Allow me to begin by saying, as a Christian, I believe the Gospels should be taught with love and kindness. Not guilt, ridicule, or a confrontation.
What prompted me to write this essay is to conclude an internal conflict regarding faith. A new challenger has emerged. An Atheist. During a recent debate (argument) on my boss’s radio show, she challenged me to learn more about the views of Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens in order to understand why Atheists don’t believe in God.
She said, “I’ll read something of the Bible that you suggest, if you check out a video by one of these Atheists.”
My boss egged her on and encouraged me to accept the challenge. The thing is…while she openly admitted that she knew very little about the Bible or what it meant to be a Christian, I actually have been through my Atheist Phase. I already knew a lot about Atheism. Allow me to explain…
What I’m about to reveal will probably make me sound like a sociopath. Method Actors do it all the time and it seems accepted. However, for an author, because projects we work on can take months if not years…I understand why it might be difficult to maintain a relationship with us.
It’s been over a year since I’ve created a new story. In 2019, I was 32-years-old and after committing myself to books and screenplays for a decade, decided to commit myself to other aspects of adult life…like advancing in a corporate job, becoming a homeowner, and building relationships with real people. In that, 2019 was a success. I’ve progressed and accomplished everything I set out to do.
But still…Despite everything I’ve done, I confess that nothing on earth has given me greater pleasure than escaping to another world and writing down everything I see. I can’t overstate this enough. 2019 has been the longest I’ve gone without creating anything new, and while I am happy…I don’t feel fulfilled. Yes, I’ve written critical essays here and there…but fiction is where it’s at.
Everything else just seems ephemeral. I know that one day I will die and memories of me will fade. I’m just a tenant on this earth. The condo I bought will belong to someone else. My money and possessions will be given to someone else or discarded. And if last summer has taught me anything when a co-worker took his own life…people’s perception of who you are, is pretty much whatever they want it to be, regardless if it’s true. Continue Reading
In May of 2009, I had just graduated, just got fired, and was on the verge of starting over by moving back in with my parents. To me, that would have been failure. Brace yourself…a lot of personal revelations in this one.
In the last chapter, you saw my elation, such triumph and joy at the debut of 2NE1. But by June 1st, 2009…my life wasn’t going so great. In March, I was 22 and had just graduated from a tumultuous four years of film school and landed a job with an up-and-coming start-up company. Haha, so without going into so many details, turns out this company was run by gamblers and con-artists. I’m not lying.
In the beginning, I thought everyone was so cool and everything ran like a well-oiled machine. I was hired as a video editor and a content producer. But one thing led to another and I eventually learned that one of my bosses wasn’t who he said he was. The man claimed to be one of the founders of Myspace. He was eventually fired, and my new boss (the gambler) started writing me bad checks that would bounce.
In May of 2009, I flew to Colorado to attend my cousin’s graduation and while there, my boss called me over the phone and fired me, accusing me of theft. I’m no thief. He only fired me because I threatened to file a lawsuit against him for writing bad checks.
And so…in June of 2009 for the first time since I was 16, I was without a job. My future seemed uncertain. I barely had enough to pay one more month of rent and that was it. These were sad days, but I’m not the type to sit on my thumbs and say, “whatever happens, happens.” In the end, I had made up my mind to leave Florida, pack up what I could, and move back into my parent’s house in Georgia in July. Basically, to start all over.
This decision wasn’t easy. As a young man full of pride, moving back into my parent’s house was like admitting defeat, that I couldn’t cut it in the real world on my own. But pragmatically, it was the best decision. Moving back in with my parents would allow me to get another job, save up without paying rent, and then I could head out to Los Angeles and pursue a career as a screenwriter. This was my thinking.
With my mind made up, I spent most of June 2009…writing. Every day, I’d wake up and go to my school’s library to write. And the music that got me through these tough times was none other than a lesser known Japanese composer who goes by the name of Yoko Kanno.
Anna Marie and Gladys are terrorists on the run…but its not the government they fear. They betrayed a deadly society of feminists. The Swords of St. Catherine have come for payback.
Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII
I opened my eyes to a gray ceiling fan with cracks in the wood. Everything looked old, as if the house was taken straight from a post-civil war documentary. The windows were milky and stained. The dresser looked like a device for splinters. My bed was twin size with a rusty iron headboard. Even my pillow was stuffed with real feathers. I could feel the stems pricking through the pillowcase, scratching at my neck.
My bullet wounds were patched up. Someone had sewn me shut and dressed me in a faded pink nightgown. There was a table on the other side of the room with a pitcher and two tin cups. I was thirsty like you wouldn’t believe, so I got up.
