead of them. The fairies cackled with mischief and flew rapidly in circles around the avians. The birds squawked in confusion as the fairy generated cyclone forced them down to the earth. The fairies howled in amusement and flew out of sight. “Stupid birds! Stupid birds! Hehehe!” They were having fun on this day.

Surprisingly, after my duel with the Snapper zombie and in spite of my confusion over Alpha leaving, I felt good as well. Steer had led me to a creek surrounded by horsetails and buzzing dragonflies after we had walked for an entire night. We bathed in it, becoming absolutely rejuvenated by its magical qualities. According to Steer, it was called the pool of Amoris. The witch who wrote my prophecy composed it on the bank of this very creek, seconds before an Omega drone pierced her heart with a scimitar. As she took her last breath, she fell into the water and became one with it, forever transferring her magical essence into every single molecule.

Sunlight beamed down upon us and caused my wet armor to glisten. That was the only time I can now remember seeing it as beautiful. Throughout most of my journey, I had perceived it as an ugly curse separating me from Happiness and from the rest of the world, despite the fact that it served as my nearly impenetrable protection. This one instance of joy with myself, as well as my ever increasing hope for Happiness, invigorated me. The journey had at last begun.

We walked, talked, and smoked for hours after we had left the creek. We were both taking advantage of these moments we had together, for, as Alpha had said, I had to complete most of the journey on my own. Already missing Alpha, I dreaded the parting that Steer and I would have to eventually face.

“Steer,” I began as I put his pipe back into the cloth sack atop his back, “Why must we go our separate ways? And when? I don’t believe I can finish this without you.”

“I’m sorry, my warrior-friend. It is necessary. For one thing, your shell possesses enchantments that work against the deep, magical traps that Omega has laid out for you within the Jungle. I, on the other hand, do not possess these gifts of yours. Remember the clearing where I got lost? Eventually, the jungle will simply not permit me to go on after a certain point. Only you and the gargoyles in the service of Omega are invulnerable to the hindering curses within the foliage. It is most unfortunate that the gargoyles are not on our side, for they impede the Jungle’s magic even for those who travel with them.”

I frowned in bitter disappointment. “When will that certain point arrive, friend?”

“I know not. I am truly sorry, my brother.”

Joy disappeared, and I wouldn’t experience much of it for quite a while. No longer wishing to carry on with this painful subject, I asked Steer about the undead, and now most fully dead Kappa.

“How did Alpha do that? What was the black magic?”

“You see, Warrior, Alpha knows every single word etched onto the walls – or that were etched onto the walls – of the training field. He came across a spell that could bring the dead back to life, though not fully. Only the evil will within a being could be resurrected by the Omega spell. It also required the sacrifice of blood from two creatures that were not evil – yours and Alpha’s.”

“But how did Alpha get my blood?”

“While you slept, he drew some from your wounds. But with your blood, strength was drawn as well, for you were the one to fight the Kappa. All that there remained to do was to attach the chain of resurrection to the monster turtle’s shell.”

I wondered for the first time if Alpha ever actually slept.

As the sun began to set, we came across a tree with a gigantic hollow within it and rested. Steer snored loudly, which probably would have kept me awake even if my mind wasn’t so full. Thoughts of Alpha, Emanuel, Snapper, and my beloved, beautiful Happiness raced through my mind continually.

Eventually, after hours of thinking, I actually did begin to desire sleep so that Happiness might visit me in my dreams. But my anxiety, as well as Steer’s snoring, kept sleep far away from me no matter how hard I tried. It is absolutely dreadful to lay awake for a full night doing absolutely nothing at all. I would have explored, but the honest fact of the matter is that I was afraid. Feeling shame, confusion, and deep depression, I almost wished that I could be blotted out of existence like acne on the face of God.

When the morning arrived, we headed East. Steer said that we would change direction often so as to avoid the known Omega drone camps, as well as Dragonopolis, the city of the Rhinocydonts. I was relieved, for I was still too frightened and uneasy to want to fight. Thankfully, I could lie to Steer and act like I was ready for any challenge. He could not read minds like Alpha could.

“Why avoid them,” I asked. “We must fight them and show them that there is a new sheriff in town.”

“And what exactly,” replied Steer, “Does that mean?”

I laughed, remembering that Steer and I came from two different worlds.

“You know, Steer…I’m not even sure myself. I just know that it means I am the one to bring about justice, order, and restoration.”

“It sounds like a silly word, friend. Let’s just stick with, ‘Warrior’. Here, let’s stop for a moment and smoke.”

