Random Quest I

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Her bite wound was beginning to turn. And so was she.

Her cleric’s healing magic was ineffective against the spreading rot, inside and out.

Her flesh turned cold, numb, and she could feel the same happening to her soul ever more rapidly. The pain all but disappeared. She felt nothing- and that was a terrible thing. To feel nothing was a terrible thing because to be human was to feel something.

She shoved the healing cleric away.

The cleric’s magic did little to slow down her descent.

Kill the cleric. Kill… the… cleric.

The cleric extinguished the warm light emanating from his ankh. “I have to tend to your wound.”

She stood and retrieved her ax. “I’m beyond healing.”

It was inevitable. Her soul will be lost and she will become another legion in the army of the underworld. The least she could do, in whatever time she had before her soul ceased to exist, was to fight her way to the next level so that the next Paladin could fight their way even further towards the bottom floor. If… there was a bottom.

She moved to the chamber door.

She could hear the monsters wheezing through the cracks in the chamber door. She could feel their warm breath.

There were more than before, she could tell. She was certain there were more beyond her own understanding.

“You have to let me heal you,” The Cleric protested.

“No,” She placed her eye to the key hole. “Save your magic. You’ll need it to get back above ground.”

A bloodshot eye stared back at her.

They were patient, waiting for her to open the door and engage them again.

“I was a fool for thinking you and I could make it to the bottom.” She moved from the door and retrieved her dented helmet from the ground.

“You followed your visions,” The Cleric answered.

“You mean the fever dreams?” She answered. “They amounted to nothing but my demise.”

She should have never listened to the Council of Clerics and their visions. Now, she was going to die in a cellar, and her spirit would wander and rot in the sub-earth for eternity much like her stolen body.

“When you return to the surface…” She said.

“We both,” The Cleric interrupted.

“When you return… command the council to flood the tower with hellfire,” She commanded.

“What of the captives?” The Cleric cried. “The villagers and the hundreds of others.”

“They’re not alive,” She answered.

“I saw it in my dream,” The Cleric replied. “They’re scared.”

“It’s a trick,” She shot back. “This tower… it plays tricks. It uses our belief in dreams against us.”

She walked to the chamber door with her ax at the ready.

“We are here to rescue innocents,” The Cleric protested. “I can’t.”

She turned her ax on the cleric. “You will.”

“I can’t turn away from those in need,” The Cleric said.

“How many die if this demonic sickness reach the surface?” She asked.

“They won’t,” The Cleric answered.

“And who will stop them?” She questioned. “God?”

Behead the Cleric.

“Your God created this evil,” She said.

“This is not you talking,” The Cleric said.

“Who summoned this evil?” She cleared her throat. “That’s what I thought.”

She pulled her ax away.

“You’re asking me to sacrifice innocent people.” The Cleric looked to the ground.

“I’m asking you to open your eyes,” She said. “We will never reach the bottom before they reach the top.”

She was taught in her training that the high ground gave a warrior a great strategic advantage. She learned quickly, after watching hundreds of her fellow Paladins, wielding the most divine weapons and armor ever created, fall easily under a flood of shadow, decay and teeth, that the high ground was a disadvantage, both tactically and spiritually, in that hellish tower.

“I’m going to open this door,” She said. “I’ll get you to the elevator. Take it to the surface. Tell the council to burn this place to the ground.”

She imagined the hellfire rushing down the elevator shaft and shadowy staircases like a blue monsoon, quickly disintegrating everything it saturates in its path.

“Ready,” She said.

The Cleric nods before lighting his ankh.

She unlocks the chamber door and whispers a prayer to herself before yanking it open.

The Cleric screams an incantation and blasts the room and hallway with the light which momentarily freezes the monsters in place.

Go home. Go… Home. Go home!

Her ax burns a blinding blue as she beheads several beasts in a single swipe. “Stay close!”

The Cleric places a hand on her shoulder and envelops them both in a golden silhouette as she hacks and slashes her way through the hallway, through hundreds of beasts.

You will fail. We will reach the surface.

Her ax gets lodged in the armor of one of the cellar beasts.

An alpha. Armored and hard to kill. They’re rumored to be from one of the lower floors. She would like to believe they had made it close to the bottom. Closer to the Great Beast who sat on the throne.

She kicked the Alpha in the chest to free her ax. “I need juice!”

The Cleric shifted all of the golden silhouette to the ax.

They were naked. Unprotected.

“Go!” The Cleric commanded.

She slashed through the beast.

No resistance. Like a blade through melted butter.

The Alpha beast split in two as it hit the ground.

“Ahhh,” The Cleric screamed.

She turned her ax behind her.

A beast bit through the clerics cloak into his side.

She beheaded the beast quickly.

“The Gods…” The Cleric whimpered.

The monsters were beginning to recover from the jolt of light. They were regrouping and turning their bloodthirsty eyes on the both of them.

She grabbed the cleric and tried to usher him towards the elevator.

“I have to heal myself,” The Cleric said.

