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With what can I compare you?

Does the sun possess your grace?

Your humors, your nuances, your gentle whispering?

Yes, I hear your faint whisper whenever Sol rises.

But its light is too dim.

You, my love–your light brings existence into focus

And by your rays, I have cast a shadow.

A specter, a wraith

Full of selfishness and hate.

But no more.

I will stand, aligned with your rays

Directly beneath.

And I shall cast a shadow

No more.

 

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

 

 

Welcome!

Posted: March 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

New blogger! Give her a follow! She’s gonna be posting photography, poetry, and homeschool related posts!

PlumbRose

wordpress

Hello! I am here to share and converse with like minded homeschool moms, photographers, artists, and poets. I’ll be posting to bring you close up to my life, homeschool and photography.. I am eager to give blogging a try and connect with you. I am Christian, but all beliefs are welcome on my page! I was born and raised in a small town in Oklahoma, I married my high school sweetheart and we have one daughter. She is my everything, and my daily life is all about her. Thank you for visiting my page. I’ll give you a follow back.

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Raymond Toro is a virtuoso. He knows what he’s doing. His first solo album, “Remember the Laughter” is proof of that. Writing, arranging, and playing nearly every single piece of music on this disc, the man proves his meddle as a solo artist with catchy vocal hooks, smart time changes, heartfelt lyrics, and passionate vocals. I don’t like it as much as I like the discs he worked on in the past with a band, “I brought You My Bullets, You Brought me Your Love”, “Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge”, “The Black Parade”, “Conventional Weapons”(yes, I see it as a cohesive album all by itself), and “Danger Days”, as the primary writer and arranger of the music, but I’m still in love with it. The lyrics alone make it worth a listen, but there’s so much more to it than that. 

“Remember the Laughter” is a concept album about a middle aged man finding a “memory box” and reflecting on moments of his life via the contents of said box. Simple as hell, way less bombastic and complicated than “The Black Parade”, but just as heartfelt and almost as effective. 

A few tracks stand out to me, and they will be the main ones I write about in this review. The first, “Isn’t that Something”, is written from a straight up genius perspective when it comes to music. Good structure, a good balance of traditional music and electronic(just in the beginning really), and some of the most honest lyrics I have ever heard in a song. You can tell that the track is about Toro’s feelings after the MCR breakup of 2013, and it really pulls at your heart, especially if you’re a fan. 

“Mama told me I should stand alone. Papa said your better on your own.”

While I do think My Chem was the greatest ensemble of creators in the history of music, I still think that Ray’s parents were right, at least in a way. He’s finally making the music he’s always wanted to make. Sure, there’s none of that magical teamwork that occurs when a band full of separate artists with separate musical tastes work together to create the sonic hybrid known as an album, but it really does show that this artist can stand on his own two feet creatively just fine. A lot more than fine, actually. 

That being said, this record was A huge surprise to me. My favorite guitarist had always played like he was a hybrid of Brian May and Randy Rhoades – but with this album, he goes the pop route. It’s not “pop” like all that Beyonce shit you always hear, but it’s still catchy as hell. A very strange but very nice combination of modern pop music with 80s rock bands, which makes the disc play like a time capsule, and the record’s narrative lyrically fits well into that aspect of the album. 

“Walking in Circles” is my new favorite love song. The lyrics in it are simple, as is a lot of the music, but the thing delivers. His vocal holds notes extremely well, and the entire song is laced with strings that really give the whole thing an epic scope. As far as the guitar is concerned, this one shows the listener that Ray isn’t interested in shredding and showing off like he did with My Chem. He just wants to make something emotive and powerful with his music, even if it’s simple. But, like I said, there are stringed instruments, so it’s kind of a mind fuck that he would make a song that sounds so simple and then add something really complex on top of it. 

