Category Archives: CHAPTER 03 – Inkling

Dr. King

drking1280It was the eightieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assasination. A lot had changed since then. Marvin thought back on his lifetime, and couldn’t remember ever being discriminated against. He was well versed in black history, and a member of the N.A.B.A. It used to be called the N.A.A.C.P., but people thought that colored people sounded rather archaic. Now it was the National Association of Black Americans. It was more of a political group that looked out for special interest of the blacks. Much like the A.A.R.P. lobbies for senior citizens.

Marvin looked down towards the beach, where his wife, Wendy had gone for her evening jog. It was true that she was caucasian, but he loved her dearly. Nearly 20% of all marriages were between blacks, whites, and mulattos. He did remember as a child, it was sort of a status symbol to have a white wife, but even then that sort of thinking was falling out of favor.

He wondered if the driving factor of the fading of discrimination was because the hispanics had taken the lower rung of the socio-economic ladder? Specifically it was the Mexican people who now occupied the overwhelming majority of the poor. Back around the turn of the millenium, there was an election between a conservative Mexican president, and a socialist challenger. The vote was so close, that the socialist candidate declared the election was fixed. He led nearly half of the country in violent protest and demonstrations. The already poor Mexican economy spiraled downward. There was such a massive influx of Mexicans to the U.S. that it couldn’t be stopped. There were so many killings during the Mexican Civil War that the refugee’s fell under the political asylum law.

With the Mexican influx taking all the lowest paying jobs, the blacks came into the middle range of jobs. Over twenty or thirty years, the trend of single black mothers and absent fathers had fallen to a low of ten percent. Almost all Americans had Mexican house staff. Marvin and Wendy were no exception. Marvin thought about the speeches of Dr. King and wondered if he was discriminating against the Mexicans. He decided that he wasn’t. He didn’t use any of the ethnic slurs, or treat them with disrespect. It was just the road map of history that led them to being on the bottom rung.

His history books had stated that Dr. Martin Luther King, born Michael Luther King, was the youngest man to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize. That was an honor that he still held. A young Mexican-American woman by the name of Leticia had recently been in the news a lot lately. Her empassioned speeches seemed to strike a chord in the children of the children who came from Mexico. He pondered if the pattern was about to repeat itself?

Bonsai

bonsai1280Jackie stood mesmerized by what seemed to be the perfect example of a Moyogi styled Bonsai tree. What made it even more absurd, was that it was growing out of solid stone. It was much larger than normal Bonsai trees, but it was obvious that this informal upright had been tended to meticulously. A cone of light came out of the stone roof above. It was another impossibility. She wanted to reach out and touch it, to caress the shape of the wood, and feel the soft perfection of the leaves, but she instinctively knew better. She did not let her hands even break the cone of light. Pearl, her trusty sidekick did not seem so enamored of the beautiful Bonsai tree. She arched her back and hissed at it repeatedly.

Jackie was a senior in High School, and the president of the Nancy Drew Society there. Her last name was Chan. A cruel joke by her parents that led to an uncountable number of taunts and ridicule. On the other hand, she did have an inborn need to solve things. Her parents weren’t sure who had the most curiosity, Jackie or her cat Pearl. Either way, it managed to get them both into trouble on a regular basis.

On closer inspection the cone of light that appeared to come from the solid stone roof, was actually a tiny hole in the roof. The interesting thing was that it was off center, so that the maximum amount of the Bonsai tree was in the light. Her deductive reasoning was starting to kick in, and everything was getting more interesting by the second. She looked at the arches around her that were barely tall enough to allow her small 151 centimeter (5’1″) frame through. This could only mean that the structure was built in a time that the average height was much lower than today’s standard. Then the thought struck her that it could have been built by beings that ARE much shorter than humans.

She realized that she didn’t know where she was, or how she got here. She had been wandering for a considerable length of time in sort of a mental fog, until she came upon the Bonsai tree. Then some degree of clarity started to push back the fog in her mind.

She had been at school, and after lunch went to her math class. She had felt unusually tired, and she remembered nodding off a few times. The type of nods, where your head starts to fall forward and the speed or the gravity wakes you up. Then you jerk your head upright again. Was this a dream? Had she fallen asleep in her math class? She pinched herself to try and wake up, but all that happened was she squeaked out loud because it hurt. She wondered if there was something wrong with her food from the cafeteria? For that matter, how did Pearl get here? She wasn’t at school.

