Archive for category Stand-Alone
I get it now. Those scenes in books where you can’t see a couple feet in front of you because of the flurries of snow coming down. It isn’t that bad, honestly. Minus the shadowy figure up ahead that I can’t tell if they’re coming towards me or away from me. But that’s just the way life goes. You wake up at four in the morning in order to take your time getting ready to get to work at seven so that you’re not a wound up ball of stress eating away your own insides with concerns about whether or not your doing your job right. The price for this is walking down a dark street in what feels like the middle of the night when everyone else should be asleep and the world is not really anything more than a flurry of snow. Crunch crunch crunch of your shoes and the brief prayer-thought of “I hope I don’t accidentally find ice and fall on my ass.” There’s the debate of whether or not its too late to call in, considering you’re already on your way to the bus stop. Still that figure up ahead.
And its not that you can’t see because of the snow, because really, it isn’t a blizzard or anything. Just some unexpected freezing cold fluff. It’s because you’ve bundled up so much to keep your face warm that you don’t have any peripheral vision. It makes it creepier, and it also makes the snow even more blinding. Even though it has nothing to do with the snow. But you’re not going to let your face get cold, so the fact that you can’t see has nothing to do with your own actions and everything to do with the snowflakes falling down and around you. You’re thankful for the scarf covering your face, even as the snowflakes find ways around it to land with brief freezing pinpricks on your forehead, under and around your eyes. People tell you it isn’t THAT cold, that you’re too bundled. They don’t understand that its just as much to keep you in and everything else out. Nothing to do with temperature, everything to do with wind, thoughts, voices, words. Precious precious words. You have to keep them close, nurture them, let them percolate through the drawn-out and aging filters of your experiences in order to get them into some sort of shape that eventually becomes something that you can use to help yourself get better. The help you purge the things that are festering inside your head, but you can’t just let them out all at once. Too many uses for them, like the stranger obscured by snow and scarf. You can’t see them anymore and you wonder where they went. Whether the Great Old swallowed them up. There is a peace to the chthonic entities that you read about. Yes it is the graveyard peace of the end, but it is a peace nonetheless. Something to be wished for.
Susan moved into the room where Simon was waiting. She motioned him forward, led him over to the table where Roger and Jane were waiting for them. Overhead the hanging light illuminated only the people at the table, leaving the rest of the room in darkness. Each looked to the other, trying to get a better handle on who was who and what they could be expected to do.
Roger was slightly paunchy and splotched, and the pastel teal of his shirt did not help his complexion. His mauve tie somehow matched the shirt, which was not common. The jowls were clean shaven however, the face only lightly wrinkled; beady dark brown eyes and clear teeth in a face colored by artificial tan.
Jane was a taller woman, bordering on 6’ 10”, willowy and mostly legs. She accentuated this by often wearing long-train dresses and heels, her long red-ochre hair accenting the lavender silk dress, which in turn was accented by the amethyst jewelry at her ears, wrists and neck. Her milky skin was only lightly made-up, her face also lightly wrinkled, likely kept at bay through expensive cosmetics.
Susan, by contrast, had brighter, aqua hair done up in a pixie-cut. Her piercings ran up the sides of her ear, but were kept to tasteful studs done in traditional styles with a variety of gemstones. Her clothes were simple: jeans and a t-shirt, matching black and pressed, with a fine grain to the jeans. Her eyes were green, her skin a deep caramel color, her face round.
Simon sat between Susan and Roger, looking uncomfortable. He had a squared off face that some women found attractive. His blue eyes, blond hair let him get away with jeans and a t-shirt that had probably been worn several times over. Unlike the others, who smelled alternately of deodorant, perfume, and nothing, Simon carried his pheromone-cloud unacknowledged. Despite the situation, he felt as though he could handle himself, and his projected confidence soothed over what was lacking in his appearances.
Jane started. “I think it should be Simon.” They had devised rules while they were waiting for everyone, and those were now displayed on the white board behind Jane. Now that she had spoken, they would go around the table clockwise, and cast their vote. If no consensus could be reached, they would each be given several minutes to explain their position and stance, and they would go around the table again with a new round of voting. Susan had contributed the most to the rules: despite being strangers, she felt they should at least be organized strangers.
Now it came to Susan’s vote: “I vote for Roger.”
Simon: “Well, I vote for Jane.”
Roger: “I vote Jane as well.”
Jane had the good upbringing to not look… well, anything. They would go around explaining their rationale now. It had to be a unanimous decision; after all, one of them would be killed from it.
Since Jane had spoken last time, it was now Susan’s turn to start the voting. After considering everyone’s opinion, she spoke properly: “I think we should kill Simon.”
