Of Tragedy and Bonds (Writing, 12-14-12)

Whenever a tragedy like the recent shooting at an elementary school happens, everyone wants someone to blame.  They especially like to target gun owners, as ‘if guns didn’t exist, we wouldn’t be in this situation’, or so they would assume.  If guns weren’t around, people would find one way or another to hurt each other.  Improvised weaponry, knives, clubs, even their bare fists.  People will hurt one another, that’s one of the dark sides of humanity.

 

So then, what can we really do? What can we take away from this, and how can we keep it from happening again?  Will more laws do the job?  No, I argue, they won’t do a thing.  What would be treating would simply be treating a symptom of the problem.  It’s arguably the same as keeping knives from someone who cuts themselves impulsively.  If they want to do so, and no one stops them, they’ll find a way.  People are persistent like that.  So too are those who want to hurt others, regardless of reason.  So then, how do you combat such indifferent hate?  With compassion.  Society as a whole loves to put those that would commit such horrible crimes in various catergories, groups, and keep them separate from the rest of society.  The reason why is simple, we all want to be believe that the killer is someone else, not one of ‘us’.  This leaves us feeling better about ourselves, and lets us continue with our daily lives with nary a thought or care about the situation as a whole.  We pass some new law, have a memorial, and move on with our lives, never treating the real problem.  The real problem, I hate to say, is not some inanimate piece of metal and plastic.  It is the horrible people who perpetrate such crimes, don’t get me wrong.  But the ones also at fault are you and I.

 

But it has nothing to do with you, you’re probably thinking.  That’s where you’re wrong.  How many times in your life have you watched others get bullied and simply ignore the situation?  How many homeless people have you stepped over on your way through a city?  How many hurt people have you ignored?  That isn’t to say that everyone else’s problems are your problems…but yes, they actually are.

 

We all like to isolate ourselves, form our small group, protect and interact with just them, and want to forget about the world at large.  Small groups are manageable, the people are close, and it’s something we feel we can affect, that we can change.  The world is big, and what could we possibly do to affect something so huge?  Thinking such is a natural thought, but believing it is something else entirely.

 

How many times in your life have you been hurt, and no one else stopped to help you?  How many times have you suffered, been betrayed, felt lost, angry, and without hope?  The person next to you, who you may not know anything about, has been in the same situations have you been, only the names and details changed.  We like to ignore that, and center the world on ourselves.  In short, we each think that the world begins with me, and ends with me.

 

By ignoring the world, ignoring the pain of those around us, we also ignore ourselves, our own pains, our own sufferings.  Such a world doesn’t get any better, but simply keeps repeating the same cycles of pain, loss, and despair.  You are not so far from that man who took the lives of so many innocent people.  You likely scoff at that last sentence, finding it ludicrous.  You think it’s impossible that you’re capable of such a thing.  I assure you that you are.  All it takes is one bad day.  All of us are truly just one bad day away from descending into such path to a personal hell.  What would your price, do you think?  Losing your family?  Being betrayed by the one you held most close?  Having everything stolen from you, even your dignity?  It’s possible for anyone to be pulled down to that level.  What we do when we’ve fallen that far, when have nothing left but our very souls and the flesh that houses it, that is often what defines who we are.

 

Would all of us choose that black road, spreading pain and misery in our wake in a deranged effort to quell our own suffering?  No, we would not.  It’s one of humanity’s saving graces, that many of us could never take the life of another in any situation, perhaps even our own.  Our reasons for such are out own, and certainly range from the most righteous to the most self-serving.  The fact remains that not all of us would commit such atrocities, but even so, not being a perpetrator does not free one from guilt.  If you say someone was setting your neighbor’s house on fire, would you not feel compelled to tell them?  It is very much the same in the every day, the small flames lit in the hearts around those you pass by every day.  Every licking flame burns away a bit of their heart.  To ignore it completely is no different than sitting back and simply watching the fire spread before it engulfs the structure entirely.

 

When then can be done, if anything?  The answer is simple, yet vast.  There are many ways of combating fear, the fear brought about by such tragedies, most readily anger.  Anger gives us drive, it gives us motivation to do something about a wrong committed.  Anger is also another kind of flame, a flame that easily grows and spreads, and often does little other than consume more than the fear that caused it.  Now anger, anger is a hard force to fight.  It feeds on itself, for little other reason than its existence.  Often when asking others why they hate someone, they will list any number of reasons, but even after those are resolved, they still ‘hate’ that person.  Time often is the only source of the decay of such an inferno.  Without sufficient fuel, even anger burns out eventually.  However, such a thing is more toward ignoring that it exists that combatting it.  Which brings us back to our original point: what then, can be done?  The answer, though a hard pill to swallow, is simple: compassion.  If we all reached out to even a single person in need, even in the smallest way every day, the collective action of all of us would amount to a great, great thing.  It is something so subtle that we often disregard it entirely, thinking such acts have no real effect on the world.  But, sometimes, often without our notice, even the smallest of kindness can mean the world to another.  Knowing someone is out there, anyone, who cares about them in the slightest can be the buoyancy that keeps someone afloat for another day.  We ourselves often find ourselves fumbling in the dark, not sure how we’ll keep our own heads above water in the day to day.  What we don’t realize is again, that person next to you is going through the same things you are.  You’re both in the same sea together.  You’re just screaming so hard for help that you can’t hear their cries through the crashing surf.  To survive, we need each other.  No man is an island.  We live or we die often by the strength of our bonds alone.  That’s the reason seven billion of us are out there these days: to bind ourselves to ever more people, holding them up while they hold us up.

 

So think twice the next time you see that person struggling to walk down the street, or crying in the corner on the train.  That person, sooner or later, will likely be you.  By reaching out, by helping that one person, even in the smallest way, the one you may truly be saving is yourself.

 

X&V,

K.D.S.

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Star Wars: The Old Republic Story Intro

War…it is all I know, all I ever knew, sometimes I believe.  From the earliest of my memories, to the current day, it is often all I can remember.  The struggle, the pain, the intoxication of victory, the bitter pain of defeat.  Yes, this bittersweet cocktail is the galaxy I know.  With the state of affairs as they are, I shall drink deep for many days to come.

 

Perhaps I should begin some time ago, when this all began, or at least, the earliest I can remember.  I was a street urchin on the sand-covered streets of Halm.  I know not what happened to my parents, as from the earliest of my memories, there was just me.  There were others around, certainly.  Halm sits at a nexus of trade routes running resources from the Outer Rim back toward the core worlds.  I heard some later call it a jewel in that black sea, but to those who live on it, it’s nothing but a dusty rock full of traders, mercs, and drugs.  People washed up there all the time, much like Nar Shaddaa.  Only difference is that kids you won’t find any child on Nar Shaddaa, at least, not one left alone.  They’d be gone in minutes.  On Halm, we were seen as little more than a pack of feral dogs, clawing at any scraps mistakenly left out.  We sifted through garbage, we growled and hissed at one another, and as soon as the law came, we scattered like roaches.  I suppose you could say we really were nothing but a pack of feral animals.  But he saw something different in me.  The orange light of the twin suns set differently on my eyes, he said.  I hadn’t a clue what he meant at the time, I was merely happy to be alive.  After all, a moment before, he had nearly killed me.

 

It was just another blistering hot day, and the scraps were light, so we were picking every trader that passed by, hoping to score enough for something to eat.  It was hot, and we were hungry, so we were sloppy and increasingly desperate.  It was then that I likely made the greatest mistake of my life.  He looked like an old trader, maybe a retired diplomat.  He wasn’t dressed that well, just covered in a brown robe and hood.  There was something on his face that spoke differently though.  It was a pride, something you didn’t seen in the cutthroats and shifty-eyed duggards who frequented the area.  The moment I reached for the edge of his belt, I knew something was off.  I could feel it all around me, almost like a physical hand pulling me away.  I listened, and that was the only reason that orange light that flew past didn’t sever my hand off.  He flew at me faster than I ever had seen anyone move before.  But…I could feel him…his movements, his presence.  It was not a completely unknown feeling to me.  Long had I felt something with me, guiding my hands when I stole to live, covering the eyes of those who would pursue me.  I knew how to move to get what I wanted, I knew how to move to remain unseen.  I know not how I knew, only that I did.  Never had I thought much of it until this moment, where my very life was at stake.  He showed no surprise at the agility with which I moved, nor faltered when each of his strokes met with air.  It was only when a stone, unseen, unfelt came from my right side and struck my head did I lose my footing, and fall before him.  His blade quickly fell upon me, but the blow never came.  He merely stood there, watching me, studying me with his blade at my throat.  I know not what he was looking for, as I had nothing.  I was empty.

“Dost thou not feel fear, child?”

“Fear?”  I muttered between dry, cracked lips.  “What have I to fear?  I have nothing, I am nothing.”

“Then I will mold you into something.  Something I need.  Perhaps something this galaxy needs.”

He withdrew his blade, and walked away.  I, having nothing else, followed him.  I was his, after all, for I had nothing else.

 

He trained me to use that feeling, that presence that had always existed around me.  The Force, he called it.  I cared not for naming it, but a name it had, and so it was.  Most children, he later explained, had difficulty connecting with the force, as they only believed in what they could see with their own two eyes.  I, however, never had to believe in such a thing.  It was always there, I merely never understood what it was.  The farther I delved into it, the more I began to think that perhaps, I was never really alone.  It was always there by my side, silently whispering whenever I truly needed it.  My master’s teaching methods were brutal, even for one raised such as I, but he would say that metal does not become strong unless forged in fire.  And forged I was, into what he ‘needed’.  It had no titles, no mark of distinction, I only was what I was, and that was all either of us ever needed.

 

Where conflict existed, my master saw purpose.  Not for justice, not for glory, not for greed, nor even for bloodshed.  Conflict was the flames in which souls were forged.  The absence of it only led to decay, to withering.  Complete peace, in his view, was akin to death, albeit a slow, declining one.  He was not, however, a warmonger.  Where conflict did not exist, he did not stir it into being, he merely sought it out elsewhere.  Wherever two beings exist, he would say, conflict will most undoubtedly exist as well.  The lull between moments of conflict was meant for study, for analyzing the past conflict, for meditation, for healing of wounds.  Only then would you be prepared for the inevitable conflict to come.  With each victory came knowledge, and that was the greatest trophy.  Knowledge, when examined and understood, countered every failure suffered, such that it would never happen again.  The pain that defeat brought was so bitter as to drive one to examine the loss entirely, and understand it as well, that it would never happen again.  All of it was one driving force, spiraling ever upward, leading to unseen heights of power that I could only dream of.

 

It was not a journey completely of self-interest, however.  No man is an island, I’ve heard some say before.  My master would have scoffed at such a concept, but he knew well the power of bonds, of alliances, of moving people, equipment, even political forces in your favor.  Even when we were victorious, and the spoils of war were laid before us, my master would only take what we would need, and have the rest divided equally among the people.  He had little use for mercy or perhaps even love, though he knew well of their purpose and power.  He was always driving himself to become better, but he was always just in his dealings with others.  Those who transgressed offenses would be punished.  Those who oppressed would be put to the torch, not because he was a liberator, but because the oppressors were gluttons of greed and self-indulgence.  Wiping them out would pave the way for much greater men of all races to follow.  He encouraged others to follow his path in their own way, and relished the opportunity when others would pursue a challenge against him, as it was yet another test of his great power.  Many he let live, that they might heal, improve, and return to him face him again.  If he decided they would become a thorn in his plans, then they did not leave the place where they fought.