“We don’t have time!” She answered.

We have to return to the room.

“No!” She said. “It’s too late! We have to get to the surface.”

The possessed in the halls, the monsters, were breaking free of their magical stupor and were staggering towards them.

There were too many for her to face alone.

She yanked the Cleric towards the elevator but he pulled back.

“We need to regroup,” The Cleric resisted.

They were closing in. They were too many.

“I’m sorry,” She said before shoving the Cleric towards the attacking mob.

Kill the Cleric. Go home.

She rushed towards the elevator and pushed the up button.

Much of the mob was consumed with the Cleric and his tasty spiritual energy, so they were distracted.

She easily dispatched the few that came for her.

She felt jubilee as she separated their heads from their bodies.

She would allow them to reach so she can separate their limbs from their torsos.

She was amused. The carnage amused her.

The Cleric forced her hand. He should have just listened to what she commanded. He should have not resisted or dismissed her logic with his illogical faith. Destroying that place, and everything in it, including the innocents, was the only option, and the Cleric’s immovable ignorance would have doomed all on the surface.

Ping.

The elevator arrived.

She entered and shut the door.

Thump! Thump! The monsters in the hall beat on the door.

She hovered over the buttons.

She was infected. It was inevitable she would turn. The Cleric was her only hope, or so she thought.

She removed her helmet and collapsed against the wall.

She killed him. She killed the Cleric. Her soul was beyond saving. The cold had all but taken over her soul. It was only a matter of time before she became one of the legion.

She placed her helmet on her head before pressing the down button.

There was no turning back for her. She would fight the infection with sheer will alone, and she would not allow it to overtake her until she reached the bottom floor to confront the one on the throne. The one flipping the switches on the tower.

I look forward to meeting you….

Somehow I knew… They knew I was coming, and they looked forward to it.

The World Below Damocles I

There were living people who remembered the Doomsday Clock like it was yesteryear.

He sprinted across the street and through the revolving door to his office high-rise.

The Doomsday Clock became an afterthought the day the asteroid scientists call Damocles appeared, and suspended itself in the atmosphere. That was when all the nuclear powers unplugged the Doomsday Clock and aimed their arsenals –away from each other– and towards the more powerful threat.

He checked his watch.

Ten minutes before his grace period would elapse.

Ten minutes to midnight…

Traffic was madness. Not that his supervisor cared. Late was late. The clock on his Supervisor’s desk was his own personal Doomsday Clock. There could be a great flood or an erupting volcano in the middle of the freeway and his Supervisor would still write him up for tardiness.

His grandfather would talk about a time where there was only one fiery ember in the sky during the daytime, as opposed to two. The sun would set and then there would be complete darkness. The other fireball on the horizon never set, and burned nearly 24 hours a day, leaving much of the earth with near constant daylight.

He put his cell phone and keys in his bookbag’s front pocket before walking through the full body scanner.

The security guard smirked at him as she sipped her tea.

He smirked back.

She was cute. He liked her. And he guessed she liked him. He thought of asking her out one day. He needed to think about it before he did.

He was alive too, but too young to remember the Doomsday Clock or a time where countries were at odds with each other. Too young to remember the time when the possibility of nuclear annihilation or mutually assured nuclear destruction was more a potentiality than a science fiction trope.

He picked up his bookbag from the conveyor before flashing his ID to the half-asleep security guard near the elevator.

He heard something about Damocles on the morning news but couldn’t remember what. If he had time, he planned to scroll through a few articles while he sipped his coffee. If he had time.

The cubicle farm looked busy.

He still wasn’t used to seeing so many people so early. Since his supervisor changed everyone’s hours to work at the same time– for lord knows what reason.

He powered his computer before taking a seat at his desk.

What was that thing I heard about Damocles….

He couldn’t remember that news report about Damocles for the life of him. It was probably something unimportant and irrelevant to his day no more relevant than a cloudy day or high pollen count.

Partly cloudy with a chance of rain. Also, Damocles is reported to have moved two centimeters.

Whether Damocles had moved forward or backward was irrelevant. People stopped caring. Even the government had slowed their efforts to safely destroy it or propel away from the atmosphere or even try to study it. The government had diverted their funds elsewhere– he believed into defense. Damocles was beginning to cost too many tax dollars.

The boss was cooking curry in the microwave for breakfast again. It burned his nostrils and made his eyes water.

Another reason he needed a transfer to another division. He couldn’t stand sitting so close to the microwave, and he believed his education was being wasted where they placed him.

He walked to the window to look at Damocles.

He remembered listening to a radio program the past where the hosts argued whether Damocles had grown bigger since it appeared in the sky and that bigger just meant it was growing closer. Of course, there was no way to substantiate or verify that claim. Scientists were baffled by Damocles existence or the nature of it and any time they tried to get close enough to study it their instruments would fall out of the sky or melt.

“Hey pal.” His older co-worker slapped him on the back.

He nodded. “Morning.”

“How was your weekend?” His older co-worker asked.

