Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Right Here Waiting

“Assassin’s make the best dance partners you know.” Monol’s eyes crinkled playfully and she felt his hands slide gently around her waist. “May I have this honor, your majesty?” 

The exhaustion painted on the queen’s face was quickly alleviated as she allowed herself to relax. She stepped with renewed strength to the dance floor and fell into step as he led them. “I had never made the connection between assassins and dancing…” She laughed quietly and  gently brushed the hairs hanging shortly over the back of his neck. “Tell me, why do you believe this to be true?”

“Simple deduction, really.” She laughed again, then gasped slightly as he dipped her back. The rest of the court paused in their revelry to applaud politely before resuming their previous distractions. “We are quick on our feet, highly adaptive, and excel at reading people. We can mimic and blend.” Monol spun her away from him and bowed, kissing her hand before pulling her back. “And on the off chance we fail, we are quite charming and can avoid incident.” 

Her pale face was flecked with amusement and life. “Charming is not one of the traits I would generally associate with an assassin.” She scanned the great hall, looking for her children. 

“The good ones are. The great ones don’t have to be, this is true.” 

Seeing two out of three of her children, she was satisfied enough to pull her full attention back to the dance. “So you’re saying you’re just a good assassin then?” 

His face lit up. “Ma’am! I believe you’re calling me charming.” He chuckled and moved them through intricate footwork as the music hit its crescendo. They bowed before each other and came together again as the music continued. “And who’s to say I’m an assassin, hmm? Maybe I’m just charming.”

The queen sighed and broke protocol by resting her head momentarily on his shoulder. “You’re in good spirits…” She felt his grip tighten as he pulled back to separate them. The smile in his eyes was gone and replaced with concern. “Let’s finish the song then,” She hissed. “We were doing so well.”

Monol paused. “You’re right.” He stepped closer to allow her head to return to his shoulder. “I just was trying to put myself in your position. I wouldn’t want my last night to be full of sorrow. If my behavior has been obscene I’m very sorry. I’m not sure…” Her head rested once more on his shoulder and he smiled softly. “Are you ready?”

“I’m worried.” 

“Don’t be honey, it’ll be a painless death. That much I can grant you.”

The queen sniffed in amusement. “Not that, I trust you.” She stepped away and they spun together one final time. “I worry about the state of the kingdom after I pass on. Pearl is so young. I know Wilhelm will be at her side but Narod…my poor boy. Monol you must look after him.”

At that the song drew to a close and as they bowed once more. A crowd formed around her and they spewed their various needs. Monol felt her eyes locked on him, desperate for an answer as they pulled her away. He subtly nodded and felt her relief. Monol scanned the room and found Narod at a back table with some serving girls drinking to his heart’s content. Best to keep him intoxicated tonight.

Friday, January 27, 2023

My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark

The sky had turned black and destitute. Small flicks of glowing embers fell like snow to coat everything in ash. He stood, trying to remember what had been there just moments before. If he could recreate it in his mind, he might will it to existence. Slowly, the world came into chaotic focus. The sound of the flames was overwhelming but all that could be seen was a subtle orange glow around the outlines of support beams and toppled buildings. In the distance, an explosion lit the black sky in a spray of gold and orange as the flames engulfed its next target.

His breath was labored as he tried to move. Each step was excruciating. Each step, embers remained, outlining his shoe impressions. He ripped away the bottom of his shirt and wrapped it over his nose and mouth. The only liquid he had was vodka and he be damned if he was going to waste it wetting his mouth covering. He tied it securely behind his head wincing as his hair pulled and twisted in the knot. 

Never for a moment did he consider running away. His daughter was here. She should have been with her mother but for the moment he didn’t care if Elle was breathing or had burned along with her bakery. He just needed to know his baby was ok. Then he could working on getting the two of them to safety. 

His breath came in shallow and slight. The sweat pouring from his skin did nothing to cool him. He felt lost. Hopeless. He had no clue where to begin. He understood he could not call out and that if his child was screaming, he would never hear her. He looked up as he offered a small prayer to the gods and saw a glimmer of an outline of vast wings before the darkness swallowed the world again. He felt beads of sweat drip down his back and he hastily ran in terror, throwing caution to the wind. He made it to the next ruin of a building before crying out silently as pain radiated up his legs. 

Gods, help me…

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

I’m Going Home

Stepping into the sunlight I can’t believe today is the day. After twenty years, I’ll have my freedom. I wonder what I’ll do without the structure. I wonder who from my old life is alive. Who will try to contact me? How do I say no so I’m not swept back in the mess that landed me here to begin with? Am I still a part of the gang on the outside or does that life stop once I’m released? I joined for protection not idealism. These tattoos are forever, as is my loyalty? I’m not sure.

I’m quiet as I leave this place and grit my teeth as the guard tells me he’ll see me soon. Yes, I have anger issues. Yes, that did contribute to my incarceration. No, I received no guidance here for it other than solitary confinement if I acted on my aggression. This is no place for mental health other than a quick check to make sure we were alive. I learned it didn’t matter if I responded. Either way they walked to the next cell. There is no one here to help you other than the lawless whispering trade secrets. A school being taught by the ones not smart enough to avoid capture. Despite my distain, I listened and learned. Some of them know more law then public defenders. I wondered if perhaps my appeal wouldn’t have been overturned if they had been my counsel. No mind. Freedom awaits.

