To a Rocket in the Empty Sky

You for my inspiration,
You through inertial wind and fire above, the zone, the edge of the atmosphere,
You in your rumbling blast, your exhausted fuel steaming, sonic boom compulsive,
Your sleek and phallic surface, shielding lead on a sword of steel,
Your unwanted sections, ejected and rejected pods, still tumbling, lonely in the void,
Through air or space, shoot high, shoot far, when the fire dies you still fly,
Hope for the future—reaching for knowledge and glory—penetrating the stars,
For once you contemplate the multiverse, just as I envision you,
Sun storm radiating plasma flares and photon spray,
Until your plunging, burning head swells and vibrates,
Until your steamy shell cools in the sea.

Mechanical monster!
Scream in my dreams of your chaos foretold from the moon to Neptune,
With atom-splitting silence, inflating, bursting like creation, you will rise
Above your own restraints, start surfing from world to world
(Instead of just from here to orbit and back again every time),
But even as you are, full of passion,
Undaunted by escape velocity,
Streak through blackness, unbound by philosophy.

~*~

(This is one I wrote for class, an allusion to Walt Whitman’s “To a Locomotive in Winter.” I’m not really a fan of Whitman, but I saw something in that particular poem that inspired me).

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Obedience School

So smug, content
lines dribbled along cracked facades
cradled words
piss-stained awards.

Another sacred hermit
has a grave on your desktop.
Nail-bitten, bleeding heirs
smiles unheard
by your shackled eyes.

“No newbs in our club,” you said.
Your epitaph agreed.

So high, surreal
the volcanoes in your hair
claw my spineless dreams.

Thoughts on Writing and Publishing

Back in college I met a guy named Ricky. It’s time to kick myself because I can’t remember his last name; but I remember talking to him about many things, especially about fiction and the kinds of writing we like. One thing he said that stood out to me was, “I think there’s a place for that kind of writing, too.”

Robert Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp, and Isaac...

Robert Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp, and Isaac Asimov, Philadelphia Navy Yard, 1944. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was in reference to my comments about I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. I enjoyed the movie because it was more character-oriented. There’s plenty to like in the book too, if you want to explore philosophic questions about robotics and other scientific ideas. The book isn’t about character.

I’ve thought about what Rick said and I agree. It goes beyond that, however. As much as I want to publish something with a big house, I find many of the contemporary standards stifling to the creative process. Don’t get me wrong; subjecting your writing to peer review, especially when reviewed by people with knowledge of the publishing industry, is a great way to improve your skill. I want everything I write, even these posts, to be the best I can do. Drafts get posted, but I spend time revising them for a while, too.

Publishers have their reasons for raising the bar so high. Their editors have to sort through hundreds, perhaps thousands, of manuscripts. Many people want to get into the writing game these days. Editors simply do not have the time to read them all. And the publishers are the ones footing the bill. So they have to resort to drastic measures to eliminate as many manuscripts as possible from their lists.

Good writing will sometimes get past them. Just because they don’t publish something doesn’t mean people won’t read it. There are some literary elitists who will insist they won’t read it for things I would consider minor. I have read enough contemporary novels that do what we are told not to do, on the first page, too. Especially in science fiction; the genre practically requires a little exposition. Large info-dumps of more than a sentence or two at time do get tedious and boring; try not to dwell on it, impart only what the reader needs to know and move on. I’m still working on my tendency to info-dump.

This is why I hope that self-publishing can change the future of the industry. Because, while many writers churn out very low quality work, others have something interesting to say, engaging stories to tell, inspiring poetry to share. “Indie writer” is not synonymous with “bad writer.” Neither is “unpublished” writer.

A Cherry Picker’s Diary

(Sigh. I know I’m taking a big risk by posting things like this. But the title of the blog does warn you that I’m an idiot, and I have a big mouth. I might just be a glutton for punishment too. We’ll find out soon enough. But I intend to let people know that I have controversial positions.

EDIT: I have made certain claims here, and I am constantly re-examining them. Like anything, I should never stop questioning, probing for better understanding. The best thing anyone can do for me when they read it is challenge it. Ask me the right questions, make me think about what I’ve said and what you have to say.)

