First Draft

I am about a quarter of the way through the first draft of The Soldier. I meant to release this a few years ago. Perhaps I was a bit too ambitious. Or maybe the other stories I wrote took more of my soul than I originally assumed. I have just recently opened myself up to resume the process with this story. I murdered my expectations because it had kept me frozen. I hyperventilated at the thought of writing about Danny and his journey from an Army Ranger to special ops into something entirely different. 

I hope you like it when I complete it. 

But at the same time--I really only care if I speak his story true. 

I must become Danny to write about him. Danny is not a mentally stable person. Danny relives a terrible past of abuse. 

So I tread carefully and write slowly. 

The yellow legal pad keeps me company. Acts as a tether between my world and Danny's. 

Until I wake up from the dream...

Process...

Here we are, at the beginning of the most fun stage in publishing a story. 

EDITING!

Of course I am joking. Most of us hate editing our own work. I fall somewhere in the middle, experiencing a love-hate relationship with this part of the process. Not much more increases your confidence and optimism about your writing capabilities than staring upon the white sheet of paper holding the black glob of nonsense you once thought, not too long ago, was sheer brilliance. 

This is why teaching writing nearly drove me mad. Those preteen voices saying, "Done!" after five minutes of editing their own work. 

"You finished?" I would ask. 

"Yep. Looks good. Can't find a single thing wrong with it."

Sometimes I miss that innocent ignorance. 

So, here I am, on the third day of editing (first go through--there will be more) and I am two pages in. That's right. Two pages. On a brighter note, I did add a page. Felt the introduction for one of the short stories moved too quickly. I think the pacing is better now. 

Madness on Paper. Wouldn't have it any other way. 

Alex Wonder Falls in Love

FABLE 3

 

 

Alex hung in suspended animation. An unmoving blob of tissue and bone floating in synthetic amniotic fluid.

One tick from a second’s tock and Alex lay in a bed of foam and down.

Music

Screech

Silent void

Asleep, the mind breaks into separate wholes and follows the paths of musical notes. Tendrils of neurons mold into teleporting tubes. And once again, a piece of Alex found itself…

Awoken…

Born…

Drawn…

Written…

Sculpted…

…in a world different and yet the same.

Rumors of scandal and stories of myth stirred a small island community after the sudden appearance of a baby whose skin mirrored the blackness of a moonless night. Whispers of the demoness who would bear such a child hopped around the island. However, not one accusation corroborated with another. Ninety-seven different women couldn’t give birth to the same child, now could they?

Accusations found the men next. Sea farers, traders, adventurers, colonizers, slavers, pirates, and naval officers must have returned with some dreaded disease in their seed, infecting the righteous women folk.

Cooler heads eventually prevailed, after nine lynchings, four beheadings, two stonings, and a single disembowelment. The child must have snuck onto the ship. Saw the pure bright whiteness of the ship’s crew and stowed aboard. Or, and this more likely than anything else, one soldier impregnated a distant islander, who in return secretly tossed the weaning child onto the ship without anyone the wiser.

Although only a year old, by what the people could figure, Alex observed and comprehended each fear based argument and rationale as he hopped from one family’s care to the next. After six months, when Alex had circled the island once, then twice, and finally thrice, the citizens of No Regard set him in a child sized schooner and bid him a bon voyage, farewell, and safe travel to the Island of Holy Monks.

Alex’s little sail boat, sans sail, drifted for weeks under an unbearable hot sun. The dumb bastards from No Regard neglected to provide any element of shade for the infant. However, as if by divine providence, or perhaps an old friend in the sky, a lone cloud stood guard until the boat safely sunk into the wet sand of the Island of Holy Monks.

Hundreds of tiny schooners dotted the western side of the island. Years earlier someone had seared names into the wood. Johnny, Alan, Will, Buddy, Shawn, Doug, and so on and so forth. Most of the makeshift gravestones had rotted away, leaving partial or illegible names.

One monk sat atop a hill overlooking said graveyard. Nearly one week ago, a carrier pigeon from No Regard had dropped off a message.

 

NEW RECRUIT COMING!

 

Brother of Death and Burial held the crumpled message in one hand and a spade in the other. Years ago, he had assumed the island of No Regard, for some reason or another, wasn’t receiving his multiple notices of Cease and Desist. Every few months one dead, black baby after the next silently arrived at port. Brother D & B stopped sending letters after the eighty-ninth dead child washed ashore.

That was over fifty-two years ago, a long enough span for optimism to devolve into pessimism and accept that the people of No Regard not only received Brother D & B’s letters, but also didn’t give two shits. So, B of D & B started digging a hole for the island’s new arrival, timing it to coincide with Alex’s exact moment of arrival.

“What’s with the hole?”

After B of D & B’s funeral—along with the standard week of mourning and fasting—the Monks turned their attention to Alex, the wonder infant who could walk, talk, and reason as if he were a man as well as exhibit the aura and radiance of a great sage. The type of which prophecies are written. A shame these monks didn’t find it necessary to record their dreams or visions. So, and to their own demise, they raised him like any other initiate into the brotherhood.

As one might deduce, Alex was the only black kid on the island. This didn’t mean the monks weren’t diverse, however. Boys and men with various hues of yellow, peach, white, olive, red, and light cocoa lived and learned within the compound. None, however, with as dark a hue.

“Almost like a void to light.” Brother Tactless had said.

Despite his glaring difference, Alex quickly made friends. Liked by all except a handful who believed his presence threatened their popularity and status--unaware of the irony in their ambition to receive accolades as the wisest and most humble of monks.

Years streamed like a roll of film. The monotony of a monk’s life: studies of the mind; working of the body; training of the will; cleansing of the soul. Four tenants of faith. Four keys to true humanity. Nurtured and refined for seventeen of the longest, most boring years one could live.

Alex had his best friend, Dickard, who dared to achieve Brother who Responds with Witty Retort. B of RWR for short. A pudgy ball of white dough, Dickard stood a direct contrast to Alex. Brother Hindsight would later realize he should have named the pair Yung and Yang. Or Coco and Vanilla. Or Ebony and Ivory. The regret at missing out on such brilliant names plagued the monk until his dying day, repeating only three phrases the final five years of his life. “Ying, Yang. Chocolate Vanilla swirl. Ebony and Ivory,”

Bunkmates and class partners, Alex and Dickard were inseparable up until their final test before graduation. As the senior monks separated the future generation of enlightened teachers into their assigned groups, Alex and Dickard experienced an unpleasant break in their friendship. 

As with any Holy monk/priest type of society no transition into senior membership was complete until the passing of one final test. And what kind of final test for teenage boys would it be if it didn’t include some sort of sexual temptation?

For the boys of Group A, in which Dickard stood, that test came in the form of forty days and forty nights resisting the beautiful women of Mammary Gland Resort. Same duration of time for the boys of Group B, the only difference in destination—Adonis Island—home to well-oiled muscles and Greco-Roman wrestling.

And Group C? Well, those poor souls, of which Alex currently found himself, had to not only suffer forty days and nights of temptation on Adonis Island but also an additional forty days and nights on Mammary Gland Resort. With only a six-hour break in between. Essentially the amount of time to sail from one island to the next.

While no science is exact and no religion perfect, the Elder Monks stood by their seventeen or so years of observing each graduating pupil and pairing him with his appropriate group.