My sister offered me her couch until I can get I can get on my feet. If I can get on my feet. I’m not sure I can pass any background check for a legitimate job. My fear spikes that my only option might be to slip back into my old life. How am I supposed to make my way? I get into my sister’s car and roll the window down. I want to hang my head out like the dogs in movies. I want to breathe it all in, eat all the home cooked meals, drink, and find a willing partner to kick out as soon as the deed is done. My sister is talking about her job and the biscuits she left in the oven. She gets anxious as she tells me about pop’s funeral. I had lied to her and said I couldn’t go. I never tried. I can’t show up for my family in chains. Even if that means denying them as they mourn.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023



I took a drag from my cigarette. I preferred to roll them. I foolishly thought if I made them myself I could control my addition. I would know exactly what was going into the papers. I never stopped to think that unless I grew and harvested what I would be smoking, I was eliminating no risk to my health. I’m not certain at that moment in my life I cared or had any concept of consequences. The youth always feel alive, burning bright with stupid decisions and risks and I was no exception.

I wish this was a cautionary tale of the dangers of long term dangers of smoking with black lungs and cancer granules. I can’t say if that’s better or worse than what I lived through but from where I’m sitting now…well, let’s just say I wish I had used better judgement. 


From across the street it looked like a movie. Time slowed and what was surely less than a few minutes felt like hours to anyone close enough to witness the catastrophe. No one was entirely sure how it started, though it was likely just the right combination of chemicals. Between her hair product, perfumes, and the way she carried that paper bag of gin like it was Thursday night for the homeless, she combusted with just a spark of her lighter.

At first it just looked like a quick burst of fire in the air from the various fumes surrounding her. Then her long black hair caught. Then she dropped the bottle and the gin exploded at her feet. She screamed and everyone just watched. Bystander effect in full swing no one moved to call for help. The crowd stood in stunned silence as the impossible unfolded before them.

Finally the owner of a nearby diner ran to her with a small extinguisher. She had collapsed by then. There was the sound of insistent sirens in the distance and a nauseating smell in the air. The little old man gripped that red cylinder as though he had done it a thousand times and sprayed. She whimpered, not moving. The old man beamed as he stood guard and waited for the ambulance. Someone wrote an article about him that day commending his fast thinking when the rest of the street stood in standstill. When she developed frostbite along with her second and third degree burns it turned into a media shit storm. Legal action was threatened and his little diner nearly collapsed from the aftermath. 

Northern Lights

“Do you ever get nervous?” Rai’s eyes were the color of the coming storm and it took Monol back to a life he wanted to forget. He looked up from the crude battle plan he had drawn out for her and their small group. The potential of the group was immense and there was a time he would have spent years building and developing them to near godhood. Now, he had no more time. The war had started, whether anyone else saw it or not. Monol would subtly guide them all as much as he could but it was almost to the point that he would simply step back and wait. 

Monol smiled at the small group curiously watching him. “I haven’t been nervous in a long time, but yes, I certainly have felt that way in the past.” He moved the battle pieces they had picked to represent themselves. “If I were you, I would join the Druids here.” At the mention of the Druids, the group looked surprised. He placed the markers down outside the city gates near the tree line. It would be a few hours march to battle from there which would put them in the thick of it as reinforcements.

Aisline frowned. “We should join the mages…” She started to reach towards their pieces on the map.

Lunarin’s head snapped up to Monol, who was still smiling but in amusement. “The mages are not marching to war.”

The girls paled and Aisline’s hand faltered. Rai glanced at Aisline in worry. “Why?” She stood abruptly and her wooden chair rudely clattered on the ground behind her. “We should go now! They need to answer the call.”

Monol shook his head patiently. “They will not. Their leader…” He paused, choosing his words very carefully. “They will remain a neutral party unless attacked directly, which Dunne would never do. Who rules the kingdom is of no consequence to them, neither are the methods used for gaining that control. The mages will hopefully one day march to war, but this is not the time.”

Lunarin smiled and gently laid his hands over both Rai and Aisline’s. “At least we have two mages.” The girls did not recoil, but were not comforted at his words. It was clear they did not have much faith in each other or themselves to be able to dominate on the field and be a representative of their class. Aisline’s shoulders slumped and she stared blankly at the map. Rai clenched her jaw.

Normally quiet, their warrior friend Garren spoke up from the far corner of the room. He hadn’t been interested in battle planning. To him, it wasn’t complicated. His broadsword would find glory regardless of their decisions. Cowardice however, was hard to abide. “Who is this leader then, heh?” Monol stood a little straighter as he pulled back. “Aren’t they having the same issues as us? Aren’t they starving? Aren’t they affected by the plague?”

Monol thought for a moment, staring at his map, before answering quietly. “It depends on the college as to who leads. Dunne leads one. A human named Oligar leads another. The elven sect was obliterated. The others are minor positions of power that do not have the ability to respond without grievous consequences.” Monol stood and slid his chair under the table. “As far as their food and health conditions, I would be amazed if they were facing the same hardships you see here in the city.”

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Crack the Shutters

She laughs and puts her face in her hands. The light shines on her red hair and lights up my face. She’s changed so much over these past years. She’s carefree and relaxed. She isn’t afraid of speaking out of turn or being a disappointment. Her body is cool next to mine but her infectious joy is a drug in my veins. I wonder when the shift happened as I can feel it within me as well. I’m not the same man. 

I kiss her forehead and she looks up at me, her silver eyes shadowed over but they’ll never be as dark as mine. She stepped into a dangerous life with me. She faces it with such carefree grace I question her understanding of my life. She pokes at my forehead and asks where I go. I smile and apologize, reminding myself to be more present. She says I had better but she’s not upset. She’s idyllic and dances around me as she gathers various food items for her lunch. It’s hard to not feel a twinge of sorrow. I know where this will go.

