Faith In The Future

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Jude Anderson

 

Jesus… the skin of her hand was soft. The mere recollection of her pristine complexion brings joy to this dismal present. The sight is so lucid, yet it seems so far away. I guess that’s what happens when a thought is hanging above you day in and out, you become accustomed to it knocking on the back of your skull. But somehow it wasn’t her skin, or her perfectly supple legs, or even the way her hair would lay in the space between up as I feel her lungs inhale and exhale. It was the way I felt completely at ease when I was with her, even when the world was going to hell. In a world of destruction, with takes on a whole new meaning. 

The last moment of peace we shared was this passed summer, almost an entire year ago. Its hard to believe I was sitting on my bed cowering at the thought of my reality today. The sun was warming our faces in the security of our back yard when the peak of our lives made its inevitable descent. We heard on the news there have been various disputes between different religious groups and tempers were rising rapidly. Anxiety fluttered but we had each other to keep the butterflies at ease. We had to remain calm.

The arguments began when a large Christian organization started hurling insults at every group that conflicted with their rigid beliefs. Countless slogans sprung from the ground in every town in America. “God is Love” and “Salvation lies Within” barricaded our peace to the confinement of our homes. It was nearly impossible to go through your daily commute without being tormented by someone else’s influences. 

Not even exiting my neighborhood my route is altered due to protestors screaming about gay-marriage and fearing god and even about equality. ha… equality. It’s a damn shame those who petition so desperately for us to open our eyes cant even do it themselves. 

Through the din of my route I managed to arrive at my diner, secluded from the rest of civilization off of route 77… just how I liked it. 

While I worked and served the few customers that managed to make it through the chaos I was forced to listen to even more complaining about religion. Complaining about complaining. I smirked at the realization of how pointless all of this really is; people fighting, wasting their time trying to convince the inconvincible that their belief is the right one. 

It was only two days after that my descending climax fell to a plummeting conclusion. A small presbyterian church had gone to extreme levels. It seems the angry pickets weren’t enough anymore. 

The news stations had a field day with the terrorism, exploiting it from every negative angle they could… making a bad situation worse. 

“Church’s act of violence escalates into WAR!” 

“Streets run red with the blood of Christ!” 

Through all the bullshit I managed to discover a hormone-coursing teenager of about 22 knocked down the wall of a baptist church with a pickup truck and a chain. The mysterious rubble and the ominous ground beneath it led the news stations to take it as far as they could. 

Isolated, fear-ridden eyes looked through the blinds to an empty street, waiting for the next tragedy to strike. 

Willing fists cocked back, eager to rebuttal at the slightest movement; innocent civilians turned in to mercenaries of the holy, all over a cup of coffee. It was as if the people were waiting for something like this to happen. Almost like they wanted this perfectly uniformed society to collapse. When they got the slightest whiff of mischief, all the gates of hell were unleashed. Rifles were loaded and cocked, windows were secured, and the locksmith of every community became wealthier than anyone within 25 miles. 

All of this preparation with no results elicited results to be forced. If there are clouds and no rain… the ocean will rise to the heavens. This was the mentality of the militia. In nearly two days, organizations of millions were formed throughout the country. The computer was supposed to bring us closer, but not like this. 

Through the open window I hear rioters down the street conforming to build and army that would make the Persian army tremble. The streets fell silent sometimes. The leader would speak. 

“This is God’s test! We are to remain strong and laugh at the odds shoved in our face! Can’t you see? This is our vessel to salvation, this is our chance at eternity!”

“YEAH!” The crowd bellowed in unison. Although it was impossible to know, there was a sure feeling in the air that this wasn’t just local, this wasn’t anywhere near the end of this madness, warpath had begun and it wouldn’t be halted by the loudest cry. An eerie shadow of fear spread through the corridors of those watching. Those chanting had no room for fear, no room for second thought, not in a crowd of that magnitude. 

Around every turn were men and women preparing for happily ever after. 

The proceeding week was relatively constant. The hostility may have risen a few notches, but compared to what I’m living now it was a sandy beach on Hawaii. The cycle became pure monotony. I was beginning to reach my threshold. My nights were cut short from the round-the-clock protesting. They didn’t sleep. They ran on hate, and supposedly love. 

It all would have been too much if I didn’t have Michelle to gaze upon. I truly believe she saved my life through those nights of torments; I couldn’t imagine where my mind would have ben if I wasn’t given the privilege of her calming voice, her perfect cheeks, still somehow glowing in the darkest of times. 

Around the top of every hour I would be abruptly stolen from my sleep only to hear picketers yell more nonsense.

“We must reconcile our deprived holiness!”

“Through victory we shall achieve salvation!”