I reached into his pack and felt something else besides the pipe and tobacco. As I pulled out the contents, I discovered two sacks tied together. One of them contained hay for steer, and the other one contained horsemeat for myself. After lighting the pipe and putting it to his lips, I opened up the bag of horsemeat and devoured it ravenously. With all the excitement and confusion, I had completely forgotten to try eating the day before. It felt wonderful to consume the meat without vomiting it up. Strength and joy were mine once again, but only momentarily. Steer was looking at his hay, but not eating it.

“Are you not hungry, Steer?”

“You remember the deal, friend. For every day that you do not eat, I shall abstain from doing so for two days. Or did we decide on three? I can’t remember.”

I began to feel guilt that almost crippled me.

“Steer! It’s alright! You need to eat! I’m sorry that I forgot to yesterday, but let’s just forget about it, ok?”

“No, Warrior. I am a cow of my word.”

I continued to protest and threw down my meat in frustration.

“Steer, if you don’t eat that hay, then not only will I not eat, but I will not help you smoke.”

“As you wish. But you will only be increasing my days without food. I am not backing down from this.”

There was nothing I could do. He smoked and I ate in silence, making sure that I didn’t eat too much so as to conserve the food for rations.

After a few more hours of walking, Steer possessed a concerned look on his face.

“Steer? Are you ok?”

He exhaled a deep sigh. “Well, we are drawing near to Dragonopolis. We could avoid it in a few miles by walking towards the North, but I feel like something dreadful is about to happen.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well…the jungle’s Omega magic feels very strong towards the North. Meaning I may not be able to go with you much farther. Reach into my bag and pull out the piece of parchment.”

I did as he said, unrolled it, and gasped. It was a map of the jungle; but not just any map. The landscapes looked real, almost three-dimensional. Letters forming the names of places quivered as I held the map up to the light. Even the trees were shaking, as if being blown by the wind.

“Amazing,” I said. “Is this like the hologram?”

“A bit,” said Steer, his smile returning. “You know, it makes me happy seeing you be so enthusiastic about this world. I can tell, even with your helmet on.”

Beneath that helmet, a smile formed on my face.

“What are we going to do Steer? When will Alpha meet us?”

“You mean, when will he meet you. I am unsure. He only told me that he had to run an errand that might restore some peace.”

“Peace between whom?”

“Now, that is the question. I haven’t the faintest idea. The Rhinocydonts are a doubtful answer, for they have never listened before. Perhaps the drones who have not completely turned yet…” He stopped speaking and seemed to be wrestling with his thoughts. I believe he was thinking of his former angel friend, who was now one of the demon slaves. A single tear slid down his face. I rushed forward and embraced him. Instead of again consoling him by saying I would never turn to the dark side, I poured my heart and soul out to him.  I blubbered about my fears and uncertainties, and I begged him to never leave me.

“I’m sorry,” he cried, “But I cannot stay with you for the entire journey. If only – “

A fearful, bloodcurdling scream tore us from our embrace.  It sounded like someone being attacked. I somehow recognized the voice of the screamer, but at that moment I could not place.

As I raised my sword and shield, prepared for anything, Steer and rushed towards the direction of the disturbance. It could have been a trap, but we didn’t care. Somebody needed our help, and we were the only ones who could give it.

A few yards away, an ugly grey beast with a massive yet delicate looking wingspan was pinning a frog prince against a tree. Its hind legs held it in place while its forelimbs slashed deep gashes into the wailing frog’s bright green skin.

“Please! Please stop! Y- y –y – ou have goodness in your heart. I – I can s – s…”

Emanuel’s pleading was replaced by a shriek of pain, worse than all of the others combined.  We sprang into action, Steer ready to trample the monster to death, and me ready to cut him into little pieces with my sword.

The creature turned towards us and let out a screech of fright. Releasing our friend, it flew over our heads, probably thinking we would rush to Emanuel before pursuing him. He was correct, but the stupid creature flew too close to my sword. I slashed at him as he flew past, screaming in pain.

“After him, Steer, “ I cried without turning around. “I will help Emanuel.”

As I held my wounded friend with my sword-less arm, I could hear Steer racing hard towards the monster and shouting out obscenities at him. As his hoofbeats faded away with the distance, I cursed myself for only having one arm to steady Emanuel with. My sword was far too sharp to be of any use.

“W – w – warrior,” He whimpered, using every ounce of effort to speak fluently. “You arrived just in the nick of time.”

“Yes,” I answered in relief. “We will make you better.” But upon examining his wounds, I began to doubt that we could really save him.

“No,” he began, “But you arrived just in time for my purpose to be availed. H – here…NO! I shall not die as a weak stutterer!”