~*~

A Cherry Picker’s Diary

I am a cherry picker. I am probably the biggest cherry picker of all, if I follow the definition used by atheists and anti-theists, because I have a spiritual belief that uses the Bible as a reference. But while I refer to things in this book, what I am picking from is life in general.

The primary assertion I will make is that my belief is a form of Christian philosophy. It is different in many ways from traditional Christian belief and [I have removed this statement in the interest of promoting rational discourse] I am not so sure I want that identification.

As a philosophy, it has what I think is a strong linguistic component, and it is not “religious” in the conventional sense. Some atheists have remarked that I am religious by virtue of my spiritual belief; I say “religion” has connotations today that do not apply to me or my life. Any church or no church is fine with me (as long as the members of a church are reasonably respectful to me and my belief). All too often, the dogma of a church turns me away.

Atheists and anti-theists disagree vehemently with fundamentalist Christians, as they should, but take the position that a fundamentalist view of the Bible is a more honest interpretation. The “cherry picker’s” approach, that of a moderate or liberal Christian, is more hypocritical, and more dangerous. I don’t know how right they are about cherry pickers.

They are right that a fundamentalist approach is more honest. However, this is only because the premise of their belief, and the belief of the moderates, is that the Bible is the “True and Revealed Word of God.” I will question this statement, even as someone who has chosen to believe the essence of the words of Jesus Christ. It implies that this one book is the only source of wisdom, the only source of truth; all others are not only inferior, they are lies.

And yet, the Bible has been shown to be the source of quite a few untruths, as many in the scientific community will agree. I take this view: it is a compilation of many books by many different authors concerning two different religions, one inspired by the other. They are not all the books written on these subjects. They are merely the ones chosen by a particular group of men to represent what constituted their belief at that time. A council of cherry pickers, in fact, and a historically significant one.

King James followed this up later (for his own selfish reasons) with his cherry-picked compilation. So even fundamentalists apply their “honest” approach to a cherry picker’s book.

The Bible cannot be the “True and Revealed Word.” I still use it as a guide to what I believe is wisdom (but not necessarily “truth”): the teachings of a perhaps misunderstood revolutionary and philosopher, Jesus Christ. It is only a guide, one among many (albeit the one that first turned my attention to the words of Christ), because I have reason to suspect the words are not recorded accurately, but the essence of his philosophy can still be discerned from the gospels.

Words

Words (Photo credit: sirwiseowl)

God’s Word cannot be contained in a book, and that is because everything is the Word. It is so vast it must burst through the seams of a physical world; it can be anywhere, in anything. And it is most clearly inscribed in human hearts than anywhere else.

The word “heart” only refers to a particular organ in science. If we take it in the artistic sense to mean “spirit,” the location of which is irrelevant, and understand that it cannot be verified scientifically, then it means the essence of each of us as individuals. I am not sure there is an essence to individuals, however, and will be more inclined to think it is the essence of everything, collectively.

My position is that Jesus Christ does not have to be God, does not need to have performed miracles. According to many, he probably did not; there is no evidence. It doesn’t matter. He walked among many people, teaching a controversial and quite rebellious philosophy, risking the anger and hostility of the Temple priests. And the most significant thing he told people was to love one another.

A problem many people will have are statements like “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever shall believeth in him shall have everlasting life.” Since I am a cherry picker, how should I pick this? I have already acknowledged that I cannot trust the accuracy of the Bible. Something might have been lost in the translation; it may have been translated (or authored) by someone with specific biases (and probably was).

To me, this is a much more honest view of the Bible, and it focuses on the philosophy of love at the root of Christianity. From this view, I can conceive of a new (cherry picker’s) interpretation for John 3:16: God’s Word is everywhere but it may have been most clear to humankind through the teachings of Jesus Christ; if we believe what Jesus taught, and live our lives accordingly, we will live forever (or at least leave a lasting, positive impression on those we love). The thing is, someone might live this way without believing in Christ, the Trinity, the Bible, Hellfire, Adam and Eve; they can live this way without believing in any god or religion. Despite the wording of the text, and others like it, the belief in Christ himself, or his resurrection, is not a requirement for “salvation.” It does not give the Christian exclusive claim to morality, either.