Earmuffs from the thickest wool couldn’t protect me from this mayhem. An innumerable amount of people were diagnosed with sleep apnea.. for obvious reasons. Drugs were being dealt like coupons but for every pull that was given, a dream was taken. Every pill ingested caused an entire night of emptiness. No ideas formed, no progression, no introspective revelations that could lead to a cultural revolution. Everything stood still in the restless minds of the unable.

Thats exactly what those bastards wanted, a clean slate to mold and contort.

Not only did those rioters disturb our sleep, but the day as well. They blotted out the sun with their chants. That whole first week I was forced to alter my route to work. Every single day those bastards were out in the street, with the exact same number of people as the last day. Walking back and forth, ranting and raving about everything they knew they had the answer to. “Follow us!” They persisted, “Save your souls now! While you still have a chance!” None of us had a chance. 

I must reiterate, I am quite perplexed at the constant struggle to persuade other to your side when you’re looking in a mirror. In your mind you are set in making others conform, and right in front of you are clones of yourself with a different logo on the poster. Those who want to adapt, adapt with each other, reinforcing to their preconceptions. Every morning we wake up and think to ourselves this will be the day the world sees glory that is my reality. For what? Answers? For it is all we can do. When humanity fades, hope is replaced, for it is the only thing others can’t take from you. 

“Finally I will have my say and cities upon cities will stand at my feet with open eyes and ears. Every reverie of the world in harmony is beginning now–  today!”

The need for power is the most overbearing tragedy for the common man. Men were meant to be led, that’s the sad part of it all. As long as there is man, there will be tragedy, there will be corruption, there will be followers and there will be powerful men who rise above the rest in a fist a furry. 

The normal man–he drives to his diner every morning and passes faces that are mere specs in his subconscious. What a terrible life it is to be nothing. To be nothing more than eyes and ears. Gazing at faces and hearing voices that can’t absorb the same information they attempt to give. Intellectual anorexics. 

That whole week customers came in and out of my diner with only one thing in their conversation. That group is ridiculous and this group is too hostile. The dull monotony of my days were really starting to take a toll. I could feel my shoulders gradually slipping into a slouch. The epidemic seemed to affect every person, I couldn’t escape. 

Oh how I wish I was in that moment right now–what I would give to have my sight bombarded with signs of ignorant rage. Such conceited thoughts. How little I thought I had. Damn shame. 

The later part of the week really pushed my boundaries. It is said that peoples endurance for stressors is like a palm tree–seemings stiff, until pushed enough. Any second it could break but it doesn’t, all it does is bend with the wind. I was feeling more like a ficus. The leaves of my branches were withering, my arms were stiffening, I was rocking back and forth on the precipice of sanity and lunacy. I could turn my head right and stare down 120 stories of nothing but gravity and a hard pavement, then just as easily turn my head to the solid ground. 

Then those imprudent customers walk in and I’m on a high-wire between the twin towers. Their mindless chatter a swift gust of wind. I could feel the storm coming. 

Sunday I decided to close the diner for the day. I didn’t want to serve those fools anyway. 

I needed this break, I deserved this for not losing my shit all the times I could have. 

Sunday morning seemed brighter than most. The eggs I fixed seemed more savory, the scent was infatuating, it even looked more appealing than usual as it sizzled and popped over the stove. What a job it was to stand in the bliss of my home over the stove, with my Michelle in eyesight sitting in her pajamas with no makeup, god how beautiful she looked. 

I fixed her eggs with melted cheese and toast. The mere look on her face as I approached was enough to propel me through this hell. Every picketer I passed was suddenly unimportant, everything troubling vanished. As her cheeks tightened, the little lines on either side of her eyes grew larger. What a sight it was. If every man could see what I saw every day, there would be no war, no hatred, only the appreciation of togetherness, and the simple joy of having another beating heart in your presence. 

All my hard work was painless as long as I knew I had that to look forward to. Even the thought of that child-like merriment keeps me going. As long as I don’t forget, as long as I keep that face in my subconscious every night and day, I can make it. 

Now, only having the memories, they begin to fade. The softness of her skin could now only be compared to mine for my long-term memory has been exhausted by repression. Even if it was my skin I would be satisfied to see it in the form of Michelle. Even as time moves much slower in this new world, memories speed past like jets. 

A day ago her face was lucid, as if I could extend my hand with eyes closed and gently caress her cheek again. That’s when I wrote this. Im simply adding to the literature in hopes of some sort of cognizance. It’s not working. I miss being able to miss her.

I watched Michelle bask in the joy of being made her favorite breakfast, she even had this little dance she did when eating something delicious. Strangers couldn’t pick it up, for it was nearly imperceptible. But for someone who has spent so much happiness with her, I’ve learned her little quirks. The first bite she would take she would bounce shoulder to shoulder, left to right left to right. It was worth it all. 

On my vacation from my newly-found hell I was more hungry than usual, so I made cereal. As I moved the spoon toward my mouth for the first bite an overpowering JOULT shook the whole house, knocking myself and my breakfast to the house. 