Alex surely disagreed with his group placement but what could he do? Tell his teachers that regardless of his love for bright flowers and occasional moments of effeminate behavior like painting his nails and designing outfits for his dorm mates, he wasn’t aroused by the same sex—not that there was anything wrong with it. Or he could plead for Dickard’s wellbeing—that his best friend might stumble into the darkness if alone. Then there was the real reason. A forty day and night sausage fest and potential threat to Alex’s manhood followed by beautiful babes farther than the eye can see guaranteed failure.

The Monks felt different.

“You’re where you’re supposed to be.”

“Be vigilant and remember your training.”

“Do not worry what may awaken.”

“Fear not the hardness of the situation.”

“Resist the shudder of that tight squeeze into the forbidden cave.”

The first forty days and nights were surprisingly enjoyable. A literal and figurative cakewalk. Alex made a ton of new friends, received presents galore, ate the choicest cuts of meat, and even had offers to serve in the island’s government. Both the young and old danced as Alex pounded the bongos, roared when Alex sang, and wept to his poetry.

Seven of Group C’s twenty failed and remained on Adonis as Alex and the other eleven victors bid farewell to the weeping chorus of young men begging them to stay. Undeterred, Alex and the other remaining twelve students of holy and mystical arts set sell for Mammary Gland Resort.

Alex tried to sleep during the trip, but couldn’t because eleven young men wouldn’t shut up about resisting some hard bodies. They laughed and boasted that the most difficult part had passed and that the remaining forty days and nights would flash forward as if mere hours.

Fools. Pride boasts before it collapses. Alex foresaw a bleak return for one member. Singular. Sole. Uno. And Alex wasn’t too sure it would be him.

Their arrival on Mammary Gland Resort stood in contrast with their festive greeting on Adonis Island. Dead silence on an empty beach. Even the tide fell quiet as it rolled onto the sand. Once joyous faces drooped into a rigid anxiety.

Where were the women? Better yet, where was the prior group? Group C had received strict instructions to greet the departing victors of Group A, share in a prayer of strength, a praise of victory, and perhaps exchange a story or two.

Alex disregarded the pleading looks and hopped out of the boat. Better to get it over with. South presented a dense jungle while east and west a vast beach littered with driftwood and broken shells. Left, right, or straight ahead into the brush? The other twelve stood behind Alex and projected a collective thought. No way were they walking into that jungle.

“See you on the other side, then.” Alex said, and plunged into the damp darkness.

As if someone flipped a switch, the jungle woke with the sounds of singing birds, chattering bugs, and squeaking primates. Slowly, the air pulsed with the rhythm of distant drums. The tickling of wood against an ivory xylophone made its entrance. An aroma of lavender, lilac, and jasmine swept in with the cool breeze.

Run

Flee

Get

the

hell

out

you

fool

Alex’s naked torso prickled as the wind cooled the beads of sweat running down his chest.

Trouble

Alex’s mind reached out to find something—anything—to keep him grounded. A pink haze of euphoria enveloped his field of vision.

Screams erupted less than a mile behind him. Terror. Pain. Then the screams stopped, replaced by eleven moans of passionate release.

Visions of smooth skin, large breasts, and seductive lips clouded Alex’s good judgement. Large, blue eyes invited him to dive into the bubbling pool of unreserved ecstasy.

Alex struggled to breathe as his throat tightened. Heart hopped out of rhythm. He reached out further, past the trees, toward the sun.

One…

        Two…

                  Three…

Years of training and discipline took control. Breathing returned to its subtle rhythm. Heart back to its groovy beat. Alex’s erection, however—

“That shouldn’t happen.”

Alex flicked at the large lump in his pants and cringed at the simultaneous sensation of pleasure and pain. Meant only one thing, he was fucked both figuratively and literally if he didn’t get the hell out of there.

“Stay.”

The seductive hiss froze Alex back in place.

Five women, naked except for neon colored paint expertly brushed across various parts of their body, growled as they prowled his way. He gulped.

Hairless. Everywhere.

The paint seemed to accentuate their curves more than hide them. Alex shook and shuddered.

“Mount, fondle, bite, kill me.”

Five voices in his head replied, “Gladly.”

Long fingernails slid across his chest, back, and stomach until they found his waistband. Buttons popped. Pants slid down to his ankles. One of the women squatted to better face his penis when finally let loose from his boxer shorts. Two of the others rubbed his legs. Another made waterfalls with her fingers from the nape of his neck to the crest of his buttocks. Another stared into his eyes as she took hold of his finger and lightly sucked on it.

Alex’s eyes rolled back as he released a guttural moan. The one pulling on his boxers started to laugh—a laugh of victor over spoils—but quickly stopped and screamed instead.

Fingers stopped rubbing, scratching, and squeezing. Mouth quit sucking. Four gasps followed by a scream, and the five were off and running.

As blood found its way back to Alex’s brain, he started to feel rather proud of himself and little Alex. However, the cracking of twigs revealed a rainbow-colored anaconda slithering between his legs. He nearly screamed and ran as well, but the giant snake motioned its head for Alex to follow.

The colors flowed and shimmered like a hypnotic spell from which Alex could not look away.

Man will be your doom.

And I will be your god.

“No.”

The sound of his own voice woke Alex from his trance. Hadn’t there been an orphan boy who lost his life to a hypnotic snake? Or had that been just another morality tale? Alex searched for the rainbow snake but couldn’t find it. He did, however, notice that he had entered an unmolested clearing.

A waterfall pounded into a dark lagoon. Water frothed in an explosion of white and blue, tapering off into a flat, calm veil of deep purple. The roar of the fall quieted as Alex’s eyes trailed away from it and toward—

Snip

Snap

It became difficult to breathe again.

A young woman of cream colored skin lay naked on the shoreline. The flutter of heart and throb of penis felt different from his earlier encounter. Less shameful and dirty. A strange urge to talk to her beckoned him forward. To learn her likes and dislikes. Dreams and desires.

“Hello.”

Alex spoke without realizing it.

Her smile reflected a danger Alex had not considered. Something in that display was more dangerous than any sexual touch, grind, or moan presented by the horny five from earlier.

Voices, small and far too distant, cried warning. Too late, for Alex was already intoxicated by her pure and innocent allure.

“You’re…different from the other monks.” She said.

Alex nodded and, for no reason he could rationalize, sat down next to her and sang the official monk history.

She clapped when he finished and introduced herself as the young maiden, Tia. After exchanging pleasantries, she invited him to lunch at her place and meet her bunk mate Amy.

Alex eagerly accepted. The two chatted, sang, and laughed during the two-hour walk. Every time she spoke or touched his hand, a little bit of his internal armor chipped and dissolved. His body vibrated with a low hum and tingle he couldn’t quite explain.

During that two-hour walk, the pair aged by five years and knew one another in a way more intimate than family or brotherhood could provide. Alex tore out a piece of his heart and handed it to Tia, who graciously accepted and plunged it into her own.

When the giddy couple arrived, Alex found Dickard waiting outside the entrance to Tia and Amy’s cave. Dickard’s face melded and molded between surprise, relief, and shame.

“Alex?”

That baritone to near tenor sound partially woke Alex from his stupor.

“Dickard?”

The best friends embraced, stared into each other’s eyes, and together said, “I’m not going back!”

If misery loves company, then failure craves brotherhood. Another pair of failed monks. Not the first, certainly not the last. And so, Alex and Dickard found themselves bound to Tia and Amy in spirit and law.

For a time, all was pleasant. Alex and Dickard forgot about their island home. Memories of growing up as a monk faded into a gray fog neither desired to penetrate. Within days, the cave evolved into a proper palace for Tia and Amy, who in return birthed them a son each.