Anyone wondering if I was awake wouldn’t have to wonder long. I was so weak. My bones felt brittle. As soon as I tried to stand, I crumbled to the floor with this wooden crash that probably sounded much louder than it was. The problem was, I couldn’t hear anyone else. I was on the second floor and sound carried.
Not wanting to break anything, I hugged the wall and hobbled to the table like an old woman. There was nothing in the pitcher. I expected water.
Timed perfectly with my groan was a howling wind that rustled through the last leaves of a withering tree just outside my window. And through the branches, I saw the distant figure of Anna Marie all dressed in black. She was deep in the woods and her long hair shrouded her face, but I knew it was her. I grabbed sheets from the bed, wrapped up, and left.
The Perennial War of Paramours Gladys Vandelay – For the Living By Rock Kitaro
In the downstairs kitchen was a family of African-Americans. A mother, a father, and three toddlers. They were all so quiet as fuck that it creeped me out. I could sense the feeling was mutual. They stared like I was a ghost wandering the halls. No one said anything, not even so much as a greeting.
Finally, I just shuffled over to their breakfast table and grabbed about four strips of bacon. “Thank you.” I whispered before scurrying off. But of course, my bed sheets got caught on the crease in the floorboard. I tripped, scraping my knees and the children laughed. I whipped around to see which ones, but only caught the tail end of the mother snapping her fingers at them.
“Who are you people?” I asked.
“The owners of the house you’re staying in.” the father told me.
“I don’t suppose you have a name?”
“Just call me the caretaker.”
I squinted at him. “Did you put me in this nightgown?”
The mother rolled her neck with spiked brows, a matrimonial warning, not worth ignoring. So I threw up my hands and whispered, “Sorry.” Continue Reading
The Andalusian recalls how she was recruited by the Swords of St. Catherine, a deadly society of underground feminists. She used to be carefree and spirited. Living life to the fullest. But when she kills her would-be rapist, everything changes.
Anna Marie – The Cult By Rock Kitaro
My life begins every time he dies and I’m getting sick of it. I thought he was dead. I thought I had killed him. This time I know he’s not coming back. I suppose the only solace stems from the fact that he finally learned the truth. The truth is, I loved him. I’ll always love him. That’s all there is to it.
I don’t want everyone to know all about my family upbringing or whatever. It’s nobody’s business. So I’m going to skip all that.
I met Marcus in my early twenties. We worked together in the same building, at the same company, an up-and-coming media outlet focusing on entertainment. He was a journalist writing op-ed pieces on the ever-changing culture, while I made my bones on the forecast projections of upcoming album and box office sales. I heard he gave me credit for how much I changed him, inspiring him to grow. I suppose I should do the same.
I dunno… Marcus was really shitty at small talk. I think our first conversation was about God. That’s how deep and straight to the point he was. It was kind of annoying at first. I thought it was creepy and invasive. I was like, “who the hell are you that I should tell you all these deep and personal things?”
But after a while, I dunno. It kinda grew on me. I found myself thinking about crap I never would’ve even considered.
He talked about stuff like North Korea or the slave trade in Africa that still persists to this day. And when he spoke, he was so full of passion. Like, he honestly cared, as if he had a family member there or some stake in the matter. It was a spectacle, actually. Always so dramatic and full of histrionics. Caught myself smiling a couple of times. He’d notice, turn and blush. If black people could blush. Then he’d ask for my opinion. I wouldn’t have one. I just enjoyed listening. But he encouraged me to think. He was in my head. That’s how the bastard got me.
Now there was once a certain senator who was known to frequent clubs and popular spots in Uptown Toronto. His name was Jared J. Chrysler, a despicable bully who had a penchant for strong-arming his proposals through city hall.
Sen. Chrysler was not a good man. Not a good man at all.
As it was, I knew Sen. Chrysler before I saw him. He was as corrupt as they come and thought himself untouchable. His dossier came replete with sexual assaults, everything from rape, torture, and murder. He was once caught on camera literally stripping the clothes off of a reporter in an elevator while he was high on coke.
Two years ago, his name dominated headlines after he declared in Parliament that women had no place in politics. He never apologized. Never chalked it up to a gaffe or a slip of the tongue. Instead, Chrysler had the gumption to stand by his words. And in spite of widespread protests, solidarity from the academia damn-near screaming for his resignation, this unsavory fellow managed to stay in office.
On top of all that, Chrysler had dealings with the Bratva. He aided in human trafficking and had the nerve to call for stricter immigration laws when one of his mistresses threatened to go public. Of course, this mistress hasn’t been seen for some time. Rumor has it she was pregnant with his child and as a result, her body was stuffed in a barrel down in the basement. Everyone knew he dabbled in narcotics and every so often, he’d had to get rid of his limos because no matter what they did they couldn’t get the stench of marijuana out of the seats.
