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Story – by Dialogue

As a fantasy buff, I love reading anything by Brandon Sanderson. For those of you who don’t know, he broke into the fantasy world with Elantris, which had a story arc beyond what some authors have in entire series. He then followed with the Mistborn series, and it’s several spin-off novels. He wrote a few teen books, and is currently working on the Stormlight Archive, which he’s planning to be a ten-book series, in two five-book arcs. All this to say, he’s an incredible author. I was recently browsing his site, and found a collection of short fiction. One of them was I Hate Dragons, a humorous short story told entirely in dialogue. There’s nothing but what people are saying. Not only is it hilarious, it’s a genius storytelling, and really makes you think how to use context in your dialogue. He wrote it in response to a challenge he put out many years ago. Well, back in 2010, I wasn’t writing as well as I am now, and I also didn’t have the blog. But I figured I might as well take up the challenge and see how it went. What follows might be completely bizarre, and perhaps a little stupid, but it also only took a few hours to do. Please enjoy the following story, which I like to call Wizard Lesson.

“Now, Doran, we will go over how to cast an illuminating spell.”
“You mean to light a room up, Master?”
“Yes, Doran. Now, the first step-”
“I could use this so much, Master. My youngest brother, Calden, he’s afraid of the dark. I could just light up his room for him, no problem, couldn’t I, Master.”
“Er, yes, I suppose so. But we really must be-”
“And when I’m in the basement, and I’m always walking into cobwebs. I could just light that up, too, right?”
“Yes, yes, of course. Now, the first-”
“How powerful is this spell? Could I light up the entire world with it?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, child. You could, at most, light up a large field. But the entire world? That’s going too far.”
“I was just curious, Master.”
“I understand that, Doran, but we need to go over how the spell works.”
“Yes. Of course. I’m listening, Master.”
“All right. The first step is-”

“Why did you pause, Master?”
“I expected an interruption. You were kind enough to disappoint me. Now, the first step is to say the words. Remember, all magic – Come, boy, say the rule.”
“All magic is taking the energy inside and putting it into something outside.”
“And an example of this?”
“Pff. Do I have to, Master?”
“Yes.”
“Fine. A classic example of this is the fireball spell. It channels your energy into a heat wave that then expands into a fireball.”
“Well, you’re not wrong. But next time, please put a little life into it. You sounded like you were reciting.”
“I was reciting. That’s exactly what it says in the book.”
“I don’t even want to know. Now, the words to channel your energy are corad vas terrabit.”
Card varse terrible!”
“Careful!”
“Wow! Look at that tower! Did I make it pink?”
“Yes. Card sol hassen.”
“Hey! It’s gray again! How’d you do that?”
“Magic, Doran. Magic.”
“Oh. Right.”
“Now, repeat after me. Corad.”
Corad.”
Vas.”
Vas.”
Terr– Don’t hold your wand like that! Do you want to light up that statue’s rump?”
“No! Of course not! Sorry, Master.”
“Get that out of my face! Now! Blasted child! Be careful. This isn’t some stick that you can wave around willy nilly.”
“It looks like a stick, Master.”
“It’s not just a stick. It’s a stick that has a function. Just like the energy inside you has a purpose. Now, copy me.”
“Yes, Master.”
“Exactly. Your wand should be a little straighter, but otherwise – why are you making that horrible face, boy?”
“You said to copy you, Master.”
“I do not make that face, boy!”
“Of course not, Master. It must just be that my face can’t copy your distress well enough.”
“Distress?”
“Yes, sir. You always look distressed when you’re about to perform magic.”
“Do not make fun of me, boy.”
“I’m not making fun of you, Master. It’s too sad to tease.”
“What? What do you even mean?”
“What I said, Master?”
“What do you mean that it’s too sad – no. No, I must not let this bother me. Doran, repeat the words. Corad.”
Corad.”
Vas.”
Vas.”

“You paused again, Master.”
“I’m attempting not to kill you, boy. Terrabit!”
Terrabit!”
“Wonderful. Now say them all together.”
Corad vast terra-”
“Not vast. Vas.”
Corad vas-”
“Wonderful.”
Terrabid.”
“No!”
“Wow! Is that a thundercloud? My brother, the one I told you about earlier, is afraid of thunderstorms. Boy! That’s a lot of rain from one tiny thundercloud.”
“Come, Doran! Run for the tower!”
“Woah! Did that statue just explode?”
Coffid hep soto!”
“Did you just open the door with your wand, Master? That’s pretty impressive. Not as much as that statue exploding, but still cool.”
“Just sit down, boy. And give me your wand.”
“Yes, sir. It’s awfully dark in here, sir. Maybe you could show me that illumination spell now?”
“I tried to show it to you, boy. And you created a thunderstorm that blew up an ancient statue of a powerful wizard.”
“I just got one thing wrong. How does magic even know what I said? I mean, suppose someone had a lisp. Would every spell they tried come out wrong?”
“Look, lad, those questions aren’t for right now. Did you miss the part where you blew up an ancient statue?”
“Nope. I saw it. It was incredible. I hope I can do that again, someday.”
“That’s it. I can’t take this anymore. I’m through with you.”
“Wait, Master, don’t go! I’m sorry. I’ll do my best. I’ll work hard. I’ll, I’ll be careful from now on. Please, Master, don’t go.”
“Hmph. Fine. I’ll give it one more go. But you need to promise to be careful of what you say.”
“Of course. Corad vas terrabit.”
“That’s exactly what you were supposed to say the first time, Doran. Now, take your wand and say it again. Carefully.”
Corad vast terrabit. Oh, I’m sorry, Master. Oh, your new cloak, too.”
“I – I am fine. You are fine. Look on the bright side. You did the spell correctly.”
“But I ruined your beautiful cloak!”
“Illumination ends, eventually. My cloak’s glow will fade. I’m proud of you, Doran.”
“Truly?”
“Truly.”
“Thank you, Master. Most people aren’t poud of me. They’re just angry.”
“You can be a bit much, sometimes, Doran. But you want to try hard. Come, I think your freak storm has ended. We can return to the great outdoors.”
“I love the smell of the earth after a rain.”
“It’s the simple pleasures of this life, Doran. Remember that.”
“It’s a reminder that the worms are out of their holes, so right now is the perfect time to get bait for fishing. Hey, there’s one right now!”
“Focus, Doran.”
“Sorry. What are we working on now?”
“Making the illumination larger or smaller. For example, corad vas terrabit von dulak. See, it creates a floating orb that gives off light. Meanwhile, corad vas terrabit von dulath. And now there’s a larger area that’s lit up. The second doesn’t last as long, however.”
“That’s cool! Can I try?”
“Show me that you know the clarifiers first.”
Von dulak, or von dulath.”
“Wonderful. Now, for the first, point to where you want the orb to gather.”
Corad vas terrabit vom dulak.”
“Not again, Doran!”
“What did it do? Why didn’t it make an orb like yours did?”
“You said vom, not von.”
“Master, you don’t look so good.”
“I – I don’t feel too well, I’m afraid. Vom causes sickn-”
“Ugh. I’m sorry, Master.”
“What’s wrong with him, Doran?”
“Oh, hey, Grindle. Oh, he was showing me an illumination spell, and happened to get sick.”
“Ick. That’s nasty.”
“I know. Hey, you want to see the spell?”
“Sure!”
“Okay. Card varse terrible!”
“Ah! My cloak!”

 

And that’s it. I wasn’t sure how to end it, so if seems abrupt, my apologies. But anything else I tried seemed like it would lead into another tangent, and then I’d never finish. Either way, Doran reminds me of Kyle, from Studio C (look it up on YouTube), and the whole story reminds me of the Pixar short Lifted (you can probably find this on YouTube as well). And I would also like to thank Mr. Sanderson (if he ever reads this) for the incredible writing exercise. It was a lot of fun.

 

The Stealth Seekers … And a Challenge

As you can tell from my “Retired Hero’s Home,” I love superhero stories. At one point, I even dabbled in drawing them. But I can’t draw, and my handwriting was even worse, so there was no way to tell what the story was about. Either way, I created these two characters, Reapon and Culemule. They fought against this creature called Mr. Alien. Then, as I continued, Mr. Alien ended up being on their side. Their team was called the Stealth Seekers, fighting evil without others knowing it was them. Then, one day, I wanted to get more in depth. Where did they come from? Why did they fight together? What was Mr. Alien? This story helped answer those questions. Enjoy.

 

It was a Tuesday night when the uprising happened. It wasn’t really all that sudden. One second, they weren’t there, then they next second, they still weren’t there, and give or take several hundred years, always infiltrating our world, slowly preparing to take it over.
The humans didn’t believe in extra-terrastial life. At least, not the majority. Others, called crackpots, conspiracy theorists, and worse names than those, believed that something was going to come. But even they were surprised when it happened. They looked to the sky, searching for the bright metal ships, probably circular in shape, which would come buzzing down and introduce them to the worlds beyond.
But on that fateful Tuesday, Taco Night at the Holme residence, everyone discovered what the aliens really were. All over the world, they appeared. Actually, appeared isn’t the correct term. They didn’t suddenly show up, they came out of hiding. Office workers, lawyers, drunks, prisoners, guards, every job you can think of, they weren’t humans. They dropped the facade, and it was over. The presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens, all the leaders had long been replaced by the Spids.
And then it was over. Just like that. And life continued. Just like that.
Now, however, when you went the grocery store, you saw a Spid watching you from Aisle five. The cashiers were mostly Spids. The children in the schools walked in to find their teachers with eight, long, pulsing, blue, rope-like arms.
The Spids were vaguely humanoid, with large, round heads, and a torso-like stump. But on the bottom of the torso, where human legs would exist, there was instead a large rocket, which allowed them to float above the ground. And where arms should have come where merely two pointed bulges. Off either side of this bulge protruded two, long, arms. Two to a side of the bulge, four to the side of a Spid, and eight total. Spids could control them far better than humans could their arms, and they were extendable and retractable.
For the most part, Spids spoke whatever language the country they occupied did, but when they got together, what they said sounded like a wet, kissing noise.
On Tuesday, the uprising happened. On Sunday, the taking happened. The Spids burst into houses, searching for prime candidates, as they called them. Later, the human race discovered that what they meant was guinea pigs. Jessica Holme was taken, the Spids dragging her and her two month year old son out of the house. Her father and husband both tried to fight, but were quickly sedated. The Spids frowned on killing.
Each country had one base where the Spids could experiment on the humans they gathered. Jessica and her boy were separated, Jessica finding herself in a cell awaiting treatments. The boy, however, was taken to Doctor Hoo, a Spid who had taken the name as a joke.
And so began the testing, the boy growing into a headstrong teen with powers beyond the ken of humans and Spid alike. He was no longer ‘human’, but was not Spid either. Instead, he was given the name Reapon. Perhaps it was a misspelling of ‘weapon,’ or perhaps they just wanted it to sound cooler. With a name like Doctor Hoo, who knows.
This time, however, Reapon was sick of knuckling down to the Spids. On a Tuesday night, seventeen years from the original uprising, he and several other guinea pigs broke out, running from the only place they had only known. There were five of them: Reapon, whose hands could turn into a sword, shield, dagger, and with monumental effort, a mace, Culemule, a sentient Rabbernose, much like a centaur, yet with more of a rabbit-like head, another boy who called himself Supernova, who had a way to control the energy around him, allowing him to fly and throw objects far to heavy for him to lift himself, as well as burst into flame. The other human, Terry, was normal, but had extensive training in the military. The fifth was a Spid, only twenty-five, who hated the rest of his race, as they had imprisoned and nearly killed him.
They were five miles from the Spid base when their pursuers caught up.
((((<>))))
Reapon stared at the red sky, his eyes the exact color of what he was seeing. “We’ve got to keep moving,” Terry ordered, his guns out and ready.
“Where are we?” Supernova asked, his face wrinkled in puzzlement. “I studied the maps before we left, but I don’t know any of this.”
“Life’s different out here,” the Spid said, his face bathed in the red light. “The geography got rearranged when your people fired nuclear missiles at my people.”
Culemule, who was watching the trackers, alerted them with a loud bray. “They’re almost here,” he said, his ears twitching in nervousness. He pulled out the two swords slung across his back, preparing for a fight.
The Spid turned to Terry. “You see anywhere we can hide?”
“I got nothing,” the big man replied, his face sagging in defeat. “We’re done for.”
“We keep running,” Supernova said, turning to them as well. “We keep running until we can’t run anymore, and then we fight until we’re dead.” His hands took the energy in the air and heated it until small flecks of flame appeared, growing to a small ball in his hand.
“Stop that,” Reapon ordered, slapping his hand down. “We’re going to use the last amount of time to prepare to fight. Got that? They’ll have been flying for a long time, as long as we’ve been running. They’ll be tired. We’ll be ready.”
“Best plan I’ve heard,” Terry agreed, checking the ammunition level in his guns. “Let’s give them a fight they won’t forget.”
Supernova grinned, taking to the air, the Spid directly behind. Reapon watched them fly off, letting his sword and shield burst from his hands. There was a slight pain, as there always was, but he managed to keep it hidden from the others as they prepared weapons as well. Culemule swung his swords, eager to put them against Spid flesh. Terry mimed shooting several of the Spids flying toward them, although they were still too far off.
“Here they come!” a yell came from above. The pursuing Spid collided with the two airborne fugitives, Supernova knocking several out of the sky.
On the ground, Terry let his guns fire, two Spids falling limply onto the earth. Reapon bounded forward, slashing in the air, blocking several whipping Spid arms with his shield. The Rabbernorse also attacked his swords, the bright blades becoming nothing more than blurs in the evening’s shadows.
More and more Spids joined the fight, the total coming to about twenty. But still the fugitives fought, as all around them the beings fell from the sky. In the air, Supernova fought desperately, his energy swirling around him, blocking the Spids’ lashing arms. It moved quickly from place to place, but still it was not fast enough. A long arm, whipping at a ferocious speed, knocked him down, his landing uncushioned.
Reapon saw his companion fall, but did nothing. He could do nothing except try and stop the swarm. A long arm caught him on the shoulder, but he reversed his shield, the metal coursing through his body and making the sword extend further. The Spid was caught on the end, then he ended the metal transfer, and his shield burst up once again.
The Rabbernorse beside him flashed his blades, the fiery arms falling to the earth as they met the gleaming edge. Darkness continued to fall- Night waited for no one – but still they fought.
The guns jerked Terry’s arms back, but he stood firm. Then he pulled the trigger and heard the click. He was done. The ammunition was gone. But still, on his own, he had accounted for seven of the trackers. As the rest closed in on him, he grinned. It had been a long life he had led, and he was ready for whatever came next. With a cry, he charged forwards, using his guns as clubs. Before the Spids took him down with their flailing arms, however, he had choked one of them to death.
The Spid who had run watched his brethren gather around him. But, he too had been tested upon, and this dark strength released itself, his rocket burning brighter, and his arms growing. He moved fast, faster than any Spid had ever gone. He spun around several trackers, his arms cracking at the back of their necks. He pulled two of them so they collided with each other, and then the rest, who before setting out on the mission had affirmed their courage, fled. They shot off into the darkness, trying to escape from the vengeful prisoner. As the others followed, the fugitives let out a great cry, cheering their victory.
It was Supernova, winded, but otherwise unhurt, who found Terry’s still body, covered with the blood of Spids and himself alike, the gun used to choke the Spid still clutched in his hands. He sat there, dry eyed, for a long time, until Reapon walked over. “You okay?” the leader asked.
“Yes,” Supernova said, standing. Then he lit a handful of energy. “I’m not going to leave him here for dissection. He was a good man, and deserves a decent burial. But we can’t give him that, can we?”
“No, unfortunately,” Reapon agreed.
“Then I’m going to burn him.” With that, Supernova exploded, his entire body becoming wreathed in flames. He made a motion with his hands, a blanket of flame spreading out over Terry. It descended, consuming everything in it’s path. Soon, the body was no more, nothing but ash on a charred earth.
“Come,” Reapon said. “We have to move.”
Supernova nodded, turning away from what remained of his father, Terry Blaithe. And the only other person, as far as he knew, who had known his real name.