Of course, is there even a need for salvation? I believe there is; we desperately need to be saved from ourselves. And a philosophy of love might just have the potential to do that, in more than one way, so long as we actually live it (to the best of our limited, human capabilities) and not just pretend we do.

My faith is in the essence of my philosophy, which is based on the gospel of John, chapter one, verse one and verse fourteen. This means that I do attribute divinity to Jesus Christ, at least in the sense that he opened humanity’s eyes and ears to the Word (or tried to) and because everything is divine. Also, while many of Paul’s words strike me as reactionary and regressive, I am willing to accept his assertion that God is love, because that is the God I believe Jesus introduced to the theistic argument. I will agree with Paul’s definition of faith, too: “Evidence of things unseen, knowledge of things unknowable.”

This is purely subjective “evidence” and “knowledge”; it is weak in comparison to empirical data and interpretation based on rigorous tests and peer review. There could be a subjective test to determine if a belief and the actions thereof are compatible with the idea of a loving God. However, this kind of test only has subjective meaning relative to a subjective premise. It is meaningless in a scientific context; any kind of God, let alone a loving one, is extremely unlikely. My own experience of life is enough to make me wonder where this mysterious omnipresent being is hiding.

So I balance my faith with evidence-based belief, and I make sure I fully understand my subjective reasons for believing. The reasons for my faith are love and hope: I love, and I love very much; therefore I hope my love will never end. I have objective reasons for evidence-based belief and for tempering faith-based belief with it. Although the truth is that it goes both ways. My acceptance of natural philosophy is balanced by my understanding that some things might not have physical substance and cannot be measured or explained by empirical means. In fact, something might exist “outside” or “beyond” the universe.

Whatever it is, if we claim it created everything, some observation of the universe can help us infer a few characteristics of this being, and it doesn’t look good. If it is perfect and all-powerful, God should have been able to give us free will and maintain our perfection, the perfection of everything, for eternity. All the “mystery” about an “unknowable plan” is a tactic to suppress the questioning mind, to discourage free-thinking.

We can use the story of Lucifer’s fall from grace to illustrate. God made the angels before creating humans but he did not give them free will. If angels do not have free will, Lucifer could not have rebelled unless God told him to. What does this story mean? Why would God order Lucifer, the “shining one,” the “morning star,” to rebel and still hold him accountable for it? What purpose could this possibly serve? The only logical conclusions, if God is love, are that it must be either a metaphor to promote some deeper understanding of reality or a lie. Even for a metaphor, it is deliberately confusing.

If a divine being exists, then it cannot be perfect, and the only thing really “divine” about it is the spark of life, its consciousness, and perhaps its potential to exist outside of time. God’s existence would have to be analogous to the principles of quantum physics, in a sense (which doesn’t prove anything, so please do not mistake me). The universe was not always here, but the conditions necessary for a universe to bloom were. The conditions necessary for God’s consciousness to “awaken” have always existed, and that divine consciousness could be evolving, growing, transforming into something else, something I hope is better. Although, if it has a plan, we might be able to find indications of it by continuing to observe nature and study science.

For the subjective reasons I spoke of, I have decided to believe in God and that God is love. I believe that love will see us through the hell we have made for ourselves and the indifference of nature.

I can already hear many Christians shouting, “Blasphemer! Heretic! How can you say the Bible isn’t the Word of God and belief in the resurrection isn’t necessary for salvation?” The first question I have already answered. The second also relies in part on the infallibility of the Bible. However, the resurrection and, by extension, the “eyewitness accounts” of the ascension are presented as “evidence” that God will do the same for me. My spiritual belief does not need evidence.

Significantly, Jesus’ rebellion was against the religious leaders of his people, and not so much the Roman invaders. Those who were most angered by him were the priests of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Jesus Christ fulfilled the law passed down through Moses. Perhaps this was the only way to get anyone at all to take him seriously. Maybe God did leave hints of the new way to come through people like Isaiah and Daniel, too. Jesus did not build on an old religion, however; he introduced a new–a revolutionary–understanding of the spiritual life.

Condemning others based on our belief is unnecessary and wrong (and this is relative, because there are some judgments we can make); conversion is unnecessary and offensive. It also contradicts belief in a loving God. People do not need to be threatened with Hellfire or promised a Heavenly reward to have morals. The only “witness” we need to present is a life of love and respect for others. Anyone who does so lives according to the Word, even if they do not see it that way; although the sad truth is too many do not.

