Video Game the Storyteller: The Last of Us Part 2 (The Leaks & The Release)

There will be no leaks in this post

To not waste anyone’s time, this is not a review. That’ll probably come along next week.

This is a subject I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while and it was meant to be released in a different medium… but due to all that’s happening, I couldn’t get the other medium running in time to cover this topic as I wanted it.

But as most people reading this may already know, The Last of Us: Part 2, the highly anticipated sequel to the widely acclaimed PlayStation 3 title, The Last of Us, was extensively leaked last month.

Following the leak there were lawsuits filed, quarantined fans pickling in their homes going into panic mode, and the creators of the game engaging in full damage control.

If you missed it, you missed a great little internet fiesta full of unreasonably vitriolic rage by those who hated what they saw and painstaking shielding by emotionally distressed die-hard fans who did their darnedest to cover their ears and eyes from the leaks.

Memes were everywhere but this is only one of the few I can share without spoilers.

I ended up basically seeing the leaks thanks to the magic of YouTube algorithm recommending it to me… because I had searched for The Last of Us: Part 2 in the past.

But you know what?

I didn’t really care. And this post, which isn’t going to be very long, is going to try to explain why.

A video game as a storytelling device differentiates itself from other devices by having incorporating game play as part of how it tells its stories.

Obviously, some games do it better than others, but with how video games have developed through the years it’s becoming more and more of a common place to see what players do is integral part of the video game’s story telling experience.

That’s why, The Last of Us, the original game impressed me so much and I still consider it one of the best video game storytelling experiences I’ve ever had.

Having to scrape for scarce resources made me feel the desperation of the characters and the world I was in. Making the choice to either take the violent path or the more pacifistic path made me feel like I had some control over the morality of the circumstances I was given. The brutality of some killings I had to do made me feel the weight of the choices I’ve made. And, most importantly to the plot, having to guide and protect my teen compatriot, Ellie, not only made me feel more attached to the character but at times made those brutal killings feel completely guilt-free and justified.

I was just protecting a young girl from an insane world.

When a game is done right, it’s gameplay doesn’t tell you how the gameplay is telling you the story but makes you feel it, control it⁠—directly experience it. That’s something movies and books cannot do.

NaughtyDog, the company behind, The Last of Us, proved to me that they were masters in utilizing video games to tell a story.

Did it have its flaws? Of course.

But was it the closest I felt to feeling like a game using its identity to the fullest to tell a story? Absolutely.

So what did the leaks do exactly?

Far as I’m concerned, it told me only the half of the story. Maybe even less than that of experiencing the story. And given the achievement NaughtyDog has made with the previous title, I’m willing to pay the ticket of admission to see the other half.

I want to see how the story goes from A to B to C and how I’ll experience it getting to those junctures.

Lets see the rest of the story. Let me experience it the way it was supposed to be experienced.

Not watched via YouTube.

Not read on an internet forum.

But played. With the choices made by me, as a player.

But at the end of the day, it’s tough times. It’s your money. Do what feels right for you. I just wanted to point out I don’t think the leaks discredited The Last of Us: Part 2‘s entire experience nor even its storytelling.

I do have some reservations about The Last of Us: Part 2 but it’s the same reservations I had since I saw the first trailers for it.

It feels like the theme and the tone of the game will be much darker and much more violent than before.

And given the current climate, I’m not sure if that’s how I want to spend my free time.

(And I hope if they did go that route, the story and experience will justify all of it. Otherwise, that kind of direction tend to come off teenage-y at worst and distasteful at its best)

I’ve recently got a Nintendo Switch and played a Pokemon game for the first time in many, many years.

It was simple, childish, clean, and a lot of fun.

There was that ever-so-nice romanticized brightness to life found in kids-oriented-media in the game where everything ends up working out and no matter how dark things get, there’s still some sort of warmth to the world because it’s coded with the idea that “it’ll never get that bad“.

And you know what? That was nice. It was a nice break. Sue me.

This idiot actually became quite endearing and ended up demonstrating some complex growth and human experience without having had to resort putting the idiot through mature themed circumstances. That should probably be a topic for discussion sometime. Mature themes isn’t a qualification or necessity to discuss mature topics. Often, mature themes are used out of banality and/or laziness.

By the time this goes live, I’ll probably be on my way to pick up my iced Americano, a sandwich, and The Last of Us: Part 2 from my local game store.

I hope NaughtyDog won’t let me down but I don’t think I’ll regret having given them a shot. They’ve earned it.

…Did… did you guys think this would end with Pokemon? Because I sure as hell didn’t.

ARAMIRU OUT

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Not So Quick Review of STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

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When I like a film, I find it difficult to say much with these posts.

I just want to say: “Go watch it. Have a good time.”

I like this film.

But this film is a bit different than the usual.

And it’s not just because it’s a Star Wars film.

And it’s also not because it’s the long-awaited conclusion to the new Star Wars trilogy after a controversial second film (The Last Jedi) that left many wondering if there could be a decent ending at all to the new saga.

But if you’re a fan of Star Wars, I’ll cut to the chase and highly recommend you to go watch the film to have a fun time.

7.5/10

There. That’s the score I would give… if you’re a Star Wars fan (yes, that’s indeed a foreshadowing) for just a fun time.

Just make it through the first 20 minutes or so. As I’ll discuss a bit later, the first act of the film is a mess and absolutely boggles one’s mind how it made past the editing and the test audience. Perhaps it’s due to the unexpected passing of Carrie Fisher but it unfortunately still doesn’t change the fact that the first act of the film is chaos.

And if you’re not the biggest fan of Star Wars? You’re probably safe waiting to see the film whenever it’s convenient for you.

This film may be difficult to really appreciate or sit through at times for even the casual fans of Star Wars.

Something about the film will feel off. As a Star Wars film and as a film in general.

Most of the payoffs of watching this film feels like they were intended for the more fervent fans of the franchise and felt like many elements of it were concocted purposefully for those avid fans who were really upset with how the new trilogy developed.

But those fan services made me feel… dirty and cheap. Like I just ate a bag of chips from the gas station as my dinner even though I had stuff in the fridge for a proper meal.

I feel full and satisfied but I hate myself for it. I enjoyed the gluttonous devouring of the cheaply fried thinly sliced suds… but I’m pretty sure I had a USDA prime steak in the fridge.

So.

Before I ramble on too much longer…

5.25 / 10

If you’re not the biggest fan of Star Wars.

It’s a fun summer action film during winter. It’s flashy, a bit dumb, and a lot of fun. But it’s also not without some glaring flaws and unapologetically tries to mend those flaws and gaps with fan services.

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The Rise of Skywalker’s writing coach

Alright.

That was the quick version of the review for those of you who are not interested in the more nitty-gritty thoughts I had of the film.

Most of these thoughts were thoughts I jotted down as soon as I walked out of the movie theater with my date who subsequently suffered from me sharing these thoughts for the next half-an-hour until she escaped. But she may or may not have received a phone call so that I could continue talking to her about Star Wars at 1 am.

When there are problems with a film, I feel like there are certain moments within the film that captures the problems like a metaphor. It’s the spirit of those flaws that echoes through the hours until the end credits begin to roll.

With this film, there were three such moments.

1. The Lightsaber Came Back The Very Next Day Scene

2. The Necklace Heist

3. The Rise of the Fan Service



SPOILER ALERT FROM HERE ON



The Lightsaber Came Back The Very Next Day Scene

“That’s the weirdest crawl for a Star Wars film that I’ve ever seen.”

…Was the first thought that crossed my mind as soon as the familiar theme’s bombastic fanfare blasted through the IMAX speakers and the golden texts, as-in-tradition, begin to scroll across the stars.

It’s not just the odd wording in the first couple of sentences but the entire spirit of it that felt like it was against the grain of the usual Star Wars crawl.

Why did the crawl tell us about Palpatine’s voicemail being sent out across the galaxy instead of the film showing us it? With all the resources they had, did they really not figure out a way to actually fit that into the film?

The title of this section comes from the first few minutes of the film where we are reintroduced to our protagonist, Rey. After some mishaps during her Jedi training, Rey finds herself lacking the merit the carry the lightsaber passed onto her by the late legendary Jedi, Luke Skywalker.

She gives up the saber and hands it over to General Leia. It feels like a significant and an emotional moment where it’s telling the audience that we will see Rey receive the saber when she’s “earned it.” There’s a definite sense of character arc developing with the saber.

But just a minute or two later, the saber is tossed back to Rey as if she’s suddenly earned it because the situation called for it. There’s a real-life like awkwardness in their air akin to The Office.

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Basically, Leia handing the saber back to Rey after Rey’s little speech about needing time to earn the saber.

As the audience, there’s a jarring feeling of something went wrong.

Either they had to make last-minute changes or didn’t really have time to polish up the script. Whatever happened, it resulted with a plot with what seemed like a lot of throw-away, lazy, and thoughtless plot points.

Many moments like the “saber being returned” are peppered throughout the film and especially concentrated within the first act of the film.

Characters like Zorii and Jannah feel like they’re just plot progression devices or plot padding devices.

There doesn’t feel like there’s a real meaning behind Kylo putting on the mask again (contrast to the short but poignant scene he had in getting rid of it) other than to sell toys.

Han Solo reappearing feels cheap and non-sensical and he, himself, has to explain why and how he’s showing up.

How did Palpatine develop such a massive army out of nowhere?

How does he have such a huge following without anyone noticing for decades?

Why were Rey’s parents not subjected to becoming new vessels?

How did Leia know of Rey’s origins and why didn’t she say anything?

When did the Force start to become magic solutions to every problem? (more on that later)

Why would you inscribe directions onto a dagger? Why make a custom dagger?

Oh, the little droid happened to have the coordinates to the mystery planet?

One of the few validly poignant scenes of C3PO choosing to have his memory wiped for his friends end up meaning nothing as nothing meaningful was really lost. What was the point of that little venture other than to cheaply invoke something from the audience?

Just like Chewbacca “dying” only to relieve us from that loss just minutes later. At least draw it out so that little ‘prank’ of sort towards the audience doesn’t mean completely frivolous.

And Palpatine being the final villain of the trilogy also feels like another symptom of either lazy or desperate writing that didn’t really care to develop anything. A clone Darth Vader would have made more sense and would have had a more build-up with the last two films than Palpatine.

Have Kylo Ren face the clone Vader only to be guided to light by ghost Anakin.

Or have Kylo Ren be thwarted in some sense by clone Vader when realizes that Vader isn’t what he thought he was.

Also, while we’re on the subject of Palpatine…

…Why didn’t he just conquer the galaxy first and then find Rey/Kylo later when his army is obviously so overwhelmingly large that it threatens the entire galaxy?

Why warn the galaxy at all before using a fleet of planet busters?

Didn’t we need a planet-size facility before to do that by the way? Literally just a year or two ago?

From a writing perspective isn’t a fleet of planet busters just way harder to believe than a planet being carved into a weapon without anyone noticing?

Am I really resorted to comparing what breaks the sense of believability between a planet being carved into a weapon and fleet of starships that are each capable of destroying planets that went under the radar?

Why did he need First Order again?

How did he afford to pay for all this? The Final Order has even more confounding logistics problems within the story than the First Order did… given that it seemed all those small country-sized ships were fully staffed.

Does Palpatine enjoy getting electrocuted?

Why not just stop shooting lighting bolts for a moment and come up with something else real quick? Push her away?

Did he not learn from the first time when he got his face all burnt off?

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At least in the first incident, he had few excuses for why he had to keep using those lightning blasts that were ripping off his own flesh.

But against Rey, it just seemed like he can recover fingers but not his brain cells. She was so far away, he had so much power, and he could have done so many other things like—”Hey, thousands of you chanting. Pick up a rock or something and throw it at her.”

Also. Why revive yourself with the same scars? For the scare factor?

The power creep of the Force that happened with this film also makes you question how did the Jedis get wiped out in the first place?

If Palpatine can just zap space ships left and right with his full power does he really even need an armada?

All these things. All these choices made with the writing. Just makes one wonder… are we stupid? Do they think we’re stupid? Is it both?

The can of worms that’s been unleashed by having the Force users be so powerful… hell everything being so powerful makes me wonder how the future Star Wars films will deal with… anything.

Everything feels played out. How do we ever genuinely feel that our Force using protagonists are in danger other than them being grossly incompetent or just because the plot wanted them to be?

The Necklace Heist

Look. I understand we’re talking about a franchise here that made its bones by having a young man shoot 90 degrees turning proton torpedos into a tiny hole of a death machine that’s size of a star via channeling a magical doopitydoo guided by a ghost of his dead old neighbor.

(Oh, WOW. Is that why the Death Star is called a Death Star?)

Empire PR Team: “And we want to call it what sir?”

Emperor Palpatine: “The Death Star. It’s a bit on the nose but… but it feels right.”

Empire PR Team:

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Even then, there are still rules to the fantasy that the story laid out for the audience so that we understand when up is up, down is down, problems are real problems, and which dangers are real dangers.

The title of this chapter comes from the scene where Rey and Kylo are doing their Force telepathy Skype chat and Kylo manages to essentially reach across the screen and grab Rey’s necklace.

This changes everything about the Star Wars universe.

Even Kylo gave a little shrug to his foes near the climax of the film when he pulled out a lightsaber out of thin air thanks to Rey… which allowed him to decimate his enemies and save himself from the life-or-death situation.

Look, this isn’t just me nerding out about some lore discrepancies within Star Wars. Though, again, there is something to be said about suddenly changing the rules established within an established universe. It almost feels like the writers are cheating to get out of problems.

There are generally two camps of dealing with magic when it comes to fantasy in writing.

  1. There’s no system to it. Magic is magic. The story will use it as it sees fit.
  2. There are established rules and systems behind the magic.

The former is Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. He waves his staff, bright light, and boom— The problem is solved.

The latter is what’s more popular these days where the readers are generally made clear how the magic works and what the limitations of it are within the story’s universe.

The former makes magic unpredictable and often a cheat code for characters to get out of sticky situations. Unless done well, it cheapens the experience for the audience as any build-up of conflict is always at risk of vaporizing into bubbles by the shake of a magic wand.

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That’s not butter. It’s magic.

The latter makes magic easier to measure and gives the audience a way of holding the story accountable. It makes conflicts feel like conflicts in fantasy and even when magic is used to solve them, if done right, the solution feels earned.

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For some modern reference, that’s what Smart Hulk’s role essentially was in Avengers : Endgame. Giving some rules to establish some order for the lore behind Infinity Stones and the time travel so the audience can understand what the goals were and how they were achievable and what conditions would cause the heroes to fail. All that works together to create suspense in the story.

Star Wars, within the films at least, was always generally leaning towards the systematic magic where at least it seemed certain limitations were established.

George Lucas, the creator of original Star Wars, made it very clear that the force users were tempered and grounded to reality as much as they could be while still being magic knights with laser swords— even when other iterations of the franchise often took the magical elements dialed up to eleven.

It kept the films suspenseful as it kept our heroes feel vulnerable and more human than not.

But now?

We got time and space bending telepathy and object transportation.

Force users holding rocket ships in the air and destroying a fleet of them with lightning bolts out of their fingers.

Sucking the life out of one another to cure mortal wounds and amputations.

Where do we go from here?

Not only did the power creep feel jarring for long-time fans but using the sudden change of rules to solve the major conflicts developed through not only this film but the past two films felt… distasteful.

It also just creates problems of its own as mentioned in the previous section where the audience can’t help but ask the question of, “If you can/had [x] then why did / didn’t you [y]”.

To cover these moments, whether it be from good intentions or just thinking the viewers are idiots who’ll salivate over things like Chewbacca finally receiving a medal, the movie didn’t hesitate to just senselessly shove in fan service whenever and wherever it damn could.

