Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Not Quite TeenWolf

I was going to write a TeenWolf fan fiction (I didn't know what fan fiction was, I was just going to rewrite TeenWolf, because it seemed like fun).  In my version, Scott was an actual werewolf who was murdering and eating people, only his brain couldn't handle it, so he created the TeenWolf stuff to cope. I didn't write it; turns out there was a crappy TV show version that was close - though not really.  Not at all like what I was envisioning. Anyway, this was the opening...

The thing you have to remember is that lycanthropy (being a werewolf) is a curse.  A curse that has plagued our family since the 1500s.  Sometimes it skips a generation, most times it doesn't.  It affects all of the sons of the Howard Family; and once, in 1890, a daughter.

The curse is insidious.  Dangerous.  It's more than just the transformation from man to animal.  Or, rather, that transformation is more than physical.

In my mind, the weeks leading up to and following my first transformation are a psychotic blur.  On the one hand, I know the truth - the horrors that stalked little Beacontown that year - injury, death, and worse.  I have memories of those horrors; but they are the impassioned, disjointed nightmares of the wolf.  On the other hand, is the delusion.  The mind of man is not meant to run wild in the world.  And when a man becomes the wolf, some part of him breaks.  A coping mechanism.

My delusion protected me from the evils perpetrated by my monstrous inner beast; but they left me completely unable to cope with the town around me - I was paralyzed by a fear I could neither comprehend nor share.  Beacontown was held in the tyrannical grip of a monstrous beast-man.

I thought we were trying to win the basketball championship.

If it hadn't been for the love and caring of James Styles (my good friend) and Bethany Scott (my best friend "Boof" who would become Bethany Howard, thank God), I would have been consumed by the wolf; I would have never known the truth, and I wouldn't have been able to spend my life trying to make amends.

Which, of course, I can never do.

My story is not the light-hearted coming of age story I'd thought it to be, but a nightmare tale of horror, terror, and depravity.  I do not want to face it, even now; but you have to hear it, boy; because sometimes the curse skips a generation; but most times, it doesn't.

The delusions never go away, of course.  But they become manageable.  You learn to differentiate the lie of your mad-cap adventures as the TeenWolf from the truth of the monster within; and you use the lie to keep from going insane.

The first time I felt it - before I had any notion there was something to feel, was at the season opener against the Dragons.  But it scared the shit out of me, and I suppressed it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Yard of Graves

Nathaniel Starnes lies roughly six-feet below the grass here at our feet. By the date on his headstone, he's been lying in that position for roughly 13 years. He's wearing what was - at the time of his burial - a brand new suit, in a style he never would have bought for himself, but which his mother quite adored.

Nathaniel Starnes was a poet. He wrote some of the most beautiful, most profound, most heart-wrenchingly humanverses you will never read. He scribbled them on napkins and bits of scrap paper; but he never thought they were good enough. The majority of his work is now buried beneath all the refuse and rubbish of the county landfill, seventeen miles from here.

Right next to Nate - his friends called him Nate - is Carrie McCarthy. Carrie wanted to be a writer too; but she never wrote anything. She spent years daydreaming about the novel she wanted to write. She knew her characters so well she knew their birthdays. Not just what they looked like, or what they did but how they felt. She understood their hopes and desires - and all things that stopped them from achieving their dreams. Her widower found a box of notes and outlines, but didn't know what to make of them. They now lie, forgotten, below sixteen bags of garbage in the same landfill as the majority of Nate's poetry.

Carrie's been dead for six years now, buried under the earth; and no one will ever read her novel.

Dr. Martin Mallory is buried over there. Five months dead and barely out of med-school. Martin had an almost innate understanding of the human body and the maladies that effect it. He was toying around with an idea about how to trick cancer cells into turning on themselves. I don't understand the specifics; but apparently he would have paved the way toward a cancer cure in the next few years. He never told anyone about it, though. He thought it was just too easy. It couldn't be that easy. He was sure he was missing something; and he didn't want people to laugh.

No one laughed when the lowered his coffin into the ground over there, and covered it with dirt. He's gone now. They're all gone. And they took so much with them that we'll never know.

Danny Carson over here - six feet down. He died in 1985. He never would have written anything profound, or discovered anything that would've changed the world. Danny Carson was funny, though. He had such a great sense of humor. He was pretty good with an engine, too. Liked to fix things.

He dreamed of being a stand-up comic. Sometimes he would try to work up a good routine. He jotted down notes about all the funny things that happened throughout the day - about all things that happened in the world that weren't funny, unless...

But again, he was worried that people would laugh. Well... not like that. He never really believed he was funny. He thought people would laugh at him, instead of his jokes.

There's nothing wrong with fixing cars. It's a vital service; and Danny was good at it, as I've said. He would've been an amazing comedian, though. He might not have changed the world, but he sure would have made people laugh. Now he's gone. No one will ever see the world in quite the same way again.