So far, the album has been pretty poppy. But with “We Save”, the music becomes straight up rock and roll, namely, blues rock. I can’t help but make a comparison to “You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us in Prison”, chiefly because of the guitar style, but the song still doesn’t sound anything like that one or anything else in My Chem’s arsenal. It’s not heavy, but it’s not soft either-it’s just intelligent rock music that puts a smile on your face. 

Things get more complex a couple of tracks later with, “The Great Beyond”. Orchestral instruments  abound once again, but the real focus is the guitar and the vocals. Melodically, it’s one of the best songs of the album, especially with the soft bridge. I said before that Ray doesn’t really shred on this album – but scratch that, the solo on this song is excellent(I guess he does shred on this album, where the solos are concerned, but he does it sparingly). It’s soft but rockin’, smart, and gets stuck in your head just as much as the vocals do. There’s also a certain highly experimental sound employed throughout the verses that took me a while to get used to, but I love it now, even though I have no clue what it is. Something like scraping or clicking, I guess. 

“Take the World” reminds me of “The World is Ugly” and “the Kids From Yesterday”, but it’s still Signature Ray Toro, not My Chemical Romance. I think it would have worked with Gerard Way singing it, but it actually wouldn’t have been as good. This is the album’s initial single for a reason – it shows with glory Toro’s competence as a songwriter and especially as a vocalist. I’ll admit I like Way’s voice better, but I think Ray’s voice is perfect for this song. 

All the songs are great, but the next one that really stands out to me is “Requiem”. The vocals and lyrics of this record are all delightfully positive, and that infectious happiness shows the most through this track. It’s all about honoring the memories of those we have lost, living life to the fullest, and finding hope amidst the “madness of this world”

“You’ve got one life so make it right. If I had one more chance, I wouldn’t take it back.

Don’t die in vain, please light the flame.

And fill the sadness in your heart with memories of us.”

Just beautiful to the heart, man. Makes me wanna live my life to the fullest. And, at the end of the song, Toro goes full on African with the vocals and percussion. I’ve always loved tribal stuff. It’s just so emotional and real. 

And the last song, title track “Remember the Laughter” is just as powerful and infectious as the rest of them. Great way to end an album, especially with Toro’s “La la la” refrain during the bridge. 

I’ve been listening to this album for a couple weeks constantly, and it resonates with my emotions more than any of the solo efforts of My Chem’s other members. The main focus of the disc is family, and that’s something I desperately needed to focus on at this time. So, thanks Ray.

All in all, a cohesive, well constructed, and just damn good CD.

10 out of 10 

Stay strong, tiny heart

Posted: December 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

Fantastic poetry originally posted by Chithirakshi 

Chithirakshi

A trembling flutter

Uneven

The doc calls it tachycardic

But the rapid beating

changing its rhythm,

makes me wonder…

Will it be alright?

Or will it worsen?

Just that panicky thought makes  my heart a flutter

I don’t want to worry

about my unfulfilled dreams

about my kids

about my loved ones

I just want to stay here

now and then

see, feel and listen

to those loving voices.

Stay strong, my tiny heart

Keep beating, keep going strong.

We have been through heart breaking stuff

Life is about weathering this storm and more

So keep beating, my little one..

Together we will sail

to meet the tomorrow world.

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Hell yeah

Posted: November 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

smalltowninthese

 

I interviewed these bands for a planned magazine for my hometown. But the editor bailed, so I’ve decided to post the piece on here. Our magazine is still in the works, however, and will probably be available early next year.

When you want to go to watch a rock band, chant lyrics back at its singer, and dance around like you just don’t care, then OKC is the place to be. Well…it HAS been. For a long time, it was the only place I could go to find shows, aside from an occasional trip to Dallas. But now, our own El Reno seems to be the go-to place for live music. Venues and bar shows are popping up everywhere, and it’s really bringing vitality to this town as well as bringing out the creative energies of our local musicians. Ever wonder what those musicians think about in regards to the shows, the songs, or anything else? Their take on the Reno scene? Look no further. We have two interviews with a couple of awesome bands who will most assuredly be among the first to put El Reno on the map.