Alex and Dickard worked as men do and expanded the boarders of their grove of bananas, oranges, and grapes; welcomed new men paired with known women; created friendships; developed a community different from the neon painted sluts who fucked the last drop out of a man before slicing his throat and feeding on his flesh.

Days passed with work and play while the nights supplied parties of wine, music, and dancing. Enjoyment by all and for all—sadness for none—their unspoken motto.

Until one day…

        the monotony…

                  sameness…

                            uneventful parade produced cracks in the façade.

Alex woke one day to a tightening in his chest. The world blurred. Steps faltered with lack of balance. Electrical waves of anxiety and uncertainty zapped his cerebral cortex—fried his frontal lobe.

Dreams of untraveled worlds and time kept him sleepless. Nagging doubt at God knows what created an aversion to food and drink.

The ambiguity

The ambiguity

The Goddamned ambiguity to it all.

Why in God’s name did his mind press him into such unintended madness?

Neither Tia nor Amy, and not even Dickard noticed Alex’s discomfort and loss of forty-five pounds. Why bombard them with phantom problems?

But then he nearly died. Sleepless nights led to hallucinations and ghost walking. Twice he nearly walked to the edge of a cliff overlooking a six-hundred foot drop onto jagged rocks and bleached corral. Thankful, the unattended children (one his own) found and stopped him.

When Alex told Tia, Dickard, and Amy about the unseen weight crushing his soul, they disregarded it as nothing more than a bad diet and boredom.

“Get a hobby,” Tia suggested with a wink to Amy.

“I could help you find one.” Amy said on cue.

Dickard only stared, a flare in those eyes Alex had never seen before. That wasn’t exactly true, but Alex, in his desperation, could not recall.

Days circled with Alex and Amy lying in a grove, watching the clouds and deciphering their hidden form. Alex wasn’t certain, but he felt as if Amy were trying to hint at something. She would bring up the size of Alex’s member—or at least what she had heard from Tia—and laugh at how if it were true, then Dickard truly was Alex’s exact opposite.

“Don’t get me wrong. He’s good with the tongue, but sometimes a girl needs something thicker and longer.”

Amy always laughed and claimed to be joking, but after hearing it on average of five times an outing, Alex wasn’t so certain. Nights brought on a new wave of loneliness as Tia spent less time in the bedroom with him. He could hear her laugh with Amy over God knows what. Sometimes Dickard’s laugh clanged and broke the melody. No matter what, however, Tia’s attention and conversation always centered around Amy.

After three months without sex, Alex found himself hardening whenever Amy walked with him through the poppy fields. He would pleasure himself as Amy bathed in the lagoon. Ashamed, he confessed his sin. Tia demanded he describe it in full detail.

“No, I’ve seen that! Describe Amy.”

As he got to the description of how hard and dark her nipples looked when she burst from beneath the water, Tia mounted and rode him for hours.

The pattern of bedroom loneliness, erotically and shameful charged outings with Amy, and occasional sex with Tia went on for nearly a year. In that time Alex lost more weight and a pit deep in his soul developed.

“I’m losing them.”

Alex realized it one night when he found Tia sitting in Amy’s lap, playfully slapping her breasts and toying with her hair. Amy laughed in wholesome fun while Dickard watched and (perhaps unknowingly) slowly rubbed his pawn.

The electrical shocks zapped with more intensity, nightmares more frequent, weight loss near deadly. While Amy continued to toss hints, Tia ignored him, and Dickard became near unrecognizable.

And what does a man, no longer in love, do to keep grip on that sad façade?

Whatever the fuck it takes.

If two could become one, why not four? Desperation makes fools of us all. Amy was the first to say yes. Tia agreed on one condition, a taste of Amy’s honey pot. And Dickard, only if he could slide into Tia’s most forbidden hole.

The wine was poured. Weed lit. Special bark brewed. As Alex had hoped and prayed, the four bodies melded into two and then one. Alex and Amy. Tia and Dickard. Amy and Tia. Amy and Alex. Amy and Tia. Amy and Tia again. And again. And again. And after Dickard had fallen asleep, Amy bounced on Alex one more time, for good measure.

Whatever pureness had lived in Tia hardened at its last when she noticed the joy in Amy’s eyes. Dickard’s love for Alex died as he witnessed the same. Only one could have Amy, and if not one, then two—but only two—and none so black as night.

As Amy slept peacefully under the arms of a man she had desired for years, Alex stared at the ceiling, heart beating with a wretched sadness worse than before. Somehow, he realized, this wouldn’t make things better, but only worse. But he refused to accept it and forced his mind to believe a fantasy. To the left he rolled, as was his way, and settled himself to sleep under the safety of a lie.

The subtle degradation of a long con goes unnoticed, perhaps unaccepted, for years. It isn’t until a grand, albeit foolish, gesture crushes a rotted foundation.

Dickard neither spoke nor joked with Alex the following day. Or the day after that, and the day after that—into not one—not two—but three weeks. Tia spent less time in bed with Alex and insisted he sleep in the guest room. Amy avoided him completely, by choice or not, Alex wasn’t certain. His mind had abandoned him too. Instead of the gentle whispers from people’s thoughts, he heard a piercing wail of emptiness and regret.

Increased solitude produced an unbearable loneliness. A deep void that widened each time he stumbled upon a laughing crowd, kissing couple, or Tia and Amy (who would always drag Dickard off into some hut they had built near a cliffside).

Alex resolved himself to walks through the jungle. Excursions lasted hours at first. The continual exclusion, however, lead to days and nights away from home. He would sleep wherever he dropped from exhaustion. After the tenth night, he woke to a painted nympho riding him like a carousal. The will to fight against the rocking tide of her body drained away with his essence.

The following night brought two new riders. One, with glowing green painted on her cheeks and breasts, nearly tore his jugular as she bit into his neck. Teeth broke skin and the blonde moaned at the taste of his blood.

A naked brunette fingered Alex’s fresh wound and rubbed a streak of blood across her cheeks, breasts, stomach, and hairless crotch before mounting Alex. Together, the three howled at the moon and expelled more fluid than any of them previously thought possible.

Three women arrived the next night. Then four. When five arrived, Alex suggested they wait a few nights, allow him rest—his blood levels had him near death’s door.

They ignored his suggestion. By the sixth night, he nearly passed out, but one of the nasty nymphos gave him some concoction of alcohol, blended fruit, and a powdery substance he didn’t recognize. New life and prowess flowed through his veins.

The seventh and final night should have killed him as the most experienced climbed and rode for over an hour—into a final crescendo of what should have been orgasm followed by death for Alex. A death that left most young monks in smiles.

Alex saw admiration, awe, anger, and fear in the young woman’s eyes. Other women began to question her skill. An argument developed followed by a fight that resembled a mix of wrestling and lesbian orgy. Alex grabbed his clothes and quietly limped away.

After a half mile, Alex’s body refused to move another inch, and he fell into a patch of poppy. Before consciousness could abandon him, Alex rolled and wedged himself between some stones and a fallen bush.

Deep breath.

Steady the heart.

That deep seeded need for survival stirred Alex’s years of training. He closed his eyes and reached out to an unseen force the Monks called Great Mother.

Protect and heal.

I beg and pray.

The tendrils heard, and the Great Mother Earth wrapped her arms of grass, leaves, and flowers around Alex’s body until he safely slept in a cocoon of healing. Truth in nightmares flickered on the memory reel. As body healed, mind and soul suffered. Six days cycled, but for the dreaming spirit, years dragged.

