Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Reflection, Part Four

Contains mature language.
This is Part Four of the story.  Part Three can be found here.

Jack shook his head, thinking of how stupid he was that day. Hardly the picture of Prince Charming, to say the very fucking least.

He stood and walked back to the table, pouring himself another glass of water. The carafe had been filled at some point, apparently, and it was still ice-cold. He frowned. He hadn't noticed anyone filling it up, or switching it out. But, then again, he had been a bit lost in his own world, hadn't he?

He drank the water slowly, finishing about half of the goblet before he sat down on the beautiful oak chair once more. There was an ache, deep in his chest, that struck up once he thought of that first meeting at the club, and that second at the restaurant. Before any promises were made. Before any connection was established. Before any more hope was crushed.

As it has been written many times before, so shall it be written many times again; human beings are strange, fickle things. What other life form changes so drastically through the course of paltry decades?

But this is their strength, not a weakness. Humans are constantly evolving, constantly undergoing a metamorphosis into another person, adopting and strengthening certain roles throughout their lives, and, sometimes, very rarely, coming to embody them completely.

To embody anything, however, is a stunting process, even for the strength it gives you. A human who has become a Role Incarnate can never live a life untouched by that change, no matter how many decades of metamorphosis he endures.

Jack's eyes snapped open, and he looked around in confusion. Why in the fuck am I in the living room? he asked himself, before struggling to a sitting position. He looked around the room again to see Zeke passed out on the floor, lightly snoring, the bong next to him. Jack coughed and reached for the bong and lighter, taking a long hit before setting it down again.

He blew out a cloud of smoke and glanced around a third time, finding his cigarettes on the ground next to the couch. He lit one and again wondered why the hell he hadn't gone to bed.

He remembered, and a smile cracked open on his face.

She had come. He had known perfectly well that she wasn't going to, that there was no point in hoping that she would, and he had thought that he'd done a fairly decent job of not hoping, but then came the knock at the door, three hours after they had left the restaurant, and when he opened it, there she was.

“Offer still on the table?” she asked, and Jack told her that of course it was. After a few hours, Zeke passed out, and Jack and Cassie kept smoking, putting on no more movies but instead just talking to one another, until she finally pulled out her cell phone.

“Oh my God, it's 3am,” she said. “I'm tired as hell. And entirely too fucked up to drive.”

“Sleep here,” Jack had suggested. “You can crash on my bed.”

She had raised her eyebrow. “Really? Does that line always work for you?”

He shook his head and chuckled. “No line. Here.” He walked to his room, came out with one of his pillows, and threw it on the couch. “I'm couch crashing tonight. I need to keep an eye on his dumb ass, anyways.” He tilted his head towards Zeke. “So, bed's open. Just try not to do anything too weird in it.”

She had finally agreed to stay, and went to bed a few minutes later. But was she still there?

Jack took another hit from the bong before picking up his cigarette again and headed for his room. He quietly opened the door and looked in—he kept a blanket draped over his window, so the room was always dark, but he could see the lump of a human being on the bed, so he started to close the door again.

“So that's how you are, huh?” she said, her voice groggy. “Wake a girl up and then just leave without saying good morning?”

He rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. “Sorry. I was just wondering if you were still here, is all.”

“Oh, am I not welcome anymore?”

“No, you are, but I didn't know if you woke up before me and took off.”

She sat up, a dark shape in a barely-lit room. “I'm not the kind of girl to just warm up somebody's bed and then leave before they wake up.” She paused for a second. “Um. I sleep in my shirt and panties, so if you wouldn't mind...leaving, then I'll get dressed and be out in a minute.”

“Oh! Yeah, sure.” He closed the door again and walked back into the living room, smiling. He had no idea why he was so damned glad she was still there, but he was, and he wasn't going to complain about being happy. He picked up the bong again, and took a long pull.

She joined him a few minutes later, yawning. “My God, you're a beast,” she said, shaking her head at the sight of the bong in his hand. “And how is it possible that he passed out like six hours before us, and is still asleep?”

Jack shrugged. “Man's got a talent,” he said, before holding out the bong to her. “Besides, he's only going on about thirteen hours. I've seen his ass sleep for twenty before.”

She shook her head again. “I couldn't do it. Not a chance. I'd feel so gross.”

“Really? Hell, I'm jealous, sometimes. A full day spent sleeping is a full day nothing goes wrong.”

She raised her eyebrow. “It's also a full day where nothing can go right. If you had spent all day yesterday sleeping, for example, you wouldn't have invited me over here, and you wouldn't have had my amazing company last night or this morning.”

He nodded, before laughing. “Oh, yes. And I'll admit, I did have to spend an extra half hour in prayer this morning, giving thanks for that blessing in my life.”

“Shut up,” she said, taking the bong from him with one hand while hitting him with a pillow with the other. “I was joking and you know it.”

He nodded. “I do.”

She lit the bowl and took a long drag, holding it in her lungs and staring at him with a raised eyebrow.

“What?” he finally asked, and she shook her head, exhaling the smoke.

“We talked for like...hours last night. Then you had me sleep in your bed. Now we're here, and I'm still wondering if you're ever thinking about getting around to actually asking me out on a date.”

Jack blinked. “Umm...would you like to go out on a date?”

She inhaled sharply through gritted teeth. “Ooh...I think I have to wash my hair....”

Now he raised an eyebrow. “Okay, that was fucked off.”

She laughed, passing the bong to him, and he shook his head before lighting it. “I'm kidding!” she said. “I promise. Yes, I would. Whatever gave you such a great idea?”

He spoke in a croak, keeping as much of the smoke and air in his lungs as possible. “I was talking to some pretty amazing company, and she brought it up.”