This philosophy is “Christian” in its estimation and esteem for the teachings of Jesus Christ, with or without a supernatural context. But the supernatural is real; it exists in the form of “the Word,” which is the foundation for everything.

All the Help I Need, Part 3

Towson Teachers

English: A view of the stands at Johnny Unitas...

English: A view of the stands at Johnny Unitas Stadium, home of the Towson University Tigers football and lacrosse teams. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I apologize to all my former professors at Towson University for not doing more with this. I just want to say I am grateful to you; you taught me a lot (as did some few of the students). Some tried to work with me when I was unable to go to class, when I couldn’t provide more than a few ER discharge papers, sometimes less.  And one, Professor Michelle Chester, who said, “For what it’s worth, you’re a wonderful writer.” All of you helped me to remember why I started writing in the first place.

So, despite all the hell I went through the past couple of years, I know there were three places where I could get help for something, at least. And it was for something that has always been a part of me, something that in many ways helped to define me. SFF Chronicles Network, Absolute Write Water Cooler, and Towson University. They were, really, all the help I needed.

For anyone who has the means to get an education at a good school, I highly recommend it. For those who don’t, you can still write, and if you have friends, writers or not, to read your work and comment, you have a better chance to improve your craft. That chance rises even more at forums like Chronicles and AW. Now I would also add by blogging. I wouldn’t let these resources go to waste.

The First Word: Ring of Life

Dilliproduct, a young writer who surprised and delighted me by quoting me on her blog, asked me today if I’ve posted any of my fiction here and of course I had to reply that I haven’t yet. I have been planning on it, however, so I decided I would post something now.

The First Word is the new title for the revision of a story I wrote in my early twenties; it was sort of a collaboration with a close friend, Robert Norris. Some of the characters are based on his concepts, especially Crazy Hawk, Lonesome, Ereflur, and Sombr (Crazy One, Lonely One, Loveflower, and Zombie); and the plot of book one, Ring of Life, is based on an idea created by Robert Norris. All other aspects of the work, The First Word, are mine, including: the overall plot for the series; the development of all characters and the creation of most; the setting; themes; etc.

Oh. I nearly forgot to mention something very important. Robert is no longer with us, but he will always be remembered fondly by many people. He was a close friend; he was a member of our family. I know this book would not exist without him and that my life has been enriched by knowing him.

Originally I called this story The Matrix Wars: The Protectors of the Matrix. The series title has been used since then and I’ve decided I don’t like it anyway. For what I plan to do with it, The First Word is more appropriate (although when publishing it probably won’t matter). The manuscript starts with a seven-page prologue that is all exposition, back-story. When I began to revise, I decided to keep the essence of the prologue but turn it into a chapter that focused more on action.

I’ve accomplished that, in two chapters, anyway. It still needs a lot of work, although I have already addressed one of the main concerns, that the invasion happens too abruptly. I cannot be sure I did it well, so any thoughts would be appreciated.

I have not revised the second chapter yet, so I will only post the first. I recently changed some things to make it seem like the planet appears barren. I’m not sure I’m going with that and I may change it again. Anyway, it is a future fantasy and it starts in the POV of the antagonist (so if you don’t like him, that’s why).

One thing I hope to accomplish is weeding out too much back story, especially in the beginning. Unlike some of my peers, I think one or two lines of exposition, perhaps woven into a character’s thoughts or in dialogue, are okay, as long long as I leave it at that and get on with the story. It is something first-timers should avoid if they plan to publish with one of the big houses; otherwise, I don’t have a problem with it.

If anyone sees more exposition that I overlooked, please show me so I can correct it, if necessary. Also, if the info-dumps are not woven into the story effectively and you find it boring, let me know.

Overall, I’d really like some general impressions, but if you want to dig in and give me a thorough crit, I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Anyway, without further ado, here is chapter one of Ring of Life. I hope you like it!

P.S. I hope no gets the impression from this story that I am religious. I’m just a lazy geek who sits around the house all day writing!

~*~

Chapter One: Invasion

Sombr bent forward with arms pressed into his burning abdomen. Ereflur placed a hand on his shoulder to steady him.