 

And now the challenge. I have a list of writing prompts, opening lines to stories that sound really good. For example, I once wrote a story based off of ‘Daniel knew his father wasn’t human.’ This summer, the Glorious Mess wants to publish your stories. Please, write a story from one of the prompts, then post it in the comments below. I’ll retrieve it, and post it as a story, the same as I would one of mine. Rules: 1. It should be over 1,000 words, but under 2,000. Not too long, not too short. 2. After you finish your submission, write a short introduction to it, same as I do. If you would like to put any personal information in it, that’s your choice. We understand, however, if your privacy is important to you. 3. You should be able to easily tell which writing prompt you used. Whether you just put the prompt at the beginning of the story as your starting sentence or paragraph, or include it somewhere, or something along those lines, it must be clear which prompt you used.

That’s it. Three simple rules. Oh, and I guess also, submissions must be in by midnight, August 19th. So four simple rules. And without any further ado, the writing prompts.

#1: The first thing he heard was Beethoven. He couldn’t remember what it was called, but he knew it was a classic. “Ode to Joy,” he finally said.
“Hello, Mr. Burton,” another voice said. “We’re glad you’re finally awake.”
Cecil Axel Burton opened his eyes, blinking to get accustomed to the light. “Where am I?” It wasn’t home, he was sure of that.
“I’m going to tell you now, Mr. Burton, this is not the world you once knew.” 

#2: It was typical day. Warm, bright, the sun shining through the leaves of the trees. People walking through the burrough town, hailing each other, chatting about the most ridiculous things, as adults are apt to do. And, of course, the voice of Shen screaming at her younger brother, Shull. 

#3: Elias was the first. His name, of course, was not Elias, but the gift given deserved a name such as the one he took. All who saw him thought of the ancient prophet named such, who had also acquired the gift of fire.
But I knew him. Before the madness. Before Carlid. Before the world ended, I knew Elias, or, as we called him back them, Joseph. My father, a world-renowned scientist, had ‘Uncle Joe’ over for dinner several times a week. Then it happened. My father called it a breakthrough. Later, the world called it a disaster. 

#4: Falling. Always falling. It was the only thing that Anna knew. Darkness and the sensation of falling. It was as if she had been falling forever, though she had memory of before the fall. And then it was over. Light exploded around her, and she slammed into something. She looked around. 

#5: Sola glanced at her brother, then back at the cliff. Devin’s eyes were wide. But for good reason. It wasn’t every day that writing appeared before your eyes. The words stretched across the entire rock face. But Sola could hardly believe the message.

The Retired Hero’s Home

Life is full of mysteries. Such as where do your socks go when you put them in the dryer? Or why is the sky blue? But the one no one has answered is where do Super Heroes go after they retire?
A lot of them don’t retire. That’s the sad truth. Many die fighting their sworn enemies. Though they usually take said enemy with them. However, those that do decide to retire either return to their mansion, or the go to the RHH (Retired Heroes Home).
Boasting over 50 rooms to choose from, the RHH is here to fit your needs. Just give us a call, or visit us, either online or in person. Get a tour of our luxury suites, or if that’s a bit dramatic, the shared rooming with old pals. If you wish, you can still practice your skills in our gym/training facility. A nearby lake provides both swimming and canoing/kyacking/other boating fun. Come and visit today, or call us on our toll free number 1-800-(Number hidden)-34
Everyone here has agreed, the RHH is Super!

Retired Heroes Home #001: New Arrival

Nathaniel Jacobs, aka ‘The Crimson Flame’, dropped his suitcase. Right on the busboy’s foot. “Sorry about that,” he said, though the words and voice didn’t quite match up. The busboy smiled.
“Not a problem, Mr. Flame. Not a problem at all.” The boy picked up the case and followed Nathaniel inside. “Name’s Cameron Cook, sir. We’re pleased to have you here, with us, at the RHH.”
“Yeah, and  I’m so glad to be here,” Nathaniel replied, his voice as sarcastic as he could make it.
“Can I show you to your room?” Cameron asked.
“Been there, done that. I’m bunking with Mr. Marvelous, or Phil as they call him now.” Phil had been one of his best friends, back in the day. Nathaniel’s mind wandered back to it, but he quickly snapped back to the present. He was 69 years old, and everyone believed that the old fire was dying out.
Cameron followed the new RH through the halls. He was glad that the Crimson Flame wasn’t one of the huge heroes like Gravitator, or El Zorro. With those heroes, entire trucks had been brought in with all their junk. Old trophies, keys to cities, et cetera. Personally, Cameron didn’t care for the glory. He just had wanted to be a  Super Hero so badly.
When he had found out his power, three years ago, at the age of seventeen, he had been elated. But then he found the extent of his power. Cameron could make flowers grow. That simple. He couldn’t make them grow anywhere, and couldn’t grow them so large that they could wrap around a person. He could just make them grow at an accelerated pace. That was what brought him to this place, the RHH. He had hoped that if he couldn’t be a Hero, he could at least help them out a bit.
Nathaniel wanted to curse. But the boy behind him seemed hardly old enough to watch a PG-13 movie, so he restrained himself. The place was nothing like his hideout in the Andes, where he had watched over the world with the Last Defense. But that team had broken up a long time ago, and for the last decade or so, he had been working out of a penthouse in Seattle. Quite a change from what he was used to.
But this is how he was going to live for the rest of his life. In a smelly old hotel filled to the brim with senile old Super Heroes. It could be worse, he supposed. He could have died in his last battle, the one with the Judge and Jury. He had barely made it out of there alive, and when he had recovered, the quacks at the SHH (Super Hero Hospital) said that he shouldn’t do any more hero work again. Shows what they knew, he thought.
He stopped off at his room, #25. He pulled open his door, and loud music blasted out. Clamping his hands over his ears, he pushed into the room. Instantly the music stopped. “Crimson Flame!” came a voice from the bed across the room.
“Mr. Marvelous,” Nathaniel said, grinning. It began to feel a little bit more comfortable. The busboy, Cameron, put the suitcase on the ground. “How’ve you been, Phil?”
“I’ve felt better, but right now, I’m Maaarvelous!” Phil said, using his old catchphrase. He jumped out of the bed. His legs didn’t work so well anymore, but that wasn’t a problem with Ole’ Marvelous. He could just float above the floor. “And what about you, Nate?”
“Still burning as bright as ever.”
“I’ll leave you two to catch up,’ Cameron said, turning to leave.
“Wait a second boy,” Phil said, his face lighting up with a huge grin. “Do you mind bringing the rest of the Last Defense up here? They ought to see that Nate is comin’ home!” Cameron smiled and nodded, leaving the room at last.
“How many of them are there here?” Nathaniel asked, sitting on his bed.
“With you here, there’s eight of us. Verity passed on last year, as you remember.”
“Yes, I was going to come for the funeral, but-” he was cut off by Phil.
“I didn’t mean dead, Nate. I mean she went home to her family in whatever star galaxy quadrant thing she lived in before.”
“Oh,” was Nathaniel’s reply. A loud pounding on the wall began, followed by a person’s shouts of anger.
“You keep it down in there. Some of us like the peace and quiet you know!”
“Is that…?” Nathaniel didn’t want to say who he thought it was, for fear of getting it wrong.
“Striker, yessir. And yes, we’re talking about the first Striker. The one who-”
“Would blast music out of his Strikermobile whenever he was going to apprehend criminals. Oh, the irony.”
They were quiet for a few seconds, then Phil spoke again. “Don’t worry, Crimson. You’ll get used to it here. It’s nice, and every so often, especially on Halloween, we get to catch all these nasty little boys who want to use our home as a target for eggs. Not quite Captain Infamy, but good fun nonetheless.”
“I wish I could believe that, Phil .I really do.” Suddenly, the door burst open.
“Crimson!” a voice boomed.
“Electrician! Wonder! Stardust! Namer! Sea Prince! Light Lord!” Nathaniel’s voice burst out as he recognized all his old teammates.
Electrician: Secret identity (SI) Scott Boyle. Powers: Ability to control anything electric.
Wonder: SI: Charles Briggs. Powers: Ability to fly, breath under water; enhanced strength.
Stardust: SI: Silvana Young. Powers: Flight, X-Ray vision, enhanced strength/speed under night sky.
Namer: SI: Alexander West. Powers: A command preceded by a person’s name must be obeyed.
Sea Prince: SI: Brian Silver. Powers: Breath under water, control any water/sea animals.
Light Lord: SI: John Evans. Powers: Able to warp light around him, making him invisible, direct light into opponents eyes, anything else that has to do with light.
“Great to see all of you!” Nathaniel said, hugging each one of them.
“And you,” Alexander said. The others echoed their agreement. the banging on the wall started again.
“Silence, you blasted young people!”
“I’m older than you, Striker!” Brian yelled, which quieted the old man for a few more seconds. The Last Defense looked around at each other.
“We’re all older than him,” Scott said, laughing. “He’s only 67. A mere baby compared to the rest of us.”
“Especially me,” the white haired Silvana said. “It took me 130 years before I finally quit. You all are just wimps, I guess.”
“We’re not aliens, that’s why,” John shot back, grinning.
“Better an alien then a man,” Silvana retorted, and everyone smiled, remembering the old days when John and Silvana would go at it for hours, if not days.
Charles smiled, leaning on his cane. “I’ve got be off. I’m on lunch today.” He hobbled off, his cane tapping all the while.
“Good old fashioned Charles cooking,” Nathaniel said dreaming of days when all the people gathered here would gather around the Last Defense breakfast bar, eating ‘Cook Chuck’s’ food.
“I have to admit, it’ll be nice to eat, then relax, maybe take a nap,”
“I was trying to take a nap, but then you all woke me up!” shouted the Striker.
“Oh, grow up!” was the reply by the all the Last  Defense.