“Oh. Yeah, she sounds pretty awesome. You should probably do, like, everything that she says, ever.”

Jack exhaled, a grin that he was afraid might look rather ridiculous on his face, and he passed the bong back to her. That might not be such a bad idea.


The falling of his tears seemed almost in rhythm with the slow ticking of the clock, each falling towards the immaculate marble floor and creating perhaps the only blemish in the room—other than him, of course.

He stood abruptly, wiping his tears with the back of his hands. Once upon a time, he had thought that the pain he endured growing up had taught him well on how to hide his tears. He thought that it was a lesson that was taught—and learned—well.

But, he had learned later, that the pain he had experienced in childhood...the death of loved parents, neglect, abuse of all varieties...well, that paled in comparison to true pain.

Oh, humanity. We despair for you as much as we rejoice for you. How is it that you have fostered so many of your people to come to embody such Roles, forces of nature that no one can fully comprehend, so many times throughout your history? How is it that with so many billions of you that exist, you still, on occasion, manage to find your perfect mate?

We do not understand humanity. But we must respect it.

“Wow,” he said, holding the painting before him.

“ that a 'good' wow, or a 'bad' wow?”

“It' absolutely amazed wow.”

The painting was of a knight, polished armor glinting in the moonlight, with a sword held high in the air. His shield was emblazoned with a symbol that Jack had drawn years ago, in high school, and behind the knight, as if he was protecting her, was a woman, her face hidden, but her build and height looked to be just about Cassie's, if not dead-on.

“Well, happy birthday, Jack. I know it's not much, but—”

“Don't you even give me that,” he said, interrupting her. “This is amazing. I love it.”

“Do you get it? Like, the point of the girl?”

He sat the painting down and pulled her in close. “I do,” he said, and their lips met in a passionate kiss. “Thank you, Cassie. It's amazing.”

She smiled, then shrugged. “I'm really glad you like it. It's really the first thing that I've ever painted for someone else.”

“Thank you, hon,” he repeated, and they settled back on the couch. “It's going on the wall as soon as I get home.”

Her smile widened, and then was interrupted by a deep kiss. Finally, she broke it, snuggling up to him before asking, “So what all is on your plate today?”

“Not a lot, really. Heading home, getting this baby put on the wall, then a meeting at work later. Zeke talked about coming over later tonight to game and smoke out.”

“Are we still doing dinner and everything?”

“Unless you don't want to.” He shrugged. “I don't have to do anything for my birthday. Hell, this is the first birthday gift I've gotten in, like, fifteen years. I'm already at a high point.”

“You're being retarded, dear,” she said. “Of course we're going to do something for your birthday. It's your birthday.

He turned his head to see the top of hers. “Hey,” he said, and she turned to meet his gaze. “I love you, Cass.”

She smiled again. “I love you,” she said, and they kissed again, more tenderly than last time. It was a kiss of pure love, one of unrestrained adoration between two people for one another, the kind of kiss that poets write about. It was a kiss that both participants wished could last an eternity.

But nothing lasts forever.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Paragons, Part One

Warning:  This story contains mature elements.

He slowly walked behind the couple, the earbuds he wore serenading him with peaceful classical music. He had spotted them at the theater, and they looked to be quite the romantic couple, very much in love, very much in lust. The man couldn't keep his hands off of her, holding her tight to him, his arm around her waist, achingly close the the swell of her magnificent buttocks, which were only enhanced by the slinky evening dress she wore. James couldn't blame the man—this woman, whom he had heard referred to as 'Miss Wilson'—was quite the beauty. She walked with an elegance and grace that seemed almost out of place on a woman so young—James estimated the two to be somewhere in their early to mid twenties—and it was obvious that she had come from a life of privilege.

She had called the man Bruce at one point, so it seemed that, most likely, that was his name. It would be an odd nickname, at any rate. Bruce stood a few inches taller than Miss Wilson, and seemed to be in very good shape. He had a strong jaw, and his teeth flashed with an almost blinding whiteness when he had laughed earlier, before leaving the theater. His build suggested at least previous athletics experience, and James guessed that he played football in high school, maybe college. Definitely quarterback. There was no way this guy played support—no, he was the star.

The two were walking slower, now, and James adjusted his step to match their pace as he reached up and loosened his tie, pulling it over his head and stuffing it in his pocket. The tie was silk, and Italian—he preferred to not soil it with blood, if it could be avoided. He unbuttoned the neck of his shirt—also silk, but that would have to stay on—as well as the next one down.

The two had stopped ahead, staring into each others' eyes with all of the hope and promise that love can bring. They were happy, high on this elusive chemical in their brain that they provided each other the means to create. They were each a drug for the other person.

James hated drugs.

He reached into the top of his shirt with both hands, pulling his 'mask' out. It was part of the shirt he wore underneath, one that extended to cover the bottom half of his face, hiding everything under his eyes.

She saw him first, as he continued to advance, and her eyes narrowed in confusion before widening in fear a moment later. After all, what kind of a man wears a mask as he walks the street of the city so long after dark?

Before she could cry out, alert her companion to the danger, James's hand reached inside his suit jacket and came in contact with the cold, smooth, steel cylinder. He brought it out as the sound began to escape her mouth, and with a flick of his wrist, the asp extended as she screamed, “Bruce!”

Her boyfriend, fiance, husband, whatever, began to turn, but before he completed, the steel asp slammed into the side of his face, spinning him on his feet to face nearly completely away from Miss Wilson before he fell to the ground. James thought—he wasn't sure—that he had felt a bit of give during that contact, and he wondered if he had dislocated or perhaps broken Bruce's jaw.