All of these graves. All of these unrealized dreams; all now forgotten. All the things they never did. All this waste. That's the thing that's wrong.

A graveyard is not just where we bury the dead. It's where dreams lie unfulfilled. It's where goals wither away to nothing. A graveyard is a monument to all things we never did because we were afraid, or unsure, or... just didn't have the time.

We don't teach each other how to believe in ourselves. We go to school to learn math and how to read and write, but how do we learn confidence? How do we learn the determination necessary to follow through on all the things we wish we could do? All the things we should have done?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

WP - 010 - Gotham's Protector

Heh heh heh. Hah. Ha Ha Ha!
Wake up, Bruce. It's time to go to work. I know you can hear me out there, Bruce. I can feel you getting complacent. But it's more than a feeling. I know, Bruce. I see you. The Janitor, Oscar - the one you busted six years ago, trying to boost televisions from the Gotham Mall...
Oscar had his cell phone on him tonight. He was watching you on that show. The one about rich people who aren't caped vigilantes. I saw you. Silly, Bruce. I saw you with that Blonde. You really think you can just DO that? Just be Normal? Very stupid, Bruce. Deep breaths now. In... Out... In... Out...
This is going to hurt.
In... I shouldn't have started that toss-up with Eddie in group today. I didn't think a few days in the jacket would be much of a hassle. If I'd known you were slipping - I should've realized.
It doesn't get any easier, Bruce. Dislocating a shoulder. I wasn't born with double joints, you know. I mean... of course YOU know. I'm not even particularly flexible. This isn't talent, Bruce. It's skill. You can hear me out there, can't you? Of course you can. Do you see what you've done for me? How you've helped mold me. You've made me better, Bruce. But you'd better wrap things up with your little Missy. I'm coming for you.
Wriggling out of the jacket has gotten to be pretty easy, actually. Slow breaths again. It's resetting the shoulder - That's the part that really sucks. Heh heh. No, Bruce. It doesn't quite suck out all the fun. Ack! I wonder if you're going to be dumb enough to try and lie down with this one? I hope I can get out in time to remind you. I hope... This is what you give me, Bruce.Hope. Can you hear me? I might have to kill this one.
Yes, Bruce, yes. The key. I took the key from Tetch. He got it off one of the guards - um - Wilson? Yes. I better tell you about Wilson tonight. If a two-bit buffoon like Hatter can get his hands on the key, Wilson's going to have to go.
Cash is on tonight. Better avoid Cash. He was in a mood this afternoon. He's not one you'll deal with, though. He's a good one. I should kill him. I wonder if I could push him to be more like you? No... Like the Birdbrain, maybe. But there's no one like you, Bruce.
Shh... Be quite now. Don't want the alarms going off until I'm over the wall. What? Shh. No. I know I can't get over the wall, it's a metaphor, you nincompoop. You really are slipping aren't you? I've been in here too long. I think you're actually starting to get dumber.
No, no. Don't be like that. I only call you names because I care. I can't tell you how mad I was when I saw you wearing your mask. Pretending you were one of THEM! What's got into you!?!
No. No, it's... I'm alright. I punched the metal of the drain pipe. Pretty dumb of me, really. Your complacency is catching. They probably heard that at the front gate. This might be the last time I get to use this tunnel. It's a shame.
Bruce, you do not want to know how much I had to pay Croc to rig this grate so I could open it and get out when I need to. When you need me.
I hope they didn't hear me. Don't want you waking up too soon. We have to get you back on the streets, Bruce; but you must be punished, I think. You have to remember about the City, Bruce. You have to remember Gotham.
And I'm going to remind you tonight. You can't rest, boy. You can't just... Date. You can't hide behind your millionaire playboy mask and think I'm just going to lie around in my cell and let you pretend you're one of them?
You're not one of them, Bruce. You're the hero. How many people are dying tonight because you wanted to be one of them - even for one night? How many of the good ones are dead in the street already because You Forgot What You Are! This city is a cesspit, Bruce. How many more are going to die before you remember, and we dance our little dance again?
No. Gotham needs it's protector, Bruce. Gotham needs it's Dark Knight. Heh heh.
You're going to remember tonight. It's going to hurt you a lot more than it'll hurt me; but you're going to remember. And then our city will be safe again.
Can you hear me, Bruce? You will. And you're going to remember, Bruce.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Where the brave shall live