That his execution didn’t come sooner, I think, emboldened his god-like complex. At the same time, it made him an easier target for those who weren’t bound by silly things like laws or ethics.
I think that’s why they chose me. “The first kill is always the hardest,” they say. But honestly, there was no fear. No trepidation. I wasn’t reluctant nor did I hesitate or have any second thoughts. I didn’t feel anything…other than the smooth friction of my knife sliding across his neck. I killed the man. But the ladies killed his legacy.
That’s the way we worked. A death shrouded in mystery would only inflate his infamy. We couldn’t have that. So his hotel room was staged to look like a break in. His business partner, just as corrupt as he, was our patsy. There were recordings of the partner hiring a hitman years ago. The coward called it off but we still had the tapes. Damning evidence, really.
You have to understand, I was never a full-fledged member of the Society. I wanted to be, more than anything. These ladies, these women. They’re extraordinary. Every single one of them has this overpowering presence by which you can’t help but wonder if they came fresh from leading entire legions on the battlefield. Perhaps by becoming one of them, I thought I could soak in but an ounce of their charisma, their strength.
I’m sorry. I suppose even now, I find it difficult to denigrate them. They trained me. They believed in me. But their price was too heavy. It was a price I couldn’t pay.
In New York City some years ago, I was but a budding flower, having just graduated from Elysium with a 4.0 grade average and an avid interest in finance. Having grown up in the halls of Papa’s corporate offices, I was exposed to the high stakes of million dollar hedge fund investments. Despite all that, I was groomed to be a classical composer. That’s the path my parents chose for me.
My mother and our nannies came from Surrey, hence the accent I inherited. I began playing the piano when I was about five or six, and to date, I’ve mastered all of Chopin’s compositions. However, Erik Satie was my idol. It’s all about the timing in his works and the one thing I appreciated the most was the risk he took by trying something new and, dare I say, awkward. “Gymnopedie” is my favorite. I must have rehearsed it a thousand times. Even in complete silence, I hear it in my head.
To much is given, much is expected. That is, unless you have six big brothers and three older sisters, all more outgoing and impressive than yourself. It goes without saying, my own candle paled in comparison.
They dominated everything. Dinner conversations. Galas. Parties and pageants. At some point, I suppose I just got lost somewhere in the back and I didn’t mind. I had no talent for oratory and the moment all eyes were on me, I’d freeze up with the most terrifying heart palpitations.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my family. My brothers were so cool. Strong and handsome. And my sisters…Well, I suppose it’s a bit ironic now that I think about it. Clarice, Emily, and Victoria. My heart weeps even as I say this, but every time I was in the same room with them, I was afraid. They picked on me for being so short and small. I had bad asthma and they’d mock me relentlessly for the wheezing, the “overdramatic” desperation I’d exhibit to find my inhaler.
Papa made them take me everywhere and I could tell how much they resented it. It’s a horrid feeling, to have so much in common with expensive luggage that’s been passed down through generations. It’s because of Papa that they included me but I understood why. He didn’t want me to feel alone. Papa was always looking out for me. He was perhaps the one ray of light that kept me warm in an otherwise cold and abysmal childhood.
It was because of Papa that I had the strength to smile. When I was little, I used to stare at him like he was a Greek painting. The hope that most people have towards Christ is how I felt about him. Papa came to every one of my recitals. When everyone clapped and congratulated me, words couldn’t quite express how elated my father was. He’d cry. Such emotion. I felt the love. I didn’t have to wonder with him. I simply knew how much he loved me by how open he was about showing his affections. It was to his arms that I’d run. It was within his coat that I found salvation.
Felix Domina Vandelay II. That was his name, a titan on Wall Street with investments around the world. We were decedents of King Wilhelm Vandelay of Godland who surrendered the throne to the Swedish Empire. Our family was paid handsomely for throne and has since, dominated the shipping industry back before the English stole New York from the Dutch.
My father revered history and I took after him. My siblings didn’t seem to care one way or the other, but I did. Money was something everyone had, more or less, but our heritage, our pedigree, to come from royal blood was something my father regarded with pride. He installed our family crest in the corporate emblem. I’ll never forget the smile on his face when he took me to see it. Just me. No one else wanted to come.
And that’s how it went. The Vandelay name became synonymous with both opulence and, surprisingly enough, generosity. A lot of what I know about capitalism and economy came from what my father taught me. He’d let me sit in on the big important meetings, trusting with good measure that I’d behave and simply observe. And I did. It was interesting, actually. I enjoyed listening to them talk, more than I did watching cartoons or coloring in books. The tension, the frayed nerves, the adrenaline of risking so much on a public stock or new business, as CEO, Papa was the mediator to temper all tempers.
