Drabble #1

Little King

 

   I am a King. A King in my family’s name, who reigns over my family’s land. My castle lies in a peaceful sea of hope and dreams. My castle is serene, majestic, and great. Greater still is the feathered serpent who guards it. A shimmering dragon stitched together with the tender love that only a mother knows. The shore is far, but love is known. Only one tower of my castle is lit, but good company is known as well. My foundation is powerful; every stone is a memory. Even the stones I regret, helped in the end.Image

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The Aphotic Atrocity’s Favorite Free Retro-Games

   Gaming can be an expensive hobby, and not everyone can just drop a pay check on the latest consoles or afford the videogame library of their dreams. Though, there are plenty of worthwhile games out there that will not burn a whole in your wallet let alone cost a dime! Here are a handful that I have really enjoyed.

 

1. OpenTTD

http://www.openttd.org/en/

   If you are a fan of old tycoon games, especially Transport Tycoon, or city simulation, OpenTTD is a great game to check out. It has been continually updated for years and even encourages modding.

 

2. Dwarf Fortress

http://www.bay12games.com/dwarves/

   Text games may not be worth more than a glance to younger generations, but if you can endure passed the lack of graphics (there are mods and graphic sets to make the game more visually appealing) and a very steep learning curve, you will find a very rewarding game. This game has you ordering around a small band of dwarves who seek to establish a settlement at you predetermined location. A good balance of “micro vs macro” management will have you struggling to keep a bustling dwarven populace happy and playing an economist. Once you think you finally have a handle on everything, you will be arming your dwarves to protect their home from hordes of goblins!

 

3. Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead

http://en.cataclysmdda.com/

   Bringing up Dwarf Fortress reminded me to include just one more text game. C:DDA is a zombie survival game where a character you design is dropped into a post-apocalyptic world and you do your best to last as long as possible. There are a wide variety of interesting strategies you can design to help you fight or flee. Personally, I loved luring a slow line of zombies around while I pelt their heads with rocks.

 

4. Unlok’s Wayward

http://www.unlok.ca/

   Wayward is a fun little survival game which has you dealing more with coming to terms with winding up on a deserted island than fighting waves of zombies. One thing to note is that you do not have to download anything if you do not wish too, it is completely playable in your browser. I enjoyed the amount of crafting in the game. It was really fun to forage about, desperately trying to fit “puzzle pieces” together to come up with the next great thing. If you find it just as entertaining as I have, be sure to check it out of Steam’s Greenlight and help their team progress the game.

 

5. Battle for Wesnoth

http://www.wesnoth.org/

   If you miss old, fantasy strategies, look no further. There are tons of campaigns and the community is always looking for new ways to improve it. There are even guides to help you customize it so you can make your own maps or even your own race.

 

6. FreeCiv

http://play.freeciv.org/

   Fans of Sid Meier’s Civilization, particularly Civilization 2, will be able to jump right into this game. It is everything you loved about it with more customization, and most of all, free!

 

   I hope you found something here that you can really get into. If you are looking for another list, or perhaps a particular genre of game, feel free to drop me a line. I may know just the game you are looking for, or be eager to put together another list for you to browse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Great Songs You’ve Probably Never Heard

1. Mystery Skulls – Money

Money is a great eletronica track on its own, but I just had to show you this specific video. The beat is in perfect sync with the zany inclusion of the Phoenix Wright characters and I love the nods to bands such as Daft Punk.

 

2. DyE – Fantasy

-DISCLAIMER- This video contains disturbing, mature content! Read caption before playing.

Not everyone is going to be able to stomach this one, but even if it is way too graphic for your tastes, I insist you at least listen to it while it plays from the safety of a hidden tab on your browser. The song is absolutely beautiful to me. If you can get passed the gore and violent, sexual imagery, I think they are trying to get across a message through symbolism. Some people believe it represents the fear and anxiety that comes with the passage of becoming a woman, but the ending leaves me feeling as if it is more than that.

