For Fire

Fire is life. Without it, we are nothing. We need the fire in our lives.

It gives us warmth during the night and shelters us to welcome the great fire in the sky. It provides light so that we may see what waits for us in the dark and aids in completing our tasks regardless of the hour.

Fire also harms and kills and burns. It destroys what it comes in contact with, so that it may grow stronger and continue on. It is the nature of fire. To consume.

There are those who fire has chosen. Those few who have a raging inferno within their souls. They burn from deep inside. It is a sight to behold. To see what these Children of the Flame can do. Some dance. Some paint. Some fight. Others kill and harm. But they are never boring.

She, of the fire kissed hair, has a blaze inside of her. You see it in her eyes and her smile. You hear it in her laugh. You feel it emanating from her; the warmth, the heat, the fire.

I feel her flame when she lies next to me as she slumbers. I feel her heat when I taste her lips. I see her spark as she dances and moves. She is constantly in motion. Even when she sleeps, her body wants to continue to move, to live.

I know that her flame feeds off of me. I sense myself diminishing in her presence. I yearn for her touch when she is not around more and more with each passing day.

Soon will come the time when I am but a shell of my old self. Her flame will have engulfed me, destroyed me, and leave nothing but ash and dust.

And I will happily walk into her fire to be consumed for the last sensation of being with her.

A Simple Trade

I don’t know if this will become a series or random interconnected stories, but this character was interesting enough for me to write him at least one more tale. The first one can be read here though it is not necessary to appreciate this one. 

* * *

I have never taken music lessons in my life. Hell, I had never even touched a piano before tonight. Yet, my fingers felt fused to the ivories of that exquisite instrument. Every note sung out into the audience and reached into their souls. I am not speaking from pride or ego. I saw the emotion dripping from their faces. No one who was within earshot could resist the lure of my music. Ink had worked his magic once more. The pianist’s skill would forever be mine to wield.

I ended my song to applause from the lounge and bar. I sincerely doubt most of the patrons would normally welcome any disturbance to their constant search for inebriation. Such was the power of a well played tune by the hands of a master.

My client would not be ready for a few hours still, so I felt a celebratory drink after my debut performance was in order. Whiskey neat, heavy glass, perfect pour; all that was missing was a rare piece of meat or a good looking woman seated next to me. I should have known trouble was coming when she sat came, especially since there were several empty seats along the bar.

“Is this seat taken?” she asked. I was on the job. Distractions are deadly in my line of work, but it is damn difficult to say no to a fine woman in a little black dress.

“I believe it was actually waiting for you to show up,” I said.

She smiled at my poor attempt at flirting. Her crimson lips parted slightly when she did. The rose hue on her cheeks complimented her lips and alabaster skin. This woman was dangerous. I liked it.

“Does that line ever work?” she asked as she sat down.

I took a sip of my whiskey before responding. “Got you to take a seat, darling.”

“Oh, I was always going to sit next to you this night, Shadow.”

Yup, she was trouble. I slammed my glass hard on the bar. It got the bartender’s attention, yet didn’t faze my female companion at all.

I turned to face her, not bothering to hide the murder in my eyes. She did not retract or flinch from my gaze. “You are not a client, a contact, or a friend, so how the hell do you know my name?”

She picked up my glass and threw the last of its contents down her throat in one quick motion. Just a few seconds ago, I was curious what that neck would smell like as I put my lips on it. Now, I was imagining what it would taste like when I tear it to shreds.

“To be fair, that is not your actual name. It is your chosen title. Everyone among the Darkness has one. Hell, even those in the Light do not go by their true name.”

This dame had knowledge though she did not seem like one of my kind. She still smelled very human.

“Your name, however, is still an odd on. Most of your kind choose a moniker denoting their skill or some inflated sense of ego. Yours does neither. Why is that, Shadow?”

She knew more than she should. Someone had been telling tales out of class and that would not stand. My client would be here within the hour. Assuming I did not enjoy the moment, there was more than enough time to get some answers from her and dispose of the body and any evidence.

“I am not here to cause you trouble, Shadow. I am here to make an offer.”

She could offer me nothing of substance. But if she was willing to provide answers without force, I was not going to stop her.

“Alright, say your peace, woman,” I said.