Within that gray mist of the spiritual realm, pockets of memories, dreams, wishes, and regrets played out as if on television. Alex wept as the web binding his soul to Tia, Dickard, and Amy fizzled into ash.

No

Lies

I fixed it

The fog broiled and roiled into those moments with the painted nymphos. Alex retched. His fault. His wicked actions had broken the web. But the mist wasn’t finished as it shattered the walls of denial.

Past events clarified. Tia’s colorful aura of purple had drained and then darkened to a passionate, blood red—brightened only by Amy’s presence. More so when Amy walked or danced naked. The yellow glow of Dickard’s friendship had degraded to the ugly brown-green of envy. And Amy—the sweet girl with a white aura of purity—now stained with that same lust red as Tia.

When

How

He should have seen this. Caught them. Why did no one tell him?

Lies?

Nothing more than a fabrication to justify his shameful actions and the guilt that followed? In a way, he wished that were the case. For some reason, it would make this easier to swallow and understand.

But then their past thoughts appeared liked court transcripts.

Take a break.

Don’t love

Amy amy amy amy

Wish I had seen Tia first

Alex looks like he could go deep

What does Alex have that I don’t have?

Sometimes I wish he were dead

Sometimes I wish he had gone back

Sometimes I wish I could just fuck him and toss him in the closet for later.

Alex spun in a circle, hands over eyes, and screamed.

No. Wasn’t true. Couldn’t be true.

An unseen presence held Alex still and uncovered his eyes. A breeze stung his pupils. Thunder shook his mind.

And then he saw.

The truth might set you free, but that bitch is a bitter pill to choke down.

Alex realized he should have taken Dickard home. That the two could have plead their case and submitted to a ritual of cleansing. The monks may have been harsh, but they practiced grace and forgiveness first and foremost.

Fear of failure and admission of guilt. Two sins of which to repent. But there was more—always more.

Alex remembered.

Alex wept.

He had become drunk on too much shine—night after night after lonely fucking night—yelling and cackling unintelligible nonsense.

“The pain—the ache—my heart breaks! Who will mend it?”

Mumbles of “drama queen” and “attention whore” had been the communal response. Flash forward minutes, days, months, or years—to be honest, it didn’t matter.

Tia and Amy lay naked on a patch of soft grass. They touched, licked, and kissed every inch of each other’s bodies. Tia moaned and cried out in ways Alex hadn’t heard since their first meeting. Dickard watched from a distance, pleasuring himself.

Anger rose but then dropped. It was over and had been for a long time. If Alex had accepted it sooner, he would never have fallen into his current position. Denial hurt himself and those he had loved. Nothing left to do but heal, confess, ask their forgiveness, and move on with his life.

A violent rip into the cocoon put an end to Alex’s newfound hope and healing. Alex caught Dickard’s eyes, but before he could confess and forgive, Dickard slammed a rock into Alex’s forehead.

Alex woke, tied to a tree on the cliffside from which the children had saved him months earlier. Old friends, community members, and failed monks had gathered around the tree to pronounce silent judgment. The failed monks of Groups A and C held crudely made buckets brushed with the neon paint of the nasty nymphos.

“Oh come on now.” Alex said.

The monks remained silent as they strategically placed nine buckets around and beneath Alex. Men of the community set up a network of tubing from nine specific locations on Alex’s body, into the buckets. Red paint marked the locations: Neck, left arm, right arm, left nipple, right nipple, left thigh, right thigh, abdomen, and left side right in the middle of the ribcage.

Once finished, the men created two parallel lines to form a ceremonial pathway. Tia and Amy, dressed in pure white that hid nothing; and Dickard, adorned in a thick codpiece and nothing else; made their way forward.

Amy pulled out a thin, short blade and walked to Alex first. She gripped his penis with her left hand and licked from his neck to naval. Three quick slices to abdomen, thigh, and forearm made Alex second guess the entire confession and forgiveness routine.

“Thanks for the fun.” Amy released her grip and handed the knife to Tia.

Alex’s soon to be ex-wife didn’t show any emotion but instead a slothful boredom. Once her eyes caught a glimpse of Amy, however, her cheeks flushed and lips rose in passionate glee.

“Why?” Alex said.

Tia shrugged before slicing a gash along both nipples and his right arm. She noticed the right thigh was still untouched and shoved the blade there, leaving it for someone else to remove.

“Fuck!”

Tia rolled her eyes. “Don’t be such a martyr. You brought this on yourself. If anyone’s a victim it’s me. Years of beauty and purity wasted on your darkness.”

“Bitch!”

Five knuckles crackled Alex’s teeth and busted his lips.

“Keep your mouth shut.”

Dickard ripped the knife from Alex’s thigh and tore into the other gashes. The blood splashed into the buckets with a more rapid tink tink tink tink tink.

Alex searched for any semblance of their friendship and found nothing. As if Dickard had erased nearly eighteen years of conversation, secrets, fears, jokes, hopes, dreams, and playground fun.

Dickard sliced a perfect line of red from nipple to nipple. Alex screamed. Tia rolled her eyes and scoffed.

“Hurry and die already.”

Amy laughed.

Wordless and soulless, Dickard slowly slid the blade between Alex’s ribs, into his heart. No flicker of sadness or remorse. No tears. Not even a smile. Cold and calculating. No worse betrayal.

Dickard pulled Alex’s head back, removed the knife from heart, and slit his throat. A waterfall of blood spilled over the buckets below.

“Finally.” Tia said.

“Let’s go.”

Amy slipped her hand into Tia’s. “Come on, Dick, you’ve got chores.”

The procession began their exit when a bright flash of light froze them in place.

I was a victim of cold hearts

Lying tongues

Jealous eyes

Defiant ears

Idle hands

Vapid souls

“Make it—

Tia’s mouth was forced shut by an invisible force. Roots sprung from the ground and wrapped around the entire processions’ legs.

I found strength in my enemies’

Pursuit of my happiness

They tried to steal

My thunder

My calm

My storm

My world

But you cannot have

What you have not earned

Alex’s eyes glowed neon green. The procession would have screamed. Some would have fled. Others fainted. But none could move.

Hold my disdain and wrath

Take my anger—I need it no longer

In the end, your weakness made me stronger

Stronger than your

Vile, vain, and venomous vitriol

Climb upon my mountain

Where the blood of man pours

Into the river of purification

Meet me upon my death

That I may cast judgment upon you

Clouds of black billowed and blocked the sun. Lightning struck as thunder roared.

If my body be of bone

I’d still destroy you with a glimpse

A look

A mere gesture of my dead finger

My sword remains locked in its hilt

My dagger was in plain sight

But you wouldn’t accept apology

You refused forgiveness

So take your punishment

Fall into the abyss I send you

Grind and gnash your teeth

Reap

Sow

Enjoy your hell

The storm disappeared. Roots loosened their grip and retreated. Sun shined her rays. And upon the tree of despair, only tubing and buckets of blood remained.

Alex with the Angels

Before now, medical doctors would swear as fact that a human fetus could not create sound, much less scream in agony.

Twenty-two doctors simultaneously turned their attention to the unborn soul locked in the sealed vat. Speechless. Mouths agape. The MDs stared.

Dr. Bridgett Epperson, the twenty-third in the room and only one in a red lab coat, remained composed as she rushed with smooth, long strides to the computer facilitating Alex’s growth.

Tappity-tappity—tap—tap—tap. The song of the keyboard clacked.

The fetal screams stopped. Dr. Epperson’s icy glare told the other doctors to resume work. None rebelled.