 

3. MINMI – Shiki no Uta

I do not know what it is about this song, but I simply can not get enough of it. Most people would only have heard of this track if you were a fan of the anime Samurai Champloo. The soundtrack was a collaboration of Nujabes (Jun Seba) and Fat Jon. Both men are definitely worth looking into if you are a fan of hip hop.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat_Jon

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nujabes

 

4. Skulk the Hulking – Sucktown USA

Never seen a man with a moustache that big that can rap that well. And I am so glad I have. This group combines old and new styles for an eclectic sound that I have never heard before. It is hard to put a label on this group; their tracks can really vary, and I can not say I am a fan of them all. But Sucktown USA gets me nodding and tapping my foot right off the bat.

http://www.skulkthehulking.com/

 

5. Alice Francis – Shoot Him Down

Such a fun song. I love the kind of 1920s vibe she seeks to emulate.

 

I hope you got to enjoy something you never listened to before. If you want to see more, or even if you would like to see me compile a list of something else, feel free to drop me a line. You can always reach me through the blog or by email: AphoticAtrocitiesInc@gmail.com

Scary Lullaby to Lull You By

I came by something fun and decided to dust it off. Here is a creepy poetry reading I recorded many years ago. Be sure to sit alone, in the dark, while you read along to the audio file.

https://soundcloud.com/aphoticatrocitiesinc/reading/s-8VR9P

 

You’re going to receive a special treat.

A feast for the senses, just for you.

It’s why I’m named the way I am.

A dirty little secret that I’ll share with only you.

I am He Who Walks Without Light.

I am The Aphotic Atrocity.

To explain why, we’ll play a game.

A very old game.

First we have to cast a spell.

Nothing too difficult, just say these words,

Ditatchi vera emusriam.

You said it in your head, now say it old loud,

So everyone can hear you.

Now turn off the lights,

And sit in the dark.

You can light a candle if you’re too scared.

Now say it again, out loud,

So everyone can hear you.

Even the people you can’t see,

Standing right beside you.

Too creepy?

Well, that’s just too bad,

‘Cause there’s no turning back.

We’re with you now.

You’re becoming a bit ill at ease.

The air has a different chill to it now.

Doesn’t it?

We’re breathing on you.

We can’t wait to taste you.

Ditatchi vera emusriam.

You read it again, didn’t you?

I guess you really do want to play.

We can almost touch you now.

You can almost feel those long, cold, black tongues on your skin.

It’s like an oil on your skin that you can’t get off, isn’t it?

Is the room getting smaller?

Or are you just getting nervous?

Do you feel sick yet?

Do you know you’re not alone in that dark room?

Maybe you think this is just a joke?

Sure, he’s just manipulating me to feel a certain way.

Ditatchi vera emusriam.

Or maybe your body is trying to tell you something.

It’s screaming at you, can’t you hear it?

Get away.

Run away.

It’s coming.

It’s here.

It’s going to hurt you.

IT’S GOING TO FUCKING EAT YOU!

Dear me, you’re shaking now.

Have I said too much?

Are you bent on just walking away?

Closing the window will make you feel better, right?

You don’t get to escape.

I’ll always be with you now.

Every time it’s dark,

I’ll be the hand hovering over your head.

I’ll be the eyes in front of you while you sleep.

I’ll be the teeth nipping at your heels.

Why?

Because I can.

They taught you how you’re supposed to be good.

They told you how to shun evil.

But no one told you what to do,

When it’s standing right behind you.

But I’ll tell you,

How to feel a bit relieved.

All you have to do is say out loud,

You scare me.

And I’ll take my hands off of your shoulders and walk away.

But I’ll be watching you, sweetie.

And don’t you dare forget,

The name that belongs to those eyes.

I am He Who Walks Without Light.

I am The Aphotic Atrocity.

Ditatchi vera emusriam.

Good night.

Haiku Challenge

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/challenge-haiku/

  • He walks without Light.

         Aphotic Atrocity.

        Born in His shadow.