I don't really know what it was like before.  Dying.  Discovering that there's more.  The Ride of the Valkyrie.  I don't think the Meadhall has changed - at least - it looks like a Viking Meadhall to me.  On the whole it's like this giant party on the front lines of a battle we're going to fight in the morning, only morning never seems to come.  It's all training and drinking and eating...  Holy shit, the food here is so good!
I never really studied vikings or mythology.  I mean, I watched that show on the History Channel.  My brother DVR'd it and we watched it together the last time I was stateside.
Huh.  I guess I'll never be stateside again.  I wonder why that never occurred to me before.  I hope my brother dies in glorious battle and gets chosen.
Okay, so here's how I died:
In Battle!
Sorry.  Whenever anyone here asks you how you died, the answer is always, "IN BATTLE!"  It's kind of stupid, I know.  We all died in battle.  It's literally the only way to get here.  It's just one of those stupid things *Einherjar* do.  It's like a motivational check - the closest thing I can think of back home in *Midgardr*, would be "oorah."
Also, Einherjar...  That's what we call ourselves.  The one warrior.  Each of us is the One Warrior.  The Single Soldier, the once fighters.
Yeah, I'm learning the Old Norse.  You have to.  There are so many Einherjar - brothers - here from all over the world.  All across the vast expanse of history; and the gods sure as hell aren't going to waste their time learning all the tongues of men.  So the Norse tends to be the common language around here.  I mean...
There are cliques, sure.  But it isn't like High School.  Isn't even like the Corps.  It's fluid, I guess.
I served with this old badass Gunny my first tour in Iraq - **GySgt Starke**.  He was one of the first of the Einherjar to greet me in the Meadhall.  He was in tight with the old-school Americans, his fucking Grandfather is here (how awesome would that be?).  Anyway, I usually end up hanging out with a bunch of American and British World War Vets.  I like to drink with these Hessians, too.  Donar - their unofficial leader - took a liking to me when I called him out on his bullshit this one time, and the Hessians all laugh at the way modern German sounds on my tongue - we communicate alright, though.  I guess I also hang out with these Afghanis sometimes, after I ran into a soldier I sent here myself a few months before punching my own ticket.
**Aarif** is a fucking riot, man.  So funny.  His English is pretty good - a lot better than my Norse, anyway.  He comes running up to me about a week after I got here, and he just punches the shit out of me.  We start fighting, and I didn't have any idea what the hell was going on; but I fought back.  I mean... It's what you do, right?
So here I am in Nordic Heaven fighting for my life against this Afghan Muslim shouting "Allahu Akbar," and shit - shouting about "you killed me, you American sonofabitch," and "why did you send me to Valhalla," - and don't you ever tell him I said it, but he was beating the shit out of me.  And he had me in this crazy leg lock and he just starts laughing, and brushing away my strikes and telling me to calm down.  **Gunny Starke** was there then, laughing.  I was so confused.
We drank mead together, and none of it mattered any more.  I mean, it never mattered, really.  We fight, we died.  Now we're brothers.  Once upon a time, we were Fighters.  I killed this man, **Aarif** - punched his ticket on the Valhalla Express - and somewhere out there, the man - the men - who punched my ticket will show up, if they're lucky.  Maybe the man who killed me is here already.  I didn't get a good look at them, though.
Most of us don't.  And even if you do know who killed you, maybe they won't even show up.  Some go to **Freyja's** war fields.  And the poor bastards who don't get to die in battle - the ones who live long enough to grow old, or sick?  We don't mourn the lost.  We live forever.
But it was real depressing to find out that most of my heroes aren't here.  I don't want to talk about that.  We don't mourn the lost.
So I died in battle.  IED.  Pretty cunning trap, really.  I mean, I think we were on point - heads in the game.  Riding patrol north of Jalalabad, Croft says something about getting laid, Benjamen tells him to shut up and **BOOM**.
The chaos of war.  Ears ringing.  Head foggy and lost and clear and focused all at the same time.  Checking injuries, checking our brothers.  Frankenhummer's dead.  We pile out and assess.  Then the shooting starts.
I couldn't tell you if I was the first or even the only one to go down.  The initial impact hit my body armor.  It's like being punched in the chest.  I got riddled with bullets, though. Shoulder, arm, twice, leg.  The one in my head shut it all down.  I was cold.  There was a motorcycle or something - like one of the big Harleys.  I don't know.  Maybe the engine on the humvee was still going.  I think I tried to raise my rifle; but there was a big piece of my wrist missing when I looked down at the hand holding it.  I couldn't grip my weapon right.  I didn't hear it drop in the dirt; but I remember thinking about how pissed Staff Sergeant Burroughs was gonna be.  Disrespecting the rifle.  I fell down.
That motorcycle was getting louder.  Everything was kind of grey.  Or red.  Hazy.  I was trying to stand up.  There was gunfire around us, and I could here my brothers shouting something - yelling at me, I think - but it was like listening from underwater.
"I'm good," I said, lying.  "Drive on."  They didn't hear me.  I mean, I get it now.  I was already dead.
Her name is **Alex** - uh - *Something*.  As the sounds of battle faded and her bike got louder and closer, I found some strength.  I pushed myself up to my knees in time to see her ride up on me.  Glorious.
The bike was huge.  Way too big for her 5-foot frame, with these big ape-hangers and all this chrome and steel that didn't belong in the desert.  At first I thought she was American - she was wearing desert fatigues, but she was out of uniform.  No armor, no battle rattle.  Long-ass blonde hair in this sexy braid that went all the way down her back.  Just a rifle slung over her shoulder, sunglasses, these big, goofy leather bracers.  This big ass sword was strapped to her hog, like something out of one of my sister's anime movies.  Even in steel toes, her feet were tiny.
"*Get up,*" she said, climbing off the motorbike.  She pulled a black bottle from one of the saddlebags, and tossed it to me.  "*Drink*."
I did as I was told.  The fighting seemed to have stopped, we were just standing there in the desert wreckage.  The sounds of my brothers arguing about something, yelling at someone - I think they were trying wake him up.  Damn.  Someone else must've gotten hit.  It was all kind of distant, though.
The bottle was ceramic, stoppered with a cork.  It was sweet, like apples or honey.  Kind of tart too.  Good.  That was the first time I ever drank Mjød.  It's like bread and butter now.  Mother's Milk.  I took another big swig, and noticed the girl looking at me.
I wiped my mouth on the back of my hand.  My wrist...
I still hadn't figured it out, really.  Until I saw that my wrist was fine.  I asked the Valkyrie if she was an angel; but she laughed at that.  That was how I learned what a Valkyrie was. We rode across the desert on her monster bike.  We rode through forests that couldn't exist - vast and beautiful and untouched by the 21st century, and along a beach at one point - before turning inland and then up into the mountains.
The Meadhall - it's not just a Meadhall.  It's this whole massive compound.  **Alex** told me it isn't the only one.  Isn't even the biggest.  It's ours though.  Barracks, Mess, Armory, Stables, Garage.  We have these bivouac party stations set up all over.
Most of my time is spent training with weapons I haven't imagined using since I was 9.  Swords and axes.  Shields.  Fucking spears.  The new guys help the old guys get better with modern tech.  The old guys help the new guys improve their archaic weapon skills.
This guy Tanaka-San.  He says he's a farmer; and I know the Samurai in the East Field don't like him; but I swear to god - or Odin... whatever - I swear he's a fucking real life ninja!  He's teaching me how to fight with whatever.  A bunch of us spend time up on the high plain learning how to look at every tool as a weapon.  Recognizing its effectiveness, it's weakness.  Internalizing principles that will allow us to use any weapon or tool or rock or stick as if we were born to it.
But here's the thing that scares me - the thing we shout down with our drinking and revelry.  Here's the thing that wakes me screaming in the night.
What the hell are we fighting.  Ragnarok is coming.  What the hell is Ragnarok?  We have here the bravest, the mightiest, the quickest, the strongest warriors in the entire history of humanity - and all we do is train and practice and drink and party.  Then we train some more.
It seems like a party, I threw that in there, because I don't want you to get the wrong idea.  It's not a bummer.  But every warrior here.  Every Einharjar is learning how to be a better fighter.  We distract ourselves with mead and Valkyries (when they'll have us), and we boast and talk and lie to ourselves that we're not scared shitless; but what the hell are we doing this for?  And what's going to happen when it's over?  What's going to happen when we win?
Because I don't ever want this to end.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

