Eerie Morning

city lights on a morning horizon
The morning breaks
As it has every day
Yet there is something more
The breeze flows
Yet it holds a chill

The morning breaks
As it has every day
Yet there is something more
No birds sing
No bugs speak

The morning breaks
As it has every day
And there is something more
The morning clouds
Reflect a strange light

The morning breaks
As it has every day
And there is something more
But now I know what it is
It is not the eastern dawn I see
But a western light

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Friday Thoughts: Time

What a strange little thing. At the most basic level it is a term that represents the units used in measuring the passage of time. Whether it is seconds or centuries, it is measuring the passing of moments. Concrete concepts based on how the earth moves around the sun. But then you get into different, abstract ideas. Eons. Ages. Moments. All of them are familiar to us yet at the same time our concepts of them are slightly different.

But in a more practical sense, time is the march of days.

When I was younger, time seemed to last forever. Summer never ended and I would never grow up.

Now I am older, time seems to move in spurts. Some moments fly past, days ending almost as quickly as it began. Other days it crawls along like a dying slug. Maybe it is the side effect of being older now. Or I am just more aware of time.

Of course there are people who say “manage your time better and you’ll have more of it”. Which is true. Yet I find myself having to choose between things. To read or to watch television. Play a game or begin learning a new language. Spend time with family versus spending time to write.

Is this what life really about?

Choosing what to invest your time in? Exercise? Sleep? Relationships? Time is a commodity that everyone has and everyone has an equal amount. How we spend it helps determine where we end up in life. There are things that we can’t control in life: our starting point in society or the actions others take against us. But we can control how we react. Sometimes that means spending more time in tutoring or starting working early to get an edge in education. For others it means spending time in the hospital to deal with an illness. Or spending time after college at home to save on money. Life isn’t fair, no one starts at the same point, and things change.

But we can invest the time we are given however we want.

Monday Stories: High School – Chapter 05

“Amy!”

“Amy stop!”

The young teen feels a hand pulling her to a stop. She finds Maria looking at her. For a moment, her friend searches her face.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” Amy turns to her locker and fiddles with the few things inside.

“Nothing? You’ve failed two quizzes and forgot your homework. You never forget your homework or get a quiz answer wrong. So what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

Maria scowls, “Don’t give me that. You’ve been all morning. And I’m not the only one noticing. Even O’Connelly noticed and you know how dense he can be.”

Maria holds the smaller girl as she tries to back away. An icy hand clamps down around her heart as she sees the fear in her eyes again. She narrows her eyes.

“Is he back? Did he talk to you?”

“What?” Amy whispers, “How did you know?”

“Uh. You told me. And I was there for when it all went down. I thought you had a court order against him. I can talk to my dad.”

Amy shakes her head, “No. No. He hasn’t talked to us for months now.”

“Good. Now. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Please.” Amy pleads as she pulls free, “I’m okay. I’m fine.”

The teen turns and practically runs down the hall. Maria sighs in frustration and slaps the locker.

“Miss Olympia. Please refine from aggressive behavior.” A professor intones as he walks by.

“Yes, sir.” After a moment, she pulls out her communication device, “O’Connelly. You there?”

“Hello? Maria? What’s up?”

“Something is wrong with Amy.”

He mumbles.

“What?”

“Nothing. Let’s meet up with her after school.”

“And how do you plan to do that? She leaves while we’re in advance physics.”

“Right. I’ll talk to Witwright. Maybe he’ll let us out.”

“Maybe. Offer to do an extra assignment.”

“Oh, good idea.”

“Let me know what he says.”

“Will do.”

The call ends. Maria glances out the window as the bell rings.

“Amy. This isn’t like you.” With another long sigh, she turns to go to her class.

Out of the corner of her eye, she sees a dog-like creature wander through the school’s central courtyard. Maria frowns as she wonders at the unease she feels at its sight.

“Maria!”

She looks over and sees two of her classmates.

“Oh, Hey Raven. Robin.” She nods to the teens, “Just got an odd feeling when I saw that Caninitis.”

“You mean that common monster from Dungeon Field?”

Maria nods her head.

“Why would you get a weird feeling about that? That game character has been around since they launched the Immersion System.”

“I know.” She shrugs, “Like I said. Weird feeling.”

“Let’s go!” Robin says as the bell rings again, “Or we’ll be late to history.”

“Right.” Maria glances down the hall and wonders what is troubling her friend.

X

Amy stops just around the corner of the hall. She leans against a locker. The small teen takes comfort in the cold metal against her back. Maria’s voice echoes down the hallway. Her back stiffens.

