Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Middle of the End

Note: Bad language is bad. And yes, I am using a Wacko Jacko popcorn meme for this. 

The Alpha Ginger

Rani’s pride would be his downfall, yet again. The fool still didn’t understand what he was up against. The Alpha Ginger wasn’t a mere rival for Rani; he was a part of him. The Alpha Ginger was the worst aspects of Rani made incarnate. They were point and counterpoint, two sides of the same coin, inverse reflections of each other. It was Rani’s own self-loathing that drove Alpha to destroy him. Even Ameldi didn’t understand the implications of that, or she would know the fruitlessness of her betrayal. Rani defeating him would not restore the balance; it would detonate the time bomb created when Rani lost to his contradiction. They had created a paradox when Alpha defeated Rani in a timeline prior to his creation. A null had been created, and that was his insurance that his nihilistic dreams would come true.

Even if Rani bested him, against all odds, it would all be for nothing and all would return to nothing. Survival was never the goal, and that was the point. No one would survive the end of existence, and his death being the catalyst for the universal extinction was still a victory. The Ginger Apocalypse was just a way to sweeten the deal and go out with a bang.

“Bravo.” It was time to burst Rani’s bubble and end the suffering of the miserable universe. “You have me and my army right where we want to be.”

Rani lost a one on one battle; it would take more than the four traitors to help him overcome an army of soulless killing machines. It would be amusing to watch them try, though, especially once he awakened the army and they started to form the vortex due to so many of them being in such a close proximity.

“So what happens now?”

“Now we end this.” The confidence was a façade, an utter bluff. The desperate truth was that Rani was terrified. The last and only time the he encountered the ginger devil, it had not ended well for Rani. The villain had dispatched Rani with ease: the fight was almost over before it started. He couldn’t let history repeat itself. “Captain, Trix, I’ll take it from here.”

It was cheap; it was dirty. It was anti-climactic. Rani did it anyway.

Rani started the bout with a move designed to finish it, drawing white hot energy to his open hand and releasing the power into a concentrated beam of light aimed directly at his opponent’s head. The anime inspired assault would have removed any trace of its target had it landed, completely obliterating the threat. Unfortunately for Rani, but fortunately for his enemy and the story, his rival evaded the lethal light with a swift side step.

Alpha retaliated with an upper cut to Rani’s jaw, stumbling the hero and causing his head to roll back to create the desired opening. Alpha lashed out with his cane, grasping it from the bottom and swinging it toward Rani’s exposed throat as a scythe blade emerged from the other end. Rani caught Alpha in the chest with an open palm, canceling the harbinger’s momentum and causing him to lose his grip on the cane as he struggled to regain his balance. Rani failed to capitalize on the opportunity, distracted by Alpha’s revealed features as the top hat fell to the ground. Without the unnatural shadow of the hat’s glamour to obscure his features, Rani recognized his nemesis. Alpha looked just like him.

“What the missionary fuck?!”

Shemo, Aethon, and Donut

“Who is offering missi…holy priest balls, there are two of you?” Donut materialized at the center of a large glyph spreading across the weathered stone floor. “This is not the twin action I wished for when I blew out the candles.”

“What kind of boy band name is Out the Candles?” Shemo added, appearing beside him. “Sorry we’re a bit late; Aethon made us wait until we could be the punchline.” A disembodied chuckle rode the sand laced breeze, the echoes bombarding everyone as they increased in volume until the cumulated in Aethon appearing next to Shemo and Donut.

“Either everyone is a martyr, or no one is.” The techno-path shrugged without remorse. Aethon allowing the others to pass through, and following them from his access point at the server cache, decompiled Rani’s foolishly built self-terminating sequence. They were freelancing the code now, all at the mercy of variables defining in real time.

In other, smaller and more Donut appropriate, words: shit was fucking real now.

The lull in the action caused by the revelation of the Alpha Ginger’s true nature and the arrival of Rani’s remaining allies dissolved into chaos as steam bursts filled the room. The chambers scattered across the improvised lab blasted the white hot mist in all directions as they released their pressure sealed contents into the world.  Dozens of pale skinned clones stumbled forth from the steam, hair sprouting from albino scalps in repulsive red ringlets. The melanin and soul deprived hosts converged on the three new arrivals, multiplying by the second as the machines turned out an angry horde of blossoming scarlet fever. The trio quickly vanished among the storm of sea and flesh in the ranga rampage. Donut’s exclamation about “too much white wang” was swallowed by the chaotic commotion of the cascade of clones.

The Alpha Ginger

“After all this, you’re still being alliterative? You really can’t help yourself, can you? No wonder you had enough bullshit insecurity and vice to create your own supervillain. It’s pathetic that you have to write yourself into a story as the hero and the villain to get the pencil moving. Even you can’t be so oblivious that you don’t see the ironic symbolism that me killing you was you figuratively falling on your sword. What kind of masturbatory bullshit is this? You can’t beat me because I’m the best part of you. I’m your fucking Tyler Durden. Even if you win this eye-of-the-tiger bullshit rematch, you still lose. This was always my game to win.” The ginger’s face darkened to match his hair, the flush of anger spreading as he spewed his hateful rant. He punctuated the spiel with a rage fueled punch, catching Rani in the side of the head mid evasion.

“Save your psycho-babble monologue for your death speech.” Rani paused to throw a jab at his foe’s sternum, earning a moment of hostile silence as the blow landed swiftly. “Or, even better, never.”

The ginger overlord barked out a pained cough, but wasted no more breath on antagonizing his quarry. He had said his piece, his pettiness satisfied. He would let Rani have his fleeting victory in getting the last word. It would be a hollow prize, and come at a cataclysmic cost. His speech had already served its purpose, anyway, it kept the fool focused on him instead of the vortex forming in the midst of his army, the void that would grow and consume everything until nothing remained.
And Rani’s sad little friends would be the first to pay the price of his failure.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Beginning of the End

Usual language and graphic content disclaimer. Do not Google anything Donut references. You've been warned.

We must know our past to understand our present.

Ameldi’s job was a difficult one, but it was one she did well. The mantle of the Goddess of Death was a heavy burden to bear, yet she carried her cross with unwavering conviction.  She was tasked with balancing the flood of light and stemming the tide of new life by countering with equal forces of darkness and death. It was a task she had carried out for eternity, delivering the end with merciless efficiency.  She was a necessary evil, a primordial force of nature.

The dark Goddess wore her favorite form, that of shimmering bronze skin and lust inducing curves adorned only by golden rings linked together to form a dress of precious metals, as she contemplated the scene playing out before her.  No matter what form she took, the chains could not be shed. She could alter their appearance, to an extent, but chains they would always be. They were a constant reminder of her burden; she was bound to her duty.

The meddling fictional transient known most often as Rani and his unnatural inverse stood mere feet apart, blinded and immobilized in the physical realm thanks to the figure that  hovered in the air above them, manipulating the dreamscape containing them with a simple controller consisting of only three buttons and a joystick with the ease of playing a videogame.  The Captain’s consort was somewhere nearby, though Ameldi did not see her, their powers were intertwined and proximity to each other was needed for either of them to utilize their gifts.  Ameldi knew little about the pair, and she didn’t care to know more,  so long as they played their role in reversing the damage wrought by Rani’s restless musings.