“Didn’t do much,” He replied. “Yours?”

“Can’t complain,” Older co-worker answered. “Went fishing.”

He tilted his head. “Didn’t you do that last weekend?”

The old co-worker looked taken aback by his question, as if he expected a more vague, less probing response. “Yeah… I guess I did.”

“Don’t you want to try something different?” He questioned. “Like… gardening. Or traveling.”

“Traveling?”

“Yeah, somewhere other than the same pond you always go to…”

His old-coworker stroked the matted white bush on his chin. “No… fishing at the pond’s fine.”

“Cool,” He said. “Catch you later.”

“Lunch?” Older-coworker asked. “I got fish.”

“Maybe tomorrow,” He said before heading back to his cubicle.

He’d had enough of his old co-worker’s fried fish to last him a lifetime. Plus, he was tired of the smell.

“Suit yourself,” Old co-worker said.

“Thanks though,” He said. “Appreciate it.”

His co-worker moved on and he returned to his desk.

He looked over to Evan, his cubicle neighbor, who was playing with his phone.

Evan would normally greet him first, since he was always in the office before him. But lately, Even always seemed distracted by things other than work. That time it was his phone.

“What?” Evan said without looking away from his game.

“The boss will be making his rounds soon,” He said.

“So,” Evan answered. “My magic meter’s about to fill. Monster’s about to get a dark matter charged foot up his ass.”

His heart skipped a beat as his supervisor turned the corner and looked in his direction.

“Hey, put that away,” He warned.

“Almost there.” Evan waved him off.

Their supervisor skipped over several rows of cubicles to head straight for theirs.

His supervisor had a serious but relaxed face and reeked of day old coffee and was sipping more coffee from a mug nearly as big as his orange face. .

“Good morning,” Supervisor said to him.

“Morning,” He greeted.

“Great job on the reports.” Supervisor was speaking to him but had his eye on Evan.

“Thanks,” He replied.

“Evan,” Supervisor called.

Evan grunted.

“Have a report for me?” Supervisor took a sip of his mug.

“Sure thing,” Evan replied.

“Well, can I have it?” Supervisor moved closer to Evan.

“Can you….” Evan put down his video game. “You nearly made me lose the battle, dude.”

Supervisor rested the mug on his desk.

He hated when Supervisor would rest the mug on his desk. He knew it was a territory, alpha male thing to show dominance over the space, which is why he hated it.

Supervisor leaned over Evan’s railing. “I think your reports are more-“

“Shh,” Evan interrupted.

Supervisor stood up as if he was literally taken aback by Evan shushing him.

“F*ck.” Evan slammed his phone on his desk. :”See what you made me do?”

“I’m going to have to write you up, pal,” Supervisor said to Evan as he retrieved his mug.

Evan looked up at Supervisor. “Do what you feel is right.”

The Supervisor took a sip and shot Evan an angry glance before stepping away.

“The f*ck Evan,” He said. “You trying to get fired?”

“I don’t think that matters,” Evan answered.

“What matters?” He asked.

“Getting fired,” Evan answered again.

“I guess you’re not worried about food and bills,” He said. “You must have a lot of money I don’t know about.”

“Is everyone insane but me?” Evan massaged his temples.

He used one of his McDonalds napkins to scrub away the sticky coffee ring left by his supervisor’s mug.

“There’s a ten mile wide fiery freaky rock suspended above our planet,” Evan said.

He balled up the tissue and tossed it in the recycling bin. “Yeah… I’m aware of that.”

“You sure?” Evan said.

“Of course,” He answered. “See it every day.”

It wasn’t like it rose or set like the sun. The fiery ball in the sky was ever-present. It was a flaming, permanent fixture, frozen in time

His old coworker rolled a cart to his desk to drop off several packages.

“Thanks,” He said to his old coworker.

“Screw this.” Stood pocketed his phone and stood from his desk.

“Where are you going?” He asked Evan.

The old coworker looked just as puzzled.

“To empty my bank account and travel,” Evan answered. “The world could end tomorrow… Hell, today.”

Evan walked over to his desk and put a hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t get caught by Damocles doing something…. boring,” Evan said.

Evan withdrew his hand, entered the break broom and emerged with the microwave before disappearing into the elevator.

The old coworker shrugged and moved his cart to the next aisle.

He leaned back in his chair.

Leaning back in his chair allowed him a partially obstructed view –now that Evan had abandoned his cubicle– of Damocles fixed in the sky as a lone cloud passed over it.

He stood and walked to the window.

He rarely thought about what Damocles would do to the world if it suddenly propelled towards earth, or even away from earth. He rarely thought about what his life would, should, or could be like if he considered the possibility that there was a hidden countdown somewhere, and time was ticking away and would one day reach zero and all life would be wiped away within minutes.

“Hey,” His supervisor tapped him on the shoulder. “We’re all heading downstairs for coffee. You should come with.”

“Okay,” He said.