Kind of like a Christmas special episode of TV programs where old characters and celebrities from different shows come out of nowhere for no good reason just to make you go feel good about your nerdy self that you understand the references and your getting your nostalgia massaged in all the right places.

The Rise of the Fan Service

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I’m going to put that image up again.

Because it just fits.

Let’s talk about the Chewbacca scene mentioned earlier.

I’m sure many of you felt elated or maybe even cheered out loud when our favorite Wookie received his overdue medal.

It happened so quick and so out of the blue with such a vague reason for happening at that moment that probably by now you start to understand why some of the people in the theater might have been bewildered that the nerds were cheering over that small moment.

And when you think about it a bit more you’ll be left with the profound sentiment of:

“What the fxxx?”

It’s a powerful and universal feeling that your subconscious has finally begun to grasp what you’ve processed somewhere in the back of your mind. Let the initial bang and awe wash away. And let the logic and reason sink in.

That medal scene was so nonsensical and executed for such cheap thrills, that I feel icky that I started the domino of claps in my theater.

It’s like I spread herpes through the room and forgot to put on a proverbial condom on over my nerd excitement to prevent letting it think instead of using my head.

Let me put this way.

If you really cared about Chewie never receiving a medal before… is it really okay that he received what could be a random piece of replica, from a random person, as he’s just getting out of his ship?

Or would it have been more appropriate if it was at least a bit more formal and a bit more ceremonial?

The scene meant nothing but to serve as a (insert various sexual acts) to please the long-time fans… but by them being satisfied by it also means they’re just utterly stupid.

It’s like we’re monkeys who are just happy to receive a banana being thrown our way without wondering why we’re even getting the banana. The context doesn’t matter (we’re strapped onto a metal table) and the consequence doesn’t matter (the banana was to calm us down before our cranium is cut open and rods are shoved into our brains).

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Did y’all catch his cameo?

And I don’t mean that for just that one moment. I mean it for most of the fanservice.

It feels like a lot of the fanservice is an aftereffect of the previous film, The Last Jedi. Sort of a “here’s a bone” move after complaints people had of the previous film and the new trilogy without actually solving much of anything.

The plot of The Rise of Skywalker is painfully predictable even to the death of Kylo not because the plot itself had nowhere to go but to be simple, but because it felt like a lazy and safe attempt to appease the fans to ensure that Star Wars remains a valuable IP for Disney.

At least, in that sense, The Last Jedi tried something new and attempted a direction that took courage. The Rise of Skywalker, on the other hand, threw in the towel, committed as big of damage to the lore as The Last Jedi, and just twerked its glittery fanservice ass in front of us hoping that we won’t notice or won’t care.

In many ways, Palpatine being the final villain and Snoke being his little test tube baby feels like the ultimate fan service for the new trilogy. And a great demonstration of how much this film lacked in courage and lacked in respect for the previous stories… even the just last one.

There may be split opinion regarding The Last Jedi, but nevertheless, the film happened. It established that the new baddie for the trilogy, Snoke, was at the end a nobody.

Fans complained.

Instead of sticking to their guns and sticking by their work, this film decided to just completely toss aside any value to Snoke and his identity of being just a random evil guy by turning him into a Palpatine’s lab rat. It’s not covering for what could be the mistakes of The Last Jedi, rather, making the whole experience of the new trilogy feel like a joke. Like nothing matters.

Was it so hard to keep Snoke a nobody and still develop a better transition to having Palpatine as the grand villain?

Couldn’t it have been as simple as Snoke was somehow keeping the weakened Palpatine at bay and now that he’s gone Palpatine was able to rise?

And what was the point of “Dark Rey” other than to mislead the viewers in the trailer, giving them a little peek of “what if” costume change for Rey and a new lightsaber toy for the kids nerds? There was no substance to her appearance at all. It didn’t develop into anything and the way it was presented wasn’t particularly thoughtful in regards to the narrative they were trying to build.

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I am a commercial disguised as a spiritual journey. Many young girls, nerds, and pervs will buy my merchandise.

That’s it isn’t it?

The biggest problem with the fan service is that not only does it highlight a lot of the film’s lack of substance but they also act as a vacuum for whatever substance is left.

And just on that note…

..Why did Kylo/Ben die at the end?

It feels so lazy and cliche.

I was secretly hoping that the movie would surprise me and keep him alive. Send him to jail. Come up with a mature and complex plotline that leaves the audience guessing how Rey and Ben will continue their love.

All that bullshit with Force mumbojumbo to fix all of their difficult conflicts and they still chose a cliche way to answer the question: “What now for Ben Solo?”

Final Thoughts

There are so many more things I could talk about.

Regarding how awkward it feels that the fruition of our journey was Rey becoming the new Skywalker.

Regarding other aspects during the film where it felt too strongly that J. J. Abrams cared even less about Star Wars and more about doing whatever he wants as a filmmaker compared to Rian Johson. And how his stance feels like, “It’s just a dumb movie. Get over it. Here’s some fanservice that you can suckle on to keep quiet.”

Regarding how the word “inconsistent and careless” can be applied in so many different ways to the new trilogy.

And finally, regarding what the new trilogy may mean for the future.

The new trilogy overall reminded me of a lot of the second half of the second season of Twin Peaks.

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There’s probably also a series of blog posts that can be written about the sheer brilliance and the utter disappointments that are packaged in this little show.

To those unfamiliar with the series, it was David Lynch’s TV series in the 90s that was a mix of an investigative crime thriller, paranormal, and a good dose of odd beat humor.

It was a global phenomenon with still a huge cult following that produced a feature film, a few books, and a third season by popular demand that released in 2017—nearly 30 years after the original series ended with its two seasons.

But during what should have been its legendary first two seasons, it’s tarnished by the odd second half of the second season when David Lynch left the series for a while to pursue other projects.

It’s universally panned and took a lot of power away from series. For the fans of Twin Peaks it’s an interesting experience to watch those episodes because they obviously understood what made Lynch’s formula for the show so entertaining, powerful, and popular… but they could never really capture the essence of it.

It’s like a cheap cologne or a fast-food burger.

The new trilogy never really felt like Star Wars to me after The Force Awakens. Each one of them felt like imitations and vessels for new creatives to do whatever they want to make names for themselves by using the name of the franchise.

As problematic the prequels by George Lucas were, there was still a sense of cohesiveness and innate understanding and care for the Star Wars universe.

The prequels at least built and organically expanded the lore of Star Wars instead of becoming pickled and shriveled into itself.

And whether the new creators like it or not, Star Wars is much bigger than any of them, bigger than almost all of the other modern film franchises, and its massive reach is a legacy of its own.

Not even the Marvel Cinematic Universe is at the level of Star Wars until it can demonstrate that it can also survive and thrive after 50 years.

And given that fact, I don’t think it’s unfair to ask the franchise to be treated with a bit more care, thought, and respect.

Even if it’s just a film franchise, it’s a fantasy that’s enjoyed and means something to millions of people across generations.

Let’s grasp that for a moment.

Millions of people, across generations, throughout this little blue planet of ours.

We all enjoy this silly space opera. We all feel something together as we watch it. We’re not just mindless wallets to be opened by studios.

And if we don’t see some inherent and self-evident worth and value to be respected from a franchise like that, then we need to accept that everything that’s just meant for entertainment is also meaningless and pointless. Whether it’s some scribbles on paper, some noise we make through instruments, or throwing balls across fields… they are all pointless.

They only have meaning because we give them meaning.

But there’s a meaning to the fact that we humans decided to give those things meaning.

Art and Entertainment are what ultimately make humans—humans. And it is also what makes their experience in life beyond the capacity of what should have been. Beyond the limits what only could have been.

We are more and we can do more because we imagined it so.

Our ability to think kept us alive and our ability to dream kept us free.

So, I hope if they make Star Wars again, I hope they’ll do it with a bit more love and at least a bit more respect for those who love it and have loved it.

If they don’t, that’s just a message being sent to the millions of fans that their time and devotion are only worth the amount of cash they can bring in.

Anyways.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10 or 5.25 / 10. Depending on how much you like Star Wars.

As mentioned, if you’re a fan of the Star Wars franchise, this is a no-brainer. Just turn off your brain and go watch it. Have fun. At least we got an acceptable ending.



ARAMIRU OUT

Chronicles of the Otherworld: Season 1 Audiobook is now available!

Listen to a Sample and Buy it HERE

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How I Made My Audiobook

So.

I hate my audiobook.

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This was ver. 14 of the cover.

No. I mean. Mr. Erik Johnson, my producer, did an amazing job and I was floored when I heard my book come to an audible life but SWEET BUDDHA do you know how many times I’ve listened to that damn thing?

Do you know how annoying it was to get every little thing right and you know damn well as I do there’s still going to be stuff that’s off.

It’s somehow worse than having to read your own book over and over.

I want to say like, “oh it was so fantastic that I didn’t mind having to listen to it like 20 times.”

But no. Let’s be real.

There I am jogging on the treadmill, wanting to forget the world, listening to my glorious mix of K-Pop, Eurobeats, and J-Rock…. then BAM

“THIS HAS BEEN CHRONICLES OF THE OTHERWORLD BY A. S. ARAMIRU”

I thought I got rid of all of you cockroaches off my playlist!

You know what?

I hate that guy.

Screw, A. S. Aramiru.

Screw him, his audiobook, and his writing career.

Don’t buy any of his–

“Hey, asshole. You’re supposed to sell your book. You owe me money. I’ll cut you with a f—in’ spoon. A. F@#$in. Spoon.” – My Former Editor

Here’s a sample of the audiobook:

SAMPLE!

I’m pretty sure I’m allowed to share that. I’m preeetty sure.

The steps to making the audiobook are pretty simple. I did it through ACX, you probably should too unless you know something that I don’t (and if that’s the case please share).

Just

  1. Make an ACX account.
  2. Try recording your book.
  3. Realize your voice sounds funny and the middle school bullies and your former editor is completely justified.
  4. Start an audition for your book.
  5. Have your friends remind you that if you were Neil Gaiman you could have done this yourself.
  6. *Magic / Sacrificial Goat / Seduction*
  7. Find Producer
  8. Strike up a deal with your producer.
  9. Receive first recording from your producer.
  10. Get over the honeymoon phase and drowning in dreams of unattainable levels of success.
  11. Send back feedbacks to align your visions closer together.
  12. Do above until the book is just right or you feel like your producer may find it more financially responsible with his time to just have you professionally killed.
  13. Approve the audio files to submit to ACX.
  14. Wait for ACX to either OK the book or tell you what to fix.
  15. Have ACX put it up for sale whenever they feel like it.

For me, the only fix I needed was having to change the style of my cover.

###Chronicles 2018 Season 1 ACX Cover PNG
Ver 1

###Chronicles 2018 Season 1 ACX Cover Revised 2.0
Ver 2.

###Chronicles 2018 Season 1 ACX Cover Revised 2.5.png
Ver 2.2

It only took 14 different variations and getting irate twice at the dumb uploading system.

And viola.

Yeah, I’ll keep that autocorrect.

Viola

And viola! Now I also have an audiobook polluting the internet.

And I can’t help but wonder if my baby will be okay.

And naturally, dream that maybe people will find the little guy and enjoy it.

HINT. HINT. CLICK. CLICK.

There’s a lot of moments when doing creative you wonder if you were honest with your work.

Did I do all I can?

Could I have done something better?

But you have to tap out at some point if you want to do create other things.

Like my imaginary therapist would tell me

“Learn to love yourself. Forgive who you were so that you can be who you are. Who you can be is someone strong enough to deal with everything done by who you once were. You have to believe that. Because you owe me money and I’ll cut you with a spoon. A fuckin’ spoon. Fuck censorship. I know where you live homeboy.” – My Imaginary Therapist

I think everyone should try to make an audiobook.

Leave me a comment if you have any questions, comments, or complaints.

ARAMIRU OUT



Chronicles of the Otherworld: Season 1 Audiobook is available now!

Check it out HERE

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The Devil & Me (Finale)

Previous Episodes:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4



21 Years and 2 months

 

There’s no such thing as a dull love story to those who are in it.

They had met in an ethics class at their university.

The first date was at a Thai restaurant close to campus.

It was a rocky tumble into love. Neither of them was what they imagined their spouses would be.

Their first kiss was in the car after their second date.

They married on a spring about two years after and had a child by the winter.

A girl.

The girl grew up in the reverie of her childhood where she dreamed many dreams.

A dream of an occupation that she saw as her fairy tale.

A dream about a husband that’d be her prince.

And a dream about a family that’d be her happily ever after.

The tomorrows came slow, but the yesterdays piled on quick. Before she knew it, the child had already realized many things she had imagined and dreamed. And she had long forgotten or abandoned many that she didn’t.

But all of these were the threads that made her no longer a child.

Perhaps the child-her wouldn’t approve of the venue for the moment she once dreamed of.

She may also not approve of the soon-to-be husband that was supposed to be her prince.

But what does a child know?

This was better than anything that the little girl could have imagined because all of this was real. And she and her soon-to-be-husband had traveled their own journeys to get to this moment, right here and now.

A small, unspectacular room with a TV and a bed. There surrounding Suzie and Jay were their closest friends, parents, and a minister.

The silky sunlight seeped through the curtained windows.

Flower petals blanketed the room. They’ll have to be cleaned up sooner than later.

There were tears. There were waves of laughter. It was humble but a heartfelt ceremony to celebrate the union of the young lovers. A story no one else would know. No one else would care. But no one else needed to know. And no one else needed to care.

“Beautiful,” Satan muttered to Beelzebub. “Absolutely stunning.”

The two devils stood outside the room and peeked through the small rectangle window on the door.

Beelzebub watched as Suzie’s father helped her stand next to her soon-to-be husband. Her shaven head covered with a snow-white gown.

Surrounding the devils were a few nurses who were oblivious to the otherworldly beings. The nurses sniffled and held back tears as they stood by just-in-case or until they would be needed.

“You should be happy,” Satan remarked. “This is all because of you”

Beelzebub had no response. No emotions. He simply peered with a dead gaze.

“I feel you don’t have the heart for this anymore,” Satan went on. “I don’t think you believe in what we do anymore.”

A bait of sorts, Beelzebub figured. He stared at Satan in his form of an aging man who’ve relaxed a bit too much on his landbound boat. A shrine of beer bottles piling somewhere.

“Remind me. What are we doing again? Specifically, why are you here?” Beelzebub sharply asked. “Are you out of work? Do you need a temp job? Shoo. You’re classing the place up.”

“I’m here to make sure you bring her home. To finish what you started. Keep your special child with us and away from Him,” Satan spoke gently with a soft smile.

Beelzebub chuckled.

“What do you think that I started? What do you think happened here?” Beelzebub looked deeply into the dead eyes of the devil.

Satan searched for his words a bit.

Suzie kissed her now husband. There were cheers. And as if the moment was already due to be faded into the past, the nurses scurried in and with the attendants cleaned the room.

That. You made that happen,” Satan remarked. “Just a merry-go-round from one moment to the other. But you gave her a moment that’ll define her eternity. No matter what your intentions were you decided that moment for her.”

The door opened. With the nurses, the attendants begin to leave one by one.

A man stopped in his tracks and buried his face into his hands.

“Why,” the man broke into tears. “Why our girl?”

“Stop. Hold it together,” A woman tugged on his arm. “Don’t let her see you cry. Let our daughter have this.”

An almost eerie silence engulfed the hallway as the room emptied. Only the newly married couple remained. The husband sat on the bed next to his wife and held her hand. They whispered to one another. Hugged. Kissed. Whispered some more. Their faces lit with a special smile saved only for the moments of true peace. The couple embraced again until the husband stood to leave. She stared at him as he headed for the door. He held the door open and stood there for a moment to stare back at his wife. She nodded to let him know that it’s okay. He closed the door behind him. He waved on the other side of the door window. She waved back and then stared even long after the husband had disappeared from sight.