When Amedli restored Rani to life after his fateful encounter with his wicked reflection, she had not imagined returning equilibrium to her dominion would develop into such a convoluted affair. She tasked him with a single purpose upon freeing him from nonexistence: he was to avenge himself and end the paradox. The paradox created when Rani fell to his polar opposition, in a realm that was not his, long before his existence.  The impact of that logic defying event shattered the continuity on a quantum scale, and the ripple threatened to return everything to nothing. He had, put simply, broken reality.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the inverse was a growing threat that could potentially rival the severity of the impending apocalypse with his ever growing army of clones and crimson voids threatening to collapse the universe upon itself. The Harbinger of Red had forged a vacuum by amassing so many of his soulless mutations, and their swelling numbers would produce a vortex capable of devouring all if he wasn’t stopped. Two cataclysmic dangers stemming from one source. When Rani fucked up: he fucked up bigly.

“You did well to cast them into a darkscape before they could clash again. This would all be for naught if Rani was slain by the NegaGinger a second time.  The Abomination must fall, and it must be at Rani’s hand to restore reality to its true form.”

“Yeah.” The Captain replied simply, his attention entirely on the task at hand.

“What about the others: the drunk and the bitch?” Ameldi never thought she’d work as part of a team, much less alongside a sentient star. Stars tend to have long memories, and most did not appreciate her role in bringing those long lives to an end.  Yet Realta sat nearby, dipping her toes in the waters of the temple fountain without concerned for respect or protocol.  She didn’t look to Ameldi for a response; instead the silver skinned celestial kept her gaze trained on the twin sarcophagi housing the comatose Salem and Arali.

“Leave them be, we can’t risk them distracting Rani. This stage of the plan is critical; there is no room for error.” Ameldi knew not what dreams The Captain projected onto them, nor did she care. Rani had revealed himself and brought them into fold to prevent them stumbling upon threat by other circumstance – a discovery that would have meant certain doom.  Rani had insisted they be kept safe as a condition for his participation, a twisted joke considering there would be nothing left in existence had he refused, but he failed to mention any provision concerning their mental state. Their reality was at the mercy of The Captain and Trix, the duo could project torment or fantasy at a whim. Ameldi did not know what Trix was, a banshee perhaps, but she was the link to The Captain as his partner and Realta as her sister.

 If Rani suffered a second death today, it would be up to the other three to buy Ameldi the time required for a third and final attempt. With the element of surprise gone, however, it would almost certainly be the third strike.  Rani had faith in members of his team not present to be able to complete the mission, but he also had faith they would all remain to see it through to the end. Sky and Sabine had proven him wrong once,  Ameldi was not willing to risk him being wrong again. Despite his assurances of their loyalty and competence, the chained Goddess had observed that Rani went to great lengths to keep his friends oblivious to her team and her role in his resurrection.

If they managed to pull his off, Rani just might live long enough to see himself become the villain.
Aethon checked the time display on his wrist, calculating the progression of events as he decrypted the data from the drive he recovered from the ginger installation. If Rani’s estimates were accurate, and they usually were not even remotely approximate, then he should nearly in position. More realistically, Rani’s had deviated from the formula and the entire program had either crashed or was currently stuck in a loop designed to end at the moment of maximum climax.

They had prepared for both scenarios.

When Rani briefed Aethon on his role in the operation, the quarter ginger advised the cyber ninja that the algorithm was more nuanced than it appeared. Rani told Aethon of the required showdown without elaborating on the necessity of it. Aethon assumed at the time that it was a matter of theatrical pride for Rani to avenge himself, but now he had reason to doubt that deduction. Rani had assigned him the role of ensuring the cloning operations were ceased if the strike on GingerCorp failed to execute or if the building was nothing more than a honey pot – a trap.

Aethon’s job was to implement the failsafe and activate the killswitch that would halt all operations if Rani was unsuccessful in terminating the clone batch.

According to the newly decrypted text scrolling in rapid flashes across the visor of his suit, the assault on GingerCorp was both a trap and the key to terminating the cloning process. Neither variable was a surprise for Aethon, he had already calculated the probability during the briefing.  He was not expecting, however, the redirect. GingerCorp was not the cloning facility: it was the portal to it.
“Shit.” The last logical fallacy fell away and Aethon realized Rani had taken advantage of his emotional detachment.  Rani had chosen him for this particular role because he knew it would be analyzed and executed with mechanical efficiency. The failsafe exploit would end the operations but releasing the flammable coolants from the clone producing equipment and igniting the firewall protocol. It was essentially a self-destruct program, and Aethon recognized the code. Rani had designed this code, and set the conditions for its remote execution.

The aspiring martyr charged into the trap knowing it would get him to the true facility to inject the sequence via his uplink to Aethon, and Aethon doubted Rani had any designs on returning from the pathway. The cyber warrior opened a direct channel to Donut, overriding the radio silence initiated by the pink Spartan with a backdoor bypass.

“Donut, come in. Don’t let Rani go through the portal to the real cloning facility. I repeat, do not let him go through that portal alone. He wants to make it a one way trip, over. “

Donut and Shemo

Well shit in chocolate sauce, that was the kind of information Donut could’ve used before Rani went rogue. This plan was going about as well as a Google search for salsa snack. Donut shuttered in revulsion, the scar of that memory stinging as the mental image resurfaced.

“Shemo lost his scent; do we have a plan B?” Sabine and Sky had already ran with plan GTFO, Salem and Arali were off doing whatever drunken Scotsman and psychopaths with daddy issues did – so probably each other, and now Aethon drops this rolling steamer all over the place that Rani ran off on a mother fuckin’ Leroy Jenkins.  They were getting fucked and shit on all over the place. Once again Donut concluded that there had to be roofies involved.

“Belay that, just tell me where the portal is and how we use the damn thing.” No man left behind, they would charge in and unfuck this situation Virgin Mary style.  “The good news, Shemo, is that the only way things could get any weirder is if a Cheeto became president of a country. The bad news is Rani left to solo the boss battle for all the marbles. Oh, and you smeared your lipstick.”

“So we crash his party. We’re not going to let things like time, distance, and insane suicide missions stop us from kicking epic ass.” Shemo wiped at the red stain on her bottom lip with a casual thumb. “Blood” Shemo clarified simply, examining it casually. She wasn’t bleeding.  

The longer this story dragged out, the more erotic it got. Donut was okay with this.
“I’ve entertained this charade long enough.” Rani projected his thoughts without speaking, his body unresponsive to his commands in the dreamscape. “Captain,  mind pulling back the curtain?”

The Captain said nothing, but the dark obscurity slowly brightened and focused to reveal the long hidden truth.  They were still inside the illusion, but now it reflected reality. Rani and his foe stood at the center of the image, neither budging as the scene expanded to show their surroundings. They were in what looked like a bizarre hybrid of ancient pyramid and mad scientist’s lab. Sarcophagi and glyphs of the ancient world adorned the weathered stone walls and floors, and complex machines  filled the vast chamber all around them. New life could be seen growing inside the chambers of metal and crystal, balding forms that had not yet assumed their soul deprived state.

Ameldi, Realta, and Trix sat on the ledge of a balcony overlooking the scene, watching the projection play out across the surface of the water of the fountain below them. The Captain stood between the fountain and the pair of them, maintaining the illusion.

“They never served you; they were never about complete annihilation. The only way to avoid that is for me to be the one to stop you. Anything else would’ve just lead to Game Over. They played you. We played you. But the best part is: you played yourself.  You thought you captured me, but this is where I wanted to be. Here I can take you and your strawberry patch out, like a boss.“

The cat was out of the bag; it was time to finish this.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Fatal Error

Disclaimer: usual lack of proofreading applies, and usual language warning is in effect.


"Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver; the other gold." The abrasive lyrics assaulted Rani from all directions, reverberating harshly with each syllable. Denied a single direction to lash out at the source, Rani remained silent. There was no retort for abandonment, no witty reply to isolation.

Rani’s only consolation was that it would all be over soon.