“Earthquake.” I said, trying to be calm in the face of danger. I tried to move to secure Michelle but another SHAKE brought me to my knees. Before the possible next hit, I ran and pushed Michelle and myself into the corner of the house with no glass. I told Michelle to cover her face and stay down. I cusped her hands around her face and put her head to the floor as gently as I could. 

The trembling didn’t stop, every second another BANG would shake the house. Soon it stopped, leaving an aftershock that vibrated all the little ornaments and picture frames around the house. Small sentiments from our lives slowly migrated to the edge of our table and fell to the floor with a crying shatter. 

The equilibrium of our lives was crumbling. The shaking lasted well over a minute  before it came to a slow halt. The world seemed to be silent. All I could hear was my heavy panting and Michelle’s soft whimper, crouching among the broken pieces of our life. 

I gathered up enough courage to walk to the window. I couldn’t help but notice the picture of the two of us was no longer a square but a diamond, fallen at an angle on the wall. I fixed it. 

I made my way to the glass with caution. The small crack that used to be in the top right corner had spread all the way to the opposite side. My world was split in two. Trembling beyond belief I finally made it to the window, I wish I hadn’t. 

I looked out to the street and immediately shot my head to the floor. 

“Did I just see that? No. Dream. Fake. Don’t look back up. Don’t. Dream. Hell. Horrible. Impossible.” 

I looked back up. 

The first torture to my eyes was the mountain of rubble compiled where my neighbors house used to be. His red-shingled roof was noticeable, but only through the bits and pieces that he used to call the foundation of his life. I watched him build that house with is bare hands. A few years after I moved in as one of the only house in the area he transformed a white and grey patch of dust into the magnanimous piece of architecture I had the privilege of visiting every friday night. 

Now, nearly 20 years later it is nothing but a hideous addition to the flaming trees surrounding. The gates of hell were at my doorstep. 

I stared in awe at the smoke rising out of every crevice beneath the rubble. I stood silently as I felt Michelle’s heavy breathe on my neck. She was slow to speak. I felt the erratic air on my neck in an attempt to say something, but the distant smoke smothered any chance of communication. Anticipating another fierce strike of nature I raced with Michelle in hand to cover the windows with any heavy object I could find. Our mattress became a barricade.. I couldn’t believe it. The only holy thing I had left was being lugged to the window as a safety precaution. That was the point I thought I lost everything. 

Michelle tried to help but she couldn’t, she tried to shake the tears from her eyes. The want to hold her and tell her everything would be alright was almost more than my want to protect her, but I couldn’t risk it. I would rather see her tears than her blood. 

After the house was a complete disaster, I felt prepared for the possibility of a second round. I waited for seconds but couldn’t bare to stand the anticipation. I looked out the window again. The house, or lack of one, was still there in it’s most defeated state. I felt like crying, curling up in my bed that was no longer there and pretending I was safe. I looked toward the sky for clues. Nothing. 

“Where are the god damn cops?!” I bellowed in the silence. The whole neighborhood had to have heard me. An echo broke through the window to satan’s gate. 

I turned in defeat to my beautiful Michelle, still behind me, trembling and scared. Her eyes were wide open, staring listlessly at my torso. I wrapped her in my arms and told her everything would be okay. I knew it wouldn’t. We sat on the floor among the shattered fragments of our relationship in fear. This was no act of nature I thought, but decided to keep it to myself. The neighbor was jewish, it couldn’t be a coincidence. 

Michelle and I moved to the floor. Our embrace was no longer comforting, but reassuring that the present is an unfortunate one. Our bodies quivered in unison like echolocation. I laid us down in hopes of a peaceful conscious. It wasn’t. We laid on the floor watching the world through our mattress, hoping that on the other side was peace, happiness. Hell, even rioters. The world seemed clearer that way, in our imagination. With it, we were found. Without it, we were lost in the smoke of our neighbors smoldering home. 

It really is strange how our perception of peace changes over time. A month ago I would wake up to the morning air, still fresh from the virgin night. Now, peace is a mattress and assembled homes. 

 

Part 2

 

“I need you to be strong baby, please just do this one thing for me and I promise as soon as all this is over Ill fly us to New Zealand like we’ve always talked about. If all the planes in the world are destroyed, I’ll put you on my back and swim you there. You deserve it. And if I can’t, We’ll sink to the quiet abyss together, away from this shit. We’ll be free no matter what. We’ll be free, it will be quiet, it will be our new normal and it will be beautiful. I love you so much.” 

“O-okay, I love you too.”

I saw the pain in her breathe. She wanted to stay and so did I. I would suggest retreating back to our home but that’s gone. Every piece of wood I nailed together has been burned to the ground. Ashes. I worked so god damn hard perfecting those white walls that shined so bright in the center of my universe. Every sunday night I would stare at the countless pine trees and watch the branches dance in the wind. On special nights, I would dance with them. 