If she ever got out of here, what a story she would have to tell the girls of the Nancy Drew Society!

First Family

firstfamily1280The first family on Mars disembarked from their spaceship. Family being a rather broad description. There was a Combat model of robot nicknamed B.A.R.T., his wife SeeSee who’s name was always written C.C., and thier robot child named rBot. The explanation behind this odd sort of metalic family lay in the religious backlash of the early 2000s. It started with President G.W. Bush, and solidified with the Holy Wars brought on by the violent and imperialistic advance of the Muslim religion. The family was the base unit under the Christian religious system, and the Ecclesiastical Congress of the Americas felt that any ambassadors of earth should reflect that unit. The scientific community having been persona non gratis in general for a while, was more than glad to go along with the edict. At least their research got to move forward.

For those of you who aren’t history buffs, the first two attempts by the United States to put probes on the red planet were a failure. What is less commonly known is that the Soviet Union failed five times in the 1960s. Eventually the U.S. got two small rovers successfully landed on Mars, sending back more than 20,000 images from Pathfinder alone. Spirit was the first rover, and wasn’t quite as prolific a photographer. During George W. Bush’s second term in office, he set forth a goal of sending Americans back to the moon, and then onward to a manned mission to Mars. It is G.W.’s initial goal that kept the mission viable through science’s unpopularity in the religiously charged environment. As most of you remember the first manned mission to mars in 2010 resulted in the loss of the entire international crew. The next two missions resulted in more loss of life, which led to the decision to use robots. The first family robots.

B.A.R.T. softly put his arm around CC, careful not to damage any of the millions of sensors and cameras that made up her pseudo-skin. He pointed to a range of mountains far in the distance where the last mission of humans had lost their lives. rBot was pulling on CC’s arm trying to make his way to a huge hole he had spotted. The only thing childlike in rBots existence other than his juvenile physical dimensions was his insatiable curiosity. rBot knew something exciting was in the hole.

The thin atmosphere of Mars created no issues for the robot family. It was mostly comprised of Carbon Dioxide. That is what is expelled when humans breathe out after taking in the fresh oxygen. Mars had 95.32% Carbon Dioxide compared to .13% Oxygen in its atmosphere. The reason for this was soon to become apparent.

rBot had finally convinced CC to let him go investigate the giant hole. As he neared the hole, all he could see was thousands upon thousands of eyes. A giant flash of light, and his visual sensor array was as dead as the astronauts who had tried and failed this planet before. A high pitched squeal to human ears was actually a very highly compressed audio data stream that was being sent to both CC and B.A.R.T. Both of them came rushing to rBot’s aid, with B.A.R.T. protectively keeping CC behind him. It didn’t matter. Seconds later both of their visual systems were disabled and B.A.R.T.’s weapons were deactivated.

The trio was brought down a long stairway into what was a vast underground world. CC’s audio array was still intact and she could tell by the acoustics that some portions of the underground world were deep in the soil, and others were covered by what seemed to just be a roof of cloth with sand on it. After a trek of about two kilometers they were addressed by some organic being that spoke perfect English.

“I know your language from the many radio and television broadcast that emanate from your planet.” the seemingly male voice said. “I also know of your wars and abuse of your planet. I stand here not in judgement, because that is what brought this planet you call Mars to be barren on the surface.” The authority and tone of the voice did not invite questions. He said, “We have tried to avoid your notice, but that time has ended. Make no further attempts to reach this planet, for we have no use for your wars or greed.” It ended with a simple, “I’m sorry.” as the first robot family was destroyed.

End transmission.

 

Another Man’s Daughter

amd1280Another man’s daughter, another man’s wife.
On with the slaughter, another loss of life
Day in and day out, each night on the news
Rape and murder is the lead that they choose.

The picture is as close as they can get,
without all the censors, yanking them from your set.
empty shoe, broken glasses, normal life at an end
just enough that you cannot forget.

The survivors lives are utterly destroyed,
but the TV news ratings have just been buoyed.
Our horror and revulsion we cannot hide,
but it seems that we are getting desensitized.