 

My master said at one time he called himself ‘Jedi’, but left the Order years ago when he could no longer stand how soft they had become.  They did well, he had said, to take the sufferings of others onto themselves, but never capitalized on the growth and potential that path offered.  Still, he harbored no grudge against them, and held many in high respect, very high praise from a man who scant offered such words to his only pupil.

 

Still, I pursued the path he set before me, and when the time came, I took up that blade of light, the same color that I saw that day, the same as the suns what once was my home.  I was what he needed, whatever that might be.

 

Eventually, that day came.  Reports from the Outer Rim of armies marching on worlds, conquering or annihilating everything in their path.  My master relished the opportunity.  Finally, conflict would return to this idle galaxy, and with it, all would be forged in that heat.  Yet he was no observer, he would play no idle role in the conflict to come, this we both knew.  Where his blade would rest, however, was yet undetermined.  The Sith, as they called themselves, swept through the Outer Rim, to the Mid Rim like a cloud of locusts.  Despite their power, my master was unimpressed.  ‘A band of thugs and brigands, slaves to their desires, self-indulgent in their own ways’ is how he described them.  It was not long after that Imperial Agents approached him and ‘encouraged’ my master to join their side.

 

Not one of them left alive.

 

Yet another one came, this one far more subdued than the others.  He approached my master and asked him what it would take for my master to join their side.

 

“True strength.”  My master replied.

“Very well.” The reply came.  “Give me three days, and you shall have it.”

 

Three days later, reports came through of a Mandalorian armada, the largest seen since the end of the Mandalorian Wars appeared, blockading the main trade routes to the core worlds.  In one move, the core worlds were now slowly starving to death.

 

The agent returned, yet still, my master was unimpressed.

“They will break it.”  He replied.  The agent tried to convince him otherwise, but my master would not be swayed.  “If they do not, then I will join you.  If they do,” My master drew his blade as he spoke, “then I shall have your head.”  The agent, surprisingly unphased by the threat, accepted the terms and left.  A few months later, my master and I were on a planet close enough to see the battle take place as the blockade was broken.  The agent returned, much to my surprise.  Showing him the result, my master then stated that the agent would hold up his end of the bargain.

 

“Certainly,” The agent told him, “however, as I know you are unconvinced, the Emperor himself wishes to show you what you seek, that you might be swayed to our side.  Either way, I will honor my deal to you.”

 

My master pondered for a long time, but apparently he found the offer enticing.  Perhaps it was some other reason why, as my master never explained his decision, but only accepted the agent’s offer.  Together we travelled to a ship far beyond the Outer Rim, into the unknown reaches, where we beheld the largest ship I had ever seen.  It was less a ship, I suppose, but more a mobile fortress, a space station the size of a small moon.  An endless sea of soldiers filled every corner of the station.  Many wore the armor of Mandalorians, others wielded the same sabers as my master and I.  We were taken to an area in the station’s core to a causeway devoid of soldiers, sounds, even life.  It was there on that path that my master left me.

 

“Thou wilt not go further than this.” My master instructed me.  “For what lies ahead, I need thou not to behold, not yet.”  And so I stood waiting.  It was but a short time later that he returned, yet he was not the master I knew.  He was shaken, his will broken, his countenance devoid of the pride I had seen for years.  He stumbled past me, not even noticing my presence.

 

“My master,” I called out to him, “what has happened?”  I called to him, but dare not touch him.  I learned that that day, years before.  He turned and looked at me blankly, his mouth forming around words that never came.  I finally asked, “Master, what is it you intend to do?”

 

His mouth shook as he stuttered out, “Serve.  It is all any of us can do.”  Such groveling words I had never beheld out of my master.  Perhaps another, lesser man, when my master bested him.  But no, this was my master, or at least, what was left of him.  He walked on and I turned back to the black expanse from whence he came, completely at a loss of what he had witnessed in that chamber, before this Emperor of the Sith.  We left the station, the same agent that led us there saw us off to our departure, his head still very much his own.  We arrived at the Sith front days later, and my master commenced to feverishly construct battle plans for the commanders’ use.  He scurried with a pace that was unknown to me, driven as if death itself was crowing on his back.  I tried to stop him once, to aid him one more, and I never tried either again.  My master was lost to me.  He only ever knew of the conflict before him, and even after, that was all his focus was.  But this was something else entirely.  He was lost to the galaxy around him and to I.  Perhaps, I thought but once, even to the Force.  It was after he drew up the plans for an attack on Coruscant itself that they finally came.  All Sith turn on each other eventually, I had heard once before.  I had held it as true before that day, but even still, it came as a surprise.  As they charged into the building in which we were staying, I had little time to usher my master and I from that place.  They appeared as locusts from every corner, from every hole, every rooftop.  Our only possible escape, I knew, would be our ship at the dock.  It was, after all, the only vessel left in the sector that wasn’t directly controlled by the Sith themselves.  They were not fools, however.  They knew this just as well as I.  As we arrived at the port, they were waiting.

 

The first three blaster shots I managed to deflect.  The third coursed across my shoulder, making my right arm fall limp as I fell to a knee.  The fourth, the one that would slay me, I knew, would be close behind.   However, it never came.  As I looked up, my master stood with his back to me, his saber raised.  I saw it once more on his face.  The pride on his countenance, it shown like a sun against the coming of the night.  With the swing of one hand, the entire throng before us was blown to the winds, and fell in heaps across the area..

 

“Go.” He spoke flatly.  “You are what I need.  And what I need of you right now,”  He turned to face me, his eyes blazing with that same orange light as his blade, “is to live.”  I tried to protest, but he raised a hand I was flung towards the ship, skittering across the metal floor.  As I picked myself up, I could hear them.  Footsteps, a countless number of them, seemingly coming from every direction.  “Go, my child.  It is time for you to become what you need to be.”  I nodded and raced into the ship and started the engine.  I called out to him over the speaker as the door beyond him began to glow with the heat of torches burning through it.  “How many times must I tell you, child?  I told you to go!”  He raised a hand and the entire ship began to shudder and rise from the ground.  I barely had time to buckle myself into the pilot’s seat before the ship rose and was flung into the sky.  The ship spun round as I raised the landing gear and prepared to depart, the flashing lights of blaster fire screeching across the ground.  Among them a single orange light glowed, unyielding through the mass, burning like a sun into the night.  I righted the craft and punched the engines as hard as they would go, as a sea of lights began following me.  They danced around the craft as I deftly lurched it to and fro.  Quickly I found myself in the midst of a battle between Republic defenders and Sith attackers.  The ship and my pursuers got caught amidst the crossfire, striking the ship several times.  My ship managed to limp out from the chaos, my pursuers were not nearly so lucky.

 

I nursed the ship to the nearest free port in time to hear about the armistice the Sith had forced the Republic into signing.  A dirty deal by anyone’s standards, but few rules truly exist in open war.  My master taught me that.  And so I sat pondering, as I watched other ships limp into port, every mouth rending more stories of the Sith’s atrocities, and the horrors they wrought.  Yet still, I know not what my master asked of me that day.  ‘Become what I need to be.’  I have thought it over so many times, yet still cannot define what that is.  As I listen to more people come through port, some describe the heroics of the Republic forces, and all the good they stand for.  Others denounce the Republic as a bloated, broken bureaucracy that should be abolished.  I know my master would never settle for the chains of red silk he would be bound in within such a system, but on the same token, he would find what the Sith are doing as repulsive as I.  So I sit and ponder as I find myself returned to the point from which I began:  alone, save for the Force, the only thing that has always been by my side.  Even as I sat, I knew what my choice would be, only that it would be a matter of time before I followed it.  I know not which side I will follow into battle, but I will fight.  For war is all I know.  It is everything I am.  In it, there is purpose.  What purpose, one might ask.

 

Whatever I need it to be.

The Harvest of Love

The God of my heart is great.  In him, there is much love, much light.
The one who has family, has friends, and God in his heart has much.
For that one may be poor in material things, but he is rich in love.
So rich that he cannot stand to keep it to himself.
For how could one who had an abundance of wheat, far more than he could ever use, keep it to himself?
How could he stand to simply sit and watch it rot away, when there are so many about him hungry for it?
No, I say to you, when a hungry man comes to that one’s door, he will be fed.
For one with so much love cannot keep it to himself.
The same is true of the God of my heart, and the God of all hearts.
His love, his grace, his peace are so abudant, he cannot possibly keep it to himself.
So many walk with eyes closed, with mind shut, with hearts of stone.
Yet when these barriers are gone, so great is the harvest within them.
Remember, my brothers and sisters, that without the light of love in your heart, nothing will bloom.
And once such an abudance does bloom within your heart, remember then to let others in, lest that wondrous harvest be wasted.
For the greatest food the world can offer, the one that fills body, heart, and soul, that is love.
Nurture it, grow it, share it.
For it is the greatest gift of them all.

[Drops of Sanity Rant] – To awaken a people from their stupor.

What does it take for men to wake up from their stupor?  In this world, so many problems lie before us, so many I cannot even begin to name them all.  Yet the people seem so aloof, so apathetic towards so many of them.  Perhaps it is because many do not seem to directly impact their daily lives, or that they find themselves too preoccupied with other matters.  Perhaps their noses are held so close to the grindstone that they find themselves unable to look up.  Perhaps, more cynically, some simply refuse to look up, to examine and tackle the world’s bigger problems.  Much as a politician dances around controversial issues, many seem to simply ignore the elephant in the room, whatever that elephant might be.  Some seem to relegate such intellectual matters to those they decide to elect in a matter of minutes, only to complain at the results for the years that nothing changes.

 

Perhaps though, the root of the problem is far deeper than that.  For so much of human history, the world has felt so far out of our control.  Disasters, wars, famine, and every cycle of nature seems to many to simply ignore our presence, our input, our will.  Reality in such a mind is something ‘which is’, rather than something that can be molded and shaped.  Reality becomes inflexible, unbending, unyielding, despite what we might want it to be like.  That very mindset cut to the root of the apathy, the mindless of so many today.  “This is how it is, and this is how it always will be.”  That line of thinking has been droned into people’s minds for countless generations, whether it be elders who are reluctant to accept a changing world, or those in power simply desiring a complacent populace.  Don’t rock the boat, don’t walk off beaten paths, don’t think beyond what we tell you.  It instills a sense of mindlessness, creating a flock of limp-willed sheep, eager to do their shepard’s will, even if that leads them to slaughter.

 

It has resulting in a stagnancy, an abatement of advancement, a diminishing of will.  Mankind has pushed so far in the last hundred years as some of the tendrils of the old world began to fall away, and as greater conflicts both divided and united the peoples of the world.  Yet as we enter the 21st century, even as chaos seems to spread around the globe, it seems to many almost regular, almost expected, mundane.  Is this simply due to the oversaturation of information, or the instilling of such sheepish ideas in people?

 

Revolution, war, famine are all happening around the globe at this very moment.  Yet why is it that people seem to ignore such things?  Why do they simply watch their 15 minutes of news, and move on with their day?  Is it because they don’t know how to help, or simply that they do not desire to?  That answer of course, would differ greatly from person to person.