Those tall pines are nothing but dark ash, along with the rest of my world. They were taken by this forsaken tragedy. Everything I’ve loved has been stolen by the wretched beasts who are too blind to see through someone else’s eyes. Through all of it, I’m glad they can’t. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. No–not this. 

The sad part about it is the fact that needs are only met in a conventional world. Hunger satisfied, need for affiliation is met if you choose it to be, and more importantly you get the privilege of looking to the eyes of the most magnificent woman to ever pass you on the street. Then, in an instant, you’re staring into the hand of desolation, wrapped in its palm, ready to squeeze, ready to obliterate all…  for good. 

Funny thing about fire.. so bright and vibrant as it raises to the sky, twirling in the wind, just as elegantly as it started it fades and leaves the land a colorless grave. Makes you wonder if the beauty is worth it at all, if all it leaves you is ash. 

It’s like having sex with a stranger. During the din of the passion you feel such a connection, phony love invades the air between until it’s over. Depleted of pleasure, you are left at your most vulnerable state of nothingness. Black and white. 

I kissed Michelle’s sunken head and pushed it in the right direction. I watched her walk carefully through the nothing, her head whipped east to west checking for those bastards. My arm reached out in an attempt to pull her back, but she was for too gone. I wanted one more hug, one more touch of our lips. I knew that it would always be one more, in the midst of nothing an unexpected amount of greed pervaded your will to survive. Hell of a time for greed to kick in, when you have absolutely nothing but your own beating heart, that now only beats of habit. 

She was gone. The last thing I saw was her crouched legs dip behind a broken wall of concrete that used to be an insurance company. I knew what I had to do, but like all tragedies, wants weigh down necessities like an anvil. Since that first bombing I had been molded from soap to iron. What I didn’t know was there is a force stronger than the hottest flame that laughs at misery. Laughing fades, pain fades, but love grows in the worst of places. It’s the only thing that can grow in a land of fire. 

Love cannot be pounded by a hammer, as long as it urns deeper than the surface it cannot be touched. I wanted to touch it. I wanted to feel loves skin on mine again. Only five minutes and I felt infinitely smaller. I felt like I was concaving unto myself. I felt I was wrapped tight in this new environment and was lost in the thickets.

I felt a hand on my left shoulder. I turned to the wind and felt more alone than ever.

 

Part 3

 

The bombs still flash in front of my eyes even while they are long gone, for now. The horrid image of the little piece of civilization I had left being crushed to the Earth hasn’t left my mind since it happened. The worst part was the fact that I couldn’t even do anything about it. The only thing I could do was whisper “no” from the tall hill far beyond their sight. Those involved were mere sparkles in the moonlight, but the fire; god damnit the fire burned brighter than I could have ever imagined. Scraps of paper fluttered in the air until the ember smoldered out into nothingness. And with them, went my faith in the future. 

A few brief moments transpired where I truly believed the bits of ash dancing in the night were fireflies, and presently I would join them in the sky. These little moments where my imagination took ahold was the only thing I had to look forward to. But like all reams, I awoke to reality. Oh what a pious creature, one that can do so much harm inside and out. They thought they were burning just a building. 

It was evident he had been studying the strong-willed for countless years. The ability to pinpoint someones exact weakness was surely not done by chance, no, this man was an expert in misery. 

I turned away from the old library and began to walk. I felt incredible tired as I walked through the ill-lit town of isolation. I walked for half an hour toward no certain destination. I had to go somewhere besides the forefront of that burning building, I couldn’t handle it. No matter how beautiful that fire was, I couldn’t sit and wait to see what came after. 

Nothing was definite anymore. In the dark there were only outline of objects, faintly illuminated by the glowing moon. I could have passed a burnt car, or possibly a crushed little home. Straight edges were no more in this cruel new world. Everything was jagged and broken. I ran my hand across the transformer box under the power lines. It used to be so smooth. My fingers slid and collected the gritty dust of rusted metal. Had it been that long? Jesus, how long was I in there for? My watch may have broke but certainly my perception of time had not been skewed that drastically. I am mad. I’m sure of it.

“Had I said that out loud or thought it? Damn.”

Dried leaves rustled on the ground beside me no more than ten feet away. I snapped my head to see nothing but black. Mind games. I felt a hand on my left shoulder.

I didn’t bother to turn this time. I continued on walking. “I need a home.” I said–or maybe thought. Footsteps rang in the air and bounced back again upon return. “Ugh.” I sighed, “Michelle…” 

There was no direction in my words, simply the sound of her name brought me joy, whatever that meant. 