 

First up, we have Cody Hassell, who plays guitar, harmonica, and does backing vocals for the band “Small Town Sound”, a real, gritty, honest, Red Dirt Country band with an awesome sense of humor matched only by the sheer talent they possess musically. Every show of theirs is ridiculously fun. The members are Tuffy Casteel(vocals), Tim Elliot(lead guitar), Jacob Moss(drums), Todd Neece(bass guitar), and of course Cody Hassell himself, the band’s mouthpiece for this interview. (As of this post’s date, Small Town Sound have unfortunately broken up, but Cody still does a lot of solo shows)

 

 

 

 

 

SMALL TOWN SOUND

 

  1. Tell me about the band name.

There’s really not much of a story behind it. I wasn’t there when they created it; I joined the band after that. But it’s pretty much flat out what it sounds like: a reference to the type of music that we play, which is the music that we learned growing up in a small town.

 

That’s awesome. Just starting out playing shows at bars, stuff like that, with people you know, and then growing from there?

 

Yeah you know, a group of friends in your living room after school or hanging out in your garage. You know, drinking beer… Wait, no, that was when I got a little bit older… Um.. Hi mom! (Laughs). But yeah, it’s pretty cool to go from starting there, playing at a campfire or your garage or your girlfriend’s house, to having people you went to school with come to all your major shows ten or fifteen years later. Everybody’s like “I knew you were gonna do something with this!” It’s a pretty good feeling, ya know? People think you’re doing something big ’cause of your recognition, but you’re actually still just basically screwing off, doing the same thing you were doing back in school.

 

I think it’s cool that something can start out small within the confines of a town, like bar shows and whatnot, and then grow to something way bigger while still retaining that personal and authentic quality.

 

Yeah, most everybody we play with, they are pretty authentic. Of course, there are those one or two people you run across every now and then who think they’re the biggest star on this side of the Mississippi. But they’re playing the same places we are, for the same amount of money we are, and we just usually have to let that go, you know? Don’t say nothin about it, don’t burn no bridges. But for the most part, everybody’s really cool. We have very few people we play with that we have any problem with. It’s a good scene.

 

  1. What genre would you call your music?

Oh man… We get a bunch of people that label us “Red Dirt Country”. And I think we do have a big influence from that type of music: The Turnpike Troubadours, Blackberry Smoke, Robert Okeen, and that type of stuff. But a couple of us also listened to punk music growing up, a lot of southern rock and classic rock too. So, when people ask me what type of music we play, I say “Red Dirt with a Southern Rock Feel”. We try not to do anything that has been done to death already though, ya know? We try to be unique.

 

  1. What would you say most of your songs are about?

All kinds of stuff. Most of them are pulled from an experience that we’ve had. We have one called “Outlaw” about a good friend of the band’s, and we have one that’s pretty much about driving back from a show or driving back from work out of state, with your friends back there calling and asking you where you’ve been. We got one about losing a girl, and then another one that was the first one that Tim wrote about his wife. We draw from any experience we can. We try not to overdo the “love” thing, ’cause just about any song you hear anymore is about some significant other. Or, “hopeful significant other” I guess.

 

  1. Where all have you played, and where is your favorite place to play?

Oh, man…we have played all over OKC, Shawnee, Lawton, Madison Park, Hinton, Okarchee, Sparks, Depew. We’ve been out of state too. Springfield, Missouri; Nashville, Tennessee; Dallas, Texas. Pretty much anywhere we can go. My favorite place to play…that’s a tough one. Almost impossible to choose; I don’t want any venues we’ve played to see this and be hurt that I didn’t pick them…but man, the biker rallies are great. That’s my crowd right there. They are so laid back, have a good time, hoot and holler. Sometimes they get a bad rep and people think there’s gonna be fights and all that, but it’s really such a “live and let live” type of thing, you know? Anytime we play at a biker rally, I like for our band to go onstage right in the middle of the band lineup. Then we get off stage, and plan on sleeping in the truck that night, cause you’re not gonna be driving home, you know? And I can’t pick just one rally. Both the main ones in Oklahoma are just great. We got a new one coming up where we haven’t played before, and I’m really looking forward to that one too.