 

Yet how can this change?  How can one shift the mindset of an entire people from ‘reality’ being something beyond their control to something that can be shaped, molded?  The easiest answer one would likely be the most controversial, and the most troubling.  There are two basic situations where people band together, where the walls and divisions that we put between each other come crumbling down, if only for a time.  These two would be in times of crisis, or times of achievement.  Quite expectedly, the two are rather intertwined, as achievement comes from solving a problem.  The more terrible the problem, the greater the exultation, but can also be harder for people to admit to, or harder for them to face.

 

But let us focus on the first idea, a crisis.  A crisis can mean many things to many people.  It can be a physical threat such as war, an emotional or societal one such as an idea or act to which people are opposed to, or a spiritual one such as a religious conflict.  All conflicts are divisive, but the latter two examples are especially so.  Men can do great and terrible things in pursuit of an idea or a god, but it can also break down barriers, see past petty conflicts that separate people.

 

Without a conflict, a goal, a greater purpose, people tend to turn inward, creating that conflict internally in a society between one group or another.  Something happens (or doesn’t), the people are roused to action (or merely hatred), and a fire is born.  Humanity itself a tinderbox of division and conflict, but as we have learned over countless millennia, conflict is what spurs any species to improve, to advance, to move forward.  The lack of such conflict, while calm, happy, and desirable, does not spur that growth.  In short, humanity in its current level of existence requires a villain, an evil to which to reflect themselves against, to base themselves on, to solidify our own sense of self and purpose, and fight against.  So when evil men come and do terrible things, is it the fault of the evil one, or are they merely fulfilling their purpose to the world at large?  Such an idea is likely left to one greater than I.

Protected: “Lunatic” Sample Chapters 1-3

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“Hello, Here I am” Response song to “Hello/How are you?”

I wrote a response song to the song, “Hello/How are you?”  It’s a Miku Hatsune song, and I worked off of a dub that madokaueno wrote up.  Here’s the lyrics to both songs!
“HELLO/HOW ARE YOU?”

(Hello)
I open my window
And whisper quietly
(How are you?)
In a room all by myself
There’s nobody here
(Morning)
The night is breaking
The rain is falling down again
(Tick tock)
Somebody please come and wind me up today

(Hello)
I remember this cartoon from a long time ago
(How are you?)
I was so jealous – he was loved by everybody
(Sleeping)
Enough with the daydreaming – I have to get ready soon
(Crying)
So I can hide the evidence of my tears

It’s become a habit to just say “Oh well”
And I remember what you said to me yesterday
“I won’t expect anything from you anymore”
Well, come on
I don’t expect much from myself either
But what kind of reaction were you hoping to get?
All of these honest words are waiting to be free but
What eventually come out were lies
And this is how I live, floating aimlessly by
Just sitting here, wasting all my precious words
Tell me why you keep silent and hide it all?
Are you that afraid of somebody laughing?
Is it true that you want to be by yourself?
Is that how you really feel?

I’m drowning in a sea of “maybe”s and “what if”s
It’s getting harder and harder to breathe
And now all I want to do is hear your voice
I know I’m not that strong

I’m trying to get ready for the rest of my day but
my brain’s not working – nothing’s getting done
I think, “Maybe I should make up an excuse and just stay home”
Oh, come on,
I know that won’t work
I don’t intend to actually carry it out
I know, I know, so don’t be mad at me

Whether I’m happy, whether I’m unhappy
Justly, cruelly, the sun will always rise
I have my hands full just trying to make it through the day
Now tell me – what more do you expect from me?
Tell me why you let everything get to you?
I know that you just want to be loved.
But who was the one who gave up first?
Have you realized yet?

If there’s a time card for the life I’ve lived
Then I wonder what time mine ends?
And who will pay the salary for the span of my life?
Thank you
I want to tell you how grateful I am
Thank you
I want to tell you how thankful I am
Thank you
It only has to be just one time
I just want to cry without holding anything back
Telling you thank you, thank you
Tell me why you keep silent and hide it all?
I know that you just want to be heard
And I promise that I won’t laugh or judge
So why don’t you talk to me?
No one will understand if you don’t speak out and
Just thinking it will never do
I know it’s troublesome but it’s human
You and I, and everyone

Hello
How are you
I say to you: Hello. How are you?

 

“HELLO, HERE I AM”

 

(Hello)
I open your window
And whisper quietly
(Here I am)
In a room by yourself
I am there too.
(Morning)
The dawn is coming
The sky opens up again
(Tick tock)
Here I am to wind you up again.

(Hello)
I remember that show from long ago.
(Here I am)
It might not be everyone, but I love you.
(Dreaming)
Enough with the tears, your day has just begun.
(Softly)
Cause I am here to wipe them away.

It’s become a habit to hear you say “Oh well”
And I remember what I said to you yesterday
“Your dream has not yet faded away.”
Well come on,
If dreams were so easy, then you wouldn’t need them.
It was the reaction I expected to get.
Though you try to hide it with selfish lies.
What eventually comes out will be the truth.
And this how you live, floating aimlessly by
Just siting here, wasting all your precious breath.
Tell me, why do you keep silent and             hide it all?
Are you afraid of someone laughing?
Is it true that you want to be by yourself?
Is that how you really feel?

You’re drowning in a sea of ‘maybes’ and ‘what ifs’
So I’ll help you breathe.
And now all I want is to hear your voice.
I know too I’m not strong.

I’m trying to get ready for the rest of         my day, but
You’re distant, and nothing’s getting  done.
You think, “Maybe I should make an excuse and just stay home.”
Oh, come on,
You know that won’t work.
You don’t intend to actually carry it out.
I know, I know, so I won’t be mad at         you.

Whether I’m happy, or whether I’m unhappy
Justly, brightly, the sun will always rise.
Your hands are full just making it through the day.
Now you say – “What more do you expect from me?”
Why do you let everything get to you?
I know you just want to be loved.
But you never really gave up at all.
Haven’t you realized yet?

If there’s a time card for the life we’ve lived
Then I know it’s always been blank.
The salary has been already paid for the span of your life.
You’re welcome.
You don’t need to say how grateful you are.
You’re welcome.
You don’t need to say how thankful you are.

You’re welcome.
Even if it was just one time.
I want you to let it out, without holding anything back.
Telling everything that weighs on your heart.
So why do you stay silent, and hide it all?
I know you just want to be heard.
And I promise I won’t laugh or judge.
So why don’t you talk to me?
No one will understand if you don’t speak out and
Just thinking it will never do.
I know it’s troublesome, but it’s human
You and I, and everyone.

Hello
Here I am.
I say to you: Hello, Here I am.

 



The Messenger – Episode 1

As far as I can remember, I was alone.  I sat alone in a pit of squalor and despair, hoping someday, someone would save me.  However, no one ever did.  It was after that night that I decided that if no one would save me, I’d have to go save everyone else…and maybe along the way I might myself be saved.  That was my earnest hope.  And so, my journey as a Messenger began…

Episode 1 – Under the Staircase

Arte sat mournfully at the table in his small apartment looking longingly at his microwave.  He stared at the black plastic box as the digital readout slowly ticked down.  As it finally chimed, he bolted to his feet, dashed to the microwave and ripped the door open.

“Finally…salvation.”  His mouth watered as he pulled a tray of food from the black reliquary.  He dashed back to the table with it and began to furiously stuff the contents down his neck.  His eyes began to water as he finished.

“Thank you, God, for the first meal I have had in two days.”  He sighed with contentment as he slacked back in his chair.  He looked out the window and was shocked to see it raining.  “Damn you, weatherman! You promised no rain today!”  He dashed to the veranda on the backside of his apartment and pulled down slopping wet laundry before tossing them in a basket and pulling them inside.  He angrily clenched his fist together as he stared at the pile of drenched clothes.  “One day weatherman…one day I shall have my vengeance, and it will be sweet.”

After digging through what seemed the least dirty of his clothes that were dry, he leaned into the bathroom and fluffed his black hair.

“It’s getting kind of long again…I guess I’ll have to break out the scissors.”  He thought back to the last haircut he gave himself and felt his gut twitch.  He shivered, unsure whether it was simply the thought of the terrible haircut or his current wet hair.  He rubbed a finger across the face of a shoddy plastic watch on his wrist and read the time.

“Ah crap, I’m gonna be late.”  He got to the door and scooped up a ratty black umbrella with one bent leg.  “The stuff people leave behind…”  He smirked to himself as he opened the front door to his apartment.  “Man, what a gusher…” The skies had completely opened up, and water was coursing down the sides of the street.  He closed his door and put a finger to his chin.  “Maybe, if I’m quiet…”  He took a few steps down the metal walkway and heard a loud creak that refused to be drowned out by the rain.

“Oy, Hartman!”  He heard the bellowing of the apartment manager from somewhere nearby.  “Your rent!”  Arte bolted off with such a speed that even he was surprised the distance he covered.

He turned to look behind him, wary that the apartment manager might come after him for missing rent again.  As he turned back, he felt his body slam into something smaller than him and fairly light.

“You jerk!”  He looked down to see a woman a few years younger than him on the ground, her long blonde hair tossed about and her dress splotched with water.  “How dare you just barge into me like that!  Do you have any idea who I am!?”  Arte blinked a few times.

“Umm…sorry, I don’t.  Should I?”  She looked up and glared at him with fierce blue eyes.  He smiled back and extended a hand to her.  “I’m really sorry about that, it was completely my fault for not looking.”  He pulled the young woman to her feet, but she was no less fuming.

“Look at what you did to my outfit!  I’m soaked to the bone!  How are you gonna make up for this!?  Do you have any idea how much this dress costs!?”  Arte took a step back momentarily, but leaned in and brushed some dirt from the woman’s face.

“Well, I doubt I can pay for such a lovely dress, but I’d be far more concerned with such a lovely lady wearing it.”  His comment caught her off guard and it showed  “You’re not hurt, are you?”

“Uh…I’m…fine.”

“Well, that’s good then.  I’m sorry, but I’m in a really big hurry right now.  I promise to make it up to you next time we meet, okay?”  He smiled and dashed away down the street.  It was a few seconds before the woman broke out of her daze.

“You punk! I don’t even know who you are!  How are-”  But he was gone.

Arte worked for a small local shipping company as a deliveryman.  Much to the surprise of new employees, who expected to see him driving a truck when they met him, he always buzzed away from work on a bike laden with packages.  More than a few questions were raised about his eccentricities, but no one in the company knew the town’s layout better than him, and the speed that he delivered packages through back alleys and side streets put the best truck driver to shame.  The one blot to his performance, however…

“Arte, you’re late, again!”  The crew boss was fuming when Arte snuck in through the back door.

“Well…this and that happened…”  The middle-aged man rubbed a hand across his rugged face.

“You have any idea how much crap I have to put up with over you every day?”

“Ehehe…sorry about that boss.”  Arte laughed nervously as he ruffled a hand through his hair.  The crew boss sighed.

“Just get to work, will yah?  And be on time tomorrow.”  Arte snapped a salute.

“Yes sir, thank you sir!”  The crew boss waved a hand at him before walking away.

“Enough with the cute act, just get to work.”  Arte dashed off to the assignment board and began loading the company-owned bicycle.

Just after midday the rain stopped, much to Arte’s appreciation.  He stopped next to an apartment building and shrugged off a poncho before carefully packing it below his street.  As he looked up a pair of eyes from under an outside stairwell caught his eye.  Curious, he set his bike against the side of the building and walked over to the stairwell.  A whisper of a mew met his ears as a small kitten peered out from under the first step.  He squatted down and beckoned the kitty over.  He rubbed a finger under the yellow cat’s chin as it purred back.