Simon: “I still think it should be Jane.”
Roger: “I feel that since no one has said it, it should be Susan.”
Jane: “I’m much more inclined to vote that you should be the one to go Roger.”
Another round of arguments, some of which got quite heated when these virtual strangers didn’t know they were approaching a nerve. Eventually the time was called for another vote. Simon would start. “I will say this as many times as I have to, I vote for Jane.”
Roger: “I think you missed several good points and I’m going to have to vote for you, Simon.”
Jane: “I think you made several Roger, so I will vote for Susan.”
Susan: “My turn to be obstinate. I vote Simon.”
Another round concerned with the logistics of the murder itself. Roger, despite speaking eloquently had encountered some very good points. He spent a long time considering this vote before finally, softly: “Susan.”
Susan: “Pass.” Voting would return to her at the end.
Simon: “Susan.” He said frowning. It all came down to Susan.
The ceramic-composite plate mail rattled from the impact of the landing pod. I could dimly feel the thud of the other pods dropping nearby. There was a whoosh as the pod matched pressures with the outside and sprayed itself with coolant. I waited a second. I liked to wait before I came out of the pod. It gave them a chance to fire.
The sizzling hiss of energy weapons fried off some of the coolant on the outside but otherwise did little damage to the pod. Probably some low-grade tech that they’d scrounged up from merchants. I twitched my arm forward just a tiny bit, and the manual release lever in my hand caused the pod to burst open. I chanted words of battle, and used the environment to shield myself. I was betting they still had chemical or mechanical based weapons if the energy weapons sounded cheap. They cursed as they realized their expensive weaponry would no longer work.
I pulled the war-hammer off my back and whipped around to the front. I read the runes along the haft and lightning arced off the hammer to my nearest opponent. The smell of charred flesh filled the air. Elsewhere around me my fellow Legionaries drew the weapons and threw their spells at our opponents. I felt the bite of a slug thrower as some intrepid recruit tried his sidearm. It hit the magic around me and sizzled. Whatever material he was using for ammunition had turned the projectile incendiary as it hit the magic, leaving the plate mail I was wearing to soak up the rest. I looked at him and pulled a javelin made of stone out of the very ground. The cacophonous harmonies of 250 battlechanters rang out as our magics became non-stop. The recruit managed to evade the javelin toss, even bolstered by the omnipresent chants.
A voice sang out over the chanting, and it was not from our side. Out of the opposition a man rose, taller than our opponents, wearing trader insignia on his jacket. He sang the song of the spellsingers, our peaceful colleagues. I did not know the words, could not tell the spell, but I knew that it caused my comrades to falter. Several of them were so shocked that their spells stopped. The harmony of the Legion was broken.
Still, we had weapons. I smashed into the closest militia member as he was reaching for his gun, they were trying to follow suit from the recruit that I had missed. He ran over to the spellsinger, protecting him. I knew the Legion’s song had to be resumed; the ending magics of the battle were woven into our individual songs. I chanted louder, lightning arcing off my hammer and around my body, and I became as the savage hurricane, spinning and roiling with both energy and crushing blows. I grunted as each of the slugs hit me, biting into my armor. One of them smashed into my face-plate, breaking my nose. I almost lost my chant, but still held strong.
Eventually the Legion-chant was completed, and the plain where we had landed became as glass.
The sun shines over the river. Nathan climbs out and lies down on his towel, his skin is instantly dimpled with goosebumps from the breeze lightly dancing with the water along the more sensitive parts of his body. Brian also comes over, lying down on his towel. Nathan watches him, but he keeps his eyes averted, not looking at Nathan. Nathan sighs, and falls asleep, leaving Brian to work it out on his own.
In his dreams Nathan is walking through a vista filled with hardy, low-growing bushes and grass, sparse trees, and a yellow-green color to the plants contrasted by the dark rocks scattered everywhere. Most of the plants seem to be growing out of the rocks themselves, and there’s very little soil. Nathan is having problems breathing, but he forces himself to stop, stand still and take a few deep breaths of the cold, arid air. The sky above him is a deep, almost black blue color, entirely clear of clouds. He looks around the empty landscape a little more, hoping for some sort of animal or guide. Finding none, he keeps walking.
Progress of any sort in this environment, Nathan finds, is difficult. Every couple of yards he has to stop and regain his breath. Still the landscape is devoid of obvious life. Nathan reaches out, trying to feel the world around him, listening to his proprioception. He knows there must be life here; life has proved itself to be everywhere, regardless of hardship. He senses nothing and sits.