 

  1. Who are some of your favorite artists?

I go through phases. Right now, I’m on a big “Passenger” kick. He’s a guy from Britain I think, maybe London. He’s such an amazing songwriter. He can just say things with words and make words rhyme in ways that you wouldn’t think could work. Really paints an image inside your head. And then his guitar playing is unbelievable. Like, I cannot believe that just one guy can have this kind of talent with both writing guitar parts and coming up with lyrics. He had a big hit on the radio with “Let Her Go”. I liked it but really didn’t get too much into it. Then one day I was listening to Internet radio, and another one of his songs came up, and it really caught my attention; like, “who’s that?” And then, “Oh, that’s that same guy who does ‘Let Her Go’.” So I started looking up all his stuff, and here I am a year later. I think he’s got maybe seven albums out, and I own every one of them. And of course, like I said,  I’m also into “The Turnpike Troubadours”. I’m also really into the “Hamilton” musical right now, which is a Broadway show about Alexander Hamilton. And it’s a hip-hop musical, a musical with our forefathers up there rapping. It’s one of those things where you think it’s gonna sound like crap, and then it ends up being good enough to give you chills.

 

  1. What do you guys normally write first, the verse or the chorus?

It’s just whatever we get, whatever happens. Sometimes we’ll just be jamming and tuning up and all that, then one of us will come up with somethin catchy, and then Tim or Tuffy will end up writing a whole song from it. It could start with me jamming on guitar or a line Tim comes up with. And Tuffy, he’ll show up to practice and throw down a piece of paper and have all the words and lyrics right there. I guess we take the inspiration whenever we get it. We write whatever comes to us and just go from there.

 

  1. How long have you been playing music? Both individually and as a band?

I didn’t start playing guitar until 2000. Now, I carried a guitar around for about a year and a half before that, just trying to learn how to play it, but I didn’t start actually playing until 2000. I started school band in 96, and by 97 I had pretty much flunked out, dropped it halfway through the year and went to choir…cause that’s where the chicks were at (laughs). Worked out pretty well for me cause I met my wife in choir. So I played from 2000 to 2005 just playing around campfires, friends’ parties, jamming in the garage. Occasionally I would play a few songs between bands at the bar my dad hung out at; I’d just jam during the breaks and stuff. Then I stopped playing around 2005, started working a lot, and didn’t start playing again till like 2010. I picked it back up again with a guy I worked with, taught him a few bass licks, brought his cousin in who played drums, and started playing at bars in El Reno for $120 a night. As far as the other guys in Small Town Sound, I don’t really know. The band’s been together for like 5 years now. It’s Tuffy’s first band, and Jake and Tim have been in a few high school punk bands around El Reno, with Mike Randall from “James Bond Dracula”. And Todd’s from Dallas, and he’s been playing since before I was born. He was in some hair metal bands back in the 80s, then he got married and quit playing for a while, close to twenty years. Then he got back on it around 2012 or 2013, which was around the time I met him with the band we both played in before Small Town Sound. He dusted off his bass guitar, met me from Craigslist when I was looking for a bass player, auditioned, and we’ve been jamming together ever since.

 

  1. What all instruments can you play?

I’ve got an electric and an acoustic drum set, a four stringed bass, can play a song or two on the banjo, play mandolin, electric and acoustic guitar. I love the 12 string guitar. I jam out on percussion instruments too, and I play harmonica for the band. I’ll play anything I can get my hands on. Got a violin that I sometimes mess around on trying to get the hang of it. Now, that’s a frustrating instrument. I play a little bit on the saxophone, but of course not too much or I wouldn’t have flunked out of band in school. I’ve got an accordion too, and the best song I can play on it is the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song.