“Oh. Hey Raven. Robin. Just got an odd feeling when I saw that Caninitis.”

“You mean that monster from Dungeon Field?” Robin answers.

“Why would you get a weird feeling about that?” Her sister answers, “That game character has been around since they launched the Immersion system.”

“I know. Like I said. Weird feeling.”

The bell begins to ring, a sharp shriek guaranteed to wake any dozing student.

“Let’s go! Or we’ll be late to history.”

“Right.”

”History.” Amy thinks to herself, “That is what is happening here. History is repeating itself. What did I do wrong?”

“Erm.”

Amy jumps at the sound.

A young girl with bright red hair. She smiles at Amy and gestures at the lockers. Amy stare dumbly at the redhead. She shifts her weight impatiently.

“I need to get to my locker.”

“Sorry.” Amy mumbles before turning down the hallway.

“It’s okay.” The teen quickly taps in her access code and pulls out a small folder.

Amy takes three steps down the hall when she feels herself being jerked into a side hall. Before she can make sense of what is happening, her head explodes in pain. A moment later, the world swims back into focus. The teen realizes that she is in one of the maintenance halls. She looks up and freezes.

The man from yesterday stands and grins at her.

“Imagine this.” He whispers to himself, barely audible, “Of all the people to happening to run into, I run into you.” He shrugs off the line of thought. In a clear voice, he focuses his attention on the small girl, “I see you behaving yourself. Haven’t told anyone?” He asks as he draws a long knife.

Amy shakes her head, her voice frozen in fear.

“Good.” He kneels down and places the tip of the blade underneath her chin, “I would hate to have to visit you like I visited your neighbor.” He runs his blade down the side of her neck.

Amy shivers and closes her eyes.

The man laughs and flicks his wrist.

The child yelps as the blade cuts into her flesh. Her hand automatically flies up to her throat. She feels a small trickle of blood running between her fingers. Panic feels her.

The man chuckles as he drops the blood-drenched blade into a plastic bag.

Without another word, he walks out of the hallway. Amy stays still as she listens to his footfalls echo down the hall. She finally moves long after the sounds of his feet fade into silence. The young girl opens the door and steps into the empty hallway. For a moment she debates whether to go to class or to go home.

Glancing at her hand she makes her choice.

To be continued…

Friday Thoughts: What to Believe?

Christian? Atheist? Buddhist? Cat-lover? Llama hater?

What do you believe?

The world is beautiful? The end is coming? Elvis is still alive?

This question has been asked over the ages for different reasons and different intents. What god do you serve? What religion do you follow? Which king do you support? Who do you fight for, the peasants or the nobles?

But in more recent times the questions have been more “Do you believe there is police brutality?” or “Do you think the flag represents oppression?”

What if you don’t know what to believe?

If you don’t there is a wide range of “experts” on the web that will tell you the truth. And if you disagree then you become a bigot, moron, or “you’re what’s wrong with the world”. And in some cases, you can be called all three at once.

So.

What do you believe?

What do you believe?

There is a lot going on that I don’t fully grasp or have time to devote to the research it would require in order to find the answer. Because at this point, there is too many opinions and graphs being promoted that conflict with one another. All of which serves to stir up emotions without offering a solution. For me, thinking emotionally is fine and all but I often find myself easily manipulated when I think emotionally.

Because it sounds good.

Because it feels right.

Because that’s what everyone believes and if I don’t then I am a bigot or racist or blinde or an idiot or whatever the catchphrase is this week.

But that is the problem. It is based on feelings. Emotions that can change by the hour or even by the minute. Getting lead by the heart and the heart alone can get you into serious trouble. That is how people fall for the wrong person or stay in dangerous relationships. Because they are only listening to their emotions.

Logic, as hard and cold as it can be, serve as a balance to the knee-jerk as heartstrings are pulled by the news and opinions.

Of course, going completely ice-cold logic is an easy way to become ruthless and harmful to your fellow member of mankind. That is how you get people who worry only about the bottom dollar or the final product.

A prime example when logic and emotions are out of synch is the Japanese Internment of World War II.

Innocent men, women, and children were collected and shuttled off to the middle of no-where after Imperial Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States, causing our entry into World War II.

Why? Because the government feared a fifth column rising. For those who do not know, fifth columns refers to local population rising up and aiding a foreign power. A real possibility since Germany almost successfully raised a fifth column of their own. Was the jailing of citizens right? No. Was it a logical response to a real possibility? Yes. How was it able to pass? People were afraid and angry.