“Who would toss you out, little kitten?”  The cat mewed and trotted back under the stairwell.  Arte stood up, walked over, and peered into the shadow underneath.  Several pairs of eyes met his own, one larger than the rest.  It took a moment for his eyes to adjust and realize that a young girl was sitting under the stairwell with several small cats.

“My, who would toss away a perfectly good child?”  He reached out a hand and patted her fine black hair…only to find his fingers quickly siezed between a set of teeth.  He reeled back in pain, the young girl’s teeth still clamping down on his hand.

“Down girl, down!”  He wildly shook his arm until the girl let go and settled back in her spot.  Arte cradled his red fingers.

“Awfully fiesty, aren’t we?”  The girl didn’t respond as she pulled a striped brown cat onto her lap and cuddled with it.  He looked at her a moment before smiling.  “So, what’s his name?”  He pointed to the cat on her lap.  She patted the cat without looking up at him.

“Felicious.”  Her voice was more of a murmur than speech.

“Felicious.”  She nodded.  “That sounds like…a mix of feline…and delicious.”

“That’s what it is.”  She continued to pat the cat.

“That’s…well…certainly an interesting name.”  She looked up at him with a half-lidded stare.

“Are you a pedo?”  Arte shocked expression appeared to make no impact on the girl’s listless stare.

“My dear child, my tastes, if I can say I actually have them, fall far above your age.”

“Then why are you talking to me?”  Her short pigtails shook slightly as she spoke.  He put a hand to his chin and rubbed it.

“Well, I saw a lost little kitten, and came over to find a bunch more, and one big one.”  He smiled.  “So I suppose I was curious why all these lost little kittens were curled up under the stairs outside like this.”  The girl looked down at the small yellow kitten that had nuzzled up next to her and petted it.

“Mom…doesn’t like cats.”  Arte reached down and petted a nearby gray cat that was looking at him.

“I see, that’s too bad.  They seem like nice kittens.”  He nuzzled a finger under the cat’s chin, and it purred in response.

“She doesn’t like me either.”  Arte’s hand slackened slightly as he turned to the girl.

“I see.  What’s your name?”  The girl looked at him a moment before looking away.

“Nana.”  Her emotionless voice murmured in response.

He slid in under the staircase, picked up a cat next to the girl, sat down, and sat the cat on his lap.  “So, Nana, wanna tell me about your mom?”  She looked at him, slightly confused, but he smiled back.  The cats began to curl up around the two as the rain began to fall again.

“Mom…doesn’t really like me.”  Arte picked up the paws of the cat on his lap, making the black cat dance.  The cat didn’t protest, but simply allowed himself to be played with.

“So…why’s that?”  His voice was met with another languid reply.

“Because.”  Arte smiled as he toyed with the cat.

“Because why?”

“Because she doesn’t.”

“And why is that?”  Nana scowled at being prodded.

“Because…”

“Because?”  He prodded again.

“Because if I wasn’t here…daddy would still be.”  Arte let the cat’s paws go and the cat slackened onto his lap.  The brown cat ‘Felicious’ crawled out of Nana’s lap and settled next to her.  Nana picked up the small yellow kitten and allowed it to take the brown one’s spot.

“So, how does that work?”  The yellow kitten rolled on its back and Nana nuzzled its belly with a finger.

“Back when school started, I was riding in the car with daddy.  I was in the front seat.  Mom always yelled at him to put me in the back…but he said it was only a short drive…so it was okay.”  Nana paused as she scratched the kitten’s back.  “There was an accident.  Daddy…leaned over to protect me when it happened.  Daddy…died…there.”  Nana stopped playing with the kitten, which made it sit up in her lap and stare at her, waiting for her to resume playing with it.  “Dad died…and I wasn’t hurt.  Mom…was really angry at me for that.  She said if I wasn’t there…if I wasn’t in the front seat, Dad would still be here.”

“I see.  So…have you been under here since then?”  Nana shook her head.

“I’ve been home.  Just Mom doesn’t want me there.  She wouldn’t speak to me.  She would leave food out for me, but would never eat with me.  I got lonely, so yesterday I brought one of the kitties home.  Mom got really angry, and started yelling before going back into her room like she usually does.  So I left.”

“So you ran away from home, eh?”  Nana nodded wordlessly.  “I’d bet you’re pretty hungry then.”  Nana grimaced.

“Kinda.”

“Don’t want to go home, even to eat, eh?”

“Why bother…she’ll just yell at me again for running away.”  She paused before adding, “Besides…if I die from hunger, I’ll get to see Daddy again.”  Arte let out a long breath.

“Do you think he’d be happy if you died from starvation out here?”  Nana was silent for a long moment.

“I dunno…maybe.”

“He wouldn’t be.”  Nana drew her knees up to her chest.  The yellow kitten in her lap crawled up her leg and hopped onto her shoulder and nuzzled against her neck.

“How would you know?”  Her voice, still monotone, pulsed with hidden emotion.

“No parent wants to see his precious little daughter unhappy, let alone be in pain.”

“Not mine.”  Nana pressed her face into her knees.

“If your parents didn’t care about you…why would your dad protect you like he did?”

“I…don’t know.”  He reached out a hand and patted her hair again.

“I know that if you were my little girl, I’d never want to see you hurt or cry.”  She raised her head slightly and looked at him with one eye.

“You miss your dad?”  She nodded.  “You’re lonely, right?”  She paused, nodded again.  “Don’t you think…your mom might feel that way too?”  She raised her head and turned to Arte.

“Well, you both lost someone important to you, right?  It’d make sense that she feels as lonely as you do.”

“But…she yelled at me.”

“Well…maybe she snapped because she has no one to talk to?  You said she doesn’t talk to you…but have you tried to talk to her?”  Nana thought a moment before shaking her head.

“I’d wager your mom is as troubled as you are right now, probably more.”

“More?”

“Well, she lost one of the most important people to her…and now another important person has vanished too.”

“Another important person?”  She blinked, not understanding.

“You, of course, silly.  I bet she’s worried to death about you.”

“I…dunno.”  She pressed her lips against her knees.  The rain began to let up and sun peeked through the clouds.

“Well…would it hurt to go see for yourself?”  Arte picked up the cat from his lap and set it on the ground before standing up and brushing himself off.  He turned to her and reached out a hand.  “Adults are really stubborn sometimes.  They act like they know a lot, but sometimes it’s really hard to own up to how they feel and take the first step to fix a problem.”  Nana looked at the hand a long moment in silence.

“Really?”

“Really.  Pretty childish of them, huh?”  Nana nodded and reached out her hand.  Arte grabbed it and yanked Nana to her feet.  He brushed some dirt off her and looked her in the eyes.  “So why don’t we go see how that childish mom of your is doing?”  Nana bit her lip, but nodded.

“…’Kay.”  They stepped out from the stairwell as faint beams of light through the clouds coursed past them.

Nana directed Arte through several blocks until they came to a line of houses enclosed by tall stone fences.  Nana patted the small yellow kitten still on her shoulder as she murmured, “This is my house.”

“Hmm, it’s a pretty nice place.”  Arte rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

“I…kinda like it.  But my mom-”

Nana!”  A hysteric yell came from the house as the pair heard a fury of footsteps rush to the open gate at the end of the driveway.  Nana ducked behind Arte’s leg as a frantic woman appeared.  “Nana, where have you been?!  I’ve been so worried about you!”

“You were…worried about me?”  Nana stepped out cautiously as the woman scooped Nana up in her arms.

“Of course I was worried about you, you silly girl!”  The woman squeezed her head into Nana’s small neck and bawled openly.

“Are you gonna yell at me again?”

“Yell…at…you?”  The woman choked out between sobs.  The woman pulled back slightly to look Nana in the eyes.

“Like you did…the other day.  Or…when Dad died.”  The woman lovingly ran her hands through Nana’s hair and across her face.

“I’m sorry baby.  I’m so sorry I did those things.  After your daddy was gone, I didn’t know what to do, and I was so sad…”  The woman pulled Nana in for a hug so tight it made Nana grunt as the air was squeezed out of her.  “I promise Momma won’t yell at you any more, baby.  Momma promises-”  The woman broke off into sobs as Nana struggled for air.

“Mom, you’re squishing me.”  The woman let up slightly.

“I’m sorry baby, I’m just so glad you’re back.”

“It was my friend who brought me back, he’s right-”  Nana turned her head, but no one was in sight.  “Where’d he go?”  The woman and Nana both looked around, but no one else was around.

“There was a young man with you…where could he have gone off to?”  Nana thought a moment.

“Maybe he was an angel, Mom.”

“An angel?”

“Well, you said before angels come and help people when they need it, right?  Maybe he was an angel daddy sent to find me.”  The woman pulled Nana back into a tight hug.

“I’m sure he was, baby.  I’m sure that’s exactly what he was.”  The pair heard quiet mewing around their feet and saw several cats appear, and then more.

“They’re my friends.”  The woman smiled through her tears.

“Your friends?  Well…I guess you can keep one.”

“But they’re all my friends.”  The woman looked at the crowd of cats surrounding them and sighed.

“Well, we’ll talk about it after I get some food in you, okay?”  Nana nodded and turned to a lone brown cat staring at them from around a corner.

“Come on, Felicious.  Mom’s gonna feed us.”  The woman raised an eyebrow as she glanced between Nana and the cat.

“…Felicious?”

Requiem Aeternam: Ghost Story

From the moment he saw the house, he could feel the wrongness about it.  The dark aura that engulfed the place was so strong that even Elly and the others could feel chills run up their spine as they approached.  The others were chatting nervously to each other, both excitement and fear bubbling to surface of each.  Edward filed in behind them, a sigh escaping as they approached the door.  He questioned himself for the 12th time why he was here.  He hated ghost houses, paranormal places, or any spooky spot of the like.  A quiet night, free from that which bumped in the night was perfectly fine with him.  Elly, on the other hand, was obsessed with anything that could give normal people the creeps.  Edward, having been her friend since childhood, always found himself dragged along on such adventures, much to his chagrin.  In school the pair was dubbed the “Eek” twins, both from their names, and for the screams that Elly’s expeditions seemed to elicit.  Edward always though Elly’s creepy hobby would make her ostracized from others her age, but somehow she wound up around a group of boys and girls that loved a good scare as much as she did.

Elly noticed Edward’s deep sigh, and her blond hair whirled as she spun around to face him.

“Don’t start whining now.  You’re the one that said you would come.”

“That’s…” Edward sighed again in resignation.  “Whatever.  Just don’t come crying to me when something scares you half to death in there.”  He could tell Elly was brimming with excitement at his statement, which only deepened his despair.

“Oh, I hope something does! It’ll be so exciting!”  Edward rubbed his fingers against his green and red eye.  His right eye had turned red when he was a child, something none of the doctors in the area could quite explain.  He felt it made him look like a freak.  The thought hadn’t escaped him that perhaps Elly kept him around for that exact purpose.

Elly put her hand on the great iron knob on the front door of the house, and with a loud creak, twisted it and pushed the door open.  The inside was covered with a thick layer of dust that seemed to kick up as they stepped inside.  The worn wooden floors bowed down between each of the floor joists, and creaked loudly with each step on them.  A great, or rather, formerly great staircase rose in the center of the large room up to the second floor.  Rusted iron railing lined the sides of the staircase, and ended in the remains of rusted ornamentation at each end.  The walls appeared to have been painted at one time, though the years had worn what might have been one color into an array of browns and grays.  A large chandelier hung from the center of the room, composed more of cobwebs than metal.  The others stood around coughing in the dust, but Elly stood in the midst of it, excited as a little girl on Christmas.