 

  1. What has been your biggest moment musically, even in regards to music that isn’t your own? When was your life most affected by music?

The moment I decided to start playing guitar again after almost six years. In May of 2010, I got laid off from a job and then shattered my wrist right after that. Had to have a steel plate put in it and all that…I was sitting around the house, and my wife and family had convinced me to make a Facebook account. I thought “I’m sitting around the house not working so I might as well.” I’m sitting there adding friends and all that, and I come across a friend from high school whose son had bone marrow cancer. He was like 3 years old at the time. And I’d owned a motorcycle for a while and had done some bike runs and stuff like that, and I just thought to myself, “I’ve got all this time on my hands sitting around the house, making a few job applications, so I’m gonna put on a little poker run, make a little money for this kid.” Me and a buddy of mine put it together in this kid’s name, and at our last stop we were playing at this big party, and I had hit up a couple of friends of mine who played music. And the owner of the bar’s brother had a friend of his daughter’s who was pretty much his daughter, she was pretty much his daughter’s sister, and she had gotten really big into music and never looked back. Went on tour in Paris and all that. Her name’s Allie Harter. So he asks her to come up and play, and I had introduced her to the crowd at the party. I’m sittin there watching her play, and I’m thinking to myself, “Man, she is SO good. I miss doing that. I want to start playing guitar again.” I started playing a lot after that. Just pretty much picking it up and remembering how to play it. That’s what made me want to start playing again.

 

  1. Do any of your personal beliefs and opinions show through in your music?

Well I hope so. That’s kind of the point, right? I find that it all goes back to being sincere. I think the true artists are the ones who go up there, pull open their chests, and show their heart on stage. If you go up there and fake it, the audience can tell. It wouldn’t feel real to anyone. There’s just something about being sincere that makes people trust you, you know? And we’re not ever gonna write a song that we disagree with morally or religiously. We might do one we disagree with lawfully though. That’s half of the outlaw country genre right there I think. You know, you’re not really out their robbing banks and stuff, but you sing about it.

 

  1. What advice would you give to musicians who are just starting out?

Well…you know how to get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. That’s the number one thing. And I could give a LOT of advice. I could give advice I wish I had heard when I was just starting out. But practicing is the most important thing. A lot of people think just cause they jam out in the garage with their friends that they can go up on the stage right away; in reality you have to be a lot more precise up there. There isn’t any room for stopping halfway through the song because you did it in the wrong key. Once you go, you go.

 

Thanks for doing the interview man .

 

No problem. If it ends up in the Washington Post or something make sure you let me know (laughs).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up, we have “In These Pages”, a local folk pop band consisting of Jeremiah Goodblanket(vocals, guitar), Zak Schroeder(guitar), and John Jones(bass). The first few times I watched them play, it was just Zak and Jeremiah, and what really struck me about them was how they combined extremely skillful guitar playing with passionate vocals. Now, with the addition of John on the bass guitar, they have a full sound and are able to convey even more emotion through their songs.

 

 

 

IN THESE PAGES

 

 

  1. What does the name, “In These Pages” refer to?

Jeremiah: I came up with it probably 5 or so years ago. It was the name of my solo project, back when I had had it planned to hit up the studio and track everything myself. And then, as time went on, I just decided I needed some help, ya know? And the name itself really refers to using life as a metaphor, or a book as a metaphor for life. The pages of your life, the chapters of your life. So this is literally just a page in our lives right now. We’ll just see how far it takes us.

 

Zak: Jeremiah is the one who started the band. I’d been playing solo at the Iron Tree a few times. We had both been in a band before called, “With Cities Below”, and we just decided with “In These Pages”, “Let’s make a duo and really just make the band expand.”

