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A Confession

surprise-catDragging his feet, the teacher clambered aboard the bus and shuffled his way into a seat, collapsing like a loosely packed rubbish sack. What a nightmare of a day. He stared with glazed eyes out the window, not entirely paying attention to anything that passed by. It all seemed a blur; pubs, grocers, students, stores, trees, apartments… none of it stuck out and none of it really seemed to matter. To the teacher, it was all noise to the thoughts tumbling about his head like numbers in a raffle, only to be picked out like some terrible lottery where none of the tickets won.


Counting down was about as serious a commitment to discipline as he could muster.

“5… 4… 3… 2… 1…”

“Sir’s counting, shut up!” chorused several students, their hearts in the right place but their execution somewhere between a match and an actively burning fire next to a dry tinder. The teacher sighed as the pupils proceeded to begin an open discourse on the benefits of telling one another to shut up at the top of their lungs. Mostly by telling everyone else to shut up, or that they started it, and that they should consequently shut up first.

“I’m waiting.” Hand raised, the lone adult in the room glanced at the clock. It had taken 15 minutes to complete the register. Just to make sure that every child had, in fact, attended school and had not been misplaced en route, it had taken a quarter of the hour. School proper hadn’t even started yet.

Some students, to their everlasting credit, raised their hands and waited patiently. How nice, thought the teacher. But then he thought about how they were mostly expecting to receive a bronze or something for behaviour that the teacher simply expected students to exhibit, and slumped into the chair behind him as he waited for order that would not come.

In fact, over the course of the day, he would spend approximately an hour waiting for his charges to listen to him and learn… something, he supposed. Anything, he hoped.


The teacher stumbled off the bus, clutching a grocery bag he had absentmindedly paid for and somehow had the presence of mind to not leave at his seat. Cars passed by as he waited for an opportunity to cross the street.

Waiting. He had done so much of it. He had been so patient, so prepared to simply let bygones be bygones, move forward in his lessons… well, not his lessons, but it was his task to teach them. He was a supply. No planning, no report cards, no parents, no expectations, no real respect. Supply? Stop-gap teacher made more sense.

“I’m not even a real teacher,” he moped inwardly. A passing magpie squorked indignantly at him before flying off.


The classroom was silent as the last of the teacher’s words echoed in the class,. Moments passed where student and teacher alike just stared at each other, a dare to see who would break first in this game of chicken; the teacher, who had just waited 15 minutes and then had enough of waiting and had shouted in anger, or the students, who clearly could see the teacher was not capable of handling them.

Moments after the children would apologize, the talking, throwing of erasers, and sword fighting of rulers would start again. This time, the teacher would not move. He would spend the rest of the day hoping the time would go by faster.

It didn’t.

Later, he sat at the desk filling out a report for the class teacher, a woman who must have been far more capable or steadfast in her determination as a teacher. Everyone in the profession, especially those who held full time positions, had the teacher’s undying and unilateral respect. He had tried that once; after a month and a half, he was fired for not being able to control his class.

Great topic knowledge, he’d been told, but behaviour management was an issue. In fact, this had fired him from another full time teaching position about 5 months prior. It had also cost him most of his sanity, as his mounting anxiety levels could attest to.


The teacher stared upwards, his eyes unwilling to stay shut and let his brain go to blasted sleep. 2 more weeks until summer holidays, and then another year of the same routine in order to deal with debt that, if one wanted to be precise and verbose, could be best described as another really long and stressful year of kind-of-teaching to help make sure the debt vanished. If he didn’t collapse in a nervous pile first, he sagely added.

He had a confession to make to himself. After another year of this, he thought, it might be best if he distanced himself from being a teacher and just stick to being… something. He wasn’t sure what. After spending well over 7 years to get the accreditation he needed to teach in schools without being considered a security risk, it was with great reluctance that the sort-of-teacher admitted he didn’t have any other immediately marketable skills.

With great discomfort, he resigned himself to teaching tomorrow. One day. One day he’d figure out what he wanted to do. That could wait for another night.

 

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Epiphany

7582882Excerpt from my journal, dated June 12th, 2016


I’ve had a slight epiphany about my mental state. A problem (one of many) I have is self-worth; lack of confidence aside, there’s nothing I find I’m particularly good at… save one thing.

Video games.

And I do tie a lot of my self-esteem & worth to games as a result. So much so that, if not consciously but unconsciously so, I deem myself worth lots of little depending on the outcome of a game.

I read an article online about 3 weeks ago about boxers and their drive to win. Paraphrasing, and grossly simplifying, at some point it mentioned the vanity of being a boxer, a fighter in a ring surrounded by lights and a cheering crowd, all of this fueling the fighter’s need for acceptance and pride. Interesting, I thought then. Relevant?

My point here is that games fulfill the same niche for me, an outlet for whatever pride I have to be re-fueled & sharpened. It explains much: for instance, my love of competitive multiplayer games, my sullen grumpy attitude when I lose, my depression when I can’t “show off” on twitch.tv or make videos for YouTube.

In fact, YouTube was never about self-betterment; no, it was an attempt to show off how mych better I was than most. I tried to become popular in the worst ways for myself, by tying my worth to it. I made YouTube my boxing ring and winning my crowd pleaser, a boyish and adolescent fantasy at best.

Games are fine: my attitude towards them, in relation to them, is toxic. I need to think about this.


End of excerpt

Adagio

The gravel crunched underfoot as I walked forward. It was cold. The wind streamed, buffeting trees and tearing flowers from their delicate stems, slamming into the petals and blowing them apart like the feathers in a pillow smashed against a wall. Red, white and pink dots of colour blurred past as I slowly marched forward into the headwind. My eyes watered, and I cried. I’d say it was easy to see why, but it wasn’t.