Still...that was a question for later. Not much later, but later, nonetheless. Now, the question of the moment was, how many targets did he have? His head turned slightly as his eyes flicked to Miss Wilson, frozen in fear, her breathing quick, her panicked eyes shifting crazily between Bruce laying on the ground and the strange man wearing a mask standing before her, a steel rod in his hand. James had just began to decide that he had two targets this merry night when she turned, running clumsily in her high heels.

Well,” James said, his voice calculated and precise, containing just the slightest hint of an English accent—he had spent two years at Oxford, bettering himself—as he crouched down before the man prone on the ground. “That was rather rude, wasn't it? The lady didn't even have the common decency to utter an apology before she fled like you were absolutely worthless.”

James didn't stop Bruce as the man's hands pushed against the ground. They stood together, a few feet apart, the asp dangling casually from the attacker's hand, and James noted that it appeared he had indeed broken poor Bruce's jaw, if the large dent in the side of his face was any indication. Blood poured slowly and steadily out of his mouth, which he seemed incapable of fully closing. He tried to talk, but got nothing out but jumbled syllables that strung together to absolute nonsense.

You'll have a bit of trouble talking, old chap,” James said, his brow ever-so-slightly furrowed, as if in sympathy. “Your jaw appears to be quite broken.”

The man ignored him, trying to communicate again, this time with nonsensical syllables that were shouted, as opposed to merely spoken, and his arms thrown out to his side, emphasizing the point that he was trying and failing to make. James flinched as a spatter of blood flew out of Bruce's mouth, hitting him perhaps an inch away from his left eye. He frowned under his mask, and brought his free thumb up, wiping away the drop of scarlet life, before looking down to see that his white shirt had indeed been fairly soiled, with drops of blood sprinkled merrily over it. He couldn't see for sure in this light, but he knew that his jacket was going to be just as bad.

That's just not going to come out,” he said, shaking his head and sighing. His eyes rose to Bruce. “That was just unnecessary, Bruce. Don't you have any appreciation for a good suit?”

For the first time, anger finally overcame the pain evident in Bruce's eyes, and James could see, clear as day, the thought that went through Bruce's head in a split-second. He can't talk to me like that! Bruce was thinking. I'm Bruce Something-or-Other! I'm going to kick his ass!

Sure enough, Bruce's fist shot out in a fairly impressive right hook, and James realized that Bruce had quite possibly been quite the bully once upon a time—the man had been in a few fights. Still, his fist met nothing but air, as James quite casually stepped back, just out of the range of the blow. Bruce snarled unintelligibly, and his left fist shot forward, in a straight punch. James turned as he reached his left hand across his body, grabbing the fist and pulling Bruce forward, off-balance. His right hand snaked back, and the asp crashed with devastating force against Bruce's elbow. A satisfying snap rang out, and Bruce's arm was quite suddenly bent the entirely wrong way. Still, James pulled, before finally releasing him and spinning around, crouching in mid-spin and swinging the asp once more, increasing ten-fold the force of the weapon as it smashed into Bruce's left knee through his well-tailored suit pants.

Bruce screamed in pain, and once again he fell towards the street, only his right arm heeding his command to break his fall. He screamed again as he landed and echoes of pain reverberated through his body.

James tilted his head, staring at the prone man. Was he finished yet?

He took a step forward and raised his leg, stomping on the back of Bruce's injured knee with his expensive alligator-skin shoes.

Now he was finished.

He smiled underneath his mask and began to walk away, slamming the tip of the asp against a light pole as he passed, condensing the weapon once more before he returned it to his inner pocket. He pulled down his mask a block or two later, and then buttoned his suit jacket, hiding the blood before hailing a cab. He gave the driver directions to his building, and paid him with a hundred-dollar bill before taking the elevator to his penthouse.

It had been a very relaxing night.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Reflection, Part Three

Contains mature language.
This is Part Three of the story.  Part Two can be found here. 

Once again, the sound of the door creaking open broke the rhythmic silence in the room. Jack turned to see the being at the door. It was tall, nearing, if not over, seven feet, clad from head to toe in loose, flowing robes the color of midnight, so large and voluminous that it was impossible to tell the wearer's gender. The only area the robes did not conceal was it's face, which was shielded by a blank, porcelain mask, with two dark pits for eyes. Jack stared into those pits, trying to see the eyes beyond, but it felt as if he was staring into a black hole. The eyes seemed to suck him in, drawing him further and further away from the ground he stood on, and he finally broke his gaze, nausea playing with his stomach as a toddler would with a toy from a fast-food restaurant, bashing it back and forth with wild abandon.

Again, the voice, the strange, disembodied voice that sounded more like the rolling of thunder than anything, seemed to fill the room, as if it were being issued from the walls themselves, rather than the being at the door. “Much time has passed. Are you ready?”

Jack paused, then shook his head. “No. I'm not.”

The being spoke no more, but simply turned, walking into the darkness of the passage beyond, his robes fading from sight in the eerie blackness, before the door swung shut.

Jack leaned against the wall and sighed, before he slowly slid to the floor, as if he lacked the energy to stand anymore. He thought only one word.


The Hopeless grew older, grew stronger, and, perhaps, grew wiser. He learned to hide his pain more securely, in order to better assimilate into society and gain more unfettered access to the few pleasures he had in life. The haunting presence of the woman in his mind's eye was eventually written off as nothing more than the product of the chemicals running rampant throughout his brain, and soon she was forgotten almost completely, the memory tucked neatly away in a rarely-visited corner of his head.

The human mind is a very strange thing.

“I.D.,” Jack said, holding out his hand. The man and woman each handed him a Driver's License, and he checked them both. The man was twenty-four; the woman, twenty-two. He handed them both back the cards. “Five each,” he said, and the man handed him a ten dollar bill before heading into the club.