Lunch was delicious. It always was when Charlie cooked. Once again, Nathaniel was filled with good food, and surrounded by friends. Life felt very good.
Cameron always hung around him, which he felt was a bit strange, but at the same time, he understood. Back when he had just gained his power, the ability to control fire, he had followed the Unicorn around wherever he went.
“How many people are there here?” Nathaniel asked as they ate. It was Stardust who replied.
“Over fifty. But twenty-ish people are in their own area. They’re the ones that have all the money. El Zorro, the Hopper, even Grandman.”
Unable to help himself, John snickered. “Why would anyone give themselves a name like that? Grandman, it sounds like grand band, or grand stand, or grandma.”
“He’s old enough to be your grandpa, actually,” Brian drawled, leaning back in his chair. His energy was starting to deplete, and he was looking forward to the nap they had talked about earlier.
“What is he now? Like ninety something, right?”
“Yeah, I think he’s still in his nineties.”
The conversation continued on that train of though for several minutes, until Scott changed the subject. “What do you think of the kids who took our jobs?”
“Silversmith’s okay,” John said, referencing the man who could control metal. “But that other one, Google, isn’t it? He gives me the creeps.”
“Millionaire playboys do the stupidest things. Even if their I Q’s are high,” Silvana said.
Alex spoke up. “I trained Triton, so I totally agree with him. And Pyre’s okay as well.”
“You think they’ll be able to deal with the villains we had to? I mean the ones of that caliber,” Brian asked.
“I’m not sure,” Silvana replied. “They’re tough, but trying to fight someone like Captain Infamy, or the Destroyer. Even Night King was tough, and that was all about dreams.”
“Cameron, what are you muttering?” Nathaniel asked, staring at the twenty year old.
“Just the stats. Of the Villains, and Heroes.”
“What are my stats?” he asked.
“In your prime, the would be, let’s see, 50, 50, 20, 70. So a total of 190. Which is pretty good. Most people get somewhere around a hundred.”
“My stats?” John asked.
“40, 10, 90, 30. 170. As a team, you guys had above a thousand points in stats. Which is insane, even for the Justice League. And they had, like, fifteen members!”
“We’re the Last Defense. The just in case. But we were good at what we did.” That was Alexander for you. “Now, Cameron Miles Cook, get me a Coke.”
The boy got up and walked towards the kitchen.
“You’re not supposed to have soda,” Silvana chided, but Alexander just laughed.
“Please remain quiet for the next ten minutes, Silvana Alice Young.”
“Doesn’t work, buster,” Silvana said. “You can’t make me do that. Not in a million-” she fell silent.
“Seconds? Milliseconds? No, I suppose I can’t. But a million and one, now you’ll be quiet.”
“Alexander, you’re my new best friend,” John said, grinning. Silvana punched him in the shoulder, and he fell off his chair. “Now, make her stop moving,” John continued, getting up off the floor.
“Nothing doing,” Alexander replied, as Silvana pushed John down again. Everyone else at the table laughed, drawing the attention of all the other RHs.
“Come on,” Phil said, lifting off his chair. “We should get back to the room.” Smiling, Nathaniel followed his floating friend. A few Super Heroes met them as they walked out.
“Phil! How you been?” a tall man with a few specks of gray in his otherwise white hair asked.
“Been worse. Right now, I’m Maaarvelous! What about you, Theo?”
“Not bad, not bad. Who’s your friend?”
“Oh, right, Theo, meet Nathaniel Jacobson, otherwise known as-”
“The Crimson Flame! Yeah, I remember you! Man, I did not see that you were actually a school teacher! I though the Flame was Burnson Parks, that millionaire playboy.”
“I think he’s Google, actually,” Nathaniel replied, smiling.
“Right, anyway, we’re the Fearsome Foursome. If that means anything to you.”
“Of course it does!” Nathaniel replied. “You beat Scorpio, and the Grecians, right?”
“Right on both counts! And may I add, your work with the Last Defense was incredible. Absolutely. Almost better than Marvelous himself.”
“But you’re like me,” Phil said. “I’m Maaarvelous.”
“We know,” everyone chorused.
“Anyway, this is Jimmy,” gray hair, blue eyes, 5’ 9”, “Bart,” hair still silvery, slight goatee, brown eyes, 6’ 1” “And me own brother, Thad.” Same as Theo, white hair, taller than Bart, about 6’ 4”, blue eyes.
“Have a nice days, Foursome,” Phil said, continuing on.
Nathaniel followed closely. No one seemed to want to talk to them, which was fine by him. They made it back to the room and collapsed on the beds.
“It’s not home,” Nathaniel said, shaking his head. “But it will be. One day. I’m sure of it.”

Many of my stories come to me when I’m bored. This is no exception. I hope that it reminded you of the old days of comic books, when the heroes were actually heroic, when the villains could be redeemed, and when the plots were just plain fun.

Easter Retold: Part Three

Without any more delay, the third part in the saga of Dustin McCabe

 

Part three
Dustin’s followers, except Michael Morris, who had shot himself upon realizing what he had done, were in their room in the Bluebird in. A chair was pushed beneath the door, and they had hardly slept in the past two days. All of them had slowly trickled into the room after Dustin’s execution and the events that followed.
First, there had been a huge earthquake. More violent than anyone had ever felt. The ground itself split apart, farmhouses disappearing into the abyss. No lives had been lost, and some even claimed to have seen the dead raised to life.
Second, within the First Peacebrook Church, all of the tables that contained the various cleansing rituals one had to perform to be right before God splintered. One eyewitness said it was like they just got tired of staying together, and just fell apart.
Third, a deputy named Joseph Arim had gone to Judge Travers and requested the body of Dustin. He and another man had wrapped it and taken it out to the local cemetary. Joseph bought one of the mausoleums, which was still unused, and had put the cadaver inside it. Aaron Hendrickson had followed him out. Having been raised in a family of undertakers, Aaron was disgusted in how the two other men had tended to the body. But the Holy Day had been approaching, so he made plans to come back and fix it up later.
At the same time, Gabriel Rodgers was plotting with his deputies. “You realize what this means, of course? Those followers will come and take the body, and then claim that he returned to life, just as he predicted. We can’t let that happen. We must stand guard. Shoot them on sight, do you understand me?”
So, together, they had set up a guard. There were always eight of them on duty, alternating all through the Holy Day. The sun was still below the horizon when it happened. Gabriel Roders himself was on guard, ready for the followers of Dustin McCabe to burst out of the woods. Suddenly, the ground began to shake. It was just as violent as the one that had happened the day of Dustin’s death. Gabriel looked around, and saw a servant of the Most High. His clothes were a white as snow, glowing like lightning. All of the guards, including Gabriel, felt themselves go stiff with terror. Tremors shook Gabriel’s body, and his eyes rolled into the back of his head. He dropped, almost as if it he were dead, not the person he was guarding.
The servant of God walked to the door of the mausoleum, which was barred and fortified so that it would take hours to break through. Instead, only raising a hand and knocking, the servant knocked down the wall. It became nothing more than a pile of rubble.
A little while later, Aaron came to the cemetery. He stopped when he saw the gaping hole in the mausoleum. By now, the guards had all woken up and ran off, afraid that the servant might come back and kill them.
Aaron walked to the mausoleum, not daring to give in to hope. He stepped over the pile of dust that was once a thick stone wall. In the coffin that would have held Dustin’s body was only a pile of wrapping. Then he saw the servant of the Most High on the other side of the coffin.
“Don’t be afraid,” the servant said. His voice was resonant, richer than a human’s ever could be. “I know you are looking for Dustin. But he is not here. He has gone to Gainseville, just as he said he would. Go and tell the rest of the followers.”
Aaron stumbled out of the mausoleum, then ran to the Bluebird Inn. He knocked on the door. Lukas answered it. “A servant!” Aaron said, “He’s not dead, he’s alive. He’s in Gainseville, like he said he was going to.”
“You’re talking nonsense,” Homer said. “I realize that seeing the body probably did you in, but please, be realistic. We saw Dustin die. Our dreams died with him.”
“I’m not crazy,” Aaron said adamantly. “I swear to you, it’s true.”
Lukas pushed past him, running down the stairs. Shame still gripped his heart, but he couldn’t believe that Dustin was actually alive again. He reached the cemetery, and saw the destroyed mausoleum. Awe filled him. The power that it would take to destroy that was incredible. He stepped inside. He saw no servant, but also saw no body. Only the wrapping, neatly folded and laid in the bottom of the coffin, as if they were covers for a bed. Confusion set in, and Lukas walked back to the Inn in a daze. He snapped out of when he noticed the looks he was getting. He looked at the hate laden glances, then hurried up to the room.
“It’s true,” he said once the others had let him in. “The body is gone.”
“It means nothing,” Homer declared. “Unless I see the living, breathing Dustin McCabe,  I have to believe that he died.”
Nigel shook his head. “I don’t know anymore.” They all fell silent again.
“Why would he let himself get killed?” Lukas murmured. “What would it accomplish? If he was the Marshal, he could have legions of warriors come from out of the sky and rescue him. Maybe we were just following a vain hope. A wild goose chase.”
“No,” Jonathan said loudly. Everyone looked at him. “I can’t believe you’re already forgetting everything he did while he was with us! Remember when he healed the cripple? The man had been lame since birth, and Dustin just talked to him, and he got up! Or how he cured your mother-in-law, Lukas, when the doctor said she was going to die? And his teachings! Not even those who had been educated in all of the law could refute anything he said, nor find anyway that he had broken it! Is your faith so small? I don’t know if Dustin’s come back to life, or if his body was taken, but I do know that he was who he said he was. Remember when you confessed your belief that he was sent from God, Lukas? Your claim was strong! And now you’re doubting him?”
“I’m not doubting him,” Lukas said meekly. “Not anymore, at least. Thank you, my friend.” Jonathan said nothing, just nodded, then looked away, tears glinting in his eyes.
The day wore on. As evening set, Homer pushed the door open. “I think the crowds are mostly gone. I’m going to get food. I’ll be back later.” He slipped out, closing the door behind him.
He has hardly gone for five minutes when another voice startled them. “Peace to you.” Everyone spun, then dropped to their knees when they saw Dustin McCabe. Smiling, Dustin raised them up. “It’s me,” he said. “Come, feel the rope burns on my neck, and the hole where they shot me to make sure I was dead.”
Each follower ran their fingers over the ragged skin. “My Lord,” Lukas said, dropping to his knees again. Dustin raised him up once more.
“You call me Lord, and rightfully so. The Father has sent me. And I am sending you. You will be my emissaries into the land. But now I must go. I will return again. I am sorry, but I cannot stay longer.” With that, he disappeared once again.
Suddenly, there was banging at the door. “I have food, let me in!” came Homer’s voice. They let him in, then exploded all at once, telling of how they had seen Dustin risen.
Homer waved his hands. “No. No, not until I see him for myself, not until I feel the burns and holes. I won’t believe.”
Lukas grew angry. “How can you say that? We all saw him!”
“And I didn’t,” Homer said. “For all I know, you all were hallucinating from lack of food or something.”
“Peace, Lukas,” Jonathan said, putting a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “We were not quick to believe either, when Aaron presented proof to us.”
Lukas resisted, then nodded. “You’re right.”
A week went by, all of them still living in fear. They slowly began to go out more, but were still afraid of Gabriel Rodgers and his men. In the evening of one of the days, Dustin appeared again. “Peace to you,” he said once again. “Homer, come here.” Homer stepped in front of him, and Dustin took his hands. “Feel the burns on my neck,” he said, the moved the hand up to the bullet hole in his head. “It is me. Stop doubting; believe.”
“My Lord and my God,” Homer whispered in awe.
“You have seen, and so you believe. But even more blessed are those who have not seen, but still believe,” Dustin replied.
Many people believe that was it, that Dustin McCabe then ascended into heaven to take his rightful place at the right hand of God. But that’s not quite right. He actually did quite a bit more on Earth before returning to the Father, but those acts aren’t recorded here.

This entire trilogy has been a relook at Jesus Christ’s life. This last bit was basically copied from the book of John. His next verse, though, I think ties back to what Jesus (Dustin) told Thomas (Homer). “But these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)
    The message that the New Testament writers were trying to get across is that you can only be saved by Jesus. His death was the only thing that could fully compensate for all our sin (see Editorial 1), and now that he’s done it, our fear of judgement is gone. Through Christ, we can stand before God blamelessly. Not on our own works, as they are dirty rags compared to Christ, but Christ’s redeeming work on the cross. That’s the message. That’s the beauty of what Christians celebrate on Good Friday and Easter. Apart from Christ, we are nothing, we deserve nothing. But in Christ, we are children of the King.
    I don’t know where you’re coming from in reading this. But whatever and wherever it might be, I urge you to take a moment and consider: Are you right before God? Do you have an assurance that you will be with him upon your death?
    I have put forward what I can, and I can do no more. I only hope you will take a moment to consider what I’ve said.

Easter Retold: Part Two

This continues my imagining of the Easter story.