One time, Papa introduced me to the president of an airline company. It was just a joke, but Papa said I was his only daughter. I know this sounds bad but I fantasized about being his only child. I imagined a world without brothers or sisters or even my mother. Just Papa and me. I would have been so happy. It would have been the perfect world. But as it was, my brothers and sisters existed. In particular, Clarice, the eldest sister, born six years before myself.
Clarice was in a lot of ways the ring leader of the many cliques that tormented me from boarding school to boarding school. She could blame it on her youth, sure. But I never understood it. I heard stories about bullies being jealous of their targets or wanting something their victims had. But Clarice was taller, popular, drop-dead gorgeous and intelligent enough to know when to acquiesce. She never physically abused me. Just stole or broke everything that belonged exclusively to me. She called my recitals boring and sometimes, I could hear her laughing from the balconies as I played.
When the Society approached me, it was during a very dark chapter in my life. And yes, I blamed Clarice for it. My music teacher of eight years had just lost his wife to leukemia. I was his favorite pupil. I wanted to be there for him, to commiserate with him, to let him know that he wasn’t alone. But my family had a tradition of taking the yacht across the Mediterranean every Easter. I begged my mother to let me stay behind and support him but Clarice…She put it in my mother’s head that my teacher fancied me beyond what was appropriate.
We had just ported in Barcelona when I learned that my teacher committed suicide by plummeting from his twenty-fifth floor apartment. I was fifteen-years-old.
I was racked with grief. Even my father couldn’t console me. And he tried desperately. I wasn’t eating. I refused to attend school. And one afternoon, I returned home to find my bedroom nearly stacked to ceiling with rows of my favorite flowers, the white hydrangeas. It was classic of my father to go to such lengths. It was out of respect for him that I begrudgingly return to school.
By then, there was something different about me. Everyone could see it and finally, they all left me alone. I no longer smiled. I lost the ability to laugh or giggle. I stopped coming to Papa’s offices, and every time I entered a room where I knew Clarice was present, I’d keep my gaze to the floor.
I really hated that bitch. When I cried alone, it wasn’t because I was sad. It was the growing pain of holding back the rage in my heart. Every time I’d hear her laugh, or cheer, or so much as clear her wretched throat, I’d be so stricken by this incredible urge to stab her with the sharpest thing I could find. It was really bad and I knew something was wrong with me. But who could I tell? Who would possibly understand?
Three weeks after my maestro’s passing, I found myself sitting alone in an herbal teashop down in the Village. It rained that evening with a constant patter that calmed the disquieting notions. I’d hone in an out of the constellation of raindrops on the window. Red and yellow lights blurred in straight lines that zipped up and down the wet street.
Two older men approached and offered to buy me a drink. They appeared college students, and I knew they meant well, but I dismissed both.
Then, she sat down. A velvety black coat that still held beads from the rain. Long dark hair. Dazzling blue eyes with the elegance of a former ballerina, or a debutant like myself. Without saying anything, she just smiled and I was spellbound. She extended a napkin to wipe my tears. I still remember my mascara bleeding into the soft white cloth.
“May I help you?” I asked.
She sighed and looked around once more before settling on me.
“Your guilt is unwarranted. You are trapped, my dear. Like a bird, a caged canary. I am here to set you free.”
It was unreal. Everything I needed to hear came from those few words. She followed up with nothing else, but abruptly scooted her chair out and grazed past my shoulder and made her way to the exit. I exhaled, not realizing I had been holding my breath.
“Are you coming?”
I turned around. She was waiting for me, her and three others, all wearing the same dark velvety coat but with different styles of shoes and earrings. There was a motorcade of two black luxury SUVs parked on the curb behind them.
I didn’t get up at once. It was absurd and I think she saw it in my gaze.
“I can only unlock the cage. It’s up to you to spread your wings and fly.” She said.
“Who are you?” I asked in a shaky whisper.
“I’m Breanne. That’s Scarlett. She’s Mandee. And we call this one the Andalusian.”
Breanne, Scarlett, Mandee, and the Andalusian. These were the first Swords of St. Catherine I had the pleasure to meet. And if all of Swords were as impressive as they, with all due respect, there isn’t a force on earth powerful enough to match wits.
Officially, I ran away from New York City that night. Sadly, no one noticed. Not even Papa.