Sitting gives him a chance to look at himself, to see the heavy hiking boots he’s wearing, the high-altitude climbing pants and jacket he’s wearing, his bare hands at work in the world. Nathan thinks that his hands should be covered by thick gloves, and the dream opens up before him like a flower, shedding the barrier of scripted observation. Aware that this is a dream now, Nathan looks around again.
“Honorable guides of the dream-realm, I ask for your presence,” the words are whispered into a drying breeze. The very air here is quiet, hushed, reverential. It demands the same from Nathan, and he obeys out of respect.
Standing up, Nathan sees a llama, or an alpaca, coming up towards him from the northwest. His horizon is close, as the mountain he is on rounds away and down in that direction; other mountains rise up behind the immediate horizon. The South American Camelid approaches him fearlessly and stops a yard away, it lowers its face to eye level. Nathan speaks.
“It seems I am lost in your mountains.”
“Not yet,” the guide responds. The mouth of the “animal” moves in an articulated and human way, its teeth clacking together on the “t” sounds and making them echo. Nathan has had enough training to ignore it, but the mimicry is uncanny. “You will be though.”
Nathan nods. “What brings me here?”
“Events will come to pass, things that happen,” the animal spits, “You will come here for guidance.”
“Why have I come here now?”
“To see and to know. Your work here will be dangerous. It is best you are prepared.”
“Thank you for your warning, auspicious guide.” Nathan nods, and as the animal turns away he wills himself to wake up.
Meeting people in real life that you only know as voices through your computer is always entertaining, in an emotionally masochistic way. Especially the ones you flirt with. There’s always this tension just before you meet, like waiting for lightning to strike. Will they look the same? Was it just the myth of photographic truth that I fell in lust with? Is there any truth to what they said? And it is like a lightning strike. In an instant everything is rendered true or false, black or white, electric or insulating. In the best case scenario they and the camera have in fact been truthful and the pull between the two of you is undeniably gravitational. But then what? Neither of you are skilled at being in person, after all, isn’t that why you’re meeting people on the computer in first place? So you orbit, two starts, tidally locked, rotating around each other but never actually making contact. And you aggrandize it in your head to make everything perfect and fine this way. You like the chase. You don’t know what you’re feeling. You’re need to be SURE they’re interested. You’re doing it for the joy it brings; to know you’re wanted. And maybe, just maybe, you never intended to do anything with them. But sometimes, it works the other way, and you get hot and bothered over this other person who you were both lukewarm over the other but in meeting and seeing each other, shallow people you both are, its more than just orbiting one another: you want to feel the heat that they can give off, like warming your face in the noon-day sun.
Falling in love at first sight is overrated. Also, a little unwieldy. I mean, what if you’re dating someone? What if you really love them? People say that it’s just lust at that point: that you’re not really falling in love with the person that just walked by, or that you’re not really in love with the person you’re with. But that doesn’t change the fact that you made eye contact, or brushed against someone accidentally and felt something. It always feels like motion. An uneasy sense like an elevator starting or stopping too quickly and your stomach falling through, but horizontally. Like something inside of you just pulled towards them and you didn’t move, or pulled back, or sideways, but not in the direction you were going. And then there’s this wobble. Say it’s a best case scenario, and you get to be around them a lot. There are these weird moments, first you don’t see them for a while, then they start coming around more and more frequently. You feel like a comet or an asteroid caught in the gravitational pull of a greater object, orbiting with extreme eccentricity. The odds of anything happening are about the same as asteroid-you getting captured by planet-them… either you never see them again and disappear into the dark void between the stars, likely to crash into something else or burn up in the heart of a star, or you crash into them and a sweaty, heated night of lovemaking ensues and then it’s over.
The mess hall is empty as I come in. It should be; we’re on a night cycle now: limited lighting in the interior, windows open to the endless black. Out here in the Rim it’s more black than anything. Tonight is a free-floating night, engines down to conserve fuel and no gravity from acceleration. Everyone should be strapped into their beds, except of course the pilot, watch and engineer.
I turn and draw as the door opens, light bursting on, lighting the crotch of one of our passengers. I keep the light where it is and look down; he’s turned around in the micro-grav and floating the halls upside-down. It was the Priest.
“Wait, I thought the night-lighting was on the ceiling?” The Priest didn’t get into space much.
“No, Father. The day-lights are on the ‘ceiling’, night-lights go on the floor.” I don’t lower my gun.
He turns himself around and I follow him with the light. “What’re you doing outside of your cabin?”
“I couldn’t sleep, and now I’m hungry. Is that a crime, Watchman…?”