The mountain was only a mile from the city. Upon its slopes were forests, thick with vegetation. Some parts of the land were used for logging, but here, where Dustin McCabe would often go, was the apple orchards. The fall harvest had yet to happen, and the trees were laden with their fruit.
As they walked, Dustin spoke plainly about what was going to come. “Soon, you’re not going to see me anymore. I’m going to leave. But it will only be for a little while.”
“What does he mean?” Aaron asked Homer. “Only for a little while?”
Dustin turned around, facing all of them. “It’s like a mother, going into labor. Although there’s pain while the baby his being born, once it’s arrived, she forgets all that because of the joy of bringing a child into this world. I’m going to leave, but your sadness will not be forever. I’ll come back, and then, no one will ever be able to take that joy from you.
“I’ve been talking figuratively, but here it is plainly. I have come from the Father, and I am now going back to the Father.”
“Now we understand!” Homer said. “Now that you’ve stopped talking in riddles. And yes, we believe that you were sent from God.”
“You believe,” Dustin said, “But I’ll tell you now, there will be a time when all of you will scatter, and leave me alone. But I won’t be alone. My Father is always with me. I’m telling you this because I want you to be peaceful. You know that I’ve told you, you’ll have trouble in this world. But take heart: I have overcome the world.” With that, he began walking again, into the apple orchard.
Dustin stopped a little ways into the orchard, turning back to the others. “Stay here. And pray for me, because I’m going to face-” he trailed off. “I’m going to face many hard things in the days to come.” He motioned for Lukas, Jonathan and Nigel to follow him. Together, the four walked deeper into the woods. Dustin looked at the trees. “Again, look at the harvest. It’s ready. We just need workers to do the job.”
“The farmers will pick them tomorrow, I’m sure,” Lukas assured him, following his gaze to the apple nearly falling off the tree. Some had already, and lay scattered on the ground.
“You three are some of my closest friends,” Dustin said. “Please, pray for me. Pray with all your might that I will stay strong.” He pointed. “I’m going over there to pray. Stay here, and uplift me in prayer, please. And pray for yourselves as well, that you will remain strong as well. Because what is coming is going to be ”
Dustin stepped away, and the three men knelt, uplifting their leader to God. They prayed so long that they lost track of time. They had realized what Dustin was talking about now, though they didn’t want to admit it. Their sorrow at his eventual departure wore them out, and one by one, they inwardly cried themselves to sleep.
Meanwhile, on the other side of a thicket, Dustin was praying. His knees squirmed into the dirt, his hands squeezing furiously, both going completely white. “Father,” he gasped, knowing what was to come, yet not wanting to believe it, “Father, I don’t want this. I don’t want to go through with this. Please, Father, take this from me, if you are willing. But I know your will comes first. So, Father, let what you want be done.”
Although his eyes were closed, he could feel the touch of one of his Father’s servants. The touch strengthened him, and he began to pray even more earnestly. His brow became wet with sweat. The sweat became tinged red, blood breaking into the sweat glands and beginning to run down his face.
Dustin finally arose, and returned to his friends, who were softly snoring on the ground. “Wake up!” he said, his voice breaking. “Couldn’t you even stay awake? Pray again, for yourselves that you will not give into temptation in these following days.”
As he was speaking, a distant thunder was heard. The group who had been left behind ran up. “Dustin!” Charlie said, “There’s a mob running this way!”
It was true. A huge crowd of people, some of them those who had welcomed him only days before, ran up to confront Dustin. In their lead was Michael Morris, who walked up to Dustin and stuck out his hand.
“You’re going to betray me with a handshake?” Dustin asked, taking the hand.
The others realized what was happening. Their pistols were out in a second. “Should we shoot them?” someone asked.
“Yes!” Lukas yelled, firing. His shot whistled through the air, embedding itself into the arm of John Malachus, the butler of Gabriel Rodgers. The crowd erupted, all of them ready for a battle.
“Put it down!” Dustin yelled, grabbing the gun and throwing it. “Those who live by the gun will just as easily die by it,” he told Lukas, then walked up to John. He squeezed the wound, and the bullet popped out. The entrance hole disappeared.
“What is this?” Dustin asked, looking at all the angry faces, men holding swords and makeshift clubs, several with guns outstretched. “Am I leading a rebellion? When I was here last, I was preaching in the First Church every day, and yet you never took me then. But that’s right, this is your our. This is when darkness reigns.”
“Oh, shut up!” one of the deputies yelled, marching forward and grabbing him. Another man grabbed his other arm and they began to march back to the city. Dustin’s followers were at a loss. They scrambled into the woods, afraid that they would be hauled off as well. Only Lukas followed the mob, and even then, it was at a great distance.
The crowd dragged Dustin to Gabriel Rodger’s house. As many men as could fit into the house went in, while the others lit a fire in the street. The night air was growing cold fast, and finally, Lukas crept up to the fire, staying away from the light, but near enough to feel the warmth.
Inside, Dustin was seated before Judge Travers, the leading authority in the judicial world. “Now look here,” he drawled, “Are you the one who was prophesied about, the Marshal?”
“You say it is so,” Dustin replied.
“I don’t want any lip, boy,” Judge Travers said. “If you claim to be the Marshal, that could be a reason to kill you. It’s blasphemy to claim that.”
Dustin remained silent, and Gabriel Rodgers exploded. “We should hang him now!”
“I have not found a solid reason for killing him,” Judge Travers said. “In any case, I am not sure this case is my authority. You should take him to Governor Chalmers. He’s the highest authority in the district, and if this is a case of blasphemy, then it is he who should examine it.”
“Then let’s get this over with,” Gabriel said, pulling Dustin from the chair and out of the room. The crowd followed, some shouting that they should just kill him then. Lukas left his place by the fire and went as well, keeping to the shadows.  They walked to the Governor’s house, rapping on the door loudly.
“What is it?” one of the soldiers on duty asked.
“We have brought a man named Dustin McCabe here. He is accused of blasphemy of the highest degree.”
“Give him to us, and we will find out for you,” the soldier demanded.
The mob did as he requested, then all lounged around outside. Dustin was hauled through hallways, eventually being thrown down a flight of stairs in to a cellar. On the one side was a fireplace, which dimly lit the whole thing.
“You’re the Marshal, eh?” asked one soldier, who had stayed by the door a little longer, and so had found out what Dustin had been charged with. “In that case, we should give you a star!” Laughing, the men fashioned a crude metal star, then pierced it with a pin. “Tell us, are you the Marshal?”
“It is as you say,” Dustin replied.
“Then take the symbol of your office!” the soldier crowed, stabbing it into his chest. It wasn’t fatal.
“They say he’s a prophet,” someone else said. “Let’s see him prophesy!” A blindfold was pulled over Dustin’s eyes, and the soldiers took turns punching him, asking, “Tell us, prophet, who was it that hit you?”
When they finally stopped, and the blindfold was removed, Dustin saw that the governor himself was standing in the room watching. Dustin’s one eye was swollen shut, and the other wasn’t much better.
“Send him back to Judge Travers,” Governor Chalmers said. “This man is of no concern to me.”
By now, it was early morning. As Dustin was dragged back to Gabriel Rodger’s house, Lukas returned to his place by the fire. One of the maids who had been forced out of the house peered closer at him. “Well, I’ll be. You’re one of those men who followed that crazy Dustin McCabe, aren’t you?”
“Not me,” Lukas lied. “Get away from me.”
But the maid wouldn’t let up. “No, I can tell from your accent. You’re from up north!”
“I promise you, I was not with Dustin McCabe,” Lukas asserted.
Another man came over, looking at him as well. “No, I recognize you from the parade. You were with him.”
“By all that is holy!” Lukas roared. “I swear to you, I never knew the man! Let fire from heaven consume me if I tell a lie.”
As soon as the words left his mouth, Lukas caught a glimpse of Dustin through the window. Although only one eye was opened, it was trained on Lukas. Lukas felt his heart stop, then heard the distant bells calling for morning prayer.
“No,” he gasped, quietly, to himself. “Oh, dear Lord, no. Don’t let it be this way, don’t let it be this way!” His shame burning inside of him, he ran off, tears beginning to stream down his face.
Dustin turned away from the window, listening to the words around him. “We must hang him, he is claiming to be the Marshal!”
“If you must hang him,” Judge Travers said, “Then I want no part in it. Take him, but let it be on your own head.”
“That is fine,” Gabriel growled, enunciating each word clearly. Two of his cronies grabbed the seated man and dragged him outside, throwing him to the ground. Another man threw a rope down in front of him.
“Let this be your final shame,” Gabriel said, standing on the step, “You will carry the very object of your death.”
Dustin touched the rope, lifting it as best as he could. His hands were numb, and could hardly grip the thick rope. But finally, he managed to get a hold on it and began to stumble towards the gallows.
All of his followers, except Lukas, were in the crowd. All of them wanted to try and lead an uprising to save him, but fear trapped them. Instead, they watched mutely as the man they thought was going to save them dragged a noose meant for his own neck.
“Get a move on!” one of the men yelled, kicking Dustin forward. Already badly balanced, Dustin toppled to the ground. The man who had kicked him grabbed someone else. “Get the rope, or he’ll die on the way to the gallows.”
The man did as he was requested, lifting the heavy rope over a shoulder and dragging it along. The crowd pressed in behind them, eager to see the show.
After ten long minutes, they arrived at the place. It was called Blackbird’s Hollow, where the crows and other carrion would gather. Gabriel took the rope from the man, and stepped onto the platform. He grabbed a stool and reached up, tying the rope over the main wooden post, then weaving it through a series of pulleys, finally attaching it to a large metal weight. Dustin was pushed onto the platform as well, Gabriel grabbing the noose and fixing it over the condemned man’s neck.
“Have you any last words?” he asked, grabbing the wooden bar that would allow the weight to fall, applying pressure to Dustin’s neck until he asphyxiated.
“Father, forgive these men. They do not know what they are doing,” Dustin said, his prayer earnest, but it only made the men angrier.
“We know what we are doing,” Gabriel said, pulling the bar out from under the weight. It began to drop, Dustin’s toes leaving the ground.
Dustin’s eyes went wide. “No! Oh, dear Father, don’t turn your back on me now! My God, why do you turn away!”
The early morning light was suddenly blotted out. There were no clouds, it was as if the sun itself was producing darkness. Dustin screamed out again, “Why! Why do you hide your face! Do not leave me alone!” The words were garbled, Dustin’s air pipe slowly being closed off.
Dustin’s face suddenly became the picture of peace, and in a shout that everyone heard, he yelled, “It is finished!” then, softer, though everyone still heard him, he murmured, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
As he said this, he took his last breath. His body spasmed, arms and legs thrashing, then grew still. Dustin McCabe, the Marshal sent from God, was dead.

For the third and final part of the saga, click here

Easter Retold

As Easter began to approach, I started thinking about how we view the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, I decided I would try to paint a little bit of a different picture, maybe to help you see it differently.

 