Elliot Chan – The Network Executive (Short Story) By Rock Kitaro
Training to become a Paramour was about what one expect from any covert Special Forces operation. Except, we learned Tai Chi and a form of kung fu called Wushu. Also, the training didn’t take place over some eight-week boot camp period, but over the course of three years by which, you have to maintain the appearance of an everyday civilian by progressing in your respective fields. For me, that was in the TV industry. I got an entry job at MBC straight out of college and began working my way up as a production assistant.
The Paramours had posts all over the world. However, our headquarters was in this big country house in the English county of Derbyshire, right along the Derwent River, not far from the Chatsworth Estate. Its official title was the Leigh Estate. But the Paramours called it, Hollow Rock.
Many of the actual facilities were underground and shielded from aerial coverage, such as the firing range, the armory, and it’s inventory of the most badass vehicles I’ve ever seen. The first time I saw the place, it was breathtaking, the beauty of its green luscious splendor. It was vast, remote, and serene with singing birds and the trickle of creeks. Everything had this quaint, old British feel to it like a step back in time. Peaceful and soothing. It was just what I needed to accelerate the healing process…by which I was able to move on from the murder of my adoptive parents.
I reconnected with “Jake” at Hollow Rock. His real name was Col. Jacob Buchanan, having served in the Gulf War and conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo. His story was a sad story. I mean…damn. But I’ll let him tell you himself. Jake became my closest friend and confidant. I told him what happened to Marvin and Sharon and he commiserated with me.
I remember one of my first conversations with him, after I went through the inaugural training sessions and my peers saw that there was more to me than meets the eye. We were walking along the stone bridge over the clear stream of the Derwent when I asked him something that’s been on my mind since I joined.
“Here’s my problem with the Paramours. It’s sort of like the superhero in a comic book. They foil the evil plan but they don’t kill, so the villains keep coming back. I don’t get that. It’s illogical. You said the Paramours don’t kill. To know that this secret society exists but no one’s doing anything to make them public? We don’t even turn them into the authorities, so they just keep on killin’ and ruinin’ innocent lives. Does no one feel guilty about all that?”
Jake, with his cold blue eyes and crew cut, stared out over the river.
“Elliot, do you know what a Paramour is? By definition, do you know what a paramour is?”
A question with a question. Friggin love those.
“It’s like a person’s who’s loved the most.” I answered.
“It’s an illicit lover, a secret lover to a married person. In that sense, I think Lord Byron named us precisely when he founded the brotherhood. Granted, not all of us are married or have ever been married, the key word her is love. You never met your mom. Do you love her?”
His questions were getting annoying.
“I don’t know. I guess.”
He scoffed, shaking his head at me like the rookie I was.
“It’s like this, Ellie. When you’re here, we train you, we give you the tools and trust you to assist your brothers out in the field. If you kill, if you choose to kill, you’re no longer a Paramour. You’re not one of us. Not in your heart. But once you’re put in a position where you have that choice and you choose not to kill, you’ll know what it means to be one of us.”
“Alright, I get what you’re saying. You can’t kill the woman you love, sure. But what if someone else, what if one of your comrades kills the woman for you? Because you can’t do it yourself, but you know, you know without a shred out of doubt that the bitch needs to die. Like, put down. For good!”
He started chuckling.
I threw up my hands. “You get what I’m saying, right? When does it end? How does it end?”
“The same way it always ends.” He told me.
“Well!? Let’s hear it!”
“I can’t tell you, son. You stick around long enough, you’ll find out for yourself.”
Anyways…Marcus Angel was also there. I couldn’t believe it. When I came to Hollow Rock he was still in a coma due to his extensive injuries and to be honest, his situation didn’t look good. He was shot multiple times. He had broken ribs and a fractured skull. He was on life support, costing the organization $5,000 a day but they had no intention of giving up on him. It was endearing, their level of compassion. Of course I wouldn’t find out until later how much everyone was depending on him to regain consciousness.
It wasn’t just military training that I learned over the course of three years. The Paramours were all about refinement, the stuff of gentlemen. The education, the in-depth history taught to me was more than I ever knew existed. I learned six different languages and took acting classes to both suppress my emotions and convey the right ones to elicit any response I wanted. The Paramours focused on stealth, intelligence, and tactics of subterfuge. Perception was everything and like a chess master, I was conditioned to think five moves ahead.
After three years of training, the Paramours started taking me on missions in the field. At first, it was just to observe and shadow other experienced members. My non-descript Asian appearance was extremely helpful. It didn’t matter what country I was in, there was something about me that whispered, “nothing special” or “harmless foreigner.”
Then came the first mission where I had a more pertinent role. It was in the summer of 2018. The leading Paramour was a revolutionary named Arsen Masol. My unit was posing as documentary filmmakers and I was the cameraman. Arsen’s mission was to provide the authorities with proof that deputies within the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) were being blackmailed and coerced to stay in the European Union.
