Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Truth of God

Here is a collection of God and religious truths I have found throughout the years:

Nothing is explicitly commanded by God for the whole of humanity. If God did have an explicit command, our creator possesses the intelligence and capability to do a lot more than go to a tiny portion of the Earth and say, “Hey, you small group of people, make sure you let everyone in the 197 million square miles around you know specifically what I want. Also even though I created you and know you're fallible, I have total faith that everyone will get it right and there will be zero miscommunication.”

There is never an ordained “Way to be.” Just because one way provides benefits that are not provided by another does not mean that the second way is wrong. In most cases, there is no black and white answer. Humanity craves structure, but is large and diverse enough that no one structure, law, or ruleset can fit all of it. We are also always growing and changing, so the rulesets and laws we keep in place must grow and change with us. That includes anything written here except the statement above, unless God personally comes to the world and gives a commandment. In that case, mea culpa.

The implicit command of God is to love, as it it sewn into the core of our being.

We should all live to better humanity. Without it, your life is nothing. As humanity improves, so do the lives of us and our progeny.

There is no one person or small group of people that is greater than the whole.

Do your your best to ensure that your individual desires cause do not cause harm to others.

Seek to forgive those who wrong you. Seek to forgive those who wrong others. Understand their motives and reasons. Know that understanding is not a pardon of sin, but the first brick on the path away from it.

In trivial matters, it is better to show love and be meek than insist on your correctness. No matter how right you may be, if the only benefit of establishing your correctness is to hurt someone, then you are wrong, no matter how right you may be

God doesn't need glory. It is not necessary to Worship, build monuments or holy houses, or call out God's greatness as a testament to the glory of God. God built the Earth, and everything on it, including humanity. I'm fairly sure that those things are self evident of God's glory. Do these things, and they can and will lift your heart, but know that they are not commanded,

Always strive to make all creation shine. Keep it beautiful, make it better. This includes yourself, but less yourself the individual, and more yourself the sibling of humanity. “The best person who does nothing to make their siblings better is no good person at all.”

A nonbeliever who works to benefit the lives of humanity is better than a score of believers who do nothing but bask in their righteousness.

Sexuality on its own is not a sin. It is not vile, or dirty, it is the way God made you. It is also a powerful thing, and should be handled delicately. If there must be a rule for it, it would be “Do your your best to ensure that your individual desires cause do not cause harm to others.” Though I suppose that might chart higher on the list somewhere

You were made a beast, a creature of the Earth. and such, contain the beasts primal survival desires that are destructive to the whole of humanity. You also possess the greatest gift gifts of all - knowledge and understanding. Without those things, you simply become a beast again. As auch, always strive for them. You cannot have Understanding without Knowledge, and you cannot truly know things without being able to understand.

Always strive for the truth. No matter how much truth you possess, never be afraid to consider that you may be wrong. Many things cannot remain true forever. Relish the adventure of change.

Any religion that does not welcome themselves to be questioned lacks the faith that the words it speaks are the truth.

Any God who provides no hard proof of existence and would punish those who do not believe is petty. Any God who would condemn you to an eternity of suffering based on a single sin is petty. Any God who would consider condemning you for eternity that would judge you for your actions without thoroughly considering the context of those actions is petty.

Any God who is petty is not worth following, because even after judgment, you must either remain ever vigilant of it's pettiness, or lose all free will to conform with its desire.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Ylera, Champion of the Doomed

Ylera, Champion of the Doomed
By: Raymond Adkins
For Jenny, with love 
Please mind the horrible grammar and formatting :)

Ylera awoke as the first rays of sunlight began to poke through the dense canopy of the forest trees. She sat up, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath of the cool air. She slid on and fastened up her simple brown tunic, and washed her face in the bowl of cool water that sat by the mirror.

She was one of the Fae people, a forest Fae specifically. While the Fae were mostly pleasant, merry folk, years of being the lowest class denizen of the Fae had worn her mask of merriness down, and her face appeared to be slightly older than the rest. Her hair was drab and brown, and cut to shoulder length to hide her slightly pointed ears.

As she washed her face, she took note how how cool the water in the bowl and the air around her were. The brisk autumn morning marked the first day that the seeds of the Dema trees began to fall, ushering in the Fae people's time of Ascension.

It was one of the holiest times of the year for the Fae, when they celebrated their creation. To the average human, it was not much of a celebration. Not ones for lavish grandeur, or raucous parties, the Fae would spend the next week reflecting on their lives, from the current day, all the way back to their creation.

The Fae, renowned for their patience, attention to detail, and strict adherence to the law, would recount to the others the stories of their lives. When they had finished, they would then movie on to the stories of each of their fathers and mothers, their grandparents, and so on. When they ran out of lineage, they would tell of their creation, how, before the Gods created the men and beasts of the world, the breathed life the world. The world, however, was overfilled with the life of the Gods, and from that energy, the Fae were born to each of the sections of the world. Into the forests, plains, earth, rock, and oceans they sprung, kindred to and keepers of the life of the world.

While no Fae would ever admit to it, the stories they would tell were terribly boring. Few were of any kind of noteworthy deed, and fewer still carried any excitement. Tale after tale of craftsmen, hunters, and gatherers would run together. They were the mostly the same stories as last year, and every year before that.

Ylera, however, was excited. It wasn't for having to hear lively tales of rigorous hoeing, but for the fact that on the first day of Ascension, they would accept new candidates for priesthood. For the last 200 years, she had meticulously planned and studied for this. Every moment of every day that she had free time, and even a few times she had not, she had practiced the Fae magics, the magics of the life of the forest.

Fate had cursed her with the misfortune of a birth outside of the Fae marriage laws, which had branded her as an outcast, the lowest class Fae denizen of the forest. While the Fae elders all took pity on her, no one treated her as if she were worthy of serious respect or attention. By Fae law, she was forbidden to marry, and would most likely wind up being a poor maid, sweeping dust off of the porches of others.