 

 

  1. What is your main inspiration?

Jeremiah: Really just life experiences. People you lose, people you love, things you do and things you mess up. My inspiration is mainly my life, ya know? And when it comes to the music itself, the music that really inspires me, like the mood of it, would probably be Lydia and Green Day. But it just goes all over the spectrum. I could talk about bands all day, but really just the music itself is inspired by my life experiences

 

Zak: Yeah life experiences. Most of the songs are written lyrically by Jeremiah, and I agree with what he’s singing and everything like that. But where I get my inspiration from starts with back when I was younger, when I first acquired my guitars. My uncle had passed, and he was a huge metal head and I inherited his guitars. I greatly looked up to him when I was younger. And so I wanted to be like him and play guitar, you know? Growing up, I was a little five year old listening to Metallica in the back seat of my grandma’s car, so it all started when I was super young and just with the love of music. We would play games with the car radio and try to scream out which song was being played on the radio before anyone else could say the name or whatever. So it all goes back to when I was at a really young age.

 

John: Inspiration for me has pretty much always been kind of more of a hard core. I grew up listening to country music like Johnny Cash. And there are very few people who have gone through the hell that Johnny Cash went through, and came back to see the light. So when you look at the different inspirations that I have witnessed throughout my life that can be sang and played to, it’s a different style for sure. You have to kind of take a little bit from here and a little bit from there and try to piece it together to make your own style. It’s different for sure. As far as what drives me – the fact that every single person out there has got a story. Everyone wants their story to be heard. So if you can write a song to make their story heard, that’s what will drive not just me, but every single person around me.

 

 

  1. Who are your influences musically?

Zak: I’ve been hugely into metal for a long time, really just the whole genre. Acoustic and metal scenes, I’m way into both of those, and I can’t really name names because there are just so many. But one singer-songwriter I’ve been jamming out to a lot lately is “Front Porch Step“. With his personal life, he’s gotten into a lot of trouble and everything, and I won’t get into that, but his music is just really great. I love his albums. So I guess right at this moment, I’d say “Front Porch Step” is my main influence.

 

John: For me, my inspiration originally started from Corey Smith because I had nothing more to play than like a bass note, and it was pretty awful. I really liked Josh Turner, Blake Shelton, you know, those kinds of singers were my main inspiration for wanting to sing. But as time progressed, I started getting more into the poetry behind music and not just the repetition. I started listening to more of the unknown artists like Corey Smith when he had just started out. He’s one of those singers who doesn’t exactly have the greatest voice, which is like myself, but the music he writes is pure poetry. Even if you don’t have the greatest voice, your lyrics can take you all the way.

So, as far as my main drive, it’d probably be Corey Smith, ’cause he’s a little guy out there pushing forward to make a difference

 

 

  1. What would you say is the main subject matter of your songs?

Jeremiah: Mostly love. I guess it’s kinda sappy, ‘cause people are tired of hearing love songs, but love’s the biggest drive in life and what gives meaning to everything in the human race. If there was no love, everything would be like how it is in “The Giver”, you know? It would just suck. And a lot of my stuff is about my current girlfriend and how we have plans for the future. And there’s songs that I’ve written about heartbreak in the past, you know, with friends and family. And recently I’ve been trying to expand our music’s subject matter to reach a bigger audience as opposed to just love. And the most recent song I’ve written is about how fast life goes by and how we all just lose track of it. I had spoken with my grandma a few years back, before she passed away, and she was saying how life felt like she had just blinked and then here she is in her 80’s. Life really does fly by. So the song I’m talking about is kind of hitting on little pieces of someone’s life and saying not to take it for granted, and to focus on NOW so it doesn’t all go by too fast.

 

 

  1. How do you guys feel about the quality of today’s popular music?

 

(all laugh)

 

Jeremiah: There’s some really catchy stuff out there

 

Zak: There is, there is.