What does this have to do with the Paramours? I had no idea. And honestly, I didn’t need to know. It was Arsen’s mission. He had his reasons and we were there to support him. I never doubted for a second that when the time came, my newfound comrades would assist me in my personal mission as well.
That’s the thing about us Paramours…we’re intensely loyal. When you’re in hostile lands or investigating in countries where things like due process and evidence are laughed at like bar jokes, everyone’s afraid. The fear of death or imprisonment was inevitable. But we weren’t alone. Our comrades were with us. They had our backs.
We’ve been shot at. We’ve been wounded. We’ve been caught. We’ve been killed. But no one has ever revealed our existence to the outside world. Even the Society didn’t know about us. The Paramours who were declared dead to the world could never leave Hollow Rock. That included men like Marcus Angel. Should he ever reappear, he’d jeopardize us all.
After five years of running with the Paramours, it was my turn to step up to the plate. It was a difficult decision that I knew would change my life forever. Once I crossed the threshold, there was no coming back. From here on out, I’d have to spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder. The Society wouldn’t stop until I was killed. That was the risk I was willing to take to find my mother.
Det. Griffin has gone mad. He’s just been through a traumatizing ordeal. Cloud explains why he was punished and in the midst of his self-righteous condemnation, Cloud discovers sins of his own.
The Slave Quarters
Chapter 20 – I’ve Seen Some Things
By Rock Kitaro
The next morning, Jessica, Leanne, and I arrive at the precinct promptly at nine. There was a vast difference on Moor Street between today and yesterday. No crowds. No screaming faces. Just littered trash.
The ladies pick up the pace as we step off the elevators. I end up falling behind with my hands in my pockets. There’s a square patch beneath my left eye to reduce the swelling. I’m pristine in my black suit and tie. One could safely assume I just came back from serving as a pallbearer. It wouldn’t be too far off from the truth.
It’s touching to see them all so concerned about Griffin’s well being. I understand why and I don’t blame them…but still…if only they knew what I knew I wonder if they’d be so quick to lend a helping hand. Yeah, probably. Perhaps that’s why the guilt’s beginning to gnaw at my conscience. In any case, it’s too late now. The damage is done.
On the 3rd floor, deputies and detectives are huddle around the desk closest to Griffin’s office. Agent Dixon sees Jessica and Leanne coming. He receives them with open arms. Leanne fires off question after question by which Dixon simply proceeds to nod. Jessica covers her mouth in shock. Everyone hears the click of a door handle and a round of shushing quells the conversations.
It’s Samantha Griffin…the wife. She leaves her husband’s office as two suits from Internal Affairs enter in her stead, closing the door behind them. I recognize Samantha from the photo on Griffin’s desk. That sandy blonde hair and the soft freckles bridging her nose, its Sam alright. She has the toned body of an avid tennis player, active and fit. She’s about my age, a couple of years younger than Griffin, but her tan complexion is now pale with grief.
Jessica and Leanne exchange awkward glances before approaching to introduce themselves. As soon as they reveal their involvement with the case, a despondent Sam breaks down in a gripping scene of tears, collapsing into Leanne’s arms. It’s as if she just learned her son was killed in combat. Leanne doesn’t know how to react. She keeps gawking up at Jessica but even Jessica’s at a loss of words.
Instinctively, Leanne lowers Samantha to the carpet and settles her against the side of a desk. There, she and Jessica console the wife with false promises about Griffin’s recovery. It’s all so melodramatic. I should be more sympathetic but I’m not.
“I saw the tape,” a country voice crawls over my shoulders.
Agent Dixon continues with, “It doesn’t make the darnest bit of sense. The boy just stands there while the sum’ a bitch walks up and splits his head open like a jack-o-lantern. Never seen anything like it. Beginning to think this place really is haunted. That’s what the papers is callin it after the last suicide. But what’s stickin in my craw is that the suspect seemed to have no concept of pain whatsoever. Just kept pounding away. Not even when his eyes popped out and his lips smashed in like a banana.”
As discreet as I assume he’s trying to be, Jessica and Leanne overhear. Jessica in particular looks up with a fiery glare. It’s no longer that she doesn’t believe it, but more so she smells foul play. Two suicides in the span of five days is a coincidence Jessica’s not willing ignore. She abruptly stands and straightens out her pantsuit, holding back her ire with a clenched jaw and slow steady breaths.
“I’m gonna need to see that video,” she politely demands.
“Yes, ditto.” Leanne says in a whispery exhale.
Dixon extended his hand to direct them toward the conference room in the corner of the bullpen. He informs them, “It should still be queued up. The D.A.’s in there right now so tread lightly.”