“Thomas. No, Father. Just most people don’t like floating about when they haven’t been in space much, ‘specially not on a cargo rocket.”
“Yes well, the body must be cared for in order to conduct God’s service.”
I make a noise of agreement and holster my weapon. After floating over to the storage bays, I grab three food-packs and lob one, gently, at the Father. It travels slowly, an uninhibited straight line; the Father catches it but didn’t brace himself against the door, and starts tilting backwards, he ends up horizontal to the rest of the room. When he comes back his eyes are scrunched up, looking upwards and to the left. He is frowning, his hand rubs his stomach.
“Not particularly. Seems I have yet to develop my space legs though… It’s amazing how complicated technology has made things.”
“We call them null-legs.” I don’t particularly want to engage the Father in conversation. I made that mistake once and found his views too old-fashioned to be any good.
“Wasn’t technology supposed to make things easier, to make our lives more comfortable?” He doesn’t seem to care that I have duties to attend to, or he is unaware. “Yet for every new technology, for every new vista that opens up, new challenges remain to face us. New controversies arrive at our doorstep and beg to be solved. People make problems by progressing forward.”
“No, people make progress. We change, we grow and we change again until we die.”
“We have explored the multitude of the Heavens, and yet people go hungry and die. Magic fuels our flights through the stars, and yet we cannot learn to accept those who are different from us, who choose different lifestyles. Perhaps our progress should solve the problems we already have instead of making new ones.”
I float back to the door he is standing in, “Sometimes, we don’t choose to adapt, Father.” My hand reaches out and pats him on the shoulder; this time he braces himself.
We’re all laughing. Car full of boys, literally boys, none older than 18. I’m driving them to the carpool for the reading tonight. We’re having a blast. I know these kids. I’m as much as part of this supergroup of kids as you can be at 25. When we get there we have more than enough time to shoot the shit before we have to organize into the cars and head out. There’s precious few drivers, three tonight including me, all together the group ranges from 12-20; I get to ferry everyone to the drop off point. I chose to, I’m not doing anything else and it makes me feel alive to have a community. They call me Charon, but they pronounce it char-ON instead of KAR-on. I’ve given up on correcting them; I’m happy that they know the reference in the first place. I don’t even know what I’m getting myself into.
When we get to the café there’s enough time to order drinks and sit down. The lights dim, spotlight on the stage, and the kids start going up. The happiness and the excitement from when we were dividing into the cars is gone, but the vibrancy of these kids is undimmed. There is no list, no predefined order, they just go up when they know its their turn. They go to the mike and they unburden themselves of their pain, their troubles. The pour themselves out in word and song, rhyme and instrument, rarefied for it. So much pain… I can’t help crying after one particular poem:
And it hurt, and it hurt, and it hurt
until it became math,
until it became
Pain became numbers at some point.
It became “I have lost this much.”
The crying is cathartic, helpful. Other go up, and these kids nod and sympathize. The group takes on the burdens of the individual and as a whole purges them. It is beautiful and bittersweet.
My friend comes up to me afterwards, she is the organizer. She is holding a notebook to her chest, the cardboard back covered in pen illustrations. When I ask her about it she tells me they are doodles that she was drawing while the kids performed: an abstraction of their words. The drawings are intricate, detailed, impossible to conceive she could have done them in the span of each performance. I praise her skill and pull out my phone, I’ve made notes of each of the performances, quick typed one-liners to remind me of the pain these kids bear…
“So I’m going to be moving mid-October…”
Ouch. Wait, why does that hurt? I mean, yeah, he’s a friend who is moving away but… this is new. So new it’s almost unreal. I don’t have romantic feelings for him, and it’s not like I would die for him (realistically, there’s other people I’d die for). Man, I’m acting like a kicked puppy, or someone who got just dumped.
Yes, I’m serious when I say I don’t have feelings for him. Not even bromance. Maybe it’s the year and a half of Sundays spent in class together, the rituals done together. Just a side effect of the learning process? Is it really that weird that it would happen after graduation? Maybe that’s it, maybe the whole thing is just out of context because I’ve graduated and haven’t moved anywhere and he’s moving long after most everyone else is.
Maybe I’m just sick of losing people. For all the good that’s going to do me. I lost a friend so many years ago I’d forgotten it could still hurt fresh as though it happened yesterday. Especially when you’re driving around and a song about dying after a short life comes on. And the lovers I’ve shared flesh and heart with and how many of them are no longer around, physically or euphemistically. I realize now that losing people is something I’m familiar with, and the last time I felt this way I was a wee-child leaving the earliest friends I remember.