She ordered another round of whiskey for the both of us. I was not going to risk anything by drinking her olive branch. The drinks arrived quickly and she took a drink of her own just as fast. Her leg was shaking slightly. No doubt the whiskey was a means to calm her nerves. This woman may know something of the Darkness, but she had never truly walked in its depths. I almost felt sorry for her. Almost.

“I know you are here on business.”

“I am here to see a client, yes.” I said.

It was her turn to look incredulous. She did not want to mince words or bullshit at the moment.

“No semantics. You are not here for a ‘client.’ You are here to kill a man on someone else’s dime.”

I was genuinely surprised. “How do you know…” I was silenced by a finger in my face. I really wanted to break that index finger.

“Doesn’t matter. The point is you cannot kill this man or the ones you will be hired to kill after his death.”

I had not been hired to kill anyone else. Granted, my benefactor had insinuated that more work might become available upon a successful and completed job. How did this girl know this? She was definitely human or had some shape shifters just gotten good enough to trick all of my senses and magics? No matter. This girl had to be put down.

“Look lady, I don’t know who this guy is to you, but someone paid for him to die and I have a reputation to uphold. So, I will be taking my leave now. Enjoy the drink and pray that we do not meet one another again.”

She stood up and blocked my path. This woman was becoming a persistent nuisance. She was not very tall. Some would even classify her as petite. She was pretty and, truth be told, she was making the dress work and not the other way around. It was a shame for the world to lose such a specimen, but work was work.

“You misunderstand me, Shadow. The man you are after will die tonight, but not by your hand.”

“Oh,” I asked partially intrigued. “Then by whose?”

“Mine,” she responded showing me the blade she had managed to conceal. I honestly could not find a single place where she could have hidden the knife on her person. I wanted to try to find it, but that seemed ill advised in the bar.

“I don’t care about credit or money. I just want to be the one to end the life of this man and the ones that will come after him. You get the names. You keep the rewards. I take them down.”

“Is this your offer, girl? I don’t know you or how you could possibly have any of the information you possess. Frankly, I am debating whether to kill you now or after my actual assignment is done. Why would I agree to your ridiculous proposal?” It took every ounce of self control to not raise my voice or cause a scene or slit her throat there and now.

“Because I’ll let you keep their blood and give you a vial of my own.” My ears perked up at her suggestion. She knew of my ability. Many would die for that. Some I even considered friends.

“That’s your thing, right? You collect blood as some sort of weird trophies?” So, she did not know the true reason for the blood or at least she was smart enough to pretend to not know. I was actually considering her offer at this point. I needed information and her being alive might be the only way to get it.

“I can acquire what you offer on my own without much difficulty. You give me nothing I desire.” I began to move pass her, but she grabbed my arm before I could move away.

“What about the blood of a changeling? Would that be enough of a prize for you to agree to my terms?”

Changelings, true Changelings, were a rare creature. Most believed they were extinct, but rumors persisted of a few survivors that had managed to avoid that sad fate. If I could get a sample of a living Changeling’s blood or skin or just anything, I would have an unimaginable advantage.

“If you can provide such a trophy, I will slice up anyone you name and present you their remains on a silver platter with a bow.”

“That won’t be necessary. Just agree to work with me and give what I have asked for.” She held out her hand. Bonds and oaths were terrible things in my world. For humans breaking them meant very little ultimately. For us, however, the costs of going back on our explicit word were not without substance. But this was too good an offer to pass.

I grasped her hand in agreement. “You have a deal. Shall we begin?”

She released her soft touch. “Yes, we should.”

We made our way through the lounge bar passing the addled occupants of the hotel lobby toward the elevators. I had the details of our target. She was the instrument of his demise. These terms were acceptable. I inserted the special key to access the upper penthouses and selected our victim’s last abode.

“Since we’ll be working together for the foreseeable future, I think I should have your name like you have mine,” I said over the droll sounds of annoying elevator music.

“Agreed. You can call me Nemesis,” she responded.

“Really? That is your actual name?”

She turned to meet my skeptical gaze. Her eyes were full of fire and rage, yet resolute in what was to come in her journey. “It is as much my name as Shadow is yours. It shall be what I am known as for this job.” She returned her sight to the elevator door grasping the blade in her hand. There was no more shaking, no more jitters, no more hesitation.

I don’t know who you are or what you are doing girlie, but I can tell this is going to be a fun ride. 