Her sharp nails pierce the orange skin and she swiftly peels the fruit and pops a section into her mouth. Soft pink lips pucker at the twang of sour and she laughs again. Her melody plays symphonies in my head until I feel her fingers pushing something against my mouth and I’m met with the tart fruit she no longer wants. My brow furrows and she pushes the plate aside saying that it’s no good for anyone. 

She says she wants to ride. She’s gotten so good at learning the horses and developing the bond between them. They race into the setting sun. Her clothes billow as the wind rips around them and for the first time, I don’t join. 

Her horse trots back and she looks down at me with slight worry. She asks me if I’m sure everything is ok. I wish I knew how to communicate better. I wish I could express my happiness, my love, my pride, and my fear. Instead, I help her down and hold her close, breathing her in. She smells of her oranges and fresh air. She giggles and her fingers find my skin and they feel like icicles. I grit my teeth and take it, not willing to let go. 

This dream will end. I know I’ll wake but I can’t manage to pull myself away from this life. I cling to her as if she’s all I have left. Her lips graze my cheek, soft and cold. Her fingers won’t warm though they stay pressed against me. As the night stretches across the skies she grows colder and colder and I cling tighter and tighter. 

Let me sleep a bit longer.   

Saturday, January 21, 2023

To Zanarkand

 The older I get, the more I struggle with my beliefs. This feels opposite of the rest of the population. Their thoughts harden and set as age takes them down their path whereas mine battle in a Great War. A part of me desperately wants to believe. I see the wondrous things this life holds and know that I should believe in the maker. All the diversity and the perfect concoction of elements that came together for me to even write this out for you. This is the maker’s divine will, is it not? 

I step into the church of my parents and feel the presence of their belief. I see the richness and the trappings that adorn statues and stained glass. I see the revered fall to their knees in prayer to these statues and stained glass lest their adoration win them a better life. I don’t understand this barter system and know that I have nothing. All the same, I want nothing…at least nothing I feel the divine would be able to grant. My problems are issues with social injustices. We face brutality from those in power as the high only seem to punch down. When you’re at the bottom it’s hard to see anything but fists. My parents pray for deliverance. I stand and watch as they are met with silence.

The day they dared say their hardships were my fault because I didn’t believe the same as they, I left. It’s better to not be a constant disappointment, but instead, fade to a memory of a disappointment. The maker ignoring their cries is not on him. The state of their home and their people is not on society or on the abhorrent quality of education for their children. 

However, somewhere within me knows there is something bigger that’s just been waiting. I can feel it deep within when all hope has died and the world feels too cold. It holds on to me just long enough that I can stand again and keep going, alone. It leaves before I can question it or accuse it. It lifts my heart and fills me with understanding letting me know that despite everything, I am one of the maker’s children. One day I will stand before him and demand to know why. Why are my people treated this way. Why are my cousins left in the dust to die with his name on their lips. 

I’ve managed to carve out a life on my own outside of the city. I’ve managed to meet some of my own kind that have their own gods. Different gods. Gods that have also abandoned them. They paint their faces and treat me with distain. I am an outsider though our features are identical. I ask them a lot of questions and answer what I can of how my life was in the slums. They hope that one day their gods will return. At least they have a reason for why their cries are ignored. They know their cries are but echos and they are just hearing themselves. I tried to teach them of the maker. Their hard set minds cannot listen and so the distain only increases.

Friday, January 20, 2023



“It’s not embarrassing for you to ask me if I know you but it is to explain how you know me?” 

His fingers traced along the rim of his purple coffee mug as he smirked wickedly. The contents looked to be more milk than coffee. “There’s a woman I’ve been chatting with and her profile picture looks a lot like you, that’s all.”

Her head turned slightly as she turned over in her mind how that could possibly be embarrassing. She crossed her legs and studied him. “What, on a dating site? Or are you being intentionally coy to pull my interest.”

He laughed loudly and looked at his watch. It looked expensive and felt archaic in the world of smart technology. This was a fashion piece meant for time only. It almost clashed with his underlying surfer vibe but perhaps there was more than what was at the surface. “Not quite. I have a popular channel for adult entertainment…” He paused as her eyes grew large and she blushed. “She’s one of my newer, generous subscribers.” 


He nodded in an internal decision. “I’m going to be late for an appointment, but it was a pleasure meeting you. I-” 

“Wait. I…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel…well, I don’t know how you’re feeling but I…” She frowned and blushed a deeper shade. He stood and smiled kindly at her. He opened his mouth to speak but she continued. “At least she has good taste right?” 

“Right.” He winked at her. “I’m not ashamed of what I do. Quite the opposite, really. It’s just not always received well so I usually don’t mention it to strangers. I really do have to go. Thanks for the company.” He turned away, missing the frown that was on her face and answered his phone. “Hey man, sorry,,.” He wove his way through the shop and walked out the front door expertly not seeming to spill a drop of his quite coffee. She was certain he just stole one of their mugs. Maybe he was a regular here. Maybe he lived close. She pulled out her laptop again and wondered if she’d be able to focus to do any work after her peculiar evening.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

One Man Army

Narod slammed his fist into the wall and a little sound of defeat escaped his lips as he crumpled in pain from contact with a support beam within. Tears fell freely as his anger turned to defeat. The toes of his shoes made a scraping sound as he pulled his legs up and drew inward, clutching at his quickly swelling hand.

“Feel better?” 

His sister stood above him watching his display with pity. “Fuck you.” The defeat turned to agony and he felt as if he might burst from the weight of it. He clutched his broken hand to his chest and leaned against the wall staring forward as he spiraled.