“Now that what’s his name has resigned there’s an opportunity for you,” His supervisor shielded a smirk behind his enormous coffee mug. “An opportunity of a lifetime.”

“Yeah.” He gave Damocles one last glance before facing his supervisor. “A lifetime…”

But how long was a lifetime?

The world could end at any second.

The Docks I

He tossed his cigarette over the edge of the pier.

Smoking was his nastiest habit, but he couldn’t help himself. It’s what he’d always done after a tough job. Especially after killing someone.

The nicotine was starting to ease the jitters in his jagged, broken hands.

“You should get that checked out.” His partner approached with his rifle on the ready.

“I’ll be fine,” He answered as he looked over his shoulder to his partner.

He checked his hands. The blood had soaked through the wrapping on his hands.

“You’ll turn into one of them junkies.” His partner slung the rifle over his shoulder and drew a pistol.

“Been there, done that,” He turned from the peer and walked past his partner. “You found the brother?”

His partner shook his head. “You?”

“Nope,” He said. “I can barely tell these junkies apart.”

“Suprised you found the girl.”

“Me too.”

“Boy can’t be far behind.”

“Nope.

He had to take out a dozen of the junkies to get to the girl. For drugged up and malnourished people, junkies had ungodly strength and endurance beyond logic. His mark nearly gnawed off his hand before he was able to subdue her.

“These bastards bite hard,” His partner said.

“Yeah,” He grabbed the potato sack holding the unconscious woman and slung it over his shoulder before walking the body to his car and popping the trunk. “And they’re strong.”

“We should check another nest,” His partner suggested.

He popped the trunk and dumped the body in. “No.”

“Why not?” His partner asked. “We don’t, another suiter will.”

“Don’t care.” He slammed the trunk closed. “Bad idea.”

“I need that bonus,” His partner said. “Ain’t leaving without the brother.”

“Shit,” He muttered.

His partner would do it with or without him.

“They’re only two of us,” He said.

“Those ghosts are more interested in the next high than us,” His partner said. “Just help me look through one of their nests.”

He watched the charcoal colored smog overtaking the river.

“Just one?” He said.

“Just one,” His partner answered.

He sighed. “Just one.”

The smog reminded him of something he couldn’t quite remember, but he could feel it gnawing at his subconscious mind.

He checked his ammunition before following His partner to the hangars just beyond the docks.

All the hangars were opened and abandoned. No traces of ever being used. Except one.

“Got your bolt cutters?” His partner asked.

He drew the cutters from his belt. “Yep.”

The fog had grown thicker over the years.

It bothered him. He didn’t know why it bothered him. He couldn’t let it bother hi-

“Hey?” His partner snapped a finger in front of his face. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” He answered.

“You keep looking out there,” His partner said.

“Ever thought of just catching a boat out of here?” He asked.

“I mean, I could,” His partner replied. “But never thought about it.”

“Why not?”

“Just never did.”

“Not curious?”

“Not one bit.”

He drew his pistol.

“You’d be sailing to another shithole place,” His partner answered.

“You sure about that?” He asked.

“The whole planet is a shithole.” His partner said. “Why not remain in the shithole you’re familiar with.”

“How do you know?” He asked.

“Should probably just sail out there.” His partner said. “Since you’re so curious.”

“Perhaps I will,” He answered.

“Could use the bonus to buy a boat,” His partner said.

“And I’ll sail to the edge of the goddam world,” He said. “And you’ll ride out too.”

“Count me out,” His partner said. “I’m fine an dandy in my shithole.”

“Know anybody who’s sailed out of town?” He asked.

“What do you mean?” His partner questioned in reply.

“Have you ever seen boats sail out?” He inquired.

“All the people I know are businessmen,” His partner answered. “They’re too busy making money to go sailing.”

They walked along the docks and approached the biggest building on the pier.

“These businessmen have yachts?” He asked.

“Of course,” His partner answered. “Several.”

“Any of those yachts leave port?” He questioned.

His partner looked off to the smoggy sky. “Probably. Will have to ask next time.”

He couldn’t think of a time when he’d ever left Rose City, or whether he knew anybody who had left Rose City.

His lip quivered.

“You got a smoke,” He asked his partner.

His partner shook his head.

“Shit,” He muttered.

His overthinking would always get the best of him when he didn’t smoke. The last drag was all he had left until he got back to town.

“C’mon, let’s clear this place out,” His partner said. “The wife’s expecting me home early.”

“Alright, I’m good to go,” He clipped the chains on the door.

His partner nodded as he pulled the hammer back on his pistol.

He opened the door.

A gathering of glowing white eyes stared out to them from the darkness.

“Alright…” His partner lowered his pistol and drew a picture of their target along with a glowing white vial. “Free drugs for the first junky who leads us to this kid.”

The Proud and Grateful Pan Knight (On his Tenth Birthday)

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My tenth birthday was a full sixty years before my final birthday. 

I somersaulted over the gate and landed in an ankle deep excrement pie. There was no time to clean my boots so I quickly abandoned them on the porch before sprinting into my cabin. 