Her world began to spin. Nausea. Fatigue. She crumbled into her bed.

After retching, Suzie couldn’t help but laugh.

How ludicrous. She thought.

How selfish. She chided herself.

Marrying someone in this condition.

She was happy and yet gutted.

“You’re the one who will take credit for this. But allow me to show you the grace of finishing the work,” Satan gently placed his hand on Beelzebub’s shoulder. “You can be there to greet her when she comes home.”

Suzie ran to the bathroom. The little she had for breakfast gone with a flush. She clung onto the toilet bowl with barely enough strength to keep her head from dunking into the water. A small regret came over her that she asked to be left alone so that her husband could see the family off and grab a small meal for the two of them. But even in these worst moments, there was a comfort that she was alone through it for once. No one else’s sorrow, pity, and well-being weighing over her.

As she managed to take the few steps back to her bed, Suzie saw him. The devils were and are still angels. Divine beings had a comforting presence even as a surprise. Satan had shed himself of the old man from Burbank retiring to Florida look. He was now somewhere between the ideal image Suzie had of her husband and a father figure.

Something she may have imagined from her childhood.

“Hello,” He spoke calmly with a soft smile.

“Hi,” Suzie crawled into bed. “You’re not him are you?”

“Who?” Satan pointed up. “Him?”

“Of course not,” Suzie laughed. She coughed. Then laughed some more. Satan laughed with her. “I’ve given up on Him doing a damn thing about anything a long time ago. Then again, maybe it says a lot more about me that I’m getting visits from the devil.”

“You’re not Beelzebub,” Suzie said as she pulled up her blanket. “He’s too chicken shit to come see me I think.”

“Perhaps,” the man graciously smiled. “Or perhaps he would be in too much pain to see you like this.”

“So, chicken shit. And so who are you, good sir?”

“I won’t insult your intelligence. I am his brother—”

“And you want my soul or something right? Then I can live? Be happy?”

“You’re sharp.”

“Uh huh. Beelzebub! Get in here!”

Startled only for a moment, Satan gave a defeated smile.

“Beelzebub! You chickenshit! Beelzebub! If some asshole’s going to take my soul it should you, you piece of shi—”

“Boo.”

Beelzebub appeared beside Suzie.

“I’m dying! You stupid ass—” Suzie yelled before succumbing to violent coughs.

“Hey. I’ve been well. Y’know,” Beelzebub drabbled on. “Work’s work. Life’s fine. How are you? Yes. How’s cancer? You don’t look so good. Must not be so good, huh? Yeah, that cancer thing. Kind of a doozy.”

Suzie dug deep and found the energy to give Beelzebub the finger.

“I think you can go now,” Beelzebub shooed the other devil with his hand. “I got my girl.”

“And I had a whole speech prepared,” Satan shrugged.

“Fuck you too, mister,” Suzie said after catching her breath.

Satan chuckled and gave a knowing look to Beelzebub.

“Do whatever you want. Find your happiness. Isn’t that the point?” He whispered into Beelzebub’s ear before disappearing.

A silence as the other devil disappeared.

Beelzebub sat beside Suzie.

Another pause. They sat in silence. A tear trailed down Suzie’s eye. She quickly wiped it away.

“Fuck you. Where were you?” Suzie broke the silence. “If I were to give you my soul, would you be able to save me?”

“Have you ever seen a firework at Paris? All that preparation. All that anticipation. Boom! All of that magnificent gunpowder glory,” Beelzebub fluttered his fingers in the air. “Then gone in a flash into the void.”

“What? What are you talking about? Is that supposed to be a metaphor or something? I’m trying to sell you my soul, dumbass. Mr. Devil. Asshole.”

“What’s it—”

“Fuck you, man! Seriously!” Suzie succumbed to her coughs again.

“You, seriously, got to stop that. Look, I’m sorry I’ve been gone. I’m here now.”

“Do you even know what I did today?”

“Yes, I saw the whole thing. It was… it was nice,” Beelzebub answered with a smile.

“You did?!” Suzie didn’t seem to know how she felt about that fact. Beelzebub didn’t seem like he knew how Suzie felt about it either.

“So, I was about to ask. What’s it worth? I’d like to know what living is worth to you. What does it mean to you?”

“What? Living… living… means that I’d get to live. I’d get to be there for him. Have a life together…” Suzie took a moment to compose herself. “…start a family together. What are you talking about, Beelzebub? I don’t understand.”

“That sounds like it would have been marvelous. But who knows, maybe you two would have gotten divorced and grew to hate one another. Fight over the kids. Fight with the kids. Wish the kids were never born. All that nonsense.”

“But I’m not even going to have the chance to find that out myself. I don’t even have a choice in the matter. What is wrong with you Beelzebub? Do you not want my soul anymore? Isn’t that what you guys do? Oh shit…” Suzie’s eyes widened with her realization.

“I’ll always welcome your soul,” the devil smiled.

“Did you know?”

“Do you remember that day at the lake when you wanted to kill yourself? Or how many more times after that?”

“So what? Why are you bringing this up now? Are you trying to say I’m a hypocrite? Or that I’m just going to want to die again so it doesn’t matter when and how I die? The point is that I’d like to have a choice! Did you know?!”

“Do you have a choice right now?”

“Shut the fuck up and answer me!”

The two stared at one another. Suzie’s eyes were moist from her tears and yet boiled with anger. Anger from the unwanted inquisition. Her pride had already been swallowed. Anger from the sense of betrayal. From that one friend who knew her at her worst. At her moments that not even her husband knew about.

“Did you know? Did you know this would happen to me when you convinced me to go chase after him?”

Beelzebub didn’t answer. He pondered for a moment. But that was enough of an answer for Suzie.

“You win,” Suzie tried to grab the devil but had to pause to catch her breath. “…You win. Why do that to him though, Beelzebub?”

“I’ll let you figure that one out,” the Devil finally spoke after seconds that felt like an eternity.

“Fuck you, Beelzebub.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Can you save me or not?”

“I can,” the Devil gave a warm smile.

“Then do it! Just take it! I’m giving it to you!” Suzie couldn’t help the tears from flowing down. “Just let me be there for him. Let me live.”

“You sure? This is one and done type of thing, sweetheart. You’re either on one side or the other.”

“Yes,” Suzie tried and tried to wipe away her tears. “Yes, please. Oh, God. Just do it. Don’t let me leave him alone.”

The door opened.

 

***

 

Michael waited for Beelzebub at The Center. Other patrons had long cleared out and Binkle had given up if the archangel wanted anything else than the single juice box he had ordered hours ago.

Beelzebub entered and only gave a slight glance at the angel before heading to the bartender.

“A Salty Dog. Make sure its neat. If it’s not, then I’ll have you serving a sorority house because apparently, those are the only types of drink you know how to make,” Beelzebub ordered.

“…rough day, boss?” Binkle started the cocktail right away.

“Why did you do it if it was going to make you so miserable?” Michael asked. “Why Beelzebub? Even when I warned you not to see her. Even when I’ve asked you to stay away. What had she done to deserve this?”

“The same thing that any of us had done apparently; the sin of being born,” Beelzebub gave Michael a wink.

“It’s a gift.”

“Uh-huh, tell that to the kids getting flayed alive somewhere as we speak. Are you going to go save them, Mr. Archangel? I’m sure they’re screaming for even some ass in a spandex to come to save them right now. Three. Two. One. They’re dead. Tell them it was a gift,” Beelzebub sipped on his drink.

“At least Binkle gets to keep his job,” Beelzebub raised his glass to compliment the bartender.

“You know that’s not how it works,” Michael remained stoic.

“No, that’s exactly how it works. My bar. My rules. Got a problem? Get out of my bar. Oh you mean how it works in the cosmos created by the All-Mighty Dad,” Beelzebub downed his drink and motioned Binkle for another.

“And why shouldn’t that be how it works? Why shouldn’t we just help one another be better?” Beelzebub questioned.

“They can. We shouldn’t,” Michael answered.

Beelzebub chuckled as he sipped on his new drink.

“Dejavu, eh? O’brother mine?” Beelzebub stared at his murky drink. “How many times have we had this conversation? For how many millennia? We can’t even figure that one out. What’s the point of us?”

“That’s for us to figure out. Their lives are for them to figure out.”

“You’ve been fed so much horeshit that it’s starting to come out of your mouth, Michael. In fact, I would say that’s all been coming out of your mouth for a long while now. Let’s wash that out. Have you ever tried a White Russian? They’re fantastic. And I mean that both ways if you know what I’m saying,” Beelzebub winked again at Michael. It was not, surprisingly, the record amount of how many times Beelzebub winked at Michael in one meeting.

“That is the way it is. You ask for more of something that simply isn’t there,” Michael sipped on his juice box.

“And yet, we were designed to ask for more,” The Devil retorted.

“Maybe we were created to see if we can be more,” The Archangel dissented.

“You’re miserable to talk to you know that? Did anyone ever tell you that, Michael? You’re a terrible person to talk to. What kind of ass-backwards, circular logic is that?”

Michael sipped on his juice box.

The final slurps of a dying juice box echoed through the bar.

“She believes she understands why you did what you did. I’m sure he’s thankful as well to have had the chance to be with her. To be by her side until the end,” Michael told Beelzebub.

Beelzebub mumbled under his breath and ignored his brother’s existence.

“I can see that you need some time alone,” Michael walked over and placed his empty juice box on the counter. “But I came because…'”

“Are you still here?” The Devil snapped.

“Asshole,” a familiar voice cut through as a patron walked into the tavern.

Beelzebub spun his head toward the voice and then snapped back to Michael.

“Seriously?! You didn’t let her in? Or was that HIS decision?”

“I just came to say goodbye. Michael was nice enough to let me come here,” Suzie gave the angel a smile. “He just wanted a chance to speak to you privately first.”

“Well, I’ll be damned. That’s very un-Michael of you,” Beelzebub told his brother.

Michael shrugged.

“I’ll be waiting outside. Don’t take too long,” Michael told Suzie as he grabbed another juice box left on the counter for him by Binkle. He headed out and gently closed the door behind him.

“So this is the bar,” Suzie said as she sat next to Beelzebub.

“And you’re the girl,” Binkle said as he carefully studied his boss’s ticks and demeanor.

“This is the bar,” Beelzebub rested his face on his hand as he observed Suzie. “You decided to go to the other place?”

“Isn’t that what you wanted me to do?” Suzie shook her head at Binkle who held up a juice box and a wine bottle for her to choose from.

“I didn’t want you to do anything,” Beelzebub answered.

“Something sweet and tangy perhaps? Sangria? Lemon Drop?” Binkle asked Suzie.

“Do you know that they put your taste buds in your anus? Did he tell you? As a person coming from up there I feel like it’s my civic duty to let you know,” Suzie pointed out.

“Look at this girl. She’s been dead for minutes and she’s already playing the heaven card,” Beelzebub spoke with disdain.

“Yes,” Binkle answered. “…And I’ve grown to change my diet to fit my new changes. I didn’t find it funny then and I don’t find it funny now. I don’t think anyone will. Who knows why that was done. Let’s now drop it and never speak of it again and if we can turn back time and change the past maybe we can make sure it’s never been done. Because everytime something touches my tongue I just have intense and intimate fear of what it would taste in the afterlife of its natural journey. In some sense, it’s been a fascinating and life-changing experience that has oddly made me a better human. What about a whiskey-neat then?”

“Seems a bit unoriginal and cliche for this moment,” Suzie thought for a moment. “Moscow mule?”

“Moscow mule,” Beelzebub nodded.

“Moscow mule,” Binkle agreed.

The three shared the cocktail that was made from three different businessmen with three different failing products who by fate combined them all and gave it a random name. It was a hard drink, with a pinch of tartness, a little sweetness, all tied together with a little kick served in a copper mug that could become toxic from the acidity of the drink itself.

They talked of many nothings and nothing of pertinence regarding Suzie’s death.

Like friends that met just for a reunion and knowing they’ll never see one another again when they each leave through the doors and leave their old lives behind in that room, the three just wanted to have a moment of where everything was good and nothing of consequence would occur.

Crafting a moment that’d be a perfect memory.

Like a photograph of smiling faces. Forgetting all that’s before and after.

When Michael came back into the bar, Suzie knew it was time for her to go and left without any complaint. Neither the bartender nor the devil tried to hold her for any longer either.

The girl, the woman, gave the devil, the friend, a hug.

She whispered a word or two into the devil’s ear.

The devil said nothing back.

She looked back one last time with a soft smile on her face before the door closed behind her.

Soon, only the gibberish from the TV and a small clatter from Binkle doing his daily chores for the bar remained.

“You, alright boss?” Binkle finally asked.

“I had a weird dream,” Beelzebub answered solemnly.

“Okay.”

“What’s with that tone?”

“What? I said ‘okay.'”

“Yeah, but your tone. Don’t—don’t try to pretend that you didn’t have an odd tone.”

“I mean… it’s just… you’re the devil and first…”

“Yeah?”

“You guys dream? And second…”

Uh huh.”

“Like what the hell, man? We talk about dreams now? Isn’t that a bit…” Binkle held his tongue.

“A bit what?”

“Nothing boss. Just a little gay. Just go on.”

“I dreamed of a horse…”

Binkle snorted.

“If you laugh dipshit, I swear I’m going to put a pimple right in the lip of your tiny dick. May I continue? Is that alright with you?”

Binkle saluted and begin wiping down the cups.

“Where was I. Yeah. The horse. It was lost in a forest. Scared. Tired. And knew that death was imminent.”

“Uh huh,” Binkle raised a wine glass up to the light for a quick inspection before wiping it a bit more.

“After wandering about for a while, it suddenly stood still. Just still in the fog of dusk. I knew right away it had reached the point of no return. It was exhausted. The horse was deciding whether to keep on or just give up. Rest. Just lay down and die peacefully.”

“And what did it choose?” Binkle placed the rag on the table and looked at Beelzebub.

“I don’t know. I was watching the horse from the sky or something. And I could see what it couldn’t see. I could see that there was such a simple way it could have went to be free.”

“So did you help the horse?” Binkle asked.

“No, I woke up.”

“What do you think happened to it?” Binkle picked up his rag again.

“Who cares,” Beelzebub finished his cocktail.

“I bet the horse does,” Binkle took the empty cup.

“But what does the horse know?”

 

End of The Devil and Me

 



 

Aftermath Ramble

12:49 AM

About 21 Chrome Tabs Open

1 Cup of Diet Mountain Dew and 2 Empty Bottles of Water on the Desk.

Wow.

I feel a bit bleh about the ending. And it’s not something I can change without changing the whole nature of this project I think.

Do you guys remember how and why I began this project?

It was supposed to be an unplanned, just-go-with-it, warm-up, sort of story that just spun out of a dumb chatter I was having with a friend.

But it sort of took over my writing life. And then my life, as it seems to in recent years, kind of fell into chaos with a lot of fire I needed to put out.

What you see is basically what I had written months ago. It was a quick write. I just wasn’t very happy with it. It sat there staring at me asking me why I had created it. A little mutant wondering why it was born.

Then I spent my writing time working on Chronicles of the Otherworld and my next novel.

Distance can be the cure sometimes.

But the short story nagged and nagged to be finished (which obviously should have been finished earlier than this) and I felt way more pressure for the finale than I ever should have. Who really cares but me?

But that’s the thing. I care. I’ve learned that I at least have to be happy with it.

I’ve always had an idea where the story would go, how it’d end, since the first episode. But I just felt so off about the ending when I actually wound up writing it.

Part of it was due to how much the story had changed and evolved and morphed in my mind as I kept working on it.