“Sombr?” said his sister. “Are you ill? Is it separation sickness?”

Then he turned to Ereflur, suppressing nausea by force of will, and tried to smile. “Yes, but I’ll be fine. I can stay a while longer. It’s only what I deserve, anyway.”

Ignoring the pain, Sombr compelled himself to move forward.

The maze always had been his favorite place on the grounds—even when he’d been too small to see over the hedges and begged Uncle Vendrehain for shoulder rides. Heat shimmered over the grassy path. If the hedge had been real, the leaves would be dry and brittle this time of year; instead, they were green and unchanging. Authentic or not, Sombr was glad to be there, as he was in no other place on Illusio.

Ereflur frowned and brushed his elbow with her fingers. “You didn’t know. How could you? So why do you feel responsible?”

“Because I am responsible, Ereflur.” He leaned on his sister’s shoulder for support. “How would you feel if you’d convinced hundreds of people to live on an outpost they can never leave without dying? Hallucien is a death trap, and I led them there. Knowing I can leave, even for a short time, is worse. I know they love me anyway, but I’ll never understand why.”

If I weren’t so obsessed with the Nexus System, they’d be here with their families—where they belong.

The physical pain faded and Sombr stepped away from Ereflur. They continued their walk, entering the next path. The center wasn’t far now.

Despite the consequences, he wondered how anyone would not be obsessed with the universe’s point of origin. How could anyone not be haunted by the oddities of both worlds orbiting the Nexus?

Still, he had learned something from his research. Sombr had communed with the core of Hallucien, which turned out to be a living entity. He wanted to reveal this secret to Ereflur but he hesitated.

“Always shining, always so beautiful here,” said Ereflur.

Beautiful indeed. The triple suns of the Nexus System, which also orbited the invisible point between the two worlds, shone on the surface of Illusio—highlighting the hedges and dispersing shadows as if they did not exist. All while defying every law of physics known to humankind.

When they arrived in the center, Ereflur adjusted her dress to sit on one of four pseudo-marble benches, which surrounded a statue of their father, Kurin Eranahei, then patted the place beside her.

“Please sit, Sombr,” she said. “You look pale.”

Sombr smiled again to reassure his sister and sat on the bench.

Ereflur sighed. “It will be time for the evening service soon. The people expect to see their Queen, and they miss their Prince. Uncle Vendrehain will be disappointed if he doesn’t see you today. Although I know how hard it is for you.”

She meant the separation sickness of course, but Sombr could not help thinking of Vendrehain’s well meaning—if annoying—attempts to steer his nephew back to the church. As a scientist, Sombr did not share his family’s religious convictions. “The Children of God’s Love” was a very peculiar sect, and not just by Sombr’s standards. Many Terrans openly scorned them, which had played a large part in the Children’s decision to leave the home world.

Sombr turned to his sister, ready at last to explain his discovery, when they were interrupted. A man in a starship uniform rushed into the center of the maze, churning up wads of grass with his boots, and sank to one knee before Ereflur. Sunlight reflected from the crewman’s black lightweight armor, and Sombr had to shield his eyes.

“Your Majesty,” he said. “The starship’s monitors have detected a large fleet entering the Nexus System! Lord Vendrehain’s attempts to communicate have failed.”

The Kingdom possessed only one armed star-ship. God help us if we ever need to defend ourselves. Sombr hoped they would not need to now.

Ereflur’s eyes grew wide with alarm. “A fleet? It couldn’t be from Terra, could it? Surely they have no reason to send a fleet here.”

While Sombr knew there were many on Terra who would like nothing more than to subdue the Children, regardless of the distance between them, he did not believe they had enough power to launch an invasion. Not yet, at least. But then, whose fleet was it?

“I don’t know,” he said, as much to himself as to Ereflur. He stared up at the sky, waiting for something to happen.

“Perhaps another colony? One that supports the World Church?”

“No. They’re subject to their charters, all of which have connections to Terran companies. If they invade another colony, even ours, they’d lose their support.” Then he snapped his head back and glared at his sister. “Wait—why don’t you know this?”

“I do know, brother, but whoever is out there has the advantage. Even colonists might become rogues. What else is there?”