Everyone would insist she should stay positive and make the best of what she was given, but no one saw her as worth the hassle of helping along. Long ago, Ylera vowed that if she was not born good enough, she would make herself good enough. Today, she would prove herself worthy.

Ylera walked out of her meager home into the forest, to find a Dema seed to use in her testing. She walked to the village square, as it was under a clearing of trees, and best lit by the early morning sun. There were not many seeds on the ground, as hours ago, the highborn candidates for priesthood had scoured the ground for the best seeds. In addition, the Fae children had already begun to awake, and pick up Dema seeds, the symbol of the oldest Fae ancestors, to tell their stories to. Ylera did not care, though, as she knew she did not need the best seed in order to be successful.

As she looked for a suitable seed, she noticed one of the other priesthood candidates approaching. He wore a plan brown tunic like the rest of the candidates, and had long, white hair, and pale white skin. These were rare traits in the Fae, but held in high regard as a symbol of purity. He knew this, and he walked anywhere as if he were a prince about to be crowned king.

“Good morning, Lanel,” Ylera said as he approached, not turning to look in his direction. She couldn't see the upset look on his face, but she knew it was there. She also knew he wouldn't have turned around for her either, much less offer any kind of pleasant greeting.

“Ylera,” Lanel started curtly, pausing for to gather all of his smugness. “You should know you are delusional. I'm not sure if I should take offense at the fact that you have arrived too late to have a good chance of finding a worthy Dema seed, or the fact that you assume that one would actually listen to the lifesong of one such as you.”

“Thanks for the uplifting conversation,” she replied, still not looking up at him as she searched, “but I really have to find a seed so I can go on living in my own delusions.”

“Your search is not necessary, I have already found you the appropriate seed.” Lanel knelt down in front of her, and held out his hand. In it was the most pitiful seed she had ever seen. “It is already dead, that way you don't have to deprive a Dema seed of life for your failure.”

Ylera held out her hand, and Lanel dropped the seed in it. He then turned and walked away. As he did so, Ylera reached out with her magic to the tiny seed, and felt life stirring within in. She closed her eyes, and smiled. This was the seed she was looking for.

With her success firmly planted in her hand, she made her way to the temple courtyard. Once she had arrived, she surveyed the area. The temple itself had been built around the hollowed out husk of an ancient Dema tree, and legends told that in the time before time, this was tree whose seeds had birthed the forest Fae. The trees hollow center, having long ago lost its upper portion, formed the courtyard.

Around the inside of the courtyard wall were carvings of great Fae deeds, mostly of the Fae who had sacrificed themselves so that the forest might live. In the center of the courtyard, there was a raised platform, for sermons or speeches. Around the outer edges, against the wall of the trunk, were small plots, normally used for the summer gardens.

Today, those plots were empty, as they were to be used for the Ascension testing. Ylera found the last of the line of the empty dirt plots, and knelt down in it. As was the custom, she unfolded a small piece of white cloth, laid it flat on the dirt, and placed her seed on top of it.

After awhile, the royal guard entered, signaling the arrival of the Princess and the high priestess. Lanel's brother Danel, The captain of the guard, walked with them. He bore the pale skin and white hair of his brother, except his skin was not so pale, and his hair was tinged with golden strands. Above his tunic of white and green, He wore pieces of metal armor trimmed with gold and silver on his shoulders, wrists, and ankles, which Ylera knew were gifts of the stone Fae. He walked with a swagger similar to Lanel's, though it was considerably less exaggerated.

Behind him followed Vesara, the Elven princess, who would be crowned Queen of the Fae at the end of the Ascension celebration. She was clad in a dress that matched the white and green patterns of Danel's garb, and as she walked, her long, light brown hair seemed to glow, even when the sunlight did not hit it. The princess was always kind to all of her subjects, and Ylera felt that if she were not born of royal blood, the princess would have still been chosen to rule by her beauty, and the goodness of her heart.

Beside Vesara walked the high priestess, clad in the same brown robes as the priesthood candidates, though hers appeared to be woven of finer cloth. Her hair was short and golden, combed straight back and held in place by a circlet made of tree branches. Her face was calm, but her presence carried with her the feeling that each step and every breath she took was plotted out the night before, to maintain the order of all things.

Ylera watched as one by one they greeted the other candidates. Long ago, the priesthood had determined that it was the will of the forest that Danel was to be married to the next queen of the Fae, and Ylera took a moment to lament on this. She was beautiful, and he was impossibly handsome, but as they walked, it was clear to her there was no chemistry between them. As they approached, she wondered if it were possible that the two of them would ever learn to love each other.

Princess Vesara approached, and smiled at Ylera. She then looked down at the seed, and lines of worry crossed her face, “Ylera, I do not believe this is a suitable seed,” The princess said softly.

“I'll just have to make the best with what I was given,” Ylera replied, smiling at the princess, who in turn smiled back at her again. The princess nodded, and then moved with Danel to her ceremonial position at the center of the courtyard. Danel didn't so much as look at Ylera.

The high priestess called the candidates to begin. Each one of the participants pulled their seed off of their cloth, and buried it in the ground at their knees. Then, they placed their hands on the ground around where they buried the seeds, and began to sing.

Some of the songs were loud, some choppy. Others were fluid, and some chaotic. Ylera’s was quiet, and almost inaudible. One by one, the seeds began to sprout, slowly. Eventually, all of the seeds sprouted, except for Ylera's.

Ylera did not panic, or even realize what was happening. She had become entranced in her song when she felt the seed singing along. More and more often, she was beginning to hear these songs of the forest. She knew this was a gift few of the Fae had, she she relished every moment of it. Their songs became entwined, harmonizing together. She sung for the seed to grow, and she felt the seed sing the same back to her.