Very little made sense these days. I stopped at the end of the walkway, staring out towards the gardens. No sensible thing would be out in this whirlwind; this meant I was very much alone. A comfortable feeling at this point, being able to stare at nature being bitter while you weathered the storm by yourself. This much, I reassured myself, I could do on my own well enough. I grinned at my self-depreciation, laughing at my own ridiculousness and inadequacy the same way one laughs at a student making an obvious mistake, not intending to be harmful or spiteful but simply because it’s easy to recognize what is an unavoidable, impending error. I knew I should stop, but the simple fact was that I didn’t. I wouldn’t.

Belittling myself is something of a second nature. It’s easy to do; the mistakes are obvious and plentiful. Things I say, do, or fail to say or do, are all easy to pick up on. What must it be like to not have this kind of inner dialogue? Imagination failed me as I attempted to create an idea of someone, like me in every way but without the most obvious failings. Understanding eluded me.

The dew soaked through to my skin as I sat down on the grass nearby, though it was a numbed sensation. It’s easy to forget cold when your mind is maniacally focused on tearing itself apart rather than solving any issues facing it, a madman hellbent on watching the world burn rather than putting out the fires and rebuilding. It would be scary, except the only world it was burning was my own. No one else’s mind would be hurt from this horrible man in my head. Just me. If that’s the way it had to be, fine. I could do that. Was it enjoyable? Healthy? Remotely a good idea? No. Not even close; and I would be an idiot to not try to rail against these thoughts. So rail I would, but alone. Until I could deal with myself, dealing with others would be like introducing more wood for the madman’s already sizable bonfire, giving him more fuel with which to burn me.

A howling wind brought me out of my head, reminding me that I sat not in the comfort of my house or in my room but on soaking wet grass, drowning myself in unwarranted self pity like a fool. Why focus on yourself so much, I pondered, when this isn’t worth the time? If no one else wants to listen to this kind of crap, why aren’t you up and doing something to fix it?

Only an idiot would sit here instead of solving the problem.

Instead of rallying behind a voice of reason, I slumped forward. Smaller. I wanted to be so small, so I could just hide in the grass and disappear, leaving everything behind. I should do something, I thought, anything.

The wind embraced me as I sat in the cold gray of another day, numbed by my predatory mind as I floundered against feelings and musings that I had no right to complain about. So many others had it far worse; why should I whine? I had no right to feel badly about my life, so suck it up. Get out there, do something, anything. Why shouldn’t I?

Because you suck, said my mind, and I cried.

Cloak | #NaNoWriMo2015 | 27

Royce’s head throbbed horribly in pain so fierce it blurred his vision. He couldn’t remember what caused the headache, or where he was. The last thing he remembered was a boy. And the woman, he remembered, she was there too.

In fact, she was in front of him, walking towards him with a pistol in hand. She wasn’t getting closer, though. Royce looked down and could see his feet laid out before him, and he made the connection. He was being dragged somewhere.

“Whur am er?” His words came slowly to him, more so than he would have liked. In fact, it felt difficult to speak at all. He tried to move his limbs, but they proved sluggishly slow, and unresponsive. Something had gone horribly wrong, and he couldn’t remember what. “Wha h… h… pned to muh.”

Skie glanced down at him. “Rick, drop him. I think he’s waking up.”

Suddenly he fell again, but he braced himself with his left arm, the hard metal taking the brunt of the shock. He vision shook, he could hear the blood in his ears, and it became very difficult to breathe. “Wha pned to muh… me…”

Rick walked into his view. a sneer of disgust on his face. “I don’t think he remembers. Must have hit his head pretty hard, Skie.”

Her name was Skie. Royce hadn’t thought of a name so pretty, so wonderful to him. “I… luhk… yur name. Ish prettuh.” He smiled despite himself, happy to finally know her name. Skie. “Whuh um uhh?” Where am I. How hard could it be to say those simple words?

Skie’s face was nothing like he remembered. Before she was confused, lost. But now she seemed unrecognizably confident, or cocky. Maybe… angry? Royce couldn’t tell. He was much better with robots-

The robots. He remembered screaming, crying, and pain. He remembered a lot of anger and confusion. He choked someone, but… that wasn’t him. Something had come over him, taken his mind and made him a monster. Royce’s eyes watered at the thought.

Rick stepped forward. “Royce, you’ve hurt way too many people today. Almost killed a girl with your bare hands, and murdered another eight with your droids.” Suddenly Rick’s repeater was pointed at Royce’s chest. “Any last words?”

Royce cried a little to himself. “It wasn’t muh. I don know whuh that huppened. Pluz… help me.” This can’t be happening, he thought. I thought I knew these people. Rick was a solid, dependable hunter with a reputation for consistency and predictability. He never would be the type to become vindictive, or get personal about a job. As for Skie… no. She was angry, but she was understanding. Careful. She never sneered.

“Yur not yourshelves.” He said slowly, despite every part of his brain yelling at him to pick up the pace. “It washnt me. Please help.”

“A flicker of hesitation glazed over Rick’s face. “Help you? Why should we? You murdered eight people. Psychotic rage or not, that’s not something you do by accident, not the way you did.”

“It wasn’t me, hunter.” His brain was recovering very quickly, he noticed. A very good thing too, he was running out of time. “I’m careful. I plan things. The last thing I clearly remember was Skie, out here, with a boy. She was about to kill him.”

“We know, you were shouting that before. That’s the reason you went fucking nuts back there.” Royce could tell that both Skie and Rick were losing patience with him, but he couldn’t figure out what went wrong. He wasn’t even making sense to himself; if it wasn’t him, how could it be anyone else? What could have caused him to become a… self-righteous murdering psychopath. Something clicked in Royce’s mind, and all he needed were a couple of pieces of information. Information stored in Skie’s arm.

