Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Category

garden

“Gardening shears? You’re sure about that?”

“Without a doubt. It’s the murder weapon. Hector Williams’ fingerprints are all over it. The blood is his wife’s.”

Ruben stood up in his bedroom, excited by the news. One of the church members had apparently developed a guilty conscience. In exchange for immunity, he gave the department a pair of bloody gardening shears he was hiding for his pastor. There was now ample evidence to try and convict Hector Williams for the murder of his wife.

Vasquez hung up the phone and dressed. His wife was away for the weekend, staying at her mother’s in another county. Ruben was glad for this. It was two in the morning, and he hated waking her up inadvertently when working on a case.

He approached the front door when, like a peal of thunder, a crash rang out from the back of his house. It sounded like a window breaking. Ruben pulled his weapon from his belt and stalked towards the back door, slowly and silently. On the floor lay a brick surrounded by sparkling shards of broken glass. Peering out the window and exposing himself to the humid night air, he saw nothing.

He was about to unlock the door when he heard another crash, this time from the front room. Running as fast as his tired legs would permit, Ruben reached the front door in a matter of seconds. Upon reaching his destination however, he immediately realized that this had been a hasty, careless mistake, and it was going to cost him dearly.

The sound of gunfire reverberated through the home as Ruben staggered forward. There was now a bullet in the outer left side of his back, but he felt no pain. The adrenaline coursing through his veins permitted no feeling but that of self preservation. But he had to act fast—otherwise, that feeling would be worthless. He spun around and fired his pistol before even glimpsing a target. Nonetheless, the weapon’s discharge had been quite effective, as the man who had presumably thrown the brick through the back window fell to the floor with an agonized cry. The intruder, shot in the chest and far worse off than Vasquez, managed to lift his gun for a moment, but the detective bit through his pain and rushed forward, kicking the weapon from the man’s hand.

The intruder himself died within seconds, but Ruben didn’t see it happen. All he could see were stars and then blackness. Something had forced its way down to the back of his head, and it very nearly cracked open his cranium. He fell to his face, fighting hard against the blackness, using every ounce of willpower he had to stay conscious. Rolling onto his back, he fired the weapon again, this time with his eyes closed. He strained to open them quickly, and was met with the sight of a large man in a suit holding a baseball bat and covered in blood. As this second intruder fell backwards, a third man was revealed to be standing behind him, already turning on his heel in an attempt to flee the scene. Ruben shot once and missed, but his second round reached its quarry in the calf muscles of the right leg. The man’s high pitched shriek was the only thing that kept Ruben from finally drifting into benightedness.

It took about five minutes, but Detective Ruben Vasquez used prayer and willpower to stand up on his feet and walk towards the third intruder, the only one still living. When he reached him and turned his crawling body onto its back with his foot, he wasn’t surprised at all to be staring down into the face of Hector Williams.

“You,” snarled the bleeding preacher, “you will answer for this. I am a warrior for the faith.”

Ruben’s face remained stoic, mostly because of the pain, but he almost came close to chuckling before he replied.

“You’re not a man of faith,” he said. “You’re a man of fear and hatred.”

Williams closed his eyes and bit his lip, the wrath and malice pulling taut all the muscles in his face.

“Sinner—”

“Shut up,” wheezed Vasquez. “Why did you come here? Why were you and your cronies after me? I wasn’t the only cop trying to put you away.”

“You judged me,” Williams replied, the pain in his voice becoming more and more evident. He was losing a lot of blood. “You insulted me.”

“Doesn’t God condemn personal vengeance? Doesn’t he condemn murder?”

“You…you don’t…have the right to judge me.” His breath was growing ragged. Ruben knew he had to call an ambulance for Williams as well as himself, but he was tempted to let the man bleed out and suffer. His wrestling match with his hatred was short-lived, however, and his integrity came out on top as he reached into his coat for the cell phone. As his ten second conversation with the dispatcher played out, Williams ceased all movement and closed his eyes. Ruben dropped the phone and stumbled towards him.