And part of it was due to how much of this could have benefitted from having a proper preplanning stage and an editing phase.

There were a lot of issues I had with the lore that I developed. Minor stuff none of the audience would care about.

With Satan’s character.

And how, most interesting for me as the writer, what I thought would work in my mind just didn’t work in execution. At the end of the day, that’s going to be my biggest lesson and homework out of this.

Not that I haven’t experienced that before.

But trying to understand exactly why it didn’t work here.

I wanted each episode to have their own individual vibe to reflect that specific point of Suzie’s age and life. That kind of stuff just works a lot better when it’s planned. At least for someone like me.

But I suppose all that was part of this writing experiment and exercise.

It was grueling.

It was annoying.

It was a little disappointing for me personally for a few reasons.

But I enjoyed it.

That’s writing. That’s this craft’s equivalent of taking a couple of hits and learning from them.

If I were to ever go back and really flesh out this thing, I’d probably consider redoing certain arcs of Suzie’s character and adding a few more chapters in.  There were few storylines that I cut that I wonder how it’d have been to add.

And definitely keep the numbers, lore, and whatnot details more consistent.

I really wanted to just let this project fly the way it wanted to fly and had an odd battle in my mind of not wanting to comb through it.

Weird.

Also, to be clear, I’ll probably never flesh this story out. It is what it is and it is what it was intended to be.

Okay. Enough rambling.

ARAMIRU OUT!

Oh yeah.

In the end, the biggest change I’ve made to the ending is that Suzie ends up meeting Beelzebub in hell. Originally, Beelzebub simply hears about what happened to Suzie via Michael. I was essentially against the idea. But experimenting with that little change eventually made the ending feel right for me. It ended up being what I needed to start the domino effect of finally releasing this finale.  Sometimes cheese is the right ingredient.

I’ll let the audience chew on that and decide which would have been better.

To those of you who’ve stuck with it till the end, thank you very much.

Sorry for the delay.

See y’all next time.

ARAMIRU OUT!


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Twitter: @ASAramiru
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Short Story: The Devil & Me (Part 4)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3



19 Years and 7 months

 

Beelzebub.

Isn’t it funny?

The idea of love fascinates humans.

Love redefines joy.

Its end redefines pain.

…Isn’t it marvelous?

Maybe that’s why it fascinates you as well.

This inexplicable phenomenon they try to explain as a byproduct of their need to procreate.

But somehow they accept that we, the divine, must be able to love as well.

They have faith—faith—that even He loves them.

When was the last time that He put his loins into anyone?

Some of them say it’s more of a mystical occurrence of their human experience.

A little spark of magic and beyond in their minuscule presence in the endless time and space.

But why invite such vulnerability to their already fragile existence?

I find it all very amusing, Beelzebub.

And I find it very potent.

There is truly a before and an after to humans when it comes to their first true love and the first heartbreak.

Something they wish they’d never experience, and yet, something so profound that those who haven’t experienced it are at a sincere loss of what it means to be human.

Even their foulest have a moment of innocence when it comes to their first heartbreak.

And it is there—yes, there—where all of them can truly realize that life is unfair. 

A reality check.

There. Is. No. Magic.

‘Irreversible’ is real.

‘Impossible’ is real.

Something so beautiful is fleetingly ephemeral and yet its damages so eternal.

Not everyone will be involved in heinous violence like rape, murder, or war.

Not everyone will experience detrimental deprivations of neglect, starvation, or incapacity.

All of the other devastating, palpable consequences of free will.

But nearly all of them will experience their fellow human’s freedom to give their hearts and take it away.

∗∗∗

“Am I wrong, Beezebub?” Suzie softly asked with a moist voice.

∗∗∗

To walk away from the road the two had paved together.

The betrayal.

Falling into the pit of desperate denial that everything they had wasn’t meaningless.

∗∗∗

“I should just let him go, right?”

∗∗∗

But how could the road have meant anything if the destination itself disappeared?

Everything they’ve been working towards.

All they’ve been through.

Poof. Gone.

∗∗∗

Beelzebub stared out the window of Suzie’s apartment. Neglecting to acknowledge his brother’s words from beyond. Suzie’s roommates were out for the night. As if in a scene of a movie, it was pouring rain.

“Beelzebub,” Suzie sobbed sitting on her bed. “I wish… I wish… I never met him.”

He had seen her cry before. But never like this. Thick droplets of tears poured out of her eyes. Each droplets draining her.

There are mothers who’ve watched their children die.

Men who stared at their friends as they were drawing their last breaths.

A young woman experiencing heartbreak wasn’t something even close to being comparable.

“I…” Suzie choked on her words.

But the voice of his brother had a point. It was all too common. All too relatable. Palpable.

Never like this.

She’s never been like this.

Beelzebub let out a deep sigh.

Don’t deny of me this Beelzebub.

She’s mine as much as she is yours.

“…I love him,” Suzie confessed. “But I’m scared”

Don’t deny yourself of this.

“He messed up and I… I fucked up too. I feel like if I don’t stop him now… We won’t ever be okay. But… but… what if I lay it all out after what he’s done and he’s not worth it? What if we fight to make this work and it’s all just meaningless? Like, mom and dad?”

I know what you’re thinking you want to tell her.

She’s too young to know what real love is in the real world.

And she’s young enough to find someone else.

Someone she doesn’t have this kind of history with.

This kind of tarnish.

Something fresh.

“You’re worried that you’ll end up like your mom and dad?” Beelzebub asked without turning away from the window.

But let her pursue.

“I’m worried that I’m ripping my own heart apart over something I can just move on from!”

She’ll fail like most of them do.

And then we can show her the path. The right path.

“I can move on right?” Suzie asked. “This’ll just be another thing that happened in my life in a month. Maybe a year.”

Don’t. Let. This. Opportunity. Go.

“You’re right. You’re young,” Beelzebub told Suzie. “Your life hasn’t even begun yet. You’ll probably get over  this.”

…Beelzebub…

“Yeah,” Suzie seemed to understand what Beelzebub wanted to say. “Yeah.”

“There’ll probably be other guys. Other loves. Plenty of time for all that,” Beelzebub turned around and faced Suzie.

“So what’s there to lose?” Beelzebub smiled.

Instantaneously, Suzie darted out of her room. Ran down the stairs of her apartment. Like the movies, it was raining. And like the movies, she saw him standing in the rain unable to leave for the same reasons she was now standing behind him.

“Jay,” Suzie carefully called out his name.

She worried that perhaps the rain drowned out her voice and he’d walk away.

“Suzie,” He turned around in surprise. She was there getting more drenched by the second. His mind and emotions in too much of a chaos to express how happy and surprised he was to see her.

Suzie searched for words. Anger and doubt still lingered for a moment that felt like it was made of thin glass.

“I—”

“I love you,” He interrupted her. “I love you. And I… I want to make this work. I’m sorry. And I… I don’t want to be without you.”

The devil watched from Suzie’s room as she ran towards the young man to embrace him. They held each other in the rain under the street lamps. The world around them had stopped existing a long ago.

It was too much like the movies.

But sometimes.

People were allowed to have their movie moment.

A magical moment they’ll cherish. A near fantasy others may not believe. But the magic they’ll always have them believing in something beyond what’s there.

Because they were witnesses to it.

They’re the evidence of it.

And because it makes life just a little more than what it is.

The devil had disappeared by the time the two young lovers returned.

 

∗∗∗

 

“You did that?” Binkle asked Beelzebub in surprise as he handed Satan his bottle of dark lager.

“Why?” Satan questioned Beelzebub.

Satan decided to visit Beelzebub at The Center, Beelzebub’s bar in Hell, after their incident earlier with Suzie. He took the form of what a scotch whiskey and a dark lager would look like as a man from the 80s. The gruff man gave a piercing stare as he analyzed his brother.

“Why? Why? I did what I wanted and it happened to also be what you wanted. You know what you get when you complain even after getting what you want?” Beelzebub took a sip of his drink. Today was a drink that’s equal parts vodka, triple sec, and lime juice. It had a name that was perhaps a bit too on the nose for today’s occasion.

“You get to be Daddy’s least favorite. He’s always hated you.”

“Whatever the case,” Satan stood and raised his bottle. “Here’s to the young lovers. For its blossoming spring and its eventual winter.”

“Seriously. He’s always hated you,” Beelzebub raised his glass. “Y’know, for being a creep.”

Satan finished his bottle in one quick chug.

“And I’ve always found you painfully weak,” Satan placed the empty bottle on the table and the money to pay for it. “Painfully weak and unpleasurable. I’m sure you saw as I did what will happen. You did what’s coming to her as much as I. But don’t fret. It’ll all be for the best. Though I suppose I’m a bit confounded on exactly why you’re being more… nettlesome… than usual.”

“Oh, is it not obvious?” Beelzebub looked surprised. “It’s because of you. Hearing your voice makes me want to pray. Seeing you makes me want to get on my knees and tell Pops that I’m sorry. You’re welcome to free me of this misery at any time.”

Satan smiled. He gave a nod to Binkle, put on his hat, and whistled as he exited the bar.

“I’m surprised you let Satan have his way,” Binkle spoke soon as the door closed behind Satan.

“Love is a beautiful thing while it lasts,” Beelzebub answered as he continued to sip on his drink.

“I’m certain Satan foresaw something in the girl’s future where having this boy in her life will hurt her. Did you see otherwise?”

Beelzebub shook his head.

A person’s future was an uncertain thing. It’s a messy grid full of knots and every direction that only became more of a disarray as the person grew older. But certain choices have fewer detours and pathways than others. And some lead to dead ends.

“Oh,” Binkle froze for a moment. Caught by a surprise to his boss’s response though he was uncertain why. His boss was simply doing his duty.

“Alright then. I guess I should be expecting to see her here sometime,” Binkle smiled as he went on to make drinks for his other customers.

“Perhaps,” Beelzebub finished his cocktail. He stared at his empty glass. He remembered the rain. Not even all the raindrops he had seen this evening would amount to the souls he had seen come and go.

Who could possibly care for them all?

 



 

It took a long time to post this.

As always, I apologize for the delay.

The greatest concern with this chapter was regarding if it did appropriate enough job building momentum for the next chapter–the final chapter.

And I guess it’s there, in the final chapter, where I’ll actually discuss my thoughts on finishing this little what-was-supposed-to-be-a-simple-fun-side-project and what the actual process ended up being like.

Thank you always for reading.

See you all next time.

It’ll be sooner than later.

I know I always say that.

ARAMIRU OUT

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Short Story: The Devil & Me (Part 2)

10 Years & 7 months Old

O’ Where art thou, my lord?

My king. My savior. My hope.

I’ve asked and received not.

I’ve sought and found not.

And I’ve knocked and still find myself trapped in this rot.

Or was the fly the answer for what I’ve been asking.

The savior that I’ve been seeking.

The angel that you’ve sent to hark my knocking.

Am I supposed to know my lord of your words in silence?

Or am I supposed to find faith in his words that answered?

It was a little something written by Suzie Lee and it was meant to be for her eyes only. But Beelzebub decided to take it off her hands and read it as Suzie watched from her bed.

“I know it’s a mish-mash of Shakespeare and something you probably heard somewhere on TV and church—but not bad. Not bad for a ten-year-old” Beelzebub remarked. “But ‘Hark‘? Is that word being used correctly here?”

Suzie shrugged.

It had been a long while since she had seen Beelzebub. To the devil’s surprise, the girl only seemed a bit startled when he appeared from the corner of her room.

Beelzebub thought the room was quite an ordinary room for a ten-year-old girl who summoned the devil. Books, dolls, a desk, and a bed. The walls were painted pink.

“How you doing, kid? Been a while.” Beelzebub sat by Suzie on the bed. “That’s mean. I know you’re not all sunshines right now, otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.”

From the living room below, there was a gentle rumble of noise that’d come and go as if it was the palpitations of the house. Every once in a while either a male or a female voice would shred through the rumble and you’d be able to make out a word or two. And sometimes, both would scream and stomp and Suzie would get embarrassed that perhaps she wasn’t alone as she felt and others would find out. Or maybe they already knew.

“Why didn’t you come back since then? People didn’t believe me,” Suzie asked with a little trace of sorrow.

“Are you mad?” Beelzebub asked playfully. “You know people would literally kill to have me show up. And look at you. Not a drop of blood on you. No goats. No lambs. No virgins. Nada. I should be the one that’s mad!”

“No, I’m not mad,” Suzie answered with a smile. The devil smiled back.

“I figured you were probably busy. Probably doing some important stuff.”

“And I was,” Beelzebub walked by the room’s door.

Suzie’s mom raised her voice. Then the dad raised his even higher.

“Do they ever just go at it?” Beelzebub asked.

“You… are not an angel are you?” Suzie carefully asked. “What’s your name?”

“I’m an angel,” Beelzebub answered. Suzie’s eyes widened. “Though not the kind that you may mean. Name’s Beelzebub.”

“They do. They used to hide it before,” Suzie decided to answer the devil’s after all though she seemed a little confused by what Beelzebub meant. “Can I call you Beezy?”

No. No you may not,” Beelzebub replied.

“Why?” Suzie asked.

Beelzebub chose not to answer.

An awkward silence wafted across the room.

“I feel like I started it,” Suzie finally confessed.

“Why?”

“I said something. They started arguing. And then mom said something about this is why I lie about you. And I said you were real. Then they started fighting.”

“Ah,” Beelzebub made his way back to Suzie’s bed and sat next to her once again.

“I didn’t even get to finish my lasagna,” Suzie buried her face into her knees.

“So, that’s why you called for me?” Beelzebub’s eyes lit up a bit. “Not the lasagna but because of your parents?”

The child didn’t answer.

“Well, I’m flattered that you’ve thought of me but just so we’re clear. I’m not working for Him,” Beelzebub pointed up. “Whatever you and I decide to do—it’ll be between just you and I.”

“I see,” Suzie’s eyes were moist and left spots on her pants.

“Promise your soul and I’ll make sure your parents stay together,” Beelzebub stood and offered his hand with a grin.

Suzie stared at the devil in silence. Contemplating his offer. The moment lasted long enough for Beelzebub to feel a bit awkward.

“No,” the girl finally answered.

No?”

“No. I think it’ll be better for them if they just got divorced,” Suzie wiped away her tears. “It’ll make me sad and I’ll miss having them both very much but it’s what’s best. That’s not why I called you anyway.”

“So what did you call me for then?” Beelzebub sat back down again.

“I just wanted to see again that you were real,” Suzie paused. “And…”

“And?”

“And I didn’t want to be alone.”

Tears begin to flow down Suzie’s face again. There was a period of time after her infancy where Suzie refused to cry. Even as a child she felt embarrassed and, without being able to form the words for it, Suzie felt like it was a sign of weakness.

Even when she had sand kicked in her face.

Even when she saw her little crush hold hands with another girl.

Or even when her mom and dad said something mean—Suzie refused to cry.

But as she grew older, Suzie found crying easier and more natural. There were more things to cry about than when she was younger. Reasons that she’d never have imagined as a child and types of pain that life can dish out that a young child couldn’t have known.

Life became more complicated and painful as she learned to interpret it. A baby mumbles. A child speaks. An adult expresses. All came at a cost.

But to her credit, crying would be a rare and private affair for Suzie for the rest of her life.

“Is that going to cost me my soul?” Suzie asked.

“Not today,” Beelzebub conceded.

“Well,” Beelzebub thought for a moment. “Unless you want to give me your soul for the lasagna?”

“No,” Suzie giggled. “Why do you want my soul anyway?”

“More the merrier at my kingdom.”

“At Hell?”

“Hell’s got a pretty bad PR but it’s not what you think,” Beelzebub rubbed Suzie’s head.