  • Indigo solace,

         waits for you in reverence,

         wiping all your tears.

  • Writhe and drink the wine.

         Come and dance with me, you’re mine.

         Realize your lies.

  • Kisses and leather,

         make a dull girl much better.

         Pretty lil’ vixen.

  • Smell salt in the air…

        Feel sand underneath your feet…

        Sunlight warms your face.

 

 

 

 

A Bit of the Story’s Universe (Part 1.5)

   I decided to share some of the character archetypes that exist in this world. Sometimes, I like the idea of a sidenote to explain what a character would not naturally go into detail about in a first-person view. It feels more real for the main character to refer to something that he or she considers common knowledge without forcing in an explaination.  Many of these concepts come from a table-top roleplaying game that I have been slowly designing for years. The more I add to it, the more numbers I have to crunch to try to keep an entire universe balanced. It can be pretty nerve-wracking, but table-top games will always have a fond place in my heart. I grew up with FASA’s Shadowrun and now own a fairly extensive collection of the older White Wolf books. Even if it did not bring me any fame or fortune, just the thought of being able to one day walk into a store and see my own book on a shelf makes me ecstatic.

  • Sin Drinker” – There is no collective name for these men who have gazed too deeply into the abyss. They have taken it upon themselves to absorb monsters through ritual; weaving them into their very essense in order to pursue their goals. They vary as widely as the possible combination of creatures they can possess. This great host of abilities also can come with terrible consequences. The minds of the imbibed still exist and can struggle for control of their fused bodies eternally. Only addled intelligences and collaborators surrender quietly. Even those of the greatest wills and mental fortitudes eventually succumb to the daily onslaught on their sanity as they add to their monstrous repertoire in pursuit of achieving Chimera. Because of this, the technique is often banned or shunned in most cultures.

        Chimera” – A perfect fusion. All minds, bodies, strengths, weaknesses, abilities, and ineptitudes compliment each other to form a juggernaut of immense power without the crippling battle to retain one’s mental and physical coalescence. Many believe this to be no more than a pipe dream.

  • Tamer – With diligence and training, Tamers seek to domesticate magical beasts to do their bidding. In some cities, many monsters have become established pets, beasts of burden, guards, and hounds through their efforts. Tamers also serve as embassadors and negotiators with creatures of an intelligence too great to subdue.
  • Invoker – This class seeks to dominate monsters through less mundane means. Though the methodology varies on culture and religion, Invokers use incantation to bind beasts to physical objects such as crystals or talismans. Unlike Tamers, Invokers do not need to train or domesticate their catch, nor are they limited by the monster’s mental capacity. Bound monsters are slaves to their Invoker’s commands and can be conjured at will. Beings of incredible essense or willpower can summon the strength to break their entrapment or resist altogether. Some more devious types have been known to bide time in their entrapment until an opportunity arises to shatter their bounds and slay the Invoker.
  • Patchworkers” – These men have used technological aspirations in an attempt to circumnavigate the innate crutches associated with “Sin Drinking”. By grafting on or replacing portions of their body with the parts of monsters, Patchworkers seek to gain heightened physical prowess and the innate abilities of the associated “piece”. Technologically advanced culture is scarce in this world, but the influence of these technocracies can stretch across continents. Their clout has created black markets and “chop shops” which deal with illegal and valuable parts of creatures. Some Patchworkers are walking behemoths who look like Frankenstein’s monsters while others can simply be a clique of teenagers who are following a fad to have cat-like eyes. Rejection of the foreign body can occur when dealing with esoteric monsters or too many modifications. This can result in various adverse, sometimes gruesome, effects.

Unfinished Novel

Here is the beginning of a draft for a novel that I toyed around with about a decade ago. I know I had written more, but the rest could be buried in a box somewhere. I really enjoyed working on it. I had the support of a really good friend and an amazing artist. It was also one of the first times I had tried to advertise my writing online and the most negative/critical comment I received was that they basically agreed it was a rough draft. I will never forget one woman that left a comment on it. She was complaining that she was late for work because she could not put it down and finish the rest later. That was a pretty wonderful feeling.