He rode in on a burro. His beard was matted, his hat, checkered shirt and jeans dusty from the ride. The crowd that had gathered cheered wildly, pulling the handkerchiefs from their necks and waving them in the air. “Glory be!” one of  them, the banker of the town, whooped. “Never though I’d live to see the day. Imagine that. Seeing the Marshal come in our day and age.”
The Marshal. Every boy and girl in the country knew the legend, that the Marshal would come, and free them from bondage and captivity. So when Dustin McCabe had first started preaching and doing wonders, everyone wondered if it was him. And when he rode into Peacebrook, capital of the country, everyone knew that this was the one who would lead them into the shining new age.
It was, everyone thought, very odd that he was on a burro. That animal was nothing more than a packhorse. Perhaps, they thought, he had borrowed it from one of the gold miners in the mountains. But the thought was soon lost in the confusion of the celebration.
Several men stood to the side, watching. They were the lawmen of the city, sheriff and deputies. No one claimed the title of Marshal, though. That was reserved. One of them, a man named Gabriel Rodgers stopped Dustin in the street, angry. “Tell this mob to making such a racket,” he demanded. “You’ll bring a riot on our heads.”
“I’m afraid that I can’t do that,” Dustin said. “Because if they’re quiet, then let me tell you, the rocks are going to start singing.”
Gabriel stood back, discontent. Dustin turned back. His face was not that of one who loved the exultation, but rather that of a man who knew he deserved it. There was no vanity, though, nor any trace of superiority. Behind him walked those who, before, had only a name, but now had a face to go with the stories. Lukas Rodale, the homesteader who had left his claim, Charles Merrill, the tax collector, Martin Long, a wealthy trader, and seven others. All of them had left everything they had ever known, just to follow Dustin McCabe.
Dustin led his friends through the city, until they reached the First Peacebrook Church. The group walked in, and Dustin stopped. Instead of a place where worship to God happened freely, they found a quagmire of people, bartering and bickering over the price of incense candles, prayer necklaces and the like. People from out of town were trying to exchange their money for the local currency, and Charles noticed the weights on the scales, tipping them in the moneylender’s favor. Dustin’s face twisted, but he led the group back out the church. They left the town, returning once again to Gainesville, their usual sanctuary from the chaos of the city.
“What’s wrong, Dustin?” Lukas asked, others echoing his sentiment. All of them had expected him to take charge of the city, have himself instated as Marshal and lead a glorious revolution to freedom.
“My  Father’s house is not to be treated like that,” Dustin said quietly, and no one pressed him any further.
Early the next morning, Dustin led the way back into Peacebrook. There was no celebration this time. Most people noticed him, but went on with their business. All were disappointed that he had not let them make him Marshal the day before.
When Dustin threw open the doors of the church, the boom shocked everyone inside. It fell quiet, far quieter than it had been the previous day. Dustin walked into the sanctuary, his eyes burning. One vendor leaned across the table. “Can I sell you an incense candle?” he asked, hoping to win business. Dustin strode over and stood before the man. Then, with a quick motion, he lifted one half of the table and overturned it. Money and incense candles went sprawling. Breathing heavily, not from exertion, but from anger, Dustin broke the silence that followed. “If you do not want what happened here happen to you, leave now. For it is written in the ancient books of our law and our religion that ‘My house will be a house of prayer,’ and yet here you are, filling it with your kind, you thieves and robbers!” Dustin’s voice rose in volume until he was shouting. “So get out!”
Everyone left, and Dustin collect everything, dragging it outside and throwing it into a huge pile. Then he lit fire to the pile and walked away. All of the men who had set up shop in the First Peacebrook Church watched as all their profits went up in smoke, then turned their angry eyes to the one who started the conflagration.
The sheriffs and deputies also watched with angry eyes. Gabriel voiced what they all were thinking. “We must kill him,” he said. He did not say this because he feared that the fire would burn down the town, he said it because he was afraid that Dustin was the Marshal. For if the Marshal came, Gabriel, and all the others, would likely lose their power.
As evening approached, Dustin led the others to the Bluebird Inn. Before the group had arrived, Dustin had sent Jonathan and Nigel Carter, two brothers who left a thriving blacksmith business, to reserve several rooms for the group. They were well known there, having passed through several times before.
The group made their way to their rooms, the crowd outside still cheering. After several hours, it died away, and Dustin called everyone into his room. They perched on whatever surface they could find, all ten of them. Lukas, Charles, Martin, Jonathan, Nigel, Edmund and Charlie Halladay, Michael Morris, Aaron Hendrickson and Homer Lewis. Dustin stood in the middle of the room. He smiled, sadly. “I have told you before, and now tell you again. I will be handed over to the sheriffs and the deputies, and they will kill me. But on the third day, I will rise again.”
“I’ll never let them take you,” Lukas said for the group, patting the holster at his side. Although he was a homesteader, Lukas wasn’t used to the gun yet.
“No, Lukas. That is not the way,” Dustin gently chided. There was a knock at the door, and a maid stepped in with a loaf of bread and a jar of wine. The group had already eaten before, so everyone was surprised. Dustin accepted the food, then handed the maid a silver dollar as a tip. Then, crossing his legs, he sat down on the ground. Pulling out the knife from his belt, he cut the bread into thirteen pieces. He handed each one out, saying, “This is my body, broken for you.” Although confused, the men ate as they were told.
Dustin then uncorked the wine. He took a sip, then passed it on. “And this is my blood, poured out for you.” Even more confused, the men passed around the bottle. When it was handed back to Dustin, he smiled sadly. “Now,” he said, “I am going to cut your hair.”
“Sir,” Homer said, “We ain’t shaved in a couple a years. Our hair is barely even combed. I ain’t sure you want to try cutting that.”
Dustin shook his head, then took a pair of scissors off of the bureau. He started with Edmund, then worked his way down the room. Each man was actually quite glad to have it done. While they all still had beards, they were much smaller, and much more manageable. But when Dustin came to Lukas, the thin man shook his head. “No, sir. You’re not cutting my hair. I should cut yours. This is a servant’s job, not that of a Marshal.”
“If I do not clean you up, then you don’t belong with me,” Dustin said.
“Then, sir, don’t just trim my hair, shave it all off!” Lukas said, sticking out his chin.
“Anyone who takes care of their hair doesn’t need to lose it all,” Dustin laughed. He finished trimming, then returned to the middle of the room. “I’m going to tell you something. Someone here is going to betray me.”
“Not me!” Lukas declared. Others agreed, telling Dustin that they would never leave him.
“It couldn’t be me, could it?” Michael asked. He was a former banker, and as such, was in charge of the money.
“Yes.” Dustin said. “It is you. Now, go ahead and do what you must, and quickly.” A tear leaked out of his eye and ran into his tangled mustache. Michael ran out of the room.
“Is he going to buy food?” Aaron asked, as that was one of Michael’s usual jobs. Dustin merely shook his head. No one could believe that Michael would betray Dustin. He was one of their best friends, they had lived with him for several years now.
“I am going to leave you soon,” Dustin said. “But you can’t come to where I am going.”
“No matter where you go, I will go, too. I would die for you!” Lukas said, sticking out his chest.
“Would you really?” Dustin asked, shaking his head. “Believe me, before the bells ring for morning prayers, you will have denied me three times.” Before he could protest, Dustin motioned for everyone to stand up. “Come. Let us go out to the mountain. It will be quiet out there.”

 

 

Hopefully, you see it in a different light now. To see what happens on the Good Friday segment, check here.

Natural Remedies: Laughter!

‘A good laugh and a long sleep are two of the best cures.’ It’s an Irish proverb, so you know it’s good. For those of you who don’t know, I love the Irish. And their advice usually doesn’t fail (except in the case of ‘Kiss me, I’m Irish’; that is such a bad idea, people). I wrote this up for a friend a while back, out a book called ‘2005: A Year of Miracles.’ The first half of the book is talking about a missionary’s life, and the second is interesting ‘tidbits’ gleaned from the internet, all clean (Imagine that!). So, if you’re feeling low, and want to laugh a little, read on. 

#1. Proof of Stupid People
    In case you needed further proof that the human race is doomed through stupidity, here are some actual label instructions on consumer goods.

On a Sears hairdryer: “Do not use while sleeping.” (That’s the only time I have to work on my hair!)

On a bag of Fritos: “You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside.” (The shoplifter special?)

On a bar of Dial soap: “Directions: use like regular soap.” (And that would be?)

On some Swanson frozen dinners: “Serving suggestion: Defrost.” (But, that’s just a suggestion.)

On Tesco’s Tiramisu dessert (printed on the bottom): Do not turn upside down.” (Well, duh, a bit late, huh!)

On Marks & Spencer Bread Pudding: “Product will be hot after heating.” (And you thought?)

On packaging for Rowenta iron: “Do not iron clothes on body.” (But wouldn’t save me time?)

On Boot’s Children Cough Medicine: “Do not drive a car or operate machinery after taking this medicine.” (We could do a lot to reduce the rate of construction accidents if we could just get those 5 year olds in head-colds off those bulldozers!)

On Nytol Sleep Aid: “Warning: May cause drowsiness. (And I’m taking the because????)

On most brands of Christmas lights: “For indoor and outdoor use only.” (As a opposed to what?)

On a Japanese food processor: “Not to be used for the other use.” (Now, somebody help me out here, I’m a bit curious.)

On Sainsbury’s peanuts: “Warning: Contains nuts.” (Talk about a news flash!)

On an American Airlines packet of nuts: “Instructions: Open packet, eat nuts.” (Step 3: say what?)

On a child’s Superman costume: “Wearing of this garment does enable you to fly.” (I don’t blame the company. I blame the parents for this one.)

On a Swedish chainsaw: Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands.” (Oh, was there a lot of this happening somewhere?)

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#2. Noah’s Ark
    Just to keep you giggling, here a little something entitled: Everything I needed to learn about life, I learned from Noah’s Ark:

1: Don’t miss the boat
2: Remember we are all on the same boat
3: Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.
4: Stay with it. When you’re 600 years old, someone may ask you to something really big.
5: Don’t listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.
6: Build your future on high ground.
7: For safety’s sake, always travel in pairs.
8: Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on the Ark with the cheetahs.
9: When your stressed, float a while.
10: Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.
11: No matter the storm, when you are God, there’s always a rainbow waiting.

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#3. Mixed-Up Proverbs
    A First grade teacher collected well known proverbs. She gave each child in her class the first half of a proverb, then asked them to come up with the remainder. Their insight may surprise you.

No news is….Impossible.

A penny saved is….Not much.

The pen is mightier that the….D- (Grade)

Don’t bite the hand that…..Looks dirty

You can’t teach on old dog new….Math

Where there’s smoke, there’s…..Pollution.

Two’s company, three’s….the Musketeers.

Happy the bride who…Gets all the presents.

Never underestimate the power of…..Detention.

If at first you don’t succeed….Get new batteries.

When the blind leads the blind….Get out of the way.

If you lie down with dogs you’ll…stink in the morning

You get out of something what you…..see pictured on the box.

Laugh, and the world laughs with you. Cry…..And you have to blow your nose.

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#4. How Strange!
     Here are a few things to think about, that I can almost guarantee you have never thought about.

Can you cry underwater?

How important does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of murdered?

Once you’re in heaven, do you get stuck wearing the clothes you get buried in forever?

Why do you have to “Put your two cents in,” but it’s only “a penny for your thoughts? Where does that extra cent go?

Why does a round pizza come in a square box?

What disease did cured ham have originally?

How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?

Why is it that people say that they “slept like a baby” when babies wake up like every two hours?

Why are you IN a movie, but ON TV?

Why do people pay to go up tall buildings, then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

Why do toasters have a setting that burns the toast to a horrible crisp that no one would ever eat?

If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why is there a song about it?

Can a hearse carrying a corpse drive in the carpool lane?

If the professor from Gilligan’s Island can make a radio out of a coconut, why can’t he fix the hole in the boat?

If Wyle E. Coyote had enough money to buy all that ACME stuff, why didn’t he just buy dinner?

If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetable, what is baby oil made of?

Do the Alphabet song and Twinkle, twinkle little star have the same tune?

Why did you just try singing the two songs above?

Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog’s face, he gets mad, but when you take him for a ride, he sticks his head out the window?

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#5. 101 of the Funniest One Liners
    Can’t think of anything to say? Gotcha covered.

Ninety-nine percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
Borrow money from a pessimist: they don’t expect it back.
Time is what keeps things from happening all at once.
Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at math.
I didn’t fight my way to the top of the food chain to be vegetarian!
Never answer an anonymous letter.
It’s lonely at the top, but you do eat better.
I don’t suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it.
Always go to other people’s funerals, or they won’t come to yours.
Few women admit their age; few men act it.
If we weren’t supposed to eat animals, then why were they made with meat?
No one is listening until you make a mistake.
Give me ambiguity or give me something else.
We have enough youth. How about a fountain of ‘Smart’?
He who laughs last thinks slowest.
Campers: Nature’s way of feeding mosquitoes.
Always remember you are unique, just like everyone else.
Consciousness: That annoying time between naps.
There are three kinds of people: Those who can count and those who can’t.
Why is ‘abbreviation’ such a long word?
Nuke the whales.
I started out with nothing and I still have it.
Change in inevitable, except from a vending machine.
Out of my mind. Back in five minutes.
A clear conscience is a usually a sign of bad memory.
As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in public schools.
Laugh alone and the world thinks you’re an idiot.
Sometimes I wake up grumpy; other times I let her sleep in.
The severity of an itch is inversely proportional to the ability to reach it.
You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?
I took an IQ test and the results came back negative.
Okay, who stopped the payment on my reality check?
We are born naked, wet and hungry. Then things get worse.
42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.
Be nice to your kids. They’ll choose your nursing home.
If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence you ever tried.
I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be without sponges.
Eat right. Stay fit. Die anyway.
My mind is a steel trap, rusty and illegal in 37 states.
Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.
On the other hand, you have different fingers.
I’ve only been wrong once, and that’s when I thought I was wrong.
God made mankind. Sin made him evil.
I don’t find it hard to meet expenses. They’re everywhere.
I just let my mind wander, and it didn’t come back.
Don’t steal. The government hates competition.
Humpty Dumpty was pushed.
National Atheists Day: April 1st.
All generalizations are false.
The more people I meet, the more I like my dog.
Work is for people who don’t know how to fish.
If you don’t like the news, go out and make some.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.
IRS: We’ve got what it takes to take what you’ve got.
I’m out of bed and dressed. What more do you want?
I used to think I was indecisive. Now I’m not to sure.
I can handle pain until it hurts.
No matter were you go, you’re there.
If everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.
It’s been Monday all week.
Gravity always gets me down.
This statement is false.
Eschew obfuscation.
They told me I was gullible…… and I believed them.
It’s bad luck to be superstitious.
According to my best recollection, I don’t remember.
The word ‘gullible’ isn’t in the dictionary.
Honk if you like peace and quiet.
The Big Bang Theory: God spoke and BANG! it happened.
Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
Despite the cost of living, have you noticed how popular it is?
Save the whales. Collect the whole set.
A day without sunshine is like night.
The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
Corduroy pillows: They’re making headlines!
Gravity: It’s not just a good idea, it’s the LAW!
Life is too complicated in the morning.
We are all part of the ultimate statistic: ten out of ten die.
Nobody’s perfect. I’m a nobody.
Ask me about my vow of silence.
The hardness of the butter is directly proportional to the softness of the bread.
The last thing on earth you want to do will be the last thing you do.
Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else get your way.
If ignorance is bliss, then tourists are in a constant state of euphoria.
If at first you don’t succeed, don’t try skydiving.
If Barbie is so popular, then why do you have to buy her friends?
Stop repeat offenders. Don’t re-elect them!
I intend to live forever. So far, so good!
Who is General Failure, and why is he reading my hard drive?
What happens if you get scared half to death twice?
I used to have an open mind, but my brains kept falling out.
Energizer Bunny arrested, charged with battery.
I didn’t use to finish my sentences, but now I
I’ve had amnesia for as long as I can remember.
Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks.
Vacation begins when Dad says, “I know a short cut.’
Evolution: True science fiction.
What’s another word for thesaurus?
Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.
A flashlight is a case for holding dead batteries.
I went to the fights, and a hockey game broke out.
Well, I hope this has been as enjoyable for as it has been for me! Also, just so you know, that final segment wasn’t from the book, it was a pamphlet that I picked up somewhere. But it fits right in with the rest of the insanity in this post. And remember: Laugh long and prosper!