“Hang on,” he said. “They’re on their way.”

As Ruben grabbed Williams by the shoulder and shook him, the murderer opened his eyes. Somehow, they looked different. Hate was still there, pain was still there, and fear…but there was something else. Vasquez could only approximate the look to one of surprise.

“You ain’t gonna let me die?” whispered Hector.

“No,” said Vasquez, his voice tinged with disgust. “I’m not like you. You and your congregation give church a bad name, you know that? But no. You live. If only so Beth can rest in peace.”

“We follow God,” mumbled the pastor. “We follow God.”

Ruben wanted to say a lot of things. He wanted to tear Hector a new one with insults. He wanted to call him a small, pathetic little man who only pretended to follow the Lord. He wanted to say that his cult followed not God, but an evil man who himself followed nothing but anger. He wanted to tell him how heartbreaking it was that there were people like him in the world, leading people towards evil under the guise of truth. Thankfully, these people were in the minority of those who professed to believe. Ruben only wished that the world saw it that way. He wanted to say all these things, but he didn’t. He simply held on to Hector and waited for the ambulance.

“I’m a godly man,” sobbed the dying hypocrite. “I’m a godly man. I’m a—”

The sirens could now be heard. Detective Vasquez spoke once more before the responders bolted through the door. He said them not only to Williams, but to himself as well.

“Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein though judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.”

 

 

THE END

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Thirty two minutes later (Vasquez kept track of time religiously), Ruben and Rick pulled into a gravel parking lot in front of a burgundy building. The structure was tall and looming, with an air of classical beauty about it. It was the church, and about twenty of its members were standing outside, their faces expressionless.

A few squad cars were already on the scene, and the officers present were separating the church members into groups and interviewing them. Vasquez knew that this operation had to be handled delicately. There wasn’t yet any actual evidence linking the pastor or the church to the death of Zarabeth. The cops were simply talking to her friends, but Ruben was gazing up at the high windows of the church with longing. He needed to see what was in there.

“Hey, James,” he said, tapping a plain clothes officer on the shoulder. “You been up there yet?”

The man nodded.

“Yeah, Vasquez. We combed every inch of the place. Nothing in the building.”

Ruben frowned before replying.

“Well, are they talking? Anything interesting?”

“No. A few nods, a yes or a no—that’s it. I get a bad vibe from the lot of them. Too damn quiet. Not like any church I’ve ever seen.”

Ruben looked back at Andrews and gave him an “I told you so” kind of smirk.

“I don’t know,” continued James. “Maybe they’re just nervous. Or heartbroken.” His tone was practically soaked in sarcasm.

“Uh huh,” said Ruben. He snaked his way through the groups of people, shifting his eyes all the while. Eventually, he found who he was looking for.

Hector Williams stood alone. The officers interviewing him had walked away as soon as they saw Vasquez approaching. Ruben didn’t think he would hesitate to talk to the man, but he was wrong. There was something strange about the preacher’s demeanor, facial expression, and sheer presence. Though not especially tall, he somehow towered over everyone else. And that smile…Ruben had been in gunfights, seen murder first-hand, and even been involved in hostage situations, but no moment in his entire life had ever frightened him to the core like Hector’s smile now did.

But Ruben’s bravery was well-renowned. After a brief moment of eye-locking, the detective extended a hand to the suspect.

“Hector Williams? Detective Vasquez. I’m sorry about your wife.”

Hector’s smile went away, briefly and unconvincingly. The perturbation remained.

“Thank you, officer,” he answered. “Truly means a lot. Her soul rests with the Almighty now. I just can’t imagine who could have done this to her.”

Vasquez shifted his feet. It was difficult to talk to this man, especially due to the likelihood of him being a wife killer. But a preacher…a man of God, the God Ruben himself believed in…it would have been the height of hypocrisy. And yet, here the man stood, smiling, pretending to care for his departed wife, and lying straight to Ruben’s face.

“So,” continues Vasquez, “you’ve been asked the usual questions, I presume?”