“Uh huh,” Suzie brushed away the devil’s hand.

“Why don’t I just tell you a bedtime story so you can fall asleep and I can be on my way.”

“Okay,” Suzie made her way underneath her blanket.

“I’m going to tell you about…” Beelzebub thought carefully about what would be a good bedtime story for a young girl. “…Ghengis Khan. He was fun. Wait till I tell you about what he did with babies.”

“Okay,” Suzie seemed gleeful.

“Hey, Beelzebub?”

“Yeah?”

“What’s a PR?”

∗∗∗

 

About three years ago, Michael the Archangel visited Beelzebub’s bar in Hell called The Center after the devil visited the mortal realm to meet Suzie for the first time.

“Brother,” Michael spoke with heavenly grace and paternal stern. “We need to talk.”

“No,” Beelzebub sipped on his drink. “No, we really don’t.”

Other patrons of the bar slowly excused themselves as the gold-haired archangel stared down Beelzebub.

“You know the rules, brother mine,” A seat next to Beelzebub was open but Michael chose to stand. “And you’ve broken them. Why?”

“You see,” Beelzebub clicked his tongue. “You see, Mikey, I don’t relly need to tell you a goddamn thing.”

Michael cringed at Beelzebub taking the Father’s name in vain.

“You have a problem? He has a problem?” Beelzebub walked over to Michael. The devil took a moment to take in the archangel’s anachronistic white robe before grabbing Michael’s hand and folding the archangel’s fingers into a fist.

“Kill me,” Beelzebub said as he placed his forehead on the archangel’s knuckles. “Do it.”

“Don’t be childish, brother,” Archangel lowered his hand.

Beelzebub chuckled. He gave nervous Binkle a look and sat back down. He sipped on his drink and stared at the TV.

The archangel stood and waited for the devil.

“Y’know,” Beelzebub remained focused on the TV. “Your brothers down here and I often wonder why you and Father let us live. Do you even know?”

“I follow His will. I trust that He knows best,” Michael answered.

“So you want to kill us?”

“No, brother. I have no malice in my heart for you and the others. Only pity.”

Pity,” Beelzebub scoffed and downed his drink. He waved Binkle at for another who glanced at the archangel as he served his master a vodka tonic.

“Get him a juice box or something,” Beelzebub told Binkle.

“You…” Binkle cleared his throat. “…You want a juice box?”

Michael stared Binkle for a moment. Binkle wasn’t sure if his heart had stopped for a moment because of the sheer beauty of the archangel or the fearsome power he posed.

“Yes,” Michael answered. “Do you have the Berry Blast?”

“…Do you have money?” Binkle asked.

“Do you think he has money?” Beelzebub snapped. “Does that robe look like it has pockets? Just put it on my tab.”

Binkle came around the bar and gave the archangel his juice box with the bendy straw. The archangel still refused to sit.

“What is it that you want to do for the girl, Beelzebub? For the humans?” Michael asked after a sip.

“I ANSWER THEM,” Beelzebub finally turned away from the TV. “I. Answer. Their. Prayers. What do you do? When was the last time you were there for them, Michael?”

“It’s not our position to interfere,” Michael placed the juice box on the bar table. “It is against what’s best for them.”

“What’s best for them? Okay,” Beelzebub stood and faced the archangel again. “What do you know what’s best for them? Whatever He told you was best for them? Where were you when a kid prayed for his mother to be saved as he watched her being beaten, raped and then chopped off limb by limb? Where were you when the parents are crying for His grace as their baby dies? Where–”

“Do NOT question my love for them brother!” Michael interrupted the devil. “DO NOT THINK FOR A SECOND THAT I DO NOT FEEL THE PAIN FOR THEIR SUFFERING!”

“THEN TELL ME WHAT’S WRONG WITH THEM BEING HAPPY!”

By now, the bar was empty. There was only Binkle, Beelzebub, and Michael. Binkle slowly descended below the bar table and held his knees tight and hoped that he’d make it through the day.

“Why can’t they just live happy lives? Why can’t we just help them have happy lives? What’s the point? Why all this? Isn’t being happy enough? Suffering will happen anyway so why not let them be as happy as they can be?” Beelzebub asked after what Binkle thought was too long of a silence.

“The meaning of their lives isn’t happiness,” Michael answered. “Life isn’t about being happy. You’ve never understood that Beelzebub.”

“Or I understand fine and you and Him are just wrong,” After a short staring contest, Beelzebub sat backdown.

“Humans,” Beelzebub grabbed a nacho that Binkle had prepared for him earlier. “I don’t think even he knows what he has spawned.”

“Hold your tongue brother.”

“I AM THE PROOF OF HIS FLAWS,” Beelzebub threw the basket of nachos. “Otherwise, why am I the way I am?”

“Or you’re part of his plans,” Michael calmly replied.

Jesus,” Beelzebub spat and switched his attention back to the TV. “We are the ones who can provide salvation to His slaves. All of us here are proof that something was wrong with His plans. We’re here because we want to show Him that we don’t need someone like Him. We choose to be free. Even if the cost is losing Him.”

There was no point in talking to the devil. Their conversations were echoes from the many similar conversations of the past.

“Answer me, Beelzebub,” Michael said as he headed for the exit. “What is love to you?”

“What is love?” Beelzebub didn’t turn to look at his angelic brother even as he left. “You tell me.”

“Something beyond happiness. Something beyond the present.”

The door closed behind the archangel.

The devil sipped on his drink as he turned up the volume of the TV.

His bartender placed in front of him some olives

There would be no other customers that evening.

Last drinks were served.

The TV turned off.

And the two retired quietly into the night.



 

Re-reading Part 2 to post on the blog reminded me why I ultimately didn’t push forward with this project when I was working on it.

While I’ll save all of my comments until the end for those who may be enjoying it so far, a short answer is a sort of a writer’s block that I got distracted away from when I had other projects come up.

And just for the record, these are un-edited so it might be rough in some parts and probably would have benefited quite a bit from going through the refinery i.e. an editor as all writing stuff tends to do.

Thanks for reading!

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Short Story: The Devil & Me (Part 1)

7 Years & 3 Months Old

Screaming children.

The little war drums of their tiny stomps pounding the grass and sand.

It’s a celebration of freedom. Liberation after hours of being trapped in school.

But for Suzie Lee, recess was a time for peace and serenity. The seemingly endless green of the playground fields, the labyrinthine of the big toys, and all the possibilities that a ball and a few friends could provide meant little to the young girl. Even all of the staff and other children would know exactly where to find Suzie each and every recess. Regardless of whether or not they knew her name, everyone in the school has heard of the girl who’d always spend her time at the sandbox by the jungle gym. The girl who was always huddled over drawing or building things with the sand.

The small girl, petite even for her age, had her black hair always tied into pigtails as she stared into the grains of sand. It was as if the sands were the cosmos and it was her job to arrange the stardust.

And it was Charles Bogart’s job to kick some of that stardust onto Suzie’s face.

Suzie coughed violently as she rubbed away the sand from her eyes. The special art drawn into the sand all but gone.

“Charles Bogart!” Suzie yelled but didn’t cry. Suzie never cried.

Charles laughed. His chubby cheeks turning red with his bucktooth revealed for the world to see.

“I hope the devil gets you!” Suzie tried to chase after Charles but tripped.

Her wishful omen was obviously a fair and just judgment for getting sand kicked on your face.

Charles ignored Suzie curse and fled with a wide smile stretched across his face. But he didn’t get far until a sight stopped him dead in his tracks and turned the smile, upside-down.

∗∗∗

“So you just showed up?” Binkle asked with an amused astonishment. He poured Beelzebub his vodka on the rocks.

“Yep,” Beelzebub answered as he squirted lime into his drink. He then drowned the carcass and stirred.

“Just like that? Poof?”

“Yeah,” Beelzebub sipped on his drink.

There’s a bar in Hell.

Well, there are many bars in Hell but there’s a particular bar in Hell known as The Center for being at the center of Hell. Which made little sense, as Hell was boundless and endless. The infinite plane for those who wanted to live away from God—either by choice or as punishment—and now lived under the mercy of the fallen angels: the princes of hell, i.e., the Devil. Or the devil[s] though the brothers didn’t mind sharing the title.

Anyways.

After an odd bet with even odder wages, Beelzebub had won against his six brothers and named the bar The Center and effectively made his portion of Hell, the center of Hell.

It did well for business.

Yes, people still had to work in Hell and pay their taxes to the princes.

Binkle was the master of the bar and the personal bartender for Beelzebub. While he was alive, Binkle was a comedian. His jokes impressed Beelzebub and his brothers enough that he was able to land the relatively cushy job of being the Beelzebub’s bartender. Though he was once fully human, the princes added bits and pieces to the comedian to their personal amusement. As of now, Binkle had seven nipples (one inside his ear), a hairy rat tail, and taste buds on his anus. The last bit was added by Asmodeus, one of Beelzebub’s brothers, and it was an addition Binkle was still unaware of. And, of course, the name Binkle which Belphegor, with his great sense of humor, had given the comedian. His real name was long forgotten.

“My mouth tastes funny,” Binkle smacked his lips. “It’s been like this all day. Your brother was here earlier, by the way.”

“Did he pay his tab?” Beelzebub sipped on his drink

“Well, he grumbled when I asked him of it,” Binkle prepped some finger foods for the devil then grabbed a mouthwash.

“Well that didn’t help,” Binkle said after a gargle and a spit. “So what made you do that?”

“Do what?” Beelzebub shook his empty glass in the air. Binkle relieved him of it as he handed him another.

“You know. Show up? When the girl summoned?” Binkle pushed a basket of fresh nachos to Beelzebub.

“Just felt like it. I mean, why not,” Beelzebub enjoyed Binkle’s skills as a bar chef.

“Something about the girl just beckoned me over. I don’t know. Maybe I was bored.”

“Did you just show up like that?”

Beelzebub was currently dressed in a way that a Beverly Hills yuppie would dress to look casual. Sports coat, t-shirt of a rock band they’ve barely heard the name of, darkened jeans, and shades.

“No, went with the classic,” Beelzebub turned into a hideous form that’d convince denizens of hell that there wasn’t a God.

“Wow,” Binkle said. “That kid’s going to need therapy.

In fact, Charles was in therapy until his senior year of high school. No one believed that he had seen a monster. As no one should. Everyone believed he was crazy. As one should when a child starts screaming and crying that he’s seen a monster and that everyone else can go to hell for not believing him. Once his parents could no longer afford his therapy, Charles turned to drugs and delved into cults that even Beezlebub’s brother Mammon found to be a senseless waste of goats. Eventually, after an emotional breakthrough with his friends and family, Charles decided to go to a dime-a-dozen art school that the same friends and family couldn’t convince him out of after they recently had such an emotional breakthrough. His obsession with flies didn’t win him many fans nor jobs. So after graduation, Charles worked through various fast food restaurants until he became a manager of one. Where he tried to swat a fly since by this point he grew an insatiable hatred towards them, and ended up falling face first into a deep fryer and died.

Don’t kick sand at people, kids.

“You’re other brothers are not going to not like that. And I’m not talking about the ones in hell. And by brothers I mean just one,” it took a lot of courage from Binkle to warn Beelzebub like that.

He studied carefully of the Lord of the Flies’ reaction. The Lord simply sipped on his drink, deep in thought.

“So, what now?” Binkle asked. “Are you going to try to bring her here?”

“I’m done with her. It was fun. But can’t turn a little fun into a headache,” Beelzebub said as he watched Binkle drink a shot of whiskey to get the funny taste out of his mouth with to no avail.

The heavy padded doors of the bar slammed open. A flood of light filled the bar with heaven’s glory. A heavy aura of the divine made the other patrons of the bar uncomfortable, perturbed, and annoyed.

A tall, fit man in a white robe and golden locks calmly walked toward Beelzebub.

“Brother,” the archangel spoke with a voice of grace and magnitude. “We need to talk.”



This is from a novella I was working on that I ended up putting aside when I had to work on different projects. I decided to post it on the blog and finish the story up here as well.

I don’t think it’ll end up being a novella as planned and probably will be a longer-short story.

I’ll try to post every Monday.

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Thoughts on Blade Runner 2049

Cover Picture

It’s funny.

There was a thought that I chewed over about a week before seeing Blade Runner 2049 (henceforth, Blade Runner 2).

I was sitting on the toilet and wondered—with enough self-awareness that I may seem like I had a bit of the stinky grass—

“Does your life end when there are no memories left or does it actually end if there are no moments left ahead that’ll be worth remembering?”

2817128020-town-square-elongated-toilet.png
Where great things happen.

That thought was a byproduct of a dream I had the night before.

A dream of arriving at a hotel in the middle of the desert. In the hotel, murky, emerald water slowly rose at a steady pace. And like the few other occupants of this soon-to-be corpse aquarium, a wide-grin stretched across my face. I was so jubilant as the water slowly crept up above my lips sucking in its last breath. And I woke up in serene tranquility and felt enigmatically liberated.

Thinking back, I don’t really remember the transition from my white porcelain thinking chair to the gas station ran by an elderly Russian couple.

Getting gas was an excuse to be there; buying a lotto ticket was the true goal. I was convinced that the dream meant something. Something good. Maybe I wanted the money in some vain attempt at ensuring worthwhile memories in the future.

The urge was a ridiculous conviction probably deriving from my mother who believes in these sorts of superstitions. And as much as I persist away and criticize her for her unjustifiably-believing-in-supernatural-causation ways, I couldn’t help but buy that lotto.

The old man kept telling me, “This is the winning ticket!”

As if he knew of my dream.

“Bring me back just five dollars if you win!”

He kept asking me for that five dollars as I walked out.

It’s not that I thought I’d win—though I thought might. It just that felt like the event of the day that I had to make happen in reality.

Anyways.

If it wasn’t clear, this isn’t a review for the film.

It’s a blotch of my take on a film that made me want to share my thoughts on it enough to dust off this blog. So I’ll just do a quick run-through of the review-y things and move on.

Obviously, there will be spoilers.

Also, I’ve seen the film only once in theaters as I’m writing this piece.

maxresdefault (1).jpg

Score: 7.5/10 

The film is a bit longer than it needs to be. There are moments where subtlety is thrown out the window and the film feels condescending to the intended audience. Or, perhaps, the film wasn’t really certain who the audience was going to be. While all the performances are strong, not all characters ends up being fleshed out. The final act of the film felt too convenient at times. With all that said, Joe (Ryan Gosling) is one of the most well-developed characters I’ve seen in a long while and viewers caring for the character’s ending is the film’s greatest testament to its endeavors.

Do you need to see the previous film?

No. Absolutely not. It’ll add a lot to the experience but the film can completely stand on its own. You don’t need to know who Rachel or Rick Deckard are.

Did I think Joi in the China Dress was gorgeous?

Yes. Of course, I did. We all did, damn it. Why would you ask such a question all of a sudden?

Does the film have the same depth as the first film?

I enjoyed the first film immensely but never thought it had that great of philosophical depth as many of the cult followers would suggest.

However, I thought Blade Runner 2 had much more interesting pieces in play that provided a more substantial conversation for the topic it wanted to explore.

I’ve read some internet chatter that the film is a discussion of the philosophy of identity. Personally, I think that’s a bit off-mark.

The film is more like a simple program sequence to test the philosophy of being human. Each of the main characters is a different variable raising certain questions, and consequently, becoming a case of an anthropomorphic discussion of what it means to be human.

Joe

Joe (Ryan Gosling)

Protagonist for this film is one that I personally found most interesting in recent years. There are many ways the character could have gone wrong. Many ways where the lead character would have kept us bored and frustrated by design.

Joe, aka a serial number he goes by through most of the film that I can’t remember and apparently am too lazy to look up, is supposed to be as emotionless a person could be.  That’s how he was built and if he acts otherwise it’s considered a malfunction and due for termination.