WP - 008 - Gadget

Every day, I go to the "new" page of (I apologize in advance if you were previously unaware of Reddit) where I select the latest prompt - whatever it is - and write it out.  I've decided to post those here.  Hope you enjoy it.  Today's Story is:


<blockquote>[EU] After years of trusting his cybernetic additions, he feels them betraying him, sees the blood on his hands, and can only think, "Stop stop gadget..."</blockquote>

It can be hard to look at yourself with honest eyes - to admit your faults.  It tears you up inside - owning up to your failures.  I won't lie to you and try to convince you that I didn't know what a screw-up I was back then.  I won't tell you I didn't love the praise, though.  And now that Penny's dead.

I switched off my data reception and disabled the WiFi upgrade.  This old empty warehouse is quiet.  Secluded.  If Brain was still around, he'd probably come over here and put his head in my lap.  I could pet him...

...If the servo-actuator in the Gadgetarms weren't malfunctioning.  He probably would've been disgusted with all this anyway.  The left arm is still twitching.

I can feel the water from that broken pipe seeping through the seat of my trousers.  Claw hasn't moved in - 32 minutes and 14 seconds - according to the Gadgetbrain Onboard Chronometer.  All those times he tried to kill me.  All the times he tried to hurt me.  To hurt Penny.

I guess the servos in the left hand are still working after all.  I hear the broken bones in his neck grind against each other as the Gadgetarm twitches.  Claw lies 7.82 feet away from me.  The Gadgetarm won't contract back into its socket.  The one on the right won't do anything.  Not with the bullet lodged in the shoulder actuator.