“Yes sir. I’ve been asked questions all day. About the quality of my marriage, about Beth’s personal life, all kinds of things. But no one’s asking themselves the important questions.”

“What do you mean by that, Mr. Williams?”

Hector’s face changed. It became a visage of grief, and Vasquez actually believed it to be genuine.

“No one’s asking,” Williams said quietly, “if this happened to Beth for a reason. If God carried this out as an act of vengeance. Not one of your officers has considered that. You’re all blind. You’re all blind to the fact that this is an example of His power. A lesson, that vows made before Him are to be obeyed.”

“Such as fidelity, for instance?”

Hector’s expression remained unchanged, though he did seem to glare at Ruben a little harder.

“Yes,” he said. “That’s a big one.”

“Well,” sighed Ruben, “I’m gonna tell you two things right now, Hector. Number one is that God didn’t do this. God doesn’t cut people’s eyes out, with blades or otherwise.”

“I know that,” replied Williams. “Do you think I’m ignorant? All I was saying was that He uses certain people as his instruments. I don’t know who did it, and I wish it hadn’t happened.”

“Well, that’s thing Number Two, Hector. You do know who did it. You did it. You or one of your mimes. We’re not sure yet, but don’t worry, we’ll figure it out. We’ll get the evidence, and then, we’re going to cuff you.”

Within the span of a microsecond, the preacher changed from Hector Williams into something else entirely. The change was so sudden and shocking that Vasquez and a few of the officers standing by put their hands on their pistols. The man was now an animal, his face beet red and his voice explosive.

“How dare you!” he snarled. “You, an unbeliever, accusing me and threatening me with arrest? I loved my wife. I miss her with my entire soul. You don’t have a clue who you are dealing with.”

“Oh,” smiled the ever brave Detective Vasquez, “I think I do. I’m dealing with a liar. A wife-killer. A hypocrite. I can’t do nothin’ about it yet, but I will. So go back inside your church and…grieve for your wife. Or for yourself.”

Hector stared into the detective’s eyes. Then, after what seemed like an eternity, he rushed back into the church, with most of his flock following him. For the next few hours, the police searched the church, the preacher’s home, and the woods. All three areas were within seven miles of where Beth’s body had been discovered.

They didn’t find a thing.

I compared you to a sun.

The sun is a star

And just like those balls of flame

It started out small, but only with my vision.

For I was once far away

And your light was a pinpoint.

Do you remember?

You were the only star in the sky.

Faint, solitary

With nothing but darkness surrounding you.

That’s all my weary eyes could see – darkness.

But in the middle was a tiny light,

For I saw you from afar.

I know not how, but I found the courage.

I drew nigh.

The light grew,

Illuminating my life,

Revealing a spectrum of colors

That had never before existed.

The colors were your different shades,

The separate facets of your soul.

Anyone could see them, even with a chasm of distance between they and you.

But I drew nigh.

And your colors – a supernova.

From that first letter, scribed by my trembling hand,

A slab of volcanic rock struck my visage.

And I remembered.

Recalled my life, 19 months before.

You were there – a taste

A preview

A preclude

A preface to my life.

I wanted it back.

It was time to commence the novel.

The pages – you provided fresh ink

To the wasteland of my life.

“Are you sure,” you wrote in reply,

“That no one other is in your mind?”

I pondered for a moment

A slice of eternity. 

And realized – I realized YOU.

There was no other

Your presence made that clear.

And though you may not believe

And may not comprehend,

I knew, even then

That I wanted to drown in your light

My entire life.

Even as a child

Even as a nihilist

I knew you weren’t just a girl.

I fell in love with you, then and there.

But then you said “yes”

And my world was unmade.

We stood

And, strangely, you hit me.

Dazed, I watched your laughter.

So palpable

So real.

And even through the pain

The pain of your attack,

I said 

“This one is the one. I finally have her back.”