His eyes glowed and Skie’s arm screen powered on. He flipped through the loads of data he had sent her before about the genetic experiments taking place down in the old city, about the effects it had. The many, many failures and then several successes. Disturbing successes that he, in his hubris, had completely ignored in his hurry to understand why Skie was going to shoot a boy.

“I’ve turned on your monitor, Skie. I’ve already brought up the relevant data about the experiments that the CBI undertook down here. Tell me, did the boy have extraordinary abilities?”

Skie nodded. “Yeah, but how would you know? You’ve been down here all of five minutes.”

“Which ones?” Royce asked. His heart beat faster, and his headache got worse, but the pain was nothing compared to the adrenaline he felt keeping him sharp.

“He could do weird stuff to the brain, force you to do things. He’d been terrorizing the community here for some time, taking in the footsteps of his father who we met at the church. Apparently he had the same powers.” Rick was a sponge being wrung for information. Royce could see he’d rather focus on a problem he could solve than an execution. Dependable to the last, Royce thought.

“Genetically passed down from the father, I expect? Yes, makes sense. So who’s the girl inside?”

“Her name’s Cat.” Skie’s sweet, metallic voice gave Royce hope. “We met her at the church where we… I… murdered her father. She’s been with us ever since.”

Royce grinned. “So the real question is, who was her father? The same once as the boy? If so, I’d like you to take a look at the data on your screen, Skie. There’s something else you have to know about the person with whom you’ve been journeying with thus far.”

Skie stared inquiringly. Royce could see the cogs in her bright head turning as she began to read the screen. Come now, he pleaded inwardly, make the connections. Water the seeds of doubt I’ve planted. It’s not my fault those people died, and it’s not yours either. Her eyes widened, her mouth opened in shock, and she mouthed denial.

“No, she’s… she’s better than this. She’s a girl!” Skie backed away as she checked the screen again, and began to throw off the mind manipulation that Royce knew she was under.

Rick stepped towards her. “Skie, what? Don’t let Royce fool you. He’s a killer, remember?” Don’t worry Rick, Royce thought. I’ll save you next. He propped himself up to a sitting position and took in his surroundings. He didn’t remember the group of buildings in the distance, but the large building at the end of the sprawls must have been the temple of which the two spoke. His droids were probably still in there.

He looked to Rick now. “Rick, do you understand what’s happening here? You were sent down here to look for the horrors from before. Wipe them out, or take one alive for testing, either way the CBI would be pleased. They would be contributing to the safety of the new city. Picture the news: the CBI finds new threat, helps local guild wipe them out. The good publicity would have been astounding, especially considering that the CBI was behind every one of those failures.

“In fact, the CBI must have been; we wiped out every single Adam Son soldier back when the new city was made, or so we were told. Any survivors must have been protected by the CBI.”

Rick stared at the dirt as he tried to process the information. “Okay, so the CBI is rotten. What does that have to do with what you did?” He raised his repeater. “Why am I even still talking to you?”

Royce held his hands up to protect himself. He hadn’t counted on Rick becoming suddenly hostile. Dependability is compromised. Just as he thought he was done, Skie grabbed his arm and pointed the gun down.

She shivered. “Rick, think about it. The CBI has monsters, but they don’t want to waste them. I’ll be the first one to say they’re fucking good at killing people. They’re quiet, can hunt you down for miles, and are fucking fast. You don’t throw that out, you make a way to keep them on a leash. You make someone who can control them.”

Rick shook his head. “Why does that matter? Get to the point. We don’t have all day, every second we spend out here is a second closer to dealing with the freaks.”

Royce could finally see the end in sight. “The controllers are genetic nodes of control, much like myself to my drones. They can influence and heavily suggest normal people as well, but over the ‘freaks’ as you call them, controllers do just that. The horrors do as they are bid, naturally. As you can attest, Cat has many of the genetic trademarks of the controllers that the CBI was working on. In fact, she has all of them.

“The only reason you aren’t dead is because she allowed you to live.”


Rick thought about all the times the monsters attacked. In the church, he stopped Skie by shouting. They survived in the church by hiding in the crypts. He and Skie were lucky when they hid out in the buildings of the village as the monsters passed by.

Monsters were everywhere, but they survived every time. Every time, and there was a village when he no one should be living in the area. How could they? It was infested with monsters. So how did a village actually grow in an area overrun by genetic rejects?

Rejects that could easily have sniffed them out in the crypts. Easily have killed them while they were recovering in the huts. Slaughtered them at any time, really, like so many others. Every time one shuffled near, it left the building alone when other people were found out and killed.

Every time the monsters were near, so was Cat. Not that correlation meant causation, but every time a monster got close, they turned away. They didn’t find them. Was it because Cat was there?

Rick’s mind raced, thinking through what Royce said. It was possible that could control the monsters, but how on earth was that a bad thing? “Royce, even if that’s true, that she can make the monsters do what she wants, how does her keeping us alive make her a problem?”

“You’ve only worked through half the equation, Rick.” Royce, despite being hunched over and barely able to really stand, still oozed confidence, his voice unwavering. Methodical. Planned. “That she saved your life is one thing. Why save your life is another.”

“Because that’s what normal people do, Royce. Look out for one another.” Rick’s mind clung to a stranded thought in a sea of turbulent emotions and conflicting ideas as he tried to work out what Royce and Skie had seemingly already figured out.

Royce shook his head. “Not down here, Rick. Down here, everyone looks out for themselves. You don’t do yourself enough credit. No, you’re much too hard on yourself. What use could a fledgling controller have for a skilled hunter and a motivated, angry killing machine?”