 

I opened my eyes and sighed. That exhale of despair was that same sound that welcomed me every morning. I was so tired of putting up with life. I just wanted to be happy. For one lousy day, I wanted to be able to breathe again. Every time I thought things were starting to look up, the powers that be would send me spiraling down a new hell. I got out of bed and went along with the same mind-numbing routine I always did. I hated my job. The money was decent but I worked ninety-hour weeks. I could never catch up on sleep, and I was losing touch with the few people that I thought might actually give a damn about me. On the way to work, I drove passed the house I grew up in. It was sort of masochistic for me to go out of my way to see something that reminded me of feelings that I will never experience again. I can not recall much but there were simple times where I would run around the neighborhood with boys my age and beg my parents for the latest action figure. My childhood was cut short though. I was not even out of elementary school when my life started falling apart, and no amount of antidepressants or therapy was going to change that either. That is probably where the top of this downward slope to damnation began. I must have been too caught up in my thoughts or at glancing across the parkway at my old house. I never saw the oncoming truck swerving in out of lanes. It clipped a van changing lanes, trying to get out of the way, and was thrown across the median. It hit me head on. I remember yelling but not the sound of it or my throat straining. Nor do I remember the collision, but I suddenly jerked and stopped yelling. My face felt warm and wet. That warmth felt so good, so right. I was, finally, free from enduring this life. I had a way out without having to feel guilty about it. I glanced around briefly and found myself staring at a little girl through the cracked windshield. She was just standing there in front of the car seemingly unshaken. I remember thinking that she had my eyes, which made me feel, suddenly, ill at ease. There was nothing after that. No pearly gates. Not even darkness, just nothing. Nothing, except Willie. There was no grand entrance, he was just suddenly present. He was a hideous man; like some kind of gnarled, backwater product of incest. He seemed to tower over me but I could make out that he was a short, stocky man. The nothingness had receded, but I could not grasp the scenery. It was as if my eyes could not focus on anything around me, particularly whatever he was sitting on. “You took your bloody damn time gettin’ here. I’ve been waitin’ long enough.” There was a quality about his voice that made him all the more revolting to me. It was not the Irish accent, but almost like it affected the other senses; it smelled foul, it was like oil sliding across my skin. I rubbed my arms as if I could get his voice off of me. “Please, tell me you’re not god. I can’t kill myself a second time.” He roared in laughter, almost falling back off of his perch. His movement brought the sound of metallic rustling. I had not noticed the chain around his neck until then. “You’re sicker than I if you think me to be your almighty, boyo.” I scowled at him and looked around, squinting but not making out a simple route away from him. This seemed to make him uneasy. “Oi, settle down, eh? I’m in your debt, boyo, so I’ll be making this a bit easier fer ya.” I redirected my attention, crossing my arms and waiting for what he had to say. He seemed to get more restless as I got agitated with him. “You can run around in circles for all eternity, I got what I want.” I took this as a poor attempt to make me think he was indifferent towards me. He straightened up, getting a bit more stoic and serious. “Though, you won’t be gettin’ anywhere. I might be the one with a visible chain but you’re more bound than I.” “How do you figure? Better yet, how the hell are you in debt to me?” “Hell indeed.” With that, his “perch” came into view. He was resting on a pile of human heads; some freshly cut, some had been decaying for a time. They were all people who had scorned me, be they family, former lovers, friends, even people I had not thought of for years. I instantly felt sick, more so because I was glad to see some of them dead. “Ah, maybe you’re the one in debt, boyo?” I gestured to his seat, “What is this?” “Baggage. The people that haunt your mind will be your way around. It’s unusual for a soul to bring so many keys. You might be the first in a long time to be able to open so many doors.” “So what? I get pissed on more in life so I get a bigger afterlife to roam?” “Something like that. There’s always a balance to these things. You’ll learn that soon enough, boyo.” He used his heel to kick a head out of the pile. It bounced and rolled until it came to rest in front of