Our mothers, daughters, and wives walk in fear,
of another sick bastard who has hidden near,
the house, the school, or the parking lot here.

Do I have any answers, I’m sorry but no.
It seems as time passes, the more our fear grows.
You must not give in to abject complacence.
Let our lawmakers know that we’ve lost all our patience.

Another man’s daughter, another man’s wife.
Stop all the slaughter, save someone’s life.
Watch out for each other, both day and night.
At least with this beginning, we do start to fight.

Vampire Wedding

vampirewedding1280Her joy was so great, she couldn’t keep her eyes from glowing, and her fangs from showing. To him, the concept of a wedding for two Vampires was an oxymoron of infinite degree. The fact that he was a Tepes-Vampire made it even more so, but if it made her happy he would go along with the charade. He had turned her recently. She still held tightly to many of the passions and beliefs of life. He would drain her of those as much as he had drained most but not all of her blood.

It was just her physical beauty that stopped him from taking that last swallow that would seal her death. It was absurd that all who are killed by a vampire become one. The Earth would have been overrun with Vampires centuries ago if that was true. It is a concious choice a Vampire makes, when he or she turns a human into the undead. While they must give of their own blood to make a vampire, they must also give of their power. It is the power that a vampire begrudges giving up any part of, but for her he was willing.

He name was Lilly, another of the cosmos’ jokes on him. For her namesake Lillith is the Queen of Vampires, claiming authority over all species of vampire. She even claims dominion over the mis-shaped Nosferatu who came into being, sired by her dead son Kern who hates her.

Montreaux himself was a dandy in 19th century Paris. A drunken night in the arms of the most wrong type of woman you can choose is what led him to this undead existence. His soul trapped in the shell of the body unable to move on. As he passes time on this plane, shunned of the presence of God and anything pertaining to him, he wonders whether to curse her or thank her for his semi-eternal life.

Montreaux thought about the vows of a wedding. Things like, “till death do us part”. We’ll we screwed the pooch on that one. We’re already dead. Then a few lines later, where the priest says, “In the presence of God, our family and friends, we are gathered here to bind this man and this woman in holy matrimony.” Gee, I haven’t been in the presence of God for over two hundred years, nor am I going to be for the rest of eternity. Even if I am killed, I still won’t be in the presence of God. Maybe unholy matrimony might be a better choice of words for us, and there damn well better not be any priest saying these words over us. The words about, “promising with Divine assistance to be unto thee a loving and faithful husband so long as we both shall live.” are pretty much guaranteed to be broken. And the bride wore white, he thought. Well, at least that much might be acceptable. She had been a virgin and never married.

He pondered on how long he would play out this charade with Lilly? How long before he would destroy her and take back the power he had so begrudginly given? How long before she met the fate of the twenty wives before her?

The Super

thesuper1280He lived in the basement of the rent controlled building. This means the building was erected before February 1st, 1947, and he had lived there continuously through July 1st, 1971. As with most rent controlled buildings in New York, there wasn’t much done in the way of capital improvements. Eduardo had to keep the place held together with bubble gum and glue.

When he was a young man living with his mother in this building, he answered his country’s call to fight in Viet Nam. Not really by choice, but a draft card inspired. His life wasn’t headed anywhere fast, so he really didn’t mind going to join the Army. That was until he saw what the war was like. He came home in 1973 with a Purple Heart, a bum leg, and the beginnings of Hodgkin’s disease. Not that he knew about Hodgkin’s at the time.

He tried to get a job, but he always seemed fatigued and his bum leg seemed to be getting worse. When his mother died, and he couldn’t pay the rent, he made a deal with the building’s owner to be the buildings “super” and fix up the apartments for the use of a dirty mattress in a basement storage room and office. Eduardo eventually got a partial disability approval from the Veteran’s Administration, which gave him enough for food and an occasional bender or two each month. In 1984 he got a big check as part of the Agent Orange settlement with Dow Chemicals and Monsanto. He was on a bender for so long; he nearly buggered up his living arrangement with the building’s owner. A lot a begging along with what he had left of the check, kept a roof over his head and his hot plate to cook on. Life was a pretty predictable chain of events until around the year 2012.