Dr. Epperson stroked the thick glass that separated her from the child. She strained her ears, eagerly awaiting his laughter. None came.

“Sleep, child. It was only a nightmare.”

 

In the beginning Elohim created the Universe, and for a time the Celestial Orbs spun with Radiance and Perfection.

War broke amongst the ranks of Angels. A small few who desired to orchestrate chaos among order, an attempt to prove themselves better than Elohim. They failed, but not before tearing the unifying fabric of reality.

Stars refused to generate light. Planets stopped spinning. Moons abandoned orbit. Gases missed the ignition to pop and expand. Nebulae bled the afterbirth of aborted galaxies. The universe fled and expanded to escape the darkness of true death.

To the benefit of all life, more Angels remained faithful than those who rebelled, and though the doorway into the Eternal Realm would remain locked until all life breathed its last, they vowed to heal and guide the torn worlds.

One group of Seraphs traveled with the expanded universe to provide light and song for a lonely and empty space. The fighters searched for defectors. Healers comforted planets, moons, and stars. Architects phased between the physical and spiritual realms.

Angels Chazon and Shabon, propelled by visions of man and his future, ventured toward Earth and made home within the planetary maiden’s soul. The creative glow of Elohim still shown with brilliant waves of gold as song caressed the immaterial realm. Nevertheless, pinhole pockets of nether void dotted the spiritual aether and with darkness torn, mutated and malformed life that rose from that tainted puddle.

“We will ensure man’s stay in the light.” Chazon said.

Chazon, with his creative and imaginative ingenuity, arranged unseen and unrecorded (even to this day) elements that would inspire the best and brightest of man to invent and create. Muses of his own creation, Chazon dotted the world with these invisible modes of Eureka.  

 Seconds flowed into years while millennia reversed into days. The construct of time careened into unrecordable measures, swam upward in a cosmic arch or slid downward in a delicate drizzle as Chazon and Shabon phased between the material and eternal.

And yet, the Earth continued to spin without the footsteps of man. Microbes and amoeba arrived. Magma receded into cooling rivers and oceans. Fish, arthropods, and those wild amphibians appeared next. Mineral deposits, dirt, rock, and sand formed islands and eventually continents.

“Surely now,” Shabon said, “man will show.”

Earth, however, responded with the slow evolution of seeds, plants, flowers, trees, fruits, and vegetables.

“Preparation.” Chazon said.

Shabon snapped her angelic fingers in the repetitive rhythm of one attempting to combat impatience. Elohim’s creative motion answered with the slow mutation of amphibians into lizards and birds. Giant monsters stomped across the Earth in a winless battle of survival.

And Shabon waited.

The Earth cooled and brought forth mammals. Tamer than their predecessors, but beasts nonetheless. The slower ones attempted to eat the faster ones. Most times the prey escaped, but not always. Shabon had a slight understanding to Elohim’s design.

A hairy, hunchbacked creature gave Shabon and Chazon hope that man’s time had finally come, but alas, the beast couldn’t use deductive reason or higher cognition any better than the beasts with whom he wrestled.

Man still remained absent.

Chazon remained in a heightened state of meditation, formulating the invisible lines of inspiration to guide man. He spoke, however, in soundless words to his partner.

“Now is your time to make man’s path brighter.”

Shabon dug her hands into the Earth and formed natural gardens and waterways. Beautiful landscapes and graceful mountain ranges. An oasis for the lost and weary soul. Shaded wood for the frightened wanderer. Bubbling brooks for those who would drink deep. Within and above the earth, connecting each destination that would rejuvenate a man’s soul, Shabon formed the ley-lines that would lead men around the voids. On both sides of the entrances to each haven, Shabon planted a garden of golden roses that produced a warm glow for miles.

“Now, we wait.”

But Shabon didn’t wait. Not in the way of her partner, who merely sat and reflected. Instead, she paced the globe, phasing in and out of the material and eternal realm, taking it upon herself to make what she saw as necessary adjustments to ensure Earth’s longevity. And yet, the voids, even though the size of an atom, appeared to have grown.

Man’s guidance must be assured. Shabon flashed from one point of the globe to the next, checking the ley-lines and their faint, magnetic vibrations. All was well. Elohim’s light, invisible to physical eyes, but radiating with an unperceived warmth. The flowers however. Those golden roses of light held the slightest dim.

Shabon found a violet dot among the gold. Without hesitation, she plucked it and ground it between angelic thumb and forefinger. Instead of righteous satisfaction, an unknown awareness found itself plaguing her thoughts. She flew to the second haven.

Pluck

Ground

The third

The fourth

Pluck

Ground

Violet rose after violet rose. But only one and never more. How, Shabon wondered, had the void spread into the haven’s garden?  Eleven of the twelve gardens, tainted with the stain of a dark and oily purple among the purity of gold.

“A flaw amongst perfection. This will not do. Will not. Just won’t.”

Shabon cringed at her own unspoken broken rule. A slip into contraction use reveals a defective mind.

As if in response to Shabon’s radiating thoughts, the violet petals unfolded one at a time. Asleep in the flower’s heart lay a dreaming Alex Wonder, who struggled to understand why an Angel would care about grammar. Shabon in turn wondered how this sleeping creature could read her mind.

Alex woke and rolled out and off the flower.

“I didn’t think Angels had minds. In the literal sense.”

A beam of Elohim’s light shone from Shabon’s outstretched hand and enveloped both Alex and the flower. For a flicker, Shabon had expected the little man and rose to crinkle, burn, and scatter into the non-existence of the void. The thought even made her smile.

“Purge the wicked and make room for the righteous.”

Alex realized he both understood and knew nothing about this Celestial Being. Angels reflect human qualities around humans and no one else. He couldn’t be certain if the angels themselves manifested these mannerisms, or if people project their own personality on celestial creatures. Even as you read and draw images within your electrical coils, you cannot be sure of who is characterizing whom.

Shabon stopped and closed her hand when she realized the light did nothing more than warm Alex and the flower. Increased their size too.

“Are you the one who’s been picking my flowers?” Alex said.

“Are you the one who’s been infecting my garden?” Shabon returned in kind, but somewhat harsh.

“A little color to add flare. Besides, I thought your structures were meant to shelter human’s in need of rest and rejuvenation.”

Shabon found herself in a predicament. This creature—

“Alex.”

Resembled the humans for which she waited. But something about this one seemed…off. As if he did not belong here.

“And yet, here I am.”

Yes. The little, dark man still stood in her presence, even after a bath in Elohim’s light. So Shabon relented despite reservation and took hold of the man who somehow was not the first man.

After Chazon and Shabon’s initial confusion, and not so well-hidden disappointment, they accepted Alex’s presence and claim to the family of man. Alex suspected the awkwardness and lack of good social decorum had more to do with Angelic ignorance than himself. For a time, Chazon and Shabon proved his assumption correct.

Chazon spent the evenings teaching Alex of the spiritual elements within the curtain dividing the two realms. That these elements, bound by a law higher than physics, could grant insight, inspiration, and glimpses into both the past and future. Such knowledge meant nothing without access and Chazon showed Alex the way.

Alex learned of the thousand variations for prayer and meditation. When asked if one methodology stood above the others, Chazon chided him (in a way Alex assumed—or rather hoped—was in a fatherly way).

“If one were the best, I wouldn’t have bothered with the rest.”

So, Alex delved into them all. Art, science, religion, metaphysics, farming, butchering, music, sex, life, and death—revelations of man’s separation from the animals and celestials. Alex’s mind and soul learned to separate from body and travel the multiple realms of existence. He also became aware of the voids.