“What are you talking about?” Rick’s head hammered from the internal conflict. “We saved her, we spared her life! Not the other way around.”

“No, Rick. She had us by the balls since we met her.” Skie whispered. “I didn’t hear you shout to stop when I had her by the throat. I just suddenly stopped wanting to kill her, which was weird because I was killing literally everyone else. Cat’s been playing us since the beginning.”

Rick mind was about to split, with one part f him screaming that Royce and Skie were wrong while the other forced him to keep asking questions. He fell to his knees, gripping his aching head. “Why? Why even bother?”

Skie knelt down next to him. “Because when I killed Cat and Damien’s father, only one of the two kids could take his spot as chief asshole of the group. Cat saw us as valuable, got us close, and took us for a ride. We murdered the next highest priest, took out her half brother, and acted as decoys and soldiers for her. We were played, Rick, and she used her powers to do it.”

Rick curled up in a ball, the headache practically causing him to black out. One small shard, one nagging issue, kept bothering him. “Royce, why did you kill those people?”

“I didn’t. Remember that the boy had similar powers; when he was killed, the last thoughts going through his mind would have been of anger, and of revenge. Combined with the shock of seeing Skie kill him in cold blood, I was infused with his need for revenge and violence. Even I didn’t understand what I was doing, let along why. The woman, Cat, did not know I was down here, and when i walked in she tried to solve the new situation by controlling me as she had done with you and Skie. It didn’t work though, since the boy’s leftover suggestions, the shock, and my rebelling against the effects of her powers all came together to make the worst of me.”

Royce hung his head and spoke softly. “If I could change what happened, I would. As it stands though, it seems clear to me that no matter my actions, Cat has been using you as bodyguards and assassins for several days now. Thanks to you, she has overthrown not only her father, but her brother as well. She’s now in charge of the entire commune. She’s no angel, Rick. Cat’s as power hungry as the old CBI, and will stop at nothing to control everyone around her to do what she thinks is right.”

Rick crumpled in a heap and wept as the last of his inner conflict died.


End of Part 27

Cloak | #NaNoWriMo2015 | 25

Royce did the best he could with the robots and rushed back up the hill, only to see that nothing was happening. The building itself was silent. Long minutes passed as Royce began to think of the possible outcomes of the combat he’d seen. When he saw a robotic glow walk out of the building, he breathed a sigh of relief. When he turned off his computer sight, however, he saw that the woman was escorting a young boy at gun point.

Royce absorbed the information as calmly as he could. He could only think of a couple of reasons why she would be threatening to kill a young boy. Chief among these was maybe the boy was a criminal of some kind, but the small physique of the boy left that hypothesis tattered. He didn’t have enough information. Sliding back down the hill towards his machines, he decided to track her and see what she would do.

The machines had finished building themselves, and positioned themselves around Royce. All three of them were about four feet tall, with three legs and a solitary blue-green core glowing at the top, encased in plating. The plates were oddly misshaped and brown, having been built from using nearby rubble and metals. The plates were relatively unimportant, however, since the cores formed the thinking part of the machine. Each one scanned the terrain, maintaining a near perfect circle of observation around him.By lightly tapping into his arm’s systems he could see what they saw, give commands, anything. The perfect bodyguards.

They clicked up to Royce and stood by, waiting for more commands. Royce moved to follow the woman along the ridge of the hill, just out of sight, and see what she would do.

After walking for about thirty minutes, the two stopped by an old, dead tree. The surrounding area was deserted, a flatland of dust and larger ruined buildings. The wind blew about, chilling Royce. Down where the sun didn’t shine, the cold was an actually significant problem.

The woman knelt, and then pulled out a weapon. A pistol, which she aimed directly at the child. Royce’s brain rattled with the question of why. He couldn’t think of a single reason why this woman would shoot a child. She was going to make a terrible mistake. He ran down the hill, commanding his robots to follow him. His feet felt like they were flailing down in front of him, windmilling as they tried to keep up with where he wanted to be. His guards made their way as quickly as possible, but their spidery legs couldn’t move very quickly. That was a design flaw to fix later, he thought, but right now I have to get her attention.

He grabbed his pistol, aimed to the sky, and fired. One problem he’d never managed to fix with this type of weapon was the sudden expansion of the air where the pistol fired, which caused a very loud, obnoxious, and explosive noise.

A crack echoed over the landscape, and he got the result he wanted; both the woman and the boy turned to look at him. What he didn’t expect was to face down the barrel of her pistol. His heart caught in his chest, and his legs jerked to a sudden stop. This caused him to trip face first into the dirt, the taste of deadened ash and old soil filling his mouth.

“What the fuck? Royce?!” The woman’s voice carried over the distance, which wasn’t so large now. She lowered her weapon and ran over. The boy, bewildered, simply started to sob to himself. Royce got up on his knees and spat the taste out of his mouth, while his drones formed a protective group around him.

“Royce, what the fuck are you doing down here?!” The woman seemed angry, or shocked. Honestly, Royce couldn’t tell. “And what the fuck are those?”

“Didn’t receive a message in some time. I…” He couldn’t think of a good reason why. “I was coming to see what had happened. I needed a report, you see. Nothing out of the ordinary. As for these, they are my guard. I made them myself.”

“That’s nice. So long as they don’t shoot me, I don’t care. Do you have any idea what it’s like down here?” She helped him up. Royce could see her looking him over, making sure he was alright. “I almost shot you, idiot.”

“I realize that was a bit abrupt, but I saw you from a distance with that boy.” He pointed to the sobbing form on the ground not too far away. “I didn’t understand why he needed to be escorted away, much less killed. I need more information.”