The movie opens up with him killing a fellow replicant with a recognition that he’s taking a life-of-sorts but doing so without an inkling of hesitation. Joe does his job well and with frigidness expected by his masters.

Great, the audience may think. Is he one of those “stoic, aloof, always-too-cool, killing machine” types?

And we’re certainly led to believe that until we see another side of Joe in the scenes that follow afterward.

The film had convinced us at this point that Joe is a badass replicant Blade Runner. But as he walks through his precinct, his fellow human officers are blatantly hostile to Joe. And Joe, unlike the tough killer we’ve seen him with the giant, brawny replicant (Dave Bautista), retracts into being a young boy bullied by his schoolmates.

This is the first step we see the film developing Joe into a human being in the audience’s minds.

In the end, Joe dies. Well, at least I like to believe that he died as it gives the movie the most poetic finish. And the audience cares because the film had successfully convinced us that he was a person. A person who’ve felt something, who’ve lived a life with happiness and pain, and a person the loss of whom was a loss on all of us who’ve gotten to know him.

Joe, in a sense, is an appreciation of a life of being human. A rough and succinct definition of being human.

A replicant near the end of the film tells Joe along the lines of: “Isn’t dying for something the most human thing that you can do?”

They tell him this as they comission Joe to kill Deckard to prevent any chance of having their plans foiled.

But Joe had found something hauntingly more human than the other replicants could ever know. He understood the intimate, selfish, and devastatingly powerful relationship of a parent and a child. A relationship tied by blood and birth of life.

He chose that human relationship over a revolution and ideals of his species. Even after he realized he had only experienced the bond and its definitions artificially.

In other words, to give Deckard and his child a chance to celebrate that relationship, Joe sacrificed everything that he had left of his past, everything that could have been his future, and even his own chance of having a father and being a child.

In some sense, Joe’s appreciation of parent-child relationship probably exceeded that of many humans who take it for granted. Both ways.

 

Joi

Joi (Ana de Armas)

Joi became my favorite character after thinking about the film and the topic at hand.

She’s an A. I. hologram that’s so sophisticated that she fools you into thinking that she’s human.

But isn’t she human?

At what point does an A. I. stop being just lines of codes and pre-programmed responses to having enough of those to be human?

It reminds me of the old Chinese room thought experiment.

To simply put, if you tell a computer to translate a word in Chinese to English or vice-versa, does it actually understand the languages and the definitions it’s translating or is it simply mimicking the ability to understand?

When Joi flirts with Joe, feels intimacy with Joe, asks Joe about his day, does she actually understand what she’s doing or is it something else?

If an A. I. has enough responses, can create enough responses for any particular and peculiar types of situations, does it eventually reach the point of being human?

Or does it still lack the fundamental consciousness, the awareness of understanding the responses, to be considered human?

Before Joi ‘dies’ in the film she tells Joe one of the most powerful, mysterious, and most human phrase one could communicate to another.

“I love you.”

But as her memory stick is crushed under Luv’s (Sylvia Hoeks) feet—effectively killing her—Luv tells devastated Joe, “I hope you’ve enjoyed our product”.

Next time Joe meets Joi is in the city.

She’s not his Joi but an advertisement for other Jois for willing customers. She can be whatever they want her to be.

She was whatever he wanted her to be.

We don’t know what Joe’s thinking as the ad speaks to him. Seeing his once properly dressed wife being offered as almost a sex object for lonely city dwellers.

Maybe he’s regretting ever have fallen for her.

Maybe he’s reconsidering what a relationship even means. A very artificial and invented relationship of the future versus the primal relationship that Joe felt he had when he thought he was a child with a parent and not a product that was born without one. And the camaraderie of a romantic relationship Joe felt with Joi as a real human would with a loved one.

Maybe he’s now just understanding true loneliness.

He and the other customers like him aren’t anything special from the perspective of those who are providing Joi for them. Though to many of them, their Joi would be their one and only Joi.(No pun intended)

Oddly, this does sound awfully similar to how one may view their exes after a break-up.

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I recall a class discussion about a picture of a unicorn. When you think of a picture of a unicorn you’re not thinking of a unicorn but a picture of it. And if you’ve never seen a unicorn in real life, then that’s all a unicorn is to you.

But if a unicorn doesn’t exist—and as far as I know it does not though I wonder what made narwhals so special—does it really matter if that picture is all you have for a unicorn?

Or is our quest to define the unicorn properly, after a certain point, simply our desire to quench the need to be as intricate as possible with our definitions.

Because at the end of the day, what good is a reality if our definitions of it are as blurry and undetermined as that of a dream.

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Niander Wallace (Jared Leto)

Beauty of the character comes from the fact that his shame for being a mere human manifests not necessarily with melodramatic monologues but from his appearance and demeanor.

A man who invented replicants, a superior species in his mind, is a mere human.

To escape from his own mediocrities and failings he augmented his physical attributes with cybernetics and perhaps the insecurity is also a quiet motivation for him to play Jesus for a species that he doesn’t belong to.

His mannerisms are probably the most inhuman of anyone in the film. Though oddly frustrating to watch at times, Wallace was memorable in his own right.

But I’ve mentioned earlier that there are characters that don’t end up being really fleshed out.

This is a big one.

I never felt like he did anything to contribute to the film other than being the mysterious, all-powerful villain. Not to mention my general distaste for characters that I can’t ever imagine functioning in normal social settings. But I guess that’s a bit of an oxymoron to the praises I gave the character just a few lines above.

Niander Wallace is one of those guys you meet at parties who use eloquence and Oxford vocabularies to go on spiels to exude their supposed intelligence but never… really does anything to demonstrate it in a meaningful way.

Since he’s a movie villain he gives his monologues menacingly and hides in bad lighting to be frightening while throwing in a good literal stab here and there to remind the audience that this guy is cold-blooded corporate of the dystopian future personified.

But he feels surprisingly one note and it’s a note of cliche. Like a guy who sings Don’t Stop Believing at a karaoke and is pretending to be ironic about it because he’s so aware how overdone the song is at karaoke.

A human that’s the least human of them all. I wish there could have been a more discussion in the film regarding this character but the film was already almost 3 hours long. So I digress.

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Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford)

The straight man of the film. Almost unnecessary for it to be Deckard but is Deckard to provide us an intimate connection to the first film and for the fans to finally get some answers after all these years.

I only mention Deckard because I was the fan of the first film and he can’t go on unmentioned when discussing Blade Runner 2. Though integral to the central plot of the film, Deckard himself doesn’t really play a big role per say. Deckard could have been replaced with a completely original character and the film would have been no different.

He adds to the discussion of what it means to be human by being the father figure who sacrificed everything to fulfill his duty as a father.

In many ways, Deckard is also the most human character we meet in this world of humans living in urban destitute, humans that simply digressed to their functions, and beings that are up for debate whether or not they’re human.

There’s a lot the film does to connect Deckard to nature. Something closer to what humans once were compared to the world we see portrayed.

He’s found through his connection to a wooden artifact—a rare material in this bleak future.

He has bee farms and raises a dog.

He shows a variety of emotions and connection to history in a very unsubtle ways that unfold in the film.

Also, his daughter is first seen observing a rain forest.

All that and more is what makes Deckard the straight man to the film. The most identifiable character to the audience and perhaps the last bastion of humanity in the dystopian future while ironically also perhaps being the key to the end of it simply by being a father.


There are other explorations in the film that are probably worthy of discussion.

The religious notes, the dystopian future, and why no one else other than Joe seems to drive.

But for me, the main exploration of the film was being human; what it means to be human.

The level of quality of the film dawned upon me actually days after I saw it. I realized it when I found myself having intriguing conversations about the film with my date days after we watched it together. While engaging debates about the film with friends as we had lunch. And even finding myself engaging in fresh discussions with people at my gym.

There’s a lot more I wish I could gush out about the film. Perhaps I wrote this blog after not having written anything in so long because I just wanted to share my thoughts and have even more conversation about it.

Is this a film that was groundbreaking in terms of how it presented its topics? No.

Were there other films that have done it better? As one can infer from above, arguably yes.

But is it a film that’s worth watching and perhaps rewatching? Definitely. Especially for those with a creative itch and an eye candy itch. I’d considerBlade Runner 2 as much of a classic as its predecessor.

By the way, I won nothing from that lotto.

Sorry, old man.

Maybe the next ticket.

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Minor Gripes + Praises

  • ( – ) Maybe I’m getting old but the fonts were small. I get it’s stylish but they were so damn small.
  • ( – ) It’s never established how strong Joe is through the film. The film sort of misleads the audience into believing that Luv was perhaps particularly strong even for Joe’s standards given how surprised Joe seems to be at how she opened the archive door. But as my date pointed out, perhaps he’s just surprised because he expected her to be a mere secretary? But the movie really doesn’t prepare people for the fact that Joe starts running through walls near the 3rd act of the film. Not to mention how he ends up killing Luv seems a bit farfetched given what was established. But perhaps that was a testament to Joe being human and demonstrating the majesty of the human will or something. I don’t know.
  • ( + ) The film has more than simple nods to the previous film in regards to how cleverly it incorporates the world the franchise built in the early 80s into the imagining of the same world in the late 2010s.
  • ( + ) I like how they included a variety of cultures and languages intermixed in this imagining of LA… even if it felt a bit nonsensical at times.  In fact, there are some choices that just seemed nonsensical in general. Like what was up with the sex statues?

ARAMIRU OUT AND OFF TO GO DREAM OF UNICORNS AND SHEEPS

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Explaining the 4 Common Answers & Advice Given to Beginner Writers

Hi, it’s me. Your average writer.

You might have heard of me from my past works such as… who are we kidding? You have never heard of me. I’m a nobody. But I’m a nobody with some experience.

 

©2013 NETFLIX  CR: F. Scott Schafer
Me. (But seriously, if you don’t know who this is you’re dead to me)

 

Last time, I posted a blog about 4 Same Stupid Questions I See All the Time On Writing Forums. Click HERE to fulfill my shameless plug.

This time, I thought I’d do something a bit more helpful and thoughtful.

I’m going to buy your ebooks.

Just kidding. I’m still poor. And with the money I have I’d rather buy a McDouble and a McChicken at McDonald’s with the awesome Mc2Pick for $2.50! What a deal! And make sure to check out their limited-time holiday drinks!

 

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Pay me please!

 

You already know what this is about. You’ve read the title. Get to the point you’re saying. Maybe you’ve already scrolled down.

This is for all of you out there wondering what exactly some of those answers you’ve received  meant. Because the random stranger who gave you the answer left you cold and hanging without an explanation. Like my dad on Christmas.


“Show, Don’t Tell”

Let’s get the big one out of the way.

I’m literally massaging my nose bridge with one hand and typing this with my other two hands as I’m trying to explain this one.

Not because it’s particularly difficult to answer, but because it’s so basic.

But not because it’s just so basic, but because it’s so basic and it’s a mistake that I make often and I know for a fact that many other writers who should be above these kinds of things make this mistake as well.

So let’s try to understand WHY this happens.

I have a simple theory: We are describing what we are seeing in our brilliant, gifted minds and forgetting that our jobs as writers are to help the readers experience what we’re seeing and not have them simply understand what we’re seeing. We’re not supposed to be the tour guides but be VR goggles. They want to be inside of our story—not be outside of it.

Showing is taking notes.

Telling is creating worlds.

 

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Strive to be this inanimate object.

 

There are times when you want to “tell” over “show” but this is one of those things where you have to master the rules before you learn to bend them.

And here’s an example just in case:

TELL:

Jimmy was mad at Moe.

SHOW:

Jimmy’s unibrow furrowed into a rugged U, his hand trembled with fury, and his heart filled with the burning desire to bitchslap Moe.


“Just Write”

You want to be a swimmer? Go practice swimming every day.

You want to be a stripper? Go practice stripping every day.

You want to be a writer? Go practice stripping every day.

Wait.

Well. Why not. Cardio’s important. But you should also practice writing every day.

This somewhat calloused sounding advice exists because most people only talk about writing and never actually write.

They think they can be writers by just spewing their thesis about the craft of ink and paper as they lasciviously rub themselves for their own creativity and avant-garde ideas.

Something about hic Rhodus, hic salta.

 

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They’re basically doing this.

 

Your ideas aren’t worth donkey’s spit on a chicken’s ass if you never actually create something with it. And unless you’re some sort of a Hemingway’s spirit reborn, you’re probably not as good as you think you are.

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So how do you “just write”? I personally say do away with the whole “have a word count for the day” thing. You know, when people say things like “just write 1000 words a day”?

Look, fellow grasshoppers, if you’re a professional writer then you know when your due date is so daily word count either makes more sense or not at all since you just have to get’er done by that date.

You know how you work. You can set your own pace.

If you’re a hobbyist it makes less sense because the rigidness and the arbitrary number just turns your hobby into a chore.

But sure. If it works for you—good. Nothing wrong with that.

If it doesn’t—don’t worry about it.  And let me recommend, instead, setting up a timed session.

Maybe one hour a day. One hour every other day.

Make it your schedule, like everything else you do in life, and just use that time to write one word or ten thousand words. Or even no words. Just do something writing related. Even if that’s reading for research, doing brainstorms, and whatever. Maybe it’ll be for an hour. Maybe it’s two hours. Just set a time.

This will give you some freedom and some ease with your writing pursuit. And if you have an end goal in mind that’s where you can set a long-term deadline for yourself.

Oh, and, if you’re not letting other people read your work—you’ll never get better. Practice makes permanent and not perfect.

Writing without outside criticism will only make your lack of talent permanent.

Boom.

Real talk.


“Write for Yourself / Don’t Follow the Trend”

So, this one’s a bit FUBAR.

To unravel this, I’ll just first explain where it’s coming from and then kind of go on about why it’s FUBAR. And just a head’s up: this one’s going to be a bit serious.

Like stool samples. Poops are fun and games but sometimes you have to use serious, medical terms like “stool” and “samples”.

Anyways.

When there’s a fad, it’ll start a trend.

Star Wars sparked the sci-fi boom.

Lord of the Rings & Game of Thrones sparked the fantasy boom.

Twilight sparked the wtf-happened-to-vampires boom.

Hunger Games started the dystopian boom.

The whole idea of “write what you’d want to read / don’t follow a trend” is that the chances of you actually catching the trend and having your passions align with the trend… are low.

Why is the chance of catching a trend low?

Because writing is a long process and publishing can be even longer. It usually takes years for someone to finish a book and see it in stores. You really think the trend will last that long? And what about passion? Do you think you can write a work you’re proud of without a passion for it? Even if you’ve missed the trend? Can I add any more questions to this paragraph? Well? Can I?

Writing what you’re proud of—something that you can call your own—can mean more at the end of the day than writing something that you thought was going to sell.

But remember when I said this topic is a bit tricky? With the technologies and how the book market is today… you can basically ignore everything I said up there and maybe you should.

Yeah, seriously.

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You know why trends start? Because they sell.

People tend to want more cake after they had a slice.

Twilight spawned True Blood, Vampire Diaries, and a bunch of other vampire shows, books, and ebooks in a variety of genres.

Erotica was a popular genre to write for on Kindle for a while because they sold like… well… sex.

Publishers will always welcome any book that’ll sell. That’s their jobs. Publish things to sell. And if the genre’s hot right now, they’ll be looking for more of that genre and might even put you through the fast lane.

For indie writers, catching trends is easier now more than ever because you can instantly check what’s selling well. Check the Top 100 on Amazon. There you go.

Passion? Damn, son. Passions tend to suck at paying for stuff. And I like stuff.