Her trance was broken when she heard the high priest proclaim, “I have made my selections.” Ylera looked over and saw several students who had been marked with a feather as having been selected. They all began standing up and congratulating each other, either on a job well done, or on a good try.

Ylera shook her head, and stated, “I am not finished.” Though her singing had stopped, she could still hear the singing of the seed. When no one acknowledged her, she said, louder, “I am not finished.” There was firmness in her voice. It wasn't a plea for recognition, but a command. Her voice filled the courtyard, and everyone turned.

The high priestess came over, bearing a scowl sure to put wrinkles on an ageless face. “You speak out of turn, whelp! What nonsense is this?” she spat.

Instantly Ylera felt the blood rush from her face. She knew this had ruined any chance she may have had at becoming a priestess herself. The seeds song stopped. She was finished.

“You are not finished,” she heard the meek voice of the seed say. “The ways of this woman are the ways of a fool. Show her the way of Ylera.”

Ylera locked her gaze with the priestess, and stood up. There was silence for a few moments, and then, without word, Ylera raised her foot and slammed it onto the ground. The seed sprouted three times higher than that of any of the other students, and even began forming a small flower.

Some of the students gasped, and some stepped back. The princess closed her eyes, and bowed her head. Beside her, Danel, the captain of the royal guard, frowned. Lanel's left arm was visibly shaking. Ylera did not hear his whisper, but she could see mouth form the word, “Witch.”

The High Priestess' face contorted into a scowl angrier than Ylera had ever seen the face of a Fae become. The stares of the two of them remained locked. The room filled with an eternity of tension, but eventually the high priestess closed her eyes, and drew a deep breath. As she exhaled, the look of serenity returned to her face.

“Enough, child,” she said raising her smooth, green wooden staff a few inches off of the ground, slightly pointing the top of it at Ylera.

The High priestess slammed the bottom of her staff on the ground, and Ylera's seedling slowly began to turn gray and droop. As it died, she continued, “Great will can foment great power, and can being forth life as it was never meant to be. As the guardians of the forest, we have the power to bring life to every dying seed, but if we did so, the forest would be overrun with trees. It is not power over nature that is the mark of the priesthood, but the understanding of the true will of the heart of the forest.

“You did not come here for the forest, you came here for yourself. You are a product of a marriage outside of the law, and it has branded your actions. You can never be a priestess, because you do act for the heart of the forest. Life cannot blossom to its utmost as a whole when an individual's needs and wants are prioritized too far above that of the rest of life. I feel the call of the heart of the forest, and that call is for you to leave. Until you understand such priorities, you are a danger to the forest, and banished from it.”

A look of distress crossed the face of the princess, and she rushed over to the high priestess, with Danel in tow on her heels. “Wait, holy one,” The princess said, placing her hand on the High Priestess' shoulder, as a single tear ran down her cheek. “If you cast her further from the light now, she may never return from the darkness.”

The High Priestess clasped her hand onto the princess' hand on her shoulder, and nodded, but before she had time to reconsider, Ylera spoke.

“No,” she said, uncrossing her arms, and balling her fists. Her gaze, which had not moved from the high priestess, intensified. “What would become of me now if I stayed? My dreams have died here with this poor dying seed. It would be a life alone, as my status would forbid me to marry. All that would be left to look forward to is centuries of disdain from my people for the way I was born, an eternity of sweeping the dust off of porches.

Tears ran down the princess' face as Ylera had spoken, and when she finished, she wrapped her arms around the defiant girl, and held her tight to her chest. “Please don't do this, Ylera,” she pleaded, “There has to be another way. We'll find it.”

“You cannot,” Ylera responded, deadpan. She broke from the Princess' grasp, pointing to the high priestess and the dying seedling, her arms stretched out. “It is the law of the forest to oppose anything that might interfere in the slightest with its longevity. My mere existence, through no action of my own, breaks this law. 'Life cannot blossom to its utmost as a whole when an individual's needs and wants are prioritized too far above that of the rest of life.' My needs and wants are simply to be treated like everyone else, but the law forbids it. You allow me to live in the forest, but I am not welcome here. I will not wilt and die like this poor seedling.”

At the end of her speech, Ylera did not pause, and simply walked out of the courtyard. For the first time in her life, she walked through the forest, not as its lowest class Fae denizen, but as something more. No longer did she walk with the soft footfalls of the Fae. Instead she jammed her heel into the ground with each step, letting the forest know that she was present. Each footfall became a crescendo to the echoes of the song of the dead seedling that still ran through her mind.

As she continued to walk with increasing authority, she felt true purpose course through her blood, rising into goosebumps on her arms. As it filled her, she began to hear the songs of the dying, invalid seeds on the forest floor. They sung a song that was not for them, but for her. Soon, the songs of the living seeds was joined by that of the trees and plants, and finally, the heart of the forest. They all called for her to leave the forest, but not out of hatred or need for the law, but as a call for her to live, and to have her heart fulfilled.

Ylera began her journey out the forest. She walked past the town square, and stopped her miserable little house to grab the few possessions she owned. By the time she left her house, word had spread among the Fae what had happened. No one made eye contact as she passed. Young and old alike went out of their way to avoid her path. She was no longer one of them. She was now an outsider.

As she approached the edge of the forest, she heard a rustle behind her, and the softest chink of metal on metal. There were few Fae with the boldness and ability track her out of the forest without her knowing. There was only one who would jingle of metal.

“Have you come to spit on me one last time before I leave the forest, Danel?” she quipped. Her voice did not waver. As far as she cared, he could spit on her all day and she would not be hurt by him, nor any other Fae, anymore.

Danel's face twisted in ambivalence, shifting between disgust, and something else. Ylera wondered if he cared, or if the princess had sent him to stop her. After spending a few minutes trying to reconcile his emotions into words, before he finally spoke.