Jack sat down on the bar stool behind the counter and pulled his cigarette case out of his pocket, lighting one, and remarking internally how nice it was to have a job where he could smoke whenever the hell he wanted to.

“That's really bad for you!” he heard someone yell over the pounding techno music. He looked over to see a small, attractive woman wearing a hoodie, jeans, and a flat cap.

“Hell yeah, it is!” he yelled back. “I wouldn't have it any other way!” He held the case out to her. “Want one?”

She shook her head. “I've got enough problems, I don't need lung cancer added to the list!”

He chuckled, looking at her again. “Do I know you from somewhere?”

She walked closer. “What?”

“Do I know you from somewhere? You look really familiar.”

“Nope, you don't. And that line is still as bad as ever.”

He rolled his eyes. “I wasn't hitting on you, you just look familiar for some reason.”

“You weren't? Why not? I mean, I can tell you, I'm pretty awesome. You should probably hit on me.”

He chuckled. “At least you're humble, right?”

She smiled, and for some strange, arcane reason, Jack's heart leaped. “Hey, you have no idea!”

I'm Jack.”

Cassie. How's life in the security business?”

Oh, you know. Secure. Or something.”

She laughed. “You're probably about the smoothest talker I've ever met.”

Hey, why don't you have techno blaring in your ears every day for eight hours, see if your brain doesn't turn to mush.”

Not a fan?”

I's alright, but at the end of the day, I prefer rock.”

Yes!” she said, holding out her hand for a high-five. Jack slapped it, a smile growing on his face. She nodded towards the front door. “Looks like you've got customers.”

He turned to see three men entering. He IDed them, took their money, and they walked in. “So what kind of bands do you like?” he asked, turning to the girl once more.

But she was gone.

He didn't see her again that night. He looked for her the next night, and the night after, unsure of why, but, he searched in vain. He knew he recognized her from somewhere, but he couldn't for the life of him figure out where. He didn't think she went to his high school. He was fairly certain they didn't have any friends in common, and he was positive they hadn't worked together somewhere. Finally, he shrugged it off, figuring it was all in his imagination.

A few weeks later, Zeke was at his apartment, the two of them celebrating 4/20 in traditional fashion, with a bong, an ounce of kill, and a collection of some of the best and most retarded stoner flicks known to man.

Dude,” Zeke said, lightly hitting his shoulder. “You know what sounds fucking great right now?”

Jack turned his head, his eyes heavy-lidded. “More weed?”

No. Yes. But, no. Fucking pancakes, man. Are you down?”

Dude, I don't have the shit to make pancakes. I eat fucking TV dinners and Chef Boyardee.”

So? You've got money, I've got money, let's hit Waffle House.”

Waffle House has waffles. That's why they call it Waffle House.

They have pancakes, too, don't they? I mean, IHOP has waffles, why won't Waffle House have pancakes?”

I don't know. Besides, who the hell goes to IHOP for fucking waffles?”

Well, let's hit Denny's, then. They're close. They have pancakes.”

I don't really want pancakes, man. I want...I don't know. I want a burger. With bacon. And cheese. And mushrooms. My God, I'm stoned.”

Zeke started giggling, which soon evolved into full-out laughing. “We both are, man. What do you say? Denny's totally has hamburgers.”

Dude...I don't think I'm really good to drive right now.”

I am! I'm a fucking master at driving while I'm high. I'm better than I am when I'm sober.” That's a bad idea, man.”

No, it's not. It's a fucking great idea. It's four-twenty, man! Live a little!”

Shit....” He stood, sliding his feet into his shoes. “This is a terrible idea.”

Nah!” Zeke said, springing to his feet. “We're gonna get our fucking grub on. Let's go.”

The drive actually was uneventful, and Jack found himself impressed at how well Zeke did. Of course, he also strongly considered the possibility that he only thought Zeke was driving well because he was blazed. Regardless, they made it there in one piece, without hitting or being hit by anyone, and Jack considered that a point in the 'win' column. They were led to a booth, given their menus, and told that there server would be there momentarily, before they each began devouring the menus with their eyes.

Wow, security man. You're high as a kite, aren't you?”

Huh?” Jack asked, looking up, and he was surprised to see the girl from the club standing before the table, dressed in the traditional black Denny's uniform. “Hey, you're—fuck. Give me a second.”

She laughed, shaking her head. “It'll come to you eventually. Maybe.”

It started with an S....”

No. Not even close.”

I'll think of it any second now.”

Dude,” Zeke said, “She's wearing a fucking name tag, for Pete's sake.”

Jack looked back at the menu. “That's cheating.” He snapped his fingers. “Cassie!” he said, looking back at her. Her name tag confirmed it, and she again laughed.

It took you long enough.”

Well, yeah, but...I don't know. Leave me alone, I'm high.”

Celebrating four-twenty, are we?”

What? Me? Never. I'm an upstanding member of the community.”

Of course you are,” she said, a smile on her face. “You're ridiculous. What can I get you guys to drink?”

She left after taking their drink orders. “She's kind of cute,” Zeke said.

Yeah...she really is, isn't she? Like...really cute.”

Zeke raised an eyebrow. “You got a thing for her? What, did you meet her at the club?”

Yeah. And no, I don't have a 'thing' for her. I don't even know her.”

She came back a few minutes later with their drinks, setting them on the table before handing each of them a straw. “So, do you guys know what you want, or are you not quite done drooling over the menu?”

Zeke snapped his gaze back to the menu, an almost panicked expression on his face. “Everything looks so good...” he said, longing in his voice.

She laughed again, and Jack realized that that, for some strange, indefinable reason, he really enjoyed the sound of her laugh. “I'm jealous,” she said. “I'm not going to do shit for four-twenty. You two look like you're having the time of your life.”