Was a corpse of a heart

Made new from the ashes

the Eternal knows what to do with dust

Life, exhaled into it once

So it can be again

As many times renewed

AS the changing of clothing

The shedding of skin cells

and the changing of times
Candle wax, a glass entryway

And flies stuck in the tape

My surroundings, trivial and mundane

But I still hear your voice
“Get behind me, sadness!”

The words cascade from your lips

and reverberate through all my intentions
IF you can save me, then surely you can save us all

Mount a rescue!

Split the atoms!

Part the seas!
Power, ferocity

the Root of Personality

The only real Fact 

IN this wasteland of adjectives 
But you let us….

My God, you actually allow us

to describe you with our actions

And forgive us

When we try to be nouns
He on the throne waits with patience

He IS patience

Love, power, wisdom

Looks down on us with longing
You long to be near me?

I mustn’t try and argue

But I feel unworthy

Blasphemous, full of rage

and a crippling weakness

That makes me long for strength 
“Put down your envy” you say

“Grab hold of me. I am the only Power. 

You are only strong

When you relinquish control”
Master.

Savior.

Mystery.

Save.

I feel a draining

Like the air lost its content

Empty places, drawn out spaces

And all desire is wanton

 

Me alone, this empty creature

Fell into the sea (of fire)

Deviations, obligations

And who I’m supposed to be (desire)

 

Too much time dreaming

Insufficient action

But if we roll up our sleeves

Will we be rolling up our hearts?

 

Depends on how we wear them

Curled up inside with pink little bows?

Or open and bare, ready to be unwrapped?

We are the vulnerable

 

I’ve decided to risk it

Does this action come from courage?

No, I tell you

I’m just a bored nihilist

 

Ready and willing, come tear me down

Take a look, then tell of what you’ve found

Spin out the twine, unravel the soul

Both order and chaos, my friend and my foe

 

Please just let me feel something

On this swiftly passing day

Then I’ll die and then I’ll rest

After I’ve found my way

 

 

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…”

This poem will only be on my blog for a couple of months as I intend to send it to a magazine for publication.

Thine eyes were closed, but opened upon
The sight of all things infernal, by which
creation left unfinished and impure,
Impure from a lack of something.
Men made and left without conscience
As if their own hearts lacked semblance of
Good sense, nay morals, nay perception.
Destruction their God, beauty be their bane.
Hordes, the multitude of mankind
Lie in wait for neighbor to slip

Into their traps, snares for innocence.
Yea, these men they be not human and are
Preserving nothing, save victims’ lament,
Lament for losing existence
To the hands of those heartless ones
Illegitimate, led by nothing
But black desire. Of Deception,
Seduction be their device, pain their aim.
Purged, their own lusts shall never be,
So we close our eyes to horror

Mine eyes were closed, but opened upon
The sight of all things eternal, by which
Damnation fled, diminished as it were
By kindness, light, and liquid love
Washing away our blind despair.
As if our own eyes lacked vision of
Good deeds, acts kind with no rejections.
Reduction our goal, lessening the hate.
Lord, take away the victims’ pain
And help us aid with opened eyes

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.

 