“Whatever and whoever you are,” Danel paused to sigh, “You still have the right to life. As a Fae guardian, I am sworn to protect the lives of the Fae. But if you walk out of the forest, you are forsaking your duty to it. If you leave now, you will no longer be Fae,” Danel paused again, furrowing his brow, and looking down at the ground and off to the side, “you will be doomed, just like the last of us who decided to journey outside of the forest. Just like our queen.”

Ylera's stern expression softened, and her voice shrunk to an almost inaudible whisper. She looked down at the ground, and to the side, in the opposite direction that Danel was looking. “Then I will be doomed, just like the seedling the high priestess killed this morning.” Her voice grew louder, and began to regain its strength as she talked. “If my choice is eternal misery or doom, then I choose doom.” She looked Danel in the face, and he matched her gaze each a sorrowful mirror of the other.

“But I will fight not just be doomed alone. I will stand for every seed, plant, beast, or person who is proclaimed doomed with me, who is given no chance for happiness because of the dictation of others. I will be their champion.”

Ylera turned around, and paused for a moment before she walked out of the forest. “Goodbye, Danel. Keep Princess Vesara safe.”

Danel watched as she walked out of the forest. When she was out of earshot, he whispered to her, “Farewell, Ylera, Champion of the Doomed.”

Thursday, June 6, 2013

"In dreams"

I just found this, tagged with a last modified date of "8/26/2007." I remember the grand plans, the twists and turns, but this is all that ever came of it. Maybe someday, there will be more.

In Dreams

8:00 AM

There are the fragments of sentence beginnings one after another, but they're all scratched out.
Odd, because it's written in pencil...

9:43 AM

So I'm supposed to keep a journal of my thoughts. Honestly I don't know what to write. The doctors said just to write whatever comes to mind, and the first thing that comes to mind is that I don't know why I'm doing this.

They say it will help, but I'm skeptical. They tell me in their calm voices that I need to get it all out of my system and I won't feel so bad about it anymore. I guess it's working, I don't feel bad anymore. I feel like a fool for writing this. I'm forced to wonder if their plan is to help releive the pain by replacing it with embarrassment. I guess that's modern medicine. If you can't cure a problem, just pretend it's not there.

They say I need to get it out, to let someone know how I feel, but I can't. I've spent countless hours in therapists' offices trying to form the words needed to explain what I've seen. In the end, I just become a bundle of jitters. Almost all ability to speak is lost, replaced stuttering and jittering. They say if I can't talk to a person about it, that maybe I can write about it, and let them read it.

The problem with writing about it is that I can't do it either. Every time I put pencil to paper my hand shakes uncontrollably. It's just that(scratched out) Every time I(scratched out) I still see(scratched out)

6:00 PM

I'll be going back to work tomorrow. I'm hoping that working will keep my mind off of things. It gets hard being alone. My family and friends all look at me with pity when they see me so obviously distraught. It's like what happened has made me an invalid. I can't take it anymore. I need to do something productive, so that's what I'll do.

I think I'll go to bed now. I haven't been able to sleep since the incident. Every time I close my eyes...

My friend Jerry got me some sleeping pills. I hope they work. I look forward to a good nights sleep and work tomorrow.

2:18 AM

I still can't sleep. All the pills did was make everything fuzzy. I want to sleep, I really do. I can't recall having ever been this tired before.

Everything's becoming blurry, as if reality itself was losing its reception. I fade in and out of a dreamlike haze of focus. Perception seems to twist around me as I approach a dream like state. All of my senses are being assaulted by phantasms conjured by a lack of sleep.
I'm starting to hear things, like distant fuzzy voices. As time passes, they grow louder. It's almost like being in a room full of people having conversations. Like I'm at a party. One voice is a soft whisper in my ear, and I can almost its breath on the side of my face. Others are right next to me, while others still are behind me.  When I try to concentrate on any of them, they stop, and the silence of the room that is left is startling. The last word I hear is always the loudest, always the most pronounced, yet still unintelligable. It's almost like a shout in the room that makes everyone grow quiet.

The room's appearance twists about and changes constantly. For a moment or two I'm somwhere else. In a car, at work, walking down the street, or any other number of mundane places. It's like a dream, only I'm not asleep. I close my eyes for a few moments and the world comes back into focus again, and I'm sitting in my room again. If I keep them closed for more than a few seconds, I see her again.

I see her smiling at me as the schoolbus drives through the intersection. It's a little after noontime, and the snow is coming down pretty hard. I'm driving back to work from lunch, and she's probably getting out early because of the snow. We make eye contact, and she waves.

Then there's a loud crash, and the schoolbus rolls over and skids to a stop right in front of my car.

The next thing I see is her eyes again, empty and lifeless, through the window of the overturned school bus. I can hear the screams of the other children on the bus, as they flail about inside. I can see her mouth, partially open, as if in an attempt to join her schoolmates in their shock. No matter how hard she tried, the only thing that would come out was a small trickle of blood.
I desperatley want to look away from her, but I can't. When I try to turn away, I can feel her cold gaze piercing through my back. It feels so much worse than looking her straight in the eyes. Time doesn't move. I stare at her forever. I can feel everything inside cry for this poor girl. It was such a pointless waste of life.

After forever passes, I open my eyes, and the world spins back out of focus again. I look at the clock to see what time it is. It should almost be time for work. It's not. It's 2:30. At least I'm "getting it out of my system." The doctors would be proud.

6:30 AM

The pills effects have worn off. I still feel tired, but whatever chemical that was supposed to put me to sleep is now gone from my system. A fresh pot of coffee helps the world to regain some of its focus.

Even though I didn't sleep, I'm still going in to work. I do feel a bit better about what happened after writing about it. I'm not going to risk another day at home alone in my apartment, or even worse, with people who "care."

12:00 PM (scrawled on a memo pad)

Lunchtime. Every person I talk to tells me I look like hell, and that I should go home. I can't say I disagree, but I'd be doing the same thing at home that I'm doing here, so I might as well stay and get paid for it.