“It’s gonna be okay,” Leanne assures Sam.
Jessica doesn’t wait for Leanne to get up. She promptly marches into the conference room and takes over. No one rebukes her when she takes command of a laptop and starts the video from the beginning. Leanne enters the room choking on her own tears. Dixon helps Sam off the floor and escorts her to get her some coffee.
All the while, I say absolutely nothing with my hands in my pockets. I only observe as if I’m sitting inside the theater of my own head with eyes as my own personal big screens to the real world. And of course, as per usual, I’m conflicted by what I see. It’s all so morbid, so morose, the complete opposite of last night’s triumph. There’s so much pain and suffering in plain view. All of it’s my fault and the only one I want to apologize to is the wife. But I can’t. I won’t.
Be cold. Be cold, Cloud. Don’t let the tears soften your heart as it has time and time again. Don’t forget what happened. Don’t forget what led you down this path. Be cold. Harden your heart. This is the path you’ve chosen. Now see it through, dammit. Walk.
Cloud Beaudry casts judgment on the Slave Quarter Killer. Maggie is unleashed. (warning, graphic content)
The Slave Quarters
Chapter 19 – Flickering Lights
By Rock Kitaro
There’s something about an individual who isn’t afraid to admit his mistakes that warrants my respect. I prefer someone like that over those who hide their flaws yet presume to openly criticize the faults others, forgetting that we are all imperfect. We are all marred by error. That is to be human. No one is without sin. Especially me.
I admit it.
Bigots beget bigots and the accusers of hypocrisy are often the biggest hypocrites. To accuse another man of being too judgmental would in turn make me judgmental. I’m aware of this. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one.
The thing about today’s society that drives me wild is the implied expression of what is and isn’t acceptable. If a man slips up and makes an offensive comment, it could spell the end of his career. One sentence is all it takes. Demons behind computer screens will dig into the wounds and rip it open all in the name of justice. They call it social justice.
I don’t condone racism. I deplore it. In fact, I’m quite sure I’ll never understand it. But in this day and age, what seems more prevalent than racism is the backwards ass standards by which other flaws are swept under the rug. The glorification of sex, rudeness, and riches runs rampant. Despicable bullies now use their self-proclaimed victimhood to silence those they disagree with. They walk about with their heads held high, as if hurt feelings aggrandized them moral authority. At some point…all of this has become acceptable.
Shameless is confidence. Ambition is blurred with greed. Protesters embark for the sake of bringing purpose to their own meaningless existence. And those who simply just want to live their lives on the fields of neutrality are guilted into wars they never wanted to fight.
It’s not out of hate that I mention these things. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t waste my breath. I love you but I have no place amongst you. That doesn’t make me cool. It doesn’t mean I’m better. In fact, it’s lonely. I wouldn’t want anyone to have to walk a mile in my shoes. But it is what it is. I am a man from the outside looking in. The guy on the hill overlooking the fog infested city, the one in the bell tower weeping over debauchery below.
That’s me. Cloud Beaudry, the walking contradiction. The man who sees the unseen, who hears secrets from grave. I know at some point I’ll be judged by the same measure. But quite frankly, if one were to peer into my soul right now they’d see over a hundred middle fingers raised in defiance.
This is my creed, my manifesto, if ever I’m caught and made to be held accountable for my actions on this day. Everyone remembers the killers. No one remembers the victims. I’m about to change all that. I’m sorry Det. Mark Griffin. I’m sure you think I’m like everyone else in assuming you’re cool or something to aspire to. But I’m not. I find you detestable. I’m here to hand down your sentence.
For those still scrambling for the pieces, allow me to introduce special investigator, Cloud Beaudry. When people think of spoiled, entitled, Millennials with bad work ethics who complain about everything…let’s just say that Cloud forces everyone to rethink those stereotypes. And it probably has something to do with the fact that he’s tormented by a curse that allows him to hear and see ghosts all the friggin time. And of course, when you know secrets that are supposed to be buried, you tend to make enemies among the living.
Five years ago his mother was killed and the local police was quick to pass it off as an accidental suicide. It was a dark, depressing time in his life where Cloud was on the verge of ending it all. Then he met Maggie. And for seemingly no reason at all, she helped him avenge the death of his mother. Cloud was grateful. So grateful, in fact, that he vowed to hunt down those responsible for killing Maggie back in 1959. And unfortunately, there are still names on the list.
Chapter 3 – Meritocracy
By Rock Kitaro
It’s a brisk morning, just before the auburn glow makes its ascent. I was once told that this is the best part of my day and it goes downhill from here. But that’s just a matter of perspective, one I choose not to entertain. There’s nothing like busting out a 5K at five in the morning. There’s no one around. Barely any traffic. With Korn’s “Take a Look in the Mirror” album blasting through my earbuds, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come. It doesn’t make me proud, it just… it strengthens my resolve. And I need that strength. Else I would have killed myself a long time ago.