“Isn’t this fantastic?”

“Yeah, if you like emphysema.”  She shot Edward a fierce glance.

“Enough backtalk.  This place is prime hunting! I’m sure we’ll find that little girl’s ghost here easy.  Just hope I can get her on film…”

“Little girl?”  Rachael, a small, brown-haired girl a few years younger than Elly spoke up with a shaky voice.

“Yes…”  Elly turned and creeped towards her with arms outstretched.  “The story goes that the girl’s father lost everything in the stock market crash of the 30’s.  They say he went crazy after, gathering up a huge party of those who still had money inside the house.  He told them he was paying for everything with, unbeknownst to them, the money he had already lost.  When the party was just getting into swing, he locked the doors and lit the house on fire!  The problem was, that he forgot that his daughter was still asleep upstairs when the inside of the house burned up.  When someone else bought the house and rebuilt it years later, the ghost of the little girl still wandered the halls, searching for her father amidst flames that weren’t there!  They say anyone who touches her…turns to ash!”  With that, Elly grabbed ahold of Rachel’s shoulders, causing her to scream loudly, her voice bouncing around the large empty house.

“Elly, try not to scare the poor girl to death, at least not where I can hear it.” Edward said, exasperated.

“Aww, come on.  That’s all the fun here! Getting scared out of your mind!”  Edward walked to Rachel and put a hand on her head.

“Maybe, but you’re the one doing the scaring here.  I doubt you need to add to the ambience with a creepy place like this.”  Rachael shrank away from Elly and clung to Edward.

“Aren’t you Mr. Popular all of a sudden.” Keith chimed in.  He was red-haired jock on the basketball team at the local college.  Edward had a rather reasonable hunch he tagged along on these ventures simply to get closer to Elly.  He was always accompanied by Anna, or rather, Anastasia as she preferred people to call her.  If there was a stereotype of a ‘popular’ girl, then Anna was it.  Her personal and social appearance was paramount to her.  Voted homecoming queen twice, now the leading lady of a sorority, one couldn’t call her a failure in that regard.  Edward didn’t think she was a bad person, though too self-obsessed for his tastes.  Thus, it perplexed Edward why she would chase Keith if it meant following him into places like the one they were in.  Edward preferred to think of it as love being blind, rather than her simply trying to match herself with someone of equal social status.  Though Keith seemed to not notice, Edward knew her eyes had been burning a hole in the back of Elly’s head all day. As Edward glanced back in the direction of Keith and her, her face immediately shifted into a smile.  The action seemed so rehearsed with her it made Edward inwardly cringe.  Keith was grinning at him too, but in a much more amused fashion.  Edward wasn’t sure whether he it was because he found the situation actually amusing, or if having another woman than Elly beside him met with his approval.

“Damn it’s gonna be a long night.” Edward muttered to himself.

“All right everyone.  Fan out and search the place top to bottom.  If you find anything unusual, report back here at once.  We’ll meet back here otherwise at…11 or so.  Make sure to scope out the room that you want to stay in tonight.”

“Wait.”  Edward held up his hand.  “You’re expecting us to spend the night here?”

“Of course.  You of all people know all the good spook activity happens from midnight to four in the morning.  We’ll have to divide into shifts to see some good stuff!”  Edward immediately slumped over at the thought.  “All right, all of you, split up and start looking!”  The group, except Edward, cheered and some began scurrying down the long passageways of the derelict mansion.  Elly grabbed Edward by the arm and began dragging him upstairs.

“Come on, I bet that kid’s room was upstairs.  I can’t wait!”

“Hey Elly!”  Keith called out, but Elly had already managed to scurry up the steps with Edward in tow.  “Man that girl is quick.”
”Yeah, I bet she’s quick in some other areas too.” Anna muttered.

“Huh? Did you say something Anna?”  Keith said as he turned down to her.

“Nothing, nothing at all.  Come on, let’s go search for…whatever it is we’re supposed to look for.”  She grabbed Keith’s arm and led him down a hallway.  Rachael stood alone in the great room, frantically looking from passageway, not wanting to be left alone, yet too afraid to move.  Eventually she slumped into a dust-covered chair in the corner.

Edward grumbled under his breath as Elly scurried from room to room in the upper floor.

After an hour or two of searching through mostly depilated bedrooms, Elly opened a door at the end of one hall with a shriek.  Edward knew with a normal person, that shriek would be one of terror, but for Elly, it was of excitement.  Elly dashed inside as Edward peered in behind her.  The room was covered in dust and cobwebs, but had obviously been a child’s room.  The remains of children’s toys sat askew on shelves and filling a small box in a corner.  A small bed sat in one corner of the room, the sheets still pulled up on the bed, as if made that morning, though was still covered with dust.

“This is it!  It has to be!”

Edward picked up the remains of what appeared to be a wooden plane on a shelf.

“It isn’t that child’s room.”

“It might be!  You can’t be sure.”

“You said it yourself, right?  The inside of the house was burnt out from the fire.  This stuff would all have to have been put in afterwards, when they rebuilt the place.”

“That’s…well…true, but…” She scratched her head.  “Well, that kid’s ghost could still be taking residence in this room!  It probably attracted her here with all the toys.”  Edward sighed.

“No way, no how.”  It was Elly’s turn to grumble at him.  After some more searching in the room, Elly darted out of the room in search of more prospects.  After walking out of the room, however, Edward felt a sharp chill down his spine.  He turned around, but didn’t see anything in the room.  He cautiously turned back and followed Elly down the hall.

“Hey Elly, what happened to the last owners of the house?  The ones that rebuilt the place.”

“Oh them.”  She said as she darted into another room.  “The story goes that the police arrived to find the husband and wife dancing like madmen in the great room downstairs.  They tried to get them to stop, but were entranced by something, and had to be taken away forcibly and confined to a mental institution.”  Edward’s eyes bolted open.

“And you tell us this now!?”  As his words faded, he heard a soft, almost indiscernable creak of wood behind him.  He whirled about, but saw nothing.  He once again, even more cautiously, turned back.  Elly went on, searching more rooms, but as she continued, Edward’s right eye began to throb.  It was soft at first, but began pulsating harshly as they continued.

“Damn it, not again…”  Edward muttered.

“Huh? Did you say something?”  Elly peeked up at him.

“Nothing.  Just a headache.”

“Oh.”  She turned back.  As she did, Edward heard it again, the creak of wood behind him, louder this time.  His eye was pounding furiously in his head.

“Damn it…”  He muttered as he covered his right eye with his hand.  He slowly turned around, and didn’t see anything at first, but as he looked down the hall, he saw black smudge on the ground he hadn’t noticed before.  As he watched, the black smudged widened and darkened into an elliptical shape.  Then, another smudge appeared, this time diagonally to the first one, and in front of it.  Then another appeared, this time in line with the first one.

“E-elly.” Edward tried to keep his voice calm.

“Yeah?”

“I think it’s time to meet back with the others.”

“Is it?  Come on, we have to have more time.”  The smudges began to grow closer to Edward, as the air around him felt like it was getting warmer with each closing step.

“We need to go Elly.  Now.”

“All right, all right.  No need to get pushy.”  Edward’s hand slipped slightly from his right eye, enough to see bright orange light…and a face.  He reached into the room, grabbed Elly by the hand, and dragged her into the hall and to the stairs.

“Sheesh, do you have to be so pushy about it?”  Edward pulled her close and looked down the hall.

“Hey, what are you-”

“Shh.” He stared down the hall, finally this time with his right eye open.  The smudges were still on the ground, but whatever was there before had gone.  Her face forcibly buried in his chest, Elly pushed herself off slightly and looked up at him.

“You saw something?”

“Not sure.”

“My, isn’t this a cozy scene.”  They looked over the railing to see Anna and Keith staring up at the pair.  Keith seems unhappy, while Anna seemed oddly pleased.

“Why exactly are you two hanging over each other like that?”  Keith asked.

“No reason in particular.” Elly spoke up as she took a step away from Edward.  “Not like I particularly need one.  Ed’s like a big brother to me anyways.”

“Is that so.” Keith’s words floated in the air as everyone exchanged glances.  Edward broke the awkward silence.

“Anyway, it’s about time to meet up.  Gather everyone else here.”  As everyone gathered, they all talked about the spooky things that a few of them had heard.  Edward didn’t dare speak of what happened upstairs.  He didn’t want to encourage anyone to investigate it, especially Elly.

After sharing some snacks they carried in, the group began to shift off to pick out rooms to spend the night in.  Edward could see Keith scanning the group of faces, most likely for Elly.

“Does he really think he’ll be able to bunk up with Elly?”  Anna’s annoyed voice murmured behind him.

“Well, you have to give him points for persistence, at least.”  Ed looked over his shoulder at her when he spoke.  Anna’s expression rapidly changed to the eerie smile she always seemed to flip to.  “Though I’d have to give you points for that as well.”  Anna’s expression slackened at Edward seeing through her façade.

“Please don’t lump me in the same group with him.”

“But that’s exactly what you want to be, right?”  She looked from him to Keith before sighing slightly.  “Then you might as well follow him.  If you can keep him from Elly, maybe you’ll end up bunking with him instead.”  He turned and began to walk away when Anna’s voice stopped him.

“So what is the deal between Anna and you?”  Ed half-smirked as he turned to her.

“She probably thinks when I’m around, the spooks are more likely to show up.”  Anna raised an eyebrow.

“Why would she think that?”

“Because one oddity tends to attract others.”  Edward waved and started up the stairs.

Edward tucked his sleeping bag under his arm as he walked from room to room.  As he approached the child’s room again, he saw familiar smudges on the ground making prints leading out of the room.  By the size, they appeared to be similar to the shoes of a child.

“Ah, hell.”  Edward said as he rubbed his face.  Inwardly, he had hoped what he had seen earlier was just a hallucination.  “At least if I was crazy, I could write the whole thing off…”  He leaned down and rubbed a finger across one smudge and rubbed it between his fingers.  “Soot.”  He sighed.  “Damn it Elly, you sure know how to pick them…”  Hoping to avoid the hallway where the shoeprints led, he turned around and began walking down the hall.  He heard voices coming from the end of the hall.  He strained his ears to listen when suddenly something caught hold of his arm and yanked him into a room.  The door slid closed behind him as something come over his mouth.  He struggled against the unseen force as a voice came to his ear.

“Shh.”  He did so, and heard voices walking down the hall.  He recognized it as Keith and Anna.  They slowly stopped nearby, then dissipating somewhere down the corridor.  Edward turned his head to see who or what had grabbed him, but it was too dark to see.  He flipped on his flashlight and saw the eeriely lit face of Elly behind him.  He pulled her hand off of his mouth.

“You almost gave me a heart attack there.” He muttered as he tried to slow his breathing.

“Well, I didn’t want you blabbing as to where I was.”  Edward raised an eyebrow.

“And why is that, exactly?”

“Because I didn’t want him to find me.”

“Who?  Keith?”  Elly didn’t answer.  “Why are you hiding from him?”

“Several reasons.  I didn’t want him thinking he could bunk here with me, at least.”