Majors and Minors: Short Story 1

Now that I’ve whetted your appetite (hopefully) with Majors and Minors, I’m going stop posting the original story. You’ll have to wait for the published version for the full story, whenever that happens. However, do not fear! After writing Majors and Minors, I realized how much there was that I could do with it. So, I created a new character. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy meeting him as much as I did.

The world explodes in a bright red flash. The tree that I just hit topples forward. “Ah, snap!” I yell, reaching out and grabbing someone. Lucy Cummings, I realize as the smoke clears. “Everyone grab on!” I call out, and the group gathers around me. Instantly, we’re rushing through time. Then, we’re sitting on the floor of the prison.
    My body is tired, but I pull myself to my feet. “Alfred, check for the guards. We need to do this like we did last time.”
    “Last time got Caleb killed,” Lucy, a short brunette, complains.
    “We can change that. You know that.” I keep my voice level, uneasy with the amount of stress I’m feeling.
    “I died?” Caleb asked. He’s shorter that the rest of us, with brown eyes framed by large glasses. Not that he needs them anymore. Not since the Shrinkage. I brought him along in the group this time because his eyes are so good.
    “Don’t worry about it,” I say, flashing a grin. I pull my hat on, a western style, kind of like what the cowboys used to wear. I looked around the group, fifteen in all. Lucy (Telekinesis), Caleb (Super good eyesight/lasers out of said eyes), Calligan (Speed/Sticky feet), Alfred (Ungifted but extremely smart), Bruce (Strength), Thad (Fire), Sloan (mechanics), Daniel (Also Strength), Constance (Smart ungifted), Ronald (Just a normal ungifted), Mary (Flight), Alicia (Control of plants), Ralph (Mind reader), Isaac (Ungifted), and myself.
    “Doctor, three coming this way.” Alfred the first’s comment is for me. That’s my nickname after all. The Doctor.
    After the Shrinkage, some of the people in the world got powers. I’m different than those people. I’m what you would call a Double Gifted. The ability to travel through time? Check. The ability to control any weapon around me? Also check.
    My real name is Evan Bell. But after people learned about my time traveling power, they dubbed me the Doctor. After some old TV show, from what I understand. I am not, however, an alien.
    The three guards walk past the door. I reach out my hand, more as a dramatic gesture than anything. The first man’s gun jerks out of his hand and slams into another’s jaw. The second man collapses in a heap.
    Lucy springs into action. With a quick motion,  the third man slams into the far wall. He slumps to the ground, unmoving. The first man is taken down by Caleb, blinded.
    “I’m never going to try and win a stare down with you,” Isaac says. No one laughs.
    Sloan runs up and unlocks the door. Bruce and Daniel pull it open and we run out into the hall. “Grab a weapon and let’s go,” I whisper, running forward.
    Suddenly, I hit an invisible wall. “What the..?” I mutter, reaching out with my mind. However, it’s just a plain glass wall, nothing fancy. “Why wasn’t this here last time?” I ask, but Bruce pushes me to the side. Doesn’t matter. We’ve got to get past it. With a single blow, the glass shatters, the shards landing on the other side of the glass.
    We all make our way as carefully as we can. As I go through, I look back. The second guard is starting to move, but that can’t be helped.
    We were being held in a ramshackle convenience store, and most of the shelves still have food and other supplies on them. I look around, but there’s nothing we need. Not today.
    Five feet from the door, Brutus steps out from behind a shelving unit. Shadow, as always, is by his side. “I’ll take Shadow!” I yell, and the others go after Brutus, a strength Gifted.
    Shadow is definitely tricky, as he can move as silently as a mouse, yet with the speed of an athlete. His gift, however, is not speed, but being able to turn invisible. Unfortunately for him, he choices to fight with a knife, which puts him at my mercy. Also unfortunate for him is the fact that I don’t have much right now.
    The knife sails from his hand, and speeds into my outstretched palm. My fingers close around it and I attack. Even with his speed and invisibility, there’s no way he can get out of the way. In a few seconds, his body drops to the ground, visible now that he’s dead.
    That had just gone quicker than the last time, which was most definitely a good thing. I run towards Brutus, who’s having a hard time holding off my friends. The knife hovers behind me, and I attack with it, not even holding it in my hand. Brutus falls as well, the knife buried in his brain.
    I dislike killing, and having to do more than one is enough to make me sick. However, until I can get to Card, the boss of Houston, I’m stuck with doing it.
    “Doctor, we’ve got to go. Now.” It’s Lucy. She knows what’s going to happen, when I get to Card, but she follows me anyway. That’s real dedication to a cause.
    “Lucy, if you want, I could take you back with…” I trail off when I see her expression.
    “Look, Doc, I like you, but no that much. If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather be clueless.”
    “I would take them all back,” I say at her retreating form as she moves up through the group. The excuse doesn’t even fool me. Shaking my head, I walk up the road to where we found the tank last time.
    Then there it is, with the same two guards sitting on top. Calligan speeds off, up the side, fists flying. The fury knocks one out immediately, but it’s up to Lucy to drop the other.
    The group clamber in, except for Thad and Mary, and the ones they give rides to, as we don’t have powers that allow us to move without being on the ground.
    As the tanks is technically a weapon, I’m able to control it. Sloan also helps, as it’s also mostly mechanical. We start moving forwards, and Lucy gives me a warning look. I nod; that last time, we barely made it out of the drive way before crashing into the tree. This time, however, I both have more experience, as well as Sloan. We turn onto the main road, heading away from the convenience store.
    “Follow this road, then take a right. First left, and Card’s at the end, in a mansion.” Caleb’s voice is squeakier than usual. His eyes are screwed tightly shut, as he finds it easier to focus his gift of sight that way.
    “Thanks,” I say, turning back to the road. The road is bumpy, and it takes both of the drivers to keep it steady. Not that we’re in danger of tipping over. Not in a tank.
    About fifteen minutes later, we pull up to Richard card’s mansion. I look at the group. “Well, it was great the days we had together, wasn’t it?”
    “We won’t miss you, Doc,” Constance says. “We won’t remember you at all.”
    “I’m going to remember each and every one of you,” I say, pulling her into a hug. Then I hug the rest of the group, one at a time. Some of the other boys start joke hugging, pretending to cry as if they were actually going to miss each other.
    I open the top and pull myself over the edge. Ten guards stand at the front door, and their guns are pointed at me in a second. “I need to see Card,” I say.
    Richard Card is a mystery. No one, aside from me, knows whether he’s Gifted or not, but he’s definitely the most powerful man since the man who called himself the Neph Master.
    The guards still don’t let me pass, and I frown. I drop the ground. “Please, let me see Card.” They remain stolid in their silence. I take a step forward.
    “Don’t take another step,” they order, but I keep going. Instantly, the bullets rip through my body. I’m fading, quickly, and with my last bit of strength, I push myself back through time a few seconds. I’m now standing, with no bullet holes.
    “Don’t take another step,” they order, and I put my hands up. I know they’re not bluffing.
    “Not trying that again,” I mutter. “Once again, let me see Card,” I order.
    “Why?” one of the guards, the one with the big bushy mustache, asks.
    “To show him the light,” I reply cryptically.
    “The one at the end of the tunnel? Many people have tried to do that.”
    It takes me a second to realize what he was talking about. “No!” I exclaim. “I don’t want to kill him! I just want to talk to him.”
    One of the guards heaves a giant notebook in front of me. “Then make an appointment,” he say.
    “No.” My voice is quiet, but forceful. “Let me see him now.”
    “Not a-” Moustache gets out, just before his gun explodes in his face. The distraction is just enough time to slip past the rest of the guards.  The guns sound behind me, but I skid around a corner just before I get hit.
    A large staircase lies in front of me. The easiest defense against anyone who suffered the Shrinkage. Unless, of course, they’re Gifted.
    Time slows, and I start up the stairs. I can’t, however, hold it to slow for too long, and by the time I’m halfway up, the guards are coming along the hall behind me. I reach out and blow up another gun. My muscles burn, but I press on. Within a few seconds for everyone else, I’m to the top. I rest for a second, then I look down. A flight Gifted is floating up the stairs.
    Instead of waiting for him to catch up, I dash down the hall. I head for the most heavily guarded room. Which is also the only guarded room. Card is most likely there.
    The guards prove no problem, as a single gun blowing up stuns them long enough for me to slip past. A conference table is set up, with about thirty men sitting around it, delegates from other cities. Card is on the far end, but I recognize another face. “Derek Hastings?”
    “Doctor?” Derek exclaims, jumping up. “I’ve kept my promise, I swear!”
    “I know Derek. I can see all of time, remember? I’m here for Card this trip.”
    Richard Card leans forward, interested. His dark skin seems out of place in a room filled with white. Not that I’m any different, as my skin is darker than most. “And who might you be?” he asks, his tone light, as if I’m a child to be humored.
    I hop on the table and strut across, kicking different notebooks and writing utensils out of the way. Up close, you can see the scar on Card’s right cheek, the one given to him by Scorpion, the self named super villain who tried to take Houston from him.
    “You could call me the Doctor, like everyone else. Or you could call me by my title. Which, Mr. Card, would be son.” I lock eyes with him, my brown eyes perfect replicas of his. “I’ve done my research. You thought that you and your wife couldn’t keep the baby, so you put me up for adoption. Wise decision, by the way.”
    I look at all the others. “You all will call me the Doctor.”
    “Evan?” Card says, half whispering. He’s on his feet now, and I turn to him.
    “That’s me, yes,” I reply. Suddenly, the guards burst through the door. I know I have to act fast, which for me is a relative term. I grab my father’s arm and slow time, with us being the only two not affected.
    “Listen, Dad,” I say, the word feeling strange on my tongue. “I’m going to take you back through time, to a point just after the Shrinkage. You’re going to keep the knowledge you already have now, but we won’t be together.”
    “Why can’t you just let me live my life from this point on?” Card asks, and I smile sadly.
    “I’ve killed to many people today, I can’t just go back a few days, either. If I do, I won’t be able to help anyone before that time.”
    My father gives me a blank look, and I smile indulgently. “Okay, think of it this way. My life is a line, right?” I drew a line. ______ Card nods. “My power allows me to move freely along that line. I can’t, however, go to a point before the Shrinkage, nor to any point after my age of seventy. The latter part of that is only because I haven’t lived past the age of seventy yet.” My father raises an eyebrow.
    “Wait, how old are you?”
    “I don’t know how many years I’ve lived. I’ve gone around a lot, back and forth, changing different things here and there. Suffice it to say, I’m older than I look.
    “Anyway, back to explaining. When I go back and change something, then that’s a point on the line.” _.________ “The other part of that is the fact that if I go back and change something before the dot on that line, then that dot is erases, and I have another dot to go by.” .________ “So, if I go back just a few days, I get less time to change things. Do you understand?”
    My father raises an eyebrow. “Kind of. But it’s still confusing.”
    “Imagine trying to living it,” I deadpan, then tighten my grip. Instantly, we’re going through time. My gift allows me to see time as cities, and me being on the highway. Dates and exact times for events speed past me, and I close my eyes. When I open them, I’m sitting in my room. My old room, the one I had when I was younger, before the Shrinkage. This is the place I stayed after the Shrinkage, for weeks afterwards.
    My internal clock tells me that it’s only been three hours since the Shrinkage, which is perfect. The four other people I brought back through time were before this point.
    I flash through time five years, to the point in time at which I had helped Card. The new memories fill my head, ones of Richard Card, peacemaker between the warring cities, the kind ruler of Houston, then spreading all the way to all of Texas.
    I’m standing in the middle of a deserted street. I pull my hat tighter on my head, and start walking forward. After all, with all of time at my disposal, there’s no telling what could happen.

 

Majors and Minors: Chapters Three and Four

As a first post of the year treat (and seeing as I missed last month’s chapter), I am posting the next two chapters as one.

Chapter Three: Exiled

Soon after the initial madness settled down, small groups of people began to band together, forming communities. Some called themselves ‘Clans’, others ‘Bands’, still others called them ‘Gangs’. Other names included Groups, Hives, Colonies, Communes.
One of the largest growing clans in the early weeks was Thorsclan. -Encyclopedia Britannica.

We had heard of Thorsclan, how they had started to rise in power in Central New York.Originally from New York City, Thor had begun what he called ‘protecting’ cities. For a small price, of course.

Thor was a Flight Major, with an added bonus of electrical power thrown in. He looked like the Norse god slightly, with long golden hair and a face that screamed ‘former teenage heartthrob’. The only thing that didn’t look right was his eyes, which weren’t white, but rather a strange murky gray.

The Mayor of Syracuse didn’t have much control anymore, but he still made an effort to ‘hand’ the city over to Thor. Thor took it, with thanks. One of his first rules, however, was that all other clans must be disbanded.

Phillipsclan said no. Thorsclan got angry.

It came down between me and Thor, standing in the middle of South Salina Street, just like in the old westerns. Behind me stood Phillipsclan, or what was left of it, anyway. Behind him stood the entire city of Syracuse, and more beside. Even Mrs. Taylor stood behind him.