“Morning mother,” I said. 

My mother nodded. 

I was up long before the sun to feed the chickens early so my mother could not scold me for not taking care of the coups and the stocks before breakfast. So I was free to sit by the big unmarked box in the living room, near the fireplace.

Mother cleaned and brewed Ginger Coffee while grandfather sucked on a pipe. 

“Can I open it now?” I asked

“Have a seat?” My mother ordered.

I nodded and took my seat quietly at the kitchen counter. 

“You need your srength,” Mother said. 

“Grandpa says understanding self is as important as building strength,” I said. 

Mother placed a steaming bowl of fish porridge before me and started wiping the counter. “Your grandfather will never be drafted.” 

“I can still scrap,” Grandfather coughed. 

Mother stared at Grandfather. “If he’s not strong enough to wield the armor…” 

“Then he’ll get lighter armor,” Grandfather answered. 

My mother slammed her rag on the counter. “And less protection.” 

“He won’t grow much bigger than he is.” 

“Yes he will, father…” 

“Let the boy discover what is best for him,” Grandpa lowered his pipe. “What’s best may not be a heavy suit of armor. ” 

“What’s best won’t matter if he’s dead, father.” 

Silence. 

“I will check on the chickens,” Mother said before leaving. 

I fed them already

“And some more tobacco, please dear,” Grandpa said. 

“You have legs,” Mother shot back. 

The poultries and meats were reserved for the Shining Knight brigade. Nothing more important than to support God’s mandate to expand the Potentate’s vast kingdom. We had mud-salmon for protein. 

Mother’s seasoning masked the bitter taste of Mud Salmon. 

I was happy to support the war effort by tolerating a few more months of mud salmon for breakfast. Anything for our divine potentate. Anything for our Glittering Knights.

“Did you thank the Gods?” Grandfather asked. 

I nodded. “And the empire.” 

“Then, open your gift,” Grandfather said. 

I looked over my shoulder. 

I was far from finished with my breakfast and I didn’t want to incur mother’s wrath. 

“I’ll deal with your mother,” I said. 

“Thank you!” I leaped off my stool. 

Grandfather grabbed my shoulder. 

“Patience,” Grandfather said. 

I slowly approached the box. 

The box seemed even bigger than when grandpa brought it into the house a week earlier. 

I took a breath. I removed the ribbon. I removed the lid. I reached in. I pulled out what looked like…

“A pan?” I said. 

I reached in again. Pan lids strung together with chains and leather. 

“Your new armor,” Grandfather said. 

I wiped away a tear. “I love it…” 

I loved it because it was mine. I didn’t care how it was made. I didn’t care how inexpensive it was. I planned to train in it to make it an extension of me. 

“Thank you, grandfather,” I said. 

Pots vs. The Glittering Knight

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“Reliance on my advantages was my greatest disadvantage…”

I stifle my laughter just long enough to draw my Great-sword. 

My opponent has a rice pot for a helmet and small frying pan lids for shin, and elbow guards while my armor glitters as it was forged in the sun’s corona using minerals from the far side of the moon– armor I received from my uncle at my recent birthday. My opponent looks more like the town beggar than an actual warrior. 

We were yards from the rogue village. I can see into the empty town from the empty road– our battleground. I can almost see their eyes peeking from the cracks in their window shutters. 

They will watch me break their champion. Slaughtering their village was unnecessary because defeating their champion will break their spirits. They’ll beg to be folded back into the kingdom. They’ll have the privilege to bow to us once again. 

I turn my attention back to the opponent before me. 

He was wheezing heavily. My opponent’s mouth is buried beneath his coal and ash peppered beard. He is diminutive and frail and has yet to show he can lift his spear. 

I am amused, but also disrespected by the champion the village sent forward to face me. Of all This will be easy. 

“Surrender,” I command. 

The broken old man lifts his spear. 

“Is there nobody else?!” I call towards the village. 

The old man grunts. 

I lift my sword. “Alright then.” 

His crudely made armor will shatter easily, but not on first impact. His armor was made of old pots, but they were metal nonetheless. They’ll require one or two strikes before I’m able to cleave through his bones. His neck was unprotected, so I figure two strikes and I will have his head. 

I lower my helmet and and take small steps towards my opponent.

I want to punish the feeble old man for wasting my time and tricking me into donning my new armor. 

My opponent backs way from me. 

I pause.  “You won’t outrun me.” 

My opponent raises their spear and pauses. 

I’ll easily overwhelm him. I’m stronger. Faster. Younger. 

I raise my sword. “Goodbye, sir..” 

I rush my opponent and bring my sword down on his head. 

My sword strikes dirt. 

My opponent’s spear pierces the side of the knee, beneath the hinge. He withdrew just out of my reach before I could counterstrike with a slash of my sword. 

I’m bleeding through my armor. My armor is stained in blood red and dirt brown. 

I’m furious. 

I stalk my opponent and follow him off-road and into the dirt. 