Like last night, I keep drifiting in and out of semi conciousness. It's different this time. I'm still here, sitting at my desk, sorting through orders for shipments. I don't feel any different. There aren't any visions or voices, but there are thoughts. Different thoughts, as if somehow unnatural. They seem perfectly natural at the time though, and then I snap back to reality, and the thought is gone. What's left of it makes little or no sense.

I know it seems hard to understand what I'm saying, so picture it this way. The thought is something like this: You're sitting in your cubicle, thinking where you and your friend Harry should go for lunch. You know Pizza is out of the question, because it gives him heartburn. You decide on chinese, because you know he likes it, and you haven't had it in awhile. You then think it might be a good idea to ask him if that's what he'd like, when it hits you like a ton of bricks. You don't have a friend named Harry. You don't even like chinese. On top of that, you packed lunch, so there would be no need to go out. Within thirty seconds of the realization that you were debating eating lunch with someone who doesn't exist, the entire train of thought has dissipated completley, and you don't even know what it was that you were thinking about. You only know that it couldn't possibly happen.

It's almost like a waking dream, except for the fact that while it was happening, I was alert and fully functional. The shipping orders I was working on are all correct and complete, and there are enough of them done to show that I hadn't zoned out while I was working.


Home from work. I was on the couch trying to get some much needed sleep when I saw her again. My eyes were open this time. She was just standing there, in between the television and the coffee table, smiling at me. Fear gripped me and tore apart my insides as if I had swallowed a blender. By the time I had realized what was going on, she was gone. I sat shaking on the couch for about twenty minutes.

I keep seeing her out of the corner of my eyes.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

"You're Not Supposed To Be Here"

     Booker stands on a Parisian street, looking up at a theater's sign which advertises, in French, "Revenge of the Jedi.” At the end of the street looms the Eiffel Tower, glowing in the night sky. He doesn't know the year is 1983, and the reality he stands in is not his own. He's just watched a firetruck go screaming by, and then vanish into thin air at the end of the street. In spite of this collection of bizarre events, Booker has nothing to say.

     He's not supposed to be here, eighty or so years in his future, in a reality which he doesn't belong. He's just a character in a story. No words come from his mouth, because none were written for this situation. Poor Booker has somehow ignored his scripted fate, and stepped into a minute detail in the corner of a paragraph that was only supposed to be glanced at.

     He's supposed to be removed from these events, watching them from an observation room. Paris in the eighties isn't a place that Booker should be able to go. It's just a place he can see for a few brief seconds. The walls created by his author's pen should seal him safely away from the dangers of French cinema.

     But his sadistic puppet master has no desire to see the story the author has penned for him. The one in control has seen that story already, and now he wants to visit Paris. It's less of a desire to visit the city, and more of a desire to see the gears spinning between the pages, to catch a sentence removed from the final work, or maybe even peel the glue off of the imagery that holds the story together.

     There are risks to peeling that glue. Unbeknownst to them. Booker and his invisible master are about to see Paris disappear before their eyes, forcibly deported to the world where Booker belongs. Unfortunately, it's not the part of the world he belongs in. Without ground to stand on, Booker will simply fall to his death. Then Booker's torturous dictator will flip to another page in the story, and find a few more lines to read between. A crack to slip Booker into, to see more inner workings of the tale being woven.

     It's becoming harder and harder to find those cracks. Video games these days are sealed tight. While Booker's world was created with a toolset which has the built in ability for cheats and tools to change its own rules and peek behind closed doors, those abilities are removed before the game reaches the player's hands. Nowadays, the majority of the people who join Booker on his journey won't be able to go to Paris. Those who can will have to fight tooth and nail to do so, creative rogues stealing the shadows they slink into.

     Things weren't always this way. There was a time when game developers would hide things in the folds of their works, meant to be found. Inside the brain of Satan lies John Romero's wailing, severed head on a pike. Through the crack in the wall, next to the bank, behind a corner you can't see through the crack, is a message letting you know that you shouldn't be there. Years ago, there were little love letters painted on the scenery you should never see.

     Even when there weren't hidden things to find, it was fun to visit places you shouldn't be. Force spawn a character or drop a weapon in a skybox or other area rendered outside of the normal map, and suddenly there's a short gun on the TV news, or a giant woman in the sky. It did nothing to further the story, it was just pure exploratory fun, to go to the places one could only see, to maybe take a few potshots at an enemy (or friend) who you normally would not be able to.

     Beyond peeking through mirrors and sliding through locked doors, there were those re-writing the stories for themselves. New characters, locations, weapons, stories and anything that could be dreamed arrived on the tips of the fingertips of those adventurous enough to reach in and weave new threads of fate into the tapestry of other tales. The worlds that existed came with the means to mold them into other worlds and dreams entirely.

     These dreams ranged from banal, to grand, to outright ridiculous. We shot swords from guns, and wielded firearms in medieval times. Familiar places became strange landscapes, and strange landscapes paved the roads into familiar stories that were carved out of other games innards. Fifteen years ago, video games weren't just singular stories, they were gateways into an infinite sea of possibilities.

     And then, somewhere along the line, those dreams began to die. Slowly, as consoles dissolved the uniqueness of PC gaming, they took away the ability to paint our own pictures in their worlds. Then, they took away the abilities to see the pictures hidden in their worlds. No more peering through the cracks, no more rewriting the stories. Just showing us what they wanted us to have and nothing more.

     Even when those of us who were industrious enough to find the remnants of the cheats they wrote out of the game did so, they simply patched them away. Now there is no deviation tolerated, no creativity. I should mention again that many of these games nowadays are built on engines with cheats and toolsets that would encourage such creativity.

     The death of that creativity shows. Where we used to have mods that allowed us to shoot Cacodemons from rocket launchers, now, in the games that still allow modifications, we have a majority of nothing but realism mod, realism mod, increase difficulty, realism mod. Additions of boring, uninspiring weapons are placed onto games whose arsenal are made up of boring, uninspiring weapons.