His voice now sounded stronger and more robust than ever before, but the light was fading from his eyes. I tried desperately to encourage him and hide my sobs of grief.

“Y..y..you will be okay. Steer w…will come back. He will know w..w…what to do.”

Emanuel smiled.

“Once again, now you are the one who is stuttering. Take this.”

He handed me a shimmering blue cube that was larger than his webbed hand.

“Do not doubt yourself, Mister…Ah. I do wish you had a name. You will save Happiness, my friend. I believe in you.”

Emanuel breathed his last and closed his eyes. The smile still remained on his kind face. My friend was dead, and I wanted to completely annihilate the murderer.

As if on cue, Steer came into view, dragging the disgusting beast by the neck with his jaws.

“Poor frog,” chuckled the monster in spite of his pain. “If only his body was not so frail….”

My sword was pressed lightly against his chest within an instant. Lightly, because I wanted to cause as slow and painful a death as possible. The creature howled in pain, apologized, and begged my forgiveness. It almost sounded genuine.

Steer’s mouth released him, but then one of his hooves pinned him to the ground.

“It’s a good thing your weak wings will not allow you to fly high, gargoyle!” Steer seemed even angrier than I was. He had known Emanuel for centuries.

“Please,” begged the gargoyle. “Don’t kill me! I can help you! I swear! I swear by the power of Omega…”

Steer’s other front hoof kicked the gargoyle in the jaw.

“Shutup, you worm,” shouted Steer. “How dare you? Only Alpha and the creatures on the side of Happiness possess grace.”

At the mention of my beloved, the gargoyle’s face became grave and truly remorseful. He looked at me and once again began to plead.

“I love her too! She is our mother…our love! Its not my fault! Notmyfaultnotmyfaultnotmyfaultnotmyfaultnotmyfault!!!!” He continued spewing those three words. Steer and I did not stop him for a while, shocked by the apparently genuine guilt he possessed.

Eventually, Steer kicked him again and asked him how he thought he could help us. The horror’s eyes locked onto me as if he didn’t want to look at Steer. I stared back at him and noted his features. I called it a ‘horror’, for that is what the beast truly was. It looked like a reptilian bat with charcoal gray skin that reminded me a bit of the fairies. His teeth reminded me of the ‘annoyance’ as well. Above the jaws were two murky black eyes that looked like blackened glass, and above those eyes were two long, sharp horns that gave the gargoyle the impression of a demonic unicorn.

“If you wish to save Happiness,” he wheezed, continuing to stare me down, “You cannot do it without my aid. I can make you immune to the traps of the jungle.”

“That’s what you think,” bellowed Steer. “Ugly, stupid creature. My warrior friend’s suit shall protect him even better than your pathetic Omega charms can.”

The gargoyle sniggered.

“Ah, yes. But can they protect you?”

Steer’s open mouthed silence was his answer.

“You murdered our friend,” I said. “Why should you want you to help us? How do we know this isn’t some sort of trap?”

Without the slightest hesitation, the gargoyle answered.

“I love Happiness. I love her so much that I have never even tasted the plants.”

I could swear that the beast knew of my weakness. But even if he did, he couldn’t have known that I had already conquered it.

“Your bovine friend,” the gargoyle continued, “Should be with you for the whole journey to help you. Is that not your desire? And this is no trap. I want her rescued.”

I drove my blade a bit further into his skin. “Then, why did you kill Emanuel?”

“He wouldn’t let me see her,” he said between his squeals of pain. “I tried to be reasonable, but he just wouldn’t let me!”

“What are you talking about?” I asked, my curiosity completely piqued.

“The cube in your hand,” he answered. “Please let me see her!”

I inspected the object and pressed a button that was on the bottom of it. A tiny opening on the top let out a bright light that began to materialize into a miniature version of my beautiful maiden. It was a hologram. My eyes widened and my jaw dropped inside of my helmet. She – well, the hologram anyway – was looking at me and smiling. Then, to my immense pleasure, I heard her musical and infallible voice.

“My love. My rescuer. My King. Emanuel has taken a great risk in carrying my message. He is the only one in the jungle with the gift to hear it. Plus, magic can always be useful, of course,”

She laughed, sending chills of excitement down my spine.

“You have a task,” she continued, “That would break the spirits of just about anyone. But it shall not break you. I know you are different. You are the one. Once again, as I have said before in your vision, well done, my love. You have gotten far already…but, I am sorry to say that it is as proportional to the whole journey as a foot is to a mile. Omega is furious. Especially the beast he dwells the most within. The minotaur. My ‘guard’…..”