Revolutionists are also great examples of getting people to think emotionally. By getting the masses to react out of anger or fear you can get the Bolsheviks into power and establish the Soviet Union. Or the French Revolution where the streets ran with blood and heads. Why? Because of a few anger people were able to tell the population what to be anger and hurt about. To get them to stop thinking.

On the other hand, emotions can be great motivators. Hundreds of citizens got into their private boats and sailed to the French coast to pick up the surviving soldiers at Dunkirk. No one asked them. They weren’t equipped. They just went because it was the right thing to do. the English air power did what they could to protect them and they focused on getting troops out.

Much more recently, the Cajun Navy and regular Texans headed south to where Harvey had laid waste. No one said “I order you to do this” or demanded people hand over their time and resources. Nope, they just loaded their boats with supplies, plotted a course, and went. They did not show up as an extra pair of hands. They came prepared. Emotion rose up at the plight of the victims. Logic guided preparation and execution.

At the end, you have to rely on what you have seen and test what you are told. Check the sources, do a little research, and force that individual to prove to you that they are telling the truth.

Gray World

low clouds, fog hiding tops of skyscrapers

The wind howls down empty avenues
And rattles against empty windows
No sun to see
No blue sky to hold
Just the empty streets
Beneath the gray sky
The creak of metal
Of long abandoned cars
And the whistle of wind
Through broken glass

A light flickers on
A woman laughs while her dog barks
Children hurry to buses
And adults chug their coffee
Little by little, cars roar to life
And bikes click down the street
Voices fill the street
And people hurry to and fro

The heat of the cars and people
Burn back the heavy clouds
Drowning out the mournful wind
With laughter and talk
The gray clouds linger
But no longer the focus
As the people talk to one another
Sharing hopes, dreams, and life together

Monday Stories: High School – Chapter 04

With a shrug, Amy heads towards the trailer park. The night is coming on in full. The sounds from neighboring units fill the air with noise. Televisions systems, music, and shouting matches are matched by dozens of bright lights. Dogs howl and children wail while others scream at each other.

Wincing at the onslaught of sound, the teen walks towards her unit. An old man nearby cat whistles.

“Hey baby!” He calls out, “What’s the rush? Ain’t nothin goin on in there!”

She slams the door, muffling his harsh laughter.

For a moment she stares at the trailer she calls home. Cheap wood and hard plastic are used in the construction. There are a few photos mounted on the wall in broken frames or even missing glass. In one photo a younger version of her smiles out beside two other kids. Another one shows her a few years older but missing the other kids.

With a sigh, Amy opens the nearly empty fridge and pulls out a small bag of food.

She cooks the food while the sounds of neighboring trailer units slam out harsh noise.

She glances out of the window and sees a black car roll up. The tires and headlights are rimmed in gold plating while the body of the car is painted a glossy black. The windows are tinted. Music pounds out of the speakers mounted on the sides of the car.

It comes to a stop just outside her neighbor’s unit.

From the shotgun seat, a large man emerges. Broad shouldered and six feet tall, he is imposing. His black suit and drawn pistol easily show that he is not from the unit.

Amy ducks down and turns the stove top.

She waits as the man slams on the door, barely audible over the pounding music. A moment later, the music dies away. The teen peeks over the edge of the countertop. She sees the large man returning to the car. In his hands is a large wad of cash. And bright blood on his hands.

The teen peers out at the trailer. The man is leaning heavily against the doorframe. Blood drips down from a gash over his right eye. He cradles the bloody mess that was his hand.

The man opens the door leans in then glances directly at Amy.

Alarmed, she ducks out of sight

Her heart pounds inside her chest. She closes her eyes.

“Please go away. Please go away. Please go away. Please go away. Please go away. Please go away. Please go away. Please go away. Please go away. Please go away. Please go away. Please go away.”

Bam.

The door to her trailer is kicked open. The flimsy door is nearly ripped off its hinge. The doorframe is nearly splintered to pieces. The man squeezes through the door frame and towers over her small figure.

“Hello miss.” He rumbles.

The girl forces herself to look up at him.

Scars decorate the left side of his face. His eyes are hard and cold. Thick armor plating has been added to his arms and legs. Beneath his skin and clothes are the soft glow of internal technology.

“You alone?”

Amy tries to shake her head but feels her body trembles and won’t obey her.

With a deep sigh, he leans down and grabs the front of her shirt. She yelps as he lifts her to his eye level. At this distance, she can smell the alcohol on his breath and the smell of gunsmoke.

“Did. You. See. Anything?”

She shakes her head rapidly.

He tilts his head slightly.