“You know what comes next.” The voice was right, Rani knew what was coming. The jaws of the trap would be snapping shut irrevocably. The game was almost ending. “You never had a chance, meddler, this is my story. Now watch Aethon as he fails.”

* * *


The Gingers had to be using Windows for their infrastructure; no other operating system would activate its firewall to keep a threat contained inside the network. If it was Windows, then the firewall would be easily bypassed. Just the application of a little pressure at its control panel and. . .

Agony, crimson lances of searing agony.

The flame raced up his extended right arm, scorching his skin even through his cyber suit. The pain barreled over Aethon in a torrential wave, consuming him with its unrelenting intensity. His was only thought was the red hot pain washing over him. He could feel his flesh frying and his bones blackening. There was no escape from the terrible sensation.

There was corruption in the core component of this batch command and the process needed to be terminated. There was a critical error within the program that needed to be resolved before everything crashed. But was a secondary objective, first he needed to put out this fucking fire before he experienced a case of death by cremation.

The mere thought of extinguishing the flame activated the nano-transmitters woven into the polymer binding of his suit, causing them to compress and leech the oxygen from his immediate environment. A quick eternity of fiery torment later, the flame was quelled and the micro-crawlers were at work reconstructing his damaged dermis. It still hurt like hell, despite the freshly grown nerve endings, but he was once again intact. The next wave of pain wasn’t as devastating as the first, though still enough to render an upsurge of nausea. The suit would administer a sedative later, but for now he needed clarity of mind and optimal reaction time. He would endure it; he had to. For now it was his pain, and he welcomed it. The pain meant he was still alive.

The security protocol wasn’t finished with him yet. The firewall was literally hot. The armed woman pointing a pistol at Aethon was figuratively hotter.

“That might have worked on Donut, but it’s going to take more than double stuff-able Oreos to stop me.” Sometimes he really wanted to reach through the fourth wall and smack the shit out of Ray. Other times he wanted to high five him. At that precise moment in time, Aethon didn’t know which he wanted. “I’m a feminist, just so you know. That means I see you as an equal, and will feel no shame in kicking your ass.”

The official verdict was high five.

The bullet ricocheted off the polymer weave before Aethon even registered that the shot was fired. Aethon would’ve been grateful had he not been preoccupied with the impact damage that felt suspiciously like a broken rib. Not just a minor break, but a shattering as thorough as any iPhone screen crack.

Still, he fared better than his attacker, whom took the brunt of the damage when the projectile rebounded upon her. The force of the slug struck her across the temple, knocking her to the floor. She didn’t get back up. She didn’t move.

Muttering light curses and dark promises, Aethon approached the immobile figure slowly. He was cold and calculating, but not that heartless. Even a Ginger didn’t deserve to die like that. Well, a Ginger, sure. A hot Ginger didn’t deserve to die like that, however. Unless it was Ara, bitch had it coming.

Her wrist had no pulse. Her neck confirmed it. There was no blood pooling beneath her head, as Aethon had been expecting, but she definitely wasn’t alive. He was now officially a lady killer, by proxy anyway.

“That fucking hurt!” Her voice was metallic, seeming to originate from her chest. She rose swiftly, showing no indication that the dent in the side of her skull phased her. The gleam of exposed metal beneath her scarlet hairline betrayed her lie. She was a bot, the lowest form of intelligence. The fact that was an attractive bot was immaterial; she might as well have been a troll.

She had done the impossible, and that made her mighty. She had pissed off Aethon.

“No, you don’t get to do that.” Aethon snarled through clenched teeth, seizing the bot by its vest and lifting it off its feet. “Pain is for the living. You can’t have my pain.”

Aethon hurled the machine bodily into the red hot door, and threw himself at it in the same application of his weight. The pair slammed through the door, fusing the security bot to the threshold in a heap of molten metal and burnt fiber. Like a teenager’s sex life, the struggle was over almost before it had begun. Also like a teenager’s sex life, he was sore and tired and not sure how to react to the sudden climax. Aethon also found himself inexplicably craving Oreos.

* * *


“Not so chatty now, are you?” It was Rani’s turn to taunt. The enemy’s flaw had been exposed, he was vulnerable now. “You were right about this being your story. The story of your ending.”

“You’re bluffing, Rani. There are four of you left; your team is broken.” Rani could hear it in his voice, hiding beneath the incredibility and disdain, the mysterious murderer was afraid.

“You spent so much time and energy worrying about me and my team that you didn’t even pause to contemplate your own allies and their motivations. There’s a reason they stopped you from killing me again. They want you to lose.” With those words, the end had begun.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Chain of Command


Shape-shifting was the best power, ever, as far as she was concerned. She had wings she needed them, the ability to lift herself above all the petty mortal problems and soar to the heavens that would never accept her. She had claws when she wanted to feel flesh submit to her whims as she tore gaping gashes in those who opposed her. She could even have fangs if she wanted to savor the coppery flavor of her enemies' defeat. She was a badass killing machine, and it was awesome.

Until she ran out of things to kill.

There is something unsettlingly serene about being the only living person in a room, a scene made all the more disturbing when the survivor's outfit was little more than copious amounts of blood in varying degrees of coagulation. It was almost poetic, like an illustration of Darwin's Law in action. Survival of the fittest.  

Once she ran out of combatants, either willing or otherwise, Shemo's morbid glee was stripped away as effectively as her talons removing faces. Something was very, very wrong with this picture. She had been too wrapped up in the slaughter of their foes to notice when it happened, but now it was painfully obvious. 

Rani's scent was gone.

"Guys, we have a problem. Rani's gone." Just saying the words made it reality, and the reality was painful. Rani died the last time he went missing; she couldn't let that happen again.

"What do you mean he's gone?" Shemo could hear it in Donut's voice - he was fighting the wave of panic threatening to rush over him, too. This was bad, this was very fucking bad. This was worse than dinner when ex's parents that always hated her, after the break up. This was worse than peanut brittle.


Shit, another of Rani's half-ass plans failing. It shouldn't have come as a surprise to her; nothing ever went according to plan for them. And yet here she was, dragged into Rani's mess that would probably get them all killed. It was times like this that she was thankful that Rani hadn't knocked her up. She didn't have to be here. She could still leave.

"He probably left without us to confront the big bad and save the day." It was the type of stupid, melodramatic heroic Rani would do. He was always trying to take on the toughest roles himself, so desperate to make himself a martyr. When they were younger it was almost cute. Now it was just annoying.

"That wouldn't take away his entire scent trail." Shemo argued, always the dutiful supporter. Those two needed to just hook up already, no other woman would stick around through all of Rani's chaotic misadventures. Maybe Shemo was okay with this wild fantasy, but Sabine needed stability. Reliability. She was too old for this bullshit. "Something happened to him."

No shit, Sherlock. Something was always happening to Rani. He said it himself; the worst experiences make the best stories. And everything had to be a story with Rani. The reality Sabine offered him apparently wasn't good enough; he decided to stay on total drama peninsula.

 Sure, she could rush off in some suicidal rescue mission. There was no impending danger left looming in the backroom, she had secured that with relative ease despite her rocky start. There was no real need for her to continue guarding the exit, as the enemy resistance appeared to have dispersed. But that didn't mean she had to go looking for more trouble. With no immediate threat left, there was no reason for her to stick around and watch the scene implode. 

"Maybe he lured them all off somewhere. Maybe all the blood and sweat is masking his scent. From where I'm standing it looks like we're the only ones left. Let's just get out of here before more arrive and call it a day. Rani will turn up after he's saved the day."