I could tell that she was sad and disgusted. But then her face brightened again.

“But you are my true protector. I must warn you – he is strong. Take all the help you can get. Remember that if somebody says they love me, they mean it. Even if it is a love distorted by evil. The purpose of this message is to give you hope. Remember what I have said. And think of the dragon monsters…the rhinocydonts. I’m not sure why, but I feel that they are a force you must reckon with in some way or another. Give Emanuel, Steer, and Alpha, my deepest gratitude. But my gratitude towards all of them does not come close to my gratitude towards you. Save me, hero. The only hope for me Is you.”

With those last few words, the hologram disappeared. Then the blue cube shrank and shrank until it became nothing at all. Exactly as I was doing, Steer stood awestruck and spellbound by her beauty, even though she was of a different species.

“Its been so long,” he said, “That I had forgotten what she looked like.”

“You must save her, warrior,” screamed the gargoyle. “You must save her and you must let me help. All three of us can save her!”

I looked up at Steer, pondered the options for a moment, and gave the winged monster my answer.

“You shall come with us. You – “

“But he will lead us into a trap!”

“No, Steer. Even if he wanted to, we shall not let him. Besides, I don’t think that he does want to. He loves Happiness. And if he can keep you with me for the whole journey, then all of the Omega, all of the Rhinocydonts, and all of the other beasts of this jungle will have no chance of stopping the two of us.”

I looked back at the gargoyle, who was now grinning with excitement. “I know that you want her rescued. Swear by her name.”

“I swear, friend! I swear on the name and honor of Happiness! Thank you! Thank you for sparing me and accepting my aid, my wondrous friend!”

I punched him in the face with all of my strength. It felt wonderful to have a working arm again. As the gargoyle hissed in pain and confusion. Steer grinned in satisfaction.

“Do not call me ‘friend’,” I snarled. “I have only had three friends. Because of you, however, I only have two. You are nothing but a murderer, and you are only still alive so that we can use you.”

“I’m sorry! I only wanted to see her! Sorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorry!”

“Quit your wailing worm. You’ll have to somehow prove yourself worthy of forgiveness. Emanuel risked everything in facing the jungle on his own to deliver me hope. He died for me. We shall now resume the journey, but only after I – “

Turning around, I looked down at the deceased frog prince. Tears of grief flowed from my eyes like rivers. I could not leave my friend’s body out in the open where scavengers could find it and desecrate his memory.

“Take the gargoyle a good distance away from me,” I said to Steer, who was also sobbing. “I shall bury our brother.”

Steer bit the gargoyle by the foot and began to drag him away, but not before I turned to face them and sliced off one of the murderer’s wings. He shrieked in agony as Steer’s face brightened in satisfaction.

“If you hadn’t killed Emanuel, I would have just bound your arms and mouth. So let that be a lesson to you. Remember your place, One Wing.”

As steer dragged him away, I used my blade and my powerful left arm to bury my comrade. I only paused once for a second when a tree swayed its limbs in an odd fashion. As I continued to dig, I wrote it off to a mere trick of the light.

 

 

“Speed up, filth!”

After walking a few miles North, Steer was getting sick of our prisoner who was lagging behind on all fours. Steer had released his grip on the gargoyle’s foot, saying that we had no reason to drag something that had no chance of escape, but I believe the true reason is that the captive’s rotten looking gray flesh tasted vile.

“Forgive me, cow,” said the murderer turned servant. “But its just a tad bit difficult to walk when you have an excruciatingly painful stub where your wing used to be.”

“Wow,” laughed Steer, “You can use big words? Perhaps you aren’t as dumb as you look.”

“Shutup, cow. If you were not a friend of the hero’s, I would bite your head off and pierce your abdomen with my horns. Its too bad that you don’t have horns of your own to defend yourself with.”

Because I had been counting, I knew that this was the seventh time that Steer, out of anger, had kicked the gargoyle’s repulsive face. This kick was the hardest, for Steer had told me before on occasion that he greatly envied anything that possessed even a small horn.

“We aren’t just born with them,” shot Steer with a hateful glance. “Us noble bovines have to earn them. We aren’t just born with them like your spoiled and undeserving species.”

“Whatever you say, Mister Udder.”

I lost my patience, and not just with the gargoyle.

“You two are behaving just like children. Just ignore him, Steer.”

“How can I when he cannot keep his putrid mouth shut? Let’s just bind him like you suggested earlier. Or, maybe we could remove another wing.”

The gargoyle hissed in anger.

“As for you, gargoyle – “ I said before he cut me off.