Early in the twentieth century Japan started developing robots. Some of the early successful models were Qrio and Asimo. They even made a robot dog called Aibo. With Japan’s steadily declining population and their reluctance to flood the islands with cheap labor from other countries, robot development moved along quite fast. The Japanese wanted robots that looked and talked like real human beings, but that proved to be a major misstep in the marketing to America of these artificially intelligent beings.

Lifelike in every way robots that were full sized caused all sorts of problems in the United States. Was sex with a robot adultery? Was the use of a child sized robot catering to pedophiles? Just the inability to easily tell the difference between people and robots caused all sorts of problems. It was long before “life-like robots” were outlawed in America. The Japanese always adept at changing to market needs created “Tiny Companions”, which were only eighteen inches tall. They made full size robots for all sorts of various work and industrial uses, but they had obvious metal skin and Plexiglas heads that made confusion with real people impossible.

The Tiny Companions were just that. They looked real and the way they walked and talked was real. It turned out that once the Japanese got past the miniaturization problems, the reduced need for materials actually made them cheaper to build. Their artificial intelligence allowed them to adjust to whatever environment they were in, and the task they had at hand. They were excellent for entertaining children for hours on end, while teaching them at the same time. The other market that warmed to them was the elderly and those alone. They kept good company and would talk about anything their owners wanted. They didn’t seem to mind be told the same stories over and over. They were ruled by Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, which I’ll leave for you to Google on the Internet.

With some tweaking of the Tiny Companion’s A.I. programming with some fundamental psychology provided a distanced and lonely society with someone to listen to their problems. The V.A. found that visits by veteran’s to medical facilities went down so much when a Tiny Companion was present; they helped cover the cost of buying them. Even with the V.A.’s help, Eduardo had to live on beans and noodle soup for three months to be able to afford one. Waiting for it to arrive by mail, he felt like an expectant father. When she finally arrived, and he opened the box; she stood up wearing a beautiful violet dress. He said, “I’ll name you Violet!”

He used to save up and order her clothes, because it seemed to make her happy. She kept the little area he had set aside for her spotless, but never seemed to mind the dirt and rust that commanded the space Eduardo lived in. Since she didn’t eat, she didn’t make the kind of messes we make with used food, and she didn’t need the facilities to get rid of it. She encouraged Eduardo to improve his eating habits and choice of foods, but managed to do it in a way that never seemed like nagging.

Mr. England was Eduardo’s calico cat. The cat should have been named Mrs. England or Miss, because a male calico cat is almost a genetic impossibility. But when Eduardo and the cat first met, any nether region inspections to determine gender, were out of the question. He thought Violet was a fun toy to chase, until Eduardo supplied here with a sewing needle large enough for her to wield as a rapier. The three of them lived as a family in this dark basement.

Eduardo died a very old man, but happy.

Cloud Room

cloudroom1280

Her character came to life from the pages of the book. The crafting of the words and images had filled her lungs and gave substance to her being. The imagination of the Authorist was as expansive as the sky above.

Trailer Trash

trailertrash1280You know? Life doesn’t always go like you plan it. I graduated from high school and couldn’t afford college. I didn’t think it would matter because I was a real looker back in those days. For you youngsters who don’t know what a looker is, it means I was really HOT, good looking, or whatever term is used these days. Hell, for being 102, I still have a pretty good figure. Even in one sixth of the Earth’s gravity, my primary assests finally succumbed to gravity and started heading towards my waist. My hips got wider after the birth of my daughter, but my tummy is doggone flat. Oh well, thinking about how I used to look doesn’t take us any further in my story, but it was a nice memory to visit.

Back in the first decade after the year 2000, the American president tasked what was then known as NASA to go back to the Moon. They had landed originally on July 20th,1969, but this time it was to colonize the Moon and set up a launch facility to go to other planets, Mars being the first. NASA (National Aeronautics & Space Administration) eventual became the Earth Space Project (ESP). No single nation could afford to finance space exploration, and the “space race” had ended decades before then. It was all the engineers, scientist, biologist, and degreed people who were first sent to the Moon, but eventually they needed service staff. These high and mighty people had grown up with maids, nannies, butlers, bartenders, and cocktail waitresses. Eventually they wanted that level of humanity to wait on them again. The competition was incredibly tough, but I was the first cocktail waitress sent to the Moon.