“What’s wrong with being in the same room with the guy?”  Elly narrowed her eyes.

“Because I want you to.”  Both sat in silence, trying to contemplate that statement before Elly began to turn red and spun around.  “You’re the center of where the ghosts pop up, after all.”  Edward sighed.

“Is that all?”  Edward walked over to the bed and slumped down on it, sending up a plume of dust into the air.  Elly, however, stood facing away from me.  Just when Edward felt the need to interject, Elly finally spoke up.

“We’ll take shifts.  I’ll take the first one, you sleep.  I’ll wake you in an hour to switch.”

“That’s not a whole lot of beauty sleep for me.”

She snapped back, “Not like a month’s sleep could ever help you in that regard.”

“Fine, whatever.”  He unrolled his sleeping back next to the bed and slid into it.  Elly rolled hers out next to his.  Elly paused as she noticed Edward looking at her.

“What?”

“Nothing.  Night.”  Edward sank down into his sleeping bag and slowly drifted off to sleep.  His sleep was troubled and laborious, as it often was, especially so considering where they were sleeping.  By the time he awoke, he felt so disoriented he wasn’t sure whether he had been asleep only minutes or hours.  He shook his head and pointed his flashlight at his watch and flipped it on.

“3am?”  He scanned the room around him.  “Elly?”  He didn’t get a response.  He looked down at the sleeping bag next to his, but it was empty.  “Elly?” He called out again, this time, louder.  He rubbed his eyes and struggled to his feet.  As he stepped near the door, one foot smushed slightly, as if he had stepped into something powdery.

“The hell?”  He muttered as he turned the flashlight to his foot.  A black soot mark peered out from under his foot.  His flashlight followed a trail of them to the foot of their sleeping bags.

“Oh…shit.”  His right eye suddenly began to pound furiously, as if it was a second heart in his body.  He closed his eye and put his right hand over it.  He felt around for the door handle to the room and slowly slid it open.  As he leaned out into the hall, he could hear a noise.  It started faint at first, but as he turned towards the great room, it slowly became louder.  By the time he reached the end of the hallway, he recognized it as music.  He walked to the railing of the stairs and saw everyone in the group was awake and downstairs talking to each other and dancing.

“The hell guys? It’s three in the morning.”  He slowly walked down the stairs.  He picked Anna and Keith out of the group, and they were in the middle, dancing together.

“What are you two doing?”  But his voice found no response.  He poked Keith, then jabbed him in the side, but Keith acted as if he felt nothing.  As stood there, amongst the strange dancing group, Elly’s words began to click into place.

“The police found them dancing…”

The words echoed in his mind as he slowly pulled his hand away from his right eye, and slowly opened it.  No longer was it a group of teenagers and college students dancing together in a dilapidated room, but a group of affluent adults dancing together in a brightly lit, well-furnished room partying the night away.  His eye now smoothed into a solid throb as he viewed the scene before him.  To any other person, this would disturb them, but to Edward, this was an all too common occurrence when he was dragged on any of Elly’s adventures.

“One oddity attracts another.” He muttered under his breath as he closed his right eye again.  Once again, it became a room of young people dancing in an old room, the floor creakly loudly and shaking as they all moved.  He looked around, and saw everyone was here, save one.

“Elly…”  He thought a moment, and then looked back upstairs.  He knew where she had to be.  He climbed the stairs again, and walked down the hall to the room they had stayed in.  He could see the black prints on the ground, and followed them down the hall.  With each step, the air became hotter, thicker, and harder to breathe.  As he closed towards the end of the coordior, he began to cough, as if something nasty was filling his lungs.  He forced himself onward until he reached the end of the prints, the child’s bedroom.  He reached for the handle, but instantly pulled his hand back.  The handle appeared normal, but even from his fingers getting close, he could feel the red-hot heat radiating from it.  He kicked the door hard, and it flung open.

Elly sat in the room, quietly, with a wooden doll in her hands.  At first, she seemed oblivious to him, but then turned and looked up at him with a blank expression.  Edward, his skin seething, slowly opened his right eye.  The image of a girl sat before him, engulfed in flames, a subtle horror to her expression as she sat clutching a doll in her hands.  He heard no sound, but as her mouth moved, he could barely discern words from her lips.

“Daddy?  Daddy…where…are…you…”

The feeling of heat was so intense that every pore of his skin felt like it had already been set aflame.  Sweat poured off of his body as he fell to one knee before her.

“You’ve been alone a long time, little one.  It’s time your suffering was put to an end.”

“Daddy…”

“Don’t worry.  You’ll see him soon.”  Edward took his right thumb and sliced it against one of his own teeth, causing blood to bead up on the finger.  He traced a symbol in blood on his right hand and began chanting:

That no cry go unheard, no tear fall in vain, I make the vow.  Libera illa animus, Domine, de morte aeterna.  Requiem aeternam. Dona eis, Domine.  Amen.

They were words he knew all too well, words he learned the day his eye changed.  When they were spoken, the heat dissipated and the girl’s clear image came into view.  She smiled at him before fading into a sea of white.  Edward blinked, and found himself back in the old room, with Elly seated before him.  Elly sat half-lucid for a moment, before slumping onto the ground.  Edward picked her up and carried her to the great room.  As he entered, he saw the others unconscious on the ground.  He sighed.

“I’m not going to get one bit of actual sleep tonight, am I?”  He set about carrying Elly and the others back to their sleeping bags…or at least what he hoped was theirs.  By the time he was done, the sun had already crept back up over the horizon.  He was just about to lay back down in his own sleeping bag when Elly bolted upright.

“What? What happened?”

“You…fell asleep, I guess.” He offered.

“Dang it! We probably missed some of the best stuff!”  She put her head in her hands.  “Ugh, I never catch a break.”

“It’s a rough life.”  He snapped sarcastically as he laid down.

“You look terrible.  How much were up last night?”

“Quite a bit.  I seem to have trouble getting sleep inside of a haunted house, unlike some people.”

“Yeah, yeah, rub it in.  Ugh, my head feels like a fishbowl.”  Elly shook her head and staggered to her feet.  She stumbled about for a few steps and then fell over on top of Edward.  Edward grunted out as her weight flopped onto him.  Just then, the door creaked open behind them.

“What…are you two doing?”  Both heads spun around to see Keith looking down at them from the doorway.

“This…isn’t what you think…”  Elly offered.

“Rather intimate for him to be a ‘big brother’, ne?” Anna chimed in as she peered in behind Keith.

“I told you it isn’t anything!  You! Tell them!”  Elly barked as she pointed a finger at Edward.

“Just let me sleep already…”  He muttered, putting a hand over his eyes.

Even through the yelling and conversation around him, his eyelids felt heavy, and slowly drifted off to sleep.  This time, his sleep felt fairly dull, yet relaxing.  He dreamt he was playing with dolls with a small smiling girl.  It was a peaceful, quiet dream, and that is exactly how he liked it.

From the moment he saw the house, he could feel the wrongness about it.  The dark aura that engulfed the place was so strong that even Elly and the others could feel chills run up their spine as they approached.  The others were chatting nervously to each other, both excitement and fear bubbling to surface of each.  Edward filed in behind them, a sigh escaping as they approached the door.  He questioned himself for the 12th time why he was here.  He hated ghost houses, paranormal places, or any spooky spot of the like.  A quiet night, free from that which bumped in the night was perfectly fine with him.  Elly, on the other hand, was obsessed with anything that could give normal people the creeps.  Edward, having been her friend since childhood, always found himself dragged along on such adventures, much to his chagrin.  In school the pair was dubbed the “Eek” twins, both from their names, and for the screams that Elly’s expeditions seemed to elicit.  Edward always though Elly’s creepy hobby would make her ostracized from others her age, but somehow she wound up around a group of boys and girls that loved a good scare as much as she did.

Elly noticed Edward’s deep sigh, and her blond hair whirled as she spun around to face him.

“Don’t start whining now.  You’re the one that said you would come.”

“That’s…” Edward sighed again in resignation.  “Whatever.  Just don’t come crying to me when something scares you half to death in there.”  He could tell Elly was brimming with excitement at his statement, which only deepened his despair.

“Oh, I hope something does! It’ll be so exciting!”  Edward rubbed his fingers against his green and red eye.  His right eye had turned red when he was a child, something none of the doctors in the area could quite explain.  He felt it made him look like a freak.  The thought hadn’t escaped him that perhaps Elly kept him around for that exact purpose.

Elly put her hand on the great iron knob on the front door of the house, and with a loud creak, twisted it and pushed the door open.  The inside was covered with a thick layer of dust that seemed to kick up as they stepped inside.  The worn wooden floors bowed down between each of the floor joists, and creaked loudly with each step on them.  A great, or rather, formerly great staircase rose in the center of the large room up to the second floor.  Rusted iron railing lined the sides of the staircase, and ended in the remains of rusted ornamentation at each end.  The walls appeared to have been painted at one time, though the years had worn what might have been one color into an array of browns and grays.  A large chandelier hung from the center of the room, composed more of cobwebs than metal.  The others stood around coughing in the dust, but Elly stood in the midst of it, excited as a little girl on Christmas.

“Isn’t this fantastic?”

“Yeah, if you like emphysema.”  She shot Edward a fierce glance.

“Enough backtalk.  This place is prime hunting! I’m sure we’ll find that little girl’s ghost here easy.  Just hope I can get her on film…”

“Little girl?”  Rachael, a small, brown-haired girl a few years younger than Elly spoke up with a shaky voice.

“Yes…”  Elly turned and creeped towards her with arms outstretched.  “The story goes that the girl’s father lost everything in the stock market crash of the 30’s.  They say he went crazy after, gathering up a huge party of those who still had money inside the house.  He told them he was paying for everything with, unbeknownst to them, the money he had already lost.  When the party was just getting into swing, he locked the doors and lit the house on fire!  The problem was, that he forgot that his daughter was still asleep upstairs when the inside of the house burned up.  When someone else bought the house and rebuilt it years later, the ghost of the little girl still wandered the halls, searching for her father amidst flames that weren’t there!  They say anyone who touches her…turns to ash!”  With that, Elly grabbed ahold of Rachel’s shoulders, causing her to scream loudly, her voice bouncing around the large empty house.

“Elly, try not to scare the poor girl to death, at least not where I can hear it.” Edward said, exasperated.

“Aww, come on.  That’s all the fun here! Getting scared out of your mind!”  Edward walked to Rachel and put a hand on her head.

“Maybe, but you’re the one doing the scaring here.  I doubt you need to add to the ambience with a creepy place like this.”  Rachael shrank away from Elly and clung to Edward.

“Aren’t you Mr. Popular all of a sudden.” Keith chimed in.  He was red-haired jock on the basketball team at the local college.  Edward had a rather reasonable hunch he tagged along on these ventures simply to get closer to Elly.  He was always accompanied by Anna, or rather, Anastasia as she preferred people to call her.  If there was a stereotype of a ‘popular’ girl, then Anna was it.  Her personal and social appearance was paramount to her.  Voted homecoming queen twice, now the leading lady of a sorority, one couldn’t call her a failure in that regard.  Edward didn’t think she was a bad person, though too self-obsessed for his tastes.  Thus, it perplexed Edward why she would chase Keith if it meant following him into places like the one they were in.  Edward preferred to think of it as love being blind, rather than her simply trying to match herself with someone of equal social status.  Though Keith seemed to not notice, Edward knew her eyes had been burning a hole in the back of Elly’s head all day. As Edward glanced back in the direction of Keith and her, her face immediately shifted into a smile.  The action seemed so rehearsed with her it made Edward inwardly cringe.  Keith was grinning at him too, but in a much more amused fashion.  Edward wasn’t sure whether he it was because he found the situation actually amusing, or if having another woman than Elly beside me met with his approval.