Wowsers.  I really fucked this one up, Chief.

The Gadgetlegs aren't much use, either.  My left foot is vibrating, and the right one seems to have been disconnected from its coupling.  I think it fell off - held in place by the pants leg.  There's a terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side.  I think there's a lot of blood mixed in with the oil and coolant.

"I think I'm going to die here, Penny."  The voice is choked, weak.  It doesn't sound like me.  How much of John Brown is in that statement, and how much of the Machine?  The two never were much different until today.

John Brown came here to arrest Dr. Claw.  John Brown was furious - but mostly with himself.  All these years combating M.A.D. and Claw's ridiculous schemes.  How could John Brown have done things differently?  What if I'd stopped listening to the hype and the press and the accolades from the Department, and really paid attention? Could I have stopped this?

I know I could have.  John Brown could have.  I have the most advanced Robotics and cybernetic systems available - some of them not even - technically - legal, without the Patriot Act and the Quimby Initiative.

I should have been a better role model -

I should've been a better father.  Penny would still be alive, if I'd come here and done this sooner.  Day One.  Right out the door.  Ditch the cuffs, break out the .45.

But I didn't come here to kill anyone.  Did I?

No.  I can't believe that.  John Brown came here to arrest Claw.  It was the Machine that did all this.  Claw tried his worst to stop it.  Agent after Agent fell beneath the might of Gadget.  I couldn't even count the dead.  After the first few years, they all sort of look exactly the same, don't they?  How could I differentiate between them while I was snapping their spines and crushing their skulls?

How could I let the Machine do this?

They're all dead now.  My niece is not coming back to me, and none of the amazing things she did - none of the great and heroic deeds I took the credit for will be remembered.

They'll all be swept under the rug and replaced with "psychotic cyborg slaughters dozens."  If the tear ducts weren't automatic, I think I would be weeping now.  It's cold.

I'm definitely dying now.  Back-up systems have kicked in.  I no longer have access to the communication systems.  WiFi boots up, data.  I had no idea that subroutine existed.  Hidden.  I mean...

Of course it does.  Whatever happens to John Brown, the technology's good.  I can hear the locator beacon.  They'll be coming for the tech.  Maybe they can put it into a competent officer this time.  Equip someone more deserving.  I wish there was some way I could warn them.  Tell them what to look out for...

There's a rudimentary processor in the back of the Gadgetbrain.  It records everything - keeps Inspector Gadget honest, I guess.  Or it's supposed to.  If I could partition...


<hr />
<hr />

<i>"Listen to me.  This is the most important thing you have to know about all these changes they've made to your body.

"None of it matters.  The enhanced vision and hearing, the waldo arms, the telescoping appendages, or the top-secret Gadgetphone.  It's a bunch of props.  Tools.

"Whoever you are... you're not a superhero.  You're not even a supercop.  Not because of the gadgets, anyway.  The only way you can be a good cop is to be a good cop.  Pay attention to the things around you.  Pay attention to the people.  Protect and Serve.  Remember that first.

"Be mindful.  Listen to your family and friends.  Don't let all this bullshit go to your head.  Truth be told, you wouldn't have been a very good cop in the first place - they won't be putting all this tech into a healthy body, so you must've done something to screw it all up.  I can't see how you could be here, if you hadn't.

"But maybe that's my ego getting in the way, because I was such a screw up.

"Well, don't let that be your defining trait.  Don't fuck it up, like I did.  Stop.  Learn how to control the Machine.  Don't let the Gadgetbrain control you.  Ask for help when you need it.  Acting like you've got everything under control, when you haven't, is just going to get someone killed.

"And speaking of that.  Cherish your family.  Love the ones who love you.  And keep them away from this.  You are a cop.  Not some silly crime-fighter on a mad-cap adventure.  You don't need sidekicks.  Don't be stupid.

"I was going to tell you about...

"about some of the unex... unexpected...  un... side effects.  No clock... no... time, I guess.

"It's over.  I'm dying Penny.  I'm sor... I'm.... I'm..., </i>


<hr />
<hr />


She shook her head.  The compensaters in her artificial tear ducts were failing.  Her eyes were wet.  "It's Detective," she said.  "Detective Gadget.  And I'm fine.  I found an old program hiding in the crime scene protocols of the Gadgetbrain OS."  She wiped her eyes.

He eyed her nervously, "anything we need to report?"  All the street cops were nervous around her.  It was to be expected.  She'd only been on the street for a few months; and they made her a detective right off the bat, even though she was still a recruit when... when *it* happened.

"It's nothing.  I deleted it.  I'll debrief Chief Quimby, when we're finished here.  Show me what we've got."  She moved the file to her personal SD card and encrypted it.