 

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Like one of these. Just to give the middle-finger to the starving children in Africa and good ideas everywhere

 

Besides, if you’re a professional writer shouldn’t you have a grasp of how to write just about anything?

Timing? You click “publish” and you’re done.

You want to put more work into it? It won’t be too hard for you to chug out a 40-50k novel that follows a formula for a standard successful storytelling in a month. Remember, NaNoWriMo thinks just about everyone can chug out 50k in a month. You’re a professional, veteran writer. If this is your full-time job, you can do it in 2-3 weeks. During the time you’re writing you can hire an editor and an artist and ding-ding-ding you have a Hot Pockets book.

Besides, talking about passion, do you think there’s a lot of market appeal to a book that’s so personally you?

Sometimes a book is too much you and sometimes that’s not a good thing. That’s when a writer is just doing a self-pleasing (there, friends, I didn’t use the word “masturbatory”) project and hoping that people might like it.

Hell, that writer might not even be thinking of readers. If your protagonist is a half-orc, quarter-dragon, quarter-boar stripper named Borga Do’Kora (stage name being Danger Dick) who’s day job is a tax accountant, maybe you really did not give a chicken’s ass on a donkey’s spit about the readers.

And that’s fine. Writing, in its best form, should be reflective and a fragment of your being. Even if that’s a half-orc, quarter-dragon, quarter-boar stripper who’s favorite food happens to be pickled eggplants.

But if we’re talking about making money, the whole story changes.


“Keep Writing”

Wow, the last one was so damn long. I’ll keep this short. You know how you improve your mile run right? You keep running.

But as you keep running, you’ll run into some hurdles along the way. Maybe your ankles will start to hurt, maybe you’ll run into better runners, and maybe some literal hurdles. It’s called gaining experience.

And sometimes, it’ll hurt. They might say you have ugly shoes, ugly face, and that you look downright silly running.

 

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Not everyone can run majestically like Tom Cruise.

 

But someone wise once told me… Just kidding. I read this on Tumblr.

“Writer’s who are afraid of rejection are like boxers who are afraid of getting punched. You’re in the wrong line of work.”

In every aspect of our lives, we should welcome valid criticisms. In writing, we have to take-and-thank any sort of feedback we can get and sort it through ourselves like beggars on the street corners Aurora ave in Seattle.

And a lot of times… the greatest of criticisms will come from our own failures. It’s okay to fail despite what my mother says. What’s not okay is to let failures just be failures. Then you’ve wasted your time.

Don’t give up. Everything’s hard and writing as a craft has been around since the beginning of written language. You don’t have to try to rewrite the rule book, the legacy, or try to be the next big thing. Just enjoy it and see where it takes you.

If someone says you suck–say thanks. What can I do to be better?

If you think you suck–well, I suck. What can I do to be better?

And I’m not saying having that attitude is easy. It’s tough. Hell, I always get salty and pissy and depressed about myself and my life. And sometimes about my writing!

But that’s the process of “Keep Writing”. You’ll get better as long as you keep challenging yourself and keep yourself honest. Make sure the cycle of depression and persistence keeps turning. There’s no fast lane here. It’s just gaining experience.

Or just give up. It’s your life. Why are you doing this if you’re not enjoying it unless you’re trying to pay bills with it?

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It’s okay not to be a writer. It’s okay not to be a professional writer. I’m sure your friends and family will be happy to hear that you decided not to be an artist anymore and decided to be a Tax Accountant and go make a happy, comfortable living without having to worry about your future.

But if you’re not going to give up, keep running. As you keep running, you’ll also learn how to enjoy running better. And hopefully, y’know, you’ll keep researching into how to run better because that’s part of keep running.

Like forms and stuff.

Metaphor. Analogy.

This got too sentimental for my taste.

AND I SAID HEY-EY-EY-EY! HEY-EY-EY-EY!

I SAID HEY!

TUPAC KILLED JFK!

ARAMIRU OUT!


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Black Halo: the Witch and the Guardian PREVIEW Part 3

REVISED version of

Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian

is coming out on 12/9/2015!

Preview Event:

PART 1 (Prologue, Chapter 1)

PART 2 (Interlude 1)


 

Blurb:

With the Light, came Magic, and the Witch. As mysterious as she was fearsome, and as powerful as she was merciless, the Witch almost succeeded in ending the world until she was vanquished by a hero and his comrades.

This is the legend of the Witch and the Guardian.

Centuries after the nigh calamity, this legend is as much as almost anyone knows of what truly happened back then and as much of an explanation anyone has of what ended an era in human civilization.

Though the people may never learn the whole story, you as the reader will follow the days that led up to how a young girl named Lily became immortalized as the Witch though her name, dreams and life became forgotten.


 

Chapter 2
THE REDHEAD

A quaint little coffee shop.

It was one of many a person could find in the city. Small enough to still seem snug with its single early-bird customer, the cafe decorated from top to bottom with ‘personality’ to save itself from becoming what they considered to be lifeless coffee shop chains. There were pictures of past visitors, vinyl hanging like paintings—some of which even the young customer recognized—and a bulletin board for the local bands to advertise their garage shows. Instead of the usual easy listening jazz, this little shop decided a little grunge was better fitting with the morning caffeine.

The lone customer waited for his order as he listened to the cafe’s unique choice of music. The flashy intro of the news program on the TV caught his attention. His head snugly tucked into the hood of his leather jacket, he turned his attention from the music to the television on the wall.

“Make no mistake,” A plump man, aged and molded by a long career of being dissatisfied and irate, spoke with authority and confidence. “We are at war. It’s a war not with our people but with this sudden but very drastic change. With change, we have to adapt. That is the law of nature—adapt to survive. The people have the right to be protected and to feel safe in their homes in this great nation of ours. We aren’t talking about imprisoning men and women out of prejudice. We are talking about simply containing these men and women—who, mind you, possess a catastrophic potential to harm us—in the name of security of our nation. Joining our discussion today is the host of a popular news commentary show, The Independent Voice, Erol Acar.”

The image on the screen split in two. One side of screen still showed the original man with his ginger comb over, and the other side showed a new, tan skinned man who was younger in comparison with a square jaw and a comparably fuller set of black hair.

“Thanks for joining us on The Point, Mr. Acar. It’s a pleasure,” said the host.

“Thanks for having me, Mr. O’Connor,” Mr. Acar answered politely.

“Please, call me Brian. So the topic today: is what we are doing with those wizards and the witches—the Gifted—morally wrong?”

“Uh… well, Brian, first of all, I have to say, I think you’re losing touch with humanity.” The host’s eyebrows slightly furrowed at Mr. Acar’s remark. “At war, Brian? We are at war? You say it’s against “change,” but those “changes” are people! Our own people! The Gifted are our citizens! Not to mention most of the Gifted we discovered so far are mostly children and teens!”

“Children who can blow up buildings, Erol! Children who can and have killed people.”

“Not all “gifts” have been inherently hostile! Like that boy a year or so ago who simply… disappeared… teleported away from his bullies! And even if a child or a person had a dangerous “gift” it doesn’t mean they’ll use it to harm others! You and the government are asking people to preemptively judge a person guilty and dangerous before they did anything wrong!”

“Sure, but we don’t let children carry guns…”

“Guns aren’t part of their being! You’re teaching the people to be scared and to fear these people who need our help and understanding!”

“Because the cost of simply waiting and letting something happen is too traumatic, Erol!” Mr. O’Connor slammed his desk in outburst. “It’s not a preemptive strike at the Gifted. It’s simply a precautionary measure. I’m not asking these Gifted to be publicly executed like in some of those other countries. I—we—are simply asking for some sort of containment! And do I need to remind…”

“There are new studies being done that acquiring ‘gift’ may not necessarily be a predisposed condition,” Mr. Acar, heated by the conversation, didn’t let the host finish. “But that anyone can acquire these abilities. Some even suggest that you can learn these abilities on your own. Should all of us then be taken in as a precautionary measure by those private military companies?”

“Alright, we’re getting a bit off the topic here, but you know what? I’m going to address this. Those private military companies work for the government and for us—the people—Erol! For you, for me, and for our friends and families! We can’t expect our military to step in on this matter! They have their own jobs and duties to fulfill. And we certainly can’t expect our police officers to be able handle potentially walking, living, breathing weapons of mass destruction! We’ve already seen the results of that. We need specialists and those with matching fire power. And YES! Anyone who decides to become part of those Gifted should be dealt with the same way!”

“That’s just ridiculous, you’re allowing…”

“We didn’t start the war, Erol! They did! Do I have to remind you what happened?” The host pointed his finger in emphasis to each of his statement, and now it lingered in the air as he waited for his guest to answer so that he may pounce again.

“No. You don’t have to do that. As I was saying…” Mr. Acar fought to finish his point.

“No, I am going to remind you. Two years ago… almost three years now, that Light appeared out of nowhere. We don’t know what it is, where it’s from, and why it’s here. Just look out your window and it’s there like an eyesore. On the day that thing appeared, so did the Gifted. The first one to introduce us to the rest of them was the Witch! The Witch everyone’s looking for one who’s now even considered an international terrorist by many governments. What did she do? Erol? What did she do that day?” Mr. O’Connor waited for Mr. Acar to answer with a smug smirk.

“Brian, let me finish what I was trying…”

“She MURDERED a well-respected doctor in his home. That’s the first act done by the Gifted in this world and a very fitting act to let us know what was to come. She’s now popping up all over the world terrorizing it with her red-haired lemming…”

“Terrorizing? Really? Name one thing that could be considered a terrorist act. I can name a few where you can say ‘reckless’ and ‘questionable’ but ‘terrorizing’?” This time Mr. Acar interrupted.

“She attacked our own military!”

“Sources from people who were actually there reported…”

“And who knows what she’s doing in those other countries. Is she a spy? Is she a gun for hire? Is she a walking bomb trained by our enemies? Ignorantly meddling in foreign affairs has a tremendous impact around the world. It’s simply irresponsible and dangerous!”

“…a few rotten apples shouldn’t…”

“Hey, your orders are ready,” the part-timer at the coffee shop tried to get the attention of her lone customer.

“A few rotten apples?” Mr. O’Connor interrupted yet again. “These few rotten apples are popping up everywhere now. They’re even organizing. They have demonstrated that they are a tremendous threat to us regular people. These so-called few rotten apples went off in schools, offices, courts, and even out in the middle of the street in downtown. And people died, Erol. They didn’t even have a chance. We already even have a suspected Gifted serial killer they call… what do they call him… ‘The Invisible Man’? And like I said before—there are even groups of them now. Banding together to do god knows what. There are rumors about these bands that are evolving even from just being gangs to selling their ‘gifts’ for use to the highest bidder. That rumored group called the Wolves or something like that is one of those. It’s birth of a living, breathing black market for new types of weapons that the world has never seen before. Except this time, the weapons themselves get paid. Who knows what they’ll do next! Who can protect us from them? You, Mr. Acar?”

“Can I talk now?”

“Go ahead,” Mr. O’Connor smugly gave permission.

“I recognize there are few of the Gifted out there, like the Witch, who should be brought to justice. And they are, without a doubt, making the world a harder place for the other Gifted and us. But we have to remember, no matter what, that the Gifted are still people like you and me. In fact, if the new studies prove to be correct, any of us can be the Gifted. The Gifted may not even be that Gifted. What you are arguing for is to allow our government to unofficially establish a police state through the private military, and to treat people like criminals regardless of whether or not they’ve committed a crime. We can’t let fear rule us like they want us to. It is during the times of greatest fear that we must remember to be brave enough to do the right thing.”

“Yes, yes. Very touchy, Mr. Acar. We’ll be back with the sentimental Mr. Acar after these commercials.” The host looked at the camera and smiled. An outro melody begins to play as the camera zoomed out.

“World’s gone mad,” A girl’s voice said, bringing the lone customer back to the real world.

Startled, he quickly turned away from the TV to the register, and found the brunette waitress resting her chin on the palm of her hand. She was looking straight at him with a grin and sparkling eyes. She blinked in quick succession as a response when the customer finally recognizing her existence. In front of her were two paper cups fixed with lids and fitted in a drink carrier to accompany a small box.

“I’ve never actually seen any Gifted yet myself. At least, not with my own eyes.” She lifted her chin off of her hand while maintaining eye contact. “I tried to get your attention before, but you seemed really into it so I thought I’d just let you be.” She had a wide, amused smile on her face. “That’ll be 8.75,” she said, reaching out with an open palm to the customer revealing her heavily tattooed arm. She watched as the boy searched his pockets for his wallet. Even though she, herself, was only a sophomore working through college, he seemed even younger than her. Probably just a high school student or maybe he was a freshman in college. He was about as tall, maybe slightly taller, than average for a guy around his age. His hood scrunched his long, obviously dyed red hair that hid most of his facial features, but she thought his revealed milky skin harmonized well with his hair like strawberries and cream. She figured he was probably another fan of the local music scene or perhaps one of many who wanted to stand out against the norms of the society.

“Here’s a ten.” The customer dropped a couple of bills onto her hand. “Keep the change.” He gave a small smile to return hers, and packed the box carefully into his backpack. Once the package was secured, he grabbed his hot drinks and headed for the door.

“Come back soon!” she shouted after the customer as the bell over the door jingled with his departure.

Although it was still only the eve of winter, even the gentlest of winds were frigid and piercing. The skies were gray and without mercy from the sun. People passed through the busy street huddled into their winter coats and paced briskly to their destinations. The cups weren’t marked. The redhead sniffed at the drinks to find the one that didn’t have the sweet oozing scent of chocolate; if he found the one with the dry but rich and nutty aroma of freshly brewed black coffee, then he would have found his beverage. He was lucky. The first cup passed his sniff test, though it smelled a little burnt.

He took a moment to let the warm drink heat him up. A small award for the long journey he had made. It’s was a long walk to the city and it wouldn’t be any shorter going back. The winter season easily excavated memories buried deep beneath as if the soil never hardened. Maybe the memories just weren’t buried deep enough.

It’d been almost two years since he went off on his journey. Two years since his new life began, and his old life started to fade away. As time passed, the distance between the two moments of his lives grew further and further apart. The old times seemed more imagined now than a one he lived through. Only the artifacts of past memories reminded him that they were all very real.

A police car.

The sirens and lights of the law enforcement drove away the nostalgia and brought the boy back to the present. How ironic that something so key to his old life now snapped him back to reality. It reminded him that his old life was over, and he was in the present. He turned away as much as he could from the flashing vehicle. Once the car turned a corner, the redhead put his coffee back into its holder and hastily went on his way. It didn’t feel right that he enjoyed the drink by himself as someone was waiting for him. Kalin felt a slight guilt brewing inside.

 

 

Chapter 3
SERENDIPITY

Landris stared blankly out the window. It’d been a long time since he had been downtown full of people. A while since he sat in a restaurant about to eat a mediocre breakfast that’d taste surprisingly as bad in any of its sister restaurants across the country. The theme of the chain was ‘retro,’ and its idea of ‘retro’ was a jukebox, neon lights, and checkered floors. He looked at his two companions who had been giddy since their plane ride. They chatted about doing things they probably knew they didn’t have time to do on this trip, and of the things they missed that they would long for again when the trip ended. He didn’t feel as excited as these two. Frankly, he was bored. When was the highlight of this trip going to happen?

“So what will it be guys?”

He ignored the middle-aged waitress who he guessed probably had had too much fun in high school and now couldn’t afford to do better than work in a second-rate chain restaurant. Her dark brown hair that was obsessively curled and her bright red lipstick made her look like she was either dressed to the restaurants theme, or she woke up that morning and decided that she’d dress like a relic.