“I wish I could believe you. I really do.” He spins and throws her down the length of the trailer.

Pain explodes through her body as she lands in a heap in the small living room. A heartbeat later, Amy feels herself being slammed into a nearby wall. The girl hears something under the attack. She wonders if it is her body that is breaking.

The man throws her into the ground and she hears a scream.

Something hard slams into her stomach. Vomit explodes out of her mouth from the blow. She curls into a ball as pain floods her.

“Listen, you little wench. You are going to keep this and what you saw to yourself. Or you’re going to see me again.” He chuckles lightly, “And you’re never going to forget what happens when you snitch. Do you understand me?”

She nods her head slowly.

“Good. Are you going to talk?”

She shakes her head.

“Good.” He checks a device on his left arm, “Amy Gunther. Freshman at Allen Ridgeback High School. Father skipped out of town with another woman. Mom works at Ryoka as a cleaner.” He stands up and says in a casual tone, “If you tell anyone I’ll visit your school. I’ll kill everyone there. I’ll visit mommy and I’ll kill her. Slowly. And then, I’ll come here and take whatever you have of value.” He glances around, “Not that you have anything of value. I am sure you’ll be able to give me something of yours.”

Amy props herself up on her elbow and watches the car back up.

X

Amy limps through the trailer. The door is somewhat back in place. The trailer park continues as it had every night. Her device buzzing. She glances at the screen. The young girl takes a deep breath as she answers the call.

“Hi, mom.”

“Hi, honey.” Her mother sounds tired, “I’m sorry sweetie but it looks like I can’t come home tonight. Work has me here due to something in the lab. I’m not in danger but they say it is just standard procedure.” She laughs lightly, “They’re giving us pizza for dinner. And I will be able to take some home for you.”

“That’s great.”

“Amy. What’s wrong?”

The man’s face flashes through her mind. She nearly drops her phone.

“Nothing mom.” She forces out as she struggles to breathe normal, “Just tired.”

A moment passes, “Okay. Looks like we’re being called in for some paperwork. I’ll probably be home after you’re asleep. Be good. Listen and do well. I’ll see you after school tomorrow. I love you.”

“Love you too, mom.”

The phone clicks.

She puts her phone down when it vibrates.

Curious, she looks at the phone and sees that she has a new message from an unknown user. The message simply reads:

Good job at keeping your mouth shut. See you in school.

Amy drops her phone and retreats from the device. Her body trembles.

To be continued…

Friday Thoughts: Changing World

In the wake of the largest shooting that has occurred on American soil, I think about how much this world has changed in my lifetime alone.

I was born in the ’90’s. The world wasn’t great but it wasn’t terrible either.

Then 9-11 happened.

The entire world looked in awe and America knew fear. And rage. Did shootings occur? Yes. But those were individuals hunting specific people. School shootings were rare. But things have gotten dangerous. Individuals just wanting to kill people have become almost the norm.

Christine Grimme.
The homosexual bar shooting.
Sadie School Shooting.
Las Vegas.
Churches.
Movie theatres.

Growing up as a kid I remember the biggest problem I had was trying to find that one Lego piece that I needed. My mind struggled to comprehend growing up with gunfire for nightly noise instead of crickets. To fear where I walk not because of snakes but because of bombs. To worry about rain. Not chemical attacks. To sleep knowing that no leader was idiotic enough to launch a nuke at anyone. But now realizing that certain North Korean and terrorist organizations would not only be willing but also happy to pull that trigger.

Not only that but today if you make a comment or state an opinion, you will be attacked. Before it was just verbal attacks. Now, it is physical. Even asking someone to stop smoking in a non-smoking zone might result in being beaten nearly to death (the man beaten while using the Dallas rail system).

The mass media show story after story after story of mankind committing evil to each other and to innocent children. Online, social justice warriors wage war for their cause. Claiming to be tolerant and loving but all the while ripping into others with wild abandon. Attacking with hate-filled words and acting as if the other is wrong.

This is the world that I now live in.

With everything that is going on, it is easy to think it is all for naught. To think that it would be better to retreat from the world and hide in books or the cyber world.

But there is a flicker of light.

As a Christian, I know the score and I know how it will end. I also see the good in people. The Texans and New Orleanians rallying together to deal with Harvey. The people sending help to Florida and Puerto Rico. Not because they were ordered but because they want to. To see the people gathering together to get the injured at Las Vegas to safety.

And it is the kindness in the small actions by the common people.

Maybe the world is burning. Maybe not. But although the world is not as friendly as I would like, neither is it as terrible as the mass media.

If you look for the good, you won’t have to look very hard.