me. My fists clenched. The wounds caused by her were still fresh. I was all but ready to grab the damn thing by its hair and cast it away, when Melanie looked up at me. “I love you, Diego. I’ll always love you. I’d never do anything to hurt you. I could never do that to you, Diego.” She whispered so sweetly with that coy little smile of hers. Her dead eyes still glistened the way they did when she spoke of such sentimental things. “Shut up. You filthy, fucking slut, shut the fuck up!” I was shaking and my tears stung like hot embers. She did not seem to hear me. She went on like a broken record. “I love you.” “You never loved me.” “I’ll always love you.” “Shut the fuck up!” “I’d never do anything to hurt you.” I went still and spoke low. “Stop it.” Willie rose with keen interest. “I could never do that to you, Diego.” The area started quivering with instability. Willie was looking around with sincere concern. “Boyo, she’s a memory. Calm yerself.” I glared at this man so intensely the hate felt tangible. The air felt like it was vibrating. My voice ruptured from me with such caliber that it visibly startled him. “I was supposed to be free from this, and here you are shoving it in my face again!” “You don’ understand. There’s good reason…” I still could not make out anything around me, but I could hear things shatter and break as the area shook harder. Willie slid off of his throne, picking up a pair of heads on his way down. He muttered incomprehensibly and swung the heads at me, spraying blood. The crimson shower hit me like a cement brick. I was not knocked down as I expected from the blow, but was pinned back as if against a wall. I raged and moved at him only to find myself held in place by assorted rusted chains, barbed wire, and what looked like rotted fencing. “Everyone has to carry a burden to get anywhere, boyo.” The timbre of my voice dropped again. It rippled thru the air like an echo from the abyss. “That’s life. I left that behind. There’s no more holding me back or forcing me to suffer.” Melanie’s voice chimed in, “But I don’t want to be with you…” “…I want to play the field…” “…It’s just sex.” Willie looked pale. “Oh, bollocks…” I screamed and the blurred reality around me blew apart. I felt my back expand and something like two large black hands swept away my bindings like dust. Willie seemingly reached through the nothingness around us and pulled Melanie’s head away from me before I could take out my blind anger on it. That did not stop me from trying though. I kicked off the ground, throwing myself at him. Willie somehow called up the blood out of the pile of heads with sheer force of will and gesture. It rose in my path and swept over me like a wave. I rolled and flailed in a swirling mass of blood. My hatred thickened as I was continuously obstructed. If souls are songs, mine roared to existence then; bellowing with all the fury of a thunderclap. The heads cried out in agony as my cage was flung apart. Willie shuffled away from me. “This shouldn’t be happenin’. You need to do somethin’ right now.” I felt the appendages on my back flair out like I was going to throw my own cascade in return. I probably would have bashed his ugly face in if she had not come. Her presence halted me immediately. The rage was suddenly gone. That endless void that coursed through me was filled and I was rendered dumbfounded. She was not just a visage; she was a siren’s melody, a perfume, loving hands caressing my face. Her sweeping raven hair hid half of her as if she would be too much to look at if you were to take a glimpse of her fully. I was lost in her, this goddess. She approached and my wings folded back. I reached out to touch her like a scared child to his mother. An arm reached from beneath her hair and then everything became sickly wrong. Her arm looked gnawed and rotten. She touched my face and I jumped back, startled. My leg snapped and broke off midway thru the movement and I hit the ground. My legs looked gangrenous and were decaying right before my eyes. I futilely tried to put my leg back together, too shocked to comprehend the situation. Then my left eye fell out of its socket. I cried and attempted to force it back in but my hands were crumbling away. I felt things writhing inside of me and my bones began to splinter, piercing my skin. I vomited a mixture of puss and maggots then screamed, but blood poured from me more than audible words did. I shook, my mind was gone. Thankfully, I lost consciousness. I dreamed of the little girl I had seen before I died. We were standing in what was my bedroom when I was her age. Looking at her filled me with a dread that not even what the goddess had done to me could compare to. She spoke softly with a voice too demonic to be hers, “I thank God for the suffering.” I woke face down, in the dirt. I raised