For those still scrambling for the pieces, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Cloud Beaudry. Ever since I was a child, I’ve always been able to hear, see, and feel the presence of the dead.
It started with my ancestors during the Salem Witch trials. The family matriarch wasn’t a witch herself, but was hanged for speaking up in their defense. Since then, a wretched curse has been passed down the Beaudry line from generation to generation.
This curse…you can call it a curse, however, I choose to believe it’s just some twisted sick coincidence. For instance, every generation in my family gave birth to just one scion. Every family member died before they reached the age of forty-five. And nearly everyone has been regarded by his or her peers as crazy or delusional. I’m probably the first to embrace the paranormal instead of letting it drive me insane.
To me, the traditional concepts of weird or normal are no longer relevant. I’ve trained this ability to interact with the dead so well that it’s now about as familiar as my sense of sight or sound. I know. It sounds unbelievable. That’s why there’s only one person on Earth I’ve told this to.
I’m only thirty but the atrocities I’ve faced have advanced me well beyond the years of any average Millennial. That might sound like I’m bragging but I’m not. Dread doesn’t even begin to describe my life. When I was growing up, I couldn’t remember a single night that I didn’t hear people screaming for help. Dark twisted faces, weeping dead children, relentless murderers and the toe curling sounds of ripping flesh and wet hacking…I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone.
Dark eye circles of sleep deprivation stayed with me until I was at least twenty-one. It was during that year that something snapped in me. My mother. She was raped for the second time and nearly beaten to death. I’ll never forget sitting by her hospital bed with a permanent scowl lined with crusted dried tears. I never had any best friends. I never had a social life where people sought me out. But paranoia and fear followed me every day of my life almost as constant as the sun and the moon.
It was fear of letting shit like that happen to my mother again, the paranoia of forever being a loser, the butt of the jokes, and everyone’s punching bag. It was fear of failing to make something out of myself. The fear of going mad by watching the rotten assholes move up in the world while decent honest hardworking individuals are stepped on because they lack “ruthless ambition.”
I won’t say I embraced the fear. I only use it as motivation. I turned this negativity into a fuel for production. It’s what prompted me to take my fat ass in the gym and shed 140lbs over the span of four years. I dropped from 320lbs to a healthy, athletic180. Working out and martial arts became a source of therapy for me, an outlet for my frustration. It was fear that prompted me to stay in shape, which is why I’m on this exhilarating jog around my subdivision.
As far as my encounters with dead people, I’ll not go so far as to say I’m no longer terrified, but it’s more like I gradually adopted an air of defiance. I strengthened my mind and stopped worrying about what ghosts could or couldn’t do to me. I laid awake on countless nights watching the blinds rattle and the shadows crawl along the ceilings. Then I’d close my eyes and drift to sleep, fully aware that I may never wake up again. If any demented phantom stared at me from the fog or through some milky reflection or behind that dead tree in the distance, I’d glare right back at them.
If they wanted to kill me, they were more than welcome to try.
After my mother was raped, I switched majors and enrolled into law school. I would’ve preferred to send assholes off to prison as a prosecutor, but defense attorneys made way more money. The idea was to get a good paying job so my mother could quit waitressing and stop sleeping with every flannel-wearing cowboy who just so happens to throw a wink at her.
That plan went up in flames just days before I was about to graduate. After four years of endless studying, of sacrificing the holidays and weekends to climb my way to the top of my class, someone went off and killed my mother. Her body was found floating beneath a bridge on the outskirt of Athens.
The police heard about her promiscuous reputation with men. They also heard from neighbors and co-workers that she believed in aliens and claimed she could speak to ghosts. Eventually, the detectives ruled her death as an accidental suicide. They said she got drunk, bumped her head on the railing, and tumbled over to drown. She was only forty-two.
I can’t even begin to describe how livid I was. My worst fears had come true. This woman was my life! She was the reason why I toiled so hard, put up with so much shit, why I sacrificed so much. Nothing else mattered. We had come so far! Only for it to end like this!?
No one showed up for her funeral. It was just me and fifty white chairs on a cold rainy day. The rage in my heart, it forced me to ask questions no decent human being should ever need to ask themselves. The police were wrong. I knew it from the get-go but as a mere law-grad I was powerless to do a damn thing about it. The outcry of inner demons demanded an audience and to be honest, I was about ready end the torment once and for all. Perhaps it was hitting rock-bottom that lured me to Maggie.