Lessons From…47 Ronin

I have always been fascinated by stories of warrior’s code and duty regardless of country or philosophy of origin. Gawain and the Green Knight has been a personal favorite of mine but before that particular tale, I gravitated toward the story of the 47 Ronin.

Yeah, that's right comics, y'all!

Yeah, that’s right comics, y’all!

Truth be told, I am not sure how I came across this narrative, but the story of loyalty and duty always stayed with me. I suppose it was helped by my odd fascination with Japanese culture and history.

Like all good tales, 47 Ronin has been adapted to various other mediums to spread the story to a wider audience. Most recently, I believe, the story took on a Hollywood spin starring Keanu Reeves.

Yeah, definitely an attempt at a summer blockbuster that did not quite pan out. However, even this odd attempt holds a few lessons that are worthy of attention.

First and foremost, the obvious moral the story unfolds is that of a warrior, hell a man’s, duty to his honor, vow, and master. According to the code of bushido, a samurai was bound to his daimyo (lord). Under these sacred vows, a samurai had to fight to the death to defend the lands, members, and the household of his master.

Now, obviously, the vassal system no longer really exists but the concepts of duty and honor should be no lesser in the modern age. Each and every one of us has something or someone that we should hold in high regard and be duty bound to protect and honor. I don’t know what that may be for you but everyone should have such a stake in this world.

I cannot say that the new film reinvents or does anything revolutionary to the tale of the 47 Ronin, but there is one aspect that does manage to add to the narrative. In the movie, an outsider (Keanu Reeves) is the 47th ronin on the list willing to fight and die for his lord. The outsider, Kai, in the film is running away from a dark and troubled past. He has been trained in the ways of killing by the tengu of the forest. Basically, he can access a super speed form allowing him to kill his enemies seemingly at will.

For some reason, Kai regrets these teachings and gifts (something to do with the darkness and lack of feeling and love, etc.) and finds solace in being a humble beggar on the outskirts of civilization. However, it is the knowledge and skills acquired from these early teachings that ultimately prove a boon to Kai and the other ronin on their quest.

Without either of these things, the quest for justice would have gone unfulfilled. In essence, the things Kai hated about his past were his saving graces that ensured victory over his enemies. This is today’s lesson: that which we do not understand, or possibly despise, can be the one thing that sets us apart and guarantees our success. Perhaps we should nurture our eccentricities and odd gifts instead of weakening or hiding them.

The 47's legacy.

The 47’s legacy.

Thus endeth today’s lesson. Seriously, though if you have a chance, read the story of the 47 Ronin as soon as you can.

 

St. Patrick’s Day

For the last few years, I have enjoyed St. Patrick’s Day mainly because of the company and not quite the day. I know that there is an actual history and meaning to the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, but like most holidays appropriated by America it is now, essentially, another excuse to get insanely drunk without too much of a social stigma (looking at you Cinco de Mayo and Mardi Gras).

I never cared about that, though, because if I wanted to drink to a stupid amount, I would without reservation. Thankfully, I  have outgrown that phase, for now. What I looked forward to was spending a free night with friends. Somehow during my time in college, recent graduate, St. Patrick’s Day fell on a day that I had a vacation or a weekend.

There as much drinking involved, but there was also the sublime pleasure of having the nearby area of the town pretty much to ourselves. Instead of dealing with a plethora of undergrads, we freely roamed from venue to venue and enjoyed the local music, art scenes, and brew joints to our heart’s content. We also made sure to have at least one Depth Charge and do one embarrassing dance for the memories.

And that is what I cherish most of all, the memories that will stay with me long after I may part ways with friends. I’ll remember the stories we created that will inspire and entertain me and those lucky enough I eventually share them with for years to come. There are some pretty good ones that I look forward to reminiscing on over a cold, or room temperature I am not picky, Guinness. Till then, to all Sláinte!

TV Rant!!!

Okay, so this might not be so much a rant as an observation or critique…actually, you know what screw it, it’s a rant. Don’t know how many Castle fans there are out there, probably at least a few considering the success of the show, but I have watched the show since its pilot episode (I love Nathan Fillion). As with any other show, it has had its ups and downs but the last episode really bugged me. Obviously, we could discuss the plot cliches, story structure, characters, etc. and the various ways to improve them, but that is not what irked me. No, what truly irritated me was the development in the ‘Alexis’ character or more specifically the change in her relationship with her father, the titular ‘Castle’.

