Rite of Passage

Rite of Passage Illustration #1

He sees the boy, pumping his legs as he soars through the air on a swing, and he almost smiles. How carefree and innocent the boy is, not yet aware of the world’s cruel designs. His own childhood is a distant thing, far removed from who and what he is today.

The boy releases the chains. He leans forward, and when the swing is at its apex, he slips from the seat. He hurtles through the air, lands on his hands and knees, and grins.

Play. It’s a concept he’s thought about a lot. In the small hours of the night, when he lays awake unable to sleep, he stares beyond the ceiling, pondering its manifold mysteries. The imagination of a child, he thinks, is a thing of boundless possibilities, a grasp toward the infinite, an exploration of a vast, unformed world filled with all the things that might yet be. It is an art, he thinks, a special kind of magic that he lost the moment he was Changed.

He brushes the thought aside. There will be time for reflection later. Right now he’s focused on the boy. He stares at him from behind a broad oak tree, shrouded in shadow.

Today, the boy will be his.

* * *

His name is Gol. He is not an ogre or a troll, a gnome, a fairy or a centaur. There are no stories written of his kind. To the best of his knowledge, he’s the only one of his kind. He was once human like the boy, but he is human no longer.

He is the latest incarnation of an ancient lineage, a succession stretching back beyond the foundation of the world. He cannot reproduce, but like humans he’s compelled to propagate, to continue the work of his ancestors. Though he’s lived for thousands of years, has witnessed the rise and fall of long-forgotten civilizations, in the end, like all living things, he too must die.

He’s spent a great deal of time pondering his origins. The memories of his ancestors are a part of him, but they’re so numerous and convoluted by the ravages of time that the secrets of the distant past remain shrouded in mystery. Someday, before the stars have burned up all their hydrogen, before the world is an icy ball of lifeless stone, before the universe is a tepid mass of eternal darkness, he hopes his progeny will solve that riddle, that perhaps they’ll even find a way home. But that will be a task for the boy and his descendants.

His own days are nearly at an end.

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Illustration #1 for “Rite of Passage”

I have great news! The artist I’ve been working with to illustrate my soon-to-be-published short story, Rite of Passage, is nearly done with the first picture. Above is a partial reveal to whet your appetite.

Want to see the whole thing? Join my mailing list by submitting your email address directly below this blog post. I’ll be sending it out in the monthly newsletter the first week of June. I’m really excited about this project and can’t wait to share it with you! 🙂

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Mischief Maker

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Not long now, he thinks, before the world unravels again. His mouth blossoms in a jack-o-lantern grin.

It was just by chance that he happened upon the Earth. Wandering the cosmos in search of mischief, he’d stumbled on it by accident, and he was already moving on when he caught sight of a curious thing.

They called themselves Man. They gazed up from their tiny little rock at the dawn of their existence like ants upon a mound of sand. They beheld the depth and breadth of the mysteries beyond, and in their arrogance proclaimed themselves to be the center of the universe.

He’s dwelled among them since. He works in the shadows, just beyond the range of human perception. A master puppeteer, he tugs on their emotional strings, takes advantage of their ape-like brains, rouses them toward anger, hatred and war.

He waits until they’ve nearly destroyed themselves, then watches as they rebuild, as new civilizations rise from the ashes of the old. Then, just before they’ve tasted true and lasting peace, he lays his fetid hands upon the Earth and gets them to burn everything to the ground again.

Each time he allows them to carry something into the next age, knowledge that enables them to build bigger and better weapons. Now, they have nuclear and biological armaments. He grins like a spoiled child with candy, and he watches, wondering if this time they’ll break the world for good.

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Nothing Lasts Forever

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I thought it would last forever. I thought I could do no wrong, that no matter what I did it would always be with me. Then it up and went and I never saw it again.

I cry every night, pausing only to dab at red and swollen eyelids. I drop to my knees and pray, beg the creator of the cosmos to bring it back. I promise not to take it for granted, to give it the veneration it deserves. But my prayers always go unanswered.