“Let me see your hand…” Pearl knelt beside him carefully. Her shoulders fell as her words fell on deaf ears. “Narod…”

As he felt her touch, he lashed out violently. His arm rose to block her flashing a blotched and blocky fist as his good hand shoved her away, hard. “You deaf? Fuck off.” Narod stood and looked about the room, feeling caged. “Don’t follow me.” He struggled to his feet and stormed out, slamming the door as hard as he could. He gasped for air and composure before deciding to stagger to the wine cellar. He made half way there before his mother found him.

“Darling…” Narod was pulled into his mother’s arms and he clutched at her making her wince. His sobs broke free and we wept as she rubbed his back softly. He tried to gather his wits and pull away from her but Nailo held strong. Defeated, he gave up and resigned himself to her care.

As he calmed, he looked up at her. “I don’t want you to die.” 

Her hands held his face tenderly. “We’ll all pass on-”

He cut her off in anger. “Yeah well, if the healers could do their fucking job. I mean, that’s what they do.” He choked out a sob. “So why…why can’t…”

Nailo’s eyes smiled sadly as she pulled her son close again. She furrowed her brows as she thought to herself and let him weep. “I need you to promise me something.”

“Anything.” Narod wiped his eyes and tried to focus on her words.

“I don’t wish to burden your father. Under no circumstances are you to speak of this to anyone, do you understand?” Narod backed away, frowning. “Promise me.” Wordlessly, he nodded and kissed her forehead before departing swiftly into the night.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Counting Blue Cars

 Pick Your Avatar

They raised their eyebrow, confused. “Why do all these people look they’re ready for guitar hero?” Not waiting for an answer, they scrolled through the options. Some had glam rock hair from the 80s, some had emotive black hair that swooped over one eye, and some had beautiful ‘fros with a Hendrix acid scarf wrapped around their forehead. All carried a guitar, which then looked like it could be customized further on the next screen.

She chewed her lip behind them, nervous. “It um…it starts in a Music Store so it ends up being your first weapon.”

“Spoiler alert!” 

She squeaked and brought her hands to her mouth and tried to be patient as they picked the avatar with long braids and beads. The character wore aviators and camo pants. She had a lot of fun creating the different personas. She had each written with different personalities and voiced by different actors. She thought it would add to replay value.

“You should add in info about each type here.” They were thumbing through the different guitars to go with their avatar of choice. She hummed thoughtfully as she watched. “Like, I would make it that it’s just explaining differences musically and structurally but really it’s describing its stats. Since it’s a weapon, you know?” They looked back the girl watching them. “Are all guitars created equal?”

“For now, yes. For the alpha I might have it adjusted but it’ll be a lot and I’m on a deadline.” 

“Don’t you have people for that?” They picked a sleek black strat with steel strings. The game went to a loading screen and [insert opening video] popped up on the screen. Their face fell. “I don’t get to watch the intro?”

“You get to play the intro! And yes, I do have people for that. As you can see, there is other work that needs done.” She was reminded of old movies and how the girls chewed on their hair. She had thought it ridiculous at the time but as she watched now, she understood. Anxiety makes people do crazy things. Anxiety and pent up energy just waiting, festering. She heard the familiar growl indicating a gruesome zombie attack was about to start. She smiled and bounced slightly.

“Yo, I can hear that. Who…” Their avatar looked around the corner down the next aisle to find a zombie girl barely clutching a drumstick. “God, that’s fucking sick.”

The avatar scrambled backward nearly missing stacked amps. “What the shit!” It exclaimed and the controller vibrated. The noise got the zombie’s attention and she started shuffling closer and closer. A guitar on a nearby wall, the same that was designed on the startup screen, started glowing green as the game waited for the player to run to it and swing for the first tutorial kill.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

So Young

It had been a week since I had been left here. The family of the castle had been more than accommodating and they gave me ample space if and when I wanted it. I couldn’t help thinking I would be here until they sent word out that I was ready to leave. Yet, I was no prisoner. I just had nowhere else to go. 

My main companion Nailo seemed like the perfect embodiment of beauty and grace. While those words could usually be said for her kind, she seemed to emulate these virtues within as well. I had found that while her kind were awe inspiring, they were often hollow or rotten within. Her soul was pure. This carried down to her children, who accompanied me whenever I wished to spend time in the gardens. I was loathe to leave but knew it was not my calling to stay.

“I was thinking it might be time for me to leave soon…” I broached the subject lightly with Nailo. She seemed surprised but nodded in understanding.

She sat fluidly and her long fingers curled softly around the arms of her chair. “Where will you go?”

I paused. I wasn’t entirely sure. “Maybe home.” I frowned and started to pick at my nails to distract myself. I could feel her smiling at me.

“I’m sure your father misses you very much.” The thought of him brought tears to my eyes. “Does this mean you will return to that life? Your actions had such an air of finality to them, I thought…”

“How do you know about that? Did Monol tell you?” 

Her eyes flickered in sorrow. “Darling, I was there that night. I watched your father pacing nervously and your mother slowly get more and more flushed with wine and anger.” Her touch was cool and relaxing as she reached forward to hold my hand. “You made for quite the evening.”

“I don’t want that life.” I sighed and squeezed her hand. She held firm in comforting me. 

“What do you want?”

I looked into her eyes and swallowed back emotion. “Freedom.”

She slid into the seat beside me and hugged me. “I want that for you as well and I hope you don’t feel trapped here. I don’t wish to speak for Monol but I believe he either wanted you to learn something from being here or he thought where he was going was too dangerous for you. Knowing him, probably both.” There was a twinkle in her eyes as she smiled. “I’ll help you however I can.”