“I’ll have the pancakes with scrambled eggs and hash browns!” The female companion cheerfully answered. Landris always thought Sarah was too much of a looker to be hanging around with her friend Julian. She had brunette hair curled in lusciously soft waves, an egg-shaped face, and a smile that’d even turn drunkards to gentlemen. Julian, on the other hand, was scrawny with dirty blond hair, and no signs of a single muscle in his body. To make matters worse, he followed her around like a puppy and like so, he was probably going to order—

“I’ll have the same please,” said Julian with a smile.

Yep. Just as he had guessed.

Sarah, Julian’s ‘best friend’, was a sweetheart. She was hot, if Landris may be frank, and she probably could have gone through her entire life with just her looks. To her credit, she managed to also develop a personality and respectable intelligence. Meanwhile, Julian was just that kid always in the background who was too timid for his own good. They claimed they were childhood friends, and Landris figured Julian probably knew he was lucky to even have that. Julian got plenty of attention from other boys and men when he walked around with his brunette princess. Though, Landris also figured Julian will probably never have the guts to actually spark something between them.

“Can’t decide on your own food, Julian?” Landris asked with a smirk.  It was a need for Landris to push Julian around. He wanted to get the toxin of weakness out of Julian.

“Don’t be a jerk, Landris. Julian can order whatever he wants!” The princess came to rescue her wimpy prince. Her voice was stern, but never had a hint of venom—always like a mother scolding a child.

Landris simply smiled in response to Sarah and glanced at Julian drowning in its implications. Sarah was a nice girl, no complaints there; she was both a pleasure to be with and to look at. She just needed better taste in men. Whether he seemed interested or not, Sarah also seemingly went out of her way to include him in various activities. Small things like that both Landris and Julian noticed.

“Oh, and where’s the older gentleman who came with you guys?” the waitress asked, seeing that the only trace left of the man was a bag beside Landris.

“He’s in the restroom. What did Mr. Jung want again?” Sarah looked to Julian and Landris for answers.

“Breakfast,” Landris replied.

Ignoring the smart-ass, Sarah furtively placed the tip of her ring and pinky finger on Julian’s hand.

“Right,” Sarah recalled. “He’ll have the steak omelet with hash browns on the side please. He also said he’d like to get his coffee topped off”—The waitress jotted down the order on her notepad with a pen—“…and an orange juice for the table please,” Sarah finished her order.

“Hun? How about you?” the waitress asked Landris with a friendly smile. She caught herself staring at the boy. Ash blond hair with emerald green eyes. His body permeated athleticism even beneath the layers of cloth, and his face had sharp and chiseled facial features as if the boy was a movie star of the golden age. These qualities of Landris were one of the few reasons why he was favored to be the poster boy for Director Jones’ new project. The only detractions were his mouth and attitude that went against his Prince Charming looks.

“I’m good,” Landris answered curtly. “I’m probably better off not eating here anyways.”

“Landris…” Sarah paused for a moment before deciding it wasn’t worth pursuing the rudeness of the latter part of Landris’s statement. “You have to eat something. You haven’t eaten anything since we left.” The mother Sarah scolded and gave Landris exactly what he wanted from her. Right on cue, Julian flashed him a look filled with jealousy. It didn’t go missed by Landris.

“Well,” Landris began, leaning closer towards Sarah. “What would you suggest then?”

“Well,” Sarah replied, leaning closer towards Landris. “I suggest breakfast.”

Landris and Sarah exchanged sarcastic smiles.

“I’ll have whatever they’re having,” Landris told the waitress. The waitress scribbled down the last order and told the group it’d be fifteen to twenty minutes before going about her way. As she walked towards the kitchen to submit the order, she passed by the older gentleman that came with the group. He was a bulky middle-aged man whose prominent cheekbones made him seem younger than he probably was. Short hair combed with enough gel to shine, thick eyebrows that were always furrowed, and he walked with the pride of a soldier’s march.

“Did you guys order me the omelet?” The man asked as he sat beside Landris and rejoined the group.

“Yes, sir!” Sarah cheerfully answered. Mr. Jung appreciated Sarah over the other two kids he had to babysit just for her brightness. The waitress returned with a glass pitcher full of OJ and poured four glasses for each person in the party.

“Can I see it again?” Landris reached out his hand to Mr. Jung as he sipped on his juice.

“How about a ‘please’?” Mr. Jung suggested. The two stared at each other for a short while, both refusing to stand down.

“Please,” Landris gave in. It was Mr. Jung’s tablet after all. Mr. Jung dug into his bag and handed the boy what he wanted. Without showing much gratitude, Landris turned on the device and found the image right away.

It was a rare image, albeit a very blurry one, of the Witch and her red-headed friend. They were spotted in the war-torn desert country seemingly helping a few civilians from certain death. The picture showed a group of men, women, and children facing a ragtag group of gunmen masked with clothes and scarves with the barrels of their weapons aimed at the people. Standing between them was the Witch and her crimson-haired friend. The quality of the image was blurry at best, but it was the image that became the controversial evidence for those who advocated the falsehood of the Witch’s notoriety and advanced the movement to stop scrutinizing those who are “Gifted’. Meanwhile, it also became one of many evidence against the Witch for her apparent lawlessness and disregard for sovereignty. There were rumors that all of the gunmen were killed.

Unsurprisingly, the image of a dainty girl standing up to men armed with some of man’s most trusted lethal weapons added fuel to the fire for those who already feared the incalculable potential of the Gifted.

“Is it true that she stopped a tank before, Mr. Jung?” Julian asked as he organized the sugar packets at the end of their table by their colors.

“The official word from the military and the intelligence agencies are, ‘no comment.’” Mr. Jung peeked over at his tablet Landris was holding. “…but our inside sources say—yes, a few of them apparently.”

“I don’t get it. What’s her ‘gift’?” Julian looked at Sarah who simply shook her head and then turned to Landris. “I don’t think even you could stop a tank, Landris.” His words went completely ignored by Landris who was still glued to the tablet.

“Let me see that again too, Landris.” Sarah reached out for the tablet, and Landris handed it over to her without a fuss.

“She looks even younger than us. How can a tiny girl like that be so frightening?” Sarah marveled as she zoomed in on the blurry picture in a futile attempt to get a closer look at the Witch’s facial features. She dragged around the zoomed picture until she stumbled onto the Witch’s right hand that was raised straight from her chest. A solid black band dangled from the Witch’s wrist that seemed like a common and cheap accessory anyone could find at department stores. Sarah owned a pink one herself. The insignificant item made the Witch seem even more like a regular girl to Sarah.

“Well…” Landris cringed as Julian took on his ‘professor’ tone that he unknowingly adapted whenever he shared his vast knowledge. “There are a lot of countries out there that still use child soldiers, and children are so malleable that they sometimes make even better killers than adults do. They can do things adults wouldn’t and couldn’t imagine, doing them without giving it a single thought. So, seeing that, it’s all possible that the Witch could be a terrorist.”

“I guess,” said Sarah as she now zoomed in on the witch’s friend. “Her redheaded friend looks more like our age. He looks cute. Wonder why he follows her around so much.” Sarah smiled and gave a playful look to Julian. “Do you think they’re a couple?”

“Maybe they’re related?” Julian offered his own theory while suddenly feeling a bit sheepish at Sarah’s smile.

“Maybe he’s just stupid or nuts,” Landris answered. “How can you tell if he’s ‘cute’ anyways from that picture?”

Sarah shrugged.

“You have weird taste in men, Sarah,” Julian joined in.

As the kids chattered, Mr. Jung thought over how he ended up here with these kids. To him, all this was still just madness—the Witch, these kids, and Nancy Jones with her programs. How could these kids and others like them hold the world hostage to their whim.

 

“So, basically… you want me to babysit.” He recalled his meeting from day before.

Mr. Jung had a slight accent whenever he spoke, but it was so minute that only the most petty would point it out. A middle-aged man, his body had seen better years. The only things remaining of his bravado days in the military were his poor excuse for a civilian haircut that was always gelled to a shine and combed to make it seem even shorter, and the trainings ingrained in his mind and body that even showed with how he walked.

He sat across from the mahogany desk of the director, Nancy Jones. Her desk, with a cup of fresh tea on it like any other time he saw Director Jones in her office, was placed in front of a wide panel window that oversaw this entire facility of the Silver Aegis Private Security Firm. The grand office room was elegantly decorated and furnished from top to bottom with exuding tastefulness. Mr. Jung never was very artistic, but even he felt a bit of awe for the extravagance of the room—it was rich yet lacked overtness, and all while still being grand.

“Ma’am?” Mr. Jung tried to get Nancy’s attention away from her tablet and focused back on him.

“You were former special forces in your country with high commendations,” Nancy recited off of her tablet. It was exactly what Mr. Jung wrote in his application to the company. “That’s quite impressive. Not to mention you also spent a little time as an intelligence agent after your military career.” This time, Nancy didn’t recite from her tablet. She looked right at Mr. Jung and studied him. Unlike before, the details of his time in the intelligence community weren’t reported in his application. To be precise, no one should know. Mr. Jung kept his poker face.

“Father of two children with a son of age fifteen and a daughter of age twelve. Tough time for parents, I imagine. Going through the trouble of moving to a new country for this job, I’m assuming was for their benefit?” said Nancy with a gentle smile.

“Yes, but what does any of this have to do with anything?” He and his family had been researched. It wasn’t the cleanest feeling in the world, but she was his boss and his meal ticket. Before the timing was too late, he added, “Ma’am?”

“I’d guess you are a better father than a patriot,” Nancy continued. “…the money and the opportunities here were too good to shy away from. But there are some blanks here that I’m curious about.

 

Caving in to his hunger, Landris walked to the front counter of the restaurant where he saw they had a basket of complimentary hard candies for their customers. He popped one into his mouth and pocketed another for dessert.

 

Mr. Jung maintained his deadpan expression as he listened to the director. On the surface, Director Jones was a woman that he’d wish his daughter to be like when she grew up. Nancy took the time to present herself properly. She was dressed well in clothing that was obviously luxurious but subtle with opulence much like her furniture, and she carried herself even better than she was dressed. Her golden hair was always perfectly kempt and glowed with radiance, her clothing were always perfectly washed, ironed, and fitted, and she walked in confident strides with perfect posture. Neither newly rich nor petulantly rich, she was groomed into her class and naturally exuded her status. Young and powerful, and as elegant as she was intelligent, Nancy’s presence demanded respect. For the lesser few, simply being around her made them feel inadequate and uncomfortable.

“What did you do initially before you came here? There’s a couple of years here you had off after you quit the intelligence work.”

“Money wasn’t good in the government job. I wanted a better life for my two kids, so I took on a business opportunity my friend offered. It failed. So, I came here. Are we going somewhere with this?” The usual calm manner of speech by Mr. Jung was slightly littered with snappiness. Nancy left the tablet on her desk and walked towards the giant panel window that made her office into a watchtower. The sun was shining down on Facility Zero, a small part of the Silver Aegis that also happened to be one of its most important division. From her watchtower, she oversaw the training courses, the armory filled with vehicles and weapons, the rows of trucks bringing in new supplies, and the school and dormitories that were the very purpose of the entire facility. Even as they spoke, there were students being groomed by the Silver Aegis to become leaders of the coming new age. She responded to Mr. Jung as she observed her empire ticking like gears in a clock.

Nancy spoke gently, “When my father started this company, it was just him and a few friends he met from the service. He knew that the world would always need guns, and guns free from a leash would be more beneficial and appreciated in this world than the ones that were simply used as the government’s exclamation mark,” Nancy spoke with her eyes on her father’s legacy. “His work, Silver Aegis, is now the world leader in private security and became one of the most profitable businesses in the world. We have more than twenty facilities placed around the world equipped with gear and technology that can match the military and even some that the military is too cheap to use for their own personnel. On our best days we are the only ones able to provide protection to those the military can’t seem to find the motivation to help.”

Mr. Jung raised an eyebrow.

“We have more than a hundred thousand successful operations and currently employed in twenty-four different nations for fifty-three different operations. A few of those operations technically don’t exist. Right here, Facility Zero, is one such place. Do you have any idea how much it costs to keep an operation of this size off the record?” Nancy seemed proud and amused as her eyes smoldered with ambition.

Ms. Jones finally turned away from the windows and made eye contact with Mr. Jung. The light shining from the windows outlined her body with light. If one didn’t know better, some might say she seemed angelic.

 

Landris sat back down in the booth. He handed a candy to each person, and all but Mr. Jung who was deep in thought thanked him. Julian and Sarah continued their conversation as Landris looked out the window.

 

But the costs are worth it because all else that we have doesn’t compare to what we have here—the students in that academy. Those kids in there will not only be the world’s future, but our future. The Gifted marks the end of an old era and the beginning of a new one. The world will never be the same.”

Mr. Jung knew about the vague purposes of the facility. Other than the top people and instructors, most of the staff rarely got to see the kids studying, training and exercising their ‘gifts.’ Even so close, the Gifted were a bit of tall tale.

“So yes, it’s a babysitting job. But you’re babysitting the company’s most valuable assets; especially, the boy who will be the company’s face for our new project. If things work out, we will also be getting our hands on the world’s most notorious Gifted.”

“The Witch.” Mr. Jung crossed his arms. It was his way of relaxing a little. “How credible is the info that she’ll be in that city on that day?”

“Certain enough to dispatch the students with a chaperone. Though sadly even with such a tip, going myself is a risk we cannot take yet.”

“Is the ‘face of the project’ you’re speaking about that delinquent, Landris?”

Nancy was well aware of Mr. Jung’s distaste for Landris.

“He has rough edges but he’s been making progress. Landris is still a teen and still has much to grow. But he has more than proven himself with his capabilities and his abilities are the type to draw admiration from people. His stubbornness combined with his ambitions will get him to places. He will do what other will not—he’ll be a leader.”

“He’s a delinquent. A punk. There are also pretty troubling rumors of his past.” Jung expected a response from Nancy with that last statement, but his boss remained collected—always wearing a mask with a gentle smile. “I think you see too much in him and I can’t say I understand why.”

“Think of him what you will, Mr. Jung. But there are many other agencies and governments looking to acquire these Gifted children, and your job is to watch over three that we have.”

“Why not just send some of us out instead of using the Gifted?”

“If she were any other Gifted, yes, we’d handle it between us. However, this is the Witch we are dealing with…”

“…and you don’t really think we can handle her,” Mr. Jung finished Nancy’s sentence for her. He figured she probably wasn’t wrong.

“In so many words, yes.” Nancy took a sip of her tea. “Besides, I think it’d be great for the students to get some experience outside the facility, and they’ll help even out the odds. I’m also going on a hunch that she’ll be more cooperative with other Gifted than with just us.”

“If you say so, ma’am. Alright, so what can these kids do exactly?”

“The exact details are confidential for now. But the students we’ve selected to accompany Landris are the ones we thought would be the perfect complement to him and to this assignment. They know their roles, your job is to simply make sure they stay out of trouble and have supervision.”

“When are we leaving?” Mr. Jung asked. He decided not to press further for an answer.

“Tonight. The students are already getting packed and expecting you.”

 

“Here’s your order!”

The smell of eggs and buttermilk pancakes stole Mr. Jung from his flashback. He saw Sarah and Julian’s eyes glimmered with glee when the plates landed in front of them. Curiously, Landris eyes were glued to the window.

“Landris? Your food is here,” Sarah said with matching excitement in her eyes as Julian.

“Look,” Landris said, pointing out the window. “The redhead.”

Landris’s words drew everyone around the table to look out the window at the city street. Across the street on the sidewalk was a young man carrying a bag and a drink carrier with what seemed to be two coffees. His long crimson hair peeked out from the black hood of his leather jacket.

Landris leapt out from his seat before Mr. Jung could give any instructions. Guided only by his gut feelings, Landris rushed out the door to chase after the red-haired boy.


Revised Edition of Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian will be released on 12/9/2015!

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