“I do have a name, warrior. It is Edshu. Please, do not bind Edshu! And please let me keep my wing so that Happiness will only have to regenerate one after we save her.”

“Listen here, Edshu. Happiness wouldn’t waste her breath on you. Your ‘love’ as you call it is corrupt. Anyway, why are you so angry with Steer? I was the one who cut off your wing.”

“Because you will rescue her! Because you are powerful! Because you are merciful! Because you are my friend!”

“He is not your friend,” retorted Steer. “But you are right about his mercy. Most people would completely slaughter you and string you up like horsemeat. ‘Most people’ includes myself.”

“I’m not afraid of you, Udders!”

I was getting sick of this.

“Edshu,” I exclaimed fiercely enough to make him jump.”If you utter one more word, I will slice you just enough for you to be paralyzed but remain alive so that we may use your magical defense.”

Edshu became silent, as did my companion and I.

As Steer and I inhaled puffs from his dragon pipe, we continued our trek. Eventually, the silence became nerve wracking.

I began to feel extremely paranoid, imagining every sound that could be heard throughout the jungle to be a Drone or a Kappa. I was like this for hours, once even drawing my sword for battle as a small bird rustled a bush and flew off into the sunset. Edshu chuckled at my fright, and was punished by Steer with another fearsome kick. I actually scolded Steer for this, knowing that on any other occasion the both of us would have laughed it off.

“But he is a murderer. And a traitor to his very own brotherhood of evil. He is also a coward,” He turned to the sulking gargoyle, who had used whatever strength he had left to keep the pace so that he couldn’t receive nearly as many fearsome kicks.

“Remember, gargoyle, that when we came upon you assaulting our friend, you flew as high up as your weak wings could carry you to attempt escape. At least the warrior raises his sword and braces himself when he senses danger. Doesn’t fly away like you, One Wing.”

Edshu must have felt about his wings in just the same way that Steer’s kind felt about their horns. In the blink of an eye, the gargoyle pounced on Steer and gave him a nasty bite before being kicked into the air, this time by four hooves. My sword was to the beast’s throat at the instant he collided with the ground.

“If you do something like that again,” I began as calmly as possible, “Your new name will be ‘No Wing’. Understand?”

Edshu’s snarling face turned into a face of fearful contrition. I knew that I shouldn’t have believed his shame to be genuine, but I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for Emanuel’s murderer anytime he made a face like that.

“I’m so sorry,” wailed Edshu. “Please forgive me! Both of you! I just became so angry because the bovine is right.”

Tears literally jetted from his eyes. They didn’t just stream and flow like mine even at my worst moments.

“I am a coward. Traitor. M…m…murderer. Omega….the drones…the Minotaur….they all lied to me! You are what Happiness needs. I only want to help you! Then I wont be so worthless!”

He was either an extreme hater of himself or a very convincing con artist.

Steer, getting up and dripping blood from the attack, could tell what I was thinking.

“Why,” he began, “Are you even considering his fate? You believe this charade? He is a part of the Omega. He killed Emanuel!”

I remembered the words of Happiness about those who loved her despite their corruption.

“He wants us to save her, Steer. Can’t you tell? Yes, he is a pathetic murderer, but Alpha said that even Snapper could have changed. But I do not fee; as much sympathy for him as you think. I only want him with us so that you will be able to travel with me. He would be dead already if he was of no use to us.”

I wasn’t so sure of my words, because my heart was actually breaking for Edshu. He must have been blinded and changed in the same way as I had been with the plants. But I conquered them, so why shouldn’t this gargoyle be able to conquer his own sins?

“He stays alive, Steer.”

“Oh, thank you,” cried the relieved Edshu. “Thank you so much, warrior!  After you rescue Happiness, I shall forever bow down to you as your slave.”

Then he jumped up and embraced me. I almost even embraced him in return, but then I remembered Emanuel’s pain and I hurled the sickening lump of gargoyle flesh away from me.

“Don’t ever touch me. Ever.

We once again resumed our quest, Steer cursing, Emanuel humming in delight, and me silenced by deep contemplation. When darkness arrived, Steer came to a halt.

“What is it,” I asked.

“Well…what happened the first time that you and I walked into a moonlit clearing?”

We had indeed come to the edge of a clearing, and Steer had once again forgotten the way.

“Get me the map,” he said.

I reached for it, unrolled it, and gasped once again. Not a gasp at the beautiful, animated scenery of the parchment, but a gasp at nothing. The scroll was blank.

I showed it to Steer. His face became graver than ever.