“How do you know Monol?”

Monday, January 16, 2023



I’m staring at the wall willing for the day to end but it has just begun. I don’t hit snooze because I know I’ll get up earlier if I just let it go. The anxiety will take hold and I’ll panic that I fell asleep when in reality I’ve just been staring. Willing. I talk myself into standing and put on a face that’s not mine. It handles the household. It handles my boss. It handles my coworkers and clients. It smiles and is gracious. It is polite. It is accommodating. The cost is usually the loss of self care throughout the day. Maybe I won’t eat. Maybe I’ll skip my breaks. Not because I’m that busy but because I’m afraid if I rest I won’t be able start again. The weight of this face feels enormous and every time I wear it, it steals a piece of me. I push to return to feeling numb but this push creates the need to wear the face and it repeats again and again.

I’m not tired but I could sleep. I could always sleep. No amount of caffeine or hype can remove the appeal of burying myself under covers and shutting the world away. I’ll lucid dream my dopamine supplement and pray I don’t lose my footing and create a nightmare. 

I feel dramatic. Everything feels dramatic. My problems don’t feel worthwhile. I think about how everyone has something they’re going through and how some of those people are in worse shape than I. It’s this thought that keeps me from reaching out. Some of my friends can see when the face slips. Moments when I thought I was alone but they were paying attention. They get an accidental peek at the agony I lock within. I tell them I’m fine and was just lost in thought. I’m fine. 

I used to drink to help my brain stay numb. Numb is what’s best when everything else feels like pain. Alcohol worked but then it went too far. The first time I didn’t remember my night I had to stop. I need this control as a way to help me feel stable. I can’t be the one to take that away from me. 

I frequently cancel plans I was excited to have. I’ll say I’m sick. I’ll say I made other plans and forgot. I’ll say my dog got sick or that my grandma is going to the hospital again. I’ll feel guilty for an hour or so and kick myself for letting someone down until I have no energy left when there was precious little to begin with. I’ll sit and click the Netflix button and lay down, forgetting to eat as I watch a show I’ve seen a dozen times. I won’t laugh at the moments I used to find funny. I’ll fall asleep on my couch because I can’t walk to the bed.

They say I play a coward’s game. I say they don’t know what it’s like in the trenches. This is war and I’m not sure if I’m winning or losing. I almost think it’s the same thing. It’s a downward spiral that pulls faster and faster the further I fall. That face I wear fights against this constant pull while I hide inside. It’s not winning or losing; it’s just easier.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Lady of the Lake

They slowly approached a sprawling castle in the early morning hours. Monol had insisted on taking a carriage the last leg of the journey and he left his horses stabled in town. Ioline felt it odd but she wasn’t entirely sure who they were visiting and she was ashamed to admit she knew the surrounding areas only a little. Beautiful gardens filled the front courtyard and the scent filled her head with fairy tales and valor. The beauty of these grounds rivaled the palace. She looked across at Monol who was completely relaxed and seemed a bit sad. She wished she could ask why but before she could start to find the courage, the carriage stopped. 

Monol smirked as Ioline hopped out immediately as the carriage halted causing the driver to sputter. He nodded up at the poor old man as he stepped out and paid. After petting the horses, Monol directed the driver where they could find food and rest until their departure.

“Where are their servants? Surely they heard us approaching.” Ioline squinted at the castle wondering why no one was coming to take their bags. “I feel under dressed,” she complained quietly.

“The lady of the house has never employed servants, though she finally agreed to a well paid staff. They run the kitchens, the gardens, and general tidiness. It was a struggle for her until she saw how much she was helping these families.” Monol grabbed the bags from the ground and strode up the path to the vast door. “If you feel under dressed, you can change once we’re inside, but I can assure you no one here cares what you wear.” 

The door opened and a pale woman with long black hair smiled brightly at them. She had vivid green eyes and the reserved, dignified manner common in elves. Ioline smiled tightly in return. The woman’s hands looked smooth and manicured as she took some bags from Monol and kissed his cheek in greeting. He muttered something and stepped inside leaving Ioline behind. The woman extended her hand in greeting “I’m Nailo, the lady of the house. Welcome darling. I’m not sure if you remember me…” her smile softened. “I wouldn’t expect you to. You were quite young at the time and banquets for girls of that age are for playing and sneaking sweets. Please, come in. I’ll show you to your room.”

Ioline took her hand and was surprised at its warmth. “My room?”

Nailo took her arm and together they walked inside the castle. Monol had set the bags at the foot of a vast staircase and was out of sight. “Of course, darling. Did you expect I’d have your things send to the stables?” 


“Oh, Monol? He is probably heading to the study to discuss business and get updates on the town.” She smiled brightly again. “Come, darling, let me show you around.” Nailo walked lightly to the pile of luggage at the stairs and added what she was carrying to the stack. “We’ll start with the kitchen, you must be starving.”

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Written in the Stars

“What advice do you have for-“

The TV clicked off. Electronics crackled as everything powered down to a tiny white dot at the center of the screen. The following silence was a blessing. He was tired of hearing his interview and his stupid bullshit answer and it felt like it was on repeat. His face was plastered above the city as it celebrated without him. They didn’t need him.