My mother’s favorite movie was named, An Officer and a Gentleman. It was about some girls who lived near a Naval flight school. Their ticket out of a poor life was to get a Navy pilot to fall in love with them. Back in her day, it was the pilots who were considered the best catch for a husband. In my youth, it was an astronaut. When I was chosen as the first cocktail waitress to be among all these astronauts and scientist, I thought my dreams of a good life were signed, sealed and delivered.

With my looks, and the environment of drinking in one sixth gravity, I certainly did get a lot of attention. I was never a prostitute, but I did enjoy the company of many a patron of the Moonbar. I guess that I was just not considered marriage material. I did give birth to a beautiful daughter, who I named Luna. When she grew up, she did manage to land an Astronaut. I have never heard a single word from her after she left with him. She was always ashamed of me. Even though I worked two jobs so she could go to college, it was never enough.

As my looks faded, and I lost my suitors to marriages, space accidents and old age, I started planning on how to survive in old age. Although I had paid a lot of money into something called Social Security that was supposed to provide for me in my old age, it had gone bankrupt. They knew it was heading that way, but never did anything to fix it. They talked about fixing it, but in the end millions of Americans were left without a safety net for old age.

I live in the cab of an old space shuttle. I couldn’t afford the cargo department. That much square footage would have made it suitable for a family. The controls of the shuttle are still here in the cab, but they don’t work and aren’t hooked up to anything. It is just the shell, set up on gravity blocks. There are a lot of other decommissioned space craft in this enclave. It is still called a trailer park, and those who live here are called trailer trash. Most of us here have been in low gravity so long we could never return to Earth. The low gravity causes bone and muscle atrophy. It even alters the cell structure eventually. The benefit for those born on Earth is a much longer life than normal because of less stress on the heart and other organs.

To me, this longer life is just a longer jail sentence in a small and dirty cell. Launching ships from the Moon fell out of favor because you still had gravity to overcome. The International Space Station on the otherhand has grown to the size of a small planet. Launching from zero gravity proved to be a much more financially viable option. There is still some traffic to the Moon, but it is mainly tourist. I make some crafts, which I sell to tourist to get by, but I’ll be glad when the reaper visits me.

Ish the Sharecropper

ishthesharecropper1280I thought of a word the other day, that I hadn’t heard in a long time. It was sharecropper. I knew one named Ish Clark, who lived on my maternal grandfather’s farm.

I was born among the baby boomers in 1955, the result of a Christmas vacation. I grew up in a mid sized town, in a mid sized house, with no brothers or sisters. My mother played the piano and my father worked the family business. It was a mid sized 1950’s life.

Although I had visited my mother’s parents on their farm when I was much younger, at the age of seven or eight I was starting to develop my own perception of the world around me. My grandfather was half Choctaw Indian, and my grandmother half indian from several tribes. They had a farm in northern Missisippi, and it was there I met Ish. The first thing that struck me was his name. It didn’t seem like his parents had short changed him on his name, for I had never met an Ish in my life. It seems strange that I could remember his name after forty some odd years.

Ish lived in a house in the cow pasture between the small pond near the barn, and the big pond on the back forty. God made the big pond, and grandfather made the little pond for the dairy cows to drink from on their way to the barn each morning and evening. Ish was a tall thin man. If I was old enough to know the word gaunt, I would have used that to describe him. He was a meek and soft spoken man, who was always respectful to everyone. He seemed to hold his hat in his hands, over his chest more often than was natural.

Ish had a wife and two children, but I never saw them up close or met them. Where young children usually go off and play with others their own age, I was told not to bother Ish’s children. I remember walking along the red clay road to the big pond by their house one day, when Ish’s wife waved to me from their porch. As I waived back, she ran down to make sure the children waved back at me too.

For those of you who don’t know what sharecropping is, an oversimplication would be that poor farmers without land would be given a piece of land to farm. A share of whatever was raised there would be given back to the land owner. It had gained much usage after the freeing of the slaves. The defeated Southern farmers didn’t have the money to pay workers, and the freed slaves didn’t have land to farm or the ability to get other jobs, since agriculture was what they knew best. It wasn’t only the freed slaves who were sharecroppers or tenant farmers. By 1900, thirty-six percent of all white farmers in Mississippi were either tenant farmers or sharecroppers. By 1942 only ten percent had refidgerators and fourteen percent had radios, much less an iPod. In many ways being a sharecropper was little more than indentured servitude. History has had both honest indentured contracts and those who have abused it.