"But Sabine, where did they all go? No one has left the building since we hit it." Why was Sky even here? Sabine understood why Donut was devoted, and even Shemo, but she didn't even know who Sky was. Clearly she was someone that important to Ray at some time to be included, but it was weird that Sabine didn't know anything about her. Then again, it had been a long time since she paid any attention to what was going on outside her own life. Every time she met Rani he was a different person, and every time he had a different group of followers. Shemo and Donut were the only alumni that stuck around. Hell, Donut had seniority on her.

"It doesn't matter. We don't need to be here. If Rani needed us, he would've taken us with him." She was through with this story, and everything it entailed. She was through with Rani and his heroics. This wasn't her life anymore. He wasn't her life anymore. And maybe that was best for all of them. He had his chance. It was all or nothing. He made his choice. "I'm out. If you're smart, you'll leave before you fall deeper down the rabbit hole."


The situation was unraveling, it was time for someone to step up and take charge. With Rani out of play, that meant it was time for Donut to get some play. After he saved Rani's ass, of course. Unless Donut had a chance to take a break to get some while pulling Rani out of whatever proverbial fire he had fallen into. It was time for alpha mode.

"Alright, new plan. Sky says no one left the building, so the action is still going on here somewhere and that means Rani is probably in the center of the shit storm. Rani was going to search the cash office at the front of the store, and the ammo storage back here. Sky and Shemo, you two take the cash office. Hit it like an angry quickie and report any resistance or sign of Rani right away. Sab, you're going with me to check the ammo room. The mission isn't over yet, and you're staying to finish the job." It was time for decisive action; they had wasted enough time talking. It was time to get back to stabbing and slashing with the vortex sword.

"Sky, why are you listening to this? Rani got himself into this mess. He can get himself out of it. We're both too busy to entertain this charade and pretend that we give a damn. We have our own lives; we don't need to be a part of these shenanigans." Donut had forgotten how difficult Sabine could be, and now he remembered why he never harbored any attraction for her. Aside from her history with Rani, he had no time or patience for difficult women. He preferred them easy.

"We don't have time to chat. We're going to finish the bloody mission, find Rani and deal with his damn gingerkin." Assuming command wasn't working out as well as he had hoped.

"Screw you. I'm done." So much anger, clearly she hadn't been screwed in a while. Maybe that was why she was so mad at Rani. If he had just given her the D, she might be more willing to save his A. 

"This changes nothing. Sky and Shemo scope out the cash office and I'll take care of the ammo room."

"I can't; Sabine's right. I'm sorry."

Donut imagined this is what it felt like to be fucked sideways. By Hodor and Deadpool. At the same time. Why couldn't Ray just write erotic fiction starring him, was that too much to ask for?

"It's just you and me, Shemo. We'll hit them together, ammo supply first since we're both here, and then the cash office. We'll go radio silent, no point in keeping them on if it's just the two of us."

Divide and Conquer

“Having fun yet?” Rani couldn't see the speaker in the dark; he didn't need to.

“If you're going to kill me again, hurry up and do it. It beats watching her die.” Rani was surprised how clear his voice was; he expected it to be little more than a hoarse rattle. How long had he been stranded in nothingness?

“That was my first choice: killing you before you could cobble together some clumsy wrench to throw into the plans. My partners, on the other hand, thought a slower and more thorough destruction was in order. That means watching your friends die one by one, after they've all abandoned you.” Rani didn't recall his murderer being quite so chatty the last time they met. Then again, the swift nature of his execution left little time for conversation. A quick death was certainly starting to look like a gift if it meant not having to listen to the fiend.

But, he couldn't help his friends while dead.

“Amd of they refuse to abandon me?” Rani had to keep him talking long enough to figure out a way to get back in the fight. He was useless now; he couldn't help anyone from the dark zone.

“Most of them have already left you. Ray's just too slow progressing this little story. Hell, even the friends he was adding to the fray will be long gone before they're officially part of this tale of your downfall. In the end, all you'll have left is me. Then, once you've hit rock bottom, I will kill you. And you'll have nothing left to come back to.” How he could deliver such a melodramatic threat with a monotone, Rani had no idea. This guy was over the top on the villain scale of wickedness. Then again, the story had always been a parody composed of caricatures.

“What if I die of boredom?” Rani couldn't let his weakening resolve seep into his voice and betray him. He couldn't let the stranger know that he felt the cold sting of the truth. His friends had either left him behind or were in the process of doing so. The story was meant to be about his team, and they were all gone or leaving. Some team he put together; he was the de facto leader of no one.

“No need to worry about that. Things are just getting interesting. Let's see how your old buddy Salem is doing. He must be going through such hell right now.”


Mr. Salem Norongachi

Salem was in heaven, or he would be if he though such nancy nonsense existed. His situation was as close as he would ever get to the magic bollocks land in the sky. It was the version of heaven that wasn't fiction – and had adult content.

He had everything: a cushy gig running the Nerd Addiction website, a girlfriend that fancied Jessica Rabbit in all the right ways(which was all of them), and all the alcohol his battle scarred liver could take. If this was a dream, he didn't want to wake up. The groove in the couch fit his arse perfectly, and the groove in the bed fit her back perfectly, he had no intention of going anywhere else.

So, of course, the bloody fecking phone would start ringing from somewhere in the cavernous depths of his luxurious shag pad.

“Feck 'em, if it's an emergency they can call Scotland Yard.” Did he really just say Scotland Yard? Ray had heard him say 'cops' and 'police' numerous times; there was no excuse for such blatantly ignorant writing.

Wait, why was he thinking about that lousy dole signer?

“It's Rani calling. Do you want me to pick up?” oh he wanted her to pick up something, but it wasn't the stupid phone. And not with her hands.

Why had he thought about Ray while Rani was calling? He hadn't thought about him in ages. Not since that incident at the farm. Not that he could remember what happened that day. Booze and memory have a funny way of not seeing eye to eye on anything.

This was starting to damage to damage his calm.

“Hell with Raniboy. If he wanted to talk to me, he would've called sooner.” It was too late to mend that bridge; it had been too long without contact. Rani was dead to him.


“That must have hurt.” They were out of Salem's head and back into the emptiness. “After all you've been through together, all those years you two were thick as thieves, and now he's gone. Just like all the others. They all leave you.”

“They always come back.” Rani knew he sounded weak. He was losing and he knew it. Losing to an enemy he couldn't see or fight.

“Except when they don't. They don't care anymore. Maybe they never did.”

Maybe they never did.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Saga of the Vagrant Heart

So, a long time ago, on a mountain far, far away: I did a thing. In the years since then, this probably remains the most personal thing I've written. Bringing to the blog, because why not. This was originally written in installments (each boldy underline marks a new installment), so the format and style will vary between installments Fair warning, I didn't proofread it then, and I'm not proofreading it now*. So yeah, on with the feels.

*Edit: I lied, kinda. The format transformations were annoying me so I tidied it up a bit.
Life's Love Story

This is a story that almost never happened. For years it was case after case of wrong place. . . wrong time. Their footprints overlapped time and time again but one was always gone by the time the other got there. Two strangers in a chase neither had a clue they were in for two decades of near misses.

During this odd game of blind hide-and-seek, his vagrant heart grew cold and jaded from doomed relationships. He was still tempted by the fire, to be sure, but at twenty years old he was already weary of being burned. His princesses turned out to be dragons, something the fairy tales never warned him about. Love was a harsh and savage game, made all the worse when the girls in his life never played by the rules.

She gave her innocent soul to another in a way only the young and foolish can. But he was not the vagrant heart and so as fate would have it this other and his ring was cast out with great effort. Losing a first love is always a tragedy, and she was no exception. The gaping gash of loss was so deep she feared losing herself in the hollow void. Her only defense was to hide her wounded heart behind a wall of indifference.