Alex wasn’t the only student. Both angels had grown curious by Alex’s creation of sound through his vocal cords and how it affected the natural and spiritual world. For such a small and mortal object, the voice held more power than the human could ever realize. Chazon and Shabon took note but made certain to keep any discovery between themselves.

The physical needs of the body cut short Alex’s travels through the spiritual realms. And so, he would take refuge within Shabon’s safe havens. Here he would combine unseen inspiration with Earth’s provided material and built upon Shabon’s original designs.

Alex discovered some minerals conducted celestial energy better than others. Star and planet arrangement—stones—and light refraction set with the right precision, made access to the unseen easier and less physically demanding.

With stones of quartz, marble, onyx, silver, and gold Alex created moon rooms and shadow walls. Thick wood of oak and cedar to craft dancing poles. Other wood burned on glassy stone to produce smoke and aroma of transition between the worlds. Everything his hands touched, formed into a mode of connecting with nature and spirit. How or why mattered little to Alex. The connections made sense to him and felt obvious.

Chazon found Alex’s work so beneficial, He no longer spent the entire day caring for the unseen elements. Instead, he went from nurturing them every minute, to hour, day, week, until never because now the responsibility fell at Alex’s feet. This Angel could now do the unexpected and rest as, he assumed, Elohim always intended.

Shabon, however, flared with a righteous indignation at the—

Audacity

Pride

Arrogance

Immaturity

Foolishness

that had obviously corrupted Alex’s soul into believing her designs were anything less than perfect.

“To you, perhaps,” Alex said, bold and unafraid, “But humans and angels differ in a number of ways.”

Chazon, swinging from a hammock and slurping the last of a delicious drink Alex called a Mai-Tai, said, “Relax. Rest. Wait until the others arrive.”

A pattern of collapse had begun. Chazon no longer imagined. His eyes remained closed, unable or unwilling to see the invisible dots and strings he had once placed into motion. That, he relinquished, now belonged to Alex.

New humans arrived and Shabon found them better company than Alex. Less ambitious, little to no drive, and no motivation to seek beyond what little they could already understand and see. Each time Shabon spoke, the little mortals shivered with undying reverence.

“Obedient babes. My children.”

Her once warm voice had now drifted into a cold, serpentine whisper. The aura of gold now dull, faded to brass.

Shabon would not let Alex corrupt these humans with disobedience and selfish ambition. She gathered two men, with a far lighter complexion than Alex and the others, and crafted a plan to rid herself of Alex.

“The first human who shouldn’t.” She called him.

But even this angel of true light knew that she could not conceive of deception and manipulation without assistance, and so she succumbed to the methodology “the ends justify the means,” and dipped her finger into the void.

 “Just a dip with the tip of a pinky so small.”

Whether a dip or complete immersion, the void corrupts without prejudice—and those who fall in its nothingness, feel no regret or remorse for deeds done or plans set to motion.

A trap. Yessss. So simple. Fluid. The idea arrived like a smooth awakening. Thoughts, ideas, schemes, and manipulations Shabon had never known or imagined raced into the glow of her angelic mind. Create a snare—

Unheard of sounds and feelings intoxicated Shabon. Words of sugar but no substance. Sounds of destruction and chaos. Shabon found a change to her laughter.

She introduced the void to her disciples and spread the invisible tar on their forehead. The void slithered into the mind and coiled around the spheres of morality and good judgement. It squeezed and suffocated their will.

Without uttering a word, Shabon commanded her puppets to find Alex. They obeyed and traveled to each of the twelve sanctuaries. As if dead men, they walked around the world—no need or desire to stop for food, sleep, or expel waste. When the two men finally found Alex, nothing appeared amiss, and the Man of Wonder and his fellow tribe welcomed them with open arms.

The two men pounced after Alex had locked himself within a meditation box. Mind in transit and soul upon the celestial realm, his body lay alone, still, and vulnerable. Shabon’s servants slaughtered Alex’s unexpecting friends. Each woman, man, and child lost arms, legs, eyes, tongue, ears, and finally head. All in that order. The men of death spread the dismembered limbs in grotesque configurations and created abominations loosely resembling humans. Nightmarish figures of amalgamated horror—set loose to keep men in line.

A fate worse than death ensnared Alex. While his body experienced the same slice and dice through the abattoir, his mind and soul remained trapped and divided within two planes of existence, separate from the physical realm.

His consciousness had arrived too late. Despite his best efforts, without body, Alex’s mind and soul could only influence the invisible particles to produce whispers. Shabon’s men ignored him. Those left alive, deaf to his call.

 Without idea or hope, Alex coasted to the one Celestial who would save him from this fate.

“Chazon. I need help.”

But the angel feigned sleep.

“Chazon. Something’s wrong.”

The angel remained still in the shadows. Lost in the rest of blissful ignorance. The atoms, however, whispered Chazon’s thoughts.

Be a man and deal with it yourself. It’s not my problem.

“Betrayed me.”

Don’t be dramatic.

That celestial hand, once a glow of gold now cracked with the bloody lines of black void, cast Alex’s consciousness away.

Weightless in a realm of no matter. Cold. Colorless. Quiet. Shadows of Earth reflected into the realm of Between. Stuck. Trapped. Shabon, the wrathful bitch. Chazon the slothful shit. Their betrayal a knife in his heart and back. And scorched into the atoms of wherever Alex floated, the dismembered limbs of his leftover friends flickered with the fire of homage and sacrifice—spelling the words Shabon.  

Alex didn’t know if a man could kill an angel, but he would search for a method. And if one wasn’t available, he would create one.

Alex Wonder Plays the Drums

A short fable on the origins of Alex Wonder:

At the beginning Alex wasn’t and then he was.

Grown out of utero by scientific minds. A fetus floating in a vat of artificial placenta and nutrients. The project of a thousand different men and women united in one cause of effective ambition.

They connected wires, electrodes, and organic data to the egg that would one day evolve into Alex Wonder. Funneled information into his DNA. Connected cells and neurological tendrils into more effective pictures.

The goal of their endeavor unknown and undesired. Each held one piece of the puzzle and worked like the good boy or girl he or she was. 

At 3:59 AM, when the work was complete, the lead scientist stood at a switch. One minute later, when the clock struck 4, the flip switched and reality shifted. 

A mind unborn and nonexistent emerged and split. A copy—into a copy—into a copy to the tenth, hundredth, millionth power. Infinite copies shuffled into infinite realms. Time and space opened their doors and granted Alex unlimited access.


One day, not long after creation, some sprites, dryads, and muses danced in a lovely garden vibrant with roses, tulips, sunflowers, daisies, and orchids. Two muses of song and dance stopped when they heard the melodious whispers of an unknown voice.

“Angelic.” The larger one said.

“Beatific.” The smaller one said in kind.

The two bent their ears to find the harmonious direction. They swam East through the Channels of Eurus. Danced westbound onto Zephyrus streets who said she heard the song down South. Austur’s desert heat could only inform the muses of Zephyrus’ chronic lying and to check with Boreas. No solace for the pair as they hiked the highest heights of the snow covered North.

“Where is it? The sound is beautiful. Inspiring. Godlike. It must be mine.” Rhythm said.

The song floated on high as musical notes took physical form to bounce along invisible waves. Drum beats and cymbal clashes rocked the earth with sound unheard of before today.