At dawn, as I walked out of my bedchamber, met Alpha and Steer, followed them down the dimly lit corridors leading out into the sun soaked facility, and ate a bit of horsemeat, I felt as one undead. Even though I had experienced bliss at its highest but a few short hours before, I felt drained, fatigued, and uneasy.
What struck me the most was that I felt such a thickness in the air; the very same thickness of evil and doubt that I had felt around Snapper and the wretched plants.
I literally only ate a bit of horsemeat, for my stomach felt so small and queasy. Steer noticed this before Alpha did, which surprised me, as Alpha was usually so perceptive and attentive. They kept telling me to eat more of it to restore my strength. I knew that they were correct, but my appetite had completely vanished. Alpha’s pale face became grave and he stopped eating his horsemeat. Steer also abruptly stopped eating his hay.
“Very well, friend,” began Alpha. “If you cannot eat, then neither shall I.”
“Nor I,” said Steer, spitting out his hay and brushing the rest of it into the morning breeze with his hoof.
“No, no, no,” I said, feeling very guilty for inadvertently causing my friends to cease with their breakfast. It did however gladden my heart for a moment, for it was one more instance of how much the best of friends will sacrifice for one another. “I’m not the only one who needs strength.”
Alpha smiled. “Well then,” he continued, “I believe Steer and I both know what we are to do. We knew this would happen, for last night I had to perform some horrible black magic, with Steer knowing that I was doing it. That is what is causing this dreadful thickening of the air, as well as your sudden loss of appetite and strength.”
“Black magic?!?” I exclaimed, deeply shocked and disturbed. “Isn’t that evil? Demonic even?”
“Most of the time,” chuckled Alpha. “But I didn’t commit any sin or evil. I did indeed bring something evil into our midst, but it is for your own good as well as for the good of Happiness. Its sort of like fighting fire with fire….”
“What evil thing is in our midst?” I inquired.
“That isn’t your concern currently, Warrior. Your only concern right now should be recovering your lost strength. Especially to aid you against the result of my deed. You shall see. But forget about it for now. So, back to what I was saying; about how Steer and I are both thinking the same thing right now and have made a pact together inside of our minds. Tell him, my bovine brother.”
“Well,” began Steer with a look of pride and determination upon his furry face. “For every day that you do not eat, Youngling, Alpha and I shall abstain from eating for two days. Oh come now, Youngling, cease with your shouting and protesting – “ for my face was contorted in anger at his words and my lips were yelling in an angry protest – “It’s only fair, you know.”
I actually began to laugh. “How is that fair,” I shouted. “Just because I can’t eat does not mean that you two shouldn’t. That’s ridiculous! You’re just using my guilt against me, and all because I am simply not hungry this morning.”
“You’re lying,” Alpha shouted suddenly, with just a hint of anger. “I know what is happening to you because of the thing I have done. Your stomach is shriveling, your throat is closing, your breathing is labored, and you have lost a few pounds of muscle already within a mere span of hours. You have also lost all the color in your face. You look like you are wearing my face paint. I’m sorry that I have done this to you, Warrior, but I assure you that it is absolutely imperative for the final stage of your training. I don’t blame you if you doubt me or are even angry with me right now, but….do you trust me?”
His words on the night of my ceremony echoed within my mind. Doubt is an illusion. Yes! Of course! Of course I could trust my companion and guide. He had never let me down before. With my anger and doubt now fading away swiftly, I already began to feel some of my strength returning to me. But only a bit. The air still felt dreadfully thick.
“No, Warrior,” said the mind reader. “Not enough strength yet. That is why you must force yourself to eat.”
Steer nudged the plate towards me with his muzzle.
“Before I try,” I started, “Please just tell me why whatever you did is draining away my strength.”
“I told you,” Alpha replied. “You shall see.”
I moved the plate away from me.
“Then I shall not eat.”
Steer kicked my shoulder with one of his hooves, causing me to groan in pain and surprise.
“What on earth was that for, Steer?”
“Oh calm yourself, Youngling,” said Steer with a chuckle. “I have kicked you much harder in the past than that. That was only a nudge. Now, listen here. If you refuse to eat, then Alpha and I shall make our fast three days for your every one.”
I could only sit there in silence. There really wasn’t any point in arguing. My friends were absolutely adamant about this.
“Alright,” I finally conceded, “I shall eat for the sake of the both of you.”
“That’s more like it Young-“
“On one condition,” I said, interrupting Steer. “You must promise me to never address me as Youngling from this moment forth.” Alpha laughed heartily and Steer looked as if he was startled.
“But,” he began with a faltering tone, “I am far older than you are. Centuries old-“
“Yes Steer, I know. You have told me this before. But I am not a child. I have proven myself by fighting Vengeance, Snapper, and the plants. I even overcame them. I have grown very strong…powerful even….”
“Careful, Warrior,” warned Alpha. “You are on the verge of prideful thoughts.”
“I know, Alpha, I know. I’m just happy with myself. I’ve done things that I never would have dreamed were possible a few days ago. So, what’s it gonna be Steer? Do you promise to stop calling me Youngling?”