The delayed allure finally caught up with them one scorching summer. He shouldn’t have been there; she wanted to be anywhere else. It was supposed to be a visit for him; it felt like a prison to her. His scars were visible; stories etched in his skin of darker days. Her’s were hidden; only the quiet spark in her eyes screaming silently of her pain.

There was no love at first sight here. Truth be told, their first impressions were mutually bad. He was obnoxious, just another boy pretending to be a man in her eyes. A spoiled princess, he thought of her, the type who thought a tantrum could solve all. They were both so wrong, and so right.

The attraction came unexpectedly, as the best ones do. A warm comment from him brought a flirty reply, both unbidden. Behind his cynical sapphire gaze she saw glimpses of a gentleman, fleeting moments when his sarcastic defenses failed him. In her laugh he heard a torn heart slowly healing. Suddenly he had one hand back in the fire, flirting with desire. If only it weren’t held in check by a heart of ice, frozen by vice, this story might have had a happy ending.

The game they played was as delicate as a glass chess set, and it’s fair to say he broke his share of pieces in the pursuit that followed. She didn't plan for a civil war on her side of the board, but she wanted to be won as much as she was afraid of losing. With such an uncoordinated assault and defense, it should be as no surprise that the causalities were high. A kiss stolen here, secrets freely given there, it was only a matter of time before the kingdoms merged. The vagrant heart once again donned his shiny armor and her innocent soul tore down the wall encasing her heart.

The happily ever after wasn’t so ever after, after all. The years passed, they had times both great and terrible. They loved with a passion and fought with fervor. These were good signs, it showed they cared enough to clash with the same intensity they united. If only they had perhaps met earlier, if only they hadn’t ignited into such a raging inferno. If only…but it was not to be. The story that almost didn’t happen was not ready to end and new characters thirsted for the spotlight.

He still had more dragons to slay. She needed to learn to be a heroine. Perhaps their paths will cross again and together they’ll carve an ending of their own, but first they’ll have to walk separate trails again.

Life After Love

It’s a long fall from cloud nine to the depths of misery and it was apparent in the damage to the vagrant heart. You can set a broken bone and stitch a jagged gash, but how do you repair a shattered confidence? It’s possible to reattach a limb, but how to replace the half of him that was so swiftly torn away? What medicine would ease the pain when the bottle brought him no solace? The vagrant heart felt incomplete, like he was missing critical components of himself and doubt reigned over this fractured kingdom. Had he ever really been the shining knight he imagined, or was he just an idiot in tin foil? He must have done something wrong, if the princess retreated to another tower.

If only he knew how hard it had been for her to leave, to test her wings. She knew he could carry her, but she had to know if she could carry herself. There was so much life unlived, the innocent soul couldn’t give all of it to him. Maybe she was being selfish, but she needed to travel a few miles on her own. Her soul hoped she would find him at her destination, but they would have to journey there separately.

The vagrant heart had to rebuild from scratch. He had invested everything, both literally and figuratively, into their false happy ending. No one forced him to up the stakes, but he went in all-or-nothing. When he found himself alone, it was with nothing. He had always held her while she cried; now he found no one to comfort him. Friends tried, as did family, but distance quieted their words and they could only worry from afar. The only cure was the bitterest pill to swallow; only with time could the pain subside. Or so the prescription said, but he was not called the vagrant heart for nothing.

Once again he was against the grain. Against the odds. Against the world.

They healed quickly, each in their own way. He had a new job by the time she left for her own tower. She knew he would, but it was nice to see his resourcefulness again. He had given up so much of himself to her, she was doing him a favor by leaving. Old promises were kept and he was still there when she needed him. They were bonded too strongly to cut all ties, but they learned to play by the new rules. Perhaps they were too comfortable with each other still, whether that would help or hinder them awaits to be seen. Months passed and the story continued on.

He went on a few dates, usually surprised to find more fun than he had expected. Each girl’s time on stage was short-lived. They all wanted either relations or relationships, he was looking for neither. Still, they had fun and the girls continued on with their own stories. She was afraid of love, but looking for adventure. She wanted to close her heart to him, and so she let them chase her. They lingered longer than his dates and some would even make it into her tower, but none would ever reach her heart.

Neither will admit to the time they spent together as dates because they both fear the implications. Still the fact remains they usually enjoyed their time together more than with others. If she had not been she and he was anyone but he: they would not have hesitated in calling their shared time a date. Alas he was the vagrant heart and she was the innocent soul and they would make no such concessions. Their love lived on but it was too soon to reunite their story. As the poet said, they had miles to go before they slept. And miles to go before they slept.

His hand was back in the fire before he even knew what caused it to ignite. He noticed her golden spirit right away, but he hadn’t expected such a reaction. She was captivating, so mesmerizing was her luster that he found it impossible to think of anything else when looking at her. The voices in his head spoke not of the innocent soul in her presence, and for this blessed silence he was grateful. Speaking to the golden spirit was too easy; it even became a challenge for the vagrant heart to stop. She pushed all thoughts of previous chapter from his mind. He still wasn’t looking for a relationship, but suddenly he was at least considering it.

It mattered not though, for the choice was not his own. He had been so distracted by her golden spirit that he was slow to notice her wounded pride. Her own story hadn’t treated her well, and the burden of the previous chapter weighed heavily upon her. So friendship was all she had to offer, even that was reluctant, and he was not fool enough to refuse her radiance. It would not be an easy friendship. He had shown his cards too soon, it’s hard to help when your intentions are questioned. He really did just want to ease her pain, but she had been burned badly and he was so close to the fire. It was a story that could never start, at least not so easily. The golden spirit would have to learn to trust him for him to help, and he would have to learn to separate himself from the inferno. Offering help was easy, accepting it much harder.

Where the next chapter leads, no one knows. Stuck between a future that can never happen and a past that can’t be allowed to repeat itself, the vagrant heart is trapped in the present.

The Ties That Bind

The rules of a break up are clear and cruel. The former lovers must have no contact for several months. They must compensate for the love still felt with bitter hatred. They must speak ill of the other often and without regard for truth. If they must succumb to their feelings and admit missing the other or wanting them back, in must be in private and friends are obligated to echo insults of the other. Fire is hot because of the other partner, they're the reason ice is cold. Everything is their fault, and neither can seem to remember why they shared a chapter with the other. There are variations to these rules, as well as local customs, but they tend to follow the same trend of animosity and selective memory balancing the continuing love and regret until one can think of the other without their heart racing.

The vagrant heart and innocent soul did not play by these rules. Too tightly were they bound to burn the bridges connecting them. The vagrant heart knew the innocent soul still loved him, just as she knew the same of him. This was against the rules as well, but their situation put them in another game entirely. It was a game played less often, and this time when the glass pieces returned there was no confusion. The terms of battle were simple, and this time they each warred with themselves. History could not be allowed to repeat itself, he could not be with her until he was no longer the vagrant heart. She could only give herself to him again when she was no longer the innocent soul. Time was their enemy.

It was restless youth that bound them eternally. Restless youth had a grip upon each of them, and neither could bear breaking the tender hold. So though they travel separate paths, their trails often twined and were always close together. Restless youth danced between the two paths with carefree abandon, sometimes dragging them together for a stretch. Restless youth brought the vagrant heart to the innocent soul's tower many starry nights, and it brought her to the place she once called home on frequent days. Separately they lived for restless youth, but restless youth would have had them live together for him. For restless youth was, of course, their son.