The woman’s face stayed cold, indifferent. “There’s too much backstory. Too much ‘information,’ Royce. I was going to do the boy a favour.” The deadness of her voice hit like a splash of cold water, chilling Royce to the core.

“He is a child. I still don’t understand why…”

“That’s my point! You don’t. You won’t, not now. Fuck!” She paced back and forth, looking at the boy, then back to Royce. “Now we’re short on time. You could have heard that sound for kilometers.”

“That was my intention.”

“Great job. You really have no fucking clue what it’s like down here.” She turned and started walking the way she had initially come by. “You better follow me, we won’t last long out here if you don’t.”

What choice did he have? He commanded his droid to follow, and started to chase after her when she stopped abruptly and walked to the boy. Royce stayed where he was, and watched as she spoke, too softly for him to hear. The boy nodded, and she put her hand on his head.

Suddenly, he sensed a buildup in energy from her hand. Before he could stop her, the prosthesis flared with powerfield energy, the blue glow crawling all along her arm until it arrived at her hand. Helpless and unable to stop what was happening, Royce stared as his baby, the arm he spent so long working on, squeezed the boy’s head. In an instant that seemed to take forever, the boy’s head was crushed and scorched before blowing outwards, and if the woman had squeezed an egg. Blood evaporated off the machinery, and the lifeless corpse teetered over, falling into the dirt.

“How… Why….” Royce couldn’t understand.

The woman got up slowly, bowing her head. “You don’t get it. This was mercy, compared to what would have happened if I’d left him.” Her eyes glistened with tears, the first time that Royce had seen her cry. “We have to go now. Bye, kid.” She wiped her tears away and strode up to Royce. “Royce, trust me, we have to go now.”

“I don’t have enough data to make sense of this.” His mind, for the first time in a very, very long time, had gone completely blank. He was at a complete loss of words and things to say.

“We really don’t have time for this right now, Royce. Let’s go-” She grabbed his arm, only to discover that it was hard, and metal. She backed away. “Royce, what happened to your arm?”

Still his mind reeled, but some part of him took hold. His conscious mind took hold, and put the thoughts and feelings of the moment in another compartment to deal with later. For now, the data suggested that this area was not at all safe and he needed to find shelter. Shelter the woman knew to where to find.

He turned to the woman, his indifferent gaze and dispassionate features conquering his whole face. “You wouldn’t understand. Now, we need shelter. I hardly trust you right now, which makes a lot of sense if you think about it. So, please lead the way. I’ll be right behind you.” His drones followed the queues of his unconscious mind and turned directly towards the woman, their cores glowing from the inside.

“What the-”

“Please,” he interrupted, “we don’t have all day and as you said before, ‘we won’t last long.’ so for both our sakes, I suggest you lead the way.” The cores on the droids glowed brightly.


Rick waited in the temple for Skie to come back, his anxiety for her growing minute by minute. The longer she stayed out there, the lower her chances of getting back alive. She knew that, and yet it was taking her far longer than he had anticipated.

The temple itself bustled with commotion. Community members had worked on patching up the holes the Lamb had made in the walls, others still organized the space they had into living spaces. Cat had said there was enough space for everyone to live relatively comfortably, although some things like sanitization and hygiene would be an issue in such a closed area. Not to mention housing the old Lamb members.

Some of them talked as if the entire experience had been a bad dream, and expressed deep regret. Others cried silently refusing to speak. Some few continued to spew their dogma, however, and these were the troublesome ones. Cat had no idea where to put them, or even how to detain them. When Rick asked her why she didn’t just influence them, she said that she’d ‘be no better than the horrible people who did this in the first place.’ Fair enough, he thought, but don’t get comfortable around them anyway.

Just as he was starting to think of different ways to deal with them, the front door pushed open. Rick jumped to his feet: silhouetted in the doorway was Skie, which meant that everything had gone according to plan so far. What he didn’t expect was Royce walking in behind her with three robots in tow.

“Hello, hunter. I decided to check on the work you’ve done.” He stared at the people who had stopped to look at him and his robots. Many of them nervously clutched at nearby weapons they had taken from the Lamb. “Tell me,” he continued, “what you are doing, exactly.”

Rick sensed a cold hardness in Royce’s voice he hadn’t heard before. Although Royce loved to talk, it was a soft hum usually, an almost deliberately controlled tone that was metronomic, pedantic. It was still constant, but a cool defensive undertone made the voice a threatening one.

“Royce, you mind telling me what you’re doing here, exactly? You’re supposed to be in the new city.”

“I hadn’t received a message in quite some time, hunter. I was worried that my faith had been misplaced in you and the woman.” He looked around the room. “So far, I’m quite unsure as to what is happening, and I’d like some answers. Especially after the debacle I saw outside.” He locked his glare on Skie’s back, who had been standing entirely still the whole time she had walked in.

“Debacle?” Rick wasn’t sure he wanted the answer, but he made his way to Skie. “Skie, what happened out there?”

Skie looked at him, her eyes watering. “I… I didn’t think the kid should die all by himself.” Her voice was a whisper, barely loud enough for Rick to hear. “I killed him. I made it quick, so he wouldn’t feel a thing.”

Cat moved forward. “Skie, you showed mercy when we would not. I cannot say I’m pleased with this, personally, but I think you made a correct choice out there. May He pass fair judgement unto Damien.” Cat then looked at Royce.

“I believe you are here because of these two?” She gestured towards Rick and Skie, who had visibly relaxed after Cat spoke to her and turned towards Royce. “These two saved us. Do not be angry with them.”