Ish was white, and Ish was poor. My grandfather was never well off. His tractor looked like something from the great depression, and his clothes were patched many times over. He always made sure the small pond was stocked with fish, so Ish’s family had protien without having to ask. They alway had whatever food was growing both on their land and my grandfather’s to choose from. I remember the year after I met Ish, they had managed to get electricity out to his house.

Years later, after Ish and his family were long gone I walked into their empty house. What looked like a brick outside was actually floor linoleum that was nailed to the walls. A single light bulb hung from a bare wire in what was pretty much a single room, shaped in an L formation. With the main bed in the short of the L and bunks on the far end, with the kitchen and living room in-between. There was a tiny electric stove, but there was remnants of cooking hardware in the fireplace as well. What struck me the most, was the light pouring in from cracks at the floorline over a hardly packed dirt floor. There were rugs thrown here and there, but the floor was dirt.

What brought Ish to mind, was the look that I’ve seen on the faces of the employees of big corporations. Those people who’s life savings for retirement were stolen by mismanaged corporations going bankrupt, had the same hollow eyed look that I saw in Ish’s eyes. I’ve seen it on the faces of workers laid off as their jobs get outsourced to sweat shops in foreign countries. I’ve seen it in the eyes of people who have jobs, but are terrified that losing their job would send them spiraling into destitution, because they live paycheck to paycheck.

I then think about the corporate mantra of empowering the employee. Make him a shareholder. When we do well, he does well. They don’t tell you the other half of the saying. When they mismanage, you are the one who pays. So when you look into the mirror, do you see a shareholder or a sharecropper?

Drowning

drowning1280Although the lake was small in reality, at this moment it seemed as vast as the ocean. She closed her eyes and felt the approach of the angel. She knew there would be at least one angel when she died. She opened her eyes underwater and saw a light at the end of a long tunnel that she seemed to be rushing towards. She had heard of thousands who saw the light and as they passed through it, they would be met by family and friends that had gone before. Oh..I must ask forgiveness before I die completely, so I can start the afterlife with a clean slate. Thank goodness I remembered that.

Millie, her boyfriend, and another couple met at dusk to skinny dip in Lake Tippecanoe. They had done so dozens of times before. Although Millie had never had sex with her boyfriend, she loved his reactions to her naked body. Now she realized she would be found dead and naked. It seemed that it was an inate fear of American women to be found dead naked. Oh well, there was nothing she could do about it now.

She tried to remember exactly what happened. There was the rope swing from the tree branch that thousands of kids had used over the years. She remembered swinging out over the water and letting go. She must have hit the water, but she couldn’t remember it. All she knew was that she was under water and not coming back up. She saw the light at the end of the tunnel again and it seemed even closer now. She remembered reading about some group of scientist who said the reason everybody sees light when they are dying is because of the way humans are wired and that was the final flashing of the neurons in the brain.

She didn’t want to believe that. She wanted the fall into the comfort of her Christian upbringing. She had faith, which is believing in something you can’t see.

In a moment or two she would know for sure.

Elf & Son

elfenson1280Today was a beginning for a right of passage for his son. As they walked together toward the holy place of the Drow elves, deep in the woods he looked down on his son with unbridled pride. They had left the underground city of Menzoberranzan at first light, and now as the sun was setting he knew there was still three days march to Erelhei-Cinlu. It was once a great underground city of the Drow in the land of Greyhawk, but now lies empty of the dark elves. It now houses a few wandering mind flayers who were allies of the humans that destroyed Erelhei-Cinlu. But once the battle was won, the mind flayers turned on their human allies and tried to destroy all of them as well.

Melkor’s son Aaron was half human. It had seemed strange that Lloth, the spider goddess had demanded he find a wife who was of the race of humans. For the Drow despised humans, and he had taken ridicule from the others of his kind for taking the enemy for a wife. But in a matriarchal society a male drow does not go against the wishes, much less the orders of the ruling female.