     When did we start wanting to die faster and shoot the same boring guns in every game? When did we give up the dream of limb severing laser chain guns and grappling hooks? Because I never did. I still want guns that shoot living tigers at enemies, and lightsabers in every last video game. I want to turn on walk through walls and see all of the areas I'm not supposed to get to! I want to fight hordes of Tom Servos and Barney the dinosaurs for no discernible reason. I want to Rambo through scores of enemies with god mode and infinite ammo and not be chastised because “cheating ruins games.”

     I don't want to spend my time whining about how things used to be. I don't want to lament about how Booker can't go to Paris anymore, because someone decided to patch it out. Paris is an interesting place.

..even if it does disappear after a few seconds.
-Raymond Adkins

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dear Mankind

Dear Mankind,

     I have many labels, but my name is beyond your ken. I come to you to propose a few questions of religion.
     For millennia, I have sewn or allowed to be sewn into religious texts and beliefs not only the concepts of unconditional love, and justice, but also the direct contradiction of those concepts - hatred and ignorance.
     I gave the world the story of the Garden of Eden, a metaphor for mankind's own God given propensity to desire knowledge of the world over stability and peace, and followed it up with countless years of religion to promote ignorance over free thought.
     I have called you all to be loving brothers and sisters to all mankind, and then created rules to set you apart. I have proclaimed that those who do not believe as I command are the enemy and must be changed to believe, looked down upon, or otherwise subjugated or enslaved.
     I have commandeered the gift of sexuality, the most personal beauty - the ability to share oneself wholly with another - and paralleled it immediately with rules to diminish such a marvelous act and ensconce it in the trappings of sin.
     I have declared that a woman's physical form, the beauty of her creator's work, is an evil thing and she must cover it, and she may not speak in church, and that somehow she is less of a person physically than a man.
     I have not limited the religious persecution to gender or belief. I have proclaimed the infirm, the scarred, those born with birth defects, and others to be not holy enough for the most sacred parts of churches.
     Many of the rules I have set are not only contradictions, but clearly injustices. The injustices I have demanded of humanity are much higher in number than these few listed here, but to those who would bow to my requests, I offer the promise of paradise and eternal happiness. To those who would not, I proclaim damnation.

With the information I have just laid before you, my questions to you are as follows:

After pondering the contradictive nature of my works, do you believe that I have given religion to you to blindly follow as a path to salvation, or as a challenge to do what is right and just in the face of eternal damnation?

If your deity is loving and just, which of those two options would it prefer?

Would you love and follow an unjust deity in exchange for salvation?

If you did so, would you feel worthy of salvation?

Given the nature of my actions, what do you suppose I am?

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I can't remember that far back
but I'm told that when I was born
I was cast from the finest image
out of marble, gold, and jewels.

The first thing I can remember, though
is tripping and falling as a child
when my knee hit the ground,
it broke into pieces

I glued them back on as best as I could
ensuring that every piece was back in place
but from that point forward,
I could never be perfect again.

Over time, more little pieces broke off
Sometimes I could not find them all,
so I would use clay
as it was easy to shape into the empty holes

When I reached the tempestuous age of youth
I spoke a word which angered my peers
and a swift punch in my face
forever ruined my visage.

As time wore on, the damage caused cracks to develop
and my limbs broke, one by one
I did my best to repair them
but they just kept breaking again

And then the buzzards came
and slowly picked the gold and jewels off
of my cracked and broken skin
until there were none left to take

But some of the jewels had been my eyes
so I found two coins of the lowest value
that no one would steal from me
They did anyway, occasionally, which was why I always kept a spare hidden.

I broke so many times in different ways
that I was putting pieces back
into the wrong places
because I couldn't tell which pieces they were supposed to be

Was that a shin or a forearm?
I did not know
If it fit in a place, that's what it became
and if it fit nowhere, then maybe it wasn't mine to begin with

Eventually most of the marble became irreparable
or it became sullied to the point where
one could not tell what it was anymore
and I had to forage for things to replace it

And so, over time, I cobbled myself together
pieces of sand and dirt and bits of glass for skin
and wood for bones
condemning me to forever rot from the inside.

Knowing my strong arm had to endure to keep rebuilding
I saved all of the iron and metals for its creation
so I would always have something
to keep from falling completely apart.

But the metal was cold and heavy
and removed any traces of gentleness from my embrace
and it rusted just enough
that whenever I ate, I could taste its oxidation over the food.

They all spoke behind my back
and the boldest to my face
that I was a monstrosity
and an offense against our design.

They were convinced I was an insult
to their perfect flesh
and to the one who cast their bodies
of beautiful marble and jewels.

"If you are broken,"
they cried aloud,
"Then you should just roll over and die,"
and none raised a question to their sentiment.

But I never gave up
I pressed on, determined
If what I was was wrong,
then so be it.

In the end, when I could maintain myself no longer
I finally fell apart.
No one wept, they just swept my parts to the trash
and forgot that I even existed

One small child, however, understood
that while my image was not the most beautiful
that I was made of more than the ones who were pristine
For I was of many things, and I had made myself.

In a solemn gesture, after everyone else had left
he plucked one of the coins I had used as an eye
and affixed it to his chest, under his shirt
and tell small children of my tale until his final hours

It was more than I deserved.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Specter and the Madman

The Specter moved down the city street as fast as he could. The early morning foot traffic made it difficult, as no one could see him. He did his best to weave through them, his legs growing heavier, weighed down by the fatigue of being up all night.

Erased from history, robbed of all but a precious few of his memories, and brought back in order to save the world to atone for his sins, the Specter was wearing himself down to the bone in order to make some kind of progress. Things were going slow, and he was running out of time. He was beginning to realize that there was a very good chance he might not be successful. The thought forced him to push on harder, his life becoming a cycle of minor success followed by crushing failure.