He sighed into the dark and took a swig of his drink. If they could see him now would they still love him? Fireworks started and he moved to the window intent on shutting the blinds. He caught his reflection and gently touched his swollen eye. They had paid him to take a few hits. They said it would give the public a better show and give his opponent hope. If he had been hit any harder, he would have been concussed. He lost money by just took one hit before his opponent went down. What did he care about what would make a better show? He wasn’t here for the crowd. He wasn’t here for the assholes that tried to prove they were stronger and faster. They were wrong but they would die for the chance to be right.

He wrinkled his nose in disgust at his reflection. His face was dirty and he needed a shave. He sat heavily in a chair by the window and absently rotated his ring as he watched explosions in the sky. He realized his hands were still wrapped. His opponent’s blood still speckled up his arm from the punch that ended the fight too early. Dumb bastard was giddy in his loss and missing teeth.

Maybe he should have answered differently. Maybe he should have said his advice was to do what people say is impossible. Nothing is impossible if you try hard enough. That advice was enough to make some of them crazy. He had seen it. He knew plenty of men that lost their mind in their obsession to be something they were not. Lost in trying to achieve the impossible because of greed and loss. That was terrible advice. He almost wished he had said it. He frowned and finished his drink, hoping to chase the pounding in his head. 

They offered him a contract to stay. They offered him women. Men. Whatever he wanted. Stay and be the cash cow this country needs. No, this could never be home. There was nothing enticing about this life. He couldn’t even go to a restaurant without getting mobbed. Some wanted their body signed. Some wanted to fight him. With stars in their eyes they pressed as close as they could. He wasn’t a man to them. He was a god. 

Friday, January 13, 2023

Jerk It Out


The coffee shop was cozy. It offered leatherette chairs in earth tones and low tables that accumulated more footprints than coffee rings. A fireplace was at the front offering a rosy glow throughout the establishment. There were hemp products at the cash register and no one shouted out incorrect names for their orders of coffee. The only sounds were the a soft murmuring of customer’s voices and Etta James’s soulful voice on their speakers.

A young woman made her way to a seat that had a small side table and set down her bag. She opened laptop screen and smiled as she sipped her coffee. They gave it to her in a bright orange mug that she loved but would never purchase. She tied her hair back in a loose bun and rolled up her flannel sleeves. She leaned forward in thought and set her canvas shoe on the low table, pondering the heart of the place before she began typing away. 

“Excuse me, do I know you?”

She looked up and was immediately confused. He looked like someone tamed a surfer. His eyes held adventure but his clothes were comfortably formal. “I don’t think so, I’m newer to the area. I just found this place and thought it’d be good to get my work done.” 

“Are you sure…?” 

She sat back and sipped her coffee watching him. “I’m sure. How do you think you know me? Where did we meet?”

He smirked and blushed, looking down at his coffee. “Doesn’t matter. I’m sorry to have bothered you.” He started to look around for a place to sit and seeing a spot across the shop, he started to walk away.

“Wait…” She closed her laptop and motioned at the chair beside her. “You can sit here if you like.”

“What? No, that’s ok.” His eyes frowned as he smiled. His cheeks were still rosy as he took another sip from his mug.

She slid her laptop back in her bag and settled back comfortably in her chair. “Humor me, for a moment.” He made no move to sit but raised his eyebrow at her. “It’s not embarrassing for you to ask me if I know you but it is to explain how you know me?” 

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Pink Missiles


“Think globally…”

Tick tick tick tick tick tick ticktickticktick 

A young man is bored and playing with his pen. He opens the window of the high rise. The hush of darkness and anticipation immediately surrounds him. Wild lights stutter in the distance and the DJ starts playing. He sits in an uncomfortable chair and watches as perfect people walk the runway. They glitter like diamonds in the flashing lights. Everything is black and silver. Posh. Someone refills the drink in his hand and he sits back comfortably and observes the newest line of fashion.

“Do you think you can do that?”

I can do anything.

There’s a slight rumble of laughter that almost breaks the spell. A model winks at the young man. He stands and throws back his drink. It is crisp and carbonated and feels sobering. He vaults on the catwalk and looks down at his new clothes. They’re black and perfectly tattered and he’s got rags on his feet. The cameras go wild and his face is set in stone as he walks ahead as if he belongs there. Backstage he’s met with fluttering hands pecking at his hair and pressing for a change in clothes. A white haired young woman fixes his makeup.

“When can we expect the launch?”

I’m ready now.

In the mirror, he sees the new side of himself. A smoky eye and long flowing hair. He sets his face in position and steps onto the runway of lights. Feels like black glass under his toes and inside he can see galaxies. 

The lights come back on and he squints around at his colleagues. 

“Anyone have any questions?”

The young man nods and makes eye contact with his boss. “Are you sending out the file for the presentation? I’d like to review these changes thoroughly.”

His boss smiled, pleased. “Yes, of course.”

The young man leaned back in his chair and looked out the window. It would be lunch time soon.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

A Million Pieces


My toes are chilled by the salty ocean water as it sweeps forward and buries my feet in quicksand. I inhale deeply and for a brief moment I wonder if forensics could examine my lungs and see how beautiful my last moments were? I shiver from the blood loss and fall down making an indent in the sand. I look across into the blackest of night and hope someone can deduce my last moments were of peace, not pain.

I can feel my heartbeat in my wounds like an SOS but no one ls left to receive the signal. I don’t want to dwell on my death in my last moments. I wonder if they’ll call me a coward for not trying. Could I be saved if I devoted my last bits of strength trying to find someone for help? Are my last moments meant to be about chaos? The world should end in a whimper not a bang. 

The dawn should be coming if I can just hold on for one more sunrise. Slowly, sound starts to wobble and fade. The sky lightens but the waves soothing presence starts to fade. It’s a cruel trade and I cough weakly before falling back.