Flowers, bushes, and trees uprooted and danced. Fauns, satyrs, and sprites jointed in the fun. Strings laughed with a fulfillment he had never realized was missing. The revelry became a metaphorical meal and Strings ate the goodness. Rhythm discovered a sense of satisfaction flutter in his heart with a 4/4-time signature. Centuries of evolving instruments took shape within the cloud of his imagination.

Hours melted into the dancing Sun who had refused to set, but finally relented to an impatient moon eager for her turn. Days rotated into weeks. Months spun into years. The Earth cycled in tune to the song of the unnamed voice.

Then one day the drum beat stopped. Clanging cymbals silenced. Singing voice ceased. Euphoric but ready to rest, the flowers, bushes, and trees returned their roots to ground. Satyrs did what Satyrs do. As did Faun and Sprite. Sun returned to his normal rotation, allowing Moon a longer duration.

“What now?”

Strings felt a grumble in his stomach and reached after a Faun in an attempt to continue the dance.

The Faun snapped his fingers, said with some sass, “Not today, Strings,” and frolicked into the woods.

Near tears, Strings readied to bawl, but Rhythm pointed to the sky and said, “Look!”

Clouds rushed in bulky formation to create a phalanx of purple, pink, black, and gray fluff. Lightning struck. The sky erupted with a wicked guitar riff.

“Did you—

But Rhythm couldn’t finish his thought as ripples of electricity soared with the sounds of guitar, piano, dulcimer, and lyre. Trumpets followed suit accompanied by trombones and horns of various sort.

A tingle fluttered through the Aether of Rhythm’s bones into his mind where a spark of inspiration occurred. String’s thirst and hunger found their quench and fill from the notes hidden with each rain drop.

Rhythm and Strings created and played music of their own. The lightning, wind, and thunder joined in the play of wordless song. Willing the rain to fall in faster and larger droves. Small drizzle to downpour. Creeks overflowed. Riverbeds flooded valleys and plains. Waves crashed into rocks.

A flash. Spark of genius and light.

Waves of purple, blue, pink, green, orange, red, and yellow flashed to the beat of an ever-increasing drum until—

Until—

Until—

It stopped.

Silence.

Nothingness.

Until a single inhale of breath broke the silence.

The clouds broke and a single ray of sun shone on one puddle.

A voice hummed. Strings harmonized. Rhythm joined in melody. Louder and more intense until that final pinnacle broke into a crescendo of stardust. The Sun went out. The Moon hid.

Once again—all became still and silent.

Naked. Wet. Yet without fear. Alex Wonder stood where was once a puddle of clearest water. A baby first, but with hum, strum, pluck, and beat he grew into a toddler, boy, teenager, until he reached the height and girth of a full-sized man.

Strings gawked.

Rhythm pondered the emergence of a man. A Millenia too soon by his calculations. And yet here he was, a mere mortal who had inspired two muses.

A pluck later Alex looked at Rhythm and said, “You might want to tune that, sounds a tad bit off.”

Rhythm felt a twang of dischord. However, the harmony between Strings and Alex put Rhythm’s heart at ease, notes in tune once again.

The newfound trio played music morning to night. Once more, the flowers, bushes, and trees uprooted and danced. Satyrs, fauns, and sprites joined in the gay reverie. Earth, Sun, Moon, and Stars joined in this unifying song and dance.

A shame it could not last forever.


Alex Wonder loved to sing, to drum, and to dance. Unlike Rhythm and Strings, however, he was a mere mortal and needed to rest. To eat. To go out into the world and explore the unseen. Muses and immortal spirits could never understand man’s obvious plight.

As a trio, the audience flocked in larger numbers. Strings thirst and hunger grew but always found their fill in the crowd’s delight and joy. However, when three dwindled to two, Strings found himself playing to a much smaller crowd.

With little to eat when Alex Wonder took break, Strings indulged and overate on the days Alex returned. Satyrs found it difficult to dance. Sprites no longer wanted to hum along. The Faun had difficulty keeping step. Yet Strings grew larger. Fingers too plump for complicated tunes. Belly and thighs too fat to move with Rhythm’s flow.

Strings’ heart stirred to hate Alex Wonder. To excuse his own overindulgence and blame Alex for his fall from grace.

Rhythm noticed Strings’ outward growth, as well as the discrepancy among the crowds when Alex sang and when he didn’t. The more Rhythm obsessed over Alex’s influence compared his own, the more Rhythm hated him. Notes dwindled out of tune. Harmony died. Melody drowned.

No longer Rhythm and Strings, now Pride and Gluttony, the two plotted Alex Wonder’s demise.

“Time to kill the human who would dare steal our inspiration.” Rhythm said.

Strings could only grunt a response.

“How dare this man hold himself as one of the gods.”

Strings grunted and slurred.

Dark whispers caused the light to fade and forest fall quiet.

The night in this once enchanted land lasted years before Alex Wonder returned once again, into the grove he first played so long ago.

“Please tell me, good…sirs? Have you seen my friends Rhythm and Strings?”

Rhythm almost screamed and cursed. How dare this mortal fiend not recognize the greatest inspiration to music in all the land. No, universe! But he refrained. The plan. The plan. He would follow the plan.

Rhythm, now Pride, pointed south. “Over there, I think I heard the loveliest, most enchanting sound.”

Pride couldn’t tell for certain, but he would swear on all the Earth afterward that he had seen—no witnessed—Alex Wonder smirk and snort the most dismissive, arrogant sound the universe would ever hear.

Alex thanked the deformed pair and walked in the direction of Pride’s pointing finger. The wood grew darker, denser. Alex yawned. His feet shuffled. Shoulder’s slouched. The air felt heavier. Acrid with rotted soil and burnt wood.

Alex walked further as the discordant chaos of unknown song paved the way. 

“Jarring and not too lovely,” Alex said, “Sounds like Rhythm is out of sync again.”

Animals squealed and wallowed as they sprinted past Alex. Plant life rooted and vowed to stay forever. A satyr ran by shouting, “Horrible. Horrible.”

Alex reached the source of sound that was reminiscent of grinding aluminum and bone. Which if Alex were honest, produced a sweeter song.

“Surprised?”

The music stopped to the delight of all in range.

Three spirits. Count them: 1. 2. 3.

A darkness oozed like unrefined oil, toxifying the surrounding plant life. The once vibrant foliage digressed into a swampy substance of death.

Alex Wonder caught a shimmer of what Pride and Gluttony once were. The third, who tried to beat-box and drum—Alex had never seen before today.

“Rhythm? Strings? That you under those ghastly disguises? Can’t be. Who would disfigure themselves so intentionally.”

Gluttony weeble-wobbled his way to speak but only grunts, groans, and slurps drooled from his gaping mouth.

But Pride wouldn’t have it. Not a single damn bit. This was his time. His day. When Alex would finally pay.

“You rat. Bastard. Scoundrel. Toxic human who steals. Musical inspiration was, is, forever will be mine. While your mortal fate is to eat, sleep, fuck, and eventually die. No human can inspire. No human can create. Out of here Wonder, so soon you will meet your fate.”

Alex pondered for a minute before he said, “The lyrics could use some work.”

Pride roared and his toxicity took root. Vines ripped from the ground beneath Alex’s feet and wrapped, wound, and rose from shoulder to teeth. Thorns sprouted from vine and bit into flesh. Alex screamed and squirmed, but it only made the pain worse.

“Nothing to say? No witty reply?”

Alex attempted a shrug. Mumbled some words. But everything became lost through the pain. His eyes. Oh, those green orbs of plight and suffering. They spoke volumes and those words nearly drove Pride insane.