“Curse them! Curse the Omega! All of them! The drones, the bad kappas, the energy possessing the Minotaur, the – “

He shot a sudden glance at Edshu.

“You! I thought you could make it to where spells wouldn’t affect me. What trickery is this?”

“No trickery. You know that my kind make all who are with us immune to the Jungle. But apparently, the Jungle is far more powerful than any of us had thought. My magic has protected you from its spells…at least the important ones. You know that I am correct. If the noble warrior had not spared me, you would have been hindered by the Omega glass that springs from the earth to stop all who can be affected by the magic.”

For some reason, Edshu’s tone of voice disturbed me. It sounded hollow, cold, and emotionless.

“Perhaps,” he continued, “The spells haven’t really affected you at all. Only your map. Maybe you are just becoming forgetful.”

“Shutup. What shall we do, warrior?”

Before I could answer, Edshu resumed speaking.

“I know the way to the Sphinx. We will run into men though, but that would be better than running into the dragon people.”

“What about drones,” I asked. “Where are their camps?”

“There are none. They keep far away from the Rhinocydonts, many miles away in fact.”

What were these rhinocydonts? To have a power so great that even Omega’s armies fear them?

“Very well then,” I said. “Lead the way, Edshu.”

Emotion returned to his face. He literally skipped to the left with a giddy smile upon his face.

“Once again, warrior, thank you! Thank you for giving me a purpose.”

I began to follow him, but then I noticed that Steer was reluctant.

“Come on, buddy,” I said. “Everything will be just fine. We can avoid Dragonopolis and the drones. And just look how happy he is to be of use.”

My friend sighed.

“Alright. But I’m not taking my eyes off of him, not even for a second. I still do not trust him.”

We began to follow Edshu – or at least we tried to follow him. With Steer’s reluctance to go forward, the gargoyle must have gone on without us, for he was nowhere in sight. I called out his name many times, but to no avail. Edshu had vanished.

“I told you – “

Steer’s voice was cut short by a wall of glass that shot out of the ground in front of him. I barely saw it shimmer in the moonlight, but I could easily tell that it was the same Omega glass that had separated me from Happiness in my dream, for Steer had collided with it, and I could see his face pressing upon it in vain. I cursed myself, finally seeing that Steer had been right about Edshu all along. The double timing traitor’s magic protected my friend from Omega’s cruel powers no more.

“Steer! I’m sorry! You were right! After I find a way around this glass to get to you, I will make him wish he had never been born. The trickster!”

My brother’s face was panic stricken. I knew the exact reason at that very moment, for his mouth was moving in speech, but no sound came from it. The evil glass blocked his words, which meant that he must not have been able to hear me either.

“Hold on,” I cried, even though I knew that he was deaf to my voice. “I’ll find a way around it!”

I ran hundreds of feet to the left and then to the right. It was useless. Omega had finally separated us.

“Noooooo!”

I continued to wail in desperation, despising myself for not seeing what Steer had seen all along. Edshu had this planned the entire time. Even if he truly did want my Happiness saved, he still clung to the empty promises of Omega. Edshu travelled with us no longer, which could only mean that the separation from Steer that I dreaded had finally happened. I was wailing in emotional agony, knowing that this was the fault of no one but myself. Steer needed me, and I needed him.

As I continued to bawl and hit myself because of my own stupidity, Steer did something that broke my heart. Pressing his right hoof against the glass, he smiled. It didn’t matter that we couldn’t speak to each other. We both understood one another completely. I lifted my hand and pressed on the glass directly opposite his hoof, but then something happened that had me frozen immediately. His loving, brotherly, valiant, understanding eyes were replaced by eyes of fear and pain.

Five arrows were protruding from his back. It had happened so quickly that I didn’t even see them until after they had pierced into pierced his flesh. I hacked against the glass with my sword and then punched it with my hand, but it was all to no avail.

“They promised me, fool!”

The voice was from Edshu.

“They promised that when you were defeated, I would get to live with Happiness and enjoy her forever!”

I wanted so badly to rush at the gargoyle and stick my sword into his mouth, but I would not abandon my fallen friend. Looking back towards the glass, I saw Steer being dragged away by two black, six eyed monstrosities. Omega drones. As I heaved my body against the glass, I saw a sight that gladdened my heart before the glass vanished and I fell to the earth. My wounded friend had broken free of the monsters’ grip and had kicked them with a force that I had never seen nor felt before. Steer was wounded, but he was far from beaten.