The ballad of the restless youth began four years ago, the vagrant heart and innocent soul's shared story was three years in the making. Simple math suggests it would be more accurate to say restless youth was the innocent soul's son alone. The vagrant heart disagreed, often and insistently. Biology and legality may beg to differ, but the vagrant heart claimed and loved the restless youth as his own. The restless youth in turn claimed and loved the vagrant heart with the fierce protectiveness only the very young can excel at. Their love was unconditional, and so much thicker than blood. The innocent soul saw this, and loved both too much to ever try to separate them. In this delicate game they played, the three of them belonged to each.

Yet this story has more than three characters, what of the others in the rafters? Could the golden spirit be satisfied sharing his vagrant heart, even if she were willing to risk the flame again for him? Likely not, and so it still appeared their legacy could never happen. And of those chasing the innocent soul, could they handle knowing she could not give them her heart when he still had it? Probably not, and there would surely be a price to pay for keeping his visits to the tower as her secret. Yet this was a game of their own, and it had to be played.

You see, the presence of the restless youth changes everything. And it changes nothing.


It was pessimist weather, a dampness that seeped deep through the skin and chilled the bones. The kind of dampness that made one forget what warmth felt like, a chill that ran through the entire body like an electric current. The sun dared not to show itself on days such as that, its sapphire domain claimed by a depressing gray blanket of unseemly clouds. Memories bred on such days, and misery fed on them gluttonously.

The vagrant heart sought sanctuary from the gloom by remaining indoors, where heat and light could be manipulated at his whim. The attempt was in vain, as are all acts against nature. A dreary day fears not walls or doors and can be felt spiritually even if not physically. It burdens the mind and soul, making even the simplest of tasks an exhausting ordeal. With the restless youth spending the day with the innocent soul, the vagrant heart felt no compulsion to fight mother nature's tears. It was his day off, and early indicators foreshadowed that it was a drinking day. Alcohol may not have been an effective prescription for a broken heart, but there's something to be said for the placebo effect of numbing his brain beyond any coherent thought or comprehension.

It even hurt to move on such days, a memento of an early disaster of a relationship. Leave it to the vagrant heart to find his first violently insane girlfriend by the time he reached high school. She had been proof that occasionally there is a good argument to be made for locking the princess in the tower. It took most men at least until college to reach that particular milestone. The wound was too far away from his heart to kill him, in all interpretations, but having a piece of metal jammed into his leg until it connected with the bone beneath the flesh was not a pleasant penetration. Reflecting upon that, the vagrant heart wishes he had done two things differently. He wished he hadn't been so foolhardy as to hide the wound and intentionally forgo any medical treatment, but that was a lower priority on his wish list. First and foremost he lamented that he had been wearing a different pair of pants when choosing to ignore the advances of his unstable ex-girlfriend. He had been rather fond of those pants and it was a shame they were ruined.

The thought brought a smirk of a sardonic nature to the vagrant heart's lips, the closest thing to a smile to grace his features since waking up. He had changed so much since then, but he was still incapable of taking anything serious for any length of time. Maybe if he could, then she would, he couldn't let his mind wander down that path. Such thoughts lead to darkness. Just because the restless youth wasn't there at the time to give him incentive to keep it together didn't mean he could fall apart. At this point it was confirmed to be a drinking day. If he couldn't keep his mind away from the trails off limits then he would ensure that stumbling down them would be a challenge.

Barely had he reached into the freezer and wrapped his hand around the liquor bottle when his phone loudly demanded his attention from the next room. The vagrant heart looked from the bottle to the couch where the phone lay, then back to the bottle again. With a sigh of effort and possible relief, he closed the freezer door and trudged his way to the obnoxiously chirping phone. It was just the rescue call he needed.

The contents of the text alone were probably not worth the effort it took him to walk the several feet to reach the phone but the intent behind them was worth more than a trek through the desert. It was his good friend, one of severe emotions, checking in on him. Even though timezones and thousands of miles separated the two, recent circumstances had brought her closer to him than most his other friends. There was something carefree and ideal about their relationship. For each other they held ears charged with empathy and voices free of judgment. They understood each other in a way that no one else did, in a way only those far from the situation can. Distance was their strength.

The casual observer may think something was sprouting here, but they would be wrong. Perhaps, in a different time and place, if they were closer physically they may have felt an obligation to give it a try but the distance gave them both the simple and effective excuse to be nothing more and nothing less than friends. Even though their clocks read three hours apart, she was always there for him since his separation from the innocent soul and he was there for her whenever she needed the comforting rhythm of the vagrant heart. So good was she at knowing him, all it took was a single message to derail his thoughts of drowning his brain in toxin.

You better not be drinking today. I need your advice.

And just like that: it was the vagrant heart to the rescue, all the while being the rescued.

Hitting Glass Bottom

Some days the hand of severe emotions was too late to reach out for the vagrant heart. These days her texts were met with incoherence and bitterness, a babbled testament to the potency of Everclear. At times like this she cursed him from miles away, helpless to stop his slow poisoning. On these days he was beyond help, beneath the glass bottom no light could reach him. As he consumed the clear liquid, the darkness consumed him. His body would hate him the next day, but his mind would hate him then.

The vagrant heart had scars from previous doomed encounters, a series of brief and often tragic chapters in his story fated not for an easy ending. Burns and cuts, and a leg that ached in bad weather: these things all reminded him that love was deadly. Each strike had left its toll on his body, but none ever reached his ever hopeful heart. The innocent soul left no marks on him, no tattoos to show her time dedicated to his temple, Yet she cut through his heart so deeply that he still wondered several months later if his love had been a causality of their broken engagement.

A glass served as a warm up and then the shot glass came out to deal its dimming damage.

One shot: the anger rose like a violent serpent, looking for something to strike. There was a reason the vagrant heart drank only when the restless youth was away, he didn't trust the beast that emerged from the dark depths of his fractured heart. He wanted to hate her, he wanted to regret her. The vagrant heart cursed her because he could do neither, and the only one to blame was himself.

Two shots: lies and deception, that was the recipe for love. He had given up everything, and in return ended up with nothing. The vagrant heart trusted the innocent soul with his life, he was sure she would catch him if he ever fell. She was the one who cut his wings. They must have been in the way of the knife as she plunged into his back.

Three shots: haze and confusion. Maybe she was right to leave him, clearly he was a wreck. He had bet his happiness on another person, who was he to put that kind of responsibility on someone else? He had spent all his time and energy looking out for her and restless youth, and so did she. So who was going to look out for him? He had lost himself in being a partner and a father, why should she remember him when he had forgotten himself? In his blurred clarify he understood for a moment that they were not ready for marriage. Their story wasn't over yet, but they each had other plots to fill. But was he still the hero, or was he becoming the villain? Had he ever really been the hero, or was he a supporting character in his own saga?

Four shots: nothingness.

Golden Lining

As the tide crests and ebbs, there are always falls following a rise.

As the flame flickers and flares, a dimming precedes a surge. Without the ashes the Phoenix is nothing.

Without the bad days, the vagrant heart couldn't enjoy the good.

Call it coincidence or call it a story struggling to unfold, but the vagrant heart had few good days before he met the golden spirit. Perhaps this is why he came to think of them as Golden Days when they did occur. Even knowing they would never be together, being around her brightened his days.
It wouldn't be accurate to attribute to the golden spirit all the new-found luster of the vagrant heart's path. The shadows on his trail had lessened with time and were almost gone completely by the time the illuminating presence of the golden spirit guided him. Things had settled considerably by the time she had graced the scene, but to the vagrant heart the stage was a much less hostile place knowing she was there.