My opponent circles back towards the road but remains within striking range. His spear is raised but he’s leaving his whole right side open. 

I swing at his right side. 

He parries and throws his body into my chest, knocking me off balance. 

I slash again but fail to connect because my opponent has already retreated to outside of my range. 

Clonk!


I am blind for a moment. I’m rattled. 

Frustrated. Perplexed. 

I couldn’t see the hit coming. 

I shake it off and start applying more pressure to my opponent. 

I’m faster but none of my attacks are connecting. The harder I push the more I’m fumbling over myself. 

The old man is moving blindingly swift in his armor made of rusted pots and pans. 

I’m moving like cement in my celestial armor. 

I attack with all my might. All my speed.  

I’m hoping to tire him out but I’m taking brain rattling hits to the head and stabs to the tender spots in my armor. 

I’m striking where he’s standing and either meeting resistance or empty air. 

It’s not as if he’s moving very fast either. The old man just seems to know where to be like a magician. Like he has precognition.  

I’m crumbling. 

“Enough,” I say as I fall to my knees from exhaustion and all the blows I took to my helmet. “You win.” 

The old man staggers towards me and steps on my sword. 

My sword is too heavy to lift, especially from beneath my opponents tattered boots. 

“Nice armor.” The old man removes my helmet with the blunt end of his spear. “Is it yours.” 

I don’t answer.

“How did I beat you?:” He asked. 

“You tired me out,” I say. 


“You tired yourself out,” He replies. 

My head was pounding and I was starting to feel pain in all of my joints from stab wounds, and from small punctures and incisions from the old man’s spear. 

He takes a seat besides me and lights a pipe. 

I could smother him where he sat. My armor would be too heavy for him to push me off. I could finish this-

“Relying too much on your advantages was your greatest disadvantage,” He says.  

I release my blade. “I don’t understand.” 

“If you’re lucky, you’ll live to be a broken old man like me,” He exhaled a smoke ring. “Then what will be without your speed, strength, and youth?” 

I recognize the sweet scent of smoke. It was the sweet scent of Jane flower. It was often used by peasants as an opiate to calm the body or suppress pain. His hand trembled as he extended the pipe to me. 

I take a quick pull of the old man’s pipe.

The pain quickly disappears and all my regret and disappointment is replaced with a blissful emptiness and clarity. 

“Know your weaknesses better than anyone,” The old man stands and returns to the road. “You understand?” 

I stand and nod.  

Schwoop! Schoop!

Two arrows strike the old man in the back. 

I look over my shoulder. 

An Imperial archer aiming another arrow at the old man. 

I stagger towards the bleeding old man and turn him on his side. “I didn’t order this.” 

The old man laughs and gags on his own blood. “I guess my weakness is mercy.” 

The old man’s head rolls back and so does his eyes. 

An imperial army materializes behind the archer. 

Glorious Transitions

wall-murals-hammock-and-palm-trees-drawing

I hand my mopey traveling partner his detached jaw.

He was a sad sack. And quite the glutton for punishment. But I liked watching him fall to pieces– literal and fugurative pieces. What makes him funnier than most is no matter how many times I explain to him that only he can end his suffering– right this instance if he chooses– he decides every freaking time to keep kicking himself in the balls. What a guy. This realm nearly took his jaw. The last left him without kneecaps. The first left him without an ear. Yet, he keeps on… Thats what I call will power.

What will the next one take?

“How you feeling?” I slide his jaw into his face so he can speak.

Click… Click… He bites down to lock his mandibles in place.

“Thanks,” He slurs.

I wink. “Anytime, Jim.”

Jim is his name. Or at least the one I gave him since I am terrible with names. No point in remembering his real name since most people who take the journey end up as a pile of dust before they reach their destination. Or, eternally disappointed. I’d rather be a pile of dust than to be disappointed. Or a disappointment. Like I say… Have low to no expectations and you avoid all kinds of suffering. What was I talking about? Oh… This Jim is on his fifth realm and he’s still standing. I’ll refer to him as Jim infinity.

I hold in a laugh.

Jim looks like roadkill. He’s too exhausted to dream up some new clothes so he’s walking around in the ones he was buried in.

People come here after reading Dante’s Inferno or sitting through that incredibly confusing Robin Williams movie from the 90s and think traversing the afterlife in search of love is some simple stroll. Well its not. It can be. But its not.

“Hurry up,” Jim barks.

I slow my pace.

No pitiful, sorry excuse for a post-lifer, who is willing to torture himself like that over a speck of stardust, or whatever we’re made of, will tell me what to do.

“Okay… Jim,” I slap my traveling partner on the back.

Crrrk.

He groans.

It was a light hit, but I still knock his shoulder out of place.

“Fine huh?” I ask.

“Yeah…” Jim coughs up dust. “Fine.”

He doesn’t have long. Damn. I’m about to lose a bet. I though’t he’d make it.

I lean down to talk to him since he’s hunched over. “Sure you don’t wan-”

“No,” Jim interrupts.