With a mournful sigh, he agreed. “Yes, I promise. Even though I know you enjoy it. Now eat Young – I mean Warrior.”
I consumed all of the meat on the plate faster than I had ever done before. But, upon swallowing, I felt piercing stabs of pain within my abdomen and chest. It felt as if I was going to choke to death. Leaning forward, then collapsing to my knees, I regurgitated all of the food onto the ground. I was stunned. How long would this bulimia and feeling of emptiness last?
“Hopefully,” began the mind reader, “It will stop today.”
He possessed a strange look upon his face; one that I hadn’t yet seen before. It appeared as if he was in an angry sort of trance. I also noticed his hand reach for the sword clipped to his belt.
In a flash, the warrior of all warriors unsheathed his sword and sliced open my vulnerable face. I could feel the blood oozing down my cheek as I stood up in a confused panic.
“What the hell are you doing,” I screamed. For an answer, he lashed his sword wildly at my legs, but I blocked it with my own blade. “Alpha! What is this? We are brothers!”
His only words within the next few minutes were “Put on your helmet!”
Our swords continued to clash, and after a few strikes he successfully sliced open my other cheek. I put on my helmet then. No sooner had I done so that he once again went for my head, but this time more forcefully. His continual hacking at my helmet was sending out showers of sparks that resembled fierce fireworks. Though the helmet was my protection, it was a living part of me and could still feel pain, and this hurt much worse than the slices inflicted on my man-skin. Then, our swords clashed against each other once again, and we spent the better part of a minute pushing at each other and staring each other down.
“Steer!” I cried fretfully as Alpha continued his attack. “Stop him! Please!”
Out of the corner of my eye, I could perceive Steer standing there motionless. He remained silent, without the slightest hint of expression of any kind on his face.
The duel went on for a few more minutes, which seemed like an eternity to me. Not only was I feeling pain from the gashes that Alpha was continually inflicting onto my living armor, but I was also feeling every single possible negative emotion. This was the worst pain by far. Feeling confusion from my brother attacking me, sadness from the draining of hope, and fear from the wicked strikes and burning eyes of Alpha, my adrenaline suddenly kicked into overdrive, which caused me to quickly forget the air’s thickness and my body’s weakness.
As I leapt over Alpha to avoid his blade, he finally spoke again. “Why will you not strike me, Warrior? You have had plenty of chances. Retaliate! Quit running and leaping!”
I was utterly dumbfounded. Had something sinister happened to my companion? Was it the work of Omega? Would Steer turn against me as well? Or could this all have to do with the black magic that Alpha spoke of? These questions dominated my mind as I kept trying to avoid his blade and his eyes. I was actually more afraid of his stare than his sword.
“Fight back,” he shouted. “You are supposed to save Happiness. Or…perhaps Snapper was right about you after all.”
Anger bubbled out from the deepest, darkest depths of my heart. I slashed at his stomach, which he quickly avoided just enough for my blade to only lightly slice his belly. He smiled. Then, quickly flipping his sword so that he held it by the blade, he gave my face a swift bludgeon with the sword’s hilt. I staggered briefly then fell on my back.
“Excellent work, Warrior,” said Alpha as he leaned over my face. “That must have greatly confused you. I am sorry, but it was the best possible way to train you. You must be ready to do more than just defend yourself. You must learn to kill anyone if the need arises…..” He glanced to the side, apparently in deep thought. “Even me. I am sorry, friend. Your cuts will heal. Some may remain as scars until you rescue your beloved, perhaps even afterwards. But look at me. I have thousands of scars. To me, they are marks of accomplishment. Every warrior receives them in battle as well as in training. But I am mostly sorry – even deeply remorseful – for what I said about Snapper being right. I did not mean it. Not one little bit. I only wished to provoke you so that you would fight back.”
He backed away as Steer helped me up with his muzzle. I could not bring myself to forgive Alpha. His methods of training were cruel and harsh. In my opinion, he was moving much too quickly. I even wanted to stab him, but was unable to do so, only because now that the fight was over my strength was draining away once again. I could hardly stand.
It was at that very moment that it dawned on me. Alpha was right. On this day, I was weary and weak. But only if I remained stagnant, doing nothing. If I was fighting, my strength returned due to adrenaline, and also due to something unexplainable that I believe must have been a sort of magic. The black magic?
“I understand, Alpha,” I sighed, trying to breathe deeply, which was nearly impossible as I felt like I was suffocating. “You…you are only trying to help me…I forgive you. But please, just please let me rest.”
“I’m sorry, dear friend,” he replied gravely. “But you know I can’t let you do that. If you rest, you will lose your strength altogether. You must stay in motion. You must fight and become stronger so that you can eat and recover even more strength. Though you do not feel ready, I am afraid I must now show you the black magic.”
I staggered from sheer exhaustion. I would have fallen on my face and remained there had not Steer been there to catch me with his back.
“Hang on to me, brother,” said the noble bovine. “Let’s go. You are doing wonderfully.”