The officer started across the sidewalk and into the alley and the fresh crime scene.  Detective Gadget looked around, the Gadgetbrain absently recording her surroundings, in case something useful escaped her notice, and could be identified later.  She turned her attention southwest.  14.8 miles in that direction was the ruin of the old M.A.D. Warehouse.

"Goodbye, Uncle Gadget," she whispered somberly, and turned to follow the officer into the alley.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

WP - 007 - Four Aces

Every day, I go to "new" page of (I apologize in advance if you were previously unaware of Reddit) where I select the latest prompt - whatever it is - and write it out.  I've decided to post those here.  Hope you enjoy it.  Today's Story is:

[WP] The Four Horsemen have arrived on Earth. Mankind tries to bribe its way out of the Apocalypse.

This one kind of got away from me before I could get to the deal making. Ah well:

Four Aces was a hole in the world - the Armpit of the desert Craig called it; but Jonas had been coming to this dingy, stupid diner for nearly sixty years now. He wasn't about to stop because the tourists thought it was a dive.
Craig wasn't actually a tourist. For the last four years, Craig and the bad coffee were the only stable elements of Jonas's morning routine. He and Jonas had been friends and enemies for nearly 20 - ever since Craig moved down the road a bit and started coming to pester Jonas (and whoever was doing the cooking) with his hippy-liberal bullshit. Charlie - who used to own Four Aces - died pretty suddenly, and his wife Marlene had let her boys run it right into the ground.
Not that it had that far down to go. Four Aces was a lonely place, out on the desert highway. A gas station and convenience store with a small, greasy diner on one side and a dinky, six-room motel on the other. Jonas stayed in the hotel for a couple weeks after Harriet died. It smelled like the 1970's.
Since the youngest boy, Nathan took over, the place had settled down; but when his older brothers were in charge, turnover at Four Aces was terrible. There was one spot, back in 2012 when there was a new waitress behind the counter every morning for a week.
Through it all, though, there was Craig. The two men were arguing now about Obama-bin-laden - so called President of these United States of America. Craig, as usual, was spouting some horse crap about fact-checking and racism; but Jonas wasn't having any of it. The man was a Muslim - a foreigner - and a damn communist to boot! The two men were going back and forth, while Mercedes - the nineteen-year-old brunette behind the counter, sat on her little stool chuckling.
The argument was broken by the sound of motorcycles. Loud motorcycles.
They drove up and parked in front of the diner. Four of them. Serious looking men, too. Thick with leather, and visibly armed. Jonas muttered a prayer under his breath.
The bikers sidled up to the counter and sat down. There were just enough of the red seats that there was one between Jonas and the feller sitting closest to him. A goddamn Muslim. He was wearing a blood-red hoodie, with a black tactical harness over it. He wore a machete at his waste like he was a knight with a sword. There were pistols and a rifle strapped all over him. Jonas - wide eyed, and shaking in fear - counted three grenades.
Bald-headed, with a thick, wiry black beard, the Muslim made a kissing face and turned to his comrades. They spoke some language, Jonas didn't understand. Craig either, once he was asked.
Beside the bald Muslim, there was a man in a bird mask. Big goggles, red leather and brass. He looked like one of those bird man doctors from the dark ages. Jonas could see there was a faint mist slowly emanating from the vents on either side of his mask. The black eye plates in his goggles hid any expression. His muffled voice spoke the same middle east language as the other.
The third man wore a dirt-black suit underneath his black leather duster. He looked slick, with dark hair, and a neatly trimmed Van Dyke Beard. He was pale though, sickly. And his eyes almost seemed to glow red, they were so shot-through with blood. At the end of the bar though...
Jonas had a grandchild, Toby. He liked this really stupid movie about a skellington biker with his head on fire. Jonas never understood it. The actor from the Rock was in it (the one with Sean Connery); but it wasn't anything like a Sean Connery movie.
This biker looked like that, though. His skin was so thin and tight, he looked like a skellington. His hair was thin and fading; but bright orange red, so that when it caught the sunlight, it looked almost like fire. His eyes were sunken in too far, and his grin looked downright evil.
Jonas said another prayer. The whole time he'd been watching the men, Mercedes was taking their order, they spoke in that weird Arab-Talk, but she just went right on writing it down. Mitch came out of the back and took the ticket, he made a face.
"What is this?" he said, angrily.
"Just fucking make it," Mercedes said. When Mitch looked back at the ticket again - I swear I could see it in his face. He had no idea what she'd written down, and then understanding dawned on him and he just turned around and started cooking.
The bikers were talking and joking. Craig tapped Jonas on his arm.