“Judith, go to Mrs. Taylor,”  I ordered, and my sister looked at me with fear-filled eyes. But she did as she was told, running across the space to her pseudo mother.  “Everyone else, do you understand what it means to stand next to me?”

The eight around me nodded. Two of our number had just followed Judith, and now it was down to Drew, Gwen, Weston (Strength Major), Arthur (Minor), Gabe (A flight Major) Pyro (Fire Major) Samantha (Minor)  and Kincaid (Unsure on this, either Martial Arts Major, or maybe a super cool Minor)

“Melchizedek Phillips!” yelled Thor.

“Yep, that’s my name,” I called back. Thor’s voice boomed back.

“I hereby exile you and anyone belonging to the clan named Phillipsclan, from any land under the authority of myself, Thor. We will kill you on sight.”

“Okay, thanks, bro, we’ll be out of your hair in a second, don’t worry.” I turned to the others. “We ready?”

“As ready as we ever will be,” Gwen said.

“I’m not asking any of you to be here, you know. You can leave anytime.”

“Dude, you saved us,” Gabe said. “I’m not just going to throw that away. Plus, who wants to be stuck under that jerk?” he hooked his thumb at Thor, who bristled obviously.  “Come one, let’s go,” he said, turning towards the car waiting for us.

Drew started the car as the rest of us turned, slowly climbing the rope suspended from the door frame. From behind Thor, the voices of Liam and Sarah could be heard, crying out for their brother. Someone held them back, I couldn’t tell who.

“Arthur, why are you leaving them?” I asked, and he shook his head.

“I can’t give you all the reasons, but I know Thor from before. He’s not exactly fond of me. I think that he won’t hurt Liam or Sarah, but he would kill me, without hesitation.”

I nodded, letting him climb the rope. The last person, besides me, was Kincaid. “I better not be making the wrong decision here,” he said, grinning at me, his crooked teeth matching his messed up face. He was older than me, by about a year, and I had nothing but respect for him. With ease, the dark-skinned boy climbed up the rope into the car. I followed close behind.

As the door closed, I moved towards the front. “Drew, take us out of here,” I said, and he grinned, albeit a bit sadly.

“As you wish,” he replied, switching the car into drive. I climbed onto the seat so as to stand next to him. He looked at me, a sarcastic jab on his lips.

“If you dare say anything about how old I look, don’t,” I said, referencing a joke he and Kincaid had made several days earlier.

“Actually, I was going to ask if you had shaved today? Your chin looks as smooth as a baby’s.”

I pushed him off the seat, to which came the cry from Gabe, “Don’t harass the driver!”

Everyone laughed. Which is kind of stupid to say, because it would have been hard not to laugh at such a statement

<^>

The first day was the hardest. It always is, getting used to a new routine. We had twenty-four hours to get through the Pennsylvania border. Which was pretty easy, considering that it takes less than two hours to do so.

Instead, however, we had decided to try and make it to the Adirondacks, where we had heard others were making their own clans, fighting against Thor. But to do that  we had to drive several hours.

It was strange, being the only ones on the highway. It was like one of the scenes from apocalyptic movies, where the heroes are the only ones left on the entire planet, and are just cruising, hoping to meet someone.

I always found those movies stupid. Why would you waste valuable resources driving around the country when what you really needed to was hunker down, gathering different supplies, and thriving.

Suffice it to say, I wasn’t a huge fan of those movies. And I had taken the idea of the story by George Wesely Rawls Survivors to heart: Find a group of friends, then get ready for whatever comes. You will have a much better chance of survival that way. Guns also were a huge part of it, but after we all shrunk, we couldn’t exactly use them.

Like I said in the beginning, the first day was the hardest: reaching our destination. We had driven into a small resort near Cranberry Lake, parking our car near the entrance. I walked in first, leaving the others ready to help me if need be. I knocked on the glass, but no one answered. So, instead, I kicked the glass. It shattered inward, but my foot hurt like crazy. I slipped through the crack, hoping not to cut myself on the edges of the glass.

The register counter was empty,  and so were the halls that I could see. I walked towards the counter, my hands balling into fists. Suddenly, a shot rang out, and I dove, rolling behind the counter. A voice called out, “Who’s there?”

“My name’s Melchizedek Phillips!” I yelled back. “If I come out, do you promise not to  shoot me?”

“Nothing doing!” the man, whoever he was, shouted. “Only if you answer this question correctly. Are you for Thor or against him?”

“Considering I just got kicked out of where I used to live by him, I’m against him.”

“Wrong answer,” the man said, and the gun fired again, blasting a hole through the wood. “Thor’s my brother, and he doesn’t like to be called stupid.”

“I never called him stupid!” I said, taking a look at my attacker. His arm had become a gun. The entire freaking arm. Talk about firearms.

Puns aside, he was a huge threat. Just as he fired again, I started out, running for the door. A spray of bullets followed me, as, apparently, the man could switch between regular shotgun and machine gun.

I dove through the hole, the glass slashing into me. Well, my left leg, anyway. I hobbled towards the car, yelling for them to get it started. But no one was watching outside. My leg was cut deeply, and I struggled to walk properly. I grabbed the rope, and started climbing.

The man had come to the door now, and was firing at me. I banged on the car door, hoping that if they hadn’t heard the gunshots, they would hear me. They didn’t.

I dropped to the ground, running behind a tire. Then I saw why no one had responded. They had all been taken out of the car and tied up with (can you believe it?) rubber bands. Everyone except Weston, that is. He had a hair twisty.

I pulled out my knife, stumbling forward. The guards saw me, but not before I had thrown my knife. Inexplicably, Kincaid had been able to catch it with his hand, and slash his band bonds. They didn’t fall, they whipped off of him, and whacked the two beside him, Samantha and Pyro.

Speaking of Pyro, he began the next act, letting his hands flare up. (Does anyone mind if I make another firearm joke?) The two then proceeded to let the others loose. I turned, climbing the rope again. This time, the door opened and I rolled in. The hail of bullets still raged, but  I was safer now. I ran to where we kept our ‘swords’, various knives we had shaped handles for so they could be handled by the now-tiny human race.

I threw them out the door, where they were picked up by my clan. Then, grinning, I collapsed on the edge of the floor, watching the action. My leg wouldn’t support my weight anymore, unfortunately.

Everyone turned, making their way for the rope. Pyro lit the area around on fire, keeping everyone away as Phillipsclan climbed. Everyone worked as fast as they could, and I did my best to help pull them in. After the last member pulled their ragged body in, Drew started the car. We sped off, hoping that they wouldn’t chase us.

“A bit close,” I said, sitting up. My leg still hurt like the dickens, but Pyro and Gwen were working on it. Now, I’m going to explain that phrase for a moment: The dickens hurt because they are boring! This doesn’t mean that my leg was boring, however, it simply meant that I was in a great deal of pain. Almost as bad as  trying to read Bleak House for school. Ugh.

As they worked, I gave them the same talk I just gave you, They seemed only mildly interested. Drew turned on the radio, probably to block out my monologue. “Today,” the newscaster said, “President John Smith made the announcement  that they would be fighting against the invaders.”

“I might not be into politics, but isn’t our president. Vincent Paltroni?” Pyro asked. I shrugged.

“You haven’t been paying attention,” Arthur explained. “Paltroni died when the toxin hit, as did his Vice-President. John Smith is just a man Congress put into power.”

“There’s no way his name could be John Smith,” I said, then winced as Gwen cleaned my wound.

“It’s probably just a stooge so Congress can pull the strings. The House wanted to make the decision, but Senate got to it first,” Arthur said, sitting as well.

John Smith’s voice came on over the radio. “These men, whoever they are, will not get the advantage over us. We are the United States of America. I will fight to the best of my ability to repel these invaders. Our shores will be protected.”

“As you can hear, President Smith is declaring war on whoever has attacked Boston.”

“Turn it up!” I exclaimed, as this was the first thing I had heard of it. Drew did so, and the sound nearly blasted out my eardrums. “Turn it down!” I shouted, and rolling his eyes, Drew complied

“You said-” Drew was going to make a joke that I wasn’t in the mood to hear, so I cut him off.

“I know what I said, and I’m sorry. Just let me listen.”

“Thirty people were killed, countless other injured in the attack on Thursday,” the newscaster said. “It was led by people who appeared approximately two feet high.”

“Not regular humans,” I said, and Arthur nodded.

“Maybe a group of supersized Gifted?” he said, using a super old term for Majors. After I introduced that phrase, everyone loved it. Gifted? Pfff. That word was lame. However, this was before I had started calling anyone that, so, we were limited to Gifted.

“Maybe. But there’s an awful lot of them. We didn’t have that many of any kind of Gifted back in Syracuse.” Gabriel’s reasoning was sound, but something didn’t add up for me.

“So the toxin didn’t affect these people like it did us? And if that’s the case, why didn’t we have anyone like that in Syracuse?”

“Maybe they’re not human,” Samantha said, grinning.

“Yeah, like that’s the answer, Sam,” Arthur said, smiling. Samantha smiled back, and suddenly, everyone else were interested in the ceiling or the floor. We all knew that they had a thing for each other. In fact, the only people oblivious to that fact were Arthur and Samantha themselves. It sounds wrong, but what I mean is that they didn’t know they were doing things like this.

Anyway, enough about the romance. Onto something more interesting.

We drove half an hour, pulling into a small town. We parked outside of Tony’s Convenience Store, and got out. We didn’t know how long we were going to be driving, so I had decided to stock up on supplies as soon as we could. Several cars sat nearby, and I ordered Weston and Gabe to siphon the gas. They looked at me like ‘What the heck, Dek?’ but did it nonetheless.

Meanwhile, the rest of us went into Tony’s Convenience Store. I could move easier now, apparently quick healing was part of the MiniTox’s effects.

We strolled down the aisles, picking out the things we were going to want. Without Weston to pick push our shopping cart, or Gabe to lift us to where we could walk on the shelves, it presented more of a problem than we had thought it would. So, we were limited to window-shopping.

A can of baked beans was on the bottom shelf, and Pyro, trying to be funny, pulled it off and got on, walking slowly down the row. We all chuckled, but then, something came whizzing along the ground, knocking the can out from underneath him. We all turned, and saw our enemy. Three men, dressed in black, stood at the end of the aisle, one with fire in his hands, another, tearing up the dirt, and the third floating.

From the other end of the aisle came the shouts of victory, so we turned. A man with rocks floating above his head, a woman with what looked like glue dripping from her hands, a man who looked like a Minor (as in, he didn’t have any powers, not that he was really young) and another who kept shifting between a rabbit with fangs, (Bunnicula?) a hawk, and his human form.

“We’re in trouble,” I murmured.

“You said it, Dek,” Gwen whispered back. We formed a circle, preparing to fight, but knowing that if it came down to it, we were at the disadvantage. I could hear more people coming, joined the men on one side, and the others at the, well, other side.

In the middle of two halves of an army. And everyone knows that two halves always want to make one whole.

Chapter Four: Self Preservation; or, the Art of Canning Oneself

While the main powerhouse was Thorsclan,other, smaller, clans began appearing, mostly in the Adirondacks,where they could easily repel Thor’s attacks. The strongest was one calling itself ‘Black River Clan’, but they fell apart in winter, as they could not keep warm. The next strongest was the ‘Shifters’, full of Majors who could shapeshift. They did last out Thorsclan, later joining the Adirondack clan, during the-” -Encyclopedia Britannica

Sorry about cutting it off there, but, well, there are spoilers in the next sentence. And you don’t want me to spoil the entire story for you, do you? If so, then skip to the end of the book and read the epilogue. I’ll do a recap there. Entirely in rhyme.  Beat that!

Anyway, back to the story.  Remember, we’re in Tony’s Convenience Store, surrounded by the enemy.

We stood in the circle, not sure what to do. I knew I had to take charge, to make sure I came forth as the leader. “Pyro, grab another can,” I ordered, grabbing one myself. The others did it also, putting cans of baked beans around them.

Soon, we had a small barricade around us, with us in the middle. “Okay, Dek, now what do we do?” Drew asked, and I smiled.

“Ever heard of a pincer movement?” I asked, and I saw a few nods, but mostly puzzled expression. “It’s what they’re doing to us right now. Get on either side of the group, so they have nowhere to go, then move in for the kill. It’s based off of what crabs and lobsters do. But there’s one thing: If you get really close to the crab or lobster’s face, they can’t reach with their arms.”

“Where’s the head?” Arthur asked, catching on.

“I have no idea, so that was actually a bad illustration,” I confessed. “But, we can buy more time if we go straight through that shelf there,” I pointed to the one that, if we went through it, would lead us to the next aisle. “When I give the signal, move your cans so we have a straight pathway to it.”

I poked my head up, looked at both sides of the opposing force. They had grown in number, with about twenty-five people in all around. And more still coming.

I nodded, and everyone pushed, pulled, teleported, or somethinged their can. I ran to the shelf, grabbing the first thing I could (toilet paper, actually) and pulling it off the shelf. The others ran to help me, tearing off disinfectant wipes, more toilet paper, and other things you would find in bathrooms. When a bar of soap passed, I slashed off a good sized chunk with my knife and stuck it in my pocket.

“My mother told me that cleanliness was next to Godliness,” I said in explanation to no one.