Whatever… I was about to tell Jim about this beach resort realm where the illusionary seafood and wine was forever flowing. I was about to remind him, once again for the infinite time, that happiness was literally a choice in this place. There was no fire, brimstone, or red scaly beasts with tails raping you with pitchforks. Hell was a personal choice. The torture here is literally self-serve.

“Hmmmm…” I take a step towards the grassy landscape. “This is nice.”

It was nicer than the last place where I nearly caught a crossbow bolt to the face. Or the amusement park full of clowns that turn people into cotton candy.

“It’s what she’d like,” Jim replies.

“We should stay here a while,” He suggests. “Allow you to rest up a bit.”

“No time,” Jim says.

“There’s literally no time here,” I reply. “So no sense in rushing. She ain’t going anywhere.”

Crackle… Crackle…

“She’s close,” Jim says. “I feel her.”

“That’s your organs turning to Jam and oozing out your bum.”

“She’s close,” He says again.

“You said that already…” I reply.

“I’m sure this time…” Jim sticks his chest out. “She grew up on grassy acres… On a barn…”

“I don’t care!” I scream, unable to pretend any longer.

“You said you’d guide me,” Jim whines.

“Because I was bored,” I reply. “I’m even more bored now!”

“Fine… I’ll go on my own.”

“Why? And don’t say because you love her.”

“She’s my soulmate…”

“Fairy tales!”

The soulmate thing was made up by the Greeting Card industry.

Jim points his curved finger in my face. “The angel-”

I shove his hand away. “Winged lady was trolling you, pal.”

“Seven realms over.”

“Seven? Exactly Seven?”

“We’ve travelled five.”

“You most definitely look it, Jim.”

They always fall for the divine number nonsense. Why not eleven. Or twenty two?

“She wasn’t lying,” Jim says.

“How can you be sure?” I ask.

“Because… There’s no reason to.”

“Of course there is… You’re gullible.”

And gullible, love-sick, betas like Jim are a joy to screw with. And, since winged lady and I are cut from the same cosmic cloth, or so I surmise, I figure she gets a kick out of playing the after-life’s tour guide like I do. And about her wings… I figure that was her schtick… But I do wonder about those wings….I hear they stretch across a realm. How’d she get those? Probably some trick she learned since she’s quite old and has been here since the beginning or whatever. Or so I hear. Heck, I’ve heard she’s crossed more realms than any unbothered in all of the un-xistance. But I digress. I’ll find her one of these days and pick her brain. Or, maybe pluck a few of her wing feathers.

Jim taps me.

He probably wants to apologize for being a jerk.

“Yes?” I ask.

Jim shrugs. “Hey I-”

Vooosh!

A strong gust of wind topples Jim and nearly does the same to me.

Still on my feet. I recover.

I wave my middle finger into the distance.

“What?” Jim picks himself up from the ground.

I smirk at the landscape. “Is that emotion I sense?”

“Who are you talking to?” Jim asks.

“It… them… all of this.. .” I point in all directions. “I explained this to you two fucking realms ago!”

Jim shakes his head. “I-”

“Oh, never mind…” I throw my hands in the air. “Probably scramble your brain next jump and forget again.”

Jim walks off without me.

He was being sensitive again. And stupid.

“Where are you going?” I walk after him. “You have no idea who exists here…”

“I don’t care,” Jim answers.

He must be trying to get himself blipped. Jim knows Undecideds like him were far more dangerous and unpredictable than any of my kind. Depending on the kind of torture they endured in life, and brought with them to the after-life, they could be harboring demons -etheral carnivores birthed by torture, or weapons that could blip (temporary kill) them from Purgatory. Or, even worse, their volatile emotions or desires could go nuclear, and wipe out everything in the realm. And I mean EVERYTHING, Including us. And I can’t get blipped. Not now. I’d have to learn how not to give a shit all over again. What a pain…

I have to dismiss my worry.

I have to pause. I pause. I have to cover my ears, block out the noise, and remind myself. And chant… yes, chant. Nothing matters. Nothing matters. My after-life literally depends on nothing mattering. Which, is a bit ironic now that I think of it. If nothing matters, then I won’t care if I get blipped.

I tap my chin.

I can’t recall the last time I was blipped. I literally can’t remember… which is kind of the point I guess.

Jim was yards ahead of me.

I was so deep in though I didn’t notice.

“Stop…” I demand.

“What?” Jim pauses.

“You’re torturing yourself.”

Jim shakes his head and keeps walking.

“You wait just a goddam minute,” I demand. “You owe me.”

Travelling partner stopped. “I do?”

He doesn’t owe me squat. That line always get them to stop.

“You know why I cross freely?” I ask. “Because I’ve cut away feelings. And desires.”

Jim looks confused. But he’s listening.

“You travel with all that weight. That, gunk in your soul. That garbage eat you inside out with each crossing.” I added. “You get it?”

“Sure,” Jim dismissively answers.