"Hey," he whispered. "You all right, old timer?" Jonas turned to his friend, took another look at the bikers, then turned back.
"I don't know," Jonas said, gravely. "Something doesn't feel right."
"Well," Craig said quietly, "don't go antagonizing the crazy biker gang by staring at them."
Mercedes came over to where the men huddled together - Jonas snatching quick glances at the hard men over his shoulder.
"What language was that, you were speaking, Mercedes?"
She chuckled, "what are you talking about, Joe?"
She was sweating, though. And the Mitch by the grill was shaking as he cooked steak and eggs, hash-browns and bacon.
Jonas looked at the bikers again, and the Muslim caught his eye.
"You have a problem, child?" The Muslim spoke English with Western Nevada accent. His head cocked to the side.
"I-I ain't no child." Jonas replied.
The four men stood up at once. Before he even realized what was happening, the Muslim was sitting in the seat beside him, and the other three were hovering over him, like the evil bikers in an old 1960's road trip movie.
"Are you a man," the Muslim said.
"What are-" Jonas began and couldn't finish. "I don't even... of course I'm a man."
"What makes you a man?" The other bikers were staring at him intently.
"What do you want to hear? Please. I don't want no trouble."
"I am afraid to tell you that we are trouble," the Muslim said. "Trouble and pain and the harbingers of the end." He studied Jonas's face. "But you say you are a man. And I don't really understand what it is that you mean by that."
The bone-faced man with the fiery hair leaned in on Jonas's other side and spoke in his ear, "what is a man?"
"Hey," Craig tried to muster up his courage. "W-Why don't you guys go sit back down. Leave the old timer alone."
Bird-man stepped away from Jonas and stood in front of Craig instead. He didn't speak, but he stared at the younger man through those black, round eye holes. His head moving around like a bird's as he looked the man over.
"I am not bothering you, am I, human?" The Muslim said, then. He placed a hand on Jonas's shoulder. "I am not come to scare you. I - we," he indicated his posse, "we have tasks to perform. We have always known we would perform these tasks. We have always known the hour would come; but this is the first time we have been this close to humanity."
Bird-man reached up and brushed the stubble on Craig's cheek. Craig squirmed away, but Bird-man grabbed his chin and held it fast, leaning in close to inspect the man's skin, his mouth, his nose.
"L-Leave us alone," Craig protested.
"No." Skull-Face said.
"Answer his question," the slick businessman behind Jonas said. By now, both Mitch and Mercedes were backed into a corner on the other side of the grill. He pointed at them. "Our food is going to burn. You will do your job, or suffer the consequences."
He looked back at Jonas again. His red eyes following every twitch and tick on his face.
"I-I don't know how to answer," Jonas said. "I don't really know what you want to know."
"What is your name," the Muslim said.
"Jonas," he seemed to mull it over, to consider it. "Jonas," he said again, "Ee-Oh-nass. The dove. A sign to the people. Are you a destroyer, Jonas, an oppressor of men? Or are you a gift from ████."
The tears ran down the old man's face. It was the Name of God. Craig also was crying. Mitch and Mercedes turned to stare at the man who had uttered the WORD. The Muslim smiled.
"Are you a man, IONAS?" Everything that Jonas was, or would be in the coming days was tied up in that question. Like the name of God, the Muslim spoke Jonas's true name - more than a word. More than a label. It spoke of failures, successes, loves lost and regained. Dreams and plans now long forgotten, abandoned in the face of time.
Jonas wept openly now. "You say that, and you ask me to explain it to you? You know all that I am." He collapsed forward, and the biker allowed him to cry into his chest, like a mother holding her child. "Yes, I am a man. I am a male child of God. I have faith. I -" Vaguely, he was aware of another motorcycle approaching.
"Calm yourself, man." The Muslim patted Jonas on his shoulder. "I think I understand more of you now." He pushed Jonas away, so that he sat upright again, "dry your tears."
"What of you," Bird-man's words were muffled through his heavy mask. "Are you also a man, CRAEG?"
"Yes," Craig fought back his tears. There was shame in his true name, just as there had been shame in the name of his friend, but it was easier to bear after hearing it in the other. "I am."
The four men laughed and returned to their seats. Mercedes and Mitch scrambled to get their plates in front of them.
The door opened. The man who walked in was short, another Arab, with a friendly face. He wore loose clothes, and a one-handed sword strapped to his waist.
"Hello," he said. His English was also Western Nevadan, but Jonas now realized he wasn't speaking English at all. He walked over to the two men, and placed a hand on their shoulder. "IONAS, CRAEG. I've been wanting to meet you two for a long time. He looked passed them, behind the counter. MRY, who calls herself Mercy, and MIKHA'EL... MIKHA'EL, you and I are going to have to have a chat before we leave this diner."
"Ar-Are you," Jonas started.
"I am," He said. "MRY, I would very much like to have something to eat while I discuss things with MIKHA'EL. Would you please tend to the grill for me?"