I am only a shell of my former self, a hollowed out husk who’s lived for centuries in seclusion, too afraid and too ashamed to dwell among others.

The only time I speak is when I emerge naked from beneath my ancient stone bridge in the middle of the night to call out into the darkness, to speak its name, hoping it will hear my call. Hours pass before I go back inside, cold and damp, and only when I fall asleep does it come back to haunt me in my dreams.

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The Writer

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Jared’s eyes popped open at 3:17 in the morning. His head was pounding. His brain was a jumbled kaleidoscope of broken thoughts and disjointed memories, and at first he couldn’t tell where he was.

Then the pressure in his head increased. Jared moaned. He tossed the blanket aside, fumbled in the dark for the light switch, then walked briskly to his desk and picked up a pen. He groped the hardwood surface for his notebook, and when he found it he pulled it open to where he’d left off that afternoon.

Jared began to write.

Images of a life not his own funneled slowly from his mind, through his hand and onto the paper beneath him. It was dizzying, looking through two pairs of eyes at the same time. He was Jared, the writer who lived alone in a one-bedroom apartment. He was Arthur, a balding art mogul in his mid-forties, gulping for air as his studio partner plunged a six-inch serrated knife into his back.

As he scribbled furiously, trying to relieve the pressure, he wondered if he was writing the story or if the story was writing him.

He’d never asked for this. One day in high school, he’d been sitting in his sixth period English class when a story had come plummeting out of nowhere. It seized control of his senses, then raped him repeatedly as he sat there helpless in front of his teacher and his peers. All he could do was write it down, scribbling in his three-ring binder so fast that he nearly tore several pages, hoping and praying that somehow he could get it out of his head without anybody noticing that he was no longer paying attention.

Since then, his life had been a never-ending series of unpredictable encounters.

After a time, the well-spring ran dry. His viewfinder into Arthur’s soul vanished, and he was left gasping for air with his head in his hands. After taking a few minutes to catch his breath, he turned out the light. He returned to the covers, drenched in sweat, and he prayed. He asked God (if there was a God) to take this from him, though all the while he knew his prayer was in vain.

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Friday Freewrite

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What’s Friday Freewrite? Find out here.

Sometimes, when I realize something about myself, I wonder if what I’ve seen is true or if it’s just a vain reflection catching sight of another reflection. I feel like my soul exists in a hall of mirrors, capturing all the worst and most superficial aspects of myself and reflecting them back in disproportionate and grotesque detail.


Sometimes, even our search for the truth, the most noble, intimate, vulnerable and purposeful aspect of our soul, becomes corrupted, a vanity, a parody of a search that enjoys all the trappings and adornments of associated with a searching soul while the soul itself has refused to search any longer.


I look in the mirror, a broken battered version of my former self1, and I recoil back at the hideous visage that stares back at me, so alien in appearance.

My soul, blackened like my face, peers outward, coroded2.

I want to die.


Footnotes

1. This one is fictional, not autobiographical.

2. Should be spelled corroded.

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Friday Freewrite

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He saw the old man standing there after communion1, looking so serene. Surely heaven2 waited for the likes of him. But what if he were to stumble? To fall, to lose grace before he met his end?3, 4

He could make sure the man got to heaven2, could hasten his appointment with Christ to make sure he was in a state of grace when he died.

Yes, God would be pleased with him for his holy work, for his effort to save a soul.

He lunged forward, knife in hand. He would set the man free.


The congregation spoke out in unison5, a low bass monotone thrum, and Jason couldn’t help but be reminded of the Borg6. “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”


Footnotes

1. This came to me during mass one Sunday. It’s based on a deranged man’s perverted understanding of Catholic theology concerning the “state of grace” and its necessity for salvation (see footnote #4 for more on this.) I like to explore humanity from peculiar angles.

2. Heaven should be capitalized.

3. The last two sentences sound better and make more sense if written like this: “But what if he were to stumble, to fall from grace before he met his end?”