Do you know where Spring Oak apartments are?” Jack asked.

Yeah, on Morgan, right?”

Yeah. I'm at apartment three-twelve. Come on by, if you want. I'll smoke you out.”

Her eyebrows raised, and her smile turned wry. “Do you usually invite strange girls to your place?”

No. Well, I mean. Not unless they're from the club. And management frowns on that, half the time.”

She shook her head. “See? Utterly ridiculous.” She glanced at Zeke. “Do you have any idea, yet?”

Yes! This one,” he said, pointing at the menu. “Scrambled. And bacon, not sausage. And extra bacon.”

She scribbled down both of their orders and once again left, just seconds before Zeke burst out laughing. “You gave her your fucking address, homie? Really? Did that shit really just go down?”

Dude, shut up.”

You do realize that there's not a chance in hell she's coming, right? Like, you're aware that you just came off as a completely crazy psycho-killer?”

As high as he was, Zeke was still right. I just pretty much blew whatever shot I had with that girl. “Yeah. I guess so.”

The meal was eaten in relative silence. Jack's burger was decent, and the way Zeke tore through his eggs and pancakes, you would have thought that it was the ambrosia that Zeus sat down to every day.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Hung Jury

An argument. Not the first. Perhaps not the last. The participants are allies against each other, each merely wanting to do the 'right' thing. But what is the right thing? Can anyone truly know? At the end of the day, is the right path doing the thing that's best for you, that's best for the people you care about, or that is best for the planet as a whole? What moral code does one follow to truly be 'right?' Must one be true to a religious text, true to a law, or true to their own self?

The first ally is named Oron. He sits on a stone bench, one of many in the large room. He is clad from neck to toe in armor too masterfully-crafted to be an heirloom. On his back is a large shield, at his hip a long sword. He has a clean, honest face, with piercing blue eyes, and an air of quiet nobility hangs around him, as does the overbearing shadow of sorrow. His once-proud armor is in disrepair, tarnished and ugly. His sword appears to be rusted in permanent rest inside it's sheath. This man is a defender, a guardian, a man that champions the idea of suffering so that others will not have to. But he is broken. He has been defeated, as all men must one day be, and he knows not if he can defend anyone, let alone his ward, any longer.

You're a fool, Oron,” says one of his allies and opponents, a man pacing perhaps ten feet away. He is tall, and an intimidating sight in his long, black trench coat. His eyes are red, and seem to just barely glow, like the last embers of a dying fire. His wavy black hair is cut relatively short, and his face is adorned with a meticulous goatee. Curved swords are in scabbards strapped to his back, and when he turns, his coat flares out, rendering the pistols at his hips visible.

Oron sits in silence for a moment, staring at the floor. Finally, he shrugs. “I don't see many options left here, Tybalt.”

I fail to see it as an 'option' at all!” Tybalt spits, the word 'option' thrown from his mouth as if it were something vile and twisted. “It's obvious that you can't be trusted anymore.”

Oron stands, his tattered cape billowing behind him, and on his feet, tarnished armor or no, he cuts quite the imposing figure. “You can trust me to do the right thing, monster, as I have always endeavored to do.”

You hate him, now. It's obvious to everyone.”

And who are you to speak of hatred!” Oron roars, his hand grasping the hilt of his sword. He pulls, but cannot free it from the rust imprisoning it.

It's my job to hate,” Tybalt snarls, and his hands reach over his shoulders, drawing his swords, the blades carving elegant ribbons in the air as he begins to approach the knight. “What is your excuse?”

Stop!” a voice cries, and Tybalt halts, his head turning to her. With a growl of frustration, he slams his swords back into their sheaths and turns, once more resuming his pacing.

It is easy to tell that Auria was once beautiful, but her beauty has been tainted with the shadow of death looming over her. Her large brown eyes are filled with sorrow, and her short blond hair falls listlessly around her shoulders. She has always been a creature of love, but her love alone can no longer sustain her, as evidenced by her slightly emaciated frame. Her sundress is faded, and her feet are bare. She sits on the floor, her back against the wall, and looks as if she lacks even the energy to stand.

Killing each other isn't going to solve anything,” she says, her voice soft and pleasing, but then she coughs, a rough, painful sounding thing that seems to carry on for far too long, making Oron wince in sympathy, and causing a flash of sadness to fly over even Tybalt's eyes at the sound.

They both know, after all, that she is the best of all of them.

Silence fell, and Oron takes his place back on the bench, tugging futilely at his sword once more, and, for a long while, nothing is spoken.

What you're talking about is murder,” Tybalt finally says, the silence breaking abruptly and suddenly.

Oron snorts, then starts laughing. “Incredible,” he finally says, shaking his head. “You want to kill...almost everyone. And this is your big opposition? That it is 'murder'? Really?”

I never wanted to kill him,” Tybalt responds, his lip curled into a snarl, and his finger punched towards the window, emphasizing his point.

Besides, it is not murder. Not by any of the standard definitions. Think of it as...euthanasia. People have been euthanized for thousands of years. Most likely will for many thousands more. It is...a noble act, to end one's suffering, when no other escape can be found.”

Our job is to protect him, Oron. Not kill him.”

A fourth voice enters the fray. “Perhaps in this case, the two are one and the same.”

Barris sits at a table, facing three large books open before him, and many more in stacks beyond them. He wears the robes of a scholar, and half-moon spectacles are perched on his nose. He is by far the oldest in appearance of the group, with a long, flowing beard of silver and deep wrinkles etched into his face. “He is an artist. A tragic one, at that. Historically...those people never end well. Perhaps protecting him, in this case, involves letting him die sooner, rather than later.”

Perhaps he should fight!”