Some days they shared no words. Some nights they filled the hours with chatter. To him they meant the same thing: he felt no worries in her presence. The problems would still be there when they parted ways, but it was a pleasant vacation from his own mind. If she held any interest for him she hid it well, but the turbulent waters of her heart did little to quell his embers of interest. With the slightest breath from her she could likely ignite the flame again and he was grateful to her for her efforts not to. The vagrant heart was again tempted by the flame, but he knew the feel of the burn all too well.

The vagrant heart was a practical man, his sentimental sense having been blinded by his chapter shared with the innocent soul. In time he would doubtlessly recover his sentiments, but for the time he felt appreciating and interest for a golden spirit in as sapless a manner as possible. He simply enjoyed her company, and wanted to brighten her days as she lit up his. They had cast themselves as fated to be friends and a great friend he was determined to be.

It wouldn't be easy, there would of course be temptation. Yet the vagrant heart needed a challenge, and he felt confident he could rise to the occasion.

Each day he dedicated himself to the task whenever they shared company. Compliments, words of encouragement and jokes were offered freely, but paid for with the warmth of a smile or the music of a laugh. The more they each spoke to each other, the more they each listened to each other. This oddity was perhaps the precedent for the trend their friendship foreshadowed following. If life wasn't fair: why should they play by its rules?

World Weary

In the witching hour severe emotions always awoke. It was not the way she wanted to meet lady dawn; she would have preferred they slept together. But the morning was always sullen and still, never pleasant company.

A quick glance at her phone served a variety of purposes. First it reminded her of what she already knew: it was far too early greet the day. Especially since she had just bid the night farewell. Second she read the latest text from the vagrant heart. Living three hours in the future, he was likely entertaining the blessing of sleep. How long they had been continuing the same conversation in their odd mismatched timing she didn't know anymore: it was one of things she got used to when she let someone so far away get so close. A couple sluggish strokes on her phone later and he would have a message of his own to wake up to. Maybe it would be enough to stop him from greeting the day with an alcoholic breakfast.

Her reflection mocked her as severe emotions stumbled out of bed with the enthusiasm of an iceberg. She had lost count of how many times she had considered smashing the offending mirror, but in the end the effort involved with destroying the mute impostor and cleaning up the shards stayed her sleepy hand.

No rest for the wicked, nor sanctuary for the sinner. She found no slumber or solace, was she both? Severe emotions shook the dark thoughts away with a yawn. When you were invisible to the world, fate and cliché had no eyes for you. She supplemented their doses for extra irony; Murphy’s law might as well have her name permanently etched on its warrant.

Her thoughts continued to wander in a meandering manner of sluggish incoherence, slowly forming more corporeal monsters. In an hour’s time she would have the mental weapons to combat her morning demons, but until then every shadow of her mind held thoughts as dark and elusive as the art of ninja. There would be no knight riding in to rescue her from the cruelty of herself. By the time the vagrant heart awoke the storm within severe emotions would be quelled. Still, he helped in his own way just like she helped him in her’s. But the author behind each of their stories had forbidden any direct interference.

A rule she could play by, for now. She could suffer through more mornings like this until the time was right to make her move in shifting the story. Then, like the vagrant heart and golden spirit so many miles away, she would break all the rules.

Smoke and Mirrors

Blending into the background by design, it was easy to overlook one of the friends who cared for the vagrant heart both most and least. As similar as the sun and moon, it is hard to imagine the two sharing a storyline. The vagrant heart was a solar creature, a reckless firestorm that hovered protectively over those who fed on his light. His friend hung in the background, the lonely moon watching in calculating darkness. Despite being on scene for the final act of the chapter the vagrant heart and innocent soul shared, he clung to the comfortable shroud of distant indifference.

Distant indifference tried to tune out the shouts; he tried not to see the breaking of the vagrant heart. The only safe distance was a far distance, his life had taught him. Yet he could not choose be deaf, nor blind. The vagrant heart had once been a hero to him, and distant indifference would not stand by and let him be made the villain. Distant indifference proved his loyalty, which the vagrant heart never questioned, by exposing the deceit of the innocent soul.

That was the day distant indifferent truly learned that no good deed goes unpunished.

It was early for most, shortly after sunrise, but for distant indifference it was nearly time to tempt sweet slumber. It was during these times, after work and before sleep, that he thought about the day he exited the stage of the vagrant heart’s chronicles. He had left against the vagrant heart’s wishes, but the moon knew no room for forgiveness for those who violated those under its dark dominion. Distant indifference could not forgive the innocent soul for her crimes against his friend, even if vagrant heart could. Not that he blamed the vagrant heart, distance indifference firmly believed to each their own.

Harboring these thoughts, distant indifference completed his morning ritual of computer time before bed. As he did most mornings, he hovered over a blank message addressed to the vagrant heart. As with most mornings, the right words eluded him and the draft was left unsent. Maybe there was a reason the scenery rarely had a speaking role, it was better to say nothing than to say the wrong thing. So much time had passed, yet he stilled carried the weight of that fateful act.

But such dwelling would get him nowhere; distant indifference had preparations to make. Since becoming distant in mileage as well as emotion, he had been productive. The world of mortgaging his time and soul for profit did not appeal to distant indifference, but it was a sacrifice he would make to achieve his goals. In time he would help the vagrant heart as the vagrant heart had helped him.

His exit had been without fanfare, his return would be worthy of a chapter of all its own.

Wings to Fly On

The vagrant heart awoke to three messages awaiting his return to the conscious realm. Of the three, two were welcome. The third would cast into motion the ripples that would grow into waves that threatened to crush his entire world.

The first message came on his phone from severe emotions, the content bringing a smile to his face. It was a foreign imprint upon his features, yet one severe emotions was good for eliciting. Heavy eyes blinked in surprise, struggling to focus on the message. Decoding their hidden meaning, the vagrant heart lowered his gaze long enough to navigate his way through his lonely castle to find the second message.

It would be at least an hour before restless youth awoke, but by then the vagrant heart’s day would have gone on far too long by then.

The second message came on his computer from distance indifference, brightening the vagrant heart’s grin enough to light up the room without effort. Twin sapphires scanned the screen again and again to be certain, but the words never changed under their scrutiny. Messages from distance indifference were rarer than raw gold, and this one was even more valuable.

The first two messages were forgotten about when he listened to the third, left by innocent soul upon his voice mail. Each word she spoke drove the jagged edge of betrayal deeper into the vagrant heart, every breath sapping away his recovering confidence. It had taken several months but one of the knights had conquered her tower – and her heart. This of itself was of no consequence to the vagrant heart: it was easy to quit loving someone when they ceased being the person you loved. What came with much more impact was the unseen gauntlet that caught the vagrant heart off guard. Because this knight took offense to the secret visits across the kingdom, the vagrant heart stood to lose restless youth. Without the sunshine of the restless youth to light up his life, the vagrant heart had only darker days to look forward to.

Suddenly the vagrant heart found his path lined with traps, leaving him one wrong move away from losing everything.

His trail so dangerous, the vagrant heart had little choice but to allow his friends to help guide him. As much as he tried to horde his pain, there were others that cared about him more than he cared about himself. They took his pain onto themselves, sharing every ache as if it were their own. Friends the vagrant heart didn’t even know he had rose to carry him through his darkest hour.

He tried to refuse their help, stubbornly flying through the storm wielding only his insistence. There was only one solution, the vagrant heart decided. He would have to cut all ties with the innocent soul, except for the restless youth. Easier said than done, the roaring flames of frustration consumed a wing before the knight errant even knew what hit him. The second attack came in the cruel edge of bitterness, icily slicing through the remaining wing. For that moment the vagrant heart was truly alone, his brief and violent life did not flash before his eyes. Instead he reflected upon dreams left unfulfilled. Rock bottom may have been all that was awaiting him, but the vagrant heart could at least visualize his dreams in the moments before impact.