He helped me to walk in the direction that Alpha was walking. We followed him through the courtyard. I did not know where we were going, for I had to fight to keep my eyes open. After a while, as Alpha faded into a blur ahead of me, they remained closed for a good while. But upon opening them, I simply could not believe what was happening.
Before me were the accursed walls of death that had served as the battlefield for my duel with Snapper. I felt the sorcery immediately, and I also felt that it somehow had to do with the Omega inscriptions etched into the stones. Every letter was glowing with a bright blue hue that reminded me of the eyes of both Happiness and Snapper. Two of the bright lights were moving towards me. I could hear what sounded like chains being dragged about the ground.
“What’s going on – “ I stopped speaking abruptly. Everything became clear to me. The letters moving towards me actually were eyes. Beneath them were fangs that reeked of decay, a leathery body that smelled even worse, two fearsome clawed hands that each gripped a sword, and, in between them, a metallic cylinder that swiveled in a circular motion. Snapper was alive once again, and more evil and dangerous than ever.
“Go find your shield,” whispered Alpha. “And when you have defeated him, pull the chains out of his shell.”
I found that I could not move. It was more than just fear. My strength had been almost completely extinguished. Steer moved away from me so that I couldn’t hold onto him any longer. As I fell down, he pushed me into the deathmaze.
The undead turtle charged. I blocked a strike from his right hand sword, then jumped over the left one as it sliced towards my legs. My strength was returning ever so slightly, but not enough for me to leap very high, which is what I was longing for. After seeing Alpha defeat him, I knew that the place I needed to be to deliver the killing strike was atop his wretched shoulders. For now, however, I was confined to the earth.
Our three blades were all glowing red hot from the action. Sparks flew from his carapace and from my armor. What surprised me was that he wasn’t roaring, snarling, or making any sort of vocalization at all. His mouth hung open as if his decayed jaws were paralyzed. He looked like a lumbering, mindless monster; but he still moved very quickly and possessed an even worse light of evil in his eyes than he possessed when he was alive.
I rolled behind a wall and waited. As his heavy footsteps drew closer, I rolled silently to the next wall. Peering out from behind it, I saw his cannon begin to glow. The wall that he thought I was hiding behind, as well as the next three following it, exploded into a fiery blaze of rock like a line of dominoes rigged with dynamite.
I went around a few more walls and then crept up behind him. Suspense and adrenaline were enabling me to feel even more power surging into me. When I felt that I had the amount that I needed, I made my move and leapt to his shoulders.
I realized then two things. One was that with his two swords blocking my every strike, I couldn’t stab him like I needed to. I tried for the back of his neck, but every time I did so he either reached back and blocked my strike or threatened my existence by slashing his other blade at me. I needed my shield.
The second thing I realized was that my very shield was leaning against a wall not twenty paces away from us. As I was about to leap from his shoulders to retrieve my protection, the demon leaned backwards and fell to the ground. He was crushing me with his immense dead weight. Literally, dead weight. My sword was smashed to the earth along with my body, so I was unable to even fight back. I cursed myself for letting this happen. I did not expect such cleverness from a zombie. With my strength draining once more, as well as my oxygen supply, I began to succumb to the thoughts of hopeless defeat.
But then I remembered Happiness. With more strength than I believe I have ever or will ever possess, I heaved the foul ton of slobbering decay off of my body. As I sprung to my feet, my eyes met his wicked glare as he turned around to face me. His cylinder began to rumble and spark. I had no time for the shield. The moment I perceived the fire erupting from his chest, I grabbed the cylinder and pushed it upward with all my might so far that it went into the Kappa himself. The explosion of ember, metal, and rotting flesh sent me reeling backwards. I had killed Snapper for the second time – or so I had thought.
Half of his charred corpse remained, and it began to walk. The legs, the left arm with a sword, and the cannon itself were all still intact. But this remnant possessed no eyes to locate me, so it walked blindly away from me. I began to laugh at what the demon turtle was reduced to, but my laugh soon disappeared and was replaced with panic as I watched the monster walk slowly in circles and fire his cannon in every direction. Even with lacking the ability to aim, the swiveling cylinder fired many shots that narrowly missed me.
Remembering what I had to do, I raced towards him as his back was turned and pulled the chain that was dragging behind him. The blind force of destruction crumbled into ashes. By that time, not a single wall remained in the battlefield. Only smoke and ash. It looked like a barren wasteland, and I was alone.
Then, to my inexpressible delight, Steer trotted towards me out of the smoke.
“Once again, my friend,” he exclaimed with pride, “You have done well. This just keeps getting better and better!”
But the tone of my friend’s voice did no match the expression upon his face. He looked weary and confused.
“What’s wrong, Steer? Where is Alpha?”
Steer exhaled a deep sigh.
“He is gone, my friend. He shall meet with you later on. Now, we shall finally begin the journey.”
He walked towards the jungle. I followed him, questions spiraling within my head.