Excuses again, Ereflur? She still did not know how to govern a kingdom. Why had his father allowed his followers to crown him King anyway? There had been no real kings in hundreds of years! But she had a duty to her people to learn.

He looked toward the sky again and said, “We’re wasting time. I doubt there’s anything we can do to defend ourselves, but there may be a way to negotiate.”

“You’re right,” said Ereflur, nodding. “I will summon the Council immediately. Will you assist us?”

“Of course—”

The air above the grounds rippled like the surface of a pond and flashed with green light. A low hum filled Sombr’s ears, and he was sure he could feel the air vibrating around him. His skin tingled for a moment, then started to itch. Ereflur looked at him. By the way she rubbed her arms, she wasn’t feeling any better. The knight remained still in his dark armor.

This world is blessed? I think we’re about to learn otherwise.

The itchiness was suddenly more intense, enough to overwhelm the recurring pangs in his stomach. Something swirled in the sky above the palace grounds. Ereflur and the knight turned their heads upward too. As they watched, the swirl turned red, frothing like a great storm cloud. Then a large black object materialized high over the palace, large enough to blot out the sunlight. The cloud erupted into hundreds of slender trails, black smoky wisps that wavered outward from the ship and evaporated before reaching the ground. Both Sombr and Ereflur shot to their feet. Everything they had discussed seemed trivial—and perhaps futile—to him then.

Sombr tried to determine the ship’s configuration but failed. Long, roughly cylindrical, and covered with random green and brown … “growths” was the only word he could summon to describe them. The surface, or what he could see of it, was porous and slimy, like the skin of a massive beast.

“What—what is that thing?” said the Queen, her voice trembling.

“Whatever it is, it isn’t Terran.” Sombr kept his tone even, despite the cold tendrils that curled around his heart. He had little time to wonder how a ship could just appear like that before more of them began to dot the sky, enshrouding their world in darkness.

In darkness. On Illusio!

Large bulbous glands on the undersides of the ships began to glow—bathing the landscape in what Sombr suspected was bioluminescence. As sure as he was that Hallucien lived, he believed the invaders had a highly advanced biological technology. Those ships were alive, and something dark and malevolent occupied them; Sombr could feel it, like a vibration in the ground before an earthquake.

And he had no doubt they were invaders. Why else would an entire fleet appear over their heads with no announcement, no warning?

Aliens. Humans had colonized over thirty star systems since the discovery of Eldritch Mechanics, and so far no one had encountered extraterrestrial intelligence. No one except Sombr, of course, when he counted Hallucien. They had to come from very far away, whoever they were.

Ereflur’s eyes dropped and her face grew as pale as she had described his earlier. Then she attempted to smooth her skirt, straightened her back, and turned her eyes toward the strange ships.

“Sombr, we can’t fight this.”

Sombr was sure Vendrehain had sent a distress call to Terra once the fleet had appeared within the Star Core, but that did little good. Even if Terra decided to send help, which it probably would not, Sombr suspected the alien fleet was much larger and more powerful than the Terran Defense Force. There was nothing to be done, as far as he could see.

But Ereflur did as the Children always did when confronted with impossible odds. Indeed, as they did on a daily basis anyway. She dropped to her knees, spread her arms wide and began to pray, waving her arms in the air and singing like a child in the Sunday choir. He knew people all over the Kingdom were doing the same.

“Do you really believe prayer will do any good?”

Ereflur did not stop to answer him, but Sombr saw a tear emerge from her right eye and trail down her cheek. If there was little else he respected in her, she loved him and he knew it.

While she prayed, a number of large, glowing discs appeared hovering around the palace, each occupied by giant bipedal reptilian creatures whose appearance stunned Sombr. He didn’t know what to expect—surely nothing so familiar. Sombr counted about twenty of them, which varied in color. Some were blue, some red, and others green. He saw two that were brown and one yellow. They were too far away for him to make out any more details.

The one that floated in front was red. It raised its long taloned hand, or fore-paw, as if to silence the multitude. Sombr knew the Children would not cease their prayer to save their own lives, and he snorted. Regardless, the red alien began to speak. A guttural voice boomed over the land, accompanied by a subtle echo, a whisper beneath the English words.

A translation device?