I walked for hours mimicking the echo of Michelle’s name. In any other situation I would have felt completely mad, but no, not in this world I’m not. I am the sane one. “Scary” I thought to myself, “I am sane. So much time has passed–not even from the start of this madness, but from the beginning of time itself. Have we learned nothing? We are regressing.” Nothing echoed through the streets, mocking me. 

 

Quentin Palanco

 

“Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.” Philippines 3:2. I never thought I would be saying those words out of response, instead of repetition. 

Pious beasts, they are. I tell you, they really are. Before this whole mess we simply gathered every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday and worshipped the goodness of the lord and the follies of the evil. It was bliss, more or less. 

At any rate, we were happy. Then all this bullsh- stuff happened, and I just couldn’t continue. The passion they had for the world, or should I say their world, had been decimated to raw hatred, condensed in to outbursts of rioting and continuous animosity. 

They always taught me about the good in men, about overcoming turmoil through peace and wisdom, they taught me about the hope that the world possesses–possessed. 

I seceded from “The Peacers” one month ago. They didn’t take my resigning as tolerant as I may have hoped. It was all very queer to me, the whole situation. Every night since the first bomb hit we would meet in the church to discuss our plans for the future, and our recognition of the past. 

The leaders name was Chipper. He was always angry. He was an older man with thinned grey hair. His physical appearance hunted toward exhaustion, but i vertainly didn’t play out that way. Whenever Chipper spoke, his eyelids tightened and the loose skin over his neck quivered from the impenetrable hatred he tried to inflict on us all. 

After all that bombarding the only person I ended up hating was Chipper. I tried to block them out, but his views and commands seemed to be ludicrous. 

I woke up in my loft to hear them 5 stories down, forcefully chanting, “We can subside to this hatred. We simply cannot. The centuries we have spent worshipping our lord and lessons bestowed in us and our elders will not be in vein. The way those people live… it’s not right, it is not. I am being thorough not because I question your intelligence but I do so because I fear you are underestimating the severity of the revolution that is before us.” I looked out my window, and watched his eyes drift slowly to the horizon. “This is our chance to live together with people like us, people with love for our lord and the dear of his wrath.”

Chipper’s head fell in what seemed to be a moment of depletion. Then, in a quick burst SHOT up with rage in his eyes. “They will not dictate our lives! We will not live like cowards! We are headed for a brighter world. Prepare, friends, prepare for the life you have dreamed of. A prosperous life. A loving life. One that is free and beautiful, the kind the good lord intended.”

I could never get his words out of my mind. The more i think of forgetting the more I am unable. The sad part of it all is I really do miss them. Before all this mess, they were truly my family. I miss their kind, warm faces. Every night they would save me from the bore I was forced to suffer through. I can barely remember what I did at my job. I walked in to some massive firm with zombies bleakly staring into their monitors. I sat down heavily and pulled and pushed any paper they asked me to. Al I could look forward to was the night I could love, just truly love with all my heart. I could gaze up at the flawless architecture and know for a fact Im loved. Just as much as I give it, I am consumed with the passion he put in me. I had a purpose there. Someone–something was larder than I was, something I had no control over except through my own love. The more I loved the more her loved me, and so did the people of the church. 

Over the years I learned to put in more and more time, and with that I belonged. Now–god damnit now there is nothing left except hatred. When I look at what those villainous creatures turned in to I simply cant see myself as one of them. They bloomed into something I didn’t think was possible. I don’t know, maybe they didn’t really change, maybe it was me. I was so damn sure of myself back then, now all I have to believe in is life. The only truth is what I can touch with my hands. Faith is lost. 

All my thoughts persisted toward the past, all the horrible actions done to our son, and the miracles that seem to have stopped. 

Then there was the future. Chipper always said that our actions today reflected directly toward the life we would live after we lived. In my glum opinion, he might have been right. Not about heaven or hell, salvation or damnation, but life after life. 

I believe life after life has been interpreted far too much. There is no heaven or hell. Heaven and hell is right here on Earth, and the life you live as you whither in the ground is in the same place. Life takes on a new meaning after your heart stops beating. It turns into stories, into remembrance, into admiration. Angels and demons are at a constant battle. Angels are those who influence the living toward the good. Their life is lived through stories, through life lived for the betterment of the world. Demons show the good in the bad. They show the happiness in death, in torture, in creation by destruction. 

I’ve seen building torn to shreds with nothing more than axe’s and a couple dozen angry hands. I’ve seen rivers of people clawing and thrashing at the mound of flesh beneath them, not even looking to see whose flesh was being dug into, the mere satisfaction of destruction was enough. 

On the more worse of the worse days, I saw one thing that hangs over my head even more than Chipper’s words, more than the loss of friends. For some damn reason it wont budge no matter how hard I try. 