This first poem may not even qualify as poetry as it doesn’t stick to any form. Its definitely not traditional. Its basically a big metaphor, and is partially inspired by Nietzche. The infant is the everyman, and the mother is life.

WILL TO BIRTH

The infant…no, he wasn’t yet an infant, but only a fetus.

Covered in beautiful life mucous that sustained…

Created, preserved, and eventually destroyed.

Anyway, the infant(fetus) attempted a breath, but no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t. The walls were caving in around him.

Yes, harder and harder he tried, but he was hopelessly trapped.

Then… LIGHT! SOUND! FEAR!

He burst into the world and tried to crawl back.

But the mother smiled a sweet, sadistic smile and said,

“My child, you can go back! Yes, yes, my child, you can! But this time, through my teeth!”

This was the moment the infant discovered that he wasn’t helpless any longer.

He had eyes, ears, and hands to manipulate things to his will.

Yes, yes…above all he discovered that he possessed will. 

And with that will, still the most powerful of his assets, he commanded his mouth to spew acidic venom at the predatory mother. Before he ran, and eventually escaped, he abused her with his lips and with his harsh, newborn vocal cords.

“LIFE! LIFE! YOU ARE NOTHING BUT AN EATER! AN EVER SELFISH, EVER EVIL, PREDATORY EATER!”

Then, after escaping, he collapsed into a deep sleep that I believe must have lasted for eons.

 

And here’s number two, which is a real poem but was shoddily written in about two minutes.

PRETTY

Have we reached the unknown?

Like a cascade of cyclones, this breeze has blown.

Have we reached the end?

Is it hard to admit?

Or is this the beginning

Of our living legit?

So much was under shade

Beneath locks and keys

Now we’re running through the glades

Cliched but we’re free

I think hope just woke up.

She had lost a bet with luck.

But now she is standin’

With Lady Wisdom so true

And we are also standin’

I think she’s pretty too.