Monday, April 20, 2015

WP - 006 - Misunderstood

Every day, I go to "new" page of (I apologize in advance if you were previously unaware of Reddit) where I select the latest prompt - whatever it is - and write it out.  I've decided to post those here.  Hope you enjoy it.  Today's Story is:

[EU] You are a Common street Magician, who has been misunderstood is dragged to Hogwarts against his will.
"What is this, doing here?" I can't see anything. The bag over my head is completely opaque. The voices sound almost cartoonishly evil.
"I caught the filthy creature pretending to do magic." The room erupts in laughter. Someone kicks me in the chest and I fall on my back with the wind knocked out of me. Shit. Shit.
"Filthy muggle wants to pretend its a wizard? Get it to its feet!" I'm stood up by with by a rough, powerful male. Muggle?
"You brought a muggle to Hogwarts!" A second female. This one with a shrill and aggravating voice. What? Hogwarts? Shit.
"Not to worry, Delores," the male by my ear says menacingly. "It won't be alive very long anyhow."
"Take the bag off its head," the first female says. "I want to see its frightened, filthy face!" More laughter and the bag is ripped from my head. The woman is a brutish looking redhead in black robes. The smile on her face twists in into a sneer when she sees me. "Thought you could just pretend to be a wizard, and no one would notice?"
This is ridiculous. The man beside me shoves me to my knees in front of the woman. Turning to look at him, I see him to be a hunched, doughy thug. Not dissimilar to the woman. He points his wand at me and shouts, "Crucio!"
Ten-Thousand fire ants crawl through my veins, biting as they go, their acid venom snaking its way through my body. Wrapped in barbed wire that tightens and constricts with every convulsion, I kick and scream against my bonds, which - mercifully - are not tied well, and break.
When the curse subsides, I am lying on my back. Between the two. "Who said you could look at me, muggle?"
The second woman is standing off to the left. She is a squat, pink woman in gaudy, pink clothes. She is smirking at me; but my hands are free.
"Silencio!" It takes a lot of will without my wand; but I feel the magic work through me. Every muscle, and joint aches with the remnants of the Cruciatus Curse flowing in them; but I roll to the side and throw a "Stupefy!" at the redhead. My roll brings me close enough to the woman to knock her from her feet with a leg sweep. "Accio Wand!"
I try to hold my concentration, but the two who can are moving quickly. "Finite," I hear the man cast. "Avada-" A well placed strike to the throat knocks the pink woman back a few feet and spares me a terrible death. My wand is a long way away.
"Avada Kedavra!" the man shouts at me, and I only manage to get out of the way of the killing curse by dropping to the ground.
"Levicorpus!" The man is in the air.
"Abracadabra!" I shout, and throw a flashpowder bomb at the woman before she can finish her own curse. She screams and leaps out of the way. The bomb lands behind her and explodes in a brilliant flash of light.
The pink woman gasps on the floor, clutching at her throat. The man tries to cast another killing curse from his position hanging in the air by his ankle. His aim is terrible, thankfully.
"Crucio," the woman yells at me again; but I manage to throw the pink woman in my way. She cries out in agony as I roll away from her.
Sitting up I cast, "Stupefy" again. My power is waning. I duck behind a column, and catch my breath.
I can feel it before it arrives. Oak, nine inches - a single strand of hair from the tail of a unicorn within. I snatch it out of the air and leap out from behind the column. "Protego," I cast to counter the "Expelliarmus" aimed at me by the upside-down wizard. Then respond with a dispelling charm of my own. His wand flies through the air.
Miraculously enough, it flies through the air right toward me. I reach up to grab it, for some reason.
"Avada Kedavra!"
It must be the end of me. As life fades, and my soul leaks out, I am vaguely aware of another Cruciatus cast upon my cooling corpse. And another.
The blackness folds around me, and then light. I am in the Floo Hall at the Ministry. Everything is white, though - too white.
"Where am I?"
"I'm afraid," someone says behind me, "that it is over."
"Dumbledore?" I turn to face the old headmaster. "What are you do- You died."
"So did you, David."
"Ah." I sit down on a bench. "I was battling a trio of wizards at Hogwarts."
"Yes," the old wizard sits beside me. "I would guess that is why your subconscious summoned this visage of me to offer you comfort and guidance on this next, great journey."
"But there are Death Eaters at Hogwarts!" I didn't know things were so dire. If I had, I would've come in. I would've helped.
"Your job was not to protect Wizards, but to look after muggles. If you joined the fight, you may have made a difference, or you might not have. How many did you save by operating in secret."
"If you're a construct of my subconscious, then you're just me telling me what I want to hear."
"Most likely."
"Well," I look around. "Is this it then? Is this the afterlife?"
"No. Just a Floo Network." He motions to a grand fireplace I've never seen before. Of course not. The wizard beside me chuckles. Together we walk over to the fire.
"There's no floo powder." He just looks at me incredulously. "What do I say?" He smiles and disapparates. Of course. I step into the flame, and I am cleansed. It is over.
But it is not the end of me.

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