myself just enough to get my face off of the soggy ground and found that I could see it now. The ground looked like blue marble and it bled where my weight was distributed. It was like pushing water out of a sponge. I sat up and looked around at an alien landscape. I was in what appeared to be an orchard, but the trees were not of wood; they were like shoots of intertwining veins and arteries and the foliage consisted of decapitated bodies held up to bake in the sun. I expected to smell death but the fragrance in the air was sweet and metallic. I stripped off my blood-soaked sweatshirt and tossed it aside before moving. I did not walk far before I came to a pair of craters. The ground looked like cracked glass and several “trees” were splintered and uprooted. Sitting in the center of the mess was a head. Things started coming back to me then. I frantically examined my body and reached at my back but I felt normal. What was stranger than knowing I had had wings was that it felt natural to have them. I actually missed them, as if I knew what it was like to soar thru the sky instead of being restricted to the ground below. More importantly, there was that woman, that half-rotten angel. What the hell was that about? I shook myself to clear my head. There is no point in trying to make sense of a nightmare; all you can do is journey further down the rabbit hole. I approached the head, figuring that I would need it based on what Willie had said. I was furious at the thought of having to deal with Melanie again, but I noticed the hair was too dark and too long. I walked around to see the face and found that it was not Melanie. It was Stacie. There was not any rage this time, just melancholy. I waited for words, but they never came. Perhaps her angry face said everything. We dated off and on with no real seriousness until one night she was drugged and raped. After she told me, I could not touch her anymore. I did not know what to do or say, I just knew that she felt tainted. I am sure that the last thing she needed was to be shunned by the man she was infatuated with. It happened so long ago that I could not recall any real details; especially why we ended up hating each other so much. I picked her up by her hair and walked. Normally, I would be questioning every aspect of my situation, plaguing myself with what could be going on, but this place did not give me a chance to think. I noticed that the bodies all had messages carved into them; “Willie was here”, “and here”, “here too”, “Willie got him”, “and her”, “this belongs to Willie”, “guess who?” All insane little notes everywhere like someone’s graffiti. The air became more heavily scented as I walked. When it became strong enough that I was going to complain, I saw the little girl from my dream. I was instantly filled with dread. Seeing her did not necessarily scare me, it was more like a intense feeling of wrongness. As if looking at something that could not possibly exist but does. I starred at her as if I was driving by a wreck on the side of the road; you know it could be gruesome but you slow down and look anyway. There was nothing hideous about her though, she was pretty little thing. She skipped away between the trees and I forced myself to follow, even though every fiber of my being was screaming for me not to. I lost sight of her quickly. She turned a corner around a tree at the edge of the orchard and dropped out of sight. As I stepped out of the orchard, Stacie’s head bled from the eyes and whispered, “His suffering grants entry.” What looked like a medieval cathedral seemed to spring forth before me as if it was always there but I could not see it until I took that last step. It was all brown stone with roman-style ornamenting. The marble ground darkened as I drew closer to the cathedral, as did the sky. Despite the foreboding changes, I proceeded. The entrance consisted of great oak doors, which parted as I neared. The insides were of a grand church, though instead of the usual rows of wooden benches, stood flawless women. All as beautiful as the mesmerizing song they began to sing. No words, just pristine voices which caressed the ears. Disgusting tubing that looked more organic than mechanical ran from their chests and along the floor and gathered at a machine that resembled a church’s organ. In front of the large machine stood what I thought was an onyx statue which towered several stories above me. Its head was lowered so I could not see its face, and its body was shrouded in a massive cloak which ran all the way to the ground far below. The only distinguishing features were massive bull horns which nearly grazed the ceiling. I walked slowly passed the first few rows of sirens but halted when the singing suddenly stopped. That is when I saw the giant’s head rise. Its milky white eyes glared at