“So what do you say, associate?” I offer my hand. “Snip away the feelings. Let’s visit some more colorful realms. Forget this love thing.”

Come to think of it… When’s the last time I visited my own realm?

Jim approaches me again.

That’s right… You’re making the…

“Thanks for everything,” Jim says before he ignores my hand, straightens his dislodged shoulders and staggers onwards towards the cabin in the distance.

“Catch up to you later?!” I call after Him.

Jim looks taller in the distance. He walks away without even a wave goodbye.

I shrug.

Jim’s not going far without me, so I decide to allow him some time to wander the realm while I converse with my stalker.

“He looks a mess, doesn’t he?” I lean down and pluck a blade of grass. “That wind thing you did was unbecoming of you, Unhinged.”

Always watching. Listening. Probing my thoughts. They were literally everywhere. And everything. And in or of all things. That gust of wind they hurled at me and my idiotic travel partner could have easily been a category five tornado. That’s if they wanted to really fuck shit up. Ha.

I crush the blade of grass in my palm. “No need to be jealous.”

The Untethered were not allowed to interfere,interact, or partake in any of the fun within purgatory. They are… How can I explain… Semi-sentient laws. Invisible referees. They are the living embodiment of the status quo in purgatory. They are slaves to comic duty. What a boring existence.

I dust the dirt off my favorite Lee Ving T-shirt. “You don’t intimidate us. Not anymore.”

A bed of thorns form around me. Overtaking my knees. Then my hands.

“Oh, don’t be such a bitch…” I say.

The Unhinged and their rules. The Undecided and their fucking baggage. Being an Unbothered was where it was at. I’ll never choose…. Ill stay forever.

Skrrrrr! The grassy landscape blinks into a gray void before returning. It lasts a nanosecond.

I laugh.

I’ve seen that gray void before. The world around me would disappear for a nanoseconds then reappear. And it’s more and more frequent on my visits to other realms…

“What’s the matter, Unhinged?” I ask. “Feeling powerless?”

“Stop… this,” The realm replies in a whisper.

I tear through the bed of thorns.

As I told the Unhinged the last time we had a row…

I do what I please here. Even if it means skull-fucking everything in Purgatory in the process.

The remaining thorns turn to ash and blow away in the breeze. I think I hear the grasslands moaning. Weeping.

Music to my ears.

“Hey, pal…” I call after my pitiful travelling Partner. “Wait up!”

I’ll help this idiot find his wife. But only because I know it will piss of the Untethered. And most important of all, I know for sure this will collapse this whole system. And its well past time the Transition, this glorious shit-hole, geta taken down a peg.

Sleep In Peace

Sleepinpeace

Sleep in peace, brave warrior.

Lay your weapons and burdens aside.

Accept peace and remain in it, knowing you fought well.

Against impossible enemies. Against fate.

You protected me. Loved me.

Now it’s time to become one with me. Become me.

And I promise you.

You will never know death In my embrace. Only eternal life.

As you sleep you will exist as the flowers.

The trees.

As the pollen in the air.

As rain, hydrating the soil. Fueling and resurrecting life.

And one day –whence this planet dissolves– as the dust scattered among the stars.

Sleep well. My love.

 

(Sleep in Peace My Dear Sister, Rhea)

 

Iku’s Defeat

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Read “Scale-Lord’s Victory” here

My hallowed sword. Clear as ice. Invisible to mortal eyes. Her’s was the red dagger. Black edges. Boisterous. Hellish. Magma. My off-hand weapon.

I stalked her.

Her dagger-like nails. She swiftly peeled through my sanctified steel.

Now!

I flung Ice at her eye. Cleaved down on her wings with Magma.

Unholy rage. Desperation. Love.

Ice shattered like glass on impact. Magma snapped in threes.

She cackled. “Hopeless boy…”

I scrambled for the shattered weapons.

Useless weapons! Lying old shaman! 

Phwoosh!

Wings sliced over my head. Clipped my knotted mane.

“Enough!” I pleaded.

E’lees… save her.  

I retrieved pieces of Magma in stealth.

Enchanted weapons were her last hope to retrieve what’s left . Of her.

She summoned machines. Slicing. Crushing. Machines.

I screamed. “Stop!”

She took flight. Whipped her wings. Summoned gusts of wind which pinned me against a crumbling column.

My despair dissolved to acceptance.

I failed. 

I braced my body for a pain worse than death.

She caressed my cheek. “Oh, Iku…”

Pity in her demonic tone. Pity for me.

I opened my teary eyes.

Wings. Leathery skin.  All vanished in favor of her angelic flesh.

“Stop fighting.” She cuffed my cheek.

I looked away.

Tricks. Glamour.

You wear her flesh. But you are not her.

I unearthed her broken Magma.

“Be with me,” She pleaded.

Fine. 

I drove Magma into my chest.

To be with her. In oblivion.

Her wings sprouted. Form shifted from flesh to scales.

“Iku!” She shrieked and collapsed the temple on top of us.