Royce had never experienced Cat’s powers before, and Rick could see him completely change. He had no idea that his thoughts had been tampered with, infected with the positive energy Cat worked into him.

“Well, alright then, That makes-” suddenly he gripped his head and fell on his knees. “What is happening?!”

Cat continued to move forward slowly, her hands outstretched. “Be calm, friend. There is no need to panic. You are safe here.” She was so close he could touch her.

“No, this… this wasn’t what I was thinking! It doesn’t make sense!” He was shouting, angrily trying to throw off the powerful suggestions Cat was trying to make. Unfortunately, this caused Cat to falter, and a wave of fear and panic pulsed outward. In that moment, Royce broke off the wisps of suggestion, and grabbed Cat by the neck with what appeared to be a robotic arm. The three droids suddenly flared to life and glowed menacingly at Cat as she was picked up off the floor.

Royce brought her close to his face. “What are you doing to me!?” He spat through clenched teeth.


End of Part 25

The Office

the-officeI paused before I flicked the light switch. My hand stopped, resting lightly under the toggle.

Turning around, I took another look at what had been my second home for the better part of a year. It was deserted. I was the last one here, and had been for a couple months at least; the rest of the team had packed up and left ages ago. I didn’t know what happened to all of them, but their absence crashed on me in full in the span of an instant. It was so quiet, when once there was so much noise.

I don’t know how it all started out: I volunteered for a job leading this team. Why? I was trying to impress a girl, go figure, and didn’t think it’d go this far. “Are you sure you can handle this?” I pondered the question for no longer than two seconds before answering, “Yeah, absolutely.” Cocksure. That’s the only word that fits. It didn’t even work out with that girl anyway: she wasn’t my type, but the job stuck like a bad case of the flu. I was stuck.

Lucky I had friends who wanted in on the same team. I met them only recently, but they were good people. I walked by their desks. The dust was discoloured: certain spots had less dust, memorabilia moved only a little while ago to reveal the shitty plastic desk beneath; but I remembered how lively these desks had been. Between all the dramatic bits, all the fights and the hullabaloo, I always came to talk to these folks to calm myself. It was a safer place, somewhere to plan. Plans were all we had, really; without these people, that’s all that would have happened. At least some of these plans, some of these dreams, had a chance to see the light of day with their help.

One desk was mine. It sat at the back, separate from the rest. A black sheep and a loner in a big family of social butterflies; a lot like the idiot who sat behind it. It was hard not to chuckle thinking of how unbelievably useless I seemed to be in my role. I called meetings, helped to make sure they ran like a well oiled machine. What else did I do? The bare food cupboard reminded me of my greatest impact here. ‘Least I wasn’t hungry.

Still, things were good. I kicked my feet up, letting them rest on the weary edge of the desk. In a few short hours, it wouldn’t be mine any longer. Might as well make good use of it while I had access.

Memories flared in my mind like dying stars: all at once too bright, and then dimmed to some obscure level of recognizance. We put on a hell of a party. We danced the midnight dance and drank the darkest drinks, well into the night. It felt like a night to remember at the time, but as I looked around the office, it was obvious that I was the only one that cared anymore. The past is right where it is; not many people live there. At least, not to the extent that I feel I did.

Bringing myself to my feet, I made my way to the switch once more. A cursory glance, a final survey of the headless desks reminded me that this time of my life was dead and gone. I brought my hand to the toggle, and tapped it off. The lights went out without  a sound, a silent darkness. Not much different from the last couple of months, then.

I shut the door, and made my way to the street outside. Somewhere out there was another place I had to go. A cabby made his way to the curb, and I hopped in. As the cab sped away, I took a measure of silent satisfaction for being the last one in the office. I double checked the locks, crossed my t’s and dotted my i’s.

I turned out the lights; and that, as they say, was that.

So long, Iris

 She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

I clapped eyes on my new laptop; relatively new, anyway. It used to be a friend’s, but he hadn’t the patience or want to fix it. I took it off his hands, had it fixed, and it was in front of me. I was so excited. I desperately wanted to see what she could do. So I turned her on, and set up my equipment. I installed some games, and got to trying them out; It was wonderful. Never before had I been able to play games with such clarity, which such precision. It was like playing games for the first time, games that I had played for hours upon hours felt brand new. It was amazing in every way, and I knew this was going to be something I would cherish for years.

This was going to be an awesome Christmas.


I fell into my chair. The day had felt long, even though I finished supplying at noon. The kids were typical, shouting and talking and blurting… it was draining. Still, the internet had been installed; having been disconnected for so long, I was eager to play some games. I opened up Iris, and hit the power button. A soft click, nothing. I pressed the button again. A darkened screen was my only response. One more time, I gingerly tried to power Iris on. This time is worked, the hard drive whirring to life, the hum of the fan telling me that Iris was breathing.

Third time’s the charm, I guess.


I was stumped on a name. I have a habit of naming my gizmos and gadgets. I don’t really know why, but it gives them a personality. I enjoy that. I wanted to make sure that this computer’s name reflected what I thought of it though, so I spent a lot of time on it. My older Mactop got the name Snuffykins, because one accident left its fan off kilter. This caused the laptop to ‘purr’ like a kitten. So, Snuffykins. He’s been a slow, sturdy little computer since. This machine, however, was something altogether different. It was a whole new world of experiences for me. That’s when it hit me: Iris. Like that part of the eye, she was a viewport to a new world of possibilities. Iris was a perfect name, and as far as I was concerned, so was she.

I immediately booted up Heroes of Newerth and put in a few solid hours of play.


I had lost my first game of Nauts, but I was happy to be playing at all. It was a tremendously laggy game; it seemed Iris could barely handle the game on high graphics. Playing accurately was difficult. Once the first game ended, I turned off Awesomenauts, and rebooted the game on a lower graphics setting.