As he passed by a small bistro, he saw a familiar face sitting at one of the tables on the outside patio. It was a face he knew better than his own. It was the face that was burned into his mind. The face the Madman he saw every time he closed his eyes.

The Madman looked to be in his early forties, with a shaved head, and a well trimmed black goatee, which circled his ever present sinister smile. He wore a pair of small round lensed sunglasses which mostly obscured his eyes, but when they didn't you could almost reach out and touch the madness that swirled around in them.

He wore gray khaki pants, accompanied by a half unbuttoned blue Hawaiian shirt with a light green undershirt. Rounding out his ensemble was a brown faded duster draped over the chair he was sitting in.

He held a newspaper up, trying to obscure the fact that he was watching the Specter The Specter noticed though, and was a little surprised that the Madman could see him. He didn't think too much of it. He had recently discovered that when he meant genuine, imminent harm to someone, they were able to see him.

He most certainly meant harm to the man. This was the man who killed him.

"You!" The Specter shouted at the madman.

"Moi? You can't be serious." he said, in a fake french accent that was so bad it bordered on ridiculous. He feigned surprise, but then called back, "What's your problem?"

"My problem?" the Specter asked. "My problem is that you killed me!"

"I see two issues with your logic," the Madman said, peering around the tops of his sunglasses at the Specter, "Un, I do not remember killing you, and If I killed a person, I think I'd remember it, and deux, you do not look very dead to me."

As the Madman spoke, his ridiculous accent seemed to fade into a much more authentic one, and then back again. The Specter couldn't tell if he was French and trying to deliberately fake a bad accent, or if it was just terrible at faking a bad accent.

"It's a complicated situation," the Specter started, his anger getting the best of him.

"I know all about your situation, spirit. You are the one who was erased, brought back, and then charged with saving the world. I'm here because you need my help. Have a seat."

The Specter sat down, and the Madman called over a waiter to bring him two cups of coffee. The Specter looked dead into the Madman's eyes, his rage welling up inside him at this man, he could barely resist the urge to scream.

"Introduction," the Madman said, holding a hand out in an effort to subdue some of the Specter’s anger, "My name is Genevieve-Olivier Dufresne. You may call me Gen for short."

"I don't have a name," the Specter spit out, "They took that from me, along with everything else. All I have left are a few memories, mostly feelings from the day I passed. Other than that, I technically never existed. Thanks you to and God's bureaucracy, I have no family, and only one friend."

"Well, now you have two friends," Gen said, as he reached across the table, extending his arm for a handshake. The Specter did not return it. He sat at the table glowering at Gen until he sat back down.

They sat for awhile in silence, and the waiter, assuming Gen was alone, as he could not see the Specter, brought Gen two cups of coffee. Gen slid the other cup over to the Specter They waited for awhile longer in silence before Gen finally spoke.

"I am sorry you are in this situation," Gen finally said, his smile and phony accent disappearing as he apologized, "I know this must be difficult for you. I was unaware of the circumstances surrounding your rebirth."

There was a certain honesty to Gen's apology that caught the Specter off guard. He was beginning to find it hard to believe that this was the man who had shot him. The chaos in his eyes seemed benign. His smile, which in his memories seemed sinister, now had seemed more jovial. He wondered if it were possible for this man, who could easily be someone's crazy uncle, to transform into the twisted killer that had shot him.

He unfolded his arms as the anger ran out of him. As he did, Gen smiled once again.

"Gen," the Specter asked, "Are you guilty of my murder if was erased and never happened?"

Gen's smile expanded a bit, and he pursed his lips as he thought about the answer, "Maybe. I can't directly answer that one at this time."

"Alright then," the Specter continued, "are the Laws of God so warped that they can condemn a man to my fate even when he cannot remember what the offense is that he committed?

"The 'Laws of God?'" Gen's face contorted like a parent who just heard their two year old swear in a comedic fashion. His expression was somewhere between the brink of laughter and utter bewilderment, bordering on anger. "It really affects me, sometimes, how people, each one unique, with their own needs, can assume that one set of rules can be applied to every person. It's gone on for thousands of years, and yet still humanity seems to skirt around the simple truth. All situations are different, and the best resolution comes from not enclosed system of law, but instead an open mind.

"Here's an example," Gen said, producing a small rolled cigarette from one of his shirt pockets, and lighter from the other, in one fluid motion of his hands. "Something painfully generic," he said, as his constant smile curled slightly further upward. He put the cigarette into his mouth and lit it. There was a pause before he took a long, slow drag off of the cigarette.

Gen propped his elbow on the table, and held the cigarette up in two fingers of his hand as he continued. "A poor man works hard to provide for his family, but his business can barely keep a roof over his head. Having not been able to feed his family for three days, he asks a wealthy, well fed man for some food, which the man has in abundance. The well fed man refuses, hearing none of the poor man's pleas. The poor man, knowing this man has much more food than he needs, decides to steal a plate of meat to ensure his family doesn't starve.

"Now I ask you, Monsieur ghost," He said, the cigarette smoke obscuring most of his face aside from his mad eyes and even madder smile, "in God's eyes, who is more wrong? Clearly the poor man stole, but he did a so called 'bad' thing for a noble reason. Does that make it more acceptable? If so, what about the well fed man? Was he not entitled to keep his own plate of meat, which he earned, or is he somehow obligated to give his extra food to someone else who needed it more? If so, what happens if he suspects he is being taken advantage of? At what point can he stop giving away food?"

The Specter sat, hunched forward, with his forearm laid across the table in front of him, to keep himself propped up. The story was convoluted, and at this point he had more pressing matters on his mind than what someone else was hypothetically eating or not eating and how right or wrong they may be by doing so. He was much more concerned with the individual sitting across from him.