The ground feels so warm and inviting. I know if I just close my eyes I’ll never have to open them again. I start to lose focus and involuntarily gasp for air and for the first time I feel the pain. I look to the clouds and I feel so heavy. I smile, or try to smile. I’m not sure anymore if my body can respond to my mind. The world is so beautiful. The world is so beautiful.

I feel my eyes close but I can still see. I look down at myself, broken and bloodied, lying on sand. I wonder if I’ll wash out to sea before anyone finds me but I’m not afraid. I stare at the sun and smile. I am not afraid.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

All for Love

At the center of Caimas Lake, a small boat bobbed gently in the slight breeze. On the boat, three friends relaxed jovially. They teased one another and laughed lightly. Each seemed so different, both in appearance and in class yet here they merged wonderfully together. However, as we watched, we sensed something was not quite right. A few of us out of curiosity flew to the closest tree. The willow grew on a small island hopefully within earshot of the boat. It’s long tendrils kissed the water from our weight as we landed but to the group of friends it would simply look like a few birds resting. 

The girl was at the oars. She was well known in the area. We squabbled at each other to determine if this was simply why things seemed off. She had not been seen in these lands for years beyond counting. To us she felt a return of a children’s tale. Her mouth smiled and laughed but her eyes screamed. Her two male companions did not seem to notice. One was comfortably laying on the hull with his legs up on a seat. The other was gazing out at the water quietly.

The male gazing at the water smiled brilliantly back at his friends, kissed the girl, and dove into the water. I gazed at the other birds to see if they had heard his words. Perhaps it was the water that was too loud, or it was the wind whispering through the willow fronds, but we heard nothing. We watched in frustrated confusion as we followed his blond hair treading through the water as he swam towards the shore. He did not turn back or look back as he strolled out and walked towards civilization. 

I looked back at the boat to find the girl was no longer at the oars. The companion that had been laying on the hull was now in her place and she sat at his feet, weeping. We looked at each other troubled but hopped in excitement as they moved closer. Within moments, they passed under the branches and stepped out on the small island. Their boat was completely concealed, as was most of the island from anywhere in the lake due to well placed trees and rocks. We followed overhead and landed above them when they finally stopped.

“Talk to me…” The young man held her hand and looked at her with concern. 

“I’m pregnant.”

His hand squeezed around hers as he smiled softly. “You don’t seem happy about it.”

“I don’t know what I want to do.” She bit her lip and wept quietly, wrapping her arms around him as he pulled her close. “I just wish…”

“Don’t. Don’t beat yourself up.” He looked up and I swore he could see through our forms to who we truly were. “Just….If you decide you don’t want to keep it, don’t tell him. It’ll destroy him and while he can be an ass but I’m not sure he deserves that. Whatever you decide, I’ll be here, okay? You’re not alone.”

Monday, January 9, 2023

Hey Leonardo

Her laughter rings in my memory bringing me back to a time of innocence. We danced. Oh, how we danced. Her hard wood bedroom floors were not too harsh under ridiculous boots and wide denim that hung too low because we were too short. We had no concept of body dysmorphia or our media’s presentations of how we should look or how we should behave. We just were and it was absolutely liberating. We prospered with wide smiles and rosy cheeks lost in a land that could never exist as an adult.

We fell in love again and again and wrote poetry about our sorrows, begging anyone within earshot to give it a read and validate our budding talents. We grew and discovered our hidden artistic attributes and dreamed what the future could hold. We had the courage to throw ourselves to the wolves because we knew that in the end we’d always have each other for support. 

In our adventures we sometimes confused magic with logic, but they always resulted in our safe return to reality. We jousted with poison and used fallen sticks as divining rods. We walked away the untouchables, responding to far away whistles and the setting sun as nature’s cue to return home. 

In our youth we could handle lethal amounts of energy. We’d consume cases that would carry us into the early morning hours before we collapsed on a mattress that would have bruised the princess and the pea. We watched inappropriate movies to sate a gnawing curiosity much to the ire of our parents. We lived for each moment and did not dwell on past mistakes or misgivings. We loved the smell of grass, gasoline, and burning leaves. We were bonfires in the night.

We swooned over androgynous rockstars and watched cult classics. We learned how to lie. We strove to protect our individualism and break free of the clutches of our religious right parental figures. They used their protection as a shield and tried to block any unstable influence like cartoons that loved violence or demonic depictions on the big screen. We always found a way and when we didn’t we lied to cover for the other. No one suspected the innocent of treason. 

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Spancil Hill

The brook used to speak to anyone that would listen. It would recall moments of stolen love at its banks. It spoke volumes of battle and offered advice on how to take the upper hand if one were to find themselves intwined in conflict. It told of mysterious lost civilizations. They were tales of treachery and woe, triumph and celebration. There existed a vast history to uncover for anyone who wished to listen.

The people started to worship these voices as the word of their gods. Priests and priestesses became quite versed on the etiquette and language of the brook and wrote the word of the gods, recording it for generations to come.

Now, these records are but mere mention. The word of the brook has been lost to time. It was considered heresy when the next religion moved to the region. The old priests and priestesses's burned along with their words. Their screams carried to the water and the brook lamented, pushing its waters deeper until there became a grand roar. Rapids formed and the water rushed through pushing sediment out to the ocean. 

They lament to this day, waiting for someone to sit upon their banks and converse once more.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Swinging Five

 The tears trickled down her face. She said farewell to me when she left but she didn't see me. She didn't see anyone anymore. She drew up her hood covering the fiery red hair that had always marked her and headed to her trusty steed, a Friesian she had named Masud. You didn't see horses like that around here anymore. He didn't don a saddle and was rather unkempt, but he was the only thing she seemed to have left in the world. Her cloak, a deep purple, cascaded around Masud as they moved together stoically.