me, striking out of the massive silhouette. Its focus was suddenly diverted to the little girl I had been trying to follow. She slipped out from behind me and treaded towards the angry monolith. I tried to call out to her to make her stop, but I found myself shaking. I could not speak. All I could do is watch her destroy everything. I still do not know how to accurately describe what happened. It was so fast. It looked like the girl was turned inside out and started growing exponentially. Shards of bone came up out of the whirling mass of human flesh like a great mouth and struck the dark giant under its cloak. The sirens screamed and the giant drew up his great arms and beat at the monstrosity assaulting him. The inhuman beast spewed forth tendrils of flesh which were quickly engulfing the insides of the cathedral and the giant like rapidly growing vines. The giant pounded relentlessly but only seemed to be getting tangled as he did. The mouth of the monster began striking and flaying the giant as it overcame him. As it became evident that the giant’s strength meant nothing, the monster turned on the sirens. A large gelatinous hand slid out from the organic mass and took hold of the tubing which all the women were connected to and tore them free of the cathedral’s great organ. Free of the machine, it retracted into itself, dragging the women inside. The sirens screamed and frantically clawed at the ground and each other, but it was of no use. Large tooth-filled sockets formed in the mass to devour the women as they were dragged within reach. As one of them slide by, she grabbed a hold of my pant leg. She cried and ranted unintelligently at me for help. I tried to pull her at first, but found that she was only going to get me killed as well at this rate. No matter how much I attempted to break free from her, she would not let go of me. The monster ravaged the giant, tearing him apart. Somewhere between having a large piece of the giant’s intestine slap onto the ground beside me and watching the sirens being eaten, I finally panicked. I felt myself go hollow inside and wings sprout from my back. I tore free from the woman’s grip and slashed at her tubing with my wing, severing it. I picked her up in my arms and took off into the air. The woman started screaming and slapping at me, her eyes were as wild as they were when she was being dragged to her death. The monster’s tendrils rippled, doubling over with thorns of bone before lashing out at me. I weaved back and forth, trying to dodge the fleshy rose vines, but a thorn caught the woman, knocking her unconscious. The gash was large, starting at the bridge if her nose and running across the crown of her head. I was running out of room to maneuver as the beast began to fill the cathedral. I made a last ditch effort and threw myself towards a stain-glass window. The beast’s mouth grew wide and shot forth a tongue which splintered into countless arms, all reaching out to grab me. I barrel-rolled, slapping away most of them, but my legs were taken a hold of just before I came to the window. Everything slowed down then. In the split-second it would have taken for me to start falling, one of the arms drew up in front of me holding Stacie’s head. I had not realized I had dropped it. Stacie’s eyes bled and she whispered to me, “Her suffering is greater. You are banished.” My vision blurred and I felt my body being flung by a great force. I expected to hit the cathedral walls but I went spiraling on forever, yelling and gripping the siren tightly. When I started to regain my composure as I plummeted through the air, I hit the ground. I coughed up blood and yelled as I flexed a broken wing. I fumbled around, trying to get myself to stand. I found my balance as my eyes began to focus on my surroundings and managed to at least get on my knees. I was back in the orchard. I got to my feet and picked up the woman, moving us the shade of one of these gruesome trees. Before I could tend to her, I heard a voice above me. “Came back to admire the art, boyo? And you even brought your new girl wit ya. How sweet.” Willie was high in the tree holding up a freshly cut body as the tree’s limbs pierced it and took it out of his hands. I threw myself into a defensive stance, and winced. I did not feel up to tangling with him again. Willie shook a finger at me and chuckled dryly. “You got the jump on me once, so shame on me, but this time, I planned ahead, boyo.” The ground quaked and rippled before three large crystals burst up from the ground in front of me. They shimmered briefly, and then the portions facing me became reflective so that I could see a perfect mirror image of myself. The first thing I noticed was that my wings did not show in my doubles. I did look unnatural to myself though. I was still my tall, lean self, but my muscles