That's your answer to everything, Tybalt,” Auria says, her voice tired and weak. “But not every battle can be won by picking up a sword and shedding blood.”

And what would you have us do, then?” he says, turning to face her, his coat whipping about him dramatically. “What would you have us do, knowing full well that you're in the clutches of death as we speak?!”

She shrugs, and leans her head back to rest against the wall. “Foster hope,” she eventually answers, and sighs. “It's the second most powerful thing in the universe, hope. Overruled only by love.”

With all due respect, Auria,” Barris says, his voice expressing remorse at what he must say, “One could easily argue that your cultivation of love and hope are what brought this mess about in the first place.”

She lowers her head, and a tear falls from her face, staining her dress. “I know.”

Oron stares at Barris, and shakes his head. “A low blow, scholar.”

The truth is not always pleasant to hear, knight. But that doesn't make it's validity ring any less soundly. I am as fond of Auria as any of you. But fondness does not change fact.”

The truth doesn't always need to be spoken. You are as aware of this as I am.”

Tybalt snorts. “So now, we should hide things from each other? You act as if it's even possible. Everyone knows you resent Auria as much as you adore her. Before she entered the battle, you thought you and I had things well under control. But you know as much as I, as much as Auria, and as much as Barris, that he was miserable. It was merely my influence that allowed him to hide it.”

And now,” Barris says, raising his head from his texts and removing the spectacles from his nose, “he is more miserable than ever before. The hope that he had is dying, and, as much as I loathe admitting it, you're dying along with it, Auria. So...what do we do?”

I told you,” Oron says, rising to his feet once more. “We put him out of his misery.”

I admit, I must agree with you, though I daresay for different reasons. And you, Tybalt?”

This is ridiculous. We can't just let him die. Not like a coward. Not like this.”

And what would you propose we do in substitution?”

I don't know, scholar. I just know that this is wrong. And absolutely pathetic, at that.”

Auria? What say you?”

She coughs again, a horrible sound that echos throughout the room. After perhaps half a minute, the fit passes, and she gasps for breath, before finally panting, “We hope. We yearn for a brighter tomorrow. Maybe that will be enough.”

Oron walks to the window, stares out of it, at the rain pouring from the sky, hurtling towards the ground fifteen stories below, and the edge of the roof less than six feet below. “Hung jury, then,” he muses. “Two for it, two against it. Means it's not our call anymore. It's up to him.”

And on the other side of the window is the eye of a man, standing on a ledge slick with rain. He sighs, glances at the ground so very far below him. There is no fear in his heart, but all the same, he finds himself torn, as if half of him is demanding that he take the final step forward, and half of him is demanding that he not.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Reflection, Part Two

Contains mature language.
This is Part Two of the story.  Part One can be found here. 

Humans are fickle things, changing themselves with every form they take. One could take a hundred of them, subject them all to the same horrors and wonders in life, and each would be affected in a different matter. Some would glorify the wonders, others would condemn the horrors. Some will see many of the wonders as horrors, others will see many of the horrors as wonders. There is no dividing line, no clear distinction which has been set in time to serve as a guideline for human growth.

There are only the Roles. Even they, though, are subject to the forever shifting nature of the human race, presenting themselves in ever-evolving manners.

The Hopeless, for example, is often a sad, pitiable creature. Without hope, a human is devoid of the most basic principle of life—the idea of a better tomorrow. However, even this eternal role is subject to the erratic basis of humanity, and sometimes—as in this case—the Hopeless becomes strengthened by his tragic existence, becoming a paragon of resolve.

But what is resolve without hope? Even when the Hopeless is strengthened by the void in his life, he is still a sad, pitiable creature.

Jack swung, pivoting his hip as he did so, adding extra force to the punch as his fist collided with David's face. He didn't let up, quickly shifting his weight and slamming his left fist upward to smash into the underside of David's chin, causing his head to snap back as he stumbled, his back contacting the brick wall behind him, before he sank to the ground, sobbing. Jack turned his head, spat. He took a step towards the high school freshman, hunkered down before him.

“Here's the deal, David,” he said, reaching into his pocket to pull out a pack of full-flavored cigarettes. He lit one, before proffering the pack to David. David didn't respond, and Jack shrugged before replacing them into his pocket. “Here's the deal,” he repeated, after taking a drag. “At the core of it, once you strip away the staff, the faculty, a school like this one is...well, it's a bit like a community, David. You have your preps, like that cheerleader bitch Melissa Hargrove, and they're a bit like the politicians. They're concerned with being liked. Appearance is a very big deal to them. And, just like every politician in the world, they want to appear to be a great deal better than what they actually are. And that's fine, because almost everybody is like that, but a problem arises when you decide to start telling stories about how people like Melissa Hargrove have acid, David. Do you know why?”

David shook his head, his breath coming in quick and ragged bursts through his nose. Both of his hands were to his face, one gently cupping his injured chin, the other covering the side of his face where a bruise was surely forming.

Jack nodded, taking a long drag from his cigarette. “I thought you might not know what the problem with that is, David, which is why, I'll wager, tell stories you did.” He stood, taking another drag, and began pacing back and forth in front of David. “The problem is that Melissa Hargrove has connections that let her get such a wonderful chemical. Very good connections, that make for very good acid. And since Melissa is so worried about appearance, if she were to get caught with a chemical like that,” his voice turned to a blade of menace, “well, she's probably not going to want to fucking share anymore—if you catch my drift.”

“But—but, she didn't get caught. I heard the principal searched her, she didn't have anything!”

Jack nodded. “I'm well aware of that, David. Do you know why?”