She was always followed, always watched, and I felt drawn to her. I could easily follow her on foot at this pace. Despite my inability to move stealthily she didn't seem to notice my presence. I looked at the ground and for the moment I lost my breath. It was damp and the mud clung in clumps to the long fur around Masud's hooves. However, within seconds of their passing, the ground swallowed their tracks. It was as if the earth itself was trying to hide her. She was beloved.

I followed her for what felt like days. She never stopped to make camp. The sweat was beading down my back - down my arms. She was unscathed. My body started to rebel. Water. Rest. These were the things I needed. I started to doubt she had a destination.

A giant gust of wind forced me to my knees. She leapt off her horse, the wind ripping at her cloak. It's shadow flew over my head and beyond, tossed by the tumultuous winds. Slowly looking up at her I discovered she was staring at me. I lost myself and the bearings of my soul within her eyes. In them, I was standing on the moors again. I was home. She was in so much agony. Still on my knees I tried to reach out to her. Silently weeping, she turned and walked away.

Defying her privacy I continued to follow several paces behind. She walked aptly through a wooded area and soon it closed in densely.  I had great difficulty following at this distance. I kept seeing flickers of red through the trees guiding my steps to her. She came to a small clearing and stopped. There was a small pond, crystal water in a hazy light that came through the trees and lit up her stormy grey eyes.

She turned and reached for my hand. Touching her felt like the world and in that instant I loved her. I wanted to save her.

"Saleen ea Masud." I did not understand - my face stung hot with embarrassment. She gave me his reigns, kissed her palm and placed it on his nose. Seeming defeated, Masud lowered his head and led me back over their tracks now defiant in the earth, regrettably leaving her side. 

I turned back in time to see Ioline disappear up a steep path in the rock. I've never felt so alone, so tragically alone.

When we got back to the edge of the wood I heard a scream. A deathwail my mum would have called it. Something much more devastating than a scream of panic or pain... this was the scream of life being wrestled away. Masud reared, desperately pulling away. I ran, chasing him back to the pond that was swiftly running red. There was so much blood. I fell to my knees at Ioline's side and tried to help...tried to understand. The winds swallowed my pleas and a darkness overcame me.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Battle Royale

The Seeker frowned in thought as she read a posting for the annual arena contests. They challenges changed slightly every year, though she doubted they would repeat last years ever again. The population was forever altered because of society’s ego.

Attention citizens:

This year, the elect has decided on 1v1 Combat. Please report to the administration for an ID scan to sign up. Your marks for the year will place you into fair combat. Winners will advance to a more difficult contestant until the best in each role is established. Final 1v1 battles will then commence with our long standing winner and champion!

Attention: 1v1 loss will lead to disqualification for the rest of the tournament. 

Changes from last year: Injuries will no longer be permanent. However, for an extra fee, healers can leave battle scars or disfigurement for any competitor. 

“You going to fight?” 

A voice behind the Seeker startled her and she whipped around. Her short black hair flitted out and hung at her cheeks. She hoped it covered enough of her reddening face. She flickered a short, polite smile and bowed shallowly. “No, sir.” 

He glanced over the posting and straightened. She tried to hide her disgust. “Why not? You afraid, Seeker?” She turned away from him and clutched her bag closer. “I thought we sent you through elite training? From Monol himself. You should be able to demolish anyone.”

She took a step back but did not commit to leaving. “It was just a simulation. It won’t compare…” She looked back. “Will you be fighting, sir?”

“Of course.” His wide smile felt grotesque. “I’ll get you a good seat. I better hear you cheering for me.”

The Seeker turned towards him and bowed again. “Of course, sir. I would be honored.”

His smile faded. “Oh, and Seeker? I would think of a damn good reason you won’t be competing. My bosses will want to know.” 

Her jaw clenched as he shooed her away, impolitely dismissing her. “Of course, sir.” 

Thursday, January 5, 2023


“You ever wake up in a brothel and don’t remember how you got there?” He rubbed his temples as he sat at the cafe table. His elbows rested rudely on the wrought iron that bordered the edge and his iced coffee had a pool of slopped milk and condensation beneath it. Each time he had a drink he risked a drop of milk falling onto the black fabric of his sweater. It looked expensive and I wasn’t sure if it would stain but regardless, I refrained from letting him know. 

I smiled in amusement at the question. He was not known for adventurous activities and a brothel seemed way out of his wheelhouse. “Does this happen often? Or only when you drink”

He laughed silently and then winced in pain. “Both.”

I hummed in mock contemplation. “Seems like you’ve got an expensive habit.” I waved at the waiter and ordered another baguette. “Coffee is on me by the way, eat up.”

He shooed the waiter away without ordering more and leaned back in his seat. “That’s the thing…” He picked up his coffee and a drop of milk hit the edge of the table. “I’m not down any money. Am I so charismatic I get serviced for free?”

I watched the drop splat in disappointment and looked back up at him. He was certainly disheveled lately. Maybe he needed help. “Perhaps they’re being charitable by taking in the homeless.”

The cup returned to the table harshly and for the first time he was not amused. “I’m not homeless.”

“Could have fooled me. You look like shit, man.” He rolled his eyes at me. “Were your eyes open enough this morning to look in the mirror?”

He laughed loudly. “It’s the ‘in’ look, mr out of touch.” I hummed in disagreement but didn’t press the issue.