4. Catholics believe that one can lose their salvation by sinning gravely and by not repenting of that sin before they die. Through the lens of insanity, the deranged individual reasons that the old man, on account of his holy appearance, must be in a state of grace. He further concludes that since it’s possible the old man might sin gravely in the future and therefore lose his salvation, he can do him a favor by killing him now, therefore guaranteeing the old man a place in Heaven.

5. At first, I didn’t want to include this passage because I thought it would detract from the more serious and horrific one that precedes it. But I wrote both of these on the same day and they share a common theme, so I decided to go for it.

6. If you’ve ever watched Star Trek, you’ll get the reference 🙂

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Friday Freewrite

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What’s Friday Freewrite? Find out here.

I reflected on the state of my life, thought about all the many flaws I have in my character. They say that knowing yourself is a good thing, but I think that this kind of introspection is worse.

I know that I’m a loose cannon, that I overreact to small things1, but I’m helpless to stop it, can only watch as my life becomes a train wreck.

At least if I were unaware, I could feel that I was being righteous, like I was a crusader for good. Instead, I get to watch the train wreck of my life unfold, powerless to stop it.


Something Al had learned2 as one of life’s great truisms was that nothing turns a man into a rabid dog quite like being told he’s going to have to work over the weekend.


I closed the door behind me, took a moment to let my surroundings sink in. I fingered soft linen towels, squinted up at the lights, felt the smooth polished brass of the door handle.

I pulled down my pants, plopped down on the toilet and let the years of my childhood wash over me.

I spent a lot of my childhood years cocooned in bathrooms.3 At a time when I was insecure and prone to bullying, they provided me a sanctuary, a place where I could think and philosophize, process conversations I’d been forced to have, ponder my fate, to dream, to imagine.

In the bathroom, in the beautiful silence of the bathroom, I found freedom and peace.


Footnotes

1. I wrote this in 2014 while at work. I don’t remember exactly what happened, just that I had overreacted to something my boss had asked me to do, a regrettably common pattern in my behavior, and was frustrated by my inability to control my anger.

2. And by Al, I mean myself 😉

3. Being an introvert, the bathroom has always been a safe place for me. It’s where I go when I’m feeling besieged by social forces and need time to recharge.

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Friday Freewrite

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What’s Friday Freewrite? Find out here.

The war within myself rages on1, but today the soldiers have set their guns and their bayonettes aside to observe a day of silence.

For the first time in a thousand years, the air is still. I breathe it in, deep, full of life, remembering the boy I used to be before self-knowledge shattered the peace.

There are no mortar shells bursting in the air. There are no bullets zipping through the air, piercing holes, sapping the life blood from my ravaged psyche.

There will be no peace until the day I finally take the bullet meant for me; there is no rest for the wicked.

But today, today I can pretend.


Footnotes

1. I would like to tell you more about where this one came from, but it’s very personal. I usually like to provide context to my freewrites, but this time I’m going to let you figure it out for yourself.

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Friday Freewrite

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What’s Friday Freewrite? Find out here.

When it comes to art, what is the artist but a mere vessel, an empty chamber which passively receives all the many shouts of the world and magnifies them, combining them into a single echo, a convolution of existing thoughts that only seems original in its unique combination?


Einstein’s theory of relativity was incomplete. Time dilation didn’t just occur at relativistic velocities, but in moments of extreme fear and anxiety. And in these cases the effect was much stronger, more prevalent.


As a writer, my characters influence me. Is it like that with God in relation to man?1


“I want you to lie to me,” he said brusquely, reaching to undo her bra straps. “I want you to tell me you love me.”

“Why, baby?” Her lips brushed against his ear. Her tongue gently probed its surface, exploring uncharted terrain that it would never see again.

“Just do it,” he said. Unseen tears dotted the corners around his eyes. “Say you love me. Lie like you mean it.”


Footnotes

1. I sometimes think of God as if he were a writer and we were the characters in an unfinished novel.

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