David shook his head once more, and Jack nodded. “I didn't think so. See, I'm not like you. I don't get straight A's. Teachers don't smile when I walk into the classroom, despite me being here a year longer than you. But all the same,” he stopped pacing, crouching down in front of him once more, his voice changing into a low hiss, “I am smarter than you. There's a reason why every fucking student in this school knows my name. There's a reason why I can break Terry Fudd's arm in the middle of the goddamn cafeteria, and no one saw it. And there's a reason why I can find out about your runaway fucking mouth,” he reached into the pocket of his coat, pulling out a small vial half-filled with a clear liquid, “and inform Melissa that it would be in her best interest to 'misplace' her supply.”

“Well, we're, we're good now, then, right? I mean, you have what you wanted, right?”

Jack shook his head. “I think I'm actually more concerned with what you want, David. You clearly wanted this acid to disappear.” He tossed the vial into the air, caught it. Tossed it again, caught it again. Once more, he tossed it, but this time in a gentle arc that bounced off of David's knee before landing to a rest between the freshman's legs. “So make it disappear.”

“What—what do you mean?”

“Exactly what it fucking sounds like, David. Drink it. All of it.”

“But...a normal dose would only be a drop or two! Nobody could drink that entire vial without—”

“You can either drink it, or you can have your skull smashed into the fucking wall behind you,” Jack interrupted, flicking his cigarette away before cracking his knuckles and reaching into his pocket to pull out a pair of black gloves, sliding one on each hand. “Make up your mind.”

Tears now began streaming out of David's face. “Please, I don't wanna die,” he said, his words broken by sobs. “Please, please don't make me do this.”

Jack snorted. “If you don't want to die, I'd suggest drinking up. There's a chance you'll just get out of it with some brain damage. If you're really lucky, you won't even really have to deal with that, and you'll just get the trip of your life. Now...last call, motherfucker.”

Trembling hands unscrewed the cap from the vial, and pleading eyes looked into Jacks. They found no pity there, only hardened, ice-blue flints of uncaring malice. He let the cap fall to the ground, and he sniffed the bottle.

“It's odorless,” Jack said. “Tasteless. I'm sure you're well aware. Quit pussyfooting around and drink it.”

David sobbed again, and lifted the vial to his lips, letting the liquid trickle into this mouth. He swallowed, and opened his mouth for Jack to see.

“Good boy,” Jack said. He pulled off his gloves and stood. “Next time...well, why don't we be sure there's not a next time, hmm?” He turned, and began to walk away.

He rounded the outer corner of the cafeteria a moment later, and Zeke was waiting for him, dextrously maneuvering a pen between the four fingers of his right hand. “Well?” he asked, sliding the pen into his pocket and falling into step aside Jack. He was a tall, lanky man, who looked more like a nerd than anything—and his intelligence backed up that claim, registering well into the genius range. That said, the sixteen-year-old was surprisingly adept at the Israeli martial art known as Krav Maga, and, thanks to a few impromptu demonstrations of the his brutally efficient combat abilities, he was given a wide berth on campus.

“He got knocked around a little bit. Nothing too serious. And he drank it.”

“Did he fall for it?”

Jack chuckled. “He's freaking out right now, probably trying to make himself throw up, thinking he's going to flip his shit any minute now.”

“And you have the real stuff, right?”

Jack patted his chest, indicating the inner pocket of his long coat. “For free dollars and thrifty cents. She was all too happy to give it away for free, as opposed to getting searched and arrested.”

Zeke laughed and clapped Jack on the back. “It's gonna be a hell of a night, man.”

Jack turned, leaning his back against the bricks of one of the buildings and looking across the common area, at the hundreds of students safe and sound in their cozy little cliques, worrying about grades, or parties, or whatever insignificant problems they have that they consider so very important.


Jack frowned, the memories surfacing almost against his will. He wasn't proud of the person he used to be, even though he couldn't deny that he had often wished he could turn into that person again.

The Roles Incarnate are a rare breed, often leading lives that in some ways defy conventional logic. There is no clear, discernible reasoning behind the course that any human life takes, but when a human comes to embody a Role so deeply that it becomes Incarnate, the course of his life is inevitably altered, sometimes taking turns that seem almost mystical.

Jack held the eyedropper above his open mouth, squeezing it, feeling a drop of the LSD burst against his tongue, then a second, then a third. He closed his mouth, running his tongue around his teeth. It tasted like water. He knew that, he expected it, but it still somehow surprised him, and he couldn't help but wonder if it was legitimate.

Zeke took the eyedropper from him, a look of resigned trepidation evident on his face. “Here goes nothing,” he said, tilting his head back and letting a drop of the drug fall into his mouth. He handed the dropper to his girlfriend, Sonja, a spunky girl with short blonde hair and a pierced nose, and she did the same.

“So how long is it going to take for it to kick in?” she said, passing the eyedropper back to Jack.

Jack squeezed the leftover acid back into the vial before screwing the cap back on, putting the vial and eyedropper into his pocket. “Half an hour to an hour,” he said. “Sometimes longer. But it's my first time, too, so I don't know for sure.”

The three of them were sitting on the floor in Zeke's room, Zeke and Sonja leaning against Zeke's bed, and Jack a few feet away, leaning against the closet door. Zeke's room was a shrine to Gothic nerdiness, featuring large framed posters of Batman, the Punisher, and various other dark heroes and villains. On one wall hung an assortment of fantasy weaponry, various daggers, swords, and axes featuring ornate designs. Below that was a stand featuring more authentic, legitimate Japanese weaponry, a katana, a wakizashi, and a tanto. Zeke's house had been broken into at one point, and the wakizashi had come into play against the intruder, cutting off three of his fingers and inflicting a fairly serious chest wound. After that incident, Zeke's father had rewarded him with a Glock 17, a nine-millimeter, semi-automatic handgun, the butt of which could be seen poking out from underneath Zeke's pillow.