 

Jeremiah: But there’s a lot of, you know… Cookie cutter…

 

Zak: Repetitive. I’ve heard that beat before, I’ve heard that melody before, where’s the new melody at. They just keep on remixing everything. We do covers though, you know? And they are covers of very popular songs, catchy and repetitive, but we try to throw our own unique spin on it. We’ve done acoustic versions of rap songs and stuff like that. But it’s sad to see what the music industry has started to head towards.

 

John: A lot of it’s not even music

 

Zak: Yeah, and then you have like a person who’s got a good voice or a half assed voice, and they can get into the studio and modify it all, make it sound good, and throw a generic beat on it. They’ll say something that caters to a specific audience, like “get girls” or “get money”. And even country now, it’s like, “I got a truck, I got some beers; let’s have a good time” and that’s it.

 

John: Skirts…

 

Jeremiah: My wife left me, my dog died…

 

(All laugh)

 

Zak: Yeah you know that’s it. That’s what’s going on record right now, but if I ever get into that situation with my music, please shoot me

 

 

  1. Do any other forms of art or creativity affect your songwriting?

Zak: Definitely. I’m a graphic designer on the regular side of life. In my eyes, all art is just about mood and feel. Art can be from any aspect of your life, whether it be painting on a canvas or messing around on a computer screen, or music. Again, it can all completely affect your life on how you view things artistically.

 

Jeremiah: Photography’s always been a really big one for me. I’ve always respected the hell out of it. My girlfriend is currently working as a photographer part time, and I love seeing her grow and learn in that because it’s something I’ve always loved doing. Aside from that, you have to really respect the big artists out there, you know, like the Renaissance artists. All the painting, all that stuff. I’m not really too big on modern art or “abstract” per se. But I respect all art in general. And acting too. Where I work now, most of my time is spent watching movies, which makes my job sound stupid. If it’s slow enough, we’ll watch Netflix. But anyway, I just try to watch just really good movies, and I really respect the people that make them.

 

Zak: If we could envelop people into our music as much as people are enveloped into something like “Game of Thrones”, that would be a dream come true.

 

(Pause)

 

Jeremiah: I think there’s a bug in my shirt.

 

(All laugh)

 

 

  1. What comes first in the writing process? The verse or the chorus?

Jeremiah: Usually for me it’s the chorus. I come up with a hook, a melody comes into my head and I just build on that. You know, there’s been songs that I like started at point A and went from there. Like, it’s really just all over the place, but most of the time, if it’s a not melody stuck in my head that I just turn into a chorus, it’s just a guitar riff that I throw words on top of. It ends up being all about simply purging emotions through the words in the songs.

 

John: For me, the very first thing is always my idea of a music video for the song. I always seem to fit what I’m singing into a music video and watch it myself in my head, to see maybe “What’s this person’s life been like, how it’s gonna end up?”. And I always end up with the bridge of the song first, then the chorus, and then I fit the verses in with it. But it always starts with a music video in my head. I picture what I wanna see, and what the bridge is, what the ending’s gonna be, and then I start piecing together from there what the chorus is gonna be, and then all the way down to the verses.

 

Jeremiah: I never thought of it like that. But that’s actually pretty much how that last song we played was made. You know, it’s all about my life and me experiencing it. But I think that’s a really nice method.

 

Zak: With me, it’s really just improvisational. It’s always been improv. You know back when I played at the Iron Tree, I would just show up without practicing anything beforehand. Set my guitar to a specific tuning, and then set a few chords down and just go off of those chords with solos and different melodies. Here tonight, about thirty percent of what I was doing was improv.

 

Jeremiah: Or sixty percent.

 

(All laugh)

 

Zak: Yeah, kind of. You know, playing at Iron Tree and everything has really helped with playing improv, like with Jeremiah and John and me playing off of each other and stuff, we all just kind of resonate off of each other and pick up on what’s going on.

 

Jeremiah: Yeah we’re really good at playing with each other.

 

(All laugh)

 

Zak: Yeah, we play with each other too much.

 

I’ve always thought ever since I first saw you guys play that it just all sounds really well together. You know, I thought “That’s some dual guitar.”