We’re not even that close. I’m not even sure everything he knows about me, but I know little and less about him. We just don’t talk about ourselves like that. I mean yeah, I bitch to him about my problems, but… actually I can’t think of a time he’s reciprocated; unless you count telling me about moving. Speaking of, we do talk about stuff, or more accurately I take time to ask him what he’s doing and up to and getting into his business so I can give him some advice. We do hang out and spend time together, we have our in-jokes just like anyone else, but it’s not like we go barhopping, or even out at all. We have, and we’ve been drunk together, but not having a job makes both of us want to stay at home.
Maybe we’re more alike that I give us credit for. After all, without caller ID, I don’t know how many people would really be able to tell us apart. People call us by the other’s name all the time, a slip of the tongue. Or maybe we’re just closer than I thought.
And we’ve been here, at this crossroads. He said he was moving out a while ago and that never happened, so why does this time seem different? Is it because I knew it was coming? Isn’t that supposed to make it easier instead of more real? And what do I say right now, “How could you”? Trite. “Don’t go”? Needy. “I’ll miss you”? Maybe later. I know…
“So… guess we’ll have to send you off with a party!”
It has come to our attention that there are those who simply cannot grasp the precepts of Ecstasy as a Path. For those who are interested, these codes make up the core, perhaps simplified, version of a primordial belief system that has no Church beyond the Self and its Aspects.
It is our goal to feel all that we can feel, physically, emotionally and mentally. When confronted with new experiences, to dive into them with relish. We apply this principal to the tragic and the comic equally.
It is our hope that no Ecstatic, in light of the first principal, would ever willingly stand between a person and their Experience.
For an Ecstatic, the reason for Feeling is Feeling. For those outside, the reason for Feeling is so that we might apply our Experience to guide others. There is no difference.
An Ecstatic tastes hardship and finds joy. An Ecstatic looks at his failures and mistakes and finds lessons. An Ecstatic looks at the chaos of life and finds peace, hears the pains of his body and finds pleasure. An Ecstatic feels their lover and finds the Divine.
An Ecstatic respects the decisions of others, and will never seek to force a new experience upon another. Not all will be ready for every experience, and Wisdom is knowing when to press and when to let go.
An Ecstatic answers only to their Self. This does not mean the laws of the Land are not important.
Growth is the Experience by which the other Experiences receive context.
Ecstasy is a way of Life, concurrent with all Religions. Ecstasy is not the only way.
From the first time I looked in his eyes, I saw Death; piercing, penetrating through the sylvan depths. I saw other things though, the usual things that a soul reveals when you know what you’re looking at. Joy, sorrow, hope… most of all though, I saw the brilliance of a short life that will have been lived well.
I will not say that I didn’t hesitate. When Death waits so close to a person that their very soul speaks its name, everyone hesitates; that’s the point when people make the choice, whether they know it or not. They have to decide if letting go of something great is worth more than suffering the death of a loved one.
But man is a creature born in screams and hounded by terror. Too often we make the choice to avoid pain, after all, life is full of it already, why choose more? I didn’t though. I saw Death, I said hello, and then like a scared teenager meeting his date’s father, I politely stepped inside.
“Hi, sir. I’m here to date your child. I promise I’m a good man with pure intentions and I will have her back to you before you notice she’s gone. And yes, I see that shotgun and know that you won’t hesitate to use it to make my life terrible should I break my word, but my word is my bond because… well, because I am a good man. And you can threaten me as much as you want, but sir, I promise I will love your daughter with all my might, and I might bitch and complain when I have to bring her home, ‘cause I know that it won’t be pleasant, but by God, I will honor my word.”
And we did. I threw myself deep down into the depths of a never-ending well. I knew I would fall for the rest of my days, but I didn’t care. I wanted all the time I could get to bask in the radiance of that presence. To embrace and comfort, to share burdens and responsibilities. More than knowing the impending Death, I wanted to be with him.
I know he is gone now.
I hope that he isn’t; that fear has overpowered intuition.
Now I revisit the memories that I have of us. Memories of us being around each other, hanging out, being intimate, relaxing or being active, drinking, drunk, watching television, sleeping and watching each other sleep, waking up together in time for work, or in time to lock the door after the other, dancing, dreaming, talking, whispering, kisses, making out, making love.
I think of holding you, dancing in the kitchen while you sang softly in my ear… Only, it’s the you that’s injured, the you covered in blood that may or may not be yours, the you that I have to let go of. I pull you close, I hold you, I put my lips up to your too-red ears; I tell you that we will always have our memories of each other… I lean into the embrace, bearing your weight, and whisper: