SELECT A Story
The kid with the lightning | The Candle Seller | The Baby Stealer | A Breath To End All and Awake | Deliberations of a Berserker | Lamentations of a Vampire | Prayers of a Saint | The Parable of the Philistine
The best day of my life was when I met the kid with the lightning. The school I went to wasn’t that big but considering my circumstances, I didn’t know everybody. So even though he only caught my attention that day, because no one ever saw him again, I’d probably seen him around before and never looked twice.
He cured me of what was wrong with me you see; people called it a CNS, which stands for central nervous system disease. I don’t remember what doctors called the disease exactly because when they diagnosed me I was pretty young. When you are a child and diagnosed with a disease like the one I was born with, you haven’t grown up to appreciate life yet, so you sort of don’t really care until later in life when it hits you: you are going to die much sooner than the rest of the kids at school.
The “later on” that I speak of is when I’d grown into my late teens and realized I was destined to die young. I so badly wanted to run around, fight and wrestle with other boys, to hang out with girls, drive around in a car, play in sports and live a long and healthy life where I could be somebody and do something; I just wanted to be normal. But as I came up wanting, an aggressive bout of depression, which would have lasted until my death (they had said it would be sometime in my early twenties), took a hold of me. But then he came, that kid with the lightning. I’ll never be able to tell a soul how it actually worked, how he cured me, but I’ll always be able to tell the story and I’ll never get tired of telling it either.
I was a junior in high school at the time. I used to become so depressed that I usually took my lunch in the hallway by the lockers so I could eat alone. Halfway through my meal I heard something crash in the cafeteria but it only interested me for a slight second. Then a girl screamed so I decided to wheel my chair around the corner and check it out.
I wheeled over the tiled cafeteria floor and into the lunchroom. A group of people had surrounded three other kids. One I knew to be Jess Thomlinson; I knew him because he was an asshole that picked on kids, even me, the kid in the wheelchair.
Jess stood with a few of his cohorts and they surrounded the kid with the lightning. The girl who I heard scream went running around another corner, probably looking for a teacher because Jess was obviously picking on the kid with the lightning. I figured I would stay and watch the imminent fight. The kid was new, and Jess was on him like a hawk. He liked picking on kids, but new kids were particularly easy and Jess was in true form.
The kid with the lightning had blue eyes that no one would usually look twice at, but when one of the older boys grabbed his sack lunch and started tossing it over the kid’s head to Jess, I thought I saw fleeting glimpses of something more in those eyes.
The room was silent except for the jeering and laughing of the bullies. The kid with the lightning started getting angry; he started shaking, or something, he was just vibrant, and the other two that were teasing him couldn’t stop laughing and taunting.
They did stop though as soon as the electricity started crackling. Everyone stopped, and some gasped. The two kids picking on him backed away into the crowd.
By this time two teachers ran around the corner with the tattletale girl that had left earlier, but they too stopped when they saw the lightning surround and permeate the kid’s body. Everyone stood transfixed. Jess was the only one left by the kid with the lightning and he tried to back away as well but the kid with the lightning reached out and snatched him up by his shirt. He threw Jess against a soda machine and held him there for a moment glaring at him with those electric blue eyes. The lighting began to grow around him and Jess cried out in agony. The lightning was coursing through both their bodies.
One of the teachers tried to intervene. She ran through the crowd but when she came within a few feet of the kid with the lightning, a bolt that came from him threw her back. I saw that her blouse had been singed and looked back to the fight.
No one could move; no one did a thing. We all stared helplessly as the kid with the lightning continued to electrocute Jess. I could smell his clothes and hair burning; it reminded me of the time I’d singed my eyebrows pretty bad while attempting to start a fire. Jess cried out for a few more minutes but after some time he stopped and his body only convulsed as the kid with the lightning let the electricity pour through him. When the kid with the lightning let him go, Jess was dead before he hit the ground.
Now I couldn’t tell you why, but after this happened, the kid with the lightning fell to his knees. He sobbed over Jess’s body, over the murder he had committed. His emotions had changed in a heartbeat. The rest of the student body and faculty and staff (they had all gathered by then) didn’t dare do anything. Everything and everyone stayed silent as though we were all at Jess’s funeral.
The kid with the lightning then picked up Jess’s body, turned to all of us with a tear-streaked face, like salty ocean water coming out of those blue eyes. The crowd parted as he walked through out of the lunchroom. His eyes flashed with electricity, real electricity, but he looked at no one, just straight ahead.
He walked slowly through the halls by the lockers. No one was worried about me at the moment, and I couldn’t blame them, so I did my best to keep up with the crowd as they followed him out the front doors. The whole of the school, I’m guessing every last person, went with the kid out onto the sidewalk.
The kid with the lightning stopped at the front of the school. I wheeled my chair around the side of everyone so I could see what he was doing.
Then it began to rain. On a clear perfect day, it began to rain. At first I thought it was just coincidence but then the lightning began to come. It wasn’t normal lightning that’s far away and you have to wait for the sound waves to catch up to hear the thunder; it was close as could be and the booming was almost unbearable. I clapped my hands to my ears and refused to back away. Everyone watched the kid with the lightning hold Jess up into the air as the lightning storm continued.
It went on for several minutes; I thought I would go deaf. I watched as the kid with the lightning let the bolts come down into his body. Finally the thunder stopped as the lightning bolts began to flow through him. We all let our hands fall and the lightning coursed through the kid again and Jess, the one that had been teasing him, the one that he had killed, began to convulse. Finally I heard him suck in a huge, slow, wheezy breath. The kid with the lightning set Jess down and he got up and scrambled away. Jess, that asshole, was alive again. I couldn’t believe it.
After this feeling of disbelief, another feeling crept across my mind. It tingled through my body like when you see an excellent end to a movie, or when your favorite songs’ chorus comes on. I was happy! The kid with the lightning had brought some kid I hated back to life and it thrilled me to the bone! Why did I care if Jess was okay? I could not figure it out.
Something lingering in the back of my mind made me remember that I had become so stoic, such a cynic, so depressed, that I knew I couldn’t feel like this anymore; I just couldn’t be happy. That’s when I noticed that the lightning wasn’t just going from the kid to Jess, but from him into everyone else at the school. I looked down at my hands and saw flickering lightning going through me, but it didn’t hurt at all; it was the opposite I suppose: it was curing me.
I stood up from my wheelchair for the first time in years. I looked around for everyone to see but no one noticed; everyone smiled and then started running around, jumping, laughing. Others that I knew had problems (I knew them because all the kids with disabilities took classes together) were doing so as well and for some reason I ran and did a cartwheel. I didn’t quite make it through it though and just when I thought I was going to hit the pavement the lightning lifted me back up again. The whole of the school began flying in a mix of lightning and some sort of electric blue energy coming from the eyes of the kid with the lightning.
I felt this web of energy surround and permeate everyone and everything that the kid with the lightning caught in it. I heard symphony music. I heard laughter. I heard angels singing. I felt euphoric, centered, balanced. I smelled clean, pure, fresh rain. I touched electric blue bolts of lightning, lightning hotter than the sun at their core and they didn’t burn me. He was curing us of everything wrong. Everything.
Slowly we were settled back down and the lightning began to dissipate. The euphoric state went away, but the after effect remained and I did not sit back down in my wheelchair; whatever happened had cured me.
The kid with the lightning then let all the energy flow back to him, a few more bolts came down on him in rapid succession and then CRACK he was gone, lost in the rain.
I never sat in a wheelchair again. I started working after that at a construction job and bought my first car, which was quite the upgrade from my mom’s handicap accessible van. I got in a few fights with boys at parties that I started attending and I ended up lettering my senior year on the boys’ basketball team. Not long after that I met the girl of my dreams. We settled down a few years later and had three children, all of them disease free.
Nobody believed anyone that saw that day what happened. We bring it up at high school reunions sometimes, but it’s like we’re all talking about a dream.
I’m 59 years old now and the doctors are still baffled at how I’m alive and in perfect health. Even though they never believe me, I always tell ‘em this story; like I said, I never get tired of telling it.
He was black, black as night. And he was painfully short. But none of that should have been a reason for everyone to despise him and reject his attempts at selling them his candles. For indeed the candles were of great quality and at even then at a reasonable price.
The quality, at least in his own thoughts, was due to his homemade approach and the love and effort that went into each candle. None of these were from an assembly line; each one he’d hand crafted from beeswax. The beeswax was somewhat dangerous for him to collect, if again, that was only in his head, it still remained a constant nuisance going to the bees. He feared them, and the bees sensed the fear, so he thought.
But nonetheless he gathered the wax from them, thanked them, thanked the beekeeper and went about on his way molding.
For the wicks he braided cotton around wood. He carved the wood into thin, tall slivers and then braided the cotton tightly around to make fine wicks. After dying them with a special flame-resistant dye (a trick that took him years to discover and a trick that the candles otherwise, for those years, would not burn properly) he would begin the dipping process with the beeswax. He made them large and small and fat and thin; he made them dyed with other colors. He tried designs by carving with small toothpicks at the wax, but still they did not sell.
And again, even the price was fair. Oftentimes if he were lucky enough for someone to even ask for a price he would say that they could pay whatever they wished, as long as he made something for his trouble and passion. Mostly they would consider that odd and shut the door.
Certainly he was a quiet individual, quiet enough, he thought. But that also shouldn’t have deterred people. He mostly was just scared of them, and scared of judgment, derision, the like.
It might have been that he had antennas. They were long, longer than his body and under them lay his wings. Most crickets looked as such, but most people hated crickets, he supposed. He lugged around the candles through the streets with a string holding the four candles that he currently had. It took him about eight minutes to lug the candles from door to the next. He’d started counting.
It’d been about three years since anyone had purchased a candle; these ones were becoming old, but candles mostly kept all right. He almost despaired at the thought of making more before selling these old ones that were starting to become scratched up and faded.
The next place was nestled in a small town out in the countryside. The houses were wood and packed close enough together. The stars shone bright as it was late in the evening. The candle seller took grabbed a pebble by the side of the door and knocked it against the wooden door. If he didn’t knock with pebbles, people would never hear him.
An old man answered the door. He wore some oversized night shirt and a cap that bent over and rested in a point on his right shoulder.
“Who’s there? Who is it?” he shouted out.
“Down here sir,” said the cricket.
“Oh,” said the old man. He looked down through his half moon glasses and his nose and saw the cricket. “I say, quite late isn’t it?” he cleared his throat. “Especially for a cricket.”
“I’m nocturnal sir.”
“Well quite late for me anyhow,” said the old man grumpily.
The cricket knew humans like to wake up with the sunrise but this made selling candles difficult. He liked to wake up when the sun went down. He tried to utilize these precious few hours when he and humans were awake at the same time.
“I’m sorry, I thought I might catch you before you went off to bed, sir.”
“Yes?” the old man adjusted his glasses and craned his neck up whilst straining his eyes down. “And what for? Come out, out with it.”
“Do you read at night sir?”
“Oh, yes, hmm, candles eh.” He said the word candles with some sort of disdain. “I’ve heard about you. Come in, come in.”
The cricket was taken aback. A long ways aback, because no one, in the history of his candle making, candle selling, and any travels ever had invited him in for anything. Some people tried to step on him. Purposefully step on him.
“Well,” the cricket hesitated.
“Come on, come on. It’s cold out.” The old man grabbed up the four candles before the cricket had a chance to respond further. He followed him in.
“Sit down,” the old man motioned to a soft velvet chair across from another. The fire burned bright. The cricket jumped up and sat in the middle watching the old man put his candles by the shoes.
“So what kind of cricket sells candles?” asked the old man. He puffed on a pipe now.
“Well,” thought the cricket. “I suppose there’s nothing else to do, we’ve all got to make a living.”
“Humans, do, yes, but not crickets. There’s something else to it.”
The cricket hesitated once again. “Well, it’s not satisfying work, I admit.”
“And no one really likes me, it seems. I never sell any candles.” He motioned to his four candles. “I’ve had those for years now. Maybe I need new wax.”
The old man shook his head. “You’re missing the point.”
“How do you mean?”
“It’s not the wax, it’s what you’re doing.”
“Maybe I’m a loser.”
The cricket looked down with his beady black eyes and moped. All the thoughts came flooding. This happened once in a small while. “Maybe nobody likes me for a reason. Maybe I should quit.”
Setting down his old pipe, the old man then pressed his thumb and forefinger together and started rubbing them in a circle.
The cricket stared.
The old man kept rubbing them in a small circle.
The cricket looked away, feeling the awkwardness of the situation.
“Do you know what this is?” asked the old man. He continued on.
The cricket shook his head.
“It’s the smallest violin playing just you.”
“I don’t know what that means,” said the cricket.
The man stood up slowly. “It means quit feeling sorry for yourself because nobody else does!” The old man arrived at the door and opened it. “I’m keeping the candles. Find a woman, someone you love, perhaps. This candle business is only killing you.”
The cricket, uncertain of how he would acquire the candles had he even wanted them, hopped out the door. He heard it slam behind him.
Later that night, when the sky was full and still and the humans had all gone off to bed, the cricket sat in the grass outside of that tiny village and thought about what the old man had said. He pondered on being depressed and why the candles wouldn’t sell. He thought about other things besides. He pictured symphonies composed entirely of violins. He pictured himself playing a tiny violin.
Then he thought of his wings, their fine comb, and the words of the grumpy old man. Slowly, he scraped the top of his right wing on the bottom edge of his left. It made a noise that pleased him to the core; a noise that he hadn’t thought he’d ever be able to produce. He scraped harder and softer and back and forth until the sounds started coming together.
For hours he experimented.
Being one of the very few crickets in the world, he wasn’t prepared in the least when a lady cricket stuck her beady eyes over a hill in the grass.
He stopped and stared at her. Then he immediately kept playing for fear she would leave.
He stroked his wings together creating music that he found beautiful beyond words.
Perhaps she would too, he supposed.
“What is that,” the lady cricket said. She was awed and inspired, he could tell.
He cleared his throat worried about what he might say. He stroked his wings again and met her gaze.
“What is that?” she asked again. She was very close now, as immersed in him as much as his music.
“Well,” he started clearing his throat again. “It’s the world’s smallest violin,” he finally said triumphantly.
She waited awestruck.
He continued playing and looked to her.
“Why are you playing?” she asked.
“I’m playing just for you,” he replied.
She smiled and he never thought about candles ever again.
I’ll never forget the man who stole the babies. I’ve seen him do it and I know he still does it to this day. The only thing I can’t decide is if I think it’s okay. You see, I never did hear him justify why he stole the babies, not really, there was just something about what he did that day; the little bit that he did say to me. Something about it.
I was about 12 years old when it happened, but I remember the story vividly, because I’ve never stopped going over it in my mind. I woke up late that morning to my mom hollering that my brother had just become a daddy because my sister in law had just given birth to a baby boy. It was summertime and I hated school more than anything, so the last thing I wanted to do was drive from the country where we lived into the big city. I’d had plans of going out exploring in our backwoods, but when I tried to pretend I was still sleeping my mom came in and turned on the light in my room and said, in more or less words, that if I didn’t get going she was going paint my ass a few different shades of red with her wooden spoon.
I dressed and went outside to the station wagon where she was waiting for me. I didn’t know what city we were headed to but I had to sit in the car for over an hour thinking about the fun I was missing out on.
When we did arrive at the hospital I just followed my mom through the doors and into the sterile environment. It smelled funny; I wanted to leave after I saw all the old people that looked like they were barely alive, waiting to die, but still scared or something.
We rode the elevator up about three or four floors to the maternity ward. When we went around several turns and to the receptionist desk, my mom gave the receptionist our names, which the lady wrote down. She then handed us sticky pieces of plastic that we put on our shirts. After this we were told the room number and another nurse came up from behind us. She looked young and very cheerful. She flashed a white smile at us and gestured for us to follow, leading the way to a large glass door with black Xs running through it. It looked impenetrable. The nurse then slid a security key card through a slot and a green light blinked on. The door made a noise of releasing pressure that reminded me of something out of a science fiction movie.
“Why do you have to let us through?” I asked. She smiled her phony smile again. “We have security doors so that people don’t steal the little babies.” She and mother chuckled. I furrowed my eyebrows.
I went through and down the hall with my mom.
“Why do they worry about people stealing babies?” I had asked.
She was looking for room 1056 (they had to write the room number on our name tags too, apparently so we wouldn’t be caught in the wrong room) and she hardly heard me. “She was just joking with you; it’s just a precaution,” she replied distractedly.
We found the room were looking for and went in. I couldn’t possibly see what everyone was so excited about. My sister in law sat in bed looking pale and tired while grandmas, aunts, moms and dads passed around a fat little hunk of pasty wrinkly boy. I looked at it once, decided that everyone was just lying about how cute it was to be nice, and slipped out to explore while my mom was preoccupied.
The door shut behind me and muffled out the enamored voices. I went around a few corners, looking for anything more interesting.
The maternity ward was a huge square floor with about fifty doors on the outer walls. In the middle of the floor I saw a large rectangular room with thick windows bearing the same plastic Xs on them that marked the security door. This room housed hundreds of little babies, all of them in plastic cribs with a clear plastic dome over the top of each of them. Little pink and blue hats dotted the room and only the babies, no other humans, lie inside. Some had tubes and other plastic devices hook up to their domes. It reminded me of the Matrix movie; all part of something bigger than them that they had no clue about. This odd depersonalization and mess of technology kept me staring and thinking long enough for the Baby Stealer to cross my path.
As far as stereotyping goes, it was easy to tell that the man was out of place in the maternity ward: he wasn’t with anyone and he didn’t have a baby, at least not when he came in.
Furthermore, he wore some sort of long pea coat and rocked some shaggy salt and pepper hair with a wrinkly face covered in stubble. His eyes were darting from left to right looking at all the babies. He slowly turned and faced me for a split second and then he moved on passed.
Of course I couldn’t help but follow him.
He walked quickly and with purpose, as if someone were following him, but he kept his eyes on the plastic cribs to his right and the room numbers on his left. He stopped several times and looked intently through the glass but he didn’t find the baby he was looking for until we came to the end of the hall.
He stopped and peered through again at another set of babies in their cribs. I had one eye on him from around a corner. He put his hands up to the glass and stared at this one baby in particular. He stared for so long that at one point I thought that perhaps my suspicions of why he was there were only in my head; perhaps he was a father looking for his own baby. He looked on for several more minutes at the baby and then made sort a small raspy chuckle. It made me flinch, and I held my breath, scared of the man, the Baby Stealer.
In an inhuman feat he smashed his hand through twice making a hole big enough to pull the child through. The black Xs hung suspended keeping together broken bits of glass. When he took up the baby it began to cry.
I stood stunned. He walked back and passed me as though I didn’t exist.
I quickly composed myself and ran after him.
The Baby Stealer bolted around several corners and back to the security doors. He was so fast, especially for his age, and I could barely keep up. Some sort of alarms had one off when he’d smashed the glass, so by then two nurses had been following him shouting at him to stop and people began to come out of their rooms to see what the commotion was all about. The Baby Stealer kept his eyes locked on the security doors.
I watched the receptionist reach under her desk and push a button. The Baby Stealer reached the security doors and tried to smash through these as well. The glass must have been much thicker here and bulletproof because even the strength of the man couldn’t budge them. The receptionist picked up the phone and dialed shakily.
The Baby Stealer, still holding the crying child, wheeled on a nurse cowering in the corner.
“The security card,” was all he said.
A man, another visitor, much bigger than the Baby Stealer walked out of one of the rooms.
“Now take it easy there mister,” he had said. “I don’t know what your story is, or if you’re the father, but the police are on their way and I’m not letting you take that baby out of here.”
The Baby Stealer smiled.
“Heroes…” he said.
It was difficult to understand for certain what he did next. In under a jiff, the baby stealer had hit the man, or done something, that made him unconscious, rushed to the nurse, knocked her unconscious as well, and grabbed the security card off her neck before either of them had hit the ground. Still to this day I’ve never seen a human move anywhere near that fast.
Everyone in the room backed away except for me. You could call it bravery, being a naïve child, or what have you, but I walked up to him in defiance because I thought what he was doing was wrong.
I didn’t say anything to him right away but when he swiped the card, the green light blinked on again and those security doors made the depressurization noise and opened up for him. I followed after him, both of us leaving everyone in the maternity ward in fear and shock.
As I had done when he was looking for the right baby, I followed him again. I was a slender and light-footed kid so I don’t think he knew I had slipped through the security doors and followed him down the stairs that he had decided to take rather than the elevator.
When we got into the parking lot he began to walk at a much faster pace, like I said he was so fast he was losing me quickly, so before he ran away I shouted at him.
“Hey! Why did you do that?” I asked not knowing what else to say.
He jumped and spun around holding the baby with only one arm and holding the other out in defense.
We stopped in a stand off in the parking lot just the two of us. He held the baby and said nothing for a moment and I stood with my fists clenched.
“Why did you hurt those people?” I asked more meekly.
The Baby Stealer glanced back up at the hospital.
“They’ll be fine kid, I promise,” he said.
He turned to leave again.
“Why are you stealing that baby?” I asked. “Is it yours?”
The Baby Stealer turned again but I could tell he was becoming impatient with me.
“No, it’s not mine,” he said. He looked around quickly and back up to the hospital. “Kid, I don’t expect you to ever understand what happened today, hell, I don’t expect most adults to. I won’t get a chance to explain myself to them, but it doesn’t matter.” He sighed. “Have you ever known something in your life? Known the absolute truth about something when nobody else did?”
I thought for a brief moment. “I don’t know,” I had said, because at the time, truly I didn’t.
“You ever known you had to save everyone from someone even though you they’re going to hate you for it? Even though you know no one will even believe what you know?”
“No,” I had said because truly I hadn’t.
“You have to know, not think, know, that you never truly can know for certain. And if you haven’t considered every aspect of every situation, which is impossible, you can’t judge it correctly,” he continued quickly. I didn’t quite comprehend at the time.
We both jerked our heads toward the sounds of police sirens in the distance.
“I’ll let you in on something,” he said. He looked down at the little baby in his arms. “This here baby that I’m holding could’ve been the end of everyone and everything you know, and of course, you. I just saved millions of lives by stealing this baby, yours included. I’ve done it countless times before this and I’ll do it countless times again. I’ll be condemned for the rest of my life as a baby stealer, a coward, and a murderer. I’ll be the only person that knows what I’ve done is right and I’ll die a hated man for it.”
“You’re going to kill that baby?” I asked.
“It’s either him…. or you and everyone else, kid. You wanna make that call?”
I looked back toward the police sirens and when I looked back to where he had been standing, he was gone.
I had to hear for weeks from my mom about how she’ll never understand why I went down to talk to that kidnapper and how lucky I am that he didn’t kidnap me as well as that poor baby and how if I ever did anything that stupid again and lived through it she’d make me regret it.
My mom says he was a terrible man, but to this day I still can’t decide if he was telling the truth. Was the baby stealer doing the right thing? He said he would die a hated man by everyone and maybe he was right. But I’ll never know if the Baby Stealer saved my life. I can’t know.
It was lively in the month of May where I was. The grass and trees were turning green, people had started walking and jogging through life again. And it was even raining more than usual, April showers starting late and May flowers coming later I suppose. So people out and about were breathing in the freshly washed air. Life was, well, life.
That all changed when I started answering questions.
It’s like when you’re at a party and you remember the name of the first person you meet, but no one else after that. That’s why I remember the first few people so well. After that, after so many times of them changing, or whatever they did, I started forgetting the questions and the answers.
The first person was a man. He’d pulled up to me at a red light. He rolled down his window and bid me do the same.
So I did.
“You from around here?” he’d asked. The traffic all stopped for it.
“I guess,” I’d replied.
He sort of furrowed his eyebrows in an odd scared, yet very incredulous manner. He looked puzzled and worried. I gave him the same look back, but with even more of a puzzled look.
I wondered what his problem was. Then he wanted to continue.
“Where is the grocery store?” he asked tentatively as if his questions were somehow becoming less important.
“It’s down the road here, on 22nd.” I pointed.
His face grew serious, jaded, and dark. He looked away from me and down; he stared through space and time and refused to move again.
I shook my head wondering what the hell his problem was and hit the gas pedal. Cars behind me had started honking. The man looking for the store stood where he was like a statue. His was face blank and almost sad. I shook my head again.
That was the first one, I came to realize.
The second time I walked up to a lady and she handed me a pamphlet. She was soliciting something or trying to get me to understand something. I told her I didn’t care.
She stopped, looked down and froze with that same sad look that the man from the road had done. I watched her for about three minutes or so and never saw her move again.
When it first started happening, I wasn’t even aware of what was going on; then it became more and more apparent that something was indeed happening, and now I know for certain what I had done. Well, I didn’t know exactly what the effect was or why, but I did know exactly what would happen if I did certain things.
A few more people went alone like this before I sought out his advice.
Winding up on the grassy downs of that place, where I knew him to be, I strode up confidently. He stood straighter, apprehensively as if he somehow knew that I would be the one to answer questions and end his so called movement, or life, or sentience, or whatever. I would somehow end him, all but the physical part of him. And so it was, he saw the color of my soul for what it denoted, that one anomaly. He stepped back with his dominant food, cowering, with that look of someone that hates you, but is too afraid to for their own safety and soul to release it all quite yet. As if he had a hope.
Nothing needed saying. I looked him straight in the eyes, not in any crude or malicious way, not attempting to intimidate, but still I knew he was afraid; we sensed each other somehow more than most entities do.
“You need to stop telling people facts. You need to stop speaking forever,” he said with as much contempt as a coward could muster. His attempt at saving himself and everyone.
Yet I couldn’t, wouldn’t, believe it; I was not the ender of all things to come; I was me still, and what I wanted wasn’t what was happening. My intent would be all that mattered. I didn’t intend to stop people when I spoke to them. I just intended to speak. Because I didn’t know it would happen the first time that I answered the man about the grocery store and now I couldn’t know that it would happen each and every time I did it.
“That’s not true,” I said.
In that moment, blood left his face and a whiteness crept into his eyes, an ominous fear. This later I found to be important. For he had not stopped, as had all the other people I’d told things too. He did not become an empty man staring down with a sorrow filled look into an empty void that was the nothingness from which they stemmed. This had made him right because my denial wasn’t a truth.
“No way,” I said.
Again, he continued breathing, living, reacting; doing what life always tends to. And then he gasped, closed his mouth and waited for his end.
“I’m going to continue on,” I said.
Just like that, he froze and became nothing more than a void with clothing, that shell of a once living being.
And continue on is what I indeed did do. I refused to believe it all; call it denial, call it spite, hatred, contempt, or an adamant disbelief, but I did continue on, this time to greater and, later, greater extremes.
I’d sit outside of bars and restaurants with signs bearing “1+1=2” and the like. Everyone stopped. Yet I found, that I couldn’t stop continuing on. I didn’t believe it. Telling people facts and truths is something I should not have had to abate doing. I hated it. I refused to believe it. Even if I would have believed it, I would have continued on because my ending was not something I did actively. Sitting with a sign did not mean that people had to read it; curiosity kills the cat and they made it so. Furthermore I refused to shut my mouth or never answer another question again. I refused to stop living because I was ending. If I actively oppressed it was only because I did not want to actively oppress myself for the sake of others. This is a fair universe and when they would tell me facts or truths, I did not cease. Therefore it was only fair that I continued on. Also, if it mattered, since I decided that intent is all that really does, I went further down the path and decided that though I’d ended thousands upon thousands of souls, I couldn’t know that each and every next person would stop as well.
Sooner rather than later, most people were standing, or some sitting, staring with blank, saddened looks from my truths and facts. I moved to bigger cities.
Eventually the world was nothing, I was the best, I was the only person, that I knew, that was impervious from all said facts and statements of anything said to be true in this dimension of this universe.
For a time I found myself alone.
Then I saw him. It was very strange the paradoxical nature of how it was exactly that I found him, the physical part of it, and what the metaphorical part of it all wrapped together to become. Because I’d been traveling wood and water, sand and stone, yet finding no one and nothing, let alone anyone to relate to, he was like a shining light of life and difference in the world. But that was just the analogous aspect of his life inflicted on mine.
For when I saw him, I’d been walking into a small grass field, with tall plush grass. In the middle stood up a small cluster of enormously imposing trees. On the tops of them the leaves and wood were, respectively, green and deep brown with life, as was the green grass above their roots. But in the middle of that middle tree, he waited, intertwined, imbedded in the dead wood. For about twenty feet in any direction of this oddity, everything appeared dry, ashen, and dead.
I stopped and looked up to him shading my eyes from the setting sun.
“You the last one?” I’d asked.
The trees began to loosen around him and I saw what he truly was. In those trees they’d wrapped a figure cloaked with the darkest, blackest cloak and mantle. Above that mantle a jaw stretched out far further than any normal human’s. His bones wore no meat or skin.
But they bled. All of it, every orifice of every bone, bled; from the fount of dark empty sockets he shed scarlet tears.
Then he finally nodded at my question. He ascended, without words, he came toward me from some scentless, lifeless wind that bore only him. The trees wrought their dead sinews back together and life sprung back into them as that wind lowered him. Everywhere though, as he moved, in any direction from him, it all died.
I’m not sure if I was worried. He came up to me and I refused to warrant him any more special than any humans.
“Those are trees,” I said to him hoping he would end.
He nodded slowly, silently, again. His jaw jutted toward me and those bones about his teeth stayed slightly apart; always blood crept from them.
Holding out his hand to me, I knew him to be different; that light of the world, that light of the universe, that light that I was, but at the same time, that blackness that killed everything around him.
“No thank you,” I said squinting. The sun had crept further toward the horizon and I faced west.
He held out his hand again. I tried to be polite.
“I’m fine,” I tried again. I couldn’t walk away. Had I deserved whatever he was about to do? Was I my own hangman? I’d thought.
Within inches of my face, so was his and his hand slowly drifted out of my vision.
And he blew a calm breath on my face.
The elders believe fervently in the old ways that incorporate a belief that one man might actually go “berserk.” This, of course, is the dream of every berserker; every berserker, save myself. According to the elders and to the prophecies laid down thousands of years ago, a berserker shall emerge every hundred years from the start of the campaign to destroy each of the seven nations that banded together to destroy our race, until the end of the wars. We have fought incessantly for twenty-five years now without seeing this anomaly.
The elders have put into place a rule that we as warriors live by; everyone fights until everyone is dead. We have nothing left to fight for, or shall I say live for, save revenge. Our families, even the women, all of them, were slaughtered; the proliferation of our race is impossible, demise imminent. The last of the berserker race, our army, will not retreat on the battlefield. The elders assign us all numbers, when the leader dies, number two commands until he dies and then three until he dies until the battle is won, or until our enemy extinguishes the fire of each and every one of our mortal bodies. Of course it has yet to come to this and legend says that it never will, for if the doom of our race appears is impending, one of us will feel the blood in his veins boil to a degree unbearable. He will throw off his bearskin tunic as his muscles bulge to disproportionate size. His black hair will grow to great lengths. He will shed tears of blood from his scarlet eyes for the loss of his race and the lust of battle will surround and permeate his mind, body, and soul.
I desperately fear becoming the creature they describe as one who has gone berserk. A madman sent to kill with tooth and claw. The berserker in berserk mode will destroy all those on the battlefield with rash impudence and feel no regret. But it is evil enough that I kill out of fear.
Am I evil? I ask myself as I stare into the fire, only male berserkers surrounding me. The actual question should read: Is self defense evil? First let me define evil as best a berserker knows how: the evil lurk in the shadows of life whilst the good do not fear the light. We learn this early on in life. Yes, we kill, but it is for a greater good and for vengeance. Whilst I do not fear the light, I partake in these nefarious events so that I might save my own life. The real dilemma I wrestle with is what we are not taught; does a virtuous end justify evil means? If the answer is no then I believe evil will perpetually occupy the world that we so desperately fight to conquer, unite, and rule with a just force, whilst we still have time. Also, we should not correlate self-defense with evil. Self-defense is merely fear; but fear leads to evil. I often inquire what I fear more than anything. The answer that I would give the elders is the fear of the blood of the berserkers being lost and forgotten, the fear of dilution of our blood, or the fear of oppression by a race we should have overtaken on the battlefield; these are all lies. Whilst I do fear these things to a certain extent, it remains a lie as some of my other fears have taken precedence over these. For a time, I believed dying was my biggest fear, but I do no longer know it to be true for certain. I think I possess a greater fear of not letting myself know when I have lost my mind.
Should I kill those we mean to rule? Should I kill for sadistic reasons? Should I kill because life angered me? Should I kill for a greater good? Should I kill for vengeance?
I possess a greater fear of a tormented afterlife where everyman is forced to look at the stains his trespasses have put upon his soul. Whilst this is the case, I do still fear death to the point of killing another human being that wishes to take my life or that has taken the life of someone I loved. But then when I think of my soul I wish not to kill and therefore should fear dying less. I am torn. To fight as a berserker, what a campaign! But to die will be the greatest campaign of all. This, with death, may be the correct thought, but until I am sure, thought it may be evil, I will fight for my life and pray not to become the berserker of legend, for the only way to not fear those in the shadows, is to become those in the shadows.
The rain fell heavy that night, the night we lost him. The four vampires of the time had gathered in a grimy alley on the outskirts of an unknown town. The rain fell straight down in heavy, warm, May drops, but the pleasant shower still made it difficult to see.
David stood to my left, his wet hair stuck against his well-defined face, Matthews to my right, the rain beading on his closely shaven head. Matthews smoked, not that it mattered, he had for 500 years, but he couldn’t now with the rain. I could tell he wanted one.
I looked through the wire fence erected in front of me, and then to the sky. It gave me no sign of the last to come: Jonathan. He should have been there in time. Punctuality mattered to us during an age when Deaths relentlessly hunted vampires for their arbitrary reason.
I paced away from the fence towards the now muddy dirt road to the south. The wind grew stronger as I neared the road. It blew back my old leather trench coat I’d owned since America’s civil war.
I felt David’s eyes on my back.
“Where the hell is he?” he half yelled through the rain.
I didn’t answer. Us four had had so many conversations that we mostly only talked when it mattered. David had only asked the question to break the nervous silence. The minutes went by like the rain, each minute an irrelevant drop of water vanishing into eternity.
Could a Death have found Jonathan? I wondered to myself. I turned to the other two and kicked at the ground with my solid leather boots. Matthews glared at me.
We had set up the meeting in order to make sure Jonathan had come back from Sweden all right. Usually we traveled in pairs, at the least, so that if a Death did kill one of us, the other could inform our band. Jonathan was younger than us and more defiant of our code.
He’d traveled alone that year.
When worry almost overtook me completely, I heard, through the pouring rain, Jonathan’s voice. He came through the dark shroud of water quickly and calling my name.
I drew my ancient sword and David his modified handgun. Matthews glared at Jonathan.
“Where the hell…” began David.
“A Death.” Jonathan panted pointing to the western sky. “I saw one, it followed me, when I turned I could see it calling my name but I covered my ears and flew. I flew around in different areas to try and shake it.”
And just as Jonathan had come the Death did as well. Through the droplets everything turned into slow motion at that point in my life. I saw the Death first, easily distinguishing it from a normal man or even a vampire. It stood seven foot tall or so wearing a black suit and a round brimmed hat. It looked up past the black brim and a smile crossed his putrid white face.
“Jonattthhannn…” It whispered in my friend’s ear before he even had a chance to face it; and Jonathan fell dead.
In a flash of bats I turned myself into I was off with what I hoped was my two remaining vampires, for I knew the Death need only speak a being’s name and they were lost to death and nothingness forever. The swirl of bats on my flanks let me know that David and Matthews had been quick as I had and escaped without losing their sentience.
My consciousness a flurry of black creatures cried as it could for the vampire I knew I would never speak to again.
I would mourn Jonathan for hundreds of years, if not more, for to die as a human, you would’ve died anyway, but to die as a vampire, you could’ve lived forever.
No, we are not as Christ was and is; we are not divine. Although we do possess the ability to heal and perform miracles as Christ did, we are only able through prayer. We are but a conduit through which the Lord channels his divinity. We do not even force these acts to happen these miraculous acts, but rather we let God use us so that the Son, and the Spirit might work through our wishes and our crude material bodies in order to restore those in need and punish the wicked. People do, however, give us credit. Men do not see God and therefore they lose sight of who sits behind everything. Too often have people praised me for only doing the work that the Lord has blessed me and allowed me to do. Too often have people given me credit for what only He can do.
Once upon walking down a not so crowded sidewalk on the outskirts of a large town, I saw him: the first one I healed. He was inflicted with a disease known to man; something they would give a particular name to, but I know what all disease is and that all disease is merely pain and imminent death that I am able to eliminate through Christ.
I watched him struggle to walk. I watched as he limped down the street, as his face contorted in pain and depression. I felt the bones in his body ready to break and his heart ready to give in to the rough battle of the immune system attacking its own temple. I felt this man’s soul cry to be released so that it might no longer feel the pain of this mortal world. I heard the thoughts race through his head: thoughts of pain, anxiety, depression, and most of all, betrayal. Then I watched him stumble, I watched him fall and in that moment before he smote the pavement that would break his body, I heard him cry out in his mind: “Why have you forsaken me?”
I stopped time and space for a brief moment and every created being ceased moment, save for myself; I quickly bowed to one knee and folded my hands. In that frozen moment in time I took my eyes from his body that hung suspended in mid-air and closed them.
Forget the past of this man. Thou hath given him trials and tribulations beyond what many can handle. Not through my will, but through yours alone doth this man’s fate rely. I know what ails him and cannot bear to see him suffer to the point of death without belief. Raise him up and heal the body of this man so that his soul might be saved. I release mine energy and thoughts to thee so that it might be reciprocated back in the form of divinity. Oh Lord, be a blessing and a savior unto this man as thou have been unto me. When mine own time comes, may the angels wing with great speed and joy me and those whom I share a fate with to an eternity in paradise. It is done, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, Amen.
And then time and space continued to move. The man fell hard, but it was not the pain that he had expected; a pain that might leave him there forever to rot and die, cursing the Lord for choosing him as this vessel of disease. It was a pain of his knee hitting the pavement and the pain of his outstretched arm with cuts on his palm from stopping himself. I stood then and pocketed my hands to watch. I don’t know if the man knew that it was I who prayed for him, he simply stood up, with ease, and looked at his hand and then his knee. He smiled at me and tilted his head back to the sky. He was praying in that moment; I imagine we were both thanking the Lord for the same thing. He was healed. The lame could run, and run he did. I watched him run away screaming with joy, not caring who heard, for he was well again.
That man did not know what I did for him that day but I do not hold it against him for truly it was the Lord. Besides, he will know one day when we both die and flights of angels must carry me and those that I have bound to my soul that they might not see damnation.
Once a man walked on his way in the middle of a raging blizzard. The snow stacked up to about a foot high when it finally stopped.
When the man saw that the snow had stopped, he looked around and noticed that he stood at the beginning of a large clearing that stretched from a small forest to a small town.
The man put down his bag and began to stomp the snow down in about a foot wide trail.
For hours and hours he continued to walk back and fourth from the forest to the village and stomp out a foot wide path that people could walk easier.
When he stomped the snow down in a path he looked up to see he was at the village. He put his hands on his hips and looked from the clearing to the forest at his work. When he was about to leave an old man from the village surprised him and said as he came to the path:
“What is this?”
“A path for the people of this village to use,” said the man that created it.
The old man looked at the path, taking in every aspect of it for quite some time.
“Truly a thing of beauty lad,” said the old man. “The path is made of snow that sends off shards of shimmering light; it is varied in parts and not a straight line. It represents how we all take, and make, different paths in life. Everyone, no doubt, will use it son.”
“Thank you sir,” replied the man that made the path.
The old man patted him on the back and walked to the forest using the path.
While the man that had created the path took up his bags and almost set out again, another young man came up to the path.
“Did you make this path?” asked the other young man.
“I did,” replied the man that had made it.
The young man from the village stared at the path for a little while before stating:
“This is the worst path I have ever seen. You used packed down snow to make it over snow already, it becomes wider than a foot in some spots and less than a foot in others and it is not a straight line from the village to that forest!”
The man that had built the path did not look hurt by the comment at all. He stared at his path for quite some time. Then he shrugged and replied:
“This may be the worst path you have ever seen, I’ll give you that. But I’d be willing to bet that you and everyone in your village will use it.”