It happened no more than a month ago. The ash of my past was still smoldering in the pit that used to be my life. The day was unlike any other. The morning was vibrant. Still, the perfectly contrasting green and blue of Earth shins in m mind. Its too bad, much too bad, that the beautiful morning mist be shattered by such horror. At the break of dawn I did what I quickly taught myself to do each day. Like clockwork, I would exit the shelter I had built so dangerously close to the church and scan for more drifters. 

Presently, I would be met with isolation. 

The shelter I made was nothing more than a whole in the ground with a disguised roof. 

On this specific night I didn’t feel like gathering more imperishable food cans, by that time The Peacers had already scavenged most of the cans for their own allure. I had spent most of the daylight in the shelter I dug. The shelter wasn’t as much a shelter as it was ditch. In the traditional sense of the word, it served the purpose in sheltering me from natural forces of the world, but not of man. For this is a new world, and I no longer feared the force of nature. It is humanity that is the reigning force. If only they used that rage for good, for peace, for help. Hatred is the new alpha male. 

Viewing drifters passing by, I stuck my head just above ground level. 

On this day I prayed for the last time. Not to the Gods, but to the sky, that I could one day find happiness again. Such a simple word with such complicated conditions. I sat my chin on the dirt and changed the only thing I had the ability to change, my own world. I did my best to shut out everything else and imagine a world where holy men were holy, where salvation is met by strength and passion. In hell, dreams are just as, if not more important than reality, I learned that. The theory that synthetic happiness is inferior to actual is a myth. 

At around noon I saw a few drifters, they had their blue armband, signifying their loyalty to the church, I stayed away and let them pass. I couldn’t stay in their another second. The dirt was insulating the the suns rays like an oven. I managed to make a mini hell by my own will. 

I waited about 5 minutes for the drifters to wonder far enough, then I was on my way. I walked toward the sun, whatever it meant. I walked through thickets and grass about my knees with actual joy. Anything was better than being crept up in that hole. 

I walked until the sun dropped about 3 fingers. That’s when I saw it. A crowd of people with blue armbands made an army of backs, jumping up and down, clenching and raising their fists. I saw patches of orange through their legs. Risking my life and revealing my disloyalty, I moved in with the crowd, hoping they wouldn’t notice. It was only then I realized I could never be noticed, not one eyes was diverted from the center of the crowd. 

I pushed and shoved my way to the front, not caring who I offended. It seemed they couldn’t get any more angry. Finally, after generations of pushing and shoving, I arrived in the middle. Just in time, unfortunately. Sitting in the middle of the hundreds of people was one monk, completely unwilling to retort or anger. He held a sign saying “Peace is just.” 

I assume the riot started with a “Chipper” telling him about salvation, which led to their frustration without a response. 

He sat there, eyes closed, his non-aging skin relaxed. He looked frozen. His face was so peaceful, so at ease, so oblivious to anything but his own joy. 

The leader was yelling obscenities at him, along with the rest of the crowd. 

The monk sat, calm as the smoldering rock of my past life. 

Suddenly his eyes opened, and he turned slowly to the Chipper of the group. One side of his mouth curled in to a half-smile as he struck a match beneath his clothing. Never breaking eye contact, never losing that cynical little smile, he dropped the match to the loose part of his cloak atop his aged feet. 

Slowly, as the tides creep on the shore, the flame dispersed to everything it touched. Feet, legs, waist, torso, until the top of the flame was just below his jaw. Through the excruciating pain, he never showed weakness. He kept eye contact, he kept that little smile. The red and orange rose unto the top of his head, slowly consuming the strong old man. The crowd cheered. I cried. He showed me the inevitable truth of life. He showed us that happiness is truly from within, and that no matter how high the flame of our life dances there is hope for tranquility. 

He turned to the horizon and looked forward as his skin withered, and with it went my worry. It would be okay, it wouldn’t hurt as much anymore. 

 

Michelle Anderson

 

Im captured. I miss Jude. I need to get out of here. Im not as strong as him. I went to rescue my mother, she called me. There was a crowd in front of her home. She needed me, and I failed. When I left Jude, he said he couldn’t go with me because he wasn’t a part of the church, and it was far too dangerous for him. I understood. As I walked away I wanted one more hug, one more embrace, but I knew I couldn’t have it. They’ve kept me in this church for months. Now, on the verge of starvation, I have to make a break for it, I can’t sustain life like this. I tried telling them I was a part of the church, it didn’t work. At midnight tonight when everyone is asleep, Im going to make a break for it. There is guards at the doors all night, but I have to at least try. I’d rather die a rebel than a victim. This is my last message of life. I was here, and soon, alive or not, I won’t be. 

 

Jude Anderson

 

I fell asleep as I was writing my last passage. It was far too late and hearing the heavy wake crash against the rock was wearing me down. I used to take Michelle to this cliff, looking out over the pacific. It really is beautiful staring at the endless horizon. It’s almost like it was meant for times of distress. No matter how much destruction there is, no matter how much turmoil, it continues to run forever left and right. 