“Iris, you’re getting old.” I scratched my head as confusion set in. Wasn’t Iris able to handle more? Maybe I just needed to defrag her or something. It had been awhile since I’d done maintenance.


Sitting in silence in the June heat, I watched Markiplier make his way through yet another Amnesia custom story. The game was horrifying. Ghouls and monsters stalked him, but he pressed through. I was dumbfounded: I hated horror games, I loathed scary movies, and Stephen King was an author I’d never thought to visit. Still, I watched on, surprised that I was, in fact, enjoying myself.

I took a break from watching Amnesia, and decided to boot up Steam. My old friend, Craig (A.K.A Eldadres) had reminded me of a 2d MOBA called Awesomenauts. It was available on X-Box live for months, but it had just recently been released on Steam. I had almost forgotten about it. I remembered that I was really interested though, I booted up the store page. I bought the game, and started the download.


I was not happy with how round two was turning out. We had been struggling since minute one. I bounced around the level, doing my best to get upgrades and defend my base. Still, we lost. They’re team was too much: they broke our buildings, picked off my team, and got enough power to wipe the floor with us. I sighed as the announcer shouted what I knew already.

“DEFEAT!”

“Thanks, game.” Defeat didn’t quite cover it; we were crushed.

I looked at the stats. I didn’t play particularly well after all, died way too many times. Still, I was happy to be playing after such a long hiatus. I started up another match, picked my character, and started playing.

Suddenly, the screen went black. Nothing.


I closed the tab to my browser, experiencing… something. I wasn’t sure what. I was toying with an idea, but I wasn’t sure if it was a good one. I had a copy of Amnesia, so that wasn’t an issue. I could download it easily. I also had Awesomenauts which I was proficient at, to a point where I was good at it. I found a copy of FRAPS, and downloaded it. I had the drive space to do what I was thinking. This was possible.

I watched another episode of Markiplier’s Amnesia series.

“If he can do it, so can I.” I didn’t mean this unkindly; he inspired me, and I felt I had to try.

I made my way to YouTube, and registered a new channel: slowwolfgaming.


I sat in stunned frustration. What?

What?

I wasn’t sure. I clicked the power button, and heard a faint click as the white power light bloomed. It turned off just as quickly.

Iris wasn’t working.

“Well, fucking great.” I had just started a game. Just! My team would likely lose, and I would have lost ranking on the leaderboards. It wasn’t even my fault, it just happened! What did I do? Nothing. Nothing at all.

Iris wasn’t running.

I got out of my chair, wringing my hands. Anger was taking over. I breathed calmly, deeply, attempting to re-establish control over my feelings. That was hard. My rage kept bubbling up. Why did it have to happen then? Why at all? What was the point of doing all that planning I did before I left for the UK, to have this laptop here at all, when it wouldn’t fucking work when I wanted it to?

Iris wasn’t breathing.

It suddenly dawned on me what happened. I rushed to my desk and tried to turn on the computer.

Iris wouldn’t live. Tears welled in my eyes.


I turned off the stream in a sigh of relief. I had started streaming Awesomenauts twelve hours ago and I had just finished a marathon of gaming. My throat was dry, my eyes hurt, and my ass was sore. I was unbelievably happy. My channel, the community that had rallied around me over the course of a year, had managed to raise more than $600 for charity. I started laughing from sheer relief.

I turned off Steam, and shut down Iris. We had been through a year of making YouTube videos. I compared myself to Markiplier, and I thought of the differences between us. My channel, at just over one thousand subscribers, was nothing compared to the tens of thousands Markiplier had put together in almost the same span of time. I didn’t get it. It was okay though: he really did earn it. Jealousy is a bitch, I thought to myself.

“We did it, Iris.”

I lightly patted Iris’ cover, thinking about how far we’d come. Thanks to Iris I had a small legion of people who had just donated a lot of money to charity. At least, it was a lot of money to me. That kind of money… I had never seen it outside of tuition payments. If I thought about it, this was the most significant contribution towards society that I was responsible for. I began to cry. It was empowering, knowing I could bring that together. I was important.

As I walked out the door, I looked at Iris. I flicked the light off, and went to bed. Things could only go up.


Iris started a particularly defining journey in my life. I met friends, created communities, and made strong relationships with many people I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I created videos that some enjoyed, and some did not. More importantly, some people needed them. In those cases, I like to think that Iris made that possible. It’s a humbling experience knowing that you did something important for someone.

None of these things would’ve happened without Iris.

I guess this is goodbye, Iris. I know you are a machine; I should just be annoyed and move on. But it hurts, and I’m angry, and I am actually really sad. I don’t know if I’ll miss you two years from now, when I’ll be on a different computer, maybe doing the same thing. I don’t know if I’ll remember all the times I relied on you. The times I needed an escape, the times I needed a place to put my thoughts where no one would find them. 

But I will never forget what you made possible, and how much I owe to a little green laptop that I fixed up three years ago.

Advice

 I don’t think advice is ever a bad thing. People give advice, generally speaking, because they think the advice they’re giving will improve something in some way. Even if it’s purposefully bad advice, someone is getting a laugh out of it.

I was browsing a used bookstore, and it seems they like to work in all kinds of old literature. What was really cool about this place is how they organized the joint. It was a house, and each room was a separate section for books: the library/office was philosophy, upstairs you could find horror and science fiction in the boys room… Not to mention some dirty mags in a shut cupboard. The basement had mysteries and biographies, the children’s room had Harry Potter novels, and the kitchen had how-to’s and cookbooks. Out front, however, was where the antiques were.