In case it is not apparent at this point, SPOILERS ahead.

I will try to not bore you with too many details, but the overall situation is that Alexis returns from her study abroad trip with a new boyfriend who basically lives at her father’s place during the entire summer. Castle, already frustrated with the situation, finally tells Alexis how he really feels about her boyfriend after she states her intention of moving in with him. Also, the boyfriend in question is a pseudo-intellectual, new age hippie archetype without any plans, goals, etc. Just the kind you want to bring home to meet the parents. As is to be expected, the boyfriend overhears Castle and Alexis is not too pleased with her father. Now up to this point, it is a basic television narrative and to be completely honest I am a little bored because I have seen this before in other programs, but whatever. Where it turns for me, though, is the end of the episode where Castle goes to Alexis to apologize for what he said. What The Actual Fuck!?

Seriously what the fuck? Castle apologizes to Alexis for… Ok, I understand that perhaps Castle hurt the boyfriend’s (whose name I think is Pi, maybe) feelings and for that maybe he should apologize but beyond that I have no freaking clue what he is sorry for. 1. He is her father and still very much supporting her. As her father, he will always be concerned for her well being and worry about her. It is kind of in the job description. As well, he is footing the bill for pretty much her entire college experience so he has at least some say in what she does with his money. 2. The boyfriend is a pseudo intellectual, new age hippie with no prospects or plans who she has known for all of about six months. Of course, Castle thinks it is a bad idea  to date, much less move in with, him and every other adult cognizant of the situation agrees but does not believeit is a good idea to tell Alexis.

Now, I know that a large part of growing up is leaving the home and finding your own way in life, but when did that idea take on the idiotic notion that I must break ties with my parents and prove them wrong because that is the only way to mature. Really? Don’t get me wrong. I disagree with a lot of what my family does and believes in, however, I don’t break away or disown them because they are my fucking family! We don’t talk about certain things now, but we also recognize how important we are to each other. Why is it that a teenager on television/film has to be an annoying twat that must disagree with the adults until the awkward moment of clarity where they realize that the adults were kind of right the whole time? Can there be even one teenager who maybe is not such a twat from the beginning, understand that maybe their parents know what the hell they’re talking about, and maybe try/do something new or different?

Still the most annoying aspect of the ending was the comparison that Alexis made between her situation and her father’s. Basically, she says that she got together with her boyfriend secretly and wants to move in with him and that is exactly what Castle did with Beckett, his fiance, as he got engaged with her at the spur of the moment without consulting/telling anyone. A. This is even worse because it makes Alexis seem even less mature and doing some stupid passive aggressive bullshit to get back at her father by making an obviously stupid choice. B. It is not at all the same thing! Yes, Castle got engaged at the “spur of the moment” to a woman whom he dated for at least a year and that he has known for at least four years. Also, the same woman that Alexis trusted to seek advice and council and who has saved Castle’s life a few times so you know exactly the same thing as that random guy you’ve dated for a few months. C. if it was a similar situation and your father is telling you how bad an idea it is, then shouldn’t you heed his advice considering he has already gone through it?

Look, I know television thrives off contrived drama, but can’t teenagers have some new material especially considering that most of the time the supposed situation with their families is particularly contrived and idiotic and usually makes the teenagers in question come off as annoying, superficial, moronic idiots.

Alright rant over. Needed to get that off my chest.

Anyhow, to all those participating in NaNoWriMo, I salute you and as I also plan on attempting the difficult feat, hopefully I’ll see you on the other side. To those participating in Movember, hahahahahaha, you look like newborn babes with your fresh faces. Itchy, huh?

Writing Challenge – Inspired by the Stars

This is my second endeavor in the Sentry project. These stories are written alongside Bryan and Strubberg as independent endeavors. Today’s endeavor was fueled by cheap coffee and music provided by Lindsey Stirling (check out her stuff here). Check back every third Saturday for new Sentry Stories and feel free to join the process! Members pick a random “anything” to inspire our writing (this one’s was a photo of the galaxy from the Hubble Telescope) and we start writing at 12:00pm CST. The only rules are 1) the “anything” must inspire the writing 2) we can’t take longer than one hour and 3) the post must be less than 500 words. Bryan’s can be found here, Strubberg’s here. Comment on this post to learn more.

stars

Looking Up at the Stars

Not a single cloud obstructed the view. The hill was high enough that the city’s noise did not interfere either. Richard did not mind the city’s distractions so much, but the occasional silence was always appreciated, particularly for certain events. The trek up the hill was harder than Richard remembered. He had done it only the year before with little exertion. Granted the added weight of his satchel did not help. Still after staggered steps and a few needed breaks, he reached the top. The perfect spot as always, thought Richard as he began to empty the contents of his bag.