Except the impact never came. Despite his determination to face the fall alone, severe emotions and distant indifference were not so willing to watch his demise. Each replacing a wing, the two worked together to raise the vagrant heart like a phoenix from the ashes. Cold cynicism rose from below like an eternal tailwind and together the three took the vagrant heart back to the top. With their efforts and the light of the restless youth to guide him, the vagrant heart could never fail.

Worth Fighting For

Restless youth liked light time best, it was much better than dark time because he had to go to sleep at dark time. Most days were spent with vagrant heart, and he always was the vagrant heart’s sunshine. The restless youth lit up the vagrant heart’s life, he said so. The vagrant heart loved him, and he loved the vagrant heart and he was getting big and strong. Some days he got to see golden spirit, and the restless youth liked her, too. The vagrant heart smiled more when they were with golden spirit, and the restless youth smiled when the vagrant heart smiled.

The vagrant heart wasn’t smiling much this light time, even as they threw the football around outside. Restless youth didn’t know what he was thinking about it, but he would help the vagrant heart with whatever it was. It had to be big, for the vagrant heart to be so quiet. Did it have to do with golden spirit or innocent soul? The vagrant heart had never told restless youth to call him dad, but to the restless youth the vagrant heart would always be his dad. And restless youth would always be his son.

Things were different now, and the restless youth didn’t know why. He saw innocent soul some dark times, but the vagrant heart didn’t stay. The vagrant heart would leave him with innocent soul, and come back at light time to take him and he would stay with vagrant heart and they would play for more days until it was time for another night time with innocent soul. They both loved the restless youth, he knew, but when he asked if they loved each other he never got an answer. They used to live together and now they didn’t, but restless youth liked having two places that were his so that was okay.

After they played outside in the light time with the football, the vagrant heart took restless youth back inside for lunch time. While restless youth ate his most favorite food of macaroni and cheese, the vagrant heart talked to his friends on his computer and phone. Whatever the vagrant heart was thinking about it, they were part of it. Had restless youth remembered what vagrant was like when they first met, he might have recognized the revived sense of determination that had been missing the last three years.

Restless youth could tell one thing though, the vagrant heart had finally figured out what he wanted. It had been a long time since restless youth saw the vagrant heart challenged, but he knew that back then the vagrant heart did whatever it took.

As the vagrant heart kissed and hugged restless youth before leaving for work, the restless youth saw the smile return to the vagrant heart. Restless youth smiled, too.

The Best Laid Plans

Cold cynicism always welcomed the absence of the sun, the electric energy of the night always felt more natural to him. The mantle of darkness held many pockets, each with its own secret, and fit cold cynicism comfortably. Without the prying light threatening to reveal all it was easier to hide any trace of emotion.

The day had been a productive one, updates from the vagrant heart blurred together as cold cynicism played his role with mechanical efficiency. Logic over emotion now defined cold cynicism, an armor forged unwillingly in flames that left scars unseen. The vagrant heart may have been willing to flirt with the flames again, but the burns were too fresh to allow cold cynicism to do the same.

Cold cynicism would do anything to help the vagrant heart, but there could be no passion in his efforts. Logic was his strength, and if he opened the floodgates of feelings the torrents of his own problems would drown cold cynicism. A frozen heart was much harder to draw logic from, after all. It was simple reasoning. Logic never lied. Logic didn't break hearts.

The moon watched impassively as cold cynicism raced the rhythmic ticking of the clock. Everything was waiting on him, the vagrant heart had reported earlier that severe emotion and distant indifference were ready. It came down to cold cynicism to finish before the sun returned so they could introduce their carefully crafted deus ex machina and grant the vagrant heart the power to write the script himself.

There would be no room for mistakes, nor time for complication. The writing on the wall was looming larger by the second, and it was inevitable that the move against the vagrant heart would be made unless they could force a preemptive checkmate. The stakes were high for the vagrant heart: all or nothing. The last time he had wagered those stakes it had not ended in his favor, but cold cynicism understood the need this time. The vagrant heart needed insurance, and cold cynicism could see the logic in that.

Cold cynicism stopped in a dazed disbelief as he stared at the latest message from the vagrant heart. It was all over, the nightmare had become reality. The innocent soul had done what they all wished they could protect the vagrant heart from. Yet there were all too far away to do anything, only the golden spirit could be there in person in his darkest hour. Logic could not tell cold cynicism if she could, or would, rise to the challenge. All cold cynicism knew was that the innocent soul had gone too far, and never again would her soul be innocent in the eyes of the vagrant heart.

She had taken away his restless youth.

Curtain Call

All their planning, calls and messages darting across four states like messenger pigeons carrying hope and potential, reduced to wasted effort with a single sweeping blow. The innocent soul provided no warning, nor did she offer explanation. After a week's absence from the restless youth, she returned onto the scene refusing to share. The vagrant heart had outlived his usefulness to her, and so she cut the final tie. For the first time in this chapter of trials and tribulations the vagrant heart was truly alone.

Or so he thought.

The first surprise came from golden spirit, dropping everything to call as soon as she heard. Nothing she could say could help, of course, but the fact that she took the time to try worked wonders. The vagrant heart had been burned so many times he forgot that the flame could be comforting. He was so used to keeping people at a distance that he didn't notice that she had slipped past his defenses. It came as a welcome shock to him that she cared. With that realization his outlook shifted slightly. Before the vagrant heart was aware he and the golden spirit could never be more than friends. Now he knew they could never be anything less than friends.

Distant indifference was there shortly after, pouring the drinks. The visit had been prearranged, but the timing could not have been better for the vagrant heart. The floodgates wouldn't hold for long, but distant indifference could provide a temporary distraction. The bottles emptied, vision blurred, and thoughts dimmed. The tantalizing toxin worked its magic until the vagrant heart transcended any capability of thoughts good and bad. It was a careful juggling act for the distant indifference, keeping the vagrant heart at a mental numbness without subjecting him to permanent mental or physical injury.

Severe emotions provided his anchor to reality, ensuring his drunkenness steered clear of dangerous levels despite the time gap between them. When the vagrant heart was ready to talk, she would be ready to listen. Until then she could only worry from afar as darkness threatened to consume him. If it wanted the vagrant heart, it would have to take her as well, and severe emotions was not going to let either of them go quietly into oblivion. When the dam stemming the emotional tide burst, she insisted on being in constant communication throughout the entire storm.

Cold cynicism kept a calculating watch on the vagrant heart's activities from his southern station to ensure that the inevitable self-destructive spiral didn't strand the vagrant heart in its bowels of misery and pity. When the vagrant heart reached that point, it was the intervening messages from cold cynicism that were his life line. It was an interesting choice, cold cynicism thought, for the vagrant heart to choose the agonizing route of confronting the emotions rather than slip into apathy. Logically he didn't know which was the better choice. The knight who doesn't chase dragons lives much longer, but then would that even still be a knight?

The vagrant heart wasn't sure when, or how, but he now knew something had fundamentally changed for him this chapter. He had lost much, nearly all the spoils of previous chapters, but he had gained something invaluable. He had been baptized by fire and burned severely in the process, but he no longer feared the flame. His wings were damaged, but he knew he could fly higher than ever now.
He was still against the grain. A quirk shared with severe emotions and golden spirit.

He was still against the odds. Something distant indifference and cold cynicism knew about all too well.

He was still against the world. But he wasn't against it alone.

And that, to him, was the key difference. The world didn't have a chance with his friends at his side at the dawn of the new chapter.