Our worries, however, weren’t over when we cleared out the shelf. On the back, separating the two shelves, was a thin sheet of metal. “Pyro,” I sang, and he grinned. Lighting his hand, he slowly cut a piece large enough to let us through. As we slipped to the other side, Kincaid stopped me.

“Dek, if we don’t make it out of this alive, I need to tell you something,” he said, looking at the ground. “I feel that following you is going to get me killed someday.” His voice was serious, and I shook my head.

“I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen,” I said, my head changing directions and nodding.

“Don’t say that,” Kincaid said. “Just promise me that if I die, you won’t feel like it’s your fault. Please.”

I nodded, then followed the older boy through the hole. He knew more than he was telling, I could tell. But I didn’t press the matter.

We pushed through the next shelf with ease. It was a cooking supplies shelf, so we mostly were pushing spices out of the way. Gwen was the first one on the ground, and looking both ways before crossing, she dashed to the other side. Drew followed, then Pyro, Samantha, Arthur, I was the last one, speeding across the gap so fast that I suspected they didn’t even see me.

We huddled there, waiting. Then, cautiously, I dashed up to the edge of the aisle. The people on the side had started to advance on where we had been. I motioned for the others to join me, and they did so. We sprinted around the corner to the next aisle away from the clan.

We needed a place to hide, and quickly. The ‘Tony’s-Convenience-Store-Clan’ would soon find that we were gone, and come looking. And with the numbers they had, it was easy to imagine the result. (If you don’t understand what I’m trying to say, then please close the browser and read Dick and Jane)

Then I spotted it: the perfect hiding place. They were like Mason Jars, except that they were smoke colored, so that you couldn’t see inside. “Get in,” I ordered, and my crew obeyed.

“I’m going to have to put a lid on, so it looks like there’s something in here,” I said.

“There is something in here,” Drew complained.

“I’m going to need you to hold your breath. I’ll try and leave a crack, but I don’t know how I can do that.”

“Uh, Dek, I had a solution,” Pyro said. “I’ll just make a tiny hole in some letter, so they can’t see it.” He picked up one of the lids, inscribed with the label Mason.

“Or we could do that,” I said, getting to one of the jars. A holed lid was put over me, and I hunkered down, trying to fit. My head bumped the lid, and I struggled to stop it from doing so.

I peered out my smoky den. I couldn’t see anything, besides the jars beside me. Faintly, I heard the noise of people finding out that their quarry is gone. In other words, the sound of complete and utter anger.

The ‘Tony’s-Convenience-Store-Clan’ came into the aisle, hounding for our blood. My pulse skyrocketed as they came up and tried to see into the jars. But trying to see in was harder than trying to see out, so they moved on. We continued sitting there until, finally, Pyro tipped his jar over and crawled out. We all proceeded to follow his example, not caring if the ‘Tony’s-Convenience-Store-Clan’ was going to find us or not.

I studied the other side of the aisle, the one we had not touched yet. Smiling, I said one word. “Condiments.”

The ‘Tony’s-Convenience-Store-Clan’ heard us banging around and came back, as quick as they could. But this time, we were ready. From the bottom shelf, we had gotten a ‘Family Size’ container of vegetable oil, a stick of butter, and as many bottles of Maple Syrup as we could find. The latter we had poured out around us, so that they couldn’t get close, unless they were flying. Maple Syrup is, after all, the stickiest thing you can put onto pancakes.

The oil we added to the maple syrup, let the two mix. The butter we also melted and spread around. Then, we grabbed some pots and sticks and formed a convenience store band. Granted, our music was some of the worst you could ever hear, and the lyrics (created by the magician himself, Drew Taylor) were horrendous. They went something like this:

“Oh, we’re trapped in a convenience store!” (Bang on the pot, bang on the pot) “Not exactly convenient, if you ask me. Which no one did, so nevermind” (See former parentheses, see former parentheses) “Why couldn’t we have gotten stuck in a Walmart?”

By this time, the ‘Tony’s-Convenience-Store-Clan’ had reached us. They stared at the mixture with something akin to disgust, which is what I would feel if I saw it. Then, shaking their heads, they charged in….and got stuck on the maple syrup.

“Fire light, fire bright,” Pyro said, igniting his hand.

“Don’t, you fool!” one of the people yelled.

“Let us go in peace,” I said, and they shrugged.

“Okay. But only if you beat the turtles.”

Turtles? After Thor, Mr. Firearm and, come to think of it, the shrinky thing, turtles sounded easy.

“Why not?” I said. Ha ha, let’s all laugh at the little cute idiot. Because that’s what we were dealing with here. Well, what they were dealing with. (Just so you know, I’m the cute little idiot)

Everyone grinned, and, laughing (which should have tipped us off to begin with), led us out of the store and into their backyard. It turns out that Tony’s Convenience Store was right next to a golf park, which in turn, was right next to a river. The group that had taken us belonged to the golf park, and had been stuck there ever since the shrinking happened.

This in and of itself wasn’t surprising, but what they had done with the place, now that was surprising. Instead of hunkering down in Tony’s Convenience Store, as we would have done, they had camped out on the golf course. The most interesting feature of said golf course was the turtle pit.

Unfortunately, I’m not joking here. The ‘Tony’s-Convenience-Store-Clan’ had rounded up seven turtles from the river, and trapped them in a pit about two feet deep. The pit they had dug using an Earth Major. (Just for future reference, Arthur’s kid brother Liam turned out to be an Earth Major. Pretty cool, all the different things he could do)

Our group was shown the pit, then, smiling and laughing, they pushed us in. Gabe and Weston weren’t with us, and we were alone with seven turtles, some snapping, some not. I looked at Pyro. “You think you could fry of of these for supper?”

He laughed, thinking I had made a joke. “Nah, this would be to much for us.”

“Pyro, seriously. I need to know. Can we get out of this alive?”

“Come on, Dek,” Kincaid said. “It’s a good day to die.”

I remember his words from earlier, about how he expected to die if he followed me. I shook my head. “Not today, it’s not. Now, let’s show these idiots how Phillipsclan fights!” With those brave words, we waited for the turtles to attack. You would think they would move slowly, but that wasn’t the case.

They sped across the expanse between us in seconds, their beaks snapping. I jumped, flipping over one of the ugly heads, and landing on the shell. The beast tried to turn, and catch me in its jaw, but I was too quick, leaping out of the way. The others did their various things, except for Arthur and Samantha, who were both Minors, and thus, couldn’t really do anything, well, major. Or Major. Not sure about how that should be done.

Kincaid’s hands flickered. Literally. Pyro’s hands flickered. Figuratively. The flames on his hands, however, did flicker. Together, they attacked the turtles, one roundhouse kicking them, the other cooking them.

As I danced with my seven partners, I called out to Gwen, who was busy keeping herself, her brother and our two Minor friends alive. “Take them to the water!” I called, and instantly, the four disappeared. I slapped my forehead, or to be more precise, I face-planted on the nearest turtle shell. I had meant for her to take the turtles, but I guessed the humans would do as well.

Our odds had gone from seven against seven to three against seven, and let me tell you, the majority was not on our side. As I flipped over another bone-crushing beak, I contemplated the meaning of life. Mostly about why it would ever end in so short a time.

I thought that I was invincible, spinning and jumping around the (insert-your-own-fancy-word-for-turtle-because-if-you-don’t-I’ll-end-up-cursing). Unfortunately, I wasn’t, and landed in the open mouth  of a (censored) turtle.

See? I told you I was going to curse. People these days, they just don’t listen.

I could feel the beak begin to close around me. I fought with it, pushed, kicked, did anything I could, but all the while, felt my bones began to crack. Suddenly, it stopped. I looked up, out of the pit, and saw someone leaning over us. He had a youthful face, and a small golf club was clutched in one hand.

“Stop this, Guntar,” he said, standing upright. I felt myself moving, being drawn to the top of the pit. I landed softly on the dirt and looked at the kid again. He was probably around eleven or twelve, most likely there with his family when the shrinky thing happened. .

The other two in the pit rose as well, landing next to me. “Is that how Gabe feels?” asked Pyro, and I shrugged.

“Probably it’s a little bit different, as he can control it.”

“Yeah, hadn’t considered that,” Pyro acquiesced, turning his gaze onto our savior. “Who’s the kid?”

“The name’s David,” the ‘kid’, replied, turning back to us. “I have what people call telkintic powers.”

“You mean telekinetic,” I corrected, and he raised his club threateningly.

“I can put you back there,” he said, pointing to the turtle pit. “Or you can accept my telkintic powers.”

“Phillipsclan, let’s go,” I whispered, and Kincaid nodded.

“Right, because we can so outrun who knows how many Majors, as well as a telkintic one who can just grab us anytime.”

A big burly man came up. “What is it, Davey?” he asked, his lips forming a sneer. “Don’t like to see bad things? Maybe you should go back to your dolls.”

David’s voice grew cold. His bravery was astounding. I got the feeling that he wasn’t all he seemed. “Guntar, how about I make you into a life-sized puppet? I could, you know. I could just make your arm, oh, I don’t know, whack into your own face,” Guntar’s arm sprung up and slapped himself across the face. “Or, what if I made you trip?” Guntar fell, face first, into the ground.

“David, stop,” I said, walking to him.

“Get away!” he cried, slamming into me with his ‘telkintic’ powers. I rolled along the ground, rising to my feet. Gritting my teeth, I moved back to him, wincing as the wound in my leg started to flame with pain.

“David, stop,” I repeated, and he turned to me. What I saw creeped me out more than a man with gun barrels for arms, or even the giant rat that I had to fight. (Long story, but suffice it to say, rat traps don’t always kill the rats) I saw pure and utter hatred. Nothing could stand against such loathing.

I shook my head. “David, I’m sorry,” I said, turning away. “Come on, Pyro, Kincaid. Let’s go.” I left the golf course, heading for the water. I turned back when I heard a sniffling noise. David was kneeling before Guntar, crying.

And Guntar was laughing.

 

Looking for the next Majors and Minors story? Find it here

The Obligatory End of Year Post

~Change comes, and change goes/Faster than the seasons flow.~

That couplet is from a book that I was writing. There’s a lot of those, I know, but this one pertained to a series that my sister was writing. Basically, she took the characters of a whole bunch of her friends, and wrote a story where they were all in one big family. And when I say big, I mean big. There are about fifteen kids, or some other grandiose number. All that to explain that I was writing the final book in the series, about the twin boys. The title was going to be Change of the Seasons, which is where the idea for the rhyme comes from. I like to think that it sums up what 2016 was for me, and for my family.

I’ve flown for the first time, traveled as far West as I’ve ever been in my life, received three beautiful sister-in-laws, graduated high school, completed a semester of college, and, weirdest of all, became an ASL (American Sign Language) Major.

This last listing adds proof of the existence of God to me. I took the course to get my language credit out of the way, but my teacher realized that I have a hidden and innate talent for signing. Through a series of hints, bribes and outright declarations that I should become an ASL Major, she convinced me. And now, looking back, I find it hard to imagine a time when I didn’t sign. Mostly because I don’t want to imagine something like that.

An end of year look at your life usually turns into something that can be summed up like this: ‘Sure, it can be difficult, but God is good.’ That’s true, but I don’t want my last post this year to be something as cliche as that. Sure, God’s good, there’s no denying that. But we can’t lie to ourselves and to everyone else that our lives are fine. We know the truth, but we don’t want to admit it.

To paraphrase Andy Mineo (a Christian rapper), when someone asks how we’re doing, we say we’re fine, even though we’re hurting inside. But tell me, who’s really lying? They don’t want to know how you’re doing.

This year, God explained who I was supposed to be. I’m called to minister to the broken. Sometimes I imagine myself as this giant ear, just listening to people as they come. Sure, I have a tiny mouth for giving advice, but that’s not really what people want. If you want advice, you go to self-help books. But a self-help book won’t listen to your problems, won’t care about what you’re going through. I have to believe that the world would be a better place if we meant what we said when we ask ‘How are you?’

Yes, God is good, but people aren’t. There are times when you need a physical shoulder to cry on, as well as time when you need to offer your shoulder to others in that kind of situation. And I would propose that in doing so, we would be Christ-sent to those people. But far too often, we brush them aside. ‘I have my own problems,’ we say, as we rush to work, or school or whatever it is that we think we can’t put off.

When change strikes, people need someone to fall on. So, in the words of an inspired songwriter, ‘Lean on me, when you’re not strong/ And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on.‘ The body of Christ is joined and held together by every supporting ligament and sinew. Without that support, it’s a pile of tissue, unable to function. Why do you think so many people are depressed, without anyone to lend them aid?

To finish off my ramblings, I’m reminded what John Stumbo, the Alliance President, said at LIFE. In talking about all the horrors he’s been through, he explained that he had to believe that you could hold onto someone else’s faith when your faith wasn’t strong enough. But how, I have to ask, can you use another’s faith unless it is offered, and how will others be encouraged if you refuse to hold out your faith to them?

I’m not a firm believer in New Year’s resolutions, mostly because no one holds to them. But I challenge you to love people in a way that they will see the goodness of God, and eventually glorify the One who sent you.

To all my loyal readers (and the unloyal ones, too), Happy New Year! And may the Lord bless and protect you throughout 2017.