The vines finished the job with a triple wrap around his face. A slow death. Agonizing torture. Until nothing but a green husk remained. To this day that once lovely grove in the forest remains cursed. A blackened shell where no heart beats. No breath exhales.

Until one day—

The Soldier: Chapter One

He sensed each molecule before they struck.

Tap—tap—tap.

Seconds ahead of the plop and splash.

The elements intermingled and spoke. They sang and danced, an end to solitude, an embrace of intimacy. He sensed and saw, beyond and within as the two separate elements joined hands and combined to make something new.

His mind stretched beyond simple fantasies and imagination. It saw farther than sight. Witnessed greater than truth. Became because it was. And was because he became.

And yet, he couldn’t remember, couldn’t formulate the words to define the new forms falling on his head. An even stranger thought occurred. He couldn’t remember his own name. Only that it began with the letter D.

Or was it the number 13?

Regardless of the symbol, the name dangled beneath the roof of his subconscious. Letters and numbers. Singular representations of reality.

Drop.

Tap.

Plop.

Splash.

Any name for any thing.

The falling molecules— products of elemental coitus—fell in droves now. His skin prickled with the sensation of—of—of—what’s the absence of heat? He couldn’t remember. He knew it.

Didn’t he?

A screech shattered his thoughts as a monster, arranged from metallic elements, growled in his face. Its steamy breath was acrid and foul. Noxious fumes nothing more than the byproduct of combusted and broken down chemicals.

The monster barked in a voice that didn’t match its persona. He began to reach out, soothe the beast with a gentle touch—

“Get the fuck out of the—

Then he saw the man in its belly.

Leave no man behind.

An arrangement of symbols he remembered and understood. Flash of crisp, pressed suits. Green and Black and Kaki. Medals. Tattoos. Brimstone raining from the heavens.  Ratta Tat Tat. Blood. Guts. And Tears.

Another nonthreatening bark as the trapped soul punched and cursed from within the beast’s mouth.

Leave no man behind.

He leaped onto the monster’s metallic snout, stared into its wide eye, and roared back. The man inside froze.

A punch to its single eye thudded with no effect. The elements that made up the monster’s eye communicated through sensation. Sand. Nothing but an arrangement of sand.

He punched again but this time left his fist in the middle of the monster’s eye. Fist unclenched and palm flattened against the redefined elements. A web of splintering cracks formed. Push. The eye shattered into a million pieces.

The man inside screamed.

He reached in, grabbed the man, and pulled him out of the beast.

Waves of sound pulsated and pounded. Meaning? Relevance? It eluded him. The man he had saved ran—fleeing lest the monster ensnare him again.

Pitch heightened and became a piercing wail. Another monster. He hadn’t noticed before, but more beasts, with more victims, grumbled and waited in line behind the one he had just defeated.

Leave no man behind.

But his feet wouldn’t obey.  They remained planted to the cold wet pavement.

Shouldn’t it be sand?

And for that matter, where were his clothes?

Recollection.

“My n-name…

His consciousness formed a wall around the impending discovery. Mouth clamped shut. His brain reeled with an uncontrollable thud.

“Sir?”

Uniforms. Scowls. Holstered—holstered—he couldn’t formulate, but knew, remembered what they did. Guards of the Beast.

A blinding bolt lit his vision. An explosion cascaded and gave tune to the dance of a thousand sparks.

“Shit!”

“Grab the guy and let’s get back in the fucking car.”

Symbols to convey meaning in the form of spoken language. A necessity to communication and humanity. And yet, he still couldn’t decipher the code.

“My name…

Gloved hands slid around his slick skin and lifted.

Meaning? Name? Symbols.

“What’s my name?” He asked before blacking out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slow to Rise

Brain hurts and body aches. My lungs crystalize and burn with each breath. If I didn't know better--OPEN THINE EYES AND YOU SHALL SEE!

The last thing I remember

the last memory I hold

The last thought

the last word

the last...

Who is Alex Wonder but a dead man?

Michelle...was that her name? or was it Mary--the blessed among women. Hallowed be thy...Why did she place so much importance on that name?

Alex Wonder--just the name of a dead man.

She called him a hero. But how would she know? The hypothetical time frame of 5 to 10 years lacks logical sense.

Alex Wonder the dead man.

Was she mistaken? A liar? Did she syphon one of my own memories and pass it as her own.

The Tick-Tock Man ate our cans again.

Or worse...

Did I create you?

If crickets could chirp...

I thought--

The delicate snap of a twig and crunch of hooves into snow...what were my thoughts? Hell if I know.

A doe stands in the snow-filled clearing and stares into my eyes. She senses the genetic mutation pulsating from my frontal lobe. Men were never meant to be gods.

I know. Accept my forgiveness. I beg. Listen to my pleas. The death of a billion falls at my feet. I could have done more. Should have done more. People were not the only causalities.

She snorts a cloud of hot air. Eyes of hate glare into my heart. All that remains in me--in humanity-is an apology. Not enough. Never enough. She darts and disappears into the void.

No. Trees. Woods. Remember Remember, here I stand in the cold of December. No longer in my head tracking the souls of dead...

Who is Alex Wonder but a dead man?

 

 

 

 

Mental Static

Slanted stairs.

Tangerine stairs.

Spongy stairs.

Around--around--around the whirling, spinning wheel of mayhem.

"How many broken pieces fell into the milk, Alan?"

Floating memories--some in green--others in white, freshened with Dentyne.

"Release the hounds! Release the hounds!"

Turn that knob, my good man.

"I ate a peanut one time and nearly died. Can you believe that shit?"

Beat beat. The drum hits me in the...

"The Tick-Tock Man stole our pie again."

Beat the heart.

"Pretend you care and fuck me silly!"

The screech and scratch of distorted waves lightens the sleuth's steps. One more hour or one more day. In the end, it doesn't matter, as some terrible punk bands might say.

"Step away from the mic."

"Receiver."

"What?"

"You meant to say receiver."

"Who the fuck cares, just step beh--

Everything was dark and isn't. A lengthy dwelling within the imagination.

"Stop"

A shake of the head to loosen Jargon.

"Literary bullshit is what it is."

Tick-tock. Tick-Tock. The ill-minded man runs up the Court Room clock. Soundbites swell with bloody claws. Meow. Meow. The Tick-Tock Man crows.

 

 

The Doctor's Musings

When a man or woman first experiences psychic behavior, his or her mind creates a defensive barrier to the unknown phenomena infecting the neurons. Whether through hallucinations, blackouts, seizures, or comatose behavior--the brain attempts to fight the intrusion (A lost cause). The moment a soul exhibits signs of psychic abilities, it's too late. Every fired synapses and driven neuron increases the anomaly. This, as I have seen so far, is when the odd behavior truly begins.

Subjects have described scenarios found in Wes Craven nightmares and psychedelic drug trips. Memories meld with scenes stolen from TV and Cinema. Childhood fears materialize into reality. Terror turns real while the drab and dullness of reality drifts into a comforting dream. Consciousness will freeze in time. Then, as if shocked with a cattle prod, awaken and find itself in either a new setting or different dimension. Walls bleed the aether of another realm. Voices float without bodies. Beings lack form. Horror doesn't begin to define the experience suffered by the mind. The construct of team ceases to exist and the mind experiences eternal torment.

(Is this how religions stumbled upon hell?)

Seconds. Years. Months. Decades. Days. The ordeal encompasses Chromatic dissolution.

When...No, if the mind suffers through the trial he becomes a new creation. Baptized into the form of true man. However, an issue remains.

Who will separate the wheat from the chaff?