After falling to the earth, I lifted my head to see him knock the maces out of his now standing attackers’ hands. My grin lasted but a moment, for Steer had fallen down and was grunting in pain. The drones rearmed themselves quickly and began to close in on him. I raced forward, but was heeded by a sharp pain in my back. Spinning around, I saw another drone staring me down and already stringing another arrow. In one quick motion, I sliced off his arms, legs, and disgustingly foul head.

“Bless the Energy, O my soul!”

The voice belonged to a once hornless bovine. Steer had always been a bull in heart and action, but he now looked the part. Immense, razor sharp horns as long as his body were protruding from his smiling face and were skewering a horde of drones that had snuck into view from behind the trees. I joined in the action, knowing full well that Steer’s joy did not take away the pain of his wounds.

Dodging arrows, maces, scimitars, and axes, I counted eight drones that I had killed. Steer, on the other hand, pierced eight drones at once with his horns on at least three separate occasions. It seemed that victory was near, but then I gasped as an arrow in my shoulder caught me off guard and revealed to me what was upon us.

Legions of black, skeletal, shrieking drones were charging us. They numbered well over a hundred. Steer and I charged them right back, blocking but still receiving many arrows into our skins. Steer was hurt far worse than I was, but he seemed to be stronger and more confident nonetheless.

“Come on, filth! I shall slaughter every last one of you!”

Steer stopped abruptly just as he finished his war cry. A single drone was pushing past all of the rest and speeding towards us with his arms waving in the air. As far as I could see, he had no weapon. He also looked drastically different than the others. The six eye sockets all possessed eye balls, unlike the blackened and burned craters of the rest of his horde. His skin was more white than black, and I could faintly make out tiny, vestigial wings sticking out from behind his shoulders. His face also possessed emotion, something that his troop obviously lacked. They were all still a good distance away from us, but this strange one reached us far sooner than his companions did. I raised my sword for the kill, but, to my surprise, it clashed against one of Steer’s horns instead.

“Steer! What on earth are you doing?”

“After all this time,” said Steer, though apparently not in reply to me. “You have returned, Malchus. Why?”

I realized with a shock that this was none other than Steer’s corrupted angel friend.

“Brother Steer,” replied the drone Malchus, “I only wish to be free of the clutches of Omega and his sickening fiends.”

At this, the other drones halted in unison and let out maniacle roars that I could see were the closest the monsters could come to laughing.

“Save me, Steer,” cried the once beautiful angel. “We are friends…brothers. I – I – “

All that now came from Malchus’ mouth were gurgling attempts at words. His tiny wings fell, his skin darkened, the eyes became empty sockets, and bones began to appear on his outside rather than his inside- an exoskeleton, eerily familiar to my own. What was worse was that the fingers on his left hand merged together and lengthened into a blade much like my own, though much longer and nastier looking. As this last horrific bit of transformation occurred, the drone Malchus set his gaze upon me and smiled, as if to show me that I could become wretched and betray Steer in the same way he had. But if he had already betrayed Steer in the past, it was nothing compared to what he did next.

Before I could even flinch in reaction, his blade pierced into Steer from under his jaws and out between his two shoulders. I screamed so loudly that it shook the earth and caused Malchus and his drone army to stumble backwards.

From that moment onwards, everything was a sickly blur of anger for many minutes. All colors were now grey, an even darker and more evil grey than the vision the plants had given me. All I can remember perceiving was the howling laughter of the drones, my blade clashing with the blade of Malchus, black splashes and jet streams of blood, and Malchus collapsing to the ground, begging my forgiveness. His eyeballs returned to their sockets for a split second and they were gushing out streams of tears that mixed with his blood. One by one, they were all stabbed out with my blade, slowly and methodically. I cannot fully remember what I did to him in his last few moments of life, but to this day, I can still hear his screams echoing within my conscience.

Color returned to my vision as I saw the drones, who were no longer laughing, running away in panic. I began to pursue them, but ceased immediately and turned around so quickly that I felt my spine almost break when I heard the sound of Steer’s voice. He was still alive.

Kneeling over him and caressing his forehead, I prayed the most sincere prayer for healing that I had ever or will ever pray.

“Hello, friend,” said my dying companion. “I am so happy to have guided you on your quest. Forget what Malchus did, and don’t you ever doubt yourself. You will never become like him.”

I was crying so much that I could barely speak.  When words did leave my mouth, I couldn’t believe that they were all I could think of to say at that moment.

“I like your horns, brother. You always had them in your heart.”

He laughed. “ I like them too, my friend. Thank you for giving them to me.”

His eyes were fading and he began to cough out blood. I couldn’t believe that he could still speak.

“Vengeance…no…don’t…ven – “

“Steer! Please! Stay with me! I love you! Don’t leave me all alone! Alpha can save you.”