As I was walking on that cold night I met a man named Quentin, he saved my life. I was walking through the shadows when we ran in to each other. By default, I panicked and attacked him. I chased him in to an old mental hospital. We lived in that hospital for 3 months together. All the shelves were stored, all the rooms were pristine. It turns out, in an age of obliteration and madness, the last thing people want is to know they’re truly mad. He told me of a monk and how it changed his life, he talked about him a lot. Every night I would walk up and down those lonely corridors, and on the loneliest of nights I would feel a hand on my left shoulder. Seemed to be a fit place for some one like me. 

That hand, however mad it may be, kept me going. I hadn’t seen Michelle in 8 months. To me, it was her hand comforting me.

I stopped turning around when I felt it. I let it lay there and keep me company when Quentin was searching more survivors. He had too much interest in finding holiness in an unholy world. I stayed there in my new home, comforted by a hand on my left shoulder. 

We went our separate ways after he decided to set out on the world and “rebuild society.” He truly believed the good in man was still out there some where, no matter how deep it may lay. I stayed in the hospital for a while, until I grew to weary of the echo’s. Every word spoken was repeated, I was always right. 

I decided to take a backpack full of supplies to this cliff, where my love for Michelle was born, and where I would die. 

Its somewhere around June, and the world is much more silent. Its around 8, the sun is setting, and I can feel death’s grip slowly clench. What a beautiful way to die. The sun is at it’s last breathe, and mine is coming, just in time. 

You should see the stars at night, when there is no light. I can see galaxies drift in the black over me, and I know there is someone else up there, on a planet with their Michelle. I hope he’s happy, I hope his world isn’t brought to ashes, I hope he never sees that beautiful flame, I hope he looks at the galaxies above him and hopes for me. 

I hop– I feel a hand on my right shoulder.

 

Progression may be at it’s last breath

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All of this progress, I regret to say, is undoubtedly eradicating the hope we have been promised time and time again. I do believe, however, the intentions of such acts are true in attempting to better others and the world they live in, but I don’t believe it is succeeding. 

This is merely a rant of my own opinions and observations, only with the intentions of possibly opening someone’s eyes, or even possibly opening my own in the process. 

I’ve seen men stand in front of crowds and declare for a better, brighter, more prosperous future. And with that declaration they ensured the happiness of men, the reconciliation of the togetherness we felt when this country was truly great. Their means of carrying out these promises have been by acts such as plans of expansion, bringing together the world. As I say this, I understand it may suggest my opposition of such acts. This is true and it is not. I believe before we expand and progress to a “brighter” future, we need to go back. Not back a year, or a decade, but multiple. It is within a true man that he is able to admit the mistakes he has made, and take advances in mending those wounds. The first step in that is realization, and I can’t see how that has not become lucid. In all corners of society we are deteriorating. Education, communication, power, and most of all, the most severe, morality. 

Morality has been goose-stepped to the precipice of oblivion. We must reach out and save it, WE MUST! Good things are being done for the wrong reasons, and with that the poetic criminal is rising. 

It is a rarity for good to come at out doorsteps. I am not doubting the good in men, because I believe if it could be measured it would be endless, but there has been a change I assure you. 

I’ve seen man pick up a fallen bag and look around to see if anybody noticed. 

I’ve seen writers write solely for money. Not for the beauty  and strength that words may behold, but for money! Something that isn’t even real, something you can hold and tear in your hands and in that instant is worth no more than the Earth beneath you. 

I’ve seen laws, laws that were set for the sole intention of morality be stripped from under our feet because they were not fruitful. 

I’ve seen a monk set fire to his own flesh in the hope of a better future for all of us. If only we all had that courage. Not of the act itself, but of the full immersion of bettering others. If he could speak now I often wonder what he would think of how his actions affected those around him. If it changed what he wanted to, if it even made a dent, if people even noticed his skin burn to a charcoal in the middle of the street. 

Maybe the world has flipped so severely that the good and bad have taken each others place in the moral hierarchy. Maybe the question isn’t even worth asking, but in my experiences I have learned there is no such questions. Are the good in the world defeating all we have strived to do? Are the “good” truly good anymore? Questions like these rattle my brain awake every night, they make it tremble at the severity. I hope, with every breath I have left on this Earth, some good may come out of the life I live. And as I lay in the soil with roots piercing my bones, I will not have died.

Feedback?

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    Okay so at the gym I had this idea that sparked up. Im not entirely sure the uniqueness of the idea, I haven’t had any time to check to see if it is or not, but let me know what you think. 

  A magazine dedicated strictly to short stories. It would be divided into sections of different writers, each section would have a few stories by the author, if short. Possibly just one story if its long. At the beginning of the section it would show a picture and a biography of the writer. 