Up until a few minutes ago, this man, Gen, had been the dark cloud casting a shadow upon his life. That twisted smile and those mad eyes always peering out above his sunglasses had haunted almost every last one of the Specter’s dreams for the past ten years. Technically, this was the man responsible for setting in motion the events that put him in this position. All of his memories, and his very existence, erased by the actions of this man.

While the Specter was beginning to accept that Gen might not be the antagonist he thought he was, he was still very wary of the him. He kept his eyes locked onto Gen's, and did his best to remain as stoic as possible. He was tired, but he was determined not to show any weakness.

"It would appear," the Specter said, taking a sip of his now cold coffee, and wincing at its bitterness, "that there would have to be more details to this story than you are letting on, making things even more complex." The Specter waved away the thought of going deeper into the story with his hand. "I understand the point you are trying to make though. It does leave me with a few questions though. If God has no absolute laws, then why are all sorts of holy books filled with them? Are they all fabrications? If they are, and the absolute rules are unacceptable, why does God not just come down and tell us? Just exactly what is God trying to accomplish?"

Gen turned his head slightly to the left, and opened his left eye wide, while squinting with the right. What would have been a perplexed look on anyone else seemed to the Specter to be him making two sets of observations at once. One eye open to see everything, and the other squinting to examine only the smallest detail. He dropped his cigarette into his coffee cup, and it produced a slight hiss as it went out.

All expression left Gen's face for a moment, and he leaned back, obscuring his eyes with his sunglasses. He raised his finger and held it there, as if asking for the Specter to wait for his answer. For a few minutes, they both sat in expressionless silence. Gen then moved his raised finger and briefly pointed it at the Specter When he spoke, his French accent was gone, and his voice sounded different. He spoke Arithmetically, mispronouncing some of his words, and putting inflections on the wrong syllables of others.

"Explain the actions of God to man. Ha ha," he laughed, but there was no humor in his voice. "Such a thing is like trying to explain color to the blind, or sound to the deaf. I can no more explain why God does what God does any more that you can explain to me how a rose smells."

Gen's presentation made it clear that even though he appeared to be a man, whatever he was, he most certainly was not human. The chaos that he had seen swirling about this being's eyes wasn't madness, it was simply something that was beyond his ken. It was awe inspiring and frightening at the same time. The Specter nodded, and smiled, ever so slightly. Gen smiled back and shrugged. He returned to his pseudo-French accent when he spoke, but this time it sounded authentic and did not vary.

"I can however, explain some of where humanity has acquired 'God's Law.' Here's a question for you: Does it strike you as odd that God would have created so much passion and life ensconced in the grip of the act lovemaking, and then tell people they couldn't do it, that it was surrounded in sin and not life?"

The Specter quirked up an eyebrow before answering, "Didn't you just say you can't explain God? Sounds about par for the course to me."

Gen shook his head, "God is complex. The surface of His (or Her, or even Its if you prefer) being has more depth than a thousand oceans, but God has a constant. God makes sense. That level of idiocy I just described? That's not God's work. That's the kind of inane bullshit that only humanity has the ability to come up with. It's actually quite fascinating from an outsider's perspective.

"But I do digress. Many years ago there was a man who was about to be overcome by his own lust. Good old kind-hearted concerned God goes to him, and says, 'Hey, be careful not let your loins get the best of you.' The man, who has just had his mind blown by speaking with God, goes and tells his brothers and sisters about the experience. They immediately interpret this simple word of God as 'lust is a bad thing.' This in turn makes sex a bad thing, but a necessary evil. Soon looking at a woman the wrong way has become a sin, and because man has a horrible time accepting that the fault may be his own coupled with a wonderful need to oppress things, the woman who walks in an alluring way is the one at fault, and deemed less of a person."

"So," the Specter asked, sitting up in his chair, "If there are no ironclad rules, does that mean that there is no judgment when we pass?"

Gen took off his sunglasses and set them on the table, and then clasped his hands, leaning forward on the table.

"There is judgment. Not just when you pass, but always, before and after, but God is oft-forgiving, and most merciful. He made you, and He knows you, better than you know yourself. He sees your difficulties, and all of the intricacies, chemical imbalances, hopes, dreams, fears, and faults, and takes it into consideration. It's a dynamic process," Gen explained, wiggling his fingers, "While there is no one set of rules, there is one blanket rule that covers most situations. It's the one that appears time and time again across most religious texts that isn't marred by the eccentricities of man. Probably the best paraphrase of it would be something along the lines of, 'Don't be an ass.'"

The Specter laughed, and Gen chuckled shortly after. It felt good to laugh. He wondered how long it had been since he'd genuinely been amused to the point of laughter. He couldn't remember. He suspected he might never have. For a moment the yoke around his neck that bore the weight of the world was lifted and he felt alive again. Gen reached across the table and grabbed his shoulders.

"Look," he said, looking into the Specter’s eyes "I realize you have very little. You work tirelessly to save a world that you can never again have a place in, but you have to live. See a sunrise, walk through a rainstorm, kiss a pretty girl. That's what it's all about. Life shouldn't ever be an onus, it should be an adventure. If the world can't afford you that, then the world doesn't deserve to be saved."

Gen stood up and threw a few dollars on the table to cover the two coffees. He looked up at the cloudless sky, and his expression grew grim.

"The storm is coming soon," he said, walking away from his chair and out of the bistro patio. He stopped for a moment, and then looked back down at the Specter, "if you don't have anyone or anything to hold on to, it will wash you away. Don't be afraid to ask God for help if you need it."

"Oh, yeah," the Specter replied, smiling as his cynicism got the best of him, "God's been a great help so far. At the rate He's going, if I ask for any more, he may trip me and kick me while I'm down."

"Food for thought," Gen called out, as he vanished into the crowd, "When was the last time you actually asked God for help?"

The Specter couldn't remember that either. He took another sip of his cold bitter coffee, and winced again.