 

Zak: Yeah, and that’s what it all kind of hearkens back to. I’ll throw down some chords, and Jeremiah will throw down some leads, and then he’ll throw down some chords, and I’ll lay down some leads and we’ll just switch back and forth.

 

John: The great thing about playing with these guys is that no matter where we’re at in the song, I can always look at either of them and know exactly which part we’re at in the song, and I can start playing as well. But they play off of each other so well that no matter what, no matter who’s playing lead, it’s so easy to just turn around and be like, “Ok, I’m lost. What are we playing right now?” And just look at them for a couple of seconds and realize exactly where they’re going. They’ve been playing so long together and they’re so skilled at what they do. We can all instantly be on the same page throughout the entire song. Surround yourself with great musicians and you’ll be a great musician yourself

 

Jeremiah: I hate to break it to you, but we’re not great musicians(laughs).

 

 

  1. What advice would you give to musicians who are just starting out?

John: For me it’s a little bit different, because I don’t play guitar, I play bass. I’m kind of one of those people who’s sort of in the background in the band, like I don’t have lead parts and this and that, but if I could give anybody advice, just from what I’ve done over the years, it would be “Don’t be afraid to go out there and get what you want.” I’ve been really lucky to be able to surround myself with really great people, because, unfortunately, there are a lot of people who will try to cut you down in the music business, try to ridicule you for what you think you may be able to do. And unfortunately, that happens quite often. But don’t give up. You know, ten years ago, whenever people said “You’re not good, you can’t sing worth a darn.” –  if I had listened to them, I certainly wouldn’t be where I’m at now. But I’ve got two guys here right now who are amazing people, good people, and they took a chance with me. I’m not the greatest bass player in the world. But they showed up and asked me to play, and I played my heart out trying to impress them the best that I could. But the biggest thing is, don’t give up. If you have a dream and you wanna be that person, go for it. Don’t let anybody cut you down, and I’ve had a lot of people cut me down over the years, and it does nothing but hurt you. But in the end, if you wanna play, play. Don’t let anyone stop you.

Girl

Posted: October 25, 2016 in Uncategorized

She sits alone like she always does. No family comes to visit, no soldiers for religion, not even a doctor anymore. Just the men who bring her food, and that’s only done on occasion

Nurses used to try talking to her though, but that only lasted a few days. It would seem to an outsider that this was an extremely mistreated young woman. Quiet, unassuming, a Blank face that had cried out all its tears long ago, she waited on her metal hospital bed for malnutrition to take her into whatever plane of being might exist beyond this one.

But in actuality, the real reason no one seems to love this girl is due to her fixation with biting our eyeballs and sticking her fingers into their brain matter. Just like she did to her family. 

WARNING: I don’t normally write like this so please check out my post for my novel tomorrow, much better. This one’s inspired by a picture 

….

….

“Fuck this bike!” Said the man with the parachute. He threw the bike off the building, paying no mind to the fact that a steel bicycle forced to the earth by gravity from four stories could easily kill someone.

He then picked up an open briefcase.

“Fuck my job!” He threw the briefcase over the ledge.

“And now, for the finale.”

He had originally planned on jumping off and killing himself, but he had gotten ridiculously drunk beforehand. He still wanted to kill himself, but his inebriated mind told him that he needed the parachute for safety. He was gonna kill himself, but he sure as hell didn’t wanna be unsafe about it. 

“Fuck me! Goodbye, cruel world!” 

He jumped, not realizing that he should have pulled the cord in midair rather than letting it dangle open behind him before he even made his leap. So he fell, screaming his drunken head off, until the parachute snagged onto a streetlamp.

And there he hung for the rest of the night, waking the next morning to find a hangover in his head and a group of citizens gathered around the streetlight looking up at him.

Johnny Streetlight(what a fitting name!) would now be known as “parachute man” for the rest of his life. 

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…”