“Damn it’s gonna be a long night.” Edward muttered to himself.

“All right everyone.  Fan out and search the place top to bottom.  If you find anything unusual, report back here at once.  We’ll meet back here otherwise at…11 or so.  Make sure to scope out the room that you want to stay in tonight.”

“Wait.”  Edward held up his hand.  “You’re expecting us to spend the night here?”

“Of course.  You of all people know all the good spook activity happens from midnight to four in the morning.  We’ll have to divide into shifts to see some good stuff!”  Edward immediately slumped over at the thought.  “All right, all of you, split up and start looking!”  The group, except Edward, cheered and some began scurrying down the long passageways of the derelict mansion.  Elly grabbed Edward by the arm and began dragging him upstairs.

“Come on, I bet that kid’s room was upstairs.  I can’t wait!”

“Hey Elly!”  Keith called out, but Elly had already managed to scurry up the steps with Edward in tow.  “Man that girl is quick.”
”Yeah, I bet she’s quick in some other areas too.” Anna muttered.

“Huh? Did you say something Anna?”  Keith said as he turned down to her.

“Nothing, nothing at all.  Come on, let’s go search for…whatever it is we’re supposed to look for.”  She grabbed Keith’s arm and led him down a hallway.  Rachael stood alone in the great room, frantically looking from passageway, not wanting to be left alone, yet too afraid to move.  Eventually she slumped into a dust-covered chair in the corner.

Edward grumbled under his breath as Elly scurried from room to room in the upper floor.

After an hour or two of searching through mostly depilated bedrooms, Elly opened a door at the end of one hall with a shriek.  Edward knew with a normal person, that shriek would be one of terror, but for Elly, it was of excitement.  Elly dashed inside as Edward peered in behind her.  The room was covered in dust and cobwebs, but had obviously been a child’s room.  The remains of children’s toys sat askew on shelves and filling a small box in a corner.  A small bed sat in one corner of the room, the sheets still pulled up on the bed, as if made that morning, though was still covered with dust.

“This is it!  It has to be!”

Edward picked up the remains of what appeared to be a wooden plane on a shelf.

“It isn’t that child’s room.”

“It might be!  You can’t be sure.”

“You said it yourself, right?  The inside of the house was burnt out from the fire.  This stuff would all have to have been put in afterwards, when they rebuilt the place.”

“That’s…well…true, but…” She scratched her head.  “Well, that kid’s ghost could still be taking residence in this room!  It probably attracted her here with all the toys.”  Edward sighed.

“No way, no how.”  It was Elly’s turn to grumble at him.  After some more searching in the room, Elly darted out of the room in search of more prospects.  After walking out of the room, however, Edward felt a sharp chill down his spine.  He turned around, but didn’t see anything in the room.  He cautiously turned back and followed Elly down the hall.

“Hey Elly, what happened to the last owners of the house?  The ones that rebuilt the place.”

“Oh them.”  She said as she darted into another room.  “The story goes that the police arrived to find the husband and wife dancing like madmen in the great room downstairs.  They tried to get them to stop, but were entranced by something, and had to be taken away forcibly and confined to a mental institution.”  Edward’s eyes bolted open.

“And you tell us this now!?”  As his words faded, he heard a soft, almost indiscernable creak of wood behind him.  He whirled about, but saw nothing.  He once again, even more cautiously, turned back.  Elly went on, searching more rooms, but as she continued, Edward’s right eye began to throb.  It was soft at first, but began pulsating harshly as they continued.

“Damn it, not again…”  Edward muttered.

“Huh? Did you say something?”  Elly peeked up at him.

“Nothing.  Just a headache.”

“Oh.”  She turned back.  As she did, Edward heard it again, the creak of wood behind him, louder this time.  His eye was pounding furiously in his head.

“Damn it…”  He muttered as he covered his right eye with his hand.  He slowly turned around, and didn’t see anything at first, but as he looked down the hall, he saw black smudge on the ground he hadn’t noticed before.  As he watched, the black smudged widened and darkened into an elliptical shape.  Then, another smudge appeared, this time diagonally to the first one, and in front of it.  Then another appeared, this time in line with the first one.

“E-elly.” Edward tried to keep his voice calm.

“Yeah?”

“I think it’s time to meet back with the others.”

“Is it?  Come on, we have to have more time.”  The smudges began to grow closer to Edward, as the air around him felt like it was getting warmer with each closing step.

“We need to go Elly.  Now.”

“All right, all right.  No need to get pushy.”  Edward’s hand slipped slightly from his right eye, enough to see bright orange light…and a face.  He reached into the room, grabbed Elly by the hand, and dragged her into the hall and to the stairs.

“Sheesh, do you have to be so pushy about it?”  Edward pulled her close and looked down the hall.

“Hey, what are you-”

“Shh.” He stared down the hall, finally this time with his right eye open.  The smudges were still on the ground, but whatever was there before had gone.  Her face forcibly buried in his chest, Elly pushed herself off slightly and looked up at him.

“You saw something?”

“Not sure.”

“My, isn’t this a cozy scene.”  They looked over the railing to see Anna and Keith staring up at the pair.  Keith seems unhappy, while Anna seemed oddly pleased.

“Why exactly are you two hanging over each other like that?”  Keith asked.

“No reason in particular.” Elly spoke up as she took a step away from Edward.  “Not like I particularly need one.  Ed’s like a big brother to me anyways.”

“Is that so.” Keith’s words floated in the air as everyone exchanged glances.  Edward broke the awkward silence.

“Anyway, it’s about time to meet up.  Gather everyone else here.”  As everyone gathered, they all talked about the spooky things that a few of them had heard.  Edward didn’t dare speak of what happened upstairs.  He didn’t want to encourage anyone to investigate it, especially Elly.

After sharing some snacks they carried in, the group began to shift off to pick out rooms to spend the night in.  Edward could see Keith scanning the group of faces, most likely for Elly.

“Does he really think he’ll be able to bunk up with Elly?”  Anna’s annoyed voice murmured behind him.

“Well, you have to give him points for persistence, at least.”  Ed looked over his shoulder at her when he spoke.  Anna’s expression rapidly changed to the eerie smile she always seemed to flip to.  “Though I’d have to give you points for that as well.”  Anna’s expression slackened at Edward seeing through her façade.

“Please don’t lump me in the same group with him.”

“But that’s exactly what you want to be, right?”  She looked from him to Keith before sighing slightly.  “Then you might as well follow him.  If you can keep him from Elly, maybe you’ll end up bunking with him instead.”  He turned and began to walk away when Anna’s voice stopped him.

“So what is the deal between Anna and you?”  Ed half-smirked as he turned to her.

“She probably thinks when I’m around, the spooks are more likely to show up.”  Anna raised an eyebrow.

“Why would she think that?”

“Because one oddity tends to attract others.”  Edward waved and started up the stairs.

Edward tucked his sleeping bag under his arm as he walked from room to room.  As he approached the child’s room again, he saw familiar smudges on the ground making prints leading out of the room.  By the size, they appeared to be similar to the shoes of a child.

“Ah, hell.”  Edward said as he rubbed his face.  Inwardly, he had hoped what he had seen earlier was just a hallucination.  “At least if I was crazy, I could write the whole thing off…”  He leaned down and rubbed a finger across one smudge and rubbed it between his fingers.  “Soot.”  He sighed.  “Damn it Elly, you sure know how to pick them…”  Hoping to avoid the hallway where the shoeprints led, he turned around and began walking down the hall.  He heard voices coming from the end of the hall.  He strained his ears to listen when suddenly something caught hold of his arm and yanked him into a room.  The door slid closed behind him as something come over his mouth.  He struggled against the unseen force as a voice came to his ear.

“Shh.”  He did so, and heard voices walking down the hall.  He recognized it as Keith and Anna.  They slowly stopped nearby, then dissipating somewhere down the corridor.  Edward turned his head to see who or what had grabbed him, but it was too dark to see.  He flipped on his flashlight and saw the eeriely lit face of Elly behind him.  He pulled her hand off of his mouth.

“You almost gave me a heart attack there.” He muttered as he tried to slow his breathing.

“Well, I didn’t want you blabbing as to where I was.”  Edward raised an eyebrow.

“And why is that, exactly?”

“Because I didn’t want him to find me.”

“Who?  Keith?”  Elly didn’t answer.  “Why are you hiding from him?”

“Several reasons.  I didn’t want him thinking he could bunk here with me, at least.”

“What’s wrong with being in the same room with the guy?”  Elly narrowed her eyes.

“Because I want you to.”  Both sat in silence, trying to contemplate that statement before Elly began to turn red and spun around.  “You’re the center of where the ghosts pop up, after all.”  Edward sighed.

“Is that all?”  Edward walked over to the bed and slumped down on it, sending up a plume of dust into the air.  Elly, however, stood facing away from me.  Just when Edward felt the need to interject, Elly finally spoke up.

“We’ll take shifts.  I’ll take the first one, you sleep.  I’ll wake you in an hour to switch.”

“That’s not a whole lot of beauty sleep for me.”

She snapped back, “Not like a month’s sleep could ever help you in that regard.”

“Fine, whatever.”  He unrolled his sleeping back next to the bed and slid into it.  Elly rolled hers out next to his.  Elly paused as she noticed Edward looking at her.

“What?”

“Nothing.  Night.”  Edward sank down into his sleeping bag and slowly drifted off to sleep.  His sleep was troubled and laborious, as it often was, especially so considering where they were sleeping.  By the time he awoke, he felt so disoriented he wasn’t sure whether he had been asleep only minutes or hours.  He shook his head and pointed his flashlight at his watch and flipped it on.

“3am?”  He scanned the room around him.  “Elly?”  He didn’t get a response.  He looked down at the sleeping bag next to his, but it was empty.  “Elly?” He called out again, this time, louder.  He rubbed his eyes and struggled to his feet.  As he stepped near the door, one foot smushed slightly, as if he had stepped into something powdery.

“The hell?”  He muttered as he turned the flashlight to his foot.  A black soot mark peered out from under his foot.  His flashlight followed a trail of them to the foot of their sleeping bags.

“Oh…shit.”  His right eye suddenly began to pound furiously, as if it was a second heart in his body.  He closed his eye and put his right hand over it.  He felt around for the door handle to the room and slowly slid it open.  As he leaned out into the hall, he could hear a noise.  It started faint at first, but as he turned towards the great room, it slowly became louder.  By the time he reached the end of the hallway, he recognized it as music.  He walked to the railing of the stairs and saw everyone in the group was awake and downstairs talking to each other and dancing.

“The hell guys? It’s three in the morning.”  He slowly walked down the stairs.  He picked Anna and Keith out of the group, and they were in the middle, dancing together.

“What are you two doing?”  But his voice found no response.  He poked Keith, then jabbed him in the side, but Keith acted as if he felt nothing.  As stood there, amongst the strange dancing group, Elly’s words began to click into place.