Lloth had not told Melkor that with the number of Drow being less than one hundred since the massacre at Cinlu, they must have fresh bloodlines. Otherwise they would fall prey to the weaknesses of the inbred. Melkor only knew that his son was strong and had the protection of Lloth. Even though Aaron was still smaller than adult Drow males, he had the stockiness and strength of his human mother. For this trip he wore the fine armor that was a gift from Lloth. It was too heavy and too warm for this time of year, but Aaron loved it so much that he couldn’t bring himself to deny his son’s wishes to wear it.

Although Melkor’s wife was a captive to start with, when Aaron was born Alyssa became an overprotective mother and warmed to Melkor as a wife. In fact their relationship was better than most of the Drow couples. Aaron wore his hair longer than most, to hide the fact his ears were barely pointed. He also had skin coloring that was somewhere between the darkness of the Drow and the whiteness of his mother. When he was in the sun for any length of time, he started to turn darker, but it was a different color of darkness than the dark elves.

As they were looking for a place to camp, Melkor chided Aaron for leaving a trail. He had shown his son how to walk in such a way as to leave the forest undisturbed, but somehow the half human muscles resisted the naturalness of this travel. Yet those same muscles wielded the three pointed dagger, called a ‘fang’ with deadly accuracy. Melkor had seen Aaron even use his cloak as both defensive and offensive weapon. Something the Drow he sparred with, didn’t expect. He had no doubt that his son would pass the test of manhood by bringing back the decapitated head of a mind flayer.

Aaron on the other hand, wasn’t so sure.

Soulmate’s Gone

soulmatesgone1280I was almost late for the funeral. It was one of those times where hundreds of law enforcement officers shut down the streets as the police motorcyles lead the way, followed by sheriffs, highway patrol, and police cars from all the cities around escort one of their fallen. I was on my way to a memorial service where there would be only a handful of people. We all exit this world someday, and the rituals that accompany that departure vary in so many ways.

It all seemed so surreal, yet so unreal in another way. I couldn’t believe my best friend had died at the age of forty-nine. She had just turned that age two weeks before. We had celebrated her birthday with dinner and a DVD, as was the usual Saturday ritual. She was the last of my life long friends. You have many aquaintances in your life, but usually only a handful of true friends that you keep for life. The rest of my friends of twenty years or more had died in the past three years. But of my handful of true friends, she was the closest. She was my soulmate. It wasn’t a romantic kind of relationship, though we had tried that, failed, but became even closer friends.

I couldn’t believe she was gone. I only half heard the words of the minister who spoke at the memorial service. It was apparent that he didn’t know her, but he did his best. Anyone would have guessed that it would be me who passed first. I had been recently disabled by a neurological disease with no cure. She would look after me, and help with grocery shopping or whatever else I needed to survive. Now I survive and she is gone. She had developed a number of the same problems I faced, but wasn’t as far advanced. She had diabetes, but managed it with pills. She had painful neuropathy from a car accident, after being hit by a drunk driver. We shared war stories of our aches and pains often, but it was her heart that took her in the end.

I reflected on this ritual of death, as the whole room seemed to reflect. The saying of our good-byes. The comforting of others affected by the loss. Her memorial service was attended by her mother, father, sister, brother-in-law, and me. Not quite like the hundreds of law enforcement officers across town. Did it make her death less important, or her life less meaningful? No, it was just different. I appreciated the fallen officer who in some ways made my life safer, but it was my soulmate lying in the casket at the front of the room who had made such a big difference in my life over the past two decades.

Somehow as I sat here in grief, I realized that humans have been perfoming rituals to mark the passing of friends and family for as long as they had existed. There have been burial grounds of Neanderthal man dating back to 60,000 BC. With no great understanding of the cosmos and no religion to speak of, Neanderthal man instinctively buried their dead with ritual and ceremony. Even the modern custom of flowers at a funeral has it origins in trying to gain favor with the spirit of the deceased. Although their is proven psychological worth to seeing the body after death in a state of rest, I could not bring myself to do so. I wanted to remember her as the kind and considerate soul that I knew, not as the shell she left behind.

Even now, I see an article or item in a shop window that I make a mental note to tell her. I guess in my own way I still do.