He spread the blanket on the ground flattening it out to ensure no corner curled or turned getting as much space as possible covered. Finesse was never Richard’s strong point, but he tried to arrange the chocolates, fruits, and cheeses he had brought as best as possible. The wine was cold enough to stay out next to the simple platter for a while. His arrangement would never make a section of the local paper, much less a national magazine, but he made it as appealing as possible. It was a special night after all.

Setting up the telescope was no trouble. He had done it a hundred times. It was essentially muscle memory at this point. Unlike, his childhood friends, Richard had never really had any interest in the stars. He never wanted to be an astronaut nor travel in space. He was content to examine the mysteries and pleasures of the ground he stood on. Of course, that all changed, as with most things, when she came into the picture. Lucy, the starry eyed girl, from astronomy class. He had taken the class for an easy A and had found her. To think that he had chickened out of talking to her. Thankfully, she was not as timid as he was concerning the opposite sex.

They became inseparable. Her fascination with the stars became theirs and what was originally a cheap first date looking at the stars became a ritual of their relationship. Which is why everything has to be perfect, thought Richard returning from his haze of fond memories. The telescope was perfectly aligned. Finding a few flowers nearby to enhance his arrangement, Richard sat down and waited for a specter that would never show. He could hear church bells from below start to chime. He checked his watch, 9:00 p.m. on the dot. “Happy Anniversary, Lucy, my star.” The words felt ripped out of him as he spoke. The ring from his pocket was heavy as he placed it in his palm. Five years married. Five years of holding hands and looking at the constellations were all he had before she was taken from him. Richard could no longer hold back his tears. He laid back on the blanket and looked up at the stars praying that one day he would be able to see them once again with Lucy’s hand clasped in his.

***

So that was my submission. Hopefully some of you like it and others can provide suggestions for improvement in the comments or want to learn more about this crazy experiment.

The Sentry Gathers…

Hard to Turn Off

My local library back home has an annual summer reading program for kids up to the age of 12. It’s pretty simple. You have 6 weeks to read a certain number of books usually around 10 if memory serves. If you managed to finish the task, you were rewarded with a party and prizes at the community pool. I started doing the program when I was eight and completed it every year until I was no longer eligible. I even managed to win the top prize a few times. This is not an attempt at humble brag or anything. In fact, if anything it demonstrates I had few friends and little social life when I was younger. (That was an attempt at sympathy through pity). What I remember most about those summer readings, besides my odd obsession with the Goosebumps and Wishbone series along with a few standout Stephen King titles that gave the librarian a bit of pause, is how I started continuing the lives of the characters beyond the pages in my head.

When I would get to the last page and everything “ended”, I would keep the story going. I mean the major characters were usually alive and it’s not like their journeys just stopped. So in my dumb kid brain I thought about what Wishbone as D’artanian would keep doing with the Musketeers or how the kid who stopped the possessed dummy would try to move on from that experience. It wasn’t a constant stream of consciousness, but every once in awhile in a quiet moment I would just be by myself and get lost in the continuing adventures I would make up.

It continues to this day. With every movie, television show, book, etc. I start to think ahead of what will happen and will imagine what could have happened after the credits roll. At times to the chagrin of my friends, but it is an odd skill that doesn’t ever really shut off. I suppose that is why I get bored with media at times because it becomes so predictable after you “read” so much of it. However, that is also what makes those few standouts all the more special. I love being surprised and perplexed by a scene or ending in a film and by that one glorious line in a novel.

Whenever I read a book now that truly makes an impact on me, I recall being that nerdy little bookworm in the library trying to read as many books as I can possibly get a hold of. No matter what else changes in my life, I know that my relationship with words will never end. It’s the longest relationship I have ever had and it started in my hometown library near the stacks weighed down with a few hardcovers and paperbacks. Never looked back.

The Sentry Gathers…