With a smile, he then uttered his final words. “I love you too, warrior.”

I wanted to lay with his body for eternity. My entire world had been completely shattered. Then my sobbing was replaced by fierce roars that sounded even to me like those of an evil monster. I had remembered the drones.

My pursuit for them was a short one. Vengeance was mine. I will not go into detail about what transpired when I found them, but I will say that it wasn’t even a fight. Every last one of them paid severely. I slaughtered them in such a fashion that when I was finished I could hear many of them still moaning in agony. It had to be that way. They deserved to suffer and perish slowly.

I then realized the folly of my tortures, as well as what Steer had tried to tell me before he died, when a massive tree dropped off its leaves and branches to reveal a gigantic, gray, six eyed monstrosity with hundreds of swaying tentacles. Vengeance had been following me ever since I cut the wing from Edshu.

Too enraged to even notice my fear, I charged towards the monster only to be knocked down by a tentacle. As I began to rise, I felt and saw his massive jaws sink every one of their serrated teeth through my armor and into my flesh. He lifted me into the air and shook me around, his teeth digging inches deeper with every passing second. Then, his jaws opened and I fell to the earth. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t move a muscle. A colossal foot stepped on me as I began to fade out of consciousness.

Then, something happened that jolted me right back into consciousness. My body felt an intense shock of electricity. Vengeance felt it as well, for he shrieked in pain as miniature lightning bolts surged all over his body. He lifted his foot from me and ran away.

I felt another intense jab of electricity and found that I was wrapped in some sort of steel net. Even without the electricity completely immobilizing and eventually knocking me out, I would have been too weak to fight back whatever was attacking me. Actually, at that moment I doubted if I could have fought back against my captors even with my full strength. Their reptilian, humanoid forms with horned heads and muscles that matched those of the Minotaur seemed like they would have been too much for me. I thought one word and said it out loud before I became fully unconscious.

Rhinocydonts…”

James Mauldin didn’t want to go to sleep.

For 5 days now, he had been on a strict regimen of coffee and diet pills. Hallucinations had begun to bombard him, but he didn’t mind. A shadow here, a whisper there – he knew they weren’t real, so it didn’t matter to him at all.

But the dreams…or whatever they truly were…were very real to James. That’s why he hadn’t slept in 5 days, why his wife had left him, and why he had lost his job.

It had always been the same way. A palpable force of some kind seemed to permeate every molecule in the air right as he began to fall asleep. He would fight it – trying to move, trying to scream – but it never worked. The darkness enveloped him every single time.

He would be transported to a farm house with a white picket fence surrounding it. It was always a starless night, with nothing but a faint and foreboding glow of scarlet emanating from some unknown source and illuminating everything to where it looked like blood.

Invariably, James would grab onto the fence with both hands. Whenever he did this, he would feel pain from every nerve in his hands and pull them to his face. Once his palms turned upward, sunlight would flood the area and replace the red glow. His hands would be bleeding in a thousand places and the white fence would now be rusted barbed wire.

Slowly, a dark cloud would move towards him along the ground. He knew from the start of these recurring dreams that the cloud was there to consume things. Love, his family, his confidence, his sanity. And he knew that someday, during one of these dreams, the inevitable would come – his life would be consumed as well.

Unbeknownst to James, his five sleepless nights had actually been years. His mind could no longer accurately perceive time, or anything else for that matter.

“Don’t let me sleep! Don’t let me sleep!”
The guards sedated him, tightened his straitjacket, and turned off the lights.

 

this was inspired by a childhood dream of mine

Is there anything else out there? This is something I think everyone has asked themselves at one point or another. Angels, demons, extra-terrestrials, forces of the dark and forces of the light.

Are these things real? Or are they simply personifications of the chaos within us? The contradictions, conflicting desires, and moral choices of the human, who Nietzche calls, “the sick animal”.

Or could these external mysteries actually be tangible and in fact relate to the chaos within ourselves? Should we look within before we look without?

For instance, do we have souls? For if we do, then it is obvious that these supposed forces of supernature do in exist as well, though probably in ways or forms that we could never possibly hope to imagine.

Different philosophers of different ages and beliefs, as different as Thomas Aquinas and Friedrich Nietzche, have all agreed on one thing. That the Numinous – even if described in wholly psychological terms – is something that no amount of human thinking can ever figure out.

But if these forces are real, should we fear them?

My answer is a most emphatic NO.

Even setting aside these forces, existence itself makes it obvious that something cannot arise from nothing. In other words, there IS a God, a ground for being. And this force is stronger than all the others.