   The idea is raw, but I think it has potential. Let me know what you think:)

im tired

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Writing is about truth.. right? Too often I attempt to conceal the truth with poeticism and non-fictional fiction, but the real truth is, I’m simply tired. Tired, or tired of, or possibly both. 

I try not to complain, but I’m tired of that as well. I’m tired when I wake up, Im tired at school, Im tired at the gym. The only place Im not tired is my dreams, where I can run to and hug the only person I want to be with, and consequently the only person I cant be with. Im tired of hanging my head all day. Im tired of being tired.

Love?

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He was perfect.

Every way about him was, I tell you, overwhelmingly desirable. Women craved the touch of his fingertips and the comfort in his stare. He was known for being “that guy” that was indiscreetly known to be the most sought-after prize in all the college. 

There was an unsettling stir int he classes he sat in that was only known to the new students who had just become aware of his presence. For those who have known his being there, the chaos that turned in them was perpetual. Every day he would walk into class holding a new girl. Quick little glances shot back and forth from his peers. 

The inconsistency in his girlfriends gave hope to those with desire. Even with his reputation he didn’t speak much, which confused the girls. The mystery kept them wanting more. Even the professors knew of his reputation and dreaded the first day of class he arrived at because they knew the overall grades would surely take a hit, and they were right. The classes would carry on, and like every other, eyes would be on him and his girlfriend. 

The men stared in jealousy as the women stared in lust. Every girl dreamt of the day they would get the chance to be that girl everyone is jealous of. Every girl thought they would be in that same position at some point in time. Every girl was right. 

Every girl, I tell you, would fulfill that fantasy, minus the ending. It was the same scenario, same setting, same middle, same ending, same reaction. 

The girl would follow him into his dorm in hopes of retracting some sort of personal information that could be used to their advantage. He knew they were following him, thats exactly what he wanted. 

He felt the silent footsteps following him from sheer repetition. Just when the girl would take the risky move of moving closer into visibility he would turn. She would clench up, panic!

His expecting eyes set them at ease, as it always did. 

And, I tell you, they were certainly at ease. 

He would introduce himself with the same kind and proper manner, and they would fall in love. 

Into the depths of passion they would dive, and it was perfect. 

He would buy her flowers with the money he earned as a writer. 

He would buy her dinner and they would converse fluently with no awkward pauses. Even as they sat in silence they understood each other; what they were about, what they wanted, who they were. 

He would respectfully take her dorm, and upon her own request, enter the room together. He wouldn’t make a move, she loved that. She loved everything. He was, as they all uniformly agreed, a “real gentleman.” 

They would, presently, make love. And it was perfect. His body, movements, and passion was just as she had anticipated. 

Afterwards they talked about life and dreams. 

Afterwards he would end the relationship as he did every other relationship. 

“Do not despair in what I am about to say. It is good, I tell you, it truly is. We can not be together–should not. My place here is not one of commitment. I showed you a great, perfect time today, haven’t I? This is how it is supposed to be. This is how you are supposed to feel with a man. This is love, but it is not with me. There will be others, plenty others that may fool you with lies and deception. Pious creatures, they are. I have not lied to you today, I tell you, I haven’t. When you think again you have found the man you want to be with, remember of this day and the way you felt. Make sure it is true before you make an emotional commitment. If it takes five years, hell, ten years, wait. It will come, I tell you. You’ll feel it, and you’ll be happy for the rest of your life. You’ll be happy, you will have love, I tell you.”

The river may rise

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The rivers run red

With the cliche tragically being said

Many fish in the sea

They’re jumping they’re flourishing

Weaving through irony

Jumping higher every try

You can’t fly

Trying a damn lie!

Deceit is taught in classes

Illuminated by the huddled masses

Trudging along through the trenches

We pass by the blissful benches

Man turns blind with a cold body leading the way

Turn to the sun and feel the last of May

With heat our skin lightens

The river’s port brightens

A beautiful day it is indeed

No more time to bleed

Lets fish

Lets swim

Lets row

To heal this perpetual blow

In the light of the day we drift atop

This plateau we cannot stop

Row east, friend, row east!

So light we can not be ceased!

No, too light it feels

The falling sun grows behind our reels

The river looked red at a glance

Tightly I hold my friends hand

and at the top of the world we dance

“To the East!” I shout

“To the East?” rebuttals a heavy doubt

“The sun, watch it grow!”

“The river, look below!”

Little bodies of swaying scale make one

“Oh, this is it, surely we are done.”

“No” I say, “To the East!”

“The sun I tell you, a horrible beast!”

“Grasp the paddle, grasp with your life.

Out here there is no use for your knife.”

An inch it sinks

Gone, without a blink.

Just another stick in the huddled mass

An ease settles, another streak of red we pass

The friend’s reconcile with time at it’s very least

“To the East.” I say

“To the East.”