were more defined and I seemed a bit too sharp and chiseled. My pale bronze skin was speckled with blood and my hair was falling out of its ponytail, but I looked beautiful. I felt as if I was looked at a picture of myself that someone had doctored to look better. The mirrors took on different hues; one white, one gray, and one black. I cried out in agony and gripped my head. It felt like someone was playing tug-o-war with my brain. I dropped to my knees and watched my reflections change. The mirror with a white hue held an image of me when I was ten years old and crying. The gray mirror seemed to remain the same, except I looked hollowed out. I was staring into nothingness without blinking and looked completely emotionless in that mirror. The black hued mirror did not look like me at all. The man in that mirror was covered in archaic tattoos. The whites of his eyes were black, his irises dark blue, and his pupils were crimson. His hair was so dark that it looked like a long, billowing shadow behind his head. His black nails were grown long and sharpened. He drew his hands up in front of his chest, touching fingertips. His body flexed and three pairs of black wings unfolded from behind him. A circle of light shone above his head then set ablaze in a flame of black which curled up at opposing sides like horns. I stared at this stranger. I swore I knew him despite this being the first time I saw anything like him. Willie walked around from behind the mirrors and studied the separate images. “This is you split into several aspects, boyo. Deep inside, you’re just a little boy who cries because no one loves him, a mindless zombie who moves through the same routine every day, and a monster.” I snarled and tried to get up to confront him for speaking down to me, but the mind-splitting pain would not let me move the way I wanted to. “You’re goin’ to stay right there until I put you back together. This time, you’re fuckin’ listening to what I got to say.” The black mirror grew darker as the man in it became visibly angry. “You have to endure this last trial if you ever want to find peace in life after death, boyo. Take each journey with each different burden and grow from it. After shedding off your weights, then you’ll have nothing to hold you back. You’ll really soar then, boyo.” Willie sighed and ran a hand through what ratty blonde hair was still on his balding head. “You just got back from Maskim Xul’s Cathedral. What the hell wen’ on there that you were cast back ‘ere like that? And why in the blazes did you take a girl from his choir? He’s got to be throwin’ one hell of a unholy bitchfit in there.” I slowly explained in detail, between bolts of throbbing pain, the events that followed after seeking out the girl I saw in the orchard. I never said anything about my dream or seeing the girl before I died though. “The head said that? Word for word? Her suffering was greater and you got banished?” Willie was pacing back and forth, scratching his head. “Yeah, but you got to give me more than this. Why did Stacie’s head take me there? What the fuck was all that, especially the girl?” “I’m not supposed to be too givin’, boyo. But there’s plenty goin’ on that shouldn’ be, so I’ll make a exception. Your burdens will put you in situations based off why they’re burdens in the first place. Like this Stacie girl. You have to live with the shame of forsaking her. Whatever was supposed to happen there was going to make you come to terms with that. But that girl interfered and you acquired some more baggage.” He jerked a thumb to the unconscious siren. “What am I supposed to do now then?” “Cry over another head, get tossed to some other corner of nowhere, and hope little girls don’t try to eat you. I’ll stitch your bitch, but I’m not babysittin’ the noisy bird. You saved her; you can do whatever with her.” I scowled at him. “What about Stacie and the whole ordeal?” “It’ll be dealt with.” Willie broke off a limb from a tree and started smashing the mirrors. I writhed on the ground in worse pain, my head felt like it was imploding on itself. When I tried to plead for release from this, Willie struck me over the brow. I did not black out all the way. My eyes rolled and I swayed; teetering on staying awake. I remember Willie walking away and then returning soon after holding a new head. The hair was short and dark, but it was faced away from me so I could not identify it. There was an exchange of words and then I was not in the orchard anymore. I was lying on a much harder ground and I was in the midst of such a dense fog that I could not see what was around me. I shivered, the ground and the breeze was a cutting cold. I could hear yelling and the clanging of metal in the distance. I groaned, “If I ever meet up with that idiot trucker here, I’m going to fucking gut him like a fish.”