Out in the front area, it’s so packed with books you can barely squeeze through the shelves and rotating displays, or scuttle past the podiums with big, wide open papers. One such podium showcased some pretty interesting newspapers: the New Yorker, from 1940. Articles talked of the war in Europe, which we came to know as World War 2, and how certain presidential candidates would not enter into the war as a positive running platform. Pre-WW2 U.S.A was a funny place: it’s the only time in my memory that the States wanted to stay out of a fight.

I come across one of the columns, where presidential candidate Wendell L. Willkie, or the Man of Many Elles, made that promise. He is also credited with saying the following: “Being a presidential candidate is interesting. One receives a great deal of advice. Most of it is free and some of it is worth just that.”

This coming from a man I have never even heard of before. To think that this guy, a man running to be the leader of one of the most powerful countries on the planet, was never even mentioned to me. I found this by accident, in a used bookstore in Windsor, Ontario. It wasn’t even in the states! I get the feeling that almost no one knows the Man of Many Elles.

Still, this bit about advice is interesting. We give out so much of it, as a people. We scream it at bad drivers, heckles game streamers with it, and offer it to the actors and characters we see on screen. We dole advice out to people who are having problems, and carefully administer advice to friends and family. We give advice out to everyone and everything, whether they ask or not.

So how cheap is advice? Is it worth anything?

I think that advice is what you make of it. This sounds like a cheap cop out; however, if we admit that we, as humans, apply meaning to whatever we want to or whatever we’re told to apply meaning to, then advice is the same. If you trust someone’s word, then their advice means more to you than the rantings of some random white asshole on the internet. That’s because you give that advice meaning by putting your trust in that person’s word.

So here’s a presidential candidate saying that most advice is free, and most is worth just that. This means he looks at most advice as worthless, which is something I find foolhardy. I think all advice is at least worth looking into; sure, internet forums and the advice we find there should be apologizing for being read a lot of the time. But if one assumes that all advice is cheap, then one finds no value in anything or anyone saying anything. That, I think, speaks a lot to you and your character if you expect nothing from most people. Especially for a presidential candidate.

It seems to me there’s little wonder that we, as a society, have mostly – if not completely – forgotten the Man of Many Elles. He expected little of most, and much from few. A lot of people live their lives this way, distrustful and cagey. This serves us well in our every day lives; trust no one while driving. Never trust people with vital information. Expect group projects to suck, hard. Yet, I think that the only way that many of us will be remembered is by how often we expect a lot of people, and how often we can trust other people to help create a better place.

I think that advice is worth a great deal, and it’s a matter of finding the people that are ready to meet expectations. The only way to find these people, is to give people the chance to meet those expectations in the first place; which means you have to expect that people don’t such, at least not all the time.

What do you think?

-P.

Why Bother

I’ve been scanning and looking at YouTubers lately. It’s been… an interesting journey, to say the least.

I’ve been out of the Nauts YouTubing game for quite some time, and it was refreshing to see so many other YouTubers covering my favourite game… but I’d be a liar if I wasn’t disheartened by lack of comparative success. It’s even worse when I look at how far the person who inspired me to YouTube has gone by comparison; Markiplier is one of the fastest growing channels on YouTube, and he started 2 months before I did with his “new” channel (new in quotes because it’s his second one: his first channel died somehow, thought I don’t remember why).

I probably shouldn’t be comparing myself, but it’s hardwired into me. So then the question became: if everyone has this success, then why should I continue to bother?

Fundamentally because I’ve made an error in attribution; it’s not about how much progress I’ve made, but about what I’m doing for a community of people who rally around the content I make. Why bother? Because someone else thinks that the content is worth bothering for.

I’ll keep making videos. I just hope I do good by all of you.

-W.

An apology

I’m sorry.

Over the past few weeks, but especially this week, I feel that I have had issues with my attitude, and with my conduct in general. I’ve been angry and irritable, and I’ve been expressing that anger horribly. For that, I’m sorry.

The real question is how to stop this. I really wish I knew how to not be angry all the time. I constantly feel like I’m on the cusp of just… blowing up, all the time. It’s not a pleasant feeling. It’s especially bad when I know it’s coming and I can’t stop the feeling from welling up, causing all reason to fade into the back as white noise as my rage consumes literally my every thought. I yell, I shout, I swear and it’s ugly.

Some people have found it funny, on occasion. It’s not, really, but my angry mind comes up with some creative curses. That’s not acceptable though; that same rage has started to turn on those people, and the joke suddenly isn’t funny. RageWolf, as it is known, is not a kind person or somebody I’m proud to be.

I don’t want to be known for my anger or frustration. I don’t want to be remembered as a person who’s only response is defensiveness and full on fury. My legacy in any world shouldn’t be how I set fire to the things I grew to hate, because the only thing that will do is scorch the ground of my life into an untenable crisp.

know these things but… acting on them isn’t easy. I feel melancholy and bored, lazy, or even just straight up resentful of my existence at times. When something doesn’t go my way, I explode. It doesn’t matter how small the issue: the anger just takes over.

I don’t know who said that you should just let your anger out, but whoever they were, that was a horrible piece of advice. The only things I feel once I vent are regret and frustration, which fuel into the problem again to create an even bigger issue the next time. It’s the worst feedback simulator in progress, and I have no idea how it was set up in the first place.

We’ve all gotten angry at something for little reason; but the more I think about this the more I realize this has been a problem since I was little. Everything from practicing piano, to developing into a horrible student, and even my introversion all show symptoms of being affected or somewhat causally involved with aspects of my life since I was little. The roots to this problem go deep, and I don’t know how to rip this weed from there.

I might need help in the next while folks. Something aint right.

Sorry,

-P.