“The police found them dancing…”

The words echoed in his mind as he slowly pulled his hand away from his right eye, and slowly opened it.  No longer was it a group of teenagers and college students dancing together in a dilapidated room, but a group of affluent adults dancing together in a brightly lit, well-furnished room partying the night away.  His eye now smoothed into a solid throb as he viewed the scene before him.  To any other person, this would disturb them, but to Edward, this was an all too common occurrence when he was dragged on any of Elly’s adventures.

“One oddity attracts another.” He muttered under his breath as he closed his right eye again.  Once again, it became a room of young people dancing in an old room, the floor creakly loudly and shaking as they all moved.  He looked around, and saw everyone was here, save one.

“Elly…”  He thought a moment, and then looked back upstairs.  He knew where she had to be.  He climbed the stairs again, and walked down the hall to the room they had stayed in.  He could see the black prints on the ground, and followed them down the hall.  With each step, the air became hotter, thicker, and harder to breathe.  As he closed towards the end of the coordior, he began to cough, as if something nasty was filling his lungs.  He forced himself onward until he reached the end of the prints, the child’s bedroom.  He reached for the handle, but instantly pulled his hand back.  The handle appeared normal, but even from his fingers getting close, he could feel the red-hot heat radiating from it.  He kicked the door hard, and it flung open.

Elly sat in the room, quietly, with a wooden doll in her hands.  At first, she seemed oblivious to him, but then turned and looked up at him with a blank expression.  Edward, his skin seething, slowly opened his right eye.  The image of a girl sat before him, engulfed in flames, a subtle horror to her expression as she sat clutching a doll in her hands.  He heard no sound, but as her mouth moved, he could barely discern words from her lips.

“Daddy?  Daddy…where…are…you…”

The feeling of heat was so intense that every pore of his skin felt like it had already been set aflame.  Sweat poured off of his body as he fell to one knee before her.

“You’ve been alone a long time, little one.  It’s time your suffering was put to an end.”

“Daddy…”

“Don’t worry.  You’ll see him soon.”  Edward took his right thumb and sliced it against one of his own teeth, causing blood to bead up on the finger.  He traced a symbol in blood on his right hand and began chanting:

That no cry go unheard, no tear fall in vain, I make the vow.  Libera illa animus, Domine, de morte aeterna.  Requiem aeternam. Dona eis, Domine.  Amen.

They were words he knew all too well, words he learned the day his eye changed.  When they were spoken, the heat dissipated and the girl’s clear image came into view.  She smiled at him before fading into a sea of white.  Edward blinked, and found himself back in the old room, with Elly seated before him.  Elly sat half-lucid for a moment, before slumping onto the ground.  Edward picked her up and carried her to the great room.  As he entered, he saw the others unconscious on the ground.  He sighed.

“I’m not going to get one bit of actual sleep tonight, am I?”  He set about carrying Elly and the others back to their sleeping bags…or at least what he hoped was theirs.  By the time he was done, the sun had already crept back up over the horizon.  He was just about to lay back down in his own sleeping bag when Elly bolted upright.

“What? What happened?”

“You…fell asleep, I guess.” He offered.

“Dang it! We probably missed some of the best stuff!”  She put her head in her hands.  “Ugh, I never catch a break.”

“It’s a rough life.”  He snapped sarcastically as he laid down.

“You look terrible.  How much were up last night?”

“Quite a bit.  I seem to have trouble getting sleep inside of a haunted house, unlike some people.”

“Yeah, yeah, rub it in.  Ugh, my head feels like a fishbowl.”  Elly shook her head and staggered to her feet.  She stumbled about for a few steps and then fell over on top of Edward.  Edward grunted out as her weight flopped onto him.  Just then, the door creaked open behind them.

“What…are you two doing?”  Both heads spun around to see Keith looking down at them from the doorway.

“This…isn’t what you think…”  Elly offered.

“Rather intimate for him to be a ‘big brother’, ne?” Anna chimed in as she peered in behind Keith.

“I told you it isn’t anything!  You! Tell them!”  Elly barked as she pointed a finger at Edward.

“Just let me sleep already…”  He muttered, putting a hand over his eyes.

Even through the yelling and conversation around him, his eyelids felt heavy, and slowly drifted off to sleep.  This time, his sleep felt fairly dull, yet relaxing.  He dreamt he was playing with dolls with a small smiling girl.  It was a peaceful, quiet dream, and that is exactly how he liked it.

The Last Two.

“The Last Two”

How long has this war gone on?  Ten years? Fifty years?  A hundred?  All I know is that from my very first sensations, I knew what war was, what it smelled like, what it tasted like.  The metallic taste of gunpowder and blood in my mouth.  The smell of cordite hanging in the air like a fog that never quite seemed to go away.  Only the rain seemed to dampen it, and even that was only a slight pause before it was strengthened anew, like some twisted air freshener.  I got to know the feeling of the cold metal of my rifle more than the soft flesh of another human being.  It was always so loud, so loud.  Loud was good though.  Loud meant there other people around you.  Silence meant that planes were coming in to drop bombs, or worse.  You learned to love the noise, the cacophony of life and death.  After all, in silence, there was no life, only death.  Even the screams of agony from any side of you let you know there was someone else alive in the world…even for that brief moment.  People, though, weren’t companions, as I was told once that they used to be, but simply more targets.  More moving objects to sight down the scope of my rifle, and pull the trigger till they moved no longer.  War was a person’s only companion, mine included.  You woke up with war, you ate with war, you went to bed with war.  You might ask questions of war, but war never responded.  War was a terrible companion in that way.  War had gone on so long, that even as a child, no one remembered who was the victim, who was the aggressor, or even who or why we were fighting.  The war simply was, and that was all we needed to know, or at least, we reasoned that much.  After all, so long as there’s another person at the end of my scope who’s trying to do the same to me, either I pull the trigger so I can wake up tomorrow, or I don’t wake up.  I remember once a person who seemed to choose the latter of the two.  He dropped his gun and ran out in the open, as if asking to be released from this hellish existence.  While I thought about this man and his choice, someone else granted his wish for him.  A shot rang out, and he sloshed down into the muck, another pile of meat for the crows to pick clean.

The war continued until I found myself the size and appearance of those around me were when I was a child.  Things had gotten much quieter now, and it frightened me.  Day by day, the loud crashes and booms of bombs and gunfire became softer, more infrequent, and farther away.  Finally, one day, there was nothing but silence.  I cowered in a hole for hours that day, knowing surely I would meet my own end that day.  Silence was death, and there was not a sound to be heard.  I would bang on rock and rubble, and it seemed that the more I tried to make noise, the more the silence took it in, like a great maw opening up to swallow me whole.  I finally leaned my head up only to have the whizzing blur of a bullet zoom past.  For a moment, I was elated.  The silence was gone, and I wasn’t alone…even though this other person intended to kill me.  I quickly leveled my rifle and began firing away, in exuberance that someone else was out there.  I was firing wildly, not focusing on killing whoever this other person might be, but so happy that I had to express it somehow.  It was a strange feeling to me, and it makes my arms tingly and numb.  I quickly ran out of ammo, and searched the bodies around me for more.  I found only two or three on those immediately around.  Even as I dared venturing farther from the hole I had buried myself in for so long, there wasn’t any more ammo to find.  I leaned my gun out of my hole to take aim again, when another shot ricocheted over my head.  I ducked down instinctively, and then raised my rifle again.  I saw a helmet wobble in the distance, and I took a shot at it.  My round went through the helmet, knocking it to the muck, but I quickly realized that the helmet had been standing on a wooden rod.  I had been had.  Another shot quickly followed mine, coming from my left, and whirring past my head.  I dug my heels into the dirt and fired a shot wildly in the direction my shot had come from.  A miss.  I reached in my pocket, and found I had just one round left.  Just one piece of metal that would either kill this other person, or I myself would die.  I laughed slightly at the oddity of this one thing being the only thing that would keep me from dying.  I wiped the grime off of it and slid the bolt back on my rifle, and slid the round into place with a click.  “My last stand.” I whispered to myself as I patted a hand on the beaten up rifle.  I knew firing from a distance would be silly, as I had missed twice already.  I would have to get close for it to work.  I inched slowly, from hole to hole, pile of rubble to pile of rubble, until I got close to where the shots had originated.  I scanned in every direction in front of me, but saw not a movement, nor heard a sound.  Suddenly I heard something snap behind me.  I whirled around in place to see a figure behind me, rifle in hand.  I leveled my rifle as I turned and pulled the trigger.  A strange noise came from my rifle, and nothing happened.  It jammed.  Here, at the very last moment, my rifle, my only friend, had betrayed me.  I dropped it to the ground as the figure had its rifle pointed directly at my head.  I slumped down, my back to the muck, as I knew death would soon come.

This, after all, was the end.

But, as I lay there with eyes closed, nothing happened.  It was strange, hanging in that limbo between life and death, waiting for death to come…but it didn’t.  I opened my eyes, and the figure was standing there, still looking at me, rifle trained on me.  Why didn’t the person fire?  I was helpless here, only a few feet away.  It would be an easy kill.  So…why?

It was then that I noticed…this rifle pointed at me…had no clip in it.  Apparently…this person was out of ammo as well.  The figured seemed to sigh a moment before dropping its rifle as well.  It pulled a muck-covered rag off its face, and slid its helmet back and dropped it to the earth.  A woman.  Something I hadn’t seen in many years.  Her dark hair was matted to her face, her green eyes staring into my own.  Slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, her hand extended towards me.  It hung there in the open air, as she slowly bent down slightly at me.  I let out an uneasy breath as I matched the action.  Our hands met, and she pulled me to my feet.  We stood there for a long moment, hand in hand, staring at each other, not sure what to do.  After a time, I felt hunger begin to gnaw at my stomach.  I let go of her hand and reached into a pouch at my side.  She looked at me worriedly, but I raised an open palm at her as I pulled out a candy bar.  I broke it, wrapper and all, and offered it to her.  She quickly grabbed it from me and gobbled it down.  By her actions, I guessed she hadn’t eaten in days.  I slumped down against a broken piece of building that was still standing upright and began to eat.  She looked at me a moment before she sat down next to me.  I surveyed the area around us, and there was naught even an echo to be heard.  It might be possible that we were the only two people left in the world.  As the darkness and silence began to grow around us, she leaned up against me.  Being so used to cold steel, the warmth and softness of flesh seemed like some dream I was having.  Maybe people…aren’t so bad after all.  As I drifted off to sleep, a final thought slipped through my mind:

At least I’m not alone.

You are not Alone.

Alone

Solitary

Loner

Words that describe one which has no other

In a world of six billion, so many describe themselves as thus

For even in a crowd, the feeling of being alone

Permeates the fibers of our hearts

And every beat slowly takes us into sorrow

For none understand this pain

This sadness

This loneliness

That drains away the life from our limbs

And makes our hearts frigid and dark.

But, with six billion others that could be feeling the same way, are we really?

Are those that scream out into the void of their frozen hearts truly not heard?

Truly, this I say to you

That no cry may go unheard,

No tear fall in vain

I make this vow

You are not alone.

Reach out your hands beyond that barren, windswept plain of your heart

And you will find

Fingers

Reaching back to grasp yours

And pull you back into the warm of the sun

Though your darkness, reach out, reach out

For there is already a hand waiting to grasp yours.

Reach out

Find that light once again

And become that hand that reaches into the darkness of other’s hearts

So you me be the the proof that

You are not alone.

X&V,

K.D.S.