“I AM HIGH LORD FYUS, IMPERIAL PRINCE OF THE DRACON EMPIRE. BY ORDER OF HIS IMPERIAL MAJESTY NOVU, SOVEREIGN OF THE UNIVERSE, AND GLORIOUS LORD OF THE STARS, THIS WORLD, ITS RESOUCES AND ALL ITS INHABITANTS ARE NOW SUBJECTS OF DRACO. LAY DOWN YOUR ARMS AND SUBMIT TO THE WILL OF EMPEROR NOVU!”

Sombr remembered Hallucien’s message. There is nothing else. He could not be sure what would happen, but it might be the Kingdom’s only chance. Kneeling beside his sister, he laid a hand on her shoulder and said, “Ereflur, I might know a way out of this.”

She opened her eyes. “How?”

“I learned something … unexpected … about Hallucien. It’s alive, Ereflur, and I spoke with it at length. It told me I could merge my mind with it and gain immeasurable powers. If I can get back to Hallucien, I’ll try it. Maybe then we can actually fight off this invasion.”

“Sombr, this sounds very dangerous, if it is really possible. I don’t know—”

Sombr bit his lip to suppress the rankled reply on his tongue, then continued, “Ereflur, it’s the only way I can see. I have to try.”

“But how will you get back? The aliens must have the ship immobilized, and I’m sure they’ve surrounded Hallucien’s outpost as they did the Kingdom.”

“I—don’t know, but I’ll figure something out. I hope.”

She frowned and her eyes clouded. “All right, Sombr. I wish you Godspeed, and I’ll pray that you make it.”

Sombr winced and quelled another biting reply before he could offend her. Pray all you want, sister, but I don’t believe it will help.

He nodded instead, then twisted around and dashed through the maze. Waxy leaves drifted past as he ran, brushing the skin of his fingers, disappearing behind him, the world blurred by the fog of sweat and wind that stung his eyes. Good thing he’d been through it many times as a boy, so he knew the way. Still, he cursed his luck to be caught in the maze at a time like this.

Because he rushed, he took a wrong turn and encountered a dead end once, and nearly did three more times, forcing him to retrace his steps to the correct path. When he at last emerged from the entrance, his chest burned and his stomach lurched, and he wished he could stop. But he had to reach the paved area east of the palace that served for a port. As it was, he kept pushing toward his goal, pumping legs, embracing pain.

Ereflur had said the aliens would “immobilize” the starship. More likely they would destroy it, unless they decided a lone ship was not a threat. This made sense, but that was not what he saw when he approached the port.

Starship Eranahei sat on the pavement surrounded by a glowing blue shield. Sombr knew the ship’s energy defenses were invisible, so he assumed it was alien technology used to keep it on the ground and defenseless. But when the red alien hovering over the palace spoke again, Sombr realized his mistake.

“YOU WERE ORDERED TO LAY DOWN YOUR ARMS. THE SHIELD AROUND YOUR SHIP IS AN ACT OF DEFIANCE THAT WILL NOT BE TOLERATED. DISENGAGE THE SHIELD NOW OR WE WILL ANNIHILATE YOU!”

Sombr wondered who or what might have activated the shield. Certain members of the Eranahei family, acting together, might have enough power to summon a psychic field this large, but it would also be invisible to anyone without extrasensory abilities. Which meant the “Dracons” had such talents, or someone else was involved—someone unknown to both the Dracons and the Children.

Neither possibility was reassuring. The Eranaheis were only inviting retaliation if they had raised the shield. Sombr hoped no one in his family would be so foolish.

~*~

Karma

She storms.
A whirling maelstrom
crashes down streets
razes houses to rubble.
Wood, scattered shingles
broken pictures and dreams
miss their memories.

Rain screams down to Earth
hail of blossoming warheads
scourges flesh
seals eyes.

Sunshine tomorrow
promises hope
gives no comfort now.

The storm rages all

…………………..day

……………………………..long 

as far as I run.

Chilling tendrils find me.
I know she
will always be

overhead.

I seek shelter
dry skin
to feel at ease again

but the unreasoning door
never opens.

~*~

(Please forgive my procrastination again on Part 3 of “All the Help I Need.” I will be getting to it, but for the moment it is quite difficult for me concentrate. I hope you like the poem).