Zeke reached behind him, his arm grasping around under his bed, before he pulled out a shoe box. He opened it, pulled out a small glass bong, and unscrewed a bottle of water, filling the chamber, before reaching back into the box, into a sandwich bag, to pull out a few pinches of marijuana, loading the bowl of the bong. He pulled a lighter from his pocket and sparked the bowl, filling the chamber with smoke, before lifting the bowl and sucking the smoke into his lungs in one impressive pull. His face turned red as he resisted the urge to cough, and Jack snorted, the shadow of a smile on his face. Zeke flipped him off casually, and passed the bong to Sonja.

Jack reached into his coat and pulled out his cigarettes, blazing one to life between his lips. Sonja finished her hit and held the bong out to him, and he shook his head. “No. I want my head to be clear when the acid kicks in.” She nodded, and passed the bong back to her boyfriend, who shrugged before taking another monster hit.

Jack leaned back and smoked in silence, ignoring the two lovers sharing a bong and small talk a few feet away. He finished his cigarette and crushed the remnant into a glass ashtray, considering how in that small little tube, one could very easily see a parody of the human life, a carcinogenic, disease ridden thing that would at one point burn itself out, leaving nothing behind to speak for but a worthless carcass with very little use that would one day decompose to nothingness, and a cloud of pollution to sicken the planet even further than what it already is.

What's the point? He asked himself, reaching already for another cigarette. He hated himself when he got this way, when he turned into this introspective, depressed creature. He fought that side of himself daily, determined to beat it into submission with drugs, a carefully constructed mask designed to hide what few emotions he felt, and pure, unabashed strength of will.

He lit the cigarette and took a long drag. He breathed a stream of smoke out and realized that that, too, could be seen as a parody of life, a loose collection of cancer and death that would eventually fade to nothingness.

He shook his head and leaned back again. His gaze fell to the poster of Batman crouching on a gargoyle jutting from the side of a tall building. He liked Batman, liked the idea of a man dedicated to doing the right thing, to turning his pain into something noble and pure. He wasn't entirely sure why he liked that idea, being as it could quite be considered the exact opposite of himself. He took his pain and inflicted it upon others through intimidation, trickery, or, when necessary, pure brute force, as if as long as the world was hurting as much as he was, then his pain would begin to feel insignificant. never did. No matter how much he railed at the world, no matter how many people cringed in his presence, no matter how many noses he bloodied or ribs he broke, his pain never diminished, but instead seemed to grow with every passing day, with every passing thought, as if it was a black hole inside him, growing stronger with every evil deed he committed.

Time passed, and Jack become more and more involved in his thoughts, completely ignoring Zeke and Sonja. They didn't bother him, knowing full well that he simply got like this sometimes, and interrupting his thinking at such a time was likely to snap on his 'autopilot', throwing him into an unthinking rage before he realized who, exactly, it was that was interrupting him.

A smile begin to grow on his face as he sat there, and after a few moments, he realized how profoundly happy he was. He took a deep breath, and the feel of the cool air entering his lungs seemed almost profound.

There it is, he thought.

He wasn't sure how long he sat there, slowly breathing in and out, but after a while, he looked towards Zeke and Sonja. Zeke had his arm around his girlfriend, and they both were leaned against the bed, each bearing a somewhat goofy smile.

How long have we been tripping?” Jack asked.

Fuck if I know, man,” Zeke responded. “I was high before I was high.” He started sniggering, and Sonja shook her head.

That was not that funny.”

He leaned over, planting a kiss on her exposed neck. “Funny enough for me,” he said, and she rolled her eyes.

Jack lit another cigarette. He glanced once more at the Batman poster. “Whoa,” he said, noticing that the edges of the poster were slowly waving back and forth. “That's...kind of cool.”

What is?” Zeke asked.

Look at the posters, man. They're waving.”


Jack closed his eyes, and was soon is his own little world, his mind expanding into a million different places, his minds eye ablaze with activity. He seemed to slip into a trance once his cigarette was finished and crushed into the glass ashtray alongside it's brothers. He could see the room that they were in, and he saw the Batman poster he had stared at earlier. His minds eye zoomed in on the poster, closer and closer, until he seemed to pass through it, making the molecules that comprise the poster visible, then even closer, making the atoms that made up the molecules visible, then closer still.

He was struck by the revelation that every one of those tiny building blocks was somehow connected to every other, and that what happened to one would invariably cause repercussions affecting not only every building block of that poster, but of all of creation. As this came to him, his vision seemed to pull back out, once again zooming out past the atoms, the molecules, until he could see the poster once more. It kept pulling out, though, eventually showcasing the planet, and then the system, and he realized that all of these were the building blocks of something even greater. His vision kept pulling back, and he realized that the galaxy was the tiniest building block of something greater, and finally, that something snapped into view, this grand, inexplicable work of conscious art that was the master and the product of all of creation.

But what's the point!? he cried out internally, and his vision seemed to zoom back in, impossibly fast, back into the galaxy, back into the solar system, back into earth, inside some house he had never recognized before, and he saw her.

She was short—he guessed only a few inches over five feet. Her hair was long and dark, her eyes the most entrancing hazel he could ever even imagine comprehending. Her clothing was nothing fancy, jeans and a low-cut but fairly casual top. She didn't look like a model, or an actress, and she had almost an air of tomboyishness about her.

She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, and he felt his mouth drop as he stared at her through closed eyes. She wasn't perfect, but her imperfections somehow made her more than perfect.

She raised her eyes to his, and a sad smile lit on her face. “I am,” she said, simply.

©2011 Cerebral Vomit DESIGNED BY JAY DAVIS